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you know how it was with Paul; “I was a blasphemer, and I was a persecutor, but I obtained mercy." How so? Did he seek it first ? No, says he, I went breathing out threatenings against the people of God, and God met me, and unhorsed me; God prevented me with his grace and mercy. .

Thus Paul. And pray tell me what do you think of that whole chap

. ter of Luke, the xvth? There are three parables: the parable of the lost groat, of the lost sheep, and of the lost son. The woman lost her groat, and swept to find it; but did the groat make first towards the woman or the woman make after the groat first? The shepherd lost his sheep, but did the sheep make first after the shepherd or the shepherd after the sheep? Indeed it is said concerning the lost son that he first takes up a resolution, “ I will return home to my father;" but when his father saw him afar off, he ran and met him and embraced him and welcomed him home. Why? But to shew that the work of grace and mercy shall be all along carried on in a way of preventing love. Thus it was with the world from the beginning, thus with the nations of the Jews and gentiles, thus with great towns and corporations, thus with whole families, and thus with particular souls. It is no new thing, therefore, for God to walk in a way of preventing love towards the children of men.

That is the first. Secondly. Well but, then, how and in what respects will God prevent us with his mercies, or with his good blessings?

He will prevent us with his mercies in reference to our own deservings; when we deserve evil we shall receive good. Is it not a great prevention when a man shall deserve evil, tu receive good? Thus will God deal with men sometimes : “ He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Did not Moses deserve a sharp chiding and to be beaten out of his excuses, when God sent him upon his work, and he stood excusing the matter so long? Exod. iy. “ He said, Oh, my Lord, send I pray thee by the hand of him whom thou wilt send: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses." What was the issue of it? Instead of blows, mercy; instead of chiding and threatening, a promise. “And he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well, and lo, behold he cometh forth to meet thee, and when he seeth thee he will be glad in his heart; and thou shalt speak unto him, and put

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words in his mouth, and I will be with thy mouth and with his mouth, and will teach ye what ye shall do.” Here is good in the stead of evil. Thus God prevents us with his mercies in reference to our own deservings.

As God doth prevent us thus in reference to our own deservings, so he doth prevent us also in reference to his own proceedings of common providence. Look when God doth give in a mercy that is beyond the reach of the second cause, that is stronger or greater than the root of the second cause will bear, or beyond common providence, then God is said to prevent us with his mercy.

Now thus God doth many times give in a mercy that the root of the second cause cannot bear. So he gave Elizabeth a child and Sarah a child when they were old. “ With this staff came I over this brook (says Jacob), and lo I am become two bands.” And thus Israel said, “ A Syrian ready

“ A Syrian ready to perish was my father, (Deut. xxvi. 5,) and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty and populous.” A Syrian ready to perish was my father. As if a man should say, I came here to London, poor, having

and inkhorn by my side, and now I am risen up to a great estate, beyond all my own parts, wits and endeavours, for the Lord hath prevented me with the blessings of his goodness. Thus God doth sometimes prevent us with his mercy in reference to his own proceedings of common providence, or the course of nature.

And then, again, as the Lord doth thus prevent us with his mercy in reference to his own proceedings of common providence, so he doth prevent us with his mercy in reference to our own preparedness. Look when God doth give in a mercy that we are not prepared for, then God is said to prevent us

Now was it not a great and choice mercy for the ark to be brought home again to Israel? Yet, notwithstanding, you shall find they were not prepared for it; before they were prepared God gave them in the mercy : the ark came back, 1 Sam. vi., but their preparation you read of in the viith chapter : “And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, If you do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods, and Ashtaroth ; and the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth and served the Lord only.” This was after the ark come home;

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so then the ark returned before they were thus prepared. And you know what is said in the lviith of Isaiah : “For the iniquity of his covetousness I was wroth and smote him, I hid me and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.” What then? Verse 18, “ I have seen his ways and will heal him; I will lead him, also, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners;" over and beyond all preparations, for he went on frowardly in the way of his heart, and he was not prepared; but notwithstanding his want of preparation, I have seen his ways and will heal hini, and will restore comforts to him and to his mourners. Thus God doth sometimes prevent us with his mercy in reference to our own preparedness for his mercy.

As God doth prevent us with his mercy, in reference to our preparedness for his mercy; so he doth prevent us with his mercy, in reference to all our prayers. Look when God gives in a mercy before we pray for it, then God is truly said to prevent us with his mercy. It is ordinarily said, God will not set in his mercy before our oven be hot; but if God should never set in his mercy, until our oven and hearts be hot in prayer, we had been an unredeemed people to this day. Though God will answer prayer, yet he will be found also of them that seek him not. Do ye say, Why then should we pray? I answer, that you are to pray, not only because it is your duty to pray, but, the more God works in an extraordinary way, the more it is our duty to be found in the use of ordinary means. And what if I say, that the same mercy may come as an answer to prayer,

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preventing love too? What say you to the case of Hezekiah ? When he was sick he prayed, and God heard his prayer, and health came as an answer of prayer; and yet he was prevented, for fifteen years more God gave in to him, which was beyond his prayer. You know how it was with Zacharias; says the Lord, “ I have heard thy prayer,” and gave him a child, yet he did not pray for a child, for he could not believe that he should have a child ; so that God gave him a child in a way of preventing mercy, and yet it was in answer of prayer too.

So here in the text : “ Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not with bolden the request of his lips, for thou hast prevented hini with the blessings of thy goodness." Why? Why although the mercy received may

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be an answer of prayer in regard of the body of it, yet it may come in a way of preventing love as to the moreness of it. So it was with David, so with Hezekiah, and so with Zacharias. Thus God doth sometimes prevent, as in reference to our prayer, giving in mercy beyond all our prayers.

And then, as God doth prevent us in reference to our prayers, so in reference to our believing thoughts or expectancies. “ When the Lord turned the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dreamed.” Why were we as them that dreamed? Why truly we never looked for it, nor expected it, we did not think on it, it was beyond all our expectations. Thus God doth prevent us sometimes in reference to our expectancies, to our faith, and to our thoughts.

As he thus prevents us with his mercy in reference to our thoughts, and faith, and expectance, so in reference to his own promises and the conditions thereof. If I promise a man a kindness upon a condition, and do that kindness for him when he hath not performed the condition, then I prevent him with kindness. Now the Lord hath promise l many a mercy upon a condition, and yet given the mercy when we have not performed the condition : “ I said (says David) I would confess my sin, and thou, Lord, forgavest my iniquity.' Lord, thou hast made a promise of forgiveness, upon condition of our confession and humiliation; I did not go so far, I did but say, I would confess my sin, and thou preventedst me with thy forgiving love. Thus now you see, how and in what respects God doth prevent us with his mercy. He doth prevent us with his mercy in reference to our deservings, in reference to his own proceedings of common providence, in reference to all our prayers, in reference to our faith and expectance, in reference to our preparedness, and in reference to his own promises and the conditions thereof. That is the second.

. Thirdly, Well but then, what are those choice blessings wherewith God will prevent his people ?

What not? But the greater the blessing is, the more it is steeped in preventing love. There are outward blessings and there are inward blessings; there are temporal blessings and there are eternal blessings. Now though the preventing love of God doth shine forth in all, yet the greater the blessing or the mercy is, the more it is irradiated with the beams of preventing love.

Will ye instance ?

Will ye instance in the great matter of our redemption ? What greater mercy or blessing, than our redemption in and by Jesus Christ ? that is of grace : “ In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace.” And when Christ came into the world, in reference to our redemption to take our nature upon him; do but see what a pack of wicked men were then extant upon the ground, in Luke iii. 1, " Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, (there is one,) Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, (there is another, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, (there is another, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea, Annas and Caiaphas being high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." And why was Christ born in such a time as this, and among such company? but all to shew that the work of our redem ption was to be carried on in a way of preventing love.

Or will ye instance in the matter of our conversion ? What greater mercy or blessing than our conversion ? Yet look into Job xxxiii., and you shall see how that mercy comes swimming down the stream of preventing love. speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” What then?“ In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed, then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.”

Or will ye instance in the matter of our justification ? What greater mercy or blessing than that of our justification? Yet this also comes swimming down the stream of preventing love, for “ he justifies the ungodly.” And in Rom. iv. it is said of Abraham, that he was justified not yet circumcised, for we say, “ that faith was reckoned to him for righteousness," verse 9. How was it then reckoned, when he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision; not in circumcision but in uncircumcision? Why, why not in circumcision, but in his uncircumcision ? but to shew that this mercy of justification must be carried on in a way of preventing love.

Or will ye instance in the matter of our sanctification ? What greater mercy than to be truly sanctified? Yet this

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