Jer. viii. 4 — 8. Thou shall say unto them, Thus saith the Lord ;
Shall they fall, and not arise P shall he turn aivay, and not
return P JVhy then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back hy
a perpetual backsliding P they holdfast deceit, they refuse to
return. I hearkened and heard ; but they spake not aright :
no man repented him of his ivickedness, saying, What have I
donep every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into
the battle. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed
times ; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe
the time of their coming : but my people know not the judg-
ment of the Lord. Hoiv do ye say. We are wise, and the
law of the Lord is ivith us P Lo, certainly in vain made he it ;
the pen of the scribes is in vain.
WHATEVER difference civilization may produce
in the external habits of men, it makes no change in
the dispositions of their minds towards God. The
advantages of religious instruction may rectify their
sentiments in many things, and raise the standard of
morals among them ; but Divine grace alone can
reach their hearts, or dispose them to devote them-
selves to the service of their Maker. Hence the un-
regenerate amongst us are, in their general charac-
ter, the same as they have been in all ages, and
under all the different dispensations of religion.
Papists and Protestants, Jews and Christians, differ
only in name, and in a few outward observances :
their hearts are all alike ; and the same warnings and
exhortations may be fitly addressed to them.
The prophet Jeremiah was commanded to expos-
tulate with the Jews upon their ivickedness, their im-
30 JEREMIAH, VIII. 4 8. [552.
penitence, their folii/, and their presumption. On these
same topics we would address ourselves to you. We
shall not however make a formal division of our dis-
course, or mark our transition from one part of it to
^.nother, but shall prosecute our subject in the pre-
cise order of the words before us.
Permit me then to observe to you, that.
Men will endeavour to remedy any misfortune that
has happened to them —
[" If a man have fallen, he will arise again ;" he will not
be contented to lie where he is, in a state of stupid indifference,
but will exert himself to regain the posture that is better suited
to his nature and pursuits. " If a man turn out of the uay,"
when prosecuting a journey of great importance, " jv'ill he not,
as soon as he finds his error, return," and get into the right path ?
o one can doubt what his conduct would be on such an occasion.
Such is the conduct of all men in relation to temporal matters ;]
But they do not act thus in reference to their
souls —
[It is undeniable, that " we have slidden lack*' from God,
"like a backsliding heifer" that will not submit to the yoke*
Of this we cannot but be convinced, seeing that we vio-
late his law in unnumbered instances, and neither can, nor will,
endure its restraints'". But, " having fallen, do we strive to
arise; having turned aside, dO we endeavour to return?" On the
contrary, have not our " hackslidings l^een perpetual," without
any serious endeavours to amend our ways ? Had our deviations
from duty been only occasional, and under the influence of some
violent temptation ; or had they been intermitted, \vith seasons of
penitence and contrition ; there would be something hopeful in
our ease : but we have been contented to continue in our devious
paths, and to lie wallowing in the mire of sin.
We have even laboured to persuade ourselves that we were not
-so faulty as God's word represented us. We have gladly embraced
any principle, that might justify this opiuion ; and satisfied our-
selves with any excuse, that might keep us from self-reproach.
When our delusions have been pointed out, and the vanity of our
excuses plainly shewn, we still have " held fast deceit," and have
taken refuge again in the same lies, just as if they had never been
at all exposed. The invitations and promises which have been
held forth to us in the name of God, have produced no salutary
effect : we have " pulled away the shoulder," and " refused to
returri)" and " made our faces harder than a rock*'."
• Hos* iv. 1(5. '' Rom. viii. 7. *^ Jer. v. 3.
But, notwithstanding our obstinacy,]
God is ever looking wishfully for our return —
[" He looks down from heaven, to see if there be any that
will understand and seek after him''." " He willeth not the death
of any man, but rather that he should come to repefttance and
live'." He even swears that this is the state of his mind towards
us^ He " hearkens" with more than parental anxiety; 'Can-
not I hear some acknowledgment amongst them ; cannot I hear
so much as one groan, or one sigh ? O that I could ! O that
they would suffer me to exercise mercy towards them*! Would
they but *' speak aright," and condemn themselves for their ini-
quities, I would soon shew them how gracious and merciful I am.'
Thus does God listen, as it were in hopes that some will repent
and turn unto him ;]
But scarce any will repent of their wickedness, or
even consider their ways —
[We hope that impenitence is not quite so universal amongst
us, as among those whom the prophet addressed. We cannot
quite adopt his complaint, and say that " no man" repents. We
trust there are some amongst us, who have " called their ways to
remembrance," and sought for mercy in God's appointed way**
But certainly there are very few that will turn their
thoughts inward, or seriously ask themselves, " IVhat have I
done P" Reflection is painful to the generality; and, instead of
cherishing it, and setting apart seasons on purpose for it, the
greater part do all they can to stifle it ; they run to pleasure, to
company, to business, in order to shake out of their minds all
painful recollections. In all the concerns of time, they will ex-
amine carefully enough, whether they have prospered or not : nor
would they be averse, in a journey through woods and forests,
to compare their steps with the directory that had been given
them, and to in(|uire occasionally whether they were in the right
path. But in the concerns of their souls they harbour no doubts ;
they go on even in direct opposition to the strongest evidence ; and
take for granted that they are right, when, if they would make the
smallest inquiry, they could not but find that they are in the most
fatal error.]
Too many amongst us seem even to glory in their
sins —
[The image by winch this truth is represented in the text, is
as just and beautiful as any that can be conceived. Look at the
* Ps. xiv. 2. '2 Pet. iii. Q. 'Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
s Jer. iii. 4, 13. &: xiii. 2". Hos. xi. 8.
' - ¦'» This must be amplified^ or not, according to the state of th«
persons addressed.
32 JEREMIAH, VIIT. 4 8. [552.
description given of the war-horse in the book of Job : " He
paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength : he goeth forth
to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not af-
frighted ; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver
rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He
swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage ; neither believeth
he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the
trumpets. Ha, ha ; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thun-
der of the captains and the shouting'." What a lively represen-
tation is this of sinful man ! he heareth of God's judgments, but
laugheth at them : he in a measure feels them ; and is only stir-
red up by them to a more resolute defiance of them. Destructive
as sin is, he " makes a mock at it," and accounts it sport : and,
whatever his ways have been, whether those of proud self-righte-
ousness, or open profaneness, he " turns to his course^ as the
horse rusheth into the battle."]
In these respects they act a more irrational part
than even the brute creation —
[" The stork, the turtle, the crane, the swallow, observe*'
invariably the approach of summer or of winter ; and adopt
measures either to escape the impending calamities, or to secure
the blessings which God has prepared for them. They loiter not
till the season for action is past, but avail themselves of the first
intimations which they receive, to avoid the evil and obtain the
good. But sinful men possess not that wisdom ; they " know not
the judgment of the Lord :" God tells them of approaching
blessings, but they labour not to possess them : he warns them
also of approaching miseries, but they use no means to escape
them : though they feel in themselves, and behold in all around
them, striking intimations of the way in which God will ultimately
proceed with men, they take not one step to avert his wrath, or
to conciliate his favour.]
To complete the whole, they persuade themselves
that they are safe and happy —
[They call their own ways wisdom, and the conduct of those
who differ from them, folly. Surprising ! " J4^e are wise !"
Would they account any one wise that should pursue a similar
conduct in reference to the things of this world ? Would it be
wise in a merchant never to inquire into the state of his affairs ?
Would it be wise in a person to reject wholesome food, and to eat
nothing hut what was sure to bring upon h.im disorders and death ?
Yet the folly of such persons would not be worthy to be compared
with that which the inconsiderate world are guilty of, in reference
to their everlasting concerns. And strange it is to say, that they
will even quote the word of God, as countenancing their ways ;
' Job xxxix. 21 — 25. ;
and, without once considering the true import of the passages they
adduce, they will cry, " The law of the Lord is with us^." But
let them bring forth their strong reasons ; let them shew us from
the word of God, that no " ditfercnce shall be put between the
righteous and the wicked, between him that eerveth the Lord
and him that serveth him not :" let them prove to us, that a
course of sin and impenitence, and an unconcern about our future
state, are inuocent, or at mo^t only trifling faults, which will not
be regarded in the day of judgment. Let them shew us these
things from the word (if God ; and then we are prepared to say,
" In vain has God made if., and the pen of the scribes (who have
either recorded or expounded it) is in vain." Certainly, if they
succeed in that attempt, the Bible is the most worthless book in
the universe; for men could live in sin and neglect God, without
any book to direct or encourage them in such ways.]
That our expostulation may not fall to the ground,
we mtreat you to listen to a few words of
1 . Consider your ways —
[This is a reasonable duty; and can do you no harm: if
your conduct have been conformable with the will of Gcd, you
¦will have great comfort in ascertaining that it has been so : if, on
the contrary, it has been such as God decidedly condemns, you
¦will have an opportunity of altering it before it be too late "]
1. Renounce your sins —
[This must be connected with the former, and indeed must
result from it'. You cannot but know that there has been much
amiss, both in your heart and life : search it out therefore, and,
whatever it may be, put it from you : if it be useful as a right
hand, or precious as a right eye, spare it not, but cast it utterly
away. Attempt not to justify or extenuate it; but acknowledge
your criminality and danger ; and cast overboard the goods that
would sink thejhip ]
3. Obey the Gospel —
[Sinful as your state has been, the Gospel proposes to you
an infaUible remedy: it sets forth a Saviour; and invites you to'
come to him. Obey the call : come to him, who bought you with
his blood : and accept the salvation which he freely offers to the
chief of sinners At the same time " Be wise indeed, and
let ilie word of the Lord be truhj tvith you." Let " the glorious
Gospel of the blessed God" be indeed the one ground of your
hope, and the one rule of your conduct. Let the light which it
exhibits be desired by you ; and let all " your deeds be brought
to it, that it may be manifest that they are wrought in God."]
•^ They will quote Prov. iii.- i 7- & MiC- vi. 8. ' Ezek. xviii. 28. '

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