By admin | February 27, 2009
Robert Bolton (1572-1631) is known among us from his books reprinted recently by Soli Deo Gloria. Converted in mid-life, he became a powerful preacher of Christ and His mercy, reputed for his manliness marked by grace. He was a pastoral preacher–a true physician of the soul. Here is an example of his wonderful ability to dispense the Gospel to a deeply wounded conscience. The question he answers is pressing: What should a preacher say to someone who believes that he/she has committed a sin that is beyond forgiveness?
‘Of the pardonableness of my other sins,’ saith another, ‘I could be reasonably well persuaded ; but, alas ! there is one above all the rest which I find to be so full of rank and hellish poison — of such a deep and damnable die— to have struck so desperately in the days of my lewdness at the very face of God Himself, and far deeper into the heart of Jesus Christ than the spear that pierced Him bleeding upon the cross, and which at this present stares in the eye of my newly awaked and wounded conscience with such horror and grisliness, that I fear me divine justice will think it fitter to have this most loathsome inexpiable stain rather at length fired out of my soul with everlasting flames (if it were possible that eternal fire could expiate the sinful stains of any impenitent damned soul), than to be fairly washed away in the meantime with His blood, whom I so cruelly and cursedly pierced with it. Oh! this is it that lies now upon my heart like a mountain of lead, and enchains it with inexplicable terror to the dust and place of dragons. This alone stings desperately — keeps me from Christ, and cuts me off from all hope of heaven. I am afraid my wilful wallowing in it heretofore hath so reprobated my mind, seared my conscience, and hardened my heart, that I shall never be able to repent with any hope of pardon.’
‘And why so? Is this sin of thine greater than Manasseh’s familiarity with wicked spirits? than Paul’s drinking up the blood of saints? than any of theirs in that black bill, 1 Cor. vi. 10, 11, who, notwithstanding, were afterward upon repentance were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God? than that horrible sin of killing Christ Jesus, and yet the murderers of that Just and Holy One, upon their true compunction of heart, were saved by that precious blood which they had cruelly spilled as water upon the ground? But be it what it will,—a scarlet sin, a crimson sin, a crying sin; and add unto it Satan’s malicious aggravations, and all that horror which the dejectedness of thy present afflicted spirit and darkness of thy melancholy imagination can put upon it; yet Paul’s precious antidote (Rom. v. 20) holds triumphantly sovereign as well against the heinousness of any one sin as the confluence of many. ‘Where sin abounded, grace overabounded.’ It is, indeed, a very heavy case, and to be deplored even with tears of blood, that thou shouldst ever have so highly dishonoured thy gracious God with such a horrible sin in the days of thy vanity, and thou oughtest rather to choose to be torn in pieces by wild horses than commit it again; yet if thy heart, now truly wounded with horror and hate of it, will but cleave to the truth and tenderheartedness of Jesus Christ in His promises, and fall into His blessed and bleeding arms, stretched out most lovingly to ease and refresh thee, as the heinousness of it has abounded heretofore, His grace will now abound to the same proportion, and much more. Nay, I will shew thee a pearl. In this case, by accident, God’s mercies shall be extraordinarily honoured in pardoning such a prodigious provocation; because they are thereby, as it were, put to it, and their dearness, sweetness, and infiniteness proved to the greatest height and excellency, and the blood of Christ made, as it were, more orient and illustrious, and the honour and preciousness of it advanced, by washing away such a heinous, hellish spot. If we bring broken, believing hearts towards His mercy-seat, it is the Lord’s name to forgive all sorts of offences, iniquity, transgression, and sin. It is His covenant to sprinkle clean water upon us that we may be clean, and to cleanse us ‘from all our filthiness, and all our idols,’ —even from idolatry, the highest villany against the majesty of Heaven; so that even a Papist, upon repentance, may be saved. It is His promise not only to pardon ordinary sins, but those also which be as scarlet, and red like crimson. It is His free compassion to cast all our sins into the depth of the sea (Micah vii. 19). Now, the sea, by reason of his vastness, can drown as well mountains as molehills; the boundless ocean of God’s mercies can swallow up our mightiest sins much more. It is His merciful power to blot out our sins as a cloud. Now the strength of the summer’s sun is able to scatter the thickest fog, as well as the thinnest mist—nay, to drive away the darkest midnight; the irresistible heat of God’s free love, shining throngh the Sun of Righteousness upon a penitent soul, to dissolve to nothing the desperatest work of darkness, and most horrible sin, far more easily. But this mystery of mercy and miracle of God’s free love is a jewel only for truly humbled souls. Let no stranger to the life of godliness meddle with it. Let no swine trample it under his feet.
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