« PreviousContinue »
they might hear occasionally, would be likely to have a much greater influence upon the minds of their people to awaken and animate them in religion, than all other labours with them. Besides, their ministers' opinion will not only beget in them a suspicion of the work they hear of abroad, whereby the mighty band of God that appears in it, loses its influence upon their minds ; but it will also tend to create a suspicion of every thing of the like nature, that shall appear anong themselves, as being something of the same distemper that is become so epidemical in the land. And what is this, in effect, bui to create a suspicion of all vital religion, and to put the people upon talking against and discouraging it, wherever it appears, and knocking it on the head as fast as it rises. We, who are ministers, by looking on this work from year to year with a displeased countenance, shall effectually keep the sheep from their pasture, instead of doing the part of shepherds by feeding them; and our people had a great deal better be without any settled minister at all, at such a day as this.
We who are in this sacred office had need to take heed what we do, and how we behave ourselves at this time; a less thing in a minister will hinder the work of God, than in others. If we are very silent, or say but little about the work, in our public prayers and preaching, or seem carefully to avoid speaking of it in our conversation, it will be interpreted by our people, that we who are their guides, to whom they are to have their eye for spiritual instruction, are suspicious of it; and this will tend to raise the same suspicions in them; and so the forementioned consequences will follow. And if we really hinder and stand in the way of the work of God, whose business above all others it is to promote it, how can we expect to partake of the glorious benefits of it? And, by keeping others from the benefit, we shall keep them out of heaven; therefore those awful words of Christ to the Jewish teachers, should be considered by us, Matt. xxiii. 13. Woe unto you, for you shut up the kingdom of heaven ;-for ye neither yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering, to go
in. If we keep the sheep from their pasture, how shall we answer it to the great shepherd, who has bought the flock with his precious blood, and has committed the care of them to us? I would humbly desire of every minister that has thus long remained disaffected to this work, and has had contemptible thoughts of it, to consider whether he has not hitherto been like Michal, without any child, or at least in a great measure barren and unsuccessful in his work: I pray God it may not be a perpetual barrenness, as her's was.
The times of Christ's remarkably appearing in behalf of his church, to revive religion, and advance his kingdom in the world, are often spoken of in the prophecies of scrip
ture, as' times wberein he will remarkably execute judgments on such ministers or shepherds as do not feed the flock, but hinder their being fed, and so will deliver his flock from them. (Jer. xxiii. throughout, and Ezek. xxxiv. throughout, and Zech. x. 3. and Isa. lvi. 7, 8, 9, &c. I observed before, that Christ's solemn, magnificent entry into Jerusalem, seems to be designed as a representation of his glorious coming into his church, the spiritual Jerusalem; and therefore it is worthy to be noted, to our present purpose, that Christ at that time cast out all them who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; signifying, that, when be should come to set up his kingdom on earth, he would cast out those out of his house, who, instead of being faithful ministers, officiated there for worldly gain. Not that I determine, that all ministers who are suspicious of this work, do 50; but I mention these things to shew why it is to be expected, that a time of a glorious out-pouring of the Spirit of God to revive religion, will be a time of remarkable judgments on those ministers who do not serve the end of their ministry.
The example of the unbelieving lord in Samaria should especially be for the warning of ministers and rulers. At the time when God turned an extreme famine into great plenty, by a wonderful work of his, the king appointed this lord to have the charge of the gate of the city; where he saw the common people, in multitudes, entering with great joy and gladness, loaded with provision, to feed and feast their almost famished bodies; but he himself, though he saw it with bis eyes, never had one taste of it, but, being weak with famine, sunk down in the crowd, and was trodden to death, as a punishment of God for his not giving credit to that great and wonderful work of God, when sufficiently manifested to bim to require his belief.—Ministers are those whom the king of the church has appointed to have the charge of the gate at which his people enter into the kingdom of heaven, there to be entertained and satisfied with an eternal feast, i. e. ministers have the charge of the house of God, which is the gate of heaven.
They should especially take heed of a spirit of envy towards other ministers, whom God is pleased to use for carrying on this work more than they; and that they do not from such a spirit, reproach some preachers who have the true spirit, as though they were influenced by a false spiritor were bereft of reason, were mad, and proud, false pretenders, and deserved to be put in prison or the stocks, as disturbers of the peace--lest they expose themselves to the curse of Shemaiah, the Nehelamite, who envied the prophet Jeremiah,
and in this manner reviled him, in his letter to Zephaniah the priest, Jer. xxix. 26, 27. The Lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the Lord, for every man that
is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks. Now therefore, why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you? His curse is denounced in the 32d verse, Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will punish Shenaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed; he shall not have a man to dwell among his people, neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the Lord, because he hath taught rebellion against the Lord. All superiors or elders should take heed, that at this day they be not like the elder brother, who could not bear that the prodigal should be sumptuously entertained, and would not join in the joy of the feast. He was like Michal, Saul's daughter, offended at the music and dancing that he heard ; the transports of joy displeased him; it seemed to him to be an unseemly and unseasonable noise; and therefore stood at a distance, sullen, and much offended, and full of inyectives against the young prodigal.
It is our wisest and best way, fully, and without reluctance, to bow to the great God in this work, and to be entirely resigned to him, with respect to the manner in which he carries it on, and the instruments he is pleased to use. Let us not shew ourselves out of humour, and sullenly refuse to acknow. ledge the work in its full glory, because we have not had so great a hand in promoting it, or have not shared so largely in its blessings, as some others. Let us not refuse to give all that honour which belongs to others as instruments, because they are young, or are upon other accounts much inferior to our. selves and others; and may appear to us very unworthy that God should put so much honour upon them. When God comes to accomplish any great work for his church, and for the advancement of the kingdom of bis Son, he always fulfils that scripture, Isa. ii. 17. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of man shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. If God has a design of carrying on this work, every one, whether he be great or small, must either bow to it, or be broken before it. It may be expected that God's hand will be upon every thing that is high, and stiff, and strong in opposition; as in Isa. ii. 12-15. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall.
Not only magistrates and ministers, but every living soul, is now obliged to arise and acknowledge God in this work, and put to his hand to promote it, as they would not expose themselves to God's curse. All sorts of persons tbroughout the whole congregation of Israel, great and small, rich and poor, men and women, helped to build the tabernacle in the wilderness ; some in one way, others in another; each one according to his capacity: every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing; all sorts contributed and all sorts were employed in that affair, in labours of their hands, both men and women. Some brought gold and silver, others blue, purple and scarlet, and fine linen; others offered an offering of brass; others, with whom was found shittimwood, brought it an offering to the Lord; the rulers brought onyx-stones, and spice and oil; and some brought goats' hair, some rams' skins, and others badgers' skins. (See Exod. xxxv. 20, &c.) And we are told, ver. 29. The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing. And thus it ought to be in this day of building the tabernacle of God; with such a willing and cheerful beart ought every man, woman and child, to do something to promote this work : those who have not onyx-stones, or are not able to bring gold or silver, yet may bring goats' bair.
As all sorts of persons were employed in building the tabernacle in the wilderness, so the whole congregation of Israel were called together to set up the tabernacle in Shiloh, after they came into Canaan, Josh. xviii. 1. and the whole congregation of Israel were gathered together, to bring up the ark of God from Kirjath-jearim. Again, they were all assembled to bring it up out of the house of Obed-Édom into Mount Zion; so again, all Israel met together to assist in the great affair of the dedication of the temple, and bring the ark into it. So we have an account, how that all sorts assisted in the rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, not only the proper inhabitants of Jerusalem, but those that dwelt in other parts of the land; not only the priests and rulers, but the Nethinims and mere chants, husbandmen and mechanics, and even women, Neh. iii. 5, 12, 26, 31, 32. And we have an account of one and another, that he repaired over against his house, ver. 10, 23, 28. and one that repaired over against his chamber, ver. 30. So now, at this time of the rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, every one ought to promote the work of God within his own sphere, and by doing what belongs to him, in the place in which God bas set him. Men in a private capacity may repair over against their houses, and even those that have not the governo ment of families, and have but a part of a house belonging to them, should repair each one over against his chamber. Every one should be engaged to do the utmost that lies in his power,
labouring with watchfulness, care and diligence, with united hearts, and united strength, and the greatest readiness to assist one another in this work; as God's people rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, who were so diligent in the work, that they wrought from break of day till the stars appeared, and did not so much as put off their clothes in the night. They wrought with great care and watchfulness; with one hand they laboured in the work, and with the other they held a weapon, besides the guard they set to defend them. They were so well united in it, that they appointed one to stand ready with a trumpet in his band, that if any were assaulted in one part, those in the other parts, at the sound of the trumpet, might resort to them, and help them. Neh. iv.
Great care should be taken that the press should be improved to no purpose contrary to the interest of this work. We read, that when God fought against Sisera, for the deliverance of his oppressed church, they that handle the pen of the writer came to the help of the Lord in that affair, Judges v. 14. Whatever sort of men in Israel were intended, yet, as the words were indited by a spirit that had a perfect view of all events to the end of the world, and had a special eye in this song, to that great event of the deliverance of God's church in the latter days, of which this deliverance of Israel was a type, it is not unlikely that they have respect to authors, who should fight against the kingdom of Satan with their pens. Those therefore that publish pamphlets to the disadvantage of this work, and tend either directly or indirectly to bring it under suspicion, and to discourage or hinder it, would do well thoroughly to consider whether this be not indeed the work of God: and whether, if it be, it is not likely that God will go forth as fire, to consume all that stand in his way; and whether there be not danger that the fire kindled in them will scorch the authors.
When a people oppose Christ in the work of bis Holy Spirit, it is because it touches them in something that is dear to their carnal minds, and because they see the tendency of it is to cross their pride, and deprive them of the objects of their lusts. We should take heed that at this day we be not like the Gadarenes, who-when Christ came into their country in the exercise of his glorious power and grace, triumphing over a legion of devils, and delivering a miserable creature that bad long been their captive-were all alarmed, because they lost their swine by it; and a whole multitude of the country came, and besought him to depart out of their coasts. They loved their filthy swine better than Jesus Christ; and had rather have a legion of devils in their country with their herd of swine, than Jesus Christ without them.
This work may be opposed in other ways, besides by