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ness such as that there is no way of describing it, but by saying that it surpasses human comprehension, that it casts the sufferings of this life at such a distance as not to bear any comparison with it: will any one contend that this is no more than what virtue deserves, what, in its own proper nature, and by its own merit, it is entitled to look forward to, and to receive? The greatest virtue that man ever attained has no such pretensions. The best good action that man ever performed has no claim to this extent, or anything like it. It is out of all calculation and comparison and proportion above, and more, than any human works can possibly deserve. To what then are we to ascribe it, that endeavours after virtue should procure, and that they will, in fact, procure, to those who sincerely exert them, such immense blessings ? To what, but to the voluntary bounty of Almighty God, who in his expressible good pleasure hath appointed it so to be? The benignity of God towards man hath made him this inconceivably advantageous offer. But a most kind offer may still be a conditional offer. And this, though an infinitely gracious and beneficial offer, is still a conditional offer, and the performance of the conditions is as necessary as if it had been an offer of mere retribution. The kindness, the bounty, the generosity of the offer, do not make it less necessary to perform the conditions, but more so. A conditional offer
be infinitely kind on the part of the benefactor, who makes it, may be infinitely beneficial to those to whom it is made; if it be from a prince or governor, may be infinitely gracious and merciful on his part; and yet, being conditional, the condition is as necessary as if the offer had been no more than that of scanty wages by a hard taskmaster. In considering this matter in general, the whole of it appears to be very plain ; yet,
when we apply the consideration to religion, there are two mistakes, into which we are very liable to fall. The first is, that, when we hear so much of the exceedingly great kindness of the offer, we are apt to infer that the conditions, upon which it is made, will not be exacted. Does that at all follow ? Because the offer, even with these conditions, is represented to be the fruit of love and mercy and kindness, and is in truth so, and is most justly so to be accounted, does it follow that the conditions of the offer are not necessary to be performed? This is one error into which we slide, against which we ought to guard ourselves most diligently; for it is not simply false in its principle, but most pernicious in its application, its application always being to countenance us in some sin, which we will not relinquish. The second mistake is, that, when we have performed the conditions, or think that we have performed the conditions, or when we endeavour to perform the conditions, upon which the reward is offered, we forthwith attribute our obtaining the reward to this our performance or endeavour, and not to that which is the beginning and foundation and cause of the whole, the true and proper cause, namely, the kindness and bounty of the original offer. This turn of thought likewise, as well as the former, it is necessary to warn you against. For it has these consequences: it damps our gratitude to God, it takes off our attention from Him. Some, who allow the necessity of good works to salvation, are not willing that they should be called conditions of salvation. But this, I think, is a distinction too refined for common Christian apprehension. If they be necessary to salvation, they are conditions of salvation, so far as I can see. It is a question, however, not now before us. But to return to the immediate subject of our discourse. Our observations have carried us thus far, that in the business of human salvation there are two most momentous considerations, the cause and the conditions, and that these considerations are distinct. I now proceed to say that there is no inconsistency between the efficacy of the death of Christ and the necessity of a holy life (by which I mean sincere endeavours after holiness); because the first, the death of Christ, relates to the cause of salvation; the second, namely, good works, respects the conditions of salvation ; and that the cause of salvation is one thing, the conditions another.
The cause of salvation is the free will, the free gift, the love and mercy of God. That alone is the source and fountain and cause of salvation, the origin from which it springs, from which all our hopes of attaining to it are derived. This cause is not in ourselves, nor in anything we do, or can do but in God, in his good will and pleasure. It is, as we have before shown, in the graciousness of the original offer. Therefore, whatever shall have moved and excited and conciliated that good will and pleasure, so as to have procured that offer to be made, or shall have formed any part or portion of the motive, from which it was made, may most truly and properly be said to be efficacious in human salvation.
This efficacy is in Scripture attributed to the death of Christ. It is attributed in a variety of ways of expression, but this is the substance of them all. He is a sacrifice, an offering to God; a propitiation; the precious sacrifice foreordained, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world: the Lamb which taketh away the sin of the world: we are washed in his blood, we are justified by his blood, we are saved from wrath through him ; he hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to
God.” All these terms, and many more that are used, assert in substance the same thing, namely, the efficacy of the death of Christ in the procuring of human salvation. To give to these expressions their proper moment and import, it is necessary to reflect over and over again, and by reflection to impress our minds with a just idea, what and how great a thing salvation is; for it is by means of that idea alone that we can ever come to be sensible how unspeakably important, how inestimable in value, any efficacy, which operates upon that event, must be to us all. The highest terms in which the Scriptures speak of that efficacy are not too great; cannot be too great : because it respects an interest and an event so vast, so momentous, as to make all other interests and all other events, in comparison, contemptible.
The sum of our argument is briefly this.—There may appear, and to many there has appeared, to be an inconsistency or incompatibility between the efficacy of the death of Christ and the necessity of sincere endeavours after obedience. When the subject is properly examined, there turns out to be no such incompatibility. The graciousness of an offer does not diminish the necessity of the condition. Suppose a prince to promise to one of his subjects, upon compliance with certain terms and the performance of certain duties, a reward, in magnitude and value, out of all competition beyond the merit of the compliance, the desert of the performance; to what shall such a subject ascribe the happiness held out to him? He is an ungrateful man, if he attribute it to any cause whatever, but to the bounty and goodness of his prince in making him the offer
any consideration, be it what it will, to interfere with or diminish his sense of that bounty and goodness. Still it is true that he will not obtain what is offered un
ascribable to favour, gracele
less he comply with the terms ; so far his compliance is a condition of his happiness. But the grand thing is the offer being made at all. That is the ground and origin of the whole. That is the cause. And is
goodness on the part of the prince, and to nothing else. It would, therefore, be the last degree of ingratitude in such a subject, to forget his prince, whilst he thought of himself; to forget the cause, whilst he thought of the condition: to regard everything promised as merited. The generosity, the kindness, the voluntariness, the bounty of the original offer come by this means to be neglected in his mind entirely. This, in my opinion, describes our situation with respect to God. The love, goodness, and grace of God in making us a tender of salvation, and the effects of the death of Christ, do not diminish the necessity or the obligation of the condition of the tender, which is sincere endeavours after holiness; nor are in any wise inconsistent with such obligation.