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Nor can any satisfactory information concerning it be gathered from any other source than the revelation which God has been pleased to furnish in the gospel of his Son. There never was an age in which the science of natural theology was cultivated with such assiduity as at present. Several of the ablest men of our times have devoted a considerable portion of their lives to the study of this subject; and have placed the result of their investigations before the world in various elaborate volumes, not a few of which reflect honour upon the learning, industry, and taste of their respective authors. But it is in vain that we consult these works for an answer to the question, "How can a sinner obtain the pardoning mercy of God?" That a holy and upright being should be an object of the divine favour, we can easily conceive; but how a creature whose nature is depraved, and who is personally guilty, can become an object of God's mercy, so as to escape the penalty of transgression, and obtain eternal life, no human ingenuity can of itself explain, and no researches into nature can ever discover. "The heavens" do indeed "declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth forth his handy work." The earth, the air,
and the sea are also full of his riches. The perfect adaptation of every object in nature to the end for which it was intended, demonstrates the existence of an infinitely wise and designing Mind; and the magnitude of the universe displays the omnipotence of its Author: but whether he will pardon the transgressors of his law, and upon what terms, are questions concerning which all creation is absolutely silent. For various evils which exist, and which afflict mankind, remedies are provided by the God of nature; but there are others, and those of the most painful kind, which are never removed, and for which no palliation has ever been discovered. Almighty God, in the dispensations of his providence, distributes unnumbered blessings among his dependant creatures. He causes his sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust." "He giveth fruitful seasons, and filleth the hearts of all with food and gladness." But at the same time it is undeniable that the world in every part bears marks of his anger. Earthquakes, peştilence, inundations, famine, sickness, pain, and death, are an intelligible and striking comment upon the declaration of his word,
that his "wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."
Leaving, therefore, the mere Deist to his bewildering and interminable speculations as to the manner in which that wrath may be turned away, it is to the Bible that the conscious transgressor of his Maker's law must come for an answer to this inquiry. And here all his doubts are anticipated, as well as his wants and miseries. A divine atonement for sin, in the sacrificial death of the Son of God; an atonement provided and accepted by God himself; satisfies at once both the understanding and the conscience. The argument is irresistible: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" The claims of justice are met; the authority of law is. maintained; and hence, guilt can be cancelled in perfect consistency with the glory and honour of God.
The manner in which this great benefit is obtained, and the results which follow the acquirement of it, are both specified in the sacred record; and the whole matter is thus subjected to personal experiment. All that
believe are justified; and those who are justified have tranquillity of conscience, and purity of heart. They are filled with peace and joy; and sin ceases to have the dominion over them, although they may be conscious that the principles of evil still exist within them. Those principles do not reign; and provision is made for their utter extermination, and for the maturity of every Christian grace. The experiment has been made in every age, and in every place where the gospel has been faithfully preached; and all who have made it declare, as with one voice, that the "record" is true. In past ages believers have borne witness to this in poverty and want, in pain and sickness, in life and death. The happiness arising from the forgiving love of God has been their stay and comfort in all circumstances, and has rendered them cheerful and joyous in the prospect of their dissolution. Ten thousand happy witnesses of this truth are living at this day, among the various denominations of evangelical Christians. And theirs is not an unsupported testimony. It is confirmed by a conduct which is at once blameless and useful; alike honourable to God, and beneficial to men.
To afford instruction to those who are seeking the blessing of justification, and to assist young ministers, and the less informed among religious teachers, how to set forth this great evangelical privilege, was the laudable design of the very intelligent author of this small volume. The manner in which he has executed his task reflects great credit upon his judgment and piety. Without embarrassing himself by the long and metaphysical treatises which have been written upon the subject, he goes directly to the Holy Scriptures, and in a clear, concise, methodical, and consistent manner, places before the reader what they teach concerning a sinner's justification before God; at the same time applying the subject to the consciences of the different classes of persons into whose hands his publication might fall. For the question is not one of speculation, but of experience and of practice.
If there is any thing in the volume at which exception might be taken, it is the very frequent use of the word "acquitted," in the sense of a sinner's justification. Both these terms are forensic; but "acquitted" is not generally used in the sense which is here given to it. When we hear that a man was