And Forgive Us Our Debts, as We Forgive Our DebtorsA Practical Exposition of the Lord's Prayer by Thomas Manton (1620-1677) (Volume 1)
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
“One way to get comfort is to plead the promise of God in prayer, show Him His handwriting; God is tender of His Word.”
And Forgive Us Our Debts, as We Forgive Our Debtors
WE have now done with the supplications of this prayer, and are come to the deprecations. The supplications are those petitions which we make to God for obtaining of that which is good. The deprecations are those petitions we make to God for removing of that which is evil.
Now of this latter sort there are two:-(l.) We pray for the remission of evil that is already committed; (2.) We pray for the prevention of the evil which may be inflicted. The first of these is the petition we have now in hand. Here,
1. The petition is proposed, ‘Forgive us our debts.’
2. It is confirmed by an argument, ‘ As we forgive our debtors.’ In the first, take notice:-
I. Of the object, or matter of this petition, and that is, debts.
II. The subject or persons praying, us.
III. The person to whom we pray, our heavenly Father, who alone can forgive our sins.
IV. The act of God about this object, forgive.
Then the petition is confirmed by an argument, which is taken from our forgiving of others.
In which there is an argument.
1. A simili, from a like disposition in us. Thus, what is good in us was first in God, for he is the pattern of all perfection. If we have such a disposition planted in our hearts, and if it be a virtue in us, surely the same disposition is in God, for the first being wanteth no perfection.
2. The argument may be taken a dispari, or a minori ad majus, from the less to the greater. If we, that have but a drop of mercy, can forgive the offences done to us, surely the infinite God, that is mercy itself, he hath more bowels and more pity: ‘For his ways are above our ways, as high as the heaven is above the earth,’ Isa. Iv. 9. So it seems the argument is propounded: Luke xi. 4, ‘Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.’
3.The argument may be taken from the condition or the qualification of those that are to expect pardon. They are such that, out of a sense of God’s mercy to them, and the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, are inclined and disposed to show mercy to others. So Christ explains it, ver. 14, making it a condition or qualification on our part: ‘If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.’ – But this will be more abundantly clear when I come to examine that clause.
Before we come to the petition itself, the connexion is to be considered, for the particle and links it to the former petition. After ‘Hallowed be thy name,’ he doth not say, ‘And thy kingdom come;’ they are propounded as distinct sentences: but, ‘Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts,’ -for three reasons:-
[I.]Without pardon all the good things of this life will do us no good. They are but as a full diet, or as a rich suit, to a condemned person; they will not comfort him and allay his present fears. Until we are pardoned, we are under a sentence, ready for execution and therefore we cannot have that comfort in outward things until we have some interest in God’s fatherly mercy. A man that is condemned hath the king’s allowance until execution. So it is the indulgence of God to a wicked man to give him many outward things, though he is condemned already. We should not satisfy ourselves with daily bread without a sense of some interest in pardoning mercy.
[2.] To show us our unworthiness. Our sins are so many and grievous that we are not worthy of one morsel of bread to put in our mouths. When we say, ‘Give us this day,’ etc., we need presently to say, ‘Forgive us our sins.’ There is a forfeiture even of these common blessings: Gen. xxxii. 10, ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant.’ All that we have we have from mercy, and it is mercy undeserved. As we are creatures, there can be no common right between God and us to engage him to give temporal blessings, for we, owe ourselves wholly to him, as being created out of nothing. Children cannot oblige their parents. But much more, as we are guilty creatures, it is merely of the mercy of the Lord.
[3.] These are joined together because sin is the great obstacle and hindrance of all the blessings which we expect from God: Jer. v. 25, ‘Your sins have withheld good things from you.’ When mercy comes to us, sin stands in the way and turns it back again, so that it cannot have so clear a passage to us. Therefore God must forgive before he can give, that is, bestow these outward things as a blessing on us.
Having spoken of this connexion, let me observe something from the petition itself.
The first thing I shall observe is the notion by which sin is set out, ‘Forgive us our debts.’ The point is:-
Doct. 1. That sins come under the notion of debts.
In Luke xi. 4, it is, ‘Forgive us our sins.’ There is a twofold debt which man oweth to God.
1. A debt of duty.
2. A debt of punishment.
[1.] A debt of duty, worship, and obedience; this is a debt we owe to God. In this sense it is said, Rom. viii. 12, ‘We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.’ In which negative the affirmative is clearly implied, that we are debtors to God, to live to God; debtors to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit. By the law of creation, we were not appointed to serve and please the flesh, but to serve God: Luke xvii. 10 ‘When you have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our debt or duty to do.’ Obedience, worship, and service, is a debt we owe to God, by virtue of that interest which he hath in us, and command he hath over us. And so you have that speech, Gal. v. 3, that we are debtors to the whole law, as we come under the obedience of it.
[2.] A debt of punishment, which we are fallen into through the neglect of our duty. Punishment is due to us as wages: Rom vi. 23, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ God hath, as it were, made a contract with us, that if we will sin we must take our wages; we must take what it comes to. Now in this petition, when we say, ‘Forgive us our debts, we do not desire to be discharged of the duty we owe to God, but to be acquitted of the guilt and punishment. The faults or sins that we are guilty of oblige us and bind us to the punishment; and therefore sins are called debts. The original debt we owe is obedience; and in case of default, the next debt we owe is punishment. Look, as in a contract and bond, if the party observe not the condition, then he is liable to the forfeiture: so God dealt with man by way of covenant, and the tenor of it was exact obedience; and this covenant had a sanction or an obligation annexed: in case obedience was not exactly performed, we should be accursed, and suffer all manner of misery in this life and the next. Now, by the fall, we incurred this penalty; and therefore, as lost and undone creatures, we run to God’s mercy, and beg him to forgive the debt, or the forfeiture of that bond of obedience wherein man standeth bound to God by the law.
A little to make it good, before I come to the body of the petition, let me show how sin is a debt,, wherein it agrees. That will appear if you can consider:-
1. Our danger by sin.
2. Our remedy from sin.
In both the parts you will find sin is considered as a debt.
First, If you consider our danger by sin.
[I.] There is a creditor to whom the debt is due, and that is God: Luke vii. 41, when he would set out God’s mercy he saith, ‘There was a certain creditor which had two debtors,’ etc. God is there set forth under the notion and similitude of a creditor. God is a creditor, partly as our creator, and partly as a lawgiver, and partly as a judge. As our creator and benefactor, from whom we have received all that we have: it was the Lord that gave to every man his talents to trade withal; to some more, to some less: Mat. xxv. Thus God hath trusted us with life, and all other blessings. But then, as a lawgiver: if God had given us life, strength, parts, wealth, that we should do with them what we would, though the gift would oblige us, in point of gratitude, to serve our benefactor, yet we had not been so responsible for our defaults. But we are under a law to serve him and honour him that made us and gave us what we have. God did not dispossess himself of an interest in them. He did not give them to us as owners and proprietors, to do with them what we would; but he gave them to us as stewards: our life and employment here is a stewardship. Nay, God is not only a lawgiver, but also a judge; he will call us to an account. He doth oblige us as a creator, but imposeth a necessity upon us of obeying and serving him as a lawgiver; and not only makes a law, but will take an account of men, how they observe the law of their creation. There will a time come when the lord of those servants will come and reckon with them, and require his own with usury: Luke xix. 23. He will require this debt and service at our hands, else we must endure the penalty. Well, this is the connexion: he that abuseth God’s mercy as a creator offends him as a lawgiver, and is justly punished by him as a judge. There are many never think of this, therefore are not sensible of these great relations, nor that they shall answer for all their talents, strength, and time, and advantages they have in the world. Thus there is a creditor.
[2.] As a debtor is bound to make satisfaction to the creditor, or else is liable to the process of the law, which may be commenced against him, so are we all to God, bodies and souls; we are become upodikos te Theo ‘guilty before the Lord:’ Rom. iii. 19. So we translate it. We are under the sentence of the law, liable to the process of his revenging justice, and one day God will pursue his righteous law against us. All the fallen creatures are quite become bankrupt; we can never pay the original debt of obedience, therefore must be left to lie under the debt of punishment.
[3.] Look, as debts stand upon record, and are charged upon some book of account, that they may not be forgot, so God hath his book of account-a book of remembrance, as it is called: Mal. iii. 16. All our words, speeches, actions, they are all upon record; what means we have enjoyed, what mercies, what opportunities, what calls, and what messages of his love and grace: Job xiv. 17, ‘My iniquity is sealed up in a bag.’ As men’s writings or bonds, which they have to show for their debts owing to them, are sealed up in a bag, so Job useth that similitude. Thus is sin represented as a thing, that is upon record, and cannot be forgotten. Many times we lose the memory of what we have done in childhood and infancy, but all is upon record; and your iniquities will one day find you out, though you have forgotten, and think never to hear of them more.
[4.] A day of reckoning will come, when God will put the bond in suit, and all shall be called to an account. Sometimes God reckoneth with sinners, in part, in this world, but surely in the next. Death is but the summons to come to an account with God: Luke xvi. 2, ‘Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward.’ That passage of the parable is applicable to death: ‘That when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations,’ ver. 9. When the soul is turned out of doors, when it is cited to appear before the tribunal of God, then we give up our account. But especially at the great day: Rev. xx. 12, ‘And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened;’ that is, the book of conscience and the book of God’s remembrance. There are two books, that are written within and without, upon which all our actions are stamped: they are now closed in a great measure; we know not what is in these great books. One of the books (that of conscience) is in our own keeping, yet we cannot deface and blot it out. These books at that day will be opened; conscience, by the power of God, shall be extended to the recognition of all our ways. Conscience writes when it speaks not: many times it doth not smile for sins we are guilty of; but there stands the debt charged, upon which we shall be responsible.
[5.] After this reckoning there is execution. A bankrupt that cannot satisfy his creditor is cast into prison; so God hath his prison for impenitent, disobedient, and obstinate sinners: 1 Pet. iii. 19, He went and preached unto the spirits in prison.’ It is a dismal prison, where poor captive prisoners are held in chains of darkness; that is, under the horrors of their own despairing fears, looking for the judgment of the Lord, when they shall be cast into this prison, and no getting out again, until they have paid the utmost farthing: Luke xii. 50. And that will never be as to the sinner: he is, as it were, always satisfying, and can never be said to have satisfied, the justice of God.
Thus you see how sin is a debt, and what correspondence there is between them -the obligation of punishment that ariseth from sin. But now it differeth from all other debts.
(1.) No debt to man can be so great as our debt to God, both for number and weight. Mat. xviii. 24, compared with ver. 28: you shall see there the parable of the lord forgiving ‘ten thousand talents;’ and the servant goes and takes his brother by the throat, and requireth from him a debt of ‘an hundred pence.’ Mark, offences done to God are greater than offences done to us; for there is as much difference and disproportion as between an hundred and ten thousand. And then the debt of the fellow-servant was but pence, an hundred pence; but the debt due to the lord, that was talents; and a talent is reckoned to be one hundred and eighty-seven pounds ten shillings. Our sins against God are more and more heavy than any which our brethren can commit against us. Hence, talents; one hundred and ten thousand: there is the difference and disproportion. Oh that we had a due sense of what it is to sin against God, -against an infinite majesty! To strike a private person is not so much as to strike an officer of justice; and that is not so much as to strike the supreme magistrate. What is it to sin against God? and how often do we? All our imaginations are only evil, and that continually; and therefore all our sins against God will arise to a vast and heavy debt, because of the infiniteness of the object against whom sin is committed.
(2.) In other debts there is a day of payment set them; in this debt there is none. God doth not tell us when he will put the bond in suit against us; he may surprise us ere we are aware. Luke xii. 20: when he dreamed of many years, ‘Thou fool, this night.’ The spirits now in prison did as little think of that doleful place as those sinners which are alive. It may be to-day, to-morrow, the next hour: Gen. iv. 7, ‘Sin lieth at the door.’ There is a sentence and curse that waylays him. Sin, for the punishment of sin; it is ready to seize upon him, and pluck him by the throat, and bring him into God’s presence. Still the curse hovers over the head of obstinate and impenitent sinners.
(3.) In other debts, if the goods are taken by way of execution, and suffice, the person is free; but here God aims at the person, and the whole person. ‘Body and soul are cast into hell fire, Mat. x. 28.
(4.) Here there can be no shifting, no avoiding the danger. If you fly from God, you do but fly to God; from God, as willing to be a friend; to God, who is sure to be revenged. ‘Whither shall I fly from thy Spirit? If I go into the depths, thou art there,’ Ps. cxxxix. God is here, there, and everywhere.
(5.) All other debts cease at death; when a man dieth, we say his debts are paid: but here execution begins, then the law takes the sinner by the throat, and drags him to everlasting punishment, and doth in effect say, Pay me what thou owest. Death is God’s arrest. As soon as the soul steps out of the world, presently it is attached and seized, and forfeited into the hands of God’s justice. How many are there that lie under this danger and never think of it! Spiritual debts they are not so sensible of as literal. A man that is deeply in debt, and in danger of an arrest, cannot sleep, eat, walk abroad, but his fears are upon him. Augustus bought his quilt or bed, that could sleep soundly when he owed so many thousand sesterces. But poor senseless sinners never think of danger until they are plunged into it, and then there is no escape.
Secondly, The metaphor will also hold good as to our remedy and recovery, how we come out of this debt. A debtor that is insolvent is undone, unless there be some means found out to satisfy the creditor: so we must altogether lie under the wrath of God, unless satisfaction be made. Therefore, Jesus Christ, in the
[I.] Place, comes under the notion of a surety. Because he took the debt of man upon himself, therefore, Heb. vii. 22, he is called, ‘the surety of a better testament.’ When Christ undertook the business of our salvation, he did in effect say, as Paul to Philemon, ver. 1 ‘If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on mine account:’ so did Jesus Christ in effect say to God, Let me be made a sin, and made a curse for them. He that was a judge, was willing to become a party, and to pay what he owed. David, in the type of Christ, saith, Ps. lxix. 4, ‘I restored that which I took not away.’ He did not take away any honour from God: it was we that robbed God of the glory of his justice, authority, and truth: that trampled them under our feet: but Christ made restitution and amends to God.
[2.] Having condescended to become our surety, he made full satisfaction, by suffering the punishment which was due to us: Isa. Iiii. 4, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.’ That which we should have borne upon our own backs, and would have crushed us for ever, that he hath borne,. and he hath carried. Christ was to be the sinner in law, and was to suffer in our stead. Solomon hath a passage concerning suretyship: Prov. xi. 15, ‘He that is surety for a stranger, shall smart for it;’ or, as the Hebrew will bear it, sore bruised;’ or, as it is in the margin, ‘shall be bruised and sore broken.’ And the same word is used concerning Christ, that was our surety: Isa. Iiii. 10, ‘It pleased the Father to bruise him.’ Christ is our surety, therefore he was bruised and broken, he suffered what we should have suffered. It is true, there are some circumstances of our punishment which Christ suffered not, as a great part of our punishment in hell; there is the worm of conscience and despair, and the eternity of torments; but this was not essential to the punishment, but did only arise from the guilt and from the weakness of the party that is punished, because we cannot work through it otherwise. Christ paid the full price which divine justice demanded, and so made satisfaction for us.
[3.] Christ satisfying as our surety, all those which had an interest in his death, they are set free from the wrath of God, they have a release from this great debt owed. As when the ram was taken, Isaac was let go; so when Christ was taken, the sinner is released and discharged: Job xxxiii. 24, ‘ Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom.’ Certainly God will not exact the debt twice, of the surety and of the principal person; our surety having paid the debt for us, therefore we go free. And, therefore, if our consciences should pursue us at law, we may answer, Christ was taken for us, ‘He was bruised for our iniquities, and he bore the chastisement of our peace.’
[4.] Christ hath not only satisfied for the punishment, but he hath procured favour for us; wherein he differeth from an ordinary and common surety. Christ does not only free us from bonds, but also hath brought us into grace and favour with the creator, lawgiver, and judge. There is a double notion of Christ’s death; that of a ransom for the delivery of a captive, and as a merit and price which was given for eternal life. The death of Christ did not only dissolve the obligation which lay upon us to suffer the penalty for the breach of the law, and so deliver us from the wrath to come; but it was a price that was given to purchase grace, favour, and heaven for us, which is called, Eph. i. 14, ‘The purchased possession.’ Now, why must our surety instate us thus into favour? Because Christ was such a surety as did not only pay the forfeiture, but also the principal; that is, he did not only make satisfaction for the trespass and offence (which is the payment of the forfeiture), but also he established a righteousness answerable to the law (which is the payment of the principal), and of that original debt which God first required of the creature; for there is a debt of duty and service which Christ performeth and establisheth as a righteousness for us.
[5.] From hence in his name there is proclaimed redemption to the captives, freedom to poor prisoners that were in debt, and weak, and could not acquit themselves. And therefore the publication of the gospel is compared to the year of jubilee: Luke iv. 19, Christ came to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ It relates to the year of jubilee, wherein all debts were cancelled; it was a year of general releasement, proclaimed by sound of trumpet, that every man should return to his inheritance, and all debts dissolved and done away: Lev. xxv. 9, 10. So Jesus Christ saith, ‘ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord;’ that is, to proclaim to poor captives a release of all debts, and all bonds which are upon them.
[6.] All those that come to God by Christ are interested in the comfort of this offer and proclamation of grace, and may plead with God about their discharge from this great and heavy debt. I put it mainly in that notion (those that come to God by Christ), because you will find that is the description of those whom Christ means to save: Heb. vii. 25, ‘He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.’ Who are those that come unto God by him? Those that in Christ’s name do seriously, and with brokenness of heart, deal with him about a release and a discharge. To come to God by him, it is to come in his name, to plead his propitiation, or his satisfaction, as the only meritorious cause; and the promise of God in Christ to blot out our offences, as the only ground of hope; and as to ourselves, acknowledging the debt; that is, in confessing our sins, and our desert of punishment, with a purpose to forsake them.
(l.) There is required an acknowledgment of the debt. God stands upon it, that his justice may be owned with a due sense, according to the tenor of the first covenant: for though the satisfaction be made by another, and that by a surety of God’s providing; yet God will have the creature know they are under so heavy a debt, that he will have them feel it in brokenness of heart; not know it only in a general conviction, but confess their sins: 1 John i. 9, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’ When we come with true remorse, and confess we have offended so just, so holy, so merciful a Father, it must be grievous to us in the remembrance of it. You. must not only confess sin as a wrong, but as a debt: sin hath wronged God, and it is also a debt binding you over to a punishment we could never endure, nor make God any satisfaction for. Therefore David, when he would have God’s bond crossed and cancelled, see how he pleads: Ps. li. 2, 3, ‘0 Lord, blot out mine offences, for I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.’ Blot it out, for I acknowledge it; that is, I submit to thy instituted course; I submit to the justice of the first covenant.
(2.) The satisfaction of Christ must be pleaded also by a sinner in the court of heaven, in a believing manner, that there may be an owning of the surety. All parties that are interested in this business must consent. Now God and Christ they are agreed about the business of salvation: God hath agreed to take satisfaction from Christ, and Christ hath agreed to make this satisfaction to God: all the business now is about the sinner’s consent, or about his ready acceptation of Jesus Christ; and we never heartily indeed consent to this, that Christ shall be our surety, and he the person that must release and discharge this debt, until we look upon him by an eye of faith, as one that tore the bond and handwriting that was against us. The law is called ‘the handwriting that was against us;’ there is the bond which was to be put in suit: now, Col. ii. 14, He hath torn, or ‘blotted out the handwriting of ordinances, that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.’ He hath disannulled the law, which binds to suffer the wrath of God. The law was the bond by which our death was ratified.
(3.) There is required an unfeigned purpose to forsake sin. He that hath been released of his debt, must not still run into new arrears.
Christ never blotted out our debts that we might renew them, and go on upon a new score of offending God again; this is to dally with God, to run into the snare when he hath broken it for us and given us an escape, to plunge ourselves into new debts again.
In this prayer, ‘Forgive us our debts,’ then presently, ‘ Lead us not into temptation.’ Therefore we must purpose to forsake sin, otherwise we do not draw nigh to God with a true heart: Heb. x. 22. We do but deal falsely with God in all the confessions we make, and in all the pleas of faith, unless there be an unfeigned purpose to renounce all sin, and cast it off as a thing that will undo our souls. Thus, Christians, must you sue out your release and discharge in your surety’s name.
Use 1. The use is, first, to show us the misery of an impenitent, unpardoned sinner; he hath a vast debt upon him, that will surely undo him unless he doth in time get a discharge. He is bound over to suffer the wrath of God for evermore, and no hand can loose him but God’s. Many times they think of no such matter, and cry, ‘ Peace, peace,’ to themselves; but it is not the debtor which must cancel the book, but the creditor. Have you a discharge from God? where is your legal qualification? poor creatures, what will you do? Many take care that they may owe nothing to any man; oh! but what do you owe to God? To live in doubt and in fear of an arrest, oh, what misery is that! But when sin lieth at the door, ready to attack you every moment and hale you to the prison of hell, that is most dreadful. Therefore think of it seriously; how do accounts stand between God and you? Sinners are loth to think of it. When the lord came to reckon with his servants, Mat. xviii. 24, it is said, ‘One was brought to him which owed him ten thousand talents:’ he was loth to come to an account, he would fain keep out of the way, but he was brought to him. So we are unwilling to be called to account, we shift and delay, and will not think of our misery: but the pulling off sin will not put it away; our not thinking of our misery will not help us out, and will not be a release and discharge.
2. If sins be debts, and an increasing debt, so that man is ever treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath; it presseth us to be more careful to get out of this condition. Saith Solomon, Prov. vi. 3-5: If thou beest in debt, ‘flee as a swift roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.’ Oh, it is a sad thing to lie in our sins! If you be under this debt, ‘give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids; get away like the swift roe from the hand of the hunter,’ etc. And what I say concerning a state of sin, I say concerning daily failings; make your peace with God betimes; if you have contracted a new debt, make all even between God and your souls, that you may not sleep in your sins.
3. This should make us more cautious that we do not commit sin: why? it is a debt that will render you obnoxious to the wrath of God; in itself it merits eternal death: oh, therefore, sin no more, do not run again into the snare! When you give way to sin, you hazard the comfort of your acquittance by Christ: Ps. lxxxv. 8, ‘ The Lord will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly.’ If the Lord hath given you your peace, and some hope of your being discharged of this heavy debt, take heed of meddling with forbidden fruit, and running into debt again.
II. From the subject or persons which make this prayer, ‘Forgive us,’ observe, Doct. Even those that call God Father, ought to beg, daily and humbly, pardon of their sins.
Forgive us; who is that us that can say in faith, Our Father, daily? For this is a pattern for daily prayer, as the word semeron in the former petition noteth. We need beg, for Christ hath taught us here to sue out our discharge: in which being there is an exercise of faith eyeing Christ: Rom. iii. 25, ‘ God hath set forth him to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.’ And there is an exercise also of repentance, as to mourning for sin. 1 John i. 9, and Prov. xxviii. 13, ‘He that confesseth and forsaketh his sin, shall have mercy:’ and as to loathing of sin, Acts iii. 19, ‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.’ And certainly it must be humbly begged; for if we seek pardon we must seek it in God’s way. We do not beg God to rescind and make void his laws, and those wise constitutions he hath appointed whereby the creature shall receive this grace; and the manner wherein he will deal and transact this business with the offending creature: but we seek it as exercising our renewed. repentance; that is, mourning for sin, and loathing of sin. But of this more hereafter.
Now, that the best of God’s children should be dealing with God about a pardon of their sins, I shall argue it:-
1. From the necessity.
2. The utility and profit of such a course.
First, The necessity of this will appear two ways:-
[1.] From the condition of God’s children here in the world.
[2.] From the way wherein God will give out a pardon.
[1.] From the condition of God’s children here in this world. The best are not so fully sanctified in this life but there is some sin found in them; not only they who walk with no care, but even they that set the most narrow watch over their ways, they are not so sanctified but they need daily to go to God.
(l.) They have original sin which remaineth with them to the last, they have the sinning sin which the apostle speaks of. Paul complaining of the body of death: Rom. vii. 23, 24, ‘Who shall deliver me from it?’ The Hebrews were wont to propound their wishes by way of question; as, ‘Oh that salvation were come out of Zion!’ It is in the Hebrew, ‘Who shall bring salvation out of Zion?’ So, ‘Who will lead me into Edom?’ that is, ‘Oh that I were led into Edom,’ that I might display the banner there, because of God’s truth. So, ‘Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’, that is, ‘Oh that I were delivered!’ Where the reign of sin is broken, yet there it remains; though it be cast down in regard of regency, yet it is not cast out in regard of inherency. As the ivy that is gotten into the wall, cut away the boughs, branches, stubs, yet still there will be some sproutings out again until the wall be pulled down; so until these earthly tabernacles of ours be tumbled in the dust, though we are mortifying and subduing of sin, yet there will be a budding and sprouting out again.
(2.) There are many actual sins: James iii. 2, ‘In many things we offend all;’ and Eccles. vii. 20, ‘There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not:’ that is, that sins not either in omitting of good or committing of evil: our offences are either total or partial. Partial offences; though a child of God loves God, fears God, trusts in God, yet not in that purity and perfection that he hath required of him; though he serves God and obeys him, yet not with that liberty, delight, reverence, which he hath required. There is an omission in part in every act: there is not that perfection which God deserveth, who is to be served with all our might, with all our strength. Our principles are divided; there is flesh and spirit; there is a mixture in all our actions. Sometimes there is total omission, the spiritual life is it a stand, many times all acts of respect are intermitted. Then for commissions, sometimes, out of ignorance, they do not see what is to be done. Though they have a general resolution to do the whole will of God, yet many times they mistake. Our light is but in part: And ‘who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret sins:’ Ps. xix. 12. We sin out of ignorance, as a man in the dark may jostle against his friend. Sometimes by imprudence and inconsideration, as a man that is not heedful, though he knows it, lie may mistake his way. Many are overtaken in a fault: Gal. vi. 1 that is, unawares, and besides their intention. Sometimes, out of incogitancy and sudden incursion, they may not only be overtaken but overborne, ‘drawn away by their own lusts,’ James i. 14: overcome by the prevalency of passion and corrupt affection; so sin gets the upper hand. Thus it is with the children of God. Look, as it was said of the Romans, that in battle they were overcome, but never in war; though a child of God hath the best of it at last, yet in many particular conflicts he is overborne by the violence of temptation and his own corrupt lusts. Thus there is a necessity of begging daily pardon, if we consider the condition of the saints while they are here in the world, who carry a sinning nature about them, a corrupt issue that will never be dried up while they are in the world; and also they are guilty of many actual sins, both of omission and commission.
Secondly, The necessity of it will appear from the way wherein God gives a pardon, which is upon the creature’s humble submission, and seeking, of terms of grace:; so that whatsoever right we have to remission in Christ, though we have a general right to remission and pardon of sin, yet we must seek to apply that right, and beg the use of it for our daily pardon and acceptance with God. This will appear by considering,-(1.) The nature of this request; (2.) The right that a justified person hath to the pardon of his daily sins.
1. What we beg for when we say, Forgive us our sins. Five things we ask of God:-
[1.] The grant of a pardon.
[2.] The continuance of this privilege.
[3.] The sense and comfort of it.
[4.] The increase of that sense.
[5.] The effects of pardon, or a freedom from those penal evils that are fruits of sin.
(I.) The grant of a pardon, that God would accept the satisfaction of Christ for our sins, and look upon us as righteous in him. Jesus Christ himself was to sue out the fruits of his purchase: Ps. ii. 8, ‘Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,. and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.’ Though he had a right to be received into heaven, to sit down at the right hand of God, and administer the kingdom for the comfort of his elect ones, yet ‘ask of me.’ And so we are to sue out our right: Ps. xxxii. 5, ‘I said, I will confess mv transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.’ -What then? ‘For this cause shall every one that is godly pray unto thee.’ Though God be so ready to forgive -as soon as we conceive a purpose he gives out a pardon -yet we are to call upon God. God will have us to sue out the grant of a pardon. Why? Because he would deal with us as a sovereign, therefore doth he require the submission of our faith. It was of grace that he would appoint a satisfaction for us, which he did not for the fallen angels; and it was much more grace that he would give that satisfaction, give that price, out of his own treasury. Christ was not a mediator of our choosing, but God’s; and therefore, though justice be fully satisfied, yet the debt is humbly to be acknowledged by the creature, and we are to sue out terms of grace. And again, the application to us is merely grace, when so many thousands perish in their sins; therefore we are to beg, to sue out this grace, that we may have the benefit of Christ’s death. God doth it, that in begging we may acknowledge our own misery, and how unable we are to make satisfaction: Ps. cxliii. 2, ‘ In thy sight no flesh can be justified;’ and Ps. exxx. 3, 4, ‘If thou shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.’ Before God will give us an interest in this forgiveness, we are to come and confess ourselves utterly to be insolvent, and also to own Jesus Christ as the means, that we may solemnly and explicitly own our Redeemer, who was appointed by God, and procured this benefit for us: 1 John ii. 1, 1 And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ God hath required we should sue it out, and own our advocate, as well as confess ourselves unable to satisfy, that we might know who is our advocate. In the type of the brazen serpent, Num. xxi. 8, ‘And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.’ Mark, though God set up a sign of salvation (as it is called elsewhere), yet when you shall look upon him you shall live. So God would have us sue out the grant by looking to Christ, that so our interest may be established: John iii. 14, 15, ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.’ That whosoever ‘believeth in him,’ that was the intent of looking upon it, that we might fix our faith on Christ, and come under the shelter of his wing. We beg, upon a sense of our own unworthiness, the acceptance of Christ’s satisfaction for us.
(2.) We pray for the continuance of pardon; though we are already justified, yet ‘Forgive us our sins.’ As in daily bread, though we have it by us, and God hath stored us with blessings in our houses, yet we, beg the continuance and use of it; so whatever right we have to pardoning mercy, yet we beg the continuance of it, for two reasons: -Partly because justification is not complete until the day of judgment, but mercy is still in fieri, that is, God is still a-doing: Acts iii. 19, ‘ That your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.’ Then are our sins blotted out, then is this privilege complete. We read of forgiveness in this world, and forgiveness in the world to come, Mat. xii. 32. Forgiven in this world, when accepted to grace and favour with God; and forgiven in the world to come, when this privilege is complete, and fully made up to the elect. Some effects of sin remain till then; as death, which came into the world by sin, remains upon the body till then-then our sin is blotted out, when all the fruits of it are vanished and done away. So that whilst any penal evils that are introduced by sin remain, we ought to pray for pardon, that God would not repent of his mercy. Look, as when we are in a state of sanctification, we pray for the continuance of sanctification, as well as the increase of it, because of the relics of sin, though our perseverance in grace and sanctification be as much secured by God’s promise as our perseverance in God’s favour, and the gift of justification; so we pray for the continuance of pardon, because the evils of sin yet remain in part. And partly, because God, for our exercise, will make us feel the smart of old sins, which are already pardoned; as an old bruise, though it be healed, yet ever and anon we may feel it upon change of weather. Accusations of conscience may return for sins already pardoned; as Job xiii. 26, ‘Thou makest me possess the iniquities of my youth.’ Though a man be reconciled to God, and in favour with him, yet the sins if his youth will trouble him after he hath obtained the pardon of them. God may make these return with a horrible and frightful appearance upon the conscience; their visage may be terrible to look upon. Though these sins are blotted out, Satan may make the remembrance of them very frightful; and God, in his holy, wise dispensation, may permit it for our humiliation. Though this be no intrenching of the pardon already past, yet it may exceedingly terrify the soul, and overcloud our comfort, and therefore we must beg the continuance of this benefit. Go to God as David did: Ps. xxv. 6, 7, ‘Remember, 0 Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindness, for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor mv transgressions.’ He begs God’s ancient mercies would continue with him. – He acknowledged he had received mercy of old; he could run up to eternity, that had been for ever of old; yet, Lord, remember not against me the sins of my youth. When the sense of old sins are renewed, we must renew petitions for the pardon of them. It is usual with God, when we are negligent, to permit the devil to make use of affliction to revive old sins, that they may stare afresh in the view of the eye of conscience; therefore we had need to beg the continuance of this privilege, for it is not complete. Though the pardon itself be not abrogated, yet the comfort of it way be much intrenched upon, and old sins may come and terrify the soul with a very hideous aspect.
(3.) We beg here the sense and manifestation of pardon, though it be not the only thing we pray for. ‘Forgive us our sins,’ that is, let us know it. God may blot sins out of his book, when he doth not blot them out of our consciences. There is the book of conscience, and the book of God’s remembrance. The book of God’s remembrance may be cancelled (to speak after the manner of men); as soon as we believe and repent, then the handwriting which was against us is torn; but he blots it out of our consciences when the worm of conscience is killed by the application of the blood of Christ through the Spirit, when we are ‘sprinkled from an evil conscience,’ as the expression is, Heb. x. 22. And David is earnest with God for this benefit, the sense of his pardon: Ps. li. 8, 12, ‘Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice; and restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.’ Nathan had told him his sins were pardoned, yet he wanted the joy of God’s salvation, that ancient free spirit, that comforting enlarging spirit he was wont to have. God may forgive in heaven when he does not forgive in our our sense and manifestation of it by the comforts of the gospel.
(4.) We beg the increase of that sense, for this sense is given out in a different latitude. Spiritual sense is not in all alike quick and lively; many have only a probable certainty, but have many doubts -some have comfort, but never arrive to peace. Comfort, you know, is that thing which holds up itself against encounters when we are confronted so there may be many doubts when the preponderating part of the soul inclineth to comfort. Some have peace for the present, rest from trouble of conscience; others have joy, which is a degree above peace and comfort.
(5.) We beg the effects of pardon, or freedom from those penal evils which are continued upon God’s children, and are the fruits of sin. Clearly this is intended, for we beg of God to pardon us as we pardon others; that is, fully, entirely to forgive, forget. We beg of God to forgive us our sins; that is, to mitigate those troubles, evils, and afflictions, which are the fruits of sin. It is true, when a man is justified, the state of his person is altered; yet sin is the same in itself, it deserves all manner of evils; therefore we beg not only a release from wrath to come, but from those other temporal evils that dog us at the heels. Sin is the same still, though the person is not the sale. It is still the violation of a holy law, an affront done to a holy God, an inconvenience upon the precious soul; it brings a blot upon us, an inclination to sin again; nay, it brings eternal death. Though it do not bring eternal death upon pardoned persons, yet it may occasion temporal trouble. God hath still reserved this liberty in the covenant: that he will ‘visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes; nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail,’ Ps. lxxxix. 32, 33. And Prov. xi. 31, ‘ The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth;’ that is, he shall smart for his evil-doings. A child of God, when he sinneth against him, though he be not executed, yet he may be branded, he may have a mark of shame put upon him, his pilgrimage may be made uncomfortable, and these may be fully consistent with God’s grace and love. Therefore we beg, a release from these penal evils, that as the guilt, so the punishment also may be abolished.
2. The right that a justified person hath to the pardon of his daily sins.
Pardon of sin is to be considered: (l.) in the impetration of it; (2.) the offer; (3.) the judicial application, or legal absolution of the sinner.
[l.] In the impetration and purchase of it. So when, Heb. x. 14, by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,’ there needed no more to expiate them to satisfy justice.
[2.] In the offer of it. So God hath proclaimed pardon upon the condition of repentance: Ezek. xxxiii. 11, ‘ Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?’
[3.] In the judicial application, or legal absolution of a sinner. God in his word hath pronounced the legal absolution of every one that believeth in Christ. As soon as we repent and believe, a threefold benefit we have:-
(1.) The state of the person is altered; he is a child of God: John 1.12, ‘To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.’ He hath full leave to call God Father, a kind of fatherly dealing from him. Translated from a state of wrath to the state of grace, from a child of the devil he is made a child of God, never to be cast out of his family.
(2.) The actual remission of all past sins: Rom. iii. 25, ‘To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.’ It would be a license to sin if his sins were remitted before committed.
(3.) A right to the remission of daily sins, or free leave to make use of the fountain of mercy, that is always running, and is opened in the house of God for the comfort of believers: Zech. xiii. 1, ‘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.’
Secondly, The utility and profit of such a course. See Sermon on Psalm XXXI1. 1, Sermon xx.
Use. The use is to press us to be often dealing with God about the pardon of our sins, by a general and daily humiliation; none are exempted from bewailing the evil of sin. The death of Christ doth not put less evil into sin; it is still damning in its own nature; it is still the violation of a holy law, an affront to a holy God, an inconvenience to thy precious soul. When Christ paid the price for our sins, it was upon this condition: that we should renew our faith and repentance; that we should sue out our discharge in his name; that when we sin we may come and humble ourselves before the Lord. Under the law, if a man were unclean, he was to wash his clothes before evening; he was not to sleep in his uncleanness. So if you have defiled yourselves, you should go wash in the laver that God hath appointed. The Lord taught his people under the law the repeating a daily sacrifice, morning and evening. If one be fallen out with another, God hath advised us, before the sun be set, to go and be reconciled to our brother; and wilt thou lie under the wrath of God for one night? If we would oftener use this course, the words of repentance would not be so hard. Wounds are best cured at first, before they are suffered to fester and rankle into a sore; so are sins before they grow longer upon us. And if we did oftener thus reckon with ourselves, we should have less to do when we come to die. Therefore do as wise merchants; at the foot of every page draw up the account, so help it forward; so it will not be hard to sum up a long account, and reckon up our whole lives, and beg a release of all our debts; therefore daily come and humble yourselves before the Lord. The oftener you do this, the sooner you will have the comfort of pardon; but when you keep off from God, and delay, you suffer the loss of peace, and the loss of God’s favour; and hardness of heart, and atheism, and carnal security increase upon you.