"To receive Christ is to believe in him; and to believe in Christ is to receive him. There are some slight shades of difference between these and some other terms which are used to express faith in Christ; such as believing, trusting, receiving, &c., but they must be the same in substance, or they would not be used in the New Testament as convertible terms. - [p. 268]

Baptist History Homepage

The Reception of Christ the Turning Point of Salvation
By Andrew Fuller

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." - John i. 10-12.

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AMONG the numerous self-deceiving notions which are cherished in the minds of men, is that of their being willing to return to God at any time, provided they had opportunity and the means of doing so. In accounting for their own impenitence and perseverance in sin, they will impute it to their situation, their temptations, their callings, their connexions, or to any thing but their evil hearts. Some have even learned to speak evil of their hearts, while it is manifest that they mean to include, under that term, nothing pertaining to intention, desire, or design, but something that exists and operates in them against their inclination. Hence, you will often hear them acknowledge themselves to be unconverted, and at the same time express how willing and desirous they are of being converted, if it would but please God to put forth his power in their favour. The word of God, however, speaks a different language; while it ascribes all that is good to grace only, it lays the evil at the sinner's own door.

A great number of instances might be alleged from the Scriptures in proof of this truth; but the greatest proof of all is the manner in which Christ himself was treated, when he appeared upon earth. The evangelist, having introduced him to his reader in all the glory of Divinity, describes in plaintive language the neglect and contempt he met with, hath from the world in general, and from his own nation in particular. Let us examine these complaints.

"He was in the world." It has often been objected, If the religion of Christ has a claim on the world, why has not the world had more of an opportunity to hear it? It might be the design of the evangelist to obviate this objection. His being "in the world" does not seem to refer so much to his personal presence among men, in the days of his flesh, as to those manifestations of him which, from the beginning of the world, had furnished them with the means of knowing him, and which, therefore, rendered their ignorance inexcusable. He had been revealed, at the outset of the world, as the woman's Seed, who should bruise the head of the serpent. Sacrifices were appointed to prefigure his atonement; which, though perverted, were never discontinued, even among the heathen. The selection of the seed of Abraham, and their miraculous settlement in Canaan, must have attracted universal attention; and as the Messiah was a prominent feature of their
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religion, he was, in a manner, proclaimed through every nation. The effect produced on the mariners, when Jonah told them that he was a Hebrew, and feared JEHOVAH, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land, shows very plainly that the displays of omnipotence, in behalf of Israel, were not unknown to the surrounding nations. That, also, which was soon after produced on the Ninevites, when they learned that he was a Hebrew prophet, sent of God, evinces the same thing. And if they were not ignorant of God's judgments, they were not destitute of the means of inquiring after the true religion. Nay, more, the expectation of the promised Messiah was, for a long time before he appeared, very general among the nations. Had they, therefore, possessed any portion of a right spirit, or any desire after the true God, they would have been as inquisitive as were the wise men of the east, and as desirous as they were of paying him homage.

Not only was he in the world, so as to render their ignorance of him inexcusable, but "the world" itself "was made by him." Though, as to the state of their minds, they were far from him, yet he was not far from every one of them; for in him they lived, and moved, and had their being. When he became incarnate, it was nothing less than their Creator in very deed dwelling with them upon the earth. Such an event ought to have excited universal inquiry, and to have induced all men every where to repent.

But though he was in the world, and the world was made by him, yet "the world knew him not!" Full of their own schemes and pursuits, they thought nothing of him. The Roman governors, in hearing the accusations of the Jews against Paul, and his defences, had great opportunities of knowing the truth; but the ignorance and contempt expressed by Festus, in his report of the matter to Agrippa, show the inefficacy of all means, unless accompanied with the mighty power of God. The Jews "brought none accusation of such things as he supposed; but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive!"

But this is not the heaviest complaint: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." How appropriate are the terms here used! He was in the world, and therefore within the reach of inquiry. But to the seed of Abraham he came, knocking, as it were, at their door for admission; but "they received him not." The world are accused of ignorance, but they of unbelief; for receiving him not, though a merely negative form of speech, yet is expressive of a positive refusal of him. Instead of welcoming the heavenly visitant, they drove him from their door, and even banished him from the earth. Who would have supposed that a people whose believing ancestors had been earnestly expecting the Messiah for a succession of ages would have rejected him when he came among them? Yet so it was: and if Jews or deists of the present day ask, "How could these things be?" we answer, It was foretold by their own prophets that he should possess neither form nor comeliness in their eyes, and that when they should see him, there would be no beauty that they should desire him.

The consideration of their being his own people, the children of Abraham his friend, added to their sin, and to his affliction. It was this which he so pathetically lamented, when he "beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes."

Grievous, however, as this treatment was to our blessed Lord, he was not utterly disregarded. Though the world in general knew him not, and though the great body of his own nation rejected him; yet there was "a remnant according to the election of grace," partly Jews and partly Gentiles,
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who received him: and whether they had been previously distinguished by their sobriety, or by their profligacy; whether they came in companies, as under Peter's sermon, or as individuals, like her who wept and washed his feet, or him who sought mercy when expiring by his side on the cross; all were received by him, and raised to the highest dignity: "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." And thus, though Israel was not gathered, yet Christ was glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and had a people given him from among the heathen.

I need not say that the treatment which our Saviour received is the same, for substance, in all ages. There is a world that still knows him not, and many who, though possessed of the means of grace, yet receive him not; and, blessed be God! there are also many, both Jews and Gentiles, who still receive him, and are still blessed with the privilege of being adopted into his heavenly family.

That we may understand and feel the importance of the subject, I shall first inquire, What is supposed and included in receiving Christ! Secondly, Consider the great privilege annexed to it. And lastly, Observe the wisdom of God in rendering the reception of Christ the great turning point of salvation.

I. Let us inquire, WHAT IS SUPPOSED AND INCLUDED IN RECEIVING CHRIST? The phrase is supposed to be equivalent with "believing on his name." To receive Christ is to believe in him; and to believe in Christ is to receive him. There are some slight shades of difference between these and some other terms which are used to express faith in Christ; such as believing, trusting, receiving, &c., but they must be the same in substance, or they would not be used in the New Testament as convertible terms. Believing seems to respect Christ as exhibited in the gospel testimony; trusting, as revealed with promise; and receiving supposes him to be God's free gift, presented to us for acceptance in the invitations of the gospel; but, as I said, all come to the same issue. He that believeth the testimony, trusteth the promise and receiveth the gift; and the whole is necessary to an interest in his benefits, whether pardon, justification, adoption, or any other spiritual blessing.

If we were inquiring into the nature of believing, it might be necessary to examine the testimony; if of trusting we must ascertain wherein consists the promise; and so, if we would form just conceptions of receiving Christ, we must observe what is said of the gift of him; for each is the standard of the other, and will be found to correspond with it: "So we preached, and so ye believed."

Considering Christ, then, as the gift of God, it is necessary to observe that he is the first and chief of all his gifts, and that for his sake all others are bestowed: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?" Other gifts may be so great that nothing in this world can be compared with them; this, however, is the greatest. It is great for God to forbear with us; greater to forgive us; and greater still to accept and crown us with eternal life but all this is supposed to be small, in comparison of the gift of his own Son; and therefore it is argued that, having bestowed the greater, we may trust him for the less. But if God first give Christ, and with him all things freely, we must first receive Christ, and with him all things freely. The first exercise of faith, therefore, does not consist in receiving the benefits resulting from his death, or in a persuasion of our sins being forgiven, but in receiving Christ; and having received him, we with him receive an interest in those benefits. Hence the propriety of such language as this:
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"He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."

It is on this principle that union with Christ is represented as the foundation of an interest in his benefits, as it is in the following passages: "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. -- There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. -- That I may 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." It is thus in the marriage union, to which that of believers with Christ is compared. As she that is joined to a husband becomes interested in all that he possesses, so they that are joined to Christ are, by the gracious constitution of the gospel, interested in all that he possesses. He is heir of all things, and they are joint-heirs with him. The sum is, that receiving Christ is the great turning point of salvation, or that by which we obtain a revealed interest in all the blessings of the gospel.

But, more particularly, To receive Christ presupposes a sense of sin, and of our exposedness to the just displeasure of God. It is a great error to hold up a sense of sin as a qualification which gives us a warrant to receive the Saviour, and so to consider the invitations of the gospel as addressed to sensible sinners only, as this must necessarily teach men to reckon themselves the favourites of God while yet they are in a state of unbelief. But it is no less an error to suppose that any sinner will receive the Saviour without perceiving and feeling his need of him. It is one thing to require a sense of sin as a qualification that gives a warrant to receive the Saviour, and another to plead for it as necessary, in the nature of things, to a compliance with that warrant. What is the reason that Christ is rejected, and the gospel made light of, by the great body of mankind? Is it not, as the Scriptures represent it, because they are whole in their own eyes, and therefore think they need no physician? While men are righteous in their own esteem, the gospel must appear to be a strange doctrine, and the dwelling so much upon Christ, in the ministry of the word, a strange conduct. How is it that the doctrine of salvation by grace, through the atonement of the Son of God, should be so generally opposed, even by nominal Christians? The reason is the same. Sin is considered as a light thing, a mere frailty or imperfection, unfortunately attached to human nature; and while this is the case, there appears to be no need of a mediator, or at least not of one that is Divine, and who, to atone for sin, should be required to assume humanity and render his life a sacrifice. Hence it is necessary to be convinced of sin in order to receive the Saviour.

Much of this conviction may respect only our guilt and danger, and so have nothing spiritually good in it; but in those who, in the end, receive the Saviour, it is not wholly so. There is such a thing as spiritual conviction, or conviction which involves in it an abhorrence of sin, and of ourselves on account of it. Such is that sense of its intrinsically evil nature, or, as the Scriptures speak, of its exceeding sinfulness, which is produced by a just view of the spirituality and equity of the Divine law. And such is that repentance towards God which is represented as necessary to faith in Christ, and as included in it. We may be convinced of our guilt and danger by an enlightened conscience only, and may be very sorry for our sin, in reference to its consequences; but this, though it may be used to prepare the way of the Lord, yet will neither divest the sinner of his self-righteous spirit, nor render him willing to come to Christ, that he may have life; and, instead of issuing in his receiving him, may end in his destruction. A sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, on the other hand, tends, in its own nature,
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to kill a self-righteous spirit, and to induce the sinner to embrace the gospel. It is impossible to have a just sense of the evil of sin, and, at the same time, to object to the way of salvation by grace, through a mediator.

Again, To receive Christ implies the renunciation of every thing which stands in opposition to him, or comes in competition with him. Viewing Christ as a guest, he stands at the door, and knocks; and why is it kept barred against him? Because the sinner has a variety of other guests already in his house, and is aware that, if he enter, they must be dismissed; and, being reluctant to part with them, he cannot find in his heart, at least for the present, to welcome the heavenly visitant. These guests are not only darling sins, but corrupt principles, flesh-pleasing schemes, and a spirit of self-righteous pride. With these Christ cannot associate. If we receive him, we must reject them; and that not as being forced to it for the sake of escaping the wrath of God, but with all our hearts. Many, considering the necessity of the thing, would willingly receive Christ, so that they might retain what is most dear to them; but this being inadmissible, they, like him who was nearest of kin to Ruth, decline it, lest they should mar their own inheritance.

It was not so with Moses. He had to refuse as well as choose; and, for the sake of Christ, yea, for the reproach of Christ, he did refuse even the prospect of a crown. Paul had great advantages by birth, and had acquired many more by application; but when they came in competition with Christ, all this gain was counted loss. Nor did he ever repent the sacrifice, but, towards the close of life, declared, saying, "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him."

Moreover, To receive Christ is expressive of the exercise, not of one faculty only, but of all the powers of the soul. If it were merely an exercise of the understanding, as distinguished from the will and affections, it would not be properly opposed to a rejection of him, which is manifestly the idea suggested by the term "received him not." As unbelief includes more than an error in judgment, even an aversion of the heart. from Christ and the way of salvation by his death; so faith includes more than an accurate notion of things, even a cordial acceptance of him and the way of salvation by him. Nothing short of this can, with any propriety, be considered as receiving him, or as having the promise of eternal life.

Finally, To receive Christ requires not only to be by all in us, but to have respect to all in him. If we receive Christ as the gift of God, we must receive him for all the purposes for which he is given. These purposes may be distinguished, and one may come in order after another; but they must not be separated. Were it possible to receive him as an atoning sacrifice without yielding ourselves up to his authority, or to yield ourselves up to his authority without relying on his sacrifice, each would be vain; and could both of them be united without sitting at his feet as little children, to be instructed in his will, it were still in vain. The invitation of our Lord, in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, shows both the order and connexion of these things: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." The first concern of a sinner is to come to Christ as the Saviour of the lost; but, at what time he does this, he must also take his yoke upon him as his Lord and Lawgiver. Nor is this all; he must take him for his example; learning his spirit, and following his steps.
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II. Consider THE PRIVILEGE ANNEXED TO RECEIVING CHRIST: "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." The relation of sons seems to be ascribed to believers, in the text and context, on two accounts, viz. their regeneration and their adoption. The one is expressed in verse 13, "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." This consists in a reimpression of the Divine image, and is introduced to account for some having received Christ, while others received him not. The other is denominated a "power," or privilege, and belongs to our restoration to the Divine favour.

It was a high honour, conferred on our species from the beginning, for God to call himself their Father; an honour extended, as it would seem, to no other part of the lower creation. "His tender mercies," indeed, "are over all his works;" but man was created in his image: "In the image of God created he him." Men, therefore, are ranked among the children of the Most High. Nor was it a mere name; the love of the Creator was truly that of a father. We see this expressed in the strongest manner even in the punishment of the wicked; as though it were against the grain of his native goodness, and as though nothing but a conduct exceedingly offensive could have induced him to do what he did. Such are the ideas in the following passages: "And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth." -- "He that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favour." And though it sometimes appears as if sin had, in a manner, extinguished his paternal goodness, yet, in exercising mercy through his Son, he still calls to remembrance the original relation "I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." What an evil and bitter thing, then, must sin be, to have induced so good a God to disown us as aliens, and to require that if we be again admitted into his family, it shall be by adoption -- a proceeding to which men have recourse when they wish to favour children that are not their own!

The kindness of God toward Israel is described as an adoption. Their deplorable condition in Egypt is represented by that of a helpless infant, left to perish in the open field in the day that it was born; and the favour conferred upon them, by the kindness of a benevolent stranger, who, passing at the time, had compassion on it, and adopted it as his own. This, however, though an act of grace, and through a mediator, yet was only a shadow of that blessing which is bestowed on them who believe in Jesus Christ. It separated them from other nations, and conferred on them distinguished privileges, but it ascertained no inheritance beyond the grave. This, on the contrary, not only puts us among the children, but gives us "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." The depth of alienation and disgrace from which it takes us, with the height of glory to which it raises us, accounts for that strong language which is more than once used in describing it: "But I said, How shall I put thee among the children? -- Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!"

The adoption of children is reckoned among those spiritual blessings wherewith the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath blessed them that believe in him, having predestinated them to it by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. With all other spiritual blessings, its bestowment is in consequence of our having been predestinated to it; but the thing itself, like justification, is a blessing of time, and follows on believing. It were absurd to speak of our being predestinated to that which was, in itself, eternal. The privilege itself is held up as an inducement
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to forsake the family of Satan, and be separated from them: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, -- and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

But the connexion between receiving Christ and having power to become the sons of God is designed to mark not only the order of time, but that of nature; or to show the influence of the one upon the other: we "are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." This is exactly the same language as is used of our justification: and the blessing is obtained in the same way; not in reward of the act of believing, but out of respect to him in whom we believe. He that believeth on the Son is joined or united to him, and, as such, by the constitution of the covenant of grace, becomes interested in all its benefits. It is thus that we are justified by faith, and it is thus that we are adopted. Christ, in reward of his obedience unto death, is appointed "heir of all things;" and we, receiving him, are received into God's family for his sake, and become "joint-heirs" with him. Such is the delightful harmony of the gospel, and such the way in which "the adoption of children" is "by Jesus Christ to himself," -- "to the praise of the glory of his grace."

Regeneration gives us a new nature; and adoption adds to it a new name, even that of sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Nor is it a mere name; for the richest blessings both in this world and that which is to come are attached to it. Of these we may reckon the following as the principal: --

1. Access to God as our own God and Father. During our unbelief, whatever were our necessities or troubles, we had no access to God. Though under the pangs of woe we might cry for mercy, yet it was unavailing. How should it be otherwise, when we set at nought the only name by which a sinner can be introduced, and his cause obtain a hearing? But, believing in Jesus, we draw near to God, and God to us. The term prwsgwgh, rendered access, in Eph. iii. 12, signifies as much as introduction, manuduction, or a being taken by the hand, as one who is introduced to the king by a third person; teaching us that we cannot be admitted to the Divine presence by ourselves. While obedient we had free access to our Creator; but, having sinned, the door is shut upon us, and not a child of Adam can see his face, but as introduced by the Mediator. As Job's friends, whose folly had offended the Divine Majesty, were required to bring their offerings to Job, that he as a mediator might present them and pray for the offenders, so it is with us in drawing near to God. All our offerings must be presented by the great and gracious Intercessor. Him will God accept. Coming in his name, we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. The spirit which is congenial with the gospel dispensation is not that of bondage, that we should be held in slavish fear, but that of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father; and if we do not, actually possess it, it is because we are wanting to ourselves. A promise is left us of entering into rest, of which if we seem to come short, it is owing to unbelief. Did we but act up to our privileges, guilt would not he rankling on our consciences in the manner it often does, nor would care corrode our peace, nor morbid melancholy eat up our enjoyments. Having God for our Father, we should confess our sins to him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son would cleanse us from all sin; we should cast all our care on him who careth for us; we should be inordinately "careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known unto God;" and the effect would be, that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, would keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
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2. Access to all the ordinances of God's house, and to the fellowship of his people. From being "strangers and foreigners," we become "fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." The church of God is here described as a city and as a household. As a city, God is a wall of fire round about her, and the glory in the midst of her, blessing her provision, and satisfying her poor with bread. To be made free of this city is no small favour. As a household, God is the Father of it; and as many as receive Christ receive power to become its members, and to share in all the privileges of the family. There are believers, no doubt, whose situation does not admit of these social advantages, and others who are prevented by something amiss in the state of their own minds from embracing them; but such do not excel in spirituality or in usefulness. It is as being planted in the house of the Lord that we may hope to flourish in the courts of our God.

3. A part in the first resurrection. The resurrection of the saints is called "the manifestation of the sons of God;" "the glorious liberty of the children of God;" "the adoption;" "the redemption of our body." It is the grand jubilee of the church, and even of the creation. Till then the former as well as the latter wilt be held under a degree of bondage, as being yet subject to the effects of sin: but then Christ's promise shall be fulfilled, "I will raise them up at the last day;" and the deliverance of the saints will be the signal for that of the creation, which during the apostacy has been unwillingly compelled to subserve its Creator's enemies, and which is therefore represented as waiting for and earnestly expecting the moment of deliverance. The last enemy being then destroyed, the war will be ended: death will be swallowed up in victory.

4. An interest in the eternal inheritance. The natural inference from this Divine relation is this: "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." With such thoughts our minds are overwhelmed, and no wonder; for an inspired apostle had no adequate conception of it: "Beloved," says he, "now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."

Such are the leading privileges included in the power of becoming the sons of God, which are sufficient to show, that though many reject the Saviour, yet it is not for want of kindness on his part towards those who accept of him.

III. Let us observe THE WISDOM OF GOD IN RENDERING THE RECEPTION OF CHRIST THE TURNING POINT OF SALVATION. When a person who neither understands nor believes the gospel way of salvation thinks on the subject, it must appear to him a strange thing that so much should be made of Christ in the New Testament, and of faith in him. He has no conception of it, or of the reason why it should be so. It was thus that the gospel was "unto the Jews a stumbling-block and unto the Greeks foolishness; to them that believed, however, it was ďthe power of God, and the wisdom of God.Ē There are three things in particular in which the wisdom of God appears in this adjustment of things.

1. It accords with the leading design of God in the gospel; namely, to glorify his character and government in the salvation of sinners. Receiving Christ, as we have seen already, is the corresponding idea to his being given, and that which answers to it, as the loops and taches of the tabernacle answered to each other. If the gift of Christ, on Godís part, was necessary to secure the honour of his character and government in showing mercy, the receiving of him, on our part, must also be necessary, as belonging to
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the same proceeding. Without this, the gift would not answer its end. Hence, though God, through the propitiation of his Son, is just and a justifier; yet it is of him only that believeth in Jesus.

If, instead of receiving Christ as God's free gift, and eternal life with him, we had received favour irrespective of him, God, so far as we can conceive, must have compromised his honour. To show favour to a sinner in the way he wishes, that is, in reward of what he calls his good works, would be consenting to vacate his throne at the desire of a rebel. It would be agreeing not only to pass over his past disobedience, and so to render null and void his own precepts, warnings, and threatenings, but to accept, in future, of just such obedience, and such a degree of it, as it suited his inclination to yield: "Offer it now unto thy governor, will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person e saith the Lord of hosts."

But, in receiving Christ, we acquiesce in the whole system of salvation by his death, as glorifying the character and government of God; we subscribe to the great evil of sin, and to the justice of our condemnation on account of it; we become of the same mind with Christ, and, in our measure, stand affected as he does toward God and man, and sin and righteousness. That law which was within his heart is written in ours. Thus it is that God and his government are glorified, not only by the gift of Christ to be a sacrifice, but in the reception of him, as such, by the believing sinner.

2. It secures the honours of grace. If, instead of receiving Christ as Godís free gift, and eternal life through him, we had received favour irrespective of him, we should have considered ourselves as having whereof to glory. It would have appeared to us, as it does and must appear to every one that hopes to be saved without an atonement, that the Almighty has no right to expect perfect obedience from imperfect creatures; that there is no such great evil in sin as that it should deserve everlasting punishment; that if God were to be strict to mark iniquity, according to the threatenings of the Bible, he would be unjust; and, therefore, that in showing mercy he only makes just allowance for the frailties of his creatures, and acts as a good being must needs act. Thus it is that the very idea of grace is excluded, and the sinner feels himself on terms with his Creator. But in receiving Christ, and salvation through his death, these imaginations are cast down, and all such high thoughts subdued to the obedience of Christ. He that has been disputing with his Maker for a number of years, at once finds the ground sink under him, all his arguments answered, and himself reduced to the character of a supplicant at the feet of his offended Sovereign.

It is as hard a thing for a proud and carnal heart to receive Christ, and salvation by grace through him, as it is to keep the whole law. If, therefore, we expect the good news of the gospel to consist in something more suited to the inclinations, and not merely to the condition of sinners, we shall be disappointed. It is said of a certain character, who some years since was banished from this country for attempting to revolutionize it after the example of France, that he was offered a free pardon if he would only acknowledge his fault and petition the throne; but he could not do it! Such is the inability of men to receive the Saviour; and herein consists the damning sin of unbelief.

If our spirit were brought down to our situation, as sinners, the most humiliating truths of the gospel, instead of offending us, would appear to be right, and wise, and glorious. We should feel that the dust was our proper place; or rather, if we had our deserts, the pit of perdition. We should consider ourselves as lying at the absolute discretion of God: instead of being stumbled at such an assertion of the Divine sovereignty as that addressed to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I
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will have compassion on whom I will have compassion," we should cordially subscribe it, and supplicate mercy only on that principle. And when we had obtained it, we should never think of having made ourselves to differ, but freely acknowledge that it is by the grace of God that we are what we are. Our minds would be in perfect unison with the language of the apostle to Timothy "Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began."

3. It provides for the interests of holiness. In receiving Christ, and salvation through him, we receive a doctrine that strikes at the very root of depravity. "The Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil;" he, therefore, that receives him must thenceforth be at variance with them. We are not only justified, but sanctified, by the faith that is in him. The doctrine of the cross, while it gives peace to the conscience, purifies the heart. There is not a principle in it but what, if felt and acted upon, would cause the world to be dead to us, and us unto the world. The objections, therefore, that are made to this doctrine, as being unfriendly to holiness, have no foundation in the doctrine itself, whatever may be seen in the lives of some that profess it.

From the whole, The first concern of a sinner is to receive the Saviour. It ought to be no question whether he may receive him, since the gospel is addressed to every creature, and its invitations to the "stout-hearted and far from righteousness." The only question is whether he be willing to receive him. To a spectator, unacquainted with the depravity of human nature, it must be beyond measure surprising that this should be a question; and, indeed, few men can be convinced that it is; yet if it were not, there would be no difficulty in receiving him. "Why do ye not understand my speech? Because ye cannot hear my word;" that is, because ye are averse from it. But no man will be able to excuse this his aversion, which is itself sin. The Judge of all the earth makes no allowance for it, nor for its not having been removed by Divine grace. Grace is never represented in the Scriptures as necessary to our accountableness; but as a free gift, which God might justly withhold. It is deemed sufficient to justify the condemnation of sinners, that they were averse from the gospel and government of Christ: "Take these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me."

Should it be objected that these principles must tend to drive a sinner to despair; I answer by asking, What sinner? Not him whose desires are toward the Saviour; not him whose prayer is, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned:" if any, it must be him who has no desire after God; and, even in his case, the despair is not absolute, but merely on supposition of his continuing in that state of mind. But this, to him, is most necessary; for, till a sinner despair of obtaining mercy in the way he is in, he will never fall at the feet of sovereign grace, and so will never be saved. As he that would be wise must first become a fool that he may be wise; so he that layeth hold of the hope set before him in the gospel must first relinquish his hopes from every other quarter.
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[From Joseph Belcher, The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Volume I, 1845; rpt. 1988, pp. 266-275. Document provided by David Oldfield, Post Falls, ID. -- jrd]



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