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Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." Nay, after the fierceness of his anger hath consumed the transgressors, what regret doth he express that they should have extorted from him their own punishment? O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!" He utters these words as it were with a sigh, lamenting the folly and perverseness which had compelled him to such measures of severity against them: Not that God is influenced by any human passions; but because he could not otherwise communicate, in a manner intelligible to us, the deep concern which he takes in our welfare.

Nor are these mere expressions of kindness, which are unaccompanied with deeds to prove their sincerity, and to render them effectual: he hath instituted an order of men to carry the glad tidings of salvation to every corner of the earth; to beseech sinners, in his name, to lay aside their enmity to him, which can only hurt themselves, and to return to that Almighty Being, who, though he stands in no need of them, is most sincerely willing to receive them into his favour, and to bestow on them everlasting happiness. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." We are commanded to "preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." And to excite us to be diligent and faithful in the exercise of this office, he hath assured us, "that when the chief Shepherd shall appear, we shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."

Is not this then an unanswerable proof that God hath

no pleasure in the death of sinners? What stronger evidence of it could he give, than to send to them so many messengers, to beseech them in his name to turn and live? to employ on this kind errand creatures of the same nature with themselves, subject to the same passions, exposed to the same temptations, who have the advantage of familiar intercourse with them, and who are always at hand, to help, to comfort, and to quicken them? Nay, he hath made it the duty of every man, in his place, to do all that he can for the conversion of others. "Exhort one another daily," saith an apostle, "while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." "Brethren," saith the apostle James, "if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." Nor shall this labour of love pass without a reward; for " they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." But that nothing may be wanting to beget in us the firmest persuasion of the goodness of God, and of his tender concern for the welfare of his creatures, let it be observed, in the

4th and last place on this head, That he hath selected some of the most notorious offenders in the different ages of the world to be monuments of the riches of his grace, that the chief of sinners might be encouraged to apply to him for pardon and eternal life; who, without such examples, might have been ready to look on their case as desperate. How many, who were once sunk into the lowest degeneracy, are now in heaven, singing that grateful, triumphant song, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath

made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” There is Manasseh, one who used inchantment and divination, and who deluged the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood. There is Saul, once a blasphemer and a persecutor, who thus testifies of himself, "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." There are some of those Corinthians who were once the scandal of their country, and the reproach of human nature, (1 Cor. vi. 11.) but being "washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God," are now walking in white, following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and contemplating with wonder and joy the extent of that love "which passeth knowledge." Nay, there are some of the murderers of the Lord of glory, three thousand of whom were converted by the ministry of Peter in one day and now they are rejoicing in the presence of that Jesus whom they crucified, and ascribing their eternal salvation to that blood which was shed by their own wicked hands. In one word, with such examples as these the Scripture is replenished; and God every where appears, like the father in the parable, stretching forth his arms to the prodigal son, and delighting to display the riches of his grace.

Such then are the positive and direct evidences of the goodness of God, and of his tender concern for the welfare of his creatures. I proceed now, as was proposed, in the

Second place, To examine some of the most plausible objections which are urged against the mildness and equity of the divine administration.

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Say, then, O sinner, wherein hath God dealt rigorously with you? and what cause he hath ever given you to charge him with severity? "Testify against him,' in what respect he hath shewn himself an enemy to your happiness?

1st. Is it the holiness and perfection of his law that you complain of? Hath he given you too accurate a rule of life? and laid too many restraints upon your natural inclinations? This complaint is both foolish and ungrateful. The law of God requires nothing but what tends to make us happy; nor doth it forbid any thing which would not be productive of our misery. The very design of it is to describe and recommend that holiness, " without which no man shall see the Lord:" so that the perfection of it is no less a proof of the goodness than of the wisdom of its Author. Were holiness indeed unnecessary, or were vice the road to happiness, the objection would in that case be just. But as there is an inseparable connexion between sin and misery; and as holiness is indispensably necessary to qualify us for the enjoyment of God; it must follow, that to find fault with the purity of his law, is to find fault with it for being too much adapted to our interest. It is not therefore less absurd, than if a scholar were to blame his master for the excellence of the example which he had given him to copy; or, than if a traveller should quarrel with his guide, for directing him with too much exactness in the way.

2dly. Do you complain of the threatenings with which this law is enforced? Doth God appear severe, because he hath said, that the wicked must either turn from his evil ways or die? This complaint is surely as unreasonable as the former. Shall God be reckoned an enemy to your happiness, because he useth the most effectual means to promote it? Can he be supposed to de



sire your misery, who so earnestly warns you of your danger, and who so warmly pleads with you to avoid it! Should one find you running towards a precipice in your sleep, would you blame him for stopping you, though perhaps he might interrupt you in the enjoyment of some pleasant dream? Were you ready to sink in deep water, would you not reckon that man your friend who should save you from drowning, even though he dragged you out by the hair of the head? This is the very purpose, or the friendly design of all God's threat enings. He publisheth them, that they may never be ex ecuted; he makes them terrible, that the terror of them may persuade men to avoid them. Had God published a law and concealed the importance of it, with respect to our happiness or misery; would not the objection, in that case, against his goodness, have been far more just and rational? If his threatenings prevail with you, never shall you have cause to complain of their severity; and if they do not prevail, with what face can you allege, that the penalties are too high, when, at the same time, your own practice confutes you, and proves, that they are not high enough to restrain you from incurring them. But,

3dly. Perhaps your objection doth not lie so much against the publication of the threatenings, as against the final execution of them. You see their use to overawe mankind in this world; but you think that it would be cruel in God to inflict them in good earnest, and to punish men eternally, for sins committed during the short period of their abode on earth. Now, in answer to this, let me only ask you, whether those threatenings would be of any use at all, if the sinner knew that they would never be executed, or even if the execution of them were in the least degree doubtful? He who can

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