Page images
PDF
EPUB

brought, the case is altogether different. Here is no experience to explain things; no use or familiarity to take off surprise, to reconcile us to difficulties, to assist our apprehension. In the new order of things, according to the new laws of nature, every thing will be suitable ; suitable to the beings who are to occupy the future world; but that suitableness cannot, as it seems to me, be possibly perceived by us, until we are acquainted with that order and with those beings. So that it arises, as it were, from the necessity of things, that what is told us by a Divine messenger of heavenly affairs, of affairs purely spiritual, that is, relating purely to another world, must be so comprehended by us, as to excite admiration.

But secondly; partially as we may, or perhaps must, comprehend this subject, in cominon with all subjects which relate strictly and solely to the nature of our future life, we may comprehend it quite sufficiently for one purpose; and that is gratitude. It was only for a moral purpose that the thing was revealed at all; and that purpose is a sense of gratitude and obligation. This was the use which the apostles of our Lord, who knew the most, made of their knowledge. This was the turn they gave to their meditations upon the subject; the impression it left upon their hearts. That a great and happy being should voluntarily enter the world in a mean and low condition, and humble himself to a death upon the cross, that is, to be executed as a malefactor, in order, by whatever means it was done, to promote the attainment of salvation to mankind, and to each and every one of themselves, was a theme they dwelt upon with feelings of the warmest thankfulness; because they were feelings proportioned to the magnitude of the benefit. Earthly benefits are nothing compared with those which are heavenly. That they felt from the bottom of their souls. That, in my opinion, we do not feel as we ought. But feeling this, they never ceased to testify, to acknowledge, to express the deepest obligation, the most devout consciousness of that obligation, to their Lord and Master; to him, whom, for what he had done and suffered, they regarded as the finisher of their faith, and the author of their salvation.

-

VIII.

THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST CON-
SISTENT WITH THE NECESSITY OF A GOOD LIFE;
THE ONE BEING THE CAUSE, THE OTHER THE
CONDITION, OF SALVATION.

[ocr errors][merged small]

PART II.

ROMANS VI. 1.

What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

God forbid.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The same scriptures, which represent the death of Christ as having that which belongs to the death of no other person, namely, an efficacy in procuring the salvation of man, are also constant and uniform in representing the necessity of our own endeavours, of our own good works, for the same purpose. They go further. They foresaw that in stating, and still more when they went about to extol and magnify, the death of Christ, as instrumental to salvation, they were laying a foundation for the opinion, that men's own works, their own virtue, their personal endeavours, were superseded and dispensed with. In proportion as the sacrifice of the death of Christ was effectual, in the same proportion were these less necessary. If the death of Christ was sufficient, if redemption was complete, then were these not necessary at all. They foresaw that some would draw this consequence from their doctrine, and they provided against it.

It is observable, that the same consequence might be deduced from the goodness of God in any way of representing it; not only in the particular and peculiar way in which it is represented in the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, but in any other way. St Paul, for one, was sensible of this; and, therefore, when he speaks of the goodness of God even in general terms, he takes care to point out the only true turn which ought to be given to it in our thoughts; •Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, and long suffering ; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?' as if he had said, With thee, I perceive, that the consideration of the goodness of God leads to the allowing of thyself in sin ; this is not to know what that consideration ought in truth to lead to; it ought to lead thee to repentance, and to no other conclusion.

Again; when the apostle had been speaking of the righteousness of God displayed by the wickedness of man, he was not unaware of the misconstruction to which this representation was liable, and which it had, in fact, experienced; which misconstruction he states thus;. We be slanderously reported, and some affirm, that we say, let us do evil that good may come.' This insinuation, however, he regards as nothing less than an unfair and wilful perversion of his words, and of the words of other christian teachers; therefore he says concerning those who did thus pervert them, their condemnation is just;' they will be justly condemned for thus abusing the doctrine which we teach. The passage, however, clearly shows, that the application of their expressions to the encouragement of licentiousness of life, was an application contrary to their intention ; and, in fact, a perversion of their words.

In like manner in the same chapter our apostle had no sooner laid down the doctrine, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,' than he checks himself, as it were, by subjoining this proviso; .Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.' Whatever he meant by his assertion concerning faith, he takes care to let them know he did not mean this, . to make void the law,' or to dispense with obedience.

But the clearest text to our purpose is that, undoubtedly, which I have prefixed to this discourse. St Paul, after expatiating largely upon the 'grace,' that is, the favor, kindness, and mercy of God, the extent, the greatness, the comprehensiveness of that mercy, as manifested in the christian dispensation, puts this question to his reader; What shall we say then ? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?' which he answers by a strong negative, ‘God forbid. What the apostle designed in this passage is sufficiently evident. He knew in what manner some might be apt to construe his expressions, and he anticipates their mistake. He is beforehand with them, by protesting against any such use being made of his doctrine, which, yet he was aware, might by possibility be made.

By way of showing scripturally the obligation and the necessity of personal endeavours after virtue, all the numerous texts which exhort to virtue, and admonish us against vice, might be quoted; for they are all directly to the purpose; that is, we might quote every page of the New Testament. Not

[ocr errors]

every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.' 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. In both these texts the reward attends the doing ; the promise is annexed to works. Again ; "To them, who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.' Again;

Of the which,' namely, certain enumerated vices, 'I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they, which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.' These are a few amongst many texts of the same effect, and they are such as can never be got over. Stronger terms cannot be devised than what are here used. Were the purpose, therefore, simply to prove from scripture the necessity of virtue, and the danger of vice, so far as salvation is concerned, these texts are decisive. But when an answer is to be given to those, who so interpret certain passages of the apostolic writings, especially the passages which speak of the efficacy of the death of Christ, or draw such inferences from these passages, as amount to a dispensing with the obligations of virtue; then the best method of proving, that theirs cannot be a right interpretation, nor theirs just inferences, is, by showing, which fortunately we are able to do, that it is the very interpretation, and these the very inferences, which the apostles were themselves aware of, which they provided against, and which they protested against. The four texts, quoted from the apostolic writings in this discourse, were quoted with this view; and they may be considered, I think, as showing the minds of the authors upon the point in question more determinately, than any general exhortation to good works, or any general denunciation against sin could do. I assume, therefore, as a proved point, that whatever was said by the apostles concerning the efficacy of the death of Christ, was said by them under an apprehension, that they did not thereby in any manner relax the motives, the obligation, or the necessity of good works. But still there is another important question behind ; namely, whether, notwithstanding what the apostles have said, or may have meant to say, there be not, in the nature of things, an invincible inconsistency between the efficacy of the death of Christ, and the necessity of a good life; whether those two propositions can, in fair reasoning, stand together; or whether it does not necessarily follow, that if the death of Christ be efficacious, then good works are no longer

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

arous

vice,

necessary; and, on the other hand, that, if good works be still necessary, then is the death of Christ not efficacious.

Now, to give an account of this question, and of the difficulty which it seems to present, we must bear in mind, that in the business of salvation there are naturally and properly two things; viz. the cause and the condition ; and that these two things are different. We should see better the propriety of this distinction, if we would allow ourselves to consider well what salvation is ; what the being saved means. It is nothing less than, after this life is ended, being placed in a state of happiness exceedingly great, both in degree and duration ; a state, concerning which the following things are said ; the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.' God hath in store for us such things as pass man's understanding. So that, you see, it is not simply escaping punishment, simply being excused or forgiven, simply being compensated or repaid for the little good we do, but it is infinitely more. Heaven is infinitely greater than mere compensation, which natural religion itself might lead us to expect. What do the scriptures call it? • Glory, honor, immortality, eternal life.' "To them that seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.' Will any one then contend, that salvation in this sense, and to this extent; that heaven, eternal life, glory, honor, immortality; that a happiness such as that there is no way of describing it, but by saying that it surpasses human comprehension, that it casts the sufferings of this life at such a distance, as not to bear any comparison with it; will any one contend, that this is no more than what virtue deserves? what, in its own proper nature, and by its own merit, it is entitled to look forward to, and to receive? The greatest virtue that man ever attained has no such pretensions. The best good action that man ever performed has no claim to this extent, or any thing like it. It is out of all calculation, and comparison, and proportion above, and more than, any human works can possibly deserve.

To what then are we to ascribe it, that endeavours after virtue should procure, and that they will, in fact, procure, to those who sincerely exert them, such immense blessings ? to what, but to the voluntary bounty of Almighty God, who, in his good pleasure, hath appointed it so to be?' The benignity of God towards man hath made him this inconceivably advantageous offer. But a most kind offer may still be a conditional offer. And this, though an infinitely gracious and beneficial offer, is still a conditional offer, and the performance of the conditions

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »