« PreviousContinue »
in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. Wo do not understand, that the apostle speaks here only of such enuinent persons as govern mankind. There are liars, murderers, poisoners, and abominable of all ranks and conditions : but it is only in the courts of kings, it is on thrones, it is at the head of armies, and in the persons of such as are usually called heroes in the world, that crimes of this sont are ennobled; here altars are erected, and these detestable actions elevated into exploits worthy of immortal glory; they are inserted in our histories in order to be transmitted to the latest posterity.
False protestations, by which a statesman, If I may speak so, obtains leave to lodge in the bosom of an ally, that he may be the better able to stab him to the heart; indetermiTrate treaties, and frivolous distinctions between the letter and the spirit of a public instrument; these, which we call illustrious lies, these are exploits worthy of immortal glory! Bloody wars, undertaken less for the good of the state than for the glory of the governors ; cruel expeditions ; tragical battles ; sieges fool-hardy and desperate in a theory of the military art, but practicable in the eyes of ambition, or rather raving madness; rivers discoloured with blood; heaps of human bodies loading the earth; these which we call illustrious murderers, these are exploits thought worthy of immortal glory! Dark machinations, in which treason supplies the place of courage, assassination of the right of war, secret poison of public battle; these are actions truly abominable, yet these are thought worthy of immortal glory, provided they be crowned with success, and provided a historian can be found to disguise and embellish them! A historian, who can celebrate and adorn such henious crimes, is, if possible, more abominable than his hero who committed them.
Shall we go back to the periods of fable? Shall we take examples from those nations, which lived without hope, and without God in the world ? Shall we narrate ancient history? Shall we publish the turpitude of modern times? Ye horrid crimes, ye frightful actions, ye perfidious outrages, inore fit for the hearts of infernal furies than for the bosoms of mankind, depart into eternal silence, and never shew your ghastly features again! Never were propositions more unwarrantable than these; The vulgar only ought to be afraid of certain crimes. Kings and statesmen will be judged by a particular law. The greatness of the motive, that inclined them to manage some affairs of state, will plead their ex cuse, and secure them from divine vengeance.
Why were so many commands given to princes concerning administration of justice, breaches of peace, and declarations of war? To what purpose have so many Pharoahs been drowned, Nebuchadnezzars reduced to the condition of beasts, Herods devoured by worms, and strokes of divine vengeance fallen upon the proudest heads, except to teach us, that no creature is so august, no throne so magnificent, no dominion so invincible as to free a creature from the necessity of obeying his Creator? What means that law, which God formerly gave by the mouth of Moses? When thou shalt set a king over thee, he shall not multiply wives to himselj, that his heart turn not away, Deut. xvii. 14, &c. He shall not amass for himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write himself a copy of this law in a book, and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn uot aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left. What mean these thundering words? Thou profane wicked prince of Isruel thy day is come, thine iniquity shall huve an end. Thus saith the Lord God, Remove the diadem, and take off the crown; I will overturn it, and it shall be no more, Ezek, xxi. 25--27. In one word, what doth St. John mean by the words of my text? All liars and poisoners, murderers and abominable shall have their part in the lake ishich burneth with fire and brimstone,
It would be difficult, my brethren, for men, who never saw any thing greater than the courts of princes, a sort of earthly gods, to imagine a more pompous and venerable image than that, which St. John exhibits here to our view. He brings forward the terrible day, in which the supreme lawgiver will bring earthly judges to account for that power, with which he intrusted them, and of which most of them have made a very criminal use. There, all their flattering titles will be laid aside, no more Emperors, Monarchs, Arbiters of peace and war; or rather, there will these titles be repeated to mortify the pride, and to abate the insolence of every one, who abused them. There, pale, trembling, and afraid, will appear those tyrants, those scourges of Almighty
God, those disturbers of mankind, who once made the earth tremble with a single cast of their eyes. Then will be produced the vexations they have caused, the unjust decrees they have pronounced, the families they have impoverished, the houses, the cities, the kingdoms, which they have burnt to ashes. Then will be judged the famous quarrels of Alexander and Darius, Cyrus and Cræsus, Pyrrhus and Fabricius, Hannibal and Scipio, Cæsar and Pompey, ill decided, in Cato's opinion, by the gods themselves in the battle of Pharsalia. And you, you who holds the reigns of this republic, you, in regard to whom we so often say to this people, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; the powers that be are ordained of Gou; whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, Rom. xiii. 1. 2. you, our governors and lords, what appearances will you make in that great day, and what sentence will you ceive? Ah! if it be possible for you to be so intoxicated with your own grandeur as to forget the majesty of that God, who placed you at the head of this people, and so neglect the duties of your station ; if it be possible for the cries of the oppressed to sound in vain in your ears, and bribes to blind your eyes; if it be possible for you to bestow the rewards due to fidelity aud courage upon solicitation and intrigue, to sacrifice the public interest to private views; if a personal pique dissolve an union essential to the good of the state ; if love of pleasure consume time devoted to the administration of justice; if the tears of Sion in distress be not tenderly wiped away; if religion and good manners be decried, and trampled on with impunity; if Lord's days, and and public solemnities be openly prophaned; if, in a word, christianity be sacrificed to worldly policy, what will your condition be!
God grant, this people may always be as happy in the character of their governors as in the gentle constitution of their government ! May a visible and bountiful benediction rest upon those who, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shine as lights in the world! Phil. ii. 15. Never, never may any be at the head of the state, who are unworthy of being members of the church! God grant, we may behold you, who are intrusted with the public welfare, models worthy of our imitation ; and by imitating your conduct in this life may we follow you into the world of glory! Amen. To God be honour and glory for ever, Amen.
SERMON SERMON V.*
GOD'S CONTROVERSY WITH ISRAEL.
Micah. vi. 1, 2, 3,
Hear ye now what the Lord saith. Arise, contend before
the mountain, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye,
( mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.
remark without astonishment his condescension to Abraham, when he gave him leave to plead for that detestable city. Abraham himself was amazed at it. He was afraid of inflaming that anger, which he endeavoured to abate. Oh ! said he, let not the Lord be angry, and I will spcak. Behold now ! I, who am but dust and ashes, have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, Gen. xviii. 30. 27. Yet God heard him, and answered him, and agreed to spare Sodom, and to pardon an innumerable multitude of guilty persons, on condition a small number of righteous people could be found among them. Abraham asked, Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city, wilt thou not spare the place, for the fifty righteous that are therein? God replied, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous, I will spare all the place for their sakes. Abraham continued, Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty ? Peradventure there shall be forty, peradventure thirty, peradventure twenty, peradventure ten, Gen. xviii. 24, 26, 28, 29, &c. God heard Abraham, and suffered him to proceed to the utmost of his compassion, waiting, if I may speak so, till his servant gave the signal for
* This Sermon was preached on a fast-day, at the opening of a campaign in the year 1706.
the destruction of Sodom. So true is it that his essence is love, and that mercy and grace are the strongest emanations of his glory! Exod. xxxiv. 6.
But, my brethren, if we admire the goodness of God, when he suffers only one worm of the earth to reason against his judgments, and to plead the cause of those criminals, whose ruin was deterinined; what emotions, pray, ought the objects set before us in the text to produce in our minds to-day? Behold! in the words of my text, behold! God not only permitting the sinner to plead his cause before him, and suspending his sovereign rights : but behold him offering himself to plead before the sinner, behold him descending from his tribunal, accounting for his conduct, and submitting himself not only to the judgment of one of his creatures, but proposing to do so to us all. Hear ye what the Lord saith. Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, 0 mountuins, the Lord's controwersy, and ye strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, und he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein kave s wearied thee? testify against me.
This is the unheard of action, which we are going to exhibit to you, in order to excite in you such sentiments of contrition and repentance as the solemnity of the day requires of you, especially now that the arm of the Lord is lifted up and stretched out over your heads, shall I say to destroy, or to defend you?
At such a time can it be necessary to prepare your minds, and solicit your attention? If I have yet any more wishes to form for your felicity, I conjure you by the walls of this church, now indeed standing, but doomed to be rased by the enemy; by the interests of your wives and children, whose death his determined; by your regard for your civil and religious liberties; in the name of your magistrates, generals, and soldiers, whose prudence and courage can not succeed without the blessing of the Almighty ; 1 conjure you to a:dress yourselves to this exercise with attentive minds and accessible hearts. May all worldly distractions, inay all secular anxieties, troublesome birds of prey, alighting on our sacrifices, O may you all be driven away to-day! God grant we may be left alone with him! O Lord, help us to repair the breaches made in our Jerusalein, to prevent others yet threatened, to engage thee, the God of armies, on our side, and to draw down by our prayers and tears thy benedictions on the state and the Church! Amen.