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crimes to them, injustice accuses them for pub-
2. The believers to whom Peter wrote were strangers as Christians, and therefore strangers because believers. What is the fundamental maxim of the Christian religion? Jesus Christ told Pilate, My kingdom is not of this world,' John xviii. 36. This is the maxim of a Christian, the first great leading principle, 'his kingdom is not of this world; his happiness and misery, his elevation and depression, depend on nothing in this world.
depend on the world, that is, on the dignities which ambitious men idolize. Avarice supposes our riches depend on this world, on gold, silver, and estates.
These are not the ideas of a Christian. His honour is not of this world, it depends on the ideas of God, who is a just dispenser of glory. His elevation is not of this world, it depends on thrones and crowns which God prepares. His riches are not of this world, they depend on treasures in heaven, where thieves do not break through and steal,' Matt. vi. 20. It is allowable for a man educated in these great principles, but whose infirmity prevents his always thinking on them; it is indeed allowable for a man, who cannot always bend his mind to reflection, meditation, and elevation above the world; it is indeed allowable for such a man sometimes to unbend his mind, to amuse himself with cultivating a tulip, or embellishing his head with a crown: but that this tulip, that this crown, should seriously occupy such a man; that they should take up the principal attention of a Christian, who has such refined ideas and such glorious hopes, this, this is entirely incompatible.
3. In fine, we are strangers and pilgrims by necessity of nature as mortal men. If this life were eternal, it would be a question whether it were more advantageous for man to gratify his passions than to subdue them; whether the tranquillity, the equanimity, the calm of a man perfectly free, and entirely master of himself, would not be preferable to the troubles, conflicts, and turbulence, of a man in bondage to his passions. Passing this question, we will grant, that were this life eternal, prudence and self-love, well understood, would require some indulgence of passion. In this case there would be an immense distance between the rich and the poor, and riches should be acquired; there would be an immense distance between the high and the low, and elevation should be sought; there would be an immense distance between him who mortified his senses, and him who gratified them, and sensual pleasures would be requisite.
But death, death renders all these things alike; at least, it makes so little difference between the one and the other, that it is hardly discernible. The most sensible motive therefore to abate the passions, is death. The tomb is the best course of morality. Study avarice in the coffin of a miser; this is the man who accumulated heap upon heap, riches upon riches, see a few boards enclose him, and a few square inches of earth contain him. Study ambition in the grave of that enterprising man; see his noble designs, his extensive projects, his boundless expedients are all shattered and sunk in this fatal gulf of human projects, Approach the tomb of the proud man, The first principle is the ground of the apos- and there investigate pride; see the mouth tle's exhortation. The passions destroy this that pronounced lofty expressions, condemned maxim by supposing the world capable of to eternal silence, the piercing eyes that conmaking us happy or miserable. Revenge sup-vulsed the world with fear, covered with a poses our honour so depend on the world, on the opinion of those idiots who have determined that a man of honour ought to revenge an affront. Ambition supposes our elevation to
midnight gloom, the formidable arm, that distributed the destinies of mankind, without motion and life. Go to the tomb of the nobleman, and there study quality; behold his
magnificent titles, his royal ancestors, his flattering inscriptions, his learned genealogies, are all gone, or going to be lost with himself in the same dust. Study voluptuousness at the grave of the voluptuous; see, his senses are destroyed, his organs broken to pieces, his bones scattered at the grave's mouth, and the whole temple of sensual pleasure subverted from its foundations.
Here we finish this discourse. There is a great difference between this and other subjects of discussion. When we treat of a point of doctrine, it is sufficient that you hear it, and remember the consequences drawn from it. When we explain a difficult text, it is enough that you understand it and recollect it. When we press home a particular duty of morality, it is sufficient that you apply it to the particular circumstance to which it belongs.
But what regards the passions is of universal and perpetual use. We always carry the principles of these passions within us, and we should always have assistance at hand to subdue them. Always surrounded with objects of our passions, we should always be guarded against them. We should remember these things, when we see the benefits of fortune, to free ourselves from an immoderate attachment to them; before human grandeur to despise
before sensual objects, to subdue them; before our enemy, to forgive him; before friends, children, and families, to hold ourselves disengaged from them. We should always examine in what part of ourselves the passions hold their throne, whether in the mind, the senses, or the imagination, or the heart. We should always examine whether they have depraved the heart, defiled the imagination, perverted the senses, or blinded the mind. We should ever remember, that we are strangers upon earth, that to this our condition calls us, our religion invites us, and our nature compels
But alas! It is this, it is this general influence, which these exhortations ought to have over our lives, that makes us fear we have ad
dressed them to you in vain. treat of a point of doctrine, we may persuade ourselves it has been understood. When we explain a difficult text, we flatter ourselves we have thrown some light upon it. When we urge a moral duty, we hope the next occasion will bring it to your memory: and yet how often have we deceived ourselves on these ar ticles! How often have our hopes been vain! How often have you sent us empty away, even though we demanded so little! What will be done to-day? Who that knows a little of mankind, can flatter himself that a discourse intended, in regard to a great number, to change all, to reform all, to renew all, will be directed to its true design!
But, O God, there yet remains one resource, it is thy grace, it is thine aid, grace that we have a thousand times turned into lasciviousness, and which we have a thousand times rejected; yet after all assisting grace, which we most humbly venture to implore. When we approach the enemy, we earnestly beseech thee, teach our hands to war, and our fingers to fight!' When we did attack a town, we fervently besought thee to render it accessible to us! Our prayers entered heaven, our enemies fled before us, thou didst bring us into the strong city, and didst lead us into Edom, Ps. lx. 9. The walls of many a Jericho fell at the sound of our trumpets, at the sight of thine ark, and the approach of thy priest: but the old man is an enemy far more formidable than the best disciplined armies, and it is harder to conquer the passions than to beat down the walls of a city! O help us to subdue this old man, as thou hast assisted us to overcome other enemies! Enable us to triumph over our passions as thou hast enabled us to succeed in levelling the walls of a city! Stretch out thy holy arm in our favour, in this church, as in the field of battle! So be the protector both of the state and the church, crown our efforts with such success, that we may offer the most noble songs of praise to thy glory. Amen.
HOSEA VI. 4.
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth
THE church has seldom seen happier days than those described in the nineteenth chapter of Exodus. God had never diffused his benedictions on a people in a richer abundance.
Preached the first Lord's day of the year 1710. The Lord's Supper day.
Never had a people gratitude more lively, piety more fervent. The Red Sea had been passed, Pharaoh and his insolent court were buried in the waves, access to the land of promise was opened, Moses had been admitted on the holy mountain to derive felicity from
God the source, and sent to distribute it amongst his countrymen; to these choice favours promises of new and greater blessings were yet added, and God said, 'ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me, above all people, although the earth be mine,' ver. 4, 5. The people were deeply affected with this collection of miracles. Each individual entered into the same views, and seemed animated with the same passion, all hearts were united, and one voice expressed the sense of all the tribes of Israel, 'All that the Lord hath spoken we will do,' ver. 8. But this devotion had one great defect, it lasted only forty days. In forty days the deliverance out of Egypt, the catastrophe of Pharaoh, the passage through the sea, the articles of the covenant; in forty days vows, promises, oaths, all were effaced from the heart and forgotten. Moses was absent, the lightning did not glitter, the thunder claps did not roar, and the Jews made a calf in Horeb, worshipped that molten image, and changed their glorious God into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass,' Ps. cxi. 19, 20. It was this that drew upon Moses this cutting reproof from God, Go, said he to Moses, to that Moses always fervent for the salvation of his people, always ready to plead for them, go, get thee down, for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them,' Exod. xxxii. 7, 8. They have quickly turned aside, this is the great defect of their devotion, this is that which renders all devotion incomplete.
Do you know this portrait, my brethren? Has this history nothing in it like yours? Are any days more solemn than such as we observe in our present circumstances? Did God ever draw near to us with more favours than he has this day? Did we ever approach him with more fervour? On the one hand, the beginning of another year recalls to mind the serious and alarming discourses, which the ministers of Jesus Christ addressed to us on the last anniversary, the many strokes given, to whom? To the enemies of God?
To the state and the church! Many cut off in the field of battle, many others carried away in the ordinary and inevitable course of things, many perils, in one word, with which we were threatened, but which thy mercy, O God, has freed us from! On the other hand this sacred table, these august symbols, these earnests of our eternal felicity, all these objects, do they not render this day one of the most singular in our lives?
If heaven has thus heard the earth (we are happy to acknowledge it, my brethren, and we eagerly embrace this opportunity of publishing your praise) the earth has heard the heaven. To judge by appearance, you have answered our wishes, and exceeded our hopes. You were exhorted to prepare for the Lord's supper, you did prepare for it. You were
called to public worship, you came. were exhorted to attend to the word of God, you did attend to it. You were required to form resolutions of a holy life, you made these resolutions. It seemed, while we saw you come with united ardour this morning to the table of Jesus Christ, it seemed as if we heard you say, with the Israelites of old, 'All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.'
But we declare, my brethren, a cloud comes over the bright scene of this solemnity. I fear, shall I say the forty? alas, I fear the four succeeding days! These doors will be shut, this table will be removed, the voice of the servants of God will cease to sound in your ears, and I fear the Lord will say of you, they have quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them.'
Let us not content ourselves with foreseeing this evil, let us endeavour to prevent it. This is the design of the present discourse, in which we will treat of transient devotions. To you, in the name of God, we address the words, the tender words, which will occasion more reflections than they may seem at first to do, but which no reflections can exhaust, O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.'
O Almighty God! We humbly beseech thee, enable us in the offerings we make to thee to resemble thee in the favours which thou bestowest upon us! Thy gifts to us are without repentance, thy covenant with us contains this clause, the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed. I have sworn that I will not be wroth with thee! our offerings to thee may be without repentance! O that we may be able to reply, 'the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my fidelity shall never depart from thee, neither shall the dedication which I have made of myself to thee, ever be removed! I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.' Amen.
'O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? Ephraim, Judah, are terms of the text that have very little need of explication. You know that the people of God were united in one state till the time of Jeroboam, when he rent a part from Rehoboam the son of Solomon, thus two kingdoms were constituted, that of Judah and that of Israel. Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah, and of Israel Samaria was the metropolis, and it is sometimes called Ephraim in Scripture. By Judah and Ephraim the prophet then means both these kingdoms. This wants no proof, and if there be any thing worth remarking on this occasion, it is that most interpreters, who are often the echoes of one another, describe the ministry of Hosea as directed only to the kingdom of Israel, whereas it is clear by the text, and by several other passages, that it was addressed both to Israel and
But of all unlucky conjectures, I question
whether there be one more so than that of some divines, who think our text prophetical. In their opinion the goodness mentioned in the text is the mercy of God displayed in the gospel. The dew signifies Jesus Christ. The morning, thy goodness is like the morning dew,' intends the covenant of grace. As every one proposes his opinion under some appearance of evidence, it is said in favour of this, that the expression, thy goodness, does not signify the goodness of the people, but that which is manifested to the people, and in proof of this the idiom of the Hebrew tongue is alleged, with divers passages that justify this tour of expression, as this, my people are bent to their backsliding,' that is to backsliding from
The dew, say they, signifies the Messiah, for he is promised under that emblem in many passages of Scripture. They add farther, the morning signifies the new dispensation of the gospel, which is often announced under this idea by the prophets, and all this text, thy goodness is as the early dew which goeth away,' opens a wonderful contrast between the law and the gospel. The law was like a storm of hail destroying the fruits of the earth, but the gospel is a dew that makes every thing fruitful. The law was a dark night, but the gospel was a fine day; thy goodness is like the morning dew which goeth away,' that is to say, which cometh. Here are many good truths out of place. Thy goodness may signify, for any thing we know, goodness exercised towards thee; the Messiah is represented as a dew; the gospel economy is promised under the emblem of the morning; all this is true, but all this is not the sense of the text. The word goodness, which is the first mistake of the exposition just now given, may be understood of piety in general. It has that meaning in many passages of Scripture. The substantive derived from it is usually put for pious persons, and according to a celebrated critic, it is from the word hasidim, the pious, that the word Essenes is derived, a name given to the whole sect among the Jews, because they professed a more eminent piety than others. A'goodness like the morning dew' is a seeming piety, which goeth away,' that is of a short duration, and all these words, 'O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away,' are a reproof from God to his people for the unsteadiness of their devotions. In this light we will consider the text, and show you first the nature--and secondly the unprofitableness of transient devotions.
I. Let us first inquire the nature of the piety in question. What is this goodness or piety, that is as a morning cloud, and goeth away as the early dew? We do not understand by this piety either those deceitful appearances of hypocrites, who conceal their profane and irreligious hearts under the cover of ardour and religion, or the disposition of those Christians, who fall through their own frailty from high degrees of pious zeal, and experience emotions of sin after they have felt exercises of grace. The devotion we mean to describe goes
farther than the first: but it does not go so far as the last.
The transient devotion, of which we speak, is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy cannot suspend the strokes of divine justice one single moment, and it is more likely to inflame than to extinguish the righteous indignation of God. It is not to hypocrites that God addresses this tender language, O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?" Their sentence is declared, their punishment is ready. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophecy of you, saying, this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. The portion of hypocrites shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,' Matt. xv. 7; xxiii. 31, and xxiv. 51.
Nor is the piety we mean to describe that of the weak and revolting believer. How imperfect soever this piety may be, yet it is real. It is certainly a very mortifying consideration to a believer that he should be at any time hemmed in, confined, and clogged, in his devotional exercises. In some golden days of his life, forgetting the world, and wholly employed about heavenly things, how happy was he, how delicious his enjoyments, when he surmounted sense and sin, ascended to God like Moses formerly on the holy mount, and there conversed with his heavenly Father concerning religion, salvation, and eternity! O how richly did he then think himself indemnified for the loss of time in worldly pursuits by pouring his complaints into the bosom of God, by opening all his heart, by saying to him with inspired men, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee! it is good for me to draw near to God! My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips!' I say, it is a very mortifying thing to him, after such elevations in the enjoyment of such magnificent objects, to be obliged through the frailty of his nature to go down again into the world, and to employ himself about what? A suit of clothes, a menial servant, a nothing! Above all, it is very mortifying to him, after he has tasted pleasure so pure, to feel himself disposed to sin! But after all, this piety, though very imperfect, is genuine and true. It should humble us, but it should not destroy us, and we should be animated with a spirit too rigid, were we to confound this piety with that, which is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that goeth away.'
The piety we speak of lies between these two dispositions. As I said before, it does not go so far in religion as the second, but it does go beyond the first. It is sincere, in that it is superior to hypocrisy; but it is unfruitful, and in that respect it is inferior to the piety of the weak and revolting Christian. It is sufficient to discover sin, but not to correct it; sufficient to pruduce sincere resolutions, but not to keep them: it softens the heart, but it does not renew it; it excites grief, but it does not eradicate evil dispositions. It is a piety of times, opportunities, and circumstances, diversified a thousand ways, the effect of innumerable cau
protected by such as are bound to suppress it? They have shown you the Deity ready to punish an obstinate perseverance in sin, and, if you will forgive the expression, they have preach
ses, and, to be more particular, it usually owes its origin to public calamities, or to solemn festivals, or to the approach of death: but it expires as soon as the causes are removed. 1. By piety, like the early dew that goethed, illuminated by lightning, and their exhoraway,' we mean that which is usually excited by public calamities. When a state prospers, when its commerce flourishes, when its armies are victorious, it acquires weight and consequence in the world. Prosperity is usually productive of crimes. Conscience falls asleep during a tumult of passions, as depravity continues security increases, the patience of God becomes weary, and he punishes either by taking away prosperity, or by threatening to take it away. The terrible messengers of divine justice open their commission. The winds which he makes his angels, begin to utter their voices: flames of fire, constituted his ministers, display their frightful light. Pestilence, war, famine, executioners of the decrees of heaven, prepare to discharge their dreadful office. One messenger called death, and another called hell, receive their bloody commission, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, the fourth part of the earth,' Rev. vi. 8. Each individual sees his own doom in the public decree. Capernaum exalted to heaven is going to be thrust down to hell,' Luke x. 15. Jonah walks about Nineveh, and makes the walls echo with this alarming proclamation, Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,' chap. iii. 4. Or, to lay aside borrowed names, and to make our portrait like the original, your ministers free from their natural timidity or indolence, despising those petty tyrants, or shall I rather
ay those diminutive insects, who amidst a free people would have us the only slaves; who while all kinds of vices have free course would have the word of God bound, and would reduce the excercise of the reformed ministry to a state more mean and pusillanimous than that of court bishops, or the chaplains of kings; I say, your ministers have made you hear their voice, they have gone back to your origin, and laid before you the cruel edicts, the sanguinary proscriptions, the barbarous executions, the heaps of mangled carcasses, which were, if I may so speak, the first foundations of this republic. From what you were then they have proceeded to what you are now; they have represented to you the end proposed by the Supreme Being in distinguishing you by so many merciful advantages; they have told you it was to engage you to inform idolatrous nations of the truth, to nourish and favour it in cruel and persecuting countries, to support it at home, and so to cast out profaneness, izfidelity, and atheism. They have repeatedly urged you to come to a settlement of accounts on these subjects, and they have delivered in against you such an interrogatory as this; are the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees lifted up? Does superstition cover the truth in any places of your government? Is the affliction of Joseph neglected? Does irreligion insolently lift its head among you, and is it M
tations have been enforced by thunder. Then
2. In a second class of transient devotions we place that which religious solemnities produce. Providence always watching for our salvation, has established in the church not only an ordinary ministry to cultivate our piety, but some extraordinary periods proper to invigorate and bring it to maturity, thus proportioning itself to our frailty. How considerable soever the truths of religion are, it is certain they lose their importance by our hearing them always proposed in the same circumstances, and the same points of light. There are some days which put on I know not what of the extraordinary, and put in motion, so to speak, the first great powers of religion. To this our festivals are directed, and this is one of the principal uses of the Lord's supper. Were this ordinance not appointed with this view as some affirm, had not God annexed some peculiar benediction to it, yet it would be a weak pretence to keep from the Lord's table, and the use generally granted would always be a sufficient reason to induce those to frequent it who have their salvation at heart. But however this may be, it is certain that such days