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This passage contains a most encouraging truth, that, however vile and abandoned a sinner has been, yet, upon his repentance, he becomes God's dear son, his favorite child. He will, from that moment, regard him, provide for him, protect him, and bring him to his heavenly inheritance, as his son and heir; for “ Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,” &c. Rom. viii. 38, &c. “ shall separate him from his father's love ; but he shall inherit all things.” Rev. xxi. 7. Yea, all things are his already in title, and he shall be made “
greater than the kings of the earth ;" he shall be made such as becomes so dignified a relation as that of a Son to the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
And is not this magnet sufficient to attract all this assembly to their Father's house? Can you resist the almighty energy of such compassion ? Return, ye perishing prodigals! Return; though you have sinned against Heaven, and before your Father, and are no more worthy to be called his sons, yet return, and you shall be made his dear sons, his pleasant children.
Arc none of you in need of such strong consolation as this? Do you want encouragement to return, and are you ready to spring up and run to your father's arms, upon the first assurance of acceptance? If this be what you want, you have an abundance for your supply. Are all your souls then in motion to return? Does that eye which darts through the whole creation at once, now behold
your hearts moving towards God? Or am I wasting these gracious encouragements upon stupid creatures, void of sensation, that do not care for them, or that are so conceited of their own worth, as not to need them? If so, I retract these consolations, with respect
I to you, and shall presently tell you your doom. But let us farther pursue these melting strains of paternal pity.
“ For since I spake against him, I do carnestly remember him still.” Many and dreadful were the threatenings denounced against the sinner, while impenitent; and, had he continued impenitent, they would certainly have been executed upon him.—But the primary and immediate design of the threatenings are to make men happy, and not to make them miserable; they are designed to deter them from disobedience, which is naturally productive of misery, or to reclaim them from it, which is but to restrain them in their career to ruin. And consequently these threatenings proceed from love as well as the promises of our God, from love to the person, though from hatred to sin. So the same love which prompts a parent to promise a reward to his son for obedience, will prompt him also to threaten him, if he takes some dangerous weapon to play with : or, to choose a more pertinent illustration, for God is the moral ruler as well as the father of the rational world ; the same regard to the public weal, which induces a lawgiver to annex a reward to obedience, will also prompt him to add penalties to his law to deter from disobedience; and his immediate design is not to make any of his subjects miserable, but to keep them from making themselves and others miserable by disobedience; though when the threatening is once denounced, it is necessary it should be executed, to vindicate the veracity of the lawgiver, and secure his gorernment from insult and contempt. Thus when the primary end of the divine threatenings, namely, the deterring and reclaiming men from disobedience, is not obtained, then it becomes necessary that they should be executed upon the impenitent in all their dreadful ex. tent; but when the sinner is brought to repentance, and to submit to the divine government, then all these threatenings are repealed, and they shall not hurt one hair of his head. And the sinner himself will acknowledge that these threatenings proved necessary mercies to him, and that the denunciation of everlasting punishment was one means of bringing him to everlasting happiness, and that divine vengeance in this sense conspired with divine grace to save him.
Consider this, ye desponding penitents, and allay your terrors. That God, who has written such bitter things against you in his word, earnestly and affectionately remembers you still, and it was with a kind intent to you that he thundered out these terrors at which you tremble. These acids, this bitter physic, were necessary for your recovery. These coals of fire were necessary to awaken you out of your lethargy. Therefore read the love of your Father, even in these solemn warnings. He affectionately remembers you still; he cannot put you out of his thoughts.
Therefore my bowels (adds the all-gracious Jehovah) are troubled for him. Astonishing beyond conception ! how can we bear up under such words as these? Surely they must break our hearts, and overwhelm our spirits ! Here is the great God, who has millions of superior beings to serve him, and who is absolutely independent upon them all, troubled, his very bowels troubled, for a rebellious, useless, trifling worm! Be astonished at this, ye angels of light, who are the witnesses of such amazing, such unbounded compassion; and wonder at it, O ye sons of men, who are more intimately concerned in it, stand and adore, as it were, in statues of admiration! It is true these words are not to be taken literally, as though the Deity were capable of sorrow, or any of the human passions: but he here condescends to adapt himself to the language of mortals, and to borrow such images as will convey to us the most lively ideas of his grace and tenderness to mourning penitents; and no image can answer this end better than that of a father, whose bowels are yearning over his mourning child, prostrate at his feet, and who, with eager embraces, raises him up, assuring him of pardon and acceptance. If any of you now know what it is to receive a penitent child in this manner, while all the father is tenderly working within you, you may form some affecting ideas of the readiness of our heavenly Father to receive returning sinners from this tender illustration.
The Lord concludes this moving speech with a promise that includes in it more than we can ask or think, sealed with his own sacred name. I will surely have mercy, or (according to the more emphatical original) with mercy, I will have mercy upon him, saith the Lord; this is, I will show abundant mercy to him, I will give him all the blessings that infinite mercy can bestow; and what can be needed more? This promise includes pardon, acceptance, sanctification, joy in the Holy Ghost, peace of conscience, and immortal life and glory in the future world. Osirs ! what a God, what a Father is this! Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, &c. Micah vii. 18.
And can you, ye mourners in Zion, can you fear a rejection from such a tender Father ? Can
dread to venture upon such abundant mercies? Is there a
mourning Ephraim in this assembly? I may call you, as God did Adam, Ephraim, where art thou ? Let the word of God find you out, and force'a little encouragement upon you ; your heavenly Father, whose angry hand you fear, is listening to your groans, and will measure you out a mercy for every groan, a blessing for every sigh, a drop, a draught of consolation, for every tear. His bowels are moving over you, and he addresse es you in such language as this, “ Is this my dear son ? is this my pleasant child ?" &c.
And as to you, ye hardy impenitents, ye abandoned profligates, ye careless formalists, ye almost Christians, can you
hear these things, and not begin now to relent? Do you not find
your frozen hearts begin to thaw within you? Can you resist such alluring grace ? Can you bear the thoughts of continuing enemies
to so good, so forgiving a Father ? Does not Ephraim's petition now rise to your hearts, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned ? then I congratulate you upon this happy day; you are this day become God's dear sons, the children of his delights, &c.
Is there a wretch so senseless, so wicked, so abandoned, as to refuse to return? Where art thou, hardy rebel ? Stand forth, and meet the terrors of thy doom. To thee I must change my voice, and, instead of representing the tender compassions of a father, must denounce the terrors of an angry judge. Thy doom is declared and fixed by the same lips that speak to penitents in such encouraging strains; by those gracious lips that never uttered a harsh censure. God is angry with thee every day. Ps. vii. 11. Except thou repentest, thou shalt surely perish. Luke xiii. 3. The example of Christ authorizes me to repeat it again ; “Except thou repentest, thou shalt surely perish,” ver. 5. “The God that made thee will destroy thee; and he that formed thee will show thee no favor.” Isa. xxvi. 11. “ Thou art treasuring up wrath in horrid affluence against the day of wrath." Rom. ii 5. “God is jealous, and revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries; and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The mountains quake at him: the hills melt; the earth is burnt at his presence : yea, the world, and they that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure in the fier ceness of his
anger ? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.” Nahum i. 2–6. These flaming thunderbolts, sinners, are aimed at thy heart, and, if thou canst harden thyself against their terror, let me read thee thy doom before we part. You have it pronounced by God himself in Deuteronomy, the twentyninth chapter, at the nineteenth and following verses, “If it come to pass that when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart—The Lord will not spare him: but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven; and the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law.” And now, sinner, if thou canst return home careless and senseless with this heavy curse upon thee, expect not a word of comfort, expect no blessing till thou art made truly penitent; for“ how shall I bless whom God has not blessed ?" The ministerial blessing falls upon one on thy right hand, and one on thy left, but it lights not upon thee. The curse is thy lot, and this must thou have at the hand of God, if thou continuest hardened and insolent in sin. Thou must lie down in sorrow. Isa. i. 11. Consider this, all ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Ps. i. 22.
CHRIST PRECIOUS TO ALL TRUE BELIEVERS.
1 Peter ii. 7.-Unto you therefore which believe, He is
Yes; blessed be God; though a great part of the creation is disaffected to Jesus Christ; though fallen