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Let us then often contemplate this perfection of God, and represent it to our minds, that, by the frequent contemplation of it, we may be transformed into the image of the divine goodness. Is God so good to his crcatures ?. With how much greater reason should we be so to our fellow-creatures? Is God good to us! Let us imitate his universal goodness,' by endeavouring the good of mankind, and, as much as in us lies, of the whole creation of God. What God is to us, and what we would have him still be to us, that let us be to others. We are infinitely beholden to this perfection of God for all that we are, and for all that we enjoy, and for all that we expect; and therefore we have all the reason in the world to admire and imitate it. Let this pattern of the divine goodness be continually before us, that we inay be still fashioning ourselves in the temper of our minds, and in the actions of our lives, to a like. ness and conformity to it.
Lastly, The confideration of the divine goodness should excite our praise and thankfulness: this is a great duty, to the performance whereof we Mould summon all the powers and faculties of our souls; as the holy Psalmist does, Psal. ciji. 1. 2. Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. And we Thould invite all others to the same work, as the same devout Pfalmift frequently does; Psal. cvi. 1. O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his
endur. eth for ever.
And, Psal. cvii. 8. Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.
And we had need to be often called upon to this duly, to which we have a peculiar backwardness. Necellity drives us to prayer, and sends us to God for the fupply of our wants; but praise and thanksgiving is a duty which depends upon our gratitude and ingenuity; and nothing sooner wears off, than the sense of kindness and benefits. We are very apt to forget the bleslings of God, not so much from a bad memory, as from a bad nature; to forget the greatest bleslings, the continuance whereof should continually put us in mind of them, the blessings of our beings. So God complains
of his people, Deut. xxxii. 18. Of the God that formed thee thou hast been unmindful: The dignity and excellency of our being, above all the creatures of this visible world; Job xxxv. 10. 11. None faith, where is God my maker, who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wifer than the fowls of heaven? The daily comforts and blessings of our lives, which we can continually receive, without almost ever looking up to the hand that gives them. So God complains by the Prophet Hosea, chap. ii. 8. She knew not that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold. And is it not shameful to see how at the most plentiful tables, the giving of God thanks is almost grown out of fashion as if men were alhamed to own from whence these blessings came. When thanks is all God expects from us, can we not afford to give him that? Do ye thus requite the Lord, foolish people and unwise? It is just with God to take away his blessings from us, if we deny him this easy tribute of praise and thanksgiving
It is a sign men are unfit for heaven, when they are backward to that which is the proper work and employment of the blessed spirits above: therefore, as ever we hope to come thither, let us begin this work here, and inure ourselves to that which will be the great business of all eternity: let'us, with the four and twenty elders in the Revelation, fall down before him that fits on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast our crowns before the throne ; (that is, cast ourselves) and ascribe all glory to God, laying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for thou hast made all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created:
To him therefore, the infinite and inexhaustible fountain of goodness, the Father of mercies, and the God of all consolation, who gave us such excellent beings, having made us little lower than the angels, and crowned us with glory and honour, who hath been pleased to ftamp upon us the image of his own goodness, and thereby made us partakers of a divine nature, communicating to us not only of the effects of his goodness, but in VOL. VII.
fome measure and degree, of the perfection itself; to him, who gives us all things richly to enjoy, which pertain to life and godliness, and liath made fuch abundant provision not only for our comfort and convenience in this present life, but for our unspeakable happinefs to all eternity; to him, who designed this happiness to us from all eternity, and whose mercy and goodness to us en. dures for ever, who, when by wilful transgressions and disobedience we had plunged ourselves into a state of fin and misery, and had forfeited that happiness which we were designed to, was pleased to restore us to a new capacity of it, by sending his only Son to take our na. ture, with the miseries and infirmities of it, to live among us, and to die for us; in a word, to him who is mfinitely good to us, not only 'contrary to our deserts, but beyond our hopes, who renews his mercy upon us every morning, and is patient, though we provoke him every day, who preserves and provides for us, and spares us continually, who is always willing, always watchful, and never weary to do us good; to him be all glory and honour, adoration and praife, love and obe. dience, how and for ever.
S E R M 0 N
The mercy of God.
NUMB. xiv. 18.
mercy. The patience of God is his goodness to them that are guilty, in deferring or moderating their deserved punishment: the mercy of God is his goodness to them that are, or may be miserable. It is the last of these two I design to discourse of at this time; in doing of which, I Mall enquire,
1. What we are to understand by the mercy of God. 2. Shew you, that this perfection belongs to God.
3. Consider the degree of it, that God is of great mercy. First
, What we are to understand by the mercy of God.
I told you, it is his goodness to them that are in misery, or liable to it; that is, that are in danger of it, or have deserved it. It is mercy, to prevent the misery that we are liable to, and which may befal us, though it be not actually, upon us. It is mercy, to defer the misery that we deserve, or mitigate it; and this is, properly, patience and forbearance. It is mercy, to relieve those that are in misery, to support or comfort them. It is mercy, to remit the misery we deserve, and, by pardon and forgiveness, to remove and take away the obligation to punishment.
Thus the mercy of God is usually, in fcripture, fet forth to us, by the affection of pity and compassion ; which is an affection that causeth a sensible commo. tion and disturbance in us, upon the apprehenfion some great evil that lies upon another, or bangs over him. Hence it is that God is said, in scripture, to be grieved and afflicted for the miseries of men; his bowels are said to found, and his heart to turn within him. But though God is pleased in this manner to set forth his mercy and tenderness towards us, yet we must take heed how we clothe the divine nature with the infirmi. ties of human pallions. We must not measure the perfection of God by the expressions of his condescenfion; and, because he' stoops to our weakness, level him to our infirmities. When God is said to pity us, we must take away the imperfection of this passion, the commotion and disturbance of it, and not imagine any such thing in God ; but we are to conceive, that the mercy and compassion of God, without producing the disquiet, do produce the effects of the most sensible pity,
Secondly, That this perfection belongs to God.
All the arguments that I used to prove the goodness of God, from the acknowledgment of natural light, and from scripture and reason, serve to prove that he is merciful; because the mercy
of God is an eminent branch of his goodness. I will only produce some of those many texts of fcripture which attribute this perfection to God. Exod. xxxiv. 6. The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious. Deut. iv. 31. The Lord thy God is a merciful God. 2 Chron. xxxiv. 9. The Lord
your God is gracious and merciful. Neh. ix. 17. Ready to pardon, gracious and merciful. Psal. xxv. 10. All the paths of the Lord are mercy. Pfal. Ixii. 12. Unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy. Psal. ciii. 8. Merciful and grarious. Psal. cxxx. 7. With the Lord there is mercy. And so, Jer. iii. '12. Joel ii. 13. Jonah iv. 2. Luke vi. 36. Be ye therefore merciful, as your father also is mer. ciful. The scripture fpeaks of this as most natural to him; 2 Cor. i. 3. he is called the father of mercies. But when he punisheth, he doth, as it were, relinquish his nature, and do a strange work. The Lord will wait, that he
be gracious, Ila. xxx: 18. God paffeth by opportunities of punishing, but his mercy takes opportunity to display itself: He waits to be gracious." To affict or punish, is a work that God is unwilling to, that he takes no pleasure in; Lam. iii. 33. He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. -But mercy is a work that he delights in ; Micah vii. 18. He delighteth in mercy. When God shews mercy, he does it with pleafure and delight; he is said to rejoice over his people, to do them good. Those attributes that declare God's goodness, as when he is said to be gracious, or merciful, and long-suffering, they fhew what God is in himself, and delights to be: those which declare his wrath and feverity, Thew what he is upon provocation, and the occasion of sin; not what he chuseth to be, but what we do, as it were, compel and neceffitate him
Thirdly, For the degree of it; that God is a God of great mercy.
The fcripture doth delight to advance the mercy of God, and does use great variety of expression to magnify it: it speaks of the greatness of his mercy ; Numb. xiv. 19. According unto the greatness of thy mercy; 2 Sam. xxiv. 14. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great. It is called an abundant mercy; 1 Pet. i. 3. According to his abundant mercy.