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throughout all the country of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn unto God, doing works worthy of repentance." Our Lord, in giving Paul his apostolical commission, had declared that he sent him "to turn the Gentiles from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among those that are sanctified by faith in me:" and lest it should be said that in the phrase faith in me, there may be couched a reference to the atoning virtue of his blood, a passage in the epistle to the Romans x. 8, 9, proves, that the word of faith which he preached was," that if any man should confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in his heart that God had raised him from the dead, he should be saved." In the first epistle to the Corinthians (xv. 17) he declares that Christian faith was vain, and its professors still in their sins, "if God had not raised Christ from the dead." The allusive language in which this apostle especially speaks of the death of Christ, as a sacrifice and a ransom, and the stress which he lays upon faith, without always mentioning its connexion with works, cannot, upon any fair principles of criticism, be allowed to weigh against these clear, literal and emphatic declarations of the
nature of that faith, with which repentance was connected. At the same time, there are a multitude of passages in the epistles, which declare, that the forgiveness, for which this faith was the qualification, was the free spontaneous bounty of the Father, who sent his Son to redeem us, and gave him to die for us.
Thus stated, the gospel doctrine respecting the terms of acceptance and remission of sins well deserves the title of the doctrine according to godliness, preserving all that is awful in the justice of God, yet not driving the sinner to despair. His character as our moral governor requires that he should abhor and punish sin; his benevolence and consideration towards his imperfect creatures, that he should not keep his anger for ever; but that, when salutary chastening has softened the transgressor's heart, and the discipline of affliction subdued the turbulence of his passions, when he is desirous to seek again his father's house, though conscious that he has made himself unworthy to enter it, its gates should be open to receive him. The gospel does not condemn even the worst of sinners to despair; at the same time that, holding out no hopes of supernatural and sudden influence on the mind, it leaves in force those salutary warnings which the laws of habit suggest, concerning the
progressive ascendency and growing strength of evil dispositions. It inspires towards the Divine Being, that mixture of affection with awe, which is the proper state of the religious feelings in the present world; towards Christ, ardent gratitude for what he underwent, to make known and accomplish the plan which the love of the Father devised for our redemption; towards our sinning brethren, not the haughty spirit of pharisaic self-righteousness, but pity and affection, as for those whom, in all their wanderings, the purest and the holiest of beings has not for ever rejected, but still invites to return, and promises if they return to pardon.
If we desire to know how much the genuine Christian doctrine on this subject is "according to godliness," let us contrast it with the account given of the nature and the removal of sin, in systems of theology of human invention. That which is the most popular in this country represents the God who "knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are but dust," as consigning his creatures to everlasting torments, for even the slightest shade of sin; as choosing a small portion of them, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either, as the condition to everlasting glory; as imputing to the whole race of mankind the guilt of a sin on the part
of their ancestor which they had not the smallest share in contracting, and in consequence of this involuntary, unconscious taint, bringing them under his own wrath and the curse of the law, and making them subject to death, with all its miseries, spiritual and eternal. The same system represents the second person of the Trinity, as taking upon himself man's nature, enduring most grievous torments in his soul and most painful sufferings in his body, the divine nature preserving the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and thus discharging the debt of them that are justified, and making a full, proper and real satisfaction to his Father's justice in their be half; the Father receiving those thus justified in consequence only of his imputing to them the obedience and satisfaction of Christ; they receiving and resting upon his righteousness by faith, and being incapable ever afterwards of falling from the state of justification*. I have here stated the Calvinistic doctrine respecting the guilt and the forgiveness of sin, in the calm and guarded language of its public formularies and manuals: even thus displayed, is it not a fearful and revolting system? But in the practical treatises written by men acknowledged
* Confession of Faith, xv. 4. iii. 5. vi. 3. xl. Larger Catechism Quest. 38.
in their day as lights of the churches, in the prayers and discourses of those preachers whom the common people hear gladly, in the devotional poetry which is sung with the highest strains of rapture, its features are shown with a yet more forbidding aspect. I dare not quote the impassioned and terrific language in which they delight to represent the fierce and implacable wrath with which the Father was inflamed, the meek submission with which the Son endured the aggravated and exquisite torment which the Father prepared for him: -I would only observe, that, dreadful as these descriptions are, they are only the fair development of the doctrine which I quoted from the recognised standard of Calvinism; they are not, as some would represent, the mere flights of the poet and the orator, but the facts couched under the more general language in which the doctrines of this theology are stated.
Where shall we begin in showing that these are not doctrines according to godliness? The heathen superstitions degraded the Creator by assimilating him to the creature; but this theology inflicts on his character a deeper degradation for man, fallen, corrupt as he is, is not so malignant as to exact an eternity of torment for the smallest of sins, and refuse to remit this sentence though the offender ma