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the fulfilment of certain conditions in a mutual covenant. Such a reward was promised to Christ, if he fulfilled the conditions of the covenant of redemption, and such a reward he has partly received, and will fully receive at the consummation of all things. But this is no legal reward. The notion of a legal favor or reward is altogether unfounded and visionary. No reward is an expression of distributive justice, but only an expression of discretionary goodness. This our Saviour beautifully illustrated by the conduct of a master, and the conduct of a householder. “Which of you,” he says to his hearers, “ having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat ? And will not rather say unto him, make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant, because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: We have done that which was our duty to do.” Here Christ discards the idea of a legal reward in the most pointed terms. And in the parable of the householder, he represents a reward as being, in its own nature, perfectly gratuitous. The parable is this.
. 6 An householder went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle — and said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right I will give you." “ Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle.” “ He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive." At even, his steward calls the laborers, and gives them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. “And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst not thou agree with me for a penny ? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am
good ? So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many
; be called, but few chosen.” There can be no doubt that this parable was designed to illustrate the absolute sovereignty of God, in bestowing both temporal and eternal rewards upon mankind. If pardon and justification both signify the same as forgiveness, and if believers, after they are forgiven, stand as fair to be rewarded as if they were innocent,' then we may safely conclude that believers are forgiven solely through the atonement of Christ, but are rewarded merely in consequence of his atonement. Though a multitude of texts have been heaped together to prove the contrary of this conclusion, yet they are all perverted and misapplied; being construed upon the false principle that believers are rewarded through the medium of the legal reward of Christ's righteousness. The objector appears to be more of a superficial and sophistical, than of a metaphysical reasoner, in arguing from a false principle against plain and undeniable facts.
1. If God the Father forgives or justifies believers solely through the redemption or atonement of Christ; then it is easy to see how all the blessings which God has ever bestowed, or ever will bestow upon all intelligent creatures, have flowed and will flow, directly or indirectly, through the medium of Christ. God the Father created all things according to his eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. His plan of redemption comprised all creatures, all objects, and all events. If he had not formed this great and comprehensive design of redeeming some of the fallen race of man, he would not have created the heavens and the earth, nor given existence to any rational or irrational beings. The whole work of creation was designed to be subordinate and subservient to the great work of redemption. And he concerted this plan in order to lay a foundation to bestow the largest and richest favors upon the whole universe, that infinite wisdom, power and goodness could bestow. Accordingly, Christ is represented as the medium of the most perfect union and blessedness of all holy beings in heaven and earth. This the apostle teaches, both in his epistle to the Ephesians, and in that to the Colossians. To the Ephesians he writes, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will
, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him.” Again he says in the same epistle, “ Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And to the Colossians he says, “ Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son; in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins; who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature; for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and for him.” These passages clearly show, that the work of redemption comprises all the works of creation, as means or subordinate causes of carrying into effect the supreme purpose of God to save sinners through the death and mediation of Christ. Though God the Father intended to forgive or justify believers, only on account of the atoning blood of Christ ; yet he meant that all his intelligent creatures should partake more or less of the happy consequences of his mediatorial work, which will augment the blessedness of heaven
There is an important sense, therefore, in which it is true, that all the temporal, spiritual, and eternal good that mankind have enjoyed and will enjoy, comes to them through the medium of Christ.
2. It appears from what has been said, why God cannot forgive or justify sinners before they become believers. While the elect continue in the state of nature, they continue in the state of condemnation. God cannot become reconciled to them, before they become reconciled to him, and to the way of
salvation through the blood of Christ. For before they do this, they have no interest in his atonement. And it is no more consistent with the vindictive justice of God to pardon sinners before they believe, than to pardon them without an atonement. Hence we find, that love, repentance, and faith, are made the conditions of forgiveness throughout the New Testament. To deny all conditions of justification is implicitly to deny that believers are justified entirely through the atonement of Christ. The foundation of justification is totally distinct from the conditions of it, and is laid in Christ. 66 Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It is the part of sinners not to lay the foundation, but only to perform the conditions of justification. These are not arbitrary, but necessary conditions. They must exercise love, repentance, and faith, in order to become united to Christ, and to receive pardoning mercy through his atonement. God can grant them every other favor but forgiveness, before they embrace the gospel and become believers. This he cannot grant nor they receive, before they become reconciled to God, renounce all self righteousness, and are willing to be forgiven through the atonement of Christ alone.
3. It appears from what has been said, that both Antinomians and Arminians have run into equally great, though very different errors, respecting the true scriptural doctrine of justification. The Antinomians have supposed that believers are justified through the atonement of Christ, by faith alone, without the deeds of the law. From these just and scriptural premises, they have drawn a very unjust and unscriptural conclusion. They suppose that believers are under no obligation to perform good works, because Christ has both suffered and obeyed in their room and stead; so that their justification and salvation do not in the least depend upon any thing they can do, either before or after they are justified. They hold that neither good
. works nor bad works can promote or prevent the salvation of believers. They build this false and dangerous opinion upon what the scripture says concerning justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law. They suppose that justification implies not only forgiveness, but a title to eternal life; and that there is no difference between God's forgiving and rewarding believers. This is a great mistake; for though God forgives believers solely on account of the atonement of Christ, yet he does not reward them for his obedience, but for their own. But the Arminians deny the distinction between God's forgiving and rewarding believers, which leads them into an error concerning justification, that is directly opposite to the Antinomian error. They suppose that God justifies, as well as rewards believers, for their good works. They allege in favor of their opinion, the parable of the talents; the numerous promises which God has given, that he will reward good men for all their good deeds; and the representation which Christ has given of the final rewards of the righteous at the last day.
Now, it is easy to see that both Arminians and Antinomians are really erroneous in their respective opinions concerning the doctrine of justification, and it is no less easy to perceive what has led them into their different errors. They have both overlooked the plain and important distinction between the ground of God's forgiving believers, and the ground of his rewarding them. He forgives them solely on the ground of Christ's atonement, but he rewards them solely on the ground of their own good works. It is impossible to maintain the true scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone, and at the same time, steer clear of the Antinomian error on the one hand, and the Arminian error on the other, without making this distinction. Those who have denied that believers are rewarded for their own good works, have often attempted it, but without success. Some have said that though believers are forgiven or justified solely on the ground of Christ's atonement, yet they are rewarded solely on the ground of his imputed righteousness or obedience. And it has been said of late, that though believers are forgiven or justified solely on the ground of Christ's atonement, yet they are rewarded solely on the ground of his legal, not imputed, righteousness or obedience. But this, and every other way, which has been devised to reconcile the justification of believers wholly on account of the atonement of Christ, with the numerous and express promises of God, to reward them entirely on account of their own obedience or good works, is clogged with perplexing difficulties. For if they are rewarded as well as pardoned for Christ's sake, why are they not to be rewarded equally ? Or if they are to be rewarded for Christ's sake, why are they not promised to be rewarded for Christ's sake, instead of their own, as they are promised to be pardoned for Christ's sake, and not for their own? Or if they are to be rewarded for Christ's sake, why are they not required to perform certain conditions in order to be rewarded for Christ's sake, as well as required to perform certain conditions in order to be pardoned for Christ's sake? These questions cannot be answered, on the supposition that they are to be rewarded, as well as pardoned, on Christ's account. But the doctrine of forgiveness and the doctrine of rewards, as stated in the New Testament, are perfectly consistent and plainly intelligible, though Antinomians and Arminians, and others, have blended, confused and perplexed them.