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but to “comfort his people.” In obedience to him we will address, 1. The righteous
[That I may not "break any bruised reed,” or “make sad the heart” of any one that is truly upright, let me say, that in the first stages of the Christian course we must judge rather by our desires than by our actual attainments : not because our attainments should be less the objects of scrutiny than our desires, but because in reference to our desires we have a complete consciousness; whilst the defectiveness of our attainments makes us doubtful of our real integrity.
Taking this into consideration, I am aware that some, on account of the smallness of their attainments, may be saying, “I fear it will go ill with me at last.”
But God says, shall be well with you:” and, in despite of all your fears (if only you press forward in the ways of righteousness) it shall be well with
you, in life, in death, and to all eternity. We cannot promise you affluence, or exemption from pain and trouble; but we can promise, in the name of God, that your trials, whatever they be, shall work for good"; that your latter end shall be peace; and that you shall have a crown of righteousness and glory at the instant of your departure from the bodyh.
These are the things which you labour to attain : and you shall surely " eat the fruit of your doings.” Dismiss then your unbelieving fears: for this is the word of your faithful God, whom neither the subtlety of Satan can deceive, nor his power be able to withstand.] 2. The wicked
[Glad should we be, if we could say, It shall be well with you. But if we should dare to deliver such a message, the falsehood of it must immediately appear - Against you, God sends us to denounce woe: “Woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him." You, under the influence of presumption, may be saying, "I hope, notwithstanding what is spoken in the Bible, that it will fare well with me at last." But, if there be any truth in God, it must be ill with you. Even in the midst of all your boasted enjoyments we defy you to say, that you have any solid peacek : -and in your dying hour, if you are not insensible as beasts, you will be full of regret and terror
-- and, after death, you will lie down in everlasting burningsm Nor is this unjust, since you reap only what you sowed -You chose the world as your portion; and you
have e Isai. xl. 1. i Rom. viii. 28. 8 Ps. xxxvii. 7. h 2 Tim. iv. 8. i Put it into language, and how horrible will it sound. k Isai. lvii. 20, 21.
i Eccl. v. 17. m Rev. xxi. 8.
nothing beyond it: you " would have none of God”;" and you have none of him: you said to him, " Departo;" and he says to you, “DepartP.” In your banishment from God and heaven, “the reward of your own hands is given to you.”
Painful it is to deliver such a message ; but we must deliver it at the peril of our souls: and whether it be credited by you, or not, it shall be confirmed and ratified in heaven"] We cannot conclude without recommending to your
NOTICE, 1. The equity of the future judgment
[The decision of the Judge will be grounded entirely on our works. No man that was righteous in this world, shall perish; nor shall any man that persisted in his wickedness, be saved. The reward indeed that will be given to the righteous, will be the gift of grace for Christ's sake : whereas that which will be given to the wicked, will be the just wages of their iniquity". Still however, the quality of every person's works will determine his state ; and the happiness or misery of each will be proportioned to his improvement or abuse of the talents committed to him. You all know, if you see one man industrious, sober, frugal, and another idle, dissipated, extravagant, what must in process of time be the difference between them. Each of them is laying up for himself a treasure which in due season he must reap: nor are you at all surprised when you see the one enjoying the fruits of his industry, and the other reaping the bitter fruits of his folly. Such will assuredly be the issue of our conduct in reference to religion. Let every person therefore remember, that he is daily and hourly treasuring up for himself that which shall be delivered to him again at the day of judgment; and that, if he perish for ever, he will have none to blame for it but himself.]
2. The importance of preparing for our great account[If the declarations in the text proceeded from man,
they might well be disregarded. But they are the words of God; and are as truly spoken to us by him, as if they were now uttered by an audible voice from heaven. Should we not then take warning ? Should not the wicked inquire how they may become righteous; and the righteous increase their diligence to hold on in God's holy ways? Would to God this effect might now be produced! how gladly should we set Christ before you as an all-sufficient Saviour ! and how joyfully should we proclaim the promises of God, both to sincere penitents", and to humble believers*! Let all stir themselves up without delay, and prepare in earnest to meet their God.] 3. The use and benefit of divine ordinances
n Ps. lxxxi. 11. o Job xxi. 14. and xxii. 17. p Matt. xxv. 41. q Ezek. xxxiii. 8. r Matt. xviii. 18. ; Rom. vi. 23. i Gal. vi. 7, 8.
u Isai. lv. 7.
[In the world, we may pass days and years, and never once hear the sentiment, That "it shall go ill with the wicked.” On the contrary, we shall hear ten thousand assertions that encourage a directly opposite opinion. And, if a friendly monitor attempt to undeceive us, he is accounted rude, harsh, fanatical. But in the house of God we may venture to speak with plainness, and to declare the determinations of heaven. God sends us for this very purpose, that we may draw aside the veil of futurity, and open to your view the things that shall be hereafter. We are to shew you "the righteous shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” and the wicked “lifting up their eyes with unavailing wishes in the torments of hell." Let the ordinances then be reverenced with humble gratitude, and improved with unwearied assiduity'.]
x Job xvii. 9.
y If this were the subject of an Assize Sermon, this third remark might be to this effect; The use and benefit of human judicatories ; which are intended to distribute justice, as far as possible, in this world, as God himself will distribute it in the world to come.
DCCCLXIII. GOD THE PROTECTOR OF HIS CHURCH. Isai. iv. 5. The Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of
Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud, and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night : for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
THE Church of God is frequently represented as hated both by men and devils, and exposed to their united assaults. But it is protected by an invisible and almighty Agent, who keeps it alive, as a spark in the midst of a tempestuous ocean.
His watchful eye is ever over it for good : He considers it as his glory, and will therefore himself be its defence. This is promised to the Church in the words before us; in which we are told, I. The Church is God's glory-
Mount Zion is a name given to the Gospel Church": and a strict attention to the text will shew, that it is
a Heb. xii. 22.
here considered as “the glory” of God"; by which term its members also are expressly designated by God himself.
1. The various “ dwelling-places of Mount Zion” are his glory
[Wherever Christianity has gained its full ascendant over any family, God will most assuredly be worshipped and served by every member of it. The master will say with Joshua, “ As for me and my house we will serve the Lord;” and, in order to carry this resolution into effect, he will, like Abraham, command his children, and his household after him d. His house will be a temple in which he himself officiates as priest; and, as far as he can prevail, he will cause every heart to be an altar to the Lord, that they may daily offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise. Such a family will be like a beautiful garden, filled with “ trees of righteousness of the LORD's planting, that He may be glorified®;" and while God calls himself “ their God,” he will dignify them with the exalted appellation of " his people,” and “his servants in whom he will be glorified ."]
2. The “ assemblies of Mount Zion" also are his glory,
[As the Israelites came up thrice every year to worship God at Jerusalem, so on every Sabbath do his people assemble for the exercise of social and public worship. In those holy convocations does every one speak of his glory; and his ministers in particular, who are “ the glory of Christ h," proclaim the riches of his grace and mercy. In these God vouchsafes his more peculiar presence; for“ he loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacobi.” “He comes down as in the days of old”, and fills the place with his glory;" he pours out his Spirit in a more abundant measure; and by communicating the blessings of grace and peace, he "glorifies the house of his glory?"]
While they are thus highly esteemed by God, they are favoured with his peculiar care; for, II. God is his Church's guardian
The Israelites, when coming out of Egypt, had a cloud with them as a symbol of the Divine presencem. This was intended both to guide them in their journeys, and to protect them from their enemies. And in reference to it God promises to his Church to be, 1. Her guide
b "The glory" evidently relates to the “ dwelling-places,” &c. before mentioned.
c Isai. xlvi. 13. d Josh. xxix. 15. Gen. xviii. 19. e Isai. lxi. 3. f Jer. xxxi. 1. Isai. xlix. 3. 8 Ps. xxix. 9, h 2 Cor, viii. 23. i Ps. lxxxvii. 2. k Exod. xl. 34, 35. 2 Chron. vii. 1. 1 Isai. lx. 7.
m Exod. xiii. 21, 22, Neh. ix. 19,
[The cloud went before the people in all their journeys, moving or resting when it was proper for them to move, or rest". Thus will God direct the concerns of his Church. Though he will not interpose in the same visible manner, yet he will manifest the same attention to its interests, and guide it with the same unerring hand. Nor is it to the Church at large only that God extends his care; he will regard “the dwelling-places of Mount Zion" no less than “ her assemblies;" and consult the welfare of the meanest individual as much as of the largest community: Does any one look up to him for direction? He says, " The meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his wayP:" “ He shall have an unction of the Holy One that shall teach him all things9;" and so plainly shall his path be marked, that, “ though a fool, he shall not err therein"." Is he involved in any peculiar difficulty ? He shall hear a voice behind him, saying, “ This is the way, walk ye in its.” And though his path may often appear dubious, yet he shall find at last that he has been “ led in the right way to the city of habitation!."] 2. Her defence
[The cloud on one occasion went behind the Israelites, and wore a dark and threatening aspect to their enemies, while it gave light to themų. Thus will God give salvation for walls and bulwarks to his Church. No weapon that is formed against it shall prosper': God will not only go before it, but be its rear-ward 2: nor shall the gates of hell ever prevail against ita. Never for one moment will he intermit his careb: his
protection shall be as effectual as that of lofty mountains, or an impassable river", or a wall of fire. And its preservation shall be seen to be evidently his work, as much as the creation" itself; so that all who behold it shall say, This hath God wrought-.] 3. Her glory[It was the
presence of God with Israel of old that marked them as his peculiar people. They were feared on this account, so that “all the inhabitants of Canaan melted because of them 8;"
n Exod. xl. 34-38.
o Isai. Ixvi. 2. p Ps. xxv. 9.
s Isai. xxx. 21. u Exod. xiv. 19, 20. * Isai. xxvi. 1. 2 Isai. lvüi. 8.
a Matt. xvi. 18. c Ps. cxxv. 2.
d Isai. xxxiii. 21. f Job xii.9. Isai. xli. 4. & Josh.ü. 9, 11.