The next part of our sanctification is in reference to our daily failings and transgressions, committed partly through the violence of temptations, as we see in David and Peter, and other eminent men of God; partly through daily infirmities, because of our weakness and imperfections; for, "in many things we offend all," James iii. 2; and, "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," 1 John i. 8; "a righteous man falleth seven times," Prov. xxiv. 16; "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not," Eccl. vii. 20; and Solomon further saith, 1 Kings viii. 46, "That there is no man that sinneth not." This being so, the question is, how Christ is to be made use of, for taking these away.
For satisfaction to this, it would be considered, that in those daily out breakings there are two things to be noticed. First, There is the guilt which is commonly called reatus paenae, whereby the transgressor is liable to the sentence of the law, or to the penalty annexed to the breach thereof, which is no less than God's curse; for "cursed is every one that abideth not in all things, which are in the law to do them," Gal. iii. 10. Next, There is the stain or blot, which is called reatus culpae, whereby the soul is defiled, and made in so far incapable of glory, (for nothing entereth in there which defileth,) and of communion and fellowship with God, who is of purer eyes than he can behold iniquity. So that it is manifest, how necessary it is that both these be taken away, that they may not stand in our way to the Father. And as to both, we must make use of Christ, who is the only way to the Father.
And this we shall now clear. And, first, speak of the taking away of the guilt that is contracted by every sin. And for this cause we shall speak briefly to two things. (1.) Shew what Christ hath done as Mediator, for this end, that the guilt contracted by our daily failings and out-breakings, might be taken away. (2.) Shew what the believer should do for the guilt taken away in Christ; or how he should make use of Christ for reconciliation with God after transgressions; or, for the taking away of the guilt that he lieth under, because of his violation of the law.
As to the first, we say, Christ, for taking away of guilt contracted daily, hath done these things:
1. Christ laid down his life a ransom for all the sins of the elect; both such as were past before they believed, and such as were to be committed after. His blood was shed for the remission of sins indefinitely, and without distinction, Matt. xxvi. 28.
2. And this was done according to the tenor of the covenant of redemption, wherein the Father "caused all our sins to meet together on him," Isa. liii. 6; and made him sin, or a sacrifice for sin, indefinitely, 2 Cor. v. 21; and so did not except the sins committed after conversion.
3. Having satisfied justice, and being risen from the dead as a conqueror, he is now exalted to "be a prince, to give repentance and remission of sins," Acts v. 31. Now repentance and remission of sins his people have need of, after conversion as well as before conversion.
4. There are promises of pardon and remission of sins in the new covenant of grace, all which are sealed and confirmed in the blood of Jesus, Jer. xxxi. 34, "For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." And chap, xxxiii. 8, "And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me." Isa. xliii. 25, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake; and will not remember thy sins."
5. Though there be no actual pardon of sins, till they be committed, and repented of, according to the tenor of the gospel, Matt. iii. 2, Luke xiii. 3. Acts ii. 38; and viii. 22; yet while Christ bare all the sins of his people upon the cross, they were all then virtually and meritoriously taken away; of which Christ's resurrection was a certain pledge and evidence; for then got he his acquitance from all that either law or justice could charge him with, in behalf of them, for whom he laid down his life a ransom. Rom. viii. 33, 34, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, or rather that is risen again."
6. So that by virtue of Christ's death, there is a way laid down, in the covenant of grace, how the sins of the elect shall be actually pardoned, viz. that at their conversion and first laying hold on Christ by faith, all the sins, whereof they then stand guilty, shall be actually pardoned and forgiven, in their justification; and all their after-sins shall also be actually pardoned, upon their griping to Christ of new by faith, and turning to God by repentance. And this way is agreed to by Father and Son, and revealed in the gospel, for the instruction and encouragement of believers; and all to the glory of his free grace. "In whom we have redemption, (saith the apostle, Eph. i. 7-9) through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself."
7. Beside Christ's death and resurrection, which give ground of hope, of pardon, of daily out-breakings, there is likewise his intercession useful for this end. For, so saith the apostle, 1 John ii. 1, 2, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins." This intercession is a special part of his priesthood, who was the great high priest, Heb. iv. 14, 1; and a completing part, Heb. viii. 4, and ix. 8; and upon this account it is, that "He is able to save to the uttermost, all that come to God through him, because he liveth for ever to make intercession for them," Heb. vii. 25. For by his intercession is the work of redemption carried on, the purchased benefits applied, and particularly, new grants of remission are, through his intercession, issued forth: he pleading and interceding, in a way suitable, to his glorified condition, upon his death and propitiation made, while he was upon the cross, accepted of the Father, and declared to be accepted by his resurrection, ascension, and sitting at his Father's right hand. And thus, as believers are reconciled to God by Christ's death, they are saved by his life, Rom. v. 10. So that Christ's living to be an intercessor, makes the salvation sure; and so laying down a ground for taking away of daily out-breakings, which, if not taken away, would hinder and obstruct the believer's salvation.
8. And as for the condition requisite to renewed pardon, viz. faith and repentance, Christ is the worker of both. For he is a prince exalted to give repentance, first and last, Acts iv. 30; and as he is the author of faith, so he is the finisher of it, Heb. xii. 2.
As to the second particular, namely, what believers should do for getting the guilt of their daily failings and out-breakings taken away by Christ; or how they should make use of Christ for this end, I shall, for clearing of it, propose those things to consideration:
1. We would beware to think, that all our after actual transgressions are actually pardoned, either when Christ died, or when we first believed in Christ, as some suppose; for sin cannot properly be said to be pardoned before it be committed. David was put to sue out for pardon, after his actual transgression was committed, and not for the mere sense and feeling of the pardon, or the intimation of it to his spirit, when he cried out, Psalm li. 2, "Blot out my transgressions, wash me," &c; and verse 9, "Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities;" and verse 14, "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness." Sure when he spoke thus, he sought some other thing than intimation of pardon to his sense and conscience; for that he desired also, but in far more clear expressions, verse 8, "Make me to hear joy and gladness," &c.; and verse 12, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation," &c. Scripture phrases to express remission import this, viz. covering of sin, pardoning of debts, blotting out of sins, hiding of God's face from sin, not remembering of them, casting of them behind his back, casting of them into the sea, removing of sin, Psalm xxxiii. 1, 2. These and the like phrases, though many of them be metaphorical, yet do all of them clearly evince, that sin must first have a being before it can be pardoned. The same is clearly imported by the gospel conditions requisite before pardon; such as acknowledgment of sin, (1 John i. 9) which we see was practised by the worthies of old; David, Psalm xxxii. 51. Nehemiah, chap. ix. Ezra, chap. ix. and Daniel, chap. ix. Confessing and forsaking of it, Prov. xxviii. 13. Sorrowing for it, and repenting of it, and laying hold on Christ by faith, &c.
The reason why I propose this, is not only to guard against this Antinomian error, but also to guard the soul from security, to which this doctrine hath a natural tendency. For if a person once think, that all his sins were pardoned, upon his first believing, so that many of them were pardoned before they were committed; he shall never be affected for his after transgressions, nor complain of a body of death, nor account himself miserable upon that account, as Paul did, Rom. vii. 24; nor shall he ever pray for remission, though Christ has taught all to do so, in that pattern of prayer; nor shall he act faith upon the promise of pardon made in the covenant of grace for after transgressions, or for transgressions actually committed, Jer. xxxi. 34, and xxxiii. 8. Heb. viii. 12; and so there shall be no use made of Christ for new pardons, or remissions of new sins.
2. The believer would remember, that among other things, antecedently requisite to remission of posterior actual transgressions, gospel repentance is especially required, (Luke xiii. 3. Matt. iii. 2. Ezek. xviii. 28, 30. Luke xv. 17,18. Hos. ii. 6, 7. Ezek. xiv. 6,) whereby a sinner, through the help of the Spirit, being convinced not only of his hazard by reason of sin, but also of the hatefulness and filthiness of sin; and having a sight of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus to sinners, turning from their sin, doth turn from those sins unto God, with a full purpose of heart, in his strength, to follow him, and obey his laws. And hereby the soul is brought to loathe itself and sin, and is made willing to desire, seek for, accept of, and prize remissions of sins. This makes them more wary and careful in time coming; "For behold," says the apostle, 2 Cor. vii. 11, "this self same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge," &c. Thus is God glorified in his justice, Psalm li. 4; and his mercy is acknowledged, in not entering with us into judgment, nor casting us into hell, as he might have done in justice.
3. Yet it would be remembered, that though it hath seemed good in the Lord's eyes to choose this method, and appoint this way of obtaining pardon of sins daily committed, for the glory of his grace and mercy; and likewise for our good, we must not ascribe too much unto repentance, in the matter of pardon. We must not make it a cause of our remission, either efficient or meritorious. We must not think that it hath any hand in appeasing the wrath of God, or in satisfying justice. Pardon must always be an act of God's free grace, unmerited at our hands, and procured alone through the merits of Christ. We must not put repentance in Christ's room and place, nor ascribe any imperfection unto his merits, as if they needed any supply from any act of ours. We must beware of leaning to our repentance and godly sorrow, even so far as to think to commend ourselves to God, thereby that we may obtain pardon.
4. The believer would consider seriously the dreadfulness of their condition who are lying under the lash of the law for sin. The law saith, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the law;" and every sin is a transgression of the law. So that, according to law and justice, they are in hazard. For every sin in itself exposeth the sinner to eternal wrath, sin being an offence against God, who is a righteous judge, and a breach of his law. A right sight and apprehension of this, would serve to humble the sinner before God, and make him more earnest in seeking out for pardon, that this obligation to punishment might be removed.
5. The believer would not only consider the sin itself, but also take notice of all its aggravations. There are peculiar aggravations of some sins taken from the time, manner, and other circumstances, which, rightly considered, will help forward the work of humiliation. And the sins of believers have this aggravation above the sins of others, that they are committed against more love, and special love, and against more opposition and contradiction of the grace of God within the soul, against more light and conviction, &c. And therefore their humiliation upon this account ought to be singular and serious. So was it with David, when he took notice of the special aggravation of his sin, Psalm li. 4, 6, 14, and Ezra, chap ix. and Nehemiah, chap. ix. and Daniel chap. ix. This considering of sin, with its due aggravations, would help to prize mercies at a high rate, and cause the soul more willingly wait for and more seriously seek after remission; knowing that God is more angry for great sins, than for sins of infirmity, and may therefore pursue the same with sorer judgments, as he broke David's bones, withdrew his comforts, &c.
6. The believer would be convinced of an impossibility of doing anything in himself which can procure pardon at the hands of God; should he weep, cry, afflict himself, and pray never so, all will do nothing by way of merit, for taking away of the least sin that ever he committed; and the conviction of this would drive him to despair in himself, and be a mean to bring him cleanly off himself, and to look out for mere mercy in Christ Jesus. So long as, through the deceitfulness of Satan, the false heart inclineth to the old bias, and hath its eye upon any thing in itself, from whence it draweth its hopes and expectation of pardon and acceptance, it will not purely act faith on Christ for this end, and so he will lose all his labour, and in the end be disappointed. Therefore the believer would guard against this, and that so much the more, that the false deceitful heart is so much inclined thereto; and that this deceit can sometime work so cunningly, that it can hardly be discerned, being covered over with many false glosses and pretexts; and that it is so dishonourable to Jesus, and hurtful and prejudicial to the soul.
7. The believer would act faith on the promises of pardon in the new covenant, as having a right to them through Jesus Christ, and challenge with humble boldness, the fulfilling of the same, according to that, 1 John i. 9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." So that the believer may not only take hold of mercy and grace in God, as an encouragement and invitation to go to God for pardon; but even of the justice and righteousness of God, because of his faithful promises; and the believer would have here a special eye to Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen; and look for the accomplishment of them through him, and for his sake alone.
8. Faith would eye Christ, as hanging upon the cross, and offering up himself, through the eternal Spirit, a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, for all the sins of his own chosen ones; we cannot think, that Christ bare but some of their sins, or only their sins committed before conversion; and if he bare all, as the Father laid all upon him, the believer is to lay hold on him by faith, as hanging on the cross, as well for taking away of the guilt of sins committed after conversion, as before; his sacrifice was a sacrifice for all, "and he bare our sins (without distinction or exception,) in his own body on the tree," 1 Pet. ii. 24. David had his eye on this, when he cried out, Psalm li. 7, "Purge me with hyssop;" hyssop being sometimes used in the legal purifications, which typified that purification which Christ really wrought when he gave himself a sacrifice for sin, Levit. xiv. 6. Num. xix. 18.
9. The believer looking on Christ, dying as a Mediator, to pacify the wrath of God, and to make satisfaction to the justice of God, for the sins of his people, would renew his consent unto that gracious and wise contrivance of Heaven, of pardoning sins, through a crucified Mediator, that mercy and justice might kiss each other, and be glorified together; and declare again his full satisfaction with Christ's satisfying of justice for him, and taking away the guilt of his sins, by that blood that was shed upon the cross, by taking those sins, whereof now he standeth guilty, and for which he is desirous of pardon, and by faith nailing them to the cross of Christ, and rolling them on his shoulders, that the guilt of them, as well as of the rest, might be taken away, through the merits of his death and satisfaction. Thus the believer consenteth to the noble act of free grace, whereby the Lord made all our sins to meet together on Christ, when he taketh those particular sins, wherewith now he is troubled, and casteth them in into the heap, that Christ, as the true scape-goat, may carry all away. This is to lay our hands on the head of our sacrifice.
10. The believer hath another ground of comfort to grip to, in this case, and that is, Christ's eternal priesthood, whereby he makes intercession for the transgressions of his people, and as their advocate and attorney with the Father, pleadeth their cause, whereby he is able to save them to the last and uttermost step of their journey, and so to save them from the guilt of all casual and emergent sins, that might hinder their salvation. So that the believer is to put those sins, that now he would have pardoned, into the hands of Christ, the everlasting Intercessor, and all-sufficient Advocate, that he, by virtue of his death, would obtain a new pardon of these their failings and transgressions, and deliverance from the guilt thereof; and their acceptance with the Father, notwithstanding of these transgressions.
11. Thus believers eyeing Christ as dying, rising again, ascending, and as sitting at the Father's right hand, there to be a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec, and to intercede for his own, and to see to the application of what benefits, pardons, favours, and other things they need, from all which they have strong ground of comfort and of hope, yea, and assurance of pardon, would acquiesce in this way; and having laid those particular sins, under the burden whereof they now groan, on Christ the Mediator, dying on the cross to make satisfaction, and arising to make application of what was purchased, and having put them in his hand, who is a faithful high priest, and a noble intercessor, would remember, that "Christ is a prince exalted, to give repentance and remission of sins;" and so expect the sentence even from him, as a prince now exalted, and as having obtained that of the Father, even a power to forgive sins, justice being now sufficiently satisfied, through his death; yea, and as having all power in heaven and in earth, as being Lord both of the dead and of the living. Sure a right thought of this would much quiet the soul, in hope of obtaining pardon through him; seeing now the pardon is in his own hand, to give out, who loved them so dearly, that he gave himself to the death for them, and shed his heart blood to satisfy justice for their transgressions. Since he who hath procured their pardon at so dear a rate, and is their attorney to agent their business at the throne of grace, hath now obtained the prayed-for and looked-for pardon, and hath it in his own hand, they will not question but he will give it, and so absolve them from their guilt.
12. The believer, having taken this course with his daily provocations, and laid them all on him, would aquiesce in this way, and not seek after another, that he may obtain pardon. Here he would rest, committing the matter by faith in prayer to Christ, and leaving his guilt and sins on him, expect the pardon, yea, conclude, that they are already pardoned; and that for these sins, he shall never be brought unto condemnation, whatever Satan and a misbelieving heart may say or suggest afterward.
Thus should a believer make use of Christ, for the taking away of the guilt of his daily transgressions; and for further clearing of it, I shall add a few cautions.
1. However the believer is to be much moved at, and affected with his sins and provocations, which he committeth after God hath visited his soul with salvation, and brought him into a covenant with himself, yet he must not suppose, that his sins after justification do mar his state; as if thereby he were brought into a non-justified state, or to a non-reconciled state. It is true, such sins, especially if gross, whether in themselves, or by reason of circumstances, will darken a man's state, and put him to search and try his condition over again. But yet we dare not say, that they make any alteration in the state of a believer; for once in a justified state always in a justified state. It is true likewise, that as to those sins, which now he hath committed, he cannot be said to be acquitted or justified, till this pardon be got out by faith and repentance, as is said; yet his state remaineth fixed and unchanged; so that though God should seem to deal with such in his dispensations, as with enemies, yet really his affections change not; he never accounteth them real enemies; nay, love lieth at the bottom of all his sharpest dispensations. If they forsake his law, and walk not in his judgments; if they break his statutes and keep not his commandments, he will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes, nevertheless his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail; his covenant will he not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of his lips, Psalm lxxxix. 30-34. And again, though after transgressions may waken challenges for former sins, which have been pardoned and blotted out, and give occasions to Satan to raise a storm in the soul, and put all in confusion, yet really sins once pardoned cannot become again unpardoned sins. The Lord doth not revoke his sentence, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth. It is true likewise, that a believer, by committing of gross sins, may come to miss the effects of God's favour and good will, and the intimations of his love and kindness; and so be made to cry with David, Psalm li. 8, "Make me to hear joy and gladness;" and ver. 12, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation," &c. Yet that really holdeth true, that whom he loveth he loveth to the end; and he is a God that changeth not; and his gifts are without repentance. Yea, though grieving of the Spirit may bring souls under sharp throes, and pangs of the spirit of bondage, and the terrors of God, and his sharp errors, the poison whereof may drink up their spirits, and so be far from the actual witnessings of the Spirit of adoption; yet the Spirit will never be again really a spirit of bondage unto fear, nor deny his own work in the soul, or the soul's real right to, or possession of that fundamental privilege of adoption,--I say, that the soul is no more a son, nor within the covenant.
2. The course before mentioned is to be taken with all sins, though, (1.) They be never so heinous and gross. (2.) Though they be accompanied with never such aggravating and crying aggravations. (3.) Though they be sins frequently fallen into; and, (4.) Though they be sins many and heaped together. David's transgression was a heinous sin, and had heinous aggravations, yea, there was an heap and a complication of sins together in that one; yet he followed this course. We find none of these kind of sins excepted in the new covenant; and where the law doth not distinguish, we ought not to distinguish; where God's law doth not expressly exclude us, we should not exclude ourselves. Christ's death is able enough to take away all sin. If through it a believer be justified from all his transgressions committed before conversion, why may not also a believer be, through virtue of it, justified from his gross and multiplied sins committed after conversion? The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin; Christ hath taught his followers to pray, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive them that sin against us;" and he hath told us also, that we must forgive our brother seventy times seven, Matth. xiii. 22. We would not be discouraged then from taking this course, because our sins are such and such; nay, rather, we would look on this, as an argument to press us more unto this way, because the greater our sins be, the greater need have we of pardon, and to say with David, Psalm xxv. 11, "Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great."
3. We would not think, that upon our taking of this course, we shall be instantly freed from challenges, because of those sins, for pardoning whereof we take this course; nor should we think, that because challenges remain, that therefore there is no pardon had, or that this is not the way to pardon; for, as we shall show afterward, pardon is one thing, and intimation of pardon is another thing. We may be pardoned, and yet suppose that we are not pardoned; challenges will abide till the conscience be sprinkled, and till the Prince of Peace command peace to the conscience, and put the accuser to silence; who, when he can do no more, will mar the peace of a believer, as long as he can, and stop the current of his comforts, which made David pray, that "God would restore to him the joy of his salvation," Psalm li.
4. Nor would we think, that upon our taking of this course for the pardon of our sins, we shall never thereafter meet with a challenge upon the account of these sins. It is true, when sins are pardoned, they are fully pardoned in God's court, and that obligation to condemnation is taken away, and the pardoned person is looked upon as no sinner, that is, as no person liable to condemnation because of these sins; for being pardoned he becometh just before God; yet we dare not say, but conscience afterward, being alarmed with new transgressions, may mistake, as people suddenly put into a fight are ready to do; nor dare we say, that God will not permit Satan to upbraid us with those sins, which have been blotted out long ago, as he suffered Shimei, who was but an instrument of Satan, to cast up to David his blood-guiltiness, which had been pardoned long before. The Lord may think good to suffer this, that his people may be kept humble, and made more tender and watchful in all their ways.
5. Believers would not misimprove or abuse this great condescendency of free grace, and take the great liberty to sin, because there is such a sure, safe, and pleasant way of getting those sins blotted out and forgiven. "Shall we sin because we are not under grace, but under the law? That be far from us," saith the Apostle, Rom. vi. 15. This were indeed to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. And it may be a question, if such as have really repented, and gotten their sins pardoned, will be so ready to make this use of it; sure sense of pardon will work some other effect, as we see, Ezek. xvi. 62, 63.
6. The believer, in going about this work of nailing his sins to the cross of Christ, and of improving Christ's death, resurrection, and constant intercession, for the obtaining of pardon, would not think of going alone, or of doing this in his own strength; for of himself he can do nothing. He must look to Christ for grace to help in this time of need, and must go about this duty with dependence on him, waiting for the influence of light, counsel, strength, and grace from him, to repent and believe; for he is a prince exalted to give repentance, first and last, and he is the author and finisher of faith; so that without him we can do nothing.
7. Let the believer beware of concluding, that be hath got no pardon, because he hath met with no sensible intimation thereof by the flowing in of peace and joy in his soul. Pardon is one mercy, and intimation of it to the soul is another distinct mercy, and separable from it: shall we therefore say, we have not gotten the first, because we have not gotten both? The Lord, for wise reasons, can pardon poor sinners, and not give any intimation thereof; viz. that they may watch more against sin afterward, and not be so bold as they have been; and that they may find more in experience, what a bitter thing it is to sin against God, and learn withal to depend on him for less and more; and to carry more humbly; for it may be, God seeth, that if they saw their sins pardoned, they would forget themselves, and rush into new sins again.
8. The believer must not think it strange, if he find more trouble after greater sins, and a greater difficulty to lay hold on Christ for pardon of those, than for pardon of others. For as God hath been more dishonoured by these, so is his anger more kindled upon that account; and it is suitable for the glory of God's justice, that our sorrow for such sins be proportionally greater; and this will likewise increase the difficulty; and ordinarily the effects of God's fatherly displeasure make deeper wounds in the soul after such sins, and these are not so easily healed; all which will call for suitable and proportionally greater godly sorrow and repentance, and acts of faith, because faith will meet with more opposition and discouragement there, and therefore must be the more strong, to go through these impediments, and to lay hold on his cross. Yet though this should make all watchful, and to guard against gross and crying sins, it should not drive any to despair, nor to say with that despairing wretch, their sin is greater than it can be forgiven; the ocean of mercy can drown and swallow up greater as well as lesser sins; Christ is an all-sufficient Mediator for the greatest sins as well as the least. "O, for thy name's sake, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great!" will come in season to a soul ready to sink with the weight of this millstone tied about its neck.
9. As the greater sins should not make us despair of taking this course for remission, so nor should the smallness of sin make us to neglect this way; for the least sin cannot be pardoned but through Jesus Christ; for the law of God is violated thereby, justice provoked, God's authority vilified, &c. and therefore cannot be now pardoned, by reason of the threatenings annexed to the law, without a ransom. Death is the wages of sin, lesser and greater, and the curse is due to all sin, greater and smaller. There, the believer would not suffer one sin, seen and discovered, to lie unpardoned, but on the first discovery thereof, take it away to Christ, and nail it to the cross.
10. The believer would not conclude, that his sins are not pardoned, because possibly temporal strokes, inflicted because of them, are not removed; for though David's sin was pardoned, yet because of that sin of his, a temporal stroke attended him and his family, to his dying day; for not only did God cut off the child, (2 Sam. xv. 14.), but told him, that the sword should never depart from his house, and that he would raise up evil against him out of his own house, and give his wives to one that should lie with them in the sight of the sun, vers. 10, 11. So we read, that the Lord took vengeance on their inventions whose sins he had pardoned, Psalm xcix. 8. God may see this fit and expedient, for his own glory, and for humbling of them, and causing them to fear the more to sin against him. Yea, not only may temporal calamities be inflicted, because of sin pardoned, or continued, after sin is pardoned, but even sense of God's displeasure may continue after pardon, as appeareth by that penitential Psalm (the fifty-first) penned by David, after Nathan had spoken to him concerning his sin.
QUESTIONS OR OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
1. What course shall we take with secret sins? I answer, this same course must be followed with them. There is an implicit repentance of sins that have not been distinctly seen and observed, as who can see and observe all their failings? And so there may be an implicit faith acting; that is, the believer being persuaded that he is guilty of more sins than he hath got a clear sight of, as he would bewail his condition before God because of these, and sorrow for them after a godly manner, so he would take them together in a heap, or as a closed bagful, and by faith nail them to the cross of Christ, as if they were all distinctly seen and known. "Who can understand his errors," said David, Psalm xix. 12: yet says he moreover, "cleanse thou me from secret faults."
2. But what if, after all this, I find no intimation of pardon to my soul? Ans. As this should serve to keep thee humble, so it should excite to more diligence, in this duty of going with thy sins to Christ, and to ply him and his cross more, in and through the promises, and keep thy soul constant in this duty of the running to Christ, as an all-sufficient Mediator, and as an intercessor with the Father; and thus wait on him waiteth to be gracious, even in this particular, of intimating pardon to thy soul,--he knoweth when it is fittest for thee to know that thy sins are forgiven.
3. But what can yield me any ground of peace while it is so, that I see no pardon or remission granted to me? Ans. This may yield thee peace, that, following this course which hath been explained, thou art about thy duty. Thou art not at peace with sin, nor harbouring that viper in thy soul; thou art mourning and sorrowing over it, and running to Christ the prince of pardons, through his blood and intercession, conform to the covenant of redemption, and after the encouragement given in the many and precious promises of the covenant of grace; and having these promises, and rolling thy guilt on Christ as thy cautioner, conform to the manner expressed in the gospel, thou art allowed to believe that thy sins are pardoned, and that thou art accepted in the beloved, and so quiet thy soul through faith, God abiding faithful and true, and his promises being all yea and amen in Christ.
4. But so long as I find no intimation of pardon, I cannot think that I have taken the right gospel way of bringing my sins to Christ. Ans. Though that will not follow, as we cleared above--for a soul may take the right gospel way of getting the guilt of their sins taken away in Christ, and God may pardon thereupon, and for all that not think it fit to give intimation of that pardon as yet, for wise and holy ends--yet the soul may humble itself for its shortcoming, and still go about the duty, amending in Christ what it supposeth to be amiss, and renewing its act of repentance and faith, and beg of Christ understanding in the matter, and so continue carrying sin always to Christ's cross, and eyeing his intercession, and wait for a full clearing of the matter in his good time.
5. But what shall I do with the guilt of my weak repentance, and weak faith? Ans. When with a weak and defective repentance and faith thou art carrying away thy sins to Christ, and nailing them, to his cross, let the imperfection of thy faith and repentance go with the rest, and leave all there.
6. What shall I do with my conscience, that still accuseth me of guilt, notwithstanding of my taking and following this course? Ans. Despise not the accusation of conscience, but let these humble thee the more, and keep thee closer at this duty. Yet know, that conscience is but an under servant, and God's deputy, and must accuse according to law, (I speak not here of the irregular, furious, and turbulent motions of Satan, casting in grenades in the soul and conscience, to raise a combustion and put all in a fire); its mouth, must be stopped by law, and so the soul would stay and answer the accusations of conscience with this, that he hath fled to Christ, the only Mediator and Cautioner, and cast his burden on him; and leaneth to his merits alone; and hath put those sins in his hand, as his advocate and intercessor with the Father; and that the gospel requireth no more of him. And if conscience should say, that both faith and repentance are imperfect and defective, and that guilt is thereby rather increased than taken away,--he must answer again, true; but I have done with the guilt of my faith and repentance, as with the rest, taken all to Christ, and left all on him; and herein only do I acquiesce,--I look not for pardon for my imperfect faith and repentance, yea, nor would I look for pardon of my sins, for my faith and repentance, were they never so perfect, but only in and through Jesus Christ, the only Cautioner, Redeemer, and Advocate. But further, this deputy would be brought to his master, who can only command him to silence; that is to say, the believer would go to Christ with the accusing conscience, and desire him to command its silence, that he may have peace of conscience, and freedom from those accusations that are bitter and troublesome. Remember withal, that if these accusations drive thee to Christ, and endear him more to thy soul, they will do no harm, because they drive thee to thy only resting place, and to the grand peacemaker. But if otherwise they discourage or for-slow thee in thy motion Christward, then be sure conscience speaketh without warrant, and its accusations ought not, in so far, and as to that end, to be regarded.