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The reason why eternal life is offered to all men in the Gospel.
That salvation is freely offered to all men who hear the gospel-and that every individual man who hears the gospel, is commanded to accept that salvation, uṇder the pains and penalty of everlasting condemnation, in case of a refusal-are truths so obviously taught in the Holy Scriptures, that one wonders how any human being should ever have entertained a doubt on the subject.
Those, however, who believe in the doctrine of election-who believe that Jesus Christ died to save a certain number of mankind, have been repeatedly and sorely pressed to assign a cause for offering salvation to the unelected, which should vindicate the moral candour and justice of Jehovah. And so long as they maintained that the imputability of Christ's righteousness depended on his representative characters in the covenant of grace-so long, I humbly conceive, their answer was unsatisfactory. We ought to speak freely and openly to our brothers of Adam's family; and in this spirit I do declare, that I never could be satisfied with the current explanations.
And yet nothing can be more certain, than that God is candid, true, and just, in this offer of life to mankind in general: And we can see and know that all his moral attributes stand clear of imputation in this offer. Nay, we shall attempt to show that all his moral attributes required that he should make such an
offer of salvation to all mankind. We shall show that God is not only just in this general offer, but that he would not have been just not to give it to all, provided he thought proper to give it to any.
In surveying such a statue as the Apollo Belvidere, one artist may be most struck with this profile, and another with that; while all admit that it is a miracle of art. In like manner, different men contemplating the general call of the gospel may be differently affected. One may view it as a merciful act in God so to offer life to offenders: another may consider it as some unaccountable mystery, which he is sure God can unravel, though he owns that he cannot. Now I must say, that this general offer of salvation to all men by Jesus Christ, never appears to me so glorious as when it is placed under the direct beam of pure justice. My meaning is this, that if God reveals the righteousness of Christ to mankind, he must command them to accept it: and that he would not be a just God if he did not so command them.
The reasoning is as follows: God does require of all men the righteousness of the law. It must be so ; for if he did not require this, he could require nothing, and all moral law, moral order, moral responsibility, would be at an end. God requires the righteousness of the law; but the gospel reveals the righteousness of Christ as the righteousness of the law; of consequence, God requires men to present to him the righteousness of Christ. Christ's righteousness is the righteousness of the law: but God requires the righteousness of the law; therefore God requires the righteousness of Christ of every man who hears the gospel sound. Can any thing be plainer? But let us turn it
round and around, and again dicies repetita placehit; our admiration will increase with acquaintance.
Suppose God did not require men to present to him the righteousness of his Son-then he would not require them to present the righteousness of his lawthat is, he would release them from the obligation of the moral law altogether. Is this possible! Then our high born race, made only for a little while lower than the angels, this glorious race, created in the image of God, must rank with the beasts that perish; no moral law, no moral order, no moral pleasure, no moral reward! Such a state of things is inconceivable.
The only possible evasion that the subtlest logician could avail himself of in order to keep clear of this conclusion is, the allegation that God might require men personally to work out the righteousness of the law, and refuse to allow them the righteousness of the Son. It is proper to treat such subjects with great modesty and fear. Who can say what Jehovah may or may not do? Who shall set limits to the Holy One of Israel? But I cannot conceive the supposition stated, to be at all worthy of God. The justice of God is the justice of a Being of infinite goodness, kindness, mercy-of infinite equity. And can I suppose that such a Being should require a righteousness which is not in the world; and refuse a righteousness which is in the world? Can it be supposed that he should say, I demand the righteousness of the law-here is the righteousness of the law-but I do not demand it.
Culling from the analogies of human things with divine, let me suppose the following case. My brother was under a contract, to effect a piece of work, and to receive ten thousand dollars on its completion, or pay a fine of ten thousand dollars in case of fail
ure. He fails to effect the work, and must pay the forfeit. If now I come forward, and pay down the ten thousand dollars to the original contractor, saying my brother has failed, but I am able to pay all his debts ; what should I think or say of that contractor, if he were to refuse the money, and cast my brother into prison, under an allegation that I was not known in the original contract?
I would not push analogies too far, on so vast and awful a theme. If I rightly understand the Scriptures, it is an act of grace in God to accept a vicarious, instead of a personal righteousness; and yet the Scriptures do not intimate that God would be just in rejecting the righteousness of the law, when presented to him. Let justice, equity and love, then, entwine their unfading glories! Let others view matters in that light which is afforded them; but for my single self, I must say, that if the righteousness of God's law is in the world, he wills to be satisfied with it! What does he ask? The righteousness of his law. Does he ask more of me, or less of me? Neither less nor more. And can I imagine that the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolations, the Father of this spirit, and the fashioner of this mortal body, will show me the real righteousness of his law, already wrought out and finished, and demand of me, not to accept this righteousness, but to work out a righteousness of his own, which he knows I cannot do?
There is something in the human mind, like an enlarged intuition, a sort of vision, which is blind to the slow steps of verbal logic, but perceives with assurance, what is in the main truth: and that intuition, or whatever it is, seems to assure me that if my elder brother is both able and willing to pay my debt; my
heavenly Father will not refuse to accept his due, merely because it is not I, but my elder brother, that has earned it with sweat and toil. Nay, when I stand before him, trembling for my doom, I think I hear him saying to me, your elder brother is both able and willing to pay your debt: nothing would give him greater pleasure bid him settle for you. Such, I must think, is something like the sentiments of the Father of us all. I cannot see how such a glorious Jehovah should proclaim salvation among his own creatures, the work of his own hands, and not command them to accept it.
A half-bred metaphysician is a wonderful enchanter: he lives in the middle of a great world of words. If you get in you will never get out, unless you draw your axe, and cut your way. Let me see. This same word representation, sounds to my ear very like gravitation. Old father Newton has demonstrated that bodies really and truly do gravitate, but if you ask him the cause, he sends you to the poets Aros d'e ELελlo ßan—it is the will of God: and all his sons vote with their old father. What short cuts these philosophers take of us! We call for reasons, for causes, for hows and whys, and they with most provoking gravity give us facts, plain naked facts, and nothing but facts. The fact occurs in nature, that's all. They have thrown away all this learned vocabulary of sounds about occult principles, and what not, and are content with the ascertainment of facts. And since they have acted in this manner their work goes on cheerily. It is amazing how they advance. An old hoary headed philosopher will have to ask his own son, before the lad is allowed to give a vote at an election, what the present state of science is. Certainly