David Black.

Sermons on important subjects online

. (page 12 of 23)
Online LibraryDavid BlackSermons on important subjects → online text (page 12 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a manner, as would, by just consequence,
furnish the slothful and unprofitable servant
with an excuse for his wickedness. Let us
not hold opinions derogatory from the honour
of the law of God, which we certainly do, if
we imagine that good works are in no respect
necessary to salvation. Though they are
neither a condition, nor a qualification for
our acceptance with God, they are necessa-
ry as an evidence of our faith in the gospel,
and a preparation for the enjoyment of fu-
ture happiness. Hence we are said to be
created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
zohich God hath before ordained that we
should xvalk in them ; and the apostle ex-
pressly declares, that without holiness^ n9
man shall see the Lord.


Whatever therefore has a tendency to re-
lax the oblioations to duty, must on that ac-
count be wrong, and contrary to the form of
sound words delivered in the scriptures. How
unjustly these consequences have been attri-.
buted to the doctrine of faith, as I have en-
deavoured to explain it under the former
head of discourse, it remains afterwards to
shew. At present, I go on to obsene,

2. That the law is made void in practice,
when, from mistaken views of gospel truths,
persons take encouragement to continue in
sin, or to be less punctual in discharging the
duties which they owe to God, or to their
fellow-creatures. This is a much more com-
mon way of making void the law than the
former. There is much practical Antino-
mianism in the world. The heart of man
is prone to sin, and every thing is laid hold
of, that can furnish a plausible pretext for a
conduct which conscience does not fail to
condemn. For this purpose the most pre-
cious doctrines are abused, and even the
grace of God itself is turned into licentious-
ness. Thus, the doctrine of salvation with-

S£lt. 8. BY FAITH, 233

out the works of the law, is frequently laid
bold of by men of corrupt minds, to whom
the commandments of God are grievous.
The notion of the saints' final perseverance
affords ah easy pillow for those to rest on,
who, though destitute of spiritual life, labour
to persuade themselves that they are Chri-
stians, because they once had some serious
thoughts, arid made some profession of re-
ligion. Ill like manner, in what the scrip-
tures teach concerning the total inability of
fallen man, there are many who think that
they find a sufficient plea to justify their ne-
gligence and sloth. Few indeed are so bold
as to maintain in words, that Christ hath
IDurchased for his people a release from obe-
diencCj in other words, a liberty of sinning ;
but, alas ! how many are there, who indulge
themselves in evil tempers, and evil habits^
from a presumptuous confidence of beina^
saved at last through the merits of Christ ;
riot considering, that tlie grace of God
which bringeth sdlvation, teacheth us to de-
ny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and
to live soberly, righteously, and godly in
the world.



Thus you see in what way the law of God is
made void, both in principle and in practice.
What countenance such principles, or such
practice have from the doctrine of faith,
when rightly imderstood and cordially be-
lieved, will appear from the

Third general head of discourse ; in
which I am to prove, that the law of God
is not made void, but established through

When we aflirm that the law is establish-
ed through faith, the meaning is, that the
gospel lays the surest foundation for obedi-
ence, and that the belief of the doctrines of
grace, proves the most powerful inducement
to the practice of universal holiness. The
truth of this assertion will appear, I hope,
from tlie following considerations :

1. The sacred authority and perpetual
obligation of the law of God are vindicated
in the strongest manner, by the doctrine of

SEE. 8. BY TAITH. 2o5

This doctrine teaches us, that when man
had become a transgressor of the divine law,
all hope of obtaining the favour of God and
eternal life, by any method of his own de-
vising, was taken away. The awful, but
righteous sentence of the law is. The soul
that sinneth, it shall die. It admits of no
abatement or composition, but insists on full
payment, to the utmost extent of its de-
mands. Perfect in its nature, it cannot pos-
sibly accommodate itself to the weakness
and corruption of man ; but requires an o-
bedience suitable to its nature, spiritual, u-
niversal, and perpetual. In these circum-
stances, the Son of God interposed to save
us. Lo ! I come, was his gracious language,
m the volume of the book it is uritten of
me, I delight to do thy will, my God ;
yea, thy law is within my heart. But for
what purpose did he come ? Not surely, as
some have imagined, to put us into a capacity
of becoming our own saviours. Not to pre-
scribe terms or conditions, on complying
with which, we might acquire a title to the
blessings of his salvation. This is an idea,
.not only unworthy of the great Redeem-



er, but derogatory likewise from the honour
of the divane law. It was for a nobler pur*
pose that the Son of God was manifested in
the flesh. He came to make complete re-
conciliation for iniquity, by bringing in an
everlasting righteousness. Nothing short
of a perfect righteousness can satisfy the
law of God ; and such a righteousness the
Son of God hath accomplished, by his obe-
dience unto death ; a righteousness every
way commensurate to the extensive de-
mands of the law, in which the piercing-
eye of divine justice itself can discover no
imperfection ; and, on account of M-hich,
lAithout any other consideration, God isjustf
in justifying the inigodbj who believe in
J e fills.

Such is the doctrine of faith ; and say,
my friends, can any thing give a nobler or
more honourable representation of the law of
Ood ? Does its perpetual obhgation, or its sa-
cred authority ever appear in so striking and
venerable a tight, as when viewed in connec-
tion M'ith the righteousness of God our Savi-
our ? This truly is a spectacle worthy the at-
tention of all the subjects of God's moral go-

«ER. 8. liY FAITH, ^37

yernment, being the highest possible proof
of" his unalterable regard to that rule whicU
he hath prescribed for the conduct of his in-
teliisient creatures.


What superficial views of the gospel, then,
must they entertain, who can once suppose
that the obedience of Christ, in the room and
stead of sinners, was ever meant to grant
them a release from personal obedience. How
strange a conclusion ! How absurd to think,
that the great God would have employed such
a wonderful method to assert the dignity and
authority of his law, only that his creatures
might have the liberty of transgressing it !
It is impossible that such impious thoughts
can seriously enter into the mind of that
man who properly understands, and firmly
believes the gospel of Christ. The more
confidently he relies on the righteousness of
God his Saviour, the more deeply must his
■mind be impressed with a sense of the au-
thority and obligation of the law. It was a
conviction of the purity of this law, that first
taught him the necessity of a better righte-
ousness than his own, and still, by the same


means, he is kept looking for themercy of our
Lord Jesus unto eternal life. He expects
no favour from God on account of any me-
rit of his own, not because obedience is less
pleasinji; to him than to others, but because
the commandments of his God appear to
him exceeding broad. He rejoices in the
finished work of the divine Redeemer, not
because it weakens the obhgations to duty,
but because, in this glorious scheme of mer-
cy, he perceives the character of God, and
the authority of his law most fully vindicat-
ed. He can truly say with the apostle, I
delight in the law of God after the in-
ward man ; and with the Psalmist, how
love I thy law I it is my meditation all the
day. How sweet are thy words unto my
iaste ! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.
Through thy precepts I get understand-
ing, therefore I hate every false way.

2. As the sacred authority and perpetual
obligation of the law of God are vindicated,
in the strongest manner, by the doctrine of
faith, so there are new obligations superadded
by the gospel, to enforce obedience.

SER. 8. BY FAITH. 239

To illustrate all these particularly, would
require more time than the limits of a single
discourse will allow. I shall only mention
a few of the most remarkable.

Firsts then, a conviction of its infinite
evil, must surely be allowed to be a power-
ful motive to depart from sin. But by what
means can this conviction be produced to
such a degree, as by a firm behef of the
doctrine of faith relating to the sufferings
and death of Christ ? Never did the world
behold such a display of the evil of sin as
in the sutTerings and death of the Son of
God. The dignity of his person, and the
greatness of his sufterings, are two circum-
stances which mark in stronger colours than
words can express, God's infinite abhorrence
of sin, and his determined invariable pur-
pose to punish it. If these things were
done in the green tree, what shall be done
in the dry ? If such were the sufferings of
the Son of God, when bearing only the pu-
nishment of imputed guilt, how dreadful the
condition of the ungodly sinner, when
brought into judgment for his personal



tmnsgressions ! Can any one imagine, tKat
the great God should hate sin so much, and
. find it necessary to punish it so severely, in
the person of the Surety, and yet connive at
the sins of those for whom the Surety suf-
fered ? The very nature of God forbids such
a thouo ht. Nor will the true believer e^er
indulge it. On the contrary, every view
which he takes of the method of salvation,
every act of trust and confidence in the
grace of his Redeemer, will increase his
hatred to sin, and excite him to fly from itc

Again, Just apprehensions of the holiness
of God, have always been found to produce
correspondent eft'ects on the characters of
the persons who entertain them. Now, the
doctrine of faith gives us the brightest dis-
play of this glorious attribute of the divine
nature. It teaches us, that before man
could be admitted to friendly intercourse
with his Make •, a sacrifice of no less value
than the death of God's dear Son, was in-
dispensably necessary. A mere nominal
professor of the faith of Christ may be little
affected with this truth- He may still en-

SER. 8. BY FAITH. 241

tertain low and unworthy apprehensions of
the majesty and hoUness of God. But it
will, it must be otherwise with the true be-
liever, who has seen the glory of God in
the face of Jesus Christ. He beholds in
the glass of the Redeemer's sufferings, such
a display of the divine holiness as power-
fully transforms him into the same image.
Taught by this discovery, he is more and
more convinced of the impossibihty of en-
joying the favour of God, while sin retains
its dominion in his soul. He looks for ac-
ceptance indeed on account of the righte-
ousness of another, but the very means
which procure this acceptance, point cut to
him, at the same time, the indispensable
necessity of real personal holiness, to quali-
fy him for the presence and enjoyment of
God. ' Who can stand before this holy

• Lord God,' will the true beUever say,
' after the astonishing proof which he hath

• given of his unalterable regard to holi-
' ness, in not sparing his own Son f How
' can I expect to be admitted into his hea-
' venly presence, without first recei^ ing the

• grace of his Holy Spirit, to sanctily this



' polluted soul of mine ? As soon may light
' and darkness dwell together, as God de-
* li2"ht in the soul that is not, in some mea-
" sure; made partaker of his holiness/

, But the motives which are chiefly insist-
ed upon in the New Testament, and which
the gospel in a peculiar manner inspires,
are love and gratitude. These two power-
ful principles in our nature, are allowed to
have great influence in the common affairs
of life ; and, certainly, they cannot have
less when excited by that grace which brings
.■Salvation to the soul. Now, where can we
lind such objects to awaken our love and
gratitude, as in the gospel of Jesus Christ.^
Here we behold the most amazino- instance
of love which it is possible to conceive ; an
instance of it so wonderful, that the sacred
writers themselves labour for expressions to
describe its greatness. Conceive to your-
selves a person delivered from some immi-
nent danger by the seasonable interposition
of a generous benefactor ; a danger too
which he clearly foresaw, but from which it
was utterly impossible for him to be delivered

vSEIi. 8. BY FAITH. 243

by any other means. This will but faintly
represent the circumstances of a convinced
awakened sinner, who has obtained com-
fortino; discoveries of the salvation of Christ.
Once he thought himself beyond the possi-
bility of a recovery. He stood, as it were,
on the very brink of destruction. He saw
the bottomless pit ready to receive him,
and his heart meditated nothing but terror.
In these circumstances the joyful tidings of
the gospel were brought to his mind. He
beheld the Almighty Father seated on a
throne of grace, and heard him, as he ne-
never did before, issuing out from the ex-
cellent glory this gracious command, De//-
ver from going down into the pit^ for I
have found a ransom.

What then must be the sentiments of his
heart on obtaining such a seasonable deli-
verance ? Will he sin because so much grace
hath abounded ? Rather, will not his heart
burn within him, with godly sorrow for his
past transgressions, and with the most sincere
and hearty resolutions of future obedience.
Such, it is evident, is the natural effect of


gratitude ; and such, we find, was its influ-
ence on the apostles and first behevers of
the gospel. It was this principle that in-
spired them with that undaunted resolution
and fortitude, which they displayed in their
peculiarly trying circumstances. This made
pain easy, and labour pleasant. This gave
fervour to their zeal, strength to their reso-
lution, vigour and constancy to every part
of their conduct. For the love of Christ
constrained them. And why is the obedi-
ence of so many professmg Christians in the
present clay so unlike that of the apostle*
and first believers ; so superficial, so une-
(|ual, so inconstant ? Why, but because
the doctrine of free grace is so little under-
stood, so little believed, so little felt ni its
genuine influence. ' Let the love of Jesus
' but reign in my heart ; let it be ever pre-
' sent to my mind ; let my thoughts dwell
' upon it, till my soul is warmed with its ge-
' nuine influence. This will serve instead of
' ten thousand arguments to persuade me to
' obedience. It will make my soul swift like
' the chariots of Aminadib. It will animate
* me. to the discharge of every duty ; render

SEIl. 8. BY FAITH. 245

' me patient under suffering, temperate in
' prosperity, and chearful in adversity. This
' will raise me above the smiles and frowns

* of tlie world ; reconcile me to every change
' of condition ; and make the prospect of dis-

* solution itself pleasant and delightful.'

3. The law is established through faith,
because obedience is one of the principal
ends for which we are called to believe m
the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Faith and obedience stand related to each
other as cause and effect. The latter is
produced by the former. We do not be-
come intitled to the blessings of salvation,
on account of any hohness of which we are
capable ; but, on the contrarj^, every mea-
sure or deoree of holiness is the effiact of
believing the gospel. It is a part, and an
essential part of the salvation itself, which
Christ hath wrought out for his people.
And, accordingly, we are said to piirifi/ our
souls bij obei/iri^ the, truth, and to be cho-
sen unto salvation, through sanciification
of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. In


this order, the connection betwixt faith and
holiness is uniformly represented in the sa-
cred writings. Good works are one end of
our election. God hatJi chosen us in Christ
before the foundation of the world, that
we should be holy, and without blame, be-
fore him in love. They are one end and
design of our redemption by Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us, that he inight re-
deem us from all iniquity, and purify unto
himself a peculiar people, zealous of good
works. They are the end of our calling,
for God hath called us unto holiness. They
are the indispensable evidence, as well a-^
the certain fruits of a living faith. Faith
without works is dead, and by works is faith
made perfect. This is a faithful saying,
and these things I will that tJiou affirm con-
stantly, that they which have believed in
God might be careful to maintain good,
works : for these things are good and pro-
fitable unto men. Finally, good works, as
was before observed, are necessary to pre-
pare us for the enjoyment of heaven ; for
zvithout holiness no man shall sec the Lord,

SEii. 8. BY lAlTH. 247

t : '

Thus the law is estabhshed throuoh faith.
The doctrine of faith is the foundation of o-
bedience. The behef of the truth is the
animating piinciple of hohness. Nor is it a
matter of indifference whether or not this
order be preserved, provided the connection
betwixt faith and hohness be in any sense
admitted. The order is clearly established
by infinite Avisdom. Reverse or confound
it, and immediately you convert the gospel
into a self-righteous scheme. You may
continue after this to use the w^ords grace,
faith, and gospel, but you employ them in
another sense than that in which the apos-
tles understood them ; and, in proportion
to the degree in which this order is pervert-
ed, your minds are corrupted from the sim-
plicity that is in Christ. "

In the last place, The law is establish-
ed throuoh faith, because the doctrine of
faith furnishes the believer with the most
powerful encouragements, in his endeavours
to attain holiness.

There are two considerations, which serve
5JS mighty encouragements to the practice


of our duty. The one is the promise of as-
sistance, and the other the hope of accep-
tance with God. For want of these, many
who seem to begin well, soon decline
from the path of duty, and turn back to
the world. Some labour a while in their
own strength, to attain conformity to the
will of God ; but, on the appearance of diffi-
culties, they give over the vain attCDpt, and
their strength and their hopes perish toge-
ther. Others, after going about to establish a
jrighteousness of their own, not submitting
to the righteousness of God, on perceiving
the imperfection attending their best servi-
ces, despair of success ; suffer themselves to
be again entangkdin the pollutions of the
world, and overcome ; and the latter end
is worse with them than the beginning.

Now, the doctrine of faith, or, which is
the same thing, the doctrine of grace, is ad-
mirably fitted to preserve the soul, from
sinking into that Ntatc of despondency which
unfits for every vigorous exertion. It ani-
mates the Christian wilh the promise of all
necessary assistance in the performance of

SER. 8. BY FAITH. 249

his duty. Fea?- not, for I am with thee,
is the gracious language ot' God to eve-
ry one of his people ; he not dismayed, for
I am thy God. I zcill strengthen thee,
yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold
thee with the right hand of my righteous^
ness. Hast thou not known, hast thou not
heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earthy faint-
eth not, neither is z^eary ; there is no search-
ing of his understanding. lie givtth
power to the faint, and to tliem that have
no mi^ht he increaseth stremxth. Even the
youths shall faint and be weary, and the
young men shall utterly fall : but they that
wait upon the Lord shall renezv their
strength ; they shall mount np with wings
as eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
and they shall walk and not faint. With
what chearfulness and alacrity may the be-
liever work out his own salvation, when he
knows that it is God which worketh in him
both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

- Again — The hope of acceptance is ano-
ther circumstance which serves as a mi:h^



ty encouragement to the performance of
our duty. This hope, as you huve heard,
re-^ts entirely on the merits of the Savjour,
and therefore, is not fluctuating and uncer-
tain, hke the hope which is buiit on a-
ny other foundation. Hence, the obedience
which flows from it, is not the constrained
submission of a slave, but the liberal and
ingenuous service of a child, who is bound
by the cords of love. At the same time,
this hope of final acceptance is perfect-
ly compatible with a reverential fear of
God, and a godly jealousy over our-
selves. The faith of the gospel, while it in-
spires a joyful hope, has a tendency like-
wise to beget a humble, tender, and watch-
ful spirit. If the confirmed and estabhsh-
ed believer has more holy boldness, he has
also less self-confidence. If he is surer than
others of deliverance from hell, he is like-
wise more sensible that he deserved it. If
he is less apt to be shaken in faith, he is
more apt to be affected by the solemn
warnings of scripture, by the frowns of his
God, and by the calamities of his fellow-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryDavid BlackSermons on important subjects → online text (page 12 of 23)