FORGIVENESS OF SINS: Repentance, the Path to Forgiveness (part 3)

comfort-repentance_forgivenessTaken and adapted from, “FORGIVENESS OF SINS”
Written by Henry Law, 1875

“God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” —Acts 5:31

How wondrous is the revelation of this verse!

It unfolds a heavenly scene. In the center Jesus appears, made in position “higher than the heavens,” exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and thus advanced by distinct exercise of the Father’s power. It specifies two offices which He is thus glorified to discharge.

1   As a PRINCE He shall wield the scepter of universal rule;
2    as a SAVIOR He shall dispense eternal blessedness.

It displays Him as, in consequence, bestowing two main gifts—repentance and forgiveness of sins. These are precious blessings from the hand of Jesus— but He does not grant them separately; they co-exist, as flowers of one stem— as songsters from the same nest. Is forgiveness given? Repentance precedes.

The heart which has not been thus melted will not rejoice in pardon.

If it delightedly basks in this sunshine it has reached the eminence through the low valley of repentance. The rich harvest follows seed sown in tears— the cheering rays shine after previous gloom. Heavenly wisdom places repentance in this station; thus a troop of fallacies is dispersed, and many an ensnaring net of Satan is totally destroyed.

Sometimes the enemy whispers to the awakened conscience, “How groundless are all fears! God is love—He will not cast off creatures whom His will has formed—His boundless mercy forbids it.” Thus Satan strives to retain souls in undisturbed impenitency, and lulls them to sleep on pillows of false hope.

Here it cannot be too strongly stated that God is rich in mercy, and that His mercy endures forever. But mercy is not the total of His mind. Let not the impenitent be deceived—unconditional forgiveness is a groundless phantom. Let none who neither feel, nor hate, nor shun iniquity, beguile themselves with expectation of immunity. Where is it written that pardons bless irrespective of the recipient’s state? Flowers grow not on a rock. If mercy alone can arrest due punishment, none can be lost, and hell becomes a fiction.

Again, Satan is wily to use even the death of Jesus as a means of ruin. He artfully employs the cross so as effectually to check real access to it. He sometimes allays soul-trembling by reminding that there is a fountain ever near, potent to cleanse—he strives to induce ease by insinuating that the precious blood hides all iniquity. Atonement free and boundless is indeed the glory of the Gospel. Let it ever be adoringly maintained that the stream from Jesus’ side obliterates the crimson stains. But is it true, that His blood falls, without distinction, on transgressors? Look within the precincts of pardon—a vast multitude appears, all beauteous in purity; but each is marked with the stamp of penitence and faith—each has wept for sin, and fled in contrition to the cross. Such is the Savior’s testimony—studiously He frames connecting links. “He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46, 47.) Repentance precedes forgiveness; forgiveness closely follows.

Peter on the day of Pentecost sounds the same note. Full of the Holy Spirit, he had denounced appalling guilt on the consciences of the crowd; he pointed to their hands, stained with the Redeemer’s blood; he boldly added, “God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36.) Then instantly he showed repentance as the direct path to obliterate their crimes— “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” There is pardon through the Crucified, pardon even for His murderers—but it must be sought in the appointed way of penitential grief.

Once more, the same Apostle chides the amazed crowd in Solomon’s porch. He cloaks not their frightful deed—he charges them with the sin of sins. “You denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life.” (Acts 3:14, 15.) But away with despair. There is hope, bright and sure; there is all hope even for such guilt—but it shines only in the pathway of repentance. They who stifle consciousness of the evil, perish; they who confess and bewail it, live. “Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19.)

Such is the voice of heavenly truth—such are the inspired tidings. Hence the ambassador of Jesus is privileged to beseech—O you sons of men, loathe your polluted course; let tears of penitence attest your broken spirits. Come, smiting upon your breasts, to the atoning cross, and you shall be welcomed, and your sins all purged away, and no sight of them again appear. Be wise then—”Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10.) “He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13.)

But when repentance is thus commended, its essence should be accurately stated. Cheats may assume fair form—all sorrow is not godly sorrow. Many may acknowledge the plague of sin with no true feeling of contrition—even tears may flow without heart-weeping. Weeds have semblance of sweet flowers—tinsel may glitter like the purest gold. Hence it is well that a discriminating glance should survey the features of Gospel-repentance. Let then its properties be tested—thus error’s downward slopes may be escaped, and counterfeits be detected. It is possible to perish with a lie in the right hand.

Genuine repentance is a threefold cord. Three ingredients compose the cup— three rays combine to form the picture.

The following phases are united. 

I. Contrition—which writhes under deep pain.
II. Confession—which humbly pours forth the bursting agony.
III. Abhorrence—which flees the hated cause of this distress. When these deep feelings meet, repentance lives, a gift from heaven. From these standpoints let this grace be now surveyed.

1    CONTRITION. This is no shallow, superficial, transient emotion.

It is not a slender reed, a summer brook, a morning cloud, the early dew. It penetrates the lowest recesses of the heart, and shakes the fabric with a giant hand. It causes a very earthquake in the inward man—it beholds with horror the blackness, filth, and heinousness of sin—its rankling sting is keenest misery. It is not content with reviling sin as injurious to fair fame, as a blight on temporal prospects, and as the parent of reproach and shame—it discerns it, as rebellion against God. It beholds sin’s impious hand uplifted against a loving Father—it loathes its character, as dark in ingratitude, treachery, impiety, and heartless hardness. The thought is torment that this monster has been so embraced. Contrition is thus an awakened anguish for indwelling and outbreaking sin—its acts evince its depth.

Is not this prominent on the prophet’s picture—“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.” (Zech. 12:10.) Here is a melting image! We see the writhing misery of the broken spirit.

Let it here be added, that when such godly sorrow rends the soul, relief is near; for a blessed promise closely hastens to console—”In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” (Zech. 13:1.)

Next the graphic instance of repentant Ephraim gives light. Contrition strains his very heart-strings. God in His sovereign grace had put forth a chastening hand—the agony of the smitten spirit soon wails. Mark the record—”I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, You have chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.” Then prayer goes forth, “Turn me, and I shall be turned—for You are the Lord my God.” Let the result be noted. The contrite heart thus mourns—”After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” (Jer. 31:19.)

Another view of this agony is supplied by Peter. He miserably falls, and Jesus turns and looks upon him. In that piercing eye there was reproach which broke the heart—and love which bound it up. He felt the heinousness of his iniquity. No restraint could cloak his contrition—”He went out and wept bitterly.”

It is sweet digression to observe how mercy flies to raise the downcast. The morning of the resurrection comes. At the sepulcher the angel bids the amazed women to be the messengers of glad tidings; but Peter is especially remembered—”Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter, that I am going ahead of you into Galilee.” And as that blessed day advances, the risen Savior seeks the trembling disciple in his lonely shame. For when the two hastened back from Emmaus they found the eleven gathered together, and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Peter.” This contrition is an essential ingredient of repentance, and this godly sorrow ever hastens to nestle in redeeming arms.

2    CONFESSION. Can this beaming cup not overflow?

Can the wounded heart thus smart, and out of the abundance no utterance burst forth? The burdened spirit cannot pine in silence—contrition in its lowest depths looks upward to the mercy-seat. It lingers not, but hastens to God’s footstool—there in tears it relates its misery. Sorrow gives wings—the very burden quickens speed. It is conscious that God is not ignorant, but it seeks relief in telling its woe. Daniel gives example. Thus he testifies—”So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I wore rough sackcloth and sprinkled myself with ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: ‘O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and keep your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations.'” (Dan. 9:3, 4, 5.) He opens the sluice of confession, and casts off his load in keeping nothing back. Mercy hears and joys to comfort. “I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sins of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice.” (Dan. 9:20, 21.)

There is similar instance in the heart-smitten prodigal. He feels his crushing wickedness—his heart is full and must find vent. “I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before You, and am no more worthy to be called Your son.” But pardoning love prevents him—”When he was yet a great way off his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Contrition must confess, and forgiving tokens are pressed on the confessing lips.

Such, also, is the testimony of David—“I acknowledged my sin unto You, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5.)

Let, also, the tender notes from apostolic lips be heard—”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9.) Thus contrition writhes, and confession sobs, and pardoning mercy calms the breast.

3 ABHORRENCE. To compete the outline, hatred of and resolute abandonment of sin, must be added.

Natural emotions may bewail iniquity; truth may confess its prevalence while the heart remains a stranger to utter loathing, and looks with lingering fondness towards its customary ways. Thus Pharaoh, terrified by appalling judgments, mourns, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I beg you, my sin only this once.” (Ex. 10:16, 17.) But the lament was as a flitting shadow—it swiftly passed away. The heart was unmoved—evil as evil was not hated.

Saul, in momentary relenting, assumes the penitential garb, while his deadly passion was unslain. The fearful picture of the Psalmist is still life-like— “When God killed some of them, the rest finally sought him. They repented and turned to God. Then they remembered that God was their rock, that their redeemer was the Most High. But they followed him only with their words; they lied to him with their tongues. Their hearts were not loyal to him. They did not keep his covenant.” (Psalm 78:34-37.)

Seeming repentance then may make unreal show. But when the Spirit implants this grace, loathing abhorrence of sin takes deep root. The whole heart is steeled in stout aversion—its every faculty and power arise in irreconcilable enmity—the whole inward man commences warfare without truce, and tramples it down beneath detesting feet, and hews it to pieces with unsparing severity. It wars not only against some forms of evil; it entirely, absolutely, universally loathes sin’s every shape and semblance. It hates it in its very essence, as the enemy of God, as execrable in itself, as the misery of the world, as the viper which drank the life-blood of the Savior. It has been wisely said, “In true repentance every affection of the soul turns away from sin—love says, I will embrace you no more; desire says, I will never long after you more; delight says, I will never take contentment in you anymore; hatred says, I will never be reconciled to you anymore; fear says, I will watch, lest I be surprised by you anymore; grief says, I will mourn and lament because the soul has been beguiled by you; hope says, I will look to Christ, that my poor soul may at length get victory over you.” Thus true repentance flees from all sin.

Such is the essence of this grace. They who are wise will anxiously inquire whether it is their established inhabitant.

How much hangs on the decision! It is beyond dispute that without repentance there is no forgiveness, and without forgiveness wrath must abide forever. Perhaps the search leaves some disturbed with doubt. They may sigh—Would that genuine repentance gave indubitable signs! But why this shivering in a cheerless region? Doubtless no human efforts can create a heaven-kindled flame; but what are the offices which Jesus ever lives to execute? “He is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Let prayer plead with Him—He will answer, and pour down this blessing, and carry on the holy work, until in thorough brokenness of heart and humble confession, and firm departure from all evil, the peaceful realms of pardon are attained.

FORGIVENESS OF SINS: The Essence of Our Need, the Completeness of its Scope, and the Doom of Sin (part 2)

Taken and adapted from, “FORGIVENESS OF SINS”
Written by Henry Law, 1875

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“But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving,
even though we have rebelled against Him.”

–Daniel 9:9

To the forgiveness of sins attention now reverts…

The subject justly claims large share of pious thought. This is mercy which showers saving blessings from its wings; it blots out transgression and hides all iniquity in its sheltering arms. Hence no words can fully tell its worth.

Angels may gaze and marvel, but they have no experience of its joys; for none of that pure company exult in pardon. It is solely the heart-felt property of the redeemed. It will be the hymn of heaven; but its first notes must be learned on earth. To learn it well, there must be commencement in the rudimentary volume of its need. Portions of this dark book have been perused—sin’s essence and its main developments have passed in review; and at frequent pauses the dreadful need was solemnly deduced. This need is prelude to the tidings—”But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.”

The subject pursued leads to (1) sin’s guilt; (2) sin’s final doom.

1    SIN’S GUILT.

Guilt is that property of sin which links it to God’s wrath. It constitutes its criminality, and forbids immunity. That sin has this property is clear—it stands confessedly a convict. It is undeniably a transgressor of the law of heaven. It cannot plead that it is guiltless; therefore, avowedly it merits punishment.

Thus in reference to GOD it has been proved to be alienation, hatred, contempt, defiance, robbery, treason, rebellion. Can such be its guilty state— can it evidently work havoc throughout all creation, and shall God sit indifferent, as though He saw no evil? The very thought strips Him of the glories of His holiness, and misrepresents Him as erecting a platform on which sin shall have free scope to act rebellion, and then be spared as innocent. Holiness ceases to be holy, except it inflicts on sin the penalties of its guilt. Righteousness is no more righteous, if it withholds the righteous condemnation. Truth lies low in ignominious shame, if the words be not fulfilled, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23.) “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Gal. 3:10.) The arm of Omnipotence is a broken reed, if it wields no sword to vindicate the honor and the majesty of God’s kingdom. Thus the guilty cannot be screened as guiltless.

Doubtless God is rich in mercy—His mercy endures forever—His mercy reaches unto the heavens. “To the Lord our God belong mercies.” If compassion were not a bright beam in heaven, there could be no remission of offence, no substitutionary offering, no transfer of guilt to a Surety, no Gospel, no Christ, no cross, no reconciling blood.

But mercy cannot annihilate the attributes which sit as compeers on the glorious throne. It lives co-equal with them. Its delight is to exalt, to magnify, to glorify them. Patience may wait long, until settled purposes are fully ripe; forbearance may forbear, until the cup of wrath at last overflows; patience may endure, until the most extreme limit be attained; but their honor must be maintained, and guilt not screened in Christ must encounter the just woe. The interceding voice, “Let it alone” at last will cease. God can by no means clear the guilty. Guilt then must receive its penal wages, unless some scheme be found to intercept the terrible result. Who now can fail to feel that the guilty sinner needs mercies and forgivenesses?

Let the page of EXPERIENCE be next read. It is written throughout with testimony that tremendous indications of divine displeasure pursue guilt. Amid sweet rays of mercy striving to break forth, big drops of wrath often descend.  The present appearance of earth is mournfully significant—the whole creation groans and travails together. What is inscribed on all the tears and travail? These dark evidences proclaim that sin has polluted earth, and that guilt is the accompaniment of sin, and that penalty adheres to guilt.

Tears and sighs and anguish in multiform misery tell what sin has brought into this earth—sufferings and agony point to their prolific parent. Mourners ever mourning, the afflicted ever wailing, the bereaved ever disconsolate, sickness ever weakening, pains ever torturing, death ever doing its relentless work, graves insatiable, loudly tell that God has a controversy with earth. Thus the wide spread of misery proves that the guilt of sin awakens just displeasure.

Mark, next, the terrors of CONSCIENCE when aroused from apathetic slumber by the Spirit. See the man awakened to the real perils of his guilty state. He is brought into a new world, where all is dismay. He perceives that his feet totter on the brink of a terrific precipice. He sees an abyss yawning in his path. He trembles, lest the next step may plunge him into bottomless perdition. He looks back, and shudders at his past career—he looks above; the sight is blackness of darkness—he looks onward, and hopelessness affrights him. All within stirs up remorse—all around is terror. The past cannot be recalled—the present must move onward— the future cannot be escaped.

In what mirror are these terrors seen? Surely in the mirror of sin’s guilt. Conscience, in the Spirit’s light, convicts of sin. Guilt is its inseparable companion—vengeance from heaven closely follows. The awakened conscience knows this and quakes. Annals of the past confirm this statement—they exhibit terrific outbreaks of divine wrath. Let the old world tell its dreadful tale. Its wickedness exceeded all that is denounced as wicked—its trespass grew up unto the heavens.

Enormity of evil cried aloud, and enormity of vengeance slumbered not. God opened the sluices above, and called the waters from their lowest caverns; billows upon billows swelled; one vast flood cleared the polluted earth, with the exception of one family. Each drop of that overwhelming deluge proves that sinful earth is guilty earth; and guilty earth cannot but call down wrath.

Let another instance lend corroborating aid. Omitting the cities of the plain— a smoking furnace, a flood of flame— let the miseries of Jerusalem in her final siege be pondered. Where can horrors be found like unto those horrors! The sword, the pestilence, the famine, the fire, the signs in the heavens, the wails of earth, surpassed all former prophetic indications. Vengeance sharpened its every fang to mangle and to torture. Jerusalem drank a brimful cup, and drank it to the very dregs. Whence comes this unparalleled anguish? Sin stands out as the guilty cause. Enormous guilt brought down enormous wrath.

Here let a shuddering glance look INWARD. Is not every child of man deeply immersed in guilt? “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6.) “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23.) How then shall the guilty escape, if no forgiveness hold back the arm of wrath! How precious now are the tidings—”To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.”

Thus far the guilt of sin has been viewed, as exhibited in time, and as endured on the little space of this passing scene. But sin’s results end not with earth’s brief moment. Here is only the opening of the sluice—the stream flows onward into the ocean of eternity, and there the billows find no shore, no bottom.

It requires no small effort to proceed; but to pause here would leave the subject only on the threshold of its magnitude. Progress must be made— time’s flimsy veil must be withdrawn; realities beyond must be distinctly faced.

2    SIN’S FINAL DOOM

Scripture abounds in warnings—their plainness is only equaled by their awe; their terrors are all faithfulness and truth. They speak loudly that men may ponder and escape. Blessed be the Holy Spirit for this arresting voice! He uncloaks the approaching day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God—”when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ—who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” (2 Thess. 1:7-9.) Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, are denounced on every soul of man that does evil. (Rom. 2:8, 9.)

There is no negative in this catalogue of woes. It is the aggregate of every form of positive endurance. Who can gaze with firm eye on the pictures of the Apocalypse! But they are portrayed for our admonition. Behold! He who is announced as the Word of God appears treading “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Rev. 19:15.) Here the omnipotence of God is exhibited not only mighty in wrath, but fierce in wrath, infuriate to execute vengeance. What must that vengeance be!

Tremendous terms exhaust the powers of imagination. The voice thunders, “Depart from Me, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Again the sound is heard of “blackness of darkness forever;” “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth;” “the worm that dies not, the fire that is not quenched.” No drop of water cools the parched tongue, and these torments are to endure forever and forever. No hope of deliverance sustains the lost. No respite ever relieves. Intermission never brings a momentary ease. No glimpse of dawn gives prospect of a better day. What was, still is, and forever shall be. It is all pain without release, all misery for everlasting ages. It is the woe of an eternal night.

Such is the endless end of sin. Such are the penalties to which its guilt is righteously consistent. Such is its sure condemnation. This picture is no fable; no fiction; no hyperbole. No color is inscribed too darkly. These are the true sayings of Him who is the Truth. But pictures, however vivid, fail to give exact idea. The painted flame shows not the sting and biting pungency of fire. They know little of the angry ocean’s swell—of the agonies of a wrecked crew—of the strength of the infuriate lion—of the devastation of the volcano, who only see these images portrayed on canvas. As heaven to be really known must be attained, so sin’s wages must be received before the fruit of its guilt can be conceived.

It will be happy if through this dreary passage a glorious prospect is attained. It will be so to all who now clasp to grateful hearts the good news—”To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.” Let then the reviving truth now have free course and be glorified. A remedy is provided. A refuge is erected. A fortress of escape is near. A rescue is at the door. “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” (2 Cor. 5:19.) Christ comes to the blessed work in obedience to the heavenly call, and the dictates of His love. He vicariously endures all these penalties. Hence “repentance and remission of sins are preached in His name among all nations.”

Let the tidings be devoutly prized, “Christ has suffered the just for the unjust.” In Him all manner of sin is forgiven to the children of men. This forgiveness of sins is the corner stone and glory of His Gospel. Gaining validity through Christ’s blood, it remits all penalties to the believer, abrogates all demands, relaxes all bonds, cancels all debts, blots out every accusing charge, silences all threats, blunts every weapon of wrath, extracts the sting of vengeance, averts all miseries, removes all apprehensions, opens the prison-doors, loosens all chains, closes hell, makes a straight path to heaven, and crowns an innumerable multitude with blessings of celestial favor.

Let men be wise to seek in an accepted time this inestimable gift. Let them, the Spirit helping, secure this prize, and turn not from the Father of all mercies, heaping on Christ the outpourings of His wrath, that He may heap infinities of bliss and glory on pardoned guilt.

Let not the only hope be slighted. It shines in Christ and in Christ alone. He is the treasure-house in which forgiveness is stored. Let not the multitude, or magnitude, or heinousness of transgressions deter. “A fountain is opened for all sin and uncleanness.” They who cast themselves therein are whiter than the whitest snow. Their blessed experience may truly testify, “But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1.)

FORGIVENESS OF SINS: The NEED of Forgiveness from Sin’s Essence (part 1)

Taken and adapted from, “FORGIVENESS OF SINS”
Written by Henry Law, 1875

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“But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.”  —Daniel 9:9

Such is the utterance of prophetic lips…

Daniel here speaks, wrestling with God, and valiantly refusing a repulse. The words sparkle as a bright gem in his diadem of prayer. Their testimony has this exceeding value—in brief space they reveal our God as glorious in mercies and forgivenesses, and show in terrible contrast the rebel character of man. Thus the blessing of blessings— the essence of the glorious Gospel of our God—the forgiveness of sins, appears in bold relief.

It is superfluous to state that this proclamation is not limited to supplicating Daniel—it pervades the book of Revelation as fragrance the sweetest garden. Echoing texts reverberate the note that our God is “ready to pardon.” Witness the answer when Moses prayed, “Show me Your glory.” The glories of His name resound; but the bright chain was incomplete without the link, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Ex. 34:7.)

Thus the ambassadors of Christ repeat the call, “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.” (Isaiah 55:7.) And again, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins—and by Him all who believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38, 39.)

Our sublime services, also, insert this truth in a most touching prayer—”O God, whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive, receive our humble petitions.” And worshipers are taught individually to profess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

It is not irrelevant here to state that the noble Reformer of Germany was fast bound in the dungeons of doubts and fears, sinking in the mire of despondency, and stumbling in the deepest gloom of darkness, when an experienced friend reminded him of this frequent avowal. Then light and peace enlivened his soul, and he went forth rejoicing and achieving wonders. He found God in Christ and triumphed in the strength of recognized forgiveness.

To estimate forgiveness rightly, it must be distinctly seen. It will be poorly prized, unless its value be weighed in balances of truth. It will not be sought, as surpassing all worlds in worth, until there be adequate knowledge of the miseries which it averts, the wounds which it heals, the joys which it kindles, the wrath which it quenches, the rescue which it achieves, the depths from which it raises, the heights to which it exalts. When sickness comes, a remedy is valued—shelter is entered, when storms impend.

What then is forgiveness as appertaining unto sin? What is the blessing implored in the petition—”Forgive us our trespasses”? It is remission of due penalties, the obliteration of incurred guilt, the withdrawal of just displeasure, the blotting out of accusing handwriting, the burying all offences in oblivion, the hushing of the loud thunder of the law, the canceling of its tremendous curse, the consigning to a sheath the sword of justice. It is the frown of Jehovah softening into eternal smiles. It encounters sin, and strips it of its destroying power.

Hence evidently forgiveness implies that sin has preceded. It can only effect its wonders in the element of transgression—there must be sin before there can be remission. Where no offence exists, no pardon can be needed—they cannot be restored whose feet are always in right paths.

Thus we reach the fundamental position that sin gives occasion for forgiveness. Sin is the need which calls for its intervention. Let then this monster now be boldly faced; let its hideous features be narrowly scrutinized; let it be stripped of its deceiving mask; let the cheating tinsel disappear; let it be viewed in its naked deformity; let its essence and character, and work, and guilt be traced unsparingly.

I    SIN’S ESSENCE.

What constitutes its character? No unanswerable question is here asked as to the parent of its birth—here is no search into its originating cause. The simple inquiry is—Where is its sphere of work, and what is its distinctive nature? Supreme authority replies. Scripture states in terms intelligible and incontrovertible, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4.) Violation then of God’s holy rule introduces sin—it breathes in the province of transgression.

God, as supreme in all His universe, fixes His mode of government. Accordingly, He issues His commands—if these be outraged, the outrage is sin. Its essence is disobedience to God’s law.

This essence appears in frightful enormity, when the purpose of this law is viewed. The sum of its requirements is worthy of the great Lawgiver. In divine simplicity it only requires Love. Its statute book enforces Love. It demands that the heart should beat in one pulse; the affections flow in one channel; the will be bound by one fetter; the desires burn in one flame; the actions move in one path—Love. The whole inward man must be bright in one complexion—Love. Any deviation from this course constitutes sin. This sublimity brightly shows the origin of the law to be divine. As a mirror it reflects Jehovah’s excellence—it is the transcript of His glorious being; it is holiness on its highest throne; it is purity in its loveliest form; it is perfection without one alloy. How abominable then is that principle which hates and resists such code, and strives to crush it beneath insulting steps! How incontrovertible is the position that they need forgiveness who fight against God under the banners of this monster!

It follows that the need of forgiveness is universal, for sin exercises a sway coextensive with all human life. It grasps each mother’s son in its vile arms, and stops not its assaults while time endures. It moves with the mind’s first movement—in the cradle it begins to stir. It grows with man’s growth; it walks beside him in his every path; it adheres as the very skin, and lingers in each dying chamber. There is no lofty dwelling and no lowly hut which it frequents not. There is no period of day or night which can repel its step. It is a universal and life-long plague; for where is the man whose career is not continual deviation from the rule of love? Hence the need of forgiveness of sins is world-wide. Hence is the preciousness of the testimony, “To the Lord our God belong mercies;” in the plural, “and forgivenesses;” in the cumulative, “though we have rebelled against Him.”

II    SIN’S DEVELOPMENT

This need becomes more apparent, as advance is made from SIN’S essence to some of its developments. Here it appears a many-headed hydra, a fiend of various forms. Its outbreak towards God, towards the soul within, towards the world around, betray it.

(1) Let diverse instances show its conduct towards GOD. Its feelings may be thus classed.

Alienation. Whatever departs from God’s rule departs from Himself. Contrariety to His law separates from His mind. Disinclination to His will moves altogether in an adverse course. It flees His face—it establishes an opposing interest. Far as the east is from the west, so far it is estranged from all that is divine. Sin is such alienation. They who are its slaves need to be forgiven, before they can see God’s face and live. Hatred. “The carnal mind,”— and every mind is such in which the Spirit dwells not—”is enmity against God—for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7.) By nature’s instinct the secret chambers of imagination swarm with thoughts tainted with dislike of God, His name, His nature, His perfections, His cause, His people, His Word, His scepter, His kingdom, His Christ. Sin has strong inclinations, and they all are arrayed against His righteous ways. It has ungodly bias towards the abominable things which God hates. Surely the victims of this passion need to be forgiven, before they can be one with God.

Contempt. With haughty look it sneers at sacred precepts. It scorns them as weak precision. It spurns the restrictions of godly walk as derogatory to man’s liberty. In the swellings of pride it tramples on the barriers which heaven has erected. Except forgiveness comes, the consequence is appalling woe.

Defiance. It raises an insulting head. It braves God’s displeasure. It ridicules all penal consequences. It mocks at the thunder-bolts of threatened wrath. It regards the right hand of the Lord as impotent to strike. It boldly asks, “Who is the Lord that I should serve Him?” Unless forgiveness intervenes what will be the doom!

Rebellion. It shatters the yoke. It breaks restraining bands. It ignores submission. It boasts, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” If power were equal to the will, it would invade the heaven of heavens, and hurl God from His throne. If forgiveness lingers, how terrible must be the end!

Treason. It enters into conspiracy with all heaven’s foes. It joins hands with every adversary. It combines with all dark plots. It betrays the citadel of God’s government. It opens the portals to admit all traitors. Without forgiveness, vengeance will be sure and just.

Robbery. God, as Sovereign, has a right to exact obedience. Sin defrauds Him of this due. It refuses payment of just demands. It withholds the allegiance of rightful service. It wantonly misuses every talent entrusted to its care. If not forgiven, how can it escape!

Such, and many more, are the developments of sin in reference to God. Thus the position is established, that vast is the need of vast forgiveness. How enchanting, now, is the sweetness of the words, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him!”

(2)  The picture darkens when the developments of sin in reference to the SOUL are seen.

It changes this garden of the Lord into a waste howling wilderness. Fragrant flowers cease to bloom; thorns and briers usurp their place. It dims the noblest jewel of God’s creation. It tears away its robe of righteousness, and casts it forth to face the world naked, impoverished, impotent—without one sheltering rag— with no possession but ignominious shame. It weakens every spiritual faculty. It so blinds, that the eye sees as through a glass, most darkly. It so impairs the ear, that the voice of truth is not discerned. It cripples every energy. The feet are powerless to climb the upward path of life. It infuses moral leprosy. It renders earth a spiritual mausoleum holding dead men’s bones —men live the tabernacles of dead souls. Behold this fair vessel a wreck on evil’s rocky coast, and then ponder the work of sin! Will not the cry ascend—What need of forgiveness for such wrong! Will not the tidings be prized—”To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him!”

(3)  The case assumes more frightful hue when sin’s inroads on the WORLD around is added.

Doubtless sin is inborn. It is a hereditary disease—the seeds of every evil are innate in each heart. Unaided by contagion it would universally exist; but yet by contact, influence, example, it multiplies, and becomes more rampant. A spark from without kindles the dry stubble—bad men wax worse by bad fellowship. As Christ’s disciples never move towards heaven alone, so evil beckons and decoys a multitude. Sin is a ready teacher, and has ready pupils. Let it be repeated, that each natural heart is from the cradle a hive of sin; but through evil suggestions and evil associations, evil broods swarm abroad on quicker wing. Tempted Eve becomes a tempter. Of Achan we read, “that man perished not alone in his iniquity.” (Josh. 22:20.) Jeroboam the son of Nebat is branded, as the man “who made Israel to sin.” Hence reproaches will embitter the miseries of the lost. Children will loathe misleading parents; companion will revile companion, as the first to lure to headlong fall.

When sin is contemplated running its infectious course— sowing universally the seeds of woe—ruining individuals, nations, generations—spreading a fatal plague—it cannot be denied that its course is ruinous. Perilous is the condition of man infected by it. Forgiveness must come, or sure and dreadful consequences ensue.

Why is this dark picture thus exhibited? There is no intent to leave any trembling, dismayed, cast down, fast-bound in shackles of despair. The true desire is to show in lovelier form the Gospel’s smile—and to win readier acceptance for the tidings, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him.”

Let it be repeated, that none can claim exemption from sin’s grasp! “All we like sheep have gone astray.” “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves.” Sin’s vile brand is upon all—but to all the Gospel comes, with cheering voice. It sweetly proclaims, the case is not hopeless—to perish is not inevitable—deliverance is provided—remedy is at hand—rescue opens large arms.

God extends a cup overflowing with forgivenesses. A way is opened, in which, without infringement of any holy attribute, He can pardon, restore to favor, and remit sin’s curse. Full, free, complete, everlasting forgivenesses have come forth from the courts of heaven. They stand ready to spread their saving mantle round the sons of men. Who will not bless God for His revealed and unalterable property—”But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.” Let no one rest until he can say, “I acknowledged my sin unto You, and my iniquity have I not hidden. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5.)

5 Marks of a Forgiven Soul

by J. C. Ryle

There is a clause near the end of the Apostle’s Creed, which, I fear, is often repeated without thought or consideration…

I refer to the clause which contains these words,

“I believe in the Forgiveness of sins.”

Thousands, I am afraid, never reflect what those words mean. I propose to examine the subject of them in the following statements, and I invite the attention of all who care for their souls. Do we believe in the “Resurrection of our bodies”? Then let us see to it that we know something by experience of the “Forgiveness of our sins.” I lay these things before every reader and I believe these five marks will generally be found more or less in all forgiven souls.

1st Mark:  Forgiven Souls Hate Sin.

32501_all_014_01-RepentenceThey can enter most fully into the words of our Communion Service, “The remembrance of sin is grievous unto them, and the burden of it is intolerable.” It is the serpent which bit them—how should they not shrink from it with horror? It is the poison which brought them to the brink of eternal death—how should they not loathe it with a godly disgust? It is the Egyptian enemy which kept them in hard bondage—how should not the very memory of it be bitter to their hearts? It is the disease of which they carry the marks and scars about them, and from which they have scarcely recovered—well may they dread it, flee from it, and long to be delivered altogether from its power! If you and sin are friends, you and God are not yet reconciled. You are not fit for heaven; for one main part of heaven’s excellence is the absence of all sin.

2nd Mark:  Forgiven Souls Love Christ.

images (6)This is that one thing they can say, if they dare say nothing else—they do love Christ. His person, His offices, His work, His name, His cross, His blood, His words, His example, His ordinances—all, all are precious to forgiven souls. The ministry which exalts Him most, is that which they enjoy most. The books which are most full of Him, are most pleasant to their minds. The people on earth they feel most drawn to, are those in whom they see something of Christ. He is their Redeemer, their Shepherd, their Physician, their King, their strong Deliverer, their gracious Guide, their hope, their joy, their All. Were it not for Him they would be of all people most miserable.

3rd Mark:  Forgiven Souls Are Humble.

imagesCA3SAWYPThey cannot forget that they owe all they have and hope for to free grace, and this keeps them lowly. They are brands plucked from the fire—debtors who could not pay for themselves—captives who must have remained in prison forever—but for undeserved mercy—wandering sheep who were ready to perish when the Shepherd found them! What right then have they to be proud? I do not deny that there are proud saints. But this I do say—they are of all God’s creatures the most inconsistent, and of all God’s children the most likely to stumble and pierce themselves with many sorrows. We have nothing we can call our own–but sin and weakness. Surely there is no garment that befits us so well, as humility.

4th Mark:  Forgiven Souls Are Holy.

seekTheir chief desire is to please Him who has saved them, to do His will, to glorify Him in body and in Spirit, which are His. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?” (Ps. 116:12), is a leading principle in a pardoned heart. It was the remembrance of Jesus showing mercy that made Paul in labors so abundant, and in doing good so unwearied. If anyone points out to me believers who are in a carnal, slothful state of soul, I reply in the words of Peter, “They have forgotten they were purged from their old sins.” (2 Pet. 1:9.) But if you show me a man deliberately living an unholy and licentious life, and yet boasting that his sins are forgiven, I answer, “He is under a ruinous delusion, and is not forgiven at all.” I would not believe he is forgiven if an angel from heaven affirmed it, and I charge you not to believe it too. Pardon of sin and love of sin are like oil and water—they will never go together. All who are washed in the blood of Christ, are also sanctified by the Spirit of Christ.

5th Mark:  Forgiven Souls Are Forgiving.

88E8607FD81A402DA620AE599CA5189AThey do as they have been done by. They look over the offenses of their brethren. They endeavor to “walk in love, as Christ loved them, and gave Himself for them.” (Eph. 5:2.) They remember how God for Christ’s sake forgave them, and endeavor to do the same towards their fellow-creatures. Has He forgiven them pounds, and shall they not forgive a few pence? Doubtless in this, as in everything else, they come short—but this is their desire and their aim. A spiteful, quarrelsome Christian is a scandal to his profession. Forgiveness is the way by which every saved soul enters heaven. Forgiveness is the eternal subject of song with all the redeemed who inhabit heaven. Surely an unforgiving soul in heaven would find his heart completely out of tune. Surely we know nothing of Christ’s love to us but the name of it, if we do not love our brethren.

jc-ryleMeet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 – 10 June 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool. Ryle was born at Macclesfield, and was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was Craven Scholar in 1836.  The son of a wealthy banker, he was destined for a career in politics before choosing a path of ordained ministry. While hearing Ephesians 2 read in church in 1838, he felt a spiritual awakening and was ordained by Bishop Sumner at Winchester in 1842. For 38 years he was a parish priest, first at Helmingham and later at Stradbrooke, in Suffolk. He became a leader of the evangelical party in the Church of England and was noted for his doctrinal essays and polemical writings.

Ryle was a strong supporter of the evangelical school and a critic of Ritualism. He was a writer, pastor and an evangelical preacher. Among his longer works are Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), Principles for Churchmen (1884). Ryle was described as having a commanding presence and vigorous in advocating his principles albeit with a warm disposition. He was also credited with having success in evangelizing the blue collar community. His second son, Herbert Edward Ryle also a clergyman, became Dean of Westminster.

Excerpts from Wikipedia