4 Why This Law Is Called A Perfect Law Of Liberty
1st. I shall endeavour to show that this law contains a perfection of doctrines. Do we look around us, and behold a world rolling in sin and ungodliness? do we look within and find ourselves a mass of rebellion and wretchedness? and are we led to inquire if there be any possibility of such wretches escaping hell and obtaining heaven? This precious law informs us that it is not only possible, but that it is as certain as that God is God, that a people shall show forth God’s praises in eternal glory. Nor are we left at a mere conjecture how this shall be brought about: for “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he hath loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by grace are ye saved” (Eph 2:4-5); “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) From hence we learn that God hath, in love to his people, sent his Son to make satisfaction for their sins. Nor is the love of God, which provided so suitable a Saviour, of an uncertain or changeable nature; for “I loved thee with an everlasting love,” is the language of Jehovah to his chosen. (Jer 31:3) The love of God to his people is immutable—from everlasting to everlasting; a fathomless depth! an infinite height! an immeasurable length! and a boundless breadth! without the least possibility of a change (Eph 3:18-19); for God resteth in his love. (Zeph 3:17) And, in everlasting love he hath chosen his people in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy (not because they were holy, but that they should be holy) and without blame before him in love; having predestinated them unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, (not for anything he foresaw they would do, but) according to the good pleasure of his will. (Eph 1:4-5)
This law also informs us of the great end that Jehovah had in view in predestinating a people to himself, viz., his own glory: for it is “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph 1:6) Jehovah cannot, in his very nature, lose sight of his own glory; for, whether he saves or damns transgressors, he, in some way or other, glorifieth himself in so doing: but in the salvation of his people, he doth not merely glorify himself, but every perfection of his nature harmoniously blazes forth in all the intrinsic majesty, beauty, and glory, of the Triune Jehovah: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake.” (Is 43:25; Ez 36:22-27) “For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. Behold I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it; for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.” (Is 48:9-11)
This law also informs us how God doth magnify his name, and save with an everlasting salvation, and wherein he is just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. (Rom 4:5) Christ hath magnified the law, and made it honourable; and the Father is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake. (Is 42:21) The adorable Mediator of the new testament is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom 10:4); and he is emphatically called “The Lord our righteousness;” so that the elect are complete in him. “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;” “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7); so that, through Christ, the eternal God is glorified, and poor sinners everlastingly saved.
This law informs us how the elect become savingly acquainted with these things, viz., through the agency and teachings of the Holy Ghost. By nature, they are dead in sin, but the Spirit quickeneth them, and raiseth them to a life of holiness. (Eph 2:1) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever;” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (1 Pet 1:23; Tit 3:5) It is the Spirit’s work to quicken, and to supply the soul with life and fruit; for he shall take of the things that are Christ’s, and show them unto the saints. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” is the soul-supporting language of our divine Master. But if the accomplishment of this depended on an arm of flesh, it would never be accomplished; but, thanks be to God, there is nothing uncertain in the church’s salvation; for the whole work is of God, from first to last; and his work is perfect, and stands in no need of the puny arm of man to put the finishing stroke to it: “But the anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie; and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 Jn 2:27) We know just as much of truth, experimentally, as the Holy Ghost teaches us, and no more. It is possible for a child of God to get more head-knowledge than heart-experience, but when this is the case, a discerning Christian will perceive it by the length of the poor creature’s back, for his head being so much before his heels, he is sure to make it manifest one way or other; and a thousand to one but he stumbles and falls. But every branch of divine truth, sent home to the heart by the Holy Ghost, is fastened as a nail in a sure place, and is calculated to make the man walk uprightly, and keep the soul steady in a storm: this will abide when all superficial religion is swept away with the torrent.
From this law we learn that “the righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.” Because Christ lives they shall live also. Nothing shall be able to separate them from his hands, nor disunite them from him, the living Head; for they are bone of his bone, body of his body, and flesh of his flesh. It is the will of the eternal God that they shall be with him, and behold his glory: for “this is the Father’s will which hath sent me. that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing.” (Jn 6:39) And it is self-evident that the will of Christ is one with the Father’s: hence he says, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” (Jn 17:24) And he as expressly says, that the Spirit of truth shall guide them into all truth: “He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (Jn 16:13-14) In fact, the purposes of God must be overturned, and Satan rob God of his jewels, before one vessel of mercy can be lost.
Are repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, necessary to our enjoyment of these blessings? From this law we learn that Christ is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins; and that he is the author and finisher of faith. (Heb 12:2; Acts 5:31) To enumerate the doctrines of the gospel in regular order would be foreign from my design: suffice it to say, that every doctrine which the gospel contains, is included, at least, in what has been said. Nor is it possible for one point in divinity to be produced, which is of God, but what the gospel contains. It gives us a clear description of the purpose of God, in eternity that is past, to the final issue in glory.
2. This law contains a perfection of promise. That is, it contains promises suited to every case that the child of God can possibly be in; and these are all Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus. Has the Christian to walk through deep waters of affliction, temptations, and distresses, which, like an overwhelming flood, threaten to deluge him? The promise of God secures him. “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” While God is with him to assuage the waters and to support his soul, there can be no real cause for fear. Has he to walk through flaming fires of Satan’s suggestions, inbred corruptions, and violent persecutions? All must be well; for the promise of God is, “Thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Is 43:2) Does he feel himself poor and needy, in want of fresh supplies of grace and strength? is he seeking those things with a longing mind and a thirsty soul? and do all the ordinances and means of grace appear shut up, so that he cannot enjoy the blessings he is thirsting for? Still his case is not desperate, nor is he out of the reach of the promise of God; for “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them. I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places,”—the high places of everlasting, electing love, the covenant of grace, and the eternal settlements of heaven,—”and fountains in the midst of the valleys,”—the humiliation of Christ and the glory connected therewith—”I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Is 41:17-18) Do earth, hell, and sin, agree to confound him, and to put him to eternal shame? and does he fear this will be the case? The promise still secures him: “Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame.” Is he brought into a poor, desolate state, like a widow that is mourning the loss of her husband? is he forsaken of all friends, surrounded with foes and ready to conclude that God has forsaken him too? Still the promise is suited to his case: “For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more; for thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name.” (Is 54:4-5) Does conscience accuse, and the law condemn? do friends frown, and foes rage? Be it so; all nature shall be convulsed and overturned before the promise of God shall fail: “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” (verse 10) Is the enemy drawn up like a troop, armed with infernal weapons? “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” Is his name cast out as evil? and do professor and profane unite in slanderously reporting him? “Every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment (whether it be from earth, hell, or sin) thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord; and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” (verse 17) Ye children of the Most High God! what ground for comfort and consolation is here! Though unbelief and carnal reason unite with Satan and his infernal crew; though you find yourselves but worms, crawling in and out of the earth, ready to hide yourselves in the holes of the earth, at every stamp of the foot; and though ten thousand mountains rise up against you, and threaten to roll upon you, and crush you to atoms; a compassionate God gives a promise suited to your case: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.” (Is 41: 14-15) Is it possible for a child of God to have any just cause for fear, when Jehovah has engaged to make worms thresh mountains and hills into chaff? Surely not! Well may it be said that God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty! “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” is a promise as extensive as it is possible for the case to require. (Heb 13:5)
Has the child of God fallen into the hands of some Arminian priest, who is constantly telling him to be up and doing, or after all, he will finally perish? does Satan tempt him to put an end to his existence, telling him that it is impossible for him to hold out to the end, and, therefore, he had better know the worst of it at once? and does he in reality fear that he shall be brought into condemnation at last? The immortal promise of God shall secure him: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and I give unto them eternal life,”—mind that! it is eternal life which Christ gives to his sheep,—”and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” (Jn 10:27-28) Now, if Christ gives his sheep eternal life, and if they shall never perish, they must be eternally safe, let Satan and his ministers say what they will. Come, poor disconsolate Christian! rest upon the faithfulness of thy God; for faithful is he who hath promised, who also will do it. Whatever trials thou hast to endure, from within or from without; however weak thy faith, or strong thy fear; thou shalt never perish, for the Lord has said it. Nay, he has promised that he will not depart from his people to do them good, and that he will put his fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from him. (Jer 32:40) Christ is gone to prepare a place for them, and has promised that he will come again and receive them to himself, that where he is there they may be also. (Jn 14:3) But if Arminianism be true, he will meet with a sad disappointment, for, when he comes to receive them, vast numbers of them will be fallen from grace, and, of course, be gone to hell; so that he cannot take them where he is, in heaven, to behold his glory. But leaving the Arminian to the consequences of his own blasphemy, the believer has cause to rejoice that the promise is sure to all the elect seed. (Rom 4:16)
Whatever the Christian needs, the promise is, Ask, and ye shall receive; for whatsoever ye ask, not in your own name, nor for your own goodness, but in the name of Christ, ye shall receive. Need ye wisdom, strength, righteousness, faith, hope, peace, joy, love, patience, fortitude, meekness, and humility? or lack ye the things of this life? Whatsoever ye ask, in the name of Christ, that can be for your real good, ye shall receive. The love of God has provided all needful good for his people. The apostle had good authority for declaring to the Philippians, “My God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19) He ever has, does now, and ever will, supply all the needs of his people. Well may the apostle, in holy rapture, exclaim, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day; we accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that hath loved us; For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35-39) Precious security! immortal safety! For, God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent! And though it is possible for a child of God to have his evidences beclouded, and through the power of unbelief, carnal reason, sin, and the devil, he may be brought into bondage and distress, and, like David, cry out in bitterness of soul, “Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?” (Ps 77:8), nevertheless, such is the immutable nature of the promise of God to his people, that neither sin, Satan, unbelief, nor carnal reason, can make God alter the word that has gone out of his mouth; for though we believe not, God abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself. Come, poor, trembling soul! rely on the promise of thy God; for they that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded. It is thy privilege to look above and beyond thyself, to thy God and Saviour, and to the promises of his grace: these are bulwarks that bid defiance to all the powers of hell.
These are but a few promises out of a vast number; nevertheless, I trust they are sufficient to prove that the gospel contains a perfection of promises, or promises suited to every case that the child of God may be in.
3dly. This law contains a perfection of invitations. Various are the means by which the Lord is pleased to encourage the faith, and dispel the doubts, of his children; and by which he endears himself unto them; and the precious invitations of the gospel are one of them. Is the sinner sensible of his ruined state? and does he thirst for the blessings of the gospel, despairing of ever enjoying them, because he can find no goodness in himself? Hear the endearing language of the word of life! “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money”—no goodness, worth, or worthiness, but is altogether wretched and forlorn—”come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.” (Is 55:1) Can anything be more encouraging? The poor wretch has got nothing to go to market with, and the market- price is, without money; yea. and the best that the market contains, which is every good that the soul can possibly need, is without money and without price. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink,” is the language of the Lord of the house. (Jn 7:37) Yea, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” (Rev 22:17) Here we have the united testimony of the Father (by the mouth of the prophet,) Christ himself, and the Holy Spirit (whose prerogative it is to reveal the truth to the conscience of the sinner,) and the saints of the Most High God, called the bride: I say, the Triune God and the Lamb’s wife all unite in inviting poor sinners to come without money or price, just as they are, and partake of the water of life freely. When these truths reach the heart, the language of the soul is, “Draw me, and I will run after thee;” and God in his own good time draws, and the sinner runs; he (God) invites, and the poor wretch attends the banquet with a divine pleasure. The table is richly furnished, and the Master of the house gives a hearty welcome, saying, “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” The sinner hears, and partakes with thankfulness, and calls upon every power of his soul to bless the Donor of the rich repast.
Has the sinner been long labouring to make himself pure and holy, worthy the notice of Jehovah, but at last finds all his efforts vain, and so is brought to the end of all his earthly goodness and fleshly hopes, like a weary traveller who has been long seeking some rich treasure, but has got to the very end of the earth, and is as far off his object as ever; and therefore despairs of ever obtaining his end? I say, is the sinner in such a case as this? How precious is the word of the Lord! “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for 1 am God, and there is none else.” (Is 45:22) “But, (says the soul) how can such a vile sinner as I be saved? 1 have tried everything in my power, and am as far off as ever; nay, my case appears more desperate than it did at first.” Poor soul! this may be true; but observe, Thus saith the Lord, “I am God, and there is none else. I, even I, am the Lord; and besides me there is no Saviour.” (Is 43:11) So that you have no just cause to wonder that you are brought to the far end, and can see no way of escape, because you have been pursuing something that cannot save you. The very reason which the Lord assigns for inviting you to look to him and be saved, is because he is God, and there is none else, and besides him there is no Saviour; so that, to attempt to be saved in any other way than by faith in Christ, is but an insult offered to the power and glory of Christ: “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) So that, whoever attempts to seek salvation any other way, however zealous or pious they may be, are sure to be defeated. “But (say you) I find myself to be such a stiff-necked, stout-hearted rebel, so far from all righteousness, that every fresh view I have of myself and the holiness of God, makes me quake for fear.” Be it so; the blessed gospel is no stranger to your case, nor is it destitute of an invitation suited thereunto; for thus saith the Lord, “Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness: 1 bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.” (Is 46:12-13) Can anything be more pointed? Here is the sinner with his stout heart, and far from righteousness, invited to the sweet enjoyment of the righteousness of God, and the salvation of the Most High, and that without a single word of qualifications or goodness as a recommendation thereunto. And sure am I, that when the Holy Spirit applies such a truth to the heart of the sinner, the soul will break forth into a song and say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;” for, “In the Lord shall the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory.” (Is 45:24-25)
I will mention one more passage on this subject and dismiss it: those admirable words of God our Saviour, recorded Matt 11:28: “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Can the case of a sensible sinner be described that is not included in this passage? I think not; and yet the Saviour, in his own person, freely invites them to come unto him, just as they are, burdened with sin, guilt, and misery, and a divine rest is promised to their souls; for his rest is glorious.
4thly. This law contains a perfection of precepts. Has the Christian to do with the world, and the men of the world? Yes, for if he would be free from the world, he must needs go out of the world. (1 Cor 5:10) And is it the Christian’s lot to be evilly entreated in the world? Do men persecute him, and despitefully use him? Can he be at a loss to know what mode of conduct it becomes him to take under such circumstance? Surely not! unless he feels unwilling to acknowledge that the gospel is his rule of life: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt 5:44) Can the Christian be at any loss to know by what method he is to get the comforts of this life? The gospel gives us to understand t h a t however small a pittance we may be able to get, in an honest way, we ought not to take any dishonest or dishonourable way to increase it. “Let him that stole, steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands.” (Eph 4:28) Whatever we are able to provide, whether more or less, this is the rule by which it becomes us to obtain it, viz., in an honest way. How shocking! when the world has any reason to say, “There goes a dishonest man; he counts himself a saint; but if you deal with him, he is sure to pinch and grind you some way or other.” We ought not so to act: in fact, where is the proof of real Christianity, when this is the case? If such a charge be just, I am persuaded that such a professor must go upon a ground in direct opposition to the truth of God, to prove his Christianity by; and, of course, he must build upon a bad foundation. The language of the gospel is, “”Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” (Rom 12:17; 1 Thess 4:11-12) It becomes saints to be cautious, very cautious, how they act before the men of the world, that they give them no just cause to speak evil of the cause of truth, but, if it be possible, as much as lieth in them, to live peaceably with all men.
Does the child of God feel his mind too much entangled with things of the world? Hear the language of the gospel: “Love not the world, neither the things of the world.” (1 Jn 2:15) Is the Christian rich in this world’s good? “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” (1 Tim 6:17-18) Is the Christian poor? “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb 13:5; 1 Tim 6:6-11) Does the believer stand in the capacity of a servant? “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour; that the name of God, and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” (1 Tim 6:1; Eph 6:5-8) Does the Christian sustain the character of a master? “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” (Col 4:1; Eph 6:9.) Is the believer in a married state? and does the female Christian as a wife want to know how she ought to act towards her husband? “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Saviour of the body: Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be unto their own husbands in every thing.” (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18) Is the Christian a husband? Let him not be a tyrant, nor once dream that the wife is to be trampled upon: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies; he that loveth his wife loveth himself.” (Eph 5:25-28; Col 3:19) Is the Christian a child, having parents living? “Children, obey your parents in the Lord in all things.” (Col 3:20; Eph 6:1) Is the Christian a father? “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21.) You will find in 1 Timothy, chapter 5, instruction given to widows, children, and even nephews; and in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7 to the married and the unmarried, to the widow and the virgin.
Do ye ask how it becomes you to act as members of the church and of the household of faith? “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love, and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:24-25) “Neither be ye called masters, for one is your Master, even Christ: and ye are all brethren.” (Matt 23:8-10) “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you.”(l Cor 11:2) “Let all things be done decently, and in order.” (1 Cor 14:40) “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” (1 Pet 3:8) Are there any members of the church unruly? They are to be warned. (1 Thess 5:14) Do any walk disorderly? “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” (2 Thess 3:6. See the whole of the chapter.) Is the Christian at a loss to know how he should act in case of personal offences? Let him attend to the advice of his Master in the gospel, and he will do well: “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother: but if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established: and if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican.” (Matt 18:15-17) In a word, such is the gospel, that if a church wish to act according to the rule given them, they will find a sufficiency to direct them in all their deportment, both in public and private, to ministers and people, to officers and private Christians, in every case.
Hence, it appears that a believer can be at no loss for a rule of conduct, though he is delivered from the law of works, as long as the gospel abounds with precepts so numerous and suitable to every state; but let it be remembered that it becomes us always to enforce them upon Christians in a gospel spirit and upon gospel grounds. Is the child of God exhorted to walk in love, and to abstain from fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting, which are not convenient? The apostle enforces these things upon gospel principles: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. (Eph 5:1-2) Are Christians exhorted to lowliness of mind, and to esteem others better than themselves? With what endearing language is it enforced! “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; fulfil ye my joy that ye be likeminded,” &c. (Phil 2:1-8) Are we exhorted to stand fast? It is to be “in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” (Gal 5:1) Are we exhorted to be strong? It is to be “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and in the power of his might/’ (Eph 6:10; 2 Tim 2:1) Are we exhorted to endure hardness? It is “as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.'” (2 Tim 2:3) Are we exhorted to love one another, and to forgive one another? The ground is still the same: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.—Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.” (1 Jn 4:11; Eph 4:31-32) We might bring a variety more passages of the same nature, but these shall suffice at present, and are sufficient to show that the gospel contains not only a perfection of precepts, but a perfection of motives to induce the child of God to walk therein.
5thly. This law contains a perfection of ordinances. What I mean is, that the two ordinances of Christ under the gospel dispensation, viz., Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are sufficient to set forth those things for which they were appointed by the great Head and Lord of the house, independently of any inventions of men, let such inventions be called by what name they will. Whether they call them love-feasts, or what not, they reflect dishonour on Christ, because they suppose that he has not left ordinances sufficient to instruct and refresh the minds of his children. But leaving such men, who contrive such means, to their own folly, we will take a short view of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
By Baptism I do not mean infant-sprinkling, for I consider this an invention of men, in direct opposition to the ordinance of Christ, and has no more foundation in the law of baptism than the baptism of bulls has; nor can a “Thus saith the Lord” be produced in support of it. To me it appears that Baptism sets forth a death, burial, and resurrection: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:3-4; Col 2:12) From hence it appears that Baptism is a representation of the burial and resurrection of Christ, and of the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection in him. But how preposterous the passage would read if we were to translate the word baptism, pour or sprinklel Let us for a moment try it: “Therefore we are buried with him by pouring into death;” “Buried with him inpouring]—an insult to common sense! “Buried with him by sprinkling into death; “Buried with him in sprinkling;” “And John was sprinkling in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there.” (Jn 3:23) Little less than madness! A child often years of age would be ready to say (concerning the latter). “Why, Father, what did they go to that place because there was much water for? a bucketful would have sprinkled a thousand.” And I dare engage that, if the child had ever seen a corpse buried, and you were to sprinkle a little water on the child’s face, and tell it that thai was like being buried, the child would say, “Father, you tell untruths, for I am sure that is not like being buried.”
I should like some infant-sprinkler to inform us what Scripture they have for sprinkling the face any more than any other part of the body, and whether sprinkling the elbows, the finger-ends, the knees, the ankle-bones, or the toes, would not do as well; and if that would not be baptism, how do they prove that sprinkling the face is baptism. As they tell us that baptism came in the room and stead of circumcision, and is designed to set forth the same things, if they will but be consistent with themselves, they have a certain rule to go by, which is, to sprinkle the same part of the body that was circumcised. It avails nothing to say, that would be ridiculous; for, without doubt, when Jehovah instituted the ordinance of circumcision he knew what part of the body was best to be circumcised to set forth his design; and if sprinkling be baptism, and if it came in the room of circumcision, to set forth the same things, it must be an insult to sprinkle any other part of the body, unless we can prove that Christ has given orders to sprinkle some other part; and if he has, he no doubt has told us what part of the body it is that should be sprinkled. It requires a considerable degree of faith to believe that a man is sincere, who has been labouring to prove that sprinkling infants came in the room of circumcision, and answers the same end, and the moment he has done, instead of sprinkling the same part of the body which was circumcised, he sprinkles the face, in direct opposition to the law of circumcision, which is the rule by which he professes to go: this seems vastly strange, saying nothing of females as well as males. But I will leave them to make these things straight, if they can, and go on to show, that if we translate the word baptism, immersion, it will look like a burial: “Buried with him by immersion into death;” “Buried with him in immersion;” “And John was immersing or dipping in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there.” In this way the passages read with propriety, and carry their own evidence.
When the believer comes to this ordinance in the name of, and by faith in, the Lord Jesus Christ, the language he speaks, by his submission to the ordinance, is, “In the presence of God, and all who are here, I profess that I have no hope of immortal happiness but through the life, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; and I submit to this ordinance as a sign that my whole trust and confidence is in my risen Saviour, and herein I answer a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 3:21) I do also in this solemn ordinance profess that, through the power of omnipotent grace, and by virtue of my union to Christ, I am dead to sin, the law, the world, the flesh, and the devil. I am, therefore, buried in baptism to show, in a figure, that they are not jointly or separately to rule or reign over me, and that they have no just claims upon me, for by the body of Christ I am dead to, and free from them. I hereby also profess not to be alone, but I rise from the water as a sign of the resurrection of my dear Lord and Master for my complete justification, and of my resurrection in him, by virtue of my union to him; and through the power of the Holy Ghost, I am risen to newness of life in Christ my Head, and I rejoice to acknowledge him my Lord and Lawgiver, and profess myself to be married to him who is raised from the dead, that I should bring forth fruit unto God. (Rom 7:4) I do hereby also profess that as sure as this body is raised from the water, so sure I hope, in the resurrection, to rise from the dead in the likeness of Christ; for this vile body shall be changed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of my dear Lord and Saviour, with whom I shall live in immortal glory.” (Rom 6:5-6; Gal 3:27) Now this appears to me to be the language of this ordinance; and as long as 1 maintain these views, infant-sprinkling must appear to me nothing less than a high insult offered to Jehovah in the name of the Holy Three.
When Paul was writing to the Corinthians on the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, he brought forward the ordinance of baptism as one argument in favour of the resurrection: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor 15:29) As though he had said, “How ridiculous must they appear who are baptized, as an emblem of their resurrection, if there be no resurrection; seeing this ordinance is designed to set forth a resurrection, it must, of course, be an unmeaning sign, and those who submit to it must be sadly disappointed, if the dead rise not.” But is there anything like a resurrection in infant-sprinkling?
The Lord of the house calls his tremendous sufferings a baptism (Lk 12:50;) and when the Psalmist personates the suffering Saviour in his dreadful agonies, he cries, “I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.” (Ps 69:2) The vengeance of heaven overwhelmed the dear Saviour, and into the tremendous floods of almighty indignation he sank, as the Head of his church; and, thus bathed in sufferings and blood, his soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; and this he calls a baptism. But must it not be sporting with the agonies of the dear Saviour to sprinkle a few drops of water in the face, and call this a fit emblem of his overwhelming sufferings? Surely it must! but when the body is immersed or overwhelmed in water, there is a striking likeness of the overwhelming sufferings of Christ.
The believer, having thus set forth these divine truths in this solemn ordinance, may then repair to the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, and eat the bread and drink the wine, in commemoration of the broken body and blood shedding of his risen Lord, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed; and these two ordinances are ordained of God to set forth the whole work of Christ, the overwhelming wrath which he endured, the mangling of his body, the shedding of his blood, his death, burial, and resurrection, his complete victory over his and his people’s enemies, and their complete justification and victory through him. So that, by faith in the real substance of these ordinances, the believer may sing, “Death is swallowed up in victory!”
6thly. There is a perfect harmony in this law of liberty. Do the doctrines and promises of the gospel speak of, and secure, the everlasting salvation of the people of God, as the effect of Jehovah’s own purpose of grace in Christ Jesus? and do the invitations invite them freely to partake of all the blessings of God’s house, without the least eye to any works of righteousness which they have done? Yes, beloved! so it is; but as every cause produces its own effects, so these divine truths, brought home to the heart by the Holy Spirit, are sure to lead the soul that enjoys them into the path of holiness; and the precepts and ordinances of Christ are not, to such a soul, a legal task or a servile work; for the yoke of Christ is easy, and his burden is light; and as the soul lives, by faith, in Christ the substance and glory of the gospel, the believer gives proof that the grace of God teaches him that, “‘denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, he should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Tit 2:11-12) As the effect of God’s love to him, and as a proof of his love to God, he keeps his commandments, not from fear of damnation, but from real love, because he delights in holiness, and abhors the works of darkness; so that there is a sweet harmony in the whole.
The doctrines, promises, and invitations, do not render the precepts irksome or unsavoury, but are calculated to fire the soul with love to, and delight in them; nor do the precepts once attempt to infringe upon the glory of the doctrines, promises, &c, but each keeps its proper place, as different branches of the will of God in Christ Jesus, as King and Lord in Zion; and all unite in setting forth the glory and beauty of the kingdom of Christ, and so are in real subserviency one to the other; nor is there one jarring note in the whole code of the laws of Christ. Wherever you see a professor who can boast of liberty, and of his love to. and enjoyment of, the truths of God. while he is a slave to his lusts, or can live in neglect of, and pour contempt upon, the commands of Christ, be he who he may, you see one that gives a sad evidence that he is yet out of the secret, for ‘”The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.”
7thly. The gospel may be called a perfect law of liberty, inasmuch as it contains all the holiness and beauty of all the laws that ever proceeded from the throne of God, whether they are called moral or ceremonial.
Is the law of works, commonly called the moral law, declared to be holy, just and good? Yes, beloved! and so it is. But is the gospel deficient in anything of this nature? Surely not. I presume it is not possible for any man, or any set of men, to point out one single particle of holiness, justice, or goodness, which the law contains, that does not shine in all its divine brilliancy and glory in the immortal gospel. But more of this by and by. Let us for the present just glance at 2 Cor 3, where the apostle confirms the idea just stated.
In verse 7, the apostle calls the law of works “the ministration of death,” but says it was glorious: in verse 9, he calls it “the ministration of condemnation,” but still he says it is glorious; and so it is, for, as far as it goes, it reflects the glory of God. But however glorious this law is (if the apostle is to be considered a fit judge), the gospel is more glorious: ‘Tor if the ministration of death was glorious, how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious (that is, the law) had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.” (verse 7-10) Now, if there be any meaning in words, the apostle means to say that the gospel is so glorious that it swallows up all the glory of the law, and infinitely outshines it; but this cannot be true if the law contain one particle of holiness, justice, or goodness, which is not to be found in the gospel. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, and thus it is abolished and done away from Zion by the fulfilling righteousness of Zion’s King. Unto this end the children of Israel could not steadfastly look (verse 13); and even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon the heart (of every one dead in sin;) nevertheless, when it (the heart) shall be turned to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away, and they shall behold the glory of God, as shining in the glass of the gospel. I presume that no man will say that the stars are not glorious, or that the moon has no glory in it: and yet what are stars, or moon, or any other light, compared with the sun? Does not the sun contain all the glory of the whole, and even exceed them in glory? No man, in his senses, with his eyes open, will say that the light of a candle is of no use in a dark night; but where would be its utility at noon-day, in the full blaze of the sun? The believer is called to walk by the light of the sun, for the gospel contains the full blaze of God’s glory. If the law of works reflects the glory of God, as the God of nature, does not the gospel contain this, when Christ, the sum and substance of it, is the brightness of his Father’s glory? Can there be any deficiency in that which reflects the essential glory of Jehovah, and that in its very brightness— nay, that is the brightness of its glory in itself? Surely not! Like as when the sun shines in its meridian splendour, it outshines all other lights, and would render them rather a nuisance than advantageous, so life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10); and when this light shines in the heart of a sinner, all other lights must give way to it, for they are all swallowed up in it, and, it out-blazes them all in glory. When Jesus was transfigured upon the Mount, and Peter wanted to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elias, and one for Christ, the conduct of Jehovah proves that the whole glory of the law and the prophets was swallowed up in Christ: for ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” And this is the language of the eternal God to his church, to this moment. (See Is 42:1; Matt 3:17; 17:5; Acts 3:22)
If it can be proved that the gospel, of which Christ is the sum and substance, life and glory—for separate from him there is no real gospel—I say. if it can be proved that this gospel is deficient, or has any want or scant, either for a rule of holiness, motives to holiness, or anything that is calculated to promote the welfare of Zion and the glory of her King, such an address must be unguarded, which would be little less than blasphemy to suppose. But there is no deficiency in the gospel; for it so far exceeds the law in glory, that Paul was led to conclude that the law had no glory in it, by reason of the glory of the gospel which excelleth; and, no doubt, this was the reason why the apostle said, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal 6:14)
In the preceding verses it appears that the Judaising teachers gloried in circumcision and the law, not that they themselves kept the law. but desired to make a fair show in the flesh, and constrained others to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ; so that, by enforcing circumcision and the keeping of the law, they laid a foundation for a little fleshly glory. It does not appear to me that these Judaising teachers openly denied Jesus Christ, but professed a very great regard for him, only they thought it highly necessary, in addition to what he had done, to enforce the works of the law, or, to use the more modern terms of the same sort of gentlemen, in this our day, they told the people that Christ had done his part, but unless they did their part too they could not be saved. So that salvation is the joint-work of Christ and the creature, only the creature appears to be the head of the firm, for if the creature withhold his aid and assistance, salvation must of necessity be brought into a state of insolvency, for Christ is not able to carry on the business, or, in other words, to save one soul, unless that soul do his part; so that God entirely depends upon the good will and good works of the creature, for a seed to glorify him in the world to come. Mow this is ancient Judaism, known in our day as Arminianism, and if probed to the centre, is no less than Atheism; for a God that sits on such a precarious throne can be no God at all. Well, in Paul’s day they wanted to glory in the flesh, and in our day they do glory in the flesh, and some of them profess to have good reason for so doing, for they tell us they are perfect in the flesh. But what did Paul glory in? and what do all real Christians glory in? The cross of Christ, for they are too well satisfied with Christ, and him crucified, to glory in any thing else. One reason which the apostle assigns for glorying in the cross of Christ is. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Gal 6:15) Now this new creature is the image of God as the God of truth and grace, called the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:24) and as the gospel is the holy commandment (2 Pet 2:21), yea, the most holy (Jude 20,) this new creature and the gospel are in sweet harmony; and as believers are the workmanship of God “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them” (Eph 2:10), it is theirs to walk in the most holy gospel; and as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them—the rule of the new creature which is created in true holiness, after the image of God.
Christ is the express image of the Father’s person, and he dwells in his people; so that the new creature and Christ, the life of it, cannot differ in their nature, and the gospel is a most holy transcript of Christ and this new creature, and must be in sweet unison therewith, seeing Christ is the real substance of the gospel. Hence the apostle exhorts the Philippians only to let their conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ; and he informs the Colossians that, though he was absent in the flesh, he was present in the spirit, joying and beholding their order (which I take to be their deportment in all things, as a church of Christ;) and while he beheld their order with pleasure, he entreats them, that as they have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so to walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith. Indeed it is evident, that the end of the conversation of all such who are faithful rulers over the church of Christ is, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” (Heb 13:8) With these things in view, it must be a high insult offered to the gospel to say it is no rule of conversation to the saints of the Most High; for it is impossible there can be any discord between the new creature and the gospel. Christ is the substance and glory of the gospel, and the express image of his Father; and Jehovah predestinated his children to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8:29), and in this image they are created in true holiness and righteousness.
Is life a part of the new creature? The gospel is the law of the Spirit of life. Is light a part of the new creature? Both life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel, and herein is the true light. Are wisdom and knowledge parts of the new creature? In Christ, the substance of the gospel, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and herein is the wisdom of God. Is the new man created in righteousness? In the gospel is the righteousness of God revealed. Is the new creature holy? The gospel is most holy. The gospel is that in which we all, with open face, behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:18) Now, when it can be proved that the law of works is that wherein life and immortality are brought to light, that it contains all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and that in it we behold all the glory of God, it may be said that it is equal with the gospel. But as these things can only shine in their most transcendent lustre in the gospel, then the glorious gospel must contain all the holiness and beauty of the law, and even excel it in glory; so that, as the apostle says, “That which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.” (2 Cor 3:10) In a word, as long as the essential Word, who is the sum and substance of the gospel, is the brightness of his Father’s glory, full of grace and truth (Heb 1:3; Jn 1:14), the gospel must contain all the holiness of the law.
Again. The gospel, or the perfect law of liberty, contains all the glory of all the types and shadows, called the ceremonial law. Not a sin-offering, peace-offering, burnt-offering, trespass-offering, meat-offering, drink-offering, heave-offering, or wave-offering, but what figured forth some better things to come, and are all swallowed up in the gospel. Not a bullock, lamb, ram, pigeon, or any other creature slain by divine command, under this law, but what pointed to Christ, and he is the truth and glory of the whole. Not a holyday, festival, or jubilee, but what is swallowed up in him. The law of the high priest with his holy garments, the holy censer, the breast- plate, the Urim and Thummim, the mercy-seat, the shew-bread, &c, are all done away in Christ. The precious gospel of God our Saviour contains the glory of the whole, as will evidently appear from the following passages of sacred writ: “Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shew-bread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the High Priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:1-15) And again: “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect.” (Heb 10:1)
From hence we learn, that the tabernacle containing the candlestick, the table and the shew-bread, which is called the sanctuary; and after the second veil the tabernacle, which is called the Holiest of all, which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid with pure gold, which was the mercy-seat, in which ark was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod, and the tables of the covenant (which were the law), and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; and also the meats, and drinks, and divers washings, which were imposed on them until the time of reformation; and the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of the heifer, &c, are all swallowed up in Christ, and he is the substance and glory of the whole. “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did: by the which we draw nigh unto God.” (Heb 7:18-19; 12:18-29) This better hope is Christ and his gospel, and here rests the divine beauty of the whole Levitical priesthood. And seeing we are blessed with the substance of that which our forefathers saw but in shadow, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; and may we ever remember that “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb 7:12); and that the law which now stands, and must for ever stand, in Zion, as the will of God in Christ Jesus the King of Zion, is the gospel, containing all the glory of all the laws that ever proceeded from the throne of God, and therefore cannot be deficient.
8thly and lastly. This law may be called the perfect law of liberty, inasmuch as it is a transcript of all the perfections of the eternal God. I shall only just glance at this subject, for it is too great to be fully investigated in time or eternity.
Is Jehovah holy? The gospel is called the holy commandment (2 Pet 2:21), and the most holy faith (Jude 20;) that is, the doctrines of faith—the truths of the gospel of God, are most holy. There is not a doctrine of grace, a declaration of mercy, a promise of life, an invitation sent forth, a precept given, an ordinance instituted, nor one single branch of the gospel, but what is holy; and, as God makes them manifest in the conscience, they produce holy effects, and lead to a holy end. Here God’s holiness shines in its most divine light; not in separating sinners from his presence, but in his choosing his people in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love (Eph 1:4); in giving his Son to be the propitiation for their sins, that he might redeem them from all iniquity; in renewing them in the spirit of their mind by the Holy Ghost, changing them into the image of God from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18); and in imputing unto them the matchless righteousness of Christ their Saviour, and so making them complete in him, by whom they have boldness of access unto God, and through whom they shall live and delight in the unsullied holiness of the Holy Three for ever. And the gospel is a sweet revelation of the holy purposes and transactions of the Triune Jehovah, in bringing about this glorious event.
Is God a just God? His justice shines in the gospel, in all its glorious hue; not in punishing the transgressor in his own person; no, beloved; but in his inflicting all his wrath, due to the elect, upon Christ their Surety, a Surety of his own providing, and in the open justification of all his chosen through the finished work of this divine Saviour. (Rom 8:1-2, 33-34) All the displays of his just wrath upon devils and damned spirits can never give full satisfaction to his righteous law; and, therefore, his justice can never shine so conspicuously bright in the condemnation of the ungodly, as it does in the redemption of the church. Once, the commandment went forth, “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the Man that is my fellow, saith the Lord.” (Zech 13:7) As if determined to magnify his justice in its most infinite glory, in exacting to the uttermost at the hands of the Surety, he commanded the sword to awake. As though he had said, “Every stroke of justice that has ever been felt by mine enemies has been but a sleepy stroke compared with what the Head of the church shall feel. Here shall the sword enter in all its infinite majesty, and shall receive a complete satisfaction too.” So that justice, having awoke, unsheathed its sword, made its demand, arrested the Surety, executed its power, and received an infinite satisfaction at the hands of Christ for all its claims, (which, as before said, devils and damned spirits can never give,) shines forth in all its immortal glory in openly declaring the free justification of all the elect. The sinner that believes in Jesus is saved; justice sweetly harmonizes with mercy in his salvation; Jehovah resteth upon his holy throne unsullied in glory, and justice and judgment are the habitation or pillars of the throne of this just God and Saviour. We can see but little into the evil of sin and God’s just indignation against it, till we are brought, by faith, to behold this awful scene. Here sin appears in its deepest colours, and holiness and justice in their brightest glory. So that, the blessed gospel is a transcript of the justice of God.
Are love and mercy perfections of Deity? Where can we look for a transcript or a bright display thereof, if the gospel does not contain it? But the gospel does contain it, for “God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by grace are ye saved.” (Eph 2:4-5) We might show that the Father’s love appears in choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world, in providing for us such a divine Saviour, and in freely giving him up for us all, and with him freely giving us all things; for “it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” We might also show that the love of Christ appears in his undertaking such an important charge, in becoming incarnate, in standing in our law- place, and in suffering so freely all the vengeance of heaven due unto us; in a word, in what he is unto us and has done for us. We might also show that the Spirit’s love appears in his quickening our dead souls, taking the things which are Christ’s and showing them unto us, and in finishing the work he begins, and so glorifying Christ, in bringing us, through evil and good report, to his own immortal glory. Yea, we might also show, that the love of the Eternal Three, as one Jehovah, is everlastingly the same; for his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, and he rests in his love: but here is a fathomless ocean of infinite delights. Suffice it to say, that the gospel is a sweet display of the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of God. (Eph 3:18)
Is faithfulness a divine perfection? Does not the faithfulness of Jehovah appear in the gospel? “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” Well might the Psalmist say, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever; with my mouth will 1 make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever; thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.” (Ps 89:1-2) But if there be any mutability in the mercy and faithfulness of God, this song was the effect of a mistaken and disordered mind: but the faithfulness of God is established, and the gospel is a divine transcript thereof, and proves that God is faithful to his promise, to his Son, and to his saints; for though we believe not, he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself. Hence, the Father confirms the song of the Psalmist, in language pregnant with consolation: “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David (Christ) my servant, Thy seed (the heirs of promise) will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations.” (verses 3 and 4) And this truth is confirmed again and again in the word of the gospel: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” (Heb 6:17-18) Almost innumerable are the passages that might be produced to prove the faithfulness of God in the gospel.
Is wisdom a perfection of Deity? All nature combined falls infinitely short of giving such a bright display of the wisdom of God as is to be found in the gospel; for herein is the wisdom of God in a mystery. The whole plan of redemption proclaims its divine Author infinitely wise. Had it been proposed to angels to have found out a plan to have saved ruined man, they must have been for ever silent; but the wisdom of God has taken the advantage of sin, and, according to the purpose of his own grace, has raised his children to higher heights of glory than that from which they fell. In the gospel we are assured that all things work together for good to them that love God, and to them that are the called according to his purpose. But what, short of infinite wisdom, can bring this to pass? Nothing! for there is a vast number of these all things that are very far from being good in themselves, and I am sure that God’s people are too great fools to manage the business. If they are not sufficient of themselves to do anything as of themselves; nay, if they are so ignorant as not to know what they should pray for as they ought (2 Cor 3:5; Rom 8:26); they must be inadequate to the task of making all things work together for good. But, such is the wisdom of God as revealed in the gospel, that, in spite of earth and hell, he will see to it that all things, dark or light, rough or smooth, shall work together for good. And though Infidels and Pharisees may ridicule the idea, we still preach “Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor 1:23-25) But, however foolish Christ and his gospel is to the unregenerate man, it is wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to nought; but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory. (1 Cor 2:6-7) So that the gospel is a transcript of the wisdom of God.
So, also, the gospel is a transcript of the power of God. Hence, says Paul, ‘”I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” And again, “We preach Christ, the power of God.” Herein is the power of God displayed in forming a people for himself to show forth his praise. Never was such an infinite display of the power of God as in the salvation of the church. All the power of God revealed in the law of works will never make a man hate sin, nor bend to the sceptre of Christ; but when the gospel reaches the heart, it sweetly gains the affections of the sinner, and humbles him to the obedience of Christ; and through the power of God therein revealed, he can do all things, and overcome all difficulties and dangers: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13) Hence, says the Substance of the gospel, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt 28:18)
In a word, the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of Jehovah, shine forth in all their glory in the gospel; nor is there one perfection of his nature but what the gospel exhibits to view. Hence, when Jehovah is speaking of the coming of Christ, he says, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” (Is 40:5) So says Paul, “We all with open face beholding, as in a glass, (the gospel,) the glory of the Lord … But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them … 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 3:18; 4:3-6) If these scriptures, and others of the same nature, be true, there can be no part of the glory of God which does not shine in the gospel; so that the perfect will of God in Christ Jesus, as King in Zion, is the gospel; and under this law, and this only, are believers in Christ.
When Jesus, the sum and substance of the gospel, was found in the stable at Bethlehem, the heavenly host sang, “Glory to God;” and not only “Glory to God,” but, “Glory to God in the highest.” For through this incarnate mystery, they beheld more of God’s glory than they had ever seen before. As the poet justly observes,
“The holy angels never saw
So much of God before!”
Here the highest heights of God’s glory appear. Hear what Dr. Gill says upon this passage:
“‘Glory to God in the highest.’ Which, with the following words, are not to be considered as a wish that so it might be, but as an affirmation that so it was; for the glory of God is great in the salvation, peace, and reconciliation of his people by Jesus Christ, even the glory of all his perfections; of his wisdom and prudence in forming such a scheme; of his love, grace, and mercy, the glory of which is his main view, and is hereby answered; and of his holiness, which is hereby honoured; and of his justice, which is fully satisfied; and of his power in the accomplishment of it; and of his truth and faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant and oath, and all the promises and prophecies relating to it. Great glory from hence arises to God.” &c.
So says the Doctor, so says truth, and so say I. I therefore conclude that the gospel may, with the greatest propriety, be called the perfect law of liberty; and should any one be disposed to call it in question, they will have to show what perfection there is in the eternal God which does not shine in the gospel. Till it can be proved that the gospel is not a transcript of all the perfections of Deity, I shall feel myself obliged to consider the gospel the believer’s perfect rule of life.
We now proceed to the next general head.
 Arminians tell us that they shall never perish, if they prove faithful to the grace which God giveth them; but the promise is absolute and unconditional—”They shall never perish.” There is no such thing named as, if they do this, that, or the other. Besides, I should like to know what they mean by “faithfulness to grace;” for a more barefaced liar than their POPE John W—, never lived. Did mortal ever tell more glaring lies than he told of Toplady and MacGowan? It is impossible! (See MacGowan’s “Foundry Budget Opened.”) So that if John proved faithful to grace, 1 am at a loss to know who does not prove faithful. Do not think it strange that I call John their Pope, for 1 have received a letter from one of his preachers in this town, in which he says that John W— is to this moment, under God. the “Head” over thousands; so that the Wesleyans go beyond the Papists themselves, for the latter do set up anew Head when the old one is dead, but John still abides, and still keeps in his post, though he has been dead so many years!!! Indeed, for what I know, he suits it well; for there cannot be much discord between a dead head and dead members; and I am sure there is no man in the world who is an Arminian in his heart that is alive to God: for, the Word of God declares that God’s people shall know the truth, and if the Bible be true, Arminianism is a lie.
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist. John Hazelton wrote of him—
“[Gadsby’s] labours extended to well-nigh every part of the country, and who by his sermons, hymns, and other writings, exerted a wide spiritual influence, and his interest in the poor and needy in Lancashire and elsewhere rendered his public advocacy of their cause of great value. In him we have a man of eminent public spirit, as well as of originality and spiritual force…The first time he preached was in 1798, in an upper room in a yard at Bedworth, from the words, "Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." His Hymn Book, now so widely known, was first published in 1814, his desire being "to have a selection of hymns free from Arminianism and sound in the faith, that the Church might be edified and God glorified.” He removed to Manchester in 1805, and while over the Church there he travelled over 60,000 miles and preached nearly 12,000 sermons.”