Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

this principle, that gold and silver are the true riches and the moment that the soul which established its happiness on a false principle becomes enlightened; the moment it in. vestigates the numerous cases in which riches are not only useless, but destructive, it loses the happiness founded on mistake. We may reason in the same manner concerning the other passions. There is then in the soul of every man a harmony between happiness and virtue,misery and crime.

[ocr errors]

SER. XCIII.]

3

seinated us all. He seizes the great and the small, the court and the city. But I abridge my intentions on this subject; I yield to the reasons which forbid my extending to farther detail. To feel the strokes of God's hand, is most assuredly the first duty he requires. 'Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.' II. This rod requires us, secondly, to trace the causes and the origin of our calamities. Micah wished the Jews to comprehend that the miseries under which they groaned were a consequence of their crimes. We would wish you to form the same judgment of yours. But here the subject has its difficulties. Under a pretence of entering into the spirit of humiliation, there is danger of our falling into the puerilities of superstition. Few subjects are more fertile in erroneous conclu sions than this subject. Temporal prosperity and adversity are very equivocal marks of the favour and displeasure of God. If some men are so wilfully blind as not to see that a particular dispensation of Providence is productive of certain punishments, there are others who fancy that they every where see a particular providence. The commonest occurrences, however closely connected with secondary causes, seem to them the result of an extraordinary counsel in him who holds the helm of the world. The slightest adversity they regard as a stroke of his angry arm. Generally speaking, we should always recollect that the conduct of Providence is involved in clouds and darkness. We should form the criterion of our guilt or innocence not by the exterior prosperity or adversity sent of God, but by our obedience or disobedience to his word; and we should habituate ourselves to see, without surprise in this world, the wicked prosperous, and the righteous afflicted. But notwithstanding the obscurity in which it has pleased God to involve his ways, there are cases, in which we cannot without impic-try ty refuse assent, that adversity is increased by crimes. It is peculiarly apparent in two cases: first, when there is a natural connexion between the crimes you have committed, and the calamities we suffer: the second is, when the great calamities immediately follow the perpetration of enormous crimes. Let us explain.

in misery.

Under what evils do we now groan? Is it because our name is less respected? Is it bccause our credit is less established? Is it because our armies are less formidable? Is it because our union is less compact? But whence do these calamities proceed? Are they the mysteries of a God, who hideth himself :' Are they strokes inflicted by an invisible hand? Or are they the natural effects and consequences of our crimes? Does it require miracles to produce them? If so, miracles would be requisite to prevent them. Men of genius, profound statesmen, you who send us to our books, and to the dust of our closets, when we talk of Providence, and of plagues inflicted by an avenging God, I summon your speculation and superior information to this one point; our destruction is of our

6

First, we cannot doubt that punishment is a consequence of crime, when there is an essential tie between the crime we have committed, and the calamity we suffer. One of the finest proofs of the holiness of the God, to whom all creatures owe their preservation and being, is derived from the harmony he has placed between happiness and virtue. Trace this harmony in the circles of society, and in private life. 1. In private life An enlightened mind can find no solid happi-selves:' and the Judge of the universe has no The pas-need to punish our crimes but by our crimes. ness but in the exercise of virtue I have said, in the second place, that great sions may indeed excite a transient satisfaction; but a state of violence cannot be per- calamitics following great crimes, ought to Each passion offers violence to be regarded as their punishment. And shall some faculty of the soul, to which that facul- we refuse, in this day of humiliation, ascribty is abandoned. The happiness procured ing to this awful cause the strokes with by the passions is founded on mistake: the which we are afflicted? Cast your eyes for a moment the soul recovers recollection, the moment on the nature of the crimes which happiness occasioned by error is dissipated. reproach these provinces. All nations have The happiness ascribed to avarice is ground-their vices, and vices in which they resemble ed on the same mistake: it is couched in one another; all nations afford the justest

manent.

2. This harmony is equally found in the great circles of national society. I am not wholly unacquainted with the maxims which a false polity would advance on the subject. I am not ignorant of what Hobbes, Machiavel, and their disciples, ancient and modern, have said. And I frankly confess, that I fel the force of the difficulties opposed to this general thesis, of the happiness of nations being inseparable from their innocence. But notwitstanding all the difficulties of which the thesis is susceptible, I think myself able to maintain, and prove, that all publick happ ness founded on crime, is like the happiness of the individual just described. It is a state of violence, which cannot be permanent. From the sources of those same vices on which a criminal polity would found the happiness of the state, proceeds a long train of calamities which are evidently productive of total ruin.

Without encumbering ourselves with these discussions, without reviving this controversy, the better to keep in view the grand objects of the day, I affirin, that the calamities under which we groan are the necessary consequence of our crimes; and in such sort, that though there were no God of vengeance who holds the helm of the universe, no judge ready to execute justice, our degeneracy into every vice would suffice to involve our coun

[ocr errors]

calamities whose distinguished characteristic is to be the forerunners of calamities still more terrible. Such was the character of those inflicted on the kingdom of Judah and of Israel in Micah's time, as is awfully proved by the ruin of both.

Is this the idea we should form of the plagues with which we are struck? Never was question more serious and interesting, my brethren; and, at the same time, never was question more delicate and difficult. Do not fear, that forgetting the limits with which it has pleased God to circumscribe our knowledge, we are about with a profane hand to raise the veil which conceals futurity, and pronounce with temerity awful predictions on the destiny of these provinces. We shall merely mark the signs by which the prophet would have the ancient people to understand, that the plagues God had already inflicted were but harbingers of those about to follow. Supply by your own reflections, the cautious silence we shall observe on this subject: examine attentively what connexion may exist between calamities we now suffer, and those which made the ancient Jews expect a total overthrow. And those signs of an impending calamity are less alarming in themselves, than the dispositions of the people on whom they are inflicted.

cause for reprehension. Read the various
books of morality; consult the sermons deliv-
ered among the most enlightened nations, and
you will every where see that the great are
proud, the poor impatient, the aged covetous,
the young voluptuous, and so of every class.
Meanwhile all sorts of vice have not a resem-
blance. Weigh a passage in Deuteronomy
in which you will find a distinction between
sin and sin, and a distinction worthy of pecu-
liar regard Their spot,' says Moses, is
not the spot of the children of God,' xxxii.
5. There is then a spot of the children of
God, and a spot which is not of his children.
There are infirmities found among a people
dear to God, and there are defects incompa-
tible with his people. To receive the sacra-
ment of the Eucharist, but not with all the
veneration required by so august a mystery;
to celebrate days of humiliation, but not with
all the deep repentance we should bring to
these solemnities; these are great spots; but
they are spots common to the children of
God. To fall, however, as the ancient Israel-
ites, whose eyes were still struck with the
miracles wrought on their leaving Egypt;
to change the glory of God into the simili-
tude of an ox that eateth grass; and to raise
a profane shout. These be thy gods, O Israel,
which have brought thee up out of the land
of Egypt,' is a spot, but not the spot of the
children of God,' Exod. xxxii. 8.

1 One calamity is the forerunner of a greater, when the people whom God afflicts have recourse to second causes instead of the first cause; and when they seek the redress of their calamities in political resources, and not in religion. This is the portrait which Isaiah gives of Sennacherib's first expedition against Judea. The prophet recites it in the twenty-second chapter of his book.

Now, my brethren, can you cast your eyes on these provinces, without recognising a number of sins of the latter class? In some families, the education of youth is so astonishingly neglected, that we see parents training up their children for the first offices of the republic, for offices which decide the honour, the fortune, and the lives of men, with-He discovered the covering of Judah, and out so much as initiating them into the sci- thou didst look in that day to the armour of ences, essentially requisite for the adequate the house of the forest. Ye have seen also the discharge of professional duties. Profane- breaches of the city of David, that they are ness is so prevalent, and indifference for the many: and ye gathered together the waters homage we pay to God is so awful, that we see of the lower pool. And ye have numbered people passing whole years without ever en- the house of Jerusalem, and the houses have tering our sanctuaries; mechanics publicly ye broken down to fortify the wall. Ye made follow their labour on the sabbath; women also a ditch between the two walls, for the in the polished circles of society choose the water of the old pool; but ye have not lookhour of our worship to pay their visits, and ed unto the Maker thereof, neither have ye expose card-tables, if I may so speak, in the had respect unto him that fashioned it long sight of our altars. Infidelity is so rife, that ago. And in that day did the Lord God of the presses groan with works to immortalize Hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and blasphemies against the being of God, and to to plucking of the hair, and to girding with sap the foundation of public morals. How sackcloth. And behold, joy and gladness, easy would it be to swell this catalogue! slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh, My brethren, on a subject so awful, let us and drinking wine: let us eat and drink for not deceive ourselves; these are not the to-morrow we shall die. And it was revealed spots of the children of God; they are the in mine ears by the Lord of Hosts, surely very crimes which bring upon nations, the this iniquity shall not be purged from you. malediction of God, and which soon or late occasion their total overthrow.

:

It belongs to you to make the application of this passage; it belongs to you to inquire III. To feel the calamities under which what resemblance our present conduct may we now groan, and to trace their origin is have to that of the Jews in a similar situa not enough we must anticipate the future: tion. Whether it is to the first cause you the third sort of regard required for the strokes have had recourse for the removal of your with which we are struck, is to develop their calamities, or whether you have solely adherconsequences and connexions. Some cala-ed to second causes? whether it is the maxmities are less formidable in themselves than ims of religion you have consulted, or the in the awful consequences they produce. maxims of policy? whether it is a barrier There are deeps which call unto deeps at you have pretended to put to the war, to the the noise of God's waterspouts;' Ps. xlii. pestilence, and famine; or whether you have 8; and to sum up all in one word, there are put one to injustice, to hatred, to fornication,

6

and to fraud, the causes of those calami- | when it fails in producing the reformation of
ties!
those manners it was sent to chastise. Weigh
those awful words in the twenty-sixth chap-
ter of Leviticus. 'If ye will not hearken
unto me, but walk contrary unto me; then I
will walk contrary also unto you in fury; and
I, even I, will chastise you seven times for
your sins.' The force of these words de-
pends on those which proceed. We there
find a gradation of calamities whose highest
period extends to the total destruction of the
people against whom they were denounced.
If you will not hearken, Moses had said in
behalf of God, verse 14, 'I will even appoint
over you terror, the consumption, and the
burning ague, that shall consume the eyes,
and cause sorrow of heart. And I will set
my face against you, and ye shall be slain
before your enemies: they that hate you
shall reign over you, and ye shall flee when
none pursueth you.' Immediately he adds,
'If ye will not for all this hearken,' and these
words occur at the eighteenth verse, 'If ye
will not yet for all this hearken unto me,
then will I punish you seven times more for
your sins. And I will break the pride of
your power; and I will make your heaven as
iron, and your earth as brass. And if ye walk
contrary to me, I will bring seven times more
plagues upon you according to your sins.
And I will send the wild beast against you,
and they shall rob you of your children, and
make you few in number, and your highways
shall be desolate. Then he denounces a
new train of calamities, after which the words
I have cited immediately follow. 'If ye will
not be reformed by all these things, but will
walk contrary unto me, then will I also walk
contrary unto you in fury, and will punish
you yet seven times for your sins. And ye
shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh
of your daughters. And I will destroy your
high places, and cut down your images, and
cast your carcase upon the carcases of your
idols. And I will make your cities waste,
and bring your sanctuary unto desolation.'

Make, my brethren, the most serious re-
flections on these words of God to his ancient
people. If in the strictest sense, they are
inapplicable to you, it is because your pre-
sent calamities require less than sevenfold
more to effectuate your total extermination.
Do I exaggerate the subject? Are your sea-
banks able to sustain sevenfold greater shocks
than they have already received? Are your
cattle able to sustain sevenfold heavier
strokes? Is your commerce able to sustain a
sevenfold greater depression? Is there then
so wide a distance between your present ca-
lamities, and your total ruin?

IV. Let us proceed to other subjects. Hitherto, my dear brethren, we have endeayoured to open your eyes, and fix them steadfastly on dark and afflictive objects; we have solicited your attention but for bitter reproaches, and terrific menaces We have sought the way to your hearts, but to excite terror and alarm. The close of this day's devotion shall be more conformable to prayers we offer for you, to the goodness of the God we worship, and to the character of our ministry. We will no longer open your eyes but to fix them on objects of consolation; we will

2. One calamity is the forerunner of greater calamities, when instead of humiliation on the reception of the warnings God sends by his servants, we turn those warnings into contempt By this sign, the author of the second Book of Chronicles wished the Jews to understand that their impiety had attained its height. The Lord God of their fathers sent unto them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because he had compassion on his people but they mocked the messengers of God; they despised his word, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, so that there was no remedy,' xxxvii. 15, 16.

My brethren, it is your duty to inquire how far you are affected by this doctrine. It is your duty to examine whether your present desolating calamities are characterized as harbingers of greater evils. Do you discover a teachable disposition towards the messengers of God who would open your eyes to see the effects of his indignation; or, do you revolt against their word? Do you love to be reproved and corrected, or do you resemble the incorrigible man of whom the prophet says, thou hatest instruction,' Ps. 1. 17. What a humiliating subject, my brethren, what an awful touchstone of our misery!

6

3. One calamity is the forerunner of greater calamities, when the anguish it excites proceeds more from the loss of our perishable riches than from sentiments of the insults offered to God. This sign, the prophet Hosea gave to the inhabitants of Samaria. "Though I have redeemed them,' says he, speaking for God, they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds.' It was for corn and wine, that they cut themselves when they assembled together; or as might be better rendered, when they assembled for devotion.* Examine again, or rather censure a subject which presents the mind with a question less for inquiry than for the admission of a fact already decided. We would interrupt our business; we would suspend our pleasures; we would shed our tears; we would celebrate fasts on the recollection of our crimes, provided we could be assured that God would

remit the punishment? We cut ourselves; we assemble to-day for wine and wheat;' because commerce is obstructed; because our repose is interrupted in defiance of precaution; because the thunderbolts fallen on the heads of our neighbours threaten us, and our friends, our brethren, and our children; or is it because that those paternal regards of God are obscured, which should constitute our highest felicity, and all our joys? I say again, this is a subject already decided rather than a question of investigation.

4. Not wishful to multiply remarks, but to comprise the whole in a single thought, one plague is the forerunner of greater plagues

The original word is so translated in the French bibles, Ps. Ivi. 7; lix. 4. The French version, in regard to the former phrase, They cut hemselves, seems to harmonize better with the scope of the passage than the English, They rebel, because it follows, Though I had bound and strengthened their arms, meaning their wounded arms.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

no longer solicit your attention to hear predictions of misery: we will seek access to your hearts solely to augment your peace and consolation. Hear the rod, and who hath appointed it:' and amid the whole of your calamities, know what are your resources, and what are your hopes. This is our fourth part

One of the most notorious crimes of which a nation can be guilty when Heaven calls them to repentance, is that charged on the Jews in Jeremiah's time. The circumstance is remarkable. It occurs in the sixteenth chapter of this prophet's revelations. His mission was on the eve of their approaching ruin its object was to save by fear the men whom a long course of prosperity could not instruct. He discharged those high duties with the firinness and magnanimity which the grandeur of God was calculated to inspire, whose minister he had the glory to be. Because your fathers have forsaken me,' he said in the name of the Lord, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped before them; and because ye have done worse than your fathers, therefore will I cast you out of this land, into a land which neither ye, nor your fathers know,' ver. 11-13.

[ocr errors]

Lest the apprehension of ruin without resource should drive them to despair, God made to Jeremiah a farther communication; he honoured him with a vision saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. The prophet obeyed; he went to the potter's house; the workman was busy at the wheel. He formed a vase, which was marred in his hand; he made it anew, and gave it a form according to his pleasure. This emblem God explained to the prophet,saying, Go, and speak these words to the house of Israel O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it: if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. Return ye now every one from his evil way, and amend your ways. What effects might not this mission have produced? But the incorrigible depravity of the people was proof against this additional overture of grace; those abominable men, deriving arguments of obduracy even from the desperate situation of their nation, replied to the prophet, 'There is no hope, we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart,' xviii.

1-12.

kingdom to pluck up, and pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil. I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. The foundation of these hopes is stronger than all that we can ask.

In particular, we found our hope on the love which God has uniformly cherished for this republic. Has not God established it by a series of miracles, and has he not preserved it by a series of miracles still greater? Has he not at all times surrounded it as with a wall of fire, and been himself the buckler on the most pressing occasions? Has he not inverted the laws of nature, and of the elements for its defence?

We found our hopes on the abundant mercies with which God has loaded us during the time of visitation. With the one hand he abases, with the other he exalts. With the one hand he brings the pestilence to our gates, and with the other he obstructs it from entering; from desolating our cities, and attacking our persons.

We found our hope on the resources he has still left the state to recover, and to re-establish itself in all the extent of its glory and prosperity. We found our hopes also on the solemnities of this day; on the abundance of tears which will be shed in the presence of God, on the many prayers which will be of fered to heaven, and on the numerous purposes of conversion, which will be formed. Frustrate not these hopes by a superficial devotion, by forgetfulness of promises, and violation of vows. Your happiness is in your own hands. Return ye now every one from his evil way, and amend your doings.' Here is the law, here is the condition. This law is general; this condition concerns you all.

Yes this law concerns you; this condition is imposed on all. High and mighty lords: it is required of you this day to lay a new foundation for the security of this people: Return ye then, my lords, from your evil ways and be converted. In vain shall you have proclaimed a fast, if you set not the fairest example of decency in its celebration. In vain shall you have commanded pastors to preach against the corruption which predomi nates among us, if you lend not an arm to suppress it; if you suffer profaneness and infidelity to lift their head with impunity; if you suffer the laws of chastity to be violated in the face of the sun, and houses of infamy to be open as those of temples consecrated to the glory of God; if you suffer public roats and sports to subsist in all their fury; if yon abandon the reins to mammon, to establish its maxim's, and communicate its poison, if possible, to all our towns and provinces. Have compassion then on the calamities of our country. Be impressed with its sighs. Place her under the immediate protection of Almighty God. May he deign in clothing you with his grandeur and power to clothe you also with holiness and equity. May be deign to give you the Spirit of Esdras, of Nehemiah, of Josiah, of Hezekiah, princes distinguished in the sacred Scriptures, who brought their nation back to reformation and piety, and thereby to happiness and glory.

This law concerns you, this condition,

"

Revolting at those awful dispositions, we are, my brethren, invested with the same commission as Jeremiah God has said to us as well as to this prophet, Go down to the potter's house; see him mar, and form his vessels anew, giving them a form according to his pleasure.' Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a

1

pastors, is imposed on you.
your evil ways and amend.' The ministry
with which God has invested you; this min.
istry at all times weighty and difficult, is par-
ticularly so in this age of contradiction and
universal depravity. You are appointed to
censure the vices of the people, and every
one is enraged against you, the moment you
cast an eye on his particular crimes. They
will treat you as enemies when you tell them
the truth. No matter. Force your hearers
to respect you. Testify to them by your ge-
nerosity and disinterestedness, that you are
ready to make every sacrifice to sustain the
glory of your ministry. Give them as many
examples as precepts; and then ascend the pul-
pit with a mind confident and firm. You have
the same right over the people, as the Isaiahs,
as the Micahs, and as the Jeremiahs, had
over Israel and Judah. You can say like
them, the Lord has spoken. And may the
God who has invested you with the sacred
office you fill, may he grant you the talents
requisite for its faithful discharge; may he
assist you by the most intimate communica-
tions in the closet, to bear the crosses laid
upon you by the public; may he deign to
accept the purity of your intentions, to have
compassion on your weakness, and enable
you to redouble your efforts by the blessings
he shall shed on your work!

This law concerns you, this condition is imposed on you, rebellious men: on you sinners, who have excelled in the most awful courses of vice, in fighting, in hatred, in brutality, in profaneness, in insolence, and every other crime which confounds the human kind with demons. It is you, chiefly you who have uplifted the arm of vengeance which pursues us; it is you who have dug those pits which are under our feet. But, return from your evil ways, and amend.' Let your reformation have some proportion to your profligacy, and your repentance to your crimes. And may the God who can of these stones raise up children unto Abraham, and make to rush from the hardest rocks fountains of living water, may he deign to display on you the invincible power he has over the heart: may he penetrate the abyss of your souls, and strike them in places the most tender and susceptible of anguish, of shame, and of repentance!

This law concerns you, it is imposed on you believers; and believers even of the first class. How pure soever your virtues may be, they are still mixed with imperfections: how firm soever the fabrick of your piety may be, it still requires support; and how sincere soever your endeavours may be, they must still be repeated. It is on you, that the salvation of the nation devolves. It is your piety, your fervour, and your zeal, which must for the future sustain this tottering republic. May there be ten righteous persons in our Sodom, lest it be consumed by fire from hea-joy and thanksgiving. God grant us the ven may there still be a Moses, who knows grace. To whom he honour and glory for how to stay the arm of God, and to say, O ever. Amen. Lord, pardon this people; and if not, blot

My brethren, the throne of mercy is yet accessible. The devotion of so many saints, who have besieged it to-day, have opened it to us. Let us approach it with broken and contrite hearts. Let us approach it with promises of conversion, and oaths of fidelity. Let us approach it with ardent prayers for the salvation of this republic; for the prosperity of the church; for the peace of Europe; and for the salvation of those victims, which the divine justice is ready to sacrifice. Let us prostrate before God as David at the sight of the destroying angel, and may we like that prince succeed in staying the awfu! executions. May this year, hitherto filled with alarms, with horror, and carnage, close with hope and consolation. May this day, which has been a day of fasting, humiliation. and repentance, produce the solemnities of

3B

Return from

me, I pray thee, out of thy book, Exod. xxxii. 32. O how glorious to be in a republic, if I may venture so to speak, the stay of the state, and the cause of its existence! May he who has chosen you to those exalted duties, assist you to discharge them with fidelity. May he purify all your yet remaining defects and imperfections! May he make you the salt of the earth, and enable you to shine as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation, and cause you to find in the delights which piety shall afford, the first rewards of all the advantages it procures.

This law concerns us all, this condition is imposed on each. Let us return from our evil ways, and amend.' Why would we delay conversion? Why would we delay disarining the wrath of heaven till overwhelmed with its vengeance? Why should we delay our supplications till God shall cover himself with a cloud, that our prayers cannot pass through? Lam. iii. 44. Why should we delay till wholly enveloped in the threatened calamities? To say all in a single word, why should we delay till Holland becomes as Provence, and the Hague as Marseilles?

Ah! what word is that we have just pronounced? what horrors does it not oblige us to retrace? O consuming fire, God of vengeance, animate our souls; and may the piercing and awful ideas of thy judgments induce us to avert the blow. O dreadful times, where death enters our houses with the air we breathe, and with the food we eat; every one shuns himself as death; the father fears the breath of his son, and the son the breath of his father. O dreadful times, already come on so many victims, and perhaps ready to come on us, exhibit the calamities in all their horrors! I look on myself as stretched on my dying bed, and abandoned by my dearest friends; I look on my children as entreating me to help them; I am terrified by their approach, I am appalled by their embraces, and receive the contagion by their last adieu!

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »