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surely this hope diminishes, as impenitency | rant of its worth, tramples it under foot? Do becomes inveterate. Surely favourable op- we cease to admire Handel because some have portunities may elapse and return no more. no ears for his harmony and melody, or may Surely convictions may be stifled, and im- choose to be perverse and fastidious?-But pressions worn off never to be renewed. what do we? We disregard ignorance and Surely, by unsanctified attendance, year after prejudice, and seek after a proper standard by year, the most important truths may become which we may obtain the decisions of truth. so familiar as to lose all their effect. Surely, Let us apply the same rule to the subject beby incessant trifling with divine things, God fore us. To know the dreadfulness of this may be provoked to recall his influence from judgment, let us, his ordinances-and thus will be fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, who saith, "Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."
First; dwell upon the advantages deriva ble from the preaching of the gospel. The generality of those that are called by divine grace are saved by this instrumentality."Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." And the usefulness of it continues through the whole of the Christian life. "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
We may consider this famine as doctrinal. It may then be occasioned by the removal of faithful ministers, and the succession of others of different principles. This is sure to cause a declension in the number and in the zeal of the members of churches. For the gracefulness of Christ." Some are unable to read, and the truth of God always go together. and many have little time to search the And in this case the gospel is really taken Scriptures. Particular errors and vices are away, and something is made a substitute continually arising and prevailing, that rethat will be found ineffectual for all the pur- quire the application of particular doctrines, poses of conversion and consolation. As light and the inculcation of particular duties: and recedes, darkness in the same proportion fol- a minister will study these in the choice and lows. Every system has some parts in it that in the discussion of his subjects. How often are essential. When the leading doctrines in his palaces have some of you found God for of the gospel are denied or concealed, the a refuge! How often have your perplexities gospel is withdrawn; and when this is with- been solved, your fears banished, your hearts drawn, "Ichabod" may be inscribed upon the filled with all joy and peace in believing!walls of the building." The glory is de- Could you be reconciled to the thought of parted." losing all the pleasure and profit you have found by experience to be connected with the means of grace?
Secondly; let us think of the importance of the soul and eternity. The body is the meanest part of our nature; and time is the shortest portion of our duration, by a decree no less than infinite. The chief question therefore should never be, “What shall I eat, and what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I be clothed?"-but "What must I do to be saved?" The chief care ought to be, to gain spiritual wealth, spiritual honour, spiritual food-for these regard man in his most essential claims and necessities. Every thing should be considered as good or evil, according to its connexion with the soul and eternity: and from this principle, which a child can understand, we infer, that, beyond all comparison, the famine most to be dreaded is that which regards not the body, but the soul; not time, but eternity.
Thirdly; observe the design of such a dispensation. Some judgments, though painful, are still profitable. They remove the human arm; but it is to lead us to a dependence on the Divine. They take away the desires of
This famine may be considered as literal. This is the case when a people are deprived of the very institutions of religion, and are forbidden the assembling of themselves together according to their convictions. This may be done by the inroads and oppression of an enemy; by the encroachments of tyranny; by the loss of liberty of conscience. Our forefathers could explain this.
II. Let us pass from the nature of this judgment, to examine THE DREADFULNESS OF
To some men indeed this famine would be a very little grievance. Probably it would prove a pleasure rather than a pain. If the gospel was removed, they would be less incommoded and alarmed. They would rather have no prophets, unless they would "prophesy smooth things." Of a Micaiah they exclaim, "I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." "Yea, they say,"-how dreadful are actions put into words,- 66 yea, they say unto God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." But do we take the value of learning from the opinion of a fool? Do we estimate the jewel from the swine, that, igno
our eyes; but it is that we may ask, "Where is God my Maker, that giveth songs in the night?" How blessed was the humiliation that reduced Manasseh from the throne into a trison, where he sought and found the Lord God of his fathers! How kind was the famine that drove the prodigal to his father's house! "O God, chastise me, but do not abandon me. Try me as thou pleasest, but do not withdraw from me the proofs and the mediums of thy grace. Say any thing but this He is joined to idols, let him alone.'" Other judgments are in mercy, but this is in wrath. Other judgments are parental, but this is penal. Other judgments may urge us into heaven; but this is the way to hell, "going down to the chambers of death."
Fourthly. In estimating this curse, let us appeal to the sentiments of the righteous. Their conviction, in a case like this, far outweighs the opinion of the politicians and philosophers of the age. The question is a religious one, and "the spiritual judgeth all things, though he himself is judged of no man. In what terms does David deplore the loss of divine assemblies? "When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day. O God, thou art my God; carly will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary." Take those who are confined from the ordinances of God by disease or accident-though God does not leave them comfortless, neither are they unsubmissive, yet with the recovering Hezekiah they are asking, "What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?"
III. We have to reflect on THE EXECUTION or THIS SENTENCE. For some may be ready to say, How can such a thing be? It is very improbable; and, considering the divine promise, it seems to be impossible. For has he not said-"This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever. Upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." But a distinction instantly removes this difficulty. God has engaged to establish his church universally; but this does not regard any particular body of professors. He has engaged that the gospel shall never be removed from the world; but this does not hinder the withdrawment of it from particular places. If after all you are slow of heart to believe; if you are still thinking that such language as this never can, or never will be accomplished with regard to us; let me ask you,
We can rise but one step higher, and there we meet with God himself. His people may err: but his understanding is infinite; he cannot be deceived. What does he think of this judgment? You may infer it from his benediction; "Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound." You may infer it from his promise; I will give them pastors after my own heart, that shall feed them with knowledge and understanding. Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." You may infer it from his threatening; "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."
First. Is not He who utters this threatening almighty, and so able to fulfil it? If he has infinite resources, from which he can bless his friends, he has the same power, the same dominion to furnish him with arms against his enemies. He can never be at a loss for instruments to do his pleasure; nor can these instruments, however weak in themselves, prove feeble in the hand of Omnipotence.
Secondly. Is not He who utters this threatening just, and so disposed to fulfil it? Men may draw God as they please; they may imagine him all patience and pity; but they will find themselves mistaken. "A God all mercy is a God unjust." He is an equitable Governor, as well as a tender Father. He is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works. If sin is the abominable thing that he hates-if it be aggravated by light and knowledge-if the servant that knew his Lord's will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes-if the abuse of the greatest privilege be the greatest guilt-can God see all this without concern, without provocation? If at an infinite expense he has sent the gospel among us, and we make light of it; refuse to read or to hear it; or make the hearing of it a matter of mere curiosity or entertainment; applying it to no one purpose for which it was given, or turning it into licentiousness-is it conceivable that we can do this with impunity? Can God connive at such wickedness? Must he not prove that he is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity?" Mercy sent forth the messengers to invite to the marriage-feast: but what said Justice of those that refused? "None of the men that were bidden shall taste of my supper."
Thirdly. Is not he that utters this threat
ening, faithful, and so bound to fulfil it? Even | light, lest darkness come upon you: for he a Balaam could say, "The Lord is not a man that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither that he should lie, or the son of man that he he goeth. While ye have the light, believe should repent. Hath he said, and shall he in the light, that ye may be the children of not do it! Hath he spoken, and shall he not the light." With gospel means, be concerned make it good?"-He has evinced his truth to obtain gospel grace; and earnestly pray in his denunciations as well as his promises. that the ministry of the word may become If Joseph found his word true, so did Pharaoh; the ministration of the Spirit. Be ye doers and Saul was constrained to believe it as well of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving as David. your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he be ing not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."
Finally. As it is so dreadful to be destitute of the gospel, think how many of your fellow-creatures are found in this deplorable condition. They would be glad with the crumbs that fall from your table. They never hear of a Saviour. They feel depraved propensities, but know nothing of that grace which can create in us a clean heart, and renew in us a right spirit. They feel guilty fears, but know nothing of that blood which cleanses us from all sin. Pray that the Scriptures, and that missionaries may speedily reach them. Pray that the Sun of righteousness may arise, with healing under his wings, and comfort them with the knowledge of sal vation. "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth."
Fourthly. Has not he who utters this threatening fulfilled it already in various instances? Here we appeal from principles to facts. The gospel has been removed from a country; a people have been unchurched. The Jews are an eminent example. While they enjoyed their ceremonial services, they had the gospel in type; and when the Saviour was among them, they had the gospel in reality: but the kingdom of God was taken from them, and given to a people "bringing forth fruit in its season." When we consider the names by which they were called; the miracles, the ordinances, the privileges that distinguished them; and see this garden of the Lord laid waste, this people a reproach and a byword-with what force comes the admonition of the apostle: "If he spared not the natural branches, take heed also lest he spare not thee." What became of the Church of Rome, so famous as to be "spoken of throughout the whole world?" It was made "a cage for every unclean bird." Where are the seven churches of Asia? The places that once knew them, know them no more for ever. The blasphemies of the Koran sound where once the name of Jesus was as ointment poured forth; and the banners of an infamous impostor wave where once was erected the standard of the Cross, to draw all men into it. All these had a time wherein to know the things that belonged to their peace-and then they were hid from their eyes. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
The subject demands gratitude. We have reason to bless God that we have not had a famine of bread; that he has crowned the year with his goodness; and fed us with the finest of the wheat. But still less has he visited us with a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Why did the gospel reach us at such an early period? Why, when it was denied to so many, was it imparted to us? Why, since it has been withdrawn from numbers once favoured with it, is the blessing yet continued to us-and in such purity and plenty? -"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake."
Again. Let us be concerned to improve it while we possess it. It is our Saviour's application of the same doctrine. "Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. xviii. 3.
THE disciples were such dull scholars, that after all the education our Lord and Sa viour had given them, they were yet imagin ing that his kingdom" was of this world." They supposed that he would deliver them from the Roman yoke; advance them as a nation to the high places of the earth; and lead them forth conquering and to conquer. In this secular empire they believed there would be degrees of power and glory, as in any other; and expecting that these places would be filled by some of their own body, after a dispute among themselves, they in
How does our Lord reprove and instruct them? Instead of delivering a lecture on the abstract nature and advantages of a state of mind with which they appeared to be almost entirely unacquainted; "he called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them-and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
quire of their Master which of them should | ness, in waywardness, in pettishness. Have be the greatest? you never met with persons whom it is impossible to please? Or whose importance and vanity are gratified by the perplexity of your attempt? It is not because you employed the wrong expedient that you were not successful; any other would have met with the same fate. The more you allure, the further are they off-the very thing to which our Saviour refers. "Whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented."
Let us consider,
I. THE TEMPER THAT DISTINGUISHES THE
SUBJECTS OF DIVINE GRACE.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH WE ARE TO ATTAIN
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF POSSESSING IT.
L. THE TEMPER THAT DISTINGUISHES THE SUBJECTS OF DIVINE GRACE. It is infantile. We must be "as little children." But it is not to be inferred that we are to resemble them in every thing
We are not to be like them in ignorance: "Be ye not children in understanding." A grayheaded babe would be an unnatural and a shocking sight: and yet there are persons who have been many years in the religious world, who have never cultivated their minds, nor improved their privileges and opportunities; and who may be addressed in the words of the apostle, “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
like little children. And yet we are enjoined In all this we are forbidden to be found by our Saviour to resemble them. How is this? I answer, metaphors employed by the sacred writers are not to be taken universally, but in connexion with the subject that requires illustration. It is sufficient that there be a real and striking resemblance in the article of comparison. And this is unquestionably the case here.
For we may observe, that as soon as children are ushered into the world, they cry for the nourishment God has prepared for them. And as it is in nature, so it is in grace. The new creature has wants to be relieved, and appetites to be indulged: and there is provision suited to them in religion. Hence we read, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."
Again. Little children are teachable, and ready of belief. They receive with unsuspecting confidence the declaration of their father. If any doubt arises, if any dispute occurs, they run to him, and his testimony decides every thing. Thus should it be with us. We are to receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child. I was going to say, We cannot be too credulous when God speaks. He cannot be imposed upon himself, and he cannot deceive us: his wisdom forbids the one, and his truth the other. What one party believes, and another denies, should have little influence over us; while we have the judg ment of God, to which we can appeal. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." When we find any thing revealed in this book, we are not to hesitate in admitting it; we are not to reason upon it, "How can these things be?" but with a ready mind yield up ourselves to the "obedience of faith; and do all things without murmuring or disputing."
We are not to resemble them in fickleness: "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Children are extremely versatile. Though they are impressed with a thousand things, and seem for the time incapable of growing weary of them, they pursue nothing with certainty and constancy. And there are men, there are professors like them. They have no determinate sentiments; they have no fixed plan; they live extempore; they wander from party to party, they rove from preacher to preacher; you can place no dependence upon them; their at- Little children also are distinguished by a tachment and behaviour to-day are no proofs freedom from anxieties. Though they possess of their attachment and behaviour to-morrow. nothing adequate to their own support, and Let not such think to rise to eminence. Con- see not the resources from which their supsistency, steadiness, is essential to character. plies come, they feel no uneasiness; they rely "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." with cheerfulness on the father to provide for We are not to resemble them in sullen-them; and never question his ability or his
will. And shall we despond because we are
they are to "condescend to men of low es
II. Let us inquire THE WAY IN WHICH WE
Little children are devoid of malignity. The trifling resentments they sometimes feel and discover are soon over, and they are "at one again," and as friendly as before. There is nothing implacable in them: they easily forgive, and perfectly forget. For which reason the Apostle says, "In malice be ye children;" which is the same as saying, in another place, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
First. The temper we are required to possess is not in us naturally, but is the consequence of a divine change. Innate depravity is, alas! too fully established by Scripture, observation, and experience, to be A man that knows himself will readily subscribe to the mortifying confession of David: "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;" and ac knowledge, with Paul, "In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." This being admitted, it follows, that we are not made Christians, but become such; that it is the effect not of a natural but a spiritual birth. Ye must be "born again." As creatures we are in Adam; but if any man be in Christ, "he is a new creature: old things have passed away; and, behold, all things are be come new.' In order to be religious, we must be saved-"saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost."-And since this conversion is de signed to produce in depraved beings such a character as our Saviour describes, it also follows that this conversion implies much more than a change of opinions, or a mere reformation of manners. It is a renovation in the state of the heart; in our principles,
But the thing principally, though not ex-
liarly with the child of a peasant. They out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart
And Christians are required not only to wear humility, but to be "clothed" with it. They are to be sensible of their insufficiency;
Secondly. This change is to be judged of by its effect. Here many people err. They