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SERMON IX.

GOD, AN AFFECTIONATE FATHER, REPENTING OF THE EVIL THREATENED AGAINST HIS CHILDREN.

JONAH ii. 10.

And God saw their works, that they turned from

their evil ways, and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them, and he did it not."

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" God is not a man that he should lie: neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?”* “ And God

" saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them, and he did it not.” Who can understand God? who can by searching find out the Almighty to perfection ? And yet the life of true religion, that which our Lord declares to be life eternal, is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. In all our transactions among men, it gives us a vast advantage to be well acquainted with the character of the persons with whom we have to deal. Some men are simple, open, and easily seen through ; but in others there is a depth, an obscurity, a mysteriousness, a seeming contradiction, which completely baffles the observation of common minds. Sometimes frank and free, and even familiar; at other times reserved and haughty. Sometimes kind, affectionate and encouraging: at other times severe and repulsive. Sometimes yielding to entreaty, and seeming to give up their own purpose : at other times stern and unmoved, bent unchangeably on the execution of their design. Sometimes condescending to argue, reasonably to discuss any matter of difference: at other times overbearing all objections, and silencing all discussion by the weight of their personal authority. It is easy to perceive how a common straight-forward man might mistake the character of such a person as this : and consequently in his feelings towards him, and in his dealings with him, fall into very important errors. Taking a partial view, he might suppose him altogether an austere man; and so be kept from any kindly feelings of affection towards him; or taking as partial a view on the other side, he might suppose him altogether an indulgent man, and so be betrayed into presumptuous and dangerous familiarity with him. Now, if such mistakes of character, and such evil consequences both in feeling and conduct

* Numbers xxiii. 19.

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arise between man and man, how much more liable are we to mistake the character of our God, and thereby incur evil consequences both in feeling and conduct towards him? Is there not a depth, is there not an obscurity, is there not a holy mysteriousness about the revealed character of Jehovah? And if the true state of both heart and life, in man, be dependant upon his knowledge of the character of God, O! with what serious anxiety, with what humble earnestness, with what patient assiduity it becomes us to inquire into that character! In the natural world of creation and providence God presents himself to us under the most endearing, and at the same time the most tremendously awful features. What can be more endearing than an unwearied Benefactor preserving our health, and renewing our daily comforts, sending us rain and sunshine, giving us fruitful seasons, and filling our hearts with joy and gladness. And what can be more tremendously awful than the relentless destroyer of all our comforts, commanding diseases which baffle all human skill to sieze upon our flesh, to flow in our blood, and

with obstinate perseverance upon our vitals; commanding the hand of death to snatch away the cherished objects of our fondest affection, and leave us in all the chill of a bleak heart-withering loneliness; commanding the earthquake, or the pestilence, or the famine to open the jaws of a frightful grave, which nothing short of thousands of human victims can satisfy.

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As in the world before us, so also in the holy scriptures, God reveals himself under the most apparently discordant characters. He is the high and lofty one, inhabiting eternity, whose name is holy, ordering all things in heaven and in earth, according to the counsel of his own will, giving no account of his matters, overbearing all objections, and silencing all discussion by the weight of his unquestionable authority. “ Have not I a right to do what I will with my own, and shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus ?” Some men fixing their eyes exclusively on this part of God's character, represent him as indeed severe and repulsive, stern and unmoved; unchangeably bent upon the execution of his wise, holy, and eternal purposes. This is in truth a part, but only a part of his revealed character.

This Almighty Sovereign is also a kind and affectionate father, slow to anger, and of tender mercy, and repenting him of the evil : long-suffering and gracious, waiting to be gracious, only waiting forthe kindlings of true repentance in the

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heart of the transgressor, to lay aside his anger because that he delighteth in mercy, to receive the penitent prodigal to his bosom, to repent himself of the evil which he had said he would do unto him, and not to do it. Yes! our God is merciful, he is affectionate and encouraging, condescending to expostulate with sinners, to argue the unreasonableness and the ingratitude, as well as the baseness and danger of their iniquity, to represent himself as grieved by it, pressed as it were under the load of it, like a cart under its sheaves. “ Behold I am pressed under you as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves ;" * to declare himself willing to receive them if they will turn to him from their sins; that he hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but rather that the sinner should be converted and live. Yes! our God is merciful. He hears the prayer and yields to the entreaty of the humbled and earnest penitent; he gives up

his threatened vengeance, he repents of the evil that he had said he would do unto him, and he does it not.

That portion of the history of the Ninevites, which is recorded in the Book of Jonah, and from which the words of our text are selected, illustrates in a striking manner this interesting feature in the character of our God.

* Amos ii. 13.

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