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divine law according to this scheme punishes impenitence only, it regards impenitence as the only crime.
But if disobedience be not a crime, it cannot be repented of. for repentance is a sorrow for crimes, and for them only. Repentance, therefore, would by such a law be rendered impossible.
3. In the present case, that of man with respect to his Maker, what degree of repentance will excuse the transgressor from punishment?
Must it be a perfect repentance? that is, entire, and followed by no future sin. On this condition who could be saved ? No man ever has repented, no man ever will repent, in this manner. Shall the repentance be imperfect; a sorrow for sin inferior in degree or continuance to that which the nature of the case actually demands; a sorrow extending only to a part of the sins actually committed ; a confession sincerely and cheerfully made with respect to some sins, and reluctantly concerning the rest ; a renunciation of sin, partial in degree, partial as to the number and kinds of transgressions, and never aiming at, as well as never accomplishing, a thorough reformation of character?
The first difficulty which attends this scheme is, that it is nowhere found in the Scriptures. Few men who believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God will question the fact, that they contain all the terms of salvation. It can hardly be supposed that when God unfolded his will to mankind concerning this great subject, and declared that he had taught them all things pertaining to life and to godliness, he omitted this, wbich is altogether the principal thing, the point, which they were infinitely concerned to know. But there is not a declaration of this nature in the Scripturēs; at least 1 have never been able to find one ; nor have I ever seen one alleged. Can it be believed that this should be the main term, nay the only one, of our salvation, and yet that it should be nowhere expressed in a revelation from God, professedly declaring all the terms of salvation ?
This, however, is far from being all. The Scriptures teach us in a thousand forms, both expressly and implicitly, that ' we have redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of our sins.' As this is the doctrine of the Scriptures, so it is plainly their only doctrine. Indeed, nothing is
more evident in the nature of the case, than that if we have redemption through his blood, we have it not without his blood; and therefore not by a repentance of our own.
Nor does reason furnish us any additional light in favour of this scheme. Reason, indeed, finds itself at a loss to conceive in what manner even a perfect repentance can cancel former iniquities, or how an absolute penitent can be accepted of God. His sorrow for his sins can in no respect alter their nature or lessen their demerit, and his future reformation cannot at all obliterate the guilt of his past life. Sorrow for sin is itself the most unequivocal acknowledgment of guilt. If, then, the penitent sees and knows himself to be guilty, God must see it also. What then should prevent him from expressing his views of it in the punishment of the sinner?
If this repentance is imperfect, these difficulties are multiplied and enhanced. The penitent in this case is still a sinner, and does not even perform the duty of repenting in the manner in which he is bound to perform it. He also still loves sin in some degree, and still, occasionally at least, practises it. After he becomes a penitent, therefore, he goes on through life accumulating guilt and meriting punishment. Can any man in these circumstances rationally expect acceptance with God? Yet these are the best circumstances in which man is ever found.
It is to no purpose to allege, that such a man obeys the law in part. The law knows of no such condition as partial obedience. Adam obeyed in part; and, what no one of his progeny has ever done, obeyed for a time perfectly. But for the first transgression he was condemned to death, just as if he had never obeyed at all. So far as law is concerned, God deals with his descendants exactly in the same manner. Accordingly, in Ezekiel xviii. 24, he says, But when the
. righteous turpeth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned. In his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them he shall die.' He, therefore, who hath continued in all things written in the book of the law to do them,' except one, would still be incapable, according to law, of being justified. Should he have repented of his first transgression, and should we, contrary
to both reason and Revelation, allow repentance to be a real ground of justification, generally considered, yet if he should die in the commission of sin, or without repentance of the sins which he had last committed, he must, according to this passage, die without justification, and be finally condemned.
Thus, if I mistake not, it has been rendered clearly certain, that by deeds of law no flesh shall be justified in the sight of God.'
1. From these observations it is evident, that the atonement of Christ was absolutely necessary in order to the salvation of Mankind.
Man was originally placed under a dispensation of law; and in consequence of perfect obedience was promised immortal life ; while to his disobedience was threatened eternal death. Obedience, therefore, was the only condition of his justification, and the only source of hope to him beyond the grave. This law was perfect, and therefore immutable. No part of its demands or threatenings could be changed. It was more proper
• that the heavens and the earth should pass away, than that one jot or one tittle of the law should pass’ without an exact fulfilment. The truth plainly is, that the law is a direct exhibition of the perfect character of God, and to change it, would be to manifest that his character was changed from its absolute perfection. Such an event is evidently impossible.
This perfect law, however, man has disobeyed. By his disobedience he has lost the possibility of justification, and the hope of reward ; and exposed himself, without any means of escape or safety, to the punishment denounced against his transgression. Had he been left in this situation he must have finally perished. In this situation Christ found him, when he came to seek and to save that which was lost.' In this situation he assumed the character of a mediator between God and man, and ' made his soul an offering for sin ; a sacrifice of a sweet savour,' accepted of God as a satisfactory expiation of human guilt. In this manner he rendered it possible, for before it was impossible, that man should be restored to
the favour of God. The honour of the divine law was maintained, and even enhanced. The immutability of the love of God to holiness, and of the batred of God to sin, and the perfect harmony of the divine government in the condemnation of sin and the forgiveness of sinners, were all illustriously displayed to the view of the universe. To forgive such as should repent and return to their duty, became now a dispensation divested of all inconsistency and impropriety. But independently of this interference of the Redeemer, no method appears to the human eye, in which the justification of mankind could have been accomplished without a serious and inadmissible change of the law and government of God. Accordingly, we are informed in the Scriptures, that by his stripes only we are healed.' Neither is there,'nor, so far as we can understand, can there be, salvation in any other : for there is no name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.'
2. Speculative unbelief prevents every hope of salvation.
By speculative unbelief I intend, First, the disbelief of divine Revelation, or what is commonly called infidelity. Every infidel not only feels, but glories in feeling, a privileged exemption from what he calls the superstition of the Gospel ; by which he primarily intends the great evangelical requisitions of repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.' It is superfluous for me to insist, that he who believes not speculatively in Christ, cannot believe in him cordially;
for nothing is plainer, than that without the assent of the understanding there can be no yielding of the heart. The infidel will very cheerfully take this labour off my hands, and boast that he yields neither his understanding nor his heart to the Redeemer. Of course, he places himself under mere law; and must therefore find justification and consequent acceptance to him impossible. When I say impossible to him, you will undoubtedly understand me to mcan that it is impossible for him to be justified or accepted in his present character, or on his avowed principles. I do not mean that his understanding or his heart cannot be changed ; for, though I regard an infidel as a very dangerous and alarming character, yet I do not believe every infidel to be of course a final reprobate. Infidels have undoubtedly been changed into Christians, and in
some instances have become exemplary ministers of the Gospel. Infidels voluntarily place themselves under mere law, and reject with scorn, as well as obstinacy, an interest in the blessings of redemption. Under that law, however, even after it is narrowed by all his own indefensible limitations, the infidel has still committed innumerable sins, sins for which he himself cannot atone, and for which he will not ask nor even accept the atonement made by the Redeemer. By the law he chooses to be tried, and by the law he cannot fail to be condemned. The God of truth in that day will declare that he has sinned, and, according with his own choice, must consign him to perdition. Such is the situation to which he voluntarily reduces himself, and which he prefers to Christ, with all his infinite blessings.
Secondly: Speculative unbelief is the proper character of multitudes who admit the reality of divine Revelation. Those who in modern language are called Unitarians, deny the Deity, and therefore deny, either explicitly or implicitly, the atonement of the Saviour. Dr. Priestley and, I presume, all his fol
I lowers deny the atonement expressly: some of the Socinians and Arians have admitted it, but I think inconsistently with their commanding doctrines. The disbelief of the atonement of Christ has the same practical influence with that of the disbelief of his mediation at large. If he is only a prophet, and a pattern of righteousness, I see not that he can be any more a saviour to mankind than Moses, Isaiah, and Paul. He was indeed a wiser and better man. But it will not be denied, that all these men were saved ; por that, therefore, their righteousness was such as, if we faithfully imitate it, would secure our salvation ; that is, according to this Unitarian scheme. Nor will it be denied by any man, that the instructions of Moses and Isaiah are such as, if faithfully obeyed, will insure salvation. Nor can it be doubted that Paul has taught mankind more of the Gospel than Christ himself personally taught. To believe in Christ, therefore, is substantially the same thing as to believe in Paul, Isaiah, or Moses. Yet, although we are required to believe all these men, and all other Prophets and Apostles, as being inspired by God, we are nowhere required to believe in them, or on them. They are nowhere
, styled the saviours or redeemers of mankind. On the contrary, we are expressly told, that there is no other Saviour of