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of distinguishing between good works, considered simply and in their own nature, and as performed by the sons of men: the first is, whether virtue in its own nature is intitled to reward. Now as sure as God is just, and that good differs from evil, God will and must reward the one and punish the other. But the question, whether the good works of men deserve reward, alters the state of the case ; since the nature of good works and of man also must be considered; for in his case you ask whether the man condemned for his evil works may be rewarded for his good works : this point exemplified in the case of a murderer, who has long after his crime led an irreproachable life. Though this instance is not absolutely parallel to our case, yet it shows that virtue and morality, naturally considered, may deserve reward, while the virtue and morality of man may not: and this is the parting point between the patrons of natural and of revealed religion; the not considering which has made some think, that whilst we defend the authority of revelation, we give up the principles of reason and nature. But, say they, does not vice essentially differ from virtue ? True, it does. Is not justice the attribute of God, who must therefore reward virtue and punish vice ? True, still. Is not this then a sufficient foundation for religion, without recurring to grace and faith, or miracles, or mysteries ? True, it is ; where native innocence is preserved, where religion is res integra: but with respect to those who have already offended, reason and nature declare vice must be punished : and if so, what must sinners expect? Whether such conditions should endear natural religion to sinners, let common sense judge. Were Christianity to be preached to a new race of men without stain of guilt, these doctrines would not apply to them: this point enlarged
Should this race however fall from innocence, and be liable to the punishments of vice, then the application holds good : this point also enlarged on. Some contend that God from his mercy and goodness will forgive sinners : but if the
justice of God must reward virtue and punish vice, and yet his mercy must forgive sinners, then natural religion contradicts itself, in affirming that sin necessarily must and must not be punished : if it be said, it is probable God, pitying our weakness, will be lenient with us, so say we too; but probability infers not necessity; therefore it must depend on his will whether he will do it or no: all hopes therefore must be resolved into the evidence of free grace, which is no other than revelation. Would you then disprove revelation, and discard the religion of Christ ? You must prove mankind to be in a state of innocence and purity; and then it will be senseless to talk of redemption : for what should innocence be redeemed from ? This point enlarged on. But whilst you endeavor to prove this, try at least to be an instance of it yourself: this point also enlarged on. Innocence may challenge justice; but sin can only sue for pardon : justice you may have from nature, but pardon you must receive from grace and favor. The apophthegm of one of the wise men, learn to know yourself, is the first requisite in the choice of religion: this point exemplified in the case of a condemned malefactor, who must not sue to his prince in the same terms as a faithful and deserving subject may. Consider then with yourself; can you stand a trial with God ? if so, justice will do you right; but if conscience cries out to you, let us not enter into judgment with God, for in his sight shall no man living be justified, then seek, if happily you may find, his mercy. The Christian religion is throughout adapted to the present nature and circumstances of mankind; nor can one see the reasonableness and beauty of the gospel, without considering the quality and condition of those for whose use it is designed : hence one great reason why the gospel has been so much undervalued in comparison with natural religion, that its end has been misunderstood. II. It is considered by what means Christ has wrought our redemption,
That God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, that is, without being offended at it, is a truth as discernible by the principles of reason as by the authority of revelation. The world then being in a state of corruption, men were manifestly become the children of wrath. To redeem it therefore, it was necessary that God should be reconciled to sinners, and should pardon the offences which could not be recalled, or through infirmity could not be avoided; to consider redemption otherwise, would be an attempt to rescue sinners from God's anger, whether he would or no. Look now into the gospel, and you will find that the only-begotten Son of God took our nature on him, and by a perfect obedience to his Father, and a voluntary death on the cross, completed this reconciliation, and obtained our pardon, in which properly consists the work of redemption. But to redeem men from God's displeasure, only that they might draw it on themselves afresh every day, would have been useless and unworthy of the Redeemer. To secure therefore the benefits of redemption to men, it was necessary for him to render them such as God might be pleased with; which he did by the powerful methods prescribed in the gospel for rectifying their depraved wills; and to render this effectual, he promised and bestowed on them the aid of his Holy Spirit, by which they might lay hold of eternal life. This is a short account of what Christ has done to save sinners; and in this what has any man to complain of ? You have no reason to complain, you say : you are willing to be pardoned, but you cannot see how the death of Christ can reconcile God to sinners. But do you consider that you are the sinner, the person to be pardoned? Is it your's, or your offended Master's business, to judge of the proper means of reconciliation ? Surely it is his: why then debate a point in which you have no farther interest than to accept the blessing granted on any motives? If we cannot fully comprehend the reason of these means, there is but one just consequence, viz. that the counsels of God are unfathomable by human reason :
nor can this be any surprise to a considering man, who daily sees the same truth confirmed: this point enlarged on. Leaving then these curious inquiries, let us be content that God should be wiser than man; considering that, although he has concealed from us the secrets of his wisdom, he has manifested his love towards us, and that his mercy shines forth unclouded in every page of the gospel. These advantages so correspond to the sentiments of nature within us, that it is strange to find the pretensions of nature opposed to the Christian revelation : this point enlarged on to the end.
I TIMOTHY, CHAP. 1.-VERSE 15.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
These words contain the great charter of the Christian church, and are the title by which we claim all the benefits and promises of the gospel. If you inquire on what pretence we proclaim the peace of God to mankind, on what confidence we offer pardon to sinners, who according to the terms of natural justice are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction ;' we answer in the words of the text, “That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners :' and that in his name we preach salvation, and peace, and pardon to offenders.
This is the doctrine which, together with the principles on which it is founded, and the consequences naturally flowing from it, distinguishes the Christian religion from all other religions whatever. The hopes peculiar to believers are built on this great article ; and whatever advantages and favors we pretend to under the gospel, more than can be claimed on the terms of justice and natural religion, are to be ascribed to this only, “That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.'
Whoever therefore rejects this article, he does indeed reject the Christian religion : I mean not that such a one must necessarily reject all the religion contained in the books of the gospel ; for the moral duties of the gospel are the very
duties of natural religion, improved and carried into perfection; and the man who receives not Christ for his Saviour and Redeemer, may yet receive the doctrines of morality, as taught and explained