Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

SERMON VII.

LOSS OF SOLEMN

COMFORT TO MOURNERS FOR THE

ASSEMBLIES.

I will gather them that are sorrowful for the sclemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burthen,Zeph. iii. 18.

This prophet Zephaniah who lived not long before the captivity of Babylon, having threatened the people of God, the Jews, with that calamity, and exhorted them to repent, to return unto God, that they might prevent that imminent evil, doth at last conclude all, with a comfortable and gracious promise unto the people of God.

First, he threatens, and then promiseth. God's threatenings usually do end in promises ; sharpest threatenings in the sweetest promises.

This promise here is sweet, and full, and large ; wherein you have the mercies promised, and the several branches thereof.

The cause, fountain, and original of these mercies promised.

The persons upon whom these promised mercies are entailed.

The mercies promised are very many:

The Lord promiseth to return unto his people, verse 9. “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent."

Then he promiseth to free them from their judgments, to bring them out of their captivity, verse 10: “From beyond the rivers of Jordan, my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed shall bring mine offering." And at the 15th verse : “The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy."

He promises pardon, sanctification, verse 11, 12, 13.

He promiseth to gather the poor exiles; “I will gather them that are sorrowful.”

He promiseth to destroy all their enemies, verse 19: “Behold! at that time I will undo all that afflict thee.” Thus you have the mercies promised.

The cause and fountain and original of all these mercies : the mighty presence of the Lord and his love unto his people, verse 17: “The king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee, thou shalt not see evil any more.” Verse 17: “ The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty, he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."

As for the person that these promised mercies are entailed upon, they are poor afflicted people that trust in the name of the Lord: “The people of a pure language,” verses 9 and 12; and here in this verse such as are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, unto whom the reproach of it was a burthen. “I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burthen.”

From whence then I take up this observation.

Though God doth sometimes suffer the solemn assembly to lie under reproach, yet if his people are fully sensible of that reproach, God will turn their former miseries into after mercies; and he will cause their future comforts to run parallel unto their former troubles. For the clearing whereof three things fall under consideration.

First, That God doth sometimes suffer the solemn assembly to lie under reproach.

Secondly, That then those that are true members of the solemn assembly, those be very sensible of it, carry it as their burthen.

Thirdly, That being so, God will turn their former miseries into after mercies, &c.

First, God doth sometimes suffer the solemn assembly to lie under reproach. For the clearing whereof,

We must inquire when the solemn assembly may be said to lie under reproach ? And

Why God doth suffer the solemn assembly to lie under reproach at any time? If

you ask, when the solemn assembly may be said to lie under reproach?

I answer: Look when the presence of God is departed from the public ordinances, or solemn assembly, then the

a

a

solemn assembly doth lie under reproach. The presence of God in the public ordinances or solemn assembly, is the glory of the assembly, and when that glory is departed, the solemn assembly lies under reproach; though the word of God be preached in an assembly, if the converting, sanctifying, comforting presence of God be gone out of the ordinance, and be not there, it lies under reproach. And though there be government in a church, yet if God's presence be not in that government, it lies under reproach, and the church lies under reproach. Look when the presence of God is departed from the solemn assembly, then it lies under reproach.

Look when a reformation hath been intended, and cannot be accomplished, but is stayed and hindered, then the solemn assembly lies under reproach. Disappointment is reproach. “The children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring forth.” What then? It is a day of rebuke, and blasphemy, and reproach. Look therefore, when a church or people have been travailing with a reformation, and that reformation proves abortive, stopped and hindered, then that church and people, or solemn assembly doth lie under reproach.

And especially: Look when the ways of Zion mourn, and are unfrequented, then doth the solemn assembly lie under reproach, when the ways of Zion mourn and are not frequented. It was the case that this prophet speaks of; he speaks of the captivity of Babylon, the time of the captivity; what then? Why, saith the church in the Lamentations, the ways of Zion mourn, and are not frequented. When the ways of Zion mourn and are not frequented, the people of God are kept from coming together according unto God's appointment; then the solemn assembly lies under reproach. You read in Josh. v., that when they were come unto Canaan, the first step Joshua circumcised the people, verse 9, “ The Lord said unto Joshua, this day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you; wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.” “The reproach of Egypt;"

” What, were they not circumcised in Egypt? Yes, the children of Israel were circumcised in Egypt, verse 5, "Now all the people that came out were circumcised, but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came

forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.” They were circumcised in Egypt; why then is this circumcision called the reproach of Egypt? Though they were circumcised in Egypt, it was at the pleasure of the enemy, they were under bondage, they were not free to the worship of God. But now when they came here into Canaan, the first step into Canaan and they were circumcised; now they were a free people and had liberty not only for circumcision but for all the ordinances, as they had not in the land of Egypt: they could not sacrifice there, but now they had liberty for all; and now the reproach of Egypt was rolled away. So that look when the ways of Zion mourn, and are not frequented, and the people of God are kept from the public ordinances according to God's appointment, then the solemn assembly lies under reproach.

Again, Look when the saints and people of God, the members of the solemn assembly; look when they are scattered and driven one from another that they cannot meet together, then the solemn assembly lies under reproach. Therefore, saith the prophet here, "I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly: I will gather them to whom the reproach of it was a burden,” as if the reproach lay in the scattering ; and at verse 20, “ I will bring you again, even in the time that I gather you, and will make you a name and a praise in all the places where ye have been put to shame." So that the scattering of the members of the solemn assembly is a reproach, and then the solemn assembly lies under reproach.

And, again, look when the state and condition of the solemn assembly is such as that no man cares for it nor seeks for it, then it lies under reproach. Such a state sometimes the solemn assembly falls into. This is Zion whom no man seeketh after. This is Zion whom no man careth for. The magistrate doth not care for it to countenance it. It hath no friends for to help it. If you see a poor man in the streets, neglected, none cares for him, none countenances him, none looks after him to care for him and to help him; you say, he lies under reproach: so when the solemn assembly is in such a case and condition that none cares for it, nor seeks for the welfare of it, those that are in place especially, then the solemn assembly lies under reproach.

But, then, why doth God suffer the solemn assembly to lie under reproach at any time?

He will sometimes suffer the solemn assembly to lie under reproach that he may roll away the reproach from off the assembly. There is a twofold reproach of the solemn assembly: there is a sinful reproach and there is a penal reproach of the solemn assembly.

Sometimes the members of the solemn assembly are accessary to the reproach of the solemn assembly; as sometimes they walk and live so as that they are a scandal to the very ordinances. So it is said of the sons of Eli; sinning at the door of the tabernacle they made the sacrifice of God to stink. Possibly professors may so walk as to make the sacrifice of God to stink, and are so accessary unto the reproach of the solemn assembly.

Sometimes, again, they are exceeding barren and unfruitful under the enjoyment of the solemn assembly. The Hebrews call the winter, bin, which signifies reproach, for, say they, the winter is the reproach of the earth, because there is no fruit, nothing but barrenness and unfruitfulness; and therefore they call the winter by such a name as signifies reproach. What a reproach was it to Hannah to be barren; barren women accounted it a reproach : so reproachful is a barren life among professors.

Sometimes, again, the members of the solemn assembly, they do bear themselves out in their sins upon their enjoyment of the solemn assembly; crying out, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord ; and are we not delivered to do all these abominations. There is a twofold bearing of ourselves upon the solemn assembly. There is a bearing of ourselves upon the solemn assembly and upon the public ordinances in opposition unto false worshippers. So in 2 Chron. xiii., Abijah bears himself upon the solemn assembly in opposition unto Jeroboam's false worship; “But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests which minister unto the Lord are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business: and they burn unto the Lord every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread, also, set they in order upon the pure table, and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof to burn every evening; for we kept the charge

a

« PoprzedniaDalej »