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I have the longer insisted upon this, because I see it woefully neglected amongst Christians; who fall so infinitely short of imitating God in the mercifulness and goodness of his nature, that they look upon it as a piece of religion to be sour, morose, and supercilious, and too frequently proud despisers of others. Some are unjust in their dealings, and take all advantages to defraud and circumvent their brethren; and are so far from doing what love and charity require, that they answer not the rules of law and equity. Some, if they seek not the ruin of others, yet are ready to rejoice at it; and, with a devilish kind of delight, please themselves, either with the miscarriages or mishaps of their brethren. Others, again, love to sow discords, and to stir up strife between brethren; that, when they are all in a flame and combustion, they may sit by and warm themselves. What shall I say concerning these? is this to imitate God? is this to copy forth his universal goodness? or do they not rather give a sad occasion to others, to open their black mouths, and to blaspheme God; imputing all their cruelty, injustice, and unmercifulness, to their profession, and to their religion; than which there is no one thing that doth more contradict it? If, therefore, you have any respect, any tenderness for the glory of God, I beseech and charge you, O Christians, by your beneficence, charity, and prone goodness, to redeem the honour of God, which hath deeply suffered through your defaults; and to stop the mouths of those, to whom religion is odious enough by nature, but rendered despicable, as well as odious; and to whom the name of a saint and a professor is made a by-word, only to denote a covetous, niggardly, cruel, and oppressive person, by the lives of too many who walk quite contrary to their rule and to their great exemplar. For, in this, God hath set you no lower a pattern than himself: Luke vi. 36. Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
And, so much, for the First and great way of glorifying the Mercy and Goodness of God.
(2dly) We ought to glorify the mercy of God, by endeavouring to render ourselves Fit Objects for his mercy to be laid out upon.
Certainly, lie little honours the mercy of a prince, who will not render himself capable of it. And, let me tell you, it is the greatest scorn and contempt you can cast upon the rich and free mercy of God, that, when he hath so gloriously proclaimed it and told you upon what terms you may be made partakers of it, you should refuse to come up to those terms, as if it were not so much worth, as the price at which God offers it. What is it, that God expects from you ? it is but repentance, and reformation of life; a sincere and universal obedience to his laws: upon the performance of this, his mercy, his Christ, himself, his heaven, his all, are yours: Prov. xxviii. 13. He, that confesseth and forsaketh his sins, shall have mercy. And, what! wilt thou stick at this? If God had required some great thing of you, the utter ruin and impoverishing of your estates, the macerating and torturing of your bodies, the plucking out of your right eyes and cutting off your right hands, even in a literal sense, would you not have done it, that you might obtain mercy and salvation at the last? See what terms those, who were convinced of their misery, and bf their absolute need of mercy to save them, do of themselves voluntarily offer unto God; far more grievous and extreme than any which he hath required: Micah vi. 6, 1. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?....Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-bom for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? certainly, these seem to value mercy, when they bid so high for it, though they were ignorant of the right way of obtaining it. And, now, when God shall inform us, that all he requires of us is but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him, it is a most heinous affront and disparagement to his mercy, if we will not come up to these terms, which are so easy and equitable; yea, and have enough in themselves to recommend them to us, although there were no farther benefit to be expected by the performance of them. Be persuaded, therefore, O Christians, to glorify the mercy of God by repentance, obedience, and a holy life. Declare to all the world, that you have a high valuation and esteem of the infinite mercy of God, by being willing to perform that for the obtaining of it, which others detract and refuse. They must needs have very slight and undervaluing thoughts of mercy, who will not be prevailed with to mortify one sin, to deny themselves in any of their secular advantages and concerns, to suffer a scoff or a jeer for that holiness and piety which alone can bring them within the reach and under the influences of mercy: but he, that can with » bold and generous resolution break through all these little
difficulties, that can suffer whatsoever God lays upon him, and do whatsoever God requires from him, he it is, that glorifies mercy; because by this he demonstrates, that he thinks it worth the having, at what price and rate soever it be set. Clemens Alexandrinus hath an excellent passage in his Protreptick: "The Lord," saith he, " shews us mercy and saves us, Tsto fuvov axoXccviav vjfLuv 6 trw?«/xf6«, as though he could make no other use nor advantage of us, than as he doth save us:" now thou, who wilt not glorify the mercy of God, endeavouring by a holy and obedient life to promote thine own salvation, what dost thou but frustrate the great end for which he hath made thee, which is the glory of his mercy; and therefore dost, in a high measure, affront and dishonour him?
(3dly) When thou art thus fitted and prepared for mercy, then glorify it by a Confident and Hardy Reliance upon it.
To venture upon the mercy of God, whilst thou yet continuest impenitent in thy sins, is a most bold and desperate presumption: but, to venture thy soul and thy eternal salvation upon his mere goodness and mercy, whilst thou art careful to lead a holy, pious, and obedient life, is so far from being presumption, that it is the best and most effectual way to glorify it. And therefore thou, O Soul, who fearest the Lord, and desirest to approve thyself unto him in uprightness and sincerity, why walkest thou with such a drooping and dejected countenance? why sufferest thou thy conscience to be clouded with fears and racked with horrors? Is it not an infmite disparagement to the rich mercy of God, to fear that he will damn thee, whilst thou fearest to provoke him? Who would think that thou servest a merciful and gracious God, when they see thee solicitous to perform thy duty to him; and yet anxious and distrustful concerning the acceptance of it? These thy perplexities and despondencies do highly dishonour God, fright men from his service, and do little less than brand him with the black and odious note of cruelty and tyranny. Is this the way to allure men to the profession and practice of holiness, when they see that verified in thee, the suspicion of which hath so often scared them from it, viz. that they must for ever quit all their pleasant days, and be eaten up with dismal discontents and the rust of melancholy? Let those thus slavishly fear God and despair of his mercy, whose sins, and impenitence in them, fit them for nothing but wrath and destruction: but, for a holy, pious Christian, the desires of whose soul are towards God, and his endeavours correspondent to his desires, for such an one to despond of mercy, is the greatest disgrace and dishonour that he can cast upon God: for, if there be any such attribute belonging unto his nature as mercy, it is certainly thine; and, if there be not, think then what a God dost thou serve! Clear up, therefore, O Christian: scatter all thy dark and gloomy thoughts: smooth out thy wrinkled conscience: and, whilst thou perseverest in a careful and sincere obedience unto his commands, cast thyself boldly upon his mercy; and, believe it, it will never sink under thee, nor suffer thee to sink into that hell which thou now fearest. Doubt nothing: thou canst not perish, so long as the mercy of God endureth. And, whilst thou thus, with an humble confidence, layest the whole weight and stress of thy soul upon it, thou dost more glorify God, than those doubting and perplexed souls, who always serve him suspiciously, and dare scarce approach near him lest he should devour them: certainly, this is so contrary to the nature of God, who is love and goodness itself to those that serve him, that he cannot but take it ill, when they seem to account of him no otherwise than an ireful and ravenous deity. Fear not: this is no presumption, but a holy faith, a filial freedom of spirit, which is most acceptable unto God. He delights in the services of those, who address themselves unto him with an open heart and a cheerful soul: Ps. cxlvii. 11. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
(4thly) Another way by which we ought to glorify the mercy and goodness of God, is, by Praising him for all the Effects and Expressions of it.
Ps. J. 23. Whoso ojfereth praise glorifieth me. Praise is God's tribute; the only impost, that He lays upon all his benefits: it is all the return, that he expects from us. Certainly, they are guilty of foul and black ingratitude, who would defraud God even of this small acknowledgment. Our whole lives are thick set with mercies: wheresoever we turn, we find ourselves encompassed and surrounded with blessings. Now what canst thou do less than lift up thy heart and thy voice to God, and give him thanks? this God is pleased to account a glorifying of him, because it owneth his free goodness to be the original of all: and, therefore, when the ten lepers were cleansed, and only one of them returned to return thanks for his cure, our Saviour, Luke xvii. 18. saith, There are not found, that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. Reflect now upon the. gum and stock of thy mercies. Hast thou riches, or health, or repute, or friends, or all of these? ascribe it to the mercy of God, which hath so plentifully furnished thee with all these mercies: say, " Lord, I have received them all from thy bounty, and I desire to return the thankful acknowledgment of all to thy glory. Accept of that share, which alone is worthy of thee; even my humble thanks and praise for them." Whilst thou thus praisest God for his goodness, thou payest him his tribute: all the rest is thine; which thou mayest enjoy and use with comfort.
And thus I have, at large, shewn you how you ought to glorify God in his Mercy and Goodness : viz. by your conformity unto it; preparing yourselves to be fit vessels of it; trusting and relying upon it; and blessing and praising him for it.
3dly. Another attribute, which we are to glorify, is the divine Immensity and Omnipresence.
That this is an essential attribute and property of the divine nature, both Scripture and Reason do abundantly testify. He pervades all beings, is excluded out of none, neither included in any: 1 Kings viii. 27. Behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee; and, certainly, if God cannot be contained in them, but his essence dilates and expands itself infinitely beyond and above them, into that endless and unwearied space in which never any thing was created nor doth exist but God only, much less then can he be contained within the compass of any other finite and created being.
Now we ought to glorify this attribute of God's omnipresence,
(1st) By our Reliance and Dependance upon him, in all our fears and dangers.
Art thou surrounded with dangers on every side, and in the very jaws of death and destruction? yet then consider, that thy God, who is every where present, is likewise present with thee there; and there is no danger so great nor imminent, that can fright him from thee: he, who hath been a sun to thee in thy prosperity, will now be a shield to thee in thine adversity. Indeed, we ought not rashly to run headlong upon dangers, when we have no call to expose ourselves to them: this is not to trust God, but to tempt him: and therefore our Saviour well answered the Devil, when he impudently bid him cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, for that God would give his angels charge to bear him up in their hands that he should not dash his