And forgive us our Debts.
IT hath already been demonstrated at large, How God doth remit or forgive sins. We come now to shew, What kinde of act forgivenesse of sin is,*and whether it be antecedent to our faith and repentance. Both these Questions have a dependency one upon another; and therefore must be handled together.
The first Doubt is, What kinde of act in God forgivenesse of sin is? Whether it be an immanent act in-dwelling and abiding in God, or transient, working some reall effect and change upon the creature.
Now in handling of this, I shall not trouble you with that perplex Question so much vexed by the Schoolmen, Whether Page 165 a transient action be in the Agent, or in the Patient, but lay down some differences between an immanent action, and a transient action;* only you must take notice that we are in meer dark∣nesse, and not able to comprehend how God is said to act or work. For on the one side, we must not hold that there are any accidents in God; or that he can be a subject recipient of such, because of his most pure and simple Essence;* so that whatsoever is in God is God. And yet on the other side, the Scripture doth represent God doing and working such mercies and judgements as seemeth good to him. Only this some con∣clude of, wherein others with some probability dissent, that Gods knowledge and will is the cause of all things that are done; so that there is not an executive power besides them, whereby he doth this or that; As we see there is in man, though an Ar∣tificer wils such a thing to be done, yet that is not existent till he hath wrought it, but now God worketh all things by a meer command of his will, as appeareth Gen. 1. God said, Let there be light, and there was light; Here was Gods will to have it so, no executing power distinct from that will. Therefore it is a sure truth, De Deo etiam vera dicere periculosum est. It is dan∣gerous to assert things though true of God; and Tunc dignè Deum aestimamus cum inaestimabilem dicimus, then do we rightly esteem of him, when we judge him above our thoughts or esteem. We must not therefore apprehend of God,* as having a new will to do a thing in time, which he had not from eter∣nity (as Vorstius and others blaspheme) but his will was from all eternity, that such a thing be in time accomplished by his wisdome. As for example, in Creation, God did not then be∣gin to have a will to create: but he had a will from all eterni∣ty, that the world should exist in time; and thus it is in Justi∣fication and Sanctification; not that these effects are from eter∣nity, but Gods will is: And if you ask, Why, seeing Gods will to create or justifie is from eternity, Creation and Justificati∣on are not also from eternity? The answer is, because God is a free Agent, and so his will is not a necessary cause of the thing, for then it would be immediately, as the Sun beams are neces∣sarily as soon as the Sun is, but it is a voluntary principle, and so maketh the effect to be at the time he prescribeth. As if there Page 166 were an Artificer or Carpenter, that could by his meer wi• cause an house to be reared up; he might will this to be done in such and such a year long after his will of it to be: So God when the world is made, when a sinner is justified, willed these things from all eternity, and when they come to have a being, these effects cause an extrinsecal denomination to be attribu∣ted to God, which was not before, as now he is a Creator, and was not before, now he justifieth, and did not before. There is no change made in God, but the alteration is in the creature. But of this more in its time.* Let us come to give the differen∣ces between an immanent action, and a transient, and then we may easily see, which of these two Justification or Remission of sinne is.
*The first and proper difference is this, An immanent action is that which abides in God, so that it works no reall effect without: As when God doth meerly know or understand a thing; but a transient action, is when a positive change is made thereby in a creature, as in Creation, &c. So that we may conclude of all Gods actions, which do relate to believers, only predestina∣tion is an immanent act of God, and all the rest, Justification, Regeneration, Glorification, are transient acts: for Predesti∣nation though it be an act of God choosing such an one to hap∣pinesse, yet it doth not work any reall change or positive effect in a man, unlesse we understand it virtually, for it is the cause of all those transient actions that are wrought in time. Howso∣ever therefore Justification be called by some an immanent acti∣on, and so made to go before Faith and Repentance * as if Faith were onely a declaration and signe of pardon of sinne from all eternity, yet that cannot be made good, as is to be shewed.
*A second difference floweth from the other, An immanent action is from eternity, and the same with Gods essence, but a tran∣sient action is the same with the effect produced. Hence the Ortho∣dox maintain, That Gods decrees are the same with his nature. Hence when we speak of Gods willing such a thing, it is no more then his divine Essence, with an habitude and respect to such objects; Gods Decrees are no more then God decreeing, Gods will no more then God willing: otherwise the simpliciyPage 167 of Gods nature will be overthrown, and those volitions of God will be created entities, and so must be created by other new volitions, and so in infinitum, as Spanheimius well argueth, only the later part seemeth not to be strong or sufficient, be∣cause when man willeth, he doth not will that by a new voliti∣on, and so in infinitum, and why then would such a thing fol∣low in God? Besides its no such absurdity in the actings of the soul, to hold a progresse in infinitum, thus far, that it doth not determinately pitch or end at such an act. It is one thing to have things distinguished in God, and another thing for us to conceive distinctly of them. The former is false: The later is true and necessary. But with transient actions it is otherwise, they being the same with the effects produced, are in time; And this is a perpetual mistake in the Antinomian, to confound Gods Decree and Purpose to justifie, with Justification, Gods im∣manent action from all eternity, with that transient, which is done in time. Whereas if they should do thus in matters of Sanctification and Glorification, it would be absurd to every mans experience, whereas indeed a man may as truly say, That his body is glorified from all eternity, as that his sins are forgiven from all eternity. And certainly Scripture speaks for one as well as the other, when it saith, Whom he hath justified, them he hath glorified.
By these two differences, you may see, That pardon of sin is a transient action, and so Justification also, partly, because it leaveth a positive, real effect upon a man justified; he that was in the state of hatred, is hereby in a state of love and friendship, he hath peace with God now, that once was at variance with him. Now when we say, There is a change made in a man by Justification, it is not meant of an inward, absolute and physical one, such as is in Sanctification, when of unholy we are made holy, but morall and relative; as when one is made a Magi∣strate, or husband and wife: partly, because this is done to us in time, whereas immanent actions were from all eternity, and therefore it would be absurd to pray for them, as it is ridiculous for a man to pray he may be predestinated or elected. Some indeed have spoken of Predestination, as actus continuus, a con∣tinued act, and so with them it is good Divinity, Si non sis prae∣destinatus, Page 168 ora ut praedestineris, If thou beest not predestinated, pray that thou maiest be; but this is corrupt doctrine, and much opposeth the Scripture, which doth frequently commend election from the eternity of it, that it was before the foundati∣ons of the world were laid; whereas now for pardon of sinne, it is our duty to pray that God would do it for us. This being thus cleared, we come to answer the next Question depending upon this, viz. Whether God doth justifie or forgive our sins before we believe or repent? and our answer is negative, That God doth not. Although there are many who are pertinaci∣ous, that he doth; and so they make Faith not an instrumental cause to apply pardon, but only a perswasion that sin is pardon∣ed; and thus repentance shall not be a condition to qualifie the subject, to obtain forgiveness, but a sign to manifest that sin is forgiven. This Question is of great practical concernment; and therefore to establish you in the truth, consider these Ar∣guments.*
1. The Scripture speaks of a state of wrath and condemnation, that all are in before they be justified or pardoned. Therefore the believers sins were not from all eternity forgiven; for if there were a time, viz. before his Regeneration and Conversion, that he was a childe of wrath, under the guilt and punishment of sin, then he could not be at the same time, in the favour of God, and peace with him.* Now the Scripture doth plentifully shew, That even believers before their Regeneration are detained in such bonds and chains of guilt and Gods displeasure, Ephes. 2.1, 2, 3. There the Apostle speaking to the converted Ephesians, telleth them of the wretched and cursed condition they were once in, and he reckons himself amongst them, saying, They were children of wrath, and that even as others were: So that there is no difference between a godly man unconverted, and a wicked man, for that present state, for both are under the power of Satan, both walk in disobedience, both are workers of iniqui∣ty, and so both are children of wrath. It is true, the godly man is predestinated, and so shall be brought out of this state, and the other left in it. But predestination (as is more largely to be shewed) being an immanent act in God, doth denote no positive effect for the present of love upon the person; and there∣fore Page 169 he being not justified, hath his sins imputed to him, lying upon him, and therefore by the Psalmists argument, not a blessed man. This also, 1 Cor. 6.9, 10, 11. The Apostle saith of some Co∣rinthians, That they were such as abiding in that state could not inherit the kingdom of God, and such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are justified. Therefore there was a time when these Corinthians were not justified, but had their sins abiding on them. Likewise all the places of Scripture, which speak of Gods wrath upon wicked men, and that they have no peace with God, must needs be true of all godly men while unconverted. He that believeth not, hath not life, and the wrath of God abideth on him, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Now who can de∣ny but that this is true of Paul, while no believer, but an oppo∣ser of godlinesse? The Psalmist also saith, God is angry with the wicked every day; Was not this true of Manasses before his con∣version? It must therefore be a very poisonous Doctrine, to say, That God is as well pleased with a man before his conversion, as after.
2. If the Scriptures limit this priviledge of Justification and pardon only to those subjects that are so and so qualified,*then till they be thus furnished, they cannot enjoy those priviledges. The places are many which testifie this, Act. 3.19. Repent, that your sins may be blotted out. Therefore their sins stood uncancelled, as so many Debts in Gods register Book, till they did repent, Act. 26.18. To turn them from darknesse to light, from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgivenesse of sins. Therefore they had it not, while under the power of darknesse, 1 Joh. 1.9. If we confesse our sins, he is faithfull and just to forgive us our sins, which supposeth, That God doth forgive our sins only, when we confesse and forsake them, Matth. 6.15. If ye forgive not, neither will my heavenly Father forgive you. It is in vain to number up more places, for these do necessarily prove sinne is not forgiven, till Faith and Repentance. They do not indeed argue a causality or merit, yet they infer a necessary presence in those that obtain pardon, and do hold by the same propor∣tion, as those places which require Sanctification before Glo∣rification.
3. Where the Scripture requireth many things to the obtaining*Page 170of any speciall benefit, there that benefit cannot be said to be enjoyed, till all those things be brought about. Now the Word of God speaks of several things required to pardon of sin. There is the Grace and mercy of God, as the efficient cause, Psal. 51.1. Isa. 43.25. Rom. 3.25. 2. There is requisite the bloud of Christ, as the me∣ritorious cause; for there can be no remission of sins without ef∣fusion of bloud, Rom. 3.25. 1 Cor. 15.3. Heb. 1.3. 1 Joh. 4.10. 3. There is Faith required as an instrumental cause, Act. 26.18. Rom. 3.25. Now although an instrumentall cause have not that worth or excellency as the efficient and meritorious have, yet it is as necessary in the way of an instrument, as the others are in their respective causalities: so that as a man may not from those places, which speak of Gods grace, inferre, therefore remission of sins is before Christs death: So neither may a man argue, because Christ died to take away our sins, therefore these are taken away before we believe. So that this Argument may fully establish us. We see the Scripture speaking of three causes cooperant to pardon of sin, therefore I may not conclude the effect is wrought till all those causes be. And as the Scri∣pture speaks of these causes, so, as you heard, of many qualifi∣cations in the subject. Insomuch that it is so far from being a duty to believe our sins were pardoned from all eternity antece∣dently to faith and repentance, that we are undoubtedly to be∣lieve they were not. If the King proclaim a pardon to every one that shall humble himself, and seek it out. If the Physician prepare a potion, for the patient to receive it, shall any man say because of those causal preparations, that either the one is par∣doned, or the other healed before their particular application of those things?
*4. If our sins be pardoned antecedently to our Faith and Repent∣ance, then all those effects which are inseparable in the least moment of time from Justification, are also antecedent to our Faith and Re∣pentance: But it is evident by experience, that is not so. It is a clear truth, That Sanctification of our natures is individually conjoyned one with the other. So that although there be a prio∣rity of nature, yet they are together in time. God pardons no mans sins whom he doth not heal, Rom. 8.1. 1 Joh. 1.9. Psal. 32.2 A man may be justified, and not glorified, but not justified and Page 171 unregenerated. Then if so, a man shall be at the same time, un∣converted, and converted, at the same time a member of Christ, and a member of the devil; and so as they say, we are justified only declaratively in our own consciences, so we shall be rege∣nerated, and converted only declaratively. Again, where sins are pardoned, there is blessednesse, as the Psalmist speaks, then I may call Paul a blessed Persecutor: Manasses a blessed mur∣derer, for they had no sin imputed to them at that time. Besides those whose sins are pardoned, may boldly go to the throne of grace, and call God Father; all which are contrary to the whole tenour of Scripture, which expostulateth with men, for taking his name or words into their mouth, and hate to be re∣formed: yet a Doctor of this Antinomian sour leaven, affirmeth * boldly, That God doth love us as well before conversion, as after, That God did love Paul with as great a love when he persecuted the Church, as when he preached the Gospel; How must this devour up all godlinesse, when I may have the same faith and confi∣dence in God for pardon in the acting of flagitious crimes, as well as out of them, in prayer and humiliation? and if he may have the same faith, why not then the same consolations, and joy in conscience?
5. If Justification do antecede our Faith,*so that Faith doth on∣ly declare our pardon of sin, then any other grace may be said to ju∣stifie as well as Faith. For take any other grace, repentance, humi∣lity, joy, these are all the fruits of Gods Spirit, and so demon∣strate his election of us, his justification of us. But how unan∣swerably do the Orthodox prove, a peculiar instrumental vertue in faith for pardon, which others have not? The Apostle expres∣seth it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, through faith in his bloud, not love of his bloud; and indeed the Apostle maintaineth that Gospel-position against false teachers, viz. That we are justified by Faith, not by works. The Question was not, Whether the works of the Law did justifie us declaratively only, but causally. So then by this Doctrine, Faith must no more be called the hand, or the eating and drinking of Christs body and bloud, but only made a sign of such mercies.
6. If pardon of sin be from all eternity,*going before our Faith and Repentance, because of Gods election, then it must also be ante∣cedent Page 172 to the death and obedience of Christ. So that not only our tears, but Christs bloud shall be excluded from this great favor. The reason is plain, Because Gods predestination and election is antecedent to Christ, yea Christ is a fruit of our election: so that the Orthodox maintain against Arminians, though we be cho∣sen in Christ, yet not for Christ. Christ is the meritorious cause of Justification and Glorification, but not of predestination, that is meerly from his own self; so that if Gods act of prede∣stinating us be enough to instate us into all this favour and love,* what need is there of an atonement by Christs bloud? and thus we may urge a Doctors Argument upon himself: All the elect of God are justified, but all the elect of God are elected antecedently to Christs merits, therefore they are justified be∣fore Christs merits.
*7. If (because its said, Ephes. 2. That while we were dead, Christ gave himself for us: And Rom. 5. That he died for the un∣godly) it followeth, Our sins are pardoned before we believe, then it will also follow, that all mens sins are pardoned. For the Texts that speak thus of his dying for the ungodly, and for enemies, make no distinction of one from another: And thus a Judas as well as a Peter is bound to believe his sins are pardoned. Those that argue against all qualifications, and say, God requireth no∣thing of thee, though lying in thy bloud, must needs hold an universal promiscuous pardon of all, and that such a sin as pre∣sumption is not possible; for if I believe that Christ died to take away my sins, though I walk in all disobedience, yet that is not presumption, but a duty. It is true the Orthodox call upon those who lie groveling in their swinish lusts to come unto Christ, and to believe in him; but what is that faith? Not a faith that sins are already pardoned, but a faith relying on him for pardon, which faith also at the same time cleanseth and pu∣rifieth the heart. Therefore let us take those general Texts, which speak of Christs dying to take away the sins of enemies; and let any Antinomian give a true reason, why one mans sin is par∣doned rather then another; and although to evade this, they fall into another error, holding Christ died for all; yet that will not serve the turn, unlesse they hold, That all men shall actually be saved, and none damned; for those Texts speak of a benefit Page 173 that is actually obtained for those, in whose behalf he died. And thus I have produced seven Arguments for the antecedency of our Faith and Repentance to our Justification, as many in num∣ber, as the fore-quoted Author brings against it. Other grounds may be pleaded to this purpose, when we shall demonstrate, that all sins are not pardoned together.
Use, Of Exhortation, To avoid all presumption, whether it be wrought in thee by thy own carnal heart, or corrupt Teachers,* and that is, when thou believest pardon any other way then in Scripture-bounds; there is a Pharisaical presumption or Popish; and there is an Antinomian or Publican presumption. The for∣mer is, when we hope for pardon, partly by Christ, and partly by our own works and merits. The other is, when we expect it, though living and walking in sin. Now it is hard to say, whe∣ther of these is more derogatory to Christ. The one sins in the excesse, the other in the defect. Be not therefore a Pharisee, excluding Christ either in whole or in part from the cause of pardon, Tutius vivimus, quando totum Deo damus; we live more safely, when we give all unto God, and take nothing unto our selves. In the next place be not a Publican. Think not to have Christ and Belial together; expect not pardon for sin without repentance of it. The world is filled with these two kinde of presumers: some limit Gods grace, and associate their perform∣ances with it. Others extend it too far, and conjoyn their lusts with it. But as the Apostle saith, If of works, and of the Law, then there is no grace: So we may, if of lusts, and prophane impieties, then there is also no grace. We are therefore both to avoid sins, and carnal confidence in our own righteousnesse, if we would have Christ all in all. In vain did Peter and Mary Magdalen pour out their souls with so much bitternesse, if pardon of sin may be had without this. It is Hieroms observation, That in all Pauls Salutation, Grace goeth before Peace, for till Gods grace hath pardoned our sins, we can have no peace, and God doth not pardon, but where he gives repentance. Labour there∣fore for that which is indeed the good of thy soul, viz. Par∣don of sinne. When the rich man in the Parable, speaking of the corn in his barns, said, Soul, take thine ease, thou hast much good laid up for thee. He spake as if he had porcinam animam,Page 174 the soul or life of an hog; for, what good is corn and wine to a mans soul? Forgivenesse of sin and reconciliation with God; that is the connatural and sutable good and happinesse for the soul.