« السابقةمتابعة »
assure you a favourable sentence, a glorious immortality. The blessings of earth shall be for
the earnests of that felicity which God prepares for you. Grace shall be followed by glory; and in that kingdom of joy into which you shall enter when you go from this world to the Father, you shall continue, but with gratitude infinitely more warm, with infinitely more ardent transports of love and of joy, to serve and glorify the Author of your mercies, and to sing for ever that song of triumph, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever
GUILT AND DANGER OF CONTINUING IN SIN AFTER CHAS
TISEMENT AND MERCIES.
EZRA ix. 13-15.
And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and
for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this ; should we again break thy commandments, wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous : for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day : behold, we are before thee in our trespasses : for we cannot stand before thee because of this.
Pure morality and holiness are necessary, not only for the salvation of the soul, but also for temporal felicity. There are few who will deny its necessity in the former respect; however corrupted men may be, their conscience dictates, that without holiness none can see the Lord; and the most profligate do not dispute that piety has the promise of the life which is to come.
But it is not less true, that it contributes to the happiness of this life; that a general reformation is the surest foundation of public felicity, with
out which all human means will be ineffectual; and that the more a people is favoured by heaven, the greater reason it has to tremble, unless it makes of these blessings a motive faithfully to serve that God from whom they are derived.
In accordance with these sentiments, the civil authority of our city has appointed this as a day, on which to bless God for the mercies he has showered upon us; mercies, so much more worthy of gratitude as they have been unmerited; and also to implore him for the continuation of his favours upon us.
In correspondence with their request, you have come into the temple of the Most High: and we, on our part, desirous that the public reformation may be promoted, present to your consideration the two great truths contained in these words of Ezra :
I. That to continue in sin after great chastisements and great mercies from God, is a circumstance which inconceivably aggravates the atrocity of our guilt, and,
II. That perseverance in so criminal a state is, for any community, the most fatal of all presages :
Two truths that we shall confirm and enforce in this address. These words of Ezra, when first uttered, produced a general reformation, that assured the happiness of Israel. Let us supplicate Him, who has put it in our hearts to seek Him this day, to produce the same effect now; and to turn us, that we may be effectually turned.
I. Chastisements and mercies are both intended to lead us to obedience, and prevent us from breaking the commandments of God: and nothing more aggravates sin than to indulge in it after we have experienced them both.
This is evidently implied
in the language of Ezra, and how easily is its truth shown.
The consideration of the attributes of God, as well as the plain declarations of scripture, must convince us that the Most Merciful afflicts not the children of men, merely because he delights in their pains and sufferings; he does it that they may be made partakers of his holiness; that the poor prodigal, in the depth of his distress, may remember the Father whom he had forgotten in the season of enjoyment; that Manasseh, in his chains and in his dungeon, may become acquainted with that God whom he had disregarded in the splendour of royalty and the pomp of power. To neglect these chastisements, is a species of impious defiance to the God of heaven; to be unimproved by these aftlictions, assimilates us to Ahaz, on whose character is impressed as so black a stain, that in his distress he “yet sinned more and more;" it is to load ourselves with the guilt, and expose ourselves to the punishment of Pharaoh, who " hardened his heart” against the judgments of the Lord.
And such also is the design of the blessings of God. If we are unmoved by his threatenings, and remain insensible under the woes he inflicts upon us, he does not immediately abandon us; he punishes us less than our iniquities deserve; he gives us deliverance from affliction; he draws us with the cords of love; he tries whether blessings will melt these hearts that his terrors have not alarmed. Ezra, in the text, observing such conduct in the Lord, is filled with admiring gratitude, and regards it as the greatest enormity, if the Israelites, after having experienced such goodness, should again commit the same sins. And indeed, my brethren, is it not a horrible ingratitude to rebel against our Benefactor, to irritate by new offences a tender Father, who is “ giving us joy according to the days wherein he has afflicted us ;" to employ, in violating his laws, a life which we possess only from his favour, and of which he would long since have deprived us, if he had treated us according to our merits? We are not surprised that devils should blaspheme God; they are subject to his inexorable justice, without hope of pardon; but that those who, notwithstanding their reiterated rebellions calling for punishment, have nevertheless been treated with a paternal kindness, should still offend him, marks such deep depravity, that we could scarcely conceive it possible, did not daily experience assure us of the lamentable fact.
Such are the principles on which this address of Ezra is founded ; let us now apply them to ourselves. We, my brethren, as a people, have often experienced judgments from God: frequently disease and death have every where prevailed in our city. Has the time, since we were thus visited, been so long passed as to be forgotten? Can the lapse of little more than a year, efface from our minds the scenes of distress which were witnessed here? Alas, no! there are many wounds then inflicted on the soul, still unstanched; there are many hearts which still bleed at the recollection of departed friends and vanished joys; there are many who will ever retain the remembrance of those relatives and companions, whose last groan they then heard! But what was the effect produced by this chastisement? Did we see a visible reformation in the public morals? Was the word of God more valued ? Was the torrent of dissipation arrested ? Did we see less of that eagerdesire after wealth which, engrossing all the faculties and cares