Pardon for the Greatest Sinners

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Author: Jonathan Edwards

Pardon for the Greatest Sinners

Edwards, Jonathan, 1703-1758

"For thy name’s sale, O Lord,
pardon my iniquity; for it is great." Psalm 25:11

It is evident by some passages in this psalm, that when it was penned, it was a time of affliction and danger with David. This appears particularly by the 15th and following verses: "Mine eyes are ever towards the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net," etc. His distress makes him think of his sins, and leads him to confess them, and to cry to God for pardon, as is suitable in a time of affliction. See ver. 7. "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;" and verse 18. "Look upon mine affliction, and my pain, and forgive all my sins."

It is observable in the text, what arguments the psalmist makes use of in pleading for pardon.

1. He pleads for pardon for God’s name’s sake. He has no expectation of pardon for the sake of any righteousness or worthiness of his for any good deeds he had done, or any compensation he had made for his sins; though if man’s righteousness could be a just plea, David would have had as much to plead as most. But he begs that God would do it for his own name’s sake, for his own glory, for the glory of his own free grace, and for the honor of his own covenant-faithfulness.

2. The psalmist pleads the greatness of his sins as an argument for mercy. He not only doth not plead his own righteousness, or the smallness of his sins; he not only cloth not say, Pardon mine iniquity, for I have done much good to counterbalance it; or, Pardon mine iniquity, for it is small, and thou hast no great reason to be angry with me; mine iniquity is not so great, that thou hast any just cause to remember it against me; mine offense is not such but that thou mayest well enough overlook: but on the contrary he says, Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great; he pleads the greatness of his sin, and not the smallness of it; the enforces his prayer with this consideration, that his sins are very heinous.

But how could he make this a plea for pardon? I answer, Because the greater his iniquity was, the more need he had of pardon. It is as much as if he had said, Pardon mine iniquity, for it is so great that I cannot bear the punishment; my sin is so great that I am in necessity of pardon; my case will be exceedingly miserable, unless thou be pleased to pardon me. He makes use of the greatness of his sin, to enforce his plea for pardon, as a man would make use of the greatness of calamity in begging for relief. When a beggar begs for bread, he will plead the greatness of his poverty and necessity. When a man in distress cries for pity, what more suitable plea can be urged than the extremity of his case?-And God allows such a plea as this: for he is moved to mercy towards us by nothing in us but the miserableness of our case. He doth not pity sinners because they are worthy, but because they need his pity.

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Chicago: Jonathan Edwards, "Pardon for the Greatest Sinners," Pardon for the Greatest Sinners in Pardon for the Greatest Sinners (New York: G. & C. & H. Carvill, 1830), Original Sources, accessed August 2, 2021, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=P375DRE3DWBRGRS.

MLA: Edwards, Jonathan. "Pardon for the Greatest Sinners." Pardon for the Greatest Sinners, in Pardon for the Greatest Sinners, New York, G. & C. & H. Carvill, 1830, Original Sources. 2 Aug. 2021. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=P375DRE3DWBRGRS.

Harvard: Edwards, J, 'Pardon for the Greatest Sinners' in Pardon for the Greatest Sinners. cited in 1830, Pardon for the Greatest Sinners, G. & C. & H. Carvill, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 August 2021, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=P375DRE3DWBRGRS.