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consequently those beasts, whose skins were used for this purpose; were not killed for that use : and we cannot suppose they died Daturally so soon after their creation. It is therefore most probable that Adam had killed them for sacrifices, and that God had commanded him to do this, immediately upon the promulgation of that promise, to typify the manner of its accomplishment, names ly, by the sacrifice of Christ in the fulness of time. This practice we find continued by Cain and Abel: and thus Noah consecrated the new world after the food. Gen. viii. 20.
But though the patriarcbs and Jews had these intimations of the method of pardon and acceptance, they were very dark and perplexing to them ; and just as much as they had of this light, just so much they had of the gospel ; and therefore the gospel, taking the word in its full extent, claims the honour of this discovery.
Now, if we except the patriarchal and Jewish religion, which had a mixture of the gospel in it, there is none that pretends to discover a complete and perfect righteousness and atonement for the justification of a sinner. The religion of Mahomet is silent on this bead ; and the Socrateses and Platos of heathen antiquity, who had only the light of nature for their guide, knew nothing about it ; much less did the ignorant populace, who are always the greater part of mankind. The custom of sacrifice was indeed universal : but, as it was received by a very remote tradition, mankind had quite lost its original design ; and they corrupted it into the most absurd and cruel superstition. They offered their sacrifices to imaginary deities, or (as the apostle tells us) to devils. 1 Cor. x. 20. They were so unnatural and barbarous, that they offered human sacrifices, and even their own children, to propitiate their angry gods. And, if we may believe some of their best authors, this was often practised by the express command of their oracles :-a sufficient evidence that it was not the true God'that gave answers by them. Alas! how were the poor creatures bewildered and perplexed about the method of expiating their sins! They spared no cost; they offered even the fruit of their body, for the sin of their souls ; but alas ! 'how vain, as well as impious a sacrifice was this ; and yet this was the utmost that nature in distress could do. They knew nothing of the great atonement which was to be made by the High Priest of the chris. tian profession, which the gospel reveals to us. Nay, the Jews themselves are often reproved by the prophets for their self
righteous trust in their sacrifices, to the neglect of their morals, and the grand atonement which they prefigured. The light of nature might teach the heathen world, that if they perfectly obeyed the law of God, they might be assured of his favour, or at least that they should not be punished ; but it informed them in the mean time, that they had not done so, but, on the other hand, had repeatedly broken the law of God; and they had no notion at all of the possibility of their being justified by the righteousness of another.
This alone determines the point I am now proving. I have shewn already, that a sinner cannot be justified but by a perfect righteousness; and it is evident that none of the sons of men can pretend to such a righteousness. Where then can it be found ? Consult the light of nature ; ask the multitude in the beathen world ; nay, ask their most improved sages and philosophers, and you will find all silent, all be wildered and perplexed : nothing was ever farther from their thoughts than a complete atonement for sin by the death of an innocent and divine person. I appeal to such of the negroes as came from Africa as the best judges in this case.
Did you ever hear in your own country, of a righteousness equal to all the requisitions of the law of God, by which you could be justified? Was there no thoughtful person among you whose conscience was uneasy about his sins against a holy God, and who was concerned how he should obtain a pardon ? And what way did he take to ease his mind ? Alas! be knew nothing of the righteousness of God by faith. This happy discovery, poor creatures, you have met with in the land of your bondage ; and 0 ! if you make a proper use of it, it will make your slavery the greatest blessing to you..
The light of nature might surmise a great many things upon this head, but alas! all was uncertain, and more frequently the dictates of ignorance and self-flattery than of an enlightened mind. It might intiinate, “ that God is the compassionate Father of mankind, and therefore would dispense with the threatenings of his law, and not execute them rigorously upon his own creatures." This we often hear urged by sinners among ourselves, who, not. withstanding their profession of christianity, will form a system of religion, and a scheme of reconciliation with God, according to their own selfish and flattering prejudices ; and it seems to them incredible that God should inflict eternal punishment on his own creatures for the sins of a few years, But to this it might be replied, that since God is the Father of mankind, it is a more unnatural and aggravated wickedness to sin against him : that he is not only the Parent but also the Lawgiver and Judge of the world, and that he must sustain both these characters with honour. He must exercise not only the fondness and indulgent discipline of a father, but also the justice and righteous severity of a ruler and judge : he must maintain the honour of his law, and preserve his government from contempt ; and therefore the communications of his goodness must be consistent with justice. He must also execute his laws upon sinners, in order to warn and deter others ; and therefore every sinner must tremble for fear of the execution of the divine threatenings upon him. To all this I may add, that the iniseries that are inflicted by divine Providence in this world, and that very often upon the best of men, must increase the perplexity, and leave the sinner in a dreadful suspense.
If God does not suffer the sins even of the best of men always to escape unpunished in this world, but afflicts them with pains, sickness, and an endless variety of calamities, how can our reason, that knows so little of the counsels of Heaven, assure us that he will not punish them also, and that with greater severity, in the world to come ? Nothing but a revelation from himself could ease an anxious mind from this dread suspicion.
The light of nature may also perhaps surmise, “ That repentance and reformation are sufficient to procure the pardon of sin :" and mankind seem naturally inclined to look for pardon in this
Hence sinners among ourselves, notwithstanding the clearer discoveries of the gospel, fly to repentance and reformation, not only as a pre-requisite to their salvation, but as sufficient ground of acceptance ; and they gaze and wonder at a man if he intimates the contrary. It must be granted on all hands, that repentance and reformation are necessary; but the question is, are repentance and reformation alone sufficient ? And this is easily answered, if what has been proved before be true, viz. That no righteousness but that which is perfect, and fully conformed to the divine law, can be sufficient for our justification. Now repentance, at best, is but a reformation from a wrong course, and a return to obedience ; which should never have been interrupted. If the reformation were perfect, it would be but doing what we are obliged to do for the present time ; and consequently it can bię no atonement or satisfaction to the law for past offences ;- but alas! it is imperfect, and therefore cannot pay the debt of obe. dience for the present time. The sinner, in the midst of all his repentance and reformation, is sinning still, there are guilty imperfections in his best duties ; and can these atone for bis past sins ? So that repentance and reformation cannot be a sufficient justifying righteousness. Again, what kind of government would that be among men, in which all crimes were pardoned upon res pentance? What encouragement would this give to offenders How spon would such a government fall into contempt! and what a low idea would it give of the wisdom and justice of the ruler, and of the evil of sin ! And shall the Supre ne Ruler imitate se weak a conduct, and thus obscure his perfections, de preciate his laws, and encourage vice?
It is a virtue in a private man to forgive an injury; and it may be a piece of generosity in such a one to give up some of his rights; but, as I have told you, God is not to be considered, in this case, as a private person, but as a Ruler, a supreme Ruler at the head of the universe : and sin is an offence against him in that capacity ; and therefore for reasons of state, it is not fit he should put up with it, or remit it merely upon the singer's repentance. He must maintain the dignity of law and government, and consult the public good ; not the good of this man and that, nor even of the whole race of men, but of men through all their generations ; of angels through all their various ranks and orders, and in short, of the whole universe of reasonable creatures ? and the interest of individuals must be subservient to the more general good of the whole. An error in such an extensive government, through an excessive lenity towards offenders, would have a most extensive ill influence, and injure more worlds than we know of. If the magistrate in one particular government be lax in the execution of the laws, he may injure a whole nation : and if he should suppose all the nations of the earth united in one' universal monarchy, under one head : if that universal monarch should be remiss in the execution of justice, the consequence would be still more extensively mischievous. But what would be the consequence, if the universal Ruler of heaven and earth and the whole creation, should relax bis law, and suffer sin to go unpunished, upon so cheap a retaliation as repentance ? No human government could be supported upon this principle, much less the divine.
Further : It should be considered, that, in order to encourage offenders to repent, it is necessary it should be made a fixed constitution, and openly published, that whosoever, in all time Coming, should be guilty of any offence against the laws of God, he shall be forgiven if he does but repent. Now, what encouragement would such a declaration give to sin! It would also be uoprecedented in human governments.' It is true, civil rulers do forgive some offenders': but then they do not declare beforeband that they will do so, or who the objects of their clemency shall be. To make a previous declaration of this, would be to give licence to men to break the law. Let it be also considered, that when civil rulers, forgive criminals, there is no necessity they should receive them into special favour ; but in the divine government these two things are inseparable : there is no medium between bigh favour and misery. When God forgives, he receives the singer into complete happiness and intimacy with himself, as well as rescues him from punishment. And is it fit he should do this merely upon his repentance? How would such a conduct look in human governments ?
Finally, the pardon of a crime, is a matter of sovereignty, and only has place in such governments where the royal prerogative is above law, and has a power to dispense with it. Whether such a prerogative belongs to the divine government that is, whether it would be a perfection upon the whole in such a government). I shall not now dispute : but suppose it be, still it is a matter of sovereignty ; that is, it liés entirely in the breast of the Supreme Ruler, whether he will pardon penitents or not; and they can know his pleasure no other way but by his declaring it. This consideration therefore shews the necessity of a revelation from God, to give a sinner assurance that he will pardon him upon any terms. The light of nature leave's a sinner' entirely at mercy, and awfully uncertain whether ever he can re-obtain the favour of bis offended Sovereign. Now, this revelation we have in the gospel, with the additional discovery of the way in which forgiveness and acceptance can be obtained. And it appears, from this short survey, that it is in the gospel alone we cap find this discovery,
I shall now.conclude with two reflections.
I. Let this subject lead us to a strict examination of the ground of our hopes, whether they be founded on the righteousness of VOL. II.