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God has provided a remedy for the evil of sin. He can, through Christ, pardon the sins of individuals and nations, because Christ has vindicated his perfections and authority, in suffering the penalty of death. By repentance through the application of Christ's blood to the heart, they are restored to his favour. To lead them to repentance, therefore, or to warn others through them, is the great design of God in punishing sinners in this life. Hence his punishments until the measure of their guilt be full, are corrective and monitory. They embitter sin, and warn of still heavier judgments. In these judgments God addresses the understandings of the people whom he judges, bidding them examine their ways, and inquire into the causes of his controversy with them. He presents in these judgments matter to awaken their fears, lest he should be more strict to mark iniquity, and to excite their hopes that he might yet return to them in mercy. His design is expressed in these words, “ When thy judgments are in the “ earth, the inhabitants of the world will “ learn righteousness.”
f Is. xxvi. 9.
III. The third truth suggested by the text is, the duty of a people suffering national judgments, to obey God's call in inflicting them, by returning unto him. This duty Israel, by the prophet, is described as fulfilling, when their language is, “ Come, and let us return unto the Lord.” ;
This returning unto God is what is called in the New Testament repentance; not merely “a change, whether it be to the better or “ to the worse,” but “ properly a change " to the better;” not a change expressing “ only a present uneasy feeling of regret or “sorrow for what is done, without regard “ either to duration or to effects ;” but one which displays evidences of its durableness, and is productive of “ fruit unto holiness :" a reformation, rather than what we in common language call repentance. It presupposes, that we have wandered from God, and cannot return unto him without some information concerning his willingness to
e Campbell on the Gospels, Prelim. Dissert. disser. 6. p. 3. Metavow and Metamedomat. The word here used, 721031 is translated in the Septuagint, lotpéyages, both of which answer to petar:14. See Taylor's Concor. (310. 1888. 85. of this word,) and Trommii Concor, in flopéda. 18. VOL. II.
receive us, and the way in which he can re. ceive us, consistently with the perfections of his nature. On these points God has been pleased to remove every doubt, by the revelation of his own grace. Following this sure guide we shall unfold, in a very brief manner, the nature of the duty to which God calls by his judgments, and the sole manner in which it can be acceptably performed.
1. The nature of the duty involves in it two leading ideas :
First. The rectification of the understanding in the perception of divine truth.
Of this, sinners, so far as they are personally concerned, have very erroneous conceptions, which cause them to lead ungodly lives, and thus produce the most disastrous effects upon their present comfort and their eternal interests. Not more correct is the knowledge which nations, yea, and Christian nations too, possess of this truth, so far as their national duty and happiness are concerned. They have adopted a different rule for regulating national conduct, from that which God has established to regulate the conduct of individuals. Political expe
diency has usurped the place of God's most perfect law. To this source, the grievous offences which so many nominal Christians have committed and are committing against their God and their Saviour, may be traced. By acting according to this profligate system, I mean the system of political expediency, they become criminal in the sight of their master. His indignation they must expect, if they do not rectify their fearful error in this matter...
Secondly, a return unto God includes a rectification of the heart in the choice of that which the understanding perceives to be good.
Those mistakes which affect the political conduct of men so far as to make them sinful, being detected, and the opposite truths recognized, men will dislike the one and love the other. As a general rule, they will love all those precepts, regulating their conduct as members of society, as well as those which relate to them personally, of the existence of which in the Scriptures and their consequent authority, they have become convinced. There will take place an entire and
radical alteration in their deportment, corresponding to the alteration produced in their minds.
2. This duty can only be performed acceptably through faith in the offering of Christ, which is the appointed way of approach to God.
The only authority which we have to expect that God will receive us on our return, is his own testimony, given unto us by Christ. The belief of that testimony is essential to the success of our return to God. “ For he that cometh unto “ God must believe that he is, and that he is “ a rewarder of them that diligently seek “ him'.” That merely the being of God, and the rewards and punishments which he dispenses as sovereign, cannot be meant by the Apostle, is evident, from the definition which he himself gives of faith. It “is the “ substance of things hoped for, the evidence " of things not seen.” Therefore it must be God, as he has revealed himself unto us sinful creatures, a Redeemer, mighty to save, and the reward of grace which he dispenses to them who seek him through the sacrifice of the Redeemer, that is the object here pre
f Heb. xi. 6.