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our country. The gradual but effectual success of those, “ who privily bring in damnable heresies" into congregations and bodies of men, hitherto steadily at. tached to the peculiar doctrines of the gospel; with the progress of infidelity on every side, are “ signs of the “times,” which threaten to deprive us of our last ground of confidence.
If the present generation of pious Christians should be taken from the evil to come; and be succeeded by such, " as have the form of godliness but deny the « power of it;” and if the number of zealous defenders of the truth should decrease; and timid, feeble advocates bę substituted in their room; it is very probable that the Lord may permit the open enemies of Christianity to prevail for a season. In this case persecution may waste, or drive to a distance, the faithful remnant, suppress the testimony of the witnesses, and prevent the publick profession of the gospel; thus the light will be obscured or extinguished, and the candlestick removed, while infidelity and atheism will exult and tri. umph. Should this take place, no doubt the flood. gates of national judgments will be opened; and the vengeance of the Lord, against our flagrant contempt and defiance of him, be made manifest to all the world. This was the course of events in Judea, especially from the death of Josiah, to the captivity: and when scarcely a man could be found to intercede for the land; the wrath of God was poured out upon them like an irresistible deluge. The same was still more remarkable, after the Jews in our Lord's time had filled up the measure of their iniquities: for the perse.
cuted Christians separated from among them, when the Romans invaded the land, and then wrath came upon them to the uttermost. Something analagous hath been commonly observed in the desolations of countries professing christianity: and when we consider the dire calamities that have befallen a neighbour. ing nation, (for dire they have been, in what way soever they may terminate,) we may well recollect our LORD's words, “ Think ye that they were sinners « above all men? I tell you nay, but except ye repent, st ye shall all likewise perish.” In the mean while the LORD waits to be gracious: and who can tell, but that faith and prayer may prevail, and that a timely repentance and reformation may yet take place, and “ so ini. “ quity shall not be our ruin." . t ..
V. Then I proceed to deduce some instructions and admonitions, suited to the present emergency.
When Sennacherib invaded Judah, with a power. ful army, uttering the most dreadful menaces and blasphemies; the pious king sent to the prophet Isaiah, stating the case to him, and saying, “Wherefore lift “ up thy prayer for the remnant that is left:” and he himself spread the haughty Assyrian's letter before the LORD, and earnestly intreated his gracious interposition. Hezekiah indeed desired the prayers of an emi. nent prophet, who had long been employed in that honourable service: yet I apprehend, that we may properly consider his message to Isaiah, as a divine admonition to us at the present crisis. The providence of God hath formed a special relation between us and
the land in which we live, similar to that we bear to our parents or children: we are therefore peculiarly bound to pray for its peace and welfare; as even the captive Jews were commanded to pray for the peace of the country in which they had peace. We have received and still enjoy manifold advantages, temporal and spiritual, in this our favoured land; and we or our descendants shall probably participate the future prosperity or adversity, the blessings or calamities, that await the nation. Our personal transgressions form no small part of that guilt". which calls for divine judg. ments on the land: and our lukewarmness and inconsistent conduct, as Christians, have helped to provoke God, to deprive us of our religious privileges. It would therefore be a foolish hypocrisy in us, on this day of fasting and humiliation, to arraign the conduct of other men, and excuse our own.
On these and many other accounts, it is our unde. niable duty “to lift up our prayer for the remnant os that is left.” There is still a remnant among us of real believers; there is still ground for hope in the LORD's mercy; " the effectual fervent prayer of a “ righteous man availeth much;” the most eminent believers who prayed with signal success, were men of like passions with us: even Isaiah once cried out, “ Woe is me I am undone, I am a man of unclean “ lips;" yet his prayers were most effectually answer ed. It is likewise undeniable, that our enemies, like Sennacherib, want to subvert our holy religion, as well as our temporal prosperity; and this suggests a
pouverful plea in lifting up our prayer for national de liverance.
But it is confidently asserted by numbers, that pray. ers, offered on such occasions, are the dictates of re. venge, ambition, or avarice. If avowed infidels alone held such language, it would not excite our sürprize: : but it is indeed most astonishing, that men, pretend. ing to believe the Bible, should condemn a practice approved and commanded in every part of the sacred volume! Let us, however, examine how Hezekiah prayed:-"O LORD of Hosts, God of Israel, who “ dwellest between the cherubim, (that is, above the “ mercy-seat,) thou art the God, even thou alone, of “all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made hea. “ ven and earth. Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hear; " open thine eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the “ words of Sennacherib, who hath sent to reproach the u living God. Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assy. “ ria have laid waste all the nations and their countries: " and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were "no gods, but the work of men's hand, wood and " stone; therefore they have destroyed them. Now, “ therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand " that all the kings of the earth may know that thou “ art the LORD, even thou only."* Nothing can be more plain, than that zeal for the honour of God and the interests of true religion, principally dictated this prayer. The Lord indeed answered it, “ by terrible * things in righteousness:" but Hezekiah had only
• Is. xxxvii. 15–20.
asked deliverance for his people, not destruction on his enemies; and his expanded charity made him ear. nestly desire that all the kings of the earth might know the difference between the true God and worthless idols, and that they might diffuse that knowledge among their subjects.
I would not knowingly offer one prayer on this occasion, which could not be answered consistently with our enemies enjoying peace, security, liberty, good government, and the blessings of true religion; but we may pray that the LORD would · abate their pride, as. * suage their malice, and confound their devices,' (that is, their devices against the peace of other lands, or the Christian religion,) in entire consistency with these friendly dispositions towards them: for such things would conduce to their advantage, as well as our own. We may not ask the LORD to aggrandize or enrich our nation, that she may reign over all countries, or engross all the commerce of the world: but surely we may pray that famine, pestilence, hostile invasions, and evil discords may be averted; that there may be employment and food for the poor, peace in our bor. ders, and the continuance of our civil and religious li. berties. Above all we should pray for the peace, puri. ty, and enlargement of the church; that it may please the Lord to illuminate all the ministers of religion, (with true knowledge and understanding of his word, • that both by their preaching and living, they may set
it forth and shew it accordingly,' that “ labourers " may be sent forth into the harvest;" « that the Spi6 rit of God may lift up a standard” against the tor.