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rose from the ruins in which the tragedy of those times had involved it, under the direction of a man who had helped to destroy it, and who seemed almost to the last moment undecided whether he should restore or destroy it again. Our deliverance in the following reign from the attempts of a gloomy tyrant to enslave both body and soul, was brought about by the concurrence of the most surprising incidents, cooperating, at the critical moment upon which the whole depended, with the noblest efforts of true patriotism.
These are a few remarkable facts selected from a multitude of others, scarce less extraordinary; and they bear evident traces stamped upon them of superior power.
Now it may appear to some, that the calamities which at various times have befallen our nation were a contradiction to the doctrine here advanced ; were a strong and melancholy proof that God's providential care was then at least withdrawn, and the light of his countenance turned away from this island. But it is not, surely, to be expected, that throughout the whole duration of a great empire, any more than throughout the whole life of an individual, there is to be one uninterrupted course of prosperity and success. Admonitions and checks, corrections and punishments, may be, and undoubtedly are, in both cases useful, perhaps essentially necessary; and the care and even kindness of Providence may be no less visible in these salutary severities than in the distribution of its most valuable blessings.
Both private and public afflictions have a natural tendency to awaken, to alarm, to instruct, and to better the heart of man; and they may be at last attended with other very important and beneficial consequences.
We have then the strongest reason to conclude, that there is a power on high which watches over the fate of nations; and which has, in a more especial manner, preserved this kingdom, in the most critical and perilous circumstances. Does not this, then, afford some ground to hope, that, if we endeavour to render ourselves worthy of the divine protection, it will be once more 'extended to us; and that by a speedy and effectual reformation of our hearts and lives, we may remove or lighten the judgment which our iniquities have drawn down upon us ? We may be allowed to console ourselves with those reviving hopes, which the belief of God's providential government presents to us. We know in whom we trust; we know that this trust rests on a foundation which cannot be shaken. It rests, not only on the express declarations and promises of holy writ, but on the many remarkable instances of a Divine agency, which occur in the history of mankind, and above all in our own. In every one of the extraordinary national deliverances abovementioned, the dangers that threatened this island were of a much greater magnitude, and more formidable aspect, than any which seem at this time to hang over us. Why then may we not indulge ourselves with the same expectations? A series of past favors naturally begets a presumption of their continuance ; and it must not be wholly imputed to the partiality which every man entertains for his own country, if we give way to a persuasion that God will still vouchsafe his accustomed goodness to his favored land. We will soothe ourselves with the belief that a nation so distinguished as this hath been, with happier revolutions and greater blessings than any other ever experienced, will not at this time be deserted by its gracious Benefactor and Protector. Compared with the nations of Europe, it is not too much to say, that it is here that liberty hath fixed her seat. If it can be pretended, after all it is difficult to prove, that any other country possesses more liberty, they do not possess tranquillity along with it. It is here that Protestantism finds its firmest support; it is here that the principle of religious toleration is established; it is here that a public provision is made for the poor; it is here that public institutions for their relief exist in greater numbers and extent than in any other part of the world. It is here, in short, that the laws are equal, that they are, in general, administered both with integrity and with ability, and that the stream of justice flows with a purity unknown in any other age or nation.
Nor have we only the happiness of enjoying these unspeakable advantages ourselves; we have been the instruments, and it is an honor to have been so, superior to all conquests, of diffusing them over the remotest regions of the globe. Wherever our discoveries, our commerce, or our arms have penetrated, they have in general carried the laws, the freedom, and the religion of this country along with them. Whatever faults and errors we may be chargeable with in other respects, for these gifts at least, the most invaluable that one country can bestow upon another, it is not improbable that both the eastern and the western world may one day acknowledge that they were originally indebted to this kingdom. Is it then a vain imagination, that, after having been made the instrument of Providence for such beneficial purposes, there is some degree of felicity yet in reserve for us, and that the part we are appointed to act in the world is not yet accomplished ? What may be in the counsels of the Most High, what mighty changes he may
be now meditating in the system of human affairs, he alone can tell. But in the midst of this awful suspense, while the fate of empires hangs on his resolves, of one thing at least we are absolutely certain, that it is better to have him for our friend than our enemy. Which of the two he shall be depends entirely upon ourselves. If by our impiety and our licentiousness, we audaciously insult his admonitions and brave his vengeance, what else can we expect but that every thing which ought naturally to be the means of our stability will be converted into instruments of our destruction? If, on the contrary, by reverencing the judgments of God, and returning to that submission which we owe him, we again put ourselves under his protection, he may still, as he has often done, dispel the clouds that hang over us; or if, for wise reasons, he suffer them to gather and darken upon us, he may make even them, , in the final result, conduce to our real welfare.
There is in fact no calamity, private or public, which, under his gracious direction, may not eventually prove a blessing. There are no losses but that of his favor which ought to sink us into despair. There is a spirit in freedom, there is a confidence in religion, which will enable those who possess them, and those only, to rise superior to every disaster. It is not a boundless extent of territory, nor even of commerce, that is éssential to public prosperity. They are necessary, indeed, to national greatness but not to national happiness. The true wealth, the true security of a kingdom, consists in frugality, industry, unanimity, loyalty, and piety.
Great difficulties call for great talents and great virtues. It is in times such as these that we look for courage and ability. Let the wise, the good, and the brave, stand forth in the present difficulty as one man, to assist and befriend their country. In the same vessel we are all embarked ; if the vessel perish, we must all perish with it. It is, therefore, our common interest, our common duty, to unite in guarding against so fatal an event. There can be no danger of it but from ourselves; let harmony inspire our councils, and religion sanctify our hearts, and we have nothing to fear. Peace abroad is undoubtedly a most desirable object; but there are two things still more so; peace with one another, and peace with God.
JONAH III. 10.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, and God repent
ed him of the evil that he said he would do unto them, and he did it not.
BEFORE we proceed with the text, there is one word in it to be observed particularly, which is the word 'repent.' This word, when applied to God, does not, as when applied to us, denote sorrow or contrition for a deed or intention which was wrong at the time, but it imports that what was fit and right, and so judged to be by divine wisdom, under one state of circumstances and in one situation of the parties concerned, becomes not fit or right under different circumstances and in a new situation ; that God accordingly changes his counsel or design, because the occasions which induced it have also changed, which change of counsel is in scripture language called repentance.'
In the present instance it is said that God repented of the evil.' That evil was the destruction of Nineveh for its wickedness. "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness is come up before me.' When this terrible sentence was denounced by the prophet Jonah, the effect which it appears to have produced very suddenly upon the people, was a solid, national penitence. We are not authorized to say that it was a political change, for of that we hear nothing, but a personal reformation, pervading every rank and description of men in that community. “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them even to the least. The king of Nineveh published, we read, a decree for the strict observation of this religious solemnity, concluding with these pious and remarkable words; • Let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands; who can tell if God will repent and turn from his fierce anger that we perish not?' The effect was what might be hoped for from the sincerity and universality of their penitence and devotion.
God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not.' Here, therefore, we have a nation saved by penitence and devotion together; and we are assured, by the authority of this history, that if, from negligence, from contempt, from the pride of reasoning, from philosophical objections, from the hardihood and contumacy of sin, or from the ease and levity, and unconcern and indifference, which licentious prosperity begets, the people had despised the warning of the prophet and the admonition of their king, the event would have been, that Nineveh had sunk and perished forever.
It is unnecessary to distinguish between devotion and penitence, because one, if sincere, includes or produces the other. From either of them, when insincere, no good can be expected ; and if sincere, one includes the other. If devotion be sincere, it must lead to an amendment of life; and if penitence be sincere, it will universally be accompanied with devotion.
Natural religion has its difficulties upon the subject of prayer; and it is one of the benefits which we derive from revelation, that its instructions, its declarations, its examples under this head, are plain, full, and positive. The revelations, which we receive as authentic, supply, in this article, the defect of natural religion. They require prayer to God as a duty, and they contain positive assurances of its efficacy and acceptance. The scripture, also, not only affirms the propriety of prayer in general, but furnishes precepts and examples which justify certain subjects and modes of prayer, which the adherents to natural, in opposition to revealed religion, have sometimes represented as dubious or exceptionable. •Be careful for nothing; but in every thing,' that is, let the subject of your fears be what it will, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.' The true disposition under difficulties is described to be, to serve the Lord; serving the Lord to rejoice in hope ; thus acting, not to let our souls sink under misfortune, or relinquish the prospect of better things; hoping for better things, yet patient under the present; patient, as it is expressed, under tribulation; and, to close all, continuing instant in prayer. More particularly, under a sense of danger, what is to be done? why, · Pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass.'
Again ; although it be granted that prayer is allowable, as far as it expresses a general sense of submission to God, and as far as it casts ourselves upon his mercy or his bounty, yet some have thought that we advanced too far in petitions when we took upon ourselves to pray for particular favors by name. And this ought at least to be admitted, that our prayers