On the Question of Sin and Forgiveness, and God’s Method of Mercy

Taken and adapted from, “THE CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCER; OR, SHORT REFLECTIONS UPON THE FAITH, LIFE, AND CONDUCT OF A REAL CHRISTIAN”
Written by, Ambrose Serle

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“Of these things put them in remembrance.”
–2 Timothy 2:14.

Not equal grace, by Paul obtain’d,
Nor Peter’s pardon I require;
But what upon the Cross was gain’d
By the poor thief, would I desire!
–Copernicus’ Epitaph

ON THE QUESTION OF SIN AND FORGIVENESS

WHEREWITH shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?” How shall I, a sinner, approach the eyes of that Majesty, which cannot look upon sin without abhorrence? My iniquities are more in number than the hairs of my head; and my heart sinks within me on their remembrance. My affections are naturally all inclined to the world, and worldly things. My judgment is depraved; my will is perverse; my understanding is darkened; my knowledge vain; and I see nothing within me, or about me, but what by guilt is altogether defiled. I have sore proof of that scripture, “that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually,” and that “from the sole of the foot, even to the head, there is no soundness” in my nature; but only “the wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores” of sin.

How then can I please God? How shall such a worm, such a lump of perverse ungodliness, obtain his favor? Shall I seek to deserve it by my own good thoughts? Alas! I am not sufficient of myself to think even one. Shall I by excellency of words approach my offended Maker? He regards not words, but the spirit and the heart; and my spirit and heart are wholly defiled. Shall I then by good works attempt to render him propitious? 0 my God, where shall I find them? How can I begin to act, before I have begun to think, what is right? How can the exercises of the body be pure and free, when the soul is unholy, and enslaved by sin? And if, from this day, I could cease from evil, and do perfectly what is just and right, which the experience of all men tells us that it is impossible; yet what will become of the long black catalogue of iniquities, both in heart and life, which are already written against me? How shall I wipe off the sins of my nature and my life, respecting the times that are past?

0 Lord, you have revealed yourself, as a holy God, and a just. You have declared, that you will not spare the guilty. And I have offended your righteous law in every hour and every action of my life. How then can I be saved? How is it possible for me to escape the wrath to come? My anxieties, like my sins, might justly overwhelm me; and I ought to tremble at the righteous judgment, which I know I deserve. There are but a few days, at the most, for me to live upon earth; and I am not sure of one. 0, how shall I flee from the wrath to come? How shall I avoid eternal burnings, in which no man can dwell but with misery, and of which no man can think strictly without horror? Lord, can such a sinner as I escape?

Can you have mercy upon me? Such are the breathings of the heart when it first begins to awake, and live, and feel that there is an evil and a curse in sin, and that sin, with all its evil, lies at the door.

THE METHOD OF MERCY

SUCH a flowing from the heart, as that just mentioned, gladdens all heaven. It is the motion of the divine Spirit upon the troubled deep, and will ere long produce both life and peace.

Soul, do you feel the power of your own corruption? Are these your meek, yet bitter cries? 0 hear, and may your God enable you to believe, the glad tidings of his own salvation!

You are a sinner, it is true; and your mercy it is, to see, in due measure, how great a sinner you are. It is the first line in the large book of humiliation, which you must be reading all your life long. But Christ died for sinners such as you; for all sinners that come unto God by him; for the vilest of sinners, that see the vileness of sin, and bemoan it, as you dolt. He saved Mary Magdalene the harlot, Matthew the publican, Paul the persecutor, Peter the swearer, liar, and denier of his Master, the malefactor on the cross, who had been a thief and a murderer, and ten thousand more like these; and he has just the same power, means, and mercy to save your soul, even yours.

He saves graciously, that is, freely; because no wisdom nor worth of man could have contrived or obtained his greatness of salvation. It was planned in grace, and performed by grace. It is all of grace, and bounty, and love, from beginning to end.

For this purpose he came into the world, and took our nature upon him. He took it in its meanest and humblest form; and was content to be born in a stable, to be brought up by a laboring man, to labor with him too, to suffer the worst evils of human life, and the sorest pains of human death, that so he might be an oblation or sacrifice in the stead of his people, and render an atonement to the justice of God for them. These sufferings, and this atonement, are the debt due to the law and holiness of God, without which, consistently with his attributes, he could not spare the sinner; but by which he can be both “just,” and yet “the Justifier” of him who takes refuge in Jesus. Yea, this dear Savior having paid the penalty due to his transgressions, God is now faithful and just to forgive him his sins; or rather more faithful and just to forgive them, than he could be in laying on the punishment again, which Christ endured in that behalf. Christ also lived upon earth to fulfil all righteousness; and he fulfilled it completely for his redeemed. He makes himself over to them; and all he has is theirs, through faith in him. Thus they have a right to call him, what he is, “The Lord our righteousness.” God is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake, and beholds every poor sinner who trusts in Christ, and lives in him, as unblamable and unreprovable in his own most piercing sight; yea, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. This righteousness is that garment of salvation, which covers them wholly, and fits them perfectly for the kingdom of heaven.

Contrite soul, do you believe this? Is this good news, the very gospel, or good news of God? Search and see. Read and pray over your Bible, and you will find, that it is the very voice and will of your Lord. 0 that the fallow, the hard and barren ground of your heart, may be so broken up by his power, as to welcome this joyful news, like the thirsty soil receiving the showers from the skies!

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Ambrose Serle (1742–1812) was an English civil servant, diarist and writer of Christian prose and hymns as well as the book titled The Christian Remembrancer here being posted. His The American Journal of Ambrose Serle, Secretary to Lord Howe 1776-1778 is a primary source in the history of the American Revolution. The Lord Howe concerned was Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe. Ambrose Serle was the private secretary to the British general William Howe. He was the author of Americans Against Liberty a pamphlet published anonymously that defends the British Empire as a rightful and just government. It also criticizes the American colonists as enemies of the British public and opponents of the freedoms provided by Great Britain. He believed the colonists’ complaints against King George III were unimportant and were not a strong enough reason to revolt against the government. He thought that the colonies harmed England financially, but Britain had little choice but to govern and protect them. He was a strong loyalist and supported England greatly. His pamphlet writings of finances influenced the speeches of Lord North, an influential representative in Parliament, and an important figure for both sides in the revolution. While the pamphlets effects were less noticeable with the patriots, they were there just the same. Those things said, please do not let them influence your resolve to read this work. Forgive him, and read on.

Grace e-books says: “it was immediately evident that Christ was on every page of it’s contents, and in virtually every chapter title. That not only means the word Christ, but the person of Christ. If you are a lover of Christ and the message of reconciliation and redemption in Him, you will find this one of the most assuring and easily read e-books on the site. Come and see what author Ambrose Serle thinks of Christ. You won’t be disappointed.

A Passionate and Compassionate Warning…To Come to Christ!

Taken from, “Compassionate warning and advice to all, especially to young persons.” 
Written by Richard Baxter, first published in 1708.

Edited for thought and sence.

5631188-L[There are very few times that I have had to labor so diligently to bring out a post, and so very few times I felt to myself, how worthwhile the labor! In the following thoughts, we find the Puritan, Richard Baxter, at his finest. Here he makes an impassioned plea for youth to look at what they are doing, as well as getting it right with God. While theologians feel that Baxter’s doctrine of justification is rather shaky, his capacity to reach out with understanding and compassion and talk to the soul of the person makes him my favorite Puritan for counseling. The following thoughts are frank and direct, they pull no punches and they compromise not one wit… they are the closest words that I have found to my mother’s numerous lectures.-MWP]

All your time and life is given you by God for one end and life, and all is little enough, and will you alienate the very beginning, and be a rebel so soon?

Young person you have not assurance of life for a day, or an hour. Thousands go out of the world in youth. Alas, the flesh of young men is corruptible, liable to hundreds of diseases, as well as the old. How quickly may a vein break, and Cold seize on your Head and Lungs, and turn to an incurable tuberculosis? How quickly may a fever, an inflammation, an abscess, or one of a thousand accidents, turn your bodies to corruption ? And O that I knew how to make you sensible how dreadful a thing it is to die in an unholy State, and in the guilt of any unpardoned Sin! An unsancified soul, that hath lived here but to the flesh and the World, will be but fuel for the Fire of Hell, and the wrathful justice of the most Holy God.

And though in the course of undisturbed Nature, young men may live longer than the old, yet nature hath so many disturbances and crosses, that our Lives are still like a candle in a broken lantern, which a blast of wind may soon blow out. To tell you that you are not certain in an unsanctified state, to be one day or hour more out of hell, I expect will not move you so much as the weight of the case deserves, because mere possibility of the greatest hurt does not affect men when they think there is no probability of it. You have long been well, and long you hope to be so: But did you think how many hundred veins, arteries, nerves, must be kept constantly in order, and all the blood and chemistry in due balance, and how the problems of one vein, or imbalance of the blood, may quickly end you, it would rather teach you to admire the merciful Providence of God that such a body should be kept alive one year.

But were you sure to live to maturity of age, alas, how quickly will it come? What haste makes time? How fast do days and years roll on? Had I done no service for God, that I could now look back upon, I should seem as if I had not lived. A thousand years, and one hour, are all one (that is, nothing); when they are past, and every year, day and hour of your lives hath its proper work: and how will you answer for it? Every day offers you more and more Mercies,and will you despise and lose them? If you were heirs to land, or had an annuity which amounted but to a hundred pounds a year, and you were every day to receive a proportion of it, or lose it; would you lose it through neglect, and say, I will begin to receive it when I am old? Poor labourers will work hard all the day, that at night they may have their wages : And will you contemptuously lose your every day’s mercies, your safety, your communion with God, your daily blessings and his grace, which you should daily beg, and may daily receive?

Either you will repent and live to God, or not, if not, you are undone forever. Oh how much less miserable is a dog, or a toad, than such a sinner! But if God will shew you so great mercy, oh how will it grieve you to think of the precious Time of youth which you madly cast away in sin! Then you will think, O what knowledge, what Holiness might I then have got! What a comfortable Life might I have lived! O what days and years of mercy did I cast away for nothing! Yea, when God has given you the pardon of your sin, the taste of his Love, and the hopes of Heaven, it will wound your hearts to think that you should so long, so unthankfuly, so heinously offend so Good a God, and neglect so merciful a saviour, and trample upon Infinite Divine Love, for the Love of so base and fleshly a pleasure, That ever you should be so bad, as to find more pleasure in sinning, than in living unto God.

downloadbe it known to you, if God in mercy convert and save you, yet the bitter fruit of your youthful folly may follow you in this world to the grave.

If you waste your estate in youth, you may be poor at age: If by drinking gluttony, idleness, or filthy lust, you contract any incurable diseases in youth, repentance may not cure them till Death. All this might easily have been prevented, if you had but had foreseeing Wisdom. And if ever you think to be men of any great Wisdom and usefulness in the world, to your selves or others, your preparations must be made in youth. Great Wisdom is not obtained in a little time.

And O what a dreadful danger is it that your youthful sin becomes incurable, and custom hardens you, and deceivers blind you, and God forsakes you, for your willful resistance of his grace! God may convert old hardened Sinners: But how ordinarily do we find that age doth but answer the preparations of youth, and the vessel ever after favors the liquor which first thoroughly tainted it: And men are but such as they learned to be and do at first. If you will be perfidious breakers of your Baptismal Vows, it is a just God to leave you to yourselves, to a deluded understanding, to think evil good, and good evil, to a seared conscience, and a hardened heart, and past feeling, to work uncleanness with greediness, Eph.3:18, and to fight against grace and your own salvation, till death and hell convince you of your madness. O sport not with the justice of a sin-hating God! Play not with sin, and with the unquenchable Fire! Forsaking God is the way to be forsaken of him. And what is a forsaken soul but a miserable slave of Satan?

Yea, did you but know of what moment it is to prevent all the heinous sins that else you will commit, you would make haste to repent, though you were sure to be forgiven. Forgiveness makes not Sin to be no Sin, or to be no evil, no shame, no grief, to the soul that hath committed it. You will cry out, O that I had never known it!

To look back on such an ill-spent Life, will be no pleasant thought. Repentance, though a healing work, is bitter: Make not work for it, if you love your Peace.

And is it a small thing to you that you are all this while doing hurt to others?

And drawing them to sin, and plunging them into that dangerous Guilt, which can no way be pardoned but by the blood of Christ upon true conversion? And when they have joined with you in lust and fleshly pleasure, it is not in your power to turn them, that they may join with you in found repentance; “and if not, they must lie in Hell forever: And can you make a sport of your own and other men’s damnation? But this leads me to the Second Point. I hope I have shewed you what vast concern it is to yourself to begin a holy Life.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691) was an English Puritan church leader, poet, hymn-writer, theologian, and controversialist. Dean Stanley called him “the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen”. After some false starts, he made his reputation by his ministry at Kidderminster, and at around the same time began a long and prolific career as theological writer. After the Restoration he refused preferment, while retaining a non-separatist Presbyterian approach, and became one of the most influential leaders of the nonconformists, spending time in prison.