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honour which he demands: that on the other hand, man is ever disposed to rebellion, ingratitude, obstinacy, and enmity; is therefore a very base and odious character, and justly deserving of the abomination and indignation of a holy Gon.
This trial of mankind was especially made in his dealings with Israel, who being descended from pious ancestors, "planted wholly a right seed," were an unexceptionable specimen of human nature. We have the abstract of it in this psalm, which begins and ends with, "Praise ye the LORD," and contains a history of his persevering kindness to Israel, and Israel's persevering ingratitude to him. The same scene, in some measure, is acted over again in every age of the world, in every nation under heaven, in every man's own experience. Had we a history, equally impartial and faithful of any other people, or any single person, in proportion as that people, or individual, was favoured of GOD with the favour he shewed to Israel, the base ingratitude of human nature would equally appear; and in proportion would the loveliness of GOD, and the odiousness of man be illustrated. And he who has best learned to love and admire GoD, to loathe and abhor himself, and can most sincerely adopt the words of holy Job, " I have heard "of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent "in dust and ashes;" is the greatest proficient in true religion.
The substance of this instructive psalm is compressed in the words that I have read to you; Many "times did he deliver them, but they provoked him
"with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless, he regarded their affliction, "when he heard their cry." The historical "The historical part of the Old Testament is the best illustration of the words, as spoken of Israel. But as GoD and his law,* and his measures of government and providence, are the same from generation to generation, and as human nature is the same also, I trust you will easily perceive the propriety of improving them for our edification on the present occasion.
After many former deliverances, the people of Israel were brought low for their iniquity. Nations are brought low, when their numbers are greatly reduced by pestilences, famines, or other desolating judgments: when the inhabitants are detained in captivity, or sold into slavery: when successful armies of hostile invaders spread terror and carnage through the land: and when civil discord excites them to murder one another by unnatural war. A nation is brought low, when, being deprived of the invaluable privilege of a free government according to equitable laws impartially executed, it groans under the yoke of tyranny: while the covetousness or caprice, the ambition or cruelty, the revenge or jealousy of one, or a few, keep millions in perpetual alarm, and expose them to continued oppression and persecution. A nation is brought low, when its wealth is diminished, its resources exhausted, its expences increased, its commerce and trade
* I mean his moral law; the eternal rule of right and wrong, of sin and holiness.
ruined; its poor deprived of employment, burdened with taxes, and left to the fatal necessity of starving, begging, or stealing; and its wealthy traders reduced to indigence and bankruptcy.
In these, and many other respects, nations once flourishing are brought low, they lose the blessings which they enjoyed at home, and the consequence which they possessed abroad, and dwindle into insignificance, dependence and wretchedness.
This premised, I observe,
I. That nations are thus brought low for iniquity, by the righteous judgment of GOD, whom they have provoked by their counsels. Let philosophers and politicians search out the secondary causes of the prosperity and decline of empires: it is allowed they have advanced many things ingenious, rational, and instructive, on the subject: but it is our concern to learn what the word of GOD contains for our instruction and direction in the duty of the day: to this let us confine our attention.-Angels sinned, and by sin were brought low, even from the summit of created exaltation, to the depth of endless contempt and misery.
By one man sin entered into the world, and death by "sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all "have sinned." Thus, low even to the grave, hath sin brought our whole human race: lower still we had all sunk, even with fallen angels, into hell, had not the glorious Emmanuel cone, and born our sins in his own body on the tree: yet even thus low will sin finally bring
all that live and die impenitent and unbelieving. The same evil brings nations low: when they provoke GOD by their sins, he stirs up enemies against them, he permits discord to prevail, he infatuates their wisest counsellors, he intimidates their most valiant commanders; he disappoints their best concerted projects; he lets them know," that the race is not to the swift, nor the "battle to the strong:" But "that he doeth what he "will in the army of heaven, and amongst the inha"bitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?"
Not only the dealings of GoD with his own peculiar people; but the prophecies of the Old Testament, denounced against the neighbouring nations for their ungodliness and unrighteousness, and so awfully accomplished in their destruction, one by the sword of another, sufficiently prove and illustrate my observation.
2. I observe, however, that GOD doth more especially deal thus with those nations, who are most highly favoured with the light of divine revelation, and in which the true religion is openly professed. In his conduct towards Israel, he not only considered their behaviour, but also took into the account his written word entrusted to them; his lively ordinances administered among them; the prophets from age to age raised up to admonish, reprove, and instruct them; his former favours to their nation: and his present watchful care over them: "You only have I known among "all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish
you for all your iniquities."*
Thus will he deal
with other nations also; in proportion to the favour shewn them, and the light afforded them, as well as to the sins which they have committed against him.— Where" much is given, much is required;" and every sin is aggravated in proportion to the wilfulness and ingratitude contained in it. "He that knew his LORD'S "will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." And God will evermore shew his impartiality, and evince that there is no people in such a sense his favourites, as that he should, on that account connive at sin in them. He hates iniquity in all with perfect hatred, but most abhors it in those who are nearest to him; because it is really in them most hateful, and his judg ment is always according to truth. Therefore" Spare
not, and begin at my sanctuary," is his commission to the executioners of his awful vengeance. Thus he precludes all hope of impunity in sin, when he so severely punishes his peculiar people: and thus likewise he, in the wisest manner, fulfils the designs of his love to them. He brings them low to prevent their destruction: by correction he preserves them from being disinherited: his peculiar people, as well nations as individuals, are" chastened of the LORD, that they should "not be condemned with the world." He will not forsake his people, therefore will he visit their offences with the rod. He is slow to anger, and he leaves nations who profess his truth, gradually and, as it were, un
* Amos iii. 2.