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PARDON OF SINS, &c. .
EPHES. I. 7.
In whom we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
WHOEVER believe that they have sinned, and that God is just, cannot be indifferent to their condition and their prospects. The perfect development of his righteousness being reserved for a future state, and every question concerning it involving an immortal spirit and an eternal destiny, it would be madness not to inquire what shall be our fate. Reason and conscience, pronounce, with revelation, that the wages of sin is death. And neither reason nor conscience neither the works nor the providence of God, can discover the means or warrant the hope of escape. Dost thou doubt ? Make fairly the experiment. Retire into thine own bosom, and ask, can God justify the ungodly? Thy reason, abashed, declines to answer, while the voice of con
science pours accusations into thine ears, and her finger points to the wrath to come. Flee from thyself and thy fellow-sinners, whose reason is as dark and whose conscience is as guilty as thy own. Explore the works of the Creator. Thou wilt see order, bounty, magnificence, but not a trace of pardon. Go down, now, to the abode of those rebel-spirits who kept not their first estate. Ah! here are only chains of darkness and vials of wrath. Hasten hence, and consult the angels who surround the throne. Ask them if thou mayest hope for more lenity than the apostates of their own family? Ask them if the HOLY One can save thee without prejudice to his glory? The heavenly hosts cannot solve the problem. Silence seals up their lips of love; and thou, thy soul unsatisfied, thy doubts redoubled, must return and pass the time of thy sojourning, alternately shivering with the ague, and burning with the fever, of despair.
On this darkness, which the lights of the creature serve only to deepen, God hath caused the light of his Gospel to descend. It hath driven away those forms of horror which stalk around us in reason's and in nature's gloom, and revealed his angel of peace, the WORD made flesh. He calls us this day into his sanctuary, not to face his terrors, and to perish at
his rebuke, but to embrace his overtures of mercy, and to rejoice in his salvation.
This, then, is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that, to secure an honorable exercise of mercy, God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up to the death, that he might purge away our transgressions. And we are commanded to announce to you these glad tidings of great joy, that in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace. Astonishing words! More astonishing truths! Forgiveness of sins; forgiveness through the redemption of the Savior’s blood; forgiveness according to the riches of his grace. These are the sublime subjects of the text; and you see, in their order, the plan of discourse.
Spirit of grace and truth! impart thine influence, that we may speak of them and hear, as belongeth to those who speak and who hear the oracles of God!
I. I am to explain that forgiveness of sins which is declared in the text.
To form a correct judgment on this point, we must ponder the condition into which sin has brought us. In his moral government God has inseparably connected sin with punishment. Exclusion from his favor, bis commu
nion, his presence: his abhorrence in this world, and the damnation of hell in the next, are its native consequences and its just reward. It is this obligation to punishment which we term guilt. The divine law ties down the person of the sinner to the penalty of his sin. Forgiveness looses the wrathful bond. It dissolves the connection, not between sin and suffering, which is as immutable as the holiness and truth of God, but between sin and the destruction of the sinner. His crimes are consigned to oblivion ; and the Lord, instead of entering into judgment with him, acquits him from every charge, pronounces him innocent, and crowns him with blessing. Forgiveness, then, produces a double effect.
1. It removes the curse which, till that moment, abides on the sinner's person.
Justice had issued her sentence; the law had arrested him, and bound him for execution. Forgiveness steps in, takes the deathwarrant out of the hand of the law, breaks the seal and cancels the authority of that fatal instrument, strikes off the fetters of the condemned wretch, and bids him to go forth.
2. Forgiveness confers the favor and fellowship of God, and the inheritance of his heavenly kingdom.
Pardon is the great preliminary to advancement. The Lord forgives, that he may bless. A pardoned rebel passes into the family of God's dear children. "Accepted in the Beloved, the Spirit of adoption descends upon his heart, and his countenance brightens with the smile of reconciliation. Compassed about with favor as with a shield, he walks in safety and in peace. No weapon that is formed against him shall prosper. The eternal God is his refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Though his transgression may be visited with the rod, and his iniquity with stripes, yet, my loving kindness, saith God, will. I not take from him; nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. And while the Lord is thus his shelter and his shade, his glory and the lifter up of his head, manifesting covenant-mercy in giving that which is good, he is admitted to the divine fellowship. An open door into the holiest is set before him, through which he is commanded and qualified to draw nigh and commune with the living God. Without re- . luctance, without misgivings, with all holy boldness, it is his duty to go unto God his exceeding joy. The privilege is most congenial with the principles of the new man. A pacified conscience and a cleansed heart find their element in the presence and enjoyment of