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but who will say, that the power was not of Christ, their Master? Lazarus was commanded to “come forth from the grave;" but who will say,
that he could hear the voice or move a limb? A man had lain at the pool of Bethesda for thirty-nine years: all the while infirm and helpless. The passing Saviour addresses him, saying, “ Arise, take up thy bed and walk.” Did our Lord contemplate his ability to rise when he commanded? or did the command proceed from a purpose to give it? Peter said to the lame man at the temple's gate, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk;" and the effect was that he was soon seen walking, and leaping, and praising God. Add to this, that the scriptures no where teach that men have the ability or capacity or power of embracing Christ, or of repenting and believing. Neither Christ, nor prophet, nor apostle have taught men so.
To the contrary you read in every page. But if
that if God commands us to do what we are unable to do; then must he employ compulsory force in producing the change, and thus destroy human liberty. God does say, the Father, to God the Son, “ Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” From being unwilling, they shall be made willing. This teaches the certainty of the success of Christ, in gathering in the proper subjects of his promised kingdom; but with equal plainness it teaches the persuasive means to be employed, and the voluntary acceptance of Christ and his salvation by them. Philosophy has thrown so much glare around the subject of human, freedom, as to produce the effect of downright darkness. Let us try an illustration by means of instances. God is necessarily holy, and it is absolutely impossible that he should sin. therefore, a free agent?' Is not Satan a free agent, though all his volitions and actions are sinful? If he be not, why is he condemned and punished ? Is not man as fallen a free agent, though his choice of evil is continual: and when by grace he shall be puri. fied and translated to heaven will he not be a free agent, though, to sin will be impossible! Freedom of will, or agency, is not dependent on the moral or immoral estate of any being. It consists in liberty and power to act according to the nature, disposition or propensity which they possess. We conclude, therefore, that the exercise of sovereign grace in the production of repentance and faith is consistent with human liberty; that the command to believe is just and right. That it is recommended to us, by the blessed ends produced by it, and the hope of success in complying. God's purpose and grace exerted is the strongest inducement to employ every appointed means for accomplishing the duty, and obtaining the rewards connected with them.
Is he not,
Let none regard this doctrine as discouraging to sinners in seeking salvation. Our condition, is a lost condition. The salva
tion provided is for the lost. Christ, the great Shepherd, is seek ing to save them. His voice, by his under-shepherds, is heard through the streets and lanes of cities, by the high ways and hedges, and in the remote and long deserted wilderness, gathering his wanderers home. By means of his word and Spirit; he has achieved wonders already. Who can count the number that have entered the city, where no sun nor moon shed their feeble light; where the glory of God shines resplendent; “ and the Lamb is the light of it.” Christ did not shed his blood to save one of a nation or generation of men. A multitude which no man can number, from every nation and tongue and people shall be saved. This salva. tion will be effected “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy.” Salvation is “of faith, that it might be by grace.” Faith is a gift of God. Through the sinner's use of the means of believing, God ordinarily so changes the human heart, as to render it susceptible of the impression which the truths of God's word are calculated to make; and in a manner, so consistent with the ordinary operation of truth upon the heart, brings it to a saving acceptance of Christ, that though his power in the work is almighty, his agency is not discerned as distinct or separate from the word. If this be so, then let the sinner be told, while he seeks salvation through faith, to seek it through the truth, and to strive as in an agony with God to send his Spirit to “ break up the fallow ground,” and prepare it for receiving the good seed, and to water and warın it that it may grow.
In preaching to our fellow sinful men, let all of us be careful, while we press on sinners the duty of believing, to guard them against self-confidence. Let us mingle the riches of grace, which, as to place stands pre-eminent in the great salvation, with all our earnestness in pressing duty upon sinners. Tell them, that they ought indeed, to "run and will;" and to do it always and with all their might. But tell them, too, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,". that any are saved. O, that we could bring the inhabitants of our widely extended and largely populated world to fall as helpless and as spiritually dead beneath the cross! Then would sacrifices of broken and bleeding hearts be every where offered. Then would the groans of sin-sick souls ascend in the ears of the God of sabaoth, through the Advocate of man; and soon, very soon would joy and gladness and praise fill the earth, and spread over heaven. Amen.
BY ROBERT H. BISHOP, D. D.
Rom. 3:24,25,26. Being justified freely by his grace, through the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the for. bearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
The leading doctrine in the text, is free justification through our Lord Jesus Christ. “Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, and received by faith alone."
1. Justification supposes condemnation, and it is of vast importance to know the nature and the extent of this state of condemnation. " What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they used deceit, the poisons of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Rom. 3:9-18.
We are not by these or similar declarations to understand that there is nothing good or amiable in man, while in a state of condemnation. Men have been condemned, and condemned and suffered justly under human law, who were yet possessed of many amiable and useful qualities. So, also, under God's government. Men in a state of condemnation may know the truth, and they may approve of the truth to a great extent. They may have a strong sense of their obligation to God. They may, in the ordinary sense of the phrase, be good fathers, and good mothers, and
good neighbors, and may even be good and useful members of the church, and yet be under a sentence of condemnation.
The law under which man is, both as a creature and a sinner, is holy, and just, and good. It is spiritual and exceeding broad. It requires perfect, and universal, and perpetual obedience. And it denounces death,—even eternal death, for the very least trans. gression. It particularly requires supreme and unceasing love to God. '“ Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that
mouth stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom. 3:19,20.
Dost thou then ground thy hope of pardon and acceptance upon the law? Thy works must be perfect.--and thy obedience must be universal and perpetual,—or all will be of no avail. The law under which thou art, still thunders, As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are witten in the book of the law to do them.” Gal. 3: 10.
II. The only ground of a sinner's pardon and acceptance before God, is the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ." But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference.” Rom. 3:21,22. “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” ver. 24,25.
To understand this righteousness we may take the following facts,
1. Christ as man and mediator was made under the law, and made under it in the form of a broken covenant of works. when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Gal
. 4:4,5. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Rom. 8: 3.
2. Whatever divine justice demanded of man as a sinner, was fulfilled by Christ in the character of a surety. He assumed human nature in all its purity, Luke 1:35. “ For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself." Heb. 7:26,27. He fulfilled all righteousness, -was always doing goods-was literally without guile,—without fault of any kind.
He bore, also, the curse or the penalty of that law, whatever it was. Nor can we have any adequate conception of the nature and extent of either his obedience or sufferings. “ He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor. 5:21. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” i Pet. 2:24.
This righteousness is called the righteousness of God. It is eminently and exclusively so. It is God's contrivance. It is God's appointed mode of saving lost sinners of the human family. It was wrought out by God. God was manifested in the flesh. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
It is THE ONLY righteousness on account of which God can pardon and accept a sinner. From the giving of the first promise till the consummation of all things in the song of the redeemed, there is not a ray
of hope to any of our race, but through the mediation of the Lord at Jesus Christ. " And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art
worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped him that liveth for ever and ever." Rev. 5:9-14.
We may reason about the matter as we please, but there is no getting over the stubborn fact. Not another name given under E heaven whereby we must be saved.
III. Sinners are interested in this righteousness and in all the blessings connected with it, by faith. Rom. 3:22.25,26. “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16: 16.
What then is justifying faith? Strictly speaking, it is resting upon the satisfaction of the Redeemer alone, for pardon and acceptance. Hence it is said to be faith in his blood. Hence it is also said, " he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2: 2.