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But God contrived a way, wherein he might be "just, and yet the justifier of sinful men'.” For this end he gave his onlybegotten Son, to stand in our place, to bear our sins, to "make reconciliation for our iniquities, and to bring in an everlasting righteousness," wherein we might stand accepted before our God.
Well might the Apostle say, “Great is the mystery of godliness.” Who can contemplate “God manifest in human flesh," and dying in the place of his own sinful and rebellious creatures, and not stand amazed at this stupendous effort of love and mercy ? Truly, it far “surpasses all the knowledge" whether of men or angels. And, if it were not confirmed to us by testimony that is absolutely unquestionable, we could not but regard it altogether as "cunningly-devised fable;" so unfathomable are the depths contained in it, and so incomprehensible the love.]
But let us contemplate God's judgments, II. As manifested in his works
Let us notice them in his works, 1. Of providence
[These also are as inscrutable as redemption itself. Who that surveyed Joseph in all his different scenes of woe, could ever imagine whither they were conducting him, or to what they would lead ? Truly there is “a wheel within a wheeln;" and whilst all appears uncertainty around us, every thing is working to a fixed end, even to accomplish what God himself has predicted in his word. The smallest incidents that can be imagined are often productive of the most wonderful events: the casting of a lot, the sleepless restlessness of Ahasuerus, the casual turning to a particular record, to a common observer would appear as matters of trifling moment: yet on them depended the preservation of the whole Jewish peoplek. And we too, if we look back upon our past lives, may find many minute occurrences, which seemed to be of no account at the time, but which contributed in the most essential manner to influence and fix our future destinies; so that at this hour there is not one amongst us whose life would not serve for the illustrating of this point, and constrain him with the profoundest admiration to exclaim, “How unsearchable are God's judgments, and his ways past finding out'!"] 2. Of
grace[Who, that had seen Paul in his unconverted state, would ever have supposed that God had designs of love towards him?
f Rom. ii. 26.
8 1 Tim. iii. 16. h Eph. ii. 18, 19.
Yet, when he had well nigh filled up the measure of his iniquities, God arrested him in his career, and made him a most distinguished monument of his mercy; insomuch that all future ages were to regard him as "a pattern,” by which the extent of God's mercy might be estimated, and the hopes of penitents be encouragedm. Certainly the conduct of Onesimus towards his master Philemon must appear a very strange link in the purposes of heaven, relative to his salvation : yet were his dishonesty and flight made use of by God as means to bring him under the ministry of St. Paul, and, through that, to a conversion of soul to God, and to the everlasting possession of happiness and glory”. Not that God's designs of mercy towards him lessened in any degree the guilt which he contracted : nor is sin of any kind the less sinful on account of the use which God may make of it for the accomplishment of his own designs: for then the murderers of our blessed Lord must have been accounted the best, rather than the most guilty, of mankind. No: sin is a deadly evil, by whomsoever it is committed, and whatsoever it may effect: but this I say, that God both does and will accomplish his own eternal counsels, in ways which no finite wisdom could have contrived, nor any finite power have brought to a successful issue. “Verily," says the prophet, “thou art a God that hidest thyselfo.” And so, indeed, we may all say. For who can look back upon the way in which he has been brought from his youth up even to this present moment, and especially upon the way in which he has been led to the knowledge of the Saviour, and not stand amazed at “the goodness and mercy that have followed him," and at the wisdom and power that have effected so great things for him ? Yes: we must all fully acquiesce in that sentiment of Zophar: “ Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? it is deeper than hell; what canst thou know the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea P."]
Let us, then, LEARN from hence, 1. Submission to God's will
[We may have been brought into circumstances of the most afflictive nature: but we should remember who it is that ordereth all things, even to the falling of a sparrow upon the ground. Men and devils may be labouring for our destruction: and God may suffer them to proceed to the very utmost extremity, till, like the murderers of our Lord, they may exult in, what appears to them, the full attainment of their purpose; but God says to all of them, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther." True it is that “ His way is in the sea, and his footsteps are not known 9:" but you must never forget, that though “ clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne." “ What he does, you may not at present know : but
m 1 Tim. i. 12-16. o Isai. xlv. 15.
n Philem. ver. 15. p Job xi. 7-9.
you shall know hereafters." and you may be sure that at the last you shall add your testimony to that of all his saints, “He hath done all things wellt." Your way may be circuitous, and attended with great difficulties : but you will find, at last, that it was the right wayų,” the way most conducive to your best interests, and most calculated to advance his glory. Let us, then, wait to “ see the end of the Lord”;” and, under all circumstances, say, “ It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good."] 2. Affiance in his word
[There is light sufficient: there we see what God will most assuredly accomplish. There may appear to be a discordance between the word and works of God; but they will be found to harmonize at last: nor shall one jot or tittle of his word ever fail.” Lay hold, then, on the promises of God: rest on them: plead them at the throne of his grace: and expect the accomplishment of them in due season. But be not impatient under any delays: “If the vision tarry, wait for it;” assured that " it will not tarry” beyond the appointed times. Never, under any circumstances, say, “ All these things are against me;" because God has promised that “they shall all work together for your goodz.” But, conceive of a soul just liberated from the body, and from the throne of God looking back upon the way in which it has been brought thither; with what admiration will it then be filled! and what praises will it pour forth on account of the dispensations which till now it was not able to unravel! This should now be the posture of your soul. Most safely may you trust in God, to the full extent of his promises : for, whatever difficulties may lie in his way, “ His counsel shall stand; and He will do all his will."]
q Ps. lxxvii. 19.
r Ps. xcvii. 2.
s John xiii. 7.
THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD. Ps. xxxvi. 7, 8. How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house : and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
THE more we know of man, the more shall we see the folly of trusting in an arm of flesh : but, the more we are acquainted with God, the more enlarged will be our expectations from him, and the more unreserved our confidence in his power and grace. David had found by bitter experience, that no dependence could be placed on the protestations of Saul. But he had a friend, in whose protection he could trust; and in the contemplation of whose character he could find the richest consolation, while his views of man filled him with nothing but grief and anguish. Having expatiated upon his perfections, as contrasted with the deceitfulness and depravity of man, he bursts forth into a rapturous admiration of his love.
His words furnish us with an occasion to consider the loving-kindness of God, in the precise view in which it is exhibited in our text, 1. As a subject for adoring gratitude
[Wherever we turn our eyes, we behold the most astonishing displays of God's love. Every work of creation, every dispensation of providence, every effort of grace, exhibits him to us in the most endearing view.
But most of all must we admire the wonders of redemption. This is the work whereby God commends his love to usa. This is the one subject of adoration to all the saints in gloryb. No sooner was it declared in the incarnation of Christ, than multitudes of the heavenly host began a new song, singing “ Glory to God in the highest.”. Yea, from that moment have they been occupied in exploring its mysteries. But so unsearchable are its heights and depths, that no finite understanding can fully comprehend, nor will eternity suffice to unfold, all the wonders contained in it. “How excellent then is thy loving-kindness, O God!”] II. As a ground for implicit confidence
[This is not a speculative subject, but is influential in the hearts of all that give it a due measure of their attention. It is this which encourages sinners to approach their God with confidence. In the view of this, no guilt appals, no strait
c Luke ii. 13, 14.
a Rom. v. 8.
b Rev. v. 11-18.
Eph. iii. 18, 19.
depresses, no grief dejects. Whatever we want of pardon, peace, or strength, one thought suffices to support the soul; “ he who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things'!" This is the genuine and legitimate use which we are to make of the loving-kindness of God. We are to go to him as to a Father, confessing our faultsh; to follow him as our Guide in all our ways'; and to commit ourselves to him without fear, knowing that he will either extricate us from all troublek, or overrule it for our good'.] III. As a pledge of all imaginable blessings at his
[There is nothing which can conduce to our happiness either in time or eternity, which we are not warranted to expect at God's hands, provided we contemplate, and be suitably impressed with, the excellencies of his love.
The priests of old feasted their families with the offerings which belonged to them by virtue of their officem. Now to our great High-Priest belong all the glory and blessedness of heaven: and every member of his family is privileged to partake with him. In his house he spreads his feast", and says to his dear children, Come, eat and drink abundantly, O belovedo, and let your souls delight themselves with fatness P. And who can declare what “ abundant satisfaction" their souls feel while feeding on the promises of his word, and the communications of his love; or how enviable is the state of those who are thus highly privileged?? Surely if we taste this promised blessing", we may well desire rather to be door-keepers in his house, than to enjoy the splendour of an earthly courts.
But there are still sweeter fruits of God's love to be enjoyed in heaven. There flows a river, which gladdens that holy city, the new Jerusalem, and fills with unspeakable delight every inhabitant of those blissful mansions. There is a fulness of joy, emanating from the fountain of the Deity, and filling with God's own blessedness every soul according to its capacityų. Of this shall every one be “ made to drink;" and, drinking of it, shall thirst no more for ever*.] APPLICATION
(Let the love of God in Christ Jesus be our meditation
f Rom. vii. 32. 8 Ps. ix. 10. h Luke xv. 18, 19. i Heb. xi. 8.
k Dan. iii. 17. 1 Phil. i. 19, 20. 1 Pet. iv. 19.
m Numb. xviii. 11. n Isai. xxv. 6.
o Cant. v. 1.
p Isai. lv. 2. q Ps. lxv. 4.
r Jer. xxxi. 14. s Ps. lxxxiv. 10. t Ps. xlvi. 4.
u Rev. xxii. 1. and Ps. xvi. 11. x Ps. xvii. 15.