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ISAIAH V. 4.
hat could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked, that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
My brethren, let none of us forget, that humiliation before God for our siris, as individuals and as a na. tion, constitutes the great business of this day. We should not have the least reason to doubt of the di. vine protection against the assaults of all our enemies; did not our manifold offences against God render us deeply deserving of his righteous indignation. - Instead, therefore, of calling your attention to partyquestions, which generally lead men to “ fast for "strife and debate,” I would attempt to assist your meditations on such subjects, as are connected with the great design of our assembling at this time. · ·
"Preached on the fast day, April 19, 1793, at the Lock Chapel.
The Old Testament is peculiarly useful, in teach. ing us the grand principles, according to which the Lord dealeth with nations, as such. Individuals will exist in another world, and “ after death is the judg. “ ment:" so that no exact retribution is awarded to them in this life, for " the wicked are reserved to the “ day of judgment to be punished:” but collective bo. dies will have no future subsisterice; and, therefore, a recompence is here appointed to them. To ascertain the method of Providence, in this respect, we must mark a very great difference between nations favoured with the light of revelation and the ordinances of GOD, and those that are destitute of them. “ Where much “ is given, much will be required;" and the same degree of impiety and vice, when found in those peculiarly favoured with the means of instruction, is vastly more criminal, and tends to fill up the measure of ini. quity much more rapidly, than when found in places destitute of such advantages.
In the passage of Scripture, from which the test jeselected, God, by his prophet, in a most beautiful parable manifests his peculiar care and favour towards Israel, especially in respect of religious advantages: “ He had given to them his statutes and ordinances; “ he had not dealt so with any nation; neither had the " heathen the knowledge of his laws.” And, as the advantage of a parable principally consists in showing as in a mirrour, the real state of the case, divested o men's own concern in it; so the LORD appealcd tc " the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the men of Judah “ to decide betwixt him and his vineyard, and to de “ termine, whether any thing could have been done in “it, which had not been done?» Why then did it bear only wild or poisonous grapes, when good grapes might have been expected from it? A similar appeal will at length be made to every man; and though now self-love warps the judgment, yet the LORD will at last condemn none, who will not be constrained to con. demn themselves, and to justify him in their condemnation.
Israel being thus brought in guilty, the Lord next proceeds to denounce sentence against the nation; de. claring that he would " take away the hedge thereof, " and it should be eaten up; and break down the walls “thereof, and it should be trodden down; that he “ would lay it waste; that it should not be pruned or “ digged, but that there should come up briars and " thorns; and that he would also command the clouds, " that they should rain no rain upon it.” The sentence, here pronounced, was not executed till about two hundred years afterwards: for Hezekiah, with Isaiah and other prophets, and afterwards Josiah and a pious remnant, by their labours and prayers prevailed, for “ the lengthening of their tranquillity;” but at length such efforts ceased, and then the sentence came upon the nation, by the Babylonish captivity. Yet it was more awfully accomplished, after the coming of CHRIST, and his crucifixion at the instance of the Jewish rulers, priests, and people, with the subsequent persecution of christianity: for then the nation was cast out of the visible church, Jerusalem was given up into the hands of the Romans, and hath ever since been trodden under foot of the Gentiles; 'the Jewys have been
scattered into all nations, and the Lord hath indeed " commanded the clouds to rain no rain upon them," even to this day. Thus they are left to be reluctant preachers to the nations professing christianity, of the truth of their holy religion, and the dreadful consequences of neglecting it.
Now should it be enquired, what people is the Is. rael of the Christian dispensation? I could not hesi. tate in answering, Britain, both in respect of advan. tages, and a rebellious ungrateful abuse of them. This may suffice to introduce our subject, and to warrant an entire application of the passage before us to our own case. Let us then consider,
I. The peculiar favours with which Providence has distinguished our native land.
II. The improvement which we ought to have made of them.
III. The wild grapes, which the Lord finds in this his vineyard.
IV. The consequence that may be expected, unless something effectual be done to prevent it.
V. To what we may attribute our preserva tion hitherto. And,
VI. What the duties are, to which we are now called, according to our different stations in the
church and the community. ' I. Then, We consider the peculiar favours with which Providence hath distinguished our native land.