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Fathers and brethren,-Shall these things be always so! Shall we not with one heart and one spirit return to the Lord God of our fathers? Shall we not yet know our weakness and our dangers,
the importance of the trust committed to us, and the source of strength,--and the encouragement which we have to lay hold of this strength; and act on all occasions according to the dignity and nature of the sacred office!
BY REV. JOHN HOWE,
OF GREENSBURGH, KY:
THE RÉCEPTION OF SINNERS.
LUKE 15:2. This man receiveth sinners.
The Scribes and Pharisees said, “ This man receiveth sinners;" which fact they thought a great reproach and an indelible blot on the character of the Savior. It was, in truth; a high eulogy, and matter of the greatest encouragement to any and to every sinner måde acquainted with his real moral character, as brought to view in the holy scriptures: He received persons in whom, in a moral point of view, existed nož thing but sin, and from whom proceeded nothing but sin, while remaining in that state. For ås is the priticiple, so is the prácticė. As is thë tree, so is its fruit. And as is the fountain, so are its streams.
In opening this subject for improvement, I shall
1. DESCRIBE THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS RECEIVED.
And I say first: The persons were « shapen in iniquity and con ceived in sin.” Psalm 51:5. The very first shape of humanity is in iquity, and the very conception is sin. Moreover, we argue the origi• nal corruption and depravity of our nature, from the fact of those penal evils our nature sustains in infancy. Infants, even before they appear in our world, writhe in pain and gasp in death. The apostle Paul says, Rom. 5:14, “ Nevertheless, death reigned from Adnm to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression,” that is, had never sinned in act; because they were not capable of actual transgression, being infants. But can perial evils be inflicted on innocent subjects under the administration of a holy, just and righteous God? “ The wages of sin is death.” Rom. 6:23. Infants die; and therefore infants are shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin. Again, the Savior has taught the same doctrine, John 3:6. 66 That which is born of the flesh is flesh," that is, a mere mass of moral de. filement. That this is a correct interpretation is manifest from the antithesis in the last clause of the same verse, namely, “ that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” that is, it is holy, a state the very opposite of the former. The same state of heart the Savior evidently taught in Matt. 15:19. “ For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." Again, the apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians 2:1, shews that the character received is one that is “ dead in trespasses and sins,” and in verse 5, “ Even when we were dead in sins;" “ dead," a total privation of moral life, not only dead in sin, but dead in law, under the curse, “ For cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them,” condemned already and the wrath of God abiding upon him. This character is as clearly, fully and definitely depicted in the 14th and 53d Psalms. Likewise by Paul in the 3d chapter of his epistle to the Romans from the 10th to the 20th verse inclusive. Indeed, the character under consideration, in plain language and bold figures is brought to view in almost every page of the holy volume.
The understanding, the perceiving faculty, is not only in a dark, misty, cloudy state, but it is darkness itself; and hence - the natural man 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.” Hence God, in his view, is altogether such an one as himself. Hence he says, I am rich, increased in goods, and have need of nothing; hence he is full of himself, of his own wisdom, of his own moral strength, of his own righteousness, whilst Christ is as a root out of dry ground, having no form or comeliness. His will is as prone to evil as the sparks are to fly up. " His heart is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be.” His affections are all disordered, and therefore all misplaced on self and forbidden objects. In short, men, by nature, are “ haters of God." Rom. 1:30. The members of the body are “ instruments of unrighteousness unto sin," and the senses are inlets to moral impurity. Hence, even holy Job, awake to the truth of this subject, found it necessary to make a covenant with his eyes. " The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint,” from the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores. “Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is only evil continu
ally." Gen. 6:5. “ The wicked are estrayed from the womb, they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” But whence all this sad character? how cometh it to pass that our nature is thus dashed, depraved and lost? The answer to these inquiries will bring me to the ·second proposition: namely,
Il. Whence this character is derived.
And without hesitation, I say it is derived to the race by virtue of their union to Adam as a federal head. When God made man in his own image, he entered into covenant with him, promising life upon condition of perfect obedience to the law. Which obedience was susa pended upon and tested by the single point of abstinence from the for. bidden fruit. He threatened death in case of disobedience. 66 In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Now, this transaction embraced the posterity as well as himself. Because, he was the head of the body. Compliance with the stipulation of the covenant would have secured the perpetuation of his own holiness and happiness, it would have secured the holiness and happiness of his entire race. To this view of the subject, the whole host of Arminians have no objeco tion: but present the other side that the act of one person can be im. puted to another and they cannot admit it; but set aside, as I apprehend, the federal relation entirely. The holy scriptures, in many por tions of them, do unequivocally and definitely support this doctrine. Particularly in the epistle to the Romans, 5:12. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” This last clause in the original is, “q' ráves Huaprov," literally, in whom all have sinned; the relative whom referring back to its proper antecedent man, in the beginning of the verse. The very same doctrine is estab. lished in the first clauses of the 18th and 19th verses of the same chapter. “ Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation." “ For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners.” This triple testimony of Paul furnishes sufficient evidence to satisfy any honest inquirer after truth, that the deep and total depravity of man, by which he is subjected “ to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever,” are derived from the guilt of Adam's first sin imputed to the race.
In the imputation of this guilt to the race, we do not understand, that there is a diffusion of moral impurity through every power of the mind, and through every member and sense of the body: but that God, in holi. bess, justice and righteousness, withbolds that perfect knowledge, holia Diess and rightcouisness, that Adam possessed in his primitive purity, which he had forfeited by transgression, not only for himself, but for his posterity: and therefore, as in the natural world, the total privation of light, is the presence of total darkness, so, the total want of the moral image of God, is the total corruption and depravity of the whole nature. So, says our excellent Confession of Faith, “ The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of our whole nature, which is commonly called original sin.” All this is in perfect accordance with the above-cited scripture authorities. Nor do we believe that the guilt of this first federal sin of Adam, with which we are all justly charged, is unpardonable; for it is just as easy, consistent, hopeful and joyous to trust and rely on the Lord Jesus Christ for the pardon of this guilt, as that of any other transgression of the exceedingly broad law of God; because, “ where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” “ That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” In him there is plenteous redemption, for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, even the fullness of the “Godhead bodily.” So that every soul that trusts exclusively in the Lord Jesus Christ can be abundantly pardoned.
And now, I conclude, in close of my remarks on this part of the subject, that the character, and the only character of a person in which Christ ever did, or ever will receive any one, is that of “a sinner.” One, that is in a moral point of view, nothing but a sinner; which brings me to the third proposition: namely,
III. To what sinners are received.
And I say, in a word, they are received to plenary justification “ from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.” But there is no ground or foundation on which a sinner can be justified in the sight of God, but that which meets every claim of the divine law, in every jot and tittle of its preceptive and penal claims. There is no expedient of which we have any knowledge, in the universe of God, that meets these claims, but the pure, perfect and complete righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. To this end, he was born “ of a woman and made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law”_" For such an high priest that became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” He was fully competent, and did fully meet the claims of the law in every jot and tittle; he did magnify and make it honorable; or, declared its na. ture and immutable honors. Being very God, he was competent to sustain, and did sustain every jot and tittle of the divine and awful