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these eternal springs of forbearance and forgiveness, is that which none but Christ can accomplish and bring about; John xvii. 6.
2. This is not all. This eternal ocean that is infinitely satisfied with its own fulness and perfection, doth not naturally yield forth streams for our refreshment. Mercy and pardon do not come forth from God, as light doth from the sun, or water from the sea, by a necessary consequence of their natures, whether they will or no. It doth not necessarily follow that any one must be made partaker of forgiveness, because God is infinitely gracious. For may he not do what he will with his own? Who hath given first unto him that it should be recompensed unto him again ? Rom. xi. 35. All the fruits of God's goodness and grace, are in the sole keeping of his own sovereign will and pleasure. This is his great glory; Exod. xxxiii. 18, 19. 'Shew me thy glory,' saith Moses. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. Upon that proclamation of the name of God, that he is merciful, gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness, some might conclude that it could not be otherwise with any
but well; he is such a one, as that men need scarce be beholding to him for mercy; nay, saith he, but this is my great glory, that I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious." There must be an interposition of a free act of the will of God, to deal with us according to this his abundant goodness, or we can have no interest therein. This I call the purpose of his grace; or “the good pleasure that he hath purposed in himself;' Eph. i. 9. or, as it is termed, ver. 5, 6. * The good pleasure of his will, that he hath purposed to the praise of his glorious grace.' This free and gracious pleasure of God, or purpose of his will to act towards sinners according to his own abundant goodness, is another thing that influences the forgiveness of which we treat. Pardon flows immediately from a sovereign act of free grace. This free purpose of God's will and grace, for the pardoning of sinners, is indeed that which is principally intended, when we say, 'there is forgiveness with him.' That is, he is pleased to forgive; and so to do is agreeable unto his nature. Now, the mystery of this grace is deep; it is eternal, and therefore incomprehensible. Few there are whose hearts are raised to a contemplation of it. Men rest and content themselves in a general notion of mercy, which will not be advantageous to their souls; freed they would be from punishment, but what it is to be forgiven they inquire not. So what they know of it, they come easily by; but will find in the issue, it will stand them in little stead. But these fountains of God's actings are revealed that they may be the fountains of our comforts.
Now of this purpose of God's grace, there are several acts, all of them relating unto gospel forgiveness.
1. There is his purpose of sending his Son to be the great means of procuring, of purchasing forgiveness. Though God be infinitely and incomprehensibly gracious, though he purpose to exert his grace and goodness toward sinners, yet he will so do it, do it in such a way, as shall not be prejudicial to his own holiness and righteousness. His justice must be satisfied, and his holy indignation against sin made known. Wherefore he purposeth to send his Son, and bath sent him, to make way for the exercise of mercy; so as no way to eclipse the glory of his justice, holiness, and hatred of sin. Better we should all eternally come short of forgiveness, than that God should lose any thing of his glory. This we have, Rom. iii. 25. God set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.' The remission of sins is the thing aimed at; but this must be so brought about, as that therein, not only the mercy, but the righteousness of God may be declared; and therefore must it be brought forth by a propitiation, or making of an atonement in the blood of Christ. So John iii. 16. 1 John iv. 9. Rom. v. 8. This, I say, also lies in the mystery of that forgiveness that is administed in the gospel; it comes forth from this eternal purpose of making way by the blood of Christ to the dispensation of pardon. And this greatly heightens the excellency of this discovery. Men who have slight thoughts of God, whose hearts were never awed with his dread or greatness, who never seriously considered his purity and holiness, may think it no great matter that God should pardon sin. But do they consider the way whereby it is to be brought about; even by the sending of his only Son, and that to die? as we shall see afterward. Neither was there any other way whereby it might be done. Let us now lay aside common thoughts, assent upon reports and tradition, and rightly weigh this matter. Doubtless we shall find it to be a great thing, that forgiveness should be so with God, as to be made out unto us (we know somewhat what we are), by sending his only Son to die. Oh, how little is this really believed, even by them who make a profession of it! and what mean thoughts are entertained about it, when men seek for pardon! Immunity from punishment is the utmost that lies in the aims and desires of most, and is all that they are exercised in the consideration of, when they deal with God about sin. Such men think, and will do so, that we have an easy task in hand ; namely, to prove that there is forgiveness in God; but this ease lies in their own ignorance and darkness; if ever they come to search after it indeed, to inquire into the nature, reasons, causes, fountain, and springs, of it, they will be able to give another account of these things. Christ is the centre of the mystery of the gospel, and forgiveness is laid up in the heart of Christ, from the love of the Father; in him are all the treasures of it hid. And surely it is no small thing to have the heart of Christ revealed unto us. When believers deal about pardon, their faith exercises itself about this, that God with whom the soul hath to do, hath sent the Lord Christ to die, for this end, that it may be freely given out. General notions of impunity they dwell not on, they pass not for : they have a closer converse with God than to be satisfied with such thoughts. They inquire into the graciousness of his his nature, and the good pleasure of his will, the purpose of his grace ; they ponder, and look into the mystery of his wisdom and love in sending his Son. If these springs be not clear unto them, the streams will yield them but little refreshment. It is not enough that we seek after salvation, but we are to inquire and search diligently, into the nature and manner of it. These are the things that the angels desire to bow down and look into;' 1 Pet. i. 11-13. And some think, if they have got a form of words about them, they have gotten a sufficient comprehension of them. It is doubtless one reason why many who truly believe, do yet so fluctuate about forgiveness all their days; that they never exercised faith to look into the springs of it, its eternal
fountains; but have merely dwelt on actual condonation. However, I say, these things lie utterly out of the consideration of the common pretenders to an acquaintance with the truth we have in hand.
2. There is another sovereign act of God's will to be considered in this matter; and that is his eternal designation of the persons who shall be made partakers of this mercy. He hath not left this thing to hazard and uncertainties, that it should as it were be unknown to him who should be pardoned, and who not. Nay, none ever are made partakers of forgiveness, but those whom he hath eternally and graciously designed thereunto. So the apostle declares it, Eph. i. 5—7. The rise is his eternal predestination; the end, the glory of his grace, the means, redemption in the blood of Christ; the thing itself, forgiveness of sins. None ever are, or can be made partakers thereof, but by virtue of this act of God's will and grace; which thereupon hath a peculiar influence into it, and is to be respected in the consideration of it. I know this may be abused by pride, profaneness, and unbelief; and so may the whole work of God's grace; and so it is, even the blood of Christ in an especial manner; but in its proper place and use, it hath a signal influence into the glory of God, and the consolation of the souls of men. There are also other acts of this
purpose as of giving sinners unto Christ, and giving sinners an interest in Christ, which I shall not insist upon, because the nature of them is sufficiently discovered in that one explained already.
Secondly, Forgiveness hath respect unto the propitiation made in and by the blood of Christ the Son of God. This was declared in the opening of the words. Indeed here lies the knot and centre of gospel forgiveness. It flows from the cross, and springs out of the grave of Christ.
Thus Elihu describes it, Job xxxiii. 24. God is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom.' The whole of what is aimed at, lies in these words. 1. There is God's gracious and merciful heart towards a sinner; he is gracious unto him. 2. There is actual condonation itself, of which we shall treat afterward: * He saith, Deliver him from going down to
of God's grace,
And, 3. There is the centre of the whole, wherein God's gracious heart and actual pardon do meet; and that is the ransom, the propitiation or atonement that is in the blood of Christ, of which we speak, 'I have found a ransom.'
The same is expressed, Isa. liii. 11. My righteous servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.' Of the justification of sinners, absolution or pardon is the first part. This ariseth from Christ's bearing their iniquities. Therein he finished the transgression, made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity ;' Dan. ix. 24. Even all the sacrifices, and so consequently the whole worship of the Old Testament, evinced this relation between forgiveness and bloodshedding; whence the apostle concludes, that without shedding of blood there is no remission;" Heb. ix. 22. that is, all pardon ariseth from bloodshedding, even of the blood of the Son of God. So that we are said in him to have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins;' Eph. i. 17. Our redemption in his blood is our forgiveness, not that we are all actually pardoned in the blood of his cross, for thereunto must be added gospel condonation, of which afterward; but thereby it is procured, the grant of pardon is therein sealed, and security given, that it shall in due time be made out unto us. To which purpose is that discourse of the apostle, Rom. iii. 24-26. The work there mentioned, proceeds from grace, is managed to the interest of righteousness, is carried on by the blood of Christ, and issues in forgiveness. Now the blood of Christ relates variously to the pardon of sin.
1. Pardon is purchased and procured by it. Our redemption is our forgiveness; as the cause contains the effect. No soul is pardoned but with respect unto the blood of Christ, as the procuring cause of that pardon. Hence he is said to have'washed us in his blood ;' Rev. i. 5. 'in himself, to have purged our sins ;' Heb. i. 3.' by one offering to have taken away sin,' and for ever to have perfected them that are sanctified;' Heb. x. 14. to be the ransom and propitiation of our sins; 1 John ji. 2. to have made an end of sin ;' Dan. ix. 24. and to have made reconciliation for the sins of his people;' Heb. ii. 17. God hath enclosed his rich stores of pardon and mercy in the blood of Jesus.
2. Because in his blood the promise of pardon is rati