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period of their history. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We are brought very low, by the sin of our first parents and by our own actual transgressions, and all have need of pardoning mercy. Let us consider these points in the order in which they stand, and may that God who is rich in mercy, lead us to seek pardon and acceptance in his own appointed way.
1st. That we have all sinned against a holy and righteous God, no man who reads the holy Scriptures, or looks into his own heart, will venture to deny. Consider what we were in paradise, what we have become since the fall of Adam, and what we may be, restored to the favour of God in Christ Jesus our Saviour. As to actual personal transgression, the only safe and certain method by which we can ascertain our state before God, is to compare our past lives with the word of God. That holy word requires unerring obedience. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Where then shall the man be found who
can stand before God in his own righteousness? If he attempts it, he must fail. Even an apostle could say, “ When I would do good, evil is present with me.” His heart will bring to his recollection many sad transgressions of the perfect law of God : and in correspondence with that heart will be the word of God, if an awakened conscience speaks the truth. Prophets and apostles will confess the same truth -“ We are all as an unclean thing.' We have all gone out of the way. We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep; or, as the Prophet Isaiah expresses the same sentiment, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.
" Who then can say I have made mine heart clean?” “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." Such were the confessions of the most eminent servants of God! Not of wild enthusiasts, but of sober, spirituallyminded men; but with their confessions are always coupled prayers for divine assistance, and especially for a desire to be cleansed from their sins. “
Wash me,” says
the same psalmist, “and I shall be whiter than snow.
Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.' In the margin of our Bibles our text is thus rendered, “O remember not against us former iniquities, or the iniquities of them that went before us,"_which evidently includes original as well as actual sin. But all these have been atoned for by the cross and passion, sufferings and perfect righteousness of the ever-blessed Son of God. For when the prophet says, we like sheep have gone astray, or have turned every one to his own way;" it is immediately added, “ but the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.” The atonement for sin has been made, but the great question is, whether we are accepting the atonement, and by faith applying it to ourselves, and by obedience proving that we have so received it. In the sacred Scriptures we meet with such expressions as these : “ I have blotted out as a cloud thy transgressions, and as a thick cloud thy sins ; return unto me, for I have redeemed thee."
“ The Lord hath put away
thy sin ; thou shalt not die.” The Lord God Almighty is represented to us throughout the whole of the Old Testament as far more willing to pardon the sins of his people than they are to seek forgiveness at his hands. Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee."
It is such a revelation of the will of God as this, which can alone support the soul in the hour of trial; because, when we build upon a promise, we come before God, not at an uncertainty, nor thinking and conjecturing, and building upon our own hopes; but we come pleading a divine promise, and relying upon that word which can never deceive nor disappoint us. Therefore it is, that the psalmist follows up the words of my text with such a sentiment as this ---" Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name, and
purge away our sins for thy name sake. Not for our merits, but for thy righteousness : not for our merits, but for the multitude of thy mercies.”
When, therefore, as sinful beings we come to stand before a God of holiness, we should be filled with shame and fear, almost approaching to despondency, did we
not see God as he is described in sacred Scripture, as a merciful God: merciful, not according to some vague notions of mercy, but merciful according to a plan of wisdom which he himself has revealed. “O remember not against us former iniquities; let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us, for we are brought very low.”
We have thus seen the absolute need which we have of divine mercy; the way in which it should be sought; the readiness of our gracious God to pardon ; and the solid ground upon which the penitent sinner rests, when he stands upon the word and promise of the Lord Jehovah. As Christians we see the fulness of this
grace; we are permitted to behold the Son of God taking upon him our nature, visiting this lower world, dying “ the just for the unjust, that he might bring us
to God.” Here mercy is embodied-here God himself interposes. He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Everything which the wandering sheep could need to bring him back to the fold in safety, has been done for him by the good Shep