« PreviousContinue »
termine, whether any thing could have been done in “ it, which had not been done?” Why then did it bear only wild or poisonous grapes, when good grap.es might have been expected from it? A similar appeal will at length be made to every man; and though now self-love
warps the judgment, yet the LORD will at last condemn none, who will not be constrained to condemn themselves, and to justify him in their condemnation.
Israel being thus brought in guilty, the Lord next proceeds to denounce sentence against the nation; de. claring that he would take away the hedge thereof, " and it should be eaten up; and break down the walls
thereof, and it should be trodden down; that he “ would lay it waste; that it should not be pruned or
digged, but that there should come up briars and
thorns; and that he would also command the clouds, " that they should rain no rain upon it.” The sentence, here pronounced, was not executed till about two hundred years afterwards: for Hezekiah, with Isaiah and other prophets, and afterwards Josiah and a pious remnant, by their labours and prayers prevailed, for “ the lengthening of their tranquillity;" but at length such efforts ceased, and then the sentence came upon the nation, by the Babylonish captivity. Yet it was more awfully accomplished, after the coming of CHRIST, and his crucifixion at the instance of the Jewish rulers, priests, and people, with the subsequent persecution of christianity: for then the nation was cast out of the visible church, Jerusalem was given up into the hands of the Romans, and hath ever since been trodden under foot of the Gentiles; the Jews have been scattered into all nations, and the Lord hath indeed * commanded the clouds to rain no rain upon them," even to this day. Thus they are left to be reluctant preachers to the nations professing christianity, of the truth of their holy religion, and the dreadful consequences of neglecting it.
Now should it be enquired, what people is the Israel of the Christian dispensation? I could not hesitate in answering, Britain, both in respect of advan. tages, and a rebellious ungrateful abuse of them. This may suffice to introduce our subject, and to warrant an entire application of the passage before us to our
Let us then consider,
I. The peculiar favours with which Providence has distinguished our native land.
II. The improvement which we ought to have made of them.
III. The wild grapes, which the Lord finds in this his vineyard.
IV. The consequence that may be expected, unless something effectual be done to prevent it.
V. To what we may attribute our preserva. tion hitherto. And,
VI. What the duties are, to which we are now called, according to our different stations in the
church and the community. I. Then, We consider the peculiar favours with which Providence hath 'distinguished our native land.
We have long been exempted from the calamities of war, that tremendous scourge of a righteous God. Few of us know more of war than we have learned from the publick papers, or the page of history. We feel it indeed, but how? Trade suffers a temporary check, and additional taxes are demanded; a number, often of not very useful members of the community, are furnished with a perilous or fatal employment, and a few more valuable persons are exposed to the same dangers.--But we have scarcely any other idea of war, as it respects ourselves: and this has often a very bad effect on the minds of men; for they consider war no otherwise than as it effects their property, and are therefore prone to engage in it too lightly, when it yields a prospect of temporal advantage; without reflecting on its consequences on the lives and souls of their fellow-creatures, or on those regions that are exposed to its tremendous ravages.
Our situation happily renders us incapable even of conceiving those scenes, which are really exhibited on the theatre of war; the devastations of the open coun. try, with all its productions, rendering abortive the labours, and disappointing the expectation, of the husbandman, and destroying the bounty of Providence: the burning of cities; the cries of widows and orphans; the reeking blood and mangled bodies of the slaugh. tered; the groans, and ghastly appearance of the wounded and dying; the penury and pining want of the survivors; the terrors of the night, and the horrors of the day, must baffle all description. So that the humane mind must weep over, not only the most splen.
did, but even the most needful victories; and war, in every case, must be regarded as the triumph or the harvest of the first great murderer, the devil. How great is our obligation then, for exemption from this dire evil, during a term of years, beyond what has been experienced by almost any other nation!
We have also been equally preserved from the dire judgments of famine, pestilence, earthquakes, and desolating hurricanes: plenty, health, and a serene and temperate climate have been vouchsafed us: a land abounding with all the blessings that we can desire, and exempted from most of the calamities to which other lands are exposed, hath fallen to our lot: and let us not so regard second causes, as to forget the first great Cause of all, who “ doeth what he will in the armies “ of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth."
We might here enlarge on the blessings of our ex. cellent constitution and equal laws; by which the personal liberty and property of every individual are secured, if not to the greatest degree which is possible in the present state of human nature, yet, at least, be. yond what hath hitherto been reduced to practice, for a length of time, in any nation of the earth. A great deal is often said of Grecian and Roman liberty: but it is well known that a very large proportion of the people, in those admired nations, were slaves, the property of their masters; and equal freedom was not possessed among them, in any measure comparable to what it is in Britain. *
At Athens, when there were no more than twenty thou. sand citizens and ten thousand strangers; there were four hunBut these are comparatively inferior considerations: our religious advantages are principally to be valged. When “the Son of God was manifested to destroy "the works of the devil,” this land was inveloped in the grossest idolatry, barbarity, and ignorance; yet it tras not long before the Sun of Righteousness, which arose at so great a distance, visited it with his sacred beams of life and salvation. After a time, the superstitions and usurpations of the Romish church, like a dark cloud, obscured this heavenly light; but the first dawning of the blessed reformation extended its in fuence into this island, and our progenitors were numbered among those favoured nations which were firs emancipated from that slavery, and deliver...? that gross darkness that had long oppressed ten world. Others, after an ineffectual strug much bloodshed, were again reduced to bondage, un der the persecuting tyranny of the pontiff and his sociates; this land, in the reign of bloody Mary, Wass, in peculiar danger of falling again under the same yoke; but God preserved his light among us by removing her, and advancing Elizabeth to the throne; and, after defeating the subtle and powerful machinations of our enemies, in various instances, he at length, by a happy revolution at the close of the last century, established among us a degree of civil and religious