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"commanded to repent," and invited" to believe " in the Son of God:" nor is it possible that a sinner can want any thing which is not promised to all who seek it by earnest prayer.
Miraculous powers have indeed long since been withdrawn but the same ministry of reconciliation is continued: nor does any thing at this day so much prevent the gospel from spreading throughout the earth, as the disinclination to receive it which is universally manifested. Every heart is closed against the divine message, by selfflattering prejudices and carnal affections; men of all nations and orders unite in opposing its admission among them; and the events recorded in the Acts of the apostles have, in this respect, taken place again and again, as often as the unadulterated gospel of Christ has been sent to those parts of the world which were before unacquainted with it.
may suggest a proper answer to the objections of infidels against revelation, on the ground of its not being universal. The Lord indeed is not bound to vouchsafe unmerited benefits to all, or to any of his creatures. "May he not do what " he will with his own?" The objection therefore is replete with presumption. Yet it may also be observed, that ministers are commissioned and instructed to use their utmost endeavours, that the knowledge of the gospel may be rendered universal; and that numbers have been, and still are, ready, at any personal risk, to attempt it: but the lusts of men raise such barriers against them, as nothing but Omnipotence can surmount or remove. Even in this Christian land, the genuine religion of the Bible scarcely ever finds admission
into any place, but in the midst of opposition, contempt, and reproach: and no man should attempt to preach it, without standing prepared for degradation of character, or exclusion from preferments which he might otherwise have expected. Many friends to the truth are so influenced by this consideration, that they bring forward the peculiar doctrines of the gospel with a cautious hand, in hopes to insinuate them almost imperceptibly: and few of those who now" glory in the cross of "Christ" will deny, that once their hearts greatly disliked that humiliating subject.
Yet still our God perseveres in sending his message to sinners, even forcing it upon their attention, and requiring his ministers to venture their scorn and resentment, by their intrusions and importunity! And at last, when the carnal heart still persists in rejecting the gracious proposal, "of his great love wherewith he loved them, even "when they were dead in sins, he quickens them" by his grace; and makes them "willing in the day of his power." When therefore we affirm that GOD IS LOVE, we may apply it, to the love of the Father, in giving his only Son to become our Saviour; to the love of the Son, in assuming our nature, coming into this sinful world, and dying on the cross for our sins, that he might be our allprevailing Advocate; and to the love of the Spirit, in regenerating, sanctifying, and comforting our hearts: that so " Glory may be to the Father, and "to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in "the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world "without end: Amen."
It would lead us too far to expatiate on the va
rious instances of the Lord's unspeakable love to his believing people; his condescending regard to their minutest concerns; his tender sympathy with them in all their trials; his readiness to forgive even their renewed offences, and to " restore "to them the joy of his salvation;" his providential care in restraining their enemies, moderating their temptations, supplying their wants, and answering their prayers; his kind acceptance of their feeble services; the consolations he affords them, especially in trouble; and his marvellous interposition in rendering their sufferings most efficacious medicines, and " the king of terrors" a messenger of peace. These and many other topics might be enlarged on, to illustrate the proposition that GOD IS LOVE. But we must proceed,
III. To mention some perverse inferences which are frequently made from the text. 'If God be 'love,' say some men, ' may we not conclude that ' he will not make his creatures miserable?' Now this strange inference not only contradicts the general tenour of scripture, the divine revelation of which it supposes; but it is refuted by undeniable facts: for most certainly sinful creatures do suffer many and great miseries. Not to mention the instances recorded in the sacred volume, concerning the Lord's dealings with fallen angels and sinful men; can we live in the world, and not both witness and feel the effects of the divine displeasure against transgressors? Are not whole cities and nations desolated by the scourge of war, or by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes? various diseases continually sweep immense multitudes into the grave, after enduring most excruci
ating pains? Are not the survivors bereaved of their choicest comforts, and penetrated with exquisite anguish? Is not the earth, in every part filled with sighs, tears, groans, and bitter complaints? And are not all these afflictions the appointment of God, as punishments of sin, comprised in the first sentence denounced on fallen man, " In sorrow shalt thou eat bread all the days "of thy life, till thou return to the ground; for "dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return."1
These sufferings are indeed turned into blessings to believers, and they are often useful in bringing sinners to repentance; but in themselves they are miseries, and frequently arise by natural consequence from men's vices: so that it is most evident that God doth punish sin with great severity. Hence we may learn, that we cannot judge concerning his conduct from our own duty in apparently similar cases. In our private capacity, we ought not to inflict misery, or withhold relief when we are able to afford it, on account of any provocations whatever: but the duty of magistrates, in respect of malefactors, much more resembles the case under consideration. We should, however, frame to ourselves the most deplorable scenes imaginable; and then inquire whether a benevolent man would not have prevented or relieved such miseries, if it had been in his power? And the answer to this inquiry must convince every one, who does not deny the superintending providence of God, or blaspheme his name, that we are incompetent judges on such subjects.
1 Gen. iii. 16-19.
Yet many, who will not argue against these conclusions, would infer from the text, that God will not make any of his creatures finally and eternally miserable. But the deduction ought to be this: 'GOD is LOVE; therefore he will not cause any 'creature to suffer, unless some wise, holy, and ' benevolent purpose can be answered by its sufferings.' It would not consist with infinite love to give one moment's needless uneasiness; and it may consist with infinite love to make sinners eternally miserable, if the glory of God, and the interests of the universe through eternal ages render it indispensably necessary. Facts demonstrate, to all who allow God to be infinite in justice and goodness, that durable sufferings may be inflicted consistently with those perfections. Complicated and long-continued miseries are very common; and death, the most dreaded of all temporal evils, cannot possibly be avoided. This seems to bring matters to extremities: for, if the greatest punishment which God hath threatened to inflict on sinners in this world, never fails to be executed; who can prove, or even probably conjecture, that the Lord will not accomplish his most tremendous denunciations of eternal misery? He is TRUTH as well as LOVE: and will any man seriously attempt to exalt his love by denying his truth? He hath said, that "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from "heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them "that know not God, and that obey not the gos
pel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be pun"ished with everlasting destruction;" for " they "shall go away into everlasting punishment."
'Matt. xxv. 46. 2 Thess. i. 8.