« AnteriorContinuar »
ner who, during his whole life, has paid little or no regard to either ? Now in the cross of Christ, this question is explicitly answered the whole mystery is completely developed. He that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shineth in the heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' The eye
of faith discovers how God can be just, and the justifier of him that believeth. The just God and the Saviour are bebeld with awful reverence and delightful astonishment! Tears of gratitude stream from the eyes of the adoring penitent: he looks upon him whom his sins have pierced, and mourns. Surely,' he exclaims with the prophet,' he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows-He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord bath laid on him the iniquity of us all-God forbid that I should henceforth glory, save in the cross of Christ-0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!'
In the cross of Christ, the loving-kindness of God to man appears with meridian lustre. By this despised mean of human happiness, and this only, the divine perfections are glorified, and the chief of sinners saved. Not, be it remembered, by works of righteousness which we have done : for there is nothing we ever have done, or ever shall do, that can procure an interest in the divine favour. Suppose a character, among the apos, tate sons of Adam, in whom resides all the moral excellency that ever dignified human nature since the fall ; and, on the other hand, one in whom
concentres all the moral evil committed since that fatal period; and it will be found on examination that, in point of justification before God, they stand on a perfect level. The accumulated virtue of the former, if pleaded as that which might render him acceptable to his Judge, would avail nothing ; nor would the enormous guilt of the latter, simply considered, be an obstacle to the bestowment of grace and of glory.
Moral rectitude in all its forms we ought, nevertheless, to admire, and studiously endeavour to cultivate. A disregard of this, where final, renders eternal happiness impossible, and condemnation absolutely necessary. That virtuous actions are praiseworthy in the sight of men, and, in a comparative view, in the sight of God, is certain ; but that these actions, however numerous, or however splendid, are of no use in the | affair of justification is demonstrable : and it is this grand fact, and this only, that abolishes, in a religious view, all human distinctions; that exalts
the riches of sovereign grace, opens a door of hope for the guilty, and effectually secures all the glory of salvation to our adorable Immanuel.
That Christ is the only author of salvation, must never be forgotten. It may be said, in reference to his work as surety of the church, as well as to the complete conquest of his enemies; • Of the people, there was none with bim : there was none to help, none to uphold : therefore his own arm brought salvation. He is a rock, and his work is perfect-besides him there is no Saviour. The work of redemption was assigned to him in the everlasting covenant; it was what he then voluntarily undertook to perform, and what, as mediator, he came to execute in the state of his humiliation on earth. By perfect
conformity of heart and of life to the moral law; by suffering on the cross the dreadful penalty annexed to transgression, the stupendous under: taking was accomplished. That it was complete in all its parts, we can have no doubt, because to this the divine Jesus bore unequivocal testimony when, in the agonies of death, he cried, “ It is finished, and gave up the ghost.' As, therefore, he had no co-partner, no assistant in the work ; we are not to imagine that he will give his glory to another. He that glorieth must glory in the Lord only. We are not saved,' says an Apostle,
by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saveth us, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: whom God bath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins, Where is boasting then ? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we con. clude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,'
The apostle Paul, who made these assertions, and who laboured much in all his preaching and writings to establish the sovereignty of grace, is, in this affair, extremely tenacious of the honour of his divine Master. Thus he interrogates : • Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?' Sinners, remember, are not called according to their works, but according to God's purpose and grace, given them in Christ Jesus before the world began. Salvation is of grace; and if by grace, then, says the same infallible writer, it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more of grace: otherwise
work is no more work.' On this important subject, however, I cannot now enlarge: it shall therefore be resumed in my next.
I am, yours, &c.
What is all righteousness that men devise,
Cowper. THAT good works can have no place in the jus
tification of a sinner before God, was asserted in my last: want of leisure, however, prevented me from attempting to vindicate that assertion. I shall now, therefore, in pursuance of my promise, transmit my thoughts on this highly interesting subject.
Good works, performed by the apostate sons of Adam, have no intrinsic merit. The best per. formances of the most eminent saint are imperfect. They fall vastly short, both in motive and in practice, of what the moral law, which is the rule of duty, invariably requires; and can therefore have no influence in the article of justification. Every man must see the absurdity of pleading the worth of partial and defective duties in order to answer the demands of a law that enjoins perfect and perpetual obedience. Nay, there never was, in fact, any period or situation in which the works of the first parent of mankind could deserve recompense.
For having received all from God, he could display no excellence, nor communicate any favour, which was not derived from divine bounty. Far from increasing the glory or happiness of his Maker, he
could only promote his own felicity and dignity, by exerting his powers in the service of him who
Besides, if we hope to obtain any thing in a way of merit, our services must not be a debt previously due to him from whom the reward is expected. But this is not the case with angels, much less with rebellious man respecting the insulted Sovereign of heaven. We owe bim ten thousand talents, and are absolutely insolvent: or, to use the language of Scripture, We have nothing to pay. The law of God, which is boly, and just, and good; which was adapted to promote our own happiness and his glory, we have violated times without number. Nor is this all : sin has not only introduced disorder and misery into the moral world, but it has so far debased human nature, as to render us incapable, without foreign aid, of yielding that obedience which it is at all times, and in all circumstances, our duty to perform. This incapacity, however, which is purely moral, can by no means be pleaded in extenuation or excuse. Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.' All obedience or disobedience is properly, or at least primarily, in no part but the will ; so that though other faculties of the soul in regeneration are sanctified, and thereby made conformable to the will of God, yet obedience and disobedience are formally acts of the will, and according to its qualities, a man is said to be obedient to God or disobedient.' If tberefore we have lost all inclination to obey the great Legislator of heaven and of earth, he has not lost his right to command universal and perpetual obedience. His law, which is the standard of perfection, and the rule of duty to moral agents, cannot, on that account, dispense with partial