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ruption, the disease which consumes us, the us the grace. To him be honour, and glory, tomb which awaits us, the death which pursues for ever. us, treading on our heels, the sentence already preparing, and the account which God is about to require. Let us distrust ourselves in prosperity: let us never forget what we are; let us have people about us to recall its recollection: let us request our friends constantly to cry in our ears, remember that you are loaded with crimes; that you are but dust and ashes; and in the midst of your grandeur, and your rank, remember that you are poor, frail, wretched, and abject.
THE VOICE OF THE ROD.
MICAH VI. 9.
Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. AWFUL indeed was the complaint which Jeremiah once made to God against Israel: "O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock,” Jer. v. 3. Here is a view of the last period of corruption; for however insuperable the corruption of men may appear, they sin less by enmity than dissipation. Few are so consummately wicked as to sin solely through the wantonness of crime. The mind is so constantly attached to exterior objects, as to be wholly absorbed by their impression; and here is the ordinary source of all our vice. Have we soine
4. In short, the beguiling charms of pleasure are the first solution of the difficulty proposed, and the last instruction we derive from the fall of Solomon. The sacred historian has not overlooked this cause of the faults of this prince. "Solomon loved many strange women, and they turned away his heart from the Lord," 1 Kings xi. 1. 3. I am here reminded of the wretched mission of Balaam. Commanded by powerful princes, allured by magnificent rewards, his eyes and heart already devoured the presents which awaited his services. He ascended a mountain, he surveyed the camp of the Israelites, he invoked by turns the power of God's Spirit, and the power of the devil. Find-real, or some imaginary advantage? The idea ing that prophecy afforded him no resource, he had recourse to divinations and enchantments. Just on the point of giving full effect to his detestable art, he felt himself fettered by the force of truth, and exclaimed, "there is no enchantment against Jacob, there is no divination against Israel," Numb. xxxiii. 23. He temporized; yes, he found a way to supersede all the prodigies which God had done and accomplished for his people. This way was the way of pleasure. It was, that they should no more attack the Israelites with open force, but with voluptuous delights; that they should no more send among them wizards and enchanters, but the women of Midian, to allure them to their sacrifices; then this people, before invincible, I will deliver into your hands!!!
of our superiority engrosses our whole atten-
But of all the means calculated to produce the recollection so essential to make us wise, adversity is the most effectual. How should a man delight his heart with a foolish granOf the success of this advice, my brethren, deur; how should he abandon himself to pride, you cannot be ignorant. But why fell not when all around him speaks his meanness and every Balaam by the sword of Israelites! impotency; when appalled by the sight of a Numb. xxxi. 8. Why were the awful conse- sovereign judge, and burdened by his heavy quences of this counsel restricted to the un- hand: he has no resource but humility and happy culprits, whom the holy hands of Phi- submission? How should he give up himself neas and Eleazar, sacrificed to the wrath of to intemperance when afflicted with excruciHeaven! David, Solomon, Samson, and you, ating pains, and oppressed with the approaches my brethren; you who may yet preserve, at of death? When, therefore, adversity is unleast, a part of your innocence. Let us arm availing; when a people equally resist the terthem against voluptuousness. Let us distrust rific warnings of the prophet, and the strokes enchanting pleasure. Let us fear it, not only of God's hand, for whom he speaks; when their when it presents its horrors; not only when it corruption is proof against mortality, against discovers the frightful objects which follow in the plague, against famine; what resource reits train, adultery, incest, treason, apostacy, mains for their conversion? This was, howwith murder and assassination; but let us fear ever, the degree of hardness to which the Jews, it, when clothed in the garb of innocence, when in Jeremiah's time, had attained. "O Lord, authorized by decent freedoms, and assuming thou hast stricken them, but they have not the pretext of religious sacrifices. Let us ex-grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they clude it from every avenue of the heart. Let us restrict our senses. Let us mortify our members which are on the earth. Let us crucify the flesh with the concupiscence. And by the way prescribed in the gospel; the way of retirement, of silence, of austerity, of the cross, and of mortification, let us attain happiness, and immortal bliss. May God grant
have refused to receive instruction; they have made their faces harder than a rock."
"O Lord, thou hast stricken them." My brethren, the first part of our prophet's words is now accomplished in our country, and in a very terrific inanner. Some difference the mercy of God does make between us, and those neighbouring nations, among whom the plague
is making so dreadful a progress; but though our horizon is not yet infected, though the breath of our hearers is not yet corrupt, and though our streets present not yet to our view heaps of dead, whose mortal exhalations, threaten the living, and to whose burial, those who survive are scarcely sufficient, we are nevertheless under the hand of God; I would say, under his avenging hand; his hand already uplifted to plunge us into the abyss of national ruin. What else are those plagues which walk in our streets? What is this mortality of our cattle which has now continued so many years? what else is this suspension of credit, this loss of trade, this ruin of so many families, and so many more on the brink of ruin? "O Lord, thou hast stricken them." The first part then is but too awfully accomplished in our country.
I should deem it an abuse of the liberty allowed me in this pulpit, were I to say, without restriction, that the second is likewise accomplished; "but they have not grieved." The solemnity of the day; the proclamation of our fast; the whole of these provinces prostrated today at the feet of the Most High; so many voices crying to Heaven, "O thou sword of the Lord, intoxicated with blood, return into thy scabbard;" all would convict me of declamation, if I should say, "O Lord thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved."
But, my brethren, have we then no part in this reproach? Do we feel as we ought, the calamities that God hath sent? Come to-day, Christians; come and learn of our prophet to hearken to the voice of God. What voice? the voice strong and mighty; the voice which lighteneth with flames of fire; the loud voice of his judgments. "Hear ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it."
| sentiments of terror and awe: this is the second disposition of a fast. If we examine their origin and cause, we shall be softened with sentiments of sorrow and repentance: this is the third disposition of a fast. If we, lastly, discover the remedies and resources, we shall be animated with the sentiments of genuine conversion: this is the fourth disposition of a fast. It is by reflections of this kind that I would close these solemn duties, and make, if I may so speak, the applications of those energetic words addressed to us by the servants of God on this day.
I. "Hear ye the rod:" feel the strokes with which you are already struck. There is one disposition of the mind which may be confounded with that we would wish to inspire. The sensation of these calamities may be so strong as to unnerve the understanding, and overspread the mind with a total gloom and dejection. The soul of which we speak, feasts on its grief, and is wholly absorbed in the causes of its anguish. The privation of a good once enjoyed, renders it perfectly indifferent as to the blessings which still remain. The strokes which God has inflicted, appear to it the greatest of all calamities. Neither the beauties of nature, nor the pleasures of conversation, nor the motives of piety, have charms adequate to extinguish, nor even assuage anguish which corrodes and consumes the soul. Hence those torrents of tears; hence those deep and frequent sighs; hence those loud and bitter complaints; hence those unqualified augurs of disaster and ruin. To feel afflictions in this way, is a weakness of mind which disqualifies us for supporting the slightest reverses of life. It is an ingratitude which obstructs our acknowledging the favours of that God, who, "in the midst of wrath, remembers mercy," and who never so far afflicts his creature, as to deprive him of reviving hope.
My brethren, on the hearing of this voice, The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a vice what sort of requests shall we make? Shall we directly opposed to that we have just decried. not say, as the ancient people, "Let not the It is the insensibility of the man of pleasure. Lord speak to us lest we die?" No, let us not He must enjoy life; but nothing is more strikadopt this language.-O great God, the con- ingly calculated to correct his notions, and detempt we have made of thy staff, when thy range the system of present pleasure, than this clemency caused us to repose in green pastures, idea: the sovereign of the universe is irritated renders essential the rod of thy correction. Now against us: his sword is suspended over our is the crisis to suffer, or to perish. Strike, strike, heads: his avenging arm is making awful havoc Lord, provided we may be converted and saved. around us: thousands have already fallen beSpeak with thy lightning; speak with thy thun-neath his strokes on our right, and ten thousand der; speak with thy flaming bolts; but teach us to hear thy voice. "Speak, Lord, for thy servants hear." And you, my brethren, "Hear ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it." Amen.
This, in substance, is,
I. To feel the strokes of God's hand:
on our left, Ps. xci. 7. We banish these ideas: but this being difficult to do, we repose behind intrenchments which they cannot penetrate; and by augmenting the confusion of the passions, we endeavour to divert our attention from the calamities of the public.
The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a phi
II. To trace their consequences and connex-losophical apathy. We brave adversity. We ions:
III. To examine their origin and causes. IV. To discover their resources and remedies. This is to comply with the exhortation of Micah; this is to shelter ourselves from the charge of Jeremiah; this is especially to comply with the design of this solemnity. If we feel the strokes of God's hand, we shall shake off a certain state of indolence in which many of us are found, and be clothed with the sentiments of humiliation: this is the first duty of the day. If we trace the consequences and connexion of our calamities, we shall be inspired with the
fortify ourselves with a stoical firmness. We account it wise, superior wisdom to be unmoved by the greatest catastrophes. We enshroud the mind in an ill-named virtue; and we pique ourselves on the vain glory of being unmoved, though the universe were dissolved.
The insensibility we wish to prevent is that which arises from a stupid ignorance. Some men are naturally more difficult to be moved than the brutes destitute of reason. They are resolved to remain where they are, until extricated by an exterior cause; and these are the very men who resist that cause. They shut
their eyes against the avenues of alarm; they | on Judah and Israel, and those he has sent on harden their hearts against calamities by the us. We exhort you to sensibility concerning mere dint of reason, or rather by the mere in- the visitations of Providence: four ministers of stinct of nature; because if seriously regarded, the God of vengeance address you with a voice some efforts would be required to avert the vi- more loud and pathetic than mine. These misitation. nisters are, the tempests; the murrain; the plague; and the spirit of indifference.
But whether God afflict us in love, or strike in wrath; whether he afflict us for instruction, or chasten us for correction, our first duty under the rod is to acknowledge the equity of his hand.
Does he afflict us for the exercise of our resignation and our patience? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. We must each say, It is true, my fortune fluctuates, my credit is injured, and my prospects are frustrated; but it is the great Disposer of all events who has assorted my lot; it is my Lord and Ruler. O God, "thy will be done, and not mine. I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because it was thy doing," Matt. xxvi. 39; Ps. xxxix. 9.
Does he afflict us in order to put our love to the proof? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. We must learn to say, "I think that God has made us a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." O God! "though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee," 1 Cor. iv. 9; xv. 19; Job xiii. 15.
The first minister of the God of vengeance is the tempest. Estimate, if you are able, the devastations made by the tempest during the last ten years; the districts they have ravaged; the vessels they have wrecked; the inundations they have occasioned; and the towns they have laid under water. Would you not have thought that the earth was about to return to its original chaos; that the sea had broke the bounds prescribed by the Creator; and that the earth had ceased to be "balanced on its poles?" Job xxxviii. 6.
The second minister of the God of vengeance, exciting alarm, is the mortality of our cattle. The mere approaches of this calamity filled us with terror, and became the sole subjects of conversation. Your sovereign appointed public prayers and solemn humiliations, to avert the scourge. Your preachers made extraordinary efforts, entreating you to enter into the design of God, who had sent it upon us. But to what may not men become accustomed? We sometimes wonder how they can enjoy the least repose in places where the earth often quakes; where its dreadful jaws open; where a black volume of smoke obscures the light of heaven; where mountains of flame, from subterranean caverns, rise to the highest clouds, and descend
Does he afflict us in order to detach us from the world? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. It is requisite that this son should die, who constitutes the sole enjoyment of our life; it is re-in liquid rivers on houses, and on whole towns. quisite that we should feel the anguish of the disease to which we are exposed; it is requisite this health should fail, without which the association of every pleasure is insipid and obtrusive, that we may learn to place our happiness in the world to come, and not establish our hopes in this valley of tears.
Does he afflict us to make manifest the enormity of vice? To correspond with his design, we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. We must acknowledge the horrors of the objects our passions had painted with such beguiling tints. Amid the anguish consequent on crimes, we must put the question to ourselves which St. Paul put to the Romans; "What fruits had you then in those things, whereof you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death." Sensibility of the strokes God has already inflicted by his rod, was the first disposition of mind which Micah in his day, required of the Jews.
If you ask what those strokes were with which God afflicted the Israelites, it is not easy to give you satisfaction. The correctest researches of chronology do not mark the exact period in which Micah delivered the words of my text. We know only that he exercised his ministry under three kings, under Jotham, under Ahaz, under Hezekiah; and that under each of these kings, God afflicted the kingdom of Judah, and of Israel with severe strokes.-And the solemnities of the present day excuse me from the laws, binding to a commentator, of illustrating a text in all the original views of the author. We must neither divert our feelings nor divide our attention, between the calamities God sent
Let us seek in ourselves the solution of a difficulty suggested by the insensibility of others. We are capable of accustoming ourselves to any thing. Were we to judge of the impressions future judgments would produce by the effects produced by those God has already sent, we should harden our hearts against both pestilence and famine; we should attend concerts, though the streets were thronged with the groans of dying men, and join the public games in presence of the destroying angel sent to exterminate the nation.
The third minister of God's vengeance, exciting us to sensibility, is the plague, which ravages a neighbouring kingdom. Your provinces do not subsist of themselves; they have an intimate relation with all the states of Europe. And such is the nature of their constitution, that they not only suffer from the prosperity, but even from the adversity, of their enemies. But what do I say? from their enemies! The people whom God has now visited with this awful scourge, are not our enemies; they are our allies; they are our brethren; they are our fellow-countrymen. The people on whom God has laid his hand in so terrible a manner, is the kingdom which gave some of us birth, and which still contains persons to whom we are united by the tenderest ties. Every stroke this kingdom receives, recoils on ourselves, and it cannot fall without involving us in its ruins.
The fourth minister of the God of vengeance, which calls for consideration, is the spirit of slumber. It would seem that God had designated our own hands to be our own ruin. It would seem that he had given a demon from
the depths of hell a commission like that granted | transient satisfaction; but a state of violence to the spirit mentioned in the first Book of cannot be permanent. Each passion offers vioKings. "The Lord said, who shall persuade lence to some faculty of the soul, to which that Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth- faculty is abandoned. The happiness procured Gilead? And there came forth a spirit, and said, by the passions is founded on mistake: the moI will persuade him. And the Lord said, Yea, ment the soul recovers recollection, the happithou shalt persuade him, and prevail,” xxii. 20. ness occasioned by error is dissipated. The 22. Yea, a spirit who has sworn the overthrow happiness ascribed to avarice is grounded on of our families, the ruin of our arts and manu- the same mistake: it is couched in this princifactures, the destruction of our commerce, and ple, that gold and silver are the true riches: the loss of our credit, this spirit has fascinated and the moment that the soul which establishus all. He seizes the great and the small, the ed its happiness on a false principle becomes court and the city. But I abridge my intentions enlightened; the moment it investigates the on this subject; I yield to the reasons which for- numerous cases in which riches are not only bid my extending to farther detail. To feel the useless, but destructive, it loses the happiness strokes of God's hand, is most assuredly the first founded on mistake. We may reason in the duty he requires. "Hear ye the rod, and who same manner concerning the other passions. hath appointed it." There is then in the soul of every man a harmony between happiness and virtue, misery and crime.
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 conclusions 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 impiety 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:
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 feel the force of the difficulties opposed to this general thesis, of the happiness of nations being inseparable from their innocence. But notwithstanding all the difficulties of which the thesis is susceptible, I think myself able to maintain, and prove, that all public happiness 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 affirm, 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 country in misery.
Under what evils do we now groan? Is it because our name is less respected? Is it because 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 First, we cannot doubt that punishment is a produce them? If so, miracles would be requiconsequence of crime, when there is an essen-site to prevent them. Men of genius, protial 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 happiness but in the exercise of virtue. The passions may indeed excite a
found 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 ourselves:" and the Judge of the universe has no need to punish our crimes but by our crimes.
I have said, in the second place, that great calamities following great crimes, ought to be
consequences and connexions. Some calamities are less formidable in themselves than in the awful consequences they produce. There are "deeps which call unto deeps at the noise of God's water-spouts," Ps. xlii. 8; and to sum up all in one word, there are 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.
regarded as their punishment. And shall we | with which we are struck, is to develop their refuse, in this day of humiliation, ascribing to this awful cause the strokes with which we are afflicted? Cast your eyes for a moment on the nature of the crimes which reproach these provinces. All nations have their vices, and vices in which they resemble one another; all nations afford the justest cause for reprehension. Read the various books of morality; consult the sermons delivered 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 resemblance. Weigh a passage in Deuteronomy in which you will find a distinction between sin and sin, and a distinction worthy of peculiar 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 incompatible with his people. To receive the sacrament 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 Israelites, whose eyes were still struck with the miracles wrought on their leaving Egypt; "to change the glory of God into the similitude 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.
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.
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 re
Now, my brethren, can you cast your eyes on these provinces, without recognising a num-ligion. This is the portrait which Isaiah gives ber of sins of the latter class? In some fami- of Sennacherib's first expedition against Judea. lies, the education of youth is so astonishingly The prophet recites it in the twenty-second neglected, that we see parents training up their chapter of his book. "He discovered the cochildren for the first offices of the republic, for vering of Judah, and thou didst look in that offices which decide the honour, the fortune, day to the armour of the house of the forest. and the lives of men, without so much as initi-Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of ating them into the sciences, essentially requisite for the adequate discharge of professional duties. Profaneness is so prevalent, and indifference for the homage we pay to God is so awful, that we see people passing whole years without ever entering our sanctuaries; mechanics publicly follow their labour on the sabbath; women in the polished circles of society choose the hour of our worship to pay their visits, and expose card-tables, if I may so speak, in the sight of our altars. Infidelity is so rife, that the presses groan with works to immortalize blasphemies against the being of God, and to sap the foundation of public morals. How easy would it be to swell this catalogue! My brethren, on a subject so awful, let us not deceive ourselves; these are not the spots of the children of God; they are the very crimes which bring upon nations, the malediction of God, and which soon or late occasion their total overthrow.
III. To feel the calamities under which we now groan, and to trace their origin is not enough: we must anticipate the future: the third sort of regard required for the strokes
David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And ye have numbered the house of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. Ye made also a ditch between the two walls, for the water of the old pool; but ye have not looked unto the Maker thereof, neither have ye had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago. And in that day did the Lord God of Hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to plucking of the hair, and to girding with sackcloth. And behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink for to-morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of Hosts, surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you."
It belongs to you to make the application of this passage; it belongs to you to inquire what resemblance our present conduct may have to that of the Jews in a similar situation. Whether it is to the first cause you have had recourse for the removal of your calamities, or whether you have solely adhered to second causes? whether it is the maxims of religion