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from you : yea,
moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth : they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will 'hide mine eyes
many prayers, I will not hear : your hands are full of blood.
. Wash you, make you clean ; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes ; cease to do evil ; learn to do well; seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
very remarkable. Sacrifices, burnt-offerings, oblations, incense, the feast of the new moons, sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, were all what God himself had commanded to the Jews. They were of his own appointing. Yet how does he speak of them in the place before us? “ To what purpose is the multitude of sacrifices ? I am full of burnt offerings; I delight not in the blood of bullocks; your oblations are vain ; incense is an abomination ; your new moons and your feasts my soul hateth: I am weary of them.” And whence was all this? How came this change, as one may say, in God's esteem and opinion of these ordinances ? He tells them, “ Your hands are full of blood ;” and what were they to do to make God again propitious to their services ? How were they then to make their acts of religion again acceptable to him ? He tells them this also : “ Cease to do evil, learn to do well ; seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” So the very acts of worship and devotion which God himself had commanded, when they were made to stand in the place of justice, mercy, humanity, and the like—when they served as an excuse for neglecting or breaking through moral duties, became detestable in his sight.
The point we set out with was, that acts of outward piety and devotion signify nothing unless accompanied with real inward virtue and goodness; that they will in no wise make up for the neglect of moral duties; that they afford in the sight of God, I mean, no sort of reason or excuse for the practice of actual vice; and I think we have proved them to be our Saviour's doctrine to a demonstration, as well as what God himself had declared to the Jews long before our Saviour's time.
PSALM XXII. 28.
The kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the governor
among the nations.
The doctrine conveyed to us in these words is that of a national providence : and it is a doctrine no less agreeable to reason than comfortable to the human mind. It must, therefore, afford us the highest satisfaction to find this truth confirmed by the sacred writers, in the clearest and the strongest terms. The Scriptures are full of the most gracious promises to righteous nations, and of the most dreadful denunciations against wicked and impenitent kingdoms; and it is well known that neither these promises nor these threatenings were vain.
The history of the Jewish people (more especially) is scarce any thing else than the history of God's providential interposition to punish or reward them according as they obeyed or disobeyed his laws. And although we should admit that, on account of the peculiar circumstances of that people, and the unexampled form of their government, this case cannot be fairly compared with that of other nations, yet there are not wanting some which may. In the ancient world, there were four celebrated empires which rose one after another, and successively filled the age with astonishment
and terror ; yet these, it appears, were nothing more than mighty instruments in the hand of God, to execute his various dispensations of mercy, or of justice, on the Jewish or other nations; and to prepare the way gradually for the introduction of another kingdom of a very different nature, and superior to them all. Their rise and fall were predicted in the sacred writings (by Daniel most especially, chapter 7, 8,) long before they existed ; and some extraordinary characters, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and others, were, though unknown to themselves, the instruments of the Almighty, raised up at certain appointed times, and furnished with great power, as well as with other qualifications, to perform all his pleasure and fulfil his views : “ I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone ; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish ; that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messenger. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” Thus we see that what is considered as the common vicissitude of human affairs—peace and war-pestilence and famine-political changes and national revolutions—the passions of the wicked—the virtues of the good—the shining qualities of the great; every thing, in short, that the world calls accident, chance, and fortune, are all, in fact, under the control of an invisible and over-ruling hand ; which, without any violation of the laws of nature, or the freedom of human actions, renders them subservient to the gracious purposes of divine wisdom in the government of the world.
We of this kingdom have been most remarkably
favoured with the visible protection of Heaven ; and there are in our own history so many marks of a divine interference, that if we do not acknowledge it, we are either the blindest or the most ungrateful people on earth. Let me more particularly call your attention to the following very singular circumstances in some of the greatest events that have happened in this country.
Our separation from the church of Rome was begun by the passions of a prince, who meant nothing in the world less than that reformation of religion which was the consequence of it. The total dispersion and over
. throw of what was profanely called the invincible armada was effected almost entirely by winds and tempests. That dreadful popish conspiracy, which seemed guarded by darkness and silence against all possibility of detection, was at last casually discovered by an indiscreet and obscure letter. At a time when there appeared no hope of ever recovering our ancient form of government, it suddenly rose from the ruins in which the tragedy of those times had involved it, under the direction of a man who had helped to destroy it, and who seemed almost to the last moment undecided whether he should restore or destroy it again.
Our deliverance in the following reign from the attempts of a gloomy tyrant to enslave both body and soul was brought about by the concurrence of the most surprising incidents, co-operating, at the critical moment upon which the whole depended, with the noblest efforts of true patriotism.
These are a few remarkable facts selected from a multitude of others, scarce less extraordinary; and they bear evident traces stamped upon them of a superior power.
Now it may appear to some, that the calamities which