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insensibility, and every provoking sin? Might they not well expect that God should say, ' Depart from me, ye cursed?' But, O surprising mercy! his language is, 'Come now, and let us reason together;' and this is the *
Second thing in the text, The Invitation :— 'And is this the manner of man, O Lord?' Far from it. Truly, * his thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways.' God does not deal with men, as men deal with each other. If a man find his enemy will he let him go well away? No: but God, from whom no enemy can escape, and who can, at any time, take the deserved vengeance,invites poor sinners to come and reason with him. God had charged Israel with their many sins: he had visited them with national judgments ;—he had refused to accept their hypocritical devotions ;—he had threatened to give them up, and utterly forsake them ; and lastly, he had called them to repentance and reformation (ver. 16, 17): * Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well—seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.' And then he adds, 'Come now, and let us reason together.' God is willing to shew the equity of his conduct. Let those bold offenders come and plead their own cause, and shew what they have to say for themselves : and let them find fault, if they can, with the divine proceedings. If they will persist in sin, their damnation is just. If they confess and forsake it, they shall fiud mercy : their scarlet sins shall be as white as snow.
We shall take occasion, from hence, briefly to shew that true religion, vital religion, is the most reasonable thing in the world.
Is not self-preservation highly reasonable? We account it the first law of Nature, and should blame the man who neglects it. Is a house on fire? Let the inhabitant escape for his life.—Is the prodigal ready to starve? Let him hasten to his father's house.—Is the man drowning? Let him seize on the rope thrown out for his help.—Is the ship sinking ? Let the sailors throw overboard their valuable stores, for 'all that a man hatk
will he give for his life.' But is the life of the bodyall? What must become of the soul? Shall we take all these pains to preserve a life that must inevitably end, and shall we take no pains to save a soul that is immortal, and which must live for ever, in Heaven or Hell? Hear how Christ reasons in Matt. x. 28: 'Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell;' for consider :—God asks the question—' Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the day that I shall deal with thee?'
// it not reasonable for a man to do well for himself? Yes : 'Men will praise thee when thou doest well for thyself.' We commend the honest, ingenious, industrious tradesman; but, O !' the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.' Is it reasonable for a man to mind his own business? Well, 'one thing is needful ;' the care of thy soul is the business of life. Is it reasonable to improve opportunities for business,—as fairs and markets? Redeem then the time, and catch the golden opportunities of gain to thy soul. Is it reasonable to make a good bargain? The Christian makes the best in the world. He is the wise merchant, who seeking goodly pearls, findeth, at length, Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price, and goeth and selleth all that he hath to buy it. Is it reasonable to lay up for a rainy day? How much more to provide for a dying day, that we may be ready for the great change, and find it gain to die? Is it reasonable to cultivate friendship with the wise, the good and great? O how wise to make Christ our friend, to have an agent in Heaven, an advocate with the Father! for, indeed, 'Jesus Christ is the best friend, or the worst enemy we can have.'
Is it not reasonable to believe the God of truth f —The word of God has every confirmation we could wish. It is confirmed by the exact fulfilment of numerous predictions —by the preformance of unquestionable miracles—by its perfect agreement with matters of fact, both in observation and experience ; and by the daily wonders of grace performed by its means. Whatever some men pretend to the contrary, they, and they only, act a rational part, who take God at his word; while others are so unreasonable as to 'make God a liar, and give credit to the grand deceiver.
Finally. Is not love to God and man perfectly reasonable? This is the whole of our religion. Is it reasonable or not, think you, to love the best of beings, better than all other beings? and if we love him, we shall believe him, and obey him. Should not a creature love his Maker? Should not a dependent person love his benefactor? Should not a redeemed sinner love his Saviour? And what is the whole of morality, as it respects man, but lovingjour neighbours as ourselves ; and where is the man who wishes not thus to be treated by others?
But we have a further and a veiy strong inducement to obey the divine invitation, and come to reason with him, for he has made a nioU gracious Promise in the text, which is the
Third particular of our discourse. This gracious promise is, 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as sqow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'
The pardon of sin is, as we observed at the beginning, the first and chief thing in religion. It was the great business of Christ upon earth to procure it; he took our flesh that he might take our sin; and died, * the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.' It is the principal design of the'gospel which is preached to us • that we may obtain forgiveness of sins.' It is the first blessing sought by renewed souls; 'for this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.' It constitutes one of the titles of the blessed God: • Who is like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?' And it composes a part of the songs of Heaven; for the redeemed continually adore 'the Lamb that was slain, and who washed them from their sins in his own blood.'
The pardon of sin originates in the free mercy and sovereign grace of God, without respect to any thing good in the creature. That men are saved rather than angels; and that one man is pardoned rather than another, are matters of mercy alone ; for ' it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth ; but of God* that sheweth mercy : for he saith to Moses, I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and 1 will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.' It was mere mercy, that a Saviour was provided : for ' God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotton Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.' God delighteth in mercy. It is his most glorious name; for when Moses desired to see his glory, God caused his goodness to pass before him, and proclamed his name ; which name was this: 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.' Exod. xxxiii. 18,19, and xxxiv. 5,6. We are not to suppose that some men obtain mercy because they have not sinned so much as others ; as great sins do not prevent pardon, so little sinners cannot lay a claim to it: nor are we to think that there are some good things-in some sinners to balance their bad ones, and so entitle them to mercy : nor that the tears, or prayers, or reformation of any man can merit favour at the hands of God. No; all these, and every ihing else that looks like merit, must be renounced altogether. Every mouth must be stopped. All the world must plead guilty; and all the saved must own, that God, for his own name's sake alone, pardons their iniquity.
But we are not to expect the pardon of sin from an absolute God. The pardon of sin is an act of justice, as well as of mercy. Mercy on God's part, but justice on the account of Christ. In the pardon of sin, justice must be considered as well as mercy. If God had pardoned sin without a satisfaction, what provision would have been made for the honour of his holiness, justice, or truth? God would have seemed to wink at sin; he would have seemed to have no concern for the moral government of the world: and his truth, which was engaged to seethe threatening against sin fulfilled, would have been forfeited; but in the redemption of Jesus Christ, ' Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have embraced each other ;' in a word, God is just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus ; he is ' a just God and a Saviour.' In this blessed way, Justice itself becomes the believer's friend: for Christ having paid the debt, it cannot be demanded a second time of the believer ;_and, therefore, God is not only merciful in pardoning sin, but 'he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins ; and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' 1 John i. 9.
Another principal thing in the doctrine of forgiveness is. that it is by faith alone we are made partakers of pardoning mercy. Jesus Christ himself says, Acts xxvi. 18, 'that they may receive forgiveness of sins through faith that is in me;' and St. Paul says, 'By grace ye are saved, through faith.' By faith we mean, 'a belief of the truth,' especially of the testimony of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ,' that he hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son.' The man who is taught of God, made sensible of his sin, arid desirous of mercy, hears the gospel, which is good news of salvation by Jesus Christ: he hears ' that there is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared;' that Christ is willing and able to save sinners ; and that' his blood cleanseth from all sin.' He assents to this truth, he relies upon it, and acts accordingly; and in proportion to the credit which he gives to the gospel, and the dependence he places on the faithfulness of God,—such is his joy and peace in believing.
One thing more must be noticed: the perfectionof pardon, which is expressed by making scarlet as snow, and crimson like wool. We are to understand this of the sinner, not of his sins. Pardon does not alter the nature, or lessen the evil of sin : but the sinner, however deeply dyed in sin, double-dyed and drenched in the most enormous, aggravated, and bloody sins, shall, upon believing, be as thoroughly discharged from the guilt of them, as if he had never sinned at all. This is an act of Almighty power. To discharge the colours of scarlet and crimson may be impossible to human art; but to pardon the vilest sinners is perfectly easy to God. Elsewhere the same idea is expressed, by casting our sins behind his back — loosing them in the depth of the sea—blotting them out of a book—forgetting them—