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battle, many others carried away in the ordinary and inevitable course of things, many perils in one word, with which we were threatened, but which thy mercy, O God, hath freed us from! On the other hand, this sacred table, these august symbols, these earnests of our eternal felicity, all these objects, do they not render this day one of the most singular in our lives?
If heaven hath thus heard the earth (we are happy to acknowledge it, my brethren, and we eagerly embrace this opportunity of publishing your praise) the earth hath heard the heaven. To judge by appearance, you have answered our wishes, and exceeded our hopes. You were exhorted to prepare for the Lord's supper, you did prepare for it. You were called to public worship, you came. You were exhorted to attend to the word of God, you did attend to it. You were required to form resolutions of a holy life, you made these resolutions. It seemed, while we saw you come with united ardor this morning to the table of Jesus Christ, it seemed as if we heard you say, with the Israelites of old, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.
But we declare, my brethren, a cloud comes over the bright scene of this solemnity. I fear, shall I say the forty? Alas, I fear the four succeeding days! These doors will be shut, this table will be removed, the voice of the servants of God will cease to sound in your ears, and, I fear the Lord will say of you, they have quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them.
Let us not content ourselves with foreseeing this evil, let us endeavor to prevent it. This is the design of the present discourse in which we will treat of transient devotions. To you, in the name of God, we address the words, the tender words,
which will occasion more reflections than they may seem at first to do, but which no reflection can exhaust, О Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee ? For your goodness is us a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth aroay.
0 Almighty God! We humbly beseech thee, enable us in the offerings we make to thee to resemble thee in the favors, which thou bestowest upon us ! Thy gifts to us are without repentance, thy covenant with us contains this clause, the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed. I have sworn that I will not be wroth with thee ! O that our offerings to thee may be without repentance, Othat we may be able to reply, the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my fidelity shall never depart from thee, neither shall the de. dication, which I have made of myself to thee, ever be removed ! I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. Amen.
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? Ephraim, Judah, are terms of the text, that have very little need of explication. You know, that the people of God were united in one state till the time of Jereboam, when he rent a part from Rehoboam the son of Solomon, thus two kingdoms were constituted, that of Judah and that of Israel. Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah, and of Israel Samaria was the metropolis, and it is sometimes called Ephraim in scripture. By Judah and Ephraim the prophet then means both these kingdoms. This wants no proof, and if there be any thing worth remarking on this occasion, it is that most interpreters, who
are often the echoes of one another, describe the ministry of Hosea as directed only to the kingdom of Israel, whereas it is clear by the text, and by several other passages, that it was addressed both to Israel and Judah.
But of all unlucky conjectures, I question whether there be one more so than that of some divines, who think our text prophetical. In their opinion the goodness mentioned in the text is the mercy of God displayed in the gospel. The dew signifies Jesus Christ. The morning, thy goodness is like the morning dew intends the covenant of grace. As every one proposes his opinion under sorne appearance of evidence, it is said in favor of this, that the expression, thy goodness, does not signify the goodness of the people, but that which is manifested to the people, and in proof of this the idiom of the Hebrew tongue is alleged, with divers passages that justify this tour of expression, as this, my people are bent to their backsliding, that is to backsliding from me.
The dew, say they, signifies the Messiah, for he is promised under that emblem in many passages of scripture. They add further, the morning, signifies the new dispensation of the gospel, which is often announced under this idea by the prophets, and all this text, thy goodness is as the early dew which goeth away, opens a wonderful contrast between the law and the gospel. The law was like a storm of hail destroying the fruits of the earth, but the gospel is a dew that makes every thing fruitful ; the law was a dark night, but the gospel is a fine day; thy goodness is like the morning dew which goeth away, that is to say, which cometh. Here are many good truths out of place. Thy goodness may sig. nify, for any thing we know, goodness exercised towards thee; the Messiah is represented as a dew : the gospel economy is promised under the emblem of the morning, all this is true, but all this is not the sense of the text. The word goodness, which is the first mistake of the exposition just now given, may be understood of piety in general. It hath that meaning in many passages of scripture. The substantive derived from it is usually put for pious persons, and according to a celebrated critic, it is from the word hasidim, the pious, that the word essenes is derived, a name given to the whole sect among the Jews, because they possessed a more eminent piety than others. A goodness like the morning dew is a seeming piety which goeth away, that is of short duration, and all these words, O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away, are a reproof from God to his people for the unsteadiness of their devotions. In this light we will consider the text, and shew you first the nature--and secondly the unprofitableness of transient devotions.
I. Let us first enquire the nature of the piety in question. What is this goodness or piety, that is as a morning cloud, and goeth away as the early dew? We do not understand by this piety either those deceitful appearances of hypocrites, who conceal their profane and irreligious hearts under the cover of ardor and religion, or the disposition of those christians, who fall through their own frailty from high degrees of pious zeal, and experience motions of sin after they have felt exercises of grace. The devotion we mean to describe goes further than the first : but it does not go so far as the last.
The transient devotion, of which we speak, is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy cannot suspend the strokes of divine justice one single moment, and it is more likely to inflame than to extinguish the righteous indignation of God. It is not to hypocrites that God addressed this tender language, o Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? 0 Judah what shall I do unto thee? Their sentence is de. clared, their punishment is ready. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites. The portion of hypocrites shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, Matt. xv. 7. xxiii. 13. and xxiv. 51.
Nor is the piety we mean to describe that of the weak and revolting believer. How imperfect soever this piety may be, yet it is real. It is certainly a very mortifying consideration to a believer that he should be at any time hemmed in, confined, and clogged in his devotional exercises. In some golden days of his life, forgetting the world, and wholly employed about heavenly things, how happy was he, how delicious bis enjoyment, when he surmounted sense and sin, ascended to God like Moses formerly on the holy mount, and there conversed with his heavenly Father concerning religion, salvation, and eternity! O how richly did he then think himself indemnified for the loss of time in worldly pursuits by pouring his complaints into the bosom of God, by opening all his heart, by saying to him with inspired men, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee! It is good for me to draw near to God! My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips ! I say, it is a very mortifying thing to him, after such elevations in the enjoyment of such mag