Page images
PDF
EPUB

may see the subject at one view, briefly recapitulated what was formerly delivered, I now proceed to the second particular, namely, the goodness and forbearance of God toward sinners, in delaying the execution of his justice upon them: and this is illustrated in the

First place, in that patience which God exercises toward sinners, in the ordinary administration of human affairs. Justice, strict justice requires, that, upon the offence being committed, the offender should without delay be consigned over to punishment. And accordingly we find, that in order to vindicate the honour and majesty of God, infinite justice is concerned sometimes to punish daring acts of impiety immediately upon their commission, for the sake of public example, to set up now and then a monument of wrath for a terror to others; as in that flagrant and bold instance of defiance to almighty power committed by a company of rebellious Israelites, at the instigation of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, recorded in the book of Numbers, which was immediately punished by the earth's opening its mouth and swallowing them up alive and that other attack upon the divine Majesty, of which the sons of Aaron were guilty, in presenting God with an unhallowed offering with strange fire,

which was likewise instantaneously punished by a consuming fire from the Lord, which devoured them, as it is related in the tenth chapter of Leviticus, from the beginning. These, with some others, stand upon record, as beacons to mankind to beware of like presumptuous acts of vice; but in general, the lenity of the divine government is such, that we frequently find the highest acts of mercy and goodness returned for the most daring provocations, and the most undaunted contempt of omnipotence; God pities, and allures by the tender bonds of mercy and love, even the wretch who dares openly and avowedly to trample upon his authority; yea, who has the hardiness, the insolence, to insult his sacred person and character. The profane swearer daily blasphemes the great and terrible name of God, and yet is not cut off with his oaths and execrations upon his tongue; he madly calls down eternal vengeance upon his own head, and yet God, instead of blasting with instant destruction, continues to offer him eternal life and happiness ;neither does he send the liar quick to hell, with his lie in his right hand, but still waiteth to be gracious, still addresses sinners of every denomi nation," Return unto me, and be ye saved, O "Israel; thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is "thy help, Come now, and let us reason together:

though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be "made as white as snow; though they be red like "crimson, they shall be as wool;" which is a

Second illustration to this purpose; namely, the express declaration which he, who cannot lie, so often condescends to make to us in scripture: when the Almighty would give us a description of himself, the great characters of good, merciful, and long suffering, shine forth with peeuliar lustre; we find Moses, in the book of Exodus, frequently preferring this petition, "Lord, "shew me thy glory;" and what is the answer to this, wherein does God himself make his chief glory to consist? why, in being "the Lord, the "Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffer, "ing, and abundant in goodness and truth, keep

ing mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, "transgression, and sin. I am he that blotteth "out thy transgressions, and will remember thy "sins no more; let the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous 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:" and lest guilty sinners, from a consciousness of their repeated provocations against him, should be tempted to call in question the goodness of God, he is graci

[ocr errors]

ously pleased to confirm it even with an oath:

Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, "but that the wicked turn from his way and "live." Hence, likewise, are those expressions of grief and reluctance to punish, when the sins of individuals, or of communities, have rendered judgments, general or particular, absolutely necessary: How shall I give thee up?" does the Almighty exclaim in the most affectionate manner over his ancient people, whose sins were grown to such a pitch as to equal, if not exceed, those of the sinful cities which God overthrew with fire and brimstone out of heaven-" how "shall I give thee up, how shall I make thee, "whom I have loved and favoured so much, an "eternal monument of my displeasure? Mine

heart is turned within me, my repentings are "kindled together; I will not execute the fierce"ness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy "thee, for I am God, and not man, the Holy "One in the midst of thee." But the strongest proof of this goodness and long-suffering is in the

[ocr errors]

Third place, that wonderful patience which God exercises toward sinners who reject the calls of the gospel. God has, in Christ Jesus, expressed the highest instance of goodness toward us, which

even infinite goodness can discover; when by sin, we had ruined ourselves, rendered ourselves obnoxious to eternal wrath, and were wholly unable to make restitution and atonement, or to avert the curse, "God pitied us in our low and “lost estate, and laid our help upon one mighty "to save;" gave" his only begotten and well be

loved Son to the death for our sakes, that we "might not perish, but have everlasting life;" and was it not reasonable to expect, that such a dispensation of mercy would have been embraced with eagerness, with rapture, by the wretched posterity of Adam, with as much joy as a pardon is received by a criminal under sentence of death, at the place of execution? What then remained upon the rejection of this scheme of salvation by a mediator, but the instant execution of the penalty of the broken law?" These mine enemies "that would not that I should reign over them,

bring them out and slay them before me;" what had the guilty criminal to expect, "but a "certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation to destroy God's adversaries?" But blessed be God, that " his ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts"—that "he is God and not man." He is unwilling to take any denial, but "stretches out his hands all

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

❝ day long to a disobedient and gainsaying peo

"

« PreviousContinue »