« IndietroContinua »
“ doms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and “ earth. Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hcar; “ open thine eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all
the words of Sennacherib, who hath sent to re“ proach the living God. Of a truth, Lord, the “kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations “ and their countries: and have cast their gods “ into the fire; for they were no gods, but the “ work of men's hand, wood and stone; therefore “ they have destroyed them. Now, therefore, O “ LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all “ the kings of the earth may know that thou art “ the Lord, even thou only.?” Nothing can be more plain, than that zeal for the honour of GOD and the interests of true religion, principally dictated this prayer. The Lord indeed answered it, “ by terrible things in righteousness:" but Hezekiah had only asked deliverance for his people, not destruction on his enemies; and his expanded charity made him earnestly desire that all the kings of the earth might know the difference between the true God and worthless idols, and that they might diffuse that knowledge among their subjects.
I would not knowingly offer one prayer on this occasion, which could not be answered consistently with our enemies enjoying peace, security, liberty; good government, and the blessings of true religion; but we may pray that the LORD would abate their pride, assuage their malice, and con, 'found their devices,' (that is, their devices against the peace of other lands, or the Christian religion,) in entire consistency with these friendly dispositions towards them: for such things would conduce to their advantage, as well as our own. We may not ask the Lord to aggrandize or enrich our nation, that she may reign over all countries, or engross all the commerce of the world: but surely we may pray that famine, pestilence, hostile invasions, and evil discords may be averted; that there may be employment and food for the poor, peace in our borders, and the continuance of our civil and religious liberties. Above all we should pray for the peace, purity, and enlargement of the church; that it may please the Lord to illuminate all the ministers of religion, with true ‘knowledge and understanding of his word, that both by their preaching and living, they may set it forth and shew it accordingly,' that “labour"ers may be sent forth into the harvest;": "that " the Spirit of God may lift up a standard” against the torrent of infidelity, impiety, and vice, that inundates the land; and that all ranks and orders of men may be endued with wisdom and grace, to serve God and their generation faithfully and successfully. Such prayers as these may be branched out into a variety of particulars, without indulging sinful passions, or violating the law of love. And if we pray in faith, depending on the Loed alone, and not on an arm of flesh; and duly
'Is. xxxvii, 15—20,
considering his almighty power and abundant mercy as fully adequate to all our necessities and difficulties; we may yet hope that he may be intreated for the land, and prolong our tranquillity.
But without personal repentance we cannot offer such supplications as these. It therefore behoves every one of us to consider our ways, to examine our hearts, humbly to confess our sins, to seek forgiveness, and to pray for grace that we may henceforth walk before God in newness of life. If any persons have hitherto continued impenitent and unbelieving; they should on this occasion set about the great concerns of their immortal souls, with peculiar diligence and earnestness. Otherwise, whether the LORD spare the land or not, he will not spare them. “Woe be to the wicked! it « shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands “ shall be given him.'”
Even real Christians, at such a time as this, are called upon to review their lives, and renew their humiliation for all their past sins, as a part of the guilt accumulated by the land. They should especially consider their conduct as professors of the gospel, and enquire in what particulars they have dishonoured their profession, misled or weakened their brethren, or given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. We ought also to examine what fruit hąth been produced by the solem
Is. iii. 11.
nities, professions, instructions, and prayers of the last season of fasting and humiliation. We should ask ourselves whether we have really acted consistently with them, and been more fruitful, zealous, and conscientious than before. Thus we shall be prepared to plead with him as his children and friends, in the manner that Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Jehoshaphat, and others of old did; and prevailing with him we shall prevail with man also.
But we must likewise remember, that we are bound to use our influence and improve our talents, by every exertion, to promote the cause, and obtain the blessings, for which we pray ; both in our families and private circles, and in more publick stations. Thus we should seek, as well as pray for, the peace of the community, the prosperity of the church, the reformation of manners, and removal of every occasion or encouragement given to vice and impiety. If indeed we are decidedly for the Lord, and determined to follow him fully, without regard to men or dread of consequences; our conduct will have a considerable effect : for the example, endeavours, and prayers of his faithful people are the means by which our national character must be improved, and our privileges continued to us.
Let such as profess to “ turn unto him that "smiteth” them, take care they do not rest in notions, forms, or external reformation; without true Vol. II.
conversion, repentance, faith, and holiness. The prophet took notice of persons answering this description, when he said, “ They return but not “ to the Most High.'” And nothing more effectually prevents the conversion of sinners, than a mistaken idea that they are already converted.
Charity to the poor and afflicted is likewise an essential concomitant of acceptable fasting and humiliation: “ Is it not to deal thy bread to the “hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are “ cast out to thine house? When thou seest the “ naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide “not thyself from thine own flesh ? Then shall thy “ light break forth as the morning,—then shalt “ thou call, and the LORD shall answer.-If thou “draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the “ afflicted soul: then shall thy light rise in ob“scurity, and thy darkness shall be as the noon“ day.2"
Finally, my brethren, if you thus return to the LORD, and seek his face, I am sent to you with encouraging words. “Let the heart of those rejoice “ that seek the Lord.” “Say ye to the righteous, “ that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat “the fruit of their doings.”_" In the time of fa"mine they shall have enough.”—“Though the “fig-tree should not blossom,” and every resource should fail, “ yet they may rejoice in the LORD, 6 and joy in the God of their salvation,” Be not - 1 Hos. vii. 16.
? Is. Iyiii. 7-12,