« VorigeDoorgaan »
The Mercy of God. [Ess. vi, attributes occupies its own province, and fulfils its own end; and, while they operate in different directions, there exists among them an entire congruity. God is benevolent: he is also holy: and his benevolence is incapable of being ever so exerted as to interrupt or annul his holiness. It can never be applied in such a manner as to confound the distinction between right and wrong, to destroy the standard of virtue, or to subvert that unalterable principle--that the wages of unrepented sin is DEATH.
V. Let it be remembered, however, that the holiness and benevolence of God meet in his attribute of mercy. When the Lord condescended to display his glory to Moses, he descended in the cloud, and
proclaimed the name of the Lord: “ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin;" Exod. xxxiv, 6, 7. Of all the attributes of the Deity indeed, there is none more largely unfolded in Scripture than his mercy-his gracious and unfailing disposition to pardon the iniquities of his children, on their forsaking their sins, on their turning back again to the God of their salvation, on their offering to him the acceptable sacrifice of a contrite heart. “If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity,” said David, “O Lord, who shall stand ? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. Let Israel hope in the Lord ; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption :" Ps. cxxx, 4, 7. “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not:” Lam. iii, 22. “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die ? saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his ways and live ?" Ezek. xviii, 23. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let
135 him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon :" Isa. lv, 7.
Nothing can be conceived more tender and exquisite than the compassions of Jehovah. He follows his unworthy children in all their wanderings; he visits and revisits them with his Holy Spirit; he suffers their rebellion long ; he pleads with them as a father; he says, “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:" Hosea xi, 8. The prodigal son, humbled under the miserable consequences of his dissolute life, returns with a penitent heart to his paternal home. His father beholds him while yet he is a great way off-runs towards him-falls on his neck and kisses him-puts on him his best robe-kills the fatted calf for his enter tainment—and fondly rejoices over him, because he "was dead, and is alive again, was lost, and is found :"
But it is in the scheme of redemption, as revealed to mankind in the Gospel of Jesus Christ—in that wonderful truth, that the Father gave the Son to be the Sacrifice for sin, and the Saviour of sinners-that the mercy of God towards his corrupted and degraded children is displayed in all its brightness, and in all its consistency with the holiness of his nature. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us:" Rom. v, 8.
“ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ:" Eph. ii, 4,5. "Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins ;" 1 John iv, 10. When we contemplate this
His Truth and Faithfulness. [Ess. vi. amazing scene, and are humbled in the view of it; when we hear the Spirit say, Come, and the bride say, Come, and, in compliance with the invitation, draw near to the “fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness ;" when we wash our robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb, and “take the water of life freely;"—then are we prepared to confess of a truth the perfect holiness of Jehovah—then also can we enter into the strength and spirit of the apostle's declaration, that “GOD IS LOVE;" 1 John iv, 16.
VI. Lastly, let it be observed, that God is true and faithful. “The word of the Lord is right, and all his works are done in truth;" Ps. xxxiii, 4. “The works of his hands are verity and judgment-all his commandments are sure; they stand fast for ever and ever; and are done in truth and uprightness:" Ps. cxi, 7, 8. The truth, no less than the mercy, of God, called forth the praises of his inspired servants. "I will worship toward the holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving-kindness, and for thy truth; for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name :" Ps. cxxxviii, 2. “ The Lord is good ; his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations :" Ps. c, 5. “Also the strength of Israel will not lie :" 1 Sam. xv, 29. “ If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself :" 2 Tim. ii, 13. The divine quality so plainly declared in these and numerous other passages of Holy Writ is of unutterable importance, because it affords a pledge of that eternal stability in the operation of all his other moral attributes, upon which his dependent creatures may place a perfect reliance. The word of the Lord is sure. His law is unalterable. His judgments are certain. His promises cannot fail. Let the wicked tremble before him, in the certain assurance that his threats will be executed that the day of his wrath
137 will come in its season. Let the righteous rejoice, because they have a faithful Creator, to whom, with absolute security, they may commit the keeping of their souls, 1 Pet. iv, 19; because “he which hath begun a good work in them, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Phil. i, 6; because they have an hope “which entereth into that within the vail,” as "an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast,” Hebrews vi, 19; because “he is faithful that promised," Heb. x, 23; because God, who “sent redemption unto his people hath commandeth his covenant for ever :" Ps. cxi, 9.
Such is a feeble sketch of the account presented to us in the Scripture, of the nature and character of God. In the recollection of the principal features of our subject, we are once more to observe, that there is no other God but Jehovah ; that this one God is from eternity to eternity; that he gave existence to all other beings, and is alone the Creator of the heavens and the earth; that, in the work of Creation, he displayed an absolute omnipotence and perfect wisdom; that he manifests the same attributes in the perpetual maintenance of the laws of nature; that he is the absolute sovereign of the universe, and orders the whole course of events by his providence; that he is invisible, yet omnipresent, filling his own works; that he is omniscient, penetrating the inmost recesses of the hearts of his children; that he is absolutely holy, the Fountain of purity, abhorring sin, rejecting and condemning all iniquity; that he is just, conducting his moral government on a system of righteous retribution, in which it is well with the good and ill with the wicked; that, in the application of this retributive system, he maintains a perfect equity: that he is good, abounding in benevolence towards all his sensitive creatures, protecting the injured and
[Ess. vi. oppressed, and, in an especial manner, extending his fostering care to those who fear and serve him; that, although he leaves the impenitent sinner, to suffer, yet he comforts and supports every contrite mourner, and overrules the afflictions of the righteous to their eternal advantage; that he is willing to forgive, and rich in mercy towards the whole degraded family of mankind; that, in the scheme of man's redemption, above all, it is made abundantly manifest, that God is love. Finally, that, in his truth and faithfulness, we have an unfailing warrant that his judgments will be executed, his mercies perfected, and all his promises found to be yea and amen for ever.
In retiring from the consideration of this awful subject, must we not exclaim with the Psalmist, “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him!” Must we not be humbled in the dust under a sense of the incomprehensible condescension of God, who is pleased to dwell in us, and to invite us, as a father, to dwell in Him? And ought we not to press with holy diligence after that better state of being, in which we shall know God,
even as we are known”-in which we shall find eternity not too long for contemplating the attributes, performing the will, and declaring the praises of JEHOVAH?