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ISAIAH IX. 13.
For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them;
neither do they seek the LORD of Hosts.
THE LORD sent a word unto Jacob, and it hath “ lighted upon Israel:” JEHOVAH had denounced judgments on the nation descended from the patriarchs; which had begun to be accomplished on the kingdom of Israel, by the kings of Syria and Assyria: yet the people disregarded these tokens of his displeasure. “ And all the people shall know, even Ephraim " and the inhabitants of Samaria, that say in the pride "and stoutness of heart; The bricks are fallen down, “but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores “ are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. "— Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of “Rezin against him, and join his enemies together.
* Preached on the ninth of March, 1796, being a day of fasting and humiliation.
• The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind, and 66 they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all " this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is “ stretched out still.” After all the calamities which came on Israel by these numerous enemies; still more complicated and tremendous miseries awaited the na. tion, which would terminate in their final ruin and dispersion. “For the people turneth not unto him that “ smiteth them; neither do they seek the Lord of “ Hosts.”—The text thus opened, suggests the following topicks suited to the present emergency.
I. Under affliction we should remember that the LORD smiteth us.
II. It is our duty and wisdom in this case to turn unto him.
III. As Israel of old did not, so Great Britain at present doth not, properly attend to this duty.
IV. This circumstance may well create most serious alarms, concerning the event of our present calamities.
V. The admonitions and instructions, which may by deduced from these considerations.
I. We observe, that under affliction we should re. member that the LORD smiteth us.
A vain philosophy is at present employed, to resolve all events into second causes, and impute them to men or measures: as if that God, who" doeth according “ to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the "inhabitants of the earth,” in fact did nothing; but left the universe to the established laws of nature, or the uncontrouled devices and machinations of his creatures! I would not be supposed, my brethren, to speak against philosophy; that is, the investigation of the works of God, and a sober enquiry into the ordinary rules by which he governs the world: for this conduces to an intelligent perception of his operations, and an admiring sense of this wisdom, power, justice, and goodness. But sceptical reasonings about second causes, and undue attention to instruments, exceed. ingly tend to make men overlook the first Cause, that great Agent " who worketh all in all.”
In this respect as well as others, we should learn "to speak according to the oracles of God:” for in scripture his hand is acknowledged on every occasion. “ By Naaman the Lord had given deliverance unto “Syria.” “ I inform you,” (says the apostle) “ of the " grace of God bestowed on the churches of Mace. "donia;” that is their liberality, which was the effect of divine grace.-" Thanks be to God who put the "same earnest care into the heart of Titus."* The exercise of faith leads us to view God in every object and event, to taste his love in our most common mer. cies, and to submit to his correction by whatever means it is brought upon us.
The arrogance, blasphemy, rapacity, and ambition
* 2 Kings v. 1. 2 Cor. viii. 1--3. 16, 17.
of Sennacherib can scarcely be exceeded: yet observe what the Lord says of him; “O Assyrian, the rod of " mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine in“ dignation. I will send him against an hypocritical « nation; and against the people of my wrath will I “ give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the “prey, and to tread them down as the mire of the “ streets: howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his “ heart think so."* Hezekiah and his principal assist, ants in reforming Judah were sincere and zealous:f but many of the princes, priests, and people had been mere dissemblers in their concurrence. The LORD therefore determined to employ Sennacherib, to exe. cute judgment on them for this hypocrisy; and when he lud fulfilled that commission he meant to take still more signal vengeance on him. It is vain then for us to expect success against our enemies, merely because they are infidels or atheists, if we are only nominal Christians: for the LORD commonly employs such men to correct or punish his hypocritical worshippers.
-Executioners, in general, are not the most respect. able characters; and a malefactor would act absurdly, who should hope to escape the sentence denounced against him, because he supposed the person appointed to inflict it, more criminal than himself!
The LORD smote Egypt with desolating plagues; and flies, lice, locusts, and frogs were his instruments,
* Is. 5. 5-7.
+ ? Chron. xxxi. 20, 21.
in pouring contempt, as well as vengeance, on haughty Pharaoh. But in smiting the Canaanites, he gave Joshua and Israel a charge against them. These na. tions deserved their doom; and an express commission, sealed by undeniable miracles, fully warranted all that was done against them. Yet in general, the instruments of punishment are unrighteous, though the LORD is righteous in the judgments they inflict. When the Is. raelites provoked him, the Philistines, Midianites, Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Greeks, and Romans were successively employed in smiting them: the rod of correction, or sword of vengeance was changed; but the hand that used it was the same. Nay, when domestick usurpers, tyrants, or persecutors, like Ahab, Athaliah, or Manasseh, brought calamities upon them, God made use of them as his instruments.' “ Shall “ there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done " it?"* The evil of sin is wholly from the creature; but the evil of suffering from the Lord, who thus punishes the trangressions of his offending subjects. Whether afflictions come immediately from the hand of God, as sickness, famine, pestilence, and earth. quakes; or by the intervention of men, the case in this respect is not altered. The Chaldeans and Sabeans unjustly seized on Job's property, and slew his ser. vants; fire from heaven consumed his flocks; and the wind threw down the house upon his children: yet he made no distinction, but said in general, “ The LORD