תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

All the Blessings of the Gospel are by and through Christ Jesus.

xxxi

his great designs, and to set before our thoughts the most engaging subjects of meditation, and the most powerful motives of action. And this method, in the moral world, is still more necessary; because, without the attention of our minds, the end proposed, our sanctification, cannot be obtained. *

114. But how is it agreeable to the infinite distance there is between the Most High God, and creatures so low and imperfect, who are of no consideration when compared to the immensity of his nature, that he should so greatly concern himself about our redemption? Answer–He who is all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, attends to all the minutest affairs, in the whole Universe, without the least confusion or difficulty. And, if it was not below his infinite greatness to make mankind, it cannot be so to take care of them, when created. For kind, he can produce no beings more excellent than the rational and intelligent; consequently, those must be most worthy of his regard. And when they are corrupted, as thereby the end of their being is frustrated, it must be as agreeable to his greatness to endeavour, (when he sees fit,) their reformation, or to restore them to the true ends for which they were created, as it was originally to create them.

115. And as for mankind's being a mean and inconsiderable part of the creation, it may not be so easy to demonstrate, as we may imagine. The sin that is, or hath been, in the world, will not do it: for then the beings, which we know stand in a much higher, and, perhaps, in a very high rank of natural perfection, will be proved to be as mean and inconsiderable as ourselves ; seeing they in great numbers have sinned. Neither will our natural weakness and imperfection prove, that we are a mean and inconsiderable part of God's creation : for the Son of God, when cloathed in our flesh, and encompassed with all our infirmities and temptations, lost nothing of the real excellency and worth he possessed, when in a state of glory with the Father, before the world was. Still he was the beloved Son of God, in whom he was well pleased. Besides, since God may bestow honours and privileges, as he pleases; who will tell me, what pre-eminence, in the purpose of God, this world may possibly have, above any other part of the Universe? Or what relation it bears to the rest of the creation? We know that even angels have been ministering spirits to some part, at least, of mankind. Who will determine, how far the scheme of redemption may exceed any scheme of Divine wisdom, in other parts of the Universe ? Or how far it may affect the improvement and happiness of other beings, in the remotest regions. Eph. iii. 10, To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church, the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. 1 Pet. i. 12, Which things that are reported by them that have preached the Gospel, the angels desire to look into. It is therefore the sense of Revelation, that the heavenly principalities and powers study the wisdom and grace of redemption; and even increase their stock of wisdom from the displays of the Divine love in the Gospel. Who can say how much our virtue is, more or less, severely proved, than in other worlds? Or, how far our virtue may excel that of other beings, who are not subjected to our long and heavy trials; may not a virtue, firm and steady under our present clogs, inconveniences, discouragements, persecutions, trials, and temptations, possibly surpass the virtue of the highest angel, whose state is not attended with such embarrassments ? Do ye know how far such, as shall have honourably passed through the trials of this life, shall hereafter be dispersed through the creation? How much their capacities will be enlarged? How highly they shall be exalted? What power and trusts will be put into their hands? How far their influence shall extend, and how much they shall contribute to the good order and happiness of the Universe ? Possibly, the faithful soul, when disengaged from our present incumbrances, may blaze out into a degree of excellency equal to the highest honours, the most important and extensive services. Our Lord has made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, and we shall sit together in heavenly places, and reign with him. To him that overcomes the trials of this present state, he will give to sit with him in his throne. True, many from among mankind shall perish among the vile and

. But it certainly was not merely to display the various operations of Divine Providence, and to multiply the displays of the Divine per. fections, that God required the sacrifice and death of his Son : as he was a sacrifice for sin, and the true notion of sacrifice, is redeeming the life of a guilty creature, by the death of one that is innocent, therefore Christ died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, 1 Pet. iii. 18. Consequently the justice and righteousness of God required this sacrifice: and justice must have required it; else such a sacrifice could not have taken place: for had not justice required it, no attribute of God could, without injustice, have demanded it. A. C.

xxxii

All the Blessings of the Gospel are by and through Christ Jesus. worthless, for ever: and so shall many of the angels. These considerations may satisfy us ; that possibly mankind are not so despicable as to be below the interposition of the Son of God. Rather the surprising condescensions and sufferings of a being 50 glorious, should be an argument that the scheme of redemption is of the utmost importance ;" and that, in the estimate of God, who alone confers dignity, we are creatures of very great consequence. Lastly, God by Christ created the world ; and if it was not below his dignity to creale; it is much less below his dignity to redeem the world; whicli, of the two, is the more honourablè.

116. It is further to be observed ; that the whole scheme of the Gospel in Christ, and as it stands in relation to his blood, or obedience unto death, was formed in the council of God, before the calling of Abraham, and even before the beginning of the world. Acts xv. 18, Known unto God are all his works, (the dispensations which he intended to advance,) from the beginning of the world. Eph. i. 1; According as he hath chosen us in hima (Christ,) before the foundation of the world : (7.29 4272648,5 295145") 2 Tim. i. 9, Who hath sared us and called usaccording to his own purpose and grace which wus given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began. 1 Pet. i. 20, Who, (Christ,) verily tas fore-ordained before the foundution of the world, (T404272515 mo54.7') but was manifest in these last times for you, (Gentiles.) llence it appears, that the whole plan of the Divine mercy in the Gospel, in relation to the method of communicating it, and the person, througli whose obedience it was to be dispensed, and by whose ministry it was to be executed, was formed, in the mind and purpose of God, before this earth was created. God, by his perfect and unerring knowledge, fore-knew the future state of mankind; and so, before-appointed the means, which he judged proper for their recovery: which fore-knowledge is fully confirmed by the promise to Abraham, and very copiously by the repeated predictions of the prophets, in relation to our Lord's work, and particularly to his death, with the end and design of it.

117. Again ; it is to be noted, that all the fore-mentioned Mercy and Love, privileges and blessings, are granted and confirmed to the Christian church, under the sanction of a covenunt ; which is a grant or donation of blessings confirmed by a proper authority. The Gospel covenant is established by the promise and oath of God, and ratified by the blood of Christ, as a pledge and assurance, that it is a reality, and will certainly be made good. Matt. xxvi. 28, This is my blood in the New Testament, or Cor ENANT. Luke xxi. 26, This cup is the New Testament, (covenant,) in my blood. 2 Cor. iii. 6, Mate us uble ministers of the Nero Testament, (covenant.) Heb. vii. 22, Jesus made a surety of a better Testament. Heb. viii. 6, He is the mediator of a better covenant, established upon better promises--viii. 8. ix. 15. xii. 24. xii. 20.--Here observe, 1. Jesus is the surely, (Eyyuoso) sponsor, and mediator, (M=51795,) of the New Covenant, as lie is the great agent appointed of God to negotiate, transact, secure, and execute all the blessings which are conferred by this covenant. Obs. 2. That as the covenant is a donation or grant of blessing, hence it is, that the promise, or promiser, is sometimes put for the covenant ; as, Gal. iii. 17, The covenant that was confirmed before, to Abraham, of God in Christ, the law, 'which was 430 ycars after, cannot disarinul, that it should make the promise of none effect : for if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise. But God gave it to Abraham by promise ; and so ver. 19: again ver. 21, Is the law then against the promises of God. Ver. 22—Obs. 3. That the Gospel covenant was included in that made with Abraham, Gen. xvii. 1, &c. xxii. 16, 17, 18. As appears from Gal. iii. 17, and from Heb. vi. 13, When God made the promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, &c. Ver. 17, He confirmed, (Buscitavelv, he mèdiatorid,) it by an oath ; that by two immutable things, the promise and oath of God, we (Christians,) might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to ldy hold on the hope set before us.

118. But what should carefully and specially be observed is this, that the Gospel-constitution is a scheme, and the most "perfect and effectual scheme, for restoring true religion, and for promoting virtue and happiness, that the world has ever yet seen. Upon faith in Christ, men of all nations were admitted into the church, family, kingdom, and covenant of God by baptism; were all numbered among the justified, regenerate or horn again, sanctified, sared, chosen, called, saints, and beloved; were all of the flock, church, house, vine and vineyard of God; and were entitled to the ordinances and privileges of the church; had exceeding great and precious promises given unto them, especially that of entering into the rest of Ileaven. And in all these blessings and

All the Blessings of the Gospel are by and through Christ Jesus.

xxxiii

honours we are certainly very happy, as they are the things which are freely given to us of God, i Cor. ii. 12. But because these things are freely given, without respect to any obedience or righteousness, of ours, prior to the donation of them; is our obedience and personal righteousness, therefore, unnecessary ? Or are we, on account of benefits already received, secure of the favour and blessing of God, in a future world, and for ever? By no means.

117. To explain this important point more clearly, I shall proceed as before, and shew that these privileges and blessings, given in general to the Christian church, are antecedent blessings; given indeed freely, without any respect to the prior obedience of the Gentile world, before they were taken into the church ; but intended to be motives to the most upright obedience for the future, after they were joined to the family and kingdom of God. Which effect, if they produce, then our election, and calling, our redemption, adoption, &c. are made good: upon which account I shall call them consequent blessings; because they are secured to us, and made ours for ever, only in consequence of our obedience. But on the other hand, if the antecedent blessings do not produce obedience to the will of God; if we, his chosen people and children, do not obey the laws and rules of the Gospel, then we, as well as any other wicked persons, may expect tribulation and wrath ; then we forfeit all our privileges, and all our honours and relations to God; all the favour and promises given freely to us are of no avail ; we receive the grace of God in vain, and everlasting death will certainly be our wretched portion.

118. That this is the great end of the dispensation of God's grace to the Christian church—namely, to engage us to duty and obedience ; and, that it is a scheme for promoting virtue and true religion, is clear from every part of the New Testament, and requires a large and particular proof: not because the thing in itself is difficult or intricate; but because it is of great importance to the right understanding of the Gospel, and the Apostolic writings; and serves to explain several points which stand in close relation to it. As particularly ; that all the fore-mentioned privileges belong to all professed Christians, even to those that shall perish eternally. For

1. If the Apostles affirm them of all Christians, to whom they write:

2. If they declare some of those Christians, who were favoured with those privileges, to be wicked, or suppose they might be wicked:

3. If they declare those privileges are conferred by mere grace, without regard to prior works of righteousness : 4. If they plainly intimate, those privileges are conferred in order to produce true holiness : 5. If they exhort all to use them to that purpose, as they will answer it to God at the last day:

6. If they declare they shall perish, if they do not improve them to the purifying their hearts, and the right ordering of their conversation ; then it must be true that these privileges belong to all Christians, and are intended to induce them to a holy life. And the truth of all those six particulars will sufficiently appear, if we attend to the Gospels and Epistles.

$ IX. Conclusions from the preceding Discourse.

119. Though, in the foregoing collection, I have faithfully and impartially endeavoured to give the true sense of every text; yet possibly, in some few, that are doubtful, I may have erred. But there are so many indisputably plain and full to the purpose, as will, I am persuaded, sufficiently justify the following conclusions :

120. I. That the Gospel is a scheme for restoring true religion, and for promoting virtue and happiness.

121. II. That election, adoption, vocation, salvation; justification, sanctification, regeneration, and the other blessings, honours and privileges, which come under the head of ANTECEDENT blessings, do, in a sense, belong, at present, to all Christians, even those who, for their wickedness, may perish eternally.

122. III. That those antecedent blessings, as they are offered and assigned to the whole body of Christians, do not import an absolute final state of favour and happiness; but are to be considered as displays, instances, and

xxxiv

Conclusions from the preceding Discourse. descriptions of God's love and goodness to us; which are to operate as a moral mean upon our hearts. They are a display of the love of God, who is the Fatuer of the Universe, who cannot but delight in the well being of his creatures; and being perfect in goodness, possessed of all power, and the only original of all life and happiness, must be the prime author of all blessedness; and bestow his favours in the most free, generous, and disinterested manner. And therefore, those blessings, as freely bestowed antecedently to our obedience, and perfectly consonant to the nature and moral character of God. He has freely, in our first birth and creation, given us a distinguished and eminent degree of being, and all the noble powers and advantage of reason : are what should stop the course of his liberality, or hinder his conferring new and higher blessings, even when we could pretend no title or claim to them ? And as the blessings of the Gospel are of the most noble kind, raising us to high dignity, and the most delightful prospects of immortality; they are well adapted to engage the attention of men, to give the most pleasing ideas of God, to demonstrate most clearly what nature itself discovers, that he is our FATHER, and to win and engage our hearts to him in love, who has, in a manner, so surprising, loved us. By promising the remission of sins, protection and guidance through this world, and the hope of eternal life, every cloud, discouragement and obstacle, is removed ; and the grace of God, in its brightest glory, shines full upon ou minds, and is divinely powerful to support our patience, and animate our obedience under temptations, trials and difficulties ; and to inspire peace of conscience, comfort and joy.

123. IV. These prinçiples ought to be admitted and claimed by all Christians, and firmly established in their hearts; as containing privileges and blessings in which they are all undoubtedly interested. Otherwise it is evident, they will be defective in the true principles of their religion, the only ground of their Christian joy and peace, and the proper motives of their Christian obedience. Now those principles, (namely, our election, vocation, justification, regeneration, sanctification, &c, in Christ, through the free grace of God,) are admitted, and. duly established in our hearts, by Faith. Faith then, as exercised upon the blessings which God has gratuitously bestowed upon us, is, in our hearts, the foundation of the Christian life : and retaining and exercising this Christian virtue of Faith, is called tasting that the Lord is gracious, 1 Pet. ii. 3. ; having*, or holding fast grace, Heb. xii. 28; growing in grace, 2 Pet. iii. 18; being strong in the grace of Jesus Christ, 2 Tim. ü. I.; holding faith, 1 Tim. i. 19, iii. 9.; continuing in the faith grounded and settled, and not being moved away from the hope of the Gospel, Col. i. 23. ; holding fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope, Heb. iii. 6.; holding the beginning of our confidence steudfast, Heb. iii. 14.; having (holding) hope, I John iii. 3.; hoping perfectly for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the Revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. i. 13. ; giving eurnest heed to the things we have heard, Heb. ii. 1.; haring (holding) the Son, or Christ, 1 John v. 12. By these, and such like phrases, the Apostles express our being thoroughly persuaded of, and duly affected with, the blessings included in our election, vocation, justification, &c. Or, their being firmly established in our hearts as principles of obedience, to secure our perseverance and final happiness ; through the mighty working of God's power, to purify our hearts, and to guard us through all our spiritual dangers and conflicts; which power will always assuredly attend every one, who holds faith, grace, and hope, 1 Pet. i. 5. Here note; that the primary object of faith is not in ourselves, but in God. Not our own obedience or goodness, but the free grace of God, is the primary object of Faith. But the fruit of Faith must be in ourselves. The grace or free gift of God is the foundation of faith; and faith is the foundation of the whole life of a true Christian. 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7, Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, &c. Jude 20, Building up yourselves

. on your most holy Fartu, &c. 124. These antecedent blessings are the first principles of the Christian religion : but the first principles of religion must be free from all doubt or scruple ; otherwise the religion which is built upon them, must sink, as having no foundation, The principles of natural religion, that I am endowed with a rational nature, that there is a God in whom I live, move, and have my being, and to whom I am accountable for my actions, are perfeetly evident; otherwise the obligations of natural religion would be necessarily doubtful and uncertain. In like

Extı, to hare in such passages signifies to keep, or hold, as a property or principle for use. Mat. xiii, 12. XXV. 29. John iii. 99, v. 48. viii, 12. Rom. i. 28. xv. 4. 1 Thes, iii. 6. 1 Tim. i. 19. ii. 9. Hebr. vi. 9. ix. *. 1.John ii. 23. ii. 3. v. 12. 2 John ver. %.

Conclusions from the preceding Discourse.

manner, the first principles of the Christian religion must be free from all perplexity; otherwise its obligations must be doubtful and perplexed. If it be doubtful whether ever Christ came into the world to redeem it, the whole Gospel is doubtful; and it is the same thing, if it be doubtful who are redeemed by him; for, if he has redeemed we know not whom, it is nearly the same thing, with regard to our improvement of redemption, as if he had redeemed no body at all.

125. Faith is the first act of the Christian life to which every Christian is obliged, and therefore it must have a sure and certain object to work upon; but if the love of God in our election, calling, adoption, justification, redemption, &c, be in itself uncertain to any persons, in the Christian church, then faith has no sure nor certain object to work upon with respect to some Christians ; and consequently some Christians are not obliged to believe; which is false.

126. Further, the Apostles make our election, calling, adoption, &c. motives to obedience and holiness. And therefore these (our election, calling, adoption, &c.) must have an existence antecedent to our obedience ; other. wise they can be no motive to it. And if only an uncertain, unknown number of men be elected to eternal life, no individual can certainly know that he is of that number; and so, election can be no motive to obedience to any person in the Christian church. To confine election, adoption, &c. to some few, is unchurching the greatest part of the church, and robbing them of common motives and comforts.

127. Our election, adoption, and other antecedent blessings, are not of works ; consequently we are not to work for them, but upon them. They are not the effect of our good works, but our good works are the effect of them; they are not founded upon our holiness, but our holiness is founded upon them. We do not procure them by our obedience, for they are the effect of free grace, but they are motives and reasons exciting and encouraging our obedience. Therefore our election is not proved by our sanctification, or real holiness. Our real happiness proves, that our election is made sure ; but our election itself is proved by the free grace of God.

128. From all this it follows, that we, as well as the Christians of the first times, may claim, and appropriate to ourselves all the fore-mentioned antecedent blessings, without any doubt or scruple. In confidence of hope and full assurance of faith we may boldly say, “the Lord is my helper," and come with boldness to the throne of grace. Our life, even eternal life, is sure to every one of us in the promise of God, and the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the business of every Christian is not to perplex himself with doubts, and fears, and gloomy apprehensions; but to rejoice in the Lord, and to do the duties of his place cheerfully and faithfully, in the assured hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ, to him be everlasting glory and praise. Amen.*

129. V. From the preceding collection of texts we may gather ; that some of the expressions, whereby the antecedent blessings are signified, such as elect, justify, sanctify, &c. may be used in a double sense ; namely, either as they are applied to all Christians in general in relation to their being translated into the kingdom of God, and made his peculiar people, enjoying the privileges of the Gospel. Or, as they signify the effects of those privileges. Wherever any blessing is assigned to all Christians without exception; wherever it is said not to be of works, wherever Christians are expected to make a due improvement of it, and threatened with the loss of God's blessing, and of eternal life if they do not; there, the expressions which signify that blessing, are to be understood in a general sense as denoting a gospel privilege, profession or obligation. And in this general sense, saved, elect, chosen, justified, sanctified are sometimes used; and calling, called, election are, I think, always used in the New Testament. But when any blessing denotes real holiness, as actually existing in the subject, then it may be understood in the special and eminent sense, and always must be understood in this sense, when it implies the actual possession of eternal life. And in this sense, saved, elect, chosen, justify, sanctify, born of God, are sometimes used. Mat. xx. 16, Many are called but few are chosen, (who make a

This is all right, when the sinner has been led by a deep knowledge of his lost estate, to seek and find redemption in the blood of the Lamb: then it is his business to rejoice in the Lord and do the duties of his place cheerfully and faithfully, in the assured hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. But he must not presume, because he is in a Christian church, and believes the doctrines of Christianity, that there. fore he is safe. He cannot be safe unless Christ be formed in his heart the hope of glory. A. C.

« הקודםהמשך »