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Preached November 20, 1720.
The Voice of the Rod.
MICAH VI. 9.
the rod, and who hath appointed it.
AWFUL indeed was the complaint which Jeremiah once made to God against Israel: O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock. Jer. v. 3. Here is a view of the last period of corruption; for however insuperable the corruption of men may appear, they sin less by enmity than dissipation. Few are so consummately wicked as to sin solely through the wantonness of crime. The mind is so constantly attached to exterior objects, as to be wholly absorbed by their impression; and here is the ordinary source of all our vice. Have we some real, or some imaginary advantage? The idea of our superiority engrosses our whole attention; and here is the source of our pride. Are we in presence of an object congenial to our cupidity? The sentiment of
pleasure immediately fills the whole capacity of the soul; and here is the source of our intemperance: it is the same with every vice. Have you the art of gaining the minds of men, of recalling their wandering thoughts; and of reclaiming them to duty; you will acknowledge, that the beings you had taken for monsters, are really men, who, as I said, sin less by malice than dissipation.
But of all the means calculated to produce the recollection so essential to make us wise, adversity is the most effectual. How should a man delight his heart with a foolish grandeur; how should he abandon himself to pride, when all around him speaks his meanness and impotency; when appalled by the sight of a Sovereign Judge, and burdened by his heavy hand: he has no resource but humility and submission? How should he give up himself to intemperance when afflicted with excruciating pains, and oppressed with the approaches of death? When, therefore, adversity is unavailing; when a people equally resist the terrific warnings of the prophet, and the strokes of God's hand, for whom he speaks; when their corruption is proof against mortality, against the plague, against famine; what resource remains for their conversion? This was, however, the degree of hardness to which the Jews, in Jeremiah's time, had attained. O, Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive instruction; they have made their faces harder than a rock.
O Lord, thou hast stricken them. My brethren, the first part of our prophet's words is now accomplished
in our country, and in a very terrific manner. Some difference the mercy of God does make between us, and those neighbouring nations, among whom the plague is making so dreadful a progress; but though our horizon is not yet infected, though the breath of our hearers is not yet corrupt, and though our streets present not yet to our view heaps of dead, whose mortal exhalations threaten the living, and to whose burial, those who survive are scarcely sufficient, we are nevertheless under the hand of God; I would say, under his avenging hand; his hand already uplifted to plunge us into the abyss of national ruin. What else are those plagues which walk in our streets? What is this mortality of our cattle which has now continued so many years? What else is this suspension of credit, this loss of trade, this ruin of so many families, and so many more on the brink of ruin? O Lord, thou hast stricken them. The first part then is but too awfully accomplished in our country.
I should deem it an abuse of the liberty allowed me in this pulpit, were I to say, without restriction, that the second is likewise accomplished; But they have not grieved. The solemnity of the day; the proclamation of our fast; the whole of these provinces prostrated to-day at the feet of the Most High; so many voices crying to heaven, O thou sword of the Lord, intoxicated with blood, return into thy scabbard ; all would convict me of declamation, if I should say, O Lord thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved.
But, my brethren, have we no part in this reproach? Have we felt as we ought, the calamities that God hath sent? Come to-day Christians; come and learn of our prophet to hearken to the voice of God. What voice? The voice strong and mighty; the voice which lighteneth with flames of fire; the loud voice of his judgments. Hear ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it.
My brethren, on the hearing of this voice, what sort of requests should we make? Should we not say, as the ancient people, Let not the Lord speak to us lest we die? No, let us not adopt this language.- -0 great God, the contempt we have made of thy staff, when thy clemency caused us to repose in green pas❤ tures, renders essential the rod of thy correction. Now is the crisis to suffer, or to perish. Strike, strike, Lord, provided we may be converted and saved. Speak with thy lightning; speak with thy thunder; speak with thy flaming bolts; but teach us to hear thy voice. Speak, Lord, for thy servants hear. And you, my brethren, Hear ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it. Amen.
This, in substance, is,
I. To feel the strokes of God's hand:
II. To trace their consequences and connections: III. To examine their origin and cause :
IV. To discover their resources and remedies. This is to comply with the exhortation of Micah ; this is to shelter ourselves from the charge of Jeremiah; this is especially to comply with the design of this solemnity. If we feel the strokes of God's hand, we shall shake off a certain state of indolence in which VOL. VIII,
many of us are found, and be clothed with the sentiments of humiliation: this is the first duty of the day. If we trace the consequences and connection of our calamities, we shall be inspired with the sentiments of terror and awe: this is the second disposition of a fast. If we examine their orign and cause, we shall be softened with sentiments of sorrow and repentance: this is the third disposition of a fast. If we, lastly, discover the remedies and resources, we shall be animated with the sentiments of genuine conversion: this is the fourth disposition of a fast. It is by reflections of this kind that I shall close these solemn duties, and make, if I may so speak, the application of those energetic words addressed to us by the servants of God on this day.
I. Hear ye the rod feel the strokes with which you are already struck. There is one disposition of the mind which may be confounded with that we would wish to inspire. The sensation of these calamities may be so strong in a soul, as to overspread the mind with a total gloom and dejection. The soul of which we speak, feasts on its grief, and is wholly absorbed in the causes of its anguish. The privation of a good once enjoyed, renders it perfectly indifferent as to the blessings which still remain. The strokes which God has inflicted, appear to it the greatest of all calamities. Neither the beauties of nature, nor the pleasures of conversation, nor the motives of piety, have charms adequate to extinguish, nor even to assuage anguish which corrodes and consumes the soul. Hence those torrents of tears; hence those deep and frequent sighs; hence those loud and bitter com