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of the Lord and spread it before the Lord: and then delivered that excellent prayer which is here recorded, and of which the words first quoted are the concluding part. The prophet declared in the name of the Lord, that the king of Assyria should not come into the city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. “ By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for mine own sake," &c.
What befel the king soon after and his vast army, we find narrated in the three last verses of the chapter.
The words on which we meditate considered in their connexion, lead us to dwell a little on the Providence of God over the nations of mankind. The doctrine of providence is very fully taught in the sacred writings. It is very common in the book of psalms to style Jehovah governor among the nations. He ruleth in the rag. ing of the seas, and the tumults of the people. Say among the heathen, the Lord reigneth, he shall judge the people righteously. The Lord sitteth upon the floods, yea, the Lord sitteth king forever. The Lord giveth strength unto his people, the Lord will bless his people with peace. Come, and behold the works of the Lord what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands; sing forth the honour of his name; make his praise glorious. Say unto God, how terrible art thou in thy works! All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing unto thy name. Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men. He ruleth by his power forever. His eyes behold the nations. Let not the rebellious exalt themselves. O let the nations be glad, and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.
There are many other texts of a similar import; and all serve to teach us, that the states and nations of the earth are under the Divine Providence and government, according to what Hezekiah says, in this prayer. When they prosper, enjoy the blessings of peace and plenty, have healthful seasons, and any other advantages; they are taught to ascribe all to the goodness of God. And when national calamities and distresses of any kind are experienced, they are taught to consider their ways, wherein they have provoked him to displeasure, to repent of their sins, and depre
cate his wrath; for, shall there be evil in the city, says the prophet, (shall there be disease, pestilence, or the sword,) and the Lord hath not done it?
If he is “ terrible in his doing toward the children of men,” it is because they have been disobedient to his commands, neglected his worship and praise, and refused to see and own his providential care over them. If he“ will judge the people righteously,” it is because he has given them laws, and laid them under the greatest obligations to gratitude and obedience. If all lands are commanded to make a joyful noise to Jehovah, it is because nothing can be more reasonable and just, than that those who enjoy the good things with which this world abounds, the various and precious productions of the several regions of the globe, the various sources of national wealth and prosperity, and especially those who enjoy, as we do, the inestimable blessings of peace, and of civil and religious liberty, should praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men. '
It would be a profitable exercise, to consider all the dealings of God with the nations of mankind, from age to age. When we consider how nations have flourished and been happy, while they have practised righteousness, and avoided those vices which are the reproach and ruin of any people; and how, on the contrary, they have declined and fallen, and in many instances become totally extinct, when they had become depraved, impious, cruel, and unjust; it would be strange, if we did not view in all these things the overrulig had of God. So that nothing perhaps is better adapted to confirm us in the belief of a providence, than a careful perusal of the pages of history; especially the sacred writings. How much is it the duty of a nation, in a public capacity, as a people enjoying common rights, and common mercies, to acknowledge the goodness of God, and to praise him for the same.
When the Divine Being, the governor among the nations, has a controversy with a people, he can easily deprive them of their choicest blesings, and involve them in complicated calamities. He can command wasting diseases to sweep over extensive provinces, can make the heavens to become as brass and the earth as iron; can secretly dry up all the sources of a nation's wealth; can give them up to weak or wicked councils, to internal divisions, or external foes. On the contrary, he can heal their divisions, give them good and upright rulers, inspire them with prudent counsels; send down the benign influences of the heavens, and replenish the earth with his riches; he can “ multiply the nation
rth as brightnessng people ; so that their and improved,
and increase its joy"; he can cause knowledge to abound, science to diffuse its meridian beams, and every useful art to flourish; and especially make the pure and heavenly truths of the gospel to be proclaimed unto, and to be gladly received and improved, by a wise and understanding people; so that their righteousness shall go forth as brightness, and their salvation as a lamp that burneth. All these things can He do, who is the governor of the nations, and who declares that he will judge the people righteously. How profitable must it be, to meditate much on the ways of God to men! Let us remember that the scripture represents it as cause of the greatest joy, that the Lord reigneth. “ Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Let, the earth be glad, and the multitude of isles rejoice. It can, however, be cause of joy to the righteous only that this is the case. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cries; but the face of the Lord is set against the wicked, to destroy them. Various and oftentimes very trying are t'e scenes, through which the people of God are called to pass in this world: and the most trying will be the concluding scene, when their eyes close on all things beneath the sun. How unspeakably important, then, will it be, for us to have good ground to hope, that we are supported and protected by a divine hand, and that all things shall work for good! what joy must it give, to think that the Lord is our shepherd, and that we shall not want any good thing. And that he will guide us through the vale of death, to an infinitely better world than this! Let us view all those things that any way conduce to national prosperity, as coming from the hand of God, and be thankful for them; and let us also view all calamities as tokens of the displeasure of God against the sins of men, and as solemn calls to repentance.
Let us remember that how flourishing soever our national affairs may be at any time, if we be ungrateful and rebellious, the righteous governor and judge of the world can soon change the face of things, and cause days of darkness to come upon us; can visit not only our sea-ports and flourishing cities with wasting diseases, but even make the most healthy situations scenes of deep distress. Let us acknowledge the over-ruling Providence of God from day to day; and while we pray for the prosperity of the nations, let us especially pray for the prosperity of Zion, that her righteousness may “go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth."
REGENERATION. That the Infidel, or the Socinian, on their principles, should even make a jest of the doctrine of Regeneration, as implying a radical and entire change of the heart, is not at all to be wondered at. But I have often thought it somewhat remarkable, that any christian, who holds the doctrine as, in this view, scriptural, should not likewise admit the necessity of a supernatural divine agency in the production of the change. The description, so expressly and so frequently given in holy scripture, of the depravity of human nature, and of the total impotence of its powers to effectuate any thing spiritually good, together with the many strong terms, in which it designates the change itself, the necessity of it, and the means by which it is effected, one would think, were sufficient to preclude all hesitation on the subject.
Under this view, I would request the reader to consider with due attention and impartiality the following passages: viz. Rom. vii. 18. “ In me, that is, in my flesh," meaning his nature as carnal and unrenewed, “ dwelleth no good thing;” nothing of the nature or description of that in which real moral excellence and its acceptableness in the sight of God consisteth. Rom. vii. 7. “ The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Psal. liii. 2.“ God Jooked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no not one.” Gen. vi. 5. " And God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Jer. xvii. 19. “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Again, read Jer. xiii. 23. “ Can the Ethiopean change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” 2 Cor. iii. 18. “ But we all,” that is, believers, “ with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.” Ch. 4. v. 6. “ For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” John iii. 3.“ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that, which is born of the spirit, is spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth; so is
every one that is born of the spirit.” Eph. ii. 8. For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that, not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Eph. ii. 10. “ For we are his workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus unto good words.” Gal. vi. 15. “ For in Christ Jesus, * neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but
a new creature.” “ Therefore,” 2 Cor. v. 17. “ if any man be in - Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; be- hold, all things are become new.” With many otber passages to the same purpose.
I am not here concerned to account for this woeful defection of our nature, which originally must have come pure and perfect -- from the hand of its Creator, and fully competent to whatever
our well-being, as so constituted, required. Nor am I concerned to make such explanations of these and the like passages, as shall point out their consistency with the many observable appearances
of moral capacity and virtue, which are exhibited by men while . as yet in their unregenerate state. Let it suffice, for the present,
that, those passages bear, not only explicit, but in my opinion, decided testimony to the following truths: namely, That the unrenewed heart of man is radically bad ; that its natural tendency
or disposition is to evil; and that, as such, and so disposed, he is i morally incapable of thinking, resolving, and acting in such man
ner, as the nature and perfections of God, as his relations to God, and as the holy and spiritual laws of God require; that, in order to this, a great moral change, or renovation of the heart, must take place; and that the change, if effected at all, must be affected by the agency of a superior power; or, according to the gospel,
by the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit. iz Such being the case, my discussion might terminate here,
were I not sensible, that there are, both professors and preachers of christianity, who, though they expressly assent to these truths, yet do not admit a most important, and as I conceive, inseparable article of their import: that is, that both the change itself, and the efficiency of the productive power, are above nature: I mean, above the reach and standard of its powers and their proper operation in this our lapsed state; and that the change is such, as cannot be effected, either exclusively by the agency of our own powers, or by the agency of the same powers, even aided, or actuated, according to their nature, by a power superior. “ Who,” saith Job, xiv. 4. “ can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” “ Do men” saith our Saviour, “ gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit; a good tree can