Page images
PDF
EPUB

passage, taking the one branch of it in connexion with the other; as if he had said, When I consider how great and multiplied my transgressions have been, I must itand fpeechless, and without excufe, before thy holy tribunal, and justify thee, although thou shouldst condemn me. But Lord, thou art a God of infinite mercy. This I fix upon as the foundation of my hope. I see nothing in myself to plead. Thy law accuses me. My own conscience pasies sentence upon me. I am not able to support the view of thy justice and holiness. Whither can I fly, but to thy mercy? Here I defire to take refuge, and io my unspeakable consolation there is forgiveness with thee; so that thou mayest and oughtest to be feared. In discoursing further on this subject, which I intend to do in a manner entirely practical, I propose, in a dependance on divine grace, to follow this method.

I. I fhall give a briet view of the discoveries which God hath made of his mercy, as the foundation of the finner's hope; or, in other words, shew what reason we have to believe, that there is forgiveness with him.

II. I Mall point out the connexion between the mercy of God and his fear; or explain the import of this exprefion, “ There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest “ be feared."

IH. I shall make some practical improvement of the suliject.

1. First, then, let us attempt to give a brief view of the discoveries which God hath made of his mercy, as the foundation of the finner's hope ; or, in other words, New what reason we have to believe, that there is forgiveness with him. For this purpose I observe, firft of all, that the patience and forbearance of God towards finners, in the course of his providence, is the effect of his mercy. Even this afforils fome faint hope, that there may be forgiveness with him. See the reasoning or the expostulation of Jonah on the respite of the destruction of Nineveh Jonah iv. 2. " And lie prayed unto the Lord and said, “I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I “ was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto “ Tarihih : for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and

merciful, flow to anger, and of great kindness, and " repentest thee of the evil.” The sentence being fufpended, there is time given to apply for pardon, and space for the exercise of repentance, with a peradventure, or who can tell, whether he may not be gracious. We may add to this, his continual benignity and kindness to all bis creatures, not excepting the evil, the unthankful, and the unholy. The native tendency of both these is to lead the guilty to repentance, as we are told, Rom. ii. 4. " Or despiselt thou the riches of his goodness and for"s bearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the " goodness of Goch leadeth thee to repentance ?"

But though this ought to be mentioned, I am very sensible, how infufficient it is of itself to give canfolation to a wounded [pirit. Taking in the whole plan of providence, there are so many tokens of our Creator's displeasure, so much to be seen of the justice and holiness, as well as of the goodness of God, that it must leave the finner fill · under a dreadful uncertainty in a matter of fuch infinite concern, Torn by the fufpicion which is inseparable from guilt, he is full of restless anxiety; and knowing that he must fhortly appear before God in an unembodied ftate, he is often putting this question to himself, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord? How fhall I be able to stand in the judgment ? And therefore,

2. God hath revealed himself in his word, as merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and flow to anger. This was the great truth on which the finner's hope depended ever since the apostasy of our first parents. Never since that time could any man produce his title to divine favor in his own obedience: and therefore the mercy of God early intimated in the first promise, continued to make, if I may speak so, ihe leading part of the divine character in all the discoveries he made of himself. Thus, at the gi. ving of the law, Exod. xxxiv. 5, 6, 7. " And the Lord u descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and

proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord pair“ed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, 'The " Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and

Vol. I.

PP

“ abundant in goodness and truth. Keeping mercy for " thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and fin, " and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the

iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the “ childrens children, unto the third and to the fourth ge“ neration.” To the fame purpose the Pfalmift David, Psal. ciii, 8. “ The Lord is merciful and gracious, flow

to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” Hear also the prophet Micah; Micah vii. 18. Who is a God like unto “ thee, that pardoneth iniquity; and passeth by the trans“gression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth “ not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.'

I do not here stay to consider what hints were given in the ancient dispensation, of the atonement which was afterwards to be made by the incarnation of the Saviour. Doubtless there was some respect to this in the very first promise of the seed of the woman, and also in the promise to Abraham, that in his seed all nations of the earth should be blessed. The same thing was prefigured by the sacrifices, and shadowed out by many different rites of the Mosaic economy. It must, however, be allowed, that the faithful in those ages saw it only obscurely, and of con. fequence understood it very imperfectly. But it was on the revealed mercy of God, which they were obliged to seek in the way appointed by himself, that they placed their entire dependance.

I cannot help observing to you, how very encouraging the assurances of pardon are through many passages of the Old Testament; how very gracious the invitations to the finner, as if they had been contrived on purpose to remove the jealousy which the guilty are too apt to entertain ; Isa. i. 18. “Come now and let us reason together, , “ faith the Lord: though your fins be as scarlet, they shall “ be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson,

they shall be as wool.” Ifa. xliii. 25. “ I, even I am “ he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, “and will not remember thy sins.” Isa. xliv. 22. “ have blotted out as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and

as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me, for I have redeem. “ ed thee.” Ifa. ly. I, Ho, every one that thirfteth,

[ocr errors]

"come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money ; “ come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk “ without money, and without price.” Is this the word of God? Are these passages written for our benefit ? Is there any thing more plain, than that God is merciful and gra. cious; nay that he delighteth in mercy? How great encouragement is this to the exercise of repentance? In this very view, indeed, it is urged by the prophet in the 6th and 7th verses of the last cited chapter; “ Seek ye the " Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while " he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the

unrighteous 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.”

I shall only add, that as the scripture every where bear3 testimony to the readiness of God to pardon returning finners, so there are also many passages in which he de. clares his readiness to pardon the failings which continue to cleave to his own people, and treat them with the ut. • most tenderness and grace: Psal. ciii. 13.

" Like a father “ pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear “ him." Ifa. xl. II.

" He shall feed his flock like a “ shepherd : he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and is

carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that " are with young.” Mal. iii. 17. “ And they shall be “ mine, faith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make

up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth " his own son that serveth him."

3. But that nothing may be wanting for the complete illustration of this truth, observe that it appears in the clearest manner, from the gospel of Christ, that there is forgiveness with God. In the fulness of time, God sent his own son in our nature, to be a victim and sacrifice for our offences, to bear our sins in his own body on the tree. In this astonishing event, indeed, the love and mercy of God shines with the brightest luftre: John iii. 16. “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only be

gotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should “ not perish, but have everlasting life.” In this great transaction, we have not only an afsurance of obtaining,

but see the price paid for the purchase of our pardon : i Pet. i. 18.

* For ye were not redeemed with cor“ ruptible things, as filver and gold, from your vain con. “ verfation received by tradition from your fathers.” Inftead of finding the justice of God stand in the way of our reconciliation and peace, justice being fully satisfied, feals the pardon, and adds to the comfort of the finner. In the infinite value of this atonement, we may fee the extent of the divine mercy. In the infinite power of this Saviour, we may see the perfect security of those who put their trust in him. Salvation, in all its parts, is offered to the chief of finners : so that, as the apostle expreffes it, Heb. vi. 18. That by two immutable things, in which “ it was impoflible for God to lie, we might have a strong “consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon " the hope fet before us.”

II. I proceed now to the second thing proposed; which was, to point out the connexion between the mercy of God and his fear, or explain the import of this expresfion, “ There is forgiveness with thee that thon mayest be “ feared.” The import of this expreffion must be a little different, as we underftand the word fear, which is fop.etimes taken in a larger, and sometimes in a more limited sense. Sometimes, as being fo eminent a part, it is made use of to signify the whole of religion ; fometimes it fignifies that awe and veneration of the sacred majesty of God with which every one of his servants ought to be habitually possessed. I shall briefly conlider it in both thefe views, there not being the least opposition between them, and both carrying in them the most important and falutary instruction.

If we take the fear of God in the text to fignify the whole of that duty and obedience we owe to him, then the connexion between forgiveness with God and his being feared, appears froin these two considerations.

1. A discovery of the mercy of God is absolutely ne. cessary to his being loved and served by those who have once been finners. Despair of mercy drives the finner from God, presents him only as the object of terror and averlion ; and, instead of having the least influence in

« PreviousContinue »