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Address to such as attend ordinances, and yet allow themselves
in known sin,
Consider how holy and sacred the ordinances of God are: what mockery you are guilty of in making such a show, and such pretences in attending ordinances, and yet voluntarily acting the reverse of what you pretend. Consider that there is no sort of sinners with whom God is so provoked, and who stand so guilty before him, as the profaners of his ordinances. The fire of God's wrath is kindled by none so much as by the polluters of holy things. They are represented as those who are especially guilty before God, in the third commandment: The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Why is this annexed to this command, rather than to any other of the ten, but because the breach of it especially renders a man guilty in the sight of God ?
The taking of God's name in vain includes the profanation and pollution of ordinances and holy things. They do in a very dreadful manner take God's name in vain, who attend on his ordinances, and yet live in known sin; for, as we have shown, they manifest the greatest irreverence for him, and contempt of divine things. They manifest a contempt of bis au
a thority, a contempt of the business and design of his ordinances, and a most careless and irreverent spirit in things wherein they havė immediate converse with God. Ordinances, as we have shown, are attended in the name of God; and therefore, by such an attendance on them, the name of God is greatly profaned. You that attend ordinances in such a manner, take the name of God so much in vain, that you use it only in mockery, and so as to expose it to contempt. Such a way of attending ordinances is a trampling of all that is sacred under foot.
We have in scripture scarce any such awful instances of the immediate and miraculous vengeance of God, as on the pro
ou faners of holy things. How did God consume Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire before him! How did he break forth upon Uzza, for handling the ark with too much irreverence! 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7. And how did he break forth on the children of Israel at Bethshemesh, for profaning the ark! He smote of the people fifty thousand three score and ten men, as in 1 Sam. vi. 19.
And God hath threatened in the New Testament, that if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, i Cor. ii. 17. There is an emphasis in the expression. God will destroy all sinners, let it be what sin it will, which they commit, and in which they continue ; and yet it is said, If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, as if it had been said, there is something peculiar in the case, and God is especially provoked to destroy such and consume them in the fire of his wrath; and he will indeed destroy them with a destruction especially dreadful,
So God hath declared, Gal. vi. 7. that he will not be mocked; i. e. if any presume to mock him, they will find him, by experience, to be no contemptible being. God will vindicate his holy majesty from the contempt of those who dare to mock him, and he will do it effectually: they shall fully find how dreadful a being he is, whose name they have daringly profaned and polluted. Defilers and profaners of ordinances, by known and allowed wickedness, provoked God more than the Heathen, who have no ordinances. Thus the wickedness of Judah and Jerusalem is said to be far worse than that of Sodom, though the inhabitants of Sodom were, as we have reason to think, some of the worst of the Heathens. See Ezek. xvi. 46, 47, &c. The sin of Sodom is here spoken of as a light thing in comparison with the sins of Judah. And what should be the reason, but that Judah enjoyed holy things which they profaned and polluted, which Sodom had no opportunity to do? for it is not to be supposed, that Judah otherwise arrived to the same pass that Sodom had.
Consider therefore, ye who allow yourselves in known wickedness, and live in it, who yet come to the house of God, and to his ordinances from time to time, without any serious design of forsaking your sins, but, on the contrary, with an intention of continuing in them, and who frequently go from the house of God to your wicked practices; consider how guilty you have made yourselves in the sight of God, and how dreadfully God is provoked by you. It is a wonder of God's patience, that he doth not break forth upon you, and strike you dead in a moment ; for you profane holy things in a more dreadful maner than Uzza did, when yet God struck him dead for his error. And whereas he was struck dead for only one offence; you are guilty of the same sin from week to week, and from day to day.
It is a wonder, that God suffers you to live upon earth ; that he hath not, with a thunderbolt of his wrath, struck you down to the bottomless pit long ago.
You that are allowedly and voluntarily living in sin, who have gone on hitherto in sin, are still going on, and do not design any other than to go on yet; it is a wonder that the Almighty's thunder lies still, and suffers you to sit in his house, or to live upon
earth. It is a wonder that the earth will bear you, and that hell doth not swallow you up. It is a wonder that fire doth not come down from heaven, or come up from hell, and devour you ; that hell-fames do not enlarge themselves to reach you, and that the bottomless pit hath not swallowed you up.
However, that you are as yet borne with, is no argument that your damnation slumbers. The anger of God is not like the passions of men, that it should be in haste. There is a day of vengeance and recompense appointed for the vessels of wrath ; and when the day shall have come, and the iniquity shall be full, none shall deliver out of God's hand. Then will he recompense, even recompense into your bosoms.
THE FINAL JUDGMENT, OR THE WORLD JUDGED
RIGHTEOUSLY &c. BY JESUS CHRIST.
Acts xvii. 31.
Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the
world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.
These words are a part of the speech which Paul made in Mars-Hill, a place of concourse of the judges and learned men of Athens. Athens was the principal city of that part of Greece which was formerly a commonwealth by itself, and was the most noted place in the whole world for learning, philosophy, and human wisdom; and it continued so for many ages; till at length the Romans having conquered Greece, its renown from that time began to diminish; and Rome having borrowed learning of it, began to rival it in science, and in the polite and civil arts. However, it was still very famous in the days of Christ and the apostles, and was a place of concourse for wise and learned men.
Therefore, when Paul came thither, and began to preach concerning Jesus Christ, a man who had lately been crucified at Jerusalem, (as in the 18th verse.) the philosophers thronged about him, to hear what he had to say. The strangeness of his doctrine excited their curiosity; for they spent their time in endeavouring to find out new things, and valued themselves greatly upon their being the authors of new discoveries, as we are informed in ver. 21. They despised his doctrine in their hearts, and esteemed it very ridiculous, calling the apo-tle a babbler; for the preaching of Christ crucified was to the Greeks foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 23. yet the Epicurean and Stoic philoso
phers, two different sects, had a mind to hear what the babbler
had to say
Upon this Paul rises up in the midst of them, and makes a speech; and as he speaks to philosophers and men of learning, he speaks quite differently from his common mode of address. There is evidently, in his discourse, a greater depth of thought, more philosophical reasoning, and a more elevated style, than are to be found in his ordinary discourses to common men. His speech is such as was likely to draw the attention, and gain the assent of philosophers. He shows himself to be no babbler, but a man who could offer such reason, as they, however they valued themselves upon their wisdom, were not able to gainsay. His practice here is agreeable to what he saith of himself, 1 Cor. ix. 22. “that he became all things to all men, that he might by all means save some. He not only to the weak became as weak, that he might gain the weak; but to the wise he became as wise, that he might gain the wise.
In the first place, he reasons with them concerning their worship of idols. He declares to them the true God, and points out how unreasonable it is to suppose, that he delights in such superstitious worship. He begins with this, because they were most likely to hearken to it, as being so evidently agreeable to the natural light of human reason, and also agreeable to what some of their own poets and philosophers had said, (ver. 28.) He begins not immediately to tell them about Jesus Christ, his dying for sinners, and his resurrection from the dead; but first draws their attention with that to which they were more likely to hearken; and then, having thus introduced himself, he proceeds to speak concerning Jesus Christ.
He tells them. the times of this ignorance concerning the true God, in which they had hitherto been, God winked at ; he suffered the world to lie in heathenish darkness; but now the appointed time was come, when he expected men should every where repent ; “because he had appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained." As an enforcement to the duty of turning to God from their ignorance, superstition, and idolatry, the apostle brings in this, that God had appointed such a day of judgment. And as a proof of this, he brings the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Concerning the words of the text, we may observe,
That in them the apostle speaks of the general judgment: He will judge the world.—The time when this shall be, on the appointed day : He hath appointed a day.—How the world is to be judged : In righteousness.—The man by whom it is to be judged: Christ Jesus, whom God raised from ihe dead.