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PREFACE TO SERMON LV.
WHEN I had just delivered this plain sermon from the pulpit, it was a great surprize to me to find myself surrounded with importunities to make it more public. Nor can I impute this to any thing but to the affectionate zeal and concern of my auditors about all events that relate to the royal house of Great Britain, and to a mind well prepared by the late important occurrences to receive instructions of piety from a common discourse without art or ornament.
I must acknowledge, that when any great and momentous changes arise in the world, it is my custom, in the course of my ministry, to excite my hearers to a pious notice and improvement of them. And when, upon the death of our late gracious Sovereign, I observed among my acquaintance so just and sincere a joy for the peaceful succession of a protestant prince to the British throne, I was desirous to turn the stream of it into a religious channel, and to awaken their thoughts to a more solemn and distinct observation of the hand of God, both in putting a sudden period to the reign of one excellent king, and the immediate advancement of another: But I have always had an aver.. sion to send any of these composures to the press. I know several of my brethren are much better qualified for such services ; and after almost thirty years spent in the ministry I have never yet published one sermon on such political occasions.
But the requests of many persons multiplied so fast upon me at this time, that I found myself constrained to submit my own inclinations, and resign them up to the power which
my friends have over me. Perhaps the voice of the people in this respect may be the voice of God.
Had I designed to present the world withi a discourse relating to this great event, I think I should have chosen a different text, and taken much more time in the composition. But such as it is, I must now commit it to the candour of my readers ; and humbly ask of God to bless my first essay of this kind to the service of the souls of inen, that in all occurrences they may learn first to pay a religious veneration to the hand of God, the supreme and eternal King, and then that they may give all due honour to the memory of our deceased royal benefactors, and may yield all affectionate duty and submission to those whom the kind providence of God has been long preparing for the throne, and has now exalted to that sublime dignity and important station. May divine wisdom and mercy ever guide and defend them! May the almighty God pour out his richest blessings on their royal persons and their issue, in a long and glorious succession, and render then the guards and honours of christianity and Great Britain, so long as the sun and moon endure. Amen.
June 23, 1727.
SERMON LV. &c.*
The solemn and important occurrences of the last week call us to a serious
potice of the hand of God in them : The death of our late gracious Sovereign, and the happy accession of his present Majesty, have diverted my thoughts from the subject which I lately proposed, and have determined me to entertain you this day with the words of the holy prophet.
Isatan v. 12—And the harp and the viol, the tabret and pipe, and wine, are in
their feasts : But they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider
the operation of his hands. In the reigns of several of our former princes, we had a just and melancholy apprehension of popish darkness and tyranny breaking in upon us at their death. The peaceful and regular sucsession of a protestant heir to his Father's throne, is such a blescing as hath not been known in Great Britain for a hundred years past : It might well be expected then that it should be received with universal joy and gladness of heart. The occasion for it is proper and glorious : Nor will I censure the moderate use of a feast, and a song, and instruments of music, to express this inward and becoming joy : Nor doth the prophet in my text forbid them as unlawful things; but he gives it as the character of the profane part of mankind, that upon all occasions they give up themselves to sensual merriment, with an utter neglect of the providence of God.
In such events as we behold this day, the man of wisdom and piety looks all around him: He takes a religious notice of the death of a preceding prince, which makes way for tlie introduction of his successor, and he points his eye to the hand of God in the sudden change of our rulers. The true christian assumes the language of the prophet Daniel with a devout temper of mind, Blessed be the name of God for ever, for wisdom and might are his: He changelh the times and the seasons, he removeth kings, and he setteth up kings; Daniel ii. 21. Whereas the formal professors of christianity, or the vicious part of the people, shew their mirth by enflaming themselves with strong drink; and the harp and the viol are in their feasts, but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands. This is the crime which the prophet severely reproves, and for which he pronounces divine threatenings in the following verses.
* Preached at Berry-strect, June 18th, 1737, on the death of George I. and the Succession of George II.
+ The last instance of this kind was when Charles the First succeeded his father James the First, in the year 1625, and indeed this was the only one, except when Edward the sixth caine to the crown in the room of Henry tlie Eighth, his father.
To make a right improvement of the present providence, and the text, I shall enquire,
I. What sort of notice we ought to take of the dispensations of God, and especially in the affairs of nations.-II. I shall consider, What is the guilt and danger of disregarding the hand of God herein.—III. I will apply these things particularly to the present events.
First, “ What sort of notice we ought to take of the dispensations of God?” I answer briefly under three general heads.
1. " We should make a solemn observation of what is awful and afflictive in the events of divine providence and learn some instructive lessons thereby." If the life of a sparrow be the ob. ject of divine superintendency, if a sparrow fall not to the ground without our heavenly Father; Mark X. 29. much more should we direct our thoughts to the operation and influence of God in the greater incidents of the life and death of man, and the important changes that depend upon them. When the judgments of God are abroad in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness, or at least they ought to do it; Is. xxvi. 8, 9. Is there any evil in the city, any sorrow attends a nation, but the Lord hath a hand in it? Amos iii. 6. The voice of the Lord hath spoken, and the man of wisdom will see his name, will hear the rod and him that hath appointed it; Micah vi. 9. The man of relig gion will enquire, “ What have I done to provoke the Almighty to send down his judgments from heaven ? What abuse of mercies have I been guilty of, to provoke the great God to remove them from me? What share liave I had in the common guilt of a nation, that may have awakened the anger of God against it in any instances of public sorrow ?"
2. “ We should raise our learts to a delightful notice, and a grateful sense of the mercy of God in his providences." The business of religion is not all sadness and mourning. We are bound to take notice of public joys, as well as of common and extensive calamities. A christian may rejoice in the light of heaven and the sun-beams, as well as observe the clouds, and thunder and storms; but he must remember they all come from above. The wicked of the earth make themselves merry amidst the comforts of life, without any notice of the God that gives them, or any thank-offerings to his name: But a sincere christian loves to receive his blessings from the hand of liis heavenly Father: He looks on thein as the distributions of divine love, he beholds them sanctified by the covenant of rich grace, and thereby be tastes a double relish of sweetness in them. Common and public blessings afford him a private and delicious sensation beyond what the thoughtless herd of mankind partake of: The stranger intermeddles not with this joy; Prov. xiv. 10. When he drinks of the sweet streams of delight here on earth, he traces them to the fountain head in beaven, and as it were bathes himself in the immense ocean of goodness. This God is my God, my heavenly friend, and he will be my God for ever and ever; Ps. xlviii. 14.
3. “ We should make a humble enquiry into the various duties, both toward God and man, which divine providence calls us to, at special seasons, and under special circumstances.” It is the language of a soul that walks with God, Lord what wilt thou have me to do? Acts ix. 6. There is not a day nor a hour but brings a duty with it; not a change of providence but calls for peculiar practices of piety. We are placed here in a state of service, and God requires that our eye be directed to him hourly, as the eye of a serrant to his master, or a hand maid to her mistress, $0 speaks the royal Psalmist; Ps. cxxiii. 2. We should watch every motion of the right-hand of our God, and all the progress of his footsteps in his government of the world, that we may learn our proper business thence; " that in the time of prosperity we may rejoice in the Lord, and in the hour of adversity we may set ourselves to consider our ways and humble ourselves before him ;" Ec. vii. 14. It is the word of God that appoints us the general rules of duty and religion; but it is providence that leads us to apply these rules, and to put them into daily practice. Thus having enquired what sort of notice a christian ought to take of the hand of God in the events of life, we proceed to shew,
In the second place," what is the guilt and danger of neglecting this pious practice: And that may be comprized chiefly under the four following heads:
1. Those who take no notice of the operations of God in the affirs of human life, “ abuse their reason and their better powers, both as men and as christians.” Our eyes and our ears, and other senses of the body, are given us to take notice of the outward objects that surround us, which are the springs of pain or pleasure; and these we enjoy in common with the beasts of the earth: The birds and the fishes, the creeping things, and every little insect, employ their corporeal powers for the same purposes; but inan was made with nobler principles, and capacitated to discover and discern the liand of God his Creator, and to observe his supreme direction of all the affairs of mankind : And if we consider ourselves as christians, we prosess still a diviner principle of converse with God. llow mean, how iguoble and degenerate a thing is it then, for men who profess christianity, to look no further than the objects of sense, and sink themselves to the rank of the brute creation ? Man, though lie be raised, by the station of his nature, to a more honourable character than the rest of the animals; yet if he remain without understanding, and thoughtless of his God, he becomes like the beasts that perish ; Ps. xlix. 20. Brute beasts, which, as the apostle says, are made to be destroyed; 2 Pet. ii. 12. So men that regard not the operation of the Lord, nor consider the work of his hands, the Lord will destroy them and not build them up; Ps. xxviii. 5.
2. Those who disregard the work of God in the events of luman life," they deprive the great God himself of that honour which he derands and expects, especially from his more important providences." Do not his sublime wisdon, his extensive goodness, and his almiglity power, display themselves gloriously in his providential government of mankind? And is it not with this design, that his intelligent creature man should take notice of this display of his glories ? To what purpose are all the manifestations of his mercy and of his judgment among men, if the sons of Adam disregard them all? Will not the supreme Governor of the world resent such a stupid and sottish conduct ? Does the great God write his own name in every leaf of his two great volumes of nature and providence, and shall his creature man take no notice of it, and refuse to read it? Will lie for ever bear with creatures that neglect to take notice of the name and works of their almighty Maker?
3. “ They bereave themselves of the rich advantages that may be derived from such converse with God about the events of human life." If we were but wise and curious observers of the conduct of providence, what divine experiments might we obtain of the wisdom and of the grace of God; and lay up a treasure of sweet and solid foundations for encouragement and hope in days to come? The royal Psalmist assures us of blessed advantages to be derived from a skilful notice of divine providences; Ps. cvii. 43. Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord. They who learn io know his name, by a wise attendance to his works, will put their trust in him; Ps. ix. 10.
If we overlook the hand of the Almighty in the events of human life, we lose much of the spiritual profit of awful and afilictive providences, and much of the sweetness of temporal mercies. Such a sinful neglect will also lead us by degrees to a woeful omission of our daily duties, and bring us into great danger of degeneracy, and backsliding, into a carnal and worldly frame of spirit: Whereas if we make it our business to watch the the hand of God in the occurrences of the world, this is indeed