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the Lord their God, and be saved. These great events, to those who judge by an eye of sense, and according to the present state of things, may appear improbable or impossible. But the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back ?'*
2. Think it neither strange nor hard, if any of you are called to suffer for the sake of the truth. Think it not strange; for thus it has been from the beginning. Think it not hard; for our sufferings are small, if compared with the lot of many who have lived before us. We are not called to resist unto blood.' Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see such days of liberty as we are favoured with, but have not seen them.
3. Consider seriously, Who is on the Lord's side?' He is the strongest side, and must prevail. If you have yielded yourselves to him, and taken upon you his yoke, your best interests are safe, your final happiness is secured. Nothing can separate you from his love. You shall be kept by his power through faith, ' and no weapon formed against you shall prosper.' But if you are against him, tremble, for the day of his wrath will come, it will burn like an oven, and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, and shall leave them neither root nor branch.'t Turn, therefore, in time from your evil ways, submit yourselves unto him, and implore his mercy while he waiteth to be gracious, ' that iniquity may not be your ruin.'
OPPOSITION TO MESSIAH RUINOUS.
PSALM ii. 19.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
THERE is a species of the sublime in writing, which seems peculiar to the Scripture, and of which, properly, no subjects but those of divine revelation are capable. With us things inconsiderable in themselves are elevated by splended images, which give them an apparent importance beyond what they can justly claim.
Thus the poet, when describing a battle among bees, by a judicious selection of epithets and figures, excites in the minds of his readers the idea of two mighty armies contending for empire. But the works and ways of God are too great in themselves to admit of any heightening representation. We conceive more forcibly of small things by illustrations borrowed from those which are greater; but the Scripture frequently illustrates great things by contrasting them with those which in our estimation are trivial and feeble. One instance, out of many which might be mentioned, is that truly sublime passage of the prophet, And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig-tree."* The apostle, when favoured with a heavenly vision, introduces the same thought, almost in the same words, 'And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind: and the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.'† Such forms of expression are becoming the Majesty of the great God, before whom the difference between the great and the small, in our judgment, is annihilated. In his view, the earth, with all its inhabitants, are but as a drop which falls unnoticed from the bucket, or as the dust which cleaves to the balance, without affecting its equilibrium. At the same time, the simplicity of these illustrations, so well suited to confound the pride of the wise, is striking and obvious to the lowest capacities. If Homer or Virgil had attempted to describe the exertion and effect of the power of God, in subduing and punishing his enemies, they would probably have laboured for a simile sufficiently grand. But I must question if they would have thought of the image in my text, though none can be more expressive of utter, irreparable ruin, or of the ease with which it is accomplished. He shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.'
The series of the passages we have lately considered is very regular and beautiful. MESSIAH' ascended on high, and received gifts for men.' The first and immediate consequence of his exaltation in our nature, is the publication of the Gospel. Then follows the happy and beneficial influence of the Gospel on those who thankfully receive it. 'How beautiful are the feet of them that preach these glad tidings.' The next passage secures and describes its extensive progress. The sound went forth into all the earth.' The opposition awakened by it is then described, first, as unreasonable, Why do the Heathen rage?' Secondly, as ineffectual, The Lord laughs' at his opposers; he sits upon * Isa. xxxiv. 4. + Rev. vi. 13, 14. Isa. xl. 15. Psalm Ixviii. 18,
his immovable throne, and derides their attempts. Thirdly, the final issue of their mad resistance, their confusion and ruin, is the subject of the verse I have read, which prepares for the close of the second part of the Oratorio. His enemies shall perish, his kingdom shall be established and consummated; and then all holy intelligent beings shall join in a song of triumph, 'Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.'
The two expressions, of breaking with a rod of iron, and dashing in pjeces, suggest nearly the same idea but as elsewhere he is said, torule' his enemies with a rod of iron,'* I shall avail myself of this variation, in order to give you a more complete view of the dreadful state of those who oppose MESSIAH and his kingdom. He rules them at present; with a rod of iron,' and hereafter he will dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.' Let us, therefore, consider,
I. How the Lord MESSIAH rules over impenitent and obstinate sinners in the present life. They attempt, in vain to withdraw from his subjection; they oppose his holy will; they refuse to submit to his golden sceptre : he will, therefore, rule them with a rod of iron. For though they boast of their liberty, and presume to say, 'Who is Lord over us?' yet, in the thing wherein they speak proudly, he is above them: They cannot hide themselves from his notice, nor avoid the intimations of his displeasure.
1. One branch of his iron rule over them consists in that certain and inseparable connexion which he has established between sin and misery. The fruit of righteousness is peace.' They who live in the fear of the Lord, and yield a willing obedience to his word, not only possess peace of conscience, and a hope which can look with comfort beyond the grave; but are thereby preserved from innumerable evils, into which they who attempt to cast off his yoke unavoidably plunge themselves. On the contrary, the way of transgressors is hard.' It is hard in itself, if we set aside, for a moment, the consideration of the dreadful end to which it leads. Could you see what passes within the breast of a man who disdains to be governed by the rule of God's word, you would see his heart torn to peices by the clamorous, insatiable demands of the various, violent, inconsistent appetites and passions, which like so many wild beasts, are continually preying upon him. Not one of them can be fully gratified, much less all, for many of them are diametrically opposite to each other. The boiling of anger, the gnawings of envy, the thirst of covetousness,
*Rev. xix. 15. + Psalm xii. 4. Prov. xiji 15.
Exod. xviii. 11.
James, iii. 18.
the anxieties attendant on pride and ambition, must make the mind that is subject to them miserable. There is no peace to the wicked; there can be none. Further, their evil tempers and irregular desires produce outward and visible effects, which publicly and manifestly prove, that the service of sin is a hard drudgery, and that whatever pleasure it may seem to promise, its pay is misery and pain. Who hath wo, contentions, and wounds without cause?'* The drunkard. Lewdness and drunkenness are high roads, if I may so speak, leading to infamy, disease, penury, and death. Such persons do not live out half their days which their constitutions might have afforded, if they had not sold themselves to do wickedly. Again, look into their houses. Where the Lord does not dwell, peace will not inhabit. How frequently may we observe, in their family connexions, discord and enmity between man and wife, unkind parents, disobedient children, tyranical masters, and treacherous servants! Thus they live, hateful in themselves and hating one another.' If they have what the world accounts prosperity, their hard master, Satan, so works upon their evil dispositions, that they can derive no real comfort from it. Every day, almost every hour, puts some new bitterness into their cup. And in trouble they have no resource having no access to God, no promise to support them, no relief from him against their anxieties and fears; they either sink down in sullen, comfortless despondency, or, in a spirit of wild rebellion, blaspheme him because of their plagues.'‡ In society they are dreaded and avoided by the sober and serious, and can associate only with such as themselves. There, indeed, they will pretend to be happy; they carouse and make a noise, and assist each other to banish reflection; yet frequently the drink, or the devil, break their intimacies, and stir them up to quarrels, broils, and mischief. Such is a life of sin. The Lord rules them with a rod of iron.' They renounce his fear, and he refuses them his blessing. Nothing more is necessary to render them miserable, than to leave them to themselves.
2. 'He rules them with a rod of iron,' by his power over conscience. They may boast and laugh, but we know the gall and bitterness of their state; for we likewise were in it, until the Lord delivered us. Let them say what they will, we are sure that there are seasons when, like him whom they serve, they believe and tremble.'§ They cannot always be in company, they cannot always be intoxicated; though this is the very reason why many intoxicate themselves so often, because they cannot bear their own thoughts when sober. They are then a burden and a Rev. xvi. 21. James, ii. 19,
*Prov. xxiii. 29. + Titus, iii. S.
terror to themselves. They feel the iron rod. How awful are the thoughts which sometimes awaken them, or keep them awake, in the silent hours of the night! What terrors seize them in sickness, or when they are compelled to think of death! What a death-warrant do they often receive in their souls, under the preaching of that word of God, which fills his people with joy and peace! Many will not hear it. But why not? They will not, because they dare not. I am persuaded there are more than a few of the brave spirits of the present day, who would willingly change conditions with a dog; and be glad to part with their reason, if they could at the same time get rid of the horrors which haunt their consciences. Is there one such person here ? Let me entreat you to stop and consider, before it be too late. There is yet forgiveness with God. Your case, though dangerous, is not desperate, if you do not make it so yourself. I would direct your thoughts to Jesus. Look to him, and implore his mercy. His blood can cleanse from all sin. He is able to save
to the uttermost.
It is possible some may affect to contradict the representation I have made, and be ready to say, 'I find nothing of all this. I take a pleasure in my way. I have a healthy body, money at my command, and I can sleep soundly. I feel none of the qualms of conscience you speak of; and though the saints and good folks care as little for me as I do for them, yet I am very well and happy with such acquaintance as I like best. As to an hereafter, I do not think of it; but I am determined to live now.' In answer to sentiments of this kind, which I am afraid are too common, I observe,
3. That the amazing hardness and blindness of heart to which some sinners are given up, is another, and the most terrible effect ' of that iron rod' with which the Lord rules his enemies.' Pharaoh could say as positively as you, Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?'* But because being often rebuked, he persisted in his obstinacy, the contest terminated in his destruction. If you are obstinate like him now, I believe you were not always You must have laboured hard, you must have resisted the light of truth, and have stifled many a conviction, before you could arrive to this pitch of obduracy. You have fought against the Holy Spirit: and wo unto you, if he be gone, gone for ever, and will strive with you no more. To be thus given up of God to a reprobate mind, is the heaviest judgment that a sinner can be visited with on this side of hell. I am at a loss what to say to a person thus disposed, and I hope there are none such present.
*Exod. v. 2.