God’s Providence Over Nations


William S. Plumer, 1865


“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him—What have you done?” Daniel 4:35

In general men think far too little of God’s providence over nations. In great perplexity, when evidently the power of man is wholly inadequate to remove or avert evils—then indeed the godly say—In God alone is our help. If divine interposition is required in anything, surely it is essential in the government of nations. The interests at stake are vast and momentous. Property, liberty, reputation and life, with all the rights and blessings connected with them—are powerfully protected or ruinously destroyed—by political institutions. An invasion of rights respecting any of these, has often called forth the greatest powers of argument and eloquence, even when but one man had committed or suffered an injustice. But in the government of nations the rights of thousands, generally of millions, are at stake. If conscious integrity under slander, violence or chains may, from its dark cells—lift up its supplicating eye to the Father of spirits, and hope that he will make bare his arm, and plead its cause, though the person of but one, and he a humble member of society, be involved; can we believe that the destinies of a mighty people associated in a whole country are forgotten before God? If the gentle shepherd, the distressed mariner, the dying prisoner, the orphan boy, or the defenseless widow—may venture to repose confidence in Jehovah; surely may a nation expect that their common and unspeakable interests will not be forgotten before God.

These thoughts derive great force, from the absolute incapacity of nations to protect themselves, or to preserve their own existence. There are but few men in the world possessed of any considerable wisdom in the management of political affairs. The eloquent, the brave, the learned are often wholly unfit for times of trial in the regulation of states and empires. We have the highest authority for saying, “Great men are not always wise.” The affairs of nations are so complicated, the interests involved are so conflicting, the passions of men are so turbulent, and a proper passage through difficulties is often so narrow and so intricate, that learning gives no safe precedents, eloquence is powerless in the presence of fierce opposition, courage is as useless as it would be in attacking a tornado, and faithfulness and public services are forgotten, despised or envied.

In such times there is need of wisdom in all the departments of government—a wisdom too that has seldom been attained by mortals. The shrewdest men the world has ever seen, have often felt themselves stymied and sometimes confounded. Moreover, the really wise men in any nation, being a very small minority in fact, are often so in the adoption of measures. They see one after another of the only safe plans, which they recommend, rejected until they despair of success. Their foresight is called fancy; their prudence is esteemed timidity; their moderation is set down to the account of lukewarmness; and their timely courage is called rashness. Every people on earth, at least every free people, have at times been like a vessel dismasted, her rudder bands broken, herself driven before the winds, and at the mercy of the waves. No pilot but One that has omniscience is adequate to stand at the helm and guide her safely through the storm.

A pure despotism is the simplest form of government in the world. In it the will of one man decides everything. The moment men depart one step towards constitutional freedom, the government becomes complex. The more freedom, the more difficult it is to understand and adjust the balances of the Constitution and the laws under it. Hence the necessity of transcendent wisdom in rulers. But if great men are not always wise—neither are wise men always honest, unselfish or loyal to their country. Ahithophel was a traitor. Richelieu was bold, intriguing and fond of war. He destroyed Savoy, Pignerol and Casal. He sent Mary de Medicis, his great benefactress, to end her days in exile. He agitated all surrounding kingdoms with dissensions and insurrections. He had great abilities—but great selfish ambition—and very few virtues. Talleyrand’s wisdom was the scourge of the nation which he ruled. Pitt was a great statesman—but his wars cost England millions, besides innumerable precious lives, and the loss of more private virtue than the glory of all the kingdoms of the world is worth.

Men who might understand what ought to be done for a nation’s good are often vain, cruel and sordidly selfish. When wisdom degenerates into cunning, and political acts are cautiously constructed to secure the elevation of their authors—their very gifts are a curse. Their long and loud professions of love of country deceive none but the unwary. When anyone dares to oppose their nefarious schemes, they cry out, “Are you he that troubles Israel?” They often pander to the sins of the nation. Their appeals are to the worst passions of the human bosom. Their practice is never better than their principles. Sometimes they are drunkards; sometimes they are lewd and profane; sometimes, gamblers or violent. They deride God’s name; they despise his Sabbaths; they scorn his worship; they reject his word.

Some have thought that, because in the United States, Christianity has outlived the ten thousand malignant blows aimed at her sacred standard and her standard bearers, by the army of infidels that arose just after the French Revolution, therefore pure religion is here in no danger. But is this not a mistake? In the eyes of a majority of this nation, it is no longer a reproach to be a professed Christian. For years some great men have been courting various religious denominations in order to secure their votes. Hence new dangers threaten both the country and the church of God. Already hypocrisy and phariseeism are by some deemed advantageous in political contests. The world is not without a solemn lesson on this subject. It may not be resolved by any legislature, as once it was by Parliament, that “no person shall be employed but such as the House is satisfied of his real godliness.” Yet oftentimes public opinion is more powerful than any statute.

Let ambitious men be once persuaded that an assumption of the Christian’s name and garb will advance their interests, and we shall find them flattering the vanity of the silly or superstitious, and desecrating the high functions of their stations to sectarian fanaticism, and putting their hands upon the holy things of a religion, which hurls its most awful anathemas against a vain show of piety—and says imperatively to each one, “My son, give me your heart.”

Surely then there is need for the insteppings of Jehovah to guide and govern nations; nations generally—and each nation in particular. Truly God is their only hope. If he withdraws his arm—they sink. If he removes his protecting shield—they fall before their enemies. If he take his strong and quieting hand off the hearts of the people—their passions heated as in a furnace burst forth, and freedom perishes like stubble before the consuming fire!

It is therefore no less the part of wisdom than of piety, to acknowledge the absolute dependence of every nation upon the all-wise governance and nurturing care of Jehovah for the perpetuity of its blessings. Sober men in every age and country have publicly and privately confessed how the Lord alone did make, and save, and keep them a people. Many a time does the peace of every land hang by a thread—while faction, or violence, or treachery stand ready with their weapons to cut it! Without God’s good providence also—nations would soon perish from famine or pestilence.

Very easily can God arm even a feeble folk to set at defiance for years together—the skill of the most powerful governments. At one time in this century four of the mightiest nations on earth for years found their arms and prowess held at bay by comparatively contemptible tribes; Russia by the Circassians; England by the Afghans; France by the Algerines; and America by the Seminoles. Each of these powerful states expended millions of money and wasted many precious lives, while God was teaching them that “fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise are often poor, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives strong.” God is Judge of all.

These views are fully sustained by Scripture. If the weakness and wickedness of men show that nations cannot be preserved by human power and wisdom—Scriptural revelation teaches the same. It is not convenient to present all the passages of Holy Writ which establish this truth. The following are some of them. God claims to be the Father and Founder of nations. To Ishmael he said, “I will make of you a nation.” To Abraham he said, “I will make of you a strong nation.” Very often in the Scriptures does he claim to have founded and preserved the Jewish nation. Again it is said, “He shall judge among the nations,” and “The Lord is governor among the nations.” God is often said himself—to have scattered nations, to have cast out nations, to have divided to the nations their inheritance, to increase nations, to enlarge them, and to subdue them. Nor is Jehovah burdened with this mighty charge; for all nations are before him as nothing and vanity, a drop of the bucket and the dust of the balance. “When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hides his face, who then can behold it? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only.” God has often threatened to punish nations, to be avenged on them, yes, to cast into hell the nations which forget God. These are but a small part of the solemn texts of Scripture on this subject. They are enough to show that God’s providence over nations is universal and particular!

They also show that there is cause of fear for every nation on earth. The Lord is their governor and they have rebelled against him. They have been exceedingly ungrateful. What prosperous nation has not waxed fat and kicked against the Lord? How do pride, and vanity, and covetousness, and evil speaking, and profaneness, and drunkenness, and hatred, and contempt of authority, and violence, and blood shedding stain the escutcheon of every nation! How is the permanency of every good government endangered by office seekers!

“Unnumbered suppliants crowd preferment’s gate,
Athirst for wealth, and burning to be great;
Delusive fortune hears the incessant call,
They mount, they shine, evaporate and fall.
On every stage the foes of peace attend,
Hate dogs their flight, and insult marks their end.”

When God afflicts any nation let its inhabitants reverently bow before him and humbly submit to his chastisements.

Let godly men pray and trust in the providence of God. He can deliver them and their nation out of all their troubles. It is his memorial in every generation, that he hears prayer.

Let men praise Jehovah for all his wonderful acts towards their respective nations in days that are past. We have many model Psalms on this subject. It is the Lord who gives salvation unto kings and delivers his servants from the hurtful sword. It is he who makes our sons as plants, grown up in their youth, and our daughters as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace. It is he who makes our garners to be full, affording all manner of store. It is he who makes our sheep bring forth thousands, and ten thousands in our streets. It is he who makes our oxen strong to labor, that gives peace which none can disturb, so that there is no breaking in, nor going out, and no complaining in our streets.

We should guard against becoming violent partisans in political causes. Where the real interests of a country are at stake let godly men risk all except a good conscience in their defense. But let not godly men associate with lewd fellows of the baser sort in their howlings against law and order. “Beware of dogs.”

Let God’s people be very careful how they participate in a revolution. This may not be done when grievances are few or light, or when there is any milder method of redress, or when it is the favorite measure merely of the lawless and profligate portion of society, or when the good to be gained bears no proportion to the evil to be removed. In such cases it seems to be the duty of the suffering—patiently to submit, humbly using such remonstrance, memorial or petition as is generally permitted. Should these be forbidden, let the pious man carry his case to God. Thus did God’s people in Babylon. Daniel, once in great authority there, although a captive, was, under Belshazzar, driven from court. The most venerable man in the kingdom, he was still slighted and forgotten. Wickedness reigned and raged over all the land. The sorrows of the faithful were multiplied. By the prophecies Daniel knew that this state of things could not last long. Yet for the time cruelty triumphed, and he gave himself to fasting and prayer. He and his countrymen seem to have been denied even the right of worship, until the iniquity of the government was full. Then the arm of Omnipotence was made bare. In one night Belshazzar was slain; Cyrus became master of Babylon; the revolution was completed; God’s people were bidden to rebuild their city; and Israel were as those who dreamed—so marvelous was their deliverance. The character of the political agitator is anti-christian. A citizen seeking by just means the general welfare and the public good—is eminently commendable.

Let not godly men be overmuch distressed by the false charge of being seditious and disturbers of the public peace. This slander is old and has often been repeated. Ahab brought the charge against Elijah, 1 Kings 18:17. Haman repeated it against all the Jews, whose only offence was that one man among them, venerable for age, piety and patriotism, would not truckle to a tyrant. Good Jeremiah too, the weeping prophet, the lover of Israel, was charged with treason. One high in authority said, “You are deserting to the Babylonians!” Jer. 37:13. The humble, godly prophet Amos was foully charged with a conspiracy against the king. Amos 7:10. In the days of our Lord, the Jews greatly hated Caesar. Yet when our Savior reproved their abominable secret sins, they said to Pilate, “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend—whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” Of the apostles it was said, “those who have turned the world upside down have come hither also.” “These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”

All these charges were grossly calumnious; but they are repeated against godly people from age to age. The world never understands Christian character. With it gospel humility is baseness, faith in the word of God is fanaticism, firmness is dogged stubborness. When Pliny the younger, as governor of a distant province, wrote to the Emperor Trajan an account of the Christians, he said, “I asked them if they were Christians; if they confessed, I asked them again, threatening punishment. If they persisted, I commanded them to be executed—for I did not at all doubt but, whatever their confession was, their stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished.”

Many refuse to draw any distinction between the ravings of fanaticism, and the purest and most humble piety. There is a great difference between the enlightened, humble, unswerving piety of a true Christian—and the wild, lawless radicalism, which sometimes rises up—not from true piety—but from the bottomless pit, and assumes the garb of piety to screen or to sanctify its abominations! The natural enmity of the human heart against holiness, the envy of wicked men against the righteous, whose brighter lives and higher hopes cast a pall of sadness over their character and destiny, and the solemn testimony which godly men in every age feel compelled to bear against the reigning vices and darling sins of men—sufficiently account for the uniformity and bitterness with which the charge of sedition, conspiracy and disloyalty are made against the best men of every age.

Indeed it is astonishing how true piety has always secured good conduct in subjects and citizens, and made them blessings to the land they inhabited. It was so in Babylon, where the church of God was in cruel bondage. It was so in the Roman empire during those three hundred years when

Persecution walked
The earth, from age to age, and drank the blood
Of saints, with horrid relish drank the blood
Of God’s peculiar children—and was drunk;
And in her drunkenness dreamed of doing good.
The supplicating hand of innocence,
That made the tiger mild, and in his wrath
The lion pause—the groans of suffering most
Severe, were taught to her—she laughed at groans—
No music pleased her more; and no repast
So sweet to her as blood of men redeemed
By blood of Christ.

For centuries, had the Christians chosen to retire from the empire, their very absence, as Tertullian says, would have been terrible vengeance to their persecutors. How long and patiently too did the Vaudois and their pious neighbors bless the very lands that persecuted them! So too in England and Scotland the voice of railing and slander poured its utmost cruelty on the heads of the pious Puritans and Covenanters, men of whom the world was not worthy. The greatest historian of England and the greatest novelist of Scotland have laid out their strength to bring into disrepute these godly men, whose memory is blessed. Hume is obliged to confess that these men were preeminent in the cardinal virtues, and that the principles of liberty inwoven in the British Constitution were mainly through their agency and sufferings. And after all Sir Walter Scott’s sneers, one cannot but feel that those whom he ridicules will by God be adjudged to have filled their place in church and state far better than the men who caricature their conduct. An eminent writer, a zealous minister of the church of England, says, “Many, no doubt, who obtained an undue ascendancy among the Puritans in the turbulent days of Charles the First, and even before that time, were factious, ambitious hypocrites. But I must think that the tree of liberty, sober and legitimate liberty, civil and religious, under the shadow of which, we, in the establishment as well as others, repose in peace, and the fruit of which we gather—was planted by the Puritans, and watered, if not by their blood, at least by their tears and sorrows. Yet it is the modern fashion to feed delightfully on the fruit, and then revile, if not curse, those who planted and watered it!”

How often have the the godliest men been cast out of church establishments, and then charged with the sin of schism. How often have they been fined, imprisoned, hunted like partridges on the mountains, or pursued like beasts in the wilderness, and yet have been complained of as troublesome. They have been driven from home to dwell in caves, they have suffered hunger, and shame, and nakedness, and perils by wild beasts and savage men; and yet when their patience has been worn out, and they have availed themselves of the power given them by providence for their protection and defense; they have been accused and condemned for not loving a government, which gave them no protection, secured to them no immunities—but poured the vials of its wrath with a terrible indiscriminateness on the gray head of ninety years, and on the infant of days; yes, even butchered the unborn babe and crushed existence in embryo!

Source: https://www.gracegems.org/Plumer/providence15.htm

National Sins and National Judgments (Owen-1679)

Gebhard Fugel An den Wassern Babylons

National Sins and National Judgments

A sermon by John Owen

Preached April 11, 1679.

“For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory. The show of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.” — Isa. iii. 8, 9.

First, Here is a confluence of sins delighted in.

Secondly, Here is a concurrence of various judgments unregarded. In the ninth chapter of this prophecy, the prophet enumerates, from the 13th verse to the end of the chapter, all sorts of judgments and indications of the continuance of God’s displeasure, concluding every one of them with this: “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still;” and it will end in their utter destruction.

Thirdly, Here are the preparative causes of ruin, that which would dispose Jerusalem and Judah to ruin and destruction. There are five of them reckoned up in this chapter:—

1. When God takes away the good, the sober, the understanding part of a nation, and leaves a nation very thin of such kind of persons: Verses 1–3, “Behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.” When God makes a nation thin of such persons, it is a preparation and disposition to their ruin.

2. Weakness in their government is another preparation and disposition: “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them,” verse 4.

3. Horrible disorder in the minds of men, and contempt of God’s order, that should be among them: “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable,” verse 5.

4. When there is great oppression and persecution: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them,” verse 12. And what did they do? “Ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts,” verses 14, 15.

5. And, lastly, there is horrible pride, and especially the pride of vain and foolish women; which the prophet insists upon from verse 16 to the very last words of the chapter, and concludes, “Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.”

This is the end of it all. So that you have an account of what are those causes whereon God in his word doth pronounce cities and nations to be ruined and destroyed, even then when they stand in their fullest security, in their own opinion.

Now, the inquiry is, how those things are with us. I told you I would do no more than speak a word or two for the present occasion: and I shall speak that which I do believe; and if you do so too, it may be it may be your mercy. But it is a hard thing to believe London is ruined and England fallen, when we have peace and enjoy all things; but if we speak it in pride, it will be harder how to avoid it.

First, Is there not a confluence of all sorts of sins among us whereof mankind can contract guilt, especially of those sins upon the commission of which God pronounces a nation ruined, — atheism and profaneness, blood and murder, adultery and uncleanness, and pride? When these sins are predominant in a nation that makes profession of the knowledge of God, God himself saith, and we may say, that nation is ruined. Those things have prevailed among us.

Then let us mourn over those sins as we ought to do. Have we done so in this congregation? Hath it been done in any congregation in England as it ought? Hath it been done in private, in our retirement, to mourn over that confluence of sins that hath prevailed and spread itself over the nation till it hath reached to the very neck? We have not done it to this very day. There is not the least attempt for any reformation. Do we think in such a day as this is a little prayer is enough to save a dying nation? There is nothing seriously done to work that reformation without which London will be undone and England will fall, and there will be no deliverance. It is all one whether you will believe it or no, but the word of God abides for ever.

Secondly, A concurrence of judgments was the second thing we showed you from the words, — a concurrence of judgments unregarded; — a confluence of sins delighted in, and a concurrence of various judgments unregarded.

Judgments are of two sorts, — temporal and spiritual.

1. Temporal judgments are of two sorts. They are either monitory tokens of God’s displeasure, or they are actual punishments. All these various judgments have been upon us.

(1.) We have had monitory tokens of God’s displeasure: [1.] Signs in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; — things that ought not to be despised. Our Saviour hath warned us to expect and look for them before the general dissolution. They have been monitory judgments. [2.] God is making the nation thin of persons ancient, honourable, counsellors, the wise. He threatens to do this. They are persons rarely to be found, who are the stay and staff of a nation. It is a monitory judgment, and so laid down by the prophet. [3.] The strange and unaccountable differences and divisions that are in the minds and affections of men. Multitudes in these nations stand at this day with their swords in their hands, ready to sheathe them in the bowels of their neighbours; Ephraim against Manasseh, and Manasseh against Ephraim, — one part of the nation against another, and another against them, ready to destroy one another. [4.] And, lastly, the warnings God hath given us of making us base and dishonourable, which I will not insist upon. We have had these monitory judgments.

(2.) We have had judgments which consist in punishments, — the plague, the fire, the sword, great distresses and poverty, that are come upon the nation; enough to make the hearts of men to tremble, but that we are grown hard like the nethermost millstone, and are sensible of nothing at all. I say these judgments and warnings of God are generally disregarded.

I would but ask two things, to see if by them we can evidence the contrary, notwithstanding all the judgments that we talk of:—

[1.] Who is the man, where is the person, that hath made any abatement in any thing of the world, — in love to the world, in conformity to the world, in the pursuit of any lust? Show me the man who, upon the account of these judgments in the world, hath made any abatement.

[2.] Show me the person who can by experience show that he hath by fear been moved to provide an ark for himself and family, any other ark besides present circumstances, — so much wealth, enjoyment, peace and quiet? Who is the person that hath provided an ark for himself and his family? Let us talk what we will, unless we make a visible abatement in conformity to the world, and labour to provide an ark, we disregard the judgments of God.

2. There are spiritual judgments also; and they are found among us, — (1.) In God’s taking from us so many faithful labourers in the dispensation of the gospel, in the midst of their days and strength, as he hath done of late years in this nation. (2.) And in driving the remnant of his faithful ministers, many of them, into corners, where they are not able to serve the interest of Christ and the nation by promoting and furthering its return unto God: and thereby that which would have been the greatest mercy that the nation can be partaker of, the greatest means of the preservation of it and deliverance from ruin, is made the greatest means of the restraining and shutting up their ministerial abilities and graces; which I shall not now enlarge upon. (3.) There is another part of these spiritual judgments, and that is the general security that is come upon all sorts of men, according to the variety of their degrees, in being overtaken with the present temptations of the day. These judgments are upon us unregarded.

Thirdly, Another thing in the text is the preparation and disposition that are in a nation to ruin. But I shall not speak unto them; they are visible and known unto all.

But you will say, ‘When God doth thus in his word declare that a nation is fallen and ruined by such causes, is there no hope but that it must be ruined, that destruction must overtake it?’

I answer, — 1. There is no hope at all while that place, that nation, continues in those ways and sins whereby God declares that they are ruined. A nation cannot be saved abiding in those ways which are the causes of its ruin, which God declares to be the causes of it. And let men have what expectations they will, please themselves as they will, I neither can desire nor will look for deliverance for a nation while it continues in those sins against which God pronounces judgments.

2. I do acknowledge it is frequent with God to declare a nation ruined with respect of merit, and yet to prevent their ruin with respect to the event. They may be delivered from that state and condition, and so be saved. The case is stated, Jer. xviii. 7, 8, “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom to pluck up and pull down, and to destroy it: if that, nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil. I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them” God declares what they do deserve, but yet they may never feel it as to the event. Wherefore it is not in vain that we have designed to seek the Lord this day. There is room yet left to deal with God about London, about the nation, though plainly in the word they are declared to be under ruin.

But it will have no success without these three things:—

1. That there be a visible reformation, — I will not say a conversion, but a visible reformation, — vigorously attempted in and upon the body of the people.

2. Unless those who truly fear the Lord do mourn over the sins of the people continually. And, —

3. Unless they are fervent in their prayers for their deliverance.

It doth not stand with the honour of God, the glory of his righteousness, holiness, word, and truth, to save this nation without these things; — without an attempt at visible reformation of the body of the people; without his own people mourn over the ins of the nation, and abide in fervent prayer for that end. Without these, as Jeremiah the prophet told the Jews, chap. xxxvii. 10, “Though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire;” So I say of our Chaldeans at this day: If half of them were executed, and the other half wounded, they should rise up and smite this city, unless we turn thus unto God.

We are called to consider the sins of the nation, and to deplore its state and condition upon the account of those sins. That is our present work; and these plain things God hath directed me unto from the reading of these words.

I will add a little more, for the further opening of the words. There is in them a summary declaration of the causes of this state and condition: “Because,” saith he, “their tongue and, their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory. You may range all sins under these two heads — men’s tongues and their doings; for their tongues and their doings have been against the Lord.

There is a particularly ruining provocation, when men set their tongues against the Lord. It a great sign, of he approaching, ruin of a people and nation when men set their tongues against the Lord. He puts a special mark upon that. I shall only name the things whereby men set their tongues against the Lord, keeping themselves to that one thing, by such ways as will certainly prove ruining.

There are these ways whereby men set their tongues against the Lord:—

1. By blasphemy. And thereof there are two branches:— (1.) Cursed oaths; (2.) Atheistical discourses. Whether they are found among us or no let every one judge as he hath experience.

Men set their tongues against the Lord especially by blaspheming the Spirit of Christ and the gospel. I do acknowledge that this is a sin which our Lord Jesus Christ as it were separates from all other sins, reserving it unto spiritual and eternal judgment; but it hath influence also on temporal judgments.

2. By mocking at all those judgments: “Where is the promise of his coming?” where is this talk that hath been among the prophets, among professors, for so many years, of judgment coming? “for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were.” They scoff at the word of God with reproachful terms.

When these are the things whereby men’s tongues are set against God (I do not speak of the sins of the tongue in general, but of those sins whereby the tongue is peculiarly set against God), we shall do well to inquire whether any such things are found among us or no.

This comprises the whole remainder of outward sins against the Lord. I shall not need to speak unto them; I shall only touch upon the aggravations:—

1. The first aggravation of these sins, that makes them ruinous, is when they rise to such a degree as that they are a “provocation unto the eyes of God’s glory.”

The “eyes of God’s glory” intend two things, — First and principally, His holiness: “He is of purer eyes than to behold evil,” Hab. i. 13. The eyes of God’s glory are the purity of his holiness. Secondly, God’s omnisciency and omnipresency. His eyes are not eyes of flesh. He sees and knows all things by the infinite immensity of his own presence. Sins committed in an especial manner against the eyes of God’s glorious holiness and his omnisciency will always have special influence into the ruin of Jerusalem and of Judah.

What are the sins that have a special opposition unto the eyes of God’s glory as it denotes his holiness? I answer, —

All sorts of uncleanness, — adultery, fornication. Uncleanness is in a peculiar manner opposed unto the holiness of God. We are to inquire whether there have been any overspreading of such abominations in the nation wherein we live. If there have, there have been provocations unto the eyes of God’s glory. Every impure lust in the heart is provoking to the eyes of God’s glory; every uncleanness wherewith the land is defiled, upon this account, because of its contradiction unto the pure and holy nature of God, is provoking unto the eyes of God’s glory.

2. When men are bold in sin, — which brings along with it contempt of God’s omnisciency and omnipresency, — it is a provocation unto the eyes of God’s glory.

There are two ways whereby men do manifest themselves bold in their sins; and they are both mentioned in the text:— (1.) By appearing under all demonstrations of outward pride, while they are filled with inward filth and laden with guilt; a thing that God doth greatly abhor. “The show of their countenance doth witness against them.” We live in days wherein the nation is overwhelmed with the guilt of sin, and full of all manner of iniquities and defilements. They do compose all their garbs and ways unto pride. And, (2.) They reject the ways of God. They contemn God and man when they have all that guilt upon them.

3. The last aggravation whereby men provoke the eyes of God’s glory is when they declare their sin as Sodom.”

How is it to “declare their sin as Sodom?” (1.) When men will confer and talk together about the vilest sins and wickednesses. So did they in Sodom; they got together to act wickedness. Time was when profaneness and atheism were not grown to that boldness as now they are. They covered their sin. But now men and women will consult together, talk and advise together, about their sins, how and what way they shall commit them. (2.) When they will come unto that impudence, not only to confer about their sins, but so as to make them a scoffing and a laughing matter.

Let us consider whether there be not those abominations among us against which the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. These are the aggravations the prophet gives of the sins of Jerusalem and of Judah, upon the account whereof he pronounces the one to be “ruined,” and the other to be “fallen” from her strength and beauty. The judgment he passes upon all is, “Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.”

I shall close all with a word or two of use:—

First, If this be the deplorable state and condition of the nation wherein we live, let us endeavour, by all ways and means that lie in us, to retrieve the nation out of this state and condition, every one acting unto the utmost of his power to turn men from their evil ways, that God may repent him of the evil that he hath purposed against this nation.

Secondly, If they will not be healed, let our souls mourn in secret for them, and let us do something to help the poor dying nation. There is not one of you but may do much towards the saving, of this nation, by mourning in secret because of the abominations that are committed in it, whereby we have provoked the eyes of God’s glory.

Thirdly, Take heed that we do not partake in any of their sins, that we make no approach unto them, lest we partake of their plagues There is no greater duty incumbent at this day on persons that fear God than this one, to be cautious of making approaches towards any persons or people against whom God hath declared that he hath a controversy with them.

Fourthly, Prepare to meet the Lord in the way of his judgments. God is righteous in all his ways, when he shall bring the scourge upon the nation, and it “shall be spoiled as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle,” Hos. x. 14.

Lastly, Give glory unto him for all the appearances of sovereign grace and mercy in preserving this nation from that late horrid design and plot, which might have swallowed us up unless God himself had immediately interposed.

There are three or four things I would mention, that I have upon my thoughts:—

1. The open discovery of the profaneness and villany of their hearts, in striving to hide from God and man the wickedness they had contrived, by adding a new wickedness unto it, which they had not thought of, — the murdering of that innocent person.411 God left them to discover the wickedness and profaneness of their hearts, that they would cover one sin with another, and God should not look through it.

2. The wisdom and justice of God, in making that which they concluded the means of hiding their plot from the eyes of men prove upon the matter the means of discovering it unto all men. They behaved themselves subtilely, but the hand of God was upon them; there was “digitus Dei” plainly in the case. Their great design was, by the murder of that gentleman to conceal all. Saith God,’ I will discover all by the murder of that person.’

3. See the hand and glory of God in this also. You are directed unto it this day, that though their wickedness and malice continue, God hath taken away their hearts. If wisdom and courage had not been taken from them, they might have ruined this nation; but God hath taken away their hearts, and so long we shall be safe enough.

4. In this glorious act of God there is a spirit poured out upon the commonalty of this nation above their light and above their principles; which is the immediate hand of God: for every man’s spirit follows his light and principles, but here it is beyond their light and principles. Therefore glorify God in this, and let it encourage us to be instant in prayer day and night for this poor nation, the laud of our nativity.

HT: https://purelypresbyterian.com/2016/08/15/national-sins/

For Correction And For Mercy

Flooding at Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery (6096613101)

Greg L. Price explains the historic Christian view on disasters:

“Turn with me to Job 37:12,13, where we find two purposes of God for disasters.

1. The first Divine purpose for disaster is for correction or literally, the rod (Job 37:13a). Here God uses the cloud filled with rain to burst forth in judgment upon wicked and godless men in bringing floods (reminiscent of the deluge at Noah’s time) that destroy the crops, the livelihood, and the life of man. No doubt, under this heading we might include any disaster by which God would bring temporal judgment upon wicked people and nations of this world who have rejected, despised, or forgotten the Lord and His Christ, the Moral Law and Gospel of the Lord and His Christ, and the only true religion of the Lord and His Christ, biblical Christianity. This purpose displays the vindictive justice of a holy God in pouring forth His wrath upon the wicked people and wicked nations of the world as a foretaste of the everlasting judgment to come (Romans 1:18—note the present, on-going, and continuous revelation of God’s wrath in the world upon the wicked who suppress the truth God in unrighteousness, which is displayed in many ways, but must include the judgments God brings by way of disasters and calamities upon people and nations for their rebellion against the Lord and His Christ; see Psalm 2:10-12; Psalm 79:6)…

3. The second Divine purpose for disaster that comes from the cloud filled with rain in Job 37:13 is “for mercy.” Here it would seem that God brings the flood that destroys the crops and livelihood of man not only to judge impenitent people and nations, but also to show mercy to people and nations whose eyes in such disasters are opened to see the vanity of trusting in the things of this earth as the source of their safety and security, as the source of their joy and happiness, and as the source of their peace and comfort. God brings disaster so as to have the ultimate mercy upon people and nations by enlightening their minds to behold the mercy of God in Christ Jesus so that they embrace Christ by faith alone and are set free from righteous God’s judgment forever.”

Source: http://media.sermonaudio.com/mediapdf/5911147300.pdf

God Removes Nations For Their Sins

Calvin on Deuteronomy 27 and 28:

First we see that even though the land of Canaan was given
as an inheritance to the people of Israel, yet they were surely put
out and banished when they abused the favor that had been
shown unto them
. God had planted them there, even as though
He had set them with His own hand. Lo (says He), here is My
resting place and yours (Ps. 132:14). He intended to dwell among
them Himself and thereupon He promised to give them rest here,
insomuch that although all other people should be displaced and
removed to and fro, yet should the children of Abraham continue
to enjoy the heritage of that land. Notwithstanding, this did not
prevent God from driving them out again and scattering them
abroad with the wind because they had defiled that land, which
should have been kept holy to His name

Now since it is so, let us not think it strange when God at this
day sends many changes into the world; for He has given no such
privilege to any nation as to say unto them, “YOU shall inhabit
this land, as the land of Canaan was given to the lineage of
Abraham.” But we see how God is offended. We see men’s misdoings
as heinous as can be. Now then, if God removes men, let us
understand that it is for their sins.

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/what-causes-nations-and-empires-to-decline.55621/, Comment 13

cf: Leviticus 18:34: Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:

Lessons From The Great Lisbon Earthquake, 1755

1755 Lisbon earthquake

An educational look at how Christians historically viewed natural disasters:

Lessons from the Recent EARTHQUAKE

Preached in Hanover county, Virginia, June 19, 1756, by Samuel Davies.

(Note: In this sermon, Davies is referring to the Great Lisbon Earthquake which took place on November 1, 1755. Contemporary reports state that the earthquake lasted nearly six minutes, causing gigantic fissures 15 feet wide. Approximately forty minutes after the earthquake, an enormous tsunami engulfed the harbor and downtown. It was followed by two more waves. In the areas unaffected by the tsunami, fire quickly broke out, and flames raged for five days! Tsunamis as tall as 66 feet swept the coast of North Africa, and struck Martinique and Barbados across the Atlantic.)

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!” Isaiah 24:18-20

The works of Creation and Providence were undoubtedly intended for the notice and contemplation of mankind, especially when God comes out of his place, that is, departs from the usual and stated course of his providence — to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquities; then it befits us to observe the operation of his hands with fear and reverence. To this the Psalmist repeatedly calls us: “Come, see the glorious works of the LORD: See how he brings destruction upon the earth!” Psalm 46:8. “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” Psalm 66:5. To assist you in this, I shall cheerfully devote an hour today.

This world is a state of discipline for the eternal world; and therefore, chastisements of various kinds and degrees are to be enumerated among the ordinary works of Providence. Pain, sickness, losses, bereavements, disappointments; these are the usual scourges of the divine hand, which our heavenly father uses every day, to chastise some or other of his wayward children. But when these are found too weak and ineffectual for their reformation; or when, from their being so frequent and common, that people begin to think them things of course, and not to acknowledge the divine hand in them; then the universal Ruler departs from his usual methods of chastisements, and uses such signal and extraordinary executioners of his vengeance, as cannot but rouse a slumbering world, and render it sensible of his agency.

At such times, God throws his world into a ferment; and either controls its established laws, or carries such into execution, as were formed only for extraordinary occasions. The extraordinary executionersof his vengeance, are generally these four:
1. Famine
2. Sword
3. Pestilence
4. Earthquakes

A FAMINE in this land of plenty, would be an unusual judgment indeed; and yet sundry parts of our country have been reduced to the borders of it, by the severity of last year’s drought.

The SWORD has been a harmless weapon to us, until of late; but now it is brandished over our heads, and pierces our country in a thousand veins.

The PESTILENCE is a mischief that has not spread desolation among us; though there is not perhaps one year, in which it is not walking through some country or other upon our globe.

As for EARTHQUAKES, we have had such shakes, as may convince us, that we are not beyond the reach of that desolating judgment, even on this solid continent; though they have not as yet done us any injury. But perhaps there never was, since the earthquake at the deluge, that broke up the fountains of the great deep, so extensive a desolation of this kind — as has lately happened in Europe and Africa. And though, blessed be God, it did not immediately affect us; yet the very fame of so dreadful a judgment ought to be improved for our advantage.

To this event I may accommodate the words of my text, “The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm!” And the reason of all is, “For its sins are very great!”

Such of you as have read the public papers, need not be informed of that wide-spreading earthquake, which began on the first of November, and has since been felt at different times, through most parts of Europe. For the sake of those that have only had some imperfect hints of it, I would give you this short history:

The city of Lisbon, Portugal, is now no more! Its vast riches, and by all accounts, between fifty and a hundred thousand people, have been buried or burnt in its ruins! Sundry other towns in Portugal, Spain, and along the European coasts of the Mediterranean, have been damaged, overthrown, or sunk, like Sodom and Gomorrah. The earthquake also extended across that sea, and has ruined a great part of Africa, particularly in the empire of Morocco, where the large and populous cities have been demolished, with many thousands of the inhabitants. It has likewise been felt in sundry parts of Italy, Germany, France, Bohemia, and even in Great Britain and Ireland. Nay, the tremor has reached our continent; and has been very sensibly felt in Boston and other parts of New England.

Though much harm has not been done in those parts — yet a loud warning has been given; and oh! that it may not be given in vain. It would certainly be an instance of inexcusable stupidity, for us to take no notice of so dreadful a dispensation. Such devastations are at once, judgments upon the places where they happen, and warnings to others.

For what end were the Israelites punished with so many miraculous judgments? Paul will tell you, it was not only for their sins — but “all these things happened to them for examples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11.

For what end were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah turned into ashes? Peter will tell you: God “made them an example unto those who should after live ungodly.” 2 Peter 2:6.

And shall not we regard such examples, even in our own age? Shall others perish for our admonition? and shall we receive no profit by their destruction? This would be stupid and inexcusable indeed. Therefore my present design is, to direct you to such meditations as this alarming event naturally suggests; and which may be sufficient to the right improvement of it.

But before I enter upon this design, I would once more inculcate upon you a doctrine, which I have often proved in your hearing; and that is: that this world is a little territory of Jehovah’s government, and under the management of his providence. And particularly, that all the blessings of life are the gifts of his bounty; and all its calamities are the chastisements or judgments of his hand. This I would have you to apply to the event now under consideration.

It is the providence of God that has impregnated the bowels of the earth with these dreadful materials, that tear and shatter its frame. It is his providence which strikes the spark, which sets this dreadful train in a flame, and causes the terrible explosion!

There is a set of conceited, smattering philosophers risen among us, who think they disprove all this, by alleging that earthquakes proceed from natural causes; and therefore, it is superstitious to ascribe them to the agency of Providence. But there is no more reason or philosophy in this, than if they should deny that a man writes, because he makes use of a pen; or that kings exercise government, because they employ servants under them. I grant, that natural causes concur toward the production of earthquakes: but what are these natural causes? Are they independent, self-moved causes? No! they were first formed, and are still directed, by the Divine hand. The shortest and plainest view I can give of the case is this:

When God formed this globe, he saw what would be the conduct of its inhabitants, in all the periods of time; and particularly, he knew at what particular time a kingdom or city would be ripe for his judgments; and he adjusted matters accordingly. He set the train of events with so much exactness, that it will spring just in the critical moment, when everything is ripe for it. And thus, by a preconcerted plan, he answers all the occasional exigencies of the world, and suits himself to particular cases, without a miraculous and direct working of his own hand.

Or, perhaps, he may sometimes think it necessary to work with his own immediate hand, and to suspend or counteract the usual and stated laws of creation, that his interference may be more conspicuous. Let this truth, then, my friends, be laid deep in your minds, as a foundation: that earthquakes are the effects of divine Providence, and produced to answer some of its important ends in the world. And hence I naturally proceed, according to promise, to direct you to such meditations as are suitable to this shocking event.

Now you may hence take occasion to reflect upon:
the majesty and power of God;
the dreadfulness of God’s anger;
the sinfulness of our world;
the distinguishing kindness of Providence towards us;
the destruction of this globe at the final judgment.

First, Let the majestic and terrible phenomenon of earthquakes put you in mind of the majesty and power of God, and the dreadfulness of his displeasure. He can toss and convulse this huge globe, and shake its foundations down to the center! Trembling continents, burning or sinking mountains, wide-yawning gulfs in solid ground, explosions of subterranean mines sufficient to shiver a world, are but hints of his indignation. But my language does but sink this exalted subject; I shall therefore give you the inimitable descriptions of the sacred writers.

“His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 9:4-10

“For a fire has been kindled by my wrath, one that burns to the lowest hell. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap calamities upon them and spend my arrows against them!” Deuteronomy 32:22-23

But the most striking and lively description, methinks, which the language of inspiration itself has given us, is in the prophecy of Nahum, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him!” Nahum 1:2-6

And is this the Being who is so little thought of in our world? Is this he —
whose Name passes for the lightest trifle,
whose Word can hardly engage men’s attention,
whose Authority is ridiculed,
whose Wrath is scorned,
whose Laws are audaciously violated,
whose Threatenings are despised!

Is this he, who is complimented with empty, spiritless formalities, under the name of religion! Oh! is this he, whom we are met this day to worship! What! and shall there be no more attention and solemnity among us? Can anything be more unnatural, more impious, or more shocking! Indeed, sirs, it strikes me with horror to think how contemptuously this glorious, almighty, and awesome God is treated in our world. Angels do not treat him so; nay, even devils, in the height of their malice, dare not thus trifle with him — they tremble at his very name. Oh! “Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself-He won’t call me to account”? Psalm 10:13.

See here is your antagonist: “His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?” Job 9:4. This earth is as nothing in his hands. “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust!” Isaiah 40:15. He who can shake this huge globe to the center; he who can bury proud cities, with all their inhabitants, in the bowels of the earth; he who can toss the ocean into a ferment, and cause it to overwhelm the guilty land; he who can hurl the tallest mountains from their everlasting foundations into the sea, or sink them into the valleys, or pools of water; he who has stored the bowels of the earth, as with magazines of gunpowder, and can set it all in blaze, or burst it into ten thousand fragments; he who can arm the tiniest creature, a gnat or a worm, to be your executioner, and has an absolute power over the most mighty and ungovernable elements: oh! what will he make of you, when he takes you in hand!

Can you rest easy one moment, while you have reason to fear that the supreme Lord of the universe is your enemy — for your willful provocations! In his name (in his glorious and fearful name has any weight with you) I charge you to seek his favor; make him your friend, and dare to rebel against him no more! Dare you continue a rebel against him, or careless about pleasing him —
while you walk on his ground,
while you breathe in his air,
while you feed upon his provisions,
while you live in his territories, and within the reach of his arm!
Why, he can make that earth you pollute with your sins — open its dreadful jaws and swallow you up alive, like Korah and his company. Numbers 16:32.

Oh! my friends, it may break our hearts to think there should be any people so mad as to incur his displeasure, and be careless about his favor. But, alas! are there not some such among us? Well; they will soon find that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” unless they speedily repent. Hebrews 10:31

Secondly, This desolating judgment may justly lead you to reflect upon the sinfulness of our world. Alas! we live upon a guilty globe; and much has it suffered for the sins of its inhabitants. Once it was all drowned in an universal deluge; and many parts of it have since sunk under the load of guilt. If sin had never defiled it — then it would never have been thus torn and shattered. We have seen that these judgments are at the disposal of Divine Providence: and we are sure, a righteous Providence would never inflict them needlessly. It is SIN, my friends, which is the source of all the calamities that oppress our world from age to age! It is sin which has so often convulsed it with earthquakes!

Do but observe the language of my text on this head, “The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!” This, sirs, this, is the burden under which it totters; this is the evil, at which it trembles; this is a load, which men, which the earth itself, nay, which angels, and the whole creation, cannot bear up under!

Why was the old world destroyed by a deluge? It was because all flesh had corrupted their way: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5.

Why was Sodom consumed with lightning from heaven, and sunk into a dead sea by an earthquake? It was because “The men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Genesis 13:13.

In short, SIN is the cause of all the calamities under which our world has groaned, from the fall of Adam to this day. Heaven has been testifying its displeasure against the sins of men by the most terrible judgments, from age to age, for nearly six thousand years. The destruction of one nation — is intended not only for their punishment — but for a warning to others, that they may “hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.” Deuteronomy 13:11.

But men will still obstinately persist, unalarmed by the loudest warnings, and unreformed by the severest chastisements. Let the sword of war slay its thousands; let the pestilence walk about in all its desolating terrors; let the earth shake and tremble under its guilty inhabitants; let these judgments be repeated from generation to generation, from country to country — and still they will sin on; and the chastisements of six thousand years have not been able to reform them.

Oh! what a rebellious province of Jehovah’s empire, is this guilty globe! And probably it has been seldom more so, than in the present age; and therefore it is no wonder that the judgments of God are in the earth. The greatest part of it is overrun with all the idolatry and ignorance, vice and barbarity of heathenism. A great part of it worships the impostor Mahomet, instead of the Son of God, and groan under his yoke.

This is the character of the empire of Morocco, and those African territories that have been ravaged by the late earthquake. They are either superstitious heathens or deluded Mohammedans, and the knowledge of God is not to be found among them.

The greatest part of Europe is corrupted with the idolatry, superstition, and debaucheries of the church of ROME, and groans under its tyranny. There the most foolish theatrical farces are devoutly performed under the name of religion! There the freeborn mind is enslaved, and dare not think for itself in matters in which it must answer for itself. There the homage due to the true God, and the only Mediator — is sacrilegiously given to senseless idols, and a rabble of imaginary saints! There the infernal court of the inquisition imitates the tortures of hell, and makes the man who would discover the truth — a monument of misery! There a market for indulgences and pardons is held; and men, for a little money, may buy a license to commit the most atrocious crimes, or they make atonement for them by the penance of bodily austerities! And can pure and undefiled religion, can good morals grow and flourish in such a soil? No! Religion has degenerated into priest-craft and a mercenary superstition, and the most enormous vices and debaucheries must abound. Such, alas! was Lisbon, by universal character.

And though I would not repeat the censorious sins of the Jews, with regard to the Galileans, (Luke 13:2) nor suppose that Lisbon was more deeply guilty than all the cities upon the face of the earth; yet this I dare pronounce, that it was a very guilty spot of the globe, and that it was for this, that it was so severely punished.

If we take a survey of Protestant countries, where religion is to be found, if anywhere at all, alas! how melancholy is the prospect! The good old doctrines of the reformation, which were adapted to advance the honors of divine grace and mortify the pride of man, have been too generally abandoned; and a more easy system, agreeable to the vanity and self-flattery of depraved hearts, has been dressed up in their stead!

Nay, Christianity itself has been rejected, ridiculed, and exposed to public scorn, by the increasing club of deists; and where the Christian name and profession are retained, the life and spirit are too generally lost; and their practice is an open opposition to their professed faith. How are the ordinances of the gospel neglected or profaned? What a shocking variety of crimes are to be found everywhere, even in countries that profess to have renounced Popery for its corruptions? Drunkenness, swearing, perjury, lying, fraud, and injustice; pride, luxury, various forms of lewdness, and all manner of extravagances; and all these expressly forbidden, under the severest penalties, by that religion which they themselves profess and acknowledge to be divine!

And thus they continue, in spite of warnings and chastisements; in spite of mercies and instructions. They have sinned on, impenitent and incorrigible, for a length of many years. God is but little regarded in the world, which owes its existence and all its blessings to his power and goodness. Jesus is but little regarded, even in those countries that profess his name; and is it any wonder the earth trembles, when the iniquity thereof lies so heavy upon it? Is it not rather a wonder that it has not burst to pieces long ago, and buried its guilty inhabitants in its ruins?

Is there a supreme Ruler over the kingdoms of men — and shall he not testify his displeasure against their rebellion? Shall he always tamely submit to such contemptuous treatment? And shall he always look on, and see his government insulted, and his vengeance defied? No! At proper seasons he will come forth out of his place; he will depart from the stated course of his providence, to punish them for their iniquities. The convulsions of the earth, the inundations of the sea, and the sword of war shall at once proclaim and execute his displeasure! If our country has escaped the devastations of the earthquake, it is not owing to our innocence — but to the distinguishing mercy and patience of God! And, therefore,

Thirdly, This melancholy event may carry your minds gratefully to reflect upon the peculiar kindness of God towards our country, in that it was not involved in the same destruction.

I need not tell you that we are a guilty, obnoxious people; you may be convinced of it by more authentic evidence. The lives of the generality proclaim it aloud; the terrors of war that now surround us proclaim it; and do not your own consciences whisper the same thing? And why have we been spared? How has even this solid continent borne up under the load of guilt that burdens it? It has been owing entirely to the grace and patience of that God, who is so little regarded among us. And shall we not gratefully celebrate his praises? Shall not his goodness lead us to repentance? Shall all his kindness be thrown away upon us? Will we constrain him to pour out his judgments upon us also, at last?

Methinks I hear him expostulating over Virginia, in that compassionate language: “How shall I give you up, Virginia? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah and Zeboiim?” Cities that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah. “My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows!” Hosea 11:8. Oh! must not such moving language melt us down at his feet, in the most sincere repentance, and engage us to his service for the future! Without a spirit of prophecy, I may safely pronounce, it will never be well with our country until we are brought to this. But,

Fourthly, That which I would particularly suggest to your thoughts from the devastations of the late earthquake, is the last universal destruction of our world at the final judgment. Of this, an earthquake is both a confirmation to human reason, and a lively representation.

1. It is a confirmation even to human reason, drawn from the constitution of our globe, that such a destruction is possible, and even probable, according to the course of nature. Our globe is stored with subterranean magazines of combustible materials, which need but a spark to produce a violent explosion, and rend and burst it to pieces! What huge quantities of these sulphurous and nitrous mines must there be — when one discharge can spread a tremor over half the world, bury islands and cities, and shatter wide-extended continents! What an inexhaustible store of fire and brimstone has supplied Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, and other burning volcanoes, that have been belching out torrents of liquid fire for some thousands of years, and now rage as furiously as ever?

Let but the subterranean magazines, in every cave and cranny of the globe, be set in a blaze; let the central fire but break loose; let all the combustible materials near or upon the surface of the earth, be once inflamed — turf, coal, trees, cities, houses, and all their furniture; this would produce a general conflagration, which nothing could resist.

In short, we may conjecture, from the construction of our world, that it was not intended for a perpetual existence in its present form — but to be dissolved by the dreadful element of fire. And Revelation assures us of this universal desolation, when the heavens shall be shriveled up, like a parched scroll, and pass away with a great noise; and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth, also, and the things that are therein, shall be burnt up! 2 Peter 3:10.

An earthquake is also a livelyrepresentation of the universal ruins of that day, and the horror and consternation of mankind. Let imagination form a lively idea of the destruction of Lisbon — the ground trembling, and heaving, and roaring with subterranean thunders — towers, palaces, and churches tottering and falling — the flames bursting from the ruins, and setting all in a blaze — the sea roaring, and rushing over its banks with resistless impetuosity — the inhabitants running from place to place in wild consternation, in search of safety; or falling on their knees, and rending the air with their wild shrieks and cries — flying to the strongest buildings for shelter — but crushed in their ruins; or to the sea, and there swept away by the rushing waves. Walls falling upon thousands in their flight; or the earth opening her jaws, and swallowing them up. Can human imagination represent anything more shocking? In other calamities, whatever else we lose, we have still the earth to support us: but when that is gone, we are helpless indeed, and must sink into immediate destruction!

Such, my friends — but infinitely more dreadful, will be the terrors of that last, that universal earthquake, which we shall all see:

Stars drop, rush lawless through the air, and dash one another to pieces! The sun is extinguished, and looks like a huge globe of solid darkness! The moon is turned into blood, and reflects a portentous, sanguinary light upon the earth. The clouds flash and blaze with sheets of lightning; and are rent with the horrid crash of thunder! This is echoed back by the subterranean thunders that murmur, rumble, and roar under ground.

The earth is tossed like a ball, and bursts asunder like a moldering clod!. See, the yawning gulfs open! the flames bursting forth from the center; and a horrid confusion of fire and smoke rolling through the arch of heaven! See the works of nature and art perishing in one promiscuous ruin! Mountains sinking and bursting out into so many volcanoes, vomiting up seas of liquid fire! Rocks dissolving, and pouring their melted mass into the channels of the rivers! Pyramids, towers, palaces, cities, forests, and plains — burning in one gigantic, indistinguishable blaze! The seas evaporating, and vanishing away, through the intenseness of the heat! a mixed, confused heap of sea and land! floods of water, and torrents of melted rocks! Now the earth is turned upside-down, inside-out, and reduced into one gigantic chaos!

And where, you hardy, presumptuous sinners, who can now despise the terrors of the Lord — oh! where will you flee in this tremendous day? What shall support you when the ground on which you stand is gone? What rock or mountain shall you procure to shelter you, when rocks and mountains are sinking and disappearing, or melting away, like snow before the sun? How can you expect to escape hell — when the earth itself is turned into a lake of fire and brimstone! Oh! how can you bear the thought of rolling and weltering there? What is now become of your lands and possessions on which you once set your hearts? Nay, where is the country, where the continent, in which you once dwelt? Alas! they are all reduced into ashes!

And is there no safety in this wreck of nature? Are all mankind involved in this general ruin? No! blessed be God, there are some who shall be safe and unhurt, while the frame of nature is dissolving around them. Those happy souls, who choose the Lord for their portion, and Jesus for their Savior, and who in this tottering world looked for a city that has foundations, firm, unshaken foundations; they shall be safe beyond the reach of this general desolation; their happiness lies secure in a “kingdom which cannot be moved” Hebrews 12:28. There is a new heaven and a new earth prepared for them!

Then, my friends, you will see the advantage of that despised, neglected thing, true religion, and the difference between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serves the Lord, and him that serves him not. Mal. 3:18. Then, those that are now so unfashionable as to make religion a serious business, will smile secure at a dissolving world. Then they will find the happy fruits of those hours they spent on their knees at the throne of grace; of those cries and tears they poured out after Jesus; of their honest struggles with sin and temptation; and in short, of a life devoted to God.

Therefore, let such of you, (for I trust there are such among you,) rejoice in the prospect of that glorious, dreadful day; and let it be more and more your serious business to prepare for it. You shall rest forever in a country that shall never be shaken with earthquakes, nor be subject to any of the calamities of this mortal state. Therefore, since this shall be your portion, do not be much disturbed with any of the judgments that may befall this land of your pilgrimage and exile. The sooner it is destroyed — the sooner you will get home to the region of eternal rest! Borrow the language of the triumphant Psalmist, “So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!” Psalm 46:2, 3.

But, oh! where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? Oh, where shall some of you, my dear people, appear in that dreadful day? I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, and am really afraid for some of you. Do you not know in your own consciences, that you are generally thoughtless and careless about the great concerns of your eternal state? Your hearts have never been thoroughly changed by divine grace; nor do you know by experience what it is to believe, to repent, and to love God with all your hearts. You do not make conscience of every duty; I mean, you neglect the worship of God, in your families, though under the strongest obligations to perform it, perhaps from your own solemn vows and promises. You indulge yourselves in some known sin or other; and if you feel some pangs of repentance, your repentance does not issue in reformation. Alas! my friends, is this the character of one soul within the hearing of my voice? Then I must tell you, that if you continue such, you will be fuel for the last universal fire! and must perish in the ruins of the world you have loved so well!

But who knows, that if you begin immediately, you may yet have time enough to work out your salvation. Therefore, now begin the work. There is no safety but in Jesus Christ. Away to him therefore; let me lay the hand of friendly violence upon you, and hurry you out of your present condition, as the angel did Lot out of Sodom. “Up, get out of this dreadful condition; for the Lord will destroy all who continue in it! Escape for your life, do not look back — escape to Jesus Christ, lest you be consumed!” Genesis 19:14-17.

I must tell you frankly, I studied this part of my discourse with an anxious heart; and I was almost discouraged from adding this exhortation to it. “For,” thought I, “I have given such exhortations over and over — but they seem generally in vain. There is indeed a happy number among my hearers, who, I doubt not, have regarded the gospel preached by my lips. But, alas! as to the rest, I have been so often disappointed that I now hardly hope to succeed.” These, my dear friends, are my discouragements in my retirements, when no eye sees me but God. And oh! sinners, will your future conduct prove, that there was good reason for my fears? Alas! is the ministry of the gospel, a useless institution with regard to you? Have such exhortations as these, no weight with you? Will you resist my benevolent hand — when I would stretch it forth to pluck you out of the burning!

Well, my friends, I cannot help it. If you will perish, if you are obstinately set upon it, I have only this to say — that your poor minister will weep in secret for you, and drop his tears upon you as you are falling into ruin from between his hands!

Yes, sinners, God forbid that I should cease to pray for you and pity you! While my tongue is capable of pronouncing a word, and you think it worth your while to hear me — I will send the calls of the gospel after you; and if you perish after all, you shall drop into hell with the offers of heaven in your ears!

Gladly would I clear myself and say, “Your blood be upon your own heads — I am clean!” Acts 18:6. But, alas! my heart recoils and fails. I have no doubt at all — but the gospel I have preached to you is indeed the gospel of Christ, and I cheerfully venture my own soul upon it. But in dispensing it among you, I am conscious of so much weakness, coldness, and unskillfulness, that I am at times shocked at myself, lest I should be accessory to your ruin!

However, this is certain, great guilt will fall somewhere. I desire to take my own share of shame and guilt upon myself, and to humble myself for it before God. And I ask you do the same. Oh, humble yourselves before God, for your past conduct; and prepare, prepare to meet him, in the midst of a burning world!

Or, if you continue obstinately impenitent still, prepare to make your defense against your poor minister there, when he will be obliged to appear as a swift witness against you, and say, “Lord, I can appeal to yourself, that I warned them to prepare for this day, though with so many guilty infirmities, as nothing but your mercies can forgive. But they would not regard my warnings, though given in your solemn Name, and sometimes enforced with my own compassionate tears.”

There, sirs, at the supreme tribunal, prepare to meet me; and there I dare appeal for the truth and importance of the things I have inculcated upon you.

(The following hymn is by Samuel Davies)

How great, how terrible that God,
Who shakes creation with his nod!
He frowns, and earth’s foundations quake,
And all the wheels of nature break!

Crushed under guilt’s oppressive weight,
This globe now totters to its fate:
Trembles beneath her guilty sons,
And for deliverance heaves and groans!

And see! the glorious, dreadful day,
That takes the enormous load away!
See skies, and stars, and earth, and seas,
Sink in one universal blaze!

Where, now — ah! where shall sinners seek
For shelter in the general wreck?
Can falling rocks conceal them now,
When rocks dissolve like melting snow?

In vain for pity now the cry,
In lakes of liquid fire they lie!
There on the burning billows tossed,
Forever, ever, ever, lost!

But saints, undaunted and serene,
Your eyes shall view the dreadful scene!
Your Savior lives, though worlds expire,
And earth and skies dissolve in fire!

JESUS! the helpless creature’s friend!
To you my all I dare commend:
You can preserve my feeble soul,
When lightnings blaze from pole to pole!

Is America’s Iniquity Full?

Via Apologetics Press:

Is America’s Iniquity Full?

Dave Miller, Ph.D.

When one examines the sweeping scope of human history, it becomes readily apparent that progress is not technically linear. Rather, nations rise and fall. The progress that they achieve is often lost to later civilizations, who must essentially “reinvent the wheel.” Archaeological evidence exists to substantiate the fact that highly advanced civilizations have preceded modern times, creating many enigmas for researchers. The Moche were a highly developed society that vanished centuries ago. The ancient Paracas performed medieval wonders in brain surgery using only crude metal instruments. The fabled Macchu Picchu achieved incredible engineering feats (“Inca…,” 1995). The Nasca (or perhaps their predecessors) produced massive drawings that stretch for miles and are thus visible/discernible only from the air (“The Lost City…,” 2000; “Nasca Lines,” n.d.).

What happened to such civilizations? Why are they now nonexistent? One would expect that the likelihood of a nation’s survival would increase in proportion to the technological, medical, and economic progress. One explanation for this circumstance (perhaps the explanation) is provided by the Bible. Simply stated, the Bible affirms that as a nation moves in the direction of spiritual and moral depravity, becoming increasingly alienated from God, that nation positions itself for inevitable destruction. That destruction may come in the form of natural disasters—like volcanoes (e.g., Pompey). It may come in the form of external invasion—as in the case of the fall of Babylonia or Rome. It can even come in the form of direct, miraculous intervention by God—as in the case of Sodom and the other cities of the plain (Genesis 19:29).

This principle is alluded to repeatedly in Scripture. When God promised to Abraham that his descendents would be given the land of Canaan as their homeland, He noted that this gift would not be given for several hundred years. Why the delay? “[F]or the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). God would not have displaced one group of people simply in order to give another group the land. That would be unjust and prejudicial—in direct contradiction to God’s nature (Deuteronomy 32:4). He eventually allowed the Israelites to conquer Canaan because the peoples that inhabited the land had grown exceedingly wicked. Concomitant with reception of the land, God used the Israelites to punish the Canaanites for their perversion and depravity.

For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 18:25-30, emp. added).

Observe that God gives civilizations a considerable amount of time—even hundreds of years—to choose the spiritual and moral direction they will take. If they are determined to spiral downward in an ever-deepening devotion to idolatry, covetousness, sexual impurity, etc., then God eventually “lowers the boom” and destroys them for their iniquity (cf. the Genesis Flood—Genesis 6:3). The inspired writer of the book of Kings compared the wickedness of King Ahab to the previous inhabitants of the land of Canaan, noting the reason for their destruction: “And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel” (1 Kings 21:25-26).

This same principle is reiterated in the New Testament. Jesus summarized the history of Israel as one of frequent rebellion against divine precepts. He intimated that they were nearing the limit of God’s toleration and impending punishment when He declared to them: “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt” (Matthew 23:32). It was as if an imaginary cup had been gradually filling up with sin, and that it was nearing the brim—at which time God would respond with appropriate destruction. Paul verified this very understanding when he accused his fellow Jews of having been the ones “who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, emp. added). As the Jews entrenched themselves against the will of God, they were guilty of piling sins on top of sins, until inevitable divine wrath would be forthcoming—as it did when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Speaking centuries earlier, the inspired writer of Kings acknowledged this principle in his summary of the Jews’ national history:

And the Lord spoke by His servants the prophets, saying, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols), therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies, because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day’” (2 Kings 21:10-15, emp. added).

Observe that the writer compared the sin of the Israelites with the sin of the previous occupants of the land of Canaan, thus earning for themselves the same outcome: divine retribution and devastation. As the prophet Ezekiel reported: “‘Thus I will make the land desolate, because they have persisted in unfaithfulness,’ says the Lord God” (15:8).

It is interesting that the Founding Fathers of America recognized this eternal, biblical principle as having been posited in the fabric of the Universe by the Creator. They understood that while God will judge each individual human being at the Judgment when Christ returns (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:10), He judges nations in history, in time, by bringing destruction upon them when their iniquity is “full.” That is why Luther Martin, a delegate to the federal Constitutional Convention, stated in 1788: “It was said, it ought to be considered, that national crimes can only be, and frequently are, punished in this world by national punishments” (Elliot, 1836, 1:374, emp. added). George Mason, often called “The Father of the Bill of Rights,” stated at the Constitutional Convention: “As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, so they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities” (as quoted in Madison, 1840, 3:1391, emp. added). The “Father of the American Revolution” and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, explained: “Revelation assures us that ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation.’ Communities are dealt with in this world by the wise and just Ruler of the Universe. He rewards or punishes them according to their general character” (1907, 3:286). Thomas Jefferson likewise warned: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep forever” (1794, Query 18, p. 237, emp. added).

Finally, consider the haunting, if not prophetic, warning issued by Daniel Webster:

[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity” (1903, 13:492-493, emp. added).

If this pattern of eventual divine retribution has repeated itself many times over throughout world history, and if God is immutable, i.e., He does not change (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6), will He not respond to America’s iniquity in the same fashion? Yes, He will. So the only question that remains to be answered? “Is America’s iniquity full?”


Adams, Samuel (1907 reprint), The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Harry Cushing (New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

Elliot, Jonathan, ed. (1836), The Debates in the Several State Conventions (Washington, DC: Jonathan Elliot).

Jefferson, Thomas (1794), Notes on the State of Virginia (Philadelphia, PA: Mathew Carey).

“The Lost City of Nasca” (2000), BBC, [On-line], URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/1999/nasca.shtml.

Madison, James (1840), The Papers of James Madison, ed. Henry Gilpin (Washington, DC: Langtree & O’Sullivan).

“Nasca Lines” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.crystalinks.com/nasca.html.

“Inca, Secrets of the Ancestors” (1995),
Time Life’s Lost Civilizations Series, [On-line], URL: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/llilas/centers/outreach/resources/topic/inca.html.

Webster, Daniel (1903), The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, & Company).

Original source: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=1528


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