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Thus humbled, prepared and melted into love and gratitude, by a due sense of" God's mercies and long sufferings to us ward; (He not being willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance*;") our Prayers, Praises and Thanksgivings this day, we trust, will ascend as a sweet incense and sacrifice, holy and acceptable before the throne of his Grace! But, without this preparation of the heart, if we could Pray andPraise and giveThanks, with the tongue and voice of angels, it would all be vain and empty—nothing more than as sounding brass, or the tinkling cymbalf."
In this preparatory part of our work, therefore, let us in good earnest enter into our own hearts, examine their plagues, as in the presence of the Almighty, and not deceive ourselves, or think we can deceive him (like the people in our text) by " flattering him with our mouth, and lying unto him with our tongues, while our hearts are not right with him, and we are not stedfast in his covenant," made with our fathers; nor in our purpose of future obedience to his holy laws and commandments.
But, more especially, this becomes the duty of those who appear as the preachers of righteousness— the ministers and messengers of God, (of every degree and denomination), to stand forth; awfully impressed with the weight of their subject, and not to be afraid of the faces of men, but to speak boldly, even to authorities, and dignities and powers; not to deal treacherously, or seek "to heal the hurt of the
• II. P«t. iii.9. f I. Cor. xiii. 1.
daughter of God's people slightly, with the enticing words of man's eloquence, " saying, Peace, Peace, when there is no Peace*;" but to probe the wounds 'to the bottom, by means of" the word of God, which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discemer of thethoughtsandintents of the heartf." But aUhough it falls to our lot, in preaching repentance, on this great occasion, more immediately to the inhabitants of the city of Philadelphia, who were among the primary and chief sufferers, under the late awful visitation of the Almighty; and although great and manifold are the sins, for which, in his righteous judgments, He might have inflicted this calamity upon us: Yet it ought not to be considered that it was for our reproof and sins only, but those of United America, that the Lord chose us as among the first to speak to in his fierce angerj. The application of our Saviour's doctrine, preaching repentance, upon the punishment of the Galileans and others||, may be allowed here.
"Suppose ye, says he, that those Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the Tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
• Jer. vi. 14. fHeb. iv. 12.
i Christian charity, as well as a grateful remembrance of the sympathetic feelings, and of the relief yielded us by our dear brethren and fellow citizens in general, throughout the United States, in the day of our distress, warrants us to believe that they did not consider us as sinners above all others, but they looked upon God's visitation of us as a warning to themselves, also; and that if they did not repent, they might well expect fcis severe chastisements, in their turn.
II Luke xiii. 1——6.
Thus warranted by the Preaching and doctrine .of the great author of our salvation, to consider particular Punishments as general Warnings; the remainder of my discourse will be addressed to the whole body of Citizens, Rulers as well as People, in these United States. And to this I consider myself, as more especially called; being honoured with an audience, so numerous and respectable, among whom I behold the Father of these United States, and many other characters of the first impression, whose exemplary virtue and piety must strike deep into the future prosperity and glory of our rising American empire— an empire which, under the protection and favour of divine Providence, has laid the foundation of all that can adorn and dignify man in the present world, and guide him forward in preparations for the acquisition and enjoyment of glory, honour and immortality, in a world to come!
Keeping in view, therefore, the history of the people of Israel, and taking up the parallel between God's Providence and dealing with respect to them and our- selves; I may be allowed to recall to your mind, those times when our ancestors were but a small people in this land; how the Almighty smoothed their passage to it through the dangers of the stormy ocean; how he planted and supported them in a wilderness, and made the savage beasts, and men more savage than they, who were able in a moment to destroy them, to become their friends; commanding the solitary places to be glad around them; and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose.
1 might describe to you the progress of their civilization and happiness; and shew, that having brought the pure Word of God in their hand, the legacy of the Gospel of Christ as their chief riches, they were not ashamed of its doctrines; nor to acknowledge the goodness of the Almighty, by promoting the ordinances of his religion; by making and executing laws for its support, and for the orderly administration of justice; constantly striving, by the purity of their lives, the simplicity of their manners, their love of truth, and of one another, to give an example to their children, of their obedience to the divine laws, and their zeal for the prosperity of their country.
And when thus, for more than a hundred years, they had been proceeding from strength to strength, and flourishing under this simplicity of manners, and regard to true religion—I might lead your attention, to what the Lord did for us, their posterity, when we were called to struggle through blood, and to contend for our dearest and most sacred rights. How numerous were the instances of his divine favour and interposition, in the establishment of our civil liberties and independence; assuring to us and our posterity, every civil blessing, together with the free exercise of our holy religion, according to the rights of Conscience; under a government of laws, and a constitution of our own happy choice, there being none to make us afraid.
But what has been our sense or improvement of those numerous and invaluable blessings, which the Almighty, with so liberal a hand, hath even heaped upon us? Let us not be alarmed at the question; nor shrink from the answer.
May it not be asked, then, of what avail is it that we boast of our frames of government, and that we are blessed with civil Liberty, according to our highest conceptions of the name; if we know not how to respect the Laws, and to distinguish Liberty from Licentiousness? If there remain those among us, who from pride, self-interest, and the lust of power, cannot rest contented with a wise and efficacious system of joint government; but still pursuing something new, and adapted to their own phantasies, seek rather no government at all, or a government of such variant and discordant particles, as to produce a Babel of confusion, rather than a Jerusalem, or city of God, happy and united within itself!
What avails it that God hath given us peace with all foreign states and powers, if with difficulty we are to be restrained from rushing voluntarily into the horrid scenes of blood and devastation in the old world, from which God hath graciously set us at a distance; and where our feeble strength would scarcely weigh a grain in either balance, but might inevitably involve us in self-destruction?
What avails it that we are delivered from one late and great calamity, if we are not delivered from Sin,
which is the greatest calamity of all? Vol. j. N