“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”—Isaiah 43:23.
Who are the recipients of mercy? Look…at the 22nd verse of the chapter from which our text is taken, and you will see, first, that they were prayerless people: “Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob.” These prayerless ones may have repeated many a form of prayer, but the breathing desire, the living words, have not come from their lips. Prayerless souls are Christless souls; for you can have no real fellowship with Christ, no communion with the Father, unless you approach his mercy-seat, and be often there; and yet if you are condemning yourselves, and lamenting that this has been your condition, you need not despair, for this mercy is for you.
Next, these persons were despisers of religion, for observe the language of the same verse:—“Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” As for the Sabbath-day, do not too many of you find it the most tiresome day in the week. You have to find some worldly amusement to make the hours of the Sabbath-day pass away with any comfort at all. But if you are now convinced of this sin, and are repenting of it, and desire to be delivered from its power, then God speaks to you this morning, and says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake—return unto me, with unfeigned repentance, and I will have mercy upon you.”
Note, again, the character. They have been thankless persons. “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings.” If a man has no more religion than that, if he has not a religion that will make him generous, he has no religion at all. and yet the Most High is willing to pardon thy sin in this thing, if thou art but unfeignedly penitent, and dost sue for forgiveness.
Yet, again, these people were a useless people. How many are there, even, perhaps among my hearers this morning, who have never honored God in their lives? What souls have you ever won to the Saviour? How has his name been magnified by you? Have you ever served him? Perhaps you have assisted in destroying the souls of those with whom you have been connected in life. You may look upon some souls who are going even now to damnation through your example. Even if it be so, my Master outhorises me to say again, “Thus saith the Lord, I, even I, am he that blotteth out my transgressions, and will not remember thy sins.”
Again, there are some who may be termed sanctuary sinners…the children of pious parents. O yes, the worst of sinners are sinners in Zion, because they sin against light and knowledge; they force their way to hell, as John Bunyan says, over the Cross of Christ; and the worst way to hell is to go by the cross to it. Do you tremble and shake for fear, and with a penitent heart desire forgiveness? If so, then I say again, in my Master’s name—who spake nothing but love and mercy to penitent sinners, who said, “Neither do I condemn thee”—Jehovah now declares “I, even I am be that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
Yet, once more, we have here men who had wearied God. You see the man who has been a professor of religion, and can look back twenty years ago, when he was a member of a Christian church; he was apparently walking in the fear of the Lord, and all men thought he had received the grace of God in truth; but he has turned aside into the paths of sin. Poor backslider, return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon thee; he will blot out all thy sins, and so blot them out that he will not remember them against thee any more for ever.
Some of you may say, “You…exclaim, “How can you talk to us in this way? We are a honest, moral, and upright people.” If so, then I have no gospel to preach to you. You may go elsewhere if you will, for you may get moral sermons in scores of chapels if you want them; but I am come in my Master’s name to preach to sinners, and so I will not say a word to you Pharisees except this—By so much as you think yourself righteous and holy, by so much shall ye be cast out of God’s presence at last.
The second point is, the deed of mercy. It is a deed of forgiveness, and in speaking of it, I shall speak first of its being a divine forgiveness. Divine pardon is the only forgiveness possible; for no one can remit sin but God only; but then it is the only pardon necessary.
It is surprising forgiveness. It is amazing to the poor sinner when first awakened to his sin and danger. It seems to be too good too be true, and he “wonders to feel his own hardness depart.” Unutterable mercy! There is no sinner out of hell so black but that God can wash him white.
Notice once more, that it is a present forgiveness. There are some who believe, or at least seem to imagine, that it is not possible to know whether our sins are forgiven in this life. But this will not satisfy the poor soul who is really seeking pardon, and is anxious to find it; and God has therefore blessedly told us, that he blotteth out our sin now; that he will do it at any moment the sinner believes. Jesus Christ bore our punishment, and God will never require at my hands the fulfilment of that law which Christ has honored in my stead. It is no more possible for a pardoned man to be lost than for Christ to be lost, because Christ is the sinner’s surety. Jehovah will never require my debt to be paid twice.
I cannot help noticing the completeness of this forgiveness. He has a book in which all your debts are written; but with the blood of Christ he crosses out the handwriting of ordinances which is there written against you. The bond is destroyed, and he will not demand payment for it again.
New, very briefly, the third thing—the reason for mercy. Hear what God says, “I am not about to forgive you for your own sake, but for my own sake.” “But, Lord, I shall not be thankful enough.” “I am not about to pardon you because of your gratitude, but for my name’s sake.” “But, Lord, if I am taken into thy church I can do very little for thy cause in future years, for I have spent my best days in the devil’s service, surely the impure dregs of my life cannot be sweet to thee, O God.” “I will not engage to forgive you for your sake, but for my own. I do not want you,” says God, “I can do as well without you as with you; the cattle upon a thousand hills are mine; and if I pleased I could create a whole race of men for my service, who should be as renowned as the greatest monarchs, or the most eloquent preachers, but I can do as well without them, as with them; and I forgive you therefore for my own sake.” Go then to Christ, poor sinner—naked, filthy, poor, wretched, vile, lost, dead, come as thou art, for there is nothing required in thee, except the need of him.
Now to conclude—the promise of mercy. “And will not remember thy sins.” He is Omnipotent…can he cease to remember? There are senses in which the expression is entirely accurate.
First of all, he will not exact punishment for them when we come before his judgment bar at last. Who then can bring to remembrance what God has forgotten?
The second meaning of this is, I will not remember thy sins to suspect thee. He loves them just as much as if they had never gone astray. He will employ them to preach his gospel; he will put them into the Sunday-school, and make them servants of his Son: for he says, “I will not remember thy sins.”
Again: he will not remember in his distribution of the recompense of the reward. He will give heaven to the chief of sinners as well as to the chief of saints…the malefactor who died on the cross is as much in the sight of God as the most moral person that ever lived. “He is able to save unto the uttermost.” “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”
Oh, poor penitent if you perish, you will be the first penitent who ever did so. God give you his blessing, my dear friends, for Christ’s sake. Amen.