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ON THE PARDON OF SIN.'
Micah vü. 18, 19. Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth
iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage ? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou
wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. PARDON of sin is a blessing of superlative value, because it is so necessary to our peace and salvation. Without it no man can be happy. We have been guilty of treason against God: and being unable to make the least atonement for our offences, unless we obtain forgiveness we must endure the awful severity of his justice, in endless woe. When the conscience of a sinner is wounded with guilt, and oppressed with fears of Divine wrath, pardon is sought with the utmost anxiety, as the only thing which can give it ease ; and it is received with joy, as the greatest of all favours.
Adored be the love of our heavenly Father! He has contrived a way, in which, in full consistency with his glorious perfections, he can shew mercy to the vilest rebels, who unfeignedly repent of their transgressions.
But, had not the Gospel made this rich discovery, mankind must have laboured under a painful uncertainty, whether there was “ forgiveness with God. " Though conscious of guilt, the mere light of reason could never have clearly taught them that he would not finally condemn all his offending creatures. But whether such as had rebelled against their Sovereign
* Ezek, xxxiii. 11. Rom. iii. 23-27:
might be pardoned without impeaching his honour, as a righteous governor; this was a point too difficult to be solved, without an especial revelation from heaven.
How great, then, are the obligations under which we are laid to admire the goodness of the Lord, who has not left us to form a thousand wild conjectures
about an affair of such vast importance ! for, in * the word of his grace, we are assured, by a Divine
voice, that "there is mercy with God, and plenteous redemption.”
His intention to forgive the penitent was known to Adam and the Patriarchs. It was exhibited, in a striking manner, under the sacrifices offered by the Law. The pardoning goodness of Jehovah was loudly declared to Moses in the wilderness : “ And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with hiin there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” But, by the incarnation and death of Christ, the doctrine has received the highest confirmation, and shines forth, to the full view of all, in unclouded glory and beauty. Yes, "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivemesses, though we have rebelled against him.”
Pardon amongst men ordinarily signifies the remission of atrespass in law, the forgiving of a felony, or treasonable offence committed against the king : but, as exercised by the Eternal Majesty of Heaven towards a repentant sinner, it implies not merely the forgiveness of his unnumbered sins, however heinous or provoking they may have been, but also
• Psalm cxxx.7. • Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. Dan. ix. 9.
adoption into the family of God, a title for heaven, and an earnest of it, which will be hereafter crowned with the possession of endless joy. To assure him of the reality of this mercy, God imparts to him the Holy Spirit, sheds his paternal love abroad in his soul, and vouchsafes that celestial peace which keeps his heart and mind by. Jesus Christ da
To inspire a contrite soul with full confidence in his mercy, God employs the strongest metaphors, and the richest variety of language ; yet all in exact correspondence to the different views which the Scriptures give of the dreadful and complicated evil of sin.
Sin, as to its effects upon the mind, is not unfitly compared to the leprosy and the plague; and the sinner is described as being so defiled and corrupted by it, as to resemble a putrid body”. To shew the efficacy of the remedy, his pardon, through the blood of Christ, is denoted by the cleansing and washing away of his filth'. The transgressor is likened to a wretched insolvent; and his offences, to a debt of ten thousand talents. His forgiveness is represented by blotting out his sins, or not imputing them unto him". Is the sinner compared to a person burthened with a load which is insupportable to his soul?
-then his pardon is called rest, and a removal of the painful encumbrance'. Are his trespasses, on account of their number and effects, said to resemble black, lowering, portentous clouds, which are ready to burst and deluge the country ?-his forgiveness is styled a total abolition, or blotting them out from the face of
dd Rom. v. 1-6.
Isa. i.5, 6. i Psalm xxxii. 1. 1 John i. 7. Rev. i.5. & Mat. xviii. 24.
Psalm xxxii. 2. i Psalm xxxviii. 4. Mat. xi. 28.
heaven, so that not a vestige of them shall be lert: behindhor any one be able to tell what is become of them. Is a contemptand violation of the Divine Lawi pronounced rebellion against the Majesty of Heaven, and the offender regarded as a convict under sentence of death ? His pardon reverses the sentence, and remits the penalty due to his crimes ;
yea, the Lord is gracious to him, and saith, Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom for him k.
Thus pardon appears to be a Divine favour, that carries in its train every thing suited to the wants of a contrite sinner. It makes the poor in spirit immensely rich, the miserable happy, the dejected joyful, the fearful courageous to fight the battles of the Lord: in short, the grace which accompanies it, pufies the heart, and qualifies it for the sublimest intercourse with God, and angels, and holy spirits.
There are some leading features in the pardoning mercy of God, which invite particular attention. It is complete, free and undeserved, and everlasting.
1. It is complete. If forgiveness did not include all sins, be they ever so numerous, and extend to all their aggravations, however enormous, it would not be equal to the necessities of a sinner. : Each sin being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and subjecting the offender to an awful curse, it is obvious, that if the punishment due to every sin be not remitted, the wrath of Heaven must be our portion. From hence, a full pardon appears necessary to secure our happiness; and aaordingly it is granted.
The Scriptures affirm, that when God vouchsafes a pardon to any of the sons of men, he liberally forgives all their trespasses, though as many in number si Isa. xliv. 22.
eik Job xxxiii. 24.
of Christ possesses such resistless efficacy, arising from the dignity of him who shed it, that it is able to “ cleanse us from all sin 4.”
2. Another excellence which distinguishes this pardon, is, that it is free and undeserved. It is not granted on condition of any obedience to be performed by us; for we receive it freely,“ without money and without price." Yet it is a fact, which the re- . deemed of the Lord must never forget, that their surety, Christ, was obliged to submit to the most dreadful conditions, to obtain their pardon. Nothing short of his perfect fulfilment of the broken law, of his subjection to the most infamous death of the cross, could reconcile thè affronted Majesty of Heaven to his rebellious creatures ; nothing but the sacrifice of his own life could satisfy the rigid demands of justice, or atone for the smallest transgression. God has affirmed it, as an unalterable truth, " that without shedding of blood, there is no remission?” of sin. The atonement of our adorable High Priest is the only thing which can answer the claims of Divine justice, purchase the forgiveness of sin, and soothe and heal the conscience when smarting under the anguish of a sense of guilt.
“ This was compassion like a God,
That, when the Saviour knew
His pity ne'er withdrew." This pardon is, nevertheless, entirely free to the real penitent. It is dispensed in a sovereign manner, according to the riches of Divine mercy. As it is written, “We have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus".
1 John i. 7. * Heb. ix. 22. ** Rom. iii. 23, 24.