« הקודםהמשך »
voice from the blessed God, saying, "Ask , wiser than every man of his own age. Wit. what I shall give thee.' How awful would ness the embassies from all the kings of the this test prove to most of our hearers! If we earth to hear his wisdom. Witness the aemay judge of our wishes by our pursuits, clamation of the queen, who came from the what strange replies should we make to God! remotest kingdom of the earth to hear this What a choice would it be! Our privilege prodigy of wisdom. It was a true report would become our ruin,and we should have the ihat I heard in mine own land of thy wisdom, awful ingenuity to find misery in the very and behold, the half was not told me. Thy bosom of happiness. Who would say, ed, wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame give me wisdom and understanding; Lord, which I heard. Happy are these thy men, help me worthily to discharge the duties of happy are these thy servants, which stand the station with which I am intrusted? This continually before thee, and that hear thy is the utmost of all my requests; and to this wisdom,' 1 Kings x. 648. alone I would wish thy munificence to be And in virtue of this other promise, ' I have confined. On the contrary, biassed by the given thee glory and riches;' we see Solo circumstance of situation, and swayed by mon raise superb edifices, form powerful alsome predominant passion, one would say, liances, and sway the sceptre 'over every Lord, augment my heaps of gold and silver, prince, from the river even unto the land of and in proportion as my riches shall increase, the Philistines; that is from the Euphrates diminish the desire of expenditure : another, to the eastern branch of the Nile, which sepLord, raise me to the highest scale of gran- arates Palestine from Egypt, and making deur, and give me to trample under foot men, gold as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones, 3 who shall have the assurance to become my Chron. ix. 26.; 1 Chron. i. 15. equals, and whom I regard as the worms of It would be easy to extend these refiec. carth. How little for the most part do we tions, but were 1 to confine myself to this know ourselves in prosperity! How incorrect alone, I should fear being charged with ha. are our ideas! Great God, do thou determine ving evaded the most difficult part of the our lot, and save us from the reproach of subject to dwell on that which is sufficiently making an unhappy choice, by removing the plain. The extraordinary condescension which occasion. Solomon was incomparably wiser. God evinced towards Solomon; the divine Filled with the duties of his august station, gists with which he was endowed, the answer and awed by its difficulties, he said, 'Lord, to his prayer, 'I have given thee an under: give thy servant an understanding heart to standing heart,' collectively involve a difi. judge thy people, that I may discern between culty of the most serious kind. How shall good and bad
we reconcile the favours with the events? But if we applaud the wisdom of Solomon's How could a man so wise commit those faults, prayer, how much more should we applaud and perpetrate those crimes, which stained ihe goodness and munificence of God's re- his lustre at the close ot life? How could he ply? Because thou hast asked this thing, follow the haughty license of oriental prinand hast not asked for thyself long life, nei- ces, who displayed a haram crowded with ther hast thou asked riches for thyself, nor concubines? How, in alandoning his heart hast asked the life of thine enemies. But to sensual pleasure, could he abandon his hast asked understanding to discern judg. faith and his religion? And after having the ment. Behold, I have done according to thy baseness to offer incense to their beauty, word. Lo, I have given thee a wise and an could he also offer incense to their idols? 'I understanding heart; and I have also given meet this question with the greater pleasure, thee that which thou hast not asked, both as the solution we shall give will demoririches and honour, so that there shall not be strate, first, the difficulties of superior endow. any among the kings like unto thee all thy ments; secondly the danger of bad company; days.'
thirdly, the peril of human grandeur; and How amply was this promise fulfilled, and fourthly, the poison of voluptuousness; how did its accomplishment correspond with four important lessons by which this dis. the munificence of him by whom it was course shall close. made! By virtue of this promise, I have First, the responsibility attendant on sugiven thee an understanding heart,' we see perior talents. Can we suppose that God, Solonion carrying the art of civil government on the investiture of Solomon with superior to the highest perfection it can ever attain. endowments, exempted him from the law Witness the profound prudence by which he which requires men of the humb est talents discerned the real from the pretended moth- to improve them? What is implied in these er, when he said with divine promptitude, words, “I have given thee understanding • Bring me a sword.---Divide the living child Do they mean, I take solely on inyself the into two parts, and give half to the one, and work of thy salvation, that thou mayest live half to the other, 1 Kings iii. 24, 25. Wit- without restraint in negligence and pleasure ? ness the profound peace he procured for his Brave the strongest temptations; I will obsubjects, and which made the sacred histori. struct thy falling? Open thy heart to the an say, that “Judah and Israel dwell safely, most seductive objects; I will interpose my every man under his vine, and under his fig. bucklor for thy preservation and defence ? tree,' iv. 25. Witness the eulogium of the On this subject, my brethen, some min's. sacred writings on this subject, . that it ex- ters have need of a total reform in their celled the wisdoin of all the children of the creed, and to abjure a system of theologs, if cast, and all the wisdom of Egypt; that he I may so dare to speak, ineunceivably absun. was wiser than Ethan, than Herman, than' Some men liave formed nutions of I know not Chalcol, and Dardı;' tint is to say, he was whai grace, which takes vlly on itself the work of our salvation, which suffers us to sleep, of the Philistines; this prince, who made as much as we choose in the arms of concni- gold in hie kingdom as plentiful as stones; piscence and pleasure, and which redoubles this prince, who was surrounded with flatterits aids in proportion as the sinner redoubles ers and courtezans; this prince, who heard resistance.' Undeceive yourselves. God ne- nothing but eulogy, acclamation and applause, ver yet bestowed a talent without requiring you are astonished that he should be thus inits cultivation. The higher are our endow- ioxicated with the high endowments God had ments, the greater are our responsibilities, granted him for the discharge of duty, and The greater efforts grace makes to save us, that he should so far forget himself as to fall the more should we labour at our salvation into the enormities just described. Seek in The more it watches for our good, the more your own heart, and in your life, the true sowe are called to the exercise of vigilance. You lution of this difficulty. We are blinded by -you who surpass your neighbour, in know the smallest prosperity, and our head is turnledge, tremble ; an account will be required of ed by the least elevation of rank. A name, a that superior light. You-you who have title, added to our dignity; an acre of land more of* genius than the most of men, trem- added to our estate, an augmentation of equible; an account will be required of that ge- page, a little information added to our knownius. You,-you who have most advanced ledge, a wing to our mansion, or an inch to in the grace of sanctification, tremble; an our stature, and here is more than enough to account will be required of that grace. Do give us high notions of our own consequence, you call this truth in question? G0,-go see to make us assume a decisive tone, and wish it exemplified in the person of Solomon. Go, to be considered as oracles: here is more than and see the abyss into which he fell by bury. enough to make us forget our ignorance, our ing his talents. Go, and see this man endow. weakness, our corruption, the disease which ed with talents superior to all the world. Go, consumes us, the tomb which awaits us, tho and see him enslaved by seven hundred wives, death which pursues us, treading on our and prostituted to three hundred concubines. heels, the sentence already preparing, and the Go, see him prostrated before the idol of the account which God is about to require. Let Sidonians, and before the abomination of the us distrust ourselves in prosperity: let us Ammonites; and by the awful abyss into nevor forget what we are; let us have peowhich he was plunged by the neglect of his ple about us to recall its recollection: let us talents, learn to improve yours with sanctify request our friends constantly to cry in our ing fear.
ears, remember that you are loaded with Our second solution of the difficulty propo- crimes; that you are but dust and ashes; and sed, and the second caution we would derive in the midst of your grandeur, and your rank, from the fall of Solomon, is the danger of bad remember that you are poor, frail, wretched, company, and a caution rendered the more and abject. essential by the inattention of the age. A 4. In short, tlie beguiling charms of pleacontagious disease which extends its ravages sure are the first solution of the difficulty at a thousand miles, excites in our mind ter- proposed, and the last instruction we derive ror and alarm. We use the greatest precau- from the fall of Solomon. The sacred histotion against the danger. We guard the ave- rian has not overlooked this cause of the nues of the state, and lay vessels on their ar. 'faults of this prince. “Solomon loved many rival in port under the strictest quarantine : strange women, and they turned away his we do not suffer ourselves to be approached heart from the Lord.' l Kings xi. 1. 3. I by any suspected person. But the contagion am here reminded of the wretched mission of of bad company gives us not the smallest Balaam. Commanded by powerful princes, alarm. We respire without fear an air the allured by magnificent rewards, his eyes and most impure and fatal to the soul. We form heart already devoured the presents which connexions, enter into engagements, and con- awaited his services. lle ascended a mountract marriages with profane, sceptical, and tain, he surveyed the camp of the Israelites, worldly people, and regard all those as de- he invoked by turns the power of God's Spiclaimers and enthusiasts who declare, that rit, and the power of the devil. Finding that evil communications corrupt good manners.' prophecy afforded him no resource, he had But see,--sce indeed, by the sad experience rocourse to divinations and enchantments, of Solomon, whether we are declaimers and Just on the point of giving full effect to his enthusiasts when we talk in this way. See in detestable art, he felt himself fettered by the to what a wretched situation we are plunged force of truth, and exclaimed, there is no ena by contracting marriages with persons whose chantment against Jacob, there is no divina. religion is idolatrous, and whose morals are tion against Israel,' Numb. xxxiii. 23. He corrupt. Nothing is more contagious than temporized; yes, he found a way to super, bad example. The sight, the presence, the sede all the prodigies which God had done voice, the breath of the wicked is infected and and accomplished for his people. This way fatal.
was the way of pleasure. It was, that they The danger of human grandeur is a new should no more attack the Israelites with open solution of the difficulty proposed, and a third force, but with voluptuous delights; that they caution we derive from the fall of Solomon. should no more send among them wizards and Mankind, for the most part, have a brain too enchanters, but the women of Midian, to alweak to bear a high scale of elevation. Daz. lure them to their sacrifices; then this peozled at once with the rays of surrounding lus- ple, before invincible, I will deliver into your tre, they can no longer support the sight. hands !!! You are astonished that Solomon, this prince, Of the success of this advice, my brethren, who reigned from the river even to the land you cannot be ignorant. But why fell not
every Balaam by the sword of Israelites !, let us fear it, when clothed in the garb of inNumb. xxxi 8. Why were the awful conse- nocence, when authorized by decent freedoms, quences of this counsel restricted to the un. and assuming the pretext of religious sacrihappy culprits, whom the holy hands of Phi- fices Let us exclude it from every avenue nehas and Eleazar, sacrificed to the wrath of of the heart. Let us restrict our senses. Heaven! David, Solomon, Samson, and you, Let us mortify our members which are on my brethren; you who may yet preserve, at the earth. Let us crucify the flesh with tbe least, a part of your innocence. Let us arm concupiscence. And by the way prescribed them against voluptuousness. Let us distrust in the gospel; the way of retirement, of sienchanting pleasure. Let us fear it, not lence, of austerity, of the cross, and of mortionly when it presents its horrors ; not only fication, let us attain happiness, and immorwhon it discovers the frightful objects which tal bliss. May God grant us the grace. To follow in its train, adultery, incest, treason, him be honour, and glory, for ever. Amen. apostacy, with murder and assassination ; but
THE VOICE OF THE ROD.
Preached Nov. 20. 1720.
Micah vi. 9.
Heur ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.
AWFUL indeed was the complaint which with excruciating pains, and oppressed with Jeremiah once made to God against Israel: the approaches of death? When, therefore,
O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they adversity is unavailing ; when a people equal have not grieved ; thou hast consumed them, ly resist the terrific warnings of the prophet, but they have refused to receive correction : and the strokes of God's hand, for whom he they have made their faces harder than a rock. speaks ; when their corruption is proof against Jer. v. 3. Here is a view of the last period mortality, against the plague, against faof corruption ; for however insuperable the mine; what resource remains for their concorruption of men may appear, they sin less version? This was, however, the degree of by enmity than dissipation. Few are so con- hardness to which the Jews, in Jeremiah's summately wicked as lo sin solely through time, had attained. O Lord, thou hast the wantonness of crime. The mind is so stricken them, but they have not grieved; constantly attached to exterior objects, as to thou hast consumed them, but they have rebe wholly absorbed by their impression; and fused to receive instruction ; they have made here is the ordinary source of all our vice. their faces harder than a rock.' Have we some real, or some imaginary ad- O Lord, thou hast stricken them' My vantage? The idea of our superiority en- brethren, the first part of our prophet's words grosses our whole attention: and here is the is now accomplished in our country, and in source of our pride. Are we in the presence a very torrific manner. Some difference the of an object congenial to our cupidity? The mercy of God does make between us, and sentiment of pleasure immediately fills the those neighbouring nations, among whom whole capacity of the soul; and here is the the plague is making so dreadful a progress; source of our intemperance : it is the same but though our horizon is not yet infected, with every vice. Have you the art of fixing though the breath of our hearers is not yet the attention of men, of recalling their corrupt, and though our streets present not wandering thoughts: and thereby of reclaim- yet to our view heaps of dead, whose mortal ing them to duty; you will acknowledge, exhalations, threaten the living, and to whose that the beings you had taken for monsters, burial, those who survive are scarcely suffiare really men, who, as I said, sin less by cient, we are nevertheless under the hand of malice than dissipation.
God; I would say, under his avenging hand; But of all the means calculated to produce his hand already uplifted to plunge us into the recollection so essential to make us wise, the abyss of national ruin. What else are adversity is the most effectual. How should those plagues which walk in our streets? a man delight his heart with a foolish gran What is this mortality of our cattle which deur; how should he abandon himself to has now continued so many years ? what else pride, when all around him speaks his mean- is this suspension of credit, this loss of trade, ness and impotency; when appalled by the this ruin of so many families, and so many sight of a sovereign judge, and burdened by more on the brink of ruin? O Lord, thou his heavy hand: he has no resource but hu- hast stricken them' The first part then is mility and submission How should he give but too awfully accomplished in our country: up himselt to intemperance when afflicted I should deem it an abuse of the liberty allowed me in this pulpit, were I to say, with. , overspread the mind with a total glooni and out restriction, that he second is likewise dejection. The soul of which wo speak, accomplished; but they have not grieved.' feasts on its grief, and is wholly absorbed The solemnity of the day, the proclamation in the causes of its anguish. The privation of our fast; the whole of these provinces of a good once enjoyed, renders it perfectly prostrated to-day at the feet of the Most indifferent as to the blessings which still re. High; so many voices crying to Heaven, main. The strokes which God has inflicted,
Othou sword of the Lord, intoxicated with appear to it the greatest of all calamities. blood, return into thy scabbard;' all would Neither the beauties of nature, nor the plea. convict me of declamation, if I should say, sures of conversation, nor the motives of piety,
O Lord thou hast stricken them, but they have charms adequate to extinguish, nor even have not grieved.'
assuage anguish which corrodes and consumes But, my brethren, have we then no part in the soul. Hence those torrents of tears; this reproach? Do we feel as we ought, the hence those deep and frequent sighs; hence calamities that God hath sent ? Come to-day those loud and bitter complaints; hence those Christians ; come and learn of our prophet unqualified augurs of disaster and ruin. To to hearken to the voice of God. Whai voice? feel afflictions in this way, is a weakness of the voice strong and mighty; the voice which mind which disqualifies us for supporting the lighteneth with flames of fire; the loud voice slightest reverses of life. It is an ingratitude of his judgments. Hear ye the rod, and which obstructs our acknowledging the fa. him who hath appointed it.'
vours of that God, who, in the midst of My brethren, on the hearing of this voice, wrath, remembers mercy,' and who never so what sort of requests shall we make? all far afflicts his creature, as to deprive him of we not say, as the ancient people, 'Let not reviving hope. the Lord speak to us lest we die ? No, let us The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a not adopt this language - great God, the vice directly opposed to that we have just contempt we have made of thy staff, when decried. It is the insensibility of the man thy clemency caused us to repose in green of pleasure. He must enjoy life ; but nopastures, renders essential the rod of thy cor. thing is more strikingly calculated to correct rection. Now is the crisis to suffer, or to his notions, and derange the system of preperish Strike, strike, Lord, provided we sent pleasure, than this idea : the sovereign may be converted and saved. Speak with of the universe is irritated against us: his thy lightning; speak with thy thunder ; ' sword is suspended over our heads : his speak with thy flaming bolts; but teach us avenging arm is making awful havoc around to hear thy voice. Speak, Lord, for thy us: thousands have already fallen beneath servants bear.' And you, my brethren,' Hear his strokes on our right, and ten thousand on yo the rod, and him who hath appointed it.' our left, Ps xci. 7. Wé banish these ideas : Amen.
but this being difficult to do, we repose beThis, in substance, is,
hind intrenchments which they cannot peneI. To feel the strokes of God's hand: trate ; and by augmenting the confusion of
II. To trace their consequences and con- the passions, we endeavour to divert our atnexions :
tention from the calamities of the public. III. To examine their origin and causes. The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a
IV. To discover their resources and reme. philosophical apathy. We brave adversity. dies. This is to comply with the exhortation We fortify ourselves with a stoical firmness. of Micah; this is to shelter ourselves from We account it wise, superior wisdom to bo the charge of Jeremiah ; this is especially to unmoved by the greatest catastrophes. We comply with the design of this solemnity if enshroud the mind in an ill-named virtuo ; we feel the strokes of God's hand, we shall and we pique ourselves on the vain glory of shake off a certain state of indolence in which being unmoved, though the universe were many of us are found, and be clothed with the dissolved. sentiments of humiliation : this is the first The insensibility we wish to prevent is duty of the day. If we trace the consequen- that which arises from a stupid ignorance. ces and connexion of our calamities, we shall / Some men are naturally more difficult to be be inspired with the sentiments of terror and moved than the brutes destitute of reason. awe : this is the second disposition of a fast. They are resolved to remain where they are, If we examine their origin and cause, we until extricated by an exterior cause; and shall be softened with sentiments of sorrow these are the very men who resist that cause. and repentance: this is the third disposition They shut their eyes against the avenues of of a fast. If we, lastly, discover the remedies alarm; they harden their hearts against ca. and resources, we shall be animated with the lamities by the mere dint of reason, or rather sentiments of genuine conversion : this is by the mere instinct of nature, because if sethe fourth disposition of a fast. It is by re- riously regarded, some efforts would be reflections of this kind that I would close these quired to avert the visitation. solemn duties, and make, if I may so speak, But whether God afflict us in love, or the applications of those energetic words ad- strike in wrath ; whether he afflict us for indressed to us by the servants of God on this day. struction, or chasten us for correction, our
I. · Hear ye the rod :' feel the strokes with first duty under the rod is to acknowledge which you are already struck. There is one the equity of his hand. disposition of the mind which may be con- Does he afflict us for the exercise of our refounded with that we would wish to inspire. signation and our patience? To correspond The sensation of these calamities may be so with his design, we must acknowledge the strong as to unnerve the understanding, and equity of his liand. We must each say,
true, my fortune fluetuates, my credit is in. you not have thought that the earth was jured, and my prospects are frustrated; but about to return to its original chaos; that it is the great Disposer of all events who has the sea had broke the bounds prescribed by assorted my lot; it is my Lord and Ruler. O the Creator; and that the earth had ceased God, 'thy will be done, and not mine. I was to be balanced on its poles ?' Job xxxviii. 6. dumb, and opened not my mouth, because it The second minister of the God of renwas thy doing,' Matt. xxvi. 39. Ps. xxxix. 9. geance, exciting alarm, is the mortality of our
Does he afflict us in order to put our love cattle. The mere approaches of this calato the proof? To correspond with his design, mity filled us with terror, and became the sole we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. subjects of conversation. Your sovereign apWe must learn to say, 'I think that God has pointed publick prayers, and solemn humiliamade us a spectacle to the world, to angels, tions, to avert the scourge. Your preachers and to men. If in this life only we have hope made extraordinary efforts, entreating you to in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.' enter into the design of God, who had sent O God! 'though thou slay me, yet will it upon us But to what may not men beTrust in thee,'1 Cor. iv.9; xv. 19; Job xii. 15. come accustomed? We sometimes wonder
Does he afflict us in order to detach us how they can enjoy the least repose in plafrom the world? To correspond with his de- ces where the earth often quakes, where its sign, we must acknowledge the equity of his dreadful jaws open; where a black volume of hand. It is requisite that this son should die, smoke obscures the light of heaven; wbere who constitutes the sole enjoyment of our mountains of flame, from subterranean carlife; it is requisite that we should feel the an. erns, rise to the highest clouds, and descend guish of the disease to which we are exposed; in liquid rivers on houses, and on whole towns. it is requisite this health should fail, without Let us seek in ourselves the solution of a diffiwhich the association of every pleasure is in- culty suggested by the insensibility of others. sipid and obtrusive, that we may learn to We are capable of accustoming ourselves to place our happiness in the world to come, and any thing. Were we to judge of the imnot establish our hopes in this valley of tears. pressions future judgments would produce by
Does he afflict us to mako manifest the the effects produced by those God has al. enormity of vice? To correspond with his ready sent, we should harden our hearts design, we must acknowledge the equity of against both pestilence and famine; we his hand. We must acknowledge the horrors should attend concerts, though the streets of the objects our passions had painted with were thronged with the groans of dying men, such beguiling tints. Amid the anguish con- and join the publick games in presence of so quent on crimes, we must put the question the destroying angel sent to exterminate the to ourselves which St. Paul put to the Ro- nation. mans; What fruits had you then in those The third minister of God's vengeance, things, whereof you are now ashamed? For exciting us to sensibility, is the plague, which the end of those things is death.' Sensibility ravages a neighbouring kingdom. Your proof the strokes God has already inflicted by vinces do not subsist of themselves; they his rod, was the first disposition of mind have an intimate relation with all the states which Micah in his day, required of the Jews. of Europe. And such is the nature of their
If you ask what those strokes were with constitution, that they not only suffer froin which God afflicted the Israelites, it is not the prosperity, hut even from the adversity, easy to give you satisfaction. The correctest of their enemies. But what do I say? froni researches of chronology do not mark the ex. their enemies! The people whom God has act period in which Micah delivered the now visited with this awful scourge, are words of my text. We know only that he ex. not our enemies; they are our allies; they ercised his ministry under three kings, under are our brethren; they are our fellow-counJotham, under Ahaz, under Hezekiah ; and trymen. The people on whom God has laid that under each of these kings, God afilicted his hand in so terrible a manner, is the kingthe kingdom of Judah, and of Israel with se- doni which gave some of us birth, and which vere strokes. And the solemnities of the i still contains persons to whom we are united present day excuse me from the laws, binding by the tenderest ties. Every stroke this kingto a commentator, of illustrating a text in all dom receives, recoils on ourselves, and it canthe original views of the author. We must not fall without involving us in its ruins, neither divert our feelings nor divide our at- The fourth minister of the God of ren. tention, between the calamities God sent on geance, which calls for consideration, is Judah and Israel, and those he has sent on us. the spirit of slumber. It would seem that We exhort you to sensibility concerning the God had designated our own hands to be visitations of Providence: four ministers of our own ruin. It would seem that he had the God of vengeance address you with a given a demon from the depths of hell a voice more loud and pathetic than mine. commission like that granted to the spirit These ministers are, the tempest; the mur- mentioned in the first Book of Kings. The rain; the plague ; and the spirit of indiffer- Lord said, who shall persuade Ahab that he ence.
may go up and fall at Ramoth. Gilead? And The first minister of the God of vengeance there came forth a spirit, and said, I will peris the tempest. Estimate, if you are able, suade him. And the Lord said, Yea, thou the devastations made by the tempest during shalt persuade him, and prevail,' xxii. 20.22 the last ton years; the districts they have Yea, a spirit who has sworn the overthrow ravaged; the vessels they have wrecked; of our families, the ruin of our arts and manthe inundations they have occasioned; and ufactures, the destruction of our commerce, the towns they have said under water. Would I and the loss of our credit, this spirit has fa