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lying under the guilt of atrocious, aggravated, and repeated crimes ! Though great profligates often defert the ordinances of God, that they may sin at greater ease, and meet with less resistance; yet, in lo numerous an assembly as this, there is reason to suppose there are not a few of the chief of finners; the rather, that while fome defert the ordinances, that they may have ease from within, others attend them as a cover; that they may blind their neighhours, and meet with less suspicion or disturbance from without. How, then, can murderers, fornicators, swearers, drunkards, thieves, and retainers of unjust gain, hear what hath been faid on this fubject without trembling for themselves ! Hear for your souls fake; hear for etei nity's fake ; hear, I beseech you, for Christ's fake. O that the Spirit of God may carry home the truth, and make it “ quick and powerful, sharper than a
two-edged sword,” Heb. iv. (12. It is an easy thing for you now to diffemble the fins which men would punish, and even to boast of: the fins which men muft tolerate; but hear and remember the two following passages : Heb. iv. “ All things are naked, and opened unto
of him with whom we have to do;" and, Heb. X. 31. “It is a fearful thing to fall . into the hands of the living God.”
3. In the last place, If any. Christian desires to keep his conscience tender and faithful, to have a deep growing and humbling sense of his own linfulness ; if he would bar the gate against the entrance of pride, or banish it after it has obtained admission; if he desires to walk humbly
and watchfully,—let him live as in the presence of God, let him often fist himself at his awful tribunal. It is easy to justify ourselves before men, who have so little to require, and from whom so much may be concealed. The truth is, it is not a great matter to be able to set the world at defiance. But to look up to that God who fitteth upon
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, lie 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 themselves now, but shall stand at last with unutterable confusion before the supreme judge, ready to pronounce the irreversible fentence.
But there is forgiveness with thee; that thou
mayst be feared.
Fter considering our own miserable and
guilty state, and how little any plea 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 foundation of our hope and peace. This is of the utmost necessity to every penitent. When a sense of fin 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 must either fasten upon some ground of hope, or suffer shipwreck upon the rocks of despair. There are indeed, alas that we should be so liable to delusion! many ways of weakening the force of conviction, and obtaining 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 foul, from which he is resolved never to depart.
Believe it, Christians, the more the finner looks into his own state, the more real and tho. rough his acquaintance with his own heart is, the more he finds, that not the least
of hope can arise from that quarter. This is precisely the import of the psalmist's declaration in this passage, taking the one branch of it in connection with the other ; as if he had said, When I consider how great and multiplied my transgreflions have been, I must stand speechless, and without excuse, 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 fee nothing in myself to plead. Thy law accuses me. My own conscience paffes sentence upon me. I am not able to support 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 confolation there is forgiveness with thee; fo that thou mayst and oughtest to be feared. In discoursing further on this subject, which 1 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, show what reason we have to believe, that there is forgiveness with him.
2. I shall point out the connection between the mercy of God and his fear; or explain the Vol.I.
import of this expression, • There is forgive“ ness with thee, that thou mayst be feared.”
3. I shall make some practical improvement of the subject.
1. 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, shew 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 finners, 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 Jonah 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 mer“ ciful, flow to anger, and of great kindness, and “ repentest thee of the evil.” The sentence being fufpended, 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. ii, 4. “Or defpifest thou