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And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the
name of his Son Jesus Christ.
' V E propose, in a little, to draw near to God in the
W most solemn act of Christian worship. With what humble solicitude ought we to enquire, whether we are truly intitled to this great privilege, or may hope for acceptance in this important duty. It is the most explicit, and the most public profeffion we can make of faith in the Redeemer's blood ; and therefore none can do it in a proper manner, but those who have indeed believed in the Redeemer's name.
Faith in Christ is the great foundation of our peace with God. It is the great principle of our fanctification. It is the great distinction between the heirs of glory and the heirs of hell : “ For he that believeth, and is baptized, “ shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damn. " ed.” And therefore no subject can be of more importance in general, or more suited to our present employ. ment, than what is presented to us in the words of the text: This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of bis Son Jesus Christ.
In the context the apostle is speaking of the Christian's confidence or perluation of his relation to God, ver. 20, 21,
God. It distinct for he
22. “ For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than * our heart and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart "condemn us not, then have we confidence towards « God. And whatsoever we ask we receive of him; be“ cause we keep his commandments, and do those things " that are pleasing in his fight.”
Having thus mentioned the commandments, he points out in the words now read, the great commandments of the gospel, in their order, And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of bis Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us command. ment. My purpose at this time is, to confine myself to the first of these; and open, in as comprehensive and practical a manner as I am able, what it is to believe on the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God; and having done so, to make some practical improvement of the subject; particularly, by presling every hearer, in the most earnest manner, to obey this commandment of God.
I. In the first place, then, I am to explain what it is to believe on the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Many have been the controversies raised and agitated on this subject, most of them unprofitable, and some of them very hurtful, as tending to disquiet and perplex the minds of serious persons, and sometimes even to furnilh an ob. jection to the enemies of the gospel. I shall therefore avoid every thing of this kind, as in general undesirable, and at this time highly unseasonable; and endeavor to lay it down in such a manner as I hope may be under. food by the meanest real Christian, and may afford to every exercised soul inward consolation and peace with Goul.
For this purpose, I hope it will be sufficient to observe, that faith may be considered in two views; its object, and its actings: Itt, The object of faith; that is to say, the truths to be believed : 2dly, The acting's of faith; or what it is to believe these to the saving of the soul. As to the object of faith, it is thus expressed in our text, This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus, the Saviour, then, is
the object of faith. This, in its full extent; includes every thing that is revealed in the holy scriptures, with respect to his person, character, and work. It may indeed be laid to include the whole revealed will of God; because every part of this will has a more reinote or immediate reference to him. Christ Jesus is “ the Alpha and Ome-, “ ga, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending," of the will of God as revealed for our salvation. But as every thing else was only introductory and preparatory to his atonement, or consequent upon it, I shall chiefly dire&t your attention to him as a Saviour from guilt and pollution. This the name of Jesus immediately imports : Matth. i. 21. " And thou shalt call his name Jesus : for “ he shall save his people from their fins.” In this view, I think the object of faith may be summed up in the fol. lowing particulars.
1. That we are, by nature, in a state of fin, alienated in heart from God, transgressors of his law, and liable to his wrath. If this were not the case, a Saviour would not be necessary ; salvation would be a word without force, and even without meaning. It is accordingly found in experience, that till there be a conviction of this truth upon the conscience, the tidings of a Saviour are always treated with neglect or disdain. Nothing can be stronger than the language of scripture on this subject in many passages; particularly, Matth. xviii. 11. “ For the Son of “ man is come to save that which was lost.” Luke v. 31, 32. “ And Jesus answering, said unto them, they that are “ whole, need not a physician; but they that are fick. I " came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." I shall also read to you the account of our natural state, and the end of Chrilt's coming, given by the apostle Paul, Eph. ii. I-5. “ And you hath he quickened who “ were dead in trespasses and lins, wherein in time past “ ye walked according to the course of this world, accord. “ing to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that “ now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among “ whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in “the 'lults of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, " and of the mind; and were by nature the children of
“ wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, “ for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we “ were dead in fins hath quickened us together with Christ, “ (by grace ye are saved).” I forbear to mention the proof of this from the history of the world, from the marks of God's displeasure against fin in the course of providence, and from the testimony of conscience, as I have illustrated them at considerable length in other discourses. Let it fuffice at present to say, that the first truth which is the object of faith, is the guilt and misery of our nature.
2. The next part of the object of faith is, that there is no way of recovery from this state but by Christ: Acts iv. 12. " Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is “ none other name under heaven given among men where. “ by we must be saved.”. If there were any other, it would not be the command of God that we should believe in the name .of his son Jesus Christ. After men are in some measure sensible that they are guilty, it is often difti. cult to convince them that they are helpless. There is something so mortifying in this consideration, and so hum. bling to our pride, that it is with great unwillingness we yield to it. Nay, after we have seemed to confess it, we are often ready to retract it. The finner has always a proneness to seek some resource in himself. Hence the difpofition to extenuate his guilt; and if he cannot plead abfolute, to place fome dependance upon comparative innocence. Hence the disposition to magnify human merit, as if, by the value of some good deeds, we could balance or cancel the guilt of our disobedience. Hence the endless variety of human inventions, of costly facrifices and voluntary penance. Micah vi. 6, 7. “ Wherewith shall “I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high " God? fhall I come before him with burnt-offerings, “ with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased " with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers “ of oil ? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the “ fruit of my body for the fin of my soul?” The truth is, till the finner is stript of every plea, and found to be with. out excuse, he will still refuse to be indebted to the grace of his Redeemer. But hear ye the Spirit of God, Rev.
< fruit of my body cipt of every plea, indebted to the ?
finners, and God;."
of sin, w
iii. 17, 18. “ Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increaf“ ed with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest “ not that thou art wretched, and niiserable, and poor, and " blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tri. " ed in the fire, that thou mayest be rich ; and white rai-- ment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of “thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes “ with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.”
3. This leads me to the third part of the object of faith, viz. That the pardon of sin, and peace with an offended God, is freely offered to the chief of sinners through Christ. The two preceding truths are preparatory to this, and serve to point out its necessity and moment. This is the gracious message which was brought into the world by the gospel; and from which it derives its name, importing glad tidings. What we are particularly to attend to here is, (1.) that Christ Jesus was substituted in the room of sinners, and suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God; that the holiness and justice of God required an expiation of fin, which was made by this immaculate victim: Ifa. liji. 5, 6. " But he was wounded “ for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities : " the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with “ his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone “ astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and " the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Rom. iii, 25. " Whom God hath set forth to be a propi. “ tiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righte. " ousness for the remiffion of fins that are past, through the " forbearance of God.” (2.) Another thing also to be obferved, is the constitution of the sufferer's person. It was no less than the eternal and only begotten Son of God. This is a circumstance of the utmost moment, and on which the greatest stress is manifestly laid in scripture. It is in. cluded in the words of the text : “ This is his command. " ment, That we should believe on the name of his Son “ Jesus Christ.” It is also constantly found in the early Confessions of Faith ; John i. 49. “ Nathaniel answered " and said unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou 66 art the King of Ifrael.” Matth. xvi. 16. " And Si.