« IndietroContinua »
another place, and punish them too for their folly and ingratitude ? A
3d Sign of approaching danger is the small success which accompanies the preaching of the gospel, even among those who profess to believe it. How few converts are born into the church! Is it not visible, that numbers who attend upon ordinances are still lying in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity ? How few are seriously inquiring after the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward ? And is not this too a presage of a departing gospel, when God ceases to pour oil into the lamp, to accompany the ordinances of religion with the influences of his Spirit ? Surely we have reason to fear, that he intends to remove the candlestick to some other place, and give it to those who will value it more, and make better use of it than we have done. A
4th Ground of fear, is the present divided state of our church. Union is the strength of the religious, as well as of the civil society ; for a house divided against itself cannot stand. It is a weighty saying of one upon this head, that when children fall out, and fight about the candle, the parents come and take it away, and leave them to decide their differences in the dark. We may justly fear that God will take away that light which we abuse in quarrelling, instead of walking and working by it.Add to all these, in the
5th place, The threatening aspect of divine providence -the success of our enemies abroad, and the bold attempt, which is still carrying on, against our religion and liberties at home, and then judge whether there be not suffi. cient grounds of fear. “ Will a lion roar in the forest when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing ? Can a bird fall in a snare upon the garth, where no gin is for him ? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing
all? a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid ? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord
hath not done it? The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" My brethren, God has been speaking to us in a very awful manner for these six months past; and that we might not mistake his voice, most of the events that have fallen out in that space of time, have been altogether surprising and unexpected. Our enemies themselves were amazed at their success, and ascribed it to the immediate hand of God, which favoured their enterprise ; and the hand of God has been no less remarkably displayed in our benign deliverance. The retreat of the rebels, immediately after a victory, without facing an army they had so lately overcome, was so contrary to the general opinion, that I believe the wisest heads were afraid of some cunning artifice, some deep laid plot to draw our men into a snare, from which they should not easily escape. In a word, man's part in this whole affair has been so small and inconsiderable, that it is evidently the Lord's own doing; and though he has employd instruments both to distress and relieve us, yet he has done it in such a sovereign manner, that he seems to have used them upon no other design, but only to convince us that lie can work without them. I confess, my brethren, the care which God has taken to make himself observable in the conduct of these occurrences, is one of the principal grounds of my fears at this time; nor are my fears a whit lessened by the late favourable dispensation. I look upon it indeed as an intimation, that he who is a God of judgment, is also a God of mercy; and that, notwithstanding all our past provocations, he is yet willing to be reconciled to us upon the terms of the gospel ; and therefore I view it in the light of an encouragement to repentance, but not at all as a sign that God's anger is turned away from us, or a security that our danger is over. No, my brethren, the sun rose upon Sodom the morning of that very day in which it was consumed by fire from heaven. We have got breathing time, a respite from judgment, but not a perfect deliverance; and if we do not improve the day of our visitation, this mixture of goodness with severity makes it only the more probable that the last exercise of God's patience is at hand, and that the things which belong to our peace are in the greatest danger of being hid from our eyes.
Thus then you see what grounds there are to fear, that the dreadful judgment threatened in the text may be in. flicted upon us; and this, I hope, will dispose us all to listen to the exhortation here given us, “ Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works."
This is the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the only way to prevent the ruin of a sinful people. The substance of this exhortation I have frequently pressed upon you, and therefore I shall not now enlarge upon it, and every thing I have just now delivered to you, may serve as motives to induce you to comply with it. The candlestick may be removed from you. This deprivation of the gospel is the most terrible of all God's judgments; and as our sins deserve it, so God by his providence has actually been threatening us with it. O then let us be awakened from our security, let us value the gospel dispensation, and improve it to the obtaining a gospel nature. Let us not loiter while the sun shines, lest we be benighted. It will not stand still at our pleasure, but will go its course according to the command of its Governor, and listens not to the follies of men, nor tarries for our delays. Let us then stir up ourselves to call upon our Lord, who is the Lord of Zion, and the protector and safeguard of our Jerusalem. Let us plead with him, as the disciples that were going to Emmaus, “ Lord, abide with us, for the evening begins to come, and the day is far spent.” Our Saviour did so, and gave them his blessing. He may do so with us likewise. He may return with a rich blessing to our land and church, and abide with us and our posterity till the day of glory break, and all the shadows fly away. Amen.
2 CHRONICLES v. 13, 14.
It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as
one to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lift up their voice, with the trumpets and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever, that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord : So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud ; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.
The day of Pentecost excepted, when the Holy Ghost made a visible descent upon the Apostles of our Lord, I look upon this to have been the brightest day of beaven upon earth that ever the church of God was favoured with. It is impossible to conceive the joy, the wonder, the ecstacy of these devout worshippers, when they beheld the cloud, that well known symbol of the Divine presence, and saw the temple filled with his glory. Solomon himself, as we learn from the 18th verse of the following chapter, was so overpowered with this extraordinary manifestation, that he made a sudden pause even after he had begun to pray; and, like one doubtful whether he should believe the testimony of his own senses, abruptly asks the question ; “ But, will God in very deed elwell with men on the earth ? Behold! heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee, how much less this house that I have built !"
It appears, from the last chapter of the book of Exodus, that, when the tabernacle was first erected in the wilderness, God was pleased to take visible possession of it, in a way similar to what is here recorded ; and the effects (though not precisely the same) were very
much akin to those I have now read to you: For we are there told, that Moses, the man of God, was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord had filled the tabernacle: But here the cloud not only filied the tabernacle, but the whole temple ; and the Divine presence was displayed with such glory and majesty, that the priests who burnt incense at the golden altar, were obliged, at least for some time, to intermit the service. They could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.
I suppose I need scarcely observe to you, that such pompous and visible manifestations of the divine p esence are not to be expected in gospel days. The darkness of the former dispensation required those external aids, and rendered them not only desirable, but useful and necessary; but now, that the darkness is dispelled, and the dayspring from on high hath visited us;-the great objects of faith being freed from the thick vail of types and shadows, penetrate the mind without the assistance of our bodily senses, and make a deeper and more lasting impresa sion upon the believing soul, than the most splendid scenes the eye could behold.
Zion's glory doth not now consist in outward pomp and magnificence, but in the spiritual though invisible presence of her king, according to his own gracious promise, “ Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world;" and, “ where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." When a divine power accompanies the ordinances of religion;