« السابقةمتابعة »
Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward, Luke
SERMON LII.-The Reformation of Manners.
SERMONS ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.
SERMON I.-Salvation by Faith.
“ By grace are ye saved, through faith,” Eph. ii, 18.
1. All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man, are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved ; man having no claim to the least of his mer. cies. It was free grace that “ formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God's hand.' “ All our works, thou, oh God! hast wrought in us.” These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy : and, whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God.
2. Wherewithal then shall a sinful man atone for any, the least of his sins ? With his own works ? No. Were they ever so many or holy, they are not his own, but God's. But indeed they are all unholy and sinful themselves, so that every one of them needs a fresh atone. ment. Only corrupt fruit grows on a corrupt tree. And his heart is altogether corrupt and abominable; being “come short of the glory of God,” the glorious righteousness at first impressed on his soul, after the image of his great Créator. Therefore having nothing, neither right. eousness nor works to plead, his mouth is utterly stopped before God.
3. If then sinful men find favour with God, it is “grace upon grace!" If God vouchsafe still to pour fresh blessings upon us, yea, the greatest of all blessings, salvation; what can we say to these things, but, « Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!" And thus it is. Herein “God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died" to save us. “By grace, then, are ye saved, through faith.” Grace is the source, faith the condition, of salvation.
Now, that we fall not short of the grace of God, it concerns us carefully to inquire,
I. What Faith it is through which we are saved ?
Now God requireth of a heathen to believe, “That God is ; that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him;" and that he is to be sought by glorifying him as God, by giving him thanks for all things, and by a careful practice of moral virtue, of justice, mercy and truth towards their fellow creatures. A Greck or Roman, therefore, yea, a Scythian or Indian, was without excuse if he did not believe thus much : The being and attributes of God, a future state of reward and punishment, and the obligatory nature of moral virtue. For this is barely the faith of a heathen.
2. Nor, secondly. Is it the faith of a devil, though he goes much farther than that of a heathen. For the devil believes, not only that there is a wise and powerful God, gracious to reward, and just to pun. ish; but also that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, the Saviour of the world. So we find him declaring in express terms, Luke iv, 34, “I know thee, who thou art; the Holy One of God." Nor can we doubt but that unhappy spirit believes all those words which came out of the mouth of the Holy One; yea, and whatsoever else was written by those holy men of old, of two of whom he was compelled to give that glorious testimony, “ These men are the servants of the Most High God, who show unto you the way of salvation.” Thus much, then, the great enemy of God and man believes, and trembles in be. lieving, that God was made manifest in the flesh; that he will “tread all enemies under his feet;" and that “all Scripture was given by in. spiration of God.” Thus far goeth the faith of a devil.
3. Thirdly. The faith through which we are saved, in that sense of the word which will hereafter be explained, is not barely that which the apostles themselves had while Christ was yet upon earth; though they so believed on him as to “leave all and follow him ;" although they had then power to work miracles, to “heal all manner of sick. ness, and all manner of disease;" yea, they had then “ power and au. thority over all devils ;” and, which is beyond all this, were sent by their Master to “preach the kingdom of God."
4. What faith is it then through which we are saved ? It may be answered, first, in general, it is a faith in Christ; Christ, and God through Christ, are the proper objects of it. Herein, therefore, it is sufficiently, absolutely distinguished from the faith, either of ancient or modern heathens. And from the faith of a devil, it is fully distin. guished by this, it is not barely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head; but also a disposition of the heart. For thus saith the Scripture, “With the heart man believ. eth unto righteousness.” And, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe with thy heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
5. And herein does it differ from that faith which the apostles themselves had while our Lord was on earth, that it acknowledges the necessity and merit of his death, and the power of his resurrection. It acknowledges his death as the only sufficient means of redeeming man from death eternal, and his resurrection as the restoration of us all to life and immortality ; inasmuch as he 6 was delivered for our sins, and rose again for our justification." Christian faith is then, not only an assent to the whole Gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us. It is a sure confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with him, and cleaving to him, as our “wisdom, righteous. ness, sanctification, and redemption," or, in one word, our salvation.
II. What salvation it is, which is through this faith, is the second thing to be considered.
1. And first, whatsoever else it imply, it is a present salvation. It is something attainable, yea, actually attained on earth, by those who are partakers of this faith. For thus saith the apostle to the believ. ers at Ephesus, and in them to the believers of all ages, not ye shall be, (though that also is true, but “ye are saved through faith.”
2. Ye are saved (to comprise all in one word) from sin. This is the salvation which is through faith. This is that great salvation foretold by the angel, before God brought his First-begotten into the world : “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” And neither here, nor in other parts of Holy Writ, is there any limitation or restriction. All his people, or as it is else. where expressed, “all that believe in him,” he will save from all their sins; from original and actual, past and present sin, “ of the flesh and of the spirit.” Through faith that is in him, they are saved both from the guilt and from the power of it.
3. First from the guilt of all past sin : for, whereas all the world is guilty before God, insomuch, that should he "be extreme to mark what is done amiss, there is none that could abide it;" and whereas, “by the law is” only “the knowledge of sin,” but no deliverance from it, so that, “by fulfilling the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified in his sight; now, “the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, is manifested unto all that believe.” Now, “they are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” “Him God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood; to declare his righteousness for (or by) the remission of the sins that are past." Now hath Christ taken away “the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." He hath “ blotted out the hand writing that was against us, taking it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” “There is, there. fore, no condemnation now, to them which” believe in Christ Jesus.
4. And being saved from guilt, they are saved from fear. Not in. deed from a filial fear of offending ; but, from all servile fear; from that fear which hath torment; from fear of punishment; from fear of the wrath of God, whom they now no longer regard as a severe Master, but as an indulgent Father. “They have not received again the spirit of bondage, but the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father : the Spirit itself also bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God.” They are also saved from the fear, though not from the possibility, of falling away from the grace of God, and com. ing short of the great and precious promises : they are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of their inheritance,” Eph. i, 13. Thus have they "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. They rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts, through the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them.” And hereby they are persuaded, (though perhaps not at all times, nor with the same fulness of persuasion,) that “nei. ther death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
5. Again, through this faith they are saved from the power of sin, as well as from the guilt of it. So the apostle declares, “Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. Who. soever abideth in him, sinneth not,” 1 John iii, 5, &c. Again, “ Little children, let no man deceive you. He that committeth sin is of the devil. Whosoever believeth is born of God. And whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him : and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Once more, “We know, that whosoever is born of God sinneth not : but he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not,” chap. v, 18.
6. He that is, by faith, born of God, sinneth not, 1, by any habitual sin; for all habitual sin, is sin reigning : but sin cannot reign in any that believeth. Nor, 2, by any wilful sin, for his will, while he abideth in the faith, is utterly set against all sin, and abhorreth it as deadly poison. Nor, 3, by any sinful desire; for he continually desireth the holy and perfect will of God; and any tendency to an unholy desire, he, by the grace of God, stifleth in the birth. Nor, 4, doth he sin by infirmities, whether in act, word or thought : for his infirmities have no concurrence of his will; and without this they are not properly sins. Thus, “ He that is born of God doth not commit sin.” And though he cannot say, he hath not sinned, yet, now “he sinneth not.”
7. This then is the salvation which is through faith, even in the present world : a salvation from sin, and the consequences of sin, both often expressed in the word justification; which, taken in the largest sense, implies, a deliverance from guilt and punishment, by the atonement of Christ actually applied to the soul of the sinner now believing on him, and a deliverance from the whole body of sin, through Christ, formed in his heart. So that he who is thus justified, or saved by faith, is indeed born again. He is born again of the Spirit unto a new life, “ which is hid with Christ in God.” “He is a new creature: old things are passed away: all things in him are become new.” And as a new. born babe he gladly receives the adodov, “sincere milk of the word, and grows thereby ;” going on in the might of the Lord his God, from faith to faith, from grace to grace, until at length he comes unto “a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
III. The first usual objection to this is,
1. That to preach salvation, or justification, by faith only, is to preach against holiness and good works. To which a short answer might be given : It would be so, if we spake, as some do, of a faith which was separate from these : but we speak of a faith which is not so, but necessarily productive of all good works and all holiness.
2. But it may be of use to consider it more at large; especially since it is no new objection, but as old as St. Paul's time : for even then it was asked, “Do we not make void the law through faith?” We answer, first, All who preach not faith, do manifestly make void the law; either directly and grossly by limitations and comments, that eat out all the spirit of the text; or, indirectly, by not pointing out the only means whereby it is possible to perform it. Whereas, secondly, “we establish the law,” both by showing its full extent and spiritual meaning; and by calling all to that living way, whereby “the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in them.” These, while they trust in the blood of Christ alone, use all the ordinances which he hath appointed, do all the good