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Sixthly: The Jews were particularly offended with the extent of Christ's salvation, which they would have had confined to their nation; but it was its glory that Gentiles were invited to that ensign which was now lifted up: that this propitiatory sacrifice was offered, not merely for Jews; but for all the world, that are made willing to return unto God by him. All are one in Christ Jesus, and have equal privileges.
Seventhly: The spirituality of his salvation was another objection with them. He saves, not so much from outward afflictions, as from inward anguish; gives not temporal, but spiritual riches. His kingdom is not of this world : his subjects obtain victory, not over nations, but over their own spirits. It is not certain that by embracing Christ, a man will, in this life, insure health, wealth, honor, a good name, all the comforts of the present state, or even secure life itself: nor will he be sure to escape sickness, pain, poverty, slander, contempt, hatred, persecution, or death: but he will save his soul, though that may be all. Yet, herein would the Christian glory; as it secures from the worst evils, and insures the most abiding and most excellent blessings.
EIGHTHLY : True, in the issue, the believer shall escape every evil, and enjoy the perfection of bliss ; but the futurity of this blessedness is a reason why many undervalue it. We may, however, justly glory in this: that Christ hath brought life and immortality to light, and thus teaches us to look, not to the things which are seen, and are temporal; but to the unseen realities, which are eternal.
It honors God, when upon his testimony alone, poor creatures, though they are surrounded by the objects of sense, and have no way of conversing with any other, but by faith in the divine word, do yet, by that means, look forward into a vast eternity, and entertain such hopes and expectations, as raise and ennoble their minds above all things earthly; so that they chiefly regard the world to come, and become in a degree indifferent to this present evil world; rejoicing as though they rejoiced not, when it smiles; weeping as though they wept not, when it frowns; using it as not abusing it; because
the fashion of it passes away. Such is the genuine influence of the cross. If we pretend to glory in it, and feel not this to be the effect, we dishonor it. Do we? Oh that we may do so more and more!
SALVATION BY GRACE.
[Preached on occasion of the death of Rev. John Vernon.]
Eph. ii. 8. For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God.
A little more than two years ago, (July 1st, 1814,) we attended the ordination of our dear departed friend. About nine months ago, God was pleased to encourage him, by the addition of ten members to the little church under his
pastoral care; but very soon after this, the Lord was pleased, in his mysterious providence, to lay him aside from his ministerial labors, with a threatening appearance that he would not be able to resume them.
Nothing that human skill and friendship could attempt for his relief was neglected; and had the assiduous pains which were employed by his medical attendants been succeeded, though he and they would have rendered all the praise to God, yet I am sure his grateful mind would never have forgotten the instruments of his recovery: and had some one peculiar method or medicine been employed, his benevolence would have induced him on all occasions, to recommend it to any one that he heard was affected with symptoms of the like disorder.
But it was the will of God that Mr. Vernon's affliction should terminate more happily for himself, and more gloriously for the display of divine grace, than in restoration to a dying life. He was enabled for months together, to look the king of terrors full in the face, without the least symptom of dismay, and to obtain a complete triumph over him. And he was very anxiously concerned to recommend to others, the same means of securing the victory in that last conflict
which awaits them also: for there is no discharge nor exemption in that war.
This was the reason of his requesting me to preach from this text at his funeral, as fully stating the only ground of his hope—a hope that did not make him ashamed, but proved a firm and steadfast anchor to his soul : even a good hope through grace.
I would therefore propose, First, To state briefly the scriptural idea of grace.
This may be ascertained, by considering how it is opposed, by the Apostle, to works, or human merit, or to whatever would admit of boasting. Ver. 9. See also Rom. iv. 4, 5. vi. 23. xi. 5. Titus iii. 5. So then, it is needless to say grace is not the same with justice; though it is nearly the same with mercy. It is not love, excited by the good qualities, or amiable character of its objects. It is not the same with God's natural love to his own image, in creatures perfectly holy: nor merely his kind condescension to beings wholly dependant, and infinitely inferior. It is not that exercise of divine government with which the government of the universe would resemble a monarch, who was inattentive to the wants of his good subjects; or be like a father, who cruelly disregarded his own offspring. But it is goodness to ungrateful prodigals, who had deserved to be disinherited, and disowned for ever; to rebels, who had engaged in groundless revolt; to criminals, who had transgressed without a cause. It is that favor which God might have withheld, without any impeachment of his moral character. It is free, sovereign goodness to the unworthy and unlovely; to sinful, guilty, ill-deserving, miserable creatures; which pardons those that deserved to be punished, justifies those who had merited condemnation, blesses those who were exposed to the curse, and bestows the highest goodness on them that were worthy of the greatest evil. This is my idea of grace, and this, I believe, was my departed friend's. I am persuaded this is the scriptural idea ; which, I conceive, is confirmed by all that the Sacred Scriptures teach of salvation : which will appear, while I proceed,
SecondLY, To show the reasonableness of the doctrine maintained in our text, that salvation is wholly of grace.
This is the plain doctrine of scripture. Chap. i. 7. ii. 4.5.7. Rom. iii 24. John iii. 16. 1 John iv. 10. 2 Cor. viii. 9. And it necessarily follows from all the other principal truths taught in the Sacred Scriptures, whether in the law or the gospel.
First : Consider what the Sacred Scriptures teach respecting the need of salvation. By grace are ye saved. Saved ! from what? Not from some bad being, to whose malevolence we had exposed ourselves, by keeping our allegiance to God. Had that been the case, we could not wonder that God should interpose in our behalf. But from the just displeasure of the best of beings, to which we were exposed, in consequence of having violated the best of laws; even God's own law, enacted by himself; not by any predecessor, for he had none; not by the influence of others, like Darius; not inconsiderately; not a law which he now repents of having made ; but a law founded on his very nature, necessary to secure his own glory, and no less so to the good of the universe ; too good to be repealed, altered, or abated; the abrogation of which would go to dethrone the Deity, disband his universal empire, and introduce anarchy and confusion in all the worlds he has made. All its precepts are holy, just, and good ; and its penalty barely proportioned to the evil of sin. And though the Sacred Scriptures teach a distinction of persons in the Deity, yet the Sacred Three are One ; not only in essence, power, and glory, but also in judgment and disposition, on this head and all others. The Mediator as much abhors admitting an idea that should dishonor the law, or imply that it had been too strict and rigorous, as the divine Father. This leads us to consider,
THIRDLY, What the sacred scriptures teach concerning the only means of salvation.
Grace reigns through righteousness. God has abounded in all wisdom and prudence, in glorifying the exceeding riches of his grace
in the work of redemption, by his incarnate Son. Mercy is shown to sinners only through a Mediator, and he a person of infinite dignity, who has interposed on our behalf in such a way, as not to appear for a moment to extenuate
our guilt; but has fully justified God in all his claims and charges, magnifying the law, and making it honorable, and utterly condemning all sin. No such remedy was provided for creatures of a higher species : they were at once given up to the consequences of their rebellion ; nor did any of their associates who kept their allegiance, on that account suspect the Most High of undue severity. But he pitied us in our lost estate; the Son of God took upon him our nature, fulfilled the law with infinite delight, and bore our sins in his own body, making his soul an offering for sin, and redeeming sinners from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for them. Now, surely, if this expedient were at all necessary to prevent our escape from personal suffering from being a dishonor to God, salvation must be altogether of grace. They who were bad enough to need such an atonement, could never deserve that the Son of God should become incarnate, and lay down his life for their ransom. But if God had not manifested his infinite aversion to sin, by requiring an atonement, how could it have been evident that salvation was of grace? Might it not have been surmised, either, that he was indifferent to the conduct of his creatures, or that he was conscious he had gone too far in his requirements, or in his threatenings? The atonement exhibits, in the strongest light, by the united testimony of the Lawgiver and the Mediator, God's utter abhorrence of sin; and thus manifests in the most decisive manner, that salvation is wholly of grace.
FOURTHLY: What the Sacred Scriptures teach respecting the application of salvation, confirms the same idea. See Rom. iv. 16. 4, 5. v. 5—11.
To enjoy an interest in all the benefits of redemption, it is only required, that a sinner should cordially believe the testimony of God concerning his Son, and thankfully coincide with the plan of salvation by him ; renouncing every other dependence, and returning to God in his name. He that believeth shall be saved. He that cometh shall not be cast out. The call of the gospel is the only and the sufficient warrant, for any poor sinner's application to Christ. And this is expressed in the most indefinite and extensive terms :