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refrain from praising him who had wrought their deliverance ; the most obdurate could not but feel; the most insensible could not but admire. Happy would it have been for them if they had always continued in this mind; but though, through frailty, they soon relinquished this heavenly temper, the effect, while it lasted, was good and suitable.] IMPROVEMENT
1. Let us endeavour to get our minds duly impressed with the temporal deliverances vouchsafed to us as a nation
(We must be blind indeed if we see not the hand of God in the repeated victories which we have lately gained : though they have not been either so miraculous or so complete as that recorded in the text, they demand our most grateful acknowledgments. Had they been as numerous and decisive in favour of our enemies as they have been on our part, we should before this time have seen this land the theatre of war. Let us then praise and adore our God for his interposition on our behalf; nor let us soon forget the wonders he has wrought for us; let us rather turn to him in an humble dependence on his mercy; Let us plead the promises he has made to all penitent and believing people; and let us, in faith and penitence, expect the accomplishment of his word.]
2. Let us take occasion also to bless him for the spiritual deliverance wrought for us as individuals
[Our danger from the broken law was far greater than from human foes : there was no possible method of escape, if God had not interposed for us; but he has opened a way for us through the death of his own Son, and utterly vanquished all the enemies of our salvation. Let every heart and every tongue unite in his praise; nor let the remembrance of his mercy be ever effaced from our minds, but let his word, whereby he encourages sinners, be our hope ; then shall every fresh victory be a pledge of future triumphs, and the final destruction of our enemies be the subject of eternal praise.]
DCLXXVIII. THE EVIL AND DANGER OF INGRATITUDE. Ps. cvi. 21—23. They forgat God their Saviour, which had done
great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea. Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.
THERE is scarcely any sin more strongly reprobated in the Scripture than ingratitude. In the catalogue which the Apostle gives us of the crimes committed by the heathen world, unthankfulness to God is particularly specified as one of the most heinous and inexcusable". And the judgments denounced against one of the most eminent saints for a single instance of it, indisputably prove, how hateful it must be in the sight of God. In improving the instance recorded in the text, we shall, I. Consider the history referred to
[The history to which our text alludes is so well known, as not to need many words either to record or explain it. There were mercies vouchsafed to the Israelites in Egypt, such as never had been experienced before from the foundation of the world --- But they presently forgat their almighty Deliverer, and worshipped a golden calf in his stead. This justly excited the indignation of God, and determined him to destroy them. But Moses, having already fasted forty days and nights, fell down before God, and, during forty more days and nights, neither ate nor drank, but interceded on behalf of this rebellious people. God in answer to his intercession averted the stroke, and forbore to punish them according to their deserts.] II. Apply it to existing circumstances
[We need not recall to your minds what great things God has lately done for us also in Egypta. Except in the history of the Jewish nation, there is scarcely any victory recorded in the annals of the world that was more glorious or complete than that vouchsafed to us. Yet how have we requited the Lord? At first, like the Jews, we were willing to give God the glory, and to sing his praise : but has not the impression worn off? and have we not shamefully “forgotten our Benefactor?" --- Well might God's anger wax hot against us, to consume us for such ingratitude ---Nor can we ascribe it to any thing but the intercessions of God's people that his wrath has not burst forth against us, as against Korah and his company, to destroy us utterly.] III. Deduce from it some suitable observations
[We are commanded to pray for all men, and especially a Rom. i. 21. 2 Chron. xxxii. 25. • Exod. xxxii. 8—14.
d This was the first fast-day after Lord Nelson's victory near the Nile, 1800.
to a The ho benefit
for kings and all that are in authority. Yea, even in Babylon, were the Jews taught to pray for the peace and prosperity of their very oppressors: how much more then should we intercede for our native country, where we enjoy every liberty that we can desire! Let it not be said, that our governors do not deserve our prayers; for the injunction to pray for kings was delivered in the reign of Nero, than whom a more wicked prince could not exist. Let us then make a conscience of this duty; for if we know not to intercede for others, we have no reason to think that we have ever yet seen aright the value of our own souls.] 2. The benefit of public fasts
[The honour God has put upon public fasts is well known to all; and his answers to united supplications have been as signal as the hand of God could make them. The victory given to Jehoshaphate, the respite to Nineveh', and the deliverance to Peter the very day before his intended destructions, sufficiently evince, that God will hear the united prayers of his people. Indeed, if one man, Moses, so prevailed for the saving of a whole nation, what deliverance should not nations receive, if they would all unite in prayer! If a few individuals alone mourn for the land, they shall have at least some tokens of peculiar favour to themselves, though they should not succeed in averting God's anger from the nation at large h. But if there be not some to stand in the breach, it cannot fail but that we must be overwhelmed'.]
3. The guilt and danger of neglecting Christ
[Great as were the mercies vouchsafed to the Jews in Egypt, they are not to be compared with the redemption which we have experienced through Christ: as our bondage was infinitely more grievous, so the means used to effect our deliverance, infinitely enhance the value of the deliverance itself; we are bought with blood, and that blood was the blood of our incarnate God—-- What destruction then must not we expect if we should forget “God our Saviourk?” --Nor is it the intercession of others that shall ever prevail to avert it from us; we must pray, every one of us for himself: not but that mutual intercession may in this respect be productive of great benefits. Let us then “ bear his great goodness in remembrance," and let it be our song in time, as it shall be through all eternity.]
DCLXXIX. THE ZEAL OF PHINEHAS COMMENDED. Ps. cvi. 30. Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment ;
and so the plague was stayeda. TO enter profitably into this subject, it will be necessary that I state, in few words, the history to which my text refers.
Balaam had been invited by Balak, King of Moab, to come and curse Israel, whose approach he dreaded, and whom he hoped by these means to subdue. Balaam, “ coveting the wages of unrighteousness," thought to enrich himself by executing the wishes of the king of Moab; but was overruled by God to bless the very people whom he was hired to curse. Accordingly he was dismissed without the expected reward. But, with a view of obtaining the promised recompence, he struck out another way in which Balak might ultimately gain his end. He knew, that, if Israel could be ensnared to cast off their allegiance to God, they might lose his protection, and thus fall an easy prey to their enemies. He advised therefore, that Balak should facilitate an intercourse between the Moabitish women and Israel; and thus draw the people of Israel into an illicit connexion with them. And this once established, the Israelites would, in all probability, be led to attend the Moabitish women to their sacred feasts; and thus, by conforming to their habits, they would, in a short time, be seduced to a participation with them in their idolatrous rites.
In this advice Balaam had but too well succeeded; and almost the whole of Israel were thus drawn into the sins of fornication and idolatry: to punish which, Jehovah had inflicted on them a plague, whereby no less than three and twenty thousand Israelites were slain. To avert the anger of the Most High, Moses issued an order, that the judges of Israel should “ slay all those who had joined themselves to Baal-Peor, the god of Moab, and hang them up
a Numb. xxv. 13. “ He was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel,” would be a good text for this sermon.
before the Lord against the sun." In this way one thousand more were slain. Yet behold, whilst vengeance was thus executing upon the offenders, a prince of one of the tribes brought a Midianitish princess, in the very sight of Moses and of the whole congregation, to his tent, defying, as it were, the indignation both of God and man, and setting at nought all regard even to common decency: and it was on this occasion that Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the high-priest, rose up from his place, and followed them to their tent, and with his javelin pierced both of them through their bodies in the very act of sin : and thus, making, as it were, an atonement to the Divine justice, he prevailed with the Deity to stop the plague.
Now this act of his being very highly commended in the Scriptures, and being replete with instruction proper to this occasion', I shall point out,
I. The importance of zeal in a general view.
II. The excellence of it as displayed in the history before us.
1. Zeal in itself may be either good or bad according to the object to which it is directed. Hence the Apostle limits his commendation of it by this particular consideration; “ It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing." If exercised in a bad cause, it only precipitates a person to the commission of greater evil : but, when put forth in the prosecution of a good object, it facilitates the attainment of the end proposed. Without zeal, nothing that is at all difficult can be accomplished. From whatever our indifference arise, it can never succeed in any arduous undertaking. If we be indolent in study, we can never make any great proficiency either in art or science. There may be, it is true, a brightness of genius which shall enable a person to shine amongst his fellows without much labour : but he will be
b An Assize Sermon, at Cambridge, March 12, 1831, just after riotous combinations against agricultural machinery, together with most destructive incendiarism, which had prevailed in many parts of the country, were put down by a special commission at Winchester.