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This encouragement may be applied to the nation. God has raised us from the barbarism of past ages, to our present state of civilization and greatness. He has given us our constitution, our laws, our Statesmen, and our colonies. He has raised us to this eminence, that from us his word might go forth to every land ; so that we might be his instruments in evangelizing the world ; and if, as a nation, we are faithful to the trust reposed in us-zealous for the divine glory, and obedient to the will of God,—we shall never perish. God will “repent him of the evil” which now threatens us, and will avert it; and still shall we be great in the earth.
This encouragement applies to us as a religious community. We are guilty of no presumption, we affect no superiority over other Christian churches, we do not lessen the blessings which God confers upon them, we speak only the language of gratitude, when we say, that we are the people of God. He called our Founder from his retirement, inspired his ardent zeal and lofty courage, and crowned his self-denying labours with distinguished success. And since, then, that we have been His people, witness the faithful ministry which God has given ue; the continuance of his sacraments; the seals of the covenant of grace with us and our children ; witness the institution of our churches, the number who have been gathered into them; and the gracious visitations of his love, and the outpourings of his Spirit, with which we have been favoured! He will not give his “heritage to reproach ;" he will not cast away his people whom he thus foreknew; nothing but our own unfaithfulness will cause us to be broken off. If we humble ourselves before him ; if we make prayer and supplication before him; if we turn unto him with all our hearts, and seek to cultivate personal holiness, and to extend the kingdom of Christ in the earth, he will spare us, because we are his people.
His own glory is connected with our stability and increase. If his heritage be given to reproach, his enemies will exultingly exclaim, " Where is their God ?" An ungodly world would rejoice in the diminution of our number, and in the extinction of our name ; but their joy would result more from enmity to God, than from hatred to us! While our fall would be the conspicuous and fearful display of the divine faithfulness, it would be that very faithfulness of God which his enemies would impeach and dread.
He has condescendingly allied his glory with the existence and triumphs of his church. “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined ;” and we may implore his blessings upon us, because his own glory is concerned in bestowing them. This plea will be successful. It was urged by Moses when he appeared before the Lord as the intercessor of the offending Israelites. God had said, “I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them;" and the plea of Moses was, “ Then the Egyptians shall hear it, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. Now, if thou shalt kill all this people as one man,
then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he bath slain them in the wilderness.” God was jealous for his honour, and the plea of Moses prevailed. So when Sennacherib had blasphemously compared Jehovah, the God of Israel, with the gods of the nations, and had dared to utter the impious defiance,“ Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceire thee;" the prayer of Hezekiah especially regarded the dishonour which the blasphemies of Sennacherib had done unto the Lord: “And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth ; thou bast made heaven and earth. Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear; open, Lord, thine eyes, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Of a truth, Lord, the Kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire ; for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone; therefore they have destroyed them. Now, therefore, Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only.” The prayer of Hezekiah was successful; mark the answer it obtained: “I will defend this city to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.” Because God has thus linked his own honour with the stability and prosperity of his church, most powerful will be the plea, “ Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God ?”
2. We derive encouragement from the divine character. The phrases by which duties are commanded in the text, may be regarded as explanatory of the exhortation to turn unto the Lord, which is contained in the three preceding verses, in which the compassion of God is proposed as the inducement for the people of Israel to repent of their transgressions. They are urged to turn unto the Lord with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning, because “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” How condescending is this description of the character of God! It gives strength to our confidence, it banishes the fear of guilt, and gives a warrant to the largest and most lively expectations which we can indulge. As the contrite look up to God, and tremble at his power, they meet him “ delighting in mercy,” and “ ready to pardon." From compassion so infinite, it is impossible to implore blessings too numerous or great.
Our appeal is made to God in Christ; and this inspires our hope. The Priests, the Ministers of the Lord, were to weep between the porch and the altar, the place of sacrifice; we enter into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. As we confess our sins, we lay the hand of faith upon the horns of the altar, on which lies the victim offered as
the world's atonement. We plead, and not in vain, for pardon, through the merits of the Saviour. We intercede ; and our intercessions are successful, because united with those of the all-prevailing Advocate. He presents our prayers; and they are prevalent because offered in his ever-blessed name. We ask for the outpouring of the Spirit, and confide in the truth, that he has passed into the heavens, to ask this of the Father; and that he has ascended on high, that he may shed this forth upon us.
The gift and sacrifice of Christ are the most illustrious exhibitions of the divine mercy, and justify our strongest hopes that our humiliation and prayer may come up acceptably before the Lord.
3. Encouragement is afforded by the promises which God has made, and which are found in connexion with the exhortation before
There are promises of temporal blessings. We have to implore God's compassionate regard for the poor of the land ; in which faith is strengthened by the doctrines of his providence and care over all his creatures. The eyes of all wait upon him, and he giveth them their meat in due season.” Our prayers for the poor will not be vain ; for thus saith the Lord, “ Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people ; yea, the Lord will answer, and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you."
There is the promise of divine influence. The text stands in connexion with the great promise of the Christian dispensation : “And it shall come to pass afterward,” (after this general humiliation, and in answer to these fervent prayers, between the porch and the altar,)“ that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” And this is all that is required to adorn the church with the garments of salvation, and to beautify her with the robes of praise ; this will bless her with a godly, edifying, and successful ministry, this will remove the barriers to the enlargement of her boundaries, and will extend them until they enclose the world. The Spirit shall“ be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest." The Spirit is to be “ poured out ;” it is to descend in rich abundance, like the mountain torrent, or the rolling flood. And widely shall the blessing be diffused; it shall be poured out upon “all flesh;" every human heart shall feel its power; righteousness shall dwell in the earth, and this fallen world arise a paradise of purity and bliss.
These promises include spiritual blessings, in reference to individuals. “ And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the rem
nant whom the Lord shall call.” The effect of the outpouring of the Spirit will be, the awakening of ungodly sinners to a consciousness of their danger, who with deep penitence of heart will turn to God in Christ for mercy; and whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall thus believe in Christ, (as the phrase is employed in the New Testament,) shall obtain it. None shall believe in vain ; they shall find the deliverance they seek; and in Mount Zion, that church in which God delights to dwell, shall her members experience all the blessings of salvation from the guilt of sin, happiness and holiness, till, purified by grace, they shall pass to the heights of the heavenly Zion, and rejoice in the completeness of eternal deliverance.
Such are the promises which God makes even in connexion with threatenings : thus does he “in wrath remember mercy.” With such promises, what may not be expected! There is nothing too great for God to give, or for man to ask. The promises of God cannot fail; they are made by Him who keepeth covenant, who is faithful and true. “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
These, brethren, are your dangers, your duties, and your hopes ; and, trembling at those dangers, and encouraged by these hopes, let us arise to the discharge of these duties !
They are binding on all, and none must suppose himself exempt : the supposition, if it could be entertained, would show how much they were required; it would be proof that he knows not “his own sore, and his own grief." Let each, for himself, bow before the Lord, confess his own sins, mourn over his own spiritual barrenness and declensions, acknowledge his transgressions in the depths of lowly penitence, and plead for pardon through the blood of the covenant. Let each consecrate himself afresh to God, renew the pledges of his fidelity unto the Lord, and surrender his heart to Christ, that he may reign there with undivided sway. Let every one make the interests of the cause of God his own, and intercede for his country, and for the church of Christ, with a fervour as strong, and an importunity as earnest and incessant, as when he asks of God his own salvation.
Humiliation and prayer are the duties of Christian families : “ The land shall mourn apart, every family apart." Humble confessions of sin, and earnest supplications before the Lord, should be heard around our domestic altars ; they should ever mingle in the devotions of “ the dwellings of Jacob.” And if God bless the services in which we are about to engage, in the conversion of our children, they will be “ a seed to serve him, a generation to show forth his praise.”
In this period of national calamity, the country might properly be called upon to set apart a day for public humiliation. The goodness of God towards us has been acknowledged in the form of general thanksgiving for the late abundant harvest, in which this congregation has, in
common with thousands throughout the land, united. And while we bless him for his goodness, we may well deplore his judgments. There has been too much empty declamation on the subject of the national distress, too much party strife, too much dependence on the polity of gifted and favourite statesmen; and but few have said, “Where is God my Maker ?”
These duties are especially those of the church of God. IIis people have power with bim, and will prevail. Let the day of humiliation be observed. Let united prayer ascend to God. We “blow the trumpet in Zion;" we “sanctify a fast ;" we “call a solemn assembly;" we invite the gathering of the people! Let Christians feel an interest in the welfare of their country, and in the prosperity of the church, as deep as that which men of the world display in the objects of their ambition ; and then they will not hesitate to sacrifice a portion of their time, to watch and pray. The Priests, the Ministers of the Lord, will be there; and the churches of which they are the Pastors will unite with them. The Elders must be assembled; those who bear office in the church must be present; and those to whom the experience of God's faithfulness has for years given confidence in prayer, must come and plead with God also. Let parents come with their children, that the lisping of the infant may be joined with the loud Amen. God will be entreated; the house of prayer will be the Bethesda of mercy; the waters of the sanctuary will prove for the healing of the people; the Holy One will be in the midst of us; and sinners will be saved. “God will be merciful unto us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us. His way will be known upon earth, his saving health among all nations. The people will praise thee, O God; all the people shall praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase, and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.”
POPERY. The Romanist rejects the oracles of God as his only religious guide, and unites with them the traditions of men, to render them useless. He substitutes the Priest for the Deity; the decisions of the ages
of darkness, for the well-considered interpretations of the studious and the learned. By closing the Scriptures to the people, the possibility of discovering truth is done away. Invention and imposture have been combined into a system, where religion and liberty are alike sacrificed at the shrine of A PREDICTED APOSTASY FROM THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF CHRISTIANITY. That superstition must be a curse to mankind, which is so sternly condemned in the Scriptures of the dispensation of mercy; and which is represented as falling into ruin amidst the joy of nations.-- Townsend's Arrangement, &c., of the New Testament.
Vol. XXI. Third Series. DECEMBER, 1842.