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claim, the benefit would be an act of justice, rather than of mercy. May not the great Sovereign of the world do what he will with his own?'* And nothing is more peculiarly and eminently his own than his mercy. Yes, we are assured that 'he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy ;'t and whom he will, he may justly leave to be hardened in their impenitence and unbelief. We have all deserved to be so left; but he, as the potter over the clay, has power and right to make a difference, as it seemeth good in his sight. And who will say unto him, What doest thou?'
IX. When sinners are effectually called by the Gospel, then they are visibly chosen out of the world, in the spirit and tempers of which they before lived, disobedient and deceived, even as others. Old things pass away, and all things become new.' Their hopes and fears, their companions and pleasures, their pursuits and aims, are all changed. The change in these respects is so evident, that they are soon noticed and marked, pitied or derided, by those from whom they are now separated. And I think they who really experience this change will willingly ascribe it to the grace of God.
X. But if they are thus chosen in time, it follows of course that they were chosen from everlasting. Both these expressions, when applied to this subject, amount to the same thing; and the seeming difference between them is chiefly owing to our weakness and ignorance. To the infinite and eternal God our little distinctions of past, present, future, are nothing. We think unworthily of the unchangeable Jehovah, and liken him too much to ourselves, if we suppose that he can form a new purpose. If it be his pleasure to convert a sinner to-day, he had the same gracious design in favour of that sinner yesterday, at the day of his birth, a thousand years before he was born, and a thousand ages (to speak according to our poor conceptions) before the world began. For that mode of duration which we call time, has no respect to him who inhabiteth eternity.'T
With regard to those who reject the declaration of the mercy of God; who, though called and invited by the Gospel, and often touched by the power of his Holy Spirit, will not come to the Saviour for life, but persist in their determination to go on in their sins, their ruin is not only unavoidable, but just in the highest degree. And though, like the wicked servant in the parable,** they cavil against the Lord, their mouths will be stopped,†† when he shall at length appear, to plead with them, face to face.
* Matth. xx. 15. #2 Cor. v. 17.
+ Rom. ix. 18. Isa. lvii. 15.
Job. ix. 12. ** Matth. xxv. 24.
John, xv. 19. + Rom. ii, 19.
Then their cobweb-excuses will fail them, and the proper grounds of their condemnation will be, that when he sent them light, they turned from it, and chose darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.'*
XI. The great privilege of the elect, comprehensive of every blessing, is, that they are justified, finally and authoritatively justified, from all that can possibly be laid to their charge; for 'it is God,' himself who justifieth' them.
The justification of a sinner before God by faith in the obedience and atonement of Christ, is considered by many persons, in these days of refinement, in no better light than as a branch of a scholastic theology, which is now exploded as uncouth and obsolete. At the Reformation, it was the turning point between the Protestants and Papists. Luther deemed it the criterion of a flourishing or a falling church; that is, he judged the church would always be in a thriving or a declining state, in proportion as the importance of this doctrine was attended to. How important it appeared to our English reformers, many of whom sealed their testimony to it with their blood, may be known by the writings of Cranmer, Latimer, Philpot, and others; and by the Articles of the Church of England, which are still of so much authority by law, that no person can be admitted into holy orders amongst us, till he has declared and subscribed his assent to them. But I hope never to preach a doctrine to my hearers which needs the names and authority of men, however respectable, for its support. 'Search the Scriptures,'† and judge by them of the importance of this doctrine. Judge of it by the text now before us. The apostle speaks of it as sufficient to silence every charge, to free from all condemnation, and inseparably connected with eternal life; for those whom God justifies he will also glorify.' Though volumes have been written upon the subject, I think it may be explained in few words. Every one must give an account of himself to God; and the judgment will proceed according to the tenour of his holy word. By the law no flesh can be justified, for all have sinned' but they who believe the Gospel will be 'justified from all things,' for which the law would otherwise condemn them; and, as they who believe not are condemned already,' so believers are already 'justified by faith, and have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,'** in the present life. They plead guilty to the charge of the law; but they can likewise plead, that they renounce all hope and righteousness in themselves, and upon the warrant of the word of promise, put
* John, iii. 19. Acts, xiii. 39.
† John, v. 30. ¶ John, iii. 18.
Rom. viii. 30. **Rom. v. 1.
Rom. iii. 19, 20.
their whole trust in Jesus, 'as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth :** and this plea is accepted. To him that worketh not, but believeth on him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,'† and his sins are no more remembered against him.‡
This justification, in its own nature, is authoritative, complete, and final. It is an act of God's mercy, which, because founded upon the mediation of Jesus, may, with no less truth, be styled an act of his justice, whereby the believing sinner is delivered from the curse of the law, from the guilt and power of sin, and is translated into the kingdom of his dear Son.' It includes the pardon of all sin, and admission to the state of a child of God. It is a 'passing from death unto life.'|| By faith of the operation of God, the sinner, once afar off, is brought nigh, is accepted in the Beloved, and becomes one with him, as the branch is united to the vine, and the members with the head. The sanctification of a believer is imperfect and gradual; but his justification in this sense, from the moment when he begins to live a life of faith in the Son of God, is perfect, and incapable of increase. The principle of life in a new-born infant, and the privileges dependent upon his birth, (if he be the heir of a great family,) are the same from the first hour, as at any future time. He is stronger as he grows up to the stature of a man, but is not more alive; he grows up likewise more into the knowledge and enjoyment of his privileges, but his right to them admits of no augmentation; for he derives it, not from his years, or his stature, or his powers, but from the relation in which he stands as a child to his father. Thus it is with those who are born from above; they are immediately the children and heirs of God, though for a time, like minors while under age, they may seem to differ but little from servants ;'** and it doth not yet appear what they shall be.
But, though justification in the sight of God be connected with the reality of faith, the comfortable perception of it in our own consciences is proportionable to the degree of faith. In young converts, therefore, it is usually weak. They are well satisfied that Jesus is the only Saviour, and they have no doubt of his ability and sufficiency in that character, in favour of those who put their trust in him; but they are suspicious and jealous of themselves; they are apprehensive of something singular in their own case, which may justly exclude them from his mercy, or they fear that they do not believe aright. But the weakest believer is a child of God; and true faith, though at first like a grain of mus
*Rom. x. 4. || John, v. 24. VOL. III.
† Rom. iv. 5. ¶ John, xv. 5.
+ Heb. viii. 12. ** Gal. iv. 1, 2.
Col. i. 13.
tard-seed, is interested in all the promises of the Gospel. If it be true, it will grow,* it will attain to a more simple dependence upon its great object, and will work its way through a thousand doubts and fears, (which, for a season, are not without their use,) till at length the weak Christian becomes strong in faith, strong in the Lord,' and is enabled to say, 'I know whom I have believed !'t Who shall lay any thing to my charge? Who shall condemn? It is God who justifieth. It is Christ who died for me and rose again.
But especially at the great day, the Lord the Judge shall ratify their justification publicly before assembled worlds. Then every tongue that riseth in judgment against them,‡ shall be put to silence. Then Satan will be utterly confounded, and many who despise them on earth, will be astonished, and say— These are they whose lives we accounted madness, and their end to be without honour! How are they numbered among the children of God !'§
The right knowledge of this doctrine is a source of abiding joy; it likewise animates love, zeal, gratitude, and all the noblest powers of the soul, and produces a habit of cheerful and successfull obedience to the whole will of God. But it may be, and too often is, misunderstood and abused. If you receive it by divine teaching, it will fill you with those fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.'|| But if you learn it only from men and books, if you are content with the notion of it in your head, instead of the powerful experience of it in your heart, it will have a contrary effect. Such a lifeless form, even of the truth itself, will probably make you heady and highminded, censorious of others, trifling in your spirit, and unsettled in your conduct. Oh! be afraid of resembling the foolish virgins, of having the lamp of your profession expire in darkness for want of the oil of grace; least when the Bridegroom cometh, you should find the door shut against you.
* Mark, iv. 26. Phil. i. 11.
+2 Tim. i. 12. Matth. xxv. 1-12.
Isa. liv. 17.
Wisdom, v. 4, 5.
THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST.
ROMANS, viii. 34.
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
THE redemption of the soul is precious. Fools make a mock of sin.'* But they will not think lightly of it who duly consider the majesty, authority, and goodness of him against whom it is committed; and who are taught by what God actually has done, what sin rendered necessary to be done, before a sinner could have a well-grounded hope of forgiveness. For wisdom does nothing in vain. The death of the Son of God would have been in vain,† if the great design, in favour of sinful men, could have been effected by inferior means. But as he, in the office of Mediator, was the hope of mankind from the beginning; so the great work he has accomplished, and the characters he sustains, when made known to the conscience, are, in fact sufficient to relieve in every case, to answer every charge, and to satisfy the believer in Jesus that there is now no condemnation to fear. There are many (as we have observed) ready to accuse, but it is in vain ; the charge may be true, but it is overruled. Who shall dare to condemn, if things be as the apostle states them in this passage? Whoever would impeach the hope of a true believer, must prove (if he can) that Christ did not die; or that he did not rise from from the dead; or that he was not admitted into the presence of God on our behalf; or that he is unmindful of his promise to make intercession for all who come unto God by him. For if these points are indubitable and sure, it is impossible that the soul, which has trusted in Jesus, and put its cause into his hands, can miscarry.
The death and resurrection of our Lord, his appearance in our nature, clothed with glory, seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high, as the High Priest of our profession, can scarcely be considered too often. These old truths are always new to those who love him, and are the food by which their souls live. Yet I shall not at present repeat what I have offered upon them from † Gal. ii. 21.
* Prov. xiv. 9.