Thursday, July 17, 2014

John Owen on Forgiveness

In The Forgiveness of Sin: Illustrated in a Practical Exposition of Psalm CXXX John Owen has these words to say about grace and forgiveness.
Gospel-forgiveness, the discovery of which is the sole support of sin-distressed souls, relates to the gracious heart or good-will of the Father, the God of forgiveness; the propitiation made by the blood of the Son; and free pardon according to the covenant of grace. Faith's discovery of forgiveness in God, though it have no present sense of it's own peculiar interest therein, is the great support of the sin-perplexed soul.
I reversed the two paragraphs above to make what is a key observation of Owen's: that faith-found-forgiveness, finding its source in the grace of God the Father, sustains the soul in ways that the soul has yet to discover. What great comfort! I am not required to even know how this mysterious forgiveness works. I have only to trust and say with the blind man of John 9 and John Newton:
Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. ~John 9:25
What great comfort! That forgiveness depends upon nothing but grace. Not on my efforts, not on my understanding, even when when my own conscience and its so-called "evidences" deny it faith, real faith, declares that forgiveness had come. Faith-found-forgiveness is so completely of God and his grace that it remains at work even as the conscience doubts its effectiveness. Owen continues:
Now, whom should a man believe if not his own conscience? which, as it will not flatter him, so it intends not to affright him, but to speak the truth as the matter requireth. Conscience hath two works in reference to sin — one to condemn the acts of sin, another to judge the person of the sinner; both with reference to the judgment of God. When forgiveness comes, it would sever and part these employments, and take one of them out of the hand of conscience; it would divide the spoil with this strong one. It shall condemn the fact, or every sin; but it shall no more condemn the sinner, the person of the sinner, that shall be freed from its sentence. Here conscience labours with all its might to keep its whole dominion, and to keep out the power of forgiveness from being enthroned in the soul.
There is a forgiveness that comes at the historical event of the Cross, but this differs greatly from simply thinking about or feeling or understanding the concept of forgiveness. The blood of Christ is effective. The blood in my gray matter is not effective in bringing me forgiveness, and in fact it so often works against me. Oh to live by grace alone.

1 comment:

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