Great Forgiveness For Great Sin
“In whom we have redemption through the blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His Grace.”
You scarcely need me to say that Paul is here writing concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christ was his constant theme, both in preaching and writing. I have heard of ministers who can preach a sermon without mentioning the name of Jesus from beginning to end. If you ever hear such a sermon as that, mind that you never hear another from that man! If a baker once made me a loaf of bread without any flour in it, I would take good care that he should never do so again. And I say the same of the man who can preach a Christless Gospel! Let those go and hear him who do not value their immortal souls, but, dear Friends, your soul and mine are too precious to be placed at the mercy of such a preacher. Paul’s harp had only one string, but he brought such music out of it as never came from any other! He found such infinite variety in Christ that he never exhausted his theme. With him it was Christ first, Christ last, Christ midst, Christ everywhere–and so he could never have his pen in his hand without writing something in praise of his glorious Lord and Savior!
Paul had good reasons for doing this, for Christ had met him on his way to Damascus, stopped him in his persecuting career, renewed his heart and given him a bias ever afterwards towards his new Master. Never did Paul forget that spot, on the road to Damascus! I will guarantee you that he could have found it to his dying day–that spot where he fell to the ground and heard the Voice from Heaven saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” He was a different man ever afterwards! That one event had turned the whole current of his life, so that, from then on, for him to live was Christ. Previously, he had breathed out threats and slaughter against all who bore the name of Christ. Now, he breathes out Christ and His Gospel and has nothing else for which he cares to live and is even willing to die for Him! “But,” says someone, “do you not think that Paul carried this idea a little too far? A man of one idea rides his hobby to death and he does not see the other things that are around him.” Ah, Sir! Paul did see all around him that which was worth seeing! For him, everything above, below, within, without, around, had Christ in it, just as, on a bright summer’s day, everything has sunshine in it. And, like the Apostle, we can never exaggerate when we rightly speak of Jesus, “for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” and in Him is stored up all manner of riches and treasures for poor sinful creatures like ourselves.
I am going to magnify Christ, as His gracious Spirit shall help me, by speaking of the pardon of sin which freely comes to us through the redemption which He obtained for us by the shedding of His precious blood. I shall have two divisions. First, the sins, spoken of in our text, are great sins. the forgiveness, spoken of in our text, is alsogreat–“according to the riches of His Grace.”
- First, then, THE SINS MENTIONED HERE ARE GREAT. Because we preach the greatness of God’s mercy, some wicked minds think that sin is but a little thing. But, Sirs it is not so. And if any of you are living in it, listen to me while I try to show you how great it is.
For, first, see what sin has done to us all. Our first parents lived in a Garden of delights and, if they had not sinned,we would have been heirs to a happy life free from sickness, sorrow and death. But sin entered the Garden of Eden and withered every leaf, blighted every flower and, soon, Adam was driven out to till the ground that brought forth thorns and thistles in abundance. As for the woman, she and her daughters were condemned to bring forth children in pain and sorrow. Now look at the result of sin all over the world–the poverty that springs from drunkenness, the disease that comes of debauchery, the pangs of conscience that follow all evil-doing. And when you have gazed at the misery now existing on this earth, think of the many graveyards and cemeteries with their myriads of tombs. The very dust which flies down our streets, was, much of it, once alive as part of the body of one of our forefathers! This earth is, indeed, a huge morgue. What was it that slew all these people and dug all these graves? It was sin, for, “sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” It is no small thing that has worked all this mischief among mankind!
If any of you doubt the greatness of sin, let me remind you of what has happened to those who have died in it. ThisBible, which is the Revelation of God, tells us that sinners who die impenitent are driven from the Presence of God into the outer darkness where there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth forever! I cannot adequately depict that dread abode of lost souls, but there are already myriads there, without light, or hope, or joy, or comfort, waiting for the Day of Judgment when their bodies shall rise and body and soul shall stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. And then will come upon them “the terror of the Lord.” If I had to describe the woes of the lost, the language I would have to use would be exceedingly strong, but where would I have to look for it? I would not go to Milton and the other poets, but I would have to gather similes most terrible from the lips of the gentle and loving Christ, for it is He who has told us most about these things! Because He loved men so dearly, He faithfully warned them of the wrath to come–and one proof that sin is no trifle is that the wrath to come is so terrible!
If any still doubt whether sin is a great thing, I ask them to remember that it must be great because it takes suchgreat Grace to pardon it. Our text teaches us that the forgiveness of sin is according to the riches of God’s Grace–as if, in order to get rid of sin, the Infinite Wealth of His great heart of love must be freely spent. God, who delights in mercy, had to lay out a mint of Grace before sin could be pardoned! Therefore, sin is no small thing. But if you would really know how great a thing sin is, remember what it cost Christ to be its Forgiver. Go to Gethsemane and see what it costChrist to bear it there. The sin that covered Him with a bloody sweat was no trifle. Then follow Him to Pilate’s Hall and hear the cruel whips falling on His blessed shoulders, for it is with those stripes that you are healed, and it must be a dire disease that needs such sharp medicine! See the soldiers take Him away and nail Him to the Cross. There He hangs, between Heaven and earth, to die for guilty sinners amid untold anguish which no human eye could see and no mortal mind could understand. Yet there could never have been any forgiveness for sin if there had not been all these pangs on the part of the sinner’s Substitute. Surely, sin must be a great thing to need such a great Sacrifice to put it away.
While I am recalling these familiar Truths of God, I hope somebody is saying, “Ah, Sir, I know that my sins are great!” You need not go into particulars, for, if nobody else’s sin is great, mine is.“ Let us all look over the records of this year and see whether it is not so with us. Get out your diary. Ah, you do not put down such things there–you try to forget them. I have been told that, in Naples, there used to be a pit for every day in the year, and each day they took the dead out of the city and flung them into the pit for that day. So there were 365 of these pits which were opened, year after year. In a similar style, you have buried your sins in these 365 days. Let us roll one of the big stones away and look down. No, no! We could not bear to do so, for even one day’s sin has such filthiness about it that we cry, if we are in our right senses, "Bury my dead out of my sight!” Think what your sins have been. Think of the idle words you have spoken–for every one of which you will have to give account. Think of the evil thoughts you have had–angry thoughts, proud thoughts, lustful thoughts–they are all sins. Oh, what a terrible heap they make! Would any man here like to shoot out his sins on this platform? I can never understand how a so-called “priest” can ask people to confess their sins to him. I would not make my ear into a common sewer for all the wealth in the world! What foulness there must be on the soul of him who has heard what others have done and who knows what sin he has himself committed! Sin, when we see what it really is, whether in ourselves or in others, horrifies us.
But there is one thing I want you to remember. If there has been nothing done, or said, or thought by you of which you can convict yourself, yet, if you are not now loving God–if for another year you have been God’s enemy, if for another year you have refused Christ and have lived without prayer, without repentance and without seeking to be right with God. If for another year you have been indifferent to the claims of the Most High and careless of His commands–if you have done nothing else but forget God–that one sin would be enough to cast you into Hell forever! Remember David’s words, “the wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
II. Now I turn to the much more joyful side of my subject which is that THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN IS ALSO A GREAT THING.
Is there such a thing as forgiveness of sin? When Martin Luther was in great trouble because of his sin, he obtained much consolation from the remark of a brother monk, who, observing him so cast down, asked to him, “Martin, can you say the Credo?” Martin, of course, answered, “Yes.” “Then, do you not remember,” said the monk, “that in the Credo it is written, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins’?” Light seemed to break in upon Luther’s darkness by that simple question, as I pray that it may break upon yours while I speak upon that blessed article of a true Christian’s creed.
First, you may judge the greatness of the forgiveness by the greatness of the sin which God forgives in a single moment. I do not know your age, my dear Friend. Say, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, 80 years–possibly, even 90–but, if you now believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, this very instant the whole mass of your sin will disappear forever! I have heard of one who had lent much money to a debtor and who had received from him many bonds. And when he found the debtor sinking into hopeless bankruptcy, he sent for him and, after showing him the bonds, the amount of which he was unable to meet, even to the extent of a penny in the pound, the generous creditor said, “There is only one way in which we can settle all this debt.” And, gathering up all the bonds in his hand, he cast them into the fire. “Now,” he said, “I wish you a happy new year. Go your way, for you are out of debt to me.” That was a noble thing for anyone to do, and I feel sure that the bond for a thousand pounds would burn as fast as a bond for 50 pounds. So the Lord takes all the bonds of our sin throughout our whole lifetime and puts them into the blaze of His Infinite Mercy–and they all disappear so that, if our sins are searched for, they cannot be found!
Next, measure the greatness of the forgiveness by the guilt of the sin forgiven. I always feel that I must speak guardedly upon this point, but I will be as bold as I may. Sinner, if you trust in Christ, He will forgive you the blackest sin into which you have ever fallen. If (God grant that it may not be true!) the crime of murder should be on your conscience. If adultery and fornication should have blackened your very soul. If all the sins that men have ever committed, enormous and stupendous in their aggravation, should be rightly charged to your account, yet, remember that “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all our sin.” And remember, also, “he that believes in Him is justified from all things,” however black they may be. I like the way Luther talks upon this subject, though he is sometimes rather too bold. He says, “Jesus Christ is not a sham Savior for sham sinners, but He is a real Savior who offers a real Atonement for real sin, for gross crimes, for shameless offenses, for transgressions of every sort and every size.”
And a far greater One than Luther has said, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” I have set the door of Mercy open wide, have I not? There is no one here who will dare to say, “Mr. Spurgeon said that I was too guilty to be forgiven.” I have said nothing of the kind! However great your guilt, though your sins, like the great mountains tower above the clouds, the floods of Divine Mercy can roll over the tops of the highest mountains of iniquity and drown them all! God give you Grace to believe this and to prove it true this very hour!
In the third place, the greatness of God’s forgiveness may be judged by the freeness of it. When a poor sinner comesto Christ for pardon, Christ does not ask him to pay anything for it, or to do anything, but He freely forgives him. I know what you think. “I shall have to go through a certain penance of heart, at any rate, if not of body. I shall have to weep so much, or pray so much, or do so much, or feel so much.” That is not what the Gospel says–that is only your fancy. The Gospel is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Trust Jesus Christ, and the free pardon of sin is at once given “without money and without price”!
Another thing that indicates its greatness is its immediateness. God will forgive you at once, as soon as you trustChrist. There was a daughter, well beloved by her father, who, in an evil hour, left her home and came to London. Here, having no friends, she soon fell prey to wicked men and became an utter wreck. A city missionary met with her and spoke faithfully to her about her sin–and the Holy Spirit brought her to the Savior’s feet. The missionary asked for her father’s name and address, and at last she told him. But she said, “It is no use for you to write him. I have brought such dishonor on my family that I am quite certain he would not reply to any letter.” They wrote to the father and stated the cases–and the letter that came back bore on the envelope, in large text hand, the word, “IMMEDIATE.” Inside, he wrote, “I have prayed every day that I might find my child and am rejoiced to hear of her. Let her come home at once. I have freely forgiven her, and I long to clasp her to my bosom.”
Now, Soul, if you seek mercy, this is just what the Lord will do with you. He will send you mercy marked, “IMMEDIATE,” and you shall have it at once! I recollect how I found mercy, in a moment, as I was told to look to Jesus and I would be forgiven. I did look and, swift as a lightning flash, I received the pardon of sin in which I have rejoiced to this very hour! Why should it not be the same with you–the blackest and worst sinner here–the most unfeeling and the least likely to repent? Lord, grant it, and You shall have the praise!
Again, the greatness of God’s forgiveness may be measured by the completeness of it. When a man trusts Christ and isforgiven, his sin is so entirely gone that it is as though it had never been! Your children bring home their copy-books without any blots in them, but if you look carefully, you can see where blots have been erased. But when the Lord Jesus Christ blots out the sins of His people, He leaves no marks of erasure and the forgiven sinners are as much accepted before God as if they had never sinned!
Perhaps someone says, “You are putting the matter very strongly.” I know I am, but not more strongly than the Word of God does. The Prophet Micah, speaking to the Lord under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Not into the shallows, where they might be dredged up again, but into the great deeps, as in the middle of the Atlantic. Then Isaiah says to the Lord, “You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” Can you tell me where God’s back is? God’s face is everywhere–then where is His back and where are His people’s sins? Why, nowhere at all! Daniel says that the work of the Messiah is to finish the transgression–and it is finished for all who believe in Him. Daniel also says that He is to make an end of sins–then there is an end of them for all who trust in Him! Then there is that glorious passage which cannot be quoted too often–“In those days, and in that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none.” What? All my sins gone? Yes, they are all gone if you believe in Jesus, for He cast them into His tomb where they are buried forever. This is enough to make you dance, like David did before the Ark, for, when God once pardons a man, He never condemns him again. It is not God’s way to play fast and loose with people. If I am in Christ Jesus, the verdict of, “No condemnation,” must always be mine, for who can condemn the one for whom Christ has died? No one, for, “whom He justified, them He also glorified.” If you have trusted your soul upon the Atonement made by the blood of Christ, you are absolved and you may go your way in peace, knowing that neither death nor Hell shall ever divide you from Christ! You are His and you shall be His forever and ever!
“Well,” asks one, “that is a great thing. How is it to be obtained?” It is to be had for nothing, simply for the asking, simply by trusting Christ. If that is done, all is done and all these blessings are yours, and yours forevermore!
Now I close by showing you how really God forgives sin. I am sure He does, for I have proved it in my own case and I have heard of many more like myself. I have known the Lord to take a man full of sin and renew him and, in a moment to make him feel, and feel it truly, too, “God loves me.” And he has cried, “Abba, Father,” and he has begun to pray and has had answers to prayer! And God has manifested His Infinite Grace to him in a thousand ways. By-and-by, that man has been trusted by God with some service for Him, as Paul and others were put in trust with the Gospel–and as some of us also are. With some of us, the Lord has been very familiar and very kind and has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus.
Now I have done when I have just said that, as these things are true, then nobody ought to despair. Come, Sister, smooth those wrinkles out of your forehead! You have been saying, “I shall never be saved,” but you must not talk like that, for Christ’s forgiveness of sin is “according to the riches of His Grace.” And, Brother, are you in trouble because you have sinned against God? As He is so ready to forgive, you ought to be sorry that you have grieved such a gracious God! As He is so ready to forgive, let us be ready to be forgiven! Let us not leave this house, though the midnight hour is about to strike, until we have received this great redemption, this great forgiveness for great sin!
Perhaps someone says, “When I get home, I will ask God’s forgiveness.” Do not wait until you get home! Suppose that I had done some wrong to any of you and that I sat next to you–I do not think that I should wait until we entered the new year before asking you to forgive me. Do so with God–say to Him, “Since You are so ready to forgive, I ask to be forgiven. I trust that I shall be forgiven through Jesus Christ, Your Son.” It is a grand thing to begin the new year with a new heart and a new spirit! That would set all the bells of your soul ringing. The question is, Will you believe on the Son of God? In the name of Jesus Christ who died upon the Cross, I demand your faith in Him! He is no impostor. He is no pretender, He is worthy of your heart’s trust, so believe in Him. I pray the Holy Spirit to work this faith in you, that you may be saved, and saved now, and receive at once the forgiveness of all your sins!
Thus have I preached the Gospel to you. If you reject it, it is at your peril. I draw a ring round you as the Roman ambassador drew one round the Eastern monarch and said to him, “Step out of that ring, and it will mean war with Rome.” So I draw a ring round the seat where you are sitting and say to you, in the name of God, “You must not rise up from that seat until you have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, or else have taken upon yourself the responsibility of remaining an enemy of God, for I can say no more to you till the Judgment Day breaks and I have to give account for preaching this sermon–and you have to give account for hearing it! I can say no more than this! There is pardon to be obtained by believing! Jesus Christ is fully worthy of your confidence–trust Him now and you shall receive full and free forgiveness! The Lord help you to do so, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK”–548, 562, 595.