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expectation of pardon? Who thinks not that they know well enough at least what it is, if they might but obtain it? But men may have general thoughts of impunity, and yet be far enough from any saving acquaintance with gospel mercy.
Forgiveness discovered, or revealed only to faith. Reasons thereof.
For a close of this discourse, I shall only add, what is included in that proposition which is the foundation of the whole; namely, that this discovery of forgiveness is, and can be, made to faith alone. The nature of it is such, as that nothing else can discover it, or receive it. No reasonings, no inquiries of the heart of man can reach unto it. That guess or glimpse which the heathens had of old of somewhat so called, and which false worshippers have at present, is not the forgiveness we insist upon, but a mere imagination of their own hearts.
This the apostle informs us; Rom. i. 17. •The righteousness of God, is' (in the gospel) revealed from faith to faith.' Nothing but faith hath any thing to do with it. It is that righteousness of God whereof he speaks, that consists in the forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ, declared in the gospel. And this is revealed from the faith of God in the promise, to the faith of the believer; to him that mixes the promise with faith. And again more fully, 1 Cor. ii. 9. •Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.' The ways whereby we may come to the knowledge of any thing, are by the seeing of the eye, or hearing of the ear, or the reasonings and meditations of the heart ; but now none of these will reach to the matter in hand; by none of these ways can we come to an acquaintance with the things of the gospel that are prepared for us in Christ. How then shall we obtain the knowledge of them ? That he declares, ver. 10.‘God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. Now it is faith only that receives the revelations of the Spirit; nothing else hath to do with them.
To give evidence hereunto, we may consider, that this great mystery,
1. Is too deep.
3. That nothing else but faith is suited to the making of this discovery.
1. It is too deep and mysterious to be fathomed and reached by any thing else. Reason's line is too short to fathom the depths of the Father's love, of the blood of the Son, and the promises of the gospel built thereon, wherein forgiveness dwells. Men cannot by their rational considerations launch out into these deeps, nor draw water by them from these 'wells of salvation.' Reason stands by amazed, and cries ‘how can these things be? It can but gather cockle shells, like him of old, at the shore of this ocean; a few criticisms upon the outward letter ; and so bring an evil report upon the land, as did the spies. All it can do, is but to hinder faith from venturing into it; crying, Spare thyself, this attempt is vain, these things are impossible. It is among the things that faith puts off, and lays aside, when it engayeth the soul into this great work. This, then, that it may come to a discovery of forgiveness, causeth the soul to deny itself, and all its own reasonings, and to give up itself to an infinite fulness of goodness and truth. Though it cannot go into the bottom of these depths, yet it enters into them, and finds rest in them. Nothing but faith is suited to rest, to satiate, and content itself, in mysterious, bottomless, unsearchable depths. Being a soul-emptying, a reason-denying grace, the more it meets withal beyond its search and reach, the more satisfaction it finds. This is that which I looked for, saith faith, even for that which is infinite and unsearchable : when I know that there is abundantly more beyond me that I do not comprehend, than what I have attained unto ; for I know that nothing else will do good to the soul. Now this it that which really puzzles and overwhelms reason, rendering it useless. What it cannot compass, it will neglect or despise. It is either amazed and confounded, and dazzled like weak eyes at too great a light; or fortifying of itself by inbred pride and obstinacy, it concludes, that this preaching of the cross of forgiveness from the loye of God, by the blood of Christ, is plain folly, a thing
not for a wise man to take notice of, or to trouble himself about; so it appeared to the wise Greeks of old; 1 Cor. i. 24. Hence when a soul is brought under the power of a real conviction of sin, so as that it would desirously be freed from the galling entanglements of it, it is then the hardest thing in the world to persuade such a soul of this forgiveness. Any thing appears more rational unto it; any selfrighteousness, in this world, any purgatory hereafter.
The greatest part of the world of convinced persons have forsaken forgiveness on this account; masses, penances, merits, have appeared more eligible. Yea, men who have no other desire but to be forgiven, do choose to close with any thing rather than forgiveness. If men do escape these rocks, and resolve that nothing but pardon will relieve them, yet it is impossible for them to receive it in the truth and power of it, if not enabled by faith thereunto. I speak not of men that take it up by hearsay, as a common report, but of those souls who find themselves really concerned to look after it; when they know it is their sole concernment, all their hope and relief; when they know that they must perish everlastingly without it, and when it is declared unto them in the words of truth and soberness, yet they cannot receive it. What is the reason of it; what staves off these hungry creatures from their proper food? Why, they have nothing to lead them into the mysterious depths of eternal love, of the blood of Christ, and promises of the gospel. How may we see poor deserted souls standing every day at the side of this pool, and yet not once venture themselves into it all their days.
2. It is too great for any thing else to discover. Forgiveness is a thing chosen out of God from all eternity, to exalt and magnify the glory of bis grace; and it will be made appear to all the world at the day of judgment to have been a great thing. When the soul comes in any measure to be made sensible of it, it finds it so great, so excellent, and astonishable, that it sinks under the thoughts of it. It hath dimensions, a length, breadth, depth, and height, that no line of the rational soul can take or measure. There is exceeding greatness in it; Eph. i. 19. That is a great work which we have prescribed, Eph. iii. 19. even to know the love of Christ, that passeth knowledge.' Here I suppose,
reason will confess itself at a stand, and an issue ; to know that which passeth knowledge, is none of its work. It cannot be known, saith reason; and so ends the matter. But this is faith's proper work; even to know that which passeth knowledge. To know that in its power, virtue, sweetness, and efficacy, which cannot be thoroughly known in its nature and excellency; to have by believing all the ends of a full comprehension of that which cannot be fully comprehended. Hence, Heb. xi. 1. it is said to be the Útbotadig of things not seen : their subsistence, though in themselves absent, yet faith gives them a present subsistence in the soul. So it knows things that pass knowledge, by mixing itself with them, it draws out, and communicates their benefit to the soul. From all which is evident, what in the third place was proposed; of faith’s being only suited to be the means of this discovery, so that I shall not need farther to insist thereon.
Discovery of forgiveness in God a great supportment to sin-entangled souls.
Particular assurance attainable,
THERE yet remains a brief confirmation of the position at first laid down, and thus cleared, before I come to the improvement of the words especially aimed at. I I say, then, this discovery of forgiveness in God, is a great supportment for a sin-entangled soul, although it hath no special persuasion of its own particular interest therein. Somewhat is supposed in this assertion, and somewhat affirmed.
First, It is supposed that there may be a gracious persuasion and assurance of faith, in a man, concerning his own particular interest in forgiveness. A man may, many do, believe it for themselves; so as not only to have the benefit of it, but the comfort also. Generally all the saints mentioned in Scripture had this assurance, unless it were in the case of depths, distresses, and desertions, such as that in this psalm. David expresseth his confidence of the love and favour of God unto his own soul hundreds of times, Paul doth the same for himself; Gal. ii. 20. Christ loved me and gave himself for me;' 2 Tim. iv. 8. * There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which God the righteous judge shall give me at that day. And that this boasting in the Lord and his grace, was not an enclosure to himself, he shews, Rom. viii, 38, 39.
Nothing can be more vain, than what is usually pleaded, to remove this sheet anchor of the saint's consolation; namely, that no man's particular name is in the promise. It is not said to this or that man by name, that his sins are forgiven him, but the matter is far otherwise. To think that it is necessary, that the names whereby we are known among ourselves, and are distinguished here one from another, should be written in the promise, that we may believe in particular every child of God is in the promise, ' And believing makes it very legible to him. Yea, we find by experience that there is no need of argumentation in this case. The soul by a direct act of faith believes its own forgiveness, without making inferences or gathering conclusions; and may do so, upon the proposition of it to be believed in the promise. But I will not digress from my work in hand; and therefore shall only observe one or two things upon the supposition laid down.
1. It is the duty of every believer, to labour after an assurance of a personal interest in forgiveness ; and to be diligent in the cherishing and preservation of it when it is attained. The apostle exhorts us all unto it, Heb. x. 22. Let us draw near in full assurance of faith ;' that is, of our acceptance with God through forgiveness in the blood of Jesus. This he plainly discourseth of. And this principle of our faith and confidence, he would have us to hold fast unto the end; chap. iii. 14. It is no small evil in believers not to be pressing after perfection in believing and obedience, Ofttimes some sinful indulgence to self, or the world, or sloth is the cause of it. Hence few come up to gospel as
But yet most of our privileges, and upon the matter, all our comforts depend on this one thing. A little by the way, to encourage unto this duty, I shall desire you to consider both whence this assurance is produced, and what it doth produce ; what it is the fruit of, and what fruit it bears.
1. It is in general the product of a more plentiful com