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More largely, faith is taking God at his word, and making the right use of all that he has been pleased to reveal. God has said to the gospel hearer,—“thou art a sinner,-a lost sinner,—dead in trespasses and sins." He has said in plain terms, “ the wages of sin is death,,he who believeth not is condemned.” He has further said, that he has not left thee to perish in this state of condemnation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only be gotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be sa- 11 ved.” John 3:16,17.
God has again and again said, that the righteousness of the surety is complete. He was well pleased for his righteousness' sake, for he magnified the law and made it honorable. The surety was raised from the dead,—was received into glory,—and seated at God's right hand, and the Holy Ghost has been promised, and has been given as the fruits of his death and intercession. “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” Gal. 3: 13,14.
God is this moment “in Christ reconciling the world unto him-it self,”and he is praying and beseeching you, a lost sinner, to be reconciled to him. And he tenders to you pardon, and peace, and eternal glory, through the atonement. The Redeemer, himself, “ is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins.” “ He is able to save to the very uttermost, all who come unto God by him." He is now saying, “ Come now and let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, 18 they shall be as wool.” He encourages you to ask the great and inestimable gift of the Holy Ghost. “ If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Luke 11: 13.
Now, sinner, believest thou these declarations? Canst thou take God at his word,—and take home to thyself these and similar declarations of Him who cannot lie? He who thus believeth shall be saved. He who thus believeth passeth from death unto life. “ And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already,
because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:14-18.
IV. Union to our Lord Jesus Christ is the great fact upon which our personal justification rests. And this union is exactly of the same kind with that which existed betwixt Adam as a covenant head, and the person who is justified. See Rom. 5:12—19. It is evident that in this passage as well as in the parallel passage, 1 Cor. 15:18, that the apostle speaks of the whole human family, as connected with one or other of these two: Adam and Jesus Christ. It is equally evident that God deals with all the human family, and with every individual of it as connected with one or other of these men.
Hence also the importance and peculiar meaning of the phrase, so often used in the New Testament, in Christ. See Rom. 8:1. Gal. 3:28. I Cor. 15:18. 2 Cor. 5:17. Rom. 16:7.
1. The doctrine of eternal justification is not supported by scripture. If any thing is clear in the bible, it is that all men are divi. ded into two grand classes,-believers and unbelievers sons of God and children of the devil. There is no middle state,-no third class. Nor can any man be in both these states at one and the same time. See John 3:36. 5:24. Rom. 8:1.9.
2. From the same facts it is evident that the doctrine of initial justification, or incomplete salvation, cannot be supported by scripture. No man can be partially in a state of condemnation, and partially in a state of salvation. There is no half way, or middle ground betwixt being in a state of condemnation and acceptance.
3. A person may have very imperfect views of God's plan of salvation, and yet be in a justified state. And the converse is true. A man may be very well informed in theology, and be very orthodox in his creed, and yet be in a state of condemnation. Justifying faith is unconditional submission to the righteousness of God, or in other words, submission to God's plan of salvation. See Rom. 10:3—12. See also the case of the Pharisee and publican. Luke 18:9-14.
The only satisfactory evidence which any man can have of his being in a justified state is a holy life. When a man's state is changed, his nature is also changed. " Jesus gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” The spirit of adoption is a spirit of holiness. Consult the reasoning of the apostle. Rom. 6:9–14.
You are, my friend, a lost sinner, and you despair of salvation from every other quarter. And you submit yourself unreservedly to God's mercy as he has been pleased to reveal it. This is enough. It was thus with Abraham and all the Old Testament saints. They rested their salvation upon God's bare word, without having any adequate conception of the manner in which that salvation was to be procured. It was thus with the disciples previous to the day of Pentecost. It has been thus with the most distinguished of God's people in every age. God's mercy, tendered to them in a full and free promise, has been their only ground of hope. In the great and important matter of personal justification, extensive theological knowledge, any more than extensive literary and scientific attainments, has not been of much use. When all comes to all, the man who is to be saved must bow to God's sovereignty and account it a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom he is one of the chief. .
4. A sinner is not justified because he is holy, or because he has in him some good dispositions; but he becomes holy and acquires good dispositions, and has these good dispositions cherished and strengthened, because his state is changed and he is accepted in the Beloved. See Luke 1:74. Rom. 8:15, and Gal. 4:4,5,6. The right knowledge, and the right application of this fact is that which chiefly distinguishes evangelical from legal preaching.
We close. The gospel is God's proclamation of a full and a free pardon to men under a sentence of condemnation. And to preach the gospel is not to amuse the imagination with metaphysical discussions, or with criticisms on words and phrases in this and the other language, or as used in this and the other department of social intercourse. To preach the gospel is in God's name to declare the fact that “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;" that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." It was in this manner that the apostle preached the gospel in the passage before us. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: for all have sinned; and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Rom. 3:21-26.
END OF VOLUME I.