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trine of the atonement, instead of lessening, or destroying, the exercise of grace in our justification, only renders this act of God more eminently gracious. If all these things, which have been mentioned, particularly the atonement of Christ, were necessary to be done, in order to the salvation of mankind, the mercy, which resolved on them all, is far more strongly displayed, than if nothing more had been necessary, than barely to forgive the sinner.
3dly. If God be thus merciful, all the declarations of his mercy ought to be believed by us.
The disposition, which could contrive, and execute, these things, of its own mere choice ; without any reward ; without any expectation of any reward; for beings equally undeserving, and unnecessary; can do all things, which are kind, and proper to be done. Especially can this disposition carry the things, which it has contrived, and begun, into complete execution. To do this is its own natural bent; the mere progress of its inherent propensities. The declarations therefore, which manifest the determination of him, in whom this disposition resides, to accomplish all things pertaining to this work, ought cordially, as well as entirely, to be believed. To distrust them is equally absurd, and guilty: absurd, because they are supported by the most abundant evidence; guilty, because the distrust springs from the heart, and not from the understanding.
Why should God be disbelieved, when he declares, that he has no pleasure in the death of the sinner? or when he proclaims, Whosoever will, let him come, and take the water of life freely? If he had wished to punish mankind, for the gratification of his own views, or pleasure, could he not have done it with infinite case ? To him it was certainly unnecessary to announce the forgiveness of sin ; to send his Son, to die, or to give his Spirit, and his Word, to sanctify, and savc. This immense preparation depended solely on his own mere pleasure. He might have suffered the law to take its course. He might have annihilated, or punished for ever, the whole race of Adam ; and with a command have raised up a new and better world of beings in their stead. Men are in no sense necessary to God. He might have filled the Universe with Angels at once; perfect, obedient, excellent, and glorious
beings; and been loved, praised, and obeyed, by them for ever. Why then, but because he was desirous to save poor, guilty, perishing men, did he enter upon the work of their salvation? Why did he give his Son, to redeem them? Why did he send his Spirit, to sanctify them? Why did he proclaim glad tidings of great joy unto all people? Why does he wait with infinite patience, why has he always waited, to be gracious; amid all the provocations, and sins, of this polluted world? Why are the calls of mercy, after being so long, and so extensively, rejected with scorn and insult, repeated through one age after another? Why, after all our unbelief, are they repeated to us ? Why are we, after all our transgressions, assembled, this day, to hear them ? The true, the only, answer is ; God is infinitely kind, merciful, and willing to save to the uttermost.
Let, then, this glorious Being be believed without distrust; without delay. Let every sinner boldly come to the throne of grace; to the door of life, and be assured, that, if he desires sin cerely to enter, he will not be shut out.
THE DUTY OF BELIEVING.
Romans iii. 28.
Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the
deeds of the Law: more correctly rendered, Therefore we conclude, that Man is justified by faith, without works
In the last discourse, I attempted to show, that in consequence of the redemption of Christ, Man is justified freely by the grace of God. The grace of God is the source, the moving cause, of this blessing to mankind. The next subject of consideration, before us, is the Means, by which man, in the economy of redemption, becomes entitled to this blessing. These, in the text, are summed up in the single article, Faith ; which is here declared to be the instrument of justification. To elucidate this truth is the design, with which I have selected the present theme of discourse.
But before I enter upon the doctrine in form, it will be neces. sary to remind you, that an Objection is raised against it at the threshhold; which, if founded in truth, would seem to overthrow it at once. It is this : that faith is so far from being of a moral nature, as to be necessary, and unavoidable : man being absolutely passite in beliering, and under a physical impossibility of doing otherwise than he actually does; whether in believing, or disbeliet. ing. Of course, it is further urged, An attribute, governed wholly by physical necessity, can never recommend us to God; much less become the ground of so important a blessing, as justification.
It will be easily seen, that, so long as this objection has its hold on the mind, and is allowed its full import, the doctrine of justification by faith can never be received, unless in a very imperfect and unsatisfactory manner. If faith is a thing, over which we have no control; if we believe only under the influence of a physical necessity, and, whether we believe or disbelieve, it is physically impossible for us to do otherwise ; then it is plain, that Faith is so far from being praise-worthy, amiable, and capable of recommending us to God, as to merit, and sustain, no moral character at all. According to this scheme therefore, faith and unbelief, being equally and absolutely involuntary and unavoidable, can never constitute a moral distinction between men. Faith can never be an object of the approbation; nor unbelief of the disapprobation of God. Much less can we be praise-worthy in believing, or blameable in disbelieving. Still less can we on one of these grounds be rewarded, and on the other punished. Least of all can we, in consequence of our faith, be accepted, and blessed for ever; and, in consequence of our unbelief, be rejected, and punished with endless misery.
All these things, however, are directly and palpably contradictory to the whole tenour of the Gospel. In this, faith is approved, commanded, and promised an eternal reward. Unbelief, on the contrary, is censured, forbidden, and threatened with an everlasting punishment. Faith, therefore, is the hinge, on which the whole evangelical system turns. If ye believe not, that I am he; ye shall die in your sins; He, that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life ; and he, that believeth not, shall not see life ; are declarations, which, while they cannot be mistaken, teach us, that all the future interests of man are suspended on his faith; and are, at the same time, declarations, to which the whole Evangelical system is exactly conformed. If, then, our faith and disbelief are altogether involuntary, and the effect of mere physical necessity; God has annexed everlasting life and everlasting death, not to any moral character in man, but to the mere result
of physical causes. A consequence so monstrous ought certainly not to be admitted. The Scriptures, therefore, must be given up, if this scheme is true.
I have now, I presume, shown it to be necessary, that, before I enter upon the discussion of the doctrine, contained in the text, this objection should be thoroughly examined, and removed. To do this, will be the business of the present discourse.
In opposition to this objection, then, I assert, that Faith, and its opposite, disbelief, are, in all moral cases, voluntary exercises of the mind; are proper objects of commands and prohibitions ; and proper foundations of praise and blame, reward and punishment. This doctrine I shall endeavour to prove by the following arguments; derived both from Reason and Revelation; because the objection, which I have been opposing, has been incautiously admitted, at times, by Christians, as well as openly, and triumphantly, alleged by Infidels.
1st. Faith is every where commanded in the Scriptures.
This is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John iii. 23. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled; and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent ye and believe the Gospel. Mark i. 14, 15. In these two passages, we have the command to believe the Gospel, delivered by Christ in form; and the declaration of the Evangelist, that it is the commandment of God, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. Whatever, then, we understand by faith ; it is the object of a command, or law, which God has given to mankind; a thing, which may be justly required, and of course a thing, which they are able to render as an act of obedience, at least in some circumstances. God cannot require what man is not physically able to perform. But all obedience to God is voluntary. Nothing is, or can be, demanded by him, which is not in its nature voluntary; nor can any thing, but the will of Intelligent beings, be the object of moral law. No man will say, that a brute, a stone, or a stream, be the object of such law. Faith therefore, being in the most express terms required by a law, or command, of God, must of