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EMINENT SCOTTISH DIVINES.
NEW EDITION, CORRECTED.
W. R. M.PHUN, 86, TRONGATE, GLASGOW :
A SERMON, PREACHED ON THURSDAY, 22d MARCH, 1832, BEING THE DAY APPOINTED BY HIS MAJESTY TO BE OBSERVED IN SCOTLAND AS A GENERAL FAST.
By the Very Rev. G. H. BAIRD, D. D.
Principal of the University, and Senior Minister of the High Church, Edinburgh.
"When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."-Isaiah xxvi. 9.
BEGIN, my friends, with remarking that where the precise object of the divine by the term "judgments of God," the visitation is unknown, and invisible to us. Scriptures sometimes denote the decisions, In many cases the Lord holdeth back his whether favourable or adverse, which God face in his dealings with his creatures, and passes upon the conduct of men. But spreadeth a cloud of darkness over it: more frequently this phrase is employed men behold the effects only of his interto denote the effect of such decisions, position without perceiving the particular when they are unfavourable-to denote end for which these visitations were prothose remarkable punishments by which duced. For instance, in the material the Almighty chastises the wickedness of world we sometimes witness famine, and Įguilty individuals, and the crimes of guilty the raging tempest consuming all, and nations. In the course of God's provi- blasting the hopes of men,-and so it is dential procedure, we often see bis judg- to this day in our land. At other times ments; we see misfortune and distress we behold a terrible pestilence, thinning, following so closely and visibly the con- by its ravages, the numbers of the people. duct of men, that we can have no doubt And in the establishments of social life, whatever concerning the connection that, too, do we not often see deep distress by his appointment, subsists between brought on the inhabitants of whole kingthem. Thus, when poverty, like an armed doms through political revolutions and Iman, rusheth on the prodigal,-when a war? Now, we know from the Scripfailing of eyes, and trembling of joints, tures, and the suggestions of our own and rottenness of bones afflict the sensu- hearts, and these also are the scourges of falist, when a dissolution of all the moral nations, in the hands of the Almighty. bonds that uphold government sweeps from We are at the same time but seldom able ja once high place among the nations an to point out the individuals whose sin jungodly, and profligate, and effeminate these judgments were sent more immedipeople, we see in such cases an obvious ately to punish. The individual sufferers, relation between sin and punishment-like the eighteen men upon whom the between the sin and the judgment of Tower of Siloam fell, are often not more od passed against it. They are con- guilty than other people. Let it not, ected as cause and effect, by the original however, be overlooked, that the promisconstitution which the Almighty has im-cuous calamities which happen to them, posed on man, and on the world in which if they do not come as punishments, come man is placed, and where he acts; and we in Divine Wisdom, as salutary general feel no surprise when we see these accom- warnings, or as improving tests and trials panying one another-the sin and the of their faith, or as exercises of their punishment. fortitude and patience. In all such cases, it would therefore be rash and unchari
But, my friends, there are many cases
table to interpret particularly, and with series of arrangements, we can see the reference to individuals, the views of watchful providence of God rendering men divine judgment when affecting a multi- in their respective spheres, the instrutude. It is enough for us to know that ments of promoting the destined and these judgments, whatever be their kind, ultimate perfection of our race. whatever be their nature, or whatever Now, to a man capable of reflecting on their degree, are instruments of God's these marks of Divine government, the government of his moral and rational Almighty surely presents an object most offspring, and that the inhabitants of the worthy of unbounded veneration-a being earth may learn from them lessons of whose mercies in all things are conspicurighteousness. This is the view, you will ous, and who has an unqestionable title remark, in which the text represents the to receive from his rational creatures the judgments of God to our consideration; worship and homage which he requires. and, therefore, in conformity with the But, alas! my brethern, while things obpious purpose for which we are assembled serve their ordinary course, how seldom this day, I shall endeavour to suggest, do we permit our thoughts to rise from briefly, two of the righteous lessons which them to the power by which they are the judgments of God ought to teach us. conducted? Alas! alas! the beauty and In the first place, the judments of God, benignity which our Father in heaven has whatever their form, and whatever their spread around us in the world, where he degree may be, when they are contem- has given us our situation, detain our atplated by an enlightened and devout mind, tention on themselves, without suggestare found powerfully to excite within it ing the source from which they flow. sentiments of warm piety and deep devo- Nay, that very order, that very regularity tion toward that God from whom these which is the effect of his present power judgments proceed. My friends, that God and care, lulls our mind asleep, and rencontinues to govern the world which he ders us insensible to the workings of his has made, and that his rational subjects hand. It is, in truth, only when the owe to him reverence and obedience, are general order of events seems to be sentruths which scarcely admit of doubt. sibly interrupted-it is only when the God has impressed so visibly on all his elements composing the world and the works the signature of that unceasing frame of divine government seem to jostle, care which he exercises for their preserva- as it were, against each other, it is only tion, that we have only to open our eyes when the pillars that support the society on his works and behold it. When we of men are suddenly shaken or broken look up to the heavens which his fingers down-or when some public or personal have framed,-when we see the sun, and misfortune crosses the path of life, that the moon, and the stars observing order the thoughtless multitude-and, alas! are and regularity in all their movements, we we not all to be considered too much are at once convinced of the powerful members of the thoughtless multitudesuperintendence and energy of their Cre- arise to reflection, and feel the presence ator; and when we turn our view to of their God. this earth, we meet every where indica- My friends, there are various principles tions of a similar kind. It is by the in our constitution, by which the judg energies of his hand that all the things of ments of Heaven contribute to a salutary this world are maintained, each of them effect upon the minds of a thoughtless in their due season and proportion, and it world. Unexpected revolutions, either in is upon him they depend for the wonder- the natural or moral world, naturally ful maintenance of their condition. But arrest our attention. They demonstrate, above all, we can trace the watchful pro- in the most sensible manner, to our con vidence of God in the history of our race, sciences, our own weakness, and the in-we can trace the watchful providence of God communicating to man, at his first formation, the instincts and powers required for the new condition he was to fill, we can trace the watchful providence of God mingling men in society, and adjusting their talents to the situation which each of them has been destined to fill in it,—and, through a most complicated
competency of our powers, either to produce or control the changing events around us; and to every mind that is not totally enfeebled and darkened, through corruption, such revolutions suggest with irresistible force the notion of a powerful Supreme Ruler, they alarm our fears at his displays, and awaken all those sentiments
(this is at least their natural tendency,
or ought to be their constant effect)-| From these remarks, my friends, it will of humility and penitence, which form the appear that the divine judgments have as beginning of a pious and devout temper. their first and general purpose, whatever 1 And I would especially call your attention their kind and form may be, to rouse the to this view of the case, that we learn attention of sinners to the proofs of divine from Scripture, that this is not only the government, and to recall them, before it be tendency of the divine judgments when too late, from their sleep of inconsideration, rightly improved, but often the very pur- and from the criminal practices of irreligion pose for which they were sent by the and vice. These purposes of the divine providence of God. The early record of judgments which we have affirmed in so Moses proclaims repeatedly, that strange many portions of Scripture, and which so punishments came upon the disobedient. heavily afflict our land, let us carefully And why? That the people may hear, and feel, and do no more their iniquities. The plagues were sent upon Egypt that the Egyptians might know that God is the Lord. When Sennacherib was pursuing his severe conquests, and wickedly railing against the God of Israel, an angel of the Lord slew in one night an hundred and fourscore and five thousand men! And why? It was, that all the kingdoms of the earth might know that he is the Lord God, even he alone! And the Psalmist in express terms asserts the general proposition, that God maketh himf self known by the judgments which he exécuteth, and snareth the wicked in the ✔ work of his own hands.
improve. Let us remember, that, amid the calamity that is committing its ravages among our brethren, all is the doing of the Lord; and considering that, let us then, with habitual and awful reverence, bow before him, and in submission to his will.
But, my brethren, the judgment which has, by the divine permission, visited our land, and which has this day brought us, professing humiliation, to the house of prayer-a judgment as appalling in its effects as it is novel in its circumstancesnot only powerfully impresses the general lesson of righteousness, which all the divine judgments are calculated to do, but with a fatal and a loud voice reminds us, in the second place, of this other peculiar If, then, my beloved Christian friends, lesson, the uncertainty of life, and the nethe judgments of God be both fitted and cessity and wisdom therefore of instant designed to awaken us to the ways of his preparation for a Christian death of peace providence, how should we labour to re- and hope. For, my friends, what judgment gard and improve them? Never let it be has ever taught so widely and so alarmforgotten that the prevalence of these ingly the truth, that we know not what a judgments is a means of moral reformation day or a night may bring forth?-What for which we are accountable. They are judgment has ever so terrified the land [ chastisements which, after all gentler me- with the similitude of the Psalmist,— thods have failed, our gracious Father," thou turnest man to destruction, and de desirous of our reformation and eternal sayest, Return, ye children of men. Thou en safety, employs, and employs reluctantly, carriest them away as with a flood: they as the last efforts to recall us to the paths are as a sleep-in the morning they are of obedience. And if we return not-if like grass which groweth up. In the we still harden our hearts more and more, morning it flourisheth and groweth-in what must be the consequence? You all the evening it is cut down and withereth." e know what must be the consequence. Yes, my brethren, how many are the er This consequence may follow, and follow dwellings around us, where the inmates, almost certainly under the divine govern- healthy and light-hearted when the sun ament it will, that our wickedness must be arose, have, ere the sun descended, given avenged by signal calamity. The denun- the dust to dust, and their spirit to God? ciations made by the mouth of Isaiah must Oh! how alarming to unprepared and come This "people turn not to him that sinful men is a fate like this? No time smiteth them, neither do they seek the is there for review-no time for repentLord of hosts. Therefore the Lord will ance-no time for making assurance of cut off from Israel, head and tail, branch peace with God. Who prays not earnestly it and rush, in one day; for through the at this moment for himself from a fate like wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother,” (Isaiah ix. 13, 14, 19.)
this,-"O God of thy good mercy save and deliver me." O, my brethren, confine not your feelings to a brief momentary prayer. Let them have a permanent and practical