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world and you, so that to the whole camp of Israel you are patterns of courage and fidelity"? Be assured, your conduct must resemble theirs: your faith, your hope, your love, your zeal, must operate to the production of a life like theirs, if you would attain the same testimony from God, and the same happy issue of your labours---] 2. What will your state very shortly be ?
[Death is spreading its desolations far and wide ; and, whether by sweeping judgments or a more silent process, is terminating the career of thousands; so that in the space of forty years a whole generation, as it were, passes away from the face of the earth. But do all go to one place ? O! could we but follow the spirits of departed men into the presence of their God, as we follow their bodies to the grave, what scenes should we behold? In some happy cases, we should behold them seated on thrones of glory, and crowned with immortal bliss : but in how many cases should we see them hurled from the tribunal of their God into the bottomless abyss of hell, and cast for ever into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone-sad monuments of human folly, and objects of God's everlasting wrath and indignation! Indeed, my Brethren, this is no vain conceit; it is a reality: it is an event that is taking place every moment; and in the space of another day may be realized in you. Is it not time for you to inquire, whether you have turned unfeignedly to God, as reconciled to you in the Son of his love; or whether you are “ sinning stillP?” -- Remember, that "the goodness and patience and long-suffering of God, which have been so long exercised towards you, are intended to bring you to repentance." I pray you, despise not these mercies, as the Israelites did in the wilderness, and as thousands around us do : but “to-day, whilst it is yet called to-day," bear in mind the doom that befel them, lest “ye also, having the same promise of entering into God's rest, should at last come short of it"."]
o Numb. xxxii. 12.
p Here the particular dispensation, whether of war, famine, pestilence, sudden death, or any other calamity, may be urged as a call from God to personal self-examination, and preparation for death. a Rom. ii. 4.
r Heb. iv. 1.
THE FRUIT OF IMPENITENCE AND UNBELIEF. Ps. lxxviii. 32, 33. For all this, they sinned still, and believed
not for his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.
IT is a saying of Solomon's, that “ he who soweth iniquity, shall reap vanitya.” and the truth of this is remarkably illustrated throughout all the history of God's ancient people. The Jews were, beyond all comparison, the most favoured people upon earth : and if they had made a due improvement of their mercies, they would have been as much exalted above others in happiness, as they were in their outward privileges. But neither mercies nor judgments could prevail
upon them to yield themselves unfeignedly to God. The mercies they received were so signal, that one would have supposed it impossible for them to forget the Donor. Their judgments, too, on some occasions were so awful, that one would have supposed fear should supply the place of love, and constrain them to turn to God with their whole hearts. In the preceding part of this psalm, these dealings of God with them are especially referred to: yet, in my text we are told, “ They sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.” In consequence of this, they reaped according to what they sowed : for, on account of this incorrigibleness, “God consumed their days in vanity and their years in trouble.”
But is that generation passed away? Is there not amongst us the same obstinacy in sin ? and do we not feel the same effects of transgression ? Yes, verily, they are a mirror in which we may see our own image; and the events of their days are still visible
This will appear, whilst I shew, I. The incorrigible obstipacy of sinnersGod diversifies his dealings with us for our good
[Our temporal mercies, public, social, personal, have been equal to any that have been vouchsafed to any people under
– But what shall I say of our spiritual mercies? Verily, if a preached Gospel be the greatest of all mercies, we have indeed very abundant reason to acknowledge the transcendent goodness of God to us In some instances, too, has God dealt with us, both individually and collectively, in a way of paternal chastisement ---]
But to an awful extent have we persisted in impenitence and unbelief
a Prov. xxii. 8.
[What were the sins in which we indulged years ago? Take us as a collective body; and it must be said, “ In those we continue still.” The gay, the worldly, the sensual, the profane, all follow their respective courses as much as ever, equally unallured by mercies, and unawed by judgments; - Nor have all “ the wonders” of redeeming love, though so fully and faithfully proclaimed, wrought any change in us. As the Israelites, though so visibly under the care of Almighty God, could not be prevailed upon to enter into the design of God's mercies to them, or to yield up themselves to him in a way of holy obedience, so neither are we led to exercise a simple faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to “ cleave unto him with full purpose of heart" ---Dependence on him, communion with him, and devotedness to him, are as far from us as ever ---Our heads possibly may be instructed; but our hearts and lives are unchanged -- -]
And now let me ask, What are,
Certainly, if ever a people could be happy, the circumstances in which the Israelites were placed were calculated to make them happy. But their days were consumed in vanity, and their years in trouble," as the just punishment of their sins. And how are our lives spent ? What have we, but vanity and trouble ?
[In the abundance of all things that we enjoy, it is surprising how little there is of real comfort to the possessors. Many possess all that the world can give; yet " in the midst of their sufficiency they are in straits b.” It may be thought that the rich are happier than the
very reverse of this is true. God has cursed their very blessingsYea, the nearest of all connexions which God ordained for the happiness of man is, in a great majority of instances, unattended with the blessedness which the parties hoped for; yea, and too often is made a source of bitterest woe. Truly, “ man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards a:" and this poor wilderness world is found to most a vale of tears --] And what is this but the fruit of sin ?
[This was not the state of man in Paradise: it came as the fruit of sin: and in proportion as men live without God in the world, is the world and every thing in it embittered to them.
It may be asked, Are the saints exempt from this common lot? Do not they find " vanity and trouble" here below, as well as others? They do; but by no means in the same degree. To the saints, blessings are really blessings, and even troubles are blessings in disguise. The man who truly believes in Christ, enjoys, in common mercies, a sense of God's love and favour, to which an unbeliever is an utter stranger: and his trials he receives as paternal chastisements, which are the means ordained for his furtherance in the divine life, and for the eventual increase of his happiness to all eternity. Though therefore, in a certain degree, he finds vanity and vexation of spirit to be stamped on all sublunary good, he has, on the whole, a different portion from that of the ungodly world even here: and hereafter, I need not say how widely different is his lot. As for the impenitent and unbelieving, possess what they may, they are not happy; and, in the prospect of death and judgment, it is from want of reflection only if they are not completely miserable ---] TO APPLY the subject to our hearts
b Job xx. 22. c Deut. xxviii. 15-20. d Job v. 6, 7.
[Have we not sinned enough already? May not the past time suffice for our neglect of God, and our contempt of his favours? Shall it continue to be said of us, ' They have sinned still; and will not believe in God, notwithstanding all his wondrous works?' Do but look back, and see what has hitherto been the "fruit” of such a life. I appeal to all, What have ye found but vanity and trouble, even in your best enjoyments ? Verily, they have been but as the “ crackling of thorns under a pot,” which blazed for a moment, and then vanished in smoke'. Indeed, Brethren, if the happiness of this world only were concerned, I should recommend to you a life of penitential sorrow, and of entire devotedness to God: for godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to come 8." But there is a world to come; a world in which shall reap,
in its full extent, the fruit of our present conduct. Oh! where will the impenitent transgressor find pardon then? and where the contemptuous unbelieving sinner flee to hide himself from the wrath of an avenging God? Let there then, Brethren, be an end to your contest with the God of heaven. Cast down the weapons of your rebellion; and, with penitential faith, cast yourselves on the Saviour, who died even for the very chief of sinners. “Humble yourselves truly under the mighty hand of God; and in due season, notwithstanding all your past transgressions, he will lift you uph." ---]
e Rom. vi. 21. 8 1 Tim. iv. 8.
f Eccl. vii. 6. h Jam. iv. 10.
THE EXTENT OF GOD'S MERCY. Ps. lxxviii. 31-39. When he slew them, then they sought
him; and they returned and inquired early after God : and they remembered that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues : for their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant. But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not : yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath : for he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
THE psalm before us is altogether historical: yet may it be called one great parable. It is, in fact, so called by the Psalmist himself: and the very words by which he designates this composition are quoted by the Evangelist as fulfilled, when our blessed Lord spake to the people in parables, and in parables exclusivelya. The truth is, that the whole account of the redemption of Israel from Egypt, with their preservation in the wilderness, and their final establishment in the land of Canaan, is typical of man's redemption through Christ, and of the final salvation of all God's chosen people. It is not unlike the parable of the Prodigal Son: and, unless we view it in this light, and read in it the great concerns of our own souls, we have no just conception of its true import. As a record of the most important events in the Jewish history, the writer of it might justly urge the importance of transmitting it with care, and teaching it with diligence, to all succeeding generationsb: but, as a vehicle of spiritual instruction, it is of inestimable value, not to Jews only, but to Gentiles also, and ought to be studied with care by every child of man.
We shall not now enter into a minute illustration of this truth, because it would occupy far more of your attention than could be allotted to one discourse : but a general view of the subject will be Compare ver. 2. with Matt. xüi. 35.