Obrazy na stronie

in infinite wisdom to render sin truly hateful to the understanding, and obedience lovely.-And

3dly. The divine will and purpose of God in the moral ho liness and everlasting happiness of his creature, in the enjoy ment of himself. Here we may say of mercy similar to what we said of justice-that mercy in the foregoing operations being a modification of divine love, never deviates from the nature of love in the smallest degree, and therefore never violates the designs of its contemporary manifestation of divine love which we call justice, and therefore never becomes unjust.

These manifestations of divine love correct the erroneous notions existing in the mind of the sinner, and show God to be a father and a friend, directing his moral government for the good of his creatures, who are dependent on him for all things. By correcting the ideas of the mind, and by illuminating the understanding, as just described, the soul is brought to love God in the full exercise of every faculty. This love to God is a necessary consequence arising from the manifestation of God's love to the creature, therefore " we love him because he first loved us." The forgiveness of sin as seen in these operations effects the destruction of sin in the soul, for sin dies the moment the soul is filled with love, as love is the fulfilling of the law; and when the law is thus fulfilled it can see no sin; therefore the very nature and action of the spirit of forgiveness is to take away sin, to destroy and make a full end of all iniquity in the soul where alone it is found. Thus we see that the forgiveness of sin is an act which originates in the nature of God, and harmonizes both justice and mercy in the same action.

Divine justice, which too many represent as unmerciful, vindictive and revengeful, is a manifestation of divine love, and requires nothing but love, which requirement is fulfilled in the creature to the full acceptation of justice, by the gracious action of mercy, in which that forgiveness which is with God is displayed to the understanding, which produces this love in the soul. Here we see the creature saved according to our first proposition; not from deserved punishment for crimes committed, but from a sinful disposition, and from the commission of sins, and of course prevented from incurring or deserving further correction.

It may be proper, in this place, to notice some scriptural arguments to show that forgiveness does not imply an act contrary to the requirements of justice. See Mat. xvIII. 32, 33. "O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because thou desirest me: shouldest thou not also have had compas


sion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? Here, he who had been forgiven, did not forgive his fellow. servant, therefore he is called wicked; but he could not with propriety be called wicked for not dispensing with justice. Nor could the example of forgiveness which the Lord gave his servant, be justly binding on him, unless it be granted that justice in. the strictest sense was satisfied with such example, and if it were, it could not be satisfied without it. Divine justice, like every other attribute of God, can never be satisfied with any thing but its own requirements. For instance, truth is in its nature in direct opposition to falshood; it requires its own image in all moral beings, and never can be satisfied with falshood. Wisdom is the opposite of folly, and never can be pleased with it. So justice requires perfect right to take place in all things, and in all creatures, and it can never be satisfied without ob taining its object. Justice had a claim on this unforgiving servant, nor could he be released from the tormentors till he had paid the utmost farthing that was due. The charge made against him was for not forgiving his fellow servant, as his Lord had set him the example in forgiving him, he therefore was found delinquent in the sum which he did not forgive to his fellow-servant, and until this was paid, which could be paid only by forgiveness, he must be, according to the requirements of retributive justice, under the controul of his tormentors.The application which our blessed Saviour makes of this subject is every way calculated to make the matter plain on which I am reasoning. See verse 35. "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." If justice did not require this forgiveness, surely our heavenly Father would not, in all instances, award a heavy punishment to those who did not forgive.

Though the subject may be thought sufficiently illustrated, it may not be improper to subjoin the testimony of the beloved disciple, which is so very pertinent in this case. See 1. John, I. 9. "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Two important ideas are suggested by this passage, which I have endeavored to make appear in the foregoing reasoning.

1st. That justice requires forgiveness, and can never be satished without it. And

2d, That forgiveness of sin is not the releasing of the sinner from the punishment due to crimes committed, but has its ac

tion on, or manifestation to the creature, in cleansing the sinner from all unrighteousness.

The opinion that it is just not to forgive sin, has established the spirit of revenge, which is the opposite of the spirit of forgiveness, in the minds of many, on the principle of this supposed justice. On this principle the kind and merciful Father of our spirits is frequently represented as the most revengeful tyrant, never to be satisfied while the power to revenge remains. Whatever name we give to the opposite of forgiveness, this opposite must of necessity be considered as opposite to justice as it is to mercy, for justice and mercy are equally the offspring of divine love; therefore, whatever opposes one must of course oppose the other also.

It is not unlikely that an objection will suggest itself in the minds of those who wish to support the opposite opinion of forgiveness, of the following nature. Then the sinner may demand forgiveness on the principle of justice! And if he have a right to demand it, his receiving it lays him under no obligation of thankfulness. This objection urges our subject still farther into the light, and is answered as follows. Neither forgiveness, nor the justice of forgiveness, either originates from the guilty, or has its abiding with him. The guilty sinner is in opposition to the spirit of divine love, which is the fountain of all the divine attributes; therefore is under a moral impossibility of demanding even justice to himself; for if he could, in a moral sense, be even reconciled to have justice executed, he would not, in a moral sense, be a sinner, because he would not be opposed to justice.

Forgiveness, and the justice of forgiveness, originate in, and have their abidance with God; he alone is able to forgive, and to move his creatures to exercise the same divine virtue.

The gracious reception and bountiful mercy which the returning prodigal experienced in his father's house, were by no means blessings to which any virtue in him gave him a claim. His own confession shows that in his opinion, which opinion. was formed consistently with his own character, he was no more worthy to be either called his father's son, or to be treated as such; and these are the feelings and opinions which every true penitent must feel and entertain of himself. But the father of the prodigal reasoned from different principles, and deduced the justice of the mercy shown to his son from data within himself, and which lay beyond the reach of the prodigal's comprehension, and to which the elder son, who built his claims on the merit of his own works, was equally

blind. As the elder brother supposed that he had a just clairn, by virtue of his obedience, to every thing which he needed, he was in a situation to oppose the doctrine for which his father contended, and the justice of the mercy which he was disposed to show to his penitent offspring.

As was just observed, the feelings and opinion which the prodigal had entertained of himself, are those which every true penitent must feel and entertain of himself. But our heav ealy father being possessed of that unbounded love which is stronger than death, which many waters cannot quench, nor floods drown, in justice to his moral perfections, forgives our sios according to the riches of his grace, and by this forgiveness vindicates his character against every unreasonable charge which the alienated soul has brought against it, leaving nothing to prevent the object of his love from loving him supremely with indescribable gratitude.

Should we disallow the divine character, the beauties and excellencies which the foregoing arguments are designed to illustrate, and suppose that God is possessed of the opposite of forgiveness, name it what we please, it is evident beyond all controversy that this opposition to forgiveness is as just in its degree, in the creature, as it is in the creator. But nothing in man can be more contrary to every principle of goodness than the opposite of forgiveness. Hence it is a fair conclusion that the opposite of forgiveness never existed in God. Though the special manifestation of that forgiveness which is ever with God, may be a new act in relation to the creature who receives such manifestation, and the time when such manifestation is made may justly be called the time when the sinner is forgiven, it would fall infinitely short of propriety to suppose that this act of forgiveness is new as it respects him who is the same yesterday, to day and forever.

Our third general proposition remains to be noticed, which is to define the nature of that retribution which is implied in the expression render unto every man according to his work," and show the consistency of such retribution with the before described forgiveness, and the necessity of such retribution and forgiveness in order to produce our salvation.

In order to define the nature of this retribution, it is necessary, in the first place, to fix on the object which such retribution is designed to affect; and secondly it is necessary to define the ratio of reward or punishment which the work of the accountable creature merits or demerits, in relation to the obs ject to which this retribution is directed.

--With regard to the object which is promoted by the blessed reward with which our heavenly father is pleased to honor the work of moral righteousness, which work is performed by the moral and physical powers which are given to man, it is evident from scripture and reason that this object is not to establish the creature in an opinion of his independence, but the reverse. It is designed and wisely calculated to show the creature his infinite obligation to his creator for the gift of those moral and physical powers, by the proper exercise of which he is capable of sublime happiness. It is not to implant nor to cultivate the vain notion that our good works have procured for us the friendship of our creator, but to show us that our creator was always kindly disposed towards us, and that he created us for happiness, pursuant to the good pleasure of his own will. It is not to cherish the too prevalent opinion that the creature's merit insures him a title to eternal salvation, but to show us that all our acceptable virtues and the blessed rewards with which God has pleased to approbate them, are mere consequences resulting from that great salvation wrought by grace. In support of the above, see Eph. ii. 8, 9, 10. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, le st any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

With regard to the object which is to be promoted by the punishment with which God is pleased to discountenance transgression, it is not to retaliate any injury done to him, for the supposition that God is injured by the sin of his creature necessarily establishes the idea that he is benefited by our virtue, which makes him in both cases dependent on us. That such an opinion is as contrary to scripture as it is to sound reason, may be seen by the following passages. Job xxxv. 6, 7, 8. "If thou sinnest, what dost thou against him? Or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? Or what receivest he of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man." Psalm xvi. 2, 3. "O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord my goodness extendeth not to thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight." But even if the absurd notion that God receives injury by our sins, be granted, yet it would be contrary to his revealed word for him to retaliate by injuring us in return. See Mat. v. 44, 48. "But I say unto

« PoprzedniaDalej »