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"heard words whereby you were saved." To another, You were mercifully spared till Providence brought you that religious Friend; for he "guided your feet "into the path of peace." To a third, What if you had been cut off in your sin! You went on forwardly; you proceeded from evil to evil; a change appeared hopeless; but by and by you began to be in want; all prodigal as you were, you said, "I will arise and "go to my father;" nor was it too late. He came forth to meet you; "received you graciously "and loved you freely." "Therefore doth the "Lord wait that he may be gracious, and therefore "will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon
you." Such is the design of this suspension; but, alas! "let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will "he not learn righteousness ;" and Solomon reminds
III. That the depravity of man turns divine clemen, cy into presumption, and abuses the patience which bears with him to purposes the most vile. "Because "sentence against an evil work is not executed speed"ily, THEREFORE THE HEART OF THE SONS OF MEN IS 66 FULLY SET IN THEM TO DO EVIL."
In this mode of proceeding there is something specious. Man is a rational creature, and is obliged to give his actions a colour of reason. What he cannot forbear, he will endeavour to justify; what he cannot justify, he will extenuate; what he cannot extenuate, he will excuse; and unhappily he possesses no little ingenuity in devising excuses to authorise the passions, or to keep off remorse and alarm.
When men begin a wicked course, conscience is tender, scrupulous, fearful. They are soon terrified, and often look immediately for the punishment they have deserved; but it does not arrive. They venture again; the expectation diminishes. After many successes and impunities they go forward carelessly and boldly. What they once approached with hesitation, now grown familiar, ceases to fhock. What once made them tremble, is now ridiculed as a trifle. Where conscience once thundered, it is now scarcely heard.
They cannot think that what produces no evil consequences can be so bad as they once apprehended. They infer from the divine indulgence, either that there is no God, or no Providence; either that God does not attend to these things, or will not punish them; or derive from his lenity such views of his goodness as lead them to conclude that it has no bounds. There is a disposition in the mind to reason from the paft to the future. Thus because reprieved so often, Pharoah concluded he fhould escape again; and this encouraged him to renew his disobedience. And thus He who assigns motives and gives language to actions, has said, "There fhall come in the last days "scoffers, walking ofter their own lufts and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the "fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were ❝ from the beginning of the creation." "These things "haft thou done, and I kept silence; and thou thought"eft that I was altogether such an one as thyself. He "hath said in his heart, I fhall not be moved: for I "fhall never be in adversity." "Wherefore doth "the wicked contemn God? He hath said in his heart,
"Thou wilt not require it."
"Because sentence a
gainst an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore "the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to "do evil." Nothing is more common, nothing more vile, nothing more fatal than this perversion.
First. Solomon does not draw the reflection from a few single inftances. Nothing is more common than this abuse. Perhaps many of you are examples of it. To decide this I ask, Would you have continued in your sinful courses to this hour, had you not been persuaded that God would bear with you? Would you now perpetrate another crime, if you supposed that God would instantly destroy you for it? Why then it is the long-suffering of God, that encourages and emboldens you to go forward, and you are evil because he is good.
Secondly. Nothing can be more vile and base than this abuse. Clemency affords you a shelter from the ftorm, and you enter; and then wound your kind Benefactor, and wound him BECAUSE he had pity upon you. Had you the least ingenuousness, you could not help admiring and loving and serving such a Being; but you insult him BECAUSE of his excellencies and loving-kindnesses. You sin because grace abounds, and choose to appear a monster in a garb of ingratitude blacker than hell.
Thirdly. Be assured nothing will be more fatal. "God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the "hairy scalp of such an one as GOETH ON STILL in " his trespasses." Mercy is your final resource; and when this is provoked, to what can you turn? If a father disown you, what expectation can you have from
an incensed adversary? God is in this case peculiarly concerned to shew his displeasure. He designed this long-suffering to answer other purposes; and shall he be over-ruled and mocked? No; he will not lose the honour of his patience, though you may lose the advantage. If it be not glorified in your salvation, it will in your destruction. Wrath loses nothing by sleeping; it grows fresher by repose. The longer the stone be in descending, the heavier it falls. Long preparation indicates the more dreadful execution.
Whoever may hope for audience in the day of visi tation, you cannot expect it. "When your fear com"eth as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a "whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon દ you, then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not "find me; for that they hated knowledge, and did "not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none "of my counsel, they despised all my reproof. There"fore shall they eat of their own ways and be filled "with their own devices."
Whoever may hope to come off with a lighter doom, you cannot expect it. Thy reckoning is increased by delay; thou "despisest the riches of his goodness and "forbearance and long-suffering: not knowing that "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; "but after thy hardness and impenitent heart, tre?s"urest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, "and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." "But and if that servant say in his heart, my Lord de'layeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the men
servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and to
"be drunken; the Lord of that servant will come in "a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour "when he is not aware: and will cut him in sunder, " and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers."
Whoever may hope to be
apprized of his danger, "He that being often
surely you cannot expect it. "reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be de"stroyed, and that without remedy." "For when they shall say Peace and safety; then sudden de"struction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."
And do you promise yourself exemption always? Even the patience of the vine-dresser has an end; he only prayed for another year; and perhaps this was more than eleven months ago. Are you sure that he who waited to-day, will wait to-morrow also? Having stood so long knocking, will he never depart? May he not withdraw this very evening, saying, "O that "thou hadst known in this thy day the things which "belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from "thine eyes."
But at present this is not your case. Your harvest is not yet past, your summer is not yet ended. The lives of some of you are spared even to old age. Gray hairs are here and there upon you; and each of them proclaims the patience of God. You are in his House, and before his Throne, and capable of hearing his Word. He has seen all your sin, and abhorred all. He has had you completely in his power; he could have frowned you into perdition. He has guarded you from accidents, and raised you up from beds of W w