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things, I said, return, O thou backsliding Israel! for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and will not keep anger forever. I will take you, one of a city and two of a family, and bring you to Zion; and will give you pastors according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
Thus far the prophet, in a tender and affectionate strain, hoping to win and to allure his people to repentance. But finding all arguments of persuasion ineffectual to move their hardened hearts, he soon afterwards assumes the voice of terror and judgment, and breaks forth in the deepest agitation of soul, on a nearer view of that ruin which he saw ready to involve them.
My* bowels! my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise within me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried, for the whole land is spoiled—I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish of her that bringeth forth her first child; even the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself and spreadeth forth her hands; saying, Woe is me now, for my soul is wearied because of murderers !"
At lion out of the forest shall slay my people. A leopard shall watch over their cities, and every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces. I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel. It is a mighty nation whose language thou knowest
not; a people* that cometh from the north country; rising up from the sides of the earth; who lay hold of the bow and the spear; whose voice roareth like the sea; who are cruel and have no mercy; at whose fame
your hands shall wax feebles, and they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat.”
“ And when it shall be said, Wherefore doth the Lord these things unto us? You shall answer, Like as ye have forsaken me and served strange gods in your own lands; so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours. For, fear ye not me, saith the Lord? Will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree that it cannot pass it? But this people are more unruly than the sea itself.” They are revolted and quite gone. As a fountain casteth o't her waters, so Jerusalem casteth out her wickednesst”—“ They trust in lying words; saying the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord! They steal, they murder, they commit adultery, and swear falsely and walk after other gods; and then they come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name;" as if the bare profession of religion would justify them in “ all these abominations—But I will cast them out of my sight, as I have cast out all their brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore, pray not thou for them; neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me; for I will not hear thee-They|| slide back by a perpetual back-sliding; they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return;" they are even more stupid than the brute creation
+ Chapter V.
|| Chapter VIII.
" For the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgments of the Lord,” nor regard the merciful visitations of my power! Why, then, should they say “ we are wise, and the Law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it, and the pen of the scribes is vain.” Where is their wisdom, when the very fowls of the air reproach them with folly; observing the times and the seasons; while this people is deaf to all the calls of my providence. They boast that my “ Law is with them,” and value themselves upon the many exalted privileges which I have given them. But what do these avail, unless to increase their guilt? The Law is become as a dead letter, when it produces no effect upon the life and morals. In vain have I given it to them, and the pen of their scribes has preserved it in vain. For where are its fruits? Look at those who are called wise men, Behold, “ they are ashamed; they are dismayed; they are taken;" All their schemes are unsuccessful. " There is no wisdom in them;" and how should there be any, seeing, “they have rejected the word of the Lord,” which is the only foundation of all wisdom? They are all corrupt; “ from the least even to the greatest they are given unto covetQusness;” and, what is worst of all, the very priests and prophets, who should probe the sore to the bot. tom, are content with some transient or superficial
They heal the hurt slightly,” and leave it ready to break out again the next moment. They are either as corrupt as the rest; or, from sordid views of popularity, they are afraid to stem the torrent. Rather than offend, by an honest discharge of duty, they stoop to sooth the people in their folly, Instead of proclaiming the true doctrines of everlasting peace and salvation, they treacherously proclaim false peace, where there is no peace to be found.
Seeing, then, such is their state that all remedy is despaired of, and they wholly refuse to be instructed by all that has happened to them; what remains but a fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation?—" My* soul shall depart from them. Jerusalem shall be made desolate, a land not inhabited-1 will give their wives to others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them”.
Tremendous threatening! which was soon afterwards fulfilled, and is now recorded for our admoni. tion. And oh! that we may be enabled to make a right use of it; bringing it home to our hearts and our bosoms, in the present dubious state of our affairs; admiring and adoring that divine goodness, which thus calls us to avoid our own destruction, by placing before us the errors and example of others !
The bounds which I have prescribed to this discourse would not permit me to enter into a more par. ticular account of the Jewish nation; but the verses which I have selected are sufficiently expressive of their state and character, previous to their falling
• Chap. VI.
under those. desolating judgments, which the Lord thought fit to denounce against them in the text.
It remains, then, that we now proceed to make some inquiry into our own state by way of parallel; which was the second thing proposed.
In doing this, let us follow the words of soberness and truth; equally abstaining from vain scepticism on the one hand, and weak credulity on the other; neither arrogating to ourselves virtues which we have not, nor terrifying ourselves with vices, to which our consciences may yet be happily strangers. I grant that prophecies are now probably ceased, and these verses may have had their accomplishment. But their spirit and meaning still remain; and the same causes will produce the same effects in every age. If, therefore, we find any similitude in them to our own state at present, we cannot be unaffected at the consequences; and we must be blind indeed, if we so far flatter our. selves as to think there is none. On the contrary, is it possible to read them, without imagining that we hear our heavenly Father kindly addressing a great part of them to ourselves, with little variation of words, in the manner following?
Oh Britons and Protestants! I remember, saith the Lord, the days of your youth, “ when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. You were then holiness to me, and the first fruits of my increase.” I brought you forth into this remote country, as an infant people, as a chosen seed; purposing, through you, to extend my kingdom to the uttermost parts of this American world. have heard with your ears, and your fathers have