« PreviousContinue »
plies any real goodness, then the finner has something to recommend himself, which is of real worth, of which he has reason to boast, and must be acceptable to God; and therefore has no need of the merits of Christ and free grace in order to be justified. They therefore contend that to affert that å finner must exercise any holiness previous to his justification, and in order to it, and that faith is a holy act, is entirely to fubvert the gospel, and lays a foundation for boasting, and flatters the pride of man. Of these there have been, and now are, not a few in all parts of the protestant world.
What has been said on this subject serves to show how unreasonable and contrary to the truth this notion is, and the evil tendency of it. But it may be useful and of importance to review some things which have been mentioned in the preceding discourse, by which the error and absurdity of this opinion will be abundantly exposed and confuted.
1. The finner is under the curse of the holy, righteous and good law of God, which pronounces him to be a hateful, accursed creature, deserving to lie under the divine displeasure and wrath forever. Every transgressor of this law is under this curse and in this state, whatever holy obedience he had performed, and how long soever he had continued perfectly holy before his sın. His transgression, even one instance of it, totally obliterates and annihilates his preceding holiness, so that it cannot have the least influence to prevent the curse coming upon him, or alleviate it in any degree ; but he is as odious and guilty, and as much the object of God's displeasure for his transgression, as if his previous holiness never had existence, which cannot be reckoned in his favour in any respect or degree, without counteracting the law of God, and setting it aside in favour of the sinner, who by it is cursed. And it is the same with regard to any future holiness and obedience. If the finner repent and turn to obedience, though ever so perfect and long continued, this would not in the least degree atone for the sin of which he had been guilty, or
remove the curse which the law has fixed upon him for his fin; and therefore could not be more acceptable to God than if he had not obeyed, or than his obedience before he sinned, and cannot be the reason and ground of his receiving any favour from God, as after obedience is as much obliterated and rendered of no avail to recommend to any favour, by his fin, as his obedience before he finned, it being equally contrary to the law, which pronounces him accursed, to regard and accept or fhow any favour for his after obedience, as for the former, and it cannot be done without vacating and setting it aside, as not worthy of regard.
This is the plain law of God, which curses every one who continueth not to obey it in all things which it requires, and holds him under this curse, notwithftanding all the obedience he had paid to it before he finned, or any obedience after that. The law affords no remedy or help, or grants any thing better than what is contained in the curfe. This is the law of God. It is his voice to all his creatures who are moral agents. It is the language of his heart, which he will never counteract or contradict, in words or conduct. He views the finner in the light in which his law fets him, and will treat him accordingly fo long as he remains under the curse of it, and is not delivered from it in a way which is perfectly confiftent with it, and in which as much regard is paid to it, as if the finner remained under the curfe of it forever.
Therefore, whatever repentance and approbation of the law which curses him, and love to God, the finner exercifes before he is delivered from the curfe by actually coming to Christ and believing on him, does not in any degree remove his guilt, or render him less deserving of the curse, and cannot recommend him to the least favour; but he is in the fight of God as much accursed and the object of his displeasure, and in this fense as truly ungodly, as he was before, and as if he lrad no such exercises of love and repentance, as they cannot be eckoned in his favour, fo as in the least to remove the curse. And whatever repentance, and love to God and his law, or holiness, is necessary in order to come to Christ, and is exercised in coming to him and believing on him, this cannot, in itself considered, recommend the finner to favour, or render him less unworthy or less accursed ; but as by this the finner lays hold of Christ, and is united to him, he comes within the reach of his merit and worthiness, so as by him who has been made a curse he may consistent with the law be delivered from the curse of it, and obtain all the favour which he wants. And being thus by Christ delivered from the curse of the law, and pardoned and justified by virtue of his atonement and righteousness, his person and his holy exercises of faith and love become acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, to whom he is united. God may now be just, and maintain and honour bis righteous law, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus, he being made accepted in his beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased.
The * This ferves to fix the true and plain meaning of the Apostle's words, (Rom. iv. 4, 5.) “ Now to him that workeih is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt : but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteourness.” By him that worketh is meant, him who by his works of obedience recommends himself to favour, and the reward of eternal life, and in this sense earns the reward by the price of his obedience, which no creature can do, except those who are perfectly innocent and holy, as has been observed in explaining the law of works. He who worketh not is the finner, who neither has nor can have any works to recommend to the least favour; who is convinced of this, and makes no attempt to do any thing in this view and to this end; who feels that he is justly accursed, and under the displeasure of God, and deferves nothing better than everlasting deAtruction, being an ungodly rebel againft God, and wholly unrighteous. As such he looks to Christ, and believeth on him, and cordially receives him and trusts in him for righteousness, who pardons and justifieth such unrighteous, ungodly, infinitely guilty, hell-deferving finners as he feels and confeffes himself to be.
They who hold the tenet to which the inference under confideration is opposed, lay much stress upon the word ungodly in this passage, as if it denoted a finner altogether deftitute of the least friendly disposition towards God and Christ
, being an impenitent enemy to God. But though such are often meant in the scripture by the un
The reason of all this-why the finner's holiness bea fore or after he has once finned cannot be acceptable and reckoned in his favour, or in any degree remove the curse of the law, and whatever holiness he may exercise previous to his union to Christ, and is necessary in order to his coming to Christ, and actually forming this vital union to him, cannot render him acceptable to God, or less unworthy and accursed, and why he is totally unacceptable, as ungodly and curfed by God, till he is actually united to Christ, and can be accepted only in the worthiness of this beloved Son of God-the reason of this is plain and easy to be seen.
The transgression of the law of God in the least single instance is rebellion against a Being infinitely great, powerful, wise, juft and good, who has abfolute and unlimited right and authority to command and give law to his creatures; they are therefore under infinite obligation to perfect obedience ; and consequently a violation of this obligation can be no less than an infinite crime, or an infinite moral evil. Besides, he who' rebels against God, has a difpofition and will to dethrone him, and put an end to his law, authority and moral government, and introduce infinite confusion and misery through the whole universe ; and his conduct tends to
godly, yet it does not follow that precisely this idea is always to be denoted by this word. It has been shewn in what sense every unpardoned, unjustified finner is properly denominated ungodly, and this appears to be the sense in which the Apostle uses it, from the connection and context. And understanding it as they do, makes the Apostle to say that a finner, with a hard, impenitent heart, full of enmity to God and to Christ, and the way of salvation by him, and justification by free grace, may and does believe on Christ, receive and truit in him for justification and salvation, which he at the fame time abhors with his whole heart! This is to make him assert, with themselves, that which is most absurd and absolutely impofsible. It is therefore most certain the Apostle did not use this word here in the sense which they put upon it, but in a sense perfe&ly agreeable to the subject of which he treats, and the point he is proving, which is naturally and easily understood by the unprejudiced and discerning; being consistent with himself, with other fcripture, and with the clearest reason.
this, and would actually effect it were it possible, and were it not counteracted and prevented. Every fin therefore must be an infinite evil, in the nature and tendency of it. There is no moral truth more demonftrably clear and certain than this; and this is a truth on which many other moral truths depend, which relate to the law of God and his moral government, as we shall fee. *
Sin being thus an infinite moral evil, no temporary sufferings of the finner, or of any mere creature, can make the least degree of atonement for it, so as in any measure to alleviate or deliver him from the curse of the law. And it is equally certain that no holiness of a mere creature can avail to recommend him who has once finned to the least favour. Though the finner had been perfectly obedient and holy a thousand years before he finned, this is but a finite moral good, and therefore the infinite moral evil of which he has been guilty infinitely overbalances his finite holiness, so that it weighs nothing in the opposite scale, and does no inore to lighten or take off the curse, than if it never had existence. And this is equally true of any obedience which the finner should perform after he had once finned, as has already been observed: it has no tendency to take off the curse, and cannot recommend him to any favour, or be the least ground or reason of his bea ing considered and treated any better or otherwise than as one who is justly cursed, unworthy of any favour, and deserving all the evils of the curse. And therefore it would be unreasonable, and acting contrary to the law, to consider and treat him otherwise, or thew him any favour out of respect to his obedience.
* The penalty threatened in the law of God to every transgression, which is endless punishment, has its foundation on the infinite evil of sin, and is a demonstration that it is an evil of fuch magnitude : for, if sin were not infinitely criminal, it would not deserve an infinite punishment, nor would it be threatened. Christ explains the meaning of the curse or penalty of the law, when he says, “ Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire." They who deny the infinite evil of fin, cannot vindicate or understand the divine law, or the gospel, which is founded upon it.