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[In the contest with the worshippers of Baal, this matter was brought to a trial: and what was the result? the very idolaters themselves exclaimed, “ The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is Goda !" Nebuchadnezzar was in like manner forced to acknowledge the vanity of the idol he had set up, and to confess that no other god could effect such a deliverance for his votaries, as Jehovah had wrought for the Hebrew Youths”.] 2. To his enemies at this day
[There are many who are ready to think that too much honour is ascribed to God, when the weakness of all created confidences is exposed. But we will appeal to their judgment, whether they do not think that an omniscient, and omnipotent Being, whose providence and grace have been so marvellously displayed, be not more worthy of our trust than an arm of flesh? We appeal also to their experience ; for though, through their ignorance of Jehovah, they cannot declare what He is, they do know, and must confess, that the creature, when confided in as a source of true happiness, invariably shews itself to be “ vanity and vexation of spirit.”] ADDRESS
1. Let those who have undervalued our Rock, repent of their folly
[Not idolaters alone, but all, who do not supremely love and adore the Saviour, must be considered as undervaluing this our Rock: and, if they do not repent of their conduct now, they will bewail it ere long with endless and unavailing sorrow. Let them then consider, that, with respect to temporal things, there is none other that can deliver them from trouble, or support them under it: and that, with respect to spiritual things, there is no wisdom, strength, or righteousness, but in Him alone. Let them consider, that “in him all fulness dwells;" and that, if they trust in him, he will give them all that is needful for body and soul, for time and eternity. O that they were wise and would turn unto him, and cleave to him with full purpose of heart!]
2. Let those, who trust in Jesus, glory in him as an all-sufficient portion
[They who build on this Rock need never fear: however high their expectations are raised, they shall never be disappointed of their hope. They may enlarge their desires, even as hell itself that is never satisfied; they may ask all that God himself can bestow; and, provided it be good for them, they shall possess it all : however" wide they open their mouth, God will fill it.” In vain shall either men or devils seek to injure them; for one of them should chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight°.” Let them then consider what an almighty Friend they have; and endeavour to walk worthy of Him who has called them to his kingdom and glory.")
a 1 Kings xviii. 39.
b Dan. iii. 29.
C ver. 30.
JUDGMENT NEAR AT HAND.
Deut. xxxii. 34, 35. Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures ?
To me belongeth vengeance and recompence: their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
TENDERNESS and fidelity are by no means incompatible. Nothing could exceed the tenderness of our blessed Lord, who wept over those who were just about to imbrue their hands in his blood. Yet, when occasion called for it, he spoke with great severity: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hella ?" In like manner, Jehovah, in the chapter before us, whilst he declares that “a fire was kindled in his anger against his people, and that it should burn to the lowest hello,” takes up this lamentation over them: “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.” But as, notwithstanding all his remonstrances, they still continued to bring forth nothing but “ grapes of gall and clusters of Gomorrha,” he warns them, that their iniquities were remembered by him in order to a future judgment, and that their merited calamities were near at hand.
But to us, also, are the words no less applicable than to them: for we, also, are a disobedient people,
a Matt. xxiii. 33.
C ver. 29–31.
and have but too much reason to expect the judgments of God upon us. . I observe, then, I. That our sins are treasured up before God in order
to a future judgment
[This is stated to us in way of appeal: “Is not your iniquity laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?" We cannot doubt but that God notes all our wickedness, and “records it in the book of his remembrance 4." Of this Job was well convinced, when he said, "My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity." And oh! what a mass of iniquity is there contained ! Call to mind the sins of early infancy: for not one of them is overlooked by God. Then view the evils of childhood and of youth: alas, how numerous ! even as the sands upon the sea-shore for multitude. Then go on to the period of maturer age, when, instead of improving our enlarged faculties in the service of our God, we have debased them the more in the service of sin and Satan. Go on to the present hour. Take all the actions, words, and thoughts of every successive day, and try them by the standard of God's holy Law; and then see what loads of guilt we have contracted, and what volumes of indictment are ready at any hour to be brought forth against us: especially if we bear in remembrance our impenitence, which so greatly provokes God to anger; and our contempt of his Gospel, that stupendous effort of his love and mercy for the saving of our souls from death: if we reflect on these, I say, we cannot but see what a fearful account we have to give to our offended God. How soon we shall have “filled up the measure of our iniquities," God alone knows: but this accumulation of our guilt none of us can deny; and this certainty of retribution none of us can doubt.]
In addition to this, I must say, II. That the appointed time for giving up our account
is hastening on apace
[“Our foot," we are told, “shall slide in due time, and the day of our calamity is at hand.” Truly “we are set in slippery places; and are liable to be cast down into destruction in a moment'.” Persons walking upon the ice, or on the glaciers of mountainous countries, feel the force of this observation, and endeavour to guard with all possible care against their danger. But we see not our danger, notwithstanding it is in fact not less imminent than theirs. Millions of dangers encompass us around; and numerous instances occur of
persons summoned into eternity without a moment's warning. The
d Mal. üi. 16.
e Job xiv. 17.
f Ps. lxxiii. 18, 19.
time for every man's departure is fixed by God: and how near it may be at hand, no one can divine. But the instant it is arrived, whether we be prepared or unprepared, away we are hurried to the judgment-seat of Christ; and, if unprepared, we are cast into the very depths of hell. I know that persons are ready to say, “ But God is merciful.” True; but I answer, that “ To him belongeth vengeance also;" yea, and this is as essential to his character as mercy. Hence, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, my text is cited with peculiar emphasis: “We know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me: I will recompense, saith the Lord.” And to this it is added, " It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Now, I ask, Shall this perfection of the Deity be dispensed with, in order to give us safety in our sins? It cannot be. An hatred of sin, and a determination to punish it, are essential to the nature of Jehovah; and he can as soon cease to exist, as he can cease to act worthy of his proper character. You cannot but know, Brethren, that multitudes are hurried daily into the presence of their God, without any regard to their state of preparation to meet him: and there is no reason why you should not be taken just as they were. They were saying, Peace and safety; and then came sudden destruction upon them, as travail upon a woman with childh.” And the more secure you are in your own apprehension, the more reason there is to fear that
shall be called away in like manner, and that “that awful day shall overtake you as a thief." This consideration is very particularly urged upon you by the Prophet Hosea: “ The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is ħid. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon himk." It matters not whether you be young or old, or whether in health or sickness, “ the Judge standeth at the door;” and at the instant ordained by him, into his presence must you go, to“ give an account of all that you have ever done, whether it be good or evil."]
And truth compels me to declare, III. That it is owing to the forbearance of God alone
that every one of us has not long since fallen into hell
[Who amongst us has not deserved the wrath of God? Who amongst us may not call to mind some moment, when God, so to speak, might have cut us off to advantage, to display in us his righteous indignation ? And if he had summoned us hence, who could have withstood his mandate, or prolonged his life one single hour? We have been in the hands of God, hanging, as it were, over the bottomless pit, and suspended only by a single thread, which, if let loose or cut, would have transmitted us at once to everlasting misery. And many times has God been tempted, so to speak, to let go his hold: but our blessed Saviour has interceded for us, and prevailed to obtain for us a respite from our destined misery, if by any means we might be led to avert it by penitence and faith in him. All has been ready for our ruin long ago. “Tophet has been prepared: it has been made deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; and the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, hath kindled it!:" yes, the unquenchable fire has long since been kindled, and those cruel spirits, who have been our tempters, have long been waiting to become our tormentors. Nothing has prevented our ruin but the forbearance of our God, who, in the midst of all our provocations, has yet waited to be gracious unto us. It is to his sovereign grace alone we owe it, that we are not at this instant in the condition of millions, who never lived so long as we, or sinned so much against God as we, and were altogether as likely to live as we. But “others have been taken, and we are left," if peradventure we may yet repent us of our sins, and flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us.] I cannot conclude this awful subject without AD
& Heb. x. 30, 31.
h 1 Thess. v. 3.
DRESSING a few words, 1. To those who are yet indulging in security
[What have you been doing all your days, but“ treasuring
wrath against the day of wrathm?” You do not design to go to hell, I know: neither did they who are already there. They designed, each in his own way, to do something that might bring them to heaven. One intended to repent, another to amend, another perhaps to embrace the Gospel. But death seized them, ere they had found leisure to carry their designs into effect. And you also design to get into the way that leads to heaven. But tell me, When did you form this design? You know not the time when it did not in a careless
float upon your mind: and here have you been, years and years, without ever carrying it into effect. Tell me, then, I pray you, when do you intend to carry it into effect? As to any
serious purpose and endeavour, it is still as far off as at any period of your
lives: and therefore there is reason to fear that your good designs will terminate, as those of millions do, in utter abortion: and that in you will be verified what the Psalmist has said, “ Upon the wicked, God will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of
1 Isai. xxx. 33. m Rom. ii. 5.