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their sins remains upon them: and the whole creation is a weapon in his hands against them. They may be stupidly unmoved by these considerations: they may affect to hide their convictions, or strive to run away from them into whatever presents itself. But usually the liveliest and strongest natural spirits will sink under them, in a time of severe trial. Or supposing they do not; the more obstinately such persons hold out, and the more gaily they go on, the heavier in all likelihood will be their present ruin, but the dreadfuller certainly their final sentence. For sooner or later, and with full recompense for ever so long delay, the solemn and repeated denunciation must be verified, Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap*.
But the obedient and devout soul, which looks beyond worldly appearances, and rests itself on the Divine providence, is entitled, whatever outward commotions happen, to the truest, the steadiest, the most delightful inward composedness: to that peace of God, that sense of being in friendship with him, that feeling of comfort and joy flowing from him, which passeth all understanding; exceeds the conceptions of those who have not experienced it, and shall exceed hereafter the present conceptions of those who have. Yet the sincerely good may not constantly enjoy a very high degree of this. The imperfection of their goodness, the lowness of their spirits, errors of judgment, sudden alarms, afflictions uncommonly grievous, may lessen, may interrupt it: or God may, for secret reasons of infinite wisdom, hide his face from them for a time. But, ordinarily speaking, their tranquillity and consolation will be found proportionable to their improvements in real religion. † Psalm xiii, 1.
* Gal. vi. 7.
And, though undoubtedly seasons of difficulty and hazard will give some uneasiness to the best minds; yet no more, than is moderate, and very tolerable: no more, than leaves them, on the whole, in a peaceful state; and able to cast, if not all, as they should, yet the most of their care on him, who careth for them*.
Let us therefore try ourselves by this rule, whether we have indeed practical faith and confidence in the Almighty. And if not, let us instantly labour to obtain it, by a total forsaking of our iniquities, which have separated between us and him †, and humble addresses for grace to help in time of need. The common resource is to the help of man alone: there be many that say, Who will shew us any good? but the language of a well-instructed heart is, Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us §. Some put their trust in chariots, and some in horses: but let us remember the name of the Lord our God: provide for our security with the utmost prudence, and defend our cause with the boldest zeal; but still rely on him alone, who giveth victory unto kings ¶. Every other aid may fail: but God cannot. He is able to save by many or by few **: to break the arm of the wicked ††, and disappoint the devices of the crafty ‡‡. He stilleth the raging of the sea, the noise of its waves, and the madness of the people §§. Under his conduct, the things, that seem the most against us |||, may prove the very means of our deliverance: and the fiercest storms drive the ship with more speed into a safe harbour. Therefore say to them that are of a fearful
heart, Be strong, fear not: behold your God will come with a recompense; he will come and save you*. All who are penetrated with these truths, though timorous naturally, and while the danger is distant, shall, when it draws near, out of weakness be made strong, and wax valiant in fight †: not with a tumultuous and transitory animal courage, but a calm and stedfast resolution, keeping, as the Apostle expresses it, their hearts and minds, quieting their passions, fixing their judgments, and by consequence determining their behaviour. The reasonings of such persons will be those of the Psalmist: God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble. 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 rage and swell, and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same. The rivers of the flood thereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed: God shall help her, and that right early. The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are moved: but God sheweth his voice, and the earth shall melt away. The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. These are the grounds, and there cannot be stronger, on which a good person, unless he is wanting to himself, will not be afraid of any evil tidings: for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord §. Nay, were it not the pleasure of God to deliver his people from their enemies, even in that case, they would be enabled to suffer according to his will, and commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator |
*Isa. xxxv. 4. + Heb. xi. 34. ‡ Psalm xlvi. 1—7. § Psalm cxii. 7. || 1 Pet. iv. 19.
But then we must ever observe, by whose means alone this unconquerable firmness, this inconceivable serenity, is to be acquired. The peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus. For as, without faith in religion, persons very often have no refuge at all in the storms and troubles that overtake them; so, without faith in the Christian religion, they are liable still to most uneasy and disheartening fluctuations; from doubts, how far providence extends; doubts of their own title to forgiveness and favour; doubts of the existence and duration of a future reward: to all which the Gospel hath put the happiest end; informing mankind with certainty of every thing that could induce them to act right with cheerful perseverance; and confirming the highest expectations, which they can possibly entertain, by that equally convincing and affecting argument: He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things*? Thus then we have hope, as an anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; lays hold on the promised state of invisible glory, whither the Forerunner is entered for us, to take possession already in our name, even Jesus: whose gracious words to his disciples we ought to have constantly present to our thoughts, when clouds arise and darken our prospect, hang over our heads, and seem ready to burst upon us. These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world. Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: : let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid
* Rom. viii. 32.
+ Heb. vi. 19, 20.
PREACHED IN 1746, ON THE VICTORY At Culloden.
2 COR. i. 9, 10.
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust, that he will yet deliver us.
OUR gracious sovereign having appointed, of his own mere motion and personal piety, a solemn acknowledgment to Heaven, for our late victory over the rebels, to be inserted in the prayers of this day, permit me, as far as I am able, to be a helper of your joy on that happy occasion. And may God effectually dispose us all to rejoice before him † in so wise and religious a manner, as may lay a sure foundation for his rejoicing over us to do us good‡; for his going on to comfort us again, after the time that he hath afflicted us, the years wherein we have suffered adversity §.
I hope it may promote this blessed end, if we consider our condition in the same views in which the text places before us that of the Apostle St. Paul, comprehending an account,