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To which of the two periods doth the age in which we live belong? Judge by the description given by the preacher, as he calls himself.
Then mankind were ungrateful, the public did not remember the benefits conferred on them by individuals, and their services were unrewarded. There was a little city besieged by a great king, who built great bulwarks against it, and there was found in it a poor wise man, who by his wisdom delivered the city, yet no man remembered that same poor man, chap. ix. 14, 15.
Then courtiers mean and ungrateful, basely forsook their old master, and paid their court to the heir apparent. I saw all the living under the sun walking after the child, who shall stand up next instead of the king, chap. iv. 15.
Then the strong oppressed the weak. I considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun, and behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforters, and on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they hud no comforter.
Then the courts of justice were corrupt. I saw the place of judgment, that wickedness was there
chap. iii. 16. We will not finish this disagreeable picture. I hated life, because the work that is worought under the sun is grievous unto me.
Such is the idea the wise man gives us of the world. Yet these vain and precarious objects, this world so proper to inspire a rational mind with disgust, this life so proper to excite hatred in such as know what is worthy of esteem, this is that which hath always fascinated, and which yet continues to fascinate the bulk of mankind.
This it was, that infatuated the inhabitants of the old world, who, even aften God had pronounced this dreadful decree, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for he is flesh, and after an hundred and twenty years he shall be no more, forgot themselves in the pursuit of present pleasure. They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day that the flood came, and took them all away, Matt. xxiv. 38, 39.
This was what bewitched the whole heathen world, who lived without hope, and without God in the world, Eph. ii. 12.
This was what enchanted that highly favored nation, which God distinguished froin the rest of the world, and to which he gave his laws, and intrusted his prophecies, yet they forsook the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water, Jer. ii. 13.
This was what influenced christians, more inexcusable in this respect than jews and pagans, because their religion breathes nothing but disgust with the world, and alienation from the idols of life: and yet they are as much in love with worldly splendor, as eager in pursuit of wealth, as much intoxicated with diversions, gaming, amusements and dissipations as ever jews and pagans could
This was the charm that operated on your ancestors, on those who governed the state before you, magistrates : on those who ascended this pulpit before you, ministers : on those who attended the worship of God in this place before you, christian people : all these, except a few, followed the multitude, ran, with the world to the same excess of riot, and made the world their god, just as we all, except a few, yet make the world our god, yet follow the multitude, yet run, with the wicked to the same excess of riot.
God, in order to undeceive mankind, and to dissolve the charms that facinated their eyes, often
shewed them the world in its true light. He often added extraordinary ills to the ordinary calamities of life; he made winds his angels, and flaming fires his ministers, Psal. civ. 4. he sent war, mortality, flaming eruptions, pestilence and earthquakes; in one word, he often visited them, as he yet visits us, and with the same design. To them he said, as he yet saith to us, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man, 1 John ii. 15. Eccles. i. 2. and xiii. 13. All this was useless, just as it is now. Then mankind made a god of the world, and so they continue to do.
My brethren, taste is not subject to argument, and if life seems to you supremely amiable, in spite of all the imperfections and sins that imbitter it, in vain do I stand here describing it to you. However, condescend at least to see whither every living thing is tending; and allow me to perform the duty of this day, which requires me to treat of the dying and the dead. A modern author hath published a book with this singular title, subterranean Rome, a title full of instruction and truth, a title that may serve to teach that living haughty city, that there is another Rome dead and buried, a natural image of what the present Rome must shortly be. Such an object I present to you. I present you your republic, not the republic you see composed of living magistrates, generals, and heads of fa. milies; this is superficial, the surface of your republic: But I would fix your eyes on an interior subterranean republic. There is a state under your feet. Go down. Go into the cells under the earth. Lift up the lids of the coffins. What do you see
there? What have you found there? My God! What inhabitants! What citizens! What a republic!
This is not all. Go further. Carry your eyes beyond these caverns. Exercise that faith, which gives substance to things not seen. Think of the souls, which once animated this dust, and ashes, and bones. Where are they? Some are in a state of felicity, others in depths of misery. Some in the bosom of God, others in prison with devils. Some drinking of rivers of pleasures for evermore, others having their portion in the lake of fire, the smoke rising up for ever and ever, Psal. xxxvi. 8. and xvi. 11. and Rev. xix. 3. To say all in one word, some for abandoning themselves to the world are suffering such punishments as the world inflicts on its slaves; and others for devoting themselves to God are receiving such rewards as God bestows on his servants. May this contrast penetrate, affect, and transform you all! And thou, great God, give weight to our exhortations in order to give success to our benedictions.
I gladly embrace the opportunity of assisting at this solemnity, of coming to you, my dear brethren, at this auspicious season, and of preaching to you now that it is allowable to open the bottom of a heart always full of most respectful affection for this city, and this church. Receive my good wishes as affectionately as they are dictated.
Magistrates, to whom providence hath committed the reigns of government, you are above our benediction. But we are ministers of a master, who governs all mankind, and from that source of splendor, magnificence and wealth, we derive the benedictions, which we diffuse on your august heads. May God inspire you with that elevation of mind, that magnanimity and holy ambition
which impel magistrates, with whom he hath intrusted the sword of justice, to found all their deliberations and decrees on equity ? May God inspire you with such charity, condescension and affability as may blend the parent with the master ! May God inspire you with such humility and self-denial as incline christian magistrates to lay their power at the feet of the great Supreme, and to place their glory in rendering to God a faithful account of their administration ? Great will that account be. You are, to a certain degree, responsible both for the temporal and eternal happiness of this people. The eternal happiness of a people often depends on the conduct of their governors, on the care they take to restrain licentiousness, to suppress scandalous books, to make solemn festivals observed, to procure wise, zealous, and faithful ministers for the church. Magistrates, who enter into these noble designs, have a right to expect from God all the assistance necessary to effect them. To thee, Almighty God, we address our prayers for such assistance for those illustrious persons ! O that our petitions may enter heaven, and our prayers be heard and answered !
Ministers, my dear coadjutors in the great work of salvation, successors of the apostles in the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ, Eph. iv. 12. God hath set narrow limits to what the world calls our preferment and fortune. The religion we profess doth not allow us to aspire after such high sounding titles, eminent posts, and splendid equipages as confound the ministers of temporal kings with the ministers of that Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world: but what we lose in regard to the glittering advantages of the world, we gain in regard to zeal and substantiał