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done it, or are doing it? Surely that were to pray for the shutting up of God's bowels of mercy on us, rather than the opening of them; “For if we forgive not men, God will not forgive us ?” ver. 15. Thirdly, That these words, “as we forgive them that trespass against us, are an argument, though not to move God to forgive, yet to move us to believe that God will forgive us, I think will not be denied by any sober person.
But if it be such an argument, then the soul must feel itself endued with this qualification, ere it can certainly determine that God will forgive its sin; and the confidence of hearing cannot be in greater degree than the feeling of that qualification. Fourthly, That it is so to be understood, appears from the parallel place, Luke. xi. 4. “Forgive us—for we also forgive; kai gar hemeis aphiemen. Picator expounds forgiveness in the petition, plainly of the manifestation of pardon. “Christ (says he) by devine remission* in this place understands the sense of it in our minds, which is the sense of faith ; signifying, that it cannot be that we by faith can feel the divine remission, unless we be conscious to ourselves of our remission whereby we have forgiven others.” That we pray here then for the sense of pardon, is evident from what is said; and so far I acquiece in it: but I mean not to say, that pardon is taken here or elsewhere only for the manisestation of pardon. But it seems no less evident to me, that, upon what is said, they that understand it only of the manifestation of pardon, may hold their ground against those who acknowledge no pardon but what respects the obligation to eternal wrath. But in regard that a soul may have the sense of pardon touching the obligation to eternal wrath continuing with him, and that he is still obliged daily to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” in respect of which he can only pray in such a case for the continuance of it; and seeing the words are apt to beget in us a conception of a formal pardon, and that the scripture teaches us another sort of a formal pardon than what respects God's eternal wrath; I do not judge, that the sense of pardon is all that we are taught to pray for in this petition. Therefore,
2. I answer, We pray here also for a formal pardon. For understanding of which, let us remember the distinction formerly made betwixt pardon of sin as it relates to the obligation whereby the sinner is bound over to eternal wrath, and that which respects the obligation whereby the soul is bound over to temporary strokes. That pardon of sin is in scripture used in the last sense, bath been already proven, and it is very commonly so taken. I shall adduce
Schol. & b. in Mat. vi. 12. 14.
some other instances. 2 Kings. xxiv. 4.“ And also for the innocent blood which he shed, which the Lord would not pardon.” Jer. v. 1. “Run, through the streets of Jerusalem, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it.” Would not the Lord pardon the bloodshed by Manasseh (to them that were involved in the guilt with him) as to the obligation to eternal wrath ? Manasseh himself was pardoned in that sense, and doubtless God passed no such peremptory sentence on the rest that were involved in his guilt. But the context plainly tells us, it is meant of temporary strokes that came upon the Jews by the hands of their enemies. Is that the gospel offer to pardon Jerusalem as to the obligation to eternal wrath, if there were found but a few among them* that sought the truthi ? No, sure; though the Lord averts temporal strokes on that account many times. The believing and repenting people of God still under temporary strokes complain, Lam. iii. 42. saying, “We have transgressed, and have rebelled, and thou hast not pardoned.” But will God hold his people ander obligation to eternal wrath, though believing, repenting, confessing, and forsaking ? Is. xl. 2. “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins;” not in a way of vindictive justice, surely, but of temporary strokes from fatherly displeasure. I say then, that in this petition we are taught to pray daily for the pardon of sin, as it respects temporary strokes, and fatherly displeasure ; but no otherwise, even no more than that God would justify us, and adopt us, &c. which are done already perfectly. And that this is the formal pardon which we are commanded to seek, is plain from that we are directed to go to a father for it. To conclude: we are taught there to pray for the sense of pardon as touching the obligation to eternal wrath, and for a formal pardon respecting temporary strokes; or, if you please, call it only that formal forgiveness just now mentioned, so that ye include the other in it, as a certain species in the general kind. For the confirmation of the objection, what the practice of the saints is de facto, is not the question; but what it ought be de jure, or in point of right. When the children of God have lost sight of their interest in Christ, what wonder is it that they pray as those who have no part in bim? But such a practice is grounded on a mistake, and therefore is not warrantable. But that their prayers are actually sometimes for the removal of temporary anger, when they pray for pardon of sin, though some may understand them otherwise, is evident: As when David, Psal. xxv. “ Lifting up his soul to God," ver. 1; “trusting in him,” ver. 2; "waiting on him all the day,” ver. 5; recalling to mind former experiences of God's lovingkindness, ver. 6; and conscious to himself of those acts; yet prays, ver. 7. "that the Lord would not remember the sins of his youth :" can it be supposed, that he thought they were unparduned as to the guilt of eternal wrath still? Or did the church think so, Psal. Ixxix. 8. when she prays, “O remember not against us former sins?" It is plain both aim at the guilt of temporary strokes, that may be brought on after they are, by their pardon, put out of hazard of eternal wrath. I shall couclude this answer with what Mr. Rutherford* says: “Our deliverance from misery is twofold, as our misery is. First, There is a guilt of sin, or our obligation to eternal wrath; the other misery is the blot of internal guilt of sin. In regard of the former, we are freely and perfectly justified, and pardoned at once from all sins in our person and state. Through the sense of this, and in regard of deliverance from temporal judgments, and doubtings, and fears of eternal wrath, every day, while we seek daily bread, we desire that our sins may be forgiven.”
* Or a magistrate, as Caryl understands it.
OBJECT. 5. It is possible, that a believing person may fall into such a sin or sins of scandal, for which he may be justly cast out from the visible church; and, upon his neglect or practice of repentance, he stands bound or loosed from his sin, not only in earth, but also in heaven; for so Christ himself delievers it to us in Matth. xviii. 18. But this cannot possibly be, if all sins be already pardoned in heaven ; for then they are always loosed, and nerer bound in heaven.
ANSWER. That it is possible a believer may fall into such sins, for which he may be justly so treated by the church; and that what the church does that way in that case is ratified in heaven, I doubt not. But that such a person is bound over, upon his contumacy, either in heaven or earth, to eternal wrath, or loosed upon his repentance therefrom, I do utterly refuse : and till that be proven, the argument is of no force. I will not here enter upon an inquiry into the nature of excommunication. But the screwing it up so high in the case supposed, is so far from confirming the hypothesis of adversaries, that it doth exceedingly weaken it: for by this the sin of a believer may be loosed in heaven, and yet bound on the earth, and the church in her duty still as to that person. Put the case, (which may very well supposed), that the excommunicate believer, thinking himself (though wrongously) lesed by the sentence of
Dying and Drawing, p. 593.
excommunication, goes over seas into a far country, where there is no church at all, and is there touched with the sense of his sin, renews his faith and repentance, and sues for a pardon, or the removal of the obligation to eternal wrath; he cannot but have it, even according to the principles of our adversaries : yet still he is bound on earth; and if so, bound in heaven too, as we heard just BOW: and so his sin is both pardoned and unpardoned in heaven at one and the self-same time-pardoned, because he has repented; nopardoned, because he still lies under the sentence. And if this binding of a believer's sin on earth and in heaven respect the obligation to eternal wrath, it seems to me natively to follow, that a believer in a state of excommunication is in a state of condemnation. For, as one says* well, “If there were any sin remaining, a man is still in the state of condemnation.” How powerful is truth! If we turn over but another leaf before that in which this argument is applauded as Achilleant indeed by the learned man,we shall find him telling us, that if God did yet hold you guilty, ye could not say, that ye have peace with God; for God is not at peace with you, nor are ye at peace with him, while enmity continues between you; and so it doth while any sin remains unpardoned. I And after he hath told us there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ, he adds, “ And verily, if all condemnation be removed, all sin is pardoned ; if any one sin remained unpardoned, then condemnation would still be in force upon us for that one sin.” But if we shall understand this binding and loosing of a believer's sin with respect to temporary anger or temporal judgments, the matter is plain, and the absurdity is evited: for though the man in such a case may, by the renewing of his faith and repentance, recover the sense of his pardon touching the obligation to eternal wrath ; yet, till he be loosed on earth, he is not loosed in heaven from the temporary judgment he was laid under; but still he feels the weight of God's fatherly displeasure, having no access to the communion of the church ; which is no doubt a very heavy band to a tender heart, and will make such an one go with a bowed down back.
OBJECT. 6. If all sins, past, present, and to come, are forgiven at once, then a justified person, in the midst of the grossest sins, may rejoice in God, as much as when he humbles his soul, repents, and seeks his face.
Answer. This objection is justly raised against Antinomians, who deny a believer's liableness, either to eternal wrath or temporary strokes for sin. But it can, with no colour or shadow of reason, be
• Brook's Golden Key, p. 74. VOL. VI.
† Sedgwick on the Covenant, p. 425.
brought against us, who are taught, that the frowns of our dearest Father are bitter as death. See more above.
OBJECT. 7. Forgiveness of sin is a judicial act in God, as the contrary act of condemning is. Now, the judge neither condemns nor forgives offences which are not extant.
ANSWER. This objection is of a piece with the first, and does truly strike at the root of the doctrine of the gospel, and quite overturns the satisfaction of Christ; and is as unadvisedly objected here by the adversaries, as some do object that logical maxim, Non-entis nulla sunt accidentia. It is dangerous to endeavour to regulate the procedure of the omniscient judge, according to the order of human policy. It was a judicial act in God, “ for sin to condemn sin in the flesh”* of Christ; but wo to us that live now, if it was only sin that was extant which was thus condemned.
OBJECT. 8. ult. The continual work of Christ in heaven as our intercessor, 1 John ii. 1. and the daily suing out of pardon in his name, seems to carry much in it for the acquiring of daily pardon.
ANSWER. It does so for pardon; that is, the taking off of temporary strokes. And that we might be sure of what we sue daily for, he left that comfortable word with his people before he ascended into heaven, "I go to your Father and my Father, to your God and my God.” But of this before.
I conclude with that of the Apostle, “ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occassion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
ORDER TO THE
OR NOT REPENTANCE BE NECESSARY
HAVING, in the former questions, had so frequent occasion to speak of repentance and its relation to the pardon of sin, I shall endeavour to clear what I have hinted at before in this matter. I do not now speak of the repentance that may be found in Cain and Judas, arising merely from the sense of God's wrath, which is called legal
* Rom. viii.