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wicked, lustful flatterers of mankind, are ready, with a host of learned commentaries, to show that it was applied to the Jews, and to them only; and then taunt me with this witty saying —“What! you, an unlearned man, think to teach us, contrary to our great and learned commentators!” This, my friends, is the only argument that has ever been produced against my warnings, and proofs of God's near approach to judge the world in righteousness. And here, too, I pledge myself to show that many, and perhaps that, in many cases, a major part, of these commentators are on my side of the question. I know that, in the subject now about to be presented, this argument will be used — “O! that had reference to the Jews only;" and you will, like the wicked Jews, put far off the evil day, until you are caught in the snare, and perish in the pit. The Jews in the days of the prophets said, Ezek. xii. 27, “The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.” You see, in this sample given us of the Jews, that the same ungodly, wicked perverting, putting off on to others what belongs to us in the visions and threatenings of God against sin, was manifestly the character of the Jews in that day, as it is in ours. The difference is only circumstantial. They put it off a great while to come; we, a great while back. They cast it forward on to the backs of the Gentiles; we throw it back into the faces of the Jews. This is the wicked disposition of man in his natural state - self-righteous and self-justificatory. Therefore, use this weapon if you please; it will only discover to angels and men your true character, and God's justice in your condemnation. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13. Yet we shall find some things, at least, true, that the law of God and punishment for sin are the same in all ages, and will be the same in all eternity. If the sins of the old world brought the flood and destruction upon the ungodly, so will the sins of the present world, if committed in the same ungodly spirit, bring down similar judgments and destruction upon us. If Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain, were destroyed for their abuse of the blessings which God had given them, so shall we be destroyed for our abuse of similar ones. And if the Jews, for their pride, arrogance, self-sufficiency, idolatry, and departure from the known commands of God's house, were punished with the sword, pestilence, captivity and persecution; so, most assuredly, will the people of God, in every age, whether under Jews or Gentiles, suffer the like or similar judgments. This can be proved abun.dantly in all parts of the word of God, and in the history of the church in every age. And did we not pervert the word of God to support our sectarian principles, and to gratify our lustful appetites, we might foresee the consequence of apostasy from God, his laws and commands; as we can foresee the effects of any or all the laws of nature, with which we are so well acquainted. When leaves put forth we know that summer is nigh. When the wind blows long from the south we know it will bring rain. Just so true are all the moral laws of God. Sin will bring death, and pride must bring a fall.
The laws of God's house are equally as permanent as the laws of nature; and grace or mercy, call it which you please, are founded upon the law of cause and effect as strong as the laws of adhesion and repulsion. Go where you will, - climb up to heaven, or dig into the depths of hell, — you will find an immovable, fixed, and an eternal law of cause and effect. Let a man love his Maker, obey his laws, and he is happy. Let him love self only, and disobey the laws and commands of God, and misery is the lot of his inheritance, although the world was at his command. Here, then, is the great secret, that mankind must be reformed, or they can never be happy; in one word, they must be born of the Spirit, or they cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The text is a prophecy of God himself, given to Moses, and by him revealed to the people; and is a part of those lively oracles which has been continued as binding upon us, who live under the gospel light, as upon them who lived in the days of the typical priesthood.
It is a prophecy of what would happen to the people of God as a punishment for conduct therein specified. I shall, therefore, in explanation of our subject, show,
I. For what the people of God are punished;
I. First, then, we are to examine the cause of their punishment. The text tells us that it is because they u will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;" that is, unto God.
1st. A perverse will. We should suppose that a man who has had his will subdued by the love and Spirit of God, could not be in possession of a will so diametri. cally opposed to the will of God. Yet history and facts show us plainly that it is so. David, a man after God's own heart, did perform, by his own will, that which was strictly forbidden in the law and commands of God. Peter, too, after his Lord told him he was every whit clean, and after he boldly asserted that, if all men should forsake Christ, he would not, immediately and willingly, as it is implied, cursed and swore, and said he knew not thé man. I am aware that the theory of the present day is contrary to the idea that the Christian has two wills, carnal and spiritual; but, upon this theory, I cannot account for the idea of Christians being punished at all, either on the principle of justice or equity. Therefore I am constrained to believe that, in the heart of a Christian, there are two wills. Sometimes he is in subjection to the will of God, and enjoys the sweets of reconcilia. tion; and again his own will governs and controls his acts, and he must feel the chastising rod of his heavenly Father for his wilful disobedience or neglect of his religious duty. It cannot be the will of God that his people “will not be reformed by him." Here is another idea conveyed in our text, which shows that the heart of a Christian is not wholly pure, — " will not be reformed by God;" showing the same independent spirit that our primitive father and mother did in the fall, “to be as gods." We cannot bear the idea of being dependent on God for our reformation. Let us have the power of doing it ourselves, and we will not reject it; but to say
we are wholly dependent on God is a hard doctrine: we? will not subscribe to such humiliating terms. How can we tell sinners to reform, if they cannot do it? “Where is my guilt? If I cannot reform myself, surely God would be unjust to condemn me for not doing what I cannot do.” And thus you argue, throwing all the blame upon God, when all that God has required in the text, is, that you should be willing that he should do the work of reformation for you. And surely God must be the best workman of the two. God says he punishes us, for “ye will not be reformed by me." This, my Christian friend, is our crime, for which the church has been and will be punished seven times. “And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things.” What does God mean by “these things”? I answer, It is God does the work, and he means his people shall give him the glory; and when they have passed through the furnace of affliction, and when seven times has passed over them, as it did over Nebuchadnezzar, then will the church, like that proud monarch, learn that God rules in heaven and earth. But could we be willing to learn this lesson without this punishment, “by these things," that is, by the word of God, by the preached gospel, by the mercies of God, by blessings of heaven from above, by blessings of the earth beneath, by the love of God, by the death of Christ, by the ministry of angels, by the strivings of the Holy Spirit; in one word, by all the means of grace; if all these things could teach us that God was the Author and Finisher of our faith, and make us willing to be reformed by him, — then, indeed, he would not have spunished us. But, alas! without chastisements we should be “bastards, and not sons." Therefore the cause why the Christian must be punished, to subdue their proud, rebellious wills, to humble their haughty and selfish hearts. They must suffer all that wicked men or devils can heap upon them, they must fill up the measure of Christ's sufferings in his body, which is the church, in order to make them fit for heaven or happiness. They must, like gold, be seven times purified. As I have before said, all the mercies of God, and blessings of heaven and earth, could not save the church
without the curse and punishment denounced in the word of God. And these, too, must be managed by that all-powerful Arm, the great Jehovah, who, by his wisdom and power, by his grace and rod, will make all things work for the good of his church, and will finally redound to his glory. And at last it will be said, “ These have come through great tribulation, having washed their robes and made thein white in the blood of the Lamb.
II. I am to show how they are punished.
Ist. They are punished by their own deeds. David went with broken bones to his grave; and Peter, when his Lord looked upon him, went out and wept bitterly. Paul had a thorn in his flesh lest he should be exalted above measure. The Jews courted an alliance with Babylon, and by that means were led into bondage and captivity many years. They, contrary to God's express command, afterwards made a league with the Romans, and by them was their city and sanctuary destroyed, and their nation scattered to the four winds of heaven. The church, after the Christian era, courted the popular favor of the kings of the earth, and immediately suffered the ten persecutions. She afterwards sought for secular power for her bishops, and by the same power was driven into the wilderness, and passed through a thousand two hundred and sixty years of torture, darkness, and death. The church, recently, has been courting popularity from the world, raising up a learned ministry, worshipping at the shrine of ancient and modern philosophy; and already her ranks are broken, her piety on the wane, her efforts paralyzed, and infidelity gaining ground.
2d. By wicked and designing men. Let us remember how Balaam taught Balak to cast stumbling-blocks before the children of Israel. Witness the false proph. ets in the days of the kings of Israel; also the wicked and designing men in the days of Jeremiah and the prophets; and, finally, the division and subdivision by wicked men at the final destruction of Jerusalem. See some, also, in the apostles' days -- “ false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, 2 Cor. xi. 13; some, also, “who subvert