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malignity of every sin, and conceive of them all as committed against us, by persons on whom we had conferred the greatest favours; and did we possess the unrestrained power of executing vengeance; I am persuaded that our patience would be wearied out before evening. But the Lord at once sees all the sins committed in the whole world, together with the desperate wickedness of the human heart; he abhors, with unalterable and infinite hatred, every kind and degree of unholiness; he is able at any moment to punish sinners with irresistible vengeance; he could sustain no loss, if he destroyed all the workers of iniquity; and he might do it consistently with most perfect justice. Yet he bears with the rebellions of mankind from age to age; he endures the provocations of guilty lands, during the course of revolving centuries, while their presumptuous ingratitude continually increases; he prolongs the lives of individuals to fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty years, while they defy his justice, ridicule his works and word, or persecute to death his inoffensive worshippers! This is a very affecting illustration of the subject, and a convincing proof that GOD IS LOVE. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not "consumed:" and, besides the value of a reprieve to a condemned criminal, several of us are under unspeakable obligations to the long-suffering of our God; as he spared us during many years, when we lived in unrepented sin, that he might at length make us partakers of his great salvation.
But, as if exemption from deserved misery were a small matter, the Lord confers on sinful men an exuberance of temporal comforts and benefits.
From year to year he fills the earth with his riches. summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, do not fail: things most necessary to the life of man are most plentifully bestowed; but the revolving seasons bring us a constant succession of valuable productions, to regale us with an agreeable variety of indulgence and, though we too commonly abuse this bounty to the dishonour of the Giver, every sense is liberally gratified with its proper object. The Lord holdeth our souls in life: his arm protects us, and his providence watches over us; while perhaps we proudly refuse to supplicate his favour, or ungratefully neglect to acknowledge his mercy. He defends us from sickness, or heals our infirmities: he corrects with gentleness, and seems in haste to relieve our distresses: he sometimes shews us the danger, that our deliverance may be the more affecting; but more frequently he spares us the alarm, though he knows this will render us less attentive to his kindness. In these, and various similar instances, "the Lord is loving "unto every man :" man:" "He maketh his sun to rise
on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain "on the just and on the unjust." "Oh that men "would therefore praise the Lord for his good66 ness, and for his wonderful works to the children "of men!"
These are, however, subordinate proofs that GOD IS LOVE; and the apostle did not so much as stop to notice them, but with a beautiful abruptness hastened to select the grand illustration and demonstration of his doctrine: "In this 66 was manifested the love of God towards us, be-: cause that God sent his only-begotten son into
"the world, that we might live through him. "Herein was love, not that we loved God, but that "he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propi"tiation for our sins." The Lord's purpose of pardoning sinners, and advancing them to a higher degree of glory and felicity than that from which they had fallen, is not considered as the grand proof that God is love; though the knowledge of him and of ourselves will convince us, that it is too vast for our capacities, and exceeds all computation: but the means of our recovery and reconciliation are represented as exhibiting a still more astonishing illustration of the subject. Could the blessings designed us have been honourably conferred by an act of sovereignty, without the intervention of a Mediator and an atoning sacrifice, as a prince pardons and then prefers a man who has been guilty of treason; the obligation would have been immense. But it appears that this was impossible, because the Lord "cannot deny himself," or act inconsistently with his own perfections. When, therefore, the honour of his law and justice seemed to place an insurmountable barrier to the exercise of pardoning mercy; when he could have glorified himself in the destruction of our rebellious race, and in creating worlds replenished with nobler inhabitants; that he should form and accomplish the plan of saving us by the incarnation and sufferings of his only-begotten Son was most stupendous mercy! that he should do this unsolicited by sinners; yea, while they continued to harden their hearts in daring rebellion against him! that he should both purpose the design of "reconciling "the world to himself" by the interposition of a
surety; and, when the whole creation could not supply any being, whose dignity, love, and power, were adequate to the arduous and gracious undertaking, that he should so love the world, as to give his only, his well-beloved, Son, to assume the nature and become the brother of apostate man, that he might be his redeemer, by a life of suffering obedience, and an agonizing death upon the cross! "In this," says the apostle, " is love!" It is the grandest display, that ever was, or ever will be made of God as Love. It exceeds, and swallows up all the thoughts of men; and even of angels, who "desire to look down into these things" with unceasing admiration and rapturous delight.
Let it also be carefully observed, that the centre of these adorable wonders of divine mercy is not fixed in the circumstance of Christ, as incarnate, dying on the cross for sinners; but in the incarnation of the only begotten Son of God, that he might thus suffer and die for them!
We now therefore consider the Saviour as come into the world; his name " EMMANUEL, God with "us;" his humiliation, obedience, and sufferings accomplished. We next contemplate him rising from the grave, ascending into heaven; and in our nature" appearing in the presence of God for us,” as our High Priest and Advocate; exalted to the mediatorial throne, reigning over all creatures, and possessed of all power and fulness, for the salvation of every sinner "who comes to God by "him."
Had men known their real situation and character; and had it been intimated, that reconciliation to God, recovery to holiness, and admission
to everlasting felicity might possibly be attained, by journeying to some remote inhospitable region, and performing certain arduous conditions: none would have acted reasonably who hesitated to go in search of this invaluable advantage. In such a concern, all other pursuits ought to be relinquished or suspended, and every danger or hardship disregarded: no delay should be admitted, but all ought immediately to set out for the appointed place, and communicate the interesting report to others, till it spread through the whole earth, as the most rejoicing tidings, which ever reached the ears of sinful man.
But the Lord knew that we were not thus reasonable; nay, that we were wholly indisposed to regard distant rumours, or to make inconvenient inquiries about salvation. He therefore, according to the purposes of his boundless love, appointed a number of reconciled sinners to execute "the "ministry of reconciliation," by going abroad into the world, and "preaching the gospel to every "creature." He invested them with miraculous powers, and inspired them with holy affections; he prepared them for patient sufferings and unwearied labours, and sent them with the glad tidings of his grace to sinners of every description, language, or climate. He ordered them not only to state and confirm the truths of Christianity; but to warn, invite, persuade, expostulate, and "beseech" sinners, in his name, " to be reconciled "to God." In this embassy, the vilest blasphemer, oppressor, murderer, and persecutor, is included; not even the hoary-headed profligate is excepted! "All things are ready:" all men every where are