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Forgiveness discovered or revealed only to faith — Reasons thereof.

For a close of this discourse, I shall only add what is included in that proposition which is the foundation of the whole, — namely, that this discovery of forgiveness is and can be made to faith alone. The nature of it is such as that nothing else can discover it or receive it. No reasonings, no inquiries of the heart of man can reach unto it. That guess or glimpse which the heathens had of old of somewhat so called, and which false worshippers have at present, is not the forgiveness we insist upon, but a mere imagination of their own hearts.

This the apostle informs us, Rom. i. 17, “The righteousness of God is” (in the gospel) “revealed from faith to faith.” Nothing but faith hath any thing to do with it. It is that righteousness of God whereof he speaks that consists in the forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ, declared in the gospel. And this is revealed from the faith of God in the promise to the faith of the believer, — to him that mixes the promise with faith. And again more fully, 1 Cor. ii. 9, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” The ways whereby we may come to the knowledge of any thing are, by the seeing of the eye or hearing of the ear, or the reasonings and meditations of the heart; but now none of these will reach to the matter in hand, — by none of these ways can we come to an acquaintance with the things of the gospel that are prepared for us in Christ. How, then, shall we obtain the knowledge of them? That he declares, verse 10, “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” Now, it is faith only that receives the revelations of the Spirit; nothing else hath to do with them.

To give evidence hereunto, we may consider that this great mystery, — 1. Is too deep, 2. Is too great, for aught else to discover; and, — 3. That nothing else but faith is suited to the making of this discovery.

1. It is too deep and mysterious to be fathomed and reached by any thing else. Reason’s line is too short to fathom the depths of the 411Father’s love, of the blood of the Son, and the promises of the gospel built thereon, wherein forgiveness dwells. Men cannot by their rational considerations launch out into these deeps, nor draw water by them from these “wells of salvation.” Reason stands by amazed, and cries, “How can these things be?” It can but gather cockleshells, like him of old, at the shore of this ocean, a few criticisms upon the outward letter, and so bring an evil report upon the land, as did the spies. All it can do is but to hinder faith from venturing into it, crying, “Spare thyself; this attempt is vain, these things are impossible.” It is among the things that faith puts off and lays aside when it engageth the soul into this great work. This, then, that it may come to a discovery of forgiveness, causeth the soul to deny itself and all its own reasonings, and to give up itself to an infinite fulness of goodness and truth. Though it cannot go unto the bottom of these depths, yet it enters into them, and finds rest in them. Nothing but faith is suited to rest, to satiate, and content itself in mysterious, bottomless, unsearchable depths. Being a soul-emptying, a reason-denying grace, the more it meets withal beyond its search and reach, the more satisfaction it finds. “This is that which I looked for,” saith faith, “even for that which is infinite and unsearchable, when I know that there is abundantly more beyond me that I do not comprehend, than what I have attained unto; for I know that nothing else will do good to the soul.” Now, tiffs is that which really puzzles and overwhelms reason, rendering it useless. What it cannot compass, it will neglect or despise. It is either amazed and confounded, and dazzled like weak eyes at too great a light; or fortifying of itself by inbred pride and obstinacy, it concludes that this preaching of the cross, of forgiveness from the love of God, by the blood of Christ, is plain folly, a thing not for a wise man to take notice of or to trouble himself about: so it appeared to the wise Greeks of old, 1 Cor. i. 23. Hence, when a soul is brought under the power of a real conviction of sin, so as that it would desirously be freed from the galling entanglements of it, it is then the hardest thing in the world to persuade such a soul of this forgiveness. Any thing appears more rational unto it, — any self-righteousness in this world, any purgatory hereafter.

The greatest part of the world of convinced persons have forsaken forgiveness on this account; masses, penances, merits, have appeared more eligible. Yea, men who have no other desire but to be forgiven do choose to close with any thing rather than forgiveness. If men do escape these rocks, and resolve that nothing but pardon will relieve them, yet it is impossible for them to receive it in the truth and power of it, if not enabled by faith thereunto. I speak not of men that take it up by hearsay, as a common report, but of those 412souls who find themselves really concerned to look after it. When they know it is their sole concernment, all their hope and relief; when they know that they must perish everlastingly without it; and when it is declared unto them in the words of truth and soberness, — yet they cannot receive it. What is the reason of it? what staves off these hungry creatures from their proper food? Why, they have nothing to lead them into the mysterious depths of eternal love, of the blood of Christ, and promises of the gospel. How may we see poor deserted souls standing every day at the side of this pool, and yet not once venture themselves into it all their days!

2. It is too great for any thing else to discover. Forgiveness is a thing chosen out of God from all eternity, to exalt and magnify the glory of his grace; and it will be made appear to all the world at the day of judgment to have been a great thing. When the soul comes in any measure to be made sensible of it, it finds it so great, so excellent and astonishable, that it sinks under the thoughts of it. It hath dimensions, a length, breadth, depth, and height, that no line of the rational soul can take or measure. There is “exceeding greatness” in it, Eph. i. 19. That is a great work which we have prescribed, Eph. iii. 19, even “to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” Here, I suppose, reason will confess itself at a stand and an issue; to know that which passeth knowledge is none of its work. “It cannot be known,” saith reason; and so ends the matter. But this is faith’s proper work, even to know that which passeth knowledge; to know that, in its power, virtue, sweetness, and efficacy, which cannot be thoroughly known in its nature and excellency; to have, by believing, all the ends of a full comprehension of that which cannot be fully comprehended. Hence, Heb. xi. 1, it is said to be the ὑπόστασις of “things not seen,” their subsistence; though in themselves absent, yet faith gives them a present subsistence in the soul. So it knows things that pass knowledge; by mixing itself with them, it draws out and communicates their benefit to the soul. From all which is evident what in the third place was proposed, of faith’s being only suited to be the means of this discovery; so that I shall not need farther to insist thereon.

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