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There is no one device separate from the gospel, by which the glory of any one of these attributes can be exalted, but by the
I. In darkness, as we are, about the glory | destroy it. When we think of his law, it is and character of the Supreme Being, it a law which must be made honourable, would offer a violence even to our habitual even though, by the enforcement of its conceptions of him, to admit of any limit, sanctions, it shall sweep into an abyss of or any deduction from the excellencies of misery all the generations of the rebellious. his nature. We should even think it a lessen- And yet this God, just, and righteous, and ing of the Deity, were the extent of his true, is a God of love, and of compassion, perfections such, as that we should be able infinite. He is slow to anger, and of great to grasp them within the comprehension mercy. He does not afflict willingly; and of our understandings. The property of as a father rejoices over his children, does chiefest admiration to his creatures is, that he long to rejoice in tenderness over us all; they know but a part, and are not aware and out of the store-house of a grace that is how small a part that is, to what is un-inexhaustible, does he deal out the offers known; and never is their obeisance more of pardon and reconciliation to every one lowly, than when, under the sense of a of us. Even in some way or other does the greatness that is undefined and unsearch-love of God for his creatures find its way able, they feel themselves baffled by the in- through the barrier of their sinfulness; and finitude of the Creator. It is not his power, he who is of purer eyes than to behold as attested by all that exists within the iniquity, he who hath spoken the word, limits of actual discovery; but his power, and shall he not perform it,―he of whose as conceived to form and uphold a uni- law it has been said, that not one jot or one verse, whose outskirts are unknown.-It is tittle of it, shall pass away, till all be fulnot his wisdom, as exhibited in what has filled, he holds out the overtures of friendbeen seen by human eye; but his wisdom, ship to the children of disobedience, and as pervading the unnumbered secresies of invites the guiltiest among them to the mechanism, which no eye can penetrate. light of his countenance, in time, and to the It is not his knowledge, as displayed in the enjoyment of his glory and presence, in greater and prophetic outlines of the his- eternity. tory of this world; but his knowledge, as embracing all the mazes of creation, and all the mighty periods of eternity. It is not his antiquity, as prior to all that is visi-surrender or the limitation of another attrible, and as reaching far above and beyond bute. It is in the gospel alone that we perthe remote infancy of nature; but his an-ceive how each of them may be heightened tiquity, as retiring upwards from the lof- to infinity, and yet each of them reflect a tiest ascent of our imaginations, and lost in lustre on the rest. When Christ died, justhe viewless depth of an existence, that tice was magnified. When he bore the was from everlasting.-These are what burden of our torment, the truth of God reserve to throne the Deity in grandeur inac-ceived its vindication. When the sins of cessible. It is the thought of what eye hath the world brought him to the cross, the not seen, and ear hath not heard, neither lesson taught by this impressive spectacle hath it entered into the heart of man to was, holiness unto the Lord. All the seconceive, that places him on such a height verer perfections of the Godhead, were, in of mystery before us. And should we ever fact, more powerfully illustrated by the be able to overtake, in thought, the dimen- deep and solemn propitiation that was made sions of any attribute that belongs to him, for sin, than they could have been by the --and far more should we ever be able to direct punishment of sin itself.-Yet all reoutstrip, in fancy, a single feature of that dounding the triumph of his mercy.character which is realised by the living For mercy, in the exercise of a simple and and reigning God,-should defect or im- spontaneous tenderness, does not make so potency attach to him who dwelleth in the high an exhibition, as mercy forcing its light which no man can approach unto, way through restraints and difficulties,-as would we feel as if all our most rooted and mercy accomplishing its purposes by a accustomed conceptions of the Godhead plan of unsearchable wisdom,-as mercy had sustained an overthrow, would we feel surrendering what was most dear for the as if the sanctuary of him who is the King attainment of its object,-as the mercy of eternal and invisible had suffered violence. God, not simply loving the world, but so loving it as to send his only beloved Son, and to lay upon him the iniquities of us all,-as mercy, thus surmounting a barrier which, to created 'eye, appeared immoveable, and which both pours a glory on the other excellencies of the Godhead, and rejoices over them.
And this is just as true of the moral as of the natural attributes of the Godhead. When we think of his truth, it is a truth which, if heaven and earth stand committed to the fulfilment of its minutest article, heaven and earth must, for its vindication, pass away. When we think of his holiness, it is such that, if sin offer to draw nigh, a devouring fire goeth forth to burn up and to
It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which has poured the light of day into all the intri
cacies of this contemplation. We there see | to paralyze him. In these circumstances, no compromise, and no surrender, of the there may be the conformity of the letter attributes to each other. We see no mutual extorted from him, in the spirit of bondage; encroachment on their respective provinces, but the animating soul is not there, which -no letting down of that entire and abso- turns obedience into a service of delight and lute perfection which belongs to every part a service of affection. In Heaven's account, in the character of the Godhead. The jus- such obedience as this is but the mockery tice of God has not been invaded; for by of a lifeless skeleton; and, even as a skelehim, who poured out his soul unto the ton, it is both wanting in its parts, and death for us, has the whole weight of this unshapely in its proportions. It is an obeaggrieved and offended attribute been borne; dience defective, even in the tale and meaand from that cross of agony, where he sure of its external duties. But what percried out that it was finished, does the di- vades the whole of it by the element of vine Justice send forth a brighter and a worthlessness is, that, destitute of love to nobler radiance of vindicated majesty, than God, it is utterly destitute of a celestial chaif the minister of vengeance had gone forth racter, and can never prepare an inhabitant and wreaked the whole sentence of con- of this world for the joys or the services of demnation on every son and daughter of the great celestial family. the species. And as the justice of God has And, on the other hand, if the man be suffered no encroachment, so, such is the satisfied, this very circumstance gives to the admirable skilfulness of this expedient, that righteousness that he would establish for the mercy of God is restrained by no limi- himself, the character of an insult upon tation. It is arrested in its offers by no God, instead of a reverential offering. It is questions about the shades, and the degrees, a righteousness accompanied with a certain and the varieties of sinfulness. It stops at measure of confident feeling, that it is good no point in the descending scale of human enough for the acceptance of the Lawgiver. depravity. The blood of Christ cleansing There is in it the audacity of a claim and from all sin, has spread such a field for its a challenge upon his approbation. Short invitations, that in the full confidence of a as it is, in respect of outward performance, warranted and universal commission, may and tainted within by the very spirit of the messengers of grace walk over the face earthliness, it is brought like a lame and disof the world, and lay the free gift of ac- eased victim in sacrifice, and laid upon the ceptance at the door of every individual, altar before him. It is an evil and a bitter and of every family. Such is the height, thing to sin against God; but it is a still and depth, and breadth, and length, of the more direct outrage upon his attributes, to mercy of God in Christ Jesus; and yet it is expect that he will look on sinfulness with a mercy so exercised, as to keep the whole complacency. It is an open defiance to the council and character of God unbroken,-law, to trample upon its requirements; but and a mercy, from the display of which, it were a still deadlier overthrow of its authere beams a brighter radiance than ever thority, to reverse its sanctions, and make from each lineament in the image of the it turn its threatenings into rewards. The Godhead. sinner who disobeys and trembles, renders at least the homage of his fears to the truth and power of the Eternal. But the sinner who makes a righteousness of his infirmities; and puts a gloss upon his disobedience, and brings the accursed thing to the gate of the sanctuary, and bids the piercing eye of Omniscience look upon it, and be satisfied,
Now if the glory of God be so involved in this way of redemption, what shall we think of the disparagement, that is rendered to him, and to all his attributes, the man who, without respect to the work and the righteousness of Christ, seeks to be justified by his own righteousness? It is quite possible for man to toil and to waste his strength-tell us whether the fire which cometh forth will burn up the offering, that it may rise in sweetly smelling savour to him who sitteth on the throne; or will it seize on the presumptuous offerer, who could thus dare the inspection, and thrust his unprepared footstep within the precincts of unspotted holiness?
on the object of his salvation, and yet, by all he can make out, may be only widening his laborious deviation from the path which leads to it. Do his uttermost to establish a righteousness of his own, and what is the whole fruit of his exertion?-the mere semblance of righteousness, without the infusion of its essential quality,-labour without love, the drudgery of the hand, without the desire and devotedness of the heart, as its inspiring principle. If the man be dissatisfied, as he certainly ought to be, then a sense of unexpiated guilt will ever and anon intrude itself upon his fears; and a resistless conviction of the insufficiency of all his performances will never cease to haunt and
And how must it go to aggravate the of fence of such an approach, when it is made in the face of another righteousness which God himself hath provided, and in which alone he hath proclaimed that it is safe for a sinner to draw nigh. When the alternative is fairly proposed, to come on the merit of your own obedience and tried by it, or to come on the merit of the obedience of
Christ, and receive in your own person the farther provocation of a slighted and rereward which he hath purchased for you,-jected gospel. only think of the aspect it must bear in the II. We shall conclude, for the present, eye of Heaven, when the offer of the perfect these brief and imperfect remarks, by adrighteousness is contemptuously set aside, verting to the solidity of that foundation of and the sinner chooses to appear in his own peace, which the gospel scheme of mercy character before the presence of the Eternal. provides for every sinner who concurs in When the imputation of vanity and useless-it. It is altogether worthy of observation, ness is thus fastened on all that the Son hath how, under this exquisite contrivance, the done, and on all that the Father hath devised very elements of disquietude in a sinner's for the redemption of the guilty,-when bosom, are turned into the elements of comthat righteousness, to accomplish which, fort and confidence in the mind of a beChrist had to travail in the greatness of his liever. It is the unswerving truth of God, strength, is thus held to be nothing, by crea- which haunts the former by the thought of tures whose every thought, and every per- the certainty of his coming vengeance. But formance, have the stain of corruption in this very truth, committed to the fulfilment them--when that doctrine of his death, on of all those promises, which are yea and which, in the book of God's counsel, is made amen in Christ Jesus, sustains the latter by to turn the deliverance of our world, is the thought of the certainty of his coming counted to be foolishness,-when the sinner salvation. It is justice, unbending justice, thus persists in obtruding his own virtue on which sets such a seal on the condemnation the notice of the Lawgiver, and refuses to of the disobedient, that every sinner who is put on, as a covering of defence, the virtue out of Christ, feels it to be irrevocable. In of his Saviour, we have only to contrast Christ, this attribute, instead of a terror, bethe lean, shrivelled, paltry dimensions of the comes a security; for it is just in God to one, with the faultless, and sustained, and justify him who believes in Jesus. It is the Godlike perfection of the other, to perceive sense of God's violated authority which fills how desperate is the folly, and how un- the heart of an awakened sinner with the escapable is the doom of him who hath fear that he is undone. But this authority neglected the great salvation. under the gospel proclamation, is leagued on the side of comfort, and not of fear; for this is the commandment of God, that we believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he has given us commandment. It is not by an act of mercy, triumphing over the other attributes, that pardon is extended to the sinful; for, under the economy of the gospel, these attributes are all engaged on the side of mercy; and God is not only merciful, but he is faithful and just in forgiving the sins of those who accept of Christ, as he is offered to them in the gospel. Those very perfections, then, which fix and necessitate the doom of the rebellious, form into a canopy of defence around the head of the believer. The guarantees of a sinner's punishment now become the guarantees of promise; and while, like the flaming sword at the gate of paradise, they turn every way, and shut him out of every access to the Deity but one,-let him take to that one, and they instantly become to him the sureties and the safe-guard of that hidingplace into which he has entered.
It is thus that the refusal of Christ, as our righteousness, stamps a deeper and a more atrocious character of rebellion on the guilty than before, and it is thus that the word of his mouth, like a two-edged sword, performs one function on him who accepts, and an opposite function on him who despises it. If the gospel be not the savour of life unto life, it will be the savour of death unto death. If it be not a rock of confidence, it will be a rock of offence, and it will fall upon him who resists it, and grind him into powder. If we kiss not the Son, in the day of our peace, the day of his wrath is coming, and who shall be able to stand when his anger is kindled but a little? We have already offended God by the sinfulness of our practice, we may yet offend him still more by the haughtiness of our pretensions. The evil of our best works constitutes them an abomination in his sight; but nothing remains to avert the hostility of his truth and his holiness against us, if by those works we seek to be justified. It will indeed be the sealing up of our iniquity, if our obedience, impregnated as it is with the very spirit of that iniquity, shall be set up in rivalship to the obedience of his only and well beloved Son,-if, by viewing the defect of our righteousness, as a thing of indifference, and the fulness of his, as a thing of no value, we shall heap insult upon transgression, and if, after the provocation of a broken law, we shall maintain the boastful attitude of him who hath won the merit and the reward of victory, and in this attitude add the
The foundation, then, of a believer's peace, is, in every way, as sure and as solid as is the foundation of a sinner's fears. The very truth which makes the one tremble, because staked to the execution of an unfulfilled threat, ministers to the other the strongest consolation. It is impossible for God to lie, says an awakened sinner, and this thought pursues him with the agony of an arrow sticking fast. It is impossible for God to lie, says a believer; and as he hath not only said but sworn, there are two immutable
things by which to anchor the confidence | gains peace to his own heart; and the jusof him who hath fled for refuge to the hope tice which beams a terror on all who stand set before him. He staggers not at the without, utterly passes by the shielded head promises of God, because of unbelief. He of him who hath turned to the strong hoid, holds himself steadfast, by simply counting and taken a place under the shadow of his him to be faithful who hath promised. It wings, who hath satisfied the justice of God, is through that very faith, by being strong and taken upon himself the burden of its in which he gives glory to God, that he fullest vindication.
SERMON XVII. .
The purifying Influence of the Christian Faith.
"Sanctified by faith."-Acts xxvi. 18.
III. IT is a matter of direct and obvious | tinue the same motives to abstain from sin, understanding, how the law, by its promises as those intelligible ones which the law and its threatenings, should exert an influ- furnishes, or even other motives of more ence over human conduct. We seem to powerful operation. We are quite sure that walk in a plain path, when we pass onwards there is something here which needs to be from the enforcements of the law, to the made plain to the understandings of a very effect of them on the fears, and the hopes, numerous class of inquirers, a knot of difand the purposes of man. Do this, and you ficulty which needs to be untied,-a hidden shall live; and do the opposite of this, and step in the process of explanation, on which you shall forfeit life, form two clear and they may firmly pass from what is known distinct processes, in the conceiving of to what is unknown. There are not two which, there is no difficulty whatever. The terms in the whole compass of human lanmotive and the movement both stand intel- guage, which stand more frequently and ligibly out to the discernment of common more familiarly contrasted with each other, sense; nor in the application of such argu- than those of faith and good works; and ment as this, to the design of operating on this, not merely on the question of our acthe character or life of a human being, is ceptance before God, but also on the questhere any mystery to embarrass, any hidden | tion of the personal character and acquirestep, which, by baffling our every attempt ments of a true disciple of Christ. It is to seize upon it, leaves us in a state of help- positively not seen, how the possession of less perplexity. the one should at all stimulate to the performance of the other,-how the peace of the gospel should reside in the same heart, from which there emanates, on the life of a believer, the practice of the gospel,—how a righteousness that is without the deeds of the law, should stand connected, in the actual history of him who obtains it, with a zealous, and diligent, and every-day doing of these deeds.
The same is not true of the gospel, or of the manner in which it operates on the springs of human action. It is not so readily seen how its privileges can be appropriated by faith, and at the same time its precepts can retain their practical authority over the conduct of a believer. There is an alarm, and an honest alarm, on the part of many, lest a proclamation of free grace unto the world, should undermine all our securities for the cause of righteousness in the world. They look with jealousy upon the freeness. They fear lest a deed so ample and unconditional, of forgiveness for the past, should give rise, in the heart of a sinner, to a secure opinion of its impunity for the future. What they dread is, that to proclaim such a freeness of pardon on the part of God, would be to proclaim a corresponding freeness of practice on the part of man. They are able to comprehend how the law, by its direct enforcements, should operate in keeping men from sin; but they are not able to comprehend how, when not under the law, but under grace, there should con
There is much in all this to puzzle the man who is experimentally a stranger to the truth as it is in Jesus. Nor does it at all serve to extricate or to enlighten him, when he is made to perceive, that, in point of fact, those men who most cordially assent to the doctrine of salvation being all of grace and not of works, are most assiduous in so walking, and in so working, and in so painstaking, as if salvation were all of works, and not of grace. The fact is quite obvious and unquestionable. But the principle on which it rests, remains a mystery to the general eye of the world. They marvel, but they go no farther. They see that thus it is, but they see not how it is; and they put
which do at times occur, both in the moral and natural kingdom of the creation.
it down among those inexplicable oddities | taste,—or will behold the sportive felicity of animals, and thence obtain gratification to the benevolence, or will behold the precipice beneath, and thence obtain a warning of danger, or a direction of safety,-or may behold a thousand different objects, and obtain a thousand different feelings and different intimations.
But in all our attempts to dissipate this obscurity, it is well to advert to the total difference between him who has the faith, and him who has it not. The one has the materials of the argument under his eye, and within the grasp of his handling. The other may be able to recognize in the argument, a logical and consistent process; but he is at a loss about the simple conceptions, which form the materials of the argument. He is like a man who can perform all the manipulations of an algebraical process, while he feels not the force or the significancy of the symbols. His habits of ratiocination enable him to perceive, that there is a connexion between the ideas in the argument. But the ideas themselves are not manifest to him. It is not in the power of reasoning to supply this want. Reasoning cannot create the primary materials of the argument. It only cements them together. And here it is, that you are met by the impotency of human demonstration,-and are reduced to the attitude of knocking at a door which you cannot open,-and feel your need of an enlightening spirit,-and are made to perceive, that it is only on the threshold of Christianity, where you can hold the intercourse of a common sympathy and understanding with the world, and that to be admitted to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, you must pass into a region of manifestation, where the world cannot follow, but where it will cast the imputation of madness and of mysticism after you.
Without attempting to define faith, as to the nature of it, which could not be done but with other words more simple than itself, let us look to the objects of faith, and see whether there do not emanate from them, a sanctifying influence on the heart of every real believer.
Now the same of faith. It has been called the eye of the mind. But whether this be a well conceived image or not, it certainly affords an inlet to the mind for a great variety of communications. The Apostle calls faith the evidence of things not seen,not of one such thing, but of very many such things. The man who possesses faith, can be no more intellectually blind to one of these things, and at the same time knowing and believing as to another of them, than the man who possesses sight can, with his eye open, perceive one external object, and have no perception of another, which stands as nearly and as conspicuously before him. The man who is destitute of sight, will never know what it is to feel the charm of visible scenery. But grant him sight; and he will not only be made alive to this charm, but to a multitude of other influences, all emanating from the various objects of visible nature, through the eye upon the mind, and against which his blindness had before opposed a hopeless and invincible barrier. And the man who is destitute of faith, will never know what it is to feel the charm of the peace-speaking blood of Christ. But grant him faith; and he will not only be made alive to this charm, but to a multitude of other influences, all emanating from the various truths of revelation, through this intellectual organ, on the heart of him who was at one time blind, but has now been made to see. This will help, in some measure, to clear up the perplexity to which we have just now adverted. They who are under its darkening influence, conceive of the faith which worketh peace, that it has only to do with one doctrine, and that that one doctrine relates to Christ, as a peace-offering for sin. Now, it is very true, that it has to do with this one doctrine; but it has also to do with other doctrines, all equally presented before it in the very same record, and the view of all which is equally to be had, from the very same quarter of contemplation. In other words, the very same opening of the mental eye, through which the peace of the gospel finds entrance into the bosom of a faithful man, affords an entrance for the righteousness of the gospel along with it. The truth that Christ died for the sins of
First, then, the whole object of faith, is the matter of the testimony of God in Scripture. So that though faith be a single principle, and is designated in language by a single term,-yet this by no means precludes it from being such a principle, as comes into contact, and is conversant, with a very great variety of objects. In this respect it may bear a resemblance to sight, or hearing, or any other of the senses, by which man holds communication with the external things that are near him, and around him. The same eye which, when open, looks to a friend, and can, from that very look, afford entrance into the heart for an emotion of tenderness, will also behold the world, will cast upon his mind its apother visible things, and take in an appro-propriate influence. But so also will the priate influence from each of them, will truth that Christ is to judge the world, and behold the prospect of beauty that is before the truth that unless ye repent ye shall it, and thence obtain gratification to the perish, and the truth that they who have a