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only dear Son,s and exacted of him our debt, in order that he might exercise mercy towards us consistently with the demands of truth and justice. And, having provided such a remedy, he delights in extending its benefits even to the vilest of the human race. Thousands that are now glorified in heaven, and thousands too that are yet compassed with infirmities on earth, can attest, that with him is plenteous redemption, and that he is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him."] Not to dwell on general views of his goodness, let us consider it.
II. Particularly, as it manifests itself towards us
1. In reference to his patience
[God will "chide" his people for their sins; nor would he act worthy of himself, if he did not manifest his displeasure against the violations of his holy law." But we must all confess that he punishes neither soon-nor long-nor according to our deserts-Not soon; for then he would be "always chiding,' seeing that we give continual occasion for his displeasure to arise. But he is not extreme to mark what is done amiss, well knowing that if he should contend with us for every fault, we could not answer him one of a thousand. Nor will he visit us long: if he hide his face, it is but for a little moment," and if he wound us, it is, for the most part, but a very short time before he binds us up again and heals us." He will not be always wroth, lest our spirits should faint, and fail by reason of his displeasure. Nor does he at any time "deal with us according to our iniquities." Where must every one of us have been if he had entered into judgment with us according to the strict tenor of his law? Whatever trials we may have been called to endure, they have been infinitely less than our iniquities have deserved."]
2. In reference to his mercy
[This has been boundless in its extent. Who can measure the vast expanse of heaven? Yet such is the mercy of our God, having heights that cannot be explored, and depths that cannot be fathomed. It reaches, not only to all persons, but to the utmost extent of their necessities or desires. It is also
g Isa. liii. 6.
i Rom. iii. 25, 26. m Rom. x. 12, 13. P Job ix. 3.
Isai. lvii. 16.
a Job xi. 6.
Isai. liii. 7. Lowth's Translation.
k Mic. vii. 18.
n Heb. xii. 6, 7.
1 Ps. cxxx. 7, 8.
• Ps. cxxx. 3. r Hos. vi. 1, 2. 10. with Ps. cxliii. 2. y Eph. iii. 18, 19.
tender in its exercise. Can any thing on earth afford us a stronger image of tenderness, than a parent striving to soothe the anguish of his agonizing infant? Yet such is the anxiety which God himself feels to heal our wounded spirits, and comfort us under all our conflicts. It is moreover, lasting in its effects. Let a straight line be drawn from east to west; and the further it is drawn, the further shall the ends be removed from each other. Thus it is with respect to our sins which he has pardoned: they are put away from us to the remotest distance, never to meet upon our souls again, never to be remembered against us to all eternity."]
1. How base is it to sin against such a God!
[Sin, of whatever kind, is really directed against him. And shall it appear a light matter to us to offend such a God? See this argument urged by Ezra; and let every temptation be repelled with this indignant expression. How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"]
2. How ought we to fear and love our God!
[It is twice observed in the text, that God's mercy is displayed "to them that fear him:" and it is manifested on purpose that he may be feared. Let us therefore not despise the riches of his goodness, but improve them for the confirming of our fear, and the quickening of our love."]
z Hos. xi. 8. Jer. xxxi. 20.
Heb. viii. 12.
d Gen. xxxix. 9. Hos. iii. 5.
b Ps. li. 4.
a Ver. 17. Mic. vii. 19. c Ezra ix. 13, 14.
f Rom. ii. 4.
e Ps. cxxx. 4.
b Ps. cxvi. 12. and cxlv. 8, 9, 21.
CCCCLXXXII. GOD'S READINESS TO GIVE HIS
Luke xi. 11-13. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish; will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him?
TO argue from ourselves to the Deity, and to con¿lude that, because we should do, or forbear, any parti
cular thing, he would do the same, is, in many cases, extremely fallacious; because many things may be proper as a rule of our conduct towards others, which can in no respect be applied to the moral Governor of the universe. There are, however, some instances wherein such an argument may be urged, not only with propriety, but with great effect. Such an instance occurs in the passage we have now read; in considering which,
I. Point out the force of our Lord's appeal
Our Lord addresses himself both to our feelings and our judgment
[Men who cannot understand a logical deduction, may comprehend, without any difficulty, the argument before us. Every one, whether he be a parent or not, knows sufficiently the feelings of a parent, to answer the question here put to him. We can scarcely conceive, that any father should so divest himself of all the sensibilities of his nature, as to refuse a piece of bread to his child. Much less can we imagine, that he should mock his child, by offering him a stone; or give him, instead of necessary food, a serpent or scorpion to destroy him. Who then would think of ascribing such a disposition to God? God is the common parent of all his creatures; and he well knows that his Spirit is as necessary for the imparting and maintaining of spiritual life, as bread is for the support of our natural life. Will he then refuse that blessing to us, when we ask it at his hands; and leave us to perish without affording us the needful succour? It may happen, that an earthly parent may be indisposed, by passion or caprice, to do what is right; or he may be disabled through poverty: but there are no such impediments on the part of God, since he is subject to no infirmities; nor is there any thing impossible with him. We may be sure therefore that he will at all times act worthy of the relation which he bears to his creatures.]
But the force of the appeal lies in the contrast between God and us
[At first sight the appeal may seem inconclusive, since our children have a claim upon us, but we have none on God; and the gift of a piece of bread bears no proportion whatever to the unspeakable gift of God's Spirit. But it must be considered that we are "evil," so evil as to be capable of the greatest cruelties even towards our own children. Instances have occurred, wherein parents have not only murdered, but even eaten, their own offspring: and the treating of them
2 Kings vi. 28, 29.
with extreme harshness and severity is no uncommon failing. Yet, with all our proneness to evil, and our readiness, under the influence of passion or temptation, to commit the greatest enormities, there cannot be found a person on earth so depraved, as to act towards his children, in the general tenor of his conduct, in the manner stated by our Lord. But God, on the contrary, is good, supremely, and only good, and therefore incapable of doing any thing, which may in the smallest degree impeach his character. Besides, he has manifested his goodness in that most unparalleled act of mercy, the gift of his own Son; the gift of his own Son to die for us; and that too, unasked; and at a time when we were in rebellion against him; and when he knew the treatment which his Son would meet with from an ungrateful world: will HE then refuse us any thing? Will he not give us his holy Spirit, when we ask it at his hands; and when he knows that the bestowing of that gift will infallibly terminate in his own eternal glory? It is in this very light that an inspired apostle states the same argument;b and therefore we may be well assured, that it is unanswerably conclusive.]
That we may not however rest in a mere acknowledgment of this truth, we shall
II. Suggest a suitable improvement of it
Though the great scope of the text relates only to the prospect which we have of receiving answers to prayer, we may learn from it
1. In what light we are to regard God, when we come to a throne of grace
[Men in general either think of God as a being that has no concern about this lower world, or as an harsh master, and a severe judge. Accordingly their prayers are either a mere lip-service, in which they themselves feel no interest; or the supplications of a slave under the apprehension of the lash. But we should rather go to him as a father; we should consider him as a being, able and willing to succour us, yea, infinitely more willing to give than we to ask. How endearing. is that address which we are taught to use, Our Father, which art in heaven! If we could approach him with the familiarity, and confidence of dutiful and beloved children, how sweet would be our fellowship with him, and how successful our petitions! Then, nothing would appear too much to ask, nothing too trifling to lay before him. We should spread before him our every want; and experience, on all occasions, his condescension and grace.]
b Rom. viii. 32.
2. What we ought principally to desire in all our addresses to him
[The leading subjects of men's petitions usually are, that their sins may be pardoned, and their ways reformed: and certainly these are important subjects for our supplications. But the offices of the holy Spirit are very much overlooked even by the saints themselves: and though God will not altogether withhold his blessings, because we do not ask for them in the best manner, yet certainly it is of importance that we should feel our need of his Spirit, and express those feelings in our petitions to him. We cannot repent or pray, unless God, "pour out upon us a spirit of grace and of supplication." We cannot know either our disease or our remedy, unless the Spirit be given to us "to convince us of our indwelling sin, and of the Saviour's righteousness. It is the Spirit's office to glorify Christ, and to take of the things that are his, and shew them unto us." If we would "mortify the deeds of the body, it must be through the Spirit's" influence: if we would bring forth the fruits of righteousness, it must be through the operation of the same Spirit, whose fruits they are. Every act of the spiritual life must be performed by the intervention and agency of God's Spirit. As Christ is ALL in procuring 'salvation for us, so the Holy Spirit is ALL in parting salvation to us. Our illumination and strength, our sanctification and comfort, are all his gifts; and therefore we should continually acknowledge our dependence upon him, and ask of God the communications we stand in need of. The importance of this is strongly marked in the passage before us; for St. Matthew, relating the substance of our Lord's discourse, says, "How much more shall your heavenly Father give good things to them that ask him?" but St. Luke sums up all good things in this, the gift of the Holy Spirit; because, without that gift, all that we possess is of no value; and with it, we cannot want any thing that is good.]
3. The efficacy and importance of prayer
[Since God has so strongly declared his readiness to give ufs his Spirit, we may be well assured, that he will not refuse us any thing else: " we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us." But, on the other hand, we can expect nothing without prayer: "God will be enquired of by us," even for those things which he has promised to give us; nor will he give, if we neglect to ask. This also is intimated in the text itself; his favours are limited to them that ask him. It is true indeed, that the first desire after what is good is inspired by.
e Matt. vii. 11.
d Ver. 10.