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where there is no work of conviction, there is no faith of forgiveness, whatever is pretended. And how many vain boasters this sword will cut off, is evident.
7. We have yet a greater evidence than all these. Men live in sin, and therefore they do not believe forgiveness of sin. Faith in general purifies the heart;' Acts xv. 19. Our souls are purified'in obeying the truth ;' 1 Pet. i. 22. and the life is made fruitful by it, James ii. 22. • Faith worketh by works,' and makes itself perfect by them. And the doctrine concerning forgiveness hath a special influence into all holiness. Tit. ii. 11, 12. The grace of God which bringeth salvation, teacheth us to deny all unrighteousness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. And that is the grace whereof we speak. No man can then believe forgiveness of sin, without a detestation and relinquishment of it. The ground of this might be farther manifested, and the way of the efficacy of faith of forgiveness unto a forsaking of sin, if need were. But all that own the gospel must acknowledge this principle. The real belief of the pardon of sin, is prevalent with men not to live longer in sin.
But now what are the greatest number of those who pretend to receive this truth? Are their hearts purified by it? Are their consciences, purged? Are their lives changed ? Do they deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts ? Doth forgiveness teach them so to do? Have they found it effectual to these purposes? Whence is it then that there is such a bleating and bellowing to the contrary amongst them?
Some of you are drunkards, some of you swearers, some of you unclean persons, some of you liars, some of you worldly, some of you haters of all the ways of Christ, and all his concernments upon the earth; proud, covetous, boasters, self-seekers, envious, wrathful, backbiters, malicious, praters, slanderers, and the like. And shall we think that such as these believe forgiveness of sin? God forbid. Again, some of you are dark, ignorant, blind, utterly unacquainted with the mystery of the gospel, nor do at all make it your business to inquire into it. Either you hear it not at all, or negligently, slothfully, customarily, to no purpose. Let not such persons deceive their own souls; to live in sin and yet to believe the forgiveness of sin, is utterly impossible. Christ will not be a minister of sin, nor give his gospel to be a doctrine of licentiousness for your sakes. Nor shall you be forgiven that you may be delivered to do more abominations. God forbid.
If any shall say, that they thank God, they are no such publicans as those mentioned; they are no drunkards, no swearers, no unclean persons, nor the like, so that they are not concerned in this consideration; their lives and their duties give another account of them; then yet consider farther,
That the Pharisees were all that you say of yourselves, and yet the greatest despisers of forgiveness that ever were in the world, and that because they hated the light, on this account, that their deeds were evil. And for your duties you mention, what I pray is the root and spring of them ? are they influenced from this faith of forgiveness you boast of or no? May it not be feared that it is utterly otherwise ? you do not perform them because you love the gospel, but because
fear the law. If the truth were known, I doubt it would appear, that you get nothing by your believing of pardon, but an encouragement unto sin. Your goodness, such as it is, springs from another root. It may be also that you ward yourselves by it against the strokes of conscience, or the guilt of particular sins; this is as bad as the other. It is as good be encouraged unto sin, to commit it, as be encouraged under sin, so as to be kept from humiliation for it. None under heaven are more remote from the belief of and pardon, than such persons are : all their righteousness is from the law, and their sin in a great measure from the gospel.
8. They that believe forgiveness in a due manner, believe it for the ends and purposes for which it is revealed of God. This will farther improve and carry on the former consideration. If God reveals any thing for one end and purpose, and men use it quite unto another; they do not receive the word of God, nor believe the thing revealed, but steal the word and delude their own souls.
Let us then weigh to what ends and purposes this forgiveness was first revealed by God; for which also its manifestation is still continued in the gospel. We have shewed before who it was to whom this revelation was first made, and what condition he was in when it was so made unto him. A
lost, wretched creature, without hope or help he was; how he should come to obtain acceptance with God, he knew not. God reveals forgiveness unto him by Christ to be his all. The intention of God in it was, that a sinner's all should be of grace, Rom. xi. 6. If any thing be added unto it for the same end and purpose, then 'grace is no more grace.' Again, God intended it as a new foundation of obedience, of love, and thankfulness. That men should love because forgiven, and be holy because pardoned ; as I have shewed before, that it might be the righteousness of a sinner, and a spring of new obedience in him, all to the praise of . grace, were God's ends in its revelation.
Our inquiry then is, whether men do receive this revelation as unto these ends, and use it for these purposes, and these only. I might evince the contrary, by passing through the general abuses of the doctrine of grace, which are mentioned in the Scripture, and common in the world; but it will not be needful. Instead of believing, the most of men seem to put a studied despite on the gospel. They either proclaim it to be an unholy and polluted way, by turning its grace into lasciviousness, or a weak and insufficient way, by striving to twist it in with their own righteousness, both which are an abomination unto the Lord.
From these and such other considerations of the like importance as might be added, it is evident that our word is not in vain; nor the exhortation which is to be built upon it. It appears, that notwithstanding the great noise and pretences to this purpose that are in the world, they are but few who seriously receive this fundamental truth of the gospel ; namely, that there is forgiveness with God. Poor creatures sport themselves with their own deceivings, and perish by their own delusions.
Exhortation unto the belief of the forgiveness that is with God. Reasons
for it, and the necessity of it, We shall now proceed unto the direct uses of this great truth. For having laid our foundation in the word that will not fail, and having given, as we hope, sufficient evidence unto the truth of it, our last work is to make that improvement
of it unto the good of the souls of men, which all along was aimed at. The persons concerned in this truth are all sinners whatever. No sort of sinners are unconcerned in it, none are excluded from it. And we may cast them all under two heads.
First, Such as never yet sincerely closed with the promise of grace, nor have ever yet received forgiveness from God, in a way of believing. These we have already endeavoured to undeceive, and to discover those false presumptions whereby they are apt to ruin and destroy their own souls. These we would guide now into safe and pleasant paths, wherein they may find assured rest and peace.
Secondly, Others there are, who have received it, but being again entangled by sin, or clouded by darkness and temptations, or weakened by unbelief, know not how to improve it to their peace and comfort. This is the condition of the soul represented in this psalm; and which we shall therefore apply ourselves unto in an especial manner, in its proper place.
Our exhortation then is unto both; to the first, that they would receive it, that they may have life; to the latter, that they would improve it, that they may have peace. To the former, that they would not overlook, disregard, or neglect so great salvation as is tendered unto them; to the latter, that they would stir up the grace of God that is in them, to mix with the grace of God that is declared unto them.
I shall begin with the first sort, those who are yet utter strangers from the covenant of grace; who never yet upon saving grounds believed this forgiveness; who never yet once tasted of gospel pardon. Poor sinners ! this word is
Be it that you have heard or read the same word before, or others like unto it, to the
be often, it
may be a hundred times. It is your concernment to hear it again. God would have it so; the testimony of Jesus Christ is thus to be accomplished. This counsel of God we must declare that we may be free from the blood of all men; Acts xx. 26, 27. And that not once or twice, but in preaching the word, we must be instant in season, out of season, reproving, rebuking, exhorting with all long-suffering and doctrine;' 2 Tim. iv. 2. And for you, woe unto you,
when God leaves thus speaking unto you ; when he refuseth to exhort you any more, woe unto you. This is God's dėparture from any person or people, when he will deal with them no more about forgiveness: and saith he, “Woe unto them when I depart from them ;' Hos. ix. 12. O that God, therefore, would give unto such persons, seeing eyes, and hearing ears, that the word of grace may never more be spoken unto them in vain. Now in our exhortation to such persons, we shall proceed gradually, according as the matter will bear, and the nature of it doth require. Consider therefore,
First, That notwithstanding all your sins, all the evil that your own hearts know you to be guilty of, and that hidden mass or evil treasure of sin which is in
which able to look into; notwithstanding that charge that lies upon you from your own consciences, and that dreadful sentence and curse of the law which you are obnoxious unto; notwithstanding' all the just grounds that you have to apprehend that God is your enemy, and will be so unto eternity; yet there are terms of peace and reconciliation, provided and proposed between him and your souls. This in the first place is spoken out by the word we have insisted on. Whatever else it informs us of, this it positively asserts ; namely, that there is a way whereby sinners may come to be accepted with God: fors there is forgiveness with him that he may be feared. And we hope that we have not confirmed it by so many testimonies, by so many evidences in vain. Now that you may see how great a privilege this is, and how much your concernment lies in it; consider,
: 1. That this belongs unto you in an especial manner, it is your peculiar advantage.
It is not so with the angels that sinned. There were never any terms of peace or reconciliation proposed unto them, nor ever shall be unto eternity. There is no way of escape provided for them. Having once sinned, as you þave done a thousand times, God spared them not, “but cast them down to hell, and delivered them unto chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 2 Pet. ii. 4.
It is not so with them that are dead in their sins, if but one moment past. Ah how would many souls who are departed it may be not an hour since out of this world, rejoice