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Saviour from sin and death. By how many is he treated with open opposition and avowed contempt
, till they launch hopeless into eternity!
4th. We may see that the promised rewards of the gospel to believers for all their good works, are rewards of grace.
All will grant that the rewards of the gospel must be of grace, and not of debt; since the salvation of believers has its origin and completion wholly founded in the grace of God, and through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul, speaking of future retribution in his epistle to the Romans, teaches that God will render to every man according to his deeds. To them who by patient continuing in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life. Hence, they who shall have done but little for the honour and glory of God, will not receive so great a reward as those that shall have been more faithful, having suffered all manner of persecution for Christ's sake. The same apostle encourages the Hebrews to good works, in the following strain : God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Again: He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Love ye your enemies, and do good; and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your reward shall be great.
Various remarks might be made which would show that the rewards of the gospel, promised according to works and for works, are rewards of grace. This is evidently true; for sinners who cannot be justified by the deeds of the law, could not be the subjects of reward in any other way. If their obedience, faithfulness, or sufferings, should ever be rewarded, it must, for various reasons, be wholly of grace.
, It was the grace of God that proposed a new and living way of salvation by a Redeemer. And without
an atonement, mankind could not have been placed on probationary ground; consequently they could never have been in a state whereby it would be consistent for rewards to be bestowed or promised. That they are in a state of probation, called upon to repent and work righteousness; and encouraged to faithfulness from promises of everlasting rewards, is to be ascribed to the free grace of God, through the redemption of his Son. Hence, all the rewards promised for works, must be rewards of
grace. Moreover, it is the grace of God that calls upon mankind, awakens, renews, sanctifies, and enables them to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. Even while they work out their salvation with fear and trembling, it is God, by his holy and gracious Spirit, that worketh in them to will and to do of his good pleasure. And since their obedience is not that of jinless perfection by the deeds of the law, but of faith in the Redeemer, and that by grace, their salvation and consequent glorious eternal rewards, are the effect of grace from the foundation to the top stone.
5th. This subject should serve to prevent injurious disputes among professed Christians, concerning their justification. Unprofitable contentions do sometimes arise, concerning this subject; because the term justification, is not understood in the same sense. The question of dispute, is generally this: Whether believers be justified wholly and absolutely on the account of the atonement of Christ? In the light of this subject we see that they are, in one of the senses in which the term justification is used. The sacred scriptures no where teach us that they are justified partly on account of their own righteousness, and partly on the account of the righteousness of Christ.
When a man is said to be justified by grace, in this view his justification must be attributed wholly to the grace of God as the originating first cause. His works can claim no merit, nor form any part.
When justification is mentioned through the redemption of Christ Jesus, his atoning sufferings are the sole and absolute ground; as believers obtain the pardon of their sins, wholly on Christ's account.
If a man be said to be justified by faith, that vital union by which he becomes united to Christ, is to be understood as the sole means of bis justification. A living, operative faith is the great stipulated term by which he receives the glorious benefits of redemption. Faith, which worketh by love, is an essential qualification on the part of man, before he can be justified.
As it respects the way of salvation and the ground of pardon for sin, Christ is indeed all in all for justification in the sight of God. There can be no part, , no claim, no merit whatever from any other quarter, in this view of the present subject.
Still, without evangelical faith, a man cannot become interested in the redemption of Christ Jesus. He must have the qualifications prescribed in the gospel, as a pre-requisite on his part, or he can never be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. Unless a man, in a moral sense become a new creature, all that Christ has done and suffered, cannot avail, cannot profit him. He must have the terms, specified in the gospel, in his own person; must have Christ formed in the soul, the hope of glory, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, or he cannot be justified by Christ, by faith, nor by works. Except the soul be renewed and sanctified by the Divine Spirit, while in the body, and rendered perfectly holy before it be ushered into the immediate presence of its Judge, there will be no atonement and no intercessions of the Son of God, to deliver or prevent it from departing into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Thus we may see, that the atonement of Christ, and the obedience of believers, have no intermixture in justification. The one forms no part of the other. Both the nature and end of each are en
tirely separate and distinct. The one is the foundation, the sole ground of pardon, and claims the glory of eternal salvation. The other consists in the mere qualification, or preparedness of the soul for the favour of God, and the employments of heaven; and ascribes to him all the praise for the unspeakably gracious and glorious blessings of the gospel
. The one is an invaluable ransom offered, and most glorious consequent blessings included; the other flows from their acceptance.
If professed Christians would form distinct views of the term justification, as it is used in its several senses, in the word of God, conversation on this subject, for edification, would take the place of painful disputes, calculated to darken the understanding and increase prejudice. If the subject be clearly understood in its various relations and uses, why cannot the Methodists and Presbyterians be at peace in regard to this point ? M ist it not be their misconceptions, or misunderstanding of each other, that can at any time, set them at variance? Whenever they discourse or argue about the glorious doctrine of gospel justification, let it be in the spirit of meekness, and for mutual benefit; but not a striving for the mastery. Let them regard their glorious and divine Redeemer and the salvation of the redeemed, as subjects too valuable to be the theme of bitter and hostile reproaches.
6th. This subject, with light and force, presents itself to the understanding and conscience of every ungodly impenitent sinner, that he repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Every soul of man is so polluted with sin, as to be an infinite debtor to the grace of God, if ever saved with an everlasting salvation. And who has not already com.nitted sins of a nature so odious, and to that extent, as to need the atoning blood of the Son of God for pardon? But in addition to the divine law being every way violated, will a Saviour set at nought, despised, and rejected, deliver from perdition impenitent, unbelieving, Christless sinners? No; Such a dishonour, a reproach so unparalleled, no intelligent in heaven could endure ! Reader, the inconceivable and eternal glories of the gospel must be yours, must be cordially embraced in your
heart by faith, or all its curses will be poured out upon you as your inevitable doom. God is not mocking you in the declarations of his holy word; in the terms of acceptance and justification, neither in his promises, nor his threatenings. Christ must be your Saviour from sin and eternal death, or he will be your Judge to sentence you to everlasting punishment. Then may you and I duly reflect how happy, what blessed beings, we shall be for eternity! if we believe in him to the saving of our souls. By faith, then, may we embrace him as our God and Saviour, our divine and glorious Redeemer. Amen.