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6. This subject calls upon all to inquire whether their love to God is founded in knowledge and in all judgment. All men, without scarcely an exception, think and say that they love God. Deists do, Unitarians do, Arminians do, Antinomians do, Universalists do, and all professors of religion do. But the great question is, whether their love to God is founded in the true knowledge of him. Do they love God for what he has revealed of himself in his word? Do they love him for being what he is? for existing in the manner he does ? for the designs he has formed, and is executing; and for his ultimate end in creation, which is his own glory in the highest holiness and happiness of the intelligent system? They who truly love God, love him for his own infinite greatness and goodness. And they rejoice that he “ hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil ;” and that he has, for his own glory, foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Let every person, then, carefully and candidly inquire and know whether he truly loves the only living and true God, who says, “ I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil : I, the Lord, do all these things.” And may the love of real christians, who truly know and love God, “abound yet more and inore in knowledge and in all judgment." Amen.
THE DEATH OF SINNERS NOT PLEASING TO GOD.
For I havo no pleisure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God.
FZEKIEL, xviii. 32.
THERE has long been a controversy between God and sinners. They have complained of him for his conduct towards them; and he has complained of them for their conduct towards him. In this chapter he condescends to state the controversy between him and them, and to show them plainly, that they have no reason to complain of him, but that he has good reason to complain of them. He demands, “ What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine, as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” After this declaration, he goes on to say that he always has treated and always will treat every man according to his real character. If a man were righteous, he would treat him as righteous, whether his father were righteous or not; and if a man were wicked, he would treat him as wicked, whether his father were wicked or not. So that the son should not bear the iniquity of the father, neither the father the iniquity of the son: "the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." But this would not silence the complaints of the wicked.
” They would yet say, " The way of the Lord is not equal.” God therefore appeals from their reason to their conscience. “O house of Israel, are not my ways equal ? are not your ways
unequal?” He then solemnly assures them that, notwithstanding their guilt and obstinacy, he had rather they should be for ever happy, than for ever miserable. “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God.” The plain import of these words is this:
That God is so far from being willing that any of mankind should die, that he sincerely desires that all should live. I shall,
I. Consider what is here to be understood by men's dying; II. Show that God is unwilling that any should die; And, III. Show that he sincerely desires that all should live.
I. We are to consider what is to be understood, in the text and this discourse, by men's dying.
The scripture mentions three kinds of death; temporal death, spiritual death, and eternal death. Temporal death is the dissolution of the connection between the soul and body. Spiritual death is the total corruption or depravity of the heart. Eternal death is complete and endless misery in a future state. Temporal death is a common calamity, which none can escape. It is appointed unto all men once to die; dust they are, and unto dust they must return. “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” . Spiritual death is as universal as temporal. By nature all men are dead in trespasses and sins, and under the entire dominion of an evil heart. But eternal death is peculiar to the finally impenitent. Though all men deserve eternal death, yet none but the finally impenitent shall suffer eternal misery. These reject the counsel of God against themselves, practically judge themselves unworthy of eternal life, and must suffer the second death, which is the full and proper wages of sin. As soon as they leave this world, they will go
into a state of everlasting separation and alienation from God, where he will pour out the vials of his wrath upon them, without mixture and without end. Neither temporal nor spiritual death is an adequate punishment for sin ; but eternal death, or everlasting misery, is a just and proper reward for final impenitence and unbelief. And this is what God threatens when he says, “ The soul that sinneth it shall die;" and when he says, “ He that believeth not shall be damned.” I proceed to show,
II. That God is really unwilling that any of mankind should suffer eternal death. This appears,
1. From the plain and positive declarations concerning the final state of impenitent sinners, which are every where to be found in his word. He plainly and unequivocally says in the text, “ I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” This declaration he confirms with the solemnity of an oath. “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." God doth not affict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Though he was justly and highly displeased with his sinful people, yet he assures them that he was extremely reluctant to punish them according to their deserts. 6 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim ? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God and not man." And the apostle declares that “the Lord is long suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." These strong and positive declarations are to be understood in their most plain and literal sense, as expressing the real feelings of God's heart in respect to the future state of the impenitent. He means to tell all the world that he takes no pleasure in the misery of his most guilty and ill-deserving creatures; and that he feels a strong reluctance, simply considered, to inflict that punishment upon them which they justly deserve, and which his supreme regard to the good of the universe requires him to inflict. And this is farther confirmed,
2. By the pure, disinterested and universal benevolence of his nature. God is love. His love is universal. It extends to the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field, and to all mankind, whether high or low, whether good or evil. Such pure, impartial and universal benevolence, renders it morally impossible that he should take pleasure in the pain or misery of any sensitive nature. While he feels perfectly benevolent towards all mankind, it is utterly impossible that he should desire, or take pleasure in, the pain or punishment of any human being, simply considered. He has a far more clear and just view of the future and eternal punishment of the wicked than they have, or any other created being has; and such endless misery appears to him infinitely more disagreeable, in its own nature, than it does to those who are suffering it. The spirits in prison have but a faint idea of a boundless eternity, in comparison with him who inhabits eternity. God views every impenitent sinner as exposed to eternal torments; and while he views him in that light, he takes no pleasure in the dreadful prospect. He views the impenitent, while preparing for destruction, as infinitely different from the malignant deceiver, who goes about seeking whom he may destroy. Satan takes a real pleasure in destroying sinners and in seeing them destroyed. But God, the Father of mercies, has no such malignant feelings towards the most rebellious and vile of the human race. Their pain or misery, simply considered, never did, and never will give him the least pleasure, or gratification. The perfect benevolence of his heart demon
strates the sincerity of all his declarations concerning his unwil. lingness that any should perish. There is not a child in his family, or a subject in his kingdom, that he is willing should die the second death and lie down in everlasting sorrow. All souls are his, and all souls are precious in his sight. He views them as unspeakably more important than they view themselves, and looks upon the loss of one single soul as far more dreadful than the sinner looks upon it, and is far more unwilling, simply considered, to destroy him, than he is to be destroyed. This leads me to show,
III. That God is not only unwilling that any should be lost, but sincerely desires that all should be saved. Here it may be observed,
1. That if God be unwilling that any should die, then he must desire that all may live. He cannot be altogether indifferent about the happiness or misery of his rational and immortal creatures. If the pure benevolence of his nature makes him unwilling that any should perish, then the same benevolence must make him desire that all should be saved. God must be as desirous that sinners should be saved, as he is unwilling that they should be lost. Accordingly, he tells us so in his word. He expresses both his unwillingness that sinners should die, and his desire that they should live. “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God. Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” He uses the same mode of expression on this subject, in other parallel passages. “As I live,
I saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” And when he declares that he is not willing that any should perish, he immediately subjoins, “but that all should come to repentance." The salvation of every sinner is desirable in its own nature; and therefore God sincerely desires that every sinner should be saved. And his desire that all should be saved is impartial; he desires the eternal good of every individual of mankind, according to his real worth and importance. Good men desire the future good of all, simply considered; but yet they are often very partial in their desires, and more ardently wish that they and theirs may be saved, than that others of much greater importance in the scale of being may be saved. But God views and values all men with perfect impartiality, and sincerely desires the good of all in time and eternity, according to their various capacities for doing and enjoying good. This desire of the everlasting happiness of all mankind is essential to his nature; and he must cease to be God, before he can cease to desire that all men might be saved.