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jects the only possible means of reconciliation with him; and consequently rivets all our guilt upon us-- Judge then whether they, who yield themselves up to its influence, be not “blinded by Satan," and victims to their own delusions:]
By way of IMPROVEMENT, let me commend to your attention the grand object of a Christian’s faith
[It is to little purpose to have general notions of the prevalence and folly of unbelief, if we do not apply them particularly to that fundamental doctrine of scripture, That we are to be justified solely by faith in the Lord Jesus. This is that, which is emphatically called, The gospel; concerning the necessity of believing which, nothing more need be urged, than that assertion of our Lord, “ He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.'' The point for us now to determine, is, Do we indeed believe in Christ for the justification of our souls? We are continually apt to mistake the nature of saving faith; and, for want of right views of that, we put away from ourselves all that is spoken respecting unbelief, as though we had no experience of it, no concern about it. But it has been already abundantly shewn, that if we believe only in the manner that the generality of Christians do, we have no true faith at all. Examine then, Have you clear and lively views of Christ as the Saviour of sinners? Are you deeply convinced of your own sinfulness, and your consequent need of mercy? Have you renounced every other hope and do you rely simply and solely on Christ's atonement? Finally, are you deriving virtue from him for the healing of your corruptions, and for the bringing forth of all the fruits of righteousness to his praise and glory? This, and this alone, is saving faith; and he, who thus believes, shall be saved; and he, who does not thus believe, shall be damned. Let not any object, and say, “What is there in this faith that should save us, or in the want of it that should condemn us?” Our only enquiry must be, Has God suspended our salvation on the exercise of a living faith, or not? If he has, we have no more to say, than, “Let God be true; but every man a liar.” To dispute against him is to dispute against the wind. The wind will not stop its course for us: yet sooner should that be done, yea, “ sooner should heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of his word should fail.” If then no objections of our's can ever disprove the truth of God's word, or prevent the execution of it on our own souls, let us guard against that principle of unbelief, which operates so powerfully, so fatally; within us. Let us remember where our danger lies: it is not in giving too much weight to the declarations of God; but in softening them down, and accommo
foCor. iv. 4. Isaiah lsvi, 4.
& Mark svi. 16.
dating them to our vain wishes or carnal apprehensions. Let then the fore-mentioned record abide upon our minds. Let us be persuaded that he, whom God blesses, shall be blessed; and he, whom God curses, shall be cursed. In other words, Let us rest assured, that life is to be found in Christ alone; and that
he, who hath the Son, hath life; and he, who hath not the Son of God, hath not life.”h] .
h 1 John v. 11, 12.
CCCLXVIII. TIE NECESSITY OF FAITH IN CHRIST.
John iii. 36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
A FAITHFUL minister will find many occasions of rectifying the views and dispositions of his hearers; nor will he fail to improve the opportunities that occur of leading them to a more intimate acquaintance with their Lord-Some of the followers of John the Baptist having heard of the popularity of Jesus, were envious of his success, and jealous for the honour of their own teacher -But this holy man answered their complaints with much wisdom and humility; and having, in the strongest terms, given his testimony to the divine mission of Je. sus, he confirmed his word with the solemn declaration which we have just read— This record contains the sum and substance of the gospel-It sets before us 1. The one condition of our salvation
We do not mean to say that there is any thing to be done, whereby we are to earn or merit heaven (in this respect our salvation has no conditions except those which were performed by Christ) but that
We must believe in Christ in order to obtain salvation
[The duty here enjoined is not so easy as men generally suppose-If it merely imported a consent to the truth of Christianity, it might then be performed without any difficulty or self-denial-But to “believe on the Son of God” is, to believe, that he is the only, and the all-sufficient Saviour of
our ruined race-If we do not feel our need of him; if we be not convinced that we can never obtain salvation by any works of our own; if we do not make earnest application to him at a throne of grace; and if we do not trust altogether in his blood and righteousness, we cannot believe arightThis, and nothing less than this, is the condition of our acceptance with God) Nor is there any other condition so suitable as this
[We may be ready to think that the performance of good works were a much fitter condition than faith-But if salvation were by works, no flesh living could be saved; because no man ever has kept, or ever can keep, the whole law of God Nor should we be at all more safe, if sincere obedience were the term of our acceptance; because as no man has perfectly fulfilled the law, so no man has done all that he might have done; in many instances we might have mortified our sinful dispositions more, and approved ourselves more diligent in the discharge of our duty-Besides, if we were saved by any works of our own, we should have whereof to glory, and mighr ascribe, even in heaven itself, the honour to ourselvesWhereas the appointment of salvation by faith secures happiness to the most unworthy, if really penitent; and necessitates all to give the glory of their salvation to God alone--]
The Baptist having thus made known the condition of our acceptance with God, proceeds to declare II. The state of those who comply with it
About this, which might have been thought a dubious point, no doubt whatever is expressed – The be, liever has 1. A title to eternal life
[There is not any title whatever to an earthly inheritance so secure as that which the believer has to heaven--He has the promise of Jehovah—He has a covenant sealed with Emmanuel's blood, and confirmed wit the oath of God himself and, provided he can appeal to God respecting his unfeigned reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, he may put in his claim even at the bar of judgment, and demand, if we may so speak, all the glory of heaven as his unalienable inheritance God hath said, “ He that believeth shall be saved;" and if we only prove our performance of the condition, we need never doubt the fulfilment of God's promise-]
The beginning and carnest of eternal life
[The life which a believer has in his soul is of the same kind with that which he shall possess for ever-He has the same reconciliation with God, the same delight in him, and
the same sense of his favour— The Spirit of God that is within him is often called “ an Earnest” of his inheritance; because that Spirit, in his enlightening, sanctifying, and comforting influences, is a foretaste of heaven, and a pledge, that the soul possessed of it shall in due time enjoy all the glory and felicity of the heavenly world-He has only to wait the appointed hour, and his abode shall be in the presence of his God, where nothing that can trouble or defile him shall ever enter-Could an angel from heaven announce more joyful tida ings?]
But it is not thus with all — Widely different is III. The state of those who do not comply with it
Here we may observe the same strength of assertion as in the former case-The text positively affirms that They shall not enter into heaven
[Unbelievers often seem as confident of obtaining eternal happiness as if all the promises of God had been made to them in particular-But they will be awfully disappointed as soon as ever they enter into the invisible world" They will knock at the gate of heaven, crying, Lord, Lord, open to us: but he will answer them, Depart from me, I never knew you" -A flaming sword will prohibit their entranee into Paradise, and an impassable gulf be fixed between them and the celestial spirits This is the declaration of God, nor can it ever be reversed—]
They shall be made eternal monuments of God's wrath
[They will not be persuaded that God is angry with them; and because they feel not his judgments now, they think they never shall-But God even now is filled with wrath against them; and they are preserved only as condemned criminals in a dungeon, till the hour appointed for their execution shall arrive-God's eye is ever upon them, not for good, but for evil-He views them as guilty of the most flagrant disobedi encei-He regards them as contemners both of his majesty, and of his mercy–He is incensed against them for “trampling under foot his dear Son, and doing despite to his Spirit” -And soon the wrath, which even now abideth on them,” “shall come upon them to the uttermost”-] APPLICATION
(Let all enquire seriously whether they do indeed believe ---Let those, who have not hitherto come to Christ as lost and perishing sinners, guard against those workings of self
k'o de ensity is contrasted in the text with o systwy.
righteousness which would keep them from him---And let “ those who have believed be careful to maintain good works”---]
CCCLXIX. THE END OF UNBELIEVERS.
1 Pet. iv. 17. What shall the end be of them that obey not the
gospel of God?
MANY are the troubles of the righteous: and though their afflictions are not always penal, yet they are for the most part to be considered as paternal chastisements, and as the judgments which God inflicts on his own household with a view to their advancement in faith and ho. liness—But though they are to be regarded in this favourable light by the sufferer's themselves, they have a very awful aspect upon the world at large; for, as the Apostle intimates, if God's paternal chastisements be often so severe, what must his vindictive judgments be? If judgment first begin at the house of God, what must the end be of them that obey not the gospel of. God?-To impress this solemn consideration upon our minds, we shall shew 1. Who they are that obey not the gospel
To ascertain this, it will be proper to state briefly what the gospel requires
[The gospel supposes men to be in a state of guilt and misery, obnoxious to the wrath of God, and incapable of delivering themselves from it-It proposes to them a remedy of God's appointment: it sets forth Jesus as an all-sufficient Saviour; and declares that sinners of every description may be washed in his blood, and renewed by his Spirit-But, if we will not apply to him by faith, and thankfully accept his Iroffered benefits, it dooms us to destruction under the aggravated guilt of despising, and trampling under foot the Son of God— The commission which our Lord gave to his disciples, and the answer given by Paul to the awakened jailor, abundantly confirm this view of the gospel, and shew that a cordial acceptance of Christ as our only Lord and Saviour is the sum and substance of a Christian's duty-
Mar, xvi, 15, 16.
b Acts xvi. 30, 31.