Page images
PDF
EPUB

lived four hundred years after those of whom God spoke to Abraham: and thus we must expect it to be with us, for we also shall deserve the punishments due to our ancestors, if we have any one of the unions with them, which hath been mentioned. Your meditation will supply what is wanting to this article.

It sometimes falls out in this economy, that the innocent suffer while the guilty escape : But neither this, nor any other inconvenience, that may attend this economy, is to be compared with the advantages of it. The obligation of a citizen to submit to the decision of an ignorant, or a corrupt judge, is an inconvenience in society: however, this inconvenience ought not to free other men from submitting to decisions at law; because the benefits, that society derives from a judicial mode of decision, will exceed, beyond all comparison, the evils that may attend a perversion of justice in a very few cases. Society would be in continual confusion, were the members of it allowed sometimes to resist the decisions of their lawful judges. Private disputes would never end; public quarrels would be eternal ; and the administration of justice wonld be futile and useless.

Beside, Providence hath numberless ways of remedying the inconveniences of this just æconomy, and of indenınifying all those innocent persons, who may be involved in punishments due to the guilty. If, when God sendeth fruitful seasons to a nation, to reward their good use of the fruits of the earth, an individual destitute of virtue, reap the benefit of those who are virtuous, an infinitely wise Providence can find ways to poison all his pleasures, and to prevent his enjoyment of the prospe rity of the just. If an innocent person be involved in a national calamity, an infinitely wise Pro

vidence knows how to indemnify him for all he may sacrifice to that justice, which requires that a notoriously wicked nation should become a notorious example of God's abhorrence of wickedness.

Having established these principles, let us apply them to the words of Jesus Christ, which were just now quoted, and to the text.

The Jewish nation, considered in the just light of a moral person, was guilty of an innumerable multitude of the most atrocious crimes. It had not only not profited by the earnest exhortations of those extraordinary men, whom heaven had raised up to rectify its mistakes, and to reform its morals : but it had risen up against them as enemies of society, who came to trouble the peace of mankind. When they had the courage faithfully to reprove the excesses of its princes they were accused of opposing the regal authority itself; when they ventured to attack errors, that were in credit with the ministers of religion, they were taxed with resisting religion itself; and, under these pretences, they were frequently put to death. Witness the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, the apostle St. James, and Jesus Christ himself..

God had often exhorted that nation to repent, and had urged the most tender and the most terrible motives to repentance: one while he loaded it with benefits, another while he threatened it with punishments. Sometimes he supported the authority of his messages by national judgments; sermons were legible by lightning, and thunder procured attention, doctrines were re-iterated by pestilence and famine, and exhortations were re-echoed by banishment and war. All these means had been ineffectual: or if they had produced any alteration, it had been only an apparent or a momentary change, which had vanished with the violent

.

means that produced it. The Jewish nation was always the same ; always a stiff-necked nation ; always inimical to truth, and infatuated with falshood; always averse to reproof, and thirst for the blood of its prophets. What the Jews were in the times of the prophets, that they were in the times of Jesus Christ and his apostles; they were full as barbarous to Jesus Christ as to Zachariah the son of Barachiah.

A time must come in which divine justice ought to prevent the fatal consequences of a longer forbearance; a time in which the whole world must. be convinced that God's toleration of sinners is no approbation of sin; a time when general vengeance must justify Providence by rendering to all the due rewards of their deeds. Such a time was at hand when Jesus Christ spoke to the Jews; and foreseeing the miseries that would overwhelm Judea, he told them that God would require an account, not only of the blood of all the prophets, which they had spilt, but of all the murders that had been committed on earth from the death of Abel to the slaughter of Zachariah.

Thus it was with the Amorites; and thus it will be with your provinces, if you avail yourselves of the crimes of your predecessors, if you extenuate the guilt, if you imitate the practice, if you. fill up the measure of their iniquities. Then divine justice, collecting into one point of vengeance all the crimes of the nation, will inflict punishments proportional to the time that was, granted to avert them. Thus we have sufficiently proved the justice of this æconomy.

III. Let us remark the terrors that accompany sions sufficiently sad, or images sufficiently shocking and gloomy, to describe those terrible times, The soul of Moses dissolved in considering them ;

by thy wrath we are troubled ; thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance, Psal. xc. 7, 8. Every thing that assuageth the anger of the Judge of the world is useless here. The exercise of prayer, that exer cise, which sinners have sometimes used with success to the suspending of the anger of God, to the holding of his avenging arm, and to the disarming of him of his vindictive rod, that exercise hath lost all its efficacy and power; God covereth himself with a cloud that prayer cannot pass through, Lam. iii. 44. The intercession of venerable men, who have sometimes stood in the breach, and turned away his wrath, cannot be admitted now; though Moses and Samuel stood before God, yet his mind could not be toward this people, Jer. xv. 1. Those sanctuaries, which have been consecrated to divine worship, and which have so often afforded refuges in times of danger, have lost their noble privilege, and are themselves involved in the direful calamity; The Lord casteth off his altar, abhorreth his sanctuary, giveth up into the hand of his enemy the walls of his palaces, and they make a noise in the house of the Lord as in the day of a solemn feast, Lament. ii. 7. The cries of children, which have sometimes melted down the hearts of the most inflexible, those cries cannot now excite the mercy of God, the innocent creatures themselves fall victims to his displeasure; the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city, they say to their mothers, where is corn and wine, ver. 12. The hands of pitiful women seethe their own children, they are their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people, chap. iv. 10. The treasures of grace, which have been so often opened to sinners, and from which they have derived converting power, in order to free them from the executions of justice,

these treasures are now quite exhausted; God saith, I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon my vineyard, Isa. v. 6. Go, make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes ; lést they see with their eyes, and heur with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed, chap. vi. 9, 10. O God I thou consuming fire! Deut. iv. 24. O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, Psal. xciv. 1. how fearful at hing it is to fall into thy hands ! Heb. X. 31. How dreadful are thy footsteps, when, in the cool fierceness of thine indignation, thou comest to fall upon a sinner! The blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the

foundation of the world, shall be required of this generation : from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zao charias : verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation.

IV. To conclude. We have proved that there is a fatal period, in which God will unite the sins of a nation in one point of vengeance, and will proportion the punishments, which he useth to exterminate them, to the length of time that he had granted for preventing them. And from this principle, which will be the ground of our exhortations in the close of this discourse, I infer, that as there is a particular repentance imposed on every member of society, so there is a national repentance, which regards all who compose a nation. The repentance of an individual doth not consist in merely asking pardon for his sins, and in endeavoring to correct the bad habits he hath formed; but it requires also that the sinner should go back to his first years, remember, as far' as he can, the sins that defiled his youth, lament every period of his existence, which, having been signalized by some divine favor, was also signalized by some marks of

« PreviousContinue »