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FOR THE MONTHLY CONCERT.
PSALM L. 21.
Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.
In the form that men give their idols, they show what should be the character of the Supreme God, if they might shape him to their own likeness. The thing that God here complains of is this, that his creatures would think him just such an one as themselves. But he assures them that he would set their sin in this matter before their eyes, and teach them to judge more correctly, and value more highly their Supreme Deity. The attributes with which they invest him, are the attributes with which they would invest the object of their supreme worship, if he would shape himself to their image. If they have given him angels' form, they would exalt him to the rank of angels. And if mere human being, they would invest him only with human intelligence. If, on the other hand, they have given their idol the form of a beast that eateth grass; if they have made him an ox or a calf, or if they have made him a serpent or a reptile, this shows that they would confer upon the object of their devotion no intelligence. And to go one step further, if they have given him the form of a Satan, we thus descry that they would have their God sunk to a level with this grade of being. And if they have thrown off all reserve, and made him a devil, how natural is it to suppose that they would shape the God they now worship "to the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom we all had our conversation in times past, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and being by nature children of wrath, even as others." Thus men will ever shape their god to their liking; and if we can discover what errors the heathen have made on this subject, we can know precisely what would be the shape of the deity they would place upon the throne. And
I. We know that they have excluded God from his own world. They are uniformly idolaters, in every kingdom and nation found under the heavens. If one nation could have been found that
were worshipers of the true God, we should have doubted whether they had not escaped the fall.
II. We should gather from their story, as far as it has reached our ear, that the gods they worship are a set of senseless beings— mere wood and stone. We have collected some of their gods from heathen territory, who are as uncouth and unsightly and disproportioned a set of senseless beings as the human mind can concieve of. We know they have worshiped mere leeks and onions, and the crocodile of the Nile has long been an object of supreme adoration. "They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image."
III. When they did give their gods any moral intelligence at all, they made them debauched and profligate to the last degree. They had their revels and cabals in their factious heaven. On one occasion, I remember, one of their gods is famed to have been thrown to the earth, and to have employed his time afterwards, in forging thunderbolts for Jupiter. Now what could we expect of a people who would thus degrade their supreme deities, and render them altogether such beings as themselves, entering into folly, lust, and drunkenness, and every species of crime?
IV. They went still further, and made them devils. There are a number of the African tribes who worship the very devil himself. Thus the supreme object of their worship is the very spirit that now "worketh in the children of disobedience."
1. Shall we not pity a race of beings so deluded and spoiled and ensnared by their own philosophy?
2. Shall we esteem any sacrifices too great to be made, if we can buy them off from such delusion, and cause them to look upward, and lay hold on eternal life?
3. Should the business of building a world loom up before us with more mightiness of enterprise than the redemption of a world, already built, from the deadly plagues of sin? I would not fly as swiftly, nor labor as industriously to extinguish the flames of a burning world, as to rescue from a calamity so much more disastrous to the heathen millions that are going down in one unbroken mass to the blackness of darkness for ever. I would not cry as loudly to wake up a sleeping village to danger of being swept
away by a stream of lava, at the foot a glowing Etna, or a laboring Vesuvius.
4. Will not the pious youth have their farms sold, and pawn their merchandise, that promised them merely temporal blessings, that they may enter upon a mightier enterprise of rescuing from the slavery of sin a world that has ruined itself?
JEREMIAH VIII. 22.
Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
A PENSIVE and distressed father, that had just left the sick bed of a beloved daughter, and was wandering through the streets in all the dejection of grief, and all the solitude which is not easily thrown off, in the hour of her agony, may easily be supposed to have uttered himself in the language of the text.
And if we may suppose that she had been long subjected to the want of a physician and a nurse, while death must now ensue as a consequence of that neglect, while there was a remedy at hand, and a physician hard by; but there was none at hand to call in that physician, or to apply that balm, by the application of which she might have been restored to health, joy, and life.
One would grieve to hear the solitary moan of such a father, and haste to know if it is altogether too late to call in the kind and timely physician.
It is probably true that Gilead abounded with a balm that, in a great many cases, proved a sovereign remedy to some diseases that prevailed in Jerusalem, called here, and elsewhere, the daughter of Zion. Here, it may be, is asked a question which has relation to the whole human family, and bearing upon the natural disease of the soul, and is equivalent to asking, Are not the means ample and ready for the healing of the plague of sin in the human family? Why then are they not applied, and spiritual health universally recovered?
Of course, the subject divides itself into two heads. I shall be led to speak first of the disease, and then of the remedy.
I. In the first place, I would say of the disease, that it is one of universal application.
There has been no nation found that is not totally depraved. They all practised a gross and God-provoking idolatry. They made their idols as stupid and as devilish as they could, practising as gross a perversion of their Supreme Deity as possible, and then they practised upon man all the outrages that a perverted intellect could contrive. The false religion of the world was a bloody, and adulterous, and cruel, and faithless, and imposing religion, in all its acts.
I now intend the very highest charge that can be brought against the human family, equivalent to that charge brought against us by Him who knows well what is in man-" Thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest."
II. This disease is, of all others, the most contagious. It has been communicated through the wide world, and gone into every little ramification of every kingdom under the whole heaven.
When we find a nation that we have never known before, we find them universally infected with the pillage of sin. Hence, "from the crown of the head, even unto the feet, they are full of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores."
The prevailing plague has spread through the human family an amount of misery that cannot be easily calculated. It poisons all the human relations, and mars every human compact; and, first of all, man's covenant with his God. The result of this is, that it has filled and loaded him with misery to the full, and all nature "groans and travails to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and be brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God."
Nor can it be hoped that this result, devoutly to be wished for, will ever be accomplished, till Christ shall come the second time "without sin unto salvation," and "the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Here we might expatiate largely upon the miseries of sin, but I pass to the question
III. Why is not the plague healed? "Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?"
In answering this question, I should choose to say,
1. Sinners are not sensible that they are the subjects of this deplorable disease. They say, We "are whole, and have no need
of a physician;" and "know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." The first object of a preached gospel is to convince them of this fact. They have no experience that can test this question at all. They have never known what health was, having always been in this same deplorable condition; except that the plague has been gradually becom ing worse and worse, till, at length, it has produced a kind of delirium, that has blunted the sensibility of consciousness, and rendered man blind to the spots of the plague that are upon him.
2. If to any extent they are conscious of their condition, they love the very disease that cleaves to them. How then can it be hoped that they will take the least pains to rid themselves of a pestilence that has as yet given them no pain, and they have known no disgrace that has accrued to them from having the plague upon them.
They are not sent to live in a house by themselves, as the children of Israel used to be when they had the leprosy, or as men are now when affected with the plague.
If men are affected with a disposition to do wickedly, it attaches no disgrace to them, not as it will be in the judgment day, not as it is when men become "ashamed and confounded, and never open their mouths any more, because of their shame, when God becomes pacified towards them for all that they have done."
3. Another reason that men are not healed is, that they do not love the Physician.
He is to them a "root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness."
It is not to be expected that men will apply to the Savior, however afflicted, till they feel their need of him.
How much pains will parents take to have their children know and love their family physician, lest, when attacked with disease, they should be shy of his approach, and suffer, before they will allow him to come nigh them. But when sinners see the Lord Jesus Christ to be "chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely," they rush to his arms, and are rather glad to be sick, that they may employ such a royal physician.
4. They do not love the price at which they can be healed. It must be with Christ a mere gratuitous healing.
Men must come to him without money, and then it will be without price. The sinner must just give himself into the hands of Christ, to be healed in his own way. Which leads me to say,