« PoprzedniaDalej »
whole kingdom, and, as with the rapid operation of miracle, have smitten millions with the blight of adversity. The seasons often times have been out of course: Spring has brought no genial showers; Summer has passed with no vivifying sun; Autumn has poured forth no horn of plenty. The cries of deep and awful poverty have resounded from numberless dwellings; and horrid famine has stalked abroad, and has found her victims where once were known only the blessings of industry and peace. There are now the voice of general complaint, and the pressure of general distress; and the middle and poorer classes of life have to struggle hard for comfort, and even for subsistence. The minds of men are agitated with many forebodings; there are undefined but perplexing expectations of change; there are rumours of wars and commotions in the solemn language of Christ, “ men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” No ordinary exertion of memory can be applied to the past,-no common effort of observation can be applied to the present, without perceiving that our nation has been torn and smitten by some mighty hand, and that the elements have been moved by some mysterious and invisible power, kindled and stirred with the energies of appalling wrath.
- That mighty hand is the hand of God, that mysterious and invisible power is the power of God. There is indeed a sinful and fatal disposition abroad, to account for things only by speaking of
fortune and chance, or by referring, at most, to the passions and principles of those human agents to whom the management of national interests is conducted. This forgetfulness of the Most High, amounting to a practical atheism, and spread widely over the habits of men, is one of the worst signs of the times in which we live; and to correct it, and bring back the beings who are afflicted to the humble recognition of Him whose hand is upon them, would be to accomplish an object unspeakably important and beneficial. That source of all visitations we proclaim and repeat among you; we lead you to own the marked interference of the Ruler who doeth according to his will among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of earth, -telling that the various events enumerated are to be considered as “ the judgments" of God.
And if it be asked, why Jehovah has made his anger to fall, and why he has sent his strokes so repeatedly and so heavily,- let it be remembered, that he has had abundant cause for whatever he has been pleased to inflict. His hand has been stretched out because we have abused our privileges and our mercies, because we have not improved our many opportunities for spiritual rectitude and advancement,-because we have resisted numberless exhortations and warnings, -because there has been a general movement towards the practice of iniquity, and the growth of habits, alike in the system of public government, and in the sphere of social life, which have diffused a deluge of profligacy and abomination, as if there were no religion to regulate, and no God to be obeyed. The plain and solemn truth is this ; God has smitten because we have sinned. We have provoked him with our iniquities; we have only to wonder that his fury has not been hotter, and his vengeance more tremendous,—that we have not had national ruin, instead of national chastisement,—that we have not had a midnight darkness, instead of a partial gloom ; and it does indeed become us amidst all we suffer, and all we fear, humbly and submissively to reiterate the ascription which was heard from beneath the altar, “ Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments !"
After thus affirming the national position in which we have been placed, we proceed
II. To consider WHETHER, BY THE INHABITANTS OF THIS COUNTRY, A RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF ITS VISITATIONS HAS BEEN MADE.
The prophet says—“ When thy judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”—We do not imagine this to be a positive assertion, that the learning of righteousness is the regular and invariable consequence of the divine judgments, but a statement that such ought to be their result. If it be true that the divine judgments are poured forth in consequence of transgression, it must be clear, that the right conduct to be pursued by those who feel them is, to repent, and to reform. They should consider their evil ways; they should, in deep humiliation, abandon them and follow the path of righteousness and true holiness; there should be a general seeking after God, with a desire of obtaining his favour through Christ Jesus, that his anger may be turned away, and that iniquity may be forgiven. This surely no one will venture to deny. Now the question is,-has this been done? Do we see, in the population of this country, any thing like a general disposition to make the desired and
proper improvement ? I believe the solemn answer must be returned, and painful is it to utter,-that hitherto no such sign has appeared.
The minds of the pious, who have felt for the honour of God, and the interests of their fellow-men, have watched judgment after judgment in operation and consequences, sanguinely hoping after each visitation that the day of repentance and improvement would then arrive. If we might be allowed to refer to one particular instance, we would mention that at the occurrence of that awful crisis, now nearly five years ago, when a sudden panic spread
itself to the extremities of the land, and when the towering boasts of commercial prosperity were overwhelmed by a mighty tempest of disaster,—the truly religious believed that then the voice and hand of God could not be resisted, and that then multitudes of the careless and profane would return unto the Lord, and, convinced of the vanity of earthly good, would seek the treasures which are in heaven. As yet they have endured a grievous and bitter disappointment. And what do they now behold, but the very same strength and activity of evil as were manifested in former years, just as if the voice from heaven had never uttered a reproof, and as if the God of Israel did not see or regard? It really appears to be with us, as the awful time portrayed in the apocalyptic vision, when men were “ scorched with fire, and blasphemed the name of God, and repented not to give him glory.”
In illustrating the fact of the non-improvement of divine judgments, we may properly allude to the state of the professing people of God. There was doubtless, in former periods, much within the church of God, that was susceptible of improvement, and deserving of condemnation. There was a great carelessness to the attainment of religious eminence; there was
a great worldliness of affection there was a great want of zeal toward the cause of Christ; there was a great indiffer