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nished them withal ; but for that gospel discovery of forgiveness: whereof we have been speaking, they are utterly ignorant of it, and unacquainted with it. To convince such poor creatures of the folly of their presumption, I would bụt desire them to go to some real believers, that are or may be known unto them; let them be asked whether they came so easily by their faith, and apprehensions of forgiveness, or no? Alas! saith one, these twenty years have I been following after God, and yet I have not arrived unto an abiding, cheering persuasion of it. I know what it cost me, what trials, difficulties, temptations, I wrestled with, and went through withal before I obtained it, saith another. What I have attained unto, hath been of unspeakable mercy. And it is my daily prayer, that I may be preserved in it, by the exceeding greatness of the power of God; for I continually wrestle with storms that are ready to drive me from my anchor. A little of this discourse may be sufficient to convince poor, dark, carnal creatures of the folly and vanity of their confidence.
4. There are certain means whereby the revelation and discovery of this mystery is made unto the souls of men. By these they do obtain it, or they obtain it not. The mystery itself was a secret, hidden in the counsel of God from eternity; nor was there any way whereby it might be revealed, but by the Son of God. And that is done in the word of the gospel. If then you say you know it; let us inquire how you came so to do? and by what means it hath been declared unto you? Hath this been done by a word of truth? by the promise of the gospel? Was it by preaching of the word unto you, or by reading of it, or meditating upon it? Or did you receive it from and by some reasonable word, of, or from, the Scriptures spoken unto you? Or hath it insensibly gotten ground upon your hearts and minds, upon the strivings and conflicts of your souls about sin, from the truth where you had been instructed in general ? Or by what other ways or means have you come to that acquaintance with it, whereof you boast? You can tell how you came by your wealth, your gold, and silver; you know how you became learned, or obtained the knowledge of the mystery of your trade, who taught you in it, and how you came by it. There is not any thing wherein you are concerned, but
you can answer these inquiries in a reference unto it. Think it then no great matter, if you are put to answer this question also; by what way or means came you to the knowledge of forgiveness which you boast of? Was it by any of those before-mentioned, or some other? If you cannot an swer distinctly to these things, only you say, you have heard it, and believed it ever since you can remember; so those said that went before you, so they say with whom you do converse, you never met with any one that called it into question, nor heard of any, unless it were one or two despairing wretches; it will be justly questioned, whether you have any portion in this matter or no. If uncertain rumours, reports, general notions, lie at the bottom of your persuasion, do not suppose that you have any communion with Christ therein. "",-5. Of them who profess to believe forgiveness, how few are there who indeed know what it is. They believe, they say, but, as the Samaritans worshipped, they know not what. With some, a bold presumption, and crying peace, peace, goes for the belief of forgiveness.
A general apprehension of impunity from God, and that they are sinners, yet they shall not be punished, passeth with others at the same rate.'
Some think they shall prevail with God by their prayers and desires to let them alone, and not cast them into hell. One way or other to escape the vengeance of hell, not to be punished in another world, is that which men fix their minds upon.
But is this that forgiveness, which is revealed in the gospel ? that which we have been treating about? The rise and spring of our forgiveness is in the heart and gracious nature of God, declared by his name. Have you inquired seriously into this? Have you stood at the shore of that infinite ocean of goodness and love? Have your souls found supportment and relief from that consideration ? And have your hearts leaped within you with the thoughts of it? Or if you have never been affected in an especial manner herewithal, have you bowed down your souls under the considerations of that sovereign act of the will of God, that is the next sp ing of forgiveness; that glorious acting of free grace, that when all might justly have perished, all having sinned and
come short of his glory, God would yet have mercy on some? Have you given up yourselves to this grace? Is this any thing of that you do believe? Suppose you are strangers to this also: what communion with God have you had about it in the blood of Christ? We have shewed how forgiveness relates thereunto; how way is made thereby for the exercise of mercy, in a consistency with the glory and honour of the justice of God, and of his law; how pardon is procured and purchased thereby; with the mysterious reconciliation of love and law; and the new disposal of conscience in its work and duty by it. What have you to say to these things? Have you seen pardon flowing from the heart of the Father through the blood of the Son? Have you looked upon it as the price of his life, and the purchase of his blood 2 Or have you general thoughts that Christ died for sinners? and that on one account or other forgiveness relates unto him, but are strangers to the mystery of this great work? Suppose this also ; let us go a little farther and inquire whether you know any thing that yet remains of the like importance in this matter? Forgiveness, as we have shewed, is manifested, tendered, exhibited in the covenant of grace and promises of the gospel. The rule of the efficacy of these is, that they be ‘mixed with faith; Heb. iv. 2. It is well if you are grown up hereunto; but you that are strangers to the things before-mentioned, are no less to this also. Upon the matter you know not then what forgiveness is, nor wherein it consists, nor whence it comes, nor how it is procured, nor by what means given out unto sinners. It is to no purpose for such persons to pretend that they believe that whereunto either notionally, or practically, or both, they are such utter strangers. 6. Another inquiry into this matter regards the state and condition wherein souls must be, before it be possible for them to believe forgiveness. If there be such an estate and it can be evinced that very many of the pretenders concerning whom we deal, were never brought into it, it is then evident that they neither do nor can believe forgiveness, however they do and may delude their own souls. It hath been shewed that the first discovery that was made of pardoning grace was unto Adam, presently after the fall. What was then his state and condition ? How was he
prepared for the reception of this great mystery in its first discovery? That seems to be a considerable rule of proceeding in the same matter. That which is first in any kind, is a rule to all that follows. Now what was Adam's condition when the revelation of forgiveness was first made to him? It is known from the story; convinced of sin, afraid of punishment, he lay trembling at the foot of God. Then was forgiveness revealed unto him; so the psalmist states it, Psalm cxxx. 3. 'If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand ?' Full of thoughts he is of the desert of sin, and of inevitable and eternal ruin, in case God should deal with him according to the exigence of the law. In that state is the great support of forgiveness with God, suggested unto him by the Holy Ghost. We know what work our Saviour had with the Pharisees on this account. Are we,' say they, 'blind also ? No, saith he,'you say you see, therefore your sin remaineth ;' John ix. 40, 41. It is to no purpose to talk of forgiveness to such persons as you are, you must of necessity abide in your sins. I came not to call such righteous persons as you are, but sinners to repentance, who not only are so, as you are also, and that to the purpose, but are sensible of their being so, and of their undone condition thereby. The whole have no need of the physician but the sick. Whilst you are seeming righteous and whole, it is to no end to tell you of forgiveness, you cannot understand it, nor receive it. It is impossible then that any one should in a due manner believe forgiveness in God, unless in a due manner he be convinced of sin in himself. If the fallow ground be not broken up, it is to no purpose to sow the seed of the gospel. There is neither life, power, nor sweetness in this truth, unless a door be opened for its entrance by conviction of sin.
Let us then on this ground also, continue our inquiry upon the ordinary boasters of their skill in this mystery. You believe there is forgiveness with God? Yes. But have you been convinced of sin? Yes, you know that you are sinners well enough. Answer then but once more as to the nature of this conviction of sin, which you have; is it not made up of these two ingredients. 1. A general notion that you are sinners as all men also are. 2. Particular troublesome reflections upon yourselves, when on any erup
tion of sin, conscience accuses, rebukes, condemns. You will say, yes, what would you require more? This is not the conviction we are inquiring after; that is a work of the Spirit by the word; this you speak of, a mere natural work, which you can no more be without than you can cease to be
This will give no assistance unto the receiving of forgiveness. But it may be you will say, you have proceeded farther than so; and these things have had an im-provement in you. Let us then a little try whether your process have been according to the mind of God; and so whether this invincible bar in your way be removed or no. For although every convinced person do not believe forgiveness; yet no one who is not convinced doth so. then been made sensible of your condition of nature; what it is to be alienated from the life of God, and to be obnoxious to his wrath ? Have you been convinced of the universal enmity that is in your hearts to the mind of God; and what it is to be at enmity against God? Hath the unspeakable multitude of the sins of your lives been set in order by the law before you ? and have you considered what it is for sinners as you are, to have to deal with a righteous and a holy God? Hath the Holy Ghost wrought a serious recognition in your hearts of all these things, and caused them to abide with you and upon you? If you will answer truly, you must say, many of you, that indeed you have not been so exercised. You have heard of these things many times, but to say that you have gone through with this work, and have had experience of them, that you cannot do. Then I say you are strangers to forgiveness, because you are strangers unto sin: but and if you shall say that you have had thoughts to this purpose, and are persuaded that you have been thoroughly convinced of sin, I shall yet ask you one question more; what effects hath your conviction produced in your hearts and lives? Have you been filled with perplexities and consternation of spirit thereupon? Have you had fears, dreads, or terrors to wrestle withal? It may be you
will say, no ; nor will I insist upon that inquiry; but this I deal with you
in. Hath it filled you with self-loathing and abhorrency, with self-condemnation and abasement ? If it will do any thing this it will do. If you come short here, it is justly to be feared that all your other pretences are of no value; now