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CHAP. III. Shews that it is usual with God to premonijh his people of approach
ing trials and sufferings; with some account of the manner how, and the reason why he fo forewarns them. A S Paul had many clear premonitions and fore-notices of the A sufferings that should befal him at Jerusalem, that he might not be surprised by them when they came ; so it is usual with God (though not in such an immediate and extraordinary a manner) to admonith the world, and especially his own people, of great trials and sufferings before-hand. Amos ji. 7. « Surely the Lord will “ do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the proof phets." ;
Thus, when he was about to bring the flood upon the world, be gave one hundred and twenty years warning of it before it came, Gen. vi. 3. and when he was to destroy Sodom, he faith, Gen. xviii. 17. “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do ?” And the like discovery he made about the same judgment to Lot, Gen. xix. 12, 13, 14. So when the captivity of the Jews was nigh at hand, the people had many forewarnings of it; God forewarned them both ministerially and providentially; he warned them by the prophets;
Ezek. iii. 17. “Hear the word of my inouth, and give them warning t" from me." And when the time drew nigh to execute the judg
ment determined upon Jerusalem, and the temple, how plainly did Christ foretel them of it? Luke xix. 43, 44. « Thine enemies shall « cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee « in on every fide, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy « children within thee.” .
And when the storm was just ready to fall, * their own historian tells us, a voice was heard in the temple, saying, Migremus hinc, Let us go hence. "Which voice + Tacitus also mentions in his annals, af• firming it to be more than a human voice, telling them God was • departing, and that it was accompanied with a ruthing noise, as of 6 persons going out. These were extraordinary warnings.' The like signs have been given to divers other nations, by dreadful eclipses of the heavenly bodics, portentous ccruets, earthquakes, and other signs of judgment.
Now, though we have no ground to expect such extraordinary warnings, yet we have the most apparent and certain figns of approaching calamities; after which, if they surprize us, the tault must lie in our own inexcusable negligence ; for we have a standing rule to govern ourselves in this matter, and that is this ; . When the same
* Fofepbus de bello Fud. lib. 7. cap. 2.
+ Audita major bumana vox cxcedere Deos, fimul ingens motus excedentium, lib 21.
ground ihe Ifraelites, whese things west
fins are found in one nation, which have brought down the wrath r of God upon another nation, it is an evident sign of judgment at
the door; for God is unchangeable, just, and holy, and will not · favour that in one people which he hath punished in another, nor
bless that in one age which he hath cursed in another.' Upon this very ground it was that the apostle warned the Corinthians, by the example of the Israelites, whose fins had ruined them in the wilder: ness, 1 Cor. x. 6. “ Now these things were our examples, to the in« tent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lufted.” As if he should say, Look upon those dead bodies which are, as it were, caft up upon the scripture-shore for a warning to you: Follow not the same course, lest you meet in the same curse, if you tread the fame paths, expect the same punilhment. God is as righteous now as he was then : he hates, and will punish fin in you as much as he did in them.
Let us therefore consider what those provocations were, that hastened the wrath of God upon his own Israel, a people that were nigh 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 ; that so we mag reckon whereabout we are at this day, and what is like to be the lot of this finful and provoking generation; and we shall find, by the consent of all the prophets, that these fins were the immediate forerunners, and proper causes of their overthrow.
First, The great corruption of God's worship among them kindled his wrath, and haftened their ruin, Psal. cvi. 39, 40, 41, 42. « They were defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with “ their own inventions; therefore was the wrath of God kindled « against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheri" tance, and he gave them into the hand of the heathen, and they " that hated them ruled over them; their enemies also opprefied w them, and they were brought into fubjetion under their hand.” They that will not bear the golden yoke of Christ, shall be galled with the iron yoke of men: nothing more provokes the anger of God than the adulterating of his worship ; a man will bear a thousand infirmities in the wife of his bofom, but unfaithfulness in the marriage covenant breaks his heart. After the manner of men, fo abused and grieved, the Lord exprefseth himself, Ezek. vi. 9. “ I am broken “ with their whorish 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, Incorrigible obstinacy and impenitency, under gentler ftrokes and leffer judgments, make way for utter ruin and desolation, Amos iv. from the oth to the 12th verse. Scarcity, mildews, pestilence, and sword, had been tried upon them, but without effect; for the remnant that elcaped those judgments (although placked as so many brands out of the fire, in which their fellow finners perished) were not reformed by those gentler and moderated judgments.
Thirdly, Stupidity and fentelessness of God's hand, and the tokens of his anger, were provoking causes and forerunners of their national
defolation; they neither saw the hand of God, when it was lifted and up, nor humbled themselves under 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 thiem, and do upon us at this day, but they took no notice of it, Ifa. xxvi. 1). “Lord, when thy hand is litted up, they « will not see;" and (which is the height of stupidity) they all remained senseless and regardless, when the band of God was laid upon them, Ifa. xlii. 24, 25. “ Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Ifrael to « the robbers? Did not the Lord, he against whom we have finned? « for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient « to bis law. Therefore he bath poured upon them the fury of his “ anger, and the strength of battle; and it hath set him on fire round « about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to & heart.”
O prodigious fottishness ! It was not some small drops of God's anger, but the fury of his onger ; not some lighter skirmish of his judgments with them, but the Arength of battle: It was not some particular stroke upon fingle persons 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 were another fin that procured, and a sign that forctold the destruction of their nation, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16. “ And the Lord God e of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, to and fending ; because he bad compassion on his people, and on his « dwelling-place; but they mocked the messengers of God, and 66 despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the " Lord arofe against his people, till there was no remedy." There were also a number of upright souls among them, who desired to worfaip God according to his own prescription; but a snare was laid for them in Mizpeh, and a net spread for them upon Tabor, Hof. v. 1. and this haftened judgment towards them: Mizpah and Tabor were places lying in the way betwixt Samaria and Jerusalem, where the true worship of God was: and in those places spies were set by the priests to observe and inform against them; so that it became very bazardous to attend the pure and incorrupt worship of God, which quickly haftened on their ruin.
Fifthly, The removal of godly and useful men by death, in more than ordinary hafte, was to them a sign of defolation at hand. Ifa. lvis. I. « The righteous perisheth, and no man lageth it to heart ;
« and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righ:: 6 teous is taken away from the evil to come.” In this case God acts
like gra there are but feof the faints expect to feel it miferable
towards his people, as the husbandman in a catching barvest doth by his corn; he hurries it with a fhuffling hafte into the barn when be lees a storin coming: or as a careful father with his fons that are abroad at school, who sends his horses to fetch them home fpeedily, when he hears the plague is begun in the place. Upon this ground the prophet Micah bewails himself, Micah vii. 1. « Woe is me, for “ I am as when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as the grape o gleanings of the vintage, there is no cluster to eat; my soul desi“ red the first ripe-fruit." Q. d. Alas! alas ! what raiserable days are at hand! what miferies must I expect to fee! 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 saint, 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 sign of national.calamity. Hofea iv. 18. Their drink is fower. A metaphor lively expressing the deadness and formality of the people in the worlhip of God. It was Tike Tower or dead drink, which hath lost its spirit and relish, and is become flat. Such were their duties; no spiritual life, affection, or favour in them: the heard as if they heard not, and prayed as if they prayed not ; the ordinances of God were to them as the ordinances of men, of which the apostle faith, that they perith in the uling.
Seventhly, To conclude ; Mutual animofities, jars, and divifions, were to them manifest symptoms of national calamities and defola. tions: for then Ephraim envied Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim,
Ifa. xi, 13. Hosea ix. 7: “ The days of visitation are come, the days 56 of recompense are come, Israel shall know it: The prophet is a « fool, the spiritual nian is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquities, " and the great hatred.” .
When such symptoms of God's indignation do appear upon any people, the Lord, by them, as by so many glaring meteors and blazing comets, forewarns the world that his judgments are near, even at the door. These figns all men ought to observe, and behold with trembling. If you alk, Why doth God usually give such warnings of his indignation before it comes? The reasons are,
1. To prevent the execution..
3. To leave the incorrigible inexcusable. Firf, Warning is given, with design to prevent the execution of judgments, Amos iv. 12. “ Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O " Israel ; and because I will do tbis unto thee, prepare to meet thy « God, O Israel;" i. e. Prepare thyself to meet me in the way of my judgments, by humiliation and interceflion to prevent the execution. And what else was the design of God in fending Jonah to the great
city Nineveh, but to excite them to repentance for the prevention of their ruin. . This Jonah knew to be the Lord's meaning, how pofitive soever the words of his commission were ; and therefore he declined the message to secure bis credit; knowing, that if upon warning given they repented, the gracious nature of God would soon melt into compaffion over them, and free grace would make him ap
pear 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? There
“ fore I fled before unto Tarshilh: for I knew that thou art a gra.« cious God, and merciful, flow to anger, and of greatkindness, and '" repentest thee of the evil.” Q. d. Yea, Lord, I knew before. hand it would come to this ; thou fendest me positively to denounce thy judgments to Nineveh, mean time defiring nothing more than the execution of them might be prevented by their repentance. And thus thy mercy hath exposed my reputation, in saving them from destruction.
Secondly, God forewarns 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 expectation of a mercy makes it less sweet, our thoughts having anticipated and sucked out much of the sweetness before-hand; To the expectation of judge ments before they befal us, make them less bitter and burdensome than else they would be, the foul having inured and accustomed itself to them, by frequent 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 persecution that were coming · upon them, Christ foretold them, and gave them fair warning beforehand, John xvi. 4.
Thirdly, He forewarns his people of approaching dangers, to leave the incorrigible wholly inexcusable, that those who have no tense of fin, nor care to prevent ruin, might have no cloke for their folly when judgments overtake them. " What wilt thou say when he thall pu« nith thee?” Jer. xii. 21, 22. As if he should say, What plea, or apology is left thee, after so many fair warnings and timely prenionitions ? Thou canst not say, I have surprized thee, or that thou wast ruined before thou wast warned. Thy destruction therefore is of thyself.
CH A P. IV. Demonstrating the excellency of a prepared heart for the worst of sufferings;
and what a blessed thing it is to be ready to be bound, or to die for Chris, as Paul here was. T. Am ready.] O blessed frame of spirit! how hard, but how hapI py is it to get a heart so tempered! Every Christian can say, I