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cvi. 23. Abraham interposed for Abimelech and his house, Gen. xx. 17; and Samuel for the children of Israel, 1 Sam. xii. 23: "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, in ceasing to pray for you." James tells us, that "the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much." Sirs, if there were not a remnant of wrestlers in our Israel, the flood gates of fiery wrath would very soon be opened against the generation.
4. They are the strength of a land, in as much as they are instruments to check the progress of sin and defection among a people, by testifying against it. When a flood of sin and backsliding is running down, God's remnant, his holy seed, rise up and bear witness for the Lord by their walk, by their testimony, or sufferings; and in this way stop the progress of sin, which would pull down divine judgments upon a land. Indeed, the wicked inhabitants of a land do not see this, they do not consider it, and therefore they do their utmost to rid themselves of those that disturb their sinful quiet; but whether they think of it or not, yet it is a certain truth, that God's remnant, by checking the progress of sin, prevent those judgments which would certainly break out to the ruin of a sinful people. And thus they are the strength and support of a land."
5. The holy seed are the strength and support of a land in this respect, that, through their zeal for God and his cause, God's anger is sometimes diverted from a wrath-deserving people. Thus we are told, that "Phinehas stood up, and executed judgment; and so the plague of God was stayed," Psal. cvi. 30. And, Numb. xxv. 11, says the Lord there, "Phinehas hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel (while he was zealous for my sake among them,) that I consumed them not." And, ver. 13, he is said by his zeal to make atonement for them by that act. Not that any thing done by a sinful man could really expiate the guilt of sin;but his killing of Zimri and Cozbi was a fulfilling of the law, that required such criminals to be put to death; and a public vindication of the holiness and equity of God, by which public wrath was diverted. Josiah's zeal, in reforming and destroying idolatry, by which the land was so universally defiled, had great influence in keeping off the judgments of God from the land while he lived. So by Joshua's zeal in the affair of Achan, the anger of the Lord was turned away from the camp of Israel. Thus you see, that God's holy seed are the strength and support of a land,
VI. The last thing in the method was the Application. And the first use shall be of Information,
1. From this doctrine we may easily guess when this world is to come to an end; or when a land or nation is near to destruction. Why, when the holy seed of the Mediator Christ are gathered out of the world, then the end is come, the substance of the world is gone out of it, and therefore it must be committed to the flames. Or, when God's remnant are worn out of a land, and there remains nothing but briers and thorns, it is nigh unto a cursing, and its end is to be burned."
2. See hence, that the world are much mistaken about the truly godly, and quite out of their measures when they despise or persecute them. Why, they are the substance of the land, and who but fools will endeavour to throw away and destroy their strength and substance? when they do so, they are just like a company of madmen pulling down the pillars of a house, and bringing it down about their ears. And upon this very account the Lord says, Hos. ix. 7: “The prophets are fools, and the spiritual men are mad." Why, what was their madness and folly? They persecuted, opposed, and insnared the holy seed that was among them; and therefore it is added, ver. 8, "The prophet is the snare of the fowler in all his ways." They that despise, slight, or oppress God's people in a land, however contemptible they may be as to outward circumstances, slight their own mercy.
3. See hence, that the truly godly, though frequently they be thus branded are no enemies either to church or state. Ahab tells the prophet that he troubled Israel. The Jews said of the apostles, they turned the world upside down, and they were counted the off-scouring of all things, and the filth of the earth. It is true, indeed, the holy seed of Christ, whatever they are, are the innocent occasions of divisions and distractions; and so was Christ himself, Matth. x. 34, 35: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-inlaw." And yet, for all that, neither Christ nor his seed, though they be the innocent occasions, yet are not at all the cause of these broils, divisions, and confusions, which fall out in the world, and in the visible church; no, not at all; the proper causes of these evils are the lusts and corruptions of men, which rise and swell against the truth of Christ, and the holiness of his members. Christ and his holy seed, are no more to be blamed for divisions, and confusions, and persecutions, that arise, than the poor sheep are to be blamed for increasing the wolves, or the dove for provoking the hawk to pursue it. The quarrels of the ungodly corrupt world with the holy
seed of Christ, are but like that of Cain with Abel," he slew his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous," 1 John iii. 12.
4. If the holy seed be the strength and stay of a nation; then hence I infer, that the ungodly crew, the seed of the old serpent, are the weakness of a nation, and the real cause of its ruin; it is they that pull down the vengeance of God upon a land. It is true indeed, the provocations of sons and daughters go near his heart: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." But God will soon agree again with his own children, after he has chastised them, he will take them in his arms, and say, as he did to Ephraim, "He is my dear son, he is a pleasant child: for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." But, sirs, "God is angry with the wicked every day." "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." The wrath of God abides upon them; and therefore they must be the weakness of a land or church, because they are continually pulling down the wrath of God upon it; being "cursed in their basket and store, in the city and field."
5. If the truly godly be the substance of a land, hence I infer the excellency of Christ, who is the substance of that substance. All the excellence that is in the saints is derived from him; he is their light, their life, their strength, their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and in one word, he is all in all unto them; and therefore he himself must be exceedingly precious, above all thoughts, expression, and imagination. O let all our adoration and admiration terminate on him, saying with those, Rev. v. 12, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."
6. Are the holy seed the substance of the land? see hence, what vast odds there is between God's judgment, and the judgment of our assembly now-a-days. Why, by our way of acting now in judicatories, the substance of the land is cast out, and the very scum and trash taken into its room. Lords and lairds are now, by church authority, made the substance, and almost the sole power of electing the ministers of the gospel lodged in them; while the poor godly man, though rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom," is laid aside. According to the rules of electing ministers now-a-days, Christ, in his state of humiliation, could have had no interest in electing or appointing officers in his own house, because he had no worldly heritage; as he himself declares, “The
foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head," Luke ix. 58.
The second use of this doctrine may be of Trial. O sirs! are you among the holy seed, who are the substance of our land? Our Jacob is very low at this day; we are like a tree or oak, whose leaves are cast, that appear to have but little life; but blessed be God, I hope the substance is in it. There is here and there a branch, a sprouting twig or branch, which says there is some life in the root, or stem; although, alas! there are many withered branches that will be lopped off with the axe and pruning knife that is in the Lord's hand; yet, I say, there is a holy seed that shall be the substance thereof. And I will give you a few marks by which you may try whether you be among the number, yea or not.
1. Then, The holy seed, who are the substance of the land, have the seed of God abiding in them, that is always making war with sin: 1 John iii. 9: "Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." By the seed of God we are to understand the grace of God, or the new nature, a principle of spiritual life, by reason of which we cannot sin, as others do he does not go down the tide of corruption, either within hin or without, as others do; no, but he stands against the stream, he is ever making war with sin, whether it be within him or without him: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Wherever the grace of God meets with sin, it enters the lists with it. Try by this whether you be the holy seed that are the substance of it." What wilt thou see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies."
2. The holy seed are a people that glory in Christ, and in him alone: Is. xlv. 25: “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." He is "the glory of his people Israel;" they look on Christ as the crown and ornament of the human nature, by whom it is raised to a higher dignity than ever it was at first creation, when adorned with all the glories of innocence. Oh! will the believer say, though I have nothing else to glory and boast of, yet "my soul shall make her boast in the Lord." Who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, save our God?" "Their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges." You will glory in his wisdom, under a sense of your own folly; glory in his strength, under a sense of your own weakness; glory in his righteousness, under a sense of your own guilt; glory in his life, under a sense of your own deadness; yea, the very death and cross of Christ will be your ornament: "God forbid," says Paul, "that I should
glory in any thing, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
3. The holy seed, who are the substance and stay of a land, are a mourning seed; they "sow in tears; and the remnant of Jacob shall be as the doves in the valley, every one mourning for his own iniquity." Hence called, "the mourners in Zion, that sigh and cry, for all the abominations done in the midst thereof." Sirs, iniquity is come to a great height; all ranks have corrupted, and are corrupting their ways more and more; a flood of defection is running: men are setting up their authority against the authority of God in his word. Now, can you say with David, "I beheld transgressors, and was grieved: Rivers of waters run down mine eyes; because they keep not thy law?"
4. The holy seed are a praying and wrestling remnant: Psal. xxiv. 6: "This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob; Selah." God is their Father, and the Spirit of adoption within them is ever sending them many an errand to a throne of grace, "crying, Abba, Father," hear and help; and in every thing they study by prayer and supplication to make their requests known unto him. Oh, sirs, there are but few wrestling Jacobs in our day!
5. The holy seed are a people that have the cause of Christ much at heart; and their hearts are up and down as the cause of Christ is stated. They prefer Jerusalem to their chief joy; and therefore, when it goes ill with the interests of Christ, they "hang their harps upon the willows, and weep when they remember Zion ;" and if the cause of Christ be maintained, or flourish, their hearts rejoice, and they "sing in the heights of Zion ;" and they are ever ready to lend a lift to Christ's interest.
Use third of Consolation, and Encouragement to the Lord's remnant in this evil day. This is the day of Jacob's trouble in the land, "a day of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord God of hosts in the valley of vision." Men, even our spiritual men, at this day are stricken with such a fit of madness, that they are casting out the very substance of the land, and treading God's jewels under their feet, and giving them to be trodden upon, in matters that pertain to their eternal salvation, by malignant lords and lairds, up and down the land; while the holy seed, the sacra plebs, as they were called in the primitive times, are cast out as the dross and offscourings of all things. But here is matter of comfort: how. ever you may be despised by men that should take a care of you; yet here, I say, you have God's verdict, the holy, seed, in his reckoning, is the very substance of the land. There are these few words of comfort I offer to you :—