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Thunder-bolt so soon as ever we have Vol.VII. offended; that the wrath of God doth
not fall upon the intemperate person, as it did upon the Israelites, whilf the meat and drink is yet in their mouths; that a Man is not struck dead or mad whilft he is telling a Lye; that the Soul of the prophane and false Swearer does not expire with his Oaths and Perjuries.
2. That God spares us when it is in his power so easily to ruin us when he can with one word command us out of Being, and by cutting asunder one little thread, let us drop into Hell. If God were disposed to feverity, he could deal with us after another manner ; and as the expres fion is in the Prophet, ease himself of his Adversaries, and be avenged of his Enemies.
3. That God exerciseth this patio ence to Sinners, flagrante bello, while they are up in Arms against him, and committing Hoftilities upon him ; he bears with us, even when we are challenging his Justice to punish us; and provoking his Power to destroy
4. That he is so very slow and unwilling to punish, and to inflict his VOLVII
. Judgments upon us. As for eternal Punishments, God defers them a long while ; and by all proper ways and means endeavours to prevent them, and to bring us to repentance. And as for those temporal Judgments which God inflicts upon Sinners, he carries himself so, that we may plainly see all the signs of unwillingness that can be; he trys to prevent them, he is loth tó set about this work, and when he does, it is with much reluctance ; and then he is easily perswaded and prevaild withal not to do it ; and when he does, he does it not rigoroufly, and to extremity; and he is foon taken off after he is engaged in it. All which are great instances and evidences of his wonderful patience to Sinners.
(1.) God's unwillingness to punish appears, in that he labours to prevent punishment; and that he may effectually do this, he endeavours to prevent sin, the meritorious Cause of God's Judgments. To this end he hath threatened it with severe punishments, that the dread of them may make
i us afraid to offend ; and if this will VOL.VII
not do, he does not yet give us over but gives us a space of repentance, and invites us earnestly to turn to him, and thereby to prevent his Judgments; he expostulates with Sinners, and reafons the case with them, as if he were more concerned not to punish, than they are not to be punished; and thus by his earnest desire of our repentance, he shews how little he defires our ru. ine.
(2.) He is long before he goes about this work. Judgment is in Scripture callid his strange work ; as if he were not acquainted with it, and hardlý knew how to go about it on the sudden. He is represented as not prepared for such a work, Deut. 32. 41. If I whet my glittering Sword; as if the In. ftruments of Punishment were not ready for us. Nay, by a strange kind of condescention to our Capacities, and to set forth to us the patience of God, and his slowness to wrath, after the manner of Men, he is represented as keeping out of the way, that he may not be tempted to destroy us ; Exod. 33. 2, 3, where he tells Moses, that he would send an Angel before them, but
I will not go up in the midst of thee, left I vol. ya, consume thee in the way.
At works of Mercy he is very ready and forward. When Daniel pray: ed for the deliverance of the People of Israel out of Captivity, the Angel tells him, that at the beginning of his fupplication, the commandment came forth, to bring him a promise of their deliverance. The
The mercy of God many . times prevents our Prayers, and outruns our Wishes and Desires : but when he comes to affliction, he takes time to do it; he passeth by many provocations, and waits long in expectation, that by our repentance we will prevent his Judgments; he hearkned and heard (faith God in the Prophet Jes remiah) but they spake not aright, no man repented him of his wickedneß, saying, What have I done? He is represented as waiting and liftning, to hear if any penitent word would drop from them”, he gives the Sinner time to repent and reflect upon his actions, and to confider what he hath done, and fpace to reason himself into repentance. Foi this reason the Judgments of God do often follow the fins of Men at a great distance, otherwise he could easily
is make them mend their pace, and conVol. VI.
·fume us in a moment.
(3.) When he goes about this work, he does it with much reluctance, Amos 11.8, 9. How shall Igive thee up, Ephraim? how shall
. I deliver thee, Israel? mine heart is turned within me, and my repentings are kindled together. He is represented as making many effays and offers before he came to it. Pfal
. 106. 26. Many a time lifted he up
his hand in the wildernes to destroy them. He made as if he would do it, and let fall his hand again, as if he could not find in his heart to be so severe. God witholds his Judgments till he is weary of holding in, as the Expression is, Jer. 6.11. till he can forbear no longer. Jer. 44. 22. So that the Lord could no longer bear, becaufe of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations, which ye have committed.
(4.) God is easily prevailed upon not to punish. When he seemed resolved upon it, to destroy the murmuring Ifraelites, yet how often, at the intercession of Moses, did he turn away
his wrath ? That he will
very low terms to spare a very wicked People, appears by the instance of Sodom, where if there had been but ten righte