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choicest comforts, and penetrated with exquisite anguish? Is not the earth, in every part, filled with sighs, tears, groans, and bitter complaints? And are not all these afflictions the appointment of God, as punishments of sin, comprised in the first sentence denounced on fallen man, “ In sorrow shalt thou eat bread all the days “ of thy life,—till thou return to the ground:—for dust “thou art, and to dust shalt thou return?"*
These sutierings are indeed turned into blessings to believers, and they are often useful in bringing sinners to repentance; but in themselves they are miseries, and frequently arise by natural consequence from men's vices: 50 what it is most evident that God doth punish sin with great severity. Hence we may learn, that we cannot judge concerning his conduct, from our own duty in apparently similar cases. In our private capacity, we ought not to inflict misery, or withhold relief when we are able to afford it, on account of any provocations whatever: but the duty of magistrates, in respect of malefactors, much more resembles the case under consideration. We should however, frame to ourselves the most deplorable scenes imaginable; and then enquire whether a benevolent man would not have prevented or revieved such miseries, if it had been in his power? And the answer to this enquiry must convince every one, who does not deny the superintending providence of God, or blaspheme his name, that we are incompetent judges on such subjects.
Gen, iji, 16-19.
Yet many, who will not argue against these conclusions, would infer from the text, that God will not make any of his creatures finally and eternally miserable. But the deduction ought to be this: “God is Love:” therefore he will not cause any creature to suffer, unless some wise, holy, and benevolent purpose can be answered by its sufferings.' It would not consist with infinite love to give one moment's needless uneasiness; and it may consist with infinite love to make sinners eternally miserable; if the glory of God, and the interests of the universe through eternal ages, render it indispensably necessary. Facts demonstrate, to all who allow God to be infinite in justice and goodness, that durable sufferings may be inflicted consist. ently with those perfections. Complicated and longcontinued miseries are very common: and death, the most dreaded of all temporal evils, cannot possibly be avoided. This seems to bring matters to extremities: for if the greatest punishment which God hath threatened to infict on sinners in this world, never fails to be executed; who can prove, or even probably conjecture, that the Lord will not accomplish his most tremendous denunciations of eternal misery? He is Truth as well as Love: and will any man seriously attempt to exalt his love by denying his truth? He hath said, that “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed irom hea“ ven-in Aming fire, taking vengeance on them that “ know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our “ Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with "everlasting destruction;" for they shali go away into
everlasting punishment.”* And surely “God is not
a man that he should lie-hath he said, and shall he
not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make " it good?”+
The grandest display of the love of God doth equal. ly declare his justness and holiness: and will not men allow that he is Love, unless he will, as it were, abdicate his throne, dishonour his name, and neglect the interests of his obedient subjects, in order to preserve impenitent rebels from deserved punishment? These reflections ought rather to convince us, that there is a malignity in sin, of which men are not aware; seeing God so terribly threatens and severely punishes his offending creatures, and yet rescues a penitent remnant in so stapendous a manner.
But some still contend that God will save all sincere persons, each in his own way; and support this antiscriptural opinion by the words of our text.-—Leaving at present the case of those who never were favoured with the clear light of divine revelation: let it be observed, that if they, who are fully informed, or might be did they properly improve their advantages, persist in neglecting the way of salvation revealed in the scriptures to depend on their moral virtues, rational schemes, or self-invented observances; if they treat the truth of God as a lie, and count that wisdom which angels adore, to be foolishness; if they regard the stupendous love of God in giving his Son to be the Sa
* Matt. xxv, 46. 2 Thess. i, 8.
+ Numb. xxiii, 19,
viour of the world as needless; and then pretend that he will condemn no man for unavoidable errors: let them look to it, for evil is before them. The whole scriptures declares unbelief to be the offspring of pride, and the love of sin: and that such men continue under the unqualified sentence of final condemnation.
Sincerity is an ambiguous term: sincerely to hate infinite good and despise infinite excellency; and thus to be very sincere in fighting against God and persecuting his saints; nay, sincerity in supporting the tenets of philosophy and morality, or superstition, against the sure testimony of God, is very different from sincere repentance, faith in Christ, love of his people, and obedience to his commands. Yet men, either artful ly or ignorantly, confound these distinct ideas; and then pretend that sincerity is all that is necessary to salvation.
But this short specimen must suffice: though many more false inferences from the text might be mentioned: the wise man has, however, summed them all up in one verse: “ Because sentence against an evil work " is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil."*
IV. Let us in the last place make some practical use of the subject.
The view of the unfathomable love of God, which hath been given, should increase men's abhorrence of sin and dread of its consequences. The more glo
* Eccles. viii, 11.
rious and excellent the Lord appears to be, the greater degree of odiousness must be contained in every transgression against him; and crimes committed under the clear light of the gospel must, on that account, be peculiarly inexcusable. While, therefore, sinners should take warning to flee from the wrath to come, (for “how will they escape if they neglect so great “ salvation,” and harden themselves in disobedience, because our God is merciful?) it is incumbent on us all to humble ourselves more and more for all our numberless offences, as most hateful and unreasonable, because committed against infinite goodness and ex. Bellency.
On the other hand the subject is most delightfully suited to encourage the poor trembling penitent, how many or heinous soever his sins may have been. Poor desponding soul, remember that God is Love. Consider what he hath done to make way for the honourable exercise of his mercy. There were two obstacles in the way of our felicity; namely, his justice and our proud obstinacy. He hath removed the former by “not sparing his own Son,” but give “ing him a sacrifice for our sins; and he overcomes the latter, when he “gives us repentance to the acknowledging of his truth.”
If then thou dost now submit to his righteousness, confess thy sins, and apply for salvation, according to his merciful invitations; thou mayest assuredly expect a gracious reception: for he, who commended his love to bis enemies, by giving his own Son to die for them, cannot reject the weeping contrite supplicant, who pleads the all-pre