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an indifference which they would be ashamed to offer in return for the slightest expressions of kindness and good-will on the part of a fellow creature ? And what is the necessary inference that we are compelled to draw from such a fact? Is it not just virtually saying, that they attach no credit at all to any part of the divine testimony—that they are obstinately and systematically labouring to exclude any thing like a sober and serious conviction of its reality and truth—that the solemn declarations of Scripture, regarding the inevitable ruin which awaits an impenitent rebel against the holy and righteous government of God, have never produced any more permanent or salutary impressions on their minds, than if they were so many idle threats that are never seriously intended to be carried into execution—and that all the expressions of pity and compassion which the Almighty has condescended to employ, in urging upon them their infatuation and guilt, have affected their hearts just as little, as if there were no sincerity, and no meaning in such expressions ? They must be conscious in fact, though they might not be very willing to acknowledge it, that they would be better pleased to be let altogether alone, and permitted to enjoy a state of undisturbed indifference regarding spiritual things, than to be assailed by any entreaty, however earnest, or any remonstrance, however tender—and that they feel towards the effusions of divine pity and commiseration, which the Scriptures pour out over the impenitence and unbelief of an ungodly world, very much as an alienated and disobedient child would feel towards the tears and entreaties of an affectionate but virtuous father, who should seek to detach him from his profligate associates, and win him over from the paths of folly and of shame.
There is no difficulty then in accounting for the indifference with which one class of men peruse the language of compassion and pity, in which God has vouchsafed to address sinners in the Bible. That indifference is the consequence of their having no serious conviction of the reality of any such compas sion on the part of God, as that language would seem to imply—and they doubt or question it, because they are unwilling to believe that the gospel method of extending mercy to sinners, is the only one that is consistent with the unalterable principles of the divine government.
But tuere is reason to believe, even with respect to such as have felt the winning influence of the love of Christ, and who can testify, from what they have experienced, that nothing but this influence could ever have dislodged the spirit of aversion to God and holiness, which they once cherished, and which, in the days of their unbelief, gathered strength from the very representations of the divine character, which were intended to overthrow it, there is reason, we say, to believe, even with regard to such persons, that they do not always surrender themselves so unreservedly as they are both warranted and required to do, to those feelings of love, and gratitude, and confidence, which the affectionate tenderness of Scripture language, as addressed to them, is we conceive both fitted and intended to awaken. To the condescension of that language, they cannot indeed be insensible, nor can they fail to draw consolation and encouragement from ity as often as they peruse it in the simplicity of faith, and with the firm persuasion that it promises nothing that will not be fulfilled far beyond what it is possible for them to conceive. But there are many, we are persuaded, who will be ready to acknowledge, that they have sometimes attached to such expressions of Scripture as we now allude to, a vagueness of meaning which has marred not a little the comfort that they might otherwise have derived from them that they have felt as if it were an encroachment on the majesty and dignity of the divine character, to understand that language in any sense approaching to a literal interpretation and that though they are persuaded it is the only language that could convey to the understanding a distinct idea of the compassion and mercy of God toward sinners, yet they have often regarded it as referring rather to the effects of the divine procedure, than to any thing corresponding to it as actually existing in the divine mind. Now it is certainly true, that it never was the design of revelation to lower the character of God in the conceptions of his intelligent creatures, and it would be a most impious perversion of the language of Scriptures to understand it in such a sense, as to invest the divine nature with any of the weaknesses of created and imperfect beings, or to ascribe to him those emotions and feelings that are inconsistent with unchangeable excellence and felicity, and which necessarily imply something painful and imperfect on the part of those that one of the purposes for which God was manifested in the flesh, was to exhibit to sinners, by addressing them through the medium of the sympathies and feelings of our common nature, a more palpable and impressive demonstration of divine mercy, than could have been given by the statement of any abstract truth or doctrine which inspired men might have been commissioned to reveal. But the observation is especially applicable, we conceive, to the fact stated in the verses referred to; and were we required to single out any one passage of Scripture, in confirmation of the remarks that have now been offered, we know not any to which we should sooner appeal, than that which presents to us the Son of God weeping over the coming desolation of that infatuated city, on which the day of grace had for ever closed—whose hour of retribution could no longer, in consistency with the rectitude and wisdom of the divine administration, be delayed-and the measure of whose iniquity was to be filled up by consigning the compassionate Redeemer of the world to all the tortures of a cruel and ignominious death. full exposition of the passage itself, we would refer to the following able and eloquent Treatise, but we may be permitted to offer a few remarks on it as strikingly illustrative of the subject to which we have been adverting. And in doing so, it will not be *necessary to enter at great length on the consideration of the fact stated by the evangelist, as referring to the persons who were the immediate subjects of our Lord's interesting and impressive lamentation. To those who are disposed to peruse the passage
with that simplicity of view, and docility of mind, with which it becomes a fallen creature to receive a message from the God whom he has offended, and a message, too, which conveys to him a tender of pardon and reconciliation, the narrative of the inspired writer will scarcely require any explanation : and with regard to such as may be inclined to make it a subject of idle speculation, and to draw from it materials on which to exercise a perverted ingenuity, we would observe, that it is not consistent with our present purpose, and would minister but little to their profit, to attempt meeting and combating every cavil that they might advance, or allow such cavils to divert our attention from the practical lesson, which the subject so obviously and powerfully inculcates.
In the course of our Lord's personal ministry, he had exhibited in Jerusalem, as well as in every other quarter of Judea, manifold and indisputable evidences of his Messiahship—he had proved, that in his person were fulfilled the predictions of ancient prophecy concerning the frequently promised, and long expected deliverer-he had urged the Jews to believe on him, by all the motives that could be supposed to influence immortal creatures, and warned them, at the same time, of the fatal and inevitable consequences of rejecting him—and he had given, in a series of miracles, as beneficent in their tendency, as they were striking in their nature, every conceivable attestation to his divine authority, by which a communication from God to the children of men can be authenticated. This work of
This work of mercy and grace he continued for years to prosecute, in the face of in