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THE ABUSE OF DIVINE FORBEARANCE.
ECCLES. viii. 11.
BECAUSE SENTENCE AGAINST AN EVIL WORK IS NOT executed sPEEDILY, therefore the heart of the sons of MEN IS FULLY SET IN THEM TO DO EVIL.
MY Brethren, to know things in their principles has always been deemed the highest kind of science. The attention of a vulgar mind may be roused by effects; but a wise man looks back from consequences to the cause, and explores the source of the disease, in order to prescribe more certainly the means of cure.
That there is much wickedness in the world is undeniable. Whence does it arise? Solomon views it as resulting from an Abuse of Divine Forbearance. Not that this is the only source of iniquity; but it is a very powerful, and a very prevailing one. In such a dreadful course as Sin, a man needs encouragement; and he awfully derives it from the goodness and long-suffering of his God. "Because sentence "against an evil work is not executed speedily, there
"fore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them "to do evil."
THERE IS A SENTENCE DENOUNCED AGAINST SIN. THE EXECUTION OF IT IS COMMONLY LONG SUSPENDED. THIS DELAY EMBOLDENS THE SINNER IN HIS CRIMES. These three things are obviously contained in the words before us; and with these I would engage your present attention. "To-day if ye will hear his "voice, harden not your heart."
I. Sin is deservedly called an EVIL WORK. I fear none of us are sufficiently impressed with a sense of its vileness and malignity. It is "the work of the "devil." It is folly, ingratitude, rebellion, treason. It degrades the soul; it defiles the soul. It robs us of the likeness, the presence, the favour of God. How deplorable are its consequences! What misery has it produced! For it cannot go unpunished. THERE IS A
SENTENCE DENOUNCED AGAINST IT.
God is of "purer eyes than to behold iniquity:" "He is angry with the wicked every day." But what is anger in God? Not a passion, but a principle, a determination to punish. It is justice, and this justice is essential to the perfection of his character; and we could neither adore or love him, if we believed that he was indifferent to an evil which not only subverts his designs, but destroys the welfare of his creatures. What would you think of a magistrate who should "bear the sword in vain ;" and who, when you led before him one who had invaded your property, and another who had killed your child, should smile and say, What is that to me? Would you not
exclaim-Why, are you not "a minister of God for "good, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that "doeth evil?" Crimes, in all well-governed empires, are punished; and on their punishment much of our peace and safety depends. Hence prisons are as necessary as houses, and our houses would afford us no security without prisons. What would be the consequence of the abrogation of all the penalties attached to crimes in this country, but disorder, anarchy, robbery, and murder?
But there is
God is the governor of the world. no governing without laws, and laws are nothing without sanctions; from these they derive their force and their efficacy. Laws issued by a legislator unaccompanied with threatenings, would be harmless, and inspiring no terror, would be trifled with, or considered only as advice. Thus the notion of punishment follows from the very conftitution of law. If any should be ready to say, "The case before us is a pe❝culiar one, and laws so excellent as those which "God has given us fhould be cheerfully obeyed for "their own sake." We answer, Firft, that man was originally made capable of fear, and that God even in a state of innocency addressed himself to this passión to aid his authority and secure his dominion. Witness the threatening, "In the day that thou eateft "thereof thou shalt surely die." Secondly, as mạn is now fallen and depraved, and lives so much under the dominion of sense, such a revelation of terror is become far more necessary to check the power of appetite, and break the force of temptation. Accordingly a sentence the most tremendous is denounced
against every transgressor. Do you ask where it is recorded?
Look within thee, O man, and read it there; read it in the trouble, the remorse, the forebodings of thy own conscience. Why are you uneasy when any thing reminds you of the approach of Deity? Whence has sickness, a sudden death, an opening grave, such power to alarm you? Why are you unwilling to be alone, and why do you require a succession of business and diversion to maintain your tranquility? Are not these things more frequently your refuge than your choice? And are you not fearful to leave any hour unfilled up, left a faithful monitor, finding you disengaged, fhould afford you employment? Why are you uneasy, not only for the time, but for weeks and months after the contraction of the guilt? Why are you uneasy, not only when you are discovered, but when no eye sees you? Why are you uneasy, not only when you have exposed yourselves to the penalty of civil law, but when you have committed crimes for which you are amenable to no earthly tribunal? What judge, what prison is it you then dread? Why do you not shake off these terrors and be a man? Why do you suffer them to follow you into solitude and into company? Turn and frown them back, and suffer your peace of mind to be no longer disturbed. Ah! it is in vain to argue against a truth which depends not only on reasoning but sentiment; and to annihilate a principle interwoven in human nature by the finger of God. Where is it recorded?
Examine the history of mankind, and read it there. See it in the expulsion of yonder happy Pair from Paradise; in the Flood which deftroyed the world of
the ungodly; in the Fire and Brimstone which consumed the cities of the plain. Go, and read it inscri bed on the Pillar of Salt, and engraven on the arms rolled to the shore of the Red Sea. View it in the desolations of a People hated and scattered, once the favourites of Heaven; view it in every calamity, in every disease, in every death. Where is it recorded? Open the Bible, and peruse it there. There you read that the soul that sinneth it shall die. There the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. Sometimes it is expressed in simple terms, and more frequently in figurative language. Sometimes a little of it is dis. tinctly specified, but often the whole is left in dreadful obscurity. Sometimes we see the curse coming to meet the sinner, and beginning his misery here; but more generally we are led forward to eternity; for the present is only a state of trial, the future is a world of retribution; here we only sow, there we fhall reap; the sentence is already denounced, but the infliction is commonly long suspended. This is the
II. Division of our subject. Sentence against an evil work IS NOT SPEEDILY EXECUTED. Here however we wish to observe, That there is no uncertaingrantty as to its final accomplishment; it is taken for ed that it will be executed. "God is not a man that "he should lie, or the son of man that he should re66 pent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath ❝he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" "Heav"en and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not 66 pass away." It may be also remarked, That he