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One would imagine that the gospel of reigning grace, the tidings of a free Saviour and full salvation, would be embraced with the utmost readiness by a sinner thus convinced. One would suppose, that so soon as he heard the divine report, he could not forbear crying out in a transport of joy,' This is the Saviour I want! This salvation is every way suitable to my condition, perfect in itself, and free for the unworthy sinner. Wonderful truth! Astonishing grace! What could I have, what can I desire more? Here I will rest; in this I will glory.' But, alas! this is not always the case. Observation and experience prove, that the awakened sinner is frequently backward, exceedingly backward, to receive comfort from the glorious gospel. This arises, not from any defect in the grace it reveals, or the salvation it brings; not because the sinner is under any necessity, or in any distress, for which it has not provided complete relief; but because he does not behold the glory of that grace which reigns triumphant in it, and the design of God in making such a provision. He wants to find himself some way distinguished, as a proper object of mercy, by holy tempers and sanctified affections. This is a bar to his comfort; this is his grand embarrassment. In other words, he is ready to fear that he is not sufficiently humbled under a sense of his sins-that he has not a suitable abhorrence of them or that he has not those fervent breathings after Christ and holiness which he ought to have, before he can be warranted to look for salvation with a
over the bottomless pit. Nor have we any business to inquire into the reasons of this difference in the divine conduct. As the Lord saves whom he will, so he may bring them to the knowledge of his salvation in what way and by what means he pleases. If any one doubt whether his conviction be genuine, let him remember that the questions he should ask himself, in order to attain satisfaction, are not, How long did I lie under them? To what a degree of terror did they proceed? By what means were they wrought?" But, 'Does it stand true in my conscience, that I have sinned and deserve to perish? Is it a fact that nothing but grace, the grace of God can relieve me?" These are the questions which demand his notice, and a suitable answer solves the query.
well-grounded hope of success. Thus the sinner, even when his conscience is oppressed with guilt, and earnestly desirous of salvation, opposes the true grace of God, by hankering after some worthiness of his own. Whence it appears, that the genuine self-denial of the gospel is the hardest sacrifice to human pride.
But grace reigns. The spirit of truth, a principal part of whose business it is, in the economy of salvation, to testify of Christ, and of sovereign mercy by him, still calls the poor alarmed wretch by the gospel. Evidencing to his conscience, not only the all-sufficiency, but also the absolute freeness, of the glorious Redeemer. Manifesting, that there are no good qualities to be obtained; no righteous acts to be performed, either to gain an interest in him, or qualify for him. Showing yet further, that convictions of sin, and a sense of want, are not to be accounted conditions of our acceptance with Christ and salvation by him; nor ought they to be esteemed previously necessary to our believing in him on any other account, than as a sensibility of our spiritual poverty and wretchedness renders a supply in a way of grace truly welcome. These are needful, not as inclining God to give, but as disposing us to receive. A sinner will neither seek nor accept the great atonement, till sensible that divine wrath and the damnation of hell are what he deserves, and that, without the propitiation of the adorable Jesus, he must unavoidably perish.
I take it for granted, that we must come to Christ
*Here it should be well observed, that deep distress, arising from the fear of hell, is not required of any in order to make peace with God, for such distress does not belong to the precepts of the law, but to its curse. Terrifying apprehensions of eternal punishment are no part of that which is required of sinners, but of what is inflicted on them. There is, indeed, an evangelical sorrow for sin, which is our duty, which is commanded, and has promises annexed to it. But legal terrors, proceeding from the curse of the law, not from its precept,-expressing a sense of danger from the law, rather than of having done evil against the law, are no marks of love to God, or of an holy temper. An awakened sinner, therefore, wishing for distresses of this kind, is a person seeking the misery of unbelief, that he may obtain a permission to believe.-See Dr. Owen on the Holy Spirit, p. 306.
under that character by which he calls us. Now it is evident he invites us by the name of sinners. As sinners, therefore, miserable, ruined sinners, we must come to him for life and salvation. The gospel of peace is preached to such, and them the gospel calls; even such as are not conscious that they are the subjects of the least good disposition. Yes, disconsolate sinner, be it known to you, be it never forgotten by you, that the gospel, with all its blessings, that Christ with all his fulness, are a glorious provision made by the great Sovereign, and by grace as reigning only for the guilty and wretched. For such as have nothing of their own on which to rely, and utterly despair of ever being able to do any thing for that purpose. The undertaking of Jesus Christ was intended for the relief of such as are ungodly, altogether miserable, and without hope in themselves. Such was the beneficent design of God, and such is the salutary genius of his gospel. Delightful, ravishing truth! enough, one would think, to make the brow of melancholy wear a smile. Let me indulge the pleasing thought, and once more express the charming idea. The blessings of grace were never designed to distinguish the worthy, or to reward merit; but to relieve the wretched, and save the desperate. These-hear and rejoice! these are the patentees in the heavenly grant. Yea, they have an exclusive right. For, as to all those who imagine themselves to be the better sort of people; who depend on their own duties, and plead their own worthiness; who are not willing to stand on a level with publicans and harlots; Christ has nothing to do with them, nor the gospel any thing to say to them.* As they are too proud to live upon alms, or to be entirely beholden to sovereign grace for all their salvation; so they must not take it amiss if they have not the least assistance from that quarter. They appeal to the law, and by it they must stand or fall.
* Matt. ix. 12, 13. Luke xviii. 9. 14. Matt. xxi. 31. Rom. iii. 9. 20.
He, therefore, who believes in Christ, relies on him as the 'justifier of the ungodly.' Nor does he consider himself in any other light, or as bearing any other character, in that very moment when he first believes on him; if he did, he could not believe on him as the justifier of such. The only encouragement a sinner has to apply to Christ for all that he wants, consists not in a consciousness of being possessed of any pious disposition, or having come up to terms, performed any conditions, or being anyway different from what he was before; but in that grace which reigns and is proclaimed in the gospel. Yes; the free declarations of the gospel concerning the Saviour contain a sufficient warrant for the vilest sinner, in the most desperate circumstances, to look for relief at the hand of Jesus Christ. Such as, ' I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth. Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out. Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.'
In these, as in many other similar passages of holy writ, the sinner is encouraged to look to the Lord Redeemer, with assurance that, in so doing, he shall not be disappointed-to look to Him, not as one whose character and state are different from those of the world in common; but as a guilty creature, and .ready to perish. These free declarations are founded on the glorious undertaking and finished work of Christ, who suffered for the unjust;' who died for men while sinners and ungodly, and who reconciled them to God when they were enemies.' So that 'all things are ready' for the sinner's enjoyment and happiness; here in a life of faith and holiness; hereafter in the fruition of glory. These divine testimonies are only a specimen of what might be produced on the occasion; and they, together with others of the same import, are the proper ground of our
faith in Christ, or dependence on him for everlasting salvation.
Hence it appears, that the sinner who is effectually called of God, is not led by the Holy Spirit to believe in a dying Redeemer, under a persuasion of his being now distinguished from his ungodly neighbours and former self; or, in other words, of his being a much better man than he was before, in virtue of any good habits or qualities; nor does his comfort arise from any such supposed alteration. No; the divine Spirit does not bear witness to our spirits concerning our own inherent excellencies, or inform us how much we are superior to others; but concerning the all-sufficiency, suitableness, and absolute freeness of Christ, and of all the blessings included in his mediation. The basis of a believer's hope, and the source of his spiritual joy, are-not a consciousness that he has done something towards his own salvation, call it believing, or what you will-but the truth he believes, and the Saviour on whom he relies: which truth, possessed in the heart, is also the spring of his holiness.
A sinner being brought, under the influences of the blessed Spirit, and by the instrumentality of the gospel, to renounce every false confidence and legal hope, and, as to acceptance with the Most High, to pour contempt, on every righteousness which is not in all respects perfect, leans on Christ, as the rock of ages; cleaves to him, as the only hope of the guilty; and rejoices in him, as able to save to the uttermost' all, without exception, who came to God by him.' Now a new scene of things opens to his view. beholds, with amazement, how God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. The just God and the Saviour appear in the same point of light. Now the everlasting covenant unveils its infinite stores to his ravished sight, and the gospel pours its healing balm into his wounded conscience. Jesus Christ and his righteousness are now his only hope. He finds a sufficiency in the glorious Immanuel, not only to supply all his wants, but to make him infinitely rich and