5 Cures for Doubts about Justification – Part #3
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 third suggested cure:
3. DISCHARGES IN JUSTIFICATION ARE NOT REPEALED; THEY ARE NOT CALLED IN AGAIN.
Subsequent sins and falls do not nullify and evacuate former grants and pardons, for as much as:
1) Pardon of sin springs from special love and mercy, which alter not their consigned acts.
2) It is founded on an unalterable, absolute, and constant satisfaction; for sin is not pardoned for any dignity in the person. In the person pardoned, there is no reason or cause of pardon, but that is in the blood of Christ, which blood alters, lessens, and abates not, though our carriages do.
Hence it is that pardon of sin in justification is called “the blotting out of the handwriting,” Colossians 2:14. If some writing is blurred a little, and somewhat blotted, yet it may be read. But if it is blotted out, it is no longer legible, and who can be called to account upon record when the writings are obliterated?
The same phrase is used in Isaiah 44:22, “I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins”; where, I think, something else falls in to our comfort, viz. that God Himself does blot out. Though an under officer should blot out an indictment, that, perhaps, may help nothing; but when the king himself does it, who is chief judge, then the indictment cannot return. Now it is the Lord Himself who blots out transgressions. He does it who alone has power of life and death, of condemning or absolving.
In like manner, there is another phrase, Micah 7:19, “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” If a thing were cast into a river which might be fathomed, then it might be brought up again; or that were cast upon the sea only, it might be discovered and taken up again; but when it is in the depths, cast into the depths, the bottom of the sea, now it cannot be fathomed up again. By which metaphor the Lord intends to express unto us the powerful energy of pardoning mercy, that our sins shall rise no more against us. He will clear them so that they (being once forgiven) shall come on the account no more; He will drown their guilt so that it shall not come up against us before Him the second time.
Therefore, Paul, discoursing about justification in Romans 4, uses another phrase to express this point, verse 7, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” Covering is such an action which is opposed to disclosure and judicial evidences; and to be covered is to be hid so and closed so as not to appear with a judicial guilty upon it.
Now the Lord here is said to cover sin in justification. What is that? That is, the Lord will look on those sins no more with a judicial eye; He will not call them to account any more. That is the meaning of the phrase.
When a prince reads over many treasons, and meets with such and such which he has pardoned, he reads on. He passes by. He now takes no notice of them; he is not stirred. He sends not out against those whom he has pardoned. So it is here. This is for God to cover sin, viz. not to look on the sin pardoned with a judicial eye. It is not, as some most empty and dull heads fancy it, that God does not see sin at all, and He cannot. Of all the opinions in the world, this is the most ridiculous and childish to men who believe in an all-seeing God; but to cover sin is not simply not to see it, but to looks over it as it were, and not to sit or stand upon it with a judicial eye, (i.e.) to account for pardoned sins no more.
Hence, in the New Covenant, God promising to justify or to pardon sin, He says not only “I will forgive their iniquity,” but adds, “I will remember their sin no more,” Jeremiah 31:34. What is that? That is, “If I once forgive their sin, I will not forgive it again. It shall not need again to be forgiven. Once shall serve the truth; I will remember it no more.”
The meaning is, “It shall be quiet forgotten. I will no more plead with them for what I have once pardoned.”
I confess that the sense, fruit, and assurance of a sin pardoned may return. This may be lost and got, and the acts of faith concerning the particular pardon of a particular sin may do so; but God’s justifying act, His pardoning act, is a free and constant act. Otherwise, if He pardoned us respectively upon an absolute incessation about sin, there would be no flesh living that could be justified.