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a sudden surprise of the wicked of the old world in the night, probably that alludes in Job xxvii. 20. Terrors take hold on him as waters; a tempest stealeth him away in the night.”
So destruction is wont to come on wicked men, who hear many warnings of approaching destruction. and yet will not be influenced by them. For he that is often reproved, and harden-th bis neck, shall suddenly be destroyed. and that without remedy." (Prov. xxix. 1.) And when they shall say,
" Peace and safety ; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” 1 Thess. v. 3.
5. If you will not hearken to the many warnings which are given you of approaching destruction, you will be guilty of more than brutish madness. "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.” They know upon whom they are dependent, and whom they must obey, and act accordingly. But you, so long as you neglect your own salvation, act as if you knew not God, your creator and proprietor, nor your dependence upon him.—The very beasts, when they see signs of an approaching storm, will betake themselves to their dens for -helter. Yet you, when abundantly warned of the approaching storm of divine vengeance, will not fly to the hiding place from the storm, and the covert from the tempest. The sparrow, the swallow, and other birds, when they are forewarned of approaching winter, will betake themselves to a safer climate. Yet
who have been often forewarned of the piercing blasts of divine wrath, will not, in order to escape them, enter into the New Jerusalem, of nost mild and salubrious air, though the gate stands wide open to receive you. The very ants will be diligent in summer to lay up for winter: Yet you will do nothing to lay up in store a good foundation against the time to come. Balaam's ass would not run upon a drawn sword. though his master, for the sake of gain, would expose himself to the sword of God's wrath; and so God made the dumb ass, both in words and actions, to rebuke the madness of the prophet, 1 Pet. ii. 16. In like manner, you, although you have been often warned that the sword of God's wrath is drawn against you and will certainly be thrust through you, if you proceed in your present course, still proceed regardless of the consequence.
So God made the very beasts and birds of the old world to rebuke the madness of the men of that day : For they, even all sorts of them, fled to the ark, while the door was yet open: which the men of that day refused to do; God hereby thus signifying, that their folly was greater than that of the very brute creatures.--Such folly and madness are you guilty of, who refuse to bearken to the warnings that are given you of the approaching flood of the wrath of God.
You have been once more warned to-day, while the door of the ark yet stands open. You have, as it were, once again heard the knocks of the hammer and axe in the building of the ark, to put you in mind that a flood is approaching. Take heed therefore that you do not still stop your ears, treat these warnings with a regardless heart, and still neglect the great work which you have to do, lest the flood of wrath suddenly come upon you, sweep you away, and there be no remedy,
THE UNREASONABLENESS OF INDETERMINATION IN
1 Kings XVIII. 21.
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt
ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him ; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
It is the manner of God, before he bestows any signal mercy on a people, first to prepare them for it; and before he removes any awful judgments which he hath brought upon them for their sins, first to cause them to forsake those sins which procured those judgments. We have an instance of this in the context. -It was a time of sore famine in Israel. There had been nei. ther rain nor dew for the space of three years and six months. This famine was brought upon the land for their idolatry. But God was now about to remove this judgment; and therefore, to prepare them for it, sends Elijah to convince them of the folly of idolatry, and to bring them to repentance for it. In order to this, Elijah, by the command of the Lord, goes and shews himself to Ahab, and directs him to send and gather all Israel to him at Mount Carmel, and all the prophets of Baal, four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves that ate at Jezebel's table, four hundred, that they might determine the matter and bring the controversy to an issue, whether Jehovah or Baal were God. To this end, Elijah proposes, that each should take a bullock, that he should take one, and the prophets of Baal another, that cach should cut his bullock in pieces, lay it on the wood, and put no fire under; and that the God who should answer by fire should be concluded to be God.
The text contains an account of what Elijah said to all the people at their first meeting, and of their silence: “ And Elijab came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him ; but if Baal, then follow him.” To which the people, it seems, made no reply. In these words, we may observe,
* Dated, June 1734.
1. How Elijah expostulates with the people about their halting so long between two opinions ; in which expostulation may be observed,
(1.) What the two opinions were, between which they halted, viz. Whether the Lord were God, or whether Baal were God. The case in Israel seems to have been this ; there were some who were altogether for Baal, and wholly rejected the true God; of which number, to be sure, were Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. And there were some among them who were altogether for the God of Israel, and wholly rejected Baal; as God told Elijah, that " he had yet left in Israel seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal, and whose mouths had not kissed him.” i Kings xix. 18.
But the rest of the people halted between two opinions. They saw that some were for one, and some for the other, and they did not know which to choose; and, as is commonly the case when difference of opinion prevails, there were many who had no religion at all; they were not settled in any thing ; the different opinions prevalent in Israel distracted and confounded them. Many who professed to believe in the true God, were yet very cold and indifferent, and many were wavering and unsettled. They saw that the king and queen were for Baal; and Baal's party was the prevailing party ; but their forefathers had been for the Lord; and they knew not which were right. Thus they halted between two opinions.
(2.) In this expostulation is implied the unreasonableness of their thus halting between two opinions. “How long halt ye between two opinions ? If the Lord be God, follow him ; but if Baal, then follow him.” Which implies that they ought to determine one way or the other.
2. We may observe their silence on this occasion : “ And the people answered him not a word," as being convicted in their own consciences of the unreasonableness of their being for so long a time wavering and unresolved; they had nothing to reply in excuse for themselves.
Doctrine. Unresolvedness in religion is very unreusonable.
I. Prop. Many persons remain exceedingly undetermined with respect to religion. They are very much undetermined in themselves whether to embrace religion or to reject it. Many who are baptized, and make a profession of religion, and seem to be Christians, are yet in their own minds halting between two opinions : they never yet came fully to a conclusion whether to be Christians or not. They are taught the Christian religion in their childhood, and have the Bible, the word preached, and the means of grace all their days; yet continue, and grow up, and
many grow old, in an unresolvedness whether to embrace Christianity or not; and many continue unresolved as long as
1. There are some persons who have never come to a settled determination in their own minds, whether or no there be any truth in religion. 'They hear of the things of religion from their childhood all their days; but never come to a conclusion in their own minds whether they be real or fabulous. Particularly, some have never come to any determination in their own minds, whether there be any such thing as conversion.They hear much talk about it, and know that many pretend to be the subjects of it; but they are never resolved whether all be not merely designed hypocrisy and imposture.
Some never come to any determination whether the scriptures be the word of God, or whether they be the invention of men; and whether the story concerning Jesus Christ be any thing but a fable. They fear it is true, but sometimes very much doubt of it. Sometimes when they hear arguments for it they assent that it is true; but upon every little objection or temptation arising, they call it in question; and are always wavering, and never settled about it.
So it seems to have been with many of the Jews in Christ's time; they were always at a loss what to make of him, whether he were indeed the Christ, or whether he were Elias, or one of the old prophets, or a mere impostor. John x. 24, 25. “Then
. came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed
, not.” Some have never so much as come to a resolution in their own minds, whether there be a God or not. They know not that there is, and oftentimes very much doubt of it.
2. There are some who never have come to any determination in their own minds whether to embrace religion in the practice of it. Religion consists not merely, or chiefly in theory or speculation, but in practice. It is a practical thing; the end of it is to guide and influence us in our practice: and considered in this view, there are multitudes who never have come to a conclusion whether to embrace religion or not. It is probably pretty general for men to design to be religious some time or other before they die; for none intend to go to hell. But they still keep it at a distance; they put it off from time to time, and never come to any conclusion which determines them in their present practice. And some never so much as fix upon any time. They design to be religious some time before they die, but they know not when.
There are many who bave always continued unresolved about the necessity of striving and being earnestly engaged for salvation. They flatter themselves that they may obtain salvaVOL. VI.