IV. The doctrine of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, has been adduced as affording a stable ground on which the hope of final salvation might be safely built. This doctrine is attributed to Pythagoras; but it is likely that he derived it from the Egyptians or Indians, who professed it long before his time; and among the latter of whom it is an article of faith to the present day.
It is on the ground of this doctrine that the bramins refuse to take any animal food, or destroy any living creature; as they suppose that the soul of an ancestor or relative may be lodged in fish, fowl, or beast. This doctrine not only allows men another state of probation after this life, but many such states; for in every body, especially human, through which, according to this opinion, the soul passes, it has an opportunity of acquiring those virtues by which it may be assimilated to the Divine Being; and afterwards be absorbed into the Divine essence.
The Pharisees among the Jews were certainly not only acquainted with this doctrine, but held it as an article of faith. It appears in the question of the disciples to our Lord, John 9:2. Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Is his blindness a punishment on his parents for their sins? or did he sin in some other body, that he is punished with blindness in this? Though this doctrine is hinted at in this and some other places in the Bible; yet it is no where taught in that sacred book. It is not a doctrine of revelation; nor does it appear to have any foundation in reason. There are no facts in nature from which it can be inferred; and I am not acquainted with any arguments in philosophy, by which it can be proved to be either possible or plausible. Yet it has a greater show of simplicity and probability than the doctrines of emendatory punishments in hell; or of purging fires in an intermediate state. And were I to become a volunteer in faith, I could reconcile the metempsychosis to my reason, much sooner than I could any of the preceding systems. But this scheme also fails in several essential points: — 1. It has nothing in Scripture to support it. 2. It is not a doctrine that sound philosophy can espouse; because it is incapable of any kind of rational or metaphysical proof. 3. Could it be shown to be probable, it would not answer the end proposed; as it is absurd to suppose that a soul by becoming brutalized, could be refined and purified; or that by animating a body with bestial inclinations, it could acquire habits of virtue; or that by passing through so many mediums, it could make atonement for past transgressions; while in every state it was committing new offenses; or, that these temporary degradations could be considered an adequate price for eternal glory.
For, in this, as in all preceding cases, we are to consider that there are — 1. Crimes which require an atonement. 2. Impurities which require purgation. And, 3. A state of endless felicity which must be purchased: and it is obvious that in each of these respects this doctrine, weighed in the balances, is found wanting.
V. The fifth opinion, which is by far the most plausible, is this: That God, through His own mere benevolence, may pardon sin, purify the soul, and confer everlasting bliss; and, therefore, to the sincere inquirer in the text it may be said, God is a Being of infinite benevolence; trust in His goodness, endeavor to live soberly and virtuously for the future, and doubt not that He will take you at last to His eternal glory.
This is specious; [erroneous] and by such assertions many have been, and are still deceived. For who can doubt that He, whose name is mercy, and whose nature is love, will not, from His endless benevolence, forgive a miserable sinner; and take, when earnestly solicited, a sincere penitent to an everlasting state of blessedness? Doubts on this point have been deemed irrational and absurd; and the assertion that salvation cannot be obtained in this way, has been regarded as little less than blasphemy. To see the merits of this scheme, the reader must consider that it is not God’s benevolence or mercy in or through Christ which is here spoken of; but benevolence or mercy in itself; and acting from itself; without any consideration whatever to any thing done by the person himself; or by any other in his behalf: for this scheme supposes that God does this merely through the impulse of His own benevolence or goodness.
What God can do in the exertion of any one of His attributes, is not the question: but what He can do consistently with all the perfections of his nature. We know that He is omnipotent; and as omnipotence is unlimited, and unconfined, it can do every thing that is possible to be done: but, notwithstanding, it does not do all that is possible to be done; for it is possible, in the illimitable vortex of space, to create unnumbered worlds; but this is not done. It is possible to change, in endless variety, the worlds and beings already made, and give them new modes of existence, new qualities, other forms, habits, etc. etc. by successive infinite changes; but neither is this done. Thus we see that the existence of attribute or perfection in the Divine nature, does not necessarily imply the exertion of that attribute or perfection, in any work suitable or correspondent to the nature of that attribute.
All the Divine perfections are in perfect unity and harmony among themselves: God never acts from one of His attributes exclusively; but in the infinite unity of all His attributes. He never acts from benevolence to the exclusion of justice; nor from justice to the exclusion of mercy. Though the effect of His operations may appear to us to be in one case, the offspring of power alone; in another, of justice alone; in a third, of mercy alone; yet, in respect to the Divine nature itself; all these effects are the joint produce of all His perfections; neither of which is exerted more nor less than another. Nor can it be otherwise; nor must we by our pre-conceived opinions, or to favor our particular creed, set the attributes of God at variance among themselves; or “wound one excellence with another.” God, therefore, can do nothing by the mere exercise of His benevolence, that is not perfectly consistent with His justice and righteousness.
Should it be said that, because God is infinitely good, therefore we may expect that He will save sinners, from this consideration alone: I answer, that God is infinitely just; and therefore we may expect that He will, on that consideration, show mercy to no man! Now, the argument in the one case is precisely as good and as strong as in the other; because the justice of God that requires Him to punish sinners, is equal to His mercy, which requires Him to save them. And this argument is sufficient to show, that the exercise of the mere benevolence of God is no ground to hope that He will save sinners: for humanly speaking, considering the apostate condition of this sinful world, and the multiplied rebellions and provocations of men, it is more natural to suppose, that, if any attribute of God can be exercised exclusively of the rest, it must be, in this case, His justice; and if so, the destruction of the whole human race must be inevitable. The conclusion in one case is as warrantable and legitimate as in the other. Here, therefore, we gain no ground; but are obliged to retire from the consideration of this subject with the fullest conviction that salvation, on this hypothesis, is wholly impossible.
To the objection, that “as the king has the royal prerogative to pardon those who are convicted and condemned by the law; and that he can, without any impeachment of his character, as the fountain of justice and supreme magistrate in the land, display his royal clemency in remitting capital punishments, pardoning the guilty, and restoring him to his primitive condition, with all the rights and privileges of civil society;” it may be answered, that it is never supposed that the king acts thus from the mere impulse of his clemency; though the words de gratia nostra speciali, et ex mero motte nostro, (of our special grace, and mere motion,) be sometimes used; yet it is always understood that for every act of this kind “there are certain reasons and considerations, thereunto him inducing:” and these reasons and considerations are such as in his own opinion, and that of his counsellors, are a sufficient vindication or his conduct. Sometimes in the pardons themselves, these reasons are stated, ad instantiam dilecti et fidelis nostri A. B. pardonavimus C. D. “at the earnest entreaty of our beloved and faithful friend A. B. we have pardoned C. D.” etc. or Nos — de avisamento et assensu Dominorum Spiritualium et Temporalium, ac ad specialem requisitionem Communitatis regni nostri Angliae, in presenti Parliamento nostro existentium, pardonavimus et relaxavimus A. B. “We — by the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and at the special request of the Commons of our kingdom of England in the present Parliament assembled, have pardoned and forgiven A. B.” etc.
At other times, the king enumerates a great variety of reasons why he should do this; at first, the consideration that vengeance is the Lord’s, and he will repay. 2. A consideration of the passion of Christ for transgressors. 3. Filial piety towards the blessed virgin: and, lastly, the consideration of innumerable favors received from the hand of God; as in the case of a royal pardon granted to several traitors by Hen. VI. See Rymer, Vol. IX. page 178.
Add to all this, that such clemency is not extended, where something cannot be pleaded in arrest of justice; something that may be said to lessen the iniquity and enormity of the crime. And it may likewise be added, that no wise and prudent king ever resorts to the exercise of this prerogative of his crown, where the circumstances of the case will not justify him both in the sight of equity, and in the sight of his people. For, as Sir Henry Finch says, “The king has a prerogative in all things that are not injurious to the subject: Nihil enim aliud potest rex, nisi id solum quod de jure potest; for the king can do nothing but that which is according to law.” Finch, lib. lxxxiv. 5. Hence, “the power of pardoning offenses is entrusted to the king on a special confidence that he will spare those only, whose case, had it been foreseen, the law itself may be presumed willing to except out of its general rules; which the wisdom of man cannot make so perfect, as to suit every particular case.” 1 Shaw 284.
The king, therefore, was ever supposed to use his royal prerogative in pardoning offenses, according to the spirit and design of the law: and never to pardon him whom the law would condemn, all the circumstances of his case having been foreseen.
Now we may rest assured that God never does any thing without infinite reason and propriety; and requires nothing but through the same. His benevolence was the same under the Mosaic law that it is now, or ever can be, as He is unchangeable; yet we find that under the Mosaic law He required sacrifice, and would not remit any offense without this; and for this conduct He must have infinite reason, else he had not required it; thus we see that during that dispensation, His own infinite goodness, separately considered, was no reason why He should remit sin; else He had gratuitously done it without requiring sacrifice, which bears all the appearance of a requisition of justice, rather than a dictate of mercy.
Again, God can have no motive relative to His kingdom or throne, to forgive a transgressor; for He is infinitely independent: therefore, no reason of state can prevail here, nor even exist; and as to any thing that might be found by equity to plead in arrest or mitigation of judgment against the rigorous demands of justice, this also is impossible; for God’s justice can have no demands but what are perfectly equitable: His justice is infinite righteousness, as totally distant from rigor on the one hand, as from laxity or partiality on the other. Again, surely nothing can he alleged in extenuation of any offense committed by the creature against the Creator. Every sin against God, is committed against infinite reasons of obedience, as well as against infinite justice, and consequently can admit of no plea of extenuation. On all these considerations, there appears to be no reason why God should exercise His eternal goodness merely, in remitting sins; and without sufficient reason He will never act.
Should it he farther said that the wretched state of the sinner pleads aloud in the ears of God’s mercy, and this is a sufficient reason why this mercy should be exercised; I answer, as before, that his wicked state calls as loudly in the ears of God’s justice, that it might be exclusively exercised; and thus the hope from mercy is cut off. Besides, to make the culprit’s misery, which is the effect of his sin, the reason why God should show him mercy, is to make sin and its fruits the reason why God should thus act. And thus, that which is in eternal hostility to the nature and government of God, must be the motive why He should, in a most strange and contradictory way, exercise His benevolence to the total exclusion of His justice, righteousness, and truth! Hence it appears that no inference can be fairly drawn from the existence of eternal benevolence in God to answer the solemn enquiry in the text; nor to afford a basis on which any scheme or human salvation can be successfully built.
As these five schemes appear to embrace all that can be devised on this subject; and on examination each of them is proved to be perfectly inefficient, or inapplicable to answer the purpose for which it is produced; we may therefore, conclude that no scheme of human salvation, ever invented by man, can accomplish this end: and the question What must I do to be saved? must have remained eternally unanswered, if God in His boundless mercy, in connection with all His attributes, had not found out a plan, in which all His perfections can harmonize, and His justice appear as prominent as His mercy.
VI. I come, therefore, to the scheme proposed by the Almighty, and contained in the apostle’s answer to the terrified jailor, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
In order to see the force of the apostle’s meaning, and understand the propriety of his exhortation, we must endeavor to acquaint ourselves with the Person of whom he speaks. “Believe,” says He, “ on the Lord Jesus Christ.” From this answer, it is certain the apostle intimates that the believing, which He recommends, would bring from the Person, who is the Object of his exhortation, the salvation after which the jailor enquired. And as trusting in an unknown person for his eternal welfare would be a very blind and desperate confidence; it was necessary that he should be informed of the Author, and instructed in the principles, of this new religion, thus recommended to his notice; and, therefore, it is immediately added, ver. 32. that they spake the word of the Lord unto him, and to all that were in his house, [Greek: the doctrine of the Lord] all the teaching that concerned Jesus Christ, and the salvation which He came to dispense to mankind.
From the specimens we have of the apostle’s preaching in the book of the Acts, as well as in his Epistles, we cannot be at a loss to find what the doctrine was which he preached both to Jews and Gentiles: it was, in general, Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:16. And of this Jesus, he constantly testified, that although He was the most high and mighty of beings, yet He died for our offenses, and rose again far our justification.
But who is this Person in whom he exhorts the jailor to believe, and who is here called the Lord Jesus Christ? That there has been much controversy on the subject of this question in the Christian world, is well known; and into it I do not propose at present to enter: I shall simply quote one text from this apostle’s writings, on which I shall make a few remarks, in order to ascertain what his views of this Person really were: and the conclusions which we must necessarily draw from these views. The text is, Colossians 1:16,17. By him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible or invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Four things are here asserted:
1. That Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe; of all things visible ad invisible; of all things that had a beginning, whether they exist in time or in eternity. 2. That whatsoever was created, was created FOR himself: — that He was the sole end of His own work. 3. That He was prior to all creation; to all beings whether in the visible or invisible world. 4. That He is the Preserver and Governor of all things for by him all things consist.
Now, allowing St. Paul to have understood the terms which he used, he must have considered Jesus Christ as being truly and properly God: — 1. Creation is the proper work of an infinite, unlimited, and unoriginated Being; possessed of all perfections in their highest degrees, capable of knowing, willing, and working infinitely, unlimitedly, and without control: and as creation signifies the production of being where all was absolute non-entity; so it necessarily implies that the Creator acted of and from Himself: for, as previously to this creation, there was no being, consequently He could not be actuated by any motive, reason, or impulse, without Himself; which would argue that there was some being to produce the motive or impulse, or to give the reason. Creation, therefore, is the work of Him who is unoriginated, infinite, unlimited, and eternal: but Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things; therefore, Jesus Christ must be, according to the plain construction of the apostle’s words, truly and properly God. 2. As, previously to creation, there was no being but God; consequently, the great First Cause must, in the exertion of His creative energy, have respect to Himself alone: for He could no more have respect to that which had no existence, than He could be moved by non-existence to produce existence or creation. The Creator, therefore, must make every thing for himself.
Should it be objected, that Christ created officially, or by delegation, I answer, this is impossible; for, as creation requires absolute and unlimited power or omnipotence, there can be but one Creator, because it is impossible that there can be two or more omnipotent, infinite, or eternal beings. It is therefore evident, that creation cannot be effected officially, or by delegation for this would imply a Being conferring the office, and delegating such power; and that the being to which it was delegated, was a dependent being, consequently not unoriginated and eternal. But this, the nature of creation proves to be absurd — 1. The thing being impossible in itself; because no limited being could produce a work that necessarily requires omnipotence. 2. It is impossible, because if omnipotence be delegated, he to whom it is delegated had it not before: and He who delegates it ceases to have it, and consequently ceases to be God; and the other to whom it is delegated, becomes God; because such attributes as those with which he is supposed to be invested, are essential to the nature of God.
On this supposition God ceases to exist, though infinite and eternal; and another, not naturally infinite and eternal, becomes such; and thus an infinite and eternal Being is produced in time, and has a beginning, which is absurd. Therefore, as Christ is the Creator, He did not create by delegation, or in any official way. Again, if He had created by delegation, or officially, it would have been for that Being who gave him that office, and delegated to him the requisite power; but the text says that all things were made BY him and FOR him, which is a demonstration that the apostle understood Jesus Christ to be the end of His own work; and truly and essentially God. 3. As all creation necessarily exists in time, and had a commencement; and there was an infinite duration in which it did not exist; whatever was before or prior to that, must be no part of creation; and the Being who existed prior to creation, and before all things, all existence of every kind; must be the unoriginated and eternal God: but St. Paul says, Jesus Christ was before all things; ergo, the apostle conceived Jesus Christ to be truly and essentially God. 4. As every effect depends upon its cause, and cannot exist without it; so creation, which is an effect of the power and skill of the Creator, can only exist and be preserved by a continuance of that energy that first gave it being: hence God, as the Preserver, is as necessary to the continuance of all things, as God, as the Creator, was to their original production; but this preserving or continuing power is here attributed to Christ; for the apostle says, and by him do all things consist; for, as all being was derived from Him as its cause; so all being must subsist by him, as the effect subsists by and through its cause. This is another proof that the apostle considered Jesus Christ to be truly and properly God, as he attributes to Him the preservation of all created things, which property of preserving belongs to God alone; ergo, Jesus Christ is, according to the plain obvious meaning of every expression in this text, truly, properly, independently, and essentially, God.
Taking, therefore, the apostle as an uninspired man, giving his own view of the Author of the Christian religion; it seems, beyond all controversy, that himself believed Christ Jesus to be God: but, considering him as writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, then we have, from the plain, grammatical meaning of the words he has used, the fullest demonstration that He who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification, was God over all: and as God alone can give salvation, and God alone remit sin, hence with the strictest propriety the apostle commands the almost despairing jailor to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he should be saved.
In examining the preceding schemes of salvation, we have already seen, that God cannot act from one attribute exclusively; that He can do nothing without infinite reason; and that when He acts, it is in and through the infinite harmony of all His attributes.
In the salvation of the human soul, two attributes of God appear to be peculiarly exercised; viz. His justice and His mercy; and to human view, these attributes appear to have very opposite claims; nevertheless, in the scheme of salvation laid down in the Gospel, these claims are harmonized so, that God can be just, and yet the “justifier of him that believeth on Jesus.” In this scheme “ Mercy and Truth are met together; Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other.”
From St. Paul’s doctrine concerning Christ, as the Savior of men, we may learn what it was which he wished the jailor to believe, viz. 1. That this glorious Personage, who was the Creator, Preserver, Owner, and Governor of all things, was manifested in the flesh, and suffered, and died, to make an atonement for the sins of the world: for it is most evident from all the apostle’s writings, that he considered the shedding of Christ’s blood in his death, as a sacrificial offering for sin; and he ever attributes the redemption of the soul and the remission of sins, to the shedding of this blood. 2. That His life was offered for the life of men; and that this was a sacrifice which God Himself required; for Christ was considered “THE LAMB OF GOD which takes away the sin of the world.” 3. That all the Law and the Prophets bore testimony to this; and that He, as a sacrifice for sin, was the end of the Law, for righteousness, [Greek: for justification,] to every one that believeth.
That God manifested in the flesh is a great mystery, none can doubt; but it is what God Himself has most positively asserted, John 1:1-14, and is the grand subject of the New Testament. How this could be, we cannot tell: indeed the union of the soul with its body is not less mysterious; we can just as easily comprehend the former as the latter: and how believers can become “habitations of God through the Spirit,” is equally inscrutable to us; yet all these are facts sufficiently and unequivocally attested; and on which scarcely any rational believer, or sound Christian philosopher, entertains a doubt. These things are so; but how they are so, belongs to God alone to comprehend: and as the manner is not explained in any part of Divine Revelation, though the facts themselves are plain; yet the proof and evidences of the reasons of these facts, and the manner of their operation, lie beyond the sphere of human knowledge.
From what has been said, we derive the following particulars: — 1. That the Word, which was with God, and is God, became flesh, and tabernacled among us: this is a truth which we receive from Divine Revelation. 2. That God never does any thing that is not necessary to be done; and that He never does any thing without an infinite reason: — these are truths, also, which we learn from the perfections of the Divine Nature. 3. That God has required the incarnation, and passion of Jesus Christ and this the Sacred Scriptures abundantly declare. 4. That this would not have taken place, had it not been infinitely reasonable, and absolutely necessary, we learn from the same perfections. 5. That the sacrifice of Christ, thus required by God, was infinitely pleasing to Him, and completely proper to accomplish the end for which it was appointed: — this is evident, from its being required; for God can require and devise nothing that is not pleasing to Himself, proper in itself; and fit to accomplish the end for which it was required. 6. That, as the sacrifice of Christ was required to take away the sin of the world, we may rest assured that it was proper to accomplish that end; and that God, in the claims of His justice and mercy, is perfectly pleased with that sacrifice. 7. That, as the dignity of Jesus Christ is infinitely great and glorious; so all His acts have an infinite merit; because they are the acts of a Being absolutely perfect. 8. That, though His passion and death could take place only in the human nature which He had associated with His Divinity, for in that “dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;” yet this association stamped all the acts of that manhood with an infinite value. 9. And, as these sufferings, etc. took place in human nature, and were undergone on account of all those who were partakers of that nature, therefore they were sufficient to make atonement for the sins of the whole world; and are, to the Divine justice, infinite reasons, why it should remit the sins of those in whose behalf these sufferings, etc. were sustained. When, therefore, a sinner goes to God for mercy, he goes, not only in the name, but with the sacrifice of Christ: this he offers, by faith, to God; that is, he brings it with the fullest confidence, that it is a sufficient sacrifice and atonement for his sins; and thus he offers to Divine justice an infinite reason why his sins should be blotted out. To this faith can attach itself without wavering; and on this, God can look with infinite complacency and delight. And it follows, that the man whose business it is to make known the way of salvation to perishing mortals, can say with the utmost confidence to every genuine penitent, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and THOU shalt be saved.”
This scheme is of God’s own appointment: by it His law is magnified and made honorable; from its very nature it must be effectual to the purposes of its institution; and is liable to none of the objections with which all other schemes of salvation are encumbered. By it, the justice of God is as highly magnified as His mercy. “What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God” has done by “sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, [Greek: as a sacrifice for sin,] condemned sin in the flesh.” Romans 8:3. And thus our salvation is of grace; of the free mercy of God, in and through Christ; not of works, nor of sufferings, that any man should boast; and thus God has the glory to eternity while man enjoys the unspeakable gift, and the infinite benefits resulting from that gift.
In this scheme of redemption we see a perfect congruity between the objects of this redemption, and the redemption price which was paid down for them. The objects of it are the human race; all these had sinned and come short of the glory of God: it was right, therefore, that satisfaction should be made in that same nature, either by receiving punishment, or paying down the redemption price. Now we have already seen that, bearing the punishment due to a crime, is no atonement for that crime nor can answer any of the purposes of that original law which God gave to man in his state of innocency: and we have also seen, that no acts of delinquents, however good they may be supposed, can purchase blessings of infinite worth, or make atonement for the past. Hence, it is absolutely impossible that the human race could redeem themselves; and yet, justice and the fitness of things required that the same nature which sinned should be employed in the work of atonement. Behold, then, the wisdom and goodness of God! Christ assumes human nature: — that it might be free from blot, stain, or imperfection; it is miraculously conceived, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of a Virgin; and, that it might be capable of effectually performing every redeeming act, GOD was manifested in this flesh. Here, then, we see the same nature suffering which had sinned; and we see all these sufferings stamped with infinite merit, because of the Deity who dwelt in that suffering humanity.
Thus Christ was man, that he might suffer and die for man; and He was GOD, that the sufferings and death of the man Christ Jesus might be of infinite value! The skill, contrivance, and congruity of this system, reflect as high honor on the wisdom, as on the mercy of God!
It has been stated in the commencement of this discourse, that men, by their personal transgressions, are exposed to eternal punishment; and, in consequence of the impurity or infection of their nature, they are incapable of enjoying eternal glory; and, therefore, to be saved, must necessarily imply the being delivered from all the guilt of all sin, and from all its impurity; so that the soul shall be a proper habitation of God through the Spirit; and be capable of an eternal union with Him in the realms of glory.
How, therefore, are these purposes to be effected by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ? St. Paul says, Galatians 3:22. “The Scriptures hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Now, the promise not only comprehends the incarnation of Christ, but also the blessings to be communicated through that incarnation. These blessings may be all summed up in these three particulars; 1. Pardon of sin; 2. The gift of the Holy Spirit, for the purification of the heart; and, Eternal life, as the consequence of that pardon and purification.
Now Christ, by His sacrificial death, has purchased pardon for a condemned world, and reconciliation to God; for, “God was, in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. And we “have redemption in his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Ephesians 1:7. When reconciled to God, and thus brought nigh by the blood of Christ, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is a fruit of the death, resurrection, and ascension, of our Lord. Psalm 68:18. Ephesians 4:8. And this Spirit, which is emphatically called the HOLY Spirit, because He is not only infinitely holy in His own nature, but His grand office is to make the children of men holy, is given to true believers, not only to “testify with their spirits that they are the children of God,” Romans 8:16.; but also to purify their hearts; and thus he transfuses through their souls His own holiness and purity; so that the image of God in which they were created, and which by transgression they had lost, is now restored; and they are, by this holiness, prepared for the third benefit, the enjoyment of eternal blessedness, in perfect union with Him who is the Father and God of glory, and the Fountain of holiness.
This pardon and reconciliation, this holiness and purity, and this eternal glory, come all in consequence of the incarnation, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and mediation of Christ; and this complete restoration to the image and likeness of God is the utmost salvation the soul of man can possess; and being brought to eternal glory; the utmost beatification of which a created intelligent being is capable. And as it has been demonstrated that no scheme of salvation ever invented by man can procure or produce these blessings; and as the word of God shows that all these things are provided by the Christian system; we may confidently assert that there is no name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved: neither is there SALVATION in any other. Acts 4:12; and, with the same confidence we can say to every sinner, and especially to every genuine penitent, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The exhortation itself appears so very rational, and the basis on which it is built so very solid, that all difficulties in the way of faith or believing are completely removed; so that it seems as impossible, on this ground, not to believe, as it seemed before to credit the possibility of being saved, even through this scheme; because it has been too often recommended unaccompanied with those considerations, which prove it to be the first-born of the goodness, wisdom, justice, and mercy, of the God and Father of ALL.
On a review of the whole of the preceding argumentation, it maybe objected to this doctrine, as it was to St. Paul, its first systematic defender, “You make void the law through faith.” To which we reply as he did: God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.
Whether we understand the term law as signifying the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic institution; or the moral law which relates to the regulation of the manners or conduct of men; the doctrine of salvation by faith establishes this law. All the law of commandments, consisting of ordinances, had respect to Christ, who alone was the Object and the End of this law; and, by His passion and death, the whole of its sacrificial system, in which its essence consisted, was fulfilled and established.
As to the moral law, this also is fully established by the doctrine of salvation by faith: for, the faith essential to this doctrine works by love; and love is the principle of obedience, and he who receives salvation by faith, receives, at the same time, power from God to live in obedience to every moral precept; and such persons are emphatically termed the workmanship of Christ, created anew unto good works. They are born of God, and his seed remaineth in them; and they cannot sin because they are born of God. Being freed from the dominion, guilt, and in being of sin, they have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life; and, in a righteous life, they “show forth the virtues of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.” The very thoughts of their hearts are cleansed by the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit; so that they are enabled perfectly to love Him, and worthily to magnify His name.”
They show the work of the law written in their hearts, by living not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The very Spirit which is given them, on their believing in Christ Jesus, is the Spirit of holiness; and they can retain this Spirit no longer than they live in the spirit of obedience. He, who is saved by grace through faith, not only avoids every appearance of evil; but lives an innocent, holy, and useful life. Hypocrites, Pretenders to holiness, and Antinomians of all sorts, have no interest in this sacred doctrine: they neither know its nature, nor power; before such swine, God will not have His pearls cast; they “are of their father the devil, for his lusts they will do.” Let not the doctrine suffer on their account; they have neither lot nor part in this matter; if they hold this truth in their creed, they hold it in unrighteousness.
We have already seen that the law given to man in his state of innocence was most probably this: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” As he not only broke this law by his first transgression, but also lost the power to fulfil it; the object of God in his redemption, was not merely to provide pardon for the breach of this law, but to restore him to that Divine image which he had lost; hence the Gospel proclaims both pardon and purification; and they that believe are freely justified from all things, and have their hearts purified by faith. Thus the grand original law is once more written on their hearts by the finger of God; and they are restored both to the favor and to the image of their Maker. They love Him with all their powers; and they serve Him with all their strength. They love their neighbor as themselves, and consequently can do him no wrong. They live to get good from God, that they may do good among men. They are saved from their sins, are made partakers of the Divine nature, escape the pollutions that are in the world; and being guided by His counsel, they are at last received up into His glory.
Now, to Him, who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion an power, both now and ever. Amen.”