« FöregåendeFortsätt »
5. And first, let us look forward on the whole work of God, in the salvation of man; considering it from the beginning, the first point, till it terminates in glory. The first point is the foreknowledge of God. God foreknew those in every nation, who would believe, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things. But in order to throw light upon this dark question, it should be well observed, that when we speak of God's foreknowledge we do not speak according to the nature of things, but after the manner of men. For if we speak properly, there is no such thing as either foreknowledge or after knowledge in God. All time, or rather all eternity, (for time is only that small fragment of eternity which is allotted to the children of men,) being present to him at once, he does not know one thing before another, or one thing after another ; but sees all things in one point of view, from everlasting to everlasting. As all time, with every thing that exists therein, is present with him at once, so he sees at once, whatever was, is, or will be, to the end of time. But observe: we must not think they are, because he knows them. No; he knows them, because they are. Just as I (if one may be allowed to compare the things of men with the deep things of God) now know the sun shines : yet the sun does not shine because I know it; but I know it, because he shines. My knowledge supposes the sun to shine ; but does not in any wise cause it. In like manner, God knows that man sins, for he knows all things : yet we do not sin because he knows it, but he knows it because we sin; and his knowledge supposes our sin, but does not in any wise cause it. In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all the children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation. Yet what he knows, whether faith or unbelief, is in no wise caused by his knowledge. Men are as free in believing, or not believing, as if he did not know it at all.
6. Indeed if man were not free, he could not be accountable either for his thoughts, words, or actions. If he were not free, he would not be capable either of reward or punishment; he would be incapable either of virtue or vice, of being either morally good or bad. If he had no more freedom than the sun, the moon, or the stars, he would be no more accountable than they. On supposition that he had no more freedom than they, the stones of the earth would be as capable of reward, and as liable to punishment, as man: one would be as accountable as the other. Yea, and it would be as absurd to ascribe either virtue or vice to him, as to ascribe it to the stock of a tree.
7. But to proceed : " whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” This is the second step: (to speak after the manner of men : for in fact, there is nothing before or after in God :) in other words, God decrees, from everlasting to everlasting, that all who believe in the Son of his love, shall be conformed to his image ; shall be saved from all inward and outward sin, into all inward and outward holiness. Accordingly, it is a plain, undeniable fact, all who truly believe in the name of the Son of God do now “receive the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls ;” and this in virtue of the unchangeable, irreversible, irresistible decree of God, “He that believeth shall be saved;" “ he that believeth not shall be damned."
8. “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." This is the third step: (still remembering that we speak after the manner of men,) to express it a little more largely: according to his fixed decree, that believers shall be saved ; those whom he foreknows as such, he calls both outwardly and inwardly,-outwardly by the word of his grace, and inwardly by his Spirit. This inward application of his word to the heart, seems to be what some term “effectual calling :” and it implies, the calling them children of God; the accepting them “in the Beloved;" the justifying them freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.”
9. “Whom he called, them he justified." This is the fourth step. It is generally allowed, that the word "justified” here is taken in a peculiar sense ; that it means he made them just or righteous. He executed his decree, “ conforming them to the image of his Son;" or, as we usually speak, sanctified them.
10. It remains, “whom he justified, them he also glorified." This is the last step. Having made them “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;" he gives them " the kingdom which was prepared for them before the world began. This is the order wherein, “according to the counsel of his will,” the plan he has laid down from eternity, he saves those whom he foreknew; the true believers in every place and generation.
11. The same great work of salvation by faith, according to the foreknowledge and decree of God, may appear in a still clearer light, if we view it backward, from the end to the beginning. Suppose then you stood with the “great multitude which no man can number, out of every nation, and tongue, and kindred and people,” who "give praise unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb for ever and ever;" you would not find one among them all that were entered into glory, who was not a witness of that great truth, “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” not one of all that innumerable company, who was not sanctified before he was glorified. By holiness he was prepared for glory; according to the invariable will of the Lord, that the crown, purchased by the blood of his Son, should be given to none but those who are renewed by his Spirit. He is become “the author of eternal salvation," only to them that obey him ;" that obey him inwardly and outwardly; that are holy in heart, and holy in all manner of conversation.
12. And could you take a view of all those upon earth who are now sanctified, you would find not one of these had been sanctified till after he was called. He was first called, not only with an outward call, by he word and the messengers of God, but likewise with an inward call, by his Spirit applying his word enabling him to believe in the only begotten Son of God, and bearing testimony with his spirit that he was a child of God. And it was by this very means they were all sanctified. It was by a sense of the love of God shed abroad in his heart, that every one of them was enabled to love God. Loving God, he loved his neighbour as himself, and had power to walk in all his commandments blameless. This is a rule which admits of no exception. God calls a sinner his own, that is, justifies him, before he sanctifies. And by this very thing, the consciousness of his favour, he works in him that grateful, filial affection, from which spring every good temper and word and work. 13. And who are they that are thus called of God, but those whom he had before predestinated, or decreed to “conform to the image of his Son ?" This decree (still speaking after the manner of men) precedes every man's calling: every believer was predestinated before he was called. For God calls none, but “according to the counsel of his will,” according to this posols, or plan of acting, which he had laid down before the foundation of the world.
14. Once more: as all that are called were predestinated, so all whom God has predestinated he foreknew. He knew, he saw them as believers, and as such predestinated them to salvation, according to his eternal decree :-“ He that believeth shall be saved." Thus we see the whole process of the work of God, from the end to the beginning. Who are glorified ? None but those who were first sanctified. Who are sanctified ? None but those who were first justified. Who are justified ? None but those who were first predestinated. Who are predestinated ? None but those whom God foreknew as believers. Thus the purpose and word of God stand unshaken as the pillars of heaven :—“He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” And thus God is clear from the blood of all men; since whoever perishes, perishes by his own act and deed. They will not come unto me, says the Saviour of men; and “there is no salvation in any other." They “will not believe;" and there is no other way either to present of eternal salvation. Therefore their blood is upon their own head; and God is still “justified in his saying," that he “willeth all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of his truth."
15. The sum of all is this: the almighty, all wise God, sees and knows, from everlasting to everlasting, all that is, that was, and that is to come, through one eternal now. With him nothing is either past or future, but all things equally present. He has, therefore, if we speak according to the truth of things, no foreknowledge, no after knowledge. This would be ill consistent with the apostle's words, "With him is no variableness or shadow of turning ;” and with the account he gives of himself by the prophet, “ I the Lord change not." Yet when he speaks to us, knowing whereof we are made, knowing the scantiness of our understanding, he lets himself down to our capacity, and speaks of himself after the manner of men. Thus, in condescension to our weakness, he speaks of his own purpose, counsel, plan, foreknowledge. Not that God has any need of counsel, of purpose, or of planning his work beforehand. Far be it from us to impute these to the Most High; to measure him by ourselves ! It is merely in compassion to us, that he speaks thus of himself, as foreknowing the things in heaven or earth, and as predestinating or foreordaining them. But can we posssibly imagine that these expressions are to be taken literally? To one who was so gross in his conceptions, might he not say, “ Thinkest thou I am such a one as thyself ?” Not so: as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than thy ways. I know, decree, work, in such a manner as it is not possible for thee to conceive: but to give thee some faint, glimmering knowledge of my ways, I use the language of men, and suit myself to thy apprehensions, in this thy infant state of existence.
16. What is it then that we learn from this whole account? It is this, and no more: 1, God knows all believers ; 2, wills that they should be saved from sin ; 3, to that end justifies them; 4, sanctifies; and 5, takes them to glory.
Oh that men would praise the Lord for this his goodness; and that they would be content with this plain account of it, and not endeavour to wade into those mysteries which are too deep for angels to fathom!
SERMON LXIV.-God's Love to Fallen Man.
“Not as the offence, so also is the free gift," Romans v, 15.
1. How exceeding common, and how bitter, is the outcry against our first parent, for the mischief which he not only brought upon himself, but entailed upon his latest posterity! It was by his wilful rebellion against God, " that sin entered into the world.” “ By one man's disobedience,” as the apostle observes, the many, 01 Hodnos, as many as were then in the loins of their forefather, “were made,” or constituted, “sinners:" not only deprived of the favour of God, but also of his image, of all virtue, righteousness, and true holiness; and sunk, partly into the image of the devil,—in pride, malice, and all other diabolical tempers, partly into the image of the brute, being fallen under the dominion of brutal passions and grovelling appetites. Hence also death entered into the world, with all his forerunners and attendants; pain, sickness, and a whole train of uneasy, as well as unholy passions and tempers.
2. “ For all this we may thank Adam,” has echoed down from gene ration to generation. The self-same charge has been repeated in every age and every nation, where the oracles of God are known; in which alone this grand and important event has been discovered to the children of men. Has not your heart. and probably your lips too, joined in the general charge? How few are there of those who believe the scriptural relation of the fall of man, that have not entertained the same thought concerning our first parent ? Severely condemning him that, through wilful disobedience to the sole command of his Creator,
Brought death into the world, and all our wo.” 3. Nay, it were well if the charge rested here: but it is certain it does not. It cannot be denied, that it frequently glances from Adam to his Creator. Have not thousands, even of those that are called Christians, taken the liberty to call his mercy, if not his justice also, into question, on this very account ? Some indeed have done this a little more modestly, in an oblique and indirect manner; but others have thrown aside the mask, and asked, “Did not God foresee that Adam would abuse his liberty ? And did he not know the baneful consequences which this must naturally have on all his posterity? And why then did he permit that disobedience? Was it not easy for the Almighty to have prevented it ?”—he certainly did foresee the whole. This cannot be denied. For “known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world :” rather from all eternity, as the words and atlivos properly signify. And it was undoubtedly in his power to prevent it; for he hath all power both in heaven and earth. But it was known to him at the same time, that it was best upon the whole not to pre vent it. He knew, that "not as the transgression, so is the free gift;"
that the evil resulting from the former was not as the good resulting from the latter,—not worthy to be compared with it. He saw that to permit the fall of the first man was far best for mankind in general ; that abundantly more good than evil would accrue to the posterity of Adam by his fall; that if “ sin abounded” thereby, over all the earth, yet grace “ would much more abound ;” yea, and that to every individual of the human race, unless it was his own choice.
4. It is exceeding strange that hardly any thing has been written, or at least published on this subject ; nay, that it has been so little weighed or understood by the generality of Christians ; especially considering, that it is not a matter of mere curiosity, but a truth of the deep est importance ; it being impossible, on any other principle,
“ To assert a gracious providence,
And justify the ways of God with men;" and considering withal, how plain this important truth is, to all sensible and candid inquirers. May the Lover of men open the
eyes understanding, to perceive clearly, that by the fall of Adam mankind in general have gained a capacity,
First, of being more holy and happy on earth; and,
Secondly, of being more happy in heaven, than otherwise they could have been.
1. And, first, Mankind in general have gained by the fall of Adam, a capacity of attaining more holiness and happiness on earth, than it would have been possible for them to attain if Adam had not fallen. For if Adam had not fallen, Christ had not died. Nothing can be more clear than this; nothing more undeniable: the more thoroughly we consider the point, the more deeply shall we be convinced of it. Unless all the partakers of human nature had received that deadly wound in Adam, it would not have been needful for the Son of God to take our nature upon him. Do you not see that this was the very ground. of his coming into the world ? “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and thus death passed upon all," through him in whom all men sinned, Rom. v, 12. Was it not to remedy this very thing, that “the Word was made flesh,” that “as in Adam all died, so in Christ all [might] be made alive ?” Unless then many had been made sinners by the disobedience of one; by the obedience of one, many would not have been made righteous; ver. 19: so there would have been no room for that amazing display of the Son of God's love to mankind : there would have been no occasion for his being "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” It could not then have been said, to the astonishment of all the hosts of heaven,“ God so loved the world,” yea, the ungodly world, which had no thought or desire of returning to him, “ that he gave his Son” out of his bosom, his only-begotten Son, “to the end that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Neither could we then have said, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself;" or that he "made him to be sin,” that is, a sin offering, "for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God through him.” There would have been no such occasion for such“ an Advocate with the Father," as " Jesus Christ the Righteous ;” neither for his appearing " at the right hand of God, to make intercession for us "