« AnteriorContinuar »
are in connexion with Mr. Wesley; about twenty, who are of the Established Church, bave no connexion with either; and about seventy are Dissenters; who make, in all, an hundred and sixty. There are indeed many more, who assist in the work by occasional subscriptions.
II. 1. These are the steps which have been hitherto taken in prosecution of this design. I am, in the Second place, to show the Excellency thereuf, notwithstanding the Objections which have been raised against it. Now this may appear from several cc.siderations. And, first, from hencc; That the making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousriess, which overspread our land as a flood, is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of his enemies. It is giving glory to God, and showing mankind, that even in tlıcse dregs
“There are, who faith prefer,
Though few, and picty to Godl.” And what more excellent, than to render to God the honour duc auto his name? To declare, by a stronger proof than words, cren by suffering, and running all hazards, “Verily there is a reward for the righteous; doubtless there is a God that judgeth the carth?”
2. How excellent is the design, to prevent, in any degree, the dishonour done to his glorious Name, the contempt which is poured on his authority, and the scandal brought upon our buly Religion, by the gross, flagrant wickedness of those who are still called by the name of Christ ? To stem, in any degree, the torrent of vice, to repress the floods of ungodliness, 10 rumore, in any measure, those occasions of blaspheming the worthy name whereby we are called, is one of the noblest designs that can possibly enter into the heart of man to conceive.
3. And as this design thus evidently tends to bring “glory io God in the highest,” so it no less manifestly conduces to the establishing peace upon earth."
For as all sin directly tends, both to destroy our peace with God, by setting him at open defiance, to bauish peace from our own breasts, and to set every man's sword against bis neighbour; so whatever prevents or removes sin, does in the same degree promote peace, both peace in our own soul, peace with God, and peace with one another. Such are the genuine fruits of this design, even in the present world. But why should we confine our views to the narrow bounds of time and space ? Rather pass over these
into eternity. And what fruit of it shall we find there? Let the Apostle speak: “Brethren, if one of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, (not to this or that opinion, but to God,] let him know, that he which converteth the sinuer from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins." (Jam, v. 19, 20.)
4. Nor is it to individuals only, whether those who bctray others into sin, or thosc that are liable to be betrayed and destroyed by them, that the benefit of this design redoupds ; but to the whole community whereof we are members. For is it not a sure observation, “Righteousness exalteth a nation ?" And is it not as sure, on the other hand, that “ sin is a reproach to any people," yea, and bringeth down the curse of God upon them? So far, therefore, as rightcousness, in any branch, is promoted, so far is the national interest advanced. So far as sin, especially open sin, is restrained, the curse and reproach are removed from us. Whoever, therefore, they are that labour herein, they are general benefactors; they are the truest friends of their King and country. And in the same proportion as their design takes place, there can be no doubt, but God will give national prosperity, in accomplishment of his faithful word; “ Them that honour me, I will honour."
5. But it is objected; ' However excellent a design this is, it does not concern you. For are there not persons to whom the repressing these offences, and punishing the offenders, properly belong? Are there not constables, and other parish officers, who are bound by oath to this very thing?' There
Constables and church-wardens, in particular, are engaged by solemn oaths to give due information against profaners of the Lord's Day, and all other scaudalous sinners. But if they leave it undone, if, notwithstanding their oaths, they trouble not themsclves about the matter, it concerns all that fear God, that love mankind, and that wish well to their King and country, to pursue this design with the very same vigour as if there were no officers cxisting; it being just the same thing, if they are of no use, as if they had no being.
6. • But this is only a pretence: their real design is to get moncy by giving information. So it has frequently and roundly been affirmed; but without the least shadow of truth. The contrary may be proved by a thousand instances : no member of the Society takes any part of the money which is by the law allotted to the informer. They ucver did from
the beginning ; nor does any of them crer receive any thing to suppress or withdraw their information. This is another mistake, if not wilful slander, for which there is not the least foundation.
7. “But the design is impracticable. Vice is risen to such a hcad, that it is impossible to suppress it; especially by such
For what can a handful of poor people do, in opposition to all the worki?' “ With men this is impossible, but not with God." And they trust not in themselves but Him. Be then the patrons of vice never so strong, to Him they are po more than grasshoppers. And all means are alike to Him : It is the same thing with God “to deliver by many or by feir." The small number, therefore, of those who are on the Lord's side, is nothing; neither the great number of those that are against Him. Still lie doeth whatever pleascth him; and “there is no comsel nor strength against the Lord.”
8. “But if the end you aim at be really to reform sinners, you choose the wrong meaos.
It is the Word of Gud must eflect this, and not human laws; and it is the work of ministers, hot of magistrates; therefore, the applying to these can only produce an outirard reformation; it makes to change in the heart.'
It is true the Word of God is the chief, ordinary mcars, whereby he changes both the hearts and lives of sinners; and he does this, chicdly, by the ministers of the Gospel. But it is like. wise true, that the magistrate is “the minister of God;" and that he is designed of God to be “a terror to cvil doers," by exceuting human laws upon them. If this does not change the heart; yet, to prevent outward sin is one valuable point Guined. There is so much the less dishonour dore to God; less scandal brought on our holy Religion ; less curse and reproach upon our vation ; less temptation laid in the way of others; yea, and less wrath heaped up by the sinners themselves against the day of wrathi.
9. ' Vay, rather more ; for it makes many of them hypocrites, pretending to be wbat they are not. Others, by exposing them to shame, and putting them to expense, are made impudent and desperate in wickedness: so that in reality none of them are any better, if they are not worse, than they were before.'
This is a mistake all over. For, (1.) Where are these wypocrites. We know one who have pretended to be what they were nei. (2.) The exposing obstinate cilenders to shame and putting them to expense, does not make them desperate in offending, but afraid to offend. (3.) Some of them, far from being worse, are substantially better ; the whole tenour of their lives being changed. Yea, (4.) Some are inwardly changed, even “ from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God."
10. “But many are not convinced, that buying or selling on the Lord's Day is a sin.'
If they are not convinced, they ought to be; it is high time they should. The case is as plain as plain can be. For if an open, wilful breach, both of the Law of God and the law of the land, is not sin, pray what is ? And if such a breach of divine and human laws is not to be punished, because a man is not convinced it is a sin, there is an end of all execution of justice, and all men may live as they list!
11. “But mild methods ought to be tried first.' They ought : and so they are. A mild admonition is given to every offender, before the law is put in execution against him ; nor is any man prosecuted, till he has express notice, that this will be the case, unless he will prevent that prosecution by removing the cause of it. In every case, the mildest method is used which the nature of the case will bear; nor are severer meaus ever applied, but when they are absolutely necessary to the end.
12. Well, but after all this stir about reformation, what real good has been done ? ' Unspeakable good; and abundantly more than any one could have expected in so short a time, considering the small number of the instruments, and the difficulties they had to encounter. Much evil has been already prevented, and much has been removed. Many sinners have been outwardly reformed; some have been inwardly changed. The honour of Him whose name we bear, so openly affronted, has been openly defended. And it is not easy to determine, how many and how great blessings, even this little stand, made for God and his cause, against his daring enemies, may already have derived upon our whole nation. On the whole, then, after all the objections that can be made, reasonable men may still conclude, a more excellent design could scarce cver enter into the heart of man.
III. 1. But what Manner of Men ought they to be, who engage in such a design? Some may imagine, any that are willing to assist therein ought readily to be adınitted ; and that the greater the number of members, the greater will be their influence. But this is by no means true: matter of fact Vol. I. No. 14,
undeniably proves the contrary. While the former Society for Rcformation of Manners consisted of chosen members only, though neither many, rich, nor powerful, they broke through all opposition, and were eminently successful in every branch of their undertaking; but when a number of men, less carefully chosen, were received into that Society, they grew less and less useful, till, by insensible degrees, they dwindled into nothing.
2. The number therefore of the members is no more to be attended to, than the riches or eminence. This is a work of God. It is undertaken in the name of God, and for his sake. It follows, that men who neither love nor fear God have no part or lot in this matter. Why takest thou my covenant in thy mouth;” may God say to any of these; " whereas thou [thyself] hatest to be reformed, and hast cast my words behind thee?” Toerer, therefore, lives in any known sin, is not fit to engage in reforming sinners: More especially if be is guilty in any instance, or in the least degree, of profaping the name of God; of buying, selling, or doing any unnecessary work on the Lord's Day; or offending in any other of those instances, which this Society is peculiarly designed to reform. No: let jone who stands himself in need of this reformation, presume to medule with such an undertaking. First let him “pull the beam out of his own eye:” Let him be hinıself unblumeable in all things.
3. Not that this will suffice: Every one cngaging herein, should be more thau a harmless man. He should be a man of Faith; having at least such a degree of that "evidence of things not seen,” as to aim “ pot at the things that are seen, wbich are temporal, but at those that are not seen, which are cternal;” such a faith as produces a steady fear of God, with a lasting resolution, by his grace, to abstain from all that he has forbidder, and to do all that he has commanded. He will more especially need that particular branch of faith, Confidence in God. It is this faith which “removes mountains;" which “ quenches the violence of fire ;” which breaks through all opposition ; and enables one to stand against and “chase a thousand,” kuowing in whom his strength lies, and, even when he has the “ sentence of death in himself, trusting in Him who raiseth the dead.”
4. He that has faith and confidence in God, will of consequence be a man of Courage. And such it is highly needful every man should be, who engages in this undertaking : for