« PreviousContinue »
did destroy the very foundations of virtue and religion, and enervate all precepts of morality, and in effect annul all difference between virtue and vice ; and yet vice and wickedness did never so prevail, like an overflowing deluge. It is an age wherein those mean and stingy principles (as they are called) of our forefathers, which (as is supposed) deformed religion, and led to unworthy thoughts of God, are very much discarded, and grown out of credit, and supposed more free, noble and generous thoughts of the nature of religion, and of the Christian scheme, are entertained ; but yet never was an age, wherein religion in general was so much despised and trampled on, and Jesus Christ and God Almighty so blasphemed and treated with open, daring contempt.
The exceeding weakness of mankind, and their insufficiency in themselves for the bringing to pass any thing great and good in the world, with regard to its moral and spiritual state, remarkably appears in many things that have attended and followed the extraordinary religious commotion, that has lately been in many parts of Greatbritain and America. The infirmity of the human nature has been manifested, in a very affecting manner in the various passions that men have been the subjects of, and innumerable ways that they have been moved, as a reed shaken with the wind, on occasion of the changes and incidents, both public and private, of such a state of things. How many errors and extremes are we liable to? How quickly overtopped, blinded, misled, and confounded ? And how easily does Satan make fools of men, if confident in their own wisdom and strength, and left to themselves ? Many, in the late wonderful season, were ready to admire and trust in men, as if all depended on such and such instruments, at least did ascribe too much to their skill and zeal, because God was pleased to improve them a little while to do extraordinary things : But what great things do the skill and zeal of instruments do now, when the Spirit of God is withdrawn ?
As the present state of things may well excite earnest desires after the promised general revival and advancement of true religion, and serve to shew our dependence on God for it, so there are many things in Providence, of late, that tend VOL. III.
to encourage us in prayer for such a mercy. That infidelityy heresy and vice do so prevail, and that corruption and wickedness are risen to such an extreme height, is that which is exceeding deplorable ; but yet, I think, considering God's promises to his church, and the ordinary method of his dispensations, hope may justly be gathered from it, that the present state of things will not last long, but that a happy change is nigh. We know that God never will desert the cause of truth and holiness, nor suffer the gates of hell to prevail against his church ; and that it has usually been so from the beginning of the world, that the state of the church has appeared most dark, just before some remarkable deliverance and advancement : Many a time may Israel say, had not ihe Lord been on our side, then our enemies would have swallowed us up quick..... The waters had overwhelmed us. The church's extremity has often been God's opportunity for the magnifying his power, mercy and faithfulness towards her. The interest of vital piety has long been in general decaying, and error and wickedness prevailing : It looks as though the disease were now come to a crisis, and that things cannot remain long in such a state, but that a change may be expected in one respect or other. And not only God's manner of dealing with his church in former ages, and many things in the promises and prophecies of his word, but also several things appertaining to present and late aspects of divine Providence, seem to give reason to hope that the change will be such, as to magnify God's free grace and sovereign mercy, and not his revenging justice and wrath. There are certain times, that are days of vengeance, appointed for the more special displays of God's justice and indignation ; and God has also his days of mercy, accepted times, chosen seasons, wherein it is his pleasure to shew mercy, and nothing shall hinder it ; they are times appointed for the magnifying of the Redeemer and his merits, and the triumphs of his grace, wherein his grace shall triumph over men's unworthiness in its greatest height. And if we consider God's late dealings with our nation and this land, it appears to me that there is much to make us think that this day is such a day : Particularly God's pre
'serving and delivering the nation, when in so great danger of ruin by the late rebellion; and his preserving Newengland, and the other British colonies in America, in so remarkable a manner, from the great armament from France, prepared and sent against us the last year ; and the almost miraculous success given to us against our enemies at Cape Breton the year before, disappointing their renewed preparations and fresh at-tempt against these colonies, this present year, 1747, by de 1757 livering up the strength of their fleet into the hands of the English, as they were in their way hither. And also in protecting us from time to time from armies by land that have come against us from Canada, since the beginning of the present war with France. Besides many strange instances of protection of particular forts and settlements, shewing a manifest interposition of the hand of heaven, to the observation of some of our enemies, and even of the savages. And added to these, the late unexpected restoring of the greater part of our many captives in Canada, by those that held them prisoners there. It appears to me that God has gone much out of his usual way, in his exercises of mercy, patience and long suffering in these instances.
God's patience was very wonderful of old, towards the ten tribes, and the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and afterwards to the Jews in Christ's and the apostle's times ; but it seems to me, ail things considered, not equal to his patience and mercy to us. God does not only forbear to destroy us, notwithstanding all our provocations and their aggravations, which it would be endless to recount ; but he has in the forementioned instances, wrought great things for us, wherein his hand has been most visible, and his arm made bare ; especially those two instances in America, God's succeeding us against Cape Breton, and confounding the armada from France the last year ; dispensations of Providence, which, if considered in all their circumstances, were so wonderful, and apparently manifesting an extraordinary divine interposition, that they come perhaps, the nearest to a parallel with God's wonderful works of old, in Moses', Joshua's, and Hezekiah's time, of any that have been in these latter ages of the world. And it is to my present purpose to observe, that
God was pleased to do great things for us in both these instances, in answer to extraordinary prayer. Such remarkable appearances of a spirit of prayer, on any particular public occasion, have not been in the land, at any time within my observation and memory, as on occasion of the affair of Cape Breton. And it is worthy lo be noted and remembered, that God sent that great storm on the fleet of our enemies the last year, that finally dispersed, and utterly confounded them, and caused them wholly to give over their designs against us, the very night after our day of public fasting and prayer, for our protection and their confusion.
Thus, although it be a day of great apostacy and provocation, yet it is apparently a day of the wonderful works of God; wonders of power and mercy ; which may well lead us to think on those two places of scripture, Psal. cxix. 126. “ It is time for thee, Lord, to work, for they have made void thy law.” And Psal. Ixxv. I. “ That thy name is near, thy wonderous works declare.” 'God appears as it were loth to destroy us, or deal with us according to our iniquities, as great and aggravated as they are, and shews that mercy pleases him. As corrupt a time as it is, it is plain by experience, that it is a time wherein God may be found, and stands ready to shew mercy in answer to prayer. He that has done such great things, and has so wonderfully and speedily answered prayer for temporal mercies, will much more give the Holy Spirit if we ask him. He marvellously preserves us, and waits to be gracious to us, as though he chose to make 'us monuments of his grace, and not his vengeance, and waits only to have us open our mouths wide, that he may fill them.
The late remarkable religious awakenings, that have been in many parts of the christian world, are another thing that may justly encourage us in prayer for the promised glorious and universal outpouring of the Spirit of God.“ In or about the year 1732 or 1733, God was pleased to pour out his Spirit on the people of Saltzburg in Germany, who were liv. ing under Popish darkness, in a most uncommon manner ; so that above twenty thousand of them, merely by reading the Bible, which they made a shift to get in their own language,
were determined to throw off Popery, and embrace the reformed religion ; yea, and to become so very zealous for the truth and gospel of Jesus Christ, as to be willing to suffer the loss of all things in the world, and actually to forsake their houses, lands, goods and relations, that they might enjoy the pure preaching of the gospel ; with great earnestness, and tears in their eyes, beseeching Protestant ministers to preach to them, in places where they (when banished from their own country) came, in different places.” In the years 1734 and 1735, there appeared a very great and general awakening, in the county of Hampshire, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay in Newengland, and also in many parts of Connecticut. Since this, there has been a far more extensive awakening of many thousands in England, Wales and Scotland, and almost all the British provinces in North America. There has also been something remarkable of the same kind, in some places in the United Netherlands : And about two years ago, a very great awakening and reformation of many of the Indians, in the Jerseys, and Pennsylvania, even among such as never embraced Christianity before : And within these two years, a great awakening in Virginia and Maryland. Notwithstanding the great diversity of opinions about the issue of some of these awakenings, yet I know of none that have denied that there have been great awakenings of late, in these times and places, and that multitudes have been brought to more than common concern for their salvation, and for a time were made more than ordinarily afraid of sin, and brought to reform their former vicious courses, and take much pains for their salvation. If I should be of the opinion of those that think these awakenings and strivings of God's Spirit have been generally not well improved, and so, as to most, have not issued well, but have ended in enthusiasm and delusion, yet, that the Spirit of God has been of late so wonderfully awakening and striving with such multitudes, in so many different parts of the world, and even to this day, in one place or other, continues to awaken men, is what I should take great encouragement from, that God was about to do something more glorious, and would, before he finishes, bring things to a greater