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man if he had not been born." Redeeming goodness exceeds creating. Now the Son of God, to procure our highest love, alone wrought salvation for us.
And what admirable goodness is it, that puts a value upon our affection, and accepts such a small return! Our most intent and ardent love bears no more proportion to his, than a spark to the element of fire. Besides, his love to us was pure, and without any benefit to himself; but ours to him is profitable to our souls, for their eternal advantage. Yet with this he is fully satisfied; when we love him in the quality of a Saviour, we give him the glory of that he designs most to be glorified in, that is, of his mercy to the miserable. For this reason he instituted the sacrament of the supper, the contrivance of his love, to refresh the memory of his death, and quicken our fainting love to him.
Now the love that our Saviour requires must be,
1. Sincere and unfeigned. This declares itself by a care to please him in all things. “If a man love me,” saith our Saviour, "he will keep my commandments.” Obedience is the most natural and necessary product of love ; for love is the spring of action, and employs all the faculties in the service of the person loved. The apostle expresses the force of it by an emphatical word, cuvézel, 2 Cor. v. 16; “ The love of Christ constraineth us ;" it signifies to have one bound and so much under power, that he cannot move without l'eave; as the inspired prophets were carried by the Spirit, and acted entirely by his motions. Such an absolute empire had the love of Christ over him, ruling all the inclinations of his heart and actions of his life, Acts xviii. 5. It is this alone that makes obedience cheerful, and constant; for love is seated in the will, and the obedience that proceeds from it, is out of choice and purely voluntary. No commandment is grievous that is performed from love, 1 John v. 3. And it makes obedience constant. That which is forced from the impression of fear, is unsteadfast ; but what is mixed with delight, is lasting.
2. Our love to Christ must be supreme, exceeding that which is given to all inferior objects. The most elevated and entire affection is due to him who saves us from torments that are extreme and eternal, and bestows upon us an inheritance immortal and undefiled. By the offering of himself to divine justice he has obliged us to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God, which is our reasonable service ; life
itself and all the endearments of it, relations, estates are to be disvalued, when set in comparison with him. Nay if, by an impossible supposition, they could be separated, our Saviour should be more dear to us than salvation ; for he declared greater love in giving himself for our ransom, than in giving heaven to be our reward. When we love him in the highest degree we are capable of, we have reason to mourn for the imperfection of it. In short; a superlative love, as it is due to our Redeemer, so it only is accepted by him. He that loveth father or mother, son or daughter, more than him, is not worthy of him. And he tells us in other places that we must hate them, to show that our love to him should so far exceed the affection that is due to those relations, that on all occasions where they divide from Christ, we should demean ourselves as if we had for them an indifference only, and even an aversion. Indeed, the preferring of any thing before him who is altogether desirable in himself and infinitely deserves our love, is brutishly to undervalue him, and in effect not to love him ; for in a temptation, where Christ and the beloved object are set in competition, as a greater weight turns the scales, so the stronger affection will cause a person to renounce Christ for the possession of what he loves better. It is the love of Christ reigning in the heart, that is the only principle of perseverance.
IV. What a high provocation is it to despise redeeming mercy, and to defeat that infinite goodness which hath been at such expence for our recovery!
The Son of God hath emptied all the treasures of his love, to purchase deliverance for guilty and wretched captives; he hath past through so many pains and thorns to come and offer it to them ; he solicits them to receive pardon and liberty, upon the conditions of acceptance and amendment, which are absolutely necessary to qualify them for felicity : now if they slight the benefit and renounce their redemption, if they sell themselves again under the servitude of sin and gratify the devil with a new conquest over them, what a bloody cruelty is this to their own souls, and a vile indignity to the Lord of glory! And are there any servile spirits so charmed with their misery, and so in love with their chains, who will stoop under their cruel captivity, to be reserved for eternal punishment? Who can believe it? But, alas, examples are numerous and ordinary. The most, by a folly as prodigious as their ingratitude, prefer their sins before their Saviour, and love that which is the only just object of hatred, and hate him who is the most worthy object of love. It is a most astonishing consideration, that love should persuade Christ to die for men, and that they should trample upon his blood, and choose rather to die by themselves, than to live by him! that God should be so easy to forgive, and man so hard to be forgiven! This is a sin of that transcendent height, that all the abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah are not equal to it. This exasperates mercy, that dear and tender attribute, the only advocate in God's bosom for us. This makes the Judge irreconcilable. The rejecting of life upon the gracious terms of the gospel, makes the condemnation of men most just, certain, and heavy.
1. Most just: for when Christ hath performed what was necessary for the expiation of sin, and hath opened the throne of grace, which was before shut against us, and by this God hath declared how willing he is to save sinners; if they are wilful to be damned, and frustrate the blessed methods of grace, it is most equal they should inherit eir own choice:
they judge themselves unworthy of eternal life.” Conscience will justify the severest doom against them.
2. It makes their condemnation certain and final. The sentence of the law is reversible by an appeal to a higher court; but that of the gospel against the refusers of mercy will remain in its full force for ever.'“He that believeth not, is condemned already,” John iii. 18. It is some consolation to a malefactor, that the sentence is not pronounced against
but an unbeliever hath no respite. The gospel assures the sincere believer, that " he shall not enter into condemnation,” to prevent his fears of an after sentence; but it denounces a present doom against those who reject it. wrath of God abideth on them.” Obstinate infidelity sets beyond all possibility of pardon ; there is no sacrifice for that sin. Salvation itself cannot save the impenitent infidel; for he excludes the only means whereby mercy is conveyed. How desperate then is the case of such a sinner. To what sanctuary will he fly? All the other attributes condemn him; holiness excites justice, and justice awakens power for his destruction; and if mercy interpose not between him and ruin, he must perish irrecoverably. Whoever loveth not the Lord Christ, is “anathema maranatha ;" he is under an irrevocable curse, which the Redeemer will confirm at his coming.
3. Wilful neglect of redeeming mercy aggravates the sen.
tence, and brings an extraordinary damnation upon sinners. Besides the doom of the law which continues in its vigour against transgressors, the gospel adds a more heavy one against the impenitent, “because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” John iii. 18. Infidelity is an outrage, not to a man or an angel, but to the eternal Son; for the redemption of souls is reckoned as a part of his reward ; “He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied,” Isa. liii. 11. Those therefore who spurn at salvation, deny him the honour of his sufferings; and are guilty of the defiance of his love, of the contempt of his clemency, of the provocation of the most sensible and severe attribute when it is incensed. This is to strike him at the heart, and to kick against his bowels. This increases the anguish of his sufferings, and imbitters the cap of his passion. This renews his sorrows, and makes his wounds bleed afresh. Dreadful impiety, that exceeds the guilt of the Jews; They once killed him, being in his humble, inglorious state, but this is a daily crucifying him now glorified. Ungrateful wretches, that refuse to bring glory to their Redeemer, and blessedness to themselves ! that choose rather that the accuser should triumph in their misery, than their Saviour rejoice in their felicity! This is the great condemnation, that Christ came into the world to save men from death, and they refuse the pardon, John iii. 19. It is an aggravation of sin above what the devils are capable of, for pardon was never offered to those rebellious spirits. In short; so deadly a malignity there is in it, that it poisons the gospel itself, and turns the sweetest mercy into the sorest judgment. The Sun of righteousness, who is a reviving life to the penitent believer, is “a consuming fire" to the obdurate. How much more tolerable had been the condition of such sinners, if saving grace had never appeared unto men, or they had never heard of it! for the degrees of wrath shall be in proportion to the riches of neglected goodness. The refusing of life from Christ, makes us guilty of his death. And when he shall come in his glory and be visible to all that pierced him, what vengeance will be the portion of those who despised the majesty of his person, the mystery of his compassions and sufferings! Those that lived and died in the darkness of heathenism, shall have a cooler climate in hell than those who neglect the great salvation.
THE JUSTICE OF GOD IN REDEMPTION.
The Deity in itself is simple and pure, without mixture or variety : the scripture ascribes attributes to God for our clearer understanding. And those as essential in him are simply one: they are distinguished only with respect to the divers objects on which they are terminated, and the different effects that proceed from them.
The two great attributes which are exercised towards reasonable creatures in their lapsed state, are mercy and justice. These admirably concur in the work of our redemption. Although God spared guilty man for the honour of his mercy, yet he “spared not his own Son,” who became a surety for the offender, but delivered him up to a cruel death for the glory of his justice.
For the clearer understanding of this, three things are to be considered :
I. The reasons why we are redeemed by the satisfaction of justice;
II. The reality of the satisfaction made by our Redeemer; III. The completeness and perfection of it.
1. Concerning the first, there are three different opinions among those who acknowledge the reality of satisfaction.
The first opinion is that it is not possible that sin should be pardoned without satisfaction ; for justice being a natural and necessary excellency in God, hath an unchangeable respect to the qualities which are in the creatures; that as the divine goodness is necessarily exercised towards a creature perfectly holy, so justice is in punishing the guilty, unless a satisfaction intervene. And if it be not possible, considering the perfection of the Deity, that holiness should be unrewarded, far less can it be, that sin should be unpunished ; since the exercise of justice, upon which punishment depends, is more necessary than that of goodness, which is the cause of remuneration ; for the rewards which bounty dispenses, are pure favour, whereas the punishment which justice inflicts, are due. In short; since justice is a perfection, it is in God in a supreme degree, and being infinite, it is inflex