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which he hath prepared for them who "cleave to him." Let us go from this place, saying as Peter did, only with more humility, "Though all men should forsake thee, yet will not we." And "now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy: To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever." Amen.
MICAH VI. 3.
O my People, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against ME.
T is impossible to predict what impression the same truth will make upon the different minds of men. That word, which will pierce one man to the "dividing asunder of the soul and spirit," may have no edge at all when addressed to another. But were I to judge from my own feelings, I should think, that all the terrors of God could not more effectually awe the heart of a sinner, than the passage of Scripture which I have now read. It strikes my ear like the last sound of God's mercy. Doth the Almighty command and threaten? I fear and tremble yet I have still some expectation that his compassion may interpose in my behalf.-But doth he put off his terrible Majesty, and, instead of vindicating the authority, condescend to plead the reasonableness of his law? then I am sure that his forbearance is almost ex
hausted, and that my day of grace is drawing near to an end. For as he neither wants power to punish, nor provocation to justify the punishment he might inflict, his design in stooping so low, can only be to render my condemnation consistent with the utmost extent of his mercy. In the words of the text, the Supreme Lord of heaven and earth appeals to sinners themselves for the mildness and equity of his government: and challengeth them to produce one instance of undue severity towards them, or the least shadow of excuse for their undutiful behaviour towards him. "O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me." And doth the infinitely wise God condescend to be tried at the bar of human reason? Can it then be supposed that his cause is doubtful, or that he runs the least hazard of being cast in judgment? Have we not reason to conclude, that the evidence of his goodness must be clear and irresistible, when he offers it to trial before the most partial tribunal, and submits his vindication to those very persons who cannot justify him without condemning themselves?
But as sinners are naturally supposed to shun the light, and to turn away their eyes from every thing that hath a tendency to humble and abase them; it may be of use to bring this cause to a fair and open trial: Which, through divine assistance, I propose to do.
First. By giving you a direct proof of the goodness of God, and of his tender concern for the welfare of his creatures.
Secondly. By examining some of the most plausible objections which are argued against the mildness and equity of the divine administration.
I will then conclude with a divine and practical improvement of the subject.
I BEGIN with giving you a direct proof of the goodness of God, and of his tender concern for the welfare of his creatures. This appears, in the
1st place, From the unwearied patience which he exerciseth towards transgressors. How easily could he arrest them in the midst of their mad career, and hurry them to judgment with all their provocations on their heads? Might not God have seized thee, O sinner, in the very act of sin, with a curse or a lie in thy mouth, and have stopped that breath with which thou wast insulting his name and his laws? How often might he have summoned thee to his deed tribunal in a fit of drunkenness; and made thee sober in that place of torment where there is not a drop of water to cool the thirsty tongue? Ah, how easy a matter is it for the Almighty to bring down the proudest of his foes? to silence the profane, injurious railer? to bind the hands of the oppressors, and to make them know that they are but worms? We read of one angel destroying in one night an hundred and fourscore and five thousand Assyrians; and myriads of angels stand continually before his throne ready to execute whatever he commands. He is the Lord of Hosts, "who doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." How easily can he throw thee into a bed of languishing? and waste thy strength under such a pining sickness, or racking pain, as to make thee cry for mercy to him whom thou blasphemest, and even beg the prayers of those whom thou wast wont to scorn? But God hath as yet done none of these things. By his merciful visitation he preserves thee in the land of the living and in the land of hope. He supplies all thy wants, and loads thee with increasing benefits. He gave thee that breath which thou hast breathed out against him, and
every moment of that time which thou hast squandered away in idleness, sensuality, and the works of the flesh. Why doth he yet wait to be gracious, if he were not tenderly solicitous for thy welfare? Surely his sparing mercy must be intended to bring thee back to himself: He restrains his wrath, that his goodness, like coals of fire, may melt down thine impenitence, and thy hardness of heart: "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, (as some men count slackness) but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2dly. The goodness of God, and his tender concern for the welfare of his creatures, is still more illustriously displayed in the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God sent into the world for this very end, "that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life." There we see a proof, the most strong and convincing that God himself could give, of his having "no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he should turn from his way and live." Would he have ransomed sinners at so costly a price as the blood of his only begotten Son? would he have astonished angels with so wonderful an act of condescension, as to send Him who was the "brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person," to assume the likeness of sinful flesh, to submit to the infirmities of our low nature, nay, to the ignominy and pain of the cross? had not our everlasting welfare been an object of bis tenderest concern. This surely, if duly considered, must remove all suspicions of his goodness, and destroy the jealousies even of the most distrustful mind. Behold Christ weeping over the impending fate of Jerusalem, and bemoaning the hardness of heart of those who attended his ministry; view him in his agony, and in his
conflict with the powers of darkness; hear him on the cross praying for his enemies; and then suppose, if you are able, that your ruin can be pleasing to him who hath done so much to prevent it. But, in the
3d place, The various means which God employs for reclaiming men from their ways of folly and vice, afford another proof of his goodness, and of his tender concern for their welfare. He is not only the Author of the gracious plan of our redemption, but he hath likewise set before us the most powerful motives to persuade us to embrace his offered favour, and to comply with his designs of mercy. Every consideration which can be supposed to work, either on our hopes or our fears, is set before us in the most striking light. The veil is removed from the invisible world; the joys of glorified saints, and the torments of despairing sinners, are made the subject of a clear revelation. How affectionately doth he invite men to turn unto him and live? "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." "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live." Even the threatenings of God are not so much the thunderings of his justice, as the loud rhetoric of his mercy. He shakes the rod over us, that, by a timely submission, we may avert the stroke. And when all the methods used to reclaim a sinner have proved ineffectual, with what reluctance doth he at last execute his threatened vengeance? "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as