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Forgiveness manifested in the sending of the Son of God to die for sin — And from the obligation that is on us to forgive one another.
XII. In the next place we shall proceed unto that evidence which is the centre wherein all the lines of those foregoing do meet and rest, — the fountain of all those streams of refreshment that are in them, — that which animates and gives life and efficacy unto them. This lies in God’s sending of his Son. The consideration hereof will leave no pretence or excuse unto unbelief in this matter.
To make this evidence more clear and legible, as to what is intended in it, we must consider, — First, What was the rise of this sending we speak of. Secondly, Who it was that was sent. Thirdly, How, or in what manner he was sent. Fourthly, Unto what end and purpose.
First, The rise and spring of it is to be considered. It came forth from the eternal mutual consent and counsel of the Father and the Son: Zech. vi. 13, “The counsel of peace shall be between them both.” It is of Christ, the Branch, of whom he speaks. “lie shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both;” — that is, between God the Father, who sends him, and himself. There lay the counsel of peace-making between God and man, in due time accomplished by him who is “our peace,” Eph. ii. 14: so he speaks, Prov. viii. 30, 31, “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” They are the words of the Wisdom, that is, of the Son of God. When was this done? “Then I was by him.” Why, “before the mountains were settled, while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields;” that is, before the creation of the world, or from eternity, verses 25, 26. But how then could he “rejoice in the habitable part of the earth?” and how could his “delights be with the sons of men,” seeing as yet they were not? I answer, It was the counsel of peace towards them before mentioned, in the pursuit whereof he was to be sent to converse amongst them on the earth. He rejoiced in the fore-thoughts of his being sent to them, and the work he had to do for them. Then, with his own consent and delight, was he “fore-ordained” unto his work, even “before the foundation of the world,” 1 Pet. i. 20, and received of the Father “the promise of eternal life, even before the world began,” Tit. i. 2; that is, to be given unto sinners by way of forgiveness through his blood. 488So is this whole counsel expressed, Ps. xl. 7, 8, — whence it is made use of by the apostle, Heb. x. 5–7, — “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God. Thy law is in the midst of my heart.” There is the will of the Father in this matter, and the law of its performance; and there is the will of the Son in answer thereunto, and his delight in fulfilling that law which was prescribed unto him.
Let us now consider to what purpose was this eternal counsel of peace, this agreement of the Father and Son from eternity, about the state and condition of mankind. If God would have left them all to perish under the guilt of their sins, there had been no need at all of any such thoughts, design, or counsel. God had given unto them a law righteous and holy, which if they transgressed, he had threatened them with eternal destruction. Under the rule, disposal, and power of this law, he might have righteously left them to stand or fall, according to the verdict and sentence thereof. But now he assures us, he reveals unto us, that he had other thoughts in this matter; that there were other counsels between the Father and the Son concerning us; and these such as the Son was delighted in the prospect of his accomplishment of them. What can these thoughts and counsels be, but about a way for their deliverance? which could no otherwise be but by the forgiveness of sins; for whatever else be done, yet if God mark iniquities, there is none can stand. Hearken, therefore, poor sinner, and have hope. God is consulting about thy deliverance and freedom. And what cannot the wisdom and grace of the Father and Son effect and accomplish? And to this end was the Son sent into the world; which is the second thing proposed to consideration.
Secondly, Whom did God send about this business? The Scripture lays great weight and emphasis on this consideration, faith must do so also: John iii. 16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son;” so, 1 John iv. 9, “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” And again, verse 10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And who is this that is thus sent, and called the only-begotten Son of God? Take a double description of him, one out of the Old Testament and another from the New; — the first from Isa. ix. 6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace;” the other from Heb. i. 2, 3, “God hath spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who 489being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This is he who was sent. In nature he was glorious, even “over all, God blessed for ever;” — in answerableness unto the Father, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” possessed of all the same essential properties with him, so that what we find in him we may be assured of in the Father also; for he that hath seen him hath seen the Father, who is in him; — in power omnipotent, for he made all things, and “upholding all things,” with an unspeakable facility, “by the word of his power;” — in office exalted over all, sitting “on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” — in name, “The mighty God, The everlasting Father” so that whatever he came about he will assuredly accomplish and fulfil; for what should hinder or let this mighty one from perfecting his design?
Now, this consideration raiseth our evidence to that height as to give an unquestionable assurance in this matter. Here is a near and a particular object for faith to be exercised about and to rest in. Wherefore did this glorious Son of God come and tabernacle amongst poor sinners? “We beheld the glory of the eternal Word, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, and he was made flesh (καὶ ἐσκήνωσε), and pitched his tabernacle amongst us,” John i. 14. To what end? It was no other but to work out and accomplish the eternal counsel of peace towards sinners before mentioned; to procure for them, and to declare unto them, the forgiveness of sin. And what greater evidence, what greater assurance can we have, that there is forgiveness with God for us? He himself hath given it as a rule, that what is done by giving an only-begotten or an only-beloved son gives assured testimony of reality and sincerity in the thing that is confirmed by it. So he says unto Abraham, Gen. xxii. 12, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” This way it may be known, or no way. And they are blessed conclusions that faith may make from this consideration: “Now I know that there is forgiveness with God, seeing he hath not withheld his Son, his only Son, that he might accomplish it.” To this purpose the apostle teacheth us to reason, Rom. viii. 32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
What farther can any soul desire? what ground remains for unbelief to stand upon in this matter? Is there any thing more to be done herein? It was to manifest that there is forgiveness with him, and to make way for the exercise of it, that God sent his Son, that the Son of God came into the world, as will afterwards more fully appear.
490Thirdly, To this sending of the Son of God to this purpose, there is evidence and security added from the manner wherein he was sent. How was this? Not in glow, not in power, — not in an open discovery of his eternal power and Godhead. Had it been so, we might have thought that he had come merely to manifest and glorify himself in the world; and this he might have done without thoughts of mercy or pardon towards us. But he came quite in another manner: he was seen in the “likeness of sinful flesh,” Rom. viii. 3; in “the form of a servant,” Phil. ii. 7; being “made of a woman, made under the law,” Gal. iv. 4. What he endured, suffered, underwent in that state and condition, is in some measure known unto us all. All this could not be merely and firstly for himself. All that he expected at the close of it was, to be “glorified with that glow which he had with the Father before the world was,” John xvii. 5. It must, then, be for our sakes. And for what? To save and deliver us from that condition of wrath at present, and future expectation of vengeance, which we had cast ourselves into by sin; that is, to procure for us the forgiveness of sin. Had not God designed pardon for sin, he would never have sent his Son in this manner to testify it; and he did it because it could no other way be brought about, as hath been declared. Do we doubt whether there be forgiveness with God or no? or whether we shall obtain it if we address ourselves unto him for to be made partakers of it? Consider the condition of his Son in the world, — review his afflictions, poverty, temptation, sorrows, sufferings, — then ask our souls, “To what end was all this?” And if we can find any other design in it, any other reason, cause, or necessity of it, but only and merely to testify and declare that there is forgiveness with God, and to purchase and procure the communication of it unto us, let us abide in and perish under our fears. But if this be so, we have sufficient warranty to assure our souls in the expectation of it.
Fourthly, Besides all this, there ensues upon what went before, that great and wonderful issue in the death of the Son of God. This thing was great and marvellous, and we may a little inquire into what it was that was designed therein. And hereof the Scripture gives us a full account; as, —
1. That he died to make atonement for sin, or “reconciliation for iniquity,” Dan. ix. 24. He “gave his life a ransom for the sins of many,” Matt. xx. 28; 1 Tim. ii. 6. He was in it “made sin,” that others “might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. v. 21; Rom. viii. 3. Therein he “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24. This was the state of this matter — Notwithstanding all the love, grace, and condescension before mentioned, yet our sins were of that nature, and so directly opposite unto the justice and 491holiness of God, that unless atonement were made and a price of redemption paid, there could be no pardon, no forgiveness obtained. This, therefore, he undertook to do, and that by the sacrifice of himself; answering all that was prefigured by and represented in the sacrifices of old, as the apostle largely declares, Heb. x. 5–10. And herein is the forgiveness that is in God copied out and exemplified so clearly and evidently, that he that cannot read it will be cursed unto eternity. Yea, and let him be accursed; for what can be more required to justify God in his eternal destruction? He that will not believe his grace, as testified and exemplified in the blood of his Son, let him perish without remedy. Yea, but, —
2. The curse and sentence of the law lies on record against sinners. It puts in its demands against our acquittance, and lays an obligation upon us unto punishment: and God will not reject nor destroy his law; unless it be answered, there is no acceptance for sinners. This, therefore, in the next place, his death was designed unto. As he satisfied and made atonement by it unto justice (that was the fountain, spring, and cause of the law), so he fulfilled and answered the demands of the law as it was an effect of the justice of God: so Rom. viii. 1–4. He suffered “in the likeness of sinful flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled” and answered. He answered “the curse of the law” when he was “made a curse for us,” Gal. iii. 13; and so became, as to the obedience of the law, “the end of the law for righteousness unto them that do believe,” Rom. x. 3, 4. And as to the penalty that it threatened, he bore it, removed it, and took it out of the way. So hath he made way for forgiveness through the very heart of the law; it hath not one word to speak against the pardon of them that do believe. But, —
3. Sinners are under the power of Satan. He lays a claim unto them; and by what means shall they be rescued from his interest and dominion? This also his death was designed to accomplish: for as he was “manifested to destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John iii. 8, so “through death he destroyed him that had the power of death,” Heb. ii. 14; — that is, to despoil him of his power, to destroy his dominion, to take away his plea unto sinners that believe; as we have at large elsewhere declared.
And by all these things, with many other concernments of his death that might be instanced in, we are abundantly secured of the forgiveness that is with God, and of his willingness that we should be made partakers thereof.
Fifthly, Is this all? Did his work cease in his death? Did he no mere for the securing of the forgiveness of sins unto us, but only that he died for them? Yes; he lives also after death, for the same end and purpose. This Son of God, in that nature which he assumed to 492expiate sin by death, lives again after death, to secure unto us and to complete the forgiveness of sins. And this he doth two ways:—
1. Being raised from that death which he underwent, to make atonement for sin, by the power and good will of God, he evidenceth and testifieth unto us that he hath fully performed the work he undertook, and that in our behalf, and for us, he hath received a discharge. Had he not answered the guilt of sin by his death, he had never been raised from it.
2. He lives after death a mediatory life, to make intercession for us, that we may receive the forgiveness of sin, as also himself to give it out unto us; which things are frequently made use of to encourage the souls of men to believe, and therefore shall not at present be farther insisted on.
Thus, then, stands this matter — That mercy might have a way to exercise itself in forgiveness, with a consistency unto the honour of the righteousness and law of God, was the Son of God so sent, for the ends and purposes mentioned. Now, herein consisteth the greatest work that God did ever perform, or ever will. It was the most eminent product of infinite wisdom, goodness, grace, and power; and herein do all the excellencies of God shine forth more gloriously than in all the works of his hands. Let us, then, wisely ponder and consider this matter; let us bring our own souls, with their objections, unto this evidence, and see what exception we have to lay against it. I know nothing will satisfy unbelief. The design of it is, to make the soul find that to be so hereafter which it would persuade it of here, — namely, that there is no forgiveness in God. And Satan, who makes use of this engine, knows full well that there is none for them who believe there is none, or rather will not believe that there is any; for it will, at the last day, be unto men according unto their faith or unbelief. He that believeth aright, and he that believeth not that forgiveness is with God, as to their own particulars, shall neither of them be deceived. But what is it that can be reasonably excepted against this evidence, this foundation of our faith in this matter? God hath not sent his Son in vain; which yet he must have done, as we have showed, had he not designed to manifest and exercise forgiveness towards sinners. Wherefore, to confirm our faith from hence, let us make a little search into these things in some particular inquiries —
1. Seeing the Son of God died in that way and manner that he did, according to the determinate counsel and will of God, wherefore did he do so, and what aimed he at therein?
Ans. It is plain that he died for our sins, Rom iv. 25; that is, “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people,” Heb. ii. 17, 18. This Moses and the prophets, this the whole Scripture, testifieth 493unto. And without a supposal of it, not one word of it can be aright believed; nor can we yield any due obedience unto God without it.
2. What, then, did God do unto him? What was in transaction between God as the Judge of all, and him that was the Mediator of the church?
Ans. God indeed “laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isa. liii. 6, — all the sins of all the elect; yea, he made him “a curse for us,” Gal. iii. 13; and making him a “sin-offering,” or “an offering for sin,” he “condemned sin in the flesh,” Rom. viii. 3, 2 Cor. v. 21: so that all that which the justice or law of God had to require about the punishment due unto sin was all laid and executed on him.
3. What, then, did Christ do in his death? What did he aim at and design? what was his intention in submitting unto and undergoing the will of God in these things?
Ans. “He bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24; “he took our sins upon him,” undertook to answer for them, to pay our debts, to make an end of the difference about them between God and sinners, Dan. ix. 24. His aim undoubtedly was, by all that he underwent and suffered, so to make atonement for sin as that no more could on that account be expected.
4. Had God any more to require of sinners on the account of sin, that his justice might be satisfied, his holiness vindicated, his glory exalted, his honour be repaired, than what he charged on Christ? Did he lay somewhat of the penalty due to sin on him, execute some part of the curse of the law against him, and yet reserve some wrath for sinners themselves?
Ans. No, doubtless. He came to do the whole will of God, Heb. x. 7, 9; and God spared him not any thing that in his holy will he had appointed to be done unto sin, Rom. viii. 32. He would never have so dealt with his Son, to have made a half-work of it; nor is the work of making satisfaction for sin such as that any, the least part of it, should ever be undertaken by another. Nothing is more injurious or blasphemous against God and Christ than the foolish imagination among the Papists of works satisfactory for the punishment due to sin or any part of it; as also is their purgatory pains to expiate any remaining guilt after this life. This work of making satisfaction for sin is such as no creature in heaven or earth can put forth a hand unto. It was wholly committed to the Son of God, who alone was able to undertake it, and who hath perfectly accomplished it; so that God now says,” ‘Fury is not in me.’ lie that will lay hold on my strength that he may have peace, he shall have peace,” Isa. xxvii. 4, 5.
5. What, then, became of the Lord Christ in his undertaking? Did he go through with it? or did he faint under it? Did he only 494testify his love, and show his good will for our deliverance? or did he also effectually pursue it, and not faint, until he had made a way for the exercise of forgiveness?
Ans. It was not possible that he should be detained by “the pains of death,” Acts ii. 24. He knew beforehand that he should be carried through his work, that he should not be forsaken in it, nor faint under it, Isa. l. 5–9. And God hath given this unquestionable evidence of his discharge of the debt of sin to the utmost, in that he was acquitted from the whole account when he was raised from the dead; for he that is given up to prison, upon the sentence of the law, for the debt of sin, shall not be freed until he have paid the utmost farthing. This, therefore, he manifested himself to have done, by his resurrection from the dead.
6. What, then, is now become of him? where is he, and what doth he? Hath he so done his work and laid it aside, or doth he still continue to carry it on until it be brought unto its perfection?
Ans. It is true, he was dead, but he is alive, and lives for ever; and hath told us that “because he liveth we shall live also,” and that because this is the end of his mediatory life in heaven: “He ever liveth to make intercession for us,” Heb. vii. 25–27; and to this end, that the forgiveness of sin, which he hath procured for us, may be communicated unto us, that we might be partakers of it, and live for ever.
What ground is left of questioning the truth in hand? What link of this chain can unbelief break in or upon? If men resolve, notwithstanding all this evidence and assurance that is tendered unto them thereof, that they will not yet believe that there is forgiveness with God, or will not be encouraged to attempt the securing of it unto themselves, or also despise it as a thing not worth the looking after; it is enough for them that declare it, that preach these things, that they are a sweet savour unto God in them that perish as well as in them that are saved. And I bless God that I have had this opportunity to bear testimony to the grace of God in Christ; which if it be not received, it is because “the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of men, that the light of the gospel of the glory of God should not shine into their minds.” But Christ will be glorified in them that believe on these principles and foundations.
XIII. Another evidence of the same truth may be taken from hence, that God requires forgiveness in us, that we should forgive one another; and therefore, doubtless, there is forgiveness with him for us. The sense of this consideration unto our present purpose will be manifest in the ensuing observations:—
First, It is certain that God hath required this of us. The testimonies hereof are many and known, so that they need not particularly 495to be repeated or insisted on: see Luke xvii. 3, 4; Eph. iv. 32; Matt. xviii. 23, unto the end. Only, there are some things that put a singular emphasis upon this command, manifesting the great importance of this duty in us, which may be marked; as, —
1. That our Saviour requires us to carry a sense of our integrity and sincerity in the discharge of this duty along with us in our addresses unto God in prayer. Hence, he teacheth and enjoins us to pray or plead for the forgiveness of our debts to God (that is, our sins or trespasses against him, which make us debtors to his law and justice), even “as we forgive them that so trespass against us” as to stand in need of our forgiveness, Matt. vi. 12. Many are ready to devour such as are not satisfied that the words of that rule of prayer which he hath prescribed unto us are to be precisely read or repeated every day. I wish they would as heedfully mind that prescription which is given us herein for that frame of heart and spirit which ought to be in all our supplications; it might possibly abate of their wrath in that and other things. But here is a rule for all prayer, as all acknowledge; as also of the things that are requisite to make it acceptable. This, in particular, is required, that before the Searcher of all hearts, and in our addresses unto him, in our greatest concernments, we profess our sincerity in the discharge of this duty, and do put our obtaining of what we desire upon that issue. This is a great crown that is put upon the head of this duty, that which makes it very eminent, and evidenceth the great concern of the glory of God and our own souls therein.
2. We may observe, that no other duty whatever is expressly placed in the same series, order, or rank with it; which makes it evident that it is singled out to be professed as a token and pledge of our sincerity in all other parts of our obedience unto God. It is by Christ himself made the instance for the trial of our sincerity in our universal obedience; which gives no small honour unto it. The apostle puts great weight on the fifth commandment, “Honour thy father and mother;” because it “is the first commandment with promise,” Eph. vi. 2. All the commandments, indeed, had a promise, “Do this, and live,” life was promised to the observance of them all; but this is the first that had a peculiar promise annexed unto it, and accompanying of it. And it was such a promise as had a peculiar foundation through God’s ordinance in the thing itself. It is, that the parents should prolong the lives of their children that were obedient. יַאֲרִכוּן יָמֶיךָ, Exod. xx. 12, — “They shall prolong thy days;” that is, by praying for their prosperity, blessing them in the name of God, and directing them in those ways of obedience whereby they might live and possess the land. And this promise is now translated from the covenant of Canaan into the covenant of grace; the 496blessing of parents going far towards the interesting their children in the promise thereof, and so prolonging their days unto eternity, though their days in this world should be of little continuance. So it is said of our Saviour that “he should see his seed, and prolong his days,” Isa. liii. 10; which hath carried over that word, and that which is signified by it, unto eternal things. But this by the way. As the singular promise made to that command renders it singular, so doth this especial instancing in this duty in our prayer render it also; for though, as all the commandments had a promise, so we are to carry a testimony with us of our sincerity in universal obedience in our addresses unto God, yet the singling out of this instance renders it exceeding remarkable, and shows what a value God puts upon it, and how well he is pleased with it.
3. That God requires this forgiveness in us upon the account of the forgiveness we receive from him; which is to put the greatest obligation upon us unto it that we are capable of, and to give the strongest and most powerful motive possible unto its performance. See Eph. iv. 32.
4. That this duty is more directly and expressly required in the New Testament than in the Old. Required then it was, but not so openly, so plainly, so expressly as now. Hence we find a different frame of spirit between them under that dispensation and those under that of the New Testament. There are found amongst them some such reflections upon their enemies, their oppressors, persecutors, and the like, as although they were warranted by some actings of the Spirit of God in them, yet, being suited unto the dispensation they were under, do no way become us now, who, by Jesus Christ, receive “grace for grace.” So Zechariah, when he died, cried, “The Lord look upon, and require;” but Stephen, dying in the same cause and manner, said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Elijah called for fire from heaven; but our Saviour reproves the least inclination in his disciples to imitate him therein. And the reason of this difference is, because forgiveness in God is under the New Testament far more clearly (especially in the nature and cause of it) discovered in the gospel, which hath brought life and immortality to light, than it was under the law; for all our obedience, both in matter and manner, is to be suited unto the discoveries and revelation of God unto us.
5. This forgiveness of others is made an express condition of our obtaining pardon and forgiveness from God, Matt. vi. 14, 15; and the nature hereof is expressly declared, chap. xviii. 23–35. Such evangelical conditions we have not many. I confess they have no causal influence into the accomplishment of the promise; but the non-performance of them is a sufficient bar against our pretending 497to the promise, a sufficient evidence that we have no pleadable interest in it. Our forgiving of others will not procure forgiveness for ourselves; but our not forgiving of others proves that we ourselves are not forgiven. And all these things do show what weight God himself lays on this duty.
Secondly, Observe that this duty is such as that there is nothing more comely, useful, or honourable unto, or praiseworthy in, any, than a due performance of it. To be morose, implacable, inexorable, revengeful, is one of the greatest degeneracies of human nature. And no men are commonly, even in this world, more branded with real infamy and dishonour, amongst wise and good men, than those who are of such a frame, and do act accordingly. To remember injuries, to retain a sense of wrongs, to watch for opportunities of revenge, to hate and be maliciously perverse, is to represent the image of the devil unto the world in its proper colours; he is the great enemy and self-avenger. On the other side, no grace, no virtue, no duty, no ornament of the mind or conversation of man, is in itself so lovely, so comely, so praiseworthy, or so useful unto mankind, as are meekness, readiness to forgive, and pardon. This is that principally which renders a man a good man, for whom one would even dare to die. And I am sorry to add that this grace or duty is recommended by its rarity. It is little found amongst the children of men. The consideration of the defect of men herein, as in those other fundamental duties of the gospel, — in self-denial, readiness for the cross, and forsaking the world, — is an evidence, if not of how little sincerity there is in the world, yet at least it is of how little growing and thriving there is amongst professors.
Thirdly, That there is no grace, virtue, or perfection in any man, but what is as an emanation from the divine goodness and bounty, so expressive of some divine excellencies or perfection, — somewhat that is in God, in a way and manner infinitely more excellent. We were created in the image of God. Whatever was good or comely in us was a part of that image; especially the ornaments of our minds, the perfections of our souls. These things had in them a resemblance of, and a correspondency unto, some excellencies in God, whereunto, by the way of analogy, they may be reduced. This being, for the most part, lost by sin, a shadow of it only remaining in the faculties of our souls and that dominion over the creatures which is permitted unto men in the patience of God, the recovery that we have by grace is nothing but an initial renovation of the image of God in us, Eph. iv. 24. It is the implanting upon our natures those graces which may render us again like unto him. And nothing is grace or virtue but what so answers to somewhat in 498God. So, then, whatever is in us of this kind is in God absolutely, perfectly, in a way and manner infinitely more excellent.
Let us now, therefore, put these things together — God requires of us that there should be forgiveness in us for those that do offend us, forgiveness without limitation and bounds. The grace hereof he bestoweth on his saints, sets a high price upon it, and manifests many ways that he accounts it among the most excellent of our endowments, one of the most lovely and praiseworthy qualifications of any person. What, then, shall we now say? is there forgiveness with him or no? “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?” He that thus prescribes forgiveness to us, that bestows the grace of it upon us, is there not forgiveness with him? It is all one as to say, “Though we are good, yet God is not; though we are benign and bountiful, yet he is not.” He that finds this grace wrought in him in any measure, and yet fears that he shall not find it in God for himself, doth therein and so far prefer himself above God; which is the natural effect of cursed unbelief.
But the truth is, were there not forgiveness with God, forgiveness in man would be no virtue, with all these qualities that incline thereto, — such are meekness, pity, patience, compassion, and the like; which what were it but to set loose human nature to rage and madness? For as every truth consists in its answerableness to the prime and eternal Verity, so virtue consists not absolutely nor primarily in a conformity to a rule of command, but in a correspondency unto the first absolute perfect Being and its perfections.
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