« PreviousContinue »
feast; after the servants had been sent with express orders, to use the most urgent invitations, persuasions, intreaties, and assurances of a hearty welcome, in order to induce him to compliance?
The conduct of the apostles and evangelists shew how they understood their instructions. They always called on their hearers, without exception or limitation, to believe in Christ : knowing that all, who became willing, by the power of the holy Spirit accompanying the word, would be thus encouraged without delay to embrace the gracious invitation, and that the rest would be left without excuse. Thus Peter speaks of his ministry, “ God made choice
among us, that the gentiles by my mouth “ should hear the word of the gospel and be “ lieve *.” Nothing else, except the word of the gospel, was required to warrant the faith of the gentiles.
Paul addressing the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia, said, “ Be it known to you, men and bre" thren, that through this man is preached unto “ you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that “ believe are justified from all things.. Beware, " therefore, lest that come upon you, which is “ spoken of in the prophets, Behold, ye despisers, 6 and wonder, and perisht.” He was sensible, that there were despisers in the company, whom he warned of the consequences of unbelief: yet he preached forgiveness of sins and justification by faith to all present, without exception; which he would not have done, if the gospel had not been a sufficient warrant to authorize every one of them to believe in Christ for salvation.
The same apostle calls his office, “ The minis“ try of reconciliation ;” and says, “ Now then
we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God
* Acts xy. -9.
+ Acts xiii. 38-41.
“ did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's " stead, be ye reconciled to God*.” If one, who till then had been an enemy of God and Christ, had asked the apostle, how he might be reconciled ? would he not have answered, “ Believe “ in the Lord Jesus Christ;" for “ God hath 66 made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, “ that we might be made the righteousness of 66 God' in him?"
II. The invitations of Scripture evidently prove the point in question. The Lord, by his prophet, calls on those, who “are spending their
money for that which is not bread, and la
bouring for that which satisfieth not,” to come to him for all the blessings of his everlasting covenantt. Such as seek happiness in worldly vanities, or aim to please God by empty forms and superstitions, or go about to establish their own righteousness, are alike described in the very terms of the invitation; nor are the most stupid worshippers of idols, or the vilest workers of iniquity, excluded.- On the great day of " the feast, Jesus stood, and cried, If any man " thirst, let him come to me and drinki: No one in that large company, who thirsted for salvation, or for happiness, was excluded by the terms of this proclamation.-But, lest any should suppose, that this only warrants the faith of such as are conscious that they thirst in a spiritual manner ; he afterwards, appearing in vision to his servant John, explains his meaning more fully; 66 Let him that is athirst come, and who
soever will, let him take the water of life “ freelyg.” This is surely a sufficient warrant for every one that is willing ; and, however unencumbered or universal the invitation may be,
* 2 Cor. v. 18-20.
+ Is. lv. 1-3.
none but the willing can be expected to comply with it. But while the gospel is preached men become willing, who were not so before: nay a desire to be made willing may very properly be formed into a prayer; and then it falls under the general assurance, “ Ask, and it shall be given
you;- for every one that asketh receiveth.”
Wisdom calls to the sons of nien, and thus expostulates with them; “ How long ye simple " ones will ye love simplicity, and the scorners " delight in their scorning, and fools hate know
ledge ? Turn ye at my reproof: I will pour “ out my Spirit unto you, I will make known
my words unto you.” Can any further warrant for faith in Christ, and for applying to him for his complete salvation, be required for the most careless, scornful, or profligate sinner on earth, whenever he comes with a sincere and willing mind?
In the parable of the marriage-supper, many, by the king's express command, were urgently and repeatedly invited, who in the event never tasted of the feast. These were excluded merely because they would not come, but made light of the invitation, and went to their farms and merchandize. And whatever we understand by the wedding-garment, it must be considered as supplied by him who made the feast: for the servants were sent “ into the highways, and as many as " they could find” they were ordered “ to bid " to the marriage;" but how should poor beggars, or even travellers, be provided, on such an unexpected occasion, with raiment suited to a royal feast? The discovery therefore of the man " who had not on the wedding garment,” represents the case of those professors, whose faith is dead and whose confidence is groundless; and consequently it has nothing to do with the warrant for a sinner to believe in Christ*.
Matt. xxii, 1-14.
“ God so loved the world, that he gave his " only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth “ in him, should not perish, but have everlasting “ life.” But if the word of the gospel were not a sufficient warrant; a man might truly believe in Christ, and yet perish for want of such a warrant.-Christ said to the woman of Samaria, who was at that time living in habitual gross wickedness, “ If thou knewest the gift of God, 66 and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to or drink, thou wouldest have asked, and he “ would have given thee living water.” The asking, here mentioned, could be no other than a believing application to Christ for salvation: and a knowledge of Him, and of the mercy
and grace of God in him, would have influenced the woman to make this application, for which she had already a sufficient warrant. Afterwards we are informed, that “ many of the Samaritans “ believed on him, for the saying of the woman;"
.66 and many more believed because of his “ own word * :” so that they, who before, “ knew not what they worshipped,” wanted
no other warrant for faith in Christ, except his word, or even the words of others concern
Our Lord's address to the lukewarm self-sufficient Laodiceans shall close this argument, “ Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased “ with goods, and have need of nothing; and “ knowest not that thou art wretched, and mi.. “ serable, and poor, and blind, and naked : I « counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the “ fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white rai“ ment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that “ the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; " and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou cient warrant to any Laodicean, whatever his previous character had been, to apply to Christ for these blessings, as soon as he felt the least degree of desire to obtain them ? Yet the word buy intimates, that none would thus apply, but those, who renounced false confidences and worldly idols for the sake of Him and his salvation.
mayest see t." Was not this counsel a suffi
* John iv, 10, 39-42.
+ Rey, iii, 17, 18.
III. Faith in Christ is an act of obedience to the command of God; and unbelief is the most ruinous and the most provoking of sins. When the Father, in a voice from heaven, proclaimed, 66 This is
my beloved Son, in whom I am well “ pleased, hear ye him*,” it may perhaps be argued, that he only required the three apostles then present to hear, believe, and obey their Lord: but Peter addressed the unbelieving Jews in the very same manner, by applying to them the words of Moses ; “ A Prophet shall the 56 Lord your
God raise up unto you of your “ brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear in “ all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. " And it shall come to pass, that every soul, 66 which shall not hear that prophet, shall be “ destroyedt.” Now, can it be imagined, that the Jews were commanded to hear Christ, and yet not commanded to believe in him? or would such a hearing without believing have preserved them from the threatened destruction ?-" This « is his commandment, that we should believe so in the name of his Son Jesus Christs:” but it would be a very extraordinary commandment, if none were required to obey it, except such as had done so already!
The obedience of faith implies obedience in believing, as well as that obedience which springs from faith. Thus the apostle says, or Ye have
* Matt. xvii, 5. † Acts iii, 22, 23. vii, 37. 1 John iii. 23.