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The holy and blessed God will not, nay, he cannot absolve a rational creature from obligation to the precepts of the moral law: for this would be a practical declaration, that aversion from himself, and hatred of our neighbour, are no crimes. It is therefore a capital mistake to imagine that the righteous Legislator of the universe may, or may not, punish sin. Punishment is, in this case, not an act of sovereignty, but necessarily results from the supreme perfection of God. Sin is the abominable thing that his soul hateth: it cannot exist but in opposition to the purity of his nature and the rectitude of his government. While, therefore, it is suffered to remain in his dominions, it must be the object of his abhorrence; and, what, as Ruler of the world, he cannot but punish either in the person of the sinner, or in his substitute. Were a consideration of this awful fact suffered to impress the mind as it ought, we should see our situation to be dreadfully calamitous--that in our. selves we are utterly undone. The necessity of a Saviour would be at once apparent : and instead of attempting to extenuate the guilt of sin, or of cavilling against the infliction of punish-ment for it, we should adore the wisdom and the grace that devised and promulgated the means by which it is forgiven. be endured ; and both in the nature by which it was first dishonoured : because angelick obedience to the same commands, would not answer the requisitions of a statute given as the rule of human duty. As, therefore, we are all breakers of the divine law, and as no future conformity. to its precepts, were it absolutely perfect, can compensate for this violation, we are all inevitably undone, if not interested in the righteousness and propitiation of Jesus Christ. :.
It must be obvious to him who shall duly consider the perfection of the divine nature, and the rectitude of the divine government, that the law under which our first parents were, both as a covenant and as a rule of duty, must be perfectly fulfilled, previous to the bestowment of heavenly blessedness on their apostate descendants : for without such fulfilment, this blessedness never could, consistently with the rights of holiness and of justice, be enjoyed. The law could never remit its claim to universal obedience, nor, as such, suffer the offender to escape with impunity.
It is, however, proper to remark, that mere obedience, were it absolutely perfect, could not, circumstanced as we now are, be viewed as an adequate reparation for the insult and injury done to the divine government. The penalty connected with disobedience must also
Of the need we stand in of this propitiation, and of that righteousness there can be no doubt, if the remarks made on the divine law, and the divine government be accurate. By the law, we are told, is the knowledge of sin. By this rule we discover what is duty or, in other words, what is prohibited—what is commanded, and the penal sanction by which obedience is enforced. In the scriptures of truth, the fatal consequences of our apostasy from God are affectingly described ; and the plan formed by infinite wisdom and infinite goodness for our delivery from eternal ruin graciously revealed.
So that while we sorrow after a godly sort, we are not like those that have no hope : we have, it is true, destroyed ourselves, but in the Lord are our help and our deliverance found.
Cheering, however, as this delightful truth certainly is, yet it is too commonly neglected or despised. Men are unwilling to think themselves so degenerate as represented by the sacred writers, or to believe there is that intrin. sick evil in sin which is constantly affirmed, Hence the objections against the spirituality, purity, and extent of the moral law—the substitution and the atonement of Christ; and also against other glorious truths inseparably connected with the redemption of man--but these objections must be considered in my next. Till then, believe me very sincerely,
... LETTER IV.
AT a condemned rebel should reject a pardon, which exempts from sufferings and from death ; that he should ungratefully treat with ridicule or with insult the herald who announced the merciful intelligence, and obstinately choose rather to run the risk of escaping deserved ruin by his own projects, than to accept deliverance by the merciful interposition of his prince, is a phenomenon in the criminal world, that must excite astonishment and nonplus credibility.