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Jesus Christ," saith St. Peter, "who hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and' which fadeth not away, which is reserved in heaven for us." Now could these people know that they were made heirs of this inheritance, if they did not know that they were received into the favour of God? Does not the one clearly, and by necessary consequence imply the other? The Apostle St. John writes in the same mauner,-" Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." And again: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." These highly favoured souls are considered as not only knowing themselves to be the adopted children of God, (and if so, it must follow, that they knew themselves to be received into his favour,) but also as being assured of their right and title to everlasting life. And the Apostle St. Paul speaks the very same thing, where he says, "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." So that it is evident the primitive Christians enjoyed a clear sense of the favour of God: They were assured of their adoption into his family; and were satisfied of their right and title to eternal life. And if Christians, in the present age, are called to believe in the same Saviour, and to embrace the same Gospel which they did; then are they called to experience the very same salvation, or to enjoy the same spiritual blessings. And those who deny this, should prove, that either there is another Saviour, or that there is another Gospel; or else to give up the point, and acknowledge, with the Scriptures, that we are still called to enjoy the knowledge of salvation, by the remission of sins.
It seems certain, that many even of the Old Testament saints enjoyed this blessing. David's description of the blessed man is remarkable: "Blessed is the man whose iniquity is forgiven, and whose sin is covered: Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not sin." Here we are told, that the man is blessed whose iniquity is pardoned. But is he describing a character that did not exist? Surely that would have been vain and foolish. Nay, he himself was that blessed man, as appears from his own words': "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who pardoneth all thy iniquities, and heal
eth all thy infirmities." And in another place: "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he set our sins from us." A goodly distance indeed! and he might well praise the Lord for so great a mercy. The Prophet Isaiah witnesses the very same confession, where he says,-"O Lord, I will praise thee, for though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me." And again: "Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, and he is become my salvation." And that Hezekiah enjoyed this blessing is beyond a doubt, and he declares, withoutthe least" reserve,-"Thou has cast all my sins behind thy back." Now" if the saints, under the Old Testament dispensation were so highly favoured of God, as to enjoy a sense of his forgiving love; then surely no one will attempt to deny, that we who live under the far higher and more glorious dispensation' of the Gospel, are called to be as greatly favoured of God as they were.
5. And as it appears, that both the Old and the New Testament saints, experienced the pardoning mercy and love of God; so it also appears, they were favoured with the knowledge of it. Hence we have heard them, with one voice, testifying of the mercy and loving kindness of the Lord, in those Scriptures which have been already quoted. They appear to have been of a different mind to our prudent people, who tell us that we ought to keep these things to ourselves, it being very wrong to speak of them. "I have not hid thy loving-kindness within my heart," saith David, "but I have declared thy truth in the great congregation.' And again: "My song shall be always of the loving kindness of the Lord, with my mouth will I ever be shewing forth thy truth, from one generation to another." And he exhorts others to do the same thing: "O let your songs be of him, and praise him; and let your talking be of all his wondrous works." Once more: "O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonderful works which he doth for the children of men." If any one will say, "So we ought to declare the wonderful works of God, beyond all doubt: His wonderful works of creation and providence, and the like." But are not his works of grace equally wonderful, and are we not equally interested in these, as in his works of creation and providence? Surely we are, and
much more abundantly so. We then be allowed to say with David, "Come hither, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul." And if with him we can joyfully testify, that the Lord hath delivered our
souls from death, our eyes from tears, and our feet from) falling, we need neither be afraid nor ashamed to declare it.
Perhaps some will now ask, How can these things be? How is it that the Lord discovers his love to those highlyfavoured souls, and by what means do they come to be satisfied that he hath pardoned their sins? We can believe it possible that the Lord, (if he sees it good so to do,) may bestow this great favour upon some of his chosen ones; but we cannot see how they are made sensible of it. This certainly is an important point, and deserves a very serious consideration. And in order to set this matter in as clear a light as may be, we must observe, that the Lord does not bestow this blessing upon any, till he hath prepared their minds to receive it: And that, by deeply convincing them of their want of it; by shewing them the absolute necessity of attaining it; by convincing them that Christ hath purchased this blessing for them; and giving them lively desires after, and an earnest expectation of receiving it at his hand. This is to them the one thing needful; for this they constantly pray, and are in daily expectation that the Lord will hear and graciously answer, according to his promise. And when the Lord fulfills their desire, the change is so great, that they cannot but be sensible of his goodness extended unto them. For it is a change from deep and distressing darkness, unto a state of marvellous light; a change from a guilty and burthened conscience, to a state of pardon, peace and rest; a change from miserable bondage to a state of glorious liberty and happiness; a change from bitter sorrow and heaviness, to a state of serious, solemn, and sacred joy. In one word, a change from the distressing view of the displeasure of God towards us, on account of our past sin, to a delightful view of the love of God towards us, in Christ Jesus. And he may, and very often does all this for us in a moment, by sweetly and powerfully applying some promise of his holy word to our minds, by the power of his own Spirit, which just suits our present state, or which contains that very blessing which we have been so long praying for, so that we are fully satisfied that we have obtained pardon and peace, and can rejoice in the God of our salvation.
2. Let us enquire, for our farther satisfaction, how it was that king Hezekiah came to know that the Lord had par doned his sin? He informs us, he had been in very great trouble, in the deepest distress of mind; insomuch that he chattered like a crane or a swallow, and was constrained
to cry unto the Lord, saying, "I am oppressed, Q Lord, undertake for me." The Lord graciously answered his poor distressed servant, and granted him the request of his lips; by turning his heaviness into joy, by removing all that load of trouble and distress which he had laboured under, and giving such a degree of peace and happiness, as he had till then been an entire stranger to. Hear him testifying of the Lord's goodness, with an heart filled with gratitude and love. "The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day; the fathers to the children shall make known thy truth. The Lord was ready to saye me; therefore will we sing our songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord." O what a glorious change was here! Behold Hezekiah weeping, mourning, and in extreme distress: But view him again, rejoicing with joy unspeakable, praising the Lord, and triumphing in the God of his salvation. Was it possible that Hezekiah, or any man living, unless deprived of his reason, could undergo such a mighty change as this, and yet be insensible of it? Surely no.
3. We may see just the same thing from the account Isaiah has given us : "O Lord, I will praise thee, for though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me." Here the Prophet gives us to understand, that he was made sensible he had been under the displeasure of God. "But now," saith he, "I will praise thee, because thy anger is turned away," And if any one would ask,-" How do you know the anger of God is turned away from you?" The man of God replies, 66 Thou comfortest me," That is, "Thou hast given me a sense of thy favour, and hereby my soul is comforted."
4. To make this, if possible, yet more clear. Supposing a person was here present in this congregation just in the same distress of mind, and that distress to arise from the very same cause which Hezekiah's did? If we should see in the man evident signs of the bitterest distress, so that we could not doubt for a moment the reality of it: If we should see him weep, hear his sighs, groans, and earnest prayers to God for pardon and peace: If we should see the same person, while hearing the word of God, or in any other part of divine service, break out into serious and solemn praises to the God of his salvation: If we should see in the man evident signs of sacred, spiritual and heavenly joy: And he should tell us," God for Christ's sake bas mercifully pardoned all my sins." Let any one ask, "How do you
know that this is the case, and that you are not deceived?' He replies, "I cannot believe that an infinitely wise ard gracious God will suffer any one to be deceived in a matter of such importance as this certainly is, who is truly sincere of heart. I know that God hath received me into his favour, because I feel his peace in my conscience; a peace it is which passeth all understanding. I feel his love shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto me. Yea, I feel a joy in my soul, which is just as the Apostle says, "It is unspeakable and full of glory." I am satisfied of the love of God towards me, because he hath applied that precious portion of his word to my mind," Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." And he hath not only applied, but fulfilled it; for I know that his light shines upon my soul, and I see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Shall we say that such a person is under a strong delusion, and is suffered to believe a lie? Or shall we not rather heartily join with him, in praising the Lord for his goodness, and in admiring the riches of his mercy and love extended to him?
5. And here we have infinite cause to be thankful, as the holy Apostle observes, "We speak that which we do know, and testify that which we have seen," and can bear witness these things are so, by happy experience.
Many, I well know, who pretend to be great friends to the Gospel way of salvation, will deny every thing of this sort. But why will they deny it? Because they never had any such experience, and so because they never had, no one else ever had, or ever can have any thing of the kind! An extraordinary way of reasoning indeed! But let us ever abide by the holy word of God, and then we shall clearly see pardon and peace, redemption and salvation, freely and graciously offered unto us, as the purchase of our Redeemer's blood. And if, from a deep sense of our want of this blessing, we seek it with our whole heart, in the way which God hath appointed, we shall surely obtain the invaluable treasure, and be truly happy in the enjoyment of it.