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The most abandoned sinners, if they have been used to read and hear the word of God, can talk of such things as these. I have seldom known persons of this description but who have some such false hope, by which they quiet their minds amidst a career of iniquity. Twenty or thirty years ago, they will tell you, they were under strong convictions, and they had a promise; and have ever since had some hope that they should at last be saved; though they must confess that their life has been very far from what it should have been.
But the question will again be asked, In what way does God speak peace to his people; or say unto a soul, I am thy salvation?
If I were to answer, By bestowing gospel peace upon them, or enabling them to discern and approve the gospel way of salvation; it would be a just application of the passages where these expressions are found, and would accord with other scriptures. The Lord directs poor sinners, saying, Ask for the good old way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.' Jer. vi. 16. Our Lord takes up this language, and applies the good old way to himself, saying, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest to your souls.' Matt. xi. 28, 29. Thus it is by an approving view of God's way of salvation, such a view as leads us to walk in it, that we may obtain peace : and thus it is that God speaks peace to the soul, and says, I am thy salvation.
It is very indifferent by what means we are brought to embrace the gospel way of salvation, if we do but cordially embrace it. It may be by silent reflection, by reading or hearing the word, or by some suitable part of scripture occurring to the mind, by means of which the soul is led to see its lost condition, and the only door of hope opened by the gospel. There is such a harmony in divine truth, that a proper view of any one branch of it will lead on to a discovery of others; and such a connec
tion, that we cannot cordially approve of a part, but the whole will follow. And no sooner is the gospel in possession of the heart, but joy and peace will ordinarily accompany it; for if we behold the glory of God's way of saving sinners, and approve of it, we must in a greater or less degree be conscious of it; and knowing that the whole tenour of the new testament promises eternal life to believers, we cannot but conclnde ourselves interested in it. Believing on the Son of God, we are justified; and being thus justified, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom. v. 1.
APPLICATION OF ABSOLUTE PROMISES.
UPON what grounds may persons apply to themselves, or claim an interest in what are called absolute promises; such as Isai. xliii. 25. 'I, even I am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.'
The sense of this passage, like most others, requires to be ascertained from the context. God is addressing Jacob, or Israel as a nation, and reminding them of their great depravity: from whence he asserts, that all the mercy exercised towards them must be free or unmerited. God often spared them as a nation, when he might utterly have destroyed them, and must have done so, had he dealt with them according to their sins; and his thus remitting the punishment of their iniquity was a kind of national pardon. Num. xiv. 19, 20. Such a pardon was bestowed of God, for his own name's sake;' or as he often reminds them, out of regard to the covenant which he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and was extended equally to the godly and ungodly among them. To fulfil the promise which he had made to the patriarchs,
of preserving their posterity in being as a nation, till Shiloh the Messiah should come, it was necessary that many such national remissions should be bestowed; though multitudes among them were uninterested in such a pardon as is connected with eternal life.
If the forementioned passage includes any thing more than the above; if it comprehend such a forgiveness of sins as implies the special favour of God, it could belong to none but the godly among them. The truth taught in the passage will doubtless apply to them, and to all other godly persons; namely, that the forgiveness of their sins is wholly owing to the free grace of God. It is not for any thing in us, but for his own name's sake, that he saveth and calleth us, forgiveth and accepteth us. As to naming this an "absolute promise," all promises of spiritual blessings are in this sense absolute, though made to characters of a certain description; yet it is not on account of any goodness in them, but for his own name's sake, that every blessing is conferred. Where promises are addressed to particular characters, as in 1 John i. 9, 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins;' they are designed to point out the subjects interested in them, and to exhibit encouragements to return to God. Where no character is described, which is of a spiritual nature, as in the passage in question, the design is to point out the cause of salvation. But the scriptures ought to be taken together, and not in detached sentences. No person has a warrant to conclude himself interested in a promise, wherein God merely teaches the cause of forgiveness, unless he possess that contrition which leads him to confess and forsake his sins:' for this would be to have fellowship with him, while we walk in darkness. 1 John i. 6. Prov. xxviii. 13.
Still it is enquired, What use may the people of God in all ages make of those promises and declarations of scripture, which were made to particular persons on special occasions? As thy day is, so shall thy strength
be-The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms-I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee-When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.' Deut. xxxiii. 25, 27. Josh. i. 5. Isai. xliii. 2.
I answer, examine the truth contained in each of the promises, and try whether it fairly applies to your particular case, as well as theirs to whom it was originally addressed. General truths, or truths of general use, are often delivered in scripture to particular persons, and on special occasions. If the above passages were originally addressed to men considered as the people of God in the highest sense, that is, to the truly godly among the Israelites, they are equally applicable to the people of God in all ages of time, when placed in similar circumstances. Or if otherwise, if they had an immediate reference to God's providential care over Israel as a nation, still it is just to reason from the less to the greater. Dear as that nation was to God, yet Israelites indeed,' the spiritual children of Abraham, are still more so. That therefore, which to them would contain only blessings of an earthly nature, to the others would include blessings spiritual, heavenly, and without end. There is nothing in any of of these passages that I recollect, but what in other parts of scripture is abundantly promised to all the people of God in all ages of time. It is therefore consistent with the whole tenor of God's word, that christians, through patience and comfort of such promises of holy scripture, might have hope.
I shall add one thing, which may afford assistance to some who are desirous of knowing whether they have an interest in the divine promises. If the blessing contained in any promise of a spiritual nature be such as to meet your desires; if you be willing to receive it in the way that God bestows it; if you would prefer this blessing, could you but obtain it, above any thing and every thing of a worldly nature, it is undoubtedly your own: for every one that thirsteth is welcome to the waters of life.
THE LIFE OF FAITH,
Exemplified in Prosperity and Adversity.
I HAVE here two religious characters, who were inti
mately acquainted in early life. Providence favoured one of them with á tide of prosperity. The other fearing for his friend, lest his heart should be overcharged with the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, one day asked him, whether he did not find prosperity a snare to him. He paused and answered, "I am not conscious that I do for I enjoy God in all things." Some years after, his affairs took another turn: he lost, if not the whole, yet the far greater part of what he had gained, and was greatly reduced. His old friend being one day in his company, renewed his question, whether he did not find the trials which had lately befallen him, to be too much for him. Again he paused and answered, "I am not conscious that I do: for now I enjoy all things in God." This was truly a life of faith. I never recollect to have met with any thing in merely human writings, that bears a nearer resemblance to the spirit of this anecdote, than certain passages in the life of "Miss Susanna Anthony.'
Memoirs of Miss Anthony of Newport, Rode Island, were compiled by Dr. Hopkins, and reprinted in England in 1801, with a Recommendatory Preface by Mr. Fuller, which was also signed by Dr. Ryland and Mr. Sutcliffe. The last paragraph in this preface contains the following just conclusion. "No serious christian, we apprehend, can read the Life of Miss Anthony, without perceiving the sweetness and importance of heavenly things; and but few, if any, without being convinced by it of their own defects. It affords a singulár specimen of the powerful influence of evangelical principles upon the heart and life; which, while it brings home to the bosom a proof of their divinity, must provoke the christian reader to emulate the same holy and happy attainments, walking by the same rule, and minding the same thing." ED.