« PreviousContinue »
yet these very triumphs present one dark side to us. Witness the many wounds which I should make a point of not opening, were it not a relief to mourners to hear of their sufferings, were it not equitable to declare to those, whose sorrows have procured our joy, that we remember them, that we are concerned for them, that we sympathize with them, that we are not so taken up with public joy as to forget private woe.
Witness, I say, so many desolate houses among us. Witness this mourning in which so many of us appear to-day. Witness these affectionate Josephs, who lament the death of their parents. Witness these Marys and Marthas, weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. Witness these distressed Davids, who weep as they go, and exclaim, O Absalom my son ! my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee ! 0 Absalom my son, my son ! 2 Sam. xviii. 33. Witness these Rachels, who make Rama echo with their cries, refusing to be comforted, because their children are not, Jer. xxxi. 15.
My dear brethren, on whom the hand of God is heavy, ye sorrowful Naomis, ye melancholy. Maras, with whom the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly, Ruth i. 20. we share your griefs, we mix our tears with yours, we feel all the blows that strike you. O fåtal victory! O bloody glory! you are not fruits of righteousness.
Christians, if our joy be mixed, it is because our righteousness is mixed. Let us not search for our misfortunes in any other cause.
Let us do, when any thing is wanting to complete our joy, what the ancient people of God did, whenever they were conquered. The congregation was assembled, the ephod was put on, the oracle was consulted, inquisition was made from tribe to tribe, from family to family, from house to house, from person to person,
who it was, whose sin had caused the loss of the victory, or the loss of a regiment, and when he was discovered he was put to death. Joshua, after he had met with a repulse before Ai, and had lost thirty-six men, rent his garments, and lay on his face upon the earth before the ark of the Lord. In like manner, let us my brethren, at the remembrance of infected countries, fields of battle covered with carcases, rivers of blood dying the soil, confused heaps of dead and dying fellow-creatures, new globes of · fire flying in the air, let us examine ourselves. Happy, if, as in the case just now mentioned, only one criminal could be found among many thousands of innocent persons! Alas! we are obliged, on the contrary, to lament, that there is hardly one innocent among thousands of the guilty.
Where is the Achan, who imbitters the glorious and immortal victories, which God grants to Israel? What tribe, what family, what house shall be taken? Is it the magistrate ? Is it the people? Is it the pastor ? Is it the flock? Is it the merchant ? Is it the soldier? Ah! my brethren ! do you not hear the oracle of the Lord answering from the terrible tribunal erected in your own consciences? It is the magistrate; it is the people ; it is the pastor ; it is the flock; it is the merchant; it is the soldier.
It is that magistrate, who being required to have always before his eyes that God, by whom kings reign, and that throne, before which the greatest monarchs of the world must be judged, is dazzled with his own grandeur, governed by a worldly policy, and hath more at heart to enforce the observation of his own capricious orders than those rules of eternal rectitude, which secure the safety and happiness of a nation.
It is that people, who, instead of considering the felicity of that nation, whose God is the Lord, are
attempting to be happy independently of God; choosing rather to sacrifice to blind chance than to him, who is the huppy God, and who alone dispenses prosperous and adverse circumstances.
It is that minister, who, instead of confining his attention to the discharge of all the duties of his office, performs only such parts as acquire him a popular reputation, neglecting private duties, such as friendly and affectionate remonstrances, paternal advice, private charities, secret visits, which characterise the true ministers of the gospel.
It is that congregation, which, instead of regarding the word dispensed by us as the word of God, licentiously turns all public ministrations into ridicule, and under pretence of ingenuity and freedom of thought encourages infidelity and irreligion ; or, at best, imagines that religion consists more in hearing and knowing than in practice and obedi
It is that soldier, who, though he is always at war with death, marching through fires and flames, hearing nothing but the sound of warlike instruments crying to him with a loud and dreadful voice, remember, you must die, yet frames a morality of his own, and imagines, that his profession, so proper in itself to incline him to obey the maxims of the gospel, serves to free him from all obligation to obedience.
Ah! that it is, which obscures our brightest triumphs; this stains our laurels with blood ; this excites lamentations, and mixes them with our songs of praise. Let us scatter these dark clouds. Let us purify our righteousness in order to purify our happiness. Let religion be the bridle, the rule, the soul of all our councils, and so may it procure us unalterable peace, and unmixed pleasure! or rather, as there is no such pleasure on earth, as im
perfection is a character essential to human affairs, let us elevate our hearts and minds to nobler objects, let us sigh after happier periods, and let each of us seek true glory in the enjoyment of God. God grant us this grace! To him be honor and glory for ever. Amen.