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THE NEED OF ATTENDING TO GOD'S GRACIOUS INVITATIONS. Prov. i. 20-31. Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
To expostulate with men respecting their evil
10 to point out the consequences of persisting in them, to urge the necessity of a speedy and thorough conversion to God, and to enforce the address with affectionate entreaties and encouraging assurances, is stigmatized as the effervescence of a heated imagination, the offspring of a weak enthusiastic mind. But, however it be foolishness with men, it is wisdom in the sight of God. No expostulations, entreaties, promises, or threatenings can be delivered with greater
energy or affection than those in the text; yet God calls them the voice, not of folly and enthusiasm, but of "wisdom;" and, whatever we may think of them, they will be found to be "the words of truth and soberness." We are now " in the chief place of concourse," and it is wisdom itself, or God under the name of Wisdom, that now addresses us. The substance of the address may be comprehended under two general observations:
I. To those who receive his invitations, God will be exceeding gracious
Nothing can be more tender than the expostulation before us
[The words are addressed not merely to the "simple," but to those who "love simplicity;" not only to the ignorant, but to them that "hate knowledge;" not only to those who are destitute of religion, but who "delight to scoff" at it. What can we suppose that God should say to such daring transgressors? What, but to denounce the heaviest judgments? But "he is God and not man," and therefore he speaks to them as God, in terms of inconceivable love and mercy; "How long will ye love your evil and destructive ways?" Will not "the past time suffice to have followed" them? Have they been so pleasant or profitable that ye will forego all the happiness of heaven for them? or, if ye intend to turn away from them, have ye fixed the period of your conversion? "How long" do you intend to persist? Till the time of sickness, and the hour of death? or till some more convenient season? Ah! "turn you at my reproof;" let the words of a Father and a Friend prevail with you: do not attempt to justify your actions; or to extenuate your guilt: you see clearly enough that your conduct is indefensible: turn, turn from it without delay-]
The promises, with which the expostulation is enforced, add greatly to its weight
[A consciousness both of weakness and of ignorance often contributes to keep men under the power of their sins-A thought arises in their minds, I know not how to turn; I know not how to obtain either the pardon of my sins, or victory over my lusts.' But God obviates at once all such discouraging reflections. He says in effect, 'Are your corruptions insuperable by any efforts of your own? "I will pour out my Spirit" to sanctify you throughout. Are you at a loss
how to obtain my favour? "I will make known to you the words of life;" I will reveal my Son in your heart; I will shew you the efficacy of his atonement, and make you wise unto salvation through faith in him.' Thus does he silence their objections, and dissipate their fears: "Behold, what manner of love" is this! surely we should not hear of it but with wonder; we should not receive its overtures, but with grateful adoration-]
But "God will not always strive with man." On the contrary,
II. They, who despise his invitations, shall be given up to final impenitence and ruin—
The contempt too generally poured upon the mercy of God, is awful in the extreme
[One would suppose that such invitations and promises could not fail of producing the desired effect. But, alas, the reception they meet with is such as God himself represents it: men "refuse to obey his calls; when he stretches out his hands to them with parental tenderness and importunate entreaties, they will not regard him; they set at nought his counsel; they despise his reproof; they hate even to hear of their duty, and determine, whatever be the consequence, that they will not perform it." The zeal and earnestness of his ministers are made a subject of profane ridicule; and the dictates of wisdom are laughed at as the effusions of folly and fanaticism. We appeal to the consciences of all respecting these things. Who that has made any observations on the world around him, or on what passes in his own heart, must not attest that these things are so? Yes; we are all guilty: "This has been our manner from our youth." Some have been more open and notorious, and others more secret and reserved, in their oppositions to God's will; but all have opposed it, and, if divine grace have not slain our enmity, we are opposing it still the deliberate sentiment of every unregenerate man is like theirs of old, "As for the word which thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto theea".]
But such conduct, if persisted in, will one day meet a suitable reward
[As God cannot be deceived, so neither will he be mocked: if he have a day of grace, so has he also a day of vengeance; and that day is hastening on apace. However secure the sinner may think himself, there is an hour of "desolation, and of consequent distress and anguish coming upon him." Perhaps
a Jer. xliv. 16.
it may come in this life; on a dying bed he may be filled with terror and remorse; and though, like Judas, he may confess his sin, or, like Esau, pray for a revocation of his sentence, his prayers may be cast out, and God laugh at his calamity. Often does God threaten this, and often has he executed his threatening; "Go to your gods whom ye have chosen," said he to his people of old; let them deliver you; for I will deliver you no more." So now does he often suggest to the mind of an awakened, but unconverted sinner, What will the world do for you now? What will your pleasures, your riches, or your honours profit you in this day of my wrath? What do you think of the seed which you have been sowing, now you begin to reap the fruit thereof?' But if God deal not with us thus in this world, most assuredly he will in the world to come. That will indeed be an hour of distress and anguish when these despisers of mercy shall stand at the tribunal of their Judge: and oh! how will HE then "laugh at their calamity! how will he mock at all their fear" and terror! You would not believe my word now see whether it be true or not. You would not be persuaded that I would ever vindicate my insulted Majesty: What do you think of that matter now? You despised me, and said, "Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways!" You shall have your request: I will depart from you; and you too shall depart from me: depart, accursed, into everlasting fire: and though you should pray to all eternity for a mitigation of your pain, you shall never have so much as a drop of water to cool your tongue.'
Would to God that men would realize these things, and be persuaded to believe that God is true! But whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, we must declare what God has spoken: and, however an ignorant world may deride it as folly, we will aver it to be the counsel of true wisdom," and the declaration of an unerring God.]
1. Let all adore the divine goodness
[Which of us must not plead guilty to the charge of despising God? Which of us has not persevered in a course of disobedience to him in spite of all his messages of mercy; and that too, not for days merely, but for months and years? Yet has God exercised forbearance towards us; and at this very instant renews to us his gracious invitations. Let us consider how many thousands have been cut off in their sins, while we are yet spared to hear the tidings of salvation: and "let the patience and long-suffering of God lead us to repentance."
b He has threatened it, Mic. iii. 4. Jer. ii. 27, 28; and he has executed it, Zech. vii. 11-13. Judg. x. 13, 14.