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IX.-FORGIVENESS OF SIN
The privilege and blessing of pardon will be the subject of consideration in this chapter. It stands in connection with the great and gracious provisions of the covenant through which our thoughts have been conducted ; and in proportion to the sense of our individual provocation against God will be our appreciation of this most inestimable benefit, and our holy solicitude to be rightly informed.
We shall best understand this act of grace by looking to the circumstances of our fallen nature: the carnal mind is in all instances insubordinate ; “It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Rom. viii. 7. As soon as we are born we go astray, giving universal proof that the Psalmist's confession is just in all, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm li. 5. Sealing confirmation of this fact is continually before us in the execution of the sentence annexed to transgression, which, not only as soon as we are born, but even previously to birth, is inflicted, “for as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Rom. v. 12. “ The wages of sin is death,” and if the sentence be assigned to one who by actual transgression has not, as it were, earned the awful payment, it becomes an undoubted fact that there is in our nature that transgressing character which has procured the curse : and in the infliction of this denunciation on infants we see established before us the certainty that death is the expression of God's displeasure against our nature as alienated and rebellious.
But we who live to develope the several corrupt dispositions of our fallen nature, have fearful cause to confess our provocation, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Rom. iii. 23. Our course has been one of actual transgression and consequently of sin, for “ sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John iii. 4. And as the consequence is inseparable from such a career, we inherit the awful results.
These are, first, separation from God." He is of purer eyes than to behold inquity.” No complacent regard, or condescending nearness of fellowship can be expressed from the Righteous One towards creatures unholy and unclean: “he beholdeth them afar off.” “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you.” Isaiah lix. 2. A separation thus procured through the fall cannot but be increased in its dismal darkness to the actual sinner; and since his iniquities are the obscuring cloud, his daily and hourly trespasses thicken this veil, and he walketh in darkness.
Secondly, such are placed under condemnation, the cloud is big with judgment and impregnated with fiery indignation. The way of the transgressor is a perpetual challenge of the Almighty, moving the Divine perfection to vengeance; and whosoever he may be who transgresses, he, by his trespass merits destruction, and, as a sinner, is a child of wrath. Ephes. ii. 4.
Thirdly, in all instances the provocation is attended with the expression of Divine displeasure ;" thou hast sinned, and be sure thy sin will find thee out:" in every un-pardoned case the expression will be abiding wrath, John
iii. 36. And in every pardoned one the token will be correction by the rod.
That such fearful evils can never be removed, but by an act of forgiving mercy from God, we readily understand, and usually, freely acknowledge. And blessed be the Lord, the needed mercy is freely given, according to the revelation which shews us a God ready to forgive, “ keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Exodus xxxiv. 6. “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses !” Dan. ix. 9. It is however highly important that the method of grace be kept in view, and that whilst we rejoice in the promise of forgiveness, we see the way whereby the mercy is obtained to the guilty. The children of God are a redeemed people, they are recovered to God, and held back from perdition by the grace of atonement that is wrought in and by Christ. And no act of forgiveness could be extended to the sinner, were not this redemption work established. The Lord hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence, as is affirmed in Ephesians i. 7, 8. “ In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence;” wisdom in the excellence of the plan of salvation-prudence in the sanctity of that plan. The freeness of divine love is unquestionable, and its unchangeable holiness is equally so, and although we delight to magnify the Father's boundless and ready compassion ; we forget not the sacred necessity existing that these compassions should flow through a channel of righteousness. That channel is prepared in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by whom, as an Incarnate Deliverer, Atonement for sin has been made, and the law-sentence of death, been established. Our eyes are directed to him as a sin-bearing Surety, on whom iniquity was laid, “ The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” It was beneath this burden that Jesus suffered, groaned, and died, enduring in body and soul the penalty, due to man. In body, bleeding beneath the blow provoked by sin imputed to him; in soul, receiving the pains of hell to which such as' are finally doomed to its outer darkness are reserved. The exhibition of Jesus on the cross, proclaims these heart-affecting truths, as expository of the prophetic page, and as confirmatory of the word," he will by no means clear the guilty.” Guilt never loses its heinous nature;