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“thou keepest covenant with them that love thee and keep thy commandments to a thousand generations !” What a God of truth!
However we contemplate the Deity we find him, and our minds can come to no other conclusion, to be an Almighty, everlasting God, “ full of compassion, and gracious and long suffering ;” but “ shall not the God of all the earth do right ?" His work is perfect, “ for all his ways are judgment :” “nevertheless he will by no means clear the guilty.” “He is a mighty and terrible God” to such as rebel against him, a kind and compassionate father to them that return to him in penitence and prayer. We have far more cause to love than to fear him, though, when we provoke his anger, our apprehensions of his vengeance have cause to be great, since that vengeance will be indeed terrible where it falls ; but let us only do his will and we shall have no cause to apprehend its visitation, for the Lord is gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”
THE DIVINE FORBEARANCE NO PROOF
ECCLESIASTES, CHAP. VIII. VERSE 11.
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily; therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,
The forbearance of God towards his erring creatures is every where conspicuous, in spite of the obstinacy with which they continue to violate his laws. His lovingkindness is over “all his works,” and yet how is it requited ? With ingratitude and disobedience. What does the history of mankind present to us? Perpetual mercy on the part of God, continual rebellion on the part of man.
How often do we presume to oppose the decrees of his unerring wisdom, and to reject the visitations of his grace, only. because the one imposes restraints upon our unruly wills, and because the other requires from us a dedication of the heart to him which we
had rather devote to the enjoyments of the world ! How apt are we to take encouragement from the extreme forbearance of Him who “ wills not that any should perish,” but refrains his hand even where the sins of men are mighty, and continue in the error of our ways as if the only attribute of God were his mercy! “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily ; therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
It is to the justice of God, as well as to his mercy, that we are to look for the perfection of his nature. If indiscriminate pardon were granted to all, just and unjust, as many pretend to imagine there will—moral good and evil would be confounded ; the Deity would falsify his proclaimed determinations; injustice would sully his unerring nature; all inducement to righteousness would consequently cease ; and, if the wicked were exalted to the glories of Heaven, the throne of the Lord Almighty would be surrounded by those who had set his authority at defiance, as well as by " the faithful in Christ Jesus ;” and what should hinder but that those who had been uniformly rebellious upon earth, if they were placed beyond the fear of chastisement, might also be rebellious in Heaven? The punishment of the wicked therefore is as necessary to support the dignity of Omnipotence as the pardon of the repentant. His justice is as perfect, nay, as in
dispensible an attribute as his mercy; and although the former may seem to be staid, let us not imagine that it will cease to be applied, where we continue to provoke its severities.
We shall remember that to the antediluvian world the divine vengeance was long threatened before “ the fountains of the great deep were broken up,” and the horrors of a universal deluge convulsed the earth. The degenerate children of Adam persisted in their iniquities, despising the heavenly warning. “They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," unconscious of the near destruction, when the waters of the flood prevailed and overwhelmed them all. The Jews also gave no heed to the prophesy of Christ respecting the overthrow of their capital, and a large proportion of their nation was suddenly cut off in the midst of its sins. Notwithstanding however the very awful examples of the divine inflictions which the records of past ages supply, sin has established her universal dominion. She exercises not in all places, it is true, an equal authority, but her supremacy is, to a certain extent, every where felt and acknowledged. Still the degree in which this prevails is only discernible by the all seeing eye of Him“ from whom no secrets are hid,” “ who knoweth our down sitting and our uprising, and understandeth our thoughts afar off.”