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stances, might, in others, be attended with the most serious consequences as it regards our own affairs, and prevent us from meeting the just demands of those to whom we ourselves are indebted : but, even in this case, a too rigorous treatment, as it would evince an unfeeling and a vindictive temper, ought to be most carefully avoided.
With the hope of rendering this portion of our Lord's directory profitable to you, it is proposed,
I. To state the doctrine of forgiveness, as it is revealed in the sacred writings.
II. To show what is implied in the prayer, Forgive us our debts,” and,
III. To clear up some difficulties which may be supposed to arise from the subject.
I. We are to make some observations on the doctrine of forgiveness.
Most affecting is the consideration, that human beings have departed from the glorious Author of their existence; and that whatever difference may have been observable in the extent of their defection, they have universally accorded in undervaluing and forsaking him who is the Fountain of genuine happiness. It is indeed to be deplored, that not one of our race, how eminent soever in intellectual endowments, and how exalted soever by circumstances favourable to a wide moral influence, has been excited by a powerful impulse, such as we may suppose an angel would feel, to oppose and resolụtely withstand the universal revolt: but that old and young, rich and poor, wise and unwise, should, from the period of the original apostasy, have fallen into the ranks of rebellion, and have strengthened and protracted the great conspiracy against the Creator of the world ; thereby exciting against themselves, from age to age, his awful, but righteous, indignation.
It is scarcely possible to view man as an intelligent agent, possessing the ability of discriminating between good and evil, and subject to the approbation and censure of his own conscience, apart from his relation to the supreme moral Governor. Every man feels, or at least suspects, even if he be destitute of a correct idea of religion, that he is amenable at the tribunal of that God who knows the interior of the heart, and weighs the actions of human beings in the impartial balance of eternal equity.
The moral government of God (or in other words, the demand which he makes on rational creatures for their obedience, the cognisance which he takes of their dispositions and actions, together with the rewards and punishments which he will distribute among them) is not an arbitrary order of things, but the natural result of that relation which subsists between him and his intelligent subjects. God has created all things for his own glory, that is, he designs that all the works of his hands shall in some way or other, according to their nature, display his perfections. The solid globe which supports us, the ever-varying moon, the planets as they revolve and glow in their courses, and the sun as he diffuses his splendour through immeasurable distances, declare his wisdom, power, and grandeur. Monsters that play in the deep, birds as they glide through the air, and beasts of various names, whether they prowl in the forest, or submit to the yoke of man, fulfil the designs of their Creator, and exist for his glory. But man was formed for nobler purposes; he was therefore endowed with a mind capable of reflecting on the Author of his being, of receiving moral impressions from him, and of acknowledging, loving, and adoring him, as the exhaustless Source of his happiness. Now, should we not dishonour the Creator, were we to suppose,
that, after having formed every thing else for his glory, after having destined every part of his works, both animate and inanimate, to celebrate his praise, he had sunk man-his best and fairest work--into a degree of comparative inferiority, by exempting him from that kind of government which is suited to his nature, and by neglecting to require of him that obedience which he is capacitated to perform?
Government, whether political: or moral, having for its object the regulation of human actions, and the well-being of society, supposes the existence of laws: without laws it would be merely nominal, since it could have no rational means of promoting order, or of restraining profligacy and rebellion. Laws, moreover, could not maintain their authority, and, consequently, could not produce any salutary effect, unless they were sanctioned by promises and threatenings. In accordance with these principles, the Supreme Being, as the immutable Lover of order, imposed a law on his rational creatures, to which he required their undeviating obedience, on pain of his displeasure. This law, righteous in its claims, and perfectly adapted to their nature, our first parents ungratefully and impiously violated; and their posterity, inheriting their dispositions, have, as it were, set their own seal to the original apostasy. Hence all the children of Adam are under the influence and condemnation of sin. “ As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become 'unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one.” By this awful declaration of inspired truth, with which the awakened mind accords without hesitation, ' every mouth is stopped, and all the world is become subject to the judgment of God.”
Having premised these things, we proceed to the discussion of the question proposed.
The design of the gospel is to afford relief to mankind in the sad extremity to which sin has reduced them. It is to assure them, that, although they have wickedly and pertinaciously violated the law of their gracious God, and thereby brought themselves into a state of condemnation, yet they may be forgiven, and restored to his favour.
By forgiveness we understand, “ the act of pardoning an offender, or removing the guilt of sin, that the punishment due to it may not be inflicted.” : It must be acknowledged, that this doctrine is one of the grand peculiarities of Divine Reve