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merciful heart of God and his Son, to the sinful children of men.
Judge thou, I say, therefore, of the goodness of the heart of God and his Son, by this text, and by the others of the same import. So shalt thou not dishonor the grace of God, nor needlessly fright thyself, nor give away thy faith, nor gratify the devil, nor lose the benefit of God's word. I speak now to weak believers.
Secondly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place to the greatest sinners, to the Jerusalem sinners ? then, by this also, you must learn to judge of the sufficiency of the merits of Christ. Not that the merits of Christ can be comprehended, for they are beyond the conceptions of the whole world, being called the unsearchable riches of Christ; but yet they may be apprehended to a considerable degree. Now the way to apprehend them most, is, to consider what offers, after his resurrection, he makes of his grace to sinners. For be sure he will not offer beyond the virtue of his merits; because, as grace is the cause of his merits, so his merits are the basis and bounds upon and by which his grace stands good, and is given out to sinners. Doth he then command that his mercy should be offered in the first place to the greatest sinners? It declares, that there is sufficiency in his blood to save the greatest sinners. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” And again, “Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man (this man's merits) is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
Observe then thy rule to make judgment of the sufficiency of the blessed merits of thy Saviour. If he had not been able to reconcile the greatest sinners to his Father by his blood, he would not have sent to them (have sent to them in the first place) the doctrine of remission of sins; for remission of sins is through faith in his blood. We are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in the blood of Christ. Upon the square, as I may call it, of the worthiness of the blood of Christ, grace acts, and offers forgiveness of sin to men. Eph. i. 7; ii. 13, 14; Col. i. 20–22.
Hence, therefore, we must gather, that the blood of Christ is of infinite value, for that he offereth mercy to the greatest sinners. Nay, further, since he offereth mercy in the first place to the greatest sinners, consider also, that this first act of his is that which the world will take notice of, and expect it should be continued unto the end. Also it is a disparagement to a man that seeks his own glory in what he undertakes, to do that for a while, which he cannot continue and hold out in. This is our Lord's own argument, “He began to build,” saith he, “but was not able to finish.”
Shouldst thou hear a man say, 'I am resolved to be kind to the poor,' and should begin with giving handfuls of guineas, you would conclude, either that he is wonderful rich, or must straiten his hand, or will soon be at the bottom of his riches. Why, this is the case : Christ, at his resurrection, gave it out that he would be good to the world; and first sends to the greatest sinners, with an intent to have mercy on them. Now, the greatest sinners cannot be saved but by abundance of grace; it is not a little that will save great sinners. Rom. v. 17. And I say again, since the Lord Jesus mounts thus high at the first, and sends to the Jerusalem sinners, that they may come first to partake of his mercy, it follows, that either he has unsearchable riches of grace and worth in himself, or else he must straiten his hand, or his grace and merits will be spent before the world is at an end. But let it be believed, as surely as spoken, he is still as full as ever. He is not a jot the poorer for all the forgivenesses that he has given away to great sinners. Also he is still as free as at first; for he never yet called
back his word, 'Begin at the Jerusalem sinners.' And, as I said before, since his grace extendeth according to the worth of his merits, I conclude, that there is the same virtue in his merits to save now, as there was at the very beginning.
Oh! the riches of the grace of Christ! Oh! the riches of the blood of Christ!
Thirdly, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place to the greatest sinners, then here is encouragement for you that think, for wicked hearts and lives, you have not your fellows in the world, yet to come to him.
There is a people that therefore fear lest they should be rejected of Jesus Christ, because of the greatness of their sins; when, as you see here, such are sent to—sent to by Jesus Christ to come to him for mercy. “Begin at Jerusalem.” Never did one thing answer another more fitly in this world, than this text fitteth such kind of sinners. As face answereth face in a glass, so this text answereth the necessities of such sinners. What can a man say more, but that he stands in the rank of the greatest sinners ? Let him stretch himself whither he can, and think of himself to the utmost, he can but conclude himself to be one of the greatest sinners. And what then? Why the text meets him in the very face, and saith, Christ offereth mercy to the greatest sinners, to the very Jerusalem sinners. What more can be objected ? Nay, he doth not only offer to such his mercy, but to them it is commanded to be offered in the first place; “Begin at Jerusalem.” Preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations—but, “ begin at Jerusalem.” Is not here encouragement for those that think, for wicked hearts and lives, they have not their fellows in the world ?
Object. “But I have a heart as hard as a rock.'
Object. “But my heart continually frets against the Lord.'
Answ. Well, this doth but prove thee a greater sinner.
Object. But I have been desperate in sinful courses.'
Answ. Well, stand thou with the number of the greatest sinners.
Object. “But my gray head is found in the way of wickedness.'
Answ. Well, thou art in the rank of the greatest sinners.
Object. “But I have not only a base heart, but I have lived a debauched life.'
Answ. Stand thou also among those that are called the greatest sinners. And what then? Why the text swoops you all; you cannot object yourselves beyond the text. It has a particular message to the greatest sinners. I say, it swoops you all.
Object. “But I am a reprobate.'
Answ. Now thou talkest like a fool, and of that thou understandest not. No sin, but the sin of final impenitence, can prove a man a reprobate; and I am sure thou hast not arrived as yet unto that; therefore thou understandest not what thou sayst, and makest groundless conclusions against thyself.
Say thou art a sinner, and I will hold with thee; say thou art a great sinner, and I will say so too; yea, say thou art one of the greatest sinners, and spare not; for the text yet is beyond thee, is yet betwixt hell and thee. “Begin at Jerusalem,” has yet a smile upon thee. Yet thou talkest as if thou wast a reprobate, and that the greatness of thy sins do prove thee so to be, when yet they of Jerusalem were not such; whose sins, I dare say, were such, both for greatness and heinousness, as thou art incapable of committing beyond them; unless now, after thou hast received conviction that the Lord Jesus is the only Saviour of the world, thou shouldst wickedly and despitefully turn thyself from him, and conclude he is not to be trusted to for life, and so crucify him for a cheat afresh. This, I must confess, will bring a man under the black rod, and set him in danger of
eternal damnation. Heb. vi. 6; 1. 29. This is trampling under foot the Son of God, and counting his blood an unholy thing. This did they of Jerusalem; but they did it ignorantly in unbelief, and so were yet capable of mercy: but to do this against professed light, and to stand to it, puts a man beyond the text indeed. Acts iii. 14-17; 1 Tim. i. 13.
But I say, what is this to him, that would fain be saved by Christ? His sins did, as to greatness, never yet reach to the nature of the sins that the sinners intended by the text, had made themselves guilty of. He that would be saved by Christ, has an honorable esteem of him; but they of Jerusalem preferred a murderer before him; but as for him, they cried, “Away, away with him, it is not fit that he should live.' Perhaps thou wilt object, That thou thyself hast a thousand times preferred a loathsome lust before him. I answer, Be it so; it is but what is common to men to do; nor doth the Lord Jesus make such a foolish life a bar to thee, to forbid thy coming to him, or a bond to his grace, that it might be kept from thee; but admits of thy repentance, and offereth himself unto thee freely, as thou standest among the Jerusalem sinners.
Take therefore encouragement, man ; mercy is, by the text, held forth to the greatest sinners. Yea, put thyself into the number of the worst. By reckoning that way thou mayst be one of the first to find, and mayst not be put off till the greatest sinners are served; for the worst sinners are first invited; consequently, if they come, they are like to be the first that shall be served. It was so with Jerusalem. Jerusalem sinners were the ones that were first invited, and those of them that came first and there came three thousand of them the first day they were invited; how many came afterwards none can tell), they were first served.
Put in thy name, man, among the worst, lest thou art made to wait till they are served. You have some men that think themselves very cunning, because they put up their