« ZurückWeiter »
God who is the Lawgiver and Sovereign, becoming now the party wronged and offended, hath a most just right to punish man as an offender. But Christ taking upon him the nature of man, and offering himself a sacrifice for sin, giveth that unto God for and instead of the eternal death of man, which is more valcable and acceptable to God than that death could be, and so maketh a sufficient compensation and full satisfaction for the sins of man: which God accepting, becometh reconciled unto us, and, for the punishment which Christ endured, taketh off our obligation to eternal punishment.
Thus man who violated, by sinning, the law of God, and by that violation offended God, and was thereby obliged to undergo the punishment due unto the sin, and to be inflicted by the wrath of God, is, by the price of the most precious blood of Christ, given and accepted in full compensation and satisfaction for the punishment which was due, restored unto the favour of God, who being thus satisfied, and upon such satisfaction reconciled, is faithful and just to take off all obligation unto punishment from the sinner; and in this act of God consisteth the forgiveness of sins, which is sufficient for the first part of the explication of this Article, as being designed for nothing else but to declare what is the true notion of remission of sins, in what that action doth consist.
The second part of the explication, taking notice not only of the substance, but also of the order of the Article, observing the immediate connexion of it with the holy Church, and the relation which in the opinion of the ancients it hath unto it, will endeavour to instruct us how this great privilege of forgiveness of sins is propounded in the Church, how it may be procured and obtained by the members of the Church.
At the same time when our Saviour sent the apostles to gather a Church unto him, he foretold that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem;" (Luke xxiv. 47.) and when the Church was first constituted, they thus exhorted those whom they desired to come into it, “Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;” (Acts iii. 19.) and, "Be it known unto you that through this man is preached unto you forgiveness of sins.” (Acts xiii. 38.) From whence it appeareth, that the Jews and Gentiles were invited to the Church of Christ, that they might therein receive remission of sins; that the doctrine of remission of all sins propounded and preached to all men, was proper and peculiar to the Gospel, which teacheth us that by Christ“ all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Ibid. 39.) Therefore John the Baptist, who went “before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, gave knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” (Luke i. 76, 77.)
This, as it was preached by the apostles at the first gather
ing of the Church of Christ, I call proper and peculiar to the Gospel, because the same doctrine was not so propounded by the Law: For if we consider the Law itself strictly and under the bare notion of a law, it promised life only upon perfect, absolute, and uninterrupted obedience; the voice thereof was only this, 'Do this and live. Some of the greater sins nominated and specified in the Law, had annexed unto them the sentence of death, and that sentence irreversible; nor was there
other way or means left in the Law of Moses, by which that punishment might be taken off. As for other less and more ordinary sins, there were sacrifices appointed for them; and when those sacrifices were offered and accepted, God was appeased, and the offences were released. Whatsoever else we read of sins forgiven under the Law, was of some special divine indulgence, more than was promised by Moses, though not more than was promulgated unto the people, in the name and of the nature of God, so far as something of the Gospel was mingled with the Law.
Now as to the atonement made by the sacrifices, it clearly had relation to the death of the Messias; and whatsoever virtue was in them did operate through his death alone. As he was the “ Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” (Rev. xiii. 8.) so all atonements which were ever made, were only effectual by his blood. But though no sin was ever forgiven, but by virtue of that satisfaction; though God was never reconciled unto any sinner but by intuition of that propitiation; yet the general doctrine of remission of sins was never clearly revealed,* and publicly preached to all nations, till the coming of the Saviour of the world, whose name was therefore called Jesus, because he was to “save his people from their sins." (Matt. i. 21.)
Being therefore we are assured that the preaching remission of sins belongeth not only certainly, but in some sense peculiarly, to the Church of Christ, it will be next considerable how this remission is conferred upon any person in the Church.
For a full satisfaction in this particular, two things are very observable; one relating to the initiation, the other concerning the continuation, of a Christian. For the first of these, it is the most general and irrefragable assertion of all, to whom we have reason to give credit, that all sins whatsoever any person is guilty of, are remitted in the baptism of the same person. For the second, it is as certain that all sins committed by any person after baptism are remissible; and the person committing those sins shall receive forgiveness upon true repentance, at any time, according to the Gospel.
First, It is certain, that forgiveness of sins was promised to all who were baptized in the name of Christ; and it cannot be
* • Lex peccatorum nescit remissio- lege minusest, consummatur in Evannem; lex mysterium non habet quo gelio. S. Ambros. in Lucam, 1. vi. occulta purgantur : et ideo quod in 0. 7.
doubted but all persons who did perform all things necessary to the receiving the ordinance of baptism, did also receive the benefit of that ordinance, which is remission of sins. “Jobn did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Mark i. 4.) And St. Peter made this the exhortation of his first sermon, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts ii. 38.) In vain doth doubting and fluctuating Socinus endeavour to evacuate the evidence of this Scripture:* attributing the remission either to repentance without consideration of baptism, or else to the public profession of faith made in baptism; or if any thing must be attributed to baptism itself, it must be nothing but a declaration of such remission. For how will these shifts agree with that which Ananias said unto Saul, without any mention either of repentance or confession, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins ?" (Acts xxii. 16.) and that which St. Paul, who was so baptized, hath taught us concerning the Church, that Christ doth “sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water?” (Eph. v. 26.) It is therefore sufficiently certain that baptism as it was instituted by Christ after the preadministration of St. John, wheresoever it was received with all qualifications necessary in the person accepting, and conferred with all things necessary to be performed by the person administering, was most infallibly efficacious, as to this particular, that is, to the remission of all sins committed before the administration of this sacrament.
As those which are received into the Church by the sacrament of baptism, receive the remission of their sins of which they were guilty before they were baptized; so after they are thus made members of the Church, they receive remission of their future sins by their repentance.+ Christ who hath left
**Vel Baptismo illi, hoc est, sole- (ut quod generatione attractum est, mniter peractæ ablutioni, peccatorum regeneratione detrahatur; et tamen Remissionem nequaquam tribuit Pe- activa quoque peccata, quæcnnque trus, sed totam poenitentiæ; vel si Ba- corde, ore, opere commissa invenerit, ptismi quoque rationem ea in re ha- tollit:) hac ergo excepta magna indulbuit,aut quatenus publicam nominis gentia (unde incipit hominis renovaJesu Christi professionem continet, tio) in qua solvitur omnis reatus et ineam tantum consideravit; aut si ip- generatus et additus; ipsa etiam vita sius ctiam externæ ablutionis omnino cætera jam ratione utentis ætatis, rationem babere voluit, quod ad ip- quantalibet præpolleat foecunditate sam attinct, remissionis peccatorum justitiæ, sine remissione peccatorum nomine, non ipsam remissionem vere, non agitur: quoniam filii Dei, quamsed remissionis declarationem, et ob- diu mortaliter vivunt, cum morte consignationem quandam intellexit.' So- fligunt: et quamvis de illis sit veracin. de Baptism. c. 7.
citer dictum, Quotquot Spiritu Dei + $t. Chr stom speaking of the aguntur, hi filii sunt Dei : sic tamen power of the priests: Où yap orav juãg Spiritu Dei excitantur et tanquam αναγεννώσι μόνον, αλλά και μετά ταύτα alii Dei profciunt ad Deum, ut etiam συγχωρείν έχουσιν εξουσίαν αμαρτήματα. Spiritu suo (maxime aggravante corDe Sacerd. I. iij. t. vi. p. 17. • Ex. ruptibili corpore) tanquam filii homicepto baptismatis munere, quod con- num quibusdam moribus humanis detra originale peccatum donatum est, ficiant ad seipsos et peccent.' S. Au
us a pattern of prayer, hath thereby taught us for ever to implore and beg the forgiveness of our sins; that as we through the frailty of our nature are always subject unto sin, so we should always exercise the acts of repentance, and for ever seek the favour of God. This then is the comfort of the Gospel, that as it discovereth sin within us, so it propoundeth a remedy unto us. While we are in this life encompassed with flesh, while the allurements of the world, while the stratagems of Satan, while the infirmities and corruptions of our nature, betray us to the transgression of the Law of God, we are always subject to offend (from whence whosoever saith that he hath no sin is a liar, contradicting himself, and contracting iniquity by pretending innocency); and so long as we can offend, so long we may apply ourselves unto God by repentance, and be renewed by his grace, and pardoned by his mercy.
And therefore the Church of God, in which remission of sin is preached, doth not only promise it at first by the laver of regeneration, but afterwards also upon the virtue of repentance; and to deny the Church this power of absolution is the heresy of Novatian.*
The necessity of the belief of this Article appeareth, first, Because there can be no Christian consolation without this persuasion. For we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God, nay, God himself hath concluded all under sin; we must also acknowledge that every sinner is a guilty person, and that guilt consisteth in an obligation to endure eternal punishment from the wrath of God provoked by our sins; from whence nothing else can arise but a fearful expectation of everlasting misery. So long as guilt remaineth on the soul gust. Enchir. c. 64. Ούτω και μετά το μίαν μετάνοιαν μετά δε το λουτρόν, βάπτισμα εκκαθαίρεται αμαρτήματα μετά μηκέτι δύνασθαι ελεείσθαι παραπεπτωπόνου πολλού και καμάτου. . Ilãoav kóra. that is, he acknowledged butone τοίνυν επιδειξώμεθα σπουδών, ώστε αυτά repentance which was available in εξαλείψαι εντεύθεν, και αισχύνης και baptism; after which if any man TÕS kołárews åtallaynvai tñs écET ğv sinned, there was no mercy remainyåp uvpía buev ýpapTnxótes, æv tofaw- ing for him. To which Epiphanius μεν, δυνησόμεθα άπαντα ταύτα απο- gives this reply: “Η μεν τελεία μεθέσθαι των αμαρτημάτων τα φορτία. Σ. τάνοια εν τω λουτρώ τυγχάνει: ει δε Chrysost. Hom. in Pentecost. 1. Quod tis Tapétegev ove åtól lee roûtov antenm scriptum est, Et' sanguis Jesu αγία του θεού εκκλησία δίδωσι γάρ και flii ejus mundat nos ab omni peccato, επάνοδον, και μετά την μετάνοιαν την tam in confessione Baptismatis, quam perayé elav. Ibid. and again: Aéxein clementia poenitudinis accipien- ται ούν ο άγιος λόγος και η αγία Θεού dum est.' S. Hieron. adv. Pelag. I. ii. érk) noia Távrore TIV metávolav. Ibid. col. 515.
§. 2. and yet more generally: Tå * I call this the heresy of Nova- návra sapūs TETEdelwrat perà triv tvtian rather than of Novalas, because τεύθεν εκδημίαν, έτι δε όντων εν τω though they both joined in it, yet it αγώνι πάντων, και μετά πτώσιν έτι rather sprang from Novatianus the ανάστασις, έτι ελπίς, έτι θεραπεία, έτι Roman presbyter, than from Novatus ομολογία: καν ει μη τελειότατα, αλλ' ούν the African bishop. And he is thus γε των άλλων ουκ απηγόρευται η σωτηexprossed by Epiphanius, Hær. lix. pia. Ibid. §. 10. 5. 1. Λέγων μη είναι σωτηρίαν, αλλά
of man, so long is he in the condition of the devils, “delivered into chains and reserved unto judgment.” (2 Pet. ii. 4.) For we all fell as well as they, but with this difference; remission of sins is promised unto us, but to them it is not.
Secondly, It is necessary to believe the forgiveness of sins, that thereby we may sufficiently esteem God's goodness and our happiness. When man was fallen into sin, there was no possibility left him to work out his recovery; that soul which had sinned must of necessity die, the wrath of God abiding upon him for ever. There can be nothing imaginable in that man which should move God not to shew a demonstration of his justice upon him; there can be nothing without him which could pretend to rescue him from the sentence of an offended and almighty God. Glorious therefore must the goodness of our God appear, who dispenseth with his Law, who taketh off the guilt, who looseth the obligation, who imputeth not the sin. This is God's goodness, this is man's happiness. “For blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no iniquity.” (Psal. xxxii. 1, 2.) The year of release, the year of jubilee, was a time of public joy; and there is no voice like that, “ thy sins are forgiven thee." By this a man is rescued from infernal pains, secured from everlasting flames; by this he is made capable of heaven, by this he is assured of eternal happiness.
Thirdly, It is necessary to believe the forgiveness of sins, that by the sense thereof we may be inflamed with the love of God: for, that love doth naturally follow from such a sense, appeareth by the parable in the Gospel, “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors, the one owed him five hundred pence, the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.” (Luke vii. 41, 42.) Upon which case our Saviour made this question, “ Which of them will love him most?” He supposeth both the debtors will love him, because the creditor forgave them both; and he collecteth the degrees of love will answer proportionably to the quantity of the debt forgiven. We are the debtors, and our debts are sins, and the creditor is God: the remission of our sins is the frank forgiving of our debts, and for that we are obliged to return our love.
Fourthly, The true notion of forgiveness of sins is necessary to teach us what we owe to Christ, to whom, and how far we are indebted for this forgiveness.“Through this manis preached unto us the forgiveness of sins,” (Acts xiii. 38.) and without a surety we had no release. He rendered God propitious unto our persons, because he gave himself as a satisfaction for our sins. While thus he took off our obligation to punishment, he laid upon us a new obligation of obedience. We“ are not our own” who are “ bought with a price:" we must “glorify God in our bodies, and in our spirits, which are God's.”