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and hard labour, as it were, that they may exceed in wickednefs : “ They weary them“ selves to commit iniquity ;” and “fin as “ with a cart-rope.”
It must no doubt appear an incredible abuse of the divine goodness, to pervert that patience which should lead men to repentance, into an encouragement to sin more presumptuously: yet so it hath been in times past; and there is too just cause to complain, that it continues to be so still, Indeed, “when God's judgements are in the “ earth," the inhabitants thereof do sometimes “ learn righteousness;" at least, so long as the rod lies heavy upon them, they may refrain from those fins which they imagine have subjected them to it; but no sooner is the rod laid aside, than they quickly relapse into their former course of living, agree
ably to what the Prophet Isaiah observes, .“ Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet “ will he' not learn righteousness: in the “ land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, " and will not behold the majesty of the “ Lord.” What is written, Luke xii. 45. is too just a picture of the temper and practice
of the bulk of mankind: “ They say in their 46 heart, The Lord delayeth his coming; and " thereupon presume to beat their fellow“ fervants, and to eat, and drink, and to be « drunken :” yea, not the foolish virgins only, but even the wise, are in danger of flumbering, while the bridegroom tarrieth, as we read, Matth. xxv. 5.
There is an unhappy tendency in our nature to forget God. The best find enough ado to overcome it; but the wicked give full scope to it; and nothing but chastisement, severe and present chastisement, will bring them the length even of a feigned submission to God. Hence the observation is drawn, that times of adversity have always been most friendly to religion ; and they must know little of the history of the world in general, and of their own country in particular, who do not agree in this remark. National prosperity is certainly most desirable ; we regard it as a blessing, we pray for the continuance of it, and it is our duty to do so : yet if we examine the annals of former times, and do not turn away our eyes from the real state of our . : D 2
in their wickedness. — You perhaps sufpect that I am going to address you with Tharpness and severity; but you are really mistaken. God knows that I pity you, and have no other aim but to make you pity yourselves.—You have long been deaf to warnings and reproofs :-O let the sweet voice of mercy at length prevail ! God hath sworn, that he taketh no pleasure in your death ; and this is his call to you after all your provocations, Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die ? Nay, he hath paved the way for your return to him with the blood of his own Son, “who suffered, the 6 just for the unjust, that he might bring “ the chief of finners to God." It is impossible you can prevail against him, or disappoint him of his glory: the weapons of your rebellion can only hurt yourselves ; and ere long, the proudest of his enemies shall bow down before him, and lick the very duft. — Even you, my friends, must . either bend to the sceptre of his grace, or be dashed in pieces with his rod of iron : those haughty looks shall shortly be humbled, either in mercy or in judgement;
and if once his wrath begin to burn, there is no power that shall be able to deliver you out of his hand. Why then will you reject his gracious counsel? Why will you perish when mercy is in your offer ? Why will you break the hearts of all that fear God, when, by your conversion, and flight into the true city of refuge, you might afford cause of great joy both in heaven and on earth ? - For the Lord's fake, consider your ways, and be wise ; “ seek the Lord “ while he may be found, call upon him “ while he is near.” The great enemy of your souls will probably suggest to you, that if you comply with this exhortation, your old companions will mock and ridicule you, in proportion to your former excess in sin; and this snare, I am afraid, is too fatally successful with many. But let not any suggestion of this kind deter you from doing what you plainly fee to be your duty and your interest. The godly, with whom you join yourselves, will be far from upbraiding you with past offences; they will freely forgive all the injuries you have done to them, and teach you to magnify the while we live, and shall at last, through the mercy of God in Christ, have an entrance ministered unto us into that better world, where all tears shall be wiped away from our eyes, where the inhabitants are altogether unstained, and the joys absolutely perfect; where, with one heart, and one voice, we shall celebrate the prai-. ses of Zion's King ;-afcribing glory and honour, dominion and power, to him that fitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.