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Jeroboam guilty of, who changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image like a corruptible beast. * God advanced him to the throne, and he depressed the Deity to the rank of stupid calves. What a hateful abuse of his bounty was it, that the Israelites turned the jewels of gold wherewith he enriched them by the Egyptians, into a detestable idol : of such wickedness are men deeply guilty, when the precious blessings that God bestows upon them, are made the idols of their heads and hearts, and rob him of the honour and love that is incommunicably due to him.
What can more provoke the jealous God ? Mercy is his dearest glory, in which he peculiarly delights; it is the attribute of which he is most tender, and the abuse of it is to stab him to the heart.
From hence we may justly infer, the punishment of such sinners will be most heavy, in exact proportion to their most odious ingratitude. Damnation is the recompence of every impenitent sinner, and is the most fearful effect of God's wrath. Temporal judgments are “ but the smoke of his anger,” Deut. 29. the flaming coals are in hell. But there are degrees of torment in hell, according to the number and quality of men's sins.“ Those who despise the goodness of God, treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.” As they continually abuse his bounty and patience, they increase his vengeance, which will be as terrible as his patience was admirable. The judgment of Babylon was a strict proportion to her luxury: “ how much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her.” Rev. 18. 7. Justice will exact all the arrears of abused mercies. The lovers of this world shall pass from “ their good things,” to the flames that live by the breath of God's revenging wrath. Doleful exchange! an hour's feeling of that fire is inore tormenting, than an age's enjoyment of this world in all its abundance is pleasing. But though the word of God has discovered the swift and thick-coming sorrows that shall seize upon the wicked, yet so foolish and obstinate are sinners in prosperity, they will not be persuaded to fly from the wrath to come! The light of reason, and illumination of faith, is too weak to make them sensible of their danger : they will not be convinced, till shut up in the darkness of hell.
* Deus illum ad solium evexit, & iste Deum ad boves demisit, Pet. Vart,
It now follows, that by application we should make this great doctrine more useful to ourselves.
In the general, it is of excellent use to rectify our judgments about the things and men of the world. The most are miserably deluded, and live in a blindness so gross and misleading, that they are secure when near steep ruin. Asclepius being blind, mournfully complained, that he was fain to be led by a child : but carnal men are voluntarily guided by sense and fancy, the false lights that rule in children, and blindly follow, without considering who is their leader, and whither they are led. Or like one in a slumber, is strongly affected with slight things : a scene of fancy in a dream transports him as a glorious reality: a prick of a pin makes him start as fearfully as if a viper bit him : thus carnal men are as deeply affected with temporal good and evil things, as if they were eternal, wherein their blessedness or misery consists. And there is nothing of greater use and defence to the soul, than to make a true judgment of things that greatly and nearly concern us. From thence proceeds a wise choice, a well ordered conversation, and upon it our blessed end depends. For as the rudder is to a ship, the will is to man; if it be duly turned, it conducts him safely to felicity.
The particular just inferences from the doctrine are,
1. Temporal prosperity is not a certain sign of God's special favour. There are some benefits dispersed by a general providence to all, like the common benefits of a prince to all within his dominions : some are like special gifts to his favourites : of the first kind are riches and honours, and whatever is the support or comfort of the present life: of the second are spiritual and heavenly blessings, the graces and comforts of the Holy Spirit of God, the infallible seal of his love to us. The psalmist prays, “ remember me, O Lord, with the favour thou bearest unto thy people : 0 visit me with thy salvation :" Psal. 106. 4. there is a favour common to all men as his creatures, and the fruits of it are promiscuous to the evil and the good : but the favour from whence proceed grace and glory, is the privilege of his chosen.
2. The temporal prosperity of the wicked is consistent with God's hatred. When men turn his blessings into the fuel of their lusts, and his patience into an advantage of sinning more securely, how flourishing soever they are in the world, he looks on them with an avenging eye. “ He hates all the workers of iniquity." His seeming connivance is no argument that he is not highly provoked by their sins, or that they may obtain an easy pardon. Yet this is the inward principle of the gross and outward sins in the lives of men, though unobserved by them. As the vital heat is not felt in the heart, that is the cause of all the heat that is felt in the outward parts of the body.
“ These things hast thou done,” saith God to the rebellious sinner," and I kept silence,” that is, suspended the terrible effects of justice, “ thou thoughtest I was altogether such a one as thyself.” Psal. 50. Astonishing blindness! not to discern the apparent antipathy of such connexions. As if God's forbearance of the guilty were forgiveness : and rebellion against his commands, and the love of sin which is enmity to him, were consistent with the fruition of his favour. But we have the most clear and convincing assurance, God cannot be pleased with men, without their being made like him in righteousness and true holiness. He sees and hates sin, and abhors the sinners though for a time they are spared. Justice and patience are his attributes: “he is slow to anger, 'and great in power, and will not acquit the guilty." Nahum. 1. 3. “ He endures with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath, till they are fitted for destruction.” Rom. 9. 22. The presumptuous sinner that is encouraged and hardened, as if sin were not so hateful to God, because he enjoys the world in abundance, and expects an easy remission at last, fearfully deceives his soul : “he sows the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind.”
3. The prosperity of the wicked is so far from being a sign of God's love, that it often proceeds from his deepest displeasure. It is a curse candied over with a little vanishing sweetnes, but deadly in the operation. It makes them careless of God and their souls, of heaven and eternity, and they become incorrigible in their perverse wills and wicked ways, and irrecoverable in their lost state. Prosperity induces security, that presages and accederates their ruin. It is expressed as the most fearful and sorest judgment by the prophet, “the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep,” Isa. 29. 10. an insensibleness of the worst evils, their sins, and the infinite danger that attends them.
This judgment is usually inflicted from the righteous God by the prosperity of the wicked, and extremely provokes him, it being a sin of the greatest guilt, as well as a punishment of former high provocations. It is a distinguishing judgment inflicted upon his enemies, from which his children are exempted. Other judgments that cause grief and trouble to sinners, often incline his compassions to them ; but this judgment inflames his wrath. In short, the prosperity of the wicked here, is a fatal sign they are resetved for the severity of justice, for their abuse of the riches of his mercy: and of all judgments that is the most terrible, that insensibly destroys, and certainly brings damnation.
4. From hence we are instructed to look upon prosperous sinners with pity, not with envy and indignation. They please themselves, and triumph in their conceited happiness, as the psalmist expresseth it, “whilst he lived, he blessed his soul.” But how contrary is the opinion of vain men to the judgment of Christ; he pronounces (and upon his sentence depends eternity) “ woe unto you that are rich,” for ye have received your consolation! “woe unto you that are full,” for ye shall hunger: unto you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep.” And we are told by the inspired prophet, “ man that is in honour, and understands not,” (that does not consider the vanity and frail tenure of his present flourishing state; nor his duty and interest to employ his riches, power, and greatness, for securing his everlasting felicity) is like “ the beasts that perish,” Psal. 49. stupid and insensible of approaching ruin; as the beast that was to be sacrificed, did not perceive that the gilding its horns, and adorning it with garlands, was a sign it was destined to death. They now live in ease and pleasures; but they must shortly remove from their rich possessions, and splendid palaces, to the dark regions of woe, and death will be an entrance into endless
“ The laughter of fools is like the crackling of thorns under the pot,” Eceles. 7. a short blaze soon damped and extinguished.
It is a dreadful imprecation of the holy psalmist; “ let their way be dark and slippery; and let the angel of the Lord persecute them." Psal 35, 6. * To fly in the dark, and in slippery
* Horrenda via tenebræ, & lubricum. Tenebras solum quis non horreat? Lubricum solum quis oon caveat? In tenebris & lubrico qua is : Ubi pedem figis? Sunt istæ magnæ pænæ hominum, Aug,
places, and so to fall into the mire and pits, is a fit emblem of their condition, who are prosperous and wicked. They are hoodwinked by prosperity, in a voluntary darkness, and see not the precipices that surround them: and how slippery is their way by so numerous and insinuating temptations; how easily, how frequently and dangerously do they fall, and both defile and wound themselves ? Briefly, they are truly miserable here, even whilst they most pleasantly and contentedly enjoy the world, they are accumulating the treasures of wrath, and preparing new torments for their souls: they stand upon brittle ice, and hell is beneath ready to swallow them up in its deepest gulf. As it is said by the apostle, concerning the saints darkened by sorrows here, that their “ glorious life is hid in God," Col. 3. and shall illustriously appear with Christ at his second coming: so the terrible death of the wicked, whilst they flourish here, is hid from the eyes of sense, but shall be revealed in the day of wrath. And to a wise observer, to a serious believer, the prosperous sinner is the most unhappy and compassionate object in the world; for he perishes by such a flattering kind of death, that he is neither apprehensive, nor affected with his danger.
And when an illuminate christian sees the marks of damnation in sinners, whom prosperity deceives and hardens, he cannot but be tenderly moved, and is obliged most earnestly to pray to the merciful “ Father of spirits," whose grace is omnipotent, that he would recover their lapsed souls, bleeding to eternal death. If there be any heavenly charity in our breasts, it will melt our hearts, and dissolve us in tears to prevent, or at least to solemnize and lament their heavy destiny.
5. From hence we are instructed to judge truly and wisely of afflictions: they are the necessary and merciful dispensations of heaven, to recover sinners corrupted by prosperity, and to return them to God. Sense, though its principal end is to preserve the body, is not always a fit judge of things beneficial to it; the appetites and aversions are sometimes pernicious: one in a dropsy drinks to quench his thirst, and increases his distemper. A bitter potion is rejected by a sick child, not considering that a medicine, not sweetmeats, can cure his disease. The pleasure of the taste, is no certain indication of what is wholesome for health ; much more incapable is sense to judge of what is useful for the soul, Reason is entirely renounced, and fallacious sense