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in their destruction.” God could have given ease and rest this way to his anger long ago, but he chooses rather still to bear with thee, than on these terms to ease himself of thee.
6. The vast expense of his riches and bounty upon us, during the whole time of his forbearance and patience towards us, speaks him infinite in his long-suffering towards us. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?” Rom. 2:4. As if he had said, “ Vile sinner, canst thou compute the treasures of mercy thou hast been riotously wasting all this while ? Dost thou know what vast sums Christ has spent upon thee to preserve thee so long out of hell ?” There are two treasures spending upon sinners, all the time of God's forbearance with them : there is the precious treasure of thy time wasted, and the invaluable streams of gospel-grace running all this while to waste. Thy time is precious; the whole of thy time between thee and eternity is but little, and the most of it has been wasted in sin and upon vanity. But that is not all, the treasures of gospel-grace have been wasting all this while upon thee. It is compared to golden oil, maintaining the lamps of ordinances. Zech. 4:12. Who would maintain a lamp with golden oil for careless children to play by? Yet this has God done while thy soul has trifled with him. The witnesses and ministers of Christ, in Rev. 11:3, 4, are compared to those olive-trees that drop their precious oil, their gifts, graces, yea, and their natural spirits with them, into this lamp, to keep it burning. All this while the blood of Christ has been running in vain, the ministers of Christ preaching and beseeching in vain, the Spirit of Christ striving with you in vain. You burn away golden oil, and yet your lamp is not gone out. O marvellous patience! O the riches of God's forbearance !
7. The riches of divine patience towards you are greatly heightened by the quick destruction the Lord has sent on other sinners, while he has spared and passed over you. This comparative consideration calls upon you in the apostle's language, “Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God : on them which fell, severity ; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness : otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Rom. 11 : 22. Some sinners have been cut off in the beginning of their days, many in the very acts of sin, and those not greater than thy sins; they are gone to their own place, and thou art still left a monument of the patience and forbearance of God. The sin of Achan was not a greater sin than thy covetousness and earthliness of heart is ; the sin of Nadab and Abihu, in offering up strange fire, was not greater than thy superstition in offering up uncommanded services to God: yet the hand of God fell on them, and smote them dead-in the day and place wherein they sinned, they perished; they were taken away in their iniquities, but thou art reserved. O that it may be for an instance and example of the riches of divine patience, which may at last lead thee to repentance.
Thus I have given you seven evidences of the wonderful patience of Christ, who hath stood and still doth stand at the door, knocking.
III. Next, we will inquire into the REASONS of this marvellous patience of Christ, this astonishing long-suffering of God towards sinners.
1. The exercise of his patience is a standing testimony of his reconcilable and merciful nature towards sinful man. This he showed forth in his patience towards Paul, a great example of his merciful nature, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him. 1 Tim. 1:16. The long-suffering of God is a special part of his revealed glory; and therefore when Moses desired a sight of his glory, he proclaims his name, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” Exod. 34:6. He would have sinners look towards him as a God willing to be reconciled, a God that retains not his anger for ever ; but if sinners will take hold of his strength and make peace with him, they may have peace. Isa. 27:5. This long-suffering is an attribute very expressive of the divine nature; he is willing sinners should know, whatever their provocations have been, that there is room for pardon and peace, if they will yet come in to accept the terms. This patience is a diadem belonging to the imperial crown of heaven; the Lord glories in it, as peculiar to himself: “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; for I am God, and not man.” Hos. 11:9. As though he had said, “Had I been as man, the holiest, meekest, and most mortified upon earth, I had consumed them long ago; but I am God, and not man: my patience is above all created patience; no husband can bear with his wife, no parent with his child, as I have borne with you." This is one reason of Christ's waiting upon trifling sinners, to give proof of his gracious, merciful, and reconcilable nature towards the worst of men.
2. The Lord exercises this patience towards sinners, thereby to lead them to repentance; this is the direct intention of it. The Lord desires and delights to see ingenuous relentings and brokenness of heart for sin ; and there is nothing like his forbearance and patience in promoting such an evangelical repentance. All the terrors of the law will not break the heart of a sinner, as the patience and long-suffering of God will; therefore it is said that the goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering of God, lead men to repentance. Rom. 2:4. These are fitted to work upon all the principles of humanity which incline men to repentance; reason, conscience, gratitude, feel the influences of the goodness of God herein, and melt under it. Thus Saul's heart relented: “Is this thy voice, my son David ? and Saul lifted up his voice and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more
righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.” 1 Sam. 24:16, 17. Thus the goodness and forbearance of God doth, as it were, take a sinner by the hand, lead him into a corner, and say, “Come, let us talk together ; thus and thus vile hast thou been, and thus and thus long-suffering and merciful has God been to thee; thy heart has been full of sin, the heart of thy God has been full of pity and mercy.” This dissolves the sinner into tears, and breaks his heart in pieces. If any thing will melt a hard heart, this will do it. O how good has God been to me. How have I tried his patience to the uttermost, and still he waits to be gracious, and is exalted that he may have compassion. The sobs and tears, the ingenuous relentings of a sinner's heart, under the apprehensions of the sparing mercy and goodness of God, are the music of heaven.
3. The Lord exercises this long-suffering towards sinners, to clear his justice in the damnation of all obstinate refusers of Christ and mercy. Christ waits at our doors now, that he may be clear in his sentence against us hereafter. This patience of Christ takes away all pleas out of the mouths of impenitent sinners; the more Christ's patience has been, the less defence they will have for themselves. - Think with thyself, sinner, what wilt thou answer in the great day, when Christ shall say, “Did I not stand at thy door from day to day, from Sabbath to Sabbath, from year to year, calling and persuading thee to be reconciled and accept pardon and mercy in the proper season of them, and thou wouldest not ? "I gave her space to repent, and she repented not.” Rev. 2:21. The Lord gives you time now, a space for repentance, such a space as millions of souls, gone into a miserable eternity, never had. With whomsoever Christ has been quick and severe, surely he hath not been so with you. This time of Christ's patience will be evidence enough to clear him and condemn you; men and angels shall applaud the sentence, dreadful as it is, and say, « Righteous art thou, O Lord, in judging thus.” • 4. The Lord exercises his admirable patience towards sinners for the continuation and increase of the church. The church must be continued and enlarged from age to age; and if God should cut off sinners as soon as they provoke him, whence should the elect of God rise in this world ? Many that will heartily embrace Christ, must be the descendants of such as reject him. If God should cut off these in the beginning of their provocations, how would the church be continued ? Where had good Abijah and Hezekiah been, if wicked Jeroboam and Ahaz had been cut off in their first transgressions ? The Lord suffers many wicked parents to stand for a time under his patience, because children are to spring from them who will obey and embrace Christ whom their wicked parents rejected. Yea, the wicked not only propagate the church, but are useful to preserve and defend it; as the chaff is a defence to the wheat : “The earth helped the woman.” Rev. 12:16.
5. The Lord exercises this long-suffering towards sinners, in gracious condescension to the prayers of his people. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Isa. 1:9. The prayers and intercessions of the saints are a screen between wicked men and the wrath of God for a time. The innocent preserve the island. Job 22:30. The world stands by the prayers of the saints ; what multitudes of rebellious, Christ-despising sinners swarm in every part of this nation! Such declare, by their open practice, that they will not have Christ to reign over them; they now contemn his offers, and despise his messengers; but blessed be God, yea, and let them bless him too, there are others praying to the Lord for them, beseeching his forbearance towards them. Little do the wicked know how much they are beholden to the prayers of the