James Smith, 1859
"How many iniquities and sins have I committed?" Job 13:23
What a solemn question for a sinner to ask! Who can answer it? Alas, who of us can say, I have lived one waking hour without sin? We have sinned every day, every hour, every minute. From our hearts, as from a corrupt fountain, nothing but sin and corruption have proceeded. We have sinned in public and in private, at home and abroad, while awake and even when asleep, our very dreams have been defiled with sin. What hosts of evil thoughts. What a multitude of improper words. What a company of sinful actions. Even a slight examination shows the number to be all but infinite.
"How many iniquities and sins have I committed?" Who can number them? Who can give me the correct account? Yet, however numerous they may be, they are all registered. Every item is in God's book of remembrance. The follies of childhood, the sins of youth, the crimes of manhood—are all recorded! What a solemn thought! All my sins are before God!
He knows the nature, the number, and the aggravation, of all my transgressions. Every thought, word, or deed, whether against man or God—all lie naked and open before his eye. How, then, can I face him? How can I with any confidence appear before him?
My sins must be very numerous, and every one of them deserves punishment. If God is to punish me for every one of them, and according to the just desert of the whole of them, what will be my doom? To what place shall I be banished? With what scorpions shall I be chastised? By what agents will my just punishment be inflicted? O hell, what must be your horrors! O damnation, what dost you include! Hell is the only place in God's universe where adequate punishment can be inflicted. Damnation is the terrible word that represents the due desert of my sin.
But what is hell? Who, who can correctly represent it? What is damnation? Who can describe the woe, the dread, the pain, the agony, the terrific torments, represented by that word? Oh, my sins, my pleasant sins, my cherished sins, my sins with which I have trifled, and at which I have sometimes laughed—you deserve an eternity of punishment, in the most horrid place, among the most degraded creatures, in all God's universe!
My sins, if not visited on me, require an infinite atonement. God's justice must be satisfied, before my punishment can be remitted. What can satisfy the stern, impartial, unbending justice of the Infinitely holy God? Who, who can make atonement for sins so numberless as mine, so aggravated as mine? Could all the inhabitants of earth? Alas, each one requires an atonement equally with myself. Could all the hosts of heaven? Nay, if they had love enough, they could not do, or suffer, that which would merit my release. In vain I look around this sinful world. In vain I look even to heaven itself, if I look beneath God's glorious throne.
There is one, and one only, that can make an atonement for my sins. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus alone can expiate my guilt. He has taken my nature. He has become my representative. He submitted to have all my guilt transferred to himself, and all my sins placed to his own account. He stood before the bar of justice for me. He was condemned to suffer instead of me. He bore the punishment of my transgressions in the garden, and on the tree. He blotted out my sins with his own blood. He paid the price of my ransom with his own life. He discharged the entire debt. He met the whole demand. Gethsemane and Calvary alone can tell what my sins deserve. Precious Lord Jesus, you suffered my desert, you died in my stead! You were delivered over to justice, to be punished for my offences, and you arose from the dead, to testify that the atonement was made!
A right view of the number and nature of my sins, will urge me to seek, and if possible obtain an immediate pardon. Only through a pardon, can I escape eternal woe; and only through the death of Jesus, can a pardon be obtained. But, blessed be God, he accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, he found satisfaction in the death of his Son; and now he is "ready to forgive." There are no legal impediments in the way. On the ground of what Jesus has done and suffered, God can be just, and yet justify every one believes on Jesus.
Oh, my soul, do you believe on Jesus? Have you faith in his blood? Can you trust his obedient life, and meritorious death, to justify you before God? Are you forgiven? Have you the evidence of it in your heart? God's Holy Word says, "He who believes has the witness in himself.'' If any one is convinced of sin, repairs to God's mercy-seat, confesses sin, fully and frankly, and exercises faith in Jesus—he is pardoned. And being pardoned, as testified in God's Word—his guilty fears depart, his sorrow and sadness are removed, and he has peace with God. He sees that Jesus has put away his sins, by the sacrifice of himself; and that by his one offering, he has perfected for ever those who are sanctified, or set apart for God.
Now love to God springs up in his heart. He feels Jesus to be precious. He esteems him as the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one. Yes, he joys in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he has now received the atonement. Faith in the blood of Jesus conquers all his fears, and reliance on the word of God's testimony gives him boldness before his foes. Oh, how precious those words are to his soul, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanses us from all sin."
"How many iniquities and sins have I committed?" However many they may be— the mercies of God are more. "How great is my sin?" However great it may be—the merit of Christ is greater. Let a sense of my sinfulness humble and lay me low—very low in the dust before God. But never, never let the sense of my sinfulness lead me to despond, for this were to add sin to sin. Let a view of the greatness of my sins—urge me to flee to Jesus, and cast myself on him. He bids me to come. He will undertake my cause. He will answer for me. He will prove himself to be Jesus, in my case, the almighty Savior; who is able to save unto the uttermost, all that come unto God by him. Oh, my soul seek certainty, the full assurance of hope! Never rest satisfied until you can say, "He loved me—and gave himself for me." If your heart is set on this, if you will be satisfied with nothing less—God will not allow you to be put off with less.
Let us then give diligence, to make our calling and election sure; and when we have done this, we shall be able to rejoice in Christ Jesus, while we have no confidence in the flesh. Great sinners—may enjoy great peace, and rejoice with great joy. Indeed, it is neither the number, nor enormity of our sins which makes us miserable—but the weakness of our faith. If we had a strong faith in God's testimony concerning his Son, if we were steadily relying on the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, if we understood and believed the Gospel, we must be happy, we must rejoice. Spirit of Jesus, humble us under a sense of the greatness of our sins, give us strong faith in the perfect work of Jesus, fire us with zeal for the His glory, fill us with love to our adorable Redeemer, and teach us in his name to rejoice all the day long, and in his righteousness may we be exalted!
Blessed be God, for Jesus Christ. Now, now our sins may be pardoned, our souls justified, and a title to everlasting life procured. Blessed be God, for Jesus Christ!