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From this exclamation it is certain, that the evil from which St. Paul so passionately wished a deliverance, was existing at the time when the passage was written. But at the time when the passage was written, St. Paul had been a convert many years. The evil existed, therefore, after his conversion.
[3.] In the 25th verse he says, ' So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God.'
This assertion could never be truly made concerning any unregenerate man. The mind of
man, we know from the mouth of the same apostle, ‘ is enmity against God; not subject to his law, neither indecd can be.'
The account given by St. Paul of himself in this chapter, is then an account of his moral state, at the time when the chapter was written. As St. Paul, in all probability, was inferior to no other mere man in moral excellence; he may
be justly considered as having given us here a description of Christians in their
best state. But, if in this state there is ' a law in their members, warring against the law of their minds, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin, which is in their members ;' if, ' when they would do good, evil is present with them ;' so that • the good which they would they do not; and the evil which they would not, they do ;' how plain is it that, instead of meriting justification by their works, they daily violate the law of God, provoke his anger, expose themselves to condemnation, and stand in infinite need of the intercession of Christ, and the pardon of their sins, in order to their salvation !
Besides, the very best actions of regenerated men are imperfect, and fall short of the demands of the law. This position is so rarely contested, that I need not here allege arguments to evince its truth. But it cannot be pretended, that an obedience, which does not even answer the demands of the law in any case, but is invariably defective, and therefore in some degree sinful, can be the ground of justification to any
I have now finished the observations which I intended concerning this subject. If I mistake not, they furnish ample proof, that we are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.' A few remarks shall conclude the Discourse.
1. From what has been said, it is evident that the salvation of mankind is a glorious exhibition of the character, and particularly of the benevolence of God.
On this subject I cannot dwell; and shall only observe summarily, that the work of our salvation was contrived and accomplished by God alone; that the means by which it was accomplished, viz. the mediation of Christ, and the mission and agency of the Holy Ghost, far from lessening, only enhance our conceptions of the divine benevolence displayed in this work; that the good-will manifested in doing any thing, is ever proportioned to the efforts which are made; that, in the present case, the efforts actually made are the most wonderful which have been disclosed to the universe ; and that they, therefore, discover the good-will of the Creator to mankind, in a manner and in a degree wholly unexampled.
All this, at the same time, was done for beings entirely unnecessary to God. In himself therefore, in his own compassion, must have existed the originating, powerful, and productive cause of this wonderful event. What must have been the good-will of him, who sent his Son to seek and to save that which was lost;' and to become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,' that singers and rebels might live!
2. The Socinian objection against the doctrine of the atonement, that it is opposed to the scriptural account of the exercise of grace in our justification, is here seen to be groundless.
If the observations made in this Discourse are true, the doctrine of the atonement, instead of lessening or destroying the exercise of grace in our justification, only renders this act of God more eminently gracious. If all these things which have been mentioned, particularly the atonement of Christ, were necessary to be done in order to the salvation of mankind, the mercy which resolved on them all is far more strongly displayed, than if nothing more had been necessary than barely to forgive the sinner.
3. If God be thus merciful, all the declarations of his mercy ought to be believed by us.
The disposition, which could contrive and execute these things of its own mere choice, without any reward, without any expectation of any reward, for beings equally undeserving and unnecessary, can do all things which are kind and proper to be done. Especially can this disposition carry the things which it has contrived and begun into complete execution. To do this is its own natural bent, the mere progress of its inherent propensities. The declarations, therefore, which manifest the determination of him in whom this disposition resides, to accomplish all things pertaining to this work, ought cordially as well as entirely to be believed. To distrust them is equally absurd and guilty ; absurd, because they are supported by the most abundant evidence; guilty, because the distrust springs from the heart, and not from the understanding
Why should God be disbelieved, when he declares, that · he has no pleasure in the death of the sinner?' or when he proclaims, 'Whosoever will, let him come, and take the water of life freely? If he had wished to punish mankind for the gratification of his own views or pleasure, could he not have done it with infinite ease? To him it was certainly unnecessary to announce the forgiveness of sin, to send his Son to die, or to give his Spirit and his word to sanctify and save. This immense preparation depended solely on his own mere plea
He might have suffered the law to take its course. He might have annihilated or punished for ever the whole race of Adam ; and with a command have raised up a new and better world of beings in their stead. Men are in no sense necessary to God. He might have filled the universe with angels at once ; perfect, obedient, excellent, and glorious beings; and been loved, praised, and obeyed by them for ever. Why then, but because he was desirous to save poor, guilty, perishing men, did he enter upon the work of their salvation ? Why did he give his Son to redeem them? Why did he send his Spirit to sanctify them? Why did he proclaim · glad tidings of great joy unto all people? Why does he wait with infinite patience; why has he always waited to be gracions, amid all the provocations and sins of this polluted world? Why are the calls of mercy, after being so long and so exlensively rejected with scorn and insult, repeated through one age after another? Why, after all our unbelief, are they repeated to us? Why are we, after all our transgressions, assembled this day to hear them? The true, the only answer is, God is infinitely kind, merciful, and willing to save to the nttermost.'
Let, then, this glorious Being be believed withont distrust, without delay. Let every sinner boldly come to the throne of grace, to the door of life ; and be assured that, if he desires siucerely to enter, he will not be shut out.
THE DUTY OF BELIEVING.
THEREFORE WE CONCLUDE, THAT A MAN IS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH
More correctly rendered:
FAITH, WITHOUT WORKS OF LAW.
ROMANS !II. 28.
In the last Discourse I attempted to show, that in consequence of the redemption of Christ, man is justified freely by the grace of God. The grace of God is the source, the moving cause, of this blessing to mankind. The next subject of consideration before us, is the means by which man, in the economy of redemption, becomes entitled to this blessing. These in the text are summed up in the single article, faith, which is here declared to be the instrument of justification. To elucidate this truth is the design with which I have selected the present theme of discourse.
But before I enter upon the doctrine in form, it will be necessary to remind you, that an objection is raised against it at the threshold, which, if founded in truth, would seem to overthrow it at once. It is this : that faith is so far from being of a moral nature, as to be necessary, and unavoidable ; man being absolutely passive in believing, and under a physical impossibility of doing otherwise than he actually does ; whether in believing, or disbelieving. Of course, it is further