In his sermon Great Guilt no Obstacle to the Pardon of the Returning Sinner, based on Psalm 25:11, Jonathan Edwards offers three excellent points that serve as reminders on how we must come to God for mercy. His first point is that we see our misery and need for mercy. Emphasis below is mine.
That we should see our misery, and be sensible of our need of mercy. They who are not sensible of their misery cannot truly look to God for mercy; for it is the very notion of divine mercy, that it is the goodness and grace of God to the miserable. Without misery in the object, there can be no exercise of mercy. To suppose mercy without supposing misery, or pity without calamity, is a contradiction: therefore men cannot look upon themselves as proper objects of mercy, unless they first know themselves to be miserable; and so, unless this be the case, it is impossible that they should come to God 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.—They must be sensible that it is a very dreadful thing to be the object of the wrath of God; that it is a very awful thing to have him for their enemy; and that they cannot bear his wrath. They must be sensible that the guilt of sin makes them miserable creatures, whatever temporal enjoyments they have; that they can be no other than miserable, undone creatures, so long as God is angry with them; that they are without strength, and must perish, and that eternally, unless God help them. They must see that their case is utterly desperate, for any thing that any one else can do for them; that they hang over the pit of eternal misery; and that they must necessarily drop into it, if God have not mercy on them.
As I read through this portion of Edwards’ Sermon, I had 3 main thoughts:
- You just don’t hear preaching like that very often. Phrases like “God is angry with them” and “have him for their enemy” are just not the kind of thing you hear in most evangelical sermons these days. Yet, at Edwards points out, these are the very things one should embrace as a sinner seeking pardon of sin. This is the bad news that make the good news so good. Why would we ever seek to minimize it?
- Not only do I not often hear sections of sermons like this, but my own heart rarely convicts me to think like this. On “this side” of the gospel, I some times minimize the magnitude of my sin. Though atoned for at the cross, it is no less vile to God. It should be to me as well.
- I am a sinner in need of mercy.