« PreviousContinue »
of Holiness here, [Ser. XXII. have no moral goodness in the sight of God, until a new heart is given. Could any of us say, that we have outwardly kept all the commandments from our youth up, unless we have been created through Christ Jesus unto good works, we never have kept one of them in sincerity and truth. But notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding we may have lived many years in total unholiness; if then, being renewed in the spirit of our minds, we truly turn our feet unto the testimonies of the Lord and walk in them, our end will be everlasting life. Yea, though we have lived in the grossest transgressions and iniquities; though our sins have been of a scarlet and crimson dye; if we cease to do evil, and learn to do well, through faith in the atoning blood of our Divine Redeemer, we shall no less certainly be received into the holy society of saints and angels in heaven, than if our characters had always been white as snow. Paul tells Timothy, “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners ; of whom I am chief. Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” And he says to the Corinthians, “ Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God ? be not deceived : neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adul. terers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you : but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
3. Continuance in well-doing at all, in this world, is not made so universally necessary, in order to happiness in the world to come, as to admit of no exception.
We must believe this, if we believe that any are saved, who die in the earliest part of infancy. We must believe this, if we believe that any adults are regenerated, and brought into a state of grace, through repentance and faith in Christ, in the very last moments of their lives. What time had the thief upon the cross, for patient continuance in welldoing, previously to his going to heaven ; when our Saviour said to him, “ This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise ?” Every one who heartily repents and embraces the gospel-Every one who is created anew in Christ Jesus, hath everlasting life : and, whether he instantly dies, or lives a hundred years afterwards in this world, shall not come into condemnation.
The sum of what the scriptures teach, concerning the necessity of personal holiness here, in order to heavenly happiness hereafter, appears to be this. All who are born of the flesh, must be born of the Spirit, before they die, or they can never enter into the kingdom of God. All sinners must repent, in this space of repentance, or their sins will never be blotted out. And all penitents, as long as they live, must bring forth fruits meet for repentance : they must endure unto the end, in sincere obedience of the law and gospel, or they will not be saved.
IV. It was proposed to inquire and explain, why so much as this, in us, or even any personal holiness at all, is now necessary ; since,“ by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves ;"> and since, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth."
But on this head a few hints must suffice, and may be sufficient.
1. Regeneration, and repentance, must precede a gospel title to eternal life, because they are pre-requisite to that faith by which alone a man is justified.
To believe to the saving of the soul, is not merely to be persuaded of the truth of the gospel ; it implies, moreover, that we cordially embrace its promises : that we desire the salvation it offers, and receive Christ as our Saviour and Lord. But thus to believe, is evidently incompatible with the disposition of an unregenerate, or an impenitent sinner. It is impossible that one who is unrenewed in the spirit of his mind, and totally destitute of true holiness of heart; or one who has no godly sorrow for sin, or sicere desire to turn from it, should be willing to be saved by Christ, as he offers to save men ; or should receive him in all his mediatorial offices, and consent to be his disciple and subject.
2. Believers must maintain good works, because these are the natural and necessary fruits of a right spirit, and of union to Christ by faith. The apostle
“ Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound ? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein ?" And our Sayiour hath said to his disciples, “ I am the vine, ye are the branches ; hc that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit,” There is no such thing as being saved, upon the gospel plan, without abiding in Christ, any more than with. out 'becoming united to him at first : and the necessary consequence of abiding in Christ, is a pa. tient continuance in well-doing. “ He that saith, I know him,” says the apostle John, “and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Hereby we know that we are in him.”
3. Well-doing, from an honest and good heart, is necessary in those who belong to Christ, notwithstanding they are not under the law, as a covenant of works, but under a covenant of grace, because a
recovery to holiness is an essential part of his salvation ; and a part which he stands engaged to see accomplished, in all whom the Father hath given him, from the time of their coming to him.
See Matt. i. 21,-" Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his people from their sins.” Eph. v. 25, 26, 27, “ Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word ; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.” And Tit. ii. 13, 14, “ Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
The improvement of what has been said, may be in the following particulars.
1. From this subject it may be easily seen, that the good works of men are no part of the condition, of their title to eternal life.
Believers have the promise of salvation-a promise which can never fail, before they have done any good works; and their title to it, in point of merit, is grounded wholly on what Christ has done and suffered ; and not at all on their well-doing. Were not this the case, none could be saved, except those to whom time is given for doing the will of God, after they have been created unto good works.
2. We may hence also infer, that it is not accurate to consider good works on earth, as being a necessary qualification for heaven.
Holiness of heart, is indeed absolutely necessary, to qualify any one for the joys above. But infants, and even adults, may be made perfect in holiness at
death, and be happy in the kingdom of heaven, without the qualification of a course of well-doing, while here on earth.
3. We may hence see why it is that no doings of the unconverted, can entitle them to any promise of saving grace. There are two reasons.
One is, they do nothing from right motives, They never truly seek for glory, honor, and immortality. Neither holiness, nor heavenly happiness, is ever the direct object of their pursuit or wish. Το glorify God, or to enjoy him, is not the chief end with them ; nor any ultimate end at all. They have not, in the lowest degree, that love which is the fulfilling of the law : that charity, without which, though one should bestow all his goods to feed the poor, or give his body to be burned, it would profit him nothing.
The other reason is, they do nothing in the exercise of faith in Christ, and have no interest in his atonement and righteousness. They rest upon nothing, they have nothing to rest upon, in their present condition, except the intrinsic merit of their own well-doing. But of a rational hope of acceptance with God, “ Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” If any man build not upon this foundation, though his superstructure were all of silver, gold, and precious stones, the purest in this world, when judgment is laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, all must be swept away, and burnt up. Though one were as godly and righteous as Noah, Daniel, and Job, his works, taken by themselves, with all their imperfections, would bring upon him a curse and not a blessing. All the promises are in Cbrist ; and to those who are his in covenant relation, and rely upon him ; so only can they be unto the glory of God.
4. Hence also we may see, why so infinite a difference will be made between men, in the day of judgment.