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THE SUPPRESSION OF VICE AND IMPIETY; THE

DUTY OF ALL PERSONS IN AUTHORITY.

GEN. vi. 1, 2, 3, 7.

AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN MEN BEGAN TO MULTIPLY ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH, AND DAUGHTERS WERE BORN UNTO THEM, THAT THE SONS OF GOD SAW THE DAUGHTERS OF MEN, THAT THEY WERE FAIR: AND THEY TOOK THEM WIVES OF ALL WHICH THEY CHOSE. AND THE LORD SAID, MY SPIRIT SHALL NOT ALWAYS STRIVE WITH MAN.--AND THE LORD SAID, I WILL DESTROY MAN WHOM I HAVE CREATED, FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH,a

THIS

'HIS text will be better understood, and

will have no difficulty in it, when it is read according to the most ancient versions and paraphrases, which thus render or explain the Hebrew :-And it came to pass, when men began to multiply upon the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them; that the sons of the sovereigns (who in holy scripture are called gods) seeing the daughters of the inferior fort, that they were fair, they took them by force, and

a See Matth. v. 13. Mark xiii. 14. Luke xvii. 27. 2 Chron. XV. 1, 2, 3. xvii. 8, 9, 10. Pf. xii. 1. Ezek. xxii. 25, 26, 27, 30. and Xxxiii. Jer. y. I. Hosea iv. Wisd. v. 23. E E 22

ravished ravished them at their pleasure; which thing was so provoking in the sight of God, that he declares [ver. 7.] I will destroy man whom I bave created from the face of the earth; which accordingly he did by the flood.

Why was God so provoked with these sins, and these finners, above all others ?-- There must be something very singular, and very provoking, which could draw down so amazing, and so general a judgment upon the whole race of mankind. And the reason was plainly this,—the utter improbability that ever there would be a reformation, that ever the world would mend; since they that were in power, and in the place of God, and whose duty it was to restrain and punish wickedness, were the very persons who promoted vice, by suffering it to go unpunished in their own children and families, or by their own evil examples gave countenance to it; so that there was no way left to cure the evil, but by destroying the sinners.

And that this was the very cause of so universal a judgment, is plain from other instances of divine vengeance recorded in sacred scripture, which was then executed, when wickedness became so universal that there were none to punish or to restrain it,

This was the case of Sodom and the neighbouring cities; they were destroyed by fire from heaven: and that posterity might not be ignorant of the cause of fo terrible a judg

ment,

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their fakes.

ment, the scripture is so particular as to inform us, [Gen. xix. 5.] that all the people both old and young, that is, both fathers and their children, both magistrates and the common people, were gathered together from every quarter, to commit a fin abominable to be named.

This is plain from God's own declaration, [chap. xviii. 32.] If there be found TEN RIGHTEOUS PERSONS amongst them; that is, if there be

any amongst them who will execute justice and judgment upon the wicked, so that there may be any possibility of a reformation, I will not destroy them, I will spare the whole for

There was indeed one, and but one, who had the heart or the courage to reprove them; but he wanted power to restrain them; and the people plainly told him so: This one fellow came to sojourn amongst us, and he will needs be a judge; that is, he will take upon him to reprove, and to restrain us; now will we deal worse with thee than with them.

Now, here being no possibility of a reformation, when they who should have put à stop to the wickedness were at the head of those that committed it; Almighty God in terposed his power, and utterly destroyed them by fire from heaven.

The scripture faith expressly of the people of Laish: that there was no magistrate to put b Gen. xix: 9. Judges xviii. 7.

any

any man to fame in any thing. And the very next thing we hear of them is; that they were utterly, every foul of them, destroyed.

Another instance we have in the ruin of the whole tribe of Benjamin, except a very,

few men. There had been a most abominable sin committed by some sons of Belial; the rest of the tribes desired that those men might be punished as they deserved, so that God's judgments might be turned away from the whole land. This righteous demand was denied; and they that should have punished them took part with them. And the consequence was, they became partners with them in their utter destruction, which soon after followed.

And to add no more instances—this one declaration of God by his prophet, shews plainly, what are the true causes of general judgments upon any land.

God, for the sins of the Jews, had resolved to send them into captivity; and to shew them the cause of their approaching misery, he bids the prophet Jeremiah, (chap. v. 1.) See now and know, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth, and I will pardon them. It seems there were none such to be found, and their calamity and captivity very soon followed.

And as the negligence or wickedness of those in authority did, in these and many other instances, provoke God to pour down his judgments; so has the zeal of magistrates, e Judges xix. 20.

either

either in punishing offenders, or in bringing men to repentance, saved whole nations from destruction. Thus we have it,' Then stood up Phineas, and executed judgment, and so the plague was stayed.

And when God had fully determined, and within a limited time, to destroy the city of Nineveh, he was prevailed on to defer the execution of that judgment, by the king's proclamation, That every one should turn from bis evil way; the king himself setting them the good example, covering himself with Jackcloth, fitting in ashes, and crying mightily to God.

This would now be made a jest of, and even by some who call themselves Christians. A king in sackcloth and ashes! Yes, any thing rather than the

vengeance

of God upon his kingdom, than provoke him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

But to proceed: The very condition of king Solomon's prosperity, and of the continuance of the crown in his family, was this: If thou wilt execute my judgments, then will I perform my word which I spake unto David the father."

And the only security which the people of God had for the continuance of his protection and blessing, was the often-repeated condition, If thou put away evil from among you. This was their, and this is our, best and only security. 3 Jonah in. 6. + 1 Kings vi. 12.

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