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but he hath it already in present possession. And well might he say so, when he recollected these words of our Lord, which his own pen had recorded in the 6th chap. ter of his gospel, “I am the bread of life. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. As the living Father bath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” For how can he die who feedeth upon that which giveth life? and he surely must have life in all its extent and perfection, whose sustenance or aliment is no other than essential life itself.
Hence it appears, how much they mistake the gospel. constitution, who represent eternal life as a distant reward, suspended upon the performance of certain conditions on the part of the creature: whereas salvation through Christ, though perfected in heaven, is a present salvation; of wbich the various particulars, which are commonly styled terms of acceptance with God, are in truth constituent parts, suited to the present state of Christians; and ought therefore to be considered as the genuine actings, and consequently the proper
evidences of life received from Christ, but not as the conditions or means of obtaining it. That our Apostle viewed the mat. ter in this light is evident from the 13th verse of this chapter; where, in the review of the large account he had given of the special duties that belong to believers, and the characters by which they are distinguished, he thus concludes: “ These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, (not that ye may obtain, but) that ye may know that ye have eternal life," by the free gift of the Father, in consequence of your union with his blessed Son, who hath the fulness of life in bis hand, as the proprietor, the dispenser, and the
guardian thereof. For eternal life doth really commence at that happy moment, when, by the new birth, we enter into the family of God, and become his children through faith in Christ Jesus.
Thus far have I endeavoured to illustrate the record that God hath given concerning his Son. Permit me then to ask, after all you have been hearing, in what light doth the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ now appear to you? Is be that object of terror which the jealousy of an evil conscience is apt to paint him? Can you rationally conclude, or is there even room to suspect, that he is an enemy to your happiness? Oh! with what eyes do they read this sacred volume, who are capable for a moment of entertaining such a thought. Is it not the obvious tendency, as well as the declared purpose of every thing contained in the Scriptures of truth, to prove what the Apostle twice repeats in the preceding chapter, God
What kind of evidence would satisfy you? It is my earnest desire that the question should be fully tried. My interest in the decision is equal to yours: none bath more to gain or to lose than I bave.
Devise the security that you esteem most valid: let nothing be omitted that you can suppose would be of avail for binding the most artful and fallacious of your fellow-men; and when you bave done, I challenge you to mention one article among them all that is wanting in the security wbich God hath freely afforded you.
When a bare declaration of one's good intention doth not satisfy us, we may ask a promise ; and if doubts still remain, we may proceed to require the interposition of an oath ; but there we must rest as to verbal security : * An oath for confirmation is an end of all strife.” Need I remind you, thát without your solicitation, God hath
been graciously pleased to give you all these? - For God being willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay bold upon the hope set before us.
When personal obligation is not deemed sufficient, a cautioner, or surety, is another expedient which human wisdom hath devised. And is not such an one provided by the great God? Not a creature, though of the highest order, but his own Son, by whom all things were made, even Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, who is expressly styled the surety of a better testament.
If, after all, any jealousy remains, we must next, I suppose, have recourse to legal security, and may demand a written obligation, a deed executed with every essential formality. Now, what kind of deed hath greatest force and validity? None, I apprehend, is more uni. versally held sacred and inviolable than a testament. This was Paul's opinion, when he said, (Gal. iii. 15.) “ Though it be but a man's testament, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” And are not we furnished with this very species of obligation?
a testament confirmed and rendered unalterable by the death of the testator; with this additional security against its being abstracted, erased, or defeated, by the infidelity of those to whom the execution of it may be committed, (security which never did, nor ever can, exist in any other case) namely, that the testator, who died to give it force, revived, and liveth for evermore, to be the executor of his own deed in its utmost extent,
Can any thing further be required? If distrust be very great, one might perhaps wish to have a valuable pledge,
something of equal worth put into his hand, till the obligation be fulfilled. What shall I say? Let unbelief blush and be ashamed to open its mouth any more, when it looks to the unspeakable gift of God, and hears how Paul reasons upon it, (Rom. viii. 32.) “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" It is really astonishing, that such profusion of evidence should not excite in men a greater curiosity to discover the true reason and design of it. Were a superior transacting with us in the way of bargain, though he should profess that he meant to do us a favour, would not the offer of such multiplied, superabundant security for the performance of his part of the agreement, discover such an anxiety to get the bargain concluded, as would naturally breed in as a secret suspicion, that however moderate and equitable the terms proposed might appear, yet, upon the whole, the chief advantage would accrue to himself? Now, it is agreed on all hands, that to impute any such interested views to the great sovereign of the universe, would be equally absurd and blasphemous: for how differently soever men have conceived of the gospel-constitution, it is universally admitted to be a covenant of grace. And yet, my brethren, if eternal life be not a gift absolutely free, but the wages of service to be done by us, I cannot help thinking, that, let the terms proposed be ever so moderate, yet such means employed for gaining our consent to them, could hardly fail to tincture our minds with some degree of these evil surmisings I have mentioned. Whereas, upon the plan of the record, as expressed in my text, every part of the divine procedure appears perfectly wise, consistent, and gracious. God and man are represented in their proper characters: God, infinitely good, and independently happy; showing mercy to the miserable who de. rived their existence from him, and have nothing to give but what his own bounty hath bestowed upon them: Man, on the other hand, in his fallen state, a guilty, and, of consequence, a fearful, suspicious creature; conscious that he deserves punishment, and hard to be persuaded that there is so much goodness with God as freely to pardon his offences, and receive him again into favoar. These fears beget and cherish that enmity against God, which is the distinguishing characteristic of the carnal mind. We feel the effects of injuries upon our own hearts, and we are apt to judge of God by wbat we feel in ourselves.
It was to vanquish this distrust, that God condescended to deal with us in the manner I have represented; that by giving us every kind of assurance that jealousy itself can devise, we may be reduced to this necessity, either to give God the lie; or, being convinced that he is love, to rely upon his faithful word of promise; believing that he who bestowed life at first, by a free act of the purest bounty, bath goodness enough to restore life after it hath been forfeited, by another act of as free mercy and grace. This is the plain account wbich the, Scriptures give us of faith in Christ. “If we receive the witness of man," saith our Apostle in the 9th verse of this chapter, “ the witness of God is greater:" and, (John iii. 33.) receiving the divine testimony, is said to be a setting to our seal that God is true. Accordingly, in the verse preceding my text, unbelief is represented as deriving its chief malignity from this very circumstance, that it denies the truth of God: For thus it is written, “ He that believeth not God, maketh him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."