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PARDON AND FORGIVENESS OF SIN.
ISAIAH xliii. 25,
1, EVEN I, AM HE, THAT BLOTTETH OUT THY TRÁNSGRESSIONS FOR
MINE OWN SAKE, AND WILL NOT REMEMBER THY SINS.
In the foregoing verses, we have a heavy accusation drawn up against the people of the Jews; in which they stand charged both with sins of omission and of commission.
By the one, they shewed themselves weary of God; and, by the other, God became weary of them.
" Thou hast not called upon me.....nor brought me....thy burntofferings, nor..... honoured me with thy sacrifices.....but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel : as it is in 22d and 23d verses. Thou thoughtest my commands grievous, and my service burdensome: and though, as thou art my sworn servant, I might compel thee to work; yet I have borne with thy sloth, and suffered my work to lie undone. I have not caused thee to serve with offerings, nor wearied thee with incense : as it is in the 23d verse. Nay, as if rejecting my service had not been indignity enough, thou hast even brought me into a kind of servitude; even' me, thy Lord and Master : thou hast wearied my patience; thou hast loaded my omnipotency: Thou hast made me serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities :" v. 24.
And what could we now, in reason, expect should be the close of so heavy an accusation, but only as heavy a doom and sentence? 6. Thou hast brought me no sacrifices : therefore I will make thee a sacrifice to my wrath. Thou hast not called upon me ; and, when thou dost call, I will not answer. Thou hast wearied me with thy sins : and I will weary thee with my plagues."
But there is no such expected severity follows hereupon : but, 1, even I, am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. The like parallel place we have concerning Ephraim: Isa. lvii. 17, 18. He went on frowardly in the way of his own heart : Well, says God, I have seen his ways: and, what! with the froward, shall I shew myself froward ? no: but, I have seen his ways, and I will heal him.
Here is the prerogative of free grace; to infer pardon there, where the guilty themselves can infer only their own execution and punishment. It is the guise of mercy, to make strange and abrupt inferences from sin to pardon.
The words are a Gracious Proclamation of Forgiveness; or, an Act of Pardon passed on the Sins of Men: and contain in them Three things.
First. Here is the Person, that gives out this pardon; and, that is, God: accented here by a vehement ingemination, I, even I am he,
Secondly. Here is the Pardon itself; which, for the greater confirmation of our faith and hope, is redoubled : I, even I, am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions.....and will not remember thy sins.
Thirdly. Here are the Motives, or the impulsive cause, that prevailed with God, thus to proclaim pardon unto guilty malefactors; and, that is, for his own sake. I am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sakc.
First. As for the First particular, I, even I, am he ; we may obserye, That God seems more to triumph in the glory of his pardoning grace and mercy, than he doth in any other of his attributes. · 1, even I, am he. Such a stately preface must needs usher in somewhat, wherein God and his honour is much advanced. Is it therefore, “ I am he, that spread forth the heavens, and marshalled all their host; that hung up the earth in the midst of the air; that breathed forth all the creatures upon the face of it; that poured out the great deeps, and measured them all in the hollow of my hand"; that ride upon the wings of the winde and make the clouds the dust of my feet?" This, though it might awe and amuse the hearts of men, yet God counts it not his chiefest glory; but, I, even I, am he, that blotteth out transgressions, and forgiveth iniquities. .
So we find, when God condescends to shew Moses his glory, he proclaims, not the Lord, great and terrible, that formed all
things by the word of his mouth, and can destroy all things by the breath of his nostrils : no; but he passeth before him with a still voice, and proclaims himself to be, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.....forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. .-. So that, when God would be seen in his chiefest state and glory, she reveals himself to be a sin-pardoning God: I, even 1, am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions.....and will not remember thy sins.
Secondly. As for the Pardon itself, that is expressed in two things: I am he, that blotteth out....and will not remember.
Blotting out implies, · First. That our trangressions are written down.
And, written they are, in a twofold book; the one, is in the Book of God's Remembrance; which he blots out, when he justifies a sinner: the other, is the Book of our own Consciences; which he blots out, when he gives us peace and assurance. And, oftentimes, these follow one upon the other: when God blots his Remembrance-Book in heaven, that blot diffuseth and spreadeth itself even to the Book of Conscience, and blots out all that is written there also. Man blots his conscience by committing sin, but God blots it by pardoning it: he lays a blot of Christ's blood upon a blot of our guilt; and this is such a blot, as leaves the conscience of a sinner purer and cleaner than it found it.
Secondly. Blotting out of transgression inplies a legal discharge of the debt.
A book, that is once blotted and crossed, stands void in law: whatever the sum and debts were before, yet the crossing of the book signifies the payment of the debt. So is it here: I will blot out thy transgressions; that is, “ I will acquit thee of all thy debts : I will never charge them upon thee: I will dash them all out: I will not leave so much as one item, not one sin legible against thee.” This is the proper meaning of this expression and notion, of blotting out transgression and sin.
And this is one thing, that pardon of sin is expressed by.
It follows, in the next words, and I will not remember thy sins. Not that there is truly any forgetfulness in God: no; his memory retains every sin which we have committed, surer and
firmer than if all our sins were written in leaves of brass. But God speaks here, as he doth elsewhere frequently in Scripture, by a gracious condescension, and after the manner of men; and it is to be interpreted only by the effects : I will not remember their sins; that is, “ I will deal so mercifully with them, as if indeed I did not remember the least of their provocations: I will be to them as one, that hath utterly forgotten all their injuries.” So that this, not remembering of sin, denies not the eminent act of God's knowledge, but only the transient act of his justice; and is no more than his promising not to punish sin: as if God had said, “I will not be avenged on them, nor punish them for their sins.”
And here we may see what abundant security God gives his people, that they shall never be impleaded for those sins, which once they have attained the pardon of: they are blotted out of his book of remembrance. And, that they may not fear he will accuse them without book, he tells them, that they are utterly forgotten; and shall never be remembered by him, against them, any more.
Thirdly. Consider the Impulsive Cause, that 'moves God's hand, as it were to blot out our transgressions : and, that is, not any thing without himself, but, says God, I will do it for mine own sake. - This admits of a twofold sense, efficient and final. · First. For mine own sake : that is, because it is my pleasure: I will do it, because I will do it: . ' ? And, indeed, this is the royal prerogative of God alone, to render his will for his reason: for, because his will is altogether sovereign and independent, that must needs be most reasonable, that he wills. If any should question, why the Lord passed by fallen angels, and stooped so low as to take up fallen man; and, why, among men, he hath rejected many wise and noble, and hath chosen those that are mean and contemptible; why he hath gathered up and lodged in his own bosom those, that wallowed in the filth and defilement of the worst sins, when others are left to perish under far less guilt: the most reasonable answer, that can be given to all, is this, “ I have done it, for my own sake: I have done it, because it is my will and pleasure to do it: even the same reason, that God gave unto Moses : I will be gracious, because I will be gracious; and I will shew mercy, because I will shew mercy: Exod. xxxiii. 19. which was the saine answer, that our Saviour gave to himself: Luke x. 21. Even so, Father; because so it seemed good in thy sight.
Secondly. For mine own sake : we may take in a final sense : that is, " I will do it, because of that great honour and glory, that will accrue to my great name by it.” * The ultimate and chief end of God in all his actions, is his own glory. God bestows' pardon and salvation upon us, chiefly for the manifestation of his own glory; even the glory of his mercy and free grace. Our salvation is therefore accomplished, that it might be a means to declare to the world how merciful and gracious God is : not so much for our good, as for his glory; not for our sakes, But for his own sake. Such a parallel place we have in Ezek. xxxvi. 22. “ I do not this for your sakes, saith the Lord, but for my holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen. I will shew mercy unto you; not so much that you may be delivered, as that my holy name, that you have profaned, may be redeemed from that dishonour, that you have cast upon it, and may be glorified among the heathen."... La
And, thus, we have the full interpretation of the words; and, from them, I shalø raise and prosecute this Observation.: i.
Doctrine. That The GRACE OF GOD, WHEREBY HE BLOTS OUT AND FORGIVES SIN, IS ABSOLUTELY FREE AND INFINITELY GLORIOUS. ". 1, even 'I, am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
1. Though this doctrine of FREE GRACE hath deserved well of all; as being the best tenure of our present enjoyment, and the best prop for our future hopes: yet hath it, in all ages, found bitter enemies; and, of old, like the procurer of it, been crucified between two thieves, the Gnostics and the Pelagian Heretics.
The Pelagians deprive it of its freedom, and enslave it to the will of man; áffirming, that God therefore pardons and saves some, because they will, by the power of their own nature, work faith in themselves : whereas, the truth is, therefore God .works faith in them, because he will pardon and save them.
Thus they make Free Grace a handmaid, to wait upon the motions of Free Will. Now this is greatly derogatory to Free Grace, for men to bottom their faith and pardon upon the arbitrariness of Free Will; and not upon the almighty sovereign grace of God, that first moves the will to believe, and then pardons it upon believing
As these depress the Free Grace of God; so there are others, that ascribe too much unto it: of old, Islebius, in Luther's time;