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ways of religion, of which we have known so much, and for which we have so many means of improvement.
Ver. 11. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered,
Until the cities. be wasted without inhabitants, and the
houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate; 12. And the Lord have removed men far away, and there
be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
Now this judgment fastening, was sure to draw on all other judgments ; therefore the Prophet, touched with compassion, inquires, How long ? and receives a very sad answer, Until the cities be wasted. God is sovereignly free in this; but usually he keeps that course, that long continued and spared sinning makes long continued calamities when they come : Judgments, as the ancients thought comets to be, are as lasting as the matter is they are kindled with; and truly, upon this account, we may justly apprehend that our troubles are but just beginning, rather than near their end; yet, repentance might prevail for the shortening them; these sweet showers soonest lay the stormy winds.
And this consideration may have something hopeful in it, that in these latter times things move something more speedily, as natural motions do towards their end; for a short work will God make upon the earth, as the Apostle's word is; and we see in our particular straits that were greatest, that the Lord hath made them short ever. beyond our expectation ; and what remains, is in his hand. I trust he will hasten the defeat of the plots, and power of his enemies ; and doubt not all the late and present commotions of these poor kingdoms, are the birth-pangs of a happy deliverance and peace; and, when they grow thickest, it is nearest the birth.
How long?] Observe the compassion of the messengers of God,, not desiring the evil day, but mourning for it, pitying those they denounce judgenient against, and melting for those they harden.
Till the cities be wasted.] This intimates there would be no relenting under all these judgments. but that these, as well as the word, and together with it, would harden them more, tilf they were almost quite consumed ; and this is usual ; men think it would be otherwise ; but it is found, times of great plagues and judgments are no times of great conversion; but men are more hardened both against word and rod; their spirits grow stiff and obdured in a kind of desperation ; but mercy, coming as the spring sun-shine, mollifies and dissolves, and makes fruitful; therefore, such a day is to be longed for. I suspect we shall not see much done by the gospel till then ; and before that, we may suffer yet more dismal things, and be wasted with pestilence, sword, and famine; yet there is comfort in this, the Lord will not make a full end of us; a tenth shall be left ; and if not we, yet at least our posterity shall the sweet fruits of our bitter calamities, that are the just fruits of our iniquities.
Ver. 13. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall re
turn, and shall be eaten; as a teil-tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves, so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
There is still a remnant holy to God, the preservers of a land from utter ruin. Profane persons despise the children of God, and know not that they are beholden to them for the subsistence of the land, and of the world ; they are as these oaks, whose roots did bear
up the earth of that high-way that went between the king's house and the temple, as the resemblance is taken by some.
In judgments, the Lord remembers that; Destroy it not, there is a blessing in it. As for the personal condition of believers, there may be a great decay ; a winter visage may be upon it; but yet the holy seed abideth in them, and is their stability; and still that word is true that is borrowed hence, semen
sanctum, statumen terræ; “ the holy seed, the subsistence or establishment of the earth.” When their number is completed, time shall end, and this visible world shall be set on fire: and this day is hastening forward, though most of us think but little, if at all, of it.
ROMANS XII. 3–12.
Ver. 3. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every
man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
ESIDES the common word of edification im
plying it, we find often, in the Scriptures, teaching compared to building; and, amongst other things, the resemblance holds in this, that in both, of necessity, there is a foundation first to be laid, and then the structure to be raised upon it. He that gives rules of life, without first fixing principles of faith, offers preposterously at building a house without laying a foundation; and he that instructs what to believe, and directs not withal a believer how to live, doth in vain lay a foundation, without following out the building : But the Apostles were not so foolish builders, as to sever these two in their Jabours in the Church. In this epistle, we find our Apostle excellently acquitting himself in both these. He first largely and firinly lays the ground-work, in the foregoing part of the epistle ; now he adds exhortations and directions touching the particular duties of Christians.
The first thing, certainly, to be done with a soul, is to convince it of sin and death, then to address and lead it in to Christ, our righteousness and life; this done, it should be taught to follow him : This is Christianity, to live in Christ, and to live to Christ; to live in him by faith, and to live to him in holiness ; these our Apostle joined in his doctrine“; There is therefore now no condemination to them which are in
a Chap. viii. 1.
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The exhortation that begins this chapter, hath in it the whole sum of Christian obedience, fitly expressed, and strongly urged ; and in that are all particular rules comprised.
But because of our ignorance and our sloth, we do not always readily draw forth particulars from these comprehensive general rules wherein they lie; we need therefore to be assisted in this; and to this the Scriptures descend, particularly the Apostles, in their Epistles, and that usually in the latter part of them ; and this is a main part of our duty in preaching the word, often to represent these rules to you, not so much that you may understand them better, though somewhat of this likewise may be needful, as that you may remember them, and eye them more, and walk according to them; and there is no more in these things truly known, than what is known after this manner. I have endeavoured, in the course of my teaching, to reach this end: My design, and I hope yours likewise, hath been, not to pass so much time, nor to pass it with empty delight, which in other things might be done at an easy rate, but that you be really built up heavenwards, and increase with the increase of God; that the truth and power of Christianity may possess our hearts, and grow there, and may be evident in our lives, to the glory of our Lord Jesus.
We shall endeavour to lay before you the particular graces that are the ornaments of Christians; and this, not that you may look on them simply, and commend them, but may pursue them, and be clothed with them, and then they will be much more comely and commendable ; as a robe of rich apparel, if it seem fine while it hangs or lies by, it appears far better when it is put on.
The rules the Apostle is to give, he prefaces thus, For I say, through the grace given to me, I speak as the Messenger or Apostle of Christ, according to that knowledge and experience that he hath given