« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
aspect of publick affairs, we remembered those words, "The LORD's voice crieth unto the city, and the man "of wisdom shall see thy name: Hear ye the rod and "who hath appointed it." We saw or supposed we "his hand lifted up." We considered all creatures and second causes as ordered by him, who permits, limits, over-rules, and works by all, his own wise, righteous, and merciful purposes. We said, "Because "of thy wrath are we troubled; for our secret sins are "in the light of thy countenance." We were deeply affected by contrasting our national privileges with our national character; the sins of the land and of the church; the infidelity, impiety, profligacy, and cruel iniquity, which prevailed, in some awful instances still sanctioned by professedly Christian legislators. These things alarmed us far more than the power and success of our enemies; and we seriously enquired, What can we do, in such circumstances, more than we now do, to stem the torrent, and to turn away the wrath of God from our guilty land?' We had before considered it as our bounden duty to remember, in our daily prayers, the perilous state of the church and nation, and to exhort our congregations to do the same; but still we doubted, as ministers of Christ, whether something did not remain for us to attempt.
While thus reflecting and conversing on these subjects from time to time, with no small anxiety; not only did the annual proclamation of our king, appointing a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, convince us still more, that the LORD God called us to peculiar duties, in this emergency; but our superiors in the
church gave unequivocal intimations, that they were of the same opinion: and it was evident from many declarations, that almost every serious person thought something beyond common efforts ought to be at tempted.
At this crisis, the Society, which is this day dissolved, was first formed: a small number of clergymen in the metropolis, in the habits of friendly unrestrict ed intercourse on such subjects, entered into a resolution to assist each other, in endeavouring to stir up their congregations. 1st. To personal self-examination, repentance, and religious diligence. 2dly. To use their influence in checking the progress of infidelity, impiety, and vice; and promoting scriptural christianity, in their families and among their connexions. 3dly. To pray constantly for the nation, and for the church of God that is among us: and also, as connected with these ends, to strengthen, as far as our little influence would extend, the hands of our governours; and to exhort the people to "fear God and honour the king, and "not to meddle with those who are given to change."
But, while we confined our exhortations to our own people, it occurred to us, that we might be considered merely as delivering a private opinion, which would be but little regarded: in order therefore to impress the minds of our several congregations more deeply, with the conviction that we were entirely agreed in our opinion on the signs and duties of the times;' we formed the plan of preaching on the subject at stated seasons for each other. This has been continued for a considerable time; and by private addresses and some
publications, we have endeavoured to stir up our brethren, both in London and through the Land, to join with us in these exertions; especially in constant united prayer for our country, and for the church of God.
It is not easy for us to estimate the degree of success, which hath attended our endeavours: but we may fairly assume, that in consequence, numbers have prayed more frequently, more particularly, more fervently, than they would have done; and that there has been more concert in prayer, than there might otherwise have been. At the same time we remember that our Lord has said,
Where two agree on earth as touching any thing "that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my "Father which is in heaven." It may also be assumed, that some farther accessions have been made to the number and seriousness of those," who sigh and "mourn for the abominations that prevail;" and who, in various ways, exert themselves to stem the torrent of impiety, and to turn away the indignation of the Lord from our guilty land.
Let us also recollect, that by whatever means or instruments we are preserved, it is God who hath preserved us; and that "he delighteth in the prayer of the
upright:" and then we shall be prepared, (without undervaluing the services of men, however employed,) to adopt the language of the text, "The LORD hath "inclined his ear unto us."
Surely it is in answer to the prayers of God's servants, that, while almost every country in Europe, has VOL. II. 3 K
been made the seat of war, deluged with blood, and exposed to dreadful devastations by fire and sword; we have had peace in our borders. Our established government, our civil constitution, (rendered more valuable than ever to reflecting persons, by comparison with its boasted rivals,) are preserved to us. No revolution, no civil bloodshed, no convulsions, have here taken place. Our sabbaths, our churches, our religious establishments, our toleration, are continued. Few, very few comparatively, have lost their lives, in this dreadful struggle, by the sword of justice; (a wonderful proof of the mild and equitable spirit of our constitution!) Our commerce and manufactures, the support of the poor, and the resources of the publick, as well as the wealth of individuals, are not materially injured; nay, in many cases, are unimpaired and improved. We have had scarcity, urgent scarcity: but astonishing supplies from abroad have been vouchsafed, till Providence has favoured us with a harvest plentiful almost beyond example. At length, peace is made, as well as plenty, in good measure, restored; and pleasing prospects open to our view.-Can we remember our prayers, during many years, often accompanied with distressing alarms and sorrows; and then refuse to say, "Verily God hath heard us?" Are not these deliverances and mercies answers to our prayers?
You have often heard, and will no doubt again hear, the particular instances in which a kind and bountiful Providence has interposed in our behalf: but I shall only offer two hints on this subject. It is not likely that truly pious Christians generally unite in prayer, for
the aggrandisement of their own country, and the destruction of their enemies: though they are often accused of it. They would wish, if possible, to prevent the effusion of human blood, and the calamities of their fellow-creatures: but they pray to be defended from invasions and desolations; they pray for the peace of the land in which they enjoy peace; and a blessing on the persons and measures of their rulers, who protect them in the enjoyment of their civil and religious privileges; and they pray for the preservation of those valued privileges, to themselves, their fellow-subjects, and posterity to remote generations. At the same time, however unavoidable and just any war may be, it cannot be reasonably expected, but that human passions will mingle in the prosecution of it; and that motives of ambition, rapacity, resentment, or worldly policy, will dictate some measures; and so, carry men beyond what is necessary for self-defence. Now, my brethren, I would particularly call your attention to this circumstance, in the history of the late war. Every measure, without exception, either more or less immediately connected with our own defence, has been wonderfully successful: but several which had for their object rather the annoyance of our enemies, than our own preservation, though planned in consummate policy, viewed with most sanguine expectation, and conducted with ability and fortitude, have proved unavoidably unprosperous: and, in thus dealing with us, has not God, as it were, said, 'I answer the prayers of my people, which they offer according to my will, and protect the land; but further than this I do not give success?'