صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

voice from the blessed God, saying, 'Ask what I shall give thee.' How awful would this test prove to most of our hearers! If we may judge of our wishes by our pursuits, what strange replies should we make to God! What a choice would it be! Our privilege would become our ruin,and we should have the awful ingenuity to find misery in the very bosom of happiness. Who would say, Lord give me wisdom and understanding; Lord, help me worthily to discharge the duties of the station with which I am intrusted? This is the utmost of all my requests; and to this alone I would wish thy munificence to be confined. On the contrary, biassed by the circumstance of situation, and swayed by some predominant passion, one would say, Lord, augment my heaps of gold and silver, and in proportion as my riches shall increase, diminish the desire of expenditure: another, Lord, raise me to the highest scale of grandeur, and give me to trample under foot men, who shall have the assurance to become my equals, and whom I regard as the worms of earth. How little for the most part do we know ourselves in prosperity! How incorrect are our ideas! Great God, do thou determine our lot, and save us from the reproach of making an unhappy choice, by removing the occasion. Solomon was incomparably wiser. Filled with the duties of his august station, and awed by its difficulties, he said, 'Lord, give thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad'

But if we applaud the wisdom of Solomon's prayer, how much more should we applaud the goodness and munificence of God's reply? Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast thou asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies. But hast asked understanding to discern judgment. Behold, I have done according to thy word. Lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; and I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.'

How amply was this promise fulfilled, and how did its accomplishment correspond with the munificence of him by whom it was made! By virtue of this promise, I have given thee an understanding heart,' we see Solomon carrying the art of civil government to the highest perfection it can ever attain. Witness the profound prudence by which he discerned the real from the pretended mother, when he said with divine promptitude, 'Bring me a sword.-Divide the living child into two parts, and give half to the one, and half to the other, 1 Kings iii. 24, 25. Witness the profound peace he procured for his subjects, and which made the sacred historian say, that Judah and Israel dwell safely, every man under his vine, and under his fig. tree,' iv. 25. Witness the eulogium of the sacred writings on this subject, that it excelled the wisdom of all the children of the cast, and all the wisdom of Egypt; that he was wiser than Ethan, than Herman, than Chalcol, and Darda;' that is to say, he was

[ocr errors]

wiser than every man of his own age. Witness the embassies from all the kings of the earth to hear his wisdom. Witness the ac clamation of the queen, who came from the remotest kingdom of the earth to hear this prodigy of wisdom. It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy wisdom, and behold, the half was not told me. Thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are these thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom,' I Kings x. 6-8.

And in virtue of this other promise, 'I have given thee glory and riches;' we see Solomon raise superb edifices, form powerful alliances, and sway the sceptre over every prince, from the river even unto the land of the Philistines; that is from the Euphrates to the eastern branch of the Nile, which separates Palestine from Egypt, and making gold as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones, 2 Chron. ix. 26.; 1 Chron. i. 15.

It would be easy to extend these reflec tions, but were I to confine myself to this alone, I should fear being charged with having evaded the most difficult part of the subject to dwell on that which is sufficiently plain. The extraordinary condescension which God evinced towards Solomon; the divine gifts with which he was endowed, the answer to his prayer, 'I have given thee an under standing heart,' collectively involve a diffi culty of the most serious kind. How shall

we reconcile the favours with the events? How could a man so wise commit those faults, and perpetrate those crimes, which stained his lustre at the close of life? How could he follow the haughty license of oriental princes, who displayed a haram crowded with concubines? How, in abandoning his heart to sensual pleasure, could he abandon his faith and his religion? And after having the baseness to offer incense to their beauty, could he also offer incense to their idols? I meet this question with the greater pleasure, as the solution we shall give will demonstrate, first, the difficulties of superior endow ments; secondly the danger of bad company; thirdly, the peril of human grandeur; and fourthly, the poison of voluptuousness: four important lessons by which this dis

course shall close.

First, the responsibility attendant on superior talents. Can we suppose that God, on the investiture of Solomon with superior endowments, exempted him from the law which requires men of the humb est talents to improve them? What is implied in these words, I have given thee understanding? Do they mean, I take solely on myself the work of thy salvation, that thou mayest live without restraint in negligence and pleasure? Brave the strongest temptations; I will obstruct thy falling? Open thy heart to the most seductive objects; I will interpose my buckler for thy preservation and defence?

On this subject, my brethren, some minis ters have need of a total reform in their creed, and to abjure a system of theology, if I may so dare to speak, inconceivably absurd. Soaie men have formed notions of I know not what grace, which takes wholy 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 concu- 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 enlogy, 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- toxicated 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 Intion of this difficulty. We are blinded by -you who surpass your neighbour, in know- the smallest prosperity, and our head is turnledge, tremble; au 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? Go,-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, the 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 never 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 crimes; that you are but dust and ashes; and in the midst of your grandeur, and your rank, remember that you are poor, frail, wretched, and abject.

Our second solution of the difficulty proposed, and the second caution we would derive from the fall of Solomon, is the danger of bad company; and a caution rendered the more essential by the inattention of the age. A 4. In short, the 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. 1 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. He 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, see indeed, by the sad experience recourse 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 enby contracting marriages with persons whose chantment against Jacob, there is no divinareligion 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 superbad 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 should no more attack the Israelites with open force, but with voluptuous delights; that they should no more send among them wizards and enchanters, but the women of Midian, to allure them to their sacrifices; then this peo

The danger of human grandeur is a new solution of the difficulty proposed, and a third caution we derive from the fall of Solomon. Mankind, for the most part, have a brain too weak to bear a high scale of elevation. Dazzled at once with the rays of surrounding lus-ple, before invincible, I will deliver into your tre, they can no longer support the sight. You are astonished that Solomon, this prince, who reigned from the river even to the land

[ocr errors]


Of the success of this advice, my brethren, 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 the 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 immorwhen 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



Preached Nov. 20. 1720.

MICAH vi. 9.

Hear 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 equalhave 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 to 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 advantage? The idea of our superiority engrosses our whole attention: and here is the source of our pride. Are we in the presence of an object congenial to our cupidity? The sentiment of pleasure immediately fills the whole capacity of the soul; and here is the source of our intemperance: it is the same with every vice. Have you the art of fixing the attention of men, of recalling their wandering thoughts: and thereby of reclaiming them to duty; you will acknowledge, that the beings you had taken for monsters, are really men, who, as I said, sin less by malice than dissipation.

But of all the means calculated to produce the recollection so essential to make us wise, adversity is the most effectual. How should a man delight his heart with a foolish gran deur; how should he abandon himself to pride, when all around him speaks his meanness and impotency; when appalled by the sight of a sovereign judge, and burdened by his heavy hand: he has no resource but humility and submission? How should he give up himself to intemperance when afflicted


O Lord, thou hast stricken them' My brethren, the first part of our prophet's words is now accomplished in our country, and in a very terrific manner. Some difference the mercy of God does make between us, and those neighbouring nations, among whom the plague is making so dreadful a progress; but though our horizon is not yet infected, though the breath of our hearers is not yet corrupt, and though our streets present not yet to our view heaps of dead, whose mortal exhalations, threaten the living, and to whose burial, those who survive are scarcely sufficient, we are nevertheless under the hand of God; I would say, under his avenging hand; his hand already uplifted to plunge us into the abyss of national ruin. What else are those plagues which walk in our streets? What is this mortality of our cattle which has now continued so many years? what else is this suspension of credit, this loss of trade, this ruin of so many families, and so many more on the brink of ruin? O Lord, thou hast stricken them' The first part then is but too awfully accomplished in our country. I should deem it an abuse of the liberty al

lowed me in this pulpit, were I to say, without restriction, that the second is likewise accomplished; but they have not grieved.' The solemnity of the day; the proclamation of our fast; the whole of these provinces prostrated to-day at the feet of the Most High; so many voices crying to Heaven, O thou sword of the Lord, intoxicated with blood, return into thy scabbard; all would convict me of declamation, if I should say, 'O Lord thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved.'

But, my brethren, have we then no part in this reproach? Do we feel as we ought, the calamities that God hath sent? Come to-day Christians; come and learn of our prophet to hearken to the voice of God. What voice? the voice strong and mighty; the voice which lighteneth with flames of fire; the loud voice of his judgments Hear ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it.'


My brethren, on the hearing of this voice, what sort of requests shall we make? Shall we not say, as the ancient people, Let not the Lord speak to us lest we die?' No, let us not adopt this language-O great God, the contempt we have made of thy staff, when thy clemency caused us to repose in green pastures, renders essential the rod of thy correction. Now is the crisis to suffer, or to perish Strike, strike, Lord, provided we may be converted and saved. Speak with thy lightning; speak with thy thunder; speak with thy flaming bolts; but teach us to hear thy voice. 'Speak, Lord, for thy servants hear. And you, my brethren, Hear ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it.' Amen.


This, in substance, is,

I. To feel the strokes of God's hand: II. To trace their consequences and connexions :

III. To examine their origin and causes. IV. To discover their resources and remedies. This is to comply with the exhortation of Micah; this is to shelter ourselves from the charge of Jeremiah; this is especially to comply with the design of this solemnity. If we feel the strokes of God's hand, we shall shake off a certain state of indolence in which many of us are found, and be clothed with the sentiments of humiliation: this is the first duty of the day. If we trace the consequences and connexion of our calamities, we shall be inspired with the sentiments of terror and awe: this is the second disposition of a fast. If we examine their origin and cause, we shall be softened with sentiments of sorrow and repentance: this is the third disposition of a fast. If we, lastly, discover the remedies and resources, we shall be animated with the sentiments of genuine conversion: this is the fourth disposition of a fast. It is by reflections of this kind that I would close these solemn duties, and make, if I may so speak, the applications of those energetic words addressed to us by the servants of God on this day.

I. Hear ye the rod :' feel the strokes with which you are already struck. There is one disposition of the mind which may be confounded with that we would wish to inspire. The sensation of these calamities may be so strong as to unnerve the understanding, and

overspread the mind with a total gloom and dejection. The soul of which we speak, feasts on its grief, and is wholly absorbed in the causes of its anguish. The privation of a good once enjoyed, renders it perfectly indifferent as to the blessings which still remain. The strokes which God has inflicted, appear to it the greatest of all calamities. Neither the beauties of nature, nor the pleasures of conversation, nor the motives of piety, have charms adequate to extinguish, nor even assuage anguish which corrodes and consumes the soul. Hence those torrents of tears; hence those deep and frequent sighs; hence those loud and bitter complaints; hence those unqualified augurs of disaster and ruin. To feel afflictions in this way, is a weakness of mind which disqualifies us for supporting the slightest reverses of life. It is an ingratitude which obstructs our acknowledging the favours of that God, who, in the midst of wrath, remembers mercy,' and who never so far afflicts his creature, as to deprive him of reviving hope.

The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a vice directly opposed to that we have just decried. It is the insensibility of the man of pleasure. He must enjoy life; but nothing is more strikingly calculated to correct his notions, and derange the system of present pleasure, than this idea: the sovereign of the universe is irritated against us: his sword is suspended over our heads: his avenging arm is making awful havoc around us: thousands have already fallen beneath his strokes on our right, and ten thousand on our left, Ps xci. 7. We banish these ideas: but this being difficult to do, we repose behind intrenchments which they cannot penetrate; and by augmenting the confusion of the passions, we endeavour to divert our attention from the calamities of the public.

The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a philosophical apathy. We brave adversity. We fortify ourselves with a stoical firmness. We account it wise, superior wisdom to be unmoved by the greatest catastrophes. We enshroud the mind in an ill-named virtue; and we pique ourselves on the vain glory of being unmoved, though the universe were dissolved.

The insensibility we wish to prevent is that which arises from a stupid ignorance. Some men are naturally more difficult to be moved than the brutes destitute of reason. They are resolved to remain where they are, until extricated by an exterior cause; and these are the very men who resist that cause. They shut their eyes against the avenues of alarm; they harden their hearts against calamities by the mere dint of reason, or rather by the mere instinct of nature, because if seriously regarded, some efforts would be required to avert the visitation.

But whether God afflict us in love, or strike in wrath; whether he afflict us for instruction, or chasten us for correction, our first duty under the rod is to acknowledge the equity of his hand.

Does he afflict us for the exercise of our resignation and our patience? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. We must each say, It is

you not have thought that the earth was about to return to its original chaos; that the sea had broke the bounds prescribed by the Creator; and that the earth had ceased to be balanced on its poles?' Job xxxviii. 6. The second minister of the God of vengeance, exciting alarm, is the mortality of our cattle. The mere approaches of this calamity filled us with terror, and became the sole subjects of conversation. Your sovereign appointed publick prayers, and solemn humiliations, to avert the scourge. Your preachers made extraordinary efforts, entreating you to enter into the design of God, who had sent it upon us But to what may not men become accustomed? We sometimes wonder how they can enjoy the least repose in places where the earth often quakes; where its dreadful jaws open; where a black volume of smoke obscures the light of heaven; where mountains of flame, froin subterranean caverns, rise to the highest clouds, and descend in liquid rivers on houses, and on whole towns. Let us seek in ourselves the solution of a diffiin-culty suggested by the insensibility of others. We are capable of accustoming ourselves to any thing. Were we to judge of the im pressions future judgments would produce by the effects produced by those God has al ready sent, we should harden our hearts against both pestilence and famine; we should attend concerts, though the streets were thronged with the groans of dying men, and join the publick games in presence of the destroying angel sent to exterminate the nation.

The third minister of God's vengeance, exciting us to sensibility, is the plague, which ravages a neighbouring kingdom. Your provinces do not subsist of themselves; they have an intimate relation with all the states of Europe. And such is the nature of their constitution, that they not only suffer from the prosperity, but even from the adversity, of their enemies. But what do I say? from their enemies! The people whom God has now visited with this awful scourge, are not our enemies; they are our allies; they are our brethren; they are our fellow-countrymen. The people on whom God has laid his hand in so terrible a manner, is the kingdom which gave some of us birth, and which still contains persons to whom we are united by the tenderest ties. Every stroke this kingdom receives, recoils on ourselves, and it cannot fall without involving us in its ruins.

If you ask what those strokes were with which God afflicted the Israelites, it is not easy to give you satisfaction. The correctest researches of chronology do not mark the exact period in which Micah delivered the words of my text. We know only that he excrcised his ministry under three kings, under Jotham, under Ahaz, under Hezekiah; and that under each of these kings, God afflicted the kingdom of Judah, and of Israel with severe strokes. And the solemnities of the present day excuse me from the laws, binding to a commentator, of illustrating a text in all the original views of the author. We must neither divert our feelings nor divide our attention, between the calamities God sent on Judah and Israel, and those he has sent on us. We exhort you to sensibility concerning the visitations of Providence: four ministers of the God of vengeance address you with a voice more loud and pathetic than mine. These ministers are, the tempest; the murrain; the plague; and the spirit of indiffer


The fourth minister of the God of vengeance, which calls for consideration, is the spirit of slumber. It would seem that God had designated our own hands to be our own ruin. It would seem that he had given a demon from the depths of hell a commission like that granted to the spirit mentioned in the first Book of Kings. The Lord said, who shall persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth- Gilead? And there came forth a spirit, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said, Yea, thou shalt persuade him, and prevail,' xxii. 20. 22. Yea, a spirit who has sworn the overthrow of our families, the ruin of our arts and manufactures, the destruction of our commerce, and the loss of our credit, this spirit has fa



true, my fortune fluctuates, my credit is injured, and my prospects are frustrated; but it is the great Disposer of all events who has assorted my lot; it is my Lord and Ruler. O God, thy will be done, and not mine. I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because it was thy doing, Matt. xxvi. 39. Ps. xxxix. 9. Does he afflict us in order to put our love to the proof? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. We must learn to say, 'I think that God has made us a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.' O God! though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee,' 1 Cor. iv. 9; xv. 19; Job xiii. 15.


Does he afflict us in order to detach us from the world? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. It is requisite that this son should die, who constitutes the sole enjoyment of our life; it is requisite that we should feel the anguish of the disease to which we are exposed; it is requisite this health should fail, without which the association of every pleasure is sipid and obtrusive, that we may learn to place our happiness in the world to come, and not establish our hopes in this valley of tears. Does he afflict us to make manifest the enormity of vice? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. We must acknowledge the horrors of the objects our passions had painted with such beguiling tints. Amid the anguish consoquent on crimes, we must put the question to ourselves which St. Paul put to the Romans; What fruits had you then in those things, whereof you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.' Sensibility of the strokes God has already inflicted by his rod, was the first disposition of mind which Micah in his day, required of the Jews.

The first minister of the God of vengeance is the tempest. Estimate, if you are able, the devastations made by the tempest during the last ten years; the districts they have ravaged; the vessels they have wrecked; the inundations they have occasioned; and the towns they have laid under water. Would

« السابقةمتابعة »