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of God, and of Jesus Christ, would be false. Besides, multitudes who have had the same suspicions, and laboured under them for long periods, have at length discovered them to be false, and have cordially believed God's testimony, and found the joy of acceptance and reconciliation. And why should not you ? Moreover, you cannot know certainly that any such difficulty really lies in your way. You must admit that it is mere suspicion, and that you have never resolutely tried to overcome the supposed difficulty, nor earnestly sought divine assistance to remove it. “Who art thou, O great mountain ? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”* Be entreated, then, by one who is earnestly desirous of your salvation, who has seen many such suspicions melt away before the truth, to try the effect of fervent, continued prayer. But let your prayer be prompted by a conviction of the ability and willingness of your Saviour to remove this and every obstacle. Select out of the Scripture, and use in prayer, and in faith, some passages which freely promise salvation to all, even the chief of sinners; such as exhibit the abounding of grace above sin ;t such as display the infinite power of God to remove every difficulty, and gather out all the stumbling-stones; such as challenge the doubting to produce any ground for their fears ;S such as encourage you to disclose all your heart to God; “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.”l. Then would your difficulties vanish, your doubts be relieved, and divine succour be afforded, to work in you both to will and to do according to God's good pleasure.
* Zech. iv. 7. + Rom. v. 20, 21. Isa. Ixii. 10. · Jer. viii. 22. Isa. i. 18.. | Phil. ii. 13.
4. It is very common for the unconverted, when they become a little acquainted with their miserable and guilty condition, and are somewhat alarmed on account of it, to imagine that there exists a positive decree of the Almighty against them, which absolutely excludes them from forgiveness, and seals them up to despair and final ruin. Sometimes they even plead this as an excuse for their total neglect of religion, and abandonment of themselves to a careless and dissolute life. But if any reader has entertained such a notion, let me entreat him to consider and examine the foundation upon which it rests, or rather, its want of all foundation. He will nowhere find in Scripture any such decree. He would not, surely, pretend that there is any special determination of God against himself. He would not pretend that any such exists in the Bible ; he would not allege that he has had any special revelation of it made to him. The only ground, therefore, which he can state for such an opinion, must be some strong impression upon his mind, or some general denunciation of Scripture, in which, by inference, he supposes himself to be included.
As to any impression upon his own mind, howerer strong it may be, he has far more reason to think that it is a mere vain imagination, suggested by a guilty conscience and a despairing heart, or a direct insinuation of the enemy of his soul, than any portion of revealed truth, or any impression wrought by the Spirit of God. It is quite certain that God's Spirit calls upon him, in common with all sinners, to repent; and this He would not do, if his case were absolutely sealed. There cannot be admitted to exist any disagreement between the dictates of the Spirit in the written word, and the impressions produced by the same Spirit on our hearts. If the Spirit by the word commands and urges the sinner to repent and believe the gospel, the same Spirit cannot suggest to his mind that repentance and faith would be useless, because of a divine determination against his salvation. Hence, he ought to give up and abandon his own imagination, as idle, false, tending to his misery and ruin; and abide by the language of the written word, as clear and infallible, and not to be contradicted by any vague notions or imaginations of his own sinful and prejudiced heart. Let God be true to his word, but every imagination of our mind that is opposed to that word, false,
Some who entertain the opinion now under consideration, would, perhaps, plead that very word of God as the authority for it; and would even endeavour to prove, that there are express declarations of God in his word, from which they infer their final condemnation. I have met with many who have long entertained such an opinion. But I have always found, when they have been required to point out the specific passages of Scripture from which they have drawn their inference, that they are merely sentences of condemnation against sinners in general, some particular class of sinners, or such as have apostatized from the faith they once professed. All such threatenings are, however, conditional. They bind God to inflict final punishment if the characters so threatened do no repent. But the possibility of repentance is supposed in every case, as is evident by the fact, that many such characters, on hearing the threatening, have repented and found mercy. Even some of those clearly defined and awfully threatened by Scripture, have turned from their evil ways, and, through divine mercy, found forgiveness for all their sins, however great and aggravated. This is true, even of such as have been notorious apostates from their first profession. Thus, Peter denied Christ, and yet was restored. Your case is, however, not like his. You have never yet professed to be converted, and therefore cannot be an apostate from the faith of Christ. Passages of Scripture, therefore, which relate to such personis, can have nothing to do with you. You cannot find any sentence of exclusion from forgiveness, in passages which relate alone to those who have denied the Saviour, or renounced the faith of a Christian. I will suppose, therefore, that you derive your notion of a final sentence having already passed against you, from some of those comprehensive and awful denunciations which are directed against sinners in general, or some particular class of sinners, as blasphemers, drunkards, unbelievers, and such like.
Here, then, I wish you to observe, that all such threatenings, throughout the whole Bible, are conditional, that is to say, the execution of them is dependent upon their effect. They leave room for repentance. They are employed for the purpose of producing it; and their very announcement presupposes that God will wait to see their effect, whether they produce repentance; and that, wherever such repentance is produced, he can no more proceeu to execute the threatening, than fail to execute it where it has produced no effect. A clearer illustration of this cannot be presented, than in the case of the Ninevites. A positive threatening was uttered; a time solemnly fixed for its execution, without any reserve; no condition was even expressed; no offer of mercy
ever made to them; and yet the threatening, because it was regarded, because it wrought repentance, could not be enforced. The very fact, that forty days were allowed as a reprieve, seemed to imply that there was room for repentance on their part, and mercy on God's. Though the prophet received no commission to say so; yet the fact proved, that however severe the threatening of God, and however brief the time allowed, yet, if repentance were wrought, he would accept it, and withhold the threatened evil. This is the principle applicable to all the threatenings of God in Scripture against sinners. Although there may be no express offer of mercy in the immediate connection of the threatening, yet there are, else. where in the book, sufficient testimonies to the readiness of God to exercise such mercy towards repenting sinners of every class and degree. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts : and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."* Hence it will follow, that there is no decree of God revealed in the Bible that can warrant any unconverted person in concluding that, because he is a sinner, or the greatest of sinners, or because he belongs to a special class of sinners, therefore there is no mercy for him, or no possibility of deliverance from the destruction which is equally threatened against all transgressors of God's law
5. We may now proceed somewhat further, and observe-neither is there any evidence of an unwillingness on God's part to forgive your sins. It is no unusual thing for the guilty mind to ima
* Isa. lv. 7.