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163

Chapter II.

The Manner In Which The Christian Should Apply And Appropriate To Himself The Consolation Noticed In Chapter I.

The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.Luke 19:10.

The first or chief foundation on which the Christian depends, when he derives consolation from the doctrines of the remission of sin, and of the merit of Christ, consists in the universal extent of the divine promises; of which that mentioned above is not the least considerable. For if Christ came to save those that are lost, who can possibly doubt, that he will also seek and save thee, since thou art of the number of the lost. It is also said, that God, “commandeth all men everywhere to repent; because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness.” Acts 17:30, 31. This argument is full of consolation. As if the apostle had said, Christ will judge the world; and therefore God commandeth all to repent, that all may escape the dreadful sentence of eternal damnation. This is confirmed by St. Peter, who tells us, that God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. All which passages plainly assert the universal grace of God, extending itself to all men.

2. The second foundation is the divine oath. In order that no room might be left to doubts and scruples in this grand article, God has confirmed the universal promise of grace with an oath. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his way and live: none of the sins that he hath committed, shall be mentioned unto him.” Ezek. 33:11, 16. As if he had said, How can I delight in the death of a sinner, who am Life itself? Let but the wicked be converted, and he shall certainly live.—Behold! God desires sinners to be converted! And dost thou doubt, that thou, who art a sinner, art by God solicited to conversion? When the apostle explains this oath, he says, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 1 Tim. 1:15. But if Christ came into the world with an intent to save sinners, thou art undoubtedly one of the number of those whom he came to save.

3. In order to show that the Lord will not retain the remembrance of sin, he hath no less than three times engaged his word. First, by the prophet Isaiah, “I, even I,” says he, “am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isa. 43:25. Secondly, by Jeremiah he hath thus expressed his mind: “This shall be the covenant: I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31:33, 34. And, thirdly, by the prophet Ezekiel, “If the wicked,” says he, “will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him.” Ezek. 18:21, 22. This is the 164 divine act of oblivion, solemnly declared in favor of all returning sinners, without exception.

4. Now the cause or reason why God promises that he will not remember sin any more, is no other than the all-sufficient satisfaction and reconciliation wrought by Christ. For whatever is entirely paid, yea, over and above paid, should be altogether buried in an everlasting oblivion. Now, God being once perfectly reconciled and satisfied by the most holy and most complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ, he can no longer be angry, nor perpetuate the remembrance of our transgressions.

5. The same oath is repeated in the prophet Isaiah, “Look unto me,” says the Lord, “and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: I have sworn by myself; the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return.” Isa. 45:22, 23. Which oath, the Epistle to the Hebrews explains in this manner: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” Heb. 6:17-19. That is, God, by his counsel and promise, having confirmed them with an oath, hath more than sufficiently sealed and established his gracious will; that so none might be discouraged.

6. The third foundation is the eternal covenant of grace, which consists in the pardon of sin: “This shall be the covenant: I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31:33, 34. And this covenant or testament, because confirmed by the death of Christ, is therefore everlasting. To the same purpose the Lord says by the prophet: “Neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.” Isa. 54:10. And again, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (i. e., Christ). Isa. 55:3. And Moses declares the same: “The Lord thy God is a merciful God: he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” Deut. 4:31. And again we read: “He will ever be mindful of his covenant.” Ps. 111:5. On which eternal covenant, that we might the more firmly rely, he hath renewed and established it with every one by Holy Baptism, which therefore is called “The answer (or covenant) of a good conscience towards God.” 1 Peter 3:21. For this end, Christ himself was baptized in Jordan, and thereby entered with us into this covenant. Matt. 3:13.

7. The fourth foundation is the death of Christ, by which the covenant or testament of God was ratified. But if any ask, For whom did he die? St. Paul answers, that “he died for all.” 2 Cor. 5:14, 15. And St. John says, “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2. So John the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. This, the apostle explains in the following comforting manner: “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18): where a comparison 165 is made betwixt Christ and Adam. As if he had said, “Since the offence of Adam hath been so strong, as to make all men sinners; shall not the righteousness of Christ be far more powerful to make them righteous? If sin hath abounded, shall not grace much more abound?” The same apostle, having occasion to show that the merit of Christ is universal, and extends itself to all, thus reasons: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.” But if this be true, it also follows, “that God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2:4-6. On all this Paul remarks, that God, by “Christ hath reconciled all things to himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Col. 1:20. And again: “God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” Rom. 8:32. In this number, reckon also thyself, because “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34. Since, therefore, Christ died for sinners, thou, who acknowledgest thyself to be one, must necessarily have an interest in his death, and in all the benefits purchased by it.

8. The fifth foundation is the universal call, grounded upon the universal merit of Christ. The latter was exhibited for the sins of the whole world, and it was proper that it should be preached to all creatures. Matt. 9:13. Now since Christ declares: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 16:15), it follows, that thou also, because thou art a sinner, art called. But called to what? To repentance. And why? That thou mayest obtain remission of sin, through faith. “It behooved,” says the Lord, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in the name of Christ among all nations.” Luke 24:46, 47. And the apostle affirms, that “the gospel was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” Col. 1:23. But to what end did God cause it to be preached? Surely for no other end than that thereby faith might be kindled and established among men, according to that saying of the same apostle: “How shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard?” Rom. 10:14. Whenever, therefore, God calls us to repentance, far be it from us to think that God calls us in vain, or without a real design to save us. Surely God does not deceive us: but in this serious affair he seriously calls upon us, that we may embrace his mercy, and accept the offer of grace. Hence he is also angry with those who make light of his supper, and disdain to come to his feast. Matt. 22:7. Whereas, to those who obey his call, through faith, he hath given his promise, full of heavenly comfort that “whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Nay, he hath graciously promised to preserve the same faith unto the end, even till the salvation of the soul, which is the end of faith, be secured. Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:9.

9. The sixth foundation is the inward testimony of the divine Spirit in us, who seeks after righteousness, and seals us unto the day of redemption. Rom. 8:16; Eph. 4:30. This Spirit incessantly rouses and awakens the conscience. He reproves without intermission, convinces of sins, and sets them before thine eyes. He summons thee to repentance, calls thee inwardly in thy heart, strives with thee, and 166 leaves nothing untried, in order to keep thee from every sin, and lead to thy conversion. John 16:8. These things thou canst not conceal, though ever so desirous to do it. This witness of Christ in thee, is never silent: and though thou shouldst stop thine ears against him, yet shalt thou be compelled to hear him inwardly. And if thou shouldst desire to reject his summons, yet must thou feel the internal energy of his correction. All this is a convincing, strong, and unquestionable proof, that “God would have thee to be saved.”

10. The seventh foundation consists of the examples of sinners, whom God, upon their conversion, hath received into favor. Surely “there is none righteous,” of himself, “no, not one.” Rom. 3:10, 23. Not only David, Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:11-13), Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, and Zaccheus; but “all of us are sinners, and come short of the glory of God.” There is none innocent in his sight. Whatever favor God shows to one, the same he offers to all the rest; since he “is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34. We all are saved by grace, without any merit of our own, and all stand in need of a gracious pardon of sin: for, “if thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3), and if thou enterest into judgment, “in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Ps. 143:2.

11. The eighth foundation is, that the merit of Christ is not only sufficient, but even more than sufficient for the sins of all men, how numerous, great and heinous soever they may be. Why then shouldst thou exclude thyself, and refuse to share in the benefits of the ransom which Christ paid? Is it not infinitely greater than the sins of the whole world? For as thou art of the race of men, so thou canst apply to thyself that word of the Lord, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56): and that of St. Paul, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19): and again, that of St. John, “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2); that is, for all the sins of every man in particular.

12. A ninth foundation is this, that the merit of Christ is an infinite satisfaction, beyond all number, measure, and end; and it is so on account of the exalted Person that suffered, who is both God and man. Why shouldst thou then limit the extent, number, measure, and bounds of merit so ample, and exclude thyself from it? So great, so high, and so extensive are the power and efficacy of that merit, that it would still prove a sufficient ransom if every man were guilty of the sins of the whole world. Nay, if there were as many worlds drowned in sin, as there are men that live on this earth, yet would the merit of Christ and his righteousness be large enough to cover all their sins. Cast not therefore away a mercy so universal, so full and every way abounding. This surely is that “depth of the sea, into which God hath cast all our sins.” Mic. 7:19. Hence the Psalmist says: “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps. 103:11, 12. This is that “eternal redemption which is obtained for us.” Heb. 9:12. The benefit of this complete redemption, is summed up by St. Paul: “It is God that justifieth. 167 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died,” etc. Rom. 8:33, 34.

13. The tenth foundation is this, that the obedience of Christ is perfect: because he fulfilled the will and law of his Father in all things, thereby to give satisfaction for all the disobedience which all the men in the world had committed against God's law. For if the sin and transgression of any one man were not expiated by him, then surely, his obedience would not prove perfect, and the disobedience of Adam would be more effectual to condemnation, than the obedience of Christ to justification. This cannot be, since the apostle in plain terms affirms the contrary, in Rom. 5:18. What reason is there then, that any one should exclude himself from this perfect obedience, or be backward to assert his own interest in it? Let us rather consider, that Christ for this very end humbled himself, “and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8), “that he might redeem them that were under the law.” Gal. 4:5. In the number of these, we all surely are comprised. For, as our first parents aspired after and affected the majesty of God, so it behooved Christ, the repairer of our breaches, by a most profound humility, to atone for this heinous offence, and to be “made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13), in order that the blessing might come upon all, who were cursed in Adam.

14. The eleventh foundation is, that since the royal victory and triumph of Christ surpass all the multitude, weight, and heinousness of sin, together with all the power of death, hell, and Satan, what cause canst thou assign, O sinner, why the same victorious Christ should not triumph over thy sin as well as over all the rest? What! canst thou believe that thy transgressions alone are more powerful than Christ, the omnipotent king? When he shall make all his enemies his footstool (Ps. 110:1), cannot he subdue under him also thy sins? Dost thou think that thy crimes only shall prove too hard for him? God forbid, therefore, that thou shouldest call in question thy interest in so universal a conquest, in so glorious a triumph.

15. The twelfth foundation is the everlasting priesthood of Christ. Ps. 110:4; Heb. 4:14. He freely grants pardon to all them that ask it; and gives the Holy Spirit to those that earnestly pray for that gift. Nor will he, or can he refuse to any what belongs to his office (Heb. 5:6; 7:17); for he is the Saviour of the world, and the High Priest and Mediator between God and man. 1 Tim. 2:5. If he refuse his office to any one that implores it, he would verily cease to be a Mediator. But so far is he from this, that he freely offers to sinners the benefit of his mediatorial office. “Come unto me,” saith he, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” Matt. 11:28. And again: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isa. 55:1) of life. And does he not by his apostles and messengers, seriously invite us to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), and at the same time offer us his help and assistance for that end? He seeks the lost sheep (Ezek. 34:16), and receives into favor the Prodigal son as soon as he returns. Luke 15:20. Take heed, therefore, O man, that thou reject not the office of Christ the Mediator, and that thou deprive not thyself of the benefit of a sacerdotal intercessor, every way full of divine consolation and comfort.

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