Can God Forgive and Forget All?
James Smith, 1858
The ways of God are very astonishing, and the works of God are very great. Creation fills us with admiration; providence often fills us with surprise — but grace overwhelms us with wonder. When we think of what God has done, when we dwell on what God has given, and then turn to what God has said — we involuntarily cry out, "Who in the Heavens can be compared to Jehovah, or who among the sons of the mighty, can be compared to our God!"
But in nothing does the Lord appear more glorious, than in receiving sinners, and pardoning their sins. Here the largeness of his heart, the freeness of his grace, and the infinity of his love — shines forth in their meridian splendor. He receives so readily, he pardons so freely, and he blesses the pardoned criminal with such vast and varied blessings! Truly, we may well look up to Heaven filled with devout gratitude and awe, and exclaim with the psalmist, "You, Lord, are good, ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all those who call upon you."
These thoughts have been awakened in my mind, by a circumstance which has just come to my knowledge. A poor skeptic was brought into deep and sore trouble, his mind was distressed, his temper was soured, and his heart was filled with harsh thoughts against God. Life became burdensome — but the thoughts of death were dreadful. He was filled with wormwood and gall, and no ray of light shone in to cheer his dark and gloomy spirit.
He met with a Christian friend, one who had been deeply tried too, and could therefore sympathize with him. For a time he reasoned with him, and attempted to vindicate God's dealings with him; and then he placed the paternal character of God in a most winning light before him, and made known the gospel in a clear and touching manner. His gloomy mind was arrested, his hard thoughts of God one after another fled away, and cheering light began to shine in upon his troubled spirit. At length he was brought to see that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, and that all his dealings with him were not only just — but wise, and merciful. He became softened and humbled, and the tears stood in his eyes; he felt ashamed, deeply ashamed of himself, and falling down before God, submitted to his righteousness, and cast himself upon his free and sovereign mercy. He was willing to be saved by grace, to be saved so as God may have all the glory of his salvation. But the grace appeared to be so great, the mercy was so wonderful, and salvation so glorious, that for a time his spirit was overpowered; until at length he broke out, and in astonishment, exclaimed, "Do you think that God can forgive and forget all?"
Can we wonder at this? Rather, is it not a wonder, that we are not daily overwhelmed with a sense of the Lord's wondrous love in pardoning such sinners as we are? In accepting such transgressors as we are? In adopting such rebels as we are — to be his sons and daughters?
But does he forgive every returning sinner? He does! And can he forget all their hard speeches, wicked thoughts, and ungodly conduct? He can, and treat them as if they had never offended him, in thought, word, or deed. Hear his own wondrous words, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Hebrews 8:12. Again he repeats the pleasing truth, "This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Hebrews 10:16, 17. Again, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and as a cloud, your sins; return unto me for I have redeemed you." Isaiah 44:23. As if he took the register, and obliterated every word, every letter — so that neither man nor angel could trace out a line. O the wonders of redeeming grace!
Not only are we forgiven — but our sins are covered, they are thrown into the depths of the sea, the Lord has cast them behind his back. So that as it was said of old of Israel, it shall be found true of us, "In those days, and in that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for — and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah — and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them!"
O sweet thought — God will never think of how I have sinned against him! He will never allow one of my numerous crimes to be mentioned unto me, when I arrive at home! All will be forgiven, and not only forgiven — but forgotten. What a perfect pardon! What a complete justification! Into what an honorable position are we exalted!
We can look around creation, up into Heaven, and down into the depths of Hell, and fearlessly ask, "Who can lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."
Sinner, do you ask for yourself, and in reference to your own conduct, "Do you think that God can forgive and forget all?" I answer, I not only think so — but I am sure of it. If you are willing to accept of pardon on God's terms, he is quite willing to pardon you. Therefore, however depraved you may be, however vile your conduct may have been — he is still saying to you, "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are as scarlet — they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson — they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1:18. And his Apostle assures us, that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanses from all sin". And then adds, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:7, 9.
When the sinner feels the load of his guilt, heartily desires deliverance from it, and confesses it with self-loathing before God — it is evident that the Holy Spirit is working in his heart; and this work of the Holy Spirit, proves that all his sins were transferred to Jesus, were punished in the sufferings of Jesus, and were completely atoned for by the death of Jesus; and on that ground it is clear, that God will forgive and forget all.
Fear not, poor sinner, with the Lord there is mercy, in the blood of Jesus there is merit, and in the Word of God we are assured that he is a God ready to pardon.
Should a backslider read these lines, and should he ask, whose crimes are aggravated by the clearest light, a profession of Christ, and union with the church of God: "Do you think that in my case, he can forgive and forget all?" We reply without the least hesitation, Yes! Hear his own blessed words, "Return, O backsliding Israel, says the Lord; and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, says the Lord; and I will not keep my anger forever. Only acknowledge your transgressions, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God." Jeremiah 3:12, 13.
Can any terms be more easy, "Return and be forgiven, confess and be pardoned." As if the Lord's heart was so set upon bringing you back to himself, that he would dispense with everything he could. Yes, my poor, miserable, backsliding brother, or sister — as sure as the father forgave and restored his prodigal son, as sure as Jesus pardoned the adulterous woman in the temple; so sure will the Lord pardon you, restore you, and bless you with his presence and his smile."
"He is full of compassion!" Precious words!
"He is plenteous in mercy!" Glorious assurance!
"He waits to be gracious!" Invaluable promise!
Come then, sinner, come then, backslider, come, whatever may be your case or condition, whatever may be your fears or doubts — come just as you are, and receive pardon, peace, and Heaven without money and without price! Come and be pardoned at once. Come, and receive a pardon procured for you by the blood of Jesus, guaranteed to you by the faithfulness of God; a pardon of all sin, a pardon that will stand forever! Come, come, come and prove for yourself, however base you may have been! Yes, God can forgive and forget all!