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gospel testifies that he has established a method of bestowing everlasting life upon guilty sinners, who were justly condemned to eternal death: and the apostle further declares, that this immortal life, with the glory and blessedness it includes, is only to be obtained in and through His beloved Son Jesus Christ; and that nothing appears from any other quarter, but horror and despair. For the gospel supposes that all are sinners and exposed to condemnation: that they are unable to make satisfaction for their sins, or to merit the divine favour, by any thing they can do or suffer. It represents the Lord Jesus Christ as substituting himself in the place of the guilty, bearing the punishment due to their sins, and obeying the law of God in their stead. This is the method, and the only method of reconciliation adopted by God. He receives sinners as justified through the obedience, sufferings, and death of his beloved Son, who became their substitute and surety. This is the substance of the testimony of God in the gospel; and faith implies a firm and affecting persuasion of its truth. This testimony is revealed to your eyes in the scripture, and it is published in your ears by the preaching of the gospel. And if you believe with a justifying faith, you are so convinced of the truth of this representation, as to venture upon it the salvation of your soul.
2. Secondly, a justifying faith includes the approbation and acceptance of this method of salvation by the faith of Jesus Christ.
If you are sensible of your guilt and misery by sin,
and truly believe the testimony of God respecting the ability and willingness of Christ to save sinners, one would suppose that it must follow as a necessary consequence, that you will trust in him for salvation. This the justified believer does. Renouncing himself and all hope in his own righteousness, he places his whole dependence on the Lord Jesus, and desires that God would deal with him entirely on the ground of His merits. This is faith, and this faith justifies instrumentally. For when any one thus believes, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and accepted for him. And thus the love of God is manifested in sending and giving "his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." For on the ground of this love and the principles of the gospel, God no longer views the believer as a sinner condemned by the law; but as pardoned, justified, and having a righteousness equal to all its demands. He pronounces him just, and gives him a title to eternal life, as though he deserved it on his own account, on the principle of perfect and sinless obedience to the covenant of works.
This, my brethren, is the way of salvation. On no other ground can we, with safety, venture our souls, with all their eternal interests. But here we stand on a solid foundation, the rock of ages; and "other foundation can no man lay." Interested in the blood and righteousness of Jesus the Saviour, we are safe and secure (O, may you and I be so!) for time and eternity. The scripture evidence for this plan of salvation is abundant and decisive. It is stated in a great variety of passages. We have a clear summary of it in the third chapter of the epistle to the Romans :—" Under the law, every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God, without the law, is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the forgiveness of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
What are the lessons of improvement which this subject is calculated to afford? Allow me to notice three.
1. First, we learn from it the danger of those who reject the gospel method of salvation.
Our justification, and, consequently, our salvation, is only "by the faith of Jesus Christ. For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." If, therefore, you do not receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you are still under the condemnation of the law; for God has never established in the world more than two dispensations—the law and the gospel. All mankind are under one or the other of these two.— Unless, therefore, you embrace the gospel dispensation, you are still under the law. You may say you are not Jews, and were never under the law of Moses. True; but you are under the moral law of God, which demands unswerving obedience as the only title to life, and which threatens death and the curse to the least failure. The Romans and Galatians, to whom the apostle wrote his epistles which treat so fully on the doctrine of justification, were not Jews but heathens; yet they were under the law as a covenant of works, till they were freed from its curse by faith in Jesus Christ. "The promise, by faith of Jesus Christ, is given to them that believe." Hence, if you do not believe and obtain the promise of an interest in the blood and righteousness of the Saviour, you will not only be condemned as sinners and transgressors of the law, but as those who judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life.— You will fall under a still more awful condemnation than that of the law — the condemnation of the gospel. For "this is the condemnation:" the greatest cause of condemnation and the highest aggravation of sin—"that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth"—that is, after the truth has been made known to us by the gospel, "there remaincth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer judgment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He" the Son of God "was sanctified" and set apart to his mediatorial office—"an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense; saith the Lord." Oh, dreadful will be your doom if you reject the gospel of Christ !" How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" If you die in your sins, under the grace of the gospel, you must depart from the judgment seat, not only under the condemnation of the law, but under the curse of the Saviour. Oh, consider the tremendous end of the impenitent and unbelieving, and, before it be too late, "flee for refuge to the hope set before you in the gospel."
2. Secondly, this subject should lead us to see the necessity of examining ourselves as to the evidence of our justification.
Let us, my brethren, seriously examine ourselves whether we have that faith by which alone we can be justified. Let us, individually, ask ourselves— Have I faith in Christ as the only Saviour? Do I believe the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son? Do I believe that he that hath the Son hath life, and