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he is persecuted with it, Acts ix. 4. and when profane hands touch his children, they touch the apple of his eye; Zech. 11. 3. In all our affliction he is afflicted, Isa. Ixiii. 9. Lo ! he is with us always, even unto the end of the world, Matt. xxvii. 20.
VI. The goodness of God must harmonize with the efficiency of the will. The great defect of human friendships is their inefficacy. The unavailing emotions that men feel for each other, their ineffectual wishes for each others happiness, we denominate friendship. But suppose an union of every heart in thy favour, suppose, though without a precedent, thyself the object of the love of all mankind, what benefit couldst thou derive from all this love in some circumstances of thy life? What relief from real evils ? Ah! my friends, ye are eager to assist me in my dying agonies; Alas! my family, you are distressed to death to see me die ; you love me, and I know the tears that bathe you flow from your hearts; yes, you love me, but I must die ! · None but the infinite God, my dear brethren, none but the adorable God hath an efficient love. If God be for us, who can be against us, Rom. viii. 31. Let the elements be let loose against my person and my life ; let mankind, who differ about every thing else, agree to torment me, let there be a general conspiracy of nature and society against my happiness, what doth all this signify to me? If God love me, I shall be happy: with God to love and to beatify, is one and the same act of his self-efficient will.
VII. But, finally, the goodness of God must agree with his veracity. I mean, that, although the many scriptureimages of the goodness of God are imperfect, and must not be literally understood, they must, however, have a real sense and meaning. Moreover, I affirm, that the grandeur of the original is not at all diminished, but, on the contrary, that our ideas of it are very much enlarged, by purifying and retrenching the images that represent it; and this we are obliged to do on account of the eminence of the divine perfections. And here, my brethren, I own, I am involved in the most disagreeable difficulty that can be imagined, and my mind is absorbed in an innumerable multitude of objects, each of which verifieth the proposition in the text. I am obliged to pass by a world of proofs and demonstrations. Yes, I pass by the firmament with all its stars, the earth with all its productions, the treasures of the sea and the influences of the air, the syminetry of the body, the chains of scciety,
and many other objects, which, in the most eloquent and · pathetic manner, preach the Creator's goodness to us,
These grand objects, which have excited the astonishment of philosophers, and filled the inspired writers with wonder and praise, scarcely merit a moment's attention to-day. I stop at the principal idea of the prophet. We have before observed, that the term, which is rendered pity in the text, is a vague word, and is often put in scripture for the goodness of God in general, however, we must acknowledge, that it most properly signifies the disposition of a good parent, who is inclined to shew mercy to his son, when he is become sensible of his follies, and endeavours by new effusions of love to re-establish the communion that his disobedience had interrupted: this is certainly the principal idea of the prophet.
Now who can doubt, my brethren, whether God possess the reality of this image in the most noble, the most rich, and the most eminent sense ? Wouldst thou be convinced, sinner, of the truth of the declaration in the text? Wouldst thou know the extent of the mercy of God to poor sinful men ? Consider then, 1. The victim he hath substituted in their stead. 2. The patience he exerciseth towards them. 3. The crimes he pardons. 4. The familiar friendship to which he invites them. And, 5. The rewards he bestows on them. Ah! you tender fathers, you mnothers who seem to be all love for your children, you whose eyes, whose hearts, whose perpetual cares and affections are concentered in them, yield, yield to the love of God for his children, and acknowledge that God only knows how to love!
Let us remark, 1. The sacrifice, that God hath substituted in the sinner's stead. One of the liveliest and inost emphatical expressions of the love of God, in my opinion, is that in the gospel of St. John. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, ch. ii. 16. Weigh these words, my brethren, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. Metaphysical ideas begin to grow into disrepute, and I am not surprized at it. Mankind have such imperfect notions of substances, they know so litcle of the nature of spirits, particularly, they are so entirely at à loss in reasoning on the Infinite Spirit, that we need not be astonished if people retire from a speculative track in which the indiscretion of some hath made great mistakes. · Behold a sure system of metaphysics. Convinced of the imperfection of all my knowledge, and particularly of my
discoveries of the being and perfections of God, I consult the sacred oracles, which God hath published, in order to obtain right notions of him. I immediately perceive, that God, in speaking of himself, hath proportioned his language to the weakness of men, to whoin he hath addressed his word. In this view, I meet with no difficulty in explaining those passages in which God saith, he hath hands or feet, eyes or heart, he goeth or cometh, ascendeth or descendeth, he is in some cases pleased, and in others provoked. .
Yet, methinks, it would be a strange abuse of this notion of scripture, not to understand some constant ideas literally; ideas which the scriptures give us of God, and on which the system of christianity partly rests.
I perceive, and I think very clearly, that the scriptures constantly speak of a being, a person, or, if I may speak so, a portion of the divine essence, which is called the Father, and another that is called the Son.
I think, I perceive with equal evidence in the same book, that between these two persons, the Father and the Son, there is the closest and most intimate union that can be imagined. What love must there be between these two persons, who have the same perfections and the same ideas, the same purposes and the same plans ? What love must subsist between two persons, whose union is not interrupted by any calamity without, by any passion within, or, to speak more fully still, by any imagination ?
With equal clearness I perceive, that the man Jesus, who was born at Bethlehem, and was laid in a manger, was in the closest uni'n with the word, that is, with the Son of God; and that in virtue of this union the inan Jesus is more beloved of God than all the other creatures of the universe.
No less clearly do I perceive in scripture, that the man Jesus, who is as closely united to the eternal word, as the word is to God, was delivered for me, a vile creature, to the inost igncminious treatment, to sufferings the most painful, and the most shameful, that were inflicted on the meanest and basest of mankind.
And when I inquire the cause of this great mystery, when I ask, Why did the almighty God bestow so rich a present on me? Especially, when I apply to revelation for an explication of this mystery, which reason cannot fully explain, I can find no other cause than the compassion of God.
Let the schools take their way, let reason lose itself in speculations, yea, lct faith find it difficult to submit to a
doctrine, doctrine, which hath always appeared with an awful solemnity to those wlio have thought and meditated on it; for my part, I abide by this clear and astonishing, but, at the same time, this kind and comfortable proposition, God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. When people shew us Jesus Christ in the garden, sweating great drops of blood; when they speak of his trial before Caiaphas and Pilate, in which he was interrogated, insulted and scourged; when they present him to our view on mount Calvary, nailed to a cross, and bowing beneath the blows of heaven and earth; when they require the reason of these formidable and surprizing phenomena, we will answer, It is because God loved mankind; it is because God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.
2. The patience that God ererciseth towards sinners, is our second remark. Here, my brethren, I wish, that as many of you as are interested in this article would allow me to omit particulars, and would recollect the histories of your own lives.
My life, says one, is consumed in perpetual indolence. I ain a stranger to the practice of private devotion, and, to speak the truth, I consider it only as a fancy. I attend public worship, only because I would conform to example and custom. I hear the serinons of tho ininisters of the gospel as amusive discourses, that treat of subjects in which I have no interest. I take no part in the prayers that are addressed to God in behalf of the sick or the poor, the churchor the state.
I, saith a second, ever since I have been in the world, have cherished one of the most shameful and criininal passions ; sometimes I have been shocked at its turpitude, and sometimes I have resolved to free myself from it: in some of iny sicknesses, which, I thought, would have ended in death, I determined on a sincere conversion: sometimes a sermon, or a pious book, hath brought ine to self-examination, which hath ended in a promise of reformation : sometimes the sight of the Lord's supper, an institution properly adapted to display the sinfulness of sin, hath exhibited my sin in all its heinousness, and hath bound me by oath to sacrifice my unworthy passion to God. But my corruption hath been superior to all, and yet God hath borne with me to this day.
A third must say, As for me, I have lived thirty or forty years in a country where the public profession of religion is
prohibited, and I have passed all the time without a member: ship to any church, without ordinances, without public worship, and without the hope of a pastor to confort me in my dying illness; I have seduced my family by my example ; I have consented to the settlement of my children, and have suffered them to contract marriages without the blessing of heaven ; my lukewarmness hath caused first their indifference, and last their apostacy, and will perhaps cause . . . . and yet God hath borne with me to this day.
Why hath he borne with me? It is not a connivance at sin, for he hates and detests it. It is not ignorance, for he penetrates the inmost recesses of my soul, nor hath a single act,, no not a single act, of my rebellion, eluded the search of his all-piercing eye. It is not a want of power to punish a criminal, for he holds the thunders in his mighty hands; at his command hell opens, and the fallen angels wait only for his permission to seize their prey. Why then do I yet subsist? Why do I see the light of this day? Why are the doors of this church once more open to me? It is because he comIniserates poor sinners. It is because he pitieth me as a father pitieth his children. . .
3. Let us remark the crimes which God pardoneth. There is no sin excepted, no not one, in the list of those which God hath promised to forgive to true penitents. He pardoneth not only the sins of those whom he hath nọt called into his visible church, who, not having been indulged with this kind of benefits, have not had it in their power to carry ingratitude to its heighth: but he pardoneth also crimes cominitted under such dispensations as seem to render sin least pardonable ; he pardoneth sins committed under the dispensation of the law, as he forgiveth those which are committed under the dispensation of nature; "and and those that are commiited under the dispensation of the gospel, as those which are committed under the law. He' forgiveth, not only such sins as have been committed through ignorance, infirmity, and inadvertency, but such also as have been committed deliberately, and obstinately. He not only forgiveth the sins of a day, a week, or a month, but he forgiveth also the sins of a great number of years, those which have been formed into an inveterate habit, and have grown old with the sinner. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool, Isa. i. 18.