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* abundant in goodness and truth. Keeping mercy for
thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and fin, # and that will by no means clear the guilty ; visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the “ childrens children, unto the third and to the fourth ge"neration.” To the fame purpose the Psalmist David, Psal. cüïi. 8. • The Lord is merciful and gracious, flow to
anger, and plenteous in mercy.” Hear also the prophet Micah; Micah vii. 18. “Who is a God like unto “ thee, that pardoneth iniquity; and passeth by the tranf“gression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth “ not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.”
I do not here stay to consider what hints were given in the ancient difpenfation, of the atonement which was afterwards to be made by the incarnation of the Saviour. Doubtless there was some respect to this in the very first promise of the seed of the woman, and also in the promise to Abraham, that in his seed all nations of the earth should be blessed. The same thing was prefigured by the facrifices, and shadowed out by many different rites of the Mofaic economy. It must, however, be allowed, that the faithful in those ages saw it only obscurely, and of confequence understood it very imperfectly. But it was on the revealed mercy of God, which they were obliged to seek in the way appointed by himfell, that they placed their entire dependence.
I cannot help observing to you, how very encouraging the assurances of pardon are through many passages of the Old Testament; how very gracious the invitations to the finner, as if they had been contrived on purpofe to remove the jealousy which the guilty are too apt to entertain; II. i. 18. “Come now and let us reafon together, faith the “ Lord : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as « white aş fnow; though they be red like crimfon, they “ fhall be as wool.” If. xliii. 25. “I, even I am he that * blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own fake, and “ will not remember thy sins.” H. xliv. 22. “ I have ! blotted out as a thick cloud, thy tranfgressions, and as a
cloud, thy sins : return unto me, for 1 have redeemed thee.” If. lv. I. “ Ho, every one that thirfteth, come
ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye,
buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without “money, and without price." Is this the word of God? Are these passages written for our benefit? Is there any thing more plain, than that God is merciful and gracious; nay that he delighteth in mercy? How great encouragement is this to the exercise of repentance? In this very view, indeed, it is urged by the prophet in the 6th and 7th verses of the last cited chapter, “Seek ye the Lord * while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is
near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the un. “ righteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto “ the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our “God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
I shall only, add, that as the scripture every where bears testimony to the readiness of God to pardon returning finners, so there are also many passages in which he declares his readiness to pardon the failings which continue to cleave to his own people, and treat them with the utmost tenderness and grace: Pl. ciii: 13: “Like a father pitieth “ his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." If. xl. II. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he “ shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in “ his bofom, and shall gently lead those that are with
young." Mal. iii. 17. “ And they shall be mine, faith « Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, " and I will spare them as a man spareth his own fon " that serveth him."
3. But that nothing may be wanting for the complete illustration of this truth, obferve, that it appears in the clearest manner, from the gospel of Christ, that there is forgiveness with God. In the fulness of time, God sent his own fon in our nature, to be a victim and facrifice for our offences, to bear our fins in his own-body on the tree. In this astonishing events indeed, the love and mercy of God thines with the brightest-luftre: John i. 16. « God fo loved the world, that he gave his only be.
gotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should se not perish, but have everlasting life.” In this great
transaction, we have not only an assurance of obtaining, but fee the price paid for the purchase of our pardon : 1 Per. i. 18. “ For ye were not redeemed with corrup“ tible things, as filver and gold, from your vain conver" lation received by tradition from your fathers.” Instead of finding the justice of God stand in the way of out reconciliation and peace, justice being fully satisfied, feals the párdon, and adds to the comfort of the sinner. In the infinite value of this atonement, we may see the ex. tent of the divine mercy. In the infinite power of this Saviour, we may see the perfect security of those who put their truft in him. Salvation, in all its parts, is offered to the chief of sinners: fo that, as the apostle expresses it, Heb. vi. 18. “That by two immutable things, in which « it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong “ Consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon " the hope tet before us."
II. I proceed now to the second thing proposed; which was, to point out the connection between the mercy of God and his fear, or explain the import of this expref. fion, « There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayeft be “ feared." The import of this expression must be a little different, as we understand the word fear, which is sometimes taken in a larger, and sometimes in a more limited sense. Sometimes, as being fo eminent a part, it is made use of to signify the whole of religion; sometimes it fignifies that awe and veneration of the facred majesty of God with which every one of his fervants ought to be habitually possessed. I shall briefly consider it in both these views, there not being the least opposition between them, and both carrying in them the most important and falutary instruction.
If we take the fear of God in the text to signify the whole of that duty and obedience we owe to him, then the connection between forgiveness with God and his being feared, appears from these two confiderations.
1. A discovery of the mercy of God is absolutely necessary to his being loved and ferved by those who have once been finners. Despair of mercy drives the finner from God, presents him only as the object of terror and aversion; and, instead of having the least influence in bringing us to obedience, confirms the guilty in his rebellious opposition to his Maker. This must be manifest to every hearer. There can be no religion at all, either in inclination or performance, if there be no forgiveness with God. How should any so much as attempt what they believe to be an unprofitable labour ? f. Though this is a truth which none wil deny, I am afraid it is a truth not fufficiently attended to, either in its çertainty or influence. It tends greatly to illustrate the whole plan of salvation, by the riches of divine grace, or the free, unmerited, unfolicited, love of God. How much does it add to the beauty and meaning of several passages of scripture ! as 1 John iv, 10. “ Herein is love, * not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent 14 his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Rom. v. 8. “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that « while we were yet finners, Christ died for us.” And the roth verse of the same chapter, “If when we were “ enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of « his Son; much more being reconciled, we shall be sa66 ved by his life.” Guilt is of a suspicious nature. It is even observed in offences committed by one man against another, that he who hath done the injury is always hardeft to be reconciled. The same thing appears very plainly in the disposition of sinners towards God. A gloomy fear, a despondent terror, greatly hinders their return to him; nor can they ever take one step towards him, till, by the display of his mercy, this insuperable obstruction is removed.
2. As a discovery of the mercy of God is absolutely ne. cessary to our serving him at all, so it is perhaps of all others the most powerful motive to induce us to serve him in fincerity. Nothing whatever more illustrates the divine glory. It presents him as the proper object of worfhip, of confidence, and of love. When a finner is once burdened with a sense of guilt, sees the demerit of his transgressions, and feels the justice of his own sentence, what : an inconceivable relief must it give himn to see the divine mercy! and how infinitely amiable must this God of merfy appear in his eyes ! Others may reason at their ease upon the subject, he is transported with unspeakable joy on
the prospect. His heart is immediately taken captive: he feels its constraining power, and yields himself willingly to every demand of duty and gratitude. See, to this purpofe, the expressions of the prophet Hofea, ch. xi. 4. I á drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love, and “ I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their " jaws, and I laid meat unto them.” The same thing is every where in the New Testament represented as the great commanding principle of obedience, 2 Cor. v. 14.
For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus “ judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” John iv. 16. " And we have known and believed the * love that God hath to us. God
God is love; and he that “ dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” And verse 19. of the fame chapter, “ We love him, be" cause he first loved us.”
But further, even taking fear in a more limited sense, as fignifying a holy reverence and dread of the power and majesty of God, there being forgiveness with him, is fo far from weakening, that it strengthens this fear; and that on the two following accounts.
1. The infinite obligations we lie under to divine mer. cy, must serve to improve our sense of the evil of fin, as committed against so good and fo gracious a God, and to increase our abhorrence of it. The mercy of God to the guilty, at the same time that it brings unspeakable conso. lation, as delivering them from the wrath to come, ferves to humble them, by a view of their own unworthy and undutiful conduct. When an awakened convinced foul, under the apprehension of eternity approaching, begins to contemplate the mercy of God as the ground of forgiveness, he immediately thinks upon this mercy, as having all along spared him in the midst of his provocations. What a wonder of mercy is it, does he say to himself, that I was rot immediately cut off in my wickedness, at such a time, or at such a time, which now return full upon his memory! He cannot easily feparate the remembrance of past crimes from the mercy that with held immediate vengeance. And surely nothing will ferve more to make the finner tremble and stand astonished at his