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count of his atonement and righteousness alone. And a conversion essentially similar to this, is ne. cessary, in the case of every sinner, in order to forgiveness and justification before God. Here then, more particularly,
1. When persons are converted, they return to God, as their rightful supreme Lord.
The carnal mind of man, as born of the flesh, we are told, “ is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” But in conversion, implying regeneration, the minds of persons are altered in this respect. They become friendly to God to his sovereignty, law, and govern ment: are made willing to be under his command, and at the disposal of his Providence in all things; to be dependant upon his free grace, and to give unto him the glory due to his great and holy name. Col. i. 21, “And you, that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.”
2. When persons are converted, 'they retum to God as their chief good : the centre and source of all their happiness.
The Holy One of Israel says, Jer. ii. 13, “ My people have committed two evils : they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
And that such is the folly of sinners generally, our Saviour has strikingly represented in his , parable of the prodigal ; Luke xv. 11-16, “A certain man had two sons : and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there
arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat : and no man gave unto him.” This is a fit illustration of the conduct and condition, not only of the Gentile world, but of every unregenerate sinner. Man is naturally disposed to set up a divided and separate interest of his own, as his ultimate object of pursuit; and to seek happiness independently of God, and at a distance from him.
Now, the conversion of a sinner, is his being brought to see that in the service and enjoyment of God, is the only real freedom, and soul-satisfying happiness; and his returning to him, with these views and expectations. Thus, when the prodigal came to himself, he said ; “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise, and go to my father."
3. When persons are converted, they receire Christ as their Saviour, and put their trust in him as an all-sufficient Mediator between God and them. In John xiv. 6, we are told Jesus said to his disci. ples, “I am the way, and the truth and the life ; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” And it is spoken of as the sum of the gospel report, 2 Cor. v. 19, “ To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” It is also said of Christ, Heb. vii. 25, “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” There is no such thing as a sinner's finding rest for his soul, on good grounds, but by coming to Christ, and through him to the Father. If we would not have our hearts troubled, respecting pardon and peace, it is not enough to believe in God; we must believe also in
Christ. A saving conversion implies the latter, as well as the former.
4. It ought ever to be remembered, that when persons are converted, the change of heart, will be followed by a lasting change of life, from sin to holiness.
“ I thought on my ways,” says David, appealing to God, “and turned my feet unto thy testimonies; I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” It is said, Isa. lv. 7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts : and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him.” And Ezek. xxxiii. 11, “ Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways ; for why will ye
die ?" As a mere external reformation, without a change of heart, is not that conversion which will save men; so no supposed change of heart, which is not pro. ductive of a religious and virtuous course of life, is a true conversion.
III. I am next to speak of the manner in which the sins of sincere penitents and true converts, are or will be blotted out,
The blotting out of sins, is a figurative mode of expression ; alluding to the erasement or crossing of book accounts when they are balanced. It supposes, speaking after the manner of men, that God keeps a book, in which he sets down all the sins of every person ; and that when any one repents, and turns from the way of transgressors, this book account against him is crossed, so that it can never more be read. And it is certain that God keeps as exact a remembrance of the actions of men as if they were all literally written down in a book : but we are not to suppose that the iniquities of persons, when they repent, are so blotted out that God cannot read them, or no longer has them in remembrance. This is impossible. An omniscient being must be suppos. ed to know all things past, as perfectly as the present. All that can be meant by God's blotting out sins, is his granting a gracious pardon of them. He may forgive, but never can forget, what has been amiss in us. We often read of his pardoning sins; by which we are to understand, his remitting the punishment of them, in whole or in part: and this, as far as he does it, is as effectual a security from his wrath on account of them, as if they were actually blotted out of his remembrance. Those iniquities of men which God hath fully forgiven, will never be brought into judgment against them, as matter of condemnation, any more than if they were en. tirely forgotten ; or than if they had never been. Hence he says, Isa. xliv. 22, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins.” And Jer. 1. 20, “ In those days, and in that time, the iniquity of Jacob shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found : for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” And hence it is said, Micah, vii. 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 our sins into the depths of the sea.” When sins are entirely forgiven of God, it is, with respect to their ever rising up to the hurt of the sinner, as if they were buried in everlasting oblivion.
Let us now consider when, the sins of those who repent and are converted, will be thus blotted out. In some places the pardon of men is promised them, immediately on their repentance and conversion. Respecting the seed of Jacob as a nation, God says, 2 Chron. vii. 14, “If my people, which is called by
my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” The pardon of individuals is also sometimes spoken of as what had already been granted. See Matt. ix. 2, “Son be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Luke vii. 47, “ Her sins which are many are forgiven.” And Eph. iv. 32, “Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” It is likewise said, “He that believeth, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation.” And, “ There is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
By a sinful nation's being forgiven, on repentance and a reformation, we are to understand the remission of certain public judgments, with which it had been threatened. By the forgiveness of particular sinners, immediately on their conversion, by repentance and faith in Christ, is to be understood, their being delivered from the wrath to come, or secured, by the promises of the gospel, from eternal punishment. Not that they are so fully forgiven, but that they may be punished in the life which now is, both for their past and their future sins. Job says to God, “ Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” And this is the case, undoubtedly, with many good men. When David was brought to repentance, and said, “I have sinned against the Lord;" Nathan said unto him, “ The Lord hath put away thy sin ; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to plaspheme, the child that is born unto thee shall surely die.” Which punishment, and the others before denounced, were inflicted upon him with unabate ed severity, notwithstanding his sin was put away, as to the penalty which was its capital and full desert.