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" a Saviour," freely and completely pardoning the most atrocious sinner. Mercy and truth go before his face; while justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne. "The Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty."
Such is the mysterious God, with whom we have to do; with whom we must do; we have no option there is no other God: "there is none else," he says, beside me." This is he who hath sustained us from our mother's womb, in whom we all at this moment live and move, and have our being; through whom we exercise reason, and conscience, and memory; from whom we are fallen and alienated by sin; by whom we are reasonably warned and graciously invited to return, to repent, to believe; before whom we must all stand face to face; and according to whose good pleasure, we must be disposed of throughout the endless ages of eternity.
I. My brethren, have you ever seriously considered the truth contained in the first clause of our text? that God is a just God? Have you ever closely reflected upon it in reference to your own sins, and your own souls?
The law of God is holy, and just, and good; all his commandments are righteous. It is man's plain, reasonable, bounden duty to obey the commandments of his God, and when he fails in the performance of that duty, it is a righteous thing in a just God to punish that guilty man. This is no fanciful speculation, no abstruse theory it is an elementary principle, the A, B, C, so to speak, of all true religion. Its truth depends not upon the success of any human expositor's arguments in support of it. It is sufficiently established by being stated in the holy Scriptures; for we would in no wise join those who arraign the statements of Scripture at the bar of human judgment, making them stand or fall according as they are supported or not by the verdict of human reason. This mode of argument has been resorted to, and most successfully, in answering the objections of infidels; but the divine authority of the Sacred Volume being once fully established, it becomes the property of right reason to bow before it with implicit submission, whatever high attainments she may have made, and whatever apparent difficulties she may have to encounter. Some persons do indeed object to the truth now before us, on what seems at first sight to be a scriptural ground. Their understandings being well instructed in the doctrines of Revelation, but the enmity
of their hearts against God being unsubdued, they pervert to this end the doctrine of original sin. They allege, that if man's natural corruption render guilt inevitable, it is unjust in God to punish him for that guilt. To meet this objection in a plain practical manner, and to avoid entering upon the wide field of metaphysical discussion concerning unrevealed things, to which it has so often led; we would briefly reply to such persons, that before any individual can reasonably plead this excuse in his own case, he must be able to prove that he has never been guilty of any transgression except those only which were rendered inevitable by his original corruption, that he has never of his own free will, and against the dictates of his own conscience, added to that number; for in the very moment that he has personally, knowingly, wilfully broken the law of God in any one single instance, in that moment it becomes a righteous thing in the Law-giver to inflict upon him the threatened punishment. Who then of our species, except infants and idiots, can escape conviction? We address men as actual sinners, and warn them that an evasion of the charge under the plea of their original corruption, is one of the ingenious devices of the devil, whereby he would harden them against the reception of divine truth, and delude them to their ruin. To show how unscriptural such
a line of objection is, let us imagine a man reading the epistle to the Romans for the first time in his life, with understanding and selfapplication; and let us ask, would he evade the charge brought against him in the first two chapters, by pleading a truth which is not insisted upon till he comes to the fifth? No; this charge of personal transgression would have produced its intended effect upon his mind, and forced him to plead guilty before God, while as yet he had not so much as heard whether there were any such thing as original sin. The guilt imputed to us, and the inveterate corruption inherited by us from our first parents, belong properly to another place in the Christian scheme. They are used to humble and assist the believer, reminding him of the rock whence he was hewn, of the hole of the pit whence he was digged, and directing his attention to the true source of that spiritual conflict which he is called to sustain-a fallen nature. But in pronouncing sentence against the whole world, that every mouth may be stopped, and that God, who taketh vengeance, may be justified in his sayings, and clear when he is judged, the apostle confines himself to the actual personal delinquency of mankind; declaring of both Jew and Gentile, “that they are all under sin;" all guilty of such things as they know in the just judgment of God, to
be worthy of death. If we will carefully examine our own experience, and honestly listen to the voice of our own hearts, we must acknowledge (at least secretly, to ourselves), that we are justly included in this sentence; that we have broken God's commandments, blaspheming his name, profaning his Sabbath, lying, stealing, deceiving, backbiting, boasting and all this, under such circumstances, resisting so many warnings and remonstrances, stifling so many convictions and alarms, opposing so much light and information, and with so much evident ability to refrain from these enormities if we would, that we must further acknowledge our case to contain all the elements of the most righteous, personal responsibility. "Is God unrighteous, who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man,) God forbid: for then, how shall God judge the world?"
My dear brethren, it is a plainly revealed truth, that every individual amongst us is justly deserving of God's wrath and damnation; that gaining our own present gratification, we have lost* our own immortal souls; that for such souls as ours, "a just God" hath prepared a state of fearful suffering, a lake of fire unquenchable, unconsuming, where there is no rest day nor night, no mitigation, no relief: where there is no business, nor amusement, nor exercise of
* 2 Cor. iv. 3--are lost. Luke xix. 10-was lost.