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sincere obedience, we cannot be acquitted upon it by the law of grace.
And then, if we consider the matter of our pardon and remission, which is nothing but a releasing us from our obligation to punishment, it will from thence also appear, that that faith upon which we obtain our pardon must be such as works in us sincere repentance and obedience. For the punishment to which we are obliged by the law of
grace consists in the loss of heaven, as well as in the positive torments of hell; and therefore our pardon must include a release from both. But to be released from
. our obligation of losing heaven, is the same thing as to have a right of enjoying it conferred upon us; so that the faith upon which we are pardoned and forgiven is the faith upon which we are entitled to heaven, and which, as all agree, includes in it repentance and sincere obedience. For these two things are of undoubted certainty, that every man shall go to heaven that dies entitled to it; and that no man shall
go to heaven that dieth in impenitence and wilful disobedience. For it is our keeping the commandments of God that gives us a right to the tree of life, Rev. xxii. 14. and our keeping God's commandments is that holiness without which no man shall see God, Heb. xii. 14. And accordingly in scripture the remission of our sins is attributed to our repentance and obedience, as well as to our faith. So Acts iii. 19. Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And in 1 John i. 7. If ye walk in the light, as he is in the light, you have communion with him, and the blood of Christ cleanseth you from all sin.
So also Acts x. 34, 35. God is no respecter of persons : but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him. From whence it is evident, that when the scripture makes mention of faith only in the matter of our justification, it is to be understood of faith in the greatest latitude, as comprehending repentance and sincere obedience: for how can we be justified by faith only, and yet be justified by obedience too, unless our obedience be included in our faith ? And indeed the scripture plainly declares that faith itself is not at all available with God, unless it be accompanied with sincere obedience. So Gal. v. 6. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth, nor uncircumcision ; but faith which worketh by love : and what he means by faith working by love he tells us, Gal. vi. 15. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the new creature: and what he means by the new creature he also tells us, 1 Cor. vii. 19. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God: so that the only thing which avails us with God is faith working by love. Faith working by love is the new creature, the new creature is keeping the commandments of God: and in James ii, 26. we are told, that as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith also is dead without works ; that is, it is altogether ineffectual. For so, if you compare the 14th and 17th verses of this chapter, you will find that those two phrases, faith cannot save, and faith is dead, do both signify the same thing. Since therefore faith itself without obedience is unavailable, when the scripture makes mention of our being justified by faith, it must ne
cessarily be understood of faith comprehending obedience.
And thus you see what God the Father's part is in remitting our sins, viz. that it consists in granting to us an universal act of pardon and indemnity, in consideration of our Saviour's sacrifice, and upon condition of our sincere repentance and future obedience. And this is the groundwork and foundation of all remission of sins; without which our Saviour himself hath no right to pardon and forgive us. For since the law against which we have all sinned was peculiarly from God the Father, as he is the fountain of divinity, and consequently the head of the divine dominion, it was he peculiarly that was the party offended, and consequently it was he to whom our obligation to punishment was due, and by whom alone it can be released and remitted: and as the grant of remission was wholly in his will and pleasure, so was it also to accept the consideration and appoint the conditions of it. So that now, as none can be pardoned but upon his grant, so neither can his grant be available to any, but upon that consideration which he hath accepted, viz. the precious sacrifice of his own Son, and upon such conditions as he hath appointed; viz. faith working in us sincere repentance and obedience. And accordingly our Saviour, in all that he doth in the part he acts in forgiving sins, proceeds upon and according to this grant of his Father: for it is in the right and upon the consideration and condition of this grant that he forgives us; nor can he forgive any by any other right than that which it gives him, or upon any other consideration than that which it hath admitted, or upon any other condition than that which it hath specified and determined. And this brings me to the second head I proposed, which was to shew what it is that the Son doth in forgiving sins.
In short therefore, the part which our Saviour bears in it, considered as King under God the Father, is to make an actual and particular application of this general grant of his Father to particular sinners, upon their faith and repentance. For the Father's grant is only a general promise, that we shall be pardoned for Christ's sake whenever we sincerely believe and repent; but the actual pardoning us consists in the application of this general promise to us in particular, by which the general promise of pardon is converted into a particular sentence of pardon. For the promise says thus, Whosoever believes and repents shall be pardoned: the particular application of the promise says thus, Thou doest believe and repent; and therefore, by virtue of that promise, I pardon and forgive thee. And this is the proper part of our blessed Saviour, who, having first obtained this promise of his Father by his sacrifice upon earth, and then still continuing to obtain of him, by his continual intercession in heaven, royal authority to dispense that promise to us, doth, by virtue of that authority, actually pardon us upon our actual repentance. So that as soon as ever we perform the condition of God's grant of pardon, our Saviour (who knows the inmost thoughts of our hearts, and perfectly discerns our sincerity) immediately pronounces our sentence of pardon, and by a particular application of that general grant to us absolves us from our obligation to eternal punishment, and freely receives us into grace and favour.
For though the completion and publication of our pardon is reserved for the day of judgment, when we shall be absolved from all punishment (i.e. not only of eternal misery, but also of corporal death and temporal sufferings) in the public view and audience of the world; yet it is certain that every penitent believer in Jesus is actually pardoned by him in heaven as soon as ever he believes and repents; that is, he is, in foro Christi, and before the tribunal of his royal judgment, absolved from the obligation to suffer eternal misery which he lay under during his state of impenitence; and Christ, in his own mind, judgment, and estimation, hath judicially thus pronounced concerning him: By virtue of my Father's grant to all penitent offenders, and of that royal authority which he hath committed to me, I freely release thee from all that vast debt of everlasting punishment which thou hast too justly incurred by sinning against him. Thus as the Father forgives us virtually by that public grant of mercy, which for Christ's sake he hath made to all penitent offenders ; so the Son forgives us actually by that royal authority, which the Father hath given him to make a particular application of that his general grant to us upon our actual repentance; and as it is by the Father's grant that the Son pardons us, so it is by the Son's application of it that the Father pardons us : and therefore we are said in or by Christ to have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin, Col. i. 14. i. e. to be forgiven for the sake of his blood ; in consideration whereof God the Father hath given him power to forgive us. For so he himself tells us, that all power in heaven and earth was given him, Matt. xxviii. 18. and