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JOHN V. 14.

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

AFTER seven yearly feasts, we have now through God's mercy, before we have deserved it, one day of general thanksgiving: and surely our concern is to employ it so, that we may hope for more. Now there can be no wiser or kinder direction for this purpose, than that of our Lord in the text. He had just healed the person to whom he speaks, and therefore certainly did not mean to use him harshly in these words: but indeed to shew him still greater goodness, than he had done already; as much greater, as spiritual and eternal welfare is than temporal. His cure had been the heaviest of misfortunes to him, had he behaved improperly upon it. But Jesus found him in the temple, whither probably he went with a devout heart, to give God praise. This promised well concerning him yet by no means rendered a strong warning to him superfluous. Permit me therefore, finding you, and God be thanked that I find so many of you, in the temple on a like occasion, to treat you

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in like manner. And think it not strange, I beseech you, if at present you hear not solely the voice of joy, though never was a juster occasion for it, but are exhorted, even now, to serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto him with reverence*. I hope many teachers of the word will dwell this day on the same subject for the advice, here given by our gracious Master, comprehends every thing that our condition requires :

I. A thankful sense of the blessing, which we have received. Behold, thou art made whole.

II. A firm resolution of virtuous obedience in return for it. Sin no more.

III. A prudent consideration of the danger of behaving otherwise. Lest a worse thing come unto thee.

I. A thankful sense of the blessing, which we have received. Behold, thou art made whole.

At this time last year, and for many months after, we had a very afflicting sense of the judgments, that threatened us: the whole nation had it, and with the utmost cause. Our religion, our liberties, our lives, our public independence, our private properties, were all at stake. Our forces were few, unsuccessful, and disheartened: the rebels were numerous, flushed with victory, and increasing. Then besides what appeared, we knew not how much more evil we had to apprehend, from abroad or at home, from the fury of our enemies, from the coldness of our friends. The danger too was no less imminent than great: and must soon crush us, if not soon averted. We saw, and felt, and trembled at it; we exerted ourselves against it, with a spirit never known amongst us before: and God forbid we should have forgotten, * Psalm ii. 11.

God forbid we should ever forget, the impressions that we had so lately, first, of the terrors impending over us, then of the felicity of their sudden dispersion.

It is true, we are not yet perfectly whole. Far from it, Heaven knows. But what would we have given once for so happy an approach towards it, as we now possess? Our domestic foes are fallen in battle, or cut off by justice, or driven into other lands, or absconding in corners of their own, impoverished and disarmed, and taught by experience neither to rely on themselves, nor their faithful allies. Our soldiery have recovered their ancient courage and character. The nation in general hath united in active loyalty: we are known and trusted one by another; known and dreaded by our adversaries, who had strangely mistaken our intestine divisions, bad as they were, for something much worse. Our distemper is at least expelled from our vitals, and driven to the extreme parts. We have notice, we have time, to provide against a return of it: and possibly at present France may be feeling from us, in her own dominions, a small share of the sufferings, which she projected for ours, while we are enjoying in peace all that we feared to lose. Whatever we may want therefore to make our happiness complete, we ought to be most deeply sensible, that our portion of it is remarkably large: so large, that there is not surely a nation upon earth with which any one of us, in the midst of all that we have to complain of and lament, would be willing on the whole to change conditions.

But then, as often as we consider to how comfortable a degree we are whole, we should always recollect, by what means we were made whole. Our

Saviour was not afraid the poor man, whom he cured, should forget that he had regained the use of his limbs, but how he had regained it. And if he, who had been miraculously healed, yet had need of being reminded to whom he owed his health: much more should we, who have been saved by the ordinary methods of Providence, be careful to fix it in our hearts, whence the inestimable benefit was derived. And here let us allow their full proportion of praise, even to the human means: to the justice and mildness of his majesty's government, and the prospect of continued security and tranquillity under his descendants; blessings, which the risk of losing excited the most vigorous efforts for preserving; to the valour, the prudence, the vigilance, the activity of his illustrious son; to the bravery and indignation, thus inspired into his officers and troops; to the unexampled unanimity, zeal, and liberality of his faithful subjects, the nobility, the gentry, the clergy, the commonalty of the realm. Let us ever acknowledge our obligations to the merits of all these. But still let us remember, that men are only instruments in the hand of the Almighty. We have owned this all along by our prayers: let us own it sincerely in our thanksgivings also; and not receive, without suitable gratitude, what we begged with such uncommon earnestness. It is just as true at this hour, as it was then, that except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain *. From his displeasure came our danger: from his compassionate goodness, our deliverance. Therefore despise not either the chastenings or the mercies of the Almighty. For he maketh sore and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole t. It cannot be less criminal towards God than

Psalm cxxvii. 2.

† Job v. 17, 18.

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men, it is unspeakably more, to ask assistance, and when we have had it, not acknowledge it. He doth not indeed want our acknowledgments; but he hath still an equal right to them; and that he requires them not for his own sake, but for ours, is surely no reason, why we should withhold them.

But you will say, "We do acknowledge God's mercy in delivering us, and will never deny it." But if after a while you never think of it more, you might almost as well deny it. Or if you think of it, and are not moved by it, that is worse than forgetting it. Or suppose you have ever so warm a feeling of his favours, yet if you refuse to make a proper return for them, this is worst of all. And what return doth he demand? Some hard and unnatural, or expensive and ruinous service? No: the most reasonable thing in itself, and the most beneficial to us and our fellowcreatures, that possibly can be: what the text expresses,

II. A firm resolution of virtuous obedience. Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more. God hath been gracious to you: be dutiful to him. Sin is at all times equally absurd and ill-deserving. It is setting up our own perverse will against the authority of our Maker and sovereign Lord; our own passions and caprices, against the wisdom of our heavenly Father thinking, that we can prosper in opposition to the Almighty: or if not, preferring rebellion and misery to fidelity and happiness. But to sin on, directly in the face of distinguishing mercies, just vouchsafed, this is the most shocking aggravation of the worst thing in the world: a crime so heinous, that perhaps you may resent being thought bad enough to need a caution against it. But the impotent man, whom our Saviour healed, was not, that


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