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aspersion on the character of God. It manifestation of his truth and his righteouswould inflict a mutilation upon that cha-ness along with it? racter. It is confidence in such a mercy as! Now, those who, without any reference would dethrone the lawgiver, and establish to Christ, find their way to comfort on the the anarchy of a wild misrule, over his strength of their own general confidence fallen and dishonoured attributes. We may in God's mercy, make no account whatever lightly take up with the conception that of his truth, or his righteousness. What be God is all tenderness, and nothing else, and comes of the threatenings of God? What thus try to accommodate the character of becomes of the immutability of his purthe Eternal, to the standard of our own poses? What becomes of the unfailing truth convenience and our own wishes. We, of all his communications? What brennes instead of looking to the immutability of the of the solemnity of his warnings ? and how is Godhead, and taking our fixed and perma- it possible to be at all impressed by them.nent lesson from such a contemplation, may if they are ever and anon done away by a fancy of the Godhead, that he is ever as- weak and capricious system of connivance? suming a new shape, and a new character, What becomes of the wide and everlasting according to the frail and fluctuating ca. distinctions, between obedience and sin? prices of human opinion. Instead of God What becomes of the holiness of the Deity? making man according to his pleasure, man What becomes of reverence for his name, would form God in the mould of his own among the wide circle of angels, and archimagination. He forgets that, in the whole angels, and seraphim, and cherubim, who range of existence, he can only meet with have all heard his awful proclamations one object who is inflexibly and ever- against the children of iniquity,-if they lastingly the same, and that is God,—that see that any one of them may, by a mere he may sooner think of causing the ever- act of confidence in his mercy, turn all that lasting hills to recede from their basis, than has been uttered against them into an unof causing an infringement on the nature meaning parade? Where, in a word, are of the unalterable Deity, or on the designs all those sanctions and securities which can and maxims which support the method of alone make the government of the Deitv, his administration ---that to assume a cha- to be a government at all? These are all racter for him in our own mind, instead of questions which the people to whom we learning what the character is from himself, allude, never think of entertaining; nor do is in fact to make the foolish thought of the they feel the slightest concern about them. creature, paramount to the eternal and im- and they count it quite enough, if they can mutable constitution of the Creator.
just work themselves up into such a toleraLet us therefore give up our own concep- ble feeling of security, as that they shall tions, and look steadily to that light in which not be disturbed in the quiet enjoyment of God hath actually put himself forth to us. the good things of this life, which form all He has dealt out a variety of communications in fact that their hearts long after, and which respecting his own ever-during character if only permitted to retain in peace, they and attributes, to the children of men; and positively care not for the glory of God, or he tells us, that he is a God of truth, and how shall it be kept inviolate. This is not that he is jealous of his honour, and that be their affair. The engrossing desire of their will not be mocked, and that heaven and bosoms, is just a selfish desire after their earth shall pass away, ere any of his words own ease: and the strange preparation for pass away. Let us just attend to someofthese that heaven, the unceasing song of which words. He who continues not in the whole is, Holy and righteous are thy judgments, book of this law, is accursed. The whole O thou king of Saints, is such a habit of world is guilty before God. He will by no confidence, as lays prostrate all the majesty means clear the guilty. Without shedding of these high and unchangeable perfections. of blood, there is no remission. These are And yet if you examine these peopie the words of God. He has put them into a closely, you will obtain their consent to the record. Every one of us may read them, position, that there is a law, and that the huand compare the sayings of God, with the man race are bound to obedience, and that the doings of God, and if they do not correspond, authority of the law is supported by sanc. the one with the other, we may charge him tions, and that the truth, and justice, and with falsehood in the face of his insulting dignity of the Supreme Being, are involved enemies, and list the voice of mockery in these sanctions being enforced and exeagainst him, and feel the triumph which cuted. They do not refuse the tenet that man rebels feel, when they witness the timidity is an accountable subject, and that God is a of a feeble monarch, who does not, or dares judge and a lawgiver. All that we ask of not, carry his threats into accomplishment, them, then, is, to examine the account And is it possible, that the throne of the which this subject has to render, and they eternal God can rest on a basis so tottering, will find, in characters too glaring to be reor that, if ever he shall descend to the mani- sisted, that, with the purest and most perfestation of mercy, he will not give the I fect individual amongst us, it is a wretched account of guilt and of deficiency. That sin, and shed a glory over the truth and law, which is held to be in full authority justice of the lawgiver,-if they will still and operation over us, has been most un-persist in looking to him through another questionably violated. Now, what is to be channel than that of his own revelation; he made of this? Is the subject to rebel, and will persist in looking to them with the disobey every hour, and the king, by a per- aspect of a stern and unappeased enemy. petual act of indulgence, to efface every He will not let down the honours of his character of truth and dignity from his inflexible character, for the sake of those goveroment? Do this and you depose the who refuse his way of salvation. He will legislator from his throne. You reduce not fall in with the delusions of those who the sanction of his law to a name and a profess to revere this character, and then mockery. You bring down the high eco- shake the whole burden of conscious guilt nomy of heaven, to the standard of human and infirmity away from them, by the preconvenience. You pull the fabric of God's sumption, that in some way or other, the moral government to pieces; and unsub-mercy of God will interpose to defend them stantiate all the solemnity of his proclaimed from the vengeance of his more severe and sayings,-all the lofty annunciations of the unrelenting perfections. The one and the law, and of the prophets,-all that is told only way, in which he dispenses mercy, is of the mighty apparatus of the day of judg-through the atonement of Christ,-and if ment, all that revelation points to, or con- your confidence be laid in any other quarter, science can suggest, of a living and a reign- he will put that confidence to shame. He ing God, who will not let himself down to will not accept the prayers of those, who be affronted, or trampled upon, by the crea- can thus make free with the unchangeable tures whom he has formed.
attributes which belong to him. He will They who, in profession, admit the truth not descend with such to any intercourse of God, and yet take comfort from his mercy, of affection whatever. He will not own the without looking to him who bare in his approaches, nor will he deal out any boon own person, the accomplishment of all the from the storehouse of his grace, to those threatenings, do in fact turn that truth into who prosess a general confidence in his a lie. They, who, in profession, admit the mercy-when, instead of a mercy which justice of God, and yet trust in the remis guards, and dignifies, and keeps entire the sion of their sins, without any distinct ac- whole glory and charaeter of God, it is a knowledgement of him on whom God has mercy which belies his word, which invades laid the burden of their condemnation, do his other perfections, which spoils the divine in fact prove, that in their mouths justice is image of its grandeur, which breaks up the nothing but an unmeaning articulation. whole fabric of his moral government, and They who, in profession, admit the autho-would make the throne of heaven the seat rity of those great and unchanging princi- of an unmeaning pageant, the throne of an ples, which preside over the whole of God's insulted and degraded sovereign. moral administration, and yet assign to him The religion of nature,--or the religion such a loose and easy connivance at iniquity, of unaided demonstration,-or the religion as by a mere act of tenderness, to recal the of our most fashionable and philosophical every denunciation that he had uttered schools, leaves this question totally undisagainst it, do in fact put forth a sacrile-posed of;—and at the same time, till the gious hand, to the pillars of that immuta- question be resolved, all the hopes of the bility, by which the government of creation human soul are in a state of the most fearful is upheld and perpetuated. Let them rest | uncertainty. This religion makes God the assured, that there is no way of reconci- subject of its demonstrations, and it draws liation, but such a way as shields all the holy, ont a list of attributes, and it makes the and pure, and inflexible attributes of the justice of God to be one of these attributes, Divinity, from degradation and contempt. and the placability of God to be another of
Out of that hiding-place which is made them, and it admits that it is in virtue of the known in the gospel, all that is just, and former perfection of his nature, that he severe, and inflexible in the perfections of makes condemnation and punishment to God, stands in threatening array against rest on the head of those who violate his every son and daughter of the species. And law, and that it is in virtue of the latter if they will not look to God as he sets him- perfection that he looks connivance, and self forth to us in the New Testament,-if extends pardon to such violations. they refuse to look unto him as God in Now, ihe question which the disciples of Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, this religion have never settled, is, how to and not imputing unto them their tres-strike the compromise between these attripasses,-if they set aside all that is said butes. They cannot dissipate the cloud of about the blood of the everlasting covenant, mystery, which hangs over the line of deand the new and living way of access, and marcation that is between them. They the manner in which the mediatorship of cannot tell in how far the justice of God Christ hath repaired, all the indignities of I will insist on its exactions and its claims, or
what the extent of that disobedience is, I But, Secondly, the confidence we have over which the placability of God will been attempting to expose, is hostile to spread the shelter of a generous forgive the cause of practical righteousness in the ness. There is a dilemma here, out of world. which they cannot unwarp themselves,--a For what is the real and experimental question to which they can give no other effect of the obscurity in question on the answer, than the expressive answer of their practice of mankind ? The question about silence,-and it is such a silence, as leaves our interest with God, is felt to be unreour every apprehension unquelled, and the solvable; and, under this feeling, no genuine whole burden of our unappeased doubts attempt is made to resolve it. Man eases and difficulties as insupportable as before. himself of the difficulty by putting it away What we demand is, that they shall lay from him; and, as he cannot find the point down the steady and unalterable position of gradation in the scale of character, on of that limit, at which the justice of God, the one side of which, there lies acceptance and the placability of God, cease their with God, and on the other side of it, conrespective encroachments on each other. demnation,-he just upholds himself in If they cannot tell this, they can tell nothing tranquillity at any one point, throughout that is of any consequence, either to the every one variety of this gradation. purpose of comfort, or of direction. The Let the question only be put, How far sinner wishes to know on which side of down, in the scale of character, may this this unknown and undetermined limit, his loose system of confidence be carried ? and degree of sinfulness is placed. He wishes where is the limit between those sins, to to know whether his offences are such as which forgiveness may be looked for, and come under the operation of justice, or of those sins from which it is withheld ? and mercy,-- whether the one attribute will you will seldom find the man who gives exact from him the penalty, or the other an answer against himself. The world, in will smile on him connivance. It is in vain fact, is so much the home and the restingto say, that if he repent and turn from them, place of every natural man, that you will mercy will claim him as her own, and re- not get him so to press, and so to prosecute cover him from the dominion of justice, the question, as to come to any conclusion, and spread over all his sins the mantle of that is at all likely to alarm him. He will an everlasting oblivion. This may still be not barter his present peace, for a concern saying nothing --for the work of repent- that looks so distant to him as that of his ance is a work, which, though he should be eternity. The question touches but lightly always trying, he always fails in; and in on his feelings, and an answer conceived spite of his every exertion, there is a sin lightly, and given lightly, will be enough to and a shortness in all his services. And pacify him. Go to the man, whose decent when he casts his eye along the scale of and unexceptionable proprieties make him character, he sees the better and the worse the admiration of all his acquaintances, and on each side of him; and the difficulty still even he will allow that he has his infirmities; recurs, how far down in the scale does but he can smother all his apprehensions, mercy extend, or how far up on this scale and regale his fancy with the smile of an does justice carry its fiery sentence of con- indulgent God. Take, now, a descending demnation. And thus it is, that he feels no step in the scale of character; and do you fixed security, which he can lay hold of,- think there is not to be met with there, the no solid ground on which he can lay the very same process of conscious infirmity trust of his acceptance with God. And on ihe one hand, and of vague, general, and this religion, which has left the whole bewildering confidence on the other? Will problem of the attributes undetermined, the people of the lower station not do the which can furnish the sinner with no light, very same thing with the people above by which he may be made to perceive how them ?-Compare themselves with themjustice can be displayed, but at the expense selves, and find equals to keep them in of mercy, or how mercy can be displayed, countenance, and share in the average but by breaking in upon the entireness of respect that circulates around them, and justice; this hollow, baseless, unsupported take comfort in the review of their rery system, which, by mangling and deformning fair and neighbourlike accomplishments, the whole aspect of the Deity, has virtually and with the allowance of being just such left man without God,--has also, by the sinners as they are in the daily habit of faint and twilight obscurity, or rather by associating with, get all their remorse, and the midnight darkness in which it has in- all their gloomy anticipations disposed of, volved the question about the point of sin- by throwing the whole burden of them, in fulness, at which the one attribute begins a loose and general way, on the indulgence the exercise of its rigour, and the other of God? ceases its indulgence, not only left man And where, in the name of truth and of without God, but also left him without any righteousness, will this stop? We can ansolid hope in the world.
swer that question. It will not stop at all. It will describe the whole range of human and daring excesses. If there be no intelcharacter; and we challenge you to put ligible line to separate the exercise of the your finger on that point where it is to ter- justice of God from the exercise of his minate, or to find out the place where a placability, every individual, will fix this barrier is to be raised against the pro- line for himself; and he will make these gress of this mischievous security. It will two attributes to be yea and nay, or fast go downwards and downwards, till it come and loose with each other; and he will to the very verge ofthe malefactor's dungeon. stretch out the placability, and he will press Nay, it will enter there; and we doubt not, upon the justice, just as much as to acthat an enlightened discerner may witness, commodate the standard of his religious even in this receptacle of outcasts, the ope-principles to the state of his religious pracration of the very sentiment which gives tice; and he will make every thing to such peace and such buoyancy to him whose square with his own existing taste, and moral accomplishments throw around him wishes, and convenience; and his mind the lustre of a superior estimation. But will soon work its own way to a system this lustre will not impose on the eye of of religious opinions which gives him no God. The Discerner of the heart sees that disturbance; and the spirit of a deep slumone and all of us are alienated from him, ber will lay hold of his deluded conscience; and strangers to the obligation of his high and thus, from the want of a settled line, and spiritual acquirements. He declares from the vague, ambiguous, and indefinite the name of Christ to be the only one given way in which this matter is taken up, and under heaven, whereby men can be saved; brought to a very loose and general conand after this, every act of confidence, dis- clusion,-or, in other words, from that very owning his name, is an expression of the way in which natural religion, whether most insulting impiety. On the system of among deists, or our more slender profesgeneral confidence, every man is left to sin sors of Christianity, leaves the whole quesjust as much as he likes, and to take com- tion, about the limit of the attributes, unenfort just as much as his powers of delu-tered upon,-will every man take comfort sion can administer to him. At this rate, in the imagined tenderness of God, just as the government of God is unhinged,—the much as he stands in need of it, and expewhole earth is broken loose from the sys- riment on the patience of God just as far as tem of his administration,- he is deposed his natural desires may carry him, so that from his supremacy altogether,- peace, when we look to the men of the world, as when there is no peace, spreads its deadly they pass smoothly onward, from the crapoison over the face of society,--and one dle to the grave, do we see each of them in sentiment, of deep and fatal tranquillity a state of profound security as to his interabout the things of God, takes up its firm est with God; each of them solacing himresidence in a world, which, from one end self with his own conception about the to the other of it, sends up the cry of re- slenderness of his guilt, and the kindness bellion against him.
of an indulgent Deity ; each of them in a This is a sore evil. The want of a fixed state of false and fancied peace with Heaand clearly perceptible line between the ven, while every affection of the inner man, justice and placability of the divine nature, and many of the doings of the outer man, not only buries in utter darkness the ques- bear upon them the stamp of rebellion tion of our acceptance with God; but, by against Heaven's law; each of them walkthrowing every thing loose and undeter-ing without uneasiness, and without terror, mined, it opens up the range of a most while, at the same time, each and all of lawless and uncontrolled impunity for the them do in fact walk in the counsel of their disobedience of man, up from its gentler own hearts, and after the sight of their own deviations, and down to its most profligateleyes.
* Mercy and truth are met together : righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”—Psalm lxxxv. 10.
It was not by a simple deed of amnesty, free and a full discharge from the penalties that man was invited to return and be at he had incurred by breaking it. It was by peace with God. It was by a deed of ex-executing these sanctions on another, who piation. It was not by nullifying the sanc-voluntarily took them upon himself, and tons of the law, that man was offered a who, in so doing, magnified the law, and
made it honourable. To redeem us from no one feature, either of greatness or of the curse of the law, Christ became a curse beauty to admire in it-yet do angels adfor us. It was not by God listing off our mire it; and to accomplish it, did the Son iniquities from our persons, and scattering of God move from the residence of his glory, them away into a region of forgetfulness, and all heaven appears to have laboured without one demonstration of his abhor- with the magnitude and the mystery of the rence, and without the fulfilment of his great undertaking; and along the whole threatenings against them; but lifting them tract of revelation, from the first age of the off from us, he laid them on another, who world, do we behold the notices of the bare, in his own person, the punishment coming atonement; and while man sits at that we should have borne. God laid upon his ease, and can see nothing to move him his own Son the iniquities of us all. The either to gratitude or to wonder, in the guilt of our sins is not done away by a evolution of that mighty scheme, by which mere act of forgiveness. It is washed away mercy and truth have been made to meet by the blood of the Lamb. God set him together, and righteousness and peace to forth a propitiation. He was smitten for kiss each other, it is striking to mark the our transgressions. He gave himself for place and the prominency which are given us an offering and a sacrifice to God. The to it, in the councils of the Eternal. And system of the gospel no more expunges it might serve to put us right, and to rethe attribute of mercy from the character buke the levities which are so currently of the Godhead, than it expunges the attri- afloat in this dead and darkened world, did butes of truth and righteousness. But all we only look at the stress that is laid on the mercy which it offers and proclaims to this great work, throughout the whole of a guilty world, is the mercy which flows its preparation and its performance,-and upon it through the channel of that Media-how, to bring it to its accomplishment, the torship, by which his truth and his justice Father had to send the Son into the world, have been asserted and vindicated; and, and to throw a veil over his glory,—and to while it reveals to us the openness of this put the cup of our chastisement into his channel, it also reveals to us that every hand,-and to bid the sword of righteous other which the heart of man may con- vengeance awake against his fellow,-and, ceive, is shut, and intercepted, and utterly that he might clear a way of access to a impassable. There is none other name guilty world, had to do it through the given under heaven, whereby man can be blood of an everlasting covenant,-and to saved, but the name of him who poured lay the full burden of our atonement on the out his soul unto the death for us. With-head of the innocent sufferer,-and to enout the shedding of his blood, there could dure the spectacle of his bitterness, and his have been no remission. And he who hath agonies, and his tears, till he cried out that not the Son, hath the wrath of God abiding it was finished, and so bowed himself and on him.
gave up the ghost. It is due to our want of moral sensibility, Man is blind to the necessity, but God that sin looks so light and so trivial in our sees it. The prayer of Christ in his agony estimation. We have no adequate feeling was, that the cup, if possible, might be reof its malignity, of its exceeding sinfulness. moved from him. But it was not possible. And, liable as we are to think of God, that He could have called twelve legions of anhe is altogether like unto ourselves, do we gels, and they would have eagerly flown to think that he may cancel our guilt as easily rescue their beloved Lord from the hands from the book of his condemnation, by an of his persecutors. But he knew that the act of forgiveness, as we cancel it from our Scripture must be fulfilled, and they lookown memory, by an act of forgetfulness.ed on in silent forbearance. It behooved But God takes his own way, and most him to undergo all this. And there was a steadfastly asserts, throughout the whole need, and a propriety, why he should sufprocess of our recovery, the prerogatives of fer all these things, ere he entered into his his own truth, and his own righteousness. glory. He so loved the world, as to send his Son - We shall offer three distinct remarks on to it, not to condemn, but to save. But he this method of our redemption, in order to will not save us in such a way as to con-prove that it fulfils the whole assertion of firm our light estimation of sin, or to let our text, that it has made mercy and truth down the worth and dignity of his own to meet together, and righteousness and character. The method of our salvation is peace to kiss each other. not left to the random caprices of human First, it maintains the entireness and thought, and human fancy. It is a method glory of all the attributes of the Godhead. devised for us by unsearchable wisdom, Secondly, it provides a solid foundation for and made known to us by fixed and unal- the peace of every sinner who concurs in terable truth, and prescribed to us by a su- it. And, thirdly, it strengthens all the sepreme authority, which has debarred every curities for the cause of practical righteousother method; and though we may behold I ness among men.