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[Not even the scoffer should be dismissed without such counsel, as, if duly received, may operate a saving change upon his soul. The prophet here says to the inquiring Edomites, “ If ye will inquire seriously, inquire ye; returning” from your evil ways, and “coming" humbly and believingly to your God. So say I to you. If there be amongst you any who really desire to know the purposes of heaven, come; and, as God's watchman, I will, to the best of my power, instruct you. And this in particular will I declare to you, that if only you will return to God, your past iniquities shall not be your ruin. " Hear what God himself said to the Prophet Jeremiah: “Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel; and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you .... Turn unto me; for I am married unto you
Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” And the very instant that they replied, " Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God;" the prophet was commanded to say, “ If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me." This fully explains the words, “ Return, come.” In all the Scriptures there is not a single word that tends to the discouragement of a returning sinner. No: the whole sacred volume says, Come, come, come: “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come: and let him that heareth say, Come: and whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely.” And lest we should suppose that any sin whatever shall prove a bar to the acceptance of a returning penitent, our blessed Saviour expressly says, “ Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." This counsel, then, I would affectionately give to you, “ Inquire; Return; Come."] But that this counsel may be better understood, I will
now, in CONCLUSION, address you more at length. 1. Be serious in your inquiries into the truth of God
[Inquire after nothing in a light, contemptuous manner: Be
ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong." Nor make any inquiry with indifference; like Pilate, when he asked of our Lord, “What is truth?” and never waited to receive an answer.
But set yourselves diligently to “ search the Scriptures;” for in them alone will you find the whole truth, without any mixture of error. Inquire, too, into the state of your souls before God. Bring them to the true and proper touchstone, the word of God: examine yourselves by it; and beg of God to search and try you; that, if there be any hidden evil in your heart, it may be disclosed to you, and be purged away by the blood and Spirit of Christ ---]
• Jer. iii. 12, 14, 22. and iv. 1.
2. Be assured that God's word shall take effect
[Presume not to sit in judgment on it, or condemn it. You are not called to judge, but to submit. If you see not the reason of God's declarations, do not therefore conclude that they are not founded in wisdom or goodness or truth: but say, “What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.” If the word of God hold forth a threatening, tremble at it, and beg of God that it may never be executed upon you. If, on the contrary, it set forth a promise, lay hold of it, and rest upon it, and expect the accomplishment of it to your soul. “And be fully satisfied in your minds, that the final states of the whole world shall be in exact agreement with it, and happiness or misery be awarded to all according to its unerring dictates.]
· 3. Let the final issue of things be the great object of your concern
[It matters little whether your present portion resemble morning or night. If you enjoy all the prosperity that the world can afford, of what value will it be when night cometh? On the other hand, if you experience here one continued night of affliction, it will soon pass away, and no more be remembered, when once the bright morn of everlasting day shall have arisen upon you. Learn then to despise the pleasures of sense, and to endure with fortitude the troubles of life. Fear not to make sacrifices, or to sustain any afflictions, in the cause of Christ, “ in whose favour is life, and whose loving-kindness is better than life itself.” Set eternity before you, and keep it ever in your view: and then, though your night be long, the day shall soon arise upon you, when “your sun shall no more go down;" but “the Lord shall be an everlasting light unto you,
your God your glory."]
to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: and behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine : let us eat and drink; for norrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you, till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts.
TRUE religion is equally abhorrent from an atheistical contempt of God's providence, and a presumptuous reliance on it. It teaches us neither to “ trust in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we“;" nor, on the other hand, to trust in human devices, to the neglect of him, who “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
It was for the latter of these sins, that the Jews were reproved in the words before us. The Assyrians had invaded their country, and were coming against Jerusalem itself: and the Jews, instead of crying to God for help, contented themselves with fortifying their city; and lived as securely as if no danger were at hand. This greatly incensed God, and caused him to denounce against them his heaviest judgments.
The words before us will lead us to consider, I. The duty to which God calls us
The terms used in the text were intended to express repentance
[The shaving of the head, and cutting of the beard, and putting on of sackcloth, were used among the Jews as indications of sorrowb. Of themselves indeed, neither those nor any other actions, however significant, had any value before God: they were even hateful to him, if used without correspondent dispositions of heart : but, when accompanied with inward contrition, they were pleasing and acceptable in his sight".] This is the duty to which God calls us at this time
[He spake to the Jewish nation by the dispensations of his providence, and the voice of his prophets. And is he not calling us to repentance at this time, by the calamities of the nation, by the command of our rulers, and by the voice of all his faithful ministers? Yes; he says aloud, "Turn ye to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning".")
But how little attention we pay to him will appear, if we consider, II. The state in which we continue
a Jer. vii. 4.
b Ezek. xxvii. 30, 31. c Isai. i. 13, 14, and lxvi. 3. d 1 Kings xxi. 27-29.
e Mic. vi. 9. Awful visitations were always considered in that view, Judg. xx. 25, 26.
f Joel, Isaiah, &c. : The particular circumstances of the nation should be here stated. h Joel ii. 12,
The evils of which the prophet complained, are, alas! too descriptive of our state :
1. We confide in our own preparations without looking to God
[So often has God prospered our naval exertions, that we almost universally overlook his providence, and ascribe our success to our own superior skill and valour. Our hopes also of future conquests are founded wholly on our own prowess. We are active enough in making preparations; but are as unmindful of God, as if we needed not his aid, nor were at all dependent on his will. For the truth of this assertion we appeal to the public prints, and to the expressions of all with whom we converse'.]
2. We still live in our wonted habits of conviviality and dissipation
[It is not intemperance and excess that is the object of the prophet's reprehension, but an unsuitable gaiety of mind, at a time when it became them to be humbling themselves in dust and ashes. And is not this the case with us amongst all ranks and orders of the community? Doubtless the pressure of the public burthens must impose restraints on many: but still the change in them is not the effect of a voluntary humiliation, but the reluctant fruit of irresistible necessity.]
3. We, in too many instances, turn the very warnings of Jehovah into contempt and ridicule
[The Jews were warned of the near approach of their destruction: and they, to ridicule the idea, said, " Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die.” We indeed, having no information from God respecting the issue of public affairs, cannot imitate, with respect to them, the impiety of the Jews. But, in relation to infinitely more important matters, there is as much profane scoffing amongst us, as amongst them: the declarations of God's word are set at nought; and they, who most faithfully denounce God's judgments against sin and sinners, are, for the most part, regarded either as hypocrites or fanatics.]
Let us then, as it becomes us, proceed with all fidelity to shew, III. The evil and danger of such a state
What can be more unsuitable to our condition ?
i This statement must of course be adjusted to the existing circunstances, but with a clear reference to the preceding context, ver. 7-11.
(What should we think of a child or servant that should manifest such a spirit under our rebukes? Does such conduct then become us towards God, when he is contending with us, and chastising us for our sins ? Yea, are we not as devoid of humanity as of piety, while we feel no sympathy with the thousands of our suffering fellow-creatures? 'Well says the prophet on a similar occasion, “Should we then make mirth ?" Surely it becomes us rather to “cry and howl" for the miseries that are come upon us, or at least impending over us.] What can be more offensive to God?
[The word “surely” is equivalent to an oath': and is it a light thing which causes Jehovah to swear by his own life and immortal perfections? Is it a small matter that causes Lord God of hosts m” to shut up his tender mercies, and to swear that the guilt of such or such an action shall “ never be purged away?" Must not that be beyond measure offensive to him, that can fill his breast with such "fiery indignation?" The sins that have brought down his chastisements are doubtless great; but an obstinacy under those chastisements which are intended to reform us, is but too probably a forerunner of our utter excision",] What can be more destructive in its consequences ?
[The nation cannot be delivered but by means of a national repentance: nor can any individual escape the eternal wrath of God, but by means of his own personal repentance. If there be only one impenitent transgressor in the whole kingdom, “God will search him out with candles," in order to punish him P.” Even in his present dispensations God will put a difference between those who mourn for sin, and those who are at ease in Zion?; but much more in his decisions at the day of judgment". Whether therefore we consider our national or our personal danger, it becomes us instantly to put away our unbelief and impenitence, and to turn to God with the deepest contrition.) ADDRESS
[It may be thought that the injunctions given to the Jews, had respect to them rather than to ourselves. Let an apostle then be heard in confirmation of the prophet; and let us depart
k Ezek. xxi. 9, 10, 12.
1 Heb. vi. 13, 14. m This title, being thrice repeated, is very emphatical.
n Jer. vii. 12—16. Such also is the import of that threatening, Amos iv. 12. the ground of which is five times repeated from ver. 6. to 11. o Luke xüïi. 3.
p Zeph. i. 12. 9 Amos vi. 1, 3–7. Ezek. ix. 4, 5.
Isai. v. 11, 12. and lxv. 12–14.