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cleanse us from all unrighteousness, inherent and actual; to remit the punishment of it for the sake of that unparalleled infinite love of Christ, which so dearly and miraculously purchased our deliverance from eternal punishment.
But in establishing the inexpressible worth of this article of our Christian faith, we must advance yet further. The manner how this is done, will be no essential security to individuals, unless we have some assurance that it is done. This, therefore, forms the utmost testimony of our faith. It is the word of peace to us now, and the only strength of our future hope. As we look up to God for every other Christian grace and virtue, we must likewise pray earnestly to him, through Christ, to enlighten our understandings and strengthen our hearts to believe what he has been pleased to discover to us on the subject, in the revelation of his most holy word; that is, to give us a true and saving sense of the covenant of the Gospel, as it relates to the gracious promise of FORGIVENESS, that we may firmly believe, that, as Christ died for our sins (the just for the unjust), so we may also as truly believe that God, for Christ's sake, will forgive all those who truly repent them of their sins, and turn unto him in godliness. For, as the Evangelist St. Luke assures us (xxiv. 45, 46, 47), then opened he their understandings, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, And thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that REPENTANCE and REMISSION of sin should be preached in his name among all nations, &c. How was this? Why, to give REPENTANCE unto Israel, and FORGIVENESS of sins.
We have been now regularly bought on to the examination of the main point in this blessed doctrine, and that is, as it appears to be a covenant, implying a promise, on conditions ; and we have here the chief condition specified, repeated, and supported by the indisputable authority of Holy Scripture, namely, REPENTANCE.
That repentance and remission of sins are to be preached in connexion, has been just now twice asserted ; first, by the Author of the forgiveness HIMSELF, and then by his chosen instrument and Apostle to the Gentiles (St. Paul). And you cannot avoid observing, that the condition goes before the promise ; that is, we are first exhorted to repent, and then to expect (or believe in) the forgiveness of the offence ; for, without repentance, there is no remission. Except ye repent (saith our Lord), ye shall all likewise perish (Luke, xiii. 3, 5): again, Repent and be converted (saith St. Paul), that (to the end, or in order that) your sins may
be blotted out.
At the same time, therefore, that it is our greatest glory and happiness to uphold this doc
trine of the forgiveness of sins, as being, without dispute, the peculiar privilege or right belonging to the church of Christ, yet it is as expressly true, that it only belongs to those who are faithful members of it; and therefore it highly concerns us to guard most carefully against the errors which self-love, misapprehension, misinformation or presumption may expose us to, lest we make shipwreck of our faith, when we suppose ourselves just wafted to the desired port, and no longer at the mercy of the many storms that threatened us ; lest we split on the very coast where we vainly flattered ourselves we should be secure for ever.
To avoid this irretrievable misfortune, it will profit us much, to examine minutely into the nature of the covenant, and the character of the Mediator, or him, through whom our sins are pardoned or covered ; and also to consider the absolute necessity of repentance. And I shall conclude with some short observations upon such general and capital mistakes as are encouraged by too many concerning this doctrine of the pardon of sin, at the imminent peril of their souls.
A covenant (my brethren) signifies an agreement on certain terms. It is an engagement between two or more parties; in Hebrew, the word means a friendly parting, or a reconci
liation of persons supposed to be before at variance, but now satisfied with each other, in consideration of some mutual compact or agreement as to former difference. That a covenant, therefore, cannot exist without conditions, is clearly implied by the plain sense of the word, since the parting could not be friendly, if the conditions of the agreement were not fully understood, and .sincerely intended to be performed. If broken, the bond of the friendship would consequently be at an end.-But, perhaps, the declaration of the Almighty HIMSELF, the merciful party, may render it still clearer to you; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Our own understanding immediately assures us, that the Almighty would not be a God, a reconciled father or friend, to those who were not, nor would be his people; consequently, the condition here implied is, that the people were to serve him truly, in order to obtain his protection, and become capable in-. deed of enjoying his favour. The condition for human failure in the old law, was the atonement by sacrifice, which prefigured, that there was no remission without blood. And the condition of the Gospel acceptance is repentance and faith in the sacrifice once offered by the immaculate Son of God, for the sins of the whole world.
Further, in the Gospel, a covenant is called
a testament; that is, a disposal of things by will, at the death of the party possessing power to make such disposition: and the definition is perfectly just ; because Christ confirmed this promise of remission of sins for us by his death.
But as in the testament, or will of men, benefits are frequently bequeathed on conditions, and forfeited by law, if the terms of the bequest are violated; so it is exactly the same in this case; for, as the Apostle saith (Gal. iii. 15), Brethren, I speak after the manner of men (that is, I borrow an example from the custom of civilized nations): though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disanulleth or addeth to it. REPENTANCE, then, is the condition of the Gospel covenant or testament in Christ's blood on our part, and by it only, can the promise be obtained, or confirmed to us by God. By a covenant, therefore, as Christians, we mean that merciful treaty between God and man, whereof Jesus Christ is the Mediator, wherein the Almighty promises salvation to such as believe in Christ, have a lively faith in him, and show their faith by their works. And as circumcision was the seal of the covenant in the old law, and the circumcision or purifying of the heart what was meant by this sign; so the death of Christ is the outward seal of this pew covenant for the remission of sins; and the