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mercy that ever was or can be exhibited, he disregards; and thus, both “tramples under foot the Son of God, and does despite unto the Spirit of Grace:” yea, to use the language of an inspired apostle, he “ makes the only true God a liar;" for whereas God has said, that “there is no other name whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus, or any other foundation than that which he himself has laid,” he unbeliever directly contradicts him, and unequivocally declares his expectation, that there is and shall be some other way of acceptance with him. Now is it unreasonable that such a person should be punished? that such a despiser of God should be left without any part in the believer's portion? Let us only apply the case to ourselves-If a child should pour contempt upon the wisest counsels of his parents, and question the truth of their most solemn protestations, should we not think him worthy of his parents' displeasure? would not we ourselves, in such a case, manifest our disapprobation of his conduct? Who then are we, that we should insult GOD thus, and do it with impunity? Who are we, I say, that, when we are at liberty to withhold a blessing from an ungrateful fellow-creature, or to inflict a punishment on him adequate to his offence, we should not be in like manner amenable to God? If any say, “We acknowledge the sinfulness of unbelief, but think the punishment of it too severe;" I answer, God himscif is the best judge of the malignity of sin; and he has denounced death, eiernal death, as the wages due to every sin: much more therefore may it be inflicted for unbelief; since there is no sin so complicated, nor any that so effectually precludes even a possibility of salvation: we may purge aivay any other sin by a believing application to the blood of Christ; but by unbelief we reject the only remedy provided for us.'
Hoping that the reasonableness of our Saviour's declaration has been satisfactorily proved, we come
IȚI. To display its excellency:
While the Gospel of Christ is misrepresented and opposed by man, the angels, who are incomparably less interested in its provisions, are ever contemplating it with admiration and joy. And, if it were better understood amongst us, it could not but meet with a more favoura. ble receptiop; for it has innumerable excellencies, which
render it worthy of universal acceptation. Let us examine a few of its leading features. In the first place, it clearly defines the way of salvation. Take any other way of sal. vation that ever was devised, by repentance for instance, or by sincere obedience; what inexplicable difficulties occur to our view! for, who can tell what degree of re. pentance will satisfy God for our breaches of his law, and be a sufficient price for heaven? Who can mark out the line which shall be drawn between those that shall be saved and those that shall perish? Who can tell what sincere obedience means? It cannot mean the doing what we will, for that would put a murderer on the same foot. ing with an Apostle: and if it mean the doing what we can, where is the man that can be saved by it? Where is the man who has not violated it in ten thousand instances, or who does not violate it every day of his life? Who can truly say that for any one day he has mortified every sinful habit as much as he could, exercised every holy affection as much as he could, and practised every species of duty as much as he could? And if we cannot but acknowledge that we might have done more, who shall say what degree of insincerity may be indulged without violating the law of sincere obedience? On all such plans as these we are utterly at a loss; we are at sea without a compass. But take the doctrine laid down in the text, and the way of salvation is so plain, that “he who runs may read it.” Let any man ask himself this question, Do I believe in Christ? Let him pursue the enquiry somewhat farther, Do I feel myself a guilty, helpless, condemned sinner? Do I renounce all dependence on my own wisdom, strengtli, and righteousness? Do I see that there is in Christ a fulness suited to my necessities? And do I daily, with humility and earnestness, beg of God that “ Christ may be made unto me wisdom, and righte. ousness, and sanctification, and redemption?” These questions are easy enough to be resolved; and by the answer which conscience gives to them we may know assuredly whether we be in the way to heaven or to hell. And who does not see how great an excellency this is in the Gospel-salvation? Who does not see how strongly this circumstance recommends the doctrine in our text?
Another excellency in the Gospel is, that it is equally suited to all persons in all conditions. Had any self-righteous methods of acceptance been proposed to the dying thief, what consolation could he have found? How little could he do in his few remaining hours! However he might have admired the goodness of God to others, he must have utterly despaired of mercy himself. But through faith in Christ he was enabled to depart in peace and joy. As to the murderers of our Lord, how long must it have been before they could have entertained any comfortable hope of acceptance! But the Gospel affords a prospect of salvation to the very chief of sinners, and that, even at the eleventh hour. Nor is there any situation whatever, in which the Gospel is not calculated to comfort and support the soul. Under first convictions of sin, what so delightful as to hear of a Saviour? Under subsequent trials and temptations, how would our difficulties be increased, if we did not know that “ God had laid help upon One that was mighty!" The people of God, notwithstanding the bope which they have in Christ, feel great and heavy discouragement on account of the power of in-dwelling corruption: they seem oftentimes to be rolling a stone up the hill
, which rushes impetuously down again, and necessitates them to repeat their ineffectual labours. And what would they do if their dependence were not placed on the obedience and sufferings of the Son of God? Surely they would lie down in despair, and say like those of old, “ There is no hope; I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” Under the various calamitics of life, also, believers find consolation in the thought that the salvation of their souls is secured by Christ. Hence they are enabled to bear their trials with firmness: they “know how both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” And shall not this recommend the Gospel? that there is no situation, no circumstance whatever wherein it is not suited to us? that while every other method of salvation increases our anxiety, and, in many instances, drives us utterly to despair, the Gospel always mitigates our sorrows, and often turns ihem into joy and triumph?
A farther excellency of the Gospel is, that it refers all the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Every other plan of salvation leaves room for man to boast: but, on the plan of the Gospel, the most moral person upon earth must subscribe to the declaration of the Apostle, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” None, who have obtained an interest in Christ, will take the glory to themselves; the voice of all without exception is, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name be the praise.” There is not any thing that distinguishes true believers more than this, That they desire to glorify Christ as the one source of all their blessings. In this their hearts are in perfect unison with the glorified saints, who sing continually, “ To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to Him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever.” And is not this another excellency of the Gospel? Is it at all desirable that while some in heaven are ascribing salvation to God and to the Lamb, others should ascribe salvation to God and to themselves? Surely the felicity of heaven is much increased by the obligation which they feel to Jesus, and the consideration that every particle of that bliss was “purchased for them by the blood of God” himself; nor is there so much as one amongst all the hosts of heaven who would consent for an instant to rob the Saviour of his glory,
Lastly—The last excellency which I shall mention as belonging to the Gospel, is, that it most of all secures the practice of good works. Here is the chief ground of jealousy with the world: and if the Gospel were indeed liable to the imputations cast on it, if it gave licence to men to comtinue in sin, we should not hesitate to discard it as a fiction, seeing that it could never be the production of an holy God. But, as the Apostle says, “The grace
of God which bringeth salvation teaches us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world.” If we appeal to antiquity, who was ever so strenuous as St. Paul in asserting the doctrine of justification by faith alone? and yet, who was ever so abundant in labours of every kind? or who ever inculcated with greater energy and minuteness the ne. cessity of good works? If we come to modern times, we must observe that they, who now preach justification by faith, are with the very same breath accused of opening heaven to all, however they may act, and yet of shutting the door against all by their unnecessary strictness: and they who receive the Gospel are condemned as licentious, while they are at the same time blamed as too rigid and precise: nor is this by any means a slight proof of the efficacy of the Gospel on the hearts and lives of its professors; for if their sentiments expose them to the former censure, it is their holy conduct that subjects them to the latter. We grant, and acknowledge it with sorrow, that there are some who name the name of Christ without departing from miquity: but must all therefore be represented as of the same stamp, and the Gospel itself be considered as unfavourable to morality? Is it just, that, while ten thousand glaring sins pass unnoticed in an unbeliever, the misconduct of a few, or perhaps one single fault in “ a person professing godli. ness” should excite a clamour against all the religious world as hypocrites? But, thanks be to God! we can appeal to experience, that faith “ does work by love,” and “overcome the world,” and “purify the heart:" we are there. fore emboldened primarily and principally to recommend the Gospel from this consideration, that while the zealous advocates for self-righteousness are miserably defective in all spiritual duties, the Gospel of Christ invariably stimulates us to an holy, spiritual, and unreserved obedience.
Many more excellencies of the Gospel might be mentioned: but if those that have been stated will not endear it to us, it is in vain to hope that any thing which could be added would procure it a favourable reception.
And now, as there are many in this Assembly who are already engaged in the service of the sanctuary, and many others who are destined in due time to undertake the sacred office of the ministry, and as the words of my text are in a more especial manner applicable to persons so circumstanced, suffer me, with humility, yet with freedom and faithfulness, to address myself in a more especial manner to them; and let me intreat you to bear with me if I use great boldness of speech.”
I would beseech You then, my Brethren, to consider, that as the eternal welfare of our fellow.creatures is suspended on their reception or rejection of the Gospel, so their acquaintance with the Gospel must depend, in a great measure, on those who are authorised to teach it: for "Faith cometh by hearing; and how shall they hear without a Preacher? Be not offended then if I ask, whether you yourselves have received the truth in the love of it?" If you have not, how can you properly commend it to others? How can it be expected that you should “contend earnestly for that faith” which you yourselves have never embraced; or that you should