« AnteriorContinuar »
never treat them according to the magnitude and multitude of their offences. We find, that believers under the Old Testament prayed for the forgiveness of their sins, through the whole course of their lives. This appears from the prayers of David and of the people of God, recorded in the book of Psalms. The daily duty of Christians to pray for forgiveness, is still more evident from that form of prayer, which Christ taught his disciples. "After this manner pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." It appears from this petition, in connexion with the preceding one, that it is as much the duty of believers to pray for forgiveness every day, as to pray every day for their daily bread. They certainly commit new sins every day, in addition to all their past transgressions, and for all these offences they deserve to be chastised. They have reason to fear, therefore, that God will sooner or later chastise them, unless they humbly and fervently pray for his pardoning mercy every day. Their partial and conditional forgiveness at the time of their justification, does not supercede the duty and propriety of praying for the forgiveness of all their sins, so long as they remain in their present imperfect and probationary state. It is only on the supposition, that the justification of believers consists in partial and conditional forgiveness that we can see the duty and propriety of their praying for pardoning mercy as long as they live in this world. But if none of their sins are fully and unconditionally forgiven, at the time of their justification, then it is easy to see the duty, propriety, and consistency of their praying continually for the pardon of all their sins, without distinction or exception, in order to escape both temporary and eternal punishment.
4. If believers, at the time of their justification, are only partially and conditionally forgiven; then it appears to be proper and important, that God should warn them to avoid every error and sinful course, and give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, They are still in a state of trial, in which they are always liable to be led astray from the path of duty, by the snares of Satan, the temptątions of the world, and the remaining corruptions of their own hearts; and unless they escape these dangers, they cannot perform the con ditions upon which their full forgiveness and final salvation is suspended. This God knows to be their trying and critical situation, and, for this good reason, gives them so many warnings to guard a gainst their spiritual enemies, and so many exhortations to persevere in the practice of all the duties of Christianity. It is as certain, that believers will fall away and be lost, if they neglect to perform the conditions upon which their title to eternal life is suspended; as it is, that sinners will be finally condemned and destroyed, if they neglect
to repent and believe the gospel. If it be proper and necessary, that God should exhort sinners, to turn from their evil ways, to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life; then it is no less proper and necessary to exhort believers, to resist the devil, to overcome the world, to endure to the end, to take heed lest they fall, and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. These exhortations to those who are justified, are perfectly consistent with their partial and conditional forgiveness, according to God's last Will and Testament; but upon no other ground. If they were completely and unconditionally forgiven, we could see no occasion for such divine. exhortations and admonitions. The promise of persevering grace does not diminish, but increase their obligation and encouragement to live a holy, watchful, prayerful, and exemplary life. So the apostle Peter taught true believers in his day. "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hatk called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly-kindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
5. We learn from what has been said, that notwithstanding believers are but partially and conditionally forgiven, at the time of their justification, yet they may continually maintain peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. So long as they faithfully perform the conditions, upon which God has made them heirs to eternal life in his last Will and Testament, they may be assured, that he is reconciled to them, and will afford them the tokens of his fatherly affection and gracious presence. Christ said to his disciples, just before his death, "Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love hin
and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt masifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come anto him, and make our abode with him." While believers keep themselves in the love of God, and pay a cheerful obedience to all the intimations of his will, they perform the conditions upon which they are pardoned and justified, and enjoy that peace, which the world cannot give, nor take away. And upon this ground the apos tle declares, "There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." So long as believers feel and express a filial spirit towards their heavenly Father, they may possess their souls in peace, and go on their way rejoicing in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, has promised to bestow upon all, who are faithful unto death.
ARTICLE IV. THE NATURE OF SIN-A Sermon delivered in Newark, N. J. by Rev. John Ford, A. M. Pastor of the Church at Parsippany, N. J.—Newark, W. Tuttle & Co. 1827. pp. 19. 8vo.
[CONCLUDED FRom page 46.]
We now come to the INFERENCES, which appear to be the principal object, as they constitute the greater part of the Sermon.
The first Inference is, that "were there no law, there could be no sin." This may be true, rightly understood; whether we suppose, that "brute animals" have, or have not "malignant passions." Con science, or the faculty of discerning between right and wrong in a moral view, is a law to all who possess it, binding them to be holy; and without this faculty, no being is a moral agent, or capable of bee ing either holy or sinful. But it is not true, that the enactment of a positive law, with a penalty annexed, renders a certain kind of moral action sinful, which otherwise would not be so; for the law, in this positive sense, forbids certain feelings and actions, because they are 'wrong in themselves considered.'
A second inference is, "The mistake of those who suppose all sin to consist in positives, and who discard all idea of sins of omission." In support of this inference, Mr. F. says, “As we have seen already, the original term decides the question: It means either the neglect or violation of the law of God." It is true, we have seen Mr. F. a& sert this, p. 4, but we have not seen him exhibit the least proof of the assertion. Under this inference, Mr. F. takes occasion to say, that "the law of God reaches man in seven different points; his actions, his words, his thoughts, his opinions, his feelings and volitions or acts
Bat here we
of choice, and his motives or the ends he aims at." at a loss to conjecture, what distinction, in a moral view, Mr. F. we make, between a man's thoughts, feelings, volitions, acts of choice, tives and ends. According to this method of making distinctions, the addition of synonymes; for aught we can see, it would be as ea to make out seventy "different ways of sinning," as “ just seven," "twice that number.”
Mr. F. comes very near falling into the "mistakes," which his in ference is designed to expose. He says, "Sin in action is twofold positive and negative." Negative sin, then, as well as positive, is sin in action; and by negative sin, such as "neglecting to feed the hungry," he means the same as sins of omission. Sins of omission,therefore, are sins in action; and if they are sins in action, we should think they come very near being positive, While we view all sin to be a positive transgression of the law of God; we do not object to the phrase, “sins of omission;" if the sinfulness of such sins, be placed-not in mere omission, which is “meré nothing at all," which no moral agent ever can do but in those positively sinful, selfish exercises of heart, or will, the fruit or consequence of which, is the omission of commanded external actions.
The third inference is, "That sin does not consist in the essence of the soul." This is an unphilosophical, unscriptural "opinion” which we do not hear "often advanced;" though it may be so, in those places, where it is still attempted to make a distinction between “original and actual sin." If all sin be "the transgression of the law;" then, unquestionably, all sin is actual, and cannot consist in any sinful nature either of the soul, or of its faculties. The very expression, “sinful nature," is an absurdity; and it seems of little consequence to enquire, whether the notion of such a nature does not make "God the author of sin outright," and represent Him as 'condemning us for such a soul, or nature, as He made for us.'
We think Mr. F. correct in saying that "this scheme" of a sinful soul, or nature, anterior to any kind, or possibility of transgression, " is in direct contradiction to the opinions of the soundest and ablest Calvinistic divines;" and we should be glad, if this class of Calvinistic Divines, bore a greater proportion to the whole number. It is pretty certain, that the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, were not of this class; for in their Shorter Catechism, as "ratified and adopted by the Synod of New-York and Philadelphia," they say, "The sinfulness of that estate, whereinto man fell, consists in the corrup tion of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin." How many of the Calvinistic Divines in this country, assent to the Confes gion, or Creed, of the Presbyterian Church, we cannot say; in which Confession, we read, Chap. VI. "Our first parents, by this sm, (the sin of eating the forbidden fruit,) became wholly defiled in all the fe
culties and parts of soul and body"-that this 'corrupted nature is conveyed to all their posterity, and utterly indisposes and disables them to all good.' The quotations, which Mr. F. makes, p. 8, from several noted Calvinistic Divines, seem to us, in a great measure, ir« relevant; for they only show, that those Divines supposed the sout to be originally pure, or pure as it came from the hand of its Maker; and not that they denied the existence of a corrupt nature in the soul; and much less, denied that sin consists in the essence of the soul, which, in the strict and philosophical sense, it is presumed, no Divine ever maintained.
Our approbation of what we find on p. 9. would be unqualified, were it not for an incidental observation respecting the "law of reason," and 'reason sufficiently matured to infer right and wrong from consequences and tendencies. We are unable to see how moral right and wrong can ever be inferred from consequences, and, of course, how reason can ever do the office and have the force of a law. Reason may calculate tendencies, infer consequences, and weigh loss and gain; but Conscience only has eyes to discern between moral good and evil, right and wrong.
Mr. F. concludes this long inference with a short, but convincing argument, in favor of two important points-the one, that sin has u cause-and the other, that the cause of sin, must be holy.
Mr. F.'s fourth inference is, that sin "does not consist in the essence of our original exercises." If this inference be as just, it does not seem to be so intelligible, as the preceding. If, as some metaphysicians maintain, there be a principle or substratum, which supports the properties of spirit, as well as of matter; in this, no doubt, consists the essence of the soul. But what are we to understand by the essence of an exercise? Is it the soul itself, of which an exercise is the property, or act? If so, this inference is but a repetition of the former, in different words. But, perhaps, by the essence of our original exercises, is meant, their nature. If so, we should think it a strange position, that sin does not consist in the nature of our exercises, understanding, by exercises, what is commonly meant by them, the affections and volitions of the heart or will. But, perhaps, Mr. F. means to use the term exercise, in a different and unusual sense; and he has a right to use it in any sense, if he clearly explains the sense in which he uses it; but this he has done, to our apprehension, very obscurely. At first, he says, that our "original exercises” are reducible, radically, to these three heads, "feeling, thought, and opinion." These, he adds, "are constitutionally inevitable:" but if so, it is difficult to see, with what propriety they are called exercises, or why it would not be as proper to apply the term exercise to respiration, the circulation of the blood, or the toothache. As feeling, thought and opinion, are 'inevitable, from the very constitution of our nature,' we