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God be true, but every man a liar. No one will suppose that the faith of God is his act of believing, for the act of believing is a consequence resulting from the power of evidence in the mind, which power can never act in the mind of him who is omniscient. But this FAITH of God is his covenant of promise, made known to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law by Moses; concerning which covenant our author speaks to the Gallatians as follows; “ And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” This covenant of promise this author again calls faith in the 11th of Hebrews. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” The substance of what we hope for is not our act of believing, but the thing in which we believe.
It was thought needful to be thus particular on this subject, for two reasons.
I. To expose the common error which supposes, that our act of believing is required as a condition. of our justification before God. This error has so confused the minds of professors of Christianity, that they know not how to explain their own thoughts. They believe that God requires our act of believing as a condition of our justification; and it is constantly held up and urged that our everlasting destruction will be the just recompense of our unbelief. But if we ask what there is for us to believe, there is no answer. · For if the thing to be believed were stated, the next question would be, shall the unbelief of man make the faith of God without effect? And,
II. Because it was in the fulfilling of this covenant of promise, that God commended his love to. sinners by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The particular mode by which the Apostle presented The testimony contained in our text was by drawing a comparison between the compassion or goodness of man, and the compassion or goodness of God. The following are his words; « For when we were yet without strength, in due tiine Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man soine would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,Christ died for us." Here the comparison is clear and striking to the mind; and evidently shows that the design of the Apostle was to show that the love of God to sinners is vastly stronger than the love of man toward man.
The first particular which we shall consider as proved by the testimony of our text is, that neither sin nor any thing else was ever the cause of enmity in God toward man.
Though this proposition is of immense consequence, it seems to have been overlooked by our divines, who have constantly represented the divine Being to be full of wrath and tremendous indignation against sioners. And yet the passage under consideration is a direct and plain testimony against all that has ever been said on this subject.
The hearer is requested to notice, with attention, the two propositions which are in direct opposition to each other, and which are the foundations of true and false doctrine. One proposition asserts that God loves sinners, and that nothing ever can cause him to do otherwise ; and the other contends that God hates the sinner, and will eternally exercise unmerciful wrath on the transgressor. If one of these be true, the other must be false ; they cannot both be true, nor can they both be false. But wbich is true ?
As there is like to be some dispute on this subject, and as the hearer will wish to have it so conducted,
as to make a clear distinction, both between the parties, and their respective arguments, we will give to the parties distinguishing names. The party, who contends that God loves the sinner, we will call Light, and the one who contends for the contrary proposition we will call DARKNESS.
Do you ask why these names are chosen ? Because light seeins to be expressive of love, and darkness of hatred. And the beloved John says, “ He that loveth his brother abideth in the light-But he that hateth his brother is in darkness.”
Let us hear what darkness argues in support of his favourite proposition, viz. that God hates the sinner.
He says, as God is a Being of infinite holiness and purity he cannot love unholiness and impurity, but must consistently with his own essential attri
righteousness; and as the sinner is not righteous, but sinful; is not holy, but unholy ; is not pure, but impure, God must of necessity hate the sinner.
Light replies; Though I grant your premises, yet I cannot concede to your conclusion. So far from allowing your conclusion to be a just deduction from your premises, 1 shall contend that it is in direct opposition to them, and if it could be maintained as a truth, it must be by disproving the argument from which you deduce it.
The amount of your argument is, that God is opposed to sin. This I grant. Now tell me Darkness, what is sin ?
Sin is the transgression of the law. What does the law require? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy strength, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Rightly answered. Now, Darkness, do you not see that hatred is the trangression of, and the only sin that can be committed against this law ? If it be sin for man to hate God, is it holiness for God
to hate man! In room of hating sin, you contend that God hates the sinner, that is, he hates the man who hates him. Thus you deny your own premises. For there is no more holiness in God's hating man, than there is in man's hating God; there is no more righteousness in any supposed enmity in God toward man, than there is in man's enmity toward God.
Darkness says, that this argument is blaspbemy, that it accuses God with unholiness and sin.
Light denies the charge, and says; It is you, Darkness, that accuses God with this unholy spirit of hatred. To illustrate the subject light uses the following methaphor.
The parent of a family of children gives to his offspring a law which requires them all to love him sincerely and to love each other, but these children fall out by the way, get wrong notions respecting their parent's character and law, and are filled with hatred toward him, toward his law, and toward one another. In consequence of this the parent, in room of loving his children as he did when he first gave them this law, now hates them and is full of enmity towards his disobedient offspring. What a sad scene is here! The children are enemies to their parent, and what is worse, the parent is an enemy to his children! · Let candor judge in this case, let enlightened reason decide the question, which is worst, for the child to hate the parent, or for the parent to hate the child? Though the light shineih in darkness, yet the darkness comprehendeth it not.
If the death of Christ for sinners was a commendation of the love of God toward us, it certainly proves, beyond all contradiction, that sin, nor any thing else had caused any hatred or enmity in God toward man.
The second thing which we shall consider as prored by the declaration of our text is, that the common opinion and doctrine of the church, which has represented the death of Christ as necessary in order to reconcile God to mankind is erroneous.
This error has been exposed and disproved in some of our former lectures, but as it is an error of such vast magnitude, involving such palpable absurdities, representing God as a changeable Being; and as it is so generally believed among various denominations, it seems proper to notice it in our discourse from the words under consideration, by which the error is so fully exploded.
The error under consideration supposes, that mankind in consequence of sin, was under the divine wrath of God, which required the endless misery of
wrath of God in room and stead of the sinner, by which God became reconciled and satisfied. The statement is made thus plain, that the hearer may have a distinct view of the subject, and be able to judge after hearing what may be offered on it.
That this testimony is by no means too high coloured may be seen by the following quotations from our hymns. But before we attend to the quotations, let it be observed, that we hold these hymns, in general, in high estimation, and the authors of them as bright and shining lights in the christian constellation ; but after all we are disposed to do ourselves justice by gathering the good into vessels. and by casting the bad away.
65 Once we were fallen, O how low!