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the heart has been turned to God, and made to love him. And that, I believe, never does take place until the sense of reconciliation and peace in Christ is wrought in the heart. Do not therefore be afraid of allowing yourselves to realize this, under a mistaken jealousy concerning holiness; but watch over yourselves, and see that when you have attained to it, it does produce holiness. This is its necessary fruit. Grafting into Christ, planting in his vineyard-these are the things that lead to bearing fruit. It is not bearing fruit that leads to the union, but the union that leads to fruitfulness. Now this grafting into him, and this planting in his vineyard, is the believing reception of his mercy; and be assured of this, that none can truly have laid hold of the hope that is in Christ who do not evidence it in their lives. There will be a most clear evidence of it to others, none who know them will fail to see a change in them even when it is least apparent to themselves. And although, to themselves, from their growing tenderness of conscience and their increasing acquaintance with the breadth and spirituality of God's law, there will be continual views afforded of the power of the sin that "dwelleth in them," and they will feel its warfare strong; yet I can have no doubt that they will have reason to perceive the altered current of their desires and affections, and that in all their short comings, or even in the surprisals with which sin will at times overtake them, they will still have
9 Rom. vii. 17.
reason to know that they "love the law," the holy, just, and pure law of God, which once they despised. Be assured of this, that in every system which comes from the holy God, holiness must be apparent. Nothing could proceed from God which was not designed to recover as well as pardon the guilty. But the great feature of the gospel is that holiness is the consequence, not the cause, of the reception of mercy. Indeed a moment's consideration must prove this to be the case, for mercy is free grace to sinners, and sinners can have no holiness to qualify them for the reception of mercy; though in God's scheme of salvation he will give them holiness to fit them for the enjoyment of glory.
In conclusion, let us observe, that it is in the way of exhortation and entreaty that the prophet in this place addresses the people of Israel, "O ISRAEL, RETURN UNTO THE LORD THY GOD!" To you, then, my brethren, whether we speak to such as are of the true Israel, and who mourn over their departure from allegiance once truly offered, and love once really felt toward their God, or whether we speak to such as are only Israel outwardly, we would address the word of exhortation; to all we would say, return, and cast yourselves at once upon the full, free, unconditional mercy of God in Christ. Go to God as, what you indeed are, utterly incapable of reconciling yourselves to him, and make no other plea than your own misery and his mercy. His mercy shown where misery most abounds. Say to
1 Ps. cxix. 97.
him, "IN THEE The fatherleESS FINDETH MERCY.”2 In thee the most destitute has a refuge. Plead with him the love he has shown, tell him he has made himself known to you as a reconciled God in Christ, that he has laid upon his own dear Son the iniquity of us all, that he has opened a way for mercy to come down, and that that beloved Son has thrown wide open the door of his Father's many mansions, that all the fatherless may find entrance there; nay, that they may be no longer fatherless, since God himself is their Father, and all the blessings of their Father's house are theirs for ever.
2 Hosea xiv. 3.
3 Isa. liii. 6.
HOSEA xiv. 4-7.
I WILL HEAL THEIR BACKSLIDING, I WILL LOVE THEM FREELY, FOR MINE ANGER IS TURNED AWAY FROM HIM. I WILL BE AS THE DEW UNTO ISRAEL; HE SHALL GROW AS THE LILY, AND CAST FORTH HIS ROOTS AS LEBANON. HIS BRANCHES SHALL SPREAD, AND HIS BEAUTY SHALL BE AS THE OLIVETREE, AND HIS SMELL AS LEBANON. THEY THAT DWELL UNDER HIS SHADOW SHALL RETURN, THEY SHALL REVIVE AS THE CORN AND GROW AS THE VINE; THE SCENT THEREOF SHALL BE AS THE WINE OF LEBANON.
WE considered, on the last occasion that I addressed you, the Lord's invitation to fallen Israel to return, and his own gracious directions how to do so. This was an implied promise that they should be received, for God never says unto us, "Seek ye my face in vain."1 How gracious is this, that we can never open the Bible and read in it an invitation and a promise, without the certainty that God will ratify it. We know that in it God speaks to us individually, that there is not a general threatening or
1 Isa. xlv. 19.
an invitation which, when we are in circumstances similar to those to whom it was addressed, is not as specially directed to us as if we were addressed by name. It is God's word, not to this man or to that nation, but to all whom it may concern. There is no part of the word of God, whether it be caution or encouragement, to which we may not apply the Lord's own words, "What I say unto you I say unto all." In this passage, my dear brethren, are comforts without end. We have not merely the general persuasion that to every fallen child of Adam the invitation to fallen Israel is directed, and that God's invitation is an implied promise that we shall have the things we are desired to ask for; but we have his own express declarations on the subject. There were TWO THINGS which he instructed Israel to apply for, PARDON and RESTORATION, and this passage assures Israel that they shall have them both. First, He had instructed Israel to ask for PARDON: "Take away all iniquity." Here then he ASSURES HIM OF IT: "I WILL HEAL THEIR BACKSLIDING.”
I shall in this place consider the prayer as for pardon only, and the promise as referring to pardon only; not because I think that the request, "Take away all iniquity," signifies only the desire of forgiveness, or that the promise, "I will heal their backsliding," implies only the removal of guilt and punishment; for I fully believe that both the desire and the promise extend to recovery and restoration also; but my reason for passing this over now is
2 Mark xiii. 37.