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precious season of hearing the word of God. You had better absent yourselves from any other place, than from the place of public worship, where God manifests his presence, and displays his pardoning mercy. You had better therefore abuse any other privilege you enjoy, than abuse the privilege of hearing the gospel, for if you abuse this privilege, you will abuse light, which above all things will enhance your guilt, and ag gravate your everlasting ruin. For says Christ himself, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."
Delivered at the Ordination of the Rev. JOHN ROBINSON, to the pastoral care of the Church in Westborough, January 14, 1789.
It was needful for me to write unto you, and to exhort you, that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. The Apostle JUDE.
ACTS xx, 24.
To testify the gospel of the grace of God.
PAUL, in his passage from Greece to Jerusalem, having landed at Miletus, sent and called the elders of the Church of Ephesus. When they were come together, he addressed them with peculiar solemnity and affection, on the important subject of the gospel ministry. And to make the deeper impression on their minds, he not only recalled to their remembrance his former manner of life and preaching among them; but expressed, in the most feeling manner, his present views of the nature and importance of the gospel, which both he and they were under solemn and inviolable obligations to preach. "Ye know," says he, "from the first day I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons: serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befel me by the lying-in-wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befal me there, save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." In these last words we see the ground upon which the apostle was so much attached to the gospel, and so much engaged to preach it, in the face of every danger. It was because he viewed the gospel as containing and exhibiting the grace of God to our guilty world. Accordingly I shall confine my attention to this single point, that the gospel is a scheme of divine grace.
Though grace is one of the most common words in use, yet it seems necessary, in treating on the subject before us, to fix the meaning of this easy and familiar term. Grace is often used to signify goodness; but this is not the strict and proper sense of the word. For grace is the exercise of love to the guilty; whereas goodness is the exercise of love to the innocent." Goodness and grace therefore immutably differ, as much as guilt and innocence, the objects upon which they finally terminate. And this distinction will forever remain and be felt in heaven. While angels there will forever drink of the rivers of goodness, saints will forever drink of the rivers of grace. When we say, therefore, that the gospel is a scheme of divine grace, we mean that it is a method which God has devised, to open the way for the free and full display of divine love to the guilty.
Now, if we search the New Testament, we shall find the gospel is every where represented as a scheme
*I do not mean, that every exercise of love to the guilty, is grace, nor every exercise of love to the innocent, is goodness, in the strictest sense. But what I mean is, that wherever there is goodness in the strictest sense, it consists in love to the innocent; and wherever there is any grace at all, it consists in love to the guilty.
of divine grace. The angels who brought the news of Christ's birth to the shepherds, were constrained on that occasion, to celebrate the grace of the gospel, with the most joyful acclamations. "And lo the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, fear not: for behold bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." This is good will to the guilty, which in the highest and best sense.
Christ himself, who was equally concerned in devising, and principally concerned in executing the plan of redemption, represents it as a scheme of divine grace. "For," saith he, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." Such love as this to the guilty, is astonishing grace.
The apostle Paul, however, says more concerning the grace of the gospel than any other of the inspired writers. He touches upon this darling theme in all his Epistles, and in some he undertakes to prove the gospel to be a scheme of divine grace. In the third chapter of Romans he reasons thus: "Now we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." From these premises he brings out this fair and just conclusion, that we are "justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ." He continues this train of reasoning to the Occa.
end of this and of the next chapter, and finally concludes with these strong and striking expressions: "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord."
In the second Epistle to the Corinthians, after opening the nature and design of the gospel, he represents it as a scheme of divine grace. "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself, by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. workers together with him, beseech you also, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." By the grace of God here, the apostle evidently means the grace of God displayed in the gospel.
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He wrote his Epistle to the Galatians, with a particular design to unfold the genius and spirit of the gospel as a scheme of divine grace. I shall, however, mention but one passage, which breathes the spirit of the whole Epistle. "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: For if righteousness come by the law, then is Christ dead in vain." By this the apostle plainly suggests, that the gospel is so entirely built upon grace, that if this foundation be once destroyed, the whole gospel is completely frustrated and subverted.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians, he employs the strongest expressions to celebrate the riches of divine