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text, My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Your thoughts have formed a gloomy system, and you think God can pardon a first, or a second, or perhaps a third sin, but you cannot believe that he can forgive the hundredth, or even the fortieth offence : But God's thoughts are, that he can abundantly pardon ; that he can forgive the hundredth offence, yea the thousandth and the ten thousandth, as well as the first and the second, if you be sincerely willing to renounce them, and seriously endeavour to reform them.
You think, agreeably to your gloomy system, that God doth indeed pardon some crimes, but that there are some which he will not pardon; that he sometimes pardoneth hatred, but that he will never forgive murder: that he sometimes pardoneth sins of infirmity, but that he will never forgive sins of obstinacy; that he pardoneth idle words, but that he will never forgive blasphemies: But God's thoughts are, that he will abundantly pardon ; that he will pardon murder as well as hatred ; and sins of obstinacy as well as sins of infirmity; provided you be sincerely willing to renounce them, and seriously endeavour to reformn them.
You think, consistently with your melancholy system, that God may perhaps pardon the sins of a few days, or of a few months, or of a few years; but that he cannot forgive the sins of ten, or twenty years, or of a whole life : But God thinks, he can abundantly pardon ; that he cannot forgive the sins of ten years, or of twenty, or of a whole life, as well as the sins of one day, or of one month, or of one year;
if you be sincerely willing to renounce them, and seriously endeavour to reform.
Your thoughts are that God pardoneth the sins of those whom he hath not called into church-fellowship, nor distinguished by particular favours : But the thoughts of God are, that he will abundantly pardon; that he will forgive sins committed under the mosaical dispensation as well as those committed under the dispensation of nature, those committed under the gospel, as well as those committed under the law, or before the law; if you be sincerely willing to renounce, and seriously endeavour to reform them. It is not I, it is the prophet, it is God himself, by the prophet, who attests these truths: Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked ror
SAKE HIS WAY, and the righteous man his thoughts; and let him RETURN UNTO THE LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for HE WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
If you sincerely forsake, and seriously reform them. Have you not been surprized at the frequent repetition of this clause? This clause, however, is the ground of all the promises we make to you on God's part. The chief design of the prophet is to produce obedience to God, and in this we would wish to unite this whole assembly. Deprive the text of this clause, and the rest of the words are not only false and unwarrantable, but contradictory to themselves, and injurious to that God, whose mercy we have been publishing. We have no consolation for a melancholy man, who is resolved to persist in his sins. We have no remedy against despair, when the despairing man refuseth to renounce those crimes, the remembrance of which causeth all his distress and despair.
You slanderers, you false accusers, you pests of society, God will abundantly pardon you. Yea, though you have been wickedly industrious to poison the purest words, the most harmless actions, the holiest intentions, yet you ought not to despair of the mercy of God; for his thoughts are not as your thoughts, nor his ways as your ways. He will forgive all your sins, if you sincerely forsake, and seriously reform them ; if you do justice to the innocence you have attacked, and repair the reputations you have damaged.
You unjust, you oppressors, you extortioners, you who, as well as your ancestors, have lived on the substance of the wretched, and who are about to transmit an accursed patrimony to your posterity, God will abundantly pardon you: yea, though you have made a sale of justice, negotiated the blood of the iniserable, betrayed the state, and sold your country, yet you ought not to despair of the mercy of God, for his thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are his ways your ways. All these sins he will forgive, if you endeavour seriously to amend them ; if you lạy aside those equipages, and retrench those sumptuo'is festivals, which are
the fruits of your own, and of your parents, oppressions and extortions.
You sick, you dying people, who cannot think of your momentary life without thinking of those sins, which you have been perpetually committing, and in the multitude and magnitude of which your thoughts are lost, God will abundantly pardon you. Though no other time remains to conciliate your souls to God than the last days of a dying illness, the slight remains of a departing life, yet you ought not to despair of the mercy of God, for his thoughts are not as your thoughts, neither are his ways as your ways. He will forgive all your sins, if you sincerely forsake, and seriously reform them; if you be animated not only with the fear of death and hell, but with a sincere desire of returning unto the Lord ; if you do not make your pastor an accomplice in your sins ; if you do not 'forbid him the mentioning of some of your sins ; if you do not prevent the removal of that vail, which yet hides a great part of your turpitude from you; in a word, if you willingly fall in with all the ways of repentance and reparation, that may be opened to you.
I conclude with the clause, that I have so often repeated, and which I again repeat, (and woe be to him who forgets it! woe be to him who, by his perseverance in sin, rendereth his compliance impossible !) if you sincerely forsake, and seriously endeavour to reform and repair them. I give you a subject to meditate for the conclusion of this discourse, (a very terrible and alarming conclusion for those who have the inadness to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness,) Jude 4. this subject, which I leave with you to meditate, is, What degree of punishment in hell will be inflicted upon such men as despise the mercy that we have been describing? God
grant you may never be able to answer this by your own experience! Amen.
THE SEVERITY OF GOD.
HEBREWs xii. 29.
For our God is a consuming fire.
T is a very deplorable thing, that your preachers can
never expatiate on the goodness of God, without having just grounds to fear that you infer dangerous consequences from their doctrine. That goodness, of which God hath made such tender declarations; that goodness, of which he hath given us such astonishing proofs; that goodness, which seems so proper to make us love him above all things; that goodness, through our abuse of it, contributes the most, to rivet our infidelity, and to increase our misery. We freely acknowledge, therefore, that with fear and trembling we endeavoured last Lord's day to display its greatness, and, though all our portraits were infinitely beneath the original, though we esteemed it then our happiness, and our glory, not to be able to reach our subject, yet we have been afraid of having said too much. When, to prevent the fatal effects of despair, we assured you, that, though you had trafficed with the blood of the oppressed, or betrayed the state, or sold your country, yet you might derive from the ocean of divine mercy a pardon for all these crimnes, provided you were enabled sincerely to repent, and thoroughly to reform them ; when we said these things, we revolved in our minds these discouraging thoughts : Perhaps some of our hearers may poison our doctrine : Perhaps some monster, of which nature produceth an example in every age, actually saith to himself; I may then, without despairing of my salvation, traffic with the blood of the oppressed, betray the state, selt my country, and, having spent my life in these wicked