Page images
PDF
EPUB

midst of my people, and ye shall know that I am the Lord."

As to this separation, we observe,

i. That in it there is something negative; and that is, the Lord denies them the influences of his grace, countenance, and sellowship; they are deprived of benesits, their sins with-hold good things from them. The scripture expresseth it by the Lord's hiding his face from sinners, as it is said in the text, by shewing them the back, and not the face, Jerem. xviii. 17.; by forgetting them, Hos. iv. 6. Thus the sun of many is gone down, they "stumble at noon, as in the night, and are in desolate places as dead men," Isa. lix. 10. They go up and down hi the world, as walking statues, carrying dead fouls in their bodies as living cofsins; for God is gone, and his glory is departed from them.

2. There is something positive in it, sin kindles a sire against the foul. (1.) There is a standing controversy God has against sinners, Amos iii. 3. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" God is displeased with the creature, his Spirit is grieved at him. Anger rests in the bosom of God against the sinner, as long as he keeps the sinsul morsel under his tongue, which, though pleasant to the poor fool in the mean time, is most displeasing to a holy God. (2.) There is a pursuing os this controversy against the sinner; some positive outgoings of God's anger against the foul, in angry looks, which, if perceived, are enough to put the stoutest sinner out of countenance. In this way did the Lord look unto the host of the Egyptians, through the pillar of sire and of the cloud, and troubled them, Exod. xiv. 24. Angry words, even fad threats, ministered by the word and the man's conscience; also sad strokes upon the soul,

sometimes sometimes upon the body, sometimes on both at once, are measured out.

But to this it may be objected, fays one, " Happy am I then, for I see no such thing." Ans. Were there no more upon most of us than we seel, we would have a very light burden either of sin or wrath upon us. But take heed ye be not like Ephraim, fiosea,. virl 9. "Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not." Or like the Ephesians, chap. iv. 19. "Who being past seeling, gave themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uneleanness with greediness." Are you going on in your sins? then be sure God is going on against you, pursuing his quarrel; and even in small things, if it were but the miscarrying of a basket of bread, the curse of God is in it to a wicked man, which makes it in itself very heavy. There are two kinds of strokes upon the foul: (1.) Deadening strokes; these are secret strokes which God gives, and they are not easily perceived. By them the conscience is deadened, the foul stupisied, and thus the man is fattened for the day of flaughter. People think never to get their sill of ease, and sometimes the Lord gives them enough of it: Hos. iv. 17. " Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone," (Heb. give hint reji). (2.) Quickening strokes: Hos. v. 14. "For I will be to Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah; I, even I, will tear and go away, and no one shall rescue him." By such strokes the conscience is made like mount Sinai, when there was nothing but thunder and lightning, and the found of the trumpet waxing louder and louder. Many men's consciences are like iron taken out of the sire, and having lain a D 3 little, little, no sire appears there ; but when some drops of water fall on it, it makes a hissing noise.

But the objector still says, " On the contrary, I find Providence very favourable to me." Ans. Is it in spiritual good things? sindest thou that because he lives, thou livest also? Is Providence kind to thee in influences of grace, communion with God? surely, then, Christ has taken away the separationwall. But is it in external things? then know that these are no discriminating marks of nearness to God; see Job xxi. 7. God is kind to you as ye are to him, Levit. xxvi. 27. " And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me, then I will walk contrary unto you also in sury." He tells them they walked with him by accident, by the by, when they chanced to light on him; and he fays he will walk with them so too; What good the wicked does, is for another end than the glory of God; and what good he does to them, is oftentimes in wrath.

Now this separation is twofold: 1. Total, agreeing to the wicked only, to whom, in respect of their state, God is an enemy. This is that state of separation from God in which we are born, produced by Adam's sin, Rom. v. 12. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by fin; and so death pasted upon all men, for that all havesinned." This, to some,even to the elect, is only temporary, the separation-wall being pulled down, and they brought near by the blood of Christ applied by-faith at their conversion, Ephes. ii. 13. To others it is eternal, who living and dying in a state of distance from God, ate separated from God, soul and body in hell for evermore; according to that, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting sire." This eternal separation is not meant in the text, but it is a certain consequent of the other, if it is

continued

continued in, for none are brought near to God in glory, who are not, by grace, sirst brought near to him here.

I. There is a partial separation, which agrees to the godly, who have the root of the matter in them. Sometimes the Lord is provoked to withdraw from his own people: "1 opened," fays the spouse, Song v. 6. "to my beloved, but my beloved had withdrawn himself; my soul sailed when he spake; I sought him, but 1 could not sind him; I called him,but he gave me no answer." Sometimes Christ's garden is left, so that there is no blowing of the Spirit there, Song, iv. 16. Hence the saints are so often praying to God to return to them. Often may we see the King's children, having their white robes sullied with tears, and rolled in the dust, because of a departed God. What a mournsul voice has the sweet singer of Israel often, under desertions and hidings of God's face! Heman looks upon himself as a burgess of the land of darkness, not only forsaken, but forgotten, Psal. yiii. 8. This makes them, with Job, cry out, " O! that it •were with me as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shone on my head!"

II. I Shall evince the greatness of the evil of separation from God, which many go so light under. Alas! many reign like kings with God ;. they be like king Saul, when God departed from him; but how fad a thing this is, will appear, if we consider,

1. What God is. Every thing in God speaks terror to those that are separated from him. I shall only take notice of these following: (1.) God is the chief ^ood; and therefore, to be separated from God is the chief evil. Our native country we look on as good; and therefore, to be banished from it is a heavy trial. Relations are good, lise and liberty are good j and therefore, to be deprived ved of them is very afflicting. But God is the chief good; all these petty good things disappear, and dwindle into nothing, when compared with God. How dreadsul, then, must it be to be separated from him! If the enjoyment of him is the highest pinnacle of happiness, separation from him is the lowest step of misery. It is often observed as an aggravation of the sufferings of the primitive Christians, that they suffered not only from the Emperors who were accounted monsters of men, but also from those who were admired by the people for their virtues. Surely, then, to be cast off by Goodness itself in insinite persection, must be very distressing. (a<) God is all-sufficient in himself, and to the creatures. The enjoyment of him makes truly happy; and therefore, to be separated from him is a dreadsul evil. While David thinks on God as his portion, his heart-leaps for joy: "The Hnes," fays he, " are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage," Psal. xvi. 6.—9. While Cain sees himself driven from his presence, his punishment appears intolerable. The frowns of those we depend upon, and cannot live without, are very grievous. To forsake the " fountain of living Waters," Jer. ii. 13. is held forth as a . great evil of sin; and to be partially separated from it, must also be a great punishment. (3.) The omnipotence of God. Job takes notice, that" the arrows ihot against him were arrows of the Almighty," Job, vi. 4. Let all the men on earth, and devils in hell, let the angels come down and help to draw the bow, still it is but sinite power against the man; but how terrible would it be, to be a mark to these arrows! how much more, when the Omnipotent God pursues the quarrel! (4.) The absoluteness of God. Let men and devils work against the sinner, let them do their utmost, there

« PreviousContinue »