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I. Show what is implied in forgiveness;
II. Show that the atonement of Christ is the sole
ground of forgiveness; And
III. Show that all other blessings come to mankind merely in consequence of Christ's atonement.
I. Let us consider what is to be understood by God's forgiving, or pardoning, or justifying believers. I use all these terms as synonymous; because to forgive, to pardon, and to justify believers, are phrases which the inspired writers use to signify the same thing. Accordingly, I shall use each of these terms in the same sense in the present discourse. Sin is a transgression of the law, and the wages of sin is death. Believers as well as others have transgressed the law, and deserved the eternal death which it threatens to every transgressor. By God's forgiving them, therefore, we are to understand his pardoning or not punishing their iniquities; or his remitting or not inflicting the penalalty of the law upon them. This is the strict and proper meaning of forgiveness; which, when complete, implies an entire removal of all the penal evils that the trangressor has incurred. When Pharoah forgave his chief butler, he removed all the penal evils of his of fence, and restored him to his former office. But there may be a partial forgiveness of an offence, without removing all the penal evils of it. A privy counsellor may prove unfaithful and deserve to die; but the king may partially forgive him, and only displace and disgrace him. In forgiving or justifying believers, God removes the condemnation of the law, and restores them to his forfeited favour. Christ says, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." And the apostle says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus," by a sentence of justification. After believers are forgiven or justified, it is consistent for God to exercise not only the love of benevolence, but the love of complacence towards them, and to express his complacence by pecu
liar marks of his favour. They stand as fair for every token of divine approbation, as if they had never sinned. God declares, that he loves them that love him,' and if he loves them, he may express his love to them in whatever way he pleases. The pardon and forgiveness of believers is properly called justification, because it places them in a condition in which God may treat them as though they were and always had been perfectly innocent. I now proceed to show,
II. That God forgives or justifies believers entirely through the redemption or atonement of Christ. By redemption through the blood of Christ, the apostle evidently means the same as the atonement which he made by his sufferings and death on the cross. And we find the other inspired writers of the New Testament, use the words ransom, redemption, and propitiation to signify the same as atonement. Believers are by nature children of wrath, even as others. They have broken the law of God, which threatens eternal death or everlasting punishment for the least transgression. This law knows no mercy or forgiveness to the guilty, but lays God under moral obligations to punish them, unless something be done to make atonement for their sins. But nothing can make atonement for their sins, which does not express the same vindictive justice of God, which he expresses in the penalty of his law. This sinners never could do for themselves by repentance, reformation, or works of supererogation. There was but one person in the universe, who could make atonement for sin, and that was the Lord Jesus Christ; and he could do it no otherwise but by shedding his blood on the cross. It was solely by sacrificing his own life, or dying the just for the unjust, that he made such a propitiation, redemption, or atonement for sinners, upon the ground of which God can consistently with the honour of his character and support of his government, forgive and save them from the wrath to come. And upon this ground alone the scripture every where represents him as forgiving or justifying believ The apostle in the text, ascribes forgivness solely
to the atonement of Christ. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." He expresses the same idea in the same language in Ephesians, i. 7. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. In the conclusion of the fourth chapter he says, "Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you." He states this doctrine more clearly and fully in the third chapter of Romans. "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe; 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-to declare, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus." Paul taught the same doctrine in his discourse at Antioch. "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things; from which, ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Here forgiveness signifies the same as justification, and justification signifies the same as pardon, which believers receive entirely on account of Christ's atonement. Peter said to Cornelius and to those who were convened at his house, "We are witnesses of all things which Christ did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew, and hanged on a tree; Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly, not to all the peo
ple, but unto witnesses, chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people and to testify that it is he who was ordained of God to be the judge of the quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Christ himself taught this doctrine in the twenty fourth of Luke. He said to his disciples just before he ascended to heaven, "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 behoved 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." When those who were pricked in their heart on the day of Pentecost, "said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." Zacharias said at his circumcision, " And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shall before the face of the Lord, to prepare his way: go to give knowledge of salvation unto his people, by the remission of sins. And agreeably to this prediction we read, Mark i. 4. "John did baptise in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins." I have mentioned all these passages of scripture to show, that God does pardon, or forgive, or justify believers entirely through the redemption or atonement of Christ and on no other ground. It only remains to inquire,
III. Whether he does not bestow all other blessings on mankind merely in consequence of Christ's atonement. The texts which have been cited to prove, that God grants forgiveness to believers solely on ac
count of the atonement of Christ seem to prove, or at least, to imply, that he bestows other favours merely in consequence of his atonement. But there is no occasion of insisting on this argument, for we have others sufficient to establish the point beyond all reasonable doubt.
1. It is an undeniable fact, that God does bestow innumerable favours upon believers themselves, before they are interested in Christ by faith; and of course, before they can be forgiven or justified on his account. He gives them food and raiment and supplies their wants, while they are in a state of nature; and not only so, he gives them the offers of salvation, and takes away their stony heart and gives them an heart of flesh, while they are under the condemnation of his holy law. These great and invaluable favours he bestows upon them before they are united to Christ; and before they can be forgiven or justified through his atoning blood. They must, therefore, be bestowed merely in consequence of it. And if God can bestow any other favour, except forgiveness, upon believers, before they are justified through the atonement of Christ; then after they are justified through his atonement, he can bestow any other favour upon them, except forgiveness, merely in consequence of it. These inferences are plain and undeniable, because they are drawn from a plain and undeniable fact.
2. It is a plain and undeniable fact; that God bestows ten thousand favours upon the non-elect, who never have been, and never will be forgiven or justified through the redemption of Christ. The children of Israel who perished in the wilderness were highly favoured. God carried them through the Red Sea, fed them with bread from heaven, and supplied their wants for many years; but they abused these and all other favours. They were shut out of both the earthly and heavenly Canaan. They were never forgiven or justified through the blood of that atonement which their sacrifices typified. And from this, we must conclude,