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The harvest is past, the summer is ended ; anıl we are not saved.
To understand the import of these words, it will be useful to consider the state of the people, in whose name they were uttered by the prophet. The Jews were at this period, on the eve of destruction. Their temporal prosperity was, from the first, suspended on their obedience to Gop. Secular good was more frequently promised, as a reward to their obedience, than that which is eternal; and secular evil more frequently threatened, as a penalty for their disobedience. Every corrupted nation may be justly considered, as hastening to its fall in the natural progress of things. But the nation of the Jews, of which God was the Sovereign, was taught to expect this fall as an immediate judgment from heaven; as the punishment denounced against rebellion in the constitution of their government. Their sins were known, overt acts of treason against their Supreme Ruler ; and as such, were to be punished with peculiar severity.
A short time previous to the period when the text was written, Josiah was on the throne of Judah. The reformation, begun by him, was the last before the final ruin of the kingdom. At this time, the prophet clearly saw every hope drawing fast to a close. They had been intreated, warned, and threatened, by every prophet from Moses to Jeremiah. But all, as the great founder of their Empire had predicted, was in vain.
Infidelity and irreligion had taken entire possession of the nation. Their kings, their nobles, their priests and their citizens,
with one universal declension, had finally turned their backs on Jehovah ; and yielded themselves up to the abominations of the heathen. Truth, justice, and benevolence, had fallen in the streets; and falsehood, injustice, and cruelty, rioted without control. The gold was become dim, and the most fine gold changed into dross.
The government itself, as in every case of this nature, was unhinged. The King* had become a mere cipher; and was afraid to do a plain act of justice to the prophet Jeremiah, or even to have it known that he had consented to receive a message from God. A sensual and brutal nobility had weakened every social bond ; and the people, encouraged by their example and actuated by their influence, had reached the verge of anarchy, and of all the evils which that last curse of mankind so plentifully produces. Accordingly, they were finally rejected by God, and given over to cursing.
What a melancholy prospect is here presented to our view! A nation fast declining, through its sins, from the summit of human virtue and glory, into the depths of corruption, disgrace and ruin : without friends abroad ; without harmony at home: their enjoy. ments vanishing, their hopes setting in darkness: peace and prosperity offered to them a thousand times ; urged upon them by God with the most affectionate solicitude, on the most desirable of all conditions, that of returning to their duty; but despised, rejected, and lost forever. The very time allotted for their reformation, the day of grace and hope, now hiding behind the mountains ; and leaving the world to a long night of misery and despair.
They and their children, destined to captivity and to the sword, were still gay, sensual, impure, avaricious, false, fraudulent, cruel and impious. Not a symptom of reformation appeared, to glad. den the anxious eye with a hope of recovery. The political body was infected with the plague; and was fast changing into a mass of putrefaction and death. They had been often reproved,
* Jeremiah xxxviii.
but had steadily hardened their necks; and were now to be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy.
All these were immortal beings. Of course their ruin reached beyond the grave. Their present destruction was only the beginning of another, which was to endure throughout eternity.
In what circumstances could the prophet, with more propriety, have taken up the affecting lamentation in the text, “ The harvest is past, the summer is ended ; and we are not saved ?" The time of harvest in Judea was the time, when the inhabitants and the nations, by which that country was surrounded, usually went out to war. At this time their faithless allies the Egyptians, , in whose aid they chose to trust rather than in that of God, and who almost of course deceived their fond hopes of succour, were expected to bring them assistance against the king of Babylon. But the harvest came; and no Egyptian friends appeared. The summer also was ended; but these auxiliaries never came. This last hope therefore vanished, and left the wretched expectants in the gloom of despair.
There are, my brethren, many situations in the life of man, to which this lamentation may be applied with the utmost propriety and force. Wherever great blessing have been enjoyed and abused, or hopes have been cherished and lost ; where God has been long indulgent, and has finally withdrawn; all those, who are especially concerned, may very properly adopt this afflicting exclamation. These, however, are not the only situations to which it is applicable. Nor can the consideration, which it expresses with so much energy, be of any use to the persons here intended. A state of absolute despair, a state of remediless ruin, admits of no alleviation. Those, who look on, may indeed derive from a subject so awful and distressing lessons of the greatest utility. The warning may arouse the ear of sloth, and sound an alarm to the heart of stupidity ; where all considerations of inferiour magnitude would be unheeded and lost.
But there are circumstances, in which the mind of man is often placed, of such a nature as to invite this solemn reflection ; and to render it hopefully and highly profitable to the man him
self. When our own case has become seriously alarming ; when we have enjoyed many and great privileges, without any profit to ourselves; when the mercies of God have bitherto been lost upon us, and we have taken occasion from them only to harden ourselves in sin and security; a just sense of the import of this text would not improbably awaken the most useful emotions in our hearts, and produce the happiest effects on our conduct.
Among the cases, to which the words of the text may be properly applied by mankind, I shall select the following.
1st. Every person who still remains in sin, may, at the close of a year, usefully adopt this lamentation,
Every year removes every sinner further from eternal life. Mankind are never stationary in their moral condition, any mote than in their being. He, who does not advance, always recedes. He, who does not become better, of course becomes worse.
Nor is this all. The declension is more rapid than we ever imagine. Blindness, as you well know, is a common name for sin in the Scriptures; and is strongly descriptive of one impor. tant part of its nature. Nor is it blindness to divine things only, to God and Christ, to its duty and to its salvation ; but it is also blindness with respect to itself. The mind knows not, that itself is thus blind; and asks triumphantly with the Pharisees of old, 6 am I blind also ?” In its own view no one is possessed of eyes equally good and discerning; and it usually pities all who differ from it, as unable to see. No deception is so flattering and incurable as this. The views of such a mind concerning itself are false; and of course are more supporting and encouraging than truth would warrant. The soul of the unawakened sinner is in variably more sinful, and his life more deformed, than either appears to be in his own eyes. Yet, with a most unhappy self-deception, he confides in his own decisions wholly; and on those of others, of the Bible, and of God, he places no reliance.
Hence his state is in every respect more dangerous, than he does or will believe ; and his declension more rapid, than with these views he can possibly imagine. This is true of every year of his life. Of consequence, the loss of a year is a greater loss
than he can be induced even to suspect. Few sinners reflect on their moral condition, to any such extent, and with any such solemnity; as the suspended state of an immortal mind, and the evident danger of endless ruin, plainly and vehemently demand. Usually they conclude, that their situation is at the worst attended with no uncommon danger ; that if one, or two, or twenty, or fifty, years are gone and lost, years enough remain to secure their salvation and begin their repentance, when other pressing concerns of business or of pleasure shall be finished. “It is a hard case,” will every sinner say, “ since seventy years are the destined date of human life, and twenty of them still remain, if a work, which demands so little time for its accomplishment, cannot be performed within that period. I may therefore sit down to eat and drink, and rise up to play ; and yet have abundant opportunity to renounce my sins'and turn to God."
But a sinner ought to remember at the close of a year, that he has lost that period; and not only lost it, but converted it into the means of sin and ruin ; that he is more sinful, more guilty, and more odious to God, than at the beginning; that all the difficulties, which lie between him and salvation, are increased beyond his imagination; that his mass of guilt and the reasons of his condemnation are mightily enhanced, his evil habits strengthened, and his hopes of returning lessened far more than he is aware ; that that year was added to those which he had lost for the very purpose of engaging him to seek eternal life; that God, who waited every day which it contained to be gracious to him has seen him employ every one of these days in wickedness only; and that, instead of living many years to come, he may within a few days be lodged in the grave, summoned to the judgment, and sentenced to that endless death which he has hitherto laboured uniformly to deserve.
He ought also to cast his eyes around him, and see that all, or almost all, others who have like himself trusted to a future repentance, have from year to year become more hardened in sin by these very means; have thought less and less of turning back, and taking hold of the paths of life ; and although whitened with VOL. II.