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man, converse with men, and instruct them by his heavenly doctrine; should taste deeply of all their sorrows and infirmities (sin only excepted) ; should even pour out his blood unto death, and by that blood should wash away the stain of guilt; and, on the condition of faith in his name, operating, as of course it must do, by a sincere obedience to his authority, should admit us, once more, to the possession of eternal happiness ; of which, finally, we have a lively and certain hope, in that he who had laid down his life, had power to take it again, as was declared to all the world by his resurrection from the dead a.
In this awfully stupendous manner (at which reason stands aghast, and faith herself is half confounded) was the Grace of God to man, at length, manifested : and thus it is, when we come a little to unfold the record, or testimony of the Gospel, that God hath given to us eternal life; and that this life is in his Son.
Curious men have perplexed themselves and others by inquiring into the nature of this astonishing scheme, and have seemed half inclined not to accept so great salvation, till they could reconcile it to their ideas of philosophy. Hence those endless altercations concerning merit, satisfaction, imputed sin, and vicarious punishment; in which it is hard to say, whether more subtlety has been shewn, or more perverseness; more ingenuity, or presumption. If most of these questions were well examined, it would appear, perhaps, that they are mere verbal disputes, and as frivolous as they are contentious. But, be the difference between the parties nominal or real, this we are sure of, without taking part in the controversy, that the scriptures speak of the death of Christ, as a ransom for manyb;: the price of our redemption"; a sacrifoce for usd; a propitiation for the sins of the whole worlde : that they speak of Christ himself, as dying for usf, as bearing our sins in his own body on the trees; as suffering for sins, the just for the unjusth; as tasting death for every mani; as giving himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to Godk; as justifying us by his blood"; and redeeming us by the price of itm : with a multitude of other passages to the same purpose. Now let men use what art they will in torturing such expressions as these, they will hardly prevent our seeing what the plain doctrine of scripture is, “ That it pleased God to give us eternal life only in his Son ; and in his Son only as suffering and dying for us."
a 1 Pet. i. 3.
Matth. XX. 28.
ci Cor. vi. 20. d Heb. ix, 26.
e 1 John ii. 2. fi Thess. v. 10.
g 1 Pet. ii. 24. h 1 Pet. üj. 18.
i Heb. ii. 9. * Eph. v. 2.
9. m 1 Pet. i. 18, 19, 1 Cor, vị 2ọ.
1 Rom. v.
But in this consideration the whole mystery consists ; how to be fully cleared up to our reason, men may dispute if they will, and they will dispute the rather, - because the subject is out of their sphere, and beyond their comprehension. Whether God could accept such a sacrifice for sin as the death of his own Son, many have presumptuously asked. Whether he could not have given life to man, in another way, some have more modestly doubted: but the issue of all this arrogant or needless curiosity, is but the discovery of their own weakness, on the one hand, and the con fession of this stupendous truth, on the other ; That God did not see fit to bestow eternal salvation on mankind, but in his own appointed way, through Christ Jesus.
In this momentous truth, then, enough for us to know, let us humbly acquiesce, and leave to others the vanity of disputing the grounds of it.
But, though the reasons of this dispensation be inscrutable to us, the measure of its influencé, some think, they have the means to discover. For it seems to follow from St. Paul's assertion, that, as in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made aliven; and from the idea given us of the Redeemer, as of the lamb slain from the foundation of the worldo '; that the benefits of Christ's death extend to all men, of all times, and are, in the proper sense of the word, universal. Only it is to be remembered, that, if all men have an interest in Christ, whether they know it or not, we who do know what our interest in him is, have infinitely the advantage of them, and are inexcusable, if we reject it.
Thus far then we go upon safe grounds, and affirm without hesitation, that God, through his mercies in Christ Jesus, is the Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believeP.
Another consideration, and of the utmost moment, is yet behind. Though eternal life be now again bestowed on mankind, this gift is not one and the same thing to all, but is
• Rev. xiii. 8.
n 1.Cor. xv. 22. P 1 Tim. iv. 10.
differently modified according to the different conduct of those to whom it is given. All shall live; but whether to happiness, or misery, and to what degree of either, will depend on the use of those advantages, whether of nature or grace, which every one enjoys. Not, that any degree of eternal happiness is, or can be strictly due to any man, but that the several degrees of it will be proportioned to our respective moral and religious qualifications. To have done otherwise, would have been to confound the order of things, and to appoint a scheme of salvation, which must utterly extinguish all virtuous industry among men. Hence, we are told, that the righteous shall shine out in different degrees of happiness, as one star differeth from another star in glory ?.
In like manner, they who shall be found worthy, not of happiness, but misery, will be sentenced to several allotments of it, by the same equal rule.
It may seem, perhaps, that, as our best works could not merit eternal life in happiness, so our worst cannot deserve eternal life in misery. But let us take care how we push our
al Cor. xy. 41.