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Oh, if you
he made when he was sick, that if God would spare him he would be His;-let him look at these things, and then see whether he has a claim to an admission to heaven, and whether he can be received there because he has been profitable to God. saw these things aright, you would hail with transports of unspeakable joy the announcement which we make to you, that there is One whose merits can cancel all your sins, and give you a title to salvation. Then, oh! with what joy would you, as thousands have done before you, cast away the “ rag's of your own righteousness,” that you might be clothed in the robe that is " made white in the blood of the Lamb !"
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE MERITS OF CHRIST.
JOHN i. 16.--" And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace."
THAT is, all we who are Christians, or who are Christ's real followers. In the fourteenth verse of this chapter it is said of the Lord Jesus, that he was “full of grace and truth.” In the Epistle to the Colossians (ch. i. 19), the apostle Paul says of him that "it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell :" that is, with particular reference to the salvation of men, for he immediately adds (ver. 20), “ And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself.” These expressions all refer to an abundunce or fulness of grace in the Lord Jesus as sufficient for all that would be saved by him, or such as would supply all their want of personal merit when they appear before God; and as there is in us a total want of merit towards God, the sense of the whole must be, that we can be saved only by the merits of Christ. I propose to endeavour to explain what that merit is.
In the previous discourses on the subject of justification, I have endeavoured to demonstrate that man cannot justify hiniself before God. In the last discourse I aimed to prove that man has no merit of his own on which he can rely for salvation, or that he can do nothing which will make eternal life a fair equivalent or compensation for his service, or which will bring the Almighty under an obligation of justice or equity to save him. I propose now to show that there is One who has ample merit which can supply all our defect, and which may be so available to us as to secure our salvation.
There are few phrases in more common use than the merits of Christ; few declarations that are repeated inore frequently by ministers of the gospel and others, than that men can be saved only by His merits ; and few things that are inore frequently uttered in prayer than that we plead His merits only for our salvation. The frequency with which this expression occurs, and the bearing which it has on the general subject now under consideration, makes it proper that we should attempt an explanation of it. Common as the use of it is, a formal attempt
to explain it is not often made, and it is to be feared that it is often used without an intelligent apprehension of its meaning:
The phrase does not occur in the Bible, but the idea which is intended to be conveyed by it exists there as a vital and central thought in the whole plan of justification by faith. In the prosecution of this subject it will be proper, I. To explain what is meant when we speak of the merits of Christ; and, II. To show in what his merits consisted.
I. What is meant by the merits of Christ ? The general idea is expressed in the text:-- And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” There was an abundance or fulness in him of which we might partake ; that is, there was a completeness-apwua--which in our conscious want or deficiency, could meet all our necessities, so that we could receive “grace” corresponding with that which was in him. When we speak of the merits of Christ in connexion with our salvation, it is meant that there was an amount of merit in his services which he did not need for any personal advantage or for himself; which had been secured with a special purpose to supply the great and undisputed deficiency of man; and which can be made available to us, on certain conditions, and in the way which God has revealed as the ground of our acceptance. The main object is not now to prove that there are such merits treasured up in. Christ, but to explain the language. Whether the doctrine be true, and if there is such merit in him how it may be available to us, will be the topics of future inquiry.
(1.) In the explanation of the subject I would then advert, first, to the doctrine respecting merit laid down in the last dis
A man merits a leward when he has earned or deserved it; when he has fully complied with the terms of the bargain ; when his services are worth as much to you as you pay him. We may recall the illustrations of the day-labourer, the soldier, the physician, in each of which cases it was said that the service rendered was fully equal in value to the pay which was given. The service measures the pay; the one is equal, or is supposed to be equal, to the other. To withhold the compensation is injustice, or is palpably wrong. This is the ordinary and proper sense in which the word merit is used among men, and it was in this sense that I endeavoured to show that man cannot merit salvation.
(2.) I observe, secondly, that cases may arise where much more may be done for you than one who is in your employ is strictly bound to perform. A reference to some of these cases will enable us to explain the subject before us.
(a) You have a man' in your employ engaged under the ordinary conditions of service as a labourer, or clerk. Without any special agreement with him, or without anything being said about it in your contract, he is to do what is commonly understood to be required in that condition of life; what is usually done by those in the same employment. He is to be at his post at a certain hour in the morning, and to remain until a certain hour in the evening, and is to be faithful to his employer's interests, and diligent in the prosecution of the business entrusted to himn. On these conditions, without anything more specific, the contract is usually made with clerks, and bookkeepers, and day-labourers, and journeymen-mechanics, and lawyers, and ministers of the gospel. It is not deemed necessary to be any more specific than that they shall be faithful to the interests of their employers, and render the amount of service which is usually expected in their occupation. But it is very possible to conceive that one may go much beyond that. He may be engaged at a much earlier hour than is usual, and may prolong his toils far into the shades of night. He may evince uncommon tact and sagacity in the management of affairs entrusted to him, and such may be his skill and success, that his services may have a value far beyond anything which you had anticipated in the contract. You would not feel yourself at liberty to turn him off or to complain if he had not done this. You would not feel that he has a legal claim on you for anything more thanı you promised to pay him, for you did not contract with him for this special service; but you would be likely to feel that he has a claim of honour on you, and if, when he leaves your service, you know of any situation of special advantage that can be obtained, you would feel yourself under a sort of moral obligation to endeavour to secure it for him. Here is something merited, since more has been done than he was bound to do.
(6) A second case :--A man in your employ may be placed in circumstances where he may have an opportunity of doing something for your special advantage, though of a nature which was not distinctly specified in your contract with him. He may have great sagacity, and may watch the changes and chances in the market, and enable you to make important and advantageous purchases; he may be in possession of intelligence l'especting coming changes in the markets, which may be of great service to you; or he may, by uncommon tact in business, be enabled to save you from inextricable bankruptcy. Now if he is a mere bookkeeper, or salesman, you could hardly claim as a matter of right that he should bring his sagacity in these things into your
service; perhaps you would hardly blame him if he took advantage of it to advance his own interests, provided he did not injure you. His specific business is to keep your books correctly, or to sell your goods in the manner in which you shall direct him, and his sagacity and tact in these departments you have a right to require should be employed in your service. contract and your claim extend no farther. Yet if he chooses to go beyond this, and actually, while he incurs 110 possible risk, is the means of great advantage to you, as an honourable man you would feel that he deserred an appropriate acknowledgment. Many instances of this kind might be referred to, but these will illustrate the point under consideration.
(3.) It is necessary to make but one other remark in order to see the bearing of these illustrations on the case before us. Reference has been made to "abounding merit;" to cases in which service is rendered beyond what was in the contract; to that which was wholly voluntary, and yet where there would be a claim in honour at least for a suitable acknowledgment, or where an honourable man would feel himself under obligation to bestow a reward. The remark which is now to be made is, that he who has this extra claim on you may do what he pleases with the reward which you may feel willing to give. It may not be needful for him, or he may not choose to make use of it for himself; but he may be disposed to make another use of it which will develope some trait of mind that will by no means diminish your respect for his character. Suppose some such cases as the following in the application of the instances referred to :--that he should ask you to aid a younger brother of his who was just beginning business, and who was greatly in need of credit; or, in the event of his death, to show kindness to his aged father or mother; or to appropriate the gratuity which you designed for him to some young man who was struggling to obtain an education. Or suppose that the faithful servant should ask you to release from bondage his wife or child, in consideration of the extra and quite equivalent services which he had rendered to you. Or to take another case :Suppose a friend of his had, in an unhappy moment, defrauded you, might he not ask you to " set that to his account?" In either case, would you not feel that what he asked he had a right to ask? And would you not be the more deeply affected with respect for his character by this request? He did not perform the extra service for reward. He did not expect it. He did not mention it to you.
He did not claim any reward. But when you felt that he had a claim to it, and