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cannot defeat the purposes of God, nor impair his glory in any degree; the weapons of your rebellion must re. coil upon yourselves; for God will be magnified in them that perish, as well as admired in those who are saved. As the justice of his nature renders his mercy more wonderful, so mercy abused will make justice to shine forth with greater splendour. Sinners must stand speechless before the judgment-seat, and shall find nothing to plead in their own defence, when the Judge shall say to them, “Ye would not come unto me, that you might have life.” Long did I stand at the door and knock, loudly did I call upon you to turn and live: but ye set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof; therefore now eat the fruit of your own doings, and fill yourselves with your own devices. Because when I called, ye refused ; when I stretched out my hand, ye did not regard; therefore do I laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh, and leave you to inherit that wrath which you treasured up for yourselves, while mercy courted your acceptance, but did not prevail.
Thus far I have spoken for the conviction and reproof of those who have hitherto been abusing the divine patience in the manner described in my text; and if such transgressors still remain unmoved, it is not because the considerations I have suggested want weight, but because they want feeling. May the exalted Prince and Saviour, who alone can give the spirit and grace of repentance,“ open their eyes, and turn them from dark,
. ness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified through faith that is in him."
Upon the whole, let each of us give unto God the glory of his patience, and acknowledge, with humble gratitude, his spariug mercy towards himself in particular. O my friends! with what multiplied provocations are we all chargeable? Let us pitch upon the most inpocent day of our life since we came to the full exercise of Reason, and say, if we dare, that we are willing to have our final state determined by the behaviour of that one day, according to the measure of legal justice. Can conscience remind us of nothing that needs forgiveness or pardoning mercy ? Surely none of us will be so hardy as to say this: our own hearts do, and must, condemn us; how guilty then must we appear in the sight of that God who is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things? Were we chargeable with nothing worse than omissions of duty, yet these alone might justly have stopped the current of his beneficence, nay, brought down bis wrath upon such unfaithful and negligent servants; but when to these we add our many sins of commission, our sins against knowledge, conviction, and reproof, how great is their amount? bow heinous their demerit? How astonishing then is the patience of God! The saints in heaven are amazed at it; “ the souls of them that were slain for the testimony which they held,” who are better acquainted with the nature of God, and the order of bis government, than we can be, are represented in the book of the Revelations, (chap. vi. 10.) as expressing the greatest surprise at the slowness of his wrath; nay, as being at a loss to reconcile his patience with his holiness and truth. “They cry with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge, and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” And it can be owing to nothing but the grossest insensibility, if our hearts are not filled with amazement at those treasures of mercy which have alseady been expended upon us, and the overflowings of
that goodness by which we are at this moment supported and preserved. How many of our companions have long ago been summoned away to receive their doom ? yet we still live in the arms of mercy. How often has death been presented to our view, and the sentence (in our own apprehension) just ready to be executed, Cut down this cumberer of the ground; when, lo! mercy interposed, and prevailed for a farther respite and trial? What shall we say then? “ He is God, and not man; and therefore it is that we are not consumed.” O let our souls, and all that is within us, be stirred up to bless him, because he is good, and bath not executed sentence against our multiplied offences.
Let convinced sinners, in particular, take encouragement from the patience and long-sufferings of God. It is one of the deadly artifices of the adversary, who continually “goeth about seeking whom he may devour,” to discourage the newly-awakened soul, by whispering, that the season of mercy is past, that the door is shut, and he is come too late. But be not dismayed, you are on the way to the fountain of love and grace; go on, and you shall find more than it is possible for you to conceive. You are going to him, “ who came to seek and to save that which was lost;"—that good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, by whose merit and intercession you bave been kept alive to this hour; who invites the chief of sinners to come to him; and hath expressly said, “ Him tbat cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." He is “the Lamb of God," meekness and gentleness itself.--" He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” Did he spare you, while your heart was as bard as a stone? and will he destroy you, when, by the convincing influences of his own Spirit, it is softened, nay broken, with sorrow?--Im
possible!–Go forward into his presence; cast yourself at his feet; implore his protection; and as God liveth thy soul shall be safe.
To conclude. The patience of God affords the strongest consolation to those who are already reconciled to him through the great Mediator. He who waited so long upon you, and at length gained your consent, will most assuredly keep you, and perfect his own work in your complete salvation. The mercy he is still exercising towards enemies, teacheth his friends what they may lawfully hope to receive. Great are your privileges; but, at the same time, great and manifold are your obligations. Hath much been forgiven you ? then you ought to love the more, and to show the truth and favour of your love, by an unreserved respect to all his commandments, “ Be followers of God, as dear children.” Remember that nothing is more unseemly, nothing more offensive, than the provocations of sons and of daughters. “ See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise;" and let the same goodness which led you to repentance, be continually present to your minds, that under its sweet, but powerful influence, you may bring forth in rich abundance all those fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God. Amen.
Preached at the Introduction of the Reverend Mr. Charles Stu
art to the Church of Cramond, the Sabbath after his Ordination, 1773.
2 CORIN. iv. 5.
We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the LORD;
and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
WHEN God descended upon Sinai to give laws lo his ancient people Israel, the awful tokens of his presence, the thunderings and lightnings, the sound of the trumpet, and the smoking of the mountain, 'struck the whole camp with such consternation and dread, that they were constrained to remove and stand afar off. They could not bear the exceeding lustre of his glory, notwithstanding the thick darkness with which it was veiled; and therefore addressed Moses in these remarkable words: “ Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” From which authentic piece of sacred bistory we may justly conclude, that our nature is too weak, in its present state, to sustain an immediate intercourse with the Deity: For which cause, God, in great condescension, is pleased to speak to us by men like ourselves; that, on the one hand, we may not want the benefit of his instruction; and, on the other hand, that we may not be overpowered by the too dazzling splendour and majesty of the Teacher.
Under the old dispensation, besides the stated ministers of religion, God," at sundry times,” sent extraor.