« PreviousContinue »
punished for their iniquities?-All have some light; even the heathen of that day had as much knowledge of God and their duty as should have sufficed to lead them to better practices; and therefore, saith God, "For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away punishment thereof; but I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad." * And the like of Gaza, and Tyrus, and Edom, and Ammon, and Moab; but much more of Judah and Israel. Of them he says, "Behold, I am pressed under you as a cart is pressed, that is full of sheaves ;" and accordingly, the peculiar condemnation threatened in the text came upon them to the uttermost.
But is the question altered now? I mean, do not we stand ourselves just where God's ancient people stood? St. Peter tells us that we do. God hath now taken from among the Gentiles a people for his name; and to us, who are that people, he says now, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth."-For" ye," he says-meaning us who have the Gospel-" ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people," that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous lightwhich in time past were not a people, but are Amos i. 3, 4.
† Amos ii. 13.
now the people of God, which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."-"Wherefore," he proceeds: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles; that by your good works which they shall behold, they may glorify God in the day of visitation."* Certainly, brethren, if God could expostulate unanswerably with Israel, saying, "What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?”†-much more may he say the like to us. And if it could be testified of Israel, at the giving of the law"Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, to walk in his ways; and the Lord has avouched thee to be his peculiar people, to make thee high above all nations in praise, and in name, and in honour," -much more may the same be testified of ourselves at the giving of the Gospel, and at our own individual entrance upon the profession of it in baptism. If Israel had directions in duty and encouragement to repentance, and proofs of God's love to their souls, and "exceeding great and precious promises,' it was but twilight surely to our noon-day sun.
* 1 Peter ii. 9—12.
+ Jerem. ii. 5.
Deut. xxvi. 17, 18.
And we have besides the example of their miscarriage to cry aloud unto us-" If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape who neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord."* "Be not highminded, but fear; if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee."
"Behold the goodness and the severity of God: on them that fell-severity, but toward theegoodness, if thou continue in goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."†
To us surely, brethren, what the text delivers is most awfully applicable; and if, besides this, there be any amongst us more richly endowed than others are, having more knowledge, better means of instruction, better opportunities of worship and of hearing, fuller experience of divine mercy, greater and more distinguishing personal obligations for blessings received, whether in answer to prayer or in spite of much forgetfulness of God;—to such of us the application is still closer and more peculiar.
Then, if the Lord of the spiritual vineyard cometh year after year, seeking fruit from us and findeth none, or nothing that bears any due proportion to our privileges, can we fare better *Heb. ii. 2, 3. + Rom xi. 20, 22.
than Israel did of old? or shall we not rather perish by a destruction still more intolerable?
We are pledged to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil. Have we done it? Are we lovers of pleasure, let us ask ourselves, or lovers of God? Are we devoted mainly to worldly concerns and cares, or in simplicity and godly sincerity are we seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, with affections set on things above? "Christ hath died for us." Does the sense of obligation to him constrain us to live unto him that died for us; or are we living to ourselves and our own fancies, as if we had neither master nor friend in heaven? That the wicked shall be
turned into hell we know. the wrath to come?
Are we fleeing from That "there remaineth a
rest for the people of God," we know. Are we striving with full purpose of heart to enter in at the strait gate which leads to it? That "of God, Christ is made unto us, wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption," we are plainly taught. Do we habitually search those scriptures in which this wisdom is laid up, and pray for his Spirit, which alone can bring them home to our minds effectually? Do we seek pardon habitually through faith in the atoning sacrifice? And do we take heed to that saying of his, and act upon it? "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so
shall ye be my disciples ?" * It behoveth us to know how to answer these inquiries, and to answer them in the right way; for otherwise the Scriptures are very plain in their threatenings and condemnation of us. And the reason of the case is very clear in confirmation of their award, -"That servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."+ And to Capernaum, which repented not at the doing of his mighty works, Christ says, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the judgment than for thee." And the commission of the slayer in Ezekiel's vision, who had it in charge to smite Jerusalem, is, "to begin at the sanctuary;" that is, to deal first with those sinners who, being by office nearest to God, had the best means of knowing his ways and will, and were most distinguished by his grace and favour. Then, surely, no known sin committed by us, no neglect of a prescribed duty, and, much more, no habitual carelessness on our part, can ever be a light or trifling matter. We so well know ourselves to be God's own peoplewe so well know him for our Benefactor in ten thousand ways, and by and by redemption through Christ above all, that it is quite impossible for us
* John xv. 8.
Matt. xi. 24.
+ Luke xii. 47.