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defiled, thus uncertain and transitory, is all that is most admired and courted here below.
Not so the portion of the saints; the inheritance they look for is “incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away.” As it hath no principle of decay within itself, so neither can it be wasted by any thing from without. It is " reserved," or laid up, “ for them in heaven:" a place of absolute safety, beyond the reach of every ad- . verse power, and equally secured against deceit and rapine. There is no thief to steal, no spoiler to lay waste. In those regions of perfect light and love, no such pite. ous complaints are heard as these,-“My bowels! my bowels! I am pained at my very heart, because thou hast heard, O my soul! the sound of the trumpet, and the alarm of war." All above is order and harmony; there is nothing to hurt, nothing to destroy, through the whole extent of the heavenly Jerusalem, that imperial seat of Zion's King.–Such, can the believer say, is the object of my hope.
Do you inquire into the grounds of his hope, he hath an answer ready in the words of my text, and can say with the apostle Paul,- If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son ; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Here the reasoning is at once profound and obvious; it is simple and ingenious at the same time: so simple and obvious, that the mind, with one glance, perceives its force, and is satisfied; so profound and ingenious, that the more accurately it is examined, the more conclusive it will appear.
From the efficacy of Christ's death, which the Apostle had proved at large in the foregoing part of this epistle, he infers, in this passage, the superior efficacy of his re. stored life: I say, bis restored life ; for the life here re
ferred to, was not that life previous to his crucifixion, which he led upon earth in the form of a servant; but the life he now lives at the right hand of God, where he is exalted to the throne as a Prince and a Saviour, « having a name given him above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, that he is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Two comparisons are here stated; the one betwixt the past and present state of believers; formerly they were enemies to God, now they are become friends. The other comparison is betwixt the past and present condition of the Saviour; once he was dead, now he is alive. And the proposition that connects the two is this, That reconciliation to God was entirely owing to the death of Christ, as the meritorious procuring cause. These are the premises from whence the Apostle draws his conclusion, and proves, with demonstrative evidence, the absolute certainty of the complete and everlasting salvation of believers.
The only principle he assumes, is what every one must admit as soon as it is mentioned, viz. that reconciliation to an enemy is a more difficult exercise of goodness than beneficence to a friend. Upon which he thus reasons, That if the death of Christ had sufficient virtue to produce the greater effect, viz. reconciliation to those who formerly were enemies, there can be no room to doubt that the life of Christ, which is a more powerful cause, must be sufficient to produce the lesser effect; lesser I mean in point of difficulty, namely, the continuance of the divine friendship and beneficence to those whom his death hath reconciled, till he bring them in due time to the full possession of the purchased inheritance,
Say then, my brethren, may not the hope of a Christian be justly denominated a rational hope, or, as the Apostle terms it, (verse 5.) “a hope that maketh not ashamed?” And may not the believer reply, with holy exultation, to every one that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him, If, when I was an enemy, I was reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, I shall be saved by his life: his death was the price of the inheritance I look for; and his restored life is my evidence that the price was accepted, and the purchase made. This renders my hope assured and vigorous. Did it depend upon any thing in myself, on the strength, or wisdom, or worthiness, of the creature, it would quickly languish and die ; but as it leans upon him who rose from the grave to die no more, who ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, and is now exalted at the right hand of God, it is become “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast:" for the Father raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, for this very end, that every ground of jealousy being removed, my faith and hope might be in God. 1 Pet. i. 21.
It must already have occurred to you, that none can apply this reasoning to themselves, but those who are previously reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Here begins the hope of a sinner; and here likewise must I begin to bring the subject home to our own hearts, by inquiring, who among us can say that we have experienced this blessed fruit of the Redeemer's death?
And for our assistance in this important trial, I shall endeavour, in few words, to mark out some of the principal steps, by which the soul is most usually led by the Spirit of God unto a vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ; who of God is made unto all that believe in him, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
A deep conviction of guilt and misery doth certainly lie at the root of this important change. The sinner seeth himself to be all pollution, naked, and defenceless, having nothing to screen him from the wrath of that Almighty Being whom he hath offended. This constrains him to look about for deliverance. The wrath of God is intolerable: he cannot dwell with devouring flames, he cannot lie down in everlasting burnings; and though he is conscious that he hath justly merited this misery, yet self-preservation, that strong principle implanted in his nature by the great Author of his being, obligeth him to ask the question, Is there no hope?
Here, indeed, many steal away from under their burden, take shelter in some refuge of lies, and encompass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling; but the sinner that is under the conduct of the Spirit of God (and of such only I at present speak), the more he considers his case, the more hopeless and desperate he findeth it to be. He indeed asketh the question, What shall I do? but feeling his impotence, answers, I can do nothing; or though I could do any thing, yet what would it avail me? Can the duty I owe at present make any reparation for the offences that are past? Will forbearing to contract new debt intitle me to a discharge of the old? Impossible! In short, when he casts his eyes abroad throughout the whole creation, he can find nothing at all to lean upon for deliverance. And thus, as the Apostle expresseth it, (Gal. iii. 23.) he is “ shut up unto the faith,” hedged about, as it were, on every side; so that neither himself, nor any other creature, can make a way
for his escape.
Being reduced to this condition, he listens with eagerness to the tidings of a Saviour. The name Jesus hath a different sound to him than ever it had before;
and his very heart leaps within him, when he hears that « God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." But he cannot rest satisfied with a general account of this matter, As his danger is real and pressing, he seeks a clear discovery of the method of deliverance. Felt distress breeds concern and anxiety; a self-condemned criminal cannot quiet his mind with the bare probability of a pardon: he therefore narrowly pries into the authority, the character, and the ability, of the Saviour. He looks into bis commission, and is wonderfully pleased to read such a plain declaration as this, (Isa. xlii. 6,7.) “ I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." He rejoiceth to hear the Father bimself proclaiming with an audible voice from heaven, first at his baptism, and afterwards at his transfiguration, “ This is my be, loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” He then proceeds to consider his admirable fitness for the office and work of a Saviour, as being the eternal Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God in our nature. He reviews the whole history of his actions and sufferings; sees him of. fering up the sacrifice to divine justice; hears him cry on the cross, “ It is finished;" behold him rising from. the grave in testimony of the divine acceptance, ascend. ing up on high to receive the kingdom, where he ever liveth to make intercession for transgressors, and to dispense the gifts he purchased with his blood, having all power committed to him in heaven and on earth; from all which he discovers abundant reason to conclude, that “ he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."