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that no sinner can be forgiven, consistently with this law, or the honour of the lawgiver, unless on the ground of an atonement. In the law he had declared, that the soul which sinneth shall die.' To pardon the sivner, without any change from that state of things which existed when the law was published, would be to declare, by declining to carry the sentence of the law into execution, that infinite wisdom and rectitude had formed new views concerning the sentence of the law, and the demerit of the sinner; views, contrary to those with which the law was published. When the law was published, God declared that the sinner should die. Now he must declare, by pardoning the sinner, that he should not die. Yet no change in the state of things had taken place, nor is 'any supposed to have taken place, to occasion this change in the divine conduct. No reason is even supposed why the conduct of God should be thus changed. The change itself must, of course, be wanton, causeless, and disgraceful to the divine character. If the law was originally just, it was now just. Justice, therefore, required the execution of its penalty upon every transgressor. In pardoning the transgressor, God would declare that the law was not just, in direct contradiction to the declaration which he made of its justice, when he published it, as the rule by which he intended to govern the world. If the law was originally wise, it must now be wise to execute it. But in pardoning the sinner, God must declare that the execution of the law was not consistent with wisdom. If the Law was originally good, that is, formed by a benevolent mind, so as to promote benevolent purposes, it was now equally good. But in pardoning the sinner, God must declare that the execution of the law was inconsistent with the dictates of benevolence. The change, therefore, manifested in the divine character and conduct, by pardoning the sinner, where no change of circumstances existed to justify it, would, on the one hand, be great and essential; no less than God's denying himself; and, on the other, would be causeless, weak, and contemptible. Can such a change be attributed, even in thought, to the immutable and perfect Jehovah ?
In the law, God had manifested an infinite love to holiness, and an infinite hatred to sin; or, if the language should be preferred, a supreme love to the one, and a supreme hatred to the other. But, to pardon the sinner without any change in
the state of things, would be to treat the sinner and the faithful subject exactly in the same manner, or to treat the sinner in the same manner as if he had faithfully obeyed.. Declarations made by conduct are altogether the most solemn and efficacious of all declarations. In this conduct, therefore, God would, in the most solemn manner, declare that he regarded holiness and sin alike, because he treated the sinner and the saint alike; and that neither of them was an object of his serious regard. The views of a lawgiver are always expressed in the whole of his government, taken together, and from this cannot but be distinctly understood. If his laws are unwise, he will be pronounced to be unwise. If his administration be unwise, he will be considered as sustaining the same character. If either of them be unjust, he will be pronounced to be unjust. If they be inconsistent, inconsistency will necessarily be attributed to his character. How perfect a violation would this conduct be of the attributes of justice, wisdom, and immutability!
At the same time, all subjects of the divine government would be encouraged to disobedience by these proofs of a changeable, weak, and inconsistent character. Angels, we know, can disobey. This is complete proof that all inferior creatures are capable of the same disobedience. Angels have disobeyed, when, at least, they supposed the law to mean exactly what it threatens; and without the least hope, founded on any declaration of God, of any possible exemption from the penalty actually denounced. Man also disobeyed in the same circumstances. Both also revolted when, antecedently, they had been only and perfectly holy. In these facts we have complete evidence that no class of holy beings is secure from disobedience, even under a law which gives not a single encouragement of escape to those who disobey. Should such encouragement then be holden out by the actual forgiveness, much more by the universal forgiveness, of the penitent, without an atonement, who might not be expected to rebel? Who, when temptation powerfully assailed, and the wish to sin was strongly excited, would not feel assured of his own future repentance, and his consequent safety from future punishment?
Of such beings, as men now are, it ought to be observed, that they themselves furnish ample proof of what might be
rationally expected under such a dispensation. This will appear, if we consider,
1. That the atonement of Christ has completely opened the door for the exemption of all penitents from the punishment threatened by the law; and yet, that the number of those who really repent is ordinarily very small, compared with the number of those who transgress.
2. That not even one of these becomes a penitent of his own accord, as the Scriptures abundantly assure us; but assumes this character only in consequence of the immediate influence of the Divine Spirit upon his heart.
3. That of this number, few, very few, are ever awakened or convinced by the encouragements and promises of the Gospel; but almost all by the denunciations of the law. The blessings of immortality, the glories of heaven, are usually,
the least, preached with little efficacy to an assembly of sinners. I have been surprised to see how dull, inattentive, and sleepy such an assembly has been, amidst the strongest representations of these divine subjects, combining the most vivid images with a vigorous style, and an impressive elocution.
4. That those persons who disbelieve a future punishment are distinguished by a licentiousness of character, even beyond other licentious men. Repentance and religion are certainly never seen by the common eye among infidels, or universalists; and no revival of religion, no considerable prevalence of religion, has, so far as I know, been the consequence of preaching Unitarian doctrines.
All these are direct proofs, that men who now sin so extensively and perseveringly, would, if the denunciations of the law were proved to be false, by the extension of forgiveness to sinners without an atonement, sin with a harder heart, with a bolder hand, and throughout a more uniformly guilty life.
Restraint is a necessary part of every law and every government : Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther,' being invariably the language of both. All restraint is a hindrance of inclination; a prohibition of the indulgence of desire. In itself, it is always regarded as an evil ; and is really such, whenever it does not prevent some other evil, or accomplish some good. Adam, in a state of innocence, in the end con
sidered the prohibition of the forbidden tree as an evil. We, with sinful propensities only, should undoubtedly regard, and naturally do in fact regard, every restraint in the same manner. If, then, God were not to execute the sentence of the law upon us for our transgressions, but were to forgive the sinner without an atonement, we should undoubtedly sin, not only invariably, but with a boldness, constancy, and extent, not often seen even in this guilty world.
If any person should think this conclusion harsh and severe, let him remember how soon after the apostasy mankind, in the possession of long life and abundant enjoyments, forgot the loss of their immortality; and corrupted themselves to such a degree, that the infinitely benevolent Author of their being thought it necessary to sweep away the whole human race, except one family, with the besom of destruction. Let him remember, how little reformation followed the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, or the terrible plagues of Egypt. Let him remember, that the Israelites worshipped a calf at the foot of Mount Sinai; and sunk into all the abominations of the Canaanites, as soon as the generation which destroyed them had gone to the grave. Let him remember that, amid all the judgments and mercies which they received, they apostatized from God at the end of every little period, and were finally given up, as hopeless, to captivity and ruin. Let him remember, that their descendants crucified Christ; and that, after the sufferings of eighteen hundred years, and those extreme, they are still unbelieving, impenitent, and harder than the nether millstone. Let him remember, finally, how soon the Christian world itself degenerated into idolatry, impurity, persecution, forgetfulness of God, a general corruption of Christianity, and a general dissolution of morals. With these things in his view, it will be impossible for him to think the conclusion which I have drawn, either unwarrantable, or unkind.
But it may be said, that although all these evils might indeed take place, if God should pardon sinners without repentance ; still the forgiveness of penitents involves no such consequence. To this allegation, which I believe to be made by almost every human heart, I answer,
1. The threatening of the law against transgression is absolute. The soul that sinneth shall die. In this threaten
ing there is no mention, and plainly no admission, of repentance, as the foundation of escape to the transgressor. If an exception was intended to be made in favour of the penitent, why was it not expressed, or at least hinted, by the law? There is not that I know, a single intimation of this nature in any of the expressions which it contains. Should it be said, that, although the exception is not made in the words of the law itself, yet it is sufficiently declared in the comments or the law, given us by Moses and the succeeding prophets; I answer, that, wherever these commentators speak of repentanee, as connected with our escape from the curse of the law, they speak of it, either as connected with the atonement of Christ, or not. If they mention it as connected with this atonement, then the objector will be obliged to admit that the atonement itself is the foundation of the penitent's escape. If they do not speak of it as connected with the atonement, then it follows, that the penitent is pardoned, under the law, or legal dispensation. An act of pardon is an act of grace; and no act is more eminently gracious, or free. To this grace the Gospel can add, and does in fact add, nothing material. • Grace,' therefore, came,' according to this supposition, originally by Moses, and not by Christ; and the Gospel is not the good news,' or the 'glad tidings of the grace of God,' as it is often styled by the writers of it; because the tidings which it professes to bring, were long before published by the law.
Farther : It will not be in this case true, that · Heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot or one tittle of the law shall pass, until all be fulfilled.' Not only one jot or one tittle, but the whole penal sentence of the law is, according to this scheme, left, and will for ever be left unfulfilled; without any other reason to forbid its fulfilment, beside what existed, and was known to exist, at the time when it was published to the world,
2. The absolute threatening of the law was denounced by God in the exercise of his infinite perfections. When he denounced it therefore in this manner, that is, unconditionally, he acted wisely and justly. The denunciation he intended either to execute, or not. If he did not intend to execute it, he acted, so far as I am able to discern. insincerely; because in publishing it he declared, that he would do what he intended