« IndietroContinua »
"in righteousness," " who are we that we should “reply against God?” Hezekiah and Isaiah doubtless would have chosen the softening, humbling, and changing of Sennacherib's heart, rather than the destruction of his army: but if he continue to boast, menace, and blaspheme; and the LORD declare, that he will “ put a hook in his nose, and “ a bridle in his lips, and turn him back by the “ way in which he came;" and if it please the Fountain of wisdom and justice to do this, even by the awful destruction of a hundred and eighty five thousand men: shall the protected and delivered servants of God quarrel with him on this account, or refuse to render him their tribute of grateful praise? I trust, numbers have prayed in the spirit of humble faith, and love, and zeal for the honour of God and the interests of true religion: and verily God hath heard us, he hath hitherto confounded the devices of our enemies, and hath preserved peace in our borders. The honour of Iris name, we trust, rendered it proper for him to answer the prayers of liis people; while with one consent many thousands pleaded, “O LORD, " though our iniquities testify against us, do thou “ it for thy name's sake.”. On all these accounts therefore he hath withdrawn his hand : and not. withstanding our provocations we are preserved, for the same reasons which induced him to spare and protect the nation of Israel during many revolve ing ages.
III. I proceed therefore, in the last place, to des duce some practical instructions from the preceding view of our national mercies and our present circumstances. In doing this we must particularly advert to the special object of this day, appointed for publick thanksgiving. We are, my brethren, met together, to return thanks to Almighty God, not for the restoration of peace and the prospect of permanent tranquillity; but for preservation in the midst of a most perilous and destructive war: and even this preservation must be ascribed to the Lord's special unmerited mercy shewn to a most guilty land, for the purposes of his own glory. We cannot therefore consistently give the least countenance to that spirit of boasting, exulting, and vaunting ourselves or our countrymen, above others, which is natural to men amidst signal successes. A consistent Christian will be pained to hear even of Britain's ruling the waves; for he knows that the Lord alone possesses the sovereign authority over the sea and the dry land; and gives dominion to whom he pleases, and for what term of time he pleases. He cannot listen with patience, much less with pleasure, to vain glorious declamations on the great things we have done, or the honour and glory of Britain among the nations; for he knows that “ Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a “ very small remnant, we should have been like “Sodom and Gomorah.” “ The LORD " indeed,
" háth done great things for us, for which we rejoice,” with humble gratitude and admiration: and he hath enabled many of our countrymen to fill up their places in a proper manner, and hath honoured them as his instruments in our preservation. To him therefore belong glory and praise; but to us belong shame and confusion of face, for our numerous and heinous provocations. “It “ is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed:" and our mutual congratulations, as well as thanksgivings, should be tenpered with deep humility and self-abasement.
A confident spirit too, is peculiarly unsuitable to our character and situation. We have been indeed hitherto preserved from shipwreck in a most tremendous storm, during which many have been dashed on the rocks or sunk in the ocean: but the hurricane still rages, and may soon, for what we know, become more furious than ever. The very means, by which God hath hitherto preserved us, may easily be turned against us; and we are in all respects entirely in the hands of Him, • who for our sins is most justly displeased.' “ Rejoice with trembling,” should therefore be our motto.--Even if peace on the most desirable terms were ratified; the man, who judges according to the Bible, would not think our condition by any means safe; so long as a general reformation of manners and an effectual revival of religion have not taken place, and so long as even Vol. U.
sanctioned injustice, oppression, and cruelty, lowever protested against, still maintain their ground. The particular call of the day is to bless and praise the Lord for his mercies: but the general call of the times is to “ weeping and mourning, and “girding with sack-cloth.” We may indeed humbly hope, that he who “ hath delivered, and doth " deliver, will yet deliver:” but we should beware of self-confidence; or confidence in our 'national resources, our fleets and armies, our valour and good policy, or in an arm of flesh however exerted. And we ought at least to be equally upon our guard against a presumptuous confidence, like that of the Jews, “ The temple of the Lord, the temple of the LORD, are these;" while no care is taken to “ amend our ways and our doings :" from a vain imagination that God will certainly deliver us, even though we continue to act, as if we thought ourselves delivered, on purpose to proceed in our rebellious courses. For my part, 'I shall never think the danger over, till a ģeneral endeavour be manifested among all ranks and orders of men in the land, to promote the cause of genuine Christianity, in principle and practice, through their several circles; attended by a conscientious performance of the duties of their several places, and improvement of their various talents, to the honour of God and the good of men: and till a general protest be entered against every species of infidelity, impiety, oppression, venality, and profligacy. For the invasion of the land by these spreading evils, is far more formidable to the spiritual mind, than even that of the most numerous and well appointed armies of enraged enemies; and indeed it is now making more dire havock of men's -souls, than the French themselves have hitherto made of their bodies.
It is likewise peculiarly incumbent on us, to watch against all impatience under the pressures of the times. We should compare our burdens, losses, and trials, with those which we have deserved, and which have actually desolated many other countries: and thus, while we cannot but feel, that the war has greatly impoverished and distressed numbers, and still bears very heavily on us; the spirit of murmuring will give place to that of patience, contentment, and lively gratitude. Indeed this is the grand difficulty, in respect of the service in which we are now engaged. For while pride and love of worldly objects prevail, and the state of things exceedingly impedes men's desired success, and involves them in manifold difficulties and straits; it is vain to expect that they will be truly and durably thankful for the most evident interpositions of a merciful Providence, to preserve them from vastly more dreadful calamities. And as even pious Christians are far from that depth of humility and fervency of spiritual affections, which become their character and situation;