Hugh Binning (1627–1653) on Matthew 23:37

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Matthew 23:37


1) These things I write unto you, little children.’ To enforce this the more sweetly, he uses this affectionate compilation, ‘little children; for in all things affection hath a mighty stroke, almost as much as reason. It is the most suitable way to prevail with the spirit of a man, to deal in love and tenderness with it; it insinuates more sweetly, and so can have less resistance, and therefore works more strongly. It is true, another way of terrors, threatenings, and reproofs, mingled with sharp and heavy words of challenges, may make a great deal of more noise, and yet it hath not such virtue to prevail with a rational soul. The Spirit of the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still and calm voice which came to Elijah, 1 Kings xix. 11, 12. These suit not the gentle, dove-like disposition of the Spirit; and though they be fit to rend rocks in pieces, yet they cannot truly break hearts, and make them contrite. The sun will make a man sooner part with his cloak than the wind; such is the difference between the warm beams of affection, and the boisterous violence of passions or terror. Now, O that there were such a spirit in them who preach the gospel, such a fatherly affection, that with much pity and compassion they might call sinners from the ways of death! O there is no subject, in which a man may have more room for melting affections, nothing that will admit of such bowels of compassion as this,–the multitude of souls posting to destruction, and so blindfolded that they cannot see it! Here the fountain of tears might be opened to run abundantly. The Lord personates a tender-hearted father or husband often, ‘Oh, why will ye die? Ye have broken my heart with your whorish heart: O Jerusalem, how oft would I, but thou wouldst not!‘ When he, who is not subject to human passions, expresses himself thus, how much more cloth it become us poor creatures to have pity on our fellow-creatures? Should it not press out from us many groans, to see so many perishing, even beside salvation. I wish you would take it so, that the warning you to flee from the wrath to come, is the greatest act of favor and love that can be done to you. It becomes us to be solicitous about you, and declare unto you, that you will meet with destruction in those paths in which you walk; that these ways go down to the chambers of death. O that it might be done with so much feeling compassion of your misery, as the necessity of it requires! But, why do many of you take it so hard to be thus forewarned, and have your danger declared unto you? I guess at the reason of it. You are in a distemper as sick children distempered in a fever, who are not capable of discerning their parents’ tender affection, when it crosses their own inclinations and ways. Hugh Binning, “Fellowship with God,”in The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1992), Sermon 21, 332-333. [Some spelling modernized, underlining mine.]

2) Are these things so? Is this the law, and this the gospel? Do they daily sound in our ears, and what entertainment, I pray you, do they get from this generation? Indeed, Christ’s complaint hath place here, whereunto shall our generation be likened? For he hath lamented to us, and we have not mourned; he hath piped to us, and we have not danced. We will neither be made glad nor sad by these things. How long hath the word of the Lord been preached unto you, and whose heart trembled at it? Shall the lion roar, and the beasts of the field not be afraid? The lion hath roared often to us. God hath spoken often, who will not fear? And yet who doth fear? Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, in congregations every day, that terrible trumpet of Mount Sinai that proclaims war between God and men, and yet will not the people be afraid? Amos ii. 6, 8. Have not everyone of you heard your transgressions told you? Are ye not guilty of all the breaches of God’s holy law? Hath not the curse been pronounced against you for these, and yet who believes the report? Ye will not do so much as to sit down and examine your own guiltiness, till your mouth be stopped, and til ye put it in the dust before God’s justice. And when we speak of hell unto you, and of the curses of God passed upon all men, you bless yourselves in your own eyes, saying, peace, peace, even though ye walk in the imagination of your own hearts, add sin to sin, and ‘drunkenness to thirst,’ Dent. xxix. 20. N ow, when all this is told you, that many shall be condemned and few saved, and that God is righteous to execute judgment, and render vengeance on you, ye say within yourselves, For God’s sake, is all this true? But where is the mourning at his lamentations, when there is no feeling or believing them to be true? Your minds are not convinced of the law of God, and how shall your heart be moved? Christ Jesus laments unto you, as he wept over Jerusalem, ‘How often would I have gathered thee, and thou wouldst not!’ What means he? Certainly, he would have you to sympathize with your own condition. When he that is in himself blessed, and needs not us, is so affected with our misery, how should we sympathize with our own misery! God seems to be affected with it, though there be no shadow of turning in him. Yet he clothes his words with such affections, ‘Why will ye die?‘ ‘O that my people had hearkened unto me!‘ He sounds the proclamation before the stroke, if it be possible to move you to some sense of your condition, that concerns you most nearly. Yet who judges himself that he may not be judged? The ministers of the Lord, or Christians, may put to their ear, and hearken to men in their retiring places, but who repents in dust and ashes, and says, ‘What have I done? Jer. viii. 6. But every man goes on in his course without stop. The word ye hear on the Sabbath–day against your drunkenness, your oppressions, your covetousness, your formality, &c., it doth not lay any bands on you to keep you from these things. Long may we hearken to you in secret, ere we hear many of you mourn for these things, or turn from them. Where is he that is afraid of the wrath of God, though it be often denounced against him? Do not men sleep over their time, and dream of escaping from it? Every man hath a refuge of lies he trusts in, and wil not forsake his sins. Hugh Binning, “Several Sermons Upon the Most Important Subjects of Practical Religion,” Practical Sermons in The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1992), Sermon 10, 597-598. [Some spelling modernized, underlining mine.]

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