Page images

unequal ?” He then solemnly assures them that, notwithstanding their guilt and obstinacy, he had rather they should be for ever happy, than for ever miserable. “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God.” The plain import of these words is this:

That God is so far from being willing that any of mankind should die, that he sincerely desires that all should live. I shall,

I. Consider what is here to be understood by men's dying; II. Show that God is unwilling that any should die; And, III. Show that he sincerely desires that all should live.

I. We are to consider what is to be understood, in the text and this discourse, by men's dying.

The scripture mentions three kinds of death; temporal death, spiritual death, and eternal death. Temporal death is the dissolution of the connection between the soul and body. Spiritual death is the total corruption or depravity of the heart. Eternal death is complete and endless misery in a future state. Temporal death is a common calamity, which none can escape. It is appointed unto all men once to die; dust they are, and unto dust they must return. By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Spiritual death is as universal as temporal. By nature all men are dead in trespasses and sins, and under the entire dominion of an evil heart. But eternal death is peculiar to the finally impenitent. Though all men deserve eternal death, yet none but the finally impenitent shall suifer eternal misery. These reject the counsel of God against themselves, practically judge themselves unworthy of eternal life, and must suffer the second death, which is the full and proper wages of sin. As soon as they leave this world, they will go into a state of everlasting separation and alienation from God, where he will pour out the vials of his wrath upon them, without mixture and without end. Neither temporal nor spiritual death is an adequate punishment for sin ; but eternal death, or everlasting misery, is a just and proper reward for final impenitence and unbelief. And this is what God threatens when he says, “ The soul that sinneth it shall die;” and when he says, “ He that believeth not shall be damned.” I proceed to show,

II. That God is really unwilling that any of mankind should suffer eternal death. This appears,

1. From the plain and positive declarations concerning the final state of impenitent sinners, which are every where to be found in his word. He plainly and unequivocally says in the text, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” This declaration he confirms with the solemnity of an oath. 66 As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” God doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Though he was justly and highly displeased with his sinful people, yet he assures them that he was extremely reluctant to punish them according to their deserts. “How'shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God and not man." And the apostle declares that “the Lord is long suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." These strong and positive declarations are to be understood in their most plain and literal sense, as expressing the real feelings of God's heart in respect to the future state of the impenitent. He means to tell all the world that he takes no pleasure in the misery of his most guilty and ill-deserving creatures; and that he feels a strong reluctance, simply considered, to inflict that punishment upon them which they justly deserve, and which his supreme regard to the good of the universe requires him to inflict

. And this is farther confirmed, 2. By the pure, disinterested and universal benevolence of bis nature. God is love. His love is universal. It extends to the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field, and to all mankind, whether high or low, whether good or evil. Such pure, impartial and universal benevolence, renders it morally impossible that he should take pleasure in the pain or misery of any sensitive nature. While he feels perfectly benevolent towards all mankind, it is utterly impossible that he should desire, or take pleasure in, the pain or punishment of any human being, simply considered. He has a far more clear and just view of the future and eternal punishment of the wicked than they have, or any other created being has; and such endless misery appears to him infinitely more disagreeable, in its own nature, than it does to those who are suffering it. The spirits in prison have but a faint idea of a boundless eternity, in comparison with him who inhabits eternity. God views every impenitent sinner as exposed to eternal torments; and while he views him in that light, he takes no pleasure in the dreadful prospect. He views the impenitent, while preparing for destruction, as infinitely different from the malignant deceiver, who goes about seeking whom he may destroy. Satan takes a real pleasure in destroying sinners and in seeing them destroyed. But God, the Father of mercies, has no such malignant feelings towards the most rebellious and vile of the human race. Their pain or misery, simply considered, never did, and never will give him the least pleasure, or gratification. The perfect benevolence of his heart demon-'

[ocr errors]

strates the sincerity of all his declarations concerning his unwillingness that any should perish. There is not a child in his family, or a subject in his kingdom, that he is willing should die the second death and lie down in everlasting sorrow.

All souls are his, and all souls are precious in his sight. He views them as unspeakably more important than they view themselves, and looks upon the loss of one single soul as far more dreadful than the sinner looks upon it, and is far more unwilling, simply considered, to destroy him, than he is to be destroyed. This leads me to show,

III. That God is not only unwilling that any should be lost, but sincerely desires that all should be saved. Here it may be observed,

1. That if God be unwilling that any should die, then he must desire that all may live. He cannot be altogether indifferent about the happiness or misery of his rational and immortal creatures. If the pure benevolence of his nature makes him unwilling that any should perish, then the same benevolence must make him desire that all should be saved. God must be as desirous that sinners should be saved, as he is unwilling that they should be lost. Accordingly, he tells us so in his word. He expresses both his unwillingness that sinners should die, and his desire that they should live. “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God. Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” He uses the same mode of expression on this subject, in other parallel passages.

6 As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" And when he declares that he is not willing that any should perish, he immediately subjoins, “ but that all should come to repentance.” The salvation of every sinner is desirable in its own nature; and therefore God sincerely desires that every sinner should be saved. And his desire that all should be saved is impartial; he desires the eternal good of every individual of mankind, according to his real worth and importance. Good men desire the future good of all, simply considered; but yet they are often very partial in their desires, and more ardently wish that they and theirs may be saved, than that others of much greater importance in the scale of being may be saved. But God views and values all men with perfect impartiality, and sincerely desires the good of all in time and eternity, according to their various capacities for doing and enjoying good. This desire of the everlasting happiness of all mankind is essential to his nature; and he must cease to be God, before he can cease to desire that all men might be saved. 2. That God desires that all may escape misery and enjoy happiness in a future state, clearly appears from his providing a Saviour for all. He sent his Son to seek and save them that are lost. He gave him to be a ransom for all and to be a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He caused him to taste death for every man.

He so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His providing such a glorious and divine Saviour for all mankind, was the strongest expression of his benevolence towards them that he could exhibit. It was not only morally, but naturally impossible for him to give a higher testimony of his sincere and ardent desire to save the whole fallen and guilty race of Adam. And so it was viewed by the heavenly hosts, who appeared and announced the advent of Christ. They said in their song of praise on that joyful occasion, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” God's love in sending his Son to suffer and die for the sins of the world, could arise from no other source than his sincere and ardent desire to save them from eternal death, and raise them to eternal life. Hence says the apostle,“ When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die :- But God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for

God saw no moral excellence in mankind to excite his complacency towards them. It was therefore entirely owing to his mere self moving goodness, that he sent his Son to redeem them from sin and death, and raise them to life and happiness.

3. It appears from the invitations which God makes to sinners in the gospel, that he desires all should be saved. These invitations are universal, and extend to all sinners of every age, character and condition, who are capable of understanding them. The evangelical prophet cries, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Our Saviour invited all, without exception, to come to him for life.

that labor and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest.” And in the great and last day of the feast, " Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Christ commanded his apostles and their successors in the ministry, to make the same offers of salvation to all, without exception. “ Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.” And the gospel closes with this general invitation to sinners. “ The Spirit and the

" Come unto me,

all ye


bride say come; and let him that heareth say come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." These universal invitations to sinners, to come and partake of all the blessings which God has provided for them by the sufferings and death of Christ, afford a strong and undeniable evidence that God really desires the salvation of every individual sinner. Neither his wisdom, nor goodness, nor veracity, would allow him to make such universal offers of salvation, unless he really desired that all should accept of pardoning mercy. If he did not desire, simply considered, that any should be saved, but only such as eventually will be saved, it seems that he could not, with any propriety or sincerity, make the offer of salvation to all, without any limitation, or exception.

4. It farther appears that God sincerely desires the salvation of all men, from his commanding all to embrace the gospel and live. He never commands any thing but what is agreeable to him, in its own nature. If it were not agreeable to him, in its own nature, that sinners should repent, believe, and love the gospel, he would not command them to do it. He never commands men to sin, because that is in its own nature disagreeable to him; and he never commands them to die, or to destroy themselves, because that is in its own nature disagreeable to him. But he does repeatedly and solemnly command them to repent, believe and live. He says, “ Turn yourselves and live ye.” He also says, “ Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” Our Lord called upon all to whom he preached the gospel, to repent and believe. And the apostle says, “God now commandeth all men every where to repent." "Yea, God not only commands, but tenderly and solemnly exhorts sinners universally, to turn from sin and escape the wrath to come. “ Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?All the warnings, admonitions and exhortations, as well as commands, which God has given to sinners in the Bible, are so many proofs of his sincere and ardent desires that they should seek and secure the salvation of their souls.

They flow from his benevolent heart, and manifest how greatly he feels interested in their eternal welfare. Besides,

5. The patience and forbearance of God towards sinners, is a very clear and convincing evidence that he greatly desires that they should be saved rather than destroyed. If God took any pleasure in the death of the wicked, he would not delay so long to punish them. Though he has prepared his instruments of death, and could with infinite ease let loose his hands upon them and crush them in a moment, yet he endures them with much long suffering, not willing that they should perish, but



« PreviousContinue »