« PreviousContinue »
righteoufness is their bottom, and when that is too fhort, or narrow to corer them they piece it out by forgiveness. Where conscience accufes, this must fupply the defe&. Faith lays it on its proper foundation, of which afterwards also, and it useth it to its proper end, namely, to be the sole and only ground of our acceptation with God. That is the proper use of forgiveness, that all may be of grace, for when the foundation is pardon, the whole superftructure must needs be grace. From what hath been fpoken, it is evident, that notwithstanding the pretences to the contrary, insinuated in the objection now removed, it is a great thing to have gospel-forgiveness discovered unto a soul in a saving manner. The true nature of gospel-forgiveness ----Its relation
to the goodness, grace, and will of God :----To the blood of Chrift:----To the promise of the
gospel.---- The confiderations of faith about it. The difficulties ihat ly in the way of faith's discovery of forgiveness, whence it appears to be a matter of greater weight and importance than it is commonly apprehended to be, have been insisted on in the foregoing discourse. There is yet remaiņing another ground of the same truth; Dow, this is taken from the nature and greatness of the thing itself discovered, that is, of forgiveness. To this end, I shall fhew what it is, wherein it doth confft, what it comprizes and relates uoto, acccording to the importance of the second proposition before laid down.
"I do not, in this place, take forgiveness ftrictly and precisely for the act of pardoning ; por shall I dispute what that is, and wherein it doth confift. Confciences that come with fin-intanglements upto God, know nothing of such disputes. Nor will this expression, There is forgiveness with God, bear any such restriction, as that it should regard only actual condonation or pardon. That which I have to do, is to enquire into the nature of that pardon, which poor, convinced, troubled souls seek
after, and which the scripture proposeth to them for
1. The infinite goodness and graciousoess of his pature.
There is considerable in it, the infinite goodness of his nature.
Sin stands in a contrariety unto God, it is a rebellion against his sovereignty, an opposition to his holiness, a provocation to his justice, a rejection of his yoke, a casting off, what lies in the Goner, of that dependence which a creature hatb on its Creator. That God should then have pity and compassion on finners, in every one of whose fins chere is all this evil, and inconceivably more than we can comprehend, it argues an infinitely gracious, good, and loving heart and nature in him. For God doth nothing, but suitably to the properties of his nature, and from them, all the acts of his will are the effects of his nature.
Now, whatever God proposeth as an encouragement for finners to come to him, that is of, or hath a special influence into, the forgiveness that is with him; For norbing can encourage a fioner, as such, but under this confideration, that it is, or it respects forgiveness. That this graciousness of God's nature lies at the head or spring, and is the root from whence forgivenefs doch grow, is manifest from that solemn proclamation which he made of old of his name, and the revelation of bis nature therein, for God afsuredly is, what by himself he is called, Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thoufands, · forgiving iniquity, transgrefron and fin. His forgiving of iniquity flows from bence, that, in his nature, he is
merciful, gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodnessWere.be not so, infinite in all these, it were vain to look for forgiveness from him. Having made this known to be his name, and thereby declared his nature, he,in many places, proposeth it as a relief, a refuge for finners, an encouragement to come unto him, and to wait for
mercy from him, Psal. ix. 10. They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee. It will encourage them so to do; thers have no foundation for their confidence. But, if this name of God be indeed made known unto us by the Holy Ghost, what can hinder why we should not repair unto him, and rest upon him? So Ifa. I. 10. Who is among you, that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and bath no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Not only finners, but sinners in great distress, are here spoken unto. Darkness of state-or condition, in the fcripture, denotes every thing of disconsolation and trouble. To be then in darkness, where yet there is fome light, some relief, though darkness be predominant, is fad and discopsolate ; but now, not only to be, but also to walk, that is, to continue a course in darkness, and that with no light, no discovery of help or relief ; this seems an overwhelming condition, yet finners, in this estate, are called to trust in the name of the Lord. I have shewed before, that nothing but forgiveness, or that which influenceth it, and encouragech to an expectation of it, is of any use unto a sinner, much more one in so great distress
upon the account of (in; yer is such an one here sent only to the name of the Lord, wherein his gracious heart and nature is revealed. That then the very fountain and spring of forgiveness : And this is that which John would work a sense of upon our souls, where he tells us, that God is love, 1 Epist. chap. iv. 8. or one of an infinitely gracious, tender, good, compasfionate, loving nature. Infinite goodness and grace is the soul wherein forgiveness grows. It is impossible this flower should spring from any other root. Unless this be revealed to the soul, forgiveness is not revealed. To consider pardon merely as it is terminated in ourselves,
not as it flows from God, will bring neither profit to us, nor glory to God.
And this also, which is our design in hand, will make it appear, that this discovery of forgiveness, whereof we speak, is indeed no common thing, is a great discoYery. Let men come, with a sense of the guilt of sin, to have deep and ferious thoughts of God, they will find it Bo such easy and light matter, to have their hearts true ly and thoroughly apprehensive of this loving and graçi. ous nature of God, in reference unto pardon. It is an easy matter to say so in common, but the soul will not find it so easy to believe it for itself. What hath been spoken before concerning the ingrafted notions that are in the minds of men about the justice, holiness, and severity of God, will here take place. Though men profess that God is gracious, yet that aversation which they have unto him, and communion with him, doth abundantly manifest that they do not believe what they say and profess. If they did, they could but delight and trust in him, which they do not; for they that know his name, will put their trust in him. So fáid the flothful servant in the gospel, I knew that thou was austere, and pot for me to deal withal; it may be he profeffed otherwise before, but that lay in his heart when it came to the trial. But this, I say, is neceffary to them, unto whom this discovery is to be made, even a spiritual apprehenfion of the gracious, loving heart and nature of God. This is the spring of all that follows, and the fountain must needs be infinitely sweet from whence tuch streams do flow. He that considers the glorious fabrick of heaven and earth, with the things in them contained, must needs conclude that they were the product of infinite wisdom and power; nothing less or under them could have brought forph such an effect. And he that really considereth forgiveness, and looks on it with a spiritual eye, must conclude that it comes from infinite goodness and grace. And this is that which the hearts of finners are exercised about, when they come to deal for pardon, Psal. Ixxxvi. 5. Thou, Lord, art good and ready to for.
give, Neh. ix. 17. Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, now, to anger, and of great kindness. And Micah vii. 19. Who is a God like unto thee that pardonet h iniquity ;--- because he delighteth in mercy. And God encourageth them hereunto, wherever he says, that he forgives fins, and blots out iniquities, for his own fake, or his name's fake; that is, he will deal with finners according to the goodness of his own gracious nature. So Hof. xi. 9. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destray Ephraim, for I am God, and not man. Were there no more mercy, grace, compassion, to be hewed in this case, than it is possible should be treasured in the heart of a man, it would be impossible that Ephraim should be spared ; but, faith he, I am God, and not man; consider the infinite largeness, bounty, and goodness of the heart of God, and there is yet hope. When a finner is in good earneft seeking after forgiveness, there is nothing he is more follicitous about than the heart of God towards him, nothing that he more labours to have a discovery of, there is nothing that Go and Satan labour more to hide from him ; this he rolls in his mind, and exercises his thoughts about, and if ever that voice of God, la. xxvii. 4. Fury is not in me, found in his heart, he is relieved from his great distrefses. And the fear of our hearts in this matter, our Saviour seems to intend the prevention, or a removal of, John xvi. 26, 27. I fay not that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you. They had good thoughts of the tender heart and care of Christ himself, the Mediator, towards them; but what is the heart of the Father, what acceptance shall they find with him ? Will Chrift pray
that they may find favour with him ? Why, faith he, as to the love of his heart, there is no need of it, for the Father himself loveth you. If this then belongeth to forgivenefs, as who ever hath fought for it, knoweth that it doth, it is certainly no common discovery to bave it revealed unto us. To have all the clouds and darkness that are raised