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Genesis, xviii. 17, 18. " And the Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do ; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all thu nations of the earth *hall be blessed in him ?"
The Jews had a notion, that the reason ¦which induced the Lord to think it would be right to make a disclosure of his intentions to Abraham, was, that as he had promised to him and his seed the whole land of Canaan, it would, if he destroyed any part of it, unless Abraham was, in some sense, a consenting party, be a kind of a breach of the promise or covenant. But it would appear to me that we shall rind a more satisfactory explanation of it in the character of the two parties, in that, Abraham was the friend of God. Here we find a remarkable coincidence between Jehovah of the Old Testament, and the Lord Jesus Christ of the ew ; for we hear the Lord Jesus Christ saying to his disciples, " Henceforth I call you not servants ; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doth ; but I have called you friends ; for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you," — the two are exactly coincident ; and surely it is the very essence of friendship to hold back nothing that we
are empowered to communicate ; and it is thus that in the whole system of revealed truth, we are at every moment struck with the unspeakable condescension of God j " I know him," says Jehovah of
Abraham, — there is something emphatic in the expression I knoiv him, as much as to say, I know his principles, I know the fidelity of his heart, and I am convinced from that knowledge, "that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. " It is the same voice which we hear saying to Peter, " lovest thou me ? feed my sheep, feed my lambs." — 20th verse, " And the Lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous" — ow how are we to understand this expression — the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah ? Are we to understand it of the protest which was every day made by the few righteous, by one righteous family among them with respect to their ungodly doings ? Are we to understand it of that to which the apostle alludes, 2 Peter, ii. where he tells us that " Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, (for that righteous man dwelling amongst them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day, with their unlawful deeds ?") or are we to understand it of that which the prophet Ezekiel means when foretelling the impending destruc-
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tion of Jerusalem, he speaks thus, in the name of the Lord, " Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, go ye after him through the city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity ; slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children and women ; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark : and begin at my sanctuary." Surely the cry for the trials to which the children of God are not unfrequently exposed — trials that they must meet with in seeing the flood of ungodliness that surrounds them — is not lost! no, it ascends and reaches the ear of " the Lord God of Sabbaoth ;" and though their constant prayer is, that the Lord would spread his mercy far and wide, and send forth streams of holiness that may reach every individual soul in the land wherein they dwell, yet doubtless there is a cry to heaven which must proceed from the very position in which they are placed ; for the children of God and heirs of glory feel themselves strangers and pilgrims in a land where there is no sympathy for them — no common feeling ; they are a peculiar and separated people, as their Lord and Master has told them, "ye are not of the world, even as he was not of the world."
But the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah perhaps means nothing more nor less than the misery of sin : for, " there is no peace saith my God to the wicked." o man can be happy who is not at peace with God ; no man can be happy who is a slave to himself, or to his fellow-worm ; no man can be happy that is not independent of the world, that is not able to look the proud and haughty one in the face, and, however meek he may be in his conversation, does not inwardly feel a support that assures him he has gained the victory ; — without this, man is a poor wanderer, and a wearv "stumbler on the
dark mountains": it is impossible for him to please the two masters he has to serve ; he may sometimes kick against his chains, and his soul may feel indignant at its slavery : it may resent its wrongs, and sigh after its rights ; but after all, till Christ has set the soul free, man is a poor slave indeed; — this then, perhaps, was the cry of Sodom. But sin has a voice which cries in another way to God ; in fact, in a certain sense, to God all things are vocal ; the Psalmist calls on the sun and moon, on the fields, the woods, the waters — on all nature, to praise God. Every thing thus has a voice; even silence has a voice, and there is no voice that reaches God's ear more quickly than silence. When the blessed Lamb of God, to all the taunts and insults to which he was exposed, answered nothing : had not that silence a voice ? had it not a voice
more audible in the ears of God than all the loud voices which cried, " Crucify him, crucify him ?" these voices might have thundered loudly above the heads of that devoted race ; but the silence of Christ's patient suffering pierced through the dark clouds, and ascended above all heaven to the throne of God's mercy ! Yes, my brethren, that voice of silence was anticipating the cry from the cross, u Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do !" that voice was pleading for us, who have often " crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame ," for us whose actions and thoughts, if not our articulated expressions, have said, "crucify him, crucify him." That was the voice of Christ's silence. But sin has an awful cry to God ; it is its own executioner; it cries to God for vengeance. Every indulged sin, though persons might be inclined to say, " Is it not a little one?" if it be a sin of unfaithfulness, a sin of the will, a sin of the heart, cries to God for vengeance. The fact is, every man's life is, in a certain sense, a prayer ; for prayer is not merely that of words — the life prays, the " patient continuing in well doing," of
OR GOSPEL PREACHER.
the children of God is prayer ; their sincere desire for their familes — is prayer ; their being able to put their hand on i heir hearts and say, that they had rather
their children were beggars on the road with the love of God in their hearts than the rising favourites of the world, the most respectable and respected men in society, if they wanted that, without which every thing else is nothing worth ; this fidelity of the life, this true desire of the heart — is a continual prayer — and it is a most serious consideration, that the whole life of those who are double minded, who are precisely in a state to want chastisement — is a prayer that God would afflict them ; and it is an affecting thing to look on our fellow-creatures, and to see them precisely in that thoughtless, volatile frame of mind, that some heavy affliction would be the greatest blessing that God could send them. And surely it is but common sense to admit, that if there be an eternity of misery or happiness hereafter, and if we are passing into that eternity, any conceivable suffering or misery would be a blessing indeed, if it were the means of bringing us into that blessed path that leads to life eternal. The celebrated Richard Baxter says in his writings, that "nothing more deeply impressed the mercy of God upon his heart, than God's power of sending temporal afflictions, sharp and excruciating pains, trials coming from those that we fondly loved," the feeling, "how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is, to have a thankless child." But we need not speak of all the arrows with which God has wounded us, when we know, " it is good for us to be afflicted ;" God knows the tender point; he knows precisely 1 where we are most vulnerable ; he knows in mercy where to lay on the j
lashes ; and oh, I may perhaps appeal to many who now hear me, for a confirmation of this, that when God afflicts, he can afflict indeed ; and I say, it is a most awful position to stand in, that we are, as it were, with hands and eyes lifted up to
heaven, and as if our voice were continually repeating, O God, I beseech thee to afflict me, I beseech thee to send home the arrows that may pierce my heart ! It is an awful thing to have the goodness of God, the special mercy of God, the peculiar love of God directed to us as individuals, all pleading for the coming at last of the decisive measure of shutting out all earthly comfort hereafter from our souls ; and it is one of the great distinctions between those whose eyes are open and those whose eyes are closed ; that the real believer brings God home to his every day circumstances, he does not consider him, by a sort of blunder of the mind, as if he were a future God whom he was to meet in heaven, but brings him home, and knows that he it is that dispenses happy moments, happy hours, as well as he by whom his glorious and unchangeable destiny is fixed. Seeing then, that there is a voice in every thing — that we are all crying to God — that we cannot in this sense be silent, let us turn the voice inwardly and say individually, " God be merciful to me a sinner." Oh, may God induce every soul, who has not offered up that prayer, and has not the witness within himself that that prayer is heard, to offer it from his
heart now, and to offer it up, I won't say with more formality, but with a better opportunity for full fixedness on Christ, the very first time that he finds himself alone with God — For what is man till his sins are pardoned ? What is man, that is taking a mere chance for eternity ? Where is the man who does not know, if he were to reflect for a moment, that it is not a chance, but that his eternal ruin is certain — that the law is outstanding against him — that the curse is on his head this moment, unless he has fled to the blood of Christ, and found there the remission of his sins ? What would you think of the same trifling with respect to temporal things ? What would you think of the man, who, setting out on a journey to a place, where all his friends were awaiting
THE EW HUSH PULPIT,
him, where he had wealth and every comfort just ready to welcome him home, devoted himself to the conveniences of a wretched and miserable inn, and could not be got to leave it? In heart and mind, you would surely say, that man is mad. And is not that solid wisdom, compared with the state of any person that has not set his hand to the great work of eternal life — who has perhaps never
thought of doing that great business for which he was called into an imperishable existence, and sent among all the trials, and to buffet with all the waves and storms of this miserable world ! And oh, let us on the following verse, pause a moment on the character of that being that invites us to fly to him for pardon, peace, and glory. " And the Lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me ; and if not, I will know." It is not for us to form abstract theories, and to reason away the character of God, which is given us in the sacred Scriptures ; but if any thing can show unwillingness to punish ; if any thing can show a desire to see every thing in the mostfavourable light; if any thing can show an anxiety like that of a tender parent, to cleave even to the last hope that his child is not irrevocably gone, we have it in the words just read, " I will go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, and if not, I will know." — This is all speaking, I need not say, according to the manner of men ; there is no such thing as the Deity coming down in this way, but still it implies that he would look into the whole of the case, that he would be slow before he came to the resolution to send down that vengeance, for which, perhaps, the angels were crying ; that he would go down and see, whether, though what they had done was bad, it was quite as bad as it was represented to him ; and it implies, that if
there was any possibility, in consistency with his justice, of sparing that devoted city, he stood, in heart and mind, ready and disposed to spare it. Do we not find, that if there had been ten righteous within the city, that he would have spared it ? And is he then willing to punish ? Does he not wait to be gracious ? Yes, he is waiting on every one of you ; your Saviour is this moment pleading at God's right hand, that every barren tree, that every fruitless vine, may be spared another year, or at least may be spared time enough to return unto the Lord his God. Yes, perhaps the blessed Jesus is at this moment saying, " Oh, let the blow be warded oft' for a time, and I will send my Spirit, and he shall place me crucified before the view of that soul, and he shall bring home to that soul the affecting question, ' Could any thing be done to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" Yes, it shall be suggested to that soul, " greater love than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friend." " Yes, my sufferings, my bitter depth of agony shall be brought before that soul ; and as pity is next akin to love, who knows but that compassion for my sufferings may at last bring my w T andering sheep home to the household of God." ow, my beloved friends, I ask you, do you doubt the truth of this ? — Do you believe, I mean in the natural way, that Christ is now pleading at the right hand of God ? Do you believe what you say in the Creed ? and how is it that it has
not come home to your heart ? think in your mind of a beloved object, a human being that you most loved in this world, ( I mean among those that are numbered with the deadj and if you believed that that beloved object, almost forgetting the blessedness and glory into which it was cast, forgetting every thing for a moment but you, felt for you on the earth and pleaded to God for you with all tenderness ; much as you loved him before, you would feel you loved him ten times, nay a thousand times more now-
OR GOSPEL PREACHER.
And when you believe that the Being who loved you with a love we cannot conceive, with a love that brought him down from heaven — a love something like, but infinitely in degree beyond, the love which a parent has, when he sees the reflection of himself in his own child ; when you believe with your natural understanding, I say, that that Being is now carrying on the work of eternal love for you, why is it that it does not win your heart ? It is, my brethren, because you don't, in the Scriptural sense, believe — I spoke of you as believing with the natural understanding, but you don't believe with the heart — you have not that supernatural
faith that brings Christ before your minds with the power that spiritual objects can realize, when spiritually discerned — you have not that faith, and you are as much shut out from the real knowledge of things spiritual, eternal and divine, as a blind man is shut out from all the visible glories of God's creation. In some sense, it is well for those who have not given their heart to God, that they don't believe, for if they did believe — if it were possible they could believe, (though I don't mean to say it is possible they could believe without loving) why for them " Christ has died altogether in vain ;" because that great remedy has been tried and could not save their souls ; therefore I say, it is well for those who don't love God, that it may be said they don't believe. Oh then, pray for that faith — we have heard of persons being sermon-proof, but if a soul could believe on Christ and not be converted, it would be Christ-proof — but there is no such thing. If God sends you faith, (and if you pray for it faithfully he will send it,) faith will do its work ; you will see that object which can engage, can win, can secure your heart ; the great work will be done, and you will be a saved soul, a soul not waiting, as some dream, for salvation in another world, but a soul wow saved, redeemed from the curse, brought " from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God,'' led by the
hand of God, and placed upon the patli that leads to eternal life and glory.
And now, my beloved friends, the concluding part of this chapter speaks of the blessing, the incalculable blessing, that a few righteous persons would have been to the devoted and apostate Sodom and Gomorrah. I don't mean to hint at or introduce one single political consideration, but I say, would it not be a glorious thing, if we, the grace of God assisting us, were resting alone in the blood and righteousness of Christ for justification before God ; and if we would resolve to do all in faithfulness and prayer through the aid of the Holy Spirit, (which we can call down if we pray) to " perfect holiness in the fear of God," and thus, perhaps, we would find at the last day, that God had spared many for our sakes ! Oh, what happiness to meet in the other world those who would tell us that our fervent and affectionate prayer had been heard for them ! Why should we not endeavour to make these blessings ours ? — Why should we not resolve, when God invites us, to commence such unspeakable happiness? Why should we not, when He calls upon us to do so, open, as it were, the windows of our senses, and look out and see the paradise that surrounds us ? ow suppose that all of us in this congregation did resolve from henceforth to live undividedly to God's service, why out of this church, there would issue this day a little band, that might save the country ! It is nothing but unbelief that denies the possibility of this ; — Oh, if every one of us were to lay hold on eternal life and blessedness forever, why., there are enough here to save a mighty empire ; the prayers of such numbers as
are here — if every one's prayer was that of a righteous and sanctified soul — would pierce to heaven ; and the prayer of all of us should be, and it is the prayer to which I now invite you : then lift up your hearts and say, " Come Lord Jesus, come quickly !"
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