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Ralph Cudworth on Freeing Us from Sin

The True Intellectual System of the Universe (Gould & Newman, 1838; orig. 1678), pp. 560-1.

The great design of God in the gospel is to clear up this mist of sin and corruption, which we are here surrounded with, and to bring up his creatures out of the shadow of death to the region of light above, the land of truth and holiness. The great mystery of the gospel is to establish a godlike frame and disposition of spirit, which consists in righteousness and true holiness, in the hearts of men. And Christ, who is the great and mighty Saviour, came on purpose into the world, not only to save us from fire and brimstone, but also to save us from our sins. Christ hath therefore made an expiation of our sins by his death upon the cross, that we, being thus delivered out of the hands of these our greatest enemies, might serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. This “grace of God, that bringeth salvation,” hath therefore “appeared unto all men, in the gospel, that it might teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, righteously and godlily in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” “These things I write unto you (saith our apostle a little before my text) that you sin not;” therein expressing the end of the whole gospel, which is, not only to cover sin by spreading the purple robe of Christ’s death and sufferings over it, whilst it still remaineth in us with all its filth and noisomeness unremoved; but also to convey a powerful and mighty spirit of holiness, to cleanse us and free us from it. And this is a greater grace of God to us, than the former, which still go both together in the gospel; besides the free remission and pardon of sin in the blood of Christ, the delivering of us from the power of sin, by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts.

Christ came not into the world only to cast a mantle over us, and hide all our filthy sores from God’s avenging eye, with his merits and righteousness; but he came likewise to be a Chirurgeon [surgeon] and physician of souls, to free us from the filth and corruption of them: which is more grievous and burdensome, more noisome to a true Christian, than the guilt of sin itself.

Should a poor wretched and diseased creature, that is full of sores and ulcers, be covered all over with purple, or clothed with scarlet, he would take but little contentment in it, whilst his sores and wounds remain upon him; and he had much rather be arrayed in rags, so he might obtain but soundness and health within. The gospel is a true Bethesda, a pool of grace, where such poor, lame and infirm creatures as we are, upon the moving of God’s Spirit in it, may descend down, not only to wash our skin and outside, but also to be cured of our diseases within. And whatever the world thinks, there is a powerful Spirit, that moves upon these waters, the waters of the gospel, spreading its gentle, healing, quickening wings over our souls. The gospel is not like Abana and Pharphar, those common rivers of Damascus, that could only cleanse the outside; but is a true Jordan, in which such leprous Naamans as we all are, “may wash and be clean.” “Blessed indeed are they, whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin;” but yet rather blessed are they, whose sins are like a morning cloud, and quite taken away from them. Blessed, thrice “blessed are they, that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied: blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”