« AnteriorContinuar »
they formerly did to David and Israel, and the kirgdoms of the countries, and leave an important impression upon us. We are either the better or the worse for the times that hare gone over us, and may be so to eternity. The vicissitudes that pass over us during a single human life, and the impressions which they leave behind them, are subjects, which, if realized, would overwhelm the mind. There is a current of national changes which are passing continually. What times have passed over the nations of Europe within our remembrance! Some have risen, some have fallen, some enlarged, and some contracted. What multitudes of lives have been lost! How much of human nature has been developed! What evidenoe has been afforded of the enmity of man's heart against the gospel, and the insufficiency of all human devices to give happiness to the world without it! What seeds have been sown for future change, the fruits of which may he seen to the end of time!
And while the page of history records the acts of the great, whether good or bad, there are others which it overlooks, but which are no less interesting, on account of the near relation they bear to us. There is a current of changes within the circle of our immediate acquaintance. What a number of deaths, of new faces, and of new circumstances! Property, power, and influence, have changed hands; those whose fathers were abject are raised on high; while others, who have been delicately educated, are sunk into wretchedness. Nor do these changes extend merely toour acquaintance, but to ourselves. There are few of us but have had our times of sickness and of health, of prosperity and of adversity, of joy and sorrow; times when unions were formed, and times when they have been dissolved; times when children have been born, and times when they have died; times when we have been so happy that we have thought nothing could make us miserable, and times when we have been so miserable as to despair of ever again being happy.
But these are things mostly of a civil nature. There is also a current of changes continually passing over us of a religious kind. The cause and kingdom of Christ, while in this world, is subject t» constant vicissitude. In some places it prospers, ia otherr it $c> clines. Upon the whole, however, it is going on, and it becomes us to mark its progress. It was in one life, that Israel forsook Egypt, and was planted in Canaan: in one life they were carried into captivity; and in one life brought back again : in one life the Son of God became incarnate, and accomplished our redemption: in one life the gospel was preached almost over the whole earth; in one life the reformation was effected; and it may be in one life that antichrist may come to his end, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. Our life has been cast in an eventful period, and that of our children may be more so.
But if, as has been remarked, the events of time bear a relation te us, and leave an impression upon us, it becomes us to inquire what impression those times which have passed over us, have left upon our minds:
Great numbers of them are disregarded, and they can leave no good impression. All that was wrought in Judea, in the times ef Augustus and Tiberius, was overlooked by the great mass of mankind. It filled some few with joy unspeakable ; but the world in general took but little notice of it. The Greeks. Romans, f and other nations, went on just as we do; scheming, intriguing, / buying, selling, amassing fortunes, spending them, waging wars, and struggling for the highest posts of honour. Many never heard of it, and most that did, cared for none of these things. With what contempt did Festus speak of a cause which came before him, relative to faith in Christ. Certain questions of Jewish superstition, and of one Jesus who was dead, and whom Paulaffirmeu to be alive! Many of those who beheld the miracles and heard the preaching bf the gospel, wondered and perished. Thus things of the greatest moment may pass over us disregarded, and consequently can leave no good impression. It was the same at the reformation from popery. God wrought a great work in that day: but the mass of mankind saw it not. They were each pursuing their schemes of ambition, or covetousness, or sensuality; and so did not profit fcy it: and thus it is at this day. The principal actors upon the theatre bf human affairs have their respective objects in view; but they see not God's hand. Nor is it much otherwise with the spectators: some admire, others fear, and others are filled with abhorrence; but few regard the works of the Lord, or discern the operations of his hands.
In others, the things which have passed over them may have made some degree of impression upon them, and yet the issue of it may be doubtful. Under threatening providences, or close preaching, they have been affected not a little; have heard the word gladly, and done many things: have been greatly moved, and reformed in their behaviour; but after all, it is doubtful whether their hearts be divorced from their idols.
On some, however, the things which have passed over us have had a good effect, and require to be recollected with thankfulness. One can remember a providence which brought him under the word, or into a praying family, or religious connexion; another, a conversation, a sermon, or a solitary walk, in which he saw and felt the light of life, and from which period his feet were turned from the ways of death.
Finally : A recollection of the times which have passed over us, over Israel, and over the nations, will furnish matter for much humility and trembling, even though we should have profited by them; and if we have not, it is a subject the realizing of which would overwhelm us. What opportunities have we had of glorifying God, which have passed by unnoticed; what instructive lessons, under which we have been dull of learning; what rebukes, without being effectually corrected ; and what narrow escapes from temptation, the falling into which had been worse than death! Neither have we sufficiently regarded the operations of God's hand upon the world and the church, so as to be properly affected by them. And if such reflections be furnished in regard of good men, what must be the retrospection of the wicked! Youth has passed over them, and left only the impression of guilt, shame, and remorse; or what is worse, a gust to re-act its follies, even when they have lost the capacity. Prosperity has made them proud, and adversity filled them with hardness and rebellion of heart. They have been afflicted, and have not called upon God; or if they have, no sooner has it subsided, than they have ceased. Death has approached them, and in their fright they have entered into solemn vows; but all have quickly been forgotten. How many slighted opportunities, solemn warnings, tender sermons, and powerful convictions will come into the account at the last day!
SKETCH OF A SERMON,
Delivered at the opening of the New Baptist Meeting-House, at Boston, Lincolnshire, June 25,1801.
THE GOOD MAN'S DESIRE FOR THE, SUCCESS OF
Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands e» tablish thou it.
In every undertaking we have an end or ends to answer, t» which all our labours are directed. It is no less so in religious undertakings than in others; and as these are pure, and worthy of pursuit, such is the good or evil of our exertions. What are, or at least should be, the great ends of a Christian congregation in rearing a place for divine worship? What are the main desires of serious people among you now it is reared? If I mistake not, they are depicted in the passage I have read:—That God's work may appear among you in your own time—that it may be continued to posterity—that God would beautify you with salvation— and prosper the work of your hands
The psalm was written by Moses, probably on occasion of the sentence of mortality passed upon the generation of Israelites which came out of Egpyt, on account of their unbelief, as recorded in the xixth chapter of Numbers. It was a heavy sentence, and very affectingly lamented by the holy man; but he discovers a greater concern for the cause of God, than for the loss of temporal comfort. He prays that they may be taught to make such a use of this awful providence as to apply their hearts unto wisdom; and that however God might afflict them, during forty years wandering in the wilderness, he would bless them with spiritual prosperity.
This prayer was answered. That generation which was trained in the wilderness, was perhaps, the best that Israel exhibited during their existence as a nation. It was of them that the Lord himself spake, saying, / remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals when thou wenlest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel then was holiness to the Lord. May our prayer for the prosperity of God's cause among us be thus answered!
All I shall attempt will be, to review the objects desired, and show the desirableness of them.
The objects desired, though expressed by the Jewish lawgiver, have'nothing in them peculiar to that dispensation; but are equally suited to our times as to others. They prove that the cause oi God is one, through every dispensation, and is directed to one great end—the establishment of truth and righteousness in the earth.
The first branch of this comprehensive petition is, that God's work might appear unto his servants. All God's works are great. Creation is full of his glory: providence is no less so: and each is sought out by them that have pleasure therein. But it is evident that by the work of God, in this connexion, is meant the operation of his grace. When the Almighty took Israel to be his