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"the LORD of Hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be "purged from you, till you die."* And Micah speaks to the same effect, "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."t
Our Lord, reproving the Jews for their unbelief, thus addresses them-"Yehypocrites, ye can discern the face "of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the "times?" And in predicting the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, he particularly describes the signs of those times, and emphatically adds, "Let him that readeth, un"derstand." Thus he plainly declares, that the wisdom, duty, safety, and comfort, of his disciples, were inseparably connected with an attentive observation and an accurate judgment, in respect of the events which would take place in the world.-It is indeed allowed that the primitive christians were in very different circumstances than we are: yet it must also be granted that, in many respects, we can neither know nor do our duty, without adverting to the state of the church and the nation, and forming a decided opinion on the dangers which threaten, and the evils which weaken and corrupt, both the one and the other. Without some measure of this understanding of the times, we shall be at a loss to determine, whether we are called to wait in quiet submission, knowing that "our strength is to "sit still," or to engage in active services: and whe
• Is. xxii. 12-14.
Matt. xvi. 3. Luke xii. 56, 57.
+ Mic. vi. 9.
ther mourning and fasting, or joyful praise and thanksgiving, be the business of the day.
Indeed in perilous and disastrous times, it is of great importance that we should know the source and origin of the evils, which alarm and distress us, and the way in which they may best be counteracted; in order that our exertions may be made, and our supplications presented, in the manner most suitable to the emergency.
This kind of knowledge and discernment is especially needful and useful to ministers of the gospel: for though it must be acquired by a careful observation of Providence, compared with the Scriptures; yet the bulk of christians are generally led into it by means of their pastors. No doubt there are very numerous exceptions: yet ministers possess a variety of advantages, above most in their several congregations, for obtaining information, and coming to a settled judgment on the aspect of publick affairs; and if they do not give a right direction to the thoughts and opinions of the people, others may probably mislead them; or at best, many even of the more conscientious will either wholly neglect, or very slightly attend to, the special duties of the times.
It must therefore be incumbent on the ministers of religion to look about them, to observe what is passing in the world, to mark the signs of the times, and as watchmen to warn the people of approaching danger: not in order to engage them in political discussions, but to excite them to perform their several duties, according to the emergency of the case.
It may be supposed, that few well-informed persons will deny, that the present times wear a most extraordinary appearance. They have in fact called forth the energies and activity of men, to a degree almost unparalleled in history: and after every abatement for the feelings of the persons more immediately concerned, we can scarcely doubt, but that distant countries and remote posterity must deem them peculiarly disastrous and dreadful.
The christianity, most prevalent through the greatest part of Europe for ages past, has unquestionably been very corrupt, both in principle and practice; and it has been rendered subservient to the base designs of wicked men: nor can it be denied that arbitrary power, ecclesiastical and civil, has oppressed vast multitudes, and introduced grievances which loudly called for redress. But the speculations of men, arrogating to themselves the title of philosophers, concerning both religion and government, under pretence of remedying these evils, have led by direct consequence to infidelity and anarchy: and these speculations having been, for a considerable time, secretly propagated, with profound sagacity, ardent zeal, and unwearied perseverance, at length produced such convulsions, as scarcely ever shook the world in former ages.
The impetuosity with which the revolution in France was effected; the atrocities attending it; the vast projects of the leaders; the immense resources of that powerful country; the peculiar concurrence of events, which rendered national bankruptcy a source of almost inexhaustible wealth, by giving occasion to the
seizure of the whole property of vast multitudes at home and abroad; the astonishing success of schemes at first deemed rash and chimerical; the revolutions that have followed in other countries; the accumulating force of the impetuous torrent; and the threatening aspect of these stupendous events on the constitution, laws, and liberties of other nations, and on the property and lives of the inhabitants, have caused and must cause many and just alarms.
But the interests of religion should most engage our attention: and here we may assert without exaggeration, that the subversion of christianity, as well as of popery and superstition, has been the express and settled purpose of many agents in these convulsions, and the genuine tendency of the measures adopted by others, who perhaps had no such intention.
It is undeniable, that many late events have the appearance of accomplishing the prophecies concerning the destruction of Antichrist: and here it seems to be our duty to be still, and to wait till it be manifest what God is about to do. We cannot rejoice to see infidelity and atheism supplant even corrupted_christianity, considering this event as detached from its future consequences: but can we consistently regret the removal in any degree of that permanent mountainous obstruction to the spread of the pure religion of Jesus, except as it involves many other lamentable transactions?We should however, pray to God, that he would speedily terminate the dominion of the destroyers, and send forth those who may plant genuine christianity in the regions which they have ravaged: and we ought to sympathize with the sufferers of every description;
and afford them our help, as far as we can, without sanctioning their pernicious tenets, or partaking of their evil deeds.
But while we contemplate the distant storm, or make observations on the earthquakes which convulse other regions; we must also feel for ourselves; for the peace and security of Britain, and for the interests of christianity among us. Whatever may be said of our insular situation, our resources, our national spirit, our constitution, or the measures adopted by our rulers; or whatever may appear probable according to the general course of human affairs: we must still remember, that "Vain is the help of man," and that, "Except "the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but "in vain."
But further, however favourably we may think concerning the religion of our country, as it is delineated in the authorized books of the established church, or in the creeds and confessions of a large body among the dissenters; or concerning the prevalence of the gospel in the land: yet he who impartially compares facts with the Bible, and contrasts our national advantages with our national character, will by no means on this ground be sanguine in his expectations, as to the event of our present dangers. Nay, rather he will almost be ready to think he hears the alarming enquiry, "Shall "not I visit for these things? saith the LORD; and "shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as "this?"
The more therefore serious persons value our civil and religious privileges, the greater in this view will be their apprehensions, on attentively considering the