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THE SELECT LETTERS
REV. WILLIAM ROMAINE, A.M.
In our former Essay to Mr ROMAINE's Treatises on the Life, Walk, and Triumph of Faith, we observed, that the great and unceasing topics on which he delighted to expatiate were, the atoning blood and perfect righteousness of Christ, as forming the great and only foundation of his hope and of his confidence towards God. These important doctrines of the Christian faith, form the no less favourite and oft-recurring theme which pervades, and is diffused through the whole texture of the excellent Letters of which the present Volume is composed. And though they may not be fitted to stimulate the understanding, or to regale the fancy of the merely intellectual reader; yet, to the simplehearted and spiritually-minded Christian, these precious and consoling truths, however frequently presented, will be felt in all the freshness and power of their peace-speaking, holy, and regenerating influence. In this respect, he imitated the example of the great apostle of the Gentiles, who expressed his determination to know nothing among his people “save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” We have frequently insisted on one great claim that the doctrine of Christ crucified has upon our attention; namely, that, by the knowledge of it, we obtain deliverance from the greatest calamity which hangs over our species; and that is, the curse of God's violated law, with all the pains and penalties which are consequent thereupon. We shall, in our following observations, advert to another mighty claim which the same doctrine has upon our attention; namely, that, by the knowledge of it, we farther obtain the meritorious, or the rightful possession of God's favour; so that we do not simply enter upon the bliss of eternity as having become ours in fact, and by a mere deed of generosity, but we enter upon it as having become ours in equity, and by a deed of justice. Through Christ crucified we acquire a title to heaven as our reward, and that as much as if we ourselves had done that stipulated work, for which heaven was rendered to us as the stipulated wages : and this is a very different footing from that of the bare conveyance of a gift, for it is a conveyance that is secured and shielded by the guarantees of a covenant; so as to make it, not a mere act of mercy, but an act of righteousness for God to bestow; and we, in receiving, lay hold not merely of a donative, but also of our due.
Now, there are many who do not perceive that this second privilege, of being instated, through Christ crucified, in a righteousness before God, is essentially distinct from the former privilege, that of being delivered from guilt. They contemplate the whole of a sinner's reconciliation with God, as one general benefit coming out of the atonement that has been rendered for him on the cross, and which does not admit of being severed into parts, as has been done by the adepts of an artificial and scholastic theology. They are not disposed to look separately to our being freed from condemnation, and so rescued from hell; and to our being vested with a positive righteousness, and so made the rightful heirs and expectants of heaven. They would rather abide by their habit of viewing the gift that is by Jesus Christ as one and indivisible; and regard the attempt to decompose it into ingredients, more as a subtilty of human invention, than as the dictate of a mind that has been soundly and scripturally informed. And thus would they treat lightly the distinction that has been so much urged by some theologians, between the passive and the active obedience of Christ; or between the efficacy of the one to redeem from the incurred penalty, and the efficacy of the other to reinstate in the forfeited reward ; between the tendency of His sufferings to avert all the wrath of the Divinity, and so to turn away from us the displeasure under which we lay, and the tendency of His services to restore to us the forfeited reward, and so transfer to us, for whom these services were undertaken, God's favour and kindness, as much as if they had been rendered in our own person and by our own performances. This attempt to mark off the mediatorship of Christ into two great departments, has been branded as an attempt to be wise above that which is written; and, when pursued into the still greater nicety of endeavouring to trace and to follow it throughout the line of demarcation that is betwixt them, then has the whole speculation been denounced as one that ministers questions of strife rather than of godly edifying, and to which we cannot turn aside, without being involved in perverse disputings, and the jangling of vain controversy.
Now, we fully participate in this dislike at all such metaphysics of theology, as minister nothing in the way of comfort, or of direction, or of salutary influence to the plain mind of a plain and practical inquirer. And therefore we shall attempt nothing at present that is not quite broad and palpable, and shall avoid every thing that would require an eye of very minute or microscopic discrimination. It may be a matter of no great usefulness so to arrange and to classify the privileges of a believer, as accurately to refer each to the distinct services by which Christ hath insured it for those who put their trust in Him. But surely it is of importance to know what these privileges are, and for this purpose to make them the objects, if not of any acute or subtile exercise of the understanding, at least of simple enumeration. And we should feel as if much had been left untold, were we not made to know that Christ hath brought in an everlasting righteousness, as well as finished transgressions, and made an end of sins—that He hath won for us the reward of heaven, as well as averted from us the vengeance of hell—that He hath not only redeemed us from the sentence of death but hath built up for us a title unto life everlasting-that, besides expunging our name from the book of condemnation, He hath graven it in the book of life—that, instead of standing before God simply as acquitted creatures, and therefore preserved from the place of condemnation, we stand before Him in the robe of another's righteousness, and therefore with the investiture of such an order of merit, as makes it fit that we should be translated to a high place of favour and of dignity. We want not to probe and to penetrate into the hidden intricacies of the question. But surely, if to be simply dismissed from the bar at which we stood as arraigned criminals be one thing, and it be another to be thence preferred to a title of renown, or to some station wherewith happiness and honour await us near the palace of our sovereign, then it concerns us to know that there is a justification as well as an atonement; that there is a righteousness as well as a redemption ; that Christ hath done more than advance us to the negative or midway condition of mere innocence; that He hath wrought out for us a mightier transition than to a state of exemption from the torments of the accursed; that He hath not only retrieved our condition, but hath reversed it, utterly changing the character of our eternity, and turning it from an eternity of torment to an eternity of triumph-having both borne the full weightof our sufferings by taking on Himself the guilt of our sins, and having given us of His own righteousness, as our passport and title-deed to the glories of paradise.