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THE FIFTH PETITION.
MATTH. vi. 12.-And forgive us our debts as we forgive
THIS petition concerns our souls, as the former did our
bodies, and relates to the pardon of sin, which we are here taught to pray for.
In discoursing from this subject, I shall consider,
I. The order of this petition, and the connection of it,
I. I shall consider the order of this petition, and the con. nection of it. Concerning the order of it, two things may be observed.
1. That it follows the petition for daily bread. Not that bread is comparable, far less preferable to pardon; but that the time of this life is the season of pardon, Heb. ix. 27. Now or never we must be pardoned. When we have no more ado with bread, death taking away the necessity of it, we have no more ado with pardon.
2. That is the first of the petitions for spiritual bless. ings. Because pardon of sin is a leading benefit, and while sin remains unpardoned, the communication betwixt God and the sinner is stopped, Amos. iii, 2. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?' While God has a controversy with the sinner, he pursues it in greater or lesser measure, Psal. Ixvi, 18. And the removal of guilt is the opening of the spring of spiritual blessings, to run abundantly; it is the taking the stone off the mouth of the well.
As to the connection, this petition is knit to the former by the particle and, Give us this day,' &c. • And forgive us,' &c. which speaks this, that, in giving of bread without forgiving of sin, there is death in the pot, Psal. iv. 6, & xvii. 14. There can be little sap or sweet in the bread of the condemned, though, alas ! inany eat it cheerfully. Like the rich man, Luke xii. they eat, they drink joyfully, while the sword of Justice hangs over their head by a hair. It is because they see it not. The looks of an angry Judge, the frowns of a Father, in giving the bread to us, will make it very sapless, to those who discern them. A pardon is the best seasoning to any meal, Eccl. ix. 7. Compare Acts ü.
II. Let us consider the petition itself, wherein we pray, • That God, for Christ's sake, would' freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others. In which we may speak of two things.
1. The thing petitioned.
First, Let us consider the petition itself, Forgive us our debts. This is the petition, strictly speaking. Upon which I am to enquire,
1. What is meant by debts.
First, What is meant by debts Sins are the debts here prayed to be forgiven, Luke xi. 4. the worst debts in the world.
1. Why is sin called a debt? Not because it is a non-payment of God's dues, a non-performance of duty, as some say; these things answer not the notion of debt: far less because we owe it to God. But sin is called debt, because it is a taking away from God something for which we owe him an equivalent, an as-good, Psal. Ixix. 4. ! Then I restored that which I took not away.' This notion is the common notion of debts. Sin is a robbing God of his honour, and an owing him a reparation.
So in sin as a debt four things are to be considered. (1.) The debtor which is the sinner. Every sinner is a debtor, owing more than he is able to pay. (2.) The creditor is God, at whose mercy the sinner lies. (3.) The valuable thing which the sinner has got away from God for his own use, or rather abuse, is God's honour. (4.) The as-good
which the sinner owes on that account to God, is the reparation of God's honour.
2. What sort of a debt is sin ?
(1.) It is a drowning debt, a debt so great as no mortal is able to pay, Matth. xviii. 24, 25. And all mankind had died in it, if a cautioner able to pay it had not been found, Psal. Ixxxix. 19.
(2.) It is a disheartening debt for the presence of God. As an insolvent debtor has no will to come in his creditor's sight; so the sinner has no will to come into God's sight till he be brought, Matth. xviii. 24. This is the reason why many otherwise jovial and merry, when they come into God's presence in duties, are quite heartless.
(3.) It is a debt that the sinner is very ready to count down, Luke xvi. 6. As he is unable to pay, so naturally he is unwilling to confess it, and make fair count.
(4.) It is a debt that in the end will be fairly and exactly stated, and not the least article forgotten or miscounted. The creditor has given his oath upon it, Amos viii. 7.
- The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely, I will never forget any of their works. And the debtor, nill he will he, shall be convinced of the justness of the accounts.
(5.) It is a debt that must be paid one way or other. The debtor has but three choices, Pay, Find a cautioner, or Go to prison, Matth. v. 25. None can pay, few will employ the cautioner, therefore must go to prison.
(6.) It is a growing debt. While it is not taken course with, the interest runs on, and the great sum to day becomes greater to-morrow, Rom. ii. 5.
Lastly, When it is pursued, it is pursued on the debtor's expence. The pursuit is at the sinner's cost, and he is made to bear the weight of it.
Secondly, What is meant by our debts, or sins ? All sins which we are any manner of way chargeable with, and accountable for, before the Lord. Now sin becomes ours four ways.
1. By imputation. So Adam's sin is our sin, Rom. v. 19. and therefore must be pardoned to us otherwise we will be ruined by it, as the heir is ruined by his father's debt.
2. By inhesion in us. So the sin of our nature conveyed to us from Adam, consisting in a bent to evil, and backward, ness to good, is our sin as subjected in us, Psal. li. 5. This will ruin us also, if it be not forgiven as to the guilt of it : for the wages of sin is death,' Rom. vi. 23.
S. By personal omission or commission, Jer. xvi. 10. Thus all our omission of duties, and commission of sins, are our sins which we absolutely need to be forgiven, as treason personally done by us against the King of heaven.
4. By accession any manner of way, to the sins of others, 1 Tim. v. 22. Thus other men's sins, which we become accessory to by commanding, counselling, approving, and the like, become our sins, and involve us in guilt, which we need to be forgiven.
Thirdly, Who are meant by us, for whom forgiveness is asked?
1. Ourselves : for every man is, in the first place, to be concerned for his own pardon. Yet not ourselves only,
2. But others also; not only those who are already of God's family, but all sorts of men living, 1 Tim. ii. 1; those only excepted who have sinned the sin unto death, 1 John v. 16. The saints are daily orators at the throne of grace, for the rest of the world, and are concerned for pardon to those who are not concerned for it to themselves. Thus our Lord cast the copy, Luke xxiii. 34. • Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And Stephen the first martyr followed it, Acts vii. 60. Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.'
Fourthly, What is meant by forgiveness or pardon? It is the removal of guilt, which is an obligation to punishment. Guilt is twofold; the guilt of eternal wrath, and the guilt of temporary fatherly anger. Guilt is removed two ways, formally, and declaratively. Pardon is threefold.
1. Pardon of the guilt of eternal wrath. Thus every soul, upon its first closing with Jesus Christ in the gospel, is pardoned, Rom. v. 1. The condemning sentence of the law, binding theni over to vindictive justice, to go to the prison of hell, and lie there till they have paid the utmost farthing of their own debt, is removed, Rom. viii. 1. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.'
2. Pardon of the guilt of temporary strokes and fatherly anger, 2 Kings xxiv. 4. The law of grace says, “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments :
then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulfulness to fail,' Psal. Ixxxix. 30,
-33. So the children of God, who are beyond the reach of eternal wrath, are oft-times liable to temporary fatherly wrath, which they need a pardon for, as the child needs the father's pardon. And upon their fresh application to the Lord Jesus Christ they obtain át.
3. A declarative pardon, which is the pardon manifested to the soul, a sense of pardon, Luke vii. 47, 48. • Where. fore I say unto thee, Her "ins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, thy sins are forgiven.' She was a pardoned sinner before, for that is evident from her love to Christ; but now the pardon is intimated to her. The debt is not only forgiven, but the debtor gets the discharge of it.
This threefold pardon is here meant, and each of them is given for Christ's sakė, and we obtain them by faith appréhending his obedience and death, Eph. i. 6, 7. Therefore the sea of glass is represented as betwixt the throne and the elders, Rev. iv. 6. See Zech. xiii. 1.
Fifthly, Let us consider the import of this pétition. This we take up in these three things.
1. A confessing of debt. The saints own theinselves and all others God's debtors, Dan. ix. 5. We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts, and from thy judgments. They will not deny the debt, nor mince it. They see that God is spoiled of his honour by themselves and others, and that they are bound to å reparation. They cónfess their folly with shame and sorrow.
2. A pleading poverty, and utter inability to pay the debt, Psal. cxxx. 3, 4. • If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord wlio shall stand? But there is forgivenness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.' Who among all the sons of Adam is able to repair God's honour taken away by sin ? There is an infinite evil in the least sin, which no creature is able to expiate, far less Adam's broken family, where the party has nothing to pay, whether he be owing ten talents or ten thousand.
3. A desire of free forgivenness, for Christ's sake, Dan is. VOL. III.