Page images

I am one of the elect, yet it is impossible I should know it till afterwards, besides, all this is contrary to the whole tenour of the gospel: Whosoever will, let him come; whosoever comes, shall in no wise be cast out: whosoever believes shall be savedAnd contrary to the experience of all true believers, who, in their first return to God through Christ, always take all their encouragement from the gospel, and lay the weight of their souls upon the truth of that ; and venture their eternal all upon this bottom, and not upon the truth of any new revelation. They venture their all upon the truths already revealed in the gospel, and not upon the truth of any proposition not revealed there. So that, let us view this point in what light we will, nothing is more clear and certain than that Christ died, that whosoEver believethin himshould not perish, but have evertasting life. And God may now be just, and yet justify any of the race of Adam that believe in Jesus: and he stands ready to do so. And these things being true, the servants, upon good grounds, might, in their master's name, tell the obstinate Jews, who did not belong to the election of grace, and who finally refused to hearken to the calls of the gospel, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oren and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready : come unto the marriage. Mat. xxii. 4. And if they had come, they would have been heartily welcome: the provision made was sufficient, and the invitation sincere. Jesus wept over them, saying, O that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace / So that there was nothing to hinder, had they but been willing. But it seems they were otherwise disposed; and therefore they made light of it, and went their ways: one to his farm, another to his merchandise ; and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them, (ver. 5, 6.) And in this glass we may see the very nature of all mankind, and how all would actually do if not prevented by divine grace. Justly, therefore, at the day of judgment, will this be the condemnation, that light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light. Forcertainly, if mankind are so perversely bad, that, notwithstanding their natural obligations to God, and the unreasonableness of their original apostacy, they will yet persist VOL. T. - 49

in their rebellion; and, after all the glorious provision and kind invitations of the gospel, will not return to God through Christ; I say, certainly, God is not obliged to come out after them, and, by his all-conquering grace, irresistibly reclaim them; but may justly let every man take his own course, and run his own ruin. And an aggravated damnation will every such person deserve in the coming world, for neglecting so great salvation. Heb. ii. 2, 3. And now, if Christ's atonement and merits be thus sufficient for all; and if God stands ready to be reconciled to all : and if all are invited to return and come; hence, then, we may learn that it is safe for any of the poor, sinful, guilty, lost, undone race of Adam to return to God in this way. They shall surely find acceptance with God : they may come without money, without price; and he that cometh shall in no wise be cast out. And hence we may see upon what grounds it is, that the poor, convinced, humbled sinner is encouraged and emboldened to venture his all upon Christ, and return to God through him. It is because any poor, sinful, guilty, hell-deserving wretch, may come ; any in the world; the worst in the world; the vilest, and most odious and despicable: for such he actually takes himself to be. And if he did not see that there was an open door for such, for any such, for all such, he would doubt, and that with good reason too, whether he might safely come. But when he understands and believes the gospel-revelation, and so is assured that it is safe for any, for all, the vilest and the worst; now the peculiar vileness and unworthiness which he sees in himself ceases to be an objection. He sees it safe for any, and therefore for him; and hence takes courage, and is emboldened to venture his all upon the free grace of God, through Jesus Christ; and so returns in hopes of acceptance. Now, does this poor sinner venture upon a safe foundation, or does he not He takes it for granted that the supreme Governor of the world can, consistently with his honour, show mercy to any that come to inim through Christ; and he takes it for granted that he stands ready to do so, even to the vilest and worst; that the door of mercy stands wide open, and whosoever will may come. And, upon these principles, he takes encouragement to return to God, in hopes of acceptance: and, from a sense of his own wants, and of the glory and all-sufficiency of the divine nature ; of the blessedness there is in being the Lord's, devoted to him, and living upon him, he does return with all his heart; and to God he gives himself, to be for ever his ; and if the gospel be true, surely he must be safe. The truth of the gospel is the foundation of all; for upon that, and that only, he builds : not upon works of righteousness which he has done ; not upon any immediate revelation of pardon, or the love of Christ to him in particular; but merely upon gospel-principles. If they, therefore, prove true, in the coming world, then will he receive the end of his faith; the salvation of his soul. But to return: Thus we see that, by the death of Christ, there is a wide door opened for divine mercy to exercise and display itself: the supreme Governor of the world may, consistently with his honour, now seat himself upon a throne of grace, and proclaim the news of pardon and peace through a guilty world; and it is perfectly safe for any of the guilty race of Adam to return unto him through Jesus Christ. And now, were manRind in a disposition to be heartily sorry for their apostacy from God, and disposed to esteem it their indispensable duty, and highest blessedness, to return ; were this the case, the joyful news of a Saviour, and of pardon and peace through him, would fly through the world like lightning, and every heart would be melted with love, and sorrow, and gratitude; and all the nations of the earth would come, and fall down in the dust before the Lord, and bless his holy name, and devote themselves to him for ever, lamenting, in the bitterness of their hearts, that ever they did break away from their subjection to such a God. And were mankind sensible of their sinful, guilty, undone state by LAw, and disposed to justify the law, and condemn themselves ; and were they sensible of the holiness and justice of the great Governor of the world, they would soon see their need of such a mediator as Christ Jesus, and soon see the wonderful grace of the gospel, and soon see the glory of this way of salvation, and so know it to be from God, believe it, and fall in with it; and all the world would repent and convert of their own accord; and so all the world might be saved without any more to do. But, instead of this, such is the temper of mankind, that there is not one in the world, that, of his own accord, is disposed to have any such regard to God, or sorrow for his apostacy, or inclination to repent and return; nor do men once imagine that they are in a state so wretched and undone, and stand in such a perishing need of Christ and free grace; and therefore, they are ready to make light of the glad tidings of the gospel, and go their ways; one to his farm, another to his merchandise : nor is there one of all the human race disposed, of his own accord, to lay down the weapons of his rebellion, and return te God by Jesus Christ. So that all will come to nothing, and not one be ever brought home to God, unless something further be done; unless some methods, and methods very effectual, be used. But that God should come out after such an apostate race, who, without any grounds, have turned enemies to him, and, without any reason, refuse to be reconciled; and that after all the glorious provision and kind invitations of the gospel; that God, I say, should come out after such, and reclaim them by his own sovereign and all-conquering grace, might seem to be going counter to the holiness and justice of his nature, and to tend to expose his law, and government, and sacred authority, to contempt; inasmuch as they so eminently deserve to be consumed by the fire of his wrath. Therefore, (2.) Jesus Christ did, by his obedience and death, open such a daor of mercy, as that the supreme Governor of the world might, consistently withh is honour, take what methods he pleased, in order to recover rebellious, guilt , stubborn sinners to himself. That he might take what methods he pleased, I say ; for he knew, from the days of eternity, how mankind would be disposed to treat him, his Son, and his grace; and he knew, from eternity, what methods he intended to take to reclaim them : and these are the methods which he now pleases to take 3 and the methods, yea, the only methods which he actually does take. So that it is the same thing, in effect, to say that, by what Christ has done and suffered, a door is opened for the Most High, consistently with his honour, to take, 1. What methods he actually does take; or, 2. What methods he pleases; or, 3. What methods he, rom eternity, intended; for all amount to just one and the same thing: for what pleased him from eternity, the same pleases him now; and what pleases him now, that he actually does. The infinite perfection of his nature does not admit of any new apprehension, or alteration of judgment. By his infinite understanding he always had, and has, and will have, a complete view of all things, past, present, and to come, at once. And by his infimite wisdom, and the perfect rectitude of his nature, he unchangeably sees and determines upon that conduct which is right, and fit, and best. For with him there is no variablemess, nor shatow of turning. James i. 17. Now, that what Christ has done and suffered, was sufficient to open a way for the honourable exercise of his sovereign grace, in recovering sinners to himself, is evident, from what has been heretofore observed. And that it was designed for this end, and has, in fact, effectually answered it, is plain, from God's conduct in the affair: for otherwise he could not, consistently with his honour, or the honour of his law, use those means to reclaim sinners which he actually does. For all those methods of grace would else be contrary to Law, which does not allow the sinner to have any favour shown him, without a sufficient security to the divine honour, as has been before proved. The law, therefore, has been satisfied in this respect, or these favours could not be shown. For heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than the law be disregarded in any one point. It follows, therefore, that not only special and saving grace, but also that all the comunon favours which mankind in general enjoy, and that all the means of grace which are common to the elect and non-elect, are the effects of Christ's merits. All were purchased by him; none of these things could have been granted to mankind, but for him. Christ has opened the door, and an infinite sovereign goodness has strewed these common mercies round the world. All those particulars wherein mankind are treated,better than the damned in hell, are over and above what mere LAw would allow of, and therefore are the effects of Christ's merits and gospel-grace. And for this, among other reasons, Christ is called the Saviour of the world.

« PreviousContinue »