And forgive us our debts.
WE have already considered the object in this Petition, viz. sins, which according to the Syriak Idiotism are cal∣led debts, as alms are called righteousnesse, ver. 1. in an Hebraism. The next thing to be treated of, is the Petition it self, forgive us,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉: this word is most commonly used by the Apostles to signifie Page 111pardon of sins; they have it about seven and twenty times; but more of this when we shew what remission of sins is. The work I have for the present to do, is, to shew how comprehensive this Petition is, and what it is we pray for herein. Bellarmine oppo∣sing the Doctrine of the Protestants, holding a special and peculi∣ar faith, appropriating pardon of sin, mistaking the question, as if we maintained justifying faith to be that whereby we believe our sins are certainly forgiven us in Christ, chargeth this absurdity upon us, lib. 1. de Just. c. 10. That we take away this Petition in the Lords Prayer: For saith he, If I be bound certainly to believe my sins are forgiven already, it would be as absurd to pray that God would forgive us our sins, as to pray Christ might be incarnated, see∣ing we believe he was incarnated already. And l. 4. de noti• ecclesiae, c. 11. He makes this opinion of the Protestants, holding we are righteous before God for Christs sake, and the believing of this with a special faith, to be comparable with any Paradox in the world, as not being above or besides, but plainly contrary to all reason, and as that which makes it impossible for us to say, Forgive us our sins, unlesse we lye. It is true according to the Antinomian Divinity, which saith, there is no sin now in the Church, this Prayer doth no more belong to us then to the Angels in heaven: therefore the Antinomian makes not the meaning of this Prayer to be as if we prayed for the forgiveness which we had not before, but only for more full and rich assurance of it. Honey-Comb p.156. But the Sequel will shew the falshood of both these assertions.
Obser.*It is the duty of justified persons to pray for the forgivenes of their sins. To understand this, we will shew, first,* what is the expresse meaning of this Petition, and then what is the implied sense of it.
In the first place, our meaning in this Petition is, That God would not require of us the payment and satisfaction of his justice for our sinnes. We have a Parable,*Luke 16.8. Of an unjust Stew∣ard, who called his Lords debtors, who bid him that owed an hun∣dred measures of oyl, set down fifty: but if God should conde∣scend thus far to us, instead of millions of sins we owe,*to set down but an hundred, yea, should we come down as low in the num∣ber of sins, as Abraham of his righteous men, yet that would not avail us. Yea, as long as there is but a farthing, the least sin un∣paid, Page 112 so long are we unable to give an account to God. We there∣fore desire of God, that he would not call upon us to pay for the least vain thought, or idle word, much lesse for those more grievous sins which we have committed. As it is, Not unto us Lord, not unto us, let the glory be given: so Not of us Lord, not of us, let thy justice be satisfied.
*2. We pray, That God would lay our sins upon Christ, and ac∣cept of satisfaction in and through him; for seeing God hath de∣clared his will, that man shall die for sin; if we should pray, that God would absolutely forgive our sins, it would be to pray, that he might be unjust. There is a twofold difference between Gods for∣givenesse of our sins, and our forgiving of others. First, We may and ought in some cases to forgive others freely, without any sa∣tisfaction at all, but God hath bound himself to another way. [ 1] Yet Gods grace is much to be magnified, and extolled in par∣don, [ 2] as we shall shew against the Socinian. Again secondly, We may and ought to forgive others though they do not repent, and ask pardon of us; but God hath declared his will otherwise: we do not therefore pray, that God would out of an absolute sove∣raignty and dominion remit our sins; but that he would account them upon Christ, and take him for our surety. As the Prophets wife who died in debt, was wonderfully relieved by the Prophets oyl, so that she was enabled to satisfie all her creditors; no lesse advantagious is the bloud of Christ to us, whereby the justice of God is appeased towards us. Therefore in this prayer, thus we may argue, O Lord, we call not upon thee to repeal any threat∣ning, to nullifie thy word, to become unjust; but thy wisedom hath found out a way that we may be pardoned, and thou satis∣fied. Neither will this be any injury to Christ, to lay them upon him though innocent, for this he voluntarily undertook, and he is not made a Surety or Mediatour against his will, neither in the midst of all his agonies and troubles he grapled with, did he repent of his suretiship, or desire to give it over; so that there goeth more to make this Petition good, and possible, then did to make the world at first, for there it cost Christ but a word, Let there be light, and there was light, but it is not so here, Let there be pardon, and there shall be pardon: besides Christs speak∣ing, there must be his doing and suffering.
Page 1133. As we pray thus for Justification, so also for continuance and preservation in it. As we pray for daily bread,* though our store be full; so, Though our Justification be sure, and perseve∣ring, yet by prayer we are to be preserved in it. A certain know∣ledge and faith of a thing, takes not away prayers; we know certainly God will gather a Church, and preserve it to the end of the world; yet we pray, Thy Kingdom come. Paul knew Act. 27.24. that none in the Ship with him should perish, because God had given him their lives, yet none can doubt, but he pray∣ed for their preservation, as well as used other means. Howsoe∣ver now, grievous sins committed by a David or Peter, may fa∣sten upon them, as the Viper upon Pauls hand, yet by the grace of God, they shall not be able to unstate them out of Gods fa∣vour, but at last their repentance will revive, and so they will sue out a pardon; and certainly Gods power and grace is no less seen in preserving of us in the state of Justification, then at first justifying us.
4. We do not only pray for preservation in this estate,*but for dai∣ly renewed acts of pardon, and imputation of Christs righteousnesse. Howsoever, as in the controversal part is to be shewed, Justifica∣tion is not reiterated, but is a state in which we were at first be∣lieving put into, without Apostacy from it, either total or final: yet those particular acts of pardon, and imputing of Christs righteousness, are continually by God communicated unto us: neither may we think, That our sins past, present and to come, are all taken away by one sentence, so that there is no new or iterated par∣don. Then indeed Bellarmines Argument would have strength in it, That it were as absurd to pray for forgivenesse of sin,*as to have Christ new incarnated; or that we might be predestinated, according as some have falsly said, Si non sis praedestinatus, ora, ut praedestineris, If thou art not predestinated, pray that thou mayest be. We might indeed pray for the believing of these things in a more setled manner, but not for the things themselves. But this is the proper answer to Bellarmines Objection, We pray for pardon of sin, and not for the Incarnation of Christ, or the ma∣king of the world, because these were so once done, that they are never to be done more. The Incarnation of Christ was once done, and is not to be done again; but remission of sin is so done, Page 114 as that it is continually to be done for us, and the ultimate com∣pleat effect of it will then only be, when sin shall be quite taken away, so that a total and full remission will be only at the day of Judgement, as appeareth Act. 3.19. That your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come: Not but that every sin here forgiven is fully and perfectly forgiven, but because we re∣new sin daily, therefore there is need of a daily pardon: Away therefore with all such opinions, as shall either plead such an inherent righteousnesse in the Pelagian way, or such an imputed righteousnesse in the Antinomian way, that will overthrow this Petition for forgivenesse of sins. If all thy former sins be forgiven, and no pardon for future, thy case would be desperate, for sin like Samsons hair, though it be cut, yet it will grow again, and come to great strength.
*5. We pray for the sense and feeling of this pardon in our consci∣ences more and more. For although God hath pardoned our sin, yet if we know not of this, it taketh off much from our comfort and Gods glory; we are in this case like some Heir or Prince, that hath many temporal dignities, but by reason of his infancy doth not understand it. Hence David, though Nathan told him, His sin was pardoned, yet Ps. 51. he prayeth for mercy and par∣don, and that in a plentifull manner; so that although a sin is perfectly remitted, so that it cannot be more of lesse forgiven then it is, yet the assurance or knowledge of this, may be more or lesse; and indeed though to have sins pardoned be an obje∣ctive happiness, yet to know that they are pardoned, is formal happiness; so that he is compleatly happy, who both hath his sins pardoned, and also knoweth they are so; and this made David Ps. 103. so exult and rejoyce, Blesse the Lord, O my soul, who for∣giveth all thine iniquities. This particular assurance inlarged his heart to praises. But although this be part of the sense in this Pe∣tition, yet this is not all we pray for, as the Antinomian con∣tends; for we pray principally for the real exhibition of pardon; and secondarily for the Declaration and manifestation of it in our consciences. Their conceit is, That God from all eternity hath par∣doned our sins past, present and to come, and that when we believe or repent, our sins are pardoned declaratively only to our conscience, they being forgiven before. This I shall handle in a Question by it Page 115 self: Only I shall lay down some few Arguments to prove that we do not only pray for assurance and manifestation of pardon, but also for pardon it self. The reasons are these,*
First, We might by the same rule, interpret all the other Petitions in regard of Declaration only, and not exhibition; when we pray for sanctification and glorification in that Petiti∣on, Thy Kingdom come, it might be as well said,* that we were sanctified and glorified from all eternity; and therefore when we are converted or saved in heaven, this is but to our sense and feeling. This Argument seemeth to be so strong against them, that they have confest, A man is already glorified while he is upon earth, most absurdly confounding the Decrees of God from eternity to do things, with the executions of them in time. How ridiculous would it be to expound that Petition, Give us our dai∣ly bread, thus, Not that God should give us daily bread, but only make us to see and feel that he hath given it us?
A second reason is, from the nature of forgivenesse of sin.* When sinne is pardoned, it is said to be blotted out: now that blotting out is not only from a mans conscience and feeling, but more immediately out of Gods Book. So that when God doth forgive, he doth cancel those debts which are in his Book, and not only the guilt that lieth upon our hearts: therefore these are very separable the one from the other: A man may feel no weight or burden of sin upon him, and yet it stand in fiery Characters against him in Gods Book; and on the contrary, a sin may be blotted out there, yet be very heavy and terrible in a mans feeling and apprehension: so sin pardoned is said to be covered or hid, not in respect of us, as if it were taken from our sight, but from Gods sight, and he is said to cast our sins be∣hinde his back, not ours.
The third reason, This Explication,* as the whole sense of the Petition, would overthrow all other places of Scripture, which make no pardon of sin to be, but where the subject hath such qualifications, as this in the Text of forgiving others, it is not indeed put as a cause or merit, but yet it is as a qualification of the subject; therefore our Saviour repeateth this again, Except ye forgive others, neither will my heavenly Father forgive you. So Act. 10.43. Whosoever believeth on him shall have remission of sins,Page 116 Rom. 3.15. He is a propitiation through faith in his bloud; here faith is made an instrument to apply and bring that pardon to the soul, which it had not before. So 1 Joh. 1.9. If we confesse our sins, he is faithfull and just to forgive us our sins. By these and the like Scriptures, it is plain, That remission of sin is given us only in the use of these graces: not that hereby we merit at Gods hand, or that God is tied to these wayes; but it is here, as in the Sacraments, he hath tied himself to convey his graces in no other chanels or conduits then he hath appointed.
*Lastly, This would make no difference between sins repented of, and not repented of; for if they be all pardoned from eter∣nity, then sins that are humbled for, and that are unhumbled for, have the like consideration on Gods part, and I may feel the pardon of the latter, though not repented of, as well as the former, yea I may have the sense of the pardon of all the sins I shall commit for the future, and so whereas I pray for daily bread, not to-morrow bread, I shall here beg for the sense of the pardon, not only of my sins to day, but tomorrow, and the next year: But I never read that God made such a Jubile, as one Pope did, who promised a plenary Indulgence, not only for sins past, but afore-hand also, for all sins to come; God doth not antidate his pardon before the sin be committed or repent∣ed of; but of this more largely in time.
*6. We pray, That as God doth forgive the sin, so also he would release the punishments, and take away all the wrath that doth be∣long to it. It is a mockery which Papists make about pardon, as if indeed God did pardon the sin, but the punishment that abi∣deth still, and we must work out a release from that by our own selves. It is true as we have proved, God though he doth pardon sin, yet he may grievously afflict; but these are father∣ly chastisements, not judicial punishments: but in this Prayer, we desire also that as the sins are removed, so also whatsoever troubles, afflictions and chastisements do remain, that they also may be taken away; that as the gulf of hell is removed, so eve∣ry cloud also may be dispelled.
*7. In this Petition, we pray, That God would deliver us from those effects of sin, which God hath immutably set upon it, such as are sicknesses, death and corruption; For although God by vertue of Page 117 the Covenant of Grace hath promised a perfect pardon of sin, yet we cannot come to a full enjoyment of all those priviledges which remission of sin doth bring, till we be freed from death and corruption. So that as long as there is the death and grave, still sin hath some power. We therefore pray, that whatsoever mortality and corruption sin hath brought in, it may be taken away, and we made fit for eternal life, which is the consequent of pardon of sin; for you must know that pardon is not a meer privative mercy, freeing us from Gods wrath, but there is also a positive investing of us with a title to everlasting life and glo∣ry, only our corruptibility hinders us from the actual possessi∣on of that which we have a right unto: we therefore pray, That as God removed our sins, so he would also remove all the sad effects and mischievous fruit which came in by it.
8. We pray not only for pardon of sin,*but also for the good con∣comitants and effects of it, which are Peace with God, and Joy in the holy Ghost, Rom. 5.1. Hence Luther speaketh of a two∣fold pardon, one secret and hidden, when he forgiveth sins, but the people of God do not feel or regard it; The other is open and experimental: now both these condonations are necessary. The first (saith he) is more bitter and troublesome, but more noble and acceptable. The first cleanseth, the latter pacifieth: the first is of meer faith, and obtaineth much of God; the latter is of experience more, and takes off from the excellency of faith: for as that is the best manifestation of love when it is carried out to an enemy, so is that of faith, when relying upon God, though feeling terrours, and an hell within us. God useth the first kinde of pardon to more heroical Christi∣ans. The latter to those that are more infirm. An instance of this two-fold remission we have in Mary Magdalen; the for∣mer, when Christ turned his back on her, and told Peter, Much was forgiven her; the other, when he turned towards her, saying, Thy sins are forgiven thee, go in peace. Now in our prayer we must not be limited; but as in the Law every Com∣mandment is spiritual, and hath a great latitude in it; so in pray∣er every Petition is spiritual, and hath much in it: let us there∣fore inlarge our hearts, and open them wide when we seek to God for pardon of sin. The priviledge is exceeding great, and Page 118 many are the dignities that do depend on it. If thy sins be par∣doned, thou becomest a favourite of Heaven, there is no con∣trariety between God and thee. The devil showed the glory of the world, and falsly said, All this is mine, but thou maiest shew all the glory of the Gospel and promises, yea all the glory of Heaven, and say, All this is mine. Yea there is a full recon∣ciliation made between God and that person, notwithstanding all former enmity, as appeareth in the example of the Prodigal son, he hath all love, favour and honour. Again, insomuch that such come not into judgement, Joh. 5.24. There is no condem∣nation to them, Rom. 8.1. yea there is not so much as any charge or indictment against them. What devil, what conscience, what law may accuse thee when God justifieth thee? Now in this Petition we desire that not only pardon of sin, but all these bles∣sed fruits of it, may be vouchsafed to us. Oh therefore the congealed and icie temper of men, who are no more inflamed in prayer about this! There are many that can heartily and feel∣ingly pray the former Petition, for the necessaries of this life, but how few for the grace of God in pardoning in a spiritual manner? Hearken then, O man, to what Christ hath said is good for thee to importune and seek after. Philo. lib. de Somniis saith, and it was also the opinion of Philosophers, That the Heavens make such an harmonious melody, that if the sound and noise of it could reach to our ears, it would make men leave off all their inferiour and sublunary labour and profit, attending to that only: Certainly this Doctrine of remission of sin, which is reveal∣ed from Heaven only, hath such excellent harmony in it of Gods Justice and his mercy, of Gods satisfaction and our happinesse, that it may justly make us forget to eat our bread, or delight in other comforts, meditating of, and being ravished with his excellency. Let this then instruct thee concerning that necessary duty of seeking out the pardon of thy sins; this belongs to every one, though a Paul, though a Moses, though in the highest form of Christi∣anity. It is a great comfort that all voluntary sins after grace received, are not unpardonable, as well as that against the holy Ghost. How often do we sin voluntarily and willingly after we are inlightned? And then the sins of infirmity and ignorance are more then the sands of the sea-shore: Is it not therefore ne∣cessary Page 119 that thou shouldest be continually begging for pardon? Know then that these indulgences are not like the Papal, to be bought by money, but they are purchased by the bloud of Christ: Peter thought it a great matter to forgive a brother seven times a day, but if God should not forgive us seventy times se∣ven a day, our condition would be damnable. Those that look to have pardon by their meritorious works, and penal satisfa∣ctions, cannot look up to God. Whereas all Nations used to look up to Heaven for rain, In Aegypto (saith Seneca) nemo aratorum aspicit Coelum, &c. No Husbandman regards the Hea∣vens, but Nilus only, from which they have rain; so in Po∣pery Christ is neglected, and Angels or Saints set up, as those that can give pardon; Men therefore look upon their Pilgri∣mages, their Penance, as if they were to forgive their sins to their own selves.