Pardon (prop. some form of כָּפִר, to cover, i.e. forgive) is in theology the act of forgiving an offender, or removing the guilt of sin, that the punishment due to it may not be inflicted. On the nature of pardon, it may be observed that the Scripture represents it by various phrases: a lifting up or taking away of sin (Ps 32:1), a covering of it (Ps 85:2), a non-imputation of it (Ps 32:2), a blotting of it out (Ps 51:1), a non- remembrance of it (Heb 8:12; Isa 43:25). In character,
1, It is an act of free grace (Ps 51:1; Isa 43:25);
2, a point of justice, God having received satisfaction by the blood of Christ (1Jo 1:9);
3, a complete act, a forgiveness of all the sins of his people (1Jo 1:7; Ps 103:2-3);
4, an act that will never be repealed (Mic 7:19). The author or cause of pardon is not any creature, angel, or man; but God. Ministers preach and declare that there is remission of sins in Christ; but to pretend to absolve men is the height of blasphemy (1Th 2:4; Re 13:5-6). SEE ABSOLUTION; SEE INDULGENCES; and the article below, PARDONS. There is nothing that man has done or can do by which pardon can be procured: wealth cannot buy pardon (Pr 11:4), human works or righteousness cannot merit it (Ro 11:6), nor can water baptism wash away sin. It is the prerogative of God alone to forgive (Mr 2:7), the first cause of which is his own sovereign grace and mercy (Eph 1:7). The meritorious cause is the blood of Christ (Heb 9:14; 1Jo 1:7). It is to be sought by prayer. SEE FORGIVENESS.
Pardon of sin and justification are considered by some as the same thing, and it must be confessed that there is a close connection; in many parts they agree, and without doubt every sinner who shall be found pardoned at the great day will likewise be justified; yet they have been distinguished thus:
1. An innocent person, when falsely accused and acquitted, is justified, but not pardoned; and a criminal may be pardoned, though he cannot be justified or declared innocent. Pardon is of men that are sinners, and who remain such, though pardoned sinners; but justification is a pronouncing persons righteous, as if they had never sinned.
2. Pardon frees from punishment, but does not entitle to everlasting life; but justification does (Romans 5). If we were only pardoned, we should, indeed, escape the pains of hell, but could have no claim to the joys of heaven; for these are more than the most perfect works of man could merit; therefore they must be what the Scripture declares — "the gift of God." After all, however, though these two may be distinguished, yet they cannot be separated; and, in reality, one is not prior to the other; for he that is pardoned by the death of Christ is at the same time justified by his life — (Ro 5:10; Ac 13:38-39). See Charnock, Works, 2:101; Gill, Body of Divinity, s.v.; Owen, On Psalm 130; Hervey, Works, 2:352; Dwight, Theology; Fuller, Works; Griffin, On Atonement, Appendix; Knapp, Theology, p. 385; New Englander, Jan. 1875, art. 3. SEE JUSTIFICATION.