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No other apology is offered for this publication, than the importance of the subject.
Nor is it an exact copy of what was delivered from the pulpit. Had the preacher previously designed to print his sermon, he would have written it; but the method and leading sentiments in both are the same. A few periods have probably escaped recollection, and some of the topics may be a little more amplified.
It was not till after the thanksgiving-day, that the preacher, considering himself as standing upon the verge of an eternal state, thought it might not be improper to avail himself of the occasion, to attempt at least, in a more public manner, to rouse the careless to a serious consideration of the awful state of the times ; and to offer some hints for the
; consolation and encouragement of those whose eyes affect their hearts, and who are continually supplicating mercy for themselves and their fellow-sinners.
May our great God and Saviour make every reader of this feeble testi mony wise unto salvation! Amen.
JOHN NEWTON. Colemar-street Buildings, Jan. 8, 1798.
* Lam. iij. 51.
MOTIVES TO HUMILIATION AND PRAISE,
Hosea, xi. 8, 9.
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? Horo
shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboina ? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim ; for I am God, and not man, the Holy one in the midst of thee.
The Most High God, in the revelation of his will to men, , adapts his language to the weakness of our conceptions. Heavenly truths are represented by images taken from earthly things.* The metaphors of eyes and hands are used in the Scriptures, to raise our ihought to some due apprehension of his infinite knowledge, his omnipresence, and his Almighty power.f He is likewise spoken of, as deliberating, repenting, rejoicing, and grieving; yet we are sure that passions like those of which we are conscious in ourselves, cannot, in strict propriety, be ascribed to the holy and blessed God. No attentive and serious mind can be misled by this figurative analogy. We learn from the same Scriptures of truth that God is sovereign; that with him there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning; that his counsel shall stand, and be will do all his pleasure ; and that all his works are perfectly known to him from the beginning of the world. The more familiar modes of expression are designed to teach us, not what he is in himself, but how it becomes us sinful creatures to be affected towards him.
Thus, though the purpose of God concerning Israel was fixed and unalterable, yet to impress us with a sense of his inflexible displeasure against sin, and at the same time to leave open a door of hope and encouragement for penitent sinners, we read of a debate, as it were, between his justice and his mercy. Justice demanded that Israel should be given up, delivered up to vengeance, to such a destruction as that by which God overthrew the cities in the plain of Jericho, Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim.$ But mercy interposed, pleaded for a respite, and prevailed. O Ephraim, Israel, justice calls aloud for vengeance, but how
* John, iii. 12.
f 1 Pet. ii. 12. Psalın lxxxix. 13. * James, i. 17. Isa. xlvi. 10. Acts, xv. 18. Deut. xxix, 23.
shall I, how can I, give thee up? No; I cannot, I will not; my
I heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled.
Two reasons are assigned, in this pathetic expostulation, why he would still exercise long suffering towards those who so justly deserved to perish. “ First," I am God, and not man;" the patience of man, or of any mere creature, would have been overcome long ago by the perverseness of Israel; but he who made them, and he only, was able to bear with them still. Secondly, “I am the Holy One in the midst of thee.” In that dark and degenerate day, when the bulk of the nation was in a state of revolt and rebellion, there were a hidden remuant who feared and worshipped the Lord, and who mourned for the abominations which they could not prevent.* Of these the Lord was mindful, and for the sake of these, deserved judgments were suspended from falling upon the rest.
The people of Israel were for a time in a state of hard bondage, and were severely oppressed in Egypt. The Lord brought them out from thence with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm. He afterwards drowned Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea ; but he led Israel safely through the deep as apon dry land. In the barren wilderness he fed them with manna, and brought them water out of the rock. In the pathless wilderness he guided them, by a cloud in the day, and by a fire in the night. He fought their battles, subdued their enemies, and put them in possession of the land he had promised to their forefathers. They were a people whom the Most High selected for himself, as his peculiar treasure. He was their God and their King. They were the only people who were at that time favoured with the knowledge of the true God, and how to worship him acceptably. He gave them his laws and ordinances. He resided among them, and honoured them with a visible token of his presence in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple. They were likewise under an especial care of his providence. The fruitfulness of their land did not depend upon the climate, but the early and the latter rain returned regularly at the stated seasons, by his appointment; and when, in obedience to his commands, all their males, from the most distant parts, went up three times in a year to Jerusalem, and left their borders destitute of human defence, God so impressed the surrounding nations with awe, that, though hostile in their dispositions, they never availed themselves of that seemingly favourable opportunity for invading them. I Under the reign of Solomon, they enjoyed peace, plenty, prosperity, and wealth, in a degree till then upknown among the nations of the earth.
* Ezek. ix, 4. 6.
+ Psalm cxxxv. 4.
| Exod. xxxiv. 24.
What returns did Israel make to the Lord for all these benefits? The history of their conduct is little more than the recital of a long series of ungrateful murmurings, disobedience, and rebellion. They resisted his will, broke his commandments, mingled with the Heathens, and learned their ways. They repeatedly forsook the Lord God of their fathers, worshipped dumb idols, and practised all the abominations of the nations which the Lord had cast ont before them. Their sins often brought calamities upon them. The Lord gave them up into the hands of their enemies;
. they suffered by the sword, by pestilence, and by famine. When he slew them, then they sought him ;* and when they sought him, he was entreated of them. He delivered them out of their afAictions; but they soon forgot his goodness, and returned to their evil ways. He sent many of his servants, in succession, to admonish and warn them; but they despised his words, they mocked his messengers, and misused his prophets.
Can we wonder, if justice demanded the atter extirpation and ruin of a people so highly favoured, so well instructed, so often chastised and delivered, and yet so incorrigibly ungrateful, daring, and obstinate? Is it not rather wonderful to hear the Lord expressing a reluctance to execute the sentence so justly deserved, and saying of such a people, " How shall I give thee up?"
But can we read the history of Israel, without remarking how strongly it resembles our own ? Have we not been equally distinguished from the nations around us, by spiritual and temporal blessings, and by our gross misimprovement of them? We are assembled this day to join in public thanksgivings for public mercies, but we have great cause for public humiliation likewise, We have much reason to rejoice in the goodness of the Lord; but we have reason to temper our joy with trembling, f when we compare the state of things around us with that of Ephraim and Judah in the days of the prophet Hosea.
While too many persons lose their time and temper in political and party disputes, and refer all the calamities we either feel or fear to instruments and second causes, let us acknowledge that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth! Let us consider sin as the procuring cause of all our troubles. Let us recognize his band in them, and confess that, in all the distress he has brought upon us, he has not dealt with us as our iniquities deserve. May our hearts be suitably affected, while I attempt a brief sketch of the abounding evils and abominations prevalent amongst us, which might justly provoke the Lord to sweep this land, so long the land of peace and liberty, with the besom of destruction : and
* Psalm 1xxviii. 34. + 2 Chron. xxxvi. 16. ^ Psalm ii. 11 $ Rov. xix. 6. Vol. IIL.
then we shall be prepared to praise him for those merciful and signal interpositions of his providence, which afford us some ground to hope, that notwithstanding all our provocations, he will not yet give us up.
1. Offences of the same kind may be heightened and aggravated by circumstances. Thus an insult offered to a benefactor, a parent, or a king, is deemed more grievous than if the person offending was in all respects an equal. In this sense, I fear the sins of Great Britain are of a deeper dye than those of any nation in Europe ; because they are committed against greater advantages and privileges than any other people have enjoyed. May not the Lord appeal to ourselves, as to Israel of old, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done ?”* After the black night of Popish darkness, in which Christendom had been for ages involved, Wickliffe, the morningstar and harbinger of the Reformation, arose in our borders. From his time, we have been favoured with a succession of preachers of the Gospel, and of witnesses to its truth and power. Not a few of these sealed their profession with their blood ; and a much greater number suffered in the same cause, by fines, stripes, banishment, and imprisonment. But since the Revolution, and especially since the accession of king George I. to the throne, the spirit of persecution has been greatly repressed and
We are not now called to resist unto blood. Nor is there Protestant country where religious liberty is so universally enjoyed, and with so little restraint as in the dominions of Great Britain.
O fortunati nimium, sau si bona norint!
Our constitution, the basis and bulwark of our civil liberty, is the admiration or envy of our surrounding neighbours. It cost our forefathers many struggles to bring forward and establish this national blessing ; but we have enjoyed it so long, and so quietly, that we seem almost to forget its value, how it was obtained, or how only it can be preserved. Wo be to us, if God should succeed the desires and endeavours of those who are disposed to excbange it for licentiousness ? Add to this our public prosperity.-While we have been principals in many wars, which have spread devastation and misery far and wide abroad, we have had uninterrupted peace at home; and know so little of the calamities of war, that were it not for the increase of taxes, it is probable we should not be soon weary of hearing of battles, and the
* Isa. v. 4.