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We shall conclude our enquiries with some suitable
and important OBSERVATIONS
1. God will surely overcome at last
[He is now maintaining a controversy with us-Nor can we expect that he should lay aside his rod till it has accomplished his will-If we continue to walk contrary to him, no doubt he will continue to walk contrary to us-If the scourging us with rods will not suffice, he will scourge us with scorpions -He will repay us sevenfold more for our sinsa- -Four times are we warned that his hand is stretched out still-Let us then cease from the unequal combat-And turn to him, before the measure of our iniquities be completely filled-]
2. If we turn to God with our whole hearts, he will cease from his anger
[We have most abundant evidence of this delightful truth -The repentance of Nineveh is a standing encouragement for all nations-Even the temporary humiliation of Ahab prevailed to defer the impending judgments-What then should not be effected if this whole nation turned to God in sincerity? God would sooner send an angel to deliver us, or open a passage for us through the sea, than suffer our enemies to prevail against usf-His promise to this effect is absolutes -Let this consideration lead us to repentance-And let the prophet's advice to mourn, and fast, and weep, be followed without delay"-]
3. If we return not to God our present miseries will be only an earnest of far greater miseries in another world
[God punishes men in this world in their national capacity-But in the future world every individual shall answer for his own sins-Nor are we left to doubt what will be the doom of the impenitent-In comparison of that, temporal calamities are of no account-Oh! who can dwell with everlasting burnings?k-Let me beseech you then by the terrors of the Lord-It would be terrible indeed to fall into the hands of man-But woe be to those who fall into the hands of the living God-Let the exhortation of Christ then sink deep into your hearts, " Fear not man, who can only kill the body, but God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell-I say unto you all, Fear HIM"]
z 1 Kings xii. 11.
b Isai. ix. 12, 17, 21, and x. 4.
Jer. xviii. 8.
a Lev. xxvi. 21, 27, 28.
c Ezek. xxii. 14. Isai. x. 3.
& Jonah iii. 10.
e 1 Kings xxi. 29.
f Exod. xiv. 22. with Isai. li. 10. and 2 Kin. xix. 35. with Ps. xxxiv. 7.
Ps. cvi. 21-23. They forgat God their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea. Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, lest he should destroy them.
THERE is scarcely any sin more strongly reprobated in the scripture than ingratitude-In the catalogue which the apostle gives us of crimes committed by the Heathen world, unthankfulness to God is particularly specified as one of the most heinous and inexcusable And the judgments denounced against one of the most eminent saints for a single instance of it, indisputably prove, how hateful it must be in the sight of God-In improving the instance recorded in the text we shall
I. Consider the history referred to
[This history, to which the text alludes, is so well known, as not to need many words either to record or explain it― There were mercies vouchsafed to the Israelites in Egypt, such as never had been experienced before from the foundation of the world---But they presently forgat their almighty Deliverer, and worshipped a golden calf in his stead
-This justly excited the indignation of God, and determined him to destroy them-But Moses, having already fasted forty days and nights, fell down before God, and during forty more days and nights neither ate nor drank, but interceded on behalf of this rebellious people-God in answer to his intercession averted the stroke, and forbore to punish them according to their deserts-]
II. Apply it to existing circumstances
[We need not recal to your minds what great things God has lately done for us also in Egypt-Except in the history of the Jewish nation, there is scarcely any victory recorded in the annals of the world that was more glorious or complete than that vouchsafed to us-Yet how have we requited the Lord? At first, like the Jews, we were willing to give God the glory, and to sing his praise: but has not the impression
a Rom. i. 21. b 2 Chron. xxxii. 25. c Exod. xxxii. S-14. This was the first fast-day after Lord Nelson's victory near the
worn off? and have we not shamefully "forgotten our benefactor?"---Well might God's anger wax hot against us to consume us for such ingratitude- -Nor can we ascribe it to any thing but the intercessions of God's people, that his wrath has not burst forth against us, as against Korah and his company, to destroy us utterly-]
III. Deduce from it some suitable observations-Observe
1. The duty of secret intercession
[We are commanded to pray for all men, and especially for kings and all that are in authority-Yea, even in Babylon, were the Jews taught to pray for the peace and prosperity of their very oppressors: how much more then should we intercede for our native country, where we enjoy every liberty that we can desire!-Let it not be said, that our governors do not deserve our prayers; for the injunction to pray for kings was delivered in the reign of Nero, than whom a more wicked prince could not exist-Let us then make a conscience of this duty; for if we know not to intercede for others, we have no reason to think that we have ever yet seen aright the value of our own souls-]
2. The benefit of public fasts
[The honour God has put upon public fasts is well known to all; and his answers to united supplications have been as signal as the hand of God could make them-The_victory given to Jehosaphat, the respite to Nineveh, and the deliverance to Peter the very day before his intended destruction, sufficiently evince, that God will hear the united prayers of his people-Indeed, if one man, Moses, so prevailed for the saving of an whole nation, what deliverance should not nations receive, if they would all unite in prayer?—If a few individuals alone mourn for the land, they shall have at least some tokens of peculiar favour to themselves, though they should not succeed in averting God's anger from the nation at large-But if there be not some to stand in the breach, it cannot fail but that we must be overwhelmed1-]
3. The guilt and danger of neglecting Christ
[Great as were the mercies vouchsafed to the Jews in Egypt, they are not to be compared with the redemption which we have experienced through Christ: as our bondage was infinitely more grievous, so the means used to effect our deliverance, infinitely enhance the value of the deliverance itself: we are bought with blood, and that blood was the blood of our incarnate God- -What destruction then must not
e 2 Chron. xx. 12, 15.
f Jonah iii. 10. g Acts xii. 5-8. h Ezek. ix, 4, 6. Zeph. iii. 18. i Ezek. xxii. 31, 32. Amos vi. 1, 6.
we expect if we should forget "God our Saviour?". Nor is it the intercession of others that shall ever prevail to avert it from us; we must pray, every one of us for himself -Not but that mutual intercession may in this respect be productive of great benefits-Let us then "bear his great goodness in remembrance," and let it be our song in time, as it shall be through all eternity—]
k Heb. ii. 3.
CCCXXIV. THE CHARACTERISTIC MARKS OF TRUE PENITENCE.
Hos. vi. 1. Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
THE spiritual dereliction which the people of God have at times experienced, has ever been considered as the most afflictive of all chastisements: but it has also been the most salutary, and most effectual. The benefits arising from it were strongly exemplified in the Israelites, who after having long withstood the united efforts of all the prophets, were on a sudden constrained by it to turn to God with unfeigned contrition.
The words before us are the expressions of that repentance which was excited in the Israelites by God's depar ture from them, and by his grace that accompanied the affliction: and they suggest to us a proper occasion to consider
I. The characteristic marks of true penitence
1. A sense of our departure from God
[Uuregenerate men live "without God in the world;" and yet the thought of their being at a distance from God never enters into their minds. But as soon as the grace of repentance is given to them, they see that they "have been like sheep going astray, every one to his own way," and that they never can find happiness but in "returning to the shepherd and bishop of their souls."]
a Hoş. v. u
2. An acknowledgment of affliction as a just chastisement for sin
[The impenitent heart murmurs and rebels under the divine chastisements: the penitent "hears the rod and him that appointed it." He blesses God for the troubles that have brought him to reflection; and while he smarts under the wounds that have been inflicted on him, he regards them as the merciful tokens of parental love.c]
3. A determination to return to God
[When a man is once thoroughly awakened to a sense of his lost condition, he can no longer be contented with a formal round of duties. He reads, hears, prays in a very different way from that in which he was wont to do. "What shall I do to be saved?" is the one thought that occupies his mind; and he is resolved through grace to sacrifice every thing that would obstruct the salvation of his soul. To hear of Christ, to seek him, to believe on him, and to receive out of his fulness, these are from henceforth his chief desire, his supreme delight."]
4. A desire that others should return to him also
[As all the other marks, so this especially was manifested by the repenting Israelites. This is peculiarly insisted on as characteristic of the great work that shall be accomplished in the latter day. This has distinguished the church of God in all ages! The penitent knows how awful the state of all around him is, and how much he has contributed by his influence and example to destroy them; and therefore, though he expects nothing but "hatred for his good-will," he feels it incumbent on him to labour for their salvation: and, if it were possible, he would instruct, convert, and save the whole world.]
To promote an increase of such repentance amongst us, we shall proceed to state
II. The grounds on which a penitent may take encouragement to return to God
Whatever grounds of despondency we may feel within ourselves, we may take encouragement
1. From a general view of God's readiness to heal us
[God has not left himself without witness even among the heathen world; but has shewn, by his goodness to the evil and unthankful, that he is ever ready to exercise mercy. But to us who have his revealed will, he has left no possibility of doubt: for "if he spared not his own son, but delivered
b Ps. xvi. 7. and cxix. 67.
d Song v. 6, 8.
e Ps. cxix. 75.
e Isai. ii. 3.