« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Here is a manifest distinction between coming and believing
I apprehend that the same distinction should be observed, between believing in Christ, and receiving him. If so, it will follow, that “to receive Christ in all his offices, as a prophet, a priest, and a king,” is not properly faith, but an effect of it, and inseparably connected with it. It is certain that a man must believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that he sustains these offices, before he can or will receive him in this light. Christ came unto his own (meaning the Jews) but his own received him not. This refusing to receive him was not unbelief, but an effect of it. Hence should you be asked, why they did not receive him? The answer is ready, because they did not believe him to be the Christ. Nothing is more plain, than that unbelief was the grand cause why they rejected him. On the other hand, nothing is more evident, than that receiving Christ, is an effect of believing in him. And should you ask the man who defines faith, “a receiving Christ in all his offices,” why he thus receives him? he himself will be obliged to observe this distinction ; for the only just answer he can give you is, “ because I believe he sustains them."
Thus we see that faith is entirely distinct from the righteousness which justifies ; at the same time it is indispensably necessary, answering great and good purposes. Under its influence the sinner flies to Jesus, the hope set before him, and trusts his immortal interest in his hands, being perfectly satisfied with his adorable character. Faith is also the medium of peace and consolation. You may with equal propriety attempt to separate light and heat from the sun, as peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, from the faith
of God's elect. The degree of Christian consolation may be greater or less, according to the strength and influence of faith. At one time the believer may have an inward peace and tranquillity, which is exceedingly agreeable. At another time he may be favoured with what St. Paul calls joy unspeakable and full of glory. At another, guilt may
rob him of his comfort, and separate between him and his God. Such are his exercises in the present state of things. But he is far from making a righteousness of his frames, feelings, or experi
The distinction between these he well un. derstands. The righteousness by which he expects to be justified, is the work of Christ alone ; the faith by which he is enabled to receive it, is of the operation of God; the consolations that he enjoys are from this glorious Christ, in believing, or through faith: all as different as A, B, and C. His dependence for acceptance with God is neither on his faith nor experiences, but on Christ alone. At the same time he cannot conceive it possible, for a poor, wretched, undone sinner to be enabled to believe in Christ for eternal life, and not rejoice. A view of the glories of his person, and the fullness and freeness of his grace, cannot fail of introducing strong consolation,
Corollary 1. It follows, that believers still talk of, and plead for Christian experiences, without the least injury to the “ finished work of Christ,” or without making a righteousness of them, seeing they clearly understand the distinction between them, notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary by some who have lately appeared among us.
Corol. 2. Those persons that have ever known the truth as it is in Jesus, must fall into an awful
state of supineness, before they dare affirm, as a term of admission into any religious society, that all their former acquaintance with religion was delusion; and by so doing, they cannot fail of grieving the Holy Spirit of God.
Corol. 3. That faith that is without a heart-felt sense of the truth, or unconnected with the consolation that there is in Christ, is essentially different from the faith of the apostles and primitive Christians : believing, they rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Corol. 4. They who seem to speak highly of the atonement, or the “ finished work of Christ," but say little, and indeed nothing to the purpose, about the Spirit's work in regeneration, while they appear to extol one sacred person of the Trinity, do manifestly slight another.
2. From the preceding subject we are taught the antiquity of the doctrine of imputation ; which was clearly expressed under the former dispensation, by the laying of hands on the head of the victim, with confession of sin : yea, we are taught that the doctrine of imputed righteousness is not to be confined to the New Testament; for St. Paul, in his exposition of the words of David, assures us that it is held forth in them. It was a doctrine of the primitive church, and much insisted on in the reformation from popery. Luther, that resolute reformer, looked upon ít “an article of a standing or a falling church.” It was steadily embraced by the fathers of New-England, and is preserved as precious in many of their writings; and however it may at any time suffer an eclipse, as a truth of God it shall finally prevail to his glory and the comfort of many poor sinners. Doubtless it is calculated to do both. It gives
glory to God : for in this method of saving the guilty, there is an illustrious display of the divine perfections ; such as wisdom, love, grace, sovereignty, justice, &c. Wisdom shines, in that God has secured the honour of his law and government, while he justifies the ungodly. Love appears in the manner in which he hath done this, even by giving his only begotten Son to suffer and die. Grace is conspicuous in his pardoning the sinner's guilt, and accepting his person as righteous on account of the obedience of one. Sovereignty is manifested in his having mercy on whom he will have mercy. Justice cannot be hid, seeing rather than sin should be pardoned without satisfaction, the Son of God must die. It brings comfort to the sinner who is brought to believe in Jesus : for he sees that he is the author of a perfect, spotless righteousness, such as he finds he must have, or never be admitted to see the Lord; and while he rejoices in it by faith, he ascribes the whole glory to God.
3. If only they are blessed whose iniquities are forgiven, it follows, that the wrath of God abid. eth on all the impenitent and unbelieving. This is an alarming consideration to such as have any sense of the nature of the divine displeasure. It will be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Who can dwell with everlasting burnings? Who can dwell with devouring fire? A state of guilt is awful; the person in it is destitute of the comforts of the gospel here, and is liable every moment to be plunged into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone! and this is the condition of every natural man. It becomes each of us to inquire, in the language of the disceples, Lord, is it I?
BELIEVERS EXHORTED TO CONTINUE IN THEIR
PHILIPPIANS, ii. 12, 13. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my
presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling : for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.
St. Paul was a zealous and an accomplished advocate for all the important doctrines of Christianity: these he inculcated with plainness and frequency, always laying them down as the foundation of obedience, and from them urging a sacred regard to every necessary duty. We have an instance of this sort in the context. The apostle introduces subjects of the highest consequence, viz. the divinity of Christ, or his equal. ity with the Father-who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; his astonishing condescension—but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ; his course of obedience to the will of God, and his submitting to the ignominious and painful death of the cross. These grand, interesting truths, are the premises on which he founds the following exhortation ; Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my ab