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foree do the wicked live ?" &c. who after he had also looked upon their prosperity with this spiritual sight unto things to come, he at the last seeth? that their wealth is not in their hand; demanding how often their candle should be out (as though it should for ever be put out) their lives being divided in his wrath, being as stubble and chaff before the wind; concluding all at last with this cruel sentences, that they are kept unto the day of destruction, and they shall be brought forth in the day of wrath. Let us not then so much look unto their pleasures, as unto their miserable destruction, and our joys : for their joys here are nothing unto those sorrows they shall have : and our sorrows are nothing to the joys we shall possess. So saith the apostle to the Romans", that the afflictions of this present time, are not worthy of the glory which shall be revealed; and again, more fully, in the second to the Corinthians', that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, causeth unto us a far more excellent, and an eternal weight of glory, whilst we look not on the things which are seen, but on the things which are not seen. Thus our afflictions, be they never so great, in respect of the glory to come, be they never so heavy, are but accounted light, and be they never so long in continuance, yet is it counted but a moment, nay, not so much unto eternity. It is not thus with the wicked; for besides all the sorrows, which attend them eternally in the life to come, they shall have also miseries in this earth. And it is most just (as Job speaketh) that seeing in this life they will none of the Almighty, that God in the life to come do send them many sorrows. Theyk” (saith he) “ say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him ? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him." But whatsoever their knowledge is, it is, sure, an accursed knowledge, which refuseth to know God, and must have
e Job, chap. 21. ver. 7.
1 Ibid. ver. 16.
present payment, or no service. Yet, doth Job like of their counsel ? No! their counsel and wealth is not in their hand; therefore far (saith he) be their counsel from me, and far be it also from us. God is their
How crafty and politic soever their consultations seem, they must come to confusion at length, all turneth unto many
Let us now then make an addition to what hath been said, seeing
1. To whom is given.
Mercy, although it be not given unto any desert of ours, nor by any desert in us for our merits ; yet it is most certain, that to whomsoever the Lord is merciful, to such he also giveth an heart to trust and rely in him, an heart with affiance to trust confidently in God : from whence against all wicked men, I ground this doctrine for our instruction, that that man who purposeth to live in sin, it is in vain for him to hope for mercy.
Some man I know may here object, But what, will you restrain mercy within so narrow limits ? I answer, No; no more than God doth. God's mercy is offered to the wickedest alive, freely tendered : yet when this mercy (as the effects show) is contemned and refused, we dare not bless where he curseth, we dare not, without our warrant, offer mercy to such.
Now that this is true that mercy is restrained from the wicked. In no place more than in Psalm 103. are the mercies of God extolled. “ He!" (saith the prophet) will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever, he hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy (but because there is a generation, who live according to the lusts of the flesh, who scorn piety, mock at religion, and the professors thereof, who will none of this mercy, at the least, will use no means whereby it may be attained : therefore at last the prophet addeth this clause) towards them that fear him ;" showing thus much unto the wicked, that how great soever the ocean of his mercy be, yet it shall avail nothing unto them; for it is reserved to those that fear him. If, therefore, we would be sharers in this mercy, let us be sure that we truly fear God. For we must not imagine that God's mercies come to make us rebels. No, but if thou wilt not fear him, and walk in his ways, thou shalt have no part in this mercy, be it never so great. As also it is said that the loving kindness of the Lord endureth for ever and ever: yet he restraineth only these mercies unto such as fear him, being covenant and commandment keepers ; not to every profane wretch, who dare take mercy presumptuously unto them. Therefore I affirm, deceive thyself with as false an opinion as thou wilt, yet sure it is, so long as a sinner's heart.is set in rebellion, there is no mercy for him. Aye, but, may some object, In the second commandment, there is no such severity mentioned as you speak of, for in that commandment chiefly there is mention made of worshiping of images, and for this breach there is a cruel threatening, but it is to the haters of God, without any certain number, and yet mercy followeth in a larger extent, naming of thousands. But, I answer profane wretches, it is not for every one to throw themselves in amongst these thousands. There followeth a restraint (excluding all sorts of wicked men) “to them that love me and keep my commandments." Can a wicked man love God? Can he keep his commandments? He cannot. Then must he needs be excluded from this mercy, so long as he is rebellious.
| Psalm 103. ver. 11.
Let us therefore, beloved, examine our hearts, whether or not any of us have taken hold of this mercy, without sure grounds. If thou love not God with that perfection whereby a Christian in this life may: or at least if thou endeavour not with all thy might thereunto, if thou strive not to keep his commandments, to keep all of them, so long as thou continuest thus, thou hast nothing to do with mercy; assure thyself there is no mercy for thee.
But, may some say, what, dare you thus bind up mercy ? What power have you to restrain it thus ? No; I do not bind
up mercy, only I affirm, that to whom the Lord is
m Psalm 103. ver, 17.
merciful, to whom mercy is given, to those he giveth also a new heart, to rely upon him, to love him, to keep his commandments, to fear him, to walk in his ways. So that if there be no change in thee by new birth, it is a sure sign, as yet mercy belongeth not unto thee. Yet some may still object, But what if I come unto Christ, and lay hold on him, I hope then there is mercy for me, if I come from myself unto Christ. I answer to this, that as many times we have a wrong estimation of the nature of the Father: so do we also err in the nature of the Son. As therefore we have seen the Father must be honoured, feared, loved, and obeyed, so must the Son also ; for he is a Judge, yea, Judge of all, and his wrath must be appeased, we must likewise fear him, love him, obey him, and keep his commandments. This shall be our assurance, that the hold we take of him is true, and not counterfeit. 66 Kiss" the Son” (saith the prophet) “ lest ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Our kissing of the Son, must not be an imaginary fantastical relying upon the Son, but such a kissing which must manifest itself in an holy life, in obedience unto his commandments.
If therefore we call him Lord, we must obey his will. As another prophet (to this purpose speaketh in the person of God)
“Ao son honoreth his father, and a servant his master. If then I be a father, where is mine honour ? if I be a master, where is my fear?” Thus whosoever will say that they take hold of Christ, and yet keep not his commandments, if they will call him Lord, and yet not love him, nor obey his will, such make but a mock lord of him. But a day will come, in which he will bring forth these enemies of his, (as himself in the Gospel speakethP) who would not that he should reign over them, that he may slay them in his wrath. We see then “not? every one, which can say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven,
n Psalm 2. ver. 12.
• Mal, chap. 1. ver. 6.
but he” (as our blessed Saviour speaketh) who doth the will of my Father, who is in Heaven," his Father and he being one. Therefore, now to conclude this point of diversity betwixt the godly and the wicked, in showing to whom this mercy belongeth, he lastly, and no other, who will come unto Christ, to be a partaker of this mercy, must be a subject of Christ's kingdom, must be ruled by him, must be content to be one of his sheep, to receive Christ for his shepherd, to be gathered by him into his sheepfold, to feed and take part with the rest of the sheep'; to be obedient, and hear his voices. And for upshot of all, they must be content, that he shall be their leader, their true and only Joshua, who shall lead them unto the land of promise. I say they must never leave off, but follow and stick close unto this their true Joshua, that he at length may conduct them to the land of rest, even to the fulness and storehouse of all mercy. Meanwhile, until we come thither, let us now briefly behold,
2. What this mercy is.
Mercy, although it be but a small word, of few syllables, yet doth it contain in it wonderful and unspeakable consolation to God's children, in that this mercy shall gird them about, it shall compass them about in a most full and plentiful measure, we shall be filled with mercy full of comfort. God's children, indeed, many times have but a small measure of this comfort; but their weak faith is the cause of this want. The cause why they find so little mercy, is because they wax dull and negligent in the means which should preserve a full measure of mercy. We are not diligent, and earnest in the begging of mercy. Therefore no wonder though we have small store of mercy, because we seek it not earnestly, with a vehement thirst after it. We are provoked, (as though he should blame our faint prayers,) “ Open" thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” We open our mouths, many of us, some for one
r John, chap. 8. ver. 3.
• John, chap. 8. ver. 11.