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come a hopeless prey to the worm that dieth not. But can this be done? The sinner has put the scorpion of remorse in his own bosom; and is it possible now to lull this undying scorpion asleep, or disarm it of its power, or neutralize the venom of its sting?
Yes; thanks to redeeming grace! it can be done. The Bible tells us so; and it has actually been done in the case of every Christian on earth, and every saint in heaven. Go to the new convert, and behold his bosom, once writhing in all the anguish of remorse, now calm as the surface of an unruffled lake, and enjoying a peace of conscience, a repose of soul, a joy of heart that pass all understanding. Attend the Christian in his progress from one degree of perfection to another, until he attains the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. Visit his closet, and there witness his seasons of intimate and delightful communion with his heavenly Father. Accompany him through all the scenes of his earthly pilgrimage; mark his peaceful, triumphant departure from a world of sin and sorrow; follow him up to those realms of light where all tears are wiped from every eye, and there gaze on the countless throng of saints, once weeping in the bitterness of godly sorrow for their sins, but now redeemed by the blood of Christ from all the miseries of remorse, and prepared to serve and enjoy God for ever with the ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands that compose the general assembly and church of the first born in heaven.
Thus does the Gospel deliver the penitent believer in Jesus from the pangs of remorse so naturally consequent upon sin. But how is this done? Is it by dethroning or destroying his conscience? Is the Christian exempted from compunction for the sins which he continues to commit? Could David or Peter, after their conversion, sin without remorse? No; they felt it far more keenly than an impenitent sinner could have done. No unbeliever has a conscience so enlightened, so sensitive, or so faithful as that of the Christian. And will he not carry his conscience with him into eternity? Yes; and should the highest saint or seraph in heaven indulge one sinful thought, it would kindle a hell in his bosom, even amid all the glories that encircle the throne of God and the Lamb.
Is the Christian, then, relieved from remorse by forgetting his sins? But has he forgotten them? Does he not retain a most vivid recollection of them even when rejoicing with joy unspeakable, and full of glory? Go to the recent convert; and when you see his bosom thrilling with the raptures of a better world, ask him then, whether he has forgotten his past transgressions. The tears through which his joy smiles, will return you an answer.
Does the saint, amid the bright and blissful visions of his dying hour, become unconscious of his past and present sins? Will he in heaven retain no remembrance of a world so long filled with the bounties of divine Providence, and all the matchless wonders of redeeming grace? Will the saints in glory forget all their former ingratitude and rebellion? No; they will remember them for ever, and gather from them all fresh motives to warm their bosoms with love, and strike louder and still louder notes of praise to him who died to save them from the power and penalties of sin.
Is the Christian, then, freed from the corrosions of remorse by becoming unconscious of ill-desert? But is it possible for a pardoned sinner, a penitent believer in Jesus, ever to lose his consciousness of deep demerit? Can the man who has been led to inquire with agonizing solicitude, what he must do to be saved; can the publican who has smitten on his breast and cried, God be merciful to me a sinner; can the prodigal, who has returned with a broken, bleeding heart, to confess, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; can the saint who frankly and penitently acknowledges, Against thee, O God, against thee only have I sinned, and done evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest;-can such men ever cease to be conscious of their ill-desert? No; never. Their consciousness of demerit is interwoven with almost every recollection of their life, and implied even in their gratitude to that grace which has redeemed them from the miseries of sin. No man on earth can be more thoroughly conscious of his ill-desert than the Christian; and every saint in heaven, even while joining in the song of Moses and the Lamb, must feel as truly as any sufferer in hell, that he too deserves to be lifting up his eyes in the endless torments of remorse and despair!
In none of these ways, then, can the burden of conscious guilt be removed. Still the Gospel does remove it from the conscience of every penitent believer, and permit him to rejoice in the favor of a reconciled God. But how does the blood of Christ thus purify and relieve his conscience?
I. BY PREPARING THE WAY FOR HIS REPENTANCE, AND HIS ULTIMATE DE
LIVERANCE FROM ALL SIN.
This purification is absolutely essential. Sin produces misery as its natural, inevitable result; and the sinner must therefore become holy, before he can be happy. Repentance is the beginning of holiness; and so far as it makes the sinner holy, it tends to promote his happiness. It cannot indeed alter the fact of his having been a sinner; nor can it ever
destroy the remembrance, or conscious guilt of his past transgressions; but it will check the progress of sin, and thus prevent the future increase of its miseries.
Mere law, however, makes no provision for repentance; nor could it consistently permit the pardon even of a penitent transgressor. It is a system of pure, unmingled, uncompromising justice. It acknowledges no principle but that of righteous retribution; it denounces death to the man who offends in a single point; and the soul that sinneth but once, can never live again under a system of mere law. A single deviation from this principle would destroy the influence of the divine government, and lead its subjects to calculate on impunity in transgression, and ere long to set at defiance the moral Governor of the universe. God has also rendered the ultimate execution of his law absolutely certain, by giving man such a conscience, or moral constitution, that the sinner, if unrenewed, must ere long suffer the pangs of remorse, just as inevitably as arsenic poisons, or fire burns.
But the Gospel so far modifies the government of mere law, as to prepare a way for the consistent reformation and forgiveness of sinners. It renders repentance possible, encourages it by the promise of pardon, and provides means, motives, and divine influences sufficient to restore the sinner to the lost image of his Maker. The believer's spiritual renovation is begun at the time of his conversion; it is carried on from one degree of perfection to another; and ere long will be consummated in the perfect purity and bliss of heaven.
I am fully aware, however, that repentance alone can never restore the sinner to the favor of his Maker; because it cannot repair the evils he has done to God, to himself, and the universe. Can mere penitence undo what sin has done? Can the assassin's sorrow heal the heart he has stabbed? Will the incendiary's tears of regret quench the fires he has kindled? Can the reformation of a drunkard reclaim all whom his example may have made the victims of intemperance, or rescue from an untimely grave his abused and broken-hearted companion, or fully restore his own lost reputation, his squandered property, his wasted health, his shortened days, or the scorched and withered sensibilities of his soul? The late imperial ravager of Europe might, at the close of his bloody career, have wept bitterly for what he had done; but could tears even of blood, call back to life the millions sacrificed on the shrine of his mad ambition, and repair all the unnumbered evils he had done? Alas! these evils had gone far, far beyond his reach; and now he could only wait in fearful
expectation of meeting the victims of his reckless spirit before a higher than human tribunal, and there receiving a sentence according to the deeds he had done on earth.
How utterly impossible then, for repentance alone to repair the evils of sin! An angel once formed the purpose of rebellion against God; and from that single purpose have resulted all the sins and all the miseries we have witnessed, or of which we have been told, throughout the dominions of Jehovah. The spirit of disaffection and revolt spread wide in heaven and earth; and had it not been checked by an almighty hand, it might have extended through the universe-made it one general theatre of rebellionone boundless hell. Could the penitence then of the first rebel have atoned for evils so immense, so appalling, so interminable?
True, a sinner on earth could not do so much mischief; but has he not joined this foul and desperate conspiracy against the Majesty of heaven, and done all that his powers would permit to break that golden chain which binds intelligent creatures to the throne of God? Yes, he has acted on a principle which, if universally adopted, would dethrone Jehovah, destroy all happiness, and fill the universe with sin and wo.
Well may the sinner weep in view of all this; but can his tears repair the evil he has done? Alas! that has gone beyond his reach; it may dif fuse its baleful influence through the world; it may go to millions of worlds, and myriads of beings unknown to him; and God alone knows where it will stop, or how its terrible ravages can be checked. Here is what the sinner himself can never undo, nor ever repair; but after having opened such a flood-gate of sin and misery, can his conscience find repose, unless he sees these evils counteracted and overruled to the glory of God, and the greatest good of his kingdom?
II. Here the atonement of Christ comes to relieve the believer's conscience BY COUNTERACTING THE EVILS OF SIN.
We may not see all, but we can easily see some of the ways, in which this great expiatory sacrifice for the sins of mankind may prevent, or repair the evils of transgression. Sin tends to tarnish the character of God, to shake the stability of his throne, and destroy the influence of his moral government over his intelligent creatures. Had he permitted a single sinner to go unpunished without providing some other means equally effec
tual to express his abhorrence of sin, and immutable regard for his law, his subjects might have suspected him of conniving at transgression— deemed him altogether unworthy of their love and obedience, and calculated on sinning with impunity. The pardon of a single sinner, under such circumstances, might have endangered the welfare of the whole universe. And what penitent man could desire to be saved at the certain hazard of such consequences? Would he go up to heaven trampling on the ruins of God's throne, and on all the interests of his moral kingdom? Could he be willing to destroy the confidence of intelligent creatures in the government of God, and thus poison the very fountain from which all happiness flows? Thus do the general interests of his kingdom absolutely require, that God should preserve the moral influence of his law, either by inflicting its penalty on the transgressor, or by devising some other expedient of equal power to maintain his authority, secure the obedience of his subjects, and accomplish all the other purposes of his moral government.
Such an expedient is the death of Christ. It counteracts the evils which sin had done or threatened, and thus becomes a sufficient and satisfactory substitute for the penalty of the law. It upholds the authority of Jehovah, confirms the moral influence of his government, and accomplishes even more important results than could have been secured by inflicting all the penalties of the law on transgressors. It expresses in the strongest manner God's deep and unchanging abhorrence of sin, his steady regard for his law, and his inflexible determination to preserve its influence unimpaired, by enforcing all its claims and all its sanctions. If he spared not his only Son, but from his own bosom gave him up even to the death of the cross, rather than relax one iota of that law on which are suspended the dearest interests of the universe, can any of his subjects now hope for impunity in transgression? If God spared not his own Son, will he spare the impenitent rebel against his throne?
Thus does the death of Christ counteract the evils of sin. It restores to the violated law all its moral energies, repairs the injury done by sin to the character and government of God, and prepares the way for him consistently with all his attributes, with the honor of his throne, and the great interests of his kingdom, to pardon every one that believeth in Jesus.
III. BUT THE ATONEMENT DOES EVEN MORE THAN REPAIR THE EVILS
OF SIN. By this I cannot surely mean, that it will restore to the favor of God more than all, or even all that have sinned; but that it will event