Page images

if this had been the case, then, so long as every individual should be continued in being by God, and should continue to love God with all his heart, and obey him in every thing, so long every individual would be perfectly happy : but then, God might, without injustice, let one or all drop into nonexistence, if he pleased, and when he pleased, although perfectly holy. Job xxii. 2 and xxxv. 7. Or, if he was pleased to continue one and all in being for ever, yet, at what time soever any should commit the least sin, that soul should immediately sink down into an eternal hell. Rom. vi. 23.; a thousand years of perfect obedience, by the mere law of nature, not entitling to any promise for the time to come. God's giving and continuing being to us, and granting us advantages to know, and love, and serve him, would render us infinitely indebted to God; but our knowing, loving, and serving God could not bring him at all in debt to us. Rom. xi. 35, 36. Our doing so would naturally render us happy, so long as we should continue to do so; but if, at any time, we should be guilty of the least defect, all would be lost, and we undone for ever. But then, by and according to the constitution with Adam, things were placed upon another footing. The eternal welfare of mankind was suspended upon another condition : for, according to this constitution, if Adam, the public head and representative of mankind, had remained obedient for some certain period of time, he and all his posterity would, by the free and gracious promise of God, have been entitled to everlasting life; as, on the other hand, if he sinned, all would e exposed to eternal death. But now, FAITH in Christ entitles us to eternal life, by virtue of a new constitution, called the gospel or covenant of grace, made and confirmed by the God of heaven. The perfect obedience of Adam, had he stood, would not have entitled us to eternal life, notwithstanding he was our natural head, if he had not been made our representative by a divine constitution : so the perfect obedience and sufferings of Christ would not have freed us from condemnation, and entitled us to eternal life, whatever dependence we might have had upon him, if, by a divine constitution, it had not been appointed and confirmed, that he that believeth shall be saved. By and according to the law of nature, our own personal obedience would have recommended us to the favour of God, and laid the foundation of our happiness, so long as we should have continued in a state of sinless perfection. By the first covenant, the constitution with Adam, his perfect obedience through his appointed time of trial, would, by virtue of that constitution or covenant, have entitled us to everlasting life. By the second covenant, the perfect righteousness of Christ, the second Adam, entitles all true believers to everlasting life, by and according to this new and living way. A perfect righteousness was necessary, according to the law of nature; and a perfect righteousness is insisted upon in both covenants. According to the law of nature, it was to be performed personally; but, according to both covenants, it is appointed to be performed by a public head. According te the first covenant, we were to have been interested in the righteousness of our public head, by virtue of our union to him as his posterity, for whom he was appointed to act. According to the second covenant, we are interested in the righteousness of Christ, our public head, by virtue of our union to him by faith. Our faith is that whereby we unite to Christ; the act is an uniting act. We disunite, separate from, and renounce that to which we before were united, and did close with, and placed our hopes upon, viz. our own righteousness; and are no more emboldened by that, to come into the presence of God. And we unite to Christ, desiring to be found, not in ourselves, but in him ; not in our own righteousness, but in his. Phil. iii. 8, 9. And from him we take encouragement to draw nigh to God; we come in HIs NAME. Heb. iv. 16. And now, by virtue of a divine constitution, established by the Governor of the world, all who thus unite to Christ by faith, are considered as being one with him, so as to have an interestin what he has done and suffered in the character of a Mediator, as a public person, so as, upon the account thereof, to be pardoned, and received to favour, and entitled to eternal life. Rom. v. 18, 19. Eph. i. 6. Rom. iii. 24, 25.

And now, this faith, this uniting act, being the condition, the only condition, required on our part, by the covenant of grace, we being justified by faith without the deeds of the law, hence faith is said to be imputed to us for righteousness; Rom. iv.; for righteousness, i. e. for that whereby we stand right according to the tenour of the new covenant, i. e. for a Jull compliance with the condition of the new covenant. As perfect obedience was a compliance with the covenant of works, so faith is a compliance of the covenant of grace. Now, as perfect obedience, through his whole time of trial, would have been imputed to Adam for righteousness, i. e. for a full compliance with the condition of that covenant; so now faith is imputed for righteousness, i. e. for a full compliance with the condition of this covenant. For St. Paul had but just been proving that we are justified by faith Alo N E, without the deeds of the law ; and now this being the oNLY condition required, therefore he says it is accounted as a full compliance with the new covenant; i. e. it is imputed for righteousness. It being the only thing required as a condition of life, by the covenant of grace, hence it is looked upon in the sight of God accordingly, as being a full compliance with that covenant. The covenant of works insisted upon perfect obedience, because Adam was to have been justified merely by, and wholly upon the account of, his own virtue and goodness. And the covenant of grace insists upon faith alone, without the deeds of the law, because now we are justified, merely by, and wholly upon the account of Christ's virtue or righteousness, without regard to any goodness in us. But to him that . worketh Not, but believeth on him that justifieth the UNGoDLY, his faith is counted for righteousness, (Rom. iv. 5.) i. e. for a FULL compliance with the new covenant without the deeds of the law. For, as to a legal righteousness, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to them that believe; Rom. x. 5. And, in that sense, we are not to be found in our own righteousness, but in his. Phil. iii. 8.

Thus, according to the law of nature, every man would have been justified by his own personal righteousness; and according to the first covenant, every child of Adam would have been justified by Adam's righteousness, as public head: and


according to the second covenant, every believer is to be justi

fied by Christ's righteousness, as another public head. The first of these ways takes its rise from the reason and nature of

things; but the second and third from the positive appointment of God. The angels, it seems, were dealt with according to the first of these ways; only their state of probation, through grace, was not to be perpetual ; for, no doubt, those that stood are now in a confirmed state: but mankind are dealt with according to the second and third. The first of these ways a fallen world pretend some liking to; but the other two have given great offence. “How is it right we should be condemned for Adam's sin Or with what propriety can we be justified on the account of Christ's righteousness?” is the language of very many. “It is unjust to condemn me for the sin of another, and absurd to justify me for another's righteousness,” say they. And as to the first of these ways, they would have the law abated in what it requires, and quite disannulled as to its threatening death for the least sin. They would have what they call sincere obedience admitted as a condition of life, and repentance to be accepted in case of sin: so that an apostate world are naturally equally at enmity against the first, second, and third, rightly understood. For they think it full as unjust that God should damn us for the least defect of perfect obedience, as for Adam's first sin. And it is nothing but divine light can bring the heart of a sinner sincerely to approve of the law of nature, of the constitution with Adam, and of the gospel with Christ. For, . (I Cor. ii. 14.) the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. He does not discern the ground and reason of the law of nature,

being blind to the infinite beauty of the divine perfections;

and so is incapacitated to have a right view and sense of the nature of the first covenant or the second. And being a stranger and an enemy to God, he also naturally doubts whether he has full power and rightful authority to make such constitutions: he dislikes the constitutions; he questions God's authority to make such : their being so plainly held forth in the Bible, tempts many to call even the truth of that into question; and some are driven quite to open infidelity.

There is a secret infidelity in the hearts of unregenerate men. They do not love that divine scheme of truths revealed in the Bible, nor cordially receive it for true. Men love to cut out a scheme of religion in their heads, to suit the temper of their hearts. And from this root do all the false and erroneous principles which fill the christian world originally take their rise. (2 Thess. ii. 10, 11, 12.) But when he that commanded the light to shine out of darkness shines in the heart, and gives spiritual light, then the reasonableness, beauty, and glory of the whole scheme appear, and the very resemblance of the divine perfections is to be seen in every branch of it; and now it is cordially believed. (John viii. 47.) And hereby a solid foundation is laid for a real conformity to the law, and a genuine compliance with the gospel; in both which true religion does consist.

Thus we have gone through what was proposed. And we see why God, the great Governor of the world, did consider mankind as perishing, fallen, sinful, guilty, justly condemned, helpless, and undone: and we see that his design of mercy originally took its rise from the mere self-moving goodness of his nature, and sovereign good pleasure: and we see the necessity there was of a Mediator, and how the way of life has

been opened by him whom God has provided : and we see

wherein a genuine compliance with the gospel does consist, and the nature of a true faith in Christ: and we see what is implied in the everlasting life that is promised to believers, and how faith interests us in the promise, and how that the covenant is, in all things, well ordered and sure. And now there is a wide field opened for a large improvement, in many doctrinal and practical inferences and remarks. For, 1. It is very natural to make the same observations here, with regard to a genuine compliance with the gospel, as were before made with respect to a real conformity to the law : for, from what has been said, we may easily see wherein consists that life of faith in Christ, by which true believers live; that all unregenerate men are entirely destitute of this true faith in Christ; yea, diametrically opposite thereunto in the temper of their minds, and therefore cannot be brought to it but by the almighty power and all-conquering grace of God: that there

« PreviousContinue »