CHAP.  7.

One Reason more, confirming the Truth of the former Principle.


Reason 2. A second reason may be taken from God's proportionable proceedings in his courses of justice and mercy. In his executions of justice and inflictions of punishment, he interprets and accepts desires for the deeds, affections for actions, thoughts for the things done. “Whosoever,” saith Christ, “looketh on a woman to lust after her, bath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. v, 28). In God's interpretation, in the search and judgment of divine justice, he that lusts after a woman in his heart is an adulterer; and without true and timely repentance shall be so taken and proceeded against at that great [[265]] and last day. “Whosoever hateth his brother,” saith John. “is a murderer” (1 John iii, 15). A hateful thought of our brother, murders him and spills his blood by the verdict of the blessed Spirit; and a malicious man, at the bar of God, goes for a manslayer. If this, then, be God's manner of proceeding in justice, we may much more confidently expect, nay, with reverent humility challenge (way being made by the mediation of Christ) the same proportionable measure in those his most sweet and lovely inclinations and expressions of mercy. Shall a lewd desire after a woman fall under the axe of God's justice, as if it were the gross act of lust; and shall not a longing desire after grace be graciously embraced in the arms of mercy as the grace itself? Shall an angry thought, invisible, immaterial, hurtful only to the heart which harbours it, be charged with actual bloodshed; and shall not a panting thirst of a broken and bleeding soul after Christ's saving and sanctifying blood be bathed and refreshed in his precious blood? Yes, certainly, and much rather; for “God's tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm cxlv, 9), and mercy with a holy exultation triumpheth and “rejoiceth against judgment” (James ii, 13). “His mercy is great unto the heavens” (Psalm lvii, 10). He cloth with much sweet contentment, and as it were natural propension, incline to the gracious effusions of mercy. “He delighteth in mercy,” saith Micah (chap. vii, 18); he is most highly pleased and exalted most gloriously when he is pardoning sins, purging souls, pulling out of the devil's paw, pouring in grace, shining into sad and uncomfortable hearts, saving from hell, &c. This makes him so passionate (in a holy sense) when he hath no passage for his love. (See Deut. v, 29; Psalm lxxxi, 13; Isa. xlviii, 18; 111 att. xxiii, 37; Luke xix, 41,42.) But now on the other side he is hardly drawn, not without much reluctancy, delays, forbearance, and as it were some kind of violence offered by excess of multiplied rebellious provocations, to exercise his justice and to punish for sin. (See 2 Chron. xxxvi, 16; Flos. vi, 4, &c.) It appears from the emphasis of the original in Zeph. ii, 2, that in this respect, in a right and sober sense, God travaileth as it were with anger. When the cry of our sins comes first to heaven, he doth not presently pour upon our heads fire and brimstone, according to our desert; but as loath to enter into judgment with us, lie then but begins to conceive, as it were, wrath, which he bears, or rather forbears, full many and many a month; still waiting, when upon our repentance he might “be gracious unto us;” until it come to that ripeness by the fulness and intolerable weight [[266]] of our sins that he can possibly bear no longer. And then also, when he is about to be delivered of his justly-conceived and long-forborne vengeance, mark how he goes about it: “Ah!” says he (Isa. i, 24). This aspiration argues a compassionate pang of grief, speaking after the manner of men, to proceed against his own people, though they had provoked him as enemies. “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 I Mine heart is turned within me: my repentings are kindled together” (Hos. xi, 8). When he came against Sodom and Gomorrah, the most prodigiously wicked people that ever the earth bore, what a miracle of mercy was it that he should be brought so low as to say, “I will not destroy it for ten's sake” (Gen. xviii, 32).

So it is, then, that mercy flows naturally and easily from God, and he is most forward and free-hearted in granting pardons and receiving into grace and favour. But justice is ever, as it were, violently with “cart-ropes of iniquity” pulled from him. He is pressed with our sins, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves, before we wring from him the vials of just wrath, and wrest out of his hands the arrows of deserved indignation. That you err not in this point, conceive that both God's mercy and justice are originally and fundamentally, as God himself, infinite; both of the same length, height, breadth, and depth • that is, equally 'endless, boundless, bottomless, unsearchable. Yet, if we consider the exercise and execution of them amongst the creatures and abroad in the world; mercy, that sweetest attribute and most precious balm to all bruised hearts, doth far surpass and outshine the other though incomparable excellencies of his divine nature, and all the perfections which accompany the greatness of God; as appears Exod. xx, 5, 6; Gen. xviii, 32; Joel ii, 13; Jonah iv, 2; Psalm xxxvi, and ciii; 2 Chron. xxi, 13. His influences and beams of mercy are fairly and plentifully shed into the bosom of every creature, and shine gloriously over all the earth, even from one end of heaven to the other. The whole world is thickly set and richly embroidered as it were with wonderful variety of impressions and passages of his goodness and bounty. In this great volume of nature round about us we may run and read the deep prints and large characters of kindness and love, which his merciful and munificent hand bath left in all places, in every leaf, and page, and line of it. If mercy then be so graciously magnified over all his works, we may more strongly build upon it, that if the hand of justice seize upon a hateful thought as a murderer and stained with [[267]] blood, and arraign a lustful thought as guilty of adultery and actual pollution; his arms of mercy will most certainly embrace and accept of a sincere desire of the deed done, of hearty affections for the actions, and of a grieved spirit for the grace it groans for.

Yea, but, may some say, if mercy be so fair a flower in the garland of God's incomprehensible greatness, if it so tar excel his other attributes in amiableness amongst his creatures, how comes it to pass that the number of his elect is so small, and the sway of the multitude sink down under the burthen of their iniquities, transgressions, and sins, into the pit of endless perdition? How comes it to pass, that out of the great heap and mass of all mankind, there are made but so few vessels of mercy; and that so many vessels of wrath are justly for their sins filled brim full with the vials of everlasting vengeance? See Matt. vii, 13, 14; and xx, 16.

Some matter of answer to this point (would ye think it?) may be taken even from the schoolmen.

If we consider, first, the inconceivable eminency and invaluable worth of the crown of glory, which doth so far and disproportionably surpass and transcend the common state and condition of our nature. Secondly, the preciousness of the effusion of the blood of the dear and only Son of God for the purchasing of that so glorious a crown. Thirdly, the necessary and inevitable defectibility of the creature. Fourthly, the most free and wilful apostasy of Adam, and in him of all his posterity. Fifthly, the abominable and villainous nature and stain of sin. Why should we not, therefore, rather wonder at the unsearchableness of Cod's' mercy for advancing one soul to that endless bliss in heaven, than repine at the equity of his justice, if he should have suffered all the polluted and sinful sons of Adam to pass from the mass of corruption into which they freely fell of their own accord and cursed choice, through a rebellious life, into the endless miseries of their deserved confusion? Would it not have been a greater marvel to have seen any one clearly convinced and found guilty of that most horrible villany that ever was bred in hell, or heard of in the world (I mean the Popish powder treason), pardoned, than all those desperate assassins to have justly perished in their so abhorred and execrable rebellion? And it is utterly unimaginable, either by man or angel, what a deal of mercy doth flow out of the bowels of God's dearest compassions, through the heart's blood of his only Son, to the washing and salvation but of one soul!