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but actually blessed with all the privileges which these tktles imported. God was indeed a father and husband unto them: he cherished them in his bosom, and employed his almighty power for their preservation. He conducted their arms, and dictated their laws; he formed their state, and was present among them by a visible glory, and established a method of correspondence, by which they might have constant access to him for counsel and direction in every case of difficulty. Never had any people such illustrious displays of the divine providence in their favours. Some nations have had a long tract of prosperity, a series of lucky accidents, as it were, by the help of which, they have grown up to a very flourishing condition; but the various steps of their advancement were visible, and easy to be accounted for, and were nothing more extraordinary than a plentiful crop after a favourable sced-time and harvest, or the riches of a skilful ·and industrious merchant. But it was not so with the nation of the Jews; their prosperity was the admiration of all that beheld it, and forced them to acknowledge that the Lord was with them of a truth. God brought them out of Egypt by a high hand and an outstretched arm; the sea opened a passage for their retreat, and overa whelmed their enemies ; bread was given them from hea, ven, so that man did eat angel's food, and the flinty rock yielded them water to quench their thirst. At the prayer of Joshua, the sun stood still, and at the same timę, Gode slew his enemies before him with hail-stones from heaven,
his people a miraculous and complete victory over them. And after they wçre pụt in possession of the promised land, they did not grow up like other states; they were oftentimes brought so low, that they seemed past recovery, and as often did God interpose for their relief; and the various changes they underwent were so sudden and surprising, as made it evident to themselves, and all about them, that their affairs were conducted, not by the skill and strength of men, but by the immediate hand of God,
who, by his irresistible power, governs all creatures and things, so that none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Yet, ņotwithstanding all these titles, and privilges, and providences, whereby God distinguished them in such a remarkable manner, they are now pulled up by the roots, abandoned by God, and despised among men. No spiritual dew falls upon those mountains of Gilboa. Those that were as pleasant to God, as the grapes in the wilderness to a thirsty traveller, are now of as little regard as the heath or the bramble. Of a tender father, he is become their enraged enemy; and flings vengeance down upon those heads, which before he crowned with mercy. He caused the land in which he planted them, by a series of miracles, to spue them out because of their sins; and now they wander as miserable vagabonds over the face of the world, & standing monument of God's righteous judgment, and a sad proof that spiritual privileges are not entailed to any nation; but that God may be provoked, by the sins of a people, to remove their candlestick out of his place, and punish them with darkness, who would not walk in the light of it whilst they enjoyed it.
The seven churches of Asia, mentioned in this and the following chapter, are another instance of this. These had their day, but are now benighted; the judgments threatened in these gracious epistles, which were directed to them, have been long ago inflicted. The banners of a blasphemous impostor have long triumphed over the standard of the gospel. Nor is the once famous church of Rome a great deal better; for though the gospel is still professed and honoured by them in appearance, yet the light of it is so much obscured, and buried amidst the rubbish of idolatrous opinions and practices, that it is scarce discernible; and without breach of charity we may say of them, that God hath given them up to strong delusions, to believe a lie, so that they have all the marks of a people whom God hath abandoned, though wrath be not as yet come upon them to the uttermost. By these examples we see, that the gospel is not the inheritance of any particular people, but that it frequently has been, and therefore may still be forfeited, and that God may be provoked, by the sins of those who enjoy the light of it, to strip them of all their privileges, by removing the candlestick out of his place. Let us now proceed, in the
II. place, To consider the greatness of this punishment. And if we view it aright, we shall soon be convinced, that a more terrible judgment cannot be inflicted upon any people or nation. What can be more terrible than famine?-Parents have been forced, against all the ties of natural affection, to devour their own children, and children to feed upon the flesh of their parents. The extremity of hunger hath reconciled very delicate people. to things that are most loathsome and nauseous, carrion, dung, and vermine of all sorts; yet this is accounted a small judgment when compared with the other, Amos, viii. 11.“ Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord." The want of spiritual food is so much worse than the want of natural food, as the soul is better than the body, the one makes the body weak, the other starves the soul, and leaves it both weak and wicked; the one may be a means to make us seek the Lord, but the other leaves us. in gross darkness, without either help or hope. The gospel is the sun that enlightens the mind, the rain that waters the heart; it is that divine seed by which the quickening Spirit renews the soul, and implants a principle of spiritual life, which shall issue in a glorious and eternal one. By this our souls are refined, and our lusts consumed; without this, we can have no prospect of a world to come, nor any knowledge of the way that leads to it, for life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel, and by it only we are told, that God is in Christ reconci
ling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses ; and therefore the want of it must be the sum of all misery, and infinitely worse than any other calamity we can either feel or fear in this world. God may take notice of a people under the sharpest afflictions, but when he takes away his word, then he knows them no longer ; then all gracious correspondence or intercourse is broken up. This, O this, is the very dregs of vengeance! Yea, when the gospel departs from a people, all other blessings commonly depart with it. This is the charter of all our privileges, both spiritual and temporal; and therefore in losing it, we lose all that depends upon it; at least we forfeit our title, and any outward mercies that are continued with us, are only like food and raiment to a condemned criminal, which the King's clemency allows him, till the fatal sentence be executed upon him.
The gospel is not only the glory, but the strength of a nation; when it departs, God ceases to be their protector. The flourishing condition of the seven churches soon withered, when the candlestick was removed ; and their des plorable and abject state ever since, even with respect to external enjoyments and worldly advantages, is a melancholy proof that the gospel does not take flight alone, but is attended with every other thing that contributes to the glory or happiness of a people.
Thus have I represented to you the terribleness of this judgment. And now I come to point out your concern in this subject, and to direct you to the proper improvement of it. And if these things be so, have not we in these lands great reason to fear, that our iniquities may provoke the Lord to inflict this punishment upon us? Are we better than Ephesus, or the other churches of Asia ? Are our privileges greater, or better secured than theirs were ? yet their candlestick has been long removed, and who dare affirm, that curs may not be removed likewise? VOL. II.
My brethren, I have no design to alarm you with groundless fears; but my duty as a watchman obliges me to blow the trumpet when I see danger approaching; and that I may give it a distinct sound, I shall briefly unfold to you the grounds of my apprehension of approaching danger, in these following remarks: And,
1si, Is it not evident, that vice and immorality have grown up to an amazing height amongst us? Do not many proclaim their sins as Sodom, and hide them not? Yea, do not many glory in their shame, and count it their honour to excel in some branch of wickedness or other? I do not aggravate the charge ; every one's observation must convince him of the truth of it. Now, what must be the fruit of this ? Hear what God says by his prophet, Joel iii. 13. “ Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe, the press is full, the fat overflows; for their wickedness is great." I do not say we have just come this length, that we are already arrived at a fulness of iniquity ; but surely we have for a long time been advancing towards it by very hasty steps. And this, I think, is one reasonable ground of fear.
2dly, Is there not a visible contempt of the blessed gospel ? Are not the ordinances of religion slighted and despised ? yea, is it not become fashionable among many, to reject the whole of Revelation as a cunningly devised fable, and to use all their influence to proselyte the more simple and unthinking to their opinion ? Has not Deism, which began at court in King Charles II.'s reign, been still descending through all the inferior ranks, till now it has got low enough? And what does this presage? The Gadareans besought Christ to depart from their coasts, and got their request. The gospel is of too much worth to be always exposed to the injuries of men, and forced upon a people against their will. When children throw a precious jewel in the dirt, what can be expected, but that their father should take it from them, and lay it in