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SERMON XLVI.- The Wilderness State.
(Preached before the Society for Reformation of Manners, on Sunday, January
30th, 1763, at the Chapel in West-Street, Seven Dials.)
SALVATION BY FAITH:
ST. MARY'S, OXFORD, BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY,
ON JUNE 18, 1738.
“ By grace are ye saved, through faith.” Eph. ii. 8. 1. All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man, are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a Jiring soul," and stamped on that soul the image of God, and "put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God's hand. “All our works, thou, O God! hast wrought in us." These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy: and, whatever righteousness may
be found in man, this is also the gift of God.
2. Wherewithal then shall a sinful man atone for any the least of his sins ? With his own works ? No. Were they ever so many or holy, they are not his own, but God's. But indeed they are all unholy and sinful themselves, so that every one of them needs a fresh atonement. Only corrupt fruit grows on a corrupt tree. And his heart is altogether corrupt and abominable; being "come short of the glory of God,” the glorious righteousness at first impressed on his soul, after the image of his great Creator. Therefore having nothing, neither righteousness nor works to plead, his mouth is utterly stopped before God. Vol. I. No. 1.
3. If then sinful men fiud favour with God, it is “grace uponi
If God vouchsafe still to pour fresh blessings upon us, yea, the greatest of all blessings, salvatiou; what can we say to these things, but, 66 Thanks be wto God for his 11speakable Gift!” And thus it is. Hercin “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet simuers, Christ died" to save us. By grace, then, are ye saved, through faith." Grace is the source, faith the condition, of salvation.
Now, that we fall not short of the grace of God, it concerns us carefully to inquire,
1. What Faith it is through which we are saved ?
Noir God requirethi of a Heathen to believe, “ That Godis; that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seck him;" and that he is to be sought by glorifying him as God, by giving him thanks for all things, and by a careful practice of moral virtue, of justice, mercy, and truth toward their felloir-creatures. Greek or Roman, therefore, yea, a Scythian) or Indian), was without excuse if he did not believe thus much : The Being and Attributes of God, a Future State of Reward and Punishment, and the Obligatory Nature of Moral Virtue. For this is barely the faith of a heathen.
2. Nor, secondly, Is it the faith of a Devil, though he goes much farther than that of a heather. For the Devil believes, not only that there is a wise and powerful God, gracious to reward, and just to punish; but also that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, the Saviour of the world. So tre find him declaring, in express terms, (Luke iv.31, “I know Thee, who thou art ; the Holy One of God.” Nor can we doubi but that unhappy spirit believes all those words which came out of the mouth of the Holy One ; yea, and whatsoerer else was written by those holy men of old, of two of whom he was compelled to give that glorious testimony, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who shew unto you the way of salvation.” Thus much, then, the great Enemy of God and man believes, and trembles in believing, that God was made manifest in the flesh; that he will “tread all enemies under his feet ;" and that “all Scripture was given by inspiration of God." Thus far goeth the faith of a Devil.
3. Thirdly, The faith through which we are saved, in that sense of the word which will hereafter be explained, is not barely that which the Apostles themselves had while Christ was yet upon earth; though they so believed on him as to "leave all and follow him ;” although they had then power to work miracles, to “heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease; ” yea, they had then “power and authority over all Devils; ” and, which is beyond all this, were sent by their Master to “preach the Kingdom of God.”
4. What faith is it then through which we are saved ? It may be answered, first, in general, it is a faith in Christ; Christ, and God through Christ, are the proper objects of it. Herein, therefore, it is sufficiently, absolutely distinguished from the faith, either of ancient or modern heathens. And from the faith of a Devil, it is fully distinguished by this, it is not barely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head; but also a disposition of the heart. For thus saith the Scripture, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” And, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe with thy heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
5. And herein does it differ from that faith which the Apostles themselves had while our Lord was on earth, that it acknowledges the necessity and merit of his death, and the power of bis resurrection. It acknowledges his death, as the only sufficient means of redeeming man from death eternal, and his resurrection as the restoration of us all to life and immortality ; inasmuch as he “was delivered for our sins, and rose again for our justification.” Christian Faith is then, not only an assent to the whole Gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the Blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, aud resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us. It is a sure confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with him, and cleaving to him, as our “Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption," or, in one word, our Salvation.
II. What Salvation it is, which is through this faith, is the second thing to be considered.
1. And first, whatsoever else it imply, it is a present salvation. It is something attainable, yea, actually attained on earth, by those who are partakers of this faith. For thus saitli the Apostle to the believers at Ephesus, and in them to the believers of all ages, not ye shall be, (though that also is true, but " ye are saved through faith."
2. Ye are saved (to comprise all in one word) from sin. This is the salvation which is through faith. This is that great salvation foretold by the Angel, before God brought his firstbegotten into the world : “ Thou shalt call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins." And neither here, nor in other parts of Holy Writ, is there any limitation or restriction. All his people, or, as it is elsewhere expressed, “all that believe in him,” he will save from all their sins ; from original and actual, past and present sin, “ of the flesh and of the-spirit.” Through faith that is in bim, they are saved both from the guilt auci from the power of it.
3. First from the guilt of all past sin : for, whereas all the world is guilty before God, insomuch, that should he “be extreme to mark what is done amiss, there is none that could abide it;” and whereas, " by the Law is” only“ the knowledge of sin,” but to deliverance from it, so that, “ by fulfilling the deeds of the Law, no flesh can be justified in his sight;” now, “the rightcousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, is manifested unto all that believe.” Now, “they are justifica freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ." "Him God hath set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith in his blood ; to declare his righteousness for (or by) the remission of the sins that are past." Now hati Christ taken away
“the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us." He hath “ blotted out the handwriting that was against is, taking it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” “ There is, therefore, no condemnation now, to them which” believe in Christ Jesus.
4. And being saved from guilt, they are sared from fear. Not indeed from a filial fear of offending ; but, from all servile fear; from that fear which hath torment; from fear of punishment; from fear of the wrath of God, whom they now no longer regard as a severe Master, but as an indulgent Father. “ They have not received again the Spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father : the Spirit itself also bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God.” They are also saved from the fear, though not from the possibility, of falling away from the grace of God, and coming short of the great and precious promises : they are