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S E R M ON
MATT. XXIV. 8.
All these are the beginning of sorrows.
HE Jewish polity is sometimes repre
sented as having been of such a peculiar nature, so different, in its form, from all other governments which the world ever saw; that neither maxims of civil prudence, nor rules of private conduct, applicable to the members of
any other state, can be drawn from the history of this extraordinary people. Temporal rewards and temporal punishments being the avowed and immediate sanctions of the law of Moses; and the execution of these laws being directed by a constant and particular providence; the public measures of the nation, and the actions of individuals, assumed, it is said, from the genius of the constitution, a certain colour
and character, of which history affords not a fimilar instance, and from which all conclufions, if applied to other men, are fallacious and vain.
If we allow, as we may, that the Jews of old were, in many respe&s, so circumstances, as no other nation ever was, or can be ; we may deny the inference deduced from that diversity. It ought, on this occasion, to be well remembered, that although the people, collectively considered, were prosperous and happy, when they obeyed the Lord, and oppressed with calamity, when they rebelled against him; yet, with regard to individuals, such an exact discrimination did by no means take place. The prosperity of the wicked was a subject, which perplexed more than one of God's holy prophets*; and it was observed by Solomon, that no man knew « either love or hatred, by all that was before them.”
Civil societies, which, as such, are creatures of this world only, are ever under God's especial providence. The nature of man likewise is the same in all ages; the same lusts and passions, which occafioned wars and bloodshed in ancient generations, kindle them
• Jer. xii. 1. Pf. lxxiii. 16.
b Ecclef. ix, 1.
now; and that fear of God, which inspired love and harmony in the days that are past, will, wherever it is cherished, produce the like fruits.
The events, which befell the Lord's chosen people, happened to them for examples ; and were written for the admonition, not only of them, but of the ends of the world If, in the sacred account of these great events, we are led, as it were by the hand of inspiration, to the real source of success, or of misery; and if no signal blessing, no heavy calamity, comes upon Israel, which was not foreshewnd; these wonderful circumstances cannot, surely, make the history either less interesting, or less instructive. If our faith is confirmed, while our knowledge is extended, we shall, without doubt, by the blessing of heaven, become better men, and better citi
Let us go on, therefore, with the subject, which we have undertaken : and if that part of it, with which we now are concerned, shall be little more than an historical detail, and that too of facts which are well known; it will not however be forgotten, I trust,
i Cor. X. II.
Παν, ειτε αγαθον ειτε φαυλον γινεται παρ' ημιν, κατά την εκείνων [προφητων] αποβαινει προφητεισαν. Α. J. L, X. c. ii. S. 2.
that they are the judgements of God ;
from a survey of which in the mirrour of past ages, as well as from beholding them abroad in the earth, we shall, if we are wise, learn righteousness.
The words of the text have a general reference to various figns, mentioned in the foregoing verses, as so many preludes to the approaching diffolution of the Jewish economy. The
appearance of false prophets, which was one of those figns, we have already considered. The other particulars claim our present attention ; and it will be most convenient, to state them in a different order, from that which is observed in the Gospels.
St. Matthew says, “ There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.” To this account, which in St. Mark is nearly the same, St. Luke adds, in the parallel passage, “ fearful sights and great figns shall there be from heaven 8.” The three evangelists agree in placing these figns in the same part of their narrative, at the close of the events preceding the war ; the reason of which arrangement perhaps might be, that some of the circumstances, here foretold, were not to receive their full e Isaiah xxvi... f Matt. xxiv. 7.
& L. xxi, 11.