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rendered us the admiration or envy of all our neighbours.
Whilst, therefore, the nations, to which the gospel was first vouchsafed, are reduced to the most deplorable ignorance, this distant region is enlightened with the beams of heavenly truth. Anexcellent translation of the sacred Scriptures into our own language, is put into our hands, and we are allowed, invited, and encouraged to read it. Copies of the Bible are so common and cheap, that almost every person may afford to purchase one; and if any cannot, or will not, spare a trifle for this purpose, blessed be God, there are persons disposed to give it to them; nay, if any know not how to read the Word of Life; there are those who are ready to pay for their instruction, provided they are but willing to learn. So that none can plead that they are wholly destitute of the means of being made wise unto eternal salvation. At the dawning of the reformation, our ancestors were thankful for a few leaves of the holy Scriptures in an imperfect English translation, and read them with the greatest avidity. When Bibles were first placed in the churches, the people thronged to hear them read, with an eagerness of which we have little conception; and in some parts of Wales, at present, Bibles in the Welsh language are so scarce, that frequently several families jointly possess one, and have it a week at a time in rotation. This should teach us to value our privileges, that
scarcity may not make the word of God precious to us. A great variety also of other pious books are circulated at very low prices, and even gratis, which are suited to excite men's attention to the Bible, and to assist them in understanding it. At the same time, no restraint is imposed on the preachers of God's word; nor are any forbidden to attend on their instructions; and numbers, in almost all parts of the land are employed in publishing the glad tidings of salvation, with a clearness and plainness that hath seldom been exceeded. So that we are peculiarly favoured with every advantage for becoming wise, holy, and happy. This hath been our felicity for a long course of years; and when we consider how scarce in comparison copies of the Scripture were in Israel, and how much darker their dispensation was, than that of the gospel, we shall be constrained to allow, that they did not possess religious privileges, even equal to those of our favoured land. So that the LORD may well demand of us, “What could have been done more “ for us, that hath not been done,” as a proper means of rendering us a religious and a righteous nation? This leads us to enquire,
II. The improvement which we ought to have made of our advantages?
The Lord looks for grapes from this well-cultured vine; he requires righteousness and judgment from a people so highly favoured. It might have been expected that all orders among us, from the highest to the lowest, would, in their publick and private conduct, have manifested a serious regard to the truths, precepts, ordinances, providence, and glory of God. Sobriety, temperance, chastity, justice, truth, peace, and love, should have been observable in our national character, and in all our transactions. They that come among us, and they among whom we go, should have been constrained to confess, that probity, sincerity, humanity, piety, meekness, and purity, were found in the conduct of Britons more than in any other nation. Impiety and immorality should at least have been discountenanced, driven into corners, put to shame, or dragged out to condign punishment; and it should have been shewn, by all our laws, legislators, magistrates, and publick measures at home and abroad, as well as in the conduct of the inferior orders, and of those eniployed in the sacred ministry, that we were a nation“ fearing God and working righteousness;” a wise and understanding people, whom God had chosen to himself, for his own inheritance.-Who can deny that this ought to have been our national character? Who can excuse what is contrary to this, without palliating ingratitude, as well as impiety and iniquity ? Or who can account for it, without allowing that the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked?
III. Then, We consider the wild, or poisonous grapes, which the Lord finds in his vineyard.
I do not intend at present to descant on such vices as are common to men at all times, and in all places, but rather to select some instances, which may be regarded as peculiar to this age and nation. The LORD requires his servants, on these occasions, “ to cry aloud, and not spare, to lift up “ their voice like a trumpet, whilst they shew his “professing people their sins and transgressions;" as we found it written in that chapter, which, with peculiar propriety, was appointed for the first lesson in our morning service.' And let it be remembered, that what will be spoken of national sins, should be applied by each of us to our own particular transgressions. All our violations of the divine law, and all our neglect, contempt, or abuse of the gospel, from our infancy to the present day, constitute a part of that accumulated guilt, for which the Lord hath a controversy with the land; and it is incumbent upon us, as we proceed, to enquire concerning every particular charge, whether we have not committed, or countenanced, the specified iniquity? Whether we have used all our influence to prevent others from committing it? And what our conduct, in these respects, is at this present time? Thus we shall avoid the absurd hypocrisy of pretending to humble ourselves before God, whilst we are merely reflecting
. ' Is. Iviji.
on the sins of other men, without confessing, mourning over, or forsaking, our own.
1. The daring infidelity, and "damnable heresies,” which prevail, may well be adduced as one of our national sins. I say damnable heresies; for this is the language of Scripture: and much mischief has been done, by calling enormous evils by soft names, which seduces men into a forgetfulness of their malignity. I would not, however, be understood to mean every deviation from the system of divine truth. Much hay, straw, stubble may be built on the precious Foundation which God hath laid in Zion; and though the builder will suffer loss, yet he may be saved, as by fire. “But other “ Foundation can no man lay, than that which is “ laid, even Christ Jesus.” The truths respecting his person, as “God manifest in the flesh,” his sacrifice and mediation, and the sanctifying work of his Spirit, are inseparable from christianity, and stand or fall with the authority of the Scrip. ture, and our reverence for it. I must, therefore, confidently maintain, that the apostles, if living, would pronounce many modern dogmas to be “damu“able heresies,” subversive of the foundation; more plausible indeed, but no better, than infidelity; to which, by an easy transition, they evidently tend. :
We seem, almost universally, to stand aghast, at the atheism and daring impiety of that nation, with which we are at war: and indeed we cannot