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cannot be expected to yield fruit. In like manner, the individual who is separate from Cbrist--not united to him in the bonds of a covenant ordered in all things and sure,-is unable to render any services acceptable to God, and permanently profitable to himself.
This truth, however preposterous it may appear to the philosopher, and however reluctant the moralizing Christian may be to admit it, is one which the New Testament clearly and repeatedly inculcates. The inspired penmen describe the work of redemption, in all its stages, as entirely the effect of divine power, accomplishing the ends of divine love and mercy. The Lord Jesus is represented by them as the Author and the Finisher of human salvation. To him exclusively belong the praise and glory of our deliverance from sin and misery. Every pulsation of spiritual joy felt by the saints on earth, and by the redeemed in heaven, is due to Him who ransomed them from the guilt, and cleansed them from the pollution of their transgressions. Yes, it is grace which lays the foundation of holiness in the heart of fallen man, and when the moral edifice is completed, the head-stone is brought forth, with acclamations of Grace! grace unto it!
When it is said, that without Christ we can do nothing, the meaning plainly is, that without him we can do nothing towards the accomplishment of the great work of our salvation. There is, indeed, a sense in which the text would be unrestrictedly true. When we consider the Saviour as a divine being, and thus identify him with that God who is the creator and preserver of us all, there is no impropriety in saying, that without him we can do literally nothing. Every act that we perform, whether physical or mental, is, so to speak, the exercise of bis delegated power—the putting forth of an energy which we have derived from him. In short, it is He who enables us to speak and move, to think and feel. But this is not exactly the truth which our Lord intended to assert in the passage before us. He here refers to himself, in his mediatorial character and office. The precise import of his declaration is, that without him we can do nothing that will avail to procure the pardon of sin, and confer a title to life, happiness, and heaven. It is certain, indeed, that without him-independently of his aid as our Redeemer,—we may do many things wbich our fellow men will approve and admire; we may be upright, discreet, temperate, and benevolent individuals; good members of society, dutiful children, and affectionate parents. But it is nevertheles true, that without him, apart from his gracious influences, we are utterly incapable of a single action, or a single thought, on which the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity, can bestow an approving smile, such as shall stand us in stead when we appear at his bar. So long as we are destitute of an interest in Christ, we are like branches cut off from the vine, whose inevitable doom it is to wither and die. If we duly reflect upon our present fallen condition, we shall discover, that two things are mainly requisite to our salvation. In the first place, we must obtain the pardon of our past offences; and in the second place, the native depravity of our hearts must be so far corrected, that, in future, we shall delight in the service of our Maker, and become ultimately fitted for his presence. Now, the truth of our text will be amply illustrated and established, provided it can be shown, that these great and important blessings are to be procured only through the medium of the Lord Jesus Christ; or, in other words, that the gospel of his grace reveals the only method by which sin may be pardoned, and the sinner rendered personally
holy.--Let us advert, for a moment, to these two particulars.
We contend, then, that without Christ we can do nothing, because he is the only Being in the universe, who is at once able and willing to forgive our transgressions. As soon as we admit that we have broken the divine law, (and who will pretend to deny this?) we must be sensible that it is no longer in our own power to remove the guilt which we have thus contracted. There can surely be no merit in our present or future obedience, to atone for antecedent disobedience. The demands of Heaven's justice, cannot be more than fulfilled by the utmost efforts that we are capable of making. The highest and purest seraph before the throne of God, feels that he is unable to rise above his obligations. After he has done all that his talents and circumstances will permit, he confesses that he is an unprofitable servant. It is manifest, therefore, that our own righteousness, however exalted, is a very inadequate ground on which to rely for salvation. Now, if our moral virtues cannot procure for us the remission of our sins, we may be assured, that nothing else which we can present to Jehovah, will satisfy his justice, and render it possible for him, in perfect consistence with the honour and the interests of his throne, to blot out our crimes and misdemeanours from the book of bis remenubravce.
But, brethren, this consideration need not drive us to despair. There is a way by which we can obtain pardon—most abundant pardon--at the hands of our offended Father wbo is in heaven. Yes, blessed be the name of our God, he has given his own Son to die that we might Jive. The Lord Jesus Christ has been exalted to the right band of the Majesty on high, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and the remission
of sins. He is able to save to the uttermost all who put their confidence in him; and those who approach him, be will, in no wise, repulse. Seated on his throne of
grace, he proffers pardon, free and full, to the very chief of sin
The accents that fall from his lips, are rich with benignity and mercy: “Come now, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Again, without Christ we can do nothing, because the influences of his spirit are absolutely necessary to change our depraved hearts, and to qualify us for the services of earth, and the enjoyments of heaven. He has taught us, that we must be born again, before we can become fit subjects of that kingdom of righteousness, of which he is the Founder and the Sovereign. We know, indeed, that some persons-perhaps we should say many persons are disposed to regard the evangelical doctrine of a new birth as one of the reveries of mystical and enthusiastic devotion. But we are at a loss to comprehend, why any one who properly reflects on the corruption of human nature, should doubt the necessity of that great moral change, wbatever it may be, on which the New Testament insists. We conceive, that every sound and ingenuous philosopher, who duly examines the subject, will find himself constrained to unite with the Christian in the speculative opinion, that nothing short of the direct interposition of the same almighty power which created the mind of man at first, can so alter and modify the springs by which its operations are governed, as to impart purity and rectitude to all its thoughts and feelings. It is not within the competency of moral suasion to correct the depravity of a being, concerning whom it has been said, as justly as emphatically, that he “drinketh iniquity like
water.” In the view of all the means which ethical writers and teachers have employed for the inculcation of virtue, we only perceive the soundness of the prophet's query, “ Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
Brethren, we do not scruple to say, that the distinguishing excellence of the Gospel consists in the provision which it makes, for delivering us from the power and dominion, as well as from the penal consequences of sin. It promises to render us ultimately bappy; but it proposes to do this, only by rendering us previously holy. In fact, it represents the renewing of our minds, and the sanctification of our hearts, as the very chief of the blessings which the Son of God died to procure for us; or, rather, as including all the rest. There is not, in the whole Bible, a more precious passage, than that in which Jehovah is heard exclaiming, “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I pat within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.”
And here it should be distinctly observed, that the grace of God is requisite, not only to change the heart at first, but also to promote its progress in holiness. Without Christ, we should have remained forever dead in trespasses and sins, and even after we have been quickened by the energy of his life-giving Spirit, we should, were it not for him, sink back again into that condition of moral lethargy and death, from which we were raised. There is not a single moment of the Christian's existence,