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TO THE INHABITANTS
OF THE PARISHES OF
ST. MARY WOOLNOTH AND ST. MARY WOOLCHURCH,
THIS SERMON IS RESPECTFULLY ADDRESSED,
BY THEIR AFFECTIONATE SERVANT
IN THE GOSPEL,
THE GUILT AND DANGER OF SUCH A NATION AS THIS,
JEREMIAH, V. 29.
Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord : shall not my soul be avenge
on such a nation as this ?
THREE times* the Lord God repeats, by his prophet, this . alarming question. Their ingratitude and obstinacy were so notorious, their sins so enormous, and aggravated, the sentence denounced against them, however severe, was so undeniably just, that, partial as they were to themselves, God is pleased to appeal to their own consciences, and to make them judges in their own cause ; inviting, or rather challenging them, to offer any plea why his forbearance aud patience, which they had so long despised, should be still afforded them.
But the form of the question will not permit us to confine the application to Israel or Judah. The words are not, On this nation particularly, but “On such a nation as this." The Lord, the Governor of the earth, has provided, in the history of one nation, a lesson of instruction and warning to every nation under the sun ; and the nearer the state and spirit of any people resemble the state and character of Judah, when Jeremiah prophesied among them, the more reason they have to tremble under the apprehension of the same or similar judgments.
God brought Israel out of Egypt with an outstretched arm, divided the Red Sea before them, led them in the wilderness by a cloud and pillar of fire, fed them with manna, and gave them water from the rock. He planted them in a good land; and, though they often sinned, and were often punished, they were distinguished by many tokens of his presence, and effects of his goodness, above any other nation. In the time of Solomon, they possessed the height of human prosperity ; but they soon rebelled, and involved themselves in increasing troubles. And though the efforts and examples of Hezekiah and Josiah produced a temporary reformation, and procured a temporary respite, they weni on, upon the whole, from bad to worse, till the measure of their iniquity being filled up, and the season of God's long-suffering at an end, be directed the march of Nebuchadnezzar against them, who, because he was the appointed instrument of divine vengeance, could not fail of success. The temple and city of Jeru
salem were burnt, the land desolated, the greater part of the inhabitants destroyed, and the survivors led captives into a far distant land.
We likewise are a highly favoured people, and have long enjoyed privileges which excite the admiration and envy of surrounding nations; and we are a sinful ungrateful people ; so that when we compare the blessings and mercies we have received from the Lord, with our conduct towards him, it is to be feared we are no less concerned with the question in my text than Israel was of old. This is the point I propose to illustrate, as suitable to the design for which we are at this time professedly assembled.
Though the occasion will require me to take some notice of our public affairs, I mean not to amuse you with what usually is called a political discourse. The Bible is my system of politics. There I read, that the Lord reigns ;* that he doth what he pleaseth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth;t that no wisdom, understanding, counsel, or power, can prevail, without his blessing if that as righteousness exalteth a nation, so sin is a reproach, and will even totally be the ruin of any people. From these and other maxims of a like report, I am learning to be still, and to know that he is God. My part, as a minister of the Gospel of peace, is not to inflame, but, if possible, to sooth and sweeten the spirits of my hearers; to withdraw their attention from the instrumental and apparent causes of the calamities we feel or fear, and to fix it upon sin, as the original and proper cause of every other evil. As a peaceful and loyal subject, I profess and inculcate obedience to the laws of my country, to which I conceive myself bound by the authority of God's command, and by gratitude for the civil and religious liberty I possess. For the rest
, political disquisitions, except immediately connected with Scriptural principles, appear to me improper for å pulpit at all times, and more especially unseasonable and indecent on a day of public humiliation. I hope we are now met, not to accuse others, but to confess our own sins ; not to justify ourselves, but to plead for mercy.
May it please God, therefore, by the influence of his Holy Spirit, to impress the consciences of all present, and to make us attentive to our own immediate concerns, while I endeavour,
I. Briefly to delineate the state of the nation; or to show you what a nation this is.
II. To consider in what manner the righteous Judge and Gov. ernor of the earth might justly avenge himself of such a nation as this.
JII. To inquire, Whether there be any hope that such a nation as this can yet escape the impending ruin with which it is threaten
* Psalm xcvii. 1.
4 Dan. iv. 35.
Prov. xxi. 30.
Prov, xiv. 34. for us.
ed? and if there be, in what way this mercy is to be sought and expected ?
.). In order to estimate the state of the nation, we must attend to - iwo views, which, when contrasted, illustrate cach other, and, in their combination, constitute our national character, and discriminate it not only from that of every nation around us, but from all the kingdoms recorded in the history of past ages. I mean our national privileges and our national sins.
With regard to the first head, the peculiar privileges which, by the favour of Divine Providence, we have enjoyed as a people, I must be brief.. A full detail of them would 'require a volume. Though the island of Great Britain exhibits but a small spot upon a map of the globe, it makes a splendid appearance in the history of mankind, and has for a long space of time, been signally under the protection of God, and the seat of peace, liberty, and truth. When Christendom had groaned for ages under the
under the night of papal superstition, the first light of reformation dawned amongst us by the preaching and writings of Wickliffe. From that time we have possessed the knowledge of the Gospel, and God has had a succession of witnesses in our land; they have been, at different periods, exposed to suffering, and many of them were called to seal their testimony with their blood; but they could neither be intimidated nor extirpated. In Luther's time, when the pillars of Popery were more publicly and generally shaken, we were amongst the first who were animated and enabled to shake off the yoke of Rome; and God has often since remarkably interposed to preserve us from being brought into that bondage the second time. The spirit of persecution under various forms, has again and again at. tempted to resume its power, but has been as often restrained and defeated. Civil commotions likewise stand upon record in our annals; and our forefathers have felt miseries of which we can form but a very imperfect idea. But they suffered and struggled
The event of every contest and revolution contributed gradually to establish that happy basis of government which we call the British Constitution ; and, together with these advances in favour of liberty, an increase of commerce, wealth, and dominion, has been afforded us. From that distinguished æra, the Revolution, and more especially since the accession of the present royal family, we have enjoyed such an uninterrupted series of peace and prosperity, as cannot be paralled in the history of any nation we have heard of, not excepting even that of Israel. I call our peace uninterrupted; for the efforts of rebellion in the reigns of our two last kings were so speedily crushed, and were productive of so few calamities, except to the unhappy aggressors, that they are chiefly to be noticed as instances of the goodness of the Lord, who, notwithstanding we were then a sinful people, was pleased to fight our battles, and put our enemies to shame. I call it uninterrupted ; for though we have been engaged as principals in several foreign wars, and the storm fell with dreadful weight upon other countries, we at home knew but little of the war but from the public prints, which usually, after the first or second year, were filled with accounts of the successes and victories which the Lord of hosts (alas! by how few was he acknowledged) gave to our fleets and armies. When the last war terminated, we were at the height of national honour and power. Our arms were victorious, and our flags triumphant, wherever our operations had been directed, in the most distant and opposite parts of the globe. What an accession of empire and riches did we then acquire, while we were sitting, (if I may so speak) under our vines and fig-trees, undisturbed ; and while a considerable part of Germany, rather involved, than properly interested in our disputes, was almost desolated by fire and sword! And, notwithstanding our increasing provocations, every succeeding year has afforded signal proofs that, though the Lord is displeased with us, he has not yet forsaken us. If, in some instances, he has justly disappointed our expectations, he has, in others, appeared no less remarkably in in our favour ; defeating the designs of our enemies, protecting our commerce, and affording us in general, more plentiful harvests at home, since the war has rendered supplies from abroad more precarious and difficult. Add to our internal peace, wealth, and plenty, the inviolable immunity both of persons and property, in which we are preserved by the spirit and administration of our laws, and that unrestrained liberty which people of all sentiments and denominations possess and exercise, of worshipping God in the way they think most agreeable to his will. Must not a due consideration of these things constrain us to say, “ He hath not dealt so with any nation ?
What could the Lord have done more for his vineyard ?* How could he have laid a people under stronger obligations to his service? What returns might he not expect from such a nation as this? But, alas! we have requited him evil for good! Such a nation as this is very imperfectly described by an enumeration of privileges. I have a more painful task now to attend to; I should enumerate (were it possible) our national sins. It is but a sketch I can offer upon this immense andawful subject. But enough is obvious, and at hand, to make us tremble, if we regard the Scripture, and do, in our hearts, believe there is a God that governs the earth.t I wish you to keep in mind, as I proceed, the slight view I have given of the favours God has bestowed upon us. The recollection of his mercies is necessary to give a proper sense of the
* Isa. v. 4.
* Psalm lviii. 11.