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But it appears that our God intended by this admonition, to assemble the people in a way, to which depraved nature would never resort; to assemble them unto him from whom they had by transgression revolted. They assemble, said the Holy One of Israel, but not to me. The individuals of our nature are represented as sheep going astray, each wandering after the way of his own heart. The spirit of God in this passage, is in unison with the Apostle who enjoins the not forsaking, the assembling ourselves together as th manner of some is.
There have in every age been many, who if they find no immediate prospect of pecuniary advantage,see nothing sufficiently powerful to stimulate the assembling themselves in a religious association. Nay, according to our Apostle, among christians themselves, there were many who did not chuse to assemble together as christians. It was their manner to absent themselves from the public worship; and here suffer me to observe, that there is nothing the adversary of souls takes more pains to prevent, than the assembling of christians together, while there are few things which he more uniformly countenances than large collections of people, assembled in the name of Anti-Christ: and why? because a great assembly engaged in any cause, does great honour to that cause, while therefore, the adversary of souls is ever encouraging his votaries in any character, whether profane or pious, to assemble together in troops, he is practising every artifice in his power, to prevent the worshippers of Emmanuel from gathering themselves together. If he cannot persuade them to renounce the testimony, which is his leading attempt, he next endeavours to persuade them that they know as much as any one can teach them, and that no other motive for assembling together can possibly exist; thus leading them to believe that they are sufficiently instructed, they wholly forsake the assembling themselves together. And should no particular teacher be assigned them, then they become positive that it is very absurd indeed to meet or to assemble themselves together, for, as they are taught by the adversary, no purpose, save that of rendering themselves contemptible can possibly be obtained.
Our common foe is no doubt aware that the assembling of the people together in the name of the Almighty, has obtained his sanction, and that he hath promised his blessed presence whenever they are so assembled. Hence the unwearied efforts of the grand adversary to prevent associating christians from regularly collecting
together. The zealous disciples of the Prince of the power of the air are gratified by the disunion of the worshippers of Jesus, and these genuine disciples are proportionably pained. Many are the devices of the adversary of which we are too often ignorant, and he is by all means solicitous to prevent us from following the voice of the Lord, as heard in our text, all which will be ineffectual if we attend to our own true interest; if we are but convinced we stand in the sacred name of Jesus; when we meet, we have all the reason in the world to expect much real advantage therefrom: and in keeping this commandment we shall find there is indeed exceeding great reward. It is true our God is every where present, and that he promises never to leave us nor forsake us; but he has graciously encouraged us to expect more light and life when assembled together, as members of his mystical body. It was this blessed consideration which made glad the heart of David, when he heard the people cheerfully say, come let us go up together to worship at the house of the Lord.
By assembling together we not only render more glory to God, but we ourselves are more refreshed; like a number of coals, scattered, they are soon and easily extinguished, but collected, a reciprocal heat is communicated and continued.
As iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Christians, real Christians, are real friends, and as they approach each other, their faces will brighten with pleasure. The assembling of a few heaven-taught individuals will be a well designed miniature, which will point to the consideration of that blissful era, when all the families of the earth shall meet in the grand assembly, and church of the first born, and, although it may be asked, could we not contemplate this august period in our own dwellings? The answer of every Christian will be ready, the eye affects the heart, and we shall mutually stimulate each other. As he who hath a friend at a distance, and can content himself with recollecting him, without experiencing any anxiety to meet him, may truly be said to wear only the name of friendship, so persons who are satisfied with forming an idea of what they might vitally realize in the Christian character, can merit no more than the name of Christians.
Assemble yourselves and come. Who? Certainly those who are escaped of the nations. This brings us to the second particular in
Come, what are we to understand by the exhortation come? This exhortation may be considered negatively, and positively.
First, negatively. Come out from among the workers of iniquity, and all those who are connected with them, 2 Corinthians, vi. 17. " Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." And in Revelations, xviii. 4, "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins." We are not left in the dark with respect to the precise meaning of this term Babylon, it is given in the 17th chapter and 5th verse of this book.
"And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABY
LON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
Here we find the mother of the abominations of the earth, is Babylon, and to fasten our attention thereon, the information is given in capitals. But the destruction of Babylon and her abominations, will be the salvation, the restoration of mankind, and for this we will sing praises to the name of Jehovah, through the wasteless ages of eternity.
It is really astonishing that this remarkable passage should be so little noticed. This Babylon is one of the mysteries, the mystery of iniquity. God manifest in the flesh is another. None but God can perfectly comprehend these mysteries; conjecture may in some measure elucidate, but perhaps no created being will ever be able perfectly to explain.
But, secondly, we are to consider this term in a positive sense, Our Saviour, Matthew xi. 18. inviteth those who are oppressed by care to turn unto their rest:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The prophet Hosea, chapter 4, thus exhorteth: "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn and he will heal us; he hath smitten and he will bind us up.
"After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight."
Thus declareth our blessed Saviour: "Because I live, ye shall live also." John xiv. 19.
The apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians xv. 4. is perfectly in unison with the prophet Hosea, and expressly refereth to this prophet when he
saith, and that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day, according to the scriptures.
Thirdly, And draw together, ye that are escaped of the nations. As if he had said, I appeal to you that have escaped of the nations, I appeal to you respecting the object of their worship; Have the nations any knowledge? if they had, would they set up a graven image, and pray unto a God that cannot save?
Fourthly, There is infinite propriety in this argument. What, prostrate before idols of wood and stone! What, prostrate before the work of our own hands! What, prostrate in humble adoration to any being less than omnipotent! What, supplicate a God that cannot save!
Yet are we not, in this our day, called upon to pray unto a God that cannot save? Yea, verily, and many are the arguments made use of to prove that the God we are commanded to adore cannot
First, the decrees of God, in which before the foundations of the world were laid, or ever the morning stars sang together, he predestinated the greater part of mankind to everlasting misery!!! and, therefore, for such poor lost sinners, Jesus did not, could not die! And yet, strange to tell, these gospel preachers in their public labours, exhort their hearers all without distinction to believe the gospel, and after they are thus admonished, they are fervently recommended to heaven that they may all be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.
This is the language of such principles, of such practice. "O Lord we know assuredly, that thou hast in thy eternal council and purposes, determined that a large proportion of the beings thou hast called into existence, shall never come unto the knowledge of thy truth, shall never be saved. But as thou hast commanded us to make prayers and supplications for all men, we obey thy command, although our prayers will incontrovertibly be without effect. Thou art bound, O God, by a secret cause, by thy own irreversible decree, thou canst not save all sinners, however strong where thy expiring agonies, however gracious thy purposes."
Secondly, There are who affirm, the Redeemer tasted death for every man, that he willeth that all men should be saved, but they are refractory, they will not come unto him, although eternal life is proffered as the reward of their compliance, and is therefore their God cannot save. This is stripping the crown of omnip
otence from the brow of the Creator, and placing it upon the head of the creature.
We cannot but lament so melancholy a change, infinite wisdom infinite goodness, infinite power, yielding his prime attribute to the evanescent being of a day, and this being the work of his own hands. Be astonished, O heavens! The Almighty hath planned, but weak, powerless, fragile man intercepteth and preventeth his purpose. Jehovah hath bowed the heavens, and descended on earth to rescue, to ransom the prey from the mighty; but the ransomed combining with the destroyer defeateth the purpose of him, who is Lord of the universe! May we not indeed say, hail almighty man, hail almighty fiend, for ye are stronger than omnipotence, more powerful than the Creator by whom ye were fashioned. It is confessed God willeth that all should be saved, but combinations and machinations preventeth the source of existence from obtaining his will! But did not God foreknow these combinations, these machinations, and doth he thus become a God that cannot save?
It is truly deplorable, as the Creator wishes to be the husband of the creature, as he wishes to be in reality what his prophets and apostles have proclaimed him, viz. the Saviour of all men, to be testified in due time. It is, I say, a distressing consideration, that after so many consolatory, God honouring declarations, the God of the Christians should prove like the God of the Heathens, unable to save! We know why the gods of the Heathens could not save: they were senseless wood and stone images, graven by the hands of those who worshipped them. Eyes had they, but they saw not; ears, but they heard not; they who made them, were like unto them; and so were all those who put their trust in them.
But, turning from ancient and modern heathenism, let us glance our eye upon the verses immediately succeeding our text.
"Tell ye, and bring them near, yea, let them take counsel together: Who hath declared this from ancient time? Who hath told it from that time? Have not I the Lord? And there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour, there is none beside me." Blessed, forever blessed be the name of this God, this Saviour! This God who can save, who is strong to save, who wishes to save, and who will obtain his wish; nor is there a power in heaven, on earth or hell, of sufficient force to prevent him. Once, we really believed, because we were so taught, that there was another God beside the Saviour God! We have been told of a God out of VOL. I.