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amends for that estate of misery, which is their portion with a certainty as great as is the truth of God, and all the articles of the Christian creed. Miserable men are they, who cannot be blessed, unless there be no day of judgment; who must perish, unless the word of God should fail. If that be all their hopes, then we may with a sad spirit and a soul of pity inquire into the question of the text, “ Where shall the ungodly and sinner appear ?” Even there where God's face shall never shine, where there shall be fire and no light, where there shall be no angels, but what are many thousand years turned into devils, where no good man shall ever dwell and from whence the evil and the accursed shall never be dismissed. "O
my God, let
soul never come into their counsels, nor lie down in their sorrows.'
THE MERCY OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS; OR, God's
METHOD IN CURING SINNERS.
Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and
long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?-Rom. ïi. 4.
From the beginning of time till now, all effluxes which have come from God, have been nothing but emanations of his goodness, clothed in variety of circumstances. He made man with no other design than that man should be happy, and by receiving derivations from his fountain of mercy, might reflect glory to him. And therefore, God making man for his own glory, made also a paradise for man's use ; and did him good, to invite him to do himself a greater : for God gave forth demonstrations of his power by instances of mercy, and he who might have made ten thousand worlds of wonder and prodigy, and created man with faculties able only to stare upon, and admire, those miracles of mightiness, did choose to instance his power in the effusions of mercy, that, at the same instant, he might represent himself desirable and adorable, in all the capacities of amiability ; viz. as excellent as himself, and profitable to us.
For as the sun
sends forth a benign and a gentle influence on the seed of plants, that it may invite forth the active and plastic power from its recess and secrecy, that by rising into the tallness and dimensions of a tree, it may still receive a greater and more refreshing influence from its foster-father, the prince of all the bodies of light; and in all these emanations, the sun itself receives no advantage, but the honour of doing benefits : so doth the Almighty Father of all the creatures; he at first sends forth his blessings upon us, that we, by using them aright, should make ourselves capable of greater; while the giving glory to God, and doing homage to him, are nothing for his advantage, but only for ours; our duties towards him being like vapours ascending from the earth, not at all to refresh the region of the clouds, but to return back in a fruitful and refreshing shower ; and God created us, not that we can increase his felicity, but that he might have a subject receptive of felicity from him. Thus he causes us to be born, that we may be capable of his blessings; he causes us to be baptized, that we may have a title to the glorious promises evangelical ; he gives us his Son, that we may be rescued from hell. And when we constrain him to use harsh courses towards us, it is also in mercy :
he smites us to cure a disease ; he sends us sickness, to procure our health. And as if God were all mercy, he is merciful in his first design, in all his instruments, in the way, and in the end of the journey; and does not only show the riches of his goodness to them that do well, but to all men that they may do well : he is good, to make us good; he does us benefits, to make us happy. And if we, by despising such gracious rays of light and heat, stop their progress, and interrupt their design, the loss is not God's, but ours; we shall be the miserable and accursed people. This is the sense and paraphrase of my text; “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, &c. ?” “ Thou dost not know,” that is, thou considerest not, that it is for farther benefit that God does thee this: the goodness of God’ is not a design to serve his own ends upon thee, but thine upon him : “ the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."
Here then is God's method of curing mankind, zeroróans, avoxr, jargoðuxía. First, “ goodness," or inviting us to him by sugared words, by the placid arguments of temporal favour, and the propositions of excellent promises. Secondly,
åvogn, at the same time. Although God is provoked every day, yet he does åvéyerv, he “ tolerates our stubbornness, he forbears to punish ; and when he does begin to strike, takes his hand off, and gives us truce and respite. For so dvogn signifies • laxamentum,' and inducias' too. Thirdly, we ugodujíc, still “ a long putting off” and deferring his final destroying anger, by using all means to force us to repentance; and this especially by the way of judgments; these being the last reserves of the divine mercy, and however we esteem it, is the greatest instance of the divine long-suffering that is in the world. After these instruments, we may consider the end, the strand upon which these land us, the purpose of this variety, of these labours and admirable arts, with which God so studies and contrives the happiness and salvation of man: it is only that man may be brought by these means unto repentance, and by repentance may be brought to eternal life. This is 6 the treasure of the divine goodness,” the great and admirable efflux of the eternal beneficence, the FMOŪTOS XENOTÓTNTOS, “ the riches of his goodness,” which whosoever despises, despises himself and the great interest of his own felicity; he shall die in his impenitence, and perish in his folly.
1. The first great instrument that God chooses to bring us to him, is Xenotórns, profit,' or benefit; and this must needs be first, for those instruments whereby we have a being, are so great mercies, that besides that they are such which give us the capacities of all other mercies, they are the advances of us in the greatest instances of promotion in the world. For from nothing to something is an infinite space; and a man must have a measure of infinite passed upon him, before he can perceive himself to be either happy or miserable: he is not able to give God thanks for one blessing, until he hath received many. But then God intends we should enter upon his service at the beginning of our days, because even then he is before-hand with us, and hath already given us great instances of his goodness. What a prodigy of favour is it to us, that he hath passed by so many forms of his creatures, and hath not set us down in the rank of any of them, till we came to be paulo minores angelis, sa little lower than the angels !' and yet from the meanest of them God can perfect his own praise. The deeps and the snows, the hail and the rain, the birds of the air and the
fishes of the sea, they can and do glorify God, and give him praise in their capacity; and yet he gave them no speech, no reason, no immortal spirit, or capacity of eternal blessedness: but he hath distinguished us from them by the absolute issues of his predestination, and hath given us a lasting and eternal spirit, excellent organs of perception, and wonderful instruments of expression, that we may join in concert with the morning-star, and bear a part in the chorus with the angels of light, to sing hallelujah to the great Father of men and angels.
But was it not a huge chain of mercies, that we were not strangled in the regions of our own natural impurities, but were sustained by the breath of God from perishing in the womb, where God formed us in secreto terræ,' told our bones, and kept the order of nature, and the miracles of creation; and we lived upon that which, in the next minute after we were born, would strangle us if it were not removed ? but then God took care of us, and his hands of providence clothed us and fed us. But why do I reckon the mercies of production, which in every minute of our being are alike and continued, and are miracles in all senses, but that they are common and usual? I only desire you to remember, that God made all the works of his hands to serve him. And, indeed, this mercy of creating us such as we are, was not “ to lead us to repentance,” but was a design of innocence: he intended we should serve him as the sun and the moon do, as fire and water do; never to prevaricate the laws he fixed to us, that we might have needed no repentance. But since we did degenerate, and being by God made better and more noble creatures than all the inhabitants of the air, the water and the earth besides,—we made ourselves baser and more ignoble than any : for no dog, crocodile, or swine, was ever God's enemy, as we made ourselves. Yet then from thenceforward God began his work of “ leading us to repentance" by the “ riches of his goodness.” He causeth us to be born of Christian parents, under whom we were taught the mysteriousness of its goodness and designs for the redemption of man ; and by the design of which religion, repentance was taught to mankind, and an excellent law given for distinction of good and evil. And this is a blessing, which though possibly we do not often put into our eucharistical litanies to give God thanks for; yet if we sadly consider what had become
of us, if we had been born under the dominion of a Turkish lord, or in America, where no Christians do inhabit, where they worship the devil, where witches are their priests, their prophets, their physicians, and their oracles ; can we choose but apprehend a visible notorious necessity of perishing in those sins, which we then should not have understood by the glass of a divine law to have declined, nor by a revelation have been taught to repent of? But since the best of men does, in the midst of all the great advantages of laws, and examples, and promises, and threatenings, do many things he ought to be ashamed of, and needs to repent of; we can understand the riches of the divine goodness best, by considering, that the very design of our birth and education in the Christian religion is, that we may recover of and cure our follies by the antidote of repentance, which is preached to us as a doctrine, and propounded as a favour; which was put into a law, and purchased for us by a great expense; which God does not more command to us as a duty, than he gives us as a blessing. For now that we shall not perish for our first follies, but be admitted to new conditions, to be repaired by second thoughts, to have our infirmities excused, and our sins forgiven, our habits lessened, and our malice cured, after we were wounded, and sick, and dead, and buried, and in the possession of the devil ; this was such a blessing, so great riches of the divine goodness, that it was taught to no religion but the Christian, revealed by no lawgiver but Christ, so it was a favour greater than ever God gave to the angels and devils: for although God was rich in the effusion of his goodness towards them, yet they were not admitted to the condition of second thoughts ; Christ never shed one drop of blood for them, “ his goodness did not lead them to repentance:" but to us it was, that he made this largess of his goodness; to us, to whom he made himself a brother, and sucked the paps of our mother; he paid the scores of our sin, and shame, and death, only that we might be admitted to repent, and that this repentance might be effectual to the great purposes of felicity and salvation. And if we could consider this sadly, it might make us better to understand our madness and folly in refusing to repent; that is, to be sorrowful, and to leave all our sins, and to make amends by a holy life.—For that we might be admitted and suffered to do so, God was fain to pour forth all the riches of his