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merciful to us merciful in this or that particular way; for his mercy is directed by wisdom ; and we cannot determine how, and to whom it will be exercised, because without information from him, we cannot judge what his wisdom will see to be best. To revelation therefore we are wholly indebted for our assurance, that God will pardon sin on repentance, give his Spirit to them who ask it, and bestow eternal life on them who patiently continue in well doing.
III. We are, lastly, to consider the general purpose of God's particular mercy to these Ephesians. “God quickened them- that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to them by Jesus Christ.” “For this cause also Paul obtained mercy, that in him first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering for a pattern to them who should afterward believe."
God's ways are not as ours. It is by a labored pro. cess that we accomplish a single purpose : He by the same means brings about many purposes. In the ex· ercises of his mercy toward particular sinners he de
signs not their benefit only, but that of others also. His mercy in reclaiming one transgressor may operate to the salvation of thousands in ages to come. The conversion of this sinner not only encourages others to seek God's mercy, but also places this person in a situation for more extensive usefulness. He who be. fore destroyed, now promotes much good. What a vast and lasting benefit to the world was the conversion of the Apostle Paul? He obtained mercy, not for his own sake only, but rather that he might stand an encouraging pattern of divine grace, and might go and preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ. Paul calls himself the chief of sinners. Some not so guilty as he, may have perished in their sins. Is God partial then in bestowing his grace? No; but he is sovereign. And may he not do what he will with his own? They who perish have abused and for.
d him a pri nd there was general
feited his grace. Is he unjust in withdrawing it? What if some more criminal than these are recovered by abundant grace ? Is there unrighteousness with God? By no means: For the recovery of these is designed for the benefit of many, and is a prejudice to none. Paul, who had been a great sinner, was reclaimed by a divine voice and supernatural light from heaven. Why was not the same favor vouchsafed to many others, who had done less than he to injure Christ's cause ? The answer is; God had done much for them : They had no ground of complaint. But he reclaimed this offender, because he was a fit instrument to carry into effect the grand purposes of grace, in behalf of fallen men. “ He was a chosen vessel to bear Christ's name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel." His capacity, education and circumstances, rendered him a proper person to be employed in spreading the gospel. And therefore, God's special mercy to him in his conversion, was general goodness to man. kind.
The gospel dispensation, in which we are more im. mediately concerned, was intended to serve some use. ful purposes among other intelligences. Christ is made head over all things in heaven, as well as in earth. The angels desire to look into the marvellous scheme of man's redemption, The unsearchable riches of Christ are preached to men, not only to make them understand the mystery, which from the beginning has been hidden in God, but also that unto principalities and powers, in heavenly places, might be known by the church, the manifold wisdom of God.
And not only God's gracious dispensation to fallen men, but also his righteous severity toward irreclaima. ble offenders, is designed for extensive beneficial influ. ence. His providential chastenings are intended for the warning of beholders, as well as for the reformation of the sufferers. His judgments are sent abroad, that the inhabitants of the world may learn righteousness. And even the final punishment of the impenitent may VOL. III.
probably promote some of the benevolent ends of God's moral government, and be forever of usc to other intelligent beings.
We are not to imagine, that God will injure one for the greater good of another, or of a number. To inflict undeserved punishment, would be injustice to the in. voluntary sufferers, whatever benefit might result to others. And there is no unrighteousness with God. But we may suppose, that his wisdom and goodness will make the just punishment of particular offenders, redound to the greater and more extensive happiness of his virtuous subjects. We know not but the most rigorous acts of his justice may, in some view or other, be acts of mercy and goodness.
How should we be filled with admiration of that Being, whose particular favors are general kindnesses ; whose righteous judgments are acts of goodness; and who in the exercises of his justice makes mercy triumphant ?
What abundant cause of gratitude have we, for the discoveries of divine grace, made to us in the gospel ? What else could save the sinner, roused to an apprehen. sion of his own guilt and of God's justice, from run. ning into distraction and despair ? Nature gives him no more reason to conclude, that God will pardon him Con future repentance, than that he will punish him for past disobedience. And be sure, when he finds his repentance imperfect, his resolutions unstable, his offences again repeated, and his strength unequal to the conquest of his vicious habits, what positive hope can nature give him, that God will assist him by his grace or pardon him by his mercy ? To the awakened sinner the gospel comes as tidings of great joy.
Let believers adore the riches of God's grace. Some in the high road to destruction have been mercifully arresied and reclaimed. These should love much. And even they who have earlier sound mercy in the diligent rise of means, must acknowledge, that by the grace of God they are what they are.
Every unreclaimed sinner must be utterly inexcuse. able ; for he has received the grace of God in vain.
Let the awakened be encouraged to seek salvation. Draw hope from the examples of God's mercy to oth. ers; improve every good beginning in yourselves ; let every conviction excite you to seek more grace ; wait upon God, and hope in his mercy, that the work begun in you will be performed to the day of Christ.
Salvation, not by Works, bur by Grace through Faith.
EPHESIANS ii. 8, 9, 10.
For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of your.
selves, it is the gift of God : Not of works lest any man should boast ; for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them,
THE Apostle here asserts, in general terms, that our salvation is of grace. This is an obvious con. clusi on from the doctrine already proposed and prov. ed. If, when we were dead in sins, God hath quick. ened us and raised us up with Christ, our salvation can be only in a way of grace ; for they who are dead, surely can do nothing which should deserve so mighty an interposition for their recovery.
In what sense our salvation is of grace the Apostle next explains. It is not of ourselves ; it is the gift of God. That which is a gift from God, without any right of demand on our part, is of grace. As the gos. pel finds us involved in guilt, slaves to the world, and children of wrath, we can pretend no claim to salvation : If we obtain it, we must be wholly indebted to divine mercy.