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lious house.” This was the same as to say, I know the degeneracy of the times. I know the corruption and obstinacy of the people. I know they will stop their ears and herden their hearts against divine truth. And I know, that for this purpose, they will ese every method, by words and looks, to corrupt your heart, poison your sentiments, and destroy your influence. But I warn you to beware of men; and. never suffer yourself to be corrupted by those, whom you are sent to reprove and reform. This divine caution applies to all who are called to bear the messages of God to men; and naturally leads us, on this occasion, to shew,
1. That ministers are exposed to be corrupted by the people: And,
11. That it is their indispensable duty to guard against it.
I. Let us consider, that ministers are exposed to be corrupted by the people.
Though this be a very humiliating truth to ministers as well as people, yet let us attend to the evidence ef it with seriousness and impartiality. And here I would observe,
1. That ministers have been corrupted by the peopie. This was the unhappy case of Aaron. While Moses was detained on the Mount, the people were uneasy, and came to Aaron, and desired him to make them an idol. Though he knew, that he had no right to comply with this unreasonable request, yet he fivally yielded to the importunity of the people, and made them a golden god. Accordingly, when Moses returned and reproved him for his conduct, he made no other excuse than the pressing importunity of the people. "And Moses said unto Aaron, what did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upOcca.
on them?” This very question carries an implication, that Aaron was corrupted. “And Aaron said, let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, make us gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him."
This was a base insinuation to the dishonor of Moses, and an artsul address to the vanity of Aaron, which was exactly suited to corrupt his heart, and draw bim from the path of duty. The event answered the desire and expectation of those who are set on mischief; for Aaron wascorrupted and became “rebellious likethat rebellious bouse." The same thing happened to the sons and successors of Aaron; for we find that they were always corrupt, when the people were corrupt. There was a great degeneracy in the time of the judges, when every man did what was right in his own eyes, and that day of declension proved a day of temptation to the priests, who were carried away by the stream of corruption. When Asa came to the throne, we are told, that “for a long season Israel had been without the true God, and without a teaching priest.” A great number of the priests were actually put down, in the reign of Josiah, because they had fallen into the degeneracy of the times. And at the reformation, in Hezekiah's day, there was such a scarcity of uncorrupted priests, that the Levites were called in to assist them in the discharge of their office. Indeed, it was so common for the priests to be involved in the corruptions of the people that God generally reproved them both together. By Jeremiah he says, “ wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so." By the same
prophet he says again, that he would remove Jerusalem from before his face, “because of all the evil of the children of Israel, and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, and the priests." By Ezekiel lie says of Judea, "her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things; they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have shewed difference between the unclean and the clean.” By Micah he says of the house of Israel, “the heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money.” By Zepheniah he says of the oppressing city, “she obeyed not the voice, she received not correction: she trusted not in the Lord, she drew not near her God: her princes within her are roaring lions, her judges are ravening wolves: her prophets are light and treacherous persons; her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law."
Now if the priests were always corrupt, when the people were corrupt, then it is natural to conclude, that they were, in some measure at least, corrupted by the people. But we are not left to mere conjecture in this case; for God himself complains of the people for being always disposed to corrupt their teachers. “I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young nien for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, 0 ye children of Israel? saith the Lord. But
ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets, saying, prophesy not.” They meant to corrupt the friends of virtue, and the ministers of religion, on purpose to destroy the influence of their example, and the force of their instructions and
admonitions: and they very rarely failed of accomplishing their malignant purpose. The experience of ages, therefore, loudly proclaims, that ministers are exposed to be drawn from their duty, and involved in moral corruption, by the undue influence of the people.
2. The bare example of the people, in a day of declension, has a natural tendency to corrupt ministers. Moral corruption is contagious, and endangers all who are obliged to come within the sphere of its influence, When the people become cold and dull, and averse from every thing of a religious nature, ministers are apt to imbibe and manifest the same spirit. When the people become light and vain in their conversation, ministers are apt to countenance and imitate their les. ity. When the people grow rich and gay and luxurious,
ministers are apt to fall into the same loose and corrupt habits. When the people indulge themselves in idleness, dissipation, and vain amusements, ministers are apt to be allured into their company, and become patrons and partakers of their sins. And when the people become loose in their sentiments, and will not endure sound doctrine, ministers are apt to conceal or pervert the great truths of the gospel, and preach smooth things, to secure the applause and friendship of the enemies of truth. The day of degeneracy is a day of danger to ministers. The prevailing spirit and practice of the times, naturally tend to cool their zeal, weaken their virtue, and injure both the matter and manner of their preaching. But though they are exposed to be corrupted by the bare example of the people, yet,
3. They are in much greater danger of being corrupted, by the positive endeavors and exertions of the people to draw them into sin. A corrupt people
feel themselves obliged to take this course, in order to resist the energy of plain and faithful preaching. They know the power of divine truth, the force of pious example, and the influence of godly ministers: and they feel unable to stand before these united means of conviction. To prevent, therefore, the pairs of a wounded conscience, they endeavor, by various methods, to bring ministers over to their own side, and form them agreeably to their own taste. Some treat them with peculiar respect, and flatter their vanity, to make them more yielding and compliant. Some load them with kindness, and endeavor to draw them aside, by the powerful cords of interest. Some invite them to their houses, and into their company, and urge them to small and seemingly harmless compliances, and so take advantage of their weakness.
And some use more harsh and imperious methods, and attempt to frighten them from their virtue and integrity.
Such methods as these, we find the children of Israel often employed, to corrupt those who were sent to them as messengers of the Lord of Hosts. Sometimes they attacked their virtue and innocence, “by giving them wine to drink.” Sometimes “they said to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” Sometimes they threatened their prophets with the terror of their tongues: "come, said they, let us devise devices against Jeremiah, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.” Sometimes they employed their frouning looks as well as hard words, to deter their teachers from their duty, and make them rebellious like themselves. And sometimes “they commanded their proph