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SERM, of the heathen nations about them; an universal apostasy, LXIX. from God and all goodness; a thorough prevalence
of all iniquity. Hear the Prophets expressing it, and deJer. v. 1. scribing them. Jeremiah; Run ye to and fro through the
streets of Jerusalem ; see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any
that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth, and I will Is xxiv. 6. pardon it. Isaiah ; The earth is defiled under the inhabit
ants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant : Ah sinful nation! a people laden with iniquities, a seed of evil doers ; children that are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger ; they are gone away backward, &c. Thus do these and other Prophets in a like strain describe in the
gross the state of things preceding those judgments. And Ezek xxii in Ezekiel (in divers places, particularly in the 8th, but
especially in the 22d chapter) we have their offences in detail, and by parts (their gross impieties, their grievous cruelties, extortions, and oppressions) set out copiously, and in most lively colours. And as the quality of their provocations was so bad, and the extension of them so large, so was their condition desperate; there were no means of remedy left, no hopes of amendment; so was their forehead covered with impudence, their heart hardened with obstinacy, their minds deeply tinctured with habitual pravity and perverseness: Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil, saith Jeremiah con. cerning them.
All methods of reclaiming them had proved fruitless ; no favourable dealings, no gentle ad
monition or kind instruction would avail any thing; for Isa. xxvi. it is of them the prophet Isaiah saith, Let favour be shewed 10.
to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness. No advices, no reproofs (how frequent, how vehement, how urgent soever) had any effect upon them. Almighty
God declares often, that he had spoken unto them rising Jer. xxv. 4. up early, but they would not hear nor regard his speech ; *xxii. 33. did not only neglect, and refuse, but despise, loathe, mock,
Jer. xiii. 23.
Isa. lxy. 2.
14 xviii. 11. xxvi.
xxxii. 30. Matt. xxiii.
and reproach it, (turning their back upon him, pulling SERM. away their shoulder, stiffening their neck, and stopping their LXIX. ears, that they should not hear ;) that he had spread out Zech. vii. his hands all the day long to a rebellious and gainsaying Neh. ix. people ; to a people that (with extreme insolence and immo- 29, 30. desty) provoked him to anger continually to his face. Nor
2 Chron. could any tenders of mercy allure or move them: I said, xxxvi. 16. (God said it in Jeremiah) after all these thing, Turn unto vii 3. iv. 1, me ;. but she returned not. Amenil your ways and
your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the 13. Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin ; and innumerable the like overtures we have of grace
mercy to them; all which they proudly and perversely rejected, persisting in their wicked courses; they even repelled and Jer. xi. 21. silenced, they rudely treated and persecuted the prophets sent unto them with messages of kind warning and over-37. tures of grace ; so obstructing all access of mercy to them- Ezek. xviii. selves; They say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Isa
. xxx. Prophesy not unto us right things: so Isaiah reports their proceeding. Which of the prophets did not your fathers Acts vii. 52. persecute ? so St Stephen expostulates with them. Nei. Isa. i. 16, ther were gentler chastisements designed for their correc- (Neh. is.
17, &c tion and cure anywise available ; they made no impression 2.9.) on them, they produced no change in them: In vain, saith God, I have smitten your children, they have received no correction. And, Thou hast smitten them, but they have Jer. v. 3. not grieved ; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction ; they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return. And, The Isa ix. 13. people turneth not to him that smiteth then, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts. Unto this xatagious dis á Túl slav, Rom. ix. this perfect fitness, (as St. Paul speaketh,) this maturity of desperate and irrecoverable impiety, had that people grown, not at once, and on a sudden, but by continual steps of provocation, through a long course of time, during that divine patience sparing them, and by various expedients striving to recover them. This consideration
Jer. ii. 30.
SERM. is frequently insisted upon, especially in the prophet JereLXIX.
miah : The children of Israel and the children of Judah Jer. xxxii. have only done evil before me from their youth. Since the xvi . 12. si. day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have eden sent unto you
all servants the Ezra ix. 7.
'prophets, daily rising up early, and sending them; yet they hearkened not unto me, &c. Well then, after so many hundred years of abused patience, and unsuccessful labour to reclaim them, it was needful that justice should have her course upon them : yet how then did God inflict it,
with what mildness and moderation, with whạt pity and Neh. ix. 31. relenting? Nevertheless, say they in Nehemiah, for thy
great mercies sake thou didst not ulterly consume them, nor
forsake them ; for thou art a gracious and merciful God. Ezr. ix. 13. And, Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deHos. ix. 9. serve, doth Ezra confess. I will not execute the fierceness
of my anger, doth God himself resolve and declare in Hosea. So mild he was as to the measure of his punish
ing; and what compassion accompanied it, those pathetiHos xi. 8. cal expressions declare: My heart is turned within me, my
repentings are kindled together. Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child ? for since I spake against him, I do
earnestly remember him still : therefore my bowels are trouPsa. Ixiii. 9. bled for him. In all their afflictions he was afflicted, &c.
We may add, that notwithstanding all these provocations of his wrath, and abusings of his patience, which thus necessitated God to execute his vengeance ; yet even during the execution thereof, and while his hand was so stretched forth against them, he did retain thoughts of favour and
intentions of doing good, even toward this so ingrateful, Isa. liv. 7. so insensible, so incorrigible a people: For a small moment,
saith God, have I forsaken thee ; but with great mercies Jer. xxix. will I gather thee : I know the thoughts that I think to 11. xxxiii
. ward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, 6, 1.
to give you an expected end. Now these things being seriously laid together, have we not occasion and ground sufficient even in this instance, no less to admire and adore the wonderful benignity, mercy, and patience of God, than to elread and tremble at his justice ?
Jer. xxxi. 20.
V. As for the last so calamitous and piteous destruc- SERM. tion of Jerusalem, with the grievous consequences thereof, LXIX. as we might apply thereto the former considerations, so we shall only observe what was peculiar in that case; that God dispensed such means to prevent it, (to remove the meritorious causes thereof, obstinate impenitency and incredulity ; resisting the truth by him sent from heaven with so clear a revelation and powerful confirmation ; despising the Spirit of God, and the dictates of their own conscience ; basely misusing divers ways, and at last crudly murdering the Son of God;) such means, I say, God did employ for the removing those provocatives of vengeance, which, as our Lord himself saith, were sufficient Matt. xi to have converted Tyre and Sidon; yea, to have preserved Sodom itself; so that our Saviour could with a compassionate grief deplore the unsuccessfulness of his tender af. fection, and solicitous care for their welfare, in these passionate terms: How often would I have gathered thy chil- Matt. xxiik dren as a hen gathers her chickens under her wing ,but ye would not! That St. John the Baptist's sharp reproofs, his powerful exhortations, his downright and clear forewarnings of what would follow, (Even now, said he, the axe is Matt. i. laid to the root of the tree,) attended with so remarkable circumstances of his person and his carriage, (which induced all the world about him to regard him as no ordinary man, but a special instrument of God and messenger from heaven,) did yet find no effect considerable: the Pharisees and Lawyers, those corrupt guides, whose au. thority managed the blind multitude, defeating the counsel Luke vii of God toward themselves, as St. Luke speaketh, (that is, defeating his gracious purpose of reclaiming them from disobedience, and consequently of withholding the judgments imminent,) they reviled the person of that venerable Prophet; He hath a devil, said they : they slighted Matt. xi. 18, his premonitions, and rejected his advices, by observing which, those dreadful mischiefs, which fell upon their rebellious heads, might have been averted. We may add, that even those fearful judgments were tempered with mixtures of favourable design, not only to the community
SERM. of mankind, (which, by so remarkable a vengeance upon LXIX. the persecutors of our Lord and the scorners of his doc
trine, was converted unto, or confirmed in, the Christian faith,) but even toward that people whom it served to convince of their errors and crimes; to induce them to repentance, to provoke them unto the acknowledgment and embracing of God's truth, so palpably vindicated by him. So that I might here apply that passage of St. Paul,
(if not directly and adequately according to his sense, yet Rom. xi. 11. with no incongruous allusion at least,) Have they stumbled,
that they should fall? (or, was there no other design of God's judgments upon them, but their utter ruin ?) kan gó
No such matter ; but through their fall salvation came to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy (or emulation.) And, in effect, as our Lord in the midst of his sufferings did affectionately pray for God's mercy upon them, as the Apostles did offer reconciliation unto them all indifferently, who would repent, and were willing to embrace it; so were such of them as were disposed to comply with those invitations, received to grace, how deeply soever involved in the continued guilt of those
enormous persecutions, injuries, and blasphemies; as par1 Tim. 1. ticularly St. Paul, that illustrious example of God's patience and
So that neither by this instance is any attribute of God more signalized, than his transcendent goodness, in like manner as by the former instances, and in analogy to them by all others, that may be assigned. By all of them it will appear that God is primarily and of himself disposed to do all fitting and pos
sible good to men, not to inflict evil more than is fit and De Resurr, vecessary; that God is indeed optimus ex natura proprieCarnis, c. tate, (most good according to property of nature,) although
justus ex causæ necessitate, (severe from the necessity of the case,) as Tertullian speaketh. To afflict men (either some men singly, or whole societies of men) may be sometimes expedient upon several accounts; for vindicating the esteem, and supporting the interest of goodness, which may by impunity be disgraced, endamaged, endangered ; for the discrimination of good and evil men, in an observable