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TRANSIENT DEVOTIONS. yields to his own inclination to mercy and es- | he will bind us up. After two days will he teem, and thus becomes equally barbarous, whe- revive us, in the third day he will raise us up;" ther he seems affected with the benevolence of and when he has raised us up,” and re-estahis prince, or whether he seems to despise it. blished us, we will follow our former course of For, my brethren, it is much less difficult to life. When the tempest is over, we will again separate one's self wholly from a faithless blaspheme the Creator of storms. Is not this friend, than to conduct one's self properly to the very summit of injustice! one who is faithless only by fits. These equivo- 3. There is, let us observe, a manifest concal reformations, these appearances of esteem, tradiction between these two periods of life, beare much more cruel than total ingratitude, tween that of our devotion and that of our sin. and open avowed hatred. In an entire rapture What destroys one, necessarily subverts both; the mind is presently at a point: but in such and a reasonable man acting consistently ought imperfect connexions as these a thousand oppo- to choose, either to have no periods of devotion, site thoughts produce a violent conflict in the or to perpetuate them. Yes, we should choose mind. Shall I countenance ingratitude, shall either a real inward piety to influence our pracI discourage repentance? I repeat it again, tice, or none of the superficial sentiments that though this image is infinitely beneath the ma- produce a profession of it. We should choose jesty of God, yet it is that which he has thought either to act openly like an unmoveable phiproper to employ. “O Ephraim, what shall I losopher, or shall I rather say a brute beast, do unto theeo Judah, what shall I do unto when we seem to be upon the verge of the grave, thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, or that the piety excited then should continue and as the early dew it goeth away.”. O as long as we live in case of recovery. There Ephraim, O Judah, why do you rend my heart is a palpable contradiction in having both these asunder by turns with your virtue and your dispositions. When the state is in danger, and vice? Why not allow me either to give myself a solemn fast is kept, what is supposed? That entirely to you, or to detach myself entirely there is a just God governing the universe, disfrom you? Why do you not suffer me to give pensing good and evil, sooner or later destroya free course either to my esteem or to my dis- ing rebellious nations, and exercising a justice pleasure? Why do you not allow me to glorify more or less severe according to the duration myself by your repentance, or by your ruin of his patience. If we believe all this, we should Your devotions hold my hand: your crimes in- endeavour to regulate the state by these prinflame my anger. Shall I destroy a people ap- ciples, and if we do not believe it, we should pealing to my clemency? Shall I protect a not humble ourselves, and fast, and “bow down people trampling upon my laws“O Ephraim, our heads like a bulrush." What is supposed what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall by the prayers, and tears, and protestations we I do unto theer for your goodness is as a morn- bring to the table of Jesus Christ? That God ing cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." loves us, that he has so loved us as to give us
2. Consider secondly, the injustice of these his Son, that a Christian ought to return Jesus
'say they, wherefore have we fasted, and thou What is supposed by all the appearance of de-
! Why, has the whole value of devotion ceases. We hear Ahab prohibited idolatry? Has he restored Na- a sermon, in this sermon we are taught some both's vineyard? Has he renounced his trea- truth of religion which has a close and insepaLies with the enemies of God? No. Yet "Ahab rable connexion with our moral conduct. We humbleth himself, and because he humbleth are told that a judge must be upright, a friend himself I will not bring the evil.” So true it disinterested, a depository faithful. We do is, that God sometimes rewards a mere shadow well to be attentive to this sermon: but after we of repentance.
have heard it, we violate all the rules, if we be The Jews knew this condescension of God, corrupt judges, ungrateful friends, faithless deand they insulted it in the most odious manner. positaries; and if because we have heard our * Come, let us return unto the Lord, for he hath duty we think ourselves discharged from the tom, and he will heal us, he hath smitten and necessity of doing it, do we not pervert the
order and destination of this discourse? We man who has spent his life in sin is taken exreceive the Lord's Supper, there we go to con- tremely ill. His illness, a review of his life, firm our faith, to detach ourselves from the and a fear of death, rouse his conscience. He world, to prepare ourselves for a future state. sends for a minister, he opens to him all his We do well to receive the Lord's Supper: but heart, he confesses his sins, he weeps, he groans, if after we have received it we become lax in he protests ten thousand times that he hates his believing, fastened to the world, and without past life, and that he is determined to reform. thought of a future state, and if we neglect He persuades himself, and all about him, that these duties, under pretence that we took steps he is really converted. The minister promises relative to these duties, do we not pervert the him peace, and displays before him all the comLord's Supper? This reasoning is so clear, that fortable declarations, which it has pleased God it seems needless to pretend to elucidate it. to bestow in the gospel. The sick man recovers Yet many people reason in this manner, I have his health, returns to the world, forgets all his been to a place of worship, I have heard a ser designs of conversion and repentance, and purmon,
I have received the communion, and now sues his former course of intrigue, and passion, I may give a loose to my passions: but it is be- and arrogance. He falls sick a second time, cause you have been to a place of worship, it is sends a second time for his minister, and again because you have heard a sermon, and received he opens his heart, accuses himself, sheds floods the communion, it is on account of this, that of tears, and once more vows amendment and you ought wholly to employ yourself about that conversion. The minister on the same prinwork, to promote which all these devotions ciple as before encourages him to hope again. were appointed.
He recovers again, and perjures hiinself again, 5. Transient devotions are inconsistent with as he did the first time. A third time his illthe general design of religion. This design is to ness returns, and he takes the same steps, and reform man, to renew him, to transform him would embrace the same promises, if they could into the likeness of glorified saints, to render be addressed to him. Now we ask, how a him like God. But how does a rapid torrent minister ought to conduct himself to such a of devotion attended with no moral rectitude man? What think you of this question? You contribute to this end? If while I fast I eradi- know our commission, it is to preach peace to cate the world from my heart, if while I ac- such as return to God with sincerity and good knowledge the enormity of my past life I en- faith. The marks of sincerity and good faith deavour to reform it, if while I give mortal are good works, and where circumstances renblows to the old man I form the new man in der good works impossible, protestations and my heart, and if I thus build the edifice of grace, promises are to be admitted as evidences of sinwhere once the temple of depravity stood, then cerity and good faith. These evidences have I direct a fast day towards the great end of re- been deceitful in the man we speak of. His ligion. But what says God of another kind of transition from promising to violating was as fasting? “Is it such a fast that I have chosen, quick as that from violating to promising. that a man should afflict his soul for a day? Is Have we any right to suppose the penitent it to bow down the head as a bulrush, and to knows his heart better this third time than he spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt did the first and second? How should we be thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to able to determine his state, how can we adthe Lord? Isa. lviii. 5. And what says God of dress to him any other than doubtful promises, exterior devotions in general? “To what pur- since God, in some sort, adopts such sentipose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me ments in the text: “O Ephraim, what shall I saith the Lord. I am full of burnt-offerings and do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto incense. Your new moons I cannot away with. thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud Who hath required this at your hand? chap. i. that goeth away." 11. The answer seems ready. Didst not thou, 7. Consider finally, the imprudence of a man Lord, establish this worship, order an elegant who divides his life in this manner into periods temple to be built, and command the Jews to of devotion and periods of sin. It seems at go up to Jerusalem? Sabbaths, solemn assem- first to be the height of wisdom to find the unblies, new moons, do they not owe their origin heard-of art of uniting the reward of virtue, to thee? No: when they are destitute of love with the pleasure of vice. On the one side, and obedience, “I hate new moons and Sab- by devoting only a few moments to religion he baths, and solemn assemblies I cannot away spares himself the pains which they experience with.” In like manner, of all devotions of who make conscience of giving themselves enevery kind, when they are not attended with tirely up to it: and by suspending only for a uniform moral obedience, we say, and in par- little while the exercise of his passions, he enticular of the Lord's Supper we say, “I am joys the pleasure of hoping fully to gratify weary" of your preparations, “I am full” of them. On the other side, he quiets the storms momentary devotions, and your pretended holy of divine justice that threaten his rebellion, resolutions “I cannot away with.” “O and thus obtains by devotions of a moment a Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, protection, which others devote a whole life to what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is acquire. Let us undeceive ourselves. A heart as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it divided in this manner cannot be happy. The goeth away.”
chief cause of the difficulties we meet with in 6. Transient devotions must render promises the way of salvation is owing to our partial of grace to you doubtful, even supposing you walking, and to the fluctuation of the soul beshould ever, after a thousand revolutions of tween religion and the world. The world comtransient piety, be in possession of true and real bats religion, religion combats the world. The religion. What think you of this question? A divided heart is the field of battle where this
violent combat is fought. To desire to enjoy the which nature and art seemed to have rendered pleasures of both virtue and sin is to enjoy nei- impregnable. They will describe both armies ther, and to partake of the inconveniences of animated with a fury unknown before, disputboth. To be at a point, to take a part, and to ing in carnage and blood with efforts unparaltake the wise part, is the source of true peace leled both for the greatness of the slaughter, and solid felicity.
and the glory of the victory. They will reBesides, this state of suspension which God present the most fruitful kingdom of Europe assumes in the text is violent, and cannot last under all the misery of scarcity, in this more long: Like motives of patience do not concur cruel than famine, it inflicts a more slow and at all times: witness the kingdom of Judah lingering death. They will speak of the lamentioned in the text, which was at length bourers howling for bread in the public roads; given up to the fury of the Chaldeans; witness and will tell of “a sudden ferocity next to this Ephraim, I mean the kingdom of the ten madness possessing multitudes, men seizing tribes, concerning whose destiny the prophet public convoys, snatching the bread from one seems in the text to waver; however, at length another's hands, decency, fidelity, and religion God determined their dispersion, and the tribes being dead."* were confounded with those idolatrous and So many victims sacrificed to divine venwicked people, whose immorality and idolatry geance, my brethren, so many plagues wasting they had too exactly copied. All the help of Europe, so many shocks of the earth, above bistory, and all the penetration of historians all, so great a share as our crimes had in kindare necessary to discover any trace of these ling the anger of God, should seem to shake people: if indeed the penetration of historians the foundations of this state, and to convulse and travellers have discovered any thing about and kill the greatest part of this auditory. them.
Yet this state still subsists, thanks to thine inBut why go back to remote periods of the finite mercy my God, the state yet subsists, and world to prove a truth which our own eyes though afflicted, distressed, and weary with a now behold in abundance of bloody demonstra- long and cruel war, it subsists as rich and as tions? If there ever were a year from the splendid as any country in the world. These foundation of the world, if there has ever been hearers too, yet subsist, thanks to thy mercy a year proper to prove these terrible truths, it my God, our eyes behold them, and by a kind is that which lately came to an end. The of miracle they have been preserved to the bedreadful events that distinguished it, and of ginning of another year. Preserved did I say? which we were if not the victims, at least the They have been crowned. And how does this witnesses, are too recent and too well known, year begin, this year which we never expected to need description. This year will be propos- to see, after a year distinguished by the three ed to the most distant posterity as one of the great evils, pestilence, famine, and war, how most alarming periods of divine vengeance. does it begin with us? It begins with the Future preachers will quote it as St. Jude for- smiles of heaven, with a participation of what merly did the subversion of Sodom, and the is most august in religion, with the descent of universal deluge. They will tell your posterity, the Holy Spirit into our hearts, with the rethat in the year one thousand seven hundred newing of our covenant with God, and, if I and nine the patience of God, weary with Eu- may be allowed to say so, it begins with an acrope, enveloped in one general sentence friend knowledgment on God's part, that his love and foe, almost the whole of that beautiful part will not allow of our destruction, how much of the world. They will say that all the soever we deserve to be destroyed. "O scourges of heaven in concert were let loose Ephraim, how shall I give thee up" O Israel, to destroy guilty nations. They will lead their how shall I deliver thee up? How shall í auditors over the vast kingdoms of the north, make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as and show them the Borysthenes stained with Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my blood, contagion flying rapidly as on the wings repentings are kindled together.” Ah! 'why of the winds, from city to city, from province must a joy so pure be mixed with a just fear to province, from kingdom to kingdom, ravag- that you will abuse his goodness? Why, across ing in one week so many thousand persons, in such a multitude of benefits must we be conthe next so many thousand more. They will strained to look at vengeance behind? O retell them of the kingdoms which were claimed public! nourished by heaven, by two princes, and by lively images of the the eyes of the Lord thy God are always fixed, cruel barbarities practised there, they will ren- from the beginning of the year even unto the der it doubtful whether it were a desire of con- end of the year," Deut. xi. 12; why must we quering or depopulating these kingdoms that be driven to-day to utter unpleasant omens, directed the arms of these rivals. They will along with the most affectionate benedictions represent that theatre of blood in Flanders,* And you believers who hear us, why, now that and describe in glowing colours troops on both we wish you a happy new year, must we be sides animated with equal fury, some to defend obliged to foretell an unhappy one? posts which seemed to need no defence but For what security have we that this year themselves, others to force intrenchments will be more holy than the last have we any
certainty that this communion will be more * Our author refers to the battle of Malplaquet, fought effectual than others? What security have we September the 11th, 1709, between the French army consisting of one hundred and twenty thousand men com
that the resolutions of this day will have more manded by Marshal Villars, and the contederate army influence over our lives than all before? Can consisting of nearly an equal number under the command
we be sure that the devotion of this day will of the Duke of Marlborough. The confederate army obtained the victory at the price of twenty thousand of their best troops.
* Flechier's pastoral letter. Vol. II.--12
chels weeping and refusing to be comforted,
new revolution would interest you, what cries
this voluptuous woman who refuses nothing to This morning you received the Lord's Sup- her senses, lying on a sick-bed, expiring in per, and with it peace of conscience, inward agony between the pain of a mortal malady consolation, ineffable pleasure, "joy unspeak- and the just fear of falling into the hands of an able and full of glory," if indeed you did feel angry God. Yonder you would behold that this, and if these are not in regard to you officer now crowned with laurels, and about to sounds without meaning. What! shall four reap a new harvest of glory in the next camdays, shall four days efface all these impres- paign, covered with tragical dust, weltering in sions? What! shall a worldly society, will a his own blood, and finding a grave where his sensual temptation, can a profane raillery bring imagination appointed victory to meet him. In you to violate all your resolutions, and to be all parts of this auditory, on the right hand, on guilty of perjury towards God? Do not fall the left, before, behind, by your side, in your into the puerility mentioned a little while ago, own pew, I should show you carcasses, and do not think the great truths you have felt to- probably he who hears us with the most indifday will cease to be, because you cease to think ference, and who secretly despises such as of them. Jesus died for you, Jesus gave him- tremble at our preaching, would himself serve self for you, Jesus demands your heart, Jesus to prove the truth we are delivering, and occupy promises you an eternity of happiness; this is the first place in this fatal list. true to-day, this will be true to-morrow and My brethren, Providence has not honoured all next week, during all your temptations and us with any new revelations, we have not a pleasures; and what, pray, can the world offer spirit of prophecy: but you have eyes, you have you in lieu of the heaven that came into your a memory, you have reason, and you are cerconscience? what to supply the place of that tain death will sacrifice many of you in the Redeemer, who this morning gave himself to course of this year. On whom will the temyou in a manner so affectionate?
pest fall? Who will first verify our predictions To this first motive add the other, the vanity You cannot tell; and on this ground you will of life, a vanity described by the renewing of brave death, on this you build castles of vanity, the year. I am aware how feeble this motive which attach you to the world. is to many of us. The past insures us for the My brethren, establish your tranquillity and future, and because we have never died, it happiness on foundations more firm and solid. seems to us as if we never should die.
If you be affected with the motives set before My brethren, you compel us to-day to set you this day, and now resolve to labour in the before you the most mournful images, which work of your salvation, only you fear the weakcan possibly strike your eyes. You oblige us ness of your resolutions, we will give you one to open wounds beginning to heal, and to an- more lesson easy and practicable, that is, that ticipate the sorrows of the present year; but every day of this year you retire one quarter what can be done? If we cannot detach men from of an hour and think of death. There put on the world, we must tear them away by force. in thought your shroud, lie down in your coffin,
Did we deceive you last year when we told light your funeral tapers. There, observe your you, that many who were present in this place family weeping, your physician aghast, your on new year's day, would not live through the long and melancholy train. There consider year? Has not the event fully verified the your friends, your children, your titles, your sad prediction? Answer me, ye disconsolate treasures removed for ever. There strike your widows, who saw your husbands, objects of the imagination with the salutary ideas of books purest and tenderest love, expire in your arms.opened, thrones prepared, actions weighed in Answer me, ye children in mourning, who fol- just balances. There lose yourself in the dark lowed your parents to the grave. How many economy of a future state. afflicted Jacobs are weeping for the loss of a Having heard our exhortations, receive our mother? How many Davids are saying in the benedictions. First, I turn myself toward the bitterness of their heart, “O my son Absalom, walls of that palace, where laws of equity, the O Absalom, my son, my son. Would God I glory and felicity of these provinces, are made; had died for thee! How many “Benonis, sons where the important questions which influence of sorrow," born at the "departing of the soul” | religion and the state, and shake all Europe,
your heart in
are agitated. Ye protectors of the church, our steps! While you subdue your enemies may masters and sovereigns, may God confirm the you experience this maxim of the Wise Man, power that you possess with so much glory!" he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that May God continue in your hands the reins of taketh a city.” this republic which you hold with so much Young people, receive our blessing: may you moderation and wisdom! God grant you may ever be preserved from the contagion of the first share the prosperity and glory which you world you are entering! May you devote the diffuse among all this people! Under your ad- inestimable days you enjoy to your salvation! ministration God grant religion may flourish, Now may you“ remember your Creator in the justice and peace flow over the whole world, days of your youth!" the Belgic name be respected, and the nation Receive our good wishes, old people, who victorious, and after you have been elevated to have already one foot in the grave, let us the pinnacle of terrestrial grandeur, may God rather say, who have already elevate you to everlasting glory!
heaven where your treasure is:" May you find I turn myself also to you, illustrious per- your “inward man renewed day by day, as sonages, who represent in these provinces the your outward man perisheth!" May you feel chief heads of the Christian world, and who in your soul strengthened as your bodies decay, a manner exhibit in this assembly princes, and when your house of clay falls may the electors, republics, and monarchs, may God gates of heaven open to you! open his richest treasures in favour of those Desolate countries, to you also we extend sacred persons who are gods upon earth, and our good wishes and prayers. You have been whose august characters you bear to enable many years the unhappy theatre of the most them to support sovereign power with dig- bloody war that ever was. May the “sword nity! God grant they may always have such of the Lord drunk with blood,” retire into its ministers as you, who understand how to make “scabbard, rest and be still!” May the destroysupreme authority both respected and feared! ing angel who ravages your fields, cease to God grant a confederacy formed for the secu- execute his commission! May your “swords rity of all nations and people may be continued! be beaten into ploughshares, and your spears And that my wishes may be more worthy of into pruning-hooks,” and may the dew of the majesty of this place, and the holiness of heaven succeed the shower of blood that for so my ministry, I pray God to unite you not only many years has been falling upon you. by the same temporal interest but by the same Are our benedictions exhausted? religion; may you have the same God for your this joyful day can we forget our griefs? Ye Father, the same Jesus for your Redeemer, the happy inhabitants of these provinces, so often same spirit for your guide, the same glory for troubled with a recital of our atllictions, we your hope! I own at the sight of these lords rejoice in your prosperity, will you refuse of the universe, to whom I have the honour to to compassionate our misfortunes? And you, address myself, I feel my insignificance, and I "firebrands plucked out of the burning," sad had suppressed all these wishes in my heart, and venerable ruins of our unhappy churches, had I not known that I speak the sense of all my dear brethren, whom the misfortunes of the this assembly, the benedictions of all the times have cast on this shore, can we forget the church, and the congratulations of the state. miserable remnants of ourselves? O ye groan
You also we bless, Levites holy to the Lord, ing captives, ye weeping priests, ye sighing ambassadors of the King of kings, ministers of virgins, ye festivals profaned, ye ways of Zion the new covenant, who have written on your mourning, ye untrodden paths, ye sad comforeheads “holiness to the Lord,” and on your plaints, move, O move all this assembly. “O breasts “the names of the children of Israel;" Jerusalem, if I forget thee, let my right hand and you, elders and deacons of this church, forget her cunning. Not remember thee! let who are as it were associated with us in the my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I work of the ministry, may God animate you prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy! O with the zeal of his house! God grant you Jerusalem, peace be within thy walls, and prosmay always take for your model the “chief perity within thy palaces. For my brethren Shepherd and Bishop of our souls!" God grant and companions' sake, I will now say peace be after you have "preached to others, you may within thee!" May God be moved, if not with not be cast away!" May you "turn many to the ardour of our prayers, yet with the excess righteousness," and afterward "shine as the of our afflictions; if not with our misfortunes, stars for ever and ever!"
yet with the desolation of his sanctuaries, if Receive our benediction, fathers and mothers not with the bodies we carry all about the of families, happy to see yourselves born again world, yet with the souls that are torn from us! in the persons of your children, happier still to And thou dreadful prince, whom I once bring those into the “ assembly of the first- honoured as my king, and whom I yet respect born,” whom you have brought into this valley as a scourge in the hand of Almighty God, of trouble! God grant your houses may be thou also shall have a part in my good wishes. sanctuaries, and your children offerings to the These provinces which thou threatenest, but “Father of spirits," the “God of the spirits which the arm of the Lord protects; this counof all flesh!”
try which thou fillest with refugees, but fugiAccept our good wishes, officers and soldiers, tives animated with love; these walls which you, who after so many battles are going to contain a thousand martyrs of thy making, but war again, you, who after escaping so many whom religion renders victorious, all these yet dangers are entering on a new march of perils: resound benedictions in thy favour. God grant may the God of battles fight incessantly for the fatal bandage that hides the truth from you! May victory constantly follow your thine eyes may fall off! May God forget the