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in that rubbish, and the unhappy wretch whom you have rescued had a genius which takes its place among the brightest constellations of talent, and its light beans afar on the nations. Yet how will he feel in these circumstances? Will he feel that this is to be traced to his own merit, and that the wealth or honour which may gather around him is the measure of his desert ? He will feel that but for you he would even now have been occupying that wretched hovel, or more likely would have been in the drunkard's grave. Whatever he has of moral worth, influence, or reputation, is to be traced to you. Thus it is with the Christian ; and feeling this, he cannot regard himself as so profitable to God as to merit the rewards of heaven.
(3.) If it were conceded that the rewards of heaven were a proper recompense for the religious services which man can render to God, yet they would not be the suitable reward of those who are commonly expecting heaven on the ground of their own merits. The truly religious man, as we have seen, expects heaven, not on the ground of his own deserts, but through the grace of God. We may therefore lay the case of such out of the question in the inquiry whether men can deserve salvation by their own merits. The other class, embracing the mass of mankind, expect to be saved because they deserve to be saved, or, which amounts to the same thing, because they do not deserve to be damned. The ground of their claim is not that they are religious --for that they do not profess to be ; and not that they render such service to the cause of God that the rewards of heaven would be an equivalent for their services for they do not profess to be engaged in his service at all. What, then, is it? It is, that they are honest, true, faithful to their contracts, honourable in their dealings, disposed to aid others in their distress, and courteous in their treatment of their fellow-men. One who leads such a life, they suppose, does not deserve to be cast off and made miserable for ever; or, what is the same thing, they suppose that in all justice and equity he ought to be made happy in a future statem that is, that he may be saved on the ground of his own merits. What is now the value of this claim? With the principles before us which have been laid down, let us endeavour to answer this question. The inquiry is, Is heaven the appropriate reward of such a life? An illustration or two will make this plainer than abstract reasoning would do. You hire a man as a day-labourer. He comes to you at night for his pay. If he has been industrious according to the contract, and faithful to your interests, the case is a plain one, and you do not hesitate. But you put the interrogatory to him, “ Did you go into my vineyard, and spend the day in cultivating it for me, and in a careful regard to my interests ?” "No," is the honest reply; “but I have spent the day diligently. I have not been an idle man. I have attended to the cultivation of my own vineyard, and been faithful to my family, and I may appeal to all my neighbours for my general courtesy and honesty of life.” If you now say that this is a case which is so palpably absurd that it never could occur, it may be replied, that it has been made absurd on purpose. Such a man would be only speaking out in the honesty of his heart what is the secret claim of every one who is not engaged in the service of God, and who yet feels that he ought to be saved. He does not even profess to be attending to the interests of his Creator, or engaged in his service.--You send a clerk to some distant town to collect your debts. He returns. " Have you been diligent and successful in the duty assigned you ?” “I was diligent. I travelled much. In all my journey I injured no one; I treated no one roughly; I addressed no one in any other manner than in the language required in refined life. I also acquired valuable lands for myself, and have a prospect of rising to affluence and respectability.” “ But what has this to do with the reward which would be appropriate for one employed in my service ?” “Nothing," a child would reply. But has it not just as much to do with it as the claim of a man who does not profess to serve his Maker, and who lives only to regard his own interests, has to do with the rewards of heaven ?-You have a servant or an apprentice, whom
have a right to punish if he does wrong. You enjoin on him a specific duty-a duty of much importance to yourself, and one that is clearly reasonable in its nature. time you call him to account. The duty is not discharged; the service is not rendered. He pleads, however, that he does not deserve punishment. He has been steadily engaged all the while; he has been entirely honest and upright in his dealings with his fellow-servants ; he has treated them with perfect courtesy, and has even acquired an enviable reputation for amiableness of manners; nay, he has more than once relieved a fellowservant that was poor and sick and dying. All this is very well, it would be said in reply, but how can this constitute a claim for the particular reward which was offered ? How can it show that he who has wholly omitted a known and specific duty does not deserve the punishment which was threatened? With what face could such a servant claim the reward due to faithful service in the cause of his master?
These plain and obvious principles are as applicable to religion as they are to the common transactions of life.' God requires of
At the proper us a specific service. It is not general and indefinite, or left to our choice as to what it shall be. It is, that we shall serve him ; that we shall obey his commands; that we shall seek his glory; that we shall love him, honour him, and treat him as our God; that we shall be penitent for our past sins, and be willing to accept his favour on his own terms; that we shall be serious, religious, prayerful, believing, holy. If this is done, he promises heaven. But it is not done. Those now referred to do not even lay claim to any of these things. One of the last things that they would claim, or that their friends would think of claiming for them, is, that they are religious, or that they act habitually from reference to the will of their Creator. They claim to be moral, honest, true, urbane, kind; but how can this lay the foundation of a claim to the appropriate rewards of piety? How in these things, when they do not even intend it, can they render any service to God which would be the proper basis of his rewarding them in heaven? No more than the day-labourer, the clerk, and the servant, carefully attentive to their own interests, but wholly regardless of the interests of their employer, can expect a reward.
Having thus stated these arguments to show that man cannot by any services which he can render make himself so profitable to God as to merit salvation, or be of so much advantage to His cause as to render an equivalent for the rewards of heaven, it remains only to remark,
(4.) That if he cannot do this by a life of obedient holiness, he cannot by any offering which he has it in his power to make. The reasons for this are so obvious as to make it needless to dwell on them. One is, that no offering which we can make can be of any advantage or profit to God. He is made no richer by any oblation of silver and gold which we can bring him; he has no unsatisfied wants which can be supplied by our ministrations ? "If I were hungry,” says he, “I would not tell thee; for the world is mine and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats ?” Psa. I. 12, 13. Another reason is, that all that we possess is his, and we can give to him nothing to which he has not already a prior and supreme right. Every beast of the forest,” says he, “is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine,” Psa. 1. 10, 11. Another reason is, that nothing that we could offer would be a compensation for our past offences, or repair the evils which we have done by our neglect of duty and by our open sins.
66 Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Micah vi. 6,7. And how shall a man profit God; how lay him under obligation to save him; how render such service as to be an equivalent for heaven? Shall he flagellate his own body? Yet How will that profit God? Shall he gird sackcloth on his loins, or wear an irritating haircloth garment to torment himself? Yet how will that benefit his Maker ? Shall he go on a pilgrimage to some distant shrine? How will his Maker be advantaged by that? Shall he shut himself up in a gloomy cell, and withdraw from the light of the sun and the moon and the stars, and from the society of living men, and doom himself to wretchedness and woe? But will his God be made more rich or more happy by his austerities? Shall he seize upon the objects dearest to his heart, and destroy before bloody altars the lives which his Creator has given? But will it profit God if we kill his own creatures, and pour out their blood before him? If none of these things will do, with what plea of merit can we come before him? How can we render such service as to have a claim on heaven?
In view of this train of thought, two additional observations may be made :
(1.) We see the falsehood of that system of religion which speaks of human merit, of the treasured and garnered merits of the saints of former times. If the principles now suggested are correct, how can there have been any such extraordinary and superabounding merit in past times that it may be available now for men? If there were such treasured merit left by the saints of other days, it might still be a question what claim of right any man has now to distribute it to others; but any such claim of superabounding merit is alike at variance with the Bible and with every just principle of reason. Yet this doctrine is one of the principal supports of the Papacy, and is one of the dogmas that demand credence in our land and of this generation. It will be shown, hereafter, that in Him who died to atone for our sins there is ample merit to supply all our deficiencies, and that the results of his atonement may be ours. The claim that superabounding merit has been wrought out by the saints, derogates from and almost annihilates this; and the claim that his merits and theirs are lodged in human hands, to be dispensed or withheld at pleasure by a priesthood, is one of the chief supports of the most appalling and terrific systems of spiritual despotism that have ever tyrannized
Thanks to Him who has bought us our pardon-the
disposal of the merits of his sacrifice is committed to no human hands, and can be interrupted by no human power!
(2.) This subject is one of direct practical interest to all. If we are ever saved, there will be a good reason for it; for nothing is merely arbitrary in the matter of salvation. There are but two ways possible of being saved--the one by our own merits, the other by the merits of another. If in regard to the latter there are no merits of the “saints” on which we can rely; no merits of parents or pious friends of which we can avail ourselves, then the merits of the Lord Jesus constitute the only foreign dependence which we can have. The whole question is then just this :-Do we rely on our own merits for salvation, or the merits of the Redeemer? Here the world is divided; the Christian, on the one side—the Pagan, the Mohammedan, the infidel, the moralist, on the other. This single question separates the inhabitants of the globe into two great parties never to be united. But if the principles in this discourse are correct, the question may he put to every man-to his reason, his conscience, his heart-whether he has any merit on which he can rely as a ground of salvation. Has he done anything for which the equivalent is to be found in the rewards of an eternal heaven? Has he so deserved the rewards of life, has he rendered such service to his Maker, that he can stand at the final bar, where we all must soon stand, and claim an admission to heaven? Can he demand it as a right, that heaven's portal should be thrown open to him, and he be welcomed there? If so, on what ground? What is the basis of the claim? Religion? The unconverted sinner makes no pretension to it. Repentance ? He has never shed a tear over his sins. The love of God? He has no spark of love to that glorious Being in his heart. Sacrifices in his service ? He has made none. An honest endeavour to do his will? He has never made this the rule of his life. What is the service which he has rendered? What has been the life which he has led ? What is the state of his account with God? What is the condition of his heart? Oh, let him look at the broken law of God, His violated sabbaths, His rejected gospel, His grieved Spirit, His neglected word; let him look at his own life of thoughtlessness, selfishness, and vanity, his neglect of prayer, his pride and opposition to God; let him look at the sins of childhood and the worldliness and wickedness of riper years ; let him look at the times when God has called and he las refused, when the Saviour has stretched out his hands and he would not regard it; let him look at his broken vows and promises--the times when lle resolved that he would be a Christian if he reached a certain period of life, the solemn covenant which