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EVANGELICAL OBEDIENCE NECESSARY TO SALVATION.
PHILIPPIANS ii. 12, 13.
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
YOU will recollect that I proposed reviewing the fourth article of the Calvinistick creed under three distinct propositions. The second of these is the subject of our present discourse, viz.
· 2. To state the agency which the scriptures assign to men in the Christian plan of salvation.
Salvation is placed within the attainment of every individual of the human family. God, who gave existence to man, designed that existence as a blessing, and he grants every degree of power and instruction necessary to enable him to obtain the happiness presented to his contemplation, as the re. ward of his virtuous efforts. By the mediation and ministry of Jesus Christ, every thing has been accomplished for our salvation which is consistent with our intellectual and moral natures. Our Father in heaven has, by his Son, redeemed us from
the bondage of sin and the empire of death. He hath clearly instructed us in our duty, and promised to support us under all its conficts. He invites, he persuades, he commands us to obey his laws, that we may be happy. While men were sinners, God appointed his own Son to be their saviour, and of his own goodness taught us the path of life ; yet he treats us as the subjects of a moral government; and when he shall judge the secrets of men by Je. sus Christ, he will reward them according to their works.
Though Jesus has called us to life eternal, made us partakers of the privileges of the sons of God, and adopted us into his family ; yet if we abuse the privileges of children, and hold the truth in unrighteousness, we shall be excluded from the future kingdom of God. To make our calling and election sure, we must imbibe the temper of the gospel, and in practice give an exemplification of the virtues and graces of our religion. As a preparation for heaven, we must be formed to a likeness of the character of the Divine Author of our religion. When we seriously attend to the passages of scripture which make this improvement of our Christian privileges essential to salvation, we shall perceive a perfect harmony between them and those passages which represent salvation to be the free gift of God. Besides the places in the New Testament, in which the sacred writers expressly treat of the day of judgment, and in which they most explicitly de. clare that men shall be judged according to their works, I might mention particularly the parabl's of the Virgins, and the Talents. These and most
of the lectures of our Saviour were intended to il. lustrate the moral condition of mankind under his reign, and they all show the necessity of improving the means of religion to secure its rewards; they all state that the privileges of the gospel are freely granted, and that all men are invited to lay hold on life eternal. The invitation of the gospel is universal. “Ho! every one that thirsteth ; come ye to the waters of life. He that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” All men are endowed with a capacity for improvement in rational and moral life : all who possess the gospel are alike favoured by its instruction and assistance; and yet we are in the clearest manner informed that at the coming of Christ to judgment, some of his nominal disciples will be made heirs of the heavenly inher. itance, and others banished from the kingdom of God. The reason of this difference rests with men themselves. Some in the state of probation wisely improve the means of knowledge, piety, and virtue, and thereby qualify themselves for the happiness of heaven; others pass the period of their probation without improvement, and in the day of account they will be found destitute of the qualifications of the Christian character ; they will therefore be condemned, and their punishment aggravated in pro. portion to the extent of means which they abused.
Men, in different proportions, possess the powers of intellectual and free agents; and hereafter an account will be required of the manner in which each talent has been managed. Men differ in their intellectual and moral faculties, and individuals must
account only for talents committed to their manags. ment. Men are accountable for what they have, and not for what they have not. Their future re. wards will be proportioned to attainments actually made under their respective circumstances.
To all observations of this nature, some may reply-Moral preparations are indeed absolutely re. quisite for salvation. No one will be admitted to heaven, who in the present world is not conformed to the image of God. Men must become the children, before they can be made the heirs of God. The very question is-Can they of themselves acquire the necessary qualifications for heaven ? Can they, in their own power, form in thcir souls the image of their Creator? I answer, We possess nothing which we did not receive ; and if we received all our powers from God, why should we glory as though we received them not ? The pretence to independent power or agency in a creature is preposterous. But our Maker formed us free moral agents, and he has appointed the method by which the true end of our existence may be obtain. ed. God has fitted the earth to yield its increase for the present support of man, and he prospers the tiller of the ground in his labours; but he who labours not during seed time, will not gather in the appointed weeks of harvest. God in mercy has, by Jesus Christ, promised eternal life to all, who by a patient continuance in the ways of well doing, seck for glory, honour and immortality ; but they who do not comply with the condition, can have no claiin to the reward. Be not deceived: God is not niocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be
also reap; he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting; and let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
The plan of the gospel was adopted to remedy the effects of the apostacy. Its conditions are suit. ed to the powers of man in his present state. The gospel views man in all his weakness, and its requisitions are fitted to his actual ability.
Neither writers on the terms of salvation by Jesus Christ, nor Christians generally in their inqui. ries on this subject, seem to have sufficiently attended to this consideration. The question is not, whether man has the power to yield sinless obedi. ence to a perfect law, and thereby to entitle himself to the reward, which the law provides for services which are absolutely perfect; but whether man has the power to comply with those conditions of divine acceptance which Christ has established. The gospel removes those impediments, that obstructed the path of man in his course to the goal, at which he was to receive the rewards of obedi. ence. Christianity in its very nature is remedial : it presupposes defection in man: it was established after the degradation of the human race, and all its requirements are suited to their present condition.
When the scriptures assert that where sin abounded grace did more abound, it is an impeachment of the wisdom as well as the goodness of God, to say, that the remedy provided by the gospel for the effects of the apostacy is not complete ; that the new