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visible manifestations of his power and love. If he delay, we must wait his time: if he appear for a time to have forgotten us, we must regard it only as a call to give him a more abundant measure of glory, by a full persuasion, that" in the mount of difficulty he will be seen;" and that, though he were to suffer us all to perish, he would rather raise us up again from the dead than fail to accomplish any one of his promises. Such was Abraham's faith; and such should be ours alsoo : and “ sooner shall heaven and earth pass away” than one such Believer ever fall short of the promised inheritance.] And now let me ADDRESS, 1. The querulous
[Alas! to what an awful degree has discontent raged in our hearts, under circumstances of trial; so that we have dared to question, not only the willingness, but even the power, of God to relieve us! Nay, we have even, like Jonah, vindicated our complaints, and thought that “we did well to be angry.” But remember, Brethren, that God is the disposer of all events: and, whilst you vent your rage against those who may have been accessary to your troubles, your murmuring is in reality against God. Beware, I pray you, lest you provoke him to anger, and bring down upon your souls his heavy displeasure. Your wisdom and your duty is, under every affliction, to “be silent before God," or to say, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.”] 2. The doubting
[You do not well to limit the mercies of your God. " Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I have a child, who am old "?" And wherefore do you suffer any difficulties to shake your confidence in God? “ Is there any thing too hard for the Lord?” Peter, when he saw the waves, began to sink through fear. But our Lord reproved him, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” So then I say to you, Look only to the promises: and think not whether they be more or less difficult of accomplishment: but take them ; plead them; rest on them; expect the fulfilment of them: and be assured, that “not one thing shall fail, of all the good things which the Lord your God has promised to you." “ Faithful is He that hath called you; who also will do it h.'] 3. The true believer
[“ Hold fast your confidence in God.” This will bring peace unto your souls, and will give glory to your God. Of all the graces that have been ever exercised by the Lord's
. Heb. xi. 17-19.
Gen. xviii. 12, 13. h 1 Thess. v. 24.
& Josh. xxii. 14.
people, no one has been so much noticed, and so highly applauded by him, as faith. Even when as bright an assemblage of graces as ever were united, were called forth into exercise by the penitent Mary, nothing but her faith was noticed by our Lord: “ Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace.” In fact, as it is that which, more than any other grace, honours God, that beyond every other shall be honoured by him. “ Be strong then in faith, giving glory to God;” and “ according to your faith it shall be unto you."]
i Luke vii. 50.
DCXXXIII. OBSTINACY IN SIN REPROVED. Ps. lxxviii. 32. For all this, they sinned still. THE history of the Israelites in the wilderness should not be considered as the history of that people only, but of human nature in general. In this view, it is pre-eminently instructive; because it serves as a mirror, to reflect our own persons, and to shew us what is actually passing in our own hearts. In illustration of this remark, I will set before you, I. The state of Israel in the wilderness
It is plainly depicted in the psalm before us. It was one continued contest between God and them; God endeavouring, by mercies and judgments, to reclaim them from their evil ways; and they determinately persisting in their rebellion against him.
1. They had begun their wickedness early
[Whilst they were yet in Egypt, where, as might be supposed, they were led to commit idolatry, God had endeavoured to withdraw them from it. He had revealed himself to them as the God of their fathers; and had urged them to cast away their abominations and their idols. But they would not hearken unto him: on the contrary, so obstinately did they adhere to their idol worship, that, had it not been for his own great Name's sake, which would have been dishonoured among the heathen, God would have cut them off from being a nation, and have utterly destroyed them from the face of the eartha. When Moses had clearly proved to them his divine mission to deliver them, they murmured at the delay which Pharaoh's obstinacy had created, and made their augmented trials an occasion of utter despondency". After all the wonders that had been wrought in Egypt before
a Ezek. xx. 5—9. • Exod. v. 20, 21, .
lid the not hearken unto nations and then had urged themself their eyes, and they were brought out with a high hand, no sooner did they see fresh perils arise, than they renewed their murmurings with augmented vehemence, and complained that they had been betrayed to their utter ruino. Nor did even the passage of the Red Sea, and the sight of all their enemies dead upon the sea-shore, cure them of this propensity : for they were a rebellious and stiff-necked people even to the end".] 2. They continued it with scarcely any intermission
[For a little moment “ they believed the words of God, and sang his praise e;” but “they soon forgat his works,” and provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Seak." Read their history, of which a summary is given in the psalm before us, and you will find it one continued series of murmurings and rebellions. Dissatisfied with the provision which God gave them in the wilderness, they invidiously contrasted with it the delicacies which they had enjoyed in Egypt, their flesh and fish, their leeks and onions, and expressed their doubt whether God could furnish them with such provisions as thoseh: and, when God had done it in such profusion that it was not possible for them to consume it all, and at the same time had testified his abhorrence of their inordinate desires, they, instead of humbling themselves before him, continued impenitent, and, as my text expresses it, “ for all this, they sinned stilli.” They had not been three months in the wilderness before they even made a golden calf, and worshipped that as their deliverer. On some occasions, indeed, after signal judgments had been inflicted on them, they pretended to repent, and to turn unto God; but “ their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenantk." In truth, “ they despised the pleasant land?” which God had promised to them for an inheritance; and, in the issue, they provoked “him to swear in his wrath that they should never enter into his rest ."]
3. They were utterly irreclaimable by any dispensations, whether of mercy or of judgment
[The mercies which God vouchsafed to them were innumerable; yet," for all this, they sinned still.” The judgments also which he inflicted were most awful; but, “ for all this, they sinned still.” In a word, they kept up the contest, till they all, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, were utterly consumed.]
And can any parallel to this be found ? Yes, indeed, it will be found in, II. The state of the Christian Church at this day
c Exod. xiv. 11, 12. d Deut. ix. 7. e Ps. cvi. 12. f Ps. cvi. 13.
8 Ps. cvi. 7.
h ver. 19, 20. i ver. 27–32.
k ver. 34-37. 1 Ps. cvi. 24. m Ps. xcv. 11.'
1. Our guilt resembles theirs
[The sins of Israel may be comprehended under these two, ingratitude and unbelief. And let me ask, Are not these sins as prevalent amongst ourselves as ever they were in the days of Israel? Are not we loaded with benefits, even as they were? What conveniences had they, which are not showered down on us? It matters not whether our food be rained down from the clouds, or raised up from the earth : here it is, and we gather it, and have the calls of nature satisfied. The providence of God, if less visibly displayed towards us, is not a whit less careful of us, nor is his goodness towards us less manifest to the eye of faith. But where do we find hearts duly sensible of his tender mercy? Where do we find persons rendering to him the honour due unto his name? Where do we find persons, under circumstances of trial, able to repose their confidence in God, and with peaceful resignation expecting his gracious and seasonable interposition? Where do we find that his word forms such a ground of affiance, as to supersede all doubts and fears respecting the final issue of events? In a word, who amongst us is in the daily habit of acknowledging God in every thing, and of committing every thing to his disposal, and of living only to his glory? If our murmurings and discontent be less visible, they are not less real, when we cast the blame of our trials on second causes, instead of tracing them to that divine hand from whence they all proceed. And if, instead of living with heaven in our view, and proceeding towards that as our desired rest, we are occupied mainly with the things of time and sense, we are really in the state which we have before contemplated, and may see in the Israelites of old our own hateful deformity.] 2. The gradations of our guilt, too, are the same
[They sinned—they sinned still — they sinned still, notwithstanding all that God could do to reclaim them. And what have we done from our youth up? In our earliest years, we no sooner began to act, than we began to violate the laws of God --- As our reason became matured, it might be hoped that we should act in a way more suited to our profession, and more pleasing to God. But neither days nor years have made any difference in this respect : on the contrary, we have gone on adding iniquity to iniquity, in one continued series, even to the present hour: nor have any dispensations of God, whether in a way of mercy or of judgment, produced any permanent effect upon our minds. Now and then, perhaps, we may have felt a transient gleam of thankfulness on our minds, or some faint resolve to amend our ways: but both the one and the other have passed away without lasting benefit; and notwithstanding all God's efforts to reclaim us, we are still the same.]
3. The aggravations of our guilt are greater far
[We have sinned against greater light than they. What knew they of the mind of God, in comparison with us? The poorest person in the midst of us is better informed than they : and, consequently, our violations of duty are proportionably heinous in the sight of God. We have sinned, too, against richer mercies than they. What is their redemption from Egypt in comparison of that which has been vouchsafed to us from sin and death? Theirs was by power only: but who can estimate the price that has been paid for us, even “the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot n?” They ate indeed of manna, and drank of water from the rock: but we have Christ himself, who is the true bread from heaven; and we have the Holy Spirit, whom Christ pours out abundantly upon us, for the refreshing of our thirsty souls. They had the guidance of the pillar and the cloud; but we have the word of God, which is both "a light to our feet in general, and a lantern to our paths,” for our direction and preservation, every step we take. We have sinned, also, against stronger inducements than they. To them was promised the enjoyment of the land of Canaan, as a land flowing with milk and honey; and the loss of it was threatened as the punishment of disobedience. But heaven and hell are set before us; even heaven with all its glory, and hell with all its inconceivable terrors : the one, as the reward of our fidelity; the other, as the recompence of impenitence and unbelief. Say, then, whether the guilt of Israel can be compared with ours ? and whether, whilst we are ready to cast reflections on the Jews of old as a race of unparalleled impiety, we have not reason to acknowledge ourselves their equals, or rather their superiors, in iniquity ?] But it is time that we descend from general views
of this subject, to a PERSONAL APPLICATION of it.
Permit me, then, to ask of you individually, 1. What is your state at this time?
[You have seen what the state of Israel was: and you know, by the state of Caleb and Joshua, what it ought to have been. Now, has your state resembled theirs ? Are you “ following the Lord fully ?” Have you searched out the Promised Land, and brought from thence the grapes of Eschol? and are you bearing your testimony before all, that it is the duty of every man to go up and possess the land ? Are you exercising faith in God, as able to put down your enemies, and as pledged to bring you into possession of your promised inheritance? Is there a wide difference between the unbelieving
n 1 Pet. i, 19.