« PreviousContinue »
that artifice, prepossession, and resentment have raised, are dispersed: surely it must have a beneficial influence on their conduct.
Or if none of these considerations can affect them, there is yet another of infinite moment. This life, at best, is short and most of the busy actors on the stage of the world have probably but a small part of it to come, before a strict account of their behaviour in it is demanded. And will it be well for us then, think we, that, for the sake of purposes not to be owned, we have brought unjust reproach, uneasiness, distress on our brethren; and disquieted, weakened, impoverished, undone our common parent, whom nature and reason and revelation jointly require us to love and to serve? Or must it not be inexpressible happiness, for those in low stations to have discharged the duties of them with faithful affection, both to their rulers and their fellow-subjects and for those in the highest to be able to say, with the excellent Jewish governor, Think upon me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people * ?
If these be solid motives, let us all be moved by them: first, to use the utmost caution, that we do no harm to our country; next to try, what service we can do it; but especially to endeavour, for that we every one of us can, by virtuous lives, united hearts, and fervent prayers, to call down the divine benediction on our national counsels and undertakings. If indeed we consider worldly appearances only, we have great cause to fear: if we reflect on our many heinous iniquities, we have still much greater cause. But when we call to mind, what deliverances God hath often and lately bestowed on us, what warnings
and what time he hath given us to repent, how slow and unwilling he appears to let our enemies proceed to our total destruction, it cannot but kindle in our breasts a most reviving persuasion, indeed a full assurance of hope*, that would we but yet be unanimous and religious, we might yet by his blessing be safe and prosperous. And may the Lord so bless us, that we may see Jerusalem in prosperity all our life long: but let them be confounded and turned backward, as many as have evil will at Sion.
Heb. vi. 11.
† Psalm cxxviii. 6.
Psalm cxxix. 5.
PREACHED APRIL 25, 1749, ON THE THANKSGIVING FOR
PSALM XXIX. 10.
The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
WE are met this day to thank God for a mercy, that hath long been the object of our earnest wishes, and solemn prayers; that we have often had but small hope of obtaining, and yet now have possessed many months, with an increasing prospect of its continuance: on which account our joy is still more reasonable, though it must, from the constitution of our nature, be less warmly felt, than it was at first. Accordingly we have just been expressing it in the divine presence. And instruction from this place was not previously necessary, to excite our gratitude for a benefit, so visible and so important. But it may contribute, not a little, to fix in our breasts a more durable sense of what we have acknowledged: and, which is the end of all, direct us to such behaviour, as will secure and improve the happiness we enjoy.
I shall therefore at present,
I. Set before you the blessing of peace.
II. Shew you, that it is the gift of God.
III. Press you to remember, that only his people
are entitled to it: and consequently to consider, whether we are such; and to labour that we may, in the highest degree.
I. I shall set before you the blessing of peace.
Man appears, from the harmless make of his body, the conversable disposition of his mind, the tenderness of his affections, the sovereignty of his reflecting principle, the necessity of assistance in his numerous wants, and the rules of life prescribed him by express revelation, to be formed for a social inoffensive creature. Now the natural state of each being is the happy one. And the happiness of peace is like that of health: it spreads through the whole of the civil, as that doth of the animal constitution; and furnishes vigour and pleasure to every part, without being distinctly perceived in one more than another for which reason we are apt to overlook the felicity of both, till the loss of them for a time renews our sense of their value; and even such experience usually doth not long preserve it in our memory. Therefore to discern sufficiently the advantages of peace, we must recollect the miseries of
To these we seldom attend farther, than we immediately feel them. And the generality feel only the expence which indeed is a sore evil, and hath been for many years past, and must be for many to come, a heavy burden to us. Persons of low degree are sadly straitened by it in their enjoyment of the common comforts and necessaries of life. Their superiors, it is true, need only undergo a retrenchment of their superfluities: which they might bear, if they would, without much uneasiness, or any harm. But as too many of them are pleased to reckon their grandeur and luxury, their follies and
their vices, the most inseparable privileges of their rank; they must, by retaining these, be distressed equally with others, when the demands of the state are larger than ordinary. And as their usual resource is the very bad one, of supplying a fund for extravagance and immorality, by refusing acts of piety, charity, and justice; they force multitudes round them to suffer with them and for them. Frequently indeed the load of taxes may not be the cause of this dishonourable behaviour: but even then it is a plausible pretence and excuse for it. Nor doth the mischief stop at particular persons: but the public, exhausted by payments, and sunk under debts, becomes incapable of exerting itself, even for its own preservation, when future occasions require.
Yet, melancholy as these things are, an article much more shocking, and which ought to be the first in our thoughts, is that of the various and continual toils and hardships, that must be endured by such numbers of poor creatures, exposing themselves in defence of others, through so long a course of time the loss of so many thousands of lives by sickness and in battle; the grief of so many relations and friends, the miseries of so many destitute families: part of these, our fellow-subjects; not a few of them possibly very dear to one or other of us; a second part, our allies; the rest, called indeed enemies: but it may be scarce any of them in fault for that enmity, how much soever their rulers are; and all of them, in truth, our brethren; of the same blood, and, in essentials, the same faith, though taught them with a mixture of dangerous errors.
Further still war not only weakens and afflicts a community in these respects, but interrupts the freedom of commerce, retards the propagation of