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The pardon which we have is as to its continuance, but conditional; and the tenor of the covenant would cease the pardon even of all sins past, if the sinner's faith and repentance should cease: I speak not' de eventu,' whether ever any do fall away, but of the tenor of the covenant, which may prevent falling away. Now a pardon which hath yet much to be done, as the condition of its continuance, is not so perfect, as it will be when all those things are performed.
Quest. x. 'May pardon or justification be reversed or lost?'
Answ. Whether God will eventually permit his true servants, so far to fall as to be unjustified, is a controversy which I have written of in a fitter place. 2. But quoad robur peccatoris,' it is alas, too easy to fall away, and be unjustified. 3. And as to the tenor of the covenant, it continueth the promise and threatening conditionally, and supposing the sinner defectible, doth threaten damnation to them that are now justified, if they should not persevere, but apostatize
Quest. xi. 'Is the pardon of my own sins to be believed 'fide divina ?' And is it the meaning of that article of the creed, • I believe the pardon of my sins?''
Answ. 1. I am to believe 'fide divina,' that Christ hath purchased and enacted a conditional pardon, which is universal, and therefore extendeth to my sins as well as to other men's; and that he commandeth his ministers to offer me this, and therein to offer me the actual pardon of all my sins, to be mine if I truly repent and believe : and that if I do so, my sins are actually pardoned. And I am obliged accordingly to believe in Christ, and take him for my Saviour, for the pardon of my sins. But this is all the meaning of the creed, and Scripture, and all that is of Divine belief. 2. But that I am actually pardoned, is not of Divine faith, but only on supposition that I first believe ; which Scrip ture telleth not, whether I do or not. In strict sense, I must first believe in Christ for pardon : and next, in a larger sense, I must believe that I am pardoned ; that is, I must so conclude by an act of reason, one of the premises being de fide,' and the other of internal self-knowledge.
b Col.i. 33. Rom. xi. 22. John xv. 9.
Quest. XII. `May a man trust in his own faith or repentance for his pardon and justification, in any kind ?'
Answ. Words must be used with respect to the understanding of the hearers; and perilous expressions must be avoided lest they deceive men. But' de re,’l. You must not trust to your faith or repentance, to do that which is proper to God, or to Christ, or to the Gospel, or for any more than their own part, which Christ hath assigned them. 2. You must trust to your faith and repentance for that which is truly their own part. And should you not trust them at all, you must needs despair, or trust presumptuously to you know not what: for Christ will not be instead of faith or repentance to you.
Quest. XIII. What are the several causes and conditions of pardon?'
Answ. 1. God the Father is the principal efficient, giving us Christ, and pardon with and through him. 2. Christ's person by his sacrifice and merits is the meritorious cause. 3. The Gospel-covenant or promise is the instrumental cause, or God's pardoning act or grant. 4. Repentance is the condition ‘sine qua non,' directly 'gratia finis,' in respect to God, to whom we must turn. 5. Faith in Christ is the condition ‘sine qua non,' directly 'gratia medii principalis,’ in respect to the Mediator, who is thereby received. 6. The Holy Ghost worketh us to these conditions.
Tit. 2. Directions for Obtaining Pardon from God.
Direct. 1. ·Understand well the office of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer, and what it is that he hath done for sinners, and what he undertaketh further to do.' For if you know not Christ's office and undertaking, you will either be ignorant of your true remedy, or will deceive yourselves by a presumptuous trust, that he will do that which is contrary to his office and will.
Direct. 11. Understand well the tenor of the covenant of grace;' for there it is that you must know, what Christ will give, and to whom, and on what terms.
Direct. inl. · Understand well the nature of true faith
and repentance:' or else you can neither tell how to obtain pardon, nor to judge of it.
Direct. iv. Absolutely give up yourselves to Christ, in all the offices of a Mediator, Priest, Prophet and King.' And think not to be justified by one act or part of Christianity, by alone believing in Christ as a sacrifice for sin. To be a true believer, and to be a true Christian is all one: and is the faith in Christ wbich is the condition of justification and salvation. Study the baptismal covenant; for the believing in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost there meant, is the true faith, which is the condition of our pardon.
Direct. v. 'Be sure that your repentance contain in it a desire to be perfectly holy and free from all sin, and a resolution against all known and wilful sinning, and particularly that you would not commit the same sins, if you had again the same temptations,' (supposing that we speak not of such infirmities as good men live in; which yet you must heartily desire to forsake).
Direct. vi. ' Pray earnestly and believingly for pardon through Christ :' even for the continuance of your former pardon, and for renewed pardon for renewed sins; for prayer is God's appointed means, and included in faith and repentance, which are the summary conditions.
Direct. vii. 'Set all right between you and your neighbours,' by forgiving others, and being reconciled to them, and confessing your injuries against them, and making them restitution and satisfaction ; for this also is included in yòur repentance, and expressly made the condition of your pardon.
Direct. viii. 'Despise not the sacramental delivery of pardon, by the ministers of Christ ;' for this belongeth to the full investiture and possession of the benefit : nor yet the spiritual consolation of a skilful, faithful pastor, nor public absolution upon public repentance, if you should fall under the need of such a remedy.
Direct. ix. “Sin no more.' I mean, resolvedly break off all that wilful sin of which you do repent: for repentings, and purposes, and promises of a new and holy life, which are ineffectual, will never prove the pardon of your sins ; but shew your repentance to be deceitful.
Direct. x. 'Set yourselves faithfully to the use of all those holy means, which God hath appointed for the overcoming of your sins; and to that life of holiness, righteousness, love and sobriety, which is contrary to them. Otherwise your repentance is fraudulent and insufficient : these means and no less than all these, must be used by him, that will make sure of the pardon of his sins from God: and he that thinketh all this too much, must look for pardon some other way, than from the mercy of God, or the grace of Christ: for God's pardon is not to be had upon any other terms, than those of God's appointment. He that will make new conditions of his own, must pardon himself if he can, on those conditions : for God will not be tied to the laws of sinners.
Cases and Directions about Self-judging.
Tit. 1. Cases of Conscience about Self-judging.
Because I have said so much of this subject in the third part of my “Saints' Rest," and in a “Treatise of Self-acquaintance,” and in my “ Directions for Peace of Conscience,” and before in this book, I shall be here the briefer in it.
Quest. 1. What are the uses and reasons of self-judging, which should move us to it?'
Answ. In the three foresaid Treatises I have opened them at large. In a word, without it, we shall be strangers to ourselves; we can have no well-grounded comfort, no true repentance and humiliation, no just estimation of Christ and grace, no just observance of the motions of God's Spirit, no true application of the promises or threatenings of the Scripture, yea, we shall pervert them all to our own destruction; no true understanding of the providence of God, in prosperity or adversity; no just acquaintance with our duty : a man that knoweth not himself, can know neither God, or any thing aright, nor do any thing aright;
he can neither live reasonably, honestly, safely nor comfortably, nor suffer or die with solid peace.
Quest. 11. What should ignorant persons do, whose natural capacity will not reach to so high a work, as to try and judge themselves in matters so sublime?'
Answ. 1. There is no one who hath reason and parts sufficient to love God, and hate sin, and live a holy life, and believe in Christ, but he hath reason and parts sufficient to know (by the use of just means) whether he do these things indeed or not. 2. He that cannot reach assurance, must take up with the lower degrees of comfort, of which I shall speak in the Directions.
Quest. 11. • How far may a weak Christian take the judgment of others, whether his pastor, or judicious acquaintance, about his justification and sincerity?'
Answ. 1. No man's judgment must be taken as infallible about the sincerity of another; nor must it be so far rested on, as to neglect your fullest search yourself; and for the matter of fact, what you have done, or what is in you, no man can be so well acquainted with it as yourselves. 2. But in judging whether those acts of grace which you describe, be such as God hath promised salvation to, and in directing you in your self-judging, and in conjecturing at your sincerity by your expressions and your lives, a faithful friend or pastor may do that, which may much support you, and relieve you against inordinate doubts and fears, and shew you that your sincerity is very probable. Especially if you are assured that you tell him nothing but the truth yourselves; and if he be one that is acquainted with you and your life, and hath known you in temptations, and one that is skilful in the matters of God and conscience, and one that is truly judicious, experienced and faithful, and is not biassed by interest or affection; and especially when he is not singular in his judgment, but the generality of judicious persons who know you, are of the same mind ; in this case you may take much comfort in his judgment of your justification, though it cannot give you any proper certainty, nor is to be absolutely rested in.