Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

of the Scriptures, those who are children of Christ, become such, first, by being given to him of the Father ; next by giving themselves to him; and then by being received by him. • Him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out;' John vi. 37. Thus it is evident, that that, which on the part of mankind, makes them Christ's children is their own voluntary gift of themselves to him. Accordingly St. Paul, speaking in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, of the Macedonian Christians, says, that they first gave their ownselves to the Lord,' chapter viü. 5.

The act by which this voluntary surrender of ourselves to Christ is accomplished, is the faith or confidence of the Gospel. When Christ proposes himself to us as a Saviour, it is plain that we have no other security of the salvation wbich he promises, beside the promise itself, and this furnishes no security beside what is contained in his character. Confidence, then, in his character, and in his promise as founded on it, is that act of the mind by which alone it renders itself to Christ, and becomes his; one of his children, his disciple, his follower. Unless the soul confidc in him, it is plainly impossible that it should confide or yield itself to him; and, unless it yield itself to him, it cannot become his. But the act of confiding in him is, in the case specified, the act also of confiding itself to him.

When the soul thus renders itself into the hands of Christ, it does it on his own terms. It casts off all former dependence on its own righteousness, whether apprehended or real, for acceptance with God, for forgiveness and justification. Conscious of its entire unworthiness, and desert of the divine anger, the reality and greatness of its guilt, the justice of its condemnation, and the impossibility of expiating its own sins, it casts itself at the footstool of his mercy, as a suppliant for mere pardon, and welcomes him as the glorious, efficacious, and all-sufficient atonement for sin, and intercessor for sin

With these views and affections, it yields itself up to him as a free will offering, with an entire confidence in all that he hath taught, and done, and suffered in the divine character of Mediator between God and man. In this manner it becomes his, here and for ever.

As his it is acknowledged, in accordance with that glorious promise, “Him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast

ners.

out.' As his, its name is written in the Lamb's book of life;' and it is invested with a sure, indefeasible title to all the promises of the Gospel ; particularly to those recorded in the second and third chapters of the Apocalypse ; and to the inheritance which is undefiled, and fadeth not away.'

It has been often debated, whether mankind are justified, in the full and proper sense, in this world, or in that which is to come. To the great question, concerning the manner of our justification, this point appears to me to be of little importance. Whenever a man thus gives himself into the hands of Christ, he becomes his, in the sense of the covenant of redemption; and his title to justification in this character is complete. Whenever, therefore, he enters into the future world, and appears before ihe Judge of the quick and the dead, he comes in a character acknowlodged in the covenant of redemption, with a title to acceptance founded on the promise of the Father contained in that covenant; and pleads, with certain prevalence, his own performance of the condition on his part; viz. faith in the Redeemer, as having brought him within the limits of that promise. As Cbrist's then, and as Christ's alone, as one of his seed, he is acknowledged, forgiven, acquitted, and received to the heavenly inheritance.

It is here to be observed, and always to be remembered, that the believer is not thus accepted on account of his faith, considered as merit; or as furnishing a claim, in the nature of a work of righteousness sufficiently excellent to deserve justification, either wholly, or partially. Considered in every other light, except that of being one of Christ's children, or, in other words, considered merely as a moral being, he merits nothing at the hand of God but anger and punishment. If he were to be judged according to his works,' in this sense, he would be ruined. For although many of his actions are, in a greater or less degree, really virtuous, yet his sins also are many and very great; enhanced by all the light which le has enjoyed, the grace which he has received, and the covenant which he has made. In this case, he would come before God as a mere subject of law; no‘jot or tittle' of which has ceased to bind him with its original obligatory force, or to demand from him, with all its original authority, exact obedience. Such obedience can here be the only possible ground of justi

[ocr errors]

fication, and this obedience was never rendered by any child of Adam.

II. I will endeavour to show the propriety with which faith is constituted the means of our justification.

It has been already shown, that we are not justified by faith because it renders us deserving of this favour at the hand of God. Still there is, I apprehend, an evident propriety in constituting faith the means of our justification. If retarning sinners are to be justified at all. It will, I suppose, be acknowledged, that it must be proper for God to justify them, in such a' manner as shall most contribute to his glory, and their good. This I shall endeavour to prove to be the real consequence of the manner in which they are actually justified.

It contributes peculiarly to the glory of God, in the following, among other particulars.

1. It is a dispensation of grace merely.

Every thing pertaining to this dispensation on the part of God, is the result of mere sovereigu, unmerited love. This attribute, thus considered, is by the divine writers everywhere spoken of as the peculiar' glory of the divine character. Whenever they have occasion to mention it, they rise above themselves, utter their sentiments with a kind of rapture, and adopt the style of exclamation, rather than that of sober description. • Who art thou,' says Zechariah, great mountain ? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain ; and he shall bring forth the head stone thereof with shoutings; crying, Grace, grace unto it.'-Behold, what manner of love,' says St. John,' the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God!'- For this cause,' says St. Paul, I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.'_ Having predestinated us,' says the same apostle, unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace ; wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved: in whom we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.'-- Praise the Lord,

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

says David, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever!' In this manner the subject is always considered, and always spoken of by the divine writers. I shall only add, that the

. angels themselves appear to entertain siimilar thoughts concerning it; as was abundantly manifested when, at the birth of the Saviour, they sung, ' Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace : good-will towards men.'

All men will probably agree, that love exercised towards enemies is the fairest and most illustrious specimen of goodwill, of which we have any knowledge. Exercised by God towards sinners, not only his enemies, not only lost and ruined, but eminently vile and guilty enemies, it is certainly seen in its consummation. In justifying mankind through faith in the Redeemer, this manifestation of love is seen in its fairest and most finished form. All the previous steps indispensable to its accomplishment, and beyond measure wonderful, were dictated and carried into execution by mere grace. By mere grace, when all these things are done, is the sinner accepted, without any merit of his own, and only in the character of one who has confidentially given himself to Christ. In this dispensation, then, this most glorious attribute of God is seen in the fairest light.

2. It is fitted to produce the greatest degree of gratitude in man.

In Luke vii. 40, we are told that Simon the Pharisee, at whose house our Saviour was sitting at meat, censured him for suffering a poor, sinful woman to anoint him with precious ointment; and that Christ said unto him, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor, who had two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most. Simon answered, and said, I suppose, that he to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.'

From this passage of Scripture it is evident, that forgiveness confers a peculiar obligation, and inspires peculiar gratitude; and that this obligation and gratitude are great, in proportion to the number and guilt of the sins which are forgiven. But the scheme of justification by faith, being a scheme of mere forgiveness, without any consideration cf

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

merit on the part of those who are justified, and the number and guilt of the sins forgiven being very great, the fairest foundation is laid here for the highest possible gratitude. This emotion, and its effects, will extend through eternity; and constitute no small part of the character, usefulness, and felicity, of the Redeemed; and no small part of their loveliness in the sight of their Creator. Had mankind been justified by works, either wholly or partially, this affection, and its consequences, could not have existed in the same manner, nor in the same degree.

3. This dispensation is eminently honourable to Christ.

St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians, chap. i. quoting from Jeremiah ix. delivers it as a precept intended universally to regulate the conduct of mankind, that he who glorieth should glory only in the Lord;' because he is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. In conformity to this rule of conduct, we find it asserted, in the fifth of the Revelation, that the four living ones, and the four and twenty elders, fell down before the Lamb, and sang a new song ; saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain ; and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation : And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.' Immediately upon this, the whole host of heaven cxclaimed with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.' Finally, both heaven and earth are exhibited as uniting with one voice in this sublime ascription, · Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.' At the close of this act of celestial worship, the four living ones subjoin their solemn · Amen! This passage needs no comment.

In the scheme of justification by faith it is evident that all the glory of saving sinners from endless guilt and misery, and of raising them to immortal happiness and virtue, centres in the Redeemer; and that, according to his own declaration, he is eminently glorified in this manner, in those who are given to him by the Father as his children. John xvii. 10.

4. It is honourable to God that he should annex jus

6

[ocr errors]

6

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »