Ralph Wardlaw.

Discourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy online

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The means by which we are brought to the possession
of tlic blessings of salvation stamp a value on tliese bless-
ings themselves. And who, let me now ask, will feel the
obligation of gratitude for these blessings most powerful-
ly? — Certainly, in the first ])lace, the man who accounts
himself most unworthy of them. He who fancies that he
has the ground of his acceptance and salvation in himself
can never feel the same measure of grateful love, as he
does, who, viewing himself as a lost creature, utterly
helpless and hopeless ; looks for eternal life as *^ the ^^ift
of God through Jesus Christ our Lord,'' — bestowed " not
for works of righteousness which he hath done, but ac-
cording to God's mercy ;" who feels and acknowledges
himself ^* a debtor to mercy alone,'' — to free, unconditional
mercy. A sense of unworthiness, and a sense of obliga-
tion, must always be commensurate with each otiier.
Unless "we are sensible that God would be just in con-
demning us, we cannot be thankful for his pardoning us.
The criminal who is not satisfied that he deserves to die,
will feel but a slight measure of obligation to him who
grants him his life. In the second jjlace, he will be most
thankful, who has on his mind the strongest impression of
the dijficidties that lay in the icayofhis salvation. Such,
for example, as these : — the enormity of sin ; — how is it
possible that the God of infinite purity can pass it by ? —
the claims of justice ; — how can these be made consistent
with the pleadings of mercy ? — the demands of truth ; —
how can God fulfil his threatenings agaiust sin, and yet
the sinner escape ? — the good of the creation ; — how shall
guilty creatures be pardoned, — how shall rebels be restor-
ed to favour, and to the privileges of loyal subjects, and
yet no encouragement be given to sin, — no temptation
be held out to rebellion ? He who perceives these diffi-
culties, in their true nature and magnitude, and who sees
how the infinite wisdom of God has combined with his


infinite goodness, effectually to solve them, by the atone-
ment anil mediation of Jesus Christ, must surely feel a
degree of gratitude, such as can never be experienced by
him who reckons the whole scheme a useless incumbrance.
If grateful love, then, be a motive to cheerful and active
obedience, judge ye where the power of this moral spring
is likely to be strongest, and most efficient. Jesus Christ
has himself decided this point. " Simon,'' said he, in
answer to the injurious surmises of the Pharisee, in whose
house he received the expressions of affectionate penitence
from the woman who had been a sinner, " Simon, I have
somewhat to say unto thee. And he said. Master, say on.
A certain creditor had two debtors : the one owed five
hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had
nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Teil me,
therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon an-
swered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave
most. And he said unto him, thou hast rightly judged.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest
thou this woman ? I entered into thy house, — thou gavest
me no water for my feet : but she hath washed my feet
with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss : but this woman, since the time
I came in, hath not ceased to kiss ray feet. My head witli
oil thou didst not anoint : but this woman hath anointed
my feet with ointment. Wherefore, I say unto thee, her
sins which are many are forgiven ; for she loved much :
but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. ''*-
That doctrine, then, which presents the most impressive
and heart-abasing view of the evil nature of our sins, of
their number and aggravations, and of the riches of Di-
vine grace in their forgiveness, must, on the principle
which is thus laid down, be the doctrine that is most of

* Luke vii. 40 — if.


all fitted to inspire the heart with the fervour of grateful
love to the God of salviition.

But all this, some may he disposed to say, is selfish.
No, my friends. The love to God, of which I now speak,
is, indeed, associated^ in its exercise, witii the exercise of
self-love. And how can it be otiierwise ? Self-love is an
essential principle in the constitution of our nature : and
we are no where taught, in the Scriptures, to cultivate love
to God, as if it were the love of mere abstract excellence ;
but as the love of a being who bears a relation, the high-
est, the most sacred, the most interesting of all relations,
to ourselves ; a relation, pregnant with the most impor-
tant results, either of evil or of good. " We love him,
because he first loved us." His love to us, however, is
love in union icith holiness ; and complacent delight in
this holiness is implied in that love w ith which we return
it. While we love him for ichat he hath done, we love
him also /or what he is. We love him for his whole char^

This love, it should be again recollected, is associated,
inseparably, with " godly fear.*' From a natural wish to
find the character of God as favoural)le as possible to our-
selves, we are in danger of lendiug a ready ear to the re-
presentations of those w ho speak of him as all mercy, all
compassion ; and of overlooking certain other views of
his character which are also given in tlie Scriptures. Not
that too much is said, or can be said, of his mercy and
compassion : for no terms in liumaii language can exceed,
or can even express, that which is infinite : but that too
little is said of such of his perfections as are of an awful
and alarming nature. " God is jealous, and Jehovah re-
vengeth : Jehovah revengeth and is furious : Jehovah will
take vengeance on his enemies ; and he reserveth wrath
for his adversaries. Who can stand before his indigna-
tion ? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger ?"


" The wrath of God is revealed from heaven^ against all
unrighteousness and ungodliness of men:" ^^ Even our
God is a consuming fire.'** " It is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God,"t

What do such expressions mean ? That the infinite
God is agitated by the emotions of turbulent passion?
No. But they certainly express, they express strongly,
they express in the only way, perhaps, in which the solemn
truth could have been impressed on our minds, the judicial
displeasure of God against sin : — and the design of them
all is to deepen in our hearts the reverential fear of " that
glorious and fearful JSTame, the Lord our God.^^X The
admonition implied in them all is, " Fear not them who
kill the body, and after tliat have no more that they can
do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : fear
him, who, after he hath killed, hath power to east into
hell. Yea, 1 say unto you, fear him.'^^

Now the meaning, the awful meaning of all such ex-
pressions, is, as it were, concentrated in the cross of
Christ. They were all repeated, in their full emphasis,
by the voice of God himself, when Jesus " bowed his

* Kxi yxp ©fo$ tifiav tv^ xarayotAvcrxflv.— In our translation the Kitt is
entirely left out : " For our God is a consuming fire :" and many people
seem afraid to quote the words, except in the form of a paraphrase —
" a God out of Christ is a consuming fire to the workers of iniquity."
This is a truth ; but not the truth the apostle intended to express.
The meaning seems to be, that the God of the gospel is the same with
the God of the law : — that his character has undergone no change ;
that he is stilly as of old, " a consuming fire, even a jealous God ;"
that his mercy in the gospel is in perfect consistency with his avenging
jealousy of his glory : — and that, therefore, while we serve him " ac-
ceptably^^ through Christ, we must, at the same time, serve him
*' with reverence and godly fear ;" — ^" for even our God," (such seems
to be the effect of the x«0 "is a consuming fire."

t Nahum i. 3, 6. Rom. i. 18. Heb.xii. 39. x. 31.

|: Deut. xxviii. 5S. ^ Luke xii. 4, 5,



head, and gave up the ghost/' For never was tliere so
alarming a display made of God's abhorrence of sin, and
of his avenging jealousy of his glory. JJut, let us not for-
get the point to which all these observations tend. The
display of holy indignation was made by the God of love :
and the display of love, equally conspicuous in the same
event, was made by the God of holiness. And by the.
contemplation of this union of holiness and grace, of wrath
against sin, and mercy to the sinner, there is produced, in
our Jiearts, a corresponding union of fear and love ; — a
union of principles, which constitutes the foundation of all
that is excellent in Christian character. In the whole
conduct of the servant of Christ, in all its departments, the
influence of this union appears. In his approaciies to the
throne of grace, fear produces an humble reverence of ad-
dress, while love dictates the ardent expressions of filial
confidence and delight : — in the general course of his obe-
dience, fear makes him jealous of himself, with a trem-
bling diffidence and caution : while love makes his heart
and his countenance cheerful, his feet swift, and liis hands
active and vigorous, in the service of his Master : — his
sorrow for sin is at once the solemn dread of Divine dis-
pleasure, and tlie meltings of love to an ofl'cnded Fatljcr ;
the view of the cross, as a display of wrath and of mercy,
inspiring both the one and the other : — fear makes him
shun all that is displeasing to God : love incites him to
pursue all that he approves : — in ailliction, fear fills him
with self-suspicion, and leads him to self-examination ;
yet, while he trembles at the rod, and is full of heaviness^,
love inspires complacent and cheerful resignation to the
wise and gracious appointments, as he believes them to
be, of his heavenly Father : — in prosperity, fear siiuns.
with anxious apj)rehension, the abuse of the bounties of
heaven ; and love, with a full and glowing heart, devotes
all to the glory of the Giver : — throughout life, fear guides.


and love animates him : — in death, fear makes him serious,
and love triumphant.

IV. Let me now direct your attention to another prin-
ciple of Christian obedience, to which there is frequent
reference in the New Testament, — I mean, love to
Christ ; and consider, for a little, the influence of the
doctrine I have been endeavouring to defend, in producing
and maintainina; it.

That this love is an essential part of the Cliristian char-
acter, is evident, as I had occasion to mention in the se-
cond of these Discourses, from such passages of Scripture
as these : " He that loveth father or mother more than mc,
is not worthy of me ; and he that loveth son or daughter
more than me, is not worthy of me :" — " Grace be with all
them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity :" — '^ If
any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathe-
ma, maranatha.''* That it is one of the main springsof a ho-
ly life, is also clear from the language both of Christ and his
apostles ; and, I might add, from i\m experience of all his
true disciples : " If ye love me, keep my commandments.
He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it
is that loveth me. If a man love me, he will keep my
words : he that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings :''
— " The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus
judge,, that if one died for all, then all died : and that he
died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live
unto themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose
again, "f

On this subject, my brethren, we have been insidiously
represented, as putting love to Christ in the room, as it
were, of love to God ; as withholding from the Father, in
proportion as we give to the Son ; nay, as even confining
our gratitude to the Son, as one who has interposed to

* Matth. X. 37. Eph. vi. 24. 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
t John xiv. 15, 21—3*. 2 Cor, v. 14, 15.


Stave US from the vindictive fury of the Father, to whom,
therefore, it is more than insinuated, we can have no great
measure of good Mill.* After having said so much on
the character of God in last discourse, and on love to God
in this, 1 need Iiardly, I presume, assert the groundless-
ness and falsehood of such a charge. 1 may, however,
appeal to experience. Is it, then, indeed so, ye lovers of
the Lord Jesus ? Is it indeed so, in your experience, that
your love to the father diminishes as your love to the Son
increases ? Do you not rather find, that in the affections
of your hearts, as well as in their essence, " Christ and
the Father are one ? — that love to the one keeps pace with
love to the other? Are you not disposed to say, with the
very same fervour of grateful affection, " Thanks be unto
God for his unspeakable gift !" — " blessed be the Lord
God of Israel, because he hath visited and redeemed his

* " The Father and the Sou are commonly represented as distinct
beings, of dift'ercnt, and even opposite characters ; the Father, stem,
severe, and inflexible ; the Son all gentleness and compassion ; sub-
mitting to bear his Fathers Mrath, and to appease his anger, by sub-
stituting liimself in the stead of the sinner. It is impossible to regard
these two characters with equal aftecliou ; and the love of the imagi-
nary Christ robs the living and (rue God of his honour and lioraage."
Belsham's Review of Wilberforce, pages 126, 127. — " the imag-
inary person, to whom they ascribe the attributes of Divinity, and
who is, to such a degree, tlie rival of the true and living God in their
aftectious." Ibid page 128. — '* I must also observe, that, as the God
of this system is a Being of such stern severity, and, indeed, maligni-
ty, it is natural for those, who receive it, willingly to imagine the ex-
istence of a second person, who, being invested with all the amiable
attributes of Deity, and having also voluntarily submitted, in an in-
carnate form, to bear the wrath of God for the benefit of believers, be-
comes really the object of religious complacency, gratitude, and confi-
dence, and occupies tliat place in the mind, which properly belongs to
the one living and true God." Ibid page 167. — The gross injustice
and falsehood of such representations, will be perceived at once, by
every candid and attentive reader of this and the preceding Discourse ;
and will be felt by every one who has " tasted that the Lord is gra-


people !'' and, ** To him that loved us, and washed us
from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings
and priests unto God and his Father : to him be glory and
dominion forever and ever !" Is it not the delight of your
hearts to combine the praises of both — " Salvation to our
God that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb !"

" Glory be to Him who gave us,

Freely gave his Son to save us ;

Glory to the Son who came !"

It requires but the glance of a moment, to discern the
difference between the systems here. The obligation, in
the one case, is less than nothing, when compared with
that in the other. In the one case, we have 2ifelloic -crea-
ture, a fellow-man, a prophet, commissioned of God to
declare to us his truth and his will ; to confirm, by mira-
cles, the certainty of a future state ; to show us, by his
precepts, the paths of virtue : to set before us an example
of obedience ; to seal his testimony by his death ; and by
Ms own resurrection to assure us of the future resurrec-
tion of mankind from the grave. In the other case, (for
I cannot use more appropriate language than that of the
apostle, although it has already been more than once re-
ferred to) we have Him " who, being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God," — (or " to
be as God ;" not, however, in the way of mere resemblance,
but of equality, " to be on an equality with God")* — yet
made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the
form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ;
and, being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and
became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

*^ Who, being in the form of God," say our Unitarian
opponents, ^^ thought it not a prey to be as God,^' that is,
^^ Being in the form of God,^^ by tlje communication of

* See Note I.


Divine power and wisdom, " did not eagerly grasp at the
resemblance to God :^^ wliich seems to amount to no more
than this ; that, jmssesaing resemblance to God, he did not
eagerly grasp at that which he already possessed/ — But
apaFt from all criticism, (for tlie passage would require
more minute verbal discussion than befits tliis place) —
apart, I say, from all criticism, and withcmt going further
into the passage than tliis first clause ; I would seriously
ask those, wlio thus interpret it, if they really think it j^os-
sible that this can be its true meaning ? Is it then to be
the peculiar sul)ject of our admiration and astonishment ;
is it held up to us as the example w hich, of all exam-
ples, we are most sedulously to imitate ; that a creature,
a man, possessing, by Divine communication, a singular
portion of miraculous power and wisdom, did not pervert
these high endowments to his own selfish ends ! — that he
was not guilty of the most heaven-daring presumption and
impiety ! — that he absolutely did not so abuse the gifts
bestowed upon him, as to enter into a kind of competition
for glory with that Supreme Being from wliom he derived
his wisdom and his power ! — Is this, I ask, can this he —
the singular virtue, which we are called to admire and to
imitate, as the brightest model of excellence that ever was
exhibited on earth ? — And, what is more immediately to
our present purpose, where, according to this interpreta-
tion, is the amaziug condescension and benevolence of the
Saviour? Is this '^ the height and depth, and breadth and
length, of the love of Christ, which passeth Jcnowledge P^'
— Is there in this any thing so incomprehensible — so ut-
terly beyond the grasp of the most capacious mind ? — The
unnatural and vapid lameness of such an exposition is, of
itself, suflicient to condemn it. It unnerves and paralizes
the whole strength of the passage. It evaporates all its
spirit, and freezes every syllable of it to very ice.

But when, on the contrary, we consider Jesus as God


in our nature ; well may his love constrain us to ^^ live
not to ourselves, but to him who died for us and rose
ai^ain.'' In himself he is infinitely amiable ; and therefore
worthy of being supremely loved for what he is. And oh !
how shall we estimate, how shall we feel, how shall we
express, the extent of our obligation to him ? Whether
we consider his disinterestedness, our unworthiness, the
value of the blessings bestowed, or the expense at which
they are procured ; — we find, in every view, abundant
matter for songs of adoring praise. Here is, indeed, a
" length and breadth, a depth and height, passing all
knowledge :" — nor shall we ever, while in this world,
have any adequate conception of the nature and extent of
our obligations to this love. We shall not fully compre-
hend it, till we shall read the lesson in the light of
heaven ; — till we come to know, by immediate possession,
the joys of eternity. To the blessed hope of these immor-
tal joys, it is He that hath brought us. He hath redeemed
us from despair; — from the " fearful looking for of judg-
ment and of fiery indignation :" — he hath ^'^ bought us with
a price.^^ Let ^' the life, then, which we now live in the
flesh, be regulated by the faith of the Son of God, who
loved us, and gave himself for us."* Yes; ^' gave Himself
for Us P' And for what end ? " That he might redeem
us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar
people, zealous of good iaorks.^^-\ Let us then, my Chris-
tian brethren, be thus " zealous of good works." Never
let us oppose the purpose of such infinite love. As we
•• name the name of Christ," let us '^ depart from all ini-
quity."! Under the constant impression of his remem-
bered love, let his affecting and authoritative expostulation
touch our hearts, and permanently influence our whole
conduct — " Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the

* Gal. ii. 20. + Titus i\. 14. \ 3 Tim. ii. 19.


things which I say?"* Let us exemplify the poWer of
that sacred impulse which is given to all the affections of
the soul, to all the inward springs of action, by this one
great principle of love to the Divine Redeemer.

" Talk they of morals ? — O thou bleeding Love,
*' The grand morality is love of thee !'*

V. and VI. The two remaining particulars I shall
illustrate together, because they are very closely connected
with each other : — the relation into ichich the atonement
brings us to God ; and the view w^hich it presents of the
necessity of holiness.

We belong to God as creatures ; — creation necessarily
implying an indisputable right of property, on the part of
the Creator, in the creatures of his hand, as well as a
claim for their services, and for the devotion to himself of
all they are, and all they have. But the text refers to a
different ground of property, to a different claim on God's
part, and obligation, thence arising, on ours. It represents
us as his by purchase : — " Ye are not your own, for ye are
bought with a price ; therefore glorify God, in your body,
and in your spirit, which are God's.''

Through the Idood of Christ, as the price of our re-
demption, and through faith in the atonement made by
that l)lood, we become the property of God ; his peculiar
people ; his purchased possession. The design of the
blessed God in bringing us into this relation to himself,
ought never to be overlooked or forgotten : — " Ye are a
chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a pe-
culiar people, (a people acquired by purchase, as a pecu-
liar property), that ye should show forth the jiraises of Him
icho hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous
lighty^ I have already insisted on the obligation of
gratitude which this implies. But there is also, what
* Luke vi. 46. + 1 Pet. ii. 9.


may, without impropriety, be termed the oUigation of con-
sistency. We become his ; his in body and in spirit ; in
every member and power of the one, and in every faculty
and capacity of the other. AVe feel ourselves his : and
we ask, ''How ought they to live u'ho are thus hisP^'
The text answers the question : and the general idea of
consistency is marked, in a variety of points of view in the
apostolic writings. " Likewise reckon ye also yourselves,
to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin, therefore, reign in
your mortal bodies, that ye should obey it in the lusts
thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of
unrighteousness unto sin ; but yield yourselves unto God,
as those tliat are alive from the dead ; and your members
as instruments of righteousness unto God :" — " Ye are
bought with a price ; be not ye the servants of men :" —
'' We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of
you, (as a father doth his children) that ye would walk
worthy of God, who hath called us unto his kingdom and
glory :" — '' I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech
you, tliat ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye
are called :'' — " Ye Averc sometimes darkness, but now
are ye light in the Lord : walk as cliildren of light ; prov-
ing what is acceptable unto the Lord :" — " Ye are all the
children of light, and the children of the day : we are not of
the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as
do others ; but let us watch, and be sober :" — " If ye, then, "
be risen with Christ, seek those things, which are above,
where Clnist sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your
affections on things al)ove, not on things on tlic earth. For
ye are dead, and your life is hid with C^^hrist in God. When
Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then sliall ye also
appear with him in glory. Mortify, therefore, yourmem-



bers which are upon tlie earth.'-* In tliese and similar
ways, do the inspired writers exiiibit to the disciples their

Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 21 of 36)