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1. Infallibly certain
[Sinners imagine that God cannot inflict punishment: they suppose
that if not inconsistent with his justice, it would at least be contrary to his acknowledged goodness and benignity. They think that, when the time comes, he will relent, and spare them. But, in our text, he meets that error, and declares, “ The Lord will not spare him.” “I have spared him long enough,” the Lord will say: "I bore with all his wickedness for many years :" “ I waited long to be gracious to him :” “I called to him, but he would not hear; I entreated him, but he refused to hearken: and therefore he now may call, and I will not hear; I will even laugh at his calamity, and mock when his fear is come.” Now God would "repent him of the evil which he has thought to bring" on any sinner: but how inflexible he will be in that day, the prophet has abundantly declared 8. The sinner may" knock at the door which is shut against him, saying, Lord, Lord, open to me: but I will say, Depart from me, I never knew thee, thou worker of iniquity."] 2. Inexpressibly severe
[What must it be to have" the anger and the jealousy of Almighty God" incensed, and so incensed, as to be, as it were, “smoking against us?” But, to form a just idea of the sinner's doom, we must take all the most terrific passages of the word of God, and contemplate all the images contained in them, and then conceive of all of them combined to fill up the measure of his misery. Oh, if we think of “that lake that burneth with fire and brimstone,” “ where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," where there is nothing but“ weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth,” and “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever," what an idea does it all give us of the judgments that await the impenitent transgressor ! Yet these, yea and “all the curses that are written in the sacred volume” from one end of it even to the other, shall come upon him, and shall “lie and abide upon him for ever and ever.” Once, if he had sought for mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ, his name might have been "written in the book of life;" but now “God will blot out his name from under heaven,” and it shall be found registered only with those of the devil and his angels.
We are well aware that these truths are unwelcome to the generality of men: but it is infinitely better to contemplate them in time, than to be left to experience them in eternity.] Let us LEARN then from this subject,
1. To compassionate the ungodly world
& Ezek. viii. 18. and xxiv. 14.
[Were we to see men in danger of perishing in the sea, the most hardened amongst us would be mored to compassion: why then do we not pity those who are ready every moment to sink into the flames of hell? That they themselves are not alarmed is rather the reason why we should feel the more alarmed; because their foot will infallibly“ slide in due time," and“ the wrath of God will come upon them to the uttermost.” Let “our eyes then run down with tears for them,” and “our head be a fountain of tears to weep for them day and night." Let our efforts too be exerted to awaken them to a timely care of their own souls.]
2. To be on our guard against being influenced by their advice
[Those who see not their own danger will be equally secure respecting ush, and will endeavour to lull us asleep by their confident assertions. But, if their presumption will not benefit themselves, it will assuredly not benefit us. The antediluvian world, and the inhabitants of Sodom, despised the warnings given them, and accounted them as idle tales: but the threatened judgments came at last, and the deceivers and deceived perished in one indiscriminate mass. So will it be at the end of the world'. Every tittle of God's word shall be fulfilled; and therefore let those who would draw you back to the world be disregarded by youk. “Let God be true, but every man a liar.”]
3. To be thankful if God has made us to differ from them
[What reason had Noah and Lot to be thankful that they were enabled to believe the divine testimony! And truly, if we are enabled to come forth from an ungodly world, and to enter into the true Ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no less reason to be thankful than they. It is no less the fruit of God's sovereign grace, than was the mercy vouchsafed to them. Let us then be increasingly watchful against presumptuous confidence, and all the delusions of our own hearts; and, in an unreserved attention to all God's commands, let us“ keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."]
h Ezek. xiii. 22. i 2 Pet. ii. 449. Eph. v. 6.
SECRET THINGS BELONG TO GOD. Deut. xxix. 29. The secret things belong unto the Lord our
God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this Law.
NEVER were mercies granted to any people, so rich as those which were vouchsafed to Israel: nor were there ever judgments so signally, through successive ages, inflicted on any other nation, as on them. And all this was in accordance with prophecy, even with the prophecies which Moses himself delivered to them previous to their entrance into Canaan. All was foreseen by God; and was foretold also, with sufficient clearness, if they would but learn to act in obedience to the divine warnings. To inquire into the reasons of God's dealings with them, and especially to sit in judgment upon God as though he dealt hardly with them, would be to no purpose. The reasons of his determinations were hid in his own bosom: and his determinations themselves were made known to them for their benefit: and God expected that they should make a suitable improvement of all the information which he had given them. This seems to be the general import of our text; from whence I shall take occasion to shew, I. The proper limit for our inquiries into the things
of GodGod has been pleased to reveal much to us respecting his nature, his dispensations, his purposes : but there is infinitely more which he has not seen fit to communicate; and which, if communicated, we should be no more able to comprehend, than a child could comprehend the deepest discoveries of philosophy. Even what we do know, we know only in part: in fact, our knowledge of every thing is so superficial, that it scarcely deserves to be called knowledge : and, therefore, in relation to every thing the utmost possible diffidence becomes us. For, after all, what know we, 1. Of God's nature?
(We are informed that “He is a Spirit;" that he is, from all eternity, a self-existent Being : that "the heaven of heavens cannot contain him." But what idea have we of a Spirit ? What notion can we form of eternity and omnipresence? The greatest philosopher in the universe has not a whit more adequate conceptions of these things, than a little infant. Nor do we, in reality, know any thing more of the moral perfections of the Deity, than we do of those which we call natural. We speak of his holiness, and justice, and mercy, and truth: but our knowledge of these things is altogether negative: we merely know that he is not unholy, or unjust, or unmerciful, or untrue; and that is all.
And what shall I say to his subsistence in Three Persons, each possessing all the attributes of Deity, whilst yet there is but ONE GOD? We know that the Father is spoken of as the Fountain from whence all proceeds; that the Son also is spoken of as executing all which the Father had ordained for the redemption of the world; and that the Holy Ghost also is spoken of as applying to the sons of men all that the Son has purchased, or the Father ordained. But of these things we know nothing beyond what God has told us in his word: and if we attempt to descant upon them, “we only darken counsel by words without knowledge." In the contemplation of such mysteries, it becomes us to bear in mind the pointed interrogations of Zophar; “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? it is high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know a?"] 2. Of his dispensations?
[We know that God ordereth every thing both in heaven and earth; and that without him“ not a sparrow falls to the ground,” nor an hair from the head of one of his servants." But will any one inform us how God overrules the minds of voluntary agents, so as infallibly to accomplish his own will and yet not participate in the evils which they commit? Our blessed Lord was put to death “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God:” and yet, throughout the whole of that scene, the agents followed altogether the dictates of their own hearts, and “ with wicked hands crucified and slew him." And will any one inform us how this was done? And if we know so little of God's Providence, who shall declare to us the wonders of his Grace? Will any one tell us why the world was left four thousand years before the Saviour was sent to redeem it? or why Abraham was chosen in preference to all other persons upon earth, that the Saviour should descend from him, and that it should be in the line of Isaac and Jacob, rather than through the line of Ishmael and Esau? Will any one tell us how the Spirit of God acts upon the souls of some, to quicken, sanctify, and save them; whilst others never experience these operations; or experience his influence only in such a degree as ultimately to aggravate their eternal condemnation? Let any one only tell us how mind operates upon
a Job xi. 7, 8.
matter in any one motion of his own body: and if he cannot tell this, how shall he presume to judge of God, “whose ways are in the great deep, and his paths past finding out?"] 3. Of his purposes?
[We are assured that “God doeth every thing according to the counsel of his own will; and that none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” But who has searched the records of heaven, so as to tell us what shall come to pass, either in reference to nations, or to any solitary individual ? Our blessed Lord repeatedly checked all presumptuous inquiries into these things. When his disciples asked him, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ? he answered, It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own powerb." And when Peter inquired of him respecting John, “Lord, what shall this man do? our Lord replied, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
In truth, we know nothing of God; nothing of what he is, or does, or will do, any further than he has been pleased to reveal himself to us : and all our inquiries respecting him should issue in that profound adoring exclamation, “O the depth"!" Instead of complaining that our knowledge is so circumscribed, we should be thankful that it extends so far: for if there be little communicated to gratify a foolish curiosity, there is every thing made known to us that can conduce to our present and eternal welfare.]
This idea points out to us, II. The proper use to be made of all the knowledge
we obtain Every thing that God has revealed is intended to have a practical effect: and every thing contained in Holy Writ has a direct tendency to convey some spiritual benefit to our souls. Let us briefly trace this in what is revealed concerning, 1. God and his perfections
[All that is spoken in Scripture upon this sublime subject, tends to fill us with holy fear, and love, and confidence; and to bring us to God, as his obedient subjects and servants -] 2. Christ and his offices—
[There is no way to the Father but through the Son. When, therefore, we read of him as the Prophet, Priest, and b Acts i. 6, 7.
c Rom. xi. 33.