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sheba, died a premature death, to expiate a crime of adultery, for which he could not be held responsible.
But the most remarkable circumstance in the subject now under consideration, is, that the two great divisions of the Jews, that of the ten tribes, and that of the kingdom of Judah, are sometimes represented as the penalty due to crimes committed by men who had ceased to live before they happened. Hear what the prophet Ahijah said to the wife of Jeroboam, "Go tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee, and yet thou hast not been as my servant David. Therefore, behold I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam; him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city, shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the field, shall the fowls of the air eat, and he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam."
2. We should consider the import of the declarations against which the house of Israel so insolently rebelled. When God declared that for the sin of Manasseh, he would in after ages bring destruction on Jerusalem, did he say, that the subjects should be involved in everlasting misery for the crimes of their king? I candidly acknowledge, my brethren, that this appears severe; and, at first view, unjust. If one commit a crime fifty years ago, and for this crime, his son shall be condemned to eternal torments while he escapes unpunished, I own that, whatever is my idea of Divine omniscience and omnipresence, as well as of the weakness of my own understanding, I could hardly persuade myself to regard as a transcript of the Divine will, a book in which such a doctrine was held out, unreservedly and without restrictions. But to put the case in a different light, we will suppose that a king committed a crime, and that his posterity shall at a future period suffer some temporal chastisement; in this we see no shadow of injustice; the difference between this, and the first mentioned case, is wide. God can make no amends to man whom he shuts up in eternal misery, but he can amply compensate the trouble endured by him, who is involved in the temporal calamities of a rebellious people. A nation may be compared to the human body; it has its seasons of youth, manhood, and old age. God may visit in old age the sins committed in youth. If he in mercy spared his people during the first
It is not necessary in this place to discuss the abstruse and difficult doctrine of original sin. We are accused by some theologians of not en-years of their rebellion, he is obliged by his tering at sufficient length on this subject, and justice, to punish them severely, when their of keeping it enveloped in obscurity; but if we posterity, far from repairing the crimes of their attempted to contradict the false and pedantic ancestors, become partisans in them. ideas, and to correct the mistakes prevalent, we should find ourselves involved in difficulties, and should probably render little service to the cause we undertook to advocate. We are well convinced that means would not be wanting to justify religion from any apparent contradictions, but we leave this task to other hands; we are not here to treat of original sin, our concern is with the line of conduct that God pursued with regard to the people to whom the prophet was speaking; and in this view the way of the Israelites was a way of calumny and blasphemy, in opposition to the way of God, which was one of justice and equity.
There is one evil which naturally and unavoidably results from this law, that if among this guilty nation, there be an individual, who abhors from his heart, and abstains in practice from their wickedness, he will perish with them; but such a one God will abundantly repay. The same stroke which brings destruction on the guilty, shall crown the righteous with glory; in his life it will draw him off from temporal things, by depriving him of the object of his wishes, but it will render him more meet for eternal joy. The same stroke which precipitates the wicked into the deepest recesses of infernal torments, will open the gates of heaven to the just, and admit him to an eternity of bliss. God expressly declared to the Israelites, that although he commonly punished the children for the sins of their fathers, thus visiting them on the third and fourth generations, he would not do so in their case. If the condemnation pronounced, on account of the sin of Manasseh, appeared un
1. Admitting that our understanding is not sufficiently illuminated, to comprehend how God can, consistently with justice, punish posterity for crimes committed by their forefathers, are we on that account to accuse him of iniquity? Because we do not understand the motives which influence the Divine dispensations, shall we take upon ourselves to condemn them?
This relates to the captivity of the ten tribes; and we find the same judgments pronounced against the kingdom of Judah. "Because Manasseh, king of Judah, hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols, therefore, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem, and Judah, and I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria," 2 Kings xxi. 11-13. Thus there seemed to be some foundation for the proverb, "The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."
Because we cannot reconcile the doctrine of imputed crime, with the rewards offered as incentives to virtue, should we renounce the practice of virtue? Let us examine ourselves, my brethren, let us inquire what are our thoughts of God, whether they are consistent with the humility we ought to possess; let us defend our sentiments with more modesty, and recollect, that the best solution of the difficulties in religion and Providence, is a conviction, and confession, that we are weak and shortsighted, that our capacity is limited, and we are mistaken.
But this reproach was in itself a spot of guilt; and in this second point of view the way of God is equal, and the way of Israel unequal: that the way of God is a way of justice, and that of the house of Israel a way of blasphemy and calumny.
Jews, the severe dispensations of God, we should then be involved in the same guilty and blasphemous conduct as they were.
But do we suppose we should be gainers, if God were to forget the crimes of our fathers, and to judge every one according to his own works? My brethren, let the blind and misguided heathens say, Delicta majorum immeritus lues, Romane. Ŏ ye innocent Romans, ye must expiate the sins of your ancestors. Far from supposing that the house of Israel were suffering for the sins of their fathers, let us re
justly severe, he revoked it in their favour; he declared to them that he would forget the sins of their king, and all their idolatry, and act toward them as if this wicked monarch had promoted instead of endeavoured to destroy religion and virtue. He might have thus addressed them: "You complain of my conduct in punishing the children for the sin of their fathers, you charge it with injustice; I will punish your sin by acting differently towards you. I will judge you according to your ways. In those days they shall say no more, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the chil-member the words of Jeremiah, and apply dren's teeth are set on edge. But every man them not only to the children of Israel, but that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be view them as pointing to us also. "And it set on edge," Jer. xxxi. 29, 30; "and to him shall come to pass, when thou shalt show this that hath not eaten upon the mountains, nei- people all these words, and they shall say unto ther hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the thee, Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced house of Israel; hath not defiled his neighbour's all this great evil against us, or what is our wife; neither hath oppressed any; hath not iniquity, or what is our sin, that we have withholden the pledge; neither hath spoiled by committed against the Lord our God? Then violence; but hath given his bread to the poor, shalt thou say unto them, because your fathers and covered the naked with a garment. But have forsaken me, saith the Lord, and have again. The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the walked after other gods, and have served them, son shall not bear the iniquity of the father; and have worshipped them, and have not kept neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the my law, and ye have done worse than your son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be fathers; for behold ye walk every one after the upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked imagination of his evil heart, therefore will I shall be upon him," Ezek. xviii. 15. 20. cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers, and there shall ye serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favour."
3. We observed in the former part of this discourse, that the ways of God were ways of mercy and kindness, and those of the Israelites, were on the contrary, ways of malignity and despair.
But was it just, was it reasonable, that a nation guilty not only of sins, but of crimes of the blackest dye, and the most aggravated nature, a people chargeable with, and actually committing at that time, all the abominations with which God reproached their forefathers, and who, according to the language of Jesus Christ, "filled up the measure of their fathers," Matt. xxiii. 32; given to idolatry, lasciviousness, and covetousness, forgetful of God, and who neglected his worship; was it reasonable, I inquire, that a people of this description should seek so anxiously, should spend their time in making fruitless researches into the history of former generations, for the causes of the punishments they endured? Was there not sufficient reason in their own sinful and guilty conduct, for the infliction of scourges still more dreadful? How did they dare, who, to recall the language of their own proverb, had the sour grape still between their teeth, and far from loathing and abhorring it, made it their delight, to say, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?" "Put the case to your consideration, my brethren, in another form; let us suppose we ourselves in inquiring the causes of the Divine judgments which fall continually on us, were to look back to the first ages of this nation, to examine the characters and conduct of our first conquerors, by what unjust and cruel means they attained the object of their ambition; with what sinister views they framed our constitution; how many widows and orphans they oppressed; how they polluted the holy places, and profaned the sanctuaries; how insensible they were to the sufferings of the church; how all their plans were formed without regarding the prosperity of religion; how worldly was their policy; how they persecuted the ministers and servants of God, who boldly and zealously reproved their crimes? And were to trace back to them as did the
This will lead us, in concluding this discourse, more closely to consider and meditate upon these delightful and consolatory words in our text, "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart, and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For Í have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."
The Israelites carried their fury and despair to so great a length, that when the prophets denounced upon them the judgments of God, they drew the inference, that they were condemned without hope of mercy. They regarded the Divinity as a cruel and unjust Being, who delighted to overwhelm them with misfortunes, instead of considering him in his true character, as a merciful and gracious God, who called them to repentance by his threatenings, and who declared to them, that in the riches of his mercy there was yet a way open to salvation; they rejected all the offers of his grace as deceitful words, and thought any acts of humiliation or repentance that they could attempt, to avert the divine anger, very unlikely to produce any effects on decrees already become irrevocable.
There are in the sacred volume two passages, that point remarkably to this subject. The first that I shall notice, is in the eighteenth chapter of Jeremiah; God after having humbled the people by the predictions of their appoaching desolation, again proposed to them means to avert its dreadful consequences. He desired
proposed by these judgments? All tend to the same conclusion. God sought for the just, for those who still remained faithful to him, or, rather he sought those penitent and humble sinners who, by their tears, their repentance, and return to God, obtained mercy, and avert
the prophet to suppose himself placed in the workshop of a potter, who having broken a vessel that he had formed of clay, moulded it into another form, thus of the same clay making a new vessel. God himself interpreted this figure. "O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Be-ed the stroke of his justice. Thus we see, that God is full of compassion, as well as mercy; he showed his tenderness towards us as much, when he sent a mortality among our cattle, as when he preserved their life; when he sent floods of water over the country, as when he made it fruitful; when he shipwrecked our vessels, as when he filled their sails with a favourable wind and brought them safe into port.
hold as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them," Jer. xviii. 6-8. Jeremiah instantly showed this vision to the Israelites, and explained to them its application. But this misguided people, far from accepting the Divine offer, and clinging to the only hope left for them, answered, in the twelfth verse of the same chapter: "There is no hope, but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart." The other passage referred to, is in the prophecies of Ezekiel, who thus addresses the Israelites in the words of Jehovah himself. "Thus ye speak, saying; " If our transgressions and our sins, be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?" Ezek. xxxiii. 10. These were the blasphemous expressions that they dared to utter against the Divine Majesty. God is always jealous of his glory, but particularly so of his mercy, which forms the brightest part of his perfection, and shone forth with the greatest lustre throughout his dealings with this people. Let us, my brethren, apply these instructions to ourselves; it often happens among us, that sinners become confirmed in their impenitence by despair of pardon; or, in other words, despair of pardon serves for a pretext to continue in their sin; or, in the words of the prophet," to do the imagination of their evil heart." But when we view the Divine dispensations, either towards us, as a nation, or individually, through the mercies of God, we shall find no foundation for the supposition, "that there is no hope left for us, for the attainment of everlasting life." It is true, that God has sent his ministers to denounce his judgments upon this nation; it is true, that they have sometimes represented it as at the point of ruin, and that they were authorized to say so. "The end is come upon my people of Israel, I will not again pass by them any more," Amos viii. 2. "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed," Jonah iii. 4. Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be towards this people, cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, whither shall we go forth? then shalt thou tell them, Thus saith the Lord, such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity," Jer. xv. 1. We have seen part of these predictions accomplished in ages that are past, therefore we have every reason to suppose they will receive a full accomplishment. But let us inquire, what was the object God had in view, in all these dispensations What was the end
His loving-kindness is visible when he gives us over to our enemies, as well as when he crowns us with victory; when he delivers our possessions into the hands of others, as much as when he increases our wealth; when he sends national calamities as when he gives us prosperity. His favours, his judgments, all call upon us to repent, to be converted, that we may enjoy everlasting felicity. O highlyfavoured, beloved nation, if while his wrath was hot against thee, he still opened so many cities of refuge, when he was ready to overwhelm thee with his judgments, what is his favour now, he is loading thee with benefits. O highly-favoured nation, if God so powerfully protected thee during the years of thy rebellion, whilst thou wast lukewarm in his service, and living in the habitual neglect of his sabbaths, whilst thou wast harbouring in thy bosom his bitterest enemies and forgetting all his holy laws, in the dissipations of the world, how would he act towards thee if thou became grateful and sensible of his goodness? How would he distinguish thee with his mercy, if, amidst the rebellious spirit of the age, thou wast the open and declared friend of religion, and openly defended it from the attacks of its inveterate foes? if thou makest his sabbaths thy delight, attend diligently on his worship with fervour, devotion, humility, zeal, and all those feelings of self-abasement, which become human beings when approaching the throne of their Creator, to pay their adoration, and to praise him for their existence and happiness?
What I have here remarked as applied to the nation is suitable also to every individual composing it; none has any reason to say, there is no hope, how shall we live? There is, I acknowledge, among us a class of sinners, who appear to have exhausted the stores of the Divine mercy, and seem to have reason for inquiring, how shall we live? We would answer this question by another, Why will ye die? I would still oppose the mercy of my God to their terror and unbelief: yes, to the most guilty I would repeat this offer; let him, with all his objections, and as well as he is able, with all the reasons he has for despairing of pardon, let him look back on a life stained by the commission of crimes, and let him search into all the poisoned sources of despair, for any thing to justify this proposition; there is no hope, how shall we live? I will throw open to his view all the treasures of God's mercy, which will cure all his wounds, if he will resort to them; I will display the depths of the
loving-kindness of the Lord, which will give life to his soul; and, I will oppose to all the objections that his fears may suggest, "Why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Perhaps ye may say, there is no hope, how then can we live? we have offended a God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. A God in whose sight the heavens are not pure; a God in whose awful presence even the seraphim hide their faces with their wings. But why will ye die, O house of Israel? This God, although holy, is not inexorable, at the same time that he enforces the strictest observance of his orders, he pities those who stray from them; he knows of what we are made, he knows that we are weak, and unable to keep ourselves from falling.
There is no hope, how shall we live? we have engaged ourselves as servants to sin and iniquity, and "the wages of sin is death," Rom. vi. 23. And according to this, if God remain just, the sinner must die. But why will ye die, O house of Israel, justice is satisfied, Jesus Christ "was made sin for us," 2 Cor. v. 21. He took upon himself the burden of our sins, and the punishment due to them. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, 1 John, ii. 1. "If God be for us, who shall be against us; he that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things; who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth."
But it is sometimes said, "There is no hope, how can we live?" The sins we have committed, do not come under the description of human frailties. They were sins committed malignantly, and the influence of the worst passions, with the most inveterate hatred, impurity, adultery, injustice, and crimes of the blackest die," But why will ye die, O house of Israel?" There is a fountain of life open for the house of David. The same God who exhorts you in the words of the text, to make
you a new heart and a new spirit, promises to THE ADDRESS OF CHRIST TO JOHN
give you one. There is nothing can oppose these powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, and nothing can hinder him from acting upon us, and he will effectually assist us, if we ask him in sincerity, and bumbly yield ourselves to his direction and influence.
But again, "There is no hope, how shall we live?" We have lived so long in our sins, it is too late for repentance. Too late did you say; those who now say it is too late, have often replied to our serious exhortations and earnest entreaties, it is too soon; "But why will ye die, O house of Israel?" It can never be too late to be converted, if you are really desirous of salvation. The irrevocable sentence yet remains unpronounced. At all events it is not yet executed-the day of grace still remains the treasures of God's mercy are still open-his loving-kindness and long-suffering still remains the same; "Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation," 2 Cor. vi. 2.
But, my brethren, do not suppose that the only security you have on this important point is the mortal voice, which now proclaims these consolatory truths. Listen while I declare VOL. II.-53
who is our authority, and whence we derive our commission. Our warrant is the Holy One of Israel, and in confirmation of his promises, we have not only his word, but his oath. St. Paul says, "Men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is an end of all strife," Heb. vi. 6; but "God, because he could swear by no greater, sware by himself (ver. 13,) when he made his promise to Abraham." And he has confirmed with an oath the solemn truths that we have just been preaching to you. He sware the most sacred oath, he sware by himself, in the twenty-third chapter of the prophecies of Ezekiel, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil way, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Oh! how delightful must be the service of so merciful a God, what a motive have we for energetic exertions for the conversion of men, when we have such a security for its success. How must they be infatuated, who rush into the abyss of despair, when their Judge himself has declared, that he is willing to pardon our guilt. But how blind must they be, who, on the other hand, do not find abundant rea son for love and gratitude towards him who has made us such rich offers of grace, and who are not willing to devote themselves to his service. Let us then, my brethren, let us say in the words of the psalmist, "O Lord, there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be fear ed," Ps. cxxx. 4. "I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, but let them not turn again to folly," Ps. lxxxv. S. May God grant to us this pardon, and to him be all honour and glory, both now and ever. Amen.
JOHN xix. 26, 27.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
"I AM become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children," Ps. lxix. 9. "My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore, and my kinsmen stand afar off," Ps. xxxviii. 11. The prophets who predicted the coming of the Messiah, introduce him to our notice, uttering the foregoing language of complaint, in which is depicted one of the bitterest circumstances of his life of sorrow; and this affecting lamentation, we find fully justified, when we view our Divine Lord and Saviour, surrounded by an unfeeling crowd, nailed to his cross, enduring all the agonies of his
dreadful sentence, and deserted by his disciples; abandoned by the very persons, who had solemnly pledged themselves to serve him faithfully, even to death. This added a poignancy to every pain he felt, and pointed every thorn. For whatever may be the acuteness of the torments we suffer, they become comparatively light when shared and softened by friendship. How delightful is the affectionate sympathy of a kind father, into whose bosom we can pour our grief, or of an affectionate mother, who wipes away every tear.
But, my brethren, if the Saviour of the world felt so acutely this desertion of his disciples, and those for whom he had shown such a lively interest, he felt still more the presence of his near relations, and even in the moments of death, manifested a tender concern for their welfare. We now hear language from him quite opposite to that put into his mouth by the prophet. We hear him now saying, "I am acknowledged by my brethren, and recognised by my mother's children. They who love me stand round me, and my friends pity my sore." And experience shows us, that how difficult soever to bear, how appalling soever to the mind, may be the preparations for death, how agonizing the thoughts of a patient who perceives the countenance of his physician change, a preacher announce to him the approach of his last hour, or a cold sweat, the precursor of death, spread itself over his whole body, there is still a more heart-rending pang which he feels when bidding adieu to the objects of his affectionate solicitude and care. In perusing the history of those who have suffered martyrdom, we see many who have borne with courage and firmness the view of the executioners about to take away their lives, the stake to which they were shortly to be bound, and even of the flames ready to devour them, and put an end to their mortal existence in the most excruciating torments, whose constancy has yielded in the presence, and sunk under the einbraces, of those who were dear to them.
Jesus Christ is presented to our view this day, my brethren, as called to suffer such a trial. He saw standing at the foot of the cross, Mary his mother, overwhelmed with the most violent grief that the imagination can depict, called to witness the most cruel spectacle that could be presented to mortal eyes, borne down, and almost sinking under the weight of her accumulated sorrows. The same sword which transfixed the soul of this heart-broken mother, and those of St. John and the other Mary's, pierced our blessed Lord also. He felt his own grief as well as theirs, thus, suffering the agony of a double crucifixion, and dying a double death. Let me entreat you, my brethren, to give me your most earnest attention, and, when we have ascertained the exact import of our text, to consider seriously the instruction which, from the uncertainty of life, our fate may soon, perhaps, furnish to those around us; or, should they first receive the summons from the king of terrors, the lesson which they will then furnish to us. We will consider,
1. The conflict which was passing in the minds of Mary and St. John, while eye-witnesses of the death of Christ.
2. The conflict, or rather the triumph of our Lord himself, while expiring in their sight. The first suggested by these words in our text, "now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." The next we find in the following words, " When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciples standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home."
O ye lofty speculations, which aspire to the most impenetrable secrets of science! Ye soarings of the imagination, which rise high as the heavens, and descend into the deepest recesses of knowledge, in quest of sublime and abstract ideas! I do not to-day call on you for assistance; it is to the emotions of nature, the sentiments of the soul, the powerful sympathies of the heart, that I appeal in this discourse, they will furnish the best commentary on our text: and that heart, which is under such an influence, can best understand the conflict to which we all approach, with the rapid flight of time. And happy will he be, who having received grace rightly to apply to himself this subject, shall come off triumphant.
First. Let us consider the import of the words contained in our text. There are few circumstances, in the whole of the sacred Scriptures, or perhaps, we might say, in any history, sacred or profane, which are related in a manner so simple and intelligible, and consequently so little susceptible of contradiction, as that now under consideration. The sight of the soldiers ready to seize the person of the Redeemer, the infuriated Jews, the decision of Pontius Pilate, the view of the cross; all these objects struck consternation into the minds of the apostles, and they thought at first more of their own safety, than of the great peril in which their Divine Master stood; and either from motives of prudence or cowardice, they abandoned Christ in the moment of danger, from which they had neither the courage nor presence of mind to attempt to rescue him. But the three Marys, either impelled by the ardour of their affection to surmount the greatest obstacles, or sheltered by their sex from the fear of the Jews, remained with him, throughout all this awful scene; and, as far as they were permitted by the fury of the soldiers, they received from the mouth of our Lord his dying injunctions.
Perhaps the rest of the disciples, ashamed of their former conduct, and following the sugges tions of love to their suffering Lord, which had given way to timidity, and fear for their own security, now might come back to seek him whom they had so shamefully deserted. This we gather from the words of another evangelist, who says, "that all his acquaintance stood afar off beholding these things," Luke xxiii. 49. But wherever the rest were, we know that St. John, who was always distinguished for his love to the Redeemer, who had witnessed his agony in the garden, who had followed him into the court of Caiaphas, was near him with the women. Christ, who was sufficiently elevated on the cross, to be able to see all those who were assembled to witness his death, but