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“ children of Judah together, going and weeping; they u thall go and seek the Lord, their God. They shall alk “ the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, “ Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpe. “ tual covenant, that shall not be forgotten.” I shall close this head, by addressing to you the words of God to the children of Israel, Joel ii. i2, 13. “ Therefore also "now, faith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your "heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with “ mourning, and rend your heart, and not your gar“ments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is
gracious and merciful, flow to anger, and of great u kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."
I proceed, now, to make some practical improvement of what hath been said. And,
1. You may learn, from this subject, the force and meaning of those passages of fcripture, in which the whole of religion is expressed by the knowledge of God. Thus, Prov. ix. 10. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of “ wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understand“ ing." The same thing is affirmed by our blessed Sa. viour, John xvii. 3. “ And this is life eternal, that they
might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, " whom thou hast fent.” On the other hand, wicked men are often described by this short and expressive character, that they know not God, as in 2 Theff. i. 8. " - In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know “ not God.” The truth is, God is either wholly unknown, or greatly mistaken by wicked men. None but his fervants do truly fee his glory; and the more they fee of him, the more they are assimilated to him. Thus the apostle Paul describes conversion in the following terms, 2 Cor. iv. 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.” And, in the same epiftle, chap. iii. 18, he thus describes the progress of the christian life, “ But " we all, 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.”
2. From what hath been said on this subject, you may learn the great danger of a state of ignorance. if repentance, which is the beginning of true religion, takes its rise from a knowledge of the nature and perfections of God, does it not follow, that those who are grossly igno. rant, are not only in a contemptible, but in a deplorable state ? that they must be strangers to the power and practice of religion, and, dying in that condition, mult
perish eternally ? It is much to be lamented, that even amongst us, who have the means of instruction in so great plenty, there are still many who continue grossly ignorant. How inexcusable are those parents, who do not make conscience of diligently training up their children in the knowledge of the things that belong to their eternal peace? I muit also intreat all heads of families, whom God hath enabled to hire the labor of others, seriously to think of the obligation that lies upon them, to instruct their servants in the principles of religion, and not suffer any under their roof to perish for lack of knowledge. Do not think you have done enough, when you have given them food and wages,
you wholly neglect their precious fouls. I do not expect to prevail upon you, faithfully to discharge this duty, by any arguments but those drawn from the glory of God, and your own everlasting interest; but I cannot help, at the same time, putting you in mind, that it is very much for your temporal interest. Depend upon it, the more conscientiously you discharge your duty to them, the more honestly, diligently, and chearfully will they serve you. It is very common to hear complaints of the flothfulness, unfaithfulness, and insolence of fervants; but, if we consider, seriously, what belongs to the duty of a master, there will be found, perhaps, as many, and as great faults, on this side as on the other. It is fur. prising, that some seem to expect, in a poor uneducated creature, all manner of decency of behavior, sweetness of temper, integrity, and diligence, and are ready to form upon the least defect, while, at the same time, they fhow no example in their own conduct, but of a visible neglect of duty both to God and man. Oh! my brethren, have pity on the ignorant, especially the younger fort, who would learn, if they had teachers. Ignorance is always a secure, insensible state. They know nothing, and there. fore they fear nothing. Public instruction is, in a great measure, useless to those who are not prepared for it by more familiar teaching at home. Let ministers speak never fo plainly from the pulpit, it is still to many of them a strange language, which they do not comprehend.
3. From what hath been said on this subject, you may see the neceility of regeneration, or an inward change of heart, in order to real religion. You have heard above, that it is not a speculative knowledge of the nature and perfections of God, or understanding what he is, that leads to repentance, but a view of his excellence and ami. ableness, as glorious in his holiness. This none can have, but those who are in some measure transformed into the same image. Hence it is, that wicked men do not cheriflı, but avoid the thoughts of God. Hence it is, that extraordinary tokens of the divine power and presence, signal judgments, and unexpected strokes on themselves, or their relations, distress and terrify them, and bring them under a slavish bondage for a little, but produce no love; no defire of union; no cordial fubmiffion. Hence also appears the foolishness of that finful, but general propensity in men, to ask after a fign, and to desire that other and different evidence should be given them of the truth of religion than God hath seen meet. We have an example of this in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, record. ed, Luke xvi. towards the close. There the rich man is represented, as intreating, that Lazarus might be sent to his brethren for their warning. When Abraham refers them to the revealed will of God, Mofes and the prophets, he urges his request thus, ver. 30, “ And he said, nay, “ father Abraham ; but if one went unto them from the " dead, they will repent;" to which the answer is given immediately, “ If they hear not Mofes and the prophets, " neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from " the dead."
There have been others at different times, who have delired such extraordinary proofs ; but they would of themselves, be attended with no real benefit. Though you had been on Mount Sinai with Mofes, it would have produced terror, but no other effect, without a spiritual discovery of the real glory of God. See Exod. xix. 16. * And it came to pass, on the third day, in the morning, " that there were thunders, and lightnings, and a thick “cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet "exceeding loud ; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.”
trembled.” And the same book, ch. xx. 18, 19. " And all the people saw the thunderings, and the light
nings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain "smoking; and when the people faw it, they removed, "and food afar off: and they said unto Moses, speak thou “ with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with "us, lelt we die.” Another evidence of the same thing, may be taken from the case of devils and damned spirits. They have, no doubt, a sensible demonstration of the being, and, probably, a very clear intellectual knowledge of the nature of God; yet hath it not any effect in changing their dispositions: on the contrary, the more they know of him, who is so opposite to their temper, they hate him the more ; it inflames their natural enmity, and makes it rage with double violence. This, I think, appears very plainly, both from the reason of the thing, and from the following passages of scripture, Matth. viii. 29, it is said of two demoniacs: “And behold they cried out, saying, what " have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God ? art
thou come hither to torment us before the time ?" Mark v. 6, 7. “ But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and "worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, "what have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the " Most High God? I adjure thee by God, that thou tor
ment me not.” And again, Mark ix. 20. “And they brought him unto him; and when he saw him, straight-way the spirit tare him, and he fell on the ground, and
wallowed, foaming." From which passages, we may Perceive, agreeable to what has been observed, that the presence of Christ increaled, at once, the rage and miseVOL. U.
ry of the unclean spirits. Let this excite us to pray, that it would please God to reveal himself to us by his Spirit, and give us the saving knowledge of him, as he is “in “ Christ Jesus, reconciling the world to him felf.”
4. Suffer me, on this occasion, shortly to address myself to those, who are strangers to true religion. Let me beseech them, while they are yet in the way, and whilst the Spirit of God is striving with them, in his word and ordinances, to lay down the weapons of their rebellion against him, and to lay hold, by faith, on the atoning blood of Chrift for their reconciliation and peace. Are there not fome in this assembly, who have yet no knowledge of God, but that which makes his service a burden, his Sabbaths a weariness, and his people contemptible or odious ? Are there not some tender spirits, who are passionate lovers of this present world, but unable to bear the view of mortality and misery in their fellow-creatures; who tremble at the gloom of a church-yard, or burying vault, and turn pale as alhes at the sight of a death's head, or an open grave? I beseech you, my beloved hearers, to join, with the terror of divine power, the riches of divine grace ; and let both constrain you to “ acquaint yourselves with “ God, and be at peace, that thereby good may come un. “ to you.” I know no way, by which you may avoid meeting with the king of terrors; but you may fet him at defiance under the protection of the King of kings. There is no profit in forgetting, but there is both honor and profit in conquering death. Some are unhappily successful, for a season, in banishing every dismal idea from their minds. The false and flattering pleasures of life engross their attention, and intoxicate their minds. But in a little time, Behold the fupreme Judge “cometh with clouds, " and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced “ him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of “ him.” He is now beleeching you with tenderness, and waiting on you with patience. Embrace, therefore, the happy season.
“Kiss the Son, left he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a " little; blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”