Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

SERMON EIGHTEESTA.

To this the common answer is, that we are to ascribe it to the pure good will of God, that he accepted say atonement or provided any satisfaction; and, there fore, we may still be said to be saved by grace. be. cause it was grace, which made it just to save us. Al this confusion follows from men's substituting words or inventions of their own, in place of the general expressions of scripture.

The death of Christ is no where in scripture spoken of in such terms, as make it necessary to imagine, that a strict equivalent has been paid to God for the transgressions of mankind. The terms, satisfaction, substitution, and some others, equally used on this subject, are not to be found applied to it in seriptare, but only in the systems of theologians. If we will but go back to the simplicity of the faith and language of scripture, we shall find, that all which Christ did, and suffered, from his birth to his pain. ful death, proceeded from the antecedent love of favour of God, and was a part of his great design to recover mankind from sin. The idea of satisfaction to an offended Deity, never once enters into the dif. ferent statements, which are made of these facts. There is nothing in scripture, wbicb represents, that Christ has made it just for God to forgive sins now. upon repentance, when it would not bare been before.

T'he dispositions of God toward mankind, or the principles of his government are not altered by the death of Christ; on the contrary, the disposition of mercy, by which we must at last be admitted to everlasting life, is the same, wbich sent Jesas into the world, and admitted Jew and Gentile into the church of Christ.

Unless, therefore, we affix to the death of Christ ideas of an efficacy, wbich the scriptores do not as. cribe to it, there is no kind of inconsistency bet

nsistency between the merits of this death and the gratuito tion of pardon upon repentance; but

a hnt both the death of 32

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Christ, and the acceptance of mortals are alike parts of the same gracious scheme, and flow from the same sentiments of mercy in God. We only embarrass ourselves and our religion, when we attempt to introduce the legal ideas of substitute, equivalent, surety, or satisfaction.

But a more important objection still recurs. If the grace of God is so gratuitous, as you represent it, and if the death of Christ, though you do not choose to call it a satisfaction, has any efficacy in the forgiveness of the sins of mankind, how is this to be reconciled with the indispensable necessity of good works, for which the apostles have, in so many places, taken care to provide ? I might answer this question by saying, that the nature of christian salvation is such, that it is impossible for any but a good man to enjoy it; and christianity cannot alter that original constitution of the moral world, by which God has made salvation or happiness depend. ent upon virtue.

But if this should not be deemed satisfactory, or accommodated to every apprehension, I shall be excused in giving, in conclusion, the following quotations from one of the plainest and most popular of writers. *

66 In the business of our final salvation, there are naturally, and properly, two things, viz. the cause and the condition; and these two things are different. We should see better the propriety of this distinction, if we would allow ourselves to consider well, what salvation is : what the being saved means. It is nothing less, than, after this life is ended, being placed in a state of happiness exceedingly great, both in degree and duration ; a state, concerning which it is said : the sufferings of this present wortă are not worthy to be compared with the glory, that

* Paley's Works, Vol. iv. p. 275. Bostop Edition.

shall be revealed.” 6 It is, out of all calculation, and comparison, and proportion, above and more than any human works can possibly deserve. To what, then, are we to ascribe it, that endeavours after virtue should procure, and that they will, in fact, procure to those, who sincerely exert them, such immense blessings ; to what, but to the voluntary bounty of a God, who, in his inexpressible good pleasure, has appointed it so to be? The benignity of God towards man hath made him this inconceivably advantageous offer. But a most kind offer may still be a conditional offer. And this, though an infinitely gracious and beneficial offer, is still a conditional offer; and the performance of the conditions is as necessary, as if it had been an offer of mere retribution. The kindness, the bounty, the generosity of the offer do not make it less necessary to perform the conditions, but more so. A conditional offer may be infinitely kind on the part of the benefactor, who makes it, may be infinitely beneficial to those, to whom it is made ; if it be from a prince or a governour, may be infinitely gracious and merciful on his part; and yet, being conditional, the condition is as necessary, as if the offer had been no more, than that of scanty wages by a hard taskmaster.

In considering this matter in general, the whole of it appears to be very plain; yet, when we apply the consideration to religion, there are two mistakes, into which we are very liable to fall. The first is, that, when we hear so much of the exceedingly great kindness of the offer, we are apt to infer, that the condi. tions, upon which it was made, will not be exacted. Does that at all follow ? Because the offer, even with these conditions, is represented to be the fruit of love, and mercy, and kindness, and is, in truth, so, and is most justly so to be accounted, does it follow, that the conditions of the offer are not necessary to be

performed ? This is one errour, into which we slide, against which we ought to guard ourselves most dili. gently; for it is not simply false in its principle, but most pernicious in its application; its application al. ways being to countenance us in some sin, which we will not relinquish.

The second mistake is, that, when we have performed the conditions, or think, that we have performed them, or when we endeavour to perform the conditions, on which the reward is offered, we forth. with attribute our obtaining the reward to this our performance or endeavour, and not to that, which is the beginning, and foundation, and cause of the whole, the true and proper cause, viz. the kindness and bounty of the original offer. This turn of thought, likewise, as well as the other, it is necessary to warn you against. For it has these consequences: it damps our gratitude to God; it takes off our attention from him. Some, who allow the necessity of good works to salvation, are not willing, that they should be called conditions of salvation. But this, I think, is a distinction, too refined for common christian apprehension. If they be necessary to salvation, they are conditions of salvation, so far as I can see.”

I can add nothing to the simplicity, or perspicuity of these statements. I will only, therefore, beg you to remember, that the grace, and mercy of God, in the salvation of men, so far from diminishing the necessity or the obligations of holiness, constitute, in fact, the strongest obligations and motives to christians to lead a life of unreserved and grateful virtue; otherwise they are treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath, by despising the riches of God's forbearance, and neglecting this great salvation.

SERMON XIX.

· LUKE XVIII. 10.

T.WO MEN WENT UP INTO THE TEMPLE TO PRAY; THE ONE A PHARISEE, AND THE

OTHER A PUBLICAN.

CONFESSION of our sins, and humiliation on account of them, are not duties, which belong exclusively to our prayers. But, if ever the sense of our unworthiness ought to take full possession of the soul, it is, when we stand in the presence of God, when, after acknowledging his purity, and contemplating his bounty, we turn to the consideration of the sinfulness of our hearts, the ingratitude of our conduct, and the poverty of our best services. It is, however, much to be feared, that, in our intercourse with God, as well as with one another, we are not always thoroughly honest. Accustomed, as we are, to put on our best dress, and keep back our deficiencies in our conversation with mankind, especially when we are ourselves the subjects of it, there is much reason to suspect, that we sometimes carry, either our vanity, or our equivocation and concealment, to the foot of tbe mercy seat, and there, as well as in the world, we think to appear better than we are. Sometimes our confession of sins degenerates into an act of cus

« FöregåendeFortsätt »