God's Method of Pardoning Sin
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity? - Micah vii:18.
To sinners the subject of pardon should be one of absorbing interest. It is surely no trivial question whether transgression can be forgiven, aud the transgressor restored to the favor of God? for an affirmative answer to this question has a most important bearing on the soul's eternal welfare. If sin can be pardoned, sinners of our race may indulge hope of salvation; if it can not be forgiven they must relinquish all hope, and sink into the darkness of despair. I rejoice to announce that there is forgiveness with God - that Jehovah is a God who pardons iniquity. Please observe:
I. It is God's Perogative to Pardon Iniquity.
Let it never be forgotten that sin is a transgression of the law of God. It is consequently an insult to the Lawgiver. The divine law may be considered a transcript of the divine perfections. God's will, in relation to His creatures, receives a visible embodiment in His law. Now, when the law is violated, the rule which God has given is set at naught. It is His law, for all the
legislative authority of the universe resides in Him. It has never been his pleasure to transfer it. When His law, therefore, is broken, it is His province to decide whether the transgressor shall be pardoned, and on what terms; for the judicial authority of the universe is His also. And if He determines that the penalty of His law shall be executed, it is His prerogative to proceed to the execution; for the executive power of the universe belongs to Him.
Let us rejoice that it is the good pleasure of our God to pardon sin. This is a glorious truth, and the Bible plainly declares it. I need only refer to such passages as the following: "The Lord - the Lord God, merciful and gracious, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin." "There is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared." "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have sinned against Him." "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
II. Some of the Peculiarities of God's Method of Pardoning Sin.
1. He pardons consistently with law and justice. - This can not be said of the organs of earthly governments. Suppose a man commits murder,
and is, according to the law of the State, sentenced to be hung. If the governor, who possesses the pardoning power, exercises it, he does so at the expense of the law that pronounced its sentence of condemnation. The claims of law are disregarded - the demands of justice are dishonored. The reason is no atoning expedient is introduced into the government. There is no compensatory arrangement to satisfy law and justice. It is not so when God pardons. Faith does not make void, but establishes the law. The atonement of Christ magnified the law, and made it honorable. It was the glorious expedient devised by infinite wisdom, and introduced by infinite benevolence into the divine government, to sustain the dignity of the Eternal Throne in the exercise of pardoning mercy to the guilty. The demands of the law were satisfied by the perfect obedience and expiatory blood of Jesus Christ. The claims of justice were triumphantly maintained. The argument of an apostle is, that because the Lord Jesus was set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, God can be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus. Faith embraces the atonement, and secures to its possessor justification through the merits of that atonement. God, in exercising mercy for Christ's sake, acts consistently with law and justice. He shows His inflexible attachment to the principles of justice embodied in His law. He lets the universe know that the sacrificial offering of Christ, in vindicating the rectitude
of the Divine Throne, opened a channel for the consistent egress of mercy from that Throne. The law and justice of God interpose no objection to the salvation of sinners through the blood of the cross, for their demands were met when the Sufferer of Calvary expired. To pardon, with the concurrence of law and justice, is a glorious peculiarity of God's method of pardoning. It belongs alone to the divine government. It shines forth in isolated and eternal grandeur.
2. God, in pardoning sin, shows His hatred of it. - What is there like this in civil government? Does a governor show his hatred of theft and perjury by releasing thieves and perjured persons from the State prison? By no means. He, in most cases, shows that he does not hate these crimes as he should do. God pardons sin through the death of Christ, and nothing gives us such an impression of God's hatred to sin as does the Cross. That he abhors sin is seen in His expulsion of rebel angels from His presence and the glory of His power. The same truth is taught in the multiplied miseries of our fallen world. Sin is the prolific source of these miseries, and God shows his hatred of it by attaching to it a commission consequences so fearful. Jehovah's detestation of sin is expressed in the fires of hell, and in the tortures of the worm that never dies. But O! his hatred assumes its intensest form in the death of Jesus Christ. If ever there was an hour when God could have connived at sin - suffering it to pass with impunity that hour
occurred when the Redeemer was nailed to the cross. But there was no connivance. Of this we have proof equally ample and awful in the darkness that shrouded the sun - the quaking of the earth - the rending of the rocks - the opening of graves, and the agonizing cry of the crucified One, "My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?" The divine hatred of sin receives its most striking exhibition in the cross. Now, it is through the Cross alone that God pardons sin, and whatever He does in consideration of the blood of the cross, shows His infinite abhorrence of sin. In pardoning sin, therefore, God shows His intense hatred of it. "What a sublime wonder is this! Sin freely pardoned by the Lawgiver, and yet His detestation of it more fully displayed than if the sinner who is pardoned had been sent to hell. Yes, as truly as the majesty of the law is vindicated by the very expedient that remits its penalty and hushes its thunders, so truly does God in pardoning sin show his hatred of it. This is surely a marvelous peculiarity in his method of pardoning.
3. He so pardons that those who are forgiven can not presume to transgress again. - The guilty rebel who is pardoned by the executive of a civil commonwealth, may presume to commit some other crime with the expectation of being again pardoned. But "there is forgiveness with God that He may be feared," not that He may be trifled with. The sinner who is forgiven is cordially opposed to sin. He must hate sin before God
will pardon him. That is, he must repent, and repentance involves not only sorrow for, but hatred of sin. The repenting suppliant feels an intense abhorrence of his transgressions, and never does he hate them more than when God forgives them. "Now, as the pardoned sinner hates sin, and as God evinces His hatred of it even in His method of pardoning it, we may surely conclude that those who are forgiven will not presume again to transgress. The method in which they are restored to the divine favor, inspires them with a salutary fear of evil, and in the "process of repentance they learn to hate sin in all its forms. The plan of salvation through Christ guarantees the perseverance in holiness of those who acquiesce in it. This is a wonderful peculiarity in God's method of pardoning. The pardoned go and sin no more - never again become the slaves of sin.
4. He pardons many offenses. - Any civil government, to pursue this course, would, politically speaking, soon dig its own grave. The penalty of the law would at once be regarded as nominal, and no one would care for it. But God can forgive offenses as numerous as the hairs of our heads. Where sin abounds He makes His grace much more abound. He shows to the universe that He is God, by acting as God alone can act. The atonement of Christ, which justifies the pardon of one sin, justifies the pardon of ten thousand times ten thousand transgressions. Nor is the exercise of mercy in the pardon of numberless
offenses a license to sin - nor does the heauty of holiness shine forth with less resplendence - nor is the majesty of the law impaired, while innumerable violations of its precepts are graciously forgiven. "What glorious wonders are done through the Cross. Sins, whether few or many, can be pardoned through its hallowed blood.
5. He pardons the vilest sinners. - Civil governors generally select as the subjects of pardon those who are not abandoned to crime. Those who have maintained a good reputation, but, under momentary passion, have been betrayed into the perpetration of crime, are made the subjects of executive clemency. God is frequently pleased to pardon the vilest of transgressors. He lets the universe see what his grace can do. There are no redeeming qualities in any whom he forgives. Some are more depraved than others; but of specimens of depravity he often makes specimens of his mercy. Mannasseh, who made the streets of Jerusalem to flow with blood, when humbled by affliction, sought the Lord, and doubtless obtained pardoning mercy. Mary Magdalene, out of whom seven demons were expelled, received forgiveness. The act of pardon was passed in favor of the penitent thief, while in the agonies of death, and his happy spirit soared to paradise. Saul of Tarsus, whose heart was so inflamed with animosity against the disciples of Christ, that his very breath was represented as "threatening and slaughter," committed to the pages of inspiration this language:
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." Saul, the persecutor, obtained mercy, and now stands before the throne in heaven, a perpetual illustration of the fact, that God pardons the vilest sinners.
6. He pardons multitudes of sinners. - Civil government, in pursuing a course like this, would defeat the ends at which it aims; but the glory of the Divine Government is promoted by the pardon of countless myriads. The salvation of every sinner glorifies God. How magnificent, then will be the grand aggregate of his glory, resulting from the salvation of a multitude which no man can number! And what a view this gives us of the atonement of Christ! In providing for the pardon of one sinner, it provided for the pardon of sinners the number of whom the science of numbers can not compute. To furnish one man with the light that all men have, the creation of the sun would have been necessary; but the same sun gives light to all the inhabitants of the earth, and could as easily give light to ten thousand other planets. The atonement of Christ would have been indispensable to the salvation of one sinner, while, through its rich provisions, innumerable millions may be saved. Our God pardons multitudes of sinners.
REMARKS1. These peculiarities in God's method of pardoning sin, show that his ways are not as our ways, and that his thoughts are not as our thoughts.
2. It will be delightful to employ eternal ages in contemplating these peculiarities.
3. How many in this assembly are the subjects of pardoning mercy?
4. It will be awful to die unpardoned - to be condemned at the judgment, and then to suffer the torments of hell through endless ages. The sinner, remaining impenitent, has this doom before him.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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