“Love to God disposes men to imitate God and therefore disposes them to such long-suffering as He manifests. Long-suffering is often spoken of as one of the attributes of God.
Ex. 34:6: ‘And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.’ Num. 14:18: ‘The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression,’ Rom. 2:4: ‘Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering?’
The long-suffering of God is very wonderful. He bears innumerable injuries from men, and those which are very great.
If we consider the wickedness there is in the world, and then consider how God continues the world, does not destroy it, but is continually blessing it with innumerable streams of good, and supplying and supporting the world, how rich His daily bounties are to it, how He causes the sun to rise and shed forth his beams on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
And if we consider the goodness of God to some particular populous cities, how vast the quantity of the fruits of God’s goodness is which is daily spent upon them, and consumed by them, and then consider what wickedness there was in these very cities, it will show us how amazingly great is His long-suffering.
And if we consider the same long-suffering has been manifest to very many particular persons, in all ages of the world. He is long-suffering to the sinners that He spares, and to whom He offers His mercy, even while they are rebelling against Him.
And especially if we consider God’s long-suffering towards His elect, many of whom live long in sin, and are great sinners, and God bears with them, yea, bears to the end, and finally is pleased to forgive, and never punishes them, but makes them the vessels of mercy and glory, and shows mercy to them even while enemies, as the apostle Paul takes notice it was with himself.
1 Tim. 1:13–16: ‘Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern, to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.’
A child’s love to his father disposes him to imitate his father, and especially does the love of God’s children dispose them to imitate their Heavenly Father.”
–Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits in Ethical Writings (ed. Paul Ramsey and John E. Smith; vol. 8; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1989), 8: 192–194.