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possibly impose an obligation on God to reward him. He cannot do anything which on the ground of the performance, independently of the covenant of grace in the Gospel, can entitle him to favour or to reward.
This is the proposition which I now proceed to prove.
II. The proofs of the truth that man has not any absolute merit in the sight of God-any thing which on the ground of the performance, independently of the covenant of grace in the Gospel, can entitle him to favour or reward, may be drawn from the following considerations.
He is a creature dependent upon God who made him,
He is a sinner, obnoxious to God's justice. His redemption is only by the blood of Christ,
His good works are wrought only through divine grace.
They are at best imperfect, and cannot stand the scrutiny of divine holiness and justice.
1. Man can have no merit, can perform no good works which can entitle him to claim reward, because he is a creature dependent on the God who made him.
It is a first principle resulting from the very nature of the relation which subsists between them, that a creature cannot claim any thing from its Creator on the ground of absolute right. Every thing that the one possesses is given by the
other. All possibility of absolute merit is thus excluded. Shall a creature deriving every thing that he possesses from his Creator claim merit and reward at the hands of that Creator! The supposition involves a gross absurdity. Whence has man derived the endowments on which he. boasts himself ? From God his Maker. By whose power are those endowments preserved in exercise ? By the power of his Almighty Sovereign. And shall man presume to claim reward for his performances on the ground of their absolute merit from that very Being whose creating and preserving power brought him into existence, sustains him in life, and preserves in vigour those faculties by which he lives and acts ? The claim would be as impious as it is absurd.
But again.—For the gift of his being, man has incurred a debt of gratitude, which will for ever exclude all claims to absolute merit. . In proportion to the excellence of his endowments, and of his gifts, of his capacity for high attainments, and noble and magnificent deeds ; is the return of gratitude due to Him who has thus elevated him in the scale of being. Those splendid performances then on which he would erect his claim to merit, only add to his debt of gratitude, and thus destroy this claim. No possible services on the part of man can be an adequate return for the goodness of his Creator, in the gift of a Being but little lower than that of the
Angels, capable of rising to almost equal heights of knowledge and felicity, and destined, not only with angels, but with God himself, to be blessed and happy for evermore.
2. The absurdity of the claim to merit appears still stronger, if we consider that man is a sinner, obnoxious to God's justice.
He has wilfully transgressed; he has incurred the penalty of wilful transgression; and is subject to God's just displeasure. A sinner talk of merit! A criminal at the bar of eternal justice the sentence of wrath issuing against him, lay claim to reward! O God! it is of thy mercy that he is not consumed.
3. Man's claim to merit is destroyed by the fact, that his redemption is only through the blood of Christ.
“Ye are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ“,” is the language of the Apostle, and “ there is salvation in no other.” But if there is merit, why should there be redemption ? Redemption implies a state of guilt and bondage, for deliverance from which there is a price paid. But if man could claim reward on the ground of absolute merit, he must have been capable of freeing himself from this state of guilt and bondage, of paying himself the price of his redemption. Why then should so great a price have been offered as the sufferings and death of the only-begotten Son of God ? Man's utter destitution of merit is written in the blood of the cross. Look to that blood, O man—that blood of infinite value, which flowed as the price of thy redemption, and humbled in the dust, withdraw every plea of merit.
di Peter i. 19.
• Acts iv. 12.
Man's redemption by the blood of Christ, in another point of view, establishes the impossibility of his meriting reward. loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, þut should have everlasting life.” Contemplate the value of the gift, and the dignity and glory of the person who thus submitted to sufferings and death.-Consider also the guilt and unworthiness of man, for whom these sufferings and death were sustained. What a debt of gratitude is due from him! Shall we then boast of meriting reward, when the devoted services of our whole life, the pure and exalted services of eternity, cannot repay the love of that God, who so loved us as to give for us his only-begotten Son; or the love of him who died for us, and who washed us from our sins in his own blood & ?"? Unto him, and unto him alone, through the ages of eternity, will the host of the redeemed, casting their crowns at his feet, ascribe all worth, all honour and glory. John iii. 16.
o God so
& Rev. i. 5.
4. The absurdity of man's claiming reward for even his best performances, on the ground of absolute merit, appears, from the consideration that they are all wrought through the power of di
Man's relation as a creature exercising all his powers in dependance upon God, leaves him without any claim to merit from that Being who made him, and who upholds him in existence. But his character as a fallen and corrupt creature stamps still greater weakness on his natural powers, and still greater absurdity and impiety on his claims to merit. This, strictly speaking, can only exist in an independent being performing services not due, by his own underived powers, without any external assistance. But man not only derives his natural powers from God, but weakened and depraved in those natural powers, he must look to God for that supernatural strength which alone can raise his fallen nature to a capacity for resisting temptation, for subduing his sins, and for rendering acceptable obedience to the divine law. It is a truth which lies at the very basis of the scheme of redemption, and which reason, acknowledging his weakness and depravity, confirms, that man
cannot do good works, pleasant and acceptable” to a pure and holy Being, “ but by the grace of God giving him a good will, and working with