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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 acknowledged 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 Christ'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 thụs 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 bas 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
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 sovereign, unmerited love. This attribute, thus considered, is by the divine writers everywberc 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, : 0) 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 Belved: in whom we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace'. 'Prane the Lord,
tification to virtue, and not to any thing of a different nature.
Faith is virtue. But the works of mankind, wrought before the existence of faith in the soul, are in no sense virtuous. Faith also is the commencement of virtue in man. It is highly honourable to God that he should annex justification to the first appearance of virtue in the human character. In this manner he exhibits, in the strongest degree, his readiness to forgive, accept, and save the returning sinner; the greatness of his mercy which, at the sight of the returning prodigal, hastens to meet and welcome him, guilty as he has been, in all his rags, and dirt, and shame, merely because he has set his face in earnest towards his father's house; and the sublime and glorious pleasure which he enjoys in ' finding'a son who * was lost' to all good, and in seeing him, once dead, alive again' to useful and divine purposes.
5. It is honourable to God, that he should annex our justification to that attribute which is the true source of virtuous obedience.
That faith is the true source of such obedience, in all its forms and degrees, is so completely proved by St. Paul in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebsews, as to admit of no debate, and to demand no farther illustration. He declares directly and universally, that' without faith it is impossible to please God' in any act whatever; and that by faith Enoch’in his obedience pleased God. By necessary consequence, all the other worthies mentioned in that chapter pleased him also, for the same reason. On account of their faith he teaches us, that • God is not ashamed to be called their God ;' and has prepared them a city,' an everlasting residence, a final home in the heavenly world. Finally, he shows that faith is the real and only source of that obedience which is the most arduous, self-denying, honourable to the human character, and eminently pleasing to God. In a word, every thing truly glorious which can be achieved by man, he declares, in the latter part of the chapter, to be achieved by faith alone.
St. John also assures us, that faith is the victory, which overcometh the world ; the real power by which, on our part, temptations are effectually resisted, snares escaped, enemies overthrown, and heaven with all its blessings finally won.
While this scheme of justification therefore strips man of all pretensions to merit, and gives the whole glory of his salvation to his Maker, it furnishes the most efficacious means and the most absolute assurance of his future obedience, his perpetual improvement in holiness, and his certain advancement towards the best character which he will ever be capable of sustaining. The obedience springing from faith is voluntary, filial, and lovely. All other obedience is mercenary, and of no moral worth. It will not be denied, that a dispensation of which these are the consequences, is highly honourable to the character of its author.
Every person who has attended to these observations must clearly see that they illustrate, in various particulars, the usefulness of this dispensation to man: all of them plainly involving personal advantages, and those very great, to the justified ; as well as peculiar glory to the justifier. Two additional observations will contain all that is necessary to the farther illustration of this part of the subject.
(1.) This dispensation is profitable to mankind, as it renders their justification easy and certain.
Had our justification been made to depend on a course of obedience, it is not difficult to see that we should have been involved in many perplexities and dangers. Repentance at late periods of life would, particularly, have been exceedingly discouraged. It will not be denied that such repentance exists, por, however rare we may suppose it, that it exists upon the whole in many instances. Nor can any man of common humanity avoid wishing that the number of these instances may be greatly increased. Such instances exist even on a dying bed, and, as there is good reason to believe, in considerable numbers. But how discouraging to such persons would it be, to know that their justification was dependent on their own obedience! Is there not every reason to believe that most, if not all, persons in these circumstances would be discouraged from every effort, and lay aside the attempt as hopeless? What, in this case also, would become of children dying in their infancy? and what of persons perishing by shipwreck, the sword, and innumerable other cases, which terminate life by a sudden, unexpected dissolution?
Farther : If justification were annexed to our obedience, how should the nature and degree of obedience be estimated ? How pure must it be? What degree of contamination might it admit, and still answer the end? With what degree of uniformity must it be continued? With what proportion of lapses, and in what degree existing, might it be intermixed ? These questions seem not to have been answered in the Scriptures. Who is able to answer them?
Again : From what principle in man shall this obedience spring? From the mere wish to gain heaven by it? or from a virtuous principle? From a virtuous principle, it will probably be answered. In reply, it may be asked, From what virtuous principle? I presume it will be said, From love to God. But it ought to be remembered that, where there is no confidence, there is no love, and therefore no virtue. Consequently, there is in this case nothing from which virtuous obedience can spring. How then can man be justified by his obedience ?
But by annexing justification to faith, God has removed all these difficulties and dangers. It is rendered as easy as possible to our attainment. For the first act of virtuous regard to God which is exercised, or can be exercised, by a returning sinner, is faith. If, then, he can do any thing which is praise-worthy or virtuous, he can exercise faith. As his justification is inseparably annexed to this exercise by the promise of God, it is as certain as that promise is sure.
(2.) This scheme provides most effectually for the happiness of man.
Evangelical faith is an emotion of the mind, delightful in itself, and delightful in all its consequences. Faith is a ' wellspring of water' flowing out unto everlasting life. All the streams which proceed from it in the soul of the believer are sweet, refreshing, and life-giving. Faith, fixing its eye on the unmerited and boundless goodness of God, sees in the great act of justification, faithfulness, truth, and mercy displayed, to which it neither finds nor wishes to find limits. The soul, in the contemplation of what itself has been, and what it has received, becomes fitted through this confidence for every thing excellent, and every thing desirable. Peace, and hope, and love, and joy rise up spontaneously under its happy influence ; and flourish, unfavourable as the climate and soil are, with a vendure and strength unwithering and unfading. All the gratitude which can exist in such a soul is awakened by the strong