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But I observed also, that there is a further liberty, wherein the gospel hath placed us Christians, arising from the relaxation of the rigour of those PENALTIES, which were to be inflicted on the transgressors of the law..
The law, indeed, did not threaten death to every sin, but in some cases allowed a facrifice for expiation. But wherefoever it did threaten death in express words, it did not allow repentance itself as a condition of remiffion. • To this we may add, that the same law did threaten death to abundance of several kinds of sins, (which it would be almost endless to enumerate), whenfoever they were committed against knowledge. So that whosoever had so finned in any of those numerous kinds, had no dispensation from the law, no not upon repentance itself; but was, by the sentence of the law, to die, by the hand of God, or of the magiNtrate.
Now the gospel, on the other hand, although it threaten eternal death to obftinate and impenitent sinners; yet it allows,
and and accepts repentance, as a condition of pardon in all degrees and kinds of fin, wherein the law did not allow it as to the punishment it threatened. And this is the thing which Saint Paul suggests, Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man, that is, through Christ, is preached unto you forgiveness of fins, and by him all that believe are justified from all those things, from whicb ye could not be justified by the law of Mofes *. There were numerous fins, from which the law did not absolve the offending person. The law did never absolve, or justify, where a man had wittingly committed a fin, to which that law threatened death; but left him, without any promise of pardon, to the sovereignty of the Lawmaker. Whereas the gospel, in express words, admits repentance and reformation, as a condition of forgiveness, in all those kinds and degrees of sin. No fin so heinous in its nature, none fo aggravated by repetition, none so heightened by long continuance, whereunto the gospel doth not expressly promise pardon, upon the * Acts xiii. 38.
finner's return to God. Here is that grace, which pardons the sensual and impure, upon their amendment and reformation. Here is that grace, which pardons the violent and injurious, upon repentance and restitution. Here is that mercy, which forgives the impious and profane, if peradventure they shall reform and return to God by true repentance. A grace, so great and undeserved, that it is seldom mentioned in fcripture, without expressions of admiration. A grace, fo signal, and so eminent, that when the apoftle had described it in the fifth chapter to the Romans, he found it needful to spend the fixth in caution against the abuse of it. Not that the liberty of the gospel, either in this or the former instance, is really such in its own nature, as that it gives any reasonable grounds for men to indulge themselves in fin; but that they, being bribed by their own lusts, take encouragement to do this, where none is given; that is, (according to the expression in my text), they use the liberty given in the gospel for an occafion to the flesh. Some there were, in the apostle's days,
who, being acquainted with their liberty from the rites and injunctions of the law. earlier than many others were, used the liberty of their consciences, to insnare the consciences of other men; fcorned and censured them as weak and ignorant; and by their censures and examples engaged them in the neglect of some laws relating to certain days and meats, before they understood their liberty, or had due time to understand it. And this abuse of Christian liberty is censured in Saint Paul's writings both to the Romans and Corinthians.
Others, observing that Saint Paul denied the necessity, nay in some cases forbade the use of the works of the law, that is, of the rites before mentioned, in order to justification; took liberty to absolve themselves from the works and graces of the gospel; from justice, mercy, and humility; from love, and patience, and veracity; from the engagements and obligations not only of the laws of Christ, but even of natural religion itself.
Others again, observing that the gospel promised pardon, where the law of Moses had denied it, and judging that the grace
of God was highly magnified by that par's don, took leave to indulge themselves in fin, under pretence of magnifying God's grace. Which is the error Saint Paul cenfures, where he says, What shall we say then? Shall we continue in fin, that grace may abound? God forbid. God offers no pardon, but to the penitent. The design of his grace, in offering pardon to the penitent, is to invite men to repentance. And therefore to use that grace, as an encouragement to impenitence, is to use it just against itself, contrary to its own defigns as well as against a man's own advantage.
How much of this unthankful folly may yet remain in the Christian world, I am not able to determine. But sure I am, that there is something like unto it, in very general use; which is, the delay of reformaTion, grounded upon the promise of pardon to every man that forsaketh his fins, although he hath long continued in them: Which is a great abuse of the grace of God. God promiseth pardon, to prevent despair; these men abuse that promise to presumption. God admits repentance after fin, to