Imágenes de páginas

though it begin in a small compass, yet it quickly, in the effects of it, overspreads the whole. It may first appear like that cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, 1 Kings xviii. 44, but it presently overclouds and darkens the heavens over us, and showers down the heaviest of God's judgments. Adam's sin was but the sin of one man, and yet how large and extensive were the dimensions of the curse! it diffused itself to all his posterity, and that in all places, in all ages. When David numbered the people, none but David sinned; yet all Israel felt the smart of the punishment, thousands fell under the pestilence : the penalty of this sin was as large as his dominions; the curse, it reached from Dan to Beersheba. But here it may be replied, these indeed were public persons, and their offences public, and therefore the punishment might be so too. But then what shall we think of Achan? He was no public person, no governor, no representative of a people; yet we see his one particular trespass, in meddling with the cursed thing, caused the whole armies of Israel to -fly before their enemies : that one sin chased a thousand, and put ten thousand to flight, Joshuah vii. And again, did not the sin of a few profane Benjamites scatter and almost devour a whole tribe? Judges xx. From these examples we may make this natural conclusion to ourselves, that what God did then, if he please, he may do the same now.

The reasons that God sometimes, for particular sins, inflicts general judgments, may be these.

1st, To shew us the provoking nature of sin; and that we live upon the score of mercy, and not by any title that we claim to life from our own righteousness : it is a mercy that God does not de

stroy for the sins of other men. Was it not a singular mercy to Lot, that he was delivered from the common destruction, though he never shared in the common sin? The righteousness of the whole world, since the fall, is not able to save one man; but the sin of one man, if God should deal according to the rigour of his justice, was enough to destroy a whole world.

2dly, God deservedly sometimes sends a general judgment for a particular sin ; because, though the sin is particular, in respect of the subject and cause of it, yet it may be general, in respect of its contagion. The plague, though but in one man, yet it is able to derive a general infection over a whole city. Thy sin, though the commission of it abides upon thy particular person, yet thou dost not know how far the example of it may spread. David's murder and adultery, as to the personal guilt of it, went no further than himself; but we know the scandal of it was very infectious; it caused the enemies of God to blaspheme: God therefore may deservedly avenge particular sins with general judgments.

2dly, As some particular sins are the total cause of a general judgment, so all and every particular sin shares and contributes its part in the bringing down of a judgment upon a nation, though it be not always the only cause of that judgment: a universal sin is made up of many particulars : if there were no personal, there could be no national sin. We may look upon our own particular miscarriages as small things, and not discernible in so great a crowd; we may think, that the sins of one man are no more considerable, in respect of the sins of a nation,

than one man is in comparison of all the inhabitants of the nation : yet one man's sin, though in itself it should be weaker, yet, as it is joined with the sins of a multitude, it will do execution. One soldier, taken by himself, is of no considerable force; but as joined to the body of an army, he will conquer and trample down towns and cities. One single drop of water, how contemptible is it! but as it is joined to the ocean, so it is terrible; it drowns, it destroys. Wherefore let none flatter himself, and think that his sin has no share in the misery of the nation ; for every particular man may think so, as well as one: and if it should be true of every one to whose sin should we ascribe the calamities we endure? For the sin of the inhabitants a land is said to mourn ; a fruitful land to be made barren, for the wickedness of those that dwell therein. And who knows but mine and thy sins may have provoked God to visit the nation with this distemper ? How dost thou know, but thy profaneness, thy drunkenness, may cause the land to mourn ? thy slighting God's ordinances, and thy causeless absenting thyself from his worship, may cause God to appear against the nation in anger ? When a barrel of gunpowder is fired, does not one corn, as much as another, contribute to the blowing up of the house ? Certainly, if the nation should receive some great blessing from God, upon the score of desert, would not every particular man be apt to thrust in, and ascribe some part of it to the merit of his own particular righteousness? How much more should we take shame and confusion to ourselves, and mark out our own personal sins, as those that have stuck deep in the nation's misery! As it is the duty of every par



ticular soldier in the army to fight in the day of battle, so it is equally the duty of every particular Christian to mourn in a day of humiliation.

3d Reason. Because God takes special notice of particular sins: punishing of a multitude does not make God overlook particulars; but he takes a distinct view of each several man's transgression ; as in our reading over a volume, the eye takes a distinct view of every letter. It is our prudence to take notice of those sins that God takes notice of; and as it is our prudence to take notice of them, so it is our greater prudence to lament them. Hence we have God in scripture so often singling out some sinners; in particular, Deut. xxix. 18, God, speaking to the whole body of the Israelites, says, Take heed, lest there be amongst you a root that beareth gall and bitterness. One would think that in so large a garden one weed might escape his eye: but the eye of God, like the sun, as it enlightens the whole world, so it discovers every little atom. . It is said, that God would search Jerusalem with candles; so exact is he in his survey of each several man's condition. In Psalm xiv. 2, God looketh down from heaven, to see if there were any one whose heart sought the Lord : and in the third verse he brings a particular report of their wickedness; There is none that doeth good, no, not one. He speaks as if he had searched and considered them one by one. Now the consideration of this, that God takes a particular notice of our personal misdemeanours, should engage us to set about a particular amendment. When workmen know their master will come, and take a particular account of each man's several task, this is a sufficient argument to make them fearful to

be negligent, and incite them to be accurate in their performance of it. God oftentimes, in a general judgment, has a more especial design upon some few particular sinners; as when Joab drew up a party of men to be slain by the Ammonites, his design was only directed to the death of Uriah. God, when he commissions his plagues to go over a nation, he gives them more especial charge to visit such and such a sinner. God sends a war and the sword abroad to such nation; but be sure, says he, take such a secure sinner, such a covetous person in your way; let his goods and his substance be rifled and made a spoil: I have observed, that his heart has been estranged from me, and wholly set upon the world. He bids a sickness go to such a people; bụt be sure, says he, forget not to take off such a backsliding, incorrigible sinner : he cumbers the ground, and I can bear with him no longer. To speak according to the manner of men, God does as really mark out and separate some sinners, more especially, to a general destruction, as David


his captain a more especial command to preserve Absalom. This is a third reason, why men should in their humiliations descend to a particular removal of their personal sins, because God accurately considers them.

4th Reason. No humiliation can be well and sincere, unless it be personal and particular. It is a saying, that there is dolus in universalibus, deceit and cozenage in universals. In general acknowledgments, a man is apt to put a fallacy upon his soul, and to take that for repentance which is no repentance. He that is truly humbled and repents, his voice must be, not, We have sinned, but, I have

« AnteriorContinuar »