Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

" together. The Syrians before, and the Philistines “ behind, and they shall devour Israel with open “ mouth. For all this his anger is not turned “ away, but his hand is stretched out still.” After all the calamities which came on Israel by these numerous enemies; still more complicated and tremendous miseries awaited the nation, which would terminate in their final ruin and dispersion. “ For the people turneth not unto him that smit“eth them ; neither do they seek the Lord of “ Hosts.”—The text thus opened, suggests the following topicks suited to the present emergency.

1. Under affliction we should remember that the LORD smiteth us.

II. It is our duty and wisdom in this case to turn unto him.

III. As Israel of old did not, so Great Britain at present doth not, properly attend to this duty.

IV. This circumstance may well create most serious alarms, concerning the event of our present calamities.

V. The admonitions and instructions, which may be deduced from these considerations.

I. We observe, that under affliction we should remember that the LORD smiteth us.

A vain philosophy is at present employed, to resolve all events into second causes, and impute them to men or measures : as if that God, who “ doeth according to his will in the armies of hea“ven, and among the inhabitants of the earth," in fact did nothing; but left the universe to the established laws of nature, or the uncontrouled devices and machinations of his creatures ! I would not be supposed, my brethren, to speak against philosophy; that is, the investigation of the works of God, and a sober enquiry into the ordinary rules by which he governs the world : for this conduces to an intelligent perception of his operations, and an admiring sense of this wisdom, power, justice, and goodness. But sceptical reasonings about second causes, and undue attention to instruments, exceedingly tend to make men overlook the First Cause, that great Agent " who “worketh all in all.”

In this respect as well as others, we should learn " to speak according to the oracles of God:” for in scripture his hand is acknowledged on every occasion. “By Naaman the Lord had given de“liverance unto Syria.” “I inform you,” (says the apostle) “ of the grace of God bestowed on “the churches of Macedonia;” that is their liberality, which was the effect of divine grace.Vol. II.

Bb

“ Thanks be to God who put the same carnest “ care into the heart of Titus."" The exercise of faith leads us to view God in every Object and event, to taste his love in our most common mercies, and to submit to his correction by whatever means it is brought upon us.

The arrogance, blasphemy, rapacity, and ambition of Sennacherib can scarcely be exceeded : yet observe what the Lord says of him; “O Assyrian, “ the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand “is mine indignation. I will send him against an “hypocritical nation; and against the people of “my'wrath will I give him a charge, to take the “ spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them “ down as the mire of the streets : howbeit he “ meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so." Hezekiah and his principal assistants in reforming Judah were sincere and zealous :) but many of the princes, priests, and people had been mere dissemblers in their concurrence. The Lord therefore determined to employ Sennacherib, to execute judgment on them for this hypocrisy; and when he had fulfilled that commission he meant to take still more signal vengeance on him. It is vain then for us to expect success against our enemies, merely because they are infidels or atheists, if we are only nominal Christians : for the Lord com

2 Kings, v. 1. 2 Cor. viii. 1–3. 16, 17. 2 Is. x. 5-7.

3 2 Chron. xxxi. 20, 21

monly employs such men to correct or punish his hypocritical worshippers.-Executioners, in general, are not the most respectable characters; and a malefactor would act absurdly, who shonld hope to escape the sentence denounced against him, because he supposed the person, appointed to inflict it, more criminal than himself! .

The Lord smote Egypt with desolating plagues; and flies, lice, locusts, and frogs were his instruments, in pouring contempt, as well as vengeance, on haughty Pharaoh. But in smiting the Canaanites, 'he gave Joshua and Israel a charge against them. These nations deserved their doom; and an express commission, sealed by undeniable miracles, fully warranted all that was done against them. Yet in general, the instruments of punishment are unrighteous, though the Lord is righteous in the judgments they inflict. When the Israelites provoked him, the Philistines, Midianites, Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Greeks, and Romans were successively employed in smiting them : the rod of correction, or sword of vengeance was changed; but the hand that used it was the same. Nay, when domestick usurpers, tyrants, or persecutors, like Ahab, Athaliah, or Manasseh, brought calamities upon them, God made use of them as his instruments. “Shall there be evil in "a city, and the Lord hath not done it?!” The

! Amos, iïi. 6.

ma

evil of sin is wholly from the creature ; but the evil of suffering from the LORD, who thus punishes the transgressions of his offending subjects.Whether afflictions come immediately from the hand of God, as sickness, famine, pestilences, and earthquakes ; or by the intervention of men, the case in this respect is not altered. The Chaldeans and Sabeans unjustly seized on Job's property, and slew his servants; fire from heaven consumed his flocks; and the wind threw down the house upon his children : yet he made no distinction, but said in general, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath “ taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Whether, therefore, our present publick distresses and dangers be the natural consequences of providential dispensations; or whether the misconduct of men have been, and is, in any degree the cause of them; we must acknowledge that it is the Lord who smiteth us.-A scarcity and dearness of provisions, decay of trade, and various hardships, are generally complained of: and many imagine that they are occasioned by the mistakes, or crimes of this or the other description of men. Now, in a political sense, it is of great importance to investigate the point, and to use proper methods of counteracting every attempt of this kind : but as a religious concern, it is not in the smallest degree material; for, on every supposition, the hand of God should be acknowledged; and as a minis

« IndietroContinua »