WHAT WILL GIVE PERMANENT PEACE TO A SOUL CONVICTED OF SIN.
Jer. vi. 14.—"They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace."
Luke vii. 48—50.—" And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also ? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."
What will restore peace to a guilty conscience ? This is a great and grave question in philosophy and in religion. It is a question which there is abundant occasion to ask in our world; a question of interest to every man—for every man is a sinner. The answer to this question will introduce us to the provisions made in the gospel, and to the harmony of those provisions with the laws of our mental operations.
The immediate question before us now is, What will give permanent peace to a soul convicted of sin ? That is, What is demanded by the laws of mind in order that a soul disturbed and agitated with the remembrance of guilt, and apprehensive of punishment, should find peace ? This might be prosecuted as a mere inquiry of mental philosophy. It is my business, however, while I shall be compelled to regard it, in some measure, in this light, to prosecute it mainly with reference to the provisions made in the gospel to meet the case.
The natural division of the subject is this:—I. On what do men naturally rely in that state of mind to obtain peace ? And, II. What is necessary in any true system of religion to furnish permanent peace ? The consideration of the first will make it necessary to show the inefficacy of the methods resorted to by men without the gospel. The consideration of the second will prepare us to show that the gospel has revealed a plan which accords with the laws of our nature, and which is effectual. The first of these points is suggested by the text from Jeremiah: " They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." The second by the text in Luke—the case of the penitent female who came to the Saviour, and washed his feet with her tears, and to whom he said, " Thy sins are forgiven ; thy faith hath saved thee : go in peace."
The case which we are to consider is that of a convicted sinner; and the first inquiry relates to the methods which are commonly employed to obtain peace, and the inefficacy of those methods. In prosecuting this inquiry, we may lay out of view the two following things, as matters which cannot be affected by any plan :—
(1.) The fact that the sin has been committed cannot be changed. That is to remain historically true for ever. The murder has been done; the property has been stolen; the act of seduction has been perpetrated ; the words of blasphemy have gone out of the mouth ; the feeling of pride, envy, malice, hatred, lust, ambition, has been in the heart. Nothing now can change the fact, whatever may be done in regard to it, or however it may be disposed of. There it is in history, and there it will be for ever. No plan of salvation, human or Divine, can change that; not even God can make it otherwise than it is.
(2.) The sin cannot be so forgotten as to make that a ground of peace. It may indeed have never been known to many; and it may pass away from the recollection of many who do know it. But by Him who is most interested in it—the " Lord of the conscience"—it is not, and cannot be forgotten; and we can never find permanent peace in any plan which proceeds on the presumption that he will not remember it, or that it is not recorded in his book. And as little can we find permanent peace in any plan which presumes that we ourselves shall forget it. We cannot flatter ourselves with any such hope or assurance, for it remains yet to he proved that any sin that man has ever committed is permanently effaced from his own memory, or that he may not be in circumstances in which it may be recalled with all its original power.
Laying these, therefore, out of view, the inquiry returns as to the methods to which men sometimes resort to give peace to the mind when troubled with the recollection of guilt.
Those methods may be reduced to the following classes:—
(1.) To regard the mind, when in such a state, as morbid ■or diseased, and to apply remedies rather of a physical nature to heal it, than of a moral nature to make it pure. The mind is contemplated rather in its relation to the nervous system than to the moral law, and the thing to be done is to restore health to the physical frame, and through that by sympathy to the soul, rather than to adopt any measures to give peace to a troubled conscience or to a guilty mind as such. The account given of one in that state by himself would be, that he is lowspirited, dejected, and sad, rather than that he is guilty; and the aim would be the restoration to health of the bodily functions rather than the treatment of a guilty conscience.
(2.) To divert the mind to other than gloomy thoughts:— the thoughts of sin, of death, and of the judgment. The pleasant scenes of nature, poetry, romance, travel, social enjoyments, gaiety—any or all of these would occur as adapted to calm the troubled soul, and to turn the thoughts to objects of more pleasant contemplation.
(3.) To conceal the convictions, with the hope that time, which " does wonders," will restore the mind to peace. It is hoped that these troublesome thoughts will gradually die away ; perhaps that.by assuming a cheerful external manner there will be a reflex influence on the soul itself, and that it may be restored to peace—that thus by the cheerfulness of the countenance the heart may be made less sad.
(4.) To suppress these convictions by a direct mental effort; to assume the attitude of self-government, and to resolve to be one's own master. A direct warfare is thus made on the sources of trouble, and the mind summons to itself all the power of an " iron will," and resolves not to be serious—not to yield—not to be converted.
(5.) To these methods a fifth may be added—which is, that of embracing some views of religion which affirm that the soul need not be alarmed; which teach that sin is not so great an evil as it is represented to be; and which suppose that there is no ground for apprehension in regard to the world to come: that God is so merciful that he will not punish hereafter, or rather, as the doctrine is embraced in the view of the mind, that he is so just that he will not send one of his creatures to a world of woe, and that, therefore, there need be no alarm.
I proceed now to consider these things with reference to the inquiry whether they can give permanent peace to a soul agitated with the conviction of guilt. I do not deny that they may give temporary peace, and that often under their influence the agitations of the soul subside, and that the mind becomes again for a time calm, joyous, gay. But that is not the question which I wish to consider; that is not a question which it is of much importance to consider. The true inquiry is, What is the proper and effectual way of meeting the convictions of guilt in the mind ; what is the way to produce permanent peace ? Are these the true methods ?
Now, in reply to this question, I have the following remarks to make:—
(1.) This is not the high and honourable method which a man should take in regard to his own sins. If a man is to be saved, he should be saved in a manner consistent with a due self-respect, and so that he can feel that he has met the great questions which have come before him in an open, frank, manly, and dignified manner. But it does not accord with this to attempt to conceal his true character; to regard the conviction of guilt as the fruit of imbecility, or of a morbid state of mind; to attempt to divert the mind to other subjects as if this were not worthy of his attention; to assume an aspect of gaiety in order to conceal what is within ; or to embrace an opinion merely to evade the necessity of a frank acknowledgment of what is true. Sin should always be dealt with as a serious matter, and a man —one who is worthy the name of a man—should always be willing to look candidly at his own real character and condition. Crime is not to be treated as a disease—for it is not a disease ; conviction of guilt is not to be regarded as a nervous excitement, or as morbid melancholy—for it is neither. When a man is made to feel that he is a sinner before God, the fact is worthy of his profound attention, for it may have higher bearings than he can yet understand. There is nothing that is more likely to be followed with important results than a conviction of guilt, and no question can be more important for him to settle than this:—how can a man in that state find permanent and solid peace ?
(2.) My next remark is, that none of these methods furnish any security of permanent peace. I say "permanent peace," for "hat is what we are inquiring after; that is what any true system of religion must furnish. And by permanent peace I mean such a disposal of guilt that it shall not rise up hereafter to trouble or annoy us; that we shall be free from all the penalties which it incurs; and that the mind can contemplate that very act of guilt without the harrowing feeling of remorse, and without the apprehension of the wrath of God. Now 1 say that none of these methods give such peace to a troubled conscience. The reasons for this affirmation I can present in such a manner as to be applicable to each and all of them.
(a) One is, that this very method of meeting the case may be itself a source of great misery to the mind. Nature, as we shall see, demands that when a wrong is done it should be confessed —that the burden should be thrown off by acknowledgment— and that relief should be sought by repairing the wrong done, or by seeking forgiveness from the offended party. To conceal guilt in the mind ; to attempt to evade these laws of our nature ; to refuse to make these acknowledgments, is often a source of the keenest torture, and the burden by that very means often becomes intolerable. Who knows not how the concealed consciousness of guilt may prey upon the soul—a gangrene ever eating—destroying the health and spirits—taking away the fire from the eye, and the colour from the cheek, and filling the whole soul with sadness ? And who knows not that, however successful such an attempt may sometimes be, the pressure may become so great as to make life a burden, and compel the guilty man to go and make confession, whatever may be the result, whether pardon or death? We have a striking illustration of this thought in the experience of the author of one of the Psalms. It relates to an attempt which he made to suppress his convictions of sin, and to the result of a long refusal to make acknowledgment. " When I kept silence," says he, " my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I said"—that is, then I said—"I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance," Psa. xxxii. 3—7. If a man wishes to make himself miserable he has only to make ■war on his own conscience, and to repress his convictions of guilt by a violation of the laws of his own nature.
(6) Another reason why this course will not secure permanent peace is, that the things which trouble the mind when under conviction for sin are of a permanent character, and the distress may be revived at any moment. By the methods referred to you may allay the distress for a time, and may give to the mind temporary peace, but there is no security that all this anguish may not in an instant revisit the soul. Conviction of sin grows out of the laws of our nature when we have done wrong, and all which contributes to produce that conviction is of a permanent character. The law of God which condemns the sin is permanent, and always sustains the same relation to sin. Conscience is a permanent part of our moral nature, and though for a time it may be silenced, yet it is never to die out, and its rebukes may be as scathing and blasting at any future period as they are now. The Spirit of God is always the same, and at any period of your future being may call up the recollection of crime as well as now. Memory in all the future is to do its work as well as now, and it may as faithfully recall your sins at any period hereafter as it does now. You are at some time, and at no distant period, to die; and wken death approaches, the grave may appear as gloomy, and the judgment,bar as formidable, as they do now. The fires of hell arc not extinguished because men choose not now to think of that dreadful world, and in a moment on a bed of death all the horizon may be lighted up with lurid flames flashing from the lake of fire. To turn away from these truths; or to refuse to think of them; or to render the conscience callous to the appeals of truth, changes none of these things, and can give no permanent peace to the soul. Sooner or later all the questions which grow out of sin, and its relations to God, are to be met, and it does not dispose of the matter to attempt to forget it or to drive it from the mind.
(e) And another reason why this does not give permanent peace, and should not be relied on, is, that these thoughts which, now give so much trouble to the sinner may revive in circumstances in which you will be much less able to calm them down than you may be at present. As you cannot prevent their returning at some time hereafter, so you cannot prevent their returning at any time, and at a season when you will be least of all capable of grappling with them. They will be quite as likely to return when you are lying on a sick bed, as when in the enjoyment of vigorous health; when standing on the verge of the eternal world, and when the affairs of this life are over, as when occupied with great questions of business or ambition. The mind then—when the body is prostrate with disease—will be in a condition less favourable to calm down these feelings than it is now, and in that state all the pressure of this terrible conviction of guilt may come back more heavily upon the soul. Then, too, not improbably, all the attempts which you now make to persuade yourself that conviction of sin is connected with a nervous temperament; or that sin is a trifle not worth regarding ; or that the sinner has no reason for alarm under the administration of a benevolent God ; or that the mind may find permanent peace in driving away its serious thoughts, will be seen to have been " refuges of lies." If a man is to grapple with the convictions of guilt; if he is ever to take hold of the great question how an immortal soul, conscious of depravity, may find peace, it is better that it should be done when he is in health than when he is enfeebled by disease ; in the days when he can take up such a question calmly, and in the exercise of his best powers, than in the hour when he feels that he has but a few moments more to breathe, and when his soul is riven and agitated with the thoughts of the coming judgment.
Such are some of the reasons why the methods resorted to by men to give permanent peace to a conscience troubled by the remembrance of guilt must be inefficacious. The sum of what I have said is this:—These methods do not dispose of the subject. They do not meet it as so great and grave a question should bo met. They do not consult the laws of our nature. They do not put the matter to rest. They do not give security that all the anguish arising from conscious guilt may not, and will not revisit the soul, and in circumstances in which it will be more difficult to meet it than now. Guilt loses none of its power by distance, or by age, or by circumstances ; and none of these methods tend to diminish its permanent power, or to furnish permanent security to the soul.
You may apply these remarks, if you wish an illustration, to any case of guilt. You may see their force, for instance, in a case of murder. The crime that has been committed is a fact that cannot now be changed. Whatever disposal is made of it, it is to remain true for ever that the guilty man■ did imbrue his hands in the blood of a fellow-mortal, in violation of the law of God. That fact can never be forgotten by him who preserves the record of human deeds; it is never to be forgotten by him who has committed the crime. And it does not meet the case to treat the trouble and anguish which the mind feels in view of it as the effect of nervous excitement, or to attempt to divert the mind from the subject by the business or the amusements of life; or to conceal the convictions of guilt with the hope that they will die away; or to attempt to discipline the soul so as to banish serious thoughts ; or to adopt the opinion that the murderer has nothing to fear under the government of a benevolent God ; or to suppose that amends may be made by a correct life afterwards; or to flee to distant lands with the hope of going out of the reach of these convictions; or to hope that age will calm down these troubles, and that time, that " does wonders," will wipe the blood from the hand, and the memory of the deed from the soul. None of these things meet the case. No matter where the murderer wanders or rests—no matter what is his condition or employment, there is a record made on high of the deed; and though he flees over sea and land, and crosses deserts or snows, and though he should live far on beyond the age of the oldest man that has walked the earth, or become like the fabled " wandering Jew," the crime would never be forgotten or changed ; but the hand of justice would be stretched out to strike, and in the ends of the earth, and in the most distant years, the act of guilt would have lost none of its freshness in its power to torture the soul. Guilt lives and lingers, and the sinner can never go beyond its power.
These things which I have considered are the methods of human wisdom and philosophy, and beyond these human wisdom cannot go in calming down the convictions of guilt.
II. I proceed, then, in the second place, to consider the great question, What is needful to be done to meet the case, and whether the plan proposed in the gospel is such as the case demands ? The first great inquiry is, what is necessary in the case—and this inquiry is large enough and important enough to occupy the remainder of the present discourse. I shall state, in as few words as possible, what the laws of our mental constitution demand.
In securing permanent peace to a guilty conscience, then, it seems clear to me that the following things are indispensable :—
(1.) The laws of our nature must be understood and consulted in that plan. No plan proposing peace can be effectual which is not based on a sound mental philosophy, and which would not be adapted to produce the effect in all ages, among all people, and in all lands. It must be adapted to man as he is—endowed with reason, and conscience, and memory, and the faculty of anticipating the future. If those laws are not consulted, the plan would be what one prophet so significantly calls " daubing with untempered mortar" (Ezek. xiii. 10, 15), or what another, as in my text, calls crying " Peace, peace; when there is no peace." The great defect in all human schemes of salvation has been that those laws have not been consulted, or that, if known, it has been impossible for man to deviso a method that should meet what they demand.
It would detain us too long from points more immediately bearing on the subject, if I should in this place enter on any attempt to prove to you that what I have now laid down is correct. These laws are permanent. They exist everywhere. They are found in all men, in all lands,■ at all times. Amidst all the variety of character, of language, of rank, of colour, of condition on earth, men feel guilt in the same way, and the same thing is necessary to restore peace, and any true system of religion must be adapted to the laws of our being, and must consult them. Further: every true system must come from God; and he, the Maker of the soul, must consult the laws of the soul which he has made. A true system of religion, therefore, must be in accordance with correct views of mental philosophy; and although no mere system of philosophy can suggest what is necessary in imparting peace to a guilty mind, yet a true system when suggested will be seen to be in accordance with the laws of our mental nature. They to whom a system of religion, therefore, is proposed, have a right to thmand that it shall meet the real wants of their nature; that it shall be in accordance with their conscious mental structure ; and that it shall be such that, in accordance with the laws of the soul, it shall be fitted to impart permanent peace. On this principle any proposed system of religion may be tested, and whatever might be supposed to be its external evidence, it could not be from God, and therefore not true, unless it accorded with the laws of our being. Keeping this obvious remark in view, I observe,
(2.) That in order that a guilty conscience may find peace, there must be a frank and open confession of sin,—confession made to the One who has been wronged, or whose law has been violated. This is a law of our nature—a law which cannot bo departed from in any true system of religion. The mind is so made that it cannot find permanent peace by any device, unless the wrong which has been done is acknowledged, or while there is an attempt to " cloke or conceal our offences," or any effort to excuse or palliate them. We feel instinctively that we have not done what we ought to do, when we have not made a full and open acknowledgment of the wrong which we have done, whether against God or against men.
It requires but little experience in the world, and but little knowledge of human nature, to understand the relief which is furnished when we have done wrong, if we make confession of the wrong. All of ns who have in childhood done wrong to father, mother, brother, sister, playmate—and who of us has not ?—or, who in riper years have done Wrong in some way to others, whether friends or foes—and who of us has not ?—have known something of the anguish, and corrosion, and trouble of heart which is produced by an attempt to conceal the offence; to gloss it over with a low and lame apology; or to shelter ourselves under a miserable refuge of prevarication and falsehood. And all of us who have done wrong, and who have gone to him whom we offended, and made a frank and full acknowledgment, have known the peace which flows from such a confession. We have felt, in the one case, that a law of our nature has been violated; in the other, that that law has been complied with: and in the latter case, whatever may be the result of the confession—whether we obtain forgiveness or not—we feel that we have done right, and we have relieved ourselves of an intolerable burden. Even should nothing more be done; should he whom we have injured coldly turn away; should he utterly refuse to forgive us, or even to speak to us again, yet in the very act of confession we have found a relief which could never have been obtained by concealment, or by an attempt to apologize for the offence.
This law of our nature demands that the confession should be made to no third person, but to the one who has been offended. When a child has sinned against his father, it will not do for him to go and make confession to the son of a neighbour, or to his own brothef, or even to his own mother. It would not have met the case for the prodigal son to resolve to go home and make humble acknowledgment of his folly to his own brother, or even to his mother. Nature prompted him to go as he did to his injured father, and to say, " Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." So, when we have sinned against God, it will not do to go and make the confession to any man, whoever he may be, or whatever robes he may wear. I know that this great principle may be perverted, as all the laws of our nature may be. I know that if this strong prompting of a guilty soul to make confession can be put under the control of a priesthood; if instead of making the confession to that God whose law has been violated, the right is claimed of having it made to men consecrated to the sacred office, that no higher power can be wielded than that. And I know that this power may be so seized upon, and that there may be such confidence reposed in one invested with the priestly office, that temporary peace may be imparted to the guilty; but this is not to comply with the laws of our nature. This does not give permanent peace. The power of receiving a confession of sins committed against God has never been delegated to anyone of his creatures, and all claim of such a right is a usurpation of the prerogative of the Almighty. The Being who has been offended alone can pardon, and he only can receive the confession on which pardon can be based.
It was necessary in any true system of religion, that provision should be made for producing peace in the soul by such confession made to God. Hence, in the Bible, we have such statements as these: " He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," 1 John i. 8, 9. " I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face," Hos. v. 15. " While I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.—I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin," Psa. xxxii. 3, 5. " Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," Psa. li. 4. And in accordance with this it is said, " With the mouth confession is made unto salvation," Pom. x. 10.
(3.) The law of our nature demands that in order that peace may be imparted to a guilty conscience there should be forgiveness. A partial and temporary peace may, indeed, be found by confession, as we have just seen ; but full and permanent peace can never be found except by pardon.
We have seen that the fact of the guilt can never be changed. That is always to remain historically true. We have seen that it can never be forgotten:—forgotten by the God whose law has been violated; forgotten by him who has violated it. But though it cannot be historically changed, and cannot be forgotten, it may be forgiven; and the inquiry now is, how that can give peace. I do not now inquire how it may be known that it is forgiven—that may be a subject of inquiry hereafter; but how it is that pardon produces peace, and why it is indispensable that there should be forgiveness in order to permanent peace.
What shall be done with sin when it is committed, is always a great and grave question—a question too great to enter on now. What I wish now to say is, that pardon is essential to the attainment of peace.
(a) The laws of our nature demand this; and by the laws of our nature, when an offence is forgiven, we have peace. The feelings of a man who is pardoned will not, indeed, be precisely the same which he would have if he had never done wrong. In the one case there is a calm, approving conscience; a steady and undisturbed joy ; an habitual tranquillity;—in the other, it ia a peace which follows a troubled state of mind:—the one, the calmness of nature in a May morning, when the dew lies undisturbed on the grass—the other, the beauty of nature after the tempest has passed by and the sun breaks out from behind the dark, retiring cloud. But in each instance there is the appropriate kind of peace; and when a man has done wrong, the peace which flows from pardon is all that he can hope for, and is all that in fact he needs. It may be less calm, and steady, and uniform, than that which results from the consciousness of having always done right; but it may be more intense, and rapturous, and thrilling. The ocean is more sublime when its waves subside after a storm, than it is when its placid waters have not been disturbed by a tempest.
(4) When an offence is pardoned, all is done in regard to it which can he, and all which need to be, to give peace to the mind. It is true that as an historical fact it cannot be changed ; it is true that it may never be literally forgotten by him against whom the offence was committed, or by him who committed it, but all has been done that can be to dispose of it. He against whom it was committed, and who pardoned it, is satisfied in regard to it. He has no wish to retain the recollection of it. The fact of our having sinned against him is not henceforward to affect his feelings towards us. The offence is not to be recalled for purposes of punishment, or to separate us from his favour and friendship, or to mortify and humble us. The child that is forgiven by a parent is to be treated in all respects as a child; the friend as a friend ; the enemy as if he had not been an enemy. We may be humbled, indeed, at the memory of the sin which we have committed, but it will not be because he against whom we sinned has a pleasure in reminding us of it; we may still feel the natural effects of a former evil course of life, but they will not be the direct infliction of a penalty. Peace results necessarily from the fact that the sin is forgiven; and if it is not forgiven, and forgiven by him against whom the offence was committed—for no one else can forgive it—it is impossible that the mind ever should find peace.
In the life of our Saviour, as is recorded in one of the passages on which this discourse is founded, it is said that on one occasion he went into the house of a Pharisee, at his invitation, to " cat with him." As he reclined at the table, a female, whose life had been eminently depraved, came near him weeping, and washed his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. She poured out before him the strong expressions of penitence and love, and the. Saviour had compassion on her, and said, " Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven. And they that sat with him at the table began to say, Who is this that forgiveth sins also ? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee ; go in peace .'" Go in peace she would when these gracious words fell on her ear, for that was all that was wanted to give peace to her troubled soul. Need we speak of the peace of the man who has been sentenced to death for crime, and who, trembling in view of his own guilt, and of the awful death before him, sees the doors of his cell thrown open, and himself permitted to go forth to life and freedom ? Need we speak of the ioy of an offending child, whose father has frankly forgiven him ? All over the world there is no more certain method of imparting happiness, than to declare to an offender the fact that he is forgiven; to say to the guilty that his sins shall be remembered no more. When that is done, the soul that was before like the troubled ocean, " whose waters cast up mire and dirt," settles down into calm repose—as the waves of the sea of Tiberias did when the Saviour rose from his pillow in the storm, and said,*Peace ; be still."
(4.) There is one other thing that is to be provided for in any system that shall give peace to a conscience troubled by guilt. It is, that the act of pardon shall be consistent with the honour, and the truth, and the justice of him who grants it. It is not to be obtained by a bribe; it is not to be in any way connected with dishonour. A man with any just views and principles would not wish to be pardoned, or could not find peace if he were pardoned, if the act were to break up the government, or weaken the authority of law. It may be said, indeed, that this is not commonly an element taken into consideration by one who is applying for pardon. This may be: and yet there are cases in which it would be taken into consideration, and there are cases where it must be; and in all it would materially affect the views which we have on being forgiven. The heart of a child, though he were forgiven, would be deeply grieved, if in his case the act of pardon should bring his father into disgrace: if, for example, his father were a magistrate, and if pardon should be extended at the expense of justice, and at the sacrifice of all the claims of law. And still more true is this in the matter of salvation. Much as we desire to be forgiven and to be saved, we do not wish to enter heaven over a prostrated law, or over an humbled government;—in any way in which law, and truth, and justice will be disregarded; in any way in which the honour of God will not be promoted. Joy and peace there would be in pardon; but that joy and peace would be greatly augmented if we could see that, in the very act of forgiveness, all had been done that was needful to be done to maintain the Divine truth and justice unimpaired, and if, while God forgave, his justice and his truth only shone forth more gloriously by the very act.
These things, it seems to me, are essential in any plan for restoring peace to a conscience troubled by guilt. Whether they are to be found provided for in the way of salvation revealed in the gospel, will be a subject of future inquiry.
The sum of what I have said now, so far as it may be of practical value to one in the state of mind which I have supposed —that of■ a sinner troubled with the remembrance of guilt—can be expressed in few words:—
(«) Peace is not to be found by an attempt to change the historical fact that you have sinned, or by forgetting it.
(6) Peace is not to be found by driving serious impressions from your minds.
(c) Peace is not to be found by mingling in gay .scenes, and by attempting to divert the mind from the contemplation of such subjects as sin, death, the grave, eternity.
(d) Peace is not to be found by embracing any false views of religion, or any doctrines which deny the fact of human guilt and danger.
(e) Peace is to be found only by making a simple, honest, frank, and full confession of sin to the God whose law has been violated, and against whom the wrong has been done.
(/) Peace is to be found by obtaining from him a full and free pardon: from Him—not from any man pretending to speak in his name.
(</) Peace is to be found in some way in which it can be seen that pardon is not inconsistent with justice—that mercy is not at war with truth—that compassion for the sinner is not inconsistent with hatred of his sin—and that the forgiveness and salvation of any number of offenders is not inconsistent with the stability of just government, and the maintenance of the honour of law.
All these conditions, we think, meet in that plan revealed in the gospel by which " God can be just, and the justifler of him that believeth in Jesus ;" and to him who is penitent, and who believes in that gospel, the Saviour, not in mockery, but in sincerity, says now as he did to the penitent female, " Thy sins are forgiven; go in peace."