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his knowledge—and if the very hairs of our heads be numbered by him—if such, I say, be the minute attention paid by God, first to the inferior orders in the creation and then to man individually, it is evidently most unreasonable and absurd to suppose that kingdoms and nations escape his cognizance--or that he is unmoved by their obedience, or blind to their sins.--Let us conclude, then, not only that the Almighty visiteth the earth and blesseth it, and maketh it very plenteous !, - but also that he doth sometimes“ arise and shake it terribly”
-and let us also conclude that " when God's judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the world should learn righteousness ?.”—All such dispensations cry,
“ Be thou instructed, o Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee.”
Here then, arises the question-can we see any signs of such a dispensation now ?-Have we any clear reasons for concluding that God's judgments are even now abroad in the world ? and that he is now uttering the cry of the text in a more emphatic tone than usual ?-No man could justly be accused of answering rashly or fanatically who should reply to these questions at once in the affirmative.--And in saying this, I am not alluding solely to the disease, whose approach has been the more immediate occasion of our assembling to-day. It is true that even in this, there are features which mark it out as something more than an ordinary visitation. We “ know not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth.”—The observation of man has not been able to detect its origin-nor has his skill devised any sufficient cure. No precautions have availed to arrest its progress-nor has any conjecture anticipated the direction it would pursue. These things, combined with its peculiar malignity and destructiveness, do certainly claim for it the serious attention of all those who reflect on what they see.
of the signs of the times.- Look abroad into the world, my brethren, and see whether there be not appearances far more alarming-symptoms of moral unhealthiness pregnant with far more woeful consequences, than any that can arise from physical disease. Is there not on all sides “ distress of nations with perplexity ?”—Are there not in our land distresses and discontents and difficulties? Difficulties which are hourly increasing, and which must tend to increase also the number of the discontented and the distressed !-And can we say what shall be the end of these things? or does it seem probable that the power of man can grant us a happy issue out of these our afflictions ?-Here-I humbly conceive-may be discovered the traces of God's dealing with us—his dealing with us, not so much by any direct and open infliction, as by the withdrawal of his countenance and support.---Pride and self-sufficiency, the besetting sins of the individual man, seem to have taken possession of us as a nation. We have
leant too much upon such“ bruised reeds” as
as mere state expediency and earthly cunning, and “have not asked at the mouth of the Lord."—What wonder then, since we have not liked to retain God in our knowledge, that he should give us up to our own devices, and that we are taken in our own toils ? What wonder is it, since we will not be content to learn of him, if he “destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent? ?”
With these impressions, both of the public and private delinquencies of our day, you will perceive, my brethren, that the decision of the question, whether or no this particular disease be an immediate token of God's displeasure—is a matter of inferior moment. Even if we conclude that God hath not yet visited us directly with his vengeance it remains an undeniable truth that we deserve to be visited and this is the great practical point to be remembered.-No Christian can doubt that the Almighty may make use of what instruments it pleases him for the punishment of his rebellious creatures, nor deny that this malady might so be employed against us. No Christian, I should think, can doubt that our offences have been such as to merit signal chastisement.-And yet this chastisement, we suppose, has not been inflicted—not inflicted, that is, in a degree proportioned to our faultsor according to the measure meted out to some neighbouring nations.—Now, how should we reason on this particular ? Shall we draw comparisons between the spiritual state of these countries and that of our own ?-Shall we say, in effect, that “ these Galilæans were sinners above all the Galilæans, because they suffered these things ???
1 1 Cor. i. 19.