The Effect of Pardon
by James Smith, 1860
In one of our military towns, a few years ago, a soldier was about to be brought before his commanding officer for some misdemeanor. The officer entering the soldier's name, said, "Here he is again! What can we do with him, he has gone through almost every punishment?"
The adjutant apologized for intruding, and said, "There is one thing that has never been done with him yet, sir."
"What is that, adjutant?"
"Well, sir, he has never yet been forgiven."
"Forgiven!" said the colonel, "Here is his case entered."
"Yes — but the soldier is not yet before you, and you can cancel the charge."
After the colonel had reflected for a few minutes, he ordered the man to be brought in. When he asked what he had to say, relative to the charges brought against him. "Nothing, sir," was the reply, "more than I am sorry for what I have done." After making some suitable remarks, the colonel said, "We are resolved to forgive you." The soldier was struck with astonishment, the tears started from his eyes, he wept. The colonel, with the adjutant, and others present, felt deeply, when they saw the man so humbled. The soldier thanked the colonel for his kindness, and retired.
The narrator had the soldier under his notice for two years and a half after this — and never during that time was another charge brought against him, or fault found with him. Mercy triumphed! Kindness conquered the soldier!
This is just the method God adopts with us in the everlasting gospel. We are guilty. The charges are brought against us. The case is entered. But the Lord delights in mercy. He seeks to melt us by his love. He is ready to forgive. He sends to us saying, "Only acknowledge your iniquities!" And then offers us a pardon — a pardon which cost him the life of his only begotten Son! A pardon, not of one sin — but of all our sins! A pardon that will exempt from punishment, all punishment. A pardon that will bring peace to the conscience on earth, and entitle us to eternal rest in Heaven!
The soldier, in the case before us, gladly accepted the pardon, was melted down by the kindness of his colonel, and wept as a child would weep. But lost sinners too often hear of God's forgiving love without emotion, and instead of frankly confessing their sins, and gladly embracing the pardon offered — they astonishingly treat it with neglect, or contempt! What can be the reason of this? The reason is, they do not realize their criminality, or the danger to which they are exposed — they do not believe in an eternal Hell, as the punishment which their sins deserve — and therefore they treat the gospel, as if it were a fable, or a subject of no importance!
Reader, have you felt that you are guilty before God? Guilty of breaking his law, which is holy, just, and good? Guilty, not of breaking the law once — but ten thousand times — not in one form — but in a multitude of ways — so that if God were to punish you according to your desert — he must sentence you to Hell forever?
Have you understood the gospel, which tells you that God is reluctant to punish sinners, that he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner; to prove which, he spared not his Son — but delivered him up, to die the just for the unjust; to bear our sins, to atone for our guilt — so that God may be just — and yet pardon and justify every sinner that believes on him?
Do you see that God offers to pardon you, invites you to come to his throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy — and has long been, and is now, waiting to be gracious unto you?
What would you have said, if the soldier referred to — had insulted his colonel, when he told him that he had made up his mind to forgive him; and had told him that he did not want his pardon — but that he preferred being punished? What could you say — but that he was a most hardened and ungrateful wretch! Yet, if you refuse, or neglect to humble yourself before God, and ask for the pardon promised in his Word; then you are acting just such a part before God. O the folly, the consummate folly of the man . . .
who trifles with eternal punishment;
who rejects the Savior of sinners;
who refuses to come to God by him —
that he may be pardoned, sanctified, and saved!
Saving grace always produces good works. The pardoned soldier became a changed man. Mercy did what punishment could not — for it thoroughly reformed him. Just so, if we believe the love that God has to us, if we receive the message of his mercy, the promise of his grace, and come to him for pardon and obtain it — we shall find that the grace of God, that brings salvation to us, will teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world.
Nothing softens the heart like kindness, and therefore in the gospel, the kindness of God our Savior is set before us. Nothing inspires the soul with gratitude — like love; nor will anything make us desire so to walk as to please God — like gratitude. And therefore the gospel minister cries, "Herein is love, not that we loved God — but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
If the grace that presents a free, full, and everlasting pardon of all sin — will not melt our hard hearts, and reform our wicked lives — then nothing will. The law, with its rigid requirements and terrible threatenings — only hardens the sinner's heart, and renders him obdurate and sullen. But the gospel with its sweet invitations, gracious provision, and glorious promises — melts, humbles, and remolds every heart that believes and receives it! And as it melts, humbles, and remolds the heart — it consequently reforms, regulates, and consecrates the life to God's glory and praise.
Once more, reader, that gospel speaks to you. Once more, by the gospel, the God of all grace addresses you. After living so long in sin, after hardening yourself against him so often, after treating him with such criminal contempt — he says, "Come now, and let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet — they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson — they shall be as white as wool." That is, they shall all be blotted out, they shall be all forgiven, and you shall be as white as the driven snow, and as clean as the well-washed wool.
And even if my reader be a desperate sinner, one of the foulest transgressors, one of the basest of Adam's race — yes, if you are the vilest that ever breathed God's air, or blasphemed God's holy name, or injured your fellow-men; if you deserve the lowest, hottest Hell — yet to you, to you at this moment, to you, after all that you have done, God speaks! He speaks, not in a voice of thunder; he speaks, not in wrath — but in mercy; he speaks, as if he were not willing that any should perish — but that all should come to repentance! And what do you think are his words?
Wonder, O Heavens! Be astonished, O earth! God, the infinitely holy God, the inflexibly righteous God says to the vilest sinners outside of Hell, "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near! Let the wicked," the desperately wicked, "forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts," the man of heinous character, the most depraved; "and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy," yes, he will have mercy, for he delights to do so, "he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
Abundantly pardon! Yes, he will pardon like a God!
He will pardon all sin.
He will pardon all sin completely.
He will pardon with his whole heart, and with his whole soul.
He will pardon so as to cover sin, so as to annihilate the charge of sin, so as to free from all the penal consequences of sin, and free from the consequences of sin forever!
He will forgive all — and not only forgive — but forget! Hear his own precious words, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more!" O blessed assurance, that God will not only blot out our sins out of his book — but out of his memory, so that they shall no longer be remembered against us.
Well, sinner, what do you say? Will you confess your sins, plead guilty before God, and apply to him in the name of Jesus for a pardon? If you do, you will find him faithful to his Word, and just to the merits of his Son — to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
O the blessedness of a pardoned state! No condemnation, no curse, no Hell, no penal evil, no deserved punishment — and this blessedness may be yours! What do you say? Shall pardon be yours today? O what a change, if you arose this morning dead in your sins — and should now be quickened together with Christ — God having forgiven you all your trespasses!
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Pardoned believer — what do you say? Are you not happy? Do you not feel laid under the deepest obligation to your forgiving God? What are a few trials and troubles — if your sins are pardoned? What are a few pains and sorrows on earth — with Heaven and all its glories in near prospect? Be thankful, be thankful! Be joyful, be joyful! Be grateful, be grateful!
And, out of pure gratitude to your kind and forgiving Lord, do what you can to make his mercy known to your fellow-sinners. Tell all around you, as if you had no idea that they had ever heard it before — tell them that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, just such sinners as they are. Tell them that God delights in mercy, is ready to pardon, waits to be gracious, and wishes them to apply to him — that they may be pardoned and made happy now, and be prepared for a Heaven of holiness, happiness, and glory after death! Tell, O tell to all around you, that with the Lord there is mercy — pardoning mercy; and with him is plenteous redemption!