“There is Forgiveness.”
“But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” — Psalm cxxx. 4.
HAVE you noticed the verse which comes before the text? It runs thus, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” That is a confession. Now, confession must always come before absolution. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” If we try to cloak our sin, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” and no pardon can come from God to us. Therefore, plead guilty, plead guilty. Thou oughtest to do it, for thou art guilty. Thou wilt find it wisest to do it, for this is the only way to obtain mercy. Cast thyself upon the mercy of thy Judge, and thou shalt find mercy; but first acknowledge that thou needest mercy. Be honest with thy conscience, and honest with thy God, and confess thine iniquity which thou hast done, and mourn over the righteousness to which thou hast not attained.
You notice that this confession is recorded with a kind of grave astonishment: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” This is as much as for the psalmist to say, “I And am sure that I cannot, and who can?, my dear brothers and sisters, if God shall deal with us according to our iniquities, where shall we stand, and who among us shall stand anywhere? I dare not stand to preach if God shall judge me according to my iniquities. You dare not stand to sing; what have you to do with singing if God is marking your iniquities? I wonder that men can stand at their counters, and stand at their work, while their sin is unforgiven. And then how shall we stand in the day of judgment? The best saint on earth, if he stands in his own righteousness alone, and is judged according to his own offences, why, the justice of God will blow him away like the chaff, or consume him as with a flame of fire. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”
It is a dreadful fact that this “if” is no “if” to those who are not believers in Christ, but it is a matter of terrible certainty. God does mark the iniquities of you who are unbelievers. Although as yet he does not visit them upon you, else you could not stand, yet he sees them, and he records them. As gold and silver are put into a bag and sealed up, so are your iniquities. All the transgressions of your past life are in the book of record, from which they never can be blotted except by one gracious hand. Would to God that you would accept pardon from that pierced hand! But, apart from that, your iniquities are engraved as in eternal brass, and in that day when the forgotten things shall be brought to light, all the sins that now lie at the bottom of the sea of time shall be cast up upon the shore, and all shall be seen, and every secret thing shall be set in the light of day, and every transgression and iniquity shall be revealed by the light of the great white throne, and the ungodly shall be punished for all their ungodly words and ungodly deeds and ungodly thoughts according to the rules of equity in that last day of assize. O sirs, God will mark iniquity, and then, who that is out of Christ shall be able to stand? Who that has never hidden in the riven Rock of Ages shall find any shelter then? Nay, shall they not all cry to the mountains to fall upon them, to hide them from the dreadful face of him who shall sit upon the throne of God? Even at this time there are some in this house of prayer whose sins are lying upon them, and whose transgressions are written in God’s book of remembrance? How can they dare to stand even before a throne of grace, and how will they stand before the throne of judgment?
That third verse makes an appropriate preface to my text; it is the black thunder-cloud upon which I see written, as with the finger of God and with a lightning flash, the wonderful words we are now to consider, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
I. My first head is taken from the first word of the text: “But.” Here is A WHISPER OF HOPE. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But” — Oh, the sweet music of that little word! It seems to come in when the terrible drum of alarm is being beaten, and the dreadful clarion of judgment is sounding forth. There is a pause with this word, “But there is forgiveness.” It is a soft and gentle whisper from the lips of love: “But there is forgiveness.”
This comes into the soul after a full confession of sin. When thou hast knelt down before God, and acknowledged thy transgressions and thy shortcomings, and thy heart is heavy, and thy soul is ready to burst with inward anguish, then mayest thou hear this gracious word, “But there is forgiveness.” When, under a sense of sin, it seems as if the very fiends of hell were shrieking in thine ears because of the awful doom which is drawing near, when thou shalt be driven from hope and from the presence of God, then, when thou fallest on thy face, in the terror of thy soul because of thy iniquity, then comes this sweet word, “But there is forgiveness.” It is all true which thy conscience tells thee, it is all true which the Word of God threatens concerning thee; then acknowledge that it is true, and bow thyself in the dust before God, and then thou shalt hear in thy soul, not only in thy ear but in thy heart, this blessed word, “But there is forgiveness.”
Some of us remember when we first heard this word. When it came, it was to us like the clear shining after rain: “But there is forgiveness.” Some of us were perhaps for weeks and months without any knowledge of this blessed truth, pining for it, hungering for it; and when the Lord brought it home with power into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, oh, there was no music like it! Angels could not sing any tune so sweet as those words spoken to our hearts by the Holy Ghost, “But there is forgiveness.” Go thy way, my hearer, and confess before God all thy sin. I will not say what it has been. Peradventure, thou hast lived for many years in the pursuit of sinful pleasures; thou hast been dominated by thine own will, thou hast tried to be lord and master, or queen and mistress, of thine own wicked spirit, and thou hast done evil even as they couldst, and thou art sensible of thy sin, and thy wounds bleed before God because of it. Well, then, in comes this whisper of hope: “But there is forgiveness.” God make it as sweet to thee to hear it as it is to me to tell of it!
This whisper of hope sometimes comes to the soul by the Spirit of God as the result of observation. A man, full of sin, thinks to himself, “Well, but others also have been full of sin, yet they have been forgiven. What if I have been a blasphemer and injurious? Yet so was Saul of Tarsus, and he had forgiveness from the Lord. What if I have been a thief? Yet so was he who hung upon the cross, and that day was with his Lord in Paradise. What if I have been a fallen woman, and have been defiled with sin? Yet there is forgiveness, for she was forgiven who was a sinner, and came and washed Christ’s feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, loving much because she had much forgiven. What, even if I have been an adulterer? Yet such was David. What if I have been a persecutor? Yet such was Manasseh. Into whatsoever sin I may have fallen, I observe that others like me have been snatched from these horrible pits, and why should not I be?” I would whisper this message into the ear of anybody here who is conscious of sin. If thou wilt but look about thee, thou wilt see others like thyself who have been washed, and cleansed, and sanctified. Some of them are on earth, and many more of them are in heaven, who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Sweet, then, is this whisper of hope arising out of observation of others: “But there is forgiveness.”
This whisper comes also in opposition to the voice of despair, for despair says to a soul under a sense of sin, “There is no mercy for you; you have sinned beyond all limits, your death-warrant is signed, the verdict has been given against you, there remains nothing for you but everlasting burnings.” Nay, soul, God’s Word against thy word any day! God's Word says, “There is forgiveness,” Nothing can destroy despair except a message from God himself, and this passage is like a huge hammer to break in sunder the gates of brass and dash in pieces the bars of iron: “There is forgiveness.” “All manner of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” In the greatness of his heart, Jehovah declares that he delighteth in mercy, and this is the song which went up to him in the old Jewish Church with many a repetition, and is just as true to-day,—
“For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.
“He his chosen race did bless
In the wasteful wilderness:
For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.
“He hath, with a piteous eye,
Look’d upon our misery:
For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.”
Thou hast not gone beyond his mercy; thou canst not go beyond his mercy if thou wilt trust his Son. “There is forgiveness.” Let this whisper drive away despair. What a blessed whisper it is! “There is forgiveness.” “There is forgiveness.” Let it enter thy soul, and drive those grim ogres and hobgoblins of despair away into the sea of forgetfulness. “There is forgiveness.”
This whisper of hope is, further, the answer even to conscience When Mr. Conscience is really at work, he has a very terrible voice. There is no lion in the thicket that roars like a truly awakened conscience. Conscience says, “Thou didst know thy duty, but thou didst not do it.” Thou hast sinned away many a day of grace, thou hast refused gospel invitations, thou hast striven against the light of nature and the light of God, thou wilt go down to hell well deserving thy doom. When the millstone is about thy neck, to sink thee into the abyss, thou wilt deserve to have it so, for thou hast earned all this for thyself by thy iniquities. I will not seek to stifle conscience, nor ask you to shut your ear to his voice. Let him speak; but still, dost thou not hear between his roarings this sweet note as of a silver harp, “But— but— but— but there is forgiveness?” O conscience, there is forgiveness! I am as guilty as thou sayest I am, and much more guilty, for thou canst not see all the sin that I have committed; “but there is forgiveness.”
Let me go still further, and say that this whisper of hope is an answer even to the law of God. The ten commandments are like ten great cannons fully charged, and if we were, like the rebels in India, tied to the muzzles of them, and blown to pieces, it would be only what we well deserve; but just when the fuse is lighted, and about to be applied, there rings out this blessed word, “There is forgiveness. There is forgiveness.” The law says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;” and the law knows no mercy, it cannot know any mercy. Sinai has never yet yielded one drop of water to cool the parched tongue of a guilty sinner. Never did a shower reach its craggy peaks; it is a fire-mountain, and the thunder rolls over its summit, with the sound of a trumpet exceeding loud and long, making all who hear it to tremble. God, when he comes to judgment, must judge according to justice; “but— but— but— but there is forgiveness.” There is another mountain besides Sinai. Ye have not come unto Mount Sinai; but ye have come unto Mount Zion. There is another Law-giver besides Moses; there is Jesus the Son of God. There is another covenant besides the covenant of works, there is a covenant of rich, free, sovereign grace, and this is the essence of it, “There is forgiveness.” Oh, that I could convey that whisper into the ear of every sinner who is here! I can do that; but oh, that God the Holy Ghost would put it into his heart, that he might never forget, “There is forgiveness”!
II. Now I advance to my second division. In our text I see, besides the whisper of hope, AN ASSURANCE OF THE WORD OF GOD: “There is forgiveness with thee.”
Dear friends, “there is forgiveness.” Nature could never tell you this great truth. You may walk the cornfields at this moment, and see the bounty of God in the waving grain; but you cannot read forgiveness there. You may climb the hills, and see the beauty of the landscape; you may look upon silver streams that make glad the fields; but you cannot read forgiveness there. You can see the goodness of God to man, but not the mercy of God to sinners. But if you come to this Book, you can read it here.
Turn to the Old Testament, and you will see that it reveals sacrifice,— lambs, and bullocks, and goats. What did they all mean? They meant that there was a way of pardon through the shedding of blood; they taught men this, that God would accept of certain sacrifices on their behalf. Then turn to the New Testament, and there you will see it revealed more clearly still that God has accepted a sacrifice, the sacrifice which he himself gave, for “he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” In this Book you read how he can be “just, and the Justifier of him that believeth;” how he can be a just God and yet a Saviour; how he can forgive, and yet be just as righteous as if he punished and showed no mercy. This, in fact, is the revelation of the gospel; this is what this Book was written to teach, to tell you that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Therefore we come to you, not merely with a hopeful whisper, but with a full, distinct, emphatic, unquestionable assurance, “There is forgiveness.” “There is forgiveness.”
Turn to this Word of God, and you will find the certainty of forgiveness. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” What a grand article of the creed that is! Dost thou believe it? Then do not doubt, do not hesitate. “There is forgiveness.” Thou must know that there is such a thing, or else thou wilt not be eager to seek for it. It is in vain to go in quest of a myth or a peradventure; but here is a certainty for thee. “There is forgiveness.” Doubt not of it; believe it to be so, and then seek thou after it with all thy heart. “There is forgiveness.” That is a matter of certainty.
Notice, if you please, the broad indefiniteness of the text: “There is forgiveness.” It does not say, “There is forgiveness for this sin or for that,” but, “There is forgiveness.” Where God draws no limit, do not you draw any. If God sets the door wide open, and says, “There is forgiveness,” then come along, you sinners, whoever you may be, from goals and penitentiaries, come along from your Pharisaic places of boasting and self -righteousness, come along with you, for there is forgiveness even for you. Ye rich, ye poor, ye learned, ye ignorant, ye that know nothing, know at least this, “There is forgiveness.” This text shuts out nobody. I do bless God sometimes for the grand vagueness of his speech. When he draws lines of distinction, as sometimes he does, then are we anxious to know who is shut in and who is shut out; but when he simply says, “There is forgiveness,” let us jump at it, and grasp it by an act of faith; and, once let us but grasp it, he will never take it from us, for Jesus himself said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Notice, too, the immediate presentness of the text. Our version has it, “There is forgiveness,” but there is not even the verb in the Hebrew. The translators put in the words, “There is,” so we are to read it, “There was forgiveness;” “There is forgiveness;” “There will be forgiveness as long as life lasts.” But I like it as it stands here. “There is forgiveness” to-night; “there is forgiveness” now; “there is forgiveness” where thou sittest, just as thou art, just now. Oh, that I could say it so as to convince you of the truth of it, and give a grip, a squeeze of my right hand, to each one of you; I would like to do it! O my dear friends, do not despair, do not be bowed down any longer, “there is forgiveness,” there is forgiveness now!
And it is intended to have a personality about it. It is no use telling anybody that there is forgiveness for other people, but none for him. This text is made for you, dear friends, and the preacher is sent to proclaim this truth to you, for he is sent to preach as far as he can to every creature under heaven. “There is forgiveness” for you, though you think there is none. Your thoughts are not as God’s thoughts; neither are your ways as his ways. There is, there surely is, at this moment, forgiveness. Oh, that you would prove it by an act of faith! The moment thou believest in Christ, thy sins are all forgiven thee. Look thou to him whom I would hold up before thee, as Moses held up the brazen serpent on the pole, look, for there is life in a look to him that died for guilty men.
“There is life for a look at the Crucified One;
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner— look unto him, and be saved—
Unto him who was nail’d to the tree.”
May this be the moment when the Spirit of God shall make it to be so to many here present! “There is forgiveness.”
III. Now I must go a little farther, and notice, in the text, A DIRECTION OF WISDOM: “There is forgiveness with thee.” “With thee.”
Hearest thou this, dear heart? Thou art shrinking from thy God; thou art anxious to run away from him; that is where the forgiveness is, with God. Where the offence went, from that very place the forgiveness comes: “There is forgiveness with thee.” “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,” but, “there is forgiveness with thee;” with the very God whom you have offended. It is with God in such a way that it is part of his nature. “He delighteth in mercy.” “God is love.” He glorifies himself by passing by transgression, iniquity, and sin. There is forgiveness with God; it is in God’s very nature that it lies. Fly not away, then, from the very place where forgiveness awaits thee.
“There is forgiveness with thee.” Some read the passage, “There is u propitiation with thee.” Now, the Lord Jesus Christ is that propitiation, and he is with God. He has gone up into the glory, and he is at the right hand of the Father even now. Make thou thy way to God, for the propitiation is there before thee. Meet thy God at the mercy-seat lost thou have to meet him at the judgment-seat. There is forgiveness always with God, for Jesus is always there. Therefore, go thou to him, and find it.
“There is forgiveness with thee,” that is to say, God has it in his immediate gift; he will not have to hunt for it, for it is with him, he has it ready to bestow. He will not need thee to plead for it with so many sighs, and cries, and tears, but he has it waiting for thee. The writ by which thou shalt be set free is made out already. “There is forgiveness with thee.” The Lord Jehovah has signed thy free pardon, it lies before him now; go thou and take it. “There is forgiveness with thee,” immediately, and if thou dost but believe in Jesus, thou shalt receive it from his hand.
“There is forgiveness with thee.” Then, depend upon it, there is a way for forgiveness to get to me; for if God has it, he can get to me with it somehow. I may be far off from hope; I may be surrounded, as it were, with brick walls, shut in like a man in one of the oubliettes of the Bastille, where men lay till they were forgotten, and the very jailor did not know who they were, nor when they came there. If thou art even in such a sad state as that, God can get at thee; there is forgiveness with him, and he can get it to thee.
And if it be with God, then there is a way for thee to get to it, for there is One come who stands between thee and God. There is a Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; but you do not need a mediator between Christ and yourself, you can come to him just as you are. You do need a Mediator with God. and there is Jesus Christ, who is God and man, able to lay his hand both on thee and on thy gracious God, and to bring thee into his presence.
I feel somehow certain that I am going to have some souls to-night to be my reward. I love to ring those charming bells, “free grace and dying love.” A great part of the pleasure of preaching is derived from the fact that I know that God’s Word will not return unto him void, but that some who hear the gospel message will receive it, and be saved. Listen to this word, thou doubting, trembling, despairing sinner, “there is forgiveness,” and that forgiveness is with God. If I told you that it was with myself, and that I was the priest, perhaps you would be foolish enough to believe me; but I will tell you no such lie. It is not with any priest on earth, it is with the Lord. “There is forgiveness with thee;” and thou mayest go to God just as thou art, with nothing in thy hand, and cast thyself at his feet, quoting the name of his dear Son. Rest there, and the work is done; for, as God liveth, it is true, that there is forgiveness with him that he may be feared.
IV. I close with this word. The last part of the text shows A DESIGN OF LOVE; “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
Somebody said, “I should have thought that it would have read, “that thou mayest be loved.” Yes, so I should have thought; but then, you see, fear, especially in the Old Testament, includes love It includes every holy feeling of reverence, and worship, and obedience towards God. That is the Old Testament name for true religion— “the fear of God.” So I might say that the text declares, “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be loved, and worshipped, and served.” Still, even in the sense of fear, it is a most blessed fact that they who fear the Lord are delightful to him. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.”
Do you not see how it is, dear friends, that men fear the Lord becauses he forgives their sins? It must be so, because, first, if he did not forgive their sins, there would be nobody left to fear him, for they would all die. If he were to deal with men after their sins, he must sweep the whole race of mankind off the face of the earth; but there is forgiveness with him, that he may be feared.
Next, if it were certain that God did not pardon sin, everybody would despair, and so again there would be nobody to fear him, for a despairing heart grows hard like the nether millstone. Because they have no hope, men go on to sin worse and worse; but there is forgiveness with God that he may be feared. The devils never repent, for there is no pardon for them. There is no gospel preached in hell, and consequently there is no relenting, no repenting, no turning towards God among lost spirits. But there is forgiveness with him that he may be feared by you.
What a wonderful effect pardon has upon a man! What a wonderful effect it has upon a man to know that he is pardoned, to be sure that he is forgiven! He begins to tremble all over. Remember how it is written, “And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” A man who has been forgiven is afraid that he should go and sin again after such love and such mercy. He is melted down by the goodness of the Lord, he does not know what to make of it. For a time, he can hardly believe that it is true. I know that, when I was converted, I felt at first like Peter when the great iron gate was opened, and the angel brought him out of prison, he wist not what was done unto him of the angel, and he thought he saw a vision; he could not believe it to be true that he was really released. So is it with the saved sinner; you are so amazed, you are so overwhelmed, that you are even filled with fear at the intense delight of pardon, being half afraid that it cannot really be true that such a wretch as you can have been pardoned, and that all your iniquities are blotted out for ever. The wondrous grace of God makes you tremble with a holy reverential fear, and you sing, with Dr. Watts,—
“When God reveal’d his gracious name
And changed my mournful state,
My rapture seem’d a pleasing dream,
The grace appear’d so great.”
Are there any of God’s people bore who are afraid that they do not fear God enough? If you want to revive your fear of God, and have it deepened, believe in your pardon. Look! it is a singular way to come to fear God, but believe that you are forgiven, prize your forgiveness, know that your sins are blotted out, cling to the cross, and so all that sweet fear of God, by which is meant the whole of piety, will abound in your soul.
Some think that it will be a good way of deepening their graces to begin to question whether they are Christians. That is the wrong way altogether. Unbelief does not heal anybody; it is faith that heals. Believe thou up to the hilt; believe thou, come what may to thee; believe thou in Christ, though thy sins rage and rave and roar. Believe thou in Christ, though the devil tell thee thou art damned. Should hell seem to open at thy feet, believe thou in thy pardon through the precious blood, and do not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief; and thou shalt feel thyself filled with a holy fear, and joy, and peace, and love, and zeal, and burning desire to serve him who has done all this for thee. “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
If any of you poor people here, who have not yet found the Saviour, are saying, “We wish that we could feel our sin more; we wish that we could fear the Lord more;” let me tell you that this fear is to come to you afterwards. There is forgiveness first, and then the fear comes afterwards. All the fear in the world that is worth having is the result of pardoned sin. The fear that is not to be cast out, the fear that hath no torment in it, is that fear which comes of a sense of every iniquity being blotted out. I charge you, believe in Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I say to you unbelieving ones,— Believe in him now. Rise, take up your bed, and walk. I, who have no power whatever of myself, yet speaking in my Master’s name, know that his power will go with his gospel, and that his word shall not return unto him void. Believe and live. God bless you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.