Page images
PDF
EPUB

horribly abuse the bounties of God, and fling back his gifts, as it were, with defiance in his face. When the good things he hath given us, to cheer us under the toils and labours of life, and to render us the more vigorous and delighted in his service, we take and wantonly employ, to the inflaming our passions, to the clouding our reason, and to the turning ourselves into creatures more ignoble than brutes—When, instead of blushing at being covered with this shameful disguise, and of imitating those, who, being drunken, are drunken in the night, we see men in open day, with shameless effrontery, and impunity, reeling in our streets ; and such thicgs, instead of being seen and spoken of with abhorrence, are made only subjects of raillery and jests--When men, I say, are arrived at this impudence in sin, have they not just cause to fear the Divine displeasure? And will it not be avenged of such a people as this?

Whether this hath been at all our case, we are now called upon most seriously and impartially to consider. Let us look back but to the week immediately preceding this awful and heavy stroke. Was it not a time of too general disorder, and shameful excess ?* Was not the plague spreading, when even young ones began betimes to tread the paths of vice, and to forget their Creator in the days of their youth ? Have not we all, poor as well as rich, too much reason to condemn and abase ourselves, for our sins, in this respect? Let us now, then, as we are loudly called upon, humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God : let us repent and ġive glory to him, who hath power over this, and every other plague ; and, wherein we have done evil

, resolve, by God's help, that we will sincerely reform, and do it no more.

* A fair held in the green.

God hath spoken once, yea, twice : he lately sent amongst us a malignant and sweeping sick. ness, which carried multitudes to their graves. We were, perhaps, too unaffected by it, and attended, not, as we ought, to the voice of that rod. Behold! he hath now visited us in a more awful and tremendous manner; let us take heed that we despise not this chastening of his hand. He hath yet other scourges to lay on, if we continue stupid under these. The Almighty Ruler of the world will be glorified by us; we shall give glory to his justice, by smarting beneath his rod, if we will not give glory to his mercy, by being drawn by it to our duty. Now,

Now, therefore, in this our visitation, let us understand the things which belong to our peace, before they are for ever hid from our eyes.

But, having thus largely considered, what the purport or intent may be of the severe stroke we are now suffering : I proceed to observe, III. In this day of our adversity we are also to

consider, what circumstances there are which alleviate and lighten it, and to be sincerely thankful for them.

In the midst of judgment God hath remembered mercy : in the midst, therefore, of our sorrows, we are to be thankful and rejoice.

First. Let us be thankful that our lives are preserved ; that we fell not a like sacrifice amidst this dreadful conflagration with many of our neighbours. Skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life. Though our dwellings and substance have perished in the flames, yet, thanks to a kind Providence, our persons are

$ccare.

Again. Ile ought to acknowledge also the divine goodness in, at length, checking the desolation, and staying the progress of the devouring flame : that so many of our habitations are still standing to receive us; and that our wbole town was not laid in the same ruinous state with its principal part.-Had the winds and the flames, which are but ministers of God's Provideoce, received his commission, they had carried the devastation to the part which yet remains, and left none of us houses wherein to lay our heads.

Let us farther consider :--Though the scene presented to us was terrible, indeed, yet, upon the whole, it is much less terrible than what hath lately been, or at present is, the lot of many splendid cities and towns in neighbouring lands, where pestilence and war have dreadfully reigned. Though our houses were in flames, we had where to retreat in safety from them, and had not the far greater terror of bombs and fiery instruments of destruction and death flying thick about us, holding us every moment in peril of our lives ; the late, the present case of multitudes shut up in a close siege.

Again. Though the fire raged around us, better that, than a sweeping pestilence, walking through our streets. Better to see our dwellings in flames, than our families cut down one after another by a deadly contagion, and be ourselves every hour in expectation of death. Much better to have inhabitants without a town, than a town emptied and swept clean of its inhabitants by the plague. --Let us thus compare our case with that of multitudes around us, and we shall see our calamity, however great in itself, to be comparatively but light. We shall acknowledge ourselves obliged to mingle, with our tears, songs of joy and of praise : and, instead of repining, shall give thanks to the divine Goodness, which hath softened the stroke with so many alleviating circumstances, and hath not dealt with us according to our deserts. IV. In this day of our adversity let it greatly

comfort us to consider~The infinite power: and goodness of God : how ready he is to pity those who apply to him; and how able to help them.

The God of all consolation,' who comforts those who are cast. down, is one of the glorious characters, by which he makes himself known. As he never afflicts willingly, but corrects us only for our profit, so when his corrections have answered their kind intent, (that is, when they have rendered as duly thoughtful, penitent, and humble, and have sufficiently tried our patience and virtue) they will not only be removed, but be followed with peculiar tokens of the divine favour and regard. We have heard of the patience of Job, and we have seen the end of the Lord : that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy: and not only raised him up from the deep distress into which he was cast, but rendered his latter end doubly more prosperous and blessed thạn his, beginning. Let us, therefore, firmly trust God, whose is the earth, and the fulness thereof, and who dispenses its possessions with a sovereign hand.

Though now, for wise and good ends, he sees fit to bring us low, if we behave well under this stroke, we may be confidently assured he will raise us up again. He will raise us up, even in the present world, if that be good for us, and either to ourselves, or to our posterity, abundantly restore, what we thus meekly resign : but, however that be, he will assuredly raise us up to the possession of an infinitely more valuable substance, even a kingdom and an everlasting inheritance in heaven.

In this faith let us now behave with a christian resignation and composure of soul. Let us remember, it was not the blow of chance, but of unerring wisdom and design ; the appointment of the supreme Lord and director of the world : and whatever he doth, is unquestionably wise and best to be done. Our present losses, thus borne, will in the end prove our everlasting gain. Whereas, if we fret and repine under the stroke, we shall but lay ourselves open to yet farther rebukes, and endanger the removal of what we still enjoy.

Even in this time of our adversity, therefore, let us still rejoice, and delight ourselves in God, and cheerfully trust him for a supply of our wants : for, he, who hears the young ravens, when they cry, and who gives to the beasts their food, will never deny us (if we humbly ask it at his hands) any temporal thing which is really good

for us.

We have already seen an illustrious instance of the divine goodness and power in awakening the pity, and opening the hands of our kind neighbours around us; particularly of an adjacent city, wbose generosity and compassion ought never to be forgotten by us, as we hope it will be abundantly rewarded by God. The hearts of all, we know, are in his hands : the spirit of uncommon charity, which he hath already begun to awaken in our favour, in several neighbouring towns, will

* Exeter, which so tenderly and effectually commisserated the sutterers, that it raised, in a few days, above 600 pounds for their relief.

« EelmineJätka »