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when he encouraged the penitent woman, who had not long before been a notorious sinnner, (vii. 50.) “ Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace:” and when Paul and Silas, on the trembling jailor's addressing them (Acts xvi. 30, &c.) “Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?” replied—“ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house:”
The expressions being saved, or salvation coming to persons, signify only the being put in the way of being saved ; the entertaining such just sentiments of the divine power and goodness manifested by Christ, and, in consequence of it, such penitent and holy dispositions excited in them; in which if they persevered, and became confirmed in them, they would be finally accepted of God, and, by his gracious promises in the Gospel, become heirs of eternal life.
Neither the sacred writings, nor any experience we have of the human frame, which is also the work of God, give the least countenance to the notion of virtuous tempers and dispositions being infused into any of mankind all at once. Invariably, as far as we see or know, piety,
purity, integrity, and steady active beneva lence, in which the whole of virtue, and every thing that is excellent, may be comprised, ate the work of time and labour ; from small beginnings going on and advancing, and by slow degrees to be carried forward, till a stability in righteousness and holiness is formed and settled.
This is to be effected, and is capable of being effected by the knowledge of the Gospel, and the powerful motives which it furnishes to
a holy life.
To this also contribute the various provividences of Almighty God, in his ordinary government over us : for nothing happens to us but by his appointment, and for wise and good ends; in the prosperous or adverse circumstances, that befall us from others, or which we bring upon ourselves, sickness, loss of friends, and the like; by which we are put upon seriousness and sobriety of mind, and recollection of our ways.
This is the discipline, sometimes harsh and severe, of our heavenly Father, to which he subjects us for our good, and for moral and spiritual improvement. It is the discipline to
which our Lord himself was subject; who, we are told, (Heb. v. 8.) “ though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things he suffered ; and by which he was exercised and made perfect :”. (ii. 10.) “ It became him, from whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through suffering."
If we are not moved and changed, and drawn from sin and the world, and turned to God and our duty, and true happiness, by these things, we have no room or foundation to expect, that any supernatural influences will be used to produce a change in us to that which is good.
may go on further to remark, that the Gospel-reward of eternal life, though entirely the gift of God, and to which nothing we could do could ever entitle us; yet it is, by his appointment, annexed only to a holy life ; to such obedience of his righteous laws in which our own personal endeavours are employed and instrumental.
The general call and commission, which our Lord gave his disciples to deliver to the world,
and which he preached himself, was, “Repent, and believe the Gospel :" i. e. forsake your sins and follow my doctrine, which I teach you
from God. His constant exhortation to sinners was : Go, and sin no more:" i. c. keep the commandments of God. : In short, his answer to the young man of some rank, who came to him with great earnestness and apparent good dispositions, contains the general tenor of his divine instructions ; (Matt. xix. 17.) —“ If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Not that a perfect, unswerving obedience is demanded of us,
but sincerity and uprightness, in not allowing ourselves in any known transgression of the divine laws, and in endeavours after progressive improvements in holiness.
We are not to imagine, that those rules and directions to obtain eternal life which our Lord delivered in his discourses, and to those that came to him, when alive and in health, or upon having restored them from sickness, would have been softened and relaxed by him, had it fallen in his way to speak to persons go
ing out of the world, who had till then lived in an habitual course of sinful practice.
If in these circumstances a man had had recourse to him, and said; “ Lord, I acknowledge I have not kept the commandments of God, but have grievously transgressed them all my
life to this moment: but I have an earnest desire to be saved, and to inherit eternal life, and apply to thee to teach me how to obtain it ; and I am the more solicitous, as I have not long to live ;" we cannot think that our Saviour would have lowered the terms of salvation on such an occasion, and told him of
way of obtaining the favour of God, besides obedience to his laws, and the acquiring of those holy, benevolent, and upright dispositions which are the result of such obedience.
He would surely have told him that his application was too late, and that the great work, for which God had sent him into the world, was not to be finished when he was going out of it.
It would confirm this serious conclusion for the necessity of an early turning to God, and show the wretched error of those, who, mistaking the case of this penitent criminal, flatter VOL. I.