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in his past procedure, we see the plan of his present and future administration; which brings the passage
I have been reading home to ourselves, and interests us deeply in the matter it contains.
In the preceding chapter, the prophet had got a full view of the abominations that were done in the midst of Jerusalem; and here he gets a visionary representation of their punishment. He beholds six men approaching the city, each of them armed with a destroying weapon, who are expressly commanded to slay the inhabitants, both old and young, beginning at the sanctuary. But before they proceed to execution, one, distinguished by his garb, being clothed with linen, and having a writer's inkhorn by his side, receives the gracious commission recorded in my text, to separate the precious from the vile, by setting a mark upon their foreheads, that they might not be involved in the ruin of their fellowcitizens.
Whether any sentence of wrath hath already gone forth against these siuful lands to which we belong, must be to us an impenetrable secret: “ The heart of a king is unsearchable,” said Solomon; much more is the heart of the King of kings. But surely it can never be upseasonable to lead your attention to a passage of Scriptore, where God's percy to the penitent, and his peculiar concern for their safety, are set before us in so just and striking a light.
Godly sorrow for abounding iniquity is at all times a dutiful and becoming exercise; nevertheless there are certain seasons when the call to it may be considered as more loud and pressing. Some of these I shall men. tion in the first place.
Secondly. I shall inquire, with as much tenderness as regard to truth will permit, how the case stands with
respect to the time and place in which our lot is cast:
Third place, To lay before you a few of the genuine symptoms and proper effects of the gracious temper I mean to recommend ;-and then conclude the subject with some practical improvement.
First. If it shall be asked, When, or upon what occasions, the exercise of godly sorrow for sių is in a peculiar manner seasonable? I answer,
When transgressors are very numerous; when the body of a people is corrupted, so that, in the language of the prophet Isaiah, “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint:" then all who fear God are loudly called upon to sigh and to cry for the abominations that are done in the midst of the land. If one Achan troubled the whole camp of Israel, what must a multitude of sinners do? If the disciples of our Lord were exceeding sorrowful when their Master told them that there was one traitor in their company, how afficting must it be to a true lover of God, to behold the wicked so multiplied, that, in comparison of them, the godly are only a small remnant, a very "little flock," that can scarcely be discerned.
The call becomes still more pressing, when transgressors are not only numerous, but likewise bold and impudent; sinning, as Absalom did, “ before all Israel, and in the sight of the sun." This is a fatal presage of approaching vengeance; for God will not always tole. rate such insolent contempt of his authority. Judgment may be suspended, while vice skulks in darkness, as ashamed of the light; but when it appears in broad day, when sinners proclaim their sins as Sodom, and hide them not, then they may be said " to strengthen themselves against the Almighty, and to run upon the thick bosses of his bucklers." And it is not to be supposed that such insolent defiance can long escape without some open and awful rebuke. At such a time, then, mourning must be peculiarly seasonable.
Especially when sinners are not only numerous and impudent, but likewise guilty of those grosser abominations which in former ages have been followed with the most tremendous judgments. It is true, indeed, that 66 the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men;" nevertheless there are some particular instances of ungodliness and unrighteousness, which God hath marked out, and distinguished from others, as the objects of his greatest abhorrence; and with respect to which he hath said more explicitly, both in his word and by his providence, that he will not suffer them to pass unpunished. I cannot pretend to give you a minute detail of these; only, if you read the Scriptures, you will find, that profane swearing, perjury, contempt of the Sabbath, theft, mur. der, and adultery, are all of this kind. The prophet Zechariah beheld a flying roll of curses, twenty cubits in length, and ten in breadth, which bad a commission to enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by the name of God, there to remain till it bad utterly consumed it, with the timber thereof, and the stones thereof. “ By swearing, and lying, and killing," saith the prophet Hosea, “ by stealing and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away." And
how highly God resents the profanation of his Sabbath, appears from the reproof and expostulation of good Nehemiah, which is recorded, (Nehem. xiii. 17, 18.)“ Then I contended with the nobles of Judab, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath-day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city ? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” When therefore the same sins are frequent and open among any people, that must surely be a season for grief and lamentation. And still more,
When the persons that commit them are resolute and incorrigible. “ He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”—“ Because I have purged thee," saith God by the prophet Ezekiel, “ and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee. I the Lord hath spoken it, it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord God.” When the wicked are forewarned of their sin and danger; when, by the preaching of the word, their duty is plaiuly and faithfully set before them; when they are exhorted by others, and rebuked by their own consciences; when they are smitten with such rods as bear the most legible signature of their crimes; or when, in a milder way, they are admonished and warned by the punishments inflicted upon others for the same crimes; when, after all or any of these means employed to reclaim them, they still hold fast their iniquities, and will not let them go; then should ibe godis lament and mourn, and pray with redoubled
earnestness for those miserable creatures, who have neither the ingenuity nor the wisdom to pray for themselves.
How far these causes of grief and lamentation are to be found among us, I might leave to the determination of those whose hearts are 6 wise to discern both time and judgment:" but I should reckon myself unfaithful to God, and injurious to the souls of men, if I did not hint a few obvious remarks relative to the time and place in which our lot is cast; which was the
Second thing proposed in the method.
I shall not compare our condition to that of Sodom, when ten righteous persons were not to be found in it; neither shall I compare it to the state of the Jews, when God said to the prophet Jeremiah, “Run ye to and fro in the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executetb judgment, and seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.” Blessed be God this is not precisely the case with us. There is not only some, but, I trust, a goodly number throughout the land, who sincerely love God, and seek his glory: but this I dare venture to affirm, that they are few, very few, when compared with the wicked; and, which is still more afflicting, their numbers are daily decreasing, while the opposite interest prevails, and visibly gains ground among all ranks and conditions of men.
It is too apparent to be denied, that the vices I mentioned under the former head, intemperance, lewdness, the most insolent abuse of the Christian Sabbath, lying, cursing, and even perjury itself, are more or less practised in every corner of the land. These, and many other enormities, are so frequent and uudisguised, that no man who comes abroad into the world can pretend to be ignorant that such abominations are done in the midst