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Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.—Ps. XXXII. 1, 2.
IN this text I observed, that it is a great degree and step towards, yea, a considerable part of our blessedness, to obtain pardon of our sins upon the account of Christ’s righteousness. I showed the 190necessity which lies upon men, who are all become guilty before God, to look after this pardon; and thereupon took occasion to represent the excellency of the Christian religion, that hath provided a salve for the great sore that runs upon all mankind, above that of the pagans, and also that of the Jews, to whom this mystery was but darkly revealed. To proceed to another use, to exhort you to put in for a share in this blessedness, to persuade you to it, let me use a few motives.
1. Till you are pardoned you are never blessed; there is an obstacle and impediment in the way hinders your blessedness. What though you flow in wealth, ease, and plenty; yet as long as this black storm hangs over your head, and you know not how soon it will drop upon you, you cannot be accounted happy men. Do you account him a happy man who is condemned to die, because he hath a plentiful allowance till his execution? or him a happy man that makes a fair show abroad, and puts a good face upon his ruinous and breaking condition, but at home is pinched with want and misery, which is ready to come upon him like an armed man? or him a happy man that revels it out in all manner of pleasure, but is to die at night? Then those that remain in the guilt of their sins may be happy. But now, on the other side, a pardoned sinner is blessed whatever befalls him. If he be afflicted, the sting of his affliction is gone, that is sin; if he be prosperous, the curse of his blessings is taken away; the wrath of God is appeased, and so every condition is made tolerable or comfortable to him.
2. Nothing less than a pardon will serve the turn. Not forbearance on God’s side, nor forgetfulness on ours.
[1.] It is not a forbearance of the punishment on God’s part, but a dissolving the obligation to the punishment. God may be angry with us when he doth not actually strike us: as the psalmist says, Ps. vii. 11-13, ‘God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.’ In the day of his patience he doth for a while spare; but God is ready to deal with them hand to hand, for he is sharpening his sword at a distance; he is bending his bow: the arrow is upon the string, and how soon God may let it fly we cannot tell; therefore we are never safe till we turn to God, and enter into his peace. Wherever there is sin there is guilt, and wherever there is guilt there will be punishment. If we dance about the brink of hell, and go merrily to execution, it argues not our sin,1515 Qu. ‘the pardon of our sin’?—ED. but stupidity and folly.
[2.] On our part, our senseless forgetfulness will do us no good. Carnal men mind not the happiness of an immortal soul, and they are not troubled because they consider not their condition; but they are not happy that feel least trouble, but those that have least cause. A benumbed conscience cannot challenge this blessedness; they only put off that which they cannot put away, which God hath neither for given nor covered. They do but skin the wound till it fester and rankle into a dangerous sore. God is the wronged party, and supreme 191judge, to whose sentence we must stand or fall. If he justifies, then who will condemn? We may lay ourselves asleep, and sing peace to ourselves; but it is not what we say, but what God saith: ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.’
3. A pardon is surely a great blessing, if we consider, first, the evils we are freed from; and, secondly, the good depending upon it.
[1.] The evils we are freed from. Guilt is the obligation to punishment, and pardon is the dissolving or loosing that obligation. Now, the punishment is exceeding great, no less than hell and damnation; and hell is no vain scarecrow, nor is heaven a May-game. Eternity makes everything truly great. Look at the loss—an eternal separation from the comfortable presence of God: Mat. xxv. 41, ‘Go, ye cursed,’ &c.; and Luke xiii. 27, ‘Depart, ye workers of iniquity.’ When God turned Adam out of paradise, his case was very sad, but God took care of him, made him coats of skins to clothe him, gave him a day of patience, afterwards promised the seed of the woman, who should recover the lapsed state of mankind, and so intimated hopes of a better paradise. That exile, therefore, is nothing comparable to this; for now man is stript of all his comfort, sent into an endless state of misery, where there shall be no hope of ever changing his condition. Now, to be delivered from this that is so great an evil, what a blessedness is it! For the poena sensus, the pain as well as the loss, our Lord sets it forth by two notions: Mark ix. 44, ‘The worm that never dies, and the fire that shall never be quenched.’ The scripture speaks of the soul with allusion to the state of the body after death. In the body worms breed usually, and many times they were burnt with fire. Accordingly, our state in the world to come is set forth by a worm and a fire. The worm implies the worm of conscience—a reflection upon our past folly and disobedience to God, and the remembrance of all the affronts we have put upon Christ. Here men may run from the rebukes of conscience by many shifts, sports, distracting their minds with a clatter of business; but then there is not a thought free, but the damned are always thinking of slighted means, abused comforts, wasted time, the offences done to a merciful God, and the curse wherein they have involved themselves by their own folly. The fire that shall never be quenched notes the wrath of God, or those unknown pains that shall be inflicted upon the body and soul; which must needs be great, because God himself will take the sinful creature into his own hands to punish him, and will show forth the glory of his wrath and power upon him. When God punisheth us by a creature, the creature is not a vessel capacious enough to convey the power of his wrath; as when a giant strikes with a straw, that cannot convey his strength. But when God falls upon us himself, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ How dreadful is that! Is it not a blessedness to be freed from so great an evil? Then a little mitigation, a drop to cool your tongue, would be accounted a great mercy.
[2.] If we consider the good depending on it. You are not capable of enjoying God, and being happy for evermore, till his wrath be appeased, and your sins forgiven; but when that is once done, then you may have sure hope of being admitted into his presence: Rom. v. 10, 192 ‘If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled by his death, much more being now reconciled shall we be saved by his life;’ that is to say, it is far more credible that a reconciled man should be glorified, than that a sinner and rebel should be reconciled. If you can pass over this difficulty, and once get into God’s peace, then what may you not expect from God? The first favour to such as have been rebels against him facilitates the belief of all acts of grace.
Now, what must we do that we may be capable of this blessed privilege, that our sins may be pardoned, and our filth covered, and our debt may be forgiven? I shall give my answer in three branches:—
I. I will show you what is to be done as to your first entrance into the evangelic state.
II. What is to be done as to your continuance therein, and that you may still enjoy this privilege; and—
III. What is to be done as to your recovery out of grievous lapses, and falls, and wounds, as are more troublesome to the conscience, for which a particular and express repentance is required.
I. As to our first entrance into the evangelic state; that is by faith and repentance: both are necessary to pardon, Acts x. 43, ‘To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.’ There remission of sins is granted to a believer. Now repentance is full out as necessary, Acts ii. 38, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins;’ Luke xxiv. 47, ‘And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’ What is in another evangelist, ‘to preach the gospel to every creature,’ in this is, ‘that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name.’ And this is preaching the gospel; for the gospel is nothing else but a doctrine of repentance and remission of sins. So if we will not hearken to the vain fancies of men who have perverted the scripture, but stand to the plain gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; these two duties are necessary to pardon. Christ’s satisfaction is not imputed to us, but upon terms agreed on in the covenant of redemption. As to the impetration there is required the intervention of Christ’s merit, so to the application faith and repentance, without which we are not pardoned. These two graces have a distinct reference, and it is intimated by that passage of Paul, for he gives this account of his ministry, Acts xx. 21, ‘Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Here, in short, repentance respects God, to whom we return, and faith Jesus Christ, by whom we return. From God we fell, to God we must return; we fell from him as we withdrew our allegiance, and sought our happiness elsewhere; and we return to him as our rightful Lord and our proper happiness. And then faith in Christ is necessary, because the Lord Jesus is the only remedy for our misery, who opened the way to God by his merit and satisfaction, and doth also bring us to walk in his ways by his renewing first, and then reconciling grace; and faith is that that respects him. Who will take physic of a physician whose art he does not trust, or go to sea with a pilot whose skill he questions? Who will venture his eternal interest in Christ’s hands, if he be not persuaded 193of his ability and fidelity, as one that is able to make our peace with God, and bring us to the enjoyment of him? But I would not lightly mention it, but bring it to a distinct issue.
1. I will show you it is for the glory of God and comfort of the creature that there should be a stated course of entering into God’s peace, or applying the gospel; for we must not so look to the impetration, or merit and righteousness of Christ, as not to consider the application, and how we come to have a title to these things.
2. I will show that these two graces and duties are faith and repentance, which do in many things agree, and in other respects differ.
3. I will show you that they, differing in their use, are required for distinct reasons and ends.
4. The use of these graces will plainly discover their nature to you, so that a poor Christian, that would settle his soul upon Christ’s terms, and this blessed gospel made known to us, need not any longer debate what is repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. It is for the glory of God and the comfort of the creature that there should be a stated course of applying the privileges of the gospel, or of entering into God’s peace.
[1.] It is certainly for the glory of God. It is not meet that pardon and life should be prostituted to every one that will hastily challenge these privileges. Pardon we are upon; our case is not compassionable till we relent and submit to God’s terms. I would appeal to your own consciences: surely it is more suitable to the wisdom of God that a penitent sinner should have pardon rather than an impenitent, or one that securely continues in his sins, and despiseth both the curse of the law and the grace of the gospel. It is not agreeable to the honour of God, and the wisdom of his trans actions with man, that such should have benefit by him. Again, for faith: it is not meet we should have benefit by one we know not and trust not. Whatever be God’s mercy to infants, who are not in a capacity to know and trust him, yet, in adult and grown persons, it is necessary we should not have such great privileges settled upon us without our knowledge, or besides and against our wills. God will have our consent in a humble and solemn way, that we may come and thankfully accept what he hath provided for us. So this is very much for the glory of God.
[2.] And then for our comfort, that we may make our claim, that we may state our interest with the greater certainty and assurance; for when great privileges are conditionally propounded, as they are in the new covenant, our right is suspended till the conditions be performed; and certainly our comfort is suspended till we know they be performed, till we know ourselves to be such as have an interest in the promises of the gospel. I have told you, Blessed are they whose sins are pardoned. But, saith the soul, if I knew my sins were pardoned I should think myself a blessed creature indeed. What would you reply to this anxious and serious soul? God hath made a promise, an offer of pardon by Christ: the offer of pardon is the invitation to use the means that we may be possessed of it. But then the serious anxious soul replies still, To whom is this promise made? How 194shall I come to know that I am thus blessed and accepted by God, and that my sins are pardoned? What is to be replied here? Look to whom the promise is made. Certainly it is made to some, or to all. If you say the promise is to all, you deceive the most; if to some, you must say, from scripture, to them that repent and believe—to the penitent believer. Here is the shortest way to bring the debate to an issue, wherein our comfort is so much concerned, to see we be penitent believers. For thus the application is stated, and the fixing these conditions is the more for the glory of God, and the comfort of the creature.
2. The two graces or duties upon which it is fixed faith and repentance—do in many things agree, in other respects differ.
[1.] They both agree in this, that they are both necessary to the fallen creature, and do concern our recovery to God, and so are proper to the gospel, which is provided for the restoration of lapsed man kind. The gospel is a healing remedy, and therefore is Christ so often set forth by the term of a physician. The law was a stranger to both these duties; it knew no such thing as repentance and faith in Christ; for, according to the tenor of it, once a sinner, and for ever miserable. But the gospel is a plank cast out after shipwreck, whereby we may escape and come safe to shore.
Again, they both agree in this, that they concern our entrance and first recovery out of the defection and apostasy of mankind, for after wards there are other things required; but as to our first entrance into the evangelic state, both these graces are required, and the acts of them so interwoven, that we can hardly distinguish them.
Again, they both agree in this, that they have a continual influence upon our whole new obedience. For the secondary conditions of the covenant do grow out of the first, and these two graces run throughout our whole life. Repentance, mortifying sin, is not a work of a day, but of our whole lives, and the like is faith.
Again, they agree in that both are effected and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit; that God, who requires these things, gives them.
Lastly, they agree in this, that the one cannot be without the other, neither repentance without faith, nor faith without repentance; partly, because there is no use of faith without repentance. Christ as mediator is the means; now the means are of no use without respect to the end. Now Christ and the whole gospel grace is the means to come to God. Besides, these things cannot be graces but in a concomitancy. Repentance without faith, what would it be? When we see our sins, and bewail them, despair would make us sit down and die, if there were not a Saviour to heal our natures and convert our souls. Neither can faith be without repentance; for unless there be a confession of past sins, with a resolution of future obedience, we continue in our obstinacy and stubbornness, and so we are incapable of mercy, our case is not compassionable.
In short, repentance without faith would degenerate into the horror of the damned, and our sorrow for sin would be tormenting rather curing to us. And then faith would be a licentious and presumptuous confidence without repentance: unless it be accompanied with this hearty consent of living in the love, obedience, and service of God, with 195a detestation of our former ways, it would be a turning the grace of God into wantonness. Therefore these two always go together. Which is the first, I will not enter upon; but the one cannot be without the other.
[2.] Let me show you wherein they differ: the one respects God, the other Christ.
(1.) Repentance towards God. While we live in sin, we are not only out of our way, but out of our wits. ‘We were sometimes foolish and disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures,’ Titus iii. 3. We live in rebellion against him against whom we cannot make our party good; and withal contenting ourselves with a false transitory happiness instead of a solid and eternal one, we never come to our wits again till we think of returning to God. As the prodigal, when ‘he came to himself,’ he thought of returning to his father; and Ps. xxii. 27, ‘They shall remember, and turn to the Lord.’ So long as we lie in our sins, we are like men in a dream, we consider not from whence we are, nor whither we are going, nor what shall become of us to all eternity; but go on against all reason and conscience, provoking God, and destroying our own souls. Man is never in his true posture again, till he returns to God as his sovereign Lord and chief happiness: as our sovereign Lord, that we may perform our duty to him; and our felicity and chief good, that we may seek all our happiness in him. And none do repent but those that give up themselves to obey God and to do his will, as he is the sovereign Lord: 1 Peter iv. 2, ‘That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh, to the lusts of men, but to the will of God;’ and look upon him as their chief happiness, and prefer his favour above all the sensual pleasures of the world, that they may be able in truth to say, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee,’ Ps. lxxiii. 25. This is repentance towards God.
(2.) There is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. This grace is necessary, that we may own our Redeemer, and be thankful to him, as the author of our deliverance: Rom. vii. 25, ‘wretched man that I am! But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ And also faith is necessary, that we may trust ourselves in his hands. We are to take Christ as our prophet, priest, and king; to hear him as our prophet: Mat. xvii. 5, ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him.’ We are to receive him as our Lord and King: Col. ii. 6, ‘As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.’ We are to consider him as the great high priest of our confession: Heb. iii. 1, ‘Let us consider the Lord Jesus, the great apostle and high priest of our confession.’ Hear him we must as a prophet, that we may form our hopes by his covenant, and frame our lives by his holy and pure doctrine. Receive him we must as a king, that we may obey him in all things. Consider him as a priest, that we may depend upon the merit and value of his sacrifice and intercession, and may the more confidently plead his covenant and promises to God. Now without this there can be no commerce between us and Christ. Who will learn of him as a prophet, whom he takes to be a deceiver? obey him as a king, who doth not believe his power? or depend upon him with any confidence or hopes of mercy, if he doth not believe the value of his merit and 196sacrifice? Herein these things differ—repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; the one respects the end, God; the other the means, Christ. Repentance more especially respects our duty; faith, our comfort. Repentance, newness of life for the future, and returning to the primitive duty, the love of God, and obeying his will; faith, pardon of what is past, and hope of mercy to come. In short, to God we give up ourselves as our supreme Lord; to Christ as Mediator, who alone can bring us to God: to God, as taking his will for the rule of our lives and actions, and preferring his love above all that is dear in the world; to Christ as our Lord and Saviour, who makes our peace with God, and gives the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, that we may for ever live upon him as our life, hope, and strength. Thus I have briefly showed you how repentance respects God, and faith our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. That these graces having their peculiar reference, are required in order to pardon, for distinct reasons and ends.
First, Repentance is required for these reasons:—
[1.] Because otherwise God cannot have his end in pardon, which is to recover the lost creation, that we may again live in his love and obedience. Surely Christ came to seek and save that which was lost. Now, to be lost, in the first and primitive sense, was to be lost to God. Take the lost sheep or groat, it was lost to the owner, the son to the father; and so, if Christ came to save that which was lost, he came to recover us to God, therefore said to redeem us to God.
[2.] Neither can the Redeemer do his work for which God hath appointed him: 1 Peter iii. 18, ‘He died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.’ We accept him in all his offices for this end: ‘I am the way, truth, and life; no man comes to the Father but by me.’ Therefore, whole Christianity, from the beginning to the end, a short description of it is this,—a coming to God by Christ: Heb. vii. 25, ‘He is able to save to the uttermost.’ Whom?—‘all those that come to God by him.’
[3.] Without it we should not have our happiness. It is our happiness to please and enjoy God. We are not in a capacity to please and enjoy God till we are returned to him: ‘They that are in the flesh cannot please the Lord;’ nor to enjoy him here, for here ‘we see his face in righteousness ,’ nor hereafter, for ‘without holiness no man shall see God.’
Secondly, But why is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ required, and so much spoken of in scripture? I will content myself but with two reasons at this time:—
[1.] Faith in Christ is most fitted for the acceptance of God’s free gift. Faith and grace do always go together, and are put as opposite to law and works: Rom. iv. 16, ‘It is of faith that it may be of grace:’ Eph. ii. 8, ‘For by grace ye are saved through faith, and not of your selves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.’ Faith establishes and keeps up the interest and honour of grace; for it is the free grace and favour of God to condescend to the rebel world, so far as he hath done in the new covenant. We present ourselves before him as those that stand wholly to his mercy, have nothing to plead for ourselves but the righteousness and merit of our Redeemer, 197by virtue of which we humbly beg pardon and life to be begun in us by his Spirit, and perfected in glory.
[2.] Why faith in Christ? Because the way of our recovery is so strange and wonderful. It can only be received by faith; sense can not convey it to us, reason will not, and nothing is reserved for the entertainment of this glorious mystery, pardon, and salvation by our Redeemer, but faith alone. If I should deduce this argument at large, I would show you nothing but faith, or the belief of God’s testimony concerning his Son, can support us in these transactions with God. The comfort of the promise is so rich and glorious, sense and reason cannot inform us of it: ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive, the things God hath prepared for them that love him,’ 1 Cor. ii. 9. It is not meant only of heaven, but of the whole preparations and rich provisions God hath made for us in the gospel. It is not a thing can-come to us by eye or ear, or the conceiving of man’s heart; we only believe and entertain it by faith. And then, the persons upon whom it is bestowed are so unworthy, that certainly it cannot enter into the heart of man that God will be so good, and do so much good to such. Adam, when he had sinned, grew shy of God, and ran away from him. Besides, the way God hath taken for our deliverance is so supernatural: ‘God so loved the world, that he sent his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ That God should become man, that he should submit to such an accursed death for our sakes, is so high and glorious, it can only be entertained by faith. Besides, our chief blessedness lies in another world: ‘He that lacketh faith is blind, and cannot see afar off.’ Here in this lower world, where our God is unseen, and our great hopes are to come, where the flesh is so importunate to be pleased, where our temptations and trials are so many, and difficulties so great, we are apt to question all, and we can never keep waiting upon God, were it not for faith, and a steady belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. For these reasons (if you look into the scriptures), it is why faith is so much insisted upon, that we may keep up the honour of God’s grace, and because this grace of the Redeemer is so mysterious and wonderful.
4. The use of these two graces discovers their nature. What is faith and repentance? Repentance towards God is a turning from sin to God. The terminus a quo of repentance is our begun recovery from sin, and therefore called, ‘Repentance from dead works,’ Heb. vi. 1. The terminus ad quem, to which we return, is God, and our being devoted to God in obedience and love. God never hath our hearts till he hath our love and delight, till we return to a love of his blessed majesty, and delight in his ways. This is called in scripture some times a turning to God, in many other places a seeking after God, a giving up ourselves to God: 2 Cor. viii. 5, ‘They gave up themselves to the Lord.’ This is the repentance by which we enter into the gospel state. Now what is faith? Besides an assent to the gospel, which is at the bottom of it, it is a serious, thankful, broken-hearted acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, that he may be to every one of us what God hath appointed him to be, and do for every one of us what God hath appointed him to do for poor sinners; it is serious and 198broken-hearted, done by a creature in misery, and thankful for such a wonderful benefit, a trusting to this Redeemer, that he may do the work of a redeemer in our hearts, to save us from the evil of, and after, sin.
And thus I have briefly opened this necessary doctrine, as clearly laid in the scripture. And this is your entrance in the evangelic state.
II. For our continuance therein; for we must not only mind our entrance, but our continuance. Our Lord Jesus tells us of a gate and a way: the gate signifies the entrance, and the way our continuance. And we read of making and keeping covenant with God; we read of union with Christ, that is our first entrance. For this faith is the closing act, and expressed sometimes by a being married to Christ. But there is not only an union with Christ, but an abiding in him: ‘Abide in me, and I will abide in you.’ Now as for our continuance, I would show you that the first works are gone over and over again, faith and repentance are still necessary: ‘For the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.’ And repentance is still necessary. But I shall only press two things—first, new obedience; secondly, daily prayer.
1. New obedience is required: 1 John i. 7, ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ Holy walking is necessary to the continuance of our being cleansed from sin, and therefore mercy is promised to the forsaking of our sins: Prov. xxviii. 13, ‘He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy;’ Isa. lv. 7, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thought; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ Our hearts were not sound with God in the first covenanting if we undo what was done: ‘If we build again the things we have destroyed, then we are found transgressors,’ Gal. ii. 18. Well, then, a man that seeks after pardon, seeks after it with the ruin and destruction of sin. Sin was the greatest burden that lay upon his conscience, the grievance from whence he sought ease, the wound pained him at heart, the disease his soul was sick of. And was all this anguish real? And shall a man come to delight in his sores again, and take up the burden he groaned under, and tear open the wound that was in a fair way of healing, and willingly relapse into the sickness he was almost recovered from with so much ado? Sure this shows our first consent was not real and sincere. And then Christ will be no advocate for them that continue in their sins. ‘Our God is a God of salvation,’ we cannot enough speak of his saving mercy; but ‘he will wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses,’ Ps. lxviii. 20, 21.
2. Daily prayer. [This was spoken unto at the close of the first sermon.] Mat. vi. 12. Our Lord hath taught us to pray (for we make but too much work for pardoning mercy every day), ‘Every day forgive us our trespasses.’ To-day in one of the petitions, is common to all that follow; as we beg daily bread, we must beg daily pardon, daily grace against temptations. Under the law they had a lamb every 199morning and every evening offered to God for a daily sacrifice, Num. xxviii. 4-6. We are all invited to look to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. Surely we have as much need as they—more cause than they, because now all is clear and openly made known unto us. God came to Adam in the cool of the day; he would not let him sleep in his sins: before night came he comes and rouseth his conscience, and then gives out the promise of the seed of the woman that should break the serpent’s head. In reconciliation with God let not the sun go down upon God’s wrath, Eph. iv. 26. A man should not sleep in his anger, nor out of charity with man; surely we should make our peace with God every day. If a man under the law had contracted any uncleanness, he was to wash his clothes before evening, that he might not lie a night in his uncleanness. We should daily, earnestly, come to God with this request, Lord, pardon our sins. But what! must those that are already adopted into God’s family, and taken into his grace and favour, daily pray for pardon of sin? Though upon our first faith our state be changed, and we are indeed made children of God, and heirs of eternal life by faith in Christ Jesus, yet he that is clean need wash his feet. We contract a great deal of sinful defilement and pollution by walking up and down here in a dirty world, and we must every day be cleansing our consciences before God, and begging that we may be made partakers of this benefit.
III. The third thing is our recovery out of grievous lapses and falls. In them there is required a particular and express repentance; and repentance and faith must be carried with respect to those four things that are in sin: culpa, the fault, reatus, the guilt, macula, the stain and blot, and poena, the punishment. You know the law supposeth a righteous nature that God gives to man, therefore in sin there is a stain or blot, defacing God’s image. The precepts of the law require duty, so it is culpa, a criminal act; the sanction of the law as threatened makes way for guilt, as executed calls for punishment; you see how it ariseth.
1. For the fault in the transgression of the law, or the criminal action. See that the fault be not continued; relapses are very dangerous. A bone often broken in the same place is hardly set again. God’s children are in danger of this before the breach be well made up, or the orifice of the wound be soundly closed; as Lot doubled his incest, and Samson goes in again and again to Delilah. But in wicked men frequently, as that king sent fifty after fifty, and nothing would stop him. There is an express forsaking of sin required of us, otherwise it would abolish all the difference between the renewed and the carnal.
2. The guilt continues till serious and solemn repentance, and humiliation before God, and suing out our pardon in Christ’s name. 1 John i. 9, he speaks of believers: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ There must be a solemn humbling for the sin, and then God will forgive us. Suppose a man forbear the act, and never commit it more (as Judah forbore the act, after he had committed incest with Tamar, but it seems he repented not till she showed him the bracelets and the staff); yet with serious remorse we must beg our peace humbly upon the account of our Mediator. Therefore some thing must be done to take away the guilt.200
3. There is the blot or evil inclination to sin again. The blot of sin in general is the defacing of God’s image, but in particular sins it is some weakening of the reverence of God. A man cannot venture to act a grievous wilful sin, but there is a violent obstruction of the fear of God. A brand that hath been in the fire is more apt to take fire again; the evil influences of the sin continue. Now the root of sin must be mortified, it is not enough to forbear or confess a sin, but we must pull out the core of the distemper before all will be well. As Jonah, he repented of his tergiversation and forsaking his call. The fault was not repeated: he goes to Nineveh and does his duty. Yet the core of the distemper was not taken away; for you read of him, Jonah iv. 2, ‘Was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew thou wert a gracious God, and repentest thee of the evil.’ On the contrary, Peter fell into a grievous sin, denying his Lord and Master with oaths and execrations; but afterwards, John xxi. 15, Christ tries him: Jesus saith to Simon Peter, ‘Lovest thou me more than these?’ pointing to the rest of his disciples. Peter had been bragging, Mat. xxvi. 33, ‘Though all men forsake thee, yet I will not forsake thee.’ Now when he was foiled, though he had wept bitterly for his fault, Christ tries if the cause be removed: ‘Lord, saith he, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.’ But he doth not say now, ‘more than these.’ The root of the distemper was gone; Peter is grown more modest now than to make comparisons.
4. There is the punishment. Now we must deprecate eternal punishment, and bless God for Jesus Christ, ‘who hath delivered us from wrath to come.’ But as to temporal evils, God hath reserved a liberty in the covenant to his wisdom and fatherly justice, to inflict temporal punishments as he shall see good. ‘If they break his statutes, and keep not his commandments; then will he visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness I will not utterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail,’ Ps. lxxxix. 32, 33. If ‘judgment begin at the house of God,’ what shall become of the sinner and ungodly? The righteous are recompensed upon earth, partly to increase their repentance, that when they smart under the fruit of sin, they may best judge of the evil of it. God doth in effect say, ‘Now know it is an evil and bitter thing to sin against me,’ God doth not do it to complete their justification, but to promote their sanctification, and to make us warnings to others, that they may not displease God as we do. Now for these reasons the Lord, though he doth forgive the sin and release the eternal punishment, yet he reserves a liberty to chastise us in our persons, families, and relations. Therefore what is our business? Humbly deprecate this temporal judgment: ‘Lord, correct me not in thine anger, nor chasten me in thy hot displeasure.’ We should be instant with God to get it stopped or mitigated; but if the Lord see it fit it shall come, patiently submit to him, and say, as the church, ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.’ These afflictive evils, some of them belong to God’s external government, and some to his internal. Some to his external government, as when many are sick, and weak, and fallen asleep: ‘When we are 201judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.’ A rod dipped in guilt may smart sore upon the back of God’s children, if they will play the wantons and rebels with God. Eli broke his neck, his sons were killed in battle, the ark taken. But then there are some other things belonging to his internal government, as the withdrawing the comforts of his Spirit, or the lively influences of his grace; for this was the evil David feared when he had gone into wilful sins: Ps. li. 11, 12, ‘Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not away thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit.’ When God’s children fall into sin, though the Lord doth not utterly take away his lovingkindness from them, he may abate the influences of his grace so far as they may never recover the like measure again as long as they live.
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