« PreviousContinue »
suppose we should preach unto you another gospel, assuring you that your own obedience to the righteous law must exempt you from the curse denounced against law breakers, or you would never be exempted ; that you must be distinguished from the rest of mankind who are unrighteous, by a change wrought in yourselves, so that you may be so fully convinced you are not like other men, that you may be able in the presence of God, to thank him for his dis-, criminating grace, or you never can have any legal or just claim to an inheritance in the kingdom of God, and of Christ--that sinners not thus changed and made righteous, must assuredly die the death, and the unjust assuredly suffer in their own persons, for their own sins, before they can be brought to God; and that should they approach him previous to this change, he will assuredly cast them out into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels-For that although Jesus died for sinners, yet his death in the sight of infinite justice was not the death of the sinner, and that the sentence passed on the sinner is still in full force ; the soul that sinneth shall die-That we are not accepted in the beloved, nor complete in him ; and that therefore the just God hath appointed a. day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that righteous law which condemns the offender to everlasting perdition, and sets the obedient free--That on that day the sinners of mankind will find that their transgressions are not pardoned ; that their iniquities were not blotted out ; that they were not laid upon Jesus'; or if they were, that he did not put them away ; that he performed no more than was performed by the sacrifices under the Mosaic dispensation ; putting them away and yet leaving the people still in guilt, and under condemnation ; and that consequently, God is not, cannot be reconciled unto the world ; nor ever will be until they are first reconciled unto him ; that he really does still impute unto them their trespasses ; and that although it may in some sense be true that Jesus was made sin for them, yet we cannot think that sinners, black with crimes in themselves, can be made the righteousness of God in him.
If, I say, we, or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel so different from that already declared to you, let him be accursed. let him be considered in the same point of view, with respect to the gospel, that the Jews considered the ignorant Gentiles with respect to the law-let those who know not the law be accursed.
But should it be asked how, with what propriety, can the preaching you thus describe, be termed gospel, since gospel is literally glad tidings, or good news ? We answer, the Apostle did not con. sider this testimony gospel ; his sentiments were the reverse of this testimony ;' he only speaks of it as the first believers, who being zealous for the law, spake of the soul-perverting doctrine they preached. They called their preaching gospel preaching ; and for the purpose
of making it appear in some sort consistent with the name, they declared unto the people glad tidings; that in consequence of the descent of Jesus Christ, upon this our globe, we may now be saved, and it is entirely our own fault if we be not ; that we have not the same law, in all its fulness to obey that the Jews had ; that many of the ceremonies are taken out of the way ; that God now only requires us to keep his commandments, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God: and should we, through the imbecility of our nature, err from the path of rectitude, we being able to appeal to God, that it was not willingly or by design, the Mediator will, in such circumstances, intercede for us ; and on our repentance and reformation, we shall be taken into favour. Thus, although the law be indeed broken, and your souls have sinned, yet to such favourites we bring glad tidings ; you shall not die, nor suffer the curse of a broken law.
What although the unrighteous cannot inherit eternal life, yet behold we bring unto you glad tidings : you may be righteous if you will ; for Jesus came into the world to show you, by his bright example, what you must do if you would be righteous ; which but for his appearance you never could have known ; and not only so, but if you will only see, and be in love with this divine pattern, and do all in your power to imitate him, whenever you find yourself through human weakness, unable to attain to his likeness, he will, if you continually call upon him, help you ; nay, he will work in you to will and to do: behold therefore we bring you glad tidings; you will have all the reward and commendation, as if you had by your own inherent strength, wrought out your own salvation.
Thus, if by close attention to the rules laid down in the precepts of the law, and the example of Jesus Christ you attain to righteousness, you shall not be condemned with sinners ; but when God shall say to them, Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, he shall say to you, Come ye blessed of my Father ; while to the sinner he says, Thou wicked servant, thou shouldst have put my money to
usury, he will say to you who have kept his commandments, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
But as this does not seem glad tidings to every creature, we would say to the unjust, who must suffer for their sins, that their sufferings shall finally bring them to God ; that when they have suffered as much as the justice of God can demand, so that on scrutinizing the account, it will appear that the sinner has paid the uttermost farthing ; then they shall come forth from the deep dungeon, where by the
grace of Jesus Christ they have been enabled to suffer so much, and give glory to him, who lay suffering so much in his own person, rendered it possible for them to obtain salvation by their own deeds and sufferings.
Thus shall all finally be happy ; although not all precisely in the same way. Some shall attain endless felicity by obedience to the law, and others by suffering the pains and penalties annexed to the breach of the law. What then becomes of the finished redemption wrought out by the Redeemer of men ? Yet it is easy to prove that this testimony is gospel ; but it must be confessed that there is as much difference between the two gospels, as between heaven above and earth beneath ; and such who are under the influence of the spirit of this world, merely of the earth, earthy, will undoubtçdly prefer the latter gospel ; while such who are under the influence of his spirit who says, I am from above ; my kingdom is not of this world ; and who consequently see their treasure in heaven, and nothing which merits the name of durable riches and righteousness any where else ; so that they can with truth say, when they ask whom have I in heaven but thee? there is nothing on earth I desire beside thee. Persons of this description will give the preference to Paul's gospel ; and continuing under the influence of that spirit which taketh of the things of Jesus, and sheweth them unto the soul, they will assuredly follow the apostolic direction in all things, delighting to imitate his example, and determining to know nothing save Christ Jesus, and him crucified. “God forbid," they exclaim, « God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto us, and we unto the world.” Yea doubtless, and they count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord, for whom they would gladly suffer the loss of all things. They desire, earnestly desire, to be found in the Redeemer, not having their own
righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. They believe it to be life eternal to know God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. They listen to the voice of the Lord, who saith, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, nor the rich man in his riches. But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me; that I am the Lord which exercise loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth ; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.
The believers of Paul's gospel, uniformly consider themselves as complete in Christ Jesus ; they know that the Redeemer alone hath collected the materials ; that he alone will build the temple ; bringing forth the head stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
To this purpose I went on, but adding much more than I have leisure or patience to write, leaving it to the consideration of preacher and hearers, to make their own election. The latter seemed highly pleased, and the former not displeased.
And here I will restore you to your very useful avocations, by putting a period to this long, long letter, after requesting you to inform me if you contemplate any new regulations in your congregation, to give my love to my friends, especially to S. and to accept the best wishes of your friend and brother.
Before I got out of bed this morning, your two letters were put into
my hand. You are a good man, and I trust I shall profit by the favours before me. They contain many useful hints, which come with a good grace from you; and they shall be, indeed they are received with a good grace by me. Yes, I will stand still and behold the salvation of God. Yes, I will leave it to him to
work in the hearts of his people, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. The sheep are his, not mine. He is the shepherd, not I, and he will do as in his sight seemeth good. It may seem good in the sight of my God, to mortify a heart too much elated ; and when this proud heart shall reap the advantages which must of necessity result from a mortification coming from such a hand, it will seem good unto me also.
Paul speaks of very bad people, when he says, they shall be lovers of their own selves. I know to whom this character belongs; but blessed be the friend of sinners. I also know to whom belongeth mercy, and forgiveness of sins. I know who loved me so as to give himself for me. Is it not amazing that a person knowing this, could wish for more ? and yet I am still unsatisfied! Who is it says, When I awake in thy likeness I shall be satisfied ? Is there not much included in this precious idea; does it not from hence appear, that we are sleeping in the present state, Sleeping in the likeness of the earthy man ; and that all our uneasy sensations are nothing but distempered dreams ? Aye, and all those pleasing sensations too, which arise from present good, or more properly from sensual enjoyments, are also dreams ; which like the baseless fabric of a vision, often leave not a wreck behind. Well hath Dr. Watts observed,
“ This life's a dream, an empty show,
How often have I dreamed of things impossible ! Could sleep do more ? But although my life has been a continual sleep, and the greater part of my pains and pleasures dreams, yet while this deep sleep has been upon me, has not the Almighty instructed me? Yes, blessed be his name and the roof of his mouth is as the best wine, which goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. O, for more of this best wine, that my lips may show forth his praise, that I may drink and forget all sorrow!
Judah, we are told, washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes : and Jesus said, this is my blood of the new testament, speaking of the blood of the grapes in a figurative point of view. Who is this that cometh up from Edom with dyed garments, from Bozrah ? As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament. And in the midst