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Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity ?
Micah vii, 18.
Ah, my hearers, if you only believed the truth, if you did but give credit to the statements of the Bible, if you even believed what perhaps, you profess to believe, if you held such views of yourselves as the Bible expresses, and such as accord with the matter of fact, and such as your Creator entertains of you, how deeply interested you would all be, in what I am going to say to-day. How would you be all
eye, ear, attention and interest! God regards you, and the Bible describes you as sinners; and so you are. It is
Is it not sometimes felt? I am certain it is confessed. Yes, sinners condemned and needing pardon; for condemnation follows sin as a matter of course, and to say that condemned persons need pardon, is almost superfluous. When a man has sinned, there remaineth only the alternative of pardon or punishment. He must receive a pardon, or suffer the penalty. This is a perfectly clear case. I defy any body to get away from this dilemma. Therefore you, as having sinned, need pardon. You can have no expectation but from mercy, unless that pre
* Dr. Nevins' last sermon.
rogative is exercised by the proper authority in forgiving you, you are gone and lost inevitably and irrecoverably; you must suffer the penalty. Your reason teaches
yoli this. Now one great object of revelation is to tell you that you may be pardoned. It was always known that God had the power of pardoning. It could not be lodged elsewhere. The legislative, judicial and executive authority of the universe meet in him. But revelation informs us that God will and does exercise the prerogative of pardon. Nor does it merely reveal the fact, but declares the ground, the manner, and the conditions of pardon; why, how and when he pardons. Now, how a discourse on this subject would interest you, did you really believe yourselves condemned, and did you duly appreciate your need of pardon !
But my object is not merely to present God before you as a pardoning God, but to show you what there is peculiar and distinguishing in his exercise of pardon. “Who is like thee, pardoning iniquity.” There are not many points in which creatures resemble God. In intelligence and in holiness we bear some faint resemblance to him. But the attributes and ways of creatures are for the most part in contrast to those of God.
God is from everlasting; we are of yesterday. His understanding is infinite, we know nothing. We are unstable in all our ways. He without variableness or shadow of turning. But in nothing is God more unlike other beings than in pardoning. I would call your attention to an illustration of this truth.
1. No being pardons with such honor to the law broken, and with such security to the government offended, as God. The considerations which induce others to pardon are totally different from those which move God. It is not any thing which does honor to the law. The government that pardons is weakened. Justice is not satisfied. Its satisfaction is dispensed with; the penalty is not executed, but remitted. There is no atonement made. But God lays a foundation for pardon which involves the exaction of the penalty, and the full satisfaction of justice. He magnifies the law whose violation he forgives; and honors the government, while he spares the rebel against its authority. He is as just in showing mercy, as in exacting righteous
Our iniquities, in being taken off of us, are laid on Christ. They are none the less borne, though not borne by us. We are not made a curse, but he was made a curse for us. healed, but it is by stripes inflicted on him. The Christian mind delights to dwell on this theme. Nothing inspires the mind with such confidence as this. It is this chiefly which gives us boldness in approaching the throne of grace to obtain mercy. If we had to reflect that justice is not satisfied, while mercy is exercised, and that God's character and government suffer in our being saved, we could feel no such confidence. But now we have not only mercy to appeal to, but merit, the merit of Christ to plead. We bring a righteousness, though not our own, yet all the better for not being our own. If God would not accept us, yet he will not fail to ac
cept Christ for us, especially when it is his own plan and proposition.
2. No one pardons at such an expense to himself as God does. With others it is but saying the word, or signing the name, and the person is pardoned. And the reason of this facility is that no attempt is made to reconcile the exercise of pardon with the claims of law and justice. If any satisfaction is required, it is not made by the power that pardons. It must be made by the person needing the pardon. But God while he requires satisfaction, sees to the making of it. He takes the whole business of atonement into his own han He takes the pains. He bears the expense. The problem to reconcile the claim of justice with the exercise of mercy he undertakes to solve; and he does it. The idea of pardoning orignated with him. The preliminaries of pardon were accomplished by him. Nothing was left to the sinner. Nothing now remains to him but gratefully and cordially to accept the pardon. “God spared not his own son.” Suppose we had been assembled and it had been announced to us that we could only be pardoned on condition of God's sending his own dear Son into the world to be insulted and despised, and to die ignominiously on the cross. We should have had no hope. We would have said « He will never do that.” But he did it. Who is like him?
3. No one pardons with such a good effect on the sinner pardoned. Men can pardon, but they cannot do it in a way to reform the criminal, and to secure his future obedience; and therefore they have often
to regret that in particular cases they did not let justice take its course. They are not unfrequently sadly disappointed in those they pardon. But God was never disappointed in a sinner he pardoned. Everyone he pardons becomes his servant, and though subject to many imperfections and fluctuations, perseveres in his service to the end. Whenever he remits sins, he reforms the sinner. This result he secures in part by motives. There is much in the fact, and more in the manner of our being pardoned to bring us to repentance. There is a softening and melting influence in the cross, as well as a saving one. It is hard to go on sinning against such love and pity; to continue in a course which rendered such sorrows necessary. But chiefly he secures this result by his spirit, by whose influence the heart of the pardoned sinner is renewed and sanctified. It is a part of God's compassion to subdue our iniquities, as it is said in the next verse. We see then how it is that he has never to regret an exercise of pardon and that he never loses a soul, whose sins he has forgiven.
4. No one pardons so many as God. The prerogative of mercy among men is exercised generally with respect to a few. A selection is made out of a number of criminals, generally on the principle of inferior guilt or circumstances of mitigation in their cases, and not even the offer of pardon is made to the others. The reason is obvious; justice must have its satisfaction, if not of all, yet of some. No human government ever proposed to pardon all its offenders. But God's proclamation runs, “ Whosoever will, let