Page images
PDF
EPUB

Go then,--proud man !--and when thy head turns giddy with opinions of thy own wisdom, that thou wouldst correct the measures of the Almighty,go then,-take a full view of thyself in this glass :Consider thy own faculties, how narrow and imperfect ;-how much they are chequered with truth and falsehood ;-how little arrives at thy knowledge, and how darkly and confusedly thou discernest even that little, as in a glass :-consider the beginnings and endings of things, the greatest and the smallest, how they all conspire to baffle thee ;-and which way ever thou prosecutest thy enquiries,—what fresh subjects of amazement, and what fresh reasons to believe there are more yet behind which thou canst never comprehend !-Consider,--these are but a part of his ways.How little a portion is heard of him ?-" Canst thou, by searching, find out « God ?--wouldst thou know the Almighty to perfecstion ? It is as high as heaven, what canst thou 6 do ?mit is deeper than hell, how canst thou 66 know it?"

Could we but see the mysterious workings of Providence, and were we able to comprehend the whole plan of his infinite wisdom and goodness, which, possibly, may be the case in the final consummation of all things ;-those events, which we are now so perplexed to account for, would probably exalt and magnify his wisdom, and make us cry out, with the apostle, in that rapturous exclamation “O! the depth of the riches both of the goodness « and wisdom of God how unsearchable are his ways, and his paths past finding out !” Now to God, &c.

SERMON XLV.

THE INGRATITUDE OF ISRAEL.

II KINGS XVII. 7.

For so it was,—that the children of Israel had sinned against the

Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt.

The words of the text account for the cause of a sad calamity, which is related, in the foregoing verses, to have befallen a great number of Israelites, who were surprised in the capital city of Samaria, by Hosea, king of Assyria, and crully carried away by him out of their own country, and placed on the desolate frontiers of Halah, and in Haber, by the river Gozan, and in the city of the Medes, and there confined to end their days in sorrow and captivity.Upon which the sacred historian, instead of accounting for so sad an event merely from political springs and causes ; such, for instance, as the superior strength and policy of the enemy, or an unseasonable provocation given,-or that proper measures of defence were neglected,--he traces it up, in one word, to its true cause :--“ For so it was," says he, is that the children of Israel had sinned against the “ Lord their God, who had brought them up out of " the land of Egypt."-It was surely a sufficient foundation to dread some evil,—that they had sinned against that Being who had an unquestionable right to their obedience. --But what an aggravation was it—that they had not only sinned simply against the truth, but against the God of mercies, who “ had brought them forth out of the land of Egypt;"

- who not only created, upheld, and favoured them with so many advantages in common with the rest of their fellow-creatures,—but who had been particularly kind to them in their misfortunes ;-who, when they were in the house of bondage, in the most hopeless condition,--without a prospect of any natural means of redress, had compassionately heard their cry, and took pity upon the afflictions of a distressed people,

and, by a chain of miracles, delivered them from servitude and oppression :-miracles of so stupendous a nature, that I take delight to offer them, as often as I have an opportunity, to your devoutest contemplations. This, you would think as high and as complicated an aggravation of tijeir sins as could be urged in this was not all ;for, besides God's goodness in first favouring their miraculous escape, a series of successes not to be accounted for from second causes and the natural course of events, had crowned their heads in so remarkable a manner, as to afford an evident proof, not only of his general concern for their welfare, but of his particular providence and attachment to them above all people upon earth. In the wilderness he led them like sheep, and kept them as the apple of his eye :-he suffered no man to do them wrong, but reproved even kings for their sake.When they entered into the promised land,-no force was able to stand before them ;-when in possession of it, no army was able to drive them outi and, in a word, nature, for a time, was driven backwards to serve them, and even the sun itself had

stood still in the midst of heaven, to secure their victories!

A people with so many testimonies of God's favour, who had not profited thereby, so as to become a virtuous people, must have been utterly corrupt : and so they were.--And it is likely, from the many specimens they had given, in Moses's time, of a disposition to forget God's benefits, and, upon every trial, to rebel against him,—he foresaw they would certainly prove a thankless and unthinking people, extremely inclined to go astray and do evil ;—and, therefore, if any thing was likely to bring them back to themselves, and to consider the evils of their misdoings-it must be the dread of some temporal calamity, which, he prophetically threatened, would one day or other befall them ;-hoping, no doubt, that if no principle of gratitude could make them an obedient people, at least they might be wrought upon by the terror of being reduced back again by the same all-powerful hand to their first distressed condition ;-which, in the end, did actually overtake them.--For, at length, when neither the alternatives of promises nor threatenings, when neither rewards nor corrections,-comforts nor afflictions, could soften them ;-when continual instructions, warnings, invitations ;-reproofs, miracles, prophets, and holy guides, had no effect, but, instead of making them grow better, apparently made them grow worse,God's patience at length withdrew, and he suffered them to reap the wages of their folly, by letting them fall into the state of bondage, from whence he had first raised them ;-and that not only in that partial instance of those in Samaria, who were taken by Hosea,but, I mean, in that

more general instance of their overthrow by the army of the Chaldeans ;-wherein he suffered the whole nation to be led away, and carried captive into Nineveh and Babylon.-We may be assured, that the history of God Almighty's just dealings with this froward and thoughtless people-was not wrote for nothing ;- but that it was given as a loud call and warning of obedience and gratitude, for all races of men to whom the light of revelation should hereafter reach ;-and, therefore, I have made choice of this subject, as it seems likely to furnish some reflections seasonable for the beginning of this week, which shouid be devoted to such medi. tations as may prepare and fit us for the solemn fast which we are shortly to observe, and whose pious intention will not be answered by a bare assembling ourselves together, without making some religious and national remarks suitable to the occasion. Doubtless, there is no nation which ever had so many extraordinary reasons and supernatural motives to become thankful and virtuous as the Jews had ;-which, besides the daily blessings of God's providence to them, has not received sufficient blessings and mercies at the hand of God, so as to engage their best services, and the warmest returns of gratitude they can pay.

There has been a time, may be, when they have been delivered from some grievous calamity,from the rage of pestilence or famine,- from the edge and fury of the sword from the fate and fall of kingdoms round them :--they may have been preserved by providential discoveries of plots and designs against the well-being of their states, or by critical turns and revolutions in their fayour, when

« PreviousContinue »