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belonging to our subject; and it is far more agreeable to discuss this, than some of the preceding topicks. Our measure of iniquity, alas! fills apace; but it is not yet full: nay, many favourable circumstances may be descried, which give sonie ground for hope, that we may yet be preserved; if by any means a proper attention to the important concern can be excited in the minds of the inhabitants of our favoured land.
1. Then, we observe with heart felt satisfaction, that persecution of the church of Christ is no part of our national guilt: at least should any defects in our laws be called by so harsh a name, we may rejoice, that a blessed inexperience of greater severities occasions our noticing such trivial deviations from the system of complete toleration, which hath been introduced among us.
When God hath a number of spiritual worshippers in any country, and they are permitted to live unmolested, and to follow the dictates of their consciences in his service; I apprehend, that something must still be wanting to render that nation ripe for vengeance; and that the prayers offered by believers, for the peace of the land in which they enjoy peace, will continue to prevail, until they be removed from the evil to come; or until a departure from tolerating principles drive them away, or bring them under the yoke of oppression. · Herod, to his other crimes, added yet this above all,
that he shut up John Baptist in prison and put him to death. It was the principal charge brought against the nation of Israel, that they murdered the Lord's prophets, and persecuted his faithful servants : and the crucifixion of Christ, with the violent rage and cruel enmity of the Jews against his disciples, filled up the measure of their iniquity, when wrath came upon them to the uttermost: nay, the abominations of mystick Babylon would not have been complete, had she not been “drunken “ with the blood of the saints, and of the martyrs “ of Jesus.” We may, therefore, consider the tolerating spirit that at present prevails in our land, as a very favourable.circunstance, and an encousagement and obligation to pray for the continuance of its peace and prosperity.
2. We may remark; that christianity, as it hathi of late years been displayed among us has produced great effects in rectifying the judgments, and in some things meliorating the dispositions of vast multitudes, who are very far from being the genuine disciples of the LORD JESUS. Hence it arises, that humanity and philanthropy constitute a part of our national character, as it is displayed at home: would to God, it were equally manifest and undeniable in all our concerns with other nations, throughout the whole earth! · However, the benevolence and liberality, with which distress in every form obtains relief in
Britain, should be noticed with due commendation, and cordial satisfaction: and this benign and friendly spirit hath lately been very honourably exercised, in the hospitable entertainment given to the poor destitute outcasts, who have sought an asylum in this country, and who by nation and religion might have been considered as inimical to us.
We are not indeed authorized to expect, that liberality, when unconnected with repentance, faith, love to CHRIST, and true holiness, will be a man's passport to heaven ; for, those acts of kindness, which the Judge will adduce at the great day, as the reason of his people's admission to their inheritance, are evidently such as spring from faith in him, working by love, and manifesting itself by kindness to his disciples for his sake. — Nevertheless we may hope that the LORD will recompense the mercy shewn to the poor in this land, “ by the lengthening of our tranquillity,'” for he commonly rewards external services with temporal benefits; even when he disapproves of the motives and principles from which they result.”
3. The infidelity, impiety, perjuries, oppressions, and cruelties, before enumerated, have not been let pass, without a solemn and earnest protest being entered against them, both in the senate, and from the pulpit and the press: and this helps to
* Dan. iv. 27. a 1 Kings, xxi. 29.
retard our doom. Men have stood forth, like Phi. nehas, inspired with zeal for the honour of God, and the authority of his law, as well as influenced by the most enlarged philanthropy; and they have spared no pains, ventured all consequences, and persevered amidst reproaches and discouragements, in bearing testimony against inveterate evils, and labouring for their extirpation : and it seems to be the doctrine of Scripture, that whilst a considerable remnant of princes, priests, or prophets, endeavour to stem the torrent of national iniquity, the measure of that people's sin is not full; at least until it be finally decided, that their efforts were in vain, and did nothing but expose them to publick scorn and hatred. This is at present a favourable symptom in our case; may the LORD increase the number of such witnesses for truth and righteousness in every part of our land ! and may he prosper all their endeavours to do good!
4. Notwithstanding the general prevalence of scepticism and infidelity; yet the number of those who preach the “faith once delivered to the saints,” is supposed by many competent judges to be upon the increase: now if this be indeed the case, and if they of whom good hopes are formed do not disappoint them, either through the fascinations of the world, the fear of man, or the spirit of error; we may even look for such a revival of pure religion, and reformation of manners, as will not
only lengthen our tranquillity, but avert the judgments that we fear.
5. There is no doubt a very considerable number of true christians, dispersed throughout the land: these “are the salt of the earth, and the , “ light of the world;" they are habitually “sigh“ing and mourning for the abominations that pre« vail ;” and are now called forth, as an embodied militia, to unite in prayers, with humiliation and fasting, in behalf of our guilty land. Whatever hypocrisy or formality may, therefore, be found in the service of multitudes, on this occasion, or however still greater numbers may totally neglect it; (one of which must always be the case, where large bodies of men are concerned ;) yet very blessed things may be expected in answer to the prayers, and in consequence of the services, of this day.
Moreover these persons are employed, in their several places, to counteract the progress of infi; delity, impiety, and vice, and to spread the gospel of Christ. They are indeed “our chariots and “ horsemen,” in whom our chief strength consists: and if ten righteous persons would have preserved Sodom and the neighbouring cities, had so many been found in them; and if Paul prevailed for all who sailed with him: we may yet hope, that the Lord will spare the land, in which so many thousands of true believers may doubtless be found,