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ence to the ever-merciful God. That forgiveness which is with our Sovereign, and the manifestation of it, far from being an incentive to vice, cause them to fear and reverence, to love and adore him.* The state of believers, as not being under the law, is considered and improved to the same excellent purpose. • Sin shall not have dominion over you.' On what is this positive assertion grounded? Is it because they are bound to obedience, on pain of incurring the curse of a righteous law, or on the dreadful peril of suffering eternal ruin? Far from it. The reason assigned, which ought ever to be remembered, is, ' For ye are not under the law, but under grace.'+ Here grace is described as having dominion. Here grace reigns. This consideration the apostle applies as a powerful motive to holy obedience.
The filial relation in which believers stand to God, and their hope of the eternal inheritance, constitute another motive to answer the same important end.‡ The inspired writers frequently take notice of that sublime relation to remind them of the dignity and privileges attending it, and to excite them to a suitable conduct. And surely the children of God should act from nobler principles, and have more elevated views, than the slaves of sensuality, and the servants of sin. The consideration of their heavenly birth, their honourable character, and infinite inheritance, must animate them to walk as becomes the citizens of the new Jerusalem, and the expectants of an eternal crown. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, together with the safety and comfort of believers which in various respects arise from it, are considered and urged for their advancement in holiness.§ The absolute necessity of his abiding presence with the people of God is no small inducement not to grieve the, sacred Inhabitant by a loose and careless conversation.
The promises, which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus-those exceeding great and precious promises, + Rom. vi. 14. Eph. v. 1. Philip. ii. 15. § 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. Eph. iv. 30.
* Psalm cxxx. 4.
which relate both to this world and that which is to come, are improved as a further motive to induce the children of God to press forward after all holiness of heart and life. The apostle Peter, as before observed, considering their tendency and design, scruples not to affirm that it is by them, by their influences on the soul, that we are made partakers of a divine nature. † These glorious promises are great as the heart of man can wish or conceive-I was ready to say, great as Jehovah himself can make.
Once more: The consideration of those chastisements with which the Lord, as a father, corrects his children when remiss in their duty, and negligent in the practice of good works, is another motive to stir them up to follow after holiness, and to make them watchful against the incursions of temptation.‡ I said, with which the Lord, as a father, chastises-not punishes. For it is the province and the business of a tender father to correct his children when disobedient, but of a judge and an executioner to pronounce a person worthy of punishment, and to inflict it; which, in the proper sense of punishment, makes no part of the divine conduct towards the heirs of glory. And when their heavenly Father does chastise them, which is not merely to demonstrate his sovereignty, but to correct for faults committed, he does it, not in wrath, but in love. Yea, he does it because he loves them, in order to make them partakers of his holiness,' and that they may not be condemned with the world.'§ This being the design of God in chastising his people, and the severest chastisement being a fruit of his paternal care; though the means be grievous, yet they are salutary, and the end is glorious. Correct them he will, but not disinherit them. He will make them smart for their folly, but he hates putting away; || according to that declaration, 'If his,' the Messiah's, 'children, forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;
* 2 Pet. i. 4. 2 Cor. vii. 1. Psalm lxxxix. 30, 31, 32.
Mal. ii. 16.
† 2 Pet. i. 4.
Heb. xii. 5-11. 1 Cor. xi. 32.
if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him or his seed, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.'* As the Lord corrects his children when disobedient, so he reveals more of his love to them as they walk steadily in the paths of duty. Those who maintain the closest communion with him, and most punctually obey his commands, have reason to expect richer manifestations of his love, to live more under the smiles of his countenance, and consequently to be more joyful in their pilgrimage here on earth, having larger foretastes of future glory; while such of his people as backslide more frequently, and are not so careful to perform his will, come oftener under his correcting hand, and their comfortable communion with him is more interrupted.
This motive, it must be confessed, is of a less generous kind than those before mentioned. Notwithstanding, in the present imperfect state, it has its use. Nor is it destitute of the love of God. For though the redeemed of the Lord fear the frowns of their Father's face, and the lashes of his correcting rod, yet they do not live under the slavish apprehensions of eternal wrath, nor are they kept in the way of duty by the tormenting fears of that awful punishment. And though they may justly expect more copious manifestations of their Father's love, as they walk in obedience to him, yet they do not obey for life, or to gain a right of inheritance. No; they are already heirs. They are not only servants, but sons; and are possessed of a filial affection for him who has begotten them to a lively hope. Though the motive, therefore, be not so free, and pure, and noble, as those before mentioned, which are taken from blessings already conferred, yet it savours of the love of God, and has respect to his glory. The obedience also performed
*Psalm lxxxix. 30-33,
† John xiv. 21. 23.
under its influence is of a kind very different from all the duties of the most zealous moralist who is unacquainted with salvation by grace. It must be granted, notwithstanding, that the more pure our regards are to the glory of God, the more perfect is our obedience, and the more acceptable in the sight of our heavenly Father. Yet far be it that we should for a moment indulge the thought of our duties, when performed to the utmost of our ability, being accepted of God for their own sake! The acceptance which they meet at the hand of God, is not because they are perfect, or we worthy; but in consequence of our union with Christ, and the justification of our persons in him. These duties, being the fruits of holiness, are produced by virtue of a vital union with him, are considered as evidences of that union, and accepted through him as our great High-priest before the throne-accepted, not to the justification of our persons, but as a testimony of our love and gratitude, and of our concern for the glory of God.
That these are all the motives to obedience with which the scriptures furnish believers, and which they ought to keep in their view, I am far from supposing; but they, I conceive, are some of the principal. If, therefore, these have their proper influence upon them, they will be neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
It is evident from the foregoing paragraphs, that sanctification is an important part of that salvation and blessedness which are promised to the people of God, and provided for them in Christ. Be careful then, reader, to look upon it, and seek after it, under its true character. Be diligent in the pursuit of holiness, not as the condition of your justification, but as the brightest ornament of a rational nature, as the image of the blessed God, and as that by which you bring the highest honour to his name. In this the perfection of your intellectual powers consists, and glory is its genuine result. The children of God should always remember, that though holiness and good works give them no title
to life, (for that is the prerogative-royal of divine grace through the Mediator's work,) yet an higher degree of holiness is to be sought with all assiduity; it being their proper business, as well as their great blessing, while they walk in Christ, the way, by holiness and good works, to evidence that they are in him, and therefore free from all condemnation.
It also appears that as no obedience is acceptable to God, but that which proceeds from a principle of love to his name, and is done with a view to his glory; and as no man is possessed of that heavenly principle, or capable of acting for that exalted end, but the true believer and justified person; so it must be very preposterous,and entirely unavailing, to exhort sinners to do this or the other good work in order to gain an interest in Christ, or as a preparatory qualification for justification by him. For an interest in Christ and the covenant is not acquired by the sinner, but freely given of God, and is a primary fruit of eternal, distinguishing love. Nor are the best works of an unbeliever any other than splendid faults; neither good in themselves, nor acceptable to God. Till we receive the atonement which is by Christ, and that forgiveness which is with God, all our duties spring from a slavish principle, and are referred to a selfish end. Without this, says Dr. Owen, 'all that you do, however it may please your minds or ease your consciences, is not at all accepted with God. You run, it may be, earnestly, but you run out of the way; you strive, but not lawfully, and shall never receive the crown. True gospel obedience is the fruit of the faith of forgiveness. Whatever you do without it, is but the building without a foundation, a castle in the air. You may see the order of gospel obedience, Eph. ii. 7-10. The foundation must be laid in grace--riches of grace by Christ, in the free pardon and forgiveness of sin. From hence must the works of obedience proceed, if you would have them to be of God's appointment, or find acceptance with hin.'*
* Dr. Owen on the 130th Psalm, p. 266, 267.