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And hence, from some mistaken passages of Scripture and various errors concerning the person and office of Christ, they have imagined that it was he alone that made God favourable and propitious to his sinful creatures, and that it is sufficient for salvation that we be persuaded of this ; and moreover, that it is most honourable to God to give all to him in the work of salvation, and nothing to ourselves.
But it was seen above that our heavenly Father has always been merciful and compassionate towards his children of mankind, and ready with open arms to receive them to his mercy on their repentance, without any other consideration, without the interposition of any other persons whatever in their behalf. All that our Saviour did and suffered, was, by the gracious appointment of God, to be a means of his own purification and advancement, as the Scriptures inform us, and at the same timea most powerful and efficacious motive and inducement to change our dispositions and reconcile us to God, and not to reconcile God to us, who is always disposed to show kindness to us.
And it is a vain and groundless fancy that we are to be passive in the work of our
salvation. We can indeed do nothing to deserve the immense bounty of God in calling us to eternal life. But then we must be fitted and qualified for it by suitable holy tempers and virtuous habits. And these cannot be wrought in us without our own will and concurrence.
And this continual exertion of ourselves, to work holiness in the fear of the Lord, is what the Scriptures throughout exhort to and require at our hands.
Lastly. The manner in which St. Paul speaks of the divine goodness to sinners, manifested by Jesus Christ, and of his own experience of it, will be a fit and instructive conclusion of the subject.
He seems to labour for expressions strong enough to describe and recommend it. “This," says he, “is a certain truth, and worthy of universal acceptation ; that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners : of whom I am chief.” Not that he would have it thereby understood that he had in any degree led an irregular life before his conversion. For elsewhere he declares that he had lived in all good conscience, that he had served God from his childhood in a pure conscience, i.e. had never allowed himself in a course of wilful
transgression, but had always acted up to the light he had.
But he makes himself the chief of sinners on account of his cruel opposition to the Gospel, and fury against its professors; and well did it become him so to speak, and to be humbled for it. For he was suddenly stopt by the immediate act and interposition of God, in the midst of a scene of violence and persecution of the followers of Jesus ; and was thereby saved from the further guilt which he must have contracted, had he been suffered to go on in his blind zeal and passion.
And though he says, he found mercy, because he did it ignorantly and in unbelief: by which he would signify, that he had no selfish by-views in it; he thought it right: yet in time, had he proceeded and met with no check, he must have become lost to all compassion and humanity, by accustoming himself to shed the blood of his fellow creatures, and murder them, merely for differing from him in opinion ; and his mind must have become more and more hardened in malignity and opposition to the truth, from laying such strong temptations before others to blaspheme and deny it, through the hopes
and fears of this world ; and in thus pre-
of his life but with horror, and with deep sensibility of the
of God, who snatched him out of so great danger.
There is none of us who may not sympathize in this
with the great apostle ; if so be, as the pious Psalmist speaks, “we have tasted that the Lord is good,” if we are in earnest seeking after this great salvation which we have by our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is hardly any of us but may be able to look back upon and recount something of the same kind with this of the apostle in his own history, of being saved from our sins by the favour of God and the knowledge of the Gospel, not indeed in so miraculous a way ; but a deliverance and escape from dangerous temptations, and a divine leading marked out as visibly by the hand of divine goodness, either in the blessing of pious parents or other early instructors in our youth, without any choice of our own thrown in our way; who brought us betimes to the knowledge of God and the Gospel, and to take delight in it and
in secret prayer, the Christian's great armour against sin and the world : sometimes the .seasonable benefit and support, in treading the slippery paths of youth, derived from virtuous companions among whom our lot has been cast without any design of our own: at other times a no less timely deliverance and preservation wrought for us, in being casually kept out of the place and society where we were likely to be exposed to temptations too strong for our feeble powers : unexpected and unsought for checks and instructive admonitions from books, from conversation, by visitations of sickness and adversity bringing us back to seriousness and sobriety of mind :
Whoever sees the gracious hand of divine providence, in the various circumstances and events of his life, leading him to the knowledge of truth as declared by Christ, thus attending, directing and warning him what to do and what to avoid (and he who sees not this, sees nothing), will readily and thankfully acknowledge that, if there be any thing holy or good in us, if we have any wellgrounded hope of the divine acceptance, whatever we are, we are by the grace or favour of God;-happy, if we may but continue to go