Изображения страниц

addressed will read it, I know not; and, if they do, whether they will own themselves sinners, and count themselves concerned in what is said. But this I am sure of,-that if they are not sinners and wicked, they are saints: (these two divide the land: all are either godly or ungodly, though there be different degrees among both :) and if saints they are, the former exhortation will reach them. Let them, then, act up to it, and show themselves saints; let them appear, and stand up for the public good, and interpose with God for the preservation and welfare of their land. But, sirs, if your consciences give the lie to your pretensions, and tell you that you are not saints, that you are ungodly, you then are they to whom in this exhortation I am to apply myself. If the truly religious be a defence to the nation, do you accordingly carry yourselves toward them; use them well, make much of them, be kind to them, take heed of hurting them. Be so far disobedient for once to your father the devil, as not [to] gratify him, to your own undoing, by maligning, traducing, opposing, or persecuting, those that fain would save you, and, under God, are your best benefactors; do not hinder them from being godly, from serving their Lord, and doing that whereby they are preventing your ruin and promoting your good. Take heed of touching them, or meddling with them: if the argument would move you, I would say, Take heed of it,

1. For God's sake.-Who hath an interest in them; whose "jewels," whose "anointed" ones, whose children, they are, and whose image they bear. (Psalm cxix. 94; Mal. iii. 17; Psalm cv. 15.) If you do but own God as your Lord, or pretend to do so, you should have some respect to those that belong to him; and they that have no regard for saints, have none for God himself; they that hate them "that are begotten," cannot "love him that begat." (1 John v. 1.) I know, you will be ready to say [that] they are not saints, but a company of factious or seditious or hypocritical persons, whom you oppose. I wonder what is become of all the saints: you dare not say you are such yourselves; and all that are not like you in sin, though never so much of the same judgment with you, you call "hypocrites." Hath God no true servants left in the land? or where must we look for them? But what, if the dirt [which] you throw upon the factious be found sticking upon the religious ? What, if the wound [that] you give the hypocrites draw blood from the saints; and those that you call "the enemies of the nation," appear to be the friends of God? It cost Zebah and Zalmunna dear, for killing those that "resembled the children of a king." (Judges viii. 18.) Take heed of daring to put forth your hands against those that do but "resemble the children of" God; lest, when you think not of it, they prove to have been so. But if this prevail not, (as I fear it will not,) yet,

2. Take heed of troubling God's holy ones, for your own sakes. -It is your interest and your wisdom, (as before,) no less than your duty; for they can do more for you and more against you, than all the world beside. In Gen. xx. 7, God bids Abimelech restore Abraham his wife: "For," says he, "he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live:" he was concerned to use Abraham well, when he

might get so much by it.

[ocr errors]

"And if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine : his wronging Abraham should cost him dear. Consider,

(1.) "Their Redeemer is strong." (Jer. 1. 34.)—Who that is, the next words tell you: "The Lord of hosts is his name." It is dangerous meddling with any that have great friends and allies; such may by their means be too hard for you, though in themselves they be but weak. He that is a king's son may be but a child, and so but feeble himself, and not able to resist the force of one that is strong and violent but he hath a king for his father, one that hath a sovereign power, and can command thousands; and by him he may prevail over a strong enemy. The godly may be but weak and mean and contemptible in themselves; but they have a Friend, nay, a Father, that is strong: "the Lord of hosts" is "their Redeemer;" one that can deal with you, over-top you, crush you, make you "perish" with the very "rebuke of his countenance.' (Psalm 1xxx. 16.) If he do but blow upon you, your "breath goes" out of you, you die, and "return to your earth." (Psalm cxlvi. 4.)

(2.) "He shall thoroughly plead their cause."-So it follows. Assure yourselves, God will certainly do it, first or last, here or hereafter. Their cause is his cause; he "knows that for his" name's "sake they suffer rebuke," (Jer. xv. 15,) "for his sake" they are appointed "as sheep for the slaughter." (Psalm xliv. 22.) They suffer so many unworthy things, however upon other pretences, yet really because they belong to him; so that, if you strike at them, you strike at him; if you touch them, you "touch the apple of his eye." (Zech. ii. 8.) Christ at the last day will judge you according as your carriage hath been to his people; and interprets all done or not done to them as done or not done to himself. (Matt. xxv. 40, 45.) God may for a long time keep silence and let you alone, but one day will meet with you; be sure, in the other life; it may be, in this: and then, can you either,

(i.) Ward off his blows, when he lays them on you ?-Can you withstand his power, grapple with Omnipotence? Cannot he bring those evils upon you, which it is impossible for you to keep off or resist? "The Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." (Isai. lxvi. 15.) Or,

(ii.) Can you bear what he inflicts?—"Can your hearts endure, or can your hands be strong," when He comes to "deal with you?' (Ezek. xxii. 14.) Alas! you cannot stand before the messengers of his wrath. How are you brought down with a little pain or sickness! a fit of the stone or cholic makes you almost mad. And how, then, will you endure, if God himself once take you to hand, if he fill you with his fury, and pour out his wrath immediately upon your souls?

Is it not, then, your interest to favour God's saints, to take heed of meddling with them to their hurt, when it is likely [for] the conclusion to be in your own? when, as they are your best friends, so they

may prove your most formidable enemies, by engaging God against you; who, when they suffer wrongfully, will not fail to take their part and be on their side, and, though he use you for a time as scourges in his hand for the correction of them, yet when he hath done with you, is then ready to throw you into the fire. (Isai. x. 12.) Remember, then, that as the religious of a nation ordinarily do most good to them, so, when they are abused and trampled upon, they do most hurt; because God pleads their cause, and espouses their quarrel. Many a judgment they bring down upon their enemies,that is, God doth for them: the violence done to them, is severely punished upon them that do it. How was Egypt plagued for Israel's sake, and the Philistines, and others after them, and the Babylonians after them all! Nay, "who" ever "hardened himself against them, and prospered?" (Job ix. 4.) God's Jerusalem is, at one time or other, "a burdensome stone" to all them "that burden themselves with it." (Zech. xii. 3.) "The house of Jacob is a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble." (Obad. 18.) God takes notice of the least injuries done to his children by their enemies; nay, of their very omissions and neglects. The Moabite and the Ammonite were not to enter into the congregation of the Lord to the tenth generation, "because they met not" the children of Israel "with bread and with water, when they came out of Egypt:" (Deut. xxiii. 3, 4 :) and what, then, will become of them that grudge God's children bread, that rob them of their spiritual bread and water of life, would take from them the allowance [which] their Father hath given them, and so would starve their very souls?


(3.) Who ever showed kindness to the godly in vain ?—A cup of cold water, given to a disciple "in the name of a disciple," "because he belongs to Christ," shall not want its reward: (Matt. x. 42; Mark ix. 41 :) Christ takes the least respect shown them, as done to himself. Visiting the prisoners, clothing the naked, relieving the poor, are acceptable offices, and usually followed with some blessing even in this life. And, I wonder, wherein are they that this day persecute God's children the worse for them, or for any countenance [that] they have shown them? Nor are they ever likely to be, if it be not their own fault, by stirring up God's jealousy, and pulling down his vengeance upon their own heads. Were but [this] truth effectually believed, what an alteration would it make upon the spirits of men! How would those that are at present so unkind to the truly religious, become their friends and favourers! and "the governors of Judah would say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God." (Zech. xii. 5.)





[ocr errors]

And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.

And all the people answered, Amen, Amen.-Nehemiah viii. 6.

OMNIPOTENT and eternal Goodness never wants instruments to deliver his church from slavery, or reform it from degeneracy. All the empires and emperors in the world have served the kingdom of God, and been as scaffolds set up about the house of God, to be taken down when that is built up and finished. They have been as Gibeonites and Nethinims to the temple of the. Lord. The Assyrian was God's rod upon Israel's back. [The] Persian was here God's shepherd, whose spirit was stirred up to raise up the Jews. Alexander was a servant; and the Romans have been but God's slaves, to do his will against their own.

The state of the church at this juncture was the end of a desolation, or beginning of a reformation. The Jews had weathered out seventy years in captivity, wherein multitudes of them were worn off. A remnant being left, God raised up Cyrus, and moved him to set them free from Babylon, according to the prophecy of Isaiah (xlv. 1-4) two hundred and ten years before.

Many of the people, through lazy worldliness or despondency, chose rather still to "lie among the pots" in Chaldea, than return to Jerusalem to build their city and temple; though Cyrus gave them not only liberty by proclamations, but accommodations for the work. But God raised up the spirit of Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, and Ezra, to carry it on.

This Ezra was a great man of God, one of the great synagogue, a prophet, a scribe, a priest. Some will have it, that as Jehoiakim cut and burnt the roll, (Jer. xxxvi. 23,) so the Chaldeans burned all the books of the law; and so Ezra restored them as a prophet by revelation or his memory. But this is false: for Daniel "understood by books" the expiration of the seventy years; (chap. ix. 2;) and Cyrus himself read the prophecy of Isaiah; for he says, [that] "the Lord charged him to build his house at Jerusalem." (Ezra i. 2.) But he was a prophet, as he was directed by God's Spirit to compose this history of his; and a perfect scribe,-living to Malachi's time, he wrote the complete Old Testament, and made a perfect copy. But here he officiates as a priest,-the son of Seraiah, from Phinehas, Eleazar, and Aaron,-to serve the Lord. (Ezra vii. 1.) When they

had neither temple nor tabernacle, they set up the worship of the God of heaven in the open heaven; which was neither typical nor topical, but natural and evangelical, worship.

[ocr errors]

Upon the first day of the seventh month, in a pulpit in the street, (the people meeting as one man," Ezra iii. 1,) he read the law of God, and that distinctly, "giving the sense" of it, (Neh. viii. 8,)— from morning to noon; and all the congregation stood attentively; and at noon probably he dismissed them with a blessing, according to God's command. (Num. vi. 23.)

But here, at the opening [of] the book, praying to God, and praising him for his good hand over them and his good word before them, he blessed the Lord, ere he blessed the people : "And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen."

In which words there is, 1. The priest's or minister's office,blessing. And, 2. The people's office: "And all the people answered, Amen, Amen." 3. The great God, in the midst of this great congregation, the Object of the priest's office, and the people's also. Whence this


That it is a lawful and laudable practice for people, in the conclusion of public prayer or praising God, to pronounce an Amen.

This will answer the question; which is, Whether it be expedient, and how the congregation may say "Amen" in public worship? I. I will explain what is meant by "Amen." II. Show what warrant there is for the practice. III. Deduce some inference from all.

I. 1. First, then, there is Amen substantive. And that is God himself, who is what he is, Alpha and Omega, Truth itself. "He who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God Amen," or "of Truth." (Isai. lxv. 16.) Jesus Christ is God and "the Amen, the faithful and true Witness." (Rev. iii. 14.) He is that God in whom we may bless ourselves; his being is of himself as God, and he gives being to his word; "all the promises of God" being "in him Yea, and in him Amen," (2 Cor. i. 20,) whether Hebrew or Greek, Old Testament or New, promises, in him they are completed, and by him they are fulfilled.

2. There is Amen affirmative.-A phrase used in the beginning of any momentous truth, as an asseveration. What is " 'Amen," in Matt. xvi. 28, [is] aλnows, or verily," in Luke ix. 27. Our Saviour hath this phrase peculiar to himself, "Amen, Amen," to give confirmation to the doctrine, and to raise our attention and faith; or to show that not only truth is spoken, but by him who is Truth itself.

3. There is EUXTIXov, or "optative," Amen.-Which is as much as Γενοιτο, "Let it be so :' blessed be God by us, and blessed be we of the Lord; "" or, as in Jer. xxviii. 6 it is expounded, "Amen: the Lord do so the Lord perform thy words which thou hast prophesied." This Amen was used to be set-to, when good was spoken;

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »