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since, in that case, though it exhibits our depravity, guilt, and helplessness, in the most affecting strain, it would present us with no Sacrifice, no atoning Priest, no meritorious Intercessor; in a word, no solid basis for the hope of a guilty creature.
It will be found, I believe, on a careful perusal of the New Testament, that the forgiveness of sins is, mostly, if not always, represented as a consequence of the sacrifice of Christ. Let the following quotations be taken as a specimen :-"This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.-We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.-Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. And he is the Propitiation for our sins, and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world.-The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." These passages require no comment: their meaning is obvious to the plainest understanding.
But what aspect does this mode of forgiveness bear in relation to the Divine government? Without attempting to show how far it is reasonable and proper for God to display the
perfection and glory of his character, in his conduct towards rational creatures; we may observe, that the New Testament writers speak of forgiveness in such terms as to make it evident that the Sovereign of the universe, in bestowing that invaluable blessing on fallen men, not only secures his purity and equity from every imputation, but also exhibits those sublime properties in the brightest and most amiable forms. In confirmation of this statement, I recommend to your attention one passage in the writings of St. Paul. It is as follows; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, his righteousness: that he might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
From this passage, it appears, that the acceptance, and, consequently, the forgiveness of sinful men, are owing to the free favour of God, imparted to them through the propitiation and merits of the Redeemer; that the design of God, in adopting this plan, was, to manifest the justice, no less than the benevolence of his character; that God accepts the Propitiation of Christ on account of sinners, as being con
sistent with the claims of justice, otherwise he could not declare his righteousness in the remission of sins;-and that, while he absolves the penitent, who by the violated law was adjudged to misery, he evinces the strictest and most inflexible regard to the principles of eternal justice. That the term "righteousness is to be understood in this sense, is evident from the phraseology of the concluding part of this passage;-"To declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just, and the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus."
You must have frequently noticed, in perusing the Scriptures, that the forgiveness of sins is always represented as an act of grace. The very term "forgiveness" excludes all idea of obligation on the part of God, otherwise than as obligation may arise from his own merciful engagements. A sovereign is under no obligation to remit the offences of a subject who has transgressed the laws of his country; no inducement to such an act can in justice arise from the offender himself: much less can we suppose that God is under any obligation to his fallen creatures, as such, to pardon their sins. If he should pardon their sins, it is evident, that the act must originate in mere grace. God, as the just Governor of the world, has published his law for the regulation of human,
actions; and has threatened to punish every violation of it. Now, if, notwithstanding this threatening, he forgives sin, his grace in that act must be proportionate to the justice of the penalty. As far, therefore, as God would have been just in punishing us for our offences, so far does he display his grace in remitting them.
It has been contended, that this view of the freeness of pardon is inconsistent with the atonement of Christ;-that, if Christ died to atone for our sins, the forgiveness of them is not an act of grace, but of debt, "seeing a price is paid to obtain it." But though there may instances in which the ideas of grace and atonement would be incongruous, yet, in this case, they are in perfect unison. If, indeed, we could have borne the wrath due to sin in our own persons; or, if we ourselves could have procured a surety of sufficient dignity, and his sufferings could have been accepted on our account; or, if our sins could have been literally transferred to Jesus Christ so as to make them, to all intents and purposes, his sins, there would be considerable force in the objection.* But, when we reflect, that it is not in the nature of such sufferings as we endure, to expiate such guilt as we have contracted,
* Sce Fuller's Works, vol. vii. page 435–438.
that the human race, at no period of the world, even if they had been so disposed, were able to provide a surety and substitute of sufficient excellence to appear in their stead, that, though our sins were imputed to Christ, and drew upon him the indignation of Heaven, yet, that he retained his innocence unsullied; that our sins did not cease to be our own; and that we cannot enjoy the benefits of the Saviour's death unless we repent of those very sins for which he suffered; the charge of inconsistency between grace and atonement will appear altogether unfounded.
It should be recollected, moreover, that, as sin, according to the views which we have just stated, could not have been forgiven consistently with the claims of Divine Justice, without an atonement, the grace of God becomes more apparent in having provided such an atonement as is adapted, in all respects, to secure the blessing, and to ensure its communication in a way no less satisfactory to us than honourable to himself. The redemption of sinners, therefore, with all its attendant wonders, the eternal purpose which contrived it, the gift of a Mediator, and the acceptance of his sacrifice on our behalf, originated in the grace of God; so that the atonement of Christ, instead of diminishing, actually enhances the glory of Divine