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for kings and all that are in authority. Yea, even in Babylon, were the Jews taught to pray for the peace and prosperity of their very oppressors: how much more then should we intercede for our native country, where we enjoy every liberty that we can desire! Let it not be said, that our governors do not deserve our prayers; for the injunction to pray for kings was delivered in the reign of Nero, than whom a more wicked prince could not exist. Let us then make a conscience of this duty; for if we know not to intercede for others, we have no reason to think that we have ever yet seen aright the value of our own souls.] 2. The benefit of public fasts
[The honour God has put upon public fasts is well known to all; and his answers to united supplications have been as signal as the hand of God could make them. The victory given to Jehoshaphate, the respite to Nineveh', and the deliverance to Peter the very day before his intended destructions, sufficiently evince, that God will hear the united prayers of his people. Indeed, if one man, Moses, so prevailed for the saving of a whole nation, what deliverance should not nations receive, if they would all unite in prayer! If a few individuals alone mourn for the land, they shall have at least some tokens of peculiar favour to themselves, though they should not succeed in averting God's anger from the nation at large. But if there be not some to stand in the breach, it cannot fail but that we inust be overwhelmed'.] 3. The guilt and danger of neglecting Christ
[Great as were the mercies vouchsafed to the Jews in Egypt, they are not to be compared with the redemption which we have experienced through Christ: as our bondage was infinitely more grievous, so the means used to effect our deliverance, infinitely enhance the value of the deliverance itself; we are bought with blood, and that blood was the blood of our incarnate God - What destruction then must not we expect if we should forget “God our Saviourk?” — Nor is it the intercession of others that shall ever prevail to avert it from us; we must pray, every one of us for himself: not but that mutual intercession may in this respect be productive of great benefits. Let us then “ bear his great goodness in remembrance," and let it be our song in time, as it shall be through all eternity.]
8 Acts xii. 5-8.
e 2 Chron. xx. 12, 15. f Jonah iii. 10.
k Heb. ii. 3.
DCLXXIX. THE ZEAL OF PHINEHAS COMMENDED. Ps. cvi. 30. Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment ;
and so the plague was stayeda. TO enter profitably into this subject, it will be necessary that I state, in few words, the history to which my text refers.
Balaam had been invited by Balak, King of Moab, to come and curse Israel, whose approach he dreaded, and whom he hoped by these means to subdue. Balaam,“ coveting the wages of unrighteousness," thought to enrich himself by executing the wishes of the king of Moab; but was overruled by God to bless the very people whom he was hired to curse. Accordingly he was dismissed without the expected reward. But, with a view of obtaining the promised recompence, he struck out another way in which Balak might ultimately gain his end. He knew, that, if Israel could be ensnared to cast off their allegiance to God, they might lose his protection, and thus fall an easy prey to their enemies. He advised therefore, that Balak should facilitate an intercourse between the Moabitish women and Israel; and thus draw the people of Israel into an illicit connexion with them. And this once established, the Israelites would, in all probability, be led to attend the Moabitish women to their sacred feasts; and thus, by conforming to their habits, they would, in a short time, be seduced to a participation with them in their idolatrous rites.
In this advice Balaam had but too well succeeded; and almost the whole of Israel were thus drawn into the sins of fornication and idolatry: to punish which, Jehovah had inflicted on them a plague, whereby no less than three and twenty thousand Israelites were slain. To avert the anger of the Most High, Moses issued an order, that the judges of Israel should “slay all those who had joined themselves to Baal-Peor, the god of Moab, and hang them up
a Numb. xxv. 13. “He was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel,” would be a good text for this
before the Lord against the sun.” In this way one thousand more were slain. Yet behold, whilst vengeance was thus executing upon the offenders, a prince of one of the tribes brought a Midianitish princess, in the very sight of Moses and of the whole congregation, to his tent, defying, as it were, the indignation both of God and man, and setting at nought all regard even to common decency: and it was on this occasion that Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the high-priest, rose up from his place, and followed them to their tent, and with his javelin pierced both of them through their bodies in the very act of sin : and thus, making, as it were, an atonement to the Divine justice, he prevailed with the Deity to stop the plague.
Now this act of his being very highly commended in the Scriptures, and being replete with instruction proper to this occasion', I shall point out,
I. The importance of zeal in a general view.
II. The excellence of it as displayed in the history before us.
I. Zeal in itself may be either good or bad according to the object to which it is directed. Hence the Apostle limits his commendation of it by this particular consideration; “ It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.” If exercised in a bad cause, it only precipitates a person to the commission of greater evil : but, when put forth in the prosecution of a good object, it facilitates the attainment of the end proposed. Without zeal, nothing that is at all difficult can be accomplished. From whatever our indifference arise, it can never succeed in any arduous undertaking. If we be indolent in study, we can never make any great proficiency either in art or science. There may be, it is true, a brightness of genius which shall enable a person to shine amongst his fellows without much labour : but he will be
b An Assize Sermon, at Cambridge, March 12, 1831, just after riotous combinations against agricultural machinery, together with most destructive incendiarism, which had prevailed in many parts of the country, were put down by a special commission at Winchester.
altogether superficial in his knowledge, and will soon betray his want of diligence by the slenderness of his attainments. The same will be found true in every department of life. It is “ the diligent hand alone that maketh rich.” It is not always found indeed that labour, however great, is crowned with success: but where eminence in any arduous pursuit is attained, we may be sure that great zeal has been exercised in the prosecution of it. Who ever enlightened the world with discoveries in philosophy, without having first devoted much time to study, and laboured hard for the furnishing and enriching of his own mind ? Even success in attainments of a lower order is not gained without much previous exertion in that particular line in which the effort is made. In the Grecian games, for instance, a long course of selfdenying labour was necessary to enable any man to rise above his competitors, and to secure the distinction at which he aimed. So in every thing, if a man would either benefit others, or distinguish himself, he must put forth zeal in the prosecution of the end which he has in view. Had Phinehas not felt more deeply than others the dishonour done to God, and stirred himself more resolutely to avenge his cause, he had neither turned away God's wrath from Israel, nor obtained for himself the commendation given him. It was his zeal for God that put him forth beyond all others, and that has rendered him an example to mankind to the remotest ages of the world.
This zeal of his forms the chief subject of our present discourse, and therefore we shall point out,
II. The excellence of it as displayed in the history before us.
To view his conduct aright, we must consider him as performing a magisterial act of piety towards man, and a ministerial act of piety towards God; in both which points of view it is highly commended to us by God himself.
See it as a magisterial act of justice towards man.
Magistrates are appointed by Almighty God as his vicegerents in the government of the world. They are set over their fellow-creatures for the preservation of order, to give protection to the peaceable, and to punish those who, by any evil deeds, would interrupt the welfare of the community. They are to exercise authority for him; being his ministers for good to the people over whom they are placed; nor are they to bear the sword in vain, but to be “revengers in his name to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Now it is obvious that when iniquity abounds, and is sanctioned and upheld, not only by the multitude, but by persons of distinction and power, it is no easy matter for a magistrate to discharge his duty aright. On the one hand, he is afraid of appearing singular, and of having his interposition ascribed to unworthy motives; and, on the other hand, he is apprehensive that he shall fail in his efforts to withstand the evils which he deplores. He sees others, perhaps, as willing as himself to lament the reigning corruption, but not willing to incur the odium of standing forth as reformers, and of exerting their power for the correction of it. He knows how much more ready all will be to blame his zeal, than to commend it: and therefore he is disposed rather to wait till he can find others to co-operate with him, than by extraordinary and unaided efforts to put to shame those who draw back from their duty, and are destitute of that zeal which he feels it incumbent on him to employ.
This was the state of Phinehas. He was but a young man, and therefore might be condemned as officious, and unbecomingly obtrusive. The offenders too were persons of the highest rank in the nations to which they belonged : and the elder rulers, who, together with him, were witnesses of this horrible impiety, were all either intimidated or stupified; so that not one of them felt disposed to avenge the cause of Israel and of God on these flagrant transgressors.
But he would not wait for others. He would discharge his duty at all events; and whatever
c Rom. xiii. 1-4.