« ElőzőTovább »
in this place rendered, to cleanse; as, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” We cannot put these passages together without seeing that the ecclesiastical use of spiritual terms is intended to apply to the discipline of the church; it is not intended to apply directly to the state of the soul towards God, although it is intended to apply indirectly to that. The man who refuses to submit to church discipline must be in an unsound state of mind and heart towards God; while on the other hand a man may submit to it and yet remain unsound. You will find that such cleansing was not even supposed to be real, but merely and only of neces sity, ceremonial and in the flesh, its real and moral cleansing depending upon the state of the heart. As you will find in the 24th chap. of the Prophet Ezekiel, and the 13th verse, the Lord reproaches the Jews with not being benefitted by that cleansing ordinance that he had given them, and that although he had pronounced them clean with his own lips, they were not really clean, and he would bring down a judgment upon them for their uncleanness and sin. “In thy filthiness is leudness; be cause I have purged thee and thou wast not purged ; thou shall not be purged from thy filthiness any more till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee.” This passage teaches therefore the true purposes of ecclesiastical pardon, of ecclesiastical cleansing, that it is in order to moral and spiritual purgation, but is not itself a moral and spiritual purgation. That it is intended by a visible act and ceremony to express God's state of mind towards the sinner, and God's willingness to give in reality that which he has given in symbol and ceremony ; and therefore all the ordinances of the church are appointed by that power which they signify. If God did
not give the power to have a real purgation, while he gave the outward symbol of a ceremonial purgation, there would be no room for such an objurgation as is given here, “Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, I will cause my fury to rest upon thee.” In being admitted therefore into the Church of Christ, in submitting for that purpose to the ordinance of baptism, scripture declares it to be the washing away of sins. But when we compare it with these other passages of scripture, we see that it is a ceremonial washing away of sins, and not a real one. The reality of it depends upon the use we make of it, upon the submission to that grace which ever accompanies the pardon ;—that as the infant expands in his faculties of mind and heart and body, if he submit to that grace which is given him at baptism, being then ceremonially cleansed, believing he is actually cleansed in the moral process of divine dealing towards him; that being pardoned at his beginning by a probationary pardon, he is finally pardoned and accepted, and blessed, if he manifest the power of that grace in the submission of his heart to the teaching, to the cleansing, to the power of God's Holy Spirit.
3. Now in the exercise of pardon it seems inconsistent to believe in pardon and yet ask for it, to stand up in the “ Creed" and declare that we believe in the forgiveness of sins, and every time we kneel down upon our knees to ask afresh for pardon. But there is really nothing inconsistent in this. It is because we believe in God's general pardon towards us that we ask his special pardon. It is because we do not doubt of God's love to us, that we willingly come back from hour to hour to ask the impress of his pardon at every time that we come into his prescnce; for we in all things offend inasmuch as in us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing. We are continually coming short of the requirements of the divine law, and therefore have a continual need to express our sense of our short-coming and sin, and ask him to forgive us. That is not to change his mind towards us, for he is unchangeable, but to change his providence towards us and not to inflict the chastisements to which our sins require, or would require for want of his grace, but to exercise towards us the cleansing power of his own spirit, the result of the pardoning condition of his own mind. In the enjoyment of that pardon we have its lower sense, and its full, and final, and blessed sense. In the lower sense of pardon it is a most important thing to take a right view of ourselves as baptized. There is an expression on the part of God in Christ exactly similar to what our Saviour says here,— the king freely forgave him the ten thousand talents. The very fact of having been brought into the church, of being borne with in the midst of our sins, of being dealt with in the pleadings of the outward preacher, and the inward voice of God; all this is the expression to us of the pardoning mind of God. It is a real deliverance so long as it lasts. Is it no deliverance to be out of hell ? Is it no deliverance to be saved from present torment, and dealt with in present bounty, and having our hearts fed with food and gladness? Is it no salvation that we are here this day in the house of God, hearing the word of God, and feeling the pleading of God's spirit in our own minds?
Is it no salvation to us that we have thus the long suffering of God leading us to repentance ? Peter answers the question to us when he says in the 3rd chap. of the 2nd Epistle, and the 15th verse, .count that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation."
Here is the state of soul spoken of in the catechism, that lower sense of pardon, of grace, and of blessing which belongs alike to every baptized human being, enjoyed, we may say, by every one of them; that believe respecting them in one baptism for the remissions of sins. Yet it is but that probationary pardon of which our blessed Saviour speaks here; a pardon that may well bring comfort even to the heart of the sinner. It assures him that he who gave the less is willing to give the greater if we will only come to him with the grace of faith, and hope, and love. That he gave us the less is a pledge and assurance of his more than willingness to give the greater. Thus in that ordinance he says to us, “ As I live saith the Lord I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, wherefore turn you yourselves and live ye." And there is that higher pardon, of which baptismal cleansing is but the sign of which the baptismal gift of the spirit is salvation. God speaking to the soul is one thing, God renewing the soul is another, God declaring his willingness to receive the sinner, following him with the pleading of his spirit is one thing, that sinners heart renewed by divine grace is another. Here we have indeed the lower one as a platform upon which we may stand in order to ascend to the higher one, in which we may say, he that received us by baptism into his church will doubtless receive us by the power of baptism into his church above. He who gave us his Son to procure for us the temporary probationary grace of the present time, is more than willing to give us the eternal; the unchanging grace that he has promised to them that ask him. Here is the final and full blessedness of the true and real pardon of which the Apostle says, “having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and having a High Priest over the House of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
III. This leads me finally to consider, the privileges, responsibilities and duties resulting from that pardon. 1, our privileges towards the pardon that we need not be afraid that sin will hinder his blessing us; for it was our sin that made him give us Christ. Our privileges towards the Son that we need not be afraid that our sins will hinder his pleading for us, because it is for our sins that he pleads, that our sin may not be punished but cleansed. Our privileges towards the spirit that we may not be afraid that our unholiness will drive
that spirit; it is because we are unholy he was sent down to make us holy, to make us fit for heaven. In this respect therefore even in that probationary pardon, we have exceeding great and precious privileges in our relations towards God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. 2. We have corresponding responsibilities as our
“so likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto you
your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
3. We have corresponding duties resulting from these duties. The duty of an unchanging faith and reliance
upon the father's love, upon the Son's pleading, upon the Spirit's power. And our duties resulting towards each other, “if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." We may be assured that that grace of God which communicates qua