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fer no dishonour. This is the constüni account we have of the death of Christ in the holy scriptures. Thus immediately after my text, “ Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins, &c.To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.” Thus Eph. i. 7. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins," &c.
But it was not enough that we should be redeemed from death. In order to our being heirs of God, and having an interest in the covenant of grace, it was necessary that the law as a covenant of works should be fulfilled; and so the forfeited inheritance of eternal life be redeemned. This our Saviour did by his active obedience. By his fulfilling all righteousness, a foundation was laid for God, to the eternal honour of his remunerating justice, to give grace and glory to all who believe in Christ and belong to him. Thus it is written, “ He is made unto us righteousness."
These two things are implied in the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. The merit of his obedience, and the manifestation of the inflexibility of divine vindictive justice, made by his sufferings and death. And these two things were necessary in order to our being justified, and yet the spirit of the law be maintained, and God be just.
III. I proceed to show, that notwithstanding this plenteous redemption, we are dependent on the mere mercy of God, and our justification is still freely by
- his grace.
By grace is meant undeserved favour. This is the common acceptation of the word, The bestowment of any good which might justly not be bestowed, or not inflicting any evil which might justly be inflicted, is a matter of free grace. Indeed, in the New Testament grace may mean, doing good to those who de serve ill; this being actually the case with respect to all exercises of livine goodness towards fallen man. However, if it can be shown that no man has any claim to salvation upon the footing of justice, it will be sufficient to my present purpose. The thing there. fore I now undertake to prove, and clear up, is this: That no man deserves eternal life, or even deliverance from eternal death, on account of any merit belonging to him, either personal or imputed.
The idea of personal merit is in general professedly exploded. All will allow that the best man on earth, had he no better righteousness than his own, could have no other plea than that of the publican, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.” But, on Christ's account, it has commonly been supposed, believers have a good plea even before the tribunal of divine justice. It hath been said by them of old time, and also by some modern writers of very eminent note, that through the atonement of our divine Redeemer, if we have an interest in him, we deserve freedom from all condemnation ; and that, through his all-perfect righteousness, we may demand eternal glory as our just due. Very express to this purpose is the following passage, in a late learned and most excellent author. * “ The justice of God that required man's damnation, and seemed inconsistent with his salvation, now does as much require the salvation of those that believe in Christ, as ever it required their damnation. Salvation is an absolute debt to the believer from God, so that he inay in justice demand and challenge it, not upon the account of what he himself nas done; but upon the account of what his surety has done. For Christ has satisfied justice fully for his sin; so that it is but a thing that may be challenged that God should now release the believer from punishment; it is but a piece of justice that the creditor should release the debtor, when he has fully paid the debt. And again, the believer may demand eternal life, because it has been merited by Christ, by a merit of condignity."
• President Edwards. First set of Posthumous Sermons,
Another extract I will here give you from the writings of a more ancient pious divine, containing the same sentiment, and expressed in still bolder terms. His words are as follow : “He [Christ] fully merited, by way of purchase and complete payment made unto divine justice, the removal of all that evil we had deserved, and the enjoyment of all that good we needed, and could desire ; and that by a valuable consideration tendered into the hand of divine justice in that behalf. However it is out of free mercy and rich grace that redemption is given to us ; (for its out of mercy
that Christ is given, that he gave his life, that both are bestowed upon us and not upon the world :) yet in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and the full payment he hath laid down, out of his own proper oost and charges, his own blood, it is justice it should be bestowed. and by justice it may be challenged, as that which he hath purchased in a righteous proceeding."
This he afterwards applies in a use of reproof to diffident believers, in the following words : Why? have you laid down the purchase ? Take possession then into your hand. Have you tendered the payment? Take the commodity It is your own ; nay, your due.-He that knows at what the purchase will come, and hath the sum in sight, and under his hand,
can lay it down upon the nail ; pay it, take it ; here is one and there's the other. Here's the blood of Jesus which thou art well pleased with, hast accepted of, therefore, Lord, give me my due: that comfort, that peace, that wisdom, that assurance, which I stand in need of."*
This notion of the atonement and imputed righteousness, it must be acknowledged, is frequently to be met with in our most orthodox books, though it may not be often improved just in the manner last quoted. But we may call no man master, or father. We must search the scriptures, whether those things be 80.Where do we find our infallible teacher, instructing his disciples to make such challenges from the Father, even on his account, of deliverance from all evil, and the bestowment of all good, as their just due ? Did he not direct them humbly to pray, for even a competency of outward comforts, as of God's free gift: and for the pardon of their many offences, of his mere mercy ? * Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” He encouraged them indeed to seek unto God for all needed good, in his name, with an assurance of obtaining their requests ; but he ever taught them to seek in the way of petition, not of demand. “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, in my name, he will give it you.” Did our Saviour, that we find, ever insinuate an idea that the salvation of his redeemed ones was of debt from the Father? Did he not, in the most explicit manner, acknowledge the contrary ? “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and of earth,
* Mr. Thomas Hooker, first Minister in Hartford.
because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
Do the inspired apostles, in any of their epistles or discourses, teach us that the salvation of believers, or any part of it, is of justice to the exclusion of grace? Do they not constantly express themselves most clearly in opposition to this sentiment? “ By the righteous. ness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?"
The doctrine that justification, and all subsequent, as well as antecedent blessings, are free gifts-matters of mere grace, is certainly a doctrine of scripture. But still the great question remains ; how is this doctrine self-consistent? The redemption that is in Jesus Christ implies full satisfaction for sin, and the highest possible merit of eternal life ; how then can being jus. tified through this redemption be of free grace ?What grace can there be in cancelling a debt when full payment hath been made? or in liberating a captive when an adequate ransom hath been received ? or in reconveying an alienated inheritance after anple recompence? how is this difficulty to be removed ?
I answer ; just as other difficulties are removed into which we are led by following the allusions and metaphors of scripture too closely. We are not to imagine a resemblance, in all points, between the redemption of Christ, and redemptions among mankind, any more than we are in other instances when divire things are spoken of after the manner of men : any. more