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Babylonian monarch, to break off his sins by righteousness, and his iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor, if it might be a lengthening of his tranquillity, Dan. iv. 27. God gives Jeremiah a commission, to say to the king, and to the queen," Humble yourselves, sit down."* It is not unbecoming the greatest princes to worship at the foot-stool of the King of kings. It is prophesied of the gospel church, that "kings shall be her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers," Isa. xlix. 23. Yea, saith the Lord, "they shall bow down to thee, with their faces towards the earth," &c. Which is to be understood, not in a literal, Popish sense, of a civil subjection of their power to the proud usurpations of that man of Rome; but a voluntary resignation of all, to the great Jehovah, and our blessed Jesus; an undervaluing of their earthly honours in comparison of spiritual privileges; as Constantine the Great, and Theodosius, each of whom professed he would rather be a member of Christ, than head of the empire. It is not below majesty on earth to lament after the God of heaven. David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah followed the Lord with fears and cares, prayers and tears, and how doth God approve and applaud the tender hearted Josiah? 2 Chron. xxxiv. 27, 28, "Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof; and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me," (mark the outward tokens of inward sorrow) "I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord." And when Josiah's grandfather, Manasseh, was unruly, God took a course to humble him, and brought him to seek God by earnest prayer, and great humiliation;† but when
*Jer. xiii. 18.
+ 2 Chron. xxxiii. 11, 12, 23, 24. ch. xxxvi. 12, 13.
his father Amon, and his son Zedekiah, did not walk in those mournful steps of penitent lamentings after the Lord, God took another course with them, and cut them off. God hath even brought heathen kings upon their knees, to lament after God in the best manner they could; as the king of Nineveh, Jonah iii. 5, 6; and God took it well, ver. 10. Outward humiliation also prevented Ahab's temporal destruction, 1 Kings xxi. 27, 29. And when God threatened Rehoboam by Shishak's invasion, and Shemaiah's commination, the princes of Israel, and the king humbled themselves, and said, "The Lord is righteous," 2 Chron. xii. 6, 7. And God saith, "I will not destroy them, but grant them some deliverance, or deliverance for a little while." Much more, if princes and nobles be sincere in humiliation for sin, and lamentation after the Lord and universal reformation: O what mercy doth the Lord reserve for such! Thus in the days of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, the instances are numerous and pregnant. O that God would stir up the hearts of the governors of his people, to say, "Surely we and our people have provoked the Lord against us.' Yea, it is well if our hands have not been chief in the trespass. O that, as we have been exemplary in sinning, we might be exemplary in our repentance; as we have driven God from us and our people, so we might be the first to fetch him back again. God forbid that we should say with Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord?" or refuse to let the servants of the Lord go and serve him according to scripture rules, though they may differ from us in some modes of worship. Yea, it is fit the governors of Judah should say in their hearts, "The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be our strength in the Lord of hosts their God."* These, * Zech. xii. 5.
these are the chariots and horsemen of Israel, as once a king said of a prophet. * God forbid, we governors should arm or animate some protestants against their brethren, while papists are putting us on, and warming themselves by the fire of their own kindling; and when they spy their opportunity, will take advantage of the conflict they have encouraged, and destroy the combatants. Let us rather improve our utmost interest to make them friends; and bespeak their joint prayers for us. And since we need the Lord, and his appointments as well as others, as much as the meanest of our subjects, let us also follow the Lord with bitter cries and lamentations: "The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves." Why may not we also work hard in digging these sacred wells of ordinances? and then cry out, "Spring up, O well!" and also put on others, saying, "Sing ye unto it?" May not we too pass through this valley of Baca (or weeping) and make a well? the rain filling the pools; and so this valley of Baca, will be a valley of Berachah. Our speaking comfortably to those laborious Levites that teach the good knowledge of the Lord, § will reach their hearts, and so we shall bring upon ourselves the blessing of them that were ready to perish. May we not even call them up hither to public worship, and send them to the people in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace. We, even we, have need of ordinances as well as others; we have ignorant minds, stubborn wills, strong passions, violent temptations; and of all sorts of persons, nobles are most unwilling to put their necks to the work of the Lord. We have greater hindrances in the way to heaven, and therefore
2 Kings xiii. 14. † Numb. xxi. 17, 18. ‡ Psal. lxxxiv. 6. || Blessing. § 2 Chron. xxx. 22. Neh. iii. 5.
need better helps than others. Oh! let it never be said of us, that when the poor are but ignorant souls, foolish, and know not the way of the Lord, that we, the great men, noblemen and gentlemen, that know much indeed, but do less for God, nay more against him, that we should altogether break the yoke, and burst the bonds:* our interest is greater, and influence more upon others, therefore our sin of neglect will be greater, and account heavier. Lord, let us have means of grace, and grace by means: be thou our portion in this, and another world, or of all men we shall be most miserable; our loss will be more dreadful, our torments more intolerable; as we read of one of our own degree in sacred writ, who in this world was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, but in the other world was found in hell, and being in torments, was denied one drop of water to cool his tongue.† O Lord! suffer us not to riot and rant here, and be cast out from thy presence hereafter; but let us lament after thee now, that we may everlastingly enjoy the manifestations of thy favour.
7. Let christian churches, congregations, and societies lament after the Lord. Our dearest Lord seems to depart from them: oh that once at last we could discern the sad symptoms of his removal! This is the case in the chapter before us, 1 Sam. vii. 5, “ Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, v. 6. and they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day;" why they met in Mizpeh, whether because Samuel judged Israel there, or it had an altar or place of prayer, I shall not dispute: or what this drawing out water was, whether it was the water of trial, or a ceremony used at such solemnities, or water of penitential tears, which is most likely: these tears * Jer. v. 4, 5. † Luke xvi. 19, 23, 24. ‡ Vid. Poli Syn. Crit. in loc.
running from their eyes, betokened and accompanied their affected and affectionate hearts running after the Lord; one while mourning for the sins that banished him, another laying to heart their loss of him, and with an earnest eager heart breathing in prayer after him: this was their practice, Judg. ii. 1—5. where an angel of the Lord doth reckon up-God's kindnesses to them -their duty to God-their ill requital of God by disobedience and God's displeasure against them. Upon which the people lift up their voice and wept; and so great was that weeping, that the place received its title from it; they called the name of that place Bochim, that is, the place of weepers; they were baptized in their own tears: Oh! cried they, one to another, brother, neighbour, do not you hear these heavy tidings? God is angry; the Almighty commenceth a suit against us; he hath sent a summons to us, drawn up an indictment against us; who is able to contend with him? We are conscious to ourselves that we are guilty, deeply guilty; we deserve to be forsaken of God, for we have forsaken him; thus they looked at one another with grieved hearts, seeing others weep, they fell a weeping, and cried bitterly with a concordant outcry, Lord, come, come again, leave us not in the hands of these devoted Canaanites, who bear a mortal grudge against us; a bitter and hasty nation, a people cruel and skilful to destroy. Another instance you have in Exod. xxxiii. 1-5, where God chides them, seems to disown them, as if they were not his people, but belonging to Moses; he tells them he will send an angel before them, but he will not go with them, for they are a stiff-necked people. The passage saith, "when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned, and no man put on him his ornaments." Alas! alas! say they, doth God take his leave? Will he depart, and not go with us, but substi