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droppings of the word preached produce nothing but the cursed fruits of sin, like the earth, that, drinking in the rain that cometh often upon it, beareth nothing but briers and thorns; what can be expected, but that, as they resemble the earth in its barrenness, so they should be like it also in its doom, which is, to be nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burnt, Heb. vi. 8. The apostle draws a peremptory conclusion concerning this, in 2 Cor. iv. 3, If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. When the word shall be exhibited to the soul, like a dark lantern, not to display, but to conceal the light, no wonder, if seeing, we do not see, but wander through the darkness of a soul-destroying blindness, to such a darkness as is perpetual. God can order even his word and precepts so, and turn them to the destruction of the unprofitable, unworthy enjoyers of them, that, as it is in Isaiah xxviii. 13, they shall go backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. And certainly we have cause to conclude him, who receives no benefit at all by the word of life, a lost person. He whom the very means of salvation do not save, must needs perish.
2dly, God seals and prepares a sinner for destruction, by restraining the convincing power of his providences. God's providences are subservient to his ordinances: they are (as it were) God's word acted and made visible to the eye. For God speaks, not only in his word, but also in his works. And as Christ says of his miraculous, so we may say also of God's providential works, that the works that he does, bear witness of him. There are such fresh marks and signatures of the divine will in the many occasional passages of our lives, that such as
have their senses in any measure spiritually exercised, do not only see the hand, but also hear the voice of him that sent them. And it would not be difficult to draw forth sundry instances from history, shewing how several persons have been converted by a serious reflection upon some strange passages of providence, that have so directly thwarted, and even melted them in their sin, and withal carried with them such undeniable evidence of the divine displeasure, that the persons concerned have been forced to cry out, that it was the apparent finger of God; and so to submit to it by a conscientious reformation of their lives. Now I shall instance in three sorts of providence, in which God often speaks convincingly.
1st, In a general, common calamity. In respect of which it is said, that when God's judgments are abroad in the land, the inhabitants will learn righteousness, Isaiah xxvi. 9. Now that which concerns all, concerns every particular; as in a general rain every twig, every single spire of grass shares in the influence. Judgments, that are general in the sending, are to be made particular by a distinct application. Thus Ezra and Nehemiah made the common desolation and captivity of the Jews the subjectmatter of their personal sorrow. Thus also Jeremy, Lament. iii. 1, considers all the words and griefs that were diffused here and there in a common, universal calamity, and then makes them all concentre in his own breast: I am the man, says he, that have seen affliction. And what is the whole book of the Lamentations, but the doleful expression of the sorrows of one man for the misery of all? The convincing sense of a calamity should spread wider a
great deal than the actual endurance of it, and the terror proceed further than the smart. As the sunbeams, though directly and immediately they may strike only this or that thing, yet they are sure to reach many others in the rebound. But now, when God, as it were, blunts the edge of a common calamity, so that it makes no impression, or hardens the heart, so that it admits none, this is a pregnant sign of a soul fitted and prepared for destruction. See the truth of this exemplified in one or two particulars. And first, could any thing be imagined more impious and absurd, thạn that which we read in 1 Sam. xv. of Agag king of Amalek; that immediately upon the conquest of his kingdom, the slaughter of his subjects, and the captivity of his own person, like a man wholly unconcerned in all these distresses, he should venture to adorn and trick up himself, and conclude presently, that surely the bitterness of death was past? But behold, even then, in that very moment, sudden destruction rushes in upon him ; which (by the way) is then usually nearest to our persons, when furthest from our thoughts. But, to proceed to an higher example of villainy; could there be a more prodigious, horrid instance of incorrigible lewdness, than that in Numb. xxv. 6, of one Zimri, of whom it is said, that in the very midst and height of a plague from heaven, raging over the whole camp of Israel, he brought into his tent a Midianitish strumpet in the sight of Moses, his prince, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who stood weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congrégation? Neither any touch of common humanity, upon the sight of his brethren's mourning and misery, nor any awe and reverence of that great law
giver, could give check to his fury; but that, in defiance of the plague, and of the wrath that sent it, in spite of all shame and scandal, and in the face of God and of the world, he charges on resolutely and audaciously, to the satisfaction of his impure desires. But wheresoever we meet with such a rate of sinning, we may be sure destruction cannot be far off, but even at the door. And accordingly here, in ver. 8, we find the vengeance of God overtaking this vile person, by a sudden and disastrous death; a death that carried away body and soul together. For when men are killed in their sin, flagrante crimine, death temporal is by consequence eternal. But now, had these two daring wretches duly and rightly considered these dreadful, public dispensations of God, they would quickly have reflected upon their own personal danger, and cried out, with surprise and horror, as those sinners of Sion did, upon the sight of God's judgments round about them, in Isaiah xxxiii. 14, Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burning's ? This, together with the fears of mature repentance, had been the only sure way to have extinguished them. But persons that will not be concerned, nor moved, nor wrought upon by the loud alarms of God's judgments upon others, are ripening apace for perdition.
2dly, The second sort of convincing providences is by particular, personal, and distinguishing judgments. When a man is singled out for misery, in the midst of a general prosperity, this, surely, cannot be accounted accident. When God hits one in a company, you may very well conclude that he aimed at him. Distinction and discrimination was
never yet the effect of chance. Now in every such judgment the voice and command of God is, that we should either begin or renew our repentance. And when God speaks with his hand, certainly he speaks most forcibly. But when he binds up, and withholds the healing force of this also, and inflicts the rod, but denies jurisdiction; and uses that to kill, that was first made to correct; this is another speedy and effectual way to destroy.
Those many rubs and crosses that befell Saul, both in his persecution of David, and his other affairs, were certainly the voice of God, audible enough to any spiritual ear: and though God answered him not by Urim and Thummim, yet he spoke aloud to him in vocal blows; which were both reprehensions of what he had done, and admonitions what, for the future, he should do. But we know, none of all these things had any effect upon him, unless only to make him worse. It appeared to be God's purpose, all along, by a continual increase of guilt and hardness, to train him up for destruction. The event did still demonstrate what God designed him to. The same judgments that in the hand of God are sovereign means to polish and improve a well-disposed mind, are as efficaciously used by him to inflame the accounts of the wicked and the obdurate; who take occasion from thence, to make themselves ten times more the sons of reprobation than they were before. As in bodies, those that are solid and excellent, as gold and silver, the more you beat them, the brighter and better they grow: but in flesh, that is presently subject to corrupt, the more you strike it, the blacker and nearer it is to putrefaction. See the desperate re