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against Jacob, but wanted opportunity, and therefore was forced to delay the execution of his wrath until the days of mourning for his father were ended, and then, saith he, “will I slay my brother Jacob." Gen. 27:41. But in God it is a glorious effect of power. “ The Lord is slow to anger and great in power.” Nah. 1:3. The greatness of his patience flows from the greatness of his power. So the apostle speaks, Rom. 9:22: “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted,” or made up, “to destruction ?” And therefore when Moses prays for the exercise of divine patience towards the provoking Israelites, he does it in this form : “And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, the Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” Numbers, 14:17, 18. He could exercise this almighty power upon thee, and crush thee by it as a moth is crushed ; but behold, he exercises it upon himself in staying the execution of his own justice. It is the power of God over his wrath, restraining it from day to day.
2. This patience is exercised towards such as perish, in a delay of their damnation; and though this be but a suspension of his wrath for a time, yet it is a glorious act of patience in him, as Rom. 9:22 shows. Is it nothing for a sinner condemned as soon as born, to be reprieved so many years out of hell? Thou hast been provoking him daily and hourly to cut thee off, and send thee to thy own place; and yet to be on this side the everlasting burnings, this is wholly owing to the riches of his forbearance. Ah, how is God to be admired in this his glorious power over his own wrath! When we look abroad into the world, and see everywhere sinners ripe for destruction, daring the God of heaven to his face, yet forborne, how admirable is this power of God!
3. God not only exercises this power in a suspension of
his wrath against some, who, alas, must feel it at last; but he delays the execution of his wrath in a design of mercy towards others, that they may never feel it. Isa. 48:8, 9. Thus he bears with his own elect all the years of their lives wherein they lie in the state of nature, and go on in a course of rebellion against God; and this long-suffering of God towards them proves their salvation, as you have it in 2 Pet. 3:15; “And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation.” What is the meaning of that? Ah, Christian, thou mayest easily know the meaning of it, without turning over many Commentaries. Thou art now in Christ, safely escaped from the danger of wrath to come; but thou owest this thy salvation to the patience and long-suffering of God towards thee. For what if he had cut thee off in the days of thy ignorance and rebellion against him, and thou knowest that thou didst give him millions of provocations so to do, where hadst thou now been? Thou hadst never seen Christ, nor the least dawning hope of salvation by him. Remember how oft you lay in those days upon the bed of sickness and upon the brink of the grave; and what was it that saved thee from eternal wrath but this admirable patience of Christ ? Well, therefore, may the apostle say, “ Account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation."
This patience of God seems to spring out of his mercy; only it differs from mercy in this, that man as miserable is the object of mercy, but man as criminal is the object of patience. Such is the nature of divine patience, a power of God over his own wrath, not only to suspend it for a time towards them that perish, but to delay the execution of it in a design of salvation towards others.
II. THE EVIDENCES of this divine patience, or wherein it appears in its glorious manifestations towards provoking sinners; and there are seven full evidences and discoveries of it, which should make the hearts of sinners melt within
them, while they are sounding in their ears. Ah, methinks such as these should melt down your hard hearts before the Lord :
1. The first evidence shall be taken from the multitude of sins which men are guilty of before him, the least of which is a burden too heavy for any creature to bear; the Psalmist says; “ Innumerable evils have compassed me about.” Psalm 40:12. It was true, as applied to the person of David ; and though it be there also applied to the person of Christ, yet none of them were his own sins, but ours-called his, by God's reckoning or imputing them to him. Men can number vast sums, millions of millions; but no man can number his own sins, they exceed all account. There is not a member of the body, though never so small, but has been the instrument of innumerable evils. For instance, the tongue, the apostle tells us, is a world of iniquity. Jas. 3:6. And if there be a world of sin in one member, what then are the sins of all ? How many idle, vain words, has thy tongue uttered. And yet for them, Christ says, men shall give an account in the day of judgment. Matt. 12:36. And what have the sins of thy thoughts been? Solomon says, “The thought of foolishness is sin." Prov. 24:9. O who can understand his errors? Yet the patience of God has not failed under such innumerable evils. O glorious patience! well may it be ushered in in the text with a term of admiration, “Behold, I stand !"
2. The second evidence of the divine patience shall be taken from the heinous nature of some sins above others, whereby sinners fly, as it were, in the very face of God ; and yet he bears with long-suffering, restraining his hands from cutting them off. All sins are not of equal magnitude ; some have a slighter hue, and some are deeper; called upon that account scarlet and crimson sins, Isaiah 1:18, double-dyed abominations, such are sins against knowledge, or sins committed after convictions, and cove
nants, and rebukes of providence. I do not only speak of outward gross acts of sin; for though they are of greater infamy, yet inward sins may be of greater guilt, even those sins that never defamed thee in the world ; but whatever they are, reader, whether outward or inward, thy conscience is privy to them, and thy soul may stand amazed at the patience of God in forbearing all this while under such provocations against him ; especially, considering how many are this day in hell that never provoked God by sinning with such a high hand as thou hast done:
3. There is a yet greater evidence of the patience of God in his bearing with us under the guilt of the special sin of slighting and neglecting Jesus Christ. Here is a sin that goes to the very heart of Jesus Christ. He can bear any sin rather than that; and yet this has Christ borne from every one of you. You have spurned the yearnings of his mercy, slighted his grace, trampled his precious blood under foot, and yet he has borne with you to this day. Let thy conscience answer, whether thou art not equally deep in the guilt of making light of Christ with those upon whom this sin was charged by the Lord Jesus. Matt. 22:2–6. Christ suffered the wrath of God in thy stead, and brought home salvation in gospel-offers to thy door; and then to be slighted! No patience but his own could bear it. Every sermon and prayer you have sat under with a dead heart, every motion of his Spirit which you have quenched, what is this but making light of Christ and the great salvation ? Here the deepest project of infinite wisdom, and the richest gift of free-grace, wherein God commends his love to men, are un- . ! dervalued as small things : thus have you done days without number; and yet his hand is not stretched out to cut thee off in thy rebellion. “Who is a God like unto thee ?” Micah 7:18. What patience is like the patience of Christ?
4. The length of time the patience of Christ has borne with thee speaks its perfection and riches. Consider, sin
ner, what age thou art of, how many years thou canst number, and that all this hath been a time of patience, for thou wast a transgressor from the womb; yet, for his name's sake hath he deferred his anger and hath not cut thee off. Isa. 48:8, 9. How soon did the wrath of God break forth upon the angels when they sinned in heaven; and how long has it borne with thee, while thou hast been provoking him on earth. Was there ever patience like the patience of God ? Many thousands have been sent away to hell since the beginning of thy day, but thou art yet spared. O that the long-suffering of God might be salvation to thee.
5. A great evidence of the power of divine patience may be drawn from the grievousness of our sins against God, during the whole time of his forbearance. It is true there is no passion in the divine nature, no perturbation; his anger is a mild and holy flame; yet the contrariety of sin to the holiness of his nature is what makes his patience wonderful in the eyes of men. The Scripture, speaking in language fitted to the understanding of the creature, represents God as wounded to the heart by the sins of men : “I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me,” Ezek. 6:9; “Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves,” Amos 2:13, when the axle-tree is ready to crack under the load. It is said, “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy," 2 Chron. 36:16; his patience would endure no longer, and therefore, when he executed his wrath upon provoking sinners, that execution is represented in the nature of an ease or relief to his burdened patience and justice : "Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.” Isa. 1:24. Yet observe, it comes in with an Ah, a kind of regret and reluctance ; so Isa. 10:25, “ Yet a very little while and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger