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this is particularly recorded in the Gospels of St. Matthew and Luke“, but these cases were special, and deemed miracles, and as such a strong and convincing argument is to be drawn from them that remission of sins on earth is not general ; was it so, there was no cause or ground for these special cases, those persons who had their sins remitted by Christ were told, that they were remitted on account of their faith; if faith remit past sins at the time it is received, these persons would have had their sins remitted as soon as they had faith, and the particular act of remission by Christ was not required, but his statement in the 6th verse of the ixth of Matthew to the multitude present, shews he did it to convince them of his power, and it not only shews his power to remit sins, but it also proves that the sins of those persons who were cured were not remitted before Christ remitted them, notwithstanding they had faith : but surely it will not be said, this took place before the resurrection of Christ, and sins were not remitted through faith till after the resurrection : such a distinction it is conceived will not, cannot be attempted to be supported from any authority in Scripture: and if not, the deduction from this argument as necessarily follows, that sins have
a See Matt. ix. 2. Luke vii. 48. 50.
not been generally remitted on earth, but only on special occasions. This argument is most conclusive and unanswerable.
We will now consider what is said in the 23rd verse of the xxth chapter of John, above quoted. Here we find that Christ, after he had in the preceding verse said to his disciples, ceive
ye the Holy Ghost," informs them that they had full power to remit or retain sins; neither cause or purpose is stated; but it cannot be supposed, that Christ would have conferred this special power upon them unless for some great and good purpose, and such as must have been deemed by him both essential and necessary to answer a particular object, or to effect some great end. This is stated in a concise manner, unconnected with any other subject, and so plainly that it is not liable to misconstruction or misconception; these disciples were especially appointed to teach and preach the Gospel, which they did ; and one of the principal doctrines which they published and taught was, that man was to have justification by the blood of Christ, through faith; if faith was to justify at the time it was received, and sins were remitted at the same time, for what useful purpose could this power be given ? As faith was undoubtedly to be the condition of receiving justification, these faithful disciples would most assuredly not confer
remission of sins upon any person who had not faith ; they could not be guilty of so great an abuse of such an extraordinary power; and if they would not, the power was useless, and a nullity, supposing remission of sins was effected at the time faith was received. But if remission of sins was not intended to take place until the day of judgment in all common cases, and on earth only on special occasions, then the intention in conferring this power had its full effect; and no other reasonable conclusion can be drawn from this text.
Let us now consider the words in the 31st verse of the xiith chapter of Matthew. Christ, in describing an unpardonable sin, concludes by stating, that it will “ not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in the world to come;" different constructions may be put, and different conclusions drawn from these words. This seems clear, that sins may be, or might have been remitted on earth : but it is also clear, that sins are to be remitted hereafter, by the words, “ in the world to come.” We see by 1 John 5— 17, “ All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not unto death.” This verse may assist us in putting a construction upon Christ's words, and drawing a conclusion from them, as to what those sins were which are remitted on earth, and those to be hereafter remitted. If certain sins are to be brought into judgment, and is it possible to raise a doubt whether they are or not? can there be any difficulty to conclude, which of the sins above-described is the sin to be brought into judgment !-that, undoubtedly, which is a sin unto death. Such a construction may be put upon Christ's words; but the following they will bear: we have before seen Christ had power to remit sins on earth; he also conferred that power on his disciples, and to a remission under this power the text might refer to, or be applied, and the latter part of the text must show, if there is any meaning in words, that sins are to be remitted in the world to come, which must be at the day of judgment. Were sins generally remitted on earth, either at baptism, embracing faith, or performing good works, there would be no ground for the statement in the text, and in that case, as far as to this statement, it would be making the word of God of none effect, the power which Christ and his disciples had was of a temporary nature; and, as far as we know, or have been informed, ceased with them, and no such power has been even pretended to exist since their time; it must therefore be concluded, that remission of sins on earth has wholly ceased, there being no ground to suppose
that God has, since the days of the apostles, in any instance, exercised his Almighty Power to remit sins on earth in any especial manner.
In the verse quoted from the tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, was any reliance to be placed on the tenses of the verbs, we have the present tense used in the word“ believeth,"and the future in the words shall (and not doth) receive; and in the thirty-first verse of Matthew xii., we find the future tense used in the word “forgiven;" and also in the thirty-second verse, with the additional words,“neither in the world to come.” This verse not only uses the future tense, but shows most clearly that sins may be forgiven in the world to come. Supposing a person's sins are forgiven in this world, upon having faith, and no other time can reasonably be conceived when they are to be forgiven, particularly by those who hold, that sins are to be forgiven by or through faith only; how or in what way can these words of Christ have a sense given them to show they are not useless, should sins be generally pardoned in this world ? Is it possible to suppose, that Christ would make use of words which could have no effect, and were totally useless? It is impossible. No other construction can be put upon these words of Christ, but which must show that some sins are to be forgiven hereafter, and, in his own words, “ in the world to come.”