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you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall
down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them” (Mic. jii. 5,6).
I am too deeply convinced of the truth and importance of what I am about, to think of making any apology for what I write; and I know too well, by experience, that to state the whole truth out of a loving heart, is the only way to reclaim and recover them who are fast deepening into this quicksand, not to be firm and constant in doing it. It hath so pleased God to make my word profitable to many in the ministry, not because it is mine, but because, with all its imperfections, it contains the substance of his own, that I am bound as well by gratitude, as I am encouraged by his blessing, and pressed by duty, to speak out these searching and trying truths.
To the stone-blindness which the Lord in his righteous retribution doth bring upon all treacherous dealers with his word, is added the confusion which in the end alights upon them : “ Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded : yea, they shall all cover their lips ; for there is no answer of God.' The word Then, with which this verse is introduced, refers us to the time, or very day, when the judgment is brought, which confounds all their stratagems of falsehood and inspirations of wickedness. It stands to this hope of the false prophets, as the Then of verse fourth stood to the blood-thirsty rulers. There is a time when the words of the true prophet shall be verified, and the words of the false prophet manifested to be false ; and then mockery and contempt is his doom ; but alas ! the die is cast, and wisdom availeth not now : the awful truth flasheth upon our face at length, but to no purpose: now, blessed and merciful word is at an end, fixed and final doom is come. When Jehoshaphat was turned back, and Ahab fell at Ramoth Gilead, Micaiah, who had been punished with bread and water of affliction for his faithfulness, was justified ; and Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, who smote him, was, with all his sycophant company, put to shame. But what of that? The kings of Judah and Israel were put to shame, and God's people discomfited before the uncircumcised. So, also, when the priests of Baal dared to bring their religion to the issue against Elijah the prophet of the Lord, they brought upon themselves destruction. But what of that? Ten tribes, who had been deceived by them and seduced by their falsehoods, were punished with captivity. So, also, when Titus compassed Jerusalem with armies, and the Christians, going forth, sat in the nest of the Lord's turtle-dove all secure, the word of Christ and his Apostles was vindicated against the word of the high priest and the Pharisees; but what of that? The city of the Lord was overwhelmed and his temple laid in the dust, the efforts of a valiant nation broken, a million of lives destroyed. And when Britain shall be ruled by an infidel government, and the wrath of the Lamb shall alight upon her to the uttermost, and church and state shall have sunk beneath the waves, we, who withstood the entering in of the system of liberalism, will be justified against those smoother and fairerfaced men who prognosticated the renovation of the state : but what of that? The land, and the honour of our fathers, the glory and the pride of the earth, will be a blood-boltered land, à land of sighs and of sadness. Ah me! ye giddy gamesome men, who make light of our prophetic researches and forebodings, ye have now the gay and the gala day on your side, as had Pashur the priest, and Hananiah and Shemaiah the prophets, who prophesied, against the truth, and against Jeremiah the minister and prophet of truth, that no king of Babylon should ever set foot in Jerusalem; and as they smote Jeremiah, and put him in the stocks, so do you by us, so far as you have the power. But when Nebuchadnezzar came and slew them all, or whom he spared made captives of, except Jeremiah, whom he gave in charge to the captain of the guard, that he might receive no hurt in the sack and plunder of the city, then, indeed, as it is written in our text, were the seers ashamed, and the diviners confounded : and so also
may some of
you, O ye deceivers of the people, and misleaders of them from the word of God, live to see your own confusion, while the faithful escape. But, alas! this is small and poor comfort to you, Oye people, who by leaning to their unscriptural words have meanwhile been withdrawn from the way of safety, and are involved with them in the common ruin. It is too much to expect, that, if these words be of God, they shall be otherwise entreated by a people in the case we are in, than as idle and evil : but and if they be of God, they will withdraw some from the precipice of the gulf, to take refuge in Him who is near for to come, refuge from the tempest, and a hiding-place from the storm."
The expression - They shall all cover their lips” is taken from the ordinance of the law of Moses concerning the leper, who for his leprosy was put away from the congregation of the Lord, and interdicted all converse and communion with the rest of the people : “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him, he shall be defiled : he is unclean: he shall dwell alone, without the camp shall his habitation be” (Lev. xii. 45, 46). No expression
) could be so strong, for the confusion, and shame, and fear, and exile, in which these lying prophets should be brought in the day of the revelation of their falsehood. They flee the enraged prince; they flee the enfuriated people ; they flee God; and from
the habitations of men are they driven : they are a disgrace to their honourable office, a ruin to their country, a trap for the souls of men. Truly “the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.” And well might they cover that lip which had been the instrument of fraud between God and man. Oh, how high and solemn is this office of mine! how these lips of mine should keep knowledge and truth! for they bear messages between God and man. Do thou, O God, keep the door of my lips, that I offend not with my tongue.
And last of all is stated the reason of this confusion, and shame, and banishment from the presence of men; “ Because there is no answer of God.” À prophet's appeal is to the future. The thing is true which he hath spoken if it come to pass. This is the way in which God justifies his own truth ; and all that is truth of God ought to stand or fall by this test.“ Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled : who among them can declare this, and shew us former things ? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified : or let them hear, and say, It is truth” (Isai. xliii. 9). They talk, now-a-days, as if the Gospel had changed the character of God's truth, so as that it should be prophetical no longer. Yet Paul could find no other criterion for distinguishing between the true and the false builders in the temple of the Spirit save the appeal to the future day: “Every man's work shall be made manifest : for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire ; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is" (1 Cor. iii. 13). Our Lord also, after giving warning of the false prophets which should arise in bis church, and referring to their fruits for a present mark, adds, as the ultimate criterion, the judgment to be holden in the day of his appearing; to which the New Testament carries forward the expectations of the church. This the opposers of the truth give little heed to. They speak of the world as wending on its way to a happy Millennium; we preach a world ready to be destroyed by the wrath of God and of the Lamb: they preach the church prosperous, the city flourishing; we preach the church in the last extreme of old age, the city horribly wicked and ready to be judged. What Jeremiah was to Jerusalem, and the Lord to his generation, we are to them, setting forth the concurring judgments which are close at hand; what Pashur and Hananiah were to Jerusalem, and the Pharisees to their generation, they are to this : and the Lord will speedily decide. Our shame, or their shame, is not far distant. 'There will be speedily an answer from God, which no one shall be able to gainsay,
“ He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Be patient a little longer; “ the Judge standeth at the door."
In contrast with the darkness and deadness in the truth, and
their flatteries of the people, the prophet declareth his strength, and boasteth of his power in the Lord : " But truly I am full of power, by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin” (Mic.iii.8). Here is first the true vocation, and secondly the full endowments, of a prophet. His vocation is, to “cry aloud and spare not; to lift up his voice like a trumpet, and shew God's people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.” An unwelcome message, and a perilous calling; from which many, having swerved in the hour of need, were cast off by God, and possessed with spirits of uncleanness and falsehood. It is not to declaim against the heathen, or those who are out of the church-of whom the Apostle says, “What right have I to judge them that are without ?”—but to expose the transgressions and sins of those upon whom God's name are called, that prophets are commissioned. And accordingly, in the New Testament, as well as in the Old, the great body of reproof and threatening and prophecy is against the church, to warn her against the peril of apostasy, to point out the cunning artifices with which it steals on, the irretrievable destruction in which it ends. The prophets of the Old Testament do always, in the midst of their threatened judgments, set forth hope strong and certain hope to Mount Zion and Jerusalem. Not so the prophets of the New, who consume the apostate church with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord : because we sin against the Holy Ghost, the church's endowment and possession; whereas they sinned only against the Son of Man, which can be forgiven: they were only the wife of bondage, whose adultery could be atoned for by stripes; we are the wife of freedom, whose adultery can be atoned for only by death. Since the day of Pentecost, every man upon whom the name of God is named is liable for the holiness of a regenerate person, and for the use of the gift of the Holy Ghost; and being so engaged unto God, stands obnoxious to the sin against the Holy Ghost, which cannot be forgiven. Apostasy is not confined to the Church of Rome-which is only the great form of it—but is a sin to which every baptized person is liable. What zeal, then, what jealousy, what striving of heart and discernment of spirits ought there to be, in every Christian minister, over the church which stands thus terribly exposed! What promptitude to point out the first symptoms of the evil! what diligence to arrest its progress ! what thunderings of God against those who would prepare its way! what expostulations and commiserations towards those who are yielding to its influence! what assurances of the sufficiency of God to protect and defend his people! what assurances of his love ! what entreaties to .constancy! what remonstrances against sin! what incentives to
holiness! And these, not to such as are out of the church, but to those within it; not to one denomination, as the Papacy; or to one part of Protestants, as the Socinians and Neologians; nor to one sect in any church, as those who are not of the religious world; but to all and every one who hath received the name of a son and the gift of the Holy Ghost in baptism : I say received it, in as far as God and our own responsibility is concerned. Such is the calling and commission of a Christian Prophet; such the chief substance of Christian prophecy-to shew unto God's people their transgression and their sin. And now let God be judge how it is fulfilled. Original sin, the common sinfulness of our nature, you find much descanted on-very often to little purpose, and not unfrequently to the bad purpose of abolishing all distinctions in the natural man, and lulling the spiritual man into contentment with a very partial and incomplete sanctification: and this partiality they are now endeavouring to sanctify into a doctrine, by their heresy of unholiness that Christ did not take this sinful flesh of ours and do the work of God in it; and, therefore, that the will of God cannot be done in it; that sin is its hopeless, remediless estate. But the actual sins of the church if any one, as I have done, go about to expose—her ignorance, her unbelief, her uncharitableness, her hypocrisy-straightway there ariseth such a din and clamour about your ears, as if you were an Achan in the camp; a spy, and no true man.
will direct your shafts against those beyond the bourne of the religious world, it is all well : their horseracings, their card parties, their Sunday profanations, and the like: but if you touch the hem of Evangelicalism, you touch the apple of their eye. It may not be spoken against: it is the Jerusalem and the temple, to speak against which is blasphemy, to prophesy the downfall and destruction of which is to commit a crime worthy of death. And who are they that shew forth the iniquities and short-comings of this society of sinful men ? There are none. And why are there none? Because their prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love to have it so. But to this people is my commission. The Lord hath shewn me the error of their ways; he hath filled my heart with love and faithfulness to them. I pity that they should be left and forsaken; that they should be without a warning voice; that they should dwell safely and securely in times of dread and terror, to the peril of which all other people are alive. It is true that their prophets have a dispensation of darkness and night resting upon them, but God hath not left himself, nor them, without a witness : he hath raised up several, and will raise up more, to point out the falseness of their security, and the insufficiency of their hiding-place. Now, for the fulfilment of this vocation of telling a
people their sins and their transgressions, behold what gifts and quali