Imatges de pàgina

this truth, without one spark of that godly sorrow that worketh repentance.'

We may go even farther than to acknowledge our sinfulness in our creed ; we may carry this truth on our lips into the sanctuary of the Lord ; it may constitute a part of our form of prayer, which we'may use in the solemn assembly of the saints. And the expression, Lord, be merciful to us miserable sinners, may fall from our lips with great emphasis. And while we thus draw nigh to God with right words on our lips, our hearts may

be from him ; we may still remain strangers to that confession required in the gospel.

That confession of sin which is required in the gospel, and which constitutes the condition on which the forgiveness of our sins is promised, is, 1st. A confession which arises from a sense of guilt ;

from a conviction of having sinned against God ;-of having abused his goodness, insulted his holiness, defied his power, and, consequently, having exposed ourselves to his infinite displeasure. 2d. This confession is followed by reformation. Whoever feels himself a sinner, and sincerely confesses his sin before God, will be very careful in future to forsake and avoid sinning. And this is what the gospel requires of every sinner. . Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord.'-Let him break off his sins by righteousness; '-Let him ask of God;'—And the promise saith, “The Lord will have mercy on him, and God will abundantly pardon,'

- He giveth unto all men (that thus ask of him) liberally, and upbraideth not,'— It shall be given him.' And 3d, the confession which the gospel requires, implies still more. It embraces Faith. 1st. Faith in God, and 2d. Faith in his Son Jesus Christ. The Scriptures declare, that whoso cometh unto God, (for pardon) must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.' They must trust in his truth and power. This is faith in God. And our blessed Lord saith,

Ye believe in God, believe also in me.' The gospel requires of all to whom it is preached a hearty concurrence of the will and affections, with the plan of salvation by Jesus Christ, a renunciation of every other refuge; an actual trust in the Saviour, and a personal apprehension of his merits. This is the faith that" fesses that Jesus Christ has come in the Aesh.' This is the faith by which a sinner comes to Christ, and by which he is justified. And being justified by faith, he has peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' This is agreeable to God's gracious promise, that whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall have mercy.'

Thus is the condition of our salvation set forth in the Holy Scriptures, and the apostle assures us in our text, that God is just and faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all un


righteousness. 1st. He is just ;—Having given his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, who by the sacrifice of himself' for us, answered the demands of the divine law, and thereby having magnified it, and made it honorable, he can now pardon the guilty who believe in Jesus,' and yet remain just. To use the language of the apostle, "he can be just, and yet the justifier of him vho believeth in Jesus.” If a judge were to acquit the guilty, without any satisfaction being made, he would be an unjust judge, and would greatly dishonor the law. So if God were to let the guilty go free without any regard to the demands of his law, or the claims of infinite justice, we cannot see how he could be just. But as the matter now stands, he can be just although he should acquit the guilty: «Not imputing our trespasses unto us,' but 'pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin.' He is just to forgive us our sins.

But 2nd. He is not only just to forgive, but he is also « faithful.' He is faithful to fulfil his promises. He has graciously promised to pardon the penitent that confesseth and forsaketh his sins, and believeth in Jesus;—to sanctify and bless the humble believer, that

cometh out from the world,' who neither touches, tastes nor handles the unclean thing ;' but ' follows on to know the Lord :He is faithful and will do it. He will sprinkle us with clean water, and from all our filthiness and from all our idols he will cleanse us; a new heart will he give unto us, and he will renew a 'a right spirit within us.'

These are the unspeakable benefits and glorious privileges, which are offered us in the gospel, and these are the great and precious promises given unto us. And we have seen that the condition on which all these promises will be fulfilled, and all these blessings enjoyed, is, that we confess and forsake our sins, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ :—that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. Then shall we be his disciples, then shall we walk in the gracious light of his countenance here, and dwell in his glorious presence forever hereafter. There we who have been pardoned and cleansed from all unrighteousness, shall unite to sing

unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood ;'—to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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· I will be as the dew unto Israel : he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots

as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine : the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.' HOSEA xiv. 5, 7.

The history of God's conduct towards his ancient people supplies perpetual evidence that, in his administration, mercy rejoices over judgment. He severely reproves their manifold iniquities, denounces approaching chastisements, and sometimes inflicts them amidst circumstances of peculiar aggravation; and yet it is easy for you to learn, throughout this system of Providence, that his purpose is to recover—not to reject, but to bring ack-not to destroy, but to save. “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah ? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me; my repentings are kindled together.” Such is the language of God when he is lifting up his hand—when he is just upon the point of smiting his rebellious people with a curse. And it is very remarkable, that at such seasons the strongest expressions of his compassion are sometimes found : it seems as if preceding threatenings enhanced and raised subsequent promise -as if mercy, escaping from the task of justice, rejoices to pour forth its own free and neglected offers.

Be it remembered that the Scripture is a book of principles, and not a mere record of facts. In the facts which it presents to our consideration, it embodies the everlasting principles of God's dominion. It holds up a deep and faithful mirror, in which we may behold the portraiture of all his proceedings; and while we are marking his conduct towards the ancient Israel, still we are observing how he hastens from the chastisement of justice to the promises of mercy. We have reason to take courage, and to triumph in the thought, that justice is tempered by mercy, and that our heavenly Father, the ruler of our spiritual Israel, rejoices to save—not to destroy.

The book of the prophet Hosea offers a very striking exemplification of the remarks thus generally made. Hosea seems to have flourished about the time of Isaiah, and to have been more especially, though not exclusively, commissioned to the ten tribes of Israel. These tribes were at that time in a state of great defection from the God of their fathers: this prophet had, therefore, to bear the burden of the Lord—to publish reproofs and threatenings. He did so with a tone of peculiar severity: there is, to appearance, an amazing harshness, occasionally, in Hosea; it seems as if he could scarcely find language sufficiently bold, or description sufficiently forcible, to convey those sentiments of reproof which he was commissioned to utter. Yet in the midst of all this, you find, that his most severe predictions are interspersed with offers and promises of mercy. You find that, towards the conclusion of his threatenings, he seems to have abandoned the wind, the earthquake, and the fire—to resign all that was more severe in his message, and to confine himself unreservedly to this declaration of love, of which our text is a specimen. The text may be properly regarded as one of those comprehensive passages of Holy Scripture, which were intended for the instruction and benefit of the Church in all its circumstances and generations, a passage applicable to the spiritual as well as to the natural Israel -a passage which derives great emphasis from the circumstance, that it occurs in the writings of the prophet who was commissioned especially to reprove. He leaves his thunders for these invitations of compassion, leaves all that was harsh and severe, that he may, in the name of God, pour himself forth in language such as this.

I cannot think that it will be unsuitable to us to examine this passage, on the present occasion, in reference to that great work which lies before us. And I would not lose sight of the connection of the passage here; for it has pleased our heavenly Father to correct and chasten us in numerous ways. The bolt has been suspended, and it has fallen: we have occasion to mourn at this anniversary, more than at any other former cne, over the ravages which God's providence has been pleased to make among us: we have reason to consider that the Most High has some chastisement still to inflict; that, at all events, he especially calls upon us to “hear the rod, and Him that hath appointed it,” to acknowledge his hand, and to betake ourselves to

We would do so according to the plan which he himself has suggesied. He prepares the way for mercy by the denunciation of justice; and we, amid the visitations of chastise

his mercy.

ment, would fall into his outstretched arms, and would feel that the God who smites us is a God of love, the fountain of all blessings to his Israel.

Our text represents three things: first, the influence which God promises to his church; secondly, the prosperity which his church shall enjoy in consequence of that influence; and thirdly, the subsequent extension of the church in the world around it.

Let us observe, first, THAT SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE Which AlMIGHTY GOD HERE PROMISES TO HIS CHURCH. 6 I will be as the dew unto Israel,”—a metaphor drawn from the oriental dews, which in many respects were remarkable, and which presented to the minds of the people in that country a very forcible view of that influence which was thus suggested.

It is, in the first place, a copious influence. Oriental dews abound during the dry season, often supplying the place of rain, penetrating the sources of vegetable life, and being pre-eminently remarkable for copiousness and plenteousness—a circumstance of the utmost importance to the prosperity of those countries, and exceedingly adapted, therefore, for the expression of this promise. We find such a figure as this employed to represent Divine influence, and to fix the attention on that abundance. To us the dew becomes significant and very inviting ; for we know that one of the principal features attending the influence which our Saviour bestows, is its abundance. The Spirit promised in times past to the fathers has placed the kingdom of heaven amongst

The testimonies which are given concerning him, the hopes which are inspired, all lead us to fix our minds on this more plentiful communication, which shall fill our capacities, satisfy our desires, and make the wilderness a fruitful field. When you are surrounded by the ravages of mortality, and are concerning yourselves for the work of your God, remember that if he send forth his influence so copiously and plentifully, it will abundantly supply every want, and the living dew upon Israel shall give it increasing life.

It is, in the next place, a refreshing and renovating influence which is promised here. The dews, descending abundantly on those eastern countries, reached the very sources of vegetable life, spread a new balm and beauty over the whole scene, caused all things to revive and to flourish in new vigor. We are reminded of " times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord," --an expression which, in our own day, particularly suggests this as something which shall refresh, strengthen, and invigorate that which is thirsty and faint. There you look for the influences which God has promised to bestow. They are not only copious enough to fill all your capacities, but are so refreshing as to change


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