Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries




Hosea 2:6-7.

KJV. "Behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them; then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now."

NIV. "Therefore I will block her path with thorn-bushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'"

The generality of mankind are very incompetent judges of the dispensations of Providence. Indeed, for the most part, they quite mistake the nature and tendency of God's providential dealings with them; and draw conclusions from them which the Scripture will by no means justify. They suppose that prosperity is a token of Divine love and approbation; and that affliction, on the contrary, is a mark of God's displeasure!

But an inspired writer assures us, that "we cannot know good or evil by all that is before us." Considering, however, that we are prone to forget God in our abundance, and that the rod of correction is the means whereby thousands are turned to God—we have reason rather to esteem affliction, at least as the more needful, if not the more beneficial, blessing of the two.

Certain it is that there are multitudes now in Heaven, who owed their first serious impressions to some heavy chastisement; and who must forever say with the Psalmist, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." Nor can we doubt but that the good of mankind is one principal end for which God puts the cup of sorrow into their hands.

A remarkable proof of this we have in the passage before us. The Jews were continually provoking God to jealousy, by depending on alliances with heathens, and worshiping their idols which God, ever slow to anger, and delighting in mercy, used all possible methods to reclaim them. He had tried what kindness would effect, and had found no success. He now determined to take the rod; and sent them word by the prophet, that he would punish them for their offences; but that the end of their punishment should be to bring them to a happier and better state, "Therefore," says he, (because you are so bent to follow your own evil ways) "I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'"

In these words we see:

I. What means God uses to reclaim his people.

Though God could effect his purposes instantly, by a mere act of his will—yet he is pleased in general to accomplish them by means suited to the end. In reclaiming his people,

1. In reclaiming his people, God providentially obstructs their ways.

In their unregenerate state they run on, like others, in the ways of sin. But when his time has come, he instructs them either by temporal calamities or by spiritual convictions.

In the common course of events he deprives them of health, fortune, friends; or perhaps by their own imprudence, he brings disorders or distress upon them.

These trials, however, of themselves have only a momentary effect; and therefore he accompanies them with the secret energy of his Spirit, convincing them of their guilt and danger, and making them tremble through fear of his eternal judgments. He "meets them as an armed man," so that they dare no longer to "rush on upon the thick bosses of his buckler."

Thus he "hedges up their way with thorns," and makes their progress in sin very difficult and painful!

2. In reclaiming his people, God providentially disappoints their endeavors.

God saw the Jews bent on forming alliances with Egypt and Assyria, notwithstanding all his warnings to renounce them. He therefore sent them into captivity in Babylon, where they could have no communications with Egypt or Assyria; and thus "built up a wall, that they could not find their former lovers."

In the same way, we have our idols which we are prone to follow, notwithstanding all the troubles or convictions that are sent to wean us from them!

Perhaps the world is the object of our affections; and we weary ourselves in the pursuit of its honors or emoluments. God therefore secretly blasts our endeavors, as he did those of his people of old, Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:9. Thus God shuts us up as it were, unto himself, that we may seek him as our portion.

Perhaps our great idol is self-righteousness; we desire to "establish a righteousness of our own," instead of relying simply on the righteousness of Christ. God therefore leaves us to our own feeble efforts, that, by our repeated violations of our own vows and covenants, we may be constrained to look from ourselves unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, if we persist in breaking through "the hedge," he will interpose "a wall;" that "when we follow after our lovers, we may not overtake them, and when we seek them, we may not be able to find them."

If smaller difficulties will not answer his end, he will send greater trials, until he has accomplished his whole will concerning us.

These providential interpositions, however, operate in a rational way; as will be seen by considering,

II. What effects God produces on their minds.

Where calamities are sent without grace to sanctify them, they only harden those whom they ought to reclaim. But when the grace of God cooperates with his providence, it works in his people:

1. A sense of their guilt in having departed from him.

They could once sin without any fear or remorse—at most, they only viewed sin as an opposition to God's will. But, when the Spirit of God has opened their eyes, they see it as an act of spiritual adultery; and they begin to feel as a woman would, who, after having departed from a kind and loving "husband," was just returning to a sense of her duty. How would she blush at the remembrance of her vile conduct! How would she be ready to doubt whether her husband would ever receive her again, and whether it were possible for her ever again to be the object of his affections! In the same way, a soul rendered truly sensible of its obligations to God the "husband" of his people, feels a proportionate degree of shame in having departed from him—of shame mixed with self-loathing and self-abhorrence! Jeremiah 3:25.

2. A consciousness of their folly in having lost God's favor.

It once appeared folly to serve God; but now this sentiment is reversed. Even in the days of their unregeneracy they had a secret thought that the godly, whom they despised, were happier than themselves. But, when divinely instructed, they see that they have been "feeding upon ashes, and that a deceived heart has turned them aside! Isaiah 44:20. If ever they have "tasted that the Lord is gracious," they cannot fail of looking back with grief on the blessedness which they have lost, Galatians 4:15. They confess that "once it was better with them than now;" that, in departing from God, they "forsook the fountain of living waters;" and that, in seeking happiness in the creature, they "hewed out to themselves broken cisterns that could hold no water! Jeremiah 2:13."

3. A determination of heart to return to God.

They no longer say, "We will follow after other lovers, verse 5;" but, "We will return to our first husband." They view God as their rightful Lord, to whom they are bound by every tie; and, with indignation against themselves for their past conduct, they say, "O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor! Isaiah 26:13."

The whole of this effect is strongly exemplified in the prodigal son. The prodigal departed from his father, and spent his substance in riotous living. God, intending to reclaim him, sent a famine into the country where he had taken up his residence. (However casual this might appear, it was ordained of God for his good.) He would not regard this "hedge," or return to his father while he could get any other support. He therefore hired himself to a citizen of that place to feed his swine; and when almost famished, preferred the husks which the swine ate of, to the bread he might obtain by returning home.

God seeing this obstinate reluctance in him, so ordered it, that, notwithstanding he had spent all his fortune there, no man should have pity enough to relieve his needs. At last, constrained by necessity, and stopped as by "a wall," the prodigal is induced to return to his father's house, where he finds a kind and gracious reception beyond all expectation.

In the same way, misfortune upon misfortune, or conviction upon conviction, are sent to us, until, distressed on every side, and disappointed in every attempt to extricate ourselves—we are "made willing" to return to God.

We may learn from this subject,

1. The depravity of man.

We never seek God, until we are constrained by his providence and grace to do so! To the last hour of our lives, we need hedges and walls to keep us in the way of duty. What an astonishing proof is this of our utter alienation from God, yes, of our enmity against him! Let us blush and be confounded before him.

2. The purpose of trials.

Trials "do not spring from the dust," but are sent for our good! They are like the angel that met Balaam, Numbers 22:22-33; and our obstinacy in breaking through these obstructions would have repeatedly subjected us to the sword of vengeance, if our God had not still exercised mercy and forbearance towards us. Let us then "hear the rod, and him who has appointed it! Micah 6:9."

3. The happiness of a pious life.

No one ever gave himself up truly to God without finding that "his ways were ways of pleasantness and peace." No one ever departed from him, that did not experience loss in respect of present happiness, as well as of his future reward. Let all professors then "be sober and watch unto prayer;" that instead of saying, "It was once better with me than now," they may "make their profiting to appear unto all," and be enabled to say on every succeeding day, "It never was so well with me as at this present time!"




Hosea 2:14-15.

KJV. "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her; and I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope."

NIV. "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of he youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt."

Whoever is at all conversant with the holy Scriptures, must know that they are, in many parts, highly figurative. If we examine many of our Lord's expressions, and indeed some whole discourses—we shall see, that they were unintelligible to those who interpreted them only according to their literal meaning; because they were intended to be understood in in a mystical and spiritual sense. Hence our Lord took occasion to inform them, that the words which he spoke unto them were "spirit and life."

This is yet still more observable in the prophetic writings, which almost always must be taken in a mystical, as well as literal sense; and indeed in many places, as Lowth has well observed, the spiritual meaning is more true, and more immediately intended, than the literal.

This, I apprehend, is the case in the passage before us.

God has been declaring what he would do in order to reclaim the ten tribes from their idolatries; that he would "hedge up their way with thorns, and make a wall, so that they should not be able to find their former ways," that is, (as it is more fully set forth in the ninth and following verses) that he would deprive them of all their national blessings, and deliver them into the hand of their Assyrian enemies; then, in my text, he adds, "Therefore (it should rather be translated, 'nevertheless') I will allure her," and so on.

He had, in verse 7, mentioned, that in consequence of the obstructions which he would put in their way, they should be brought to see their sin and folly, and to say, "I will return unto my first husband." Now he proceeds to declare how he would deal with them, when they should be brought to that frame of mind; that he would allure her, and give her the Valley of Achor for a door of hope."

Now this has never been literally accomplished; for, if we except about twelve thousand Israelites, who accompanied the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in their return from the Babylonian captivity—none of the ten tribes have ever yet returned to their native country. We must therefore look for a spiritual sense to this passage; and here we have the authority of an inspired writer to interpret it, as relating to the conversion of the Gentile world, and the deliverance of God's chosen people from a state of bondage to sin and Satan.

Paul, in Romans 9:25, speaking expressly on the call of the Gentiles, quotes the last verse of this chapter in Hosea, and declares that this prophecy then received its completion. We may therefore without hesitation, consider the passage as declaring the manner in which God deals with his penitent and contrite people, when once the Church, or any individual in it, is so wrought upon by temporal calamities or spiritual convictions, as to say, "I will go and return unto my first, my rightful husband."

God says, as in my text, "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her; and I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope." In declaring from hence how God will deal with his returning people, we may observe:

I. That God will encourage them with present spiritual comforts.

The readiness of God to receive sinners is not discovered in anything more than in his mode of dealing with them in their return to him; if there is only "some good in them," he is sure to notice it with some testimony of his approbation. In proportion as they advance towards him, he makes greater advances towards a reconciliation with them; and when he sees that they begin in earnest to seek his face, he will cause them to abound in consolations.

"He will allure them." We must not suppose that God will really deceive anyone; but yet there is a sense wherein he may be said to "allure" men.

He will conceal from the view of penitents such things as might alarm and terrify them.

He will feed them, while they are yet babes, with milk.

He will withhold the stronger meat, which they are not yet able to digest.

There are many things which he will say to them at a future period; but from which he diverts their attention at present, as from things which they cannot receive; and thus he leads them gently, as their strength will bear.

He now also in a peculiar manner reveals himself to the soul, and fills it with heavenly delight. The sinner coming first to a sense of God's favor, is borne up, as it were, on eagles' wings; he seems to be breathing a purer air; I had almost said, to be living in a new world. His feelings and desires are so entirely changed, that one may, almost without a hyperbole, call him "a new creature!"

From being dead as to all spiritual things—he now begins to enjoy a spiritual life.

From being in total darkness—he now is "brought forth into marvelous light."

From dreading God's displeasure—he now feels "God's love shed abroad in his heart."

Now therefore he supposes he never can lose the savor of these things, "Am I a dog," thinks he, that I should ever more offend this gracious Being, who has thus freely forgiven all my trespasses? Alas! little knowing what depravity and deceitfulness there is in the human heart, he concludes that he shall now conquer all before him.

The corruptions of his own heart seem to be so mortified, as to be almost extinct.

The world now is as nothing in his eyes.

Satan himself, as formidable as he is, now appears to be "bruised under his feet."

Perhaps he has learned from Scripture to acknowledge himself as weak, frail, and inwardly depraved. But the frame of his mind is like David's, when he said, "My mountain is so strong, I shall never be moved."

Thus does God allure penitents; nor is this any more than what is necessary at the first, for:
their habits of sin are deeply rooted;
their attachment to the things of time and sense is very strong;
and the opposition they will afterwards meet with from the world, the flesh, and the devil—is so powerful, that they need all possible encouragement.

They need time to grow in grace and spiritual strength. They need to taste the sweetness of true religion now, in order that when they come to endure the cross, they may be able to testify from their own experience, that religion, with all its difficulties, is an incomparably better portion than the world.

This was remarkably exemplified at the first publication of the Gospel; the three thousand converts "continued daily with one accord in the temple, and ate their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people." The favor of man they had very little reason to expect; but God saw fit to keep his infant Church for a little time from persecution, in order that their happiness might have no alloy, and that they might grow in strength, and be able to endure it afterwards, when it should come upon them. And thus he allured them, as it were, to a steady and resolute adherence to his cause.

Further, God says, "I will bring her into the wilderness." Many able and judicious commentators translate these words somewhat differently, "I will allure her after I have brought her into the wilderness;" and this I should suppose to be the more proper rendering of the words, because the sense is then clear. Namely, "After having afflicted her for her sins, I will comfort her on her return to me."

But if we retain the present version, we must understand the 'wilderness' to mean, not a state of affliction, but a state of solitude and retirement. This makes very good sense, and exactly agrees with the experience of young Christians. When God allures them in the manner we have before represented, they immediately forsake the company of the world, and seek their God in retirement. They now desire solitude. They now never feel themselves less alone than when alone; nor would they forego their secret fellowship with God for all the world! There are many seasons when they would account the presence of their very dearest friend to be a grievous interruption.

But, however true the words are in this sense, I apprehend the other to be the better version of them; and therefore passing by this, we observe further:

That God will speak comfortably to those whom he thus allures. He makes his Word now to be exceeding precious to their souls. He opens their understandings to understand it; and they begin to hear God speaking in and by it. And O! how delightful are the promises! With what eagerness do they embrace the promises! With what unspeakable pleasure do they now apply them to themselves! Under a sense of guilt, they now see that they may have pardon for sins of the deepest dye! Under a consciousness of their own insufficiency for anything that is good, they see here in the sacred records an inexhaustible treasure of grace and strength. In every situation and circumstance of life they find, that there is a word suited to their condition; they hear the voice of God in the promises; and by these he speaks indeed most comfortably to them.

There is something peculiar in the original words; literally translated, they mean, "I will speak to her heart;" and this is very properly rendered, "I will speak comfortably to her."

God speaks to the outward ears of thousands to very little purpose. He invites, but they are not entreated. He promises, but they are not comforted. But, when once God speaks to the heart—then comfort flows in apace, and "they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

Thus we see how God, alluring the sinner, and speaking comfortably to him, leads him on by present comforts. We proceed to show:

II. That God will encourage them with future spiritual prospects.

He who is born of God, is indeed born to a great inheritance. Nor is he in danger of expecting too much at the hands of God; for, as he has said in general, "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it!" so he says in the passage before us, "I will give her vineyards from hence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope."

You will call to mind what was observed in the beginning of this discourse, that this passage was never literally fulfilled, and that Paul has explained it in a spiritual and mystical sense. This we now repeat, lest our construction, or rather our application of it should appear fanciful or forced.

Vineyards were a very important part of the produce of the land of Canaan; insomuch, that when the spies went to search out the land, they brought back a cluster of grapes upon the shoulders of two men, as the best proof of the fertility of the soil. When the Lord therefore promises to give his people "vineyards from thence," he means by it a supply of every temporal blessing, which he will bestow upon them from the very instant that they thus return unto him.

If therefore we apply this spiritually, we may understand by it, a supply of all spiritual blessings, which God will grant to his people from the time that they come to him with real penitence and contrition. Just as when our Lord says, "If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink; and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," (by which he meant all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit.) So I apprehend, when God says in my text, "I will give her vineyards," he means every kind of temporal and spiritual blessing.

It is added further, "I will give her the valley of Achor for a door of hope." Achor was a very rich valley. It was the first portion of the promised land that came into the possession of the Israelites, and this was to them a door of hope. It was a ground of assurance, that they should in due time possess the whole land. It was, as it were, a pledge, whereby they were taught to expect the fulfillment of all the promises.

Here then we see the meaning of the passage before us, according to the spiritual interpretation of it, God promises to his people the richest spiritual blessings; and teaches them to consider all which they here possess, as a pledge only of what they shall hereafter inherit. Now it is by this prospect of receiving all spiritual and eternal blessings, that the young Christian is encouraged to proceed.

First, he has a prospect of all spiritual blessings. The believer soon finds, that, if he will be faithful to his God, he must forego some worldly advantages; and sacrifice every interest that stands in competition with his duty. Now this to our earthly hearts is no little trial, those who are insincere cannot stand this test, like the young man in the Gospel, they may wish for a saving interest in Christ. But, if they must sell all in order to obtain it, they will rather part with Christ and his benefits. Yes, if for a season they make a profession of godliness, they will at last, like Demas, prove by their conduct that they are "lovers of this present evil world."

But, as an antidote against this poison, God promises that he will give better riches, even "durable riches and righteousness;" and, that the blessings which he will bestow, shall far more than counterbalance anything which can be lost for him, and thus he inclines the soul to suffer temporal loss, in expectation of greater spiritual advantage; and (as did the saints of old,) to "take joyfully the confiscation of their goods, knowing that they have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance."

The Christian also, after a little time, begins to find:
that he has many sore conflicts to maintain;
that he has enemies on every side;
that he has temptations without number;
and that he has in himself no strength, either to withstand one temptation, or to overcome one enemy!

Under such circumstances, he would soon faint and be weary—but that God has engaged to support him in every trial, and make him conqueror over every enemy. When he knows, that "his strength shall be according to his day;" that there shall be "no temptation without a way to escape;" and that every conflict shall produce an abundant increase of grace and peace—then he is willing to engage his enemies, under a full assurance, that, while God is for him, he need not regard any that are against him. He has already found the blessedness of serving God; he knows, by his own experience, that God "never is a wilderness unto his people;" that he is a gracious master, who richly repays them for whatever they may do or suffer in his cause.

Having therefore experienced this, he looks forward with confidence. Having obtained grace in past trials, he expects assuredly, that it shall be given him in future difficulties. Having tasted how gracious the Lord is, he expects to receive yet richer communications of peace and joy. He looks upon everything he receives, as a pledge of something future.

In addition to spiritual blessings which he hopes to receive in this life, he has a prospect of eternal blessings in the life to come. His increasing conformity to the Divine image is a door of hope, that he shall one day be as "holy as God is holy!" His increasing happiness gives him a lively assurance, that he shall before long be free from every care, and be happy as the angels that are around the throne. So also the sweet communion which he enjoys with God in secret, those discoveries of his glory, and those communications of his love—are as pledges, that he shall one day see God face to face, and "drink of the rivers of pleasure which are at his right hand, for evermore."

Now this contains somewhat of the Christian's experience. When first he comes to God through Christ; he is led on at first by present comforts. As he proceeds, his prospects open; so that in an assured expectation of grace sufficient for him, and of a crown of glory at the end—he "goes on, conquering and to conquer."

We will now conclude with an ADDRESS.

1. To those who may now be enjoying their first love.

The prophet observes that the time of espousals is a time of love, Jeremiah 2:2. In the letter to the Church of Ephesus, mention is made of a first love; by which is meant, that peculiar earnestness and delight in Divine things which are often to be observed in young converts.

Now it may be, that some of you who are here present have just begun to taste the joys of true religion. You have peace with God in your consciences; and can scarcely think of anything but the goodness of God to your souls. I would to God this might always remain; or rather, that it might increase more and more; and that you might so learn divine lessons in times of prosperity, as not to need to learn them in a more humiliating way!

But this is very rarely the case. The deep things of God are scarcely ever learned in this way. In general, God, after a season, leaves the soul to learn its own depravity, and to feel its utter helplessness. In order to humble it in the dust, he allows the latent corruptions of the heart to spring up, and thus to harass and defile the soul.

Not that God acts thus from any pleasure which he takes in mortifying the soul. I am persuaded he would rather overcome us by love, because "he delights in the good of his people;" but this is the way in which he punishes our past sins, and our present neglects; he allows those very sins, which most dishonored and provoked him in our unregenerate state, most to grieve and perplex us after our conversion; and every secret backsliding he punishes, by withdrawing in a measure his restraining grace; so that, as the prophet says, "Our own wickedness corrects us, and our backslidings reprove us."

You must not wonder, therefore, if this should be your own experience; and this I say, not to dampen your joy, so much as to keep you from abusing it. As strange as it may appear, our hearts will sometimes take occasion, even from religious joys, to puff us up with pride, or to lull us into carnal security; and wherever pride or carnal security is, no doubt there will before long be a fall.

Remember then, that these comforts which God grants you, are to be an occasion of gratitude, but not of pride, "a door of hope," but not of presumption. When once you begin to presume upon your attainments, and to think that less diligence, less watchfulness, and less fervor will suffice—then be assured that the blessings you so abuse will be withdrawn. You will find that your gifts, your graces, and your comforts, will decline. Be on your guard then against "leaving your first love." Be sober, and watch unto prayer; and, if you find but the first beginnings of decay, O! flee to the Savior; flee to him as for your lives. If you feel yourselves sinking, cry to him, "Save me Lord, or I perish!" Endeavor, "as you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, so to walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."

2. Those who have "left their first love."

Perhaps you will ask, "Who are they? And how shall I know whether I am of their number?" Beloved, this is no hard thing to know. It is true, there may have been some abatement with respect to rapturous or ecstatic feelings, while yet your love remains as firm as ever. But in reality, all who are really walking near to God, find the text realized in their own experience.

God allures them by the consolations of his Spirit.

He seals his promises on their hearts.

He enriches them with gifts and graces.

And he opens glorious prospects to their view.

If therefore, instead of being thus allured—your heart has become dull.

If, instead of finding the promises precious to your soul—they scarcely ever dwell upon your mind, or administer any solid comfort.

If your gifts or graces—instead of increasing, decline.

If instead of looking for, and longing after, and hastening to, your heavenly inheritance—you are becoming more forgetful of it, and ready, as it were, to take up your rest in earthly things—then you are the man! Whoever you are, "I have something against you!" "You have left your first love." O! "turn and repent, and do your first works."

See what has caused this declension in your soul.

See what there is that troubles the camp.

And O! put away the accursed thing!

If you have given way to a worldly spirit, then watch and pray against it!

If pride has defiled your soul, then humble yourself for it before God, and beg for grace, that you may "be clothed with humility!"

If anger is your besetting sin, then pray that you may "put on meekness as the elect of God," and be adorned with that "meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price!"

If sloth is the enemy that has cut your locks, and shorn your strength—then up, up, and be doing!

In short, whatever it is that has caused your declension, sacrifice it, though it is as "precious as a right eye, and necessary as a right hand."

"Cease to do evil, and learn to do good; put away the evil of your doings."

I know indeed, that you cannot put it away of yourselves; but I know at the same time, that, until after it is put away, God will not shed abroad his love in your heart, nor can you look up with comfort and confidence to him. "Turn then unto your God, from whom you have deeply revolted;" and know, that he is a God ready to pardon! "He will heal your backslidings, and love you freely." He will give you the pledge of his Spirit in your hearts, and fill you with joy in expectation of the full inheritance.

O beloved! say with the Church of old, "I will go and return unto my first Husband; for then it was better with me than now;" and you will find, that, as "he hates divorce"—so "he will cast out none that come unto him."




Hosea 2:19-20.

KJV. "I will betroth you unto me forever; yes, I will betroth you unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth you unto me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord."

NIV. "I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD."

There are various figures used in Scripture to represent the care which God will take of his people; but that which is the most endearing, the most honorable, and, perhaps I might add, the most frequent figure of any—is a marriage covenant.

The Old Testament abounds with expressions to this effect. Jeremiah has whole chapters addressed to the Jews as an adulterous wife, and inviting her to be reconciled to her divine Husband. Hosea not only delivers messages in similar terms, but was actually commanded to take an adulteress (that is, either one who had been so, and was now penitent—or one who, though chaste at the time of his union with her, afterwards proved abandoned) to be his wife, in order that he might be a visible sign unto the Jewish nation. By this, Jehovah, having for a season put away his people for their unfaithfulness, here makes known to them his purpose to restore them yet again to his favor. Let us notice:

I. How God contemplates the restoration of his ancient people.

God considers himself as standing in the relation of a husband to them.

He had chosen them, and set them apart for that end, Ezekiel 16:8. He acknowledges himself as still bearing that relation to them, Isaiah 54:5. He complains of their unfaithfulness to him in terms peculiar to that relation, verse 2-5. He urges their return to him by the consideration of their duty to him under that relation, Jeremiah 3:14.

Among men, such a restoration of the adulterous party would be unwise, Jeremiah 3:1. But God both can and will do it in perfect consistency with his own honor. He tells us that:

He will do it "in righteousness," having accepted the sacrifice of his only dear Son in their behalf, Romans 3:21-22.

He will do it "in judgment," having from all eternity determined so to act towards them, Ephesians 1:8-11.

He will do it "in loving-kindness," having "loved them with an everlasting love, Jeremiah 31:3.

He will do it "in mercy," having freely forgiven them all their trespasses, Romans 11:27.

He will do it "in faithfulness," seeing that "his gifts and calling are without repentance, Romans 11:29.

And that he is determined to do it, he makes clear by a threefold repetition of his purpose, "I will betroth you, I will, I will;" and, because it seems a stretch of mercy beyond all reasonable hope, he says," I will even betroth you in faithfulness."

He further declares that in this his renewed relationship with them, he will far exceed all his former mercies.

His former espousals of them ended in their being repudiated; but this shall be "forever, Jeremiah 31:31-33." And, whereas their former knowledge of his character was very imperfect, they shall now have such discoveries of him as they had no conception of before; they shall behold all his perfections as harmonizing in this stupendous act of mercy, Isaiah 45:21, and all "his glory as shining in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6."

But "is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also?" To them also does my text refer; so that, to enter fully into it, we must further notice,

II. What glad tidings are here announced to the Gentile Church.

To the Christian Church does Paul expressly apply this prophecy, saying, "What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God!'" Romans 9:24-26."

Now, in fact, Christ stands in the same relation to us, as Jehovah did to the Jews.

He is the Bridegroom of his Church, Matthew 9:15; and every true Christian, as well as the whole body of his Church, is presented to him under the character of his spouse, 2 Corinthians 11:2. True, we have departed grievously from him, and may justly be put away by him forever. But he authorizes his ministers to bring us back to him, and engages not to cast off so much as one who shall return to him in penitence and faith, John 6:37. His language to us is "Turn! Turn! Why will you die? Ezekiel 33:11."

And so has he prepared the way for our return, that the attributes of God shall not only not be dishonored, but shall be greatly glorified, in that event. Paul takes great pains to show that the righteousness of God will be displayed in it no less than his mercy, Romans 3:25-26; so that in it "shall mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other Psalm 85:10."

By entering into this relation to Christ, our happiness will be immeasurably and eternally enhanced.

Other unions are but for a time; but this shall be forever. "He will not cast off his people, when once he has been pleased to make us his people, 1 Samuel 12:22." And he wishes us to know this for our joy.

The covenant he makes with us is different from that which he made with the Jews. His covenant with the Jews was to depend on their stability; and therefore it was dissolved. But that New Covenant which he makes with us, provides for our stability itself, and therefore shall never be dissolved to all eternity! Hebrews 6:17-18.

And who can conceive what discoveries of his glory shall be given to us through eternal ages! We cannot really know God now, unless we are united to him in Christ Jesus; but, when that union takes place—we, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, have all his perfections proclaimed to us, and all his goodness made to pass, as it were, before our eyes! Exodus 33:19; Exodus 33:23.

Increasing experience of his love will give us increasing discoveries of his love. Yet to the last we shall only behold, as it were, his back parts, and see him as in a looking-glass darkly. But when once the soul is liberated from the body, "we shall see him as we are seen, and know him as we are known! 1 Corinthians 13:12."


1. Be like-minded with God in reference to the Jews.

You see with what delight he views their restoration to him; and will you be indifferent about that great event? Far be it from you. The whole creation will take a deep interest in it, and express, everything according to its ability, and its desire to contribute to their happiness, verse 21-23. Do you also look forward to the event with ardent desire, and exert yourselves in every possible way to promote its speedy consummation.

2. Accept with gratitude the overtures now made in reference to yourselves.

In the name of Jehovah, I would now espouse you to the Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 11:2. For your encouragement I would say, that there is not one perfection of God, not even justice itself, that will not be glorified in your acceptance of his offered mercy, 1 John 1:9.

O, think what it will be to stand in that near relation to God, and what blessedness you will obtain both in time and in eternity by means of it! Methinks all Heaven will rejoice when the time shall have arrived for the marriage of the Lamb to be consummated! Revelation 19:7. May all of you now daily have your fitness for that blessed event increased, and in due season have your joy perfected in the full fruition of your Savior and your God! " Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is!" 1 John 3:2.




Hosea 3:5.

KJV. "Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days."

NIV. "Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days."

Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world; and whatever he has predetermined in his eternal counsels shall surely be fulfilled. Often indeed is the execution of his purposes delayed until unbelievers begin to think that his Word has failed of its accomplishment; but "in the evening time it shall be light;" and when the obstacles to his will seem almost insurmountable, then he will glorify himself in fulfilling it beyond all human expectation.

Thus he acted, when, according to his promise, he brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He allowed them to be detained until the very last day that they could be detained consistently with the truth of his promise; and then, when the Israelites themselves were almost reduced to despair, he brought them out with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm.

Thus also will he act yet once more towards that chosen people. They are now dispersed almost beyond the hope of conversion to God. But there is a period when they shall as universally, and perhaps too as suddenly, commit themselves to the government of Christ, as ever they did to the direction of Moses; nor is it improbable that they will yet again inhabit that very land, from which they have been driven for their iniquities.

To elucidate this subject we shall consider:

I. The event foretold in this prophecy.

The whole of the Gospel dispensation is often called "the latter days;" but here the expression refers to what is called by many, the Millennium, or the time when all the kingdoms of the world shall be converted to Christ.

In that day, the Jews shall universally return to God through Christ.

When the ten tribes revolted from the house of David under Jeroboam, they established idolatry in opposition to the worship of the true God, and set up kings of their own in opposition to those who sat on the throne of David. But in about two hundred and fifty years they were carried captive to Assyria; and from that time to the present hour they have had no king or governor of their own; and have been deprived of all opportunities of worshiping God, either according to the Mosaic ritual, or according to their own idolatrous superstitions, verse 4. The "Teraphim" seem to have been images to which they resorted for the purposes of divination.

However they are not wholly and finally abandoned by their God; for, when his Spirit shall be poured out upon all flesh, they shall take the lead in turning unto God, Zechariah 8:23, and shall voluntarily appoint the Lord Jesus Christ as their head, Hosea 1:11. This blessed truth is abundantly confirmed in Scripture, Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:21-22; Ezekiel 37:24; and the accomplishment of it will display in a most stupendous manner the unsearchable riches of God's wisdom and goodness, Romans 11:33.

In turning to God, the Jews shall be peculiarly influenced by the Divine goodness.

The sanctions of the Jewish law were principally of a penal nature, and calculated to beget a servile spirit. Even Moses himself at the giving of the law exceedingly trembled and quaked, Hebrews 12:21. But, as formerly they feared the Lord and his judgments—so in the latter day they will "fear the Lord and his goodness." They will marvel at his kindness in choosing their nation in the days of old; and at his patience in bearing with them during their long departure from him; and, above all, at his mercy and faithfulness in bringing them back into his Church, and manifesting to them again the tokens of his love. With these considerations they will be overwhelmed; and, constrained by his love, will become patterns of all righteousness, Jeremiah 33:9.

While we contemplate this stupendous event, let us improve it by considering,

II. The instruction to be derived from it.

Very appropriate instruction may be gathered from it,

1. By the unbelieving world.

There are infidels who deny the inspiration of Scripture; and, even among those who profess to believe the Scriptures, there are many who look upon the future restoration of the Jews to God as a cunningly-devised fable. But let both the one and the other of these people look at this prophecy, and see how unreasonable their doubts are. Who that was not inspired of God, would have ventured to predict such events as are here referred to, namely, the continuance of the Jews as a distinct people all over the world—yet without any king or governor of their own, and without any priest or sacrifice, or opportunity to worship the true God according to their law, and equally without practicing the idolatrous superstitions to which in every period of their history they were prone?

Who, I say, would have ventured to predict such a state of things as this, if he was not inspired of God so to do? And who would go on to foretell their future restoration to God, and their entire consecration to him as his willing and obedient servants? Yet we see them preserved as a distinct people to this hour; the ten tribes, from the time of their captivity in Assyria, and the other two tribes, from the time of their dispersion by the Romans. Everywhere are they distinguished by these two great peculiarities:
an incapacity to worship their own God according to his appointment,
and an aversion to idolatry, to which their whole nation were so long and so obstinately addicted.
This then is to the whole world an evidence, that the Scriptures are divinely inspired, and a pledge, that the event predicted shall in due time be fulfilled.

2. By those who are inquiring after God.

Every awakened soul desires to know how it may find acceptance with God. And here the way of access to God, and of acceptance with him, is plainly declared. The Jews in due season will return to God through Christ, and will devote themselves to his service with filial gratitude and love. And it is in this way that every sinner must return to God. There is no other Mediator through whom any sinner in the universe can come to God; nor will any man be accepted by him, unless he surrenders up himself to God in a way of holy obedience.

On the other hand, no one who approaches God under a grateful sense of redeeming love, and with a desire to fulfill his will, shall ever be cast out. In fact, it is for this very end, even to produce this change in the hearts and lives of men, that God's perfections are manifested. See the blessed effect:
on Moses, Exodus 34:6; Exodus 34:8,
or his promises revealed, 2 Corinthians 7:1,
or his blessings given, Hebrews 12:28.

Let every one of you then return to God in this way; for there is not one who has not departed from him, even as the Jews themselves, or who does not need the same penitence and faith as they; and I can venture to assure every penitent and believing soul, that whoever cherishes this holy fear, shall have the light of God's reconciled countenance lifted up upon him, and experience to his joy the same blessed liberty and the same divine enlargement, as they, Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 6:5.

3. By those who are giving way to desponding fears.

Many, when first seeking after God, are ready to ask, Can it be that one so vile as I should ever obtain favor with God, or one so obdurate be ever penetrated with the feelings of penitence and love?

Now I say, Look at the Jews; their wickedness, even from their first coming out of Egypt to their final expulsion from their own land, was most atrocious, even beyond that of the nations whom they were sent to extirpate. And now for the space of eighteen hundred years they have been as impenitent and obdurate as men could be! Yet behold, God has still designs of love towards them, and will before long restore the whole nation to his favor.

To all their other sins they added that of crucifying the Lord of glory; and yet are they not utterly and eternally cast off. Nay, when once the Spirit of God shall be poured out upon them, they shall, contrary to the course of nature—be like a majestic river "flowing up to the mountain of the Lord's house, itself established on the top of other mountains;" so wonderful shall be the operation of divine grace upon them! Isaiah 2:2.

Who then should despair? Who should limit the exercise either of the power, or of the grace, of God?

Dear brethren, let none despair either of themselves or others; for God's mercy is open to all, and shall be effectual for all who seek it in his appointed way. I do not say but that a man's day of grace may be passed even while he is alive in this world; but I do say, that no man who desires saving mercy, can be in that deplorable condition, because he would have been already given up by God to utter insensibility and obduracy. Only let a man come to God through Christ, and he shall find that with God there is mercy, yes, and plenteous redemption! Let any man whatever be moved by a sense of God's unbounded goodness to him, and be led by that goodness to fear and serve the Lord, and he shall never perish; but shall be made a monument of that very grace, which shall be so wonderfully displayed in the latter days in the restoration of God's ancient people, and the consequent salvation of the heathen world.




Hosea 4:6.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge!"

Ignorance, as it respects the things of this world, is attended with many evils:
It disqualifies a man for those situations in life that require the exercise of wisdom and discretion.
It degrades him in society below the rank of those who would otherwise be deemed his equals or inferiors.

And it frequently leads to idleness, dissipation, and vice.

But ignorance of true religion is of infinitely worse consequence, because it ensures the everlasting destruction of the soul. To this effect God speaks in the words before us; from which we shall be led to show,

I. The ignorance of the nominal Christian world.

The Jews, as well those of the ten tribes as those who worshiped at Jerusalem, were called "the people of God," because they had received circumcision, the seal of his covenant in their infancy, and professed to acknowledge him as their God.

In like manner we, having in our infancy been baptized into the faith of Christ, may, in a lax and general sense, be called his followers, and his people. But among these nominal Christians there is an awful lack of knowledge!

1. There is an ignorance of themselves.

How little do they know of their spiritual blindness!

They suppose themselves as competent to judge of spiritual as they are of carnal things; though God tells them, that they cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit for lack of a spiritual discernment, 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 2:14.

How little do they know of their guilt before God!

Do they really feel themselves deserving of God's eternal wrath and indignation? They cannot cordially acquiesce in that idea, notwithstanding they are expressly said to be under the curse and condemnation of God! Matthew 25:41, 26. Galatians 3:10.

How little do they know of their total depravity!

They will acknowledge, that they have this or that particular infirmity; but they have no just conception of the total depravity of their hearts; or of the truth of God's testimony respecting them, that "every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts is evil, only evil, continually! Psalm 14:2-3. Genesis 6:5."

How little do they know of their utter spiritual helplessness! They imagine that they can exercise repentance and faith just when they please, though they are declared by God himself to be incapable of themselves to do anything, John 15:5, even so much as to think a good thought! 2 Corinthians 3:5.

2. There is an ignorance of God.

They may have some general notions of his power and goodness. But what do they know of God's holiness?

Do they suppose that sin is so hateful in his eyes as he represents it to be in his Word? Habakkuk 1:13.

What do they know of God's justice?

Are they persuaded that, as the Moral Governor of the universe, he must enforce the sanctions of his own law; and that, however merciful he may be, he neither will nor can clear the guilty! Exodus 34:7.

What do they know of God's truth?

They read many threatenings in God's Word; but they do believe that he will execute they themselves! Luke 16:17.

3. There is an ignorance of Christ.

They confess perhaps his Godhead, and acknowledge him as a Savior.

But what do they know of him as he is in himself?

Do they discern his beauty, his excellency, his glory?

Is He in their eyes "chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely? Song of Solomon 5:10; Song of Solomon 5:16."

What do they know of him as he is to the true believer?

Do they comprehend anything of the breadth and length, the depth and height of his unsearchable love? Ephesians 3:18-19.

Have they any adequate idea of his tender sympathy and compassion? Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15.

Have they been filled with an admiration of his fullness, his suitableness, his sufficiency? 1 Corinthians 1:30.

If more were necessary to confirm this melancholy truth, we would appeal to God's own assertion respecting us, that our stupidity and ignorance are more than brutish! Isaiah 1:2-3.

Lest such ignorance should be thought trivial, we proceed to notice,

II. The fatal consequences of this ignorance.

Doubtless the degrees of criminality attached to ignorance must vary according to the opportunities which men have enjoyed of obtaining knowledge. But in all men who have the light of the Gospel set before them, a lack of spiritual knowledge,

1. Gospel ignorance tends to their destruction.

Every sin is destructive, but more especially impenitence and unbelief. And what is the occasion of these? Must they not be traced to ignorance as their true and proper source?

If men knew what ignorant, guilty, depraved, and helpless creatures they are, could they refrain from sorrow and contrition?

If they knew what a holy, just, and immutable God they have to do with, could they do otherwise than tremble before him?

If they knew what a merciful, loving, and adorable Savior there is, whose affections are yearning over them, who is ever following them with invitations and entreaties, and who longs for nothing so much as to save their souls—could they turn their backs upon him? Could they help crying to him for mercy, and desiring a saving interest in his salvation?

If a man, feeling himself in imminent danger of perishing in the sea, cannot but avail himself of the assistance offered him for the preservation of his life, so neither can a man who feels his danger of everlasting destruction neglect and despise the salvation offered him in the Gospel.

2. Gospel ignorance tends will issue in their destruction.

God himself best knows what he has ordained and decreed; and as the fates of men will be determined by him at last—to him, and to his Word, we make our appeal.

We want to ascertain the states of those who are ignorant of the Gospel; God tells us plainly, "They are lost! 2 Corinthians 4:3."

We want to be informed whether their ignorance will not be considered as a sufficient plea for their rejection of the Gospel? God assures us, that instead of operating in that view, and to that extent, ignorance shall itself be the ground of their condemnation, "This is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favor! Isaiah 27:11."

We would gladly hope that the Lord Jesus Christ would interpose for them at the last day, to avert or mitigate their sentence. But we are told, on the contrary, that he himself will come to judgment, for the express purpose of taking vengeance on them! "This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus! 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8."

Here we leave the matter. If you will not believe such plain and positive declarations of God, we shall in vain hope to make any impression on your minds by any feeble arguments of our own.


1. How carefully should we improve all the means of grace!

The ordinances are appointed by God for our instruction in spiritual knowledge. Should we then absent ourselves from them on slight occasions? Or should we be content with a formal attendance on them, while yet we derive no solid benefit to our souls? O let us remember that our all is at stake; and whether we hear, or read, or pray, let us do it as for eternity!

2. How earnestly should we pray for the teachings of God's Spirit!

Whether we be learned or unlearned, we can know nothing but as we are taught of God. In respect of spiritual knowledge, the rich have no advantage above the poor; yes, the poor have rather the advantage over the rich, inasmuch as they have more docility of mind; and God has promised to reveal to babes the things which are hidden from the wise and learned, James 2:5. Matthew 11:25.

Let us then beg that our eyes may be opened, and that through the influences of the Spirit we may know the things which are freely given to us by God! 1 Corinthians 2:11. Ephesians 1:18.

3. How thankful should we be for any measure of divine knowledge!

To be wise unto salvation is to be wise indeed. All other knowledge is as nothing in comparison with this. Blessed then are they who can say, "This I know, that, whereas I was blind, I now see! John 9:25. Matthew 13:16." Yes believers, "blessed are your eyes, which now see;" for if ignorance is destructive to the soul—then knowledge, on the other hand, provided it is spiritual and practical, will surely save it! Isaiah 53:11. John 17:3 with 1 John 2:3-4.




Hosea 4:16.

KJV. "Israel slides back as a backsliding heifer."

NIV. "The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer!"

Such is the influence of bad example, that it is extremely difficult to withstand its attractions, even at the time that we behold its fatal effects. Israel, or the ten tribes, from their first apostasy under Jeroboam, were irreclaimably addicted to idolatry. The prophet, finding his efforts vain with respect to them, turns to Judah, and entreats that they would not tread in the steps of Israel, verse 15. At Gilgal and at Bethel, where God had formerly been worshiped, idols were now set up. The prophet, exhorting Judah not to go to those places, calls Bethel (the house of God) Bethaven (the house of vanity), who, like an untamed and stubborn bullock, had entirely cast off the yoke, and refused all subjection to Jehovah.

Humiliating as this account of Israel is, it is but too just a representation of the nominal Christian world, whose conduct is utterly unworthy of the name they bear, and from whose ways we cannot stand at too great a distance.

To impress this solemn truth upon your minds, we propose to show:

I. When we may be said to resemble a backsliding heifer.

We owe submission to our heavenly Master; but we often give too much reason for the comparison in the text. This resemblance may be seen in us.

1. We are like a backsliding heifer when we will not submit to God's yoke at all.

Unconverted men in every age and place, are rebels against God, Exodus 5:2. Psalm 12:4. Jeremiah 2:31; Jeremiah 7:24; and, though all are not equally profligate in their lives, all are equally averse to spiritual employments. The unbeliever considers the Word of God as imposing on them an intolerable yoke, to which they cannot, and will not submit! "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so!" Romans 8:7

They are indeed subjected to it against their will; but neither chastisements nor encouragements can prevail upon them to draw in it; on the contrary, like a ferocious bullock, they are insensible of favors, and they fret at rebukes, Jeremiah 31:18.

2. We are like a backsliding heifer when we submit to it only by fits and starts.

Many appear willing to obey God in a time of sickness, Isaiah 26:16, or after some signal deliverance Psalm 106:12-13, or under an impressive sermon, Exodus 24:3; Exodus 24:7. James 24, or during a season of peace and tranquility, Matthew 13:21. But, as soon as ever the particular occasion that called forth their pious resolutions has ceased, or they find that they must suffer for Christ's sake— they forget the vows that are upon them, and return to their former state of carelessness and indifference! Psalm 78:34-37. They renew their resolutions perhaps at certain seasons; but "their goodness is as the morning dew, or as the early cloud that passes away." Thus, like a heifer that will draw for one moment and will not the next—they are, in the strongest sense of the words, unprofitable servants.

3. We are like a backsliding heifer when grow weary of God's yoke.

It is common for professing Christians to go on well for a season, and yet draw back at last. They grow weary . . .
of performing their duties,
of exercising their graces,
of mortifying their lusts.

If they maintain a formal observance of public duties:

They become remiss in those of the family and the closet.

Their delight in the Scriptures languishes.

Their meditations are cold.

Their devotions formal.

Their faith, their hope, their love operate with less vital energy.

Their besetting sins, whatever they were, regain their strength, and resume their ascendancy.

These are like a horse or bullock, which, after having yielded to the yoke for a season, becomes unruly and ungovernable, and disappoints thereby the expectations of its owner.

Lest the frequency of these characters should tempt us to think favorably of them, we proceed to show,

II. The evil and danger of such a state.

1. The evil of a backslidden state.

A backslidden state, in whoever it is found, is exceeding sinful; but in those who have made some profession of religion, it is attended with peculiar aggravations.

It is a despising of God:
of his majesty, which demands our subjection,
of his mercy, which would accept and reward our poor services.

And it is in this light that God himself frequently complains of it, Numbers 11:20. 1 Samuel 2:30 and 2 Samuel 12:10. Psalm 10:13.

It is a justifying of the wicked: for it says to them, in fact, "I was once as you are, and thought I would become happier by serving God; but I find by experience that there is no profit in serving him; and therefore I am returning to your state, which is, on the whole, the happier and more desirable."

It is a discouraging of the weak. Little do false professors think how much evil they do in this way, Malachi 2:8. Many are induced to follow their example in some things, under the idea that they are innocent; and are thus drawn from one sin to another, until they make shipwreck of a good conscience, and utterly turn away from the faith.

And need we multiply words any further to show the evil of backsliding from God? Well does God himself call it "an astonishing and horrible thing! Jeremiah 5:30."

2. The danger of a backslidden state.

This is an iniquity which God marks with peculiar indignation, Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 2:21-22; and never fails to visit it, sooner or later, with some solemn token of his displeasure.

The first symptoms of declension lead, if not speedily mourned over and resisted—to utter apostasy! Proverbs 14:14. The disposition to backslide will soon increase, until it becomes inveterate, and, unless by a marvelous interposition of God himself, incurable.

The misery that will be incurred by means of it will far exceed all that would have been endured, if no profession of religion had ever been made. "If any man draws back," says God, "my soul shall have no pleasure in him!" He "draws back to certain and everlasting perdition! Hebrews 10:38-39." "It would have been better for him never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to turn back from it, Matthew 12:45. 2 Peter 2:21."

Let these consequences be duly weighed, and nothing need be added to show us the importance of "holding fast our profession without wavering."

"Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me," declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty! Jeremiah 2:19

To improve this subject, we shall,

1. Assist you in ascertaining your state before God.

Since all more or less, have a sinful bent towards backsliding from God, it is of great importance to inquire what kind our backslidings are, and to ascertain whether they are merely the sinful infirmities of a godly man—or the conscious revolt of a willful hypocrite. Because it is indeed difficult to determine this with entire accuracy, something may be said to aid you in this inquiry.

We must diligently examine the cause, the duration, and the effects of our backslidings.

1. The cause of backsliding.

The backslidings of sincere Christians arise from the weakness of their flesh, while their spirit is yet as willing as ever.

The backslidings of hypocrites proceed from a radical dislike to the ways of God.

2. The duration of backsliding.

The backslidings of sincere Christians continue but a little time, and are an occasion of greater diligence.

The backslidings of hypocrites remain, and become the habit of his soul.

3. The effects of backsliding.

The backslidings of sincere Christians humble them in the dust.

The backslidings of hypocrites produce a blindness of mind, a seared conscience, and a hardness of heart.

But though we make these distinctions for the information of your judgment, we recommend all to stand fast in the Lord, and to guard against the first risings of spiritual decay! Galatians 6:9.

2. Give a word of counsel to those in different states.

Are you altogether backslidden from God? O return to him, and take upon you his "light and easy yoke!" He invites you with all the tenderness of a father, Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:22; he declares himself exceedingly averse to punish you according to your desert, Hosea 11:7-8; and he promises to "heal your backslidings, and love you freely! Hosea 14:4."

Are you submissive to his yoke? Bless and adore your God, who has inclined and enabled you to do so. It is his power, and his power alone, that has kept you hitherto, 1 Peter 1:5; and therefore he must have all the praise. And in order to your continued steadfastness, reflect often on the evil and danger of backsliding. I may add too, on the comfort and benefit of serving God. Surely He is a good Master. Let but your hearts be right with him, and "none of his commandments will appear grievous to you, 1 John 5:3;" on the contrary, you will find that "in keeping his commandments there is great reward, Psalm 19:11," and that your labor shall not be in vain with respect to the eternal world. "Be faithful unto death, and he will give you a crown of life! Revelation 2:10."




Hosea 4:17.

"Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone!"

There is a day of grace, wherein God strives with men by his Spirit. This day of grace being past, God abandons them to impenitence and obduracy! Luke 19:42. The precise period of its termination is, in mercy, concealed from us; but we are all concerned to deprecate the judgment denounced against Ephraim in the text:

I. Idolatry, the sin of Ephraim.

Ephraim, to which Jeroboam belonged, comprehends all the ten tribes. These were devoted to the worship of the idols that were in Dan and Bethel. Nor could they be drawn from it by any of the means which God used.

Though we do not imitate them in bowing down to sticks and stones—we are not free from spiritual idolatry.

Idolatry is described to be a loving and serving of the creature more than the Creator, Romans 1:25. Hence covetousness and sensuality are spoken of under that term, Colossians 3:5. Philippians 3:19. Now who has not yielded that love, fear, and confidence to the creature, which are due to God alone? "Who can say, I am pure from this sin?"

We have, in truth, been "joined" to idols.

Many are the means which God has used to bring us to himself. Yet we have not been wrought upon effectually by any of them. Neither mercies given, nor judgments threatened—have been able to prevail. We rather have "held fast deceit, and refused to return to the Lord our God, Jeremiah 8:5; Jeremiah 44:16-17."

But this sin must of necessity provoke God to anger.

II. Their punishment for idolatry.

"Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone!"

The text may be understood as an advice to Judah, not to hold fellowship with the idolatrous Israelites. Our Lord gives a similar direction to his followers, Matthew 15:14.

It rather imports a judicial sentence of final dereliction.

This is a just punishment for turning away from God. Nor can there be a more awful punishment inflicted even by God himself. It is worse than the severest afflictions which can come upon us in this life. For they may lead to the salvation of the soul, 1 Corinthians 11:32; 1 Corinthians 5:5; whereas this must terminate in our condemnation. It is worse than even immediate death and immediate damnation. For the longer we live in unbelief and sin, the greater our load of God's wrath we are storing up for ourselves! "Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed! Romans 2:5."

And there is reason to fear that God may inflict this punishment upon us.

In this way he punished the Gentiles who sinned against their light. Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28.

In this way he visited also his once-favored people the Jews, Psalm 81:12. Matthew 23:32-35. Why then should we hope for an exemption, if we imitate their conduct? God has repeatedly warned us that impenitent sinners shall have this doom! Proverbs 1:30-31; Proverbs 5:22. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.


1. What reason have we to admire the patience and forbearance of God!

He has seen us cleaving to idols from the earliest period of our lives! Ezekiel 14:3. And though we have changed them, we have never turned unto God. In the mean time we have been deaf to all his expostulations and entreaties. What a mercy is it that he has never yet said, "He is joined to idols, let him alone!" Yes, he has even restrained us from perpetrating all that was in our hearts! Genesis 20:6; Genesis 31:29. 1 Samuel 25:34. How gracious is he in yet striving with us by his Spirit! Let then his goodness, patience and forbearance, lead us to repentance, Romans 2:4; and let us say, like Ephraim, in his repenting state Hosea 14:8.

2. How evidently is salvation entirely of grace!

If left to ourselves we never would renounce our idols, Jeremiah 13:23. We would act rather like that obstinate and rebellious people, Zechariah 7:11-12. The case of Judas may show us what we may do, when once abandoned by God. God must give us a desire, as well as an ability, to turn to him, Philippians 2:13. Let us then entreat him never to leave us to ourselves. Let us be thankful if, in any way, he rends our idols away from us.

If we have never yet resembled the Thessalonian converts, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, let us now cry unto him! Jeremiah 31:18. Hosea 14:2-3.

If we have, let us bear in mind that affectionate exhortation in 1 John 5:21, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols!"




Hosea 5:4.

KJV. "They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God; for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord."

NIV. "Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD."

When we exhort men to duty, they plead their inability to perform it. But their inability is, in fact, a lack of inclination to serve God. Many things there are which they do not do, though confessedly within their power. Of this, the prophet complains in the words of our text, and traces it up to its true and proper source.

His words lead us to consider,

I. The extent of men's spiritual supineness.

Little need be said to show that the generality do not "turn to God." They are scarcely sensible of their apostasy from him. They regard serious and vital religion as over-righteous preciseness. They do not so much as "frame their doings to turn unto him".

They do not consider their ways.

This seems a reasonable duty, and within the reach of any man; every learned man does it with respect to his temporal affairs; nor can there be any excuse for neglecting it in more important concerns. Indeed it is not possible to turn unto God aright, unless we have first discovered wherein we have turned from him. But men do not choose to search the records of their own conscience; they find it more pleasant to rest in the presumption that all is well with them. To this effect God himself testifies respecting them, Jeremiah 2:36.

They do not abstain from open violations of God's Word.

This is undoubtedly a step, which, everyone who turns to God will take; nor, though this is more difficult, is it beyond the power of an unregenerate man. Though he cannot refrain from the love of sin, he may refrain from the commission of it. Many actually do deny their appetites, from prudential motives; yet few, if any, will impose the same restraints from a regard to God, or manifest the disposition recommended to them by Elihu in Job 34:32.

They do not avoid the means and occasions of sin.

They have found the company of ungodly men to be a snare to their souls, Exodus 34:12. Proverbs 22:25—yet will they not withdraw themselves from their society. From many other things have they experienced a most baneful influence—yet will they gratify themselves in all their usual indulgences.

In temporal matters they see the wisdom of fleeing from temptation, such as the saloon or the gambling table—yet they account it needless to shun the means of spiritual defilement; but if they desired really to turn to God, could they evade the force of that question, Proverbs 6:27.

They do not use the means of obtaining true conversion.

They cannot but know the necessity of meditation and prayer; they are well assured that an attention to God's Word and ordinances is a principal mean of spiritual advancement—yet any book is more pleasing to them than the Bible, and any employment than prayer. In seeking worldly advancement they will use the means with diligence, but all labor is deemed superfluous in the concerns of the soul.

They not only do not thus frame their doings, but they will not.

Not all the promises of God can allure them, nor will God's threatenings alarm them! They are deaf to the voice of conscience, and the dictates of God's Spirit. The language of their hearts is like that of the Jews of old in Jeremiah 44:16-17.

They, on the contrary frame their doings to turn as far as possible from God.

Would consideration help them? They banish it, together with all books or conversation that might lead them to it.

Would the turning from known sin benefit them? They indulge in it.

Would the avoiding of the means of sin benefit them? They will rush into temptation.

Would the using of the means of grace benefit them? They account them a servile drudgery.

If they wished to injure their spiritual interests as much as possible, consistently with a good name among men—they could not adopt a surer method! The whole of their conduct unequivocally declares the language of their hearts, Job 21:14-15.

II. The causes of this spiritual supineness.

People, when convicted of evil doings—will yet affirm their hearts to be good. But can a tree be good whose fruits are uniformly bad?

The causes of this evil are justly described by the prophet:

1. They love sin.

"Whoredom" is frequently (and by Hosea in particular) used for sin in general. A "spirit of whoredom" imports an attachment to sin, and delight in it. In a similar sense a spirit of slumber is used, Romans 11:8. Now this justly characterizes the state of fallen man. It accords with other descriptions given of him in Scripture, Ephesians 4:22 and Romans 8:7; and is the fundamental cause of the supineness visible in the world.

In following evil ways we glide easily down the stream; but in renouncing sinful ways, we stem the tide of our corrupt nature. Hence even the first steps of turning to God are irksome and difficult. We are hesitant to lay the reins on the neck of our appetites, for lack of resolution to restrain them. In this very manner does God himself trace up our transgressions to a deceived heart! Isaiah 44:20.

2. They are ignorant of God.

The unsaved have no desire to reflect on the works or attributes of God, as revealed in His Word. Hence, they know nothing of Him as He really is, and the ideas they do form of God are grossly erroneous! Psalm 97:7. In their hearts they "imagine him to be such a one as themselves." This is another, and a very fruitful source of their supineness.

To this Paul ascribes the evil of their hearts and lives, "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more! Ephesians 4:18-19.

If they knew God's power and majesty, could they dare thus to provoke him?

If they beheld God's holiness, could they account sin so trivial an evil?

If they were apprised of God's justice, would they indulge hopes of impunity?

If they believed his veracity, would they so disregard his threatenings?

Above all, if they knew God's mercy, could they so trample on the blood that was shed for sinners?

It would not be possible for them to withstand such views of his perfections. Such a discovery would produce on them the effect experienced by Paul in Acts 9:6.


1. They who shall perish at the last day must ascribe their condemnation to themselves.

It is certainly true that man is not able of himself to do all that is required of him. But it is no less true that he is able to do many things which he neglects. Nor can it be doubted but that, if he cried to God for help, he might obtain it. If he does not use therefore the power that he has, and the appointed means of obtaining more, he can blame none but himself. In this view our Lord expressly declares that the fault is in our own perverse will, John 5:40. And God expostulates with us on the folly of our conduct, Ezekiel 33:11.

Is the gardener justified in omitting to plough and sow his ground because he cannot ensure a crop? How much less then shall we be justified, in neglecting the means to which God has promised success? Let us not then deceive ourselves by offering vain excuses; but turn unto our God, and plead the mercy which he has promised to us! Jeremiah 3:12.

2. If we would fully turn unto our God, we must have our hearts renewed, and our minds enlightened with the knowledge of Christ.

Would we heal the streams? Then we must cast the salt into the fountain head, 2 Kings 2:21-22. Instead of being actuated by the spirit of whoredoms, we must pray to be "led by the Spirit of God." Instead of "abiding in darkness," we must seek to have "Christ revealed in us." Thus shall "old things pass away, and all things become new." We shall sweetly yield ourselves to the constraining influence of Christ's love; and not only turn, but "cleave, unto him with full purpose of heart!"




Hosea 5:5.

KJV. "The pride of Israel does testify to his face; therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them!"

NIV. "Israel's arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbles with them.

All Christians profess to hate pride; yet all are more or less infected with it. The very best of men are not wholly free from its influence.

But in the unregenerate, pride is the governing principle of all their actions. It was one of the most distinguishing features in the character of Sodom, Ezekiel 16:49.

The professing people of God were also led captive by pride—and were brought thereby under God's just and heavy displeasure. We shall make some observations upon:

I. The prevalence of the sin of pride.

The state of Israel was not peculiar to that nation. Human nature is in all ages the same. Nor does pride manifest itself more strongly any where than among ourselves:

1. Nationally.

There is no nation that boasts more of its privileges, or that acknowledges less the hand of God in them, than Britain. If judgments come, we impute them to the misconduct of our government; and if success is given to us, we ascribe it to our own skill or prowess. And though confessedly our sins are manifold, no one thinks of national humiliation; so truly may it be said of us, as it was of Israel, "Our pride testifies to our face; and we do not return to the Lord our God, nor seek him for all this! Hosea 7:10."

2. Personally.

Behold the careless sinner.

What determined opposition is there in their hearts to the authority of God!

They will not submit to his light and easy yoke.

If required to obey, they object to the command itself as severe and impractical.

If warned of the consequences of their disobedience, they make light of all God's threatenings.

If urged to receive Gospel salvation, they deride it as foolishness 1 Corinthians 2:14.

The language of their heart is: Who is Lord over us? We know not the Lord; neither will we obey his voice! Psalm 12:4. Exodus 5:2.

That this proceeds from pride, there can be no doubt. God himself traces such conduct to this, as its proper source and principle in Psalm 10:4-5. And does not this "testify to the face" Hosea 5:5, of many among us? Is not this the conduct which almost universally prevails? Yes, are not we sensible that it too justly describes, if not our present—yet certainly our former, state?

Behold also, the self-righteous formalist.

People of this description have kept themselves free from gross enormities, or perhaps have reformed their conduct after fulfilling all their appetites; but their pride rises in proportion to their imagined attainments. They look with contempt on others who are openly immoral, Isaiah 65:5, and bless themselves that they are not as other men, Luke 18:9; Luke 18:11. Meanwhile "they feel not the plague of their own heart." They deny the representation which the Scripture gives of their fallen state in Revelation 3:17. They cannot endure to think themselves deserving of God's wrath, nor will they submit to be saved by the righteousness of God! Romans 10:3. Whence does all this originate? Surely pride and self-exaltation are properly pointed out as the spring from whence it flows! Luke 18:14. Yet this disposition lamentably prevails! Does it not "testify to the face" Hosea 5:5, of some whom we are now addressing? Are there not some among ourselves who trust in their own wisdom, strength, and righteousness, instead of fleeing to Christ as blind, helpless, hopeless creatures? Some also, who are too proud to accept salvation on the footing of publicans and harlots? Yes, and some too, who will rather perish in their sins, than seek to have them purged away in the Redeemer's blood!

I am grieved to add, Behold also many religious professors. None are more puffed up with pride than some who would be thought to be followers of the lowly Jesus! They are conceited of their knowledge, and will bear with none who do not pronounce their shibboleth. They profess indeed to believe that their hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked; yet they will never listen to instruction or reproof; nor can they be persuaded to deny their own will in anything for the good of others. None are more ready than these to set up themselves, in opposition to all constituted authorities. Jude speaks of them as "murmurers and complainers," as "despising dominion and speaking evil of dignities, Jude verse 8, 16." Nor are there any people under Heaven to whom Solomon's description of the proud man may be more fitly applied, Proverbs 30:12-13.

Alas! does not this spirit also "testify to the face" of many, Hosea 5:5? Perhaps there scarce ever was a period or a nation where such spurious religion prevailed in so great a degree. Surely pride may well be numbered among the most heinous sins of this favored land!

Having followed the sin of Israel, what can we expect but to participate in,

II. The judgment denounced against the sin of pride.

To "fall" must certainly import some heavy judgment. This threatening was not fully accomplished but in the utter destruction of the Jewish nation. Nor can we hope to escape the displeasure of God while we harbor in our hearts an evil that is so offensive to him.

This must be said of us as a nation.

We see at this moment the judgments executing upon other nations (France, Belgium, Poland, Russia) and can we hope that the cup shall not be put into our hands? Who can tell what a storm is gathering over us, or what ruin may ensue from the acts of our Government this very week, June 19, 1831. Yet how few are crying to God as the occasion requires!

But whatever occurs to us as a nation, the proud individually shall surely be dealt with according to their deserts.

They will most generally fall in this world.

In their own conceit their mountain stands so strong as to bid defiance to every assault. They think that they shall never be moved, Psalm 30:6-7. But how irresistibly have the haughtiest monarchs been hurled from their throne! Daniel 5:20; Daniel 5:23. How speedily have even the most powerful empires been brought to desolation! Ezekiel 28:2; Ezekiel 28:6; Ezekiel 28:8. Isaiah 14:12-15. How instantaneously have God's judgments often marked the heinousness of this sin! 2 Chronicles 32:25. Acts 12:23. If they are exalted for a time, they are almost invariably brought low at last! Psalm 73:6; Psalm 73:9; Psalm 73:18; Psalm 73:20.

At all events, they are absolutely certain to fall in the eternal world! If indeed they repented of their sin, they would find mercy with God. A broken and contrite heart he will never despise, Psalm 51:17. Though he will resist the proud—yet he will give grace unto the humble. He will look on him with pleasure and delight, Isaiah 57:15; but nothing can ever reconcile God to "a man that walks in pride." He will surely abase the proud, Daniel 4:37. He has irreversibly decreed their utter destruction, Malachi 4:1. Nor shall the whole universe combined prevent the execution of his vengeance on one single proud individual among them! Proverbs 16:5.

The observance of ceremonial duties will never compensate for the lack of true humility.

Judah retained the forms of religion which Israel and Ephraim had cast away. Yet because Judah resembled Israel in their sin, they were to be involved in Israel's calamity, see the text. Thus must all, however zealous and exemplary in other respects, be brought down and confounded before God! Isaiah 2:11-12. Even a preacher of righteousness, if lifted up with pride, shall fall into the condemnation of the devil! 1 Timothy 3:6. The rule laid down by God himself shall surely be observed to all eternity! "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted! Luke 18:14.


1. How excellent is the Gospel of Christ!

Nothing but the Gospel ever did, or ever can, humble the soul! The law may terrify; but it is the Gospel alone that melts us into contrition. The Gospel no sooner reaches the heart, than it brings down our high looks. It turned, in an instant, thousands of blood-thirsty murderers—into meek, loving, and obedient followers of the Lamb! Acts 2:37; Acts 2:41-42. And thus does it still operate on all who receive it in sincerity, Acts 9:6; Acts 16:29; Acts 16:33.

Let us then listen to the Gospel with delight. Let us pray, that a sight of the crucified Savior may produce its due effect upon us! Zechariah 12:10. And let us loath ourselves the more in proportion as we are persuaded that God is pacified towards us, Ezekiel 16:63.

2. What need have we all to watch and pray!

There are none who are out of the reach of this malignant principle of pride. Paul, after having been caught up to the third heavens, was in danger of being overwhelmed by it, 2 Corinthians 12:7. And who among us does not find that pride is ready to puff us up upon every occasion? Let us remember that pride ruined the very angels in Heaven! And that it must be mortified in us, if ever we would obtain mercy in the last day. Let us guard against the first risings of it in the heart; and, whenever it "testifies to our face," Hosea 5:5. Let us implore mercy of the Lord, that the thought of our hearts may be forgiven, Acts 8:22. In this way we shall be preserved, though in the midst of danger; and be exalted in due time to glory, and honor, and immortality!




Hosea 5:13.

KJV. "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, they went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb; yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.

NIV. "Hosea 5:13 "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores."

Men continually provoke God to chastise them, but rarely make a due improvement of his chastisements. Instead of turning to God, they dishonor him still more by applying to the creature under their distress rather than to him.

The ten tribes, where punished for their willing compliance with Jeroboam's edicts, verses 11, 12. God consumed them as the moth consumes a garment, or as rottenness in the bones. But they secretly, slowly, gradually, effectually, sought repeatedly to the Assyrians for help, instead of humbling themselves before God they found, as "Judah" also did on similar occasions, that their confidence in the creature served only to involve them in shame and disappointment.

Taking the text simply as a historical fact, we deduce from it two observations, which deserve our consideration.

I. Men, in times of trouble, are prone to look to the creature for help, rather than to God.

This was one of the most common and heinous sins of the Jewish nation.

Sometimes they relied on Egypt, Isaiah 30:1-3; Isaiah 31:1.

Sometimes on Assyria (as Manahem did, 2 Kings 15:19.

Ahaz relied on Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 16:7.

And sometimes they relied on themselves, Isaiah 22:8-11.

"Jareb" here certainly means the king of Assyria, but whether it was his proper name, or a name given to him by the prophet, is uncertain. It means Defender, and might be applied to him in a taunting manner. In this view it would be a very severe sarcasm. See 2 Chronicles 28:20

This reliance on the creature instead of god is universal also among ourselves:

1. In troubles of a temporal nature.

In sickness of body, we lean, like Asa, 2 Chronicles 16:12; on the physician.

In distress of mind, we complain and murmur; but forget to pray, Genesis 4:13-14.

In straitened circumstances, we expect relief from friends, or our own exertions. God is invariably our last refuge!

2. In spiritual troubles.

Under conviction of sin, we betake ourselves to the observance of duties, and make resolutions to amend our lives, instead of fleeing to Christ as the refuge of lost sinners, Isaiah 55:2.

In seasons also of temptation, or spiritual desertion, we adopt a thousand expedients to remove our burdens, but will not cast them on the Lord, 1 Samuel 16:14-16. Though foiled ten thousand times, we cannot bring ourselves to lie as clay in the potter's hands; but will rest in the means, instead of looking simply to God in the use of means.

But the longer we persist in this, the more we shall find, that,

II. The creature cannot afford us any effectual support.

There are circumstances indeed wherein friends may be instrumental to our relief

1. Creature expedients can do nothing to effectual support us.

The consolations which are administered by man, or by the vanities of this world—are poor, empty, and transient! Jeremiah 2:13. Not the whole universe combined can never bring a man to "glory in tribulations, Romans 5:3," and to say with Paul, "I take pleasure in them for the sake of Christ! 2 Corinthians 12:10." As soon might these creature expedients enable us to stop the sun in its course, as to experience the paradoxes of that holy apostle, 2 Corinthians 6:10.

2. Creature expedients can do nothing by themselves.

It is greatly humiliating to see how weak are man's endeavors to heal either the disorders of the body, or the troubles of the soul, when God is pleased to withhold his blessing.

The best prescriptions, or the wisest counsels, are even lighter than vanity itself!

Reasonings, however just and scriptural, have no weight.

Advice, however sweetened with love and sympathy, may also be useless.

Thus, creature expedients, the very grounds of consolation, are turned into occasions of despair, Psalm 77:2-3. When God says, "Let there be light," there is light; but until then, the soul is shut up in impenetrable darkness! Job 34:29.


1. Let us guard against this sinful propensity of relying on the creature instead of God, both in our national and personal concerns.

We cannot but see how prone we are, as a nation, to rest on human alliances, and human efforts. Would to God we could correct this fatal error, and trust more entirely in the Great Disposer of all events!

As individuals at least, we may, and must, correct our thinking. If we would have the blessing of God, and not his curse–then we must renounce all creature-confidence, and trust in him alone! Jeremiah 17:5-8. See David's example, Psalm 60:11; Psalm 121:1-2. If we would do this, our happiness would be complete, Psalm 91:1-7; Psalm 91:9-10.

2. Let us especially rely on Christ as the healer of our souls.

He is "the healer of the nations, Revelation 22:2." "Jehovah, who heals us, Exodus 15:26," There is no physician besides him; nor any balm but his blood! We may use whatever means we will, either to pacify the conscience, or to purify the heart—but we shall find that they "cannot heal us, nor cure us of our wound." But Christ is all-sufficient; he can in one moment purge us by his blood, and renovate us by his Spirit. To him then let us look with humble, uniform, unshaken trust!




Hosea 5:15.

KJV. "I will go and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me early.

NIV. "Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me."

Men, when they become Christians, do not lose any of their natural feelings, but they experience many sensations both of pleasure and pain, which are altogether new, and peculiar to themselves. When God lifts up the light of his countenance upon them, they possess the sublimest happiness of which our nature is capable, "a joy which the stranger does not understand!"

So also, when God withdraws the light of his countenance from them, they are made to feel the most exquisite sorrow, with which no temporal affliction, no bodily anguish, can be compared. This is the sorest chastisement which can be inflicted on a godly and sincere soul; yet as sore as it is, the wickedness of our hearts too often makes it necessary for us; for God's withdrawals will often avail to humble the soul, when everything else has been tried in vain.

Hence it is generally God's last resource; he uses various other methods first, to make his people holy, and to keep them vigilant; but when they are still remiss and negligent, he departs from them, and says, "I will hide my face from them, Deuteronomy 32:20." He said, "and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful."

Thus he dealt with his people of old; he had told them in verse 12, that he would be to them as a moth, or as rottenness, to consume them. Then, because they went to Assyria rather than to Him for help, he told them, in the verse before my text, that "he would tear them, as a young lion tears his prey!" And then he adds, as the sorest calamity of all, and as the only one which would produce the desired effect, that he would forsake them, "Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me."

From these words we will endeavor to show you,

I. The nature of spiritual desertion.

They who view God's dealings with the Jews merely as a history, will lose the most important benefits which the text is intended to convey. There is a striking similarity and agreement between the dispensations of Providence and the dispensations of grace; so that there can be no doubt but that the former were intended typically to represent the latter. And, in order to understand the Scriptures aright, we must interpret them according to this canon. The most sober and candid expositors have agreed in this.

The desertion spoken of in my text literally refers to the abandoning of the Jews to the power of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, until they would be brought to repent of their sins. And the return which is there foretold as the effect of this desertion, had its accomplishment in part under, Ezra and Nehemiah; partly also on the day of Pentecost. But principally, we expect it to be fulfilled at a future period, when the whole nation shall "look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn."

But we may with the utmost propriety take occasion from it to speak of spiritual desertion, which all the Israel of God in a greater or less degree experience. In my text, God says, "I will go back to my place;" this is a good description of that which we call spiritual desertion. God, properly speaking, is in every place, "he fills all in all;" but yet, as to the manifestation of his presence, he is more particularly in Heaven, "He is the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; and he dwells in the high and holy place." "Heaven is his throne; and he humbles himself when he beholds the things that are on earth." It is "the habitation of his holiness;" so that if, either for purposes of judgment or of mercy, he deigns to visit the earth, he leaves, as it were, his proper place, and comes down to us.

When he noticed the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah, he said, "I will go down now and see whether they have done according to the cry which is come up unto me!"

And when he was about to punish the Jews, the prophet said, "Behold, the Lord comes out of his place, to punish the inhabitants of the land! Isaiah 26:21."

Just so, when the Church prayed to him for the manifestations of his power, they said, "O that you would rend the heavens, and come down! Isaiah 64:1."

Thus, in the New Testament, he is frequently said to come and dwell in his people. Thus, when he visits us, he comes out of his place; and, when he withdraws those visits, he "goes back to his place."

Not that he is really capable of moving from one place to another, because he is alike in every place; but, with respect to:
the manifestations of his presence,
the communications of his grace,
the supports of his arm, and
the consolations of his Spirit
—he may be truly said to move. For neither the presence nor removal of anything can be more perceptible to the body, than the loss or acquisition of these things is to the soul.

The way in which God withdraws himself from the soul, may be very fitly illustrated by the manner in which he forsook the Jews of old. The Shechinah, or bright cloud, was the symbol of the Divine presence; and that rested upon the ark between the cherubim. But when God was incensed against the Jews for their abominations, he gave them various warnings of his determination to forsake them, unless they would repent. He made his prophet therefore to see in a vision, what indeed all Israel, in the time of Moses, had seen with their bodily eyes—his gradual departure. We have the account in the 9th, 10th, and 11th chapters of Ezekiel, to some verses of which we will refer you. In Ezekiel 9:3, God is represented as taking his first step towards his departure, "And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house." In Ezekiel 10:18, he removed still farther, "Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim," which were at that time, as we are told in verse 3, and 4, standing in the court. In verse 19, he went yet farther, "And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth, in my sight; and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord's house, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above!" In Ezekiel 11:23, God goes to a yet greater distance, "And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain, which is the east side of the city."

See here, how many different removes there were, before God would utterly forsake them:
first from the ark to the threshold;
then to the court;
then to the gate;
then to the mountain;
and even there he stood, if that by any means they might humble themselves, and prevent his final departure.

Just so it is in his departure from the soul; when he sits enthroned, as it were, in the soul, all is well:
the person thus highly honored,
he is happy beyond description,
his views of divine truth are clear,
his communion with God is lively, and
his enjoyment of it is unspeakably sweet and precious!

Having the light of God's countenance, and a sense of his favor—he has all that man can desire in this mortal state.

But when he becomes proud, or negligent, or worldly, when by any misconduct he begins to grieve the Holy Spirit—he soon perceives symptoms of the Divine displeasure:

The effusions of Divine love in his soul become less abundant.

His views of God are less glorious.

His apprehensions are darker.

His communion with God is less frequent, and less ardent.

His holy intimacy with God is sensibly diminished.

If he does not instantly take the alarm, and humble himself before God, and implore his pardon, then:

He finds gradually a veil drawn between his God and him.

He cannot have that access to God that he was accustomed to enjoy.

He loses that enlargement of heart which he used to experience.

His joys are in a great measure withdrawn.

Instead of abounding in praises, he finds it hard even to pray.

It is comparatively seldom that he can break forth into songs of praise and adoration.

And, if now and then he feels some elevation of soul, he cannot adore God for what he is in himself, but only for what he has done for us.

Thus, before he is aware, his God has withdrawn himself. And, if now he does not call God back by earnest supplication, and by renewed faith in Christ as his Mediator and Advocate—he will find everything decay!

The beauty of the summer will fade away, the autumnal gloom will soon follow, and everything will quickly wear a wintry aspect! All the graces of the soul will languish, and the corruptions of the heart regain their former ascendancy!

The departing sun does not more surely change the face of nature, than the departure of God from the soul will leave it destitute and forlorn! So truly is it said, "Woe unto them, when I depart from them!" But these are, as it were, the steps by which God departs from the soul; and by these marks we may judge of his increasing nearness or removal.

We see, then, what is meant by spiritual desertion.

Let us now consider,

II. The end and intent of spiritual desertion.

God intends our good in all his dispensations, unless indeed we have provoked him utterly to abandon us; and then he may justly cause such events as shall open a way for the exercise of our corruptions, and for the consequent hardening of our hearts. But, until he has thus given us up to reprobation, he designs all his dispensations for our good. Especially, in withdrawing from the souls of his people, he has a regard to their best interests. The two principal ends which he would accomplish, are, to humble, and to quicken them.

First, to humble them, "I will go and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offence." The confession of our sins is indispensably necessary, as well for our good, as for God's glory. However God may desire to pardon, he cannot do it, unless we be first disposed to confess and forsake our sins. It would be unworthy of his majesty, and directly contrary to his Word. He has said, that "he who covers his sins shall not prosper;" and that only "he who confesses and forsakes them, shall find mercy!" His own honor is so interwoven with the abasement of the sinner, that, when Joshua exhorted Achan to confess his sin, he could use no terms more proper than these, "My son, give, I beg you, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him."

Indeed the good of man himself, is no less concerned in the humiliation of his soul before God. For, until he is brought to a sense of his iniquities:
he has no disposition to accept God's mercy;
he disdains to become a suppliant for mercy;
he denies that he stands in need of mercy;
he thinks himself affronted by the offer of mercy, because the offer necessarily implies, what he is utterly averse to acknowledge—namely, that he deserves God's punishment!

This same pride remains, in a measure, in God's people after their conversion; and though they hate it and loath themselves for it—yet, upon every fresh sin which they commit, they are but too apt to indulge it! They still feel an unaccountable backwardness to confess their sins, even though they know that God is privy to all, and does not need any information from them.

When therefore God sees his people harboring this pride in any degree, he withdraws himself from them! The more they indulge this vile principle, the more he testifies his displeasure, to show them, that he will ever "resist the proud, and give grace only to the humble." He is determined "to abase those who walk in pride;" and therefore he never grants the former tokens of his love, until he has brought the soul to an open and sincere confession.

We have a remarkable instance of this in David. He had grievously offended God in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah; but his proud heart would not humble itself before God. What was the consequence? God forsook him; and instead of speaking pardon and peace to him, he left his soul to be incessantly harassed with fruitless remorse and anguish! God never restored peace to his conscience, until he had humbled himself for his iniquity. Thus David says, in Psalm 32:3-4, "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long; for day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer."

This was his state while he persisted in impenitence; but as soon as he made confession, behold the change! "I acknowledged my sin unto you, and have not hidden my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgression to the Lord, and so you forgave the iniquity of my sin!" He who began the Psalm with such a deplorable account of his experience, concludes it with saying, "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you that are upright in heart."

A further end which God has in view, is to quicken and stir up the soul. His people are but too apt to grow remiss; and sometimes, when they profess to be seeking God with their whole hearts, they are secretly inclining to some earthly vanity! This, if allowed to prevail, would effectually alienate them from the life of God. They would soon be entangled again in the corruptions of the world, and "their last end would become worse than their beginning."

Therefore God in mercy withdraws himself from them; and hides his face, until they seek after him again with their usual ardor. In this he acts, if you will permit me for once to use a very familiar illustration, as earthly parents do. The little child perhaps is loitering behind, and amusing himself with some trifle—the parent calls and commands in vain. At last the parent, wearied with fruitless calls, conceals himself; and then the child is filled with anxiety, seeks his parent with tears, and is more solicitous to keep close to him in future!

This is a humble illustration, I readily acknowledge; but it is a natural one; and our Lord himself did not disdain the use of such illustrations, for the confirmation of his doctrines. If it conveys to you the idea more clearly than a plain statement would, my end is answered. Let it show you, what we are at present concerned to declare, the real end for which God hides his face from his children. We may however confirm this statement from the express testimony of God himself, "You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart; and I will be found by you! Jeremiah 29:13-14."

We come now to show,

III. The effect which spiritual desertion will produce.

Would to God that the effect were the same on all! But, alas! there are many who are hardened by it more and more, until God "swears in his wrath, that they shall never enter into his rest!" Nevertheless, where the proper effect is produced upon the soul, it is that which is mentioned in my text, "In their affliction they will seek me early."

This part of our subject is in a measure anticipated by what has gone before; nevertheless, it is of such importance as to deserve further and more distinct consideration.

Prosperity ill-suits our fallen nature. Not only temporal ease, but in some sense even spiritual pleasure, becomes a source of evil; not that it is so in itself, "the joy of the Lord is our strength." But our corruption takes occasion from prosperity to manifest itself. Sometimes a long season of spiritual delight, and peculiar manifestations of God's love, shall foster pride. Even Paul himself, from the abundance of revelations which were made to him, was in danger of "being exalted above measure," and needed "a thorn in his flesh" to keep him humble!

Just so, special sensations of spiritual joy are sometimes the means of begetting carnal security. We see daily that professors of religion are apt to look back upon former experiences, and to conclude that all is well, because it once appeared to be well. Therefore God counteracts this propensity, and consults the good of his people, in withdrawing his sensible presence from them. By this he stirs them up to a holy vigilance against their spiritual enemies, and to a diligence and circumspection in his ways.

See what was the effect produced upon the Spouse in the 5th chapter of the Song of Solomon; in the 2nd verse, Christ, the Husband of the Church, is calling to her for admission, saying, "Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, my locks with the drops of the night."

She, not being disposed for heavenly communion with him, makes frivolous excuses, "I have taken off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?" Thus she provoked him to depart.

Shortly, however, she rose to let him in; but behold, he was gone! verse 5, 6. "I rose up to open to my Beloved; I opened to my Beloved, but my Beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone!"

And now observe the effect of this desertion, "My soul failed when he spoke; I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer." She then went about the city, and inquired of all the watchmen respecting him; and failing of success here, she says, in verse 8, "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved, tell him that I am love-sick!"

This is a striking comment on the last words of my text, "In their affliction they will seek me early." It exactly agrees with the experience of God's people in all ages; when they, who have been favored with the light of God's countenance, are for a season deprived of it:
they put away their foolish and vain excuses;
they see that they must at all events draw near to their Beloved;
they will spare no pains;
they will rather rise at midnight, than not seek him at all;
they will attend the ordinances with redoubled diligence;
they will inquire of the ministers, the watchmen, how they may find him;
they request the intercession of the saints.

In short, they will never rest, until they have regained the sensible enjoyment of the Divine presence!

Let us now come to a short application of the subject.

1. To the careless world.

My brethren, many of you must be sensible that you never seek after God; if you pray at any time, you rest satisfied with having performed a duty, and are not at all solicitous to obtain any manifestations of the Divine presence. Yes, because you have never experienced any peculiar sensations of God's favor, you are ready to think that all hopes of such experience are groundless, and that all must be either hypocrites or enthusiasts who pretend to such things. But surely, your own lack of experience in these matters is no more a ground for denying the truth of what others feel, than your ignorance of the concerns of others is a ground for denying what others know.

Would to God that you would seek the Lord for yourselves! You should soon find that it is not in vain to call upon him. If you would humble yourselves, confessing your sins, and crying for mercy through the blood of Jesus—then you would soon find that:
God is "gracious, and full of compassion, and rich in mercy unto all that call upon him;"
he would be "a Father unto you;
he would come unto you, and dwell with you;"
he would "manifest himself unto you as he does not unto the world;"
he would "shed abroad his love in your hearts;"
and he would "make you glad with the light of his countenance."

O, then, "seek the Lord, seek his face evermore!" Remember, it will be an awful matter to be banished forever from his presence—to hear him say, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" How dreadful would this be!

On the contrary, how delightful to hear him say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!" O "seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near."

2. To the professors of religion.

How apt are you to draw back from God, instead of pressing forward as you ought to do! How you compel him to hide his face, when he would gladly be comforting you with his presence! Ah, brethren, know where the fault is, "He delights in the prosperity of his people!" It is wholly owing to yourselves if you do not "rejoice in the Lord all the day long."

Do not then oblige him to withdraw himself.

Do not bring on yourselves so heavy an affliction.

Search, and see, what there is that has displeased him.

See if the world has drawn you aside.

See if pride has grieved his Spirit.

See if negligence in secret duties has caused him to hide his face.

And, whatever it is:
confess it to the Lord;
mourn over it;
renew your application to the blood of Jesus;
press forward with greater diligence!

So you shall "walk in the light, as He is in the light." You shall have abiding and increasing fellowship both with the Father and the Son. Soon you shall be admitted into his immediate presence, where you shall never have one cloud to intercept your view of him to all eternity!




Hosea 6:1.

KJV. "Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up!"

The spiritual dereliction which the people of God have at times experienced, has ever been considered as the most afflictive of all chastisements; but it has also been the most beneficial, and most effectual. The benefits arising from it were strongly exemplified in the Israelites, who after having long withstood the united efforts of all the prophets, were on a sudden constrained by it to turn to God with sincere contrition.

The words before us are the expressions of that repentance which was excited in the Israelites by God's departure from them, and by his grace that accompanied the affliction, Hosea 5:15; and they suggest to us a proper occasion to consider,

I. The characteristic marks of true penitence.

1. True penitence will always be attended with a sense of our departure from God.

Unregenerate men live "without God in the world;" and yet the thought of their being at a distance from God never enters into their minds. But as soon as the grace of repentance is given to them, they see that they "have been like sheep going astray, every one to his own way," and that they can never find happiness but in "returning to the shepherd and bishop of their souls."

2. True penitence will always be attended with an acknowledgment of affliction as a just chastisement for sin.

The impenitent heart murmurs and rebels under the Divine chastisements; the penitent "hears the rod and him who appointed it." He blesses God for the troubles that have brought him to reflection, Psalm 16:7; Psalm 119:67; and while he smarts under the wounds that have been inflicted on him, he regards them as the merciful tokens of parental love, Psalm 119:75.

3. True penitence will always be attended with a determination to return to God.

When a man is once thoroughly awakened to a sense of his lost condition, he can no longer be contented with a formal round of duties. He reads, hears, prays in a very different way from that in which he was accustomed to do. "What shall I do to be saved?" is the one thought that occupies his mind; and he is resolved through grace to sacrifice everything that would obstruct the salvation of his soul. To hear of Christ, to seek him, to believe on him, and to receive out of his fullness, these are from henceforth his chief desire and his supreme delight, Song of Solomon 5:6; Song of Solomon 5:8.

4. True penitence will always be attended with a desire that others should return to him also.

As all the other marks, so this especially was manifested by the repenting Israelites. This is peculiarly insisted on as characteristic of the great work that shall be accomplished in the latter day, Isaiah 2:3. This has distinguished the Church of God in all ages, Song of Solomon 1:4. Draw me, and we will run after You. The penitent knows how awful the state of all around him is, and how much he has contributed by his influence and example to destroy them; and therefore, though he expects nothing but "hatred for his good-will," he feels it incumbent on him to labor for their salvation; and, if it were possible, he would instruct, convert, and save the whole world, Zechariah 8:21. John 1:41; John 1:45.

To promote an increase of such repentance among us, we shall proceed to state,

II. The grounds on which a penitent may take encouragement to return to God.

Whatever grounds of despondency we may feel within ourselves:

1. We may take encouragement from a general view of God's readiness to heal us.

God has not left himself without witness even among the heathen world; but has shown, by his goodness to the evil and unthankful, that he is ever ready to exercise mercy. But to us who have his revealed will, he has left no possibility of doubt; for "if he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" The invitations and promises with which his Word is filled, are a further evidence to us, that he is willing to receive every returning prodigal, and that he will never cast out any who come unto him. On this ground the whole world may adopt the words of the text, and say, "Come, let us return unto the Lord."

2. We may take encouragement from that particular discovery of it which we have in the wounds he has inflicted on us.

The Israelites seemed to lay a peculiar stress on this, and to infer, from the very strokes of his rod, his willingness to "heal and bind them up." They even felt an assurance that his return to them would be both speedy and effectual. See the text, with verse 2. Thus as soon as any person is brought to acknowledge the hand of God in his afflictions, he will improve them in this very way. Whether his troubles be of a temporal or spiritual nature, he will adore God for not leaving him in a secure and thoughtless state, and for awakening him by any means to a sense of his guilt and danger. He will begin immediately to argue as Manoah's wife, "Would the Lord have shown me this mercy, if he had intended to destroy me, Judges 13:23." Does a father correct his child because he has no love to him? Are not the very expressions of his anger to be viewed as tokens of his love, Hebrews 12:6, and as a pledge of his returning favor to me as soon as I shall have implored his forgiveness?

Let those then who feel the burden of their sins, remember, that it is God who has given them to see their iniquities; and that the heavier their burden is, the more abundant encouragement they have to cast it on the Lord, Matthew 11:28.


1. To those who have deserted God.

Let us only reflect on the months and years that we have past without any affectionate remembrance of God, or any earnest application to Christ as our Mediator and Advocate; and we shall not need many words to convince us, that we are included in this number. But let us consider whom "we have forsaken; even God, the fountain of living waters;" and, with all our labor in pursuit of happiness, we have only "hewed out for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water, Jeremiah 2:13." Let our past experience suffice to show us the vanity and folly of our ways; and let us "return unto him from whom we have deeply revolted." But let us beware lest we "heal our wounds slightly." Christ is the bronze Serpent to which all must look; He is the good Samaritan who alone can help us, and who has submitted to be himself "wounded for our transgressions," that he might "heal us by his stripes."

2. To those who are deserted by God.

God does find it necessary sometimes to withdraw the light of his countenance from his people. But, whatever he may have done on some particular occasions, we are sure that in general he does not forsake us until after we have forsaken him. Hence, when the Israelites were deserted by him, they did not say, Let us pray that he will return to us; but, Let us return unto him; for they were well assured that, as the alienation had begun on their part, so it would be terminated as soon as ever they should humble themselves in a befitting manner. Let those then who are under the hidings of God's face, inquire, what has occasioned his departure from them; and let them put away "the accursed thing," and turn to him with their whole hearts. Let them rest assured, that "there is balm in Gilead;" and that, if they come to God in the name of Christ, their "backslidings shall be healed," and "their happiness restored, Hosea 14:4. Lamentations 3:31-32. Psalm 97:11; Psalm 147:3."

[If this were the subject of a Fast Sermon for the nation, the application might be comprised in the following observations:

1. The calamities of the nation are manifest tokens of God's displeasure, and calls to repentance.

2. All the efforts of our rulers to heal our wounds will be in vain, if we do not repent.

3. A general turning unto God would bring us speedy and effectual relief.]




Hosea 6:3.

KJV. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord; his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth."

Those who are strongly attached to human theological systems, are apt to set divine truths at variance with each other, and to wrest some from their plain and obvious meaning, in order to reconcile them with others more agreeable to their opinions.

But those who receive the Word of God as little children, will find a harmony in passages, which at first sight appear contradictory, and will derive equal benefit from the contemplation of them all.

Some imagine, that, if our salvation depend wholly on the free and sovereign grace of God—then there can be no need for exertion on our part.

Others, on the contrary, argue, that if our salvation is to be effected by means of our own endeavors—then it cannot be dependent on Divine grace.

But these apparently opposite assertions are not made only in different and detached passages, but oftentimes in the very same passage! Our Lord for instance, exhorts us to labor for the food that endures unto eternal life—at the same time that he says, the Son of man will give it to us. And Paul bids us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and yet assures us in the very same sentence, that it is God who works in us both to will and to do.

Thus the prophet Hosea represents those who are returning to God, as encouraging themselves with the thought that though they could no more accomplish their end by their own exertions than they could command the sun to shine, or the clouds to pour down their waters—yet, if they persevered in the use of God's appointed means, they could not but succeed.

I. The effects of diligence in religion are here plainly stated.

The great object of our attention should be to gain the knowledge of Christ.

Many see no occasion at all for diligence in the pursuit of heavenly things.

Others, who confess the need of constant exertion on our part—yet propose to themselves a wrong end in their labors; having no higher view than to establish a righteousness of their own.

But to know Christ and him crucified, is the one mean of eternal life, in comparison with which everything else is as dung and dross! Compare John 17:3. 1 Corinthians 2:2. Philippians 3:8. It is not however a mere speculative knowledge of him which is required, (for we may possess that, and have the heart as unsanctified as ever,) but an experimental knowledge of him, that brings the soul into a saving union and abiding fellowship with him, and a transforming knowledge, that changes us into his blessed image in righteousness and true holiness! 2 Corinthians 3:18.

This should be sought with unremitting diligence.

It cannot be attained without frequent and serious meditation. It does not indeed, like other studies, require intenseness of application, scope of thought, and strength of intellect. It requires only that we enter into our own bosom, that we consult the records of conscience, that we apply to our souls the threatenings and promises of the Scripture, and that we live in the daily exercise of faith and prayer.

This is easily compatible with any lawful pursuit; and so far from distracting the mind, and incapacitating it for action—it will give direction and energy to all our faculties.

We must not however imagine that it is the work of a day, a month, or a year. It is the work of our whole lives. If at any time we think we have attained, and are already perfect—then we may be well assured that we have hitherto studied to little purpose. Paul, after preaching the Gospel above twenty years, still desired to know Christ more fully, Philippians 3:10; Philippians 3:12. In the same way, so infinitely does that of which we are ignorant, exceed that which any man can know in this life—that Paul says, "If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know! 1 Corinthians 8:2." We must therefore "follow on" in the use of God's appointed means, nor ever relax our diligence, until we see him as we are seen, and know him as we are known.

Nor shall such means be used in vain.

It will be invariably found, that, while "the idle soul suffers hunger, the diligent soul shall be made fat." No person shall be disappointed for lack of talents; for men shall make a proficiency, not in proportion to their abilities, but in proportion to their willingness to learn of God, and to practice what they already know, Philippians 3:13-14. God, who alone can instruct us in this knowledge, will "reveal even to babes and sucklings the things that are hidden from the wise and learned." "He will guide the meek in judgment, he will he will teach the meek his way." "If only we cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding, if we seek it as silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures," we need not fear on account of any imagined incapacity; for God has said, "Then shall you understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God; for the Lord gives wisdom; out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding, Proverbs 2:6."

This encouraging truth is yet further,

II. The effects of diligence in religion are here beautifully illustrated.

There is a beauty peculiar to the Hebrew poetry, and very frequently occurring in the prophetic writings, that important truths are amplified with figurative illustrations, and that sublime metaphors are explained by simple declarations.

In the passage before us, that which is first proposed in plain language, is afterwards confirmed in two most instructive similes, each of them affording a more precise view of the manner in which the promise itself shall be fulfilled.

The simile taken from the return of day, intimates, that our success shall be certain and gradual.

Nothing but the utter dissolution of the universe shall ever stop the succession of day and night; so that the stated returns of light may be considered as a fit emblem of certainty. Indeed, God himself sets forth the immutability of his covenant by this very figure, "If you can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season—then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, Jeremiah 33:20-21."

Thus certainly shall light arise upon our benighted souls, provided we really desire to behold it, Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 58:10. In a time of darkness we may cry, "The Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me!" But, as the sun, even at midnight, is hastening towards us, though unseen, so are "the goings forth of our God prepared," decreed, and ready to appear. Let us but "wait, as those who watch for the morning;" and our gloom shall soon be dispelled; and "the Sun of righteousness shall arise upon us with healing in his wings!"

Nevertheless we must not expect that we should discern everything at once; our progress will be gradual. The sun does not arise in an instant; there is first a little glimmering dawn; then the gilded clouds begin to wear a brighter aspect; and at last they are dissipated by the rising sun; the sun itself also rises higher, and shines brighter in the heavens, until it arrives at its meridian.

Thus it is with the knowledge of Christ in the soul. The first views which the inquiring soul obtains are faint and confused; yes, perhaps, as in the early dawn, things may assume a monstrous and distorted shape; we may "behold men, as trees, walking." But gradually the mists shall be dispelled from our eyes; our organs of vision shall be purged from their film; and the glorious object, whom we desire to behold, shall be revealed to our view. But, while we are here below, we shall "see him only, as in a mirror, darkly." We must wait until we arrive above, before we can fully "see him as he is."

The simile taken from the return of showers after drought, intimates that our knowledge shall be refreshing and fructifying.

What can be more refreshing than rain to the parched ground? How does the face of nature soon testify its gladness by a universal smile! Yet is this but a very faint resemblance of that joy and gladness, which the soul experiences through seasonable communications of Divine knowledge.

Let us picture to ourselves a prodigal reduced to the lowest ebb of misery, and doubting whether so vile a wretch shall ever find acceptance with his offended Father; and, while trembling with a dread of his displeasure, surprised with the tenderest expressions of his love. Will not this be a season of refreshing to his soul? Will he not instantly "put off his sackcloth, and gird himself with gladness?" Will it not be to him "as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land?"

Thus shall it be with all who follow on to know the Lord; they shall have "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

Nor shall the knowledge acquired be unproductive of solid fruits. As "the former rain" prepared the ground for the seed, and caused the seed that was cast in to vegetate; and "the latter rain" ripened and matured the grain, and made it fit for the sickle (both being essentially necessary, and abundantly productive)—so shall the knowledge of Christ be to the soul; it shall come "like rain upon the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth, Psalm 72:6."

After long drought, the clouds may, almost without a metaphor, be said to "drop fatness;" and the knowledge of Christ, long and eagerly desired, shall make "the desert to blossom as the rose." Yes, "it shall make the wilderness like Eden, and the desert as the garden of the Lord." "Instead of the brier, shall grow up the fir-tree; and instead of the thorny bush, shall grow up the myrtle-tree, Isaiah 55:10-13;" and the once-barren soul shall be "fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness to God's praise and glory."

We may learn from hence,

1. Why it is that mankind in general are so ignorant of Christ.

The record of God concerning Christ is this, "He who has the Son, has life; and he who has not the Son of God, has not life." This is plain, express, and immutable. Yet, alas! the generality, instead of laboring above all things to attain the knowledge of Christ, will bestow no pains whatever upon it. There is no other knowledge that they profess to have without study; but this they think they possess almost by intuition. Hence, notwithstanding it is infinitely more important than any other, they continue wholly ignorant of it; they are satisfied with giving a general assent to Christianity as true, while they discern nothing of its beauty, and taste nothing of its excellence. If this knowledge were unattainable, then men would have some excuse, seeing that they would labor in vain, and spend their strength for nothing. But God has promised success to persevering diligence, "Then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord." Let us not then give way to pride or indolence; but let us search the Scriptures with a humble, teachable spirit, and beg of God to enlighten the eyes of our understanding; so shall we be "guided into all truth," and be made "wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus."

2. Whence it is that they, who have attained some knowledge of Christ, are not made more holy, and more happy by it.

To maintain a steady uniform course is no easy matter. To follow on, forgetting what is behind, and reaching forth unto that which is before, requires more humility and zeal than the greater part even of real Christians possess. Hence their attainments in joy and holiness are small, in comparison with what they might possess.

Instead of minding uniformly the one thing needful, they allow themselves to be distracted with worldly cares and pleasures.

Instead of resisting their adversary, they yield to him; and give way to desponding thoughts, when they should renew their exertions with more abundant diligence.

If they followed on as they ought, not only would their success be certain and gradual, but it would be accompanied with a proportionate increase of joy and holiness.

Let us not then turn aside to earthly vanities, or waste our time in fruitless lamentations and complaints; but let us "be followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises;" so that our "path may be as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day."




Hosea 6:4.

KJV. "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto you? O Judah, what shall I do unto you? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goes away."

NIV. "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears."

Wherever the Gospel is faithfully preached, some are savingly converted by it. But of those who "run well for a season, many are hindered" in their course, and many turn back again to the world. Such were they to whom God spoke in the words before us.

We may indeed interpret the three first verses of this chapter as descriptive of what shall take place in the latter day; and so consider the words of the text as a continuation of the complaints uttered against the Jews in the preceding chapter. But we know that there were some partial reformations, as under Hezekiah and Josiah; and therefore we may well explain the passage as belonging to the people of that generation. The word had produced some good effect among them; but their penitence was of very short duration. God therefore took up this pathetic lamentation over them; which leads us to notice,

I. The instability of man.

Man in his best estate is a weak and frail creature. But "Ephraim," (who had cast off the worship of God) and "Judah" (who retained the form but without the power of godliness) may properly be considered as characterizing two different descriptions of people, namely:

1. Mere nominal Christians.

2. Those who make some profession of religion.

1. Observe the instability of mere nominal Christians.

However men may have shaken off all regard for God, there have been times when they entertained some good desires, and some purposes of amendment. They did not always sin with the same ease that they now do. We may appeal to all, whether there has not been some period of their life when their mind was comparatively tender, and when they felt, in some little measure, the importance of preparing for death and judgment.

But these seasons have passed away without any permanent effect; and the appearances of good have altogether vanished. Fitly therefore are they compared to a morning cloud, and to the early dew; for, as in a season of drought the morning clouds, which seemed to portend rain, are soon scattered; and the dew, which seemed a welcome substitute for rain, is exhaled, before it has penetrated to the roots, and thereby the expectations of the gardener are disappointed. So it is with them; their vows are forgotten, their consciences are become callous, and all prospect of their conversion is annihilated. See this exemplified:
in Pharaoh, Exodus 10:16; Exodus 10:28;
in the Israelites, Exodus 33:4 with Psalm 78:34-37;
in king Felix, Acts 24:25; Acts 24:27.

2. Observe the instability of many who make a profession of religion.

Many, like those addressed in the text, have at some time appeared penitent, and have excited, both in themselves and others—a hope that they would one day be faithful followers of the Lamb. But they have "left off to behave themselves wisely." "The cares of this world, or the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust for other things," have turned them aside; so that they are as barren and unfruitful as if they had never professed themselves the Lord's people.

How many have there been in every age who have thus "made shipwreck of their faith!" And how many among ourselves, perhaps, have declined from the ways of God, and given reason to fear that "their last end will be worse than their beginning!"

These are yet more strictly conformed to the images in the text, inasmuch as the hopes and prospects they afforded were more flattering, and the state in which they are left, is more desperate and afflictive. See instances of this also in Demas. Compare Philemon verse 24 with 2 Timothy 4:10. See also 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 3:6; 1 Timothy 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:15 and 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 4:4.

No subject whatever reflects more light than this upon:

II. The forbearance of God.

We must not suppose that God is really at a loss what to do, since both his wisdom and power are infinite. But the expressions of the text import,

1. That God is extremely averse to punish us as we deserve.

Our provocations against him have been such as nothing but infinite patience could have endured! He complains of us, that "we have wearied him," and that "he is pressed under us as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves, Malachi 2:17. Amos 2:13." He appeals to us that he has omitted nothing on his part that could tend to our good, Micah 6:3. Jeremiah 2:5. Isaiah 5:4. He expostulates with us respecting our obstinacy in destroying ourselves, Ezekiel 33:11. When there seems scarcely any hope left, he declares that he cannot endure the thought of giving us up, Hosea 11:7-8; and, in the words before us, intimates the perplexity of his mind halting between his duty as a lawgiver, and his inclinations as a parent. Well may it be said of him, that "judgment is his strange work! Isaiah 28:21;" for his whole conduct towards us shows, that he is "slow to anger and rich in mercy! Nehemiah 9:17."

2. That there is nothing he can do consistently with his own honor which he is not ready to do for our salvation.

He cannot save us in an impenitent state—that would be a violation of his justice, his holiness, and his truth. But if we would repent, he would forgive us for his dear Son's sake. If we would pray to him for his Holy Spirit, he would renew us, sanctify us, and establish us. Whatever his wisdom could devise for our good, or his power execute—he would be ready to effect, if only we would "cleave to him with full purpose of heart."

How strongly is this intimated in the tender manner of his address, "O Ephraim, O Judah!" as though he spoke to every one of us individually by name; and by the repetition of that question, "What shall I do unto you?" Let a reciprocal tenderness be excited in our hearts towards him—and both the grounds of his anger, yes, and the consequences of it also, shall soon be removed.


1. Those whose goodness has altogether vanished.

How many have reason to look back with shame, and to say, "O that it were with me as in months past! Job 29:2." Once you felt some concern about your soul; but now you are regardless of your eternal interests. Once you had some prospect of Heaven; but now you have none at all. Consider what a melancholy state this is; and that, if you continue in it until you go to the bar of judgment, your condition will be most desperate forever. Be assured that God will be at no loss how to deal with you then; there will be no longer any conflict in his mind between wrath and pity! Abused patience will demand your punishment—and that punishment shall correspond with your iniquity! Compare Hosea 13:3 with the text. O that you were wise, and would consider your latter end!

2. Those who are yet in a hopeful way.

There are some, we trust, over whom the clouds are yet suspended, and the dew is yet lying with prolific virtue. O beg of God, that no wind of temptation may dispel the one, no sun of persecution exhale the other. "Remember Lot's wife!" and watch against everything that may impede your progress, or shake your constancy. Be much in prayer, that God would "carry on his good work within you, and perform it to the day of Christ." Guard as much against self-dependence as against the grossest of sins; for "God is a jealous God," and will leave you to learn by bitter experience what is in your heart, if you trust in an arm of flesh! 2 Chronicles 32:31. "Trust in him only, and with your whole heart;" and he will "perfect that which concerns you," and "preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom!"




Hosea 6:6.

KJV. "I desired mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."

NIV. "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."

There is a disposition in every man to substitute external religious rituals, for the devotion of the heart; and to rest satisfied with rendering to God some easy outward services, while they are utterly averse to those duties which are more difficult and self-denying. But God cannot be deceived, nor will he be mocked. He will look at the heart, and not at the outward appearance only; and will mark with indignation the partial obedience of the hypocrite, no less than the open disobedience of the profane.

It was thus that he dealt with his people of old, "hewing them by his prophets, and slaying them by the words of his mouth," because they rested in their sacrifices and burnt-offerings, when he desired the more acceptable services of faith and love.

In this view the prophet intimates in the text:

I. The use of instituted ordinances.

The words of the text are not to be considered as importing that God did not require any sacrifices at all, but as declaring his decided preference for spiritual obedience; just as our Lord's injunction, "not to labor for the food that perishes, but for that food which endures unto eternal life, John 6:27," was not intended to prohibit the pursuit of earthly things, but only to enjoin a superior regard for the concerns of eternity.

God approves and loves the observance of his appointed ordinances.

God appointed a great variety of ordinances to be observed; but the most important among them were "sacrifices and burnt-offerings." These he honored with many signal tokens of his approbation. Perhaps his acceptance of Abel's offering was marked by the descent of fire from Heaven to consume it, Genesis 4:4. Certain it is, that on many other occasions God gave to men this testimony of his regard.

To Moses, Leviticus 9:24.

To Manoah, Judges 13:19-20.

To Solomon, 2 Chronicles 7:1.

To Elijah, 1 Kings 18:38.

And in unnumbered instances he imparted grace and peace to the souls of his people, while they presented their sacrifices before him.

Under the Gospel dispensation he has enjoined the public administration of his Word and sacraments; and has crowned the observance of these ordinances with the brightest displays of his glory, and the richest communications of his love. He has promised his presence in them to the end of the world, Matthew 28:20; and that too in a manner and degree that we are not generally to expect it on other occasions.

Thus, both under the law and under the Gospel, God has abundantly manifested his regard for the ordinances of his own institution.

But the acceptableness of such services depends on the manner in which they are performed.

God looks rather to the disposition of the worshiper than the matter of his offering; and, if a contrite spirit is lacking, he values nothing that such a worshiper can present. This is repeatedly and strongly declared, Isaiah 1:11-14; Isaiah 66:3; and is as true under the Gospel as under the Law Psalm 51:16-17. Matthew 15:8-9.

To this all the Scriptures bear witness.

Balaam's answer to Balak, Micah 6:6-8,
Samuel's answer to Saul, 1 Samuel 15:22,
the answer of the scribes to Christ, Mark 12:33,
all concur in establishing this point beyond a doubt.

These considerations may well prepare us to acknowledge,

II. The superior excellence of vital godliness.

The view here given of vital godliness deserves attention.

True religion, as it is experienced in the heart, consists in faith and love, or in such a "knowledge of God" as produces "mercy" both to the bodies and the souls of men. Our blessed Lord twice quotes the words of our text, and explains them in this very manner. He was vindicating on one occasion the conduct of his disciples, for plucking some ears of corn on the Sabbath-day. What they had done was certainly allowable on any other day, but probably not on the Sabbath without some urgent necessity. Such a necessity existed in the present case; and as that plea was sufficient to vindicate David in a far more exceptionable violation of the law, and as it was acknowledged to be a full justification of the priests whose labors on the Sabbath were very great, so it was a sufficient excuse for the disciples, as their accusers would have known, if they had understood the meaning of the declaration in the text, Matthew 12:1-7. See also Matthew 9:10-13, where our Lord adduced the same passage, in vindication of his own conduct in associating with sinners.

III. Such religion as is here described, is far more excellent than any outward observances whatever.

1. This is valuable in itself; whereas the mere external performance of ceremonies are valuable only in relation to the ends for which they were instituted.

A "knowledge of God," and a delight in the exercise of "mercy" to the bodies and the souls of men, renders us conformable to the image of Christ; it constitutes our fitness for Heaven, where both our knowledge and our love will be perfected. But the performance of ceremonies, as has already been shown, is worthless, if it is not instrumental to the production of humiliation and trust, of purity and zeal. Duties which do not bring us to God, and God to us, are good for nothing.

2. This argues real conversion; whereas the mere external performance of ceremonies will consist with the most ungodly state.

No man can know God as reconciled to him in Christ Jesus, or love his fellow-creatures for Christ's sake, unless he is renewed in the spirit of his mind. He may possess carnal wisdom, together with humanity and compassion, while he is yet unregenerate; but, if he has that faith and that love which are the essential constituents of vital godliness, he must have been born again; because he could not have these things, if they had not been given to him from above.

But any man may be observant of ceremonies; as the Pharisees themselves were, at the very same time that they were slaves of pride, of covetousness, and of hypocrisy.

3. This invariably honors God; whereas the mere external performance of ceremonies are often the means of greatly dishonoring him.

The exercises of faith and love are but very partially seen by mortal eyes; their sublimer operations are known only to Him who beholds the secret desires of the soul. But that which is seen, compels men to acknowledge the excellence of true religion. Even the enemies of God are constrained to respect the godly, and to admire the grace of God in them. But an attendance on ordinances is often substituted for the whole of religion; as though God were no better than an idol, either not discerning, or at least not regarding, the dispositions of the heart. Can a greater insult than this be offered to Jehovah? or can anything reflect more dishonor upon him in the world Psalm 50:13-14.

Let vital godliness be thus contrasted with outward observances, and the text will be seen in its full import.


1. Those who are regardless of even the external forms of religion.

It is grievous to see how the Sabbaths are profaned, and the ordinances of the Gospel neglected. But consider, brethren, what must be the consequence of defying God in this daring and contemptuous manner? O, that you would lay it to heart, before it is too late!

2. Those who are attentive to the form, but regardless of the power, of religion.

"Having a form of godliness but denying its power." 2 Timothy 3:5

To those of your description, our Lord said, "Go, and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice!" We repeat his words, "Go, and learn this." A clear view of this passage will undeceive you. While you are destitute of faith and love, or not living in the daily exercise of them, you differ but little from those whom we have before addressed. They are open sepulchers, that pour forth their nauseous vapors before all; and you are "whited sepulchers," that, with a fair outside, retain all that is filthy and abominable within. It is with such people that God himself classes you now 2 Timothy 3:1-5; with such, if you repent not, you will be numbered to all eternity!

3. Those who possess vital religion in their hearts.

While the generality act as if religious forms were all, many are too apt to act as if form were nothing. There is in this respect a great fault among the professors of the present day; they are too apt to come late to the house of God; and to be irreverent in their postures while the different parts of divine worship are performed; sitting at their ease, when they should be either devoutly kneeling in their supplications, or standing up to sing the praises of Jehovah. This gives occasion to the world to say of you, "They mind the sermon, but care not at all about the prayers."

Beloved brethren, let there be no occasion for such a censure among us. It is dishonorable to our profession; it casts a stumbling-block in the way of the ungodly; and it is highly displeasing to our God. Where real necessity prevents an early attendance on God's worship, or infirmity of body requires an easy posture, the text applies in full force; but where these things do not exist, we must reverence the institutions of God and man; and the more humility we have, the more shall we manifest it in the whole of our deportment.




Hosea 6:7.

KJV. "But they, like men, have transgressed the covenant."

NIV. "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant"

The merciful nature of God's dispensations greatly aggravates our guilt in violating his commandments. The law indeed which he imposed upon the Jews was in some respects an intolerable burden; but in other points of view it was replete with love and mercy; for though its requirements were many—yet its provisions for the unintentional violation of its precepts were also numerous, and peculiarly suited to the character and condition of his people. He required of them sacrifices and burnt offerings; but that which he principally desired, was the exercise of holy affections towards himself, and towards each other; and while they were observant of their duties, he pledged himself to watch over them, to protect them, and to bless them.

But they were by no means sensible of their privileges, or duly affected with his love; on the contrary, "they, like men, transgressed the covenant."

In the margin of our Bibles, the text is translated, "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant;" and this seems the more proper translation. The words which are translated, "like men," occur only in two other passages of the Bible; in one of which it is actually translated, "like Adam, Job 31:33;" and in the other, that sense is evidently most agreeable to the context, Psalm 82:7. "You shall die like Adam, whose honors were once so great, but were quickly ruined." Thus in the text also it were far better to render the words, "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." It is in this sense we propose to interpret them; and in this sense they are well applicable to ourselves. We shall take occasion from them to show,

I. What covenant we have transgressed.

The peculiar covenant under which the Jews were, is altogether abrogated; and, as we have never been under it, we, of course, have never transgressed it. But we have transgressed,

1. The covenant of works.

By nature, we are all under this covenant. We are born under it; and it is as much in force against us at this time, as it ever was against those to whom it was first given. It requires perfect and perpetual obedience to the two tablets of the moral law; and it denounces an everlasting curse against every smallest violation of God's commandments, Galatians 3:10. It is needless to show that we have transgressed this covenant; for there has not been one day of our lives, wherein we have not transgressed it in ten thousand instances.

2. The covenant of grace.

This is the New Covenant which God has made with us, to remedy our breaches of the former covenant. The Old Covenant said, "Do this, and live." The New Covenant says, "Believe, and be saved." It proposes to us a Savior, who has made atonement for our sins, and wrought out a righteousness for us by his own obedience unto death. In and through Him, reconciliation is offered to us; and God engages to restore to everlasting happiness and glory all who will come to him in the name of Christ.

Now one would imagine that all should eagerly embrace this covenant, and hold it fast, with a determination never to lose the benefits it so freely offers. But the fact is, that men are even more averse to this covenant than to the covenant of works. They cannot endure to depend so entirely on another for their acceptance with God. They think they can make some compensation for their violations of the former covenant, and in some way or other fulfill its conditions so as to secure its rewards. They perhaps will borrow somewhat from the New Covenant, just to supply their deficiencies; but they cannot be prevailed upon to renounce the Old Covenant altogether, and to accept salvation by faith alone.

Let every one look back upon his past experience; and see whether he himself has not been leaning thus to something which he either has done, or has purposed to do, instead of prostrating himself at the Savior's feet, and imploring mercy solely through his blood and righteousness? Yes, whatever we may imagine, this has really been the experience of every living man; such transgressors have we been against the New Covenant itself, and against Christ the Mediator of it.

3. The special covenants which we ourselves have individually made with God.

In a time of sickness, or under conviction of sin, we have resolved that we would repent, and turn unto God in newness of heart and life. But have not the practices of every day contradicted these professions? Have we not broken all our vows and resolutions? And have not the world, the flesh, and the devil—yet too great an ascendency over our hearts? Behold then, "We are transgressors of the covenant;" and we have been "transgressors even from the womb."

To discover more fully the guilt of violating the covenant, let us consider,

II. With what aggravations we have transgressed it.

The having "sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" greatly enhances our guilt; since, in so doing:

1. We have sinned against the greatest obligations to obedience.

The obligations which had been conferred on Adam in Paradise, ought to have kept him steadfast in his obedience. He was endued with faculties superior to any other being upon earth. He was made capable of knowing, loving, and enjoying God. Yes, he was admitted to the most familiar converse with God. But notwithstanding all these favors, he transgressed.

Thus have we also done. Indeed the obligations conferred on us have been infinitely greater than any which Adam enjoyed, even in his state of innocence; for God has given us his only-begotten Son, to take upon him our nature, and to expiate our guilt by his own blood. Who can ever appreciate this favor, or compute its value? The tongue of an archangel cannot fully declare it; nor can any finite mind fully comprehend it! Yet, notwithstanding this obligation, we have sinned; yes; we have transgressed against a redeeming God; and have trampled on that very blood which he shed for our redemption. O what a fearful aggravation is this of all the guilt we have contracted!

2. We have sinned against the strongest motives to obedience.

Adam had not only his own salvation, but also the salvation of all his posterity, involved in his obedience. According to the covenant made with him, all his seed, to the very end of time, were to live in him, or in him to die. In this view it must be confessed, that his motives to steadfastness were more powerful than any which can operate on us.

But, however this may be, our motives to obedience are unspeakably great; the everlasting happiness or misery of our souls is now at stake. Heaven with all its glory, or Hell with all its torments, must be our portion; and upon our present conduct our eternal state depends.

Now can anyone reflect a moment on these considerations, and not stand amazed that ever he should be induced to violate the covenant of his God? Is it not astonishing that anything in the whole universe should prevail upon us to transgress under such circumstances, and to withstand such motives as these?

3. We have sinned under the slightest possible temptations to disobedience.

There was nothing lacking to Adam in Paradise that could at all conduce to his happiness. Nothing was denied him, but the fruit of one single tree, as a test of his obedience. And what temptation was this to him, who already possessed all that he could reasonably desire? But, as slight as the temptation was, he yielded to it.

In the same way, let us inquire, what our temptations are? A little money, a breath of honor, a momentary gratification; this is all that we can promise ourselves by transgressing the covenant; and what is this when set against eternity? What are we the happier at this moment for all our past transgressions? What is left to us from them all, but shame and remorse? And have we any reason to expect that the gratifications of sin in future will be more solid and permanent than those which we have enjoyed in times past? Behold then, this is the price for which we forego the hopes of Heaven, and entail upon ourselves the miseries of Hell! What desperate, what incredible infatuation!


1. How striking a contrast is there between God and us!

We violate our covenant continually upon the most trifling temptations, and that too in spite of the strongest motives and obligations to the contrary! But does God ever violate his covenant? He has engaged to receive every returning prodigal who comes to him in the name of Jesus; and did we ever hear of so much as one whom he spurned from his footstool? He has engaged also to "keep the feet of his saints," and to "perfect that which concerns them."

Can we adduce one single instance of a real saint whom he has finally, and forever, forsaken? No! he may have left hypocrites, to show all that was in their hearts; and may have punished his own people with a temporary suspension of his favors; but "he has sworn once by his holiness that he will not lie unto David," or "cast off his people forever;" and this covenant he never has broken, nor ever will.

Yet what motives has he had, or what obligations have been laid upon him, to keep covenant and mercy with us? Truly none. But has he not had temptations enough to abandon us? Yes, such temptations as none but a God of infinite perfections could have withstood. Every day, every hour, every moment, we have been provoking him to anger; but he is the unchangeable Jehovah, and therefore it is that we are not consumed.

O admire then the faithfulness of your God; and abase yourselves before him, as vile, faithless, and rebellious creatures!

2. How thankful should we be for the covenant of grace!

The covenant of works made no provision for one single breach of its commands; it instantly, and irreversibly, doomed the transgressor to destruction. But the covenant of grace makes provision for all the offences that ever were committed, provided we seek a saving interest in it. Here at this moment we may obtain all that we stand in need of. Here is:
pardon for all our sins;
strength against all our temptations;
peace to comfort us in all trials.

In short, here is grace and glory, and whatever we can desire for body or for soul, for time or for eternity!

All is offered to us freely in the name of Jesus; we have only to believe in Jesus, and all is ours.

O brethren, be thankful for this "covenant, which is ordered in all things and sure;" and embrace it with your whole hearts. Then, notwithstanding your past transgressions of it have been more numerous than the sands upon the seashore, they shall all be forgiven; and you shall "stand before God without spot or blemish!"




Hosea 7:2.

"They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sinful deeds are all around them, and I see them all!"

It is certain that many who have the Gospel dispensed to them continue ignorant of its very first principles, and "perish at last for lack of knowledge."

Yet there are still more who destroy their own souls through inconsideration. They will not attend to the things they do know, or allow the principles they have received to have any influence upon their minds.

Thus it was with Israel of old; they committed all manner of abominations, Hosea 6:7; Hosea 6:9-10, and, when God was desirous to "heal them," were bent as much as ever on the prosecution of their own evil ways, verse 1; and the reason of this is assigned by God himself in the words of our text; it is justly traced to their inconsideration; the prevalence and folly of which we propose to set before you.

I. The prevalence of inconsideration.

We propose not to speak of inconsideration at large, but only as it respects God's omniscience, and our accountableness to him.

It is an undoubted truth, that God "remembers all our wickedness". Reason alone were sufficient to determine this point; for if God does not remember all the transactions of men—then how can he judge the world?

If we would ascertain the point from matter of fact, we may notice the injunction given to Israel to extirpate the Amalekites, above three hundred years after they had committed the sin for which this judgment was to be inflicted on them! 1 Samuel 15:2.

And at the close of David's reign, a famine of three years was sent as a punishment of Saul's treachery in seeking to destroy the Gibeonites; nor was the punishment removed, until exemplary vengeance had been taken on the family of the departed monarch, 2 Samuel 21:1-9.

In Scripture there is, as we might well expect, abundant proof of this fundamental axiom. God declares it, as in many other places, Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:9, so in the very verse from whence our text is taken, "They are always before my face."

In matters of more than ordinary importance, God often appeals to men respecting the truth of his own assertions. Accordingly this is made a subject of appeal, "Is not the wickedness of men sealed up as in a bag, and deposited in my treasury," to be brought forth against them at the day of judgment? Deuteronomy 32:34-35 with Job 14:17.

Further, because he would have this truth impressed on the minds of all, he even swears in confirmation of it, "The Lord has sworn by the excellence of Jacob, I will never forget the wicked things you have done!"

But as plain and important as this truth is, men do not consider it.

No man is so ignorant as not to be acquainted with this truth. There are many indeed who will put forth atheistical opinions for the sake of vindicating their own conduct, and silencing the accusations of conscience; they will say, like those of old, "Tush, God shall not see; neither will the Almighty regard it! Psalm 94:7." But in their sober hours they will not hesitate to confess, that God both sees all their wickedness, and will remember it in order to a future retribution.

But the evil is, that, though men confess this truth:
they do not consider it;
they do not like to give it a place in their minds;
they cannot bear to have it suggested to them.

If the thought of it arises in their minds, they rush into business, or into company and dissipation, to get rid of it.

That they do not consider it, is manifest. For could they sin with so much ease, if they did? Or could they maintain such tranquility of mind after having committed sin? Would not the thought of God's eye being upon them, cast some restraint upon their pleasure? Would not the expectation of a future recompense occasion some disquietude?

We are sure that many of those evils which are committed under the cover of the night, would not be committed, if only the presence of a superior should be seasonably interposed.

How then must the presence of Almighty God awe us, if we would but duly consider it! Suppose a cup of poison were put into our hands, and we were informed that within a few hours after we had drank it, we would be racked with inexpressible agony, and in the space of one day should die in excessive torment—would we not reflect a moment before we ventured to drink it? And supposing us foolish enough to sacrifice our lives for a momentary gratification, would we not put the cup to our lips with a trembling hand? And after we had swallowed the contents, would we not feel some concern, some regret, some sense of our folly? Could we go away and laugh at what we had done, and boast of it, and encourage our friends to do the same? If we could not, the reason is obvious.

Much more therefore should we be affected with a dread of future sin, and a sorrow for the past, if we considered who is privy to our actions, and how certainly he will remember them to our everlasting confusion!

To counteract this prevailing thoughtlessness, we will endeavor to expose,

II. The folly of thoughtlessness.

Such inconsideration can be productive of no good, and must be attended with incalculable harm to the soul.

1. Our thoughtlessness will not induce forgetfulness in God.

Among our fellow-creatures our conduct may have considerable effect; and others may be lulled asleep by means of our carnal security. But God is occupied in his work, whether we are in ours or not.

He wakes, though we sleep.

He sees us, though we think ourselves hidden from his sight.

He marks our every thought, though we are regardless of him.

Nor does he ever feel more indignation, than when we feel ourselves most secure and hidden.

We may wickedly think that he is even such a one as ourselves; but he will reprove us for what we have done amiss, and will set it in order before our eyes! Psalm 50:21.

Nor is it the act only of murder or adultery alone, that he will remember, but the look, the desire, the thought, yes "all" our wickedness, of whatever kind or whatever degree!

2. Our thoughtlessness will rob us of all the benefits we might receive by reflection.

If we did but consider that God has noted down all our wickedness, the next thought would be: How shall we get it blotted out of his book? This would lead us to see the inefficacy of our tears to wash away our guilt; and would stimulate us to inquire after that Savior, whose "blood cleanses from all sin." Thus we might obtain the remission of our sins, and be restored to the favor of our offended God. But inconsideration robs us of all this.

We shall never repent of our evil ways, until we have "considered" them.

We shall never seek for mercy, until we have "considered" our guilt and danger.

We shall never flee to Christ, until we have "considered" our need of him. "The whole need not a physician, but those who are sick."

Can a thoughtless sinner take this view of the subject, and not confess his folly?

3. Our thoughtlessness will lead us only to multiply our offences against God.

The necessary consequence of inconsideration, is that we continue to live each succeeding day and year in the same manner as we did in time past; and, in many cases, harden ourselves more and more in wickedness! If we would at the close of every day call ourselves to an account how the day had been spent, and what God had recorded concerning us in His book of his remembrance, we would certainly abstain from many sins, which we now commit without thought or remorse! Even if the Sabbath alone were spent in this holy exercise, we would be kept from rushing into perdition as the horse into the battle. But we are like a spendthrift, who, never considering how great his debts are, or how he shall discharge them, runs on from one extravagance to another, until he has accumulated a debt which involves him in disgrace and misery! Yes, we resemble a man on the eve of bankruptcy, who, knowing that his affairs are ruined, cannot endure to examine his accounts, but proceeds in the best way he can, until the fatal hour arrives, and his insolvency is declared. But, oh! what madness is it thus to "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath!"

4. Our thoughtlessness will certainly issue in long and painful reflection in Hell.

We may shake off reflection here on earth; but the time is coming when we must and shall consider. God has said, "In the latter day you shall consider it perfectly! Jeremiah 23:20. Yes, as soon as we come into the eternal world, we shall have a perfect view of all our past wickedness; we shall see it, not as we do now, through the medium of prejudice and self-love—but as God sees it, in all its enormity and with all its aggravations. The sins of thought as well as of act, the sins of omission as well as of commission, will all be open to our view; and there will be no possibility of diverting our attention from them.

God bids us now to consider; and we will not. But what shall we do in that day when he shall answer our cries with this severe rebuke, "Son, remember, Luke 16:25." You will remember:
all the sins you have committed,
all the warnings you have neglected,
all the mercies you have abused,
all the opportunities you have lost!

O sad remembrance! O dreary prospect of unalterable and irremediable misery! Were it not then better to consider in time, when the most painful reflections will be beneficial, than to protract the period of consideration until it shall he ten thousand times more painful, and altogether unavailing?


1. Call your past ways to remembrance.

However long ago any of your sins may have been committed, they are as fresh in God's memory, and as hateful in his sight, as if they had been committed this very hour before His face! Endeavor then to get the same view of your sins as God has. Collect them all together; and what a dreadful mass will they appear! If you could suppose them all to have been crowded into the space of one day, and yesterday to have been the day in which they were all committed, what a monster would you appear in your own eyes! Yet, admitting the enormity of each sin to have been precisely such as it was at the moment of its commission, and such as it exists at present—such is the light in which you are viewed by God. Do not turn away your eyes from this painful sight; you must behold it sooner or later. If you delay to look at it, the black catalogue of crimes will still increase, and the sight of them be yet more terrible. In the name of God then, I entreat you all, "Consider your ways!" Haggai 1:5; Haggai 1:7."

2. Seek to have your sins blotted out from the book of God's remembrance.

It has already been observed that this may be done. Though you neither have, nor can have, anything to merit such a favor, God is willing to bestow it for his own name's sake; his Word to you is, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins! Isaiah 43:25. He even promises to "cast them into the very depths of the sea! Micah 7:19," from whence they shall never be brought against you. Yes, he "covenants" to efface them, as it were from his own memory; and says, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more, Jeremiah 31:34." And will you not seek this mercy? Is it too soon yet awhile for you to enjoy salvation? Will you not be happier in the possession of salvation, than in the continuance of your sins? Think how such a proposal would be received by those who are now reflecting upon their ways in Hell—would they need to be urged a second time to ask for mercy?

O seek salvation instantly;
seek salvation with all importunity;
seek it in the adorable name of Jesus;
seek it after the example of the saints of old, Psalm 25:7; Psalm 79:8.
And then, "though your sins have been as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they have been red like crimson, they shall be as white as wool."

3. Endeavor to walk as in the presence of God.

A sense of the Divine presence will be an excellent preservative from sin. We know how careful we are of our conduct in the presence of anyone whose good opinion we value. Let us "set the Lord always before us, Psalm 16:8-9; Psalm 51:1-2; Psalm 51:7."

In order that our circumspection may be increased, and that we may be kept as much from secret as from open sin, from sin in the heart as well as sin in the life:

Let us "commune much with our own hearts in our chamber, and be still, Psalm 4:4."

Let us strive to keep a conscience void of offence, and to approve ourselves in all things to "Him, who searches the heart, and tries the thoughts."

Let it be our ambition, that on every day more and more acts of piety may be recorded in the book of God's remembrance; so that he may "remember us for good. See Nehemiah 13:14; Nehemiah 13:22; Nehemiah 13:31 and Psalm 106:4-5," while we are here on earth, and welcome us as "good and faithful servants" when we enter into the eternal world!




Hosea 7:8-9.

KJV. "Ephraim, he has mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knows it not; yes, grey hairs are here and there upon him—yet he knows it not."

NIV. "Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over. Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice."

If the body is oppressed with sickness, we inquire into the symptoms of the disorder, and trace it, if possible, to its proper cause.

The same course is proper in reference to the soul. The prophet is representing the declining, and almost desolate, condition of the ten tribes; and, in the words before us, he marks the particular sins which had provoked God to forsake them; and the fearful consequences of their transgressions. The Israelites had, in direct opposition to God's command, united themselves with the heathen, and incorporated many of their idolatrous rites with the worship of the true God. They were even "mad upon their idols," while they were very cold and indifferent in what related to Jehovah. In consequence of this, God gave them up into the hands of their enemies. Pul, king of Assyria, exhausted their treasures by the tribute he imposed, 2 Kings 15:19; and the king of Syria reduced their armies to a mere shadow, "making them even as the dust by threshing, 2 Kings 13:7." Proofs and evidences of decay were visible in every department of the state, and such as indicated approaching dissolution; yet such was the infatuation of the people, that they were as unconcerned and secure as if they had been in the most safe and flourishing condition!

It is not however our intention to enter any further into the history of the ten tribes. We shall rather draw your attention to our own personal concerns, of which theirs was a type and shadow; and we shall proceed to point out the causes and symptoms of spiritual decay.

I. The causes of spiritual decay.

The two things mentioned in the text will be found among the most fruitful sources of declension in the divine life:

1. An undue connection with the world.

A certain degree of fellowship with mankind is necessary, in order to a due discharge of our civil and social duties. But if we mix with the world by choice, we shall go contrary to the commands of God, and suffer loss in our souls. We are enjoined to "come out from among them, and be separate! Romans 12:2. Psalm 45:10-11." God even appeals to us respecting the impossibility of maintaining with propriety any intimate communion with them, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; and our Lord characterizes his followers as being no more of the world than he himself was, John 17:14.

But some religious professors connect themselves more closely, and involve themselves more deeply, with the world in business, than they need to do.

Others associate with them as companions.

Others are so blinded by their passions, as to unite themselves with them in marriage.

What must we expect to be the result of such conduct? Must it not expose us to many temptations? Are we not, when so circumstanced, likely to drink into the spirit of the world, and to be drawn into a conformity to their ways? Surely the falls and apostasies of many must be traced to this source; and it will be well if this evil does not become fatal to some of us.

2. A partial regard to God.

A "cake" baked upon the coals and "not turned," would be burned up on one side, while it was altogether doughy on the other side.

This fitly represents the state of those who are cold and indifferent in things relating to religion, but excessively ardent in their pursuit of other objects. Yet what is more common than such a state?

Some professors are so intent on their worldly business, and have their hearts so engaged in it, as scarcely to have any zeal left for spiritual things.

Some are occupied with this or that favorite study, in comparison with which the Bible, and prayer, and communion with God, have no charms for them.

Some are inflamed by politics, and are never happy but when they are declaiming upon the affairs of state.

Some are so intent upon the circumstantials of religion, such as Baptism or Church-government, that they seem to think an agreement with them in their opinions on those subjects as essential to salvation as even piety itself.

Some again are heated by controversy about certain doctrines, while, alas! they pay but little attention to their duties, especially the duties of humility and love.

What wonder if the soul languishes, when its eternal interests are thus postponed to matters of inferior importance? If we would adorn our holy profession, we must be penetrated throughout with a fervent regard to God; and all other things must be subordinated to the one thing needful.

Having traced the causes of spiritual decay, let us notice,

II. The symptoms of spiritual decay.

Agreeably to what has been observed in relation to the Israelites, we shall mention three marks, which, in the progressive stages of decay, will show themselves in a declining soul:

1. Inward weakness.

Maintaining a pious life requires our utmost efforts. Without . . .
a fixedness of purpose,
an intenseness of thought,
an ardor of desire,
and a resoluteness of conduct,
we cannot get forward in our Christian course.

But when we have declined from God, all these are proportionably relaxed. The bow is unstrung, and cannot shoot the arrow to the mark, Hosea 7:16.

We take up the Bible; but it is a sealed book.

We address ourselves to prayer; but our mouths are shut, and we cannot utter a word before God.

The spiritual duties which once were easy, have become arduous and irksome.

The temptations which once had lost all their force, now obstruct our way, and entangle our feet!

The cross of persecution for Jesus, which was once an object of holy glorying, and served only to animate us to fresh exertions—now becomes an object of terror; and instead of taking it up with cheerfulness, we study as much as possible to avoid it.

Let us look and see, whether "strangers have not devoured our strength," and whether "the things which remain in us are not ready to die! Revelation 3:2."

2. Outward proofs of that weakness.

"Grey hairs" are indications of declining strength. They are first thinly interspersed; and afterwards diffused over the whole head. Thus are the symptoms of decline small at first, and scarcely visible, except upon close inspection. They will however appear, when the inward weakness has commenced. There will be:
a visible alteration in the character;
a proud imperious spirit will be more ready to show itself;
fretfulness and impatience will more easily arise.

A change will be found in our dealings with the world. We shall be less open, less generous, less scrupulous about adhering to truth, or practicing the tricks of trade.

In our families also will a deterioration of our state be manifest. There will be less attention paid to their spiritual interests. The Word of God will not be read to them with such practical and interesting remarks; nor will the devotions be conducted with life; but will degenerate into a mere form.

In the prayer-closet, more especially, the symptoms of our decay will be seen. Prayer will probably be a mere lip-service, and frequently be entirely omitted.

The sacred volume will either be glanced over in haste, or lie wholly neglected.

In short, there will be . . .
no delight in God,
no peaceful serenity of mind,
no joyful hope of eternal life. These things will be exchanged . . .
for gloom and melancholy,
for sighs and sorrows,
for an accusing conscience,
for a dread of death!

3. Insensibility to spiritual realities under that weakness.

Things have proceeded far when this mark appears. But it is the natural effect of sin to:
blind the eyes,
and harden the heart,
and sear the conscience!
1 John 2:11. Hebrews 3:13. 1 Timothy 4:2.

Twice is it said of the Israelites in the text, "They knew it not." They had contracted a stupid indifference, bordering on judicial blindness and infatuation. And this is the state to which many professors of religion are reduced. Others see their grey hairs, but they see them not. They have ceased to look into the looking-glass of God's Word, or to examine themselves. They have quieted their minds by some carnal expedient of business, or company, or by comparing themselves with others.

Deplorable indeed is their condition! If they are not soon roused from their lethargy, they will have reason to wish they had never been born, or never seen the light of Gospel truth! 2 Peter 2:20-21.


1. Those who are resting in a formal religion.

Genuine religion is a state of holy active exertion in the things pertaining to God. God says to us, "My son, give me your heart! Proverbs 23:26." Without the heart, our services are of no value. Look to it then, my brethren, that you get your hearts quickened by the Spirit of God. You must not be satisfied with seeking, "you must strive to enter in at the strait gate! Luke 13:24." You must "take the kingdom of Heaven by violence, Matthew 11:12." Beg of God then, that you may be "renewed by the Spirit in your inward man," and be enabled, so to fight as to conquer, so to run as to win the prize! 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26.

2. Those who profess to experience "the power of godliness".

Astonishing is the deceitfulness of the human heart! We all see in others defects, of which they themselves are not conscious. And can we suppose that we ourselves also are not blind to our own defects? Yes; and perhaps the very locks of hair which we think to be our greatest ornaments, are full of grey hairs! Our graces perhaps are rather the resemblance of virtue, than the reality of virtue.

Our humility may be mere affectation.

Our zeal may be pride.

Our confidence may be mere carnal presumption.

Let us "be jealous over ourselves with a godly jealousy, 2 Corinthians 11:2." Let us search and try ourselves, Lamentations 3:40; and beg of God also to search and try us, Psalm 139:23. Let us be careful that we set out well, and then labor to "go on from strength to strength, until we appear before God in Zion! Psalm 84:7."




Hosea 7:13.

KJV. "Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me."

NIV. "Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me."

Such is the foolishness of unregenerate men, that they always promise themselves security in the ways of sin. But it is certain that they are never more in danger than when they imagine themselves most secure. They may be well compared to a bird that is allured to a net; it hears the notes that call and invite it to the society of some kindred bird; fearless of danger, it obeys the summons; it hastens to the place from whence the sound issues, little thinking that, instead of a companion, it shall find a foe! The fowler, however, who has spread the net, sees that the unsuspecting bird is quickly to resign its liberty, and perhaps its life.

Thus it is with those who listen to the enchanting voice of sin; they follow it, but know not that it is for their life! Proverbs 7:23. The word of Jehovah is gone forth, nor can it ever be reversed; it says, "Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done!" "When he says, Peace and safety, then shall sudden destruction come upon him as travail upon a woman with child, and he shall not escape!" To this purpose God speaks to the Israelites in the passage before us; he says, "Ephraim is like a silly dove, without heart; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria; but when they go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the birds of the heavens." Having thus represented their danger in figurative expressions, he declares it plainly in the most awful terms, "Woe to them, because they have fled from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me."

From these words, we will endeavor to set before you:

I. The state of men in general.

To those who can see nothing but the outward conduct, there may appear to be a very considerable difference between the states of different men.

The moral and decent may be esteemed exceeding righteous and good.

The openly wicked and profane are execrated as exceeding vile.

And it must be acknowledged, that, as far as the conduct of these different people respects society, there is a great difference between them. But God, who looks at the heart, and estimates everything by the respect it has to him, sees that all men are very nearly on the same level; all men appear to him as "sepulchers, full of all impurity."

Some indeed appear outwardly moral, while others reveal all their deformity. Still, however, inwardly they are all the same.

In the first place, all flee from God.

Adam had no sooner sinned, than he lost his delight in God, and fled from the presence of his Maker. From that time, all his descendants have felt the same aversion to God; they love not the ordinances where God reveals himself to men; when God calls them, "they all begin with one consent to make excuse;" some plead their social engagements; others the pressure of worldly business; all have some plea to make; all say, in effect, I can not, or, I will not, come.

In dangers or in troubles, they will rather go to the creature than to God; even under a sense of sin, they will rather flee to their own resolutions, and trust in their own endeavors, than they will rely upon the strength and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.

When God calls, they turn a deaf ear to his invitations. When he follows them, as it were, by the convictions of his Spirit, they actually "flee from him;" they shake off the thoughts that trouble them; they endeavor to drown reflection in business or pleasure; and the whole language of their hearts and actions is, like theirs in Job, "Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of your ways! Job 21:14."

But the aversion to God which carnal men feel, is carried much further; they not only flee from him, as finding no pleasure, no satisfaction in his presence—but they also "rebel against God."

The law is yet in a measure written on their hearts, but they will not comply with its dictates. They see clearly, in many things, that such or such a course of action must be displeasing to God, and "that they who do such things are worthy of death. Yet they both do these things themselves, and have pleasure in those that do them;" choosing them for their companions, and countenancing them in their actions. Nor is this occasionally only, and through temptation or inadvertence. No! It is the settled course and tenor of their lives. The commands or prohibitions of God have no weight with them; whatever is reputable in the world, or agreeable to themselves—that they do! Whenever their sensual inclinations or worldly interests strongly bias them to any line of conduct, it soon appears that they have cast off the yoke of God, and that they feel no restraint whatever, except that which arises from temporal considerations.

Nor is this all; they "speak lies against God!" They declare in the face of the whole world, that the service of sin and Satan is to be preferred before the service of God! In every transgression they commit, they virtually speak to this effect: "This is happiness! As for obedience to God, that would be an insupportable restraint! True happiness consists in renouncing all allegiance to God, and in following our own will!"

Moreover they say, like those of old, "The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil, Zephaniah 1:12." That is "if we serve him, we shall have no profit; nor shall we sustain any loss if we serve him not." We must remember, that God interprets our actions; and considers men as speaking those things which their conduct shows to be the secret language of their hearts. Indeed, this is strictly just; for all must allow that actions speak more forcibly, and more truly, than words.

But will the Lord really do neither good or evil?

Will he not reward those that diligently seek him?

Will he clear the guilty, and allow them to pass unpunished?

No! Assuredly, "he will put a difference between the righteous and the wicked; between those who serve him, and those who serve him not! Malachi 3:18." Yet such are the lies which ungodly men are speaking against him.

Everyone can see that this is really the state of carnal unregenerate men. Do they not thus flee from God's presence, transgress against his laws, and, in their conduct at least, misrepresent him to the world?

Let us look around, and see whether this is not a true picture of mankind? Let mere professors look into their own bosoms, and see whether it does not exactly represent themselves? It may be that they have not been so openly immoral as others; but yet, if they will examine their own hearts, they shall see that they have been as far from any real delight in secret communion with God as the most profligate man on earth! They have been as far from sacrificing all their own interests and inclinations to the will and law of God as the most flagrant rebel in the world. Nor have they, in their actions, been living witnesses for the truth of God, any more than those who have denied every word of the Bible! This then is clearly the state of all mere professors—they are unregenerate men.

We come now to show you,

II. The peculiar sinfulness of their state.

If, without attending to any collateral circumstances, we were simply to point out the evil which is contained in the foregoing conduct, methinks the state of such men would appear beyond measure sinful; but the sinfulness of it is greatly aggravated by the consideration in my text, "I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me!"

If we call to mind the mercies which had been given to the Israelites, we shall perceive that the malignity of their sins was exceedingly enhanced by the obligations which had been conferred upon them—they had been delivered from their bondage in Egypt, and brought to a land flowing with milk and honey.

Such an interposition as this never had been known from the beginning of the world:
that God should go and take an oppressed nation out of the midst of another nation;
that he should reign over them as their king;
that he should destroy seven nations greater and mightier than they, and establish them in the possession of their land;
that he should, in ten thousand instances, step forth as their protector and deliverer, when they were reduced to the lowest state of wretchedness and misery;
that he should grant them, not one deliverance only, but many.

This, I say, required the most ample returns of gratitude and obedience; the ingratitude therefore which they manifested, stamped a tenfold malignity on every sin they committed!

But we have an infinitely better redemption given to us—a Redemption of which theirs was but a type and shadow. We have been redeemed from a far sorer bondage:
even from bondage to sin and Satan;
from all the curses of the broken law;
from all the miseries of death and Hell!

We have also been brought into a better land—not to the possession of mere temporal comforts, but to spiritual and eternal happiness; to the society of glorified saints and angels; to an incorruptible, undefiled, and never-fading inheritance! In short, to all the glory of Heaven!

This has been accomplished also for us by far more wonderful and endearing means:

God has sent his own Son into our guilty world.

God has sent him to become a man, and to stand in our stead.

God has sent him to give his own life a ransom for us.

God has sent him to pay the price of our redemption.

God has appointed his beloved son:
to save to the uttermost, every one of his redeemed;
to support and guide them through this dreary wilderness;
and to conduct them, with a mighty hand and an out-stretched arm, to the full possession of their eternal inheritance!

O, what a Redemption is this! What obligations does this lay upon us to be faithful and obedient! And what a fearful aggravation must this be of all our disobedience!

Yet, behold, we are the people whose transgressions are so multiplied; we are those whom Christ came from Heaven to seek and save; and yet we flee from his presence. We are those for whose sakes "he gave himself, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a special people, zealous of good works!" Yet we are continually transgressing against him; we are those towards whom he has shown such astonishing love and mercy. Yet we are saying, that he regards us not, and that it will be in vain to serve him.

Ah, brethren, is there no guilt in such a state? Shall not God be avenged of such a people as this? Do not look at your sins merely as they affect society—that is no just criterion; that is no proper test. Estimating your conduct merely in that view, you will be ready to applaud yourselves as righteous, if you should happen to have escaped the grosser pollutions of the world. But view your sins as contrasted with the love of Christ. See him dying to bring you to God, and yet yourselves "fleeing from God!"

See him shedding his blood to cleanse you from sin, and yet yourselves continuing to "transgress!"

See him faithfully executing everything he had undertaken for you, and yet yourselves "lying against him!"

This is the light wherein to view your conduct. Draw near, then, and see it; ponder it in your hearts; consider it well.

What offence can a servant commit against his master, or a child against his parent, or a man against his benefactor, that can bear any proportion to the smallest offence that you have committed against Christ? And yet you have offended times without number, and that too without any remorse; as though you were at liberty to trample upon the most sacred obligations that God is able to confer upon you. Ah, Beloved! know every one of you, that "God sees not as man sees;" he considers things not according to man's estimation, but as they really are; and when he shall call you to an account, you will see every sin aggravated by redeeming love; you will see that, in fact, you "crucify Christ afresh, you trample under foot his blood, you put him to an open shame." And "shall not God punish for these things?" Yes, assuredly.

I will proceed therefore to set before you,

III. The danger of such a state.

You can bear me witness, my friends, that I do not delight in setting forth the terrors of the Lord. I find it far more pleasant to be publishing the glad tidings, and to be expatiating on the fullness and freeness of Gospel salvation; but I must not conceal from you what God speaks concerning you. Were I to be unfaithful to you in this respect, I would but betray your souls to eternal damnation; and "your blood would be required at my hands."

Attend therefore to the solemn denunciations of God's wrath against you! "Woe to them, because they have fled from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me!" Woe and destruction comprehend both present and eternal misery.

There is much woe, even in this life, as the consequence of sin. Who can tell the alarms which haunt the wicked in their secret retirements? Who can tell the apprehensions the ungodly feel at the approach of death? I know that they may "sear their consciences," so far as to become "past feeling;" and they may delude themselves with ungrounded hopes, so far as even to attain a confidence of their safety. But notwithstanding this, it is certain that "there is no peace to the wicked!" Wherever they go, and whatever they do, they have no solid peace; they are either harassed with tumultuous passions, or terrified with fears of future retribution. God has said repeatedly, that "there is no peace to the wicked."

But let us suppose that they pass through life with tolerable serenity; what will they do at the instant of their departure from the body? Then they will begin to understand the meaning of the word "destruction!" Now perhaps they listen to it with indifference; but then they cannot remain insensible to it. What terror must seize them when they behold the face of incensed Majesty—when they see that God, whose laws they have trampled on, and that Savior whose redemption they have slighted! What agony must pierce their souls, when they hear him say, "Depart, accursed, into everlasting fire!" And, when they are hurled headlong into the bottomless abyss, when they are lying down in flames of fire, and know that they must "dwell with everlasting burnings"—then how will they gnash their teeth with anguish! How will they curse the day that they were born! How will they curse themselves for their own folly in neglecting redeeming love!

But can it be, that they who live in the state before described, are exposed to all this misery? Yes, "Woe unto them! Destruction unto them!" says Jehovah. And the apostle says, "that they who know not God and obey not his Gospel," or, in other words, they who flee from God and trample on redeeming love, "shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power! 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9."

The whole sacred volume attests and confirms this solemn truth; every part of it speaks to the same effect as David, "The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the people that forget God! Psalm 9:17."

Now, my friends, deceive not your own souls. To what purpose will it be, to be speaking peace to yourselves, when God is denouncing "woe and destruction" unto you? If you say that you are not the worst of sinners—what will that avail you? If you say that you are honest, and just, and sober—what is all that to the purpose? This, and more than this, the Pharisee could say for himself; yet was he not hereby justified.

The only question is, Do you answer to the character drawn in my text?

Have you not "fled from God?"

Have you not "rebelled against him?"

Have you not "spoken lies against him?"

If you are disposed to deny any of these charges, consider with yourselves: Have you sought your happiness in communion with God? When he has said, "Seek my face," has your heart always answered, "Your face, Lord, will I seek?"

Are you not also transgressors against his law? Have you not been just now acknowledging upon your knees, that "you have done those things which you ought not to have done, and left undone those things which you ought to have done?" Can you affirm that the constant course and tenor of your life has proclaimed to all around you, that "to fear God and keep his commandments was the whole end and happiness of man?" No! "every mouth must be shut; and not you only, but the whole world, must become guilty before God."

Know then that you, and that every man, while in an unregenerate state, is exposed to the wrath of God; and that that wrath will come upon you to the uttermost, if you "flee not for refuge to the Hope set before you!"

We will now conclude, with two inferences from the whole:

1. What suitable provision is made for us in the Gospel!

You have seen the awful state of unregenerate men, and will be ready to doubt whether there can be any help or hope for people so circumstanced. But thanks be to our God and Father, that he has not left us to perish in our sins! on the contrary, he has pitied us, and sent us his only dear Son to deliver us from our lost estate. As numberless as our iniquities have been, they were all laid upon the head of Jesus, our great Sacrifice; all were expiated by his blood; so that God can be "just, and yet the justifier of those who repent and believe" the Gospel.

O brethren, be thankful for this provision; be thankful that you are not only permitted, but commanded, to come to Christ for a free and full remission of all your sins!

Have you "fled from" your God and Father? Behold! Jesus, his beloved Son, is come to seek and save you.

Have you "rebelled against" him times without number? The blood of Jesus is shed to cleanse you from all sin.

Have you in the whole course of your life "spoken nothing but lies" against your adorable Redeemer? That very Redeemer will make you to experience his inviolable truth, in receiving you to mercy, and in rejecting none that come unto him.

Surely, if bread is suited to the hungry, or water is suited to the thirsty—then the provision set before us in the Gospel exactly suited to the needs and necessities of all who feel their need of mercy.

2. How happy are those who have cordially embraced the Gospel!

In two respects have they experienced a most blessed change; namely, in their character and condition. You have heard that the natural and unconverted man flees from God, rebels against him, and speaks lies against him. Not so the man that is converted:
he flees to God;
he seeks the Divine presence;
he desires the favor of God more than life, and esteems "his loving-kindness better than life itself."

If any asks him, "Who will show us any good?" his answer is like David's, "Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us."

He now also desires to serve and obey God; it is his grief and burden that he cannot get rid of sin; he longs for holiness; he desires to be changed into the Divine image; he wishes to be in Heaven, not merely because he shall there be free from trouble, but because he shall be free from sin!

Now he is a living witness for the truth of God; he "sets to his seal that God is true;" he is not afraid to testify before the whole world, that God's service is perfect freedom, and that "in keeping his commandments there is great reward!" His whole life proclaims to those around him, that God is a mighty God, and greatly to be feared—yet that he is also a loving, merciful, and faithful God, and therefore worthy to be loved and trusted with the whole heart.

You have heard also that woe and destruction are denounced against the unconverted; but there is no woe, no destruction, to the converted. No, "his sins are put away from him, as far as the east is from the west;" while the iniquities of the ungodly are (as we are told) "sealed up in a bag," to be brought forth against them in the day of judgment.

The iniquities that have been committed by a converted soul, are, from the first moment of his conversion, "cast into the depths of the sea! Micah 7:19." They are not cast into the shallows, from whence they might be recovered—but into the depths, never more to be brought to remembrance. Whoever then you are who have embraced the Gospel—rejoice, and leap for joy, on account of the blessed change that you have experienced! If your consciences testify, that you are really seeking after God, that you desire to be delivered from all sin, and that you are endeavoring to be witnesses for God in the world—the rejoice, "for it well befits your souls to be thankful."

You have been redeemed; rejoice therefore in the redemption given unto you, "you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God with your bodies and your spirits, which are God's!"




Hosea 7:14.

KJV. "They have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me."

NIV. "They do not cry out to me from their hearts, but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me!"

It is not without reason that prayer has been called the pulse of the soul; for by prayer more than by anything else may be discerned the increase or declension of our spiritual health. Something like prayer may be offered by the most ungodly in seasons of deep distress; but their supplications differ widely from those which proceed from a penitent and contrite heart.

The ten tribes, who, in despite of all the warnings given them, would go to Egypt and Assyria, rather than to God, for help, found themselves taken in the net which God had spread for them. Then they began to call upon God for help; but, the heart-searching God testifies respecting them, that they cried not unto him with their heart when they howled upon their beds.

To show how common and awful this state is, we shall,

I. Consider the prayers of unregenerate men.

It is admitted that such people often "howl upon their beds".

In these words two things are to be noticed, namely, the time, and the manner of their prayers.

With respect to the time of their prayers, it is too generally found, that they who are not in earnest about their salvation, defer their prayers until bed-time; instead of transacting their business with God while their faculties are awake, they stay until exhausted nature is become incapable of any energetic exertion; and then hurry over some form of prayer, as a school-boy does his task, without feeling one word they utter.

Even this is too favorable a representation of the prayers of many; who stay until they have laid down "upon their bed," and then fall asleep in the midst of their devotions.

As for praying in the morning, they have no time for that; the concerns of the past, or of the present day have pre-occupied their minds; and if they offer two or three cold petitions while they are dressing, it is quite as much as their necessities require, or as God deserves.

As to the manner of their prayers, we may interpret the prophet's expression as importing in general, that their prayers are altogether irrational and forced. Indeed, if we take into the account the state of the suppliants as guilty and condemned sinners, and the majesty of him whom they profess to address, their prayers are a most horrid mockery, yes, as unsuitable to the occasion as the "howling" of a dog would be!

But the expression may be taken more strictly and literally; for these people will not pray with any degree of fervor, except in seasons of great affliction. Perhaps they have suffered some heavy loss, or are in embarrassed circumstances, or have some peculiar guilt upon their conscience, that greatly disturbs them; but even then they have no disposition to spread their case before God; and so they lie down upon their beds as miserable as they can be, "howling" and whining like dogs, and perhaps wishing that they were dogs, or anything, rather than rational and accountable beings! See this exemplified in David, Psalm 32:3-4.

But, whatever their prayers are, "they cry not unto God with their heart".

View them in their public prayers; they will confess themselves "miserable sinners," and implore mercy for Christ's sake at the hands of God, and desire grace from him "that they may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of his holy name!" But if they were afterwards told by their minister, that they were miserable and hell-deserving sinners; that nothing but an application of the blood of Christ to their souls could ever save them; and that, to evince the sincerity of their repentance, they must devote themselves unreservedly to God; they would show by their answers, that they neither believed, nor desired, anyone of the things, which they had uttered before God.

Inquire, further, into their private prayers, and it will be found that they are not sincere in any petition that they offer. If, for instance, they were to pray that they might become true and faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus; and Jesus were to tell them, as he did the Rich Youth in the Gospel, that they must first give up all that they possess in this world, before they can be brought to love him supremely and to serve him acceptably; would they reply to him, "May Your will be done." Would they not rather plead for this or that possession, "O, spare it, for is it not a little one!" And, when they found that the terms could not be lowered, would they not pray back again their prayers with ten-fold more earnestness than they at first uttered them; yes, and forego all their hope in Christ, rather than sacrifice their worldly interests?

Such are the prayers of the unregenerate, if they pray at all; but the greater part of them, except on very particular occasions, do not so much as preserve even an appearance of devotion, Mark 10:21-22. This shows with what lamentable propriety they speak of "saying their prayers."

We shall have a little clearer view of the worthlessness of such prayers, if we,

II. Contrast them with those of the regenerate.

In everything that is essential to prayer, the difference may be seen. Particularly they differ in respect of,

1. Voluntariness.

The wicked will pray only under some heavy calamity, or in the near prospect of death and judgment, Jeremiah 2:27. Psalm 78:34. Isaiah 26:16. All their petitions are extorted by anguish or by terror.

The regenerate, on the contrary, go to God willingly and cheerfully as to their father and their friend. We do not mean to say, that the godly never feel backwardness to this duty (for, alas! they too often do) but they do not indulge it; they do not rest satisfied in such a state; they condemn themselves for it as much as an unregenerate person would condemn himself for the grossest sins; and when they are enabled, in any measure, to realize their Christian principles—they account it their sweetest privilege to draw near to God, and to pour out their souls before him; they even pant for God as the deer after the water brooks, and "go to him as to their exceeding joy! Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 43:4."

2. Constancy.

When the distresses or terrors, that instigated the ungodly to prayer, are removed—there is an end of the importunity which was occasioned by them, Job 27:10. The people who for a while seemed melted in the furnace, are no sooner taken out of it, than they return to their usual coldness and obduracy.

But a regenerate person can say, "My heart is fixed, O Lord, my heart is fixed!" "At evening, and at morning, and at noon-day will I pray, and that instantly, Psalm 57:7; Psalm 55:17." There are seasons indeed, when he may, through the corruptions of his heart, be led to relax his diligence; but he can never give over prayer; whether he is in prosperity or adversity, he feels that he is altogether dependent upon God, both for his present and eternal happiness; and therefore he returns again and again to God, in order to maintain fellowship with him, and to receive at his hands the blessings he stands in need of.

3. Humility.

People may use very strong language and express a kind of indignation against themselves in reference to their inward corruptions, while yet they are not truly humbled before God. True humility consists, not in vehement expressions, but in a tenderness of spirit mixed with self-loathing and self-abhorrence, Job 42:6. Ezekiel 20:43. Of this, an unregenerate man has no conception; yet it is this that constitutes the chief excellence of prayer; and without it our prayers can find no more acceptance with God, than the howling of a dog! Matthew 15:8-9.

In this view, God himself calls the services of the temple a hateful "noise, Amos 5:21-23;" and declares that the offering of a lamb with an unhumbled spirit, is as odious in his sight, as the offering of swine's blood, or "the cutting off of a dog's neck! Isaiah 66:3."


1. How little dependence can be placed on a death-bed repentance!

Far be it from us to discourage repentance at the last hour. On the contrary, if we behold symptoms of it, we would in the judgment of charity conclude well respecting its outcome. But God alone can perfectly distinguish between the feigned humiliation of Ahab, and the sincere contrition of Peter; and perhaps, where we think we hear the supplications of a Christian, God may hear nothing but the howling of a dog.

Repentance, like every Christian grace, must be judged of by its fruits; and if we would have in ourselves, or leave in the mind of surviving friends, an unquestionable evidence of our sincerity, let us repent without delay, and "bring forth fruits fit for repentance."

2. What encouragement have all real penitents to call upon God!

As God can distinguish hypocrites in the midst of their most fine services—so can he discern the upright in the midst of all their infirmities. The sigh, the groan, the tear, the broken accents of contrition, are more pleasing to him than the most fluent petitions that are destitute of a divine unction, Psalm 6:8; Psalm 38:9; Psalm 79:11 and especially Lamentations 3:56. Let none then be discouraged because they do not find a ready utterance in prayer; but let them be chiefly solicitous to "cry to God with their hearts." Then they will have nothing to fear; for God "will hear them, yes, and answer too, while they are yet speaking to him, Isaiah 65:24," and "will do for them abundantly above all that they can ask or think! Ephesians 3:20."




Hosea 8:2-3.

KJV. "Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know you. Israel has cast off the thing that is good; the enemy shall pursue him."

NIV. "Israel cries out to me, 'O our God, we acknowledge you!' But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him."

There is not a more intimate connection between any two things, than between sin and misery.

However fine an appearance any hypocrite may make in the church—God, who sees his heart, will sooner or later expose and punish his hypocrisy!

The Israelites on different occasions professed to repent, and to return to God; but they were "as a deceitful bow," that effected not the purpose for which it seemed to be bent; on which account God commanded the prophet to "set the trumpet to his mouth," and to proclaim their speedy destruction. The prophet's testimony is then confirmed by God himself in the words before us, in which we may see:

I. The vain confidence of the ungodly.

All men have, to a certain extent, the very confidence expressed in my text. As among the Jews, so among ourselves, the grounds of that confidence are diverse, while the confidence itself is the same.

1. Some found their confidence on their bearing of the Christian name. They have been born of Christian parents, and educated in a Christian country, and therefore they account themselves children of the Most High God—exactly as the Jews claimed to be the children of God, because they were descended from the stock of Abraham, and had been admitted into covenant with God by circumcision. Hence we find them confidently asserting that "God was their Father, John 8:33; John 8:39-41."

2. Others found their confidence on their belonging to a peculiar Church. As the Jews said of themselves, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these! Jeremiah 7:4," so people belonging to the Church of England by their infant baptism, esteem themselves especially favored of the Lord on that account; while all the various classes of dissenters arrogate to themselves the same high privilege, as arising out of their separation from the Established Church, and the imagined superiority of their respective advantages for spiritual instruction.

3. Others found their confidence on their moral conduct, and their regular observance of all the external duties of religion. But like the Pharisees of old, while their regular deportment makes them objects of admiration to those around them, they show by their whole conduct that they have only "the form of godliness without any of its power." Yet they value themselves as standing high in the favor of God, and would be filled with indignation if their acceptance with him were questioned, or their state before him made even for a moment a subject of doubt.

4. Others again found their confidence on their having notionally embraced the principles of the Gospel, and professed themselves in a more peculiar manner to be the followers of Christ. These are apt to consider themselves as lights shining in a dark world, Psalm 78:34-37; and, with more than ordinary boldness, will adopt as their own appropriate and distinctive privilege that assertion of the ancient Church, "My Beloved is mine, and I am his!"

Now I am far from saying that none are entitled to express this confidence; for I know that it is the Christian's privilege to possess it, and to "hold it fast even to the end." But it is far too easily adopted, and too generally entertained. For thousands who "call God their Rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer," do, in fact, only flatter him with their mouths, and lie unto him with their tongues, Matthew 7:21-23". Many of the most confident among them will meet with that repulse in the last day, "Depart from me; I never knew you, you workers of iniquity!" See Isaiah 58:2.

Seeing, then, that there are so many who indulge a vain confidence before God, let me declare to you:

II. The disappointment that awaits the ungodly.

Whatever have been the erroneous standards which men have adopted for themselves, there is one standard, and one only, by which they shall be tried in the last day; and that is, the Word of God.

Accordingly God casts in the teeth of self-deceivers their violations of his Word.

The Jews, as Jews, were bound to walk according to God's law. But they had "cast off their allegiance to God, transgressing his covenant, and rebelling against his commandments, verse 1."

And this is the very state of us professing Christians. What a covenant has God made with us in Christ Jesus, "a covenant ordered in all things and sure," and comprehending our every want, both in time and eternity! In this covenant we have the remission of all our sins accorded to us freely for Christ's sake, and all needful supplies of the Holy Spirit, for the sanctification of our souls; yes, and eternal glory also given to us as the purchase of the Redeemer's blood. But how little have we regarded this covenant, or sought a saving interest in it! In fact, "we have rather trodden under foot the Son of God by our continuance in sin, and counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and have done despite to the Spirit of his grace! Hebrews 10:29."

As for the laws either of the first or second table, we have never made them the rule of our conduct, or even desired to conform to them any further than suited our own self-interest or convenience. In our infant baptism indeed we engaged to walk according to the revealed will of God; but in our whole lives we have rebelled against him, and "cast off the thing that was good."

What then, can we expect at God's hands?

He told the hypocritical Jews that "their Assyrian enemies would pursue them." True, the Assyrians thought only of gratifying their own ambition; but they were a sword in God's hand to "avenge the quarrel of his covenant;" and they did fearfully execute the Divine judgments on these transgressors.

And has not God instruments at hand to inflict punishment on us? See the perturbed state of Europe at this moment—of France and Belgium more particularly, (May 1831)" and see how we ourselves are approximating towards it. The outrages and conflagrations which have recently pervaded our land will have been as nothing in comparison with what we may soon behold, if God gives us up to that anarchical spirit which now threatens to bear down all before it. Truly the occasional prayers which have for some time been in use among us by the appointment of our ecclesiastical superiors, may yet well be continued among us, for the averting of those judgments which we have so justly merited.

Among the professors of religion, too, there is a spirit like that which prevails in the ungodly world—a spirit of unhumbled inquiry, and of dogmatic assertion, tending only to divide the Church of God, and to diffuse uncharitable feelings among those who ought to "love one another with a pure heart fervently." To what that also may grow, God alone knows. But it is a sad scandal to the Church of God, and can be pleasing to none but Satan, the author and abettor of all evil.

But there are other enemies that may pursue both the world and the Church of God; for most assuredly the wrath of God shall follow and overtake unrepentant sinners, whether they are found in the openly profane, or in the professors of the Gospel of Christ. "The sin of every man," whoever he may be, shall assuredly, in due season "find him out." A man's church profession may have raised the admiration of all around him; but if it proves at last unsound, he shall sink the deeper into irremediable shame and misery! Job 20:4-7.


1. Let us well examine the grounds of our confidence.

I would by no means be understood to condemn all confidence, but only to recommend a careful examination of the grounds on which our confidence is built. We may, if we will attentively discriminate between things which differ, find a very broad distinction between the confidence which is delusive, and that which is truly scriptural. As a general observation, we may say, that that confidence alone is scriptural, which is attended with holy fear and jealousy; for even Paul himself labored incessantly to "bring all his bodily appetites into subjection, lest, after having preached to others, he himself should become a cast-away."

That confidence which stands on a presumptuous conceit about God's decrees, and is sanctioned only by an appeal to past experience, may well be questioned.

But that confidence which is founded rather on the general promises of the Gospel, and is borne out and warranted by an appeal to the present experience of the soul, may safely be treasured up as an invaluable blessing. And if this latter appear more fluctuating than the other, let not that render it less estimable in your minds; for it is far the more scriptural and safe. In fact, Satan exerts himself to the uttermost to strengthen the confidence which is erroneous, so that his vassals may not suspect the delusion under which they labor; while, on the other hand, he infuses doubts into the minds of the upright, that they may not reap the full benefit of their confidence in God.

Only let your confidence be humble, and its habitual effect be practical, and then you may say boldly, "O God, you are my God!" and may hold fast your confidence, and the rejoicing of your hope firm unto the end.

2. Let us endeavor to maintain a close walk with God.

While this, as I have already shown, is the proper test of our confidence, it is also the means whereby our confidence is to be made more and more assured. "If we abide with God, he will abide with us; but if we forsake him, he also will forsake us, 2 Chronicles 15:2." Here we see that, if the text is true, so will the converse of it is found true also. Only let us "hold fast that which is good," and no enemy whatever shall prevail against us. You all know how the Apostle sets all his enemies at defiance, Romans 8:33-39. And thus may we also do; for, "if God is with us, then who can be against us?" Our office is, to serve the Lord. His office, if I may so speak, is to save us. Only then let us attend to our part, and we may with safety leave to our heavenly Father the execution of his part.




Hosea 8:5.

KJV. "How long will it be before they attain to innocence?

NIV. "How long will they be incapable of purity?"

It is impossible to read the history of God's ancient people, or to survey the world around us, without being filled with wonder at the patience and forbearance of God. In vain were all his mercies to the Jews in delivering them from their bondage in Egypt, and in giving them possession of the promised land; no manifestations of his power and grace were sufficient to convince them of his exclusive right to their service, or to knit them to him as their only Lord and Savior.

They would make idols of wood and stone, and transfer to them the allegiance which they owed to God alone. Yet, instead of breaking forth against them in wrathful indignation to destroy them, he bore with them, and, with tender concern for their welfare, said, "How long will it be before they attain to innocence?" Precisely thus does he wait for us also, who, notwithstanding all that he has done for the redemption of our souls, are ever prone to depart from him, and to fix on the creature that regard which is due to him alone. Yet he is waiting to be gracious to us also, and longing for the return of our souls to him as their proper rest.

In illustration of this pathetic complaint, I shall consider:

I. What is the attainment here specified.

Perfect innocence is utterly unattainable in this life.

Once we possessed it in our first parents; but since the Fall, we all have inherited a corrupt nature; since "it was impossible to bring a clean thing out of an impure." We cannot by any means wash away so much as one sin that we have ever committed. Rivers of tears would be insufficient for that. Sinners therefore we must be even to the end.

Yet is there in a scriptural sense an innocence to be attained.

Our Lord said of his disciples, "Now you are clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you, John 15:3." And we too may be clean, yes so clean as to be "without spot or blemish," if only we use the means which God himself has appointed, Ephesians 5:26-27. There is "a fountain opened for sin and for impurity! Zechariah 12:1"—even the Redeemer's blood, which is able to "cleanse us from all sin! 1 John 1:7." The Holy Spirit also will renew our souls, and make us "partakers of a divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4," and "sanctify us throughout in body, soul, and spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:23,"; and enable us, in the whole of our life and conduct, to approve ourselves, "Israelites indeed in whom there is no deceit".

This is scriptural innocence; and this every sinner in the universe may attain. It is freely offered to all, Isaiah 55:1; and has actually been given to the most abandoned of mankind, 1 Corinthians 6:11. Nor shall it be withheld from anyone that will seek it at the hands of God John 6:37. God himself pants, if I may so say, to give it to us, "Will you not be made clean? When shall it once be? Jeremiah 13:27." Those to whom it was offered in my text were wicked idolaters, verse 4; and therefore we cannot doubt but that it will be granted to us also.

II. The expostulation respecting it.

Long has God borne with us, even as he did with his people of old.

Who among us has not harbored idols in his heart? Whom has not God followed with warnings, exhortations, and entreaties, even to the present hour?

And how much longer must God bear with us?

Have we not already provoked him long enough? Or do we hope ever to enjoy his favor if we attain not to innocence? O! delay not to seek this inestimable gift. Is it so small a matter to possess the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus' blood, and the renovation of your souls by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the radical conformity of your lives to the mind and will of God, that you will not set yourselves to seek them in the exercise of faith and prayer? How long shall it be before you begin to seek these blessed attainments? Will you wait until old age, and give to God the dregs of your life? Or will you put off this necessary work to a dying hour? Believe me, that is by no means a fit season for so important a work as this, and who can tell whether time for it shall be allowed to you then, or grace be given to you for the execution of it? The attainment is difficult in proportion as it is delayed, and what bitter regret will you feel to all eternity, if the season afforded you for the attainment of this blessing passes away unimproved, and you be called with all your sins upon you into the eternal world!

I would address you all in the very spirit of my text, and say to every one among you, "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and unto our God, for he will abundantly pardon! Isaiah 55:6-7."


1. Those who think that this blessing is unattainable.

Were this innocence really unattainable, God would never have so pathetically expressed his concern respecting it. But perhaps you think that the infirmities which of necessity cleave to our fallen nature are inconsistent with it. This however is by no means the case. If the heart is upright before God, then shall we be accepted by him in Christ Jesus, and "be presented before him faultless with exceeding joy."

2. Those who desire to attain this blessing.

Be sure you seek it in the appointed way. Seek not forgiveness only, nor renovation only, nor holiness only; but seek them all in their proper order, and in harmonious operation.

First, your sins must be blotted out through faith in the Redeemer's blood.

Next, your soul must be renewed after the Divine image by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, these blessings must manifest themselves in holiness of heart and life.

No one of these can be spared. And though we have placed them in the order in which they must be sought—yet will they all be given to every one who believes in Christ. His sins will all be cast into the depths of the sea, and the moral change also will be begun, which shall result in everlasting happiness and glory.

3. Those who through mercy, have attained this blessing.

Is it true that anyone in this life is authorized to conceive of himself as "innocent" before God? Yes surely—or else our Savior would never have declared his own Apostles "clean." Not that any attainment, however great, will supersede the necessity of continued watchfulness; for Paul himself felt the need of "keeping his body under control, and bringing it into subjection, lest, after having preached to others, he himself should become a cast-away!" The proper use of all the promises is, "to cleanse yourselves by means of them from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God."




Hosea 8:7.

"They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."

Misery is attached to sin as its inevitable consequence. This connection does not always appear to a superficial observer. On the contrary, transgression often seems productive of happiness; and obedience often seems to be a source of much affliction and trouble; but, whatever conclusions we may be led to draw from present appearances, we are sure that the wicked are not happy; nor have they any reasonable expectation of happiness in the eternal world.

The Israelites had forsaken the true God for idols, and God warned them of the judgments which would before long come upon them; but the declaration in the text may be understood as a general position. We shall take occasion from it to show:

I. Who may be said to sow the wind.

To "sow the wind" is a proverbial expression for laboring in vain. It is applied to idolaters, because the silver and gold lavished on idols was unprofitably spent. It may well be applied to all who seek happiness in a way of sin!

1. To sensualists.

They expect to find much comfort in the indulgence of their lusts. Hence they yield themselves up to all the gratifications of sense. But they find that such pursuits can afford them no real happiness. While they forsake the fountain of living waters, they hew out to themselves only broken cisterns that can hold no water, Jeremiah 2:13. Solomon, with the amplest means of enjoyment, confessed this, Ecclesiastes 2:1; Ecclesiastes 2:10-11. And we may address Paul's appeal to all the votaries of pleasure, "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! Romans 6:21."

2. To worldlings.

The lovers of this present world seem to follow something substantial. They hope to obtain, not a momentary gratification, but solid and lasting benefits. They promise to themselves the acquisition of ease, and affluence, and honor. But riches are justly, and on many accounts, termed "uncertain, 1 Timothy 6:17." No dependence can be placed on their continuance with us, Proverbs 23:5.

Our cares are also generally multiplied by an accumulation of these worldly trinkets. But even if they were more conducive to happiness now, what shall they profit in the day of wrath! Proverbs 11:4. What advantage has he now, who once took such delight in his stores: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'" This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God! Luke 12:17-21".

In the same way, he who placed his happiness in sumptuous food, and magnificent apparel, Luke 16:19; Luke 16:23-24. Surely all such people will find before long, that they have "sowed the wind!"

3. To formalists.

The performance of religious duties seems more calculated to make us happy. It is certain that no one can be happy who disregards them. But a mere round of religious services can never satisfy the conscience. "The form of godliness without the power" will avail little. It will leave the soul in a poor, empty, destitute condition. Some indeed delude themselves with an idea that it will secure the Divine favor; and, under that delusion, they may be filled with self-delight, Luke 18:11-12.

But if God sends a ray of light into the mind, these comforts vanish! A sight of sin will speedily dissipate these self-righteous hopes! Romans 7:9. Nor will anything satisfy an enlightened conscience, but that which satisfies God. There was but one remedy for the wounded Israelites in the wilderness, John 3:14-15. Nor can a wounded spirit ever be healed, but by a sight of Christ!

4. To false professors.

Many wish to be thought religious, but they are in reality destitute of spiritual life. They perhaps are zealous for the doctrines of the Gospel, and for their own particular form of Church government. But they are not solicitous to live near to God in holy duties; nor do they manifest the efficacy of true religion in their spirit and conduct. Yet, because of their professing godliness, they think themselves possessed of it, and buoy up themselves with expectations of happiness in the world to come.

Alas! what disappointment will they one day experience! Matthew 25:11-12. What will it avail them to "have had a name to live, while they were really dead?" Or to have "cried, Lord, Lord! while they have never departed from iniquity?" The pains they have taken to keep up a profession will all be lost. Nothing will remain to them but shame and confusion of face!

From the seed which they sow (the wind), we may easily perceive,

II. What they may expect to reap (the whirlwind).

"A whirlwind" is a figure used to represent extraordinary calamities. Proverbs 1:27. And such is the harvest which they will reap in due season.

1. Their calamities will be sudden.

The corn ripens gradually for the sickle, and its fate is foreseen; but the destruction of the ungodly comes suddenly and at an instant. They indeed have many warnings from all which they see around them; but they put the evil day far from them, and think it will never come! 2 Peter 3:4.

Thus it was with the whole world before the Deluge. Though Noah preached to them for many years, they would not regard him; and were taken by surprise at last, as much as if no notice had been given to them! Matthew 24:38-39. Thus also it will be with all who reject the Gospel salvation. Solomon has expressly declared it in reference to those who sow discord, Proverbs 6:14-15. And Paul has asserted it respecting all that live in a neglect of God, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.

2. Their calamities will be irresistible.

Sinners of every description can withstand the word spoken by their fellow-creatures, Ezekiel 20:49; but they will not be able to resist God when he shall call them into judgment. Then, if the whole universe should enter into a confederacy to protect one sinner, they would fail in their attempt, Proverbs 11:21.

There is nothing more irresistible to man, in some climates, than a whirlwind. Yet far less power shall the ungodly have to avert the wrath of God. They will be carried to destruction as the chaff before the wind! Psalm 1:4-5; and call in vain to the rocks to fall upon them, or the hills to cover them! Revelation 6:15-17.

3. Their calamities will be horrific.

Nothing can be conceived more dreadful than the desolation made by whirlwinds. Yet this suggests a very inadequate idea of the ruin that will come on the ungodly. The raining of fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah must have been exceedingly terrible. But even that was light, when compared with the vials of God's wrath which will be poured out upon the ungodly world!

Who can comprehend the full import of that threatening in Psalm 11:6, "On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot!" Psalm 75:8, "In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs!"

May we never experience such dreadful calamities! May we tremble at the apprehension of them, and seek shelter in Christ!



1. How earnest should we be in redeeming time!

The present hours are given us that we may sow for eternity. Every action, word and thought is as seed that will spring up hereafter. According to what we sow now, we shall reap at the last day! Galatians 6:7-8. Every moment increases our "treasure of wrath," or our "weight of glory!"

How should we be affected with this consideration! Let us lay it to heart, and "walk, not as fools, but as wise men, Ephesians 5:15-16." And let that just expostulation shame us to a sense of duty, Isaiah 55:2.

2. How blessed are those who are living for God!

There is not a work which they perform for him that will not be rewarded. God would esteem himself unjust, if he did not recompense them, Hebrews 6:10. However small and insignificant the service be, it shall not be forgotten, Matthew 10:42.

The sighs and tears of the contrite are "precious seed." They will spring up to a glorious and abundant harvest, Psalm 126:6. Let the humble then go on "sowing in tears until they reap in joy." Let them persist in their labor, assured that it shall not be in vain! 1 Corinthians 15:58.




Hosea 8:12.

"I have written to him the great things of my Law, but they were counted as a strange thing."

God, in estimating the sins of men, takes into his consideration all the aggravations with which they are committed. For instance:
the warnings which have been given us against sin,
the judgments with which we have been visited on account of it,
the mercies that have been given to us in the midst of it

—are all regarded by him as enhancing our guilt in the commission of it. Hence, in reprimanding his people, whom now he was about to punish, he particularly charges home upon them their contempt of his Word, which he had sent to guide them in the paths of righteousness, and to encourage them in a faithful discharge of their duty towards him.

In this view our sins are peculiarly aggravated, inasmuch as we have been favored with a more perfect revelation of God's mind and will. And to evince this, I will show,

I. What great things God has written to us in his Word.

By God's "law," we are to understand his Word in general; and by "the great things of it," are meant its fundamental truths.

Let us take a view of them, as recorded in God's blessed Word.

Our fall in Adam,
our recovery by Christ, and
our restoration to the Divine image by the Holy Spirit
—these are plainly written in every part of the inspired volume. They were made known in the Old Testament, so far as was necessary for the instruction of men under that dark and temporary dispensation.

The rite of circumcision marked that we brought into the world a corrupt nature.

The appointment of sacrifices, while it showed to all their desert of death, evinced to them the necessity of looking forward to that great sacrifice which would in due time he offered for the sins of men.

The various washings also that were enjoined, gave a striking intimation of what would in due season be effected on the souls of men, through the operation of the Spirit of God.

In the writings of David and the prophets, a further light is thrown upon these things; man is declared to be shaped in iniquity, and conceived in sin! Psalm 51:5; and his guilt is said to be removed only through the vicarious sufferings of the Son of God, "on whom the iniquities of sinners are laid, Isaiah 53:5-6." And for the renewal of our nature, we are taught to look to that Divine Agent, who is sent from Heaven on purpose to impart it. Ezekiel 36:25-27.

In the New Testament, these points are more fully opened; and everything relating to them is developed with all the clearness and certainty that the most scrupulous mind can desire.

Who can doubt the corruption of our nature, when we are told that all "are by nature children of wrath! Ephesians 2:3."

What stronger proof can we have of the necessity of believing in Christ, than the assurance that there is salvation in no other, and "no other name given under Heaven whereby we can be saved! Acts 4:12."

As to the Spirit's operations upon the soul, we are expressly told, that "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ!" Romans 8:9

And are not these things justly called "great"? Truly, in whatever light we view them, they are "great."

Contemplate the transcendence of them. How do they, in every part of them, surpass all human conception!

What shall we say to our fall in Adam, and the consequent condemnation of all the human race?

What shall we think of the incarnation of God's only dear Son, for the purpose of satisfying Divine justice in our behalf, and working out a righteousness wherein we guilty creatures may stand before God without spot or blemish?

What shall we say of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, making our polluted souls his temples, for the purpose of renewing our fallen natures, and rendering us fit for glory?

Well may the Apostle say, "Great is the mystery of godliness! 1 Timothy 3:16." Well may every one, in the contemplation of it, exclaim, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Romans 11:33."

But consider also the importance of these things. No one can be saved without an experimental acquaintance with the facts of the gospel, and a suitable operation of them upon his soul!

Under a sense of our fallen condition, we must lie low before God, in dust and ashes!

Under a conviction that there is no salvation for us but in Christ Jesus, we must cleave unto him with full purpose of heart!

Under a consciousness of our incapacity to do anything for ourselves, we must commit ourselves altogether to the care of God's Holy Spirit, that he may "work all our works in us," and "perfect that which concerns us."

Say, then, whether things so deeply transcendent and so infinitely important be not great. Truly there is nothing in the whole universe that deserves a thought in comparison with these stupendous truths.

II. But it is humiliating to observe how the truths of the gospel are regarded by an ungodly world.

"They are counted as a strange thing!"

1. The truths of the gospel are neglected as unimportant.

One would imagine that the book which reveals these great truths would be universally sought after with insatiable avidity; and be studied day and night, in order to the obtaining of a perfect knowledge of its contents.

But how is this book treated? It is thought a proper book for children, that they may be made acquainted with its truths so far as their slender capacities can comprehend them. But for people of adult age it is supposed to contain nothing that is interesting; and it is laid aside by them as undeserving any serious attention. Sinless angels in Heaven are searching into its unfathomable mysteries with a concern worthy of the occasion; but sinful men, who are far more deeply interested in them, allow them to remain without any serious inquiry. In fact, there is no other book so generally slighted as the inspired volume; not a novel or a newspaper but is preferred before it; so little is the importance of its truths considered!

2. The truths of the gospel are ridiculed as absurd.

Universally is the corruption of our fallen nature regarded as a subject calculated only to inspire gloom, and therefore injurious to the happiness of man.

The salvation which Christ has wrought out for us, and freely offers to the believing soul, is reprobated as a licentious doctrine, subversive of morality.

The sanctifying influences of the Spirit, also, are held in contempt, as the dreams of a heated imagination, or the pretenses of a hypocritical profession.

Sin itself, unless in its most hideous forms, is not so universally despised and hated as are the truths of our most holy religion.

In truth, no man can preach these truths with success, without being accused as "deceiving the people," and "turning the world upside down!"


How great is the spiritual blindness of the natural man!

The depths of philosophy may be successfully explored by men of studious habits and of intellectual attainments. But who, by any powers of his own, can comprehend the great things of the gospel? Truly, they are "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness;" and the most learned man on earth, no less than the most illiterate, must say, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law! Psalm 119:18."

2. How inestimable are the spiritual privileges of God's people!

"They have been brought out of darkness into marvelous light;" and the "things which God has hidden from the wise and learned, he has revealed unto them!" Still, however, there remains a veil upon their hearts, which yet they need to have removed. "They still see only as in a looking-glass darkly;" and must wait for a full vision, until they come to the regions of the blessed above.




Hosea 9:12.

"Woe also to them when I depart from them!"

There is nothing so essential to our happiness as the God's benevolent presence. With that, we may smile at all earthly trials; without it, not all the universe can satisfy the soul. This is promised to us as the greatest good that can be given to us in this world; and the withdrawment of it is threatened as the greatest of all evils! Jeremiah 23:33.

In the words before us, God, having denounced this judgment against his rebellious people, gives a solemn intimation of the greatness of the calamity, "Woe unto them, when I depart from them!"

We propose to show:

I. How great a calamity is the withdrawal of God's benevolent presence.

As God is pleased to distinguish both individuals and collective bodies with his favor—so under great provocations he departs from them; and this is a very dreadful calamity, by whoever it may be experienced.

1. God's benevolent presence to nations.

This, as we see in the Jewish history, prosper beyond the common course of events, when God takes them under his special protection.

On the other hand, they are destroyed with equal rapidity when he sets his face against them. War, famine, and pestilence are his servants! The stars in their courses fight against his enemies; the elements enlist themselves under his banners. Universal nature rises up to avenge God's enemies. Wretched indeed is that nation which he has abandoned to ruin! The destruction of the Jewish nation is a solemn specimen and pledge of the vengeance which he will execute on those who have filled up the measure of their iniquities.

2. God's benevolent presence to Churches.

The Christian Church, when in its infancy, was honored with very peculiar tokens of the Divine presence, and, in consequence thereof, "grew and multiplied" to a surprising extent.

But when the life and power of godliness had declined among the Churches of Asia, and he had often warned them to no purpose, he "took away the lampstand from them;" so that in the cities where Christ was once worshiped and glorified, his name is scarcely known.

Nor need we go back to the early ages of the Church; for in many places in our own land where Christ was once preached, nothing is now heard but Socinian heresy or heathen morality! The ignorance of the preachers, and the blindness of the hearers, concur in establishing the melancholy truth affirmed in our text! Compare Micah 3:6-7. Isaiah 6:9-10. Amos 8:11-13.

3. God's benevolent presence to individuals.

If we admit, as we must, that "God will not forsake his people, 1 Samuel 12:22," still we have no evidence that we are his, any longer than we obey his Word. If we go out from his people, it is rather a proof that we never truly belonged to them, 1 John 2:19. But lamentable is the state of him who provokes God to leave him; for as soon as ever God deserts him—an evil spirit will enter into him! 1 Samuel 16:14. Yes, perhaps seven spirits, worse than ever before inhabited his soul, may take possession of him, and reduce him to a more awful state of bondage than he ever before experienced, Luke 11:24-26.

Hardness of heart,
searedness of conscience, and
probably an abandonment of all religious profession,
painful apprehensions of death and judgment
—will be the bitter fruits of such a dereliction, which at last will issue in an aggravated and eternal condemnation.

Let us then attentively consider,

II. How we may avert the withdrawal of God's benevolent presence from ourselves.

We cannot pretend to specify all the means which are to be used; but we will notice some of the most important:

1. Let us abstain from that which will drive God from us.

Sin is "that abominable thing which God's soul hates;" and, if we willfully indulge it, he will show his abhorrence of it, by hiding his face from us, and withdrawing from us his blessing. He has said, that his "Spirit shall not always strive with man." And it is certain, that we may "grieve his Spirit," until we altogether "quench" his sacred motions. Let us then turn, not only from open sin, but from secret sin. Let us "purge out that leaven, that we may be a new lump." For though God will not be extreme to mark the unallowed infirmities of our nature, he will show his indignation against hypocrisy, however refined it may be in its nature, or subtle in its appearance, Job 20:4-7.

2. Let us notice the very first intimations of his displeasure.

God does not utterly forsake the soul at once; he testifies his displeasure in a variety of ways, before he finally forsakes us. As, in withdrawing from his temple of old, he descended from the mercy-seat to the threshold; and then went from the threshold to the court; then from the court to the door of the east gate; and, lastly, from the gate to the mountain, Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:18-19; Ezekiel 11:23. In the same way, in his departures from Churches or individuals, he gives notice of his intention, that we may repent of our evil ways.

He ceases to manifest himself to us;
he gives us up to the dominion of our former lusts;
he embitters our state by forebodings of our future doom; and, when he cannot prevail, he "gives us over to a reprobate mind, Psalm 81:11-12," and leaves us to fill up the measure of our iniquities!

Let us "turn then at his first reproof," that, instead of "taking his Holy Spirit from us," he may "pour the Spirit out upon us" in richer abundance, Proverbs 1:23.

3. Let us guard against secret departures from him.

It is rarely, if ever, that God leaves us—unless we first leave him. He has laid down this as the rule of his conduct, "I am with you, while you are with me. If you are with me, I will be with you; but if you forsake me, I will forsake you! 2 Chronicles 15:2."

If we trace all our darkness and distresses to their proper source, we shall find that they originate in our own unfaithfulness.

Let us then watch against a neglect of secret duties, or deadness in them.

Let us "give ourselves to the Word of God and prayer."

Let us "stir up ourselves to lay hold on God, Isaiah 64:7."

Let us with a holy boldness, say, like Jacob, "I will not let you go, Genesis 32:26."

In this way we may detain him, and secure his continued presence. Or if, "in a little wrath, he hides his face from us for a moment, with everlasting kindness will he have mercy upon us! Isaiah 54:8."




Hosea 10:1.

"Israel is an empty vine; he brings forth fruit unto himself."

In order to judge aright of our actions, we must examine the principles from whence they proceed. As ignorant as we are of men's real motives, we invariably endeavor to discover them even in courts of judicature; and pass sentence, not so much upon their actions, as on their intentions. Nor does anyone disapprove of this method of estimating men's conduct, provided only there are sufficient grounds for discovering the real opinions and wishes of their hearts.

Now, if this is a proper mode of judging with respect to each other, we should certainly try our own actions by the same rule; since they will most assuredly be estimated according to this rule in the day when we shall stand before the tribunal of God.

In the verse before us, God passes sentence, as it were, on the Israelites, not so much for the form and matter of their services, as for the dispositions they exercised in the performance of them. And, as he does the same with respect to us, it is of importance to ascertain:

I. When we may be said to bring forth fruit to ourselves.

By the law of our creation, we should regard nothing but the glory and authority of God. But, through the corruption of our nature, we have cast off God, and exalted SELF into his throne. We manifest that we do this,

1. When self is the principle   of our actions.

It is but too evident that unregenerate men act in an entire conformity to their own will, without ever considering the will of God. If in anything they seem to oppose their own will, they do so, not from a regard to God's authority, but from some selfish principle of carnal pleasure, hope or fear. If we would persuade them to any course of conduct, we find that the simple declaration of God's mind and will has no effect on them whatever; and that we must have recourse to carnal and temporal considerations, if we would succeed with them.

Moreover they wish that others also should consult their will, rather than the will of God; and thus they show not only that they are a god unto themselves, but that they would gladly be a god to their fellow-creatures as well; and have their will more respected than the will of God. What can be a proof of bringing forth fruit to themselves, if this is not? Colossians 2:23.

2. When self is the measure of our actions.

Many wish to be almost Christians, Acts 26:28.

Few are willing to be altogether Christians.

Herod would part with many things; but not with his Herodias.

The Young Man would follow Christ at all events—as he thought; but could not be prevailed upon to sell his estate and give it to the poor, Matthew 19:21-22.

Thus, if the attending at the house and table of the Lord, if the abstaining from gross sins, and the exercising of benevolence to the poor will suffice—then many will be content to pay the price. But, the renouncing of all sin, and the walking in the narrow path of holiness and self-denial, are too irksome a task for them; and if they cannot maintain a saving interest in Christ on lower terms, they determine to part with him.

Now what is this, but to make their own ease the measure of their obedience, when they ought to have no other measure than the Word of God? Whereas the true Christian wishes to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

3. When self is the end of our actions.

God's command is, that "whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God! 1 Corinthians 10:31." But what if we are studying how to advance our own reputation or interests in the world? What if, like Jehu, we are actuated by pride, when we profess to be doing the Lord's work. Compare 2 Kings 10:30 with Hosea 1:4. What if, even in religious duties, we are seeking to establish our own righteousness, or to gratify only some selfish desire? Zechariah 7:5-6.

In all these cases we are justly involved in that censure, "For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ! Philippians 2:21."

To show the evil of such conduct we shall proceed to point out,

II. In what respects those who do so, resemble an empty vine.

The similes of Scripture, if strained and perverted, are made disgusting; but, if soberly and judiciously illustrated, they are replete with useful instruction. Now, without fear of straining this simile, we may observe:

1. Those who bring forth fruit to themselves, resemble an empty vine in its nature.

A vine is a proper emblem of fruitfulness. But an empty vine, in a country so famous for its vineyards as Palestine, gives one a very strong idea of barrenness. Hence, when God was complaining of his people's unfruitfulness, he compared them to a vineyard, which, alter the greatest pains and cost bestowed on its culture, brought forth nothing but bitter and worthless grapes! Isaiah 5:4.

In this view, an empty vine marks the depraved nature of those, who, notwithstanding all the labor with which they have been cultivated, remain "barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord;" who, instead of being "filled with the fruits of righteousness to God's praise and glory," can rise no higher than self, nor do one single act that is pleasing and acceptable to God!

2. Those who bring forth fruit to themselves, resemble an empty vine in its use.

A barren vine is the most worthless of all things; other trees may be made useful in some way; but neither root nor branch, nor even the trunk, of a barren vine—is good for anything, Ezekiel 15:2-5.

Such worthless creatures are those who bring forth no fruit to God! They may indeed be good members of the community; but, as to all the great ends of their creation, they are of no use whatever:
they bring no glory to God;
they do not advance the spiritual welfare of those around them;
they attain not to any measure of the Divine image.

There is nothing in the whole creation that does not answer the ends of its formation better than they. Well does our Lord compare them to "salt, which, when it has lost its savor, is unfit even for the dunghill, Luke 14:35."

3. Those who bring forth fruit to themselves, resemble an empty vine in its end.

Our Lord has told us what will be the end of a barren vine, John 15:6. And shall not such also be the end of those who live to themselves rather than to God? Let our Lord determine this point also, Matthew 25:30. Let "the unprofitable servant" not think himself secure on account of his freedom from gross sins; but let him remember that his best actions are but splendid sins, if not wrought from a principle of love to God! 1 Corinthians 13:1.


1. Those who resemble an empty vine.

The care and culture bestowed on you is worse than in vain, since it greatly aggravates your guilt. Guard then against self-deceit; and devote yourselves in body, soul, and spirit, unto God. Above all, seek to be united unto Christ by faith; for it is only by virtue derived from Christ, that you can ever bring forth fruit unto God! Romans 7:4. John 15:4.

2. Those who may rather be compared to fruitful vines.

Occasional mixtures of SELF are no just ground to question our state before God; for there is much remaining weakness in the best of believers. Nevertheless you must watch and pray against that base principle, and judge of your attainments by the degree in which self is mortified, and God exalted in your hearts.




Hosea 10:12.

KJV. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he come and rain righteousness upon you.

NIV. "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you."

The figurative language of Scripture may in some cases obscure its import; but when it is explained, it exhibits the plainest truths in a rich variety of forms, and tends to fix them on our minds by its attractive influence.

We pray God that this observation may be verified, while we open the passage now before us, and consider,

I. The duty enjoined.

The three first expressions are explained by the prophet himself as collectively importing, that we should "seek the Lord;" but separately taken, they point out the particular manner in which we should seek him:

1. Sow for yourselves righteousness,
2. reap the fruit of unfailing love,
3. break up your unplowed ground

1. We should seek God in the performance of his will.

"Sow for yourselves righteousness"

Though no man ever hopes to reap wheat, where he has sowed only tares—almost all expect to obtain Heaven, notwithstanding they have never made it the one object of their pursuit! But the Apostle guards us against this fatal error, and assures us that we shall reap according to what we have sowed, Galatians 6:7-8. Would we then have a joyful harvest in the day of judgment, let us not be provoking God by a life of sin; but turn to him in the way of righteousness; nor let us regard the duties of the first or second table only; but labor to fulfill all his will uniformly and without reserve.

2. We should seek God in a dependence on his mercy.

"reap the fruit of unfailing love"

As there are many who hope to find acceptance with God, notwithstanding they seek him not at all, so are there many, who think they make God their debtor by the works they perform; and that they can earn Heaven, as it were, by their own righteousness. But, however we may "sow in righteousness," we must "reap the fruit of unfailing love."

Death is the wages of sin; but life is not the wages of righteousness, as all our righteousnesses are imperfect, Isaiah 64:6. Our best deeds are mixed with sin; and therefore we must be contented to accept Heaven as the unmerited gift of God through Jesus Christ! Romans 6:23. Philippians 3:9.

3. We should seek God by a due preparation of heart to receive his blessings.

"break up your unplowed ground"

It would be in vain for a man to sow his seed on fallow ground. The very rains, which God might send down upon it, would be of no service, if the ground were not purged of its weeds, and the seed buried in the the earth. Thus neither can the soul make a just improvement of spiritual blessings, unless it is broken up, as it were, by the divine law. Until this is done, the true way of salvation will appear foolishness. To be diligent in working righteousness, and, after all, to depend on mere mercy, will be thought paradoxical and absurd. But when once the law is brought home to the conscience in its spirituality and extent, the soul is made willing to submit to the righteousness of God; and yet is induced to purify itself even as God is pure.

It was by this means that Paul was brought to a right mind, Romans 7:9. Nor is there any other way of combining diligence in exertion with a humble dependence on the Divine favor, Galatians 2:19. Romans 7:4.

For the impressing of this duty on our minds, let us consider,

II. The arguments with which the duty of seeking God is enforced.

Confining ourselves to the hints suggested in the text, we shall pass by many obvious and important arguments, and fix our attention upon:

1. The urgency of seeking God in the right manner.

At the proper seasons the gardener goes forth to plough or sow his ground, knowing that, if his work is neglected until the time for performing it is past, he shall have reason to repent of his neglect in the day of harvest.

Let it be remembered that now is the "time to seek the Lord."

Are we mature in years? Surely we have no time to lose. Are we in the early part of life?

What time is so fit as that of youth, before our habits be fixed, or our consciences seared, or our minds distracted by worldly cares? And, with respect to those who are in the midst of youth, for anything they know, there may be "but a step between them and death!"

As for aged people, their lives must be drawing to a speedy close; or, if protracted for a while, a lack of mental energy will unfit their souls for spiritual exertions.

If any feel a disposition to serve the Lord, this is in a peculiar manner the time for them to seek his face. The very desire they feel, is an evidence that God himself is working in them, Philippians 2:13, and ready to reveal himself to them; whereas, if they stifle the motions of his Spirit, they know not that the grace they so despise shall be ever offered them again, Genesis 6:3. Let us then "redeem the time" that is so precious, Ephesians 5:16, and improve the season which God has afforded us fur this important work.

2. The certainty of success of seeking God in the right manner.

The gardener knows, that if his seed be not watered by seasonable rains, his labor will be wholly lost. Yet, even though he cannot command the showers, he performs his labor, in hope that God will graciously send the former and the latter rain.

But we have an absolute promise, that God will prosper our endeavors, and that, "to him who sows righteousness shall be a sure reward! Proverbs 11:18."

Do we desire a righteousness to justify us before God? He will clothe us in the unspotted robe of the Redeemer's righteousness Isaiah 61:10.

Do we desire an inward righteousness to fit us for the enjoyment of his presence? He will work it in us by his Spirit, and transform us into his own blessed image, Ezekiel 36:26. Yes, he will "rain down righteousness upon us," giving us "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, Romans 5:17." Let this then encourage us; for "none ever sought his face in vain! Isaiah 45:19."


Let us begin the first great work—the ploughing up of our fallow ground. We need not be told either the necessity or the reasonableness of this work in husbandry.

In the same way, a very small acquaintance with the corruption and obduracy of an unrenewed heart, will supersede any attempts to evince the same in the cultivation of the soul. Only let it be remembered, that nothing but the Word, opened in all its spirituality, and applied in its solemn sanctions, can ever effect this work. Let us study it more and more. Let us try ourselves by it. Let us bring our actions, words, and thoughts to it as to a touchstone. Let us use it for the rooting out of all false principles, and base affections. Thus shall our seed be sown to more advantage, Jeremiah 4:3; and a glorious harvest await us in the day of the Lord Jesus! James 4:9-10.




Hosea 11:1.

"When Israel was a child, then I loved him; and called my Son out of Egypt."

Without supposing a primary and secondary sense of Scripture, it is impossible to interpret the prophetic writings, so as to make them accord with the construction put upon them in the New Testament. Indeed, on many occasions, we are necessitated to apply them also in a spiritual or mystical sense, so as to bring out from them that full instruction which they are intended to convey. Not that we are at liberty to indulge our own conceits in explaining God's blessed Word, or to put upon it any sense which a fanciful imagination may suggest; but if we follow the inspired writers of the New Testament, we are safe.

The passage before us has surely a historical import, in relation to the ten tribes of Israel; nor can we doubt but that it has a prophetic meaning in reference to our blessed Lord. And I think the whole analogy of Scripture justifies us in affixing to it also a mystical meaning, in reference to the Church of God in all ages.

In accordance with this view, let us consider,

I. Its historical import, as relating to the Jewish people.

The prophet is reproving the ten tribes for their ingratitude to God; and in the words before us he shows them what signal mercies God had given to them, from the earliest period of their existence.

"He had loved Israel when a child".

When Israel was yet but few in number, God had loved them. Yes, when their great ancestor was yet in the womb, God had shown to him his distinguishing grace and mercy; choosing him, while Esau, the elder brother, was rejected, Malachi 1:2-3. If they looked for the true cause of this, they would find it in God, and in God alone; who had chosen them of his own sovereign will and pleasure, and "had loved them purely and solely because he would love them, "The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt! Deuteronomy 7:7-8."

Nothing could exceed their weakness or unworthiness, at the instant when God brought them into covenant with himself, Ezekiel 16:6; and therefore they were bound to bear this in remembrance, and to requite this love with a total surrender of themselves to God.

He had brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

God had set them apart as a special people for himself. And, in demanding their liberation from Pharaoh, he honored them with the name of "his son, his first-born, Exodus 4:22-23." And vain was Pharaoh's opposition to his will. By ten successive plagues, God subdued that proud monarch; and on the very day that had been foretold four hundred and thirty years before, brought them forth with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm; not so much as one was left behind; and this has been referred to, by all the inspired writers, as the most wonderful display of power and grace that ever was given to any creatures since the foundation of the world!

But let us view,

II. Its prophetic import, as relating to our blessed Lord.

It had been ordained of God, that every possible evidence should concur to establish beyond a doubt the Messiahship of Jesus.

Nothing could be conceived more unlikely than that Jesus the Messiah should be brought forth out of Egypt. He was to be born at Bethlehem, Matthew 2:5-6, and to be educated at Nazareth, Matthew 2:22-23. How, then, should it be possible for him to be brought out of Egypt? Behold, the rage and envy of Herod shall stimulate him to seek his utter destruction; and to secure it by the destruction of all the infants from two years old and under, in all the vicinity of the place where Jesus was born. But to defeat this murderous plot, an angel shall instruct Joseph to take the infant and its mother by night into Egypt; and there shall they be preserved in safety, until Herod himself is dead.

Thus, without any design on the part of man, yes, through the murderous rage alone of this jealous prince, is the prophecy fulfilled; and the most convincing evidence is given, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

In this view, as confirming the faith of all believers to the very end of the world, is this prophecy pre-eminently important; since it was beyond the power of man ever to imagine such an incident; and since it took place only through the cruelty of him who sought to destroy Christ as soon as he was come into the world.

Let us further consider,

III. Its mystical import, as applicable to the Israel of God in all ages.

It is well known that the whole deliverance of Israel from Egypt was a type of the deliverance of God's true Israel from sin and Satan, death and Hell. Taking, then, the passage in that view, we see in it,

1. The sovereignty of God's grace in choosing his people.

There is not a child of God, at whatever period he was converted to the faith of Christ, but was loved of God before the foundation of the world! Of every one of them it may be said, "God has loved us with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness has he drawn us! Jeremiah 31:3." To this all the Scriptures bear witness, Ephesians 1:4-5. 2 Timothy 1:9. And therefore, if we are God's children, we must bear in mind to whose sovereign grace alone we owe it, "We have not chosen him; but he has chosen us! John 15:16."

2. The work which he has ordained to accomplish in all his people.

He brings each one of them out of bondage to sin. However long we may have been in bondage there, he looses our bonds, and "brings us into the glorious liberty of his children." See what he did for his people of old, and then you will see what he will do for us.

Did he cause them to go from their bondage, and to commit themselves altogether to the guidance and protection of their God? That is what he will do for us; neither sin nor Satan shall detain us any longer under their dominion; but we shall devote ourselves altogether to the Lord, to be to him a holy and a special people!

3. The efficacy of his grace in their behalf.

Not one was left behind, "not one feeble person was found," at that juncture, amidst all the tribes of Israel.

In the same way, shall there be one among all his people whom he has redeemed, unable to withstand his spiritual enemies? No, not one! "It is not the will of our Father that one of his little ones should perish!" There may be a diversity in the mode of their preservation, as at the shipwreck of Paul; but not one shall be lost; nor shall a hair fall from the head of anyone among them! Acts 27:34; Acts 27:44.


1. Have any of you been called to God from early childhood?

O, "bless God for this unspeakable gift." How much sin have you avoided, which might have ensnared and destroyed your souls! Truly, to be called to the knowledge of the truth in early life, is a far richer blessing than to have been called to the possession of crowns and kingdoms!

2. Are any of you brought into a state of deep affliction?

This is no proof that God does not love you, or deal with you as his children. Israel of old were scarcely escaped from Egypt, before they were threatened with destruction at the Red Sea. In the same way, our blessed Lord was scarcely born into the world, before it was necessary that he should be carried to Egypt, to avoid the sword of the destroyer.

Indeed, you will find that God in general calls his people to trials.

John the Baptist must be in the deserts, until the time he appeared publicly to Israel, Luke 1:80.

Our blessed Lord must be "forty days tempted by the devil in the wilderness," before he shall enter on the office to which he had been baptized Matthew 4:1. Mark 1:9-13.

Paul shall be three days and three nights without sight; and even then shall go into Arabia before he enters fully on his apostolic office, Acts 9:9 and Galatians 1:17.

Thus does God generally cause his people's faith to be tried, Hebrews 12:8; and "allures them into the wilderness, before he speaks comfortably to them, Hosea 2:14-15."

If, then, your faith is tried, know that it is needful for your best interests 1 Peter 1:6-7, and that it is by your tribulations that he will further in you the work of "patience and experience and hope, Romans 5:3-5."

3. Are there among you those who have never yet come out of bondage to sin?

Be sure, that if you imagine yourselves to be children of God, while yet you have no desire to relinquish this vain world, you do but deceive your own souls. Your "faith," if it is genuine, "will overcome the world! 1 John 5:4;" and "the cross of Christ," if ever its saving power is felt, will cause you "to be crucified to the world, and the world to be as a crucified object unto you! Galatians 6:14." They who are the Lord's people indeed, "are not of the world, even as he was not of the world, John 17:14; John 17:16."

I call you, therefore, to show "whose you are, and whom you serve;" as for "serving God and Mammon also, it is impossible Matthew 6:24;" and to attempt it, is an act of treason against God James 4:4.

Come out, then, from Egypt and its pollutions, as God has commanded you; and then "he will be a Father unto you; and you shall be his sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty! 2 Corinthians 6:17-18."




Hosea 11:4.

"I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love."

The doctrine of Divine influences upon the souls of men, is generally considered as enthusiastic and absurd. But though we grant that there is much in it which is above our comprehension, there is nothing in it that is contrary to reason. We know not how the mind operates upon matter when we move any of the members of our body; but does anyone, on this account, question the influence of the mind upon our motions?

In the same way, though there is much in Divine influences upon the souls of men that is inexplicable, we affirm, that to them must be ascribed all the good which we do.

In fact, we have, in the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, a very striking illustration of the way in which the Spirit of God operates upon the souls of men. In reference to that event God says, "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." The same may be said of all who are delivered from the infinitely sorer bondage of sin and Satan!

Let us then consider:

I. How God drew the Jews out of Egypt.

They were not of themselves seeking deliverance. On the contrary, when Moses interposed for them by slaying one of their oppressors, and proceeded to encourage in them a hope of yet further deliverance, "they thrust him from them, saying: Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?" But when God's time was fully come, "he drew them," as we are told, "by the cords of a man, and by bands of love".

He made them to feel their sore bondage, and to cry so bitterly by reason of it, that God himself was afflicted by their afflictions. He then sent them a savior, even Moses, whom he commissioned and qualified to effect their deliverance. By him he displayed his almighty power; and in ten successive plagues inflicted upon Egypt, (from all of which the Jews were exempt,) he showed them, that, under the guidance of Moses, they might safely go forth from Egypt, and cast off the yoke of their oppressors.

Thus he drew them by such considerations as are proper to influence a rational being; for it is impossible for a man under the pressure of grievous affliction not to desire relief, and gladly to avail himself of such aid as promises to be effectual. He drew them, I say, "with cords of a man."

Further, God put himself at the head of them, and undertook to be their guide; and when their danger became so imminent that they were reduced to utter despair, he opened the sea before them, and led them through on dry ground, and overwhelmed all their enemies in the waves, which had just before been a wall for the protection of his chosen people! Here "he drew them with the bands of love," as he did afterwards in all their journeys, supplying by miracle their every need, and manifesting his glory to them, and giving them a written revelation of his will and taking them for his own special people above all the people upon the face of the whole earth.

To them also he held forth the prospect of an inheritance, even of a land flowing with milk and honey, where they should enjoy such peace and plenty and happiness as were unknown to the whole world besides.

Now these distinguishing favors were well calculated to bind them to him in such love and gratitude that nothing should ever be able to draw them from him or to dampen their ardor in his service.

True indeed these means did not produce their full effect upon that generation, all of whom perished in the wilderness, except two.

What addresses itself to our senses only, is but transient in its operation on the mind; whereas the things which are seen by faith are always present and abidingly influential and uniformly effectual. In this respect, therefore, the parallel between God's dealings with the Jews and with us will not hold good.

But still the manner in which God drew them serves as "a shadow of good things to come," and affords to us a striking illustration of the way in which he will draw his people to himself under the better dispensation which we are privileged to enjoy.

To elucidate this, I will show:

II. How he will draw us at this day.

We need his Divine influences as much as ever his ancient people did.

No man ever comes to God by any power of his own! Our blessed Lord expressly says, "No man comes unto me unless the Father who has sent me draws him, John 6:44." In fact we have not in ourselves, a power to:
do a good act, John 15:5,
or speak a good word, Matthew 12:34,
or think a good thoughts, 2 Corinthians 3:5.

"Our sufficiency for everything is from God alone;" "nor without him can we either will or do anyone thing that is pleasing in his sight, Philippians 2:13. If any man could have exerted such a power, it would have been the Apostle Paul. But he confesses, "By the grace of God, I am what I am!" And when constrained to speak of his labors, he recalls, as it were, his words—and with holy jealousy for God's honor, he adds: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me! 1 Corinthians 15:10." If any man thinks he can renew and sanctify his own soul, let him make the effort; and his own experience shall attest all that the Scriptures have spoken.

And how is it that God will work in us?

He will draw us, even as he did them, by rational considerations, and by gracious influences; or, as my text expresses it, "by the cords of a man, and by the bands of love."

When first God begins a work of grace upon the soul, he shows to a man his fallen state, and his utter inability to save himself. Then He makes known to him the Lord Jesus, who has died for the redemption of sinners, and shows to him, that through that adorable Savior he may obtain a deliverance from all guilt and misery, and be made a partaker of everlasting happiness and glory!

Now the question necessarily arises in his mind:
"Shall I persist in my wickedness?
 Shall I pour contempt upon these offers of mercy?
 Shall I plunge my soul into irremediable and endless perdition?
No! This were to act more stupidly than the beasts, and to act beneath the rationality of man!"

Thus is he drawn in the first instance by "the cords of a man." But in his further progress he experiences the still more influential drawings of God's love, which, as "bands," constrain him to surrender up himself as a willing captive to his God. The Holy Spirit, whose office it is to "glorify Christ, takes of the things that are Christ's, and shows them to the believing soul, John 16:14," and thus makes "Christ more precious to him" than ten thousand worlds! 1 Peter 2:7. In time, he enables the soul to "comprehend the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of that love of Christ which surpasses knowledge! Ephesians 3:18." And by witnessing with the soul that it is an object of God's love, he enables it with boldness and with confidence to address him by the endearing name of Father, Romans 8:15-16, and to assure itself of an everlasting participation of his kingdom and glory!

With such bands cast around him, the believer is drawn to God in a way of holy obedience, and can "defy all the hosts of Hell itself ever to separate him from God's love! Romans 8:35-39." The abiding feeling of his heart from henceforth is, "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again! 2 Corinthians 5:14-15."

Observe from hence,

1. What reason unconverted men have to blush and be ashamed.

They will take occasion from the doctrine of Divine influences to justify themselves, saying, 'If God does not draw me—then how can I go to him?'

But I ask: Have not the cords of a man been spread around you? Yes. And the bands of redeeming love also, and you have burst all these bands asunder, and cast all these cords from you?

Do you not know that Heaven and Hell are before you? Are you acting the part of rational beings, while you take no care to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life?

Have you never heard of what Christ has done and suffered for you, and felt too the influences of his Holy Spirit calling you to repentance? Yet you have ungratefully slighted all the love of Christ, and wickedly resisted the Holy Spirit! Tell me, then, whether such conduct does not call for the deepest humiliation before God? Truly, you may vindicate yourselves as you will now; but you shall stand self-condemned at the judgment-seat of Christ!

2. What reason believers have to bless and adore their God.

Though the unbeliever must ascribe to himself alone the misery to which he is hastening; you owe to God and to his sovereign grace all the blessedness which you enjoy. Had not God of his infinite mercy drawn you—then you would no more have turned to him, than Satan himself has done! John 6:44. In the view of all the good that you either possess or hope for, you must say, "Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose! 2 Corinthians 5:5."

Give him then the glory due unto his name; and look to him for a continuance of his grace, that his work may be carried on and perfected in your souls. Beg of him to fasten his bands yet more firmly around you, that nothing either within or without may break them. And endeavor at all times to yield to his attractive influences, and to comply with the first intimations of his will.

If you are treated with contempt for this by the ungodly world, comfort yourselves with the reflection, that you are acting the part of rational beings; and that the more closely you are drawn to God in this world, the more intimately you will enjoy him to all eternity in the world to come!




Hosea 11:7-9.

KJV. "My people are bent to backsliding from me; though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt him; yet how shall I give you up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver you, Israel? how shall I make you as Admah? how shall I set you as Zeboim? my heart is turned within me; my repentings are kindled together; I will not execute the fierceness of my anger."

NIV. "My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them. "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man--the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath."

The riches of divine grace are manifest in all the promises; but they are more eminently displayed in the manner in which the promises are given. God often introduces them after an enumeration of his people's sins. The passage before us well exemplifies this remark. See similar instances in Isaiah 43:22-25; Isaiah 57:17-18.

God has been contrasting his kindness to Israel—and their ingratitude towards him. In the text he sets forth their wickedness with all its aggravations; yet all this is preparatory, not to a heavy denunciation of his wrath, but to the tenderest expressions of paternal love!

I. The conduct of men towards God.

The ten tribes, since their separation from Judah, had become idolaters; yet God calls them his people because they had been admitted into covenant with him, and still professed to be his.

But they "are bent to backsliding from him".

The ungodly are justly compared to an unruly heifer; they will not submit to the yoke of God's laws; their whole spirit and character is like that of Pharaoh, Exodus 5:2. The "bent" and inclination of their hearts is wholly towards sin. An outward conformity to God's will they may approve, but they have a deeply-rooted aversion to spiritual obedience.

Nor can they by any means be prevailed on to "exalt and honor him".

They are "called" frequently by God's ministers; they are exhorted and entreated to return to the Most High. But neither promises can allure then, nor can threatenings alarm them! They turn a deaf ear to all admonitions. They will not "exalt" God in their hearts and lives.

This is almost universally the conduct of mankind.

There are a few indeed who desire and delight to serve God; they wish him to be the sole Lord and Governor of their hearts; it is their study to exalt him both in their words and actions. But these are few in every age and place; so few, that, in comparison with the rebellious, they may be said to be "none at all."

What might such people expect at the hand of God?

II. God's conduct towards them.

How different are God's ways from the ways of man!

Instead of executing vengeance in a moment, He deliberates.

Admah and Zeboim were cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah—and such monuments of wrath do the unregenerate deserve to be. But God knows not, as it were, how to inflict the deserved punishment. He calls to mind that they are his people. The repetition of their names, "you, Ephraim, and you, Israel," seems to import tenderness and affection towards them. He hesitates, like a parent that is about to disinherit his son; thus is he distracted between his affection for them, and his regard for his own honor. Thus also in Hosea 6:4.

Instead of executing vengeance in a moment, He relents.

To accommodate himself to our weak apprehensions, he speaks of himself after the manner of men; he cannot endure the thought of making men the objects of his everlasting displeasure. Thus did Jesus weep over the murderous Jerusalem, Luke 19:41. In the same way, do the affections of our Father yearn over us, Jeremiah 31:20.

Instead of executing vengeance in a moment, He resolves.

Often has "the fierce anger" of the Lord been kindled against us; yet many times has he turned away from his wrathful indignation, Psalm 78:38. Often, when his bow was bent, has he forborne to strike! Psalm 7:11-12; he waits, if perhaps we may yet return to him. His language to his rebellious creatures is the same as ever, Jeremiah 3:12-13.


1. How precious in the sight of God are the souls of men!

When it was necessary for man's salvation, God gave his only beloved Son.

He did not then deliberate: "How shall I do this?" Romans 8:32.

Neither did he relent, when he laid our iniquities on him! Mark 14:35-36.

Yes, he was even pleased in bruising his own Son for us! This is the proper sense of Isaiah 53:10.

But when a sinner seems irreclaimable, every tender emotion is excited. God sustains a conflict in his mind, and cannot give him up. O that men would duly estimate the worth of their own souls!

2. How just will be the condemnation of the impenitent!

This compassion of God greatly aggravates their backslidings; and at last it will give way to wrath and indignation! Genesis 6:3. Soon God will:
not deliberate, but decide;
not relent, but laugh at their calamity;
not resolve to pardon, but swear they shall not enter into his rest.

Then how just will their condemnation appear! May this goodness of God now lead us to repentance!

3. How certainly shall the returning sinner find mercy!

If God feels thus for the rebellious, then how much more for the penitent! Let all then seek him with humble confidence in his mercy. Let them offer their supplications like those of old, Isaiah 63:15. So shall that song of praise succeed their present disquietude, "I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me! Isaiah 12:1."




Hosea 12:3-5.

KJV. "He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually."

NIV. "In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there—the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown! But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always."

The historical parts of Scripture, if duly improved, will be found no less useful than the didactic, or any other parts. The Apostles often refer to them, and declare, that the things which had occurred to their ancestors, had "happened to them for examples," and that they were recorded "for our admonition."

The Prophet Hosea was reproving both Ephraim (or the northern ten tribes) and Judah (the two remaining southern tribes) for their respective sins. But having called the latter by the name of "Jacob," he thought it proper to guard them against the delusion of imagining themselves accepted by God because of their descent from Jacob, when their conduct was in direct opposition to that which he maintained. He then brings to their remembrance a very striking instance of Jacob's communion with God; and takes occasion from it to urge them to an imitation of his example.

We shall consider,

I. Jacob's victory.

In a season of great distress Jacob betook himself to prayer.

Jacob was greatly alarmed at the tidings that his brother Esau was coming against him with four hundred men to destroy him. He therefore used all the most prudential means to pacify his brother, or at least to prevent the total destruction of himself and his family. But he did not trust in the means he had devised. He determined to seek protection from God, well knowing that no means whatever could succeed without him, and that his favor would be a sure defense.

When Jacob stayed behind in order to call upon his God, God instantly came forth to meet him. The person who is said to have wrestled with him is sometimes called a man, sometimes an angel, and sometimes God. Compare Genesis 32:24; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 32:30 with verses 4, 5. It was none other than the Son of God, "the Angel of the Covenant," who assumed on this occasion, as he did on many other occasions, a human shape. By his condescending to come to Jacob in this manner, he showed, both to him and us, that none should ever seek his face in vain.

As for Jacob's wrestling with the angel, the prophet explains the import of that phrase, by saying, that Jacob "wept and made supplication unto him." He "stirred up himself, as it were, to lay hold on God;" and pleaded his cause before him with boldness and confidence. Assured of a successful outcome, he persevered in the conflict until break of day; and when solicited by his apparent adversary to terminate his exertions, he replied, "I will not let you go until you bless me." Yet we are particularly informed, that with this boldness there was a mixture of the deepest humility; for he urged his petitions as our Lord himself did in his incarnate state, with strong crying and tears! Hebrews 5:7

Thus did Jacob show us to whom we should go in an hour of trouble, and in what manner we should endeavor to interest him in our behalf.

By this means Jacob obtained the desired relief.

We are told twice in the text, that "he had power, and prevailed." He prevailed with God; and by God's assistance Jacob prevailed over man. The great object of his suit was to defeat the malice, and assuage the wrath, of his brother Esau. But how should he effect this? As conciliating as his measures and his conduct were, he could not ensure success; and therefore he went to God, who has all hearts in his hand, and turns them wherever he will. He well knew, that, if once he could get God on his side, he was safe; for that "none could be against him, if God were for him."

To God therefore he presented his supplication; and behold the instantaneous effect! The enraged persecutor meets him with fraternal affection, and the only strife between them was who should manifest the greatest love.

In the exhortation grounded on this fact, we see,

II. The improvement we should make of it.

The intermediate words, omitted in the text, are merely a repetition of the same idea, that the person who had met with Jacob in Bethel, was "the Lord God Almighty;" and that, in thus conversing with Jacob, he had, in fact, conversed with the Jewish nation, and had evinced his readiness to hear the supplications of all who call upon him.

Then follows the prophet's exhortation, which it will be proper to enforce:

1. "Turn unto your God".

He who was Jacob's God will also be ours; he is ours by external profession, and will be ours by the special communication of his grace, if we seek him with our whole heart.

To those who are in trouble, God is the only refuge! Nahum 1:7. We may go to the creature, and obtain no benefit; but, if we make our application to God, he will hear and help us. In him we shall be as in an impregnable fortress; and if the whole human race were combined for our destruction, not a hair of our head would perish. Let every one of us then turn unto God; and we shall find him a very present help in times of trouble.

2. "Keep mercy and justice".

We may be ready to think, that as Jacob, notwithstanding his treacherous conduct, found acceptance with God—we may also live in the violation of our duty, and transgress the plainest principles of love and equity, and yet have God for our protector and friend.

But Jacob's treachery was a source of innumerable troubles to him through life, and especially of those very fears that harassed him on this occasion. And we shall find that sooner or later, deceit will bring its own punishment along with it. Doubtless when Jacob "wept," he did so from a recollection that he had brought all these evils on himself, and had altogether forfeited the Divine favor. And to those in Hell, it will be a great augmentation of their misery to reflect that they brought it on themselves!

Let us then determine, through grace, that we will give no just occasion to the enemies of our religion to blaspheme, but that we will in everything keep a conscience void of offence towards both God and man.

3. "Wait on your God continually".

Whether we be reduced to such manifest straits as Jacob was, or not, we equally need the superintending care of God's Providence. We have spiritual enemies, incomparably more numerous, powerful, and inveterate than Esau's band; nor can any human means effectually defeat their malice.

Let us then not merely call on God occasionally, under the pressure of some heavy trial, or in the near prospect of death; but let us maintain fellowship with him continually, and by fervent supplication prevail with him to preserve us from all evil, and to bless us with all spiritual blessings.

Let us remember, that he is our God in Christ Jesus, and that, through the aid of our incarnate God, we shall be more than conquerors over every enemy!




Hosea 13:4.

"You shall know no God but me; for there is no Savior beside me!"

In the Holy Scriptures, every kind of argument is urged that is proper to influence the minds of men:
Sometimes we are persuaded by the terrors of the Lord.
Sometimes are allured by his exceeding great and precious promises.

A difference is observed towards men differently disposed, and differently circumstanced, "towards some, compassion is exercised" in all its gentlest forms; while others are "saved with fear, and snatched out of the fire" with a kind of compulsive violence.

But it frequently happens, that where the obstinacy of men is such as almost to preclude a hope of prevailing with them, both kinds of argument are combined, in order, if possible, by either, or by both, to overcome the obdurate soul.

Thus, in the passage before us, the prophet, having represented the ten tribes as increasingly shameless in their idolatries, declares from God, that they shall pass away like the morning cloud, or early dew, and that, like chaff from a threshing-floor, or smoke from a chimney—they shall be scattered as with a whirlwind over the face of the whole earth verses 2, 3.

But still, as though God repented of denouncing so heavy a judgment against them, he addresses them with tender pity, "Yet I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; and you shall know no God before me; for there is no Savior beside me;" that is, "I can never forget the relation which I bear towards you; and I am as willing as ever to bestow on you all the blessings of salvation, if only you will banish from you those rivals which have provoked me to jealousy."

In these words there are two things to be noticed:

I. The command.

In its primary and literal sense, it refers to the putting away of their molten images which they had made to worship. The terms used are nearly the same as those by which the first commandment in the Decalogue is expressed; and therefore we must consider them as extending also to the idolatry of the heart. The essence of idolatry is, as Paul expresses it, "a worshiping and serving of the creature more than the Creator, who is God over all, blessed forever! Romans 1:25."

Consequently, we are here forbidden to pay to any creature that regard which is due to God alone, or to make it the chief object of:

1. Our love.

We may love the creature in a subordinate way, but not so as to put it in competition with God. There is nothing in the whole universe which we should desire, or seek, in comparison with Him; nor anything which we should not willingly part with, rather than offend Him. The state of our minds towards God should be like that of David, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides you! Psalm 73:25." To make pleasure, or riches, or honor, or anything but God, our chief good—is idolatry! Philippians 3:19. "Whose God is their belly." Colossians 3:5. "Covetousness, which is idolatry."

2. Our fear.

Scarcely do any begin to fear God, but their acknowledgment of him is retarded by the fear of man. Those who were never ashamed of sin, and who were accustomed to commit all manner of iniquity with greediness, are filled with apprehensions lest their change of sentiment should be discovered, and they should be called to suffer reproach or persecution for the Lord's sake. But all such fear, argues a forgetfulness of God, Isaiah 51:12-13, who alone is worthy to be feared, Luke 12:4-5. Isaiah 8:12-13; If we regard God as we ought to do, our answer to every cowardly thought will be, "The Lord is my strength and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1."

3. Our confidence.

When trials of any kind arise, we almost universally turn our eyes to the creature, rather than to God. Either we look to our own wisdom and energy to deliver us, or to the favor and exertion of our fellow-creatures. We can scarcely ever realize the thought of God's superintending Providence, who is able and willing to interpose for us; we are apt rather to imagine, that it would be an insult to the Most High to suppose that he will trouble himself about such trifling concerns as ours.

In like manner, if our trials are of a spiritual nature, we look to:
our own wisdom to guide us,
our own righteousness to justify us,
and our own strength to obtain for us the victory over all our spiritual enemies.

But in all this, we greatly dishonor God, in whom should be all our trust for body and for soul, for time and for eternity! Psalm 11:1; Psalm 11:4. In all such creature-confidence, we manifest an entire departure of heart from God, and subject ourselves to his just and heavy displeasure, Jeremiah 17:5-6.

II. The equity of this command is strongly marked in the reason with which it is enforced.

Though God might well require obedience on the sole ground of his own authority—yet he is graciously pleased to assign a reason for this command—a reason, which, while it evinces the equity of the command, shows how deeply we are interested in obeying it.

1. Only God can save us in this present world.

Suppose that all the wealth and honor that ever were possessed by man were centered in one person—would they ward off the incursions of disease, or repel the assaults of death? Would they even secure their own continuance, so that they should not speedily give way to poverty and disgrace? In the event of any great reverse of circumstances, will those perishing vanities assuage the anguish of a broken bone, or calm the tempest of a troubled spirit? Will a guilty conscience be quieted by them, or death be divested of its sting? Disease and death have no respect of persons; nor will peace of mind be procured by high-sounding titles, or great possessions.

It is God alone who can avert trouble, or sanctify it to our good. He can keep us unhurt, when thousands are falling on our right hand, and on our left. Ir if he sees fit to send us tribulation, he can enable us to rejoice and glory in it. As for death, he has numbered it among the treasures of his people, whom he enables to long for it, that they may be with Christ, in complete and everlasting felicity.

If then we look only to our happiness in this present life, who can bear a comparison with Jehovah, as the source of it to those who trust in him?

2. Only God can save us in the world to come.

If the vanities of time and sense can do nothing for us in this present life—then how much less can they in the life to come! There they cannot so much as purchase for us a drop of water to cool our tongue!

But O! what a Savior will Jehovah be! Yes, transcending what crowns and kingdoms will he bestow on his believing and obedient people!

Behold the Rich Man stripped of all his transient joys, and plunged into that abyss of misery which once he despised! Behold, on the other hand, the once destitute and neglected Lazarus in the bosom of his God! Which of the two had chosen the better part: he who had walked in the ways of this world, and made Mammon his God—or he who had sought Jehovah as his God and portion?

Truly, one glance of the celestial world is quite sufficient to evince the reasonableness of the injunction given to us in our text!

This subject may be improved,

1. For our conviction.

It is a solemn truth with most professing Christians, that instead of preferring God before everything, we have preferred everything before him! Only let us compare the anxiety we have felt about created objects, with that which we have felt in reference to God, and we shall need no further evidence of our being idolaters in the sight of God.

What then have we reason to expect at his hands, in the day when he shall judge the world? Let us not judge of ourselves by some of the grosser sins which are injurious to society, but by those which strike at the honor and authority of God. Then we shall see, that, instead of being a Savior to us, we have reason to fear lest he arise and pleads his own cause, and become an Avenger of his own insulted Majesty.

2. For our consolation.

If we take Jehovah for our God, there is no good thing which we may not expect at his hands. The declaration that there is no Savior beside him, is, in fact, an assurance, that he will be a Savior to us, and do for us more than the whole universe can do.

We may view salvation in all its bearings, and in its utmost extent; and then say: "All this will my God be to me; all this he will do for me." We cannot possibly raise our expectations too high; for "he will do exceeding abundantly for us above all that we can ask or think;" nor need it be any grief to us that there is no Savior besides him; for we shall need no other. He is almighty, and will be all-sufficient!




Hosea 13:9.

KJV. "O Israel, you have destroyed yourself; but in me is your help!"

The great mass of nominal Christians need to be informed respecting their sinful state by nature, and the means by which they are to be delivered from it. Even those who have a theoretical acquaintance with these things need to be put frequently in remembrance of them, in order that they may be more abidingly influenced by the consideration of them.

In the words of our text, all mistakes on these points are clearly rectified; and we are told on the authority of God himself, that:

I. Man's destruction is of himself.

Whatever we may imagine to the contrary, there are multitudes of the human race eternally destroyed, Matthew 7:13-14. Their destruction too is altogether of themselves; for,

1. They will walk in the way that leads to damnation.

God has told them plainly that eternal misery must be the fruit of sin and impenitence, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Luke 13:3. Yet men will continue to disregard the warnings of God, and to practice the things which are displeasing to him! What then must become of them, if there is any truth in the Word of God? Or whom must they blame, when they feel the judgments which they would not fear?

The man, who by a poisonous draught, or by any other means, puts an end to his life, is not more the author of his own death, than these are of their own destruction!

2. They will not use the means which God has prescribed for their avoidance of damnation.

God has graciously opened a way for the salvation of a ruined world; he has sent his only dear Son to die for sinners, and his Spirit to instruct and sanctify them. But men will not seek to be washed in the Redeemer's blood. They will not pray for the influences of the Holy Spirit. They will not cordially accept the salvation freely offered to them. They are so intent on their worldly business or pleasure, that they will not afford time for spiritual employments. Is it not then utterly their own fault if they perish?

A man, who having taken a poisonous draught, whether intentionally or not, would be justly considered as the author of his own death, if he obstinately refused an antidote that was offered to him. In the same way, must they be considered as destroying themselves, who neglect the means which God has provided for their escape!

3. They make use of everything ultimately to ensure their own destruction.

Whether they look upwards to God, or around them to the world, or within them to their own experience—they turn everything into an occasion of fostering their own delusions, and of lulling themselves asleep in a fatal security.

Men take occasion to foster their own delusions, from God himself.

1. From God's perfections.

From God's sovereignty, "If he will not give me his grace—then how can I help myself?"

From God's mercy, "God is too merciful to condemn any man."

2. From God's providence.

If God's providence is favorable, "These blessings are proofs of his love."

If God's favorable is afflictive, "I have my sufferings in this life."

3. From God's grace.

"He gave his Son to die for me; therefore I have nothing to fear."

Men take occasion to foster their own delusions, from the world around them.

1. From the godly.

If they are consistent, "They are unreasonably precise."

If they are inconsistent, "They are hypocrites; they are all alike; I am as good as they; only I make less talk about religion."

2. From the ungodly.

"I can never think that so many are wrong, and so few are right."

Men take occasion to foster their own delusions, from their own experience.

1. If they have been corrupt, "Why did God give me these passions?"

2. If they have been moral, "I thank you that I am not as other men are."

3. If they are learned, "Cannot I understand my Bible without Divine illumination?"

4. If they are unlearned, "My ignorance is excusable—I am no scholar."

5. If they have been neglectful of religious duties, "I have done no one any harm."

6. If they have been observant of religious duties; they put their formal services in the place of Christ, and consider them as decisive evidences of their conversion.

Thus instead of arguing from these topics so as to stimulate their exertions, they derive encouragement from them all to continue in their sins.

But though man's damnation is of himself, we must not suppose that his salvation also is of himself.

II. His salvation is of God alone.

If we inquire who it is, that thus arrogates to himself the exclusive power of saving sinners, we shall find that it is the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone is "King" in Zion, verse 10 with Matthew 21:5 and Acts 5:31, "besides whom there is no Savior, verse 4," and who invariably claims this as his unalienable prerogative! Isaiah 45:22 with Matthew 11:28 and John 7:37.

1. There is help for us in no other.

Who besides him could possibly make atonement for our sins? Man himself could never satisfy Divine Justice. Nor could all the angels in Heaven offer unto God a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of men? None but He who was "Jehovah's Fellow" was equal to the task of expiating sin, and effecting a reconciliation between God and man! Psalm 89:19 with Hebrews 10:4-10.

Who besides him could rescue us out of the hands of our spiritual enemies? He is that strong man, who alone can vanquish our mighty adversary, and deliver us from our sore bondage, Luke 11:21; Luke 11:23.

Who besides him can teach us the way of salvation, Matthew 11:27; or incline us to seek after it Philippians 2:13; or render our endeavors effectual John 15:5.

We may truly say then, that as there is no other foundation on which to build our hopes, 1 Corinthians 3:11, so neither is there any other name or power whereby we can be saved, Acts 4:12. "Christ is all! Colossians 3:11."

2. In him there is sufficient help.

There is nothing lacking in sinful man, which is not abundantly supplied in Jesus Christ. In him there is:

wisdom to direct the most ignorant, Matthew 11:29.

merit to justify the most guilty, Acts 13:39.

grace to sanctify the most polluted, 1 Corinthians 6:11.

strength to render even the weakest of the human race a conqueror, yes, "more than conqueror," over all his enemies! 2 Corinthians 12:9. Philippians 4:13.

He is furnished by God for this very end, Isaiah 61:1; and appointed by him to this very office, 1 Corinthians 1:30; and is in every respect "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him! Hebrews 7:25."


1. Those who are ignorant of their sinful state before God.

Too many, alas! are altogether ignorant of their undone state, and still more so of the guilt attaching to them as the authors of their own misery. But whether we know these things or not, it is an indisputable fact that we have destroyed ourselves, and that there is no possibility of recovery for us but in and through Christ. Let us then seek instruction on these infinitely important subjects, lest we "perish forever for lack of knowledge! Hosea 4:6."

Let us not for one moment look for acceptance in any other way than through the Lord Jesus Christ, as though we were not self-destroyed, or there remained in us any sufficiency to help ourselves. For so destitute are we of all help in ourselves, that, if a good thought would cancel all our past iniquities, and open the kingdom of Heaven to us—we could not supply it! 2 Corinthians 3:5.

If ever we would partake of the felicity of Heaven, we must renounce all self-dependence, and look for our help in Christ alone! Romans 9:30-33.

2. Those who are desponding on account of their sinful state before God.

When men begin to see their perishing condition, and to feel a consciousness that they have been the authors of their own ruin, they often distress themselves with apprehensions that their state is irremediable.

Our text affords a complete antidote to all desponding fears; in it God addresses himself immediately to the self-ruined sinner, and says to him, "I am your help!" Whatever guilt therefore anyone may have contracted, and whatever cause he may have to reproach himself—let him only consider who it is that says to him, "In me is your help," and he may instantly dismiss his fears. Let him "be strong in faith, giving glory to God;" and he shall find that, "before Zerubbabel the mountains will become a plain! Isaiah 40:27-31. Zechariah 4:7."




Hosea 14:1-3.

KJV. "O Israel, return unto the Lord your God; for you have fallen by your iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, You are our gods; for in You the fatherless finds mercy."

NIV. "Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion."

For the encouragement of all who feel the burden of their sins, God has declared, yes has sworn, that "he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live!" The whole Scriptures bear testimony to that blessed truth. But, lest any should be discouraged by the idea that they know not how to approach him acceptably, it has pleased God to prescribe the very "words" whereby he would have them address him. And assuredly, if he had consulted all the weary and heavy-laden sinners in the universe, and had permitted them, or any individual among them, to dictate to him what expressions he should prescribe, the whole world could never have suggested any that were more suited to the necessities of men, or more satisfactory to their minds, than those recorded in our text.

In the words before us, we see, not merely our general warrant for returning to the Lord, but more particularly:

I. What petitions to offer.

What would anyone who felt the burden of sin, and a restoration to the Divine favor, desire? What but a full remission of all his sins, and a free communication of all spiritual and eternal blessings? He would wish for pardon to be complete; because if so much as one sin were left upon his soul, it would inevitably plunge him into everlasting perdition. He would also wish for his reception to be perfectly gratuitous, because he can never do anything to merit it at the hands of God.

Behold then, it is precisely in this way that we are directed to pray, "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously." And let it be remembered, that this address is not put into the mouths of only those who have contracted a less measure of guilt than others, but of all, to whatever extent "their iniquities" may have abounded, and to whatever depth they may have "fallen" by them. If only we have a desire to "return to the Lord our God"—then we are the people invited and commanded to return in this way.

In our text, we are further told,

II. What promises to make.

We must not imagine that we can make to God any adequate return for his mercies towards us; nor must we presume to offer anything to him as an inducement to exercise mercy towards us; nor in any point of view whatever must we promise anything in our own strength. But his mercies undoubtedly call for the best return that we can make, and they lay us under an obligation to do our utmost to please and serve him. Whatever tribute we can render to him, we should; and he here tells us what he will accept at our hands, namely, the tribute of,

1. A grateful heart.

The blood of bulls or "calves" is no longer required of us; there are other and better sacrifices which he expects us to offer, namely, "the fruit of our lips," or the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, Psalm 50:13-14; Psalm 50:23. And these are the offerings which all who are looking to him for mercy desire to offer. In fact, the more any people are bowed down with a sense of sin, the more they are ready to say, 'How will I praise God, if ever I should obtain mercy at his hands! If ever God should admit me to a participation of his kingdom and glory, there will not be one in Heaven that will shout the praises of redeeming love so loud as I!' This tribute therefore the pardoned sinner will delight to pay.

2. A devoted life.

To turn from sin, and especially from our besetting sins, is indispensably required of all who seek for mercy at God's hands, Hebrews 12:1. The besetting sins of Israel were creature-confidence, and idolatry. They were always looking to Egypt or Assyria for help, rather than to God; and giving to dumb idols the worship that was due to him alone. These evils therefore they were to renounce; and an engagement to renounce them was required of all who desired the remission of their former sins.

Thus, in approaching the Most High God, and supplicating mercy from him, we should determine, with God's help, never more to provoke the Lord to jealousy by a renewal of those sins of which we profess to have repented. Our besetting sins in particular must be searched out; and whatever they may have been, whether of a spiritual or carnal nature—we must engage, through grace, to mortify and subdue them. We must engage, in dependence upon God, to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

As great earnestness is required in our prayers, we are taught,

III. What pleas to urge.

God indeed is not, nor can be, imposed upon by any considerations that we can propose; but for the stirring up of our own souls it is proper and necessary that we should enforce our petitions with becoming pleas. But where shall we find any consideration fit to be presented to God? Nowhere, but in his own perfections, or in his gracious promises. Here however we are at no loss. The compassions of our God are infinite; and may well be pleaded by those who feel their need of mercy. "In him the fatherless finds mercy;" in him, too, the guilty, as well as the destitute, find mercy. Search the records of his Word; and this truth will be seen written as with a sun-beam! Mark that stupendous effort of mercy, the gift of his only dear Son to the accursed death of the cross!

Mark the invitations, the promises, the expostulations, the complaints, "Will you not be made clean? O! when shall it once be?" Mark these, I say; and they form such a plea, as must satisfy the most doubting mind, and the apprehensions of every desponding soul must turn to transports of joy.


1. To those who refuse to turn to God.

Alas! How many turn a deaf ear to the solicitations of Heaven! "How often would the Savior gather us under his wings, and we will not?" But, if you will not turn at God's reproof, what will you answer him in the day when he shall judge the world? As low as "you are fallen," he now is willing to raise you up. But soon all possibility of recovery will be past; and you will sink yet lower still, even into the bottomless abyss of misery. "O consider this, you that forget God; lest he tear you in pieces, and there are none to deliver you!"

2. To those who are beginning to return.

Mind that you return in his appointed way. Seek not merely a deliverance from wrath, but a restoration to the state from whence you are fallen. Look back on man in his primeval state, and see how Adam walked with God in Paradise; that is the pattern that you should endeavor to follow, and the standard to which you should aspire.

Or look at the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and see how he walked in the midst of this ungodly world; and endeavor to "walk as he walked."

For the remission of your sins, and your restoration to the Divine favor, let the mercy of God in Christ Jesus be your only plea, your only hope.

For the honoring of your reconciled God, let the sacrifice of praise be continually offered to him on the altar of your hearts, and every defilement be banished without hesitation or reserve.

Thus coming to him, you shall never be cast out; but shall surely be received to a participation of his favor, and to a possession of his glory!




Hosea 14:4.

KJV. "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from him."

NIV. "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them!"

Men who have never seen the evil of sin are ready to imagine that God will not punish it. Under the idea of advancing the attribute of God's mercy, they deprive him of all justice, holiness, and truth.

On the other hand, when they are awakened to a due sight and sense of sin, they suppose that God can never forgive such vile and guilty creatures as themselves; they are now as prone to limit his mercy, as before they were to extend it beyond all bounds of truth and soberness.

Nor is this disposition found only in one or two instances; hard thoughts of God, and desponding thoughts of their own state—are very common among those who begin to repent; and therefore God is particularly solicitous to impress us with a confidence in his mercy to true penitents.

When he proclaimed his name to Moses, there were a great many expressions declarative of his mercy, while there was only one that described his justice.

So we shall find, that there is scarcely any threatening in all the book of God, which is not followed by some free and gracious promise.

In the passage before us, he has been exhorting the ten tribes to return unto him; he has put words into their mouths, and taught them how to approach him acceptably; and for their further encouragement, he promises to grant them the richest of all mercies, "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from him."

From these words we shall take occasion to show:

I. What blessings true penitents may expect.

We cannot easily conceive any description of sinners to be worse than those to whom the prophet was writing; this whole prophecy is filled with the most grievous accusations against them. Yet God encourages them to repent; and, on the first appearance of penitence and contrition, he sends them this heart-reviving message, "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely."

The first blessing then that every penitent may expect, is that God will heal his backslidings. Sin of every kind, but more especially backsliding, makes a grievous wound in the soul. What pain and anguish did Peter feel, when he went out and wept bitterly! How deeply was David stricken, when he "roared for the disquietness of his heart!" He compares his misery to that occasioned by broken bones; and prays, that God would "make the bones which He had broken to rejoice." Yet as grievous as these wounds are, God will heal them, if we are truly penitent.

There are two ways in which he will heal sin:
He will heal the guilt of sin, by the blood of his Son.
He will heal the power and pollution of sin, by the influences of his Spirit.

1. He will heal the guilt of sin, by the blood of his Son. There is no other sin-healing balm than this; this alone can avail for the remission of sin; nothing but that which satisfied God, will ever save us; nothing but that blood which made an atonement for sin, can ever wash away its stain from our guilty consciences. The blood of Jesus however, will cleanse from all sin. God once opened on the cross a fountain for sin and impurity; nor has it lost any of its cleansing efficacy. The most heinous sins may be healed in a moment, if it is only sprinkled with this precious blood. Nor will God ever fail to impart this balm to any soul that makes application for it, "though their sins may have been as scarlet, they shall be made white as wool; and though they may have been red as crimson, they shall become white as snow!"

2. But God will destroy the power of sin, as well as cleanse the guilt of our backsliding; and this he will do by the influences of his Spirit. It would be to little purpose that he forgave the guilt, if he did not also subdue the power, of our corruptions; for, however frequently they might be forgiven, they would still rage with unabated fury; the wounds healed for an instant would still be breaking out afresh. Nor would our souls attain to any abiding purity or peace. God therefore will cast salt into the bitter fountain of our hearts. He will "put his Spirit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes;" he will give us "grace sufficient for us;" he will strengthen us to resist temptation, and to fulfill our duties. And though we cannot expect to arrive at sinless perfection while we are in this world—yet shall we be so far healed, that "no sin whatever shall have allowed dominion over us."

This then is the first blessing which every penitent may expect—the guilt and power of his sins, yes, even of his most grievous backsliding, shall be healed. And whereas there was "no soundness in him, but (as the prophet says) only wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores," "his health shall spring forth speedily," "the lame man shall leap as an deer, and the tongue of the mute sing."

But is this all that the penitent may expect? No! God has in store for him a higher and richer blessing. It is great indeed to have one's backslidings healed; but it is greater still to enjoy the light of God's countenance, and to have his love shed abroad in one's heart; yet this also shall be given to every repenting sinner. God says in my text, "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely."

God will feel a joy and a delight over the returning Prodigal, "To this man," says he, "will I look, who is of a humble and contrite spirit;" I will fix my eyes upon him for good; I will look upon him with delight; though burning seraphs surround my throne, and myriads of angels brighter than the sun encompass me around, I will look through all their shining ranks, nor shall all of them together divert my attention from the contrite sinner, "To this man will I look;" from whoever I hide my eyes, I will be sure to look on him with pleasure and delight, "I will rejoice over him with joy; I will rest in my love; I will rejoice over him with singing."

What an unspeakable blessing is this! To have God himself delighting in us, and shedding abroad his love in our hearts, this is inestimable indeed!

He adds moreover, "I will love them freely;" that is without any desert in them, without any reluctance in himself. Were he to wait until they had something in themselves worthy to attract his notice, they could have no hope. To all eternity they must remain poor, helpless, miserable, undone creatures. They could never of themselves entertain so much as one good thought; much less could they do anything to merit God's esteem. God therefore will not wait for anything in them to attract his regard; if only they are sorry for their sins, and bewail them before him in secret, he will love them freely; not for their sakes, but for his own sake; not because they are good, but because he will show forth the freeness of his grace.

And, as he will love them without any desert in them—so will he love them without any reluctance in himself. He delights in the exercise of mercy; it is the very joy of his heart to manifest his mercy to all that call upon him in truth. When our iniquities compel him to give us up, then he is all backwardness and reluctance, "How shall I give you up? my heart is troubled for you." But when we desire to return to him, he never deliberates; he never says, "How shall I receive such a sinner as you are?"

We may see in the parable of the Prodigal Son what is his conduct towards every repenting sinner; instead of hesitating whether he should receive the Prodigal, he ran to meet him; instead of upbraiding him, he interrupts him in his confession, and seals up his lips with kisses. Instead of granting his request and making him the lowest of his servants, he treats him as his best-beloved son, clothes him in the richest garments, and kills the fatted calf for him!

Thus does God towards every penitent; and were every soul as much disposed to receive mercy as God is to show mercy, there would never so much as one perish, even to the end of the world!

These blessings then may every penitent expect. God has here, as also in many other passages, expressly bound himself by his own voluntary promise; so that every penitent may expect these blessings upon the ground of God's truth and faithfulness.

But there is another ground mentioned in our text; we proceed therefore to notice,

II. On what ground they may expect God's blessings.

This part of our subject will require peculiar care and attention, lest we be misunderstood.

Observe the manner in which the last words of our text are introduced; God says, "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from him." God is here endeavoring to encourage penitents; and therefore he tells them that he will do great things for them, because his anger is already turned away from them.

After much and careful examination of the words, we are persuaded that this is the true sense and meaning of them; and that they are intended to convey one of the most encouraging truths that can be found in all the book of God, namely, that our repentance is a proof of God's anger being turned away from us, and that the removal of his anger from us is a pledge of greater blessings; or, in other words, that our having the grace of repentance is a ground whereon we may expect the richest blessings.

We will explain ourselves more fully.

Repentance has not in itself anything meritorious; nor can the mere work of repentance ever afford a ground of hope towards God. To suppose that our repentance can merit anything at God's hands, or bear any part in our justification before God, would be to subvert the whole Gospel, and to render Christ's death of no effect. Satan cannot take any more effectual method to bring souls to perdition, than to make them trust in their own repentance. Let us not then be understood as though we would lead any man to trust in his repentance; for we say again, that it is impossible to take a surer road to destruction, than he does, who trusts in any repentance or righteousness of his own.

But, in another sense, repentance may encourage us to hope; for repentance is a sign and evidence of grace; and grace given, warrants us to expect more grace; and therefore we say, repentance is in some sense a ground of hope. This, we doubt not, is the meaning of the prophet, in our text. The latter part of our text is a reason for the former part of it; God says in the former part, "I will do so and so;" and then, in the latter part, he tells them why they may expect him to do so and so, namely, "because my anger is turned away from them;" he does not say, "shall be turned away," but is already turned away.

Their being penitent was a proof that they had saving grace; their having grace was a proof that God's anger was turned away from them; and the removal of his anger from them was a ground whereon they might expect further blessings from him.

To make this matter more clear, let us substantiate two things:

First, Repentance is an evidence of grace. No one can doubt that, unless he supposes, that he can repent without the grace of God; but a man must be ignorant indeed to frame any such conception as that. If we believe anything of the Scriptures, or know anything of our own hearts, we must know, that "Christ is ascended up on high, to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins;" and that we must acknowledge our repentance, as well as "every other good and perfect gift, to be from above, even from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning."

Second, It being therefore past a doubt that repentance is an evidence of grace, let us prove next, that grace given, warrants us to expect more grace. The Scriptures plainly assert this; for, on what ground was Paul so confident that God would carry on the good work in the hearts of his Philippian converts, and perform it until the day of Christ? On this ground, namely, "that God had begun a good work in them;" so that, to say the least, grace bestowed is a ground of encouragement whereon we may hope to obtain more grace.

The clear indisputable conclusion from hence is, that if any man has grace to repent, he may take encouragement from it to hope that God will give him more grace. If he has so good an evidence that God's anger is already turned away from him, he has good reason to hope that God will do more for him, that he will heal his backslidings, and love him freely!

By way of confirming this blessed truth, we will refer you to those memorable words of David, Psalm 56:13; where you will see, that he draws the very same conclusion from the very same premises; and that too in such a way as evidently supposes his argument to be incontrovertible, "You have delivered my soul from death; will you not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living?"

Let us now conclude, with an inference or two from what has been said:

1. What astonishing consolation is here for all who desire to turn unto God!

A person may, from a discovery of his sins, be led to say, "There is no hope!" More especially those who have once "tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come," if they have lost their good impressions, and turned back to the world, are tempted to despair. Satan would suggest to them, that, because they have sinned against light and knowledge, they have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. But observe what care God takes to dispel our fears, and to encourage our return; he does not merely say, "I will heal their sins, but I will heal their backsliding;" thereby obviating at once all their objections. He knows how Satan will take advantage of them—that he will suggest desponding thoughts, and make them believe their sins are too great to be forgiven; and therefore God specifies the greatest of all sins, "I will heal their backsliding;" their sins committed against all their own vows and resolutions, their sins committed after the greatest mercies had been given to them; yes, even those, says God, I will heal; I will wash them away in the blood of my dear Son, and blot them out as a thick cloud! I will cast them behind my back, and remember them no more! I will pour the balm of Gilead into your wounded spirits, and speak peace to your afflicted consciences.

Still Satan suggests, "But you will fall again, and then your last end shall be worse than the beginning." 'No' says God, 'it shall not be so; only come to me, and I will keep you from falling; trust in me, and "you shall never fall; but an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the kingdom of your Lord and Savior." I will heal you, not only by my pardoning grace, but also by my renewing grace. So effectually will I heal your wounds, that I will even renew you after my own image, in righteousness and true holiness.'

Perhaps Satan will still urge, 'But you are not worthy;' and thus prevent your trusting in God. 'But,' says God, 'I do not look for worthiness in the creature; I will love them freely; without the smallest regard to anything in them; I will love them for my own name sake, and "have mercy merely because I will have mercy." '

But yet Satan suggests, 'This is not for you; God is your enemy, and you have nothing to do with these promises.' But to this also God has given you a certain answer: Are you truly desirous to have your backslidings healed, and to live in the enjoyment of God's free love and favor? 'Then, says God, "My anger is turned away from you;" it not only shall be turned away from you, but is turned away from you; that very desire is a fruit of my love; that little repentance which you exercise, is the gift of my grace; and you are to take it as a pledge of richer blessings; you are to take encouragement from what I have given, to expect from me all that I can give; only follow the direction I have given you, "Take with you words, and say unto me: Take away all iniquity, and receive me graciously," and I will answer the very desires of your heart; for "I will heal your backslidings, which are the greatest of all sins, and will love you freely. And, lest you should doubt this, I tell you, that, if such are the desires of your heart, my anger is turned away from you."

See now, my brethren, what rich consolation there is for every drooping and desponding soul! O cease to listen to the suggestions of Satan; cease to entertain hard thoughts of God! Only come to Jesus, and see what a gracious Savior he is; how freely he will love, how effectually he will heal. Bring all your unworthiness along with you; bring all your sins and all your backslidings; and if only you desire to have them all healed, then surely you shall soon feel the cleansing efficacy of his blood, and the renewing influence of his Spirit; and when he thus loves you, he will "love you to the end!"

2. What cause of fear is here to those who are living in willful sin!

If you are not seeking deliverance from sin, even from your darling and besetting sin—then surely your case is awful indeed; the anger of God is not turned away from you. No; if there be any truth in the Divine record, "the wrath of God abides on you!" If you do not seek to have your backslidings healed—then how is it possible that God should love you? It is said, "He hates all the workers of iniquity!" and, "He is angry with the wicked every day!" Deceive not therefore your own souls; you backsliders in particular, who have fallen from your first love, deceive not yourselves; for, unless you repent, God shall remove your lampstand, and your lamp shall go out forever!

Examine well your own souls. See whether the world has not crept in. See whether some accursed weeds and thorns have not choked the seed, so that you bring no fruit to perfection? If you can be easy in such a state—then there is reason to fear that you are given up by God to judicial hardness!

But perhaps you are not easy—yet your uneasiness does not stir you up to repent; you do not sincerely seek grace and mercy from the Savior's hands; you do not plead with him in earnest; you do not go with strong crying and tears to implore deliverance. What then can you expect, but to perish by the wounds which your backslidings have made?

Still, however, there is mercy in store for you; God does not desire not your death, but rather that you turn from your wickedness and live. O then, "turn and live!" Be importunate at the throne of grace; plead with Him who died for sinners; remember, He is the Sun of Righteousness, whose beams are healing; and "the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations." He is called in Exodus 15:26, "The Lord who heals you." Ge says to every convinced sinner, "If you will return, return unto me, O Israel!" "Whoever comes unto me, I will never cast out!"




Hosea 14:5-7.

KJV. "I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."

NIV. "I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon."

There are instances of beautiful imagery in the Scriptures equal to any that can be found in the works of the most renowned authors; they are enhanced too by the importance of the subjects they contain. In both respects the passage before us deserves peculiar attention. Imagination cannot conceive a richer display of divine blessings than God here grants to his people!

I. The favor which God will show his people.

The metaphor of "dew" is at once simple and sublime.

The benefits of the dew are but little known in our climate; but in Judea the metaphor would appear very significant Where the rains are periodical, and the climate hot, the dews are more abundant.

For some time after the creation, dew supplied the place of rain, Genesis 2:6; and, after rain was given, it still remained of great use. The Scriptures speak of dew as an important blessing, see Genesis 27:28; Genesis 27:39 and Deuteronomy 33:13; they represent the withholding of dew as a calamity and a curse 2 Samuel 1:21.

The communications of God to his people are fitly compared to dew.

Dew distills silently and almost imperceptibly on the ground; yet it insinuates itself into the plants on which it falls, and thus maintains their vegetative powers.

In the same manner God's visits to his people are secret. He does not come in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the small still voice he gains access to their in most souls, 1 Kings 19:11-12, 2 Corinthians 6:16. He cheers and revives their fainting spirits, and thus he fulfills to them his own most gracious promise, Isaiah 58:11.

Were his communications refreshing only, and not influential on the conduct, we might be afraid of wild enthusiasm; but his favor invariably discovers itself by:

II. The fruits and effects of dew.

The effects of the dew are seen by the progress of vegetation.

In the same way, the descent of God's Spirit on the soul also produces growth, beauty, fragrance, fertility.

1. Growth.

The "lily" springs up speedily, but is of short duration. The cedars of "Lebanon cast forth their roots" to a great extent.

In the same way, is the soul that is refreshed with divine communications. The quickness of its growth often excites admiration. Its stability defies the assaults of earth and Hell, while it "spreads its branches," and displays its vigor in every good word and work.

2. Beauty.

There is peculiar grace and beauty in the olive-tree, and such is there in the soul that communes much with God. What a luster was there on the face of Moses, when he came down from the mount, Exodus 34:30. And how is the lively Christian "beautified with salvation!" His outward conduct is rendered amiable in every part. His inward dispositions of humility and love are ornaments which even God himself admires! 1 Peter 3:4. He is transformed into the image of his God, Ephesians 4:23-24; nor shall his beauty be ever allowed to decay.

The olive tree, as an evergreen, retains its beauty; and in this respect also is a fit emblem of the true Christian. Psalm 1:3.

3. Fragrance. This is twice mentioned in the text, and therefore deserves peculiar notice.

Lebanon was no less famous for its fragrant vines, than for its lofty cedars. In the same way, does not the Christian diffuse a savor all around him, 2 Corinthians 2:14. How animated his discourse is when God is with him! How refreshing and delightful to those who enjoy his conversation. See him before the sun has exhaled the dew, or the world has abated the fervor of his affections; and how does he verify that saying! Proverbs 16:24.

How pleasing is it also to his God and Savior, Malachi 3:16, Song of Solomon 4:16. In proportion as he lives near to God, he fulfills that duty. Colossians 4:6.

4. Fertility.

The "grain and the vine" are just emblems of a Christian's fruitfulness. They often wear the most unpromising appearance; yet are they "revived" by the congenial influences of the sun and rain. Thus the Christian may be reduced to a drooping or desponding state; but the renewed influences of God's Spirit will revive him. They make him "fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness." They too, who "dwell under his shadow," and are most nearly connected with him, will participate in his blessings. If he is a master, a parent, and especially a minister, the benefit of his nearness to God will extend to many."


1. How honorable and blessed is the Christian's state!

Often is he favored with visits from above, John 14:23, and glorious are the effects produced by God upon him. The whole creation scarcely affords images whereby his blessedness may be adequately represented. Who then is so honorable? Who then is so happy? Let all endeavor to maintain a sense of their high privileges, and to "walk worthy of the calling with which they are called."

2. How hopeful is the state of those who wait on God!

The promises in the text were given as an answer to prayer, verse 2; and they are made to all, who, "like Israel," plead with God. If the dew is withheld from others, it shall descend on them, Judges 6:37-38. Its descent shall accomplish the utmost wishes of their souls. They shall soon experience the fulfillment of that verse, "Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint!" Isaiah 40:31.




Hosea 14:8.

"Ephraim shall say: What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him; I am like a green fir-tree; from me is your fruit found."

The conversion of a sinner is a work of infinite difficulty—no efforts of the creature can accomplish it! None but He who spoke the universe into existence, can renew the soul; but when his time is come, the work is done both easily and effectually. As a ship, forsaken by the ebbing tide, can never be dragged along, but is easily put in motion when borne up by the returning waters, so the sinner is immoveable in his iniquities, until the Spirit of God flows in upon him; and then "old things quickly pass away, and, behold, all things become new!"

This observation is verified continually before our eyes. People who have been warned and entreated for many years, and have not only withstood all the most solemn and endearing considerations, but have been more and more hardened by the means used to convert them, have at last been turned to God through a secret and invisible influence upon their souls, and have become burning and shining lights in their day and generation.

Such were the effects produced on the day of Pentecost, when thousands to whom our blessed Lord had preached in vain, and on whom the most stupendous miracles had wrought no change, were constrained to renounce all their former habits and opinions, and to embrace a new, a spiritual, a despised, and persecuted religion.

A similar instance we have in the passage before us. If we look to the account given us of Ephraim in Hosea 4:17, we shall find, that he was "joined to idols"—yes, so glued to them, that neither warnings from man, nor judgments from God, could separate him from them; and therefore God said respecting him, "Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone!" It is to no purpose to use any further means for his recovery; he is incorrigible, and irreclaimable!

But behold the change, when once God is pleased to put forth his saving power! When once he says, "I will heal their backsliding, I will be as the dew to Israel," "I will manifest my grace and mercy to his soul"—the obdurate heart relents; the abandoned sinner turns from his iniquities, and even with indignation and abhorrence, he renounces his most beloved lusts! "Ephraim says, What have I to do any more with idols?"

If God therefore has such pity on an impenitent transgressor, we shall not wonder at the gracious declaration which he makes for the comfort of this penitent and returning sinner, "I have heard him, and observed him; I am like a green fir-tree; from me is your fruit found."

In discoursing on these words, we shall be naturally led to show you:

I. The disposition of the true penitent.

The unconverted man, though he may never have bowed down to stocks and stones, is an idolater; he "loves and serves the creature more than the Creator." All indeed do not worship the same idol; one gives his heart to riches, another to honor, another to pleasure; and though all these find a higher place in our affections than we allow to God—yet each person has his favorite idol, to which he is in a more especial manner devoted.

But when grace has renewed the heart, then the penitent says with Ephraim of old, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" His disposition is to renounce all sins in general; and his besetting sin in particular—and this too with indignation and abhorrence.

He renounces all sins in general. A person who is not truly penitent may exchange one sin for another. He may exchange lewdness and intemperance, for the love of honor and ambition. He may turn from prodigality, to avarice; or from indifference and profaneness, to Pharisaism and hypocrisy.

But he never remits one sin without taking some other in its place. Yes, he frequently puts more into the scale of pride and conceit, than ever he took out of that of sensuality or profaneness.

But it is not thus with the true penitent. He has commenced a war against all sin in general. He endeavors to attack it in all quarters. He knows that sin is idolatry, in that it is a preference given to the creature above God himself. Therefore, without making any reserves, he determines to extirpate sin, root and branch, if possible; and says, "What have I to do any more with idols?"

But he more particularly devotes to destruction his besetting sin. The besetting sin of the ten tribes was idolatry; and therefore when Ephraim is brought to repentance, he is represented as fixing his eyes more particularly on that sin. Indeed this was remarkably exemplified in the Jews, after their return from the Babylonian captivity; for though, before their captivity, they could never be kept long together from idolatry, they could not after their return be drawn to it; insomuch, that when it was proposed to set up a statue of Augustus in the Temple, the Jews determined to perish rather than submit to it.

Now every man has some sin which more easily besets him; and it is oftentimes a very difficult matter to find it out, by reason of the various shapes which it assumes, and the deep recesses of the heart in which it lurks.

But it is a distinguishing mark of the true penitent, that, whatever he imagines to be his besetting sin, he will be more particularly solicitous to mortify and subdue it.

The hypocrite and self-deceiver will plead for his darling lust:
he will make excuses for it;
he will cast the blame on his physical or mental constitution, or his situation in life;
he will palliate his guilt, and not endure to be admonished respecting it.

But the truly upright soul will be exceedingly glad to discover his secret enemy, and will by prayer and all other means labor to bring it into subjection.

Nor is this all; the godly man will prosecute his lurking foe with vigilance, and cast it out with indignation and abhorrence. This is strongly intimated in the text; Ephraim does not merely resolve that he will not have any more to do with idols; but with a holy indignation against them, and an everlasting abhorrence of them, he says, "What have I to do any more with idols?" He determines never to join himself to them again. The folly and wickedness of clinging to idols, now appear to him in such glaring colors, that he cannot endure the thought of ever relapsing into it any more.

Thus it is with the true penitent. O! how does he loath the sins that have led him captive, and the secret sins that have so defiled his conscience!

How does he determine, if possible, to withstand the baneful influence of his indwelling corruption, and to watch and pray against it!

How does he search the guilt of his besetting lust, until he sees it in all its vileness and deformity!

How unreasonable does it appear to him, to harbor such an enemy in his bosom!

How does he mourn because he cannot get rid of it!

How desirable does the furnace of affliction itself appear, if it may but purify and revive his soul!

Say believer, are not these the thoughts of your heart? Say, you who weep like Mary, at your Savior's feet—do you not hate your sins, and yourself on account of them? Could you but bring forth the lurking foe, and slay him utterly—would you not rejoice? Is it not your grief that you cannot get more complete victory over him? Is it not your shame that you are at any time deceived by him? Does it not make you loath yourself, to think how ready you are to favor this enemy, and to be enticed by him before you are aware? Are you not often filled with indignation against yourself, to think that you should ever offend your God through the solicitations of some foul lust or evil principle within you?

Yes, I go further, and ask, Do you not hate yourself because you can not hate yourself more? I know that your heart is in agreement; I know that these must be your feelings, if you are upright before God.

It is with pleasure therefore that I proceed to set before you,

II. The notice which God takes of this godly disposition.

It is impossible that there should be the smallest good in our hearts, and God not observe it. There was but "some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel" in the heart of young Abijah, and the Lord noticed it, and remembered him on account of it. The Prophet Jeremiah sets this in a striking point of view; he represents Ephraim, Jeremiah 31:18, as mourning over his sins in secret, and God as listening to him, and at last as breaking out into this soliloquy, "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus."

Then, after repeating the substance of Ephraim's complaint, he adds, "Is not Ephraim my dear son? Is he not a pleasant child? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still; yes, my heart is troubled for him, I will surely have mercy on him! Jeremiah 31:20."

Exactly thus, in my text, God hears Ephraim saying, "What have I to do any more with idols?" And he adds immediately, "I have heard and observed him;" I have had my eye fixed upon him, though he did not know it; I have attended to every word he has been saying.

He has not uttered a sigh, but it has entered my ears.

He has not poured forth a groan, but it has pierced my heart.

He has not shed a tear, but I have treasured it up in my bottle.

He thinks I will not regard him, but I have heard and observed him all the while; there is not a thought of his heart that has escaped my notice. What is more, I now say respecting him, and respecting all who shall resemble him even to the end of the world, "I am, and will be, to him as a green fir-tree; and from me shall his fruit be found."

I must here just observe, that the words of my text which are printed in different characters are not in the original, but are supplied by the translators; and that therefore the verse may be read, and I think should be read, thus, "Ephraim says, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him and observed him; I will be like a green fir-tree; from me shall your fruit be found." The sense is the same indeed either way; only in the latter it is more clear; and according to it we have two blessed promises of God to the penitent and contrite soul: namely, that he will afford him protection, and engage for his perseverance.

First, God promises protection to the repenting sinner, "I will be as a green fir-tree." The fir-tree affords a remarkably thick shade which cannot be penetrated either by sun or rain; so that it afforded a safe retreat, either from the rays of the meridian sun, or from the violence of the impending tempest.

Conceive then of a burdened sinner traveling towards Zion; see him either trembling from an apprehension of Divine judgments, even of that "fire and brimstone, storm and tempest, which God will rain upon the ungodly."

Or conceive of a burdened sinner fainting through the heat of temptation and persecution.

What a reviving cordial to his soul is here! Let him come to me, says God, "I will be as a green fir-tree to him."

I will shelter him from the curses of my broken law;
I will guard him from the fiery darts of Satan;
I will hide him from the assaults of all his enemies;
none shall effectually hurt him;
I will hide him in the secret of my tabernacle, even in my pavilion, where he shall have not only safety, but all manner of refreshing cordials, "he shall sit under my shadow with great delight."

Hear this, you who desire to renounce your idols—you who long to be delivered from the attacks of your great adversary, and to find a place of rest unto your souls. To you God says, "Surely I will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. I will cover you with my feathers, and under my wings you will find refuge. My faithfulness will be your shield and rampart! Psalm 91:3-4."

You know how our blessed Savior complains of the Jews, that when he would often have gathered them, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, they would not have it. O! let Him not utter the same complaint against you. They indeed would not flee to Him, because they would not believe their danger; but you are in danger of keeping from Him through a doubt of His ability or willingness to protect you.

O! flee to him! He is a sure Refuge; only rest under his shadow, and you need not fear. None can ever hurt you, if you are found under the shadow of his wings. He promises that he will be as a green fir-tree to you; and he will fulfill his Word unto all who put their trust in him.

The other promise which God here makes to the repenting sinner, is that he himself will engage for his perseverance in the ways of holiness. "From me shall your fruit be found." The penitent no sooner determines to cast his idols to the moles and to the bats, than fears arise in his mind, and he says, "But how shall I do this? Who is sufficient for these things?"

To silence therefore all such doubts as these, God himself undertakes the work, "Do not be afraid, forlorn sinner;" I will take that work upon myself, "my grace shall be sufficient for you;" I will furnish you with strength according to your day of trial, "from me shall your fruit be found." "I will make you fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness. The things you desire are the fruits of my Spirit—and my Spirit shall produce them in you."

Can we conceive a more comforting declaration than this? If the drooping sinner were permitted to dictate what God should say to him, could he devise anything more calculated to comfort and refresh the soul?

My dear brethren, behold your God undertaking for you—not merely to bring you to Heaven, but to deliver you from all your sins and corruptions!

Hear his gracious words, as they are recorded by Ezekiel, "From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you; a new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will cause you to keep my statutes and my judgments to do them."

Hear again what he says to the same purpose by Jeremiah, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not depart from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me; yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul."

Is it possible for God to express more earnestness in your cause, or a more full determination to preserve you in spite of all your indwelling corruptions; or rather, I should say, to deliver you from them? O! lift up your heads, drooping penitents, for your redemption draws near; only commit yourselves into the hands of a faithful God and a loving Savior! There is a fullness of all that you can want treasured up in Jesus; and out of his fullness you may all receive grace upon grace. He is the Vine, from whom you must receive sap and nourishment continually, "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine; no more can you, unless you abide in him. Separate from him you can do nothing; but if you abide in him, you shall bring forth much fruit." Yes, you may "do all things through Christ strengthening you."

However inveterate therefore your corruptions are, do not fear, but look unto Christ! Instead of being terrified, as though they were invincible, let the sight of them remind you what great things the Savior has undertaken for you. Instead of despairing on account of your own weakness, rather learn to glory in it, as the means of displaying your Savior's strength!

Do not misunderstand me, as though I would have you glory in sin. God forbid! Sin is your shame and tormentor. But I say again, your inability to any thing that is good ought not to discourage you, because the Apostle says, "When you are weak, then are you strong;" and therefore, while you lament your sins, you may at the same time "glory in your weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon you."

Your extremity shall assuredly be the season of God's interposition, "In the mount of difficulty, the Lord shall be seen;" according as it is written in Deuteronomy 32:36. "The LORD will judge his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone."

Here let us close, with one obvious reflection.

Mark how excellent a blessing true repentance is!

Whether it is viewed in its nature or its consequences, surely it is a most inestimable blessing. What can be more desirable than to be delivered from those vile lusts and idolatrous affections, which rob us of our happiness, and God of his glory? If we had discarded all our idols, and were determined to have nothing more to do with them—then we would have a very Heaven upon earth; especially if we found the grace of Christ sufficient for us; as we certainly would do, if we sought it humbly, and depended on it simply. God will never disappoint our expectations which are founded on his promises. If indeed we presume to limit him with respect to the time and manner in which he shall deliver us—then we may be disappointed. But if we commit ourselves to him, to carry on his work in the time and manner that he sees fit—then we shall never be disappointed. He will assuredly cover our defenseless heads, and make our withered branches fruitful. He will perfect that which concerns us, and fulfill in us all the good pleasure of his goodness. Nor will he ever leave us until he has accomplished all the good things which he has spoken concerning us!

And is this the nature, is this the consequence—of genuine repentance? Shall every contrite soul have an experience of these things? O that God may grant us all, "repentance unto life, even that repentance which is not to be repented of!" May we thus experience the power and grace of Christ, and find everlasting rest unto our souls!

But let not those whose hearts are yet cleaving to their idols conclude themselves to be truly penitent.

What repentance has the worldling, who is minding nothing but his earthly business? Surely Mammon is his God; and, until this idol is put away, there is no repentance, no salvation to his soul.

Nor has the proud, passionate, carnal, worldly-minded professor any pretensions to repentance; for what repentance has he, when he is yet harboring idols in his heart?

No, vain professor, you must be delivered from your idols; your besetting sin in particular must be lamented, loathed, and mortified. Nor, until this is your experience, will you have any defense against the impending wrath of God. You may talk of Christ, and have a clear head-knowledge of the truth—but mere head-knowledge will not serve instead of repentance. You must be divorced from your lusts, your evil tempers, and everything else to which you have been glued!

Christ gave himself to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a special people, zealous for good works. Therefore, if you would ever dwell under the shadow of God in Heaven, see that this fruit is found in you on earth. God is willing to produce it in you—look therefore to Him, and he will be as the dew unto you. He will heal your backslidings, and love you freely!




Hosea 14:9.

KJV. "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein."

NIV. "Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them."

To guide mankind into the way of peace, and to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation to their souls, is certainly the most pleasant and honorable employment in the world! But it is an employment accompanied, for the most part, with heavy discouragements, and those peculiar to itself.

If we labor to convey instruction in any branch of science—we find our labors attended with some degree of success to all; for though all make not the same degree of proficiency—yet all reap some advantage.

This however is very far from being the case when we would impart spiritual knowledge. Some, blessed be God—do receive benefit; but the generality of our hearers continue as ignorant and blind as ever! Many indeed get somewhat of head-knowledge; but as to any saving experience of the things we teach (and that alone is worthy the name of true knowledge), few, very few, attain to it.

Nor is this unteachableness peculiar to the present age; it is frequently represented in the Scriptures as a subject of lamentation, not only to the prophets, but even to God himself.

How often does God call his people foolish and unwise; and, with a mixture of tenderness and disappointment, say, "O that they were wise, and that they understood these things! Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy 32:29."

Hence the inspired writers, as though they had no expectation that all should profit from their instructions, express themselves as looking for success only among those who were endued with heavenly wisdom.

Thus the Psalmist, after expatiating largely upon the goodness of God, both in his works of providence and grace, concludes Psalm 107 with saying, "Whoever is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."

And in nearly the same terms the Prophet Hosea, having preached no less than seventy years with very little effect, and having comprised the principal and most important parts of the Divine messages in a book, concludes the whole with these most affecting words, "Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them."

From these words we shall take occasion to show:

I. Who they are that will understand divine things.

The things which the prophet is speaking of in the former part of our text, are the same which he afterwards calls "the ways of the Lord." Now we might be led to suppose that Hosea refers to:
the sins against which he had guarded them,
the duties which he had inculcated,
the punishments which he had denounced, and
the blessings which he had promised them in the name of God;
seeing that these things are the general scope of the whole book.

But he limits his own words to one particular sense, and teaches us to understand him as speaking, not so much of those ways wherein God had walked towards them, as of the ways wherein they were to walk before him. Therefore the things which the wise only can understand, are the things which pertain to vital experimental religion. Indeed this best agrees with the preceding context; for through the whole chapter, God delineates the experience of true penitents, and shows, that when he shall come down as the dew upon their souls, they shall resemble:
the olive trees in their beauty,
the lilies in their growth,
the cedars in their stability,
the best of wines in their fragrance,
and the grain itself, or vine, in their fruitfulness.

These things, it must be confessed, surpass the comprehension of the natural man; and therefore the prophet adds, "Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them."

But here we must attentively consider whom the prophet intends under the description of the "wise and discerning?" Is it worldly wisdom and worldly prudence of which he speaks in such high terms? Are these the great requisites for the right understanding of spiritual matters? Surely not; this cannot be the meaning of the prophet; for then he would directly oppose the whole tenor of the sacred writings.

Carnal wisdom and prudence are universally represented in the Scriptures as most adverse to divine truth, and as the greatest obstacles to the attainment of spiritual knowledge. Hear how Paul speaks of the wisdom and prudence of this world, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, and following verses, "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God; for it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the learned. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? for, after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Then, in verse 26, he appeals to their own experience and observation, "You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, that no flesh should glory in his presence."

If any additional testimony were needed, we might take that of our Lord himself, who not only affirmed the same truth, but was exhilarated and comforted by the consideration of it, and made it the subject of his devoutest thanksgiving, "I thank you, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and have revealed them unto babes."

God indeed has been pleased in all ages to enlighten and convert some who were reputed wise; because he would show to all the world, that his truths, however despised, were consistent with the profoundest wisdom, and capable of enlarging the most refined understanding. Nevertheless, the wise and learned of this world have always been the foremost to reject the truth of God. None caviled more at our Lord's discourses than the Scribes and Pharisees; nor were any more contemptuous in their treatment of Paul than the philosophers at Athens. We may be sure, therefore, that such are not the people intended by the prophet in my text?

Who then are the wise? Who are the discerning?

First, they are those whose understandings have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

True "wisdom is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights." We have not the smallest spark of true wisdom by nature; on the contrary, we are spiritually blind; and folly is bound up in our hearts; nor unless He, who first commanded light to shine out of darkness, shines into our hearts—can we ever see one ray of that divine glory which shines in the person of Jesus Christ.

Hence they who are truly wise have learned that most humiliating lesson, to "become fools, that they may be wise;" they have been deeply convinced that they needed divine illumination, and have obtained it in answer to their prayers; to them has been fulfilled that blessed promise, "All your children shall be taught of God."

This therefore is the first part of the wise man's character, that he has been taught by the Holy Spirit.

But a further mark whereby the wise and discerning are to be distinguished is, that they view things in their proper colors. They no longer "call good evil, and evil good. They no longer put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter;" but they see things in the light of God's Word, and estimate everything, in a measure, according to the judgment of God respecting it. The body appears to them of small value, when set in competition with the soul; nor do the enjoyments or sufferings of this present world appear worthy to be compared with the glory that shall before long be revealed in them.

Sin is now considered by them as a most tremendous evil, more to be shunned than death itself; and a life of holiness appears to be the perfection and happiness of man.

But most of all, true wisdom and prudence reveal themselves in this, that they unite their influence to govern our whole lives, "I wisdom dwell with prudence," says Solomon.

They who are truly enlightened do not rest satisfied with clear notions, but desire to have their practice conformable to the convictions of their minds. They therefore take the Word of God as a light to their feet and a lantern to their paths; they strive to walk in the fear of the Lord all the day long. This fear of the Lord is the best evidence of their wisdom; for indeed it is the very beginning of wisdom; as Solomon has observed, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!" And as Job also says, "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding! Job 28:28."

We see then who are the wise and discerning. Not those who boast of their intellectual powers, and abound with human learning—but those who are taught of God to judge and act agreeably to the sacred oracles.

Now these people shall have a true knowledge and understanding of divine things:
the ways of the Lord shall be clear to them from their own experience;
they shall know how delightful it is to live a life of faith in the Son of God;
they shall understand what it is to have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ;
they shall enjoy that sweet security which they possess, who are instructed in the gospel, and who know the faithfulness of a promise-keeping God.

These indeed are secrets hidden from the natural man; but we are assured, that they are, and shall be, revealed unto those who are spiritual. David says, (and he himself had experienced the truth of it,) "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and he will show them his covenant."

But this knowledge is peculiar to the godly above described; and this leads me to show you,

II. Why this knowledge is peculiar to the godly.

Two reasons the prophet assigns:
one taken from the peculiar excellence of the things known,
the other from the use which different people make of them.

The first reason is taken from the excellence of the things known, "Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them."

There is a rectitude in a life of godliness. There is something in it which is fit and proper in itself: something which is agreeable to the mind and will of God; something which is calculated to promote the perfection and happiness of man.

The most refined reason cannot conceive anything more fit than that He, whose loveliness and loving-kindness are infinite, should be the supreme object of our affections; or that He who is omnipotent, immutable, and eternal, should be honored, trusted, and obeyed with our whole hearts!

To a carnal eye, that views only the Majesty of God, it might appear unsuitable that God should condescend to commune with such sinful worms. But God's condescension and grace reflect a luster on all his other attributes, and overwhelm us with wonder and astonishment.

As for the pleasantness and peace which are found in the ways of religion, or the effect of it on our hearts and lives, we have the united testimony of all who ever devoted themselves to it, that "in keeping of God's commandments there is great reward." Indeed it is this excellency which helps the godly to know and understand the things themselves; at least it helps to enlarge and perfect their knowledge of them.

The Holy Spirit first leads them to a life of godliness, and then reveals to them: how fit in itself, how honorable to God, and how beneficial to man—such a life is. Then this discovery confirms them in their ways; confirms them, I say, beyond everything in the world; so that though they began to walk in the Lord's ways from the fear of Hell, and from a desire after Heaven—they now walk in his ways because they are right; they now see, that to "yield themselves as a living sacrifice to God is the most reasonable service" in the world! And so much is their knowledge and understanding confirmed by this discovery of the rectitude and excellency of God's ways, that they would wish to walk in them, even though there were no Heaven to reward their obedience, nor any Hell to punish their disobedience.

They can say with David, "I esteem your commandments concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way!" That is, "My soul approves the way of duty, therefore I walk in it, and not for the sake of the reward. I hate sin, and therefore would I avoid it to the uttermost, and not merely because I am afraid of punishment I would not be excused from my duty, if I might; nor would I practice sin, though I might do it with impunity."

On the other hand, this very excellency is one reason why none but the wise and discerning can know these things. A weak and disordered eye cannot bear the light. This is true with respect to spiritual light, as well as to the light of the sun. Our Lord says, that the ungodly "hate the light, neither come to the light; they love darkness (sin) rather than light." If we draw a picture of morality, the amiableness of it will commend itself to them. But if we set before them a life of godliness, they are puzzled by it. They are hurt with it—its splendor, like that of the sun, overwhelms them. It is so high above them, that they cannot comprehend it! Not having a spiritual discernment, they account it to be foolishness. It appears to them more like the ravings of wild enthusiasm, than the words of truth and soberness. They know not how to have a proper meaning to our words. Being base and carnal in their apprehensions, they cannot rise above a carnal sense of our expressions.

We see therefore, that the very excellency of these things is one reason why the true knowledge of them is peculiar to the wise and discerning.

Thus it was in our Lord's time. He told his hearers, that the reason they murmured at his words was, that their understandings were carnal, whereas his words were spiritual, "Does this offend you? The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." At another time he said, "Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my words."

The other reason assigned by the prophet, is taken from the use which different people make of spiritual truths, "The just," he observes, "will walk in them, but the transgressors will fall therein."

Now the just and righteous, as far as they are acquainted with the ways of God, will endeavor to walk in them. They desire to reduce every truth to practice, and wish to have even "the thoughts of their hearts brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Their knowledge is wonderfully furthered and advanced by this disposition. Their understanding is quickened by the previous disposition which they feel to embrace the truth. Their memory is strengthened by the love which they bear towards it, when once it is discovered.

Hence unenlightened people, who have studied the Scriptures critically for many years, are often not half so well acquainted with them as others of very inferior abilities, who, under the influence of such a disposition, have studied them but a short time.

To the one, the Bible is "a sealed book"—its contents are dark, intricate, and unintelligible. To the other, the Bible is clear, perspicuous, and easy to be understood.

The one meets with nothing but difficulties and stumbling-blocks. The other has a clue to every truth contained in it.

And whence is it that the one knows the mysteries of the kingdom, while the other sees nothing but dark and obscure parables? Our Lord enables us to solve this difficulty, "If any man," says he, "will do my will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God." His disposition and desire to do my will, shall operate in such a manner as greatly to facilitate the understanding of my Word.

On the other hand, the indisposition which others feel towards the ways of God will prevent the introduction of Divine knowledge into the soul, "the transgressors will fall therein." The pillar and the cloud by which God led the Israelites, may serve to illustrate the operation of his Word, by which he leads us. The cloud was a pillar of fire to give light to the Israelites by night, while it was a cloud of darkness towards the Egyptians, insomuch that they could not advance, but were obstructed in their march by means of it. So it is with the Word of God.

To God's people, His Word exhibits a bright and luminous appearance, so that they can walk in the light of it. But to transgressors, who do not desire above all things to be conformed to it—it is an offence.

To the former God's Word is "a savor of life unto life;" but unto the latter it is "a savor of death unto death!"

Yes, Christ himself, who is the sum and substance of the Bible, is to the former "a sanctuary." But to the latter Christ is "a snare and a trap, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence," by means of which "many are snared, and taken, and fall," to their more aggravated condemnation!

Daily experience shows us that the strictness and purity of God's ways are an offence unto many; they take occasion from what they hear, to show their enmity against God, more than ever they would have done, if the light had not been thus set before them. Christ being set forth, they make him only "a sign to be spoken against; and thus the thoughts of their hearts are revealed."

And that this vile and wicked disposition blinds them more than ever, we are sure from the testimony of our Lord. The Pharisees had shut their hearts against conviction, and then were incensed against our Lord for intimating that they were blind, "Are we blind also?" Upon which our Lord answers them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see'—therefore your sin remains."

It is evident therefore, that the very opposite uses which different people make of the ways of God, must necessarily, and of themselves, as well as by Divine appointment, contribute greatly to enlighten the one, while the others are confirmed in ignorance and unbelief!

Let us now conclude with an application of the foregoing truths:

1. To those who are unacquainted with the truths and ways of God.

Many, it is to be feared, there are among you, who are wise and learned enough with respect to the things of this world, but yet are miserably ignorant of the nature and excellence of vital godliness. Your own consciences testify that you know not what it is to have God come down as the dew upon your souls. You know not what is meant by that beauty, that growth, that stability, that fragrance, and that fruitfulness, which characterize the true Christian.

Nay, some perhaps, instead of experiencing these things in their own souls, are hurt and offended by the very mention of them! Instead of judging the ways of the Lord to be right, they are ready to condemn them as wild enthusiasm or being righteous overmuch.

To all such people therefore, whether they are only ignorant of these things, or have taken offence at them—we must testify that the ways of the Lord are right; whatever exception may be taken against them, they will assuredly prove right in the outcome, "Wisdom will be justified of all her children."

We may challenge all the world to show, that there is anything unreasonable in a life of devotedness to God, or that such a life is not calculated to make us happy. Let me therefore entreat you to seek the knowledge of these things. Your not having the wisdom and learning of this world, will be no obstacle to your proficiency in divine knowledge. It is spiritual wisdom that you need; seek wisdom therefore from Him who has promised to "give it liberally, and without upbraiding."

Seek prudence also; for "a prudent man," says Solomon, "foresees the evil, and hides himself; but the simple pass on and are punished."

But if you will not be persuaded, remember what God has said, "My people perish for lack of knowledge;" and again, "They are a people of no understanding; therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, and He who formed them will show them no favor." Such declarations as these fully prove how awful it is to remain in ignorance; and therefore I entreat you all to improve your present opportunities. "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom; and, with all your getting, get understanding."

2. To those who know and walk in the ways of God.

What do you owe to God, my brethren, for the divine wisdom and prudence which he has bestowed upon you! Surely you were once foolish and unwise, even as others; and perhaps were ready to say of those who felt what you now experience, "You are beside yourself—much attention to religion has made you mad!"

Well, bless God that your eyes are opened, and that, though you were once blind, you now see. Yet rest not in what you have attained. You know but little yet in comparison with what remains to be known; there are heights and depths in divine things, which will be opened more and more to your view to all eternity; and the promise is, that "you shall know, if you follow on to know the Lord!" Therefore seek to "grow in knowledge and in grace; while others stumble at the word, and make the ways of God an occasion of falling, you must be pressing forward; and let "your profiting appear unto all men."

Pray more and more for "a spirit of wisdom and understanding;" and endeavor, with truly Christian prudence, to act up to the convictions of your conscience; so shall your knowledge and holiness advance each other, until you come to that blessed place, where faith shall be turned into sight, and hope be consummated in perfect and eternal enjoyment.