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and when he deserves to be blamed, he deserves to be punished. Every sin carries in it a desert of both blame and punishment, which never can be removed. The Deity himself cannot take away the demerit of sin, which is inseparable from its nature. After a man has once transgressed, his transgression will for ever remain, and justly deserve both blame and punishment. But though God cannot remove the demerit of sin, yet he can free men from the punishment of it. And in this, the essence of forgiveness consists. So far as God frees men from the punishment due to them for sin, so far he actually forgives them. Forgiveness may be partial, or total. Partial forgiveness is the remission of part of the penal evil which the sinner deserves. Thus rebels are sometimes partially pardoned. They are freed from the punishment of death, but not from certain civil disadvantages, such as the deprivation of former privileges, and an incapacity for future preferments. But total forgiveness removes all penal pains, evils, or inconveniences, arising from transgression. “Every sin deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come." And though God remits to every believer the future punishment of all his sins, yet he reserves it in his own power to punish him in this life, as often and as severely as he sees best. So that the forgiveness of sin in this life is not total, but partial. It consists, however, as far as it extends, in the prevention or removal of punishment. God does, for Christ's sake, absolve true believers from all punishment in a future state. He assures them that they shall be saved from the wrath to come, and never suffer that eternal death which is the proper and full wages of sin. . Having shown what is to be understood by forgiveness, I proceed to consider,
II. What we are to understand by being forgiven for Christ's sake, or on his account.
Through Christ, for Christ's sake, on Christ's account, are phrases of one and the same signification.“ Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins," says the apostle. Forgiveness comes through the medium of Christ. His atonement is the sole ground of pardon. God forgives for Christ's sake, or on account of what Christ has done to render it consistent with his character to absolve or release the transgressor from bearing the punishment due to him for sin. Sometimes men forgive for the sake of their own honor or reputation; and sometimes they forgive for the sake of compassion towards the offender. But God never forgives for his own sake, nor for the sake of the sinner, but merely for Christ's sake. Neither his own honor, nor the sinner's misery, is the ground of his forgiveness, but simply the atonement of Christ.
God can consistently punish sinners without respect to Christ; but he cannot consistently pardon them, or free them from deserved punishment, without respect to the Mediator. Without shedding of blood there is no remission. There must be a peculiar reason for God's forgiving the guilty. And the atonement of Christ is the only sufficient reason for his forgiving the guilty. This indeed is sufficient; and while he forgives sinners entirely on Christ's account, he appears to be just, as well as gracious. The way is now prepared to show,
III. That forgiveness is the only favor which God bestows upon men, on Christ's account. This will appear, if we consider,
1. There was no need of an atonement, in order to God's bestowing any other favor than forgiveness. He can show favor to holy and innocent creatures, without any thing being done to render the displays of his goodness consistent with his character. From mere benevolence, he has raised the holy angels to the highest degrees of holiness, and caused them to drink of those rivers of pleasure which perpetually flow at his right hand. And when man was formed in his own image, he treated him in the same manner in which he treated, and will for ever treat, the angels of light. God placed him in the garden of Eden, and loaded him with benefits as long as he continued holy and innocent. And even now, be bestows innumerable blessings upon his degenerate offspring, without respect to Christ. He causes his sun to rise and his rain to fall upon the evil as well as the good, and grants as large a portion of the good things of this life to his enemies as to his friends. There is no temporal favor so great, but he can bestow it upon the vilest of men, as a mere act of sovereignty, without the least respect to Christ as mediator. But it is only through the atonement of Christ that he can and does forgive sinners. And from this we may justly conclude that forgiveness is the only favor which he grants to mankind merely for Christ's sake.
2. The great design of Christ's coming into the world, and making atonement for sin, was to open the way for forgiveness. This appears from the whole current of scripture. The types of Christ, under the law, represent his atonement as being designed to lay the foundation for forgiveness only. The paschal lamb was a type of Christ's death. “ Christ our passover," says the apostle, “is sacrificed for us.". But the paschal lamb, which was slain to preserve the Israelites from that destruction which fell upon the Egyptians, would not have been a proper type of the death of Christ, unless his death had been designed to lay the foundation of pardon, or freedom from punishment. The bullock that was slain for the sins of Israel, was a type of
Christ's laying down his life for the sins of the world. But this bullock is said to make atonement for the express purpose of forgiveness. So we repeatedly read in the fourth chapter of Leviticus. If the whole congregation sin, it is said, the priest shall kill the bullock, and make atonement for them, and their sin shall be forgiven. Ver. 20. If a ruler sin, then the priest shall kill the bullock, and make atonement for him, concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven. Ver. 26. Or if one of the common people sin, the priest shall kill the bullock, and make atonement for him, and his sin shall be forgiven. All the sacrifices for sin, under the Old Testament, were designed to lay a foundation for forgiveness. Hence says the apostle in his exposition of the types in the epistle to the Hebrews, “ without shedding of blood is no remission.” This shows that the death or' atonement of Christ was wholly designed to open the way for the remission of sin, or the exercise of pardoning mercy to penitent sinners.
The inspired writers represent the design of the sufferings and death of Christ in the same light. The evangelical prophet says, “ He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed.” When Christ appeared and foretold his own death, he always represented it as being designed to lay a foundation for forgiveness, or to open the way for God to save sinners from the punishment of sin. “As Moses," says he, “ lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
66 The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many." And when he instituted the memorials of his death, he clearly explained the design of it to his disciples. Having taken the cup and given thanks, he said to them, “ Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.” The first time of his appearing to his disciples after his death, “ He said unto them, these are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In all these pas
sages Christ plainly intimates that the great design of his death was to open the way for the pardon, remission, or forgiveness of sin. Agreeably to these declarations of Christ, his apostles represented forgiveness as the great and only favor granted to sinners on his account. Thus Peter preached to the awakened multitudes on the day of Pentecost." Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” In another discourse to persons in the same situation, he says, “ Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" that is, forgiven. And when he preached Christ to Cornelius and his family, he taught them," that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” This is precisely the same language which Paul uses in the text.“ Be it known unto you therefore, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” And Paul not only preached ihat the atonement of Christ was designed to procure forgiveness only, but he also wrote in the same manner in his epistles, in which he professedly explains the design of Christ's death. Treating upon this subject in the third chapter of Romans, he says, “ Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” He also says to the Galatians, “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." The obvious meaning of these words is, that pardon, forgiveness, or freedom from the curse of the law, is the great and sole benefit we receive on Christ's account. Thus the types of Christ, his own declarations, and the declarations of his apostles, unite to prove that his atonement is the only ground of forgiveness, and forgiveness is the only favor which God ever grants to men on account of it. And it will farther confirm this truth, if we consider,
3. That believers are expressly said to be forgiven for Christ's sake. The apostle uses this phraseology in his exhortation to the Ephesians, when he says, "Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” In another place, speaking of Jesus whom God raised from the dead, he says, “Who delivered us from the wrath to come;" that is, from future and eternal punishment. He says again,“ God commendeth his love towards us,
si we we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Much [-2. being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from 573 Ocgh him." By the blood of Christ here, we are to Cud us a:onement, which the apostle says is the ground
cation, or freedom from eternal destruction, which is e proper expression of divine wrath. But there is one or
De expressions which the apostle uses respecting for2. Tegess rough Christ, that deserve particular notice. After SE; -esians that they were chosen and accepted in Crite farber observes. - In whom we have redemption --Aris bood, the forgiveness of sins.” And he makes the de cracn to the Colossians. 6 In whom we have
con rough his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Ts. Je of expression in these two passages plainly implies 22 lingveness is the one peculiar favor which God grants to
in rete s in respect to the redemption of Christ. And - consediy the apostle's meaning; otherwise he Si po bare selec:ed forgiveness from all other divine 2105 21 r presented it as the great and only blessing
ei open bezerens, on Christ's account, or merely for his
B: bere it may be objected, that the great design of Christ's 29cea: Tis:o lay a foundation for the sanctification, rather ne isireness of sinners. To this purpose may be 2:22: passage in the first of Matthew, where we read,
swi bang forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jussiebestui sare his people from their sins.” Also that D2SL a Tims in which it is said of Christ, “ Who gave PS: a he might redeem us from all iniquity, and Erabici a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Træsorer passages of the same import, two things Ernie
FYle sred from sin generally means in scripture to be sin mo the punishment of it, which is precisely the same
Es ingreness. There does not appear any need of an somer is onder to lay a foundation for the mere regenera
Costication of sinners. Though God could not have asses forgiren Adam the first moment after he had Scout an atonement, yet he might have renewed or
vai tim, as an act of mere sovereignty, without any NOS, and without forgiveness. Hence we may conclude
was not the primary or principal design of Christ, in =:3 and dying for his people, to redeem or save them from era and dominion of sin; but to save or redeem them mos e perishment of it. Though God meant to raise the e a wo state of sin to a state of holiness, yet all that