Page images
PDF
EPUB

divine authority of government is received by the multitude with such pride, and impatience, and mockery, that it is plain their reason is disordered upon the subject. When their opinions prevail, and they are permitted to assume to themselves that power which belongeth only to God, no greater calamity can happen to any nation. This is the case at present with the people of a neighbouring country : and, surely, it is our duty to reflect upon that, as upon all the other ways of divine Providence. Some facts have been brought to pass, of late years, so extraordinary in themselves, and of such magnitude, that we may justly be alarmed. For the same principles which have disturbed others, and brought their present calamities upon them, are at work daily amongst ourselves. It is to be feared they were borrowed from us*; and if God, for the punishment of our manifold sins and corruptions, should suffer them to take effect here, they will put arms into the hands of all the disorderly people in the kingdom, and overturn our constitution in church and state; with such circumstances of distress, and perplexity, and terror, as can be conceived only by those who have been witnesses to such disorders.

state.

In the last century great danger arose to society from enthusiastic notions in religion. Of later years, a grand levelling hath been adopted, which tends to confound all right and property amongst mankind, and strikes at the authority of God himself in church and One of the first books, in which this was openly done, was called the Rights of the Christian Church. It undertook to prove that the Church is the creature of the state, and the state the creature of the people, and that God himself, as the governor of Israel, became such in virtue of a contract between himself and the people at Horeb. This precious piece was turned into French by Le Clerc and put into his Bibliotheque Choisie, which went over Europe, and probably sowed some of those thistles, which are now springing up and threaten to overspread the face of the earth.

From the prospect of things presented to us in the text, I beg leave humbly to suggest, in few words, how Christians ought to conduct themselves under such circumstances.

We, who teach, though in times that are bad, and daily altering for the worse, should never be ashamed of our true principles, nor weary of warning the people against the delusion of such as are false. If we should be opposed by those who treat us with scorn and contempt, for speaking as our duty requires, we should neither wonder nor be troubled at it, but consider their insolence as a part of their distemper. Their opinion is of no more weight when they extol what they call liberty, than when they deny Christianity: and we commonly find a strong propensity to do both, in the same person. Some assert their freedom against God's institution of marriage; some against his institution of government: all promise themselves happiness in so doing; but all find servitude and corruption. This we should endeavour to make the people aware of, and admonish them still to pray for kings and for all that are in authority, as Christians did of old, and as the Church of England directs us to do now; that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

We are farther to insist, that God is fearful and just in his judgments; that he abases those who exalt themselves; that he violently takes away honours and riches, when they are abused to the purposes of luxury and impiety; that he lets the wild boar of the wood into the vineyard of his church, to trample it down and lay it waste, when its fruits are become sour, and unprofitable; that men should I i

VOL. III.

therefore so live as to secure to themselves the protection of God, and be able to look up to him with confidence in the day of distress and perplexity. Whatever changes may take place here below, God is still the same. The Psalmist describes him as seated securely on high, upon the throne of his kingdom: while the people, like the restless waves of the sea, are vainly raging below: Ever since the world began hath thy seat been prepared-The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly; but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier. Psalm xciii. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea: though the waters thereof rage and swell, and the mountains shake at the tempest of the same. This world must come to its end: we should therefore not be dismayed at the signs, which make it probable that its end may be drawing near. For why? The same sea, which destroyed the wicked Egyptians, gave deliverance to the chosen people of God. We should have no desire to put off the end of this world; but should rather pray, as we are taught to do in the most solemn of our offices, that God would shortly accomplish the number of his elect, and hasten his kingdom; that saints and martyrs, and all who have, and do suffer for the cause of God and the name of Jesus Christ, may lift up their heads, and see their Deliverer seated upon the clouds of heaven.

Till this shall be brought to pass, let us not set our affections on the pleasures of this unsteady world, so apt to disturb and alarm us with the misery of present, and the terror of future evils. Woe be unto those, who have not God for their confidence in the day of visitation!-Watch ye therefore, and pray

always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man-To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all power and dominion, in heaven and earth, both now and for everAmen.

more.

SERMON XVII.

YE OUGHT TO SUPPORT THE WEAK, AND TO REMEMBER THE WORDS of the LORD JESUS, HOW HE SAID, IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE. ACTS xx. 35.

CHILDREN of this world, and children of light, are phrases of the Scripture, by which two opposite parties of men are distinguished; and it is a considerable step toward the Christian life, to understand rightly their different principles and rules of action. A general character of each, so far as our present subject is concerned with them, may be given in few words. The children of this world are they who study how to turn men's labours and passions and prejudices to their own advantage; and their chief wisdom consists in making other men useful to themselves. The children of light, having higher objects in view, think it their wisdom as well as their happiness to make themselves useful to all mankind. It never could be expected that the former would pay much regard to the memorable saying in the text; therefore it is addressed to the latter; to Christians, who are glad to hear, and ready to follow, the words of the Lord Jesus. He, whose first object it is, to get as much as he can, by any means whatsoever, will find little inclination to give; especially on a religious motive; for the sake of a prospect which he

« PreviousContinue »