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Those who plead for the intercession of Christ in a way of authority, or demand, ground it on his sacrifice and merits; which, being of infinite worth, must, they suppose, entitle him to ask favours for his people in this manner. That God, in love to his dear Son, should reward his voluntary obedience unto death with the bestowment of eternal salvation on them that believe in bim, and even lay himself under obligation to do so, is perfectly consistent with its being of grace; but obligation of this kind furnishes no ground for demand, nor does it appear, from the scriptures, that the Majesty of heaven and earth was ever so approached. In the gospel-way of salvation, grace and justice meet, or are combined, in the same thing. Grace, through the righteousness of Jesus, reigns, not in one or two stages, but in every stage, unto eternal life: but, on the principle of salvation being an object of demand it must, in some stages of it, become a matter of mere justice : it might be grace to provide the deliverer, but there would be none in the deliverance itself.
However worthy Christ was to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing ; yet, when pleading for sinners, it required to be in the language of intercession. His worthiness is that, indeed, on account of which we are treated as if we were worthy, but it does not render us meritorious. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but it is only in its effects that it is transferred, or, indeed, transferable. The sum is, there is nothing in the atonement or justifying right
But with authority he asks,
Enthroned in glory now.
Salvation he demands;
TOPLADY. This petition, however, was offered up when our Lord was upon earth; and his intercession in heaven is called prayer: I will PRAY the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter. The verb rendered will,” says Dr. Campbell, “ is the same which, in Matt. xii. 38, and Mark x. 35, is rendered would, and ought to have been so rendered here, as it implies request, not command.
eousness of Christ that, in any wise, supercedes the necessity of our being freely forgiven, or freely blessed.
I conclude with a few reflections on the whole subject :
First: If the doctrine here stated and defended be true, there is, in the nature of sin, something much more offensive to God, than is generally supposed. Is it conceivable, that God, whose nature is love, would have cursed the work of his hands for a matter of small account? He does not delight in cursing : he afflicts not willingly, nor grieves the children of men. Yet every transgressor of his law is declared to be accursed. All the curses in the book of God stand against him : in his basket and in his store ; in the city, and in the field; in his going out, and in his coming in; and in all that he setteth his band unto. Nor is it confined to the present life, but includes everlasting punishment. Is it conceivable, that God would have made his son a sacrifice, or that the Lord of glory would bave come into the world for this purpose, if sin had not been an evil and a bitter thing? If it were no more than men in general conceive it to be, assuredly so much would not have been made of it. It is upon light thoughts of sin, that a disbelief of justification through the blood-shedding of Christ is grafted: but, let us think of it as lightly as we may, if God thinks otherwise, we shall be in the wrong ; for The judgment of God is according to truth.
Secondly : If this doctrine be true, the danger of our being lost arises, not from the magnitude of our sin, be it what it may, but from a self-righteous rejection of the only way of acceptance with God. Let the nature or degrees of sin be what they may, there is no reason, on that account, to despair of salvation. On the contrary, there is the utmost encouragement for the most guilty and unworthy to return to God by Jesus Christ. Every bar in the way of acceptance, which respected the government of God, is removed. God can be just, and yet the justifier of the believer in Jesus. More glory redounds to him, even to his justice, from salvation than from damnation. Nor is there any cause to doubt the willingness of God to show mercy. He is, indeed, unwilling to show mercy to those who seek it in any other way than Christ, or, rather, is determined they shall not find it; but every one
that seeketh in his name findeth. There is one great and overwhelming fact that answers all objections : He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us ail things? The pardon of sin, and acceptance with God, are blessings of such magnitude, that nothing in this world is to be compared with them : yet these are less than wbat has been given already; for the argument of the Apostle is from the greater to the less. If we be willing to receive Christ, and with him all things freely, there is nothing to hinder it. If the door of mercy be shut upon us, it is a self-righteous spirit that shuts it. Look at a self-justifying spirit in respect of faults committed between man and man. Persons of very ordinary capacity, in other things, will here be ingenious to admiration in framing excuses. They who seem scarcely able to speak on other subjects will be quite eloquent in defending themselves; dwelling on circumstances that make in their favour, keeping out of sight of what makes against them, alleging their good intentions, even in things which in themselves cannot be justified ; and shunning, as one would shun the road to death, a frank acknowledgement of their sin, and a humble petition for mercy. Of the same nature is a selfrighteous spirit in respect of sin committed against God; and this it is that shuts the door of mercy.
If a convict under a just sentence of death be assured, from authority, that, if he confess his guilt, and petition for mercy, he will be forgiven; and if, instead of making such confession and supplication, he either pleads not guilty, or at least insists upon his comparative innocence, or upon some circumstances which may entitle him to mercy, should we not say, of such a man, 'He shuts the door of mercy on bimself? He dies, pot on account of the magnitude of his crime, but of his pride and obstinacy.. His original crime is still, indeed, the formal cause of his punishment; but it is owing to his self-justifying spirit, that it was finally laid to his charge. And thus it is that the scriptures ascribe the loss of the soul to unbelief: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life ; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but THE WRATH OF GOD ABIDETH ON HIM. Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore. Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law : for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone.
It is remarkable, that, in drawing a conclusion from the doctrine of absolute sovereignty, in which the Apostle bad taught, that God had mercy on whom he would have mercy, he ascribes the failure of the Jews, not to their non-election, but to their unbelief.
Finally: Though justification be of grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, yet, without good works, we can give no proof of our being justified. The whole argument of the Apostle, in the sixth chapter of this Epistle, teaches, that believ. ers cannot live in sin, being dead to it, and alive to God. Those who are in Christ Jesus, to whom there is now no condemnation, are said to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. We need not wish for stronger evidenoe in favour of the doctrine of free justification, thao that which is furnished by the objections which are answered by the Apostle. No other notion of justification than that which is of grace, through Christ, would admit of such objections as be encounters : no other doctrine, therefore, can justly pretend to be apostolical.
It follows, however, that, while we contend for the doctrine, it concerns us so to walk, as not to furnish its adversaries with a handle for reproaching it as unfriendly to a life of holiness. The law of God, though not the medium of life, is, nevertheless, the rule of conduct; and though we are justified by faith alone, yet good works are necessary to prove it to be genuine. Thus it is that faith is shown, and made perfect by works. All who profess to believe the doctrine do not live under its influence; and they who do, are exposed to other influences. Whatever peace of mind, therefore, it may be adapted to produce, it furnishes no ground for carnal or presumptuous security. VOL. VII.