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hopeless, these tidings are actually proclaimed. What must be the spirit of those, who refuse to hear?
But, О ye followers of the Divine and compassionate Saviour; infinitely different is the wisdom, displayed by you! When this Divine Messenger proclaims to you peace and salvation; when he informs you that he has died, that you may live; when he demands of you cordially to embrace his atonement, and accept his intercession, you cheerfully hear, believe, and obey. Conscious of your own guilty character, and ruined condition, you have yielded yourselves to him, with all the heart, in the humble, amiable, penitent, exercise of faith and love; and finally chosen him as your own Saviour. On your minds his image is instamped ; in your life bis beauty shines with real, though feeble, radiance: in your character his loveliness is begun : in your souls his immortality is formed. On you his Father smiles, a forgiving God. On you his Spirit descends with his sanctifying and dove-like influence. To you his word unfolds all his promises; his daily favour ; his everlasting love. To you hell is barred; and all its seducing and destroying inhabitants confined in chains. Heaven for you has already opened its everlasting doors; and the King of glory has entered in, to prepare a place for you. The joy of that happy world has been already renewed over your repentance. The Spirit of truth conducts you daily onward in your journey through life, and in your way towards your final home. Death, your last enemy, is to you
. deprived of his strength and sting; and the grave despoiled of its victory. Your bodies will soon be sown in the corruption, weakness, and dishonour of your present perishable nature, to be raised in the incorruption, power, and glory, of immortality. Your souls, cleansed from every sin, and stain, and weakness, this Divine Messenger will present before the throne of his Father without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; to be acquitted, approved, and blessed. In the world of light, and peace, and joy, enlarged with knowledge, and refined with evangelical virtue, he will unite you to the general assembly of the first-born, and to the innumerable company of Angels; will make you sons, and priests, and kings to God, and cause you to live, and reign, with him for ever and ever. All things will then be yours ; you will be Christ's; and Christ will be God's. Anticipate, and by anticipation enjoy to the full, this divine assemblage of blessings; they are your birth-right. But, while you enjoy them, deeply pity, and fervently pray for, your foolish, guilty, and miserable companions.
Romaks iii. 24.-Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption, which
is in Christ Jesus.
In the series of sermons, which I have preached hitherto, as part of a system of Theology, I have considered the Existence and Perfections of God; the Disobedience and Apostacy of Man ; and the Impossibility of his justification by his own righteousness; the Covenant of Redemption, made between the Father and the Son; the Character, Mediation, and Offices, of Christ. The former class of subjects constitutes what is frequently called the Religion of Nature ; the latter, the first branches of the Christian, Remedial system, grafted upon that religion. Perfect beings are justified by their own obedience; since they fulfil all the demands of the divine law. To them, therefore, the religion of nature is amply sufficient to se. cure their duty, their acceptance with God, and their final happiness. Sinful beings cannot thus be justified ; because they have
. not rendered that obedience, which is the only possible ground of justification by Law. Of course, some other ground of justification is absolutely necessary for them, if they are ever to be accepted, or rewarded. For this the religion of Christ professes to have made ample provision. In my examination of the Character and Offices of Christ, I have attempted to show, that he has taught all which is necessary to be known, believed, or done, by us, in order to our acceptance with God; and has accomplished the expiation of our sins in such a manner, that God, in justifying us, may be just to himself, and to the Universe. Thus far, it is hoped, the way to our return from our Apostacy has been made clear and satisfactory.
The next great question, to be asked, and a question of infinite moment to every one of us, is, In what manner do we become interested in the Mediation of Christ, and entitled to the glorious blessings which he has purchased for man? This question is partially answered in the text. Here we are said to be justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption of Christ Jesus. In this declaration, our justification is immediately connected with the redemption of Christ, as its meritorious, or procuring, cause. The source of it, also, on the part of God, is directly asserted: as is also, the manner, in which it is accomplished. We are said to be justified
freely; and justified by his grace. All this is, also, said to be done through, by means of, or on account of, the redemption of Christ. These subjects are intended to occupy the following discourse.
In the course of my investigation I shall consider,
1. I shall consider in what sense mankind are justified under the Gospel.
The word justify, as I observed in a former discourse, is taken from the business of judicial courts; and denotes the acquittal of a person, tried by such a court, upon an accusation of a crime. The person, accused, being upon trial found innocent of the charge, is declared to be just, in the view of the Law; and, by an easy and natural figure, is said to be justified; that is, made just. In this original, forensic sense of the term, it is obvious from what has been said in a former discourse, that no human being can be justified by the law, or before the bar, of God. As all mankind have disobeyed this Law; it is clear, that he, whose judgment is invariably according to truth, must declare them guilty.
Still the Scriptures abundantly teach us, that, what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for a sin-offering, has, by thus condemning sin in the flesh, accomplished for multitudes of our sinful race. It is, however, certain, that justification, when extended to returning sinners, must, in some respects, be, of course, a thing widely different from justification under the Law. A subject of law is justified only when he is in the full and strict sense just: that is, when he has completely obeyed all the requisitions of the law. In this case, his obedience is the only ground of his justification : and is all that is necessary to it; because he has done every thing, which was required of him; and no act of disobedience can be truly laid to his charge. From this case, that of the penitent, under the Gospel, differs entirely. He has been guilty of innumerable acts of disobedience; and has not fulfilled the demands of the Law, even in a single instance. All these acts of disobedience are truly chargeable to him, when he comes before the Bar of God at the final trial; nor can he ever be truly said not to have been guilty of them. If, therefore, he be ever justified ; it must be in a widely different sense from that, which has been already explained. The term is, therefore, not used in the Gospel because its original meaning is intended here ; but because this term, figuratively used, better expresses the thing intended, than any other. The act of God, denoted by this term as used in the Gospel
, so much resembles a forensic justification, or justification by law, that the word is naturally, and by an easy translation, adopted to express this act.
The justification of a sinner under the Gospel, consists in the three following things: Pardoning his sins; Acquitting him from the pun
ishment which they have deserved ; and entilling him to the rewards, or blessings, due by Law to perfect obedience only.
In order to form clear and satisfactory views of this subject, it will be useful to examine the situation of man, in his progress from apostacy to acceptance, as it is exhibited in the Scriptures.
In the covenant of redemption, the Father promised Christ, that, if he should make his soul a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, he should see a seed, which should prolong their days :* Or, as it is expressed by God in the 89th Psalm, His seed should endure for ever, and his throne, that is, his dominion over them, as the days of Heaven. In this covenant, three things are promised to Christ, in consequence of his assumption, and execution, of the Mediatorial office: 1st, That a seed shall be given him; 2d, That they shall endure and be happy for ever;
and 3d, That his dominion over them shall be co-extended with their eternal being. It was, then, certain, antecedently to Christ's entrance upon
the office of Mediator, that he should not assume, nor execute, it in vain ; but should receive a reward for all his labours and sufferings; such as he thought a sufficient one; such as induced him to undertake this office, and to accomplish all the arduous duties which it involved. This reward was to be formed of rational and immortal beings, originally apostate, but redeemed by him from their apostacy, through the atonement, made for their sins by his sufferings ; particularly his death ; and the honour, which he rendered to the divine law by his personal obedience. All these redeemed apostates were to endure for ever in a state of perfect holiness and happiness; and both this holiness and happiness were to be for ever progressive, under his perfectly wise and benevolent administration.
In this covenant, then, it is promised, that the persons here spoken of, and elsewhere declared to be a great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, kindreds, and tongues, should be the seed, the children of Christ; his property; and that not only in a peculiar, but in a singular sense; not only created by him, as all other intelligent beings were, but redeemed by him also; and that at the expense of his own life.
The least consideration, however, will clearly show us, that sinners can never become Christ's in any such sense, as to be accepted by him, unless they are delivered from the sentence of condemnation, pronounced against them by the law of God. This law, I have formerly had occasion to observe, is unalterable. It is in itself perfect; and cannot be made better. God, the perfect and unchangeable Being, cannot, without denying his perfection, consent to make it worse. Besides, He has declared, that the Universe shall sooner pass away, than one jot, or one tittle, of the Law shall pass, until all shall be fulfilled. Yet if this sentence be universally executed, the reward, promised to Christ in the covenant of re
* Isaiah liji. 10. Lowth
demption, viz. the immortal holiness and happiness of those, who in that covenant were promised to him as his seed, must of neces. sity fail. This sentence, therefore, will not be universally executed, because such an execution would render the promise of God of none effect.
Further; all who are involved in the execution of this sentence will not only suffer, but also sin for ever. But no words are necessary to prove, that a collection of sinners, continuing to sin for ever, could in no sense constitute a reward to Christ, for his la bours and sufferings, in the work of redemption. From them he could receive neither love, gratitude, nor praise. In their character he could see nothing amiable, nothing to excite his complacenr . In his government of them, his goodness and mercy would find no employment, and achieve no glory. Nor could they ever be his in the sense of the covenant of redemption.
Thus it is beyond a doubt evident, that, with regard to all those who are thus promised to Christ, the sentence of the Divine Law will not, and cannot, be executed; and that, when they appear at their final trial, they will be acquitted from the punishment due to their sins, and delivered from the moral turpitude of their character. All this is plainly indispensable to the fulfilment of the covenant of redemption. Accordingly, we find it all promised in the most definite manner, wherever the subject is mentioned in the Gospel.
The first step, in the final fulfilment of the promises, contained in this covenant, towards those who are the seed of Christ, is the
pardon of their sins. Sin, until it is pardoned, is still charged to the sinner's account. Hence, he is, in this situation, exposed to the punishment which it has deserved. The pardon of sin is, of course, attended by the exemption of the sinner from punishment; so much of course, that these things are usually considered as but one. They are, however, separable, not only in thought, but in fact. We do not always, nor necessarily punish offenders, whom we still do not forgive. The offender may have merited, and may continue to merit, punishment; and yet sufficient reasons may exist, why he should not be punished, although they are not derived from his moral character. * Forgiveness, in the full sense, supposes the offender penitent; and includes an approbation of his character as such, and a reconciliation to him of the person who forgives. But
. these things are not involved in a mere determination to exempt an offender from punishment. On the part of God, however, in his conduct towards returning sinners, these things are not, I confess, separable in fact.
But the sinner might be forgiven, and acquitted from the punishment due to his sins; and yet not be rendered the subject of future blessings: much less of the blessings, promised in the cove. nant of redemption. He might be annihilated.
He might be annihilated. He might be placed in a state of happiness imperfect, and mixed, like that of