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But, in maintaining this, two things are forgotten, which yet it is of essential importance to remember. In the first place, that God is sovereign, that he has an absolute and indisputable right to do what he will with his own; “ shall the clay say to him that made it, wherefore am I thus ?" And, secondly, that to us, as sinners, every thing short of the punishment of final impenitence is mercy. Call you it injustice that such and such nations bave not the gospel preached to them? You may; but you forget in saying so, that there is not an inhabitant of those regions but mercy has spared out of hell; and that if God had laid equity to the line, and justice to the plumb line, they, and we, and all our guilty race, would long ere this, bave been blotted out from beneath the face of heaven. God has distinguished us, but be bas done no injustice to them. The gospel comes to us under a dispensation of grace; and it is of the free and unmerited favour of God, that one man is born in a valley of vision, and another in darkness as of the shadow of death.
- 2d, The gospel reveals grace to mankind. What says it? “God was in Christ reconciling sinners to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Again,—“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but bave everlasting life.” And, again,—“ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Now, in these and a thousand similar passages, we are told, what naturally we are ignorant of, that God does not
This, I say, we are ignorant of. By nature we are at enmity against God; and, therefore, we conclude, that he is at enmity with us; and, in point of fact, every false system of religion proceeds upon this principle. Every idolatrous rite is offered for the sake of reconciling the Deity. This dark revolting character pervades every false religion ; fear, not love-not gratitude-erects the altar, and slays the
victim, and offers the oblation. But, in the Word of grace, we are told that God does not hate us—that he always loved us—and hath so loved us as to give his Son to die for us. No doubt the Deity required to be reconciled as a Judge; but as a Father he always loved us; and the proof of it, as we have just said, is found in this,--that in the mission and death of his Son, he himself provided the means whereby “God, as a Judge, might be just, and yet the justifier of him that believes on Jesus. In the gospel, we are told that God to man is reconciled, and reconciling sinners to himself, through the blood of the Cross of his Son-tbat bis favour is offered to all, and offered freely—that not more free to the traveller is the brook that crosses his path, than is the fountain of salvation—that not more free is the light of day, than is the healing of the Sun of Righteousness-that not more free are the winds of heaven, than are the influences of the Holy Spirit. What
every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, and he that bath no money
come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without • price.” And what says the New? " And the Spirit and the
bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say, Come, and let him that is athirst Come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”
The condition on which God's favour is offered to sinners is not, Do this, and thou shalt live. The condition of the gospel is Christ's fulfilling all righteousness. No doubt it is required that we believe on the Son of God, for no man is reconciled to God merely because of the finished righteousness of Christ, but because of his faith in it. But faith itself is of grace. It is wrought in us by the gracious influence of the Spirit. “By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In short, the gospel from first to last, is a revelation of grace. Are we elected ? It is of grace-before we have done good or evil-before we are born-from eternity. Are we called ? It is of grace,
and according to the determinate purpose and fore-knowledge of God? Are we justified? We are justified freely by his grace. Are we sanctified—are we glorified ? It is all of grace: Grace is the basis, grace
the building, grace
topstone; grace begins, carries on, perfects the work. To use the language of a well-known divine,—“ It is not like a fringe of gold bordering the garment, or like an embroidery of gold decorating the robe—it is like the mercy-seat in the ancient tabernacle, which was gold, pure gold, all gold throughout."
Here then, is the glory of the gospel. Here, as it has been said, grace not only appears, but appears in majestynot only reigns, but triumphs. And here too is the hope of the sinner. Can these dry bones live? We look upon
this man and
upon that—we look upon the man whom ignorance has degraded, and crime hardened, and infidelity spellbound-we look upon the inmates of our jails and bridewells—we look upon the squalid population of some neglected district, and we repeat the question, Can these dry bones live ? With man it is impossible, but the grace of God can accomplish it. In the gospel there is provision not merely for pardon, but for purity--not merely for reconciliation to God, but for spiritual life and renovation. Men by nature are spiritually dead, and in this state the gospel finds them. But, as in the valley of dry bones, the breath of the Lord comes from the four winds, and blows upon them, and forthwith they become instinct with life, and stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Let all be to the praise of the grace
of God, who works in us both to will and to do of bis good pleasure.
3d, Therefore, I remark, that the gospel by grace subserves its intended purpose.
There was nothing in the rod of Moses materially different from those of the magicians of Egypt; yet when he smote the rock the waters flowed out. There is much in the Word
“ He has mercy
of God to distinguish it from the writings of men ; but there is nothing which of itself can save the soul. The Word of God may affect as an history; it is impossible, indeed, for any thinking mind to read that Word without interest; and yet the most deeply interesting portions of the sacred volume -I should
for instance, the narrative of the crucifixionhave hardened men in sin ; and they have scoffed at them just as they did who stood by when Christ was crucified. The gospel is to one a subject of blessing, and to another of blasphemy-to one a savour of life, and to another a savour of death. Now, wherefore is this ? —wherefore is it that the same truths, and the same truths perhaps historically believed, prepare one man for heaven, and another for hell? It is because, in the one case, God renders effectual by his grace, and withholds his blessing in the other. upon whom he will have mercy, and whom he wills be hardeneth.” Startle not at these words of the Apostle, as if thus blame attached to the moral procedure of God—as if thus he was the author of sin—as if thus he iufused evil into the sinner's heart, and rendered him morally incapable of believing. The meaning simply is, that, in this case, the sinner, of God is left to himself-left to voluntary blindnessleft to obstinate wilful unbelief-left to eat of the fruit of his own ways, and to be filled with the fulness of his own devices. God surely is not compelled to save the sinner in spite of himself; and if the gospel has been preached to him, and rejected—if every threatening and promise alike has been trampled under foot—if the great salvation has been perseveringly and systematically despised—is it unjust, or is it wonderful, that God should at length say of him, as of Ephraim-“He is joined to idols, let him alone ?"
How it is that God, by his grace, operates upon the sinner's heart in conversion, thus rendering the gospel effectual, we cannot tell, and inquiry here is checked. 66 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,
but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth—and so is it with every one that is born of the Spirit.” But demonstrably sure it is, that the Word without the grace of God, is but a dead letter. I may use the means-I may read my Bible-I may hear the gospel preached from year to yearand example may be given me and counsel tendered meand prayers
offered for me and tears sbed for me--and all in vain. I may, notwithstanding, be in a worse state for eternity than the heathen. As a means, the gospel is admirably adapted to promote its desired end; but it is only a means ; and until, by the grace of the Spirit, it is rendered effectual, it is just as powerless as would have been the rod of the legislator of Israel, without the Divine interposition.
II. Let us now inquire, how it is that God gives testimony to the gospel.
lst, That here referred to, was peculiar to former ages, "signs and wonders,” wrought in confirmation of the Apostles' preaching. “ The Lord,” it is said, "gave testimony unto the Word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” From the time a revelation was at first given, miracles were wrought in confirmation of its truth. Indeed, we see not how, without miracles, mankind could well have believed the testimony of prophets and apostles, and even of Christ himself. No doubt they all declared their message was from heaven, and every man may do this ;
but what was the evidence—wbat proof did they give that their message was divine ? Now they appealed to the miracles they wrought-a miracle no man can work unless God be with bim. God would not enable mankind to work miracles in behalf of what was not true; and, therefore, if the wonderful works said to have been wrought by Christ and his apostles transpired, as matters of fact, their message was undoubtedly from heaven. There is no resisting of this reasoning; and when the apostles, in the first ages, raised the dead, healed