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solations of God, they can have none of them, Amos iii. 3, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed ?" The joy and comfort of a natural man is but like that of a madman; and so when he comes to himself, all is swallowed up in that, he is a condemned
This the prodigal found, Luke xv. 17, “And when he came to himself, he said, How
many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! (3.) It is an unsafe life; John iii. 36, “ He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Amidst all thy mirth and jollity, the sword of justice is hanging over thy head by a hair, and every moment, for all that thou knowest, it may fall, and cleave thee asunder. This our Lord threatens in the parable of the wicked servant, Matth. xxiv. 50, 51, “ The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of; and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
MOTIVE 2. The reversing of the sentence by a remission, is not so easily obtained as men are apt to imagine. Many think there is no more ado, but after a careless graceless life, when they come to die, to commend their souls to God, with a “ God have mercy on me;" and all will be safe. But they that get out a remission, get it so as they are taught other thoughts of it. Hence is that exclamation of the church, Micah vii. 18, “ Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy." Consider,
1st, Sin is the greatest of evils, the deepest of all stains to wash out. Fair words, nay tears, nay not the blood of bulls and goats, not the blood of one's own body will wash it out; only the blood of the Son of God: Heb. xi. 22, “ Without shedding of blood is no remission.” Compared with 1 John i. 7, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Sin is the most contrary to God's nature : Hab. i. 13, “ Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." And therefore it is the object of his greatest loathing. Going on in sin, thou art engaged against all the attributes of God. Sin bas marred the whole frame of God's workmanship, provoking him to break it in pieces. Can it be easy to get all this buried in forgetfulness with a jealous God?
2dly, God's giving remissions, is one of his greatest works. Hence is that prayer of Moses, Num. xiv. 17, 19, “ And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people,
according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” This is a work greater than the making of a world. That was done by a word spoken But in this case, justice stands up for satisfaction, trath for the honour of a broken law, and wisdom finds a way for mercy only by the blood of Christ: John iii. 16, “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
3dly, Sad breakings of heart do sinners ordinarily endure, ere they being once touched with sense of sin, get the pardon of it. This was the case of Peter's bearers, Acts ii. 37, They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Paul can tell you from his experience of the terror of the Lord ; David of broken bones. However lightly ye think now of the way of coming at it; a medicine given you for sweating out the poison of sin, will readily make you sick at heart, and perhaps bring you to the last gasp, Is. xxxiii. 24.
MOTIVE 3. Howbeit, God is now on a throne of grace to grant remissions : 2 Cor. v. 19," God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Ye may get a pardon now in the Lord's own way: Is. lv. 7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Heaven's white flag of peace yet hangs out, the market of free grace stands open, indemnity is proclaimed in the gospel : Acts xiii. 38, “ Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins."
MOTIVE 4. Lastly, Access to remissions will not last: Is. lv. 6, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." Abused patience will break out into fury: Luke xiii. 24, 25. “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate : for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye
begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer, and say unto you, I know you not whence you are.” Beware ye sit not your day of grace, and delay not till ye will find no place for repentance : Luke xiv. 24, “For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden, shall taste of my supper.”
OBJECTION. My sins are great. ANSWER. Neither the greatness multitude, nor backsliding into them will hinder: Is. i. 18. “Como
now and let us reason together, saith the Lord : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as now; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Is. lv. 7. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Jer. iii. 22. “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." The Lord has set up instances of pardoning mercy, that none may despair ; as Adam, Manasseh, Paul, and the Jews, crucifiers of Christ.
DIRECTION 1. Be sensible of your sin; of the evil of it; of the mischief done to yourselves, and the injury and dishonour done to God. Look to the law, the justice of God, &c.
DIRECTION 2. Go to God, and confess your sins fully and freely : and condemn yourselves, acknowledging yourselves justly condemned by the law, and God to be righteous if he should execute the sentence.
DIRECTION ult. Look to Jesus Christ the propitiation held forth to you in the gospel, his unspotted righteousness offered to you, and the covert of his blood, the retiring place for safety to guilty creatures. Believe the gospel, that these are made over to you therein, and take possession thereof, by trusting wholly thereon to your remission, and the santification of your nature; John iii. 16. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” So shall ye be united to Christ by faith.
Take that advice, which the servants of Benhadad offered to their master, 1 Kings xx. 31. Put on the sackcloth of deep humiliation, ropes about your necks, acknowledging ye are worthy of death, and go forth to Christ by faith; for the King of Zion is a merciful king, and will save your life.
DOCTRINE II. The Lord oftentimes does not soon come to the execution of the sentence against ungodly men, evil-workers; but delays it for a time.
In prosecuting this doctrine, we shall,
I. We shall take a view of the method of Providence in this matter. There is a twofold method of Providence with the ungodly, evil-workers, in respect of execution against them; namely, a swift and a slow method.
First, There is a swift method the Lord sometimes takes with
sinners : Mal. iii. 5. “I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers,” &c. Sinners adventure on evil works; and God sentences them for them presently, and pursues them hard with execution, without delay. (1.) Sometimes the sinner has an ill work in design, and the Lord counts his will for the deed, and prevents by a speedy execution; as in Haman's case. He hatched the mischief, but he did not see it come forth. (2.) Sometimes the sinner is in actual motion to the ill work, and execution is done on him ere he get it performed. So it fared with the rebellious Israelites, in their attempting to go into the promised land, Num. xiv. 44, 45. And so it fared with Jereboam, putting forth his hand to lay hold on the prophet, 1 Kings xiii. 4; and with Uzziah having the censer in his hand, 2 Chron. xxvi. 19. (3.) Sometimes the execution trysts with the very doing of the ill work, so that the sinner is taken away with the stroke in his sin. Thus fared it with Nadab and Abihu offering strange fire, Lev. x. 1, 2; with Zimri and Cozbi cut off in the act of uncleanness, Num. xxv. 8; and with Herod, who was eaten up of worms for his Atheism and blasphemy, Acts xii. 23. (4.) Sometimes as the ill work is done out and ended, the execution begins. So it fared with Sennacherib's blasphemous letter. He had writ it, and it was read; so his sin was completed; and that very night the Lord smote his army, and soon after himself, 2 Kings xix. 14, 35. &c.
(5.) Sometimes the execution keeps pace with the ill work, and the one goes on as the other does; judgment in the several degrees following hard at the heels of the sin. So it fared with Hiel, in his building of Jericho, 1 Kings xvi. ult. (6.) Sometimes execution begins with the sinner's beginning to reap the fruit of his sin when he leans upon his wall, a serpent bites him. So it fared with Ahab taking possession of Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Kings xxi. 18, 19. And so it fared with the lusters in the wilderness, Psal. lxxviii. 30, 31. (7.) Lastly, Sometimes when one's sin begins to work, in its bitter fruits and effects on others, it recoils on the sinner himself. So it fared with Jndas the traitor, Matt. xxvii. 3, 4, 5. It is a sport to some to do mischief to others; but ere all be done, it may, in the just judgment of God, come as heavy on themselves as on their neighbour.
Secondly, There is a slow method the Lord takes oftentimes with sinners, Neh. ix. 17. They commit their evil works; the sentence is presently passed for them : but then the execution is delayed, Psal. I. 21. And that is what is particularly noticed in our text. Concerning this method I offer these observes.
1. The sinner may get his evil work contrived and accomplished,
without any let in this way from Heaven, by any execution against him. There is a God in heaven who has his eye apon him all along; but that God keeps silence, and lets the sinner take his swing, Psal. 1. 21. He could cut bim off from the purposes of his heart, and break his arm, that be should not accomplish his work : but he does it not.
2. The ill work being done without let, the sinner may also for a time pass unpunished, and as little notice may seem to be taken of it, as if there were not a God to judge upon the earth, Ezek. ix. 9. There are times wherein holy Providence, as it were, winks at ungodly sinners, Acts xvii. 30. Hence God is said to awake to judgment, when that time is over, Psal. vii. 6.
3. Yea, ill works may not only for a time escape anpunished, but undiscovered too, Hos. xii. 7, 8; Prov. xxx. 20. There are unany abominations that appar with open face in the world; but there are perhaps more that are not discovered, being reserved to the judgment of the great day, 1 Tim. v. 21; Rom. ii. 16. An omniscient God could pull the vail off them, but in the slow method it is long a-doing.
4. Sinners finding it go thus, encourage themselves in evil, repeat their evils works, add sin to sio, and give themselves the loose in their sinful courses. This is observed in our text. None go to the highest pitch of wickedness all of a sudden, but by degrees.* Ili works at first have a terror about them, and the sinner trembles under some fearful expectation at first: but a long-suffering God strikes not, thence the sinner gathers courage, Psal. lxiv. 6. and ventures again, and the terror wears off by degress.
5. Nay sinners may prosper in an ill course. So far may they be from execution done against them, that they may thrive in the world in it: Psal. xxxvii. 35, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree.” The sun of worldly prosperity may shine light and warm on men in a course of sin, gone away from God, and God from them. Yea, objects of God's indignation may in that respect be treated as if they were the darlings of Heaven; and the objects of God's special love, as if they were the buts of his wrath : Eccl. viii. 14, “ There is a vanity which is done upon the earth, that there be just men unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked : again, there be wicked men to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous." This has been sometimes puzzling to the saints, as to Jeremiah, See chap. xii. 1, 2.
* Nemo repente sit turpissimus.