The LORD's voice cries to the city, and the man of wisdom shall see your name: hear you the rod, and who has appointed it.
In the presence of calamities let us say, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servants hear." This, in substance, is —
I. TO FEEL THE STROKES OF GOD'S HAND. If we feel the strokes of God's hand we shall shake off a certain state of indolence in which many of us are found, and be clothed with the sentiments of humiliation, and of terror and awe. We shall be softened with sentiments of sorrow and repentance if we examine their origin and cause. And if we discover the remedies and resources we shall be animated with the sentiments of genuine conversion.
II. TO TRACE THE CAUSES AND THE ORIGIN OF OUR CALAMITIES. Micah wished the Jews to comprehend that the miseries under which they groaned were a consequence of their crimes. We would wish you to form the same judgment of yours. The subject has its difficulties. Under a pretence of entering into the spirit of humiliation, there is danger of our falling into the puerilities of superstition. Temporal prosperity and adversity are very equivocal marks of the favour or displeasure of God. By some, the slightest adversity is regarded as a stroke of God's angry arm. It is better to form the criterion of our guilt or innocence, not by the exterior prosperity or adversity sent of God, but by our obedience or disobedience to His Word. But adversity is sometimes occasioned by crimes. This is apparent —
1. When there is a natural connection between the crimes we have committed and the calamities we suffer, God has placed harmony between happiness and virtue. Trace this harmony in the circles of society and in private life. An enlightened mind can find no solid happiness but in the exercises of virtue. The happiness procured by the passions is founded on mistake.
2. When great calamities follow upon great crimes.
III. TO EXAMINE THEIR CONSEQUENCES AND CONNECTIONS. Some calamities are less formidable in themselves than in the awful consequences they produce. There are calamities whose distinguished characteristic is to be the forerunners of calamities still more terrible.
1. One calamity is the forerunner of a greater when the people whom God afflicts have recourse to second causes instead of the first cause, and when they seek the redress of their calamities in political resources and not in religion. This is the portrait Isaiah gives of Sennacherib's first expedition against Judaea.
2. When, instead of humiliation on reception of the warnings God sends by His servants, we turn those warnings into contempt. Inquire how far you are affected by this doctrine. Do you discover a teachable disposition, or do you revolt against the Word of God's ministers?
3. When the anguish it excites proceeds more from the loss of our perishable riches than from sentiments of the insults offered to God.
4. When the plague fails in producing the reformation of those manners it was sent to chastise.
IV. TO DISCOVER THEIR RESOURCES AND REMEDIES. We found our hopes on the abundant mercies with which God has loaded us during the time of visitation. With the one hand He abases, with the other He exalts. We found our hopes on the resources He has still left our state to recover, and to reestablish itself in all the extent of its glory and prosperity. Frustrate not these hopes by a superficial devotion, by forgetfulness of promises and violation of vows.
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.