« AnteriorContinuar »
Concerning Sinners deliverance from
condemnation; wherein the case of Christ's fatisfa&tion is considered, and inpartially stated, according to the scripture account of it.
EFORE I enter upon this enquiry, I think it proper to make a few previous obfervations. And, first, I observe, that fin
is either a doing that which the light of nature, or divine revelation, makes a crime ; or the
diviñe revelation, makes a duty. Again, secondly, I observe, that as God is the original supreme cause of the being, and relations of things, upon whom we chiefly depend, and to whom we owe our highest obligations; so all sin is chiefly and primarily committed against him. And as God is absolutely independent, and self-existing; so, when his creatures have sinned against him, they are wholly at his pleasure to be disposed of as he fees good. From which it will follow, by a necessary conséquence, that it is the right and property of God to use is pleasure, either in pardoning or pula nishing the finner; and if he do punish for sin, he is at liberty to exercise what kind, degree, or duration of punishment he thinks fit, provided che punishment do not exceed the demerit of the crime.
If it should be objected, that the holinels or rectitude of God's nature does dispose him to hate fin, and to manifest his displeasure against it, by punishing the finner, if he obstinately persist in his folly, without repentance, and that the justice of God doth oblige him both to punish the finner, and proportion the punishment to the measure of the guilt contracted. I answer, Whether and how far the holiness of God doth dispose him to hate sin, and to punish the sinner, I shall not here enquire ; because if we allow what the objection. supposes, yet still he is at liberty either to pardon or punish, the finner as he sees good or fit; be. cause those dispositions which are in God, arising from the rectitude of his nature, do not take from him the freedom of his will; and therefore, tho' God is disposed to hate sin, and punish the sinner, because his wisdom is supposed to judge it best and fittest to do so, yet still he is at liberty, with respect of his power, and will, to do otherwise. As to that part of the objection which respects his justice, I say, every being is left free, by the laws of common equity or justice, to dispose of his own peculiar property as he will, and his not accountable to any for the use or non-use, the enjoying or not enjoying, or disposing of the same. Seeing therefore that the right of punishing, or pardoning a finner, is God's peculiar property, in which no one is interested but himself. it will follow, that God may use his pleasure, either in pardoning the sinner, or punishing him to a greater or less degree, without being guilty of criminal injustice, provided the punishment doth not exceed the demerit of the crime ( as I obsery'd before) seeing no one is wrong'd by such an administration, nor any occasion given for a just complaint. Thirdly, I observe, that if God is pleased to punish the finner for his folly, there is
nothing which the sinner can do for himself, nor 'which any other can do or suffer for him, which in the nature of the thing can properly merit his exemption from punishment, or give a right to claim his discharge at God's hand. And here (which I desire may be carefully observed through the whole following discourse) I underfand the word merit in the first and stricteft fenfe of that term, viz. that which in its own nature gives a legal right and title to what is supposed to be merited by it, considered as separate from all grace and bounty pre-engagements, or promises of him and bounty pre-engacomo parate fro who is the proprietor in what is thus merited, an: tecedent to that meritorious act. And,
First, I say, there is nothing which the finner can do for himself which can thus merit any thing at God's hand; for as to repentance which consists in a sente and conviction of Guilt, a deep sorrow, humiliation, and pain of mind that we have done amiss, a confession of our fault, and an actual forsaking it, tho' this may dispose us for, and make us the suitable subjects of God's mercy, yet this doth not, in the least measure, merit our difcharge from punishment ; because as our repentance doth not take away or lessen our guilt ( we being equally as guilty after that repentance as before) so neither is that repentance any way profitable unto God, and therefore cannot bring him under any obligation' unto us upon the account of it. . ... If it should be here objected, that God's goodness doth dispose, and in some sort oblige him to discharge the finner upon his repentance, and therefore that repentance is meritorious. I anfwer, allowing what the objection supposes, viz. that God's goodness obliges him to discharge the penitent, yet this repentance doth not merit that dir charge, but only disposes and fits the person, who
exercises it, for God's mercy; for if repentancë did merit, as aforesaid, then God's obligation, to discharge the penitent, would not arise from his goodness, as the objection supposes, but from his justice, because it would not be an act of goodness, but justice, for God to exercise it; the criminal might demand it as his right, and it would be an act of criminal injustice in God to withhold it from him; and therefore, it God's goods ness doth oblige him to discharge the penitent, then this is Iomething in God himself which brings him under this obligation, and not any thing in the finner which merits it at his hand.
As to works of supererogation, or good works over and above duty, I think, properly speaking, there is no such thing; because as God is the original supreme cause of the being and relations of all things, so I think he hath made it the duty of every rational conscious being (even from the being and relations in which he hath placed them) to fill up the relations in which they stand, by doing every thing which is fit and proper to be done ; and consequently, every good work, which every derived rational conscious being is capable of performing, comes within this general rule of duty, and law of God, founded in the being and relations, and so, in the reason of things. And likewise whatever is unfit or improper to be done, is a defect of duty from this rule. If there are any works which are neither fit nor unfit, neither proper nor improper, such works are neither good nor evil, but are of an indifferent nature, and so are not within the present question. But allows ing, tho' not really granting, that there are such good works which are over and above duty, yet such good works cannot, in the nature of the thing, merit any thing at God's hand; because, firfi, no being whatever can give to God any
thing but what is God's own, antecedent to that gift; for as all derived beings received their beings, and all that they are and have from God, fo from hence it will follow, that if any one, or every one of these should offer up themselves, and all that they are or have, to God, they do but return to him his own; they give him that which he hath a greater interest in, and right to, than themselves; and therefore the giving to God his own, cannot, in justice, be supposed to lay him under any obligation upon the account of it. Secondly, Whatever any one doth for God, he doth it by that ability which he originally recived from him, and consequently can never oblige him by such a performance. Thirdly, Whatever any one offers up to, or doth for God, cannot, upon any account, be profitable unto him, and confequently cannot lay him under any obligation, which is the case of merit. Again,
I say, secondly, there is nothing which any other can do or suffer for the finner, which originally, in the nature of the thing, can merit his discharge from condemnation. That nothing, which any other çan do for the finner, is, in this strict and proper fense, meritorious, appears from the reasons last mentioned, viz. because, first, there is nothing which any one can give to God, but what is God's own, antecedent to that gist; and, secondly, because there is nothing which any one can do for God, but what is done by an ability and power originally received from him ; and, thirdly, because there is nothing which any one can give to, or do for God, which can, in any respect, be profitable to him; and confequently, there is nothing which any person can do for the sinner, which, in the nature of the thing, can merit any thing from God for him. So likewise neither is there any thing which any one can suffer for him, which, in