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saith the prophet, “should ye be stricken any more ?' (to what purpose is moderate correction ?) “Ye will revolt more and more.") That he did with a kind of violence to his own inclinations, and reluctancy, inflict punishments on them. ‘O Ephraim, how shall I give thee up, O Ephraim” Yea, farther : 6. That during their sufferance God did bear compassion toward them who underwent it. “His bowels,’ as we are told, “sounded and were troubled;’ his ‘heart was turned within him;’ his “repentings were kindled together;’ ‘in all their afflictions himself was afflicted;’ “he remembered, and considered they were but dust;’ that they “were but flesh,’ that they were but of a weak and frail temper; that they were naturally prone to corruption and evil,) and did therefore pity their infirmity and their misery. 7. That God “in his wrath remembered mercy,” (as the prophet Habakkuk speaks,) mixing gracious intentions of future refreshment and reparation with the present executions of justice. “I know,” saith he in the prophet Jeremiah, “the thoughts that I think toward you; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Behold, I will bring health and cure, I will cure them, and will reveal unto them abundance of peace and truth.' And, “For a small moment,” saith he again in Isaiah, “have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.’ And, ‘Ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought on Jerusalem'—and, ‘ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it,” saith the Lord; (he saith so in Ezekiel ;) “without cause;’ that is without a beneficial design toward them. 8. Lastly, that he always signified a readiness to turn from his anger, and to forgive them; and on very equal and easy terms to be fully reconciled to them; according to that in the psalm, “He doth not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever;' but on any reasonable overtures of humiliation, confession, and conversion to him, was ready to abate, yea, to remove the effects of his displeasure: ‘Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.” These particulars, if we attentively survey those dreadful examples of divine severity forementioned, (the greatest which history acquaints us with, or which have been showed on this theatre of human affairs,) we may observe most of them in all, all of them in some, either plainly expressed, or sufficiently insinuated by the circumstances observable in the historical narrations concerning them; so that even the harshest instances of God's wrathful dealing with some men, may well serve to the illustration of his mercy and goodness toward all men; may evince it true, what our Lord affirms, that God is xpnarös éri àxaptorovs kai Tovmpoos, “kind and beneficent even to the most ingrateful and unworthy persons.” To make which observation good, and consequently to assert the verity of our text (that “God is good unto all, and merciful over all his works') against the most plausible exceptions, I shall examine the particulars in the following discourse.
The several instances of divine wrath particularly specified. I. The punishment inflicted on mankind for the first transgression. This contains so much of depth and mystery, surpassing all capacity of man to reach, that it cannot be thoroughly explained. It indeed is clear that God did in his proceedings intend remarkably to evidence his grievous indignation against wilful disobedience; yet in the management thereof we may observe, that, 1. After such high provocation, God expressed his resent. ment in so calm and gentle a manner, that Adam, though abashed by the conscience of his fault, was not by the vehemence of the reproof utterly dismayed or dejected. 2. God used great moderation in the infliction of this punishment, mitigating the extremity of the sentence justly decreed and plainly declared to Adam. 3. He did not quite reject man thereon, or withdraw his care and providence from him. 4. Although man by his fault lost great advantages, yet still the mercy of God left him in no deplorable state, even as to his life here. 5. The event manifests that while God in appearance so severely punished mankind, he did in his mind reserve thoughts of highest kindness toward us, &c. So that in this heaviest instance of vengeance, God's exceeding goodness clearly shines forth. II. The calamity, which by the general deluge did overflow the world, was not brought on men but in regard to the most enormous offences long continued in, and after amendment was become desperate: not till, after much forbearance, men were grown to a superlative pitch of wickedness, when it became, as it were, a mercy to snatch them from so wretched and incorrigible a condition: this topic enlarged on. III. In the next place, as to that extermination of the Canaanites, which bears so horrible an aspect of severity, we may find it qualifiable, if we consider the nature of their trespasses, which were insufferably heinous and abominable; so that if it were not a favor to the incorrigible authors themselves, it was so to their posterity, whom they might have brought forth as successors to their courses and the consequences of them: nor were they destroyed from the land, until it grew uninhabitable through them in any tolerable manner, and did, as the Scripture significantly expresses it, spue them out, &c. IV. The like account may be rendered of God's judgments on the people of Israel. If we consult the prophets, who declare the true state of things that brought these judgments down from heaven, we shall see that they came on account of an universal apostacy from the faith and practice of true religion; from a deep corruption, perverting all truth and right; and a compliance with the most abominable practices: that they were inflicted after all methods of reclaiming them had been tried in vain; after innumerable provocations on the one part, and extreme patience on the other; and that even during the execution of them, God did still retain thoughts of favor, and intentions of doing good to his ungrateful and incorrigible people. V. As for the last so calamitous and piteous destruction of Jerusalem, with the grievous consequences thereof, the former considerations may still be applied, as well as what was peculiar in that case; namely, the means which God used for removing those provocatives of vengeance, which, as our Lord himself said, were sufficient to have converted Tyre and Sidon: these fully dilated on. Whence we may conclude that all those passages of divine providence, which seem at first sight most opposed to his mercy, do, when well sifted, serve rather to corroborate it.
Enumeration of the uses to which the consideration of God's goodness should be applied.
1. It should beget in us hearty love and reverence towards him, in regard to this attribute, so amiable in itself, and beneficial to us. 2. It should produce also real endeavors of thankful obedience in our lives. 3. It should engage us the more to fear God, according to the prophet's admonition, Fear the Lord and his goodness. 4. It should humble and grieve us to have crossed and offended such exceeding goodness and mercy. 5. It should therefore render us wary and vigilant against the commission of any sin, and the guilt of ingratitude. 6. It should also breed and nourish in us faith and hope in God. 7. It should on the same account excite us to a free exercise of all devotions. 8. It ought to render us submissive, patient, and contented under God's hand of correction or trial, as knowing it cannot be without just cause that such goodness is displeased with us. 9. It should also, in gratitude towards God, and imitation of him, engage us to be kind, bountiful, and affectionate towards our fellow creatures. 10. Lastly, we ought to have an especial care lest we pervert this excellent truth by mistakes and vain presumptions; lest we turn the grace of God into wantonness, or the occasion of licentious practice. Conclusion.