Wednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson. This week’s selection is taken from The Godly Man’s Picture.
“For this cause shall everyone who is godly pray unto you.” (Psalm 32:6)
Holy David at the beginning of this psalm, shows us wherein true happiness consists; not in beauty, honor, riches (the world’s trinity)—but in the forgiveness of sin. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven” (v. 1). The Hebrew word “to forgive” signifies “to carry out of sight”, which agrees well with the words of Jeremiah: “In those days, says the Lord, the sins of Judah shall be sought for, and they shall not be found” (Jer. 50:20). This is an incomprehensible blessing, and such as lays a foundation for all other mercies. I shall just glance at it, and lay down these five assertions about it:
1. Forgiveness of sin is an act of God’s free grace.
The Greek word for “forgive” (charizomai) makes clear the source of pardon. Pardon does not arise from anything inherent in us—but is the pure result of free grace (charis). “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake” (Isaiah 43:25). When a creditor forgives a debtor, he does it freely. Pardon of sin is a royal thread, spun out of the heart of free grace. Paul cries out, “I obtained mercy” (1 Tim. 1:13)—”I was be-mercied”. He who is pardoned, is all bestrewn with mercy. When the Lord pardons a sinner, he does not only pay a debt—but gives an inheritance!
2. God, in forgiving sin, remits the guilt and penalty.
Guilt cries for justice. No sooner had Adam eaten the apple, than he saw the “flaming sword” and heard the curse. But in forgiveness of sin, God indulges the sinner. He seems to say to him, “Though you have fallen into the hands of my justice and deserve to die—yet I will absolve you, and whatever is charged against you shall be discharged.”
3. Forgiveness of sin is through the blood of Christ.
Free grace is the impulsive cause; Christ’s blood is the meritorious cause. “Without shedding of blood is no remission of sin” (Heb. 9:22). Justice would be revenged either on the sinner, or on the surety. Every pardon is the price of Christ’s blood.
4. Before sin is forgiven, it must be repented of.
Therefore repentance and remission are linked together: “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name” (Luke 24:47). Not that repentance in a popish sense merits forgiveness. Christ’s blood must wash our tears away—but repentance is a qualification, though not a cause of forgiveness. He who is humbled for sin, will value pardoning mercy the more. When there is nothing in the soul but clouds of sorrow, and now God brings a pardon—which is a setting up of a rainbow in the cloud, to tell the sinner that the flood of wrath shall not overflow him—oh, what joy there is at the sight of this rainbow! The soul that before was steeped in tears, now melts in love to God (Luke 7:38, 47).
5. God having forgiven sin, he will no longer call it to remembrance. (Jer. 31:34)
The Lord will not upbraid us with former unkindness. “He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19). Sin shall not be cast in like cork which rises up again—but like lead which sinks to the bottom. How we should all labor for this covenant blessing!
(i) How sad it is to lack pardon! It must of necessity go badly with the malefactor, who lacks his pardon. All the curses of God stand in full force against the unpardoned sinner; his very blessings are cursed (Mal. 2:2). Caesar wondered at one of his soldiers, who was so merry when he was in debt. Can that sinner be merry who is heir to all God’s curses—and does not know how soon he may take up his lodgings among the damned!
(ii) How sweet it is to have pardon!
(a) The pardoned soul is out of the gunshot of hell (Romans 8:33). Satan may accuse—but Christ will show a discharge!
(b) The pardoned soul may go to God with boldness in prayer. Guilt clips the wings of prayer, so that it cannot fly to the throne of grace—but forgiveness breeds confidence. He who has his pardon, may look his prince in the face with comfort.
This great mercy of pardon David had obtained, as appears in verse 5: “You forgave me”. And because he had found God “a God of pardons” (Neh. 9:17), he therefore encouraged others to seek God in the words of the text: “For this cause shall everyone who is godly pray unto you.”