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It is nothing less than, after this life is ended, being placed in a state of happiness exceedingly great, both in degree and duration; a state, concerning which the following things are said: “ the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.”
« God hath in store for us such things as pass man's understanding.” So that, you see, it is not simply escaping punishment, simply being excused or forgiven, simply being compensated or repaid for the little good we do, but it is infinitely more, heaven is infinitely greater than mere compensation, which natural religion itself might lead us to expect.
What do the scriptures call it ? Glory, honour, immortality, eternal life.” « To them that seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” Will any one then contend, that salvation in this sense, and to this extent; that heaven, eternal life, glory, honour, immortality; that a happiness such as that there is no way of describing it, but by saying that it surpasses human comprehension, that it
casts the sufferings of this life at such a distance, as not to bear any comparison with it: will any one contend, that this is no more than what virtue deserves, what, in its own proper nature, and by its own merit, it is entitled to look forward to, and to receive? The greatest virtue, that man ever attained, has no such pretensions. The best good action, that man ever performed, has no claim to this extent, or any thing like it. It is out of all calculation, and comparison, and proportion above, and more than any human works can possibly de
To what then are we to ascribe it, that endeavours after virtue should procure, and that they will, in fact, procure, to those, who sincerely exert them, such immense blessings? To what, but to the voluntary bounty of Almighty God, who in his inexpressible good pleasure bath appointed it so to be? The benignity of God towards man hath made him this inconceivably advantageons offer. But a most kind offer may still be a conditional offer. And this, though an infinitely gracious and beneficial offer, is still a conditional offer, Rr 2
and the performance of the conditions is as necessary, as if it had been an offer of mere retribution. The kindness, the bounty, the generosity of the offer, do not make it less necessary to perform the conditions, but more
A conditional offer may be infinitely kind on the part of the benefactor, who makes it, may be infinitely beneficial to those, to whom it is made; if it be from a Prince or Governor, may be infinitely gracious and merciful on his part; and yet, being conditional, the condition is as necessary, as if the offer had been no more than that of scanty wages by a hard taskmaster. In considering this matter in general, the whole of it appears to be very plain ; yet, when we apply the consideration to religion, there are two mistakes, into which we are very liable to fall. The first is, that when we hear so much of the exceedingly great kindness of the offer, we are apt to infer, that the conditions, upon which it is made, will not be exacted. Does that at all follow ? Because the offer, even with these conditions, is represented to be the fruit of love and mercy
and kindness, and is in truth so, and is most justly so to be accounted, does it follow that the conditions of the offer are not necessary to be performed ? This is one error, into which we slide, against which we ought to guard ourselves most diligently; for it is not simply false in its principle, but most pernicious in its application, its application always being to countenance us in some sin, which we will not relinquish, The second mistake is, that, when we have performed the conditions, or think that we have performed the conditions, or when we endeavour to perform the conditions, upon which the reward is offered, we forthwith attribute our obtaining the reward to this our performance or endeavour, and not to that, which is the beginning and foundation and cause of the whole, the true and
proper cause, namely, the kindness and bounty of the original offer. This turn of thought likewise, as well as the former, it is necessary to warn you against. For it has these consequences : it damps our gratitude to God, it
: takes off our attention from Him. Some, who allow the necessity of good works to salvation, are not willing that they should be called conditions of salvation. But this, I think, is a distinction too refined for common christian apprehension. If they be necessary to salvation, they are conditions of salvation, so far as I
It is a question, however, not now before us.
But to return to the immediate subject of our discourse. Our observations have carried us thus far, that in the business of human salvation there are two most momentous considerations, the cause and the conditions, and that these considerations are distinct. I now proceed to say, that there is no inconsistency between the efficacy of the death of Christ and the necessity of a holy life, (by which I mean sincere endeavours after holiness ;) because the first, the death of Christ, relates to the cause of salvation; the second, namely, good works, respects the conditions of salvation; and that the cause of salvation is one thing, the conditions another,