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The name of God confirming the truth and reality of forgiveness with him — As also the same is done by the properties of his nature.
X. Another foundation of this truth, and infallible evidence of it, may be taken from that especial name and title which God takes unto himself in this matter; for he owns the name of “The God of pardons,” or “The God of forgiveness.” So is he called, Neh. ix. 17, אֱלוֹהַ סְלִחוֹת. We have rendered the words, “Thou art a God ready to pardon;” but they are, as was said, “Thou art a God of pardons,” “forgiveness,” or” propitiations.” That is his name, which he owneth, which he accepteth of the ascription of unto himself; the name whereby he will be known. And to clear this evidence, we must take in some considerations of the name of God and the use thereof; as, —
1. The name of God is that whereby he reveals himself unto us, whereby he would have us know him and own him. It is something expressive of his nature or properties which he hath appropriated unto himself. Whatever, therefore, any name of God expresseth him to he, that he is, that we may expect to find him; for he will not deceive us by giving himself a wrong or a false name. And on this account he requires us to trust in his name, because he will assuredly be found unto us what his name imports. Resting on his name, flying unto his name, calling upon his name, praising his name, things so often mentioned in the Scripture, confirm the same unto us. These things could not be our duty if we might he deceived in so doing. God is, then, and will be, to us what his name declareth.
2. On this ground and reason God is said then first to be known by any name, when those to whom he reveals himself do, in an especial manner, rest on that name by faith, and have that accomplished towards them which that name imports, signifies, or declares. And therefore God did not, under the Old Testament, reveal himself 479to any by the name of the Father of Jesus Christ or the Son incarnate, because the grace of it unto them was not to be accomplished. “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect,” they were not intrusted with the full revelation of God by all his blessed names. Neither doth God call us to trust in any name of his, however declared or revealed, unless he gives it us in an especial manner, by way of covenant, to rest upon. So he speaks, Exod. vi. 3, “I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob בְּאֵל שַׁדַּי, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them.” It is certain that both these names of God, El-shaddai and Jehovah, were known among his people before. In the first mention we have of Abraham’s addressing himself unto the worship of God, he makes use of the name Jehovah: Gen. xii. 7, “He builded an altar unto Jehovah.” And so afterward not only doth Moses make use of that name in the repetition of the story, but it was also of frequent use amongst them. Whence, then, is it said that God appeared unto them by the name of El-shaddai, but not by the name of Jehovah? The reason is, because that was the name which God gave himself in the solemn confirmation of the covenant with Abraham: chap. xvii. 1, אֲנִי־אֵל שַׁדַּי, — “I am El-shaddai,” “God Almighty,” “God All-sufficient.” And when Isaac would pray for the blessing of the covenant on Jacob, he makes use of that name: chap. xxviii. 3, “God Almighty bless thee.” He invocates that name of God which was engaged in the covenant made with his father Abraham and himself. That, therefore, we may with full assurance rest on the name of God, it is not only necessary that God reveal that name to be his, but also that he give it out unto us for that end and purpose, that we might know him thereby, and place our trust and confidence in him according unto what that name of his imports. And this was the case wherever he revealed himself unto any in a peculiar manner by an especial name. So he did unto Jacob: chap. xxviii. 13, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac;” assuring him, that as he dealt faithfully in his covenant with his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, so also he would deal with him. And, chap. xxxi. 13, “I am the God of Bethel,” — “He who appeared unto thee there, and blessed thee, and will continue so to do.” But when the same Jacob comes to ask after another name of God, he answers him not; as it were commanding him to live by faith on what he was pleased to reveal. Now, then, God had not made himself known to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob by his name Jehovah, because he had not peculiarly called himself unto them by that name, nor had engaged it in his covenant with them, although it were otherwise known unto them. They lived and rested on the name of God Almighty, as suited to their supportment and consolation in their 480wandering, helpless condition, before the promise was to be accomplished. But now, when God came to fulfil his promises, and to bring the people, by virtue of his covenant, into the land of Canaan, he reveals himself unto them by, and renews his covenant with them in, the name of Jehovah. And hereby did God declare that he came to give stability and accomplishment unto his promises; to which end they were now to live upon this name of Jehovah, in an expectation of the fulfilling of the promises, as their fathers did on that of God Almighty, in an expectation of protection from him in their wandering state and condition. Hence this name became the foundation of the Judaical church, and ground of the faith of them who did sincerely believe in God therein. And it is strangely fallen out, in the providence of God, that since the Jews have rejected the covenant of their fathers, and are cast out of the covenant for their unbelief, they have utterly forgot that name of God. No Jew in the world knows what it is, nor how to pronounce it or make mention of it. I know themselves and others pretend strange mysteries in the letters and vowels of that name, which make it ineffable; but the truth is, being cast out of that covenant which was built and established on that name, in the just judgment of God, through their own blindness and superstition, they are no more able to make mention of it or to take it into their mouths. It is required, then, that the name of God be given unto us as engaged in covenant, to secure our expectation that he will be unto us according to his name.
3. All the whole gracious name of God, every title that he hath given himself, every ascription of honour unto himself that he hath owned, is confirmed unto us (unto as many as believe) in Jesus Christ. For as he hath declared unto us the whole name of God, John xvii. 6, so not this or that promise of God, but all the promises of God are in him yea and amen. So that, as of old, every particular promise that God made unto the people served especially for the particular occasion on which it was given, and each name of God was to be rested on as to that dispensation whereunto it was suited to give relief and confidence, — as the name of El-shaddai to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the name Jehovah to Moses and the people; so now, by Jesus Christ, and in him, every particular promise belongs unto all believers in all their occasions, and every name of God whatever is theirs also, at all times, to rest upon and put their trust in. Thus, the particular promise made unto Joshua, at his entrance into Canaan, to encourage and strengthen him in that great enterprise of conquering the land, is by the apostle applied unto all believers in all their occasions whatever: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb. xiii. 5. So likewise doth every name of God belong now unto us, as if it had in a particular manner been 481engaged in covenant unto us, and that because the whole covenant is ratified and confirmed unto us by Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. vi. 18, vii. 1. This, then, absolutely secures unto us an interest in the name of God insisted on, the God of forgiveness, as if it had been given unto every one of us to assure us thereof.
4. God takes this name, “The God of forgiveness,” to be his in a peculiar manner, as that whereby he will be distinguished and known. He appropriates it to himself, as expressing that which the power and goodness of no other can extend unto. “There are lords many, and gods many,” saith the apostle, 1 Cor. viii 5, — λεγόμενοι θεοί· some that are called so, such as some account so to be. How is the true God distinguished from these gods by reputation? He is so by this name; he is the God of pardons: Micah vii. 18, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?” This is his prerogative; herein none is equal to him, like him, or a sharer with him. “Who is a God like unto thee, that may be called a God of pardons?” The vanities of the nations cannot give them this rain; they have no refreshing showers of mercy and pardon in their power. Neither angels, nor saints, nor images, nor popes, can pardon sin. By this name doth he distinguish himself from them all.
5. To be known by this name is the great glory of God in this world. When Moses desired to see the glory of God, the Lord tells him that “he could not see his face,” Exod. xxxiii. 18–20. The face of God, or the gracious majesty of his Being, his essential glory, is not to be seen of any in this life; we cannot see him as he is. But the glorious manifestation of himself we may behold and contemplate. This we may see as the back parts of God; that shadow of his excellencies which he casteth forth in the passing by us in his works and dispensations. This Moses shall see. And wherein did it consist? Why, in the revelation and declaration of this name of God: chap. xxxiv. 6, 7, “The Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, 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.” To be known by this name, to be honoured, feared, believed as that declares him, is the great glory of God. And shall this fail us? Can we be deceived trusting in it, or expecting that we shall find him to be what his name declares? God forbid.
Let us lay together these considerations, and we shall find that they will give us another stable foundation of the truth insisted on, and a great encouragement to poor sinful souls to draw nigh to God in Christ for pardon. God hath no name but what he gives unto himself; nor is it lawful to know him or call him otherwise. As he calls himself, so is he; what his name imports, so is his nature. 482Every name also of God is engaged in Jesus Christ in the covenant, and is proposed unto us to place our trust and confidence in. Now, this is his name and his memorial, even “The God of forgiveness.” By this he distinguisheth himself from all others, and expresseth it as the principal title of his honour, or his peculiar glory. According to this name, therefore, all that believe shall assuredly find “there is forgiveness with him.”
XI. The consideration of the essential properties of the nature of God, and what is required to the manifestation of them, will afford us farther assurance hereof. Let us to this end take in the ensuing observations:—
First, God being absolutely perfect and absolutely self-sufficient, was eternally glorious, and satisfied with and in his own holy excellencies and perfections, before and without the creation of all or any thing by the putting forth or the exercise of his almighty power. The making, therefore, of all things depends on a mere sovereign act of the will and pleasure of God. So the whole creation makes its acknowledgment: Rev. iv. 11, v. 12, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” God could have omitted all this great work without the least impeachment of his glory. Not one holy property of his nature would have been diminished or abated in its eternal glory by that omission. This, then, depended on a pure act of his will and choice.
Secondly, On supposition that God would work “ad extra,” by his power produce any thing without himself, it was absolutely necessary that himself should be the end of his so doing. For as before the production of all things, there was nothing that could be the end why any of them should be brought forth out of nothing, or towards which they should be disposed; so God, being an infinite agent in wisdom, and understanding, and power, he could have no end in his actings but that also which is infinite. It is therefore natural and necessary unto God to do all things for himself. It is impossible he should have any other end. And he hath done so accordingly: Prov. xvi. 4, “The Lord) hath made all things for himself.” He aimed at himself in all that he did; there being no other infinite good for him to make his object and his end but himself alone.
Thirdly, This doing things, all things for himself, cannot intend an addition or accruement thereby of any new real good unto himself. His absolute eternal perfection and all-sufficiency render this impossible. God doth not become more powerful, great, wise, just, holy, good, or gracious, by any of his works, by any thing that he doth. He can add nothing to himself. It must therefore be the manifestation and declaration of the holy properties of his nature 483that he doth intend and design in his works, And there are two things required hereunto:—
1. That he make them known; that by ways suited to his infinite wisdom he both declare that such properties do belong unto him, as also what is the nature of them, according as the creature is able to apprehend.
So he doth things “to make his power known,” to show his power, and to declare his name through the earth, Rom. ix. 17, 22. So it was said that by the works of creation, τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, “that which may be known of God is manifest,” Rom. i. 19, 20. And what is that? Even the natural, essential properties of his being, “his eternal power and Godhead.” To this head are referred all those promises of God that he would glorify himself, and the prayers of his saints that he would do so, and the attestations given unto it in the Scripture that he hath done so. He hath made known his wisdom, holiness, power, goodness, self-sufficiency, and the like perfections of his nature.
2. That he attain an ascription, an attribution of praise and glory to himself upon their account. His design is “to be admired in all them that believe,” 2 Thess. i. 10; — that is, that upon an apprehension of his excellencies which he hath revealed, and as he hath revealed them, they should admire, adore, applaud, glorify, and praise him; worship, believe in, and trust him in all things; and endeavour the enjoyment of him as an eternal reward. And this is also threefold:—
(1.) Interpretative. So the inanimate and brute creatures ascribe unto God the glory of his properties, even by what they are and do. By what they are in their beings, and their observation of the law and inclination of their nature, they give unto God the glory of that wisdom and power whereby they are made, and of that sovereignty whereon they depend. Hence, nothing more frequent in the praises of God of old, than the calling of the inanimate creatures, heaven and earth, winds, storms, thunder, and the beasts of the field, to give praise and glory to God; that is, by what they are they do so, inasmuch as from the impression of God’s glorious excellencies in their effects upon them, they are made known and manifest.
(2.) Involuntary, in some rational creatures. Sinning men and angels have no design, no will, no desire to give glory to God. They do their utmost endeavour to the contrary, to hate him, reproach and blaspheme him. But they cannot yet cast off the yoke of God. In their minds and consciences they are forced, and shall be for ever, to acknowledge that God is infinitely holy, infinitely wise, powerful, and righteous. And he hath the glory of all these properties from them in their very desires that he were otherwise. When they 484would that God were not just to punish them, powerful to torment them, wise to find them out, holy to be displeased with their lusts and sins, they do at the same time, in the same thing, own, acknowledge, and give unto God the glory of his being, justice, wisdom, power, and holiness. When, therefore, God hath made known his properties, the ascription of glory unto him on their account is to rational creatures natural and unavoidable.
(3.) It is voluntary, in the reasonable service, worship, fear, trust, obedience of angels and men. God having revealed unto them the properties of his nature, they acknowledge, adore them, and place their confidence in them, and thereby glorify him as God. And this glorifying of God consisteth in three things:—
[1.] In making the excellencies of God revealed unto us the principle and chief object of all the moral actings of our souls, and of all the actings of our affections To fear the Lord and his goodness, and to fear him for his goodness; to trust in his power and faithfulness; to obey his authority; to delight in his will and grace; to love him above all, because of his excellencies and beauty; — this is to glorify him.
[2.] To pray for, and to rejoice in, the ways and means whereby he will or hath promised farther to manifest or declare these properties of his nature and his glory in them. What is the reason why we pray for, long for, the accomplishment of the promises of God toward his mints, of his threatenings towards his enemies, of the fulfilling of the glorious works of his power and grace that yet remain to be done, of the coming of the kingdom of Christ, of the approach of glory? Is it not chiefly and principally that the glorious excellencies of God’s nature may be made more manifest, be more known, more exalted, — that God may appear more as he is, and as he hath declared himself to be? This is to give glory to God. So likewise our joy, rejoicing, and satisfaction in any of the ways and works of God; it is solely on this account, that in them, God in his properties, — that is, his power, wisdom, holiness, and the like, — is revealed, declared, and made known.
[3.] In their joint actual celebration of his praises; which, as it is a duty of the greatest importance, and which we are, indeed, of all others most frequently exhorted unto and most earnestly called upon for; so in the nature of it, it consists in our believing, rejoicing expression of what God is and what he doth; — that is, our admiring, adoring, and blessing him, because of his holiness, goodness, and the rest of his properties, and his works of grace and power suitable unto them. This it is to praise God, Rev. v.
Fourthly, Observe that none of these properties of God can be thus manifested and known, nor himself be glorified for them, but 485by his declaration of them, and by their effects. We know no more of God than he is pleased to reveal unto us. I mean not mere revelation by his word, but any ways or means, whether by his word, or by his works, or by impressions from the law of nature upon our hearts and minds. And whatever God thus declares of himself, he doth it by exercising, putting forth, and manifesting the effects of it. So we know his power, wisdom, goodness, and grace, — namely, by the effects of them, or the works of God that proceed from them and are suited unto them. And whatever is in God that is not thus made known, we cannot apprehend, nor glorify God on the account of it. God, therefore, doing all things, as hath been showed, for the glory of these his properties, he doth so reveal them and make them known.
Fifthly, Upon this design of God, it is necessary that he should reveal and make known all the attributes and properties of his nature, in works and effects peculiarly proceeding from them and answering unto them, that he might be glorified in them; and which, as the event manifests, he hath done accordingly. For what reason can be imagined why God will be glorified in one essential excellency of his nature and not in another? Especially must this be affirmed of those properties of the nature of God which the event manifesteth his principal glory to consist in and arise from, and the knowledge whereof is of the greatest use, behoof, and benefit unto the children of men, in reference unto his design towards them.
Sixthly, These things being so, let us consider how it stands in reference unto that which is under consideration. God, in the creation of all things, glorified or manifested his greatness, power, wisdom, and goodness, with many other properties of the like kind. But his sovereignty, righteousness, and holiness, how are they declared hereby? Either not at all, or not in so evident a manner as is necessary, that he might be fully glorified in them or for them. What, then, doth he do? leave them in darkness, vailed, undiscovered, satisfying himself in the glory of those properties which his work of creation had made known? Was there any reason why he should do so, designing to do all things for himself and for his own glory? Wherefore he gives his holy law as a rule of obedience unto men and angels. This plainly reveals his sovereignty or authority over them, his holiness and righteousness in the equity and purity of things he required of them: so that in and by these properties also he may be glorified. As he made all things for himself, — that is, the manifestation of his greatness, power, wisdom, and goodness; so he gave the law for himself, — that is, the manifestation of his authority, holiness, and righteousness. But is this all? Is there not remunerative justice in God, in a way of bounty? Is there not vindictive 486justice in him, in a way of severity? There is so; and in the pursuit of the design mentioned they also are to be manifested, or God will not be glorified in them. This, therefore, he did also, in the rewards and punishments that he annexed unto the law of obedience that he had prescribed. To manifest his remunerative justice, he promised a reward in a way of bounty, which the angels that sinned not were made partakers of; and in the penalty threatened, which sinning angels and men incurred, he revealed his vindictive justice in a way of severity. So are all these properties of God made known by their effects, and so is God glorified in them or on their account.
But, after all this, are there no other properties of his nature, divine excellencies that cannot be separated from his being, which by none of these means are so much as once intimated to be in him? It is evident that there are; such are mercy, grace, patience, long-suffering, compassion, and the like. Concerning which observe, —
1. That where there are no objects of them, they cannot be declared, or manifested, or exercised. As God’s power or wisdom could not be manifest if there were no objects of them, no more can his grace or mercy. If never any stand in need of them, they can never be exercised, and consequently never be known. Therefore were they not revealed, neither by the creation of all things, nor by the law or its sanction, nor by the law written in our hearts; for all these suppose no objects of grace and mercy. For it is sinners only, and such as have made themselves miserable by sin, that they can be exercised about.
2. There are no excellencies of God’s nature that are more expressive of divine goodness, loveliness, and beauty than these are, — of mercy, grace, long-suffering, and patience; and, therefore, there is nothing that God so requireth our likeness unto him, in our conformity unto his image, as in these, — namely, mercy, grace, and readiness to forgive. And the contrary frame in any he doth of all things most abhor: “They shall have judgment without mercy, who shewed no mercy.” And, therefore, it is certain that God will be glorified in the manifestation of these properties of his nature.
3. These properties can be no otherwise exercised, and consequently no otherwise known, but only in and by the pardon of sin; which puts it beyond all question that there is forgiveness with God. God will not lose the glory of these his excellencies: he will be revealed in them, he will be known by them, he will be glorified for them; which he could not be if there were not forgiveness with him. So that here comes in not only the truth but the necessity of forgiveness also.
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