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whom coming as to a living stone, ye are built up a spi. ritual house, i Pet. ii. 4. The building goes up gradually, and is still going forward. Some professors are like the miln-wheel, it goes round, yet still it stands in the same place where it was : they go the round of duties, and morning and evening prayers; and attend Sab. bath and week-davs fermons, which is well done : but they are at a stand; they are the same now, that they were ten, twenty years ago, if not worse. But, in gathering to Shiloh, the people are made to advance ncar, er and nearer to heaven, getting more knowledge, more experience, more hatred of fin, more love and likenes to Christ. It is true, the faints themselves have their winter-decays, but they have also their summer-revivings, that set them forward again. And thus the path of the just is as the thining light, which shineth more and more unto a perfect day.
V. The fifth general head proposed, was, To speak of the special seasons, wherein this gathering of the people to Shiloh does take place. When shall this gathering be? Why, in general, When Shiloh is come, then shall the gathering of the people be to him : and there are two remarkable seasons of his coming, that the text intends, namely, his coming in the flelli, and his coming in the Spirit. Now, his coming in the flesh, I spoke of in the explication; and liis coming in the Spirit, I spoke of, when I thewed by what means this gathering is brought about : particularly the gathering wind of the Spirit, when he gathers the dead sinners, as it were, out of the graves; according to that word, " Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live," Ezek. xxxvii. 9. Christ's coming in the flesh was the beginning, and commencement of the New Testament difpenfation, which is to last till his second coming; and during the whole of that dispensation, there will be a gathering of the Gentiles, a gathering of the people to him. Christ's coming in the Spirit, is the very efficient cause of all the spiritual and effectual gatherings, that do take place under that dispensation ; and therefore, his com
ing in the Spirit, to convince the world of fin, righie. ourness, and judgment, is promised for that end, John xvi. 8. His coming thus, is like the gathering shower spoken of, Pfal. Ixxii. 6. “ He thall come down like rain upon the mowen grass, as showers that water the earth:" Whereupon a gathering ensues, verte 8: “ His kingdom Thall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust. The king of Tarfish and the ifles shall bring presents, the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts; and all natious ihall serve him.” O cry for a gathering fhower of the Spirit's influences and operations; for there will be no gathering till then. But more particularly, the gathering seafons may be considered under a fourfold view. 1. With relation to the public and remarkable gathering of the church in general. 2. With relation to the initial gathering of finners in particular. 3. With relation to the progressive gathering of believers. 4. With relation to the consummate gathering of the saints.
Ift, The gathering seasons may be considered, with relation to the public and remarkable gathering of the church in general. And, there are four or five seasons, that have been very remarkable, for public and numerous gatherings of the people to Shiloh. As,
I. Reformation times, in the church, have been gathering times, under the powerful influence of the Spirit of God accompanying reformation-work, and leading forward thereunto. Thus was it in the days of Hezekiah, when a multitude having destroyed the altars of idolatry, and Hezekiah liaving joined fervent prayers with his reforming neafures, The Lord bearkened to Hezekial, and bealed tbe people, 2 Chron. XXX. 20. Reforming times have been remarkable gathering times, in Britain and Ireland. The Lord brought gospellight very early, particularly into Scotland, by which our forefathers were delivered from heathenism and paganisım : and we wanted not fome gospel-light, for the fpace of five hundred years after Christ : about which time, Popery came to put in its foot among us, when
one Palladius was sent from Rome to corrupt us: and trough there was a strenuous opposition for several hundred years after that, against the Romih rites and hierarchy; yet popish darkness did gradually overspread these lands, till it came to the greatest height, in the space of a thousand years; after which time, to wit, in the fifteenth century, I mean a thousand, five hundred years after Christ, which was the reformation period; and now, about tivo hundred years ago, the Lord was pleased to make reformation-light to arise, by stirring up eminent instruments to preach the gospel clearly, and to put their hands zealously to reformation-work; especially in Scotland, even to the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, and Erastianism, and the folemn renunciation thereof, and of all heretical and fećtarian errors, whether in doctrine, worship, discipline, or government. Then it was, that ministers were clothed with righteousness and falvation, and were eminent in their faithfulness to God, in his truth and interests, and zealous against fin, and all lukewarmness in the Lord's cause : then it was, that the representative body of the nation put to their hand for the reformation thereof: then it was, that Scotland particularly was famed through the world, under the name of PHILADELPHIA ; because of the purity of its reformation, having left all the rags of Popery behind it in the grave, from whence it arose; which could not be said of many other churches, particularly of our neighbour church of England : for, as Lazarus came out of the grave, bound hand and foot, and his face bound aboạt with a napkin, so was it with England in their first reformation. It was indeed like a resurrection from the grave, in the days of king Edward and queen Elizabeth; but yet they came out of this grave, bound hand and foot with their grave-clothes, bringing many things out with them, which they should have left behind, especially all these ceremonies, fuperstitions, and modes of worship and government, wherein they symbolize with the church of Rome, and which they brought along with them, when they left her; these grave-clothes they have not cast off to this day. And, alas! many in Scotland are fond of borro:ving frem
them fome of their old garments, which finell of the prison of Popery, which they left. But with respect to Scotland's reformation-days, as Christ, when he arose from the dead, left all his linens and grave cloths behind him; so he helped Scotland, in rising out of the grave of Popery, to rise and reform fo purely, as to leave all the rags of Popery, to be buried in the grave from whence they arose. And then in these days it was, that the work of the Lord profpered, the gospel flourished, iniquity was made to stop his mouth: our church was glorious to all its beholders, “ And terrible to her ene. mies, as an army with banners,” and multitudes of
people were gathered to Shiloh. But, alas ! one of the great reasons why there are fo few gathering to Shiloh now, is too plainly this, that reformation-work is much at a ftand, little reformation-zeal and spirit among magistrates, ministers, or people, as it is faid, Neh. iii. 5. “ The nobles of Tekoah did not put their necks to the work of the Lord:” yea, deformity, defilement, corruption, and defection, instead of reformation, is too palpable in our day, wherein many pollutions have crept into our doctrine, much defilement into our worship, partiality and pithlessness into our discipline, and tyranny and disorder in the church-government; manifold incroachments made upon the liberties of the Lord's people, and the privileges of the Lord's house, too well known that we need not mention them at all: infomuch, that the very foundations are ready to shake, and the garden is much grown over with weeds, Oh! cry for the return of reforination-days! for till then, there is but little hope of markable gathering of the people to Shiloh. And as Christ commanded his difciples to unbind Lazarus, when he was raised out of the grave, and to take away his grave-cloaths; fo, feek and earnestly intreat that the Lord may come and take away whatever is opposite to the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of his house, and to the perfecting the work of reformation, and whatever tends to hinder it.
But again, 2. Covenanting times, in the church, have been gathering times ; as you may fee in the time of Jofiah,
2 Kings xxiii. 3. when the people made a covenant,--to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, his testimonies, and his itatutes, with all their heart and soul, and all the people stood to the covenant.
Thus it was with thefe lands, when, after the reformation, all ranl s were brought into holy and folemn covenants with God: in those days the Lord delighted in us, and our land was married to him; when, with uplifted hands, we swore allegiance to him, and abjured all rivals with him in his government. Never a nation was more folemnly bound to the Lord by national covenants, in the fifteenth century, the eightieth and eighty-first years thereof; and renewed again and again in the sixteenth century, the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth years thereof, and in latter times alfo ; together with the folemn league afterwards for furthering the ends, designs, and obligations of the former. I know indeed fome dispute, and deny the obligations of these covenants upon posterity : but as good Josiah brought back the people, and caused them to Itand to the covenant of their fathers, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 32.; so we find that religious covenants in fcripture, comprehend abfent, as well as prefent; and posterity to come, as well as the coveranting forfathers, Deut. xxix. 14, 15. 22. 24, 25. Now, our Solemn Covenants, that our forefathers entered into, being nothing but a fupperadded, and accumulative obligation, to what we were previously bound to by the word of God, they cannot but stand binding upon us their posterity. But as these covenanting days were gathering days, wherein many flocked in to Shiloh, and wherein God appended his seal to the covenanted work of reformation, by a numerous accession of fouls to the Meflias, under the influence of the powerful Spirit of God, blessing his word, and ordinances to their converfion; fo our cove. nant-breaking days, on the cther hand, are far from being gathering days. Little wonder, when we have cccafion to lament, that our covenant hath been broken, burned, and buried ! and if our covenant breaking be not duly lamented, and covenanted-reformation revived, we have ground to expect the Lord will send a sword, a dreadful judgment, to avenge the quarrel of his cove