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Mystic or Socinian, to vacate the doctrine of atonement : which is no other than tearing out the heart of the Bible, depriving faith of its ground, and the Gospel of its comfort, and thereby of its efficacy to convert and purify the heart. Let us not pretend to be wise above what is written, by laying any other foundation of acceptance and newness of life than faith in the Son of God; not only as living in us, but dying for us; to deliver us from wrath by the very blood he shed upon the cross, take away sin by the sacrifice of himself, make faith, in the chief Scripture notion of it, possible, and an effectual principle, in the Spirit's hands, of holy love, joy in God, and delight in his commandments.
But still it is alleged, 1. That insisting so much on the doctrine of salvation by faith, faith alone, or present forgiveness, and eternal justification, by the grace of God to every man, is useless, if not hurtful; that it is establishing a fanatical, enthusiastic notion of faith, which in the main has no other tendency than to lead men into a state of dangerous presumption and false security, and to make them less careful of their obedience; and that therefore it is better, in a general way, to ply them with exhortations to holiness, supposing that they are competently instructed in the grounds of Christian knowledge, and want chiefly to be stirred up to the practice of what they believe. For which, 2dly, The example of Christ himself is urged. It is said,
we hear little or nothing from him of faith, thus understood, in his discourses to the people.
1. The first objection consists of several parts. But St. Paul, we presume, has struck at the whole in this admirable description of Christian theology here produced. It is plain he knew of no other way of securing obedience, directing us to the most perfect kind of holiness, and animating us to the attainment of it, than Gospel comfort, or peace with God from a root of faith. The difficulty was often thrown in the way of his preaching
-“ Let us sin that grace may abound.” But what then? Did he flinch from it, or alter his method ? No; he rejects the imputation with scorn and abhorrence, and cries out, “God forbid! Impossible! How can this be? Death with Christ to the condemnation of sin, is death to the power of it; and if we truly believe that we died with him in one respect, in him paying the debt of sin, we shall make it our business, chief aim, and great hope, to die with him in all others. He was a stranger
' to that distinction, which has since been invented, between works of the ceremonial and moral law; as if the former only were excluded from the office of justifying. Neither would the Jews of his day have had any dispute with him upon the question so stated. It does not appear that they put any such confidence in the ceremonial law, as to suppose that the most punctual obser, vation of it would entitle them to the favour of God. And if it can be doubted what the law was which St. Paul chiefly meant, what law it was which tormented his conscience, set death before his face, and made him fly to the faith of Christ for relief in the distress of his soul, he himself will tell us plainly, and thereby open a way to every man for the discovery of his own sin; it was that sting in the law of the ten commandments, “ Thou shalt not covet.” This darted into him the light of heaven; he found he was guilty of evil lusting in the depth of his heart, and stood chargeable with the sin of an apostate, opposing will. And when he saw the truth, he suffered it to come home to him. He knew there was no trifling with a divine command; especially one so like the first, the breach of which brought death into the world; that it would be to little purpose to plead nature, or strength of temptation, or trust to an unknown mercy in God against his own express declaration, as men generally do, to the exclusion of repentance, and rejection of faith, through ignorance of its necessity; and this conviction fastened upon
him with all its force, that a will and desire in the heart of man opposite to the will of God must necessarily bring condemnation along with it, and that the law would infallibly do its whole office upon him, in commanding first, and then judging. Behold him a new man in a new world, cheered with a sense of remission, with his
eyes opened to see more fully the danger he had
escaped, the mercy of his deliverance, the blood of God shed to procure it, faith his title to it, the blessed Spirit clearing it up to him, and working at the bottom of all his convictions; and what would he do? Sin against all this astonishing grace, make it a handle for careless presumption, rebel against the authority and grieve the heart of his Redeemer? Or be all on fire to testify his gratitude, by doing what was required of him, and say triumphantly, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost ?” Upon this view of the matter, I think we may venture to dismiss the objection for ever; and challenge all the world to show a scheme of religion so well adapted to the state of sinful man, to bring him out of his fall, and put all the powers of his soul in motion towards God, by this glorious display of his goodness. And why then should it not be largely insisted on among Christians, proved, explained, gloried in? As it is not only our necessary relief from the guilt and condemnation of sin, but the
and contrivance of infinite wisdom to establish the law, make obedience pleasant to our souls and acceptable to God, by laying the foundation of it in love, and carry us on with a swift progress towards that perfection of good works, for which so much concern is avowed. Ah! this is nothing but Satan transforming himself into an angel of light, and putting us off with
a form instead of the power of godliness; which can have no being but in a heart warmed with a sense of redeeming mercy. And if some should make it an argument for sloth, or take occasion from it to harden themselves in impenitence, this, it must be confessed, is a most wretched abuse of it, but no reason for giving it up, or speaking but coldly of it; since it is the great expedient in the compass of divine knowledge for bringing any to the truth of holiness, by the renewal of their minds in love, which is God's image in man, and must fit us for glory. Happy, thrice happy is that age and country where the knowledge of Christ, and faith in him as our life, is so general as to make it the less necessary to dwell upon these topics. But if there be any such, I fear it is not ours. And besides, how should this faith and knowledge ever be general any where, but by having been some time or other carefully and frequently inculcated? How should they long be preserved any where, if the method by which they were first established is discontinued ? And how should they be otherwise revived, where they are too generally disregarded, than by being again fully opened and explained ? 2. But Christ himself, it is said, did not so; he
. was a preacher of moral righteousness, and laid the greatest stress upon that; and where can we have a better model, or equal authority? Now