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ers and Fastings, our Praises and Thanksgivings, may be rendered more acceptable to Him?
Although we have the Gospel in our hand, as the fulness of Divine Light and Knowledge, to which no addition can be made in our mortal state; yet we are to adore that Providence which has given us the Old Testament also; wherein is contained an account of the dealings of the Almighty, in ancient times, with his own chosen people; and from whence lessons are to be derived, that with profit may be applied to the instruction of mankind in all succeeding ages.
The chapter from which my text is taken, and which I read to you as the first lesson for this day's solemnity, is every way suitable to the purpose of our meditations. It is itself a fast-day Sermon, or the great heads of what the prophet, by the inspiration of the Almighty delivered to the Jews, upon one of their great days of humiliation. For upon these solemn days the prophets of the Lord were particularly commanded to deliver public exhortations and addresses, sparing neither High nor Low, Prince nor People, but boldly warning them of their iniqui. ties, and calling aloud to repentance by every argument of terror and of love.
Thus the prophet Jeremiah, although shut up in prison, for having given offence to the king and great men, by the freedom and truth of his exhortations, (a calamity which often befel him during his ministry) yet when a solemn Fast was to be obser. ved, on the loss of the city; we find that he would not neglect, at any peril, to do his duty and deliver the will of the Lord even to the King and the Peo. ple, who persecuted him.
He therefore commands Baruch to take a Roll of a book, and write from his mouth all the words of the Lord that he had spoken against Israel and against Judah—and continues he, since “ I am shut up and “ cannot go into the house of the Lord; therefore go " Thou and read in the Roll, which Thou hast written “ from my mouth, the words of the Lord, in the
ears of the people, in the Lord's house upon the Fasting-Day; and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. It
may be they will present their supplication before “ the Lord, and return every one from his evil way “ for great is the fury that the Lord hath pronounced “ against this people"
So that the great intention of these Fast-Exhor. tations, was, if possible, to stir up the people, and lead them, by prayer and supplication and turning from their evil ways, to escape the impending judgments of Almighty Justice. And these exhortations and Sermons appear accordingly to have been delivered to the people at their first entrance into the house of the Lord, to excite them more devoutly to Prayer and Praise; and was not deferred, as the cus. tom now is, to be delivered after offering up our Prayers and Praises.
For this purpose these ancient prophets and preachers had their stand in a place where they could be alike heard by Princes and People, as they assembled for the Temple-Service; and often too, they stood in the streets and at the gates of the city to be heard by those, who entered from distant places.
Thus the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah “ saying—Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and “ proclaim there this word to all that enter in at “ these gates to worship the Lord*.” And againt "proclaim these words in the streets of Jerusalem.” Andt “ Hear these words, ye Kings and all ye Inha- . "bitants of Judah and Jerusalem, that enter in by “ these gates.”
But, return we now to the remarkable Fast-Ser mon of the prophet Isaiah, in the chapter from which we have taken our text; and let us consider as well the calamitous situation of the Jews at the time of the Fast, which is probably here described, as the reasons of God's rejecting their Prayers and Supplications; and, as we proceed, let us not be blindly partial to our own Situation and Sins, but make a due improvement of the experience and examples recorded for our instruction.
The situation of the Jews, after they had been first spoiled by the Assyrians, and afterwards by the Babylonians, as set forth in the forty-second chapter of this prophecy, claims our first attention. And truly melancholy and miserable it was.
“ This people, (saith the prophet) is robbed and spoiled. They are all of them snared in holes, and "hid in prison-houses; They are for a prey, and
none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, re“ store. Who among you will give ear to this?
• Jer. chap. vii, 2.
† Chap. xi. 6.
I Chap. xvii. 20.
“ Who will hearken and hear? Who is there that, " by the present judgments, will take warning, and “ strive to avert the like judgments in the time to 4 come?"
Think not that these judgments spring up from the dust, or have come upon you without a cause. “For who was it that gave Jacob for a spoil and “ Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord? He against 66 whom we have sinned.” And for what reason did the Lord thus deliver his people to be robbed and spoiled by their enemies? The prophet answers plainly—" Because they would not walk in his ways, « nor be obedient unto his Laws-Therefore he hath " poured upon them the fury of His anger, and the “ strength of battle--and it hath set him on fire round " about, yet he knew it not”—That is, all the horrors and fury of war, and their very city and temple burnt to ashes by the Chaldean army, did not lead them to consider and turn again unto the Lord whom they had offended. They still continued in their sins, despised the Law of God, nor from all His visitations would they learn the righteousness.
"Tis true that so far as outward professions would go, so far as having the name of religion in their mouths, and claiming the privileges promised and covenanted by God to their Fathers for keeping the Law—so far as outward professions and claims of peculiar favour would go, they continued zealous before God-Nay, so far as days of solemn Fasting and Humiliation, on special visitations and calamities, might be thought a duty, they were not backward in the appointment and observation of them. But what
sort of Fasts they were, we shall soon learn from the Sermon of the prophet, in the chapter from which my text is taken.
The first verse is an awful command to him to go among the people on the solemn Fast-day; and to warn them of their sins-" Cry aloud and spare not; "lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my peo"ple their transgressions, and the House of Jacob "their sin." That is to say-In the boldest and most public manner, with all the freedom becoming a prophet and messenger of God, concealing nothing through Fear or Love, declare to the people their many transgressions, and especially their open hypocrisy, and "the iniquities of their Holy things."
For to all their offences they add this provoking aggravation, namely-high professions and shew of religion" They seek me daily," or draw nigh to me in all outward ordinances, as a nation that would be thought to delight in knowing my ways and performing righteousness; and they ask of me the ordinances of justice, the rewards promised to holiness; and, wondering that they do not receive an immediate answer to their Prayers and Fastings, they cry out in the midst of every adversity
"Wherefore have we Fasted and thou seest not? "Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou "takest no knowlege?"
Attend, therefore, Brethren, to the Prophet's answer to these most important questions! Astonished at their blindness to their own faults, and their expecting an immediate answer of favour from God, in all their religious approaches to Him; the Prophet re