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every moment of that time which thou hast squandered away in idleness, sensuality, and the works of the flesh. Why doth he yet wait to be gracious, if he were not tenderly solicitous for thy welfare? Surely his sparing mer. cy must be intended to bring thee back to himself: He restrains his wrath, that his goodness, like coals of tire, may melt down thine impenitence, and thy hardness of heart: “ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, (as some men count slackness) but is long-suffering to us. ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2dly. The goodness of God, and his tender concern for the welfare of his creatures, is still more illustriously displayed in the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Cbrist, wbom God sent into the world for this very end,
, " that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” There we see a proof, the most strong and convincing that God himself could give, of his having “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that be should turn from his way and live." Would be have ransomed sinners at so costly a price as the blood of bis only begotten Son? would he have astonished angels with so wonderful an act of condescension, as to send Him who was the “ brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” to assume the likeness of sinful flesh, to submit to the infirmities of our low nature, nay, to the ignominy and pain of the cross? had not our everlasting welfare been an object of bis tenderest concern. Tbis surely, if duly considered, must remove all suspicions of his goodness, and destroy the jealousies even of the most distrustful mind. Behold Christ weeping over the impending fate of Jeru. salem, and bemoaning the hardness of heart of those who attended his ministry; view bim in his agony, and in his if you
conflict with the powers of darkness; hear bim on the cross praying for his enemies; and then suppose, are able, that your ruin can be pleasing to him who hath done so much to prevent it. But, in the
3d place, The various means which God employs for reclaiming men from their ways of folly and vice, afford another proof of bis goodness, and of his tender concern for their welfare. He is not only the Author of the gracious plan of our redemption, but he bath likewise set before us the most powerful motives to persuade us to embrace his offered favour, and to comply with his designs of mercy. Every consideration which can be supposed to work, either on our hopes or our fears, is set before us in the most striking light. The veil is removed from the invisible world; the joys of glorified saints, and the torments of despairing sinners, are made the subject of a clear revelation. How affectionately doth he invite men to turn unto him and live? “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord : though your sins he as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “ Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; bear, and your soul shall live." Even the threatenings of God are not so much the thunderings of his justice, as the loud rhetoric of bis mercy. He shakes the rod over us, that, by a timely submission, we may avert the stroke. And when all the methods used to reclaim a sinner have proved ineffectual, with what reluctance doth he at last execute bis threatened vengeance? “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as
Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.” Nay, after the fierceness of his anger hath consumed the transgressors, what regret doth he express that they should have extorted from him their own punishment? “O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” He atters these words as it were with a sigh, lamenting the folly and perverseness which had compelled him to such measures of severity against them: Not that God is influenced by any human passions; but because he could not otherwise communicate, in a manner intelligible to us, the deep concern which he takes in our welfare.
Nor are these mere expressions of kindness, which are upaccompanied with deeds to prove their sincerity, and to render them effectual: he hath iostituted an order of men to carry the glad tidings of salvation to every corner of the earth; to beseech sinners, in his name, to lay aside their enmity to him, which can only hurt themselves, and to return to that Almighty Being, who, though he stands in po need of them, is most sincerely willing to receive them into his favour, and to bestow on them everlasting happiness. “ We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” We are commanded to “preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” And to excite us to be diligent and faithful in the exercise of this office, he hath assured us, “that when the chief Shepherd shall appear, we shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
Is not this then an unanswerable proof that God hath no pleasure in the death of sinners? What stronger evidence of it could be give, than to send to them so many messengers, to beseech them in his name to turn and live? to employ on this kind errand creatures of the same nature with themselves, subject to the same pas. sions, exposed to the same temptations, who have the advantage of familiar intercourse with them, and who are always at hand, to help, to comfort, and to quicken them? Nay, he hath made it the duty of every man, in his place, to do all that he can for the conversion of others. " Exhort one another daily,” saith an apostle, 6 while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” “ Brethren,” saith the apostle James, "if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert bim, let bim know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." Nor shall this labour of love pass without a reward; for “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” But that nothing may be wanting to beget in us the firmest persuasion of the goodness of God, and of bis tender concern for the welfare of his creatures, let it be observed, in the
4th and last place on this head, That he hath selected some of the most notorious offenders in the different ages of the world to be monuments of the riches of his grace, that the chief of sinners might be encouraged to apply to bim for pardon and eternal life; who, without such examples, might have been ready to look on their case as desperate. How many, who were once sunk into the lowest degeneracy, are now in heaven, singing that grateful, triumphant song,
66 Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Fatber; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." There is Manasseh, one who used inchantment and di. vination, and who deluged the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood. There is Saul, once a blasphemer and a persecutor, who thus testifies of bimself, “For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Cbrist might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." There are some of those Corinthians who were once the scandal of their country, and the reproach of human nature, (1 Cor. vi. 11.) but being “washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God," are now walking in white, following the Lamb wbithersoever he goeth, and contemplating with wonder and joy the extent of that love “ which passeth knowledge.” Nay, there are some of the murderers of the Lord of glory, three thousand of whom were converted by the ministry of Peter in one day: and now they are rejoicing in the presence of that Jesus whom they crucified, and ascribing their eternal salvation to that blood which was shed by their own wicked bands. In one word, with such examples as these the Scripture is replenished; and God every where appears, like the father in the parable, stretching forth his arms to the prodigal son, and delighting to display the riches of his grace.
Such then are the positive and direct evidences of the goodness of God, and of his tender concern for the welfare of his creatures. I proceed now, as was proposed, in the
Second place, To examine some of the most plausible objections which are urged against the mildness and equity of the divine administration.