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interfering interests, or selfish views, may cause unequal returns for benefits conferred; but in the case before us, there is something entirely different from this. Sinners not only injure, or rather attempt to injure, their greatest benefactor, the God in whom they live avd move, by whose power and goodness they are supported every moment; but his goodness to them in times past, and the hope of its continuance, are the very things that embolden them to offend him; and because sentence against their evil work is not speedily executed, therefore their heart is fully set in them to do evil.” Devils may be capable of this, but guilty of it they are not ; their forlorn condition hath put it beyond their reach; the immediate execution of the doom they had incurred, afforded them no opportunity of trampling upon the mercy of God: so that, with regard to the act of sin, we plainly exceed them in this respect. O that men could be brought to view their conduct in its true light, I am sure they would loathe and ablor themselves on account of it. To burden God's patience because it is great; to load him with insults, because, out of pity to us, he is slow in resenting them; to harden our hearts by that very mercy which should dissolve and soften them; this is worse than devilish ; there is something in this so perverse, so monstrous, so unnatural, that one would be tempted to suspect, that some malicious slanderer of human nature had forged the accusation, were we not all conscious of the truth of it, and more or less convicted of this horrid baseness by the testimony of our own consciences. These considerations, metbinks, should be sufficient to deter us from burdening the patience of God any more. But I have further to add, in the
3d place, That the consequences of this abuse shall, in the issue, be most fatal to the sinner himself. You
cannot defeat the purposes of God, nor impair his glory in any degree; the weapons of your rebellion must re. coil upon yourselves; for God will be magnified in them that perish, as well as admired in those who are saved. As the justice of his nature renders his mercy more wonderful, so mercy abused will make justice to shine forth with greater splendour. Sinners must stand speechless before the judgment-seat, and shall find nothing to plead in their own defence, when the Judge shall say to them, 6 Ye would not come unto me, that you might have life." Long did I stand at the door and knock, loudly did I call upon you to turn and live: but ye set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof; therefore now eat the fruit of your own doings, and fill yourselves with your own devices. Because when I called, ye refused; when I stretched out my hand, ye did not regard; therefore do I laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh, and leave you to inherit that wrath which you treasured up for yourselves, while mercy courted your acceptance, but did not prevail.
Thus far I have spoken for the conviction and reproof of those who have hitherto been abusing the divine patience in the manner described in my text; and if such transgressors still remain unmoved, it is not because the considerations I have suggested want weight, but because they want feeling. May the exalted Prince and Saviour, who alone can give the spirit and grace of repentance,“ open their eyes, and turn them from dark- . ness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified through faith that is in him."
Upon the whole, let each of us give unto God the glory of his patience, and acknowledge, with humble gratitude, his sparing mercy towards himself in parti cular. O my friends! with what multiplied provocations are we all chargeable? Let us pitch upon the most innocent day of our life since we came to the full exercise of Reason, and say, if we dare, that we are willing to have our final state determined by the behaviour of that one day, according to the measure of legal justice. Can conscience remind us of nothing that needs forgiveness or pardoning mercy ? Surely none of us will be so hardy as to say this: our own hearts do, and must, condemn us; how guilty then must we appear in the sight of that God who is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things? Were we chargeable with nothing worse than omissions of duty, yet these alone might justly have stopped the current of his beneficence, nay, brought down his wrath upon such unfaithful and negligent servants; but when to these we add our many sins of commission, our sins against knowledge, conviction, and reproof, how great is their amount? how heinous their demerit? How astonishing then is the patience of God! The saints in heaven are amazed at it; “the souls of them that were slain for the testimony which they held," who are better acquainted with the nature of God, and the order of bis government, than we can be, are represented in the book of the Revelations, (chap. vi. 10.) as expressing the greatest surprise at the slowness of his wrath; nay, as being at a loss to reconcile his patience with his holiness and truth. “ They cry with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge, and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” And it can be owing to nothing but the grossest insensibility, if our hearts are not filled with amazement at those treasures of mercy which have alseady been expended upon us, and the overflowings of that goodness by which we are at this moment supported and preserved. How many of our companions have long ago been summoned away to receive their doom? yet we still live in the arms of mercy. How often bas death been presented to our view, and the sentence (in our own apprehension) just ready to be executed, Cut down this cumberer of the ground ; when, lo! mercy interposed, and prevailed for a farther respite and trial? What shall we say then? “ He is God, and not man; and therefore it is that we are not consumed.” 0 let our souls, and all that is within us, be stirred up to bless him, because he is good, and bath not executed sentence against our multiplied offences.
Let convinced sinners, in particular, take encouragement from the patience and long-sufferings of God. It is one of the deadly artifices of the adversary, who continually “goeth about seeking whom he may devour,” to discourage the newly-awakened soul, by whispering, that the season of mercy is past, that the door is shut, and he is come too late. But be not dismayed, you are on the way to the fountain of love and grace; go on, and you shall find more than it is possible for you to conceive. You are going to him, “ who came to seek and to save that which was lost;"—that good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, by whose merit and intercession you have been kept alive to this hour; who invites the chief of sinners to come to him; and hath expressly said, “ Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” He is “ the Lamb of God," meekness and gentleness itself.-—“ He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” Did he spare you, while your heart was as bard as a stone ? and will he destroy you, when, by the convincing influences of his own Spirit, it is softened, nay broken, with sorrow ?-Impossible!-Go forward into his presence; cast yourself at his feet; implore his protection; and as God liveth thy soul shall be safe.
To conclude. The patience of God affords the strongest consolation to those who are already reconciled to him through the great Mediator. He who waited so long upon you, and at length gained your consent, will most assuredly keep you, and perfect his own work in your complete salvation. The mercy he is still exercising towards enemies, teacheth his friends what they may lawfully hope to receive. Great are your privileges; but, at the same time, great and manifold are your obligations. Hath much been forgiven you? then you ought to love the more, and to show the truth and favour of your love, by an unreserved respect to all his commandments, “ Be followers of God, as dear children." Remember that nothing is more unseemly, nothing more offensive, than the provocations of sons and of daughters. “ See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise;" and let the same goodness which led you to repentance, be continually present to your minds, that under its sweet, but powerful influence, you may bring forth in rich abundance all those fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God. Amen.