Page images
PDF
EPUB

mistresses of the several schools, perform your share as you ought, in every particular, which you can either suggest to yourselves, or learn from others : unless you go through your whole work with diligence and discretion, with patience and vigilance, with impartiality and disinterestedness; with deference and respect to those who employ you, with authority and yet mildness towards those, over whom you are placed; with a tender concern for their temporal and eternal happiness, and a fearless resolution to oppose and overcome every hindrance to either. The best designs, without a suitable execution of them, are likely to end in nothing, or worse. Think then with yourselves : will you occasion all this charity, and all these objects of it, to be utterly lost by your fault? Or will you be the authors of more good to them, and more blessedness to your own souls, than any persons of your degree possibly can in any other way? By your endeavours and your prayers you have the latter in your power: and God incline your hearts to it! The impressions, that can be made from this place at present on your poor children, can be but small, or at best short-lived. To you therefore I leave it, to give them the deepest sense that you are able, of the unspeakable privilege of their education, the dreadful guilt of making a bad use of it, the indispensable duty of doing justice and credit every way to the schools, to which they belong: and of recompensing hereafter, as God shall enable them, the benefit which they receive.

But I must not even yet conclude, till I have in one word more reminded you all, who are here assembled, that without continual help this excellent undertaking cannot be supported; and that almost

5

every one is capable of giving it help, more or less, in some way or another. They who have the burthen of conducting it as trustees, all afford it the assistance of their purses, as well as their pains and advice. And I hope such of you, as are proper, will be ready, when occasion shall require, to share in the same trust. For nothing is more absolutely necessary to such a charity, than a constant succession of wise, and good, and reputable managers. But if you cannot serve it this way, serve it however in the much easier way, of a cheerful liberality. Its being a good thing evil spoken of, obliges you, who are convinced it is unjustly so spoken of, both to patronize it more earnestly, and contribute to it more bountifully. The truest objects of compassion upon earth, are young persons left, uninstructed and unrestrained, to the dangers of a corrupted nature and a vicious world. And such, without the timely interposition of a Christian spirit, would these have been, whose appearance now not only gives your eyes the pleasure of a beautiful and affecting spectacle, but your hearts the joy of beholding at once, so many thousands of young candidates for usefulness in this world, and endless felicity in the next, as perhaps no nation under the sun besides hath ever seen together. Let us comfort ourselves in the prospect, and oppose it to the very gloomy ones, that we have around us. Amongst the poor our religion had its rise: and there at least it may yet maintain its ground, till it shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward *, amongst other ranks of men. We are following the original plan of the divine wisdom, in making provision for revealing those things to babes, which the wise and prudent in their own eyes have hid from themselves *. And may God, out of the mouth of these babes and sucklings t, ordain and perfect praise to his holy name, and strength to the kingdom of his ever-blessed Son!

* Isai. xxxvii. 31.

Matt. xi. 25,

† Psalm viii. 2. Matt, xxi. 16.

SERMON VIII.

PREACHED IN THE PARISH-CHURCH OF ST. JAMES,

WESTMINSTER, MARCH 11, 1749-50, ON OCCASION OF THE EARTHQUAKF, MARCH 8.

PSALM ii. 11.

Serve the Lord with fear : and rejoice unto Him with

reverence.

The passion of fear is an extremely necessary one for all creatures, whose good or evil depends on their behaviour: for it prompts them instantly to avoid whatever would harm them: and accordingly God hath given it a strong and deep root in human nature. But as our frame is disordered throughout, we are liable, in this respect, as well as many more, now to exceed, now to be deficient : and fearing too little, on some occasions, is the cause of our fearing, on others, much more, than else we should need. Religion, if we permit it, will regulate all our inward feelings to our present and eternal advantage: and is particularly, serviceable, not only in exciting, but directing, and moderating this. Without religion,

be endless alarms. Were not the world governed by infinite justice and goodness; every person, that would, might, in multitudes of cases, do any hurt to others with impunity: and all mischief of all kinds befall us, however innocent, singly or

there may

jointly, through the whole course of life, unalleviated by a prospect of recompense after death. Nay indeed, as nothing hinders, but that, if it were possible for us to exist without God here, it might be possible hereafter too: there could be no certainty, that death itself would end our sufferings, or even would not increase them. But the knowledge of a gracious and wise Providence entirely secures us, if we believe it as we ought, not only against all imaginations of inexorable fate and blind chance, but all real detriment from the worst efforts of men or devils. For if God be for us, who can be against us* 2 It is very true, religion banishes these objects of apprehension by substituting in their room another, unspeakably more formidable than them all. I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body; and after that, have no more, that they can do. But I will forewarn you, whom you shall fear. Fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell : yea, I say unto you, fear him t. And did not reason afford us hope; and Scripture, assurance, of his accepting and rewarding us, on most equitable terms : our condition under the divine government would be surrounded with incomparably greater terrors, than any other possibly could. But since we know the means of obtaining his favour, in this life and the next: if we will but use them conscientiously, the awe, which we cannot but feel, of an almighty arm, will be sweetly mixed with faithful trust and thankful love: and those things, which give others the most grievous disturbance, will not need to give us the least. Fear ye not their fear, neither be afraid: but sanctify the Lord of Hosts, and let him be your fear, and let him be your

dread : and he shall be a sanctuary I. First * Rom. viii. 31. + Luke xii. 4, 5. Isa. viii. 12, 13, 14.

« PreviousContinue »