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because he hath taught rebellion against the Lord." 'All those that are others' superiors or elders, should take heed, that at this day they be not like the elder brother, who could not bear it, that the prodigal should be made so much of, and should be so sumptuously entertained, and would not join in the joy of the feast ; was, like Michal, Saul's daughter, offended at the music and dancing that he heard; the transports of joy displeased him; it seemed to him to be an uuseemly and unseasonable noise and ado, that was made; and therefore stood at a distance, sullen, and much offended, and full of invectives against the young prodigal.
It is our wisest and best way, fully, and without reluctance, to bow to the great God in this work, and to be entirely resigned to him, with respect to the manner in which he carries it on, and the instruments he is pleased to make use of, and not to show ourselves out of humor, and sullenly to refuse to acknowledge the work, in the full glory of it, because we have not had so great a band in promoting it, or have not shared so largely in the blessings of it, as some others; and not to refuse to give all that honor, that belongs to others, as instruments, because they are young, or are upon other accounts, much inferior to ourselves, and many others, and may appear to us very unworthy, that God should put so much honor upon them. When God comes to accomplish any great work for his church, and for the advancement of the kingdom of his Son, he always fulfils that scripture, Isa. ji. 17: “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” If God has a design of carrying on this work, every one, whether he be great or small, must either bow to it, or be broken before it: it may be expected that God's hand will be upon every thing that is high, and stiff, and strong in opposition, as in Isa. ii. 12, 13, 14, 15: “For the day of the Lord of hosts, shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall.”
Not only magistrates and ministers, but every living soul, is now obliged to acknowledge God in this work, and put to his hand to promote it, as they would not expose themselves to God's curse. All sorts of persons, throughout the whole congregation of Israel, great and small, rich and poor, men and women, helped to build the tabernacle in the wilderness; some in one way, others in another; each one according to his own capacity: every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing; all sorts contributed, and all sorts were employed in that affair, in labors of their hands, both men and women: some brought gold and silver; others blue, purple and scarlet, and fine linen; others offered an offering of brass; others, with whom was found Shittim wood, brought it an offering to the Lord : the rulers brought onyx stones, and spice, and oil; and some brought goats' hair; and some rams' skins, and others badgers' skins. See Exod. xxxv. 20, &c. And we are told, verse 29, " The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing.” And thus it ought to be in this day of building the tabernacle of God; with such a willing and cheerful heart, ought every man, woman, and child, to do something to promote this work: those that have not onyx stones, or are not able to bring gold or silver, yet may bring goats' hair.
As all sorts of persons were employed in building the tabernacle in the wilderness, so the whole congregation of Israel were called together to set up the
besought him to depart out of their coasts: they loved their filthy swine better than Jesus Christ; and had rather have a legion of devils in their country, with their herd of swine, than Jesus Christ without them.
This work may be opposed, not only by directly speaking against the whole of it: persons may say that they believe there is a good work carried on in the country; and may sometimes bless God, in their public prayers, in general terms, for any awakenings or revivals of religion, there have lately been in any parts of the land; and may pray that God would carry on his own work, and pour out his Spirit more and more ; and yet, as I apprehend, be in the sight of God, great opposers of his work: some will express themselves after this manner, that are so far from acknowledging and rejoicing in the infinite mercy, and glorious grace of God, in causing so happy a change in the land, that they look upon the religious state of the country, take it in the whole of it, much more sorrowful than it was ten years ago; and whose conversation, to those that are well acquainted with them, evidently shows, that they are more out of humor with the state of things, and enjoy themselves less, than they did before ever this work began.- If it be manifestly thus with us, and our talk and behavior with respect to this work, be such as has (though but) an indirect tendency, to beget ill thoughts and suspicions in others concerning it, we are opposers of the work of God.
Instead of coming to the help of the Lord, we shall actually fight against him, if we are abundant in insisting on, and setting forth the blemishes of the work, so as to manifest that we rather choose, and are more forward to take: notice of what is amiss, than what is good and glorious in the work. Not but that the errors that are committed, ought to be observed and lamented, and a proper testimony borne against them, and the most probable means should be used to have them amended: but an insisting much upon them, as though it were a pleasing theme, or speaking of them with more appearance of heat of spirit, or with ridicule, or an air of contempt, than grief for them, has no tendency to correct the errors; but has a tendency to darken the glory of God's power and grace, appearing in the substance of the work, and to beget jealousies and ill thoughts in the minds of others, concerning the whole of it. Whatever errors many zealous persons have run into, yet if the work, in the substance of it, be the work of God, then it is a joyful day indeed; it is so in heaven, and ought to be so among God's people on earth, especially in that part of the earth, where this glorious work is carried on. It is a day of great rejoicing with Christ himself, the good shepherd, when he finds his sheep that was lost, lays it on his shoulders rejoicing, and calls together his friends and neighbors, saying, rejoice with me: if we therefore are Christ's friends, now it should be a day of great rejoicing with us. If we viewed things in a just light, so great an event as the conversion of such a multitude of sinners, would draw and engage our attention, much more than all the imprudences and irregularities that have been ; our hearts would be swallowed up with the glory of this event, and we should have no great disposition to attend to any thing else. The imprudences and errors of poor feeble worms, do not hinder or prevent great rejoicing, in the presence of the angels of God, over so many poor sinners that have repented ; and it will be an argument of something very ill in us, if they prevent our rejoicing.
Who loves in a day of great joy and gladness, to be much insisting on those things that are uncomfortable ? Would it not be very improper, on a king's coronation day, to be much in taking notice of the blemishes of the royal family? Or would it be agreeable to the bridegroom on the day of his espousals,
the day of the gladness of his heart, to be much insisting on the blemishes of his bride? We have an account, how that at the time of that joyful dispensation of Providence, the restoration of the church of Israel, after the Babylonish captivity, and at the time of the feast of tabernacles, many wept at the faults that were found amongst the people, but were reproved for taking so much notice of the blemishes of that affair, as to overlook the cause of rejoicing. Neh. viii. 9, 10, 11, 12," And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, this day is holy unto the Lord your God, mourn not nor weep; for all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them, for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, hold your peace, for the day is holy, neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way, to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.”
God doubtless now expects, that all sorts of persons in New England, rulers, ministers and people, high and low, rich and poor, old and young, should take great notice of his hand, in this mighty work of his grace, and should ap; pear to acknowledge his glory in it, and greatly to rejoice in it, every one doing
his utmost, in the place that front has set them in, to promote it. And God, according to his wonderful patience, seems to be still waiting, to give us opportu
nity, thus to acknowledge and honor him. But if we finally refuse, there is not the least reason to expect any other, than that his awful curse will pursue ns, and that the pourings out of his wrath will be proportionable to the despised outpourings of his Spirit and grace.
Showing, in many Instances, wherein the Subjects; or zealous Promoters of this
Work, have been injuriously blamed.
This work, that has lately been carried on in the land, is the work of God, and not the work of man. Its beginning has not been of man's power or device, and its being carried on, depends not on our strength or wisdom ; but yet God expects of all, that they should use their utmost endeavors to promote it, and that the hearts of all should be greatly engaged in this affair, and that we should improve our utmost strength in it, however vain human strength is without the power of God; and so he no less requires that we should improve our utmost care, wisdom and prudence, though human wisdom, of itself be as vain as human strength. Though God is wont to carry on such a work, in such a manner as, many ways, to show the weakness and vanity of means and human endeavors, in themselves; yet at the same time, he carries it on in such a manner, as to encourage diligence and vigilance, in the use of proper means and endeavors, and to punish the neglect of them. Therefore in our endeavors to promote this great work, we ought to use the utmost caution, vigilance and skill
, in the measures we take in order to it. A great affair should be managed with great prudence : this is the most important affair that ever New England was called to be concerned in. When a people are engaged in war
with a powerful and crafty nation, it concerns them to manage an affair of such consequence with the utmost discretion. Of what vast importance then must it be, that we should be vigilant and prudent, in the management of this great war that New England now has, with so great a host of such subtle and cruel enemies, wherein we must either conquer or be conquered, and the consequence of the victory, on one side, will be our eternal destruction, in both soul and body in hell, and on the other side, our obtaining the kingdom of heaven, and reigning in it in eternal glory? We had need always to stand on our watch, and to be well versed in the art of war, and not to be ignorant of the devices of our enemies, and to take heed lest by any means we be beguiled through their subtilty.
Though the devil be strong, yet in such a war as this, he depends more on his craft than his strength: and the course he has chiefly taken from time to time, to clog, hinder and overthrow revivals of religion in the church of God, has been by his subtle, deceitful management, to beguile and mislead those that have been engaged therein ; and in such a course God has been pleased, in his holy and sovereign providence, to suffer him to succeed, oftentimes, in a great measure to overthrow that, which in its beginning appeared most hopeful and glorious. The work that is now begun in New England, is, as I have shown, eminently glorious, and if it should go on and prevail
, would make New Eng. Jand a kind of heaven upon earth : is it not therefore a thousand pities, that it should be overthrown, through wrong and improper management, that we are led into by our subtle adversary in our endeavors to promote it?
In treating of the methods that ought to be taken to promote this work, I would,
1. Take notice, in some instances, wherein fault has been found with the conduct of those that have appeared to be the subjects of it, or have been zealous to promote it (as I apprehend) beyond just cause.
2. I would show what things ought to be corrected or avoided.
3. I would show postively, what ought to be done to promote this glorious work of God.
I. I would take notice of some things, at which offence has been taken without, or beyond just cause. One thing that has been complained of, is ministers addressing
themselves, rather to the affections of their hearers, Than to their understandings, and striving to raise their passions to the utmost height, rather by a very affectionate manner of speaking, and a great appearance of earnestness, in voice and gesture, than by clear reasoning and informing their judgment: by which means it is objected, that the affections are moved,
without a proportionable enlightening of the understanding.
To which I would say, I am far from thinking that it is not very profitable, for ministers in their preaching, to endeavor clearly and distinctly to explain the doctrines of religion, and unravel the difficulties that attend them, and to confirm them with strength of reason and argumentation, and also to observe some easy and clear method and order, in their discourses, for the help of the understanding and memory; and it is very probable that these things have been of late, too much neglected, by many ministers; yet, I believe that the objection that is made, of affections raised without enlightening the understanding, is in a great measure built on a mistake, and confused notions that some have about the nature and cause of the affections, and the manner in which they de pend on the understanding. All affections are raised either by light in the un derstanding, or by some error and delusion in the understanding ; for all affer