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unto me, shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.'
Were wisdom to speak personally and directly to us of these countries, and at this very time, just so would she speak; and no doubt, this her most upbraiding and alarming speech was written for our admonition. It is true, she speaks of the too late return of the wicked, and of her determined deafness to their cries, as future events; 'then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer.' Herein only does her address appear to be somewhat inapplicable to us; for although the calamities she threatens, are, in some measure, already inflicted on us, we are as far from calling on her, as in the midst of our stupifying prosperity; although the day of our calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon us make haste, yet we obey not, neither incline our ears, but make our necks stiff,' that we may not hear nor receive instruction. In all other points these words of wisdom come home to our particular case, pierce to the bottom of our sins, and paint exactly the dreadful condition, into which we are entering, as fast as the rapid tide of our infidelity and crimes can carry us.
The introduction to the speech just repeated, hath two things very remarkable in it. First, the divine speaker calls those to whom she addresses herself, by the names of simple ones, scorners, and fools ;' and yet in the second place, she exhorts them to turn at her reproof,' and promises' to pour out her spirit,' and 'make known her words unto them.' By the former, she attempts to gain an humble and obedient ear, if possible, even from the fool and the scorner; and in order to it, lets them know, who she is, and who they are; how wise and glorious she; how stupid, how despicable, how every way impotent, helpless, and miserable, they. By the latter, she affords encouragement, even in case of the grossest folly, to hope for knowledge, and on supposition of the most scornful obstinacy past, to expect her grace and spirit, if the one will but hear and fear,' and the other cease to rage, and be confidenti
From this sharp, and yet compassionate manner of accostment, she goes on, first, to remind them of her having 'called and stretched out her hand to them,'
Secondly, of their having refused to hear her call,' of their having universally disregarded the stretching out of her hand,' and of their having set at nought all her counsel, and despised her reproof.'
And then thirdly, to assure them,' she will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh.'
First, the divine wisdom reminds her senseless and haughty hearers of her having called and stretched out her hand to them.' But how hath she called? Why, first, by the voice of common sense and reason, that power of reasoning and reflecting, which she hath bestowed, in a greater or less degree, on every human creature. By this she hath called on them, to consider, that God governs the world both by the nature of things, and his providence; that, if folly could possibly succeed against nature, wickedness at least cannot hope to prosper in spite of providence; and that it is not only atheism, but distraction, to believe, they may, be appearances, for a time, ever so tempting.
But lest reason should fail in the performance of this most easy office, she hath called to them by the history of former times to reflect, that every irreligious nation was a wicked nation; and that no wicked nation could, for a moment, preserve itself from slavery, or long, from total ruin; and she hath called on them by their own experience to mark the truth of those Scriptural, but common observations, that 'the prosperity of the wicked is short,' and that he suddenly cometh to a fearful end.'
And that these reflections may be made with the greater frequency and strength, the Divine wisdom hath continually called to them by her holy Scriptures, and given that which was only human reason before, the vigour of a voice from heaven, loudly threatening the folly of the simple ones with adversity, the pride of the scorner, with a fall, and wickedness with vengeance.
But as men, so very foolish and vain, are too apt, in obedience to appetite and passion, to stifle their own reason, to overlook the events of things, and to turn away both their eyes and ears from the word of God, she hath never ceased to call them by her ministers to the right use of their rational faculties, to the experiments daily made before their eyes of the power whereby God and nature perpetually scourge
wicked, and to the awful menaces in Scripture of wrath, judgment, and fiery indignation, on the impenitent.
Thus, by reason, conscience, and every thing within them; by nature, experience, and every thing around them; by the word of God, and the voice of his ministers, now soothing in the promises, now alarming in the threatenings, of truth infallible, and justice irresistible, she hath called them to instruction; and if she had been heard, would have roused them to conversion. But what does she promise ? Not only the things that now are, but those which are to come; things infinitely great, and eternally to be desired ; things which the carnal eye hath not, cannot see; and which it cannot enter into the carnal heart to conceive or imagine. And what does she threaten ? Judgments here, and damnation hereafter; judgments, however which the worldly-minded is too much an infidel to fear, and eternal damnation, which the sensual compound with for the pleasures of a moment. As a skilful orator labours to enforce what he
to the ear, by the gestures wherewith he speaks to the eye, and hopes to render his eloquence visible; so the divine wisdom also stretches out her hand,' and pleads the cause of goodness and happiness with a sort of action, suitable to the infinite dignity of her person, and the infinite importance of that cause ; for in her hand she holds forth not only length of days, riches, honour,' and every temporal blessing, but happiness and glory eternal. When these fail of the intended effect, she knows how to fill her hand with distresses and calamities, with judgments temporal and spiritual ; and when either alone proves unsuccessful, she confers the former, or inflicts the latter by turns; she cheers with plenty, or scourges with famine ; she comforts with health, or dejects with sickness; she encourages with peace, or terrifies with war, as the obstinacy of her hearers may require the one, or their docility entitle them to the other. She uses the 'low still voice' to whisper knowledge and duty to the sensible ear of a lively conscience; and thunders. the terrors of the Lord' to a haughty or hardened heart. • He that hath ears to hear, must hear such a preacher; he that hath eyes to see, must see such engines of persuasion; and he that hath any sense of feeling, must
feel the force of those engines, at least when they are immediately applied to his soul and conscience, too stupidly heavy to be moved by a power less than infinite, and even by that at a distance.
Here indeed is eloquence in perfection, working on the judgment with arguments irresistibly convincing, and on all the senses, desires, affections, passions, with all nature, with the whole world, with heaven and hell, with God, and all his attributes of wisdom, justice, mercy, and power, as instruments of persuasion. There is no one here, to whom this powerful speaker hath not preached in that 'voice, which hath gone out into all lands,' and those words which have been sounded “to the end of the world.' Who is he that hath not heard the word of God, which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder' of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow ? Or who is he who, after hearing her-speak through the works and word of God, hath not also heard her speak more particularly to himself in the blessings and judgments of his providence, urging every word with comforts too tender, one would think, not to melt the most insensible, or blows too terrible, not to quell the most stubborn heart? Yet where is the effect?
Why, in the second place, almost all, to whom she hath called, have refused to answer her ;' have 'disregarded the stretching out of her hand; have set at nought all her counsel, and despised her reproof." The blessings she hath promised have not soothed, nor the judgments she threatened, alarmed them ; so that she may truly say, 'I have piped unto you, but ye have not danced ; I have mourned unto you, but ye have not lamented. In the end, however, , I shall be justified of my children' and servants, who, knowing how much greater trust ought to be reposed in me, than in the wisdom of the world, do repose it. I also, in return, will justify them at that time, when I shall distinguish between their obedience and your rebellion. They have heard my call; I will theirs. But as for you, ' I will number you to the sword,' and ye shall “bow down to the slaughter,' because when I called, ye did not answer ; when I spoke, ye did not hear, but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not. Therefore
thus saith the Lord God, behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry ; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty ; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed; behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.'
Our great unworthiness (to say no worse) considered, it is surely more by far than we could reasonably expect at God's hands, “to have, when we earnestly ask; to find, when we diligently seek; and to be opened unto, when we vehemently knock. But if infinite wisdom condescends to be our suitor, and to entreat our acceptance of her gifts, shall we refuse to seek for us, shall we not be found ? To knock at our understandings and hearts with all the strength of reason, revelation, conscience, experience, preaching; shall she be denied admittance? Yet, such is our folly, that we prefer ignorance to her instruction, and darkness to light, because our deeds are evil ;' and such our pride, that we scorn her call, because it is a call to humility, to self-condemnation, and self-denial, and that only, when self is become the enemy of our happiness, temporal and eternal.
But howsoever the not attending to her bare instructions may
be excused in wretches, too dull to hear, too stupid to understand; yet how can we be so blind as not to see her hand stretched out, and filled with blessings and curses? Or so insensible as neither to feel the one in our miseries and fears, nor the other in our gratitude, when they are actually poured upon us? During the last sixty-five years, what peace, liberty, improvement, plenty, hath she not showered on us with an unstinted hand! And how have we received these blessings? Why, only as so many provocatives to irreligion and wickedness.
What hath our long peace produced, but a stupid security? What, our singular liberty, but unbounded licentiousness ? What, the continual improvement of our country, but corruption of manners, and the arts of refinement in folly and wickedness? What, our uncommon plenty of money and the comforts of life, but desires inflamed beyond all possibility of control, by a wanton indulgence, and pampered up to madness by excessive luxury in eating, drinking, dressing, and attendance ?