Images de page

he sees their insincerity of profession and promise, and that their faith is dead. Surely no one without contradicting the whole tenor of holy writ, as well as many particular express declarations, can suppose can suppose that he approves, accepts, pardons and justifies those whom he knows to be insincere; nor ean any thing be more adverse to scripture and piety than the notion, that baptism was ever designed to sanctify hypocrites, and to render those acceptable to God who were before detested by him?

§ 17. It is granted that the apostolic writings regard those who were admitted to the Christian church to be Christians, and partakers of all the benefits of Christianity: but on what ground? Clearly because it was charitably hoped that they believed and promised from a pure principle and a right motive. To be thus justified, however, by the fallible opinion of the church, is no evidence that they are so before God who searcheth the hearts. By him, such false pretenders both before and after baptism stand condemned; and their being thus introduced to the participation of gospel privileges, and outward communion with the faithful, is so far from lessening their guilt, that it rather enhances their condemnation. Doubtless when they manifest a temper and conduct incompatible with true Christianity, they lose that justification

which they had from the good opinion of the church; but they lose no justification before God, because they were never possessed of any. He saw the rottenness of their heart before it discovered itself to the eyes of men, and that through every stage they were under his righteous condemning sentence.-Whether, in any instance a person possessing evangelical sincerity and a living faith, may afterwards lose these estimable qualities, belongs to a totally different question; and the discussion of it in this place would be a premature digression. It may be sufficient to observe here, that if these qualities originate in themselves, they may certainly lose them; but if they are imparted by sovereign mercy, there are many strong reasons for concluding, that the "seed shall remain," and that their faith, however strongly assaulted, "shall not fail."

§ 18. The second thing that remains to be considered, is, whether the difficulty to be obviated by his Lordship's statement may not be more satisfactorily removed on different principles. His design is, doubtless, to befriend the interests of practical piety. At first view it may appear plausible, that a dread of having our justification before God, cancelled, may be a strong barrier against licentiousness; while a persuasion of the contrary opens a wide gate to

carelessness: but against this we have several considerations to offer. In the first place every sin, in whatever degree, is displeasing to God,and this displeasure duly apprehended is a far stronger barrier, except with the selfish and unprincipled, who regard the pleasure or displeasure of God as only of secondary consideration. According to the one sentiment, a person will be no farther careful to please God, or to avoid sin, than to preserve his justification; according to the other, he has reason to guard against all sin, even the smallest. His language in the hour of temptation would be, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" In the next place, if every sin, however comparatively small, forfeits our justification, where in this world shall we find a justified person? For "there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not." "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." A sinful thought is displeasing to God, but does every sinful thought forfeit our justified state? On this theory, the same person may have his justified state renewed and cancelled a hundred times a day! And if we lessen the condition a little, and say, "By the indulgence of

any criminal passion, or by the neglect of any practicable duty, the state of justification is forfeited, and the offender becomes again liable to the wrath of God;" the inference is easy, that

there is no harm in 'criminal passion,'-God is not displeased with it, provided only we avoid its indulgence. The next clause indeed is more strict, the forfeiture being supposed to be incurred 'by the neglect of any practicable duty.' But then, what can be the tendency of this statement, but either to lower the standard of practicable duty, or to make a person despair of keeping his justified state for any one day, one hour, one minute of his life? In short, it amounts to this,— that we are no longer in a justified state, than we are in a state of sinless perfection. Let the reader judge whether such a notion does not lead rather to gloomy scepticism, than to filial and chearful piety.

§ 19. But I would observe, in the third place, that his Lordship seems to have overlooked the great difference there is between the requirements of the moral law under the notion of a covenant, and those of the same law under the notion of a rule. In the former capacity it can admit of nothing less than perfection of character. This Adam had before the fall, and this he lost by the very first deviation from rectitude. This also the second Adam preserved entire as a substitute; otherwise he would not have been a Saviour. A failure of obedience, would have been a failure of a federal righteousness. If any of the posterity of Adam be justified before God,

it must be by a gracious imputation of what Jesus Christ has done and suffered in our stead. Hence "he who knew no sin, was made a sinoffering for us, that we might be constituted righteous in him," according to a plan of mercy. This was the very design of his incarnation and humiliation unto death: by becoming perfect through suffering, or obtaining a perfection of righteousness in this way, he is become the author of eternal redemption and salvation. But how are we to be made partakers of this federal righteousness? It is, as the scripture testifies, by our being in Christ. "There is no condemnation (i. e. there is justification) to them who are in Christ Jesus," and the evidence of this privilege is, that we "walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." This union is the basis both of justification before God, and of life, or a spiritual principle, from Christ. "For the law of the spirit of life (the quickening power) in Chrisť Jesus, makes them free from the law of sin and death."

20. Now the enquiry returns, what con stitutes that oneness on account of which the imputation is made? To imagine that no special oneness at all is necessary, is extremely unreasonable; for then it would follow that every man, in whose nature Christ appeared as a perfect character, had an equal claim to his federal righ

« PrécédentContinuer »