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Encouragements to faith.
It is our present desire to show, that every man who hears of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, has a full and sufficient warrant to receive and rest on him, in the letter and substance of the Gospel—that this message of Divine mercy is addressed to us, not as believers, but as sinners -- that it is of such a nature as to justify immediate confidence, without reference to any encouragements and qualifications existing in ourselves.
We may take the not unfrequent case of one who fully believes the Gospel true, and Jesus Christ an almighty Saviour, and who seems to have some sense of his need of this grace, but who will not trust in Christ, nor take to himself any of the comforts of salvation, because he has no personal token of accept
He desires some special and sure warrant for believing in application to his own soul. He has cried in anguish of spirit, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me," but he has heard no answer. If he could but hear the faintest whisper, “Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee,” his soul would rest. But he fears that he will be guilty of presumption, in taking to himself the promises and encouragements of the Gospel, without a special bidding, and will make his case infinitely worse. He is charmed with this Saviour in all his offices, and with this salvation in all its parts; but he cannot find his own name in the Gospel; its terms are so general, it leaves so much to private judgment, and he cannot believe that all this mercy and grace, that all this glory and bliss, are for such a poor, unworthy creature as he feels himself to be.
In the excitement of such desires and doubts, those under conviction have often sought comfort outside of the Gospel, and have found it too. They have imagined strange and comforting appearances, conveying personal assurance of pardon; they have heard words unutterably sweet and pleasant spoken; and in the recollection of such things have rejoiced, rather than in the gracious message of salvation. Now all this arises from a misconception of the Gospel and its offer, and they are guilty of presumption in the very desire to avoid it, in founding their hope upon the work of their own excited fancy, and not upon the simple words of grace in the Gospel. Not by dreams, nor by visions, nor by arbitrary signs, nor by supernatural communications, is it to be decided, dear reader, whether you and I are invited to Christ; whether there is salvation for us in his precious blood, but in the terms of his own gift. There is no danger of presumption in venturing upon any fair and natural construction of language; if you can find that which implies a personal and individual call to take the water of life freely, you run no risk in receiving it. You surely are welcome to it.
It may be thought worthy of notice, that the case of one perplexed upon this point is no exceptional, peculiar case. There is no difficulty lying in his way, that is not equally in the way of all. It is true that his name is not found in the record of Divine grace, but it is equally true that there is no other name there. There is, indeed, a book of life, containing the names of the saved and the lost, but we have no access to that book, nor have we any thing to do with its contents, excepting as they shall be proved by what we find in the book of the knowledge of the way of salvation. In this respect we are all on the same footing before God. It is evidently his intention, that whatever comfort is derived from the Gospel, shall be founded on its general provision and call, comprehending a multitude of individuals, designated by character, and not by name.
Before taking up words of encouragement or restriction in the offers and invitations of the Gospel, let us examine THE GLORIOUS WORK OF OBEDIENCE AND SUFFERING ON WHICH THEY ARE FOUNDED.
Is that work of such a nature as to repel, or to attract our inquirer; to cut him off from all hope of enjoying its benefits, or to encourage him to look to it for peace to his own soul? Is there an angel with a flaming sword standing by the strait gate and narrow way that leadeth unto life, as by the entrance to paradise, to turn away any sinner who is striving to enter in? Now, if there is any truth lying broadly upon the surface of the Gospel, it is, that no anxious soul need conclude itself shut out from the mercy of God, by a narrowness of provision in the obedience and sufferings of Christ. They cover the whole ground of the broken covenant of works, for every one who believes. The intrinsic value of the atonement is not limited by the engagement with the Mediator in the covenant of grace. The righteousness of Christ derives an infinite value from his Divine nature, and is abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.
And yet the righteousness in view of which we are justified, is a human righteousness—the obedience and sufferings of a man, perfect and acceptable to God. It was necessary that the precept and penalty of the law should be honored in the nature that had
disobeyed, and therefore the Son of God “took not on himn the nature of angels, but he took the seed of Abraham.” The sufferings of an angel, or of all the host of heaven, even if they had far exceeded the amount of our debt, could have done us no possible good. The sufferings of the Divine nature of the only begotten Son of God, had it been possible that he should have suffered in that nature, would have been a needless infliction. The debt must be paid in the current coin of the realm, a perfect human righteousness, and therefore Jesus was “made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law.” How encouraging to me are the terms in which this is described; he became man, that he might redeem man. Bless God that he is a Divine Saviour, for a mere man could not have borne the fearful burden of God's wrath against our sins ; but bless God, too, that he is a human Saviour, and rendered a human satisfaction. I cannot count him a stranger to me; being a man like myself, there is a community of nature, and therefore a bond of sympathy between us, in which I feel myself encouraged to hope.
But there is more than this in the nature of the atonement, being infinite in valrie, it is equally applicable to all forms, varieties, and degrees of human sinfulness; to the scarlet and crimson, as well as to lighter shades of guilt. It has virtue enough for a