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Shews that it is usual with God to premonijh his people of approach
ing trials and sufferings; with some account of the manner how, and the reason why he so forewarns them.
S Paul had many clear premonitions and fore-notices of the
sufferings that should befal him at Jerusalem, that he might not be surprized by them when they came ; so it is usual with God (though not in such an immediate and extraordinary a manner) to admonid, the world, and especially his own people, of great trials and lufferings before-hand. Amos iži. 7. Surely the Lord will “ do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his fervants the pro
Thus, when he was about to bring the flood upon the world, he gave one hundred and twenty years warning of it before it came, Gen. vi. 3. and when he was to destroy Sodom, he faith, Gen. xviii
. 17. “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do ?” And the like discovery he made about the fame judgment to Lot, Gen. xix. 12, 13, 14. So when the captivity of the Jews was nigh at hand, the people had many forewarnings of it; God forewarned them both minifterially and providentially; he warned them by the prophets, Ezek. iii. 17. “ Hear the word of my mouth,
and give them warning “ from me." And when the time drew nigh to execute the judg. ment determined upon Jerufalem, and the temple, how plainly did Christ foretel them of it? Luke xix. 43, 44. « Thine enemies shall “ cait a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee “ in on every fide, and lhall lay thee even with the ground, and thy a children within thee."
And when the storm was just ready to fall, * their own historian tells us, a voice was heard in the temple, saying, Migremus hinc, Let us go hence.
• Which voice + Tacitus also mentions in his annals, affirming it to be more tban a human voice, telling them God was • departing, and that it was accompanied with a rushing noise, as of • persons going out. These were extraordinary warnings.' The like signs have been given to divers other nations, by dreadful eclipses of the heavenly bodics, portentous comets, carthquakes, and other figns of judgment.
Now, though we have no ground to expect such extraordinary warnings, yet we have the most apparent and certain signs of approaching calamities ; after which, if they surprize us, the fault must lie in our own inexcusable negligence ; for we have a ftanding rule to govern ourselves in this matter, and that is this; . When the fame • fins are found in one nation, which have brought down the wrath
Fofepbus de bello Jud. lib. 7. cap. 2. + Audita major bumana vox excedere Deos, fimul ingens motus excedentium, Tacitus
of God upon another nation, it is an evident lign of judgment at • the door; for God is unchangeable, just, and holy, and will not
favour that in one people which he hath punished in another, nor • bless that in one age which he hath cursed in another. Upon this very ground it was that the apostle warned the Corinthians, by the example of the Ifraelites, whose fins had ruined them in the wilder: nels, 1 Cor. x. 6. “ Now these things were our examples, to the in« tent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lufted.” Asif he should say, Look upon those dead bodies which are, as it were, caft up upon the scripture-Chore for a warning to you: Follow not the fame course, left you meet in the same curse, if you tread the fame paths, expect the fame punishment. God is as righteous now as he was then : he hates, and will punish sin in you as much as he did in them.
Let us therefore consider what those provocations were, that haltened the wrath of God upon his own Israel, a people that were nigh and dear unto him ; a people upon whom he spent as much of the riches of his patience, as upon any people in the world ; that fo we may reckon whereabout we are at this day, and what is like to be the lot of this finful and provoking generation; and we shall find, by the consent of all the prophets, that these fins were the immediate forerunners, and
proper causes of their overthrow. Firs, The great corruption of God's worship among them kindled his wrath, and hastened their ruin, Psal. cvi. 39, 40, 41, 42. “ They were defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with “ their own inventions; therefore was the wratb of God kindled « against his people, infomuch that he abhorred his own inheri« tance, and he gave them into the hand of the heathen, and they " that hated them ruled over them; their enemies also opprefied " them, and they were brought into fubje&tion under their hand.” They that will not bear the golden yoke of Christ, shall be galled with the iron yoke of men: nothing more provokes the anger of God than the adulterating of his worship; a man will bear a thousand infirmities in the wife of his bofom, but unfaithfulness in the marriagecovenant breaks his heart. After the manner of men, fo abused and grieved, the Lord exprefleth himself, Ezek. vi. 9. “I am broken
with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with “ their eyes that go a whoring after their idols.” Men cannot invent a furer and speedier way to their own ruin, than to bring their own inventions into God's worship.
Secondly, Incorrigible obstinacy and impenitency, under gentler strokes and lefser judgments, make way for utter ruin and
desolation, Amos iv. from the oth to the 12th verse. Scarcity, mildews, pestilence, and sword, had been tried upon them, but without effect; for the remnant that efcaped those judgments (although placked as so many brands out of the fire, in which their fellow finners perithed) were not reformed by those gentler and moderated judgments.
Thirdly, Stupidity and fentelessness of God's hand, and the tokens of his anger, were provoking causes and forerunners of their national defolation; they neither faw the hand of God when it was lifted up, nor humbled themselves under it when it was laid on; the hand of God is then said to be lifted up, when the providenccs of God prepare and posture themfelves for our affliction. When the clouds of judgment gather over our heads, and grow blacker and blacker, as theirs did upon thiem, and do upon us at this day, but they took no notice of it, Ifa. xxvi. 1). “Lord, when thy hand is litted up, they « will not see;" and (which is the height of stupidity) they all remained senseless and regardless, when the hand of God was laid upon them, Isa. xlii. 24, 25. “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Ifrael to " the robbers ? Did not the Lord, he against whom we have finned? “ for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient " to bis law. Therefore he bath poured upon them the fury of his “ anger, and the strength of battle, and it hath fet him on fire round « about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to a heart."
O prodigious fottishness! It was not some small drops of God's anger, but the fury of his onger ; not fome lighter skirmish of his judgments with them, but the Arength of battle: It was not fome particular Atroke upon fingle persons or families, but it set him on fire round about, a general conflagration ; yet all this would not awaken them.
Fourthly, The persecution of God's faithful ministers and people were another fin that procured, and a fign that forctold the destruc. tion of their nation, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15; 16. “ And the Lord God « of their fathers sent to them by his metiengers, rising up betimes, to and fending; because he bad compassion on his pecple, and on his « dwelling-place; but they mocked the messengers of God, and o despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the " Lord arofe against his people, till there was no remedy." There were also a number of upright souls among them, who defired to worfaip God according to his own prescription ; but a snare was laid for them in Mizpeh, and a net spread for them upon Tabor, Hof. v. 1. and this haftened judgment towards them: Mizpah and Tabor were places lying in the way betwixt Samaria and Jerusalem, where the true worfhip of God was: and in those places fpies were set by the priests to observe and inform against them; so that it became very bazardous to attend the pure and incorrupt worship of God, which quickly haftened on their ruin,
Fifthly, The removal of godly and useful men by death, in more than ordinary hafte, was to them a fign of defolation at hand. Ifa. lvii. I. « The righteous perisheth, and no man lageth it to heart; « and merciful men are taken away, none, considering that the righ" teous is taken
from the evil to come.” In this case God acts
towards his people, as the husbandman in a catching harvest doth by his corn; he hurries it with a fhuffling hafte into the barn when be sees a storın coming : or as a careful father with his fons that are abroad at school, who sends his horses to fetch them home fpeedily, when he hears the plague is begun in the place. Upon this ground the prophet Micah bewails himself, Micah vii. 1. “ Woe is me, for “ I am as when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as the grape « gleanings of the vintage, there is no cluster to eat; my soul desi“ red the first ripe-fruit.” Q. d. Alas! alas ! what miserable days are at hand! what miferies must I expect to fee! The pleasant clufters, i. e. the focieties of the saints are gathered away by the hand of death ; there are but few that remain, here and there a single faint, like grapes after the vintage is done, two or three upon the utmost branches.
Sixthly, The general decay of the life and power of godliness among them that were left, foreboded destruction at the door : this is both a provoking sin, and a fore-running sign of national calamity. Hofea iv. 18. Their drink is fower. A metaphor lively expressing the deadness and formality of the people in the worship of God. It was like fower or dead drink, which hath lost its spirit and relish, and is become flat. Such were their duties; no spiritual life, affection, or favour in them: the heard as if they heard not, and prayed as if they prayed not ; the ordinances of God were to them as the ordinances of men, of which the apostle faith, that they perish in the using
Seventhly, To conclude ; Mutual animofities, jars, and divifions, were to them manifeft fymptoms of national calamities and desolations : for then Ephraim envied Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim, Ifa. xi. 13. Hofea ix. 7: “ The days of visitation are come, the days " of recompense are come, Israel shall know it: The prophet is a « fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquities, " and the great hatred.”
When such symptoms of God's indignation do appear upon any people, the Lord, by them, as by so many glaring meteors and blazing comets, forewarns the world that his judgments are near, even at the door. These figns all men ought to observe, and behold with trembling. If you ask, Why doth God usually give such warnings of his indignation before it comes ? The reasons are,
1. To prevent the execution.
3. To leave the incorrigible inexcusable.
Ifrael; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy « God, O Israel ;" i. e. Prepare thyself to meet me in the way of my judgments, by humiliation and interceffion to prevent the execution. And what elle was the design of God in fending Jonah to the great
city Nineveh, but to excite them to repentance for the prevention of their ruin. This Jonah knew to be the Lord's meaning, how pofitive foever the words of his commiffion were ; and therefore he declined the message to secure his credit; knowing, that if upon warning given they repented, the gracious nature of God would soon melt into compaffion over them, and free grace would make him appear as a liar; for so we must expound his words, Jonah iv. 2. “ Was not this my faying, when I was yet in my country? There• fore I fled before unto Tarthith: for I knew that thou art a gra“ cious God, and merciful, flow to anger, and of great' kindness, and “ repentest thee of the evil.” Q. d. Yea, Lord, I knew beforehand it would come to this ; thou sendest me positively to denounce thy judgments to Nineveh, mean time defiring nothing more than the execution of them might be prevented by their repentance. And thus thy mercy hath exposed my reputation, in saving them from destruction.
Secondly, God forewarns his people of judgments, to make them more tolerable when they come : expected evils are nothing so heavy as those that come by surprizal ; for look, as the expectation
of a mercy makes it less sweet, our thoughts having anticipated and sucked out much of the sweetness before-hand; To the expectation of judgments before they befal us, make them less_bitter
and burdensome than else they would be, the foul having inured and accustomed itself to them, by frequent_thoughts, and prepared and made ready itself to entertain them, as Paul did in my text. To prevent the disciples surprizal and offence at those days of persecution that were coming upon them, Christ foretold them, and gave them fair warning beforehand, John xvi. 4.
Thirdly, He forewarns his people of approaching dangers, to leave the incorrigible wholly inexcusable, that those who have no tense of fin, nor care to prevent ruin, might have no cloke for their folly when judgments overtake them. « What wilt thou say when he shall pu" nith thee?” Jer. xiii. 21, 22. As if he should say, What plea, or apology is left thee, after so many fair warnings and timely premonitions ? Thou canst not say, I have surprized thee, or that thou wast · ruined before thou wast warned. Thy destruction therefore is of thyself.
Demonstrating the excellency of a prepared heart
for the worst of sufferings; and what a blessed thing it is to be ready to be bound, or to die for Christ, as Paul here was. Am ready.] O blessed frame of spirit! how hard, but how happy is it to get a heart fo tempered ! Every Christian can fay, I