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builds upon the * person and word of Christ as the foundation of his hope; he enters by him as the only door to the knowledge, communion, and love of God; he feeds upon him by faith in his heart, with thanksgiving, as ? the bread of life ; he embraces his righteousness as the wedding a garment, whereby alone he expects admission to the marriage-feast of heaven. He derives all his strength and comfort from his influence, as the branch from the root. He intrusts himself to his care, as the wise and good shepherd of his soul. Sensible of his own ignorance, defects, and his many enemies, he receives Christ" as his teacher, priest, and king, obeys his preceptor, confides on his mediation, expects and enjoys his powerful protection. In a word, he renounces all confidence in the flesh, and rejoices in Christ Jesus as his Saviour ; and thus he attains to worship God in spirit and in truth, is supported through all the conflicts and trials of life, possesses a stable peace in the midst of a changing world, goes on from strength to strength, and is, at length, made more than conqueror, through him that has loved him. This is the life of faith. The degree and exercise of it is various in different persons, and in the same person at different times (as has been already hinted ;) but the principle itself is universal, permanent, and efficacious in all that truly believe. And nothing less than this faith is sufficient to give any man a right to the name of a Christian.
* Matt. vii. 24.; xvi. 18. y John, x. 9.
John, vi. 54-5'. a Matt. xxii. 11.; Rom. xiii. 14. b John, xv. 4, 56
• John, x. 14. John, vi. 68.
e Phil. iii. 3.
6. The final cause, or great ends of the Gospel respecting man, aref holiness and happiness; I the complete restoration of the soul to the favour and image of God, or eternal life begun here, to,.. be consummated in glory. What has been already said, renders it needless to enlarge upon this head. Nor shall we concern ourselves here to . vindicate this doctrine we have laid down from the charge of licentiousness; because it is our professed design in the progress of this work to prove, from the history of the church, not only. that these principles, when rightly understood, will infallibly produce obedience and submission :: to the whole will of God, but that these only can do it. Wherever and whenever the doctrines of free grace and justification by faith have prevailed in the Christian church, and according to the degree of clearness with which they have been enforced, the practical duties of Christianity have flourished in the same proportion. Wherever they have declined, or been tempered with the reasonings and expedients of men, either from a well meant though mistaken fear lest they should be abused, or from a desire to accommodate the Gospel, and render it more palatable to the des praved taste of the world, the consequence has always been an equal declension in practice. So. long as the Gospel of Christ is maintained without adulteratiou, it is found sufficient for every valuable purpose ; but when the wisdom of man is permitted to add to the perfect work of God, ac wide door is opened for innumerable mischiefs the divine commands are made void, new inventions are continually taking place, zeal is diverted into a wrong channel, and the greatest stress laid upon things, either unnecessary or unwarrantable.
Matr. i. 21.; xxv. 34.; Jol.n, xvii. 24.
Hence, perpetual occasion is given for strife, debates, and divisions, till at length the spirit of Christianity is forgot, and the power of godliness lost, amidst fierce contentions for the form.
To sum up this inquiry in few words. The Gospel is a wise and gracious dispensation, equally suited to the necessities of man and to the perfections of God. It proclaims relief to the miserable, and excludes none but those who exclude themselves. It convinces a sinner that he is unworthy of the smallest mercy, at the same time that it gives him a confidence to expect the greatest. It cuts off all pretence of glorying in the flesh, but it enables a guilty sinner to glory in God. To them that have no might it increases strength; it gives eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; subdues the enmity of the heart, shows the nature of sin, the spirituality and sanction of the law with the fullest evidence, and, by exhibiting Jesus as made of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to all who believe, it makes obedience practicable, easy, and delightful. The constraining love of Christ engages the heart and every faculty in his service. His example illustrates and recommends his precepts, his presence inspires courage and activity under every pressure, and the prospect of the glory to be revealed is a continual source of joy and peace, which passeth the understanding of the natural
Thus the Gospel filleth the hungry with good things, but it sendeth the rich and selfsufficient empty away, and leaves the impenitent and unbelieving in a state of aggravated guilt d condemnation.
Concerning the true ground of the opposition our
Lord met with in the course of his ministry ; and the objections and artifices his enemies employed to prejudice the people against him, and prevent the reception of his doctrine.
IF our knowledge of the history of Jesus was
confined to the excellence of his character, and the diffusive goodness that shone forth in all his actions; we should hardly conceive it possible that any people could be so lost to gratitude and humanity, as to oppose him. He went about doing good : he raised the dead, healed every disease, and relieved the distresses of all who applied to him, without any difference of cases, characters, or parties; as the sun, with a rich and unwearied profusion, fills every eye with his light. Wisdom flowed from his lips, and his whole conduct was perfect and inculpable. How natural is it to expect that a person so amiable and benevolent, so blameless and exemplary, should have been universally revered!
a The heathen moralists have supposed that there is something so amiable in virtue, that, could it be visible, it would necessarily attract the love and admiration of all beholders. This sentiment has been generally admired ; and we need not wonder ; since it flatters the pride of man without thwarting his passions. In the Lord Jesus, this great desideratum was vouchsafed; virtue and goodness were pleased to become visible, were manifest in the flesh. But did the experiment answer to the ideas of the philosophers ? Alas! to the reproach of mankind, Jews and Gentiles conspired to treat him with the utmost contempt. They loved darkness, and therefore could not bear the light. They had more compassion and affection for the most infamous male-
But we find, in fact, it was far otherwise. Instead of the honours he justly deserved, the returns he met with were reproach, persecution, and death. The wonders of his power and goodness were maliciously ascribed to Satan; he was branded as an impostor, madman, and demoniac; he was made the sport of servants and soldiers, and, at length, publicly executed, with every possible circumstance of ignominy and torture, as a malefactor of the worst sort.
What could be the cause and motives of such injurious treatment? This is the subject of our present inquiry. It might indeed be answered very briefly (as it has been) by ascribing it to the peculiar wickedness and perverseness of the Jews. There is not a fallacy more frequent or pleasing to the minds of men, than, while they 4 act contrary to present duty, to please themselves with imagining, how well they would have behaved in another situation, or a different age. They think it a mark of virtue to condemn the , wickedness of former times, not aware that they themselves are governed by the same spirit. Thus these very Jews spoke highly of the persons of the prophets, while they rejected their testimony; and blamed their forefathers for shedding innocent blood, at the time they were thirsting for the blood of Jesus. It is equally easy, at present, to condemn the treachery of Judas, the cowardice of Pilate, the blindness of the people, and the malice of the priests, who were all personally concerned in the death of Christ. It is easy to think, that if we had seen his works and heard his words, we would not factor ; therefore, when the alternative was proposed to them, they released Barabbas, a robber and a murderer, and nailed Jesus and virtue to the cross.
b Matt. xxiii. 29, 30.