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around him were reduced to despair : “In the Lord put
how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? for, lo, the wicked bend their bow; they make ready their arrow upon
the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart: and if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” What? “ The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eye-lids try the children of men:” and, as he knows all their machinations against me, so he knows all my necessities; and will assuredly deliver me out of their handsy. His deliberate sentiment, on all occasions, was this: “ Shall I lift
eyes unto the hills? (to any earthly powers ?) From whence, then, cometh my help? My help cometh of the Lord, who made heaven and earth?," and, therefore, is infinitely superior to both. Of St. Paul's confidence I forbear to speak, because that must of necessity occur to the minds of all who read the Holy Scriptures: but this I will say, that there is nothing more severely reproved, throughout the inspired volume, than diffidence and distrust; nor any thing more highly commended than faith.]
What, then, is my ADVICE to all ? To every one amongst you
say, 1. Study the Holy Scriptures
[From human writings you may learn something of God: but from the Scriptures alone can you acquire such a knowledge of him as it is your privilege and your duty to possess. In reading them, mark his every perfection, as displayed in his dealings with the children of men. If you notice facts only, you will read to little purpose: it is his glory, as beaming forth throughout the whole, which you are chiefly to contemplate: and, if your mind be habituated to contemplate that, you can never want a ground of consolation or of confidence in any state to which you may, by any possibility, be reduced.] 2. Follow the examples of the Scripture saints
[In comparing the character of those who profess Christianity with that of the saints recorded in holy writ, one would be tempted to think that they were of a different species, and belonging to two different worlds: for really, if we heard of persons inhabiting one of the planets, they could not differ more widely in their sentiments and habits, than the nominal Christian differs from the Scripture saints. What, for instance, were St. Paul's sentiments? “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.” And what were his habits? “ To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those that are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Compare
y Ps. xi. 1–4. Bishop Horne's translation.
b Jer. xvii. 5-8.
this with the great mass of Christians around us, and say what resemblance there is between them. Verily, if we will serve God aright, we must be followers of the Apostle, even as he was of Christ. As for the world's judgment, whether they will approve it, or not, we are not to regard it. We must approve ourselves to God; and both put our trust in him and serve him, as those who know they shall be judged by him in the last day. If we follow the footsteps of the flock, then shall we be numbered among the sheep of Christ, and dwell in his fold for ever and ever.]
THE DANGER OF FORGETTING GOD.
Ps. ix. 17. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the
nations that forget God. THE most eminent saints are represented in scripture as weeping over an ungodly world. Nor would this exercise of compassion be so rare, if we duly considered how great occasion there is for it. The words before us are a plain and unequivocal declaration from God himself respecting the doom which awaits every impenitent sinner. May God impress our minds with a solemn awe, while we shew, I. Who they are whom God esteems wicked
If we consult the opinions of men, we shall find that they differ widely from each other in their ideas of moral guilt, and that they include more or less in their definition of wickedness according to their own peculiar habits of life; every one being careful so to draw the line that he himself may not be comprehended within it. But God does not consult our wishes, or accommodate his word to our partial regards; he denominates all them wicked, who “ forget” him. Doubtless there are degrees of guilt: but all those are wicked in his sight who are,
1. Regardless of his laws
[These ought to be written on our hearts, and to be the invariable rule of our conduct. It should be our constant inquiry, What is duty ? what does God command? But if this be no part of our concern, if our inquiry be continually, “What will please myself; what will advance my interests : what will suit the taste of those around me;" are we not wicked? Do we not in all such instances rebel against God, and become, as it were, a God unto ourselves? Yet who amongst us has not been guilty in these respects ?] 2. Forgetful of his benefits
[Every day and hour of our lives we have been laden with mercies by a kind and bountiful benefactor. And should they not have excited correspondent emotions of gratitude in our hearts? Yea, should they not have filled our mouths with praises and thanksgivings? But what shall we say to that greatest of all mercies, the gift of God's dear Son to die for us? Has not that deserved our devoutest acknowledgments ? What then if we have passed days and years without any affectionate remembrance of God? What if we have even abused the bounties of his providence, and poured contempt upon the riches of his grace? What if we have “ trodden under foot the Son of God, and done despite to the Spirit of grace ?” Are we not wicked? Do we account such ingratitude a venial offence, when exercised by a dependent towards ourselves?] 3. Unmindful of his presence
[God is every where present, and every object around us has this inscription upon it, “ Thou, God, seest me.” Now it is our duty and privilege to walk with God as his friends, and to set him before us all the day long. But, suppose we have been unmindful of his presence, and have indulged without remorse those thoughts, which we could not have endured to carry into practice in the presence of a fellow-creature; suppose we have been careless and unconcerned even when we were assembled in God's house of prayer; suppose that, instead of having him in all our thoughts, we have lived “ without him in the world;" are we not wicked? Is it necessary to have added murder or adultery to such crimes as these in order to constitute us wicked? Does God judge thus, when he declares that they who are thus without God, are at the same time “ without hopea ? "]
While we rectify our notions respecting the persons that are wicked, let us inquire,
Eph. ii. 12.
II. What is to be their final doom
The word “hell” sometimes imports no more than the grave; but here it must mean somewhat far more awful; because the righteous go into the grave as well as the most abandoned Hell is a place of inconceivable misery
[Men in general do not wish to hear this place so much as mentioned, much less described, as the portion of the wicked: but it is better far to hear of it, than to dwell in it; and it is by hearing of it that we must be persuaded to avoid it. Our Lord represents it as a place originally formed for the reception of the fallen angels; and very frequently labours to deter men from sin by the consideration of its terrors. And who that reflects upon that “lake of fire and brimstone,” where the wicked "dwell with everlasting burnings,” and “
weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth,” without so much as the smallest hope of deliverance from it, and where “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever;" who that considers what it must be to have the devils for our companions, and to have the vials of God's wrath poured out upon us, without intermission and without end; who that considers these things, must not tremble at the thought of taking up his abode in that place ?]
Yet must that be the portion of all that forget God
[Now scoffers make light of eternal torments, and puff at the denunciations of God's wrath; but ere long they will wish that “the rocks might fall upon them, and the hills cover them" from his impending judgments. But however reluctant they be to obey the divine mandate, they must “ depart;" they will be " turned" into hell with irresistible violence, and with fiery indignation. Their numbers will not at all secure them against the threatened vengeance: though there be whole "nations," they will not be able to withstand the arm of God; nor will they excite commiseration in his heart: neither will their misery be the less because of the multitudes who partake of it; for, instead of alleviating one another's sorrows with tender sympathy, they will accuse one another with the bitterest invectives. The power and veracity of God are pledged to execute this judgment; and sooner shall heaven and earth be annihilated, than one jot or tittle of his word shall fail.] INFER
1. How awful is the insensibility in which the world are living ! b 2 Cor. v. 11.
c Luke xü. 5. Mark ix. 43-48.
[Men seem as careless and indifferent about their eternal interests as if they had nothing to apprehend; or as if God had promised that the wicked should be received into heaven. But can they set aside the declaration that is now before us? Or do they suppose it is intended merely to alarm us; and that it shall never be executed upon us? “Is God then a man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should repent ?” O that they would awake from their infatuation, and flee from the wrath to come!]
2. How just will be the condemnation of sinners in the last day!
[Many think it a hard thing that so heavy a judgment should be denounced merely for forgetting God. But is this so small an offence as they imagine? Is it not rather exceeding heinous ? Does it not imply the basest ingratitude, the most daring rebellion, yea, a great degree even of atheism itself? And shall not God visit for these things, and be avenged on such transgressors as these? Shall they be at liberty to abuse God's mercies, and God not be at liberty to suspend the communication of his blessings ? Shall they despise and trample on God's laws, and God not be at liberty to assert their authority? Shall they say to God, “ Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;" and shall God be accused of injustice if he say to them, “ Depart; ye shall never have one glimpse of my presence any.
?” But if they will dare to open their mouths against him now, the time is shortly coming, when they will stand self-convicted, and self-condemned.]
3. How marvellous are the patience and the mercy of God!
[God has seen the whole race of man departing from him, and blotting out, as much as they could, the remembrance of him from the earth. His authority, his love, his mercy, are, as it were, by common consent banished from the conversation and from the very thoughts of men. Yet, instead of burning with indignation against us, and “ turning us all quick into hell,” he bears with us, he invites us to mercy, he says, “ Deliver them from going down into the pit; for I have found a ransom d.” O that we might be duly sensible of his mercy! O that we might flee for refuge to the hope set before us! If once we be cast into hell, we shall never obtain “
one drop of water to cool our tongues:” but “this is the accepted time;" the Lord grant that we may find it also, “the day of salvation !"
d Job xxxii. 24.