Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 09-09 Religion for Man, and Not Man for Religion

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Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 09-09 Religion for Man, and Not Man for Religion

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Religion, as the term imports, began after the Fall; for it indicates a previous apostasy. A remedial system is for a diseased subject. The primitive man could love, wonder, and adore as angels now do, without religion; but man, fallen and apostate, needs religion in order to his restoration to the love, and worship, and enjoyment of God. Religion, then, is a system of means of reconciliation--an institution for bringing man back to God--something to bind man anew to love and delight in God.1

It consists of two departments;--the things that God has done for us, and the things that we must do for ourselves. The whole proposition of necessity in this case, must come from the offended party. Man could propose nothing, do nothing to propitiate his Creator, after he had rebelled against him. Heaven, therefore, overtures; and man accepts, surrenders, and returns to God. The Messiah is a gift, sacrifice is a gift, justification is a gift, the Holy Spirit is a gift, eternal life is a gift, and even the means of our personal sanctification is a gift from God. Truly, we are saved by grace. Heaven, we say, does certain things for us, and also proposes to us what we should do to inherit eternal life. It is all of God: for he has sent his Son; he has sent his Spirit; and all that they have done, or shall do, is of free favor; and the proposition concerning our justification and sanctification is equally divine and gracious as the mission of his Son. We are only asked to accept a sacrifice which God has provided for our sins, and then the pardon of them, and to open the doors of our hearts, that the Spirit of God may come in, and make its abode in us. God has provided all these blessings for us, and only requires us to accept of them freely, without any price or idea of merit on our part. But he asks us to receive them cordially, and to give up our hearts to him.

It is in the kingdom of grace, as in the kingdom of nature. Heaven provides the bread, the water, the fruits, the flowers; but we must gather and enjoy them. And if there be no merit in eating the bread which Heaven has sent for physical life and comfort, neither is there merit in eating the bread of life which came down from heaven for our spiritual life and consolation. Still, it is true, in grace, as in nature--that he that eats shall not die. Hence, there are conditions of enjoyments, though no conditions of merit, either in nature or grace. We shall therefore speak in detail of the things which God has done, and of the things that we must do, as essential to our salvation. First, of the things that God has done:--

1 The verb religio, with all its Latin family, imports a binding again, or tying fast that which was dissolved.