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that they have never poured contempt on One who had assumed their nature, and borne their iniquities, to deliver them. This is a depravity peculiar to man: and this is a depravity that has pervaded every child of man. And to what an awful extent it has prevailed in all of us, let the conscience of every one amongst us bear witness. The character of us all is but too justly depicted in these words; "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."]
This increases, rather than diminishes, through the abundance of his mercies; as will be seen, whilst we point out,
II. The general effect of prosperity upon him—
The proper intent of God's mercies is, to fill us with humility and thankfulness before him: but, through the corruption of our nature, success,
1. Inflates those with pride whom it should humble
[This was its sad effect on Israel: who, as the prophet complains, "sacrificed to their own net, and burned incense to their own drag." And if we examine the general effect of prosperity amongst ourselves, we shall find, that success in business, and acquisition of honour, and elevation in society, are for the most part the fruitful parents of pride and arrogance and self-conceit. See how the purse-proud tradesman swells by reason of his wealth, as though he had been the author of his own success; and how all his former servility is turned into a conceit of his own dignity, and a magisterial oppression of those below him! Yes, in truth, that
saying is too often realized in every rank of the community, "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked"."
But can this ever be the effect of spiritual advancement? Of real piety it cannot: but of what assumes the shape of real piety, it may. Professors of religion, when they have acquired somewhat of a clearer knowledge of divine truth, are very apt to be puffed up with it, and to " become, in their own conceit, wiser than their teachers." Hence it is, that so many set up for "teachers, whilst yet they understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm:" and many, because they have some
e Compare Deut. viii. 17, 18. before cited, with 1 Tim. vi. 17.
f Perhaps there exists not on earth a stricter parallel between the
Jews and us, than in the case of those who are elected Fellows in any of the Colleges of our Universities. view, and there will be found in it persons so circumstanced.
Let the text be read in that much profitable instruction to 8 Deut. xxxii. 15, 18.
faint conception of what is spiritual, pour contempt on others as altogether carnal. To all such conceited professors I would say, "Be not high-minded, but fear:" "let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."]
2. Lulls into security those whom it should quicken
[The effect of affluence, especially of that which has been acquired by labour, is, to diminish the industry that has obtained it, and to reduce its possessor to the state of the rich fool in the Gospel: "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merryh." Indeed, ease is looked upon as the reward of industry; and the prospect of it is man's greatest incentive to diligence. But success, instead of weakening, should rather operate to augment our efforts for further success: not from a covetous desire of advancement, but from a desire to enlarge our means of doing good. Wealth, with all its attendant influence, should be regarded as a talent, not to be hidden in a napkin, but to be improved for God.
And what should be the effect of increased views of divine truth, and of augmented confidence in God? Should not these things quicken us, and every communication of grace to our souls, stimulate us to activity in the service of the Lord? I say, then, let none of you, because of your prosperity, be "settled on your lees;" but let every blessing, whether temporal or spiritual, be employed as a motive for exertion, and as a means of honouring your heavenly Benefactor.]
Let me now address,
1. Those who have risen in the world
[The example of David is that which you should follow. He, when assured by God that his kingdom should be established in his house to his latest posterity, "went in, and sat before the Lord, and said, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hithertoi?" Thus let your success operate on you. See the hand of God in it all; and acknowledge your own unworthiness; and adore that grace that has made you to differ from so many whose prospects were once equal to your own. And never forget, that prosperity is a snare which ruins thousands; and that, if it makes your situation easier in this world, it obstructs your progress, even like clods of" clay upon your feet," to the world above'.] 2. Those who, by reason of adverse circumstances, have been reduced-
h Luke xii. 16-21.
i 2 Sam. vii. 18. k Prov. i. 22. 1 Compare Hab. ii. 6. with Heb. xii. 1. and Matt. xix. 23, 24.
[How often has that which never could be effected by prosperity been produced by adversity. In prosperity, for the most part, we forget God; but "in the time of adversity we consider." "In their affliction," said God of his people of old, "they will seek me early:" "they will pour out a prayer, when my chastening is upon them." And have you found it thus with you? Then, however painful your afflictions may have been, they call rather for congratulation than condolence. The prosperity of the soul is that which alone is of any real value. Look to it then, that, in whatever ye decay, ye grow in grace and know, that if only ye keep your eyes fixed, not on things visible and temporal, but on those which are invisible and eternal, "your light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory m."]
m 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.
A RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF ELECTING LOVE.
Deut. vii. 6-10. Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people (for ye were the fewest of all people) but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him, and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations; and repayeth them that hate him, to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
THERE is in man a strange reluctance to contemplate the sovereignty of God: but, if duly improved, there is no subject more comforting to the soul, or more calculated to promote practical religion. It is this on which Moses insists, in order to deter the Israelites from connexions with the heathen, and to induce them to maintain inviolable the commandments of their God.
With similar views we would draw your attention to, I. The privilege of God's people
The Jews were "a special people unto the Lord their God"
[They had been redeemed from a most oppressive bondage, instructed by the voice of revelation, supported by bread from heaven, brought into the nearest relation to the Deity, and honoured with access to him in ordinances of divine appointment. In these, and many other respects, they were distinguished above all other people upon eartha.]
Such is also the privilege of all true believers—
[They have been rescued from the tyranny of sin and Satan, taught by the word and Spirit of God, furnished with daily supplies of grace, made sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, and admitted into the most intimate communion with their God'. Nor were the Jews so much exalted above the heathen world, as true believers are above all others, even the professed followers of Christ.]
It will be no unprofitable subject of meditation, if we inquire into,
II. The source of that privilege
The Jews owed all their blessings to the distinguishing grace of God—
[They were not chosen for their numbers, or for their goodness; for "they were the fewest" and most stiff-necked "of all people." God's love to them had its origin within his own bosom; "he loved them because he would love them :" and in due season he testified that love to them, because he had voluntarily engaged to do so.]
Nor can our blessings be traced to any other
[God, in choosing us to salvation, has not respect to any goodness in us, whether past, present, or future: not to past; for all of us, not excepting even the Apostles themselves, have been inconceivably vile: not to present; for many of us, like Paul and the three thousand, were in the very midst of our sinful career, when God plucked us as brands from the burningi: not future; for we never should have had any thing
a Deut. iv. 7, 8. and xxxiii. 29.
e John vi. 45.
f 1 John i. 3.
h Tit. iii. 3. Eph ii. 3.
d John i. 16.
g Mark iii. 34, 35.
b 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.
e 2 Cor. vi. 18. Matt. xix. 28.
i Acts ii. 13. and ix. 1.
good in us, if it had not been given us of God; and it is evident that the grace he has given us, can never be the ground and reason of his bestowing that grace upon us. He has "chosen us that we might be holy;" but not because we were so, or because he foresaw we should become so1. No reason can be assigned for his choosing us rather than others, except that assigned by our Lord himself, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight"." Nor has he kept us on account of our own stability (for we are all bent to backslide from him"), but on account of the covenant he has made with us in Christ, wherein he has engaged to preserve us unto his heavenly kingdom. In the whole of his conduct towards us he has acted according to "his eternal purpose and grace P."]
That we may not abuse so great a privilege, let us consider,
III. The improvement to be made of it—
We should attentively consider the character of God, who is,
1. Sovereign in the exercise of his mercy
[His grace is his own, and he may dispose of it as he will. If he had consigned us all over to perdition as he did the fallen angels, he had been just. We therefore can have no claim share in his mercy. upon him for any Whether he make us vessels of honour or of dishonour, we have no more ground of pride or murmuring, than the clay has, which is fashioned according to the potter's will. Whether we will receive it or not, he is a Sovereign, that dispenses mercy according to his own will; and, if there be any difference between one and another, that difference results, not from any power or goodness in us, but from God's free and sovereign gracet.]
2. Faithful in the observance of his promises
[They who have really an interest in the promises, are universally distinguished by this mark, "They love God, and keep his commandments." To these God will most assuredly approve himself" faithful." His "covenant" is ordered in all things, and he will inviolably "keep" it. What Joshua said to the whole Jewish nation, may be yet more extensively applied to all true believers, "No promise ever has failed them, or ever shall"."]
3. Terrible in the execution of his threatenings