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But though the divine declarations respecting salvation by Jesus Christ, are exactly suited to the wretched condition of man, and adapted to produce hope and excite confidence; yet they seldom meet with implicit credit, or at least, are rarely viewed as exhibiting all that is necessary to exempt from condemnation and from death. There is in the hearts of all natural men a propensity to expect deliverance by the deeds of the law: and there are, perhaps, but few christians in whom the same legal principle does not, more or less, imperceptibly operate.
Whence originates that distrust of forgiveness with which many of those who have been eminent for vice are perpetually harrassed, but from a consciousness of enormous guilt? It is not, in this case, my being a sinner merely, but my being so great a sinner, that is the ground of discouragement; which is virtually saying, were I less guilty, I should have more hope. But this conclusion is fallacious. It is true, I may have been notoriously profligate, and when contrasted with others, a monster in wickedness; but it should be remembered that the commission of one sin, though not attended with the same degree of guilt, nor deserving the same punishment, will as certainly bar the way to heaven as the perpetration of a thousand. The felicity first promised to man, was connected with perfect obedience to the divine precept. The question, therefore, is—Am I a transgressor? If so; I am excluded from all hope of pardon on the ground of personal desert. The law of God, as a covenant promising life, is abrogated; and the only concern it has with me as a sinner, is to denounce sentence of death. Future blessedness is, therefore, as far out of the reach of the comparatively virtuous, as the completely vicious. Neither of them can obtain it on the ground of merit. If candidates for divine favour, they must both stand indebted to absolute grace: : and as it is no more difficult with God to remit, in virtue of an atonement, enormous than trivial offences, the most abandoned wretch has, when applying for mercy, the same foundation on which to build his hope, and as much encouragement to expect forgiveness, as he that may be properly denominated the least of sinners. The one, indeed, will have much forgiven, and should endeavour to proportion his gratitude to the benefit received; but the other will, notwithstanding, have to ascribe his salvation to the same source, and 'be under equal obligation to adore the hand which, if it have not rescued him from the same depths of iniquity, has nevertheless graciously restrained him from the desire, or the opportunity of committing it.
The awakened sinner is apt to imagine that it is great presumption to come to God for pardon in his natural defilement. He, therefore, looks into himself for a pious turn of heart, ,or for something to recommend him to mercy. But such a conduct is offensive to God. This is not to consider ourselves as possessing nothing—as deserving nothing—'as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.' We do that which is pleasing in his sight, when we believe on his Son, Jesus Christ— when we come as sinners for pardon through his blood. This is a practical confession- of guilt. It is, in fact, saying, Lord, I am vile ;f magnify thy great name in my forgiveness—I am helpless; do thou undertake for me—in myself, I am entirely lost; do thou save me! Or, in other words—I feel and acknowledge, O Lord, that whatever the scriptures have said concerning sin and its consequences, is perfectly just. I see that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour; 'that there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.' Therefore, merciful Father, spare, for his sake, a detestable wretch that is completely miserable—glorify thy grace—thy Son -—his work—his worthiness—in saving a criminal that deserveSkto perish. His blood cleanseth from all sin: his righteousness justifieth from all iniquity: O help me to confide in him only—to ascribe to him all the glory of my deliverance from condemnation and from ruin. Suppress—for ever suppress the thought that would attempt to divide or diminish his praise. His own arm has brought salvation—from henceforth, therefore, let me never lose sight for one moment of my own poverty and wretchedness, nor of the allsufficiency of his
.atonement. This is the foundation of my trust, the ground of my confidence; that by which my faith is strengthened, my hope abounds, and by which I am encouraged to enter daily with boldness into the holiest of all.
If the Lord have laid our iniquities upon Christ—if he have been made sin and a curse for us—If he have indeed been wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; and have really paid the price of our redemption—surely every attempt to obtain forgiveness in any other way must be highly offensive to the Majesty of Aeaven. Thus to act, is not to glorify his wisdom in providing this way of escape from ruin, nor the work of him who is styled emphatically the Way—but to disparage both the one and the other. It is, as the justly celebrated Owen expresses it, 'to take the work out of Christ's hands and ascribe salvation to other things—to repentance—to duties. Men do not say so, but they do so. The commutation they make, if they make any, is with themselves. The work that