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who threw her last mite into the Lord's treasury, we are furnished with a beautiful exemplification of the apostle's doctrine, that if there be first a willing rind, it is accepted according to that a man bath, and not according to that he hath not:" 2 Cor. viii, 12. Nor can we doubt that the very same equitable principle is maintained by the Judge of all flesh, in reference to matters of the highest moment. The man who makes a right use of his single talent is, in the most important point of view, on a par with his neighbour, by whom the five talents are improved. Both shall be made rulers over more both shall enter into the joy of their Lord.” When Jesus was conversing with the disciples on the subject of divine retribution, be elucidated his doctrine in the following memorable words~-words which may teach us at once to tremble for ourselves, and to abstain from any sweeping condemnation of others, to whom the law of God is less fully revealed And that servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things
worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. ' For unto » whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required :"
Luke xii, 47, 48. DEN IV. That God is goodabounding in kindness towards his
creatures our bounteous Protector and Father-is a truth to
which the Scriptures bear an unequivocal testimony. “The hitely Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his is fy works :" Ps. cxlv, 9. " The earth is full of the goodness of that the Lurd :" Ps. xxxiii, 5. “ We also are men of like pas. him sions with you," cried Paul to the deluded inhabitants of fateb Lystra," and preach unto you, that ye should turn from these . phek vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, plement and the sea, and all things that are therein ; who in times past
suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, pall he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and
gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness :" Acts xiv, 15–17. He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain
on the just and on the unjust :" Matt. v, 45. “God giveth niet to all men liberally, and upbraideth not....... Every good gift eles and every perfect gift is from above, and corneth down from When the Father of lights :" James i, 5. 17.
It is matter of great consolation, that the destitute and afFred dicted amongst men are, in a peculiar manner, the object content of divine tenderness and regard. A father of the fatherless. opening and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation :" Ps.
lxviii, 5. (He) "executeth judgment for the oppressed ; (He) giveth food to the hungry; the Lord looseth the prisoners; the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind; the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down..... the Lord preserveth the strangers : he relieveth the fatherless and widow :" Ps. cxlvi, 7-9. “ They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way: they found no city to dwell in : hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble ; and he delivered them out of their distresses. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men !" Ps. cvii, 4-8.
While, however, the benevolence of God is in many ways exerted to the whole family of mankind, we are never to forget that it is those who fear the Lord, those who are devoted to his service, those who really belong to his church on earth, who are, in an especial and preeminent manner, the objects of his care and favour. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress ; my God, in him will I'trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust : his truth shall be thy shield and buckler:" xci, 1 -4. 6 Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good ?" 1 Pet. iii, 13., 6 But thou, Israel, art my servant, the seed of Abraham my friend. Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee : yea, I will help thee : yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness :" Isa. xli, 8. 10. « Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom:" Luke xii, 32.
The rewards bestowed upon the righteous form one essential part of that retributive system which I have already noticed as evincing the justice of the Deity. Here, however, it ought to be observed, that, although the wicked deserve the wrath of the Lord, the most righteous among men are far indeed frorn having any claim, in themselves, on the happiness which he condescends to bestow upon them. It is his own goodness which follows them; and of that goodness they are utterly unworthy. After they have done all which he commands them, they are “ un profitable servants ;" for " who hath first given" unto the Lord, that it should be recompensed unto him again ?" Let us observe the distinction—" The
wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord :" Rom. vi, 23.
Such are the descriptions presented to us in Holy Writ of the benevolence and bounty of the Deity. Now, we know that the creatures of God are many of them endued with exquisite sensibility—that, while their frame is adapted to delightful and pleasurable sensations, it is also liable to pain. Bodily pain and a certain degree, we may presume, of mental suffering are often endured, even by the beasts of the field and the birds of the air ; and, with respect to man, his capacity of suffering pain is large in proportion to his other powers. He is the child, not only of pleasure and joy, but of perplexity, affiction, and tribulation. He is “ born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward !” Job, v, 7.
This subject, like that of the existence of moral evil, is not without its mysteriousness; but, that, between the pains suffered under particular circumstances by the creatures, and the benevolence of the Creator, there is no real inconsistency, a scriptural view of the case will presently convince us. With respect, in the first place, to the inferior animals, the sacred writers occasionally advert to their frail and perishing nature, Ps. xlix, 12; but they are far more frequently occupied in contemplating their strength, their beauty, and their happiness : Job xxxix-xli: Ps. civ. On this branch of the subject, then, it may suffice to observe, that the sensitiveness of these animals is productive of so vast a quantity of pleasure, and of so little pain in the comparison, as to afford an almost unmixed evidence of the benevolence of their Maker; and, unquestionably, the pain which such perishing creatures sometimes endure, although calculated to excite compassion in the feeling mind, is permitted for some wise and gracious, though unknown, purpose.
With respect to the more intelligent creatures of God, all the suffering which they endure may reasonably be regarded, as I have found occasion to remark in a former essay, as the direct or indirect consequences of sin. That such, more especially, is the fact, as it relates to death, that most powerful afflicter of humanity, we may learn from the apostle Paul; for it is generally allowed that he spoke of natural as well as spiritual death, when he said, “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned :" Rom. 5, 12. Now, it is a singular proof of the goodness, as well as the wisdom, of God, that the pains and afflictions of mortals, the direct or indirect consequences of sin, are so overruled for good, that they are
often the means of curing that very evil out of which they ori. ginate. We learn from the Scriptures, that they are directed by an all-wise and beneficent Deity to the great and good purpose of moral probation and discipline that they are powerful instruments in his holy hands, for the reformation and restoration of his wandering children. Affliction, in its varied forms, is calculated, above almost every other means, to humble the pride and to soften the hardness of the heart of man. It is affliction by which our faith is tried, and in the end confirmed. It is affliction which calls into exercise our patience, our forbearance, our submission, and our fortitude. 6 Before I was afflicted,” exclaimed David, “I went astray; but now have I kept thy word :" Ps. cxix, 67. “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when 14 thou art rebuked of him ; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye et endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons ; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not ?.... Further. more, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in a subjection to the Father of Spirits, and live ; for they verily, for a few days, chasteneth us after their own pleasure, but he is for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness? Now, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby: Prov. iii, 11: Heb. xii, 5-11.
The righteous, who are the especial objects of the divine benevolence, are taught of their Heavenly Father, that it is « through much tribulation” they enter the kingdom;" but theirs is the privilege of receiving, on every trying occasion, strength and consolation proportioned to their day. "But in now, saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that can formed thee, O Israel, Fear not, for I have redeemed thee. ! bave called thee by thy name: thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through The rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest R.. through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee ; for I am the Lord thy God-the Holy One of Israel-thy Saviour :" Isa. xliii, 1-3. The purpose and effect of their sufferings, also, are plainly set be fore them, for their help and encouragement." The trial" of 16 their faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire,” is found 6 unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ :". 19
Pet. i, 7. “ For which cause we faint not, but, though onr outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory :” 2 Cor. iv, 16, 17.
Too many indeed there are, among men, to whom the moral discipline of pain and sorrow, as well as every other administration of divine wisdom, is applied in vain—who, unmoved alike by kindness and by chastiseinent, continue in their state of sinfulness-hard, stubborn, and impenitent. If the sufferings of such persons are unmitigated—if they find no valid consolation under them—it is not because there is any inadequacy in the goodness of God, but because they are separated from that goodness by their sins. And, if they continue to despise the long-suffering, and to reject the proffered grace, of a perfectly benevolent Deity, till the time of their visitation, the period of their probation, shall have passed away for ever, and thus expose themselves to the outpouring of his wrath in the world of future retribution, the goodness of God is still unimpeachable—their blood is upon their own heads. In the moral attributes of the Deity, there is to be observed the har. mony of a perfect adjustment. Every one of those attributes occupies its own province, and fulfils its own end; and, while they operate in different directions, there exists among them an entire congruity. God is benevolent : he is also holy: and his benevolence is incapable of being ever so exerted as to interrupt or annul his holiness. It can never be applied in such a manner as to confound the distinction between right and wrong, to destroy the standard of virtue, or to subvert that unalterable principle--that the wages of unrepented sin is DEATH.
V. Let it be remembered, however, that the holiness and benevolence of God meet in his attribute of mercy. When the Lord condescended to display his glory to Moses, he descended in the cloud, and proclaimed the name of the Lord : “ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin :" Exod. xxxiv, 6, 7. Of all the attributes of the Deity, indeed, there is none more largely unfolded in Scripture than his mercy-his graci. ous and unfailing disposition to pardon the iniquities of his children, on their forsaking their sins, on their turning back again to the God of their salvation, on their offering to him the acceptable sacrifice of a contrite heart. “ If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity,” said David, “O Lord, who sball