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2. The psalmist pleads the greatness of his sins as an argument for mercy. He not only doth not plead his own righteousness, or the smallness of his sins; he not only doth not say, Pardon mine iniquity, for I have done much good to counterbalance it; or, Pardon mine iniquity, for it is small, and thou hast
no great reason to be angry with me; mine iniquity is not so · great that thou hast any just cause to remember it against me; mine offence is not such but that thou mayest well enough overlook it; but on the contrary he says, Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great: he pleads the greatness of his sin, and not the smallness of it; he enforces his prayer with this consideration, that his sins are very heinous.
But how could he make this a plea for pardon? I answer, Because the greater his iniquity was, the more need he had of pardon. It is as much as if he had said, Pardon mine iniquity, for it is so great that I cannot bear the punishment; my sin is so great that I am in necessity of pardon; my case will be exceedingly miserable, unless thou be pleased to pardon me. He makes use of the greatness of his sin to enforce his plea for par. don, as a man would make use of the greatness of calamity, in begging for relief. When a beggar begs for bread, he will plead the greatness of his poverty and necessity. When a man in distress cries for pity, what more suitable plea can be urged than the extremity of his case ?-And God allows such a plea as this: for he is moved to mercy towards us by nothing in us but the miserableness of our case. He doth not pity sinners because they are worthy, but because they need his pity.
Doctrine. If we truly come to God for mercy, the greatness of our sin will be no impediment to pardon.-If it were an impediment, David would never have used it as a plea for pardon, as we find he does in the text.—The following things are needful in order that we truly come to God for mercy:
1. That we should see our misery, and be sensible of our need of mercy. They who are not sensible of their misery cannot truly look to God for mercy; for it is the very notion of divine mercy, that it is the goodness and grace of God to the miserable. Without misery in the object, there can be no exercise of mercy. To suppose mercy without supposing misery, or pity without calamity, is a contradiction : therefore men cannot look upon themselves as proper objects of mercy, unless they first know themselves to be miserable ; and so unless this be the case, it is impossible that they should come to God for mercy. They must be sensible that they are the children of wrath ; that the law is against them, and that they are exposed to the curse of it; that the wrath of God abideth on them; and that he is angry with them every day while they are under the VOL. VI.
guilt of sin.—They must be sensible that it is a very dreadful thing to be the object of the wrath of God; that it is a very awful thing to have him for their enemy; and that they cannot bear his wrath. They must be sensible that the guilt of sin makes them miserable creatures, whatever temporal enjoyments they have; that they can be no other than miserable, undone creatures, so long as God is angry with them; that they are without strength, and must perish, and that eternally, unless God help them. They must see that their case is utterly desperate, for any thing that any one else can do for them; that they hang over the pit of eternal misery; and that they must necessarily drop into it, if God have not mercy on them.
II. They must be sensible that they are not worthy that God should have mercy on them. They who truly come to God for mercy, come as beggars, and not as creditors : they come for mere mercy, for sovereign grace, and not for any thing that is due. Therefore, they must see that the misery under which they lie is justly brought upon them, and that the wrath to which they are exposed is justly threatened against them; and that they have deserved that God should be their enemy, and should continue to be their enemy. They must be sensible that it would be just with God to do as he hath threatened in his boly law, viz. make them the objects of his wrath and curse in hell to all eternity. They who come to God for mercy in a right manner, are not disposed to find fault with his severity; but they come in a sense of their own utter unworthiness, as with ropes about their necks, and lying in the dust at the foot of mercy.
III. They must come to God for mercy in and through Jesus Christ alone. All their hope of mercy must be from the consideration of what he is, what he hath done, and what he hath suffered ; and that there is no other name given under heaven, among men, whereby we can be saved, but that of Christ; that he is the Son of God, and the saviour of the world; that his blood cleanses from all sin, and that he is so worthy, that all sinners who are in him may well be pardoned and accepted. It is impossible that any should come to God for mercy, and at the same time have no hope mercy.
Their coming to God for it, implies that they have some hope of obtaining, otherwise they would not think it worth the while to come. But they that come in a right manner have all their hope through Christ, or from the consideration of his redemption, and the sufficiency of it. If persons thus come to God for mercy, the greatness of their sins will be no impediment to pardon. Let their sins be ever so many, and great, and aggravated, it
will not make God in the least degree more backward to pardon them. This may be made evident by the following considerations :
1. The mercy of God is as sufficient for the pardon of the greatest sins, as for the least; and that because his mercy is infinite. That which is infinite, is as much above what is great, as it is above what is small.
Thus God being infinitely great, he is as much above kings, as he is above beggars; he is as much above the highest angel, as he is above the meanest worm. One infinite measure doth not come any nearer to the extent of what is infinite, than another. So the mercy of God being infinite, it must be as sufficient for the pardon of all sin, as of one. If one of the least sins be not beyond the mercy of God, so neither are the greatest, or ten thousand of them.However, it must be acknowledged, that this alone doth not prove the doctrine. For, though the mercy of God may be as sufficient for the pardon of great sins as others, yet there may be other obstacles, besides the want of mercy. The mercy of God may be sufficient, and yet the other attributes may oppose the dispensation of mercy in these cases.--Therefore, 1 observe,
2. That the satisfaction of Christ is as sufficient for the removal of the greatest guilt, as the least: 1 John i. 7. blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin." Acts xiii. 39. “ By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. All the sins of those who truly come to God for mercy, let them be what they will, are satisfied for, if God be true who tells us so; and if they be satisfied for, surely it is not incredible that God should be ready to pardon them. So that Christ, having fully satisfied for all sin, or having wrought out a satisfaction that is sufficient for all, it is now no way inconsistent with the glory of the divine attributes, to pardon the greatest sins of those who in a right manner come unto him for it. God may now pardon the greatest sinners, without any prejudice to the honour of his holiness. The holiness of God will not suffer him to give the least countenance to sin, but inclines him to give proper testimonies of his hatred of it. But Christ having satisfied for sin, God can now love the sinner, and give no countenance at all to sin, however great a sinner he may have been. sufficient testimony of God's abhorrence of sin, that he poured out his wrath on his own dear Son, when he took the guilt of it
Nothing can more show God's abhorrence of sin than this. If all mankind had been eternally damned, it would not have been so great a testimony of it.
God may, through Christ, pardon the greatest sinner, without any prejudice to the honour of his majesty. The honour of the divine majesty, indeed, requires satisfaction ; but the suf
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serings of Christ fully repair the injury. Let the contempt be ever so great, yet if so honourable a person as Christ undertakes to be a Mediator for the offender, and suffers so much for him, it fully repairs the injury done to the Majesty of heaven and earth. The sufferings of Christ fully satisfy justice. The justice of God, as the supreme Governor and Judge of the world, requires the punishment of sin. The supreme Judge must judge the world according to a rule of justice. God doth not show mercy as a judge, but as a sovereign; therefore bis exercise of mercy as a sovereign, and his justice as a judge, must be made consistent one with another; and this is done by the sufferings of Christ, in which sin is punished fully, and justice answered. Rom. iii. 25, 26. “Whom God baih set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, 1 say, at this time bis righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. The law is no impediment in the way of the pardon of the greatest sin, if men do but truly come to God for mercy. For Christ hath fulfilled the law ; he hath borne the curse of it, in his sufferings; Gal. iii. 13.
“ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.
3. Christ will not refuse to save the greatest sinners, who, in a right manner, come to God for mercy; for this is his work. It is his business to be a Saviour of sinners; it is the work upon which he came into the world; and, therefore, he will not object to it. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, Matt. ix. 13. Sin is the very evil which he came into the world to remedy; therefore he will not object to any man, that he is
sinful. The more sinful he is, the more need of Christ. The sinfulness of man was the reason of Christ's coming into the world; this is the very misery from which he came to deliver men. The more they have of it, the more need they have of being delivered : “ They that are whole, need not a physician ; but they that are sick;" Matt. ix. 12. The physician will not make it an objection against healing a man who applies to him, that he stands in great need of his help. If a physician of compassion comes among the sick and wounded, surely he will not refuse to heal those that stand in most need of healing, if he be able to heal them.
4. Herein doth the glory of grace, by the redemption of Christ much consist, viz. in its sufficiency for the pardon of the greatest sinners. The whole contrivance of the way of salvation is for this end, to glorify the free grace of God. God had it on his heart, from all eternity, to glorify this attribute; and therefore it is, that the device of saving sinners by Christ was conceived. The greatness of divine grace appears very much in this, that God by Christ saves the greatest offenders. The greater the guilt of any sinner is, the more glorious and wonderful is the grace manifested in his pardon : Rom. v. 20. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." The apostle, when telling how great a sinner he had been, takes notice of the abounding of grace in his pardon, of which his great guilt was the occasion : 1 Tim. i. 13. * Who was before a blasphemier, and a persecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy; and the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” The Redeemer is glorified, in that he proves sufficient to redeem those who are exceeding sinful, in that his blood proves suflicient to wash away the greatest guilt, in that he is able to save men to the uttermost, and in that he redeems even from the greatest misery. It is the honour of Christ to save the greatest sinners, when they come to him, as it is the honour of a physician that he cures the most desperate diseases or wounds. Therefore, no doubt, Christ will be willing to save the greatest sinners, if they come to him; for he will not be backward to glorify himself, and to commend the value and virtue of his own blood.
Seeing he bath so laid out himself to redeem sinners, he will not be unwilling to show that he is able to redeem to the uttermost.
5. Pardon is as much offered and promised to the greatest sinners as any, if they will come aright to God for mercy. The invitations of the gospel are always in universal terms: as, Ho, every one that thirsteth; come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden; and whosoever will, let him come. And the voice of Wisdom is to men in general : Prov. viii. 4.
6. Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.” Not to moral men, or religious men, but to you, O men. So Christ promises, John vi. 37. “ Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." This is the direction of Christ to his apostles, after his resurrection, Mark xvi. 15, 16. . Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature : he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved :" which is agreeable to what the apostle saith, that “the gospel was preached to every creature which is under heaven," Col. i. 23.
The proper use of this subject is, to encourage sinners whose consciences are burdened with a sense of guilt, immediately to go to God, through Christ, for mercy. If you go in the manner we have described, the arms of mercy are open to em