« PreviousContinue »
purified from all the remains of moral corruption, when they shall have arrived at the world of glory; so, from that time forward, they will make swift and large advances in holiness, and become inconceivably more and more holy, amiable, and excellent, through the ceaseless ages of eternity. Now, we ought to consider, that God has a present, full, and comprehensive view, not only of their perfect freedom from sin, but of all that holiness and excellence which they will ever attain through all the changing scenes of their immortal existence. And viewing the whole of their complex characters in this light, their deformities are absorbed in their excellencies, and their sins are swallowed up in their growing love, gratitude, and praise. So that God may say, with great propriety, that he sees no iniquity in Jacob, and no perverseness in Israel. Especially if we further reflect,
3. That God views all their deformities as turned into beauties. Though sin, indeed, cannot become holiness, nor moral blemishes become moral beauties, yet sin may become the occasion of holiness, and moral deformity may become the occasion of distinguishing moral beauty. And we have abundant reason to believe, that all the moral imperfections of saints in this life, will prove the occasion of such holy and happy effects in the world of light. There, every moral deformity will be a perpetual occasion of adding some peculiar beauty to their shining characters. In particular,
Their pride will be a perpetual occasion of humility. The higher their former pride arose, the deeper will they sink in humility and self-abasement. The proudest will be the humblest. Those who aspired the highest, will · forever lie the lowest. The aspiring mother of Zebedee's children will be ashamed and confounded, that she once desired the Lord of glory to permit her two sons to sit, one on his right hand, and the other on his left, in the kingdom of heaven. And James and John themselves will shrink into nothing when they recollect that they made the same ambitious and presumptuous request. In a word, all the pride of saints will be the perpetual occasion of their everlasting humiliation. Again,
Their ingratitude will become an occasion of gratitude. The more they reflect upon their ingratitude for the great and distinguishing favors conferred upon them in this world, the more will their hearts burn within them, and kindle into a flame of gratitude, for the wonders of divine goodness and sovereign grace exercised towards them. The more the apostle Paul reflects upon his ingratitude for that light he resisted, and that divine patience he abused, the warmer gratitude he will
feel and express, that he was made a vessel of mercy, and an instrument and heir of divine glory. Again,
The murmurs of saints will be turned into, arguments of praise. The more they murmured under the government of God, the more they will praise him for all the afflictive, as well as merciful dispensations of his providence. The murmurs of Jacob, of Job, of David, and of Jeremiah, will be turned into motives of praise, for that marvellous grace which triumphed over all their unreasonable complaints and lamentations, and raised them to some of the highest mansions in heaven. How deeply and tenderly will it affect the hearts of all the children of God to reflect, that they once murmured, and complained of God, for consulting their highest good, and leading them in the right path to endless holiness and happiness! In short, their enmity will be turned into love; their stupidity into sensibility; their ignorance into knowledge; their negligence into activity; and every moral deformity into a moral beauty. The more deformed and unamiable saints are on earth, the more amiable, beautiful, and excellent they will appear in the state of perfection to which they are approaching, and in which they will be immovably fixed. All the moral blemishes in the repentant prodigal were turned into beauties in the eye of his father. When he saw him returning, all his paternal affections were enlivened, and he was ready to say, This my son was haughty, but now he is humble; he was rebellious, but now he is duti
he was ungrateful, but now he is grateful; he was impenitent, but now he is penitent; he was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he is found. Never did his son appear so amiable and beautiful before. His deformities were absorbed in his beauties, which excited peculiar paternal affections in the breast of his father. This parable was designed by Christ to illustrate the views and feelings of the Father of mercies towards all penitent, believing, returning sinners. the father of the prodigal could see no blemish in his returning son, so God, speaking after the manner of men, can see no iniquity or perverseness in the children of light, but views their complex characters as without spot or wrinkle.
1. The view we have taken of this subject, affords no support to the doctrine of eternal justification. Antinomians maintain that all the elect are justified from eternity, and they build their opinion upon our text, and other kindred passages of
scripture, which speak of God's eternal love to saints. But no such conclusion can justly be drawn from these passages, which represent God as only viewing saints in a complex and extensive light. This view of them by no means implies that he justified or pardoned them from eternity. He might have loved them, and elected them, before they existed; but he could not have regenerated them before they existed, nor have pardoned them before they sinned and repented.
God sees things future as clearly as he sees things present. He sees that saints will exist, before they do exist. He sees that they will sin and repent, before they do sin and repent. And he sees that they will be justified, before they are actually justified. But this does not imply that they existed from eternity, or that they sinned from eternity, or that they repented from eternity, or were justified from eternity. Paul had a lively view of his future and eternal blessedness, before he died. For he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” This anticipated view of himself, did not imply that he sinned from eternity, nor that he was justified and glorified from eternity. It is both absurd and dangerous, to teach that the elect were justified from eternity; and that all they have to do in order to be saved, is to believe that they were pardoned and justified from eternity. This dangerous doctrine was taught in England two hundred years ago, by many ministers; and it has lately been revived there again. It has been long taught in this country, and is still partially or fully taught, by both learned and unlearned teachers. But it is extremely dangerous, both in theory and practice. All who maintain that faith is before love and repentance, virtually teach this Antinomian and seductive doctrine, which ought to be unequivocally discarded and guarded against, though exhibited in the most plausible and agreeable manner.
2. It appears from what has been said in this discourse, that saints will eventually appear the most amiable creatures in the universe. Though in respect to their intellectual powers and capacities they will always be a little lower than angels, yet they will rise above them in their moral beauties and excellencies. They will have some peculiar and beautiful traits in their characters, which cannot be found in any other creatures. As their moral imperfections once degraded them below all innocent creatures, so the same imperfections will prove the
happy occasion of raising them above all who have never needed repentance and forgiveness. They will exercise and exhibit such humiliation as innocent creatures never can exercise or exhibit. They will feel and express that godly sorrow that innocent creatures never felt, nor can feel. They will feel
that obligation and disposition to praise God that innocent creai tures never can feel and express. Says John, “ And I looked,
and lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thun. der: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps : and they sung as it were à new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders ; and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth." The imperfections of saints will prepare them to feel and express that gratitude and praise which no other creatures in the universe can feel and express. This the angels now know, and therefore they rejoice "over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance." Their repentance, gratitude, and praise will not only exhibit their own peculiar excellencies, but at the same time display the peculiar glory of God in the view of the whole intelligent uni
So the apostle represents the design of redeeming love towards the vessels of mercy.
" To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God may invite angels to see his saints, in order to behold his glory and theirs. He may direct their eyes to Saul the persecutor, now full of gratitude, humiliation, and praise ; or to Manasseh, that prodigy of guilt, now full of gratitude, penitence, and godly sorrow; or to the penitent malefactor, full of admiration, gratitude, humility, and praise; or to some of the crucifiers of Christ, now full of admiration, self-condemnation, penitential sorrow, and unfeigned gratitude. How will the manifold wisdom, astonishing sovereignty, and discriminating grace of God shine, in forming such holy, amiable, and happy characters, who will display the glory of God in the most visible and striking manner, and be the ornaments of heaven forever.
3. Does God view saints in such a light? How unreasonable and absurd it is in them to distrust his love, his care and faithfulness towards them. He has become reconciled to them, .
blotted out their transgressions, promised to be their Father and Friend, and assured them that all things work together for their good. What more can they reasonably desire that he should say to them, or do for them, to make them cheerful, easy, and contented under all circumstances of life? But they often murmur and complain, and distrust the divine wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness. Jacob, whom God had remarkably protected, and distinguished by peculiar. promises and favors, once sunk into despondency, and complained that all God's dispensations were against him, and would bring down his gray hairs to the grave, though he was seeking his highest temporal and spiritual benefit. This was extremely ungrateful and criminal. Job, David, Elijah, and Jeremiah were guilty of similar ingratitude and unbelief, which produced many groundless murmurs and complaints. Indeed, the whole Church were sometimes ready to murmur, distrust, and despond. For" Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten
In all such cases, the children of Zion forsake and forget their God. They cannot distrust, nor despond, while they keep themselves in the love of God. A filial spirit towards him will not allow them to doubt of his paternal affection towards them. There is hardly any way in which good men more frequently manifest an evil heart of unbelief, than by their murmurs and complaints under the wise and benevolent dispensations of providence. They ought constantly to rejoice, that the Lord reigns, and that their times are in his hands, who will never leave nor forsake them, unless they leave and forsake him. David felt himself condemned for his distrust in the care and faithfulness of God. He had been ready to ask, “Will the Lord cast off forever? and will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? hath he in his anger shut up tender mercies. And I said, This is my infirmity : but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." After God has told saints how much he loves them, how much he values them, how much he delights in them, and what great things he will certainly do for them, it must be extremely ungrateful and undutiful to call his goodness and veracity in question, and withdraw their confidence from him. They must, and they often do feel self-condemned for their unreasonable distrust and groundless fears. It becomes them to resolve, and to keep their resolution, that they “will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High," and live by faith in his unchangeable and never-failing promises. Christ forbids them to take