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II. The Propriety, with which it is constituted the Means of our justification.
I. I shall attempt to describe the Manner, in which Faith becomes the Means of our justification.
To exhibit this subject in the clearest light, it will be useful to return again to the Covenant of redemption; in which the justification of mankind was originally promised. You will perhaps remember, that there are, as was formerly stated, three distinct promises, contained in this Covenant; beside the general one, which involves them all : that Christ shall see, or possess, a seed; that this seed shall prolong their days; or endure, or be happy, for ever; and that the throne, or dominion, of Christ, over them, shall be as the days of heaven: or in other words, eternal. The first of these promises, on which the other two are founded, is that Christ shall see, or possess, a seed: that is, he shall have a number, elsewhere said to be very great, of children, disciples, or followers, in consequence of making his soul an offering for sin ; or a propitiatory sacrifice.
The great question, naturally arising in this place, is, In what manner do Apostale Men, of whom his followers were to consist, become his seed? To this question I answer; By Faith. In explaining the true and full import of this answer, every thing may be said, which is necessary to the object under consideration. To this end, it will be proper to observe,
1st. That Mankind do not become the children of Christ by Creation.
By Creation, all men are equally his children. But all men are not his children, in the sense of this covenant.
In this sense, those only are his seed, who are his disciples. But we know from innumerable passages of Scripture, that all men are not his disciples.
2dly. Men do not become the children of Christ by their Obedience to the Law.
No man has obeyed the Law; and, therefore, by works of Law n10 flesh can be justified.
3dly. Men do not become the children of Christ, merely by his Atonement,
Christ was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, as well
as for his disciples. But the whole world is not included in the number of his disciples.
4thly. Mankind do not become the children of Christ by their Obedience, wrought after they believe in him.
No man ever obeys, in the scriptural sense, until after he has believed. But men are children of Christ, whenever they believe; and that, whether they live to perform acts of obedience, or not. Multitudes, there is every reason to suppose, die so soon, after believing, as to render it impossible for them to perform any acts of obedience whatever. All these are disciples of Christ. Men, therefore, are justified by faith, without works of Law.
As these are all the modes, in which mankind have ever been supposed to become disciples of Christ, beside that, which is the main subject of this discourse; the necessary conclusion from these observations will be, that men become his children by faith, according to the meaning of this Covenant.
At the same time, the nature of the case furnishes the most conclusive evidence to this position. Men, in their original state, are ruined and helpless. In this state, Christ offers himself to them as a Saviour, on the condition, that they will become his ; or that they will come to him; or that they will give themseldes up to him, or in other words, voluntarily become his. In the xvii. chapter of John, verse 2d, Christ says, in his intercessory prayer to God: As thou hast given him, that is, Christ, pomer over all flesh; that he should give eternal life to as many, as thou hast given him. In the 9th verse, he says, I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me ; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine ; and I am glorified in them. In these passages we learn, that the Father gave to Christ, originally, some of the human race; that all these are Christ's ; that he is glorified in them; and that he gives them eternal life.
The Covenant of Grace, made between God and mankind, is contained in these words : I will be your God and ye shall be my people.' In this covenant, God is pleased to engage, on his part, to be the God of all, who will be his; and man, on his part, gives himself up to God, engaging to be his. Accordingly, mankind are commanded to yield themselves to God. Yield
yourselves, says St. Paul to the Romans, unto God, as those that are alive from the dead. Rom. vi. 13. Be ye not stiff-necked, said Hezekiah to the Israelites, as your fathers were; but yield yourselves unto the Lord; and serve the Lord, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.
According to this scheme, which is every where the scheme 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 no wise 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 2d Epistle to the Corinthians, of the Macedonian Christians, says, that they first gave their own selves to the Lord. Chapter viii. 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, which 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 confide 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 hin.
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 sinners. 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 will I in no wise cast 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 2d and 3d 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 the 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 thus accepted on account of his faith, considered as merit; or as furnishing a claim, in the nature of a work of righteousness, suficiently excellent to deserve justification, either wholly, or partially. Considered in every other light, except that of be. ing 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 he 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 justification; and this obedience was never rendered by any child of Adam.
Il. 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 returning 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.
1st. 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 every where 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, Oh 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
that 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,