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of so many poor mortals, (truly poor in the midst of all their wealth,) makes them forget their souls, their Saviour, their everlasting destiny? Ah! brethren, we must penitently acknowledge that we heard not the rod, and Him who had appointed it.
God has therefore, before he casts us off, been trying us with mercies. He has given us unexampled health; the funeral procession and the gloomy hearse have been seldom seen in our streets; in few families has death made those fatal breaches, so common in ordinary years; in general, parents still embrace their children, and partners press to their bosoms the objects of their affection. We have not forgotten you, bereaved mourners; we have sympathized with you; by your grief God has reminded us that we live in a dying world: but we are speaking of the general state of the community.
And you, who have just returned among us, have you not shared with us in the mercies of the Lord ? Who preserved you when upon the sea, in the bosom of which so many of your fellow-creatures have perished? Who but He whom the winds and the waves obey? Who has continually guided and blessed you; averting from you so many calamities; bestowing upon you so many blessings ?
And what effect have these mercies produced ? Where is the gratitude of the heart? Where is the evidence of reformation? Where are the weeping penitents? Where the increased zeal of Christians ? Where is the abandonment of sin by the sabbathbreaker, or the impure, or intemperate, or profane man? Alas! we must lament that the kindness of God has produced as little effect as his chastisements.
It is a fact that should fill us with apprehension, for we are taught in the text, that there is no more fatal prognostic of the ruin of a people, than their continuance in sin after having experienced by turns the judgments and the mercies of God. This is the
IId. Head of our discourse : • Should we again break thy commandments,
6 wouldest thou not be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there would be no remnant nor escaping?"
When we are equally insensible to the chastisements and favours of God, iniquity is at its height; the harvest prepared for the wrath of the Lord has reached its maturity; and it is time that the sickle be thrust in.
Besides, such an obstinacy in sin shows that transgressors are absolutely incurable. When the exhortations of God's word are neglected; when the strokes of his rod are slighted; when the displays of his mercy are contemned: all the external means of paternal discipline being thus ineffectual, the Lord often abandons them to themselves, delivers them up to their reprobate sense, cries, " Why should ye be stricken, or why should ye be allured any more?" and then smites them not to correct, but to punish; causes them to experience the anger not of a Father, but of a Judge. And so evidently just is he in this procedure, that he takes as the judges of his conduct, those even whom he punishes in so terrible a
6 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard: what could have been done more to my vineyard, which I have not done to it? Wherefore then, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes ? and now I will take away the hedge of my vineyard, and it shall
be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down; and I will lay it waste."
The whole history of the Jewish nation; that of the Asiatic churches formerly so flourishing; that of so many people once highly favoured by God, but now almost unknown; in one word, the whole history of divine providence teaches us, that it is from the neglect of the judgments, and the contempt of the mercies of God, that the vengeance is enkindled which leaves to a people neither remnant nor escaping. The attributes of God, the vindication of his glory, as well as a regard to his declarations, require the punishment of such a people.
These are the great truths contained in this prayer of Ezra. Sensible of their importance, he bewailed before God the guilt of Israel, and supplicated the spirit of reformation. God heard him ; the hearts of the people were touched; they united with him in his etforts; and vices, that before had been open and allowed, were abandoned; they celebrated, with unusual solemnity, the feast of tabernacles; they renewed their covenant with God; and the blessing of heaven evidently descended
them. Would to God, my brethren, that the same effect might be produced to-day! Would to God, that this day, by his powerful operation upon our hearts, might be marked by a reformation so sincere and general, as to draw down upon us and our city his favour and benediction. We are before the Lord in our trespasses, let us penitentially bewail them; we have experienced chastisements, let us lament that we have so little improved them. We are encompassed with favours; and if after all this has come upon us, we still break his commandments, there will be little hope for us; we are assembled to express our gratitude, but if we are resolved still to retain our iniquities, our thanksgivings are solemn mockeries of God. Let us then, according to our several relations in life and our various characters, exert ourselves: let professing Christians display more zeal and piety ; let the impenitent no longer trifle with Jehovah: parents, let us see more domestic discipline and holy instruction in your
houses: youth, cheer the hearts of your parents by early devotedness to God: magistrates, bear not the sword in vain ; your offices bring not merely honour, but also a solemn responsibility; as you will answer to God and your country, check public immorality, and allow not the open violation of the laws of God and man; especially check our most striking public sin, and that which draws after it the most fatal consequences, which is the fruitful parent of so many other vices, the indulged and permitted profanation of God's holy day. To prevent this sin engaged much of the attention of Ezra in his public character; let it also engage you.
Yes, brethren, I repeat it, if our reformation is sincere and general, God will shed upon us his richest blessings; our city will flourish and be respected; our souls will enjoy happiness upon earth; and death, whenever it arrives, will bear us to an eternal joy and triumph.
JUDGMENTS OF GOD.
İSAIAH Xxvi. 9.
When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the
world will learn righteousness.
My brethren, we live in a most eventful and solemn period of the world. In none of the ages that have past since the creation, has history recorded such convulsions, such changes, such woes, as have been experienced in the times in which we live, and as are still experiencing on the earth. Providence, which neither effects nor permits any thing in vain; which superintends and directs all events; which from human affliction, passions, and crime, educes benefits to the church and people of Jesus: this Providence must be about to accomplish some end sufficiently great to require the use of such numerous and mighty means; sufficiently good to counterpoise the sufferings and the woes which have crushed so many of the children of men. In reviewing the present state of the world, does it not almost seem that the Saviour has pointed to it, when he described those events