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not humbly cast my soul at his blessed footstool for mercy ? Why did I judge of his ability to save me by the voice of my shallow reason, and the voice of a guilty conscience ? Why betook not I myself to the holy word of God? Why did I not read and pray that I might understand, since now I perceive that God said then, he giveth liberally to them that ask him, and upbraideth not.
It is rational to think, that by such cogitations as these the unbelieving world will be torn in pieces before the judgment-seat of Christ; especially those that have lived where they heard or might have heard the gospel of the grace of God. Oh! that saying, “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom at the day of judgment than for them,” will be better understood. See Luke x. 8–12.
This reason, therefore, standeth fast; namely, that Christ, by offering mercy in the first place to the greatest sinners now, will stop all the mouths of the impenitent at the day of
judgment, and cut off all excuse that shall be attempted to be made (from the thoughts of the greatness of their sins) why they came not to him.
I have often thought of the day of judgment, and how God will deal with sinners at that day; and I believe it will be managed with that sweetness, with that equitableness, with that excellent righteousness, as to every sin, and circumstance, and aggravation thereof, that men that are damned, before the judgment is over shall receive such conviction of the righteous judgment of God upon them, and of their deserts of hell-fire, that they shall in themselves conclude that there is all the reason in the world that they should be shut out of heaven, and go to hell-fire. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” Only this will tear them, that they have missed of mercy and glory, and obtained everlasting damnation through their unbelief. But it will tear but themselves, but their own souls. They will
gnash upon themselves; for in that mercy was offered to the chief of them in the first place, and yet they were damned for rejecting it; they will see that they were damned for forsaking what they had a sort of propriety in-for-forsaking their own mercy.'
APPLICATION. THE RICHES OF CHRIST.
And thus much for the reasons. I will conclude with a word or two of application.
First, Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place to the greatest sinners ? then this shows us how to make a right judgment of the heart of Christ to men. Indeed we have advantage to guess at the goodness of his heart, by many things; as by his taking our nature upon him, his dying for us, his sending his word and ministers. to us, and all that we might be saved. But this of beginning to offer mercy to Jerusalem, is that which heightens all the rest; for this doth not only confirm to us, that love was the cause of his dying for us, but it shows us yet more the depth of that love. He might have died for us, and yet have extended the benefit of his death to a few, as one might call them, of the best conditioned sinners; to those who, though they were weak, and could not but sin, yet made not a trade of sinning; to those that sinned not lavishingly. There are in the world, as one may call them, the moderate sinners; the sinners that mix righteousness with their pollutions; the sinners that though they be sinners, do what on their part lies (some that are blind would think so) that they might be saved. I say, it had been love, great love, if he had died for none but such and sent his love to such. But that he should send out conditions of peace to the greatest of sinners; yea, that they should be offered to them first of all (for so he means when he says, “Begin at Jerusalem);" this is wonderful! This shows his heart to pur
pose, as also the heart of God his Father, who sent him to do thus.
There is nothing more incident to men that are awake in their souls, than to have wrong thoughts of God; thoughts that are narrow, and that pinch and pen up his mercy to scanty and beggarly conclusions, and rigid legal conditions; supposing that it is rude, and an intrenching upon his ma
jesty, to come ourselves, or to invite others, until we have scraped and washed, and rubbed off as much of our dirt from us as we think is convenient, to make us somewhat orderly and handsome in his sight. Such never knew what these words meant, “Begin at Jerusalem.” Yea, such in their hearts have compared the Father and his Son to niggardly rich men, whose money comes from them like drops of blood. True,' say such, "God has mercy, but he is loath to part with it; you must please him well, if you get any from him; he is not so free as many suppose, nor is he so willing to save as some pretended gospellers imagine.' But I ask such, if the Father and Son be not unspeakably free to show mercy, why was this clause put into our commission to preach the gospel ? Yea, why did he say, “Begin at Jerusalem ?” For when men, through the weakness of their wits, have attempted to show other reasons why they should have the first proffer of mercy; yet I can prove by many undeniable reasons that they of Jerusalem (to whom the apostles made the first offer, according as they were commanded) were the greatest sinners that ever did breathe upon the face of God's earth, set the unpardonable sin aside. Upon which fact my doctrine stands like a rock, that Jesus the Son of God would have mercy in the first place offered to the greatest sinners: and if this doth not show the heart of the Father and the Son to be infinitely free in bestowing forgiveness of sins, I confess myself mistaken.
Neither is there, set this aside, another argument like it, to show us the willingness of Christ to save sinners; for, as was said before, all the rest of the signs of Christ's mercifulness might have been limited to sinners that are so and so qualified. But when he says, “Begin at Jerusalem,” the line is stretched out to the utmost; no man can imagine beyond it; and it is folly here to pinch and pare, to narrow, and seek to bring it within scanty bounds. For he plainly saith, “Begin at Jerusalem.” The greatest sinner is the neediest sinner; the greatest is the Jerusalem sinner.'
It is true, he saith, that repentance and remission of sins must go together. But yet remission is sent to the chief, the Jerusalem sinner. Nor doth repentance lessen at all the Jerusalem sinner's crimes; it diminisheth none of his sins, nor causes that there should be so much as half a one the fewer : it only puts a stop to the Jerusalem sinner's course, and makes him willing to be saved freely by grace; and for time to come to be governed by that blessed word that has brought the tidings of good things to him. Besides, no man shows himself willing to be saved that repenteth not of his deeds; for he that goes on still in his trespasses, declares that he is resolved to pursue his own damnation further.
Learn then to judge of the largeness of God's heart and of the heart of his Son Jesus Christ, by the word. Judge not thereof by feeling, nor by the reports of thy conscience; conscience is oftentimes here befooled and made to go quite beside the word. It was judging without the word that made David say, I am cast off from God's eyes, and shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. The word had told him another thing; namely, that he should be king in his stead. Psalm xxxi. 22; 1 Sam. xxvii. 1. Our text says also, that Jesus Christ bids preachers, in their preaching repentance and remission of sins, begin first at Jerusalem; thereby declaring most truly the infinite largeness of the