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As the word mercy, in its primary signification, has relation to some creature, either actually in a suffering state, or obnoxious to it; so grace, in its proper and strict sense always pre-supposes unworthiness in its object. Hence, whenever any thing valuable is communicated by the blessed God to any of Adam's apostate offspring, the communication of it cannot be of grace, any further than the person on whom it is conferred is considered as unworthy. For, so far as any degree of worth appears, the province of grace ceases, and that of equity takes place. Grace and worthiness, therefore, cannot be connected in the same act, and for the same end.— The one must necessarily give place to the other, according to that remarkable text; If by grace, then it is no more of works ; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work. Rom. xi. 6. From the apostle's reasoning it is evident, that whatever is of works, is not of grace at all; and, that whatever is of grace, is not of works in any degree. In the apostle's view of things, works and grace are essentially opposite, and equally irreconcilable as light and darkness. Besides, when Paul represents the capital blessings of salvation as flowing from divine grace, we are led to consider the persons on whom they are bestowed, not only as having no claim to those benefits, but as deserving quite the reverse—as having incurred a tremendous curse, and as justly exposed to eternal ruin. That grace, therefore, about which we treat, may be thus defined; It is the eternal and absolutely free juvour of God, manifested in the vouchsafement of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and the
wnworthy. What those blessings are, we shall endeavour to show in the subsequent pages. Meanwhile be it observed, that, according to this definition, the grace of God is eternal; agreeably to the import of those reviving words; Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love. Jer. xxxi. 3. It is divinely free, and infinitely rich; entirely detached from all supposition of human worth, and operating independently of all conditions performed by man; it rises superior to human guilt, and superabounds over human unworthiness. Such is the eternal origin, such the glorious basis of our salvation — Hence it proceeds and is carried on to perfection. Grace shines through the whole. For, as an elegant writer observes, it is “not like a fringe of gold, bordering the garment; not like an embroidery of gold, decorating the robe; but like the mercy-seat of the ancient tabernacle, which was gold, pure gold, all gold throughout.” Yes, reader, this is the inexhaustible source of all those inestimable blessings which the Lord bestows on his unworthy creatures, in this, or in a future world. It is this which, in all that he does or ever will do for sinners, he intends to render everlastingly glorious in their eyes, and in the eyes of all holy intelligences. The indelible motto, inscribed by the hand of Jehovah on all the blessings of the unchangeable covenant, is, To the praise of the glory of his grace. Eph. i. 6. Hence we may learn, that if grace in its own nature, and as it is exercised in our salvation, be directly opposite to all works and worthiness; then such persons are awfully deceived, who seek to join them together in the same work and for the same
end. However high their pretences may be to holiness, it is plain from the word of God, and may in some degree appear from the nature of the thing, that they take an effectual way to ruin their souls for ever; except that very grace prevent, of which they have such false and corrupt ideas. For divine grace disdains to be assisted in the performance of that work which peculiarly belongs to itself, by the poor, imperfect performances of men. Attempts to complete what grace begins, betray our pride and offend the Lord; but cannot promote our spiritual interest. Let the reader, therefore, carefully remember, that grace is either absolutely free, or it is not at all: and that he who professes to look for salvation by grace, either believes in his heart to be saved entirely by it, or he acts inconsistently in af. fairs of the greatest importance.
Of Grace, as it reigns in our Salvation in general,
Grace, in our text, is compared to a Sovereign. Now a sovereign, considered as such, is invested with regal power, and the highest authority. Grace, therefore, in her beneficent government, must exert and manifest sovereign power—must supersede the reign, and counteract the mighty and destructive operations of sin; or she cannot bring the sinner to eternal life. For the Holy Spirit has compared sin to a sovereign, whose reign terminates in death. Rom. v. 2).
As sin appears clothed in horrid deformity, and armed with destructive power, inflicting temporal death, and menacing eternal flames; so Grace appears on the throne, arrayed in the beauties of holiness, and smiling with divine benevolence, touched with feelings of the tenderest compassion, and armed with all the magnificence of invincible power. Fully determined to exert her authority and gratify her compassion, under the conduct of infinite wisdom; to the everlasting honour of inflexible justice, inviolable veracity, and every divine perfection—by rescuing the condemned offender from the jaws of destruction, by speaking peace to the alarmed consciences of damnable delinquents; by restoring to apostate creatures and vile
miscreants, a supreme love to God and delight in the ways of holiness; and finally, by bringing them safe to everlasting honour and joy. In a word, the heart of this mighty sovereign is compassion itself, her looks are love, her language is balm to the bleeding soul, and her arm salvation. Such a sovereign is Grace. Those who are delivered by her, must enjoy a complete salvation. Those who live under her most benign government, must be happy indeed. Divine grace, as reigning in our salvation, not only appears, but appears with majesty; not only shines, but triumphs: providing all things, freely bestowing all things necessary to our eternal happiness. Grace does not set our salvation on foot, by accommodating its terms and conditions to the enfeebled capacities of lapsed creatures; but begins, carries on, and completes the arduous work. Grace, as a sovereign, does not rescue the sinner from deserved ruin, furnish him with new abilities, and then leave him, by their proper use, to resist the tempter, to mortify his lusts, to attain those holy qualities and perform those righteous acts, which render him fit for eternal happiness, and give him a title to it. No ; for if the province and work of grace were circumscribed in this manner, things
of the last importance to the glory of God and the
felicity of man, would be left in the most uncertain and perilous situation. And, admitting the possibility of any sinner being saved in such a way, there would be ample scope for the exertions of spiritual pride, and much room for boasting, which would be diametrically contrary to the honour of the Most High, and frustrate the noble designs of