« IndietroContinua »
upon others for the fame crimes; when, after all or any of these means employed to reclaim them, they ftill hold faft their iniquities, and will not let them go: then fhould the godly lament and mourn, and pray with redoubled earnestness for those miferable creatures, who have neither the ingenuity nor the wisdom to pray for themfelves.
How far thefe caufes of grief and lamentation are to be found among us, I might leave to the determination of those whofe "hearts are wife to difcern both time and
judgement:" but I fhould reckon myself unfaithful to God, and injurious to the fouls of men, if I did not hint a few obvious remarks relative to the time and place in which our lot is caft; which was the
Second thing propofed in the method.
I fhall not compare our condition to that of Sodom, when ten righteous perfons were not to be found in it; neither fhall I compare it to the state of the Jews, when God faid by the Prophet Jeremiah,
"to and fro through the streets of Jerufalem; "and fee now, and know, and feek in the "broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, "if there be any that executeth judgement, "that feeketh the truth; and I will pardon "it." Bleffed be God, this is not precifely the cafe with us. There are not only fome, but, I trust, a goodly number throughout the land, who fincerely love God, and seek his glory but this I dare venture to affirm, that they are few, very few, when compared with the wicked; and, which is ftill more afflicting, their numbers are daily decreasing, while the opposite interest prevails, and visibly gains ground among all ranks and conditions of men.
It is too apparent to be denied, that the vices I mentioned under the former head, intemperance, lewdnefs, the most infolent abuse of the Chriftian Sabbath, lying, curfing, and even perjury itself, are more or lefs practifed in every corner of the land.Thefe, and many other enormities, are fo frequent and undifguifed, that no man who comes abroad into the world, can pretend to be ignorant that fuch abominations are done
done in the midst of us. I am far from fuppofing, that any of them were altogether unknown in former times; though I am verily perfuaded, that all of them are now become more univerfal, and that fome of them are carried to a much greater height than ever they were in the days of our fathers. However, as they cannot be strictly accounted the peculiar reproach of the prefent age, I fhall remind you of fome other inftances of departure from God, which, with greater and more evident propriety, may be termed the diftinguishing characteristics of the times in which we live.
I begin with Infidelity, which of late hath fpread itself through all orders of men, the loweft not excepted. This article of charge needs no proof: for befides the multitude of profeffed infidels, who grafp at the character as a title of honour, and even ftruggle beyond the bounds of moderation to obtain it; besides these, I fay, the growing difregard of the ordinances of religion, the total neglect and difufe of them by fome, and the hypocritical abuse, and formal ineffectual attendance upon them by others, are fatal proofs
proofs of the prevalence of infidelity; and plainly fhow, that the generality even of those who retain the Christian name, do either in their heart reject the gofpel as falfe, or, which comes to the fame purpose, reckon it a matter of fmall importance whether the gospel be true or not.
Again, is there not a visible contempt of the authority of God? If his laws contradict the humours of men, they refufe to be controlled by them; and fay by their practice, Who is the Lord that we should "obey him?"-" As for the word which "thou haft fpoken to us in the name of "the Lord, we will not hearken unto "thee, but we will certainly do whatfo
ever goeth forth out of our own mouth." This is fo notorious, that by many it is reputed a maxim of prudence, to give way to the prevailing humour of the times. Some fins, fay they, have got tuch countenance, that it is dangerous to reprove them they must be winked at; for were they to be roughly handled, they would either grow more headstrong and violent, or only be exchanged for other exceffes,
which might be fully as bad, or perhaps worfe, than themselves. And though it betrays a difloyal, or at least a cowardly fpirit, to be swayed by fuch crooked maxims; yet the currency they have got af fords a pregnant proof, that contempt of divine authority is another unhappy characteriftic which diftinguisheth the prefent from former times.
Further, we feem, in a great measure, to have loft any proper fenfe of our dependence upon God. "When his hand is lifted up, we do not fee." We forget him in profperity; and in adversity we look no higher than the creature. We truft for deliverance to the arm of flesh, but never think of turning to the Lord who fmiteth us. Nay, have there not been repeated attempts to prove, that a nation may profper, not only independent of God, but even, as it were, in defiance of him? that the public interest is promoted by the vices of individuals? that utility is the measure of virtue, the only standard for determining what is right or wrong? I do not mention those fchemes from any apprehenfion that the