« AnteriorContinuar »
to the universe by the Son of God. It remains only, in order to a coinplete explanation of the subject, to add
(3.) That all the merit of Christ's work—all the reward which he deserved-is available to others. It is that superabounding service which has been before referred to, which can be appropriated in any way that he shall ask. Not needing it for himself, for he dwells in the glory which he had with the Father before the world was," it can be appropriated to those who are poor, and needy, and destitute of any claim of merit. The reward for all his extraordinary services may be such as he shall wish, and his heart will not ask augmented glory for himself in heaven as Divine, but will seek it in the elevation and immortal felicity of the poor and lost upon the earth for whom he died. By such a reward the universe will lose nothing, but will on every account be a gainer ; and the benevolent heart which rendered these extraordinary services may be abundantly satisfied by asking that the "lost may be saved.” It was on grounds like these that it was said in the promise, “ Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession," Psa. ii. 8. Thus too the promise was, “ He shall see of the travail of his soul"_the fruit of his wearisome sorrow" and shall be satisfied," Isa. liii. 11. Thus too, in asking in his parting prayer that his work on earth might be remenıbered, he could use with propriety the strong language, “ Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me," John xvii. 24. To secure their salvation, and the universal spread of his gospel, he can urge the extraordinary claim of the service which he has rendered by his life of spotless virtue; his pure example; his relief of human woes; and the sorrows which he voluntarily endured in order that the law of God might be maintained, and eternal justice asserted, even when salvation was offered to men.
If these views are correct, then it follows,
(1.) That we are to look nowhere else than to Christ as the meritorious cause of salvation. Had it been possible for any mere created being to have wrought out sufficient merit to save the soul, the incarnation of the Son of God, and his death on Calvary, would never have occurred. The moment it is maintained that man may merit salvation for himself, or for others, the doctrine of the atonement is denied, and the work of Christ dishonoured; and the doctrine that there are anywhere, or in any hands, garnered up the merits of holy men of which we can avail ourselves, derogates, to just the extent in which it is held, from the Great Sacrifice, and is an attack on the fundamental doctrines of the gospel. In our hopes of salvation we have but one place to which to look. It is not what our own hands have done, or what has been done by holy men of other times; it is the infinite merit of the Son of God.
(2.) The merits of the Saviour are sufficient for the salvation of all mankind. If the view which has been taken is correct, it is clear that the benefits which he has rendered to the universe, by his holy obedience and death, are commensurate with any rewards which he may receive in connexion with the salvation of nien. It pleased the Father that in hii,” in every respect, “should all fulness dwell;" and alike in his power, his benevolence, his willingness to save, and the merits of his work, there is an ample sufficiency for the wants of all mankind. Needing none of the results of his great work on earth for the promotion of his own happiness, all that he did may be made available to others, and all men may come with equal freeness and confidence. He had the promise of an ample and satisfactory reward, when it was said that he “should see of the travail of his soul, and should be satisfied ;" and on the basis of that promise he himself. uses such language as this : “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." 6 Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" and 6 whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely.” There was no original deficiency in the merits of the Saviour for human salvation, nor has his merit been exhausted by the numbers that have already been saved. Salvation in him is like a copious fountain breaking out in a desert. Such a fountain is free for all who may come. It stands in the pathway where the multitudes move, where the caravans pass along --and no one has a right to appropriate it exclusively to himself. No tribe of men may enclose it, or may obstruct its waters. One company of weary travellers has as much right there as another, and to no one particularly appertains the office of dispensing it to the fainting pilgrim. Any one who will come and kneel down there, may drink freely. And it will never be exhausted. The fountain will pour out its waters from age to age. The present company of thirsty travellers will soon pass on. They will pursue their journey, and go off to die; but there the stream will flow on, unexhausted and inexhaustible, to the end of time. So it is with the fountain of salvation. As many of the present generation as choose may come and partake, and then as many of the next and the next, and still the fountain will flow on, unexhausted and inexhaustible. It will flow just as fresh and just as full in the last generation that lives, as it did in the days of the Saviour's personal residence on earth-as it does now; and the last sinner that is to be saved will find it as pure and as life-giving to his soul as it is to ours.
(3.) Finally, let no one then say that he is so great a sinner that he cannot be saved. I know how the troubled sinner feels. I know that his guilt often presses him down as a mighty burden, and that he feels he has no claim to salvation. We do not ask you to come depending on your own merits. We believe that you never will find eternal life, if you make your own deeds your plea. But the sinner sometimes has another feeling. He not only feels that he has no merit and no claim to salvation, but he feels that his sins are so great that not even the merit of the Lord Jesus will be sufficient to cancel his guilt. Here, fellow-sinner, you err. Here you do injustice to his holy life, to his benevolent heart, to his death. That infinite merit which he secured by his work on earth, he is willing should be available for your salvation. And that is like the illimitable ocean. It is always full ; and no matter how many have sought and found salvation there, there will be countless millions more. Come, then, thou who art conscious that thou hast no merit of thine own, and be one of that blessed number who receive of his fulness, grace for grace. “ Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price," Isa. lv. 1.
IN WHAT SENSE WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE MERITS OF
Rom. ii. 24.--"Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus."
In the pro
THERE are several things affirmed in this text. One is, that the persons referred to--that is, Christians—are justified, or that there is a sense in which they are regarded as righteous. A second is, that this is done freely-owpeúv: that is, that it is not by purchase or merit on our part, but that it has on the part of God the freeness of a gift. A third is, that it is by the grace of God; that is, that it is regarded as a proof of his favour to be justified. A fourth is, that this is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, or is in virtue of his merits.
In the previous discourses, I have endeavoured to show that man cannot justify himself, and that he has no claim of merit before God; but that there is in the Lord Jesus infinite merit, of such a nature that it may be made available to us. secution of this general subject, it is proposed now to illustrate two points:—I. What is meant by justification in the gospel; and, II. In what way we are justified by the merits of Christ.
I. What is meant by justification in the gospel? My object here is to state what is the exact condition of a man who is justified. In what respect does he differ from what he was before ? What change has taken place in reference to him? How is he regarded by his Maker differently from what he was before ? What new relation does he sustain to God, to his law, and to his plan of providential dealings? These, it will be seen, are important questions, which probably every one is disposed to ask who attentively considers this subject. They are questions, also, on which serious mistakes are sometimes made, as well by those who attempt to explain the subject, as by individual Christians in reflecting on this new relation. A few remarks, showing what is not meant, and what is, will make the subject clear.
(1.) It is not meant that a man who is justified on the gospelplan is justified in a legal sense. What it is to be so justified has been before explained. It is when a man is accused of a crime, and is able to vindicate himself, either by showing that he did not do the act charged on him, or that he had a right to do it. If he can do either of these things, or, which is the same thing, if the charge is not proved against him, he is acquitted by the law, or is held to be righteous in regard to the offence charged. I have endeavoured, in the former discourses, to show that in a legal sense man cannot be justified before God; and whatever may be thought of the argument in the case, it is certain that this is not the kind of justification described in the gospel. It is needful here to remark only, that Christ did not come to aid man in justifying himself in this sense. He did not come to take the part of the sinner against God, and to enable him to make out his cause. He did not come to be his advocate in the sense of assisting him in l'ebutting the charges made against him; in showing that the charges had been falsely laid; in explaining his conduct so that it might not appear to be wrong; or in offering palliations for admitted criminality. Whatever be the nature of the work which the Lord Jesus came to perform, and lowever he may aid us in our salvation, it is all done with the concession, on his part, that we are guilty to the full extent which the law charges on us.
(2.) It is not in any proper sense a legal transaction. Justification by the law is known only in one way-by perfect and uniform obedience. The law of God, in conformity with the general principle of law, knows no other mode. It makes no provision for the pardon or justification of those who violate it, any more than a human law does. The plan of justification in the gospel is a departure from tie regular process of law; and whatever inferences may follow from this, either against the system or in favour of it, the fact is not to be denied. “But now,” says the apostle Paul, “the righteousness of God without the law is manifested;" that is, the method of justification in a way different from that known in the law, Rom. iii. 21. All attempts to show that the plan of justification in the gospel is a legal transaction, or is in accordance with legal principles, have been signal failures, and if there can be no other justification than that which is properly legal, the whole effort to be saved must be given up in despair.
(3.) Nor does it mean that the man who is justified ceases to be ill-deserving or guilty in the proper sense of the word. When a man is justified by law, he is declared to be not guilty or ill-deserving. But it is not so when a man is justified by the gospel. It is expressly said respecting this plan that God "justifies the ungodly," Rom. iv. 5 : meaning that it is admitted they are ungodly at the time, or that they are personally guilty. The act of justification