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Newed as the outward man perisheth, and faith commonly grows as fortune decays. When the dove first flew out of the ark, finding nothing but wind, and rain, and rolling waves, she returned to the ark for shelter and rest: but when, in her second flight, she saw plains and fields, there she alighited and staid. Behold, my soul, thine own image. When the world exhibits to thy view prosperity, riches and honours, thou art captivated with the beauty of the enchantress, and fallest a prey to her charms. But when the world puts on the gloom of poverty, anxiety and misery, thou turnest thinc cyes towards heaven, and seekest happiness in its natural source. Even as things are now, in spite of all the distresses that belong to life, we find it difficult to detach our affections from the world: but what would be the case, if all prospered according to our wishes? Speak to a man, who talks of dying, exhaust philosophical and religious arguments to determine him to die contented; place him between two objects, heaven and earth, the world he is leaving, and the eternal state to which he is going; describe to him on the one hand the vanity and uncertainty of wordly enjoyments, tell himn of the anxieties, the indigence, poverty and nullity of every thing here, then open heaven to him, shew him happy angels for his companions, the lamb in the midst of the throne to feed him, and lead him into living fountains, of eternal joy, Rev. vii. 17. Amidst so many just reasons for his detachment from the world, this world is yet dear to him, this life, this short life, this indigent life, this life which is nothing but vanity and deception, this life appears more desirable than heaven, and all its eternal glory. If then, in spite of so many disagreeables in this life, it be so hard to quit it with content, what would be our condition, were God to give us a firmer health, a longer life, and a more flourishing state of affairs? What would be our condition, were there no mortifications in high rank, no uncertainty in friendships, no vicissitudes in fortune?
Our third complaint against God regards the rigour of his judgments. The Jews of Micah's time had experienced this in many cases, and the prophet threatened them more. Behold! the Lord cometh out of his place, and will tread upon the high places of the earth. The mountains shall be molten under him, and the vallies shall be cleft before him. Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stript and naked, I will make a wailing like the dragons, and make it mourning as the owls, for her wound isincurable. VOL. IV.
Jerusalem sholl become heaps. Zion shall be plowed 43 a field, chap. i. 3, 4, 8, 9. and iii. 12. : We have been treating of our text as it regards you, my brethren, we will therefore leave the prophet and his countrymen, in order to give you full liberty 'to exhibit your complaints, and to say now, in the presence of heaven and carth, what ills God hath inflicted on you. O my people, what have I done unto thee? Ah ! Lord! how many things liast thou done to us! Draw near ye mourning ways of Zion, ye desolate gates of Jerusalem, ye sighing priests, ye afflicted virgins, ye deserts peopled with captives, ye disciples of Jesus Christ wandering over the face of the whole earth, children torn from your parents, prisons filled with confessors, gallies freighted with martyrs, blood of our countrymen shed like water, carcases, once the venerable habitations of witnesses for religion, now thrown out to'savage beasts and birds of prey, ruins of our churches, dust, ashes, sad remains of houses dedicated to our God, fires, racks, gibbets, punishment till now unknown, draw nigh hither, and give evidence against the Lord.
My brethren, if we consider God as a Judge, what'a number of reasons may be assigned to prove the equity of all the evils, that he hath brought upon us? The abuse of "his favours? the contempt of his word, the slighting of all 'the warnings given'us by his ministers, the pride and worldly-mindedness, the luke-warmness and indifference, and many other odious vices, which preceded our 'miseries, are evi'dences too convincing that we deserved all; and they ought to make our complaints give place to the sorrowful but sincere confession, which a prophet puts in the mouth of the church, The Lord is righicoús, for I have rebelled ugainst him, Lam. i. 18.
But as we said, that in this text God was to be considered as a father, we affirm, all these chastisements, even the most rigorous of them, are perfectly consistent with this character. It was his love that engaged him to employ such severe 'means for your benefit. You know, mny bre
thren, and you know but too well, that the case, with which the enjoyment of the presence of God is obtained, too often
lessens the favour in our eyes. I'appeal to experience. Recollect the time so dear :0 you, when the gospel was preached to
you in your own country, and when God, with a bounty truly astonishing, granted you both spiritual and temporal prosperity. Did you, I appeal to your consciences, did you value these blessings according to their real worth? Were
you never disgusted with the manna, that fell every morning around your habitations ? Did you never say with the Israelites, There is nothing at all, besides, this manna, before our eyes ? Num. xi. 6. It was necessary, in order to re-animate your zeal, for God to take his candlestick away, it was necessary for you to learn the importance of salvation by the difficulty of obtaining it; and to kindle your love to your spiritual husband by his absence. These events excited abundance of piety ainong you; and, though the misfortunes of the times have produced too many examples of human frailty, yet to these unhappy times we owe the. bright examples of inany eminent persons, whose names will go down with honour to the latest posterity.
Let us then acknowledge, my brethren, that, although we have insulted the rectitude of God, we are willing now to do homage to it; let us confess, God hath given his people no just ground of complaint: in all his conduct he hath displayed the power of a God, the fidelity of a husband, the tenderness of a parent, and we have nothing to reply to, him, when he asks, O my people, what have I done unto, thee! wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.
As God hath answered the complaints of his people, let us proceed to inquire how his people will answer the com-, plaints of their God. Let us see what we ourselves çan reply. He hath heard us, can we refuse to hear him? Let us proceed in this astonishing cause between God and his church. The Lord hath a controversy with his peoples the Lord will plead with Israel.
The history of the Jews is so well known, that every one of us is acquainted with their irregularities. They corrupted both natural and revealed religion. They had as many gods as cities, Jer. ii. 28. They chose rather to sacrifice their children to Moloch than their sheep and oxen to schovali. There was no opinion so absurd, no worship so puerile, no, idolatry so gross as not to be adimitted among them. Hava ing shaken off the ties of religion, the bridles of corrupt passions, they threw the reins on the necks of the most un, governable dispositions, and rushed furiously into all the worst vices of the nations round them. With this conduct the prophets were always reproaching them, and particu, larly Ezekiel in these words, in which he describes this wretched people under an image the most odious that can be imagined. O how weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou daest all these things! O wife comunitting adultery, taking strangers instead of thy husband?
They give gifts to all whores : but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredoni. The contrary is in thee froni oiher women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followe!h thee to commit whoredoms, and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, Ezek. xvi. 30, &c. These words give us shocking ideas of this people ; for if it was an abomination under the law to bring the hire of a whore into the house of the Lord, Deut. xxiii. 18. for an offering, how much greater abomination must it be to apply the offerings of the Lord to the support of prostitutes !
Their crimes were aggravated, too, by the innumerable blessings, which God bestowed on them. The propliet reminds them of these in the words that follow the text. Reniember, O my people, I redeemed thee out of the house of servants, remember what Balak consulied, and what Balaam answered.. What favours did this people receive! What numberless engagements to fear God! He made a covenant with them, he divided the sea to let them pass over, he gave them bread from heaven to eat, he cleft the rock to give them drink, he brought them into the country, of which Moses had said, The land whether ye go is a land, which the Lord thy God careth for ; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, even unto the end of the year, Deut. xii. 12. Moreover, all their temporal blessings were types and pledges of spiritual benefits, either then bestowed, or promised in future. After so many favours on God's part, after so many crimes on the part of the people, had not the Lord reason to complain? Was ever controversy more just than this?
My brethren, you have certainly been often shocked at reading the history of this people; you have blamed their idolatry; you have detested their ingratitude; you have condemned the carelessness of their pastors, and all the vices of the people. But what would you say, if we could prove that the excesses of priests and
people are greater under the gospel than under the law? The Lord's controversy with you affirms this, and this we must now
examine. But which of us ministers, which of us has courage to enter into this detail? And which of you christian people would have humility enough to hear us out without murmuring, trembling with indignation, and exclaiming against your reprover, away with him, away with him ! Surprising ! When we just now pleaded the unjust cause of man against the Creator, the patient Creator satisfied every inquiry; the earth did not open under our feet to swallow us up; no fire from heaven came down to destroy us: but every article of the controversy received a full answer. Now that we ought to proceed to hear the complaints of the Creator against us, I already hear every one murmuring, and refusing to pay as much regard to the just complaints of God, as God condescended to pay to those, which had no foundation in reason and equity.
Well, we will speak to you in your own way; we will treat you as sick people are treated, when their physicians are obliged to disguise remedies, and conceal operations necessary to their recovery; we will decide nothing: but we will leave each of you to judge of his own conduct. We will only produce a few of the articles of God's controversy with
you, and propose a few maxims for you to examine: but, if there remain the least degree of rectitude in you, we conjure you to apply these maxims in earnest to yourselves.
First. When God distinguishes a people by signal favours, the people ought to distinguish themselves by gratitude to him. The equity of this maxiin is clear to every one of us, and nobody will dispute it. I ask ,then, were any people in the world ever favoured of heaven as the people of these provinces have been? A people (permit me to
back to your origin) a people formed amidst grievous oppressions and barbaious impositions ; a people subject to tyrants more cruel than the Pharaohs of Egypt; a people not ashamed to call themselves beggars, and to exhibit poverty on their standards ; a people who in the space of six months gave up six thousand of themselves to racks and gibbets ; a people risen from this low condition into the present state of magnificence; a people who, placed in a corner of the world, and occupying only a few acres, extend their influence over the whole world; a people opposing at the same time two great kings ; a people in whose favour the sea suspended its usual flux on the day, that was to decide the fate of these provinces for ever; a people whose forts were all occupied by the enemy, and who, when they had ncthing to trust to but the unavailing fidelity of a few citizens, saw the enemy, that came out against them one way, flee before them seven ways, Deut. xxviii. 7. a people inhabiting a country formed, (if I may speak so,) against