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nant. Till there be a remarkable reviving hereof, we can hardly expect a remarkable gathering of the peo. ple to Shiloh.
3. Confefsing times, in the church, have been gathering times ; times of humble acknowledging of personal and national guilt, as you fee, Ezra. viii. 23. and ix. 7. and downwards, compared with chap. X. 1, 2, 3. No doubt, there were better days of the gospel, in respect of the power thereof, with us than now, when there was public and folemn acknowledgınent of public fins and breaches of the Covenant; such as you have an account of in the ordinary Confessions of Faith among your hands. But in our days, we seem to be so far irom taking with our public fins and defections, that we are rather upon the self-justifying lay, as if we had done nothing amiss, and as if matters had never been better with us. May we not hereupon conclude, that the Lord is speaking to us, as he did of old to Judah, Jer. ii. 34, 35. “ Behold I will plead with thee, because thou fayeft, I have not finned ?” While our motherchurch is not duly taking with her fin, how can we expect a remarkable gathering of her children to Shiloh ? Whereas, if our uncircumcised hearts were humbled, and that we were confessing our iniquities, and the iniquities of our fathers, then we might expect the Lord would yet remember his covenant, and heal our land, as it is, Lev. xxvi. 40, 41, 42. Not that public reformings, covenantings, and confessings have any meritorious influ. ence upon, or are procuring causes of remarkable gatherings unto Shiloh ; only in this method and order be uses to work, preparing the way of the people, Ísa. lvii. 14. and lxii. 10. He gathers out the stones, lists up a standard for the people, and then follows the gathering of the people to him; therefore, while none of these national revivings, or public acknowledgments of our own and our forefathers iniquities, appear, little wonder, that, instead of a gathering of the people to Shiloh, we fee clouds gathering in our sky, and more and more national bondage and thraldom taking place : We walk contrary to God, and God walks contrary to us, and will punish seven times more for our iniquities,
Therefore, if you would wish for a remarkable gathering, O cry for a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of repentance and reformation, whereof there is so little to Le seen in church or flate in cur day: O feek for a return of his departed glory, and that cur land may not be called Lo-Ammi and Lo-RUHAMAII, as it is faid, Hofea i. 6.9. but rather Ammi and RuramAH, Hof. ï. 1. and that we may be called HePH2I-BAH, and Beulah, Ifa. lxii. 4. that the Lord may yet delight in us, and our land may yet again be married; fo that every one may not only call him Baali, but Ishi*, Hofea ii. 16.----But,
4. Suffering and contending times in the church have been remarkable gathering times. It was in times of persecution and suffering of the church, that such great nunibers of people were converted and gathered in to Christ in the primitive ages, as you fee, Acs iv. 4.
Times of contending for the faith, have been times of conveening to Christ, the glorious object of faith : yea, scattering times have been gathering times, when the Lord hath scattered his servants abroad, that by the preaching of the word in every airth to which they were scattered, there might be a gathering of the people to Shiloh, as you see it was, Acts viii. 4. and parti. cularly, Acts xi. 19, 20, 21. Thus the Jewish persecution first, and then the prinitive Pagan persecution next; especially the second under Domitian, which was about the sixty-ninth year of Chrift; and the ninth and tenth under Aurelius and Dioclefian, as historians relate, were the very ineans of bringing the gospel first to Scotland, while eminent men fled from these dreadful tempests unto this land, and so planted the gospel here. Suffering times, perfecuting times, and hiding times, have been gathering times in the church. Some old persons here, perhaps, have been witnesses to days of power in the time of perfecution, in the late
* LO-AMMI ; i. e. Not my people. LO-RUHAMAH; i. e. Vot having obtained mercy.--- AMMI; i. e. My people. PuhaMAU ; i. e. Having obtained mercy.--- HEPHZI-BAH ; i. e. My delight is in bor. BEULAH ; i. e. Married.--- Gaalt; i. e. My Lord.--- ISHI; i. e. My Huloand.
fuffering times in Scotland. Our fathers have told us, how the Lord appeared for them and with them, when men were appearing most bloodily against them : they have heard the best news from heaven, when they heard the worst from earth. God many times fmiles most upon his church, when the world frowns most against thein: when the cause and truths of Christ are most opposed by inen, God usually puts the most remarkable seal to them upon the hearts of many. Some can fay, When they were contending most for the truth, then the Lord hath made the trutlı moit sweet and refreshful to themselves, and most powerful and efficacious to others. Even a time of bonds hath been a time of begetting children to God: “ Mind Onefimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds," says Paul, in the roth verse of his epistle to Philemon. Indeed, the Lord's gathering time is not confined to suffering periods of the church; for, “ Glorious things are spoken of Zion the city of God,” even at other times, “ that this man and that man was bora there ;' and that it can be faid of our Zion, without looking many years back, that this man and that man, this woman and that woman was born there. But
not only this man and that man, but this multitude and that multitude was born there: and O for a time of the gathering of multitudes to Christ! Perhaps sad and suffering days inust come again, before we have such gathering days; and there inay be terrible sufferings beföre there be remarkable gatherings : for, he whole fan is in his hand, does usually purge his floor, before he ga. ther in his wheat, Mat. iii. 12.
But as the day of calamity in itself is not to be defired ; so, that we may not be hopeless in the niean time, I would further tell you, that the church's backsliding times have been God's gathering times, according to Jer. iii. 14. “ Turn, O hacksliding children, fays the Lord! for I am married unto you; and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and bring you to Zion.” There is a call in a backsliding time ; but fee ver. 22. where there is not only a gathering call, but a gathering power accompanying the call, even at a time wherein they
had perverted their ways, and forgotten the Lord their God: “ Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backilidings;" and then it follows, “ Behold we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God.” Be. hold a gathering of the people unto Shiloh in a backiliding time! O then, let backsliding Scotland fay, Bebold we come! O that the hearts of hearers were saying, Bebold we come!.Oh! there is no national refor:nation can take place, till there be a personal reformation; if perfenal returning to the Lord were general and universal, then there would be a national returning. Therefore, if you would wish to see a national reviving, let every perfon put in for a share of gathering power and grace, saying, “ Turn me, and I shall be turned; draw me, and I shall run:” and, under the conduct of drawing power, let us say, “ Behold we come to thee, for thou art the Lord our God.” Hath your personal backsliding, man, woman, been great and grievous? Hath this been your diseafe all your days, a backsliding heart, a backsliding nature, a backsliding practice, a bentness to backsliding in thought, word, and action! Is that your disease, that you are a backsliding heifer, a backsliding devil, that, it may be, thinks the disease is desperate and incurable.? O let me affure you, that there is a Healer come here to. day, that says, “I will heal your backilidings;” and he will not say the thing that he cannot do. And while his mercy is saying, “ I will heal yonr backslidings,” let your heart be saying, Lord, I will come to thee for that healing, for that is my disease, and there is none in the world needs it fo much as i: the church and nation need to have their backsidings healed; but I am the particular perfun that needs it most of all ; heal me, and I shall be healed; behold, I come to thee for that end. Is your heart saying fo? Then welcome be all comers; welcome, welcome, welcome! Him that comes, I will in no cvise cast out; nay, he will in no wise caít up your for. mer backslidings, but heal you, without upbraiding you; for he gives liberally, and upbraids not. · I will beal your backslidings: it is spoken without limitation, either of former or future backslidings; and therefore the fear of backsliding again, needs not discourage you
from coming to him ; your former, backslidings will not cast you out: and though you backslide again, he will not cast you off: He may visit your iniquity with the rod, but his loving kindness will he not take away : No; he will in no wise cast you out. Backsliding's Thall never part him and you, for he will heal your backslidings; I will beal your backslidings. It hath ref: pect to the future, as well as the present time; not to encourage your finning for the future, no, no; but to encourage finners to 'come, notwithstanding of their fears of future failings : this shall be my office and employment, so long as you labour under that disease of backsliding, which will be till you come to that land, where the inhabitants shall not say, I am fick: now, tiil you come there, I will constantly and perpetually be iz physician and healer to you, to give you my healing word, my healing blood, my healing visits, from time to time, and to arise like the Sun of righteousness, with healing under my wings, from day to day : therefore come, backsliding foul, and let me have all your em. ployment from day to day. O! is your heart faying, Bebold we come! then, blessed be the comers, though they have been backsliders. The people that must be gathered to Shiloh, are a backsliding people ; and if it were not such, it would be none of Adam's race, for all are fınitten with the same, disease ; therefore all the backsliders here are invited to be comers. Come and welcome in the name of Shiloh, to whom the gathering must be: and in his blessed Father's name, come and welcome. And if there be any comers here, then glory, glory to God, that, notwithstanding all that is amiss in the church of Scotland, yet it is a gathering time; notwithstanding all your backslidings, yet it is a gathering season.-Thus I have considered the gathering seasons with relation to the remarkable gathering of the church in general.
2dly, The gathering seasons may be considered, with relation to the initial gathering of finners in particular; when he begins to gather in finners to himself, O the freedom and sovereignty of his grace, that shines in the seasons and times of gathering ! for some he gathers at