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ny other passages of scripture plainly prove that all good men will be finally rewarded for all their good works; but how is this consistent with the notion of believers being justified by faith alone, without the deeds of the law? Can it be supposed, that God justifies believers in this life upon a ground, which is different from that upon which he will approve, accept, and reward them, in the great day of retribution?
This objection has given much trouble to those, who hold to the scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone, through the atonement of Christ. Their com mon reply to it is, that believers will not be finally rewarded for their works, but only according to their works, for Christ's sake. But this answer does not seem to be satisfactory. The inspired writers assert, in as plain terms as language affords, that believers shall be rewarded on their own account. They never once bring into view the atonement of Christ, when they speak of the final reward of the righteous. Besides, there appears to be an absurdity in supposing, that believers shall be rewarded according to their works, for Christ's sake. For, if they were to be rewarded for Christ's sake, it seems that they should be rewarded equally, since they all have an equal interest in Christ. If they are to be rewarded for his, and not for their own sake, they should certainly be rewarded according to his, and not according to their own virtue. If his righteousness be the ground of their reward, it should be also the measure of it. There appears to be no other way, therefore, to reconcile the doctrine of the justification of believers by faith alone, with the doctrine of their being rewarded according to their works, but by admitting the leading sentiment in this discourse. If we only admit, that all God bestows upon believers, for Christ's sake, is the forgiveness of their sins; then
we can easily see how he can reward them according to their works, for their own sake. After he has for given them on Christ's account, there is nothing to prevent his rewarding them, on their own account. This may be easily illustrated by a put case. Suppose a king should offer a great reward to any one of his subjects, who should solve a certain problem in mathematicks. Suppose a mathematical professor in one of his universities, should be guilty of high treason, and condemned to die. Suppose the evening next before the day appointed for his execution, he should solve the king's problem; would he not, in that case, be entitled to the king's reward? But how can he be rewarded for his discovery, when he must die for his treason? There is but one way supposable, and that is, the king's granting him a full pardon. Let this be done, and he stands as fair to be rewarded, as if he had never offended. Just so, the holy and virtuous actions of believers are as amiable and worthy of the divine approbation, as if they had never sinned; yet they cannot be rewarded, unless they are forgiven. But after God justifies, or forgives them, on Christ's account, they stand as fair to be rewarded for all their good deeds, as if they had never sinned and forfeited the divine favour. Thus there appears to be a perfect consistency between God's justifying, that is, forgiving believers for Christ's sake, and yet rewarding them, for their own sake, according to their works.
4. If all that God bestows upon men, for Christ's sake, is forgiveness; then there is no propriety in directing sinners to go to Christ for a new heart or sanctifying grace. Christ did not die for sinners, to procure their regeneration; but to procure their pardon or justification, after they are regenerated. God grants regenerating grace to whom he pleases, as an act of
mere sovereignty, without any particular respect to the death or atonement of Christ. Sinners must be renewed, before they can believe in Christ, or partake of any benefit on his account. It is, therefore, contrary to the whole economy of redemption, to direct sinners to go to Christ for regenerating or sanctifying grace. But how often are they directed to go to Christ, and carry their unholy hearts to be sanctified, their hard hearts to be softened, their stony hearts to be taken away. This is a mode of preaching very different from that of the apostles. They preached through Christ the forgiveness of sins, not the renovation of the heart. They exhorted sinners to repent and believe, that their sins might be blotted out. There is a great propriety in directing sinners to go penitently and believingly to Christ for pardoning mercy, through whom alone they can obtain forgiveness in the sight of God. But there is a gross absurdity in directing them to go to Christ impenitently and unbelievingly, for faith and repentance. For the very meaning of going to Christ is loving, believing, or trusting in him; which cannot be done with an unholy and totally corrupt heart. This mode of preaching has a direct tendency to give sinners a wrong idea of themselves, and of the atonement of Christ, and of consequence, to destroy their souls forever.
5. If the only thing which God bestows upon sinners for Christ's sake is forgiveness; then we may easily determine what it is, that ministers have a right to offer to them in Christ's name. Some say, that ministers have no right to make any offer to sinners in Christ's name, because an offer made to them would imply a condition to be performed on their part, which would be inconsistent with the very spirit and grace of the gospel. Others say, that ministers have a right to
offer sinners a new heart, or regenerating grace, upon the condition of their asking for it in the name of Christ. Neither of these opinions is agreeable to the leading sentiment in this discourse. The truth is, ministers have a right to make an offer to all in Christ's name, of that, and only of that, which God is ready to bestow upon them for Christ's sake: and that we have seen is pardoning mercy. God is willing to pardon, forgive, or justify all penitent believing sinners, on Christ's account. It is, therefore, the indispensable duty of ministers to offer the pardoning mercy of God to all, who will believe in Christ, or cordially embrace the gospel. When Paul preached the gospel, he made this, and only this offer, to his hearers. "Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins."
Finally, we may infer from the whole tenor of this discourse, that no sinners under the light of the gospel, have any ground to despair of finding pardon and acceptance in the sight of God, on account of the greatness of their guilt. When sinners become acquainted with their own hearts, and the nature, number, and aggravations of their sins, they are apt to think that their guilt is too great to be forgiven. But since Christ has made a complete atonement for the sins of the whole world; and since God freely offers pardon to all without distinction, who repent and believe the gospel, there is nothing but impenitence and unbelief, that can shut them out of the kingdom of heaven. They are not to expect forgiveness for their own sake, but for Christ's sake; and for Christ's sake, God is as ready to forgive the greatest, as the smallest sinner. Indeed, the greatness of guilt in the truly penitent and humble, is a ground of hope, rather than a reason of despair. So David thought and said. "For thy name's sake,
O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great." Where sin abounds, there grace can much more abound. It is in vain for sinners to go about to establish their own righteousness, and to depend upon their own worthiness to recommend them to the divine favour. They must become penitent and broken hearted for sin, before they can be willing to be pardoned merely for Christ's sake. As soon as the publican sincerely cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" he went down to his house justified, pardoned, and accepted. As soon as the prodigal son repented and asked his father's forgiveness, his Father freely forgave him all his offences. These instances were designed to convince all penitent sinners of God's readiness to forgive them upon the terms of the gospel. Be it known, therefore, to all sinners, without exception, that through Christ is preached unto them the forgiveness of sins; and if they will only confess and forsake their transgressions, they shall certainly find favour in the sight of God. Amen.