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Acts x. 43.
To him give all the prophets witness, that through
his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
F it be true, brethren, that we have all failed of rendering a just obedience to the law of God, and are consequently subject to his holy displeasure, if on the other hand it be also true, that in order to deliver us from the sentence of this wrath, the son of God condescended to assume our nature, fulfilled in it the law, which we had broken, submitted to the punishment, which we had deserved, and thus made a way for the exercise of the divine mercy to sinners, it cannot but be a most interesting inquiry-How may you and I avail ourselves of this mercy? How may it be sought, obtained, and secured ?-: and this is the inquiry, which has been reserved for the subject of our meditation this morning. May he, on whom the lord hath laid the iniquity of us all, make known to us all, and enable us all to follow and to attain the only and certain way of salvation !
To the inquiry, now proposed to you, the text affords a full, distinct, and particular answer. * To him’ (that is to Jesus Christ)
give all the prophets witness, that through • his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.'
Under the circumstances, in which human nature is placed, it has been already observed, and indeed it is exceedingly obvious, that the first and most indispensable blessing, required for our restoration to the favour of God, is remission of sins. And this blessing would seem to be designed for all men in the mercy of God, when it is declared, that the lord hath laid on his own son the iniquity of us all : for, if he bore all our sins, surely it must have
been within the scope of his gracious purpose, that we all should obtain remission. And indeed of the correctness of this inference we are assured by positive texts of scripture: for we are taught in plain terms, that he is not willing, that any should perish, but that he will have all men to be saved; for God sent not his son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
Nevertheless it is too certain, that all men, notwithstanding this graciousness of our maker and redeemer, are not pardoned. Be not deceived !'-says saint Paul once and again. 'The unrighteous shall not inherit the king• dom of God. The lord, Jesus, shall be
revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels * in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them, that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our lord, Jesus Christ.'
On whom then will this grace of free remission be bestowed? Hear the answer of saint Peter in the text ! Through his name whoso
ever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.'
Now this, my beloved brethren, is in plain terms that doctrine of justification by grace through faith, which has been an object of contention ever since, nay, long before the days of the apostles: for what is justification, as it applies to a sinner, but remission of sins: and here it is stated expressly, that whosoever believeth in Jesus, shall receive remission of sins.
Justification, wherever it occurs in scripture, implies three things, an accusation, a trial, and an acquittal. Every sinner is accused by the law. “There is one, that accuseth you,' (said our lord in the forty-fifth verse of the fifth chapter of saint John's gospel)
even Moses. The accused sinner is brought to trial ; for— God'-we are taught in the thirty-first verse of the seventeenth chapter of the acts— hath appointed a * day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man, whom he hath ordained.' And what will be the result of this trial? It is given in express terms in the eighteenth verse of the third chapter of saint John's gospel. He that believeth on him, is not condemned. But he, that believeth not,
is condemned already.' The use of the present tense is here very remarkable and significant. . The trial will not take place formally till that day, which has been appointed in the secret counsel and foreknowledge of God. But it has taken place virtually long since; and every one, who believes truly in the name of the only begotten son of God, stands even now acquitted before God, and will be finally and formally acquitted when the day shall come for declaring the righteous judgment of God in the face of the universe. Then shall it be seen in the clear light of unquestionable truth, that according to the faithful testimony of the baptist he, that believeth on the son, hath everlasting life, and he, that believeth not the son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
In the mean time it becomes a serious point for us to determine first, what is meant, when remission of sins is so exclusively and invariably attached to faith, and secondly, what is the faith, to which such decisive efficacy is ascribed.
First it is undeniably certain, whatever we