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counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it.” The prophet therefore proclaims, as on the house top, what God had revealed in his ears, that from that time forward, vengeance should pursue those impious men, till, like their rebellious forefathers, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, they should be utterly consumed from off the face of the earth.
Thus have I endeavoured briefly to illustrate the several parts of the passage before us.
But what concern have we in these things? and what improvement shall we make of them ?
For an answer to these questions, I need only refer you to 1 Corinthians, chap. x. where, after reciting some of those awful judgments which God had inflicted upon his ancient church, the Apostle subjoins those memorable words, (verse 11.) “Now all these things bappened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
66 The Lord is known by the judgments which be executes." God is always the same: with him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. And therefore, in his past acts of government, as they are explained by his word, we behold a plan of righteous administration; from whence we may learn, with some degree of certainty, wbat kind of treatment, in similar circumstances, we ourselves have reason to expect.
They must know little of what passes in the world, who do not observe a very striking resemblance between the present state of our own nation and that of the Jews, in the day to which my text refers.
Ingratitude to God, for the great things he hath done in our behalf, and for the distinguishing privileges we have long enjoyed, is too apparent to require any proof
. Our deliverance from popery at the Reformation, and the full establishment of our civil and religious liberties
at the Revolution; these marvellous doings of the Lord are either forgotten by many, as a dead man out of mind, or at least remembered with cold indifference; nay, treat. ed with marks of disaffection by some, while the character of those illustrious men, whom God honoured to be the instruments in bringing about those glorious events, have been canvassed with the utmost severity of criti. cism, and under the specious pretext of candour and impartiality, set forth to public view in the most unfavoura. ble light,
Have not vice and immorality grown up among us to an amazing height? Do not multitudes proclaim their sins as Sodom; and, instead of hiding them, do they not rather glory in their shame, as if they accounted it an honour to excel in one species of wickedness or another? I do not aggravate the charge: every one's observation may convince bim of the truth of it. Is there not a visible and growing contempt of the blessed gospel? Are not its ordinances despised by some, and profaned by others; nay, is it not by many deemed a mark of su. perior genius, to reject the whole of divine revelation as a cunningly devised fable, and to employ all their influence in proselyting others to their opinion ?
What small success attends the preaching of the gospel even among those who prosess to believe ? Into how many sects and parties are they divided? With what zeal do they build up their walls of partition? With what animosity do they contend for their own peculiarities, as points of new and important discovery, though in fact most of them might lay claim to a very ancient date, have been often republished, and as often refuted ? Now, union is the strength of the religious, as well as of the civil community; and there is reason to fear that God will suffer that candlestick to be removed from among us, about which we quarrel and fight with one another, instead of walking by the light it affords, and performing the work which was given us to do.
I shall not waste any part of your time upon the mere triflers of either sex, who literally walk in a vain show, and ought rather to be regarded as the scenery or decorations of the theatre, than as actors sustaining any character upon the stage. Yet even they, light as they may seem, make some addition to the load of national guilt, as we learn from the passage respecting the daughters of Zion, in the third chapter of this prophecy, which I formerly quoted. Enough has been said to prove, that we are a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, and that the call to repentance is proper and seasonable, and belongs to the very day in which our lot is cast.
Indeed our very meeting together in this place is a public acknowledgment of it. For what purpose are we convened by royal authority? Is it not that we may hum. ble ourselves before Almighty God, and send up our prayers and supplications to the divine Majesty, for obtaining pardon of our sins, and for averting those heavy judgments which our manifold provocations have most justly deserved ?
Thus far we may be assured, that the call of the Lord of Hosts hath been distinctly and faithfully echoed from the throne. And lest, after all, we should turn a deaf ear to his voice, the Lord of Hosts hath written the same call upon the face of providence, in characters so legi. ble, that they must be worse than blind wbo do not read and understand them.
The little cloud, like a man's hand, that arose a few years ago on the other side of the Atlantic, hath ever since been increasing both in size and in blackness.
Our envious and deceitful neighbours, who, by secret
artifice, have endeavoured from the beginning to keep the unhappy breach open between Great Britain and her colonies, have at length laid aside the mask, and are now straining every nerve to spread the desolations of war through the whole extent of the British empire.
The sword that was drawn for coercion abroad, now finds employment for self-defence at home; and the measures hitherto pursued have been so ineffectual, that after much expense of blood and treasure, we may say with the Jews in the days of Jeremiah, (chap. xiv. 19.) “ We looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and bebold trouble."
What shall we say to these things? Do they bear no impression of God's holy and righteous displeasure ? “ Will a lion roar in the forest, when he bath no prey? Will a young lion cry in his den, if he hath taken nothing? Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all? Shall a trumpet be blown
in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be : evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? The lion
hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy ?”
Our own wickedness is made to correct us, and our : backslidings reprove us, that we may know and see what
an evil thing it is, and bitter, that we have forsaken the Lord our God.
This, my brethren, is the primary aim of all God's corrections. He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men; but when transgressors will not learn the malignity of sin by gentler means, then he causes them to feel the evil of it in the bitterness of aflliction. Hence it appears, that temporal judgments are acts of mercy as well as of justice, especially when they are of such a nature as to bear the stamp and signature of those
sins which are the cause of them. Till we discern the hand of God in the sufferings that befal us, we shall never have recourse to the true and the only effectoal remedy. When public measures are defeated, we shall sometimes blame the contrivance, and at other times the execution; but still we shall look to the creature for belp, and place our trust in the arm of flesh.
This was an express article of indictment against the Jews in the preceding context. They used every precaution to put their city into a proper state of defence. They inspected their magazines, they repaired the breaches in their walls, and provided large store of water for a siege. In all this they acted wisely, and did no more than was their duty. But herein lay their fault, (verse 11.) they relied upon the preparations for the safety of Jerusalem, and “ did not look unto the Maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago."
I have therefore endeavoured to lead your attention to God himself, and to trace up all the penal evils we feel to the several instances of our criminal departure from him, as their true origin and source; and though perhaps I may have erred in the illustration of particulars, yet I cannot help thinking that the general truth will appear with sufficient evidence, that our own backslidings are reproving us, and that we ourselves have made the rod with which we are smitten.
By this time we may all see our concern in this subject, and the improvement we ought to make of it.
It is righteousness alone that exalteth a nation. Re. pentance towards God, flowing from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, is the only effectual means for preventing the ruin of a sinful people. Without this we may obtain a temporary respite from punishment; but the clouds will return again after the rain; and all the while we