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ness. Or if we should suppose with the Arminians, that there is a first and second justification of believers, we could not avoid the absurd consequence which they draw from it, that believers may finally fall away after their first justification, and eventually perish; which is contrary to the whole tenor of scripture, and to the whole design of the gospel. Hence we are irresistibly led to conclude that the only scriptural and consistent doctrine of justification is that which we have endeavored to explain, and which is evidently contained in God's last Will and Testament. This entirely harmonizes with the character and conduct of God, with all other doctrines of the gospel, and with the duty, the peace, and the safety, of true believers.
3. It appears from the representation which has been given of justification in this discourse, that there is a propriety and consistency in believers praying every day for the pardon of all their sins, whether committed before or after they were justified. As none of their past or present sins have been fully and unconditionally forgiven, so God may chastise them for the iniquities of their youth, as well as for those committed in any later period of life. Job considered his sore afflictions as fatherly chastisements for the iniquities of his youth. He said to God under his correcting hand, “ Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” As God had a right to chastise Job for his sins, so he had a right to chastise him, at what time, by what means, and in what measure, he saw best. It properly belongs to God, to determine when he will chastise believers for their past offences. He may delay to chastise them either a shorter or longer time after they have offended; so that they are continually liable to be chastised for some of their past transgressions. This renders it proper and necessary that they should ask God, every day, to forgive all their sins, and never to treat them according to the magnitude and multitude of their offences. We find that believers under the Old Testament prayed for the forgiveness of their sins, through the whole course of their lives. This appears from the prayers of David and of the people of God, recorded in the book of Psalms. The daily duty of christians to pray for forgiveness is still more evident from that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples. “After this manner pray ye : Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." It appears from this petition, in connection with the preceding one, that it is as much the duty of believers to pray for forgiveness every day, as to pray every day for their daily bread. They certainly commit new sins every day, in addition to all their past transgressions; and for all these offences they deserve to be chastised. They have reason to fear, therefore, that God will sooner or later chastise them, unless they humbly and fervently pray for his pardoning mercy every day. Their partial and conditional forgiveness at the time of their justification does not supersede the duty and propriety of praying for the forgiveness of all their sins, so long as they remain in their present imperfect and probationary state. It is only on the supposition that the justification of believers consists in partial and conditional forgiveness, that we can see the duty and propriety of their praying for pardoning mercy as long as they live in this world. But if none of their sins are fully and unconditionally
. forgiven, at the time of their justification, then it is easy to see the duty, propriety and consistency of their praying continually for the pardon of all their sins, without distinction or exception, in order to escape both temporary and eternal punishment.
4. If believers, at the time of their justification, are only partially and conditionally forgiven, then it appears to be proper and important, that God should warn them to avoid every error and sinful course, and to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure. They are still in a state of trial, in which they are always liable to be led astray from the path of duty, by the snares of Satan, the temptations of the world, and the remaining corruptions of their own hearts: and unless they escape these dangers, they cannot perform the conditions upon which their full forgiveness and final salvation is suspended. This God knows to be their trying and critical situation, and, for this good reason, gives them so many warnings to guard against their spiritual enemies, and so many exhortations to persevere in the practice of all the duties of Christianity.
It is as certain that believers will fall away and be lost, if they neglect to perform the conditions upon which their title to eternal life is suspended, as it is that sinners will be finally condemned and destroyed, if they neglect to repent and believe the gospel. If it be proper and necessary that God should exhort sinners to turn from their evil ways, to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life; then it is no less proper and necessary to exhort believers to resist the devil, to overcome the world, to endure to the end, to take heed lest they fall, and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling These exhortations to those who are justified are perfectly consistent with their partial and conditional forgiveness, according to God's last Will and Testament; but upon no other ground. If they were completely and unconditionally
forgiven, we could see no occasion for such divine exhortations and admonitions. The promise of persevering grace does not diminish, but increase their obligation and encouragement to live a holy, watchful, prayerful, and exemplary life. So the apostle Peter taught true believers in his day. “ Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, ihrough the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises ; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make
ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
5. We learn from what has been said, that, notwithstanding believers are but partially and conditionally forgiven at the time of their justification, yet they may continually maintain peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. So long as they saithfully perform the conditions upon which God has made them heirs to eternal life in his last Will and Testament, they may be assured that he is reconciled to them, and will afford them the tokens of his fatherly affection and gracious presence. Christ said to his disciples, just before his death, “ Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more ; but ye see me; because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” While believers keep themselves in the love of God, and pay a cheerful
obedience to all the intimations of his will, they perform the conditions upon which they are pardoned and justified, and enjoy that peace which the world cannot give nor take away. And upon ihis ground the apostle declares, “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” “ For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” “ And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” So long as believers feel and express a filial spirit towards their heavenly Father, they may possess their souls in peace, and go on their way rejoicing in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, has promised to bestow upon all who are faithful unto death.
FORGIVENESS OF SINS ONLY FOR CHRIST'S SAKE.
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is
preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. -- Acts, xiii. 38.
The apostle Paul determined to know nothing, in his preaching, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Whether he preached to Jews or to Gentiles, he commonly, and largely, insisted upon the atonement of Christ, as the only foundation of pardon and acceptance in the sight of God. In the discourse which contains the text, he first speaks of the descent, the life and death of Christ, and then represents what he did and suffered, as the only ground of the pardon and justification of sinners.
“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins."
These words plainly teach us that forgiveness is the only favor which God bestows upon men, on Christ's account. In treating upon this subject, I shall, 1. Consider what we are to understand by forgiveness.
II. Consider what we are to understand by being forgiven on Christ's account.
III. Make it appear that forgiveness is the only favor which God bestows upon men on the account of Christ.
I. Let us consider what we are to understand by forgiveness.
To remit, to pardon, to forgive, are terms of the same import. To forgive a debt, is to cancel the obligation of the debtor to pay the sum which he engaged to pay. And to forgive sins, is to cancel the obligation of the transgressor to suffer the punishment which his sins deserve. Some have justly made a distinction between the guilt of blame and the guilt of punishment. When a man has sinned, he deserves to be blamed,