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has a passage much to our purpose. He represents the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, adressing his people in the following manner : 'As I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.'* Here we have not only the word, but the oath of Jehovah, in attestation to the glorious truth. And if these fail,
"The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
But why should I multiply testimonies, when we find the apostle of the Gentiles, having this glorious truth full in his view, is bold to challenge every enemy, and to defy every danger. What less can be the import of that heroic language, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? Who shall condemn? If the blessing of pardon were ever to be reversed-if a sinner having been once acquitted from the condemnation, should again come under the curse and be liable to perish, there would be but a slender foundation for such bold and confident expressions."
Such is the nature and such the properties of divine forgiveness-even of that forgiveness which is the purchase of Immanuel's pains, and the price of redeeming blood. The doctrine of pardon is an essential branch and a capital article of that truth which is, by way of eminence, called the gospel. For the cheering language of that heavenly message is, ' Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this illustrious Jesus is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.' Such is the import of the evangelical testimony, and the glorious blessing is received by faith in the dying Redeemer. To him give all
*Isa. liv. 9, 10.
the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive the remission of sins.'* Believing the infallible record which God has given of his own Son, we receive the atonement. The propitiating blood of Christ is sprinkled on our hearts, pardon is applied to our consciences, and peace enjoyed in our souls.
Nor is it any objection against the truth advanced, that the Lord lays his chastening hand on the objects of this forgiveness. For though he does afflict and correct them, and frequently with some degree of severity, on account of their backslidings, disobedience, and ingratitude; yet these chastisements and corrections are instances and evidences of his paternal affection for them, and constant care over them. And they have the strongest assurances, that he will never take from them his loving-kindness, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail.'
Nor is it any way inconsistent with the doctrine maintained, that believers are expressly commanded to pray for the pardon of sin, and that his command has been frequently exemplified in the conduct of the most eminent saints, whose lives and characters are recorded in the Holy Scriptures. For, to use the words of a learned author, very frequently when the saints pray, either for the forgiveness of their own or others sins, their meaning is, that God would, in a providential way, deliver them out of present distress; remove his afflicting hand which lies heavy upon them; or avert those judgments which seem to hang over their heads, and very much threaten them; which when he does, is an indication of his having pardoned them. We are to understand many petitions of Moses, Job, Solomon, and others, in this sense.+ Besides, when believers now pray for the pardon of sin, their meaning is, that they might have the sense, the manifestation and application of pardoning grace to their souls. We are not to imagine that as often as Exod. xxxii. 32. Numb, xiv. 19, 20. Job vii. 21. 1 Kings, viii. 30. 34. 36. 39. 50,
* Acts x. 43.
the saints sin, repent, confess their sins, and pray for the forgiveness of them, that God makes and passes new acts of pardon. But whereas they daily sin against God, grieve his Spirit, and wound their own consciences; they have need of the fresh sprinklings of the blood of Jesus, and of renewed manifestations of pardon to their soul; and it is both their duty and their interest to attend the throne of grace on this account.'*
How glorious, then, is that 'forgiveness which is with God,' that pardon I have been describing! It has every requisite to make it complete in itself, and suitable for the indigent, miserable sinner. It has not one discouraging circumstance attending it, in the least to forbid the most guilty, or the most unworthy, applying to the ever-merciful Jehovah for it. Cheering, charming, ravishing truth! It is full, free, and everlasting, every way complete and worthy of God. It was absolutely necessary to the peace of our consciences, and the salvation of our souls, that it should be of such unlimited extent, of such unmerited freeness, and of such everlasting efficacy. Less than this would not have supplied our wants, or served our purpose. If it had not been full, taking in every kind and every degree of sin, we must have suffered the punishment due to some part of it ourselves, and then we had been lost for ever. If it had not been entirely free, we could never have enjoyed the inestimable blessing; for we have nothing, nor can we do any thing to purchase it, or qualify for it. And if it had not been everlasting, never to be reversed, we should have been under continual anxiety and painful apprehensions lest God should recal the blessing, when once bestowed, on account of our present unworthiness or future failings. But, being possessed of these properties, none, no not the vilest, have any reason, desponding, to say, 'My sins, alas! are too many and great for me to expect a pardon.' None have any cause to complain: I long for the bless* Dr. Gill's two Discourses on Prayer and Singing, p. 17, 18.
ing, it is dearer to me than all worlds; but my strong corruptions and utter unworthiness render me incapable of ever enjoying it.' Nor have any the least occasion to fear, after the comfortable enjoyment of the superlative privilege, lest they should forfeit it, and again come under condemnation and wrath. 'What shall we then say to these things? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound' in a perfect pardon? 'God forbid!' So to act would, if possible, be worse than devilish, and more than damnable. Rather let the pardoned criminal say-yes, he will say, with the warmest gratitude, Bless the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me, bless his holy name, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies.'
Before I conclude this momentous part of my subject, I would beg leave to transcribe a few lines from a celebrated author in the last century, celebrated not more for his very superior learning than for his great penetration in spiritual things, and experience in the Christian life. Treating about divine forgiveness, he says, The forgiveness that is with God, is such as becomes him, such as is suitable to his greatness, goodness, and all other excellencies of his nature, such as that wherein he will be known to be God. What he says concerning some of the works of his providence, Be still and know that I am GOD, may be much more said concerning this great effect of his grace; Still yourselves, and know that he is GOD. It is not like that narrow, difficult, halving, and manacled forgiveness that is found amongst men, when any such thing is found amongst them; but is full, free, bottomless, boundless, absolute-such as becomes his nature and excellencies. It is, in a word, forgiveness that is with GOD, and by the exercise of which he will be known so to be. If there be any pardon with God, it is such as becomes him to give. When he pardons, he will abundantly pardon. Go, with your
half-forgiveness, conditional pardons, with reserves and limitations, unto the sons of men. It may be, it may become them; it is like themselves. That of God is absolute and perfect; before which, our sins are as a cloud before the east wind and the rising sun. Hence he is said to do this work with his whole heart and his whole soul; freely, bountifully, largely to indulge and forgive unto us our sins, and to cast them into the bottom of the sea. Remember this, poor souls, when you are to deal with God in this manner.' Again: "If we let go the free pardon of sin without respect unto any thing in those that receive it, we renounce the gospel. Pardon of sin is not merited by antecedent duties, but is the strongest obligation to future duties. He that will not receive pardon, unless he can one way or other deserve it, or make himself meet for it; or pretends to have received it, and finds not himself obliged to universal obedience by it, neither is nor shall be partaker of it.'*
And now, reader, what think you of this glorious pardon? Is it suitable to your wants-is it worthy of your acceptance? You are, peradventure, one of those careless mortals that are at ease in their sins, and eagerly pursuing the tantalizing pleasures of this uncertain life. But can you be content to live and die in utter ignorance of this forgiveness? Is pardon a blessing of small importance, or have you no occasion
Dr. Owen on the 130th Psalm, p. 222. 227. and Expos. of Epist. to the Heb. on Chap. viii. 12. Here it may be observed that this eminent writer loudly proclaims the charming truth. He no more feared this doctrine leading to licentiousness, than he valued the applause of the selfsufficient Pharisee, or the self-righteous moralist. He treats about a full, free, and final forgiveness, like one who knows its real value, expe. riences its unutterable sweetness, and glories in it as his own privilege. He labours his noble subject, and repeats the joyful truth. Whereas many of our modern preachers, who pretend to reverence the Doctor's memory, admire his profound learning, and in a general way applaud his judgment; when handling the same subject, either directly contradict him, or whisper the grand truth in faint accents, as if they questioned the certainty of what they would seem to affirm, or were apprehensive of some pernicious consequences attending it.