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IV. Let us next consider when true believers are justified, pardoned and accepted. The apostle plainly intimates that they are justified as soon as they become believers. “ Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Our Saviour said, “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." And again he solemnly de
” clared, “ He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” The apostle declares, “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." And he more directly says to believers, “ You, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven all your trespasses, blotting out the hand writing of ordinances that were against us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." He farthermore asserts, “ All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called accord. ing to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” It appears from these passages of scripture, that as soon as any persons arise from spiritual death to spiritual life, or as soon as they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; or, in a word, as soon as they exercise any gracious affection, they become the children of God; and as soon as they become the children of God, they become heirs, and are instantly justified, pardoned and accepted, whether they know it or not. Chil. dren may be heirs to great estates, while they are entirely ignorant of their heirship. And so the children of God may be heirs to a rich and eternal inheritance, while they have painful fears of being for ever disinherited. Justification is instantaneous, and takes place at the moment in which sinners become saints, or have the character of heirs in God's revealed Will.
It now remains,
V. To consider the conditions upon which believers are completely justified, pardoned and accepted. I use all these expressions, because they are all used in scripture to signify the same thing. Though believers are justified, pardoned and accepted, as soon as they believe, or become the children of God, yet, if we look into his last Will and Testament, we find that their full and final pardon, or title to their eternal inheritance, is conditional. They must perform certain things, which he has specified as terms or conditions of their taking possession of their several legacies. When a man makes a Will, he may bequeath certain
legacies to his children upon certain terms or provisos. He may give a legacy to one child upon condition that he lives to become of age; to another, upon condition that he conducts in a certain manner; to another, upon condition that he follows a certain profession; and to another, upon condition that he forms certain services. The testator always has a right to make jast such provisos or conditions in his Will as he thinks proper; and those to whom he makes devises must comply with his conditions, in order to become fully and finally entitled to them. God might have justly disinherited all mankind upon their first apostacy; but in mere mercy he has given large legacies to all true believers, who will comply with the conditions which he has proposed in his new Testament. Let us now examine that sacred and precious instrument, and see what terms he has therein specified, in respect to the full and final salvation of believers.
And here we find, in the first place, that God requires believers to persevere in faith and obedience, in order to obtain their promised inheritance. They must continue to love, to repent, to believe, to submit, to obey, and to perform the various duties which he has enjoined upon them in his revealed Will. Christ repeatedly said to his disciples, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." And he much oftener promised salvation to those only who shall faithfully fulfil their duty, and finally overcome all enemies and obstacles in the path to heaven. “ To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” “ To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.” “ He that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” “ He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name before my Father, and before his angels.” “ To him that overcometh I will grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Paul said to the believing Jew, “Behold the goodness and severity of God; on them that fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise, thou also shalt be cut off.” He said to the Colossians, “ You, that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard." Many other similar passages might be mentioned; but these are sufficient to show that true believers must overcome the world,
endure unto the end, and finally persevere in faith and holiness, in order to take possession of the inheritance of the saints in light.
But, secondly, lest true believers should make shipwreck of their faith, and finally fall away, God has made a proviso in his revealed Will, which effectually secures their love, their faith, and their obedience, to the end of life. He has promised to assist them through their whole christian course. tle Paul speaks with confidence to christians upon this subject. “ Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us,
and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." Again he says in the same epistle, “ Now he that hath wrought us for the self same thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” And speaking to those who had embraced the gospel and trusted in Christ, he says, " In whom also, after that
“ ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.” The apostle Peter likewise taught christians in general the absolute certainty both of their finally persevering in holiness, and of their finally possessing their promised inheritance. " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Thus God has abundantly promised to carry on the good work which he has begun in the hearts of believers, until the day of Jesus Christ. And this promise of the aid and earnest of the Spirit to the heirs of salvation is a peculiar proviso in God's last Will and Testament. Other testators often propose conditions to their intended heirs, but never engage to make them actually perform the conditions proposed. This however is essential to the design and form of God's revealed Will. If this article were not inserted, the legatees not only might, but certainly would, fail of obtaining their eternal inheritance.
It must be farther observed under this head, thirdly, that God has made a proviso in his Will, by which he retains his original right to chastise, or punish believers, in case they prove negligent in duty, or disobedient to his righteous commands. In the eighty-ninth Psalm, he expressly declares concerning his children, “ If they forsake my law, and walk not in my judg. ments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not uiterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." And agreeably to this, the apostle asserts in the twelfth of Hebrews, that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” These are the conditions proposed in God's last Will and Testament, upon which all true believers are justified, pardoned, and accepted.
1. It appears from what has been said concerning the character and justification of believers, that they are still in a state of probation. Though in consequence of their justification, their probationary state is materially altered, yet it is by no means terminated. Before they believed, they were without
“ Christ, being aliens from the commonwealih of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." But since they believed, they “ are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” and no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Before they became believers, they were upon trial, whether they would repent and believe the gospel; but after they have repented and believed, they are still upon trial whether they will continue to exercise faith, repentance and new obedience. Though they have the promise of divine assistance to persevere in well doing, which renders their final salvation certain, yet this certainty does not put a period to their state of trial. It was certain before they believed that they would believe, but that certainty did not put an end to their probationary state. So, since they have believed, the certainty of their persevering in faith, and love, and every holy affection, does not put an end to their probationary state. The reason is, their salvation is still suspended upon conditions, and these very conditions constitute a state of probation. Their state of trial is precisely the same as if it were not certain that they will finally perform the conditions upon which their salvation is suspended. Christ bimself was in a state of trial while he was about his Father's business here on earth. His Father appointed him a work to perform, and promised him a glorious reward, upon condition of his finishing the work which he had given him to do. He also promised to hold his hand and support him through all his labors and sufferings ; so that it was infallibly certain that he would finish his work and receive his promised reward. But the certainty of his fidelity and obedience unto death did not put him out of a state of probation. The case is exactly the same in re
gard to believers. Though they are justified, and have received the Spirit of promise, which renders their salvation absolutely certain, yet they are still in a probationary state, because their salvation is suspended upon their fulfilling the conditions of their final and complete pardon. And the more certain it is that God will hold them in his hand, guard them from danger, and assist them in duty, the greater is their obligation, as well as encouragement to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, until they finish their course, and receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.
2. If God justifies believers upon the terms which have been mentioned, then it is easy to reconcile his conduct towards them in this life, with his perfect rectitude. He rebukes, and chastens, and scourges, every son whom he receiveth. David declares that “many are the afflictions of the righteous ;” and this declaration we find verified every day and every where. Though these afflictions are fatherly chastisements, and designed to promote the spiritual benefit of believers, yet they are real punishments for sin. But how can God consistently punish them in this life, any more than in the next, if he fully and unconditionally forgives all their sins at the time of their justification? When a prince completely pardons a rebellious subject who has been fairly tried and condemned, he can never afterwards legally or justly punish him for his rebellion, which he has fully and finally forgiven. But if he only partially and conditionally forgives him, as Solomon did Shimei, he may punish him either less or more, according as his clemency and wisdom shall direct. All mankind are naturally rebels against God; but when they repent and believe the gospel, he does, by his last Will and Testament, partially and conditionally forgive their numerous acts of rebellion and disobedience, with a proviso that he will chastise them for their past, present, and future sins, as often and as severely as his glory or their spiritual good may require. And according to this view of the doctrine of justification, there is no difficulty in reconciling God's fatherly chastisements of believers, with his covenant faithfulness. When he visits their iniquities with a rod in this lise, he treats them not only as they deserve, but as he has expressly declared that he will treat them, in the very instrument by which they are justified. But if we should suppose with the Antinomians, that God does, at or before the time of men's becoming believers, fully and finally forgive all their past, present and future sins, we could not avoid the absurd consequence which they draw from it, that believers, after they are once completely justified, can do nothing either to promote or to hinder their final salvation; which opens the door to perfect licentious