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took up this pathetic lamentation over them; which leads us to notice I. The instability of man
Man in his best estate is a weak and frail creature. But “Ephraim” (who had cast off the worship of God) and “Judah” (who retained the form but without the power of godliness) may properly be considered as characterizing two different descriptions of persons, namely; mere nominal Christians, and those who make some profession of religion. We shall therefore notice the in. stability 1. Of merely nominal Christians
[However men may have shaken off all regard for God, there have been times when they entertained some good desires, and some purposes of amendment. They did not always sin with the same ease that they now do. We may appeal to all, whether there has not been some period of their life when their mind was comparatively tender, and when they felt, in some little measure, the importance of preparing for death and judgment?
But these seasons have passed away without any permanent effect; and the appearances of good have altogether vanished. Fitly therefore are they compared to a morning cloud, and to the early dew: for, as in a season of drought the morning clouds, which seemed to portend rain, are soon scattered; and the dew, which seemed a welcome substitute for rain, is exhaled, before it has penetrated to the roots, and thereby the expectations of the husbandman are disappointed; so it is withi them; their vows are forgotten, their consciences are become callous, and all prospect of their conversion is annihilated.b] 2. Of many who make a profession of religion
[Many, like those addressed in the text, have at some time appeared penitent, and have excited both in themselves and others a hope that they would one day be faithful followers of the Lamb. But they have “ left off to behave themselves wisely." “ The cares of this world, or the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust of other things," have turned them aside ; so that they are as barren and unfruitful as if they had never professed themselves the Lord's people.
How many have there been in every age who have thus made shipwreck of their faith!” And how many amongst
See this exemplified in Pharaoh, Exod. x., 16, 28. in the Israel. ites, Exod: xxxiii. 4. with Ps. Ixxviii. 34*31. in Felix, Acts xxiv. 25, 27. Vol. IV.
ourselves perhaps, have declined from the ways of God, and given reason to fear that “ their last end will be worse than their beginning!"
These are yet more strictly conformed to the images in the text, inasmuch as the hopes and prospects they afforded were more flattering, and the state in which they are left, is more desperate and afflictive.] No subject whatever reflects more light than this
upon II. The forbearance of God
We must not suppose that God is really at a loss what to do, since both his wisdom and power are infinite. But the expressions in the text import
1. That he is extremely averse to punish us as we deserve
[Our provocations against him have been such as nothing but infinite patience could have endured. He complains of us that “we have wearied him," and that “he is pressed under us as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves." He appeals to us that he has omitted nothing on his part that could tend to our good:e and expostulates with us respecting our obstinacy in destroying ourselves. When there seems scarcely any hope left, he declares that he cannot endure the thought of riving us up:8 and, in the words before us, intimates the perplexity of his mind halting between his duty as a lawgiver, and his inclinations as a parent. Well may it be said of him, that “ judgment is his strange work;" for his whole conduct towards us shews, that he is " slow to anger and rich in
2. That there is nothing he can do consistently with his own honour which he is not ready to do for our sal. vation
[He cannot save us in an impenitent state: that would be a violation of his justice, his holiness, and his truth. But if we would repent, he would forgive us for his dear Son's sake: if we would
pray to him for his holy Spirit, he would renew us, sanctify us, establish us. Whatever his wisdom could devise for our good or his power execute, he would be ready to effect, if only we would “cleave to him with full purpose of heart.”
• See instances of this also in Demas. Compare Philem. 24. with 2 Tiin. iv. 10, See also I Tim. i. 19. and ii. 6. and v.
12, 15. and % Tiin. ii. 18. and iv. 4.
u Mal. ii. 17. Amos ii. 13. e Mic. vi 3. Jer. ii. 5. Isaiah v. 4. f Eżek. xxxiii. ll. $tius. si. 7, 8. # Isaiah xxviij. 21. i Neh. ix, 17.
How strongly is this intimated in the tender manner of his address, “0 Ephraim, 0 Judah,” as though he spoke to every one of us severally by name; and by the repetition of that question, “ What shall I do unto thee?" Let a reciprocal tenderness be excited in our hearts towards him; and both the grounds and consequences of his anger shall be soon re, moved.] ADDRESS 1. Those whose goodness has altogether vanished
[How many have reason to look back with shame, and to say, “? O that it were with me as in months passed!"" Once you felt some concern about your soul; but now you are regardless of your eternal interests: once you had some prospect of heaven; but now you have none at all. Consider what a melancholy state this is; and that, if you continue in it till you go to the bar of judgment, your condition will be most desperate for ever. Be assured that God will be at no loss how to deal with you then: there will be no longer any conflict in his mind between wrath and pity: abused patience will demand your punishment; and that punishment shall correspond with your iniquity: Othat you were wise, and would consider your latter end!] 2. Those who are yet in an hopeful way
[Some there are, we trust, over whom the clouds are yet suspended, and the dew is yet lying with prolific virtue. O beg of God, that no wind of temptation may dispel the one, no sun of persecution exhale the other. “Remember Lot's wife:" and watch against every thing that may impede your progress, or shake your constancy. Be much'in prayer, that God would "carry on his good work within you, and perform it to the day of Christ.” Guard as much against self-dependence as against the grossest of sins: for “ God is a jealous God," and will leave you to learn by bitter experience what is in your heart, if you trust in an arm of flesh.m “ Trust in him only, and with your whole heart;" and he will“ perfect that which concerneth you," and“ preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom.”]
* Job xxix. 2.
Compare Hos. xii. 3. with the text.
CCCCXIV. AGAINST HYPOCRISY.
Job xx. 447. Knowest thou not this of old, since man was
placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet he shall perish for ever, like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?
PREJUDICE or passion will miserably warp the judgment
It will hide from us what we might know, and cause us to pervert what we do know
Never was this more strongly exemplified than in the friends of Job
Had they calmly considered, they might have com. " forted him in his affliction
But, by a hasty misapplication of acknowledged truths, they most unjustly and cruelly condemned him,
Job had hinted to them the evil and danger of their conduct
And Zophar, irritated at the caution, replies with great severity—
His words however, though misapplied, suggest to us two very important truths respecting sinners 1. Their prosperity is transient
Of sinners, some make no profession of religion, and others a false profession
Each of these characters may enjoy, for awhile, great prosperity
[The profane are often exalted to places of dignity and power
They prosper in all their labours for wealth and prefermentThey not only despise, but perhaps persecute the godly,
They "triumph,” as though no evil should ever happen unto them
This the Psalmist saw with deep regrett
They are objects of envy to many an humble and contrite soulad
They will boast of experiences which might well be coveted
* Job xix, 28, 29.
b Ps. lxxiii. 3- 12.
c Rev. iii. 1.
And even attain considerable heights of joyd
Their “ excellency may mount up to the heavens, and their heads reach unto the clouds”-] But their prosperity will be of short duration
[Death will speedily seize upon the most stout-hearted sinner
Then all, which he gloried in, shall come to an end
None of his “ pomp shall follow him," or his “ wealth be carried with him”
The hypocrite also shall have a period put to his dissimulationHe shall soon appear
in his proper character The all-seeing God will discover the secrets of his heartNor is this time at any great distance In comparison of eternity, the duration of his joy will be « but a moment”]
Then will they experience a sad reverse II. Their ruin will be tremendous
The ungodly will in due time be visited for their offences
They will then “perish”
Many portions of scripture appear to us indelicate-
They will perish under.circumstances of disgrace and ignominy
Christ will not deign to own them before his Father
The saints would even " thrust them out of heaven" if they should seek admittance there
The damned themselves will insult them with bitter tauntsk.
Nor shall they ever cease to be objects of contempt and abhorrence
This is told us in the plainest terms
Nor while they retain, as they must, their character, is it possible that their situation ever should be changedm-] 2. To the astonishment of all that knew them
[The question “Where is he?” refers primarily to the utter extinction of the ungodly
& Matt. xiii. 20.
e Deut xxxii. 35. & Compare Rev. iii. 16. with the text. i Luke xiii. 28.
k Isaiah xiv. 9-16. I Prov. xii. 5. Dan. xii. 2.
f2 Pet. ii. 22. b Matt. x.
in Rev. xxij. II.