« PreviousContinue »
THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST COX-
ROMANS vi. 1.
Ilhat shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that
grace may abound? God forbid.
The same Scriptures, which represent the death of Christ as having that which belongs to the death of no other person, namely, an efficacy in procuring the salvation of man, are also constant and uniform in representing the necessity of our own endeavours, of our own good works, for the same purpose. They go further. They foresaw that in stating, and still more when they went about to extol and magnify, the death of Christ, as instrumental to salvation, they were laying a foundation for the opinion, that men's own works, their own virtue, their personal endeavours, were superseded and dispensed with. In proportion as the sacrifice of the death of Christ was effectual, in the same proportion were these less necessary: if the death of Christ was sufficient, if redemption was complete, then were these not necessary at all. They foresaw that some would draw this consequence from their doctrine, and they provided against it.
It is observable, that the same consequence might be deduced from the goodness of God in any way of representing it: not only in the particular and peculiar way in which it is represented in the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, but in any other way. Saint Paul, for one, was sensible of this; and, therefore, when he speaks of the goodness of God even in general terms, he takes care to point out the only true turn which ought to be given to it in our thoughts—" Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, and long-suffering ; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” as if he had said, With thee, I perceive, that the consideration of the goodness of God leads to the allowing of thyself in sin: this is not to know what that consideration ought in truth to lead to: it ought to lead thee to repentance, and to no other conclusion.
Again ; when the apostle had been speaking of the righteousness of God displayed by the wickedness of man, he was not unaware of the misconstruction to which this representation was liable, and which it had, in fact, experienced : which misconstruction he states thus,—“ We be slanderously reported, and some affirm, that we say, let us do evil that good may come.” This insinuation, however, he regards as nothing less than an unfair and wilful perversion of his words, and of the words of other Christian teachers : therefore he says concerning those who did thus pervert them,
« their condemnation is just :” they will be justly condemned for thus abusing the doctrine which we teach. The passage, however, clearly shows, that the application of their expressions to the encouragement of licentiousness of life was an application contrary to their intention ; and, in fact, a perversion of their words.
In like manner in the same chapter our apostle bad no sooner laid down the doctrine, that “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” than he checks himself, as it were, by subjoining this proviso: “Do we then make void the law through faith ? God forbid : yea, we establish the law;" Whatever he meant by his assertion concerning faith, he takes care to let them know he did not mean this, “ to make void the law,” or to dispense with obedience.
But the clearest text to our purpose is that, undoubtedly, which I have prefixed to this discourse. Saint Paul, after expatiating largely upon the “ " is, the favour, kindness, and mercy of God, the extent, the greatness, the comprehensiveness of that mercy, as manifested in the Christian dispensation, puts this question to his reader—“ What shall we say then ? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound ?" which he answers by a strong negative—“ God forbid.” What the apostle designed in this passage is sufficiently evident. He knew in what manner some might be apt to construe his expressions: and he anticipates their mistake. He is beforehand with them, by protesting against any such use being made of his doctrine ; which, yet he was aware, might by possibility be made.
By way of showing scripturally the obligation and the necessity of personal endeavours after virtue, all the numerous texts which exhort to virtue, and ad. monish us against vice, might be quoted; for they are all directly to the purpose: that is, we might quote every page of the New Testament. that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven.” “ If ye know these things, happy are ye
do them.” In both these texts the rewards attends the doing : the promise is annexed to
“ Not every one
works. Again; “ To them, who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and immortality, eternal life : but unto them that are contentious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” Again ; “Of the which," namely, certain enumerated vices, “I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they, which do such things, shall
, not inherit the kingdom of God." These are a few amongst many texts of the same effect, and they are such as can never be got over. Stronger terms cannot be devised than what are here used.
Were the purpose, therefore, simply to prove from Scripture the necessity of virtue, and the danger of vice, so far as salvation is concerned, these texts are decisive. But when an answer is to be given to those, who so inter
passages of the apostolic writings, especially the
passages which speak of the efficacy of the death of Christ, or draw such inferences from these passages, as amount to a dispensing with the obligations of virtue; then the best method of proving, that theirs cannot be a right interpretation, nor theirs just inferences, is, by showing, (which fortunately we are able to do,) that it is the very interpretation, and these the very inferences, which the apostles were themselves aware of, which they provided against, and which they protested against. The four texts, quoted from the apostolic writings in this discourse, were quoted with this view : and they may be considered, I think, as showing the minds of the authors upon the point in question more determinately, than any general exhortation to good works, or any general denunciation against sin could do. I assume, therefore, as a proved point, that whatever was said by the apostles concerning the efficacy of the death of Christ was said by them der an apprehension,
that they did not thereby in any manner relas the motives, the obligation, or the necessity of good works But still there is another important question betind; namely, whether, notwithstanding what the 'apostes have said, or may have meant to say, there be noi, in the nature of things, an invincible inconsistency between the efficacy of the death of Christ, and the necess of a good life; whether those two propositions can, in ias reasoning, stand together; or whether it does nx necessarily follow, that if the death of Christ be eccacious, then good works are no longer necessary; and, on the other hand, that, if good works be stil tess sary, then is the death of Christ not efficacious.
Now, to give an account of this question, and oi :: difficulty which it seems to present, we must bear mind, that in the business of salvation there are Laturally and properly two things, viz. the cause adie condition; and that these two things are : We should see better the propriety of this distinca, if we would allow ourselves to consider weil hat seitstion is : what the being saved means. It is pockz less than, after this life is ended, being placed in a case of happiness exceedingly great, both in degree 2:1
state, concerning which the furniz things are said : “ the sufferings of this present ori are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.” “ God hath in store for us sai things as pass man's understanding.” So thai, sa see, it is not simply escaping punishment, simp's being excused or forgiven, simply being compensated or repaid for the little good we do, but it is infinite!ş ere. Heaven is infinitely greater than mere compen:a: 103, which natural religion itself might lead us to expect. What do the Scriptures call it? “Glory, honar,