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conduct though it were with some mistakes; or whether they have none at all, or a quite wrong one? We own that false notions about religion were one great cause of the sufferings of this nation. But so were false notions about freedom, another. And why are mistakes, or even wilfúl abuses, a reason for trampling upon the former, when they are not thought a reason against exalting the latter without bounds? We own, that superstition and enthusiasm ought to be guarded against : and that this is a most important lesson of Providence to us, on this day. But it cannot be right to guard against them, by rooting out of men's minds the reverence due to the Author of Nature: or by taking methods, which, in the natural course of things, will bring one or both of them back upon us, as , perhaps we have begun to experience; or at least will bring evils, not less formidable. Public happiness cannot subsist, without social virtue and moral self-government : nor can either of these subsist, without regard to God. Nothing, but the thought of his seeing and rewarding, can possibly have force sufficient, in all cases, to restrain men's passions, to counterbalance their present interests ; to excite the indolent, keep the enterprizing within due bounds, and unite all in making the common good their common end.
We shall therefore neglect the most important of the counsels of Providence on this day, if we learn not, from so instructive a dispensation of it, that just sense of our duty to the Governor and Lawgiver of the world, which if our forefathers had preserved, these miseries had never happened ; and if we preserve, they will never happen more. For as, on the one hand, religion enforces powerfully that necessary caution, expressed by the prophet Ezra ; Seeing thou
our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this: should we again break thy commandments, wouldst thou not be angry with us, till thou hadst consumed us * ? So on the other, it supports us with that noble confidence, expressed by the prophet Samuel: Fear not: but serve the Lord with all your heart: for the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake. Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth: for consider, how great things he hath done for you t.
Ezra. ix. 13, 14.
+ 1 Sam. xii. 20. 22. 24.
PREACHED BEFORE THE INCORPORATED SOCIETY FOR
THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL IN FOREIGN PARTS, IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST. MARY-LEBOW, ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1740-1.
MARK vi. 34.
And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people: and
was moved with compassion towards them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd : and he
began to teach them many things. This passage of the evangelist expresses, in so strong and engaging a manner, the benevolent temper of our blessed Lord, and his tender regard to the spiritual wants of men, that, if we suffer our minds to dwell upon it awhile, it cannot fail of exciting the same disposition in us: especially if we consider, that the view, which he is here described to have had, of their destitute condition, not only induced him to teach them himself many things concerning the kingdom of God *; but caused that most serious reflection and exhortation, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few ; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest + : immediately after which he sent forth his twelve disciples to preach the Gos* Luke ix. 11.
+ Math. ix. 36-38.
pel *; as he did the seventy at another time, on the very same motive, mentioned by another evangelist in the very same words t : thus opening the way, by his previous care of the lost sheep of the house of Israel I, for uniting us all into one fold under one shepherd .
To carry on the great work which he began, of directing mankind to present and future happiness, is the end of this society: incorporated by a prince, to whom religion and liberty will have eternal obligations; and established, first for the support of Christianity in our colonies and factories abroad, then for the propagation of it amongst the heathens intermixed with them, and bordering upon them ; but taking its name from the remoter and more extensive part of the design.
Every possible reason required our predecessors in this excellent undertaking to begin with inspecting the state of the English plantations in America. And nothing could be more applicable to them on that occasion, than the words of the text: They saw much people, and were moved with compassion towards them: because they were as sheep not having a shepherd. The European inhabitants there being private adventurers, neither numerous, nor rich, nor certain of success, nor unanimous in belief, established in several provinces no form whatever of public worship and instruction. Too many of them carried but little sense of Christianity abroad with them: a great part of the rest suffered it to wear out gradually: and their children grew of course to have yet less than they: till in some countries there were scarce any * Matth. x. 1.
+ Luke x. 1, 2. Matt. x. 6.
|| John X. 15.
footsteps of it left, beyond the mere name. No teacher was known, no religious assembly held; the Lord's day distinguished only by more dissoluteness; the sacrament of baptism not administered for near twenty years together, nor that of the Lord's Supper for near sixty, amongst many thousands of people, who did not deny the obligation of these duties, but lived notwithstanding in a stupid neglect of them. Such was the state of things in more of our colonies than one: and where it was a little better, it was however lamentably bad. Some persons appear very desirous of seeing, what sort of creatures men would he without the knowledge of God. Here a sufficient trial was made of this : and it shewed to an unhappy degree of certainty, that they would be wicked, and profligate, and brutal in every respect, and return in a few generations to entire barbarism. Possibly indeed they might have been delivered from this evil, by that of popery; which, always taking advantage of ignorance and profaneness, had already begun to spread : and dreadful was the alternative of one or the other. In these circumstances, the poor inhabitants made, from all parts, the most affecting representations of their deplorable condition: the truth of which was but too fully confirmed by their respective governors, and the persons of principal note in each province. There could not be worthier objects of regard, than such complainants. And if they, who remained insensible, did not deserve pity so much, they wanted it still more. The Society therefore, in proportion to their own ability, and the need of each place, first sent over missionaries, to perform the offices of religion amongst them; then schoolmasters, to instruct their children