Or how could these, or indeed any other virtues, be exercised in a state, where every thought would habitually be trained to spring from the narrow views of self-interest, and every action be guided by the mercenary expectation of present reward?

. Thus we see then, that the impunity of the wicked is absolutely necessary, according to the present plan of God's moral administration. .

And secondly, The design of this impunity is no less evident, in consistency with the same plan, with respect to the sinuer himself. .

." As I live, says the Lord, I have no plea“ sure in the death of him that dieth, but rasther that he should turn from his sin and be “ saved: Turn ye, therefore, from your evil « ways; for why will ye die, O house of Is"rael?” Here then is the golden key of knowIedge, which unlocks that mystery of God's forbearance and the sinner's impunity, which perplexed and entangled so often * some of the wisest and most faithful of God's servants of old, who were ever ready to ery out, in the submissive, yet anxious, language of the prophet • David, Jeremiah, &c.


Jeremiah, “ Righteous art thou, O Lord, and
“ true are thy judgments: yet let me talk with
thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the
“ way of the wicked prosper? wherefore-do all
"they prosper that deal very treacherously?"-
Sensible of the infirmities of this frail nature
with which we are endued, our almighty Parent
does not surprise the sinner with sudden ven-
geance, does not cut him off in the midst of his
crimes and pleasures, but allows him time to re-
collect his dangerous condition, and to wash
away his past guilt with the tears of repentance
and contrition. Nay so far is he from being
thus extreme to mark what is done amiss, that,
on the contrary, he endeavours by every kind
and winning method to prevent his ruin. He
warns him by the soft whispers of conscience,
when he might wound him with the stings of
scorpions: he corrects him with the rod of love,
when his sins have deserved a rod of iron : he
leads him forth beside the waters of comfort,
when he might justly have given him the tears
of affliction to drink: he awakens his gratitude
by the mercies of an indulgent father, when
his crimes call for the severity of an incensed

[ocr errors]

And for the truth of this, I need only appeal to every man's own conscience. For who is

VOL. III. , . * . there,

there, even among the best of us, who is not, in an hour of reflection, sensible that God has long borne with his frail and perverse disposition, has suffered him to add sin to sin, and spared him from time to time, when he deserved punishment? Wherever we turn our eyes, we meet the mercies of his indulgent providence, and trace the footsteps of his kindness to us miserable sinners. In the day-time he has guided us with his almighty arm, and in the night season hath watched over us for our good. On the bed of sickness he hath comforted our drooping spirits, and in the hour of distress hath been our merciful refuge and support. Amidst the dangers of unguarded youth he hath preserved us from falling, nor hath he cast us avay in the time of age, or forsaken us when our strength failed. And, what is of all blessing's the most important, whilst thousands have fallen beside us, and ten thousands at our right hand, he hath prolonged our day of grace, and allowed us time to return and be saved. And all this he hath in mercy done, notwithstanding our repeated refusal of his mercy, our continued abuse of his love, our contempt of his threatenings, and our utter disregard of every thing he hath desired or commanded.


Bat though the kindness and forbearance of God be thus great and signal; yet,

: Secondly," It is the height of folly and madness to be thereby induced to continue in a state of sin and impenitence.

And here I would first recommend it to the sinner to consider, that though the vengeance of God may be slow, yet it is certain and unavoidable. He may indeed, for a few moments, riot in the spoils of the murdered widow, and triumph over the injured stranger or defenceless orphan: but his crimes will not always escape the notice of heaven: in the book of remembrance are they all written, The God of Israel doth not slumber or sleep. He that made the eye, the great fountain of light and knowledge, distinctly seeth, and will as assuredly punish, the guilt of the impenitent sinner. Though he suffer long, he will not always: though his mercies are over all his works, yet is his justice equally extensive. His forbearance and pity are a 'necessary refuge for the frailties of weak and fallible men, but were not intended as an encouragement for obstinate and deliberate offenders. If therefore we chuse to make a contrary use of them, and to convert what was designed for our advantage K2

into into our ruin, the fault is entirely our own, our' blood must be upon our own heads.

Let the sinner farther consider, that by thus abusing the mercy and forbearance of God, he adds to his other crimes those heavy ones of obstinacy and presumption. God has expressly declared, that “though hand join in hand,” though the sons of wickedness combine their united efforts, “ yet shall not sin go unpunished.” Now for the sinner, after such a declaration as this, to go on in his sins, what is it but to call in question the veracity of the eternal God, and impiously mock åt his avenging thunder? And can we suppose that he who dwelleth on high will overlook such outrageous insolence; that he will suffer his creatures to trample upon his authority, and despise his power with impunity? Would it not, even in our own judgment, debase the majesty of God, should he not vindicate the honour of his laws, and by his terrors convince a guilty world that he is a God of justice as well as mercy? . “ A God all mercy is a God unjust.”.

Night Thoughts, No. IV. What, therefore, hath the sinnner to expect but the severity of vengeance, and those torments,



« ElőzőTovább »