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regard to the object as miserable—not to his guilt, which is the source of his misery. .
'To pardon sin, as an absolute act of mercy, would be a total neglect of holiness, which is no more possible with God, than it is to put forth acts of power without wisdom. Now, the manifestation of divine holiness, in relation to guilt, can cnly be in the infliction of deserved penalty. As he cannot act powerfully without the exercise of infinite wisdom; so he cannot act mercifully without manifesting his infinite holiness. But to forgive sin, as an act of absolute mercy, would not be an act of holiness; and therefore no such act of absolute mercy is possible with God.'
Besides, if an atonement for sin be not indispensably necessary to forgiveness, the incarnation—the life—the sufferings—and the death of Christ were superfluous: because whatever was requisite to qualify a sinner for the enjoyment of heaven might, on this hypothesis, have been effected by the agency of the Holy Spirit. But, in addition to this gracious
work of the divine Comforter, there are other offices to perform. He is to take of the things of Christ, and show them to the church: to bring all things, in reference to his mediation, to remembrance; and to apply his blood to the conscience, which operations necessarily involve an atonement. If the way was so short, that by pure favour, without satisfaction, sin might have been pardoned; t. hy, says Dr. Bates, should the infinite wisdom of God take so great a circuit ?.—The apostle Paul supposes this necessity of satisfaction as an evident principle, when he proves wilful apostates to be incapable of salvation, 'because there remains no more sacrifice for sin:' for the consequence were of no force, if sin might be pardoned without sacrifice, that is, without satisfaction. .
If Jesus Christ satisfied not for us, says the eloquent Daille, what mean the prophets and apostles, who proclaim at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of all their preaching, 'that he died for our sins, was wounded for our transgressions, and^ bruised for our iniquities: that the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed: that his soul was made an offering for sin: that he is our propitiation, through faith in his blood: that he is the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world: that he offered up himself a sacrifice for sin, and sanctified us by this oblation, and purged away our sins by hhnself.'
There are but three ways in which a sinner can hope to escape final perdition: namely, by personal conformity to the moral law, the absolute mercy of God, and the atonement of Jesus Christ.
As to the moral law, that excludes all expectation of blessedness. 'As many as are of the worts of the law are under the curse: for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith.— But all have sinned and come short of the glory of God: therefore by the deeds of thelaw there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.'
With regard to the mercy of God, that, I have already observed, has relation to the object as miserable—not to his guilt.
In reference to the righteousness and atonement of Christ, these lay a solid foundation for hope. He is 'God's righteous servant, by the knowledge of whom, many are justified— Him hath God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins—God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them— Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many—he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself—and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.'
Your friend, Theron, I know, will treat this consolatory doctrine with contempt and with
ridicule. To suppose, it is said, that God will mark with rigorous exactness the deviation of his creatures from the strict rule of duty, is to impeach the divine goodness—to represent the Almighty as inexorable and cruel; especially when it is considered that human nature is frail and imperfect; that the commission of particular sins is only a compliance with natural propensities, and which, therefore, if not free from blame, can never be viewed as enormities of such magnitude as to incur everlasting displeasure.
Were I to suppose that Theron might impose on your simplicity and your candour by c partial representations of consequences, intricate deductions of remote causes, or perplexed combinations of ideas, which, having various relations, appear different as viewed on different sides; yet what must be the event of such a triumph? A man cannot spend all his life in frolick: age, or disease, or solitude will bring some hours of serious consideration; and it will then afford no comfort to think, that he has extended the dominion of vice, that he