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advice to a different supposition : he supposes a person to be doubting and deliberating with himself concerning his future conduct; either concerning some particular sin which he is tempted to commit, or concerning the general course of his future behaviour; and he charges such an one against bringing into the deliberation the account or consideration of God's mercy, so as to encourage himself thereby in giving way to the temptation by which he is urged. By this view of the subject the two passages are rendered consistent, and the important distinction upon the subject rendered visible.
We may proceed, therefore, to describe the cases in which we misapply the consideration of God's mercy, and act in opposition to the council delivered in the text.
First, then, we misapply the matter, when the thoughts of God's mercy beget in us ease under our past sins, and this ease makes us less afraid of repeating them. In minds not sufficiently thoughtful, if you in any way take away or diminish the terror or pain which they suffer from what they have done, you in the same proportion render them apt and willing to do the same thing again. But it is only so with minds which are not sufficiently thoughtful : in a mind seriously disposed, and which rightly considers its situation, the contrary effect will take place; the sense of past forgiveness will produce gratitude; gratitude will produce love; and love will increase, not diminish, the dread of offending anew. Suppose a malefactor under sentence of death, looking for nothing but the execution of that sentence, should receive assurance, or even hopes of pardon ; no doubt this intelligence would take off much of the load which weighed down his spirits-much of the pain of
SI: U ziet' mi aileviation to
les Tuzi rrar? If it did so, 2 H TI 2 ts a ceste i clemeney or Pesera mi nemer se prince be in
ter. I repeat, that derer de 2e mi scriewe iw from Pompiul Gir's rem respect to past
rruri de fiduce, so as to make us na wre mubas are way to tenptation, it is grier. 1. U 2-SI? cused Tanzir, ne detied above descobed is an in
m. rudine de mercy of God to the en4_ent of our sins, that is to say, the considera*C, mercy renders us easy under the past;
30 inier past triasemessias, serves to make us <W Xplous and Lort in cocplying with return
Replacuns. But there is also a more direct way in
at we carry yur presumption upon God's mercy to i vicceiving or ver consciences; and that is, when me urne wică ourseives in this manner; when in de. cong concerning any particular sins which we are iklank evi cummit, we say within ourselves, if God be
TuS turviving, and merciful, as religion teaches as he will not be extreme to condemn me for meet—this one addition to the number of
Wwthis is what may be called sinning upon ith stunning the goodness of God the foundazu ste pisa; which is a very different case from even.se mercies of God in the case of past sins. Vas prince of the mildest and most placable svi *tt new be informed concerning a malefactor, I've le un committed the crime of which he was
bawy depending upon forgiveness before
hand, would not this be a reason for withholding the mercy which had been thus perverted ? It certainly would.
Again, thirdly, this reliance beforehand goes sometimes to a greater extent. It goes the length of keeping men in a course of sins; because so often as men think of their condition, the first thing that fills their thoughts, is the abounding inexhaustible mercy of God: and the first effect of that meditation is, that if it so abound, and be so inexhaustible, they may still hope for salvation, although they go on to continue their pleasures and their practices. Now I will tell you what is properly meant by calling God's mercy abounding and inexhaustible. This is meant by it—that whatever be the quantity, or amount, or kind, or degree of our past offences, if we sincerely and truly repent and cease from them, their former enormity need not make us despair of pardon : but it relates solely to the past—it has nothing to do with the future, because it is then only applicable, when a reformation for the future takes place. Extensive as that mercy is, the case of a person intending to continue in sin does not come within it; that intention totally excludes the application.
Upon the whole, the brief statement of the case is this. It is certainly true that God is merciful, but we are not authorised to use or apply the consideration of God's mercy any otherwise than to guard us against despair for our past sins, to quicken and incite us to reformation for the future, and to support and comfort us when we feel that reformation in ourselves beginning. If we go farther than this, and think of God's mercy when we are deliberating concerning some sin which we are about to commit, either concerning our continuance in some old, or entrance upon
some new, course of sin, we are sure to think of it improperly, and to build hopes and conclusions upon it which we are not authorised to entertain. I know nothing which can be a more powerful preservative against this turn of mind, and this fatal delusion, than the wise and solemn warning of the text : “ Concern. ing propitiation, be not without fear to add sin to sin, and say not his mercy is great, he will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from him, and his indignation resteth upon sinners.”
OF THE DOCTRINE OF CONVERSION.
MATTHEW ix. 13.
I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to
It appears from these words, that our Saviour in his preaching held in view the character and spiritual situation of the persons whom he addressed, and the differences which existed amongst men in these respects; and that he had a regard to these considerations, more especially in the preaching of repentance and conversion. Now I think, that these considerations have been too much omitted by preachers of the Gospel since, particularly in this very article ; and that the doctrine itself has suffered by such omission.
It has been usual to divide all mankind into two classes, the converted and the unconverted; and, by so dividing them, to infer the necessity of conversion to every person whatever. In proposing the subject under this form, we state the distinction, in my opinion, too absolutely, and draw from it a conclusion too universal : because there is a class and description of Christians, who, having been piously educated, and having persevered in those pious courses into which they were first brought, are not conscious to themselves of ever having been without the influence of religion ; ef ever having lost sight of its sanctions ; of ever having