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THE LATE REV. JOHN COOKE.
Abraham was not accepted as a righteous man, that is, as pardoned, justified, and accepted, by faith in God as a Creator and Governor of the world; but by and in Christ, as the substance of the promise.
III. The New Testament confirms the doctrine of justification by faith, and not by the merit of works. It declares that
1. By GRACE, or pure favour, we are saved, through faith. Eph.
2. Not of works, lest any man should boast.
3. The very end of being saved by faith, is, that it might be by grace; and to be sure to every believer. Rom. xi. 5, 6.
4. If salvation was the reward of human work, it will be a debt, and not a favour. Then, instead of glorying in Christ, we should glory in ourselves. 1 Cor. i., 33, 31. We are not pardoned, justified, and saved, by our obedience, but "by the obedience of one inan, Jesus Christ, shall the many be made righteous. Rom. v.
The apostle declares, that if our righteousness comes by our obedience to the law, Christ is dead in vain! If our good hearts and lives could save us, Christ's death was needless. Gal. ii. Nor is even FAITH our righteousness-nor is our holiness-nor our usefulness-our justifying righteous. From such vain glorying, which is the temper of the self-righteous pharisee, who thanked God that he was not an immoral man, nor even like the publican; yet, the publican, seeking salvation, by pure grace and mercy, went down to his house pardoned and justified-not the pharisee! Luke xv. Luke xv. Faith is as really one of our works, as repentance, praying, charity, or praise; but these are not the atonement for our sins; nor the obedience of the second Adam, which we receive as our righteousness, for justification. When we receive Christ by faith, we have an actual interest in him, as the Lord our righteousness; and his righteousness is imputed, reckoned, placed to our account.
The shedding of Christ's blood, was for our redemption from the punishment of our sins. It was that blood which atoned for them; and through which we are pardoned. Eph. i. 7. And because the shedding of his blood, was the finishing act of his OBEDIENCE, We are said to be "justified by his blood." Rom. v. 9.
Those in glory," who came out of great tribulation, have washed their robes," not by their reformation, their tears, their sufferings, nor even by their own blood, as martyrs; but "washed their robes or souls, and made them white by the blood of the lamb." John i. 29; 1 John, i. 7.
It is by faith, and faith alone, that we have access to this grace of justification. Rom. v. 2.
This is the straight gate and narrow way to blessedness or happiness. Psalm xxxii. Not blessed is the man, who never sinned-nor the man who thinks his sins are small-nor the man who does not impute sin to himself—nor the man who thinks to atone for his sins
by his sufferings, his repentance, or his amendment; but blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven; to whom the Lord will not impute sin! Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness; that is, the meritorious righteousness of Christ; "without works," that is, without works of his own to justify him. Such a pardoned and justified believer, will perform good works, from duty, love, gratitude; not to save him; but from the enjoyment of pardon and salvation. Like Mary (Luke vii.), "he loves much, because he has much forgiven !"
It is the enjoyment of pardon by faith, which inspires peace in the conscience, affection in the heart, obedience in the life, victory over this world of temptations, and opens a prospect of eternal life! The question is answered, "What shall I do to be saved? BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," with a free, full, present, and eternal salvation! And has not Abraham been made
a blessing? From him and his posterity descended to us, a SAVIOUR;-the GOSPEL;-the manner of a believing sinner's justification. Are not these blessings? "Now these things were not written for his sake, alone; but for us also; to whom it shall be imputed if we believe in Jesus;" that is, confide in his righteousness, for our pardon and justification.
This is true happiness. A sense of pardoning mercy and justification by the grace of God, through the righteousness of Christ, is being "blessed with believing Abraham." This is the salt to the believer's temporal blessings; it gives them the true savour;-it sanctifies our souls-enlivens our duties-lightens our trialsstrengthens our obligations-excites us to zeal and diligence to be "a blessing," in usefulness to others-tranquillises the mind under all the changes of life and death-and, persevering in "the steps of the faith of our father Abraham,”-it opens a prospects to heavenly blessedness" in his bosom," or society for ever.
THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS TOWARDS A FALLEN
1. REPROVE him;-suffer not sin, unreproved upon him :-not in a spirit of pride--as a haughty tyrant hectors his slave-but as an affectionate brother, parent or friend, would mention a fault to those
they tenderly love. Not after informing others how faithful you intend to be; and afterwards how faithful you have been. Let others talk of your faithfulness. Some persons can be impertinent to their superiors, and then weak enough to add impudence, by the name of faithfulness.
2. Reproof should be regulated by age, relation, friendship, and circumstances. Private sins, should be privately reproved: and often public sins, may be publicly rebuked. But that way in which it probably will do most good, and give least offence, should be adopted. If we reprove those older than ourselves, or above us in rank, superiors in office, in talents, or usefulness, we should respectfully entreat them.
3. Ministers should reprove and rebuke with authority, with wisdom and meekness; yet with faithfulness and force proportioned to the sin, the sinner's character, and the circumstances which diminish or aggravate the crime.
It shocks every virtuous principle, to hear a vain young man, or a man whose eye has a beam in it, reproving the mote in the eye of another; when he has no other claim to such an office, than what is derived from his pride, conceit, or impertinence.
AMAZING, it is, indeed, that a being invested with powers and capacities for the endless enjoyment of God;-perfectly holy, and every moment the recipient of the divine friendship, should sin against God! Yet such a being was the devil, and such a being was the first man. Satan sinning and ruining himself, and his apostate colleagues, became as full of cruelty, as before, of good-will. This disposition, he discovers,
1. In his treatment of souls newly convinced of sin. They often suffer his terrors, almost to distraction. As soon as a soul is wounded, he strikes at that wound. He aggravates their past sins; charges them home on the cor.зcience; veils the promises from their minds; urges the most alarming threatenings on their souls; tells them they will surelyionscarry in their hopes and pursuits; misrepresents God, as all wrath, majesty and might, purity and justice; raises up enemies to them among friends and neighbours; and renders God and themselves, Christ and the law, sin and duty, life and death,
heaven and hell, sources of the most cruel suggestions and perplexities. "The tender mercies of the wicked one, are cruelties."
2. He discovers his cruelty, in temptations to sin. He lulls all suspicion asleep: and then from a man's relations and connexions, he forms temptations to sin. The customs of the world, and the practices of some reputed good people, he strives to allure. He misrepresents the servant and his work to the master; and the master and his commands to the servant. Some servants he tempts to unfaithfulness, or ill-temper, and makes one servant tempt another. Tradesmen he plies to over-reach, now and then, and puts a softer name on the deed. He sets one to oppose another by underselling and misrepresenting. He says such a custom, though sinful, is harmless; followed by numbers, and of long standing. He tries to revive old sins to their recollection; solicits them to a parley, then to consent, afterward, to commit and then to repeat it. He flatters into presumption; accuses till we fear; and suggests falsehoods till we are terrified. He pleads the weakness, disposition, age, occasions, the examples of others, and the pleasures of sin he says sin is not so evil; proposes the blood of Christ, and the mercy of God, as a sure refuge to impel us to sin: and then aims to plunge us into all the horrors felt by guilty fiends.
3. His cruelty is evinced in the manner of treating our besetting sin. Every object and occasion which fed it before conversion, he presents and paints afterwards, to the greatest advantage. And so frequent and persevering is he in this work, that the soul feels painfully; cries to God incessantly: opposes it strongly; loathes itself and cries, O wretched man!" By this sin, he excites evil propensities, even at the throne of grace, by our confessing them. The agonies of a believer, are his subordinate end: but to defile and devour, his ultimate end.
4. In embarrassed circumstances, he displays his cruelty by trying to heighten the obscurity which darkens and perplexes our way. He counsels us to keep it to ourselves; and discourages from asking counsel of any. He assures us God does not hear us, and we think not of his nearness. Says he, none ever walked in this path before, who belonged to Christ; you are overlooked, or why are you thus?
5. If drawn away to sin, his cruelty follows the poor backslider. He aggravates his sin. One moment allures him to sin again; then amuses and terrifies. Past experience, he clouds, and tempts the soul to judge of the Lord's past and future dealings, by its present gloomy sensations. He mocks the soul; and "fills him with his own ways." Hints that this sin is singular, and could not be committed by a believer. If you were a believer in Christ, he says, Christ would have kept you; but you are no backslider, you never were converted. He challenges; "go," says he, "to the throne of grace; you will meet no answer.' When there, Satan confuses the mind
with past crimes; blows up lustful desires, and suggests blasphemy against God, as a proper finishing to the prayer. O how cruel, when thus shut up in the hands of the enemy.
6. Affliction is another season, for the exercise of his cruelty. This proves you hated of God, if you will believe Satan. He will enlarge on the nature, the degree, the continuance of it, as proofs of the Lord's hatred. He brings to mind, the happiness of some saints in their affliction; and then tauntingly asks," do you enjoy the Lord's presence so ?"-He now tries to fix guilt on the conscience and confuse the soul, by mixing a sense of sin, and the pains of body together. He feeds unbelief by a dull frame, and assures the soul, that its affliction is a curse, and will, as an unimproved warning, increase the soul's damnation. He keeps gloomy objects before the mind, and makes it deal much with the law, and the evils of the heart. Creates suspicion of his attendants in sickness, till the soul frets, supposing itself slighted. He interprets the countenances of friends and physicians as proofs of the height of the disorder. Brings to mind lost opportunities of usefulness; and tells the soul, its grief is all forced, hypocritical and delusive; this he proves by allusions to others known to have wept in trouble, and sinned in health.
7. He exercises his cruelty, when the Lord withdraws his light and presence. Now the grand foe, teaches us to judge by our present feelings, of the Lord's favour. Now (as if I should ask a man what time of the day it is, by the dial, when the sun is quite clouded), he challenges the soul to produce its grace, faith, love and joy. Is this," says he, "the pleasantness of what you call wisdom's ways." The mind is now covered with such gloomy views of Providence, as at times to doubt it. "Look at your enemies," says he, "how powerful! how numerous! view your own weakness; with God against you. You must one day perish by some unforeseen occurrence." The countenances of friends; the whispers of enemies; and every gloomy spring of suspicion are now open to him.
8. After a peculiar visit from the Lord, he shows his cruelty. Adam and Eve were too happy in the divine favour-for him. The Father's testimony to his dear Son, were preludes to his long and painful temptations. "Ah!" says Satan, "may you not be mistaken? Are you not deluded by fancy? What was all that boasted felicity, but the natural passions in a flame, through your imagined interest in the Lord's love?" or, he tells the man, his recent favour, is the harbinger of misery; that he will fall into sin, after it, which will increase misery and guilt. Now he swells the mind with pride, and exclaims how you are favoured! If others were as diligent as you, they would be favoured also. Another moment he adds;you may yet be ruined at last; you will not feel so happy long." Then he departs for a season: and suddenly surprises the soul with some lust. Or, he brings up some old sin, and assures you, that is not pardoned. And if you go to the blood of Jesus with it, he