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The souls of the elect were saved upon trust for four thousand years. The Father gave credit to Christ, and glorified bis saints on the footing of a sacrifice not then offered up, and of a rigliteousness not then wrought. Cbrist, also, in the days of his flesh, went ou credit with his Father every time he said to a sinner, Thy sins are forgiven, previous to his offering himself on the cross. Ryland.
The word " to justify” doth not in this place signily to make just, by infusing a perfect righteousness into our natures; (that comes under the head of sanctification, begun here in this life, which, being finished, is glorification in heaven ;) but here the word signifieth—to pronounce just, to quit and discharge from guilt and punishment; and so it is a judicial sentence opposed to condemnation; Rom. viii. 34, 35. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is be that condemneth ?” Now as to condemn is not the putting any evil into the nature of the party condemned, but the pronouncing of his person guilty, and the binding him over unto punishment; so justifying is the judge's pronouncing the law to be satisfied, and the man disebarged and quitted from guilt and judgment. Thus God, imputing the righteousness of Christ to a sinner, doth not account bis sins unto him, but puts him in a state of as full and perfect freedom and acceptance, as if he bad never sinued, or bad himself fully satisfied.
Archbp. Csher's Body of Divinity 1650. Justification is a judicial act of God, but free, whereby an elect believing sinner is absolved from the guilt of his sins, and a right adjudged to him of eternal life, for and because of the obedience of Christ received by faith.
Witsiis. Justification by the free grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, was the doctrine taught among Christians in the earliest and purest ages of the Church. And their departure from it was the prelude to that universal corruption of faith and worship, that relaxation of discipline, and dissolution of manners, which took place in the ages following. It is also very remarkable, that this doctrine was always fully and distinctly taught in those churches which never submitted to the tyranny, or received the corruptions of the Romish Anticbrist; I mean the churches of the Piedmontese valleys, which by so many judicious writers are supposed to be the two witnesses mentioned in the Revelation, who fled into the wilderness from the persecution of the beast, and prophesied in wackcloth. The accounts wbich bave been transmitted to us of the principles held by them long before the Reformation, plainly show that they maintained the doctrine from the beginning. And as it is well known, that the Reformation took its rise from the gross and scandalous application of the doctrine of merit in indulgences; so all the reformers, without exception, were strenuous asserters of the doctrine of justification,
Witherspoon. Justification by Christ's imputed righteousness is the centrearch of that bridge by which we pass out of time into a blissful eternity.
THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
“ There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
In the first part of our subject we have described man mechanically, and considered him to be the wonderful design and work of God himself.
The redemption of man has been considered as the work of the Son of God. He redeemed man from his bondage; made atone' ment and reconciliation with divine justice in his room and stead; and he has thrown over him a garment of imputed righteousness, by which means he stands justified in the sight of God.
We come now, in the third place, to consider the work of the Holy Spirit, or trace his influence in the new creation: “For we are his workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Eph. ii. 10.
When I review the long train of evidence, the examination of which we have gone over, both from scripture and men of sterling inerit, the whole that we have been able to trace forms no more than the outline of the subject.
I stand amazed in the contemplation, and know not, whether to admire more, the infinite greatness of the Being as he is in Himself, or the infinite humility which he has manifested, in his attention to wards us.
What a marvellous condescension was it in the Son of God, when, for the purpose of human redemption, he took upon
birself our pature and submitted to tbat series of humiliation and suffering wbich is related of him in the Gospel, and which excited, as indeed it well might, the desire even of the angels to look into it! But how does the plan of mercy continue to affect us by its sublimity, when we go on to behold the Eternal Spirit directing his attention to the same mysterious purpose! It was not sufficient, that the Son of God should redeem mankind by bis blood, but also the efficacy of that high oblation must be imparted to every believer's breast, by the operation of the Eternal Spirit. In the ministry which he exercised on the minds of men, from tbe very begiuning of the world, by prophecies, visions, and miracles, all preparatory to our Lord's advent, wbich we trace through the Old Testament; and in the immediate offices of his divine agency, revealed of him under the New, in regenerating our fallen nature, and taking the human heart for his temple; what an astonishing subject does the whole open to the contemplation of the mind of man; and what an awfulness and importance does it give to the scheme of salvation !
Whether the evidence adduced may have proved sufficiently satisfactory, so as to obtain the unreserved conviction of the persons, whom I had in view in this address; or wbether either of those different characters may have condescended to attend at all to wbat hath been advanced, or bave accompanied me thus far in the work, I know not. Earnest as I am, that the whole should not be lost upon
them, I can do no more, than in an impartial and unimposing manner, offer the proof of these great doctrines, as they arise from Scripture, to their consideration, and pray, that they may be rendered effectual to the purpose intended, under the divine blessing. To propose fair reason and argument, and to intreat a candid attention, are all that,
upon such occasions, belong to the duties of man. To fasten conviction on the heart, is the province of God. And we have authority to conclude, that where a due regard to this first and predisposing cause of all, is kept up in the mind upon all subjects of doubtful nature, the humblest endeavours of human means become sufficient to bring about the purposes of the divine will.
6 Tbe secret of the Lord is with them that fear him: and he will show them his covenant.” Ps. xxv. 14. But where this is wanting, the most powerful evidences lose their efficacy of persuasion. The vineyard, of which we read, though planted with the choicest vine, and situated on the most fruitfal hill, and altogether in the highest state of cultivation; yet brought forth no fruit; because, after long expectation in vain of its produce, under all the advantages which it possessed, the clouds were at length commanded to “rain no rain upon it.” Isa. v. 1-6.
But whatever the event shall be, to the inattentive, or to the unbeliever, I would fain persuade myself, that the humble Christian hath received, under divine assistance, the most ample satisfaction as to the truth of the doctrines, from the evidence which hath been produced. And having his understanding convinced, he is anxious to be led on to the inward conviction of the same, and to the practical effects resulting therefrom. Once convinced that the efficient ministry of the Blessed Spirit is exercised in the hearts of all true believers, to the great purposes of salvation; it is impossible to be indifferent or unconcerned in the examination of the personal interest which every man has in it. For howsoever satisfied he
may be of the agency of the Holy Ghost, generally considered ; and that it is by bis operations that the Redeemer's merits are applied to the sinner's necessities; yet, if he have no evidence of such effects in his own heart ; how great and important soever the doctrine may be in itself, it ceaseth to be so to him. All knowledge
upon this interesting topic, which terminates not in the personal application of it to a man's own bosom, is merely speculative: the being preached to or reasoned with, by a chain of arguments which end in the bearing of the ear, and pass away from the mind almost as soon as heard, are like impressions made on the sand. And fruitless indeed is all the attention which is given, either to the animating subject of the great Redeemer's love, or to the pleasing consideration of the ministry of the blessed Spirit in the hearts of believers, unless a man can add to both the comfortable assurance, that he is interested in the mercies he contemplates, and will ultimately participate in the blessings resulting from them. But when the serious Christian is led to know and feel his own personal inte rest therein ; is convinced that Christ not only died for sin, but for his sin; and that the operations of the Holy Ghost are carried on, not in the world only, but in his soul also; the subject then becomes infinitely interesting, and the mind is gratified with the highest of all possible enjoyments, in the possession of that testimony, which the apostle speaks of with so much rapture, when the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Rom. viii, 16.
As this is, or ougbt to be, the great desideratum of every man's heart; to the attainment of which the several means of grace are directed, and all the institutions of religion minister; 1 hope I shall be doing no unacceptable service, if my endeavours are exerted in assisting the serious Christian, towards the accomplishment of it. The subject itself is interesting, and as it leads to the examination of the heart, for the traces of the Blessed Spirit's ministry, it will form a very proper sequel to this Essay, and under the divine blessing, enable any man to satisfy himself, on that important question, which the Apostle seems to have considered as the truest criterion of a right faith : “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed ?"
All that we can possibly discover, of those secret and mysterious proceedings, is from judging of causes by effects. And therefore, all that I shall venture to speak on this subject will be, to sketch some of the more striking traces of his ministry, as they are manifested in the conversion of the sinner. They may, and certainly