It is unclear when the sermon under consideration was preached by Jonathan Edwards. The best records seem to indicate that the Puritan divine preached this magnificent sermon before 1733, when Edwards was still in his 20’s. The full title is Great Guilt No Obstacle to the Pardon of the Returning Sinner. The subject was as relevant in the 18th century is it is now. For large numbers of professing Christ-followers have abandoned their first love, in search of a “better way” which in the final analysis is the pathway to hell.
The sermon text is Psalm 25:11.
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.”
From the outset, Edwards remarks about the heinousness of sin. The Psalmist does not minimize his sin. Rather, he maximizes the depth of his sin and acknowledges his deep great for pardon.
In typical Edwardsean fashion, America’s greatest intellectual reveals the doctrine: If we truly come to God for mercy, the greatness of our sin will be no impediment to pardon.
The established doctrine enables Edwards to address the things which are needful in order for sinners to come to God for mercy.
1. That we should see our misery, and be sensible of our need for mercy.
“They must be sensible that they are the children of wrath; that the law is against them, and that they are exposed to the curse of it: that the wrath of God abideth on them; and that he is angry with them every day while they are under the guilt of sin.”
2. They must be sensible that they are not worthy that God should have mercy on them.
“They who come to God for mercy in a right manner are not disposed to find fault with his severity; but they come in a sense of their own utter unworthiness, as with ropes about their necks, and lying in the dust at the foot of mercy.”
3. They must come to God for mercy in and through Jesus Christ alone.
Edwards reveals four crucial supporting points to help bolster this proposition:
- The mercy of God is as sufficient for the pardon of the greatest sins, as for the least; and that because his mercy is infinite.
- That the satisfaction of Christ is as sufficient for the removal of the greatest guilt, as the least (1 John 1:7).
- Christ will not refuse to save the greatest sinners, who in a right manner come to God for mercy: for this is his work.
- Herein doth the glory of grace by the redemption of Christ much consist, viz. in its sufficiency for the pardoning of the greatest sinners. The whole contrivance of the way of salvation is for this end, to glorify the free grace of God.
- Pardon is as much offered and promised to the greatest sinners as any, if they will come aright to God for mercy. The invitations of the gospel are always in universal terms.
The heart of Edwards is to encourage sinners burdened with guilt to run to God for mercy: “If you go in the manner we have described, the arms of mercy are open to embrace you.”
I stand with Jonathan Edwards and beg my friends who are rebelling against God to run to the cross of Christ for mercy. Run to Christ before it is too late. Edwards speaks in vivid terms: “If you had as much guilt lying on each of your souls as all the wicked men in the world, and all the damned souls in hell; yet if you come to God for mercy, sensible of your own vileness, and seeking pardon only through the free mercy of God in Christ, you would not need to be afraid; the greatness of your sins would be no impediment to your pardon. Therefore, if your souls be burdened, and you are distressed for fear of hell, you need not bear that burden and distress any longer. If you are but willing, you may freely come and unload yourselves, and cast all your burdens on Christ, and rest in him.”
Edwards includes one final plea for sinners: “Spread all your wickedness before him, and do not plead your goodness; but plead your badness, and your necessity on that account: and say, as the psalmist in the text, not Pardon mine iniquity, for it is not as great as it was, but ‘Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.'”
May sinners find rest in a Savior whose mercy runs deep and flows freely from the foot of the cross!