In showing what law is intended in the text, I shall say that it appears to me to be the glorious Gospel of God our Saviour, which comprehends all the glorious doctrines and promises of love, grace, and mercy; with all the truths connected with, and discovered in, the complete salvation of helpless sinners. A gospel replete with blessings unspeakable and full of glory! and of which Christ is the sum and substance; for without, or separate from, Christ there is no gospel.
But in speaking upon this part of the subject, as God shall enable me, I shall endeavour to show that the Holy Ghost has been pleased to set forth this law by a diversity of terms, all of which are suited to its nature and design. And,
1st, It is called the law that goeth forth from Zion: as it is written, “‘And many people shall go and say. Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Is 2:3; Mic 4:2) By Zion, I understand the church of God, of which Christ is the Head, Lord, and Law-giver; though by nature, separate from Christ, she is nothing better than a sepulchre (as the term Zion signifies,) which contains nothing but rottenness and dead men’s bones, the stench of which she frequently smells after called by divine grace, which makes her sick at heart; on which account she abhors herself, and repents in dust and ashes; nevertheless, in Christ she is comely, beautiful, and fair: and it is from him, the glorious throne of his Father’s house, that this law proceeds. (Is 22:22-24)
We observe again, Zion sometimes signifies monument; and, in this sense, the church answers the description; for, she is brought to know by heart-felt experience, that she is a monument of grace, raised up by the God of Jacob, to show forth his praise; sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called; saved completely and entirely by grace; a knowledge of which is sure to produce holy wonder, gratitude, and praise; and the language of the soul will be, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” While Pharisees are pleasing themselves with their own goodness, and vainly hoping that God is as well pleased as themselves, Zion is saying, “Not unto us, O Lord! but unto thy name be all the praise.” “Not according to works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us; by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Zion is raised up by God himself to magnify his adorable name, and to show forth his praise. Hence, says Jehovah, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” In spite of all opposition, she abides a standing pillar to the honour of the Triune God. However great or many may be the victories gained over the world, flesh, or the devil, she cheerfully attributes the whole of the glory to God; and with divine pleasure sings, ‘The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.'” When faith is drawn forth into lively exercise, to all her implacable enemies she can say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” (Ps 46:1-3) In fact, whether she realizes or only anticipates victories, she is at a point in this, that the whole glory belongs to the Lord; for “He hath delivered, he doth deliver, and we trust also that he will deliver.” “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors,” but it is “through him who hath loved us.” If she must glory, it must be in the Lord, and for this purpose God hath raised the church up: “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exerciseth loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” (Jer 9:23-24)
Indeed, if we examine the word of God, it will evidently appear that the characters God hath chosen as the monuments of his grace, are such as render it impossible but that they must speak forth his praise. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the weak things of the world,”—what for? to be overcome by the mighty, and so be brought into disgrace? no! thanks be to God, no! but—”to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not,”—which are in themselves nothing, and less than nothing; but what hath God chosen these base, despised, nothing-things for? to put them to shame? no, beloved! But—”to bring to nought things that are.” And what is the important end that God has to answer by so doing? “That no flesh should glory in his presence, but in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:26-29) “But,” say you, “if the church is such a foolish, weak, base, despised particle of nothingness, wherein does she appear a monument to the praise and glory of God?” Because God, of his own act and deed, according to his own will and purpose of grace, raises her up a glorious church, in which his soul delighteth; and which, by way of eminence, he calls, “the house of his glory,” “the joy of the whole earth,” and “the perfection of beauty” (Is 9:7; Ps 48:2; 50:2) and by his mighty power, working all her works for her and in her, she confounds and overcomes all that stand opposed to her. Do you ask where her beauty and strength lie? The Holy Ghost shall inform you. She is complete in Christ, and comely through the comeliness which he puts upon her. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom,”—mind that! Christ is the wisdom of these fools—”and righteousness, and sanctification,”—here is the beauty of these base and despised worms—”and redemption,”—here is their strength; for, through this redemption, they obtain a complete victory over all their enemies;—”that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30-31) It is true, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy-work: day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge” (Ps 19:1) but when the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll and time shall be no more, Zion shall remain an eternal monument of Jehovah’s matchless grace, and shall for ever show forth his praise. She shall be an eternal excellency; for God shall be her everlasting light, and her God her glory, and she shall glorify him. (Is 60:15, 19, 21)
But we observe once more, that if Zion signifies a looking-glass or a mirror, the church answers to this description; for, united to Christ, her glorious Head, she reflects the glory of God in an infinite degree: for “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) In Christ, the head and representative of the church, all the perfections of Jehovah meet and shine: mercy and truth meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. But where? on Sinai? No; but in Christ, the King of Mount Zion, the city of the great God; for he is “the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person.” (Heb 1:3) “Out of Zion. the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” (Ps 50:2) Yea, herein he shines in all his divine majesty, holiness, justice, truth, and grace. The whole of his perfections meet and sweetly harmonize in the complete redemption and glorification of his church.
Once, Jehovah descended upon Mount Sinai, and made an awfully grand appearance; accompanied with thunderings, lightnings, and an awful tempest; and in his terrible majesty, he gave the fiery law: but wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! here we behold him upon a throne of mercy, endearing himself to the church by all the ties of eternal kindness and divine compassion. From this throne goes forth a law pregnant with strength and consolation; delivered, not in the midst of thunderings and lightnings, no! but with love in the heart, and a smile on the countenance. Hence he says, “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined.” Yes, beloved, instead of veiling his glory in smoke, “he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations:” instead of threatening the man that approaches with death and destruction, he will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from all the earth; for the Lord God hath spoken it: “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him. and he shall save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation: for in this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest.” (Is 25:6-10)
From this mountain, no fiery law, no killing letter, no ministration of death and condemnation, can proceed. No; it is the glorious gospel of God our Saviour, which abounds with wisdom, strength, and consolation: for, upon Mount Zion “the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Ps 133:3) Here Jehovah unveils his lovely face, and shines forth refulgent in immortal glory, as a just God and a Saviour; and poor, guilty sinners may venture to approach and live. Though in themselves they are miserable, helpless, and ruined, they may unbosom their whole heart, and make known all their wants, without fear or distraction; for the Lord waits to be gracious, and delighteth in mercy, and on this mountain he keeps an open house, day and night. Here the poor are banqueted with all the blessings that infinite wisdom can contrive and unfold, and that infinite grace and mercy can freely give and communicate, that infinite power can bring about, and infinite holiness, justice, truth, and faithfulness, can support; and the whole, though infinitely rich, is infinitely free, without money and without price. There is nothing a poor sinner can possibly need to make him happy, here or in the world to come, but what this mountain is furnished with, and that at all times; for it is the king’s banqueting-house, richly supplied with all the divine dainties of his benevolent and compassionate heart: “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. 1 will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.” (Ps 132:13-16)
If Zion is Jehovah’s special choice, and eternal residence and rest, wherein he dwells as a covenant God and Father, in all the matchless bliss of his infinite perfections, which blaze forth in sweet harmony and immortal beauty, to the complete and everlasting satisfaction and joy of the poor in spirit, it is easy to perceive that the law, which goeth forth from this mount, is the eternal, sovereign, and gracious will of life and salvation; “by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once.” (Heb 10:10) Paul, having a sweet view of these things, ventures to say to the believing Hebrews, “But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly of the church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.” (Heb 12:22-24) Whatever condemnation, wrath, and bondage went from Sinai, upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” (Joel 2:32) Therefore, 1 conclude that the law which goeth forth from Zion is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2dly. This law is called the law of love, or kindness: “In her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Prov 31:26) That the church is the woman described in this connexion is very obvious; for the description cannot be true of any one of Adam’s fallen daughters; and therefore, must be taken in a mystical and spiritual sense. Indeed, one part of the description given, so much agrees with the description which Solomon gives of the church in the Canticles, that it appears almost impossible for a spiritual mind to miss the design of the Holy Ghost; as in verses 28 and 29: “Her children arise up and call her blessed: her husband, also, and he praiseth her: many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” Compare this with Canticles 6:9: “My dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her: the daughters saw her and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.” But what law is this that is in her tongue, called the law of kindness? It is the gospel of the eternal God. But as many are very partial to Dr. Gill, and perhaps, few more so than myself, we will hear what he says about it: “And in her tongue is the law of kindness;” or, the law of love, grace, and mercy; which is the law of Christ (Gal 6:2) speaking kindly and tenderly to every one: exhorting to acts of mercy and kindness, and doing them herself: or, the doctrine of grace is in her tongue, the Gospel, which is called the Gospel of the grace of God, and the grace of God itself. It is the doctrine of the grace and of God the Father towards men in Christ, as it appears in their election in him, and redemption by him: of the grace of Christ in his incarnation, sufferings, and death; and of the grace of the Spirit in regeneration, conversion, and sanctification; and which contains various doctrines of grace, as of justification, pardon of sin, and effectual vocation; and of salvation itself, which is all of grace: and this doctrine of grace in the several branches of it, the church, and all gracious souls, cannot forbear speaking of; it is often in their mouths, it dwells upon their tongues, and careful are they, in other respects, that their speech be seasoned with grace, and be such that ministers grace to the hearers. (Eph 4:29; Col. 4:6.)”
Thus much for the Doctor: and to me it appears consistent with the word of life, and that it is the very same law that was in David’s tongue, and heart too, when he penned the 45th Psalm. Indeed, beloved, Christ and him crucified made manifest in the conscience by the Holy Ghost, will fill any poor sinner’s tongue with the law of kindness; for this Jesus, with the blessings connected with his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession, are the free gifts, and flow from the everlasting love and kindness of Jehovah; for “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” When the apostle John was led by the Holy Ghost to take a sweet view of this divine subject, he breaks forth in holy rapture, and exclaims, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10) As if he had said, “Though God’s tender mercies are over all his works, yet the whole of creation, animate and inanimate, falls infinitely short of setting forth the intrinsic glory of the love of God. This can only be shown, in its matchless grandeur, in the gift of his only begotten Son, and the soul supporting blessings connected therewith.” Herein is a fathomless ocean, an immeasurable world of uncreated, unchanging, immutable love,
“Deep as our helpless miseries are,
And boundless as our sins!”
A living fire that many waters cannot quench, neither can the floods drown; in spite of all storms and tempests, it still continues to blaze in immortal grandeur, from everlasting to everlasting: and when this love is shed abroad in the heart of a poor sinner, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, it is sure to kindle a flame of love in the breast; and the man, who before was living at enmity against God, is sweetly compelled to call upon all the powers of his soul to bless and praise his holy name; and as the eternal God is pleased to make the truths of the gospel manifest in his conscience, so is he led to admire, wonder, and adore; and with solemn pleasure can say, “O how 1 love thy law! it is my meditation day and night.” This law is stronger than death, and better than life; and whenever it is received in the love and power of it, it unlooses the tongue, and makes the stammerer speak plainly. This evidently appeared to be the case with David, when he penned the 45th Psalm.
Let us just glance at a verse or two of this song of loves; or, as it may be rendered, a song of the beloved ones; for so it is, setting forth the mutual love of the dear Redeemer and his blood-bought, eternally-beloved spouse, whom he hath betrothed unto himself for ever ”in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies,” and “in faithfulness.” (Hos 2:19-20) I know well that poor, wretched sinners, lost and ruined in themselves, who are led by the Holy Ghost to this precious Christ, and enter into his rest by faith, and so are brought to know that their Maker is their Husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; I say, a sinner made acquainted with this for himself will gladly join the Psalmist, when he says, “My heart is inditing a good matter.” Should it be asked what this matter is, and why the mind should be so much swallowed up in it. I answer, it is what infinitely exceeds all the pleasure, honour, beauty, riches, dignity, or glory of this vain world; its pleasures are solid joys—pleasures that will satisfy the most capacious mind; not the trifles of a day, which mostly leave a sting behind them, but eternal pleasures; for at God’s right hand are pleasures for evermore. Christ is the grand object in view, and eternal honour and majesty are upon him: (Ps 21:5) his beauties are resplendent; the very beauties of his holiness, unsullied and divine. Nature, in its most beautiful appearance, would blush to compare with him. He is the altogether lovely. Such is his beauty, that the most obscure, deformed sinner upon earth, who has fled to him for refuge as the hope set before us, is, in reality, made beautiful and comely, through the comeliness he has put upon them; as appears evident from this very Psalm. In him are durable riches and glory; riches, sufficient to enrich any poor insolvent debtor who finds he has nothing to pay: for “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of his glory.'” (1 Sam 2:8; Ps 113:7-8) Nor need any poor, miserable, forlorn sinner despair, for this dear God and Saviour is rich in mercy (Eph 2:4), and though in his mediatorial capacity he became poor, it was that we, through his poverty, might become rich: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, (matchless, unmerited, unsoughtfor grace!) that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Cor 8:9) Yes, beloved! thousands and tens of thousands, as wretched and poor as you and I, have been made rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God. If we speak of the dignity and glory of Christ, he has a name above every name; for at the name of Jesus every tongue shall swear and every knee shall bow. All the majesty and glory of Jehovah meet and shine in this precious Christ (2 Cor 4:6); for he is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person. (Heb 1:3)
That Christ, and all the blessings he contains, is the good matter the heart of David was inditing, is evident: hence he adds, “I speak of the things which I have made, touching the King.” What King? The King of the Saints, who sways his gracious sceptre in Zion; for this is the King that Jehovah the Father set upon his holy hill of Zion. (Ps 2:6) And truly it may be said of him, ”Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints.” (Rev 15:3) Nor does he reign at an uncertainty; for his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom: nothing of a precarious nature surrounds his mighty throne, nor enters within the walls of his mighty empire. Himself and his kingdom rest upon an immutable basis; nor can all the commotions of earth and hell overcome either, or once defeat his designs; for he is “the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Is 9:6-7) Ye dear children of God! ye saints of the Most High! what have ye to fear? Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might: for the government, the whole government, is upon his shoulders, and his very glory is connected with your everlasting welfare; nor can he ever neglect you, till he can be persuaded to neglect himself and betray his own glory into the hands of the father of lies.
Dear Jesus! may our souls be taken up with thy divine excellences; and may it be our happiness to say, with David, when speaking of thee, “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” The allusion is to scribes and characters who are extremely ready with the pen, and at once proves that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; for when the Lord Jesus Christ sets up the kingdom of his grace in the heart of a sinner, when he, in measure, unveils his glory, it is sure to make the heart of the rash understand knowledge, and the tongue of the dumb to speak. (Is 32:4; 35:6) As he is pleased of his rich grace to give liberty and ability, they must speak of the things they have known, tasted, handled, and felt; and when under the sweet and powerful influence of the Holy Ghost, neither men nor devils can stop their mouths; for if they should hold their peace, the very stones of the street would cry against them. It is evident that both the heart and tongue of David were under divine influence when he penned this psalm: his tongue was swiftly moved and safely guided by the unerring hand of God: he had tasted of the goodness of this “good matter,” found it sweet work to be employed in speaking and writing of its immortal worth, and could recommend it with the greatest pleasure and satisfaction of mind. This induced him with such earnestness to cry, “O taste and see that the Lord is gracious;” and just in proportion as a poor sinner enjoys the same precious truths, so his heart and tongue will be ready to speak forth the glory of this God and King.
“Thou art fairer than the children of men. “Here the Psalmist begins to describe the matter his heart and tongue were so much engaged in; and he begins it with an address to the King himself; and, in holy rapture, commends him for his beauty and comeliness. And well he might! for glory, immortal glory, appears in all his looks. As the mighty God, he infinitely excels all created excellencies; and as Man, he is transcendently fair, being the immediate produce of the Holy Spirit, pure, spotless, undefiled, separate from sinners; full of wisdom, goodness, and grace; the fairest and brightest image of Jehovah. All the powers of his body and soul are immortally holy, nor can anything like deformity be found in him. Separate from him, what is fallen man, in his most beautiful and best estate, adorned and decorated with all the internal and external excellencies the human mind can invent or produce? I say, what is he compared with Jesus of Nazareth? A compound of wretchedness and deceit gilded over; a deformed fool dressed in baubles. What shall I say? for I feel myself at a loss for words to set forth the true deformity of the one, and the real intrinsic excellencies of the other: for Jesus is transcendently fair and beautiful, without a single spot or shadow of disguise. As the God-Man Mediator, his beauty is a majestic blaze of infinite delights, the very glory of heaven itself: and let the Holy Ghost lead a sinner upon earth to behold him by faith, and he will, to a certainty, count all things but dung and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ; and with David exclaim, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” His refulgent comeliness shines too conspicuously bright to be lost sight of by a sinner saved by grace: he must and will be esteemed by all the saints as the exceedingly fair, and altogether lovely, and supremely glorious.
“Grace is poured into thy lips. ” It hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell: and out of his fulness have we received, and grace for grace. Christ is Jehovah’s treasury, where all his blessings dwell, and to him are all the poor in spirit welcome to come, with all their wants and woes. He is the sum and substance of the gospel of grace, and it is poured into his lips in an infinite degree. The law of works was poured into the lips of Moses, the servant, and he spake it unto the people; but “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” He speaks the words of life and salvation; the delightful doctrines, promises, and invitations, that flow from his lips are neither few nor small! He possesses the Spirit without measure, and, with the greatest pleasure and delight, his lips declare, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek: he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” (Is 61:1-3) Here is a precious sample of the grace that is poured into the lips of this dear Saviour! nor is there one spiritual blessing that the church below, or the church above, does now, or ever will enjoy, but what flows from him; and grace, rich grace, is inscribed upon them all: indeed their very nature is grace. Well may the church say, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,” for his love-kisses are more reviving, comforting, and supporting than wine; yea, infinitely more precious and cheering to a broken heart than all the riches of the world.
With what matchless, graceful, and endearing language he invites sinners to come unto him and have rest! and how pregnant with grace and mercy are the invitations that fall from his heavenly lips! Hear him, ye poor, guilty, ruined, and helpless sinners! hear him, and rejoice: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Mark well, beloved! the Lord does not say. Come unto me, all ye that are pious and holy, &c, nor all ye that are in possession of so many good dispositions, and are in a heavenly frame of mind; nor all ye who have conquered the corruptions of your evil nature; had this been the case, you might justly have despaired of a hearty reception; but it is rich grace that is poured into, and flows from, his precious lips. The characters invited are such as labour under, and are heavy laden with a sense of guilt, wrath, and misery; destitute of any thing whatever to recommend them to his favour, unless sin be a recommendation, for which sin are they overwhelmed. Poor, guilty conscience! here is a hearty welcome to your sin-sick soul; and though your sins stare you in the face like pointed mountains, and threaten you with everlasting destruction; though your conscience be as foul as hell, and you feel yourself nothing but a mass of uncleanness, the scum of the earth, and a pest to society, unable to do any thing but add sin to sin, experiencing daily that all your vows and promises to forsake sin, and to become holy, prove abortive and only aggravate your guilt; though this be the case with you, unto you is the word of this salvation sent. It is you, ye poor, forlorn, undone, ruined souls! it is you that the dear Redeemer so freely invites to come unto him, and have rest. Were any thing left for you to do, as a necessary qualification for the reception of Christ, or as a recommendation to him, you might eternally despair; nor would salvation, under such circumstances, be entirely of grace: but it is grace that is poured into his lips, and he as freely pours it out, and welcomes sinners, without money or price, worth or worthiness, to come unto, rest upon, and trust in him; and when the Holy Ghost makes his grace manifest in the conscience, the sinner is brought, in reality, to know that salvation is of grace; and, with pleasure, will join the apostle in saying, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
A self-righteous principle is one of the greatest bars in the way of our peace. It appears, to reason, quite absurd to believe in Christ for salvation while we feel ourselves such vile sinners. We think we must be holy, but how to get at this holiness we know not; and to come to Christ, and to venture entirely upon him, we dare not; and if we hear the blessed gospel freely preached, and Jesus set forth as a complete Saviour, able to save to the very uttermost all that come unto God by him, we are ready to conclude this may be true for such and such people, but not for us. If I could but do this or the other good thing, I should have hope; if I were but like such a one, I should not despair; their case appears as clear as the noon- day, but mine is of a very singular nature. I am more vile than any one. I find things in and about me that 1 dare not mention to the dearest friend I have, things that others know nothing of, and 1 am quite unable to see how God can be just in saving such a vile wretch as I. Thus unbelief and carnal reason operate upon our self-righteous principle, and all unite to keep us in bondage, and hide the glory and beauty of Christ from our view. When the sinner is thus entangled, there he is, and there he must be, till free grace from the heart and lips of Christ sweeps away this refuge of lies, and the blessed Spirit reveals Christ to the soul, as the only hope of Israel, and causeth the sinner, as a guilty, lost, undone wretch, to rest entirely on Christ, as the Lord his righteousness and strength. Indeed, could we in the least help to save ourselves, salvation could not be entirely of grace. David knew, by heartfelt experience, that grace was poured into the lips of Christ; for it was the sweet enjoyment of this grace that caused him in such holy rapture of soul to say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless him holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies.” (Ps 103:1-4) In all this there is not a word of David’s goodness, as the cause of these blessings; no, it is all of grace, from first from last. Thus grace is poured into the lips of Christ, and he, by his spirit, pours it into the hearts of his people; and this produces a holy joy which breaks forth into a holy triumph and songs of deliverance; for, “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is 35:10) And when the church is in this blessed state, it may truly be said, “And in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
“Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever;” or, as it might be rendered, Because God hath blessed thee for ever, as Mediator, with all spiritual and grace-blessings. For there is not a blessing that the wisdom, love, power, faithfulness, goodness, justice, and truth of Jehovah can bestow upon a poor sinner, but what is treasured up in Christ; and treasured there to be safely secured for, and freely bestowed upon, the objects of his everlasting love. Here is life for the dead! “For ye .are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God;” and as a confirmation of the security of this life, it is added, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Yes, says the Life of the church, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Here is light for the blind! “For ye were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” Hence says David, “The Lord is my light, whom shall I fear?” In this light, and only in this light can we see light. Here is wisdom for fools! for “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;” but then, the reason is, because “Christ is of God made unto them wisdom.” Here, and here only, is righteousness for the unrighteous! for “This is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Here is strength for the weak! for “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength;” and his strength is perfect in our weakness. Here is pardon for the guilty! for “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins.” Here is a settled and eternal peace for the troubled breast! In the world we must have tribulation, but in Christ we have peace, and this is a peace that passeth all understanding; nor can all the efforts of human nature obtain it. It is all a free gift, nor can all the powers of hell destroy it; for this man, Christ, shall be the eternal peace of his people, in spite of all opposition. Here is holiness for the filthy! for he, of God, is made unto us sanctification. All our springs are in him, and in him is our fruit found; and, by his Spirit, he creates us anew in righteousness and true holiness, after his own image: not according to works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” In a word, he is all a sinner can need, and a God can give! for “Christ is all in all;” and with this rich treasure he is blessed for ever: not a particle of it shall ever be thrown away at random, or lost on its way. Whatever blessings he communicates or imparts unto his people, return to him again; and when the whole elect shall be gathered in, and brought home to Zion, the whole shall redound to the praise of the glory of Jehovah’s grace for ever and ever. Indeed, brethren, the whole of this precious psalm unites in setting forth the beauty, comeliness, glory, wisdom, power, majesty, grace, and truth, of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that either in his own person, work, fulness, or people; for there is not a particle of beauty or glory in the whole, but what centres in him. And whoever reads this, and many more psalms, under the sweet teachings of the Holy Spirit, will easily perceive that the law of kindness or love was in the tongue of the penman when he indited them. But I will leave you to read and examine it at your leisure.
3dly. This law is called the law of Christ. As it is written, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2) The law of works was given by Moses, but this law, which is grace and truth, came by Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17); for, We are not without law to God, but under the law o/Christ (1 Cor 9:21) for so the passage should be rendered. I once saw a treatise upon the law of works being the believer’s only rule of life, and the author made a wonderful stir about this passage, “under the law to Christ;'” and after he had commented a considerable time upon the little word to, he informed us at last that it ought to be rendered of, for so it was in the original; that is, the passage ought to be rendered “Being not without law to God, but under the law of Christ.” You may suppose the conclusion of this author’s critical remarks would almost make me smile, for it was all his opponent wanted to be granted upon that passage, so that he gave the argument into his opponent’s hands. It is truly lamentable that men should endeavour to perplex rather than instruct and edify; for the above author is not the only one who has made a wonderful stir upon the words “under the law to Christ,” some of whom are conscious that it ought to be rendered “under the law of Christ;” so that, what end they can have in view more than to perplex the people, I am not able to discover. But let us leave them to the management of the eternal God, and attend a few moments to the subject in hand, viz., the gospel being the law of Christ. This, I think, appears clearly revealed in the four first verses of the 42nd chapter of Isaiah. Suppose we just take a peep into their contents. This precious chapter is ushered in with a Behold!—demanding all attention to its divine contents, and, therefore, cannot be below our notice.
“Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” Here the great Head of the Church, the dear Redeemer of his people, is spoken of in his office capacity as a servant, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law; and, as the elect-head of the elect-body, containing all grace- blessings:” “For it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” And to every poor, sin-burdened vessel of mercy, the Father is saying, “Behold my servant whom I uphold;” or, as some render it, “whom I lean upon.” As though he had said, “Ye behold yourselves poor, wretched, guilty sinners, and want to know what you must do to be saved; ye behold the law of works as holy, just, and good, threatening your destruction; look at what ye will, you are ready to conclude that it makes against you, and frowns upon you; but, behold this precious Saviour whom I lean upon! 1 have committed the whole work of salvation into his hands, and I lean, or depend, upon him, for the accomplishment thereof. Lean ye upon him also; he will not deceive you; cast all your cares upon him, for he careth for you. I have deposited all the treasures of immortal grace in him, and rest upon him for the righteous disposal thereof; nor can I be disappointed, for he will give grace and glory. Nay, so far from being disappointed, my soul is delighted in him, for he shall magnify the law and make it honourable. He shall work out, and bring in, an everlasting righteousness. So perfect are his willingness and ability to accomplish the work I have given him to do, with such divine majesty will he begin, carry on, and finish it, and so transcendently beautiful will it appear in the end, that my soul is, and ever shall be, delighted in him. Behold him, then, ye poor, disconsolate sinners! Behold him in all your approaches unto me; for as I am well pleased with him, so I am well pleased with all that call upon me by faith in his name. Behold him, then, as your only Advocate, and with David say, “Let thy hand be upon the Man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself! Behold him, as the Lord your righteousness and strength; as your wisdom, sanctification, and redemption. Behold him, as your life and light; as your only refuge, stronghold, and sure defence. In a word, behold him in his personal glory, his finished work, the offices he bears, the characters he sustains, the fulness that in him dwells, the relationship in which he stands, yea, as your all and in all. In all your afflictions, temptations, and distresses; with all your guilt and pollution, however wretched you are in yourselves, behold this adorable Jesus, and remember that before ever sin or Satan can cheat one soul, who beholds Christ by faith, out of that eternal inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, before this can be done, they have to overturn the kingdom of God, and prove there is a deficiency in Christ, Suppose that Satan, law, carnal reason, and even conscience, tell thee that thou art unholy, and that without holiness no one can see the Lord, never attempt to deny the charge brought against thee, nor the declaration made, for they are both true; but, behold Him in whom my soul delighteth; and, by a living faith say, “Holiness in self I have none, I truly grant; all I possess, or ever expect to possess, I derive from my covenant Head, in whom all my fruit is found. To him I look, on him 1 rest; and you have to prove that he is unholy before you can destroy my hope.” You say, “I am unrighteous: true! I feel it; and, from my very soul can say, I am all as an unclean thing, and all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags; on which account I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes; but my dependence is not in my own righteousness. I look to Jesus, and trust in his righteousness. If this be unsullied, I am safe; but if this be deficient, I am lost.” And thus behold him at all times, and for all things; never reason with your adversaries but upon this ground, and you shall find him life to your souls, and marrow to your bones. Thus, methinks, the Father of mercies condescends to address poor sinners, and encourage them to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith.
“I have put my Spirit upon him.” As man, he was filled with the Spirit without measure; hence he says, by the same prophet, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” &c. And, bless his precious name, he imparts this Spirit, by measure, to all that behold him by faith. Indeed, without this they never could behold him; for it is the Spirit’s work to reveal Christ in the soul. Being filled with the Spirit, as man, and so qualified for the work his Father gave him to do, the Father observes.
“He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” As Dr. Gill observes, “The gospel, the produce of divine wisdom; the gospel of God, whose judgment is according to truth; the rule of human judgment in things spiritual and saving, and by which Christ judges and rules in the hearts of his people. This he brought forth out of his Father’s bosom, out of his own heart, and published it in person to the Jews, and, by his apostles, to the Gentiles, who, being converted by it, became subject to his rule and government.” Thus much for the Doctor; but, remember, that if the Doctor should, after this, in any place whatever, attempt to prove the law of works the believer’s rule of life, you will not think it strange if I should not consider myself obliged to join him. For, if the gospel is (as the Doctor says it is) the rule of human judgment in things spiritual and saving, by which Christ judges and rules in the hearts of his people, and if this rule and government is that unto which converted sinners are made subject, then, an attempt to prove the law of works to be the rule, must be to contradict himself; and as I am by no means partial to self-contradictions, I wish to abide by what the man of God says, as far as it appears to me to be true, and no farther; and his views upon this passage, as well as many more, I highly approve of, and shall occasionally introduce the good man’s thoughts. But we leave him at present, and proceed.
“He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.” This hints at the patience of the dear Redeemer, under the burdens he had to bear, the afflictions he had to endure, and the contradictions with which he would meet; for, “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street;” that is, not in a lofty, clamourous, contentious, ambitious way; for, his kingdom is without pomp or vain glory.
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.” This speaks of his love to, his care for, and his tenderness over, his people; for, though they be as bruised reeds for strength, and are ready to expect that the moment the finger of God touches them, it will break them in pieces, they are here assured that the Lord Jesus Christ, whose care and charge they are, will not break them, but will strengthen them, and deal wisely, kindly, and compassionately towards them. And though their love may be like the smoking flax, or the wick of a candle, which appears to be just going out, and they are ready to conclude that the first blast from hell, corrupt nature, or the world, will put it entirely out, and that the Lord will, in strict vengeance, consume them; though every grace seems on the decay, and all things threaten their overthrow; yet, in the midst of all, they are encouraged to hope in the Lord; for, the smoking flax he will not quench. Yea, it is their privilege to rest upon, and trust in him; for “he shall bring forth judgment unto truth;” he shall make bear his holy arm in the complete destruction of his and their enemies; and bring life and immortality to light by the gospel, and carry on his own work in the hearts of his people, and so bring them safe to glory, in spite of all that hell and sin can do.
“He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth.” This intimates that, notwithstanding the weakness of his people’s strength, the littleness of their love, and the mighty power and implacable enmity of their enemies, together with all the vengeance and wrath he had to endure from the fiery indignation of the broken law, accompanied with miseries and distress too great and numerous for mortals to guess at, nevertheless, “He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth,” till he has fully finished the work his Father gave him to do, accomplished a complete redemption, destroyed the works of the devil, satisfied divine justice, made an end of sin, finished transgression, swallowed up death in victory, and so blaze forth in all his immortal glory in the gospel of his grace, and established this immortal light in the earth. And then are introduced the words I have in view, viz.
“And the isles shall wait for his law.” Now, beloved, what law can this be? Surely not the killing letter! No; it is the precious gospel by which he judges and rules in the hearts of his people—a law quite distinct from the law of Moses. This law contains strength for the weak, life for the dead, and health for the sick; it binds the soul, under its divine influence, to sweet obedience. All its injunctions contain a solid pleasure, without one particle of wrath or fury. The language of Jehovah, in this law is. “Fury is not in me.” Nay, by all the ties of eternal love, he invites his children to take hold of Christ, his strength, the Man of his right hand, whom he has made strong for himself, who is the sum and substance of this law, and so make peace with him; and whoever is blessed with faith so to do, shall make peace with him. (Is 27:4-5) Whatever men may say about this leading to licentiousness, I know of no law more tending to, or more productive of, real holiness. It carries its own evidence and produces its own effects wherever it comes, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. Hence it is called “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Rom 1:16) And is not a deliverance from the power, guilt, and love of sin, a part of salvation? And if the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, how is it possible that the gospel can give liberty to sin, or encourage it? To say that a man who is freed from the law of works, and is under the gospel as the rule of his life, is at liberty to sin, is the highest insult that can be offered to the gospel. It is, in plain terms, saying that the glory and finished work of Jesus are only calculated to promote ungodliness, and, perhaps, this is the reason that so may professed ministers of the gospel say so little about it, and are constantly in the habit of preaching what they call “practical godliness;” but which, in reality, is only enforcing a form without the power. Let men say what they will, it is evident that the gospel is the law of Christ; and it is as evident, that this gospel, manifested in the soul by the Holy Ghost, will promote true holiness, when every other means proves abortive, and leaves the sinner as far from holiness as it found him.
It is this law which is spoken of in Isaiah 51:4: “Hearken unto me, my people, and give ear unto me, O my nation.” “Hearken unto me, my people,” as Dr. Gill justly observes, “his special people, whether Jews or Gentiles, chosen by him, taken into covenant with him, given to Christ, redeemed by him as a peculiar people, and called by his grace; these are exhorted to hearken unto his word. ‘And give ear unto me, O my nation;’ not the nation of the Jews only, but the Gentiles; a nation taken out of a nation, even all nations; a chosen and a holy nation. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it kings—such are made kings and priests unto God.” So says Gill, and so says eternal truth. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises (or, as the margin reads it, virtues) of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet 2:19) Indeed, brethren, where do the praises and virtues of Christ shine so conspicuously as in the gospel of his grace? Surely nowhere. And where is the sinner that shows forth the praises and virtues of the Lord, but such as are under the influence of, and live by faith in, this gospel, and so adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour? None but such can be considered, in reality, as walking in the truth, however holy they may appear to men; for, “Expect ye abide in Christ ye cannot bring forth fruit.” (Jn 15:1-7)
“For a law shall proceed from me.” From Christ the Head of his Church; not the Sinai law. but the gospel, the law of Christ. It is the very same law mentioned in Isaiah 2:3: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” This is Zion’s law, (not Sinai’s but Zion’s,) delivered by Zion’s King to the children of Zion, the church of the living God. And this law, gospel, doctrine, or word, is, by way of eminence, called, “the word of the kingdom” (Matt 13:19); “the word of salvation” (Acts 13:26); “the word of the gospel” (Col 1:5); “the word of God’s grace” (Acts 20:32); “the word of faith” (Rom 10:8); “the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19); “the word of life” (Phil 2:16; 1 Jn 1:1); “the word of Christ” (Col 3:16); “the faithful word” (Tit 1:9); “the word of the oath” (Heb 7:28); “the word of Christ’s patience” (Rev 3:10); and “the word of the saint’s testimony.” (Rev 12:11) This is the word of the Lord that went from Jerusalem, the vision of peace; and a precious word it is. It is the word or law of Christ, the Prince of Peace; the sceptre of his kingdom, which is a right sceptre (Ps 45:6; Heb 1:8), and the rod of his strength by which he rules his people. Herein is light sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Hence it is added.
“And I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. ” The same as the law, and, as Dr. Gill observes, is “the doctrine of the gospel, called judgment, because it came from the God of judgment, flows from his wisdom and counsel, is a declaration of his will, and explains his method of justifying sinners.” And this gospel may be called the law of Christ, because he is the sum and substance of its beauty, sweetness, glory, and power. It contains a bright display of his love, wisdom, power, holiness, mercy, faithfulness, grace, justice, goodness, and truth. If we divide the gospel into doctrines, promises, invitations, precepts, &c, it will be easy to prove that Christ shines transparently bright in the whole, and the whole shines majestically bright in him. But more of this in another place.
Here Christ appears in all his beauty, as King of kings, and Lord of lords; as the High Priest of our profession, who offered up himself for the sins of his people; the Shepherd, who feeds the flock of slaughter, and guards them night and day; the Prophet, who, by his Spirit, teaches and instructs his people, and guides them into all truth, and in the way of life; the Mediator, who has made peace by his own blood; the Surety of the better, or new testament, who became responsible for his people’s debts; the Bridegroom of his church, who has betrothed her unto himself in faithfulness, and everlasting kindness, and tender mercies; the Physician, who healeth all our diseases; the living Way, by which we have boldness to enter into the holiest, even into heaven itself; the Testator, who has bequeathed to his people all the blessings of grace and glory, and confirmed the same by his blood; the Lion of the tribe of Judah, that defends his people, and has prevailed to open the book of Jehovah’s deep and unalterable decrees; the Servant of God, who became obedient even unto death; the true Manna and the Bread of Life, upon which his people live; the Tree of Life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations; the Rock of Ages, the Foundation, which God hath laid in Zion, to build our hopes and his eternal praise upon; the precious Fountain, that washes the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from sin and uncleanness; the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world; the Head of the body, the church, which gives life and nourishment to all its members; the Door, that opens into the sheep-fold, through which all his people enter; the Garment of Righteousness and Salvation, which covers his people’s nakedness, and hides all their transgressions from view; the Advocate and Counsellor, that pleads his people’s cause; the Sun of Righteousness, which is the light and heat of the saints; the Friend, that sticketh closer than a brother; the Rose of Sharon, which revives his drooping church with his divine fragrancy; the True Vine, that supplies the branches with life and fruit; the Captain of our salvation, that leads us forth to conquest and a crown; the Rearward, that brings up the rear, and so protects them behind and before, in time of danger; the Throne of Grace, where poor Zion may meet and plead with God. In a word, the gospel exhibits Christ to view as the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his person; the beauty, strength, and portion of his people; yea, as their All and in All.
Herein is the bond of peace and the bond of perfection, which unites Christ and his Church together; and it is a law that not only calls for obedience, but gains the attention, and wins the affections of every soul in whose heart it is revealed. Nor is the service of God to such a one a task or a slave-trade. No; his yoke is easy, and his burden is light; and in the lively exercise of a precious faith in this almighty Saviour, the soul finds it its meat and drink to do the will of God, and, with the Psalmist, can say, “Then shall I walk in thy commandments, when thou hast enlarged my heart.”
4thly. This law is called the ministration of the Spirit, and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor 3:8; Rom 8:2) But why is the gospel called the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus? Because, by this law, the Spirit brings life and peace to the troubled conscience. It is the Spirit’s work not only to quicken the dead soul, but to reveal Christ and his gospel to the soul; and so revive, enliven, cheer, and comfort the soul already made alive to God. Hence, says the dear Redeemer, “When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (Jn 16:13-14) Thus it appears to be the work of the blessed Spirit to guide the elect into the truth; yea, into all the truth; into Christ the essential truth itself; into his personal glory, as the God-Man in one person, the Jehovah-Jesus; into the majesty, glory, beauty, suitableness, and completion of his salvation; his obedience to the law of works, and the great work of redemption; and into him as the Lord our righteousness and strength—a righteousness just suited to our case, in which we stand unblameable and complete, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. O, matchless glory! Jehovah himself, the Lord our righteousness! Well may the church be called the house of God’s glory; for her beauty is not in herself. No, beloved! She stands in glory that infinitely transcends all the beauty and glory of nature. She is a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of her God. (Is 62:3) Her majesty, light, and glory, excel the light of the moon or the sun; but the whole of her glory is of the Lord her God. Hence, says Jehovah, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” (Is 60:19) God’s comeliness put upon her, makes her comely; and it is the Spirit’s work to unveil this glory and reveal this truth to the mind. The work of Christ is perfect. A perfect atonement is made, and divine satisfaction given, for the sins of his people. He has finished transgression, and, by one offering, for ever perfected them that are sanctified. When the blessed Spirit leads the sinner into this God-glorifying truth, the soul feels a solid basis to rest upon.
Men may take up their precious time in entertaining their own mind and the minds of the people, in talking about the wonderful works of man, and telling them what he can do, should do, ought to do, and does do; but not a particle of the truth of the gospel can be known in truth, only as the Holy Ghost reveals it to the mind. The gospel is emphatically called the ”ministration of the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:8) What God said to the church of old stands good to this moment: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Ministers may preach, and the people may hear, but it will never be to profit unless the Holy Ghost accompanies the word with power to the mind. Paul roundly asserts that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor 12:3); that is, none can do it in spirit and truth, but by the Holy Ghost. Not a grain of the word of wisdom or the word of knowledge can any sinner obtain, but as the Spirit giveth it. (1 Cor 12) A sinner can know nothing of the freeness of salvation; the faithfulness of the word that is gone out of God’s mouth; the harmony of Jehovah’s perfections in the redemption of the church; the glory, beauty, necessity, and suitableness of the various names, titles, characters, offices, relationship, and fulness of Christ; nor of the sweetness, harmony, and glory of the doctrines, promises, invitations, precepts, and ordinances of the gospel of grace; 1 say, a sinner can know nothing of these things experimentally, but as the Holy Ghost reveals them to his soul; and all knowledge short of this will do us but little good; for the kingdom of God does not consist in observation. And as the Spirit leads the soul into the truth, and makes it manifest in the conscience, it will wean the affections from the world, and sweetly lead them to the eternal God; and it will evidently appear that there is no law so strong and forcible, so attracting and engaging, or that is so cheerfully obeyed, as this precious gospel, which is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
5thly. This law is called the law of faith. (Rom 3:27) This was the rule by which Enoch walked, and was not. I have heard men talk about Enoch’s walk in such a way as almost to deify him, or make a God of him; and many a dear child of God has been thereby led to question every step they have taken in the divine life, and almost despair of ever enjoying those blessings which are in reserve for them that wait upon, or walk with God. But I consider the description given by too many to be a spurious one, and founded upon the flesh. Paul tells us that, “by faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him.” True, say some, but what has this to do with his walk? His translation is one thing, and his walk is another; and it was his holy walk that procured God’s favour. Hence it is added, “For before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” That Enoch’s walk pleased God, I shall not deny, but that his good works produced or secured God’s favour I will deny, and Paul shall back me up in such a denial, for he declares “God hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim 1:9; Tit 3:5) Now either Enoch was saved upon a different ground from the rest of the church, or it was not according to his works, but according to God’s purpose and grace.
But let us return to the passage in hand, and we shall soon see that Enoch’s walk was by faith, and that he pleased God by faith too. Hence it is added, “But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb 11:5-6) Thus we see that his walk was a walk of faith, by which he pleased God. But stop, say you, do not forget the words, “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” No, Sirs; I do not wish to forget them, but feel a pleasure in declaring, in the language of scripture, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that seeketh findeth,” &c. But observe, this must be by faith, and not by works of righteousness which we can do; for it is written, “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” (Rom 11:7) So that it is not all sorts of seeking that find. No, it is that seeking which is by faith that finds; for, “Israel which followed after the law of righteousness hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law; for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone.” (Rom 9:31-32) So that men may seek and not find. Hence says the Lord of the house, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” (Lk 13:24.) Besides, if Enoch’s walk and Paul’s were in unison in their nature, it must be a walk of faith; for Paul roundly asserts, “We walk by faith, not by sight;” “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (2 Cor 5:7; Gal 2:20) Nay, if Enoch was a just man, his walk was a walk of faith; for, “The just shall live by faith.” (Hab 2:4; Heb 10:38) And “The law is not of faith.” (Gal 3:12) Indeed, it was by this rule that Abel walked, when he offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. (Heb 11:4) It was by this rule that Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac, (verse 17). It was by this rule that the harlot Rahab walked, when she concealed the spies (verse 31). I have often thought it would puzzle all the divines in the world to inform us how Abraham’s offering up his son (which, in the strictest sense, was slaying him) and the harlot’s bearing false witness concerning the spies, should be acceptable to God, if the law of works, which forbids both, and pronounces the man accursed who doeth them, was their perfect rule of life. If this can be made clear, I confess I should like to see it done.
But, say you, what has all this to do with the gospel being the law of faith? It is the gospel that faith obeys, and by which it walks; for, as it is the Spirit’s work to reveal Christ to the soul, and lead sinners into the precious truths of the gospel in all its branches, (as has been before observed,) so faith is that grace of the Spirit by which the sinner discovers the beauty, glory, and suitableness of Christ, as the sum and substance of the gospel, and by which the sinner rests upon him for life and salvation. The blessed Spirit gives faith, and draws forth that precious grace into lively exercise upon Christ, and the blessings connected with him as Prophet, Priest, and King, which include the gospel in all its branches. We can discover none of the real beauty and excellencies of Christ and his gospel, the sceptre of his righteousness, neither in whole nor in part, nor can we yield one particle of obedience thereunto, but by faith. But, that the gospel is the law which faith obeys will evidently appear if we consult the oracles of God.
When Paul is speaking of the mission that he and the rest of the apostle had received from God, he observes, “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name” (Rom 1:5). By faith here is not meant the grace of faith, but the doctrine of faith, which is the truth of the gospel of God; and is the very same faith which Jude exhorts the church to contend earnestly for. Scripture informs us that “the word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7) But, if the gospel be no rule of obedience, how could they obey it? and how ridiculous must the apostles (not to say the Holy Ghost) appear for speaking in such exalted terms of the obedience to that which is no rule of obedience! But it is evident that the gospel is a rule of obedience, and that believers obey it by faith. This gospel is the faith that the disciples were exhorted to continue in (Acts 14:22), and is the same faith that the churches were established in. (Acts 16:5) So, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to stand fast in the faith (1 Cor 16:13); and when writing to the Philippians he says, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that, whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Phil 1:27) In fact, the gospel is emphatically called “the word of faith” (Rom 10:8); and this word of faith is the rule of the believer’s obedience, and is the very law that faith yields obedience unto; as it is written, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin; but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” (Rom 6:17) It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness, and all obedience that is not with the heart, by faith, is but spurious at best. Nevertheless, the obedience of faith is no legal task nor servile work; no; it is sweet and pleasant. To be followers of God, as dear children, to have imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God cast down, and to have the thoughts brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, is no galling yoke; for ”his yoke is easy and his burden is light.” We may venture to sing with Berridge,
“Run, John, and work, the law commands,
But finds me neither feet nor hands;
But gospel speaks of nobler things,—
It bids me fly, and lends me wings.”
If the gospel be no rule of obedience, as numbers declare, I am at a loss to know what the Apostle means when he tells us that “the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known unto all nations for the obedience of faith.” (Rom 16:25-26) I say, how can this precious gospel be more clearly revealed, and made known by the commandment of God, for the obedience of faith, if it be no rule of obedience? Is it not ridiculous to talk of yielding obedience to that which is no rule of obedience? When Paul wrote to the Galatians, who, through the influence of judaising teachers, had departed, in measure, from the gospel of God, and had turned to the law. becoming zealous advocates for that legal obedience which the law requires of all who are under it, he indirectly charges the teachers with witchcraft, and the church with being bewitched by them, and living in the act of disobedience to the truth; as it is written, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would 1 learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal 3:1-2) Now, that the apostle means the gospel by the terms truth and faith in this passage, must appear evident to every unprejudiced mind; and, indeed, a vast number of passages might be produced to prove that the gospel is emphatically called the truth, a few of which I will being forward. In the first that I shall mention, we find that the gospel is called the truth, in direct opposition to the law: “For the law was give by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (Jn 1:17) Observe, beloved, there is not a word about the law of works coming by Jesus Christ, as the sceptre by which he rules Zion. No; this he left for men to spin out of their own brain. When Christ is exhorting his disciples to believe in him, as a ground of encouragement, he declareth himself to be “the Truth” (John 14:6;) and so he is; for he is the true sum and substance of the gospel of salvation, and all its glory centres in him. He is the truth of all the types, shadows, and sacrifices under the old testament dispensation. He is the true end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth; unto which end Israel of old could not steadfastly look, for their minds were blinded. (Rom 10:4; 2 Cor 3:13-14) In a word, he is the true God and eternal life. (1 Jn 5:20) Again, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:32) “But we are bound to give thanks always for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13) When the Apostle Peter is writing to the elect scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, he observes, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” (1 Pet 1:22) From these passages of holy writ, which are but a few out of a vast number of the same import, it evidently appears that the gospel is called the truth; and that real christian obedience is obedience to the truth by faith, the gospel of course, being the law of faith. How Jesus Christ can be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess 1:7-8), I am at a loss to know, if the gospel be no rule of obedience! But the gospel is a rule of obedience, and all true obedience is the obedience of faith; for without faith it is impossible to please God, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
The gospel contains a free declaration of God’s eternal will of purpose and grace in Christ Jesus the Lord: “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once.” (Heb 10:10) And this will of God is the will which Christ has established, or confirmed, in opposition to the will revealed to Moses, in the law of works, on Mount Sinai: “Then said he, Lo! I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” (Heb 10:7) As the covenant Head of his people, he came to do his Father’s will, in which character he took away the first, or delivered the heirs of promise from under God’s will as revealed in the covenant of works, which is here called the first, because first revealed or made known. Well! this is taken away from the heirs of promise by Christ their Head (2 Cor 3:11-13); that is, he has fulfilled it, magnified it, and made it honourable: is the end of it for righteousness; has given it all it can require, and for ever stopped its mouth in behalf of the elect, by satisfying all its claims, rendering it impossible for it to make any demands at the hands of his people; and, in his rich mercy, he has established God’s will of purpose, promise, and grace, which is here called the second, because not revealed till after the covenant of works. This will is established, and stands firm for ever, as Jehovah’s unalterable will of grace and truth in Christ, to the praise and glory of all the perfections of his majestic nature. This is the kingdom which cannot be moved. When Jesus accomplished this work, it is called a shaking the very heavens, for thus it is written, “Whose voice then shook the earth,” that is, when the law was given on Mount Sinai, “but now he hath promised, (Hag 2:6), saying, “Yet once more 1 shake not the earth only, but also heaven,” that is, the whole fabric of the old covenant dispensation: “And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain,” that is, the covenant of grace, the gospel, with all the blessings it contains, the whole kingdom and priesthood of Christ: “Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.” (Heb 12:26-28) Here is a will established which cannot be shaken, and a kingdom which cannot be moved; by which will, and in which kingdom, God requires to be served with reverence and godly fear; but this can only be done by faith. All the external religion in the world, if faith be wanting, will never be acceptable to God, in this kingdom. I therefore repeat it again, that without faith it is impossible to please him.
But, suppose we just take a view of one branch of God’s will of purpose and grace, as revealed in the gospel, and see how faith obeys it, as the law of faith. Paul tells us he is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (Rom 1:16-17); that is, God hath in the gospel revealed the only way in which a sinner can be considered righteous in his sight, which is, by the righteousness of Christ being imputed unto, or put upon him; for “This is the name whereby he (Christ) shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness;” and, “Blessed is the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works;” “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Jer 23:6; Rom 4:6; 10:4) Now, this righteousness is revealed to faith; and it is the eternal will of God that whosoever receiveth this righteousness by faith, or believes in Christ Jesus, shall never be brought into condemnation. Nay, so far from being brought into condemnation, they are justified from all things from which it is impossible they should be justified by the law of Moses. And though the sinner may feel himself as vile as hell and sin can make him, full of nothing but guilt, wrath, and confusion, a sink of iniquity, a cage of every unclean bird, a den of thieves, no better, in nature, than Satan himself, totally unable to do one good work, or think one good thought; though this be the case, God’s will, as revealed in the gospel, is, that “Whosoever believeth in Christ shall not be ashamed.” (Rom 9:33) “To declare, I say. at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.” (Rom 3:26-28)
The will of God is, that the sinner shall be justified freely by his grace, through faith in the righteousness of Christ, independently of any works the sinner has done, now does, or ever will do: for “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifiefh the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom 4:5) Come ye poor, distressed souls! burdened with guilt and sin, mind this God-glorifying truth, “that justifieth the ungodly.” Here is firm footing to stand upon! God help you to believe; for it is evident that there is nothing whatever in the sinner as the ground or cause of his justification, unless ungodliness be the cause of it, which cannot be. It is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” Saved sinners are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” (Rom 3:24,27) Now, I say, this is one branch of the law of faith; and, should you ask how it is obeyed, I answer, By faith: for, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the child of God is stripped of self and self- dependence, and brought by faith to look unto, rest upon, and rejoice in, the complete righteousness of Jesus Christ. Good frames or bad ones, holy dispositions or unholy ones, are equally on a level here; faith has nothing to do with either as & foundation on which to rest for justification. Prayer, repentance, fear, meekness, love, fee, though these are the precious graces of the blessed Spirit, and must accompany salvation, and every saved sinner is a partaker of them, nevertheless they are no part of the ground of a sinner’s justification before God; nor does the faith of the operation of the Spirit of God rest upon them for justification, either in whole or part, jointly or separately. No, beloved; it is the business of faith to go entirely out of self, to the immortal Jesus for righteousness. The infinitely glorious Christ, and the finished work of this dear Redeemer, is a sufficient ground for faith to rest upon. Here is all that law and justice can in any way require, all that the eternal Father expects, and all that the sinner can possibly need.
“Here, every attribute divine,
In blazing glory meet and shine;
And faith can say,
This God is mine.”
It is the Spirit’s work not to speak of himself, not to direct the sinner to the graces he communicates, as the ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God. No; these are but the streams which flow from the fountain, or, in other words, they come in consequence of the sinner being accepted in the Beloved. But this blessed Spirit, by his divine and soul-comforting power, leads the sinner to Christ, and gives him faith to look unto him, as the Lord his righteousness and strength; but this faith is not a speculative, nominal, or external faith, but a living faith, that sucks life out of the very heart of Christ. Hence says Jesus, “Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and dwelleth in me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:53,56) But this is by faith, for Christ dwelleth in our hearts by faith. “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Eph 3:17; Gal 2:20) Yes, says the Life of Israel, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die.” (Jn 11:25-26) So that it is not a dead but a living faith by which the sinner obeys God, in trusting wholly in Christ for righteousness: and in the holy exercise of this faith the soul exclaims, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” (Is 45:24) “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again: who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” &c. (Rom 8:33-39) This immortal Saviour is the ground of the sinner’s triumph, and in holy confidence he bids defiance to all powers, creatures, and things, to pass sentence of condemnation upon him. O matchless wonder! God-glorifying salvation! May my soul live much in the enjoyment of this precious Christ! But, from hence it appears that Jehovah has revealed it as his eternal will, that “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom 4:5) This is one branch of the law from Mount Zion, and faith obeys it; for faith rests wholly upon Christ for righteousness.
Nor will it be an impossible task to prove the obedience of faith in every other branch; whether they are delivered in doctrines, promises, invitations, precepts, or ordinances; for “faith without works is dead.” Can any one, in the strictest sense, be said to be obedient to Christ, in attending to the ordinances of his house, who has no faith? I think not. Peter tells us that baptism is a figure of our salvation; as it is written, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 3:21) “Now as this ordinance is one branch of the law of Christ, it ought to be obeyed; but, can this be done without faith? Surely not, unless we can answer a good conscience without faith, which is impossible; as by nature the conscience is bad; and we can know nothing of a good conscience only as we are blessed with faith in the blood of Christ; for it is this which purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:14) But how is the conscience purged from dead works? By faith in the blood of the dear Redeemer: “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9) Now, as a right submission to the ordinance of baptism is an answer of a good conscience towards God, and as we only posses a pure conscience by faith in the finished work of Christ, it follows, of course, that none can answer this good conscience who are destitute of faith; so that, none can obey Christ in being baptized, if faith be wanting. But a submission to this ordinance by faith in Christ, viewing it as an emblem of his sufferings, death, burial, and resurrection; and of our death to, and burial from, all other lords but him, and resurrection to newness of life in him (Rom 6:4; 1 Cor 15:29; Col 2:12), is one branch of the obedience of faith. And when infants can give a proof that they submit to this ordinance by faith, we may safely baptize them; and when sprinkling can set forth a burial, resurrection, &c, we may safely do it by sprinkling; but till then, to sprinkle infants and call it baptism, is to insult Christ. But there is a solemn pleasure in submitting to a right performance thereof by faith.
So, as it respects the ordinance of the Lord’s supper, it is impossible to yield obedience to Christ therein, but by faith. There is a great stir made among professors about preparing themselves for this ordinance, as though something they could do would render them worthy partakers thereof; but this is a species of self-deception, not founded upon the word of God. And, indeed, many of God’s dear people have been sorely handled upon this very principle; for, having found themselves such poor, filthy wretches in themselves, they have concluded that if they went to the table of the Lord in such a state, they certainly should eat and drink damnation (or condemnation) to themselves. But, beloved, mark well what the apostle says on this subject: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Cor 11:29) Mark! the unworthy receivers are such as do not discern the Lord’s body, or such as have no faith in Christ. It matters not how pious and good they are in themselves; if Christ be not discerned, they eat and drink condemnation to themselves; but if Christ be discerned by faith, they are worthy partakers; for there is no real discerning of the body of Christ but by faith. Now, when a child of God feels his own emptiness and vileness, and, at the same time, is enabled to look through the ordinance to the body and blood of Christ, and, by faith, cast himself there, he certainly obeys Christ in this ordinance, and his obedience is the obedience of faith, though he has no self-goodness to recommend him. And, O how pleasant and delightful it is to be there, when Jesus is graciously pleased to give us a lively sense of his dying love! But rest assured of this, beloved! there is no true obedience to any one branch of the law of Zion, but by faith; for, whatever work is done from a self-righteous principle is marred however good the work is, when done by faith. But we will conclude this part of the subject for the present, by observing that,
If Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain by faith (Heb 11:4); if Abraham obeyed by faith (verse 8), sojourned by faith (5:9), and offered up his son by faith (5:17); if the harlot Rahab concealed the spies, and perished not, by faith (5:31); if we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith (Gal 5:5); if we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8); if the word preached do not profit, not being mixed with faith (Heb 4:2); if we inherit the promises by faith (Heb 6:12); if faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1); if the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith (Rom 1:17); if God purifies our hearts by faith (Acts 15:9); if the saints are comforted together by their mutual faith (Rom 1:12); if to be strong in faith gives glory to God (Rom 4:20); if we have access by faith (Rom 5:2; Eph 3:12); if we walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7); if we stand by faith (Rom 11:20); if the just live by faith (Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38); if faith works, and works by love (Gal 5:6; 1 Thess 1:3); if the Christian warfare is the fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12); if this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (1 Jn 5:4); if faith is most holy (Jude 20); if without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6); and if the law is not of faith (Gal 3:12); then the blessed gospel of God our Saviour must be the law of faith: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (Jn 6:29) “And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 Jn 3:23-24)
6thly and lastly. This law is called the ministration and word of reconciliation: “All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18-19) “Come, Sir,” say some, “mind that; God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Methinks you will have hard squeezing to bring the doctrine of predestination into this place. A passage of this nature must sap the very foundation of personal election, and is a blaze sufficient to burn up the whole fabric that is built thereon, and is enough to confound every predestinarian in the world.” To be sure, Mr Arminius, you get on at a pretty rate; but let me tell you that the doctrine of predestination is an invincible fact, and is not so easily destroyed! Some of its advocates are very stubborn folk, and are not so soon confounded as you may imagine; nor are they in the least danger of being confounded by this passage; for the truth is, that this passage is better calculated to confirm than to confound them, which we will, in a few words, endeavour to prove. Now, whatever world is here intended, the text says, that “God was in Christ reconciling it unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Observe, the way that God reconciles this world unto himself is, by not imputing their trespasses unto them; and, of course, if the whole human race are intended, they are all safe enough. Nor is it possible for any of them to perish; for, upon what ground can they be damned, who have no trespasses imputed to them? Will they be damned as righteous characters? This cannot be! For, it is the wicked, the ungodly, and the unrighteous that shall be turned into hell; but the righteous shall inherit glory. And they that have no trespasses imputed unto them cannot be brought in guilty, nor proved unrighteous, and therefore can never perish. So that, if there be now, or ever shall be, one soul in hell, the term world in this passage, cannot mean the whole human race; and therefore it must be in favour of election, meaning neither more nor less than the elect-world, whom God “hath chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated them to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:4-5); for, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Ps 32:2; Rom 4:6- 8) And surely, if Jehovah pronounceth them blessed, they cannot be the people of his curse! (Is 34:5) So that the world which God was in Christ reconciling unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, is the election of grace, and no other.
But, why is the gospel called the word of reconciliation? The reason is obvious, because therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; and when this righteousness is made manifest to the conscience of the sinner, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as that in which he stands just before God, it reconciles the sinner unto God; and the mind is sweetly brought into captivity to the law of Christ. Lost in holy wonder, melted into tears of gratitude and thankfulness, enamoured with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the soul breaks forth in holy triumph, and with David sings, ”Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies.” (Ps103:1-4) God’s ways are, to such a soul, ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. There is a solid pleasure and a sweet solemnity runs through the whole, when this immortal gospel comes, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. And though the characters to whom it thus comes may be in very painful circumstances, this blessed gospel sweetens every bitter, and makes all straight, when it is received with joy in the Holy Ghost. (1 Thess 1:5-6) In this case it is no hard task to say, “Thy will be done.” Nor is this language forced from the lips while the heart is up in rebellion against the will of God; nor is it uttered with indifference and carelessness; no, beloved! it is the free flow of the better part, a pure stream from the pure fountain, and a precious fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The gospel is emphatically called, The gospel of peace. (Rom 10:15; Eph 6:15) And so it is; for whoever enjoys it, in its sweetness and power, has peace with God, and peace of conscience too. Indeed, this peace is a precious legacy bequeathed to the heirs of promise by the Lord of the house; for thus runs his precious will: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.” (Jn 14:27; 16:33) But, separate from the gospel, there is no peace to a wounded conscience; wrath, torment, and guilt are its chief companions. All the vows, promises, prayers, tears, penance, and mortifications that a sinner can perform will never reconcile the mind to God, nor set the guilty conscience at rest and quiet; nor will the displays of Jehovah’s wrath and indignation against sin, as revealed in the law, ever reconcile the sinner to God; for the law worketh wrath, and stirs up rebellion, but never brings peace of mind. Devils and damned spirits will for ever harden themselves in despair, and live to eternity in rebellion against God. All the tremendous showers of his righteous vengeance which fall upon their guilty spirits, will never mend them, nor bring peace and reconciliation to their dark abodes. They will still be rebels, though in chains. And, were it possible for damned souls to leave their dark abode, and once more dwell upon earth, they would, if left to the freedom of their own will, pursue the paths of sin and rebellion again; and, of course, be damned a second time.
There is not the least shadow of hope of any sinner being reconciled unto God, but by the gospel; and every believer knows, by experience, that the gospel is the sweet ministry of reconciliation. A time was, when they would have given a thousand worlds, had it been in their power, for peace with God; but every fresh view they had of his majesty, as revealed in the killing letter, appeared to plunge them deeper into misery, and banish them farther from peace. They knew the truth of that declaration, “There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God.” But the moment that the blood and righteousness of Christ, as revealed in the gospel, were brought home to their conscience, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the burden rolled from the mind, and guilt flew from the conscience, as far as the east is from the west; and this truth was experimentally realised, “Beingjustified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ/’ (Rom 5:1) God smiles, and the soul leaps for joy; and if, at this time, he attempts to search for his guilt, he can no more find it than he could find peace before; for his sins are all blotted out as a thick cloud (Is 44:22): “The Lord hath laid (or caused to meet) upon him (Christ) the iniquity of us all.” (Is 53:6)
He hath finished transgression, and made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in an everlasting righteousness. (Dan 9:24) “Who his own self bear our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Pet 2:24) “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” But why shall they not be found? Is it because they are not sinners, but are pure and holy in themselves? No, beloved! this is not the reason: indeed, it would be folly to talk about the sins and iniquities of sinless perfection; but the reason that the eternal God assigns for it is, ‘For I will pardon them whom I reserve” (Jer 50:20); “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb 8:12)
Now, when the soul can realise this divine truth by faith, solid peace must take possession of the breast; nor can all the infernal powers disturb the mind while this gospel is sweetly enjoyed. And, O how the soul loves and adores the ever-blessed God! and with what pleasure will the sinner say. “But thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” (Is 38:17) But let the soul lose sight of interest in the dear Redeemer, and all is gloom; and, while walking in darkness, instead of being reconciled to God and his ways, all appears to go wrong. The family (if there be one) goes wrong; and business goes wrong; friends do not look and act right; this friend is proud, and that is shy; and if the minister speak anything about backsliding in heart, &c, a thousand to one but a false construction is put upon his design, and the poor benighted soul is ready to conclude that somebody has been telling the minister something about him, and he has been shooting his arrows at him. “I see how it is,” says he. “they are all laying their heads together, and setting their faces against me.” Yea, the soul is ready to conclude that God is against him too, and that he has hedged up his way, perhaps in providence as well as in the things of eternity, and so has set him as a mark for his arrow, and bidden others to beware of him too. In such a frame of mind as this, he feels as peevish and as angry as he well can be; and instead of his meditation being sweet, he meditates little else but terror and distress. But, when the dear Jesus shines again, with healing in his divine wings, lifts up the light of his countenance, and once more enables the soul to behold the beauty, glory, and stability, of the gospel of salvation, and the covenant of grace with the blessings it contains, even the sure mercies of David, all is right; Whether affliction, or poverty, or persecution, or what not, it is all well; for Jehovah, who hath the management of all creatures, circumstances, and events, is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind. Should famine stare him in the face, with Christ thus in view, he can say, “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat, the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, 1 will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon my high places.” (Hab 3:17-19) And though things may go contrary to his carnal wishes in the family, or even in his own heart, yet, having a steadfast faith in Christ, he can rejoice with David, “Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” (2 Sam 23:5) And self-loathing is sure to take place to think he should harbour such hard thoughts of God, his ways, and his people. Yea, the soul calls itself a thousand fools, for its madness and rebellion against God; and, at the same time, feels itself at an infinite loss for words to express its own baseness on the one hand, and Jehovah’s matchless kindness on the other. “I am as a beast before thee;” “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes;” will be the expressions of the heart; and yet it will feel a divine peace through the redemption in Christ, and magnify the riches of his adorable grace to such a poor wretch, and with this peace of mind he knows well that the gospel is the word and ministration of reconciliation.
We now come to the next general head of the subject, to show,
 You never heard of him preaching in long lawn, or a black silk gown, nor was he ever preceded by a mace-bearer. No: such pomp he never assumed ; nor would it ever have made its appearance in the church, had the injunctions and laws of Christ always been walked by. as a rule: for, he was meek and lowly in heart, and in apparel too: and it becomes us to follow his steps, for he has left us an example. I have often thought that some of the professed followers and ministers of Christ look very unlike him whose servants they profess to be. Indeed, some of the ministers appear in such pomp, that one would suppose them more fit for the stage of a theatre than a pulpit: their very appearance is a disgrace to their profession.
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.