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Propositions or observations from the former exposition of the words — The first proposed to confirmation — No encouragement for any sinner to approach unto God without a discovery of forgiveness.

From the words unfolded, as they lie in their contexture in the psalm, the ensuing propositions do arise:—

384First, Faith’s discovery of forgiveness in God, though it have no present sense of its own peculiar interest therein, is the great supportment of a sin-perplexed soul.

Secondly, Gospel forgiveness, whose discovery is the sole supportment of sin-distressed souls, relates to the gracious heart or good will of the Father, the God of forgiveness, the propitiation that is made by the blood of the Son, and free condonation or pardon according to the tenor of the covenant of grace.

Thirdly, Faith’s discovery of forgiveness in God is the sole bottom of adherence to him, in acceptable worship and reverential obedience.

The first of these is that whose confirmation and improvement I principally aim at; and the others only so far as they have coincidence therewith, or may be used in a subserviency to the illustration or demonstration thereof.

In the handling, then, of this truth, that it may be of the more advantage unto them whose good is sought and intended in the proposal and management of it, I shall steer this course, and show, —

First, That there is not the least encouragement to the soul of a sinner to deal with God without this discovery.

Secondly, That this discovery of forgiveness in God is a matter great, holy, and mysterious; and which very few on gospel abiding grounds do attain unto.

Thirdly, That yet this is a great, sacred, and certain truth, as from the manifold evidences of it may be made to appear.

Fourthly, That this is a stable supportment unto a sin-distressed soul shall be manifested, and the whole applied, according to the several concernments of those who shall consider it.

First. There is not the least encouragement for the soul of a sinner to entertain any thoughts of approaching unto God without this discovery. All the rest of the world is covered with a deluge of wrath. This is the only ark whereunto the soul may repair and find rest. All without it is darkness, curse, and terror.

We have an instance and example of it, beyond all exception, in Adam. When he knew himself to be a sinner (and it was impossible for him, as we shall show afterward, to make a discovery of any such thing as forgiveness with God), he laid aside all thoughts of treating with him; the best of his foolish contrivance was for an escape: Gen. iii. 10, “I heard thy voice,” saith he to God, “in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Nothing but “Thou shalt die the death,” sounded in his ears. In the morning of that day, he was made by the hand of God; a few hours before, he had converse and communion with him, with boldness and peace; why, then, doth nothing now but fear, flying, and hiding, possess him? Adam had sinned, the promise was not yet given, no revelation 385made of forgiveness in God; and what other course than that vain and foolish one to fix upon he knew not. No more can any of his posterity, without this revelation. What else any of them hath fixed on in this case hath been no less foolish than his hiding; and in most, more pernicious. When Cain had received his sentence from God, it is said “he went out מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה‎, from the presence” or face “of the Lord,” Gen. iv. 16. From his providential presence he could never subduct himself: so the psalmist informs us at large, Ps. cxxxix. 7–10. The very heathen knew, by the light of nature, that guilt could never drive men out of the reach of God:—

Quo fugis Encelade? quascunque accesseris oras

Sub Jove semper eris.

They knew that δίκη (the vengeance of God) would not spare sinners, nor could be avoided, Acts xxviii. 4. From God’s gracious presence, which he never enjoyed, he could not depart. It was, then, his presence as to his worship, and all outward acts of communion, that he forsook, and departed from. He had no discovery by faith of forgiveness, and therefore resolved to have no more to do with God, nor those who cleaved to him; for it respects his course, and not any one particular action.

This also is stated, Isa. xxxiii. 14, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” The persons spoken of are sinners, great sinners, and hypocrites. Conviction of sin and the desert of it was fallen upon them; a light to discern forgiveness they had not; they apprehend God as devouring fire and everlasting burnings only, — one that would not spare, but assuredly inflict punishment according to the desert of sin; and thence is their conclusion, couched in their interrogation, that there can be no intercourse of peace between him and them, — there is no abiding, no enduring of his presence. And what condition this consideration brings the souls of sinners unto, when conviction grows strong upon them, the Holy Ghost declares: Micah vi. 6, 7, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Sense of sin presseth, forgiveness is not discovered (like the Philistines on Saul, Samuel not coming to his direction); and how doth the poor creature perplex itself in vain, to find out a way of dealing with God? “Will a sedulous and diligent observation of his own ordinances and institutions relieve me? ‘shall I come 386before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old?’ ” Alas! thou art a sinner, and these sacrifices cannot make thee “perfect,” or acquit thee, Heb. x. 1. “Shall I do more than ever he required of any of the sons of men? that I had ‘thousands of rams, and ten thousands of rivers of oil’ to offer to him!” Alas! if thou hadst all the “bulls and goats” in the world, “it is not possible that their blood should take away sins,” verse 4. “But I have heard of them who have snatched their own children from their mothers’ breasts, and cast them into the fire, until they were consumed, so to pacify their consciences in expiating the guilt of their iniquities. Shall I take this course? will it relieve me? I am ready to part with my ‘first-born’ into the fire, so I may have deliverance from my ‘transgression.’ Alas! this never came into the heart of God to approve or accept of. And as it was then, whilst that kind of worship was in force, so is it still as to any duties really to be performed, or imaginarily. Where there is no discovery of forgiveness, they will yield the soul no relief, no supportment; God is not to be treated upon such terms.

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