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2. And as the sin of ignorantly opposing Christ exceeds not the power of the meritorious cause of forgiveness; so neither is it any where excluded from pardon by the word of God. Nay, such is the extensiveness of the promise to believing penitents, that this case is manifestly included, and forgiveness tendered to thee in the promises: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Isa. 557. There are many such extensive promises in the Scriptures; and not one parenthesis in all these blessed pages, in which this case is excepted.
3. And it is yet more satisfactory; that God hath already forgiven such sinners, and those eminent for their enmity to Christ, that others may be encouraged to hope for the same mercy, when they also shall be, in the same manner, humbled for it. One striking example is that of Paul, 1 Tim. 1: 13, 16, "who was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
4. Moreover, it is encouraging to consider, that when God had cut off others in the way of their sin, he hath hitherto spared thee. What speaks this but a purpose of mercy to thy soul? Thou shouldst account the longsuffering of God thy salvation. 2 Pet. 3: 15. Had he smitten thee in the way of thy sin and enmity to Christ, what hope had remained? But if he hath not only spared thee, but also given thee a heart ingenuously humbled for thy sins; doth not this speak mercy for thee? surely it looks like a gracious design of love to thy soul.
INFERENCE 1. Is there forgiveness with God for such as have been enemies to Christ, his truth, and Gospel? Then certainly there is pardon and mercy for the friends of God, who involuntarily fall into sin by the surprisals of temptation, and are penitent for it, as ingenuous children for offending a good father. Can any doubt, if God have pardon for such enemies, he hath it for children? If he have forgiveness for such as shed the blood of Christ with wicked hands, hath he not much more mercy and forgiveness for such as love Christ, and are more afflicted for their sin against him, than by all other troubles?
How sorrowful do the dear children of God sometimes sit, after their lapse into sin! Will God ever pardon this will he be reconciled again? May I hope his face shall be to me as in former times? Mourning soul! if thou didst but know the largeness, tenderness, freeness of that grace, which yearns over enemies, and hath given forth thousands and ten thousands of pardons to the worst of sinners, thou wouldst not sink thus.
2. Is there pardon with God for enemies? How inexcusable then are all they that persist and perish in their enmity to Christ! Surely their destruction is of themselves. Mercy is offered to them, if they will receive it. Isa. 557. Proclamation is made in the Gospel, that if there be any among the enemies of Christ, who repent of what they have been and done against him, and are now unfeignedly willing to be reconciled, they shall find mercy: but "God shall wound the head of the enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses." Psa. 68:21. "If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors." Psa. 7: 12, 13. This lays the blood of every man that perishes in his enmity to Christ, at his
own door; and vindicates the righteousness of God, in the severest strokes of wrath upon them. This also will be a cutting thought to their hearts eternally: I might once have had pardon, and I refused it: the Gospel trumpet sounded; gracious terms were offered, but I rejected them.
3. Is there mercy with God and forgiveness, even for his worst enemies, upon their submission? How unlike to God then are all implacable spirits! Some there are that cannot bring their hearts to forgive an enemy; "to whom revenge is sweeter than life." 1 Sam. 24: 16. "If a man find his enemy, will he let him go?" This is hell-fire, a fire that never goeth out. How little do such poor creatures consider: if God should deal by them, as they do by others, what words could express the misery of their condition! It is a sad sin, and a sad sign, a character of a wretched state, wherever it appears. Those that have found mercy, should be ready to show mercy; and they that expect mercy themselves, should not deny it to others.
Proposition 3. To forgive enemies and beg forgive
ness for them, is the true christian spirit.
Thus did Christ: "Father, forgive them." And thus did Stephen, in imitation of Christ: "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Acts, 7:59, 60. This accords with the rule of Christ, ་་ But I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." Matt. 5: 44, 45. And here I shall show what a forgiving spirit is, and how well it becomes all that call themselves christians.
I. Let us inquire what this christian forgiveness is.
1. It consists not in a stoical insensibility to wrongs and injuries. God hath not made men blocks, that have no sense or feeling. Nor hath he made a law inconsistent with their very natures; but allows us a tender sense of natural evils, though he will not allow us to revenge them by moral evils: nay, the more deep and tender our sense of wrongs and injuries, the more excellent is our forgiveness of them; so that a forgiving spirit doth not exclude sense of injuries, but the sense of injuries graces the forgiveness of them.
2. Christian forgiveness is not a politic concealment of our wrath and revenge, because it will be a reproach to manifest it, or because we want opportunity. This is carnal policy, not christian meekness. So far from being the mark of a gracious spirit, it is apparently the sign of a vile nature.
3. Christian forgiveness is not an injurious giving up of our rights to the pleasure of every one that would invade them. No; these we may lawfully defend and preserve; though, if we cannot defend them lawfully, we must not avenge our wrongs: this is not christian forgiveness. But, positively,
It is a christian lenity, or gentleness of mind, freely passing by the injuries done to us, in obedience to the command of God.
It is a lenity, or gentleness of mind. The grace of God calms the tumultuous passions; corrects our disturbed spirits, and makes them benign, gentle, and casy to be entreated: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness." Gal. 5: 22.
This gracious lenity inclines the christian to pass by injuries; so to pass them by, as neither to retain them revengefully in the mind, or requite them when we have opportunity; yea, and that freely not by constraint, because we cannot avenge ourselves, but willingly. We abhor to do it when we can. So that as a carnal heart
thinks revenge its glory, the gracious heart is content that forgiveness should be his glory. I will be even with him, saith nature: I will be above him, saith grace: it is his glory to pass over transgression. Prov. 19:11. And this it doth in obedience to the command of God. Their own nature inclines men another way. The spirit that is in us lusteth to envy ; but he giveth more grace." Jam. 4:5. It lusteth to revenge, but the fear of God represseth those motions. Such considerations as these: God hath forbidden me; yea, and God hath forgiven me, as well as forbidden me: prevail upon him when nature urges to revenge the wrong. "Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Eph. 4:32. This is forgiveness in a christian sense. And,
II. This is excellent, and singularly becoming the profession of Christ.
It speaks your religion excellent, that it can mould your hearts into that heavenly frame, to which they are so averse, yea, contrarily disposed by nature. It is the glory of pagan morality, that it can hide men's lusts and passions: the glory of christianity that it can destroy, and really mortify the lusts of nature. Would christians but live up to the excellent principles of their religion, christianity would be no more rivalled by pagan morality: the christian challenged to imitate Socrates! Oh christians, yield not the day to heathens! Let all the world see the true greatness, heavenliness, and excellency of our represented Pattern; and by true mortification of your corrupt nature, enforce an acknowledgment from the world, that a greater than Socrates is here. He that is really a meek, humble, patient, heavenly christian, wins this glory to his religion, that it can do more than all other principles and rules in the world. In nothing were the most accomplished heathens more defective than in the forgiving of injuries: it was a thing