Page images

envy and rival pursuits. But a Christian, more than fatisfied with his own portion, hath no occasion to envy others, either what they possess or profecute. In what a contemptible light does he look upon the honors, rich. es and pleasures, about which there is so violent a struggle among worldly men ? It is impossible, therefore, that he should hate those who do not interiere with him, though in niany cafes he is disposed heartily to pity their folly and delufon.

Nay, the matter does not even reft here, for the Chriftian is laid under the most express command to "love his": personal “enemies, to bless them that curse him, to pray · for them who despitefully use him and perfecute him. This is the glory of the 'gospel, which gives the doctrine of Christ a lustre far superior to the most admired fyftems of human virtue.

And however hard a faying it may appear at first view, when we consider the character and hopes of a penitent sinner, and the example of his expiring Saviour, it hath nothing strange or incredible in it at all: That he, who expects from the free grace of God pardon for his innumerable and aggravated offences, thould be ready to forgive the far slighter trespalles of his brethren against himself. Or rather, that he fhould take the highest pleasure, and think it his honor to do so, when he remembers his Redeemer's dying words, " Father, for

give them, for they know not what they do."

As to good men, there is no manner of difficulty: they are united together by the tenderest and the strongest ties, and love one another with a pure heart fervcntly. It was no wonder, that when Christianity was in a perfecuted state, the heathens should make the remark, “ Bchold how these “ Chriftians love one another !” They had a common characer, a common Saviour, common fufferings, and common hopes. And must it not be the same ftill? for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer perse“ cution.” If they are not persecuted with the swords, they thall be perfecuted with the tongues of men. They have the firongest motives to love one another, and nothing to divide them, for there can be no rivalship or jealousy between thole who possess or court the “ true richti es.” There is enough in an all-sufficient God to satisfy the desires of all his faints; and they being intimately united to the one only living and true God, must of confequence be united to one another. This is the tenor of their Saviour's intercessory prayer : “ That they all may “ be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that “they also may be one in us : that the world may believe " that thou hast fent me. And the glory which thou gav“est me, I have given them : that they may be one, even

as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they

may be made perfect in one, and that the world may “know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou “ haft loved me."*



SHALL now close this discourse with some practical

improvement of these important truths. Several re. flections have indeed already been interwoven with the particular branches of the subject, and the light which they throw on other parts of religion pointed out. I shall therefore at this time only make a few observations upon the whole, and proceed to a serious address to all my readers on this most interesting subject. And,

ift, From the various truths above established, and the order in which they have been opened, we niay see the indissoluble connection between falvation by the grace of God, and holiness in heart and conversation. We may see their equal importance and their influence upon one another. There are many who attempt to divide those things which God hath inseparably joined. Many infift only on the duties of the law of God, and our natural obligations to obedience; and are hardly brought to any inention of the righteousness of Christ, as the ground of a finner's aceeptance before God. Nay, some fcruple not to afirm that the doctrine of justification by free grace, or a finner's being found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, weakens the obligation to holiness, and tends to introduce licentiousness of practice. But from what hath been said in the above discourse, we may learn, not only in general the absolute neceffity of a change, but how this stands connected with the purchase and gist of falvation, the character and work of a Redeemier. It will plainly appear, that a change in some respects is necessary to bring us to, and in others is the necessary effect and consequence of, the acceptance of falvation.

* John xvii. 21, 22, 23.



I have endeavored in the preceding pages to fherr, that a discovery of the nature and glory of God, and of the infinite evil of fin, is absolutely necessary, in order to our either understanding or relishing the doctrine of the cross. What is this then, but a change begun ? Must not the dominion of fin in every such person have received a mortal blow? Doth any thing more directly tend to ho. liness, than to see the power and glory of a holy God, and how “evil and bitter a thing" it is to depart from him? On the other hand, is it not necessary to complete the change, that there be a sense of reconciliation and peace ? “ Can two walk together except they be agreed ?” Can: any person live in the love and service of God, while he conceives him to be his enemy, and suppoles himself still the object of his wrath and displcasure? But fupposing this reconciliation obtained, let me boldly alk, What mo tive to holinefs in all manner of conversation, equal to the force of redeeming love ? Judge, O Christian, will any cold reasoning on the nature and beauty of virtue have such an effect in mortifying corruptions, as a believing view of a pierced Saviour ? Where shall we find so faithful, fo active, fo chearful a fervant of God, as one who joins with the apostle Paul in saying, “ I am crucified “ with Christ : nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Chrift “ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, “ I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and “ gave

himself for me."* Faith in Christ Jesus never can take place in any heart, unless there has been an internal

* Gal. ii. 20.


work of the Spirit of God testifying of him; and there is no effectual principle of new abedience, but faith which worketh by love.

What has been said above, will serve to explain fyme controversies with which the truths of the gospel have been often darkened and perplexed; particularly those relating to the priority, or right of precedency, so to speak, between faith and repentance. Some inake repentance, that is, as they explain it, forrow for fin, serious resolutions of forsaking it, and begun reformation, the joint grounds of our acceptance with the merit of a Saviour. These, with great plausibility, state the matter thus : That our sincerity is accepted through the fatisfaction of Christ, instead of that perfect obedience to which we cannot now attain ; and, when taken in a certain ligiit, this assertion is undoubtedly true. Others, discerning the falshood that may lurk under this representation, and fearing the consequences of every self-righteous plan, are tempted to go to the opposite extreme. That they might fhew salvation to be wholly of grace, some have even presumed to use this harsh and unscriptural expression, that it is not necessary to forsake fin in order to come to Christ. I could fhew a sense in which this also is true, even as it is not neceflary to forsake your disease, in order to apply to the physician. But if it is not necessary to forsake it, I am sure it is necessary, in both cases, to hate it, and desire deliverance from it.

This difficulty will be easily folved from what has been said in the preceding parts of this treatise, and we may learn to preserve the truth, without exposing it to the scorn or resentment of its enemies. The reader may observe, then, that none can see the form or comeliness of a Savi: our standing in the room of finners, and purchasing forgiveness from a holy God, till the glory of this God is difcovered, till the guilt of fin lays hold of the conscience, and its power is both felt and lamented. This may, perhaps, be called repentance, and I believe it is called fo fometimes in the holy scriptures, particularly in the following parare:


“ Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your fins

may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall “ come from the prefence of the Lord.”* But the finner does not fo properly forsake sin in order to come to Christ, as he flies to him for deliverance from its condemning guilt and enslaving power. He is fo far from coming to God with a gift in his hand, even of his own prayers and penitential tears, that his convi&tions continue to follow him, if I may speak so, through every lurking place, till he is entirely subjected, till he is stript naked and bare, and deprived of every shadow of excuse. Then it is that fal. vation through a despised crucified Saviour becomes unspeakably amiable in all its parts, fin becomes more perfectly hateful, and an assured prospect is obtained of its immediate mortification, and, in due time, of its entire and complete destruction. Thus faith and repentance are involved in one another, they produce, and are produced by one another. They may be treated of distinetly, but they cannot exist separately. So that whenever any of them is found alone, or stands independent of the other, that very thing is a fufficient evidence that it is false and fpurious.

From what has been faid on this subject, we may be enabled to judge what are the fundamental and essential doctrines of the gospel, to which all others are but fubordi. nate and fubfervient. Regeneration, or the New Birth, we are warranted to say, after the example of our Saviour, is abfolutely neceffary to falvation : “Except a man be “ born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." If any man, therefore, depart from this truth, he makes shipwreck of the faith, and will at lafl be found to fight againit God. It is also plain, that the reconciliation of a finner to God must be through the blood of the atonement : “ For other foundation can no man·lay, than that is laidl, “which is Jesus Christ.”+ . If any man hold by, and build upon, this great foundation he fhall be finally accepted, though many things may be found in him jusuly

[ocr errors]

* Acts äii. 19.

+ 1 Cor. iii, 11,

« PreviousContinue »