« VorigeDoorgaan »
be this: “God is Love;" • therefore he will not .cause any creature to suffer, unless some wise, holy, and benevolent purpose can be answered by its sufferings.' It would not consist with infinite love to give one moment's needless uneasiness; and it may
consist with infinite love to make sinners eternally miserable; if the glory of God, and the interests of the universe through eternal ages, render it.indispensably necessary. Facts demonstrate, to all who allow God to be infinite in justice and goodness, that durable sufferings may be inflicted consistently with those perfections. Complicated and long-continued miseries are very common : and death, the most dreaded of all temporal evils, cannot possibly be avoided. This seems to bring matters to extremities : for if the greatest punishment which God hath threatened to inflict on sinners in this world, never fails to be executed; who can prove, or even probably conjecture, that the Lord will not accomplish his most tremendous denunciations of eternal misery? He is Truth as well as Love: and will any man seriously attempt to exalt his love by denying his truth? He hath said, that “ the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from “ heaven--in flaming fire, taking vengeance on " them that know not God, and that obey not the
gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be
punished with everlasting destruction;" for " they shall go away into everlasting punishment'."
Matt, xxv, 46. 2 Thess. i, 8.
And surely“ God is not a man that he “ should lie-hath he said, and shall he not " do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make “ it good'?”
The grandest display of the love of God doth equally declare his justice and holiness: and will not men allow that he is Love, unless he will, as it were, abdicate his throne, dishonour his name, and neglect the interests of his obedient subjects, in order to preserve impenitent rebels from deserved punishment? These reflections ought rather to convince us, that there is a malignity in sin, of which men are not aware; seeing God so terribly threatens and severely punishes his offending creatures, and yet rescues a penitent remnant in so stupendous a manner.
But some still contend that God will save all sincere persons, each in his own way; and support this antiscriptural opinion by the words of our text.-- Leaving at present the case of those who never were favoured with the clear light of divine revelation : let it be observed, that if they, who are fully informed, or might be did they properly improve their advantages, persist in neglecting the way of salvation revealed in the scriptures to depend on their moral virtues, rational schemes, or self-invented observances; if they treat the truth of God as a lie, and count that wisdom which
"Numb. xxiii, 19.
angels adore, to be foolishness; if they regard the stupendous love of God in giving his Son to be the Saviour of the world as needless; and then pretend that he will condemn no man for unavoidable errors: let them look to it, for evil is before them. The whole scripture declares unbelief to be the offspring of pride, and the love of sin: and that such men continue under the unqualified sentence of final condemnation.
Sincerity is an ambiguous term: sincerely to hate infinite good and despise infinite excellency; and thus to be very sincere in fighting against God and persecuting his saints; nay, sincerity in supporting the tenets of philosophy and morality, or superstition, against the sure testimony of God, is very different from sincere repentance, faith in Christ, love of his people, and obedience to his commands. Yet
either artfully or ignorantly, confound these distinct ideas; and then pretend that sincerity is all that is necessary to salvation.
But this short specimen must suffice: though many more false inferences from the text might be mentioned: the wise man has, however, summed them all up in one verse: “Because sentence against
an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore " the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in “ them to do evil!."
* Eccles. viii, 11.
IV. Let us in the last place make some practical use of the subject.
The view of the unfathomable love of God, which hath been given, should increase men's abhorrence of sin and dread of its consequences. The more glorious and excellent the Lord appears to be, the greater degree of odiousness must be contained in every transgression against him; and crimes committed under the clear light of the gospel must, on that account, be peculiarly inexcusable. While, therefore, sinners should take warning to flee from the wrath to come, (for “how will they escape
if “ they neglect so great salvation,” and harden themselves in disobedience, because our God is merciful?) it is incumbent on us all to humble ourselves more and more for all our numberless offences, as most hateful and unreasonable, because committed against infinite goodness and excellency.
On the other hand the subject is most delightfully suited to encourage the poor trembling penitent, how many or heinous soever his sins may have been. Poor desponding soul, remember that God is Love. Consider what he hath done to make way for the honourable exercise of his mercy. There were two obstacles in the way of our felicity; namely, his justice and our proud obstinacy. He hath removed the former by “not
sparing his own Son,” but giving him a sacrifice for our sins; and he overcomes the latter, when he“ gives us repentance to the acknowledging of “his truth.” If then thou dost now submit to his righteousness, confess thy sins, and apply for salvation, according to his merciful invitations; thou mayest assuredly expect a gracious reception: for he, who commended his love to his enemies, by giving his own Son to die for them, cannot reject the weeping contrite supplicant, who pleads the all-prevailing name of Jesus, in humble faith, and fervent desires of finding mercy and grace through him.
Here again we may learn the standard of true excellency. The most shining characters, which genius hath selected to immortalize, have commonly been illustriously mischievous; and the unqualified admiration, with which they are often mentioned, exceedingly misleads inexperienced youth. But God is Love; and the more we resemble and imitate him in this endearing attribute, the greater real excellency we unquestionably pos
Let us then be “ followers of God,” and “ walk in love,” after his pattern, in all the various displays of it which have been considered: then we shall certainly be known and approved as his children, and found meet for the eternal inheritance of his heavenly kingdom.
Finally, if we be conscious of having “fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us” in the gospel, let us receive the trials allotted us, as