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4. They grieved, being full of sorrow, and complained of themselves in seeking after the Lord, Jer. xxxi. 18, "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself:” Oh that I should by my sin forfeit God's presence, and for sin lose it! how miserable am I in this so sad and overwhelming loss!
5. They cried, called after the Lord, by earnest supplication, and expostulation; as it becomes a child to follow his mother with bitter outcries to fetch her back, Jer. xxxi. 9, "They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them."* That is the best prayer that flows from love, and follows God with grief and tears from a sincere regard for God, without outward constraint, and slavish fear.
6. They betook themselves to the Lord by faith, repentance, and reformation. O what efficacy is in this course! Judg. x. 13, God saith, "I will deliver you no more," but bids them cry unto the gods whom they had chosen, v. 14. For they had cried to the Lord, v. 10, and confessed sin, yet God seems peremptory in denying aid; then they reinforce their confession and supplication, and withal added reformation, v. 16. They put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord, and see the blessed effect, his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel, and he delivers them. No way like this.
7. They acquiesced in the Lord, were fully contented and satisfied with the Lord, both as to the object of worship, and manner of worshipping: and O for such a frame as that! Isa. xxvi. 13, "O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us, but by thee only will we make mention of thy name,” that is, by thy precepts, according to thy institutions
Marg. with favours, (so the word a signifies from misertus, gratificatus est, doluit.
will we worship thee; our fear towards thee shall be no more taught by the precepts of men ;* we will worship thee only in thy own way; and by thee, that is, in thy strength, by the assistance of thy grace, thou alone shalt be the author and object of our love, desire, pleasure and delight. "Ashur shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses, neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ye are our gods, for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy," Hos. xiv. 3. These are the duties implied in the text before you, which are required of us all, in this world of sin and sorrow.
But to impress our hearts, and to assist in the due performance of these required duties, I shall propose some considerations in the form of directions, to carry on this work successfully.
1. See to your state and principles; except you be related to God you will not lament after him, nor be much concerned about him, or his ark, whether going or coming. Relation is the foundation of affection. A child will cry after his own father. Now God is not our father since the fall, till regeneration make a real, and adoption a relative change of our state; and when we have received the Spirit of adoption, then and never till then, shall we cry, Abba, Father, Rom. viii. 15. They only will cry after God that love him, fear him, and honour him, as a father, with a filial affection, and they only shall be received by him: O therefore, examine your state God-wards! Hath converting grace under ordinances changed your hearts? Hath the Spirit awakened your consciences, convinced you of your undone state by nature, transformed you by the renewing of your minds, translated you out of darkness into light? deal faithfully with your souls in this case; you come into the world with your backs turned upon
Isaiah xxix. 13.
God, and you will never lament after him without a turn in another direction. Naturally there is an enmity and antipathy in our hearts to God and his ways. Hath God crushed and conquered that disposition, and planted right principles in you, to incline you to him? if yet you find not a divine nature, a new nature produced in you, flatter not yourselves, you will rather run farther from him, than lament after him. Let your souls be chiefly concerned for this first, then for the rest. Union precedes communion: a real title is antecedent to the laying of a claim: a principle of grace is before an actual exercise of it: there must be life before there can be any desire of, or nutrition by food. I have no hopes of prevailing with unconverted souls to lament after God, till they have life and breath, voice and lungs, except formally, for company, or for carnal purposes, which is insignificant. Oh for grace, truth of grace, and a reality of interest in Christ, and all the privileges he hath purchased.
2. Inform yourselves thoroughly of the terms on which you stand with God. Consider how the Lord acts towards us, as to our individual cases, and the nation in general. We shall never lament after him till we see him withdrawn. Ignorance of the state of things with us keeps persons in a senseless frame. What the eye of body or mind sees not, is never laid to heart: make some observations and reflections on things at this day make also a comparison betwixt former and present times. What think you? Hath not God manifested himself more in his providences for us, than of late? Have we not reason to take up the church's complaint, Psal. xliv. 1, 9, or to expostulate as Gideon Judg. vi. 13, "O my Lord! if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of?" I have told
you how much restraining grace is withdrawn from many; how rare conversion is by ordinances; how much God hath withdrawn both from the societies and spirits of his servants. I shall not trouble you with repetitions; look over those things, compare them with what you see and observe, and if you find the Lord as formerly, be thankful; if otherwise, be humbled, and lament after him. It is to be feared, that if you be observant, discerning Christians, you will yet find out more than hitherto hath been mentioned, both demonstrations of God's removal, and prognostics of future removes. The most excellent and eminent servants of God are snatched away by death from amongst us, and God saith, "they are taken away from the evil to come," Isa. lvii. 1. The spirit of giddiness, atheism, and idolatry is spreading at a strange rate, beyond all parallel. Other things I might mention, but I leave them to your inquiry: only there is one text which methinks is astonishing, Zech. xi. 8, "Three shepherds also I cut off in one month, and my soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me." It is one of the saddest words in all the Bible. Whether they were good or bad shepherds, that were cut off, it is dreadful that it had no better effect than mutual abhorrency. Oh that this was not our case! We lie under woful consequences of God's loathing us, and it is well if men do not loath him. A spirit of opposition to godliness is the sad effect of divine dereliction, which produceth greater spiritual and temporal plagues. Hence he adds, verse 9. "Then said I, I will not feed you, that that dieth, let it die, and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off, and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another." They shall have no gospel pastors to feed their souls; that is a spiritual plague which fell on the Jews for rejecting Christ. They shall devour one another with cursed
rage and malice, as in seditions, conspiracies, or in their necessity of food by the terrible famine. Thus the Jews were destroyed in Jerusalem's miserable ruin.
like prognostics are upon us. effects, and awake our hearts means for prevention.
Lord prevent the same
to use God's appointed
3. Make diligent inquiry into the reason of our present and approaching calamities. Is there not a cause? surely "affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground."* Sin is the mother and nurse of sorrow. Is not God bringing our iniquities upon us? Doth not our own wickedness correct us, and our backsliding reprove us?+ Doth not this rod say, "Thy ways and thy doings have procured these things unto thee, this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart," or soul, Jer. iv. 18. Let ministers and people, lay their hands on their hearts, and let us search our consciences and conversations? Is it not I that shut out ministers, as the good woman said, I broke my minister's leg. pride, unteachableness, unprofitableness, formality, neglect of duty, censurings and uncharitableness, sensuality and wordliness, hypocrisy and lukewarmness, vain glory and mindlessness of God's glory and my soul's eternal good; these, these made all the excluding, banishing, fining, imprisoning laws that ever came out against God's servants; these chiefly have broken up all assemblies, scattered meetings, armed all the officers, retarded our deliverance. By our sins are our enemies strong, and the hands of our friends weak. Alas! it is my own iniquity that hath brought us low, put back a good work, banished God, and lift up the right hand of our enemies; nor is it the sins of the profane,
*Job v. 6.
+ Jer. ii. 19.