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DCCCLXXIII. OUR IMPENITENCE UNDER THE DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS. Isai. ix. 13. The people turneth not unto him that smiteth them,
neither do they seek the Lord of hosts. RICH as God is in mercy to repenting sinners, he is full of indignation against the impenitent. Hence his most gracious invitations and promises are often intermixed with the most awful threateningsa. He had just before declared his intention of sending the Messiah to his chosen people. He now threatens them with utter excision for their impenitence". The grounds of his displeasure are no less visible amongst ourselves than amongst the Jews. We are at this time suffering under his chastising hand. But few, if any, of us are suitably affected with his judgments.
The solemnity of this day leads us to inquire, 1. What is the end for which God chastises us ?
He does not ever afflict his people willingly and without a cause. Sin is the ground of the controversy that he has with us. It is for the removal of this that he sends afflictions, 1. Upon individuals
[His most highly favoured people are not exempt from chastisement: while they have any sin unmortified, God will not leave them altogether unpunished d. Even the upright Job had much dross which was to be purged in the furnace of affliction David also found much benefit arising from his trials'; and acknowledged them to have been tokens of God's love and faithfulness. Under the New Testament dispensation God has had the same end in view : He “delivered the incestuous man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus";" and visited with bodily sickness many of those who had profaned the Lord's supper, in order that they might not perish with the ungodly world'. Nor can we doubt but that our troubles are sent for the same benevolent purpose; of whatever kind they be, they are intended to purge away our sin, and bring us nearer unto Godk]
a Matt. xi. 20, 21, 28. b Compare ver. 6, 7. with ver. 11--15. © The Fast-day, March 1798.
d Jer. xxx. 11. e Job xxii. 10. f Ps. cxix. 71. & Ps. cxix. 72. b 1 Cor. y. 5. i 1 Cor. xi. 30, 32. k Heb. xii. 10.
2. Upon nations
[When a nation is altogether ripe for ruin, God executes vengeance without any view to their reformation ; but till then he will continue to correct them with much long-suffering and forbearance. The ten successive
plagues of Egypt were sent to overcome their obstinacy. The Israelites, both in the wilderness and in Canaan, were continually informed of the distinct offences for which their various punishments were inflicted ; and even their captivity in Babylon was intended for their good? We cannot precisely say what are the peculiar enormities by which we have provoked the Majesty of heaven. But it is certain that God is visiting us for sin: the calamities we this day deplore, are tokens of his displeasurem; nor can we expect a removal of them, till the end, for which they are sent us, is accomplished.]
It should be the business of this day to inquireII. What effect his chastisements have produced
upon us ?
The rod, which is now held over us, has a voice, if we have ears to hear it". It calls us to repent of all our evil ways. But what change has hitherto been produced, 1. In the nation ?
[Every reform is talked of, except a reform of our hearts and lives. What order of men amongst us has duly improved this awful crisis? Is not dissipation as prevalent among the higher ranks as ever? Is there a reformation begun among those who ought above all to be examples to the flocko? Are the watchmen, whose office it is to warn others, as earnest and faithful as the occasion requires P? Are evils of any kind put away from amongst us? Or is there, even at this hour, any serious appearance of turning unto God? Are not our very fasts a mere formal and hypocritical lip-service ? May they not even be numbered amongst our greatest sins ? Alas! what shall the end of these things be? The generality are altogether regardless of God's displeasure: because they do not feel in their own persons the stroke of his rod, they are indifferent about the calamities of others. Many, like Ahaz, have even increased in their iniquities since the commencement of our present troubles". They have hardened their hearts and refused to receive correction; nor will they cry when God binds them. Nor is this peculiar to any one order of people more than another': some are presumptuously boasting of our power to withstand the arm of Godu; others, of whom better things might have been hoped, refuse to unite even in the outward services of this day. (Have these men never done any thing to increase our national guilt, that they refuse to deprecate our national judgments? Or have they no occasion to implore mercy for themselves ?) To none was the prophet's complaint ever more applicable than to ourselves at this juncture ] 2. In individuals ?
1 Jer. xxiv. 5. m Isai. xlii. 24, 25. n Mic. vi. 9.
• Those whom God particularly notices in the text, are ancient and honourable, and the prophet that teaches lies.”
P Ezek. xxxiii. 6--8. q Isai. lvii. 10. r 2 Chron. xxviii. 22. s Job xxxvi. 13. t Jer. v. 1, 4, 5. u ver. 10. * Isai. i. 4–6. y Amos vi. 6.
[Some there are, we trust, who“weep between the porch and the altar.” Some are“ grieved for the affliction of Joseph, but these are few in number; nor are they by any means so deeply affected as they ought to be. But where shall we find any that have been humbled under the divine chastisements ? Who amongst us is truly “turning unto him that smiteth us?” Who is " seeking the Lord of hosts?” Who have been mourning over their sins this day in secret ? Who have put from them their idols and their abominations? Who have cried for mercy as perishing sinners? Or stood in the gap to intercede for their distressed country? Happy they whose personal troubles have wrought this blessed change! But we fear that few, if any, have so laid to heart the public calamities, as to have experienced from them such a salutary effect.]
We shall conclude our inquiries with some suitable and important OBSERVATIONS1. God will surely overcome at last
[He is now maintaining a controversy with us. 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 a. He will repay us seven-fold more for our sins. Four times are we warned that his hand is stretched out stillc. 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
z Ezek. xx. 7. a 1 Kings xii. 11. b Lev. xxvi. 21, 27, 28. c Isai. ix. 12, 17, 21. and x. 4.
d Ezek. xxii. 14. Isai. x. 3.
[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 us. His promise to this effect is absoluteh. 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 impenitentk. In comparison of that, temporal calamities are of no account. Oh! who can dwell with everlasting burnings?? 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 m. 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".")
e Jonah iii. 10. 11 Kings xxi. 29.
8 Exod. xiv. 22. with Isai. li. 10. and 2 Kings xix. 35. with Ps. xxxiv. 7. h Jer. xviii. 8.
i Joel ii. 12, 13. k Luke xiii. 3. 1 Isai. xxxii. 14. m Heb. x. 31.
n Luke xii. 5.
PRIDE AND DOWNFALL OF THE ASSYRIAN MONARCH.
Isai. x. 12—17. It shall come to pass, that, when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the King of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks : for he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: and my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people : and as one gathereth eggs
that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall
the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith ? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning, like the burning of a fire : and the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.
THE doctrine of an all-disposing Providence is most consolatory to the mind of man. thing were left to chance, or were at the disposal of mortal men, we should have nothing to cheer us in adversity, or to moderate our overweening conceit in prosperity. But the thought, that all things are directed by an all-wise Being, who “ does according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth,” and “whose counsel,” whatever the designs of men may be, “shall surely stand,” preserves our minds composed and equable, in every situation, and in every condition. The situation of Jerusalem at the time when the prophet wrote this was very afflictive: but by God's command he addressed them thus, in a few verses following our text: “O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt (at the Red Sea): for yet a very little while, and (as in the case of Pharaoh and his host) the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destructiona.” To the same effect does he speak also in the text itself; which we shall consider, I. As fulfilled in SennacheribSennacherib was a proud and haughty monarch
[The Assyrian empire was the most powerful at that time existing in the world: and Sennacherib was dignified with the title of, the Great Kingb. He himself too conceived that he was omnipotent, a rival of Jehovah, or rather, his superior,
Strange it is that mortal man should entertain such wild conceits : but such is frequently the effect of power: it å ver. 24, 25.
b 2 Kings xviii. 19, 28. c 2 Kings xviii. 33–35. with Isai. xiv. 13, 14,