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It is the grand theme of the gospel, that “God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”
The wisdom of God saw fit to exercise mercy to sinful men through the mediation of his Son, who came into our world, assumed our nature, and suffered death on the cross for our sins. What were all the reasons, which, in the divine government, made such a scheme of redemption necessary, it may be difficult for us to determine, and it is needless to inquire. We may, however, easily discern some important ends, which it
It clearly displays the holiness, justice and mercy of God, the evil and demerit of sin, the punishment which it deserves, the grace of God to pardon it
, and the amazing danger of continued impenitence in it: We must therefore suppose, that these were among the reasons why it was adopted.
As Christ is the Mediator, so all the blessings, which we enjoy and hope for, are represented as coming to us through him. We are justified through his blood adopted in him-obtain the promise of the Spirit and are sanctified in him--are admitted to the means of salvation, called to the privileges of the gospel, and made partakers of eternal life through him.
The Apostle says, God has chosen us in Christ, be fore the foundation of the world. It was the eternal plan of divine wisdom to save sinners through Jesus Christ, who, in the purpose of God, was a lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Their salvation therefore cannot originate from any worthiness in them. selves, but must depend on the interposition of the Saviour ; for every thing which God has done, and which, even before the foundation of the world, he purposed to do for the recovery of sinners, was in consideration of that all perfect sacrifice which has been offer. ed on the cross.
Now if all spiritual benefits come to us only through Christ, it is an obvious conclusion, that we must seeks and expect them in his name : For we must evidently
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apply for them in the way in which God bestows them. Faith in Christ, therefore, becomes a necessary condi. tion of acceptance with God. However God may see fit to deal with some, who enjoy not our light, yet to us, who have known the mystery of his will, faith in Christ is a necessary principle of religion. much as we know, that we are not redeemed with cor. fuptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, who was ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in these last times for us, we must come to God by him, and by him believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God.”
V. The Apostle farther teaches us, that the reason of God's choosing believers in Christ, and predestinating them to adoption, is the good pleasure of his will.
If we admit that we are sinful, fallen creatures, un. worthy of God's favor, and insufficient for our own re. demption, which is a plain doctrine of the gospel, and an evident dictate of experience, then our salvation nust ultimately be resolved into God's good pleasure. There is no other source from which it can be derived. If death is our desert, our deliverance must be by grace.
Final salvation is suspended on the condition of our repentance, faith and holiness ; but it is not the less grace ; for these previous requisites are not merely of ourselves ; they are the gifts of God. The original plan of salvation is from him, not from us: The gospel itself is a divine gift, not a human discovery : Our being under circumstances to enjoy it is not the effect of our previous choice, but of God's sovereign goodness : It is the good Spirit of God, who awakens the attention of sinners to the gospel, excites them to the use of the means in their hands, and makes these means suceessfulThe gospel considers and treats us as free, but not as independent agents. In common life, the success of our labors, as well as our ability to labor,
depends on the support and concurrence of Providence. In the spiritual life, we are no less dependent on the influence of grace. As our encouragement to worldly industry arises from a belief, that God's Providence always attends us, so our animation in the Christian life springs from a persuasion, that God's grace is sufficient for us. - The just shall live by faith.”
Salvation is the purchase of Christ ; but still it no less originates from God's good pleasure ; " for in this was manifested the love of God toward us, because he sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” God, who is rich in mercy,” says our Apostle, “ for the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, that in the ages to come, he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to us by Jesus Christ. For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any may should boast ; for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God hath ordained, that we should walk in them."
This brings us to our last observation,
VI. That the great purpose for which God has chos . en and called us, is the praise of the glory of his
grace. God's grace is here represented as eminently gloriOus. Goodness is the glory of the divine character ; grace is the glory of the divine goodness; the plan of salvation for sinners by Jesus Christ, is the glory of
Here grace is exercised toward the most unworthy creatures, in the bestowment of the greatest of all benefits, by a method the most wonder. ful and expensive, even the death of a divine Saviour. The salvation of the smallest sinner is abundant grace; but where sin has abounded, grace much more abounds.
God has made this display of his grace, that unwor. thy creatures might apply to him for salvation. His walls, invitations and commands are to all, without dis
tinction of character, " The righteousness of God, through the faith of Jesus Christ, is unto all, and upon all them who believe, and there is no difference.” And lest sinners, conscious of aggravated guilt, should fear an exclusion from salvation, particular assurance is given, that Christ came to save the chief of sinners; and such are distinctly invited to come and receive the ben. efit of God's abundant grace.
The heralds of the gospel were sent forth to proclaim among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, not only that men might know, what was the hope of their calling, and what the glory of the heavenly inheritance, but also that principalities and powers in heav. enly places might learn more of the manifold wisdom of God.
We are to praise the glory of God's grace by a cheer. ful compliance with the precepts, and thankful acceptance of the blessings of the gospel. If, when God of. fers us his salvation, we will not receive it—if, when he holds out his pardon, we will continue in our sins if, when Jesus has once died to expiate qur guilt, we will open his bleeding wounds by our impenitence and unbelief-if, when the Spirit of grace strives for our recovery, we will resist it—and when patience waits, we will harden our hearts; we treat the God of heaven with such ingratitude-we trample on his grace with such contempt, that the heavens must be astonished. If he who wilfully transgresses God's law deserves death without mercy, of how much sorer punishment will they be judged worthy, who thus despise and abuse his grace!
We are to praise God's glorious grace by a holy life. We then honor it best, when under the influence of it we have our conversation as becomes the gospel. “The love of Christ constrains us," says the Apostle, " because we thus judge, that if Christ died for us, we who live should not henceforth live to ourselves, but to hiin who died for us and rose again ; therefore, if any Voi. III.
man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” He rejects with abhorrence the idea, that we should continue in sin, when grace abounds ; for, says he,“ How shall wc, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein p"
Christians are the chosen generation, a peculiar people, that they should shew forth the praises of him, who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Since they have obtained such mercy, let them abstain from fleshly lusts, and have their conversation in all his good works.
We are to glorify God's grace by encouraging others to accept it. “God hath quickened us in Christ,” says the Apostle, “ that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to us by Jesus Christ.” Of himself he says, “ I obtained mercy, that in me Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering for a pattern to them, who should afterward believe in him to life everlasting. St. Peter exhorts those who had been called into God's marvellous light, “ Have your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that by your good works, which they behold, they may glorify God in the day of visitation.". If, while we profess to be partakers of God's grace, we by the impurity of our lives strengthen bold transgressors, and lay stumbling blocks in the way of little ones, we dishonor and reproach that grace which we ought to exalt.
Believers will in a more perfect manner shew forth the praise of God's glorious grace in the future world. Grace will there be all the burthen of their song ; and this they will sing in the highest strains. They will tune their harps to sound the wonders of Creation and Providence : But when the glory of divine grace in the salvation of sinners, especially in their own salvation, becomes the theme, then they will touch the most sonorous strings. When they strike on this new song, " Thou art worthy for thou hast redeemed us by thy blood, and made us kings and priests unto thee,” not