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others; nay, is it not by many deemed a mark of supe. rior genius, to reject the whole of divine revelation as a eunningly devised fable, and to employ all their influence in proselyting others to their opinion ?
What small success attends the preaching of the gospel even among those who profess to believe ? Into how many sects and parties are they divided? With what zeal do they build up their walls of partition ? With what animosity do they contend for their own peculiarities, as points of new and important discovery, though in fact most of them might lay claim to a very ancient date, have been often republished, and as often refuted ? Now, union is the strength of the religious, as well as of the civil community; and there is reason to fear that God will suffer that candlestick to be removed from among us, about which we quarrel and fight with one another, instead of walking by the light it affords, and performing the work which was given us to do.
I shall not waste any part of your time upon the mere triflers of either sex, who literally walk in a vain shew, and ought rather to be regarded as the scenery or decorations of the theatre, than as actors sustaining any character upon the stage. Yet even they, light as they may scem, make some addition to the load of national guilt, as we learn from the passage respecting the daughters of Zion, in the third chapter of this prophecy, which I for'merly quoted. Enough has been said to prove, that we are a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, and that the call to repentance is proper and seasonable, and be. longs to the very day in which our lot is cast.
Indeed our very meeting together in this place, is a public acknowledgment of it*. For what purpose are we convened by royal authority? Is it not that we may humble ourselves before Almighty God, and send up our prayers and supplications to the divine Majesty, for obtaining pardon of our sins, and for averting those heavy judgments which our manifold provocations have most justly deserved.
* Preached on a public fast-day, in the time of the American
Thus far we may be assured, that the call of the Lord of hosts hath been distinctly and faithfully echoed from the throne. And lest, after all, we should turn a deaf ear to his voice, the Lord of hosts hath written the same call upon the face of providence, in characters so legible, that they must be worse than blind who do not read and understand them.
The little cloud, like a man's hand, that arose a few years ago on the other side of the Atlantic, hath ever since been increasing both in size and in blackness.
Our envious and deceitful neighbours, who, by secret artifice, have endeavoured from the beginning to keep the unhappy breach open between Great Britain and her colonies, have at length laid aside the mask, and are now straining every nerve to spread the desolations of war through the whole extent of the British empire.
The sword that was drawn for coercion abroad, now finds employment for self-defence at home; and the measures hitherto pursued have been so ineffectual, that after much expense of blood and treasure, we may say with the Jews in the days of Jeremiah, chap. xiv. 19. “ We looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble.'
What shall we say to these things? Do they bear no impression of God's holy and righteous displeasure ? " Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey ? Will a young lion cry in his den, if he hath taken no- . thing? Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him ? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all? Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid ? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy ?" Von. II.
Our own wickedness is made to correct us, and our backslidings reprove us, that we may know and see what an eril thing it is, and bitter, that we have forsaken the Lord our God.
This, my brethren, is the primary aim of all God's corrections. Ile doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men ; but when transgressors will not learn the malignity of sin by gentler means, then he causes them to feel the evil of it in the bitterness of affliction. Hence it appears, that temporal judgments are acts of mercy as well as of justice, especially when they are of such a nature as to bear the stamp and signature of those sins which are the cause of them. Till we discern the hand of God in the sufferings that befal us, we shall never have recourse to the true and the only effectual remedy. When public measures are defeated, we shall sometimes blame the contrivance, and at other times the execution ; but still we shall look to the creature for help and place our trust in the arm of flesh.
This was an express article of indictment against the Jews, in the preceding context. They used every precaution to put their city into a proper state of defence. They inspected their magazines, they repaired the breaches in their walls, and provided large store of water for a siege. In all this they acted wisely, and did no more than was their duty. But herein lay their fault, verse 11. they relied upon the preparations for the safety of Jerusalem, and “ did not look unto the Maker thereof, neither had respecļ unto him that fushioned it long ago."
I have therefore endeavoured to lead your attention to God himself, and to trace up all the penal evils we feel to the several instances of our criminal departure from him, as their true origin and source; and though perhaps I may have erred in the illustration of particulars, yet I cannot help thinking that the general truth will appear with sufficient evidence, that our own backslidings are reproving us, and that we ourselves have made the rod withi which we are smitten.
By this time we may all see our concern in this subject, and the improvement we ought to make of it.
It is righteousness alone that exalteth a nation. Repentance towards God, flowing from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, is the only effectual means for preventing the ruin of a sinful people. Without this we may obtain -a temporary respite from punishment; but the clouds will return again after the rain, and all the while we are filling up the measure of our iniquity, the consumption is advancing, and every day we draw nearer and nearer to dissolution. Whereas, if we accept of the punishment of our iniquity, and put away from us those evil doings which provoke the Lord to jealousy, then may we hope that he will return to us in mercy, and rejoice over us to bless us and to do us good ; according to that encouraging promise, Jer. xviii. 7. “ At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kįngdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy ; if that nation, against which I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I also will repent of the evil that ļ thought to do unto them."
It is this which should always give check to any desponding thoughts. We have but one to please, ONE whose favour is desirable, and one who is most easily pleased ; because he hath told us, without ambiguity, what will please him ; and at the same time hath declared his readiness to aid our feeble endeavours, by working in us effectually both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Let us then hearken to the call of the Lord God of hosts. Let us, with weeping and mourning, return to him, from whom, alas ! we have deeply revolted, and ask of him, this day, the spirit of repentance, and grace to walk in newness of life, by bringing forth fraits meet for repentance
In this way only can we hope, that he who hath the hearts of all men in his hands, will give judgment to them who sit in judgment, and strength to those who turn the battle from the gate ; and cause our eyes once more to sée our Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down, none of whose cords shall be broken, neither any of the stakes thereof ever removed. Amen.