When Has a Believer Received His Pardon?

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
OUR conversation yesterday has brought to my mind that which may be serviceable in truth and serviceable to conscience.
First, as to truth, or rather God's dealing by it, so to speak. I have lately clearly seen the mischief of counting forgiveness from the time of the revelation of grace to our souls. So very many date God's mercy from this as quite to affect in the Church the condition and growth of grace in a very extensive way. The cross is revealed to the soul as the answer to judgment. But more: Christ is (if any advance at all is made) revealed, who is not only dead, but risen and alive for evermore. Righteousness is revealed as presenting us to God, and we have access to God in believing; but if the cross begins my career in grace and not my apprehension in God's good time; of His grace to me in it, I am led to a much deeper use of it. I am presented to God not only in. forgiveness, but in resurrection, ascension, and glory. This is the beginning of the dealings of God with me in Christ in the cross; not as manifesting me in Him, that would be as of His confessing body on earth. Beginning at the cross, there is a ladder of fulfillment of the thoughts of God towards me. To regard my course as merely commencing with a conviction of mercy, as God began with me in sense of judgment, leaves the cross so little as an effectual object of faith, that the whole dealing of God and the intelligence of His ways is arrested; and should it not arrest us in the intelligence of His ways, it does so as to all thought of progress of the soul in light. Another mischief is, that it causes us to look to such a manifestation to our souls of the grace of God in the cross, as the only sense and certitude of forgiveness, and the consequence is, my assurance in Christ is easily assailed or displaced to make way, perhaps, for that which is not true as such, and myself kept back from real communion. But if under the sense of judgment, I by grace have believed in the cross as the putting away of my sin, and of the sins of others who have by grace believed on the Son of God; and referring my acceptance to the time of this act of God and to His estimate of it and of those seen in Him; the cross becomes to souls, livingly coming to Christ, the power of God in the crushing and purging away of sin. I am dead in Christ, and in whatever measure sin still lives, it is still met in the power that the death of Christ ever has; and thus it is sin has no more dominion over me, for I am under grace. Great as is the blessing of the peace that is supplied in clear views of our standing before God in Christ dead, risen, and glorified, the fruits of the work of Christ are to be ours, and other assurances with it.
A case within the knowledge of the writer would, though in part, strongly illustrate the effect of the difference as to assurance. F. G. had been a Roman Catholic, innocent in life, and became, by terrific preaching of hell, oppressed almost to death. His deliverance through the word was full and wonderful. For two or three years afterward his joy was unbroken; and when it lost its brightness he thought all must be gone with it. The writer was with him at the close of his life by consumption. He expressed himself thus: " Death is a black and terrible thing; oh! that God would give me some of the joy I had at my conversion."
A brother of experience passing by the place where our sick brother was, when told of the above, said: " It will put him into a legal state." A few days proved the truth of it. He lost all communion. It was gracious, most gracious of the Lord that Satan was not allowed to touch the question of salvation in his mind in the least degree. He called it " the triumph of faith." No service in the word or in prayer altered, however, the ease, and he felt it most bitterly, and entreated most fervently in vain. On the writer's telling him one evening that he was about going to a prayer-meeting, he said: " Pray for me." On joining the brethren, the case was related to them, and a deep interest felt, and much pleading with God followed throughout the time they were together. On coming to him on the morning following, the first words he said were: " Vos prieres out ete exauce'es, ne me parlez que de la croix." The morning of his decease he said to the writer: " If any one ask about me, say that I would not be otherwise than as I am."
Now this is a history exemplifying one part of the subject; but it is not of the same importance as that which touches the injury done to the advance of the soul and its fruits according to the word. The writer has found the extreme difficulty of welding on the most necessary truth on souls that had been converted (if they were so) at revival preaching. They finished there, even when it is sincerely believed they had received Christ. They preferred to continue to attend these meetings to any other opportunity.
Another mischief of believers not seeing that to date their forgiveness at the cross and death of Jesus, is that it takes away from the ordinances their true character. The writer knew cases in which they were carried no further than to look at them as representative of the course their own souls had gone through. This was to the writer then manifestly false. But even if not in this measure of false use, what has been expressed above leaves them still in a false position. They were appointed in respect of the position and confession of the Church on earth and for earth, and receive as such a substantial character. This is necessarily lost in the case supposed; and some mystical and confused notion adopted in its place, when nothing can be more clearly applicable to the reality of position given to the Christian in Christ on the cross-risen with Him, and warring the warfare of his new confession. They are a reality. The character of an ordinance is essentially separative, and of a people where fellowship comes in, as it is in the table of the Lord.