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they were delivered by him not only as the rule of our faith, but as the rule of our procedure in the day of judgment: let us, I say, consider the words in this view, and, with hearts duly impressed and open to conviction, attend to what shall be spoken, while we endeavour to explain the import-vindicate the reasonableness and display the excellency-of this divine message: And the Lord grant, that, while we are attending to these things, the “word may come, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance."
I. In explaining the import of our text, we shall have little more to do than to ascertain the meaning of the dif. ferent terms; for the sense of them being once fixed, the import of the whole will be clear and obvious.
Salvation can mean nothing less than the everlasting happiness of the soul. To limit the term to any temporal deliverance would be to destroy utterly the truth as well as the importance of our Lord's declaration: for though it is true, that they, who believed his prophecies rela. tive to the destruction of Jerusalem, escaped to: Pella, and were rescued from the misery in which the Jewish nation was involved, yet the followers of our Lord in that and every age have been subjected to incessant per. secutions and cruel deaths; nor was that deliverance either of so great or so general concern that the Apostles needed to go forth “ into all the world, or to preach it to “every creature.” Our Lord “ came to seek and to save that which was lost;" he came to 'open a way for the recovery of our fallen race, and to restore men to the happiness which they had forfeited by their iniquities: this
is the salvation spoken of in the text, and justly termed, a - “ salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
This salvation is to be obtained by faith; “ He that believeth shall be saved.” By the term “believing" we are not to understand a mere assent given to any part: cular doctrine; for there is not any particular doctrine to which the most abandoned sinner, or even the devils themselves may not assent: in this sense of the word, St. James says “the devils believe and tremble.” The faith intended in the text is far more than an acknow. ledgment of the truth of the Gospel; it is an approbation of it as excellent, and an acceptance of it as suit. able, Assent is an act of the understanding only: but true faith is a consent of the will also, with the full con.'. currence of our warmest affections: it is called in one place a “ believing with the heart;" and in another a be" lieving with all the heart." In few words, faith is a new and living principle, whereby we are enabled to rely upon the Lord Jesus Christ for all the ends and purposes for which he came into the world; a principle, which, at the same time that it takes us off from all self-depen. dence, leads us to purify our hearts from the love and practice of all sin. To such faith as this our Lord frequently annexes a promise of eternal salvation: in his discourse with Nicodemus he says, “ As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that who. soever believeth in him should not perish, but have ever. lasting life. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” And in the close of that chapter it is added, “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Not that there is any thing meritorious in this grace more than in any other; for, as a grace, it is inferior to love; but salvation is annexed to this rather than to any other, because this alone unites us to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we are accepted, and by whose merits we are saved.
To the term Salvation is opposed another of a most awful import, namely, Damnation: as the former cannot be limited to any temporal deliverance, so neither can this be limited to any temporal judgment: for, not to mention the express and repeated declarations that the punishment of the wicked will be as “a worm that dieth not, and a fire that is not quenched,” our Lord, in the very words before us, contrasts the consequences of unbelief with the consequences of faith; thereby manifesting, that they were to be considered by us as of equal magnitude and duration: and, in his account of the final sentence which he will pass upon the righteous and the Wicked in the day of judgment, he describes the happi. ness of the one and the misery of the other by the very
ort, namely, bral deliverance, ent: for, not to awlimited to any temporemporal judeclarations th
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same epithet, in order to cut off all occasion of doubt respecting the continuance of either: “ These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” We are constrained, therefore, to acknowledge, that the threatening in the text includes nothing less than
the everlasting misery of the soul, under the wrath and · indignation of God.
This, tremendous as it is, will be the fruit of unbelief; “ He that believeth not shall be damned.” We must not 'suppose that the unbelief here spoken of characterizes only professed infidels, who openly avow their contempt of Christianity; for then it would by no means afford a sufficient line of distinction between those that shall be saved, and those that shall perish; seeing that there are many who prosess to reverence the Christian revelation, while they live in a constant violation of every duty it enjoins. If the receiving of Christ, as he is offered in the Gospel, be the faith that saves, then the not receive ing of Christ in that manner must be the unbelief that condemns. This observation is of great importance: for the generality seem to have no idea that they can be un. believers, unless they have formally renounced the Christian faith: their consciences are quite clear on this subject: the guilt of unbelief never caused them one mo. ment's uneasiness. But can any thing be more plain, than that the same faith, which is necessary to bring us to salvation, must be also necessary to keep us from condemnation? Indeed it is so self-evident a truth, that the very mention of it appears. almost absurd; and yet it will be well if we admit its full force in the point before us: for, however zealous many are to comprehend holy actions and affections in their definitions of saving faith, they are backward enough to acknowledge that a want of those qualities must evidence them to be in a state of unbelief: yet, till this truth be felt and acknowledged, there is little hope that the Gospel will ever profit them at all.
There is a qualifying clause in the text which we must not leave unnoticed; and the rather, because it is added in the former, but omitted in the latter part; “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that be. lieveth not shall be damned.” Our Lord had appointed baptism as that rite whereby his disciples should be introduced into the Christian covenant, as the Jews had
religion of Christ any
ountable obstthority, and
been by circumcision into the Mosaic covenant: and men's submission to this rite served as a test of their sin. cerity, and a public badge of their profession. If any were inwardly convinced that the religion of Christ was indeed of divine authority, and were not prevented by insurmountable obstacles from conforming to this rite, they must cheerfully enlist themselves under his banners, and honour him in his appointed way; they must “ follow the Lord fully,” if they would be partakers of his benefits. But, on the other hand, if they should submit to this ordinance, and yet be destitute of true faith, their baptism should not save them; they should perish for their unbelief: baptized or unbaptized, they should surely perish.
The parts of the text being thus explained, there remains no difficulty in the meaning of the whole as it stands connected together. No words can be found that can more forcibly express the solemn truth, which our Lord intended to convey: the import of his declaration is so obvious, that we shall not attempt to elucidate it any farther, but will proceed
II. To vindicate its reasonableness.
That men should be saved for their good works, or condemned for their gross iniquities, would be thought reasonable enough; but that they should be saved by faith, or condemned for unbelief, seems to many to be utterly unreasonable and absurd. But, to a candid in. quirer, the equity and reasonableness of both these points may be easily and plainly evinced.
If faith were, as some imagine it to be, a mere assent to certain propositions, it must be confessed, thạt, to expect salvation by it were preposterous in the extreme: but it has already been shown that this is not saving faith. The man who truly believes, invariably comes to Christ in this way; he confesses with humility and contrition his past offences—he acknowledges, from his inmost soul, that he deserves the everlasting displeasure of God he renounces every hope that might arise from his comparative goodness, his penitential sorrows, his future purposes, his actual amendment-he embraces Christ as a suitable and all-sufficient Saviour--and relies simply and entirely upon the promises which God has made to us in the Son of his love. This, I say, is the believer's expe. rience at the first moment he truly believes in Christ. To Vol. I.
this we might add, that, from that moment, he lives in a state of communion with his Saviour, and exerts himself to the utmost to adorn his profession by a holy life and conversation: but we intentionally omit all the fruits of faith which he afterwards produces, lest any one should be led to confound faith with its fruits, or to ascribe that to faith and works conjointly, which properly belongs to faith alone. Consider then a person coming in this penitent manner to Christ, and trusting in the promises of his God; is it unreasonable that such a person should be saved? Who in all the world should be saved so soon as he, who implores deliverance from his lost estate? Who should reap the benefits of Christ's death, but he, who makes that his only plea and dependence? Who may so justly hope to experience God's fidelity, as he who rests upon his promises? Who, in short, should enjoy all the blessings of redemption, but he who seeks redemption in God's appointed way? Surely, if it be reasonable that Christ should “ see of the travail of his soul,” and that God should fulfil his own word, then is it most reasonable that he who believes in Christ should be saved.
With respect to the condemnation of unbelievers, we readily acknowledge that that also would be unreasonable, on a supposition that unbelief were nothing more than a dissent from certain propositions, through a want of suf. ficient evidence to establish their divine authority. But unbelief is a sin of the deepest dye; and the person who is under its dominion is in a state as offensive to God as can well be conceived. For, in the first place, he rejects that which has been established by every kind of evidence which a revelation from heaven can admit of: and, in rejecting it, he shews that he is lifted up with pride and presumption: for he not only takes upon him to sit in judgment upon God, but denies his own state to be so dangerous and depraved as God has represented it. If he acknowledges himself to be a sinner, he still feels neither his guilt nor his helplessness as he ought, but “goes about to establish a righteousness of his own, instead of submitting to the righteousness of God.” That wonderful method which the infinite wisdom of God has contrived for the restoration of our fallen race, he accounts “ foolishness;" and substitute's what he 'esteems a safer and better method of his own. The most stupendous display of divine love and
Spotvledge thacondemnatiuld be saved
sinner, Aresented to be so