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PREACHED AT BIDEFORD ON A FAST-DAY,
FEBRUARY 28, 1794.
JER, xxii, 29.
O Earth! Earth! Earth! hear the word of
What, then ! are all the inhabitants of the earth dead or deaf? As if they were more stupid than the ground they trod on, the blessed God, wearied out by their provoking inattention to his repeated calls, turps from them, and addresses himself to the Earth, as if that would hear him, when they would not." God hath spoken once, twice have I heard this, That power belongeth unto God.” Awful and angry have been the messages that we have lately received from him; and some specimens he hath given of what he can do, when his wrath is kindled but a little: what, then, would become of us, if he should be provoked to stir up all his wrath?
This is now the second time we have been called together since the commencement of the present troubles, to endeavour, by the united humiliation and prayer of the whole nation, to avert the divine displeasure, and procure a blessing on our councils and undertakings. The event has shewn, that our purposes of reformation, and prayers for peace, the first time, were both ineffectua!. Disappointment
follows disappointment; and bloody war still rages with unremitted, or rather with increasing, violence. Perhaps since the wars of the Jews of old, there hath not been so much blood spilt in so few iñonths, as hath been sinee the beginning of the disturbances in France. That nation hath been for ages the bitter persecutors of God's people; particularly in that horrid massacre, above two hundred years ago, when upwards of seventy thousand protestants were murdered, with circumstances of peculiar treachery and cruelty, mostly in one night. May pot St. John be supposed to refer to this among other things, when he says,
" And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?" (Rev. vi. 9.) At least, may we not consider it as a visible and striking proof of the truth of that declaration, in the second Commandment, that God sometimes visits the “iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him?"-But besides the inhuman murder of the protestants in their own country, they have, by their restless ambition, been the cause of most of the wars that have ravaged Europe for a century past; and now Providence seems to be reckoning with them for the whole. They delighted in blood, and God is giving them blood to drink. Though the quantity already spilt is astonishing, their thirst is still insatiable. The numbers that have fallen by the hand of the executioner within these last two
years exceeds all parallel, and, in the next age, when the whole comes to be known, will exceed all belief.--How far this sanguinary, ferocious, brutal disposition, may render them fit instruments to be employed by Providence as a scourge to surrounding nations, it is not for us to say, though it makes one shudder to think.
However, the design of this discourse is to call off your attention from second causes, to that word of the Lord, by which the world was at first spoken into being, and by which all the inhabitants and occurrences of the world are ruled, and over-ruled, to subserve the purposes of his own glory..--" 0 Earth! Earth ! Earth! Earth!
Earth! hear the word of the Lord.”
These words have a peculiar solemnity in them, and seem to imply,
I. That' mankind in general are careless and inattentive to the word of the Lord.
How often do we hear God complaining of the Jews! "My people would not bearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me.... I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, and thou saidst, I will not hear.” And again : " As for the word which thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.”- What perverseness and impiety! They not only did not, but they would not hear.--- Would to God this were not the picture of our own times !
I will not now insist on the little success of the word preached --- though it be a manifest and me. lancholy truth: for where is the mioister that doth not complain,“ Who hath believed our report?”.. “We are ambassadors for Christ,, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you, in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God.”. We tell you plainly, that the way you are in leads down to the chambers of eternal death; and that the sin you harbour in your bosoms will ere long bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder, But you like not the messages we bring; and either affect not to hear us, or put us off with, “Go thy way for this time, and when we have a more convenient season we will send for thee.” What voice, but the yoice of God, can reach and rouse those that are thus obstinately deaf --deaf only to those subjects that best deserve your attention ?
If Satan call, you are all ear: if the world but whisper a temptation, you can catch the faintest sound; but if a minister ---yea, if all the ministers in the world, should call upon you to forsake such a sin, which you love; or, to set up such a duty, which you dislike; you are presently deaf as an adder; and we labour in vain, and spend our breath for nought.
But this is not what I principally intended to take notice of; it is, the voice of God in his Provi dence, that is so little attended to. We hear the voice of war from abroad; we hear the cries of tbe unemployed and almost starving poor at home; we, heard the wide-spreading whispers of discontent; but we hear not the voice of the Lord. We feel the smart of the rod, but we hear not the lessons it was sent to teach us.---In some, this is owing to their pot thinking at all; and in others, to their thinking wrong.
.! There are many who “ care for none of these things." Let the world go how it will, what is it to them? Their farm and their merchandise engross
all their thoughts and care. Neither mercies nor jädgments affect them; for they consider not the works of the Lord, regard the operation of bis hands. I do not mean that every private person should be a politician, and understand the history and the interest of all the nations of Europe; but
private person should be true to his king and férent to every thing that
thing that passes, if he never inquire what dangers his country is exposed to, nor exert hímself to prevent or remove thein. 'Can such an one be thankful as he ought for national mercies, or humbled as be ought for national sins and national calamities?
But there are others equally inattentive to the · word of the Lord, but from quite different princi: ples. They take notice of every event, and are unusually, unnecessarily, perhaps unjustifiably, eager for News. They criticise every article they read or hear; pass their censures freely on persons and proceedings : ‘Such a thing was wrong; such an expedition was ill planned, or ill executed: the nation will be ruined, if such a thing be not done : we shall be undone, if such 'an one be not em. ployed ;'--forgetting all the wliite, that the Lord God Omnipotent reignetli:' that it is he who raiseth up one, and pulleth down anothér: that it is he who" máketh peace, and createth evil:” that afflictions spring not out of the dust, nor troubles rise out of the ground; but that they all come and go God's order and disposal. They will not be persuaded that victories or 'defeats are the effects of a divine interposition ; and laugh at the notion of sin's being the cause of public disgrace and danger, be