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Having illustrated this point by the cases of Hazael, Hezekiah and Peter, he subjoins the following judicious remarks, for which he is chiefly indebted, as he acknowledges, by the mark of a quotation, to some other writer.
“ Man is not only dreadfully depraved, but is said to be without strengthto have no understanding. He receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Nor is it strange that the natural man should not dis. cern the things of the Spirit; for, in all other cases, a simple perception can only be excited by its proper object. The ideas of sound and colour, of proportion and symmetry, of beauty and harmony, are never found in the mind, till the objects, by which these pleasing sensations or emotions are inspired, have been presented to our observation. How then shall we rightly apprehend the nature and effects of communicated grace, before they are felt? or how can we explain to others sensations for which language has no words, and to which the persons whom we would enlighten have no feelings analogous in their own minds?””—Page 109.
In the progress of this letter the expedients, such as repentance and amendment, to which awakened sinners have recourse, in order to effect a change in that dreadful condition in which they find themselves, are shown to be wholly insufficient to secure them from deserved punishment; while they depend on personať merit, instead of relying on the Saviour for acceptance with God. This he demonstrates by adverting to the unchangeable demands of the moral law; by exhibiting the spotless purity of Jehovah, who cannot endure sin; and by showing that the Son of God undertook to redeem us from the ruins of our apostacy, which he would not have done if it had been in the power of man to redeem himself.
In the fourth letter, the subject that had occupied the latter part of the preceding letter, is further prosecuted, by replying to objections that are usually urged against the extensive demands of the divine law, and the righteousness and atonement of Jesus Christ.
In opposition to the notion of some, that sin may be remitted without a satisfaction, he reasons thus, in the language of another:
a sto pardon sin, as an absolute act of mercy, would be a total neglect of holiness, which is no more possible with God, than it is to put forth acts of power without wisdom. Now, the manifestation of divine holiness, in relation to guilt, can only be in the infliction of deserved penalty. As he cannot act powerfully without the exercise of infinite wisdom; so he cannot act mercifully without manifesting his infinite holiness. But to forgive sin, as an act of absolute mercy, would not be an act of holiness ; and, therefore, no such act of absolute mercy is possible with God.'”—Page 126.
This quotation is followed by these remarks: “Besides, if an atonement for sin be not indispensably necessary to forgive. ness, the incarnation—the life-the sufferings and the death of Christ were superfluous: because, whatever was requisite to qualify a sinner for the enjoy ment of heaven might, on this hypothesis, have been effected by the agency of the Holy Spirit. But, in addition to thús gracious work of the divine com
forter, there are other offices to perform. He is to take of the things of Christ, and show them to the church: to bring all things, in reference to his mediation, to remembrance; and to apply his blood to the conscience, which operations necessarily involve an atonement. If the way was so short, that by pure favour, without satisfaction, sin might have been pardoned; why, says Dr. Bates, should the infinite wisdom of God take so great à circuit ?— The apostle Paul supposes this necessity of satisfaction as an evident principle, when he proves wilful apostates to be incapable of salvation, because there remains no more sacrifice for sin:' for the consequence were of no force, if sản might be pardoned without sacrifice, that is, without satisfaction.”—Page 127.
The absurdity of supposing the law to be accommodated so as to suit the corruption of human nature, the author exposes in this forcible manner:
“The drunkard thinks it hard that his momentary intemperance, which is injurious to no one but himself, should be regarded as unpardonable indulgence. The thief can never believe that his forcibly taking from others what he consi. ders as superfluous, in order to supply bis own absolute wants, is a crime that calls for the interposition of vengeance. Thus, respecting every species of iniquity, and through all gradations of guilt, each transgressor has, in his turn, a thousand arguments to plead in extenuation of his crimes : and these arguments, if not sufficiently weighty to balance his guilt, ought, he thinks, so far to prevail as to secure him from final perdition. Every man becomes his own judge, and imagines himself possessed of both capacity and right to decide in his own
“Now, according to this hypothesis, there is no fixed standard of right and wrong. There must be as many laws by which to judge, as there are indivi. duals to be judged. The great Arbiter of the universe can give no award. He has erected his tribunal in vain; and must either tamely acquiesce in the sentence which the criminal himself shall pronounce, or be stigmatized as a merci. less tyrant.”—Page 132.
God is unquestionably merciful. Of the existence of mercy as an essential attribute of his nature, he has given us, in his providence, encouraging proofs, and in his revelation the most convincing evidence. The exercise of this perfection is ever under the conduct of infinite wisdom. None but God himself can tell, in any given case, whether the exercise of it will comport with his glory. To expect an exercise of mercy in a case, concerning which we have no revelation, is unwarrantable ; but to depend on its exercise in a way that contradicts the whole tenor of revelation, is madness and impiety combined. Yet how frequently are instances of such madness and impiety seen in this infatuated world! Men reject the interposition of mercy, in the way in which infinite wisdom deems it proper she should go forth to succour and save the sinful and helpless; and then presumptuously calculate, that, after being thus insulted, she will not fail to appear for their deliverance in the day of distress, in a manner in which the whole scheme of our redemption proves, she neither will nor can act. The folly of such conduct is thus reproved by the author of these letters:
“When men of this description are told of their situation and their danger, nothing is more common than for them to reply, God is merciful; but, “this,' as an ingenious writer expresses it, “is a false and fatal application of a divine
and comfortable truth. Nothing can be more certain than the proposition, nor more delusive than the inference. The truth is, no one does truly trust in God, who does not endeavour to obey him. For habitually to break his laws, and yet to depend on his favour; to live in opposition to his will, and yet in expectation of his mercy; to violate his commands, and yet look for his acceptance, would not, in any other case, be thought a reasonable course of conduct; and yet it is by no means as uncommon as it is inconsistent.'”- Page 133.
And again: “That all appeals to the absolute mercy of God, unconnected with his holiness and his justice, are not only fallacious, but impious in the extreme, and as inconsistent with the first principles of justice as they are repugnant to the oracles of truth, is demonstrable. If sin be really hateful to God, and incompatible with the perfect purity of his nature; if it be inimical to the happiness of the universe; the source of all the misery felt on earth or experienced in hell; and a transgression of a law that is denominated holy, and just, and good; surely it cannot be unjust to punish it! The penal sanction of the law, as recorded by an apostle, runs thus : Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them. Now this awful sanction is just, or it is not: if it be just, it cannot be unrighteous to enforce it; if it be not perfectly equitable, it was an act of injustice to appoint it. One of these consequences must follow.”—Page 135.
It is surprising, that, while men feel their need of mercy, they will not accept of its aid, though pressingly tendered to them in the gospel. How can we account for this fact, but by adverting to the pride and depravity of human nature, which fix them in opposition to the humbling and holy method of salvation divine mercy has disclosed and brought to this perishing world?
“ This, however," observes the writer, "is a way of saving sinners that mortifies the pride of man. It implicates him in extreme depravity, and abominable guilt: it strips him of all his supposed excellency, and in the grand article of justification before God, places him on a level with harlots, publicans, and profligates. It attributes nothing to great natural abilities, shining talents, emi. nence in science, philosophy, or literature-to the possession of immense riches, extensive influence, or the pomp of princely magnificence: these are adventitious circumstances that have no influence in the momentous transaction. Though charity have founded a thousand hospitals, erected a thousand edifices for benevolent purposes, and supplied the wants of millions, she cannot commute for one sin, nor by these acts of splendid munificence, contribute any thing to facilitate acceptance with God. No moral worth, though the only thing that stamps intrinsic value on any character, and one grain of which is ten thousand times more excellent than all the elegant accomplishments, or the useful acquisitions ascribed to man, can plead a right to share the inestimable blessing. These are not actions, nor qualities for which apostate men are raised to the dignity of sons of God, and made heirs of an everlasting kingdom. Honours and privileges like these, claim a divine origin; nor will he that shall happily experience the unutterable felicity, either here or hereafter, hesitate to sing with the church triumphant— Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.'
“Saivation is a gift freely bestowed on man, not as deserving it—not as being merited by the performance of certain duties, but as a grant of absolute grace through Christ. The praise, the honour, and the glory belong to him-not to the sinner: and the invaluable blessing must be received, if received at all, as that for which the recipient has paid no equivalent, performed no stipulationsas a gift gratuitously conferred on a wretch that deserves to perish.”—Page 138, 139.
Large as our quotations have been from this letter, we cannot resist the inclination to present our readers with another, that conveys a pungent reproof to those wretched men who are engaged in poisoning the minds of others with sceptical opinions, and thus preventing the salvation of immortal souls.
“Were I to suppose," says the author to his fair correspondent, who it appears was exposed to the influence of such a man, “ that Theron might impose on your simplicity and your candour by partial representations of consequences, intricate deductions of remote causes, or perplexed combinations of ideas, which, having various relations, appear different as viewed on different sides; yet what must be the event of such a triumph? A man cannot spend all his life in frolic : age, or disease, or solitude, will bring some hours of serious consideration; and it will then afford no comfort to think that he has extended the dominion of vice, that he has loaded himself with the crimes of others, and can never know the extent of his own wickedness, nor make reparation for the mischief that he has caused. There is not, perhaps, in all the stores of idéal anguish, a thought more painful, than the conscious. ness of having propagated corruption by vitiating principles; of having not only drawn others from the paths of virtue, but blocked up the way by which they should return; of having blinded them to every beauty but the paint of pleasure, and deafened them to every call but the alluring voice of the sirens of destruction.'"- Page 130.
In his fifth letter, the author treats of that fundamental and immensely important doctrine of the gospel, redemption by the blood of the Son of God. In the accomplishment of this mighty and glorious work, the Redeemer, he teaches us, assumed human nature into a personal union with his divine nature; and thus became “our near kinsman, whose right it was to redeem.” Thus qualified for obeying the precepts, and enduring the penalty of that holy law which man had violated, Jesus Christ acted as the representative of his people. “Now, what the Lord Jesus Christ did and suffered, was not on his own account, but on account of his body, the church, of which he was constituted the representative." Substitution he justly deems of vital importance in the economy of man's redemption.
“ «Take away the circumstance of substitution,' he observes in the language of another, "and there is no more ground for reliance on the obedience of Christ, than for reliance on the obedience of Gabriel. We are made the righteousness of God, because we are in him, as our proxy and our head. Because he wrought the justifying righteousness, not only in our nature, but in our name, not only as our benefactor, but as our representative.'”—Page 157.
Of the righteousness of Christ, he speaks in this animating strain :
“By this work of our heavenly Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, that holy law which we have broken is highly honoured; and that awful justice which we have offended completely satisfied. By this righteousness the believer is acquitted from every charge, is perfectly justified, and shall be eternally saved. In this consummate work, Jehovah declares himself well pleased, and in it all the glories of the Godhead shine.— Yes, the obedience of our adora. ble Sponsor is perfect as divine rectitude could require; and excellent as eternal wisdom itself could devise. Admirable righteousness! who, that is taught of God, would not, with Paul, desire to be found in it! and who, that is conscious of an interest in it, can cease to admire and adore the grace that pro. vided, and the Saviour that wrought it?'— Surely,' shall one say, 'in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come ; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of !srael be justified and shall glory.!”—Page 160.
In the close of this letter he directs the faith of his fair correspondent to the great Redeemer:
“Look, therefore, to this almighty Saviour-this friend of sinners—thou pri. soner of hope. He is not only our advocate with the Father, against whom we have sinned, but the propitiation for our sins. "God was in Christ reconciling -the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them—for he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him-Be it Ķnown unto you, therefore, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.' Neither the number nor the magnitude of your sins forbids your approach. Were none but the comparatively worthy encouraged to come, vain man might think he had whereof to boast. But in the affair of salvation, the Lord hath purposed to stain the pride of human glory, and to bring into contempt those things that are generally considered as establishing a kind of title to his favour and forgiveness. For were any other plea than sovereign grace through the blood of Christ admitted in the court of heaven, the self-righteous moralist might glory in his doings; the wise man in his wisdom; and the mighty in his strength. But as nothing done by man can in the least conduce to his justification before God, we must conclude with the apostle, and rejoice in the conclusion, that salvation is of grace-not by works, lest any man should boast.' The inspired writer felt for the honour of his divine Master, as well as for the souls of men: and while he laboured to preserve the gospel in its purity, he showed the arrogant their danger, and esalted the riches of grace by opening a door of hope for the chief of sinners.'”—Page 162, 163.
“Now, to this Almighty Saviour, this Prince of peace, who sits as a priest upon his throne, you are encouraged to come. In his name you may confidently trust; for, .by him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.' If, then, all power in heaven and in earth be in his hands, and to be used as he pleases—if his blood, as the Redeemer of mankind, cleanse from all sin, and his righteousness, as a substitute, justify the ungodly-if he be the resurrection, and the life, and it be true, that whosoever liveth and believeth in him shall never die-if he have invited sinners to come to him for complete salvation, and have said without limitation and without exception, 'him that cometh, I will in no wise cast out'-what should hinder your approach? It is still, and ever will be the language of his heart, while there is a redeemed sinner upon earth-— Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may beholl my glory, which thou hast given me--And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world—Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.'”—Page 165.
In his sixth letter, the writer keeps in view the object which he contemplated all along, the conducting of his young and interesting female friend, to the Saviour, and shows her that, unworthy as she felt herself to be, yet she was authorized to apply to the friend of sinners. By an induction of particular instances, he proves, that no previous qualifications of a moral kind are required in sinners to warrant them to come to Christ. Still further to evince this consolatory truth, he shows that our salvation originated in the free and sovereigo love of God. In