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of the case, as it stood between Paul and his opponents. The case was much the same between the Protestants and Papists at and for some time after the Reformation. Nor will the apostolic doctrine ever fail to be attended with a strenuous opposition and foul reproaches, so long as ignorance of its real nature, and legal pride, prevail in the hearts of men. Many, indeed, are the methods that have been devised to render the unpalatable truth more generally acceptable, and to remove the offence of the cross. But the sad effects have been, the gospel has been corrupted; the consciences of awakened sinners have been left to grope in the dark for that consolation which nothing but the unadulterated truth could give; and instead of promoting holiness, the reverse has been awfully manifest. It behoves, therefore, every lover of sacred truth to let it stand on its own basis, and not to tamper with it-to leave all its credit and all its success in the world to its own intrinsic worth-to that authority with which it is clothed, and to the management of that sovereign Being who ordained it for his own glory.
But however the doctrine of reigning grace may be despis ed by the self-sufficient, it will ever be revered and highly esteemed by the poor in spirit. For by it they are informed of an honourable way of escape from the wrath to come, which they know they have justly deserved. To the sensible sinner, therefore, it must always be a joyful sound.
And though such persons as are ignorant of its nature, tendency, and design, are always ready to imagine that it has an unfriendly aspect upon morality and good works, when preached in its glorious freeness; yet we may boldly affirm that it is the grand instrument ordained by an holy God for informing the ignorant, comforting the disconsolate, and rescuing the profligate from that worst of vassalage, the servitude of sin, and subjection to Satan. Such is the benign tendency of the glorious gospel; such is its friendly and sanctifying influence on the hearts of men.
It will, indeed, be readily acknowledged that this doctrine may be held in licentiousness by those who profess it. But then it will be as confidently maintained, that whoever holds it in unrighteousness, never received the love of that sacred truth, or experienced the power of it. For to have a bare conviction of the truth in the mind, and to experience its power on the heart, are very different things. The for
mer may produce an outward profession; the latter will elevate the affections, turn the corrupt bias of the will, and influence the whole conduct. With the steadiest persuasion, therefore, of the holy nature and tendency of the doctrine of divine grace, as it is in itself, and as it operates on the minds and manners of all those who know it in truth, I proceed to give, not a full display (that is infinitely too high for mortals,) but some brief hints concerning that grace which reigns, and of the way in which it is manifested, so as to demonstrate its power, glory, and majesty, in the salvation of sinners. And this I shall do by endeavouring to illustrate that important and charming passage recorded in Rom. v. 21. Even so might GRACE REIGN, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.' And while the author, conscious of his own insufficiency, looks up to the Spirit of Wisdom for divine illumination, that he may write with all the precision and sanctity of truth in opening the noble subject of the ensuing treatise, he would entreat the reader to peruse with candour and impartiality the contents of the following pages.
REIGN OF GRACE.
Concerning the Signification of the Term Grace. THAT we may proceed with greater clearness and certainty in our following inquiries, it is necessary to consider what is implied in the term Grace. The primary and principal sense of the word is free favour; unmerited kindness. In this sense it is used most frequently in the inspired volume. In this acceptation it is to be taken, in the words of the Holy Ghost under consideration. Grace, in the writings of Paul, stands in direct opposition to works and worthiness-all works and worthiness of every kind and every degree. This appears from the following passages. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt;-Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.-For by grace are ye saved-not of works, lest any man should boast.-Who hath saved us—not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.'*
As the word mercy, in its primary signification, has relation to some creature, either actually in a suffering state, or obnoxious to it; so grace, in its proper and strict sense, always presupposes unworthiness in its object. Hence, whenever any thing valuable is communicated, the communication of it cannot be of grace, any further than the person, on whom it is conferred, is considered as unworthy, by him who confers it.For, so far as any degree of worth appears, the province of grace ceases, and that of equity takes place.Grace and worthiness, therefore, cannot be connected in the same act, and for the same end. The one must necessarily give place to the other, according to that
* Rom. iv. 4. 16. Eph. ii. 8, 9. 2 Tim. i. 9.
very remarkable text: 'If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.'*-From the apostle's reasoning it is evident, that whatever is of works, is not of grace at all; and that whatever is of grace, is not of works in any degree. In Paul's view of things, works and grace are essentially opposite, and equally irreconcilable as light and darkness.
That grace, therefore, about which we treat, may be thus defined: It is the eternal and absolutely free favour of God, manifested in the vouchsafement of spiritual and eternal blessings to the unworthy. What those blessings are, we shall endeavour to show in the subsequent pages. Meanwhile, be it observed, that, according to this definition, the grace of God is eternal. Agreeably to the import of those reviving words, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.† It is infinitely rich, and divinely free; entirely detached from all supposition of human worth, and absolutely independent on any such thing as human goodness. This is the eternal origin, this is the glorious basis, of our salvation. Hence it proceeds and is carried on to perfection. Grace shines through the whole. For, as an elegant writer observes, it is not like a fringe of gold, bordering the garment; not like an embroidery of gold, decorating the robe; but like the mercy-seat of the ancient tabernacle, which was gold-pure gold -all gold throughout.'1
Yes, reader, this is the inexhaustible source of all those inestimable blessings which the Lord bestows on his unworthy creatures in this or a future world. It is that which, in all that he does, or ever will do for sinners, he intends to render everlastingly glorious in their eyes, and in the eyes of all holy intelligences. The indelible motto, which is inscribed by the hand of Jehovah on all the blessings of the unchangeable covenant, is: To the praise of the glory of his grace.' ||
* Rom. xi. 6.
Herv. Dial. vol. i, p. 325. 5th. edit.
+ Jer. xxxi. 3.
SIGNIFICATION OF THE TERM GRACE.
Hence we may learn, that if grace, in its own nature, and as it is exercised in our salvation, be directly opposite to all works and worthiness, then such persons are awfully deceived, who seek to join them together in the same work, and for the same end. However high their pretences may be to holiness of heart or life, it is plain from the word of God, and may in some degree appear from the nature of the thing, that they take an effectual way to ruin their souls for ever; except that very grace prevent, of which they have such false and corrupt ideas. For grace, divine grace, disdains to be helped out in the performance of that work which peculiarly belongs to itself, by the poor. imperfect performances of men. Attempts to complete what grace begins, betray our pride and offend the Lord, but cannot promote our spiritual interest. Let the reader, therefore, carefully remember that grace is either absolutely free, or it is not at all; and that he who professes to look for salvation by grace, either believes in his heart to be saved entirely by it, or he acts inconsistently in affairs of the greatest importance.
Of Grace, as it reigns in our Salvation in general.
GRACE, in our text, is compared to a Sovereign. Now a sovereign, considered as such, is invested with regal power and the highest authority. Grace, therefore, in her beneficent government, must exert and manifest power, sovereign power-must supersede the reign, and counteract the mighty and destructive operations of sin; or she cannot bring the sinner to eternal life. For the Holy Spirit has compared sin to a sovereign, whose reign terminates in death.*
* Rom. v. 21.