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methods of acceptance been proposed to the dying thief, what confolation could he have found? How little could he do in his few remaining hours! However he might have admired the goodness of God to others, he must have utterly despaired of mercy himself
. But through faith in Christ he was enabled to depart in peace and joy. As to the murderers of our Lord, how long muft it have been before they could have entertained any comfortable hope of acceptance! But the Gospel affords a prospect of salvation to the very chief of finners, and that, even at the eleventh hour. Nor is there any situation whatever, in which the Gospel is not calculated to comfort and support the foul. Under first convictions of fin, what la, delightful as to hear of a Saviour? Under subsequent trials and temptations, how would our difficulties be increased, if we did not know that “God had laid help upon One that was mighty!” The people of God, notwithstanding the hope which they have in Christ, feel great and heavy discouragements on account of the power of in-dwelling corruption : they seem oftentimes to be rolling a stone up the hill, which rushes impetuously down again, and necessitates them to repeat their ineffectual labours. And what would they do if their dependence were not placed on the obedience and sufferings of the Son of God? Surely they would lie down in despair, and say like those of old, “ There is no hope ; I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” Under the various calamities of life, also, believers find consolation in the thought that the salvation of their souls is secured by Christ
. Hence they are enabled to bear their trials with firmness: they “know how both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to fuffer need.” And Thall not this recommend the Gospel? that there is no situation, no circumftance whatever where. in it is not suited to us ? that while every other method of falvation increase our anxiety, and, in many instances,
, drives us utterly to despair, the Gospel always mitigates our forrows, and often turns them into joy and triumph?
A farther excellency of the Gospel is, that it refers all the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Every other plan of falvation leaves room for man to boaft: but, on the plan of the Gospel, the most moral person upon earth mult lubscribe to the declaration of the Apostle, “ By grace are ye faved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of 2
God.” None, who have obtained an interest in Chrift
, will take the glory to themselves; the voice of all without exception is, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name be the praise." There is not any tiing that distinguishes true believers more than this, That they defire to glorify Christ as the one source of all their blessings. In this their hearts are in perfect unilon with the glorified faints, who fing continually, “Tollim who loved us and washed us froin our fins in his own blood, to Him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever.” And is not this another excellency of the Gospel? Is it at all desirable that while some in heaven are afcriling falvation to God and to the Lamb, others should afcribe falvation to God and to themselves? Surely the felicity of heaven is much increased by the obligation which iliey feel to Jesus, and the confideration that every particle of that bliss was purchased for them by the blood of God” himself; nor is there fo much as one amongst all the holis of heaven who would consent for an infant to rob the Saviour of his glory. -- Laitly--The ladi excellency which I thail mention as belonging to the Gospel, is, that it most of all secures the praftice of good cvorks.
Here is the chief ground of jealousy with thic world: and if the Gospel were indeed liable to the imputations cast on it, if it gave licence to men to continue in fin, we thould not licitate to discard it as a fiction, seeing that it could never be the production of an holy God.
But, as the Apostle fays, The grace of God which bringeth falvation teaches us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lufts, we fhould live righteoully, doberly, and godly in this prcient world.” Iwe appeal to antiquity, who was ever so ftrenuous as St. Paul in asserting the doctrine of justification by faith alone? and yet, who was ever fo abundant in labours of every kind ? or who ever inculcated with greater energy and minuteness the neceffity of good works? If we come to modern times, we must observe that they, who now preach juftification by faith, are with the very fame breath accused of opening heaven to all, however they may act, and yet of fhutting the door against all by their unneceffury ftriétness: and they who receive the Gospel are condemned as licentious, while they are at the same time blamed as too rigid and precife: nor is this by any means a figlit proof of the efficacy of the Gospel on the hearts and lives of its profeflors; for if
their sentiments expose them to the former censure, it is their holy conduct that subjects them to the latter. We grant, and acknowledge it with forrow, that there are some who name the name of Christ without departing from iniquity: but must all therefore be represented as of the fame stamp, and the Gospel itself be considered as unfavourable to morality? Is it just, that, while ten thousand glaring lins pass unnoticed in an unbeliever, the misconduct of a few, or perhaps one single fault in " a perfon profefling godlinefs” should excite a clamour against all the religious world as hypocrites? But, thanks be to God! we can appeal to experience, that faith “ does work by love," and come the world,” and “purify the heart :” we are there- , fore emboldened primarily and principally to recommend the Gospel from this confideration, that while the zealous advocates for felf-righteousness are miferably def Ctive in all fpiritual duties, the Gospel of Christ invariably stimulates us to an holy, spiritual, and unreserved obedience.
Many more excellencies of the Gospel might be mentioned: but if those that have been stated will not endear it to us, it is in vain to hope that any thing which could be added would procure it a favourable reception.
And now, as there are many in this Assembly who are already engaged in the fervice of the sanctuary, and many others who are destined in due time to undertake the facred office of the ministry, and as the words of my text are in a more especial manner applicable to persons fo circumstanced, fuffer me, with humility, yet with freedoin and faithfulness, to address myself in a more especial manner to them; and let me intreat you to bear with me if I “ufe great boldness of speech.” ..
I would beseech You then, my Brethren, to consider, that as the eternal welfare of our fellow-creatures is sufpended on their reception or rejection of the Gospel, fo their acquaintance with the Gospel muft depend, in a great measure, on those who are authorised to teach it: for “ Faith cometh by hearing; and how ihall they hear without a Preacher?" Be not offended then if I ask, whether you yourselves have“ received the truth in the love of it?" If you have not, how can you properly
? commend it to others? How can it be expected that you ihould " contend carnestly for that faith which you yourselves have rever embraced; or that you should
-labour with becoming zeal to convert your hearers, when you yourselves are unconverted ? O let it be a matter of deep and serious enquiry amongst us, whether we have felt the force and influence of the Gospel ? Have we ever been convinced of unbelief? Have we seen the equity and reasonableness of the judgments denounced against us while in that state? Have we, under a deep conviction of our guilt and helplessness, " fled to Christ for refuge ? Have we discovered the transcendent excellency of this salvation; and do we feel in our inmost fouls its perfect suitableness to our own necessities, and its tendency to proinote the interests of holiness? Can we say with the Apostle, that “what our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hands have handled of the word of life, that, and that only, we declare” unto our people? In short, while we profess that “the ministry of reconciliation has been committed unto us,” do we experience this reconciliation ourselves ? The falvation of our own fouls, no less than that of our fellow-finners, depends on this : indeed we are more interested in the Gospel than any; for if we continue ignorant of it, we perith under the aggravated guilt of rejecting it ourselves, and of betraying the souls of others into irretrievable ruin. We, of all people under heaven, are most bound to divest ourselves of prejudice, and to labour with our whole hearts both to enjoy the blessings of the Gospel, and to Mew ourselves patterns of its fanctifying influence. Let us then, in compliance with the divine command,“ take heed to ourselves, and to our do&rine, that, in so doing, we may both fave ourselves, and them that hear us.”
But let others also be aware, that though they may have no responsibility attaching to thein as ministers, they have as Christians. I must beg leave therefore to say unto all, that as “ baptilin is not the putting away the filth of the fleth, but the answer of a good conscience towards God," so the faith which they profess cannot fave them, unless it be accompanied with a renovation of heart and life. Do not then be hafty to conclude that you are true believers :
examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own felves.”. Be assured, it is no easy matter to believe : it is by no means pleasing to feth and blood : there is not any thing to which we are naturally more averse : what our' Lord said to the Jews of old may be addressed with equal propriety to
the greater part of nominal Christians, “ Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life.” But let it be remembered, that, however humiliating it may appear to our proud nature to renounce all felf-righteoulness and self-dependence, and to look for acceptance through the merits of Christ alone, it must be done : it will profit us little to have received the qutivard feal of his covenant, unless we poffefs also “ the faith of God's elect.” Our “ lofty looks must be humbled, our haughtineis most be brought down, and the Lord alone must be exalted :" we must bow before the fceptre of his grace, or we shall be“ broken in pieces with a rod of iron.” If we truly and cordially “receive Him, wc thall have the privilege
“ of becoming the fons of God; and if fons, then heirs heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” But " what thall our end be, if we obey not the gospel ?” What prospect have we, but to be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power?” Behold then, life and death are this day set before you. Bearing, as we do, a commission from the Lord Jesus to preach his Gospel, “ we are debtors both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wife and to the unwife.” In his facred Name, therefore, we deliver our message; we are constrained to deliver it with all faithfulness," whether ye will hear or whether ye will forbear.” He, who with a penitent and contrite heart believeth in the Son of God, and, by virtue of that faith, is enabled to confets him before men, and to honour him by an holy life, he fliall “receive the remiffion of his fins, and an inheritance among them that are fanctified by faith in Chrift.” But he, who believeth not on the Son of God, however moral he may have been in
, his external conduct, and whatever pleas le may urge inz extenuation of his guilt, he, I say, “Thall not lee life, but the wrath of God îhall abide upon him :" he hath practically faid, " I will not have this man to reign over me;"
“ and the despised Saviour will, ere long, iffue this vindictive sentence, —" Bring him hither, and llay him before me.” The decree is gone forth, nor falt all the powers of heaven or hell reverte it," He who believith anu is baptized, thall
“ be saved ; but he that believeth not, thall be danned.”