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How the believer recovers peace of conscience.
I have now seen in what way the believer is re
conciled to God, and delivered from condemnation. It will not be improper however also to confider how he recovers peace of conscience, and how his heart and life are governed in his after walk. · This will serve more fully to illustrate the influence and operation of the truths of the gospel. There is even a necessity for doing fo on two different accounts: 1. That, as has been shewn above at considerable length, every true penitent is deeply and inwardly sensible of the evil of fun in itself. He is not merely afraid of wrath, but sees the impurity and pollution of his own heart. Supposing therefore, will the intelligent reacler say, this great distinction thoroughly established, his relief is but half accomplished. There may be no more condemnation for him in the law of God, for the breach of which satisfaction has been made and accepted; but he is only so much the more liable to the condemnation of his own conscience. He must still suffer the reproaches and challenges of his own mind, which make fo great a part of the misery of a guilty state.
This receives additional strength, from a second confideration, that as he is justified by faith, he hath peace only through the blood of Chrift. This is not from himfelí, and may be thought to leave him, so to speak, in point of State and character, in point of pollution and defilement, just as before ; nay, the extraordinary, unfolicited, undelerved grace of God, may be thought to increafe his selfcondemnation, and fet the malignity of his rebellion in the strongest light. And indeed fo far this is true, that the free grace of God was intencied, and does serve to produce a growing humiliation of mind and self-abasement, as well as an admiration of the love of God in Christ Jesus. As the tenderness of a parent is an image which God hath very frequently made use of, to fhadow forth his own infinite compassion, I will borrow from it an illustration of the two remarks just now made. Suppose any child has of
fended a parent by a gross instance of undutiful behavior, for which he hath been feverely reproved, and for some time kept at a distance : if the parent forgives him, and receives him again into his favor, does not his being thus freed from the fear of suffering, leave full room for his concern at the offence? And does not a sense of his father's love melt his heart more for having grieved such a parent, than any terror upon his mind for the punishment of the crime? He is immediately covered with confusion; and if there be in him any spark of ingenuity, he is no sooner forgiven of his father, than the tide of his affections returns back with full force, and he can hardly forgive himself.
But notwithstanding this, as Christ by his fufferings and death delivered us from the wrath to come, so by the fhedding of his precious blood, the heart is also, as the fcripture expreffes it, sprinkled from an evil conscience. On this important fubjeet, which leads us to the great principles of the fpiritual life, the following particulars are recommended to the serious attention of the reader.
I. Through Jesus Christ, and the whole of his andertaking as Mediator of the new covenant, the glory and honor of God is most admirably promoted, and a perfect reparation made to his holy law which had been broken. This must needs be highly pleasing to every convinced finner. As the justice of God is thereby fatisfied, fo conscience, which is God's vicegerent, and as it were pleads his cause, is fatisfied by the fame means. The ground of a sinner's dissatisfaction with himfell, is the dishonor done to God. Must it not therefore please and satisfy him to see this dishonor so perfectly removed, and so much of the divine glory shining in the work of redemption. All the divine perfections appear there with distinguished luitre; and must not this be highly refreshing to the pardoned criminal? The very holinels and justice of God, which before were terrible to him, are now amiable. He also contemplates and adores the divine wisdom, as it is to be seen in the cross of Christ. We are told, that even the celeftial hosts have new discoveries of the wisdom of God in this great design of providence, “To the intent that “ now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places, "might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of “ God.”* How much more must the interested believer, with peculiar complacency, approve and adore it? But, above all, if that love and mercy which reigns through the whole is glorious to God, must it not be delightful to the Christian? God is love; and his tender mercies are over all his other works; but creating and preserving goodness are shaded and eclipsed by redeeming love. It is the theme of the praises of heaven, where Christ, as the object of worship, is represented as appearing " like a Lamb that “ had been slain.”
2. Believers have peace of conscience through Christ, as their redemption through his blood, ferves for their own humiliation and self-abasement, for the manifestation of the evil of fin, and the vileness and unworthiness of the sin. ner. Nothing could be so well contrived as the doctrine of the cross, in its purity and simplicity, to stain the pride of all human glory. We are particularly called to deny ourselves, and to derive our worth and strength from our Redeemer, in whom “it hath pleased the Father, that all “ fulnefs should dwell," and from whose fulness all his disciples must receive, and grace for grace.” No hope of mercy but through him. “I am the way, and the truth, " and the life': no man cometh unto the Father but by
me.”+ " Neither is there salvation in any other : for " there is none other name under heaven given among “ men, whereby we must be saved.”I No access to the throne of grace or acceptance in worship, but through him: “In whom we have access with boldness and confidence, " through the faith of him.ll And whatsoever ye do in “ word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, “ giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”* No hope of stability in duty, of usefulness, or holiness of conversation, but by the continued exercise of faith in him.. “ Abide in me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear “ fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can
Eph. iii. 10.
t Juhn xiv. 6.
| Acts iv, 12.
|| Eph. iii. 122
. Col. iii. 17.
ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the i branches : he that abideth in me, and I in him, the fame bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can "dlo nothing."*
Hard sayings and humbling doctrine indeed! But this is appealing to the conscience; for as conscience condemns us as guilty and undeserving, this condemnation is ratified in every particular by the gospel. These very circumstances in this doctrine, which provoke the hatred, or inyite the contempt of worldly men, do but so much the more endear it to the convinced soul; and he says from the heart, “ It is highly just and reasonable that God alone
Thould be exalted, and that he, through our Redeemer, “ should have the whole praise of our recovery and salva"tion.” Agreeably to this it will be found, that the apoftles, in celebrating the grace of God, feldom omit an express condemnation of themselves, and a renunciation of all merit of their own, which indeed in every passage on this subject is manifestly implied: "For by grace ye are
faved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is " the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast:
for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good, works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.f Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given un. “to me, by the effectual working of his power. Unto
me, who am less than the least of all faints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the "Sunfearchable riches of Christ.” I se 3. Believers have peace from the challenges of an evil conscience, through Christ, as they have an absolute-afsurance of being delivered from the power of fin, and ef. fectually enabled to glorify him with their souls and with their bodies, which are his. This must be the most earnest defire of every convinced sinner. He breathes after de. liverance from the bondage of finthe more he hath felt the weight of his chains, the more he longs to be free. This is inseparable from genuine convictions, on the principles
* John xv. 4, s. Vol. I.
† Eph. ii. 8, 9, 10.
| Eph. iii. 7, 8.
above laid down. How much must it contribute to com: pose the conscience, to know that this defire shall certainly be accomplished? However much cause he may have to condemn himself for his past provocations, or to dread the weakness of his own resolutions of future amendment, he knows and trusts in the power of his Redeemer, He knows that henceforth he shall not ferve fin, that its do. minion shall be gradually broken through life, and entirely clestroyed at death. As the end of Christ's coming was to glorify his heavenly Father, he knows that the glory of God cannot be promoted by leaving the finner under the bondage of corruption, and therefore that he shall be puri. fied, and macle meet to be a “ partaker of the inheritance “ of the saints in light.”
If we look with care and attention into the New Teftament, we shall perceive that there is a close and mutual connection between our justification and sanctification, and that both are represented as the fruit of our Redeemer's purchase : “ There is therefore now no condemnation to “ those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the “ flesh but after the Spirit : for the law of the Spirit of life “ in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of fin 6 and death : for what the law could not do, in that it was “ weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son.in it the likeness of finful flesh, and for sin condemned fin in " the fiel."* All the blessings of salvation are represented as following one another in a continued chain or feries, not one link of which can possibly be broken: "For whom “ he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be con« forined to the image of his Son, that he might be the “.first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he “ did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he call“ ed, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them “ he also glorified.”+ There is a cleansing and purifying virtue in the blood of Christ, as well as an infinite value in the way of purchase and atonement : “For if the blood
of bulls, and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, fanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh;