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They crowd around thicker than the leaves of autumn—more numerous than the stars of heaven, or the sand upon the sea-shore. But who do I see yonder ? There comes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Here are the Apostles of the Lamb. 0 how they shine. There comes the army of Martyrs, that shed their blood and laid down their lives in testimony of the truth of the Gospel : now they are arrayed in immortal lustre. Lo, here come the Heralds of the Cross; they went forth weeping, bearing precious seed; but now they return rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. They shine like the sun in the firmament of heaven. But who is this great company—thousands of thousands, and ten times ten thousand, a company that no man can number ? These are they that have come up through great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. But how different will be the resurrection of the unjust! They shall awake to the resurrection of damnation. Oh, their end ! their dreadful end! The resurrection will be succeeded by the judgment, at which Jesus Christ shall appear, the Judge of the quick and the dead, and pronounce a just sentence on all mankind. The saints shall be welcomed to that kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world : but the unjust shall be sentenced to dwell with the Devil and his angels. Seeing we are all hastening to this eventful day, let us be wise, and make immediate preparations, that we may be always ready to give up our account with joy, and not with grief.
PARDON AND SANCTIFICATION OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL.
BY REV. TOBIAS SPICER,
OF THE NEW YORK CONFERENCE.
• If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse
us from all unrighteousness.' i John i. 9.
THERE were in the early days of Christianity, as there have been in every age since, some who deny the Lord that bought them.' Such believe they need no atoning sacrifice, no sanctification nor pardon, for they never have sinned. They begin with a determination to reject the gospel, and, that they may do it with a better grace, they deny their guilt and depravity. They say, we have never sinned, therefore we need no pardon, we have no sin,' i. e. moral pollution, and therefore we need no sanctification ; we need no blood of atonement, no blood of sprinkling.
It is to such the apostle addressed himself in those words which precede the text.- If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.'— If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar.' His meaning is, as though he had said, “If we say, we need neither sanctification nor pardon, because we are neither guilty nor polluted, having never sinned, -we not only reject the gospel, but we deceive ourselves, and make God a liar ; for God has said, men have sinned.'
It is in this way, the words with which our text stands connected, are to be understood. They were never designed to intimate that a Christian may not be cleansed from all sin, and love the Lord with all his heart, any more than they are designed to prove that a penitent who confesseth and forsaketh, may not find mercy and pardon. Such a construction of these words would make the apostle contradict himself, and would be contrary to the most obvious meaning of our text. This declares, that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
In considering the words of our text, we will first observe the
inestimable blessings offered us in the gospel, and secondly the condition on which these blessings are offered.
I. We consider the benefits which are offered us in the gospel.
The first thing here mentioned is, forgiveness of sin. When we consider the nature of sin and the circumstances under which it is often committed, especially when we consider against whom we have sinned, and the fearful consequences of sin; forgiveness will appear to be what it really is, an inestimable blessing. Our sins have been committed against our rightful sovereign to whom we are under infinite obligation. We have transgressed a law which is holy, just, and good. We have sinned against the voice of reason, the dictates of an enlightened conscience, and the most express and explicit declaration of God's word. Our sins have aroused the Divine displeasure, and exposed us to everlasting ruin. The sentence of the Judge is already pronounced : Whoso believeth not is condemned already, the wrath of God abideth on him.
Every impenitent sinner is on his way to the place of execution. The sinner is constantly treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.'
God will most certainly render to those who do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, tribulation and anguish, indignation and wrath.' See Rom. ii. 8, 9. If all men have sinned, and if sin is indeed so offensive to God, and so destructive to the bodies and souls of men, surely that forgiveness which shall turn away his fierce anger from us, and restore us to his favor, is of the utmost importance.
Suppose a criminal convicted of a capital crime, and the judge by whom he is tried has pronounced his sentence. The day of his execution arrives, the instruments of death are made ready, and the officers of justice are leading him to meet his melancholy fate. Under these circumstances he feels himself to be on the confines of another world, just about to sink into the grave, loaded with guilt and shame. Now to a man under these circumstances, what favor could be so great as forgiveness ? What news could be of so much importance to him as that which announces his pardon? Pardon would restore him to the favor of his prince and to the society of his friends. If you were to inform such an one that his worldly business is in great prosperity, that his wine and his oil are increased, such information would afford him but little comfort. Nay, it might make life appear more desirable, and thus only aggravate his wo. How natural it would be to sigh rather than rejoice, and to say, Ah, what availeth prosperity which mine eyes shall never behold ? But could you assure such a man that his crimes are pardoned, and that he is restored to the favor of his prince; could you show him his pardon signed and sealed; you
would inspire his bosom with joy which nothing else could impart. Nothing beside is to him so important, and of so much value. Of such importance is forgiveness of sins, to one who has sinned against his God.
Forgiveness of sin is a work done for us, whereby God freely forgive thus all that is past, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour. It is a work altogether distinct from any thing which we can do. It is absolutely necessary to our salvation. Amendment of life, even were it accompanied by the most heart-felt regret, or most painful sorrow, will not answer as a substitute for pardon. The man who has become indebted to a merchant to a large amount, may as well calculate to satisfy these claims, by informing his creditor that he is heartily sorry he has run in debt to such an amount, and that he will increase the debt no
Such an acknowledgment, though accompanied with the deepest regret, would not satisfy the claims of the merchant ; unless the debt be forgiven, justice will still have a claim.
That pardon, so necessary to our salvation, is freely offered us in the gospel, through the mediation of his dear Son ; God can be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
2. Not only does the gospel offer forgiveness of sins to the penitent, but sanctification to the faithful believer. It declares that
the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.' Forgiveness is a work done for us, by it we are restored to the divine favor ; but this cleansing from all uprighteousness' is a work done in us, by which we are restored to the divine image. The one is very properly called justification, and the other sanctification. As by the former we are brought into the favor of God, so by the latter we are prepared for the enjoyment of God. By this we are fitted for communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Chrisť here, and are thereby prepared to enjoy eternal life hereafter. This is a work wrought in us by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. This is the new creation of which the apostle speaks, effected by the power of God, which worketh in us mightily,' by which we are renewed in the spirit of our minds,' being created anew in Christ Jesus.'
And when this work is completed, we are enabled to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, might and strength, and perfect holiness in the fear of God.' Then shall we have the mind which was in Christ,' and be enabled to walk even as he walked.' This is that perfect love' which casteth out fear ;' that evangelical perfection of which our Saviour and his apostles so frequently speak ;—this is that 'HOLINESS,' without which, man shall see the Lord.' Such as are cleansed from unrighteousness,' are enabled to overcome sin; sin shall have no dominion'
over them; they shall rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks:
Having briefly noticed the unspeakable benefits offered us in the gospel, we proceed,
To notice the condition on which these benefits are offered, which is confession of our sins.'
1. This confession of our sins does not mean merely that we confess to the world in some general way that we have sinned. Many are very ready to admit that all men are sinners, and of course they as well as others. But they do it with perfect indifference. Indeed, many plead the doctrine of human depravity rather as an apology for their wickedness than for any other purpose.
And some will even confess their evil deeds as a matter of self-gratulation ; such may be said to glory in their shame.' This kind of confession is not that which is contemplated in our text.
2. The confession which the gospel requires, is not what is called auricular confession. Such a confession the Romish church, requires. She requires this not only as a duty, but she seems to regard it as a sacrament. Such a confession of our sins is unnecessary and unscriptural ; for, Ist. There is no proof that the power of remitting sins was ever imparted to any beside the apostles; or at the inost to those to whom the discernment of spirits was communicated. And 2dly. If our Saviour had designed this kind of confession as a duty, he would have expressly commanded it. But as no such command is given, we insist that no such duty is required, nor is such confession acceptable to God. It is a nong the works of supererogation.
If we have wronged any man, or defrauded any man, it is right and proper that we confess our faults to those we have injured, and perhaps it may sometimes be proper to confess these faults to the world. Justice would require this at our hands. tle says, confess your faults one to another.'
And there may be cases wherein men under the guilt and trouble of their sins, cannot appease their own minds, nor direct themselves without recourse to some pious and prudent guide. In such cases they would do well to discover their condition to some pious minister or judicious friend, whose advice and prayers may be of great assistance to them. But our confession of sin must be before God, if from God we expect pardon.
3. Nor does the confession contemplated in the text, merely mean that we acknowledge our sinfulness in our religious creed. This we may do and yet have no lively sensibility respecting it. We may talk of it as a doctrine revealed in the Bible, and as a matter of mere speculation, without any real heart-felt conviction of its evil nature, or destructive tendency. A man may confess