Our first need, as sinners, is forgiveness; and there is forgiveness with God, of which His word thus speaks: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Rom. 4:7, 8.) This blessedness is a present possession, “We have the forgiveness of sins” in Christ (Eph. 1:7); and the portion is that of the simplest, as well as that of the most advanced believer, for we read — “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you.” (1 John 2:12.)
Forgiveness is the act of God towards the sinner.
We must not mix in our minds our tears, prayers, repentance, or any inward work with God's act of forgiveness. Suppose a man, having no means whatever, owes twenty pounds. His creditor pities him, and forgives him the debt. The forgiveness is not a long process worked within the mind of the debtor, but the act of the creditor: “I forgive you,” he says, and the forgiveness is accomplished. The debt no doubt made the debtor feel miserable; but when the creditor forgave the twenty pounds, the debt was gone, every farthing of it, not because of what the debtor felt, but because of what the creditor did.
Forgiveness is an act of pure grace upon the part of God.
We are entirely without resources; we are sold under sin, and we have no strength to do any single good thing whereby we can merit favour from God. On the contrary, every day and hour of our lives we add to the debt of sin. Yet whatever the debt of our sins may be, there is with God abounding grace to forgive it. Our Lord tells us of “two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty, and when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both;” at the same time showing us that the sinner, who has the greatest sense of sin, has the greatest sense of the grace which forgives sin.
Forgiveness being the act of God, and His own pure grace to sinners, we inquire —
What is the hindrance to the sinner receiving the knowledge of forgiveness of sins
Pride of heart, which refuses to believe his real state, his utter sinfulness and helplessness, is the great hindrance. Pride sends man to the treadmill of his own doings; and there Satan drives the helpless worker to despair, as the taskmasters lashed the Israelites of old, crying to them, when they could not make bricks without straw, “Ye be idle! ye be idle!” Brick-making did not bring the Israelites out of the house of bondage, neither will works bring a sinner out of his sins. Grace brought Israel into liberty, and grace frees the soul. Seeking to obtain forgiveness by our doings is spiritual slavery. God will not be in debt to any man. Listen to what He says: “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:4, 5.)
Works and grace cannot be mixed.
One drop of the poison of man's works let fall into a vessel full of God's grace, deprives grace of its character. God will not allow that man shall spoil His gracious act of forgiveness by any mixture of works, for “If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” (Rom. 11:6.)
The ground upon which God forgives sin.
Self must be set aside and God brought in, if we would know His forgiveness. God consulted Himself and glorified His throne. God magnified His own character of righteousness regarding sin by the death of Christ. The blood which Jesus shed is of sufficient value to discharge the debt of every sinner; and God in grace forgives sins upon the ground of what the Lord has done. The blood of Jesus is available for all; and God's grace is like an exhaustless deposit placed at the bank, so that all, who are poor and needy, may obtain “the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:7.) God's righteousness has been magnified about the very sins which burden the sinner's conscience, so that He declares “at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26.)
The following homely illustration of debt being forgiven was used of God to give the subject of the story assurance as to the forgiveness of her sins. May our reader have equally simple faith!
At a village shop the old woman, into whose debt her customers ran, would carefully mark upon the back of her shop door how much each one owed her. There, in white chalk, as well as upon her memory, was written the name of each purchaser with the exact amount owing beneath it. Name and debt were riveted together in the old woman's mind, and could be only separated by due and full payment of all that was owing.
Amongst the old woman's customers was one, whose conscience sorely troubled her on account of the debt of her sins, and who dreaded the opening of the books when small and great shall stand before the great white throne, and be judged according to their works. Our friend knew that her sins could never be erased from God's book by her own doings, and that unless they were blotted out she must be everlastingly lost.
“Why do you mourn thus over your sins?” said one to her; “why do you not believe what God says respecting those who really desire forgiveness? Has He not told such that the debt is paid? You never trouble about the chalk marks upon the shop door after the money is put down. Can you not likewise rest in what the blood of Christ has done in paying the debt of sin, and satisfying the demand of divine righteousness?
“I will go to the shop and see what she has against your name, and will pay the due; she will then rub out the chalk marks, so that when you next go there, she will tell you that not a mark stands against your name, and you will thankfully believe her. Yet in this work you will have no part, save the satisfaction that flows from believing your debt is paid.
“And thus, dear friend, it is with the terrible debt of your sins over which you mourn, and for which you own you have nothing to pay. Justice is satisfied, for the blood of God's Son has been shed for the sins of His people, and not one sin is left against their names. Jesus has paid the price of them all in His own blood. Indeed, Justice has, as it were, by that precious blood, wiped out all the debt of their sins; and we, who believe God, can and do rejoice in freedom from the debt of sin; and more, it is God's own joy to tell us that our names are no longer connected with our sins, but that our names are written in the Lamb's book of life.”
God graciously owned the illustration from her every-day life, and our friend believed, and henceforth rejoiced in God.
The sins of God's people are not only forgiven — they are also forgotten.
An earthly sovereign once said when granting a pardon, “I forgive, but I cannot forget.” If God acted thus, we could never be happy in His presence, but He says: “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 8:12.) Thus we can dwell in liberty in His presence, and rejoice in His grace.
The sins which God forgives, are ALL sins.
Some seem to think that a line is drawn at conversion, and that all sins up to that day are blotted out, but they are not at rest when thinking of what sin they may possibly yet commit. “I am safe up to this moment,” said one to us. “But what of tomorrow?” we inquired. “Ah, of that I cannot tell,” was the reply. Self, not God, was his confidence.
God does not say He forgives past, present, or future sins, but SINS. “Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things.” (Acts 13:38, 39.) The two “alls” in this verse take in every believer, and everything, all who believe are justified from all things. Whether it be strong faith or weak faith is not the question; but, do we believe? And, if we do believe, the question is not great sins or small sins, but all sins; nay God, in His grace, has spoken of things — not gross sins merely, but every kind of thing which we have done, or shall do, so that our consciences may be at rest, and our hearts rejoice before Him.
The perfect work of Christ embraces all sins. Could it do less? It is terrible unbelief to weigh out our sins against Christ's blood in the scales of our imagination. In the balances of the sanctuary we find that our sins, however heavy, are nothing at all in view of the preciousness of Christ's blood. The grievous hindrance to our rejoicing in God's forgiveness is unbelief in what Christ has done, and in God's grace which forgives all sins.
God knew every one of our sins when He “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6), and Jesus endured the weight of them all when “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” (1 Peter 2:24.)
Where then are your sins, believer? They are not upon you, for God laid them upon Jesus, They are not upon Jesus, for He has borne them and is in glory; where then are your sins? They are gone. Rest in the work of Christ, believe and rejoice. Your sins are forgiven you for His Name's sake; you have the forgiveness of sins through Christ; you are one of God's blessed people. “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”