V.–1. The last of the Perfections of God, which fall under the special aspect which I am now considering, is his Long-suffering. It is, as was before observed, that exercise of his Goodness, which leads him to delay the execution of his just judgments upon the guilty. Amongst the fruits of it are the Patience of God with sinners: the Forbearance of God towards the impenitent: and his slowness to anger.
2. The Scriptures abound with statements of the existence of this perfection in God: and with representations as to the manner and extent of its exercise, towards every fallen creature. He who cannot look upon sin with the least allowance–is so far from wishing sinners to perish in their sins–that he has done all that was consistent with his divine perfections, in order to save them; and then delayed the destruction upon which the impenitent rush, to the very uttermost. There is no human being of whom, as we survey their life and contemplate their nature, it is not certain, that if God had sought occasion against them, or been strict to mark iniquity–they must, already, have been consigned to remediless destruction: and every soul of man is obliged to render this verdict of itself. The extent to which the Forbearance of God is manifested personally to every human creature–could be justly estimated, only after we know the number and turpitude of their transgressions; and could rightly estimate the holiness, the majesty, and the goodness of him, against whom they offended; and could fully appreciate the extent of that necessity produced alike by the exigencies of the universe itself, and by the immediate claims of divine justice, that every disobedience of the creature should receive a just recompense of reward.
3. This immeasurable Forbearance, which is exercised toward each individual in this boundless way–extends also to every class of persons, and to the entire race of men. The children of God were its objects, while they lived in open sin; and they are still its objects as they strive, with an imperfect obedience, to obey God. The openly profane are its objects, while their day of grace may be supposed to continue; if possible, still more so–that they are not cast into hell at once, when that day of grace is done. The very damned await till the day of endless doom, for the second death to fall upon them, with all its horrors. And the redeemed throughout every successive generation, find the Long-suffering of God to be Salvation1–not only because his goodness leads them to repentance; but also because but for the riches of his Long-suffering and Forbearance, he would have made a short work, in righteousness, long ago, of a race that having rejected him, crucified his Son; and the very existence, much less the salvation of all succeeding generations would have been impossible.
4. And now if, notwithstanding such Long-suffering, the guilty will still rush upon destruction; and notwithstanding such mercy, the miserable will continue to choose suffering instead of repentance; and notwithstanding such grace sin must still abound: what idea of the depravity and perdition of ungodly men can equal the reality? When the Grace, Mercy, and Longsuffering of God, will have been finally exhausted–and the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels–in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who can exaggerate either the terror or the justice of that divine wrath, in which they shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.2
Robert J. Breckinridge, The Knowledge of God, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1859), 1:303-304. [Footnote values modified and underlining mine.]
1Rom., ii 4; 2 Pet, iii. 15.
22 Thes., i. 7-9.