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It hath always been a favourite theme with me, in my public addresses, to dwell much upon those Prophecies, and portions of holy Scripture, which predict that, God's own government, in the hearts of men through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Grace of his Holy Spirit, shall be extended, among those that “ sit in darkness and the shadow of death, even to the remotest ends of this habitable world;" and that although God's gracious purposes may be counter-worked and stayed long, by the unworthiness of the instrument which he hath chosen-perverse Man-yet they cannot, finally, be frustrated!
I would now pursue this subject, and impress this strong hope, that notwithstanding the darkness that now hangs over us, the Lord (as the Prophet elsewhere expresses it) offers himself as “ an everlasting Light to us”-that if we will obey His call, and follow where His divine Providence points our glorious way, our days of Mourning shall yet be turned into Joy. “ We shall yet become a righteous “ people and inherit the land forever, as a branch of “ His planting, in which He may be glorified-that a " little one among us shall become a thousand, and “ a small one a strong nation, and that He, the Lord, s will hasten it in his time."
This ravishing hope, my Brethren, if duly cherished, will lead us, better than a thousand arguments founded in Fear, to improve the design of our present meeting, by a view of our own situation in this country, the designs for which God appears to have
Isaiah, lx. 22,
planted us in it, and the part which it is our duty to act in this day of trial; so as neither to counteract our promised bliss by licentious Impatience, nor forfeit our hopes of it by unmanly Fears.
If we turn our thoughts to the ways of Provi. dence, as recorded in history, profane as well as sacred, and consider the fate of Christian empires-how they have been alternately blessed with the enjoyment of Gospel-light, Liberty and Happiness, alternately lifted up and cast down, according to their due use, or corrupt abuse, of these blessings; if we mark their progress through the old world; and impartially examine the prophecies which relate to their gradual extension to the remotest habitations of the Gentiles; we shall find rays of Hope darting in upon us, which may yet help to cheer us, amidst all the gloom that now broods over us.
Like the Sun, these mighty blessings (Gospellight, Liberty and Happiness) have still pursued their western course, since the birth of Christianity, till, in meridian splendour, they reached the utmost verge, the ultima Thule, of the old world; where they long illuminated the favoured land from which we sprung. And, while they shone in noon-tide glory there, their cheering rays extended with our ancestors across the vast Atlantic, dispelling the long, long, night of darkness in which these American regions lay involved; and opening upon Us a radiant Morn, which
gave the joyous earnest of a future resplendent day. That Morn is now overcast; but our Sun, we trust, only hides his head from us for a time, and is not commanded, by an unappeasable Providence, to
revert from his destined course, and measure back his former way.
If we make a due improvement of the present visitations of Heaven, the clouds will speedily disperse; our Sun will break forth with renewed vigour, and these “ ends of the earth shall yet see the salvation of God.”
In this view of things, my Brethren, and on this solemn day, set apart for humiliation of soul, godly sorrow, serious meditation and sincere repentance; fixt, as it were, in the very midst of the great Drama, which the Almighty, by his own ways and means, is
, carrying on to Perfection; let us make a deep pause; and, turning our reflections both backward and forward, and more especially upward to Him, let us deal honestly with ourselves, and impartially consider the part we are called to act.
It is more than probable that the chief concern of the greatest part of us this day—the sentiment uppermost in our hearts-relates to our temporal salvation. This is not blameable, but only in the degree of our concern. Our temporal distressassembled us here, and has prostrated us at our Maker's feet; when, probably, had Prosperity surrounded us, we should have been forgetful of Him, and spending the precious moments in Vanity, and things of no Spiritual Profit.
Of this principle I will avail myself, therefore, in the first place. Would you be thought Patriots indeed? Do you profess yourselves, in good earnest, ready to sacrifice your blood and treasure for the temporal safety of your country? Have you lifted up y voices to God in fervent supplications, that he would
strengthen your resolutions and prosper your endeavours? And in return for his expected deliverance,
in his awful presence, deprecated your former sins, and (solemnly renouncing them) promised to devote yourselves to his will and ways, all the days of your lives? So far as you have done this, you have done well. So far you have kept a true Fast, .considering it as something infinitely above all human Appointments.
But if any seeds of Ambition, Licentiousness or Revenge, are yet left to spring up in our hearts, to check those Fruits of Peace and Love, which the Gospel of Christ would cherish there; if we have brought to this solemn Fast any turbulent Desires, any secret views of fostering Party-Spirit, any Lust of unjust Dominion, any Impatience of lawful Government, or wish to weaken its bands, or intrench upon plighted Faith and the Sanctity of Laws—then let us be assured that we counter-work our own Salvation, not only in the next world, but in this. Our Fast this day, is only a mockery of our almighty Creator!
If we come to God for a blessing on our temporal affairs, it must be with the conviction that all earthly happiness is derived from Him; that, in his sight, the best Christian is the best Patriot; that the Man who upholds the Purity and Majesty of Religion can best serve his country; and that where the sense of Reli- . gion is once lost, the Sense of Liberty, and of every thing else that is valuable in this world, must be im. mediately lost with it.
My Brethren, I am now upon a very serious subject, and in very serious times. I trust you will suf
fer and expect me to speak with the utmost freedom, as becomes one professing, from scripture, to speak the will and word of God among you.
If then we would seek true inducements for Hero. ism and Virtue in every time of danger, let us not consider this fruitful land which we possess, as given to us merely for advancing our own temporal interests; but also that we might be the means of diffusing the Knowledge and Practice of Religion, as well as of civil Liberty and Happiness, to the nations that sit in Darkness round us.
Nay we ought to view this design-(the planting and raising an Empire of Christian Knowledge here) as the first and greatest work we have to do.
A temporal Empire, however favourite a notion, is a secondary work, which can only spring from, and be supported by, the former; without which, all other blessings of nature or industry—the happiness and fertility of soil, zeal and struggles for Liberty, will be totally vain.
That this whole continent shall one day become a happy seat of knowledge and freedom, arts and polished life, and whatever can exalt or adorn mankind; is a hope which, as I said before, the voice of Scripture and Prophecy leads us fondly to cherish in our breasts. It seems the mighty purpose of God, in many predispositions of his Providence, to enlighten the dark parts of this new world; and He will raise up proper instruments, if not in us, at least in others more worthy, should we neglect the adyancement of His divine purposes.
It becomes us, therefore, impartially to examine our own hearts and ways; to consider how far we are