REGIUS PROFESSOR OF HEBREW, AND CANON OF CHRIST CHURCH;
LATE FELLOW OF ORIEL COLLEGE.
JOHN HENRY AND JAMES PARKER
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts. HAGGAI ii. 9.
YOU will of yourselves recollect, my Christian brethren, under what circumstances of discouragement and difficulty the prophet was sent to cheer by these words the desponding people of God. They had indeed been restored to their land; but how unlike their return to their first glorious entrance: for the chastisements threatened on their disobedience had been already in part fulfilled. Their fathers had been "as the stars of heaven for multitude;" they were "left few in number." At the approach of their fathers, "the hearts of the inhabitants of the land had melted, neither did any courage remain in any man: now, fear was upon them, because of the people of those countries." Nature was now no more moved at the presence of their God: His aid, though effectual, was now invisible: and the words of their prophets, who had described their deliverance from Babylon under the images of the wonders of old time, might seem as idle tales. More than all this, however, was the diminution of that glory, which was the source and the pledge of all their other glories and privileges,--the glory of the temple of the Lord. The tables of their covenant, which God Himself had given them, the fire which He had sent as a witness of His acceptance of their offerings, the bright symbol of His Presence, with which He had consecrated their tabernacle and their former temple, were now wanting. Poor was even its outward show, so that "many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, ancient men, who had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice." God seeth not, however, as man seeth. The prophet, by his direction, urges upon them the inferiority of this second temple. Who, he asks, "who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong," he adds. According to His promise, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt, so should it be now. Then Sinai trembled at the presence of God; the sea fled, Jordan was driven back: and yet again in a little while, God "would shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; yea He would shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations should come." The former house was hallowed with the cloud, which filled it; "so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God." And so again should this His house he filled with glory: and the glory with which this latter house should be filled should be greater than the glory of the former: "and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts."
It would seem as if, before the Substance came, the shadows which were to convey some picture of it to gross and carnal man, must needs be weakened, and depart. Else might they have occupied too exclusively his thoughts, which ever cling to something tangible to sense, ever shrink from things wholly spiritual and invisible. In God's sight, then, this temple and its service, whose glories were in the eyes of these Jews as nothing, were better calculated than all the magnificence of Solomon's for the display of His glory, who was greater than Solomon. The weak things of this world are often the mightiest instruments in His hands, from whom is all power and might, because they yield themselves the most implicitly to His guidance. For where there is least of man's, there also is least of weakness and error. Well then might all their losses have been to Israel as gain! The special Providence which had watched over their earlier existence, apportioning evil and good, seems to have been withdrawn. Their frontiers were no longer protected, when they went up to the worship of God at Jerusalem; nor was the sabbath's rest unprofaned by heathen war. This protection had been necessary for their infantine faith. Now they were to be taught, by the very withdrawing of these temporal blessings, to look for a more enduring country, a more abiding rest, "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Blessed were they in the loss of their kings and princes, in their despised and enslaved estate, as many as were thereby taught to turn to the Lord their God, and the true David their King; to look for a kingdom not of this world. Blessed were they in the loss of all the instruction in difficult matters, which their Urim and Thummim gave them, as many as were thereby taught to look to that Prophet, who should arise, in whom was light and truth. Blessed were they in the absence of that glorious symbol of God's presence, who thereby learned to look for some higher glory, such as was fulfilled in Him, who was "the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express Image of His Person." [Note A] Blessed were they by persecution, by the sword, by the profanation of their temple, by all the thickening miseries which gathered round the later hours of their existence, who were thereby taught that the peace which God would give in that place, was not such peace as they enjoyed under Solomon, "every man sitting under his vine and his fig-tree," but that which "we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, being justified by faith in Him, and so rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God; and not so only, but glorying in tribulation also." And many were they in whom these blessings were realized; many who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, to whom Anna spoke of the Infant Jesus,--many who, with the holy Simeon, saw that He Who was the glory of Israel was the Salvation prepared before all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles also,--many who, with the inspired Zachariah, understood that their great deliverance, which had been spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets, was now already being accomplished, and was this, "that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life."
In the Christian dispensation, in which neither at Jerusalem especially, nor at Gerizim, were men to worship the Father, no earthly building can correspond to the Jewish, temple, although here also Christ is present, and sanctifies by His presence this our meeting in His name. The Christian temple, (itself an image of that building of God, eternal in the heavens, for which we look,) the Christian temple is a spiritual edifice; in which Christ is pleased to dwell by His Spirit, and which having purchased by His own blood, and cleansed and purified, He has chosen for an habitation to place His name there, in whom we also, "as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
Amazing was the love, by which He whom the heaven of heavens could not contain, in order to preserve the knowledge of Himself in a forgetful world, condescended to appear to dwell in a tabernacle made by human hands. More amazing was that love, which caused the Eternal Word, Who was with God and was God, to dwell amongst us in the likeness of sinful flesh. But, as yet, beyond the holiness derived from the indwelling of God, the temple which He hallowed by His presence was itself pure. In the Jewish temple, every thing, like the crown of the High-Priest, was stamped "Holiness to the Lord." The second habitation of God among men, our blessed Saviour's Human Person, though flesh, was still pure: He was without sin. I know not then whether it be not more amazing, certainly it is even more overwhelming love, that He should now make for His temple the hearts of sinful men; that He should dwell, not with the rebellious only, but in them; that His Spirit should strive in man and with man; that, prone to evil as we are by nature, polluted, defiled, yet further alienated by our own wilfulness, we are yet the temple of the living God, our body is "the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in us, which we have of God;" in us He dwells, purifying our impurity, refining our earthly dross, melting our hard hearts, checking us when wayward, kindling us when cold, lifting our grovelling minds to "high and heavenly desires," and as at first He brooded over the wild waste of the deep, so now reducing into order and harmony the yet wilder waste of sin, saying to darkness, "Be light," and to the troubled waves of human passions, "Peace, be still." Well then might St. Paul bid us glorify God in our bodies and our spirits, which are God's, since "Christ has given us the glory, which the Father gave Him, that we may be one, even as the Father and the Son are one: Christ in us and God in Christ, that we may be made perfect in one."
This then, the holy universal Church of Christ, is the glorious building of which the prophets spake: this is the house, which Ezekiel saw, filled with the glory of the Lord, whence flowed the waters, which healed every thing whither they came: this is the city, whose gates, says Isaiah, shall be open continually, shall not be shut day nor night; the city, whose walls shall be called Salvation, and its gates Praise: "in which we are all fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom we also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
This is the temple, for the edifying or building up of which we are each set in our several stations to labour, to watch, and all to pray: in which those most labour, who are set as pastors over us, but whose speedier building every one may in his own degree promote, by keeping a conscience void of offence to God and to man, and forming in his own family a little image of the Church of Christ.
Much vigilance, however, and self-restraint are necessary in the execution even of this holy work, that it may neither be a snare to our own consciences, nor itself be hindered by the very means which we intended to promote it. For this instruction and for these cautions we cannot look to any better source, than to that history of the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, which, written for our learning, must on this occasion be especially instructive.
The edifice must not be raised after our own ways, or our own devices, but after that pattern which God has given us by His holy Apostles. Nor, if we reflect a little, could we allow ourselves to suppose that any more effectual plan could be devised than that which we have inherited from them. Accustomed to our blessings, we forget them. But imagine yourselves without them, or yet more deprived of them than the inhabitants of this village have been, and what institution could you have imagined more blessed, than one, by which a Christian, bound by vows to God and to the Church, to promote His glory, and set forward, as far as in him lay, your salvation, should reside among you, to learn your wants, cheer you in your difficulties, remind you of your way heavenwards when you were tempted to forget it, guide you when you doubted, pray with you each Lord's day in words which have animated the piety of Christ's early Church, and edified millions, whose warfare is now accomplished,--set forth to you, week by week, the rich treasure of God's love, as, from his own knowledge of you, he sees that you most need it,--train up your little ones for those struggles, whose difficulties you now know, and, by God's blessing, have in part passed through, "to fight manfully under Christ's banner against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and remain Christ's faithful servants and soldiers to their lives' end." Here, as you are taught, and as you hearken to God's Voice, the Spirit of Truth shall Himself teach you. Here the Lamb Himself shall feed you, spiritually, unseen, perhaps unfelt, yet in deed and in truth with His own Body and Blood; "the Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper."
This then is the first instruction which the history of the Jewish temple furnishes, that we must "seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness;" and seek it also in God's way, not in our own. The Jews at their first return built the altar to God on which to offer sacrifices; they built it, it would seem, out of fear, not out of love, and so they did the least which they well might do.
Meanwhile themselves dwelt in their ceiled houses, while the house of God lay waste, and said, "Is it time that the house of God should be built?" Unlike the pious David, who thought it strange that he should dwell in a house of cedars, while the ark of God was under curtains; who, when forbidden to undertake the office, yet year by year set apart his treasures for a work, whose very commencement he should never see, and yet confessed, "What am I, and what my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee." The Jews thought, probably, that, just returned to their land, they had good excuse for not yet commencing so great and expensive an undertaking; they thought first to enrich themselves, and then to employ a portion of their riches in God's service. But what? said God? "Consider your ways: ye have sown much, and bring in little: ye eat, but have not enough: ye drink, but are not satisfied: ye clothe you, but there are none warm; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag full of holes." God does not at this time so visibly and precisely apportion the reward of our deeds in this life. [Note C.] A Christian minister has now no authority to denounce temporal sufferings or losses for forgetful-ness of God; much less, to say that those on whom the hand of God has fallen, were sinners more than we. No one but ourselves probably knows why the chastisement comes upon us. But this I would say unhesitatingly, that no habitual sin was ever committed, which did not in the end find out him who had committed it: that no man ever preferred this world to the kingdom of God and His righteousness, who did not even in this life find that he had made an evil choice. The offences may be so minute in our eyes, or ourselves so callous, that we may not have traced them; or so innumerable are they, that we cannot tell the ill effects consequent on each: but no one of us can refer to one evil action, much less to any course of action, however lightly he may have thought of it when perpetrated, of which he cannot trace the punishment in himself. If there be no outward punishment, sin is its own curse; it is the sting of every suffering, the rankling of every wound. Every sin, not uprooted, remains, like the accursed nations whom Israel would not drive out, scourges in our sides, and thorns in our eyes, until we perish from the good land which the Lord our God has given us.
But shall we now say, when, as a nation, we have despised the mercies and long-suffering of God for these hundred years, when we have boasted ourselves that we have been a favoured nation, a peculiar people, not desolated by war, not wasted by famine, shall we, now that we have drawn one of God's four sore judgments upon our land, say, that God does not visit our transgressions in this life also with stripes, and our sins with scourges? Shall we hear of children left orphans by disease, coming day by day nearer to our own doors, and not see that we have reason to humble ourselves, for not having sought "first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," not sought it ourselves, not promoted it in others; that we have in our crowded cities, or our deserted villages, deprived of their birthright the children of our Christian land; have allowed God's good seed to spring up empty, barren, unfruitful, or at least have taken little pains ourselves to prepare it for the garners of the Lord; that ten thousands upon ten thousands might as well have been born in countries the most remote from the Sun of righteousness, as in the midst of us, who boast that we are walking in His full light; that we have professed to carry the glad tidings of salvation to all lands, and its words to the end of the earth, while they cheer not the dwellings of our own peasants, nor penetrate the dark corners of our own streets; that we have "set up the altar on its bases, for fear was upon us;" but the temple of the Lord we have left wasted and desolate? [The first attack of the cholera in 1832. See note D.]
But of you, my Christian brethren, I am persuaded better things. Your presence here this day shews that you know and appreciate the blessing which God has bestowed upon this place. Yet perhaps on that very account we need the more to be reminded, that the mere possession of privileges avails nothing; contributes only, if unemployed, the more to our condemnation. The Jews also shouted aloud for joy, when the foundation of God's house was laid. They also had synagogues in every city; nay, four hundred and sixty synagogues had they in Jerusalem alone. [Note E] They had Moses and the Prophets read to them in their synagogues every sabbath day. Every where the Apostles found synagogues in which to preach to them salvation by Jesus Christ; and to many of them the Gospel thus preached was the power of God unto salvation. But the possession of these privileges alone availed not. In that very city, out of whose four hundred and sixty synagogues Moses and the Prophets, day by day, bore witness to Him who was to come, the Lord of life was crucified. That very city, its synagogues and its temple, were laid in ruins, so that there remained not one stone upon another; because, hearing not Moses and the Prophets, neither, as our blessed Saviour warned them, did they repent, though one rose from the dead. It is naturally at the very times, when we most exult in our privileges, that we most need the warning, not to rest on them. There is something so elevating in witnessing this house raised to the honour of God, where before was none; there is a delight so pure in seeing this once desolate village sanctified by a building consecrated to His service; in thinking of the incense of morning and evening prayer, which shall on each succeeding Lord's day rise in our Saviour's name, and hallowed by our Saviour's presence, that there is the more danger that one should rest here; that one should be satisfied by these emotions; that one should look to these holy, but too often transient feelings, as proofs of our love of God and forget that it is far easier to attempt to advance the kingdom of God without us, than that which "cometh not with observation," the silent progress of that kingdom within us. God forbid that one should depreciate any thing done to God's glory! God forbid that any Christian, knowing the slow workings of the Spirit in subduing what is evil in himself, should undervalue any advance in holiness, however slow, or condemn, as formal service, even lip-worship, where the heart, in secret, sorrows that it is not more sincere! God forbid that any minister of our God and Saviour should quench the smoking flax! Still it must be said, in warning, that there is danger, lest we think that, because we are favoured with privileges, we therefore ourselves stand high in God's favour; that we should mistake the possession of the means of grace for the use of them; the sap which God supplies to every branch of His vine, for the fruit. Yet, what nation so highly favoured as the Jews of old, to whom their lawgiver appealed, "Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by signs, by wonders, by war, and by a mighty hand and stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?" And yet of this great multitude two only entered the land of promise. Or how were they alone restored to their land, of all the people whom the policy of Eastern conquerors transplanted into other lands! And yet, availing themselves not of the respite thus given them, they became again a desolation and reproach among all people!
Yet it is not only in words of warning that the text speaks; it speaks also in promises of joy to every work begun, continued, and ended in God's name. The people looked on the work as well nigh desperate. "The day of small things was despised." Two prophets were needed to cheer them in their work: and who among them would have believed that this work should have been so accomplished, or who could then have conceived of the glory of that temple, which to us appears so familiar and so simple'? It is often a mode in which want of faith displays itself, to attempt nothing because we cannot do all we would, instead of doing what we can, and leaving the result to God. It veils itself often under the semblance of a care for God's glory, that we will not attempt what we think, if it fails, will bring discouragement and disgrace. In this same way we shrink sometimes from endeavouring to conquer our evil habits themselves, because we dread defeat: we would fain be more decided Christians, but we shrink from the reproach of inconsistency if we fail. Yet it is not we who do it, but God; it is not our cause, but His; it is not our might, but His right hand, and the light of His countenance, because He has a favour unto us. And on this account we often see, even in our designs for His glory, that what we think most hopeless, those He accomplishes: where we think (though shame be in the thought) that we scarce need any aid, there He allows unlooked-for difficulties to arise, until we learn to confess that all comes from Him. And who, that had stood on this spot at the commencement of but the last summer, would have dared to hope, that we should now be here praising God for having raised this building for His praise? who have thought that this portion of waste would have been holy ground? I confess, that when I first heard of the undertaking, I wished it good speed, but thought it well nigh desperate. And through whom was it accomplished? Not by yourselves, not by those chiefly who were directly connected with you, but by many who had never seen you, who knew not of your name until they heard of your needs; by those who had no tie to you, but that mightiest, strongest, most enduring tie, the tie of Christian brotherhood. And this was doubtless in part so disposed, that you might here see set before your eyes, and in all your lives practically acknowledge, that "unless the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it."
It remains now but by God's blessing to finish the work, which He has thus far prospered. "Be strong, saith the Lord, and work, for I am with you." [What was temporary and local has been omitted.]
Let us give then to God of His own; let us give plenteously, that we may reap also plenteously; lest we be found inferior in faith and love to the Israelites whom the prophet chided, since they gave out of their poor and unsettled state, we out of the peace and prosperity with which God has blessed us. We are not called on to give, but to lend; to lend of that which is not our own; lend to Him who can and will repay with usury, manifold more in this present world, and in the world to come life everlasting.
Of the blessed effects of this holy work, we, like the Jews of old, shall here see but a very small portion. But we shall see hereafter. We, many of whom may never again see each other's face in the flesh, but who hope, by God's mercy in Christ, to meet before the throne of the Lamb, we shall then perhaps see, how many this simple work, executed in faith in Him, shall have been the means of bringing to the knowledge and love of their God and Saviour; who, cleansed by His blood from all sin, shall have become meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Then we may know, how many God's blessing on this work shall have stirred up in other portions of this our land to the like labour of love; how many other villages shall be lighted by the torch on this day kindled in this. Then too, more than all, we may know how great the blessedness is of real holiness, how exceeding great the joy of him, who, out of love to his Redeemer, shall have contributed any the smallest offering in order to turn one sinner to repentance. It is not for yourselves alone, but for your children, and your children's children for ever, that you are this day called upon, that they may here learn the words of life; that here "what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any one, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread his hands in this house, then God shall hear from heaven His dwelling place, and forgive." "And in this place will I give peace," saith the Lord of Hosts; peace to them who are afar off, and to them that are near: peace to the broken and wounded spirit, peace which passeth all understanding; peace from Him who is, and was, and is to come, and from the seven spirits before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the First-begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth."
"Now unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
"O Almighty God, who hast built Thy Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the head corner-stone; grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple, acceptable unto Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
THERE can be no doubt that the Urim and Thummim were the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest. The consulting by Urim and Thummim, accordingly, was consulting God by the high priest, in his ministerial character, as the high priest of the twelve tribes, or of the whole people of God; and this in reliance on God's promise to answer the appeal made thus solemnly to Himself. (Num. xxvii. 21.) Under the second temple, the spirit of prophecy was for a while suspended, in order, it would seem, that men might the more leisurely review the mercies and ponder the results of the whole body of prophecy, and so this communication also was withheld. (See Lightfoot, Tract, de Spirit. Prophet. Opp. Postt. p. 76.)
I ought perhaps to state, that I did not intend by these expressions to compare the mode in which God dwelt in our Saviour's Human Person with that by which He dwells in the hearts of Christians, (for they are altogether distinct,) but only the miracle of His condescension and love in these two great parts of the Christian dispensation. And this I did, because many persons in the present day appear to me, while they acknowledge our Lord's mercy and love in dying for us, practically to lose out of sight that other great miracle of God's mercy, His condescending to dwell in man by His Spirit. The title "temple of God" was misapplied by Nestorius, as if God only dwelt in the Man Christ Jesus, denying that God the Word had personally united the Manhood with Himself. Yet since our Lord spake of the Temple of His Body, it is safe for us so to speak, with this precaution.
In the case of nations, as of individuals, chastisements are of two kinds; those which God, by the arrangements of His providence, has connected, as the necessary and natural consequence of each sin, and those which, to us at least, have no such evident or physical connection. Thus, a broken constitution, ill health, shortness of life, have been naturally entailed upon sensual sins: the wilful neglect of self-cultivation in youth is followed by proportionate disappointment in advanced age; dishonesty by loss, and so on. And thus, in states also, luxury is followed by decay; ambition, and consequent unjust aggression, in the end, by the retaliation of the like miseries; pride, by disgrace and overthrow. Among the Jewish people, God's government (as pourtrayed more especially in Lev. xxvi.) appears to have been set forth more evidently than among ourselves, as well in the indirect as in the more direct species of chastisement: both in that they followed more immediately upon the sin, and in that those chastisements, which are ordinarily annexed as penalties of particular sins, were among the Jews most frequently inflicted as a warning against sins, with which they had no such natural connection. Thus not only were God's extraordinary messengers, the famine, the noisome beast, and the pestilence, sent more speedily to recall the Israelites to their allegiance, but those other punishments, which (as the miseries of war) come through man's agency, were sent not for those national sins, which would naturally entail them, but for idolatry, which had no such tendency. In each case the hand of God was more directly visible. Thus while Assur and Babylon, Moab and Ammon, Damascus and Tyre and Egypt, were destroyed for their pride, their ambition, or their cruelty, (Is. xiii. xix.; Jer. xlviii.-li.; Ezek. xxv.-xxxi.; Amos i. ii.) the punishment came upon Israel and Judah eminently for their idolatry, a sin which indeed involved in it other sins, yet not such as would naturally produce chastisement at the hands of man. Under the Christian dispensation,--now that it has been more distinctly evidenced that there is a God which judgeth the earth,--the visibleness of the interference is diminished: yet has not God dissolved the strong link by which He united sin with its punishment, nor disturbed the laws which He originally formed, to make sin a check and curb upon itself. In the case only of those chastisements which have not in themselves this natural and visible connection, the cause of the chastisement becomes less obvious, perhaps indiscoverable. Yet neither is this the practical object of observing the judgments of God. It is not to discover to us what is displeasing to God, (for that we well know, and for that we need no sign from heaven,) but to remind us that our conduct is displeasing to Him, to awaken us from our sleep of listlessness, that He speaks to us in His terrible visitations. Nay, we often lose much of the profit intended to us, by looking either nationally or individually to detached actions, rather than to characters of mind, of which those actions are the fruit only. Goodness is thus made equivalent to a certain number of actions of seeming good, and sin is supposed to be eradicated when some sinful practices have been abandoned: meanwhile the comprehensive source of good or evil, that from which the actions derive their character, passes unnoticed. Good actions, done by the grace of God, do, in His mercy, draw down fresh grace, and are the earnests of future good, and the commencement of habits of good. And evil actions, contrariwise, forfeit the grace of God, and are the parents of further evil acts and evil habits. But, over and above this, the ordinary good acts of those in a state of grace flow from habitual grace, in itself well-pleasing to God who gave it; and the evil acts of the evil flow from a state of sinfulness, in itself displeasing to God, over and above the several acts of sin.
The present fearful visitation has been ascribed by persons, according to their opposite modes of thinking, to causes and conduct the most opposite;--as if the noxious and deadly cloud, either of moral or physical pestilence, were generated by one or the other insulated spot only, not by the exhalations of the whole surface. The error of looking to separate national acts, rather than to national character, as the source of the Divine chastisements, arises perhaps also, in part, in a wrong view of those judgments themselves,--in that they are regarded as punishments rather than, as chastisements, as retribution only for sins past, rather than as merciful though terrible admonitions to repent and amend. Yet all but final punishment has for its end the benefit of those thus chastised. It is not until the tree is cut down, that the infliction becomes only a warning to others. Human laws are obliged to take cognizance of separate actions only, because they cannot reach further: the divine chastisements, at least in their general character, have for their object, not the repression of the one or other outbreak of sin, much less the punishment of this in itself, but the amendment of the whole body.
The same consideration,--that chastisement, not punishment, is the object of God's judgments,--has a tendency to remove the abuse which would from the degree of the punishment infer the degree of the guilt. All that can in any case be inferred is the presence of sin: we know little of what is good or ill, and little consequently about comparative severity of punishment. On this ground alone then, we could not balance out the proportions of sin and punishment. But not so only, for we lose on the other side, also, all data on which to form any judgment as to past sin, since the object is prospective only, and security and self-satisfaction may require these remedies more than what we consider crying sins: nay, the object of the divine chastisements being amendment, it is often more alarming to be without them than to suffer under them. In the case of individuals, there is hardly the same danger, since chastisement having also the purpose of further purifying those, who, by the aid of God's Holy Spirit, have been purifying themselves, (for "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth," and "the branches which bring forth fruit, He purgeth, that they may bring forth more fruit,") they may have been sent upon them as being more holy, instead of being less holy than ourselves. With regard to bodies of men indeed, it will but rarely happen, that progress in holiness will be the only object of God's chastisements; since Christianity has rarely so penetrated the whole mass as to leave occasion for this discipline only; yet it will probably account for the exception to the rule, that "righteousness exalteth a nation." This, at least, appears to have been one object of the persecutions of the primitive Church. Yet such cases are rare, and the individuals or nations, can seldom be in doubt which is the cause of their own visitation. And this more especially is the case of nations, since the larger portion of national punishments are those, which follow as the direct consequence of national sins.
In the preceding observations, the existence of national sins and national punishments has been throughout assumed: both because they are spoken of in Scripture, and the destruction of every nation mentioned in Scripture is attributed to its specific sins; and because, I think, no one can trace any somewhat considerable portion of history without observing how long and steady a curse national guilt entails; and this the more, because the guilt as well as the curse is generally inherited. The distinction of national crimes from the crimes of the individuals who compose the nation is, I think, legitimate, because the character of a sin varies in some degree, as it is committed by an individual in his own person or as a member of a body. Many a person is nationally proud who is not so individually; and many a man has consented to, or demanded, legal murder, or injustice, or revenge, who, in his own person, would have abhorred any such act. Laud and Strafford were nationally murdered; yet is not every one concerned in those transactions to be regarded as an ordinary assassin: or,--to revert to the instance here originally dwelt upon,--the destitution of religious instruction, in which we have left so large a portion of our community, is a national sin: yet it is not in each individual the same sin. And it has brought and is bringing with it its own curse, in the disorganization of society, in the degeneracy of our people, (amidst all our boasted advances,) in the multiplied occasions and temptations to sin, in the insecurity of life, which already reigns in one portion of our land. The contrast again of national luxury and national misery is sinful: it shews that, amidst the charities of which we are so proud, much selfishness remains at the core: yet, I would hope, it is not in every individual the same sin, as if the customs of society did not gloss it over to men's consciences. In proportion then as a sin becomes nationally greater, it probably is individually less, not as if the frequency of any known sin could diminish its guilt, but because one would hope, that the blunting of our religious conceptions, occasioned by early habits, may extenuate in some measure our dulness in perceiving our duty. As then individual chastisements are sent to bring to us our own sins to remembrance, so do national chastisements seem intended to make us advert to those more general sins also, in which we all participate. In that they become national, they recall to us not only what we are individually, but what we are in our character as members of the nation: and if it do this, our chastisements in either case become our blessings; and the present awful warning will be full of mercy, not only to those individuals, who shall have listened to it, (and I believe that hundreds of thousands have already been benefited by it,) but, indirectly, to the whole nation, by preserving to them the privileges, which by our own wilfulness we might otherwise forfeit. There is much deep piety in the prayer of our ancestors: "Above all, we beseech Thee, abandon us not to ourselves; but by what method soever it shall please Thee to reduce us, though to this bitter cup of trembling Thou shalt add more and more grievous afflictions, by any the severest course subdue us unto Thyself, and make us to see the things belonging to our peace, before they be hid from our eyes; that, being duly humbled under Thy mighty hand, we may be capable of being relieved and exalted, in Thy due time, through Christ our Lord." (Form of Prayer after the fire of London.)
It may not be without its use to set down the expressions of the day, and, as it would seem, dissenting, author of "Saturday Evening."
"Who will deny that at this moment there is signally needed some extraordinary effort on behalf of the outcast thousands of the people, whom we have culpably suffered to grow up in the heart of our Christian land, more profligate and more perverted than Hindoos? The exigency of the time calls for a disregard of every puny scruple, of every jealousy, of all ecclesiastical reluctances, and of all sinister views. The dense masses of our atheistic and much-degraded as well as miserable population, should be assailed and courageously entered, by men thinking of nothing but how they may turn the impenitent from the error of his way. If ever it be wise and manly to sacrifice the less to the greater, would it not "now be wise and Christian-like to break through ordinary and petty obstacles, and to contemn frigid calculations; rather than that two, or more, millions of the people should longer be left, as they are, utterly destitute of religious knowledge, and of every hope?" p. 54). The author, indeed, had he been more fully acquainted with our Church, would have perceived, that the remedy of these evils might., h^ r be provided by adhering to or restoring our Church, than by abandoning it: that more could be effected, e. g. by the restoration of the order of Deacons, or even the other subordinate orders of the early Church, in a degree proportioned to the need, under the superintendance of experienced parochial ministers, than by any desultory efforts. Large sacrifices will indeed be necessary, but these the author, in his own warm language, anticipates. "But it is not warrantable absolutely to conclude that the line of conduct demanded by extraordinary events will not be adopted, when a vivid conviction shall be felt, that such a season is actually approaching. Nay, there is reason to believe, that although much inertness may have fallen upon all religious bodies, as the consequence of long-continued repose, it will be shaken off when that repose is effectively disturbed; and that whatever is worthy of Christians, and of men high in rank, shall indeed be attempted, and performed, in the hour of trial."
Talra. Hierosol. Chethub. f. 35. 3. ap. Lightfoot, t. ii. j)p. 140, et 197. "R. Phinehas says, on the authority of R. Hoshaiah, there were four hundred and sixty synagogues in Jerusalem, each of which had a house for reading the volume of Scripture, and one for the study of tradition." The other calculation of four hundred and eighty is probably adapted to the word in Isai. i. 21, "it was full of judgment;" but, as coming through another channel from the same authority, it confirms the account of the amazing number of the places of worship at Jerusalem. "And now," adds Lightfoot, "of all these things there remains nothing, much less of temple, synagogues, or schools of tradition; all is fallen, decayed, demolished."