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ecution is suspended a little longer, and another experimentis made to see if they will hear and obey. “Go and proclaim these words towards the north and say, return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you.” The prophet enforces his exhortation to return, by an argument drawn from those miseries to which their transgressions had exposed them, “ thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. The ruin here spoken of may allude to those scourges which they had occasionally experienced from the Egyptians, the Amalekites and other neighboring nations; or it may refer to that invasion ofthe Assyrian army which they were shortly to expect. They are represented as fallen because, without speedy repentance and reformation, their ruin was as certain as if it had already taken place. Moral causes, in the righteous procedure of God, produce their proper effects, no less than natural causes, and a flood of impiety will be succeeded by a flood of wrath. Although the Lord God " is slow to anger,” yet the judgment of a rebellious people will “not always linger, nor their” visitation « always slumber." Thou hast fallen « by thine iniquity.”—Sin is the procuring cause of all anisery, whether private or public ; whether temporal or eternal. It destroyed “the old world with a deluge ;” it brought“ fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain;" it leads on, in their turn, war and famine and pestilenee, to sweep from the earth the implacable enemies of God: Sin was now delivering up the posterity of Abraham, who had long been the peculiar favorite of heaven, to a tedious, a painful, and reproachful servitude in a foreign land.-"O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, I will send him against the hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him charge,, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets." Although the iniquities of individuals may pass unpunished in the present life, because their retribution may be expected hereafter, yet ungodly nations shall not escape. It is only in this world that they exist in a national capacity, therefore this world is the only place of national recompence.
In the verses which are chosen as the subject of our meditation, Israel's God announces a variety of promises to encourage the Jews amidst their calamitous circumstances: But although these were uttered to the literal Israel ; although they immediately al. luded to their deliverance from the iron chain in Babylon, and their future prosperity and glory; yet they “ are written for generations to come ;" they may be really improved for our consolation under a consciousness of backslidinge, or appearances of the divine displeasure. God is an infinite speaker, and in these living, oracles address
es persons of all ages and all countries; thre wrath which he denounced against the offspring of Abraham for their apostacy, was designed for our admonition and alarm; the promises of forgiveness and life, which be graciously tendered them, were designed for our consolation and hope.
On the last Lord's day your attention was directed to the parable of “the barren fig
I endeavored to improve that portion of scripture for alarming the sinner in Zion ; for exhibiting that destruction which, without repentence on his part, must unavoidably overtake him ; I attempted, also, to shew to the congregation, in a social capacity, the danger of misimproving their privileges ; it was noticed that the Lord God, in his righteous displeasure, sometimes unchurches a congregation at once,
removes the candlestick” ont of his place, and leaves them without « vision, without sacrifice, and without teraphim.” Such were his judgments upon the Jews; such, afterwards, were his judgments upon Sardis, upon Laodecea, and the other churches in lesser Asia. My design in selecting these verses is to aiin at displaying the abundant riches of divine mercy, and, if possible, to encourage you as individuals and as a congregation to yield yourselves up to the Lord by entering into his covenant.
“ I will leal their backslidings." To backslide, in the literal sense of the word, is to slip or glide from some point to whicla we have attained ; as used in scripture, it generally signifies to come short of some resolution which we have solemnly made, or some obligation which we are reasonably bound to fulfil, and is only chargeable upon a professing person or people. The heathen, or those who have been uniformiy opposed to the Saviour's cross, cannot be guilty of backsliding, because they have nothing to lose ; having never attained to any thing in the church of the living God, there is nothing either in principle or profession from which they can depart. But they are chargeable with backsliding who were early surrendered to God in baptism, who were thus brought into the communion of his church, or who join themselves to the Lord by an open profession of his name, afterwards walk unworthy of this profession; who renounce any thing either in doctrine or practice to which they had attained.Such was the condition of the Jews to whom this prophecy was delivered, and such is the condition of thousands who once possessed a name in the visible church. « The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the temptations of “the evil one,” all combining with their own corruptions, lead them “ aside froin the holy commandment: With these they become more and more entang, led to the loss of their peace in time, and of their souls for ever.
Demas hath forsaken me,” says the apostle, “ having loved this present world :" They that will be rich
fall into temptation and a snare, and inte many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
Brethren, are there any such in this congregation ? Any, who by an increasing attachment to the profits or pleasures or preferments of this world, are gradually departing from God; are becoming more remiss in the duties of the closet, or family, or sanctuary ? Let such be entreated to embrace, without delay, the gracious promise,“ I will heal your backslidings.” The original word which we translate heal, literally signifies to cure as a physician ; to remove some bodily disease, and restore to health and vigor a broken constitution. “Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy Father,” to king Hezekiah, “ I have heard thy prayers, I have seen thy tears; behold I will heal thee ; on the third day thou shalt go up to the house of the Lord.” In the present and many other instances this word is applied to the diseases of the soul, and signifies their complete removal. David celebrates the praises of Jehovah “ who forgave all his iniquities; who healed all his diseases; who crowned” him “with loving kindness and tender mercies.” The promise here made to the church is most comprehensive in its nature ; “I will heal their backslidings, I will graciously pardon the guilt which they have contracted in departing from me; I will be merciful to this their unrighteousness, this sin and iniquity I will remember no more.