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If the divine law requires that we love God with all our hearts, and yield a perfect obedience to his will ; and if our original natural obligations to love and obey him are so great, that according to reason and justice, we deserve eternal wrath for the least defect; and if we measure ourselves by this rule, and judge of our character and desert by this standard, instead of finding any thing about ourselves to recommend us to God, we shall feel that we are infinitely worthy of the divine wiath. And the more penitent any saint in this world is, the more sensible he will be that this is the truth. And accordingly, Saint Paul, who was doubtless the most humble, penitent, broken-hearted saint that ever lived, viewing things in this light, felt, atter all his attainments, that he stood in as absolute need of Christ and free grace, as any other singer in the world. I through the law am deud to the law. I count all things but loss, that I win Christ, and be found in hini. And in this view he strenuously asserted, that by the deeds of the law no flesh could be justified in the sight of God. Not one more than another ; not himself, more than the vilest wretch on earth.
Christ, who never went astray, is not the person spoken of. (Letters on Theron, p. 55. 117.)
But from Mr. Sandeman's manner of reasoning, (p. 88.) it is easy to foresee that he will object, that is repentance is before forgiveness, no child of A tam can be forgiven. For according to him, this sets pardon “ as high above the reach of one whose conscience is awake, as the perfections required by the divine law itself. It must cost me as much labour to come within the reach of it, as to conform my heart to the law of God. Of all corruptions of the Gospel, this is the most dangerous." However, he may be told, that dangerous as he thinks it is, the Gospel was thus corrupted, if he will call it by that name, by Christ and his apostles, who always taught, that repentance is before forgiveness, as will be proved in the sequel. And if he is for an easier way to heaven than Christ and his apostles taught, it is no good sign. Rather, it is the grand characteristic of a popular preacher, how odious soever the name may sound in his ears. So our Saviour declares, Mat. vii. 13, 14, 15.
If he should further object, that the plain design of the prophet Ezekiel was to convince the self-righteous Jews in Babylon, that if they perished in their sins, the fault would be wholly in them; I readily grant it. And one way he takes, to work this conviction in them, is to call upon them to repent, asserting that there is a suire connexion between repentance and forgiveness. Which was no new doctrine, as appears from Lev. xxvi. 40. 42. 1 Kings viii. 46. 50. Prov. Xxviii. 18. Isai. Iv. 7. Jer. iv. 4. The only question is, whether the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was mistaken, or not, id affirming, that under the VOL. 11.
Wherefore, if saving faith implies in its nature, repentance and conversion, and contains the seeds of every Christian grace ; yet it can have no influence into our justification in the sight of God, as our virtue. Because considered as such, it is of no weight to counterbalance our blame, if our blame be infinitely great; no weight at all. The least sand in an hour glass, would do more towards counterbalancing the whole material system, all put into one scale, than the faith, repentance, and all the other graces of the best saint in the world would, towards counterbalancing the smallest sin ; if the smallest sin is an infinite evil. And if we say, “that the least sin is not an infinite evil,” we must, to be consistent, give up the divine law, and with that, the whole of divine revelation.
We can be justified by faith, therefore, no otherwise than, as faith is that, on our part, whereby we are united to Christ, and so become interested in him, in whom alone God is well pleased. Whose righteousness and atonement alone are sufficient to satisfy for our guilt, and qualify us for
Mosaic dispensation, without shedding of blood there was no remission. Heb. ix. 22.
Besides, if God could, consistent with the honour of his government, have granted remission of sins to a sincere penitent, without any atonement; by parity of reason, he might also as well have granted repentance, without any atonement. And so the death of Christ was wholly needless. Sinners might have had repentance and remission of sins, and eternal life, as well without, as with it. And thus Christ is dead in vain, and Christianity overthrown, on Mr. Sandeman's scheme. For if the death of Christ was needless, the Gospel, which brings us the news of his death, is a fiction. For it must have been foolishness and not the wisdom of God; it must have been inconsistent with every divine perfection, for God to have given his Son to die, had his death been needless. Mr. Sande. man therefore must give up his present scheme, or give up the Gospel, or be inconsistent. But how was it possible, that Mr. S. should rightly understand and cordially believe the Scripture doctrine of atonement, while his mind was so full of prejudice against the divine law ? Indeed he has not expressed his enmity against the divine law in such a shocking manner as Mr. Cudworth has done ; but to an attentive reader it may be plain, they both view it in the saine point of light: in itself an ugly law. And all their love to God and his law arises merely from a belief or hope they are delivered from its curse: or rather, strictly speaking, they have no love to God or to his law; but as Mr. S. accurately expresses," all his Godliness consists in love to that which first relieved him," viz. a belief there was forgiveness with God for impenitent sinners, while such. This he loved ; and this love is the whole of his religion.
the divine favour and eternal life. Even as a woman is interested in her husband's estate by marriage, not as it is an act of virtue in her to marry him ; but as hereby she is united to him, and becomes one with him. It is true, in the very act of marriage, in which a woinan receives a man for her husband, and gives herself to him as his wife, all matrimonial duties are virtually implied: and as ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, (Gal. ii. 6.) is the sum of Christianity. But it is not the engagement of those matrimonial duties, nor is it the performance of them, which, under the notion of a virtue, entitles her to her husband's estate ; she is interested in her husband's estate simply by virtue of the relation which takes place in marriage. They two then become one flesh. And so one common interest commences. Eph. v. 32. This is a greut mystery, is a lively emblein of our union with Christ. For by a true and lively faith, which, in contradistinction from a dead faith, contains every Christian grace in embryo, we are united to Christ, as the branch is 10 the vine, as the members of the body are to the head, as the wife is to her husband ; in consequence of which union, and not for our goodness, we are accepted in God's beloved Son, and that simply on the account of his atonement and merits. And to use another of Saint Paul's similitudes : A Jew bad a title to an inheritance in the land of Canaan by birth; not because it was a virtue to be born of Jewish parents; but because he was thereby a child of Abraham. So we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. And if children, then heirs. Gal. iii. 26. 29 .
Some seem to think that faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, considered as our own goodness and virtue, give us an interest in Christ, and in the favour of God through bim. Which, to make the scheme consistent, supposes that the penitent sinner is considered as being in himself good, and that his goodness is of so great weight in the sight of God, as to counterbalance his badness, and so gives him an interest in Christ. Which implies that his guilt is not acknowledged to be infinite. For if it were, it could not be imagined, that his goodness could be of any weight to counterbalance it. But if his guilt is not acknowledged to be infinite, the infinite excellency of the divine nature, and the justice of the law, are virtually denied. A full proof, that the import of Christ's death is not understood by him, and that his faith and repentance are not genuine. And graceless graees are but poor things for graceless men to make a righteousness of; if the noblest virtues of the most eminent saints, are of no weight at all to counterbalance any one transgression of the divine law.
c See this subject treated at large, but with great accuracy, in Mr. Edwards' Sermon on Justification by Faith alone.
Others, on the contrary extreme, seem to think, that sinners are justified, not only as being ungodly in the eye of the Jaw, but also as being impenitent and unconverted in the eye of the Gospel. And these make the whole of religion to result from a persuasion of God's love to them. And so the infinite excellency of the divine nature, the infinite evil of sin, and the true import of the cross of Christ, are left out of their views. And the divine law as a rule of life, is set aside ; and a new kind of religion is substituted in the room of a conformity to the divine law. A kind of religion which has no holiness in its nature.
That there is a God, an absolutely perfect, an infinitely glorious and amiable Being, in bimself infinitely worthy of supreme love and honour, and universal obedience, is the first principle of all religion, and the foundation on which that whole system of religion is built, which is contained in the holy Scriptures. But this principle, how plain and how fundamental soever it is, is left out of every false scheme of religion. The occasion is this : every false scheme of religion, forined in the fancy of a fallen creature, is contrived on purpose to suit, and so to give ease and comfort to graceless hearts. But every graceless heart, is at enmity against the true God. Another God, of a character essentially different, must therefore be imagined, or a carpal heart cannot be suited, and so can never have ease. And this is done, in every false scheme of religion. And so all false schemes of religion in the Christian world, are, in reality, only so many various kinds of idolatry.
The angels in heaven love a God, whose character they
see it is, to hate sin as an infinite evil, and punish it accordiogly, exemplified before their eyes in the divine conduct towards their ancient associates, for their first transgression. Adam, in innocency, loved a God, whose character he believed it was, to hate sin as an infinite evil, and punish it accordingly, held forth to his own view, in that law, in the day thou catest thereof thou shalt surely die. And all who understand the Gospel, see its glory, and believe it to be true, love a God, whose character they see it is, to hate sin as an infinite evil, and punish it accordingly; and this character is set before their eyes, in the most striking point of light, on the cross of Christ, and in the transactions of the final judgment. And all those who do not love this character of God, do not love the true God. Therefore,
For a sinner to love the true God, is, at the same time, to judge and condemn, to hate and abhor, his own character, as being infinitely odious. We can have not so much as one good thought of the divine character, without giving up our own as infinitely abominable. The moment we begin to think that God's character is good, we begin to look upon our own as infinitely bad. For if it is a beautiful thing in God eternally to damn such as we are, it must be because we are infinitely odious and ill-deserving. And if it is not an amiable thing in God to bate and punish sin, as in fact he does, there is no moral beauty in his nature. For one bad property, entirely approved, and constantly exercised, must spoil any moral character, and render it on the whole, entirely devoid of moral beauty. But this point shall be taken into a more particular consideration in the following section.
Vindictive justice an amiable perfection in the Deity; a
beauty in the Divine character.
VINDICTIVE justice is that perfection in the divine nature, whereby God is inclined to punish sin according to its de