« VorigeDoorgaan »
tan festivals: he throws the blame of the defeat of the French fleet on the destinies; yet, speaking of Fortune as a real person, he makes her his deity, and says, she favoured him as long as it was necessary! So long as God is thus openly acknowledged by us, and despised or defied by our enemies; we may hope, that, “he "will withdraw his hand, and work for his name's "sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of "the heathen.”
From the æra of the Reformation to this present time, it hath pleased God to make this nation one principal support of the Protestant religion; which may be considered, with, alas! not many exceptions, as the cause of Christianity itself. On this account likewise his glory hath been concerned in our protection; formerly against the vehement assaults of popish powers, and lately against the designs of infidels and atheists: for could either of these parties have accomplished their avowed designs respecting us; the interests of true religion in Europe would, as far as we can see, have been greatly endangered. The LORD hath indeed frequently made use of these enemies for our severe correction: yet" he hath not delivered us over "as a prey unto their teeth." But how long our preservation may be necessary for the accomplishment of his wise and righteous purposes, we cannot tell: and, unless a great change should take place in our national character, he will, when his plan no longer requires us, cast us off; as he did the Jews after the coming of Christ, and the propagation of the gospel among the Gentiles.
There is likewise in these nations, as there was in Israel of old even in the worst of times, a remnant of true believers; and this little flock enjoys security and liberty of conscience. Now it is reasonable to suppose, that the honour of GoD is, in many cases at least, concerned, to defend a country where his people are protected and countenanced. Indeed it may be questioned whether any nation can be said to have filled up its measure of iniquity, while a considerable number of true believers remain in it, and are unmolested by persecution. The Christians had long been cruelly persecuted by the Jews, and had separated entirely from them, before the predicted vengeance was poured out upon that devoted nation.
The number of real Christians in Britain, though small in comparison of the inhabitants at large, would, I trust, if collected together, form a very considerable company. All these truly repent of their own sins, and are humbled for them as a part of our national guilt; they all "sigh and mourn for the abominations" that prevail; they protest against them, and endeavour in some measure to counteract them. They are decidedly on the LORD's part in the midst of the abounding infidelity, iniquity, and impiety of the nation; and, according to the degree of their faith, grace and knowledge of the scriptures, they pray for the peace of the land in which they enjoy peace. They pretend not indeed to intercede with the energy and success of Abraham; or of Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Isaiah, Hezekiah, Daniel, or others, who prevailed in prayer for Israel of old: but they use the same plea, both in their own
behalf, and in behalf of the nation; and beseech God to spare and deliver us, for the honour of his name, "that it should not be polluted in the sight of the "heathen."
Several ministers have united, within the course of the year, to excite their own and each other's congregations, to pray earnestly for our beloved country, in these perilous and critical times: and, while infidels deride, and mere politicians overlook, such means of national preservation; it is afflictive to observe, that some whom we would consider as brethren, have misunderstood us, and have supposed that we meant to excite people to pray for the destruction of our enemies, and the gratification of national ambition, rapacity, or resentment, by bloody victories. But, I think, I may answer for most of those concerned, and probably for every individual; that to be preserved from invasions, civil wars, and persecutions; and to have the invaluable blessing of religious light and liberty continued to us and to our posterity, has formed the substance of our united supplications in this respect. We should have been rejoiced, if the rulers of France would have formed devices, so salutary to themselves and safe to their neighbours, that we could explicitly and cordially have besought God to prosper them: but if they will persist in attempting to make this country the seat of war, to inundate it with blood, to overturn our government, and destroy our religion; we must continue to pray, 'Abate their pride, assuage their malice, and 'confound their devices.' We have prayed especially for peace; and it would have gratified every feeling of
our hearts, to have been secured from the dangers which impended over us, without the loss of a single life: but if the LORD GOD of our salvation sees good to answer us, "by terrible things in righteousness,' "who are we that we should reply against God?"i 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 his name, we trust, rendered it proper for him to answer the prayers of his 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 notwithstanding our provocations we are preserved, for the same reasons which induced him to spare and protect the nation of Israel during many revolving ages.
III. I proceed therefore, in the last place, to deduce 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 consistant 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, " hath 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