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of man: It is one of the promises of the gospel that the law of God shall be written in our hearts; Heb. x. 16. and of the great offices and business of Christ, as a Saviour, is by all the methods of his grace and power, to reduce our hearts to the love of God and his law: He is made sanctification to us as well as redemption : 1 Cor. i. 30. So that for men to talk of being saved without love and obedience to the moral law of God, is to talk plain inconsistencies, or to affirm what natural reason can never allow, and what scripture and the gospel never designed; in short, it is to talk of being saved without salvation. The moral law of God is of eternal obligation upon creatures: And it would be our constant duty to obey it, even if we could suppose there were no such future state, no such eternal life provided for men as the gospel reveals. It arises from the relation between God and his creatures. We can never be disengaged or released from this duty by the gospel, which brings in pardon and mercy to save us from the punishment due to our defects or transgressions of the law; but not to release us from obedience to it.
A holy God will not save sinners from hell, and forgive them their sins, without making them holy. Christ in all his abounding love to sinners, will not become a minister of sin; Gal. ii. 17-20. The design of God in his grace to sinners, by Jesus Christ, is that they might be holy and without blame before him in love: Eph. i. 4. And hereby we shew that the grace of God, in the forgiveness of sin, is not lost upon us, but obtains the end for which it was designed, viz. to bring us back to God and holiness.
II. Good works are necessary to manifest our gratitude to God for his pardoning mercy;" These are our returns of love to the blessed Jesus for his dying love manifested to us; 2 Cor. He died for all ranks and characters of men, Jews and Gentiles, that they who live should not henceforth live to themselves, but to him who died for them, and rose again. 1 John iv. 19. We are bound to love him, and we do love him because he he first loved us. 1 Cor. vi. 20. Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God with your body and spirit, which are God's.
III. "Good works are alsonecessary to render us useful to men our fellow-creatures," and to make our profession honourable in their sight. Good works are recommended by St. Paul for the purpose; Tit. iii. 8. "This is is a faithful saying, and I will that thou constantly affirm, that they who have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men." It is necessary to convince the world that our gospel is all holy, and that it indulges and allows of no known sin: That this gospel is a divine blessing to mankind, that it carries blessings with it wheresoever it comes, that ît cures the vices of the mind, and the sinful passions of the
heart, that it suppresses all injustice and cruelty, fraud and malice, envy and oppression, and every evil work which sin and Satan have introduced into this world. A christian must preach and prove the purity and power of his gospel in his whole conversation, that it changes a lion into a lamb, an earth-worm into an angel, and a son of Adam into a child of God. This is the way to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, as St. Paul expresses it; Tit. ii. 10. This must force a conviction upon the eyes and ears, and consciences of men, that there is something divine and heavenly in our religion.
IV. "Without holiness and good works we are not, nor can be conformable to our Lord Jesus Christ :" And yet all the members must be conformed to their head, when they are presented by him before the Father; Rom. viii. 29. God has predestinated all his children to be conformable to the image of his Son, that' he may appear to be the first-born, and in all things may have the pre-eminence: He must present them without spot and blemish, like himself, in the other world, that they may dwell with him for And in this world the disciples must resemble their Lord; christians should be public blessings to the world, as their master was, who went about doing good; Acts x. 38. and they should be known to be his followers by this blessed character:
V. Another use of good works is," to evidence the truth of our faith, and our interest in this salvation;" James ii. 20, 24. For faith which does not produce good works is dead, and ́ cannot save us. Our faith in Christ is made known to ourselves, as well as to the world, by our works; Rom. viii. 1. They who are in Christ Jesus, and are free from the condemnation of the law, must walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit? 1 John ii. 2-5. Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments: And it is by keeping or obeying his word, that we know we are in him.
VI. Works of holiness, a new heart and new obedience, are needful to fit and prepare us for the actual possession and blesedness of heaven, for without holiness no man shall see God*. And in this view a sincere return to God with obedience to his commands, is a necessary requisite, in order to our final salvation; Heb. xii. 14. This blissful vision of God is reserved only
*Note, when I speak of good works, or works of holiness, as necessary toward our final salvation, or our complete possession of heavenly blessedness, I mean all the inward exercises of holy fear, and love, and hope, and obedience, and dependence, and patience in the heart, &c. as well as the outward perfor mances of the acts of religion and righteousness in the life: But it must still be understood with this limitation, viz. They are necessary where there is time and room, opportunity and capacity for the performance of them; so that this doth not exclude infants from salvation, who are not capable of exercising the principles of grace: Nor doth it exclude dying penitents who have no space of time allowed them for living a life of holiness.
for the pure in heart: Mat. v. 8. Sanctification is the beginning of our salvation, and it is eternally necessary to continue it. We can never be happy in the presence of God till we are like him in holiness. Nor can we be fit company for the holy angels, or the spirits of the just made perfect, unless we are conformable to their temper. And it should be observed also, that this preparation or fitness for heaven, may be sometimes represented as a right to the blessedness of it, because the promises of heaven are sometimes made to those who are thus qualified and prepared, and these promises give them a right to it*. Mat. v. 3— 12. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God, &c. Rev. xxii. 14. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Yet it may be remembered what I said before, that these commandments do not signify directly the ten commandments of the law, but rather the commands of Jesus Christ, or of God in the gospel, which indeed include a sincere obedience to the moral law, and something more, viz. Repentance and faith in Christ.
VII. I might add, in the last place, that holiness of life or obedience to the commands of God, is necessary in order to make the process of the last judgment appear equitable and righteous in the eyes of all mankind; for Christ the judge shall render to every one according to their works; Rev. xxii. 12. Rom. ii. 5, 6. I Cor. xv. 58. And indeed this is one chief design of God's appointing such a solemn and public transaction as the last judgment, that all the creation may see the equity or righteousness of the dealings of God with men, that he awards the eternal recompence to saints and sinners, according to their different characters of vice and virtue, sin and holiness. The vessels of wrath are by their own rebellion and impenitence fitted to destruction, and the vessels of mercy are by sanctifying grace and holiness before prepared unto glory; Rom. ix. 22, 23. Though our own works are by no means sufficient to atone for sin; or to procure the favour of God or eternal life, for such guilty creatures as we are, yet there is, as Doctor Owen, I think in his Book of Justifica tion, calls it, a rewardable condecency in the works of holiness, and there is many a promise of heavenly rewards made to them in the New Testament: Now when Christ shall adjudge the wicked to hell, and the saints to heaven, the whole creation must approve the equity of his dealings with men. In the mean time
Some divines have here distinguished, as I have elsewhere shewn, between a" Jus hæreditatis." or a right of heirship through faith in Christ, whereby we become the sons of God, and have a title to heaven, and a "Jus aptitudinis,' that is, a right of fitness, whereby we are actually prepared, by sanctification and holiness, for the possession of this heavenly inheritance. He that is a heir by birth or by adoption, has a title to an estate or a crown; but he acquires a right to the actual possession, by being trained up for a fitness for it, at the time appointed, by him who is his natural father or his adopter.
the saints shall admire the grace of God, and the mediation of Christ, while they see how unworthy they and their works are of such a glorious reward.
Thus we find there is abundant reason for our obedience to the commands of the moral law, though it is not made the proper condition, or prescribed term of our acceptance with God, and of obtaining happiness by the gospel; for it is only perfect obedience to these commauds in thought, word and deed, can give us a right to eternal life, according to the law. And yet a sincere endeavour after universal obedience to them, is one necessary requisite of our being approved by Christ at last, and our actual entrance into heaven, according to the gospel: Hereupon I am bold to affirm, that those persons whom all these reasons cannot draw to the sincere practice of holiness, may be sure they never believed in Christ, and are not partakers of the salvation of the gospel; for the great and necessary duty of christianity is faith which works by love; Gal. v. 6. The heart is purified by true faith; Acts xv. 9. And faith without works is dead, and is unable to save us; James ii. 20, 26.
I." It is a dangerous thing to mistake the great design of Christ's ministry here on earth." Let us learn from this discourse, that our Saviour often preached to sinners the gospel of grace and forgiveness, of repentance and faith in himself; yet that his chief business here, was not to preach the gospel constantly, nor to preach it in its full light, perfection and glory; but rather to prepare the way for it when he had laid the foundation in his own death and resurrection, and when his kingdom should be set up in the world by his apostles, and by his Spirit, and built upon this foundation. He prepared the way for his Spirit, and his apostles, even as John the baptist prepared the way for him. The great business of Christ in this life on earth, was to appear with the characters of the Messiah on him; to answer the types and prophecies that went before concerning him; to pass through the stages of life without sin as our example; to yield a perfect obedience to the law, and fulfil all those precepts in perfection which we could never fulfil; to preach the law in the spirituality and perfection of its demands, and begin to open the gospel; to resign and submit himself to death, as a sacrifice for sin, accursed by the law, and devoted to the punishing justice of God: And hereby he laid a foundation for clearer preaching the gospel of forgiveness of sins through his blood, which doctrine he just mentions to his disciples at the last supper. As for his own public preaching, it chiefly consisted in clear and full explications of the law of God in its spirituality, which had been shamefully obscured and curtailed by the Jewish Doctors; in bringing the invisible worlds of heaven and hell into a
nearer and brighter view; in vindicating his own conduct against the accusations of men; in maintaining his own character, as one sent of God; in reproving the Jews for their corrupt traditions, for their hypocrisy, for their self-righteousness, for their uncharitableness to the Gentiles, and thus calling the world to conviction of sin and repentance, and preparing the way by his parables for the reception of the Gentiles into the church. When he preached the gospel of his atonement for sin and faith in his blood, it was rather in secret to his disciples; or if in public, it was generally in dark sayings and parables, and mystical expressions, such as, the Son of man being lifted up, and drawing all men to him; John xii. 32. giving his flesh for meat to the people, and his blood for drink, chapter vi. 51-55. The plainest intimations, which, I think, Christ ever gave of the salvation of sinners by his own death as a sacrifice, to people who were not his disciples, was in those metaphorical words two or three times repeated in the tenth chapter of John, I am the good shepherd, who giveth his life for the sheep; verses 11, 14, 15. But when his death and resurrection had laid a fairer foundation for the gospel, then he taught it his disciples much more plainly after his resurrection, both by his conversation and by his Spirit, and sent them to publish it to the whole world more gloriously than ever he himself taught it to the Jews. See this explained more at large in the Second Sermon on the Atonement of Christ*.
Now, I say, a mistake in the design of Christ's public preaching, may lead many people into some unhappy mis-apprehensions about several things, and particularly about the way of salvation by the gospel. For,
1. When we hear Christ preach the law so much, and speak of "entering into life by keeping the commandments," if we imagine all this to be the clear gospel, we shall seek to be saved as it were by the works of the law, which the apostle so severely reproves the Galatians for, and the Jews or Jewish christians, who dwelt among the Romans; Rom. ix. 31, 32. Gal. iii. 1-6. and iv. 21. and v. 4. And if our opinions and conduct be the same, we shall expose ourselves to the same saered reproof of the apostle, and be greatly bewildered in the way to heaven.
2. Such a mistake in the design of Christ's preaching the law, as though he taught it as the way for the salvation of sinners, "will incline us to expound the law in so gross and defective a sense, as the Pharisees did of old, that so expounded, sinners may be able to keep it, and obey the commands of it sufficiently to gain salvation thereby." It will tempt us to retrench and diminish the perfection of its demands of universal
* See vol. I. page 493, &c.