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Selah” (Psalm ix. 15, 16); when by their own errors, mistakes, and furious passions, they undo themselves.
(5.) When evil men are brought down, wonderfully, suddenly, contrary to all apparent likelihood and the course of second causes: “God shall shoot at them with an arrow, suddenly they shall be wounded, so they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves” (Psalm lxiv. 7, 8); and Psalm lviïi. 7-11, there is this consolation given to the church, that enemies shall be destroyed before the pots feel the thorns. When they are contriving and boiling somewhat in their minds, before the pots feel the thorns, God takes them away suddenly, in an instant, and then men shall say, “Verily, there is a rewarder of evil.
(6.) When God's judgments are executed by unlikely means and instruments. Sisera, a great captain, destroyed by Jael (Judg. iv, 21); Adrian the Pope strangled by a gnat; Arius voiding his bowels in a draught after his perjury; Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when the earth clave to receive them that had made a rent in the congregation; and Herod was eaten up with lice. • (7.) When such accidents bring a great deal of glory to God, and peace and tranquillity to his people; as hanging Haman with his sons upon his own gallows (Esther vii. 9, and viii. 17).
(8.) When God supplies the defects of man's justice, and their iniquity finds them out, when they think all is forgotten, and shall be no more heard of : “ When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them; he forgetteth not the cry of the humble” (Psalm ix. 12). There are many instances how God finds out men that seem to escape well enough from man's hands, when they could not be found out by man. The Prophet tells us, “Every morning doth he bring his judgment to light” (Zeph. iii. 5). There is some sinner or other whom God notably punisheth, that men may own his providence.
(9.) When the word, katà rò entov, in the express letter, is made good upon men: “I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard” (Hos. vü. 12). The word doth fully take effect; and what they would not believe, they are made to feel. By these rules we may observe God's judgments with profit. To quicken you to do so, consider,
(i.) It would be a mighty cure to atheism. There are a sort of men “ settled on their lees ; that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil " (Zeph. i. 12); that think God is so shut up within the curtain of the heavens, that he takes no notice of what is done below. These vain conceits would soon vanish, if men would but turn students in God's providence; they would soon cry out, “ Verily, there is a reward for the righteous; verily, there is a God that judgeth in the earth;" they would say there is a ruler of the affairs of the world, and a righteous judge that takes care of all things here below. Usually, men think amiss of God, as if good and evil were of no respect with him, but all things were governed by chance, as Job's wife said, “Dost thou still retain thine inte. grity? Curse God, and die” (Job ii. 9); “ Ye have wearied the Lord with your words; yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him ? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Mal. ii. 17.) We do not see his justice, and so have atheistical and evil conceits of God. When we fancy evil men are in esteem and good neglected and despised, it is a temptation to men to think there is no providence, no God; so, when
the nocent are prosperous, and the good vexed with all manner of displeasure. As Claudian the poet much doubted whether there were any such thing as Providence, that had a care of sublunary things; but, at length, when he saw Ruffinus was only lifted up that his fall might be the greater, then he no more calls in question God's providence, or taxes him of indifferency to good and evil.
(ii.) It will be a notable curb and awe upon us to keep us from sin; for all these things befall them for our learning : it is our stupid incogitancy when God puts these examples before our eyes, and we are not affected with them, and so they are of little use to us : " When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai" (Josh, ix. 3), they were wiser than we; they did not expect the coming of Joshua, but sent messengers to meet him and strike up a covenant with him. Or as that captain that came to Elijah, when two captains were destroved with their fifties, he comes and desires the Prophet to spare his life, and that those he brought with him might be dear and precious in his eyes (2 Kings i. 13). As he did, so should we : God hath smitten this and that for sin, we should the more humble ourselves, and desire terms of grace; but our blindness and stupidness is such that we are not moved with God's judgments on others to look to the state of our souls: “ A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Prov. xxii. 3).
II. I come now to the reason rendered, “For their deceit is falsehood." The Septuagint have, ότι άδικον το ενθύμημα αυτών, Thou hast despised all those that err from thy statutes, for their thought is unjust. But to open the words. These two notions, deceit and falsehood, sometimes are taken for the vanity of outward things, the disappointment of trust; for by an ill-built trust a man deceives himself, and his hopes prove false : and sometimes they are put for craft, guile, and hypocrisy. Now, according to these different acceptations of the word, divers senses are given. First, some think these words relate to the disappointment of their trust. Thus their confidences wherein they trust will deceive them at last, and be found falsehood. Certain it is, that carnal men have many imaginations and carnal confidences, wherein they flatter themselves, and hope to avoid their appointed judgments, which prove in the conclusion but lying vanities. If this were the sense, that at length it shall appear how deceitful their trust is, then it concerns us to see to our trust, to see what, in probability, those confidences might be whereby they deceive their own souls. Is it their greatness and present height? This deceiveth them when they are brought down wonderfully (Isa. xiv. 12-16). Or is it meant of their devices and witty counsels, wherein they trust? But their subtle devices fail, and they are often taken in the snares they laid for others : “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid” (Isa. xxix, 14). All their craft will do them no good; all their cunning and policy, by which they hope to fortify and defend themselves and prevent their ruin, shall come to nought. Or they do not get that by their deceit which they hope for; though they have many methods and stratagems to circumvent the people of God, yet they shall prove but vain. Secondly, most simply it seemeth to be taken for hypocrisy "and guile of spirit, manifested either in shows of piety or any guileful course, whereby they would undermine others; for this reason, God will bring them down.
DOCTRINE.-All fraudulency and hypocrisy is hateful to God; therefore he will sooner or later discover and destroy those that practise it.
Fraudulency is twofold:
First, Either falsehood in ordinary commerce, lying or treacherous imposing on the simplicity of upright and honest men. Most men's wisdom and policy lies in their falsehood and deceitfulness; but this shall be manifested, and, whilst they think to deceive others, they shall be deceived themselves, and be taken in their own snares (Job v. 13); and whilst they seek to ruin and undermine others, they are ruined or undermined themselves. Or,
Secondly, There is another sort of fraudulency, pretences of piety, whereby such men deceive the world. Now, this deceit is threefold, either the deceit of the heretic or erroneous person, or the formalist and superstitious person, or the deceit of those that pretend to be truly religious. All these cheats put upon the world shall not long hold.
Ist, The cheat of erroneous persons and heretical seducers, who, under a fair mask and plausible appearance, carry on such designs as prove troublesome and noxious to the church of God. Though for a while they carry great sway under colour of a godly life, yet at length God will tread them to dust and nothing; and then all will be counted but deceit. The deceit of heretical seducers is often spoken of in Scripture: “I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the syna. gogue of Satan” (Rev. ii. 9); and, “But they shall proceed no further ; for their folly shall be manifest unto all men” (2 Tim. iii. 5—9). When, under a form of godliness, they carry on a horrible design unto the great disturbance of the church, to the kingdom and commonwealth, “the day shall declare it" (1 Cor. iii. 13), God will bring them down.
2ndly, There is the deceit of superstitious persons and formalists, who seem to be devout, and have great zeal for outward things not commanded by God; such “make a fair show in the flesh" (Gal. vi. 12), by observing outward and carnal rites, as circumcision, difference of meats, legal purifications; all their religion is but a vain show, to beguile a loose conscience. This same sort of men are again described to be those that speak lies in hypocrisy (1 Tim. iv. 2). These also do in time discover the folly of their way, manifested by some notable judgment; for these things take not hold of men's consciences, but only of their affections; and, when public countenance is gone, they are of no more esteem.
3rdly, There is the deceit of those that only pretend to be truly religious, and are not so; and, because false and counterfeit, they are hateful and abominable to God. Now, these God will not only punish in the other world, “ appoint him his portion with the hypocrites" (Matt. xxiv. 51); Hell seems to be their freehold and patrimony ; but here, sooner or later, God will pluck off these vizors, and bring disappointment and ruin upon these deceivers. The hypocrite shall be discovered before the congregation (Prov. xxvi. 26). Things that are counterfeit and false, do not long hold out. God will discover them, either by some trying judgment; as he that builds upon the sand, when the winds blow and beat upon the house, down it falls; earthen vessels, when they come to be scoured, the varnish and paint wears off. Or by some scandalous fall; for “ that which is lame will soon be turned out of the way” (Heb. xii. 13). This deceitfulness,
1. Is contrary to God, who is a “God of truth” (Psalm xxxi. 5); the
author of truth, “ Which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. iv. 24); and a lover of truth, “ Thou desirest truth in the inward parts” (Psalm li. 6). So that it is a great affront to God, when men deal falsely : “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth?" (Jer, v. 3.) Is not that the thing thou lookest after in all the works of men ? This is all in all with God.
2. It is contrary to justice, charity, and common ingenuousness; it destroys the commerce between man and man: “Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another" (Eph. iv. 25). It is unnatural and monstrous, by lying and deceit to circumvent one another; it is as for one part of the body to destroy another. It is a sin not only unseemly for a Christian, but it tends to the overthrow of all human society ; fidelity and mutual trust being the ground of all commerce. Now, God will pour out his judgments upon them.
USE.—Let this teach us to carry it sincerely both to God and men ; for craft will not always succeed. The more real worth in any, the more openly and fairly they carry it. But for motives,
1. You will never else have true, solid comfort, until you are real, without dissembling before God and men: “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, &c., we have had our conversation in the world” (2 Cor. i. 12). Truth breeds joy and comfort of heart, when a man is sincere and acts according to his conscience. · 2. You will never hold out without it, your mask will fall off: “The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James i. 8), wavering, inconstant, up and down, off and on with God. A hypocrite is compared to a rush that grows in the mire ; pluck it up, it soon withers (Job viii. 11); they are like reeds shaken with every wind. And you can have no approbation and acceptation with God; God likes those that are sincere : “ Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.” Who are those who have pardon of sin sealed up to their souls? Oh! blessed is that man that can say his sins are forgiven him. Who is that man? “In whose spirit there is no guile;' that is, without dissimulation, fraudulency, and guile: this man enjoys acceptance with God, pardon of sin, justification before God. And the contrary will certainly bring down a heavy judgment.
SERMON CXXX. Verse 119.- Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like
dross ; therefore I love thy testimonies. In these words we have, 1. God's dispensation; 2. The effect it had upon David's heart. In the first branch we have, 1. The character by which they are described, “ All the wicked of the earth.” 2. The esteem God hath of them, they are “ dross.” 3. A suitable providence dealt out to them, intimated, Thou puttest them away like dross.
NOTE I.—That the wicked are men of the earth. There are common reasons why we are all men of the earth. Our original is earth, made of the dust of the ground (Gen. ii. 7): they are but a little earth or red clav fashioned into the form of a man, a handful of enlivened dust. Our abode and service is here : “ I have glorified thee on earth” (John xvii. 4): and
at our end and dissolution we are turned into earth again : “ Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was" (Eccl. xi. 7); “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth" (Psalm cxlvi. 4). Princes as well as others, must look to be dissolved into dust again. But in an especial respect are wicked men said to be of the earth, and that in contradistinction to the people of God. God's witnesses tormented the dwellers upon earth (Rev, xi. 10); that is, those that are out of the true church, in antichrist's kingdom : so, “And all that dwell upon the earth, shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb” (Rev. xiii. 8); as, on the contrary, they that dwell in the church, are said to be in Heaven : “ And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blas. pheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in Heaven" (Rev. xiii. 6). So, “Rejoice over her, thou Heaven, and ye holy apostles" (Rev. xviii. 20). But why are they thus characterized ? Because here they flourish, their names " shall be written in the earth” (Jer. xvii. 13); grow great and of good reckoning and account here. Judas had the bag, they prosper in the world : “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world” (Psalm lxxiii. 12). Here they are respected : 6. They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them” (1 John iv. 5). Here their hearts and minds are (Matt. vi. 19, 20). It is their natural frame to be worldly, they only savour the things of the world; preferment, honour, greatness, it is their unum magnum ; here is their pleasure, and here is their portion, their hopes and their happiness. A child of God looketh for another inheritance, immortal and undefiled.
USE I.-Is to wean us from present things, which the wicked enjoy more than the righteous, and which certainly are but poor things in comparison of our happiness : “ Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. üi. 2), affect them not as your happiness and last end : “ Their portion sis in this life" (Psalm xvii. 14): affect them not in competition with heavenly things, but in subordination (Matt. vi. 33); affect them not inordinately, but so as to part with them when God will: “ Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thi. ther; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job i. 21); affect them not so as to use unlawful means to get them: “He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor” (Prov. xxviii. 8); affect them not so as to put yourselves upon the temptation of getting or keeping them by unjust means : “But they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (Tim. vi. 9); “He that maketh haste to be rich, shall not be innocent" (Prov. xxviii. 20); affect them not so as to be backward to good works : “ But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John iii. 17 ;) “ Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not?” (1 Sam. xxv. 11.) Affect them not so as to neglect heavenly things; affect them not so as to lay out your whole time and care about them: “Labour not to be rich : cease from thine own wisdom” (Prov. xxiii. 4); “Why do ye spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not ?" (Isa. lv. 2); but only affect them so as you may honour God:“Honour