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and helpless before God, and in an entire renunciation of all self-dependance, to seek righteousness and strength in another, is, to spirits naturally so arrogant as ours, a hard saying scarcely to be borne: To give up our own wills to be checked and controled in all things by the divine authority, to engage in an habitual course of self-denial, to Crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts*, is hard indeed. No wonder therefore, if we are taught in scripture to acknowledge the agency and interposition of a divine hand, when this is wrought in us; when we not only feel some tendency of soul towards it, some transient and ineffectual purpose, but when a permanent principle of this kind is implanted in our hearts, so that our lives are governed by it. Hence the scripture speaks of those to whom It is given, not merely to hear of Christ, but to believe in him+; and pathetically describes The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, as an energy of mighty power, like that which, wrought in Christ, when God raised him from the dead‡: When he lay a cold corpse in the grave, his blood drained out, and his side pierced to the very heart, think of that mighty energy which then re-animated your Lord; and you see an emblem of that which raises us to a divine life, and enables us to act that life in faith on a crucified and a risen Redeemer. Thus as it is said in one place, that God gave to the Gentiles repentance unto life, it is also said in another, that he Purified their hearts by faith; plainly implying, that there is in both an interposition of divine power. Now certainly, if he implants this principle in our hearts, that salvation which he has connected with it must be entirely of grace: Which will further appear, if we consider, 4. That "it is God who carries on this blessed work, and maintains this divine principle."
It is Through much tribulation and danger, through much opposition and difficulty, that the christian must enter into the kingdom of God ¶. When he begins to set sail heaven-ward, the prince of the power of the air endeavours to raise those storms, which shall, if possible, oblige him to Make shipwreck of faith, and of a good conscience**: Nevertheless he must Endure to the end, or he cannot be saved ++. And how is he enabled thus to persevere ? Surely it is through the continued communications of divine grace to him; or as the apostle with
admirable propriety expresses it, He Obtains mercy of the Lord to be faithful*. It is by this means that he obtains the victory: And while he overcomes the world, and conquers the remaining corruptions of his heart, he must still humbly own, that in the one and the other instance, he is More than a conqueror through him that loved him+. In short, he will be ready to acknowledge, that Having obtained help of God, he continues to this day; and will mark out, as it were, the several stages of his journey, by erecting at the end of each, A stone of remembrance and thankfulness, and saying, hitherto the Lord has helped me§.
And now, my friends, you may see the evidence of this great truth, that by grace we are saved through faith, appearing in its complete light: And permit me once more to repeat the summary of the whole argument, that it may be more deeply, and more distinctly, impressed upon your minds.— How much soever faith may be supposed to be our own unassisted act, so far as the act of any creature is unassisted, it could make no atonement to the injured justice of God,—and much less confer any obligation upon him to bestow on us eternal life; nor had there been any room to mention it at all in the whole affair, if God had not contrived such a method of salvation, and done that to effect it, which none but himself could do: -Much more will it appear to be of grace, when we add, that faith itself is the gift of God,-as he reveals the great objects of it; as he brings the mind to attend to them;-as he conquers the natural aversion of the heart to the gospel method of salvation;--and carries on the work of faith in the soul, till it ends in complete salvation. It now remains,
IV. That I conclude with some obvious, but useful, inferences from the whole.
And here now, if it is by grace that we are saved through faith, then certainly we may infer from hence, that we have no reason to glory,-but should be thankful for the grace by which we are saved;-that we must wholly be without excuse, if we neglect this method of salvation;-that we should labour therefore that our faith may be increased and strengthened ;that even the weakest have encouragement to seek, and to hope for salvation in this way :-and finally, that we should take great heed that we do not bring a reproach upon this doctrine by an irregular and licentious behaviour.
1. If we are saved by grace through faith, then it is certain that 66 we have no reason to glory."
If it were possible a person should perform the most complete and perfect obedience, and so were justified by works, it is but only in a limited sense he would have any thing of which to glory before God; since even he must acknowledge, that it is God who works in him, both to will, and to do, and by his gracious influences renders him capable of both: However he, in such a case, may in some measure glory, that he has done his best, and that his behaviour has all that merit, or all that excellence, which the behaviour of a creature in his circumstances could possibly have. But when the ungodly are justified, when we who have been transgressors in ten thousand aggravated instances, are saved by grace through faith, of what shall we glory? Shall any of us glory that we are saved by another, when even our receiving that other is what God hath brought us to by the renewing and sanctifying influences of his grace upon our hearts? When we had corrupted and undone ourselves, and were under a sentence of condemnation and wrath, we have embraced the gospel, that is, we have accepted the riches of the divine liberality and goodness exhibited in it: But shall a beggar glory in having stretched out his hand to receive an alms? Especially if it were given him by a generous and skilful physician, who before he bestowed that alms, had cured him of a disease, by which that very hand, now stretched out to him, had been benumbed and disabled? Let us rather enter into that just and amiable reasoning of the apostle Paul, and say as he does, Of him, i. e. of God, are we in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: Let no flesh therefore glory in his presence; but He that glories let him glory in the Lord. And this leads me to infer,
2. That we have a great deal of reason to "be thankful, and to adore the grace by which we are saved.”
If it is God who commandeth the light to shine out of darkness, that has shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ §, let us bless The Lord who has shewed us this light, and with a cheerful gratitude let us bind the sacrifice as it were with cords unto the horns of the altar. Let us Bless the God and Father
Phil. ii. 13. Rom. iv. 5. 1 Cor. i. 29–31. § 2 Cor. iv, 6. Psal. cxviii, 27.
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort *, Who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ; according as he has chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love +. I would call upon you this day to do it ; to join with me, and with each other, in it. Praise the Lord, all ye his saints; be thankful unto him, and bless his name! Praise him, who graciously purposed your salvation, and Predestinated you to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself §! Praise him, who rendered this purpose effectual, and wrought it out by a high hand and outstretched arm! Praise him, who gave his own Son to be a sacrifice for you, And to bring in everlasting righteousness ||! Praise him, who sent his Spirit, as the great agent in his Son's kingdom, to bring the hearts of sinners to a subjection to the gospel, and gently to captivate them to the obedience of faith! Praise him, who has revealed this glorious gospel to you, at so great a distance of time and place! Praise him, who has impressed your hearts with a disposition to regard it! Praise him, who has subdued your prejudices against it! Praise him, who having implanted faith in your souls, continues even to this day to animate and support it!-Let all ranks and ages join in this cheerful song! Praise ye the Lord, you that are rich in temporal possessions, if you have been enabled to renounce the world as your portion, and to triumph over it by this divine principle! Praise him, you that are poor in this world, if you are Rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love him ¶! Praise him, you that are cheerful and vigorous, and capable of rendering him that active service which may speak the gratitude of your hearts towards him! Praise him, you that are weak and languishing, since his Strength is made perfect in your weakness **, and your infirmities illustrate the force of that faith, which he has wrought in you! Praise him, ye youths, who with this guide and companion of your way, are setting forth in the journey of life with courage, and lifting up your feet in his paths! Praise him, ye aged saints, who stand on the borders of eternity, and live in a daily expectation that you shall Receive the end of your faith, in the salvation of your souls ++.-Begin that work now, in which you are all so soon to join! Break forth into one joyful anthem, and sing, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy
*2 Cor. i. 3.
+ Eph. i. 3, 4.
Psal. c. 4. cxlviii. 14. § Eph. i. 5.
name be all the praise of that salvation, which thou hast already begun in our souls, and which thy faithfulness has engaged to complete." Again,
3 If we are saved by grace through faith, then certainly "they who neglect such a method of salvation, are highly inexcusable."
To be not only delivered from everlasting condemnation and ruin, but raised to the presence and enjoyment of God above, is so glorious an exchange, so important a prize, that it would be worth while to secure it at any imaginable rate, whatever was to be resigned, whatever to be endured, for it. But it is certain, that the more gracious the proposal and offer is, the baser and more criminal will the refusal be. Had some hard matter been proposed, should we not have done it? And how much rather, when the divine oracle only says, Wash and be clean +? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. To you, my brethren, even to all that hear me this day, is the word of this salvation sent, and brought §. Let me address you, therefore, in the language of the apostle, and say, take heed That you receive not the grace of God in vain : And let me add, behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation . Dare not to trifle in a business of such consequence; lest if you should neglect it even till tomorrow, there should be no room to repeat that declaration then. That God should ever offer salvation at all, and especially in such a method, is astonishing condescension and love: And every instance in which that offer is renewed, is a renewed miracle of mercy. But the day of the divine patience has its limits; and if you trifle beyond those limits, and Know not that the goodness and long-suffering of God lead to repentance, this injured mercy will plead against you, and it will appear you have treasured up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ¶.
4. If we are saved through faith, then surely "we should la bour, that this blessed principle may be strengthened in our souls."
The greater evidence we have of the sincerity of our faith, the greater assurance may we justly have of our interest in the gospel salvation; and the stronger our faith is, the clearer will
*Psal. cxv. 1. § Acts xiii. 26.
+2 Kings v. 13.
#2 Cor. vi. 1, 2.
Acts xvi. 31.