« IndietroContinua »
This may be applied to the nation, and to each of us individually: and it is doubtless true, in respect of both. Had the prophet been asked, in what particulars the iniquities of his people testified against them? He would, we may suppose, have recalled to their minds the abject state of their progenitors in Egypt; the manifold interpositions of God in their behalf; and all his special favours, temporal and spiritual, to the nation, through successive ages to that very day: he would then have enumerated the multiplied evidences, which stood on record, of their ingratitude, rebellion, idolatry, atheistical forgetfulness of God; impiety, hypocrisy, licentiousness, iniquity, oppression, murder, and contemptuous cruelty to the servants of the Lord; with the multiplied enormities perpetrated by their princes, priests, and prophets, from age to age.' He would have proved that this load of national guilt, so long accumulating, had been exceedingly increased by the unprecedented criminality of that generation; that they had now filled up the measure of their iniquities; that the calamities, which they dreaded or experienced, were justly merited by them; that they suffered far less than they deserved; and that the only hope which remained for them, arose from the plenteous and everlasting mercy of their offended God. And may not Britain be considered as the Israel
of modern ages? Favoured above other nations by a kind Providence, with plenty, liberty, exemption from the dire ravages of war, and with every temporal blessing; we have long enjoyed, and, by many signal interpositions of heaven in our behalf, still enjoy the most distinguished advantages for becoming a wise and religious people. “What could have been done more to” this part of “the vineyard, that the Lord hath not done "in it?” And what have been our returns for such peculiar benefits? “O foolish people and unwise, “ do you thus requite the Lord?"-Not to mention the accumulating wickedness of preceding years ; is not every species of infidelity, impiety, contempt of revelation, or perversion of it, diffused rapidly through the land? Are not solemn oaths and the most sacred obligations, profanely trifled with, and violated without scruple or remorse? Do not all ranks and orders of men concur in treating the name, the ordinances, the day, and the word of God, with contemptuous disregard? Do not all kinds of licentiousness and dissipation increase on every side? Is not our extensive and prosperous commerce marked, not only with avarice, fraud, and various oppressions, but with scenes of cruelty which will never be fully known, till “the earth shall disclose her blood, “ and shall no more cover her slain?” Have not these vices and impieties pervaded every order of men, however exalted or sacred? And do they not
sufficiently “testify against us?" -- The LORD would then be righteous, should he command the sword to pass through the land, or bring upon us the most terrible judgments that our alarmed minds can apprehend: and if he spare us, it will not be for our deserts, but “for his name's sake;" though a partial comparison of our national character witli that of a people who never enjoyed the tenth part of our advantages, may deceive multitudes into a contrary opinion.
But what is the character of each person, now assembled, that we should venture to intercede with the Lord in behalf of our guilty land? Do not our personal iniquities also testify against us? Who that knows the holiness of God and the spi. rituality of his law, can answer this question in the negative? Let us review our past lives from the beginning: and, considering every advantage of birth, education, and circumstances, as an additional obligation to the service of our Creator and Benefactor; let us compare, with serious recollection, our first thoughts, words, and actions, with his most reasonable commandments: let us proceed in this manner, as it were from stage to stage of our journey, to the present day: and let us contrast the goodness of God to us, with our ungrateful forgetfulness and neglect of him and his service.-Have not we, as well as others in this guilty land, often spent the Lord's day in dissipation, festive indulgence, worldly pursuits, or criminal
excesses? Have none of us violated sacramental engagements, or irreverently trifled with solemn oaths? Have we not, in many instances, taken the sacred name of God in vain? Have we not neglected and despised his ordinances, or attended upon them in a formal and hypocritical manner ? Do not our mis-spent time, our abused or unimproved talents, our vain and corrupt discourse, and our aversion to pious and edifying company and conversation, bear witness against us? If we have been preserved from more flagrant immorality; can we recollect no instances in which we dishonoured, despised, or defrauded parents or superiors? or in which we infused loose principles into the minds of our companions ? Have we not given way, times without number, to pride, excessive anger, or revenge, envy, calumny, deceit, or intemperate indulgence? Have we not frequently failed of “doing to others, as we would they “should do unto us?” — None, but the great Searcher of all hearts, can know what vile imaginations and affections may be concealed under a decent exterior: or what secret abominations are practised by those who are careful to preserve their character among men. It may be apprehended that many present are still living in the commission of known sin, and provoking God by their impenitent neglect or abuse of his gospel. Others, having long opposed or despised this great salvation, are at length made willing thankfully to
accept of it. But, alas! how pertinaciously have some of us rebelled against the light! How have we resisted our convictions, and hated the truth that excited them! How desirous were we of finding out some more flattering way of deliverance from the wrath to come! Or how ingenious in our contrivances to form a coalition between religion and the world, between God and Mammon? And what inconsiste gratitude, unfruitfulness, if not dishonourable' conduct, have been found in us, since we professed to be the redeemed disci. ples of the divine Saviour ! Alas, much evil cleaves even to our best endeavours to serve God; as the devotions in which we have at this time been engaged, sufficiently evince to every tender conscience and watchful heart. Well may we then adopt the words of the beloved Daniel, and say, “We do not present our supplications before thee, “ for our righteousnessęs, but for thy great “ mercies;"” or those of Isaiah: “Woe is me, I “ am undone, I am a man of unclean lips, &c." and “ we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righ“ teousnesses are as filthy rags:a” or rather those of Job, “ Į abhor myself, and repent in dust and “ ashes.3" But should any individual be found disposed to dissent from this humble language of these eminent saints, and to consider himself as " worthy, for whom the LORD should do this;" he must be regarded as an awful instance of that
Dan, ix, 19. 2 Isaiah, vi, 5. Ixiv. 6. 3 Job, xlii, 6.