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and great commandment in the law; and Providence enforceth what the law demands. God speaks to us by his works as well as by his word; both are bis messengers; and it often happens, that the signs of the one are as expressive and intelligible as the language of the other. Hence a voice is ascribed to the rod by the prophet Mi. cah, (Micah vi. 9.) “ The Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name; HEAR YE THE ROD, and who hath appointed it.” Judgment is that stern messenger which speaks to us out of the whirlwind, saying, “ Why should ye be stricken any more ? Will ye revolt still more and more ?" But mercy hath a softer voice; in mildest accents it courts our return; and, with persuasive eloquence, disarms our enmity, bends the stubborn will, and captivates the heart. 66 When our wickedness corrects us, and our backslidings reprove us,” then it is expected that we should “ know and see what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God.” After this manner do his judgments teach men righteousness. But his mercies have a higher office; to them it belongs to teach men love; they represent God as truly amiable, as the most worthy object of our su. preme affection. Signal and unmerited favours, especially when conferred upon those who are not only unwor. thy of them, but who deserve the contrary, are justly compared to “coals of fire,” which melt down every thing but dross. Even the malice of Saul was so far overcome by the generosity of David, that «he lifted up his voice and wept, and said unto David, Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil." Now of this kind are all God's favours towards us. And shall favours of such a nature be heaped upon us in vain ? Surely, when he whom we had offended, most basely offended, is not only merciful, but bounteous also; when he not only spares us, but even loads us with benefits; our hearts must be impenetrable, and void of all feeling, if they are not subdued to the love, as well as to the admiration, of such amazing generosity. We have been prais. ing God for his goodness; but praise without love can never ascend to his throne with acceptance. Let us therefore take good heed unto ourselves, that we love the Lord our God; and the rather because,
In the second place, We are in danger of perverting his goodness to a very different purpose. The caution given in the text plainly implies this; and the subsequent history of the Jewish nation as plainly proves that the caution was necessary.
We read in the book of Judges, that, after the death of Joshua, “ there arose another generation, which knew not the Lord, and they forsook the God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and served other goils.” This monstrous ingratitude Moses had suspected, and left many warnings on record to guard them against it. “ It shall be,” said he in one place, 66 when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities which thou buildedst not, and houses full of all good things which thou filledst not, and wells which thou diggedst not, and vineyards and olive-trees which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and are full, then beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt and from the house of bondage.” And in another place, after recounting many temporal blessings which God had promised to bestow upon them, he thus concludes: 6 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deVOL. I.
ceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them.” “ But Jesburun waxed fat and kicked, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation.” Israel, that was humble in the wilderness, tame and tractable in those lean pastures, grew proud and wanton in fruit. fal Canaan. When “they sucked honey out of the rock," as the prophet expresses it, 6 and did eat the fat of lambs, and kidneys of wheat, then said they, We are lords, we will come no more unto thee."
That prosperity should bave another and very different effect upon us, I have already endeavoured to show; and, blessed be God, examples of a wise and laudable improvement of prosperity are not altogether wanting. It is recorded to the honour of the good king Jehoshaphat, (2 Chron. xvii. 5, 6.) who had silver and gold in abundance, that “his heart was lifted up in the way of God's commandments.” If we read the beginning of the 18th Psalm, in connexion with the title prefixed to it, we shall discover another amiable instance of the most exact obedience to the command in my text. The title runs in these words: A Psalm of David, the ser. vant of the Lord, who spake unto the Lord the words of this song, in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul ; and he said, (verse 1.) “ I will love thee, O Lord, my strength." But few, alas! comparatively speaking, walk in the steps of these holy men. Even a pious Hezekiah “ rendered not again according to the benefits done unto him, but his heart was lifted up;" for which cause there came wrath upon himself, and upon Judah, and upon Jerusalem."
Great indeed is our national felicity; but equally great is our danger of abusing it. Scarcely had the Israelites escaped from the house of bondage, when those
very spoils they had recovered from their task-masters were formed into an idol, which they basely worshipped in place of that God, whose outstretched arm had wrought their deliverance. And is it not possible, my brethren, that the fruits of that success with which God bath been pleased to favour us, may, by a like abuse, be perverted into weapons of rebellion against bimself? Luxury is the common attendant upon affluence : This unfits the mind for serious thinking, and breeds a cold. ness and indifference towards spiritual things; in consequence of which, a secret disaffection to those laws which would restrain bim, soon takes root in the heart of the sensualist, till, wearied with the struggle betwixt reason and appetite, be at length sets himself in opposition to God and bis ways; reproaches, with the names of ostentation or hypocrisy, all serious religion and godliness in others; turns away his eyes from the light that reproves him, and even doth what he can to extinguish it altogether. Thus doth “ the prosperity of fools destroy them :"-"When men see no changes, they fear not God." What reason then have we to join trembling with our mirth, and to take good heed unto ourselves, lest our table become a snare to us, and the uncommon blessings we have received, instead of heightening our love, should cause us to forget the hand that bestowed them, and prove the means of alienating our hearts from God! To prevent this, let me beg your attention to what I have further to offer, in the
Third and last place, That to love the Lord our God, is not only the return he expects for his benefits, but the return he demands. It is not only just and reasonable in its own nature, but it is likewise absolutely necessary on our part; nay, it is the one thing needful; the withholding of which shall unavoidably be attended with the most fatal consequences,
This expresses the true spirit of the charge, and was certainly the important truth that Joshua meant to convey to his hearers. His great aim was to remind them, in the first place, that all the past successes were entirely owing to the favour of the Most High; and, next, to persuade them, that upon the continuance of his Almighty protection, their future prosperity would solely depend. He exhorts them indeed, (verse 6) to be “very courageous.” But for what end? Was it only to fight against men ? No; it was also that, in opposition to all dangers and difficulties of what kind soever, they might steadfastly obey the Lord their God.“ Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom, to the right hand or to the left.” And then, says he, (verse 10.) “One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is be that fighteth for you." But he adds, in the verses following my text, “ If ye go back, and transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, know for a certainty, that the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against you, and ye shall quickly perish from off the good land which he hath given you." Accordingly, we are told, in the second chapter of the book of Judges, that when the succeeding generation forsook the Lord, and served other gods, " then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about; so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies, and they were sore distressed.” Now ali these things happened to them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. God is always the same; he is “in one mind, and none can turn him.” His love to righite