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SERMON VII.

NATIONAL DECLENSION.

Shall I not visit for these things ? faith the

Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this ? --- Jer. v. 9.

DEPARTURE from God, either by nations or individuals, is fraught with extreme peril to either. As a nation, the chosen race of Israel were a notable example of this. The sovereign choice of Jehovah fixed on them, above all the people of the earth, to be taken into special covenant with Himself. Lamentable, indeed, were the returns which they rendered to their gracious and merciful Lord. Expoftulation and affectionate remonftrance, offered again and again, failed of its intended effect. Stiffnecked and rebellious was still the characteristic of the nation : so that the long-suffering of Jehovah at length broke forth in this address :-“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;” still, however, reminding them that their help was in the Lord their God. Every sign of repentance was hailed by the Lord God with a satisfaction which we may suppose to be akin to the emotions which fill a parent's breast at the first signs of softening in a wayward and hardened child.

This door of repentance is still open to them, although so long nationally alienated from God. «Hath God cast

away
His

people? God forbid.” “God is able to graff them in again,” says St. Paul, in Rom. xi., “if they abide not in unbelief.” Through Gentile mercy, that is, mercy shown to them by us, they are to receive mercy, he tells us.

So that, if they remain hardened, let us 'not be unmindful, brethren, that it is through our want of mercy to them that they do not obtain mercy. “For how shall they hear without a preacher ? and how shall they preach except they be sent ?” We pride ourselves, brethren, on our national and on our religious privileges. Let us not boast against the ancient stock: for if God spared not the natural branches, let us take heed left He cut us off.

The chapter out of which my text is taken contains remarkable passages connected with the people of Jerusalem, and the dealings of Jehovah with them. It alludes to their backslidings — to God's threatenings — to His tender mercies.

The words occur twice in the chapter, as if the Lord would rise in His wrath and inflict summary vengeance. Mercy and judgment seem contending as to which shall be extended to the guilty people. In wrath He would smite them; and yet, remembering His lovingkindness, He would still spare. When judgment overhung the Cities of the Plain, had ten righteous persons been found therein, the Almighty, at the prayer of Abraham His servant, would have held back the fiery storm. In the times referred to in Jeremiah he says, — “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof." Injunctions are reiterated — no street or open space is to be omitted. It is to be searched, as in Zephaniah i., “ with candles," and that, not if peradventure ten righteous should be found, but one. « If

that exe

ye can find a man, if there be

any cuteth judgment, that seeketh the truth ; and I will pardon it.” Judgment and justice had departed. Truth was abhorrent to them. In nominally calling on the Lord and acknowledging Him, they took His name in vain. They were stricken of God. His arm tried them, but they were not grieved. Affliction did not have its intended effect of softening their heart. In setting themselves against the correction of God, they have made their faces harder than a rock. Like loft sheep they strayed, and have refused to return.

No gleam of penitential forrow illumined the dark atmosphere of evil-no coming to a right mind, as did the repentant prodigal — no whispering soliloquy, “I will arise and go unto my Father.” No: they refused to return. Thus acted the generality. They might have been ignorant. · They

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