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treasures of divine grace, shall still find, if he re. turn unto the Lord, and cast himself at the foot of him, who abundantly pardoneth, a goodness, a compassion, a love, that he could not liave imagined to find.
When we speak of the goodness of God, we mean, not only that perfection, which inclines him to communicate natural benefits to all creatures, and which hath occasioned the inspired writers to say, that All creatures wait upon him, that he may give them their meat in due season, Psal. civ. 27. that he left not himself without witness in doing good, Acts xiv. 17. But we mean, in a more especial manner, the grace of the gospel, of which the prophet speaks in the beginning of the chapter; Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and tat: yea, come buy wine and milk without money, and without price : Incline your ear, and come unto me : hear, and your soul shall live : and I
the sure mercies of David. Behold I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people, ver. 1, 3, 4. Who is this leader, whom God gave to be a witness to the people, that is, to manifest his attributes to the Gen. tiles ? What is this everlasting covenant ? What are these sure mercies of David ? Two sorts of authors deserve to be heard on this article, though on different accounts, the first for their ignorance and prejudice, the last for their knowledge and impartiality. The first are the Jews, who in spite. of their obstinate blindness, cannot help owning that these words promise the advent of the Messiah. Rabbi David Kimchi gives this exposition of the words: the sure mercies of Darid, that is the Messiah, whom Ezekiel calls David. They shall dwell. in the land that I have given them, they, and their children, and their children's children for ever ; and my servant David shall be their prince for ever, Ezek. xxxvii. 25. I purposely pass by many similar passages of other Jewish Rabbies. The other authors, whom we ought to hear for their impartial knowledge, are the inspired writers, and particularly St. Paul, whose comment on this passage, which he gave at Antioch in Pisidia, determine its meaning. There, the apostle, having attested the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, affirms that the prophets had foretold that event; and, among other passages, which he alledged in proof of what he had advanced, quotes this, I will give you the sure mercies of David, Acts xiii. 34. From all which it follows, that the object of our text is the goodness of God, and, in an especial manner, the love that he hath manifested unto us in the gospel; and this is what we undertook to prove.
Such views of the grandeurs of God are sublinie and delightful. The divine perfections are the most sublime objects of meditation. It is glorious : to surmount the little circle of objects that surrounds us, to revolve in a contemplation of God, in whose. infinite perfections intelligent beings will for ever find matter sufficient to employ all their intelligence. Behold the inspired writers, they were fond of losing their capacities in this lovely prospect. Sometimes they stood on the borders of the eternity of God, and viewing that boundless ocean, exclaimed, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world : even.. from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night, Psal. XC. 2, 4. Sometimes they meditated on his power,
and contemplating the number and variety of its works, exclaimed, O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. When we consider thy 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 ? Psal. viii. 1, 3, 4.' Sometimes their attention was fixed on the immensity of God, and contemplating it, they exclaimed, Whither shall we go from thy spirit ? or whither shall we flee from thy presence? If we ascend up into heaven, thou art there, if we make our bed in hell, behold thou art there : If we take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea ; even there shall thy hand lead us, and thy right hand shall hold us, Psai. cxxxix. 7, 10. But, however agreeable these objects of meditation may be, there is something mortifying and distressing in them. The more we discover the grandeur of the Supreme Being, the greater distance we perceive between ourselves and him. We perceive him indeed: but it is as an inhabitant of light which no man can approach unto, 1 Tim. vi. 16. and from all our efforts to know him we derive this reflection of the prophet, Such knowledge is too wonderful for me : it is high; I cannot attain unto it, Psal. cxxxix. 6.
But the meditation of the goodness of God is as full of consolation as it is of sublimity. This ocean of the Deity is an ocean of love. These dimensions, that surpass your knowledge, are dimensions of love. These distances, a part only of which are visible to you, are depths of mercy, and those words which God hath addressed to you, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, are equal to these: As far as heaven is above the
earth; or more fully, as far as ye finite creatures are inferior to me the infinite God, so far are your ideas of my compassion and love to you inferior to my pity and esteem for you. Try; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts ; let not the multitude, or the enormity of his crimes terrify him into a despair of obtaining the pardon of them: 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 Teays, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Having thus determined the object, and restrained the meaing ningofthe text, we shall proceed to adduce the proofs.
III. The prophet addresseth himself to two sorts of people; first, to the heathens, who knew no more of the goodness of God than what they had discorered by the glimmering light of nature: next, to some Jews,or to some christians, who indeed, knew it by the light of revelation, but who had not so high a notion of it as to believe it sufficient to pardon all their sins. To both he saith on the part of God; My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts, you Gentile philosophers. You know my goodness only by your speculations on the nature of the Supreme Being : but all that you discover, in this way, is nothing in comparison of what the Messiąh will teach you in the gosple. My thoughts are not your thoughts, you timorous consciences, you gloomy and melancholy minds. Behold I yet open to you treasures of mercy, which you thought you had exhausted: My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways : for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
First, The prophet addresseth heathens, who had no other knowledge of God than a few speculations on the nature of the First Being; and who were never able to discover three mysteries of divine love.
1. The mean by which God conciliated his justice with his love.
2. His patience with those who abuse this mean.
3. His intimate union with those who fall in with the design of his patience.
1. The first mystery of love, which the wisest pagan philosophers could never discover, is the mean that God hath chosen to conciliate his justice with his love.
Let us carefully avoid the forming of low notions of God; let us not imagine that the attributes of God clash: No, God is perfectly consistent with himself, and his attributes mutually support each other. When we say, the love of God resisted his justice, we mean that, according to our way of thinking, there were some inconveniencies in determining the fate of mankind after the entrance of sin. In effect, what must become of this race of rebels ? Shall God execute that sentence on them, which he hath pronounced against sin ? But chains of darkness, a lake burning with fire and brimstone, weeping and wailing through an endless eternity, excite the compassion of a merciful God : Shall he then allow these unworthy creatures to live under his protection? Shall so many idle words, so many criminal thoughts, so many iniquitous actions, so much blasphemy, so many extortions, the shedding of so much innocent blood, shall all these go unpunished ?. But were these allowed, his love of order and his veracity would be blemished. These are difficulties which all the uni