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" He careth for you." — 1 Pet. v. 7.
If ever opinion enteitained by any human mind was fraught with more than ordinary absurdity and cruelty, it is that which, excluding the divine Be'iag from the government of the world he has formed, represents it as abandoned to the sport of a blind and uncertain chance. For were it possible to conceive that infinite Wisdom knows not our affairs; or that, supremely happy in himself, the God of unbounded love does not concern himself about them ; could it be credited, that of him who "fills all things," the world is empty, while we gazed upon »' the fatherless void," we might exclaim as Paul did, under a supposition not more abhorrent to truth, " We are of all men most miserable."
There is, however, another sentiment upon this subject, which, if more feasible, is not less scripturally incorrect. I allude to the theory which represents the Almighty as " full orb'd, in his whole round of rays complete," and only condescending to afford mankind some general and undefined regards ; and his government as a mere meclianical agency, controlled by certain immutable laws, which admit not of one peculiar or benevolent attention. Infidels and semi-infidels have attempted to derive support to such views from the consideration of man's comparative insignificancy. In the flowery numbers and classic styles of poetry, we have been taught
" The universal cause
Acts not by partial, but by general laws, He sees with equal eye, as Lord of all, A hero perish, or a sparrow fall ; Systems or atoms into nothing hurl'd.
And now a bubble burst, and now a world."
This appears to us to contain an awful reflection upon God. We deny not, that a thinking man, contemplating the grandeur of his Creator, may, for a moment, be tempted to question the individuality of his attentions. Led by the discoveries of science, the imagination may travel fiom world to world, and system to system, amidst the still increasing magnificence of the divine formations, until our earth becomes an indiscernible speck, and appear to bear no more proportion to the other productions of creative energy, than a sihgle leaf to the foliage of a widely extended forest. Amid the illimitable expansion around, we may feel ourselves dwindle into nothingness, and with somewhat of the hesitancy of
unbelief, may ask, "What is Twan, that thou art mindful of himT' But, be it remembered, that little and great are distinctions of finite minds, which vill bear no correctapplication to the divine Beino'; and when we consider, that he " filleth all in all," that he is at the same moment every where, no object can be too miniate for his attention ; and while he " hangs the earth over the empty space," and wheels planets in their orbits, he, with no less regard, superintends " the flutterings of the bee," and directs the smallest corpuscle of blood that flits through the veins of the smallest animalcule.
I am not prepared to say the subject of a particular providence involves no difficulties. One is, the apparent disorder that exists in many providential arrangements ; but of this we are incompetent to judge, because we cannot embrace the whole circumference of the divine proceeding. The mighty chain of his deal4
GODS CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
ings seems often intercepted and broken ; but when we are enabled to trace up the concatenation of causes and events to their ultimate tendencies — to look along the line to its termination, every thing will demonstrate the perfection of a divine agency. At present, " we know" only " in part." The infinite combinations and workings of the admirable machinery, which, to the eye of the artist, are simplicity itself, may seem to us mere complicated confusion j but when, in the light of eternity, and with an eye
strengthened by the vision of God, we look through the perplexing movements, every thing will appear honourable to the wisdom and benevolence of Him who, in adoring wonder, we shall perceive, "hath done all things well" — " Clouds and darkness are round about him ; but justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne."
Every difficulty, however, with which this subject is perplexed, gives place to the authority of God ; and it is sufficient for us that the doctrine of a particular providence is pre-eminently that of the Scriptures. On this point, no words need be more explicit than those of the text — "He," that is God, " careth for YOU." They are adduced as a motive for " casting all our care upon him ;" and it is impossible to conceive a motive more obvious and persuasive. But I purpose to give them a distinct consideration as a truth of general practical im6
portance. Let us irKjuire to whom they nfcr ? Whether the truth they state can be calabliiihed? and luhat improvement should be made if the doctrine ? And,
First, To WHOM do these words refer 1 Not to the inanimate, but rational creation — to man.
There is, indeed, a sense in which God cares for all his creatures, animate and inanimate. Ho " maketh the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice." He covers the fields with abundance. He " crowns the year with his goodness." He bj-ams forth in lh»: spring, and approaches us in the bounties of sunmicr, and loads us with tlio profusion of autumn. During the stormy wintt-r, the insignificant sparrow chirping on the hedge,
"falleth not to the ground without his
notice." He "feedeth the young ravens;" he "careth for oxen." "The eyes of all wait upon him, and he giveth them their meat in due season." Incomparably beautiful in this view is the language of our Lord to his disciples. "Take no thought what ye shall eat; consider the ravens ; they have no barn nor storehouse; yourFather feedeth them. And Avhy take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field ; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Your Father clotheth them." But the arrangements of Providence, like the dispensations of grace, concern more immediately man.
Him God has made capable of knowing and loving himself. In the visitations that meet him he can recognise his Father; and through the channel of benevolent communication made to him, return
to the source of all his blessings. And man needs the most effective expressions of divine attention. Immortals, standing on the brink of eternity, and yet ignorant of the events of the next hour; capable of celestial enjoyments, but placed in circumstances inimical to their attainment ; surrounded with enemies, and incident to a thousand unseen calamities ; miserable indeed were your lot, my brethren, if left to struggle alone with your difficulties. I know we are unwcn-'.hy of the divine attention. Though "/^e careth foi- you " some of you arc thoughtlessly unconcerned about/////!. Suppose not, however, that Providence waiteth upon your sins, continuing imponit.'nt; every part of his word dcnounccth wrath against you, and your final doom .mist be inevitable and aggravated perdition. Yet Providence is co-operating with grace to save you. In what period hath God left himself "without witness, doing good, sending rain and fruitful seasons, and filling men's
hearts with food and gladness?" To w hat part of the world hath he not gon« forth in expressions of beneficence and mercy ; shining in the splendour of tlie sun, instructing by the pale glory of the ' moon, and twinkling in llio stars 1
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" Day unto day uttcrolh speech." In every tiling, the Lord is lookinjr after the interests of man.
But the persons more immediately concerned in our suhjcct, are described in a preeedin<T part of the epistle, as "called
out from darkness into marvellous light;" "which in times past were not a people, but are now the people of CJod ; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." " Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctification of the Spirit." This is designatory phraseology, which needs no explanation. But if there be any circumstances in which the consolation of the subject may be peculiarly claimed, they are those of suffering. Of the persons primarily interested in the text, the apostle says, " If need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations;" and intimates, that further and severer trials awaited them. "Think it not strange," &c. How soothing must it have proved to persons so situated, to read, " Casting all ifour care upon HIM, for HE careth for youy
" His saints are lovely in his sight, He views his children with delight, He sees iheir hope, he knows their fear, lie looks and loves his imago there."
Secondly. Our next inquiry is. Whether. THE TRUTH THESE WOUDS STATE, CAN BE substantiated'?
And, happily, on a point of so much conseriuence, we hre not left to mere conjectures. Had we no express declaration on the subject, we might, indeed, safely rest it upon deduction ; and an inference, the most obvious, drawn from the most simple premises, would immediately offer itself; an inference from the divine interest in us. Shall not the Maker care for his works 1 Does the potter form his vessel that it may be instantly dashed in
osily ¦? But God has expended upon beliiivcrs wonders of wisdom and goodness: he has done more ; he has made them miracles of mercy ; and can he cease to feel interested in their welfare? Similar, on tliis topic, was the reasoning of our adorable Redeemer — " Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? and not one of them falleth to the ground without your Father. Ye are of more value than many sparrows."
This is not a subject involving the least uncertainty. It is revealed in the most explicit terms. We have but to turn over the pages of the holy writ, to perceive it shining in all the radiance of divine illumination. Let us examine a few passages. Here is one — " Fear not Abram; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." Perliaps, you say, this concerned Abram only. But "they that are of faith are Abram's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Well ;
here is another. "The Lord's portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste-howling wilderness; he led him about; he instructed him; he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth ovei her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did load him." This, you say, refers to the Israelites; recollect, however, that " the things which happened unto them were examples." We will turn to the book of Psalms — " The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers." — " Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him ; for he knoweth whereof we are made, and remembereth that we are but dust." On this pleasing subject, the prophet Isaiah is equally evangelical as upon every other. " Fear thou not," says he, in the language of God ; " I am
with thee. When thou passest through the water and through the fire, I will be
pieces by the first rude hand that may with thee; the flames shall not kindle touch it? Does the artist employ his upon thee, neither shall the floods drown* pains and skill in constructing a curious thee. Can a woman forget her sucking piece of machinery, and then abandon it child, that she should not have compasto the sport of a blind or malevolent curi- ; sion on the son of her womb ? Yea, they
GOD'S CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
may : yet will I not forget thee. I have graven thee on the palms of my hands ; thy walls are continually before me." I will make one quotation more. " Then," says Malachi (and they were bad times in which he prophesied,) "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard them ; and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord in that day when I make up my jewels ; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth liim." These are all passages from the Old Testament ; in the New, this doctrine, like that of immortality, shines still more refulgently ; and it may be enough to state, that the sermons of our Lord, and the epistles of his apostles, are in perfect coincidence with the language of our text, and most explicitly prove that God
*'careth for us."
Is it asked, do the divine proceedings correspond with this language "? We appeal to facts. The truth derives the most ample illustration and confirmation from experience. A few instances may suffice for selection. The first that presents itself is in the Old Testament. And here you anticipate me : it is the history of Joseph. The foolish predilection of Jacob had rendered Joseph obnoxious to his brethren's hatred ; when sent to the fields of Dothan, where they fed their flocks, to inquire after their welfare, the unnatural men seized the opportunity of revenging the preference of their fatiier upon the innocent object of his affections ; and "Joseph was sold into Kgypt." To conceal their crime from the aged patriarch, they dyed Joseph's coat in the blond of a kid, and set forward towards the vale of Hebron, the family residence. I seem to see tlie venerabli; Jacob ascend
tlie bill, look wistfully toward Dothan, and then, as if boding some ill, retire thoughtfully to his home. At length, the ten sons make their appearance; he casts over them his incpiiring eye, and has scarecly asked for Josepii, wlu-n they produce the blood-stained robe, and, with all tilt' apathy "f guilt, slate, " IJchold,
this have we found ; know now whether it be thy son's coat or not?" " It is my son's coat," said he. " Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces ; some evil beast hath devoured him ; I will go down to the grave unto my son mourning." His tears were scarcely wiped, his wounds were not yet closed, when his sons returning from Egypt, where they had been to purchase corn for the support of their families during a famine, informed their father, that unless their younger brother, Benjamin, returned with them into Egypt,
the governor would sell them no more corn. The prospect of this second loss was more than Jacob could well bear. " How was it that ye dealt so ill with me, as to tell the man ye had yet a brother'? Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and now ye will take Benjamin away. All these things are against me, and 3'e will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave !" .Stop, Jacob! God " carelh for thee." " Joseph is yet alive, and is governor of Egypt." And when a few weeks after, Jacob had embraced the long-lost exile on the plains of Goshen, he heard the same from his own lips — " God hath sent me before you, to save your lives by a great deliverance."
An instance may be selected from the New Testament; the case of Peter himself. His enemies had put him in prison, and waited but the lapse of Pentecost to glut their malice in his blood; but
"prayer was made of the church without ceasing to God for him." And the very night before he was to have been brought out to the people, an angel of God, specially appointed for the purpose, roused him from his sleep, sna|)ped his fetters, and " delivered him from the will of Herod, and from all the ex|)ectation of the people of the Jews." I see him in the street, after the angel's departure looking this way and that, and asking "Is it not a dreaml Am I awake 1' At length, arrived at the liouse of hi friend, John Mark, just as the little sorii'ty were rising from their knees, &c. liieir prayers were turned into praisi-s, as ihf-y gazed upon liim, supposing it to have boon his angel, I hear liim exhort'J E
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ing, " Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you."
Let us refer to history. Were the his•ory of the church well written, (but nothing is worse written,) it would be so many records of (Jod's kindness. A few striking instances of it have been preserved. One shall serve for quDtation. In that period of Christian barbarism, rendered infamo\is in a neighbouring country by the revocation of the edict of Nantz, when the blood of the saints was shed without measure — (since then God has given that nation blood to drink) — some of those persons employed in the diabolic work of persecuting to death, under the name of heretics, their unoflending neighbours,
were sent in pursuit of the celebrated Du Moulin, a minister of eminence among the Protestants. They had long sought for him in vain, when at length they traced him to a house, and followed immediately his steps into it. Every corner of this house they searched, an oven excepted ; which he who can employ on the designs of his mercy an insect as well as an angel, had rendered, by means of a despicable spider, the secure asylum of his servant. A web just thrown over its mouth prevented scrutiny, and thus Du Moulin was preserved ! God " cared for him."
You say these instances are extraordiTMry. True ; what then may we not expect when his care can be evinced by ordinary means "? But why do I appeal to Scripture, and to history] Are none of you instances of this care ¦? What say youl Methinks, if the decorum of tliis service admitted, one would rise and say,
" The Lord is my shepherd — he maketh me to lie down in green ])astures, he leadeth me beside the still waters." Another would add, " He hath led me by a way that I knew not ; he hath made crooked things straight, and rough places plain before me." And a third would state, referring to some particular deliverance, " In that day the light was neither clear nor dark, but it was a day known to the Lord, not day nor night ; but it came to pass, that at evening time it was light." " He careth for you."
We may carry the subject farther, and
though the point has been established generally, enter a little more at large into particulars. His care extends to
Your property. This may, indeed, be but little, and for the reason I am assign23
ing, because God "careth for you ;" for " the cattle upon a thousand hills are his," and so are " the wool and the flax, the silver and the gold," and he has promised to " withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly." But little as it may be, without him flames shall not consume it, thieves shall not steal it, nor bankruptcies waste it. In proof of all this, I need only refer to the well known history in the first chapter of the book of Job. " There was a day," says the historian, "when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou 1 Then Satan answered the Lord, and said. From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and dowa in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job]" He needed not information, but he would have the avowal from Satan's own lips. " Then Satan answered the Lord, and
said, Doth Job serve God for nought? Hast thou not set a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side]" Observe these words, " a hedge" — impenetrable even by the devil ; and before Satan could touch one of Job's camels, or even a single ewe lamb, God must make a breach in this hedge ! And is he not a hedge round his people now ] He is ^^ a wall of fire round about them, and the glory in the midst of them." " He careth for"
Your families. Is it necessary to prove this] I appeal to the ark, where a shameless Ham is floating among the wrecks of the deluged world, preserved for the father's sake. I refer to the history of Lot. " Hast thou here," said the angel who was about to inflict righteous judgment upon Sodom, " Hast thou here any besides, sons in law or daughters? Get them out of this place; for I can do nothing till ye be come yonder." I refer
; but there is no need to multiply
evidence. " The mercy of the Lord is
GODS CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
upon them that fear him from one generation to another." To trace descent from a religious ancestry is a greater honour, a greater happiness than to be able to look up through a long genealogical line of nobles and heroes, to loins enthroned. Children of religious parents ! why are you spared and blessed ? Why are not some of you in hell ? You had praying,
holy, exemplary parents, and God " cared for" them ; and as he loved the tree, he has extended mercy towards the branches. And though those branches have been long barren, when justice has threatened their excision, he has interposed, and said, " Destroy it not; a blessing is in it ; for my servant's sake, I will not destroy them all." Dave you repeat the question. Why is the fruitless branch spared ? A father's prayers, a mother's tears are in it. Parents ! you have perhaps wept, prayed, and waited, until you at length despond. After most consistently discharging your duty, you appear to have laboured in vain. But " though your house be not so with God, yet hath he made with you an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure." What, if the principles you early implanted be effaced, and your children having plunged headlong into crime, seem callous to reproof; is their case therefore, hopeless 1 Behold Manasseh, immured in prison in
Babylon, the iron entering into his soul ! He is reflecting on the sins of his life, and the " guide of his youth ;" he prays, " O God of my father !" and the Lord is entreated of him.
He " careth for" your bodies. " The very hairs of your head are all numbered." Pain may invade, sickness waste the pale frame, but " in all your aflliclions he is afllicted." If the sun of your prosperity be darkened by the thickening tempest, and during the storm your friends desert you; here is "a friend born for adversity ;" a friend that "stirketh closer than a brother ;" a friend whose language to you is, " I will never leave lliee, I will never forsake thee." But, " dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." And what is bo humbling as a dying ¦scene ? There the strength is prostratol, and tho flesh wiuitcil ; the hones "Blare
upon you ;" the eyes are sunken in their sockets ; the faded visage is hectic and wan. The children, the wife stand around weeping; but I open the Bible, and read, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the dealh of his saints." Here the care of the most tender friend becomes unavailing. Even Abraham is heard to say, " Give me a place that I may bury my dead out of my sight." But God " careth" even for their dust. We may cherish an affectionate remembrance ; the little tokens of their esteem we may fondly review ; the books they scanned we may read with fresh interest ; we may even go to the grave, and weep there,
"Whilst busy meddling memory, In barbarous succession, musters up The past endearments of our softer hours, Tenacious of its theme."
But they " are dead ; we shall go to them
— they shall not return to us." They are dead ; " we cannot bring them back." JVe cannot ; but God can, and he will do it; for " he that raised up .Tesus from the dead, shall raise us up also by Jesus ;" and not a particle necessary to our identity shall be forgotten or lost.
Our souls are his chief care; and nothing so much requires it. Its high destination stamps the soul with incalculable worth ; and its moral condition designates it an object of pity. A few years only have elapsed since our souls were lit into being ; but they are destined to burn on for ever; and through eternity blaze among cherubim and seraphim, or darkly twinkle amid the gloom of infernal night.
" The sun is but a spark of fire, A transient meteor in the sky ; The soul, immortal as its sire, Shall never die."
But every human soul is darkened by ignorance, polluted by sin, and enslaved by Satan^ " shapen in iniquity." " And wilt tliou turn thine eyes to look upon such a one?" Brethren, he //«.» done it. Already have you felt ''the bright shining of his countenance" upon you. He ie/7/doit. All his other care is subservietit to this. Cares he for your property, for your bodies, for your families ? Their connexion with your sut4l raises them to
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that pre-eminence. Want you more evidence ¦? Behold the price at which he
has redeemed your souls; " not corruptible things, but the precious blood of Christ." Recollect the pains he has taken to make them his own. Advert to the precious promises on which he has caused them to ground their trust. Look forward to that "exceeding and eternal weight of glory" which he has prepared for their enjoyment ; and tlien read the text, " he carethfiir youy Yes ! he will purify them fully to himself, and preserve them from falling. He will " keep that which we have committed to him," and, finally, "present us faultless before the throne of his glory." And,
Thirdly, What is the improvement
THAT should BE MADE OF THIS DOCTRINE ]
I cannot enter into this inquiry at any length.
It is highly important that we ascertain
whether or not we are interested in this doctrine. We have said, many are careless about God ; we have restricted the text to those who have attached themselves to his interests; who "know God, or rather are known of God." And should not your Jirsl improvement of this subject be a serious inquiry into the concern you have in it? Are you illuminated] Born again 1 Have you "obtained mercy ?" Are you sanctified by the Spirit through belief of the truth 1 To such who can satisfoctorily reply to such questions, I would say, " Hail ! ye higiily favoured of the Lord." "He careth for you," who is infinitely wise, knowing the end from the beginning, and what, among all possibilities of occurrence, is best for you: who is infinitely powerful ; doing "according to his own will among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of earth ;" making " the wrath of man to praise him, and restraining the remainder," and who, therefore, cannot be
thwarted in his attempts to serve you ; who has already manifested his beneficence in a thousand acts of kindness, and emboldens the expectation of future mercy, by the recollection of past. Your circumstances may be afilictive ; your comforts may have been shed around you like the leaves by the winter's frost ; one trouble
may succeed another, as wave impels . wave. In the misconduct of relatives, in personal sufferings, in secular embarrassments, you have continual cause of solicitude. You sometimes look tremblingly along the vale of death ; but amid all, bear this upon your mind, "He CARETH FOR vou." — " Happy are the people that are in such a case ; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord."
This doctrine has a moral bearing, and we may deduce from it our duty. I sel34
dom think of the text, without associating it in my mind with a passage in the Old Testament, and which forms part of a history which is soon told. The prophet Elisha, in his itinerating labours, visited Shunem. Here' he was heard by " a great woman," whose heart became penetrated with the truth ; and nothing could more naturally follow, than the desire to entertain the honoured messenger of salvation. In concurrence with her husband, she immediately prepared a little chamber for the prophet's accommodation. One day, when he visited there, he said to his servant, " Go call the Shunemite," who presenting herself at the prophet's door, he addressed — " Seeing thou hast cared for us with all this care, what shall be done for thee 1" She had looked for no remuneration, nor would she accept any. I admire this; but I also admire the prophet's gratitude — " Seeing thou hast cared for us with all this care, what shall be done for thee ]" Who is not
applying, in this language, to God ? Come, my brethren, shall I humbly, in your name, propose the question, " Seeing thou hast cared for us with all this care, xchat shall be done fur thee V He replies, " My son, give me thine hearth You say he has it. What, every corner of it? Let us put the question again — " Seeing thou hast cared for us with all this care, what shall be done for theel" He answers from the excellent glory, " Cast all your care upon me" — " Cast thy burden upon the Lord ; he will sustain thee." Ask you again, what shall be done ? He has " left us an example that we should do as he has done." He hath " cared for you" — cared for your fellow creatures; he has cared for your bodies^
GOD'S CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
and " the poor ye have always with you, and when ye will, ye may do theoi good." Here is the orphan,
" For whom no mother's bosom Throbs to soft sympathy, and fond alarm."
•* The wretched widow forc'd in age, for bread, Tostrip the brook with mantling cresses spread ; To pick her wintry fagot from the thorn. Then seek some nightly shed, and weep till morn,"
" Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unriorhteousness." And " when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, the King shall say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." lie has cared for your souls, and by the character of that care, presented this as the noblest, best charity. Away with your sickly sentimentality, your " philanthropy born in a dream, bred in a novel, and living only in profession." Brethren, souls are perishing, and we must endeavour to save them. We have " freely received," we must " freely give." We must sigh and weep, but we must also pray and act. The gospel must be preached, and we must aid its promulgation. We must "join hands with God" to make a miserable world live. And, let it be known, that " he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
Before we part, may I speak a word to you wfio are not fully interested in this subject ? How great your loss ! how dan38
gerous your condition ! But there is yet hope. God has watched over your infancy, and brought you to manhood. He has raised you out of afflictions, and daily supplies your wants: and shall not "his goodness lead you to repentance V " As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of liim tliat dieth." He has done more than swear it. " God so loved the world, that he gave liis only begotten Son, that whosoever belicveth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." () that this love might constrain you to drop your opposition, and apply to him for mercy ! And why not now ? For now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation ¦? Trifle, and you are
undone But I must conclude
May God add his blessing !
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