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rejection from the presence of God, and to sink us deep in the abyss of His displeasure--even this, that we have slighted His love, neglected His word, and have set our affections on any thing rather than on Him !
This will appear further if we proceed to consider, II. THE FOLLY, GUILT, AND DANGER OF THOSE WHO ARE CHARGEABLE WITH THESE EVILS. The folly of such conduct is illustrated by the figures in the text. How infatuated to prefer the impure and stagnant water from the cisterns of this world's enjoyments, to the pure refreshing fountain of God's love and mercy: to choose carnal in preference to spiritual pleasures, the joys of this world to the glories of the next ! But the infatuation chiefly lies in this, that the best things which this world has to give are but broken cisterns that can hold no water! They perish in the using; they are transitory and
We do not indeed deny that there is much in this present world to delight the carnal nature of
It is folly to assert that there is no enjoyment in the gaieties of dissipation, nor in the gratification of the sensual appetites. It must be so; man is a fallen and corrupt creature, and the sins and pleasures of the world are in their very nature calculated to minister to his delight. But what we do assert of all these things is, that they are fading and perishing; that however alluring, they are of short duration, they must soon have an end--and that end will infallibly be vanity and vexation of spirit. We will say with the wise man, “ Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes : but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”* However sweet these poisoned draughts may be to the lips, and delicious to the palate, their end will be bitterness and sorrow. Animating in pursuit, unsatisfactory in possession, and ruinous in their end; such are the occupations of all unconverted men.
True indeed, the world regards the alienation of the heart from God as a very trivial offence; and what crimes save those which interfere with their own selfish pursuits, will the world brand with heinousness ? Therefore it is that in the judgment of “the men of this world,” murder and theft are stigmatized as far more atrocious crimes than fornication, adultery, or seduction; yet in the sight of God they are equally enormous and malignant. But the total alienation of the heart from God, if regarded at all in the light of an offence, will be considered as perfectly venial, or more probably as an imaginary crime, the fanciful creation of an enthusiast. But observe how solemn, how appalling the * Eccles. xi. 9.
language of the text, in which the Lord, upbraiding his people with their treachery of heart towards Him, seems to anticipate their indifference, and therefore turns to the heavenly host, and even to inanimate creation, as more impressible than man, and exclaims, “ Be astonished, 0 ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid ; be ye very desolate, saith the Lord :” as if the very heavens were to be shrouded with darkness, at the folly, ingratitude, and guilt of man! as if terror were to lay hold on the inhabitants of those shining worlds through anticipation of the judgments which wait the rebellious children of Adam! And what is their abominable offence, which would make the augels weep,
weep they could ? It is only this, My people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water !” The wandering of the affections, the idolatrous attachment to worldly things, and indifference towards God, these are the sins which astonish and affect all nature, except the stony heart of man! So by the prophet Isaiah the Lord exclaims, “ Hear, O heavens, and give ear, 0 earth : for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought forth children, and they have rebelled against me.” phet Micah appeals to the firm mountains, as though they were more easily softened than man
And the pro“ Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and
ye strong foundations of the earth : for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.”* Are the commands of God unreasonable? Does he require bloody sacrifices at our hands, the fruit of our bodies for the sin of our souls? Far otherwise-he asks a reasonable service: a broken heart and contrite spirit; a simple trust in Christ for salvation, and a surrender of the heart to the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, to be remoulded after the divine image, that new desires and affections might spring up in it, new joys, new hopes, new consolations. But these offers of
grace forsaken and refused the love of God exchanged for the love of the creature--and the mind engrossed by any earthly pursuits, are the true harbingers of the wrath of God, whatever may be the reasonings of men about them. As it is emphatically declared by Jeremiah ; “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.” † “ So shall the wicked be turned into hell, and all the nations THAT FORGET God!” May we all have grace in time to believe these awakening * Micah vi. 2, 3.
t Jer. xvii. 13.
truths, that the world may not beguile us to our ruin! May our whole hearts be cheerfully surrendered unto the Lord our God !
But let not this subject be dismissed from our minds without a word of caution to those who having drunk of “the water which Christ alone can give them,” know how refreshing it is to the soul. They have experimentally learned the insufficiency of any earthly good to confer happiness; they look on temporal enjoyments as broken cisterns that can hold no water. The state of their mind and of their heart differs immeasurably from that of which the Lord complains in the text: yet through the corrupt nature which still remains in them, by the deadening effect of worldly cares and occupations, and by the devices of the wicked one, they are but too often drawn away for a season from the Lord their God, and lose their sensible enjoyment of his favour. Pursuits in themselves lawful, and objects of attachment justly entitled to a portion of their affections, sometimes and almost insensibly usurp an undue ascendancy over their minds, occupying that place in their hearts which belongs to God alone. That such idols are either wholly removed, or rendered to them a source of pain and disappointment, many a sorrowing christian can testify! Their heavenly Father, in mercy to his wandering children, chastens them that they may not perish with the world; and they are enabled to see and lament