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the sun, to a person under extreme bodily distress, or exposed to the arrest of death. But in the most wearisome step of the weary land, Christ is a refreshing shade.
4. This lets us see, where there is a shelter to be found in the worst of times, against the stormy tempest of public or private calamity : John xvi. 33, " These things (says Jesus) I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace; in the world ye
shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” In Jesus Christ our safety lies, and without him there is no safety. Here is the rock that is higher than we, and higher too than the highest of our enemies, whether devils or men.
I have only now to add an use of exhortation. I would exhort you to come to Christ, and put yourselves under his shadow this day. And that you may understand what you are called to, take it in the following advices.
1. Lay aside your security, and see that you stand in need of a shade for refreshment and for protection in the weary land. However lightly people look on the confusions of our day, I think we have no reason to be secure; security is, dangerous, seeing the sins of the generation are crying sins, crying for a stroke. Whatever has brought a stroke on a church or people, that is not wanting in Scotland this day. Did universal corruption amongst all ranks bring the delage on the old world ? that is visibly the plague of this generation. Did the despising of the gospel bring the Roman armies on the Jews ? Matth. xxii. 7, the monstrous profanity amongst some, and loathsome formality among others, says we cannot escape, though God bear long with us.—The many deliverances we have met with when at the brink of ruin, and yet the generation not bettered by them, says that the axe, which has been lying so long at the root of the tree, will be wielded agaiust us at the last : Amos iv. 11, 12, “ I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrab, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning; yet havo yo not returned unto me, saith the Lord. Therefore thus will I do uuto you, O Israel! and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel !"
We are manifestly pining away under spiritual plagues at this day, many given up to vile affections, the generation generally plagued with hardness of heart and deadness, men are turned hateful, and left to hate one another, biting and devouring one another, all which is an evidence, that there is an evil spirit amongst us. Finally, our security in the face of alarming dispensations, is a terrible token, according to that in 1 Thess. v. 3, “ For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail
upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.”—I would
I exhort you,
2. To embrace Jesus Christ, and lay hold on the everlasting covenant. Ye that are strangers to Christ, come in at length. Let the state of your perishing souls come into your minds in earnest, and lay a sure foundation for eternity. Ye who have already come, come nearer and nearer, renew your acceptance of Christ, and stir up the grace of faith, that for the present is lying in such a weak state.
3. Repent of your sins, and turn from them. Amend your ways and your doings, and let not iniquity be your eternal ruin. Answer the call of God at length, that there may be no standing controversy betwixt God and you. Many delays have been in this matter, bring it now to a point, and halt no more betwixt two opinions, whether to be for God or for your lusts.-In a word,
4. To lay the weight of your through-bearing through the weary land over on Jesus Christ.—Look before you to the difficult steps that may be yet betwixt you and the grave, and solemnly take him for all you need or may need. Be concerned to depend upon him, and to trust in him, that he will not cease caring for you, and working in you, till he completely accomplish all that good word upon which he has caused you to hope.-To prompt you to this good work, I would propose the following motives :
1. This is the shade God the Father has provided for you. “I have (says he) laid help upon one that is mighty,” Psalm lxxxix. 19; and you hear what he says to you in the text. Therefore, honour the Father by coming to bis Son, and putting yourselves under his shadow. He knew sinners would need a shelter in the weary land. O neglect not the offered salvation !-Consider,
2. That all other shadows are and will be but vain and vanishing ones; they will not be able to defend you from the ills to which you are exposed in the weary land; they will be like a hut built within the sea-mark, which will be carried away, together with the inhabitant, when the waters begin to flow : Isa. xxviii. 17, " The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place.” Then your own wisdom will be but folly, your strength weakness, your carnal schemes shall not profit you.-Con
3. That the wrath of God will pursue all who are not under this shadow. O Christless sinners ! what will you do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what will you answer him? He is a consuming fire, all else you can put betwixt him and you will be but as stubble, or at best but a partition-wall of dry boards, that will quickly be consumed in that derouring fire.-Consider,
4. That whatever weary steps yo meet with in the weary land, these will be doubly heavy by your not coming in under Christ's shadow ; for the curse will be in them; and though they were very light in themselves, that will make them heavy. You will get all your burden to bear alone, as Saul did. And, O what a sad case it is to have heaven and earth dark both at once ! Isa. viii. 21, 22. -Consider,
5. That all the travellers to Zion have made this shade their shel. ter. It is a tried shade in all ages of the church, Psalm sc. 1; whoever pursues them, this is the refuge of all the people of God in all times : Proy. xviii. 10,“ The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous ranneth into it, and is safe.” The spouse of Christ looks for this shade, Song i. 7, 8, and ii, 3: and many a good word they have spoken of it to recommend it to others.-Consider,
Lastly, That under Christ's shadow there will be safety in the most wearisome parts of the weary land. He is the Saviour, and there is none besides him. Under his shadow there is safety from troubles, when they are flying very thick in the weary land. He can hide his people in the hollow of his hand in the midst of danger, Psalm sci. 7. For he has all things at his command ; men and devils are under the check of his providence. There is oftentimes a moderation of troubles. Under this shadow people find, that though they be not quite freed from them, yet they are made very moderate to them : Jer. xv. 11, “ The Lord said, Verily, it shall be well with thy remnant, verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil, and in the time of affliction.” And sometimes it is much better for his people to meet with this moderation, Jer. xlv. 5. The life for a prey is no small mercy. While his people rest under this shadow, there is always a spiritual salvation from the sting of evil; thus the nature of afflictions is altered, and the sharpest and heaviest stones thrown at them become precious stones, which do them no hurt, but rather good ; for “who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good ?" 1 Pet. iii. 13.–To sum up all in a word,
There is never missed here an eternal salvation. However they be treated in the weary land, none go to hell from under Christ's shadow; but though they should go through fire and water, they will land at last in Abraham's bosom, and be brought unto the wealthy place. Amen.
THE EVIL AND DANGER OF HALTING BETWIXT TWO OPINIONS.
1 Kings xvi. 21,
Among the crowds of irreligious men in the visible church, there are few, if any, so positively determined against God and religion, as never to have a thought of repentance and reformation. Reason and interest appear so much on the side of religion, that where conscience possesses any power at all, one can hardly fail in having sometimes favourable thoughts on that side. But indecision and unsettledness in that weighty matter ruins men. It is so long ere they come to a point, that death often overtakes them before they have got the matter fixed; and they are set beyond the possibility of doing any thing for their souls, before ever they have resolved firmly what to do for them. The text is Elijah's expostulation with a great assembly in that dangerous case. The worship of Baal was set up, and authorised in Israel by Ahab, and patronised by his courtiers. Thence the body of the people, though they did not utterly renounce the worship of Jehovah, yet they were greatly corrupted with that idolatry. God had on this account sent a famine on them, and, though it had continued three years and a half, it had not reformed them. But Ahab lays the blame of this calamity on Elijah; Elijah retorts it boldly on him. They agree that all Israel be gathered with Baal's priests, who were dispersed over all the country, and the priests of the groves, who were Jezebel's chaplains, that the whole matter betwixt God and Baal, Elijah and Ahab, might be decided.
The assembly being convened, Elijah comes to them, and, without observing any ceremony, or beginning to intercede with God for rain to them, he falls a-pleading God's cause with them, expostulating with them on God's behalf, as in the text: “How long (said he) halt ye betwixt two opinions ?"
In which expostulation, we have,
I. The matter of it; their halting betwixt two opinions. Here he attacks them on two points, and charges them with a grievous fault, an unaccountable weakness in the most weighty concerns of their souls.-He charges them,
(1.) With weak and wavering heads. They had two opinions ; by the one they had a value for Baal, by the other for Jehovah. Not only did some of that people in their judgment declare for Baal, others for Jehovah, but the same persons at one time thought it best to follow Baal, at another timè Jehovah; they were andetermined in this matter of the greatest importance. Their thoughts in this case were wavering, going hither and thither, like top-branches of trees going with the wind, which is the Holy Ghost's own metaphor in the original word of the text.-—They were chargeable,
* Maxton, Saturday, August, 2, 1719.
(2.) With unsteady feet. They halted betwixt these two, and they went from Baal to the Lord, and from the Lord to Baal again. Thus, passing from side to side, they were poor lame souls, (this is the Holy Ghost's own metaphor), they did not only limp, like men lame of one leg, (the best Christians carry such a halt with them, till they come to the grave), but they were like men lame of both legs, for this is the import of the original word, 2 Sam. iv. 4. They crooked to both sides, they went wavering from side to side, never straight, one time they were for Baal, another time for Jehovah, they were never steadily fixed. In the expostulation, there is,
2. The manner of it :“How long will ye halt ?" &c. They had been several years in that case, and yet were not come to a point.
One might think the case was not so very difficult, whether Jehovah or Baal should be their choice ; but wonder not at it, for the case is even as plain betwixt the Lord and your lusts and idols, yet year after year you cannot come to a point. The phrase is urgent; it imports,—the shamefulness, the baseness of their conduct, that they should be so long in deciding in a matter so very clear, stumbling at that rate in broad day-light ;-its grievousness to the Spirit of God; he was so weary with bearing with them, that he would fain have them come to a point, and therefore rouses them up to it.
From the expostulation thus explained, I would observe the following doctrines, viz.
Doct. I. That to be still wavering and undecided in the absolute and final choice betwixt the Lord and idols, is most abominable.
Doct. II. That an unequal and unsteady walk, here-away, thereaway, betwixt the Lord and idols, is an unaccountable and abominable way of walking through the world. These I shall shortly consider in their order.
Doct. I. That to be still wavering and undecided in the absolute and final choice betwixt the Lord and idols, is most abominable. In speaking to this I shall only drop a few things,
I. For explication of the point.