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the field of battle: the first beginning of a retreat greatly encourages the enemy, and weakens the retreating soldiers.
2. Let me direct you to forsake all such practices as you find by experience do indispose you to the duty of secret prayer. Examine the things in which you have allowed yourselves, and inquire whether they have had this effect. You are able to look over your past behaviour, and may doubtless, on an impartial consideration, make a judgment of the practices and courses in which you have allowed yourselves.
Particularly let young people examine their manner of company keeping, and the round of diversions in which with their companions they have allowed themselves. I only desire that you would ask at the mouth of your own consciences what has been the effect of these things with respect to your attendance on the duty of secret prayer. Have you not found that such practices have tended to the neglect of this duty? Have you not found that after them you have been more indisposed to it, and less conscientious and careful to attend it? Yea, have they not from time to time, actually been the means of your neglecting it?
If you cannot deny that this is really the case, then if you seek the good of your souls, forsake these practices. Whatever you may plead for them, as that there is no harm in them, or that there is a time for all things, and the like; yet if you find this harm in the consequence, it is time for you to forsake them. And if you value heaven more than a little worldly diversion; if you set a higher price on eternal glory, than on a dance or a song, you will forsake them.
If these things be lawful in themselves, yet if your experience shew, that they are attended with such a consequence as I have now mentioned, that is enough. It is lawful in itself for you to enjoy your right hand and your right eye: but if by experience you find they cause you to offend, it is time for you to cut off the one, and pluck out the other, as you would rather go to heaven without them than to go to hell with them, into that place of torment where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
THE FUTURE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED UNAVOIDABLE AND INTOLERABLE.
EZEK. XXII. 14.
Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.
In the former part of this chapter, we have a dreadful catalogue of the sins of Jerusalem; as you may see from the first to the thirteenth verse. In the thirteenth, which is the verse preceding the text, God manifests his great displeasure and fearful wrath against them for their iniquities. "Behold, I have smitten my hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee." The expression of God's smiting his hand, signifies the greatness of his anger, and his preparing himself, as it were, to execute wrath answerable to their heinous crimes. It is an allusion to what we sometimes see in men when they are surprised, by seeing or hearing of some horrid offence, or most intolerable injury, which very much stirs their spirits, and animates them with high resentment; on such an occasion they will rise up in wrath and smite their hands together, as an expression of the heat of their indignation, and full resolution to be avenged on those who have committed the injury; as in chap. xxii. 17. "I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest; I the Lord have said it." Then, in the text, the punishment of that people is represented.
1. The nature of their punishment is more generally represented in that, God will undertake to deal with them. The prophets could do nothing with them. God had sent them one after another; but those sinners were too strong for them, and
beat one, and killed another. Therefore now God himself undertakes to deal with them.
2. Their punishment is more particularly represented in three things, viz. The intolerableness, the remedilessness, and the unavoidableness of it.-The intolerableness of it: can thine heart endure? Its remedilessness, or the impossibility of their doing any thing for their own relief: can thine hands be strong? -Its unavoidableness: I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.
Since God hath undertaken to deal with impenitent sinners, they shall neither shun the threatened misery, nor deliver themselves out of it, nor can they bear it.
In handling this doctrine I shall, 1. Shew what is implied in God's undertaking to deal with impenitent sinners. 2. That therefore they cannot avoid punishment. 3. That they cannot in any measure deliver themselves from it; or do any thing for their own relief under it. 4. That they cannot bear it. 5. I shall answer an inquiry; and then proceed to the use.
I. I shall shew what is implied in God's undertaking to deal with impenitent sinners. Others are not able to deal with them. They baffle all the means used with them by those that are appointed to teach and to rule over them. They will not yield to parents, or to the counsels, warnings, or reproofs of ministers: they prove obstinate and stiff-hearted. Therefore God undertakes to deal with them. This implies the following things:
1. That God will reckon with them, and take of them satisfaction to his justice. In this world God puts forth his authority to command them, and to require their subjection to him. In his commands he is very positive, strictly requiring of them the performance of duties, and as positively forbidding things contrary to their duty. But they have no regard to these commands. God continues commanding, and they continue rebelling. They make nothing of God's authority. threatens, but they despise his threatenings. They make nothing of dishonouring God: they care not how much their behaviour is to his dishonour. He offers them mercy, if they will repent and return but they despise his mercy as well as his wrath.God calleth, but they refuse. Thus they are continually plunging themselves deeper and deeper in debt, and at the same time imagine they shall escape the payment of the debt, and design entirely to rob God of his due.
But God hath undertaken to right himself. He will reckon with them; he hath undertaken to see that the debts due to him
are paid. All their sins are written in his book; not one of them is forgotten, and every one must be paid. If God be wise enough, and strong enough, he will have full satisfaction; he will exact the very utmost farthing. He undertakes it as his part, as what belongs to him, to see himself righted, wherein he hath been wronged. Deut. xxxii. 35. "To me belongeth vengeance." Ibid. vii. 10. "He will not be slack to him that hateth him; he will repay him to his face."
2. He hath undertaken to vindicate the honour of his majesty. His majesty they despise. They hear that he is a great God; but they despise his greatness; they look upon him as worthy of contempt, and treat him accordingly. They hear of him by the name of a great king; but his authority they regard not, and sometimes trample upon it for years together.
But God hath not left the honour of his majesty wholly to their care. Though they now trample it in the dust, yet that is no sign that it will finally be lost. If God had left it wholly in their hands, it would indeed be lost. But God doth not leave his honour and his glory with his enemies; it is too precious in his eyes to be so neglected. He hath reserved the care of it to himself: he will see to it, that his own injured majesty is vindicated. If the honour of God, upon which sinners trample, finally lie in the dust, it will be because he is not strong enough to vindicate himself. He hath sworn, in Numb. xiv. 21, As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord."
Sinners despise his Son, and trample him under their feet; but he will see if he cannot make the glory of his Son appear, with respect to them; that all the earth may know how evil a thing it is to despise the Son of God. God intends that all men and angels, all heaven and all earth, shall see whether he be sufficient to magnify himself upon sinners who now despise him. He intends that the issue of things with respect to them shall be open, that all men may see it.
3. He hath undertaken to subdue impenitent sinners. Their hearts, while in this world, are very unsubdued. They lift up their heads and conduct themselves very proudly and contemptuously, and often sin with a high hand. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongues walk through the earth. They practically say, as Pharaoh did, "Who is the Lord? I know not the Lord, neither will I obey his voice." Job xxi. 41. They say to God, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways."
Some, who cover their sin with a specious show, who put on a face of religion, and a demure countenance and behaviour, yet have this spirit secretly reigning in their breasts. Notwithstanding all their fair show, and good external carriage, they despise God in their hearts, and have the weapons of war about
them, though they carry their swords under their skirts. They have most proud, stubborn, and rebellious hearts, which are ready to rise in opposition, to contend with him, and to find fault with his dispensations. Their hearts are full of pride, enmity, stubbornness, and blasphemy, which work in them many ways, while they sit under the preaching of the word, and while the Spirit of God is striving with them: and they always continue to oppose and resist God as long as they live in the world; they never lay down the weapons of their rebellion.
But God hath undertaken to deal with them, and to subdue them; and those proud and stubborn hearts, which will not yield to the power of God's word, shall be broken by the power of his hand. If they will not be willing subjects to the golden sceptre, and will not yield to the attractives of his love, they shall be subject to the force of the iron rod, whether they will or not.
Them that proudly set up their own righteousness, and their own wills, God hath undertaken to bring down: and, without doubt, it will be done. He hath undertaken to make those who are now regardless, to regard him. They shall know that he is Jehovah. Now they will not own that he is the Lord; but they shall know it. Isaiah xxvi. 11. "Lord, when thine hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see."
Now wicked men not only hate God, but they slight him; they are not afraid of him. But he will subdue their contempt. When he shall come to take them in hand, they will hate him still; but they will not slight him; they will not make light of his power as they now do; they will see and feel too much of the infinity of his power to slight it. They are now wont to slight his wrath; but then they will slight it no more; they will find by sufficient experience, that his wrath is not to be slighted: they will learn this to their cost, and they never will forget it.
4. God hath undertaken to rectify their judgments. Now they will not be convinced of those things which God tells them in his word. Ministers take much pains to convince them, but all is in vain. Therefore God will undertake to convince them, and he will do it effectually. Now they will not be convinced of the truth of divine things. They have, indeed, convincing arguments set before them; they hear and see enough to convince them; yet, so prone are they to unbelief and atheism, that divine things never seem to them to be real. But God will hereafter make them seem real.
Now they are always doubting of the truth of the scriptures, questioning whether they be the word of God, and whether the threatenings of scripture be true. But God hath undertaken to convince them, that those threatenings are true, and he will make them to know that they are true, so that they will never doubt any more for ever. They will be convinced by dear