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reign who withheld not, as the price of our redemption, his only Son, presents also the only unfailing source of consolation, God's holiness accuses even the angels with folly: his justice demands the execution of the sentence." The soul that sinneth, it shall die."* Reason and nature proclaim that God's holiness and justice must be preserved, and demand complete propitiation for man's transgression—a substitute, to endure, in man's stead, the penalty against sin, (the entire remission of which would be incompatible with the veracity, the authority, the justice, and the holiness of God.) The most perfect creature on earth, the most perfect creature in heaven, cannot render this propitiation, or present this substitute: for the most perfect creature, in the highest acts of obedience, only fulfils the law of his nature, and can have no superfluous righteousness with which to atone for the sins of others. It is then a dictate of reason, as well as a declaration of the word of God, that there is salvation in no other but in that only-begotten and well-beloved Son of the Father, who has made a full, free, and sufficient oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Resting with full faith in the gracious assurance, that whosoever cometh unto God through this Saviour, he will in no wise cast out, the penitent, animated, and cheered, and comforted by the hope of forgiveness, can utter the prayer—"God be merciful to me a sinner."
But this is not only the language of faith, but of holy resolution.
Here also the connexion between the evangelical graces is abundantly evident. To suppose that sincere sorrow for sin is compatible with a disposition and resolution to cherish it, is in the highest degree absurd; and equally so, to suppose that genuine and lively faith in the merits of Him who came to redeem us from all iniquity, will admit of the indulgence of it. The state of penitence, therefore, is a state of holy resolution. The penitent must aim at renouncing all those sinful passions and pursuits by which he has offended his God, contemned his Saviour, corrupted his own soul, and contributed to corrupt the souls of others. In every form, however alluring-under every guise, however seducing-sin must be his abhorrence; and so strong must be his aversion to it, that he must resolve to avoid even the appearance of evil. Renewed in the spirit of his mind, sanctified in soul and body, his life must exhibit, in bright lustre, “ whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are lovely and of good report."* To excite and enable him thus to advance in piety, in holiness, and in virtue, he enjoys the most powerful aids, even the influences of God's Spirit—and the most interesting motives, even the hope of eternal rewards, and the fear of everlasting punishment. Thus aided, and thus animated, he resolves to turn from his evil ways, and to love and serve the Author of his being, and the Redeemer of his soul. He resolves that the time past of his life shall suffice to have wrought the will of the flesh, and henceforth he will serve the living God: the time past of his life shall suffice to have walked in darkness-henceforth he will walk in the light of truth. No longer will he live to the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof;
* Ezek. xviii. 4.
but to Him who died to redeem him from divine justice, and who rose again to exalt him to the glories of heaven. With these holy resolutions is the prayer of contrition and of faith uttered « God be merciful to me a sinner."
Brethren, it is the declaration of Him whose truth is as unchanging as his power is resistless, that except we repent, we shall all perish. Let us then bumble ourselves in sincere and deep contrition, and let our hopes of pardon be placed only on the mercy of God, promised to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let it be our daily resolution and endeavour, through God's grace, to serve him in newness of life. With this contrition, this faith, this holy resolution, let our souls send forth the supplication of the penitent publican. Let this prayer be offered in secret, in the sanctuary, at all seasons; but with more frequency at those seasons when the church desires to humble her members in extraordinary acts of humiliation and repentance; and especially in that holy supper, where the pledges of pardon and peace, in the symbols of the body and blood of a crucified Redeemer, are extended to the penitent. Thus shall our repentance be accepted by that God who willeth not the death of a sinner; and our mourning and penitence in the church on earth, shall be exchanged for exultation and bliss in the church triumphant.
He who never utters this prayer of the penitent in sincere contrition, in lively faith, in holy resolutions of obedience, must be for ever a stranger to that mercy which he refuses to invoke, and to that peace which he rejects. But to the wicked, “God is a consuming fire."* The torments of that eternity to which they are hastening, may wring from their souls this prayer for mercy—but it will be too late.
* Heb. xii, 29.
Now then, brethren, in this accepted time, this day of salvation, let us offer it with the deep sincerity of our souls—“God be merciful to us sinners.” And let us go to that holy table, and plead the all-sufficient merits of him who is there set forth, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, and God will be merciful to our unrighteousness, and our sins and iniquities will he remember no more.
THE NATURE AND NECESSITY OF PRAYER,
Matt. vii. 7.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock,
and it shall be opened unto you.
The duty of prayer is enforced by the dictates of reason and the solemn injunctions of the word of God. “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye
shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you;" is a declaration, which, while it establishes the duty of prayer, affords the most animating encouragements to the performance of it: for this declaration teaches us that prayer is the means of procuring whatsoever blessings our infinitely merciful and gracious Father may deem requisite and necessary, as well for the body as for the soul.
The Sovereign Arbiter of nature and of grace has so arranged the course of events, and of his moral dispensations, as to suspend his favours on the qualifications of his intelligent creatures, and particularly on their humble and earnest prayers. In this suspension of his favours on our humble supplications, there is not any thing which reason would not approve and sanction in a human governor or an earthly parent. The conduct of that magistrate would not be considered wise and prudent, who, intrusted with the sword of punishment for maintaining the welfare of civil society, should