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ON THE WORD OF GOD.
And the glory of the Lord fball be revealed.
Isa. xl. 5.
[Continued from page 71.]
AVING treated of the holiness and justice of God, as set forth in the Scriptures, it remains that we consider the Spirit's testimony concerning
And whereas mercy is that perfection of the Supreme, which comes between finners and total ruin; since a work of mercy is that which he has chosen for the exercise of all his attributes ; and since the record of mercy is that which publishes all that may be known of God: we are disposed to take a more extensive view of this branch of the divine character, and mean to devote to it the whole of the present paper.
In speaking of the mercy of God, it is needful to distinguish it from his goodness and forbearance. The former, strictly speaking, is invariably connected with, and brings nigh to all that are the subjects of it, that complete falvation, which men as finners require ; being difplayed towards them by the Father, in the gift of his Son Jesus Christ, in whom they have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of fins, in whom also they are made children of God -and heirs according to the promise. The latter make no provifion for the permanent welfare of any, manifested to all men, in the temporary suspension of merited evil, and in granting such present fa
vors to the unworthy, as are suitable to the designs of an all-wise providence. Accordingly when this world pafseth away, these likewise shall be withdrawn from all who have no better hope, and will leave them finally, as at first they found them, enemies of God, and children of wrath. However, these three must be confi. dered as having one grand feature in common, as it is the office of them all to bring relief to the deservedly wretched; and on this account we conceive it will be well to introduce the subject of mercy, with some observations on good ness and forbearance.
The dispensations of Divine Providence, as. unfolded in the Scriptures, unite in bearing witness, that the Lord is good to all, and exerciseth loving-kindness in the earth. Are men supplied with such things as their earthly state requires ? they are indebted to Him who hath prepared the light and the fun, and giveth the former and the latter rain in his season ; that he may cause herb to grow for the service of man, and provide him with bread to strengthen his heart. Are men rich in the possession of worldly affluence? They receive it from Him who giveth increase to the corn, and wine, and oil, that man's heart may be gladdened thereby ; who maketh the garners full, and affording all manner of store, that man may have abundance; and causeth the cattle to bring forth thousands and ten ihousands, that man may rejoice in their use. On the other hand, when men are deprived of those things in which earthly happi-ness seems to confift, the God of all comfort opens to them various sources of consolation. He affords pity and relief to the destitute and afflicted : He, in his own good time, giveth food to the hungry, and maketh the weary to ref. the cause of the stranger is his, and for the oppreffed HE executeth judgment : He is a father of the fatherless, and caufeth the widow's heart to fing for joy. Thus do the Scriptures manifeft the bounty and compassion of God, as extended to all mankind; and by their light we behold Him, who is the Savior of all men-making his fun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain on the juft and on the unjuft--whose tender mercies are over all his works. Alas! for those who, in the enjoyment of these favors, are yet ignorant of the grace of the gospel, and so, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentonce, abuse them to their aggravated condemnation.
cause ness that
But blessed, truly blessed, is the man who hath learned from the gospel to acknowledge God' as gracious in all his ways: who, poffefsing this world's bleflings, will with unfeigned thankfulness say, the Lord giveth; and, when brought low, can add with resignation, the LORD taketh away; for he remembereth that God is his portion, and that all things work together for good ; therefore he can join the prophet in that song, YET will I rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The goodness of God is further magnified, when we consider it in that peculiar character which it derives from the sinfulness of those on whom it is bestowed ;—when we view it in the light of forbearance. His own believing people, what experience have they of the forbearance and long-suffering of God! Compared with what they ought to be, how faithless and perverse are the best amongst them! How high-minded and untractable, how blind, how unsteady! Which of them can say, I have made my heart clean ? For in many things they all offend, and day by day they provoke their God to take his loving kindness from them. How patiently too did he bear with them during the time past of their life, before they knew his name; when they wrought the will of the flesh in all things, lived without God in the world, and, funk in the bondage of corruption, yielded themselves up to be the forvants of fin altogether! Surely, whether they consider their former or their present character, they have reason to say, it is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compaffrons fail not. But moreover unto the world at large, that lieth in darkness, and under the power of Satan, he exhibits himself a gracious God; and merciful, flow to anger, and of great kindness: He giveth them space to repent, but they will not turn unto him: he stayeth the arm of his vengeance, but they provoke him the more. Let favor be bewed to them, yet will they not learn righteousness : though he visit them with judgments, they will not understand. He giveth them his word, but they reject its couniel: he hath fent his messengers unto them, but these they have reviled and persecuted: He withheld not his own Son, but him they new and hanged on a tree. Nor let the men of this generation fay, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets, or in the flaying of the Just One. - Yė fiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resif the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did, fo do ye : for know, that by rejecting that word which the Holy Ghost that was in them fpake, ye bear witness that pe allow the derds of your fathers.--Thus does experience illustrate the description which Paul has given of God's conduct towards the objects of his final displeafure. We must acknowledge, with that Apostle, that he endureth with much long-suffering, vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ; for we behold him continually in the same gracious posture, which he assumed of old to his rebellious Israel, -all day long Aretching forth his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.
We come now to what is in the strictest sense called the mercy of God, or that perfection of kindness to the unworthy, which completely cancels their iniquities, and receives them into everlasting favor. In accents like these she addresses the guilty, I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy tranfgreffions, and as a cloud, thy fins : return unto me, for I have redeemed thee.
It is a common error with those who have not received the love of the truth, to suppose mercy a perfection included in our natural conceptions of Deity, and to difcard as fuperfluous the revelation made of it in the Scriptures. But to refute this fupposition, we need only turn to those nations who have had no opportunity of borrow.. ing light upon this subject from the Christian religion, and consult them upon their views of the Supreme Being. The inhuman rites by which he was supposed to be honored ;' the self-tormenting zeal in which he was imagined to delight himself; the horrid facrifices which were deemed necessary to appease his wrath ; these and the like, being characteristics of Gentile homage, by whatever forms, and under whatever emblems the Deity was worshipped, prove that from man's natural idea of God mercy is excluded, and in its place substituted all that is gloomy, malignant, and revengeful ;as if man were conscious that an enmity subfifted between himself and his Creator, but without any notion of a God that reconciled sinners unto