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from others in the time of general declining, who would have the Lord to distinguish them from others in the time of general calamity.--We shall point out,
11. The marks of favour by which, in times of great calamity, God uses to distinguish such.
III. We shall subjoin some reasons of the point, to confirm it.--And,
IV. Make some improvement.
We are then, I. To shew how those must distinguish themselves from others in the time of general declining, who would have the Lord to distinguish them from others in time of general calamity.--Here we observe,
1. That they must be best, when others are worst : Gen. vi. 9. « Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation, and Noah walked with God." Their candle muft fhine brightest, when that of others is dying out. It is the
It is the property of holy zeal for God and his way, to become more vehement by opposition; so that the declining of others is as oil to their flame. It was better with Lot when he dwelt among the Sodomites, than when with his own children in the cave : 2 Pet. ii. 7.-10, " And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds).” The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement, to be punished.” " It is time for thee, Lord, to work; for they have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold.” If religion be dying out among
others, this will the more kindle an holy fire of zeal, and increase it in their own breasts.---We observe,
2. That they must cleave to God, especially in that article in which others are leaving him, as in Caleb's case; that is to say, they must be careful that they be not led away with the fins of the time, that they do not enter into the general conspiracy of the generation against the Lord and his way, whether it be against truth or holiness. Thus the promise was to those who kept the life and power of godliness in Sardis, where there was a great general declining, a deadness and formality, and the bare carcase of religion : Rev. iii. 4. “ Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." —We observe,
3. That they must witness against every declining, according to their stations, and as they have access, for the exoneration of their own consciences, and the honour of God. Thus did Noah, that preacher of righteousness, to that unrighteous world. These must give a real testimony by their contrary practice, and, as they may have access, labour to withdraw. others, from sinful courses. Thus did Caleb.We observé,
4. That they must be mourners over the sins of others, lamenting them before the Lord ; fighing and crying for all the abominations which are done in the midst of the land, Ezek. ix. 4. They must mourn for those who cannot mourn for themselves. When the glory of God is impaired by the fins of an apoftatising generation, their love to the persons. of the finners, and hatred of their fins, must draw. tears of godly sorrow from their eyes.
Let us now, II. Point out the marks of favour by which, in times of general calamity, God useth to distinguish fuch. There is,
1. Liberal furniture for duty, in a large communication of the Spirit, when the Spirit is withdrawn from others : Matth. x. 19. “ But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that fame hour what ye shall speak. The Lord calls not his people to ferve him for nought ; he even rewards the will to his work, with strength for it. If they be refolute to bear his burden, God will strengthen the back for it. Hence it comes to pass, that God's people never make better speed, than when rowing against the stream of opposition.— There is,
2. Intimations of his special love to their souls. Thus had Caleb in the text. The faints of God have often golden days in the dregs of time upon this account. When the deluge of public calamity carries incorrigible finners before it, with their burden of guilt upon their back, the saints are then made to rest in the evil day, by virtue of that peace which they have with God and their own conscience, Hab. iii. 16.-There is,
3. Special provision in a time of calamity : Pfal. xxxvii
. 19. "They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be fatisfied." God rifeth often to fee well to the provifion of those whose work it is to cleave to their duty, and rely on the Lord for their provision : Pfal. xxxvii. 3. « Trust in the Lord, and do good; fo shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” So that their faces are fatter and fairer than those who eat of the defiled meat. There is,
4. Special protection in an evil day. God sets a mark on their foreheads : Ezek. ix. 4. “ And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and fet a mark upon the foreheads of the men that figh, and that
cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." They are always protected from the evil of trouble ; but God sometimes, befides this, affords them special protection from trouble, by fome surprising providence removing them out of the way of it; sometimes by making them find favour in the eyes of their enemies : Jer. xv. 11. “ The Lord said, Verily, it shall be well with thy remnant ; verily, I will cause the enemy to intreat thee well in the time of evil, and in the time of afħiction.” And sometimes by hiding them in the grave before the calamity come on: Isa. lvii. 1. 2. “ The righteous man perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness."
Lastly, He gives them the crown of glory: Rev. ii. 10. « Fear none of these things which thou fhalt suffer ; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: Be thou faithful unto the death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” He brings them into Canaan above, and crowns them, while others, who forsook God, are for ever forsaken of him; and they who finned with the multitude, fuffer with them for ever : Luke,
“ Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that
ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and fit on thrones, judging
xxii. 28. 29. 30.
the twelve tribes of Israel."-We how proceed very shortly,
III. To subjoin the reasons of the point, to confirm it.—Here we offer the following, viz.
1. It is hard work to follow fully in a declining time, to strive against the stream which is so ready to carry people away : Matth. xxiv. 12. “ And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many fhall wax cold." Hard to keep warm in cold Sardis, Rev. iii. 4. To keep up the flame of religion, when a deluge of fin comes on, is
hard work. But hard work has always the greatest reward from the Lord.
2. It is a piece of special honour to God; and those who honour him he will honour. It is not so much to follow Christ when he hath a great backing, as to cleave to him when many are dropping off from him on every hand.
3. The Lord orders it so for the encouragement of his people, to follow him fully. He gives them the view of the recompence of reward, to encourage and animate them in pressing forward towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
IV. We are now to make fome brief improvement of the whole ; and this, I. In an use of information:
-We fee, (1.) That none shall be losers at God's handi They that cleave to him, when others leave him, God will cleave to them when he forsakes othersi Our errand will come in his way, and he will shew himself mindful of any respect and love shewn him by them that walk uprightly. We see,
(2.) That he who walketh uprightly walks furely, come what will come. Whofo wanders from