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because the remainder of this passage, which will hereafter come under our consideration, is express upon this point. I would here, then, take no notice of this for the present, but refer the precious promise of God, "I WILL HEAL THEIR BACKSLIDING," to the full assurance which he would impart equally to them and to us—that he fully and freely forgives the repenting and believing applicant for mercy. My brethren, what greater encouragement can we need than this? God himself says it. This is the principal ground of confidence that the apostle Paul suggests to the believer," It is God that justifieth." "It does not indeed pass over the blessed and sure grounds upon which God shows mercy, that "it is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is ever at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us;" but he shows how little we have to fear, since it is God who alone can pronounce the sentence that declares us acquitted. And so say we here. It is God who says, "I WILL HEAL." Let the drooping contrite sinner hear this. "I, even I," says God, "am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins."5 This is the declaration which he puts into the mouths of his servants, who are specially commissioned to declare it, as on the part of the Master whom they serve, and whose ambassadors they are, sent forth with the message of reconciliation; their declaration of which the Lord will ratify and acknowledge. As

3 Rom. viii. 33.

4 Ibid.

5 Isa. xliii. 25.

our church says, 'He hath given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins.' As such, my brethren, as his ministers, we address you; we magnify our office. We think the peculiar nature of the ministerial office, as God's embassy, is not sufficiently regarded either by ministers or people; that we ministers lose our strength, by forgetting in whose name we stand before you, and that you lose the benefit of our Master's message through us, by confounding our persons with our office, and forgetting who it is that has appointed us to deliver it. And since, as God's servants, we have a message from him to deliver to you, do you, my brethren, pray for the ministers of the church, and for the heads of the church, that they may be led to approve those, and none but those, whom God has indeed chosen to this office. Pray, in the words of our own most scriptural church, that Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who hath purchased to himself an universal church by the precious blood of his dear Son, may mercifully look upon the same, and so guide and govern the minds of his servants, the bishops and pastors of his flock, that they may lay hands suddenly on no man, but faithfully and wisely make choice of fit persons to serve in the sacred ministry of the church; and to those who are ordained to any holy function, that he will give his grace and heavenly benediction, that both by their life and doctrine they may set forth his glory, and set forward the salvation of all

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men.' And therefore pray that they may go forth in all the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace, preaching peace by Jesus Christ; declaring a reconciled God, and proclaiming pardon; holding forth God's own gracious declaration, “I WILL HEAL THEIR BACKSLIDING."

This, then, is the answer to the first prayer, and it is full and free; and the other is not less so. THAT PRAYER WAS, "receive us graciously," AND THE REPLY IS, "I WILL LOVE THEE FREELY, FOR MINE ANGER IS TURNED AWAY.”

Here then is God's promise and pledge of FULL RESTORATION. My brethren, we cannot too clearly distinguish between the taking away of punishment, and our full reception into the love and favour of God. Although, when God shows mercy, they always accompany each other, yet are they themselves two distinct things. The former is indeed precious, but the latter is infinitely precious. If a disobedient child had by the transgression of his parents' command subjected himself to a punishment, he would doubtless feel grateful at the deliverance from it; more especially if his father, that he might allow him to escape, subjected himself to much suffering and misery. And this is the scriptural view of God's taking away all our iniquity; he takes it away by bearing it himself. But the child who had escaped the punishment would feel that there was 6 Prayer to be used in Ember Week.

8 Acts x. 36.

7 Rom. xv. 29.

something more that he wished for, namely, to be restored to his father's favour. My dear brethren, how often have we realized this in our early days! A kind parent has said, "I will not punish you ;' and we have answered, "O that is not enough, will you love me again?" Now this is just what God promises here. We might indeed take the act of forgiveness, more especially when manifested in such a way, as evidence of his love. He so uses it, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."9 But we desire to be assured that he loves us personally, and that he regards us as affectionately as ever. Here, then, we have what we desired in this declaration, "I WILL LOVE THEE FREELY." O what a charm there is in that word! God will love, yea he will love us freely, graciously. No love can be more free, inasmuch as it was undeserved, it flowed from the fountain of his own heart. No love could be more free, for it spared nothing and gave every thing; kept not back his Son, and "with him freely gave us all things." Nay, it was such, that poor sinners as we are, he joined us to him, that he might love us with him. Of all the gracious mysteries of a gospel of love, this is perhaps the greatest, that he unites us to his Son, to make us partakers with him of all the fulness of his love. It is difficult to realize this, on account of its magnitude. But it is

9 John iii. 16.

even so, He will love, he does love us freely, for HIS ANGER IS TURNED AWAY."

But, my brethren, does God's love towards us stop here? God gives the repenting and believing heart; God teaches the contrite soul to look to him, and puts the desire into his heart, and the words into his mouth; so that, in the most emphatic sense, he teaches him How to pray; not only gives the words, but gives the spirit of grace and of supplication. The Spirit within makes intercession according to the will of God; and God does not withhold his answer, but declares that he will heal and love, entirely pardon, and freely receive. This is the first

He has brought

step only, as it were, of the work. the rebel child back; he has lifted up the light of his countenance upon him; he has taken him into his own family; and now gives him the spirit of a child. My brethren, you might, if a parent, reinstate a graceless child, and you would desire that the restored child should walk worthy of his calling. You might teach, and exhort, and educate, and watch and pray; but you could do no more. God however can, and God will. And, where he gives the privileges, he will give the mind and affections of a child; and enable the restored person to walk in a manner suitably to them.

Let us proceed, then, to the consideration of HIS

GRACIOUS PROMISES IN THIS RESPECT.

And, first, hear God saying, "I WILL BE AS THE DEW TO ISRAEL." This promise applies more par

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