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the instances before us are too instructive to be dismissed, without making some practical deductions from them. They were doubtless intended to stand upon record, as an affecting exhibition of the awful justice of God, and the odious nature and terrible effects of sin; and to lead men to consider his powerful indignation as the real cause of all the calamities, which fill the earth in more ordinary circumstances. We should a priori have thought, that the Lord would never give orders for such terrible executions: yet it is an authenticated fact that he did; and that he sharply rebuked and punished those, who failed in obeying them; as if they would pretend to be more merciful than He. Hence we learn that we are not competent to determine, what it becomes Him to do; and that he will deal far more severely with the wicked in another world, than our proud, ignorant, and partial reasonings would lead us to suppose. And if these considerations have any influence in warning us to flee from the wrath to come; in exciting us to value, and seek for the salvation of the gospel; and in teaching us to repent of, hate, forsake, and watch against every sin: we shall then "have a witness in ourselves," that there was abundant goodness and mercy connected with the Lord's righteous severity towards the devoted nations.
II. The Lord has a right to shew mercy on whom he will, and to leave as many as he pleases under merited condemnation; without assigning any reason for his conduct. Mercy to criminals, who deserve vengeance, cannot be a debt which justice requires to be paid; but it must be a favour, which may either be oooterred or withheld, according to the good pleasure Jt Iut attended Sovereign: and yet it must either be asserted, that he is bound to pardon sinners indiscriminately, at least all of certain descriptions; and would deny them justice if he did not: or allowed, that he has a sovereign right "to have mercy on "whom he will have mercy," and to leave all the rest \o the consequences and punishment of their crimes.
Indeed, having revealed a way in which he is pleased to pardon and bless sinners, his declarations and engagements have rendered it indispensably necessary, for the honour of his name, that he should save all who come according to his appointment. But this whole design is the result of the richest love and mercy: and if it be found that some further interposition is absolutely requisite, previous to any sinner's willingness to apply sincerely for all the blessings of salvation, in his prescribed way; to wait for them in the patient and serious use of all his instituted means; and to make every needful sacrifice, for the sake of obtaining them: it will follow, that the Lord hath a right to interpose with his power to produce this willing mind, in such instances as he chooses, and to leave others to be hardened by the pride and lusts of their own hearts. He does not indeed make one to differ from another, without wise, righteous, and holy reasons: but they may be such as we cannot discover, or are incapable of comprehending; and he has a right to conceal them from us, if he sees good.
These rights the Lord exercised, when he spared not the angels that sinned, and when he revealed salvation to fallen men. He does the same, when he sends the gospel to one land and not to another; even as he blesses one country with plenty, and visits another with famine. And he acts as a Sovereign also, when he "quickens some who were dead in sin," and leaves others enslaved to their lusts, and entangled in their beloved delusions. If any " have first given to "him, it shall be recompensed to them:" none will be punished who do not deserve it, or above their deservings: but if all have, in different degrees, merited punishment; and if none can expiate his own guilt, or advance any claim to forgiveness or eternal life, as justly due to-him; then surely the Lord hath a right to bestow them on whom he sees good, to the exclusion of all others.
We are indeed most graciously assured, that " every "one that asketh, receiveth," and as God is " no Re"specter of persons;" so " in every nation, he that "feareth him, and worketh righteousness," (as all penitent believers do,) meets acceptance with him. But if men cast off his fear, and work wickedness, he may either triumph over their obstinacy by the power of his converting grace, as he did in respect of Saul of Tarsus; or he may give them over to a strong delusion, as he did others who hated his truth. He hath a right to do this, and we have no right to find fault: on the other hand, we should submit to his righteousness in adoring silence, and supplicate his mercy as our only refuge from deserved vengeance. This is our duty and wisdom, as to ourselves: and we have no
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thing to do with the case of others; but to rest satisfied, that “the Judge of all the earth will do right;" and when called to it, “in meekness to instruct those “that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure, will “give them repentance to the acknowledging of the “truth; and that they may recover themselves out of “ the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him “at his will.”% III. The Lo RD hath a right to appoint the way in which he will shew nercy, and to exclude those who will not seek is according to his appointment. As pardoning mercy, and the blessings connected with it, are an unmerited lavour, he must have a right to prescribe the terms on which it shall be granted. It is thought reasonable in the affairs of men, for the ruler to declare in what way he will receive offenders to favour; and if they reject his conditions, and insist en their own terms, they are still considered as obstinate rebels: and when a prince hath crushed his factious subjects, so that he hath them entirely in his power; if he be disposed to spare them, he will devise to do it in that manner which may best support his authority, honour the laws, and manifest the unreasonableness of their crimes, and the greatness of his clemency. But the criminals would naturally be disposed to palliate their guilt, avoid humiliation, and secure themselves at all events. They cannot, therefore, be allowed to prescribe the terms of reconciliation. Yet in opposition to all the maxims of justice and sound policy, men reason, object, propose, and act, as if every sin
* 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.
ner might expect forgiveness and salvation in his own way! Whereas, in common sense, we ought to ask this question, and to use every method of obtaining a satisfactory answer to it. * What way hath our offend'ed Sovereign revealed, according to which he will 'shew mercy to sinners?' and this is the more necessary, as he hath repeatedly declared, that there is no other way of being saved.*
All the methods, which men have devised, of obtaining acceptance with God, are calculated to secure the offender from shame and fear, to excuse his crimes, to cherish self-preference or self-complacency, and to diminish his sense of the hatefulness and desert of sin: whilst the honour of the divine law and justice, the interests of holiness, and the peace of the universal and everlasting kingdom of God are comparatively disregarded. But the method which God hath revealed is arranged after another manner, and it is manifestly designed to display the excellent glory of his own justice and mercy, to provide for the honour of his law and government; and to cover the pardoned rebel with shame and confusion, whilst it raises him from the depths of guilt and misery to the height of dignity and felicity. It is not then at all wonderful, that such a plan should fail of meeting with general and cordial approbation. Pride and ambition, as well as other evil dispositions, will resist those assaults which threaten their destruction; and a humbling holy salvation can never suit the taste of a lofty carnal mind.
* John xiv. #. Acts iv. 12.