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entreat you all to flee from the wrath to come. Let these principles be universally acknowledged amongst us, and deeply rooted in our hearts—That there is no refuge but in Christ - That all self-righteous methods of obtaining mercy will prove fallaciousThat every one must feel his guilt and danger, and, like the man-slayer when pursued by the avenger, flee as for his life, renouncing all things whatsoever that may impede his flight and endanger his soul. Pleasures, interests, friends, must all give way to this great concern; and all regard for them must be swallowed up in this, the one thing needful. To obtain an interest in Christ must be our great, our only care: we must “count all things but loss that we may win Christ and be found in him.” The city of refuge was open day and night, and to a heathen sojourner as well as to the native Jew: in the same manner also is Christ accessible to us at all times, and his mercy shall be extended to all who flee unto him. The cities of refuge were so situated, that any one at the remotest corner of the land might reach one of them in less than half a day : and is not Jesus also “nigh to all that call upon him ?” Yes, all, whether in this land, or in the most distant quarter of the globe, may come to him in one single hour, or, if I may so speak, in one single moment: for the soul that unfeignedly relies on him for pardon and acceptance, is enclosed by him as in an impregnable fortress, and shall be “ saved by him with an everlasting salvation.” Yet it is not sufficient to flee to him once : we must be daily and hourly fleeing to him in the habit of our minds : in other words, we must “abide in him,” by the continual exercise of faith, even to the latest hour of our lives : then shall the death of our great High-Priest be available for our discharge, and we shall be restored to the complete and everlasting enjoyment of our friends, our liberty, and our inheritance.
Hitherto we have enforced the subject from topics suited to all persons in all ages of the world : but we cannot conclude without adding a few considerations, which arise out of existing circumstances, and are peculiarly worthy of our attention.
That our enemies are Jehovah's sword, and that he is come forth against us as an avenger, cannot but be confessed : but whether it be for our chastisement only, or for our utter destruction, none can tell. One thing however is sure ; that the best possible method of pacifying the divine anger, and averting the impending judgments, is, to flee unto the Saviour, and to seek mercy through him. If once we were stirred up, as a nation, to take refuge in him, He who spared repenting Nineveh, would spare us, and either avert the gathering storm, or deliver us from its dreadful ravages. This is the direction uniformly given us by God
himself. Thus he says by the prophet Zephaniah, “ Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.” Again he says by Isaiah, “ Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast : for, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the land for their iniquity." Could we but be prevailed upon to follow this advice, we doubt not but that it would be more effectual for our preservation than all the navies that can be built, or all the armies that can be mustered : for if God were for us, none could successfully fight against us. If we were even already vanquished, yea, and led into captivity, still we “should take those captive whose captives we were, and should rule over our oppressors." Let me not however be understood as disregarding the proper means of self-defence: for God saves by means; and to expect his interposition without using our utmost efforts in our own behalf, would be presumption.- Though therefore we would
exhort all in the first place to flee for refuge to the hope set before them, we would also exhort them to stand forth manfully against the enemy; to regard neither time, nor labour, nor property, no, nor life itself, so that they may but help forward to the uttermost their country's cause. And though the occupation of a warrior is the last perhaps that a man of piety would choose, yet on the present occasion conscience requires, rather than forbids, that all of us should unite with heart and hand to repel the foe, and to sacrifice our lives, if need be, in defence of our religion and liberties, our property and friends, our king and country. Still however we must recur to our former observation; and urge in the first place the necessity of turning to our strong-hold. Would to God that none of us might delay, or loiter, or slacken our pace, or yield to weariness, or regard any thing that we leave behind; but that all might flee, as Lot out of Sodom, to our adorable Saviour! Then, whether we live or die, we must be safe. The enemy may destroy our bodies, but our great adversary can never hurt our souls. Our immortal part will be placed beyond the reach of harm: and when empires fall, yea, and the whole earth shall be dissolved by fire, we shall dwell in mansions that are inaccessible to evil, and enjoy a bliss that shall never end.
CLXXXV. THE PROSPERITY OF ZION DESIRED. Deut. i. 11. The Lord God of your fathers make you a thou
sand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you !
TO decline any measure of exertion in behalf of persons committed to our care, may appear to argue a want of love to them. But there are certain bounds beyond which a man cannot go : his physical strength will fail; and his attempts to persevere beyond his capacity of performance will defeat the very object he has in view, and prove an injury to the persons whose welfare he is labouring to consult. The care of all the people of Israel, two millions in number, had devolved on Moses : and he endeavoured, as their chief magistrate, to dispense justice to them all, by hearing and determining every subject of litigation that was brought before him. This occupied him from morning to night, and was obviously impairing his bodily health : the labour was too great for him; and he would soon have sunk under it. By the advice of Jethro, his father-in-law, he appointed persons, chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to hear all the causes which were of inferior moment, and reserved to himself the determination of those only which were of a more difficult nature, and which required a more especial reference to God himself. He was now arrived at the borders of Jordan, and at the last month of his life: and was directed of God to record, and leave behind him in writing, a brief memorial of the principal events which had taken place, and the principal laws which had been promulgated, during their sojourning in the wilderness: that so the generation which had arisen in the wilderness might, by a special recapitulation of those events, have them the more deeply impressed on their minds, and be stirred up by the remembrance of them to serve their God with more fidelity than their fathers had done. The appointment of these inferior judges was one of the first acts which took place in the wilderness : and, as it originated from Jethro, his father-inlaw, and not from God, Moses was fearful that it might be open to an unfavourable construction, and that he might appear, if not to have neglected his duty towards the people, at least to have been defective in love towards them : and therefore, in relating the fact, he tells them how anxiously he had at the very time manifested his zeal in their service; since, whilst issuing his order for the appointment of these men, instead of grudging that they were so numerous as to render the minute attention which he had hitherto paid to their concerns impracticable, he had expressed the most ardent desire for their further increase, saying, “ The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!"
This benevolent wish of his will lead me to consider the prosperity of God's Israel, I. As a matter of promise
To the promises of God relating to this subject Moses refers : “ The Lord bless you, as he has promised you!"
Now God has promised innumerable blessings to those who are of Israel according to the flesh
[He had assured Abraham that his seed should be numerous as the stars of heaven, and countless as the sands
upon the sea-shore." They had already multiplied greatly ; (they were about thirty thousand times as many as they had been two hundred and fifty years before :) and they should yet multiply to a far greater extent, as they did in succeeding ages; and as they shall do in ages yet to come: for though at present they are brought low and are very few in number, God has expressly declared, by his prophet, that “ he will multiply them
a Gen. xv. 5.