Saturday, April 08, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 4)

I have found the blogosphere to be somewhat slow around the weekend, so I have decided to post some kind of edifying work from the past on Saturdays.

This post continues a series from J.C. Ryle (1816-1900, Bishop of the Anglican Church): "Forgiveness." It is a wonderful, gospel-centered work. Here is the first part, the second part, and the third part.

III. Let me, in the third place, encourage all who wish to be forgiven.

I dare be sure this paper will be read by some one who feels he is not yet a forgiven soul. My heart's desire and prayer is that such an one may seek his pardon at once. And I would fain [gladly] help him forward, by showing him the kind of forgiveness offered to him, and the glorious privileges within his reach.

Consider, then, for one thing, that the forgiveness set before you is a great and broad forgiveness. Hear what the Prince of Peace Himself declares: “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies, where with soever they shall blaspheme” (Mar 3:28). “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa 1:18). Yes: though your trespasses be more in number than the hairs of your head, the stars in heaven, the leaves of the forest, the blades of grass, the grains of sand on the sea shore, still they can all be pardoned. As the waters of Noah's flood covered over and hid the tops of the highest hills, so can the blood of Jesus cover over and hide your mightiest sins. His blood “cleanseth us from all sin” (1Jo 1:7). Though to you they seem written with the point of a diamond, they can all be effaced from the book of God's remembrance by that precious blood, Paul names a long list of abominations which the Corinthians had committed, and then says, “Such were some of you: but ye are washed” (1Co 6:11).

Furthermore, it is a full and complete forgiveness. It is not like David's pardon to Absalom, — a permission to return home, but not a full restoration to favour (2Sa 14:24). It is not, as some fancy, a mere letting off, and letting alone. It is a pardon so complete that he who has it is reckoned as righteous as if he had never sinned at all! His iniquities are blotted out. They are removed from him as far as the east from the west (Psa 103:12). There remains no condemnation for him. The Father sees him joined to Christ and is well pleased. The Son beholds him clothed with His own righteousness and says, “Thou art all fair, there is no spot in thee” (Sol 4:7). Blessed be God that it is so! I verily believe if the best of us all had only one blot left for himself to wipe out, he would miss eternal life. If the holiest child of Adam were in heaven all but his little fin g e r, and to get in depended on himself, I am sure he would never enter the kingdom. If Noah, Daniel, and Job, had had but one day's sins to wash away, they would never have been saved. Praised be God, that in the matter of our pardon there is nothing left for man to do! Jesus does all, and man has only to hold out an empty hand and to receive.

Furthermore, it is a free and unconditional forgiveness. It is not burdened with an “if,” like Solomon's pardon to Adonijah: “If he will show himself a worthy man” (1Ki 1:52). Nor yet are you obliged to carry a price in your hand, or to bring a character with you to prove yourself deserving of mercy. Jesus requires but one character, and that is that you should feel yourself a sinful, bad man. He invites you to “buy wine and milk without money and without price,” and declares, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Isa 55:1; Rev 22:17). Like David in the cave of Adullam, He receives every one that feels in distress and a debtor, and rejects none (1Sa 22:2). Are you a sinner? Do you want a Saviour? Then come to Jesus just as you are, and your soul shall live.

Again, it is an offered forgiveness. I have read of earthly Kings who knew not how to show mercy; of Henry the Eighth of England who spared neither man nor woman, — of James the Fifth of Scotland, who would never show favour to a Douglas. The King of kings is not like them. He calls on men to come to Him, and be pardoned. “Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men” (Pro 8:4). “Ho! Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isa 55:1). “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink” (Joh 8:37). “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28). It ought to be a great comfort to you and me to hear of any pardon at all; but to hear Jesus Himself inviting us, to see Jesus Himself holding out His hand to us, — the Saviour seeking the sinner before the sinner seeks the Saviour, — this is encouragement, this is strong consolation indeed!

Again, it is a willing forgiveness. I have heard of pardons granted in reply to long entreaty, and wrung out by much importunity. King Edward the Third of England would not spare the citizens of Calais till they came to him with halters round their necks, and his own Queen interceded for them on her knees. But Jesus is “good and ready to forgive” (Psa 86:5). He “delighteth in mercy” (Mic 7:18). You and I may well come boldly to the throne of grace. He who sits there is far more willing and ready to give mercy than we are to receive it (Heb 4:16).

Besides this, it is a tried forgiveness. Thousands and tens of thousands have sought for pardon at the mercy seat of Christ, and not one has ever returned to say that he sought in vain. Sinners of every name and nation, — sinners of every sort and description, — have knocked at the door of the fold, and none have ever been refused admission. Zacchaeus the extortioner, Magdalen the harlot, Saul the persecutor, Peter the denier of his Lord, the Jews who crucified the Prince of Life, the idolatrous Athenians, the adulterous Corinthians, the ignorant Africans, the bloodthirsty New Zealanders, — all have ventured their souls on Christ's promises of pardon, and none have ever found them fail. If the way which the Gospel sets before us were a new and untraveled way, we might well feel faint-hearted. But it is not so. It is an old path. It is a path worn by the feet of many pilgrims, and a path in which the footsteps are all one way. The treasury of Christ's mercies has never been found empty. The well of living waters has never proved dry.

Besides this, it is a present forgiveness. All that believe in Jesus are at once justified from all things (Acts 13:39). The very day the younger son returned to his father's house he was clothed with the best robe, had the ring put on his hand, and the shoes on his feet (Luk 15:22). The very day Zacchaeus received Jesus he heard those comfortable words, “This day is salvation come to this house” (Luk 19:9). The very day that David said, “I have sinned against the Lord,” he was told by Nathan, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin” (2Sa 12:13). The very day you first flee to Christ, your sins are all removed. Your pardon is not a thing far away, to be obtained only after many years. It is nigh at hand. It is close to you, within your reach, all ready to be bestowed. Believe, and that very moment it is your own. “He that believeth is not condemned” (Joh 3:18). It is not said, “He shall not be,” or “will not be,” but “is not.” From the time of his believing, condemnation is gone. “He that believeth hath everlasting life” (Joh 3:36). It is not said, “He shall have,” or “will have,” it is “hath.” It is his own as surely as if he was in heaven, though not so evidently so to his own eyes. You must not think forgiveness will be nearer to a believer in the Day of Judgment than it was in the hour he first believed. His complete salvation from the power of sin is every year nearer and nearer to him; but as to his forgiveness and justification, and deliverance from the guilt of sin, it is a finished work from the very minute he first commits himself to Christ.

Last, and best of all, it is an everlasting forgiveness. It is not like Shimei's pardon, — a pardon that may some time be revoked and taken away (1Ki 2:9). Once justified, you are justified for ever. Once written down in the book of life, your name shall never be blotted out. The sins of God's children are said to be cast into the depths of the sea, — to be sought for and not found, — to be remembered no more, — to be cast behind God's back (Mic 7:19; Jer 50:20; 31:34; Isa 38:17). Some people fancy they may be justified one year and condemned another, — children of adoption at one time, and strangers by and by, — heirs of the kingdom in the beginning of their days, and yet servants of the devil in their end. I cannot find this in the Bible. It seems to me to overturn the good news of the Gospel altogether, and to tear up its comforts by the roots. I believe the salvation Jesus offers is an everlasting salvation, and a pardon once sealed with His blood shall never be reversed.

 
posted at 10:00 AM  





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I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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