Perfect Justification And Perfect Pardon
“In those days, and in that time, says the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I preserve."Jeremiah 50:20.
I do not profess to have attained sufficient proficiency in interpreting the prophetical parts of Holy Scripture to be able to enter, as some can, into the minutes of the future and to tell when any particular promise will have its actual, literal fulfillment and, indeed, if I could do so, it would not serve my purpose at this time, for I wish to take my text–perhaps you may think by way of accommodation–as describing what shall be the case with all God’s people when, having crossed the Jordan of death, they shall stand before the Great White Throne–and, indeed, what is now the case with all those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
I shall use my text thus–first, I shall say something about the great iniquities and sins mentioned in the text. Andthen, secondly, I shall speak, at greater length, upon the great forgiveness by which these sins have been put away. MayGod grant that many of us may feel that we have a sweet and undoubted participation in the complete pardon and deliverance which are here spoken of!
- So, first, let us meditate for a little while upon THE GREAT INIQUITIES AND SINS MENTIONED IN THE TEXT.
Those sins were of no common order. Israel was a nation, chosen out of the world, to be the peculiar people of the Lord. They were chosen, not because of anything especially good in them, for they were always a stiff-necked and rebellious race, but because of God’s Sovereign Grace. Because of this special privilege, even if they had been only ordinary sinners, their sin would have assumed a most serious aspect, for never does sin seem to be so black as when it is committed in spite of great love, special peace, high privileges and other Divine blessings.
The Israelites were not an ignorant people. They did not sin, as the Philistines did, in the dark. They were not left in the dim twilight of nature, but they had the fullest Revelation of God’s mind and will that was afforded to any people in those days. They were not taught the Truth of God by a system that was too high for them to understand, for the types and symbols of the ancient sanctuary were exactly adapted to the infant state of the Jewish commonwealth and to the immature condition of the Israelites' spiritual life. Well might the Lord say concerning them, “What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” He had brought the goodly vine up out of Egypt. He had planted it in the richest soil in the whole earth. He had built a wall around it by making His chosen people to be separate from all the other nations in the world and He had dug a winepress for the gathering in of the fruits of the vineyard. And so He might well ask, “Why, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”
Therefore, I repeat what I said just now–If the children of Israel had only sinned as other nations did, yet their sins would have been of the most heinous character because of the greatness of their privileges and the peculiar and special love that had been lavished upon them. But they were sinners of an unusual kind–they were positively unmatched in guilt by any nation under Heaven! What other nation forsook the gods whom they worshipped, even though they were only idols? Did not the idolaters cleave to Baal and hold fast to Ashtaroth? Do we find that even when the heathen nations were smitten, they forsook the god they professed to worship? Did they not still blindly and foolishly cling to their worthless idols and bow before them?
Yet the children of Israel cast away their God–they who had worshipped Jehovah turned aside from Him and bowed down before Baal and, oftentimes did they grieve the Lord and provoke Him to anger because they went after other gods and worshipped idols that were not gods. This was a new evil under Heaven–a thing unheard of and unknown. The heathen would sooner have lost their nationality than they would have forsaken the idols that they adored, but Israel had played the harlot with many lovers. She, who ought to have been the most chaste of spouses, was unfaithful to her Lord and went gadding abroad among those whom He abhorred!
Besides, my Brethren, I would have you remember that the children of Israel provoked God, perhaps, more than any other nation that has ever been upon the face of the earth by reason of the fact that the provocations of other nationswere speedily punished and not permitted to continue as long as those of Israel. God commanded that the Canaanites should be exterminated because of their abominable sins, yet they were not greater sinners than some, at least, of the Israelites were! Some of the incidents recorded in the Old Testament evince a state of morality in the commonwealth of Israel as low, as sensual, as degraded as even the criminality of Sodom itself! As a nation, they had sinned as foully as others and, in some respects, still more foully because, when they were often smitten and chastened for their sin, they returned to it, like the dog to his vomit, “and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Think of the provocation that Israel gave to the Lord in the wilderness! Remember that time when Jehovah said to Moses, “I have seen this people and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: let Me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under Heaven: and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.” Though the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger, yet His anger was fierce and terrible against the rebellious people.
Think, too, of their continual revolts under the Judges–to omit, for the while, the possibly better state they were in under Joshua’s leadership. They were first in bondage to one power and then to another, for the simple reason that there was hardly one false god that they had not worshipped, nor was there any form of lust or crime which Israel had not learned. Then remember the abominable iniquities of the house of Israel during the days of the kings who followed Solomon–how they offered incense to false gods in all their high places, and bowed down to idols in all their groves and under almost every green tree. They adopted the very worst forms of idolatry–they made their children pass through the fire–they offered up their little ones as a sacrifice to Moloch! The murder of infants was common among them. They were not content to imitate the better part of the heathen idolatries, but they must take the whole and drain the black cup to its dregs–and they even seem to have exceeded the wickedness of those whom they imitated! The provocations of Rome have been many. The iniquities of the great Grecian empire were intolerable. The pride of Babylon was more than God could endure. The crying sins of Nineveh reached unto Heaven. The guilt of Sodom and Gomorrah was very great. But the children of Israel, in the race for the prize of evil, distanced all these who were, apparently, greater sinners than themselves!
I feel that we must give the pre-eminence to them, especially when we consider their transgressions in the light of the love and favor which the Lord God had displayed towards them. Yet, Brothers and Sisters, our text is true. Let us read it again, remembering what I have been saying about Israel’s iniquity. “In those days, and at that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I preserve.” Their provocations, their idolatries, their lusts were all to be swept away and to be forgotten! Crimes which had accumulated upon crimes were all to be covered in the depths of the sea! Surely, this should give hope to the very chief of sinners! If any of you are sorely depressed because of your great guiltiness, this passage should afford you much encouragement for, if God took so completely away, not the sins of those who had lightly offended against Him, but the crimes of the very blackest of criminals, why may He not wash away yours, also? And why may not you hope and even be confidently assured that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses you from all sin?
II. Now I turn, in the second place, to look, for a little while, at THE COMPLETE PARDON SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT. Let us first consider the words and then the sense of them–“The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.”
First, look at the words of the text. This is a metaphorical form of speech–“The iniquity of Israel shall be soughtfor, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” You remember that Rachel hid the image under the seat on which she sat, so that when her father searched for it, he could not find it–yet it was there all the while. But it is not to be so with our sins! They are to be searched for, but there shall be none. They are to be sought for, but so effectually shall they have been put away that they shall not be found. Not only shall they not be discovered, but there shall not be any to be discovered. They shall be so completely removed, so absolutely annihilated, that they shallhave ceased to exist! Come, let me draw a picture for you. Are there any who will ever search for the sins of God’s people? There are many who would do so if they could–and there are some who must do so.
There is, first of all, an awakened conscience. One of the first things which an awakened conscience does is to searchfor sin. It will never rest content in the house where there is sin–it will go through every chamber of the heart and track sin to its most secret recesses. A blind, dead, sensual conscience may lie in the same bed with sin and not be disturbed, but an awakened conscience can detect it afar off and will have nothing to do with it. The lie, or any other form of iniquity, cannot tarry within sight of a conscience, the eyes of which have been spiritually opened. But, Believer, you are so fully pardoned that, though your tender conscience may search for sin, it shall not be found! Even when your conscience shall be illuminated with the sunlight of Heaven and all its obliquity and dimness of vision shall be taken away–if it should in Heaven look for sin, “there shall be none.” It is not difficult to realize that a blind man cannot see sin and a man with a blind conscience cannot see sin in himself, but I say that the man with the keenest spiritual sight, the man with the enlightened, the intelligent, the instructed, the perfect conscience may search the forgiven soul through and through, but there shall not, upon that soul, be found even the shadow of a spot! So thorough shall the washing be that the eyes, which now run with tears day and night because of the consciousness of sin, shall then be free from tears, for it shall see no sin to weep over–it shall behold no iniquity over which it has to grieve and no crime for which it has to mourn. Oh, glorious cleansing is this, when even an awakened conscience shall search and find no sin!
But more than this, there is within us another eye which is even quicker in seeing sin than is our conscience, and that is the eye of our unbelief. It is amazing, my Brothers and Sisters, how soon our unbelief finds a ground for fear lest weshould be lost. It seems to find such a reason, often, when there is none. It will catch at any little circumstance in our daily life to make us imagine that God has forgotten us. Unbelief is blind to good and to God, but it is very quick of sight to everything that is fearful and terrifying. I have known some Christians so full of unbelief that it was very difficult to give them any comfort–they were most dexterous in finding out the worst parts of their character and history–and very crafty in, as it were, seeking to neutralize the force of God’s promises by mentioning some evil thing in their own experience which seemed as if it deprived them of their right to receive the promised gift. But God so fully pardons His people that even their doubts, their fears, or their searching unbelief shall not be able to find a flaw in it!
If it were possible for me to be smitten with unbelief even in Heaven, so that I should begin to mistrust my standing in Christ, or to try to find a reason why I should mistrust, I should not be able to do so. However much I might seek to find any speck or spot of sin, I would be obliged to say at the last, “Great God, I am clean through Jesus' blood, I am clean every whit.” And even now, Beloved, and even here, though your unbelief thinks it sees a dozen sins, yet remember that those sins, at least as far as the guilt of them is concerned, are not really there. They are forever put away! Christ has drowned them in the Red Sea of His precious blood! There may seem to you to still be guiltiness upon you, but there is none if God has pardoned you, for “there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” You may think that there is, but there is not–God now sees no sin in Judah, nor iniquity in Israel. He may see it to reprove it, or to chastise it, but judicially to avenge it, He sees none. Our Lord has made us so perfectly white that there is no spot to be found in us. He has so completely covered us with the robe of His matchless righteousness that no imperfection shall be seen in us even when we come to the perfect world where we are to dwell with Him forever! What a precious thought is this! Lord, give us Grace to believe it and to dwell in Christ–and enjoy to the fullest all our privileges in Him!
But, further, there are other eyes, besides our own, which are always searching for our sins and, among them, there is the
quick eye of the envious world. There are some of us who have good reason to be dead to the world, for the world has never spoken a good word concerning us, but has always been ready to magnify our faults when it could find any, or to lie against us where there was no fault at all. I, of all men, have no reason to respect public rumor! I do not respect it and I cannot, for, of all lying things, public rumor seems almost to exceed Satan, himself, in the lies which it will invent! Thus men who are to stand pre-eminent as God’s ministers must make up their minds, when they commence their ministry, that they will probably be accused of every crime in the calendar! I should not be greatly surprised if you were to be told that I had committed the grossest iniquity that ever was perpetrated and, my Brothers and Sisters, should you hear such a thing, it will not so much distress my spirit as it might have done in years gone by, now that I know that the world’s tongue is always ready to speak the worst word it can against the man who does it the most harm. If I am to fight the Lord’s battles, I may leave Him to fight mine! If I defend His Character, He will defend mine! I shall not defend my own–that I know–it is always a bad thing for a man to be his own defender!
You must, all of you, have noticed in your more private capacity, how quick the men of the world are to find fault with you. You just stumble and they say that you have had a serious fall. There is one spot upon your cheek and they declare that your face is covered with mire. You stooped to pick up a pin and they affirm that you stole a ton of gold. That is the style in which they usually magnify our faults–and if they cannot find any, then they tell lies and invent them! It is a grand testimony to a man’s uprightness when worldlings cannot say anything against him without lying, for it shows that there is nothing of which they can truthfully accuse him! It is a noble thing for a man to be in such a position and then he can say, “Now have I come where I desire to be–there is no love lost between the world and me. The world is dead to me and I am dead to the world.” If we say hard things of the world–as we are bound to do if we are faithful–of course it will say hard things of us. If we say that it is a flaunting harlot, that its beauty is only painted and its joys are a sham, we must not be surprised if it says the same concerning us. Have you never noticed how, if two men are driving in the street, and one of them is on the wrong side, he is generally the one to call out to the other, “What are you doing?” So is it usually with the Church and the world–the world, because it is on the wrong side, will be sure to cry out to the Church, “What are you doing there?”
Well, Christian, there is a joyous thought for all who have been slandered and abused! The day is coming when “the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found”–when, before the eyes of an assembled universe, God’s despised servants shall be fully vindicated and against them not a dog shall move his tongue, even as it was in the day when Israel came up out of Egypt. Oh, glorious shall be that resurrection of buried reputations when there shall come up from the grave, not only God’s people, but also their characters, and they who have served the Lord faithfully shall shine as the stars in the firmament of Heaven forever and ever! It is to me a joyous thought that sinners who hate the Word of God, and hate God’s people, shall search for their sins, but shall not be able to find them!
Yet again, Brothers and Sisters, there is one whose eye is even quicker than that of the world! One who is always searching for our faults–and that is our infernal enemy, Satan–Apollyon, the destroyer! Oh, how he watches us to dous harm! Never did a lion, crouching ready to spring upon its prey, watch the harmless deer feeding upon the plain, or drinking at the spring, more keenly and more fiercely than Satan watches us. He is always seeking to find faults in God’s people, that he may accuse them, sometimes through their own conscience and, at other times, by himself bringing the accusation against them up to the very Throne of the King! Happy, happy shall be the day when even Satan shall not be able to find fault with us! For then, in the Pit, he may bite at his iron bonds and may in secret hate and long to slander us, but his malice will all be in vain! The old serpent shall be unable to spit his venom upon the people of God. It will be a glorious triumph for you, poor devil-tried child of God, when you shall put your foot upon the old dragon’s neck and he shall be powerless to harm you!
But there is One, whose eyes are quicker than those of the world, and whose sight is keener than that of Satan–it is HE, the all-seeing One, our Father and our God. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” If there were the faintest trail of sin upon us, He would discover it, for does He not search the heart and try the reins of the children of men? Can we hide ourselves anywhere from His Presence? Would the top of Carmel be too high for Him, or the depths of the sea too deep? If we seek to mount above the clouds to escape Him, or fly beyond the western sea to get beyond His sight, He is still there–everywhere, above, beneath, around–all eyes, all ears, seeing all things, hearing all things, knowing–even before they are our own–the unformed thoughts that are within our inmost soul. But what a joy it is for us to know that even He will not be able to find a sin in any one of His blood-washed children! Up from the blessed bath we come and even Omniscience, itself, can see no spot remaining upon us. In the full blaze of the awful glory of the Day of Judgment, when God’s eyes shall read the most secret thoughts of the ungodly, and when His voice shall wake the echoes of every conscience, His eyes shall see no sin in those for whom Christ died! And His voice shall awaken in them no accusing thought, but only cause them unsullied joy because He perceives in them not even the shadow of a fault, for they are “accepted in the Beloved.”
This is a sweet Truth of God and it is easy to utter, but how difficult it sometimes seems to grasp and hold it firmly! Yet, if we are believers in Jesus, we are complete in Him, perfect in Christ Jesus, for He has put away all our iniquities and cast all our sins behind His back into the depths of the sea. His own declaration to each of His redeemed ones, is, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions and, as a cloud, your sins.” Fly, Gabriel, to all the countless hosts of Christ’s elect! Look upon each one as they now gather before the eternal Throne of God and say, you bright discerning angel, have you found a fault in any one of them? There is Mary Magdalene and there the penitent thief and yonder are Saul of Tarsus and Manasseh, and many more who were great sinners while here below–but can you see any sin in them now? There, too, stand the glorious hosts of those who, in these later days, have crossed the stream and entered their eternal rest. I charge you, O you watchers, you holy ones, tell me, can you find a fault in any one of them? The answer of all of them is, “No, the fact that they are here proves that they are without sin, for of this city it is written, ‘There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles.’” Yes, when the Last Great Day shall come, and the whole family of the redeemed shall be safely housed in their Father’s home above, if each one should, individually, be put into the scales of the sanctuary, there is not one of whom it would be said, “Tekel: you are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting.” If they were all to be cast into the crucible, not one grain of dross would be found in the whole of them! Though many of them were, once, among the very chief of sinners, yet if they were all to be examined–as they will be–by the eyes of Infinite Justice, yet, in them all, no trace or shadow of sin shall be discovered!
Now, in closing, I want you to take the sense of the words, which I understand to be that when God pardons Hispeople, He pardons all their sins at once–not half, but all! Their blasphemy, their lust, their theft, their pride, their lying, or whatever their sin may have been–this is God’s receipt in full for all their indebtedness to Him–“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses from all sin.” If you believe in Jesus now, my Hearer, there is not one sin recorded against you in God’s Book of Remembrance, nor a tithe of a sin, nor a shadow of iniquity!
Not only does God pardon all the sins of His people, but He pardons in all senses of the term. You know that, sometimes, a man pardons his son for his wrongdoing, yet he cannot fully reinstate him in his confidence. He will not trust him with his money as he does his son who never wandered away from home. But God pardons completely. He harbors no ill thought of you, but loves you no less than He would have done if you had never sinned. If you had been as Adam was once–perfect and pure, without spot–God could not love you more than He does now, nor could He give you greater privileges, or higher honors. He has given you the promise of a crown and a share in His Son’s Throne and Glory! He has made you joint-heir with Christ of all that He has–what more could He have done for you had you been an absolutely perfect being?
But, further, when God pardons a sinner, He puts away all his sin forever. The cloud may return after the rain, but the cloud of my sin comes back no more. When the winter is gone and the springtime and the summer have made their presence felt, yet we know that winter will come again and the leaves will fall from the trees. But the winter of my spirit’s sin will never return. The great sea, when it rolls up in its might, must go out again at the ebbing of the tide. But that ocean of the love of God, which covers up my sins, will never roll back, but shall abide at the full forever and ever! The sun of God’s mercy never sets when it has once risen. The stream of Divine Love never dries up when it has once begun to flow. It is no brook like Cherith, at the side of which a Prophet might sit down for a little while and then its waters fail–but it is an ever-flowing river, as perpetual as the eternal Fountain in the heart of God Himself!
I know not where my brethren who think that pardoned sin may come back again, ever get any comfort. O Beloved, this Bible would be to me like a casket emptied of its jewels if you could ever take from me the firm belief that once forgiven, sin is no more imputed! Once washed away, the filthiness never returns! That was a magnificent argument of the Apostle Paul–“If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Do you see the pith of the argument? If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled–the harder work–how much more, being friends, we shall be saved! And if, when we were enemies, we were reconciledby His death, how much more, being friends, shall we be saved by His life!
If we are washed in Jesus' blood, verily we are clean, so clean that–
“Not the shadow of a spot
Shall on our soul be found.”
Come death when it may, we shall meet it with joy, and not with sorrow, for–
“With our Savior’s garments on”
we shall be–
“Holy as the Holy One!”
Sinner, if you have never known what it is to be pardoned, let it not seem like a dream to you. If you ask, “May I be forgiven?” I answer–Yes, certainly you may! Listen to what God Himself has said–“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Sinner, if you believe in Christ, be your sins ever so many, they shall be blotted out, for–
“The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in His crucified God,
His pardon at once He receives,
Redemption in full through His blood.”
So, without delay, just as you are, come and trust in Christ! and your sins, which are many, shall be forgiven you, and you shall go on your way rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, even as you are rejoicing in the assurance of the love of God. Amen.