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delighting in the society of the beloved object, and by imparting to it its sorrows and its joys in the most unreserved manner.
We have, however, many joys and sorrows, and many important interests which are of a personal nature, and which we could not easily be prevailed upon to disclose to any human being. And yet, before our Maker, strange as it may seem, we can use a freedom of communication which we could not be prevailed upon to use with the most intimate friend upon earth. We know that he is already acquainted with all that we have thought or done or suffered. We know that he will not betray nor upbraid us; but that he will regard us, however guilty and unworthy we have been, with pity and forgiveness, if we flee for refuge to the hope set before us. We approach him as a God reconciled in Christ, and waiting to be gracious; and we know that there is nothing which prevents the possibility of our obtaining the forgiveness of our sins, but our unwillingness to part with them. Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord ; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. But as guilt is naturally suspicious, and we are apt to imagine that God will deal with us as we are too ready to do with a fellow-creature that has offended us, he further assures us, that his thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways. We make a distinction between forgetting and forgiving an offence; nor is any thing more common among men than to say, ' I may forgive the
injury which you have done me, but I will never forget it.' But God not only says, Thy sins and iniquities will I forgive, but, I will remember them
These views are greatly enlarged and strengthened by means of confession and petition. Every sin which we lament before God is seen in another light than when it was committed: and in praying for the divine forgiveness, we perceive that we have much to be forgiven, even in our holy things. We discover that, instead of walking before God in simplicity and godly sincerity, we have daily cause to lament our selfishness and worldlymindedness, our backwardness to set about duty, and our languor and coldness in performing it; and we enter into the sentiments, and adopt the language, of the psalmist: If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, who, O Lord, shall stand? Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret faults, keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins ; let them not have dominion over me.
In praying for the sanctification of our nature, we acknowledge that we are renewed but in part. We feel the necessity and the excellence of holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. And if, under this impression, we should attempt to justify our besetting sin, or any thing whatever that is contrary to the dictates of an enlightened conscience, we should find our attempt to be vain. Our mouth would be stopped, and our efforts to pray rendered abortive. Every person who is accustomed to pray will find by his own experience, that when he engages not only in any thing of a
sinful, but even of a doubtful character, his
prayers are hindered. Of course he will either be obliged to relinquish it, or to desist from prayer; or if he attempt to persevere, it will be only the perseverance of a double-minded man, who is unstable in all his ways. Did any one, for example, ever ask, or could he possibly ask, the presence and blessing of God to accompany him in his retirement, when he was about to engage, or was actually engaged, in a course of reading, the object of which he well knew was to reconcile him to vice, or to strip it of its most odious colours ? But it is not sufficient that we merely abstain from that kind of reading which is hurtful, and to which it is to be feared that many an hour of retirement is devoted. Every sober, chaste, virtuous, and holy mind, will consecrate its hours of retirement to studies that are not merely ornamental but useful, and especially to the concerns of the soul and of eternity; and will feel that its happiest moments are those which are thus employed. If you act and feel in this manner, you are possessed of the distinguishing properties of the renewed nature, and may rest assured, that He who has begun the good work in you will carry it on to the day of Jesus Christ,
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ESTABLISHES THE LAW.
ROMANS, III. 31.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God
forbid; yea, we establish the law.
HE question at issue between those who maintain, and those who deny, the possibility of salvation by our own personal obedience to the law of God, is not whether good works have a place in the scheme of redemption, but what place they really occupy. The former allege, that the doctrine of justification by faith makes the law of God of none effect; the latter affirm, that it establishes its divine authority.
Those who have been accustomed to regard the gospel as a mere system of morals, enforced by the sanction of rewards and punishments, and designed chiefly to regulate and reform the outward manners of mankind, may be disposed to treat the question in the text with cold indifference. It has not, however, been always thus regarded. Luther, whose capacious mind was enabled, even at its first emerging out of popish darkness, to grasp the great outlines of revealed truth, and to exhibit them in a light which has justly excited the admiration of succeeding ages—that illustrious reformer was so sensible of the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith, as to pronounce the reception or the rejection of it to be the criterion of a standing or a falling church. This is the faith once delivered to the saints, for which those no less illustrious characters to whom, under God, our own country is indebted for all the blessings of the reformation, so successfully contended; which our ancestors bled to defend, and in firm reliance upon which, they endured trials of cruel mockings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; not counting life itself dear to them, that they might finish their course with joy.
But it is not by human authority, however venerable, but by a close, accurate, and impartial examination of the record of truth itself, that our belief must be determined; and we shall therefore endeavour to shew, that the doctrine referred to in the text, like every other doctrine of the gospel, is a doctrine according to godliness.
As the God whom we adore is a God of infinite purity and holiness, no doctrine can come from him which has not a direct tendency to promote holiness of heart and life. The charge, therefore, which is brought against the doctrine of justification by faith, that it makes void the law of God, is of a most serious nature, and, if substantiated, would doubtless be an insuperable objection against the admission of it. But, on the other hand, it is contended, that the charge is groundless, and that no such objection can reasonably be urged against