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From hence we may discover the perfection and completeness of the redemption that our Saviour purchased for us. He fully repairs what was ruined by the fall. He was called Jesus, because he should save his people from their sins, Matt. i. 21. He reconciles them to God, and redeems them from “their vain conversation.” He “ came by water and blood,” to signify the accomplishment of what was represented by the ceremonial purification, and the blood of the sacrifices ; satisfaction and sanctification are found in him. And this was not a needless compassion, but absolutely requisite in order to our felicity. Man, in his guilty corrupt state, may be compared to a condemned malefactor, infected with noisome and painful wounds and diseases, and wanting the grace of the prince to pardon him, and sovereign remedies to heal him. Supposing the sentence were reversed, yet he cannot enjoy his life till he is restored to health. Thus the sinner is under the condemnation of the law, and under many spiritual, powerful distempers, that make him truly miserable. His irregular passions are so many sorts of diseases, not only contrary to health, but to one another, that continually torment him. He feels all the effects of sickness. He is inflamed by his lusts and made restless, being without power to accomplish or to restrain them. All his faculties are disabled for the spiritual life, that is only worthy of his nature, and whose operations are mixed with sincere and lasting pleasure. Sin, as it is the disease, so it is the wound of the soul, and attended with all the evils of those that are most terrible. “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint; from the sole of the foot to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores,” Isa. i. 5. Now our Redeemer, as he hath obtained a full remission of our sins, so he restores holiness to us, the true health and vigour of the soul. He hath made a plaster of his living flesh mixed with his tears and blood, those divine and powerful ingredients, to heal our wounds. By the Holy Spirit it is applied to us, that we may partake of its virtue and influence. His most precious sacrifice purifies the con
science “from dead works,” that we may serve the living God. Without this the bare exemption from punishment were not sufficient to make us happy; for although the guilty conscience were secure from wrath to come, yet those fierce unruly passions, the generation of vipers that lodge in the breast of the sinner, would cause a real domestic hell. Till these are mortified, there can be no ease nor rest. Besides, sin is the true dishonour of man's nature, that degrades him from his excellency, and changes him into a beast or a devil ; so that to have a license to wallow in the mire, to live in the practice of sin that stains and vilifies him, were a miserable privilege. The scripture therefore represents the curing of our corrupt inclinations, and the cleansing of us from our pollutions, to be the eminent effect and blessed work of saving mercy. Accordingly St. Peter tells the Jews, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities,” Acts iii. 26; that is, Christ in his glorified state gives the Spirit of holiness to work a sincere thorough change in men, from all presumptuous reigning sins, to universal holiness. Invaluable benefit, that equals if not excels our justification! for as the evil of sin in its own nature is worse than the evil of punishment, so the freeing of us from its dominion is a greater blessing than mere impunity. The Son of God for a time was made subject to our miseries, not to our sins. He divested himself of his glory, not of his holiness. And the apostle in the ecstasy of his affection desired to be made unhappy for the salvation of the Jews, not to be unholy. Besides, the end is more noble than the means : now Jesus Christ purchased our pardon, that we might be restored to our forfeited holiness. He ransomed us by his death, that he might bless us by his resurrection. He “ for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Tit. ii. 14. Sanctification is the last end of all he did and suffered for us.
Holiness is the chiefest excellency of man, his highest advantage above inferior beings. It is the supreme beauty of the soul, the resemblance of angels, the image of God himself. In this the perfection of the reasonable nature truly consists, and glory naturally results from it. As a diamond, when its earthy and colourless parts are taken away, shines forth in its lustre ; so when the soul is freed from its impu
gave himself rities and all terrene affections, it will appear with a divine brightness. The church shall then be glorious, when cleansed from every spot, and made complete in holiness. To this I will only add, that without holiness we cannot see God ; that is, delightfully enjoy him. Suppose the law were dispensed with, that forbids any unclean person to enter into the “holy Jerusalem,” the place cannot make him happy; for happiness consists in the fruition of an object that is suitable and satisfying to our desires. The holy God cannot be our felicity without our partaking of his nature. Imputed righteousness frees us from hell, inherent makes us fit for heaven. The sum is Jesus Christ, that he might be a perfect Saviour, sanctifies all whom he justifies; for otherwise we could not be totally exempted from suffering evil, nor capable of enjoying the supreme good; we could not be happy here nor hereafter.
II. From hence it appears, that saving grace gives no encouragement to the practice of sin ; for the principal aim of our Redeemer's love in dying for us, was “to sanctify and cleanse us, by the washing of water and the word.” And accordingly all the promises of pardon and salvation are conditional. The holy mercy of the gospel offers forgiveness only to penitent believers that return from sin to obedience. We are commanded to “repent and be converted, that our sins may be blotted out,” in the times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord, Acts iii. 19. And heaven is the reward of persevering obedience; “ To them who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life,” Rom. ii. 7. There cannot be the least ground of a rational just hope in any person without holiness; “Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure," 1 John iii. 3. By which it appears, that the genuine and proper use we are to make of “the exceeding great and precious promises,” is, them we may be partakers of the divine nature," and escape " the pollution that is in the world through lust,” 2 Pet. i. 4. Yet the corrupt hearts of men are so strongly inclined to their lusts, that they “turn the grace of God into wantonness," and make an advantage of mercy to assist their security ; presuming to sin with less fear and more license, upon the account of the glorious revelation of it by our Redeemer. The most live as if they might be saved without being saints, and enjoy the paradise of the flesh here, and not be excluded
that by from that of the spirit hereafter. But grace doth not in the least degree authorize and favour their lusts, nor relax the sinews of obedience; it is perfectly innocent of their unnatural abuse of it. The poison is not in the flower, but the spider. Therefore the apostle propounds it with indignation, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid,” Rom. vi. 1. He uses this form of speech to express an extreme abhorrence of a thing that is either impious and dishonourable to God, or pernicious and destructive to men; as when he puts the question, “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance ? God forbid,” Rom. iii. 5, 6; and, “ Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid,” Rom. ix. 14. He rejects the mention of it with infinite aversion.
Indeed what greater disparagement can there be of the divine purity, than to indulge ourselves in sin upon confidence of an easy forgiveness, as if the Son of God had been consecrated by such terrible sufferings, to purchase and prepare a pardon for those who sin securely ? What an inexpressible indignity is it to make a monstrous alliance between Christ and Belial ! And this abuse of grace is pernicious to men.
If the antidote be turned into poison, and the remedy cherish the disease, the case is desperate. The apostle tells us, those that do evil that good may come thereby, their damnation is just. Suppose a presuming sinner were assured, that after he had gratified his carnal vile desires, he should repent and be pardoned ; yet it were an unreasonable defect of self-love to do
What Israelite was so fool-hardy as to provoke a fiery serpent to bite him, though he knew he should be healed by the brazen serpent ? But it is a degree beyond madness for a man to live in a course of sin upon the hopes of salvation, making the mercy of God to be his bondage, as if he could not be happy without them. An unrenewed sinner may be the object of God's compassion, but while he remains so, he is incapable of communion with him here, much more hereafter. Under the law the lepers were excluded the camp of Israel, where the presence of God was in a special manner ; much more shall those who are covered with moral pollutions, be kept out from the habitation of his holiness. It is a mortal delusion for any to pretend that electing mercy will bring them to glory, or that the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ will atone God's displeasure towards them, although they indulge themselves in a course of sin. The book of life is se
cret ; only “the Lamb," with whose blood the names of the elect are written there, “ can open the seals of it;" but the gospel that is a lower book of life, tells us the qualifications of those who are vessels of mercy; they are by grace prepared for glory; and that there can be no benefit by the death of Christ without conformity to his life. Those who abuse mercy now, shall have justice for ever.
III. From hence we may discover the peculiar excellency of the Christian religion above all other institutions; and that in respect of its design and effect.
1. The whole design of the gospel is expressed in the words of Christ from heaven to Paul, when he sent him to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith” in Christ, Acts xxvi. 18. One great end of it is to take away all the filthiness and malignity wherewith sin hath infected the world, and to cause in men a real conformity to God's holiness, according to their capacity. As the reward it promises is not an earthly happiness, such as we enjoy here, but celestial ; so the holiness it requires, is not an ordinary natural perfection, which men honour with the title of virtue, but an angelical divine quality that sanctifies us in the spirit, soul, and body; that cleanses the thoughts and affections, and expresses itself in a course of universal obedience to God's will. Indeed there are other things that commend the gospel to any, that with judgment compare it with other religions; as the height of its mysteries, which are so sacred and venerable, that upon the discovery they affect with reverence and admiration : whereas the religion of the Gentiles was built on follies and fables. Their most solemn mysteries, to which they were admitted after so long a circuit of ceremonies and great preparations, contained nothing but a prodigious mixture of vanity and impiety, worthy to be concealed in everlasting darkness. Besides, the confirmation of the gospel by miracles doth authorize it above all human institutions. And the glorious eternal re ward of it infinitely exceeds whatever is propounded by them. But that which gives it the most visible pre-eminence, is, that it is "a doctrine which is according to godliness,” 1 Tim. vi. 3. The end is the character of its nature. The whole contexture and harmony of its doctrines, precepts, promises, threatenings, is for the exaltation of godliness.