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nesses, most bloody violences, oppressions, and rapiness e R M. generally abounding. So that for those men theinfelves, who were by turns, as it happened, the authors and the objects of these dealings, it could not be desirable to continue in a state of living so wretched and uncomfortable. Impunity had been no mercy to such people, but rather a cruelty; cutting them off must needs be the greatest favour they were capable of, it being only removing them from a hell here, and preventing their deserving many worse hells hereafter. Even to themselves it was a favour, and a greater one to their posterity, whom they inight have brought forth to succeed in their courses, and to the consequences of them; whom they would have engaged into their wicked customs, and their woful mischiefs. They were not so destroyed from the land, until it grew uninhabitable in any tolerable manner, and itself could not, as it were, endure them any longer, but (as the text doth most significantly express it) did [pue them out ; being like a stomach surcharged Levit. xvii. with foul, or poisonous matter, which it loaths, and 28. is pained with, and therefore naturally labours to expel. Neither was this sad doom executed upon them till after four hundred years of forbearance; for even in Abraham's time God took notice of their iniquity, then born and growing; and gave account of his suspending their punishment; because, said he, the ini- Gen. xv. quity of the Amorites was not yet full (that is, was not yet arrived to a pitch of desperate obstinacy and incorrigibility): while there was the least glimpse of hope, the least relicks of any reason, any regret, any Thame in them, the least poffibility of recovery, God stopped his avenging hand: but when all ground of hope was removed, the whole stock of natural light and strength was embezzled, all fear, all remorse, all modesty were quite banished away, all means of cure had proved ineffectual, the gangrene of vice had seized on every part, iniquity was grown mature and mellow; then was the stroke of justice indeed not
S E R M. more seasonable than necessary; then was the fatal
sword the only proper remedy; then so with one stroke to cut off them, and their fins, and their mischiefs, and their miseries together, was an argument no less strong and clear of God's merciful goodness, than of his just anger toward them.
IV. The like account we may render of God's judgments upon the people of Israel. If we consult the Prophets, who declare the state of things, the facts, the dispositions, the guilts, that brought them down from Heaven, we shall fee, that they came upon ac
count of an universal apostacy from both the faith and Hol. ix. 9. practice of true religion; a deep corruption (like that in
the days of Gibeah, as the prophet Hofea speaketh) in mind and manners; an utter perverting of all truth and right; an obstinate compliance with, or emulation of, the most abominable practices of the heathen nations about them; an universal apostacy, I say, from God and all goodness; a thorough prevalence of all
iniquity. Hear the Prophets expressing it, and deJer. v.i. fcribing them. Jeremiah ; Run ye to and fro through
the sireets of Jerusalem ; see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof; if ye can find a man; if there be any that executeth judgment, that feeketh the truth, and I will pardon it. Isaiah ; The earth is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant : Ah sinful nation! a people laden with iniquities, a seed of evil doers; children that are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger ; they are gone away backward, &c. Thus do these and other Prophets in a like strain
describe in the gross the state of things preceding Ezek. xxii. those judgments. And in Ezekiel (in divers places,
particularly in the 8th, but especially in the 22d chapter) we have their offences in detail, and by parts (their gross impieties, their grievous cruelties, extortions, and oppressions) set out copiously, and in most lively colours. And as the quality of their provoca
tions was so bad, and the extension of them so large, so s E R M. was their condition desperate ; there were no means of remedy left, no hopes of amendment; so was their forehead covered with impudence, their heart harden. ed with obstinacy, their minds deeply tinctured with habitual pravity and perverseness : Can the Ethiopian Jer. xiii. change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then may ye alfo 23. do good that are accustomed to do evil, faith Jeremiah concerning them. All methods of reclaiming them had proved fruitless; no favourable dealings, no gentle adınonition, or kind instruction would avail any thing; for it is of them the prophet Isaiah faith, Let Isa. xxvi. favour be Newed to the wicked, yet will be not learn righteousness. No advices, no reproofs (how frequent, how vehement, how urgent soever) had any effect upon them. Almighty God declares often, that he had spoken unto thein rising up early, but they would not hear nor regard his speech; did not only neglect, and refuse, but despise, loath, mock, and re- Jer. xxv. 4. proach it (turning their back upon him, pulling away their 1.7.3 20.33Joulder, stiffening their neck, and stopping their ears, that Zech. vii. they should not hear), that he had spread out his hands all Neh. ix. 29, the day long 10 a rebellious and gainsaying people; to a lei. people that (with extreme insolence and iinmodesty) 2 Chron. provoked him to anger continually to his face. Nor could xxxvào 16. any tenders of mercy allure or move them: I said Jer. iii. 7. (God said it in Jeremiah) after all these things, Turn vii. 3. iv, 1; unto me; but she returned not. Amend your ways and xxvi, 13. your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will repent biin of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgreffons, so iniquity shall not be your ruin; and innumerable the like overtures we have of grace and mercy to them ; all which they proudly and perversely rejected, persisting in their wicked courses : they even repelled and silenced, they rudely treated jer. xi. 21. and persecuted the prophets fent unto them with Mat. Zei. messages of kind warning, and overtures of grace; so z? obstructing all access of mercy to themselves : They
Isa. Ixv. 2.
Rom. ix. 22.
SER M. say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy
not unto us right things : so Isaiah reports their proceeding. Which of ihe prophets did not your fathers persecute ? so St. Stephen expostulates with them. Neither were gentler chastisements designed for their correction and cure anywise available; they made no
impression on them, they produced no change in Ifa. i. 16, them : In vain, faith God, I have smitten your children, (Neh. ix.
they have received no correction. And, Thou hast smitten
them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, Jer
, 11. 30. but they have refused to receive correction ; they have Jla. ix. 13. made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to
return. And, The people turneth not to him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts. Unto this xalaparomos eis dat waslav, this perfect fitness (as St. Paul speaketh), this maturity of desperate and irrecoverable impiety, had that people grown, not at once, and on a sudden, but by continual steps of provocation, through a long course of time, during that divine patience sparing them, and by various expedients striving to recover them. This consideration is fre
quently infifted upon, especially in the prophet JereJer. xxxii. miah : The children of Israel and the children of Judah 50. 51, 25: have only done evil before me from their youth : Since the
day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt Ezr. ix. 7. unto this day, I have even sent unto you all my servants
the prophets, daily rising up early, and sending them; yet they hearkened not unto me, &c. Well then, after so many hundred years of abused patience, and unsuccessful labour to reclaim them, it was needful that justice should have her course upon them: yet how
then did God inflict it, with what mildness and moNeh. ix. 31. deration, with what pity and relenting? Nevertheless
(say they in Nehemiah) for thy great mercies fake thou
didst not utterly confrume them, nor forsake them; for thou Ezr. ix. 13. art a gracious and merciful God. And, Thou hast pu
nished us less than our iniquities deferve, doth Ezra Hof. xi.g. confess. I will not execute the fierceness of my anger, doth God himself resolve and declare in Hosea. So
mild he was as to the measure of his punishing; and s ER M. what compassion accompanied it, those pathetical 11. expressions declare : My heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. Is Ephraim my dear fon, Jer. xxxi. is be a pleasant child ? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still, therefore my bowels are troubled for him. In all their afflictions he was afflicted, Ifa. Ixiii. 9. &c. We may add, that notwithstanding all these provocations of his wrath, and abusings of his patience, which thus necessitated God to execute his vengeance; yet even during the execution thereof, and while his hand was so stretched forth against them, he did retain thoughts of favour and intentions of doing good, even toward this so ungrateful, so insensible, lo incorrigible a people : For a fmall time, Ifa. liv. 7. faith God, have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee: I know the thoughts that I think Jer. xxix. toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil
, to give you an expected end. Now these things being seriously laid together, have we not occasion and ground sufficient even in this instance, no less to admire and adore the wonderful benignity, mercy, and patience of God, than to dread and tremble at his justice ?
V. As for the last fo calamitous and piteous destruction of Jerusalem, with the grievous consequences thereof, as we might apply thereto the former confiderations, so we shall only observe what was peculiar in that case; that God dispensed such means to prevent it (to remove the meritorious causes thereof, obftinate impenitency and incredulity; refisting the truth by him fent from heaven with so clear a revelation and powerful confirmation; despising the spirit of God, and the dictates of their own conscience ; bafely misusing divers ways, and at last cruelly murdering the son of God); such means, I say, God did employ for the remnoving those provocatives of vengeance, which (as our Lord himself faith) were fufficient to have converted Tyre and Sidon ; yea, to Matt. xi.