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extreme degrees of wickedness; so that the divine SERM. patience had long endured and attended upon men
LXIX. before the resolution of thus punishing them was taken up; the which also was not at first peremptory and irreversible, but in God's design and desire it was revocable; for the world had a long reprieve after the sentence passed; execution was deferred till Noah's long preaching of righteousness, and denouncing of judgment in a manner so notorious and signal, (not by verbal declarations only, but by the visible structure of the ark,) could prevail nothing toward their amendment, but was either distrusted or disregarded, and perhaps derided by them. For, , as St. Peter tells us, they were disobedient, when 1 Pet. iii. once the longsuffering of God waited in the days 2 Pet. ii. 5. of Noah, while the ark was preparing; that is, (as is collected by several interpreters from the text of the story,) during no less than one hundred and Gen. vi. 3. twenty years; a competent time for their recollecting themselves, and endeavouring by amendment of life to prevent the ruin threatened to come upon them. Yet notwithstanding that, this obstinate and incorrigible disobedience did so much displease God, as that in consideration thereof God is said to have repented that he made man on the earth, and to Gen. vi. 6. have been thereby grieved at the heart : yet did he so temper his anger as not utterly to destroy mankind, but provided against its total ruin, by preserving one family as a seminary thereof; preserving the father thereof (questionless by a special grace) from the spreading contagion, inspiring him with faith, and qualifying him for the favour, which by him he designed to communicate unto the world; the reparation thereof, and restoring the generations of men.
SERM. So that also through this passage of providence,
how dismal and dreadful soever at first sight, much goodness will be transparent to him that looks upon it attentively.
III. In the next place, as to that extermination
and excision of the Canaanites, which carries so Levit. xviii. horrible an appearance of severity, we may find it
qualifiable, if we consider, that for the nature of the trespasses, which procured it, they were insufferably heinous and abominable: most sottish, barbarous, and base superstitions, (cruelty and impurity being essential ingredients into their performances of religion, and it being piety with them to be exceedingly wicked,) and in their other practice most beastly lasciviousnesses, most bloody violences, oppressions, and rapines generally abounding. So that for those men themselves, who were by turns, as it happened, the authors and the objects of these dealings, it could not be desirable to continue in a state of living so wretched and uncomfortable. Impunity had been no mercy to such people, but rather a cruelty; cutting them off must needs be the greatest favour they were capable of, it being only removing them from a hell here, and preventing their deserving many worse hells hereafter. Even to themselves it was a favour, and a greater one to their posterity, whom they might have brought forth to succeed into their courses, and to the consequences of them; whom they would have engaged into their wicked customs, and their woful mischiefs. They were not so destroyed from the land, until it grew uninhabitable in any tolerable manner, and itself could not,
as it were, endure them any longer, but (as the text Levit. xviii. doth most significantly express it) did spue them
out; being like a stomach surcharged with foul or SERM. poisonous matter, which it loathes, and is pained LXIX. with, and therefore naturally labours to expel. Neither was this sad doom executed upon them till after four hundred years of forbearance ; for even in Abraham's time God took notice of their iniquity, then born and growing; and gave account of his suspending their punishment; because, said he, the Gen. xv. iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full, (that is, was not yet arrived to a pitch of desperate obstinacy and incorrigibility:) while there was the least glimpse of hope, the least relics of any reason, any regret, any shame in them, the least possibility of recovery, God stopped his avenging hand: but when all ground of hope was removed, the whole stock of natural light and strength was embezzled, all fear, all remorse, all modesty were quite banished away, all means of cure had proved ineffectual, the gangrene of vice had seized on every part, iniquity was grown mature and mellow; then was the stroke of justice indeed not more seasonable than necessary; then was the fatal sword the only proper remedy; then so with one stroke to cut off them, and their sins, and their mischiefs, and their miseries together, was an argument no less strong and clear of God's merciful goodness, than of his just anger toward them.
IV. The like account we may render of God's judgments upon the people of Israel. If we consult the prophets, who declare the state of things, the facts, the dispositions, the guilts, that brought them down from heaven, we shall see, that they came upon account of an universal apostasy from both the faith and practice of true religion; a deep corrup-Hos. xi. 9.
SERM. tion (like that in the days of Gibeah, as the proLXIX. phet Hosea speaketh) in mind and manners; an
utter perverting of all truth and right; an obstinate compliance with, or emulation of, the most abominable practices of the heathen nations about them; an universal apostasy, I say, from God and all goodness; a thorough prevalence of all iniquity. Hear
the prophets expressing it, and describing them: Jer. v. 1. Jeremiah; Run ye to and fro through the streets
of Jerusalem; see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there
be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the !s. xxiv. 5. truth; and I will pardon it. Isaiah ; The earth
is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant: Ah sinful nation! a people laden with iniquities, a seed of evil doers; children that are corrupters ! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger ; they are gone away
backward, &c. Thus do these and other pro
phets in a like strain describe in the gross the state Ezek. xxii. of things preceding those judgments. And in Eze
kiel (in divers places, particularly in the 8th, but especially in the 22d chapter) we have their offences in detail, and by parts (their gross impieties, their grievous cruelties, extortions, and oppressions) set out copiously, and in most lively colours. And as the quality of their provocations was so bad, and the extension of them so large, so was their condition desperate; there were no means of remedy left, no hopes of amendment; so was their forehead covered with impudence, their heart hardened with obstinacy, their minds deeply tinctured with habitual
pravity and perverseness: Can the Ethiopian change SERM. his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then may ye
LXIX. also do good, that are accustomed to do evil, saith Jer. xiii. 23. Jeremiah concerning them. All methods of reclaiming them had proved fruitless; no favourable dealings, no gentle admonition or kind instruction would avail any thing ; for it is of them the prophet Isaiah saith, Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet Isa. xxvi. will he not learn righteousness. No advices, no reproofs (how frequent, how vehement, how urgent soever) had any effect upon them. Almighty God declares often, that he had spoken unto them rising up early, but they would not hear nor regard his speech; did not only neglect and refuse, but de- Jer. XXV. 4. spise, loathe, mock, and reproach it, (turning their vi. 10. back upon him, pulling away their shoulder, stiff- u. ening their neck, and stopping their ears, that Neh, ix. they should not hear ;) that he had spread out Isa. Ixv. 2. his hands all the day long to a rebellious and xxxvi. 16. gainsaying people; to a people that (with extreme insolence and immodesty) provoked him to anger continually to his face. Nor could any tenders of mercy allure or move them: I said (God said it in Jer. iii. 7.
vii. 3. iv. I, Jeremiah) after all these things, Turn unto me ; 14. xviii
. but she returned not. Amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin ; and innumerable the like overtures we have of grace and mercy to them; all which they proudly and perversely rejected, persisting in their wicked courses: they even re-Jer. xi. 21. pelled and silenced, they rudely treated and perse
II. xxvi. 13.