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why are we still in the land of hope? Such especially as have persisted for a long course of years in obstinate rebellion—Why are you spared? "The Lord is long-suffering toward you, not willing that you should perish, but that you should come to repentance. Abuse not his patience. The period is not distant when Justice will assert its claim, and the impenitent shall not escape. "Account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation," and rise to its holy improvement.—We also perceive,
2. The sovereignty of God in fixing on the objects of his favour.—Why was Manasseh chosen? Not for his worthiness. His heart was "desperately wicked," his character vile, and the influence of his conduct most pernicious. But "God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion." May we suggest a reason for the Divine procedure in such instances as this? It exalts the glorious sufficiency of the salvation of Jesus the Son of God. It demonstrates his wonderful ability to save even to the uttermost.
Since the fact is evident, that "where sin hath abounded, grace doth much more abound," we join in the humbling conclusion, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us;" and to him belongs all the glory.—We remark,
3. The ivisdom of God in adapting means to the conversion of men.—They whose temper is mild, and whose early conduct has been comparatively moral, are usually brought to God by gentler methods; but such men as Manasseh require different treatment. It is true the natural enmity of the heart against God and the Gospel is alike in all; but all are not equally hardened in the practice of iniquity; all have not resisted the same calls of Providence and of conscience. The rude and savage jailor at Philippi was alarmed by an earthquake; and here the profligate king of Judah is broken down by accumulated afflictions before he at all relents; nor even then, till Divine power and grace secure the effect.—Lastly, we observe, I. The favoured Objects of Divine mercy.
4. The mercy of God in receiving the chief of sinners.—" Who is a God like unto the Lord, because he delighteth in mercy?" The mercy of Jehovah is rich, and free, and tender, and endureth for ever. None need despair of finding mercy, in God's appointed way. The instance before us proves, that "our Redeemer is strong." and " mighty to save ;"— that penitents shall obtain pardon, though their sins be "as scarlet;"—that the Saviour can sanctify the most polluted heart, and conquer the most inveterate habits. Through his grace, the fury of the lion is transformed into the meekness of the lamb; and the seat of Satan becomes an habitation for God. "Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed."
MERCY TO PENITENTS.
JEREMIAH XXxi. 20.
/ mil surely have merer/ upon him, saith the Lord.
W HEN the vanquished Syrians meditated a surrender to the Israelites, they were encouraged by the report of their clemency: "We have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings." But what is the mercy of men, the best of men, compared with this of Jehovah?" For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him."
The Gospel is an exhibition of mercy, of mercy the most tender and liberal. And the Gospel is not confined to the New Testament, but is diffused through the whole Bible: it is contained in general declarations, and more clearly in particular promises, and direct affirmations, such as this in the text: "I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."
The subject which invites our attention it>, Divine Mercy; and we are instructed in its Objects, its Exercise, and its Certainty.
"God is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works;" but the text regards peculiar mercy, distinguishing covenant mercy, that which the Lord exercises when he remembers a man " with the favour which he bears to his people, and visits him with his salvation." Now the objects of this mercy are not mentioned by name, but they are described by character; the temper and disposition of their hearts are clearly stated, by which we may safely judge of ourselves?" I will surely have mercy upon him."
Upon whom? Ephraim is immediately intended, as representing the penitent Jews. But the context will cast light on this statement.
He is here described as suffering affliction for his sins, and lamenting bitterly how little he had benefited by the visitation: "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke;" long he remained refractory and rebellious under the most salutary corrections. - At length he relents, his heart is humbled, he begins to pray, and a more appropriate supplication could not be offered: "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God." He goes on to state his subsequent feelings and conduct, which are exactly those of a broken-hearted penitent. "Surely after that I was turned, I repented;" repentance flows freely, and contrition is deep, when the heart is once softened by the grace of God :—" And after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh;" an expressive token of penitence, of inward compunction on account of past insensibility and sin: "I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." Affliction, when sanctified, brings long-forgotten sin to remembrance, even the errors of our earliest youth; and these, together with the multiplied transgressions of riper years, become a burthen too heavy to be borne. Once we thought nothing of what now stings us with keen remorse, and covers us with confusion and regret.
But never is it better with a poor wanderer from God, than when brought to this temper of mind. He is best prepared for the greatest good when thus abased. Hence follow the tender relentings of a father; all the kindest emotions of parental pity and regard: "Is Ephraim a dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him," in blaming him for his perverseness, in reproving him for his folly, in correcting him for his sin—" since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still." For when have penitents been forgotten? When have the children of the Most High been disinherited?" Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will not I forget thee :"—" Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly:"— "To this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." When the Prodigal "arose and came to his father," he was not kept in painful suspense:—" When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him;" and how did he feel? What resolution did he form? He " had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him." His language, in effect, was this of the text:—" I will surely have mercy upon him."
Let it be clearly understood, that the objects of this distinguished favour are true penitents; men