Page images

was not the least foundation for the charge, and they actually suffered for performing the religious duties of their sacred office. The Jewish rulers in all these instances, and especially in the last, were so infatuated as to believe they were pursuing the way of safety, while they were taking the direct road to destruction. They put Christ to death, to preserve themselves from the Romans, which proved the procuring cause of the Romans coming and destroying the nation. The French acted the same absurd part, when they cruelly massacred more than a million of religious instructors, merely because they favored and supported what they supposed to be the cause of true religion. This was owing to their then awful infatuation, as they themselves have since practically acknowledged, by recalling and re-establishing numbers of those religious teachers, who had escaped the general carnage of the clergy. So far as any of the rulers in our nation, manifest a disposition to silence, or destroy the influ ence of those in the sacred office, they er the symptoms of a fatal delusion. spirit of infatuation can lead them to either their own, or the public safety putting an end to religious instructions. If they presume to tread in this path, it will undoubtedly lead them to the same end to which it has led all others who have presumed to walk in it, that is, to their own destruction,

plainly discov

Nothing but a

imagine, that depends upon

6. If religious instructions have such a powerful influence upon the minds of men, as has been represented; then it is extremely difficult for civil rulers to subvert a good government, while religious teachers faithfully discharge their duty. They can do much to support the interests of religion, morality, and social virtue; and while these are supported, a people will

not be disposed to give up the blessings of good government. Jehoiada lived in a day of declension, when the men of Judah were bent to backsliding, but by his wise and faithful instructions, he prevented, as long as he lived, the rulers and the people from pursuing those unwise and wicked measures, which gradually and finally effected their ruin. This clearly appears from what is said concerning the conduct of Joash, both before and after the death of Jehoiada. It is said, "Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, while Jehoiada the priest instructed him." But we are told, "After the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them And they left

the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for their trespass." Though Joash and his princes and people were strongly disposed to go astray, yet they found themselves effectually restrained, by the weight and authority of religious instructions. Hence it appears, that religious instructions lay the strongest moral restraints upon those, who wish to subvert the foundations of religion and government, It is scarcely possible, therefore, that our nation should suffer the loss of their civil and religious privileges, by the arts and intrigues of designing men, so long as the clergy, through the continent, unitedly and faithfully discharge the duties of their office.

7. This subject teaches the duty and obligation of all the ministers of the gospel, to exert all the power and influence which their sacred office gives them, to prevent the ruin of the nation. The apparent prevalence of vice and infidelity directly tends to weaken and destroy all the nerves and sinews of the body politic, and to bring on its final dissolution. The words of the

prophet are the best that can be found to describe its present disordered and languishing condition. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores." The enemies of religion and government are incessantly engaged, to eradicate from the minds of the people every religious principle and virtuous habit, and to destroy all the influence of religious instruction. The better to accomplish this malignant purpose, they smile upon some religious instructors, and frown upon others; and use all their art and sophistry, to deter them from the faithful discharge of their duty. If ministers preach against licentiousness, they accuse them of preaching against liberty. If ministers preach against infidelity, they accuse them of preaching against the powers that be. If ministers inculcate the mutual duties of rulers and subjects, they accuse them of preaching sedition. And if ministers only teach the common sentiment of mankind in all ages, they accuse them of going out of their province, and preaching politics. They will not allow them to teach their hearers, that religious instruction is useful and necessary in civil society. In a word, they employ every method they can devise, to silence the whole body of the clergy, to take off all moral re straints from the minds of the people, and bring them into a state of universal infidelity and licentiousness. Now what is the duty of the ministers of the gospel in this alarming situation of the country? Is it their duty to obey man rather than God? Is it their duty to stand still and be silent, and let vice and infidelity produce their fatal effects? Or is it their plain and indispensable duty, to imitate the noble example of Jehoiada the priest, and exert all their influence to defeat

[ocr errors]

the designs of those, who are aiming to corrupt and destroy the nation? They never had a louder call, a fairer opportunity, or greater encouragement, to stand in their lot, to set their faces as a flint, and to oppose, by all the force and authority of religious instruction, atheism, deism, infidelity, and all the land-defiling iniquities. If they plainly preach the great doctrines and duties of Christianity, and inculcate upon rulers and subjects their mutual duties and obligations, they may be the instruments, in the divine hand, of restraining the nation from those errors in principle and practice, which threaten their ruin. This is a most animating motive to be faithful in their office, and to do all the good they can in the American Israel. But if any minister of the gospel refuse to come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty, and neglect to plead his cause against the enemies of his kingdom, it may be said to him, as Mordecai said to Esther, when her nation was upon the point of destruction. "Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape-For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall their enlargement and deliverance arise from another place, but thou shalt be destroyed."

Finally, we ought to infer from this subject, that we have great reason to fear the displeasure of God, for neglecting and abusing the ministrations of his word. He has raised up and sent us his ministering servants, who have long labored, by their faithful instructions, to make us a holy and happy people. But we have neglected to hear, and refused to obey his voice, by his sacred ambassadors. How many, of late years, have wholly forsaken the house of God? and how many more have become extremely inconstant in their attendance upon divine ordinances? By this criminal negligence, multitudes have grown up ignorant of the

important truths of the gospel, and unimpressed with the solemn objects and motives of eternity; which has exposed them to suck in the most poisonous sentiments, and to pursue the most vicious and destructive courses. Many others there are, who, though they have not neglected to hear, yet have refused to obey, the religious instructions, which have been poured into their minds from sabbath to sabbath, through the whole course of their lives. They have hated instruction and despised reproof, and with their eyes wide open, have followed the multitude to do evil. Such neglect and abuse of religious instructions, have brought a heavy load of guilt upon our nation. We have not despised man, but God, by neglecting and abusing his sacred institutions.

And now our greatest danger is, that instead of reforming, we shall wax worse and worse, and more and more provoke God to anger, by continuing to neglect and abuse the ministrations of his word. We may, indeed, have as many houses of public worship, and as many public teachers of religion, seven years hence, as we have now; but will these houses be filled? or these ministers of the sanctuary be heard? If the opposers of all religious instruction continue industrious and successful, the ways of Zion will be unoccupied, and the houses of God deserted. And is there not apparent danger of our revolting more and more, by neglecting and abusing divine institutions? This will ripen us, faster than any thing else, for the heaviest judgments of God. When God condescends to assign the reasons for punishing his peculiar people, he never fails to mention their stupidity and obstinacy under the warnings and admonitions of his servants. By Isaiah he says to his people, "Therefore I will number you to the sword, and ye shall bow down to

« PreviousContinue »