“There are many shades of difference between those who flatly renounce, and those who cordially embrace the doctrine of Redemption by Christ. This class has a sort of general, indeterminate, and ill understood dependence on our blessed Savior. But their hopes, so far as they can be distinctly made out (for their views also are very obscure) appear ultimately to bottom on the persuasion that they are now, through Christ, become members of a new dispensation, wherein they will be tried by a more lenient rule than that to which they must have been otherwise subject. ‘God will not now be extreme to mark what is done amiss; but will dispense with the rigorous exactions of his law, too strict indeed for such frail creatures as we are to hope that we can fulfill it. Christianity has moderated the requisitions of Divine Justice; and all which is now required of us, is thankfully to trust to the merits of Christ for the pardon of our sins, and the acceptance of our sincere though imperfect obedience. The frailties and infirmities to which our nature is liable, or to which our situation in life exposes us, will not be severely judged: and as it is practice that really determines the character, we may rest satisfied, that if on the whole our lives be tolerably good, we shall escape with little or no punishment, and through Jesus Christ our Lord, shall be finally partakers of heavenly felicity.’
But it is sometimes not difficult to anyone who is accustomed, if the phrase may be allowed, to the anatomy of the human mind, to discern, that generally speaking, the persons who use the above language, rely not so much on the merits of Christ, and on the agency of Divine Grace, as on their own power of fulfilling the moderated requisitions of Divine Justice.
They have never summoned themselves to this entire and unqualified renunciation of their own merits, and their own strength; and therefore they remain strangers to the natural loftiness of the human heart, which such a call would have awakened into action, and roused to resistance. All these their several errors naturally result from the mistaken conception entertained of the fundamental principles of Christianity. They consider not that Christianity is a scheme for “justifying the ungodly,” by Christ’s dying for them “when yet sinners;” a scheme “for reconciling us to God – when enemies;” and for making the fruits of holiness the effects, not the cause, of our being justified and reconciled: that, in short, it opens freely the door of mercy, to the greatest and vilest of penitent sinners; that obeying the blessed impulse of the grace of God, whereby they had been awakened from the sleep of death, and moved to seek for pardon, they might enter in, and through the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit might be enabled to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. But they rather conceive of Christianity as opening the door of mercy, that those who on the ground of their own merits could not have hoped to justify themselves before God, may yet be admitted for Christ’s sake, on condition of their having previously satisfied the moderated requisitions of Divine Justice. In speaking to others also of the Gospel scheme, they are apt to talk too much of terms and performances on our part, on which we become entitled to an interest in the sufferings of Christ; instead of stating the benefits of Christ’s satisfaction as extended to us freely, “without money and without price.” ~ William Wilberforce on “Real Christianity”
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