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neither have nor can have any such ground for believing their case hopeless as they have for believing the divine mercy sufficient for their pardon, they might then see that there is yet hope even for them in God's free mercy, though none in themselves. Nothing, therefore, must hinder us from asserting and proving the all-sufficiency of that atonement through which it is proclaimed that “all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men."'*
Every soul that feels its condition to be hopeless, and rests that conviction upon the measure or the guilt of sin, does, in fact, affirm the insufficiency of divine grace, the insufficiency of the blood of Christ, and the insufficiency of his me. diation in his case. If every reason alleged by such be carefully examined, it will be found to deny the truth of innumerable plain texts and promises of God, and must, therefore, be fundamentally and totally false ; for, “ Let God be true, but every man a liar,"+ is a saying which even the most hopeless cannot resist. Even their own fears and terrors all depend upon the truth of God, and they themselves all profess to admit the veracity of God, at least in his threatenings. These are the sources of their despair. They dread the wrath to come, and, therefore, they believe one part of the divine word; though they do not per ceive that the threatenings are designed to work repentance. They do not profess to deny or despise these threatenings; they only disbelieve the gracious promises.
For instance, one says, “I have gone too far." But what is too far? Let him but define what he conceives is too far, and it will be found that the * Matt xii. 31.
† Rom. iii. 4.
divine forgiveness extends to that and has been granted to it. Another says, “I have sinned too long." But let him attach a clear idea to the ex. pression, and still it will be found that Christ can save to the uttermost of time as well as of guilt ; that a whole life of the most aggravated transgressions, though it had been the life of an ante diluvian, does not carry the sinner beyond the reach of divine mercy. The hopeless of another class say, “ But we have turned aside from our profession; we have been a postates, and have opened our mouth in blasphemy, in curses, in a denial of God and the Lord Jesus Christ." Still, all this does not exceed the power of divine forgiveness. Many such have been converted; and the tender pity that forgave a weeping Peter, after his repeated denial and his profane oaths, waits only for your repentance.
Still, another affirms the hopelessness of his case to arise out of the supposed fact, that he has committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, of which it is said that "it hath never forgiveness."* But if such a person is asked what is the awful sin thus exempted from forgiveness, he confesses that he cannot tell, but he supposes it to be speaking evil against the Holy Ghost, or it is denying Jesus Christ; yet he has no distinct idea, and certainly cannot say that he has clearly committed it. Why, then, should he pervert the Scriptures to prove himself guilty of that which Scripture itself has not clearly defined. The most judicious expositors and most learned divines agree, that, whatever this sin is, it cannot be committed by any one in an age when the Holy Spirit does not manifest his presence by miraculous signs, for
• Mark iii. 29.
that the Scriptures most clearly testify, that every sin known in these days has the promise of forgiveness attached to it upon repentance. Every species of sinners that we can find in the world are exhorted and invited to repent; and this they could not be, if, among the vast multitude and variety of sins and sinners, there were one exempted from the mercy of God. Even those Jews who witnessed the gift of tongues on the day of Pentecost, and said that it was the effect of intoxication—"These men are full of new wine”*
were not abandoned by the apostles as unpardonable, but were exhorted to repent, and were assured, that if they believed on the Lord Jesus, even they should receive the remission of sins. This exhortation of Peter was effectual with many, for “they were pricked in the heart, and said, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”+ And that day more than three thousand believed, and were welcomed by apostolic authority into the Christian church. If, then, those who had at first attributed divine inspiration to drunkenness were converted and saved, there can be no sufficient reason derived from Scripture for the hopelessness of any sinner, simply on the conviction that he feels of any particular sin. He may be assured that no temptation has happened to him but that which is common to men. If the guilt of apostasy, of murder, of adultery, of horrid blasphemy, of atheism and infidelity, of the most awful imprecations and denials of God and Christ, has been forgiven, it will be impossible for any one to find a sin for which divine mercy has not provided a remedy, of the forgiveness of which Holy Scripture does not afford an example. It * Acts ii. 13.
+ Acts jj. 37.
must be evident, therefore, that all those cases in which sinners are apt to become hopeless, are really not more so in the view of the divine grace than the case of any other sinner. All need repentance; to all conversion is prescribed ; each is invited to believe; and again and again it is repeated, “Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."'*
It is clear, that the only hopelessness of all these cases depends upon the adherence of the mind to a false notion—the unpardonable nature of the sin committed, or supposed to be committed. While that delusion remains, there can be no hope. But Scripture directly disproves it; and until the truth and certainty of the promises of God be admitted, there is no hope. Yet the inconsistency and selfcontradiction of the despairing party are shown in this, that he rejects these promises, while he professes to feel the truth and certainty of the threatenings. If he has occasion to fear and tremble at the threatening, he has the very same authority to excite hope; for He who condemns all sin, says he will forgive all sin, on the faith and repentance of the sinner. It is absurd to believe the one and not the other.
There seems to be only one other view of all such cases, which it is important here to notice. Some readers of this section may say, that they do not place their despair upon the ground of the unpardonable nature of their sin, but upon the hardness of their heart. They are hopeless, because, after various and anxious efforts, they cannot bring their minds to the belief of the divine promise. In so far as this is hopelessness of their own ability, it is matter for congratulation, rather
* Rom. 1. 11.
than of despair. The feeling of their own inability ought to urge them to ask that of God which they cannot impart to themselves. « Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God ;* not by dwelling upon our own inability. Instead of restricting our thoughts and our fears to that, we should be looking to Him that can excite faith ; we should be gathering up the promises that inspire it into despairing hearts. You look to the deep gloom of your own helplessness, and say, We are hopeless, because we cannot believe. True: and how should you be otherwise while you do not look to that quarter from whence the day-spring visits us? Christ says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved;"+ but you look to yourselves, and say, We are lost! Faith cannot spring up in that heart which is engaged exclusively with its own miseries. When once these miseries are felt, they should urge you immediately to look out of and beyond yourselves for help. So you would do if you were reduced to the extreme of poverty ; so you would do if violent disease had seized your frame ; so you would escape hastily from the flames, if you awoke suddenly, and found yourself enveloped by the devouring element; so you would cry for help, if you felt yourself sinking in deep waters. Then why not direct your cry to Him who says, “ Look unto me and be ye saved ?"I A look, a right desire, a true glance of the eye of faith directed to wards him, and you would immediately feel that you were strengthened with strength in your soul; and you would look again and again with growing desire, with declining fear and rising hope, till you felt Christ formed in your heart, the hope of glory.
* Rom. x. 17. Isa. xlv. 22. Isa. xlv. 22.