« 前へ次へ »
an atonement, mankind could not have been placed on probationary ground; consequently they could never have been in a state whereby it would be consistent for rewards to be bestowed or promised. That they are in a state of probation, called upon to repent and work righteousness; and encouraged to faithfulness from promises of everlasting rewards, is to be ascribed to the free grace of God, through the redemption of his Son. Hence, all the rewards promised for works, must be rewards of grace.
Moreover, it is the grace of God that calls upon mankind, awakens, renews, sanctifies, and enables them to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. Even while they work out their salvation with fear and trembling, it is God, by his holy and gracious Spirit, that worketh in them to will and to do of his good pleasure. And since their obedience is not that of sinless perfection by the deeds of the law, but of faith in the Redeemer, and that by grace, their salvation and consequent glorious eternal rewards, are the effect of grace from the foundation to the top stone.
5th. This subjeet should serve to prevent injurious disputes among professed Christians, concerning their justification. Unprofitable contentions do sometimes arise, concerning this subject; because the term justification, is not understood in the same sense. The question of dispute, is generally this: Whether believ :rs be justi ied wholly and absolutely on the account of the atonement of Christ? In the light of this subject we see that they are, in one of the senses in which the term justification is used. The sacred scriptures no where teach us that they are justified partly on account of their own righteousness, and partly on the account of the righteousness of Christ.
When a man is said to be justified by grace, in this view his justification must be attributed wholly to the grace of God as the originating first cause. His works can claim no merit, nor form any part.
When justification is mentioned through the re
demption of Christ Jesus, his atoning sufferings are the sole and absolute ground; as believers obtain the pardon of their sins, wholly on Christ's account.
If a man be said to be justified by faith, that vital union by which he becomes united to Christ, is to be understood as the sole means of his justification. A living, operative faith is the great stipulated term by which he receives the glorious benefits of redemption. Faith, which worketh by love, is an essential qualification on the part of man, before he can be justified.
As it respects the way of salvation and the ground of pardon for sin, Christ is indeed all in all for justification in the sight of God. There can be no part, no claim, no merit whatever from any other quarter, in this view of the present subject.
Still, without evangelical faith, a man cannot become interested in the redemption of Christ Jesus. He must have the qualifications prescribed in the gospel, as a pre-requisite on his part, or he can never be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. Unless a man, in a moral sense become a new creature, all that Christ has done and suffered, cannot avail, cannot profit him. He must have the terms, specified in the gospel, in his own person; must have Christ formed in the soul, the hope of glory, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, or he cannot be justified by Christ, by faith, nor by works. Except the soul be renewed and sanctified by the Divine Spirit, while in the body, and rendered perfectly holy before it be ushered into the immediate presence of its Judge, there will be no atonement and no intercessions of the Son of God, to deliver or prevent it from departing into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Thus we inay see, that the atonement of Christ, and the obedience of believers, have no intermixture in justification. The one forms no part of the other. Both the nature and end of each are en
tirely separate and distinct. The one is the foundation, the sole ground of pardon, and claims the glory of eternal salvation. The other consists in the mere qualification, or preparedness of the soul for the favour of God, and the employments of heaven; and ascribes to him all the praise for the unspeakably gracious and glorious blessings of the gospel. The one is an invaluable ransom offered, and most glorious consequent blessings included; the other flows from their acceptance.
If professed Christians would form distinct views of the term justification, as it is used in its several senses, in the word of God, conversation on this subject, for edification, would take the place of painful disputes, calculated to darken the understanding and increase prejudice. If the subject be clearly understood in its various relations and uses, why cannot the Methodists and Presbyterians be at peace in regard to this point ? Must it not be their misconceptions, or misunderstanding of each other, that can at any time, set them at variance ? Whenever they discourse or argue about the glorious doctrine of gospel justification, let it be in the spirit of meekness, and for mutual benefit; but not a striving for the mastery. Let them regard their glorious and divine Redeemer and the salvation of the redeemed, as subjects too valuable to be the theme of bitter and hostile reproaches.
6th. This subject, with light and force, presents itself to the understanding and conscience of every ungodly impenitent sinner, that he repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Every soul of nan is so polluted with sin, as to be an intiaite debtor to the grace of God, if ever saved with an everlasting salvation. And who has not already com nitted sins of a nature so odious, and to that extent, as to need the atoning blood of the Son of God for pardon? But in addition to the divine law being every way violated, will a Saviour set at nought, despised, and rejected,
deliver from perdition impenitent, unbelieving, Christless sinners No; Such a dishonour, a reproach so unparalleled, no intelligent in heaven could endure ! Reader, the inconceivable and eternal glories of the gospel must be yours, must be cordially embraced in your heart by faith, or all its curses will be poured out upon you as your inevitable doom. God is not mocking you in the declarations of his holy word; in the terms of acceptance and justification, neither in his promises, nor his threatenings. Christ must be your Saviour from sin and eternal death, or he will be your Judge to sentence you to everlasting punishment. Then may you and I duly reflect how happy, what blessed beings, we shall be for eternity! if we believe in him to the saving of our souls. By faith, then, may we embrace him as our God and Saviour, our divine and glorious Redeemer. Amen.
DEATH AND THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
Ecclesiastes xii. 7.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was : and the spirit shall return to God who gave
it. In the beginning of this chapter, Solomon enforces upon the young the importance of an early remembrance of their Creator, by a consideration of the evils incident to old age. The gloom, feebleness, and despondency of this period of life, are arrayed before the mind in a series of images, of remarkable elegance and expressiveness. In old age, the relish for the pleasures of life, is lost; and men grow indifferent even to those objects, which once occasioned the most agreeable sensations. Hence, the sun with its pleasant light, the fair moon and radiant stars, are as it were, obscured to them: or the imagination, memory, and judgement, the lights of the mind, are so impaired, that they seem darkened. One affliction or pain, succeeds another, as clouds return after showers in a rainy season.
The hands and arms, with which a man defends himself from assaults and accidents, as watchmen keep the house, grow feeble, tremble, and falter when their help is requisite. The legs and thighs which as strong men support the body, seem in old age, to bend under its weight. The teeth which used to grind the food, are most of them gone; and the few that remain, become useless. The eyes, by which the soul looked as it were, out at the windows, grow dim. In such a melancholy state, men have no inclination to eat; as they cannot grind or chew their food without pain and difficulty. And