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He virtually charges God with fraud in the whole frame work of his Gospel ;-with falsehood in his declarations concerning the guilt of man; with cruelty in the punishment which he inflicts in this world, and which he threatens to inflict in the world to come. He treats the great Jehovah as a being who can be pleased with insincere acknowledgments: with fawning--hollow hearted confessions, that outrage all justice and all truth.
There is no escape from this. If we use the prayer, we make such a confession, as will make us speechless in the judgment; or else, we are intentionally guilty of all this daring mockery of the ever-living God.
2. We renounce in this petition, all pretence of making satisfaction for our sins. We plead no merit: we throw ourselves upon mere mercy: we simply ask forgiveness.
Some people seem to think, that their endeavors to do the best they can for the future, will be set off against their past offences; and that they may cancel their sins by extraordinary merit. Or, if they have no merit beyond their present duty, they fancy that if they do their duty for a long time, God will by degrees forget their past offences. But this is not seeking forgiveness. This is not taking the benefit of alonement. This is not asking for pardon : it is endeavoring to make satisfaction. And to every one who resorts to this mode of salvation, by deeds of law, the Lord will give law; and not mercy. They are under the curse. They are fallen from the dispensation of grace, and must stand or fall by the law. “As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse;"_" Christ shall profit you nothing :”— “ Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." But the prayer under consideration renounces all pretence of making satisfaction. We come to God making no plea but for mercy : endeavoring neither to palliate our guilt nor to atone for it. We come seeking forgiveness :—such forgiveness as will make us immeasurably indebted to the mere mercy of God.
3. We seek, under the name of forgiveness, the remission of punishment. I should never have thought of making this remark, had I not heard it gravely asserted, that there is never any forbearance of punishment: that every sin is punished just as much as it deserves ! According to this newly invented Gospel, God is so merciful that he will remit sins by punishing them! forgive, by holding on to the penalty! atone for sins by the bloody sacrifice of his Son, and yet make no difference in his treatment of the sinner! The mighty work of redemption; the astonishing exhibition of God's mercy through the propitiation of Christ ; the pardon, the grace, the forgiveness, the mercy of the Gospel, the glad tidings of great joy, that make earth glad and fill heaven with wonder ;-all amount at last, (according to this theory,) to nothing more than this,—God treats the sinner just as he would have done, without all this mighty movement! Justice takes its course! Mercy, forgiveness, pardon, remission of sins,--are mere names; they make no alteration in the course of God's treatment of the sinner! Salvation by grace is simply salvation by justice!
Verily this is another Gospel! Its design seems to be, not to persuade men to flee from wrath, but to make up their minds to bear it. But this is not the Gospel. The Gospel declares that “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law." The lord who forgave his ser vant ten thousand talents, did not, as the act of forgiveness, cast him into prison till he should pay the uttermost farthing; he treated him as though he owed him nothing. So “ being justified by the blood” of Jesus, " we shall be saved from wrath, through him." Oh, the encouraging intimation of forgiveness furnished in this direction for prayer! “God will be merciful to our unrighteousness, and our sins he will remember no more.” “He that heareth Christ's word, and helieveth on him, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation.” God for Christ's sake hath freely forgiven him. For “God so loved the world, that he gave his only beyotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
This is what our Lord teaches us to ask for in the petition, “ Forgive us our debts.” This is the forgiveness that we need, and this is the forgiveness of the Gospel.
II. How IS THIS PRAYER TO BE MADE ?
It is to be made, admitting the full charge which God has brought against us in his word ;-pleading guilty to the very thing charged ; -allowing our guilt in its full enormity; and turning to God by repentance, and with faith in Jesus Christ.
It is to be feared, that many, who repeat the Lord's prayer, have very little notion of admitting themselves to be such sinners, that God would be just in sending them to hell. They are willing to confess that they are not perfectly righteous: there is a sort of misunderstanding between them and their God, which they would be glad to have made up; but they have very little idea of prostrating themselves before God's awful throne as hell-deserving sinners. Their prayer means about as much, as is implied, when one has inadvertently incommoded his neighbor, and says, very civilly, “ Please excuse me."
Now the controversy of God with us is of a more serious nature than this. In his view, we are altogether unholy and vile ; deserving of perdition; and fit only to be banished from his presence forever. Though he is pitiful, and ready to show mercy, yet our desert is such, that his frown must shroud this earth as with the mantle of death, or his displeasure is not sufficiently manifested. So heinous is our sin, that not a son or daughter of Adam can be delivered from eternal wrath, without an adequate atonement. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission." All the beasts of the field are not sufficient for sacrifice; nor is Lebanon sufficient to burn. Angels were not able to break the seals of our condemnation. There was found none in heaven that was able to open the book or to look thereon, till God's own Son cried,-Father, spare the sinner: I give my life a ransom. He died to save them that were lost. And to save from what a punishment! Oh, sinner,-read in that wrath which burns with eternal fire, the estimate which God puts upon the sins that you regard so lightly!
Now, the Lord God must be vindicated in all this. Our cry for forgiveness must not be the cry of those who are willing to escape from cruelty by suing out a formal pardon. From the very heart, we must condemn ourselves, as God condemns us. We must loathe ourselves, as the Lord loathes the ungodly. We must confess the full amount of the sins with which we stand charged. We must confess their full enormity, as evinced by the serious manner in which God regards them. We must confess them with abhorrence. Our cry for pardon must not be the light apology," Please excuse me,”—but the heart hurthened prayer of the publican, who "smote his breast, saying, God BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER.” Our prayer must be the cry
of contrition and deep repentance, or it will avail nothing.
Some persons can say carelessly, "Why, I repent every day: I never sin but I am sorry for it.” Ah! do you forsake your sins? Do you utterly renounce them, and turn from them with loathing? Is your heart broken? Do you now dread falling into sin, as you would dread falling into hell? This trifling sorrow, that does not subdue the soul,
- that does not melt the heart,--that does not change the temper or the life,—is any thing rather than the repentance of the Bible. If you do not loathe sin ; if you are only sorry for the shame, while you love the sin as well as ever ; you are not a true penitent before God. This is only the sorrow of the world, that worketh death.
Oh, how often, dying sinner, have you said, “ Forgive me my debts,” while you had not a spark of godly sorrow !-while you scarce thought on your heinous guilt, or formed the slightest purpose of forsaking the sins for which you asked pardon! Then you mocked your God. Then you plunged yourself deeper in guilt. And yet, this saying the prayer, " Forgive," perhaps warded off alarm from your mind, and conviction from your conscience. 0. let not your prayer be a mere mockery of God, and a means of hardening and deluding your own soul. Rather take the open ground of rebellion ; spurn forgiveness; and know your standing ;-and if you will rush upon the thick bosses of the Almighty's buckler, do it with your eyes open. Then, peradventure, some awful perception of danger may flash upon your soul, and make you relent before your doom is for ever sealed.
And how important to you is it, dying fellow sinner, that you immediately find forgiveness ! In a little time your health will fail. The world will fade from your eyes. You must leave your business ; your wealth ; your friends; your pleasures ; and go into eternity. You must appear before God in judgment. The books will be opened. The books that contain the record of your years, and months, and days, and hours :- the books that record your manner of life; your words ; your deeds; your plans; your influence; your conduct in your stewardship here. All that God has done for you will be brought to mind. His
earnest invitations; his many warnings; his solemn commands;-every thing will be brought to light. The Redeemer,—who died for you,
and who waited so long to save you,-will then plead against you. You are condemned. Heaven is lost. You relent; but it is too late. You cry for mercy ; but you are not answered. Your eternity begins with despair. The Almighty—the Eternal—the unchangeable God has pronounced your doom. It can never be reversed. Are you prepared to endure all this? Can your heart endure, or your hands be strong?
0, learn from the scenes of Calvary-learn from the opening records of eternity, of what moment it is, that you find pardon now: and with all the earnestness that the case demands, cry unto God for help. Come in the only way: by the cross of Christ. Trust in the Almighty Redeemer. Let go every other shield. View yourself as open to the thunderbolts of incensed justice, and let Christ be your only defence. Have done with all delay. Break at once from every yoke of Satan.-Fear not man that shall die—Fear none but God. Flee-flee-an undone wretch-for pardon—that you may lay hold on eternal life.
Will you thus pray for pardon ? Will you pray now ? As we bow before the throne of infinite love, will you now give yourself up to God ?
"Now is the time he bends his ear,