How a person who has arrived at a proper change of mind, is declared justified in the judgment of God, and receives forgiveness of all his sins.
When a soul flies in faith to the throne of grace, through the blood of Jesus, she will receive a plentiful and daily forgiveness of all her sins, and the righteousness of Christ, which God offers in the gospel, will be accounted to her Rom, iii. 26.
The forgiveness and pardon of sinners, has for its only foundation the bloody expiation of Jesus, and the payment of all sins on the cross; which the poor bound down sinner receive freely, without any own-merit, worthiness or remuneration: Therefore such an one knows nothing else, why he should have grace, why he should not be lost, why he can be comforted, safe and joyful, but because his saviour has redeemed him, and has paid his debts.
These now are the exceeding great and unsearchable riches of grace and justice, Ephe. ii. 7. vi. 3, 8. It exceeds the justice of all the angels, if even they were all met together. The Lord himself is our righteousness, Jer. xxiii. 6. Jehovah himself is the good shepherd, therefore we can lack nothing; and this is a certain sign that we are under the right guidance, and walk in the right road, Ps. xxiii, 3. When we experience this plenitude of Justice and mercy, in the forgiveness of our sins through faith. In all visible things and exercises, when souls do not contemplate the object, but walk and run upon an uncertainty.
Because faith now comprehends, this great plenitude, it is fine and the same state of the soul, with the former.
Here it is said, come now (believe) all is ready! A table is prepared in the wilderness, in the valley of misery! He pours out to us plentifully! Now the fattened calf is killed! The lost and returning son now gets the best garment, besides which, there is no better in heaven nor upon earth.
Now follows the strong wind, earthquake and fire, the sweet soft breeze of the spirit, wherein the Lord is, out of which nothing but love and grace blows upon us; we wrap ourselves up, we look down from filial shame, and on account of the great grace, and are turned into a mere nothing in our own eyes. The Father lets now all, (nothing must stay behind) all his kindness, love, friendliness and sweetness, that is Christ, pass before the sinner, who mourns over his sins, his folly and vanity, and who puts away now his own ornament, Exod. xxiii, 4,19. O, how the repenting sinner now bows down to the earth, and worships the Son of his love, whom the Father has manifested in humility, Exod. xxxiv, 8. They say: If now we have found grace in thy sight, and our sins are forgiven us, then let the Lord go with us, v. 9. If the Son, the face of the Father, does not go with us, we cannot travel, we cannot get through; but his presence goes, and his goodness, his love, his glory, he, who himself is the way, goes along. Blessed are we in such a Lord.
Now are we accepted citizens and pilgrims of the New Jerusalem, Psa. xxxix, 13. We have acquired the right of citizenship; aright, not our own, but a foreign, a given one. Here the highest right and the highest grace are together.
Now we begin our journey on the narrow way. The right is gained, the lamb has conquered, and we travel on to occupy our inheritance. After such right, it is said here already of the faithful — Ye are come unto Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, Heb. xii, 22. This large city reaches with its suburbs and precincts (that is, with the kingdom of grace) as far as into the Valley of Misery. Therefore our life is already in heaven; we are called citizens of Zion. And although we have not yet received the promise (this beautiful and entire inheritance) but only see it from afar, yet we are satisfied and confess that we are strangers, and desire a better country, for God has prepared us a city, Heb xi. 13. Jesus is gone before to prepare us the place, through his blood we have joy fulness to enter into the sanctuary.
This road is spoken of by Isaiah, chapter liii, verse 10. “Here will be a road and a way, which will be the holy way, that none impure (who is not purged in the blood of Jesus, Heb. ix, 22, and has forgiveness of sins) shall walk thereon, and the same shall be for them, that they walk thereon, that even fools 1 Cor. i, 25, may not go astray. — The redeemed of the Lord will come again and will come to Zion with rejoicings; eternal joy will be over their heads, &c.” And Jer. xxxi, 9, 12, says, “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them by the rivers of waters, in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble, and shall come and sing in the height of Zion, &c.”
(A) Usual self-deception in the doctrine of faith on the merit of Christ, and in the doctrine of forgiveness of sins.
A self-deception in this weighty matter is, first, if with wilful sins, which we will neither acknowledge nor repent of, we comfort ourselves nevertheless with the merits of Christ.
Secondly — If on that very account, because Christ has died for us all, we believe for certain, that we have share in it, although no true conversion to Christ, no real contrition, no earnest supplication has preceded; add therefore separates, what Christ Luke xxiv, 47 joined together, the order and grace; we distinguish not the acquisition, according to the second article, and the appropriation according to the third article of the catechism. It is grace acquired, and only appropriated to the really penitent.
It is thirdly, also a self-deception, if we make empty speculations and observations upon this great mystery, and know how to talk, sing and write much and handsomely about it; .but do not enter with eagerness and desire upon it, in order to experience in our own hearts the truth and power thereof.
Fourthly and lastly, It is common deception, if in our security and carelessness, without enquiring after the true foundation and order of salvation, without a proper and attentive observance of the word, which witnesses there-to, and without earnest supplication, we expect to obtain faith and forgiveness of sins.
(B) Detention and false rest with respect to faith and forgiveness of sins.
A detention and false rest is, 1st, everything wherein the soul rests, before she has arrived at that blessed end which we have treated already, if she is not solicitous for the proper approbation and seizure thereof. The grace, salvation and inheritance is there; it is acquired, it is all ready; but our right and portion thereof, must be settled in the order of penitence and faith. Therefore it is written. Look diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God, Heb. xii, 15
2nd, If that is now done, if we have come so far, if the matter is settled, to wit: that we truly believe, and through faith have redemption through his blood, to wit, forgiveness of sins: but we would now let the matter rest so, and think that we have now done, that we now have actually seized all; we would certainly detain ourselves on the way to the Heavenly Jerusalem; we would abuse the rest and refreshment, which the Lord has granted us in faith (after having gone through the struggle; and wherein he willingly indulges us,) to spiritual laziness and a false rest. We should be like those, who having gained the suit about an estate; would not take the pains to travel thither and take possession of it. It is beautiful to say: To rest my soul in the blood of Jesus; but for the people of God, for the justified there is yet another rest; we must not neglect to get thither. Also upon mount Thabor, (that is at the time when the Father transfigures the Son in our hearts by faith, and makes us drunk with the rich goods of his house, so that we do not know sometimes ourselves, how we are and where we are) there also we must not build tabernacles, but with Christ on mount Olivet, in the communion of death, and from thence to Mount Zion. Now only we are accepted as pilgrims, and have received the traveling expenses as a gift, in the bloody grace. When the Israelites ate the pascal lamb (the symbol of the word) they had a staff in their hands, as persons hurrying away, but now we are only taken into cure, where cleansing, purification, crucifixion and death in faith daily proceeds. Now follow struggles and trials. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, 2 Epis, vi. 1: “We beseech you, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain;” he means to say at the same time with earnestness: We beseech you, that you will properly apply the same, and use the same faithfully for daily renovation and sanctification. It is the same what he says in another place, Rom. vi, 27, in plain words: (a) Now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, (b) ye have your fruit unto holiness; (c) and the end everlasting life. Look, this follows one another.
(C) Self-created difficulties at, and after justification.
It goes hard at, and after justification, 1st, If we do not suffer grace to be grace, and will not daily, in our poverty and sinful misery, take grace freely.
2nd, If we do not sufficiently esteem grace, not hold fast to it, suffer ourselves to be forced from it and the goal to be removed.
3rd, If we do derive power and joyfulness out of the reconciliation; if afterwards difficult circumstances, errors and temptations occur, then there is neither courage nor strength; then follows sloth, lassitude or even a relapse.
4th, It goes likewise difficult after justification, if we lose the taste for Christ and his gospel.
5th, If we seek the foundation and cause of our pardon, in ourselves, and not solely, only, and alone in the blood and death on the cross.
(D) Advantages in faith, and the acceptation of the forgiveness of sins.
The advantages herein are, 1st, That we constantly with full faith, look up to the payment and acquisition on the cross; and we believe, that the remission of sins is a free gift of grace, Col. ii. 13, which is freely given to the most wretched and greatest sinner, 1 Tim. i, 15, provided he knows himself as such, and is penitent. Let grace be grace for ever and ever. It likewise belongs to the advantages,
2nd, That we pray and lament for faith so long, until unbelief and timidity are conquered.
3rd, That we in our spiritual poverty and pressing misery of sin, accept forgiveness simply and freely, because the Lord has promised it in his word, and will give it.
4th, That we apply the same in all earnest to sanctification. Paul says: “Having therefore these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Cor. vii, I.
5th, But here we are to be very careful, that we do not secretly seek and place our rest, peace and joyfulness in sanctification, but only in the atoning grace. So and in no other manner, we become sound in faith and it goes on briskly, we obtain new strength, every day fresh spirits, to mount, to run and to walk, Isa. xl, 31. Finally belongs to the advantages,
6th, That we found our peace, not perhaps upon sweet sensations, but only and solely upon the effected redemption, and the solemn promise of God.
I renounce all own justice, deserts and merits, for Jehovah’s sake who is my justice. Amen.