Why Some Sinners are not Pardoned
“And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?” — Job vii. 21.
No man should rest until he is sure that his sin is forgiven. It may be forgiven, and he may be sure that it is forgiven; and he ought not to give rest to his eyes, nor slumber to his eyelids, till he has been assured, with absolute certainty, that his transgression is pardoned, and that his iniquity is taken away. You, dear friends, may be patient under suffering, but not patient under sin. You may ask for healing with complete resignation to the will of God as to whether he will grant it to you; but you should ask for pardon with importunity, feeling that you must have it. You may not be sure that it is God’s will to deliver you from disease, but you may be quite certain that it is his will to hear you when you cry to him to save you from sin. And if, at your first crying unto him, you are not saved, seek to know the reason why he is refusing to grant you the boon you so much desire. It is quite legitimate to put this question to God again and again, “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?” We ought also to press this matter home upon our own heart and conscience, to see whether we cannot discover the reason why pardon is for a while withheld from us, for God never acts arbitrarily and without reason; and, depend upon it, if we diligently search by the light of the candle of the Lord, we shall be able to find an answer to this question of Job, “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?” Job’s question may sometimes be asked by a child of God; but it may be more frequently asked by others who, as yet, are not brought consciously into the Lord’s family.
I. I shall first take our text as A QUESTION THAT MAY BE ASKED, AS IN JOB’S CASE, BY A TRUE CHILD OF GOD: “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?”
Sometimes, beloved friends, this question is asked under a misapprehension. Job was a great sufferer; and although he knew that he was not as guilty as his troublesome friends tried to make out, yet he did fear that, possibly, his great afflictions were the results of some sin; and, therefore, he came before the Lord with this sorrowful enquiry, “Why dost thou continue to me all this pain and agony? If it be caused by sin, why dost thou not first pardon the sin, and then remove its effects?”
Now I take it that it would have been a misapprehension on Job’s part to suppose that his afflictions were the result of his sin. Mark you, brethren, we are, by nature, so full of sin that we may always believe that there is enough evil within us to cause us to suffer severe affliction if God dealt with us according to justice; but do recollect that, in Job’s case, the Lord’s object, in his afflictions and trials, was not to punish Job for his sin, but to . display in the patriarch, to his own honour and glory, the wonders of his grace by enabling Job, with great patience, still to hold on to God under the direst suffering, and to triumph in it all. Job was not being punished; he was being honoured. God was giving to him a name like that of the great ones of the earth. The Lord was lifting him up, promoting him, putting him into the front rank, making a great saint of him, causing him to become one of the fathers and patterns in the ancient Church of God. He was really doing for Job such extraordinarily good things that you or I, in looking back upon his whole history, might well say, “I would be quite content to take Job’s afflictions if I might also have Job’s grace, and Job’s place in the Church of God.”
It may happen to you, beloved, that you think that your present affliction is the result of some sin in you, yet it may be nothing of the kind. It may be that the Lord loves you in a very special manner because you are a fruit-bearing branch, and he is pruning you that you may bring forth more fruit As Rutherford said to a dear lady, in his day, who had lost several of her children, “Your ladyship is so sweet to the Well-beloved that he is jealous on your account, and is taking away from you all the objects of your earthly love that he may absorb the affection of your whole heart into himself.” It was the very sweetness of the godly woman’s character that led her Lord to act as he did towards her, and I believe that there are some of the children of God who are now suffering simply because they are gracious. There are certain kinds of affliction that come only upon the more eminent members of the family of God; and if you are one of those who are thus honoured, instead of saying to your Heavenly Father, “When wilt thou pardon my sin?” you might more properly say, “My Father, since thou hast pardoned mine iniquity, and adopted me into thy family, I cheerfully accept my portion of suffering, since in all this, thou art not bringing to my mind the remembrance of any unforgiven sin, for I know that all my transgressions were numbered on the Scape-goat’s head of old. Since thou art not bringing before me any cause of quarrel between myself and thee, for I am walking in the light as thou art in the light, and I have sweet and blessed fellowship with thee, therefore will I bow before thee, and lovingly kiss thy rod, accepting at thy hands whatever thine unerring decree appoints for me.” It is a blessed thing, dear friends, if you can got into this state of mind and heart; and it may happen that your offering of the prayer of the text may be founded upon a complete misapprehension of what the Lord is doing with you.
Sometimes, also, a child of God uses this prayer under a very unusual sense of sin. You know that, in looking at a landscape, you may so fix your gaze upon some one object that you do not observe the rest of the landscape. Its great beauties may not be seen by you because you have observed only one small part of it. Now, in like manner, before the observation of the believer, there is a wide range of thought and feeling. If you fix your eye upon your own sinfulness, as you well may do, it may be that you will not quite forget the greatness of almighty love, and the grandeur of the atoning sacrifice; but, yet, if you do not forget them, you do not think so much of them as you should, for you seem to make your own sin, in all its heinousness and aggravation, the central object of your consideration. There are certain times in which you cannot help doing this; they come upon me, so I can speak from my own experience. I find that, sometimes, do what I will, the master-thought in my mind concerns my own sinnership, — my sinnership even since conversion, my shortcomings and my wanderings from my gracious God, and the sins even of my holy things. Well, now, it is well to think of our sin in this way, but it is not well to think of it out of proportion to other things. When I have gone to a physician because I have been ill, I have, of course, thought of my disease; but have I not also thought of the remedy which he will prescribe for me, and of the many cases in which a disease similar to mine has yielded to such a remedy? So, will it not be wrong to fix my thoughts entirely upon one fact to the exclusion of other compensating facts? Yet, that is just how many of us sometimes act, and then we cry to God, as did Job, “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?” when, indeed, it is already pardoned and taken away. If we try to look at it, there flows before us that sacred stream of our Saviour’s atoning blood which covers all our guilt, so that, great though it is, in the sight of God it does not exist, for the precious blood of Jesus has blotted it all out for ever.
There is another time when the believer may, perhaps, utter the question of our text; that is, whenever he gets into trouble with his God. You know that, after we are completely pardoned, — as we are the moment we believe in Jesus, — we are no longer regarded as criminals before God; but we become his children. You know that it is possible for a man, who has been brought before the court as a prisoner, to be pardoned; but suppose that, after being forgiven, he should be adopted by him who was his judge, and taken into his family so as to become his child. Now, after doing that, you do not suppose that he will bring him up again before the judgment-seat, and try him, and put him in prison. No; but if he becomes the judge’s son, I know what he will do with him; he will put him under the rules of his house, to which all the members of his family are expected to conform. Then, if he misbehaves as a son, there will not be that freeness of intercourse and communion between himself and his father that there ought to be. At night, the father may refuse to kiss the wayward and disobedient child. When his brethren are enjoying the father’s smile, he may have a frown for his portion; — not that the father has turned him out of his family, or made him to be any the less a child than he was, but there is a cloud between them because of his wrongdoing.
I fear, my dear friends, that some of you must have known, at times, what this experience means; for between you and your Heavenly Father— although you are safe enough, and he will never cast you away from him, — there is a cloud. You are not walking in the light, your heart is not right in the sight of God. I would earnestly urge you never to let this sad thing happen; or if it does ever happen, I beg you not to let such a sorrowful state of affairs last for even a day. Settle the quarrel with your God before you go to sleep. Get it put right, as I have seen a child do after he has done wrong. Perhaps he has been pouting and scowling, and his father has had to speak very roughly to him; for a long while, he has been too high-spirited to yield; but, at last, the little one has come, and said, “Father, I was wrong, and I am sorry;” and in that moment there was perfect peace between the two. The father said, “That is all I wanted you to say, my dear child. I loved you even while you were naughty, but I wanted you to feel and own that you were doing wrong; and now that you have felt it, and owned it, the trouble is all over. Come to my bosom, for you are as much loved as all the rest of the family.” I can quite imagine that, when any of you have been at cross purposes with God, he has refused, for a time, to give you the sense of his fatherly love in your heart. Then, I beseech you, go to him, and I suggest that you cannot pray to him more appropriately than in the words of the text, “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?” Or pray, as Job did, a little later, “’Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me,’ for I wish to be at peace with thee, and there can be no rest to my new-born spirit while there is any cause of quarrel between us.”
Thus far have I spoken to the children of God. Now I ask for your earnest prayers that I may be guided to speak wisely and powerfully to others.
II. THE QUESTION IN OUR TEXT MAY BE ASKED BY SOME WHO ARE NOT CONSCIOUSLY GOD S CHILDREN: “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?”
And, first, I think that I hear somebody making this kind of enquiry, “Why does not God pardon my sin, and have done with it? When I come to this place, I hear a great deal about atonement by blood, and reconciliation through the death of Christ; but why does not God just say to me, ‘It is true that you have done wrong, but I forgive you, and there is an end of the matter’?” With the utmost reverence for the name and character of God, I must say that such a course of action is impossible. God is infinitely just and holy, he is the Judge of all the earth, and he must punish sin. You know, dear friends, that there are times, even in the history of earthly kingdoms, when the rulers say, by their actions, if not in words, “There is sedition abroad, but we will let it go on; we do not want to seem severe, so we will not strike the rebels down.” What is sure to be the consequence of such conduct? Why, the evil grows worse and worse; the rebellious men presume upon the liberty allowed them, and take still more liberty; and, unless the law-giver intends that his law shall be kicked about the street like a football, unless he means that the peace and safety of his law-abiding subjects should be absolutely destroyed, he is at last obliged to act; and he says, “No; this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. I shall be cruel to others unless I draw the sword, and make justice to be respected throughout my realm.”
I tell you, dear friends, that the most awful thing in the universe would be a world full of sin, and yet without a hell for its punishment. The most dreadful condition for any people to be in is that of absolute anarchy, when every man does what he pleases, and law has become utterly contemptible. Now, if, after men had lived lives of ungodliness and sin, of which they had never repented, and from the guilt of which they had never been purged, God were just quietly to take them to heaven, there would be an end of all moral government, and heaven itself would not be a place that anybody need wish to go to. If ungodly people went there in the same state as they are in here, heaven would become a sort of antechamber of hell, a respectable place of damnation; but that can never be the case. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” He has devised a wondrous plan by which he can pardon the guilty without to the slightest degree shaking the foundations of his throne, or endangering his government. Will you be saved in that way, or not? If you reject God’s way of salvation, you must be lost, and the blame must lie at your own door. God will not permit anarchy in order that he may indulge your whims, or vacate the throne of heaven that he may save you according to your fancy. At the infinite expense of his heart’s love, by the death of his own dear Son, he has provided a way of salvation; and if you reject that, you need not ask Job’s question, for you know why he does not pardon your transgression, and take away your iniquity; and upon your own head shall lie the blood of your immortal soul.
Perhaps somebody else says “Well, then, if that is God’s way of salvation, let us believe in Jesus Christ, and let us have pardon at once. But you talk about the need of a new birth, and about forsaking sin, and following after holiness, and you say that without holiness no man can see the Lord.” Yes, I do say it, for God’s Word says it; and I repeat that, for God to give pardon, and then allow men to go on in sin just as they did before, would be curse to them instead of a blessing. Why, if the dishonest man prospers in the world, is that a blessing to him? No, certainly not; for he only becomes the more dishonest. If a man commits licentiousness, and he escapes the consequences of it in this life, is that a blessing to him? No; for he becomes the more licentious; and if God did not punish men for their sin, but permitted them to be happy in the sin, it would be a greater curse to them than for him to come and say to them, “For every transgression of my righteous law, there shall be due punishment; and for all moral evil there shall also be physical evils upon those who commit it.” I thank God that he does not permit sin to produce happiness; I bless him that he puts punishment at the back of evil, for so it ought to be. The curse of sin is in the evil itself rather than in its punishment; and if it could become a happy thing for a man to be a sinner, then men would sin, and sin again, and sin yet more deeply; and this God will not have.
“Well,” says another friend, “that is not my trouble. I am willing to be saved by the atonement of Christ, and I am perfectly willing to be made to cease from sin, and to receive from God a new heart and a right spirit; why, then, does he not pardon me, and blot out my transgressions?” Well, it may be, first, because you have not confessed your wrongdoing. You remember that the apostle John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Do you ask, “To whom shall I confess my sins?” Shall you come to me with your confession? Oh, no, no, no! I could not stand that. There is an old proverb about a thing being “as filthy as a priest’s ear.” I cannot imagine anything dirtier than that, and I have no wish to be a partaker in the filthiness. Go to God, and confess your sin to him; pour out your heart’s sad story in the ear of him against whom you have offended; say, with David, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” Dear anxious friend, if you say to me, “For months I have sought the Lord, and I cannot find him, or get peace of conscience;” I advise you to try the effect of this plan, shut yourself up in your room alone, and make a detailed confession of your transgression. Perhaps confessing it in the bulk may have helped you to be hypocritical; so try and confess it in detail, especially dwelling upon those grosser sins which most provoke God, and most defile the conscience, even as David prayed, “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God.” That was his great crime; he had been the cause of the death of Uriah, so he confessed that he was guilty of blood, and prayed to be delivered from it. In like manner, confess your sin, whatever it has been. I am persuaded that, often, confession to God would relieve the soul of its load of guilt. Just as when a man has a gathering tumour, and a wise physician lets in the lancet, and that which had gathered is removed, and the inflammation subsides, so often would it be with what the conscience has gathered if, by confession, the heart were lanced, and the accumulated evil dispersed. How can we expect God to give rest to our conscience if we will not confess to him our sin?
May it not be possible, also, dear friends who cannot obtain pardon and peace, that you are still practising some known sin? Now, your Heavenly Father means to give you mercy in a way that shall be for your permanent benefit. What are you doing that is wrong? I do not know you so intimately as to be able to tell what is amiss with you; but I have known a man who never could get peace with God because he had a quarrel with his brother, and as he would not forgive his brother, it was not reasonable that he should expect to receive forgiveness from God. There was another man, who sought the Lord for a long while, but he never could get peace for this reason; he was a travelling draper, and he had what was supposed to be a yard measure, but it was not full length; and, one day, during the sermon, he took up his short measure in the place of worship, and just snapped it across his knee, and then he found peace with God directly he gave up that which had been the means of wrongdoing. He had sought for pardon in vain all the while that he had persevered in evil; but as soon as that was given up, the Lord whispered peace to his soul. Do any of you take “a drop too much” at home? Is that your besetting sin? I mean women as well as men when I ask that question. You smile at the suggestion, but it is no laughing matter, for it is only too true that many, who are never suspected of such a thing, are guilty of drinking to excess. Now it may be that there will never be peace between God and your soul until that glass goes. It will have to go if God is to forgive your sin; so the sooner it goes, the better will it be for you. Perhaps, in your case, the sin is that you do not manage your families right. Are your children never checked when they do wrong? Are they, in fact, allowed to grow up to be children of the devil? Do you expect God and you to be agreed while it is so? Think what a quarrel God had with his servant Eli over that matter, and remember how that quarrel ended, because Eli mildly said to his sons, “Why do ye such things?” but restrained them not when they made themselves vile. Look, dear friends. God will not save us because of our works; salvation is entirely by grace, but then that grace shows itself by leading the sinner upon whom it is bestowed to give up the sin in which he had formerly indulged. Which, then, will you have, — your sin or your Saviour? Do not try to hold sin with one hand, and the Saviour with the other, for they cannot both of them be yours; so choose which you will have. I pray that God may discover to you what is the sin which is keeping you from peace, and then grant to you the grace to give it up.
“Well,” say you, “I do not know that this is my case at all, for I really do, from my heart, endeavour to give up all sin, and I am sincerely seeking peace with God.” Well, friend, perhaps you have not found it because you have not been thoroughly earnest in seeking it. You seem to be in earnest while you are here on a Sunday night, but how earnest are you on Monday night? Perhaps you are fairly so then because you come to the prayer-meeting, but how about Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the rest of the week? When a man really wants to have his soul saved, he should let everything else go until he gets that all-important matter settled. Yes, I will venture to say as much as that. Recollect what the woman of Samaria did when she had received Christ’s word at the well at Sychar. She had gone to the well for water; but look at her as she goes back to the city. Is there any waterpot on her head? No; the woman left her waterpot, she forgot what had been to her a necessary occupation when once she had been brought seriously to think about her soul and her Saviour. I do not want you to forget that, when you have found Christ, you can carry your waterpot, and yet cleave to Christ; but, until you have really received him by faith, I should like to see you so fully absorbed in the pursuit of the one thing needful that everything else should be put into the second place, or even lower than that; and if you were to say, “Until I am saved, I will do absolutely nothing; I will get me to my chamber, and I will cry to God for mercy, and from that room I will never come until he blesses me,” I would not charge you with fanaticism, nor would anybody else who knew the relative value of eternal things and things of time and sense. Why, man, in order to save your coat, would you throw away your life? “Nay,” you would say; “the coat is but a trifle compared with my life.” Well, then, as your life is of more value than your coat, and as your soul is of more value than your body, and as the first thing you need is to get your sin forgiven that your soul may be saved, until that is done, everything else may well be let go. God give you such desperate earnestness that you must and will have the blessing! When you reach that resolve, you shall have it; when you cannot take a denial from God, you shall not have a denial.
There is still one thing more that I will mention as a reason why some men do not find the Saviour, and get their sins forgiven; and that is, because they do not get off the wrong ground on to the right ground. If you are ever to be pardoned, dear friend, it must be entirely by an act of divine, unmerited favour. Now perhaps you are trying to do something to recommend yourself to God; you would scout with derision the doctrine of being saved by your own merits; but, still, you have a notion that there is something or other in you that is to recommend you to God in some measure or degree, and you still think that the ground of your forgiveness must lie to some extent with yourself. Well, now, you never can have forgiveness in that way. Salvation must be all of works, or else all of grace. Are you willing to be saved as a guilty, hell-deserving sinner, — as one who does not deserve salvation, but, on the contrary, deserves to endure the wrath of God? Are you willing that, henceforth, it shall be said, “That man was freely forgiven all his trespasses, not for his own sake, but for Christ’s sake alone”? That is good ground for you to stand upon; that is solid rock. But some men seem to get one foot upon the rock, and they say, “Yes, salvation comes by Christ.” Where is that other foot of yours, my friend? Oh! he says that he has been baptized, or that he has been confirmed, or that he has in some way or other done something in which he can trust. Now, all such reliance as that is simply resting on sand; and however firmly your other foot may be planted on the rock, you will go down if this foot is on sand. You need good standing for both your feet, dear friends; and see that you get it. Let this be your language, —
“Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in thee I find.”
Do not look anywhere else for anyone or anything that can save you; but look to Christ, and to Christ alone. Are you too proud to do that? You will have to humble yourself beneath the mighty hand of God, and the sooner you do so, the better will it be for you. “Oh, but I, I, — I must surely do something!” Listen, —
“Till to Jesus’ work you cling
By a simple faith,
‘Doing’ is a deadly thing,
‘Doing’ ends in death.
“Cast your deadly ‘doing’ down,
Down at Jesus’ feet,
Stand in him, in him alone,
This is the gospel: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” You will never see up in heaven a sign bearing the names “Christ and Co.” No, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who is the sinner’s Saviour. He claims this for himself: “I am Alpha and Omega;” that is, “I am A, and I am Z. I am the first letter of the alphabet, and I am the last letter, and I am every other letter from the first down to the last.” Will you make him to be so to you, dear friend? Will you take him to be your Saviour now? “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” A friend told us, at one of our prayer-meetings, that “H-A-T-H spells got it.” that believeth on the Son” is a saved sinner, he has got that everlasting life that can never die, and can never be taken away from him. Therefore, beloved friends, believe in Jesus, and you too shall have this eternal life, you shall have pardon, you shall have peace, you shall have God, and you shall have heaven itself to enjoy before long. God do so unto you, for his great mercy’s sake in Christ Jesus! Amen and Amen.