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nour of divine grace, in respect to its glorious freeness; and a bold opposition to the sovereignty of God. So now I consider it, and as such I here renounce it.
However the doctrine of Reigning Grace may be decried as licentious, it is that very truth which God in all ages has delighted to honour,-which the Divine Spirit has owned for the information and comfort, for the holiness and happiness of sinful men. Were I not fully persuaded of this, rather than appear as an advocate for it, I would condemn my tongue to everlasting silence, and my pen to perpetual rest.
I have nothing further to add by way of preface, but my ardent prayers that the divine blessing may attend every perusal of the following chapters, so as to make the performance really useful, and cause it to answer some valuable purposes for the great Redeemer's glory.
THE gospel of reigning grace, being a doctrine truly divine, has ever been the object of the world's contempt. It was of old a stumbling-block to the self-righteous Jew, and foolishness to the philosophic Greek. Paul, who was a resolute asserter of the honours of grace, and indefatigable in preaching Christ, found it so by repeated experience; and that not only among the illiterate and profane, but also among the learned and devout. Yea, he had frequent occasion to observe that the religious devotees of his age were the first in opposing the doctrine he preached, and the most hardened enemies against the truth of God. The polite, the learned, the religious, all agreed to load both his character and doctrine with the foulest reproaches. Nor was this treatment peculiar to Paul, but common to all his contemporaries who espoused the same glorious cause, and laboured in the same beneficent work. The doctrine they preached was charged with licentiousness. Their enemies boldly affirmed that their language was, Let us do evil, that good may come. Thus were their character and labours impeached: that, as hateful to God; these, as destructive to man.
But what was the ground of this impious charge? Were they loose in their morals, or scandalous in their lives? No such thing. Had they not as much regard for practical religion and true morality as any of their objectors? More, far more, than they all. Did they never exhort to good works, as necessary to answer any valuable end in the Christian life? They often pressed the performance of them, as absolutely necessary to answer various important purposes, both in the sight of God and man. What, then, could be the reason of so horrid a charge? The reason was, their doctrine was not in the least adapted to gratify the pride of man. They taught that without the atonement made on the cross,
and the grace revealed in it, the state of the best men would have been absolutely desperate-desperate as that of the devils, and those who are already damned. And as the apostles were free to declare that the state of the most respectable part of mankind was evil-dreadfully evil-evil as to those things for the sake of which they most highly esteemed themselves, so they boldly proclaimed a perfect Saviour and a finished salvation to the most worthless and vile.
These primitive teachers and infallible guides were not in the least acquainted with those terms and conditions, those pre-requisites and qualifications, the performing and attaining of which are accounted so necessary, by many in our own times, in order to acceptance with God. They knew but of one way in which a sinner might be accepted of God, and justified before him; and that was entirely of grace, through the perfect work of Christ alone. The way of justification which they taught, is absolutely pure and unmixed. In their doctrine on this important subject, grace does not only appear; it shines, reigns, triumphs; it is the only thing. There is not the least tincture of those notions which foster pride, or cherish self-esteem, discernible in it. All those fine distinctions, invented by the proud philosopher or self-righteous moralist, which tend in any degree to support the opinion of human worthiness, and darken our views of divine grace, are by them entirely set aside and totally annihilated. The most shining deeds and valuable qualities that can be found among men, though highly useful and truly excellent when set in their proper places, and referred to suitable ends, are, as to the grand article of justification, treated as nonentities. In this respect, the
most zealous professor, with all his laboured performances, stands on a level with the most profane. The apostolic truth, addressing all to whom it comes, as guilty, condemned, perishing wretches, leaves no room for preference or boasting in any; that so the whole glory of our salvation may be secured to that grace which is infinitely rich and absolutely free.
At this the devout Pharisee and decent moralist are highly offended. Such doctrines being advanced, they think it incumbent upon them to stand up in defence of what they call an holy life, and to support the sinking credit of good works, as having a considerable efficacy in procuring our
acceptance with God. This many persons frequently do more by talking about their necessity, than by performing them. Now they think it their duty to rail at the preacher as an avowed enemy to holiness; nor will they spare to give him the honourable title of a friend of publicans and sinners.' Now innumerable slanders are cast on the doctrine of grace as being licentious, and on the ministers of it as opening the flood-gates of iniquity. For they suppose that every thing bad may be justly expected from men who openly disavow all dependence on their own duties, and whose hope of eternal happiness arises, not from the services which they perform, but from the grace which the gospel reveals-not from the worth which they possess, but from the work which Christ has wrought. Thus they despise the gospel, under the fair pretence of more than common concern for the interests of holiness.
Nor is this the only offence which the gospel gives. For as it is entirely inconsistent with the natural notions of men concerning acceptance with God, and contrary to every scheme of salvation which human reason suggests; and as it will admit of no copartner in relieving a distressed conscience, or in bringing deliverance to a guilty soul, but leaves every one who slights it, and seeks for assistance from any other quarter, to perish under an everlasting curse; so the pride of the self-sufficient kindles into resentment against it, as a most uncharitable doctrine, and quite unsociable. Nor can the faithful dispensers of sacred truth fail to share in the honour of these reproaches. For while they dare to affirm that this very gospel, so hateful to the sons of pride, exhibits the only way of a sinner's access to his offended Sovereign, and that all who oppose it, and all who embrace its counterfeit, are left in the hands of divine justice without a Mediator; they are sure to be accounted persons of contracted minds, and very far from a liberal way of thinking. They are deemed the dupes of bigotry, and little better than the enemies of mankind. He, indeed, who pretends to be a friend to revealed truth, but is cool and indifferent to its honour and interest, whose extensive charity is such, that he can allow them who widely differ from him in the capital articles of the Christian faith, to be safe in their own way, may enjoy his peculiar sentiments without much fear of disturbance. But though such conduct may be applauded,
under a false notion of Christian candour and a catholic spirit; though it may be the way to maintain a friendly intercourse among multitudes whose leading sentiments are widely different; yet it will be deemed by the God of truth as deserving no better name than a joint opposition to the spirit and design of his gospel. For such a timid and lukewarm profession of truth will be found, in the end, no other than a wicked conspiracy against both God and man. Those however, who love the truth, will boldly declare against all its counterfeits, and every deviation from it; and whatever may be the consequence, they will say with him of old, Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed.'
Thus the genuine gospel will always appear like an insult on the taste of the public. Wherever it comes, if it be not received, it awakens disgust and provokes abhorrence. Nor can it be otherwise; for its principal design is, to mortify the pride of man, and display the glory of grace-to throw all human excellence down to the dust, and to elevate, even to thrones of glory, the needy and wretched-to show that every thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of Christ, is an abomination in the sight of God; and that he who is despised of men, and abhorred by the nations, is Jehovah's eternal delight.* The ancient gospel is an unceremonious thing. It pays no respect to the academic, because of his profound learning; nor to the moralist, on account of his upright conduct. It has not the least regard to the courtier, because of his pompous honours; nor to the devotee, for the sake of his zeal or his righteousness. No; the potent prince and the abject slave, the wise philosopher and the ignorant rustic, the virtuous lady and the infamous prostitute, stand on the same level in its comprehensive view. Its business is only with the worthless and miserable, whoever they be. If these be relieved, its end is gained; if these be made happy, its Author is glorified, whatever may become of the rest. Towards these it constantly wears the most friendly aspect, and rejoices to do them good. But the self-sufficient of every rank are treated by it with the utmost reserve, and beheld with a steady contempt. The hungry it filleth with good things, but the rich it sendeth empty away.' These considerations may serve to show us the true state
*Isa. xlix. 7. Matt. iii. 17.