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LXIX.

Isa. Xxx
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17, &c.

SERM. cuted the prophets sent unto them with messages of

kind warning and overtures of grace; so obstructMatt. xxiii. ing all access of mercy to themselves : They say to Ezek. xviii. the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy

not unto us right things: so Isaiah reports their Acts vii. 52. proceeding. Which of the prophets did not your

fathers persecute? so St. Stephen expostulates with Isa. i. 16, them. Neither were gentler chastisements designed (Neh. ix. for their correction and cure anywise available ; 29.)

they made no impression on them, they produced Jer. ii. 30. no change in them: In vain, saith God, I have

smitten your children, they have received no corJer. v. 3. rection. And, Thou hast smitten 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, they have Isa. ix. 13. refused to return. And, The people turneth not

to him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Rom. ix. Lord of Hosts. Unto this kataptiouos eis åróleso),

this perfect fitness, (as St. Paul speaketh,) this ma-
turity of desperate and irrecoverable impiety, had
that people grown, not at once, and on a sudden,
but by continual steps of provocation, through a
long course of time, during that divine patience
sparing them, and by various expedients striving to
recover them. This consideration is frequently in-

sisted upon, especially in the prophet Jeremiah:
Jer. xxxii. The children of Israel and the children of Ju-
Xvi. 12. xi. dah have only done evil before me from their
Ezra is. 7. youth: Since the day that your fathers came forth

out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have
even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, ,
daily rising up early, and sending them; yet they
hearkened not unto me, &c. Well then, after so

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many hundred years of abused patience, and unsuc- SERM. . cessful labour to reclaim them, it was needful that

LXIX. justice should have her course upon them : yet how then did God inflict it, with what mildness and moderation, with what pity and relenting? Never- Neh. ix. 31. theless, say they in Nehemiah, for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God. And, Thou hast punished us less than Ezra ix. 13. our iniquities deserve, doth Ezra confess.

I will Hos. xi. 9. not execute the fierceness of my anger, doth God himself resolve and declare in Hosea. So mild he was as to the measure of his punishing; and what compassion accompanied it those pathetical expressions declare: My heart is turned within me, my Hos. xi. 8. repentings are kindled together. Is Ephraim my Jer. xxxi. dear son ? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him. In all their afflictions he was afflicted, &c. We Isa. Ixiii. 9. may add, that notwithstanding all these provocations of his wrath, and abusings of his patience, which thus necessitated God to execute his vengeance; yet even during the execution thereof, and while his hand was so stretched forth against them, he did retain thoughts of favour, and intentions of doing good, even toward this so ingrateful, so insensible, so incorrigible a people: For a small moment, Isa. liv. 7. saith God, have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee: I know the thoughts Jer. xxix. that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts 6,7. of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Now these things being seriously laid together, have we not occasion and ground sufficient

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11. xxxiii.

SERM. even in this instance, no less to admire and adore LXIX. the wonderful benignity, mercy, and patience of

God, than to dread and tremble at his justice ?

V. As for the last so calamitous and piteous destruction of Jerusalem, with the grievous consequences thereof, as we might apply thereto the former considerations, so we shall only observe what was peculiar in that case; that God dispensed such means to prevent it, (to remove the meritorious causes thereof, obstinate impenitency and incredulity; resisting the truth by him sent from heaven with so clear a revelation and powerful confirmation; despising the Spirit of God, and the dictates of their own conscience; basely misusing divers ways, and at last cruelly murdering the Son of God ;) such means, I

say, God did employ for the removing those provoMatt. xi. catives of vengeance, which, as our Lord himself

saith, were sufficient to have converted Tyre and Sidon; yea, to have preserved Sodom itself; so that our Saviour could with a compassionate grief deplore the unsuccessfulness of his tender affection,

and solicitous care for their welfare, in these pasMatt. xxiii. sionate terms: How often would I have gathered

thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wing, but ye would not! That St. John the Baptist's sharp reproofs, his powerful exhortations,

his downright and clear forewarnings of what would Matt. iii. follow, (Even now, said he, the axe is laid to the

root of the tree,) attended with so remarkable circumstances of his person and his carriage, (which induced all the world about him to regard him as no ordinary man, but a special instrument of God and messenger from heaven,) did yet find no effect considerable: the Pharisees and lawyers, those cor

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rupt guides, whose authority managed the blind SERM. multitude, defeating the counsel of God toward LXIX. themselves, as St. Luke speaketh, (that is, defeat-Luke vii. ing his gracious purpose of reclaiming them from disobedience, and consequently of withholding the judgments imminent,) they reviled the person of that venerable prophet; He hath a devil, said Matt. xi.18. they: they slighted his premonitions, and rejected his advices, by observing which, those dreadful mischiefs, which fell upon their rebellious heads, might have been averted. We may add, that even those fearful judgments were tempered with mixtures of favourable design, not only to the community of mankind, (which, by so remarkable a vengeance upon the persecutors of our Lord, and the scorners of his doctrine, was converted unto, or confirmed in, the Christian faith,) but even toward that people whom it served to convince of their errors and crimes ; to induce them to repentance, to provoke them unto the acknowledgment and embracing of God's truth, so palpably vindicated by him. So that I might here apply that passage of St. Paul, (if not directly and adequately according to his sense, yet with no incongruous allusion at least,) Have they stumbled, that they should fall ? Rom. xi. (or, was there no other design of God's judgments upon them but their utter ruin ?) rein yévolto No such matter ; but through their fall salvation came to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy (or emulation). And, in effect, as our Lord in the midst of his sufferings did affectionately pray for God's mercy upon them, as the apostles did offer reconciliation unto them all indifferently who would repent, and were willing to embrace it; so were such of

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11.

SERM. even in this instance, no less to admire and adore LXIX. the wonderful benignity, mercy, and patience of

God, than to dread and tremble at his justice ?

V. As for the last so calamitous and piteous destruction of Jerusalem, with the grievous consequences thereof, as we might apply thereto the former considerations, so we shall only observe what was peculiar in that case; that God dispensed such means to prevent it, (to remove the meritorious causes thereof, obstinate impenitency and incredulity; resisting the truth by him sent from heaven with so clear a revelation and powerful confirmation; despising the Spirit of God, and the dictates of their own conscience; basely misusing divers ways, and at last cruelly murdering the Son of God;) such means, I

say, God did employ for the removing those provoMatt. xi. catives of vengeance, which, as our Lord himself

saith, were sufficient to have converted Tyre and
Sidon; yea, to have preserved Sodom itself; so
that our Saviour could with a compassionate grief
deplore the unsuccessfulness of his tender affection,

and solicitous care for their welfare, in these pasMatt. xxiii. sionate terms: How often would I have gathered

thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under
her wing, but ye would not! That St. John the
Baptist's sharp reproofs, his powerful exhortations,

his downright and clear forewarnings of what would Matt. iii. follow, (Even now, said he, the axe is laid to the

root of the tree,) attended with so remarkable cir-
cumstances of his person and his carriage, (which
induced all the world about him to regard him as
no ordinary man, but a special instrument of God
and messenger from heaven,) did yet find no effect
considerable: the Pharisees and lawyers, those cor-

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37.

10.

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