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no praise to themselves, but are under a constant and deep sense of the gratitude due to the free and gratuitous mercy of God; “who hath made us to differ;" who hath called us by “his grace; who hath called us according to his purpose; who hath saved us, and has called us with a holy calling ; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” To such, the doctrine of Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God! The power of God—this, in the sacrifice and atonement of Christ, hath its most marvellous display, inasmuch as the restoration of a world therein effected is a greater miracle than the creation of a world; for in the one case the elements were passive and yielding, in the other there was nothing but opposition, intractability, and obstinacy. The power of God was here evinced in magnifying and making honourable that object which by man was held as the most debased and contemptible, in shedding a glory about the cross-in turning the punishment of an alleged criminal into the blessed fame of a martyr-in converting the means of a human degradation into the process of exalting souls to happiness and heaven. The power of God was here made manifest in breaking the chains which bound down a whole world, travailing, and pain, and sorrow, to the heirdom of hell—in its grappling with and overcoming the apostate and rebellious spirits, in destroying sin and the power of death, at the very hour when the triumph on their side seemed the more complete. The power of God was shown here in the provision of a victim, who, by the strengh of his own infinite virtues, should make satisfaction to the inexorable exactions of the divine justice. The power of God was discovered here in the selection of the means, that were as opposed as means could be to those which lay in the ability of man to save from Satan and lift to God! But what is the governance of this truth in your own hearts; is the doctrine of the cross received there as the power of God ? Does it keep in subjection every disposition to rely on human endeavours ? Does it suppress the gloryings in human strength ? Does it hold undermost the powers of sin ? Does it constrain to a more intense faith, a more fixed trust in him who is the great mover, the only efficient worker? Does it remove every doubt, every fear, every suspicion of danger, in submitting yourselves wholly to the course which the doctrine involves as coming from God? To recognise the Divine Power in it, is surely to keep the mind clear of every scruple, to free the understanding from all uncertainty upon the issues of the matter. The receiving that which the power of man authorizes, does not preclude the chance of our being deceived, of our erring to the soul's hurt; but the receiving that which has the impress of the power of God, there cannot be any thing there but truth and security. To know of the doctrine whether it be of God, is to hold fast the form of sound words and believe to salvation! Again, the preaching of Christ crucified is to them which are called, the wisdom of God: it is contradistinguished from the wisdom of the world : “Behold! I will proceed, (saith the holy one of Israel,) to do a marvellous work amongst this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understandings of their prudent men shall be hid;" or, as St. Paul quotes, “ I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world. Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world; for, after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God: it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." The doctrines of the cross are eminently the wisdom of God to them that are called, inasmuch as by a way which was altogether incomprehensible to man, they exhibit a view how the divine justice may be exercised in a revelation of the divine mercy, and how the divine mercy may be glorified in the exercise of the divine justice—they discover a mode after which the just Judge may be satisfied, and at the same time the dignities of the victim be retained-how the curse may be removed, the penalty remitted, and yet the truth of the awful sentence be preserved inviolate-how, instead of an obscuration, a strengthening, a gathering of the divine glories, may come out of the shadows of the cross! The doctrine of the cross is the wisdom of God, inasmuch as in spirituality and power it is of the divine teaching; inasmuch as in it there is an exact fitness after its various supplies to the existing wants of the soul; inasmuch as it is an opening up of consolations and blessings which were otherwise locked in secrecy and darkness; inasmuch as it makes a disclosure of the only course for the attainment of the only end that is worthy of an immortal spirit, by steps the very opposite to those which had been insisted on by “the wise after the flesh;" inasmuch as in its silent impressions upon the heart it conduces most to a likeness of the nature of a holy God, and whilst it enriches with the highest earthly good, bequeathes, as it were, the heirdom of the kingdom of heaven! And, now, is the preaching of this doctrine appreciated as the wisdom of God by you? Do you receive it as little children, in the spirit of humility and obedience? Is it the theme of your constant admiration, and the impulse of a living gratitude? Without this wisdom what were your moral condition, what were your happiness, what were your hope? As ignorant men, ye had not known the way of salvation; as guilty sinners, you had been groaning under the wrath of condemnation, under the weight of the curse; as hopeless and abandoned souls, you had now been counting, had now been brooding over, the miseries of one eternal night of blackness and perdition! and now that the doctrine is preached, the power and wisdom of God declared, in the great atonement of a Christ crucified, do any remain careless about it, unimpressed by it? Are there any who turn it into a derision and a mockery? Are there any who still, with a perverse mind and obdurate heart, cleave to the evil, rejecting the only one way to happiness, to salvation, to heaven, to God; loving darkness rather than light, and preferring the bondage of Satan to the liberty of the children of God? Any here—let the inquiry search into every heart—let it try the understanding and the spirit as it circulates among you; let it, by the awe of the thought, that if the preaching of Christ crucified' is to you foolishness, foolishness it must remain, as speaking peace in the agonies of a dying hourfoolishness it must remain, as making promise of a blessed immortality—Amen.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. MR. LIEFCHIELD, OF CRAVEN CHAPEL,
NEAR REGENT STREET.
ROMANS, ii. 4.—“ Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and
forbearance, and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?-But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
It is surprising with what dexterity men shift from themselves the charge of guilt, or at least contrive by their going on in sin to indulge the most feeble ideas of damnation, of future punishment and even of eternal rest! Whatever tends to expose to us the heinousness of sin, and thus to wean our hearts from the love and practice of it, must be of the highest importance. Every sin that we are warned of on earth, if we are unregenerate will prove a future source of agony; but if we are in a state-of salvation, every fresh developement of the remaining power of sin upon us, will lay the foundation for additional happiness and holiness of character. Whatever therefore, I say again, tends to expose to us the heinousness of sin, and so to wean our hearts from the love and practice of it, must be considered of the greatest importance. Now there seems to be no subject so well calculated to do so, as that of divine goodness; it sets before us the guilt, the ingratiude and the folly of sin, and leads the mind to grieve over it on that account. This is the subject which the apostle sets before us, and to which we beg your earnest attention this morning. “Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long suffering ; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” Let us first consider in a general way, THE GOODNESS, FORBEARANCE, AND LONG SUFFERING OF God !-goodness is not meant here an inherent perfection, consisting of holiness, purity and excellence; in which sense the term is used in reference to Barnabus, in which it was said “he was a good man," that is, an excellent, a holy man. But goodness here is put in reference to to the kindness and benevolence of the Deity towards us, in the same sense in which the term is used by the apostle in that passage where he says “ scarcely for a righteous man (if rectitude and excellence) would one die, yet peradventure for a good man (a kind and benevolent character) some would even dare to die." So that you are not to understand by the goodness of God in this passage, the holiness of His nature, but His kindness of character, His goodness. There are several things essential to the idea of bounty :—the favors that we receive from Him are given from His own storehouse :-it is not bounty to give away what is another's, but God gives away His own. “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,”—they are all the productions of His skill, power, and constant care; they are all His, and He has a right to withhold them if He pleases, for not one of them is ours; there is not one, of which we can dare to say this is not God's!-itis He gives us all we have, so He gives us from His own storehouse. The bounty of the greatest monarch is but like the clouds, which pour nothing down, but what they have first gathered up ;-but what God gives us, comes from Himself, the sole Lord and proprietor of them all. Nor is it only so, but He gives largelymexuberance enters into the very idea of benevolence, and the goodness of God is exuberant-you have heard in the language of the psalmist this morning how good, how bountiful, how exuberant in His bounty, how admirable God is :-"All creatures wait upon thee, my God, and thou givest them their meat in due season: that thou givest them, they gather: thou openest thine hand and satisfiest the wants of every living thing." O, think of the wants of His creation, and of the supply of those wants, dealt out with a most liberal hand! The greatest feast that was ever made upon earth, was that which was made by Ahasuerus, King of Persia, as you will see in the first chap. of the book of Esther :-“When the King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him; when he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the honor of his excellent majesty, many days, even an hundred and four-score days.”—And yet you see this feast was but to the chiefs and nobles of his kingdom, and lasted only half a year; but the feast that God makes, is for ALL his creatures and lasts PERPETUALLY;—“ Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, thou dost encircle it with a diadem of goodness all the year.” And we are to consider in this bounty, its disinterestedness.—What He gives us, is neither the recompense of any thing we have done, nor to be recompensed to Him, by any thing we can do. What can we do to profit Him? He is just the same as ever He was; just as holy, just as happy, just as glorious, whether you serve Him in return for His favors, or whether, acting with the deepest and most base ingratitude, you do not. If He could be greatened or lessened by any thing we could do, He would not be the infinite God! Čanst thou, 0, man, be profitable unto God? Oh Lord, thou mayst say, thy goodness extendeth not unto thee; and when you have done all you must say “we are unprofitable servants”—therefore the goodness of God is in the noblest sense disinterested ;-He cannot receive any advantage in return, and therefore He does not look for any, He does not expect any thing. If he requires you to be obedient to His laws, it is because obedience is for your good : you will see this in the book of Deuteronomy, 10th chap. and 12th verse, “ And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command thee this day, for thy GOOD!” Not for any advantage that accrues to God, but for our own good! “If ye do good (says Christ) to those who have done good to you (or, that pay you again) what thanks have ye?"-But rather do good to those that cannot pay you again, for then will you be the companions of the most high God, who is above all blessed for ever more. The favors of God are bestowed upon us cheerfully. A willing mind, we are told by the apostle, is preferred by the Almighty to the very act of liberality itself! and God, who loveth a cheerful giver, is Himself abundantly willing in His gifts. He rejoices over all His works ; he takes pleasure in conferring His bounties upon creation; He delights to see all His creatures feeding at His table and He gives to all, “liberally and upbraideth not,”—He gives from His own stores,-He gives largely, -disinterestedly,--and cheerfully.
Next to GOODNESS, the apostle adds FORBEARANCE : “ despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance,” His is more than goodness, which regards only the deep :-it is more than mercy, which regards only the needy and miserable; but forbearance regards the guilty! God not only grants us His favors, but grants them though we have rebelled against Him and provoked Him to wrath and and fierce displeasure by our manifold sins. Forbearance consists in restraining deserved fury and wrath. It must be, my brethren, by a necessity of nature, that, as the God of holiness and order, our transgressions, our sins and iniquities