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the lower world, and seated a prince in paradise; bụt his happiness depended upon his obedience, and that upon the freedom of his will, which proved a dangerous endowment by his abuse of it. He was foolish and fickle in the best state of nature : he affected an independent immortality, “and being in honour, became like the beasts that perish.” But the pardon of sin is the foundation of eternal happiness. Those who are justified shall be glorified, and made equal to the angels,” who are constant in good, as the devils are obstinate in evil. · The blessed state above is secure and unforfeitable: the saints are incapable of sinning and dying.
(2.) The means whereby our pardon is obtained. I shall not dare to determine, that God could not have pardoned us by his sovereignty without satisfaction to his justice, but he has been pleased to save us in a way most honourable to himself, and comfortable to us. The psalmist tells us, according “to the name of God, so is his praise." Psal. 48. As his excellent attributes are manifest in his works, understanding creatures adore and celebrate them. The wisdom of God so gloriously appears in the way of our salvation, that the admiring angels praise him for
And the goodness of God is so conspicuous in saving us by Christ, that our exuberant affections should be poured forth in thankfulness. The remission of our sins is by redemption in his blood.” It was an expression of David's piety, that he would not serve God with “ that which cost him nothing,” 2 Sam. 24. 24. but purchase the sacrifice by a price : and it was the high expression of God's love, that he would not save us with that which cost him nothing, but with the sacred treasure of heaven, the precious blood of his Son. Besides, the guilty conscience has so quick a sense of God's revenging justice, that our assurance would not be so entire in his mercy, without satisfaction made by the sufferings of our blessed Mediator. In this we have the advantage of David, who had not so clear a discovery of the means of our pardon, but a general knowledge of the forgiveness of sins ; yet that inspired such Aaming affections into his breast, that he begins the eucharistical psalm for that mercy, and concludes it with, “ bless the Lord, O my sout :" but we that “ have had Jesus Christ' evidently set forth as crucified before our eyes, to reconcile God to us ;” we to whom it is revealed, that “ the robe of our salvation” is woven out of his bleeding bowels, in the same proportion as our knowledge of this mysterious mercy, our thankfulness should exceed his. If any do not with the most ardent affections acknowledge the mercy of forgiveness so dearly purchased, it is an unhappy sign he has no interest in it.
(3.) The circumstances of dispensing our pardon. I shall consider two that make the divine mercy more glorious and worthy of our thankfulness.
That pardoning mercy was dispensed to us, notwithstanding our continued rebellion against God. A prince is sometimes induced to pardon a criminal, by the solicitations of his friends, and by his prayers and tears ; but the divine goodness was the sole mover for us, and interposed between justice and our offences. Instead of appeasing God by humble and mournful submission, and ardent addresses for mercy, we repeated the provocations of his displeasure every day. How long did he with unwearied patience “ wait to be gracious ?" If after ten thousand denials of accepting his mercy, he had forsaken us, we had been as miserable as we are sinful. But notwithstanding our being inflexible to the innumerable calls of his word, impenetrable to the pure motion of his Spirit, and insensible of his excellent goodness that leads sinners to repentance; though the love of heaven or fear of hell could not prevail with us to forsake our sins: when we were prepared for wrath, and averse and utterly indisposed for the receiving his mercy, then his grace, as free as omnipotent, gave us repentance unto life, and qualified us for pardon, and bestowed it upon us. The extenuation of our sins is inconsistent with the exaltation of grace: but the more humble we are in the deep sense of our guilt, the more thankful for the divine clemency. That God was pleased to “ crown us with loving-kindness and mercy,” when a killing charge of innumerable offences was levelled against us, O goodness, truly divine and infinite, and should accordingly affect us with admiration:
2dly. Pardoning mercy distinguishes between sinners of equal guilt, and often saves those of greater guilt when others die eternally: this comparative heightens God's love and our thankfulness, How many are surprised and cut off in a course of sin ? how
many die without repentance, and are under a notorious necessity of perishing? yet we that were as bad or worse, neither melted and made pliable by his goodness, nor bettered by his judgments, he spared, and by his grace cleansed and changed us, that we might partake of mercy. In this dispensation the question of the apostle may be put in its full force, " who made thee to differ?” Nothing within us, nothing without us, distinguished us from those that perish; there were the same polluted principles in our hearts, and the same rebellious sins in our lives : only the mercy of God that has no moving cause but itself, made the difference. Let the comparison be contracted between us and our associates in sin, and as the sun-beams concentred in a burning glass, it will more inflame our thankful affections. How many that were joined in the commission of social sins, of intemperance, uncleanness, unrighteousness, and the like, are dead, and without the reserve of pardoning mercy, and some were rescued from damnation, as due to them as to the rest. At the last day, when there shall be an everlasting separation between those at the right hand, and those at the left hand of the Judge of the world, we shall understand the riches of grace that distinguish between us and the partners of our guilt : as by seeing us justified and received into glory, their sad exclusion will be aggravated to extremity; so by seeing them doomed to destruction for ever, the saving grace of God to us will be more glorious.
(4.) The consequents of pardon in the present life deserve our most affectionate thankfulness.
For first, The pardon of sins gives us a regular title to all temporal blessings, and the truest sweetness in their fruition. God is the universal and absolute proprietary of all things in this world, being made by his creating power, and continued by his preservative power. By our rebellious sins we were under a just deprivation of them. Now the pardon of sin takes off the deadly forfeiture, and restores the use and benefit of temporal blessings to us. It is true, God by his general bounty affords supplies to his enemies: “ the sun rises with his cheerful light, and the rain falls upon the just and unjust;" and wicked men have a civil right to their possessions : but they are not the gifts of his special love to them. The prodigal was first pardoned, and then entertained with a feast. The love of God gives a cheerful tincture to all his benefits. It is emphatically said, “ God, even our own God, shall bless us.” As he is pleased to value and accept the meanest service that is mixed with our affections to him: a cup of cold water that comes from the spring of love, shall have its reward : so his love raises the price of every blessing. The psalmist having set forth the riches, and prosperity, and peace of a kingdom, breaks forth, “ happy is the people that are in such a case.” But he presently revokes it, and ascends with a gradation of light and force; “
yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord;" who are in a state of divine favour. Temporal blessings, if they are not the gifts of God reconciled to us in the Redeemer, are snares that alienate the hearts of men from God, and foment their lusts, and prepare them for final destruction. The rich man had his good things here; and was tormented after his sensual fruitions. A rebellious sinner is spared for a time, and punished for ever. The king of Sodom was rescued from captivity by Abraham, and reserved for destruction by a shower of fire and brimstone.
And secondly. The pardon of our sins allays and mitigates all afflictions in the present state. The conscience of guilt mixed with affliction, is like the poisoning a sword that makes it wound more deadly. The spirit of a man may bear temporal evils ; that is, by counsel and constancy may support himself under them; “ but a wounded spirit who can bear ?” Conscience in anguish by the feeling of God's wrath for our sins, and fear of the extremity of it hereafter, is an intolerable evil. Let the affliction be a light touch upon the outward man, yet when the afflicted
considers, that it is sent from God as an enemy, and it is the beginning of his wrath that is a consuming fire, he is dispirited and sinks under the weight of it. How can frail man encounter with offended omnipotence, sinful man conflict immediately with the holy God? The sense of guilt makes a man a terror to himself, and consequently makes afflictions to be more piercing and dolorous. Whereas when the soul is established in the peace of God, it finds consolation in his pardoning love, superior to all kinds and degrees of external evils that can afflict us here. It is the happy privilege of the inhabitants of Zion, the holy city, “ they shall not say they are sick, for their iniquities shall be forgiven.” Isa. 33. ult. The divine Comforter fortifies their faith in the promises of the blessed issue out of all their afflictions : “ all things work together for the good of those who love God.” Our love to God is the reflection of his love to us, that is powerful so to order all evils, that they shall harmoniously conspire to our eternal happiness. The impression of this in the spirits of God's children, '
makes them patient and submissive with resignation under all afflictions. It is certain the fastening of the mind in contemplation of an excellent object, may cause so strong a diversion, that bodily pains are much mitigated. The martyrs, by the powerful impression of the glorious reward, seemed to be in an ecstacy, without feeling in the midst of their cruel sufferings. The prophet Habakkuk triumphantly declares, “ although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines : the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat: the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls." Though all the supports and comforts of life fail, " yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Joy is the affection of prosperity; but as the scalding drops of God's wrath upon the conscience turn all the comforts of a man into torment, so the cordial drops of his love change afflictions into consolations.
I will now show that the pardon of our sins produces an excellent temper and disposition of soul to praise God. Love to the benefactor, and joy in the benefit, are the incentives of thankfulness. They tune the heart and tongue in the music of praise. When they are raised to a flame, they have a kind of charm, of rapture and ecstatic force, and transport the soul above itself in expressions of praise. These holy affections in the angels and -saints above are in their exaltation : and the circle of their employınent is, to acknowledge and admire, to reverence and magnify God, for his absolute excellencies, and his relative benefits. Love and joy are regulated by their objects and motives. Exceeding love and joy, when terminated on worldly things, are exceeding folly: they are empty and vanishing, a sudden blaze that dies in a moment. But the pardon of our sins infinitely endears God to us, and produces a substantial permanent joy. His love, though our hearts be as hard as a rock, as cold and dead as the grave, will melt us, and kindle a holy heat of affection, a love singular and supreme to God, according to the excellency of the benefit. Love will ingeminate the praises of God: “ thou art my God, I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.” Psal 118. Our joy in the benefit will be according to