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"CHRIST JESUS, before the world began, and "fince made manifest by the appearing of JESUS CHRIST." And it is imputed merely "to the praise of the glory of his grace, that we "are made accepted in the beloved; in "whom we have redemption through his "blood, the forgiveness of fins, according to "the riches of his grace." In a word, we can "not collect from any of the declarations of Scripture the most distant hint of the divine mercy arifing from any foreign confide"ration whatever: and this was certainly a "matter of the greatest consequence; since a suspicion of this kind would tend to beget "an idea of uncertainty, or partiality, in the "diftribution of the divine mercy."
Should I appear to have been tedious in this enumeration of the various paffages, which fo explicitly and fully affert the clemency of God, the fubject, I plead, is so very interesting and agreeable, that it justifies our dwelling upon it. And I muft, further add to these declarations,
Titus iii. 5. 2 Tim. 1, 9, 10.
1 Ephes, 1, 6, 7.
i Dr. Priestley's Inftitutes, iii. p. 57, ift ed.
II. Some facts recorded in the Scriptures, which are fo many inftances of God's mercy to mankind. His placability is not only afferted, but exemplified: it is not only proclaimed, but carried into execution. Often did the Ifraelites defert the worship and service of GOD, and give themselves to idols: but as often as they repented, they found mercy. The whole of their hiftory forms a series of favours and kindneffes, in the acceptance of their repentance. The cafes of various individuals, involved in the annals of that people, stand upon record, as witneffes of divine clemency. Manaffeh was forgiven: Ahab was pardoned: David's penitence was accepted. The inhabitants of Nineveh, when they turned from their evil way, were received into favour. Those who flocked to the preaching of John were admitted to the baptifm of repentance, for the remiffion of fins. Peter, who denied CHRIST, on his repenting, was allowed again to join the band of apoftles. Publicans and finners were not rejected by the compaffionate Bishop of fouls. Saul, the perfecutor, obtained mercy. The Corinthians, whofe characters were stained with the guilt of the
worst crimes, "were washed, were fanctified, " and were juftified in the name of the LORD JESUS, and by the fpirit of our GOD." To the Jews, who had killed the Prince of life, was raised up a "Saviour, who was fent to "blefs them, and to turn them from their iniquity."
So many encouraging atteftations to the mercy of God doth the history of the Old and New Testament afford. A great and happy number standeth forth as vouchers of the truth in the text, as monuments of the greatness and extent of the divine mercy; and this is the testimony, which they all unite to bear, "God is just and merciful to forgive us
our fins, and to cleanse us from all un" righteousness." The gofpel, indeed, in the character of CHRIST, in the variety and suitableness of its bleffings, in the excellence of its promises, in the fublimity of its hopes, and in the permanence of its truth and grace, is a glorious and standing monument of the mercy of God. Here we fee the Divine Being reconciling the world unto Himself: not only proclaiming that his name is merciful and gracious,
A&s. iii. 26.
1. Cor. vi. 11.
but taking the most proper and effectual meafures that the finner might be brought to repentance, be forgiven, and faved. Here GOD not only offers pardon, but bestows it; while He "bleffeth us with all spiritual blessings, "in heavenly things, in CHRIST JESUS." Thus the proof of the joyful truth proclaimed in the text is completed.
I. Can the humble penitent give his attention to this fubject, without going away encouraged and comforted? Guilt may be timid, and should be humble; but it ought not to despair. Sorrow becometh us; but when forrow finketh into defpondency, it addeth to past offences the guilt of entertaining hard thoughts of God. It is a diftruft of the divine goodness and truth. It is a fearful apprehenfion that there is no mercy with Him, or a fufpicion that the declarations of mercy were not fincere. Let all fuch notions be far from us. "GOD," it is faid, "taketh pleasure in them that hope in "his mercy. What encouragement, what abundant reason to admit and cherish hope, doth this fubject afford you! If you only
m Pfalm. cxlvii. 11.
take a view of your own crimes; if you reflect only upon your fituation, as having finned against heaven, you do not full justice to your cafe, you confider yourself as only deferving punishment, and an object of refentment; whereas thou art alfo an object of mercy, and by your penitent relentings a candidate for it. Thou art, it is true, a finner; and in the prefent frame of thy mind, a penitent: but "GOD is merciful and gracious, long-fuffer"ing, abundant in goodness and truth, for"giving iniquity, tranfgreffion, and fin;" and thou art become fuch as his declarations of mercy are defigned to encourage and comfort. Thou art become that convert, which it was his earneft defire to fee thee: thou art become, like thofe, to whom his mercy and pardon have, in ten thousand instances, been freely granted. The proclamation is as full and ample as can well be conceived. And among thofe to whom forgiveness hath been extended, there have been finners of the most heinous kind.
What should damp thy hopes in this mercy? On what principles canft thou confider thy own cafe as not comprehended in