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ly painful illness shewed me the absurdity of my course of life; filled me with a keenness of remorse, that seemed an anticipation of hell; put me on beseeching God to grant me a few years more of his patience; and brought me to a solemn adjuration that I would employ the remaining part of my life in repairing the past. All these have been fruitless; all these ineans have been useless; all these promises have been false; and yet I may have access to a throne of grace. What love! What mercy!
This long-suffering of God with impenitent sinners will be one of the most terrible subjects they can think of when the avenging moment comes ; when the fatal hour arrives in which the voice of divine justice shall summon a miserable wretch to appear, when it shall bind him to a death-bed, and suspend him over the abyss of hell.
But to a poor sinner, who is awaking from his sin, who, having consumed the greatest part of his life in sin, would repair it by sacrificing the world and all its glory, were such a sacrifice in his power: to a poor sinner, who, having been for some time afraid of an exclusion from the mercy of God, revolves these distressing thoughts in his mind, Perhaps the days of my visitation may be at an end; henceforth perhaps my sorrows may be superfluous, and my tears inadmissible: to such a sinner, what an object, what a comfortable object, is the treasure of the forbearance and long-suffering of God that leadeth to repentance. My God, saith such a sinner, I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies ! Gen. xxxii, 10. My God, I am tempted to think that to doubt of my interest in thy favor is the rendering of a proper homage to thy mercy, and my unbelief would arise from my veneration for thy majesty! But let me not think so; I will not doubt of thy mercy, my God, since thou hast condescended to assure me of it in such a tender manner! I will lose myself in that ocean of love, which thou, O God infinitely good! still discoverest to me, I will persuade myself thou dost not despise the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart, and this persuasion I will oppose to an alarmed conscience, to a fear of hell that anticipates the misery of the state, and to all those formidable executioners of condemned men, whom I behold ready to seize their prey!
My brethren, the riches of the goodness and forbearance, and long-suffering of God, are yet open to you: they are open, my dear brethren, to this church, how ungrateful soever we have been to the goodness of God; how much insensibility soever we have shewn to the invitations of grace; they are open to the greatest sinners, nor is there one of my hearers who may not be admitted to these inexhaustible treasures of goodness and mercy.
But do you still despise the riches of the longsuffering of God? What! because a space to repent is given, Rev. ii. 21. will you continue in impenitence? Ah! were Jesus Christ in the flesh, were he walking in your streets, were he now in this pulpit preaching to you, would he not preach to you all bathed in sorrows and tears? He would weep over you as he once wept over Jerusalem, and he would say to this province, to this town, to this church, to each person in this assembly, yea, to that wicked hearer, who affects not to be concerned in this sermon, O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace ! Luke xix. 42. What am I saying! he would say thus ! He doth say thus, my dear brethren, and still interests himself in your salvation in the tenderest and most vehement manner. Sitting at the right hand of his Father, he holds back his avenging arm which is ready to fell us to the earth at a stroke; in our behalf he interposeth his sufferings and his death, his intercession and his cross; and from the top of that glory to which he is elevated, he looks down and saith to this republic, to this church, to all this assembly, and to every sinner in it: O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!
My brethren, the patience of God, which yet endures, will not always endure. The year, which the master of the vineyard grants, at the intercession of the dresser, to try whether a barren figtree can be made fruitful, will expire, and then it must be cut down, Luke xiii. 6. Do not deceive yourselves, my brethren, the long-suffering of God must produce in the end either your conversion or your destruction. O may it prevent your destruction by producing your conversion! The Lord grant you this favor! To him, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Who would not fear thee, O King of nations ? For to thee doth
ful, and Goin. There her praise or bit is carried
THE Prophet aims, in the words of the text,
I to inspire us with fear, and the best way to understand his meaning is to fix distinct ideas to the term. To fear God is an equivocal phrase in all languages; it is generally used in three senses in the holy scriptures.
1. Fear sometimes signifies terror; a disposition, that makes the soul consider itself only as sinful, and God chiefly as a Being who hateth and avengeth sin. There are various degrees of this fear, and it deserves either praise or blame, according to the different degree to which it is carried.
A man, whose heart is so void of the knowledge of the perfections of God, that he cannot rise above. the little idols which worldlings adore; whose notions are so gross, that he cannot adhere to the purity of religion for purity's sake; whose taste is so vitiated that he hath no relish for the delightful union of a faithful soul with its God; such a man deserves to be praised, when he endeavoreth to restrain his sensuality by the idea of an avenging God.' The apostles urged this motive with success, knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men, 2 Cor. v. 11. Of some have compassion, saith St. Jude to the ministers of the gospel, making a difference ; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, ver. 22, 23. Such a disposition, is, without doubt, very imperfect, and were a man to expect salvation in this way, he would be in imminent danger of feeling those miseries, of which he is afraid. No casuists, except such as have been educated in an infernal school, will venture to affirm, that to fear God in this sense, without loving him, is sufficient for salvation. Nevertheless this disposition is allowable in the beginning of a work of conversion, it is never altogether useless to a regenerate man, and it is of singular use to him in some violent temptations, with which the enemy of his salvation assaults him. When a tide of depravity threatens, in spite of yourselves, to carry you away, recollect some of the titles of God; the scripture calls him the mighty and the terrible God; the furious Lord ; a consuming fire, Neh. ix. 32. Nahum i. 2. Heb. xii. 29. Remember the terrors, that your own consciences felt, when they first awoke from the enchantment of sin, and when they beheld, for the first time, vice in its own colors. Meditate on that dreadful abode, in which criminals suffer everlasting pains for momentary pleasures: The fear of God, taken in this first sense, is a laudable disposition.
But it ceaseth to be laudable, it becomes detestable, when it goeth so far as to deprive a sinner of a sight of all the gracious remedies, which God hath reserved for sinners, I heard thy voice, and I was afraid, and I hid myself, said the first man, after his fall : but it was because he was naked, Gen. iii. 10. it was because he had lost the glory of his primitive innocence, and must be obliged to