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(PART 11.) Now once in the end of the world hath he appear.
ed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.Ileb. ix. 26.
In a former discourse upon this text I have shewn, first, that the Scriptures expressly state the death of Jesus Christ as having an efficacy in the procurement of human salvation, whieh is not at. tributed to the death or sufferings of any other person, however patiently undergone, or undeservedly inflicted: and farther, it appears that this efficacy is quite consistent with our obligation to obedience; that good works still remain the condition of salvation, though not the cause; the cause being the mercy of Almighty God, through Jesus Christ. There is no man living, perhaps, who has considered seriously the state of his soul, to whom this is not a consoling doctrine, and a grateful truth. But there are some situations of mind, which dispose us to feel the weight and importance of this doctrine more than others. These situations I will endeavours to describe ; and, in doing so, to point out, how much more satisfactov'y it is to have a Saviour and Redeemer, and the inercies of our Creator, excited towards us, and communicated to us by and through that Saviour and Redeemer, to confide in and rely upon, than any grounds of merit in ourselves.
First, then, souls which are really labouring and endeavouring after salvation, and with sincerity i such souls are every hour made sensible, deeply sensible, of the deficiency and imperfection of their (ndeavours. Had they no ground, therefore, for
ope, but merit, that is to say, could they look for nothing more than what they should strictly ue. crue, their prospect would very uncomforta, bile. I see not how they could look for heaven at "They may form a conception of a virtue and obedience, which might seem to be entitled to a bigh reward; but when they come to review their own performances, and to compare them with that conception; when they see how short they have proved of what they ought to have been, and of what they might have been, how weak and broken vere their best offices; they will be the first to confess, that it is infinitely for their comfort, that they have some other resource than their own righteousness. One infallible effect of sincerity in our endeavours is to beget in us a knowledge of our imperfections. The less, the heedless, the thoughtless, the nominal Christian, feels nó want of a Saviour, an intercessor, a mediator, be. cause he feels not his own defects. Try in earnest to perform the duties of religion, and you will soon learn how incomplete your best performances are. I can hardly mention a branch of our duty, which is not liable to be both impure in the motive, and imperfect in the execution; or a branch of our duty, in which our endeavours can found their tropes of acceptance upon any thing but extended mercy, and the efficacy of those means and causes which have procured it to be so extended.
In the first place, is not this the case with our acts of piety and devotion ? We may admit, that pure and perfect piety has a natural title to reward at the hand of God. But is ours ever such ? To be pure in its motive, it ought to proceed from a sense of God Almighty's goodness towards us, and from no other source, or cause, or motive whatsoever. Whereas even pious, comparatively pious men, will acknowledge, that authority, custoin, decency, imitation have a share in most of their religious exercises, and that they cannot warrant any of their devotions to be entirely independent of these causes. I would not speak disparingly of the considerations here recited. They are oftentimes necessary inducements, and they may be the means of bringing us to better: but still it is true, that devotion is not pure in its origin, unless it Now from a sense of God Almighty's goodness,
unmixed with any other reason. But if our worship of God be defective in its principle, and often debased by the mixture of impure motives, it is still more deficient, when we come to regard it its performances; our devotions are broken and interrupted, or they are cold and sanguid. World. ly thoughts intrude themselves upon them. Our worldly heart is tied down to the earth. Our de. votions are unworthy of God. We lift not up our hearts unto him. Our treasure is upon earth, and our hearts are with our treasure. Thatheavenlymindedness, which ought to be inseparable from religious exercises, does not accompany ours, at least not constantly. I speak not now of the hypocrite in religion, of him who only makes a show of it. His case comes not within our present consideration. I speak of those, who are sincere men. These feel the imperfection of their services; and will acknowledge, that I have not stated it more strongly than what is true. Imperfection cleaves to every part of it. Our thankfulness is never what it ought to be, or any thing like it; and it is only when we have some particular reason for being pleased, that we are thankful at all. Formality is apt continually to steal upon us in our worship; more especially in our public worship; and formality takes away the immediate consciousness of what we are doing; which consciousness is the very life of devotion ; all that we do without it being a dead ceremony. No man reviews his services towards God, his religious services, but he perceives in them much to be forgiven, much to be excused: great unworthiness as respecting the object of all worship; much deficiency and imperfection to be passed over, be. fore our service can be deemed in its nature an acceptable service. That such services, therefore, culd, in fact, be allowed and accepted, and that o less an end and purpose than the attainment
act of abounding grace and goodn him, who accepts them; and we are taught
tre, that this so much wanted grace ind
goodness abounds towards us through Jesus Christ, and particularly through his sufferings and his death.
But to pass from our acts of worship, which form a particular part only of our duty to God; to pass from these to our general duty, what, let us ask, is that duty ? What is our duty toward God? no other, our Saviour himself tells us, than “to love him with all our heart, with all our soul, with a l our strength, and with all our mind."* Are we conscious of such love, to such a degree? If we are not, then, in a most fundamental duty, we fail of being what we ought to be. Flere, then, as before, is a call for pardoning mercy on the part of God; which mercy is extended to us by the intervention of Jesus Christ; at least, so the Scriptures represent it. In our duties towards one another, it may
be said, that our performances are more adequate to our obligation, than in our duties to God; that the subjects of them lie more level with our capacity; and there may be truth in this observation. But still I am afraid, that both in principle and execution, our performances are not only defective, but defective in a degree, which we are not sufficiently aware of. The rule laid down for us is this; “to love our neighbour as ourselves.” Which rule, in fact, enjoins, that our benevolence be as strong as our self-interest ; that we be as anxious to do good, as quick to discover, as eager to embrace every opportunity of doing it, and as active, and resolute, and persevering in our endeavours to do it, as we are anxious for ourselves, and active in the pursuit of our own interest. Now is this this the case with us? Wherein it is not, we follow our rule. In the apostles of Jesus Christ, to whom this rule was given from his own mouth, you may read 'how it operated ; and their example proves, what some deny, the possibility of the thing; namely, of beneyolence
* Luke x. 27.
as if he had said—With thee, I perceive that the consideration of the goodness of God leads to the allowing of thyself in sin : this is not to know what that consideration ought in truth tn lead to: it ought to lead thee to repentance, and to no other conclusion.
Again; When the apostle had been speaking of the righteousness of God displayed by the wicked. ness of man; he was not unaware of the misconstruction, to which this representation was liable, and which it bad, in fact, experienced: which misconstruction he states thus: We be slanderously reported, and some ffirm that we say, Let us do evil that good may come.” This insinuation, however, he regards as nothing less than an unfair and wilful perversion of his words, and of the words of other Christian teachers : therefore he says concerning those who did thus pervert them, “ their condemnation is just :” they will be justly condemned for thus abusing the doctrine, which we teach. The passage, however, clearly shews, that the application of their expressions to the en. couragement of licentiousness of life, was an application contrary to their intention; and, in fact, a perversion of their words.
In like manner in the same chapter our apostle had 10 sooner laid down the doctrine, that“a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,' than he checks himself, as it were, by subjoining this proviso. “Do we then maké void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Taw.”: Whatever he meant by his assertion con. cerning faith, bé takes care to let them know he .30-1? ant mean this, “to make void the law,” or to
ce with obedience.
clearest text to our purpose is that, un. which I have prefixed to this discourse. after expatiating largely upon the that is, the favour, kindness, and mercy pextent, the greatness, the comprehen. at mercy, as manifested in the Chris,
*, puts this question to bis seader