« PreviousContinue »
ting to you before, because I have felt myself unable to sit to write sometimes, and at other times I could not bring my mind to it; but I have embraced this opportunity at last, and may the Lord make it a profit to you. As your desire in your letter was, that the Lord would still continue his love towards me, and make his love manifest in me; and, dear Lord, all this hath he done for me, and much more, for he hath again set my feet upon a rock; and though the temptations of the world and the devil have, with cunning devices, strove with all the power that in them lay, to have driven me from that Rock, but the Lord hath shewn me, that his strength is sufficient for me, and hath enabled me to stand against all the fiery darts of the wicked one. He hath sent his promises at times home with such power to my soul, that he hath given me the sword of the Spirit to fight against every spiritual enemy that might arise.
Dear friend, when I think on the loving-kindness of my God, it seems to humble me as in the very dust before him, to think that he should have satisfied me, an unworthy worm of the dust, in the prospect of my poor soul, with the hope of spending an endless eternity with my blessed Saviour, who hath satisfied the vengeance of God, through pouring out his blood to the very last drop. Oh, that God by his Holy Spirit, should ever have given a rebel like me to see, that the paths I once was walk. ing in led to death; and after he had truly convinced me of the danger I was in, through the want of an atonement for the sins that I had committed, he then directed me to the Lord Jesus Christ, and shewed me the efficacy of his blood and righteousness, and his great willingness to receive and pardon all who are brought unto him. And thus he is manifesting his love unto me now, and showing me his love in such a manner, that it makes me long to be February, 1845.]
for ever with such a Friend. He has truly so satisfied my soul in my affliction with his love, that I can join with one of old, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." And he hath satisfied me in such a manner with his gifts and graces, that my soul hath rejoiced within me, feeling in such a happy frame that I cannot describe.
But, my dear friend, when I look at my affliction, and view my dear Father's hand in it, beholding it as the rod of his love, and looking upon myself as the cause of it, for most assuredly there is a needs be for it, or my Father would not afflict me; so that, looking on it as laid upon me for some good end, it may be to ripen me for glory, can I then but say, let it be either for life or for death, it is for God's glory, let his holy will do whatsoever he may concerning me. Your loving friend in the Lord,
The Holy Scriptures run altogether this way: "They which receive abundance of grace," Rom. v. 17. Here is faith, the hand to receive; here is abundance of grace received. So that a believer not only receives grace in his justification, but much grace. So Rom. iv. 16: "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace." Here, observe, that to be justified by faith and by grace, is all one in the account of the Holy Ghost. And this way of grace makes the promise sure to all the seed, that is, to the whole election of God: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace," Eph. i. 7. In the former verse the apostle was speaking of the saints' acceptance in the Beloved, that is, in Christ, the God-man; and in this verse he shews the riches of grace flow down in free forgiveness: "That in ages to come, he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his great kindness to us through Christ Jesus," chap. ii. 7; that is, in all succeeding ages, to the end of the world. Grace, through Christ, might flow down for the free justification of all those that should believe, as at verse 8, "By grace are ye saved, through faith." Now this way of justification drowns all men's excellencies: : as when the sun arises there is no need of candle, even so when the Sun of Righteousness arises, as Mal. iv. 2, then doth man's own righteousness fade away, and disappear, and is as the morning cloud and early dew that soon passeth away, that
so free grace may the more illustriously appear in this work of free justification: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us," Rom. iii. 5. Here all works are denied, that grace may take place altogether in this work, "that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life," verse 7: as if the apostle had said, that believers, through the free grace of God, having the guilt of their sin removed, and Christ's righteousness imputed, should be made "children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus," Rom. viii. 17. And if we look into Isa. xliii. 25, there we find the great God thus speaking, "I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake." Here God writes an I on this work; he looks on it as his prerogative royal to pardon sin, and that not for any worthiness in man, but for his own sake. He will not give the glory of his free grace to any other; nay, poor man has nothing of his own, but must be beholden altogether to free grace: "And when they had nothing to pay he frankly forgave them both," Luke vii. 42. Here free forgiveness is on the throne, and "reigneth, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord," Rom. v. 21. Oh, then, let all saints say as the prophet, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage; he retaineth not his anger for ever, becanse he delighteth in mercy," Micah vii. 18. And thus we find the Holy Scriptures
hold forth much grace in a sinner's in bringing of prodigals from their justification by faith in Christ.
The more low and miserable our state is, when grace finds us, the more it shines in the sinner's advancement. As, suppose a great and mighty prince should take a mean person from a dungeon, as Pharaoh did Joseph, and advance him so high as to make him the second man in his kingdom; this was, and would be great grace in a prince, but what is this to the high advancement God bestows on poor sinners in a way of mere grace? The church says, "God remembered them in their low estate," Psa. cxxxvi. 23. Now, surely grace finds sinners as low as hell, and advanceth them as high as heaven. Mordecai was in a low state when he sat at the king's gate in sackcloth, and a gallows being made to hang him on, and his people also designed for utter ruin, Esther vi. And then for the king to advance him so high, as to have "the royal apparel brought, which the king useth to wear, with the crown royal," and to have it set on his head, by one of the most noble princes, "who should proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour." This was great favour shewn to Mordecai: but what was this to the grace of God in a sinner's free justification by faith in Christ? In Luke xv., we read of the prodigal, who had spent all and was feeding of swine, but on his return, is embraced in the arms of tender love, and the best robe is brought forth, the righteousness of Christ, to cover the poor sinner's nakedness. Now doth not grace herein shine,
swinish lusts, and in embracing in the arms of divine love? Saul once said to David, "If a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?" "But grace finds sinners in their enmity against God, Rom. viii. 7. Enmity in the abstract, separated from all amenity, and this heightens man's misery: yet free grace calls, justifies, and glorifies, ver. 30. And thus we find, "When thou wast cast out, to the loathing of thy person, (here is man's low estate set, then comes free grace, and its language is,) I said to thee, live," Ezek. xvi. Here is free absolution: and what shall we say to Joshua the high priest, Zech. iii. He was in a low estate, " clothed with filthy garments, and Satan (taking the wall of him) standing at his right hand, to resist him." His condition was very low, but then comes free grace in, speaking, "Take away the filthy garments from him, and unto him he said, Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, (here is free pardon of sin) and I will clothe thee with change of raiment," ver. 4. May not this well be understood of imputed righteousness, "And I said, let them set a fair mitre on his head," ver. 5. Here is high advancement from this low estate. free grace shines, in a sinner's justification, by faith in Christ, for it finds sinners very low, and advanceth them very high.
The more distinguishing any mercy is, the more free grace shines in that mercy. As, suppose two great sinners alike, and one taken to free justification, and the other left to his justly deserv
ed condemnation, doth not free grace shine forth on that person that is taken? Thus," For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion, Rom. ix. And from hence he infers, "That it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" ver. 16, and what is here spoken of election, is as applicable to justification. God distinguishes person from person, in justification, "Two men went into the temple to pray, the one a pharisee, and the other a publican," Luke xviii. 10. Now, see how free grace laid hold on the publican, and passed by the pharisee," I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other," or not the other, ver. 14. Here distinguishing grace did most evidently appear, in the justification of the publican. And was it not free grace that brought Paul from the rest of his companions, and that when he was in the height of rebellion against God? "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Acts ix. Was not this the voice of free, distinguishing grace, that Paul heard? So we have his own words for it," But by the grace of God, I am what I am," 1 Cor. xv. 10. So that there appears to be much of the free grace of God, in the justification of a sinner, by faith in Christ, by the distinguishing of person from person, in the same.
The more considerable any mercy is, and the less consideration it is given upon, the more free grace shines in that mercy. Now justification is a most considerable
mercy, and it is bestowed without the least respect to man's worthiness," But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly," Rom. iv. 5. Here we may see, though poor man is in a state of ungodliness, when grace lays hold of him, yet notwithstanding here is free justification bestowed, which is a most considerable mercy, and will evidently appear so to be, by such considerations as these.
If I am justified, then I have peace with God, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ," Rom. v. 1. Reconciliation with God being the great and fundamental blessing of the gospel, must needs be a considerable mercy: and all justified persons, their state is a state of friendship: Abraham my friend.
Being justified, all our sinful debts are discharged, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth on him shall receive remission of sins," Acts. x. 43. And here we may see this is the doctrine of all the prophets. And to the same purpose the apostle Paul speaks, "And by him all that believe are justified from all things," Acts xiii. 39. Here is a most complete discharge from all guilt, for the believing person; therefore, justification must needs be a considerable mercy.
And then if justified, God will never leave nor forsake us. It is a good saying of one of the ancients: He that justifieth the ungodly, will never forsake the godly. And the Holy Ghost speaks the same thing," For he hath said, I will never leave thee
nor forsake thee," Heb. xii. 5. So that justification is a most considerable mercy.
And if justified, then shall we be assuredly glorified," And whom he justified, them he also glorified," Rom. viii. 30. So that the next remove the saints shall make, will be to glory in the heavens. Now, these and such like blessings following on our justification by faith, shew that it is a very considerable mercy, and that there is much of free grace shines forth in the same.
I come now to shew, how this doctrine doth concern the comfort and practice of true believers. And,
As touching the comfort of the saints of God, this doctrine of justification, by faith in Christ, is a foundation of divine consolation. After Paul had been speaking of justification by faith, Rom. v. 1, he comes, ver. 2., to speak of the saints' rejoicing, "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God," that is in that glory, which God hath graciously promised to all his justified children. Here is present justification and future glory, for the saints to solace themselves in, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also," ver. 3. This blessed doctrine not only fills the saints hearts with respect to future happiness, but makes them rejoice in their tribulations here; nay, in ver. 11: "and not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ," that is, we not only joy in hopes of heaven hereafter, and in tribulations here, but we joy in God himself, who is our reconciled Father, in Christ Je
soul shall make her boast in the Lord," Ps. xxxiv. 2. When he hath been speaking of this blessed doctrine of free remission, "Blessed is he, whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," Psa. xxxii. 1, 2, then he comes in ver. 11, to call the saints to rejoice in the Lord," Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice ye righteous, and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." Whatsoever others do, let the saints of God rejoice in Christ, as holy Paul did, Phil. iii. 3, "For we are of the circumcision, that worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh." As if he had said, let others rejoice in what they will, Christ shall be the true comfort of our souls, we will rejoice in the merit of Christ, in the righteousness of Christ, in the person of Christ, and all that know the doctrine of God's free justification by faith in Christ, in a saving manner, ought to rejoice. This doctrine of free grace is a firm basis of consolation. When the Holy Ghost is speaking of the joyful sound of free grace, Psalm lxxxix. 15, "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound;" &c. then he comes to speak of their true consolation: "They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance (ver. 16), in thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted." Oh, what a sweet life is the life of faith, that leads the soul to the fountain of free grace for consolation here and for salvation hereafter! We find the church full of heavenly consola