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Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and ke
will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
FOR A FAST DAY.
ON RETURNING TO GOD.
THOUGH scripture were entirely silent on this head, our own sad experience might sufficiently convince us, that by nature we are estranged from God, and of consequence from true and solid happiness. The almost universal and daring impiety which prevails in the world; that open contempt of all religion which possesses one part of mankind; that carelessness and indifference which, like a deep lethargy, lulls asleep another; and that coldness, deadness, and backsliding which too frequently overtakes even God's own people, sufficiently warrant, at all times, especially upon a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, the propriety of addresses, such as that contained in my text, “ Come, and let us return un" to the Lord.” I propose, first, to explain the exhortation; and, secondly, to enforce it; particularly from the motive in the following context : “ For he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath
smitten, and he will bind us up."
First; to explain the exhortation : “ Come, “ and let us return unto the Lord;" and this exhortation, in the first place, implies, that man was once in a state of nearness unto God. This was the case of our first parent, whom “ God “ created in his own image, and after his own “ likeness," in all the dignity of innocence and enlarged understanding. When we look back to that glorious and happy period of his existence, and behold one in our own nature, qualified for the enjoyment, and actually enjoying the friend ly, the gracious presence and converse of his great Creator, with what humble rapture must our hearts burn within us, to view our fellow creature, our kindred clay, in a condition so happy, and so elevated: to view God himself, the greatest and the best of beings, the centre of all perfection, the source of all felicity,condescending to the lowness of his own creature, vouchsafing to be his guardian, his guide, his father, his friend. Then was man near unto God, while sin was as yet unknown; but nature and holiness were the same thing; while as yet the law of God was the study and delight of his rational creature; while reason and practice went hand in hand, , and conscience smiled approbation upon every action; while as yet no ignorance, error, or prejudice clouded the understanding, no perverseness or corruption domineered in the will, no disorder reigned in the affections, but the human soul was a transcript of the purity of the eternal mind. Then was man near unto God, when his desires were heavenly, when communion and fellowship with his Maker were all his delight; and this glorious state of affinity was built upon
the combined ties of the most close and the most endearing relations, even those of a gracious Creator, and an exalted, though submissive creature; a kind and benevolent father and an affectionate child; a bountiful benefactor and a grateful dependent; all the glorious attributes and perfections of the One, interested to secure and promote the happiness of the other, and all the powers and faculties of man, on the other hand, devoted to the service of his God--this was then the delightful connection, the blessed nearness between the divine and the human nature.But in the
Second place, To « return unto the Lord,” implies, that man is now naturally at a distance from God. This, experience, fatal experience, confirmed by the word of God, loudly proclaims; for though“ God made man upright, yet he hath " sought out many inventions." “ Man that was “ in honour continued not.” God, indeed, by reason of one of the most essential attributes of his nature, cannot be very far from any of us, for his omnipresence filleth heaven and earth, encompassing us behind and before, and on every hand-no where can we go without the extent of his dominions, to no place beyond the limits of his government; but, alas ! by nature we are strangers to him, and aliens from his affection: we are indeed, and must be subjects of his government; but then we are guilty rebel subjects, traitors against the dread majesty of heaven and earth: we are indeed the creatures of his almighty power; but then we are lost, apostate creatures, and altogether unworthy of his notice: we are the children of his providence; but we are stubborn,“ disobedient, and gainsaying children,” outcasts from the family of heaven, adopted children of the devil, and heirs of hell. Here every thing is reversed.
" How, is the crown “ fallen from our heads; how is the gold become “ dim, and the fine gold changed.” The present state of man is so widely different from that of primitive holiness and integrity, the constitution of his nature was so totally overturned by his fatal apostacy from his Maker; sin, like a loathsome leprosy, marring the beauty and wasting the strength of the human soul, that the once glorious and perfect child of God is hardly discoverable in the now guilty polluted slave of sin and Satan. Thus are we far removed from God. The guilty criminal naturally shuns the presence of his judge. We see the first sad effect which sin had upon our grand progenitor, Adam; it inspired him with dread and apprehension; it prompted him to fly from the face of God, whom he formerly met with humble delight: having lost the image of God, which constituted a moral nearness to him, he wanted, if possible, to create a real local distance from him, and this is the condition of man by nature to this very day. We come into the world in a state of alienation from God, for we are born in a state of pollution and defilement, with hearts and dispositions bent upon evil, and that continually, and equally averse to what is good; hence that propensity which_so early discovers itself to what is forbidden, and that backwardness and reluctance to perform our duty. From the one no bridle is able to restrain;