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It is purely for the sake of this reflexion that the writer addresses himself to them; for he has no pleasure in laying open the shame of his country, and exposing the vices of those in particular over whom he has a charge.
They are exhorted however not to despair : there is still one remedy left; and whatever reason they may have to condemn themselves, God has not forgotten to be gracious. To him then let them turn with hearty repentance for their sins, and with a resolution to do, each in his proper station, what lies in their power to stem that torrent of iniquity which threatens to ruin all.
Exhortation to the clergy, who share with the writer the care of souls in these populous cities, to speak to the people, and persuade them as knowing the terrors of the Lord.
Similar exhortation to those who are intrusted with the government of them : it is time for them to awake, and to let the people once more know, what seems to be almost forgotten, that laws are made for the punishment of wickedness and vice, and for the maintenance of true religion.
- Government is a great trust; and its powers are not merely intended to honor those who possess them; but they must be used for the good of the community: this subject enlarged on.
Next to those in public offices of power and trust, the happiness of the country depends on such as have the government in private families. Here it is that the youth of the nation must be formed; and if they are suffered to be corrupted in religion or morals before they come into the world, there is little hope that the world will reform them. Bad education of the children of this realm : the effects of it in all orders pointed out. Exhortation to fathers and mothers to exert themselves : their endeavors may go a great way in saving the nation.
Exhortation to every man, whatever his station may be, to do his part towards averting the judgments of God: let every one reform himself, and others, as far as his influence goes : this is the only remedy.
To these personal endeavors let there be added continual and fervent prayers to the Almighty, that he would spare us, and not deal with us after the multitude of our sins. Conclusion,
FROM THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON TO THE CLERGY
AND PEOPLE OF LONDON AND WESTMINSTER, ON OCCASION OF THE EARTHQUAKES IN 1750.
MY BRETHREN AND FRIENDS, The relation I stand in to you is a daily call me to consider the spiritual state of these great cities; and though I doubt not but God has many faithful and chosen servants among you, yet the general view of the wickedness and corruption that abound and are spreading far and wide, gives me, and must give to every serious Christian, very painful reflexions. It is hardly possible to think of the history of Providence recorded in Holy Writ, and the many examples of divine justice exercised, sometimes in punishing, sometimes in utterly destroying wicked nations or cities, without being sensibly affected with apprehensions for ourselves; but more especially have we reason to fear, when we see the beginning of sorrows,' and the displeasure of the Almighty manifested in the calamities we suffer under, and in the signs and tokens given us to expect a far more dreadful judgment.
It is every man's duty, and it is mine to call on you, to give attention to all the warnings which God in his mercy
affords to a sinful people : such warning we have had by two great shocks of an earthquake; a warning which seems to have been immediately and especially directed to these great cities and the neighborhood of them; where the violence of the earthquake was so sensible, though in distant parts hardly felt, that it will be blindness wilful and inexcusable not to apply to ourselves this strong suminons from God to repentance.
Thoughtless or hardened sinners may be deaf to these calls;
and little philosophers who see a little and but very little into natural causes, may think they see enough to account for what happens, without calling in the aid and assistance of a special providence; not considering that God, who made all things, never put any thing out of his own power, but has all nature under command to
purposes in the government of the world. But be their imaginations to themselves; the subject is too serious for trifling, and calls us off to other views.
If we consider the general government of the world by God, and on what reasons and motives he acts when he brings calamities and plagues on any people; or if we recollect from history sacred and profane, what state and condition with respect to religion and morality the people were in who have been examples of justice, and then compare our own case with the general reason by which Providence acts, and with the circumstances of those by whose example we ought to take warning, we shall soon discover whether there be just reason for our apprehensions. If those who have been destroyed by fire from heaven, or swallowed up by the earth, were sinners, and we are righteous, let us fear nothing, nor be dismayed though the foundations of the earth be removed ; but if our consciences tell us that we have sinned after their example, what consolation is there to be had against the just expectation of suffering after their example also ?
The same conclusion will arise from a contemplation of God's general providence; which, though it is not daily exerted in punishing all men or all vices that deserve it, yet is always armed with power to stop outrageous wickedness; and he has told us in his holy word what we may expect from his justice, when we are grown hardened and obdurate against his mercy.
On these principles let your own case be examined: but who shall be your accuser ? Shall I? God forbid ! My heart's desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved. Hear me then with patience, not as your accuser, but your
faithful servant and minister in Christ Jesus, warning you to flee from the wrath that is to come.
Had this part of the world had less knowlege and less light, they might have some excuse, and some hope that God would wink at the times of their ignorance; but they have had the
light, and have loved darkness : the gospel of Christ, in which all the goodness and mercy of God are displayed through the redemption purchased by the blood of Christ; in which the aid and comfort of the Holy Spirit of God is offered to all who diligently seek it; in which the hopes and fears of eternity are displayed to guard us against the temptations of sin ; has been not only rejected, but treated with a malicious scorn ; and all our hopes in Christ represented as delusions and impositions on the weakness of men. How has the press for many years past swarmed with books, some to dispute, some to ridicule the great truths of religion, both natural and revealed. I shall mention no particular cases, there is no need for it; the thing is notorious. I wish the guilt in this instance was confined to the authors only, and that nobody else was answerable for it; but the earnestness with which these books were sought after, the pleasure and approbation with which they were received, are too strong indications of the general taste to be dissembled ; and the industry used to disperse these books at home and abroad, and especially to our plantations in America, to which great numbers, and at a great expense, have been conveyed; are proofs of such malice against the gospel and the holy Author of it, as would not be borne even in a Mahonetan country. In this branch of trade this great city beats all the world ; it is become even the mart for infidelity.
It required no great sagacity to foresee what the consequence would be of the pains taken to unsettle all principles of religion. Infidelity and immorality are too nearly allied to be long separated; and though some have pretended to preserve a sense of virtue without the aid of religion, yet experience has shown that people who have neither hopes nor fears with respect to another world, will soon abuse this by indulging the worst of their passions, and will not regard man when once they have learned to disregard God.
Whether this be our case let every man judge by what he hears and sees; by what indeed he must hear and see if he lives amongst us. Blasphemy and horrid imprecations domineer in our streets, and poor wretches are every hour wantonly and wickedly calling for damp ation on themselves and others, which may be (it is much to be feared) too near them already. Add