« הקודםהמשך »
exercise of faith and love; and finally chosen him as your own Saviour. On your minds his image is instamped ; in your life his beauty shines with real, though feeble, radiance: in your character his loveliness is begun: in your souls his immortality is formed. On you his Father smiles, a forgiving God. On you his Spirit descends with his sanctifying and dove-like influence. To you his word unfolds all his promises ; his daily favour; his everlasting love. To you hell is barred; and all its seducing and destroying inhabitants confined in chains. Heaven for you has already opened its everlasting doors ; and the King of glory has entered in, to prepare a place for you. The joy of that happy world has been already renewed over your repentance. The Spirit of truth conducts you daily onward in your journey through life, and in your way towards your final home. Death, your last enemy, is to you deprived of his strength and sting ; and the grave despoiled of its victory. Your bodies will soon be sown in the corruption, weakness, and dishonour of your present perishable nature, to be raised in the incorruption, power, and glory, of immortality. Your souls, cleansed from every sin, and stain, and weakness, this Divine Messenger will present before the throne of his Father without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; to be acquitted, approved, and blessed. In the world of light, and peace, and joy, enlarged with knowledge, and refined with evangelical virtue, he will unite you to the general assembly of the first-born, and to the innumerable company of Angels ; will make you sons, and priests, and kings to God, and cause you to live, and reign, with him for eter
All things will then be yours ; you will be Christ's ; and Christ will be God's. Anticipate, and by anticipation enjoy to the full, this divine assemblage of blessings; they are your birth-right. But, while you enjoy them, deeply pity, and fervently pray for, your foolish, guilty, and miserable companions.
CONSEQUENCES OF CHRIST'S MEDIATION,
JUSTIFICATION BY THE FREE GRACE OF GOD.
ROMANS iii. 24.
Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption, which
is in Christ Jesus.
In the series of sermons, which I have preached hitherto, as part of a system of Theology, I have considered the Existence and Perfections of God; the Disobedience and Apostasy of Man; and the Impossibility of his justification by his own righteousness; the Covenant of Redemption, made between the Father and the Son; the Character, Mediation, and Offices, of Christ. The former class of subjects constitutes what is frequently called the Religion of Nature; the latter, the first branches of the Christian, or Remedial system, grafted upon that religion. Perfect beings are justified by their own obedience; since they fulfil all the demands of the divine law. To them, therefore, the religion of nature is amply sufficient to secure their duty, their acceptance with God, and their final happiness. Sinful beings cannot thus be justified; because they have not rendered that obedience, which is the only possible ground of justification by Law. Of course, some other
ground of justification is absolutely necessary for them, if they are ever to be accepted, or rewarded. For this the religion of Christ professes to have made ample provision. In my examination of the Character and Offices of Christ, I have attempted to show, that he has taught all which is necessary to be known, believed, or done, by us, in order to our acceptance with God; and has accomplished the expiation of our sins in such a manner, that God, in justifying us, may be just to himself, and to the Universe. Thus far, it is hoped, the way to our return from our Apostasy has been made clear and satisfactory.
The next great question, to be asked, and a question of infinite moment to every one of us, is, In what manner do we become interested in the Mediation of Christ, and entitled to the glorious blessings which he has purchased for man? This question is partially answered in the text. Here we are said to be justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption of Christ Jesus. In this declaration, our justification is immediately connected with the redemption of Christ, as its meritorious, or procuring, cause. The source of it, also, on the part of God, is directly asserted; as is, also, the manner, in which it is accomplished. We are said to be justified freely; and justified by his grace.
AH this is, also, said to be done through, by means of, or on account of, the redemption of Christ. These subjects are intended to occupy the following discourse.
In the course of my investigation I shall consider,
l. I shall consider in what sense mankind are justified under the Gospel.
The word justify, as I observed in a former discourse, is taken from the business of judicial courts; and denotes the acquittal of a person, tried by such a court, upon an accusation of a crime. The person, accused, being upon trial found innocent of the charge, is declared to be just, in the view of the Law; and, by an easy and natural figure, is said to be justified; that is, made just. In this original, forensic sense of the term, it is obvious from what has been said in a former discourse, that no human being can be justified by the law, or before the bar, of God. As all mankind have disobeyed this Law; it is clear, that he, whose judgment is invariably according to truth, must declare them guilty.
Still the Scriptures abundantly teach us, that, what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for a sin-offering, has, by thus condemning sin in the flesh, accomplished for multitudes of our sinful race. It is, however, certain, that justification, when extended to returning sinners, must, in some respects, be, of course, a thing widely different from justification under the Law. A subject of law is justified only when he is in the full and strict sense just : that is, when he has completely obeyed all the requisitions of the law. In this case, his obedience is the only ground of his justification; and is all that is necessary to it; because he has done every thing, which was required of him; and no act of disobedience can be truly laid to his charge. From this case, that of the penitent, under the Gospel, differs entirely. He has been guilty of innumerable acts of disobedience ; and has not fulfilled the demands of the Law, even in a single instance. All these acts of disobedience are truly chargeable to hiin, when he comes before the Bar of God at the final trial ; nor can he ever be truly said not to have been guilty of them. If, therefore, he be ever justified; it must be in a widely different sense from that, which has been already explained. The term is, therefore, not used in the Gospel because its original meaning is intended here ; but because this term, figuratively used, better expresses the thing intended, than any other. The act of God, denoted by this term as used in the Gospel, so much resembles a forensic justification, or justification by law, that the word is naturally, and by an easy translation, adopted to express this act.
The justification of a sinner, under the Gospel, consists in the three following things : Pardoning his sins ; Acquitting him from the punishment, which they have deserved ; and Entilling him to the rewards, or blessings, due by Law to perfect obedience only.
In order to form clear and satisfactory views of this subject, it will be useful to examine the situation of man, in his progress from apostasy to acceptance, as it is cxhibited in the Scriptures.
In the covenant of redemption, the Father promised Christ, that, if he should make his soul a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, he should see a seed, which should prolong their days* : Or, as it is expressed by God in the 89th Psalm, His seed should endure for ever, and his throne, that is, his dominion over them, as the days of Heaven. In this covenant, three things are promised to Christ, in consequence of his assumption, and execution, of the Mediatorial office : 1st, That a seed shall be given him ; 2d, That they shall endure and be happy for ever; and 3d, That his dominion over them shall be co-extended with their eternal being. It was, then, certain, antecedently to Christ's entrance upon the office of Mediator, that he should not assume, nor execute, it in vain; but should receive a reward for all his labours and sufferings; such as he thought a sufficient one; such as induced him to undertake this office, and to accomplish all the arduous duties, which it involved. This reward was to be formed of rational and immortal beings, originally apostate, but redeemed by him from their apostasy, through the atonement, made for their sins by his sufferings ; particularly his death ; and the honour, which he rendered to the divine law by his personal obedience. All these redeemed apostates were to endure for ever in a state of perfect holiness and happiness; and both this holiness and happiness were to be for ever progressive, under his perfectly wise and benevolent administration.
In this covenant, then, it is promised, that the persons, here spoken of, and elsewhere declared to be a great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, kindreds, and tongues, should be the seed, the children, of Christ; his property ; and that not only in a peculiar, but in a singular, sense ; not only created by him, as all other intelligent beings were, but redeemed by him also; and that at the expense of his own life.
The least consideration, however, will clearly show us, that sinners can never become Christ's in any such sense, as to be accepted by him, unless they are delivered from the sentence of condemnation, pronounced against them by the law of God. This law, I have formerly had occasion to observe, is unalterable. It is in itself perfect; and cannot be made better. God, the perfeet and unchangeable Being, cannot, without denying his
* Isaiah lhij. 10. Lowth.