Paul in another place saith, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Rom. 1:16) And whatever men may think or say to the contrary, the aboundings of God's grace over the aboundings of man's sin is the cream of the Gospel. Paul knew what the grace of God had done for him, as well as for others, through his ministry; he therefore, regardless of man's views or opinions, fearlessly preaches the Gospel of the grace of God in its native simplicity; he does not soften it down to make it more palatable, nor does he study to speak so guardedly as to please all; and offend none, but declares the truth boldly; he does not dress the Gospel up in strange apparel, nor express himself in words having a double meaning, but in simplicity and godly sincerity; not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God he preached among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ--leaving it with the Lord to bless or blast; to make it a savour of life unto like, or of death unto death. (2 Cor. 2:16) He did not study to please men, but to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, also to commend himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
But this text, with others of like import, frequently falls into the hands of thieves and robbers, who exercise the wisdom of the serpent, and bring to bear all the sophistry of which they are capable to strip it of its glory and preciousness; and in drawing inferences from the text, and making it speak things foreign to the meaning of the Holy Ghost, have so mutilated it as to make it a stumbling-stone in the minds of many, and to the hardening of others in sin.
The inference drawn from the text by many who know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God, is, that if grace abounds over the aboundings of sin, then the way for grace to abound is for man to abound in sin, for does it not lay the axe at once at the root of good works, and open the floodgates of sin and wickedness, and apparently, at least, furnish man with a license to sin? That it does lay the axe at the root of good works falsely so called, which at best are but painted sins, I admit, and that it does exclude real good works from being either the meritorious or procuring cause of salvation is no less a blessed truth; but so far from opening the floodgates of sin and wickedness, it is the most powerful means of closing that door, and bolting it too. That men of corrupt minds do pervert the Scriptures, and abuse the free grace of God in prostituting it to worst of purposes in making it a covering for their sins, is a solemn and painful fact, too evident to be denied; and it is not to be wondered at, for "The wicked shall do wickedly," and "none of the wicked shall understand." (Dan. 12:10) But the poor sinner who has been convinced of sin, of righteousness, and judgment by the Holy Ghost, and has felt the guilt of sin in his conscience, and the wrath of a sin-avenging God laying hard upon him--his sins staring him in the face, with the fear of death and dread of destruction, and in his distress has been led to the Lord with earnest prayer for mercy and salvation, and whose cries and groans God hath heard; pardoned his sins, saying to him, as he did to the man who was brought by his friends to Christ, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee;" (Matt. 9:2)--such an one will magnify the grace of God in pouring forth his whole soul in love, praise, thanksgiving, and blessing the name of the Lord for having had compassion on him, the vilest of the vile, while contrition, compunction, and godly sorrow will flow out of his heart, "For the goodness of God leadeth men to repentance," (Rom. 2:4) and certainly not to sin that grace may abound.
There were some who dared to affirm that Paul had said, "Let us do evil that good may come." This charge, Paul, with the warmth of zeal and indignation it richly deserved throws back upon these vile slanderers, with the solemn assertion, "Whose damnation is just." (Rom. 3:8) As I have already said, Paul does not attempt to soften the truth down, lest man should make a bad use of it, but is outspoken as we say; nevertheless, he shows most clearly and blessedly the effect of such rich grace when brought into the heart by the Holy ghost; and anticipating, it would seem, that men who oppose the truth would say, "Let us do evil that good may come," immediately adds, How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein? for our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, and that we should not henceforth serve sin." For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." So reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ. "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14) Which shows that grace in the heart is much more powerful to save from practical wickedness than the law, for
"Law and terrors do but harden
All the while they work alone;
But a sense of blood-bought pardon
Soon dissolves the heart of stone."
Yes, my friends, the grace of God that abounds over sin, and saves from hell, teacheth men to deny ungodliness, as the apostle saith, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. (Titus 2:12)
By the grace of God, in the text, the apostle means the Gospel, which he calls the Gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24) This hath appeared to all men, "For have they not heard?" (Rom. 10:18) saith Paul; "yes, verily, for their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Hence we see that the Gospel of the grace of God forbids ungodliness, and the grace of God in the heart of a sinner prevents it. In discoursing further on the subject, I will attempt to show from the Scriptures of truth instances in which grace hath most blessedly and marvelously abounded over sin. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability that God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified." (1 Pet. 4:11) "For to the law and testimony, if any man speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in him." (Isa. 8:20) It behooves ministers to glean their subjects from the Scriptures, and not to speak visions out of their own hearts; for when "Thus saith the Lord" is produced to confirm what is preached, who can gainsay it?
If we would behold the most extraordinary instance of grace abounding over the aboundings of sin, we must behold our dear Lord in the garden; then grace did with a witness abound over sin. In the first part of the verse in which our text stands, Paul says, "Moreover, the law was added that the offence might abound; and where there is no law, there is no transgression." But sin being the transgression of the law, puts strength in the law to condemn the sinner. "For the wages of sin is death," (Rom. 6:23) and having all sinned, and come short of the glory of God, death has passed upon all men. Now Christ having by his covenant contract become the surety of his chosen people, he did by this act make himself answerable to law and justice for all the sins of his people; therefore he must suffer for those sins which by contract he made his own, for the law will not clear the guilty; justice cannot be sacrificed. He undertook and must go through the work. Hence it is written, "He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5:21) It was in the doleful garden that the numberless sins of his chosen family, with all their aggravating circumstances, were made to rest on him. "There the Father laid on him the iniquity of us all." Oh, what a mighty all! and then "it pleased the Father to bruise him, and put him to grief." (Isa. 53) It was here the sins of his people (which he had made his own) flowed into his soul like an overwhelming deluge; here sin did with a witness abound in the Holy Lamb of God; and the wrath of God due to man's sin was here poured forth on the person of the dear Redeemer, without the least mixture of mercy. Oh, what a dreadful meeting in the soul is man's sins and God's wrath! It was this that made our dear Lord exclaim, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death;" (Matt. 26:38 and in agony of soul, he poured out his sorrow to his heavenly Father with, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." It was the dreadful weight of man's sin and God's wrath meeting in his precious soul that occasioned sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Well might the prophet exclaim, "Is it nothing to you all, ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger." (Lam. 1:12) And sin was the cause of the whole.
"Blush, Christian, blush; let shame abound;
If sin affects thee not with woe,
Whatever spirit be in thee found,
The spirit of Christ thou dost not know."
But oh, mark how grace abounded over all the aboundings of sin for though he was in the greatest agony of soul, we hear him saying "Not what I will, but what thou wilt; and if this cup must not pass except I drink it, thy will be done." Here is grace abounding.
"Was ever grace, Lord, rich as thine?
Can aught be with it nam'd?
What pow'rful beams of love divine
Thy tender heart inflam'd!"
"Softly to thy garden lead us,
To behold thy bloody sweat;
Though thou from the curse hast freed us,
Let us not the cost forget,
Be thy groans and cries rehearsed
By the Spirit in our ears,
Till we, viewing whom we've pierced,
Melt in sympathetic tears."
Let us follow him from the garden to the cross. There we see him bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, insulted by the rabble, mocked and scorned by the Jews; his side pierced by the Roman soldiers, so that he was a spectacle of wounds and blood; and to make his sorrow quite complete, by God forsaken too; hence we hear him exclaim, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" (Matt. 27:46) And sin was the cause of all this; for what was it bruised God's harmless Son--what was it pierced his soul but sin?
"Oh, thou hideous monster, Sin,
What a curse hast thou brought in!
All creation groans through thee,
Pregnant cause of misery!"
But mark, again, how grace abounded in his sorrowful soul--how his bowels of compassion yearned over those for whom he poured forth his soul with, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
"Here's compassion like a God,
For when the Saviour knew
The price of pardon was his blood,
His pity ne'er withdrew."
But, again, grace abounds over the aboundings of sin in the call of every poor sinner out of darkness into light, in "translating him, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son;" (Col. 1:13) for such are "saved and called, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ before the world was." (2 Tim. 1:9) I will endeavor to illustrate this, by looking at a few striking instances. The apostle, in writing to the Church, saith, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:2,3) Here we have set forth the abounding of sin; and Paul adds, "At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12) What a depraved state to be in! Then mark how grace abounded: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:4-10) These Scriptures show clearly that a saved sinner is as much ordained to walk in good works here as he is ordained to eternal life hereafter. "For he gave himself for our sins, that he might redeem us from all iniquity [here is redeeming grace!] and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Here is saving grace reigning in the heart. Paul, again, in writing to the Church at Corinth, saith, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God: and such were some of you." (1 Cor. 6:9,10) Oh, what a list of abominations! Here we have set before us some of the evils that proceed out of the heart; and these are the things which defile the man. These crimes were rife in Corinth, and not less so perhaps in Sunderland; it requires but a very little knowledge of the world to be convinced that those crying sins are still in the world, and do abound. "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." This is grace abounding over the aboundings of sin.
"'Tis not for good deeds,
Good tempers, nor frames;
From grace it proceeds,
And all is the Lamb's."
"For he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32) "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Tim. 1:15)
"The vilest may have it, it always comes free;
'Twas given to Mary, Manasseh, and me."
But we will notice a few individual cases wherein the text has been strikingly fulfilled. Mary Magdalene, for instance, who was a sinner. What was the nature of her sins I know not, but she was a sinner to a proverb; every one knew her character, as well they might, for she was possessed of no less than seven devils. Simon said of our Lord, "If this man had been a prophet, he would have known what manner of woman this is, and that she is a sinner, a convinced sinner, a quickened sinner, a repenting sinner, a broken-hearted sinner, a sinner who needs a compassionate Saviour and a good Physician to heal her broken heart; and as she owned five hundred pence, and had nothing to pay, she needed a friend indeed to be surety for her, and pay her debt, all of which she found in Jesus. Oh, what wondrous grace! Jesus said unto her, "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee; go in peace; thy faith hath saved thee." And having much forgiven, she loveth much--not to sin, that grace might abound. (Luke 7:47,50)
Then, again, in the case of Zaccheus, what an instance of grace abounding over the abounding of sin! He was chief of the publicans, and was very rich, filled his purse out of other people's coffers, and became rich at other people's cost, or rather loss; but he was a son of Abraham, and the time had now arrived for him to be converted from the error of his way, and grace shone most conspicuously, first in seeking him out, for it was not Zaccheus seeking Jesus, but Jesus seeking him. On another occasion it is said, "Jesus must needs go through Samaria;" (John 4:4) and why? Because there was in that city a daughter of Abraham, but as yet a vassal of Satan and a servant of sin; the time was come for her to be brought from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. So in the case of Zaccheus, Jesus must pass through Jericho to seek out this lost sheep. There is truth in the observation sometimes made, that when the set time is come to call a sinner by grace, if means are to be employed, the Lord will bring the sinner to the means, or the means to the sinner. In this man's case it was the latter; it is true he desired to see Jesus, and being little of stature, he climbed up into the tree that he might get a view of him. Had he felt his need of the Saviour, and had faith in Jesus as the woman with the issue of blood, he would have pressed through the crowd to get at him. But this was not the case; all he wanted was a sight of this wonderful man. Perhaps he had heard much of the name and fame of Jesus, and many conflicting reports of him, and being prompted by the spirit of sight-seeing, as many now-a-days are, he climbed the tree; but Jesus saw him, and said, "Make hast, and come down; for this day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully." (Luke 19:5) And as sovereign grace was shown in seeking him out, so the power of grace was shown in conquering this covetous worldling, and casting out of his heart the root of all evil--the love of money, for he said, "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Here I pause to ask if this man's call, conversion, and salvation was the result of his own free will, or wholly of God's free grace? The answer must be, "Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:9) Again, another striking proof of grace abounding over sin we have in the thief upon the cross, who for sedition and murder was condemned to death; and even when fastened to the cross, he joined the rabble, and his fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer, in saying, "If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us, and we will believe in thee." But, oh, the abounding of grace! he is convinced of sin--a cry for mercy put into his soul; and when in the very jaws and agony of death, he poured forth his whole heart with "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom," to which pathetic cry the dear Lord answered, saying, "This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:39,42,43) Truly grace reigns to pardon crimson sins.
Another instance of grace abounding over sin we have in the call and conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who was an enemy to the Church of God, persecuting them even unto death, and, as he himself hath said, "punishing them oft in every synagogue, and compelling them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, persecuted them even unto strange cities." (Acts 26:11) But in the midst of his sinful and mad career he is stopped by a voice from heaven, saying unto him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." (Acts 26:14) And why was he stopped in his mad career? Because he was a chosen vessel to the Lord, and the time had now arrived for him to be converted from the error of his way, and savingly converted unto God.
Thus I have noticed four characters where grace hath in very deed abounded over sin. Sin abounded, but not in the same way in all; they were each of them great sinners, but not of the same complexion. We have in Mary Magdalene a great sinner, perhaps literally one of the whorish women Solomon speaks of. In Zaccheus we see a covetous worldling, heaping up riches, though he knew not who would gather them. In the thief we have one who feared not God, nor regarded man, living in defiance of all law, human and divine. In Saul we have a Pharisee of the Pharisees, who in respect to moral wickedness was blameless. But although they were widely different in many respects, yet they were each of them enemies to God by wicked works, and would doubtless have perished in their sins had not our text been fulfilled; and in each case where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
But, again, does not sin abound in the hearts of all men, good or bad? Is not the heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked? Are not the thoughts and imaginations of the heart evil, and only evil, and that continually? and does not this corrupt fountain incessantly send forth corrupt streams, such as pride, lusting after evil things, corrupt affections, with every other evil that it is possible to give a name to? Perverseness in the will, rebellion in the heart, enmity in the mind, these things sometimes work within to a painful degree, till the poor sinner cries out with David, "Iniquities prevail against me, and who among us dare say, I am pure and clean of these things? Not I" saith the poor sinner who feels the plague of his heart, for he knows that in him--that is, in his flesh--dwelleth no good thing, but every species of evil, the law in his members warring against the law in his mind, bringing him into captivity to the law of sin in his members, so that he cannot do the things that he would; for when he would do good, evil is present with him; and painfully does he feel that his loins are filled with the loathsome disease of sin, and that the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
"The dungeon op'ning foul as hell,
Its loathsome stench emits;
And brooding in each secret cell,
Some hideous monster sits."
But grace abounds not only in pardoning these heart sins, but in preventing their breaking out into open acts; "For God be thanked," saith the apostle, "ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you, and being made free from sin" (Rom. 6:17) (not free from the inbeing of sin, nor from the strivings of sin for the mastery, nor from the plague of sin, nor yet finally and fully from its captivating power--"for I find," saith the apostle, "another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members,") (Rom. 7:23) but free from the reigning power of sin--for sin shall not have dominion over you (although it does strive for the mastery) because "you are not under the law, but under grace, and grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ." (Rom. 6:14; 5:21) And my grace, saith the Lord, is sufficient for thee. Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me; and now I with my mind do serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin."
But, again, read the 106th and 107th Psalms, and there you will see the aboundings of Israel's sins against God, and the aboundings of grace towards them; so that we scarcely know which of the two is most astonishing, Israel's abominable wickedness, or God's great goodness which he showed them. And in what are we better than they? In nowise. David saith, "We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea." (Ps. 106: 6,7) Here we see sin abounding in his own people, Israel. "Nevertheless he saved them for his name sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy." (Ps. 106:8,10) This is abounding grace. "Then believed they his word; they sang his praise." But, mark you, "They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord. They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. They forgat God their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea. Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word; but murmured in their tents; and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. They joined themselves unto Baal-peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. They also mingled with the heathen, and learned their works, and served their idols, which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils." (Ps. 106:13-37) Oh, what aboundings of sin!--sins of almost every kind and character that the mind can conceive; and this in God's chosen people--a people who had seen his wonders in Egypt, in the land of Ham, and in the field of Zoan. Oh, how true of this people that they did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and we may add again and again, for "they were defiled with their own works; and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance." (Ps. 106:39,40) And he would have destroyed them, had not Moses, his chosen, stood before him in the breach to turn away his wrath. Oh, the great blessing of having a Mediator between a righteous God and sinful man! But although the Lord did not destroy them, "He gave them into the hand of the heathen, and they that hated them ruled over them, and they were brought low for their iniquity." Now mark the aboundings of grace: "Nevertheless he regarded their affliction when he heard their cry; and he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies." (Ps. 106:44,45) But in the face of these mercies they sinned still, and believed not, for his wondrous works, till the Lord exclaims, "How long will this people provoke me, and how long will it be ere they will believe, for all the signs I have shown unto them?" (Num. 14:11) "Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. When he slew them, then they sought him; and they returned and inquired early after him, for they remembered that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouths, and they lied unto him with their tongues." (Ps. 78:33-36) Oh, the hypocrisy of man's heart! "For their heart was not right with God, neither were they stedfast in his covenant." (Ps. 78:37) But perhaps you will say, What have these things to do with us? Oh, my friends, if God has broken up to your view the hidden evils, the desperate wickedness and deceitfulness of your hearts, you can see in this account of Israel's sins, as in a glass, your own face. Now, my friends, mark again how grace abounded: "But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath; for he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again." (Ps. 78:38,39) Oh, what wonders grace has done! "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy." (Micah 7:18)
"Sovereign grace o'er sin abounding,
Ransom'd souls the tidings swell;
'Tis a deep that knows no sounding:
Who its length and breadth can tell?
On its glories let my soul for ever dwell."
And may we not add,
"Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter
Bind my wand'ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it--
Seal it from thy courts above."
I now come to notice a few individual cases where sin abounded in the Lord's own people in backsliding from him, and his abounding grace in healing their backsliding, and in bringing them back again to himself. Let us first look at Manasseh, that monster of iniquity, who made the streets of Jerusalem run down with innocent blood, sacrificed to heathen gods--yea, even to devils. Therefore God for his wickedness sent him into captivity (for be assured he will take vengeance of our sinful inventions, and make us feel that it is an evil and bitter thing to sin against God.) But in his affliction he humbled himself, and sought the Lord; and what is this but grace bringing the man to himself, as we read in the parable of the prodigal? And if the spirit of grace had not been poured on him, he would not have sought God in his affliction, but would have rebelled more and more, as hundreds do in affliction; but grace is seen further in pardoning his sins, and bringing him back again to Jerusalem, for the Lord was entreated of him.
"'Tis not for good deeds, good tempers, nor frames;
From grace it proceeds, and all is the Lamb's."
Shall we now look at that noted character Ephraim? And who is Ephraim? Why, the Lord saith, "I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born;" (Jer. 31:9) but Ephraim, although a dear son and pleasant child, is joined to idols, and it would seem his principal idol was covetousness, which is idolatry. "For the iniquity of his covetousness I smote him," saith the Lord; "I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart." (Isa. 57:17) All rebuke, reproof, and smiting was ineffectual in stopping him on his wayward course; therefore, "Let him alone, saith the Lord, I will make him sick of his idols." But see how grace abounds over all the rebellion, perverseness, and stubbornness of Ephraim: "Is Ephraim (saith the Lord) my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." (Jer. 31:20) And observe the effect of such abounding mercy as it appears in Ephraim's confession, "Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." (Jer. 31:19)
Again, let us look at the charge brought against Jacob, and we shall see sin abounding to a fearful extent: "But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel; and thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities." (Isa. 43:22,24) Mark, again, the aboundings of grace: "I, even I, am he (saith the Lord) that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. In those days, and in that time, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon whom I reserve." (Isa. 43:25; Jer. 50:20)
And does not the parable of the prodigal son illustrate the subject on hand? Did not sin abound in him? and did not grace abound in his Father towards him? Did not sin abound in Peter in denying his Lord and Master, and confirming his denial by swearing that he knew not the man; and this very soon after he had said to His Lord that he was ready to go with him to prison, and though he should die with him, he would not deny him? Ah, Peter knew not the power of the enemy, and his own weakness. No, this painful lesson he must learn in Satan's sieve. "I have prayed for thee," saith Peter's Lord," that thy faith fail not." Here is grace shown to Peter, and not only this, but the Lord turned and looked upon him. That look spoke volumes to Peter's heart. He went out, and wept bitterly, as well he might, considering his own baseness, and the Lord's goodness.
Again, the case of the man that fell amongst thieves goes to show how grace abounds over the aboundings of sin. This man is represented as going from Jerusalem to Jericho--from the city of God to the accursed city. No wonder that he should fall among thieves, when the road was infested with such; and is this man intended to represent a child of God in a backsliding state? I think so: one who hath openly backslidden from his profession, and gone into the world; one who hath broken through the hedge, and is bitten by serpents; one who hath stepped over the boundary line of promised protection, and got into forbidden ground. No wonder that he is stripped, and wounded, and left half dead. The greatest wonder is that he was not killed outright; and he would have been had not the mercy of God prevented; but oh, the aboundings of grace! Neither priest nor Levite took any notice of him. I dare say they thought he was only receiving the due reward of his deeds, as true enough he was; but there came a certain good Samaritan that way who had compassion on him (the particulars of which you may read at your leisure,) and who could this be but Christ--the good, the great Physician Christ, the Brother born for adversity, Christ the High Priest, who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way? Oh, backslider, if such there is here, hear what the Lord saith: "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will cause mine anger towards you to cease," and again, "Turn, ye backsliding children, for I am married unto you." May you have grace to respond to this act of superabounding grace, saying, "Behold we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy." (Hos. 14:3) Yes, indeed, it is all of grace from first to last; grace laid the foundation stone, and the top stone shall be laid, shouting Grace, grace unto it--saving grace, conquering grace, forgiving grace, upholding grace, healing grace, and answering grace; and all flowing from the God of all grace--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. May the Lord grant his blessing, and I add no more. Amen.