The Method of Grace

by John Flavel

The Forgiveness of Sins

 
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of
sins according to the riches of his grace." Eph. 1: 7   
     
     Six great motives have been presented already from the titles
of Christ, to draw the hearts of sinners to him; more are now to be
offered from the benefits redounding to believers by Christ;
essaying, by all means, to win the hearts of men to Christ. To this
end I shall in the first place, open that glorious privilege of
gospel-remission, freely and fully conferred upon all that come to
Christ by faith, "in whom we have redemption by faith," &c.
    In which words we have, first, a singular benefit, or choice
mercy bestowed, namely, redemption, interpreted by way of
opposition, the remission of sins: this is a privilege of the first rank,
a mercy by itself; none sweeter, none more desirable among all the
benefits that come by Christ. And therefore,
    Secondly, You have the price of this mercy, an account what it
cost, even the brood of Christ, in whom we have redemption [through
his blood:] precious things are of great price; the blood of Christ
is the meritorious cause of remission.
    Thirdly, You have here also the impulsive cause, moving God to
grant pardons at this rate to sinners, and that is said to be the
riches of his grace: where, by the way, you see that the freeness of
the grace of God, and the fullness of the satisfaction of Christ,
meet together without the least jar in the remission of sin,
contrary to the vain cavil of the Socinian adversaries: "In whom we
have redemption, even the remission of sins, according to the riches
of his grace."
    Fourthly, You have the qualified subjects of this blessed
privilege, namely, Believers, in whose name he here speaks, [we] have
remission, I. e. We the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, ver. 1.
We whom he has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,
and predestinated unto the adoption of children, ver. 4, 5. We that
are made accepted in the beloved, ver. 6. It is we, and we only, who
have redemption through his blood. Hence observe,
     
    Doctrine. That all believers, and none but believers, receive the
         remission of their sins through the riches of grace, by the
         blood of Jesus Christ.
     
    In the explication of this point three things must be spoken
to.
    1. That all that are in Christ are in a pardoned state.
    2. That their pardon is the purchase of the blood of Christ.
    3. That the riches of grace are manifested in remission.
    First, That all that are in Christ are in a pardoned state:
where I will first show you what pardon or remission of sin is.
    Secondly, That this is the privilege of none but believers.
    First, Now remission of sin is the gracious act of God, in and
through Christ, discharging a believing sinner from all the guilt
and punishment of his sin, both temporal and eternal.
    It is the act of God; he is the author of remission; none can
forgive sins but God only, Mark 2: 7. Against him only, that is
principally and especially, the offence is committed, Psalm. 51: 4.
To his judgement guilt binds over the soul; and who can remit the
debt but the creditor? Matthew. 6: 12.
    It is an act of God, discharging the sinner; it is God's
loosing of one that stood bound, the cancelling of his bond or
obligation, called therefore remission or releasing in the text; the
blotting out of our iniquities, or the removing of our sins from us,
as it is called in other scriptures; see Psalm. 103: 11. Micah 7:
18,19.
    It is a gracious act of God, the effect of pure grace, done for
his own name's sake, Isaiah 43: 25. discharging us without any
satisfaction at all by us: there is much grace in that; and
providing a surety for us every way able to pay our debt, there is
more grace in that.
    It is the gracious act of God in and through Christ: the
satisfaction of Christ is the procuring cause of our remission, and
so God declares himself just in the remission of our sin, Romans 3:
25. "Gracious is the Lord and righteous," Psalm. 116: 5. Justice and
mercy meet here, and embrace each other; "in whom (says the text)
we have remission:" no other price could purchase this privilege,
Micah 6: 6, 7. not rivers of oil, or of human blood.
    And this gracious act of God discharges the pardoned soul both
from guilt and punishment. Guilt is nothing else but the force and
power that is in sin, to oblige the sinner to undergo the penalty
due to sin; therefore sinners are said to be guilty of hell-fire.
Matthew 5: 22. Guilty of eternal judgment, Mark 3: 29. To be under
the judgment of God, Romans 3: 19. Remission takes away both guilt
and punishment together; it takes away all guilt, Acts 13: 38, 39.
and all punishment. And so much of the first thing to be opened,
namely, what the remission of sin is.
    Secondly, Now that this remission of sin is the privilege of
believers, is most apparent, for all the causes of remission are in
conjunction to procure it for them; the love of God, which is the
impulsive cause of pardon; the blood of Christ, which is the
meritorious cause of pardon; and saving faith, which is the
instrumental cause of pardon, do all co-operate for their remission,
as is plain in the text.
    Besides, all the promises of pardon are made to them, Jer. 31:
34. Micah 7: 18. And, lastly, all the signs of pardon are found in
them, and in them only, that love God, Luke 7: 47. Mercifulness to
others, Matthew. 6: 14. A blessed calmness and peace in the
conscience, Romans 5: 1. So that it is a truth beyond controversy,
that all that are in Christ are in a pardoned state.
    Secondly, Next I will show you, that the pardon of believers is
the purchase of the blood of Christ: nothing but the blood of Christ
is a price equivalent to the remission of sin, for this blood was
innocent and untainted blood, 1 Pet. 1: 19. the blood of a Lamb
without spot; this blood was precious blood, blood of infinite worth
and value, the blood of God, Acts 20: 28. It was prepared blood for
this very purpose, Heb. 10: 5. Prepared by God's eternal
appointment; prepared by Christ's miraculous and extraordinary
production by the operation of the Spirit; prepared by his voluntary
sequestration, or sanctification of himself to this very use and
purpose.
    The blood of Jesus is not only innocent, precious, and prepared
blood, but it is also blood actually shed and sacrificed to the
justice of God, for the expiation of guilt, and procurement of our
discharge, Isaiah 53:5. O. To conclude, the severe justice of God
could put in no exception against the blood of Christ, it is
unexceptionable blood, being, (as before was noted,) untainted by
sin, and dignified above all estimation by the person whose blood it
was. Justice required no less, and could demand no more; and this is
the price at which our pardons are purchased, and without which no
sin could be pardoned; for "without shedding of blood, (such blood
as this) there is no remission," Heb. 9: 22.
    Thirdly, The last thing to be opened is, That God has
manifested the riches of his grace, in the remission of our sins. So
speaks the apostle, Romans 5: 20. "Where sin abounded, grace did much
more abound: And, 1 Tim. 1: 14. "The grace of our Lord (namely, in the
pardon of sin) was exceeding abundant." Which will appear, if we
bring our thoughts close to the matter, in several particulars.
    First, From the nature of the mercy, which is the richest of
all mercies, except Christ the purchaser of it: No mercy sweeter
than a pardon to a condemned sinner; no pardon like God's pardon to
a man condemned at his  bar; all the goodness of God is made to pass
before our eyes in his pardoning acts of grace, Exod. 33: 19.
    Secondly, The very riches of grace must needs be in the pardon
of sin, if we consider the method in which pardons are dispensed,
which is, as the text speaks, "through his blood." Herein "God
commends his love to us," Romans 5: 8. He commends it more than if he
had pardoned sin without such a sacrifice, for then he had only
displayed his mercy, but not caused mercy and justice to meet and
triumph together.
    Thirdly, The riches of his grace shine forth in the peculiarity
of the mercy. Remission is no common favor; it is never extended to
the fallen angels, nor to the greater part of the children of men,
but only to a little flock, a small remnant of mankind, Luke 12: 82.
John 17: 9.
    Fourthly, The riches of grace are manifested in remission, if
we consider the subjects of this privilege, who are not only equally
plunged into sin and misery with others by nature, Eph. 2: 3. but
many of the Lord's pardoned ones have been actually guilty of a
deeper dyed abomination than many unpardoned ones, in the civilized
world, are defiled with. "To me, (says Paul), the greatest of
sinners, one that was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, &c. yet to
me is this grace given; I obtained mercy," 1 Tim. 1: 15. "And such
were some of you, but you are justified," 1 Cor. 6: 11. Yes, God
singles out the most base, despised, poor, and contemptible ones
among men, to be the subjects of this glorious privilege, 2 Cor. 1:
26. "You see your calling, brethren," &c.
    Fifthly, More of the riches of grace still appear, if we view
the latitude and extent of this act of grace. O how innumerable are
our transgressions! "Who can understand his errors;" Psalm. 19: 12.
"Yet the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin," 1 John 1: 7.
Small and great sins, open and secret sins, old and new sins, all
pardoned without exception. O the riches of grace! O the
unsearchable goodness of God! "With the Lord there is mercy and with
him there is plenteous redemption; and he shall redeem Israel from
all his iniquities," Psalm. 130: 7. 8.
    Sixthly, and lastly, The riches of grace shine forth in the
irrevocableness and perpetuity of remission. As grace pardons all
sins without exception, so the pardons it bestows are without
revocation: The pardoned soul shall "never come into condemnation,"
John 5: 24. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he
removed our transgressions from us," Psalm. 103: 10. The east and
west are the two opposite points of heaven, which can never come
together; neither shall the pardoned soul and its sins ever meet any
more. "You have cast, (says Hezekiah) all my sins behind your
back." The penitent believer sets his sins before his face, but the
merciful God casts them all behind his back, never to behold them
more, so as to charge them upon his pardoned people. And thus you
see what the pardon of sin is, what the price that purchases pardon
is, and what riches of grace God manifests in the remission of a
believer's sins; which were the things to be explained and opened in
the doctrinal part. The improvement of the whole you will have in
the following uses.
    Inference 1. If this be so, that all believers, and none but
believers, receive the remission of their sins through the riches of
grace, by the blood of Christ; What a happy condition then are
believers in! Those that never felt the load of sin may make light
of a pardon; but so cannot you, that have been in the deeps of
trouble and fear about it; those that have been upon the rack of an
accusing and condemning conscience, as David, Heman, and many of the
saints have been, can never sufficiently value a pardon. "Blessed is
the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered;
blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity," Psalm.
32: 1, 2. or, O the blessedness and felicities of the pardoned man!
as in the Hebrew. Remission cannot but appear the wonder of mercies,
if we consider through what difficulties the grace of God makes way
for it to our souls; what strong bars the love of God breaks
asunder, to open our way to this privilege; for there can be no
pardon without a Mediator; no other Mediator but the Son of God: the
Son of God cannot discharge our debts, but by taking them upon
himself as our surety, and making full payment, by bearing the wrath
of God for us; and when all this is done, there can be no actual
pardon, except the Spirit of grace open our blind eyes, break our
hard hearts, and draw them to Christ in the way of believing. And as
the mercy of remission comes to us through wonderful difficulties,
so it is in itself a complete and perfect mercy: God would not be at
such vast expense of the riches of his grace, Christ would not lay
out the invaluable treasures of his precious blood to procure a
cheap and common blessing for us. Rejoice then, you pardoned souls,
God has done great things for you, for which you have cause to be
glad.
    Inference. 2. Hence it follows, That interest in Christ by faith,
brings the conscience of a believer into a state of rest and peace,
Romans 5: 1. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." I say
not that every believer is presently brought into actual peace and
tranquility of conscience; there may be many fears, and much
trouble even in a pardoned soul; but this is an undoubted truth,
that faith brings the pardoned soul into that condition and state,
where he may find perfect rest in his conscience, with respect to
the guilt and danger of sin. The blood of Christ sprinkles us from
an evil (that is, an accusing, condemning) conscience. We are apt to
fear, that this or that special sin, which has most terrified and
affrighted our conscience, is not forgiven: but if there be riches
enough in the grace of God, and efficacy enough in the blood of
Christ, then the sins of believers, all their sins, great as well as
small, one as well as another, without limitation or exception, are
pardoned.
    For let us but consider, If Christ remits no sin to any man,
but with respect to the blood of Christ, then all sins are pardoned,
as well as any one sin; because the dignity and desert of that blood
is infinite, and as much deserves an universal pardon for all sins,
as the particular pardon of any, even the least sin: moreover,
remission is an act of God's fatherly love in Christ; and if it be
so, then certainly no sin of any believer can be retained or
excluded from pardon; for then the same soul should be in the favor
of God, so far as it is pardoned, and out of favor with God, so far
as it is unpardoned, and all this at one and the same instant of
time: which is a thing both repugnant to itself, and to the whole
strain of the gospel.
    To conclude: What is the design and end of remission, but the
saving of the pardoned soul? But if any sin be retained or excluded
from pardon, the retaining of that sin must needs make void the
pardon of all other sins; and so the acts of God must cross and
contradict each other, and the design and end of God miscarry and be
lost; which can never be. So then we conclude, faith brings the
believing soul into a state of rest and peace.
    Inference. Hence it also follows, That no remission is to be expected
by any soul, without an interest by faith in Jesus Christ: no
Christ, no pardon; no faith, no Christ. Yet how apt are many poor
deluded souls to expect pardon in that way, where never any soul yet
did, or ever can meet it. Some look for pardon from the absolute
mercy of God, without any regard to the blood of Christ, or their
interest therein: we have sinned, but God is merciful! Some expect
remission of sin by virtue of their own duties, not Christ's merits:
I have sinned, but I will repent, restore, reform, and God will
pardon! But little do such men know how they therein diminish the
evil of sin, undervalue the justice of God, slight the blood of
Christ, and put an undoing cheat upon their own souls forever. To
expect pardon from absolute mercy, or our own duties, is to knock at
the wrong door, which God has shut up to all the world, Romans 3: 20.
While these two principles abide firm, that the price of pardon is
only in the blood of Christ, and the benefit of pardon, only by the
application of his blood to us; this must remain a sure conclusion,
that no remission is to he expected by any soul, without an interest
by faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance, restitution, and reformation
are excellent duties in their kind, and in their proper places, but
they were never meant for saviors, or satisfaction to God for sin.
    Inference. 2 It the riches of grace be thus manifested in the pardon
of sin, How vile an abuse is it of the grace of God, to take the
more liberty to sin, because grace abounds in the pardon of it!
    "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!"
Romans 6: 1, 2. Will nothing cheaper than the grace of God serve to
make a cloak for sin? O vile abuse of the most excellent thing in
the whole world? Did Christ shed his blood to expiate our guilt, and
dare we make that a plea to extenuate our guilt? God forbid!
    If it be intolerable ingratitude among men, to requite good
with evil, sure that sin must want a name bad enough to express it,
which puts the greatest dishonor upon God for the greatest mercy
that ever was given by God to the world. "There is mercy with you,
(says the Psalmist,) that you may be feared;" not that you
may be the more abused, Psalm. 130: 4. Nay, let me say, the devils
never sinned at this rate; they cannot abuse the pardoning grace of
God, because such grace was never offered unto them. And certainly,
if the abuse of the common mercies of God, as meat and drink, by
gluttony and drunkenness, be an heinous sin and highly provoking to
God; then the abuse of the riches of his grace, and the precious
blood of his Son, must be out of measure sinful, and the greatest
affront we can put upon the God of mercy.
    Inference. 5. To conclude: If this be so, as ever you expect pardon.
and, mercy from God, come to Christ in the way of faith; receive and
embrace him now in the offers of the gospel.
    To drive home this great exhortation, I beseech you, as in the
affections of Christ Jesus, and by all the regard and value you have for
your souls, let these following considerations sink down in your
hearts.
    First, That all Christless persons are actually under the
condemnation of God, John 3: 113. "He who believes not is
condemned already:" and it must needs be so, for every soul is
concluded under the curse of the law, until Christ make him free,
John 8: 36. Until we are in Christ, we are dead by law; and when we
believe unto justification, then we pass from death to life. A blind
mistaken conscience may possibly acquit you, but assure ourselves
God condemns you.
    Secondly, Consider what a terrible thing it is to lie under the
condemnation of God; the most terrible things in nature cannot
shadow forth the misery of such a state; put all sicknesses, all
poverty, all reproaches, the torments invented by all tyrants into
one scale, and the condemnation of God into the other, and they will
be all found lighter than a feather. Condemnation is the sentence of
God, the great and terrible God; it is a sentence shutting you up to
everlasting wrath: it is a sentence never to be reversed, but by the
application of Christ in the season thereof. O souls! you cannot
bear the wrath of God; you do not understand it, if you think it
tolerable: One drop of it upon your consciences now, is enough to
distract you in the midst of all the pleasures and comforts of this
world: yet all that are out of Christ, are sentenced to the fullness
of God's wrath forever.
    Thirdly, There is yet a possibility of escaping the wrath to
come; a door of hope opened to the worst of sinners; a day of grace
is offered to the children of men, Heb. 3: 15. God declares himself
unwilling that any should perish, 2 Pet. 3: 9. O what a mercy is
this! Who, that is on this side heaven or hell, fully understands
the worth of it?
    Fourthly, The door of mercy will be shortly shut, Luke 12: 25.
God has many ways to shut it: he sometimes shuts it by withdrawing
the means of grace, and removing the candlesticks; a judgment at
this time to be greatly feared. Sometimes he shuts it by withdrawing
the Spirit and blessing from the means, whereby all ordinances lose
their efficacy, 1 Cor. 3: 7. But if he shut it not by removing the
means of grace from you, certain it is, it will be shortly shut by
your removal from all the means and opportunities of salvation by
death.
    Fifthly, When once the door of mercy is shut, you are gone
beyond all the possibilities of pardon and salvation for evermore.
The night is then come, in which no man can work, John 9: 4. All the
golden seasons you now enjoy, will be irrecoverably gone out of your
reach.
    Sixthly, Pardons are now daily granted to others: some (and
they once as far from mercy as you now are,) are at this day reading
their pardons with tears of joy dropping from them. The world is
full of the examples and instances of the riches of pardoning grace.
And whatever is needful for you to do in the way of repentance and
faith to obtain your pardon, how easily shall it be done, if once
the day of God's power come upon you? Psalm. 110:3. 0 therefore, lift
up your cries to heaven, give the Lord no rest, take no denial until
he open the blind eye, break the stony heart, open and bow the
stubborn will, effectually draw your soul to Christ, and deliver your
pardon signed in his blood.
 




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