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fully explained in the Gospel, and which was to this purpose: That, on condition of their sincere repentance, and sincere obedience afterwards, they should be restored to the favour of God; and, after death, to that life and happiness which in their state of innocence was promised to them without tasting of death, which favour they had forfeited by their disobedience.
And when we consider that our first parents, now become sinners, stood in need of an atonement, without which, while under the displeasure of God, their very lives must be a burden; and it being decreed by God, as it afterwards appeared, that without shedding of blood there was to be no remission of sin; that is, without the death of the sinner, or some one in his stead, we do therefore conclude that at this time God did appoint sacrifices, or sin-offerings, to make an atonement for the soul, and to foreshew the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (which we now commemorate) until He should be offered in behalf of them and all their posterity.
And this appears from what follows in the next chapter of Genesis, where we find Abel, by faith (that is, believing and depending upon this ordinance of God for the remission of sins until the promised Redeemer should come; we find him) offering a sacrifice which was acceptable to God; that is, a sin-offering, which his brother not doing was rejected.
But here take notice, and remember, that these sacrifices could not take away sin, but only through obedience to the ordinance of God, and through faith in the promised seed.
They were indeed very instructive, and proper to lead sinners to repentance and amendment of life, when they saw that their sins could not be forgiven
but by the death of an innocent creature, bleeding and dying before their eyes, to make an atonement for sin.
And as all good men, before the coming of Christ, did most religiously keep up the remembrance of the promised seed, and obtained the pardon of their sins and acceptance with God upon offering sacrifices through faith in a Redeemer which was to come, so all Christians since the coming of that Redeemer are obliged, as they hope for pardon and favour from God, to keep up the remembrance of God's great mercy in sending us a Redeemer, and of what that Redeemer has done to save us, and this in the manner which He Himself hath ordained.
Now, that you may be more sensible of and thankful to God for this His infinite loving-kindness, and that you may be fully convinced of the necessity and blessing of a Redeemer, you ought to know and consider that our Saviour and Redeemer came not until man had been tried in all conditions-IN A STATE OF INNOCENCE, UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF HIS OWN REASON, and UNDER THE LAW GIVEN BY Moses; all which methods of Providence, through the perverse will of man, had been rendered ineffectual for the amendment of the world. Notwithstanding which, such was the goodness of God, that He sent, after all, His own beloved Son to take our nature upon Him, and to assure mankind of the tender love which He had for His poor creatures, which were ruining themselves without perceiving the danger they were in.
This was the promised Seed; promised to Adam, as He that should break the serpent's head, or power of the devil; promised to Abraham, as He in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed ; promised to the people of Israel, as that Prophet whom they should
hear and obey at their peril; lastly, promised to David, as One whose kingdom should have no end. And indeed it was with this promise that God supported the spirits of all who feared Him, and were in fear for themselves, until the fulness of the time for His appearance should come.
And now this promised Redeemer being come, He first shewed by His own example, recorded in the Gospel, how men must live so as to please God; and the law of nature, as well as the law of Moses, having through sin been much obscured and perverted, He explained them, and gave us such other laws and rules as were absolutely necessary to mend our nature, to restore us to the image of God, to keep us from backsliding, and to fit us for heaven and happiness.
And because in the decrees of God, as was before observed, without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin, and it being impossible that the blood or life of any other creature, or of any mortal man, could take away the guilt and punishment due to sin, our gracious God, both to give to mankind the greatest token of His love, and at the same time to show how great His hatred to sin is, by the greatness of the punishment it required, He sent His own Son to be the propitiation for our sins; that is, to make satisfaction to His justice, and to take off the just displeasure which He had declared against sinners.
And His Son (blessed for ever be His goodness !) knowing how dreadfully sad the condition would be of all such who should live and die under the displeasure of God, and what inconceivable happiness they would deprive themselves of; He therefore, moved with compassion for so great a calamity, undertook to obtain their pardon.
In order to this, He clothed Himself with our flesh, that, as man, He might suffer what our sins had deserved ; and as He was the Son of God, He might make a full and suitable satisfaction to the divine Justice, offering Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and for the joy of delivering so many millions of souls from misery, He endured the death of the cross, and all the afflictions leading to it, which we find recorded in the gospel.
And by this worthy sacrifice all mankind are restored to the favour of God, and put into a way and state of salvation; God having, for His Son's sake, promised to pardon all such as shall repent and forsake their sins, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance; as also to give His Holy Spirit to all such as shall sincerely desire Him; and lastly, to make them eternally happy after death, if during this short state of trial, which is designed to mend our corrupt and disordered nature, they endeavoured to observe the rules which He has given them, and which are absolutely necessary to make them capable of heaven and happiness.
Stop here awhile, and adore the infinite goodness of God, who did not overlook lost mankind, but sent His Son to redeem us.
He might in strict justice have required men to live up to the law of nature and reason given in the state of innocence, on pain of being for ever separated from His presence ; but instead of that, He has been graciously pleased to accept of our sincere though imperfect obedience, and of our sincere repentance, when we have done amiss, and return to our duty.
Consider this seriously, and you cannot but express your thankfulness after some such manner as this
The Prayer. BLESSED be God for ever for this instance of His
love to fallen mankind, in committing the miserable case of His unhappy creatures to no less a person than His own Son! We are not worthy of all the mercies which Thou hast shewed Thy servants. Grant, () God, that this wonderful love may not be lost upon me; but that knowing my sad condition by nature, I may be truly convinced of the necessity and blessing of a Redeemer; and that I
may, with a heart full of gratitude, join with Thy Church in giving our devoutest thanks to Thee, and in keeping up the remembrance of what Thy blessed Son has done and suffered for us; to whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour, praise, and thanksgiving, for ever and ever. Amen.