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THE PATIENCE OF GOD WITH WICKED
GENESIS XV. 16.
The Iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. TT is a shocking disposition of mind, which Solomon I describes in that well known passage in Ecclesiastes : Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily; therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil, chap. viii. 11. It seems, at first sight, as if the wise man had rather exceeded in his portrait of the human heart: or that, if there were any originals, they could only be a few monsters, from whose souls were eradicated all the seeds of religion and piety, as well as every degree of reason and humanity. God is patient towards all who offend him: then, let us offend him without remorse, let us try the utmost extent of his patience. God lifteth over our heads a mighty hand, armed with lightnings and thunderbolts, but this hand is usually suspended a while be.fore it strikes ; then let us dare it while it delays, and till it moves to crush us to pieces let us not respect it. What a disposition! What a shocking disposition of mind is this my brethren!
But let us rend the vails with which we conceal ourselves froin ourselves; let us penetrate those secret recesses of our consciences, into which we never look but when we are forced; let us go to the bottom of a heart naturally deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and we shall find that this disposition of mind, which at first sight inspires us wi h horror, is the disposition of whom? Of the greatest part of VOL. I. .Ee
this assembly, my brethren. Could we persist in sin without the patience of God? Dare we live in that shameful security, with which the ministers of the living God so justly reproach us, if God had authorized them to cry in our streets, Yet forty days, yet forty days ? Jonah iii. Had we seen Ananias and Sapphira fall at St. Peter's feet, as soon as they kept back part of the price of their possession, Acts v. 1, 2. In a word, could we have the madness to add sin to sin, if we were really convinced, that God entertained the formidable design of bearing with us no longer, but of precipitating us into the gulphs of hell on the very first act of rebellion? Why then do we rebel every day? It is for the reason alledged by the wise man: It is because sentence against an evil work is not erecuted speedily; therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
I intend to-day, my brethren, to endeavour to dissipate the dark clouds, with which your security obscures the designs of a patient God, who hath been patient towards you, long-suffering towards all, 2 Pet. iii. 9. and who is exercising his patience towards you this day. But who can tell how much longer he intends to bear with you? Let us enter into the matter. I design to consider our text principally with a view to the riches of the forbearance, and long-suffering of God, Rom. ii. 4. for it treats of a mystery of justice which interests all mankind. God bears with the most wicked nations a long while, and, having borne a long while with the rebellion of ancestors, bears also a long while with that of their descendants : but, at length, collecting the rebellion of both into one point of vengeance, he punisheth a people who have abused his patience, and proportioneth his punishments to the length of time which had been granted to avert them.
All these solemn truths are included in the sententious words of the text : The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. I hasten to explain them, in order to employ the most of the precious moments of attention, with which you deign to favour me, in deriving such practical instructions from them as they afford. Promote our design, my dear brethren. Let not the forbearance which the love of God now affords you set your hearts fully to do evil. And thou, O almighty and long-suffering God! whose treasures of forbearance perhaps this nation may have already exhausted! Othou just
avenger avenger of sin! who perhaps mayest be about to punish our crimes, now ripe for vengeance, 'O suspend its execution till we make some profound reflections on the objects before us! O let the ardent prayers of our Abrahams, and of our Lots, prevail with thee to lengthen the forbearance which thou hast already exercised toward this church, these provinces, and every sinner in this assembly! Amen.
The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. These words were addressed to Abraham by God himself. He had just before given him a victory over five kings, and had promised him blessings more glorious than all those which he had received before. He had said to him, Fear not, I am thy shield, and thine exceeding great reward, Gen. xv. 1. But the patriarch thought, these great promises could not be accomplished, because he had no posterity, and was far advanced in age, ver. 2, 4. God relieves him from this fear by promising him, not only a son, but a posterity, ver. 5. which should equal the stars of heaven in number, and should possess a country as extensive as their wants : but at the same time he told him, that before the accomplishment of these promises, his seed should be either strangers in the land of Canaan, ver. 13. the conquest of which should be reserved for them, or subject to the Egyptians, for the space of four hundred years : that at the expiration of that period, they should quit their slavery, laden with the spoils of Egypt: that in the fourth generation, ver. 16. they should return into the land of Canaan, where Abraham dwelt when the Lord addressed these words to him : that then they should conquer the country, and should be the ministers of God's vengeance on the Canaanites, whose abominations even now deserved severe punishments, but which God would at present defer, because the wretched people had not yet filled up the measure of their crimes.
This is a general view of our text in connection with the context. K now of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they corne out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace : thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again ; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yjet full.
If you would understand these words more particularly, attend to a few remarks, which we shall only mention in brief, because a discussion of them would divert our attention too far from the principal design of this discourse*.
We include in the four hundred years, mentioned in the contest, the time the Israelites dwelt in Canaan from the birth of Isaac, and the time they dwelt in Egypt from the promotion of Joseph. Indeed, strictly speaking, these two periods contain four hundred and five years. But every body knows that authors, both sacred and profane, to avoid fractions, sometimes add, and sometimes diminish, in their calculations. In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, ver. 40. Moses saith, The children of Israel dwelt in Egypt four hundred and thirty years; but it is beyond a doubt, that he useth a concise way of speaking in this passage, and that the Seventy had reason for paraphrasing the words thus : The sojourning of the children of Israel IN THE LAND OF CANAAN, and in the land of Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. If the reasonableness of this paraphrase be allowed, there will still remain a difference of thirty years between the time fixed in Genesis by the Lord for the conquest of Canaan, and the time mentioned by Moses in Exodus, but it is easy to reconcile this seeming difference, foi the calculation in Genesis begins at the birth of Isaac, but the other commences at Abraham's arrival in Canaan. The reckoning is exact, for Abraham dwelt twenty-five years in Canaan before Isaac was born, and there were four hundred and five years from the birth of Isaac to the departure out of Egypt. This is the meaning of the passage quoted from Exodus, and as it perfectly agrees with our context, we shall conclude that this first article is sufficiently explained.
Qui second regards the meaning of the word generation, which is mentioned in the context. This term is equivocal : sometimes it signifies the whole age of each person in a succession; and in this sense the evangelist says, from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, Matt. i. 17. Sometimes it is put for the whole duration of a living multitude ; and in this sense Jesus Christ useth it, when he saith, this generation, that is, all his contemporaries, shall not pass away, till his prophecies concerning them were fulfilled. Sometimes it signifies a period of ten years; and in this sense
* This whole subject is treated at large in Mons. Saurin's fourteenth dissertation on the Bible. Tom. Prem.
it is used in the book of Baruch; the captivity in Babylon, which continued, we know, seventy years, is there said to remain seven generations, chap. vi. 2.
We understand the word now in the first sense, and we mean that, from the arrival of the Israelites in Egypt, to the time of their migration, there were four successions : The first was the genei ation of Kohath, the son of Levi ; the second of Amram the son of Kohath; the third was that of Moses and Aaron; and the fourth was that of the children of Moses and Aaron, Exod. vi. 16, 18, 20, &c. .
Our third observation relates to the word Amorites in our text. The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. The word Amorites hath two significations in scripture : a particular, and a general meaning. It hath a particular meaning when it denotes the descendants of Hamor, the fourth son of Canaan, Gcn. x. 16. who first inhabited a mountainous country westward of the dead sea, Josh. xii. 23. and afterwards spread themselves eastward of that sea, between the rivers Jabbok and Arnon, having dispossessed the Amorites and Moabites. Sihon and Og, two of their kings, were defcated by Moses.
But the word Amorites is sometimes used in a more general sense, and denotes all the inhabitants of Canaan. To cite many proofs would diyert our attention too far from our principal design, let it suffice therefore to observe, that we take the word in our text in this general meaning.
But what crimes does the Spirit of God include in the word inquity? The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Here, my brethren, a detail would be horrid, for so great were the excesses of these people, that we should in some sense partake of their crimes, by attempting to give an exact list of them. So excessive was the idolatry of the Canaanites, that they rendered the honours of supreme adoration not only to the most mean, but even to the most impure and infamous creatures. Their inhumanity was so excessive that they sacrificed their own children to their gods. And so monstrous was their subversion, not only of the laws of nature, but even of the common irregularities of human nature, that a vice, which must not be named, was openly practised; and in short, so scandalous was the depravation of religion and good manners, that Moses, after he had given the Israelites laws against the most gross idolatry, against incest, against beastiality, against that other crime, which our dismal circumstances oblige us to mention, in spite of so