Изображения страниц

paid by him, but by a Redeener of Divine extraction, who was pleased, by participating of man's nature, to stand in his stead. Hence the sacred Writers seeing, in this case, the perfect agreement between a FREE GIFT and a PURCHASED POSSESSION, sometimes call it by the one, and sometimes by the other name.

CHA P. III. So much for the MEANS of recovering what was lost by Adam's transgression.

In the entrance on this subject, I cautioned the Reader to keep in mind the distinction between the Means of recovering a lost benefit, and the Coxdition anexed to the enjoyment of that benefit, when recovered, as two different things, to be separately considered, and in their order.

With regard to the MEANS, (already explained at large) it hath been shewn, that they were of an arbitrary nature, at God's good pleasure to appoint; unrestrained by any thing he had established in the general system of his moral government of man.

These Means, had not our holy Religion revealcd them, could not, otherwise, have been known.

They were the DEATH AND SACRIFICE of his ever blessed Son, Mediating for us.

And now, Man being restored to his forfeited Iuheritance, the secure possession of it still depended, as it did in the original grant, on the performance of a Condition.

We have already shewn, Why that first Condition was the observance of a POSITIVE COMMAND. Which reasoning, if it have any force, proves, that the new condition, annexed to the recovered blessing, must be the observance of a POSITIVE COJIMAND likewise.

I M MORTALITY (as hath been shewn) was a FREE GIFT, as well when recovered, as when originally given; which mnight be bestowed, or recovered when forfeited, on what Condition the Divine Donor should be pleased to annex to it.

Nay, if we consider the nature of the whole economy, we shall find it could not well be given, or restored when


[ocr errors]

lost, on any other condition than the observance of a positive Command, since the performance of MORAL DUTY was the condition already appropriated, by Natural Religion, to the procurement of God's FAVOUR.

It is true, had I M MORTALITY not been a free gift, but what Man had a right to, on his Creation, while under the government of Natural Religion, the condition annexed to immortality might have been the performance of Moral Duty.

And indeed, those who so far mistake immortality as to esteem it a Right, inherent in our nature, contend strongly for the condition's being of a moral kind; and that the command---not to eat of the Tree of good and evil, enjoined to 'Man in Paradise, is so to be understood, though delivered under the cover of an Allegory.

But besides the reason given to evince this mistake, another arises from the sacred Writer's not explaining this pretended Allegory: for where an Allegory contains a precept respecting the whole of moral duty, it can never be too plainly nor fully delivered. There would be none of this necessity if both the first and second condition of immortal Life were of a positive nature, thongh delivered in allegoric terms which spoke for themselves; for then the chief- use of an interpretation had been little more than the gratification of our curiosity.

Allow, therefore, the reasoning here offered to explain the nature of the condition annexed to the free gift (when first given, and when, after forfeiture, restored) to be solid aud convincing, and it opens to us the abundant goodness of our Maker; who, that the possession of this recovered blessing might be no longer precarious, (as it was when first bestowed, on the condition, to Do or to forbear. Doing) was graciously pleased to change one positive Command for another; and, ivstead of something to be Done, hath now required of us something to BE BELIEVED. From henceforth the free gift of immortality is become more permanent and certain : a GRACE, which the very nature of the new Dispensation would lead us to hope for and expect; whereby IMMORTAL LIFE under the Gospel, like the FAVOUR OF THE Deity under natural Religion, is now, when forfeited, to be regained by REPENTANCE.

So much reason, order, and beauty is seen in the various parts of God's moral Government of Man, when compared and explained by one another.

The new CONDITION, as we say, is FAITH IN THE REDEEMER; or our owning and receiving him as the promised Messiah, by whom alone we are to receive that salvation, procured for us by the Sacrifice of himself on the Cross.

And now, we begin to have some reasonable Notion of that great and fundamental principle of Christianity, that FAITH ALONE JUSTIFIETH, or, in other words, is the sole condition of recovering the possession of what we lost hy ADAM.

This great Truth, though made the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus, yet (its reason lying hid, or not carefully sought for, and the little of it that was seen being horribly abused) Believers, as well as Unbelievers, have, too generally, concurred in condemning, as absurd in speculation, and fanatical and hurtful in practice. But the Divine who hath carefully studied the nature of God's moral or religious Dispensations, throughout all their parts, will be easily disposed to rest the whole of the Christian cause on the reasonableness, the propriety, and even the necessity of this capital Principle.

We have now shown, ist, That LIFE AND IMMORTALITY is, in its nature, a FREE GIFT; and that holy Scripture always represents it under this idea : 2dly, That the benefit, which Natural Religion informs us we have to expect from our great Plaster is, simply, a reward for well-doing: A reward, indeed, which will be abundant; for though we be unprofitabie servants, yet is he a most bountiful Master. But ABUNDANT and ETERNAL belong to different Systems.

Man, from his Creation, to his entrance into Paradise, was, as hath been shewn, subject to the Law of Natural Religion only. From thenceforth, to his expulsion from Paradise, Recealed Religion suje induced to the Natural, was to be his Guide: whereby, 10 God's FAVOUR (the sanction of Natural Religion) was added ImmorTALITY (the sanction of the Revculed;) not on condition of his observance of moral duties ; for that was the condition of God's favour under Natural Religion ; Vol. VI. X


but on condition of his obedience to a positive command.

But who are they, who, on the recovery of the free gift of immortality, are qualified to claim it? Certainly nove but those who are already entitled to some reward by the Religion of Nature; which Religion accompanies the Revealed throughout all its various Dispensations : and on which, they are all founded.

But to make this great principle of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE still more clear, let us suppose that, at the publication of the Gospel, all to whom the glad tidings of immortality were offered, on the condition of faith in Jesus, had been moral or virtuous men ; and, on that account, entitled (as natural Religion teacheth) to the favour of God, and an abundant reward ; is it not self-evident, that FAITII ALONE, exclusive of the condition of good works, would, in that case, have been the very thing which justified, or entitled to life everlasting ?

But are good works, therefore, of no use in the Christian system? So far from that impiety, good works are seen, by this explanation, to be of the greatest avail ; as they render Men the only capable Subjects of this JUSTIFICATION which FAITH ALONE procures.

This is the true use and value of Works with regard to FAITI ; and greater cannot be conceived. Hence it appears, that JUSTIFYING Faith is so far from excluding GOOD WORKS, that it necessarily requires them. But how? Not as sharing in that JUSTIFICATION ; but as procuring for us a title to God's favour in general, they become the qualification of that inestimable Reward, revealed by the Gospel, to be obtained by FAITH


To illustrate this matter by a familiar instance: Supa pose a British, Monarch should bestow, in free gift, a certain portion of his own Domaines * upon such of his subjects who should perform a certain service, to which they were not obliged by the stated Laws of that society under which they lived; it is evident, that the performance of this list engagement ONLY would be the thing which entitled them to the free gift: altliough that which • To which inmortality may be well compared.

gave them a claim to protection, as Subjects, in the enjoyment of THEIR OWN PROPERTY*, acquired by observing the terms of the contract between Subjects and Sovereign, was the necessary qualification to their claim of the free gift; since it would be absurd to suppose that this gift was intended for Rebels and Traitors, or for any but good and faithful servants of the King and Community.

This, I presume, is the true, as it certainly is the only consistent explanation, which hath been hitherto given of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE. Well, therefore, might St. Paul reprove the ignorance or licence of certain of his converts at Rome, in his question (which, under his authority, we have asked before) Do we then make void the Law through Faitu? God forbid! Yea, wc ESTABLISH THE LAWt.

" But how it may be asked) is the Law of Il'orks ESTABLISHED by the Christian Doctrine of Faith? For by the Law of Works, the Apostle could mean no other than the Law of Nature; he having again and again told us, the Law of Moses, as distinguished from the Law of Nature, was abolished by the Law of Christ. I answer, This Law of Works was indeed ESTABLISHED, and in the most substantial manner, by the doctrine of Faith, as these Il'orks are the very foundation of justifying Faith; the qualification of all who are entitled to the Fruits of that Faith, viz. LIFE AND IMMORTALITY.

But further, to prevent all mistakes on this important subject, (if the wisest provisions of Heaven could have prevented the effects of human perversity, without violating freedom of will) God was pleased to send John THE BAPTIST, as the Forerunner of his blessed Son, to proclaim and REPÚBLISH this great principle of Natural Religion, PARDON ON REPENTANCE-Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at handt. A necessary CALL to procure Subjects to this new Kingdom, just ready to be erected, where LIFE AND IMMORTALITY was to be obtained by Faith; but such a Faith as is ounded on those Works which Natural Religion requires o be performed; , when neglected, the omission or transgression to be atoned for by REPENTANCE.

To which the reward offered hy natural religion may be well compared. 7. Rom. iii. 31.

Matt: ii, 2.


X 2

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »