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other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them ; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. David gives very emphatic summaries of the exhibition of the emotion and its result, under circumstances of public grace or judgment. “ When he slew them, then they sought him; and they returned and inquired early after God: and they remembered that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues : for their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.”—When he delivered them, “ then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel ; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.”t
Their history on other occasions, to which a particular reference need not now be made, further confirms what we illustrate—the too common result of the public dispensations of the universal Ruler. In later times, and to other people, national mercies and deliverances, when important and signal, have been followed by professions of gratitude and devotion from many in the land which has been favoured ; and when the judgments of God have been abroad, and when his scourges have struck deep in havoc and desolation, how loud often have
* Judges ii. 16-19. + Psalm lxxviii. 34–37. cvi. 12–14.
been the protestations of repentance, and of intended reform and obedience! Need I speak of the events which have transpired in our own country,--of her seasons of mercy on the one hand, and calamity on the other, of the apparent impressions made in such seasons on multitudes, their vowing, and resolving, and mutually exhorting—“ Come, and let us return unto the Lord ?” And, alas ! how true it is, that when the wonder of the mercy has ceased, and the smart of the chastisement has gone, the excitation has been extinguished,—“ the goodness has been as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it has gone away !"
In the same manner, you may contemplate providential interferences which affect the more private sphere of individuals. There are seasons of prosperity,—there are communications of peculiar mercy, personal or relative deliverances from danger, disappointments of fear, and advancements of welfare, when it seems as if the mind could not resist the flowings of gratitude, and so pledges its tribute of continued obedience and love. There are seasons, also, when the hand of God is revealed in terrors,—there are events of affliction and adversity, pains, privations, bereavements, shadowings of gloom and tempest, which appear to rouse from apathy, and convince of sin, and prompt in deep humiliation, to the commencement of a new course, to be guided by the will, and directed to the glory of God. Many a time indeed have men, under such circumstances, thus professed to feel; many a time have they been seen and heard agitated by the workings of an emotion deemed so salutary and redeeming; and many a time too has there been the subsiding of the hopeful spirit, till again the level has been reached, and all has been forgotten. And perhaps among you my hearers, from the way in which the signal providential favours or judgments of God have been received, may now be found living examples of that “goodness which has been as a morning cloud, and which as the early dew has gone away.
2. This disposition may be observed, as excited by the presence of sickness and imagined approach of death.—The presence of infirmity, and the possible advance of dissolution, are evidently calculated to lead to serious consideration on the interests of the soul. That some have endured the failing of nature, and the anticipations necessarily attending it, without giving any sign of contrition or spiritual care, we are well and painfully aware; but as far as the actual adaptation of this solemn period is concerned, what can be more suited to summon devout attention to the realities of truth and eternity? The idea of dying, of leaving for ever the scenes and connexions of time, of entering alone into the unknown and mysterious regions of futurity, of being put beneath the grasp of
retribution, and encountering the wrath of the Omnipotent, which must fall on the guilty, and which when it falls, is irrevocable and eternal,-how is this calculated to oppress and fasten on the mind! Often has the bed of sickness been the place of meditations and acknowledgments like these:-- I confess the vanity of the world, and the value of the soul; I lament my past absorption in the one, and forgetfulness of the other; should it please the Author of life to spare me from going down to the gates of death, no longer will I live in sin, to his glory I will devote my being, and my returning strength shall but see me in dedication to him as my Preserver and Redeemer.' And when the hand of disease has been withdrawn, when the visions of eternity have been shrouded, and when the scenes and society of earth have again been entered, how frequently convalescence and health have been employed so as to brand with the guilt of tremendous perjury! I have heard of instances of others, and the land abounds with them ; but I bring home the inquiry, and challenge whether thus it has not been with yourselves yourselves. Can
not remember a time, when your abode was the chamber of sickness, and when there appeared to rise before you the shadows of the tomb ? Can you not remember a time, when you sought for Christian advice and Christian
and when you professed to be satisfied only as you were told of forgiveness, and pointed to a Saviour ?
not remember a time, when your eyes were suffused with tears,' and your bosom
' heaved with sighs, and.your lips were employed in the utterance of penitence and supplication and pious resolve ?—And what are you now? Where is repentance—where is faith—where is devotion? What is the tendency of the passions, and what is the habit of the life? Let shame and confusion of face be upon you ! " The degree of your piety”—I quote the words of an eloquent preacher—“was regulated by the degree of
your malady. Your zeal kept time with your disease, and as the one decreased the other died away, and the recovery of your health was the resurrection of
praying man, this holy soul, then full of pious ejaculations and meditations, is now full only of the world. You are the original of the portrait in the text, and your piety has been “as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it has gone away.”
your sins. This
3. This disposition may be observed, as excited by the statements and appeals of divine truth. —The announcement of the truth of God in the way he has appointed it to be presented to the understandings, and brought home to the consciences of men, is an instrumentality of special energy for impressing and governing the soul. While, by that truth, many have been savingly converted to God, and prepared for the happiness of eternity, many again have proved, that