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their orderly course, but by the moderation of an immense goodness; by that
magni custos clementia mundi.”
It is ‘by the Lord's mercies that we (we, the whole body of sinful men, so guilty of heinous provocations and rebellions against our Maker) are not consumed.’ And what again God in the prophet speaks concerning Israel, he might have applied to the whole nation of men: “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah 7 how shall I set thee as Zeboim 7 I will not execute the fierceness of my anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man.” The reason (for I am God, and not man) is observable; implying (on parity of reason in the cases, concerning that one nation, and concerning the body of men) that it is an indulgence and forbearance above, if not contrary to the temper of man, and even beyond human conceit, whereby the state of things here doth subsist, and is preserved from ruin. Thus nature and thus providence do bear witness concerning the disposition of God. As for Scripture, there is nothing either in way of positive assertion more frequently inculcated, or by more illustrious examples set forth and made palpable, than this attribute of God. When God would impart a portraiture or description of himself to his dearest friend and favorite, Moses; the first and chief lineaments thereof are several sorts, or several instances of goodness; he expresses himself “merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness:’ (merciful : El rachum) a ‘God of pitying,” or strong in pity; that is, most apt to commiserate and to succor those who are in need or distress. Gracious, that is, ready both freely to forgive wrongs, and to dispense favors. Long suffering, or longus irarum, that is, not soon moved, or apt easily to conceive displeasure; not hasty in execution of vengeance, or venting his anger in hurtful effects. Abundant in goodness, that is, not sparing as to quantity or quality, either in the multitude or magnitude of his favors, but in all respects exceedingly liberal; conferring willingly both very many and very great benefits. Such did God represent himself to Moses, when he desired a fuller knowlege and nearer acquaintance with him, than ordinary means afford. The same character in substance we have often repeated, and sometimes with advantage of emphatical expression, well deserving our observation and regard; as when the prophet Joel saith, that God “is penitent, or sorry, for evil inflicted;’ and Micah, that “he delighteth in mercy;’ and when Nehemiah calleth him “a God of pardons;' and when Isaiah represents him as “waiting (or seeking occasions) to be gracious:” and all this in the Old Testament, where God seems to look on man with a less serene and debonair aspect. Indeed, as that dispensation (suitably to the nature and condition of things under it) doth set out God's mercy and goodness, with especial relation to this present world or temporal estate; so the New one more abundantly displays his more excellent care and love of our souls; his great tenderness of our spiritual and eternal welfare. It is all of it in its nature and design but as it were one intire declaration of the rôxpmarov row 0eois, (the beneficial disposition, the benignity, or bountifulness of God, as St. Paul telleth us;) it is a rare project of divine philanthropy; an illustrious affidavit of God's wonderful propensity to bless and save mankind; manifested by the highest expressions and instances of love and goodness that were possible. (For his not sparing his own Son, ‘the express image of his substance,' the dearest object of his infinite love, the partaker of his eternal nature and glory, but delivering him up a sacrifice for our offences; his most earnest wooing our baseness and unworthiness to reconciliation with him, and admission or acceptance of his favor; his tendering on so fair and easy terms an endless life in perfect joy and bliss; his furnishing us with so plentiful means and powerful aids for attaining that happy state—how pregnant demonstrations are these, of unspeakable goodness toward us! whence) The ordinary titles in this dispensation attributed unto him, are the God of love and peace, of hope, of patience ; of all grace, of all consolation; the father of pities, rich in mercy, full of bowels; love and goodness itself. Thus doth the Scripture positively assert God's goodness; thus it directly represents and describes his gracious disposition toward us. And as for examples, (which must serve as to illustrate and explain, so also to verify and assure matters of this nature,) if we carefully attend to God's ordinary proceedings with men there recorded, we shall find this disposition very conspicuous in them. Who can recount the number, or set out the value of those instances wherein God's goodness is expressed toward such as loved him 7 of his admirable condescension in drawing them to him; of the affectionate tenderness with which he constantly embraced them ; of his merciful indulgence toward them, when provoked by their untowardly behavior; of his kind acceptance and munificent recompensing their endeavors to please him; of his deep compassionating their sufferings; of his vigilant carefulness over them, and over all their concernments Methinks the highest expressions that language, assisted with all its helps of metaphor and resemblance, can afford, are very languid and faint in comparison of what they strain to represent, when the goodness of God toward them who love him comes to be expressed: “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him:’ so David strives to utter it, but with similitudes far short of the truth. If any will come near to reach it, it is that in Moses and Zechariah, when they are compared to ‘the apple of God's eye,” that is, to the most dear and tender part, as it were, about him. We find them often styled, and ever treated, as friends and as children; and that in a sense transcending the vulgar signification of those words; for what friendship could endure, could pass over, could forget, could admit an intire reconciliation and re-establishment in affection after such heinous indignities, such infidelities, such undutifulness, as were those of Adam, of Noah, of David, of Peter ? Who would have received into favor and familiarity a Manasses, a Magdalen, a Paul ? Who would so far extend his regard on the posterity (on such a posterity, so untoward, so unworthy) of his friend, as God did on that of Abraham, in respect unto him 2 What great prince would employ his principal courtiers to guard and serve a poor attendant, a mean subject of his ' Yet, “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them;’ and many instances we have of those glorious inhabitants of heaven by God's appointment stooping down to wait on and to perform service to the sons of men. But on examples of this nature, being numberless, and composing indeed the main body of the sacred history, (it being chiefly designed to represent them,) I shall not insist; I shall only observe, for preventing or satisfying objections, (yea, indeed, for turning them to the advantage and confirmation of that which we assert,) that even in those cases, wherein God's highest severity hath been exercised, when God hath purposed to exhibit most dreadful instances of his justice on the most provocative occasions; we may discern his goodness eminently showing itself: that even in the greatest extremity of his displeasure, in his acts of highest vengeance, mercy doth karakauxāoffat ris optoews, (as St. James speaketh,) “boast itself, . and triumph over justice:’ that God, as the sun, (to use Tertullian's similitude,) when he seems most to infest and scorch us, doth even then dispense useful and healthful influences on us. Even, I say, in the most terrible and amazing examples of divine justice (such as were the ejecting and excluding mankind from paradise; the general destruction in the deluge; the exscinding and extirpation of the Amorites, together with other inhabitants of Canaan; the delivering Israel and Judah into the Assyrian thraldom, the final destruction of Jerusalem, together with the dispersion of the Jewish nation over the world, and its sad consequences) we may (not hardly) observe particulars, more than savoring of great mercy and goodness. o 1. That (in most of these cases, in all according to some account) God was not moved to the displeasure productive of those effects but on very great considerations. That he did not seek advantages, nor embrace all occasions; but was ncensed by superlative degrees of iniquity and impurity, (such in their own nature, and much aggravated by their circumstances,) such as rendered common life inconvenient and insupportable to men; made the earth to stink with their filth and corruption; to groan under the burden and weight of them; to pant and labor for a riddance from them.
2. That God did not on the first glimpses of provocation proceed to the execution and discharge of his wrath, but did with wonderful patience expect a change in the offenders, ‘waiting to be gracious,” as the prophet speaketh; affording more than competent time, and means more than sufficient of appeasing him by repentance; vouchsafing frequent admonitions, solicitations, threatenings, moderate corrections, and other such proper methods conducing to their amendment and to their preservation. 3. That the inflictions themselves, how grievous soever in appearance, were not really extreme in measure; not accompanied with so acute torments, nor with so lingering pains, nor with so utter a ruin, as might have been inflicted; but that (as Ezra, in respect to one of those cases, confesseth) they “were less than their iniquities deserved.' That, as it is in the psalm, “. He did not stir up all his wrath;’ which would have immediately consumed them, or infinitely tormented them. 4. That (consequently on some of those premises) the afflictions brought on them were in a sort rather necessary than voluntary in respect of him; rather a natural fruit of their dispositions and dealings, than a free result of his will; however contrary to his primary intentions and desires. Whence he no less truly than earnestly disclaims having any pleasure in their death, that he “afflicted willingly, or grieved the children of men;’ and charges their disasters on themselves, as the sole causes of them. 5. That farther, the chastisements inflicted were wholesome and profitable, both in their own nature, and according to his design; both in respect to the generality of men, (who by them were warned, and by such examples deterred from incurring the like mischiefs; were kept from the inconveniences, secured from the temptations, the violences, the allurements, the contagions of the present evil state; according to that reason alleged for punishments of this kind: “All the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously,') and in regard to the sufferers themselves, who thereby were prevented from proceeding farther in their wicked courses; accumulating (or ‘treasuring up,' as the Apostle speaketh) farther degrees of wrath, as obdurate and incorrigible people will surely do: (“Why,’