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НЕВ. ix, 22. Without shedding of blood is no remission. The confession of mankind respecting their need of forgiveness, though in most cases not arising from such deep conviction as to lead them to seek pardon, is, however, so general, and the acknowledgment made so readily, that instead of detaining you with proofs of our universal sinfulness, we shall for the present take it for granted. The opinions of men on the
way of obtaining pardon, are far from being so agreeable to each other, or to the truth. That great source of ignorance, our fancied knowledge, is one cause of their mistake; and want of a thorough persuasion of their guilt and danger, makes them remiss in their inquiries about the way to escape from it. Their natural depravity also makes them averse to any consideration of a religious nature; and even when the Scripture is consulted for information on this subject, men often bring their own notions and prejudices along with them. In this way the doctrine of the gospel appears obscure. It shall be our endeavor to state the truth as it is revealed, and we must begin with removing error.
Without shedding of blood there is no remission. Now as there are many modes of remission or forgiveness passing current among Christians, different from the one in the text, we must examine their nature and
I. The first, and most general way is, that God is merciful, and man weak, therefore God will overlook his errors. This, as might be expested, is the most favorite way, among men, because most agreeable to their inclinations; in the reasoning by which it is attempted to be established, we allow the premises, but deny the conclusions: we allow that God is merciful and man weak, but we deny that it follows from thence that man must be saved. For though God is merciful, and must necessarily remain so, yet our salvation is not necessary to the maintenance of his attribute of mercy; he would not lose this attribute were we all to. perish: if he would why did he not when he destroyed the angels that sinned? No mercy was shewn to them, yet we still
say properly, that mercy is one of his attributes. It is allowed that man differs from the angels in being weak; but God did not create him weak-God made man upright, in his own image. His subsequent corruption is to be
ascribed to himself, and can therefore impose no obligation on God to alter his laws in order to accommodate them to man's weakness. If it be urged that the weakness in which we are born is not owing to ourselves, we reply, that weakness is not so great as to amount to a necessity of falling. What man can say with truth, concerning any of the sins he has committed, that it was absolutely impossible for him to have avoided it; if he had avoided the temptation, or armed his mind with consideration—the fear of God and his judgmentsfaith in his promises and help--whose conscience does not tell him after the commission of evil, that he is himself to blame, and not his maker? God it is true, has given us passions, but it is not the use of them that constitutes sin, but the abuse of them: this abuse of them is of ourselves, and therefore God is not chargeable with our sinful weakness. Consequently no argument can be drawn from thence that he will overlook it. If any one injure us materially in our property or honor, and while we are suffering from the aggression, should plead his weakness of resolution, or the strength of his inclination to do what he has done, we should consider the excuse as inexcusable as the crime; and why we do not apply the reasoning to God, is, because we seldom think how offensive sin is to him.-Our weakness therefore, is no excuse; and if God make laws for us, and denounce punishments for the transgression, and rewards for the observance of them, he does only what every wise Lawgiver on earth does, who, if he fulfil his own threatenings, is not accused of want of goodness. It might be added, that the goodness of God would be so far from being liable to any imputation by our destruction, that it might probably be an act of goodness to the rest of the creation to punish us; as a King, by putting to death a number of his people, who are nuisances to the rest by their ill conduct, consults thereby the benefit of the whole community: for the rest are taught the evil and danger of transgression, and fear to offend. If, after all, men persist in saying, that they can never believe that there is any hell, or that God made us to be miserable, we answer, that the same argument would go to prove that there should be no suffering in this life neither--for this world is as much under God's government as the next; we must therefore say upon those principles, we shall never find any misery in the world, God is too merciful to allow it. But let us look at the world Is there no misery, no shame, no poverty, no remorse, no disease? yes, a huge army of pains and sorrows over-run the earth, and are the consequences of men's sins--the natural, appointed and necessary consequences. It cannot be said that these sufferings are intended only to correct us, so as to make us more careful in future; for in all instances of capital punishments for crimes this end cannot be answered. When a man is brought to the gallows, no one supposes that bis execution is intended to make him better; and it must be observed that these things take place upon earth according to the appointment of God: for such instances of punishments, where men are cut off for ever from the community, are confessedly necessary for the well being of the whole, and are therefore agreeable to the will of God. Our inference therefore, is, that upon whatever principle God is supposed too merciful to punish sin hereafter, upon the same principle it must be concluded, that he is too merciful to punish it here: which is contrary to fact. But we were to speak of forgiveness. We have shewn that it is impossible to suppose that God should not punish sin at all; yet since many who would allow that God will punish some, that is, the most heinous transgressors, yet suppose that the rest will be readily forgiven, we proceed one step farther, and aflirm, that God never forgives any in the absolute exercise of mercy, independently of any other consideration. For mercy cannot be exercised to the disparagement of his truth. If therefore, he has spoken any thing which is of such a nature that the exercise of inercy in pardoning would be inconsistent with it, that mode of exercising mercy cannot be admitted as possible, because it would subject the Deity to the imputation of falsehood. Now God has said, either literally or virtually, that sin shall not go unpunished: and reason indeed, furnishes us with the same truth, for sin is the transgression against some law, and there can be no law without the sanction of