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indignation. But God does not, on this account, forbear to exercise his mercy. He pardons for his own sake, that he may be glorified in displaying the exceeding riches of his grace.
The actual conferring of forgiveness, and all other spiritual mercies, is equally of grace as the providing and procuring them. But perhaps it may here be asked, Does not God promise remission of sin, and all other blessings of salvation, to certain states and conditions of mind, on the part of the recipients ? This is true. But these conditions are the accompaniments of salvation, and are parts and branches of it. These conditions, however, are conferred upon us as the gifts of the free and sovereign grace of God. Does he promise forgiveness to repentance? "Jesus is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance as well as forgiveness of sins." mise spiritual and eternal blessings to faith?
"By grace are ye saved, through faith ; and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God.” Does he say,
you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes ; cease to do evil ; learn to do well ; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” But then, observe, he gives us the promises on these conditions :-" Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean ; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will
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I will forgive your iniquity, and I will remember your sin no more."
Repent and turn ; so iniquity shall not be your ruin?” yet he says, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you."
It may likewise be remarked, that the grace of God is conspicuous with respect to the period when he confers spiritual mercies on its subjects. These are bestowed at different ages, and at different times of life. Many of the people of God are effectually called to partake of the blessings of salvation at an early age; others in more advanced
and some few towards the close of life. In these various modes the God of mercy acts as a gracious sovereign. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Our blessed Lord compares religion to the growth of corn sown in the earth :"So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” Believers are first babes in Christ, and then young men, and afterwards fathers and old They are called and kept by the power
of God, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But this is not always the case. Sometimes God is pleased, in his sovereignty, to cut short his work in righteous
ness, and speedily to turn the conflict into victory. We have one instance in the Scripture of a sinner being called by grace, at the very close of life, immediately to exchange a state of sin and suffering for a place in Paradise. “This day,” said our Lord to the thief on the cross, “thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Here the marvellous grace of God is manifested in touching the heart of a notorious sinner, and snatching him as a brand from the burning, in his last moments. The prophet Isaiah exhibits to us the riches of divine grace by the following imagery. "In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert, and the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water." Rivers in general glide along within their banks, and run in their accustomed channels ; but sometimes they overflow, and water the adjoining meadows and fields.
Thus the grace of God sometimes flows out of its usual course, and fructifies, beyond human expectation, making the most barren hearts fruitful in faith and holiness.
2. Secondly, in regard to the subjects of forgiveness of sins, and of the other blessings of the dispensations of grace, we sometimes see our Lord's remark verified, “ The first shall be last, and the last first."
This observation was appended by our blessed Lord to several of his parables, for the instruction of his disciples, and of his people in general to the end of the world. Viewing the words as connected with the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, they plainly teach us that God is a debtor to no man, and
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that he confers his gifts, not according to men's merits and deservings, but according to his own sovereign grace. It shews that those who begin last in religion may sometimes outstep others, who may have been before them in relation to the time of their conversion. The parable to which I have referred, may with propriety be applied to the conversion of sinners at the earlier and later stages of life; for thus one serves the Lord longer than another. But rewards will not always be conferred in proportion to the time in which a profession of religion has been made. Those who have been converted late in life, will be made partakers of glory and happiness according to the utmost measure of their capacity, and of their meetness for it, by divine grace; as well as those who have been called at an earlier period, and so may
be said to have borne the burthen and heat of the day. But this parable must not be strained too far. In the first place, it is not intended to be generally true, that " the first shall be last, and the last first,” Like many other apophthegms and proverbial sayings, it is rather an exception to the general rule. It is a proverb that should be occasionally verified. If the God of grace choose to call a sinner to salvation, nearly at the close of life, and to confer on him the blessings of forgiveness, grace, and glory, shall our "eye be evil because he is good?” Shall not the God of sovereign mercy and grace do what he will with his own ? A late convert may love much, as did the woman who was a sinner, and be humble, and
prayerful, and thankful, in some comparative degree, in
proportion to the greatness of his obligations on the one hand, and of his unworthiness on the other. Let us remember, brethren, that we are all condemned criminals; and that our wise and gracious sovereign dispenses his favours according to his own good-will and pleasure. Shall we think of claiming salvation as a matter of right? God forbid! O let us receive it as the free gift of God through Christ Jesus. Let us be thankful for our own salvation, if we have evidence that we are partakers of it; and let us rejoice, and praise God for every display of his mercy and grace to our fellow sinners.
3. Thirdly, this subject affords us some light in forming our judgment upon a late, or death-bed repentance.
Apparent repentance at this stage, and conversion are, generally speaking, much to be suspected. Probably there are but few who are truly converted to God at this late period. We have but one positive and decisive instance of such a conversion in the Holy Scripture; and this is not calculated to be drawn into a precedent for procrastination. A sick bed is a very unfavourable situation for the commencement of religion. And it is not frequently that God manifests such displays of his grace; particularly after the ordinary means of its communication have been disregarded and neglected : to which it may also be added, that in many cases there have been appearances of repentance and faith, on what has been supposed to have been the bed of death, but on recovery these transient impressions have worn
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