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God saw their works, that they turned from Serm.
VII. their evil way; and God repented of the Evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not. These passages (I say ) may at first sight seem to be a very strong Objection, against what has been before laid down concerning the Unchangeableness of God in all his Purposes. But the Answer likewise, from what has been before faid, is plain and obvious. Those Declarations of the Designs and Purposes of God, which are Prophetick of the great Events of Providence, are in themselves absolutely fix’d and unalterable ; because the Wisdom of God could not possibly be deceived, in the original Design and Intention of appointing them : But these Promises and Threatnings, which are merely personal, either to any particular man, or to any Number of men, are always conditional; because the Wisdom of God thought fit to make These depend on the Behaviour of Men; and the immutability of God with regard to These, does not consist in the unalterableness of the Things themselves, but in the unchangeableness of the Condition upon which they are to be performed. VOL. I. M
Serm. The Rule, is univerfal and unchangeable; VII.
Jer. xviii. 7, At what instant I shall speak concerning a Nation, -to pull down and to destroy it ; if that nation_turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them: And at what instant I fall speak concerning a Nation,
to build and to plant it ; If it do evil in my fight, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. The Expressions, of God's repenting, grieving, and the like ; are only fio gurative, in condescension to the weakness of our Apprehenfions';. fignifying, not any Change in God himself, but only a Difference of the Event with regard to Us. God's Affection towards Good or Evil, towards Virtue or Vice, is therefore uniform and unchangeable; because his Promises and Threatnings invariably follow these Dispositions, through all the Changes of mens personal behaviour, Thus Good Parents and Princes, without any Change in Themselves, encourage or discourage their respective children, or subjects, according as They change their behaviour for the better or the worse.
Thus Laws themfelves, which can have Serm. no Affection, nor Change of Affection, to
VII. wards one person or another ; yet vary their Effect, themselves remaining unvaried; and bring rewards or punishments, according to the different behaviour of the person upon whom they are executed. The only difference in This case, is; that Laws made by the best human Wisdom, can take no notice of the Repentance of great Malefactors in the case of capital Crimes ; because 'tis impoffible for human Wisdom to discern when such Repentance is fincere, and consequently 'tis altogether unfafe to trust to any pretences of That kind: But God who fees the inmoft Dispositions of Mens Hearts, judges always according to the reality of those Dispositions, and dispenfes his Rewards or Punishments accordingly. And in This, he acts uniformly, without Change or Variation. As the same Fire, with one unvaried Action, consumes combustible matter, but purifies and refines Gold ; and the same Sun, with one continual Heat, melts one fort of Bodies, and hardens another so God, without
Ser M.any change or alteration in himself, puVII. nishes the wicked when they so continue,
and shows compassion towards the fame persons when they become truly and fincerely penitent.
II. The Uses of this Discourse, by way of Application, concerning the Immutability of God, are briefly as follows.
ist, The Unchangeableness of God's natural Perfections, and the Promise of Him to whom those Perfections fo invariably belong; is to good men at all times the greatest possible security, that they shall not finally fail to be Happy. When the World, and all things that are therein, shall fail ; the Power of God, his Wifdom, his Goodness, his Love of Virtue, are Perfections which can
never fail in themselves; and his Promise secures the Application of them to Us; if we continue to live in obedience to his Commands. Heb. vi. 13, 17. When God made Promise to Abraham; because he could swear by no greater, he fware by himself ; Wherein God willing more abundantly to Mhew unto the heirs of Promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it with an Oath; That
by two immutable things, in which it was Ser M.
VII. impossible for God to lye, we might have a strong confolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. And Tit. i. 2, The Hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lye, promised before the world began. The fame Infe. rence is drawn by the Prophet in the words of the Text; I am the Lord, I change not, (my Compassion, my Promise, is immutable ;) therefore ye Sons of Jacob are not consumed. And by the Psalmist, Pf. xxxii. 11, 12, The Counsel of the Lord ftandeth for ever ; Therefore Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance. And Pf. xxxvi. 6, 7, Thy righteousness is, like the strong mountains ; Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
2dly, The Threatnings of him whose nature and perfections are unchangeable, ought to be a perpetual Terror to impenitent Sinners. He will by no means clear the Guilty, nor can by any application be reconciled to Sin. No Bribe, no Force, no Artifice, no Intercession, no length of M