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every other requirement may be readily resolved into these two great commandments; and if they were universally obeyed, universal harmony and felicity would be the consequence. Yet this is the law, against which the corrupt passions of man's heart rise in desperate enmity !-Who then can deny that God is LOVE?

But the law is enforced by an awful sanction, and it denounces an awful curse against every transgressor: what then shall we say to this? It would not perhaps be difficult to prove, that the punishments threatened in the law, and inflicted by the justice of God, result from love directed by infinite wisdom: not love of the individuals, whose final condemnation is determined, but enlarged benevolence to universal being through eternal ages. This however would carry us too far from our subject: it must therefore suffice to observe, that in the government of accountable creatures, who act voluntarily, and are influenced by motives, the denunciation of punishment must form a part of the system : and if this punishment be only inflicted on the disobedient, and do not exceed the heinousness of their crimes; while it tends to retain multitudes in obedience, and preserve the universe from the effects of general rebellion, it must prove a public benefit, and consist with wise and holy love. That must be the most beneficent plan, which secures the greatest, most extensive, and permanent advantages to the most excellent part of moral agents: and the philosophical notion, that the felicity even of sinful creatures is the ultimate end proposed to himself by the Governor of the world, is not more repugnant to Scripture, than to the common sense and opinion of mankind in similar cases.

A wise ruler of a nation, in proportion as he loved his people, would be careful, by good laws impartially executed, to restrain the ill-disposed from injuring their fellowsubjects, and disturbing the peace of the community: and if this made it necessary to punish with death some individuals, these would be considered as suffering for the public good: and provided they deserved their doom, it would not be deemed an impeachment of his paternal love to his people. On the contrary, the prince, who under the plea of clemency should neglect to punish evil doers, and to protect his peaceable subjects, might indeed be the favourite of the fraudulent and rapacious, but his conduct would be reprobated by all honest men.

But as we are not capable of fully comprehending the plan of the divine government; and it would therefore be presumptuous to enter further upon such reasonings ; let us turn our thoughts to another view of the subject.The Lord hath shewn that he is love, in his dealings with sinful men, by his patience and providential bounty. Could we possibly witness all the crimes of every description, with all their aggravations, which are perpetrated in this city during a single day; could we see the 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, many of us are under unspeakable obligations to the long-suffering of our God;

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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:" " He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” “O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.”

These are, however, subordinate proofs that God 18 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 was manifested the love of God towards us, because 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 propitiation 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 hath been guilty of treason; the obligation would have been immense. But it appears that this was impossible, because the Lord cannot act contrary to 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, excellency, 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 in hospitable 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 had 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 ; but wholly indisposed to regard distant rumours, or to make convenient 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 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 self-flattering 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.

This may suggest a proper answer to the objections of infidels against revelation, on the ground of its not having been universally vouchsafed. The Lord indeed is not bound to vouchsafe unmerited benefits to all, or any of his creatures: “ May he not do what he will with his own?" The objection therefore is replete with blind 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 charac

ter, or exclusion from preferments which he might otherwise have expected. Many sincere friends to the truth are so influenced by this consideration, that they bring forward the peculiar doctrines of the gospel with a sparing and 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 rose in aversion against that humiliating subject.

Yet still, our God, who is love, 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 sin, 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 all-prevailing 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 various 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 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,

III. Proceed to mention some perverse inferences which are frequently made from the text. If GOD BE LOVE,' say some men, 6 may we not conclude that he will not make his creatures miserable?' Now this strange inference not only contradicts the general tenor 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? Do not various diseases continually sweep immense multitudes into the grave, after enduring most excruciating 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?" Gen. iii. 16-19.

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 ac

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THE DIVINE LOVE.

count 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
And the answer to this
relieved such miseries, if it had been in his power?
inquiry must convince every one, who does not deny the superintending pro-
vidence of God, or blaspheme his name, that we are incompetent judges on
such subjects.

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 indispensibly 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 atHe hath said, that "the tempt to exalt his love by denying his Truth? Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven-in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction;" for "they shall go away into everlasting punishment." Matt. xxv. 46. 2 Thess. i. 8. And surely" God is not a man that he should lie !-hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" Numb. xxiii. 19.

The grandest display of the love of God doth equally declare his justice and holiness: and will not men allow that he is love, unless he will, as it were, abdicate his throne, dishonour his name, and neglect the interests of his obedient subjects, in order to preserve impenitent rebels from deserved punishment? These reflections ought rather to convince us, that there is a malignity in sin, of which men are not aware; seeing God, who is love, so terribly threatens, and severely punishes his offended creatures, and yet rescues a penitent remnant in so stupendous a manner!

But some men will still contend that God will save all sincere persons, each in his own way; and support this anti-scriptural opinion by the words of our text.-Leaving at present the case of those, who never were favoured with the clear light of divine revelation: let it be observed, that if they who are fully informed, or might be, did they properly improve their advantages, will persist in neglecting the way of salvation revealed in the Scriptures, to depend on their moral virtues, rational schemes, or self-invented observances; if they treat the truth of God as a lie, and count that wisdom, which angels adore, to be foolishness; if they regard the stupendous love of God in giving his Son to be the Saviour of the world as needless; and then pretend that he will condemn no man for unavoidable errors: let them look to it, for evil is before them. The whole Scripture declares such unbelief to be the offspring of pride, and the love of sin: and that such men continue under the unqualified sentence of final condemnation.

Sincerity is an ambiguous term: sincerely to hate infinite good and despise infinite excellency; and thus to be very sincere in fighting against God, and persecuting his saints, is surely very different from sincere repentance, faith in Christ, love of his people, and obedience to his commands. Yet men

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