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the throne of his holiness, is of infinitely greater moment, and of infinitely greater difficulty. He trieth the reins and the heart. He abhorreth evil. You see how Job defended himself against the accusations of his friends, held fast his integrity, and would not let it go ; but no sooner did God speak to him in the greatness of his power, than he confessed his vileness, and laid his hand upon his mouth. In the same manner, he that would guard against the impositions of a deceitful heart, that would not be abused by flattering friends, or led astray by a mistaken world; that would rather walk in the path of penitence than security ; let him live as in the presence of God. And happy, happy they, who take confusion of face to themselves now, and seek for mercy through the blood of the atonement, in comparison of those who justify themfelves now, but shall stand at last with unutterable confufion before the supreme judge, ready to pronounce the irreversible sentence.
But there ie forgiveness with thee; that thou mayest be
feared. FTER considering our own miserable and guilty
state, and how little any pleą which we can offer will avail before the holiness and justice of God, it is proper to turn our eyes to his mercy, as the only foun. dation of our hope and peace. This is of the utmost necelity to every penitent. When a sense of sin hath truly taken hold of the conscience, it is so intolerable, that no man can continue long in that condition. When the waves and billows of divine wrath are going over him, he maust either faften upon fome ground of hope, or fuffer shipwreck upon the rocks of despair. There are indeed, alas that we smould be so liable to delusion! many ways of weakening the force of conviction, and obtain. ing a temporary, imperfect, or false peace. But the only safe and stable ground of hope is the divine mercy. And happy the finner who obtains such discoveries of its extent and efficacy, as to make him cleave to it with undivided affection, and rest upon it as the anchor of his soul, from which he is resolved never to depart.
Believe it, Christians, the more the finner looks into his own ftate, the more real and thorough his acquaintance with his own heart is, the more he finds, that not the least ray of hore can arise from that quarter. This is precisely the import of the Plalmist's declaration in this
passage; taking the one tranch of it in connection with the other; as if he had said, When I consider how great and multiplied my transgressions have been, I must stand speechless, and without excufe, before thy holy tribunal, and justify thee, although thou shouldst condemn me. But Lord, thou art a God of infinite mercy. This I fix upon as the foundation of my hope. I see nothing in myself to plead. Thy law accuses me. My own confcience passes sentence upon me. I am not able to fup. port the view of thy justice and holiness. Whither can I fly, but to thy mercy? Here I desire to take refuge, and to my unspeakable consolation there is forgiveness with thee; so that thou mayest and oughteft to be feared. in discoursing further on this subject, which I intend to do in a manner entirely practical, I propose, in a dependence on divine grace, to follow this method.
1. I shall give a brief view of the discoveries which God hath made of his mercy, as the foundation of the finner's hope; or, in other words, shew what reason'we have to believe, that there is forgiveness with him.
2. I Mall point out the connection between the mercy of God and his fear; or explain the import of this exprefsion, " There is forgivenefs with thce, that thou mayest · feared."
3. I shall make some 'practical improvement of the subject.
I. First, then, let us attempt to give a brief view of the discoveries which God hath made of his mercy, as the foundation of the finner's hope ; or, in other words, thew what reason we have to believe, that there is forgiveness with him. For this purpose I observe, first of all, that the patience and forbearance of God towards sinners, in the course of his providence, is the effect of his mercy. Even this affords fome faint hope, that there may be forgiveness with him. See the reasoning or the expoftulation of Jouah on the respite of the destruction of Nineveh, Jonah iv. 2. “ And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, “ I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I
was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto •• Tarshish : 'for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and “ merciful, flow to anger, and of great kindness, and “ repentest thee of the evil.” The sentence being sufpended, there is time given to apply for pardon, and space for the exercise of repentance, with a peradventure, or who can tell, whether he may not be gracious. We may add to this, his continual benignity and kindness to all his creatures, not excepting the evil, the unthankful, and the unholy. The native tendency of both these is to lead the guilty to repentance, as we are told, Rom. ïi. 4. " Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and for“ bearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the
goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?" But though this ought to be mentioned, I am very sensible, how insufficient it is of itself to give consolation to a wounded spirit. Taking in the whole plan of providence, there are so many tokens of our Creator's displeasure, to much to be seen of the justice and holiness, as well as of the goodness of God, that it must leave the finner still under a dreadful uncertainty in a matter of such infinite
Torn by the fufpicion which is inseparable from guilt, he is full of restless anxiety; and knowing that he must shortly appear before God in an unembodied ftate, he is often putting this question to himself, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord? How shall I be able to stand in the judgment ? And therefore,
2. God hath revealed himself in his word, as merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and flow to anger. This was the great truth on which the finner's hope depended ever since the apoftafy of our first parents. Never since that time could any man produce his title to divine favor in his own obedience : and therefore the mercy of God early intimated in the first promise, continued to make, if I may speak fo, the leading part of the divine character in all the discoveries he niade of himself. . Thus, at the giv. ing of the law, Exod. xxxiv. 5,6,7. "And the Lord de. “ fcended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and
proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord paff
ed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The : Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and