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:- SERMON LII,
Psalm xciv. 7.
They murder the widow and the stranger, and
put the fatherless to death : and yet they say, Tush! the Lord shalt not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.
TN the beginning of this psalm, the author,
addressing himself to God, to whom vengeance belongeth, gives us a pathetic picture of the deplorable condition to which the Israelites were reduced by the insolence, injustice, and impiety of their * heathen invaders. “ They smite down thy people,” says he, “O ! Lord, and trouble thine heritage: they mur.
* Some commentators think that this psalm refers to the wickedness committed in the court of Saul, or to the injustice of the kings and judges in later ages.--Vide Patrick,
se der the widow and the stranger, and put " the fatherless to death.”—Thou sufferest them to commit every, outrage with impunity, to prosper in wickedness and triumph in the midst of their unparalleled guilt: and now, behold, what are the fruits of this lenity and forbearance? what conclusions do they draw from this long-suffering of the Almighty which prompts him to spare their crimes, and delay the avenging stroke of justice?—“Tush,” say they, “the « Lord * shall not see, neither shall the God of « Jacob regard it.”—We have been so long suffered to go on in sin without any visible mark of divine displeasure, that it is now very clear to us, that the Almighty seeth not our guilt, neither doth the God of Jacob regard it.
- To correct, therefore, so foolish and dangerous an opinion, the Prophet goes on to address himself' to 'them in this just and solemir reproof:-“ Take heed, ye unwise among the w people : 0 ye fools, when will ye under“ stand? He that planted the ear, shall he not "* hear? Or he that made the eye, shall he not “ see? Or he that nurtureth the heathen, it ** is he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not "he punish?" * Cannot_.Green.
· And would to God this reproof of the Psalmist were only applicable to the poor heathen idolaters, to whom it was originally addressed; who were lost in native ignorance and hereditary superstition, and therefore had something to plead in mitigation of their folly.! But there are, I fear, even among the more enlightened disciples of the blessed Jesus, too many who stand in need of the same reproof; who, like these untutored heathens, from being long permitted to add sin to sin, like them also say, “Tush! the “ Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of “ Jacob regard it.”
To obviate, therefore, the contagion of so fatal a delusion, so far at least, as lies within the power . of an humble individual, I shall make it the
business of the present discourse, ....
First, To assign some probable reasons why God so long suffers the wicked to go unpunished: and, : .
Secondly, To shew the folly and danger of being thereby induced to continue in sin.
And first, Let it be considered that the-immediate punishment of sin would entirely contradict and subvert the whole plan of God's moral administration. He formed the world as a theatre of probation and trial, on which the sons of men were to act their respective parts, as candidates for his favour and an immortal inheritance. On the one hand, he placed before them the pure and permanent satisfactions of virtue ; on the other, the specious, but deceitful, allurements of vice. To the virtuous he promised the palm of eternal glory; to the vicious he denounced the torments of endless misery: to all he gave a freedom of choice, and, to direct that choice, superadded the noble and instructive faculty of reason, and the powerful monitions of conscience and grace. And thus, having placed before them good and evil, he left them in the hands of their own counsel, to be the authors of eternal happiness or misery to themselves.
Here then is a scheme of administration worthy the prudence of an all-wise Reing; a plan becoming the benevolence of an all-merciful Creator; which, at the same time that it furnishes men with the means of happiness, lays no restraint upon that freedom of will and liberty of action, which are the essence of virtue, and the only foundation of reward.
But now, should God think fit to change the methods of his Providence; should he anges an immediate reward to virtue, and inflict an instantaneous punishment upoň vice; the whole of this beautiful structure must fall to the ground, and the present scheme of divine administration must become absurd and unintelligible. How should the world then be called a state of probation, intended to try the faith, and exercise the constancy of mankind ? For what trial could there be of faith and constancy, when vice had nothing to hope for, and virtue nothing to suffer? What again would become of that freedom of choice which is the basis of merit, and the characteristic distinction of human nature? Would not man, in effect, become like the arrow in the hand of a giant; a mere instrument, impelled by the irresistible agency of a superior and over-ruling power? For, who could chuse to revolt from, virtue, when he saw it inseparably connected with present happiness ; or who would dare to prefer vice when he beheld the flaming hand of Omnipotence upraised to blast his choice with instant vengeance? And, lastly, what would become of those noble ornaments of human nature, fortitude and patienc, under afflictions, an inflexible integrity amidst temptations, a generous and disinterested goodness, a firm and faithful trust in God? 2