ON THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN WAITING FOR SINNERS
Consider first, the wonders of God's goodness in his dealings with sinners. See with what patience he bears with them, and that very often for a long time, notwithstanding their repeated provocations, their continually abusing all his bounty and mercy, and that infinite hatred he always bears to mortal sin, wherever he sees it. O my soul, how much art thou indebted to this patience of thy God, in bearing with thee all these years past, ever since your first fall into sin! Alas! hast thou not all this time been playing upon the very brink of that dreadful precipice which conducts to the bottomless pit? Hast thou not been all this while within a hair's breadth of a miserable eternity? Is it not true, that every night thou hast gone to bed, thou didst not know but that before the morning thou mightest find thyself in hell? Millions have fallen into that dismal dungeon of endless woe, whilst thy God has spared thee; millions are now burning in those unquenchable flames for fewer sins than thou hast committed. O blessed for all eternity be the infinite goodness of my God, and may all his Angels and Saints praise and glorify him for ever, for having endured me so long, for having preserved me all this time, and continually watched over me, or else my soul had long since dwelt in hell!
Consider 2ndly, the many ways by which God seeks to reclaim sinners, and to call them home to him. Reflect on the remorse and inward reproaches of conscience, with which he visits them; the terror of his judgments, and the allurements of his mercies, which he sets before them. See how he is continually calling upon them, by his word, by his preachers, by good books, by good examples, and wholesome admonitions, and by a number of interior invitations and graces. Has he not dealt thus with thee, my soul, all this time thou hast been going astray from him? And what is the meaning of all this goodness of thy God to such an undeserving, ungrateful, and obstinate rebel? Why, it is nothing else but his own pure mercy and love in consideration of the precious blood of his Son. And shall not all this love of his for thee soften thy heart, and oblige thee, now at least, to resolve in good earnest to return to him, lest otherwise, mercy being long abused, should give place to justice, and the soil which has been so often watered with rain from heaven, and still continues to bring forth nothing but thorns and briars, should fall at length under a dreadful curse, and be condemned to the fire? Heb. vi
Consider 3rdly, what encouragement God gives to all sinners to return to him. 'As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of a sinner; but that he may be converted from his ways and may live. O why will you die, O house of Israel?' Ezech xxxiii. 11. 'Return to me and live,' ch. xviii. 32, 'Thou hast gone astray after many lovers, but return to me, and I will receive thee,' Jerem. iii. See with what love the good shepherd in the Gospel goes after the lost sheep, and with what joy he lays it upon his shoulders, and brings it home to the fold. See how the father runs out to meet the prodigal child when he returns home from the husks of the swine; see how he embraces him, clothes him with the best robe, and makes a feast for him. Luke xv. Reflect how the Son of God when here upon earth, treated the penitent Magdalene, the thief upon the cross, and all other sinners that had recourse to his mercy; and how he has declared, that there is more joy in heaven over one penitent sinner, than over ninety-nine just. And let all these instances and testimonies of his goodness to poor sinners, encourage and determine you to stay no longer away from him by sin, but to arise without delay, and return to so good, to so loving a Father, by a thorough conversion.
Conclude to abuse no longer the mercies of God by continuing in sin, but to return to him now at least with thy whole heart, and never to depart from him any more.