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grapes) by the pressing weight of our sins. In the first day of judgment a Saviour was promised before the curse was threatened. Notwithstanding sinful men break his laws, and trample on theth before his face; they“ resist, and grieve, and quench his spirit:" yet he delays the execution of judgment, that his “ longsuffering may lead them to repentance.” This will appear by considering that God's forbearing sinners is not, 1. For want of discovery of their sins, human justice may suffer a guilty person to escape punishment for want of clear evidence, but this case is not incident to the justice of heaven. « God is light" with respect to his purity and oniniscience. His fiery eye pierces through the thickest darkness wherein sins are committed, and all the arts of concealment used to cover them. He sees all the sins of men with the eye of a judge; “ all things are naked and open before his eyes with whom we have to do. Therefore it is said, “ God will require what is past,” and will observe what is to come, in order to judgment. 2. It is not from a defect of power that the wicked are spared. Great princes are sometimes hindered from the exercise of justice, when the guilty person is supported by a prevalent party against them : for the power of a prince is not in himself, but in those who are his subjects. Thus David was constrained to spare Joab, after the murder of Abner, because of his interest in the army ;
6 the sons of Zerviah were too hard for him," he feared their rebellious resistance. But the power of God is inherent in himself, and depends upon no creatures : “O Lord, be exalted in thine own power.” He fears none, and is to be feared by all. With one stroke of omnipotency he can destroy all his enemies for ever. He can with more ease subdue the most stubborn rebels, than we can breathe. His strength is equal to his authority, both are truly infinite. 3. The guilty are spared sometimes from the vicious partiality of prinees to their favourites, or a wretched neglect of justice : but the high and holy King is without respect of persons : he hates sin with a perfect hatred, and is angry with the wicked every day. The scripture gives an account why execution is respited : “the Lord is not slack, (as some men count slackness) but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentanee.” “ He waits to be gracious," and sparés men in order to their salvation.
5ly. It appears that God is ready to forgive, in that upon the
first suit of humble and penitent believers he presently pardons them. If we consider how long men continue in a course of voluptuous or profitable sins, how many repulses to the offers of mercy they are guilty of, it might justly be expected, that God should with disdain reject their petitions, or not be entreated without a long exercise of repentance, and continued, submissive, and earnest solicitations for his mercy. But the King of heaven keeps no state, the “ throne of grace” is always open and accessible to humble penitents: when their hearts are prepared, his ear is inclined to hear them. David, after his commission of very foul sins, and long continuing in a state of impenitency, yet upon his melting in the sense of his wickedness and resolution, to humble himself by a mournful acknowledgment of it, he was restored to the divine favour. “ I said I would confess my sins, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Repenting Ephraim is an admirable instance of God's relenting bowels to sinners : “ I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself; thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh ; I was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth : is Ephraim my dear Son ? Is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I earnestly remember him still : therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy on him, saith the Lord.” The prodigal upon his resolution to return to his father, and debase himself as utterly unworthy of being received as a Son, “ While he was in the way, his Father saw him at a distance, and ran to him, fell on his neck and kissed him, and entirely forgave his past rebellion. The soul-wounded publican said, “ Lord be merciful to me a sinner, and was justified rather than the proud pharisee.
6ly. It is a convincing argument, that God is ready to forgive sin, in that he affords grace to men to prepare them for his pardoning mercy. Repentance and faith are sacred plants that do not spring from our earth, but have their roots in heaven. “God gives repentance unto life.” Acts 11. “Faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephes. 2. In our corrupt state sin is natural to man, and hath entirely possessed all his leading faculties. “ The carnal mind is enmity against God,” Rom. S, and judges according to the carnal affections which deprave it. The will is rebellious, and strongly inclined to charming lusts : temptations are so numerous and delightful, that sinners will venture to be miserable for ever, to enjoy the pleasures of sin that die in the tasting. It is true, such are the inviolable inclinations of the human nature to happiness, that no man can love undisguised death, nor choose damnation for itself: yet the affection to sin is so overruling, that they will not forsake it though complicated with death. The wisdom of God tells us, “ those that hate me love death,” Prov. 9. that is constructively. Our Saviour compassionately reproves the Jews, “ ye will not come to me that ye may have life.” John 5. This is the cause of their remaining in a state of guilt for ever.
Now such is the mercy of God, that he gives his spirit, to assist men by his illuminating, preventing, restraining and exciting grace, to forsake their sins, that they may be saved : and if they did faithfully improve the lower degrees of grace, (though they can claim nothing by right) he would from his good pleasure afford them more grace : but they are so averse from God, and strongly bent to the present world, that they so long resist the pure motions of grace in their hearts, till the gales of the Spirit expire, and revive no more; according to that terrible threatening, “ my spirit shall no longer strive with man, for he is flesh.” Gen. 6.
Besides the common grace afforded to natural men, there is a super-effluence of grace bestowed upon some to convert them, which infallibly obtains its end. Those who are the patrons of free-will methinks should allow that God is master of his own will, and the free dispenser of his own grace. This special grace works powerfully, yet conveniently, to the reasonable nature. There is no charm so sweet, no constraint so strong, as the operation of it: for the understanding is convinced by so clear and strong a light, of our being undone for ever without God's pardoning mercy, “ that his loving-kindness is better than life;"> and this is represented to the will with that powerful application, that the will certainly chooses it. When there is a wavering and indifferency of the will to a propounded object, it is either from some defects in the object, or in the apprehension of it; but when the supreme good is so represented, that it fills all the capacities of the soul, the will as certainly embraces it, as one that is burnt up with thirst, and near a cool stream stoops and drinks to quench it. The holy spirit, who knows the manner of his own operations, expresses the efficacy of them in the resemblances of the creation and resurrection, wherein the divine power cannot be frustrated; yet it is so congruous to the frame of man's nature, that the freedom of the will is then in its most noble exercise : “men are drawn to Christ by the teachings of God;" not by overruling violence upon their faculties, but by instruction and persuasion suitable to them.
Now from hence it is evident that all the persons in the Godhead concur in bestowing this admirable blessing, the pardon of our sins: they all willingly join in this undivided work, though with different operations. The father pronounces our pardon from the throne : his majesty shines without diminution or condescension of his person in forgiving us. The Son purchased our pardon by the sacred treasure of his blood. The holy spirit qualifies us, and applies the pardon of our sins to us.
3. I now come to notice, that God is abundant in forgiveness. This God has declared in words so full and expressive, as may exceedingly satisfy the most tender and fearful spirits : “ 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. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways, than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." The distance is so great between the heavens and the earth, that the sun, so vast a globe of light, seems to be of a small circumference; and the stars of the first magnitude, though many times bigger than the earth, appear like glittering pomts of light. This comparison is so convincing as may assist us in our contemplation of his merey. The apostle saith, “ God is rich in mercy.” Ephes. 2. It is not said, that he is rich in substance, though the earth be the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. He is rich in his own perfections, not in external things. It is not said, God is rich in power, though he is almighty; nor in justice, but in merey : this signifies, that of all the divine perfections, none do shine so radiantly as his mercy. This refleets a
lustre upon his other attributes. His goodness is the foundation of his glory. He pardoned ten thousand talents to the servant that was insolvent, and his treasure is unwasted.
I will consider the extent of his pardoning mercy, and the entireness of it.
1. The extent of it, with respect to the number and quality of the sins that are pardoned.
Ist. The number of them. David, after an attentive consideration of the purity and perfection of God's law, breaks forth in a very great anxiety, “Who can understand his errors ?” Who can enumerate the many defections from that strait rule of our duty ? “ In many things we offend all." We are obliged perpetually to obey and glorify God: yet in every action, even in our religious duties, there are many defects and defilements that want pardon. How many swarms of vain and unprofitable thoughts of carnal, covetous, proud, envious, and revengeful thoughts and desires lodge in the hearts of men ? What a torrent of idle, sensual, vain-glorious and passionate words flow from their lips? How many thousand sinful actions proceed from them? When the enlightened conscience seriously reflects upon our sins of omission and commission, how astonishing is their vast number? What a mountainous heap appears? They reach as low as hell, and rise as high as heaven. It would tire the hand of an angel to write down the pardons that God bestows upon one penitent believer.
2dly. Divine forgiveness extends to sins of all kinds and de grees, habitual and actual. Though no sins are absolutely small, being committed against the majesty of God, yet comparatively, with respect to their quality and eircumstances, there is a manifest difference between them. Some are of a weaker tincture, some are of a deeper die : some slightly wound the conscience; somé waste it, and let out its vital blood : some do as it were whisper against the sinner, some cry for vengeance. Sins of ignorance and infirmity, sins of sudden surreption, that steal upon us without observing, sins by surprise of the passions, when there is no tiine to deliberate, have extenuating circumstances: but sins against light, wherein there is more of the nature of sin; sing against mercies, which in the language of the apostle, are a “ despising of God's goodness :" sins against solemn vows, wherein men break double bands, the law of God and their sacred en