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Praise then your God, o Christians, for his infinite love, in justifying you
freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” for giving you peace, sanctification, everlasting life.
These are blessings conditionally conferred upon you in baptism, when, made members of his body, you became partakers of his merits; and, as our Church declares, were “ called into a state of salvation."
All Christians, admitted into the Church or kingdom of God in baptism, are the elect of God. There is no election of individuals to everlasting life. The election, set forth in Scripture, is that of portions of mankind to the privileges of being God's people, in visible covenant with him. In thus conferring his spiritual favours in the present life, the Sovereign of the world “worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will";"
having mercy on whom he will have mercy“;" distinguishing, with the revelation of his will, and with his covenanted grace, certain portions of mankind, while the rest are left to the light of reason and nature. Thus, of old, the Jews are called, in Scripture, God's elect". And yet surely it will not be pretended that all the Jews were absolutely eļected to everlasting life. And thus, now, the whole body of Christians, all the members of the universal Church, all who are admitted by bap
Eph. i. 11.
u Rom. ix. 18.
* Is. xlv. 4. &c. &c.
tism into Christ's kingdom on earth, are called God's elect. The Apostles, in their epistles, addressing the whole body of Christians, in certain places, call them“ saints,” “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;" “ predestinated to the adoption of children;" " justified and sanctified *.” And surely it cannot be supposed, that the whole body of Christians, who were thus addressed, were certainly elected, and predestinated to everlasting life; and that they could not forfeit their adoption, and fall from their justification and sanctification.
On the contrary, these very Christians, thus elected, thus predestinated, justified and sanctioned, are exhorted to “ make their calling and election sure;" to “see that they receive not the grace of God in vain;" to “ take heed lest they fall;" “ lest a promise being made them, of entering into God's rest, any fall short, through unbelief y.” This scriptural view of predestination, our Church sets forth in her 17th Article. The justification, then, which Christians received in baptism, being a conditional justification, will only prove external and nominal, unless they preserve it by that true and lively faith, which only bringing forth good works, finally justifies.
See, then, how great are your privileges; and how great is your danger of forfeiting them. The important inquiry is—have you a true and lively faith ; a faith, vigorous in its principle; holy in its effects; universal, through the Divine Spirit, in its conquests over temptation and sin? Pursue this inquiry seriously, faithfully, without delay. Oh! delude not yourselves, where error may prove fatal to your immortal interests.
* Philip. i. 1. 1 Peter i. 2. v. 13. Eph. i. 5. 1 Cor. vi. 11. ' 2 Peter, i. 10. 2 Cor. vi. 1. I Cor. x. 12. Heb. iv. 1. 11.
“ Without Christ, God is a consuming fire *.” Happy, transcendantly happy are ye,
you possess that faith, which is a vigorous principle of that “ holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord a.” Justified by this faith, you shall have " peace with God;" “ his fatherly hand will ever be over you; his Holy Spirit will ever be with you; and led in the knowledge and obedience of his word, you shall rejoice in the hope of the glory that shall be revealed. “ With Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob;" with patriarchs and prophets, and holy men; and all the nations of the justified, of every age, and every nation (blissful prospect), you shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” And the joyful subject of your contemplations and praises, for endless ages, shall be—the grace by which you were made partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light.
· Heb. xii. 29.
a Heb. xii, 14.
MAN CAN HAVE NO MERIT BEFORE GOD
LUKE xvii. 10.
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things
which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable
servants : we have done that which was our duty to do. My text is the conclusion of a parable in which a servant is represented as performing for his master the things which were commanded him, without, on this account, deriving merit or being entitled to thanks. The moral of the parable and its application to Christians is contained in the text—"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants : we have done that which was our duty to do.” We have not done anything by which we have actually profited God, so that we have any absolute merit or can claim
reward. This then is the doctrine enforced in the text. Man can have no merit in the sight of God. And I propose,
1. To explain this doctrine.
Is it impossible then that man can possess merit ? Are not virtuous performances meritorious? Does not the universal language of mankind, which is no fallacious évidence of truths that are founded in the reason and nature of things, assign merit to certain actions and individuals ? To assert that this language is incorrect, that in reality there can be no merit in man or in his deeds would not this be to confound vice and virtue, and to detract from the lustre of those Benefactors of nations, who now shine forth in the page of history, and command the applause of the world?
It is necessary, in order to obtain correct ideas on this subject, that we ascertain in what merit, strictly speaking, consists. : Merit consists in doing something by his own power, which entities the agent, on the ground of the performance, to reward.
There are certain senses in which men may be said to possess relative merit.
They may possess merit when compared with one another.
Thus, the righteous man, he who does his duty in the station in which Providence places him, who seeks by every mean in his power to