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SERMON IV.

MATT. XXIV. 8.

All these are the beginning of forrows.

TH

HE Jewish polity is fometimes reprefented as having been of fuch a peculiar nature, fo different, in its form, from all other governments which the world ever faw; that neither maxims of civil prudence, nor rules of private conduct, applicable to the members of any other ftate, can be drawn from the history of this extraordinary people. Temporal rewards and temporal punishments being the avowed and immediate fanctions of the law of Mofes; and the execution of these laws being directed by a constant and particular providence; the public measures of the nation, and the actions of individuals, affumed, it is faid, from the genius of the conftitution, a certain colour

and

and character, of which history affords not a fimilar inftance, and from which all conclufions, if applied to other men, are fallacious and vain.

If we allow, as we may, that the Jews of old were, in many refpe&s, fo circumstanced, as no other nation ever was, or can be; we may deny the inference deduced from that diverfity. It ought, on this occafion, to be well remembered, that although the people, collectively confidered, were profperous and happy, when they obeyed the Lord, and oppreffed with calamity, when they rebelled against him; yet, with regard to individuals, such an exact difcrimination did by no means take place. The profperity of the wicked was a fubject, which perplexed more than one of GoD's holy prophets'; and it was obferved by Solomon, that no man knew "either love or hatred, by all that was before them."

Civil focieties, which, as fuch, are creatures of this world only, are ever under God's efpecial providence. The nature of man likewife is the fame in all ages; the fame lufts and paffions, which occafioned wars and bloodshed in ancient generations, kindle them b Ecclef. ix. I.

Jer. xii. 1. Pf. lxxiii. 16.

now;

now; and that fear of GOD, which inspired love and harmony in the days that are past, will, wherever it is cherished, produce the like fruits.

The events, which befell the Lord's chofen people, happened to them for examples; and were written for the admonition, not only of them, but of the ends of the world. If, in the facred account of thefe great events, we are led, as it were by the hand of inspiration, to the real source of success, or of mifery; and if no fignal bleffing, no heavy calamity, comes upon Ifrael, which was not foreshewn; these wonderful circumstances cannot, furely, make the hiftory either lefs interesting, or less inftructive. If our faith is confirmed, while our knowledge is extended, we shall, without doubt, by the bleffing of heaven, become better men, and better citi

zens.

Let us go on, therefore, with the subject, which we have undertaken: and if that part of it, with which we now are concerned, fhall be little more than an historical detail, and that too of facts which are well known; it will not however be forgotten, I trust,

с I Cor. x. II.

4 Παν, είτε αγαθον είτε φαυλον γινεται παρ' ἡμῖν, κατα την εκείνων [προφητων] αποβαίνει προφητείαν. Α. J. L. x. c. ii. S. 2.

that

that they are the judgements of GOD; from a furvey of which in the mirrour of past ages, as well as from beholding them abroad in the earth, we fhall, if we are wife, learn righteousness.

The words of the text have a general reference to various figns, mentioned in the foregoing verfes, as fo many preludes to the approaching diffolution of the Jewish economy. The appearance of falfe prophets, which was one of thofe figns, we have already confidered. The other particulars claim our prefent attention; and it will be most convenient, to ftate them in a different order, from that which is obferved in the Gospels.

St. Matthew fays, "There shall be famines, and peftilences, and earthquakes in divers places." To this account, which in St. Mark is nearly the fame, St. Luke adds, in the parallel paffage, "fearful fights and great figns fhall there be from heaven "." The three evangelifts agree in placing these figns in the fame part of their narrative, at the clofe of the events preceding the war; the reafon of which arrangement perhaps might be, that fome of the circumstances, here foretold, were not to receive their full f Matt. xxiv. 7.

• Ifaiah xxvi. 9.

g L. xxi. 11.

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