Page images
PDF
EPUB

the laws of nature, but which the God of nature supports as it were by miracle ; a people taxing, governing, ang making laws for themselves; a people walking in the light of the gospel shining in all its glory, and enjoying the reformation in its utmost purity. This is only an imperfect sketch of the blessings, which God in distinguishing inercy çoafers on you. Do you distinguish yourselves by your gratitude ? Is there more piety among you than among other nations? Is there a gicater attention to the word of God, and more deference to his laws? Are there more good examples in parents, and are their children better educated thaa others? Is there more zeal for family religion? Is the truth more highly esteemed, and is more done for the propagation of the gospel ? Do the sufferings of pious persons for religion excite more compassion ? I pronounce nothing. I decide nothing. I leave you to judge of your own conduct. · Perhaps, some of my hearers, whom the correcting hand of God hath long pursued, and whoin he seems to reserve as monuments of his lasting displeasure, perhaps they may, think, this maxim concerning the blessings of providence does not regard them. But shall we be so ungrateful as not to acknowledge the benefits bestowed on us? And shall we be so insensible as not to mourn over our own ingratitude? . My brethren, let us look back a little. Let us tor a moment turn our eyes to the land of our pativity, froin which we are banished ; let us remember the time, when, to use the language of the psalmist, we went in a multitude to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise, Psal. xli. 4. nor let us forget the many advantages, which we enjoyed till the day of our exile. How happy a climate! What an agreeable society! What opportunities for commerce ! What a rapid progress in arts and sciences! Was our gratitude proportional to the liberal gifts of God? Alas! the exile we lament, the dispersion that separates us from our nearest relations, the lassitude we feel, the tears we shed, are not these sad, but sufficient proofs of our insensibility and ingratitude? This is the first article of God's controversy against us; and this is the first maxim of self-examination.

The second regards the chastisements of God. When men are under the hand of an angry God, they are called to mourning and contrition. Pleasures, innocent in other circumstances, are guilty in this case. You perceive at unce the truth of this maxim. God by his prophet says to

you,

you, Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it, Micah. vi. 9. One of his most cutting reproofs to his people was this, In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness; and to girding with sackcloth ; and hehold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine ; let us 'eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, Isa. xxii. €12, &c. Thus, in like manner, another prophet complained to his God, O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they they have refused to receive instruction; they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return, fer. v. 3.

Now, my brethren, though the blessings of providence surround us, yet, it is plain, we are at present under the rod of correction. I lay aside all the amictions just now mentioned; I will not remind you of gibbets, racks, and tortures,' -subjects so proper to banish from our minds the senseless joy, that fills thcm, 'were we either grieved for the affliction of Joseph, or pleased to remember the dust of Zion. I will speak only of the cause of our assembling now, of this cruel and tragical war. Is not the destroying angel gone abroad ?-Doth not the sword of the Lord, drunk with blood, turn the whole universe into one vast grave? Are your fortunes, your liberties, or your religion safe? Should your fleets and armies- be always victorious in future, would not your husbands and relations and friends be in imminent danger? Would our victories cost us no tears? Would not our laurels be bloody? Alas! the tears of some mother having lost her son, the sighs of some wife having lost her husband, the complaints of some friend, who had lost a friend, would not these interrupt our songs of triumph, and mix mournful sounds among our shouts of joy?

We are, then, under the correcting hand of God. Yet what impressions do these frightful objects make on us? "What effects are produced in our souls by objects so 'proper

to fill them with fear and trembling? Have we broke up any party of pleasure? Have we kept away from any public amusement ? Have we laid aside any festivals and public shews ?. Is nothing to be seen among us but fasting and 'weeping, sackcloth and ashes? Would not any stranger, who should see us, say every thing succeeded according to

oui

our wishes; that there was no danger, no war, no blood shedding, no probability of another campaign, that should cover the earth with the limbs of the dead? Inis is the second article of God's controversy with us. This is the second ground of examination. I pronounce nothing. I decide nothing. I leave you to judge of your own conduct.

The third maxim regards the end of preaching and the ministry. To attend public worship is not to obtain the end of the ministry. Not to become wise by attending is to increase our miseries by aggravating our sins. On this principle we affirm, that every time our places of worship are opened, every time you attend public service, every time you hear a sermon, you are required to derive some real benefit answerable to the end proposed. Is it so? When we survey this assembly, and look on it with eyes of flesh, the sight strikes every beholder with surprize and awe. Here are princes, magistrates, generals, men excelling in learning and science of every kind. We can hardly find in all Europe so many venerable personages assembled in so small a place. Moreover, here is all the exterior of piety, assiduity, attention, eagerness, a great concourse of people, and every thing that looks like zeal and fervour. Yet the end, the great end of the administration of the divine word, is it even known among us?

When each of you come into this holy place, do you think what you are going to do? When you enter the house of God, do you keep your feet, according to the language of a prophet? When you approach this desk, does your heart accompany him who prays ? Does your fervour rise up with his petitions, and does your soul warmly unite itself with his requests to supplicate the throne of grace, and to avert the anger of Almighty God? When you hear a sermon, have you the docility requisite to such as receive instruction ? Does your memory retain the doctrines taught ? Does your heart apply to itself the searching truth sonetimes delivered? When you return home, do you recollect what you have been hearing? Do you ever converse about it afterward? Do you require any account of your children and servants of their profiting.? In a word, what good comes of all the exhortations, expostulations and arguments used among you? I pronounce nothing. I decide nothing. I leave you once more to judge of your own conduct. · Qur fourth maxim regards slander. Slander is a vice impure in its source, dangerous in in its effects, general in its

influence, influencë, irreparable in its consequences; a vice that strikes at once three mortal blows, it wounds him who commits it, him against whom it is committed, and him who sees it committed. It is tolerated in society, only because every one has an invincible inclination to commit it. Examine this place on this article. Are not your slanders famous even in distant climes? Do not strangers and travellers observe your propensity to this vice? Are not many of you cruelly attentive to the conduct of your neighbours, and always asking, Whereis he? Whence does he come? What is hé about? What are his opinions ? Have you no pleasure in discovering people's imperfections? Does 110t malice pubhish some vices, which charity ought to conceal? Are no tales invented ? none enlarged? No calumnies added? Are not the characters of the most respectable persons attacked, of heads of families, magistrates and ministers? Is not one unreasonably taxed with heresy, another with fraud, another with criminal intrigues, and so on? This is the fourth article of God's controversy. I pronounce nothing. I decide nothing. I leave you to judge of your own actions. · Fifthly. If the dangers, that threaten us, and the blows, that providence strikes, ought to atject us all, they ought to affect those most of all, who are most exposed to thein. To explain ourselves. There is not one of us so secure, there is no credit so firm, no house so established, no fortune šo safe, as not to be affected by this war. Consequently, there is not any one person, who ought not by fervent prayer, ånd genuine piety, to endeavour to engage heaven to prosper our armies. · It is, however, clear beyond a doubt, that our generals, officers and soldiers have a particular and personal concern in the approaching campaign. Men who, beside all the infirmities and dangers, to which human nature is subject, and to which they are exposed in common with all mankind, are going to expose themselves to the dangers of sieges and battles, and all other concomitants of war; they who are al- . ways contending with death; they who march every day through fires and flames; they who have always the sound of warlike instruments in their ears, crying with a thundering voice, Remember ye are mortal; people of this profession, ought not they to be more affected with these objects than we, who see them, only at a distance? And, consequently, ought not they to enter with greater sincerity into the religious dispositions, which such objects are apt to ex· VOL. IV.

cite?

.

cité? This is the maxiın, the fifth article of God's contro versy with us.

See, exainine. Is piety expected among your troops ? Does the ark of the Lord always go at the head of your army? Does the pillar of a cloud direct your steps? Does benevolence animate you towards one another, partners as you are in common danger? Do the mouths, that are ready to utter the last sigh, open only to bless the Creator, and to commit to him a soul hovering on the lips, and ready to depart? Are offences against Jesus Christ punished as severely as offences against officers in the arıny? Do ye provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are ye stronger than he ? 1 Cor. x. 22. Would you force a victory in spite of him? Would you triumph without God, or would you have himn succeed your attempts, when you carry impiety on your foreheads, irreli. gion in your hearts, and blasphemy in your mouths ? I pronounce nothing. I decide nothing. I leave each of you to draw such inferences from this maxim as naturally belong to it.

Our sixth maxim regards gaming. If gaming be innocent in any circumstances, they are uncommon and rare. It is easier to renounce this pleasure than to enjoy it without excess. Examine yourselves on this article. Are there none of us, to whom gaming is become necessary ? None who relish no other pleasure ? Are there no fathers and mothers, who train up their fainilies in it, and embolden them by their examples ? Is there no opulent man, who imagines he has a right to spend his fortune in gaming? Is there no necessitous person, who hazards the support, yea the daily bread of his family in this practice? I deterinine nothing. I pronounce nothing. I leave you to judge of your own actions. ,'

But why not pronounce, why not decide? Wherefore respect false delicacy? Why noi declare the whole counsel of God? Acts xx. 27. Why strive to please men? Gal. i. 10. Ah, iny brethren! were I to hold my peace, the walls and the pillars and the arches of this building, the hills and the mountains would rise up in judgment against you. Hear ye mountains, hear ye hills, hear the Lord's controversy. The Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. Yea, the Lord hath a controversy with you. His reproofs would cleave your hearts asunder, and dissolve you in floods of tears, were you capable of reflections and emotions. He complains of all the vices we have mencioned. He complaiềs, that you are insensible to the most

terrible

« PreviousContinue »