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a full life of contentation upon pardon, they know not how to do it. One duty yields them more true repose than many thoughts of forgiveness. But faith finds sweetness and rest in it; being thereby apprehended, it is the only harbour of the soul. It leads a man to God as good, to Christ as rest. Fading evanid joys, do ofttimes attend the one; but solid delight, with constant obedience, are the fruits only of the other. 6. Those who have the former only, take
persuasion on false grounds, though the thing itself be true; and they cannot but use it unto false ends and purposes, besides its natural and genuine tendency. For their grounds they will be discovered when I come to treat of the true nature of gospel forgiveness. For the end, it is used generally only to fill up what is wanting. Self-righteousness is their bottom; and when that is too short, or narrow to cover them, they piece it out by forgiveness. Where conscience accuses, this must supply the defect. Faith lays it on its proper foundation; of which afterward also; and it useth it to its proper end; namely, to be the sole and only ground of our acceptation with God. That is the proper use of forgiveness, that all may be of grace; for when the foundation is pardon, the whole superstructure must needs be grace. From what hath been spoken it is evident, that notwithstanding the pretences to the contrary, insinuated in the objection now removed, it is a great thing to have gospel forgiveness discovered unto a soul in a saving manner.
The true nature of gospel forgiveness. Its relation to the goodness, grace,
and will of God. To the blood of Christ. To the promise of the gospel.
The considerations of faith about it. The difficulties that lie in the way of faith's discovery of forgiveness, whence it appears to be a matter of greater weight and importance, than it is commonly apprehended to be, have been insisted on in the foregoing discourse. There is yet remaining another ground of the same truth. Now this is taken from the nature and greatness of the thing itself discovered, that is, of forgiveness. To this end I shall shew, what it is, wherein it doth consist, what it comprises and relates unto, according to the importance of the second proposition before laid down.
I do not in this place take forgiveness, strictly and precisely, for the act of pardoning; nor shall I dispute what that is, and wherein it doth consist. Consciences that come with sin-entanglements unto God, know nothing of such disputes. Nor will this expression, there is forgiveness with God,' bear any such restriction, as that it should regard only actual condonation or pardon. That which I have to do, is to inquire into the nature of that pardon, which poor convinced, troubled souls seek after; and which the Scripture proposeth to them, for their relief and rest. And I shall not handle this absolutely neither, but in relation to the truth under consideration ; namely, that it is a great thing, to attain unto a true gospel discovery of forgiveness.
First, As was shewed in the opening of the words, the forgiveness inquired after, hath relation unto the gracious heart of the Father. Two things I understand hereby.
1. The infinite goodness and graciousness of his nature. 2. The sovereign purpose of his will and grace.
There is considerable in it, the infinite goodness of his nature. Sin stands in a contrariety unto God. It is a rebellion against his sovereignty, an opposition to his holiness, a provocation to his justice, a rejection of his yoke, a casting off, what lies in the sinner, of that dependence which a creature hath on its Creator. That God then should have pity and compassion on sinners, in every one of whose sins there is all this evil, and inconceivably more than we can comprehend, it argues an infinitely gracious, good, and loving heart and nature in him. For God doth nothing but suitably to the properties of his nature, and from them. All the acts of his will, are the effects of his nature.
Now whatever God proposeth as an encouragement for sinners to come to him; that is of, or hath a special influence into, the forgiveness that is with him. For nothing can encourage a sinner as such, but under this consideration, that it is, or it respects, forgiveness. That this graciousness of God's nature lies at the head or spring, and is the root from whence forgiveness doth grow, is manifest from that solemn proclamation which he made of old of his
name, and the revelation of his nature therein (for God assuredly is, what by himself he is called), Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. • The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.' His forgiving of iniquity flows from hence; that in his nature he is merciful, gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness. Were he not so, infinite in all these, it was in vain to look for forgiveness from him. Having made this known to be his name, and thereby declared his nature, he in many places proposeth it as a relief, a refuge for sinners, an encouragement to come unto him, and to wait for mercy from him. Psal. ix. 10. They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee.' It will encourage them so to do; others have no foundation of their confidence; but if this name of God be indeed made known unto us by the Holy Ghost, what can hinder why we should not repair unto him, and rest upon him? So Isa. 1. 10. "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Not only sinners, but sinners in great distress are here spoken unto. Darkness of state or condition, in the Scripture denotes every thing of disconsolation and trouble. To be then in darkness, where yet there is some light, some relief, though darkness be predominant, is sad and disconsolate; but now not only to be, but also to walk, that is, to continue a course in darkness, and that with no light, no discovery of help or relief; this seems an overwhelming condition; yet sinners in this estate are called to trust in the name of the Lord.' I have shewed before, that nothing but forgiveness, or that which in. fluenceth it, and encourageth to an expectation of it, is of any use unto a sinner, much more one in so great distress upon the account of sin : yet is such a one here sent only to the name of the Lord, wherein his gracious heart and nature is revealed. That then is the very fountain and spring of forgiveness. And this is that which John would work a sense of upon our souls, where he tells us, that God is love;' 1 Epist. iv. 8. or one of an infinitely gracious, tender, good, compassionate, loving nature. Infinite goodness and grace is the soil wherein forgiveness grows. It is impossible this flower should spring from any other root. Unless this be revealed to the soul, forgiveness is not revealed. To consider pardon merely as it is terminated on ourselves, not as it flows from God, will bring neither profit to us, nor glory to God.
And this also, which is our design in hand, will make it appear, that this discovery of forgiveness whereof we speak, is indeed no common thing, is a great discovery. Let men come with a sense of the guilt of sin, to have deep and serious thoughts of God, they will find it no such easy and light matter, to have their hearts truly and thoroughly apprehensive of this loving and gracious nature of God, in reference unto pardon. It is an easy matter to say so in common, but the soul will not find it so easy to believe it for itself. What hath been spoken before concerning the ingrafted notions that are in the minds of men about the justice, holiness, and severity of God, will here take place. Though men profess that God is gracious, yet that aversation which they have unto him, and communion with him, doth abundantly manifest that they do not believe what they say and profess; if they did, they could not but delight and trust in him, which they do not; for they that know his name will put their trust in him.' So said the slothful servant in the gospel, I knew that thou wast austere, and not for me to deal withal; it may be he professed otherwise before, but that lay in his heart when it came to the trial. But this, I say, is necessary to them unto whom this discovery is to be made; even a spiritual apprehension of the gracious, loving heart and nature of God. This is the spring of all that follows; and the fountain must needs be infinitely sweet from whence such streams do flow. He that considers the glorious fabric of heaven and earth, with the things in them contained, must needs conclude that they were the product of infinite wisdom and power; nothing less or under them could have brought forth such an effect. And he that really considereth forgiveness, and looks on it with a spiritual eye, must conclude that it comes from infinite goodness and grace. And this is that which the hearts of sinners are exercised about, when they come to deal for pardon. Psal. lxxxvi. 5. •Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive.' Nehem. ix. 17. “Thou art a a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.' And Micah vii. 19. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity- -because he delighteth in mercy.' And God encourageth them hereunto, wherever he says that he forgives sins and blots out iniquities for his own sake, or his name's sake; that is, he will deal with sinners according to the goodness of his own gracious nature. So Hos. xi. 9. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God, and not man.' Were there no more mercy, grace, compassion, to be shewed in this case, than it is possible should be treasured up in the heart of a man, it would be impossible that Ephraim should be spared. But, saith he, 'I am God, and not man.' Consider the infinite largeness, bounty, and goodness of the heart of God, and there is yet hope. When a sinner is in good earnest seeking after forgiveness, there is nothing he is more solicitous about than the heart of God towards him; nothing that he more labours to have a discovery of; there is nothing that sin and Satan labour more to hide from him; this he rolls in his mind, and exercises his thoughts about ; and if ever that voice of God, Isa. xxvii. 4.‘fury is not in me,' sound in his heart, he is relieved from his great distresses. And the fear of our hearts in this matter, our Saviour seems to intend the prevention or a removal of; John xvi. 26, 27. 'I say not that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you.' They had good thoughts of the tender heart and care of Christ himself, the Mediator, towards them; but what is the heart of the Father, what acceptance shall they find with him? Will Christ pray that they may find favour with him? Why, saith he, as to the love of his heart, there is no need of it; ‘for the Father himself loveth you. If this then belongeth to forgiveness, as whoever hath sought for it, knoweth that it doth, it is certainly no common discovery to have it revealed unto us.
To have all the clouds and darkness that are raised by sin, between us and the throne of God, dispelled ; to have the fire, and storms, and tempests, that are kindled and stirred up about him by the law, removed ; to have his glorious face unveiled, and his holy heart laid open, and a view given of those infinite treasures and stores of goodness, mercy, love and kindness, which have had an unchangeable habitation therein from all eternity ; to have a discovery of