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case before us, as the preponderating evidences from all nature, are in favor of the goodness of its divine Author; so, I am apprehensive that the cause of religion will be rather injured than promoted, by any attempts to invalidate those evidences. Such attempts, I am afraid, will be more likely to drive deists into atheism, than to bring them to believe the scriptures.
Nor do I see any occasion we have for taking this ground, in our disputes with unbelievers. Admit. ting that the light of nature would give some knowledge of the true God, were men perfectly well disposed, and thoroughly attentive ; still it is certain that fallen depraved men, have not hitherto felt after him and found him, groping in this glimmering light alone : and from the long trial made, it is strongly to be presumed they never would.
Certain also it is, that there are things concerning God, of the last importance to be understood by sinners, which, without a divine revelation, never could have been known at all, by men or angels. If the light of nature might have taught us that God is good; yet how could any creature have known by it, that he was ready to forgive, or that with him was plenteous redemption ? Redeeming love, renew. ing grace, pardoning mercy, and giving eternal life to the ungodly, are parts of the glory of God, which the heavens do not declare. What a sinner must do to be saved, or whether he can be saved at all, the firmament showeth not. Though their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world ; yet, on these all-interesting subjects, they have nothing to say. These breadths and depths, are far beyond their line.
Now, what broader or better ground do we want, for asserting the necessity of revelation? Why should we wish to depreciate the light of nature any further ? Let it be enough to leave men without excuse. Let it be sufficient, if any please, for guid. ing attentive sinless beings, into all necessary truth. For us, fallen, stupid, guilty creatures, certainly, it is altogether insufficient.
5. Let us then look to the word of God, and not rely upon our own reasoning from his goodness; for our conclusions respecting the salvation of sinners.
Because the Most High is called the Parent of the universe, and is said to be good unto all, some will hastily conclude, that he hath no wrath for the workers of iniquity to fear; nor need they seek his grace. They conceive of him under the fond idea of an indulgent father of our flesh, who will suffer his children to abuse one another, and to treat him with all possible irreverence and disobedience; and will only say, “ My sons, why do ye these things ?” without ever restraining or punishing them. “Be not de. ceived ; God is not mocked." He hath said to the sinner, after enumerating his evil deeds, “ These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now, consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” It is written, “ Men shall fear the Lord, and his goodness, in the latter days." And indeed, when his goodness comes to be rightly understood, it must lead men to stand in awe, and not sin. The more perfectly benevolent we believe the almighty Governor of the world, the more reason have saints to venerate him, and sinners to tremble before him. That he will punish sin, as far as is necessary for righting the injured, for restraining iniquity, and for promoting the greatest general good, we may thence be certain. And whether, for these good ends, judgment must not be laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, in all cases, we could never have known, without a revelation from Him. That all men will be saved, or that any sinner will escape deserved punishment ;
is a bold inference for the reason of man, from the mere perfections of God. Arguing thus, is to exercise ourselves in great matters, and in things too high for us. But when we are assured by the pen of inspiration, that God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself, the vilest sinner need not fear, as some have been ready to do, that their sins are too great to be forgiven. Infinite goodness may then be a safe ground of confidence, that where sin hath abounded, if we repent and believe the gospel, grace will much more abound.
Hearken, then, to the gracious proclamation from heaven; Isa. lv. 7-9, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts : and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
ON THE JUSTICE OF GOD, IN THE PUNISHMENT
ROMANS XII. 19.
Vengeance is mine ; I will repay, saith the Lord.
SOLOMON says, “I considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun : and, behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter ; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.” Such instances, which are still often to be seen, are apt to excite our compassion and indignation : But what can our indignation or our compassion avail ? It is not often in the power of our hands to punish, or to rescue and protect. We can neither put down the mighty, when they are cruel and unrighteous; nor help the weak, when they suffer wrong. In cases of this nature, we have generally no other way to console ourselves, but by confiding in the justice and power of God. By believing that He is greater than all, and that His judgment is according to truth. That He will certainly right the injured, and recompence the way of evil doers upon their own heads. This consolation God gave to his people of old, in Deut. xxxii. 35, where, speaking of those cruel
enemies that were too powerful for them, he says, “ To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time : for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things which shall come upon them make haste.” To this the apostle in our text refers, for the comfort of persecuted christians, and to guard them against seeking retaliation, or meditating revenge. The whole verse is ; “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath : for it is written, Vengeance is mine ; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
It is proposed to show, in the ensuing discourse,
I. How we are to understand, that vengeance is God's.
II. The reasons we have to believe that He will repay ; and,
III. That all fears or hopes of the contrary, are utterly groundless.
How we are to understand that vengeance is the Lord's, in the first place, I shall endeavor to explain.
By vengeance, when ascribed to God, I would observe, is not to be understood the same, in all respects, as is generally meant by revenge. In common speech, it is true, these are often nearly synonymous expressions; and so they are sometimes used in scripture. Thus in Deut. xxxii. 41, 42, God says, “ If I whet my glittering sword, and my hand take hold on judgment, I will render vengeance, &c. from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.” And in Nahum it is said, “ The Lord revengeth ; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries.” But then, it ought to be understood, that revenge is very different in God, from what it is in wicked, or in