Sidor som bilder

amendment, without which no true comfort can be administered to them? Relieve us then from the necessity, for we must deal faithfully with you, of saying on thanksgivings just the same terrifying things, that we do on fasts. It would afford us the highest delights to omit them, on both to set before you only pleasing views, and describe your condition in the language of the Psalmist: Happy are the people, who are in such a case: yea blessed are the people, 'who have the Lord for their God. It is entirely your own fault, that motives of fear are ever mentioned to you. Our gracious Maker hath furnished us plentifully with a much better ground of obedience, by the numerous mercies, which we have long enjoyed, and still continue to enjoy. Think but a little of the natural advantages of this island; of the civil, the spiritual privileges, that have distinguished it for ages; and what requitals they deserve: think but, how complicated a blessing this last deliverance is and labour to be induced, as much as you can, by the bounties of God to serve him. But let us be con. scious also, that our imperfection, our depravity, needs awe, as well as love, to move us; and use the joint efforts of both, to produce in our souls that filial sorrow, and penitent return to duty, which will prove the inlet, and is the only one, to all manner of consolation.

They, that thus sow in tears, are entitled to reap in joy: their mouth may be filled with laughter, and their tongue with singing: they may with propriety, not only give, as they are bound, the more serious demonstrations of pious gratitude, but indulge every lighter expression of a cheerful heart, that innocence and prudence allows. Outward rejoicings for mercies + Psalm cxxvi. 6. + Verse 2.

Psalm cxliv. 15.

without inward concern for unworthiness, and fixed resolution of virtuous improvement, is an absurd and insolent, and will be a short-lived triumph. Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner : for it was not sent him of the Lord*. But when humble and hearty devotion hath preceded, gladness and exultation, kept clear of excess and riot, may and should follow, on occasions like this. The grief of our offences should be lost, for the time, in a thankful sense of God's goodness: a cheering hope be entertained, that he who hath delivered, will deliver t; and our behaviour shew to all around us, what our hearts feel. This was the direction, immediately given to the Jews, when once they had been made sensible of their transgressions, in their public assembly for a thanksgiving, on their return from the captivity: and I conclude with reciting it. The Levites read in the book in the law of God, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then Nehemiah the governor, and Ezra the priest, and the Levites, that taught the people, said unto them, This day is holy unto the Lord your God: mourn not, nor weep. Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them, for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. And all the people went their way, to eat and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth; because they had understood the words, that were declared unto them t

Ecclus. xv. 9.

† 2 Cor. i. 10.

Neh. viii. 7, 8, 9, 10. 12.



PSALM CXxii. 6.

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

GOD hath planted in the hearts of men, and it is a strong proof of his goodness to us, a principle of tender mutual benevolence; which reason enjoins us to exert on all occasions: and revelation both threatens our transgression of this rule with the severest punishments, and encourages our observance of it by promises of the most effectual assistance and noblest rewards. But as all mankind is an object too large, for the generality of persons to embrace in their affections, and for the rest to think of actually benefiting; the Scripture hath very justly appropriated our love to our neighbour: to every one, who is any way brought near enough to us, to be capable of receiving any service or mark of kindness from us: according to our Saviour's most rational explication of that term *. And each nation of the world being only a more extensive neighbourhood, of persons combined together, under one head, for common advantage; the views of the several members of it may well reach thus far; but ordinarily scarce farther. And therefore love to our country hath been Luke x. 29, &c.

ever considered, not merely as an important and excellent virtue, which it always is, when genuine and judicious; but as filling the whole compass of reciprocal duty, which it usually doth, provided we proportion it rightly to the various relations, which we bear to each person in the society. Now this is the affection, which the Psalmist so warmly recommends in the text: Peace being well known to signify, in holy writ, all sorts of prosperity; and Jerusalem being the centre of unity of the Jewish people, both in religious affairs and civil. For thither the tribes went up, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord: and there was the seat of judgment, even the seat of the house of David *.

During the latter part indeed of the time that their government subsisted, they had most of them a zeal for their country, which excluded charity towards the rest of mankind. But this was a corruption, not a precept, of their religion. For no law of any other nation ever enjoined so strictly both justice and mercy to strangers as theirs: though it did provide against needless intercourse with them, to prevent imitation of their evil customs. It is true, they were commanded to extirpate the inhabitants of Canaan. But these were grown to such a height of monstrous idolatry, unnatural lusts, and shocking barbarities, as the wisdom of God saw to be incurable. And he chose the Israelites for his ministers, revengers to execute wrath upon them, that they might learn to abhor what they had been employed to punish. This done, their commission expired: for it reached to no other nation. And in fact, they were as quiet neighbours to the heathen round them, and as dutiful subjects to their Chaldean, Persian, * Psalm cxxii. 4, 5. + Rom. xiii. 4.

[ocr errors]

and Grecian masters, as any other people. Nor did the text more plainly require them to pray for the peace of Jerusalem than the prophet Jeremiah doth, to seek the peace of the city, whither they were carried captives, and pray unto the Lord for it*.

We need not therefore scruple to imbibe love of our country from the sacred writings of the Jews: and much less have we cause to imagine, as some would persuade us, that this is a virtue not prescribed to Christians. It is true, that as the Romans had long been ravaging the world, and the Jews in our Saviour's days were evidently ruining themselves; both of them prompted to what they did by a narrow-minded and unjust vehemence for their national interest and honour: he earnestly recommended, as it was necessary, not the particular passion, of which they had already too much; but the general disposition, which they wanted, of good-will to all men. For that is the only sure foundation of social behaviour and while it restrains persons effectually from doing any thing wrong in favour of their country, will incite them powerfully to do every thing right. In teaching this doctrine therefore, and indeed throughout his whole conduct, he shewed the kindest and wisest regard to his undeserving fellowcitizens for whom, ill as he was treated by them, he fully appears to have had the most affectionate concern. Witness his tears and pathetic expostulations: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee: how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not †! If thou hadst known, or, as it rather should be translated, O that thou hadst known,

* Jer. xxix. 7. VOL. IV.

+ Matt. xxiii. 37.

D d

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »