« PreviousContinue »
solute, and prophane; and by misemploying theado vantages, which God had thrown into their lap, provoked him (as far as in them lay) forth with to withdraw them.“ Jethurun waxed far, and kick« ed : Then he forsook God which made him, and “ lightly esteemed the Rock of his falvation,” Deut. xxxii. 15.
And therefore Mofes, who had obferved the backfldings of this wanton people for forty years together in the wilderness, when they were come to the borders of the promised land, and were now going to possess it, warns them, with the greatest earneftness, of those dangerous temptations to which prosperity (he knew) would cxpose them.
“ Beware” (says he) “ left when « thou hast eaten, and art full. and hast built
goodly houses and dwelt therein ; and when “ thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy “ filver and thy gold is multiplied, and all thou “ haft is multiplied: Then thine heart be lifted
up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, that “ brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, “ from the house of bondage ; and thou say in “ thine heart, My power, and the might of my “ hand, hath gotten me this wealth,” Deut. viii. 12, 13, 14, 17. This was one perverse effect of their fitting safe and at ease under their vines and their fig-trees; that they began to forget from whence that ease and safety came, and to transfer all the honour of it upon themselves, by “facri
ficing unto their own nets, and burning incense “ unto their drags ;” Hab.i.16. a sort of idolatry, as hateful to God as any other whatsoever.
Or, if they vouchsafed to give God the praise of his goodness, yet they did it only in order to
boaft the intereft they had in him ; They were the peculiar care of heaven, the nation which above all nations he delighted to honour; their $ mountain was strong, and fhould not be rein “ moved," no “ harm should come nigh their “ dwellings."
What fecret imaginations of this kind we have fondly entertained, upon our successes, is best known to God and our own hearts: Only this is apparent, that we have not since so behaved our felves towards God, as if we preserved upon our minds a grateful remembrance of his mercies, that we have scarce manifested our sense of them any otherwise than by the formalities of a thanks giving; that, whatever ground we may have gotten upon our enemies, we have gotten none upon our vices, the worse enemies of the two; but are even subdued and led captive by the one; while we triumph fo gloriously over the others. The life and power of religion decays apace here at home, while we are fpreading the honour of our arms far and wide through foreign nations : To fecond causes we seem to trust, without depending (at least without expressing fo devoutly as we ought to do our dependance) on the first. It is fufficient that “ this great nation is a wife « and understanding people;" Deut. iv. 6. that “ we have counsel and strength for the war ;** Ifa. xxxvi. 5. and where counsel and strength is, how can they choofe but prevail? In a word, we fo live, and fo act, as if we thought our prefent profperity founded on fuch a rock, as could no ways be shaken ; as if we were perfectly secure of the final illuc and event of things, however
we may behave ourselves; and had no longer any occasion for the special providence of God " to watch over us for good," to direct all oue steps, and bless our endeavours. How vain and sinful such iinaginations are, is what I proposed, in the
II. Place to shew. Two things there are, that lie at the bottom of this falfe confidence: We think that our succesfes are a plain indication of the divine favour towards us ; and that, becaufe we have fucceeded hitherto, we shall succeed always, even until our eye hath feen its desire upon our enemies.
May the event every way answer our expectation! However, we shall not be ere the less likely to meet with success, if we do not expect it too confidently; and therefore it may be of some use to us to consider, whether, and how far we may, from the present prosperous state of our affairs, conclude that Got is with us of a truth, and will go on still to heap greater bleflings upon us, how little care foever we have taken, or thall take, to deserve them. ** Military fucceffcs do, above all others, elevato the minds of a people that are blessed with them; because the providence of God is thought to be more immediately concerned in producing them, Indeed, there are no events which do either confess a divine interposition fo evidently, or deferve it fo well, as thole of battle: which, as they are of the utmost confequence, and have sometimes decided not only the fate of particular provinces or kingdoms, but the emplre of the whole world; fo 'do they depend often on' such remote and VOL. II.
seemingly disproportioned causes, turn on such little unheeded accidents, as it is not in the power of the most fagacious and experienced among the fons of men to prevent or foresee. War is a direct appeal to God for the decision of some difpute, which can by no other means be possibly determined: and therefore there is no reason to believe, that the ifsues of it may in a peculiar manner be directed and over-ruled by providence: upon which account God is styled fo often in scripture, the Lord of hofts, the God of the armies of Ifrael, the God mighty in battle; and he is said there to have sent his angels, on some extraordi. nary occasions, to fight for his people ; and the discomfiture and slaughter of great hosts is expres. ly attributed to their unseen assistance.
However, tho' warlike successes carry in them often the evidences of a divine interpofition, yet are they no sure marks of the divine favour. If they were, the Goths, and Saracers, and other savage nations, which over-ran Europe and Asia, would have entitled themselves to the favour of God by their bloody and barbarous conquests: and even that most Christ an enemy with whom we contend, moft on the account of those inhumaa ravages, which he so long committed with equal injustice and fuccefs, have been accounted the darling of providence. No, such conquerors as these are not the favourites, but scourges of God, as one of them styled himself; the instruments of that vengeance
which Heaven hath determined to pour out on such nations, as have filled up the measure of their iniquities, and are grown ripe for excision: and as soon therefore as that fentence is executed, these rods, these instruments of divine displeasure, are themselves thrown into the fire. From mere fuccess therefore nothing can be concluded in favour of any nation, upon whom it is bestowed. That point can only be determined by confidering, whether the cause for which they are engaged be juft, and the means also just which they employ towards supporting åt ; but above all, whether the moral deserts of a people be such, that their successes may be looked upon as the just reward of their virtues To the two firit of these advantages we may, I think, fairly lay claim; I wish we had as good a title to the latter, and then our confidence would not be ill grounded.
Our succefles have indeed been the consequences of a juft and honourable, nay neceffary war ; in which we cngaged, not out of ambition, revenge, or any other unjustifiable motive, but for the defence of all that was dear to us, in respect either to this world or another. The haughty monarch, whose heart God at laft by our means hath humbled, was grasping at universal empire, preparing chains for the neck of free states and princes, and laying schemes for suppressing the ancient liberties, and removing the ancient boundaries, of kingdoms. Nor was he satisfied in fubduing men's bodies, unlefs he enflaved their fouls also, and made the pure profession of the gospel give way to fuperftition and idolatry, wherever he had power enough to expel the one, and establish the other. Nay, he pretended to give laws even to our succession here at home, and to impose a prince upon us, who thould exe