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a possibility of their being. Now there could be no attractive merit before their existence. It is true, goodness is glorified and crowned by communicating : the world is a bright efflux of the divine glory; but this does not lessen the free goodness of the Maker. There was no constraint upon God to make the world for his declarative glory: for his essential glory is truly infinite, and wants no external appearance to make it complete. The universal church pays humble homage to the great Creator ;
acknowledging, that for his will and pleasure all things were created.”
The divine goodness to angels and man in their original purity, was grace: for although the image of God shining in them was attractive of his approbation and acceptance, yet they deserved no benefits from him : there is such an infinite distance and disproportion between God and the creatures, that they cannot by a common right claim any thing as due from his majesty. Besides, he is the productive and conservative cause of all their active powers, and the efficacy of them.
The creating goodness of God is eclipsed in the comparison with his saving grace. The first supposes us without any deserts of his favour, but this supposes our exceedingly bad deserts : the first was free, but this is merciful and healing grace. Mercy revives and restores us when deservedly miserable. This grace and mercy is of so pure a nature, that the most tender human inclinations to relieve the afflicted, are mixed with self-interest, compared with the mercy of God towards us. Our bowels relent, and affections are melting at the sight of persons in deep misery. But there is an inward and involuntary constraint of nature that excites such feeling resentments : and our compassion is moved by reflection upon ourselves, considering that in this open state we are liable to many disasters and wounding sorrows : but God is infinitely free from all disturbing passions, and exempted from all possible evils. To represent the immense love and mercy of God in its endearing circumstances, and to demonstrate his readiness to forgive, we must consider what he has done in order to his pardoning sinners.
Ist. If we consider God as the supreme lawgiver and judge of the world, as the protector of righteousness and goodness, and the revenger of all disorders in his moral government, it became him not to pardon sinners without the punishing sin in such a manner as might satisfy his injured justice, and vindicate the honour of his despised law, and declare most convincingly his hatred against sin. Now for these great ends he decreed to send his Son from his bosom, to assume our nature, and to suffer the contumelious calamity of the death of the cross, to make a propitiation for our sins. This was the contrivance of his wisdom, which the most enlightened angels had no presaging notions of. Now can there be a more clear evidence and convincing reality, that God is ready to forgive sins, than the giving his only begotten Son, a person so great and so dear, the heir of his love and glory, to be a sacrifice, that he might spare us? In this dispensation love was the regent leading attribute, to which his wisdom, justice and power were subordinate: they were in exercise for the more glorious illustration of his mercy. We have the strongest argument of God's love in the death of his Son, for our pardon was the end of it. From hence it is evident, that God is more willing to dispense his pardoning mercy, than sinners are to receive it.
2dly. God's readiness to forgive appears in the gracious and easy terms prescribed in the gospel for the obtaining pardon. There are two ways of justification before God, and they are like two ways to a city: one is direct and short, but deep and unpassable; the other lies in a circuit, but will bring a person safe to the place. Thus there is a justification of an innocent person by works, that secures him from the charge of the law; and a justification of a sinner by faith in our all-sufficient Saviour. The first was a short way to man in the state of integrity : the second, such is the distance of the terms, takes a compass. There is a shorter passage from life to action, than from death to life. There is no hope or possibility of our legal justification. The apostle saith, “ that which the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.” Rom. 8. The expiation of sin, and renewing us into the image of God, are obtained by the gospel. The law is called, “ the law of sin and death :" which must be understood not as considered in itself, but relatively to our depraved nature. The law supposes men in a state of uncorrupted nature, and was given to be a preservative of our holiness and felicity, not a remedy to recover us from sin and misery. It was directive of our duty, but since our
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rebellion the rod is turned into a serpent. The law is hard and imperious, severe and inexorable, the tenour of it is, “ do, or die for ever.” It requires a righteousness entire and unblemished, which one born in sin cannot produce in the court of judgment. Man is utterly unable by his lapsed powers to recover the favour of God, and to fulfil his obligation by the law to obedience. But the gospel discovers an open, easy way to life, to all that will accept of salvation by the Redeemer. The apostle expresses the difference between the condition of the law and the gospel in a very significant manner. “ Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the man that does those things shall live in them: but the righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise, say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven, that is to bring down Christ from above ; who shall descend into the deep, that is to bring Jesus Christ again from the dead? But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, and shalt believe in thy heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Rom. 10. The meaning of the apostle is, that things in heaven above, or in the depths beneath, are of impossible discovery and attainment, so it is equally impossible to be justified by the works of the law. The anxious sinner seeks in vain for righteousness in the law, which can only be found in the gospel.
It may be objected, that the condition of the law, and the condition of the gospel, compared relatively to our depraved faculties, are equally impossible. The carnal mind and affections are as averse from repentance and receiving Christ as our Lord and Saviour, as from obeying the law. Our Saviour tells the Jews, “ye will not come to me that ye may have life: and no man can come to me unless the Father draw him.” Which words are highly expressive of our utter impotence to believe savingly in Christ. But there is a clear answer to this objection; the difference between the two dispensations consists principally in this : the law requires complete and constant obedience as the condition of life, without affording the least supernatural power to perform it. But the gospel has the spirit of grace a concomitant with it, by whose omnipotent efficacy sinners are revived, and enabled to comply with the terms of salvation. The spirit. of the law is styled the spirit of bondage from its rigorous effects :. it discovered sin, and terrified the conscience, without implant
ing a principle of life that might restore the sinner to a state of holy liberty. As the flame in the bush made the thorns in it visible, without consuming them; so the fiery law discovers men's sins, but does not abolish them: but “ the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, that is, the gospel, has freed us from the law of sin and death.” I will more particularly consider the gracious terms prescribed in the gospel for the obtaining pardon ; “ Repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The requiring of them is not an arbitrary constitution, but founded in the unchangeable nature and congruity of things. Repentance signifies a sincere change of the mind and heart from the love and practices of sin, to the love and practice of holiness, upon evangelical and divine motives. The principal ingredients in it are, reflections with grief and shame upon our past sins, with stedfast resolutions of future obedience. It is a vital principle productive of fruits suitable to it: it is called “repentance from dead works, repentance unto life.” It is the seed of new obedience. Repentance in order of nature is before pardon, but they are inseparably joined in the same point of time. David is a blessed instance of this: “I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” Psal. 32. The sum and tenor of the apostle's commission recorded by St. Luke is, “ That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in the name of Christ to all nations." Luke 24. That a repentant sinner only is qualified for pardon, will be evident in considering, : (1.) That an impenitent sinner is the object of revenging justice ; and it is utterly inconsistent that pardoning mercy and revenging justice should be terminated upon the same person at the same time, in the same respect. It is said, “the Lord hateth all the workers of iniquity; and his soul hates the wicked.” The expression implies the intense degrees of hatred. In the glorious appearance of God to Moses, when proclaimed with the highest titles of honour, “ The Lord God, gracious and merciful, par. doning iniquity, transgression and sin,” it is added, “ he will by no means spare the guilty,” that is, impenitent sinners. We must suppose God to be of a changeable flexible nature, (which is a blasphemous imagination, and makes him like to sinful man) if an impenitent sinner may be received to favour without a change in his disposition. God cannot repent of giving a holy law, the rule of our duty, therefore man must repent of his breaking the law before he can be reconciled to him. The truth is, man considered merely as a sinner is not the object of God's first mercy, that is, of pity and compassion : for as such he is the object of God's wrath; and it is a formal contradiction to assert that he is the object of love and hatred at the same time, and in the same respect. But man, considered as God's creature, involved in misery by the fraud of the tempter, and his own folly, was the object of God's compassion; and the recovery of him from his forlorn wretched state, was the effect of that compassion. · (2.) Though mercy considered as a separate attribute might pardon an impenitent sinner, yet not in conjunction and concord with God's essential perfections. Many things are possible to power absolutely considered, which God cannot do: for his power is always directed in its exercise by his wisdom, and limited by his will. It would disparage God's wisdom, stain his holiness, violate his justice, to pardon an impenitent sinner, The gospel by the promise of pardon to such, would foil itself, and frustrate its principal end, which “is to purify us from all iniquity, and to make us a people zealous of good works.”
(3.) If an impenitent sinner may be pardoned as such, he may be glorified: for that which qualifies a man for pardon, qualifies him for salvation : and the divine decree establishes an inseparable connexion between them; “Whom God justifies he glorifies.” Rom. 8. 30. If a sinner dies immediately after his pardon is passed, nothing can intercept his being received into heaven. Now this is utterly impossible; the exclusion of such is peremptory and universal, “for without holiness no man shall see God." The admission of an impenitent sinner into heaven, would pollute that holy place, and unconsecrate the temple of God wherein his holiness shines in its glory.
It is objected by some, that the requiring repentance to qualify the sinner for pardon eclipses the grace of the gospel.
I willingly acknowledge, that a religious jealousy, lest the freeness and honour of divine grace in our pardon should be lessened, is very becoming a christian; but it is ill-grounded and illguided in this matter. This will be evident by considering;
That repentance is an evangelical grace, the gift of the Redeemer: “ Him has God raised to be a prince and a Saviour, to