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policy of the state. In this degenerate age, I have seen solemn days insolently profaned by those, whom wordly decency alone ought to have engaged to observe them. In these days of depravity, I have seen hatred and discord lodge among us, and labour in the untoward work of reciprocal ruin. In these wretched times, I have seen the spirit of intolerance unchained with all its, rage, and the very men, who incessantly.exclaim against the persecutions that have affected themselves, turn persecutors of others : so that, at the close of a religious exercise, men, who ought to have remembered what they had heard, and to have applied it to themselves, have been known to exercise their ingenuity in finding heresy in the sermon, in communicating the same wicked industry to their families, and to their children, and, under pretence of religion, in preventing all the good effects that religious discourses might have produced. In this degenerate age
But this shameful list is already too long. Doth this nation repent of its past sins ? Doth'it lament the crimes of its ancestors ? Alas! far from repenting of our past sins, far from lamenting the crimes of our ancestors, doth not the least attention perceive new and more shocking excesses? The wretched age, in which .Providence hath placed us, doth it not seem to have taken that for its model, against which God displayed his vengeance, as we have been describing in this discourse? Were Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim destroyed by fire from heaven for sins unknown to us? And God knows, God only knows, what dreadful discoveries the formidable but pious vigilance of our magistrates may still make. O God, Behold now I have taken upon me to speak unto thee, although I am but dust and ashes. Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous among us? Peradventure forty? Peradventure thirty? Peradventure twenty Peradventure ten? Gen. xviii. 25, &c.
My brethren, God yet bears with you, but how long he will bear with you, who can tell ? And do not deceive yourselves, his forbearance must produce, in the end, either your conversion or your destruction. The Lord grant it may produce your conversion, and so iniquity shali not be Your rwin. Ezek. xviii. 30. Amen.
THE LONG-SUFFERING OF GOD WITH
ECCLESIASTES viii. II, 12.
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed
speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. For the sinner doth evil an hundred times, and God prolongeth his days*.
HE wise man points out, in the words of the text, one
general cause of the impenitence of mankind. The disposition, to which he attributes it, I own, seems shocking and almost incredible; but if we examine our deceitful and desperately wicked hearts, Jer. xvii, 9. we shall find, that this disposition, which at first sight, seems so shocking, is one of those with which we are too well acquainted. The heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil. Why? Because sentence against an evil work is not erecuted speedily.
This shameful, but too common, inclination, we will endeavour to expose, and to shew you that the long-suffering, which the mercy of God grants to sinners, may be abused either in the disposition of a devil, or in that of a beast, or in that of a philosopher, or in that of a man.
He, who devotes his health, his prosperity, and his youth, to offend God, and, while his punishiment is deferred, to invent new ways of blaspheming him; he, who followeth VOL. I. Gg
* We have followed the reading of the French Bible in this passage.
such a shameful course of life, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a devil.
He, who enervates and impairs his reason, either by excessive debauchery, or by worldly dissipations, by an effeminate luxury, or by an inactive stupidity, and pays no regard to the great end for which God permits him to live in this world, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a beast.
He, who from the long-suffering of God infers consequences against his providence, and against his hatred of sin, is in the disposition, of which my text speaks, as a philosopher.
He, who concludes because the patience of God hath continued to this day, that it will always continue, and makes such a hope a motive to persist in sin without repentance or remorse, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a
As I shall point out these principles to you, I shall shew
you the injustice and extravagance of them.
1. To devote health, prosperity, and youth, to offend God, and to invent new ways of blasphemsng him, while the punishment of him who leads such a shameful life is deferred, is to abuse the long-suffering of God like a devil.
The majesty of this place, the holiness of my ministry, and the delicacy of my hearers, forbid precision on this article, for there would be a shocking impropriety in exhibiting a well-Irawn portrait of such a man. But if it is criminal to relate such excesses, what must it be to coinmit them? It is but to certain, however, that nature sometimes produceth such infernal creatures, who, with the bodies of men, have the sentiments of devils. Thanks be to God, the characters which belong to this article, must be taken from other countries, thug not from ancient history.
I speak of those abominable men, to whom living and moving would be intolerable, where they to pass one day. without insulting the author of their life and motion. The grand design of all their actions is to break down every boundary, that either modesty, probity, or even a corrupt and irregular conscience hath' set to licentiousness. They bitterly lament the paucity of the ways of violating their Creator's laws, and they employ all the power of their wit, the play of their fancy, and the fire of their youth, to supply the want.
Like that impions kiug, of whom the scripture speaks, Dan. v. 2. they carouse with the sacred vessels, and tliem they profanely abuse in their festivity : them, did I say? The most solemn truths, and the most venerable mysteries of religion, they take into their polluted mouths, and display their infidelity and impurity in ridiculing them. They hurry away a life which is become insipid to them, because they have exhausted all resources of blasphemy against God, and they hasten to hell to learn others of the infernal spirits, their patterns and their protectors:
Let us throw a veil, my brethren, over these abominations, and let us turn away our eyes from objects so shameful to human nature. But how comes it to pass, that rational creatures, having ideas of right and wrong, arrive at such a subversion of reason, and such a degree of corruption, as to be pleased with a course of life, which carries its pains and punishments with it?
Sometimes this phenomenon must be attributed to a vicious education. We seldom pay a sufficient regard to the influence that education hath over the whole life. We often entertain false, and oftner still, inadequate notions of what is called a good education. We have given, it is generally thought, a good education to a youth, when we have taught him an art, or trained him up in a science; when we have instructed him how to arrange a few dry words in his head, or a few crude notions in his memóry ; and we are highly satisfied when we have intrusted the cultivation of his tender heart to a man of probity: We forget that the venom of sin impregnates the air he breathes, and communicates itself to him by all he sees, and by all he hears. If we would give young people a good education, we must forbid them all acquaintance with those who do not delight in decency and piety: we must never suffer them to hear debauchery and impiety spoken of without detestation: we must furnish them with precautions previous to their travels, in which, under pretence of acquainting themselves with the manners of foreigners, they too often adopt nothing but their vices : we must banish from our universities those shocking irregularities, and annihilate those dangerous privileges which make the means of education the very causes of corruption and ruin.
Sometimes these excesses are owing to the connivance, or the countenance of princes. We liave never more reason to predict the destruction of a state than when the reins of government are committed to men of a certain character. It will require ages to heal the wounds of one impious reign.
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An irreligious reign emboldens vice, and multiplies infamous places for the commission of it. In an irreligious reign scàn-dalous books are published, and it becomes fashionable to question whether there be a God in heaven, or any real difference between virtue and vice on earth. In the space of an irreligious reign offices are held by unworthy persons, who either abolish, or suffer to languish, the laws that policy had provided against impiety. Histories, more recent than those of Tiberius and Nero, would too fully exemplify our observations, were not the majesty of princes, in some sort, respectable, even after they are no more.
Sometimes these excesses, which offer violence to nature, are caused by a gratification of those which are agreeable to the corruption of nature. Ordinary sins become insipid by babit, and sinners are forced, having arrived at some periods of corruption, to endeavour to satisfy their execrable propensities by the commission of those crimes, which once made them shudder with horror.
To all these reasons add the judgment of divine Providence; for God giveth those up to uncleanness, Rom. i. 24. who have made no use of the means of instruction and piety, which he had afforded them.
I repeat my thanksgivings to God, the protector of these states, that among our youth, (though, alas! so far from that piety which persons, dedicated to God by baptism, ought to possess) we have none of this character. Indeed had we such a monster among us, we should neither oppose him by private advice nor by public preaching: but we should think that the arm of the secular magistrate was a likelier mean of repulsing him than the decision of a casuist. Let none be offended at this. Our ministry is a ministry of compassion, I grant; and we are sent by a master who willeth not the death of a sinner: but if we thought that compassion obliged us on any occasions to implore your clemency, my lordsy for some malefactors, whom your wise laws, and the safety of society, condemn to die, we would rather intercede for assassins and highway robbers, yea for those miserable! wretches whose execrable avarice tempts them to import infected commodities, which expose our own and our chil-dren's lives to the plague ; for these we would rather intercede, than for those whose dreadful examples are capable of infecting the minds of our children with infernal maxims, and of rendering these provinces like Sodom and Gommor rah, Admah and Zeboim, first by involving them in the