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I am the Lord, gracious

neither can their interest in him be ever impaired or cease. It is always the same on both sides. The intercourse between the Lord and his people may be interrupted. It cannot but be so when we backslide from him; for if it had not been so in the case before us, the Lord would not have expressed himself as he here doth: O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. It is most divinely encouraging what the Lord here says, Return unto the Lord thy God. and merciful; pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin. I am the Lord thy God. I am merciful and gracious. I will not keep anger for ever.Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against me. I am the Lord which exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things do I delight, saith the Lord. Beloved in the Lord, who is there amongst the called in Christ Jesus, let their backslidings be what they may, and be increased in guilt and enormity never so deeply, but these forecited Scriptures brought home to their minds, and imprinted on the same by the Spirit of theliving God, but must be overcome with the rich, transcendent grace expressed in them? I am, says the Lord, thy God. Thy Father; thy Saviour; the Holy One of Israel; thy Salvation; thy Healer. I am the Lord which healeth thee. The covenant of my grace is what it ever was. The arms of my mercy are open to embrace


thee. I am immutable in my love and mercy. Thou art the object of it, and the subject on whom I will to display and express it. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, who waiteth to be gracious. Surely it is impossible for any of us to survey this subject in the light of faith, but we must be ravished with the same!

I now come thirdly to consider what the then present state and case of Israel was, when the Lord thus expressed himself in the words before us; and the reason he makes use of to hasten their return to him. It is this: they were departed from the Lord. The true consideration of this was sufficient to hasten their return to him. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.

The mercy of God in Christ Jesus exceeds the very uttermost of our minds to receive any adequate ideas of. We sin; it brings guilt and condemnation with it; so as that our minds are deeply affected by the same. Sometimes we conceive we have no right to go to the Lord with it, and that we ought not to encourage ourselves in the Lord our God. Guilt in the conscience produces fear in the heart: so long as we indulge the same, it weakens our faith and keeps us from Christ. Israel was in this case: their sin and sinfulness was very great; they could not undo what they had wickedly done; neither could prophets and priests do them any good. Their


case was in its own nature irremediless; it being so, the Lord makes their extremity his opportunity. He speaks to them in a most affectionate manner he says, Return, O Israel, unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Israel, because fallen by his own iniquity, would have made use of it as an argument to continue in a backsliding state. It must of itself have produced such thoughts and reasonings as these. The Lord is an holy God; he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. He chargeth his angels with folly, and the heavens themselves are not clean in his sight. We most assuredly are vile: there can be no hope for us. It cannot but become us to give up all hope even in the Lord, because our transgressions are many, and our backslidings are increased.-Yet because Israel's case is what it is, the Lord makes it an árgument for an immediate return to him. Is it not so in these words: O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity? Most assuredly it is. And is not this like the grace which the Lord Jesus Christ will display towards these people in the latter day, when this promise shall receive its accomplishment? And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a

praise, and honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness, and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it. See Jer. xxxiii, v. 8, 9. At which time, as a people, they will cry out with the most devout admiration, Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the trans* gression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. See Michah vii, v. 18. It is very delightful to go over the Scriptures in a way of believing, and consider how they most exactly suit all our cases. You and I, men and brethren, need the grace and mercy recorded in them, in our own persons and cases. We are the subjects of sin, and each of us have our personal and particular plague sores and maladies. We all need continual light and instruction, how to apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, immediately and particularly with our guilt, and that even whilst it is upon our consciences; yet we find an averseness so to act, thereby making more of sin than we do of Christ; and because it makes a great alteration within us, and upon our minds, we conceive it must also on Christ's. We cannot think it right to go with a fresh contraction of sin and guilt immediately to the Lord Jesus; but are for praying it away, and getting into a better frame. We want something inherent in ourselves to comfort

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and encourage us, notwithstanding the apostle says, If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins. And the Lord in our text says to us, as truly as he did to his people of old, Return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. There are seasons, and cases, in which we never needed Christ more, and it may seem to us never so much: let us improve the same by going immediately and directly, in the exercise of faith on the blood and righteousness of Jesus, to Him, and that with all we are and all we have done. This is the only way for us to be brought into an actual intercourse with Christ, when we are oppressed with our spiritual maladies. Let not the consideration of any thing we have done, or may feel, or be chargeable with, keep us one single moment from Christ. If we cannot say more than Lord save, or I perish, let us be thankful to be enabled thus to cry.

As the subject before us does not end here, I only leave the present sermon. May the Lord Amen.

bless what hath been delivered.

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