« PreviousContinue »
in such a cause, In the mean time, I dare say it will be allowed, that any thing of this kind done by a minister himself, or at his direction, in his own favor, would be
very wrong: and, blessed be God, it is at prefent among us confidered as highly indecent and criminal.
I must also put you in mind of the great duty of family instruction and government. Heads of families must prepare their children and servants for receiving benefit by public instruction, and endeavor by repetition to fix it in their minds. It is our duty to speak plainly, no doubt; but it is impossible, preserving the dignity of the pulpit, to speak in such a manner as to be understood by those who have had no previous instruction in a familiar way.
It is like casting feed upon an unopened, unprepared foil, which takes no root, and brings forth no fruit. Is it not hard, that, when many are so ready to find fault with every neglect of minifters, and sometimes expect more work from one than ten can perform, they should take so little pains in their families, these smaller districts, which are committed to their own charge.
To conclude all, Strive together with your minister in your prayers to God for him. There is no way more effectual to prepare him for serving you in the gospel, and there is no way more proper for preparing you to attend upon his ministry. If you make conscience of this duty, you will come to receive the answer of your prayers, and indeed to hear the word of God. Alas! that there should be so few of our hearers of this charitable, sympathising kind. We have some fiupid and insensible hearers, some proud and disdainful hearers, many criticising and censuring hearers, but few praying hearers. Let all that fear God give themselves to this duty. And let them not only remember that corner of God's vineyard in which their own lot is caft, but the kingdom of Christ in general; and pray, that his name may be great, " from the rising of the sun, unto his going down," Amen.
PRAYER for NationAL PROSPERITY and for the Revi.
VAL of Religion inseparably connected.
S E R M O N.
Preached on Thursday, February 16, 1758, being the
day appointed in Scotland for the late Public Fast.
ISAIAH, li. 9.
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD:
Awake as in the ancient days in the generations of old. Art nat thou it that bath cut Rabab and wounded the dragon.
E are this day called by our sovereign to the duty
of folemn fasting and humiliation, and to earnest prayer for the blessing of God on his councils and arms. Religion and humanity conspire in urging us to a hearty compliance, especially while public affairs wear so threatening an aspect.' It ought also to awaken the attention, and increase the seriousness of every particular worshipping assembly, that they are joining with so many others in intreating deliverance from these national calamities, in which all are equally concerned.
We have often, for some years past, professed to humble ourselves in the fight of God, and have done it, alas! with a shameful coldness and indifference, or with an hypocri. fy still more criminal. But it is remarkable, that such is the situation of affairs at present, as hath given an alarm even to some of the most infensible, and constrained them to confider this duty as now somewhat more than a form. There has been for some time past, such a continuance and increase of public judgments, such a series of abortive projects, and broken disconcerted schemes, as makes the most obstinate and inconsiderate stand and pause, and feri. ously ask, Is there not a cause !
Our setting apart this day, and applying ourselves to the duty of fasting and prayer, implies a confession of the power and providence of God.
It implies, that we believe in him, as the Almighty Creator, and righteous Governor of the world; the fupreme Disposer of every event, and sovereign Arbiter of the fate of nations. How were it to be wished, that there was a just sense of this truth on the minds of all of every rank! And that, in all who are in any measure sincere on this occasion, the impression may not be transient and partial, but lasting and effectual! it should excite us to a holy jealousy over ourselves, that we have fo often elsayed the like duty without any apparent fuccefs. “ Is there un
righteousness with God? God forbid !" The fault, doubtless, lies in ourselves. Our fasts have not been such as God has chosen, and therefore he hath refused to hear our prayers.
In general, no doubt the evidence and the effect of an acceptable fast, is repentance compleated by reformation. Where this is wanting, we are justly liable to the charge brought by the prophet Isaiah against the children of Israel,
Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination “ unto me, the new moons and fabbaths, the calling of al“ semblies I cannot away with, it is iniquity, even the so“ lemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed, “ feasts my soul hateth, they are a trouble unto me, I " am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth
your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you : yea, when “ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are “ full of blood.”* There is no question but the unre- . strained flood if impiety which has overspread this nation,
* Ifa.i. 13, 14, 15.
folicits divine vengeance, and prevents the efficacy even of the sincere prayers that are offered up for deliverance and mercy. But as, with respect to particular persons, every error or defect in practice is the consequence of an erroneous or defective principle, as every vicious action proceeds from an impure heart; so, in a national capacity, I am persuaded that our fasting and prayer has been fundamentally wrong, or essentially defective in itself, and therefore, has been followed by little or no sensible fruit; or rather that impiety, which it should have removed, it hath only contributed to increase.
For this reason my intention at this time is to point out to you what is the just and proper object of prayer for divine aid in a time of public calamity, as well as the great encouragement to its exercise. For this there is a proper foundation in the paffage of Scripture just read in your hearing. In the former part of the chapter, the prophet had pronounced many gracious promises, of inward and spiritual prosperity, and of outward protection and security to the church, though surrounded and threatened, by enemies to her interests in both respects. He then changes the form of his discourse, personates believers, and in their name, as one of them, addresles to God the prayer in the text, “ Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the “ Lord : awake as in the ancient days, in the generations “ of old : art not thou it that hath cut Rahab and wounded “ the dragon ?"
The beauty and strength of this language, the juftness and force of the figures here used, it is almost impossible to overlook. The prophet prays for such a display of divine power and mercy as might be signal and fenfible. “Awake, awake, put on strength," that is, exert thy power, discover thy glory in such a manner, as that thy présent forbearance may be like the vigor of a waking man, compared to the defenceless and inactive state of one that is fast asleep. “ ( arm of tlie Lord.” This expression the arm of the Lord, with the addition of making bare his holy arm, is frequently used in Scripture; and it is so strong, and at the same time, fo intelligible a figure, that it is impossible to amplity or explain, without weak.