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THE PATIENCE OF GOD.
Romans ii. 4. Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance,
and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God Icadeth thee to repentance ?
AMONG the various perfections of God, which A render him infinitely worthy of our admiration and love, his Patience requires our peculiar regard, for there is not a human being upon earth who is not interested in it. God himself accounts it his glory to exercise patience towards the children of men, for when his servant Moses desired to see his glory, God was pleased to make a solemn proclamation of his name, including this amiable perfection, " The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” His patience is his glory; it is “ a diadem belonging to the imperial crown of Heaven.” He glories in it as peculiar to himself. "I will not,” saith he, “ exe. cute the fierceness of my anger, for I am God, and not man;" as if he had said, “ Had I been man, the best and most patient man, I had destroyed them long ago; but as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways above the ways of man." And it is with a design to exalt the glory of this divine attribute, that St. Paul, in our text, speaks of " the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and longsuffering,” together with the genuine tendency of these, which is " to lead the sinner to repentance,” he bears with thee, that thou mayest prevent the
dreadful blow, by humbling thyself before him, and forsaking thy sins. From these words we shall take occasion to shew, that
The great, holy, and just God, exercises most astonishing patience towards his sinful creatures.
Patience, forbearance, long-suffering, suppose the commission of offences. If God does not speedily punish the sins of men, it is not because he is not displeased with them. This indeed was the mistake of the Jews, to whom St. Paul speaks in our text. The goodness of God to them, made some of them think, that he would not punish the children of Abraham for their sins ; but the apostle tells them, that they formed a wrong judgment of God, whose patience was not intended to lull them asleep in security, but to give them time, and space, and motive to repentance. If God does not at once execute his judgments on wicked transgressors, it is not because he does not notice them, and hate them, and determine to punish them. He who is infinitely holy, hates sin with a perfect abhorrence, of which he has given the world sufficient evidence in the numerous calamities which everywhere abound, in consequence of sin. The earth was cursed for man's sake.; it produces thorns and thistles ; cares, labours, and troubles ; sickness, sorrow, and death, to remind the children of Adam that they have sinned, and that he is displeased. · The great God, seated on his eternal throne, be. holds every individual of all the millions of mankind, and none of their actions can be concealed from his notice. He knows our “ down-sitting and our uprising ; he compasseth our path, and our lying down, and is acquainted with all our ways :” and o, what a world of iniquity does he behold !—" the whole world,” saith St. John, “ lieth in wickedness"--"a rebel universe our species up in arms, not one exempt!” The Scripture testifies, that “ all are un
der sin ; that there is none righteous, no, not one:” that so, “ every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Rom. iii. 10, &c. And, if every one be a sinner, if God beholds innumerable sins in every one of us, what must be the collected sum of a thousand millions of sinners who inhabit the earth ?-and who can calculate the amount of sins repeated throughout the life of each transgressor, continued (in the case of many) for fifty years or more ? God hears every oath that sinners utter : he hears thousands of these every mo.. ment. He observes all the lascivious glances of the eye, he follows the lewd and filthy sinner into the most secret chamber : he witnesses all the acts of fraud, and cruelty, and oppression, which are daily committed : and he beholds all these, not with indifference, but with infinite abhorrence, for “he is angry with the wicked every day.” “I know,” saith he, “ your manifold transgressions, and your mighty sins” (Amos v. 12); and, in another place (Ezek. xi. 5) he says, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.” What provoking acts of iniquity does he behold in courts, in senates, in ships, in play-houses, in taverns, and in brothels ; yea, in churches too, where too often, formality, wandering eyes and wandering hearts, hypocrisy, and unbelief, sins most hateful in his eyes, are to be found! All these things are noticed in order that they may be punished ; they are recorded in his book of remembrance, and will be brought into judgment in the great day of accounts.
Let it not be supposed that God is not displeased, because he does not yet punish. Not only do the evils which abound in the world, manifest his anger against sin, but the testimonies of his word most fully, and strongly declare it. Hear what he said to Israel in old time (Ps. lxxviii. 40) “ How oft did they provoke me in the wilderness, and grieve me in the desert ;"_" forty years long was I grieved with this generation ;” and in another passage (Amos ii.
13) “ Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves ;” and in another text, more strongly expressive of the divine hatred of sin than any other in the Bible (Genesis vi. 5, 6), " And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually ; and it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” These expressions, which are after the manner of men, must not be taken as if they implied any weakness or unhappiness in God; but they certainly prove that he is greatly displeased with sin, and especially with atrocious sinners ; even as a parent, who is not only displeased at the disobedience and ingratitude of a son, but is also exceedingly grieved, grieved at his heart. Surely this should teach us to grieve for our own sins ! But if such be the just resentment which a holy God feels when sinners rebel, how wonderful is his patience in delaying the deserved punishment! This is what we are called in our text to admire" the riches of his gentleness, and forbearance, and longsuffering.”
That we may more clearly discern, and be more deeply affected with the patience of God, let us review some of those instances which are recorded in the sacred Scriptures, or which are still manifested in the world, and in ourselves.
1. God was pleased to give a specimen of his patience in his conduct towards the first human sinners--our first parents.
The great Creator had been liberal to his creature, man. He was filled and surrounded with good; there was nothing left him to wish for. He had all the liberty he could desire. There was no restraint laid upon him, save an easy abstinence from the forbidden tree; to enforce which, his Maker had declared that disobedience should be punished by death. But, ah! too soon did he yield to the force of temp
tativu ; lie saw, he took, he ate the fatal fruit. Soon did horror seize his soul, when his offended Maker approached, and approached, as he had reason to expect, to execute the dreadful threatening; for he had said, “ In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But did he die? Did the thun. derbolts of divine wrath strike him dead as he stood trembling in the thicket? No. Patience descends, for the first time, to this guilty world (which she has never since forsaken), and gives the condemned cris minal a reprieve, a reprieve for 900 years. The sentence of death indeed was past, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return ;” but it was many cen, turies before it was executed; it was also accompa. nied with an intimation of redeeming mercy, by which, on believing, the worst part of the sentence should be remitted, for he was not to taste “the se, cond death.” What a living monument of patience did our venerable first father exhibit to all his nume, rous posterity, for almost a thousand years; every one of his pious decendants who beheld him would say, Behold the patience of God! The same patience was exercised towards the first born man, who, sad to think, proved a murderer, a murderer of his brother, a murderer of his pious brother; and who had no other provocation to the horrid deed than the piety of his brother and his own wickedness. And might it not have been expected, that in answer to the cry of Abel's blood, vengeance should have struck the bloody Cain to the earth, and to hell ? But here again behold the patience of God; he received an awful sentence, and became a fugitive and a vagabond, but he was allowed a season for repentance, and his life was secured by a special provision. Gen. iv. 9-15.
2. Advancing in the history of the world, we find that in less than 1400 years, " the earth was corrupt before God; the earth was filled with violence ; for all flesh had corrupted his way.” The offended God determines to destroy the earth and its guilty inhabitants. “Behold I, even I, do bring a flood of