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aspersion on the character of God. It manifestation of his truth and his righteouswould inflict a mutilation upon that cha-ness along with it? racter. It is confidence in such a mercy as would dethrone the lawgiver, and establish the anarchy of a wild misrule, over his fallen and dishonoured attributes. We may lightly take up with the conception that God is all tenderness, and nothing else, and thus try to accommodate the character of the Eternal, to the standard of our own convenience and our own wishes. We, instead of looking to the immutability of the Godhead, and taking our fixed and permanent lesson from such a contemplation, may fancy of the Godhead, that he is ever assuming a new shape, and a new character, according to the frail and fluctuating caprices of human opinion. Instead of God making man according to his pleasure, man would form God in the mould of his own imagination. He forgets that, in the whole range of existence, he can only meet with one object who is inflexibly and everlastingly the same, and that is God,-that he may sooner think of causing the everlasting hills to recede from their basis, than of causing an infringement on the nature of the unalterable Deity, or on the designs and maxims which support the method of his administration,---that to assume a character for him in our own mind, instead of learning what the character is from himself, is in fact to make the foolish thought of the creature, paramount to the eternal and immutable constitution of the Creator.
Now, those who, without any reference to Christ, find their way to comfort on the strength of their own general confidence in God's mercy, make no account whatever of his truth, or his righteousness. What becomes of the threatenings of God? What becomes of the immutability of his purposes? What becomes of the unfailing truth of all his communications? What becomes of the solemnity of his warnings? and how is it possible to be at all impressed by them,— if they are ever and anon done away by a weak and capricious system of connivance? What becomes of the wide and everlasting distinctions, between obedience and sin? What becomes of the holiness of the Deity? What becomes of reverence for his name, among the wide circle of angels, and archangels, and seraphim, and cherubim, who have all heard his awful proclamations against the children of iniquity,-if they see that any one of them may, by a mere act of confidence in his mercy, turn all that has been uttered against them into an unmeaning parade? Where, in a word, are all those sanctions and securities which can alone make the government of the Deity, to be a government at all? These are all questions which the people to whom we allude, never think of entertaining; nor do they feel the slightest concern about them · and they count it quite enough, if they can just work themselves up into such a tolerable feeling of security, as that they shall not be disturbed in the quiet enjoyment of the good things of this life, which form all in fact that their hearts long after, and which if only permitted to retain in peace, they positively care not for the glory of God, or how shall it be kept inviolate. This is not their affair. The engrossing desire of their bosoms, is just a selfish desire after their own ease: and the strange preparation for that heaven, the unceasing song of which is, Holy and righteous are thy judgments, O thou king of Saints, is such a habit of confidence, as lays prostrate all the majesty of these high and unchangeable perfections.
Let us therefore give up our own conceptions, and look steadily to that light in which God hath actually put himself forth to us. He has dealt out a variety of communications respecting his own ever-during character and attributes, to the children of men; and he tells us, that he is a God of truth, and that he is jealous of his honour, and that he will not be mocked, and that heaven and earth shall pass away, ere any of his words pass away. Let us just attend to some of these words. He who continues not in the whole book of this law, is accursed. The whole world is guilty before God. He will by no means clear the guilty. Without shedding of blood, there is no remission. These are And yet if you examine these people the words of God. He has put them into a closely, you will obtain their consent to the record. Every one of us may read them, position, that there is a law, and that the huand compare the sayings of God, with the man race are bound to obedience, and that the doings of God, and if they do not correspond, authority of the law is supported by sanethe one with the other, we may charge him tions, and that the truth, and justice, and with falsehood in the face of his insulting dignity of the Supreme Being, are involved enemies, and lift the voice of mockery in these sanctions being enforced and exeagainst him, and feel the triumph which cuted. They do not refuse the tenet that man rebels feel, when they witness the timidity is an accountable subject, and that God is a of a feeble monarch, who does not, or dares judge and a lawgiver. All that we ask of not, carry his threats into accomplishment. them, then, is, to examine the account And is it possible, that the throne of the which this subject has to render, and they eternal God can rest on a basis so tottering, will find, in characters too glaring to be reor that, if ever he shall descend to the mani-sisted, that, with the purest and most perfestation of mercy, he will not give the fect individual amongst us, it is a wretched
account of guilt and of deficiency. That sin, and shed a glory over the truth and law, which is held to be in full authority justice of the lawgiver,-if they will still and operation over us, has been most un- persist in looking to him through another questionably violated. Now, what is to be channel than that of his own revelation; he made of this? Is the subject to rebel, and will persist in looking to them with the disobey every hour, and the king, by a per- aspect of a stern and unappeased enemy. petual act of indulgence, to efface every He will not let down the honours of his character of truth and dignity from his inflexible character, for the sake of those government? Do this and you depose the who refuse his way of salvation. He will legislator from his throne." You reduce not fall in with the delusions of those who the sanction of his law to a name and a profess to revere this character, and then mockery. You bring down the high eco- shake the whole burden of conscious guilt nomy of heaven, to the standard of human and infirmity 'away from them, by the preconvenience. You pull the fabric of God's sumption, that in some way or other, the moral government to pieces; and unsub- mercy of God will interpose to defend them stantiate all the solemnity of his proclaimed from the vengeance of his more severe and sayings, all the lofty annunciations of the unrelenting perfections. The one and the law, and of the prophets,-all that is told only way, in which he dispenses mercy, is of the mighty apparatus of the day of judg- through the atonement of Christ,-and if ment, all that revelation points to, or con- your confidence be laid in any other quarter, science can suggest, of a living and a reign- he will put that confidence to shame. He ing God, who will not let himself down to will not accept the prayers of those, who be affronted, or trampled upon, by the crea- can thus make free with the unchangeable tures whom he has formed. attributes which belong to him. He will not descend with such to any intercourse of affection whatever. He will not own the approaches, nor will he deal out any boon from the storehouse of his grace, to those who profess a general confidence in his mercy-when, instead of a mercy which guards, and dignifies, and keeps entire the whole glory and character of God, it is a mercy which belies his word, which invades his other perfections, which spoils the divine image of its grandeur, which breaks up the whole fabric of his moral government, and would make the throne of heaven the seat of an unmeaning pageant, the throne of an insulted and degraded sovereign.
They who, in profession, admit the truth of God, and yet take comfort from his mercy, without looking to him who bare in his own person, the accomplishment of all the threatenings, do in fact turn that truth into a lie. They, who, in profession, admit the justice of God, and yet trust in the remission of their sins, without any distinct acknowledgement of him on whom God has laid the burden of their condemnation, do in fact prove, that in their mouths justice is nothing but an unmeaning articulation. They who, in profession, admit the authority of those great and unchanging principles, which preside over the whole of God's moral administration, and yet assign to him such a loose and easy connivance at iniquity, as by a mere act of tenderness, to recal the every denunciation that he had uttered against it, do in fact put forth a sacrilegious hand, to the pillars of that immutability, by which the government of creation is upheld and perpetuated. Let them rest assured, that there is no way of reconciliation,but such a way as shields all the holy, and pure, and inflexible attributes of the Divinity, from degradation and contempt.
Out of that hiding-place which is made known in the gospel, all that is just, and severe, and inflexible in the perfections of God, stands in threatening array against every son and daughter of the species. And if they will not look to God as he sets himself forth to us in the New Testament,-if they refuse to look unto him as God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing unto them their trespasses,-if they set aside all that is said about the blood of the everlasting covenant, and the new and living way of access, and the manner in which the mediatorship of Christ hath repaired, all the indignities of
The religion of nature, or the religion of unaided demonstration,—or the religion of our most fashionable and philosophical schools, leaves this question totally undisposed of;-and at the same time, till the question be resolved, all the hopes of the human soul are in a state of the most fearful uncertainty. This religion makes God the subject of its demonstrations, and it draws out a list of attributes, and it makes the justice of God to be one of these attributes, and the placability of God to be another of them, and it admits that it is in virtue of the former perfection of his nature, that he makes condemnation and punishment to rest on the head of those who violate his law, and that it is in virtue of the latter perfection that he looks connivance, and extends pardon to such violations.
Now, the question which the disciples of this religion have never settled, is, how to strike the compromise between these attributes. They cannot dissipate the cloud of mystery, which hangs over the line of demarcation that is between them. They cannot tell in how far the justice of God will insist on its exactions and its claims, or
what the extent of that disobedience is, | over which the placability of God will spread the shelter of a generous forgive ness. There is a dilemma here, out of which they cannot unwarp themselves,―a question to which they can give no other answer, than the expressive answer of their silence, and it is such a silence, as leaves our every apprehension unquelled, and the whole burden of our unappeased doubts and difficulties as insupportable as before. What we demand is, that they shall lay down the steady and unalterable position of that limit, at which the justice of God, and the placability of God, cease their respective encroachments on each other. If they cannot tell this, they can tell nothing that is of any consequence, either to the purpose of comfort, or of direction. The sinner wishes to know on which side of this unknown and undetermined limit, his degree of sinfulness is placed. He wishes to know whether his offences are such as come under the operation of justice, or of mercy,-whether the one attribute will exact from him the penalty, or the other will smile on him connivance. It is in vain to say, that if he repent and turn from them, mercy will claim him as her own, and recover him from the dominion of justice, and spread over all his sins the mantle of an everlasting oblivion. This may still be saying nothing,for the work of repentance is a work, which, though he should be always trying, he always fails in; and in spite of his every exertion, there is a sin and a shortness in all his services. And when he casts his eye along the scale of character, he sees the better and the worse on each side of him; and the difficulty still recurs, how far down in the scale does mercy extend, or how far up on this scale does justice carry its fiery sentence of condemnation. And thus it is, that he feels no fixed security, which he can lay hold of,no solid ground on which he can lay the trust of his acceptance with God. And this religion, which has left the whole problem of the attributes undetermined, which can furnish the sinner with no light, by which he may be made to perceive how justice can be displayed, but at the expense of mercy, or how mercy can be displayed, but by breaking in upon the entireness of justice; this hollow, baseless, unsupported system, which, by mangling and deforming the whole aspect of the Deity, has virtually left man without God,-has also, by the faint and twilight obscurity, or rather by the midnight darkness in which it has involved the question about the point of sinfulness, at which the one attribute begins the exercise of its rigour, and the other ceases its indulgence, not only left man without God, but also left him without any solid hope in the world.
But, Secondly, the confidence we have been attempting to expose, is hostile to the cause of practical righteousness in the world.
For what is the real and experimental effect of the obscurity in question on the practice of mankind? The question about our interest with God, is felt to be unresolvable; and, under this feeling, no genuine attempt is made to resolve it. Man eases himself of the difficulty by putting it away from him; and, as he cannot find the point of gradation in the scale of character, on the one side of which, there lies acceptance with God, and on the other side of it, condemnation, he just upholds himself in tranquillity at any one point, throughout every one variety of this gradation.
Let the question only be put, How far down, in the scale of character, may this loose system of confidence be carried? and where is the limit between those sins, to which forgiveness may be looked for, and those sins from which it is withheld? and you will seldom find the man who gives an answer against himself. The world, in fact, is so much the home and the restingplace of every natural man, that you will not get him so to press, and so to prosecute the question, as to come to any conclusion, that is at all likely to alarm him. He will not barter his present peace, for a concern that looks so distant to him as that of his eternity. The question touches but lightly on his feelings, and an answer conceived lightly, and given lightly, will be enough to pacify him. Go to the man, whose decent and unexceptionable proprieties make him the admiration of all his acquaintances, and even he will allow that he has his infirmities; but he can smother all his apprehensions, and regale his fancy with the smile of an indulgent God. Take, now, a descending step in the scale of character; and do you think there is not to be met with there, the very same process of conscious infirmity on the one hand, and of vague, general, and bewildering confidence on the other? Will the people of the lower station not do the very same thing with the people above them?-Compare themselves with themselves, and find equals to keep them in countenance, and share in the average respect that circulates around them, and take comfort in the review of their very fair and neighbourlike accomplishments, and with the allowance of being just such sinners as they are in the daily habit of associating with, get all their remorse, and all their gloomy anticipations disposed of, by throwing the whole burden of them, in a loose and general way, on the indulgence of God?
And where, in the name of truth and of righteousness, will this stop? We can answer that question. It will not stop at all.
If there be no intel
It will describe the whole range of human and daring excesses. character; and we challenge you to put ligible line to separate the exercise of the your finger on that point where it is to ter- justice of God from the exercise of his minate, or to find out the place where a placability, every individual, will fix this barrier is to be raised against the pro-line for himself; and he will make these gress of this mischievous security. It will go downwards and downwards, till it come to the very verge of the malefactor's dungeon. Nay, it will enter there; and we doubt not, that an enlightened discerner may witness, even in this receptacle of outcasts, the operation of the very sentiment which gives such peace and such buoyancy to him whose moral accomplishments throw around him the lustre of a superior estimation. But this lustre will not impose on the eye of God. The Discerner of the heart sees that one and all of us are alienated from him, and strangers to the obligation of his high and spiritual acquirements. He declares the name of Christ to be the only one given under heaven, whereby men can be saved; and after this, every act of confidence, disowning his name, is an expression of the most insulting impiety. On the system of general confidence, every man is left to sin just as much as he likes, and to take comfort just as much as his powers of delusion can administer to him. At this rate, the government of God is unhinged,—the whole earth is broken loose from the system of his administration,-he is deposed from his supremacy altogether,-peace, when there is no peace, spreads its deadly poison over the face of society, and one sentiment, of deep and fatal tranquillity about the things of God, takes up its firm residence in a world, which, from one end to the other of it, sends up the cry of rebellion against him.
two attributes to be yea and nay, or fast and loose with each other; and he will stretch out the placability, and he will press upon the justice, just as much as to accommodate the standard of his religious principles to the state of his religious practice; and he will make every thing to square with his own existing taste, and wishes, and convenience; and his mind will soon work its own way to a system of religious opinions which gives him no disturbance; and the spirit of a deep slumber will lay hold of his deluded conscience; and thus, from the want of a settled line,from the vague, ambiguous, and indefinite way in which this matter is taken up, and brought to a very loose and general conclusion,-or, in other words, from that very way in which natural religion, whether among deists, or our more slender professors of Christianity, leaves the whole question, about the limit of the attributes, unentered upon,-will every man take comfort in the imagined tenderness of God, just as much as he stands in need of it, and experiment on the patience of God just as far as his natural desires may carry him, so that when we look to the men of the world, as they pass smoothly onward, from the cradle to the grave, do we see each of them in a state of profound security as to his interest with God; each of them solacing himself with his own conception about the slenderness of his guilt, and the kindness of an indulgent Deity; each of them in a This is a sore evil. The want of a fixed state of false and fancied peace with Heaand clearly perceptible line between the ven, while every affection of the inner man, justice and placability of the divine nature, and many of the doings of the outer man, not only buries in utter darkness the ques-bear upon them the stamp of rebellion tion of our acceptance with God; but, by against Heaven's law; each of them walkthrowing every thing loose and undeter- ing without uneasiness, and without terror, mined, it opens up the range of a most while, at the same time, each and all of lawless and uncontrolled impunity for the them do in fact walk in the counsel of their disobedience of man, up from its gentler own hearts, and after the sight of their own deviations, and down to its most profligate eyes.
The Union of Truth and Mercy in the Gospel.
"Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other."-Psalm lxxxv. 10.
It was not by a simple deed of amnesty, | free and a full discharge from the penalties that man was invited to return and be at he had incurred by breaking it. It was by peace with God. It was by a deed of ex- executing these sanctions on another, who piation. It was not by nullifying the sanc- voluntarily took them upon himself, and tions of the law, that man was offered a who, in so doing, magnified the law, and
made it honourable. To redeem us from no one feature, either of greatness or of the curse of the law, Christ became a curse beauty to admire in it-yet do angels adfor us. It was not by God lifting off our mire it; and to accomplish it, did the Son iniquities from our persons, and scattering of God move from the residence of his glory, them away into a region of forgetfulness, and all heaven appears to have laboured without one demonstration of his abhor- with the magnitude and the mystery of the rence, and without the fulfilment of his great undertaking; and along the whole threatenings against them; but lifting them tract of revelation, from the first age of the off from us, he laid them on another, who world, do we behold the notices of the bare, in his own person, the punishment coming atonement; and while man sits at that we should have borne. God laid upon his ease, and can see nothing to move him his own Son the iniquities of us all. The either to gratitude or to wonder, in the guilt of our sins is not done away by a evolution of that mighty scheme, by which mere act of forgiveness. It is washed away mercy and truth have been made to meet by the blood of the Lamb. God set him together, and righteousness and peace to forth a propitiation. He was smitten for kiss each other, it is striking to mark the our transgressions. He gave himself for place and the prominency which are given us an offering and a sacrifice to God. The to it, in the councils of the Eternal. And system of the gospel no more expunges it might serve to put us right, and to rethe attribute of mercy from the character buke the levities which are so currently of the Godhead, than it expunges the attri- afloat in this dead and darkened world, did butes of truth and righteousness. But all we only look at the stress that is laid on the mercy which it offers and proclaims to this great work, throughout the whole of a guilty world, is the mercy which flows its preparation and its performance,-and upon it through the channel of that Media- how, to bring it to its accomplishment, the torship, by which his truth and his justice Father had to send the Son into the world, have been asserted and vindicated; and, and to throw a veil over his glory,—and to while it reveals to us the openness of this put the cup of our chastisement into his channel, it also reveals to us that every hand,-and to bid the sword of righteous other which the heart of man may con- vengeance awake against his fellow,--and, ceive, is shut, and intercepted, and utterly that he might clear a way of access to a impassable. There is none other name guilty world, had to do it through the given under heaven, whereby man can be blood of an everlasting covenant,-and to saved, but the name of him who poured lay the full burden of our atonement on the out his soul unto the death for us. With-head of the innocent sufferer,-and to enout the shedding of his blood, there could have been no remission. And he who hath not the Son, hath the wrath of God abiding on him.
dure the spectacle of his bitterness, and his agonies, and his tears, till he cried out that it was finished, and so bowed himself and gave up the ghost.
Man is blind to the necessity, but God sees it. The prayer of Christ in his agony was, that the cup, if possible, might be removed from him. But it was not possible. He could have called twelve legions of angels, and they would have eagerly flown to rescue their beloved Lord from the hands of his persecutors. But he knew that the Scripture must be fulfilled, and they looked on in silent forbearance. It behooved him to undergo all this. And there was a need, and a propriety, why he should suffer all these things, ere he entered into his glory.
It is due to our want of moral sensibility, that sin looks so light and so trivial in our estimation. We have no adequate feeling of its malignity, of its exceeding sinfulness. And, liable as we are to think of God, that he is altogether like unto ourselves, do we think that he may cancel our guilt as easily from the book of his condemnation, by an act of forgiveness, as we cancel it from our own memory, by an act of forgetfulness. But God takes his own way, and most steadfastly asserts, throughout the whole process of our recovery, the prerogatives of his own truth, and his own righteousness. He so loved the world, as to send his Son to it, not to condemn, but to save. But he will not save us in such a way as to confirm our light estimation of sin, or to let down the worth and dignity of his own character. The method of our salvation is not left to the random caprices of human First, it maintains the entireness and thought, and human fancy. It is a method glory of all the attributes of the Godhead. devised for us by unsearchable wisdom, Secondly, it provides a solid foundation for and made known to us by fixed and unal- the peace of every sinner who concurs in terable truth, and prescribed to us by a suit. And, thirdly, it strengthens all the sepreme authority, which has debarred every curities for the cause of practical righteousother method; and though we may beholdness among men.
We shall offer three distinct remarks on this method of our redemption, in order to prove that it fulfils the whole assertion of our text, that it has made mercy and truth to meet together, and righteousness and peace to kiss each other.