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own guilt, than reflection on that forbearance of a patient God, which did not doom him to instant and deserved de struction, but fpared him to hear the glad tidings of peace. · Thus the unspeakable grace of God in the gospel opens the springs of penitential forrow, and makes
them flow more sweetly indeed, but more freely, and more copiously than before. You may observe the strong picture of penitence and love, which is drawn with inimitable beauty by the evangelist Luke, ch. vii. 37, 38. “ And “ behold a woman in the city, which was a finner, when " she knew that Jesus fat at meat in the Pharisee's house,
brought an alabaster-box of ointment, and stood at his “ feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet * with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, 6 and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the oint« ment.” Was it not in grace and mercy that the suffering Saviour looked upon Peter, which immediately confounded him? Luke xxii. 61, 62. “And the Lord turns6 ed, and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the 56 word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the * cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went 6 out, and wept bitterly." What is it else that is reprefented by the prophet as having so strong an effect upon the believer in producing penitential forrow, but the love of our Redeemer? Zech. xii. 10.“ And I will pour upon " the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusa" lem, the spirit of grace and of fupplications, and they * fhall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they “shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only fon, " and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitU terness for his first-born."
2. Forgiveness with God tends to increase our fear and reverence of him, from the manner in which, and the condition on which it is bestowed. Every circumstance in this dispensation of divine mercy is calculated to abase the finner, and leave him nothing whereof to glory before God. Forgiveness is always declared to be an act of sovereign grace, Il. xliii. 25.“ I, even I am he that blotteth * out thy transgressions for mine own fake, and will not «remember thy firs." We are many times cautioned
against imputing to ourselves, or our own merit, what is
It is probably also with this view, if we may presume to offer an opinion on so deep a subject, that the objects of special mercy are sometimes chosen from among the most criminal, even the chief of finners. Does not this forbid, in the strongest terms, every man to harbor the leaft thought, as if by his own righteousness, or being comparatively less wicked than others, he had been intitled to the divine favor : Rom, ix. 15.-18. “ For he faith to Mo " ses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and “ I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. “ So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that " runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
For the fcrip"ture faith unto Pharaoh, Even for this fame purpose “ have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in “ thee, and that my name might be declared throughout “ all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he “ will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
But the circumstances on which we are called chiefly tQ.
fix our attention, is, that forgivenefs is bestowed only through the blood of Christ. It is freely and graciously bestowed upon the finner, but was dearly and hardly purchased by the furety. This is no new or unusual subject in this congregation. But Oh! my brethren, that we could in fome measure apprehend its infinite importance. Think, I beseech you, on the holinefs and justice of God, as they shine in the sufferings and cross of Christ : that a righteous God required full satisfaction for fin; that “the “Lord laid on him the iniquities of us all;" that " it “ pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to put him to grief.”. Are not the majesty and purity of God set forth in this tranfaction, in the most clear and legible, nay in the most awful and terrible characters ? for they are written in blood. Is the Lord to be praised for his mercy ? and is he not also to be feared for his justice ? May we not, or rather muft we not, say, “ If such things were done in the
green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?" If God saw it necessary to lay such a load of wrath upon the Holy One, when standing in the room of finners, what shall be the condition of the impenitent transgressors, who shall lie under it forever? We may well adopt the words of Moses to the children of Israel, Deut xxviii. 58, 59. “ If thou 6 wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are " written in this book, that thou mayst fear this glorious 6 and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; then " the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the
plagues of thy feed, even great plagues, and of long " continuance, and fore ficknesses, and of long continu.
you not now, my brethren, fee much propriety, as well as instruction, in this language, “ But there is for.
giveness with thee, that thou mayst be feared ?” The expression indeed is not fingular in the holy Scripture, even in the sense now illustrated. It is certainly on the same subject the Pfalmift is speaking, when he says, Pf. xl. iii. “ And he hath put a new fong in my mouth, even praise “ unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall " trust in the Lord.” As also the prophet Hofea, ch. ii. 5.
“ Afterward shall the children of Israel rcturn, and leek " the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall fear “the Lord, and his goodness in the latter days."
III. I proceed now to make fome practical improve.. ment of what hath been said. And,
1. From what hath been said, you may learn, that nonecan understand, embrace, or esteem the mercy of God, but those who are convinced of their fin and misery. Mercy can be of benefit only to the guilty ; mercy can be bestowed only on the guilty; and therefore all that can be said in illustration of the divine meréy, all that can be said in commendation of the divine mercy, will be esteemed. as idle tales by those who do not know themselves to be guilty. Hence the negligence and unconcern with which; the gospel is received. Very many of those to whom it is addresled are insensible of their danger. The employments of the world ingross their time; the enjoyments of the world possess their affections: an eternal, unchangeable state is supposed at too great a distance to require their attention. I beseech you, my brethren, to consider, that the time of your trial is wasting apace. . Let the commence-, ment of another seafon * put you in mind of its speedy passage, and persuade you to look forward to the day of death or judgment, when all offers of mercy, and exhortations to repentance, shall cease, and when, though there may be forgiveness with God to all the proper objects of it in his extensive dominion, yet there shall be no forgive. ness for you.
2. Trom what hath been said you may observe, that the publication of divine mercy, that the illustration of the riches of divine grace in the gospel, hath not the least tendency to lessen our senfe of the evil of fin, or the obligation we lie under to obedience : on the contrary, it serves greatly to improve both the one and the other. When we endeavor to bring consolation to the broken in heart; . when we fet before them the tender mercies of our God, and the infinite compaflion of the Saviour; when we press: them to hearken to the invitations of the gospel; when we encourage them to rest their falvation upon it, and to
* Picached at the beginning of the year,
be at peace; this only ferves to excite their indignation against fin, and persuade them to fly from it, to bring them to the obedience of children, and shed abroad the love of God in their hearts.
3. From what hath been said, you may see the differ: ence between a real and fcriptural discovery of forgiveness with God, and that careless fecurity which arises from a presumptuous reliance on his general mercy. The one prevents conviction, the other produces it. The general and common plea of God's mercy, keeps the finner at ease as he is ; but a real and scriptural discovery of forgiveness with God, heals the broken in heart, and at the fame time increases their sense of the evil of fin, and their abhorrence of every approach to it.
Presumption, and such views of God's mercy as are taken by the secure, arife entirely from the extenuation of fin. The language of their hearts is, “ Surely this is not fo great a matter, but God's mercy will forgive it." If you will either seriously examine yourselves, or observe, with some attention, the discourse of careless worldly perfons, you will perceive this very clearly. They comfort themselves with the thoughts of their little comparative guilt, rather than of the certainty and greatness of divine mercy. “ I may perhaps,” sa;'s one of them,“ have been
guilty of such or such fins; but I am sure I never did foor “ fo," or perhaps as some others who immediately occur to their minds as greater finners than themselves. I cannot help mentioning to you the saying of a prince of our own country towards the close of life, who had been a remarkable libertine in his younger years : “ I cannot " think,” says he* "hat God will be so hard as to damn “a man for taking a little pleasure out of the cominon " road."
In opposition tothis, the true penitent sees more than ever his inexcufable guilt as a finner, but hopes for forgiveness from God, as the effect of his own infinite grace, and the accomplishment of his promise in the gospel. He gives the whole glory of it to him ; and never thinks of dimis
* K. Charles II. to Bishop Burnet..