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must be renewed all our lives. God's pardoning us is not a transient act, but continued, as conservation is a continued creation.
Prayer for pardon must be mixed with faith in our “blessed Advocate, who ever lives to make intercession for us." could fill the air with our sighs, and heaven with our tears, we could not incline the righteous and holy God to pardon us : his justice is inflexible, and his pardoning mercy a sealed fountain ; it is by the precious merits and mediation of his Son we are reconciled to him. · Jesus Christ is the same powerful compassionate Saviour, "yesterday, to-day, and for ever." His obedient sufferings are of infinite value, and everlasting efficacy.
Lastly. Confession of sin is a relative duty, and must be joined with forsaking of sin. The sharpest sorrow, the most confounding shame for sin, the strongest desires for mercy, without the forsaking of sin, are ineffectual. There must be a renouncing of sin in our hearts, a resolution firm and permanent against it, an avoiding the appearance and approaches of sin, and an actual leaving it. If it be said, it is impossible we should preserve ourselves from all sin: St. John tells us, “ If any man saith he has no sin, he is a liar, there is no truth in him.” I answer, we must distinguish between sins: there are some, which while we are united to flesh, that is a principle of weakness, and are in this open state, surrounded with temptations, we cannot absolutely be freed from. Such are sins of ignorance and inadvertence, and of sudden surreption : for grace is not bestowed in such a degree of eminence to the saints here, whereby they may obtain a clear and final victory over them: but if we pray, and watch, and strive against them, and mourn for their adherence
“God will spare us as a father spares his son that serves him.” And it is a certain sign of our sincerity, if we are gradually cleansing ourselves from them. If they grow and increase, it is a sad indication : as it is said, if a scald in the head spreads, it is a leprosy.
Lev. 5. 13. But there are sins of a more heinous nature the not forsaking whereof excludes from heaven: such are enumerated by the apostle, “ The works of the flesh are manifest, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I have told you in time past, that
they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal. 5. Besides, if the love of any sin remains in the heart of a man, he cannot be justified here, nor glorified hereaf
An indulged sin, though small in the matter, is great in the disposition of the sinner. In short, God requires sincere repentance, expressed in the confessing of our sins, not to inform him, for neither the solitude or secrecy wherein sin is committed, can hide us from his all discerning eye: though there is no witness to accuse and give evidence, nay if the sinner could extinguish his conscience, yet God will set the sins of men in order before them, and convince the guilty, he needed not their confession to discover them: but the humble, ingenuous and sorrowful confession of sin is required, that his mercy may be more illustrious in the pardon of our sins, and that the sinner may fear to return to folly. And this confession must be attended with the forsaking of sins, in order to our pardon, because of his immutable perfections. A malefactor may justly be condemned for his crimes, and though he remains impenitent and obstinate in evil, may be pardoned, because a temporal prince is capable of various apprehensions and passions, and may deflect from the rule of justice: but the Judge of the world is unchangeably righteous and holy, and cannot pardon sinners to the disparagement of his majesty, his purity and justice.
Our pardoning the offences of others is an evangelical condition of our obtaining pardon : we are commanded, “When ye stand praying, forgive if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11. 25, 26. The command is peremptory and universal, frequently and severely urged upon us by our Saviour. The reasonableness and congruity of it is most evident, if we consider the disparity of the object, or the number of offences. Our sins against God are relatively infinite, for his majesty and authority are truly infinite, which are despised and abused by the transgression of his laws: they are against all the duty and motives of justice and gratitude that oblige reasonable creatures to obey their Maker. Now the offences and injuries done to us are incomparably less : for we are mean creatures, far less in comparison to God, than a worm is to angel; and by our sins are “viler than the earth.” Besides, the obli
gation that should restrain men from being injurious to us, are of infinitely a lower nature. The disparity in the number is very considerable. Our sins against God are like the sand upon the sea-shore, their number is astonishing: our imaginations have been continually evil, from the dawning of our reason : but offences against us are comparatively few: for the variety of objects in the world often divert the thoughts and passions of our enemies from us. We owe to the Lord ten thousand talents, a vast sum that can never be paid if it be not forgiven, and shall we be unwilling to forgive a few pence? What is more becoming than that we who want a great pardon, should give a little one ? The divine mercy is proposed as a model for our imitation. We must pardon entirely, and take no revenge for injuries done to us, but return love for hatred, good for evil, for so God does to us. We must not only forgive, but forget injuries in the sense of love; not like those who pardon in words, but retain the memory of offences, and upon a slight occasion renew their resentments. We must forgive great offences as well as small, and renew our pardon as often as offences are repeated, unless we will set bounds to the divine mercy. We must rejoice more in pardoning than in revenging injuries, and seek to be reconciled to those who are averse from us, for that is according to our pattern. It is pretended, that by bearing a single injury, we expose ourselves to a double injury: but we must imitate our heavenly Father: if we do not follow him in forgiving, he will follow us in retaining our sins. The psalmist tells us, “ With the merciful God will show himself merciful, but with the froward he will show himself froward.” A holy and righteous punishment in retaliation of their sinful disposition.
The pardoning injuries is contrary to corrupt nature, and the duty is difficult, but the reward is infinite. Though it seems to vilify us, as if defective in our minds, not to understand injuries, or in courage not to repay them, which makes men hard to forgive; yet upon calm consideration we shall esteem it a duty easy and honourable: for it prevents the inflaming our passions, and the troubling of ourselves and others : it is an act of royalty, and makes us superior to them: it is the noblest victory, and often conquers and changes an enemy into a friend. And above all motives this should recommend it to us, it seals our pardon from God, and conveys the most clear and comfortable sense of it to us : for, as the psalmist excellently argues, “ He that planted the ear, shall he not hear: he that formed the eye, shall he not see?” If we are by divine grace inclined and enabled to pardon frequent offences against us, shall not the God of all grace be ready to pardon our many offences against him? Our Saviour reasons from the love of natural parents ; “ If you that are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to those that ask it?” The illation is as strong in forgiving love. If we who are of an unforgiving nature sincerely forgive those who injure us, and restore them to our favour, how much more shall God who is love, forgive our sins, and be reconciled to us?
4. Use of gratitude. The divine forgiveness should be a powerful motive to thankfulness. David addresses his soul in an ardent and lively manner; “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” Psal. 103. 1, 2. He excites every faculty, the understanding to consider and value the mercies of God, the memory to register them, and retain a thankful sense of them, the affeetions to celebrate them. He repeats the call, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” We are apt to forget favours, and remember provocations. Benefits are written in the dust, injuries are engraven in marble. But strong affections will make indelible impressions of thankfulness. If we duly consider the greatness and goodness of God, and our meanness and unworthiness, “that we are less than the least of his mercies," we must be convinced every benefit we receive from God deserves to be remembered and acknowledged with serious thankfulness. That God draws a curtain of rest about us in the night, provides for us in the day, regards us with a compassionate eye, and relieves us in our wants and sorrows, should cause such deep affections as flow into outward declarations of praise.
It is true, our most solemn recognition of his benefits is but al poor duty compared with his immense bounty to us: our thanks giving is an echo to God's mercies, that repeats a few syllables : what can our fading breath add to his blessedness and glory, that are in the highest degree of perfection, and truly infinite ? But it is most reasonable, that as all our blessings flow from his mercy, they should fall into the sea of his glory: and when our souls bless him, he accepts our sincerity, and does not despise our thanksgivings for want of perfection.
In the recounting God's benefits, the psalmist mentions in the first place the pardon of sin, “ who forgives all thy iniquities,” as the principal and foundation of all the rest. This in a most powerful way entered into his heart, and kindled a sacred fire there. I will briefly show, that the pardon of sin is so divine a benefit, that it deserves our most solemn thankfulness, and that it inclines and disposes the soul to that duty.
Ist. That the pardon of our sins deserves our most solemn thankfulness, will appear by an evident light, if we consider the nature and quality of the benefit, the means by which it is obtained, the circumstances in the dispensing it, and the consequents.
(1.) The quality and the nature of the benefit. Our blessedness consists in the forgiveness of our sins. David inspired from heaven declares, “ blessed is the man whose iniquity is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.” Psal. 32. 1. The worst effect of sin is the separation between God and the soul. In his presence“ is fulness of joy,” in his absence fulness of sorrow. cursed,” is as terrible a part of the sentence as the “ everlasting burning.” Hell is the element of sin and misery : wherein the fire made fierce with brimstone, and the undying worm of conscience, torment the wicked. Now the pardon of sin secures us from the wrath of God, the supreme evil, and the cause of all other evils.
Besides, the love of God that pardons us is our sovereign good, and is the productive and conservative cause of all good : it bestows upon us celestial happiness, in comparison of which all the degrees of worldly honour, and power, and pleasure, and riches, are but dross and dung. The pardon of sin has inseparably annexed to it the privilege of adoption, and a title to the kingdom of glory. Our Saviour declared to the apostle, that the end of the gospel is “to open the eyes of men, and to turn them from darkness to light, that they may receive the forgivepess of sins, and an inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26.18.
God permitted the fall of man, to raise him to a more excellent and stable felicity. Adam was dignified with dominion over
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