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person who neither understands nor believes the gospel-way of salvation, thinks on the subject, it must appear to him a strange thing, that so much should be made of Christ in the New Testament, and of faith in him. He has no conception of it, or of the reason why it should be so. It was thus that the gospel was unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks, foolishness ; to them that believed, however, it was the power of God, and the wisdom of God. There are three things, in particular, in which the wisdom of God appears in this adjustment of things.
1. It accords with the leading design of God in the gospel; name. ly, to glorify his character and government in the salvation of sinners. Receiving Christ, as we have seen already, is the corresponding idea to his being given, and that which answers to it, as the loops and taches of the tabernacle answered to each other. If the gift of Cbrist, on God's part, was necessary to secure the honour of bis character and government in showing mercy, the receiving of bim, on our part, must also be necessary, as belonging to the same proceeding. Without this, the gift would not answer its end. Hence, though God, through the propitiation of his Son, is just and a justifier; yet it is of him only that believeth in Jesus.
If, instead of receiving Christ as God's free gift, and eternal life with him, we had received favour irrespective of him, God, so far as we can conceive, must have compromised his hon
To show favour to a sinner in the way he wishes, that is, in reward of what he calls his good works, would be consenting to vacate his throne at the desire of a rebel. It would be agreeing not only to pass over his past disobedience, and so to render null and void his own precepts, warnings, and threatenings, but to accept, in future, of just such obedience, and such a degree of it, as it suited bis inclination to yield : Offer it now unto thy goo. ernor, will he be pleased with thee, or aceept thy person ? saith the Lord of hosts.
But, in receiving Christ, we acquiesce in the whole system of salvation by his death, as glorifying the character and government If God; we subscribe to the great evil of sin, and to the justice of 4 ur condemnation on account of it; we become of the same mind with Christ, and in ur measure, stand affected as he does, toward Ged and man, and sin and righteousness. That law which was
within bis heart, is written in ours. Thus it is that God and his government are glorified, not only by the gift of Christ to be a sacrifice, but in the reception of him as such, by the believing sin
2. It secures the honours of grace. If, instead of receiving Christ as God's free gift, and eternal life through him, we had received favour irrespective of him, we should have considered our selves as having whereof to glory. It would have appeared to us, as it does and must appear to every one that hopes to be saved without an atonement, that the Almighty has no right to expect perfect obedience from imperfect creatures; that there is no such great evil in sin, as that it should deserve everlasting punishment; that, if God were to be strict to mark iniquity, according to the threatenings of the Bible, he would be unjust : and, therefore, that, in showing mercy, he only makes just allowance for the frailties of his creatures, and acts as a good being must needs act. Thus it is that the very idea of grace is excluded, and the sinner feels himself on terms with his Creator. But, in receiving Christ, and salvation through his death, these imaginations are cast down, and all such high thoughts subdued to the obedience of Christ. He that has been disputing with his Maker for a number of years, at
, once finds the ground sink under bim, all his arguments answered, and himself reduced to the character of a supplicant at the feet of his offended Sovereign.
It is as hard a thing for a proud and carnal beart to receive Christ, and salvation by grace through him, as it is to keep the whole law. If, therefore, we expect the good news of the gos“ pel to consist in something more suited to the inclinations, and not merely to the condition of sinners, we shall be disappointed. It is said of a certain character, who some years since was banished from this country, for attempting to revolutionize it, after the example of France, that he was offered a free pardon, if he would only acknowledge bis fault and petition the throne; but he could not do it!
Such is the inability of men to receive the Saviour ; and herein consists the damning sin of unbelief.
If our spirit were brought down to our situation as sinners, the most humiliating truths of the gospel, instead of offending us,
would appear to be right, and wise, and glorious. We should feel that the dust was our proper place; or rather, if we had our deserts, the pit of perdition. We should consider ourselves as lying at the absolute discretion of God: instead of being stumbled at such an assertion of the divine sovereignty as that addressed to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion, we should cordially subscribe it, and supplicate mercy only on that principle. And, when we had obtained it, we should never think of having made ourselves to differ, but freely acknowledge, that it is by the grace
of God that we are what we are. Our minds would be in perfect unison with the language of the Apostle to Timothy: Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
3. It provides for the interests of holiness. In receiving Christ, and salvation through him, we receive a doctrine that strikes at the very root of depravity. The Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil: he, therefore, that receives him must, from thence, be at variance with them. not only justified, but sanctified by the faith that is in him. The doctrine of the cross, while it gives peace to the conscience, parifies the heart. There is not a principle in it, but what, if felt and acted upon, would cause the world to be dead to us, and us unto the world. The objections, therefore, that are made to this doctrine as being unfriendly to holiness, have no foundation in the doctrine itself, whatever may be seen in the lives of some that. profess it.
From the whole : The first concern of the sinner is to receive the Saviour. It ought to be no question, whether he may receive him ; since the gospel is addressed to every creature, and its invitations to the stout-hearted and far from righteousness. The only question is, whether he be willing to receive him. To a spectator unacquainted with the depravity of human nature, it must be beyond measure surprising, that this should be a question; and, indeed, few men can be convinced that it is : yet, if it were not, there would be no difficulty in receiving him. Why do ye
not understand my speech ? because ye cannot hear my word: that is, because ye are averse from it. But no man will be able to ex• cuse this, his aversion, which is itself sin. The Judge of all the earth makes no allowance for it, nor for its not baving been removed by divine grace. Grace is never represented in the scriptures as necessary to our accountableness; but as a free gift which God might justly withhold. It is deemed sufficient to jus tify the condemnation of sinners, that they were averse from the gospel and government of Christ : Take these mine enemies, that WOULD NOT that I should reign over them, and slay them before me.
Should it be objected, that these principles must tend to drive a sinner to despair ; I answer, by asking, What sipper? Not him whose desires are toward the Saviour ; not him whese prayer is Turn thou me, and I shall be turned: if any, it must be him who has no desire after God; and, even in bis case, the despair is not absolute, but merely on supposition of his continuing in that state of mind. But this, to him, is most necessary ; for, till a sinner despair of obtaining mercy in the way he is in, he will never fall at the feet of sovereign grace, and so will never be saved. As he that would be wise must first become a fool, that he may be wise, so he that layeth hold of the hope set before him in the gospel must first relinquish bis hope from every other quarter.