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CCCXLIII. GOD'S VOICE TO SINNERS.
Amos iii. 8. The lion hath roared; who will not fear? the
Lord God hath spoken; who can but prophesy? HERE is not any thing more strange and unreason
able than that utter disregard which is shewn to the word of God. If we see appearances in the sky, we can form some judgment of the weather: if we take notice of common occurrences in the world, we can draw plain and obvious conclusions from them. The prophet justly observes,” that if a lion roar, we conclude he has taken, or is about to seize, his prey: if a bird be caught in a snare, we take for granted that the snare was laid with that design: if an alarm be given in a city, we suppose that there is reason for that alarm: or if
disastrous events have taken place, we consider it as ordered by an over-ruling Providence. Yet, when God speaks in his word, we imagine that there is no occasion for it, nor any need to regard it. But it becomes us to attend with reverence to all his messages, whether of wrath or mercy. Whatever he has revealed to us by his servants the prophets, he will surely do: and they are commanded to make known his determinations, “whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.” Hence the prophet Amos, desirous at once to expose the obstinacy of the unbelieving Jews, and to vindicate his own faithfulness towards them, addresses himself to their consciences in this animated expostulation, this convincing apology.
To bring home his words to our own hearts, we shall consider 1. What God hath spoken to us
[There is no description of persons whose character God has not delineated, and whose end he has not determined.
And it would be a pleasing task to exemplify this remark in the divine declarations concerning the righteous: but God's voice in the text is compared to the roaring of a lion: on which account we must confine ourselves rather to his denunciations of wrath and vengeance which he will execute on the ungodly.
What then hath he spoken to profane sinners? Alas! how numerous their classes! how dangerous their self-deceptions! how awful their end! And is not such a declaration more terrible than the roaring of a lion? Let us then hear and
To self-righteous pharisees his voice is not less tremendous. In the parable addressed to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” the preference given to the selfcondemning sinner is strongly marked; and God's determination to “abase the self-exalting” is plainly declared. Yes; before God, and angels, and men, shall such characters be abased in the day of judgment, when publicans and harlots shall be admitted into heaven before them. Is not this a just ground of fear to those, whose hearts are not broken with a sense of sin?
But more dreadful still are the threatenings denounced against hypocritical professors of religion. Their doom is characterized as the most severe of any:5 and the wrath which they heap up to themselves, while they imprison the truth in unrighteousness, is beyond measure great. Let the proud and passionate, the malicious and revengeful, the worldly and covetous, the impure and sensual professor hear this: and let them know, that the Lamb of God will be a lion to them, if they walk not more worthy of their high calling.
There is however one description of persons, against whom God's threatenings are more awful still. He declares that negligent and unfaithful ministers shall perish under the accumulated guilt of destroying the souls committed to their charge. The blood of all whom they had neglected to warn shall be required at their hands. Surely if the voice of God to others be as the roaring of a lion, to these it is rather as the voice of thundur. O, that it might be for ever sounding in the ears of ministers, till there should not be found one negligent or unfaithful in the Christian church!] II. What effect it should have upon us
[With respect to Ministers, should they not fear? Does it become them, in the very face of such warnings, to indulge a slothful spirit, or to withhold the truth from their people through fear of offending them? Ought they, however their hearers may wish it, to speak smooth things to them, and to prophesy deceits! Should they be intent on feeding themselves rather than the flock;in and be more studious to establish a reputation as preachers, than to save the souls committed to them? Surely when it is considered whose ambassadors they are, and to whom they must give account, and what must be their doom if any perish through their neglect; they can never study too earnestly to approve themselves to God, that they may give up their account to him with joy, and not with grief."
o I Cor. vi. 9, 10. c See also Eph. v. 3--6.
d Deut xxxi.19,13. Luke xviii.9-14. Matt. xxi. 31.
& Matt. xxiv. 51. A Job xxxvi. 13. i Ps. I. 16--22, with Hos. xii. 6-8,
Ezek. xxxiii. 6.
With respect to others, of whatever description they may be, it becomes them well to fear, when “the LORD God,” the almighty and immutable Jehovah, speaks to them such momentous truths.B
What is there that can justify any man in casting off the fear of God? Can we deny that he hath roared as a lion? or are we stronger than he, that we dare to provoke him to jealousy?! Or can we elude his search, when he shall summon us to his judgment-seat?" Or have we any reason to doubt whether he will execute his threatenings?"
Let every one rest assured, that it were far better that a roaring lion should rush out of a thicket to devour him, or that the artillery of a whole army should be pointed at him, than that one single threatening of almighty God should be in force against him: for as his destruction is more certain, so will it be infinitely more tremendous.] ADDRESS 1. Be not averse to hear the terrors of God's law
[Though, of themselves, the threatenings of God's word will never produce true contrition, yet it is necessary that all should know what the Lord God saith concerning them, in order that they may feel their need of a Saviour. In this respect, the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ:' and if, by hearing of the wrath to come, we be induced to flee from it, we shall have reason to bless the watchman that sounded the alarm.] 2. Be thankful to God for the promises of the gospel
(Blessed be God, the gospel is full of “exceeding great and precious promises:” and “ to him that trembleth at God's
Isa. xxx. 10, 11.
m Ezek. xxxiv, 2, 3, 10. a 2 Tim. ii. 15. Acts xx. 28.
Heb. xiii. 17. p There is a peculiar emphasis in the name by wlrich Jehovah is word” these promises are made.u Let not then a slavish dread of God's wrath keep us from embracing the overtures of his mercy. Let us rather flee to Christ the more earnestly, in proportion as we see our guilt and danger. The Israelites were commended by God himself for making this improvement of his terrors. And, if we have Christ as our mediator and advocate, we have nothing to fear from heaven, earth, or hell.]
here called. See also Jer. v. 21, 22. and Rev. xv. 3, 4. al Cor. x. 22.
r Jer. xxiii. 24. and Job xxxiv. 22. and Ps. cxxxix, 7-12, $ Ezek. xxiv. 14.
i Gal. iii. 2.3. a P's. Ivii, S.
u Isaiah lxvi. 2.
* Deut. v. 25, 26, 28,
CCCXLIV. GOD WILL FULFIL HIS WORD.
Numb. xxiii. 19. God is not a man, that he should lie.
THERE is scarcely any thing that more strongly manifests the depravity of our nature, than that propensity to lying which we perceive in children, as soon as they begin to speak. Even when men are grown to the full exercise of their reason, they too often deviate from truth, sometimes through forgetfulness, sometimes from a change of sentiment or inclination, and sometimes from an inability to perform their word. Hence it is characteristic of man to lie: and we are all so sensible of this, that in matters of great importance we require of men an oath to confirm their word, and enter into written covenants with them, which we take care to have properly attested.b
Now we are apt to “think that God is even such an one as ourselves:” and that he also may be prevailed upon to "alter the word that is gone out of his lips.” Balak evidently entertained this idea of him; and laboured by many repeated sacrifices to divert him from his purpose. But Balaam was inspired to declare the vanity of such an hope, and to assert in a most humiliating comparison the unchangeableness of Jehovah.
To unfold the full meaning of his words, we observe 1. Some men think that God will lie
God has told us with strong and repeated asseverations, that “we must be born again”- -But this is totally disbelieved by
b Ileb. vi. 16. Gal. jii, 15.• John iii. 3. See the full import of this in Skel. 221.
1. The profane
[They persuade themselves, that such strictness in religion as is implied in the new birth, is not necessary; and that they shall go to heaven in their own way---] 2. The self-righteous
[These consider regeneration as a dream of weak enthusiasts; and are satisfied with “the form of godliness without" ever experiencing “the power of it"--3. The hypocritical professors of religion
[These, having changed their creed together with their outward conduct, fancy themselves Christians, notwithstanding their faith neither overcomes the world,” nor works by love," nor "purifies their hearts"
That all these persons think God will lie, is evident beyond a doubt: for if they really believed that “old things must pass away, and all things become new'd before they can enter into the kingdom of heaven, they would feel concerned to know whether any such change had taken place in them; nor would they ever be satisfied till they had a scriptural evidence that they were indeed “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” But as this is in no respect the case with them, it is manifest that they.“ do not believe the record of God," and consequently, however harsh the expression may seem, “they make God a liar.”e]
While some do not hesitate to entertain these dishonourable thoughts of God II. Others fear he may lie This is common
persons 1. Under conviction of sin
[When men are deeply convinced of sin, they find it exceeding difficult to rest simply on the promises of the gospel. God promises to cast out none who come to him by Christ Jesus; to wash them from sins of deepest die; and to bestow on them all the blessings of salvation freely “ without money and without price.” Now this appears too good to be true: they cannot conceive how God should “justify the ungodly," and therefore they seek to become godly first, in order that they may be justified: and if they cannot bring some price in their hands, they keep back, and give themselves over to desponding fears---] 2. Under temptation or desertion
(God has declared that “he will not suffer his people to be tempted above what they are able to bear.” But when
d 2 Cor. v. 17.
e | Jobp v. 10.
f John vi. 37, Isaiah i. 18.
and lv. i.