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faith in God animates their zeal for general good. Slights and provocations, difficulties and risks, private advantages, and party or personal attachments, may very easily sway and bias all, that act from temporal motives: but are nothing to such as act from this; the only one that cannot possibly be at any time overbalanced. So long as the state of affairs is calm indeed, government may go on very smoothly, without much principle in those who are employed by it, or live under it: perhaps the more smoothly for a while, in some cases, the less principle there is. But when storms rise, as after such calms they will rise, then is the time to see, in what the real strength of society consists: who will struggle, who will hazard, who will be faithful to the last. They, that fear God, certainly will: and we can have no certainty (how should we?) of any other. Amongst the truly religious, because they are such, there will be secure and mutual trust, faithful economy, and unwearied application: their counsels will be steady, their undertakings just, their execution bold, their confidence in Heaven strong, and their adherence to a righteous cause unmovable. Seldom, if ever, will a state, which proceeds in this manner, fail of success. And were they to fail ever so greatly, nay, to be overwhelmed ever so entirely, they would fall with more reputation and more happiness, than others flourish. But there is always reason for better hopes. A nation, reverencing the Sovereign of the universe, will be reverenced by all around them, as a wise and understanding people, which hath the Lord nigh unto them*. Their friends will know, they can depend on them: their enemies will know, they have the utmost efforts to fear from
* Deut. iv. 6, 7.
them both will know, and they themselves too, that even in their last extremity, Providence may be expected to fight for them. Great are the troubles of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. The Lord delivereth the souls of his servants: and they, that put their trust in him, shall not be destitute *.
But then it must be observed, that such as have long been sinners, and are at last become penitent, (the former is certainly our case, would to God the latter were!) if relief doth not appear immediately, ought to wait for it with much patience, and be well satisfied if they are exalted in due time in God's time, not their own. Wickedness ruins nations by degrees reformation may restore them by degrees. An imperfect reformation will be likely to bring forth but imperfect fruits. And the completest reformation of a few may prove insufficient to save the whole. Still these are reasons, only why all should repent: not why none should, unless all will, which it is impossible to foresee. For be the generality ever so incorrigible, and their destruction ever so absolutely decreed on that account; there is encouragement enough, notwithstanding, for those who do humble themselves, and return to a better mind. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment. It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger t. At least, whatever such may suffer in common with others, far from being a mark of his anger towards them, will contribute largely to improve their virtues, and increase their future reward. So that in every event they may cast all their care on God, for he careth for them. Undoubtedly they will feel the uneasiness,
+ Zeph. ii. 3.
+ 1 Pet. v. 7.
Psal. xxiv. 20. 22.
which human nature must from whatever is painful to it: and in particular, a tender concern for multitudes, who have none for themselves. But still they will submit with composedness and reverent approbation to the severest sentences of Heaven; and reflect with joy, that their chief interest is safe, though inferior comforts be lost.
Let us therefore acquaint ourselves with God, and be at peace*: for he will keep those in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on him †. Whoever they are, that, sensible of their offences and their weakness, apply for the pardon obtained by Jesus Christ, and the grace communicated by the Holy Spirit: who, in their private capacity, honour God, study to be harmless and useful amongst men, and govern themselves by the rules of virtue; who also, in their public capacity, earnestly pray for and impartially seek the peace of Jerusalem, the welfare of their country, civil and religious; not led by interest, resentment, or vanity, but having at heart real common good; and in their whole conduct encourage and restrain themselves as the case requires, by the faith of a future recompense: whatever may befall the society of which they are part, it shall be well with them. Whatever else they may undergo, others will have nothing to reproach them with, they will have nothing to reproach their own souls with; and in the darkness light shall arise unto them §. All such persons therefore, after doing conscientiously what is incumbent on them, not only may, but ought to be without solicitude: and should let the foundation of their peace be known; that all around them may perceive, how vastly preferable the consolations of
*Job xxii. 21.
+ Isaiah xxvi. 3.
§ Psalm cxii. 4.
religion are to every other method of making themselves easy. The pious man doth not labour to quiet his thoughts by obstinately shutting his eyes, or plunging into excesses, or taking off his attention by amusements: but can with tranquillity look towards the evil day, and see it coming: wait for it, and bear his share of it, less or greater; being assured, that all things work together for his good*. A very different state from theirs, who know they have deserved the judgments of God, who know they have contributed to bring them down to their own and others' hands; who have nothing to cheer them, when the clouds gather on every side of them; nothing to direct them, when the blackest tempest pours upon them, but the momentary glimmerings of human hope, struck out by their own imaginations; and if they should escape, if they should outwardly prosper again for the present, will only be tempted by it to treasure up to themselves hotter wrath against the day of wrath †, and final judgment. But hear, I intreat you, how the word of God expresses the case of each and may its enlivening exhortation to the former, and its terrifying admonition to the latter, sink deep into your breasts! Who is among you, fearing the Lord, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Behold all ye that kindle a fire, and compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks which ye have kindled: this shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow ‡.
Rom. viii. 28.
+ Rom. ii. 5.
Psalm 1. 10, 11.
PREACHED ON OCCASION OF THE REBELLION IN
2 SAM. X. 12.
Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the Lord do that which seemeth him good.
MANY of you, I hope, remember, that I discoursed to you upon these words, a year and seven months ago*: when God, for our sins, threatened us first, with what for the continuance of them, he hath at length permitted to fall on part of this land. The renewal and nearer approach, of the same danger, requires a more earnest inculcating of the same exhortations. For perhaps we may now lay to heart the things we did not then. It is very true the pulpit ought never to be profaned, and I trust never hath or shall by me, to serve the purposes of party-interest; or intermeddle with any points of a political nature, about which the friends of their country, that think at all, can possibly be of different opinions. But the present is a common cause, affecting every one of us, without distinction, in what is most important to us and God forbid, that the ministers of the Gospel should be either unwilling * February 26, 1743-4.