« PreviousContinue »
Let us therefore consider what those provocations were, that haftened the wrath of God upon his owo Ifrael, a people that Were Digh and dear unto him ; a people upon whom he spent as much of the riches of his patience, as upon any people in the world; chat fo we may reckon whereabout we are at this day, and what is like to be the lot of this foful and provokiog geo Deration; and we shall find, by the consent of all the prophets
, that these lins were the immediate førerudders, and proper cat. ses of their overthrow.
First, The great corruption of God's worship among them kindled his wrath, and haltened their çuin, Pla. cvi. 39, 40, 41, 42. fc They were defiled with their own works, and wedi a « whoring with their own inventions; therefore was the wrath " of God kiodled against his own people, ipfomuch that he ab“ horred his own inheritaace, and he gave them into the hand
of the heathco, and they that hated them ruled over them; “ their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into " subjection poder their hand." They that will not bear the golden yoke of Christ, shall be galled with the iron yoke of mea: nothing more provokes the anger of God, than the adulterating of his worship; a mao will bear a thousand infirmities in the wife of his bosom, but unfaithfulness in the marriage-covenant breaks his heart. After the manner of men, so abused and griet. ed, the Lord expresseth himself, Ezek. vi. 9. “ I am broken with “ their whorith heart, which hath departed from me, and with " their eyes that go a whoring after their idols.” Men cannot invent a furer, and speedier way to their own ruin, than to bring their own inventions into God's worship.
Secondly, locorrigible obstipacy and impenitency, onder gedt, ler strokes, and leser judgments, makes way for atter ruio and defolation, Amos iv. from the 6th to the 12th verfe. Scarcity, mildews, pestilence, and (word, had been tried upon them, but without effect; for the remoant that escaped those judgments
, (although plocked as fo many brands out of the fire, in which their fellow figners perished) were not reformed by those georier aod moderated judgments.
Thirdly, Stupidity, and fenfelessnefs of God's hand, and the tokeas of bis anger, was a provoking cause, and forerdosing of their national desolation; they neither law the hand of God when it was lifted ap, oor humbled themselves vader it when it was laid on ; the hand of God is then said to be lifted up, when the providences of God prepare and posture themselves for our affliction. When the clouds of judgment gather over our heads, and grow blacker and blacker, as theirs did upon them, and do
upod us at this day, but they took co dotice of it, Fla. xxvi. 11. • Lord, when thy haod is lifred up, they will not see ;” and
(which is the height of stupidity) they all remained fepseless, i and regardless, when the hand of God was laid upon them. Ifa. is xlii. 24, 25. “ Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Itrael to the robe
“ bers? Did not the Lord, he agaiost whom we have finaed ? " for they would not walk io his ways, neither were they obes “ dient to his law. Therefore he hath poured upon them thic “ fury of his anger, and the strength of battle; and it hath ser “ him, on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned " him, yet he laid it not to heart."
O prodigious fortifhoess! It was not some small drops of this God's anger, but the fury of his anger ; Dot fome lighter skir
mich of his judgments with them, but the Arength of battle : It was not fome particular stroke upon single perfoos, or families, but it set him on fire round about, a general conflagration ; yet all this would not awaken them.
Fourthly, The persecution of God's faithful ministers, and people, was another fin that procured, and a figo that foretold the destruction of their natiop. 2 Chrob. xxxvi. 15, 16. “ And " the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messeogers,
rising up betimes, and feoding ; because he had compaflion " on his people, and on his dwelling-place : but they mocked " the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused “ his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his
people, till there was no remedy." There were also a aumber of upright souls among them, who desired to worship God according to his own prescription ;- but a snare was laid for thema in Mizpeh, and a pet spread for them upop Tabor, Hof. v. 1. and this haftened judgment towards them : Mizpeh and Tabor were places lyiog in the way betwixt Samaria and Jerufalem, where the true worship of God was : abd in those places fpies were fet by the priests to observe, and inform agaiolt them; lo that it became very hazardous to attend the pure and incorrupt Worship of God, which quickly hattened on their ruin.
Fifthly, The removal of godly and useful men by death, in more than ordinary hafte, was to them a figo of desolation at hand. lfa. Ivii. i.“ The righteous perisheth, and no man lay" eth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, done con
sideriog that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.”
In this cale God acts towards his people, as the husbandman in a catching harveft doth by his cora; he hurries it with a shuffling hafte into the baro, when he fees a storm coming : or as a caretul father with his fons that are abroad at
school, who fends his horse to fetch them home speedily, when he hears the plague is begun in the place. Upon this ground the prophet Micah bewails himself, Micah vi. 1. “ Wo is me, “ for I am as when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as the “ grape gleanings of the vintage, there is no cluster to eat; my '" fou desired the first ripe-fruit." 2 d. Alas ! alas ! what miserable days are at haod'! what miseries must I expect to see! The pleasant clusters, (i.e.) the societies of the saints, are gathered away by the hand of death; there are but few that remain, here and there a single faiat, like grapes after the vintage is done, two or three upon the utmost branches.
Sixthly, The general decay of the life and power of godliness among them that were left, foreboded destruction at the door: this is both a provoking fin, and a fore-running ligo of national calamity. Hotea iv. 18. Their drink is fowre. taphor lively expressing the deadoefs and formality of the people in the worship of God. It was like sowre, or dead drink, which hath loft its spirit and relith, and is become fat. Such were their duties ; no fpiritual life, affection, or favour in them: they heard, as if they heard not, and prayed, as if they pray, ed not ; the ordinances of God were to them as the ordinances of men, of which the apostle faith, that they perish in the using.
Seventhly, To conclude ; Mutual animosities, jars, and divifiops, were to them manifest symptoms of national calamities and desolatioos: for then Ephraim envied Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim, Isa. xi. 13. Hofea ix. 7. “ The days of vista« tion are come, the days of recompence are come, Ifrael shall “ koow it: The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for “ the multitude of thine iniquities, and the great hatred."
When such fymptoms of God's indignation do appear upor any people, the Lord, by them, as by so many glariog meteors, and blazing comets, forewarns the world that his judgments are Dear, even at the door, These signs all med ought to observe, and behold with trembling. If you ask, Why doth God usually give such warnings of his indignation before it comes? The realons are,
1. To prevent the execution.
3. To leave the incorrigible inexcusable. First, Warning is given, with design to prevent the execution of judgments, Amos iv. 12. " Therefore thus will I do
unto thee, O Ifrael; and because I will do this upto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel ;” (i.c.) Prepare thyself
to meet me in the way of my judgments, by humiliation and intercession, to prevent the execution. And what else was the design of God in lending Jonah to that great city Nineveh, but to excite them to repentance for the prevention of their ruin. This Jonah koew to be the Lord's meaning, how positive foever the words of his commission were ; and therefore he declined the message to secure his credit; knowing, that if upon warning given they repented, the gracious nature of God would soon melt into compassion over them, and free-grace would make him appear as a liar; for so we must expound his words, Jonah iv. 2. • Was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? “ Therefore I filed before uato Tarshish: for I knew that thou “ art a gracious God, and merciful, flow to anger, and of great " kiadaess, and repentest thee of the evil.” Q. d. Yea, Lord, I knew before-hand it would come to this; thou sendest me pofitively to denounce thy judgments to Nineveh, mean time defiring nothing more than that the execution of them might be prevented by their repentance. And thus thy mercy hath exposed my reputation, io saving them from destruction.
Secondly, God forewards his people of judgments, to make them more tolerable when they come: expected evils are nothing so heavy, as those that come by surprizal; for look, as the long expectation of a mercy makes it less sweet, our thoughts have
ing anticipated and fucked out much of the sweetness beforeBu haqd; so the expectation of judgments before they befal us,
make them lefs bitter and burdensome than else they would be, the soul having ioured and accustomed itself to them, by frequeot thoughts, and prepared and made ready itself to entertain them, as Paul did in my text. To prevent the disciples surprizal, and offence, at those days of perfecution that were coming upon them, Christ foretold them, and gave them fair warning before-hand, Joho xvi. 4.
Thirdly, He forewarns his people of approaching dangers, to leave the incorrigible wholly inexcufable, that those who have no seose of sin, oor care to prevent ruin, might have no cloke for their folly when judgments overtake them. “ What wilt “ thou say when he shall punish thee?" Jer. xiii. 21, 22. As if he should say, What plea, or apology is left thee, after so many fair warnings, and timely premonitions ? Thou canst not say, I have surprized thee, or that thou was ruined before thou wast warned. Thy destruction therefore is of thyself.
CH A P. IV.
of sufferings, and what a blessed thing it is to be ready to be
I Am ready.) O blessed frame of spirit ! how hard, but how
happy is it to get a heart fo tempered! Every Chriftian can say, I would be ready, and the Lord make me ready for suffer ings; but few can fay, I am ready, my heart is prepared and fitted for such a work: get this example shews us it is attainable: and what a blefled thing it is to attain it, the following particulars will abundantly convince us. ftian to ao holy rest and traoquillity, in a suffering hour, and a his fa
First, Readiness for sufferings will bring the heart of a Chriwhich puts the finking weight into afflictions. The more cares, came prevent that anxiety, perturbation, and diftraction of mind
, plante fears, and troubles, we have before our sufferings come, the more calm, quiet, and composed we are like to be when our fufferings are come indeed. It is admirable to consider with what peace and patience Job entertained his troubles, which the considering the kinds, degrees, and manner in which they befel mazed him, and put his soul (as gracious and mortified as it was) as a him, one would think they should at lealt have Itartled and a iato great disorder aod confusion; but you find the contrarsi lishe Dever did the patience of a man triumph at that rate orer adversity ; be worthips God, owns his hand, and resigns himself up to his pleasure, Job i. 20, 21. And whence was this? Surely had his troubles come by way of surprize, he could ne vienos ver have carried it at that rate ; but in the days of his pero the and profperity he had prepared for foch a day as this, Job ii. 25, 26. “ I was not in safety, neither had I reft ; yet
trouble " came ; the thing that I feared (faith he) is come upon He laid it to heart before it came, and therefore it neither die stracted, nor brake the heart wheo it came. lo like manner the prophet Habakkuk stood upon his watch-tower, (i. e.) he made his observations by the word upon the probable events of providence, whereby be got a clear foresight of those troublefome days that were at hand; which though it made him tremble in himself, yet it gave him rest in the day of evil, Hab. iii. 16, 17, 18. There is a twofold rest in the day of evil, viz.
1. A rest of deliverance. 2. A rell of contentation.