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THE gospel of Reigning Grace, being a doctrine truly divine, has ever been the object of the world's contempt. It was of old a stumbling-block to the self-righteous Jew, and foolishness to the philosophic Greek. Paul, who was a resolute assertor of the honours of grace, and indefatigable in preaching Christ, found it so by repeated experience; and that not only among the illiterate and profane, but also among the learned and the devout. Nay, he had frequent occasien to observe, that the religious devotees of his age were the first in opposing the doctrine he preached, and the most hardened enemies against the truth of God. The polite, the learned, the religious, were all agreed, to load both his character and his doctrine with the foulest reproaches. Nor was this treatment peculiar to Paul, but common to all his cotemporaries, who espoused the same glorious cause, and laboured in the same beneficent work. The doctrine they preached was charged with licentiousness. Their enemies boldly affirmed that they said, Let us do evil that good may come. Thus were their character and their labours
impeached: that, as hateful to God: these, as destructive to man. But what was the ground of this impious charge? Were they loose in their morals, or scandalous in their lives' No such thing. Had they not as much regard for practical religion and true morality as any of their objectors' More, far more than they all. Did they never mention good works as necessary to answer any valuable end in the Christian life? They often pressed the performance of them, as absolutely necessary to answer various important purposes, both in the sight of God and man. What then could be the reason of so hateful a charge ' Because their doctrine was not in the least adapted to gratify the pride of man. They taught, that without the atonement made on the cross, and the grace revealed in redeeming blood, the state of the best men would have been absolutely desperate—desperate as that of the devils, and of those already damned. And as the apostles were free to declare, that the state of the most respectable part of mankind was evil— dreadfully evil—evil as to those things, for the sake of which they most highly esteemed themselves; so they boldly preached a perfect Saviour, and a finished salvation, to the most worthless and vile. These primitive teachers and infallible guides were not in the least acquainted with those terms and conditions, those pre-requisites and qualifications, the performing and attaining of which are, by many, accounted so necessary to acceptance with God. They knew but one way in which a sinner might be accepted of God, and justified before him; and that was entirely of grace, through the perfect work of Christ alone. The way of justification which they taught, is absolutely pure and unmixed. In their doctrine, on this important subject, grace does not only appear; it shines, reigns, triumphs: it is the only thing. There is not discernible in it the least tincture of those notions which foster pride, or cherish self-estee n. All those fine distinctions, invented by the proud philosopher, or the selfrighteous moralist, which tend in any degree to support the opinion of human worthiness, and to obscure our views of divine grace, are by them entirely set aside and totally annihilated. The most shining deeds and valuable qualities that can be found among men; though highly useful and truly excellent, when set in their proper places, and referred to suitable ends; are, as to the grand article of justification, treated as non-entities. In this respect the most zealous professor, with all his laboured performances, stands on a level with the most profane. The apostolic truth addressing all to whom it comes, as guilty condemned, perishing wretches, leaves no room for preference or boasting in any; that so the whole glory of our salvation may be secured to that grace which is infinitely rich and absolutely free. At this, the devout Pharisee and the decent moralist are highly offended. Such doctrines being advanced, they think it incumbent upon them to stand up in defence of what they call a holy life; and to support the sinking credit of good works, as having a considerable efficacy in procuring our acceptance with God. This many persons frequently do much more by talking about their necessity, than by performing them. Now they think it their duty to rail at the preacher, as an avowed enemy to holi
ness; nor will they spare to give him the honourable title of, A friend of publicans and sinners. Now innumerable slanders are cast on the doctrine of grace, as being licentious; and on the ministers of it, as opening the flood-gates of all iniquity. For they suppose that every thing bad may be justly expected from those who openly disavow all dependance on their own duties; and whose hope of eternal happiness arises, not from the services which they perform, but from grace which the gospel reveals--not from the worth which they possess, but from the work which Christ has wrought. Thus they despise the gospel under the fair pretence of a more than common concern for the interests of holiness.
Nor is this the only offence which the gospel gives. For as it is entirely inconsistent with the natural notions of men concerning acceptance with God, and contrary to every scheme of salvation which human reason suggests; as it will admit of no copartner in relieving a distressed conscience, or in bringing deliverance to a guilty soul, but leaves every one that slights it and seeks for assistance from any other quarter, to perish under an ever. lasting curse; so the pride of the self-sufficient kindles into resentment against it, as a most uncharitable doctrine and quite unsociable. Nor can the faithful dispensers of sacred truth fail to share in the honour of these reproaches. For while they dare to affirm, that this gospel, so hateful to the sons of pride, exhibits the only way of a sinner's access to his offended Sovereign; and that all who oppose it, and all who embrace its counterfeit, are left in the hands of divine justice without a Mediator; they are sure to be accounted persons of contracted