« PreviousContinue »
ance, but rather lay them under stronger obligations to them.
But though the righteousness of Christ, imputed to a believer, gives him as good a plea for acquittance and justification in the court of the Supreme Judge, as a perfect personal righteousness would have given; yet it is to be carefully remembered, that, according to the gospel constitution, none, to whom the gospel is sent, are savingly united to Christ, or have an interest in his imputed righteousness, but penitent believers. Accordingly, perseverance in repentance and faith, continuance in the word of Christ, as his true disciples, begging forgive ness for his sake, and keeping his commandments, are necessary to our abiding in him. We cannot continue in a justified state, unless we continue penitent believers, cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Though no inherent qualifications in us are to be regarded, as our justifying righteous ness, since it is only by the righteousness of Christ, that we are justified; yet without inherent holiness we cannot be pardoned, justified, and saved through his redemption.
It is farther argued; "if believers had a righteousness properly their own, they would neither deserve, nor receive any real punishments."
I answer. If God's giving them an interest in the righteousness of Christ renders it their own, then this righteousness, though not of their own working, is so their own, as to entitle them to the rights and prive ileges of righteous persons. Nor are they liable to vindictive pun
ishments, from which Christ hath redeemed them, though they deserve and receive corrective punishments for their violations. of God's gracious covenant. But these are not inflicted, to satisfy the justice and the law of God; for they are justified, and their sins are not imputed to them, as subjecting them to the curse. But they are inflicted, as salutary chastisements, designed for their good. They are inflicted by God, not as the just Judge in vindictive justice; but as the dis cipline of a wise father, who, while he visits them with the rod, takes not his loving kindness from them. Though these visitations are an evidence, that their inherent righteousness is not perfect; yet they are no proof, that they have not an interest in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
But it may be asked, " What more ample security of our salvation can be desired, than the goodness and promise of God? Why should we want to have our title to salvation supported by his justice, on the ground of a full and perfect, though imputed righteousness."
I answer. There is no firmer title, than a divine promise gives; and they, who are so selfish, as to desire only to be satisfied that they shall be saved, would be as willing to be justified without a righteousness, as with it; that is, justified unjustly. But they, who have a regard for the honour of God, as a just Judge, will not be satisfied with that doctrine, which represents God, as justifying those, who are not righteous, and, have no righteousness imputed to them. They like that doctrine better, which teaches that rightcousness is imputed to believers,
as the ground of their justifica- proper for those, who are under tion, since they cannot be justifi- the covenant of grace. In this ed by their own righteousness; way our subjection, love, and that the justice as well as grace gratitude to God must be exerof God, is declared in the for- cised and expressed, for the glogiveness of sins, through the re- rious perfections of his nature, demption of Christ, and that he is particularly for his goodness and just in justifying believers. And grace to the children of men, and that they, who trust in, imputed because it is only in this way, righteousness, are saved by that we can obtain the posses grace, and have as strong rea- sion of the blessings, purchased sons for walking humbly with for us by Christ, and promised in God, as they could have, if the gospel. It is only in the way they were saved in any other of faith, repentance, and obediway, is what we confidently ence to the commands of Christ, affirm. that our union to him is maintained, and we are qualified to enjoy the blessings, to which believers are entitled by their interest in the righteousness of Christ. Though we are justified wholly by his merits; yet sincere obedience is as much our duty, and as necessary to salva tion according to the covenant of grace, as perfect obedience according to the covenant of works.
Another objection is to this effect. "If Christ has fulfilled the law in our stead, and if his active and passive obedience is imputed to us; then we are not bound to obey the commands of God. It would be unreasonable to exact a debt of any one after his surety has satisfied it."
Answer. It is granted, that we are not required to keep the law for the same end, for which Christ satisfied the law for us; that is, to work out a righteousness, by which we are to be justified. But it is impossible for a moral creature to be freed from his obligation to obey the laws of God. This can never cease to be his duty so long as he is God's creature, and so long as God is wor thy to be loved and obeyed, and so long as his commands are holy, just, and good. We must We must have respect to all God's commands, though we expect not that this is to be our justifying righteousness. For this is no less our duty, than if we were probationers for life and happiness under a covenant of works. We must obey the commands of God from motives, and for ends,
It is also objected, "that an obligation to punishment is not to be put on a footing with a per cuhiary debt."
Answer. Our sins are in scripture termed debts. If they are so termed in a figurative sense, yet this is of no weight, as an objection to the doctrine of Christ's satisfying our penal debt, by bearing the guilt and punishment of our sins. The chief differences between a pecuniary and a penal debt, I think, are the following. The payment of the one is an act of commutative justice; the punishment of the other is distributive justice. A pecuniary debt is commonly for value received; a penal debt arises from crimes committed?
The one is discharged by the payment of the sum owed; the other is satisfied for by suffering the deserved punishment. The one is ordinarily exacted by the creditor, as his private right; the other is executed pursuant to the sentence of the judge, as the minister of public justice, whose office is to maintain the authority of the laws, to make the law the rule of his judgment without respect to persons, to maintain the public rights, and revenge the infraction of them, on behalf of the public. A pecuniary debt may be forgiven by the creditor without satisfaction; but a just judge, in his judicial capacity, may not clear the guilty. But a pecuniary and a penal debt may both be transferred to a sponsor. Though the crime and desert of punishment cannot be separated from the criminal, and transfused into an innocent person; yet the penal debt, the guilt, and punishment may be taken upon himself by a sponsor. But, when a pecuniary debt is paid by a sponsor, the debtor is not favoured by the creditor, in his discharge from his obligation. But, though the justice of God, as the supreme Judge of the world, his infinite hatred of sin, the threatening of his law, and the fitness and necessity of his manifesting his truth and justice in the punishment of sin, for his own honour and the public good; though these considerations required that our sins be not forgiven, without such satisfaction, would answer the ends, for which the punishment of sin is necessary; yet we are under infinite ⚫bligations to God for his grace
and mercy, in providing a sponsor for us, to make satisfaction to justice, and in giving us an interest in his righteousness, and in justifying us freely of his grace through the redemption, that is in him.
I shall add one more remark. Though the punishment of sin and the sufferings of Christ have been commonly termed satisfaction for sin; yet we are not to conceive of this, as a compensation to God for the good he has bestowed upon us. Neither our obedience, nor punishment is profitable to him. He does not delight in the misery of any creature for its own sake; but only when it is necessary for holy and good ends. Nor is our obligation to love and obey God, or to suffer punishment for our sins merely because we have received good from him, (though our obligations on this account are great) but it is chiefly, because he is worthy to be loved and obeyed for what he is in himself, as well as for the abundant communications of his goodness to his creatures.
Thus, Sir, I have communicated to you some thoughts on this important subject. I have endeavoured to express my ideas intelligibly. With what success this has been accomplished, you wili judge; as also whether there be weight, pertinency, and justness in these remarks. Such as they are, please to accept them, as an honest, however feeble attempt to defend the faith, delivered to the saints; and as a token of the respect and affection of your friend.
A Christian of the Ancient School.
LETTERS FROM A CLERGYMAN
TO HIS SON.
In answer to your question "How a man may pursue his secular business with success, and still maintain the power of religion," I have advised you to commit all your works to God, and thus make your secular business a part of religion. While you conduct in this manner, you will have a plain practical rule, by which you may judge concerning your duty, in cases where a deceitful heart will pretend doubts and contrive evasions.
There are certain works, which you wish to do, and which you hope you may do without incurring guilt. Now put this question seriously to your conscience, "Can I commit these works to God?" If you cannot do this without manifest impiety, then you must know, that the works are sinful.
In all our just and important undertakings, we may with propriety, and we ought in duty, to seek the direction of God's counsel, the assistance of his grace, and the concurrence of his blessing. The religious husbandman asks God's smiles on his daily labours. The pious traveller in all his ways acknowledges God's directing and preserving providence. The good Christian implores God's blessing on his common meals. In times of apparent danger to his person or substance he solicits the divine protection. In any case where our design is good, and the means to be used are just, we feel no scruple in addressing our
selves to God; yea, we think we ought to do it.
Now if you feel any doubt concerning the lawfulness of a work in contemplation, ask whether it would be pious, or proper to commend it to God? Or if you knew a neighbour, who often begun such a work with a prayer for God's blessing, ask, what you would think of him? Would you view him as eminently devout, or as adding profaneness to iniquity? If you would be afraid to pray for God's blessing on the work in question; or would condemn as impious the man who should presume to commit such a work to God in prayer, you may conclude it to be abominable.
Guided by this rule, you never will use any artifice, deception, or fraud in the prosecution of your worldly designs; for no man can seriously commend such means to the blessing of God. This rule will exclude gaming from the list of lawful works. Whatever opinion some may have of gaming, considered as an amusement, no man would dare to pray, that he might find it a profitable trade to get money. That sense of piety which prompts a man to pray for success in his husbandry or commerce, would make him afraid to offer a prayer for success, when he and his neighbour had agreed to put their property to the hazard of a game. He would feel, in such a case, as if prayer were an insult to his Maker. He would shudder at the thought of it. If he knew a brother gamester, who usually sought God's blessing at a cardtable, as the Christian does at a dining table, he would think him abandoned to impiety. He would
applaud himself, that, though he practised gaming, he never prostituted piety in the business. But if the business itself be innocent, why may not prayer accompany this, as well as any other innocent business?
This rule will shew you what diversions you may admit with out prejudice to religion in your heart. I will not deny, but that some amusements may be useful. Such as are, in their nature, innocent, and in their use, subservient to health of body, cheerful ness of mind, sociability of temper, and the improvement of friendship, the Christian doubt less may admit, at proper seasons, and within reasonable bounds. In such recreations you may as properly seek God's direction and blessing, as in reading an instructive book, or in sitting down at a festival table. But if the diversion to which you are invited, or which you have proposed, be of such a nature, or attended with such circumstances, that it would appear impious to implore God's guidance and blessing, it is certain, that you ought to forbear the use of it.
Farther, If realizing the truth and importance of religion, you should adopt means to spread the knowledge and promote the practice of it among others-among the youth, or among people who have not the ordinary means of instruction, you would not fail to commit your endeavours to the divine blessing. But who would venture to pray for success in his endeavours to propagate infidelity and impiety? There are those profane and impious creatures, who treat the scriptures with contempt, and labour to corVol. III. No. 4.
rupt the minds of others from the belief of them by cavilling against them in company, and by reading and recommending books written with a design to discredit their authority, and defeat their influence. These persons pretend to believe that there is a God, on whom all creatures are dependent. But could they seriously address the Deity for his gracious smiles on their endeav ours? Could they apply to him in prayer for the success of the means, which they are using to subvert revelation? Could they supplicate his blessing to accompany their labours? Certainly they would not venture on so awful a step. But why? If they believed the scriptures to be false and dangerous, they might as consistently pray for their subversion, as the Christian, who believes them to be true and important, can pray for their credit and influence. The truth is, the infidel, while he opposes the gospel, feels an inward suspicion, that he is opposing the word of God. And while he retains any impression of his own accountableness, he dares not invoke his Maker to prosper his guilty conduct.
Make it a rule to commit your works to God in humble prayer, and you will not hesitate long, what works you may do. Your own conscience will remonstrate against a prayer for the divine blessing on sinful works. You will not presume to implore his smiles on works, which he condemns. Do nothing, but what you can seriously introduce into a prayer, and make the matter of a petition to God. You will then seldom venture on any criminal design, or on any sinful