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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. Amen. us, treading on our heels, the sentence already preparing, and the account which God is about to require. Let us distrust ourselves in pros
SERMON XCII. perity: let us never forget what we are; let us have people about us to recall its recollection:
THE VOICE OF THE ROD. let us request our friends constantly to cry in
Preached Nov. 20, 1720. our ears, remember that you are loaded with crimes; that you are but dust and ashes; and
Micah vi. 9. in the midst of your grandeur, and your rank, remember that you are poor, frail, wretched,
Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. and abject.
Awful indeed was the complaint which 4. In short, the beguiling charms of pleasure Jeremiah once made to God against Israel: are the first solution of the difficulty proposed, “O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they and the last instruction we derive from the fall have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, of Solomon. The sacred historian has not over- but they have refused to receive correction: looked this cause of the faults of this prince. they have made their faces harder than a rock," “Solomon loved many strange women, and Jer. v. 3. Here is a view of the last period they turned away his heart from the Lord,” of corruption; for however insuperable the cor1 Kings xi. 1. 3. I am here reminded of the ruption of men may appear, they sin less by enwretched mission of Balaam. Commanded by mity than dissipation. Few are so consummatepowerful princes, allured by magnificent re- ly wicked as to sin solely through the wantonwards, his eyes and heart already devoured the ness of crime. The mind is so constantly atpresents which awaited his services. He as- tached to exterior objects, as to be wholly abcended a mountain, he surveyed the camp of the sorbed by their impression; and here is the Israelites, he invoked by turns the power of ordinary source of all our vice. Have we soine God's Spirit, and the power of the devil. Find- real, or some imaginary advantage? The idea ing that prophecy afforded him no resource, of our superiority engrosses our whole attenhe had recourse to divinations and enchant- tion: and here is the source of our pride. Are mentş. Just on the point of giving full effect we in the presence of an object congenial to to his detestable art, he felt himself fettered by our cupidity? The sentiment of pleasure imthe force of truth, and exclaimed,“ there is no mediately fills the whole capacity of the soul; enchantment against Jacob, there is no divina- and here is the source of our intemperance: it tion against Israel,” Numb. xxxiii. 23. He is the same with every vice. Have you the temporized; yes, he found a way to supersede art of fixing the attention of men, of recalling all the prodigies which God had done and ac- their wandering thoughts: and thereby of recomplished for his people. This way was the claiming them to duty; you will acknowledge, way of pleasure. It was, that they should no that the beings you had taken for monsters, are more attack the Israelites with open force, but really men, who, as I said, sin less by malice with voluptuous delights; that they should no than dissipation. more send among them wizards and enchant- But of all the means calculated to produce ers, but the women of Midian, to allure them the recollection so essential to make us wise, to their sacrifices; then this people, before in- adversity is the most effectual. How should vincible, I will deliver into your hands!!! a man delight his heart with a foolish gran
Of 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 have refused to receive instruction; they have us restrict our senses. Let us mortify our made their faces harder than a rock.” members which are on the earth. Let us “O Lord, thou hast stricken them.” My crucify the flesh with the concupiscence. And brethren, the first part of our prophet's words by the way prescribed in the gospel; the way is now accomplished in our country, and in a of retirement, of silence, of austerity, of the very terrific manner. Some difference the cross, and of mortification, let us attain hap- mercy of God does make between us, and those piness, and immortal bliss. May God grant I neighbouring nations, among whom the plague
is making so dreadful a progress; but though | sentiments of terror and awe: this is the second our horizon is not yet infected, though the disposition of a fast. If we examine their origin breath of our hearers is not yet corrupt, and and cause, we shall be softened with sentiments though our streets present not yet to our view of sorrow and repentance: this is the third disheaps of dead, whose mortal exhalations, position of a fast. If we, lastly, discover the threaten the living, and to whose burial, those remedies and resources, we shall be animated who survive are scarcely sufficient, we are with the sentiments of gehuine conversion: this nevertheless under the hand of God; I would is the fourth disposition of a fast. It is by resay, under his avenging hand; his hand already flections of this kind that I would close these uplifted to plunge us into the abyss of national solemn duties, and make, if I may so speak, the ruin. What else are those plagues which applications of those energetic words addressed walk in our streets? What is this mortality to us by the servants of God on this day. of our cattle which has now continued so many I. “Hear ye the rod:” feel the strokes with years' what else is this suspension of credit, which you are already struck. There is one this loss of trade, this ruin of so many families, disposition of the mind which may be conand so many more on the brink of ruin? “O founded with that we would wish to inspire. Lord, thou hast stricken them.” The first part The sensation of these calamities may be so then is but too awfully accomplished in our strong as to unnerve the understanding, and country,
overspread the mind with a total gloom and deI should deem it an abuse of the liberty al- jection. The soul of which we speak, feasts on lowed me in this pulpit, were I to say, without its grief, and is wholly absorbed in the causes restriction, that the second is likewise accom- of its anguish. The privation of a good once plished; “but they have not grieved." The enjoyed, renders it perfectly indifferent as to the solemnity of the day; the proclamation of our blessings which still remain. The strokes which fast; the whole of these provinces prostrated to God has inflicted, appear to it the greatest of day at the feet of the Most High; so many voices all calamities. Neither the beauties of nature, crying to Heaven, “O thou sword of the Lord, nor the pleasures of conversation, nor the mointoxicated with blood, return into thy scab- tives of piety, have charms adequate to extinbard;" all would convict me of declamation, if guish, nor even assuage anguish which corrodes I should say, "O Lord thou hast stricken them, and consumes the soul. Hence those torrents but they have not grieved.”
of tears; hence those deep and frequent sighs; But, my brethren, have we then no part in hence those loud and bitter complaints; hence this reproach? Do we feel as we ought, the those unqualified augurs of disaster and ruin. calamities that God hath sent? Come to-day, To feel afflictions in this way, is a weakness of Christians; come and learn of our prophet to mind which disqualifies us for supporting the hearken to the voice of God. What voice? the slightest reverses of life. It is an ingratitude voice strong and mighty; the voice which light- which obstructs our acknowledging the favours eneth with flames of fire; the loud voice of his of that God, who,“ in the midst of wrath, rejudgments. “Hear ye the rod, and him who members mercy," and who never so far afflicts hath appointed it.”
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.- 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 on our left, Ps. xci. 7. We banish these ideas: to hear thy voice. “Speak, Lord, for thy ser- but this being difficult to do, we repose behind vants hear.” And you, my brethren, " Hear intrenchments which they cannot penetrate; ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it.” and by augmenting the confusion of the pasAmen.
sions, we endeavour to divert our attention from This, in substance, is,
the calamities of the public. 1. To feel the strokes of God's hand:
The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a phiII. To trace their consequences and conner- losophical apathy. We brave adversity. We ions:
fortify ourselves with a stoical firmness. We III. To examine their origin and causes. account it wise, superior wisdom to be unmoved IV. To discover their resources and remedies. by the greatest catastrophes. We enshroud the This is to comply with the exhortation of Mi- mind in an ill-named virtue; and we pique ourcah; this is to shelter ourselves from the charge selves on the vain glory of being unmoved, of Jeremiah; this is especially to comply with though the universe were dissolved. the design of this solemnity. If we feel the The insensibility we wish to prevent is that strokes of God's hand, we shall shake off a cer- which arises from a stupid ignorance. Some tain state of indolence in which many of us are men are naturally more difficult to be moved found, and be clothed with the sentiments of than the brutes destitute of reason. They are humiliation: this is the first duty of the day. If resolved to remain where they are, until extriwe trace the consequences and connexion of cated by an exterior cause; and these are the our calamities, we shall be inspired with 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
nisters are, the tempests; the murrain; the
ten years; the districts they have ravaged; the
The mere approaches of this calamity filled us
though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee,” times wonder how they can enjoy the least re-
pose in places where the earth often quakes;
should harden our hearts against both pestilence Does he afflict us to make manifest the enor- and famine; we should attend concerts, though mity of vice?
To correspond with his design, the streets were thronged with the groans of we must acknowledge the equity of his hand. dying men, and join the public games in preWe must acknowledge the horrors of the ob- sence of the destroying angel sent to extermijects our passions had painted with such be- nate the nation. guiling tints. Amid the anguish consequent on The third minister of God's vengeance, excrimes, we must put the question to ourselves citing us to sensibility, is the plague, which rawhich St. Paul put to the Romans; “What vages a neighbouring kingdom. Your provinces fruits had you then in those things, whereof you do not subsist of themselves; they have an intiare now ashamed? For the end of those things mate relation with all the states of Europe. is death.” Sensibility of the strokes God has And such is the nature of their constitution, already inflicted by his rod, was the first dis- that they not only suffer from the prosperity, position of mind which Micah in his day, re- but even from the adversity, of their enemies. quired of the Jews.
But what do I say? from their enemies! The If you ask what those strokes were with which people whom God has now visited with this God afflicted the Israelites, it is not easy to give awful scourge, are not our enemies; they are you satisfaction. The correctest researches of our allies; they are our brethren; they are our chronology do not mark the exact period in fellow-countrymen. The people on whom God which Micah delivered the words of my text. has laid his hand in so terrible a manner, is the We know only that he exercised his ministry kingdom which gave some of us birth, and under three kings, under Jotham, under Ahaz, which still contains persons to whom we are under Hezekiah; and that under each of these united by the tenderest ties. Every stroke this kings, God afflicted the kingdom of Judah, and kingdom receives, recoils on ourselves, and it of Israel with severe strokes.—And the solem- cannot fall without involving us in its ruins. nities of the present day excuse me from the The fourth minister of the God of vengeance, laws, binding to a commentator, of illustrating which calls for consideration, is the spirit of a text in all the original views of the author. slumber. It would seem that God had desigWe must neither divert our feelings nor divide nated our own hands to be our own ruin. It our attention, between the calamities God sent I 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 harII. This rod requires us, secondly, to trace mony between happiness and virtue, misery the causes and the origin of our calamities. and crime. Micah wished the Jews to comprehend that 2. This harmony is equally found in the the miseries under which they groaned were a great circles of national society. I am not consequence of their crimes. We would wish wholly unacquainted with the maxims which you to form the same judgment of yours. But a false polity would advance on the subject. I here the subject has its difficulties. Under a am not ignorant of what Hobbes, Machiavel, pretence of entering into the spirit of humilia- and their disciples, ancient and modern, have tion, there is danger of our falling into the said. And I frankly confess, that I feel the puerilities of superstition. Few subjects are force of the difficulties opposed to this general more fertile in erroneous conclusions than this thesis, of the happiness of nations being insepasubject. Temporal prosperity and adversity rable from their innocence. But notwithstandare very equivocal marks of the favour and dis- ing all the difficulties of which the thesis is pleasure of God. If some men are so wilfully susceptible, I think myself able to maintain, blind as not to see that a particular dispensa- and prove, that all public happiness founded tion of Providence is productive of certain pun- crime, is like the happiness of the individual ishments, there are others who fancy that they just described. It is a state of violence, which every where see a particular providence. The cannot be permanent. From the sources of commonest occurrences, however closely con- those same vices on which a criminal polity nected with secondary causes, seem to them would found the happiness of the state, prothe result of an extraordinary counsel in him ceeds a long train of calamities which are eviwho holds the helm of the world. The slight- dently productive of total ruin. est adversity they regard as a stroke of his an- Without encumbering ourselves with these gry arm. Generally speaking, we should al- discussions, without reviving this controversy, ways recollect that the conduct of Providence the better to keep in view the grand objects is involved in clouds and darkness. We should of the day, I affirm, that the calamities under form the criterion of our guilt or innocence not which we groan are the necessary consequence by the exterior prosperity or adversity sent of of our crimes; and in such sort, that though God, but by our obedience or disobedience to there were no God of vengeance who holds the his word; and we should habituate ourselves to helm of the universe, no judge ready to exesee, without surprise in this world, the wicked cute justice, our degeneracy into every vice prosperous, and the righteous afllicted. would suffice to involve our country in misery.
But notwithstanding the obscurity in which Under what evils do we now groan? Is it it has pleased God to involve his ways, there because our name is less respected? Is it beare cases, in which we cannot without impiety cause our credit is less established? Is it berefuse assent, that adversity is increased by cause our armies are less formidable? Is it becrimes. It is peculiarly apparent in two cases: cause our union is less compact But whence first, when there is a natural connexion between do these calamities proceed? Are they the the crimes you have committed, and the ca- mysteries of " a God, who hideth himself?” lamities we suffer: the second is, when the great Are they strokes inflicted by an invisible hand? calamities immediately follow the perpetration Or are they the natural effects and consequenof enormous crimes. Let us explain:
ces 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, found statesmen, you who send us to our books, and the calamity we suffer. One of the finest and to the dust of our closets, when we talk proofs of the holiness of the God, to whom all of Providence, and of plagues inflicted by an creatures owe their preservation and being, is avenging God, I summon your speculation and derived from the harmony he has placed be- superior information to this one point; "oar tween happiness and virtue. Trace this har- destruction is of ourselves:” and the Judge of mony in the circles of society, and in private the universe has no need to punish our crimes life. 1. In private life. An enlightened mind but by our crimes. can find no solid happiness but in the exercise I have said, in the second place, that great of virtue. The passions may indeed excite a calamities following great crimes, ought to be
regarded as their punishment. And shall we with which we are struck, is to develop their refuse, in this day of humiliation, ascribing to consequences and connexions. Some calamithis awful cause the strokes with which we are ties are less formidable in themselves than in afflicted Cast your eyes for a moment on the the awful consequences they produce. There nature of the crimes which reproach these pro- are “deeps which call unto deeps at the noise vinces. All nations have their vices, and vices of God's water-spouts,” Ps. xlii. 8; and to sum in which they resemble one another; all nations up all in one word, there are calamities whose afford the justest cause for reprehension. Read distinguished characteristic is to be the fore the various books of morality; consult the ser- runners of calamities still more terrible. Such mons delivered among the most enlightened was the character of those inflicted on the kingnations, and you will every where see that the dom of Judah and of Israel in Micah's time, as great are proud, the poor impatient, the aged is awfully proved by the ruin of both. covetous, the young voluptuous, and so of Is this the idea we should form of the plagues every class. Meanwhile all sorts of vice have with which we are struck? Never was question not a resemblance. Weigh a passage in Deu- more serioụs and interesting, my brethren; and, teronomy in which you will find a distinction at the same time, never was question more delibetween sin and sin, and a distinction worthy cate and difficult. Do not fear, that forgetting of peculiar regard. “Their spot,” says Moses, the limits with which it has pleased God to “is not the spot of the children of God,” xxxii. circumscribe our knowledge, we are about with 5. There is then a spot of the children of God, a profane hand to raise the veil which conceals and a spot which is not of his children. There futurity, and pronounce with temerity awful are infirmities found among a people dear to predictions on the destiny of these provinces. God, and there are defects incompatible with We shall merely mark the signs by which the his people. To receive the sacrament of the prophet would have the ancient people to unEucharist, but not with all the veneration re- derstand, that the plagues God had already in. quired by so august a mystery; to celebrate flicted were but harbingers of those about to days of humiliation, but not with all the deep follow. Supply by your own reflections, the repentance we should bring to these solemni- cautious silence we shall observe on this subties; these are great spots; but they are spots ject: examine attentively what connexion may common to the children of God. To fall, exist between calamities we now suffer, and however, as the ancient Israelites, whose eyes those which made the ancient Jews expect a were still struck with the miracles wrought on total overthrow. And those signs of an imtheir leaving Egypt; "to change the glory of pending calamity are less alarming in themGod into the similitude of an ox that eateth selves, than the dispositions of the people on grass; and to raise a profane shout. These be whom they are inflicted. thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee 1. One calamity is the forerunner of a greatup out of the land of Egypt,” is a spot, but er, when the people whom God afflicts have not “the spot of the children of God," Exod. recourse to second causes instead of the first xxxii. 8.
cause; and when they seek the redress of their Now, my brethren, can you cast your eyes calamities in political resources, and not in reon 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 requi- David, that they are many: and ye gathered site for the adequate discharge of professional together the waters of the lower pool. And duties. Profaneness is so prevalent, and indif- ye have numbered the house of Jerusalem, and ference for the homage we pay to God is so the houses have ye broken down to fortify the awful, that we see people passing whole years wall. Ye made also a ditch between the two without ever entering our sanctuaries; me- walls, for the water of the old pool; but ye chanics publicly follow their labour on the sab- have not looked unto the Maker thereof, neibath; women in the polished circles of society ther have ye had respect unto him that fachoose the hour of our worship to pay their shioned it long ago. And in that day did the visits, and expose card-tables, if I may so speak, Lord God of Hosts call to weeping and to in the sight of our altars. Infidelity is so rife, mourning, and to plucking of the hair, and to that the presses groan with works to immorta- girding with sackcloth. And behold, joy and lize blasphemies against the being of God, and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating to sap the foundation of public morals. How flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink easy would it be to swell this catalogue! My for to-morrow we shall die. And it was rebrethren, on a subject so awful, let us not de- vealed in mine ears by the Lord of Hosts, sureceive ourselves; these are not the spots of the ly this iniquity shall not be purged from you." children of God; they are the very crimes It belongs to you to make the application of which bring upon nations, the malediction of this passage; it belongs to you to inquire what God, and which soon or late occasion their to- resemblance our present conduct may have to tal overthrow.
that of the Jews in a similar situation. WheIII. To feel the calamities under which we ther it is to the first cause you have had renow groan, and to trace their origin is not course for the removal of your calamities, or enough: we must anticipate the future: the whether you have solely adhered to second third sort of regard required for the strokes I causes? whether it is the maxims of religion