For Christ is the End of the Law for Righteousness, to Every One That believes.
–Romans 10: 4.

THE capital argument of many who maintain that everyone who believeth not shall be saved, we have particularly considered. That salvation is not a matter of just debt, on account of the redemption of Christ, hath been shown, it is presumed, beyond dispute. This then being supposed a settled point, that God is at liberty to "have mercy on whom he will have mercy; "it remains that we must have recourse to the revelation of his sovereign will in his holy word, as the only way to determine, whether all, or only a part of mankind, shall be saved.

Nothing can be concluded from the universal benevolence of God, unless we knew, as he does, what would be for the greatest universal good. At first thought it may perhaps be imagined, that if it be only consistent with justice for God to give grace and salvation to all men, his infinite goodness must necessarily incline him to save all. But it ought to be remembered, that the operations of infinite goodness are ever under the direction of infinite wisdom. God will give eternal life to every rebel creature, however deserving of eternal death, if it be best; otherwise he will not. Its being at his sovereign option whether to do a thing or not, by no means make it certain what he will think proper to do. He was no more obliged in justice to permit any sin or misery ever to take place, than he is now to permit some to be forever sinful and miserable. From his goodness and power, we should have been ready to conclude he would have prevented the former, as we now are that he will prevent the latter. "His thoughts are not our thoughts." "How unsearchable are his judgments," says the apostle, "and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?" "Were our understanding infinite, we might be able to judge, with great certainty, what he will think proper to do, on all occasions: but this not being quite the case, all conjectures respecting his determination, from what appears most desirable to us, must be very precarious. From his perfections we may be certain, in general, that he will ever do that which is wisest and best: but what is wisest and best, on the large scale of his universal administration, he alone can be supposed a competent judge.

Not leaning, then, to our own understanding, in a matter so evidently too high for us, let us, with unbiased minds, attend to revelation as our only guide on the important question, Who of fallen creatures shall be saved? Whether it seem good in the sight of God, to save mankind universally, without any conditions; or with certain limitations, and on certain terms. This question is so abundantly resolved in the inspired Scriptures, that to quote all the plain proofs that only particular characters in this world shall have any part or lot in the salvation of the next, would be to quote, as it were, the whole Bible. In the text now chosen, there is evidently implied a restriction of deliverance from the law to believers in the gospel; and in discoursing upon the words, among other things, occasion will naturally be given to adduce some part of the abundant Scripture proof, limited in opposition to universal salvation.

The apostle having spoken, in the preceding chapter, of the rejection of the Jews for their unbelief, he begins this with expressing his sincere concern for them, and his most devout wishes that they might be recovered from their delusion, and not be lost. Ver. 1; "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." However opposed any may be to us, we ought to feel entirely friendly towards them–to wish them no ill, but the greatest possible good. We ought also to entertain a charitable opinion concerning them, as far as the nature of the case will any way fairly admit. Such was the apostle’s charity in regard to his deluded countrymen. He had no doubt that many of them acted conscientiously in their zealous opposition to the gospel, really believing it to be subversive of the divine law, and a system not according to godliness. He was once of the same way of thinking, as he confessed before king Agrippa. "I verily thought with myself," says he, "that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." From his own experience, therefore, as well as from much personal acquaintance, he could testify for them that their way was right in their own eyes, though really very erroneous and wrong. Ver. 2; "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. He goes on to take notice whence their prejudices against the Christian revelation originated; namely, from wrong ideas of God. From not understanding his infinite and inflexible justice, the high demands of his holy law, and the absolute perfection required in order to legal justification in his sight. Ver. 3; "For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." Then in the text he observes, that the cause of righteousness, for which the Pharisees were so full of anxiety, was in safe hands. That effectual care had been taken that the law should sustain no dishonor, but that the spirit of it should be supported, and its ultimate design be fully obtained. "For," says he, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth." For the illustration of what is here asserted I propose,

I. To show, in general, how Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, and

II. In what respects he is so, in a particular manner, to believers in him.

I. shall endeavor to show, in general, how Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.

He was the end of the ceremonial law of the Jews, as that was wholly typical of him, and was abolished by his death. But I cannot think the apostle here speaks merely, if at all, of the ceremonial law. That he has reference to the eternal law of righteousness, seems intimated by the manner of expression in the text; and it is evident from the words immediately following. Ver. 5; "For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them." The ceremonial law was never able to give life to those who trusted in the observance of it, however scrupulous and exact. It will therefore be incumbent on me to point out a sense, in which Christ is the end of the universal law of perfect righteousness; or of that law by the obedience of which innocent man might have obtained eternal life. He is not the end of this law in every sense which the carnal mind would wish, nor in several senses which many have supposed. More particularly,

1. It is certain Christ is not so the end of the moral law, that it is no longer obligatory on mankind, as a rule of duty. That our Savior had no such design as this, and that no such thing was possible, he was careful to inform the world in his first public discourse,–his sermon on the mount. "Think not," says he, "that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Nor did he come to fulfill this holy law so as to make it lawful for us to live in the violation of it. We do not, surely, cease to be in duty bound to love God or our neighbor, because Christ hath loved both, as much as they deserve. It is not become right for us to practise all iniquity, because he hath fulfilled all righteousness. By his having been perfectly obedient in our stead, we are not freed from all the obligation we should have been under to obey the commands of our Maker; nor from any part of it. We have as much duty which we ought to do, as if he had done nothing. He came to "save his people from their sins," not from their duty.

2. Christ hath not so saved his people from their sins, that they cease to have any guilt, or desert of punishment. As our obligation to obey is not removed by his obedience, so neither is our criminality when we transgress, taken away by his sufferings. We are not to conceive God sees nothing amiss in us, and is not at all displeased with us, do what we will, because the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses from all sin. The eyes of the Omniscient are not so dazzled but that he can see our ways, and our hearts, as they truly are; nor is the nature of things so altered by the atonement, that iniquity is become really blameless, and undeserving of divine wrath. I add once more on the negative side,

3. Christ is not so the end of the law, but that personal righteousness is still necessary in order to eternal life. Not only is perfect obedience as much our duty as ever, and all neglect or transgression as great an evil as ever; but sincere conformity in heart and life to the moral law, is so required on the gospel plan, that without it we cannot be saved. Of this we are abundantly assured. "Repent and be converted," says the apostle Peter, "that your sins may be blotted out. Follow peace with all men," says the apostle Paul, "and holiness, without which no man shall sec the Lord." "Verily, verily," says our Savior, "I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. And again, "I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." To the same purpose, having explained the moral law in a much stricter sense than the most rigid of the Jewish doctors, he concludes with saying, "Whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand."

But in what sense, then, it will be asked, is Christ the end of the law for righteousness? I answer. He is the end of the law as a covenant of life; or as the term of justification or condemnation. That is, the end for which probationary obedience was required of man, in order to his confirmation, is answered by the obedience of Christ; and the end for which death was threatened in case of any disobedience, is answered by the sufferings and death of Christ.

According to the original constitution, perfect obedience, through a certain space of trial, was made necessary in order to the justification of life. There was some important end proposed by this, most certainly; otherwise the benevolent Creator would have confirmed our first parents, with all their posterity, in immortal happiness, without the hazard of a previous probation. The end which would have been answered by man’s trial, had he persevered in innocence, may easily be conceived. Virtue would have been encouraged and had in eternal honor; and God, by crowning it with an eternal weight of glory, would have illustriously manifested his infinite love of righteousness. When man had sinned, he must, according to law, have been punished with everlasting destruction. Here again some good end, undoubtedly, was in view. God delights not in the death of the wicked. The misery of his creatures, however justly merited, cannot be an ultimate object to a Being whose name, and whose nature is love. The end of the awful threatening and curse of the law, we are to suppose, was discountenancing disobedience, and giving an eternal manifestation of the glorious character of God, as one who infinitely hates all iniquity. Now, by the vicarious obedience and sufferings of his own incarnate Son, the end of the law, in each of these views, is answered in the fullest manner.

The obedience of our Savior answers every purpose, in regard to all who belong to him, which would have been obtained by the sinless obedience of the first federal head of mankind. Christ was given for a covenant of the people. He was constituted a public representative, as much as Adam was; and might, by his own consent, as justly be so constituted. In this capacity he was "made under the law;" and, "as it behooved him, fulfilled all righteousness." He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." It was his "meat to do the will of him that sent him, and finish his work." His obedience was tried to the uttermost. He had all the temptations arising from poverty and the most dependent outward circumstances. "The foxes," said he, "have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." He had the trial of cruel mockings, and of all the bitterest and most injurious reproaches which the malice of man could invent. "Consider him," says the apostle, "who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself." He encountered the grand adversary that had been too hard for our first parents, and under circumstances the most disadvantageous. He was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, that he might have the trial of his utmost efforts in that solitary situation, without a friend, without a second to afford him any aid. Here forty days he was without food; and, thus enfeebled and distressed with hunger, he was attacked by the old serpent, the prince of the power of the air, who had permission to try every artifice,–to carry him from pinnacle to mountain, and exhibit all those scenes to his senses, which he judged most likely to seduce him into sin. But this second man was found invincible, and easily vanished all temptations. Our Savior’s subjection was also tried by the last enemy,–an enemy which Adam, in all his probation, had he kept his innocence, never would have seen. He was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." In his agony, from the extremity of which we must conclude he had something far more dismaying in prospect than any other martyr ever endured, when he "kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me;" he added, "nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done."

Now by such obedience, of so divine a person; by his "patient continuance in well doing," amidst all possible provocations and temptations to the contrary, from earth and hell; by his perfect conformity and ready resignation to the holy will of his heavenly Father, through all the arduous work and agonizing conflicts to which he was called; an opportunity was given for the Supreme Governor of the world to encourage virtue, and to glorify himself as the lover and rewarder of righteousness, in the most illustrious manner possible. For here was an instance–a course of obedience and virtue the most tried, the most perfect, the most exalted, that ever was or could be exhibited, in the whole creation of God.

And no less fully answered was the end of the threatening and curse of the law, by our Savior’s sufferings. It was by the Father’s appointment, though by his own most free consent, that he was made a curse in the room of guilty men. He was "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” He was "delivered by the determinate counsel," as well as "fore-knowledge of God," when he was "taken, and by wicked hands crucified and slain." Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and people of Israel, did against him only what God’s hand and his counsels determined before to be done. The hand of the Supreme Judge of all the earth was particularly concerned in this surprising event. It was designed to be considered as an act of divine judgment, notwithstanding the wickedness of the instruments, and the innocence of the sufferer. For thus it was written: "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man, that is my fellow, says the Lord of Hosts: smite the Shepherd," &c.

Now by laying such amazing sufferings on his dearly beloved Son,–by its pleasing the Lord thus to bruise him, and put him to grief, the divine vindictive justice was more awfully, as well as more amiably manifested, than ever it could have been by the punishment of sinners themselves, to all eternity. It was more awfully manifested. The apostle, Romans 1: 17, 18, having spoken of the gospel as the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, assigns the following reason: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." His meaning I conceive is this; that there is a clearer discovery of the holiness and justice of God, to hate and punish all sin, in Christ crucified, than in any former revelation. And undoubtedly this is true. Not all the curses of the law, amidst the thunders and lightnings of mount Sinai,–nor even the execution of those curses in the unquenchable flames of hell, gave, or can ever give, equal evidence of the righteousness or wrath of God, as the amazing scenes exhibited in Gethsemane, and on mount Calvary. Nothing could ever make the law appear so steadfast, or afford such full ground of faith that every transgression shall receive a just recompense of reward, as the bloody sweat, the deserted exclamation, the expiring agonies, of our Divine Savior.

This exhibition of vindictive justice, it ought particularly to be observed, was finished and complete. In this way an end was made of sin; that is, of its adequate and threatened punishment. "We may naturally understand this as a principal thing implied in those memorable words of Christ, when he bowed his head and gave up the ghost, "It is finished." Had only the letter of the law taken place, never could the execution of divine justice been complete. The wrath to come would forever have remained. Nor could it ever have appeared by anything actually done, that God determined to inflict sufferings for sin, in any respect, absolutely infinite. The death of Christ is the only fact which ascertains this, or could ever ascertain it.

And as the awfulness, so the amiableness of vindictive justice, is in this way most gloriously evinced. That this attribute of the Supreme Being is at an infinite remove from malevolence, that he doth not punish from unkindness, or from any delight in tormenting, is what we are often taught, and what it is of great importance we should ever firmly believe. But in no instance is this so unquestionably manifest, as when the sufferings deserved by the iniquities of us all were laid on Christ. Had only rebel creatures, the personal enemies of God, suffered the dreadful effects of his righteous displeasure, it would not have been so clear, that in his fierce wrath there was nothing cruel, nothing akin to the sweetness of human revenge. But when the same sword is commanded to awake against the man that is his fellow, when his only begotten Son is the victim of his holy indignation, against the ungodliness and unrighteous ness of man, we must needs be convinced that want of benevolence can have no influence. Christ was certainly dear to the Father, infinitely dear, even when he forsook him, and laid such insupportable sorrows upon him. "He was the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;" and he had done nothing to offend him, but was then doing that which infinitely engaged his most endeared affection. Yet when, out of obedience to the Father’s will, and tenderest feelings for his injured honor, he had undertaken to be answerable for the offences of fallen man, not one drop of the necessary bitter cup was permitted to pass from him. "Judgment was laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet," in as rigorous and unrelenting a manner as if he had actually been the most odious criminal in all the universe. By this it appears, with the highest possible evidence, not only that there is no respect of persons with God, but also that his inflicting the severest pains and penalties for sin, argues no want of infinite tenderness towards the sufferers. That it is owing only to a just regard to his own glory, and the general good.

Thus is Christ the end, and more than the end, of the law for righteousness. The end of the probationary obedience required of man is more than answered by his obedience; and the end of the curse denounced on fallen man is more than answered by his being made a curse. We may now proceed,

II. To make some inquiry concerning the implied limitation in the text; or to consider why Christ is said to be the end of the law for righteousness, to everyone that believeth. We are not to suppose, from this, that there is any want of sufficiency in what our Savior hath done and suffered, to answer the original purposes of personal obedience and personal punishment in regard to all mankind, did they believe in him. Should all men come to the knowledge of the truth, and cordially embrace the gospel, they might be saved, and every end of the law be fully obtained. But still there are respects in which Christ is actually the end of the law to true believers only; that is, to those who know him, and receive him, and trust in him as their Savior. Particularly, First. Christ is, in a peculiar manner, the end of the law for righteousness to believers, as, in their view and apprehension, the divine justice is established by his sufferings, as much as if law had been literally executed. By the everlasting destruction of every transgressor, God would not have appeared more glorious in holiness, than he now does by the sacrifice of his own Son, in the eyes of every one that believes." God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness," says the apostle, "has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ." The glory of God’s justice undoubtedly, as well as the glory of his grace. But now to unbelievers, this glorious exhibition of the divine character is to no purpose. To them this light, if it shine at all, shines in darkness, and is not comprehended. To those who never heard the gospel, or hearing, understand it not, or do not believe it, this end of the law is not at all answered by it. Of old the preaching of Christ crucified was "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness." To none but them that were called, was "Christ the wisdom of God, and the power of God." The case is the same still. The atonement is "a stone of stumbling" to multitudes. They have various notions concerning the nature and design of it, but none which are at all to the purpose of establishing the divine law and government. Many are far from being convinced by the death of Christ, that God is holy, or that he is just. On the contrary, from his so loving the world, they are led to conceive he is not much offended with fallen men; and that, do what they will, there is no great danger of his wrath. From his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, through a Mediator, they are emboldened to go on in sin with hopes of impunity. None but those who rightly understand and believe the gospel, are persuaded that God will by no means clear the guilty, by the sufferings of their substitute, his well-beloved Son.

Secondly. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, m a peculiar manner, to everyone that believeth, as all true believers rely entirely on his righteousness for justification. They see, and are fully satisfied, that, as far as merit is necessary, there is enough in Christ to answer all intentions: that is, a perfect merit of congruity; which is all that ever was required, or was ever possible. They see it is as congruous, as fit, as honorable and glorious, for God to give eternal life to all who belong to Christ, in reward merely for his righteousness, as it would have been, thus to have rewarded the obedience of Adam; or even our own personal obedience, had we been perfect. They are also convinced that nothing short of sinless perfection can have any merit, even of congruity, in this great affair. That a character imperfectly good must merit condemnation, and can never entitle a person to justification before the tribunal of him, whose judgment is according to truth. Renouncing, therefore, all their own righteousnesses, as filthy rags, they rely alone on the righteousness of Christ for acceptance with God. Here they depend entirely, in point of merit, not only for initial, but for final justification. Thus did St. Paul himself, though formerly so strict a Pharisee, and afterwards so eminent a Christian. "God forbid," says he, "that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." And again, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, &c., that I may win Christ, and be found in him not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." These are the sentiments of every one that believeth; and they are the hearty sentiments of no one besides. Unbelievers, if they seek salvation at all, seek it as it were by the deeds of the law: they are ever "going about to establish their own righteousness. "If they admit a kind of preliminary conditional justification, without any deeds of the law, yet for final acceptance unto eternal life, they rely on personal merit; on works of righteousness done by themselves. Christ is "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," in the affair of justifying obedience, to none but true believers.

Thirdly. Christ is the end of the law, in a peculiar manner, to everyone that believes, as he produces in them personal righteousness. To make man holy in heart, and in all manner of conversation, was undoubtedly one ultimate end of the divine law. This Christ will fully effect in regard to all them that believe in him. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus," said the angel to Joseph, "for he shall save his people from their sins." "He gave himself for us," says the apostle, "that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." And again, "Christ 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, holy and without blemish." But in order to be of that church, or peculiar people, for which he hath undertaken this, we must receive him as our Savior; and such reception of him is implied in saving faith, according to the definition of the Evangelist. "As many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name." Those who believe to the saving of the soul, accept of Christ as the captain of their salvation, and he engages to conduct them to glory, making them more than conquerors over sin, and all the enemies of their souls. They consent to be his disciples, and he undertakes to make them perfect in every good work. He is of God made unto them sanctification, as well as wisdom, righteousness, and redemption. In him they have the most powerful motives to a "patient continuance in well doing, and to resist unto blood, striving against sin." "Beholding in a glass the glory of the Lord, they are changed into the same image, from glory to glory. Of his fullness they all receive, and grace for grace." He hath instituted all necessary means for the perfecting of the saints, and by the promised indwelling of his Holy Spirit, those means are made effectual. Eph. 1: 13; "In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise." Thus, to everyone that believeth, this end of the law, their personal righteousness, or sanctification, is absolutely secured. But this is by no means the case with respect to unbelievers. In regard to those who have not the faith of God’s elect, none of the foregoing things are true. Of them he is despised and rejected, or else altogether unknown. "When they see him, there is no beauty that they should desire him." His doctrine they do not love, his cross they cannot bear, his commandments are always grievous to them. "They break his bands asunder, and cast away his cords from them." They are dead in transgression and sin, and walk" according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which now works in the children of disobedience." Hence,

Fourthly. Christ is the end of the law to everyone that believeth, as believers, and they only, are delivered from the curse, and entitled to eternal life, through his atonement and righteousness. This I know is disputed. But how it can be disputed, by any who admit the authority of the inspired Scriptures, I am not able to conceive. All those texts which speak of our being justified by faith, plainly imply that believers only are in a state of justification. Nor can anything less be implied in what St. Paul says was the constant tenor of his preaching, publicly and in private,–"Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." Undoubtedly he testified what was the way for every man, and the only way for any man, to obtain pardon and eternal life. And unless faith be infallibly connected with salvation, and absolutely necessary in order to it, what can be the meaning of that apostolic answer to the all-important question, "What shall I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Unless unbelief will exclude from all part or lot in the salvation of the gospel, what can be meant by such solemn demands and assertions as the following? "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? 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 into them. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. Christ is become of none effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace." The meaning of the two last-mentioned texts plainly is, that those who expect justification by works, must stand or fall by the law of perfection; and that such dependence on any legal observance, as is inconsistent with trusting alone in the merits of Christ, cuts a person off from all interest in him, and from all benefit by the grace of the gospel.

But let us hear the great Teacher come from God,–the author of eternal salvation himself, on this important question. "Verily, verily," he says, "I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, might not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believes in him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. He that believes on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned."

It is needless to multiply Scripture proofs of that to which all the Scriptures bear witness. If we mean to build our system on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, or of Jesus Christ himself, the chief corner-stone, we must, I think, make it one of the first and most fixed articles of our creed, that true believers, and they only, shall be saved. On no point is the New Testament more full and explicit than on this. "What remains is by way of inference and application. From the view we have taken of the subject, we may learn,

1. That the gospel constitution, according to which a man is justified by, and not without, faith, is founded in the reason and fitness of things. If any will not be convinced of the fact that this is gospel, by the gospel itself, unless they can see the reason of it, a rational account of this matter may now easily be given. The three first particulars under the last head, are so many obvious and weighty reasons, why he that believes shall be saved, and he that believes not shall be damned.

It is reasonable and of importance that all men, by some means or other, should be made to know that God is a holy and righteous being; one who infinitely hates, and will certainly punish, sin. Believers are taught this by the gospel; unbelievers must learn it by the law. To those in whom a proper impression is made of the vindictive justice of God by the death of Christ, there is no necessity that he should show his wrath in their own eternal sufferings. To those who get no reverential idea of God, as a consuming fire, by Christ crucified, it is necessary that he should make himself known by terrible things in righteousness, personally inflicted. If men will not see, they must be made to feel. If the evangelical ministration of righteousness be hid, or will have no effect, the legal ministration of condemnation must have its course. If by God’s not sparing his own Son, sinners, instead of seeing his wrath revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, will be only led stupidly to conceive he is altogether such an one as themselves, some other measures must be used. He must reprove them, and set things in order before their eyes, in another manner. It may be necessary that he should tear them in pieces, and that there should be none to deliver.

It is reasonable and of importance that all who are saved, should be made sensible to whom the glory of their salvation belongs, and not be left vainly to arrogate it to themselves. For this, provision is made by the law of faith. Every one that believeth clearly sees his own utter unworthiness, and that all his salvation is owing to free grace, as the only moving cause, and to the righteousness of Christ, as the alone meritorious ground. On the contrary, as hath been observed, every one that believeth not, builds his hopes of the peculiar favor of God on personal character; on works of righteousness which he hath done, or expects to do; thus robbing Christ, as well as grace, of the praise so infinitely deserved. In a low degree indebted to our great Redeemer, some unbelievers will indeed acknowledge themselves. Thus far only, that, by his death, he hath procured an abatement of rigorous law–a reasonable abatement; so that now, notwithstanding our enfeebled circumstances occasioned by the fall, we may humbly hope for the gracious acceptance of heaven, it we only exert ourselves to the uttermost, and do the best we possibly can. This best they mean to endeavor to do, and doubt not God will be faithful and just to forgive unavoidable imperfections. They think already they have done more than others, and expect distinguishing mercy, since they have made themselves to differ. Now for God to justify those who view matters thus, would be giving up the whole controversy in favor of the carnal mind. It would be to justify sinners, just as they do themselves, on account of their moral depravity. It would be to concede to them that fallen creatures deserve pity, rather than blame, let them conduct how they will; and that really there is little grace, in all the great things done for their salvation. God cannot in justice to himself, or to his Son, be reconciled to sinners, while they are upon these terms; while they only want justice, and to be treated in character, and they are not concerned. Wisdom, righteousness, grace–every divine perfection requires, either that these imaginations of men should be cast down, or else that they should be treated in character, and have ample justice done them. Hence, with highest reason, thus it is written: "Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow."

It is reasonable and of importance that every rational creature, in some form or other, should be kept under the divine moral government. To discharge mankind from liableness to law, while they are in no subjection to the gospel, would be breaking all bands asunder. It would be letting sinners loose, without any guide, overseer, or ruler; and without any thing to control or make them afraid. Such anarchy can by no means be tolerated, under the all-perfect divine administration. Against such lawless liberty, therefore, the grace of God which brings salvation effectually guards. This great evil, which else would arise from remission of sins, is prevented by the gospel terms; repentance from dead works, and believing with the heart unto righteousness. Everyone is under the curse, till he is under law to Christ. Nothing avails, in order to an interest in the atonement, but faith which works by love. On this plan, no sinner has reason to consider himself safe from the wrath to come, but in proportion to the evidence he has that he is created unto good works. On this plan the restraints of fear are not at all taken off, but in proportion as love prevails, and casts out fear,–that love which is the fulfilling of the law. On this plan, the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, because it is certain they are not the disciples of Christ. For in vain do any call him their Savior, unless they keep his commandments. He will be the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him; but to them who have not obeyed him, he will afford no shelter or protection. His enemies, who would not that he should reign over them, shall be slain before him. That such should be the constitution of the gospel, was necessarily, that Christ might not be a minister of sin, but that righteousness and peace might be established, as far as his kingdom should extend. This was necessary that all restraints from iniquity might not be taken off, but that, one way or other, every soul of man should be subject to the moral government of God. And to the fitness and propriety of these terms of the dispensation of grace, unless we will be avowed advocates for the cause of unrighteousness, what can we in reason object? For,

2. We infer from the things which have been said, that the requisition of faith lessens not the glory of free grace, nor of the all-sufficiency of Christ; but quite the reverse. Some, indeed, have supposed a difficulty here. How faith, or anything else in us, can be requisite, and available, in the affair of justification, without giving man whereof to glory, or without detracting from the fullness of Christ’s merit, and the freeness of God’s grace, many have been at a loss to comprehend. That some nice distinction is necessary in order fairly to get over this difficulty, the most who have attended at all accurately to the matter, seem to have been sensible. But what the proper distinction is, few have been able to satisfy others, if themselves. To say, as some have done, that faith is not a condition, but only the instrument of justification, it appears to mc, rather darkens than clears up the subject. Faith is a conviction of the mind, and an act of the soul; and cannot with any propriety be called an instrument. Besides, it is plainly that on which our salvation is suspended,–that without which we cannot be, and having which we certainly shall be saved; which is the proper idea of a condition, call it by what name we will. It is, however, of the last importance that this difficulty should be clearly obviated. Were it impossible for faith which works by love to avail any tiling, without lessening our dependence on the righteousness of Christ, and obscuring the luster of free grace, this would seem indeed a weighty objection against its being supposed necessary. But we need not invent another gospel, according to which a man is justified without faith, and may get to heaven without holiness, that boasting may be excluded, and that grace may abound. The only thing needful is to show, that nothing in us is required or available, as in any sense meritorious. We may distinguish between a condition, and a meritorious condition; a congruity, and a merit of congruity. This distinction applies in a multitude of common instances. Something is often required to be known or done by a person, in order to his inheriting an interest, or being the proper subject of certain immunities and privileges, when it is not at all required under a notion of its rendering the person deserving, and is of no kind of avail in that view. That thus it is in the case before us, and how it is thus, may easily be perceived from the things now said upon this subject.

We have not only seen, under the first head, that what our Savior hath done needs no addition, in point of atonement, or of merit: but, under the second, we have seen that Christ is the end of the law for actual justification, to believers rather than unbelievers, not because of any worthiness in the former, more than in the latter; but for other reasons altogether. What merit is there in being made to see the justice of God, as displayed in the sufferings of his own incarnate Son, the sinner’s substitute? Yet this is necessary that the divine character may be vindicated, in the eyes of every one who is saved. In the next thing implied in saving faith–being convinced of our infinite unworthiness, and of the all-sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness, and the sovereign freeness of God’s grace–certainly we can have no merit here, nor has this any tendency to self-exaltation. The very reason why a right understanding and belief of these things are required, is, that pride might be hid from man, and that he who is justified might glory only in the Lord. And what mighty merit is there in consenting to have such an one as Christ for our Savior, when, in the day of his power, we are made willing? Can this be so great a thing, in such creatures as we are, as to deserve the remission of all our former infinite offences, and to render it no more than suitable that we would be immediately received as the sons of God, and heirs of immortal glory? No such thing surely can be supposed. The congruity here cannot, by any means, be a merit of congruity There is not even a comparative merit in the believer, in many cases. Other things being equal, it is true he is a little more excellent than the unbeliever; but very often the man who believes to the saving of his soul, in point of desert, all things considered, is ten times more a child of hell, than thousands who perish in their sins. Notwithstanding he is so good, through divine grace, as to consent to be saved, yet, upon the whole, he is a much greater sinner than multitudes who do not thus consent; which shows that worthiness is not the thing needed, nor regarded. The congruity that everyone who cordially embraces the gospel should be saved, does not consist in personal excellency, but is quite from another quarter. By this act he puts himself under the care of Christ, who thereupon becomes surety for his recovery from all iniquity, and that he shall be zealous of good works: hence he may safely be released from unpardoning law, and be interested in a better covenant, established upon better promises, in the hand of a mediator. Christ is guaranty for as many as receive him; therefore to all such the happy privilege is given, to become the sons of God. In every view of the matter, boasting is excluded by the law of faith; in every view, therefore, it is of faith, that it might be by grace. By a right understanding, a firm belief, and a cordial compliance with the gospel, the sinner is sunk down, in his own eyes, to his proper place; while to the Father of mercies, and the all-sufficient Savior of them who were utterly lost, is given the glory so infinitely deserved. Christ and grace are more exalted, and man is more abased, than if remission of sins and eternal life were given to sinners, remaining in ignorance and unbelief.

3. The things which have been said may help us to see, that there is really an universal door of mercy opened to sinners, and a glorious hope set before all without exception, for which they have infinite reason to glorify God and to be thankful; the limitation in the text notwithstanding. Had no sufficient provision been made for the salvation of but only a remnant of mankind; or, were the terms of obtaining an interest in the covenant of grace naturally impossible to men, without that special divine influence which is given only to an elect number, it would indeed seem, as some have objected, that the offers of mercy could not, with any sincerity, be made to the non-elect; and that it could not be their fault that they are not saved. But neither of these is truly the case. Christ hath tasted death for every man, so that no man need taste the second death, because of any want of sufficiency in his atonement. He is the propitiation for the sins of every one that believes; and not for theirs only, "but also for the sins of the whole world." He hath rendered all that obedience, and endured all that suffering which the law made necessary, in order to the eternal redemption of every individual of the human race. By his righteousness the free gift may come upon all men unto justification, unless it be because they will not, or do not, "come unto him that they might have life." "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; the chief of sinners." And what doth the Lord our God require of us, in order to an interest in Christ and in his salvation? Nothing naturally impossible, surely. Nothing which would be hard, were it not for an evil heart. It is but to understand what is most plainly revealed, to love that which is obviously most excellent, and to do that which is evidently most reasonable. As to knowing what we are to believe, so far as is necessary in order to eternal life, were men willing to come to the knowledge of the truth, there would be no difficulty. A very little serious attention to the Bible would be sufficient. There is no necessity of ascending high, or diving deep, to find the infallible truth; the word is in all your hands, in which it is fully made known. Nor would it be any harder to perceive the things of the spirit of God, as they are spiritually discerned, than to understand them in speculation, were it not for the blindness of men’s hearts; their selfishness, pride, and other corrupt passions. To see the hatefulness of sin, the desirableness of salvation, and the universal loveliness of the Lord Jesus Christ, would be the easiest things in the world, were it not for a totally vicious taste, whence wicked men "call evil good, and good evil; put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." And as to doing what is required, being willing to be followers of Christ, denying ourselves and taking up the cross; nothing in this is impracticable, or arduous, provided we have any real inclination to be good. "His yoke is easy, his burden is light, his commandments are not grievous." "What God said to Cain, he may most justly say to every murmurer against the terms of the gospel, as hard and impossible: "Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou does well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou does not well, sin lies at the door." If doing at all well be our duty, or if doing not well in any case be our sin, it must lie at our own door if we perish, or fail of eternal life. No unbeliever can dispute this, unless he will assert, that despising and rejecting Christ, making light of the gospel, and neglecting so great salvation, is doing well. A door of salvation is set open to all men. Whosoever will, is heartily bid welcome to take of the water of life freely. Yet,

4. From the limitation in the text, as explained in the foregoing discourse, have we not great reason to apprehend that many receive the grace of God in vain, and that, through their own fault, Christ will become of none effect to multitudes? Such apprehensions, however uncharitable, are abundantly suggested in the holy Scriptures. When our Savior was asked, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" he did not assert the contrary, but answered and said, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." In another place he says, "Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leads unto life, and few there be that find it." And according to the account of the gate and the way of salvation now given, men must be exceedingly pressed, and very powerfully persuaded, before they will be disposed to enter in at that gate, and to walk in that way. How many are perfectly careless concerning the world to come, and scarce ever ask the question, what they shall do to be saved! When the gospel is preached to them, they make light of it, and pay little attention to it. Their farms, their merchandise, their luxuries, diversions, and pleasures, engross their whole time; their Bibles they rarely read, and God is not in all their thoughts. How many have not faith, and take no pains to know what they are to believe! How many are left to strong delusions to believe lies, and stop their ears like the deaf adder, against all arguments to convince them of the errors they have imbibed! How many "say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits! "How many are "far from righteousness! "far from being" zealous of good works! "How many are" disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another! If "the curse which goes forth over the face of the whole earth," even under the gospel, be such that "every one that is unrighteous shall be cut off on this side according to it," and every one who is "self-righteous shall be cut off on that side according to it," how few will be left! Have we not reason to fear that the blessed, who shall inherit the kingdom of God, are, comparatively, but a little flock?

Were saving faith only a belief, that, through the atonement, good men shall be saved on account of their own goodness; and did this faith save men, only as it is a principle of moral virtue, or a motive to good works; personal morality being the alone real ground of distinction between one man and another, in regard to eternal life, as some have supposed; we might, indeed, extend our charity very far. We might think, with men of liberal sentiments, that, whatever men’s faith may be, or whether they have any faith at all, they will be saved, provided only their lives be good. For if the only end of believing the gospel were to make men moral, provided this end be obtained, no matter about the means. Yea, in that case, we might say to the Christian, Because thou hast believed the future things revealed, thou hast been careful to maintain good works; blessed are they that have not believed, and yet have maintained good works. Their virtue and reward must be greater, in proportion as their motives have been less.

On the other hand, were the faith by which a man is justified only a belief that he is in a state of justification; and this without any ground, from Scripture, or sense, or reason, more than what every man has, all which others have taught, we might well extend our charity further still. We must conclude, on those principles, that all men are actually in a state of justification; or else run into the palpable absurdity of supposing that a thing before not true, is made a truth by being believed.

But very different must be our apprehensions concerning the safe and happy condition of mankind, according to the things which have now been advanced. The true evangelical faith implies a right understanding and firm belief of the glorious revelation of God’s righteous wrath against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, by the substituted voluntary sufferings of his own incarnate Son; it implies an entire dependence on mere mercy, through the alone merit of Jesus Christ, for acceptance unto eternal life; viewing ourselves as infinitely unworthy, and the chief of sinners;–it also implies a cordial willingness to be saved from our sins, and to be subject in all things to our divine Redeemer; and its never failing consequences are, remaining and increasing righteousness and true holiness, in heart and in all manner of conversation. Every one that hath this faith shall be saved; and every one that hath it not, shall be damned. If, by searching the Scriptures, we be fully convinced that these things are so, our charity must necessarily be very narrow and contracted. Though we would fain hope all things, and believe all things, as far as the utmost bounds of rational probability; yet we cannot but fear it is still the sad case, that many are in the way which leads to destruction; and that a few find the gate, and are going in the way which leads unto everlasting life.

5. Hence you easily see we cannot approve the very extensive charity of those who believe that all mankind are in a state of grace, and will certainly be saved, however much they may break the law of God, and make light of the gospel of Christ. Not but that a very small degree of universal benevolence would undoubtedly lead any one most devoutly to wish that the bitter cup of never-ending misery might pass from every soul of man, if it were possible,–if it might be, consistently with the highest glory of God, and the greatest universal good. Not but that we ought undoubtedly to pray for the worst of men, and our bitterest enemies, that they may be saved; and to do all in our power to promote their salvation. Universal charity is good, if it be used charitably. But we must think the Universalists exercise and express their charity to destruction, and not to edification. "We cannot think that the likeliest way to save those who are going on in their sins, is to tell them they are in no danger. Nor can we possibly believe, unless we had quite another gospel, that the careless neglecters of the great salvation; the abusers of the goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering of God; the despisers and rejecters of a dying Savior; and liars, and thieves, and murderers, are all in the sure way to immortal happiness. How any who believe the Bible, can believe this, we cannot comprehend. Yet such, we hear, are the glad tidings of great joy of late proclaimed by some, in the pulpits of him who is the end of the law for righteousness; who, they suppose, hath so effectually put an end to all divine law, that every lover of iniquity may give full scope to all his appetites and lusts, with certain impunity, and even without sin! So they preach, and so some of you, my hearers, I understand, believe.

If this be "glory to God in the highest;" if it be most conducive to "peace on earth," and expressive of the greatest "good-will towards men," so would we gladly believe and preach likewise. But to convince us of this, we want much more substantial reasons than any we have yet heard. We are not satisfied that unbelievers are as safe as believers, excepting only their present anxiety, merely by the fine story of a weak old woman, thrown into a mighty panic at hearing cannon on an occasion of public rejoicing.1 That a sinner may be saved without the faith of the Universalists, as well as with, were that faith true, is too self-evident to require any great parade of candor in them to own, or of address in order to its illustration. But that men who "know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," are really as safe as the soundest believers, and most virtuous Christians, not all the wit of man, nor all the subtlety of the old serpent, will be able to give full satisfaction to everyone.

I have read several of the most celebrated pieces on the side of universal salvation; but have seen nothing in any of them that looks like more than the shadow of an argument in its support. Nothing that in any measure shakes the foundation upon which the contrary doctrine rests. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes." Theirs doubtless is so to some of them. They have naturally enough been led into it, it must be granted, by the errors of many others, who have not carried their inquiries so far, nor been so self-consistent. I am ready also to suppose, that the tender feelings of humanity may have had considerable influence with some, to induce them to believe this seemingly most benevolent doctrine. However, if any rational man, who has been leaning that way, will candidly advert to the reasons and proofs in support of the opposite opinion, even only as now partially stated, I cannot but think he will be somewhat staggered. I imagine he must be convinced thus far, at least, that risking men’s souls on the presumption that all will be saved, is going upon a very forlorn hope.

Let me entreat such an one not to endanger himself or others by presuming thus, and teaching men so; be sure without weighing the matter well, and being very certain that he is not in an error. It is better not to have the honor of leading a party, and being of the foremost in singular discoveries, than to "go down to the grave with a lie in one’s right hand;" or to lead others upon ground which will not support them, and be the occasion of their falling into the pit, out of which there may be no redemption. It is better that men should not laugh now, than that they should mourn and weep forever and ever. If the doctrine of universal salvation be true, all the good that is done by its propagation, is only preventing a little present disquietude to sinners, who are generally pretty secure and easy already. If it be not true, the mischief done by thus encouraging them in carelessness and transgression, may be no less than being the means of their everlasting ruin. Not to mention the flood-gate to confusion and every evil work; to the destruction of all the temporal happiness of society, which, whether true or false, is opened by this doctrine.

But if the blind will lead the blind, we must let them alone. Let me however entreat those who have eyes to open them, before they fall into the ditch. Search the Scriptures, my beloved hearers, whether these things be so. Search the Scriptures which testify of Christ, and in which he hath borne witness to the truth. If any man teach another gospel than that which he hath taught, believe him not. He may be a very moral man; but his doctrine is not according to godliness, nor favorable to honesty. It subverts all moral obligation. He may be a man of fine sense; but great men are not always wise. Great men have often been great opposers of the saving truth. Great men, from the days of old, have sometimes said, "Peace, peace, when there was no peace." Yea, the greatest of all fallen intelligences, has from the beginning said, "Disbelieve and transgress with safety. Ye shall not surely die." Believe not this, though it be not new divinity, but a most ancient doctrine, and a doctrine of the great. Think not that neither the unbelieving, nor the abominable, nor murderers, nor whoremongers, nor sorcerers, nor idolaters, nor any liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. "Let no man deceive you with vain words." If the Bible be true, "because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience."

John Smalley, “None But Believers Saved, Through the All-Sufficient Satisfaction of Christ,” in The Atonement: Discourses and Treatises (Boston: Congregational Board of Publication, 1859), 65-85.


1A story told by the famous Mr. Murray, in a sermon preached just before in the same place, of an aged lady who was frightened out of her wits by the firing in consequence of the capture of Lord Cornwallis; insisting that the enemy were coming, and refusing to be pacified.

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