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DELIVERED ON BOARD THE WATERLOO, FEBRUARY 29, 1824.
[During the night of February 22, 1824, whilst sailing fast homeward, with a fine fair breeze, something gave way at the fore-top-mast stunsail; a man was ordered up by the second officer, then on duty, to replace it. The evening was fine, and there was some moon-light; but the man, having over-reached himself to pass a rope, fell; and, from the moment of his fall into the sea, was never more heard or seen. The ship was put about; a boat lowered down; and the officer on duty went out himself, and rowed about in every direction, hoping to find the man clinging to the life-buoy, which was instantly cut from the quarter. But every effort was unavailing. The men returned; the boat was hoisted in; and the ship steered her course. Poor Benjamin Hill, the unfortunate sailor who fell, thus suddenly ended his mortal career, and sunk in a watery grave. Almost every voyage such casualties occur. They produce a momentary impression of seriousness on the minds of the ship's company, but generally leave no evidence of a lasting beneficial result, for no new truths are communicated to the mind. Since the Writer left China, in the short space of two years, three persons whom he knew there, have in Europe committed suicide; one in Paris, who returned home rich; one in Edinburgh said to be prosperous, but disappointed in further schemes of ambition; and the officer on duty, in this melancholy case, who shot himself when embarking for another voyage.
The Sabbath after the loss of Hill, the following exhortation was delivered to the men.]
PREPARATION TO MEET GOD.
AMOS, iv. 12.
Prepare to meet thy God.”
Human beings, whether nations or individuals, are in this world subject to the government of the Almighty. The world is his, and men are all his creatures, accountable to him for their conduct. This principle is applicable to all nations, and to all individuals :-to Jews and to Heathens ; to Greeks and to Barbarians; to Mohammedans and to Hindoos; to the rich and poor; to the learned and ignorant. His kingdom extendeth over all, and his sceptre is a sceptre of righteousness. Justice is the habitation of his throne, and his judgment is according to truth. But nations and individuals too often cast off the fear of God, and obedience to him, and live and act as if they were accountable to no superior authority; during which time the Almighty, who delights in mercy, graciously employs means to bring men to repentance. For this purpose the prophet Amos was employed and sent to Judah and Israel, to remonstrate with them, and forewarn them of the calamities that would befal them, unless they repented and reformed. Heaven had already sent many calamities to chastise them, and bestowed many mercies to awaken their gratitude ; but they still continued their impiety and wickedness, and therefore greater calamities were denounced, when God himself should enter into judgment with them; in the prospect of which, the words of the text were addressed to them by the Prophet, as from the Almighty himself“ Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”
To every man it is appointed once to die, and after death the judgment; for the Scriptures testify that God hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in
righteousness, by that person whom he hath ordained for
Jesus Christ. St. Paul declares we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ ; and, therefore, to every man it may with truth and propriety be said—“ Prepare to meet thy God”-prepare either to justify thyself, or to contend with him—or prepare for a gracious reception, by previous and immediate submission to mercy. If man would think seriously, and believe the truth sent down from heaven, instead of believing the lies suggested by Satan and a wicked heart, he would soon be convinced that self-justification is as impracticable as to overcome Omnipotence. No sophistry can conceal man's guilt from Him who searcheth the heart, and “ declareth unto man what is his thought ;" and no power can resist His who “formeth the mountains, and createth the wind;" whose word makes the earth tremble, and sends forth the desolating tempest; whose providence can turn the morning of impious hope into darkness and bitter disappointment; and who can tread the powerful wicked, on the high places of the earth, under his feet. Resistance to the Almighty is so palpable a fallacy, it is not usually suggested to the human mind by the deceiver of mankind : it is his mode of destroying, rather to employ misrepresentation than to urge direct opposition; to suggest that sin is not so great an evil as some people would represent it; and that the Almighty will not require a strict account of man's thoughts, words, and actions : or he persuades men to put far away the evil day, and suggests that it is yet too soon to prepare to meet one's God; by which delusion, persisted in day after day and year after year, many suddenly pass to the bar of God, it is to be feared,) wholly unprepared. The misinterpreting the mercy of God is another destructive fallacy by which many are deceived. That God is merciful, is as true as that God is just. But to whom is he merciful ? to the man who mocks at sin, and still goes on in his trespasses ? No such thing! The Bible declares that God is angry with the wicked every day ;-against such the wrath of God is revealed from heaven ;-to such sinners God is a consuming fire. But, to him that con
fesseth and forsaketh his sins, the Lord sheweth mercy, and multiplies pardons. God is merciful, but he will not be mocked; and the hypocrite cannot deceive him. He is most merciful to the man who is sincerely sorry for his sin, and who obediently submits to the Saviour as Heaven has directed: but to the man who makes light of sin, and who despises or neglects the Saviour, the Gospel does not promise mercy. Now, concerning what is sin, and what is duty, man must derive his opinions from reason and from revelation. The will of God, as far as it can be ascertained, must decide what is right and what is wrong; not man's own notions, in opposition to, or differing from the Divine Will.
By looking over this book of Amos, from which the text is taken, we may see some of the sins on account of which divine judgments were threatened. The period spoken of is nearly 2,500 years ago ; about 800 years before the Romans conquered England. The first sin mentioned is cruelty. The Edomites pursued their brothers of the kingdom of Judah with the sword, and cast off all pity. The anger of Edom did tear perpetually, and he “ kept his wrath for ever.” The inhabitants of Damascus cruelly treated those of Gilead, and threshed them, as with threshing instruments of iron. And the Ammonites, for the purpose of enlarging their borders, or extending their territories, stormed the cities of Gilead, and ripped up their women with child. The divine law requires of the different nations of mankind charity and good will to each other, an endeavour to promote each other's welfare ; and of individuals is required a spirit of benevolence, which not only forbids hurting or injuring either man or woman, whether in their persons, their character, or their property, but also requires that they should be assisted to the utmost of any man's power. A feeling of indifference about other people begins a violation of the divine law; and cruelty to them closes it, or carries the offence to the greatest degree. How many cruelties are still practised by the nations of Europe in their wars undertaken for trivial causes, such as a desire to enlarge their border, or to
extend their territory! When the Almighty shall make inquisition for the blood of hundreds and thousands of those who have been unmercifully treated, or cruelly murdered, how will those men, who have instigated or perpetrated these cruelties, be prepared to meet their God?
Gaza is threatened because they carried away captive the whole captivity, and cruelly delivered them up to Edom as slaves, (ch. i. 6.); and how much displeasure must Heaven have felt against the professed Christians of Europe, who have cruelly carried away, and still carry away,
from their homes, thousands of defenceless persons, and sell them as slaves. When our Saviour said, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” the declaration implied, that the unmerciful, or cruel, were accursed.
Another sin with which the people of that day were charged by the Prophet, and which the Almighty declares his determination to punish, is contempt for and disregard of the divine law, with the dissemination of false opinions in religion and morals. “ They despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept his commandnients, and their lies caused them to err.” In many places, in the Sacred Scriptures, the children of men are charged with this contempt for the divine precepts; and this wickedness is cherished by believing lies, or false opinions. Some scornful men pique themselves on not being believers ; they would have others think that they are too knowing to believe ; whereas in fact no one is more credulous than a wicked man. He too believes; but he will believe a lie that promises impunity to the sinner, rather than believe the truth which threatens his punishment. As in the case of our first parents, he will believe Satan when he says, “ You may sin and yet not die,” rather than believe the Almighty when he declares, “In the day thou sinnest thou shalt assuredly die." The prophet Isaiah, too, describes the rulers of Jerusalem scorners and despisers of the divine law, and of his threatenings : they said, with contempt and defiance, • When the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come near unto us; for we have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement: we have