« IndietroContinua »
length such efforts ceased, and then the sentence came upon the nation, by the Babylonish captivity. Yet it was more awfully accomplished, after the coming of Christ, and his crucifixion at the instance of the Jewish rulers, priests, and people, with the subsequent persecution of christianity: for then the nation was cast out of the visible church, Jerusalem was given up into the hands of the Romans, and hath ever since been trodden under foot of the gentiles; the Jews have been scattered into all nations, and the LORD hath indeed “commanded the clouds to rain no “ rain upon them,” even to this day. Thus they are left to be reluctant preachers to the nations professing christianity, of the truth of their holy religion, and the dreadful consequences of neglecting it.
Now should it be enquired, what people is the Israel of the Christian dispensation ? I could not hesitate in answering, Britain, both in respect of advantages, and a rebellious ungrateful abuse of them. This may suffice to introduce our subject, and to warrant an entire application of the passage before us to our own case.
Let us then consider,
I. The peculiar favours with which Provi. dence has distinguished our native land.
II. The improvement which we ought to have made of them.
III. The wild grapes, which the LORD finds in this his vineyard.
IV. The consequence that may be expected, unless something effectual be done to prevent it.
V. To what we may attribute our preservation hitherto. And,
VI. What the duties are, to which we are now called, according to our different stations in the church and the community.
I. Then, We consider the peculiar favours with which Providence hath distinguished our native land.
We have long been exempted from the calamities of war, that tremendous scourge of a righteous God. Few of us know more of war than we have learned from the publick papers, or the page of history. We feel it indeed, but how? Trade suffers a temporary check, and additional taxes are demanded; a number, often of not very useful members of the community, are furnished with a perilous or fatal employment, and a few more valuable persons are exposed to the same dangers.
But we have scarcely any other idea of war, as it respects ourselves: and this has often a very bad effect on the minds of men; for they consider war no otherwise than as it effects their property, and are therefore prone to engage in it too lightly, when it yields a prospect of temporal advantage ; without reflecting on its consequences on the lives and souls of their fellow-creatures, or on those regions that are exposed to its tremendous ravages.
Our situation happily renders us incapable even of conceiving those scenes, which are really exhibited on the theatre of war; the devastations of the open country, with all its productions, rendering abortive the labours, and disappointing the expectation, of the husbandman, and destroying the bounty of Providence: the burning of cities; the cries of widows and orphans; the recking blood and mangled bodies of the slaughtered; the groans, and ghastly appearance of the wounded and dying; the penury and pining want of the survivors; the terrors of the night, and the horrors of the day, must bafile all description. So that the humane mind must weep over, not only the most splendid, but even the most needful victories; and war, in every case, must be regarded as the triumph or the harvest of the first great murderer, the devil. How great is our obligation then, for exemption from this dire evil, during a term of years, beyond what has been experienced by almost any other nation!
We have also been equally preserved from the dire judgments of famine, pestilence, earthquakes, and desolating hurricanes: plenty, health, and a serene and temperate climate have been vouchsafed us: a land abounding with all the blessings that we can desire, and exempted from most of the calamities to which other lands are exposed, hath fallen to our lot: and let us not so regard second causes, as to forget the first great Cause of all, who “ doeth what he will in the armies of heaven, “and among the inhabitants of the earth.”
We might here enlarge on the blessings of our excellent constitution and equal laws; by which the personal liberty and property of every individual are secured, if not to the greatest degree which is possible in the present state of human nature, yet, at least, beyond what hath hitherto been reduced to practice, for a length of time, in any nation of the earth. A great deal is often said of Grecian and Roman liberty: but it is well known that a very large proportion of the people, in those admired nations, were slaves, the property of their masters; and equal freedom was not possessed among them, in any measure comparable to what it is in Britain.'
"At Athens, when there were no more than twenty thousand citizens and ten thousand strangers; there were four hundred thousand slaves! (Harwood, p. 19.) It would be as rational to extel West Indian liberty, as the liberty of Greece; for at Lacedemon, the number of freemen was more disproportionate and ihe slaves more cruelly used.
But these are comparatively inferior considerations: our religious advantages are principally to be valued. When “the Son of God was mani- . “ fested to destroy the works of the devil,” this land was inveloped in the grossest idolatry, barbarity, and ignorance; yet it was not long before the Sun of Righteousness, which arose at so great a distance, visited it with his sacred beams of life and salvation. After a time, the superstitions and usurpations of the Romish chuch, like a dark cloud, obscured this heavenly light; but the first dawning of the blessed reformation extended its influence into this island, and our progenitors were numbered among those favoured nations which were first emancipated from that slavery, and delivered from that gross darkness that had long oppressed the western world. Others, after an ineffectual struggle, and much bloodshed, were again reduced to bondage, under the persecuting tyranny of the pontiff and his associates; this land, in the reign of bloody Mary, was in peculiar danger of falling again under the same yoke; but God preserved his light among us by removing her, and advancing Elizabeth to the throne; and, after defeating the subtle and powerful machinations of our enemies, in various instances, he at length, by a happy revolution at the close of the last century, established among us a degree of civil and religious liberty, which hath