SERMONS UPON Psalm CXXX. Ver. 4. But there is Forgiveness with thee; that thou mayst be feared.


LONDON, Printed by J. D. for Brabazon Aylmer at the three Pigeons, over against the Royal Exchange in Cornhill. 1696.

SERMONS OF THE Forgiveness of Sins.


But there is Forgiveness with thee, that thou mayst be feared.

THE Psalmist, in the first and second Verses, addresses to God with earnest Desires for his saving Mercies: Out of the Depths have I cried to thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my Voice: let thine Ear be at­tentive to my Supplication. He humbly deprecates the severe Inquiry of Divine Justice; ver. 3.Ver. 3. If thou, Lord, shouldst mark Iniquities: O Lord, who shall stand? If God should with an exact Eye ob­serve our Sins, and call us to an account, who can stand in Judgment? who can [Page 2] endure that firy Trial? The best Saints, tho never so innocent and unblameable in the sight of Men, tho never so vigi­lant and watchful over their Hearts and Ways, are not exempted from the Spots of humane Frailty, which according to the Rigour of the Law, would ex­pose them to a condemning Sentence. He relieves and supports himself under this fearful Apprehension with the Hopes of Mercy: But there is Forgiveness with thee, that thou mayst be feared. 'Tis in thy Power and thy Will, to pardon re­penting and returning Sinners, that thou mayst be feared. The Fear of God in Scripture signifies the humble holy Re­verence of him, as our heavenly Father and Soveraign, that makes us cautious lest we should offend him, and careful to please him. For this Reason the Fear of God is comprehensive of all Religion, of the whole Duty of Man, to which it is introductive, and is a principal Ingredi­ent in it. The Clemency and compassio­nate Mercy of God is the Cause of an ingenuous filial Fear, mix'd with Love and Affiance in the Breasts of Men. O­ther Attributes, his Holiness that fram'd the Law, Justice that ordain'd the Pu­nishment of Sin, Power that inflicts it, [Page 3] render his Majesty terrible, and cause a Flight from him as an Enemy. If all must perish for their Sins, no Prayers or Praises will ascend to Heaven, all Religi­ous Worship will cease for ever: But his tender Mercy ready to receive humble Suppliants, and restore them to his Fa­vour, renders him amiable and admired, and draws us near to him.

There are two Propositions to be con­sidered in the Verse:

1. That Forgiveness belongs to God.

2. That the forgiving Mercy of God is a powerful Motive of Adoration and Obedience. I propound to discourse of the first, and to touch upon the second in the Application.

In managing the Point with Light and Order, 'tis requisite to consider; 1st. What is contain'd in Forgiveness. 2dly. The Arguments that demonstrate that Forgiveness belongs to God.

1. What is contained in Forgiveness. This necessarily supposes Sin, and Sin a Law that is violated by it: The Law implies a Sovereign Law-giver, to whose declared Will Subjection is due, and who will exact an Account in Judgment [Page 4] of Mens Obedience or Disobedience to his Law, and dispense Rewards and Pu­nishments accordingly. God by the clearest Titles is our King, our Law-gi­ver and Judg: for he is our Maker and Preserver, and consequently has a full Propriety in us, and absolute Authority over us: and by his sovereign and sin­gular Perfections is qualified to govern us. A derived Being is necessarily in a State of Dependance and Subjection. All the Ranks of Creatures in the World are order'd by their Maker: his King­dom rules over all. Those in the lowest degree of Being are order'd by Power. Sensitive Creatures are determin'd by the Impulses of Nature to their Acti­ons; for having no Light to distinguish between moral Good and Evil, they have no Choice, and are incapable of receiving a Law. Intelligent Creatures, endowed with judicious and free Facul­ties, an Understanding to discern be­tween moral Good and Evil, and a Will to choose or reject what is propounded to them, are capable of a Law to direct and regulate their Liberty.

To Man a Law was given by the Creator, (the Copy of his Wisdom and Will) that has all the Perfections of a [Page 5] Rule: 'Tis clear and compleat, injoin­ing what is essentially good, and forbid­ding what is essentially evil. God go­verns Man conveniently to his Nature: and no Service is pleasing to him but the Result of our Reason and Choice, the Obedience of our supreme leading Pow­ers. Since the Fall, the Light of the Un­derstanding compared with the bright Discovery it afforded of our whole Du­ty in our Original State, is either like the Twilight of the Evening, the faint and dim Remains of the Light of the Day, when Night draws a dark Vail over the World, or like the dawning of the Morning, when the rising Sun begins to scatter the Darkness of the Night. The latter Comparison I think is more just and regular; for 'tis said, that the Son of God enlightens every Man that comes into the World. The innate Light dis­covers there is a streight Line of Truth to regulate our Judgment, and a streight Line of Vertue to regulate our Actions. Natural Conscience is a Principle of Au­thority, directing us to choose and pra­ctise Vertue, and to avoid Vice; and ac­cording to our Neglect or Compliance with its Dictates reflects upon us. 'Tis hardly presumable that any are so pro­digiously [Page 6] wicked, as not to be convinc'd of the natural Rectitude in things: they can distinguish between what is fair and what is fraudulent in Dealings, and ac­knowledg in the general, and in judging of others, the Equity of things, tho they elude the Force of the Conviction in the Application to themselves. Now since common Reason discovers there is a common Rule, there must be a com­mon Judg to whom Men are accounta­ble for the Obliquity or Conformity of their Actions to that Rule. The Law of God is revealed in its Purity and Per­fection in the Scripture.

The Law binds first to Obedience, and in neglect of it to Punishment. Sin is de­fin'd by St. John to be the Transgression of the Law. The Omission of what is com­manded, or doing what is forbidden, is a Sin. Not only the Lusts that break forth into Action and Evidence, but in­ward Inclinations, contrary to the Law, are Sin. From hence results a Guilt up­on every Sinner, which includes the Im­putation of the Fault, and Obligation to Punishment. There is a natural Connexion between the Evil of Doing, and the Evil of Suffering: the Violation of the Law is justly revenged by the [Page 7] Violation of the Person that breaks it. It is an impossible Imagination, that God should give a Law not enforc'd with a Sanction. This would cast a Blemish upon his Wisdom, for the Law would cancel it self, and defeat his Ends in giving it: it would reflect a high Dishonour upon his Holy Majesty, as if he were indifferent with respect to Vertue or Vice, and disregarded our Re­verence or Rebellion against his Autho­rity. The Apostle declares, that all the World are become guilty before God; that is, justly chargeable with their Crimes, and liable to his Judgment. The Act of Sin is transient, and the Pleasure va­nishes; but the Guilt, if not pardoned and purged away, remains for ever in the Records of Conscience. The Sin of Judah is written with a Pen of Iron, and with the Point of a Diamond; it is gra­ven on the Tables of the Heart. When the Books of eternal Life and Death shall be opened at the Last Day, all the unpardoned Sins of Men, with their killing Aggravations, will be found written in indelible Characters, and shall be set in order before their Eyes, to their Confusion: The righteous Judg has sworn he will forget none of their Works. [Page 8] According to the Number and Heinous­ness of their Sins, a Sentence shall pass upon them: No Excuses shall suspend the Judgment, nor mitigate the imme­diate Execution of it.

The Forgiveness of Sins contains the Abolition of their Guilt, and Freedom from the deserved Destruction conse­quent to it. This is express'd by vari­ous Terms in Scripture. Pardon relates to some Damage and Offence which the offended Party may severely vindicate. Now altho the blessed God in strictness of speaking can receive no Damage by rebellious Creatures, being infinitely a­bove the Impression of Evil: yet as our Saviour speaks of one that looks upon a Woman with an impure Desire, that he has committed Adultery with her in his Heart, tho the Innocence of the Wo­man be unstained; so the Sins of Men, being Acts of foul Ingratitude against his Goodness, and notorious Unrighte­ousness against his Authority, are in a Sense injurious to him, which he might justly revenge upon them, but his Cle­mency spares them. The not imputing Sin is borrowed from the Accounts of Servants with their Masters; and im­plies the Account we are obliged to ren­der [Page 9] the supreme Lord for all his Benefits which we have so wretchedly misim­proved: he might righteously exact of us ten thousand Talents that are due to him, but he is graciously pleased to cross the Book, and freely to discharge us. The purging from Sin, implies 'tis very odious and offensive in God's Eyes, and has a special respect to the expiatory Sa­crifices, of which 'tis said, that without Blood there was no Remission. This was typical of the precious Blood of the Son of God that purges the Conscience from dead Works; from the deadly Guilt of Sin that cleaves to the Conscience of the Sinner. By the application of his Blood the crimson Guilt is wash'd away, and the pardoned Sinner is accepted as one pure and innocent.

2. I shall next demonstrate, that For­giveness belongs to God. This will be evident by the following Considerations.

1st. 'Tis the high and peculiar Prero­gative of God to pardon Sin. His Au­thority made the Law, and gives Life and Vigour to it, therefore he can remit the Punishment of the Offender. This is evident from the Proportion of hu­mane Laws: For tho subordinate Judges [Page 10] have only a limited Power, and must acquit or condemn according to the Law, yet the Soveraign may dispense with it. This is declared in Scripture by God himself: I, even I am he, that blots out thy Transgressions for my Name sake: Isa. 43. He repeats it with an Emphasis. He is proclaimed with this Royal Title; The Lord, gracious and merciful, pardoning Iniquity, Transgression and Sin. 'Tis a Dispensation of Divine Soveraignty to pardon the Guilty.

'Tis true, God pardons as a Father, according to that most gracious Pro­mise,Mal. 3. I will spare them, as a Father spares his Son that serves him; but as invested with the Dignity of a Soveraign. Our Saviour directs us, in the perfect Form of Prayer dictated to his Disciples, to pray to God for the Forgiveness of our Sins, as our Father sitting in Heaven up­on a high Throne, from whence he pro­nounces our Pardon. His Majesty is equally glorious with his Mercy in that blessed Dispensation. His Royal Supre­macy is more conspicuous in the Exer­cise of Mercy towards repenting Sin­ners, than in the Acts of Justice upon obstinate Offenders. As a King is more a King by the pardoning humble Suppli­ants [Page 11] by the Operation of his Scepter, than in subduing Rebels by the Power of the Sword: For in Acts of Grace he is above the Law, and over-rules its Ri­gour, in Acts of Vengeance he is only superiour to his Enemies.

'Tis the peculiar Prerogative of God to pardon Sin. The Prophet challenges all the reputed Deities of the Heathens as defective in this Royal Power:Mic. 7. Who is a God like unto thee, pardoning Iniquity, Transgression and Sin? The Pharisees said true, Who can forgive Sins but God only? for 'tis an Act of Empire. The judicial Power to pardon is a Flower in­separable from the Crown: for 'tis founded in a Superiority to the Law, therefore inconsistent with a depending Authority. A Creature is as incapable of the Supremacy of God in pardoning Sin, as of his Omnipotence to create a World: for they are both truly infinite. Besides, the Power of pardoning Sins, necessarily implies an universal Know­ledg of the Minds and Hearts of Men, which are the Fountains of their [...]cti­ons: and according to their Ingred [...]ncy the moral Good or Evil of them rises. The more deliberately and wilfully a Sin is committed, the Sinner incurs a [Page 12] greater Guilt, and is obnoxious to a more heavy Punishment. Now no Creature can dive into the Hearts of Men: They are naked and open to the piercing Eye of God alone. Add farther, the authorita­tive Power to pardon, has necessarily an­nex'd to it the active Power of dispensing Rewards and Punishments. Now the Son of God alone has the Keys of Life and Death in his Hands.

It may be objected, That our Saviour declares, that the Son of Man has Power to forgive Sins. The Answer to this will be clear by considering, there are two Natures in Christ; the Divine Na­ture, that originally belongs to him, and is proper to his Person; and the Hu­mane Nature, which is as it were adop­tive, and was voluntarily assumed. Now the Divine Person is the sole Prin­ciple and Subject of this Royal Dignity, but 'tis exercised in its Conjunction with the humane Nature, and attributed to the Son of Man: As in the Humiliati­on of Christ, the Principles of his Suffer­ings▪ and the actual Sufferings, are sole­ly in the humane Nature, but upon the Account of the personal Union, they are attributed to the Divine Person. 'Tis said, The Lord of Glory was cruci­fied, [Page 13] and the Blood of God redeemed his Church.

The Church of Rome, with high Pre­sumption, arrogates to their Priests a ju­dicial Power of forgiving Sins: and by the easy Folly of the People, and crafty Deceit of their Instructors, exercise a Jurisdiction over Conscience. To avoid the Imputation of Blasphemy, they pre­tend there is a double Power of Forgi­ving, supreme and subordinate; the first belongs to God, the other is delegated by Commission to the Ministers of the Gospel. But this is an irreconcileable Contradiction: for the Power to par­don is an Efflux of Supremacy, and in­communicable to the Subject. A Prince that invests another with an absolute Power to pardon, must either relinquish his Soveraignty, or take an Associate to share in it. This Pretence of the Papists is such a lame Evasion, as that which they are forced to make use of to clear themselves from the Charge of Idolatry in their Worship of Angels and Saints: their Excuse is, that their Worship of Angels and Saints is inferiour in degree, and imperfectly divine; as if there could be different Degrees in Divine Worship, which is absolutely and necessarily su­preme. [Page 14] The Ministers of the Gospel have only a declarative Power, as He­ralds or Embassadors, to propose the Terms of the Gospel for the obtaining Pardon, and to apply the Promise of Pardon to those who appear qualified for it. But to pronounce and dispense Pardon, they have no judicial Authori­ty: for 'tis not presumeable that the wise God should invest Men with that Authority which they are utterly inca­pable to exercise.

2dly. God is ready to forgive. The Power to pardon without an Inclination to it, affords no Relief in the Agonies of an accusing Conscience, and the Terrors of eternal Judgment. The merciful Will of God declared in his Word, is the Foundation of our blessed Hope, and encourages us in our Requests before his Throne:Psal. 86. For thou Lord art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in Mercy unto all that call upon thee.

The Attribute of which Pardon is an Emanation, is usually exprest by Grace and Mercy. 'Tis said, the Grace of God that brings Salvation has appeared unto all Men: We are saved by Grace. Grace implies free Favour. There is in this respect a Difference between Love [Page 15] and Grace. Love may be set upon an Object worthy of it. The primary Ob­ject of God's Love is himself, whose ex­cellent and amiable Perfections are wor­thy of infinite Love. The Love of Pa­rents to Children is a Duty most clearly natural, and Duty lessens the Desert of performing it; but Grace is exclusive of all Merit and Dignity in the Subject, and of all Obligation in the Person that shews it. God's most free preventing Grace is exercised without any Motive in us that deserves it.

The Grace of God may be consider'd as exercised in our Creation and our Re­demption. In the Creation it was ab­solutely free: for Angels and Men were in the State of nothing, there was only a Possibility of their Being. Now there could be no attractive Merit before their Existence. 'Tis true, Goodness is glo­rified and crown'd by communicating: The World is a bright Efflux of the Di­vine Glory; but this does not lessen the free Goodness of the Maker. There was no Constraint upon God to make the World for his declarative Glory: for his essential Glory is truly infinite, and wants no external Appearance to make it compleat. The Universal Church [Page 16] pays humble Homage to the Great Crea­tor; acknowledging, that for his Will and Pleasure all things were created.

The Divine Goodness to Angels and Man in their Original Purity, was Grace: for altho the Image of God shining in them was attractive of his Approbation and Acceptance, yet they deserved no Benefits from him: there is such an infi­nite Distance and Disproportion be­tween God and the Creatures, that they cannot by a common Right claim any thing as due from his Majesty. Be­sides, he is the productive and conser­vative Cause of all their active Powers, and the Efficacy of them.

The creating Goodness of God is e­clips'd in the Comparison with his sa­ving Grace. The first supposes us with­out any Deserts of his Favour, but this supposes our exceedingly bad Deserts: The first was free, but this is merciful and healing Grace. Mercy revives and restores us when deservedly miserable. This Grace and Mercy is of so pure a Nature, that the most tender humane Inclinations to relieve the Afflicted, are mix'd with Self-interest, compared with the Mercy of God towards us. Our Bowels relent, and Affections are melt­ing [Page 17] at the sight of Persons in deep Mi­sery. But there is an inward and unvo­luntary Constraint of Nature that ex­cites such feeling Resentments: and our Compassion is moved by Reflection up­on our selves, considering that in this open State we are liable to many Dis­asters and wounding Sorrows: but God is infinitely free from all disturbing Passi­ons, and exempted from all possible Evils. To represent the immense Love and Mercy of God in its endearing Cir­cumstances, and to demonstrate his Rea­diness to forgive, we must consider what he has done in order to his pardoning Sinners.

1. If we consider God as the supreme Lawgiver and Judg of the World, as the Protector of Righteousness and Goodness, and the Revenger of all Dis­orders in his moral Government, it be­came him not to pardon Sinners without the punishing Sin in such a manner as might satisfy his injur'd Justice, and vin­dicate the Honour of his despised Law, and declare most convincingly his Ha­tred against Sin. Now for these great Ends he decreed to send his Son from his Bosom, to assume our Nature, and to suffer the contumelious Calamity of the [Page 18] Death on the Cross, to make a Propitia­tion for our Sins. This was the Con­trivance of his high Wisdom, which the most enlightned Angels had no presa­ging Notions of. Now can there be a more clear Evidence and convincing Reality, that God is ready to forgive Sins, than the giving his only begotten Son, a Person so great and so dear, the Heir of his Love and Glory, to be a Sa­crifice, that he might spare us? In this Dispensation Love was the regent lead­ing Attribute, to which his Wisdom, Justice and Power were subordinate: they were in exercise for the more glori­ous Illustration of his Mercy. We have the strongest Argument of God's Love in the Death of his Son, for our Pardon was the end of it. From hence 'tis evi­dent, that God is more willing to dis­pense his pardoning Mercy, than Sin­ners are to receive it.

2. God's Readiness to forgive appears in the gracious and easy Terms prescri­bed in the Gospel for the obtaining Par­don. There are two ways of Justifica­tion before God, and they are like two Ways to a City: One is direct and short, but deep and unpassable; the other lies in a Circuit, but will bring a [Page 19] Person safe to the Place. Thus there is a Justification of an innocent Person by Works, that secures him from the Charge of the Law; and a Justification of a Sinner by Faith in our all-sufficient Saviour. The first was a short way to Man in the State of Integrity: the se­cond, such is the Distance of the Terms, takes a Compass. There is a shorter Passage from Life to Action, than from Death to Life. There is no Hope or Possibility of our legal Justification. The Apostle saith,Rom. 8. That which the Law could not do in that it was weak through the Flesh, God sending his own Son in the Likeness of sinful Flesh, and for Sin con­demned Sin in the Flesh. The Expiation of Sin, and renewing us into the Image of God, are obtained by the Gospel. The Law is called, the Law of Sin and Death: which must be understood not as consider'd in it self, but relatively to our depraved Nature. The Law sup­poses Men in a State of uncorrupted Nature, and was given to be a Preserva­tive of our Holiness and Felicity, not a Remedy to recover us from Sin and Mi­sery. It was directive of our Duty, but since our Rebellion the Rod is turn'd into a Serpent. The Law is hard and [Page 20] imperious, severe and inexorable, the Tenor of it is, Do, or die for ever. It requires a Righteousness entire and un­blemish'd, which one born in Sin can­not produce in the Court of Judgment. Man is utterly unable by his lapsed Powers to recover the Favour of God, and to fulfil his Obligation by the Law to Obedience. But the Gospel disco­vers an open easy way to Life, to all that will accept of Salvation by the Re­deemer. The Apostle expresses the Difference between the Condition of the Law and the Gospel in a very significant manner.Rom. 10. Moses describes the Righteous­ness which is of the Law, that the Man that does those things shall live in them: but the Righteousness which is of Faith speaks on this wise, Say not in thine Heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven, that is to bring down Christ from above; Who shall descend into the Deep, that is to bring Je­sus Christ again from the dead? but what saith it? The Word is nigh thee, that if thou shalt confess with thy Mouth, and shalt believe in thy Heart, that God hath raised him from the Dead, thou shalt be saved. The meaning of the Apostle is, that things in Heaven above, or in the Depths beneath, are of impossible Dis­covery [Page 21] and Attainment, so 'tis equally impossible to be justified by the Works of the Law. The anxious Sinner seeks in vain for Righteousness in the Law, which can only be found in the Gospel.

It may be objected, that the Condition of the Law, and the Condition of the Gospel, compar'd relatively to our de­prav'd Faculties, are equally impossible. The carnal Mind and Affections are as averse from Repentance and receiving Christ as our Lord and Saviour, as from obeying the Law. Our Saviour tells the Jews, Ye will not come to me that ye may have Life: and no Man can come to me unless the Father draw him. Which Words are highly expressive of our ut­ter Impotence to believe savingly in Christ. But there is a clear Answer to this Objection: the Difference between the two Dispensations consists principal­ly in this: The Law requires compleat and constant Obedience as the Condition of Life, without affording the least su­pernatural Power to perform it. But the Gospel has the Spirit of Grace a Concomitant with it, by whose Omni­potent Efficacy Sinners are revived, and enabled to comply with the Terms of Salvation. The Spirit of the Law is [Page 22] stiled the Spirit of Bondage from its ri­gorous Effects: it discover'd Sin, and terrified the Conscience, without im­planting a Principle of Life that might restore the Sinner to a State of Holy Li­berty. As the Flame in the Bush made the Thorns in it visible, without consu­ming them; so the firy Law discovers Mens Sins, but does not abolish them: But the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, i. e. the Gospel, has freed us from the Law of Sin and Death. I will more particularly consider the gracious Terms prescribed in the Gospel for the obtain­ing Pardon; Repentance towards God, and Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The requiring of them is not an arbitrary Constitution, but founded in the un­changeable Nature and Congruity of things. Repentance signifies a sincere Change of the Mind and Heart from the Love and Practice of Sin, to the Love and Practice of Holiness, upon Evangelical and Divine Motives. The principal Ingredients in it are, Reflecti­ons with Grief and Shame upon our past Sins, with stedfast Resolutions of future Obedience. 'Tis a vital Princi­ple productive of Fruits sutable to it: 'Tis call'd Repentance from dead Works, [Page 23] Repentance unto Life. 'Tis the Seed of new Obedience. Repentance in order of Nature is before Pardon, but they are inseparably join'd in the same Point of Time. David is a blessed Instance of this:Psal. 32. I said I will confess my Trans­gressions to the Lord, and thou forgavest the Iniquity of my Sin. The Sum and Tenour of the Apostles Commission re­corded by St. Luke is,Luke 24. That Repentance and Remission of Sins should be preached in the Name of Christ to all Nations. That a repentant Sinner only is qualified for Pardon, will be evident in considering,

1. That an impenitent Sinner is the Ob­ject of revenging Justice; and 'tis ut­terly inconsistent that pardoning Mercy and revenging Justice should be termi­nated upon the same Person at the same time, in the same respect. 'Tis said, The Lord hateth all the Workers of Ini­quity; and his Soul hates the Wicked. The Expression implies the intense De­grees of Hatred. In the glorious Ap­pearance of God to Moses, when pro­claim'd with the highest Titles of Ho­nour, The Lord God, gracious and merci­ful, pardoning Iniquity, Transgression and Sin, 'tis added, he will by no means spare the Guilty, i. e. impenitent Sinners. We [Page 24] must suppose God to be of a changeable flexible Nature, (which is a blasphe­mous Imagination, and makes him like to sinful Man) if an impenitent Sinner may be received to Favour without a Change in his Disposition. God cannot repent of giving a holy Law, the Rule of our Duty, therefore Man must re­pent of his breaking the Law before he can be reconciled to him. The Truth is, Man consider'd merely as a Sinner, is not the Object of God's first Mercy, i. e. of Pity and Compassion: for as such he is the Object of God's Wrath; and 'tis a formal Contradiction to assert that he is the Object of Love and Ha­tred at the same time, and in the same respect. But Man, consider'd as God's Creature, involv'd in Misery by the Fraud of the Tempter, and his own Folly, was the Object of God's Com­passion; and the Recovery of him from his forlorn wretched State, was the Ef­fect of that Compassion.

2. Tho Mercy consider'd as a sepa­rate Attribute might pardon an impeni­tent Sinner, yet not in Conjunction and Concord with God's essential Perfecti­ons. Many things are possible to Pow­er absolutely consider'd, which God can­not [Page 25] do: for his Power is always direct­ed in its Exercise by his Wisdom, and limited by his Will. It would dispa­rage God's Wisdom, stain his Holiness, violate his Justice, to pardon an impeni­tent Sinner. The Gospel by the Pro­mise of Pardon to such, would foil it self, and frustrate its principal End, which is to purify us from all Iniquity, and to make us a People zealous of good Works.

3. If an impenitent Sinner may be pardoned as such, he may be glorified: for that which qualifies a Man for Par­don, qualifies him for Salvation: and the Divine Decree establishes an insepa­rable Connexion between them;Rom. 8. Whom God justifies he glorifies. If a Sinner dies immediately after his Pardon is past, nothing can intercept his being received into Heaven. Now this is utterly im­possible; the exclusion of such is pe­remptory and universal, for without Ho­liness no Man shall see God. The Admissi­on of an impenitent Sinner into Heaven, would pollute that holy Place, and un­consecrate the Temple of God wherein his Holiness shines in its Glory.

It is objected by some, that the requi­ring Repentance to qualify the Sinner for [Page 26] Pardon eclipses the Grace of the Gospel.

I willingly acknowledg, that a religious Jealousy, lest the Freeness and Honour of Divine Grace in our Pardon should be lessen'd, is very becoming a Christian; but 'tis ill-grounded and ill-guided in this Matter. This will be evident by con­sidering;

1st. Repentance is an Evangelical Grace, the Gift of the Redeemer: Him has God raised to be a Prince and a Savi­our, Acts 5. to give Repentance and Forgiveness of Sin. The Law did not allow of Re­pentance, nor promise Pardon. The Design of it was to keep us in the Fa­vour and Communion with God, but afforded no Means of Reconciliation af­ter our offending him. Repentance was no Degree of Perfection before Man's Fall, but is a Relief of his Imperfection after it. The Law call'd the Righteous to Obedience, the Gospel calls Sinners to Repentance.

2dly. There is no Causality or Merit in Repentance to procure our Pardon. The Mercy of God for the most precious Merits and Mediation of Jesus Christ is the only Cause of Pardon. A Flood of repenting Tears, an Effusion of our Blood, are of too low a Price to make [Page 27] any Satisfaction to God, to deserve a Re­turn of his Favour. The most sincere Love of Holiness, and stedfast Resolu­tion to forsake Sin, which is the princi­pal part of Repentance, can be no Sa­tisfaction for our past Offences, for 'tis the natural Duty of Man before the commission of Sin: Repentance is on­ly a vital Qualification in the Subject that receives the Pardon.

3dly. The Grace of God is very con­spicuous in dispensing Pardon, accord­ing to the Order of the Gospel to re­penting Sinners. For first, Repentance renders the Divine Mercy most honou­rable in the Esteem of those who par­take of it. Our Saviour tells us, The whole need not a Physician, but those who are sick. He that feels his Disease, and is strongly apprehensive of its Danger, values the Counsel and Assistance of a Physician above all Treasures. The re­penting Sinner who is under the strong Conviction of his Guilt, and his being always obnoxious to the Judgment of God, and eternal Misery the Conse­quent of it, he values the Favour of God as the most sovereign Good, and accounts his Displeasure as the supreme Evil. Repentance inspires flaming Af­fections [Page 28] in our Prayers and Praises for Pardon. The repenting Sinner prays for Pardon with as much Fervency as Daniel pray'd in the Den, to be pre­served from the devouring Lions; or as Jonah pray'd out of the Belly of Hell for Deliverance.Jonah 2. He addresses not with faint but fainting Desires for Mercy; Give me Pardon, or I die. The insensi­ble Sinner that is secure in the Shadow of Death, may offer some verbal Re­quests for Pardon, but his Prayer is de­fective in the Principle: for he never feels the Want of a Pardon; he prays so coldly as if unconcern'd whether he be accepted or no. And with what a Rapture of Admiration, and Joy, and thankful Affections, doth the pardon'd Penitent magnify the Divine Mercy? The Christian Niobe that was melted into repenting Tears loved much, be­cause much was forgiven her.

2. This Establishment that Repen­tance qualifies a Sinner for Pardon, is most beneficial to Man, and consequent­ly most illustrates pardoning Mercy. We must observe, that Sin does not on­ly affect us with Guilt, but leaves an in­herent Corruption that defiles and de­bases the Sinner, and strongly inclines [Page 29] him to relapse into Rebellion. Now Repentance gives the true Representati­on of Sin in its penal Consequences, the Anger of the Almighty, the Terrors of Conscience, and makes it evident and odious to the Soul. David had a pier­cing Conviction what a foul Sin Adul­tery was, when his Bones were broken. Repenting Sorrow strikes at the Root of Sin, the Love of Pleasure. This makes us fearful to offend God, and to fly all the alluring Temptations that will be­tray us to Sin. This makes us obedi­ent. The melted Metal is receptive of any Form. Contrition is join'd with Re­signation: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? was the Voice of repenting Saul.

It may be objected, that we read, God justifies the Vngodly, but the An­swer is clear. The Apostle does not in­tend by the Ungodly, an impenitent Sinner, but makes the Opposition be­tween the Ungodly and one that per­fectly obeys the Law, and is consequent­ly justified by Works: and in this Sense the most excellent Saints here are un­godly. Besides, the Apostle does not assert that God absolutely pardons the Ungodly, but qualifies the Persons: To him that worketh not, but believeth on him [Page 30] that justifies the Vngodly, his Faith is counted for Righteousness. Now justify­ing Faith and Repentance are like Ta­mar's Twins: Repentance is first felt, and then Faith exerts it self in applying the Merits of Christ's Death for our Par­don.

It is replied by some, that all Grace is communicated from Christ, as our Head, and supposes our Union with him, of which Faith is the vital Band, and consequently the first Grace, by which all other Graces are derived to us.

To this I answer, there are two Means of our Union with Christ: The principal is the quickning Spirit descend­ing from Christ as the Fountain of the supernatural Life, and a lively Faith wrought in us by his pure and power­ful Operation, that ascends from us and closes with him. 'Tis said, the second Adam was made a quickning Spirit: and he that is join'd to the Lord is one Spirit. As the Parts of the natural Body are uni­ted by the vital Influence of the same Soul that is present in the whole; so we are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit that was given to him without measure, and from his Fulness is derived to us. 'Tis clear therefore beyond all Contra­diction, [Page 31] that Faith is not antecedently requisite, as the means of conveying all Graces to us from Christ.

2. There are two Acts of Faith: the first respects the General Offer of Pardon in the Gospel to all repenting believing Sinners: The second is the Application of the Promise of Pardon to the Soul. The first is antecedent to evangelical Repentance: The second is clearly con­sequent in the Order of Nature, for the Promise assures Pardon only to the wea­ry and heavy laden that come to Christ for Rest.

In short, there is a perfect Agree­ment and Sympathy between Reason and Divine Revelation in this Doctrine, that God pardons only the repenting Sinner. The contrary Assertion is an Impeachment of the Rectitude of his Nature, and directly contrary to the Design and Tenour of the Gospel. If a Man be justified as ungodly, the Evan­gelical Command of Repentance for the Remission of Sins is useless and unpro­fitable. What a pernicious Influence upon Practice this Doctrine may have, is obvious to any that consider it. I shall only add, if God pardons Men as ungodly, how shall he judg the World? [Page 30] [...] [Page 31] [...] [Page 32] 'Twas prophesied by Enoch, Behold the Lord comes with ten thousand Saints to judg all that are ungodly for their ungodly Deeds, which they have ungodlily commit­ted. Now as St. James argues against the Perverseness of Men,Jam. 3.10. when from the same Mouth proceeds Blessing and Cursing; Doth a Fountain send forth sweet Water and bitter? This Instance is incompara­bly more strong with respect to God than to Men. 'Tis more consistent and conceiveable that a Fountain should send forth fresh Water and Salt, than that the holy and righteous God, in whose Nature there is not the least Dis­cord, should justify some as ungodly, and condemn others as ungodly for ever.

2. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the Evangelical Condition of our ob­taining Pardon. This will appear by considering the Nature of Faith. Sa­ving Faith is an unfeigned Perswasion of the Power, and Desire of Christ to save Sinners, that induces the Soul to receive him, and rely on him, as he is offer'd in the Gospel. We are assur'd of his All-sufficiency, and of his compassio­nate Willingness to save us; He is able to save to the utmost all that come to God [Page 33] by him. Our Saviour declares, whoever comes to him, he will in no wise cast out. Faith is seated in the whole Soul, and according to the Truth and transcen­dent Goodness of the Object, produces the most precious and sacred Esteem of it in the Mind, and the most joyful Con­sent and Choice of it in the Will. Ac­cordingly a sincere Believer imbraces en­tire Christ as a Prince and a Saviour, and is as willing to be govern'd by his Scep­ter, as to depend upon his Sacrifice. Acceptance and Reliance are the essential Ingredients of justifying Faith. This is the Doctrine of the Everlasting Go­spel. The Angel declared this to the Shepherds: Behold, Luke 2. I bring you Tidings of great Joy, which shall be to all People; for to you is born this Day, in the City of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. This is a faithful Saying, 1 Tim. 1. and worthy of all Acceptation, that Jesus Christ is come into the World to save Sinners, of whom I am chief. Faith is indispensably necessary to our obtaining Forgiveness. Faith is the Channel wherein the preci­ous Issues of his Blood and Sufferings are conveyed to us. To make more evi­dent how necessary and gracious a Con­dition Faith in the Redeemer is, for our [Page 34] Pardon, I will briefly consider the Foun­dation of the Covenant of Life in the Gospel. After Man had plunged him­self into Damnation, God having de­creed, that without Satisfaction there should be no Remission of his Sin; and the Sinner being utterly incapable of en­during such a Punishment in degrees, as might be truly satisfactory, it necessa­rily followed, he must suffer a Punish­ment equivalent in Duration. To pre­vent this, there was no possible way but by admitting a Surety, who should re­present the Sinner, and in his stead suf­fer the Punishment due for Sin. A threefold Consent was requisite in this Transaction.

(1.) The Consent of the Soveraign, whose Law was violated, and Majesty despised: For as there is a natural Di­stinction between Persons, and between the Actions of Persons, so there must be between the Recompences of those Acti­ons: Consequently the Sinner is obliged to suffer the Punishment in his own Per­son. From hence 'tis clear, that the Pu­nishment cannot be transferr'd to ano­ther without the Allowance of the So­veraign, who is the Patron of the Rights of Justice.

[Page 35](2.) The Consent of the Surety is re­quisite: for Punishment being an Ema­nation of Justice cannot be inflicted on an innocent Person, without his volun­tary interposing to save the Guilty. A Surety is legally one Person with the Debtor: otherwise the Creditor cannot exact, by the Rule of Right, the Pai­ment from him, which is fixt by the Law upon the Person of the Debtor.

(3.) 'Tis as clear, that the Consent of the Guilty is requisite, who obtains Im­punity by the vicarious Sufferings of another. For if he resolves to bear his own Guilt, and wilfully refuses to be freed by the interposing of another be­tween him and the Punishment, neither the Judg nor the Surety can constrain him to it. Now all these concur in this great Transaction. As the Creation of Man was a Work of solemn Counsel, Let us make Man, so his Redemption was the Product of the Divine Counsel. I may allude to what is represented to us in the Vision of the Divine Glory to the Prophet Isaiah: Isa. 6. I heard the Lord saying, Who shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here I am, send me. Thus the Rise of our Salvation was from the Father. He makes the Inquiry, who [Page 36] shall go for us, to recover fallen Man? The Son interposes, Here I am, send me. The Father from his Sovereignty and Mercy appointed and accepted the Mediator and Surety for us. It was no part of the Law given in Paradise, that if Man sinned, he should die, or his Surety; but it was an Act of God's free Power as superiour to the Law, to ap­point his Son to be our Surety, and to die in our stead. And the Aspect of the Law upon a Sinner being without Passi­on, it admits of Satisfaction by the Suf­ferings of another. 'Tis said in the Go­spel, God so loved the World, so above all Comparison and Comprehension, that he gave and sent his only begotten Son into the World, that the World through him might be saved. The Son of God, with the freest Choice, did interpose be­tween the righteous God and guilty Man for that end. He willingly left his So­vereign Seat in Heaven, eclips'd his Glo­ry under a dark Cloud of Flesh, de­graded himself into the Form of a Ser­vant, and submitted to an ignominious and cruel Death for our Redemption. When he came into the World, he de­clared his full Content, with a Note of Eminency: Sacrifice and Offering thou [Page 37] wouldst not, but a Body hast thou prepared me: Then said I, Lo I come to do thy Will, O God. Upon this Consent of the Father and the Son, the whole Fabrick of our Redemption is built. 'Tis the Resultance from it, that the Execution of Justice on Christ is the Expiation of our Sins, and by his Sufferings the full Price is paid for our Redemption. There is a judicial Exchange of Persons between Christ and Believers, their Guilt is trans­ferr'd to him, and his Righteousness is imputed to them. He made him to be Sin for us, who knew no Sin, 2 Cor. 5. that we might be made the Righteousness of God in him. His active and passive Obedi­ence, his Doing and Dying are as truly accounted to Believers for their Accep­tance and Pardon, as if they had meri­toriously wrought out their own Salva­tion.

The Sinner must give his Consent to be saved by the Death of Christ upon the Terms of the Gospel. This Con­stitution is grounded upon the eternal Articles between the Father and the Son in the Covenant of Redemption. Our Saviour declares, that God gave his Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal Life. Notwith­standing [Page 38] the full Satisfaction made for our Sins, yet without our Consent, i. e. an applicative Faith, no Benefit could accrue to us. He dwells in our Hearts by Faith: and by that vital Band of our Union we have Communion with him in his Death, and as entire an Interest in all the blessed Benefits purchased by it, as if whatsoever he did and suffered had been for us alone. He is a Propitia­tion by Faith in his Blood. Of this full Consent of the Sinner, there is an ex­cellent Example in the Apostle: He ex­presses it with the greatest Ardency of Affection; I count all things but Dung that I may win Christ, Phil. 3. and be found in him, not having mine own Righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the Faith of Christ. Like as a poor insolvent Debtor, ready to be cast into a perpetual Prison, longs for a Sure­ty rich and liberal, to make Paiment for him: Thus St. Paul desir'd to be found in Christ, as an all-sufficient Surety, that he might obtain a Freedom from the Charge of the Law.

The Establishment of the Gospel, that Faith be the Condition of our Par­don, so that none can be justified with­out it, is from pure Grace. The Apo­stle [Page 39] assigns this Reason why all Works are excluded, those performed in the State of Nature, or by a Principle of Grace, from being the procuring Cause of our Salvation, that it is to prevent Vain-glory in Men that would result from it. You are saved by Grace, through Faith, Ephes. 2. and that not of your selves: it is the Gift of God. The Pardon of Sin is a principal Part of our Salvation. He po­sitively declares, that Justification is therefore of Faith, Rom. 4. that it might be by Grace. If Justification were to be ob­tain'd by a Condition of impossible Per­formance, it were no Favour to offer that blessed Benefit to us: but it being assur'd to a Believer that humbly and thankfully accepts of it, the Grace of God is exceedingly glorified. To make this more clear, Faith may be consider­ed as a productive Grace, or a receptive: As a productive, it purifies the Heart, works by Love; and in this Considera­tion we are not justified by it. Faith hath no Efficiency in our Justification, 'tis the sole Act of God: But Faith as a receptive Grace, that embraces Christ with his precious Merits offer'd to us in the Promise, entitles us to Pardon. And in this way Divine Grace is exalted: [Page 40] for he that entirely relies upon the Righ­teousness of Christ, absolutely renounces his own Righteousness, and ascribes in solidum the obtaining of his Pardon to the Clemency and Favour of God, for the sake of the Mediator.

3. That God is ready to forgive, is fully proved by many gracious Declara­tions in his Word, the infallible Ex­pression of his Will. We are command­ed to seek his Face for ever, his Favour and Love: for the Countenance is the Christal wherein the Affections appear. Now all the Commands of God assure us of his approving and Acceptance of our Obedience to them: it follows there­fore, that 'tis very pleasing to him, that we pray for the Pardon of our Sins, and that he will dispense it, if we pray in a due manner. When he forbad the Pro­phet to pray for Israel, it was an Argu­ment of decreed Ruine against them: Pray not for this People, Jer. 7.16. for I will not hear thee. To encourage our Hope, God is pleased to direct us how to ad­dress our Requests for his Mercy: He directs Israel, that had fallen by Iniquity, to take Words, Hos. 14. and turn to the Lord, and say unto him, Take away all Iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the [Page 41] Praise of our Lips. To this is added a solemn renouncing of those Sins that provoked him to Anger. His gracious Answer follows, I will heal their Back­slidings, I will love them freely. If a Prince draws a Petition for an humble Suppliant to himself, 'tis a strong Indi­cation that he will grant it. God joins Intreaties to his Commands, to induce Men to accept this Mercy. The Apo­stle declares,2 Cor. 5. Now then we are Embassadors for Christ: as tho God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead be recon­ciled to God. Astonishing Goodness! how condescending, how compassio­nate! The Provocation began on Man's part, the Reconciliation is first on God's. That the King of Heaven, whose In­dignation was incens'd by our Rebelli­ons, and might justly send Executioners to destroy us, should send Embassadors to offer Peace, and beseech us to be re­conciled to him, as if it were his In­terest and not ours, is a Mercy above what we could ask or think. With Commands and Intreaties he mixes Pro­mises of Pardon to encourage us to come to the Throne of Grace: Whoever con­fesses and forsakes his Sins, shall find Mer­cy. This Promise is ratified by the [Page 42] strongest Assurance: If we confess our Sins, 1 John 1. he is faithful and just to forgive us our Sins, and to cleanse us from all Vn­righteousness. The Pardon of a repent­ing Sinner is the Effect of most free Mercy, but 'tis dispensed to the Honour of God's Faithfulness and Justice, who is pleased to engage himself by his Pro­mise to do it. And tho the Word of God be as sacred and certain as his Oath, for 'tis impossible for him to change his Will, or to deceive us in the one as well as the other: yet to overcome the Fears, to allay the Sorrows, and satisfy the De­sires of repenting Sinners, he was pleased to annex his Oath to the Promise, which is the most infallible Character and Note,Heb. 6.18. that the Blessing promised is un­changeable.

He adds Threatnings to his Invitati­ons, that Fear which is an active and strong Passion, may constrain us to seek for his Mercy. Our Saviour said to the Jews who did blind and harden them­selves in their Infidelity, If ye believe not that I am he, Joh. 8.24. the promised Messiah, and come to me to obtain Life, ye shall die in your Sins. The Threatning implies a State final and fearful, beyond all Ex­pression; for they who die in their Sins, [Page 43] shall die for them to Eternity. Hell is the sad Mansion of lost Souls, fill'd with extreme Wrath and extreme Despair: and where Despair is without Remedy, Sorrow is without Mitigation for ever. From hence we may be convinc'd, how willing God is to pardon and save us, in that knowing how we are intangled with pleasant Sins, he reveals to us what will be the eternal Consequence of Sins unrepented and unforgiven, a Punish­ment above all the Evils that are felt or fear'd here, and above all the Patience and Strength of Sinners to endure.

If Men yield themselves to the Call of his Word without, and of his Spirit within, and humbly accept of the Terms of Mercy, 'tis very pleasing to him. We are assur'd by Jesus Christ who is Truth, that there is Joy in Hea­ven over one Sinner that repents, more than over ninety nine Persons that need no Repentance. God himself declares with a solemn Oath, that he delights not in the Death of a Sinner, but rather that he should turn and live. The Holiness and Mercy of God are two of his most Di­vine Perfections, his peculiar Glory and Delight. Now what can be more plea­sing to that most pure and compassionate [Page 44] Being, than to see a sinful Creature con­form'd to his Holiness, and saved by his Mercy? If the internal Joy of God, wherein he is infinitely blessed, were capable of new Degrees, it would rise higher in the Exercise of his forgiving Mercy. There is a clear Representati­on of this in the Parable of the Prodigal: At his Return his Father received him, with a Robe and a Ring, with Musick and a Feast, the signs of Joy in its Exal­tation. But if Sinners are hardned in Obstinacy, and notwithstanding God is so willing to pardon them, are wilful to be damn'd, with what Variety of Passions does he express his Resent­ment? He incarnates himself in the Language of Men, to make them un­derstand his Affection to them. Some­times he expostulates with a tender Sympathy, Why will ye die? as if they were immediately falling into the bot­tomless Pit. He expresses Pity, mix'd with Indignation, at their chosen Folly and Ruine; How long ye simple ones, will ye love Simplicity, and Fools hate Know­ledg? What Reluctancy and Regret does he express against proceeding to ex­terminating Judgments?Hos. 11.8. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver [Page 45] thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Ad­mah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine Heart is turned within me, my Re­pentings are kindled together. With what a melting Passion does the Son of God foretel the decreed Destruction of Jeru­salem, for rejecting their Saviour and Salvation! When he came near he beheld the City and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy Peace! but now they are hid from thine Eyes. Like a mild Judg that pities the Man, when he condemns the Malefactor.

Those who interpret some Expressi­ons of Scripture,Prov. 1. that God laughs at the Calamity of the Wicked, and mocks when their Fear comes, and is inexorable to their Prayers, in such a Sense as evacu­ates most gracious Declarations of God, to induce Sinners to repent and believe for their Salvation, they draw Dark­ness out of Light: for those Threatnings are directed against obstinate Rebels that frustrate the most powerful Methods of Mercy, and reject the Call of God, in the Day of his Grace; and by way of Retaliation, their Prayers are ineffectu­al, and rejected in the Day of his Wrath. And that he is so highly and [Page 46] irreconcileably provoked for their despi­sing his Mercy, is a certain Indication how highly he would have been pleased with their humble accepting it. Let none then by a vile and wretched Suspi­cion, that God's repeated Calls to Sin­ners to return and live, do not signify his serious Will, detract from the Glory of his Goodness, and blaspheme his unspot­ted Holiness. His excellent Greatness secures us of his Sincerity. Why should the glorious Majesty of Heaven court despicable Creatures to be reconciled? We are infinite Descents below him, and no Advantage can accrue to him from us. Temporal Princes may be swayed by Interest to send false Declara­tions to Rebels in Arms, to reduce them to Obedience: but what can the most High gain by our Submission, or lose by our Obstinacy? Counterfeit Kind­ness proceeds either from the Hope of some Good, or the Fear of some Evil: and of both God is absolutely uncapable. We are all obnoxious to his severe Ju­stice: There is no occasion that he should intend by the gracious Offer of Pardon, to aggravate the Sin and Sen­tence of those who refuse it. Whoso­ever with Heart-breaking Sorrow, and [Page 47] unfeigned Hatred of his Sins, seeks for Par­don by the Mediator, he shall find his Expe­rience of sparing Mercy equal to the highest Expressions of it in Scripture, and exceeding all his Thoughts.

4. It appears, that God is ready to pardon, in that he is so slow to punish. Tho all the Di­vine Attributes are equal in God, and there is an intire Agreement between them, yet there is a Difference in their external Operations. St. John declares, God is Love; that signifies his communicative Goodness, the Exercise whereof is more free and pleasing to him than the Acts of revenging Justice.Lam. 3. He does not afflict willingly the Children of Men. His Mercy in giving and forgiving flows as Water from a Fountain: Acts of Justice are forc'd from him (like Wine from the Grapes) by the pressing Weight of our Sins. In the first Day of Judgment a Saviour was promised before the Curse was threatned. Notwithstanding sinful Men break his Laws, and trample on them before his Face; they resist, and grieve, and quench his Spirit: yet he delays the Exe­cution of Judgment, that his Long-suffering may lead them to Repentance. This will appear by considering that God's forbearing Sinners is not, 1. For want of Discovery of their Sins. Humane Justice may suffer a guilty Person to escape Punishment for want of clear Evi­dence, but this Case is not incident to the Ju­stice of Heaven. God is Light with respect to his Purity and Omniscience. His firy Eye pierces through the thickest Darkness where­in Sins are committed, and all the Arts of Concealment used to cover them. He sees [Page 48] all the Sins of Men with the Eye of a Judg; All things are naked and open before his Eyes with whom we have to do. Therefore 'tis said, God will require what is past, and will observe what is to come, in order to Judgment. 2. 'Tis not from a Defect of Power that the Wicked are spared. Great Princes are some­times hindred from the Exercise of Justice, when the guilty Person is supported by a prevalent Party against them: for the Power of a Prince is not in himself, but in those who are his Subjects. Thus David was constrain­ed to spare Joab, after the Murder of Abner, because of his Interest in the Army; the Sons of Zerviah were too hard for him, he fear'd their rebellious Resistance. But the Power of God is inherent in himself, and depends upon no Creatures: O Lord, be exalted in thine own Power. He fears none, and is to be fear'd by all. With one Stroke of Omnipotency he can destroy all his Enemies for ever. He can with more Ease subdue the most stubborn Rebels, than we can breathe. His Strength is equal to his Authority, both are truly infinite. 3. The Guilty are spared sometimes from the vicious Partiality of Princes to their Favou­rites, or a wretched Neglect of Justice: But the high and holy King is without respect of Persons: He hates Sin with a perfect Hatred, and is angry with the Wicked every day. The Scripture gives an Account why Execution is respited: The Lord is not slack, (as some Men count Slackness) but is long-suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to Repentance. He waits to be graci­ous and spares Men in order to their Salvation.

[Page 49]5. It appears that God is ready to forgive, in that upon the first Suit of humble and penitent Believers he pre­sently pardons them. If we consider how long Men continue in a Course of voluptuous or profitable Sins, how ma­ny Repulses to the Offers of Mercy they are guilty of, it might justly be ex­pected, that God should with Disdain reject their Petitions, or not be intreated without a long Exercise of Repentance, and continued, submissive, and earnest Solicitations for his Mercy. But the King of Heaven keeps no State, the Throne of Grace is always open and ac­cessible to humble Penitents: When their Hearts are prepar'd, his Ear is in­clin'd to hear them. David, after his commission of very foul Sins, and long continuing in a State of Impenitency, yet upon his melting in the Sense of his Wickedness and Resolution, to humble himself by a mournful Acknowledg­ment of it, he was restor'd to the Di­vine Favour. I said I would confess my Sins, and thou forgavest the Iniquity of my Sin. Repenting Ephraim is an ad­mirable Instance of God's relenting Bowels to Sinners: I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, Thou hast [Page 50] chastised me, and I was chastised as a Bul­lock unaccustom'd to the Yoke: Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my Thigh; I was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the Reproach of my Youth: Is Ephraim my dear Son? is he a pleasant Child? for since I spake against him, I earnestly re­member him still: therefore my Bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have Mercy on him, saith the Lord. The Prodigal upon his Resolution to return to his Fa­ther, and debase himself as utterly un­worthy of being received as a Son, while he was in the way, his Father saw him at a distance, and ran to him, fell on his Neck and kiss'd him, and entirely for­gave his past Rebellion. The Soul-wounded Publican said, Lord be merciful to me a Sinner, and was justified rather than the proud Pharisee.

6. 'Tis a convincing Argument, that God is ready to forgive Sin, in that he affords Grace to Men to prepare them for his pardoning Mercy. Repentance and Faith are sacred Plants that do not spring from our Earth, but have their Roots in Heaven.Acts 11. God gives Repentance [Page 51] unto Life. Faith is not of our selves, Ephes. 2. 'tis the Gift of God. In our corrupt State Sin is natural to Man, and hath entirely possess'd all his leading Facul­ties.Rom. 8. The carnal Mind is Enmity against God, and judges according to the carnal Affections which deprave it. The Will is rebellious, and strongly inclin'd to charming Lusts: Temptations are so numerous and delightful, that Sinners will venture to be miserable for ever, to enjoy the Pleasures of Sin that die in the tasting. 'Tis true, such are the in­violable Inclinations of the humane Na­ture to Happiness, that no Man can love undisguised Death, nor choose Damnation for it self: yet the Affecti­on to Sin is so over-ruling, that they will not forsake it tho complicated with Death. The Wisdom of God tells us, Those that hate me, love Death, Prov. 9. ult. i. e. constructively. Our Saviour com­passionately reproves the Jews, Ye will not come to me that ye may have Life. John 5. This is the Cause of their remaining in a State of Guilt for ever.

Now such is the Mercy of God, that he gives his Spirit, to assist Men by his illuminating, preventing, restraining and exciting Grace, to forsake their Sins, [Page 52] that they may be saved: and if they did faithfully improve the lower degrees of Grace, (tho they can claim nothing by right) he would from his good Plea­sure afford them more Grace: but they are so averse from God, and strongly bent to the present World, that they so long resist the pure Motions of Grace in their Hearts, till the Gales of the Spirit expire, and revive no more; according to that terrible Threatning,Gen. 6. My Spirit shall no longer strive with Man, for he is Flesh.

Besides the common Grace afforded to natural Men, there is a Super-efflu­ence of Grace bestowed upon some to convert them, which infallibly obtains its end. Those who are the Patrons of Free Will, methinks should allow that God is Master of his own Will, and the free Dispenser of his own Grace. This special Grace works powerfully, yet conveniently, to the reasonable Nature. There is no Charm so sweet, no Con­straint so strong, as the Operation of it: For the Understanding is convinc'd by so clear and strong a Light of our being undone for ever without God's pardon­ing Mercy, that his Loving-kindness is better than Life; and this is represented to the Will with that powerful Applica­tion, [Page 53] that the Will certainly chooses it. When there is a Wavering and Indiffe­rency of the Will to a propounded Ob­ject, 'tis either from some Defects in the Object, or in the Apprehension of it: but when the supreme Good is so repre­sented, that it fills all the Capacities of the Soul, the Will as certainly em­braces it, as one that is burnt up with Thirst, and near a cool Stream stoops and drinks to quench it. The Holy Spirit, who knows the manner of his own Operations, expresses the Efficacy of them in the Resemblances of the Creation and Resurrection, wherein the Divine Power cannot be frustrate; yet 'tis so congruous to the Frame of Man's Nature, that the Freedom of the Will is then in its most noble Exercise: Men are drawn to Christ by the Teachings of God; not by over-ruling Violence upon their Faculties, but by Instruction and Perswasion sutable to them.

Now from hence 'tis evident that all the Persons in the Godhead concur in bestowing this admirable Blessing, the Pardon of our Sins: they all willingly join in this undivided Work, tho with different Operations. The Father pro­nounces our Pardon from the Throne: [Page 54] his Majesty shines without Diminution or Condescension of his Person in for­giving us. The Son purchased our Par­don by the sacred Treasure of his Blood. The Holy Spirit qualifies us, and ap­plies the Pardon of our Sins to us.

3. I now come to the third general Head, that God is abundant in Forgive­ness. This God has declar'd in Words so full and expressive, as may exceeding­ly satisfy the most tender and fearful Spi­rits: Let the Wicked forsake his Way, and the unrighteous Man his Thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have Mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my Thoughts are not your Thoughts, neither are your Ways my Ways, saith the Lord. For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my Ways than your Ways, and my Thoughts than your Thoughts. The Di­stance is so great between the Heavens and the Earth, that the Sun, so vast a Globe of Light, seems to be of a small Circumference; and the Stars of the first Magnitude, tho many times bigger than the Earth, appear like glittering Points of Light. This Comparison is so convincing, as may assist us in our Contemplation of his Mercy. The Apo­stle [Page 55] saith, God is rich in Mercy. Ephes. 2. 'Tis not said, that he is rich in Substance, tho the Earth be the Lord's, and the Fulness thereof. He is rich in his own Perfections, not in external things. 'Tis not said, God is rich in Power, tho he is Almighty; nor in Justice, but in Mer­cy: This signifies, that of all the Di­vine Perfections, none do shine so radi­antly as his Mercy. This reflects a Lustre upon his other Attributes. His Goodness is the Foundation of his Glory. He pardon'd ten thousand Talents to the Servant that was insolvent, and his Treasure is unwasted.

I will consider the Extent of his par­doning Mercy, and the Entireness of it.

1. The Extent of it, with Respect to the Number and Quality of the Sins that are pardoned.

1st. The Number of them. David, after an attentive Consideration of the Purity and Perfection of God's Law, breaks forth in a very great Anxiety, Who can understand his Errors? Who can enumerate the many Defections from that strait Rule of our Duty? In many things we offend all. We are ob­liged perpetually to obey and glorify God: yet in every Action, even in our [Page 56] religious Duties, there are many Defects and Defilements that want Pardon. How many Swarms of vain and unpro­fitable Thoughts, of carnal, covetous, proud, envious, and revengeful Thoughts and Desires lodg in the Hearts of Men? What a Torrent of idle, sensual, vain-glorious and passionate Words flow from their Lips? How many thousand sinful Actions proceed from them? When the inlightned Conscience seriously reflects upon our Sins of Omission and Com­mission, how astonishing is their vast Number? What a mountainous Heap appears? They reach as low as Hell, and rise as high as Heaven. It would tire the Hand of an Angel to write down the Pardons that God bestows up­on one penitent Believer.

2dly. Divine Forgiveness extends to Sins of all kinds and degrees, habitual and actual. Tho no Sins are absolutely small, being committed against the Ma­jesty of God, yet comparatively, with respect to their Quality and Circum­stances, there is a manifest Difference between them. Some are of a weaker Tincture, some are of a deeper Die: Some slightly wound the Conscience; some waste it, and let out its vital Blood: [Page 57] Some do as it were whisper against the Sinner, some cry for Vengeance. Sins of Ignorance and Infirmity, Sins of sud­den Surreption, that steal upon us with­out observing, Sins by surprise of the Passions, when there is no time to deli­berate, have extenuating Circumstances: but Sins against Light, wherein there is more of the Nature of Sin; Sins against Mercies, which in the Language of the Apostle, are a despising of God's Good­ness; Sins against solemn Vows, where­in Men break double Bands, the Law of God and their sacred Ingagements; Sins committed habitually and presump­tuously, as if God were ignorant, or in­different and unconcern'd, or impotent and without Power to punish Offenders: These Sins derive a greater Guilt, and expose to a more terrible Punishment. Now a gracious Pardon is offer'd in the Gospel to all Sinners, whatever the Quality and Circumstances of their Sins be, if they apply and address them­selves to the Father of Mercy through the compassionate Mediator, and for­sake their Sins. Of this we are assured from the most solemn Declaration of God to Moses, The Lord is merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in [Page 58] Goodness and Truth, keeping Mercy for thousands, forgiving Iniquity, and Trans­gression, and Sin. The Promise is com­prehensive of all sorts of Sins, how ma­nifold and mighty soever. Besides, to encourage us to repent and believe, God promises Pardon for Sins of the fiercest Provocation. Judah had violated the Marriage-Covenant with God by their impure Idolatries, yet he offers to re­ceive them. Thou hast played the Harlot with many Lovers, yet return again to me, saith the Lord. Relapses into rebellious Sins argue a strong Propensity to them, and exceedingly aggravate their Guilt; yet God promises Pardon for them: Return ye backsliding Children, and I will heal your Backslidings. There are emi­nent Instances of God's pardoning Mer­cy recorded in the Scripture. The Apo­stle having enumerated many sorts of Sinners guilty of enormous Crimes, Idolaters, Adulterers, Abusers of them­selves with Mankind, tells the Corin­thians, And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. There is one sort of Sinners excepted from the general Promise of Mercy, [Page 59] those who sin against the Holy Ghost. The Reason of the Exception is not, that the Holy Spirit is superiour in Dig­nity to the Father and the Son, for they are all coeternal and coequal, but from his Operations, i. e. the revealing the Truth and Grace of God in the Gospel. Now the obstinate malicious contra­dicting the Truth of the Gospel shining in the Minds of Men, and the perverse despising the Grace of the Gospel, is unpardonable to infinite Mercy. Those who are guilty of that Sin, have trans­form'd themselves into the Image of the Devil, and Salvation cannot save them. But no others are excluded from Repen­tance and Pardon.

2. As the Extent, so the Intireness of Pardon offer'd to Sinners declares God's abundant Mercy.

1st. The Pardon is as full as free, ac­cording to his excellent Goodness: The Imputation of the Fault ceases, and the Obligation to Punishment is abo­lish'd. We have clear Evidence of this from the Scripture. God assures those who repent and reform, Tho your Sins be as Scarlet, they shall be as white as Snow: tho they be red like Crimson, they shall be as Wool. Pardon is more than a Reprieve [Page 60] or Suspension of Judgment, 'tis a per­fect Freedom from it: A repenting Be­liever is as clear from the Charge of the Law as an innocent Angel. There is no Condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, Rom. 8. who walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit. Our cleansing from the Defilements of Sin is imperfect, there­fore we must be always purifying our selves, till we attain to absolute Purity: but our Pardon is perfect. 'Tis irrevo­cable; we are assured, that as far as the East is from the West,Psal. 103. God removes our Transgressions from us. As soon those distant Points may be united, as Guilt may be fastned upon those whom God has pardoned. The Prophet de­clares, that God will subdue our Iniqui­ties, Mich. 7. and cast them into the Bottom of the Sea: From whence they can never rise. God promises, I will forgive their Ini­quities, Jer. 31.34. and remember them no more. Par­don is compleat and final. 'Tis the Mi­sery of the Wicked, they are condemned already; they live by a Reprieve and Suspension of Judgment: 'tis the blessed Security of Believers, they shall not fall under Condemnation. There is such an Inconstancy in the Nature of Men, that they often repent and revoke the Fa­vours [Page 61] and Privileges they have bestow­ed; they like to day, and loath to mor­row the same Persons: but the blessed God is not subject to Change or Con­tingency. His Love, his Purpose, his Promise to his People, are unalterable.

From the Sense of God's pardoning Mercy, Conscience is freed from those just Terrors that are the Consequents of Guilt.Heb. 9.14. The Blood of Christ purges our Conscience from dead Works: from the deadly Guilt of Sin that cleaves to the Conscience. A temporal Prince may pardon a Murderer; and Conscience with a Countenance of Despair may summon him to appear and be accounta­ble for his bloody Crime before the High and Everlasting Judg: but those who are justified by Faith, have Peace with God. When the Original Bond is cancell'd, the Counter-part has no Force; Conscience is subordinate to God, and when he justifies, has no Authority to condemn. When God blots out the Ini­quities of his People as a thick Cloud, there is a clear Sky, a divine Calm and Serenity in Conscience. It may be en­quired how the compleat Pardon of Sin is consistent with the temporal Evils in­flicted upon the Children of God for [Page 62] their Sins. The Answer is obvious and easy. Temporal Evils inflicted on the Children of God, are declarative of his holy Displeasure against Sin, but are not for Satisfaction to vindictive Justice: This would be derogatory to the Love of God, and the meritorious Sufferings of our Saviour, who did not compound with God, but made full and absolute Satisfaction for our Sins. In the 12th Chapter to the Hebrews, where the A­postle so divinely and accurately treats of this Argument, there is a clear Ac­count of the Cause, the Nature, and the Product of the temporal Sufferings of God's Children. The Cause of them is the Love of their heavenly Father dis­pleased for their Sins: Whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every Son whom he receives. Earthly Parents in their various Fits of Folly, sometimes chasten their Children only for their Plea­sure, and sometimes spare the Rod to their Ruine: but our heavenly Father is equally wise and compassionate, and uses such Discipline as is requisite for their Profit, to prevent their Continu­ance in Sin, that would be destructive to them. Believers are chasten'd of the Lord, Cor. 11. that they may not be condemned with [Page 63] the World. And the Wisdom and Love of our Father and Physician mixes such bitter Ingredients, and in that Propor­tion, as are requisite for the Quality of the Disease, and the Strength of the Patient. He corrects them in measure; he will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able. Their Afflicti­ons are deliberate Dispensations. The Nature of them is signified in the word Chastisement: The Correction of a Child is in order to his Amendment: They are medicinal, and have a main Relation and Prospect to the future, to make us more fearful to offend God, and careful to please him. They are more lively and sensible Lessons of our Duty, than the Instructions of the Word, and are of the same Order.

The Product of the Chastisements of God's Children,Heb. 12. is the pleasant Fruit of Righteousness to them who are exercised thereby: that is, the sanctifying Graces of the Spirit, Repentance, Faith, Hope, Patience, Self-denial, Contempt of the World, Resignation to the Divine Will, are exercised, illustrated, and in­creas'd in those Christians who with unfainting Perseverance endure Afflicti­on.

[Page 64]In short, Death that was the penal Effect of Sin, (for the first Man while innocent was immortal) tho continued, yet the Sting is taken away, the Quali­ty of it is changed: The Issues of it are vastly different to the Saints and the Wicked: To the Saints 'tis the Period of their Fears and Sorrows, the final Remedy of all their Miseries; to the Wicked 'tis the Beginning of their Woe. The Saints pass through the Darkness and Corruption of the Grave into the Kingdom of Glory: the Wicked pass to the Blackness of Darkness for ever.

2dly. The Intireness of this great Be­nefit is evident in that God restores his Love and forfeited Favour to all that are pardon'd. Princes sometimes pardon Offenders, but never receive them into their Favour. Absalom was recall'd from Banishment, but for two Years was not admitted to see the King's Face. But God does magnify and manifest his Love to those whom he pardons. He does not distinguish them from the An­gels that always obeyed him. He for­gives our Sins as entirely as if they had never been committed, and is reconcil'd as if he had never been offended. We have the most clear Discovery of this in [Page 65] the Parable of the Prodigal. It might have been expected, that his Father should have reproach'd him for his ob­stinate deserting his House, his wasting his Portion in Lewdness and Luxury, and that bitter Constraint forced him to return: no, he dearly embraces him, and cancels all the Debt of his past Of­fences with a most affectionate Kiss: and whereas the poor Penitent presum'd only to be received as a Servant, he was restor'd in the most affectionate manner to the Dignity and Relation of a Son; and universal Joy was diffused through all the Family for his Return. If our Saviour had not made this Relation with all its endearing Circumstances, our narrow Hearts durst never presume and promise to us such compassionate Love of God to repenting Sinners. But whoever imitates the Prodigal in his Re­turn, shall find the Reality to exceed the Representation. I shall add some Ex­amples of this Love of God to those who repent. Mary Magdalen had been guilty of foul Sins, yet our Saviour gra­ciously received the tender Expressions of her Grief and Love, to the Asto­nishment of Simon: She wash'd his Feet with her Tears, and wiped them with the [Page 66] Hair of her Head, and kissed them: and after his Resurrection appeared first to her as his endeared Favourite. 'Tis re­corded by the Evangelist, with an infi­nite Emphasis of his Love, that he first appear'd to Mary Magdalen, out of whom he had cast seven Devils. Peter, in whose Denial of Christ there was such a Mix­ture of Infidelity, Ingratitude, and Im­piety, he promised he would die with him or for him; yet being questioned not with Terror by an armed Magistrate, not surprized by a subtle Examiner, but at the Question of a Maid renounc'd him, yet he was restor'd to the Ho­nour of his Office, and the Affection of his Master. 'Tis very observable, that when he appeared to Mary Magdalen, he directs her to tell his Disciples and Peter of his Resurrection; he particularly mentions Peter, to raise his drooping Spirit by this new Assurance of his Love.

This happy Privilege belongs to all penitent Believers, for whomsoever God pardons he prefers, and adopts into his Family, and makes them Heirs of Hea­ven. The first Beam of Mercy shines in the Pardon of our Sins, which is an infallible Assurance of freeing us [Page 67] from the Punishment of Sin in Hell, and of our obtaining the Joys of Heaven. Our Saviour has by his me­ritorious and voluntary Sufferings paid our Ransom from eternal Death, and purchased for us a Right to eternal Life: accordingly whom God justifies he glorifies. The formal Effect of Justification is the restoring us to the forfeited Favour of God, and from that Fountain all blessed Benefits flow. God declares concerning his People:Mal. 3. They shall be mine in the day that I make up my Jewels, and I will spare them as a Man spares his Son that serves him: Which two Acts of the Divine Mercy are inseparable.


The first Use shall be of Caution, lest Men abuse carelesly and contemptuously the Doctrine of Divine Forgiveness. Many sin freely, as if they believed the Permission of Sins, or presumed upon a ready Remedy, and are without Fear of Judgment to come. This is the Language of their Actions, tho not of their Tongues. There are not a worse sort of Sinners out of Hell. If that [Page 68] which should soften and reclaim Sinners hardens them, the Case is desperate and incurable. To correct the vile Conceits Men have of obtaining an easy Pardon of their Sins, tho habitually committed upon that Account, let them consider,

1. The Angels who were the first and brightest Offspring of the Creator, for one Sin were decreed and doom'd to an Exclusion from the Glory of Hea­ven for ever. Mercy did not suspend the Sentence: Their mighty Numbers, and the Nobility of their Nature, did not incline the Judg of the World to spare them. They are now in the Chains of powerful Justice, and have perpetual Hell within them. And shall rebellious Men, who are but Dust in their original Composition and final Resoluti­on, expect to escape Vengeance? If we should see a hundred Noble Men executed in a Day, the Sight would strike us with Terror: How much greater Reason is there awfully to adore the inflexible Judg, for such a dreadful Execution and Example of Justice upon an innumerable Company of Angels?

2. To pardon Sin is an Act of greater Power than to create the World: If we consider the Distance of the Terms, and [Page 69] the Difficulty of the Means, there is a wider Distance between a righteous God infinitely provoked by Sin, and the guilty Creature, than between a State of not being, and the actual Ex­istence of the World. One powerful Word rais'd this great World from its native nothing. But to accord the Di­vine Attributes between which there seem'd a Repugnance, and reconcile God to sinful Men, cost the dearest Price. The anxious Sinner makes In­quiry,Mic. 7. Shall I give the First-born of my Body for the Sin of my Soul? that is too mean an Offering: no less than the First-born of the Almighty could by the Sa­crifice of himself make an Atonement for our Offences.

3. Vengeance belongs to God as well as Forgiveness.Rom. 1. The Wrath of God is reveal'd from Heaven against all Vngodli­ness and Vnrighteousness of Men. It was decreed in Heaven, 'tis denounced in his Word, and shall be executed by his just Power in its Season. There is a time to pardon, and a time to punish. God is stiled the God of Patience: in the present World his Patience has its perfect Work. But in the next World Justice will gloriously appear against the Wick­ed [Page 70] who are devoted to Destruction. For­bearance is not Forgiveness. The last Day will close the Accounts of the Judg of the World with Sinners, and a terri­ble Arrear will be exacted of them for all the Treasures of his Goodness and Clemency wasted by them.

4. Those who indulge themselves in a Course of Sin upon the Presumption of an easy Pardon, are the most unwor­thy and uncapable of the Divine Mer­cy. They sin against the Nature and End of Grace: and by an immediate and direct Opposition to it in the proper Notion of Grace, cut off all their Pleas for it. 'Tis true, God is very merciful, and easy to be intreated by those who sincerely repent and reform their Lives: but he is inexorable to all those who har­den themselves in their Sins by the false and presumptuous Hopes of his Mercy. He declares in his Word, that when Sin­ners despise the Curse threatned against them, Deut. 29. and bless themselves in their Hearts, that they shall have Peace, tho they walk in the Imagination of their own Hearts, to add Drunkenness to Thirst; the Lord will not spare them, but then the Anger of the Lord and his Jealousy shall smoke against them, and all the Curses written in this [Page 71] Book shall lie upon them without Mitigation or Intermission. No less Punishment than eternal Damnation is equal to their Sin. They resist and renounce Mercy by their abusing it to the worst ends, yet are confident of their Interest in it. What a prodigious Contradiction is there between the Hopes of presump­tuous Sinners and their Practices? They kindle his Anger every day, and inflame Anger into Wrath, and Wrath into Vengeance, and yet strongly fancy they shall find Mercy. What a diabolical Wonder is it, as astonishing as extraor­dinary Miracles, but that 'tis commonly seen, that Men without a Promise, and against the Threatning, should expect the Favour of God, that is the Portion of his Children, and continue in high and actual Rebellion? If a Spark of Reason or Grain of Faith were shining in their Breasts, they would be restless in the Apprehension of his firy Displea­sure. The Tempter over-reaches their Minds by a double Delusion, that they shall have Time and Grace to repent, and over-rules their Wills, that the most terrible Threatnings and Divine Disswa­sives are not effectual to make them for­sake their Sins. They are secure, tho [Page 72] not safe one Hour: for 'tis in the Power of their Judg, and they have Reason to fear in his Purpose,Prov. 29. to destroy them sud­denly, and without Remedy. The pre­sumptuous Conceit of immense Mercy has so fully possess'd their Minds, that like a powerful Opiate it makes them sleep securely upon the Brink of Ruine: but Conscience is of an immortal Na­ture, and tho it may be stupified, it cannot be extinguish'd. In the present Life sometimes a sharp Affliction awa­kens it into a furious Activity; and then presuming Sinners that have been indul­gent to their Lusts, despair of Pardon: for when Mercy, that is our only Advo­cate in his Bosom to avert Wrath for Sins against the other Attributes, shall turn our Accuser, and solicite Justice to re­venge its Dishonour upon those who have abused it, there remains no Sha­dow of Hope to refresh their Sorrows. But suppose the Charm be not unbound, and the Self-deceiver continues his evil Course to the end of Life, and perishes pleasantly with the vain Hopes of Mer­cy, yet immediately after Death his Conscience will be irresistibly convinc'd of his outragious Provocations of the righteous God, and be more torment­ing [Page 73] than the hottest Flames of Hell.

Let us attend to the instructive Infe­rence in the Text, There is Forgiveness with thee that thou mayst be feared: that is, with a Fear of Reverence for his amiable Excellencies, for the Attractives of his pardoning Mercy; and of Cau­tion, lest by abusing we should make a deadly Forfeiture of it. If God should appear as an irreconcileable Judg, arm'd with Terrour against all Offenders, the Apprehension would produce Hatred, and a dreadful Flight from him: it would make Men boldly wilful, and harden them in their Rebellions: for if they cannot be pardoned for their past Sins, and can be but damned for their Continuance in them, they will give Licence to their roving and impetuous Appetites, and commit Iniquity with Greediness. Now God has appointed a Way for the Pardon of Sin, wherein there is a bright and equal Discovery of his Greatness and Goodness, his Purity and Righteousness, that his Law may be more sacred and inviolable, more re­membred and obeyed by us. He has declared in the Death of his Son, where­in the equal Extreams of Ignominy and Torment were combin'd, what an Evil [Page 74] Sin is, that requir'd such a mighty Ex­piation. We may from the Depth of his Sufferings conceive the Excess and Height of our Provocations: We may understand the deadly Guilt of Sin, that can only be wash'd away in the Blood of Christ, the Fountain of Remission. To turn the Grace of God into Wan­tonness, to be more loose and secure in committing Sin, is to turn the Antidote into Poison, and defeat his blessed End. 'Tis a main Article of our Reconciliati­on, The Lord will speak Peace to his Peo­ple, but let them not return to Folly. We may conceive, that God speaks to the pardon'd Sinner what our Saviour said to the Man whom he miraculously heal'd, Go away, sin no more, lest a worse thing befal you.

'Tis both the Duty and Disposition of those who have received the Pardon of their Sins, to fear the Lord and his Good­ness. There is no Principle more clearly natural and sensible than this: Depen­dance includes Observance; the recei­ving Benefits obliges a Person to the Be­nefactor. Accordingly the Psalmist ex­presses the Affections of the humane and the holy Nature,Psal. 116. What shall I render to the Lord for all his Benefits? and breaks [Page 75] out in an Extasy of Thankfulness, O Lord, truly I am thy Servant, I am thy Servant, thou hast broken my Bands. The repenting Believer receives Pardon from God with joyful Admiration, that fa­stens his Mind in the Contemplation of his glorious Mercy: the serious Thought of it kindles a sacred Fire in his Breast: as 'tis said of Mary Magdalen, Much was forgiven her, for she loved much. Love to God that results from his pardoning Love to us, is singular and supreme, and necessarily produces an ardent De­sire to please and glorify him, and an in­genuous grateful Fear of offending him. The Soul that has felt the Terrors of the Lord, as the holy and righteous Judg of the World, and afterward has been re­vived by the Light of his Countenance, and has tasted how good the Lord is, how is it possible to resist such dear and immense Obligations? How prodigious to turn the strongest and sweetest In­gagement to Reverence and Obedience, into an Encouragement to do that which is odious and offensive in his Sight? To sin against Light heightens a Sin into Re­bellion, but to sin against revealed Love makes it above-measure sinful. This is so contrary to natural Conscience and [Page 76] super-natural Grace, that 'tis the Lepro­sy of the Wicked, not the Spot of God's Children: Do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish People and unwise? The up­braiding reduces them to a defenceless Silence, and covers them in black Con­fusion. When Divine Grace pardons our past Sins, it cures our depraved In­clinations to future Sins.

The clearest Discovery of the Heart is by Reflections on God's Mercy. The Fear of God's Justice is natural, the re­verent Regard of his Goodness is a spi­ritual Affection. There is a great Diffe­rence between filial Fear of the divine Goodness that is so becoming the Breast of a Christian, and so congruous to our present State, and servile Fear, that is the proper Character of one in the Bon­dage of Sin.

The Filial Fear of God is an ingenuous voluntary Affection, flowing from Love, and freely exercis'd, and esteem'd the Treasure of the Soul. Servile Fear, the Sequel of Guilt, is a judicial Impressi­on from the sad Thoughts of the pro­voked Majesty of Heaven; and if the Offender could dissolve the Bands of Conscience, he would throw it off. Fi­lial Fear is mix'd with Joy, 'tis the Pre­servative [Page 77] of God's Favour to us; it makes us more circumspect, but not less comfortable: it opposes Security, but establishes the Assurance of Faith: the Fear of the Lord, and Hope in his Mer­cy, are united Graces. Servile Fear has Torment, 'tis an Alarm within that di­sturbs the Rest of the Sinner; 'tis a fret­ting Fire that secretly torments him in his most luscious Fruitions. Filial Fear restrains from all Sin in the Heart and Life, because it dishonours and displeases God; it denies the carnal Appetites with Sweetness and Satisfaction to the Soul: it excites us to obey God with Choice and Complacency. Servile Fear induces an Abstinence from some Sins, which fly in the Face of Conscience, and which the Sinner loves, and urges to the out­ward Performance of Duties, which he hates. The slavish Spirit is afraid to burn, not to sin; he is fearful to be damn'd, not to displease God. Filial Fear is a serious and habitual Constitu­tion of the Soul, inseparable from it in all Times and Places, 'tis influential in­to the whole Life. Servile Fear is a sudden Passion, and transient: some­times a sharp Affliction, a piercing Ser­mon, awakens a secure Wretch into a [Page 78] Fit of Terror. Filial Fear keeps the Soul close to God, makes it solicitous, lest any Sin should intercept the Light of his Countenance, and obstruct Com­munion with him, which is the Paradise of a Saint: 'tis the gracious Promise of God to his Children, I will put my Fear into their Hearts, and they shall never de­part from me. Servile Fear makes the Sinner shy of God's Presence, and as unwilling to find him, as a Saint is to lose him: He is not pleased with Soli­tude, lest the guilty Conscience should have time of Recollection, and should look to the Judg above: He takes no Delight in the Society of the Saints, and the Enjoyment of the Ordinances, be­cause God is peculiarly present there; and above all things he is afraid to die, because then the Spirit returns to God that gave it. In short, the filial Fear of God ascends with the Soul to Heaven, and is the eternal Respect that the blessed Spirits continually pay to his adorable Perfections. Servile Fear attends the Sinner to Hell, and settles into Despair for ever.

2dly. The Doctrine of Divine Forgive­ness affords strong Consolation to those who are wounded in Spirit in the Sense [Page 79] of their Sins. Those only who feel the intolerable Burden of Guilt, will come to Christ to find Rest: and only those our Saviour invites and promises graci­ously to receive. A tender and timo­rous Conscience does often impute the Guilt of Sin, when 'tis abolish'd; a seared Conscience does not impute it, when it abounds. God has revealed his Mercy in so full a manner, as to an­swer all the Allegations of a repenting Sinner against himself. He objects his Unworthiness of Pardon: but this can­not exclude him from it: for the Grace of God springs from within, and has no original Cause without it self. 'Tis like celestial Fire that feeds it self: God declares his sovereign Pleasure in the Exercise of Mercy: I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, Exod. 33. and will shew Mer­cy to whom I will shew Mercy. If Mercy were bestowed only upon the worthy, none could be saved: for all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. The humble Penitent urges against himself, that he has been a singular and extraor­dinary Offender, that none is like him in sinning: but we are assured none is like God in pardoning. Mic. 7. The Number of our Sins is terrifying: This so affected [Page 80] the Psalmist, that he fainted with de­sponding Fear; My Sins are like the Hairs upon my Head, therefore my Heart fails me. But the Multitude of God's Mercies incomparably exceed our nume­rous Sins. They are renewed every Moment of our Lives: Stupendous In­finity! they are over all his Works; and over all his Attributes. God is Love, and Love covers a Multitude of Sins.

The killing Aggravations of our Sins strike us through: but there is not so much Evil in Sin as there is Goodness in God. Our finite Acts cannot preponde­rate his unlimited Essence. He declares, I am God and not Man, Hos. 11. therefore ye are not consumed. We hardly forgive a few Pence, he forgives ten thousand Ta­lents. He is God, infinite in Mercy, and as liberal as infinite. Delight in Sin is an aggravating Circumstance; but God delights in Mercy. Continuance in Sin inflames the Guilt; but his Mercy extends to Eternity.

I shall add, for the Support of re­turning Penitents, some Examples of God's forgiving great Sinners recorded in Scripture. He charges the People of Israel,Isa. 43.25. Thou hast made me serve with thy Sins, and wearied me with thine Iniqui­ties. [Page 81] It might be expected, that the next Words should have been, I will revenge your dishonouring of me ac­cording to the Glory of my Majesty, and the Extent of my Power: but he promises Pardon; I, even I am he, that blotteth out thy Transgressions for my Name sake, and will not remember thy Sins. By the Comparison of their Sins, he illu­strates the Glory of his Mercy. Lot, guilty of Incest with his Daughters; David, of Murder and Adultery; Ma­nasseh, a Sorcerer and Idolater, that burnt his Children alive in Sacrifice to the Devil, and fill'd Jerusalem with in­nocent Blood; Mary Magdalen, out of whom seven Devils were cast; Peter, who was so faint-hearted and false-hearted, that with Execrations he deni­ed his Master; Paul, that was a bloody Persecutor; are the Instances of the asto­nishing Omnipotent Mercy of God, who can as easily pardon the greatest Sins as the least, and makes no Difference when our Repentance is sincere, and our Faith unfeigned: tho according to the degrees of their Guilt Conscience should be af­fected. How many pardon'd Sinners, Miracles of the Divine Mercy, are in Heaven happy in the Love of God, and [Page 82] glorious in Holiness, who were as deep­ly guilty and polluted as any that now mournfully seek the Favour of God? These are Examples of Grace so excel­lent and so divine, to encourage us in our Addresses for Pardon. The Apo­stle Paul tells us, That for this Cause he obtained Mercy, 1 Tim. 1. that in me Jesus Christ might shew all Long-suffering for a Pat­tern to them who shall hereafter believe on him to everlasting Life. There is the same Motive in God; he forgives Sins for his Name sake: The Treasures of his Mercy are not wasted by communi­cating: There is the same Merit in Christ, his precious Blood shed upon the Cross is pleaded in Heaven, He ever lives to make Intercession for us: and if we obtain the same precious Faith, we shall have the same Acceptance. In short, let those who are overwhelmed with Fear consider, 'tis not only our Privilege, but Duty, to trust in the Di­vine Mercy: We are commanded to be­lieve in the Mediator: Despair is more dishonourable to God than Presumption, in that 'tis a Sin directly against a supe­riour Attribute, the Exercise of which is his Delight and dearest Glory.

[Page 83]3dly. Let us be excited to seek the pardoning Mercy of God with Humili­ty, with Fear and all possible Diligence, lest we should not obtain it. Our Hearts should be set upon this with the most intense Zeal, for 'tis our Life. Every impenitent Sinner is under the condem­ning Sentence of the Law, and there is but a step between him and Death: the only Hope is, that 'tis not yet ratified by the Judg, nor inflicted, but 'tis re­versible by suing out a Pardon in the superiour Court of the Gospel. Now 'tis astonishing, that when the Danger is so great and present, (for 'tis as morally impossible to be sure of time to come, as to recal time past) that Men should be so unconcerned and secure, and neglect the main Work for which they are spared by the admirable Patience of God. Time is certainly short, and un­certainly continued; and when the Oil that feeds the Lamp of Life is spent, the next State is the Blackness of Darkness for ever to all unpardoned Sinners▪ Now the Scepter of Grace is extended to us, we are within the Call of par­doning Mercy; God waits to be gracious: but there is a sad Assurance, if we do not sue out our Pardon in the present [Page 84] Life, the time of our Reprieve, Death is immediately attended with eternal Judgment; the Belief of which makes the Prince of Darkness, with the most stubborn Spirits of Hell, to tremble: yet Men continue in the Guilt of their unrepented Sins without Fear, and wretchedly deceive themselves with a vain Presumption that the Door of Mer­cy will be open when they leave the World; or bear up themselves by the numberless Multitude of stupid Sinners, and make a resolute Reckoning they shall do as well as the most. They are studious and contriving, active and ar­dent about the Affairs of this low Life, and careless of being reconcil'd to God, a Matter of the highest Concernment and eternal Consequence. Prodigious Folly, never enough lamented! though Vengeance from above is ready to fall upon them, and Hell below with its dark Horrors is open to swallow them up, yet they are stupid and fearless: The Remembrance of this will rack and torment them for ever; for when ex­treme Folly is the Cause of extreme Mi­sery, the Sufferer is the most cruel Ene­my to himself.

[Page 85] Let us therefore seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. Now God offers his Pardon to the greatest Sinners that will humbly submit to the gracious Terms proposed in the Gospel for our obtaining it. Be­sides what has been said of Faith and Repentance, I will more particularly consider what God requires of guilty Creatures in order to their Pardon.

First, The Confession of our Sins is in­dispensably required to qualify us for Pardon. The Promise is express and full, He that confesses and forsakes Sin, Prov. 28.13. shall find Mercy. That we may not be deceived in the Application of this Pro­mise, I will briefly consider what is pre­paratory to this Duty, the Properties of it, and the Connection of Pardon with it.

1st. The Understanding must be en­lightned by the Divine Law to discover Sin. The Law is the Rule of our Du­ty, and the Obligation to obey it is im­mediately conveyed by Conscience. While there is a Cloud of Darkness in the Mind, there will be a Silence in the Conscience. Paul declares, that he was once alive without the Law, i. e. not un­derstanding his Guilt, he presum'd of his [Page 86] Justification; but when the Command­ment came in its Light to convince him of the Transgression of it, the Apparition of Sin in the clear Glass of the Law struck him dead. There must be a Dis­cussion of Conscience, a comparing our Actions with the Rule, to discover their Obliquity: for Sins unknown and un­consider'd cannot be confest. Some Sins are notorious, and present themselves to our Knowledg and Memory: others are of a weaker Evidence, Inquiry must be made after them. 'Tis an unplea­sant Work to rake in the Sink of a cor­rupt Heart, but 'tis necessary.

2ly. The Properties of Confession are,

(1.) It must be free and ingenuous: That which is extorted by bitter Con­straint is of no Value and Acceptance. Pharaoh, an obstinate Rebel, upon the rack, acknowledg'd he had sinned. 'Tis true, the Penal Effects of Sin may be the first Excitation of Sinners to consider their Ways, but the Holy Spirit by that Means so deeply affects them with the Evil of Sin, that they voluntarily confess them before the all-discerning Judg. Da­vid declares, When I kept Silence, my Bones waxed old: I said, I will confess my Sins, and thou forgavest them. He [Page 87] came to a deliberate Resolution, I will confess them.

(2.) Confession must be sincere and full, that our Sins may be more evident and odious to us.Alitur vi­tium, vi­vitque te­gendo. The covering of Sins is like the keeping a Serpent warm, that will sting more fiercely. The conceal­ing Sin argues the Love of it, and is a Bar against Pardon.Psal. 32.2. Blessed is the Man unto whom the Lord imputes no Iniquity, in whose Spirit there is no Guile. 'Tis not said, In whose Spirit there is no Sin, but no Guile, no reserved allowed Sin. The sincere Penitent pours forth his Heart like Water before the Lord. Of all Liquids none are so clearly pour'd out of a Vessel as Water: Wine or Oil leave a Tincture. We should in Con­fession pour out all our Sins, and leave no Tincture of Affection to them. If it be said, How can we confess our Sins that are above our counting? 'Tis true, but we must reserve none. We must confess the kinds of our Sins, against the first and second Table, that were both written with God's Hand; Sins of O­mission and Commission, and particular Sins of greater Guilt: we must wash off their deceitful Colours, that they may appear in their hellish Shape, and more [Page 88] deeply affect us. Men are very averse from this Duty, and apt to conceal or extenuate their Sins. The Art of con­cealing and Excuses is learnt from the first Transgressor. When God called to Adam, Where art thou? tho his Dread to appear before the Divine Presence was a tacit Confession of his Fault, and his hiding himself discovered his Sin; yet he does not acknowledg his Sin, but al­ledges the Consequence of it, his Shame, to be the Cause of his guilty Fear. I heard thy Voice, Gen. 3.10. and was afraid, because I was naked. And to extenuate his Offence, transfers his Guilt on the Woman, and constructively reflects upon God as the Cause of it: The Woman which thou gavest me, gave me of the Fruit, and I did eat. The wicked Excuse did infinitely aggra­vate his Sin. The Woman lays her Fault at the Serpent's door, The Serpent beguiled me. Aaron pretends that the People compell'd him to Idolatry: and that the golden Calf was not the Effect of Design and Art, but of Chance: I cast the Gold into the Fire, and there came out this Calf. Exod. 32. Saul coloured his Rebel­lion with the Pretence of Religion: He kept the best of the Cattel for Sacrifice. In short,1 Sam. 15.15. as in Sweating, 'tis observed [Page 89] that a general Sweat of the Body is for its Advantage, but the Sweat of a Part only is the Symptom of a Disease: So a clear unfeigned Confession is for our Profit, but a semi-Confession is coun­terfeit, an Indication of Hypocrisy.

(3.) Confession must be mix'd with Sorrow and Shame in the Remembrance of our past Sins.

1. A piercing deep Sorrow from spi­ritual Principles and Perswasives is the Ingredient of an acceptable Confession. There is a natural Sorrow proceeding from the Impression of afflicting Evils. Sense is very tender and apt to resent what is oppressive to it. A Sinner that has wasted his Estate, blasted his Repu­tation, shortned his Life by his Excesses, and hasten'd his Damnation, may feel Anguish in his Breast for his Sins, the procuring Causes of his Punishment. But this Sorrow proceeds only from the Sense of external Evils, not from the melted Heart for the intrinsick Evil of Sin: As Marble Pillars are wet, from the Moisture of the ambient Air. 'Tis the miserable Man, not the miserable Sinner that mourns. This Sorrow is consistent with the Love of Sin; and when the penal Evil is removed, the [Page 90] Sinner returns to the Practice of it. Car­nal Sorrow only respects a Man's self as a Sufferer: 'tis in Hell, in the extreme Degrees, there is weeping for ever.

There is a godly Sorrow, of which the Holy Spirit is the Spring. 'Tis the Promise of God to his People, I will pour forth the Spirit of Grace and Suppli­cation upon the Inhabitants of Jerusalem, and they shall see him whom they have pierced, and mourn over him, as one mourns for the Death of his First-born. The Perswasive of our Sorrow is an­swerable to its Principle. The serious Contemplation of our bleeding dying Saviour, is a spiritual and powerful Motive to melt us into the Tears of Re­pentance. How congruous is it, if the Purchase of our Pardon cost our Saviour his bloody Agony, that the applying of the Pardon to us should cost us the most bitter Sorrow? Divine Grief is more from the Memory of the Evils we have committed against our heavenly Father, than from the Evils we suffer. Carnal Sorrow is barren and unprofitable. It may be said of it, what the wise Preacher says of wild Mirth, What dost thou? only that Sorrow that comes from Hea­ven is accepted there: One spiritual Tear [Page 91] is of more Value and Efficacy with God than a Torrent of natural Sorrow.

Repenting Sorrow is an indispensable Qualification in order to our Pardon, not merely from the Will of the Law-giver as the Reason of our Duty, but from the Congruity of the thing it self. 'Tis observable, that 'tis the Wisdom and Kindness of the God of Nature, that the Food that preserves Life is pleasant to our Taste, to invite us every Day to eat, and renew our Strength; but Phy­sick that is necessary for the Recovery of Health, is very distastful, that our A­version from it may make us circum­spect, to prevent all Excesses that are the Causes of Diseases. Thus the sor­rowful Confession of Sin which is medi­cinal to the Soul, is very afflicting; it wounds the Spirit, and breaks the Heart, that we may be jealous of our selves, lest we eat of the forbidden Fruit that requires so bitter a Remedy.

Godly Sorrow, tho it be very afflict­ing to Nature, yet the Exercise of it is more satisfying to a sincere Penitent, than all the Pleasures of Sin. In two cases Grief is pleasant: when 'tis upon the account of a Person dearly loved; a Parent indulges his Sorrow for the Death [Page 92] of a Child that was the Life of his Life. Or when Pain is beneficial and an Ad­vantage: as in the Application of a Plai­ster, we are pleased with the Pain it causes, that being a Sign and Effect of its healing Operation. Now both these Considerations are mix'd with repenting Sorrow: for it principally arises from the Reflection upon Sin, as that which has so dishonour'd and displeased the blessed God our Maker, Preserver and Redeemer; that we have preferr'd the pleasing our corrupt and licentious Ap­petites, before the obeying his holy, just, and good Will. The repenting Sinner declares his Love to God by his Grief for offending him, and voluntarily remem­bers his past Sins, and is pleased in over­flowing Sorrow for them. And this Sorrow is preparative for Peace: Vnut­terable Groans are introductive of un­speakable Joys: the Holy Spirit that con­vinces of Sin is the blessed Comforter.

2. The Confession of Sin must be mix'd with Shame. All the just Causes of Shame, Guilt, Turpitude, Folly and Disappointment, are complicated in Sin. The repenting Sinner, by Consciousness and Reflection upon Sin, that induces so heavy a Guilt, that defiles the Soul with [Page 93] so deep a Pollution, that no Ray of its Original Purity remains, that debases it infinitely below its heavenly Descent, mourns with Tears of Confusion for what he has done.Jer. 31. Repenting Ephraim bemoans himself, that he had been re­bellious against the Methods of God's Mercy, like a refractory Bullock unac­custom'd to the Yoke: and his recoil­ing Thoughts made him to smite on his Thigh, to be ashamed to the degree of Confusion for his Disobedience. How affecting an Object he was in God's Eye, the immediate Answer declares: Is E­phraim my dear Son? is he a pleasant Child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my Bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have Mercy upon him, saith the Lord. The Psalmist reflecting upon his being almost vanquish'd by a vexatious Temp­tation, degrades and vilifies himself, so foolish was I and ignorant, Psal. 73. and like a Beast before thee. Ezra in the Confession of the Holy Seed's mixing with Heathen Idolaters, saith, O Lord, I blush and am ashamed at the foul Deformity of their Sin. The Apostle upbraids the Romans with a stinging Reproach, What Fruit have you of those things whereof ye are now asha­med, [Page 94] the End whereof is Death? When a foolish Choice is made, and the Folly is detected, and Experience disappoints the Expectation, the natural Consequent is Shame. At the last Day, when the Filthiness and Folly of Men shall be publish'd before God, and all the Angels and Saints, how much rather would they be hid in the Darkness of their Graves, than be clothed with Confu­sion before that glorious and immense Theatre? The sorrowful Confession of Sin, with deep Shame here, will pre­vent the exposing the Sinner to publick Shame hereafter.

(4.) Confession must have Concomi­tant with it, the judging our selves as unworthy of the least Mercy, and de­serving severe Punishment. The Apo­stle assures us, If we would judg our selves, we should not be judged. He does not say, if we are innocent we shall not be con­demn'd, for then who can appear before the high and inlightned Tribunal of Heaven? but if we acknowledg our Guilt, and the Righteousness of the Sentence to which we are obnoxious, we shall be spared. We cannot satisfy God's Justice, but we must glorify it: In this the admirable Mercy of God ap­pears. [Page 95] Suppose a Court on Earth, wherein the Rule of Judgment were, that all the Faults which the Guilty con­fess and condemn themselves for, should be pardoned, and only those they con­ceal should be deadly to them; how willingly and humbly would those who are conscious of many capital Crimes, and are summon'd to appear, accuse themselves? In the Court of Heaven, if we are faithful to God and our own Souls, in the confessing our Sins, and passing Sentence upon our selves, we prevent his Sentence against us.

(5.) Prayer for Pardon must be joined with the Confession of Sin: The Lord is good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in Mercy unto all that call upon him. God who is rich in Mercy, has appoint­ed Prayer as the Means of our receiving it; it being most honourable to him, that we should have a serious Sense of our Wants and Unworthiness, and our absolute Disability to supply them: and by our Desires we should glorify his Power and Love, whereby he is all-sufficient and ready to bestow upon us his Blessings. Prayer for Pardon must have these Ingredients. 1st. Humility is the most becoming Qualification of a [Page 96] Suppliant to the high Judg of the World, to reverse the Sentence of eternal Death. The deep Apprehension of our Guilt will humble us before his dreadful Tri­bunal. 2dly. Fervency, which is the Life of Prayer. A cold Prayer, the spiritless Motion of the Lips, is so far from inclining the Divine Mercy to par­don us, that it increases our Guilt, and provokes God's Displeasure. If our Apprehensions were as real and quick of our spiritual Wants as of our temporal, our Prayers would be as ardent for Sup­plies. Our Desires should be raised in the most intense degrees, in some pro­portion to the Value of the Blessing; they should be strong, as our Necessity to obtain it. The Pardon of our Sins is the Effect of God's highest Favour, of that Love that is peculiar to his Chil­dren, 'tis the Fruit of our Saviour's bloody Sufferings; without it we are miserable for ever, and can we expect to obtain it by a formal superficial Pray­er? It deserves the Flower and Zeal of our Affections. How solicitous and ve­hement, and unsatisfied should we be, till we have the clear Testimony that we are in a State of Divine Favour? Only fervent Prayers are regarded [Page 97] by God, and recorded in Heaven. We disvalue his Pardon by our Indifferency and faint Desires. In our Petitions for temporal things, our Affections should be temperate, always mix'd with re­sign'd Submission to the Will and Nam pro jucundis aptissimae, quae (que) da­bunt Dii: charior est illis homo quam sibi. Juven. Wis­dom of our Heavenly Father, who knows what is better for us than we do, and loves us better than we do our selves: but in praying for the Pardon of our Sins our Affections should be infla­med, we should as it were offer Vio­lence to the King of Heaven, and be unsatisfied without it.

What ardent and repeated Addresses were made by David for this great Blessing: Have Mercy upon me, O Lord, according to thy Loving-kindness, accord­ing to the Multitude of thy tender Mercies blot out my Transgression. Wash me throughly from mine Iniquity, and cleanse me from my Sin. Purge me with Hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than Snow. Deliver me from Blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my Salvation. He prays as if the Ghost of Vriah were always in his View, covered with Blood, and reproaching him for his treacherous Cruelty. The Affairs and Pleasures of his Kingdom could not [Page 98] divert and calm his Spirit, till he was restored to the joyful Sense of God's saving Mercy. If it be said, that Da­vid's complicated Sins were of a crim­son Guilt, and justly terrified his Con­science with the Apprehension of Ven­geance: I answer, 'tis true, but sup­posing that preventing Grace has kept us from Sins of a high Nature, whereby we should have incurr'd greater Guilt, and been exposed to greater Punish­ment, yet even the best Men are in infi­nite need of pardoning Grace; for the least Sin makes us guilty of eternal Death, and the infinite Number of our Sins, tho according to the carnal Con­ceits of Men small, would be over-whelming. What is weaker than a Drop of Water, yet the Sea that is a Collection of innumerable Drops of Water, does often by an irresistible In­undation drown the Land. The Wind is a Collection of many Vapours, which singly are of no Force, yet it often tears up the strongest Trees, and overthrows the firmest Buildings. If the numerous Sins of one Man's Life were set in order before his Eyes, he would sink into the Depths of Despair, were not the Di­vine Mercy superabundant to our a­bounding [Page 99] Sins. We must renew our Requests for Pardon every day: 'tis more necessary than to pray for our dai­ly Bread. We contract new Guilt eve­ry day: and as our Saviour tells us, he that is washed needs to wash his Feet, i. e. the Sins of Frailty and daily Incursion must be purged away by serious Re­pentance, and the Application of the Blood of Christ, and our earnest Pray­er for Pardon. 'Tis the cruel Character of Satan, he accuses the Saints before God Day and Night: He is an ardent Accuser, and watchful always to find Matter to provoke God's Displeasure against us. 'Tis therefore a Duty of daily Revolution, to pray for our Pardon. Besides, the Neglect of seek­ing for the daily Pardon of our Of­fences against God, argues the despi­sing his Anger, and consequently the despising his Love, which is infinitely provoking. We are commanded not to let the Sun go down upon our Wrath, much less upon God's. Repentance is not an initial Act of Sorrow, but must be renewed all our Lives. God's pardon­ing us is not a transient Act, but conti­nued, as Conservation is a continued Creation.

[Page 100]Prayer for Pardon must be mix'd with Faith in our blessed Advocate, who ever lives to make Intercession for us. If we 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; 'tis 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, 'tis im­possible we should preserve our selves 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 [Page 101] 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 to us, God will spare us as a Fa­ther spares his Son that serves him. And 'tis a certain Sign of our Sincerity, if we are gradually cleansing our selves from them. If they grow and increase, 'tis a sad Indication: as 'tis said, if a Scald in the Head spreads, 'tis 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,Gal. 5. The Works of the Flesh are manifest, Adultery, Fornication, Vnclean­ness, 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 [Page 102] time past, that they which do such things, shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Besides, if the Love of any Sin remains in the Heart of a Man, he cannot be justified here, nor glorified hereafter. An indulged Sin, tho small in the Mat­ter, is great in the Disposition of the Sin­ner. In short, God requires sincere Re­pentance, express'd 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: tho 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 tho he remains impenitent and obsti­nate in Evil, may be pardoned, because [Page 103] a temporal Prince is capable of various Apprehensions and Passions, and may de­flect from the Rule of Justice: but the Judg of the World is unchangably righ­teous and holy, and cannot pardon Sin­ners to the Disparagement of his Maje­sty, his Purity and Justice.

2. Our pardoning the Offences of others is an evangelical Condition of our obtaining Pardon: We are commanded, When ye stand praying, Mark 11.25, 26. 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. 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 [Page 104] us are incomparably less: for we are mean Creatures, far less in comparison to God, than a Worm is to an Angel; and by our Sins are viler than the Earth. Besides, the Obligation 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 10000 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 intirely, 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 [Page 105] 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. 'Tis pretended, that by bear­ing a single Injury, we expose our selves 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 shew himself merciful, but with the Fro­ward he will shew 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. Tho 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 [Page 106] Duty easy and honourable: for it pre­vents the inflaming our Passions, and the troubling of our selves and others: 'tis an Act of Royalty, and makes us superiour to them: 'tis 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 inclin'd 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?

[Page 107]4. The Divine Forgiveness should be a powerful Motive to Thankfulness. David addresses to his Soul in an ardent and lively manner; Bless the Lord, Psal. 103.1, 2. O my Soul, and all that is within me bless his Holy Name. 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 Affections 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 con­vinc'd every Benefit we receive from God deserves to be remembred and ac­knowleged 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 [Page 108] deep Affections as flow into outward Declarations of Praise.

'Tis true, our most solemn Recogni­tion of his Benefits is but a poor Duty compar'd with his immense Bounty to us: our Thanksgiving 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 'tis 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 enter'd into his Heart, and kindled a sacred Fire there. I will briefly shew, 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.

1st. That the Pardon of our Sins de­serves our most solemn Thankfulness, [Page 109] will appear by an evident Light, if we consider the Nature and Quality of the Benefit, the Means by which 'tis ob­tain'd, 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,Psal. 32.1. Blessed is the Man whose Iniquity is forgiven, and whose Sin is cover'd. 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. Go ye 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 [Page 110] but Dross and Dung. The Pardon of Sin has inseparably annex'd to it the Pri­vilege of Adoption, and a Title to the Kingdom of Glory. Our Saviour de­clar'd to the Apostle, that the End of the Gospel is to open the Eyes of Men, and to turn them from Darkness to Light, Acts 26.18 that they may receive the Forgiveness of Sins, and an Inheritance among them who are sanctified by Faith that is in me.

God permitted the Fall of Man, to raise him to a more excellent and stable Felicity. Adam was dignified with Do­minion over the lower World, and seated a Prince in Paradise; but his Happiness depended upon his Obedi­ence, and that upon the Freedom of his Will, which proved a dangerous En­dowment by his Abuse of it. He was foolish and fickle in the best State of Nature: he affected an independent Im­mortality, and being in Honour, became like the Beasts that perish. But the Par­don of Sin is the Foundation of eternal Happiness. Those who are justified shall be glorified, and made equal to the Angels, who are constant in Good, as the Devils are obstinate in Evil. The blessed State above is secure and unforfeitable: the Saints are uncapable of sinning and dying.

[Page 111](2.) The Means whereby our Par­don is obtain'd. I shall not dare to de­termine, that God could not have par­don'd us by his Sovereignty without Sa­tisfaction to his Justice, but he has been pleased to save us in a way most honou­rable to himself, and comfortable to us. The Psalmist tells us, according to the Name of God, so is his Praise. Psal. 48. As his excellent Attributes are manifest in his Works, understanding Creatures adore and celebrate them. The Wisdom of God so gloriously appears in the way of our Salvation, that the admiring Angels praise him for ever. And the Goodness of God is so conspicuous in saving us by Christ, that our exuberant Affections should be poured forth in Thankfulness. The Remission of our Sins is by Redemp­tion in his Blood. It was an Expression of David's Piety, that he would not serve God with that which cost him no­thing, 2 Sam. 24.24. but purchase the Sacrifice by a Price: and it was the high Expression of God's Love, that he would not save us with that which cost him nothing, but with the sacred Treasure of Heaven, the precious Blood of his Son. Besides, the guilty Conscience has so quick a Sense of God's revenging Justice, that [Page 112] our Assurance would not be so entire in his Mercy, without Satisfaction made by the Sufferings of our blessed Media­tor. In this we have the Advantage of David, who had not so clear a Discove­ry of the Means of our Pardon, but a general Knowledg of the Forgiveness of Sins; yet that inspir'd such flaming Af­fections into his Breast, that he begins the Eucharistical Psalm for that Mercy, and concludes it with Bless the Lord, O my Soul: But we that have had Jesus Christ evidently set forth as crucified before our Eyes, to reconcile God to us; we to whom it is revealed, that the Robe of our Salvation is woven out of his bleeding Bowels, in the same Proportion as our Knowledg of this mysterious Mercy, our Thankfulness should exceed his. If any do not with the most ardent Af­fections acknowledg the Mercy of For­giveness so dearly purchased, 'tis an un­happy Sign he has no Interest in it.

(3.) The Circumstances of dispensing our Pardon. I shall consider two that make the Divine Mercy more glorious and worthy of our Thankfulness.

1st. That pardoning Mercy was dis­pensed to us, notwithstanding our con­tinued Rebellions against God. A Prince [Page 113] is sometimes induced to pardon a Crimi­nal, by the Solicitations of his Friends, and by his Prayers and Tears: but the Divine Goodness was the sole Mover for us, and interposed between Justice and our Offences. Instead of appeasing God by humble and mournful Submissi­on, and ardent Addresses for Mercy, we repeated the Provocations of his Dis­pleasure every day. How long did he with unwearied Patience wait to be gra­cious? If after ten thousand Denials of accepting his Mercy, he had forsaken us, we had been as miserable as we are sinful. But notwithstanding our being in­flexible to the innumerable Calls of his Word, impenetrable to the pure Moti­on of his Spirit, and insensible of his ex­cellent Goodness that leads Sinners to Repentance; tho the Love of Heaven or Fear of Hell could not prevail with us to forsake our Sins: when we were prepared for Wrath, and averse and ut­terly indisposed for the receiving his Mercy, then his Grace, as free as omni­potent, gave us Repentance unto Life, and qualified us for Pardon, and bestow­ed it upon us. The Extenuation of our Sins is inconsistent with the Exaltation of Grace: but the more humble we are [Page 114] in the deep Sense of our Guilt, the more thankful for the Divine Clemency. That God was pleased to crown us with Loving-kindness and Mercy, when a kil­ling Charge of innumerable Offences was levell'd against us, O Goodness, truly Divine and Infinite, and should accordingly affect us with Admiration!

2dly. Pardoning Mercy distinguishes between Sinners of equal Guilt, and of­ten saves those of greater Guilt when others die eternally: This Comparative heightens God's Love and our Thank­fulness. How many are surpriz'd and cut off in a Course of Sin? how many die without Repentance, and are under a notorious Necessity of perishing? yet we that were as bad or worse, neither melted and made pliable by his Good­ness, nor better'd by his Judgments, he spared, and by his Grace cleansed and changed us, that we might partake of Mercy. In this Dispensation the Que­stion of the Apostle may be put in its full Force, Who made thee to differ? No­thing within us, nothing without us, distinguish'd us from those that perish; there were the same polluted Principles in our Hearts, and the same rebellious Sins in our Lives: only the Mercy of [Page 115] God that has no moving Cause but it self, made the Difference. Let the Com­parison be contracted between us and our Associates in Sin, and as the Sun­beams concenter'd in a Burning-glass, it will more inflame our thankful Affecti­ons. How many that were joined in the commission of social Sins, of Intem­perance, Uncleanness, Unrighteousness, and the like, are dead, and without the Reserve of pardoning Mercy, and some were rescued from Damnation, as due to them as to the rest. At the last Day when there shall be an everlasting Sepa­ration between those at the right Hand, and those at the left Hand of the Judg of the World, we shall understand the Riches of Grace that distinguish be­tween us and the Partners of our Guilt: as by seeing us justified and received in­to Glory, their sad Exclusion will be aggravated to Extremity; so by seeing them doom'd to Destruction for ever, the saving-Grace of God to us will be more glorious.

(4.) The Consequents of Pardon in the present Life deserve our most affe­ctionate Thankfulness.

1. The Pardon of Sins gives us a re­gular Title to all temporal Blessings, [Page 117] and the truest Sweetness in their Frui­tion. God is the universal and absolute Proprietary of all things in this World, being made by his creating Power, and continued by his preservative Power. By our rebellious Sins we were under a just Deprivation of them. Now the Pardon of Sin takes off the deadly For­feiture, and restores the Use and Benefit of temporal Blessings to us. 'Tis true, God by his general Bounty affords Sup­plies to his Enemies; The Sun rises with his chearful Light, and the Rain falls upon the Just and Vnjust; and wicked Men have a civil right to their Possessi­ons: but they are not the Gifts of his special Love to them. The Prodigal was first pardon'd, and then entertain'd with a Feast. The Love of God gives a chearful Tincture to all his Benefits. 'Tis emphatically said, God, even our own God, shall bless us. As he is pleased to value and accept the meanest Service that is mix'd with our Affections to him: A Cup of cold Water that comes from the Spring of Love, shall have its Re­ward: So his Love raises the Price of every Blessing. The Psalmist having set forth the Riches, and Prosperity, and Peace of a Kingdom, breaks forth, [Page 117] Happy is the People that are in such a case. But he presently revokes it, and ascends with a Gradation of Light and Force; Yea, happy is that People whose God is the Lord; who are in a State of Divine Fa­vour. Temporal Blessings, if they are not the Gifts of God reconciled to us in the Redeemer, are Snares that alienate the Hearts of Men from God, and fo­ment their Lusts, and prepare them for final Destruction. The rich Man had his good things here; and was torment­ed after his sensual Fruitions. A rebel­lious Sinner is spared for a time, and pu­nished for ever. The King of Sodom was rescued from Captivity by Abra­ham, and reserved for Destruction by a Shower of Fire and Brimstone.

2. The Pardon of our Sins allays and mitigates all Afflictions in the present State. The Conscience of Guilt mix'd with Affliction, is like the poisoning a Sword that makes it wound more dead­ly. The Spirit of a Man may bear tem­poral Evils; that is, by Counsel and Constancy may support himself under them; but a wounded Spirit who can bear? Conscience in Anguish by the feeling of God's Wrath for our Sins, and Fear of the Extremity of it hereafter, is an into­lerable [Page 118] Evil. Let the Affliction be a light Touch upon the outward Man, yet when the afflicted Person considers, that 'tis sent from God as an Enemy, and 'tis the Beginning of his Wrath that is a consuming Fire, he is dispirited and sinks under the Weight of it. How can frail Man encounter with offended Omnipotence, sinful Man conflict imme­diately with the Holy God? The Sense of Guilt makes a Man a Terror to him­self, and consequently makes Afflictions to be more piercing and dolorous. Whereas when the Soul is establish'd in the Peace of God, it finds Consolation in his pardoning Love, superiour to all kinds and degrees of external Evils that can afflict us here. 'Tis the happy Pri­vilege of the Inhabitants of Zion, the holy City,Isa. 33. ult. They shall not say they are sick, for their Iniquities shall be forgiven. The Divine Comforter fortifies their Faith in the Promises of the blessed Issue out of all their Afflictions: All things work toge­ther for the Good of those who love God. Our Love to God is the Reflection of his Love to us, that is powerful so to order all Evils, that they shall harmoniously conspire to our eternal Happiness. The Impression of this in the Spirits of God's [Page 119] Children, makes them patient and sub­missive with Resignation under all Affli­ctions. 'Tis certain the fastening of the Mind in Contemplation of an excellent Object, may cause so strong a Diversion, that bodily Pains are much mitigated. The Martyrs, by the powerful Impressi­on of the glorious Reward, seem'd to be in an Extasy, without Feeling in the midst of their cruel Sufferings. The Prophet Habakkuk triumphantly de­clares, Altho the Fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall Fruit be in the Vines: the Labour of the Olive shall fail, and the Fields shall yield no Meat: The Flock shall be cut off from the Fold, and there shall be no Herd in the Stalls. Tho all the Sup­ports and Comforts of Life fail, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my Salvation. Joy is the Affection of Prosperity; but as the scalding Drops of God's Wrath upon the Conscience turn all the Comforts of a Man into Tor­ment, so the cordial Drops of his Love change Afflictions into Consolations.

3. I will shew that the Pardon of our Sins produces an excellent Temper and Disposition of Soul to praise God. Love to the Benefactor, and Joy in the Bene­fit, are the Incentives of Thankfulness. [Page 120] They tune the Heart and Tongue in the Musick of Praise. When they are raised to a Flame, they have a kind of Charm, of Rapture and extatick Force, and transport the Soul above it self in Expressions of Praise. These holy Af­fections in the Angels and Saints above are in their Exaltation: and the Circle of their Employment is, to acknow­ledg and admire, to reverence and mag­nify God, for his absolute Excellencies, and his relative Benefits. Love and Joy are regulated by their Objects and Mo­tives. Exceeding Love and Joy, when terminated on worldly things, are ex­ceeding Folly: they are empty and va­nishing, a sudden Blaze that dies in a Moment. But the Pardon of our Sins infinitely endears God to us, and pro­duces a substantial permanent Joy. His Love, tho our Hearts be as hard as a Rock, as cold and dead as the Grave, will melt us, and kindle a holy Heat of Affection, a Love singular and supreme to God, according to the Excellency of the Benefit. Love will ingeminate the Praises of God:Psal. 118. Thou art my God, I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee. Our Joy in the Benefit will be ac­cording to our extreme want of it, and [Page 121] the Strength of our Desires to obtain it. Without the Pardon of our Sins, it had been better for us we had never been born; or made in a lower Rank of Creatures uncapable of Damnation. According to the Conviction of the Greatness of our Misery, our Longings will be for Deliverance: The Desire accomplish'd is a Tree of Life. The Tree of Life was in the midst of Paradise, the Centre of its Pleasures. According to the Degrees of our Desires, such is the Sweetness of Fruition. Now when the Soul is over­whelm'd with the fearful Apprehensions of everlasting Death, how ardent are the Desires of Pardon? how unsatisfied without it? and what Impressions of Joy are felt from the sealing its Pardon? Solomon tells us, That good News from a far Country is like cooling Water to one burnt up with Thirst. How much more refreshing is the Testimony of the blessed Comforter from Heaven, to one fainting in the Estuations of Conscience, that his Sins are pardoned? David expresses his Valuation and earnest Longing for the Favour of God, and his joyful Sense of it: There be many that say, Psal. 5. Who will shew us any Good? Lord, lift up the Light of thy Countenance upon me: Thou [Page 122] hast put Gladness in my Heart, more than in the time that their Corn and Wine in­creased: An inward cordial Joy, that far exceeds the counterfeit Joy in the Countenance, that ends in Heaviness. Now the thankful Sense of a Benefit is correspondent to the joyful Sense of it, and the joyful according to our languish­ing longing after it. Fervent Prayer for the pardoning Mercy of God, and a frozen Acknowledgment of it, are ut­terly inconsistent. There is no Joy in the World so sensible and affecting, as the Joy of one saved from present Death. A condemned Man values and rejoices more in receiving two Lines where his Pardon is contained, than in the Con­veyance of a Kingdom. Hezekiah, when under the Sentence of Death in his Sickness, how passionate were his Addresses for Recovery? how exube­rant were his Joy and Thankfulness for his Rescue from perishing? The living, the living, Isa. 38.19. he shall praise thee, as I do this day. He resolves to renew the Praises of his gracious Preserver every day: The Lord saved me;Ver. 20. therefore we will sing my Songs to the stringed Instruments all the Days of our Life, in the House of the Lord. Had he so quick and warm a [Page 123] Sense of the Divine Mercy that saved him from the Grave, how much more ardent should our Acknowledgments be for the saving us from Hell? If we have the Feeling of Sin, as we have of Sick­ness, and are as duly sensible how much the Life of the Soul, our excellent and immortal Part, is to be preferred before the Life of the frail and perishing Body, our Joy and Thankfulness would be in the highest Elevation, in remembring forgiving Mercy. This will be the Ar­gument of the high and everlasting Praise of God in Heaven.

I shall conclude with this Advice, Let us not content our selves with verbal Acknowledgments of this real and glo­rious Benefit: Let our Thanksgiving be joined with Thanksdoing; then we shall be accepted. Of this we have the most comforting Assurance from God him­self; He that offers Praise glorifies me: Psal. 50. ult. and to him that orders his Conversation aright, I will shew the Salvation of God.


BOOKS writ by William Bates, D.D. and sold by B. Aylmer.

THE Harmony of the Divine Attributes, in the Contrivance and Accomplishment of Man's Redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ: Or Discourses wherein is shewed, how the Wis­dom, Mercy, Justice, Holiness, Power, and Truth of God, are glorified in that great and blessed Work.

Considerations of the Existence of God, and of the Immortality of the Soul, with the Re­compences of the future State. To which is now added, The Divinity of the Christian Religi­on, &c.

The Four Last Things, Death and Judgment, Heaven and Hell, practically considered and ap­plied.

The Danger of Prosperity discovered, in se­veral Sermons.

The great Duty of Resignation in Times of Affliction, &c.

A Funeral-Sermon on Dr. Thomas Manton, who deceased October 18, 1677. With the last publick Sermon Dr. Manton preached.

The Sure Trial of Uprightness, opened in se­veral Sermons upon Psal. 18. v. 23.

A Description of the blessed Place and State of the Saints above, on John 14.2. Preached at the Funeral of Mr. Clarkson.

The Way to the highest Honour, on John 12.26. Preached at the Funeral of Dr. Jacomb.

The speedy Coming of Christ to Judgment, on Rev. 22.12. Preached at the Funeral of Mr. Benj. Ashhurst.

A Sermon on the Death of the Late Queen Mary.

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