« السابقةمتابعة »
without excuse, put to silence; for guilt stops the mouth. (Mat. xxii. 12. Rom. iii. 19, 20)
(2.) A full aggravation of it by several considerations. 1. It was against a severe law provided in that very case. (Deut. vii. 3, 4) 2. Against the equity of that law, the people" were unclean, abominable." 3. Against the promise annexed to the law, "to eat the good of the land." 4. Against the chastening' hand of God which had been upon them. 5. Against the measure' of those chastisements; they were punished" less than their iniquities deserved." 6. Against the great and notable deliverance,' which God had wrought for them beyond their thoughts or hopes. (verse 11, 12, 13)
6. An implicit owning of the wrath of God, which might, in this case, justly consume and make an end of them, and leave them no remnant.' (verse 14)
7. An acknowledgment of God's gracious fidelity in not consuming them, but patiently bearing with them, and letting them remain escaped.' (verse 15)
Lastly; The conclusion of the prayer, the same with the introduction into it, shame and confession' of guilt. (verse 15)
"O Lord God of Israel," who art in covenant with them, and ownest them for thy people, (Deut. xxvi. 18) and art 'afflicted in their afflictions,' in whose sufferings thy great name is concerned, in whose prosperity thy sole grace is magnified ;-" Thou art righteous," just in thy judgements in all that is come upon us; (Nehem. ix. 33) faithful in thy covenant, in all that thou hast said unto us. And hereof thou hast given us assurance; "for we remain yet escaped;" according to thy promise, that, after seventy years should be accomplished in Babylon, thou wouldst visit thy people, and perform thy good word towards them, in causing them to return to their own land again. (Jer. xxix. 10. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 21) We have deserved, by our provocations, to be cut off from being a people; but for thy promise' sake we yet remain; for thou hast said, that "the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." (Gen. xlix. 10) That Emmanuel was to come of the house of David, before the Jews should cease to be a nation, or should have their polity utterly dissolved. (Isa.
vii. 14, and viii. 9, 10, and x. 24, 27) We have deserved to have been kept captives in Babylon still; but for thy promise' sake we remain yet escaped; because thou hast said, that thou wouldst cause us "to come up out of our graves, and bring us into the land of Israel." (Ezek. xxxvii. 12, 13, 14) It is by the blood of the covenant alone, that thou hast "sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit." (Zech. ix. 11)
The words are the close of a penitential prayer; wherein there is observable,
1. A comfortable address to God, as the God of Israel. 2. A penitent acknowledgment of his righteousness, in the evils which they suffered.
3. A grateful acknowledgment of his fidelity in the mercies which they enjoyed.
4. A demonstration of this great mercy.
(1.) We remain; we are not consumed.
(2.) We remain an escape;' we are not detained in captivity.
(3.) As it is this day;' not only escaped, but favoured, encouraged, assisted, to build God's house, to restore his worship, though to this day we have had so great provocations.
O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous:' we have sinned, as a perfidious people, against a God in covenant; thou hast afflicted us in measure, as a God in covenant."'
Afflictions are sweetened, mercies are magnified, sins are aggravated, sinners are humbled and melted by no consideration more, than by the grace of the covenant, that we have to do with a God who is pleased to be called ours. When he smites us, this is our comfort,-the rod is in the hand of a father; he may visit with stripes, but he "will not break his covenant." (Psal. lxxxix. 32, 34) When he loadeth us with mercies, this is our joy, that they are all appendices to Christ, and rays, and emanations of the covenant. (Rom. viii. 32. Jer. xxxii. 41) If he hear us, if he answer us, if he be gracious unto us, "we shall weep no more, though he give us bread of adversity, and water of affliction." (Isa. xxx. 18, 20) When we review our sins, and set ourselves seriously to turn to God,—this makes us loathe ourselves, this fills our faces with shame, and our hearts with sorrow, that we have done it against a God in covenant,' who is pacified towards
us. (Ezek. xvi. 62, 63) It is great presumption for aliens and strangers to despise God's authority, or abuse his bounty: but for an adopted people, whom he hath selected in a peculiar manner to be his own, and set apart for himself, for whom he reserveth the choicest of his mercies, to whom he revealeth the secrets of his love,-for these to sin, not only against precepts and benefits, but against the bowels of a father, the blood of a Saviour, the grace of a comforter, the covenant of life, the charter of salvation; this is that which should greatly abase us in our own eyes, that we should thus requite a father. (Deut. xxxii. 6) The Lord calls heaven and earth to be amazed at it; "Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children," adopted them into my family, brought them into my land, advanced them into my favour, vouchsafed my presence with them, set up my name and glory among them, and yet "they have rebelled against me." (Isa. i. 2) "Be astonished, O ye heavens," and be ye horribly afraid; be very desolate; for my people who have heard my voice out of heaven,-whom I have taken from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand, by a stretched-out arm, and by great terrors, who have been the fountain of all their blessings, and the glory in the midst of them, "have changed their glory" for vanity, and their "fountain for broken cisterns." (Jer. ii. 11, 12, 13) This is matter of great pressure unto him; (Amos ii. 9, 13) and should much more be so unto us.
Many aggravations there are in the sins of God's people, which may greatly tend to their humbling and abasement. They are committed;
1. Against more glorious light, and more spiritual convictions; "after they have known God, and are known of God;" (Gal. iv. 9) after he hath taught them his ways, and shewed his covenant, and imparted unto them the secrets of his salvation; (Psal. xxv. 9, 14) after he had opened their ears, and sealed their instruction to withdraw them from sinful purposes; (Job xxxiii. 16, 17) after he had caused them to hear a word behind them,' saying, this is the way, (Isa. XXX. 21) and had shewed them the salvation of God,' (Psal. 1.23) and had been, as it were, transfigured in their presence. The more the beauties of holiness are discovered to the soul,
the greater is the unkindness and disingenuity of that soul, in giving entertainment to any sinful lust again.
2. Against special and more tender love; which love of Christ passeth knowledge, and therefore should constrain us to love him, that loved us, and died for us. (2 Cor. v. 14) David had been highly honoured by God; Solomon was the beloved of God; and this made their sins both more strange and more atrocious. (2 Sam. xii. 7, 8, 9. Nehem. xiii. 26) 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for your iniquities.' (Amos iii. 2. Jer. ii. 21, 22)
3. Against the breathings of the spirit of grace;' whose motions being quenched,' whose operations being resisted,' whose sweet and gracious pulsations at the door of the soul being neglected, he is exceedingly grieved' in the hearts of his people, and provoked to withdraw himself and his comforts from them; (Eph. iv. 30. Cant. v. 6) and they put to cry hard for recovery of him again, whom they had, by their unkind usage, grieved away, and caused to hide his presence from them. (Psalm li. 10, 11, 12)
4. Against the peace of God, which should keep our hearts and minds in Christ, from yielding to temptations. (Phil. iv. 7) When the Lord speaks peace to the souls of his people, and lifts up the light of his countenance upon them, and sheds abroad the love of his Son into them,-this should fortify and garrison the heart against the assaults of sin. The joy of the Lord should be the strength of his people; (Nehem. viii. 10) and the more comfort they have in being acquainted with him, the more fearful they should be of being estranged from him: the greater the sweetness of the peace of God, the greater the bitterness of those sins. whereby we forfeit it, and hide it from ourselves.
5. Against that spiritual wisdom and understanding, which the Lord hath given us for this end, that "we might walk worthy of him unto all pleasing." (Col. i. 9, 10) True wisdom is the knowledge of the most honourable and most excellent things, whereby we discern things which differ; suggesteth the supreme and most necessary ends, and the
• Επιστήμη τῶν τιμιωτάτων. Arist.
most proper and pertinent means conducing thereunto: setteth a man to consider how he may live to the great uses for which he was made; is a wisdom unto salvation; (2 Tim. iii. 15) makes him look to the way of life, how he may de-part from hell; (Prov. xv. 24, and xiv. 8, 15) teacheth him to walk circumspectly, and warily, amidst the many snares and temptations, which are ready to seduce and mislead him ; (Eph. v. 15) makes him have his eyes in his head; (Eccles. ii. 14) that he may understand every good path; (Prov. ii. 9) makes him study the will of God, to the end that he may keep it ; (Prov. xxviii. 7) puts the heart and the right hand together; (Eccles. x. 2) gives a spiritual evidence and taste of the beauties and sweetness of holiness; shews itself in a good conversation, and in doing the commandments. (James iii. 13. Psalm exi. 10) It is more improper for a holy man to yield up himself unto any way or work of wickedness, than for a Counsellor of State, or a great philosopher, to play with straws or cherry-stones, to give up himself unto boyish and ludicrous vanities: and therefore holy men confess their sins in scripture by the name of folly.' (2 Sam. xxiv. 10. Psalm 1xxiii. 22)
6. Against the hope of salvation, which teacheth us to purify ourselves as Christ is pure. (1 John iii. 3) Our salvation will be, to be like unto Christ.' That grace which makes us suspire after a likeness unto him h glory, will kindle in our hearts a desire to be like unto him in grace; for grace is glory inchoate, as glory is grace consummate : so much as we neglect duty, so much we shake the hope of glory: "Lord," saith the Psalmist, "I have hoped for thy salvation, I have done thy commandments." (Psalm cxix. 166) Though obedience be not a foundation upon which to build our hope, (for our hope must be in God's word, not in our own works, Psalm cxix. 42, 49, 74) yet it is a fruit, and consequently an evidence and argument, 'à posteriori,' to demonstrate it.
The salvation we hope for, is to see God:' and hereunto is required purity of heart. (Matth. v. 8) As the object seen doth make its own image in the eye which seeth it, so when the soul sees God in glory, it is perfectly fashioned unto his likeness; and therefore, without holiness no man can see