Obadiah Sedgwick, a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines and minister of God’s Word at Coggleshall, Essex, (later, at St. Paul's, Covent Garden, London), produced a series of messages that tackled the believer's battle with doubts and fears.
This book was called, 'A Puritan Treatise on Assurance,' and outlines the nature, kinds, springs and also the remedies for those doubts that affect a believer's walk with God.
He deals with 14 'springs of doubting' and then proceeds to explain cures relevant to each of these areas.
In this Reformation blog my chief interest is in tracing how Sedgwick treated the problem of doubt in the matter of justification. My aim is, over 5 consecutive Monday entries on this blog, to detail the five cures to doubt on this vital doctrine that are contained in this treatise. Though the language is C17th, the counsel is solid and very beneficial.
A ninth cause of doubting is the ignorance of the Doctrine of Justification.
Sedgwick's second suggested cure:
2. IN JUSTIFICATION, THE BELIEVING PENITENT HAS A UNIVERSAL DISCHARGE.
What is that? That is, when a man is in Christ, when he is a true believer, he does not then receive a particular acquittal from such or such sins, but a universal discharge from all the sins he has committed.
You know the promise, Jeremiah 33:8-9, “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour … .”
Therefore, David, speaking of God’s fulness and extent of pardoning and remitting mercy, said, Psalm 85:2, "Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people, Thou hast covered all their sins, Selah;" which covering of all sin is in sense the same with the apostle’s not imputing of sin, Romans 4; 2 Corinthians 5.
This is a true axiom: Though sins are different, justification is not.
When the Lord God justifies a person, the different qualities and circumstances of former sins do not hinder their pardon and discharge.
You know that one may, with a pen, cross a great sum as well as a little sum, and a king can given a pardon not only for petty offences, but also for rebellious and treasonous offences, and so he does many times. It is, therefore, an observable passage in holy writ that there is scarcely a sin of any kind but we may read the blotting of it unto a believing and repenting person.
• Original sin was the great deluge of our natures, and the first fire which enflamed the whole world of mankind, yet this sin was pardoned to Adam.
• Drunkenness is another sin which the apostle (in 1 Corinthians 6:10) raises to the height of eternal separation, yet it was pardoned to Noah, a believing penitent.
• Lying is another sin which is, of itself, apt to lock the gates of heaven, Revelation 22:15, yet it was pardoned to Abraham, the father of the faithful.
• Incest, that unnatural co-mixture, was yet pardoned to Lot.
• Murder, a crying sin, and adultery, a fearful sin, were both pardoned unto a repenting and believing David.
• Idolatry, that angering and provoking sin, a sin which unthrones God and makes the object of it a god, was yet pardoned unto Solomon.
What, should I mention more?
• Impatience was a sin, yet pardoned to Job.
• Passion, a sin, was yet pardoned to Jonah.
• Denial of Christ against knowledge and resolution, a high sin (and such as a Donatist, upon no terms, would admit as capable of a re-acceptance), was yet graciously pardoned to Peter.
• Persecuting of the gospel of Christ, blasphemy and compelling of others to blaspheme, (i.e.) injuriously and despitefully to oppose Jesus Christ, His work, His members. O how piercing and bleeding a sin! Yet it was pardoned to Paul; he obtained mercy.
• Oppression and covetousness, by which a man sucks the blood and life of others, yet it was pardoned to Zacchaeus.
Nay, yet once more, as you may see pardon in justification releasing all sorts of debts, so you shall find it releasing all sorts of debtors. Take one place for all, in Leviticus 4, where the Lord goes over all sorts and divisions of sinners and appointed offerings for them all, and proclaims pardon to them all:
- first the priests, verse 3;
- then second, the whole congregation, verses 13 and 20;
- then third, a ruler, verses 22 and 26;
- then fourth, any one of the common people, verses 27, 28, and 31.
Under which four ranks He draws in all sorts and conditions of men, and not only appoints a sin offering for them all, but also accepts the same; by which, what else is meant but the power and efficacy of the blood of Christ by which all sorts of sins are pardoned to all sorts of believing and repenting sinners.
“Ah, Lord!” Will many a person cry out.
“Why, what is the matter? Why are you so heavy? Why, such and such a sin heretofore.”
I reply, “Is there not a justification?”
“And how does sin come to be pardoned? Is it not by the blood of Christ?”
“Yes; but these were great sins.”
“And did Christ die for the expiation of little sins only? What, did He satisfy for infirmities only and not for enormities also? And does Christ indeed leave the greatest debts for us to clear? Or cannot faith receive the acquittal of great sins as well as indeliberate sins? Was not the sin offering for all sorts or persons? And have not all sorts of sins come within the proclamation?”
No, no, my brethren, justification (without all doubt) crosses the book.
“You are a debtor,” says God.
“I am, Lord,” says the penitent. “I acknowledge my sins and am sorry for my transgressions, but I intend to run on the score no longer.’
“You are a debtor,” says God.
“I am, Lord,” says the believer, “and Thou hast said, ‘If any man sins, he has an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, and He is the propitiation for sin;’ and I believe on Him, Lord. I take Him to be my sin offering and, in His blood only, I seek for pardon and redemption from all my sins.”
This would be the way to support ourselves against our many and strong doubting about pardon of sins. Yet the Lord knows I have repented of them, and I believe in Jesus Christ for the pardon of them. I hear and know that He is the Mediator of the New Testament and that His blood satisfies for all sorts of debtors and debts too. Though one sin may differ from another, yet His merit and satisfaction differs not from itself, but is all-sufficient. Therefore, I acknowledge the debt and rest on His blood for a full discharge.