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but this alone. No man ever was, or ever can be forgiven, but through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, and He only, can wash away the defilement of sin from our souls; He, who in His glorious perfection is all holiness, all purity, can alone make us holy and purify us as to Himself; only by Him have we access to the Father, and to that grace wherein we stand; only because of His name's sake, for the sake of His own beloved Son, can the Almighty pardon our iniquity.
The first, step, then, that the sinner must take in seeking to be restored to God's favour, is to ask His mercy in the name of the Lord Jesus Christto make that his plea, his only plea, in arrest of judgment; to ground his hope of acceptance solely upon the promises that are made to him in Christ's name. And where else should we fly for refuge? on what other ground could we hope that our sins would be forgiven? Think yourselves, my brethren, how desperate your condition would be, were it not for the knowledge of Christ's redemption!
The effect of sin is, to separate man from God— to cause him to seek to escape from the presence of his Maker; so Adam, after his sad transgression, when he heard the voice of God, "hid himself, because he was afraid." And separation only adds to the difficulty of reconciliation. Shrinking
from God, and seeking to banish Him from our thoughts, pretending to be indifferent to Him, only so much the more certainly exposes us to His severe visitation.
The fact is, we, who live in the light of the Gospel revelation, and are (by name at least) believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, can hardly realise to ourselves the misery of those who in this world are without the knowledge of the Son of God; without the knowledge of that name through which alone the breach can be restored, that sin has made between man and His Maker.
We have that knowledge; would that we were thankful for it as we ought to be, for then it would have its proper effect upon our lives. We (through God's mercy) are not strangers to His promisesour eyes have seen, our ears have heard, what many prophets, many righteous men sought in vain to learn; we know that we "have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins."
Here, then, my brethren, is our support, here is our encouragement to repentance, because what we ourselves could never furnish, namely, an adequate satisfaction for our misdeeds, has been supplied to us. Repentance is as necessary as ever it was for us all; deep sorrow for sin, followed by active persevering efforts to lead holier lives: but, along
with repentance, is preached that blessed doctrine which the Gospel first brought to light, forgiveness of sins; forgiveness, yea, full forgiveness, because of the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood.
Such is the mercy of God in preparing for us a way for our recovery; "He so loved us that He gave His only-begotten Son" to die for our sins. Could a stronger proof of His goodness be desired than this? Is it not plain that while He is most mighty, He is also most merciful? Full of compassion; a God who willeth not our death-that eternal death which is the consequence of sin-but that we should rather turn from our sins, and be saved. But let us not abuse His mercy; let us not suppose that sin is less hateful in His sight than before, or that we may commit it and yet go unpunished. Let us remember our part, or else we shall find (it may be too late) that the Gospel, instead of being a "savour of life," has, through our misapplication of it, become a savour of death." For this purpose, consider well the words of the prophet,-" When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.”
Now, though it is very certain that nothing can put away sin but the merits of the Saviour; though none of us can redeem our own souls from the
penalty due to our transgressions, yet we are not to suppose that God will forgive us, unless there be in us a hearty forsaking of our iniquity, and a hearty endeavour to live up to His commandments. Forgiveness of sins is indeed a great mercy; it is the characteristic doctrine of the Gospel; but it is never separated from amendment of life.
Therefore, my brethren, seeing how much we owe to God for His exceeding goodness, in preparring for us a way of escape from His anger; seeing that ourselves, our souls, and our bodies, which are by nature born in sin, and liable to its punishment, have been made free from this thraldom,have been purchased back from the bondage of corruption, at the price of so terrible a sacrifice,even the cost of the blood of the Son of God;— let us take care that we render unto Him the things that are His; every faculty of our minds; all the powers of our bodies, as instruments for His glory;-let us see that we live as the redeemed of the Lord, and while we give to Christ the honour due unto His name; while we attribute to Him, and to His Spirit alone, every step in the work of our redemption, let us not imagine that we have nothing to do but to receive His grace, and to profit by His sufferings.
Let us, as true servants and disciples of the cross, be always about our Master's business. As
He that hath called us is holy, so should we aim after holiness in all manner of conversation. True, that of ourselves we can do no good thing; it is "God that worketh in us both to will and to do after His good pleasure," but then it is on this very ground; because of God's help, that we are called upon by the Apostle to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." Let us, then, be on the alert; let us use those means that are within our reach, in order to fulfil our part in the great and indispensable work of repentance; in order that we may be enabled to turn away from our wickedness, and bring forth fruits unto everlasting life let us strive against sin in our members; let us eschew evil and do good: and chiefly let us entreat earnestly the help of God's Holy Spirit, and prepare our hearts for His reception by the study of His word; by serious reflection, and often meditation upon our spiritual progress, upon
the state of our souls.
The necessity of using every exertion will be apparent to us, when we consider the natural unwillingness there is in us to work the works of God: -how prone we are to disobey Him, how little we can of ourselves withstand temptation. Is it not a matter of every day's experience how difficult, how almost impossible it is, to overcome any habit, even the most trivial, which has once insinuated