« FöregåendeFortsätt »
God their own, poor deluded wretches, could have been spared), when both from the encouragement of their preceding successes, and the necessity of exerting themselves to the utmost in this crisis of their fate, a very obstinate engagement was to have been expected? Whence have these things happened thus, but that God ruleth in the kingdom of men*? The Lord maketh the devices of the people to be of none effect, and casteth out the counsels of princes. But the counsel of the Lord shall endure for ever, and the thoughts of his heart from generation to generation. Blessed are the people, whose God is the Lord Jehovah; and blessed are the folk, that he hath chosen to be his inheritance †.
Let us learn therefore, and acknowledge, for it is a very bad sign if we are unwilling, that both our dangers and our deliverances are from above. This will in no degree lessen the guilt of our enemies: for they were prompted by their own wickedness unjustly to attempt, what Heaven for our wickedness might justly have permitted. Nor can it ever be a plea for yielding tamely to their enterprises, that God makes use of them to serve his purposes. We know not the extent of those purposes; which he will certainly execute, as far as they extend: and are therefore to do our evident duty. If he suffers our adversaries to attack our most valuable rights, he both empowers and commands us to defend them: and they, who consider themselves as his instruments for this end, will act with unspeakably more faithfulness and zeal, than such as are induced by worldly motives alone; which frequently other worldly motives, and sometimes very trifling ones, may outweigh: whereas there is no counterbalance to a principle of conscience. Nor doth it in the least detract from the merit of our + Psalm xxxiii. 10, 11, 12.
* Dan. v. 21.
soldiers and commanders, that the salvation of the righteous cometh of the Lord, who also is their strength in the time of trouble *. Every pre-eminence is more estimable for being his gift; every great action, for being done by his guidance: and the highest of those, who have wrought this deliverance for us, are surely the most deeply sensible, that the noblest of their distinctions is, being employed by their Maker, and fellow-workers with him, for the support of genuine religion, virtuous liberty, and public happiness. This way of thinking will inspire the most composed moderation, along with the most undaunted bravery and whoever makes it the basis of his conduct, will be entitled to all demonstrations of respect from men and yet abundantly contented with the honour, that cometh from God only †.
Every thing that befalls us therefore, adverse or prosperous, let us look on it as proceeding from the just and good pleasure of our heavenly Father: humble ourselves before him in all our afflictions; and, which is our present concern, be thankful to him in all our rejoicings. If the Lord himself had not been on our side, let Israel now say, if the Lord himself had not been on our side, when men rose up against us: they had swallowed us up quick, when they were so wrathfully displeased at us: yea, the waters had drowned us, -the deep waters of the proud had gone over our soul. But praised be the Lord, who hath not given us over for a prey unto their teeth. This is the language, that expresses the truth of our case: and it is of infinite importance, that we own it unanimously. For the sovereign Disposer of the universe will neither be denied nor forgot, without vindicating the glory of his name: and he hath long ago pronounced the sen# Psalm xxxvii. 40. † John v. 44. Psalm cxxiv. 1—5.
tence: They regard not in their mind the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands; therefore shall he break them down and not build them up *. *. But the duty and the necessity of such regard will more distinctly appear by considering,
III. The reasons, for which the Apostle was first brought into danger, then brought out of it: that he might learn by the former not to trust in himself; and by the latter, to trust in God, which raiseth the dead.
Now if there was need of improving St. Paul in this lesson, much more is there of teaching it others. And never perhaps was any nation, at least which made profession of faith in Christ, so deplorably inattentive to it as ours. Our wealth, our fleets, our valour, have been for many years past, till very lately, our continual boast. And in vain had the Scripture forewarned us: Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. How then should God convince us of so pernicious an error; and shew us, that we were not sufficient of ourselves? By the very method, which he hath taken. He hid his face, and we were troubled storms rose around us; and the most dangerous, where we thought there was nothing to produce any: our navy proved no protection; our valour sunk into panic terrors; our riches were on the point of making themselves wings and flying away §; a general bankruptcy threatened us; and what the kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed, the adversary and the enemy were near entering into the gates of Jerusalem ||. Who could possibly have apprehended that the landing of six or seven men should have put this great nation
Psalm civ. 29. || Lam. iv. 21.
into such confusion? Who could ever have conceived, that the disturbers of our peace should have multiplied and conquered as they did; should have advanced and retreated, and ranged at will through our land, with so perfect security, for so long a time? And what is all this, but a call from God to know ourselves, and abase our pride before him: a practical declaration, that no flesh shall glory in his pre
But necessary as this instruction is, yet singly it is not enough. When irreligious persons have found by experience, that they cannot rely on their own strength, they have no other left to rely on: and so are tempted to despair in their minds, to fail in their duty, to seek refuge in cowardly and treacherous artifices for their own preservation. But very dif ferent are the sentiments of the pious man's heart. Let ever so unexpected calamities happen, let ever so alarming dangers approach, with ever so little appearance of surmounting them: still he knows, that nothing can be so dangerous, as to desert the post, in which God hath placed him; and that he, who is faithful unto death, shall receive a crown of life. At the same instant therefore, that he saith, There be many that fight against me, O thou most highest, he is enabled to say also, nevertheless, though I am sometime afraid, yet put I my trust in thee . And this is the spirit, which God intends to excite, by sending after extreme perils, remarkable and sudden deliverances. From these it is natural to learn faith in him, that raises the dead, that restores from the most helpless condition; and since he hath delivered, to form reviving hopes, that he will yet deliver; which we
* 1 Cor. i. 29.
+ Rev. ii. 10.
Psalm lvi. 2, 3.
may and ought to do now. He hath given us a victory speedier, cheaper, completer, than we could even have flattered ourselves with. He hath given it by the means of a young prince, whose confessed abilities, vigilant attention, unwearied diligence, and intrepid firmness, on all occasions, as well as his wonderful success on the present, afford us the justest ground of persuasion, that he is chosen by Providence for the service and support of his father, his family, his country. And the same God, who hath begun to shew his mighty hand*, can, with the same ease, accomplish his good work, and bring it to perfection.
But then, alas! what avails it that he can, unless we have cause to trust that he will? And whence shall we have this? Thankfulness for past mercies undoubtedly is the way to secure future. And just now we seem in earnest thankful. But if your gratitude prove to be superficial and short-lived, like that of the Jews, they sang praise unto him: but within a while they forgat his works, they would not abide his counsel; what can we expect else, than judgments like theirs? Then he lift up his hand against them, to overthrow them t. Our state, though vastly altered for the better, is still a very undesirable, indeed a very melancholy one. Our burdens are unavoidably augmenting, and our strength wasting. Foreign force may soon renew our intestine commotions: or even, without their intervention, subject us all directly to it itself. The failures of our friends give us, year after year, new reason to say with the Psalmist, O be thou our help in trouble : for vain is the help of man ‡. Put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man: for there is no help in them. Blessed is he that hath
* Deut. iii. 24. + Psalm cvi. 12, 13. 26.
Psalm lx. 11.