Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

III. WHENCE DID DAVID, AND WHENCE DOES EVERY CHRISTIAN DERIVE THIS JOY? I ANSWER, FROM THE SCRIPTURES. 66 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage." The discoveries and the promises of this blessed book are adapted to rejoice the pilgrim's heart.

What are these discoveries? They tell him of the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul-they remind him continually of his country; they place it before him in every engaging form, and prove how far it sur passes every thing here-while it will infinitely indemnify him for all his losses, and reward him for all his difficulties.

They show him clearly and unerringly the way. Thus they give him the peace and satisfaction of certainty: he knows that he is not journeying at random—not a step is taken in vain each brings him nearer home.

They assure him that he is not alone in his trials and exercises. They call upon him to observe way-marks thrown up by former pilgrims, where he began to think no pious foot had ever trod. "The same things,' say they, 'happened to your brethren who were before you in the world.' Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.' Take the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord: that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.'" How suitable, how animating, how blessed are such discoveries as these!

obeying the command; "Arise ye and depart hence: for this is not your rest."

But promises are something more than discoveries; and with these the Scripture abounds. They are "exceeding great and precious." And what can the pilgrim want or desire that is not insured by them?-A freedom of motion? This is insured. "Thou shalt walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble." An ability to hold on? This is insured. The "righteous shall hold on his way; and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." Victory over enemies? This is insured. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under foot." All needful supplies?—These are insured. "O fear the Lord, ye his saints; for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Is not all this sufficient to induce him to go on his way rejoicing?

We have been speaking of the experience of David, and of the experience of all the Lord's people. Are you like-minded with them? There are only two sorts of people in the world. All are citizens of earth or of heaven. And naturally all are of the first class but some are by divine grace

Are you men of the world-do you feel yourselves at home-would you be satisfied to live here always-provided you could succeed according to your wishes? Are you looking only to those things that are seen and temporal? The man who takes up with this world as his portion is worse than a brute. He is unworthy of the soul he carries within him. He starves his mind. He makes no provision for the evil day. It matters not what he has he is in a miserable condition

he has nothing that can either satisfy or save. A man going to execution is for the present very well off: he has a carriage to ride in; a guard to attend him; officers to accompany him, and a number of followers. But what would you think of the man if he deemed all this the token of his honour, rather than the forerunner of his punishment; and should only consider how he is accommodated, but never ask whither am I going? Alas! how many such fools are there! They only think how it is with them at present, but never inquire what will become of them hereafter. But "the end of these things is death."

There are others who are delivered from the present evil world, and are heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love him. As strangers and pilgrims, let me give you three admonitions, founded on the several parts of the discourse which you have heard.

First. Always regard your present condition as a state of pilgrimage-and never view it as any thing more. This will regulate your desires, and moderate your wishes after earthly things. This will keep you from being too much elated when you meet with prosperous scenes. Not that you will disparage the bounties of Providence-you will even be thankful for them, as conveniences by the way-but you will consider them only as accommodations; and not mistake them for the advantages and glories of home-you will not therefore sit down, but still press forward. This will enable you to endure with fortitude and resignation the hardships you may encounter. You will say, "As a traveller, I expect such things; they are only the inconveniences of a journey-it will soon be over

and I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.""

Second. Cherish a humble and a holy joy. Consider this not only as your privilege-but duty. Enforce it upon your minds by the authority of God, who commands you to rejoice always, and by a consideration of the importance of it to others. Nothing will honour and recommend your religion more than this. It will show those around you,

that you have found what they are seeking after. Surely you do not, you cannot wish to travel to heaven alone-but habitually cheerful-singing as you go-you will be constantly inviting and alluring your relations, friends, neighbours, to join you. You will address them, as Moses addressed Hobab, the son of Raguel-"We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel."

SUCH was the language of Samuel to the Jews. The words have a peculiar force in them. It arises from the wisdom of the address. How could he have given them a better representation of their duty? And how could he have more powerfully recommended it?

He requires of them nothing superstitious; nothing merely ritual and ceremonious; nothing only external and temporary-but the exercise of piety flowing from the fear of God, and accompanied with a sincerity and fervour in serving him. This is all. "Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart." This he enforces by two motives; the one drawn from gratitude, and the other from interest. He has been your friend; he can be your enemy. He has done great things for you; and he will do great things against you. Consider this

66

Consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.'

Precious Bible! like thy blessed Author, our sun and our shield, thou giver of grace and glory, thou conductor through all this gloomy vale to our everlasting home, how many advantages have we already derived from thee! Thou hast often solved our doubts, and wiped away our tears. Thou hast been sweeter to our taste than honey and the honeycomb. Thou hast been better to us, in our distresses, than thousands of gold To render the Scripture useful, we must and silver. Unless thou hadst been our de- consider persons in former ages as specimens light, we should have perished in our afflic-of human nature in general; and the dispention. sations of Providence towards them as holding forth the unchangeable perfections of Jehovah. Thus individuals, families, churches, nations, become exemplary, and by their welfare or ruin, encourage our hope, or awaken our fear.

Already I hope you have dropped Judea, and fixed your attention on your own country. The words could never have been more applicable to the Jews than they are to us. And hence we have been led to choose them on this solemn occasion, when we are called to assemble together to acknowledge our sins and to implore the Divine mercy.

Third. Love and study the Scriptures. He that avoids reading a portion of them daily forsakes his own mercy; and is so far regardless of his safety, welfare, and comfort. Therefore "bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp: and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life."

No wonder Job "esteemed thee more than his necessary food." No wonder David chose thee as his heritage for ever, and found thee to be the rejoicing of his heart. No wonder the noble army of martyrs parted with their estates and with their blood, rather than with thee. May we value thee as our richest jewel, may we love thee as our dearest good, may we consult thee as our surest counsellor, may we follow thee as our safest rule!

And oh! thou eternal Jehovah, "send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me: let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God, my exceeding joy; yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God, my God!"

DISCOURSE LII.

sumed, both ye and your king.—1 Sam. xii. 24, 25.

SIN RUINS A KINGDOM.
(FOR A FAST-DAY.)

Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth
with all your heart: for consider how great
things he hath done for you. But if ye
shall still do wickedly, ye shall be con-

Among all the nations of the earth there is no one to which we can so properly refer as the Jews-not only because their history is true, and events are traced up to their proper causes-but because there is a greater correspondence between them and us than between us and any other people. They only of all the nations of antiquity worshipped the same God with us. They only, like us, were under the reign of grace as well as providence, and enjoyed religious and spiritual privileges blended with civil and natural. Let us attend to this.

Samuel tells them that "the Lord had done great things for them." David could not review their history without admiration. "What one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemest to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods?"

And has he not done great things for us?

66

Moses, at a much earlier period, gave them af But they had unspeakably greater advanpre-eminent blessedness. "Happy art thou, tages than all these. What says David? O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people, "He showeth his word unto Jacob, his saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He and who is the sword of thy excellency! and hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, his judgments, they have not known them." and thou shalt tread upon their high places." What says Paul? "Who are Israelites; to Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldeans. whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, God, in his sovereign grace, "called him to and the covenants, and the giving of the law, his foot," and commanded him to depart from and the service of God, and the promises; his own country and his father's house, in whose are the fathers, and of whom as consearch of a place which he should afterwards cerning the flesh Christ came, who is over receive for an inheritance. He told him he all, God blessed for ever." should be the ancestor of a nation, numerous as the stars of heaven, and that one of his-It is not foolish partiality, but truth that posterity should finally bless all the families compels us to say, "The lines are fallen to of the earth. He multiplied and increased us in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly him. With Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with heritage." O England! blessed of the him of the same promise, he was a stranger Lord be thy land, for the precious things of and a pilgrim upon earth. "When they heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that were but a few men in number; yea, very coucheth beneath. And for the precious few, and strangers in it; when they went fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the from one nation to another, from one king-precious things put forth by the moon. And dom to another people: he suffered no man for the chief things of the ancient mountains, to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings and for the precious things of the lasting hills. for their sakes; saying, Touch not mine And for the precious things of the earth, and anointed, and do my prophets no harm." fulness thereof; and for the good will of Him Their deliverance from the land of Egypt that dwelt in the bush." Have we not a and the house of bondage is well known. He land of woods and rivers, of fields and of brought them forth with a strong hand and an meadows, "of wheat and of barley?" Are outstretched arm. Creatures of every rank not "our oxen strong to labour;" and do not espoused their cause, and punished their ene-"our sheep bring forth thousands, and ten mies. When in jeopardy from their pursu- thousands in our streets?" Are we not ers, the sea opened, and they passed through, placed in a climate whose temperature equalas on dry ground, which the Egyptians assay-ly secures us from scorching heat and intolering to do, were drowned. Then they sang able cold? What advantages do we possess his praise. And the deliverance was the as an island! In consequence of this, we food of their faith, and hope, long afterwards. have been preserved from invasion; and our "Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength; country has not been made a field of slaughthou breakedst the heads of the dragons in ter. What do we know of war? We have the waters. Thou breakedst the head of only witnessed its remote preparations and Leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be effects. We have not heard the "confused meat to the people inhabiting the wilder- noise of warriors," nor seen "garments rolled ness." in blood." Nor have our nurses, terrified at the sound of battle, fled with our infants and lamed our Mephibosheths for life. Commerce has filled our rivers with ships, and poured the produce of the four quarters of the globe upon our tables. We have a constitution which displays the sober, improved, tried wisdom of ages. We have laws, distinguished by their justice, their mildness, their impartiality. The poor are equally protected with the rich; and character and talents can rise to eminence from the cottage, as well as from the mansion. Humanity and benevolence have distinguished the national character; and around us rise institutions of charity to embrace the sons and daughters of every kind of wretchedness.

Forty years wandered they in the desert. They knew not their way he was their guide. They were exposed to dangers-he was their defence. They had no supplieshe rained down manna; the rocks poured out water; and their clothes waxed not old upon them. Had they unwholesome damps by night? The pillar of cloud became a fire and absorbed them. Were they open by day to the heat of a burning sky? The pillar of fire became a cloud and diffused an immense shade over them. Thus "the sun did not smite them by day, nor the moon by night."

By-and-by Jordan rolled back its streams, and they took possession of a land, where were wells which they digged not, houses which they builded not, vineyards which they planted not: a land flowing with milk and honey; wherein there was no scarceness; and upon which the Lord's eye was from the beginning even to the end of the year. 16*

2 A

Capernaum, though a little mean fishing town, was said to be "exalted unto heaven"

and the reason was-because our Lord and Saviour had honoured it with his presence, and had preached in it the kingdom of God.

From the moment the Gospel enters a coun- than yourselves no security from brutal pastry, the importance of it commences in the sions. Think of the temples of God burnt eye of angels; and then-then it is said-up, or converted to other purposes. Think "Arise, shine, for thy light is come; and the-But let us not pursue this lamentable train glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." And of reflection-but consider a few remarks, when it withdraws from a place, “Ichabod” tending both to illustrate and confirm the may be written upon the walls--"The glory danger of a wicked kingdom, and then to inis departed." At a very early period this quire after the state of our own. inestimable blessing reached our highly favoured isle. And while it has been withdrawn from countries once blessed with the same privilege, it has been continued to us, notwithstanding all our unworthiness and provocation. Popery had indeed obscured the glory of the Gospel, locked up the Scriptures in an unknown language, and sacrificed thousands of victims to superstitious rage. But the Reformation gave us the Bible; and said, Read, and live! And the glorious Revolution fixing liberty on a firm and legal basis, said, Assemble together; Preach and hear; Worship God according to the dictates of your own consciences, and "he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye!". Thus ever since we have sat under our own vine and fig-tree, and none have made us afraid. We have filled our sanc-ture obeys his nod, from an archangel to a tuaries; we have enjoyed our Sabbaths; and worm. How idle is it, in a case like thisthough he has given us the bread of adversity to talk of armies and navies, and alliancesand the water of affliction, yet has he not re- how absurd is it to compare force with force, moved our teachers into a corner, but “our and to say, after flattering calculations, “Oh! eyes behold our teachers, and our ears hear the enemy cannot come!" He cannot come a voice behind us, saying-This is the way, unless God send him; but he can come easily walk ye in it, when we turn aside to the enough if he should. Is any thing too hard right hand or to the left." for the Lord-when he would either show mercy or execute wrath?

And First. If there be a moral governor of the universe, sin must provoke him. A righteous God must love righteousness; a holy God, holiness; a God of order, order; and a God of benevolence, benevolence: and accordingly he must abhor all that is opposite to these. And hence it is said, that "God is angry with the wicked every day; the wicked shall not stand in his sight: he hateth all workers of iniquity." And this is essential to every lovely and reverential view we can take of God. For who could adore a being who professed to govern the world, and suf fered the wicked to go on with impunity!

Second. If sin provoke God, he is able to punish it. He is the Lord of hosts, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. All the elements are his. Every crea

Ah! think of the want of all this!"But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear: for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them."

[ocr errors]

And to secure all these civil and religious advantages-how often has he made our cause his own! How seasonably and signally has he interposed to save us from the designs of our enemies! When brought low, he has helped us: "at even-tide it has been light."

Can we be insensible to all this?-If there were any ingenuousness in us, this motive alone would be sufficient.

But fear has its use-and it is necessary to tell you not only that you are bound by gratitude-but interest. "If ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be destroyed, both you and your king." This is dreadful.-Think of a king you love, as well as honour, and "whose life is a lesson to the land he sways" -driven from his throne. Think of liberty exchanged for slavery. Think of property rapaciously plundered, or devoured by tyrannical exaction. Think of your private dwellings affording those who are dearer to you

Third. Bodies of men are punishable in this world only. In eternity there are no families, churches, nations. If therefore a country is to be destroyed, it is tried and condemned and executed here. When we see an individual sinner prospering in the world, and not immediately punished-our faith is not staggered; for we "know that his day is coming." But if a wicked people were allowed to escape-we should be confounded-we should ask, “Where is the God of judgment?" For in this case, they are not punished now. And they cannot be punished hereafter.

Fourth. There is a tendency in the very nature of sin to injure and ruin a country. It violates all the duties of relative life. It destroys subordination. It relaxes the ties which bind mankind together, and makes them selfish and mean. It renders men enemies to each other.-Social welfare cannot survive the death of morals and virtue.

Fifth. God's dealings with guilty nations are confirmed by his word, and indeed by all history. He has invariably punished them in due time. Witness the state of Nineveh, Babylon, and others. Thus the nation Samuel addressed put his declaration to the trial-and found it true. A succession of

[ocr errors]

Finally, to enable us to draw the conclusion, he often-he always-gives previous intimation of his displeasure-so that were not men blind and deaf they must see and hear his coming. When you see the body wasting away by disease, and every complaint growing more inveterate, you suspect that death will be the consequence-it is already begun. "When the fig-tree, and all the trees, put forth leaves, we know that summer is nigh." Our Saviour said unto the people, "When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, can ye discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?" And how is it that we do not perceive that God is angry with us that he is contending with us?-Are none of his forerunners arrived?-Has he not more than spoken? Has he not smitten us-and more than once? And if lighter judgments do not reform, will not heavier ones destroy? The consequence is infallible. If ye still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both you and your king.'

T

66

99

severe judgments befel them-till at last | tinguished a people by singular instances of wrath came upon them to the uttermost, and "the Romans came and took away both their place and nation."

his favour, that people will be proportionably criminal, unless they distinguish themselves by their devotedness to him. Thus God from time to time aggravated the sins of the Jews. "He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape. But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me." And is not this our case?

[ocr errors]

They have told us, That when a nation is under the corrections of the Almighty, they are eminently sinful if they disregard the tokens of his wrath, and go on careless and insensible. Hence, says Isaiah, "In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth; and behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts, surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts." In like manner, says Jeremiah, “Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return."-And what impressions have his judgments made upon us? Have they restrained us from any of our pride and luxury? Have they reduced the number of worldly amusements; or chilled the ardour of dissipation? If a stranger were to come among us and observe our manners, would he think we were in any distress, or had received any unfavourable omens?"

But you ask-Have we any cause to fear this?-I answer, just in proportion to the degree of our sin. Now there are two ways by which we may judge of our national guilt. The first is to enumerate the sins which reign predominant among us. To do this would not only be shocking, but endless. For what vice can be named that is not constantly committed through the land!-The other method is to lay down criterions, by which we may estimate the prevalency and the aggravations of sin in a country. And what test has ever been devised that is not alarming when applied to ourselves?

Divines have told us-' -That if God has favoured a nation with the revelation of his will, their sins are aggravated by means of this light-For "where much is given, much will be required; and he that knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." Thus a heathen country, committing the very same sins with a country enlightened with the Gospel, is far less criminal. Thus, a country overspread with superstition, where the Bible is scarcely known, and its contents can be only viewed through a depraved and disfiguring medium-such a country, committing the very same sins, would be far less guilty than a country favoured with a purer worship, and where evangelical instruction is open to all. And does not this apply to us?

They have told us, That when God has dis-experiments which fashion has tried upon

They tell us to mention no more-That shamelessness in sinning is a sure proof of general corruption. And where is the man among us who is not more afraid of a threadbare coat, than of a dishonest action? To fail in business, and defraud innocent sufferers of their lawful property, is no longer scandalous; never excites a blush. Impurity is gloried in-and a young man, in most companies, who should profess himself virtuous, would be turned into ridicule! Much-every thing depends upon the character of females, See how many of the barriers of virtue they have permitted to be removed! Behold the

« VorigeDoorgaan »