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Preached before the House of Commons at St. Margaret's,
Westminster, June 7, 1716; being the day of public thanksgiving to Almighty God for suppressing the unnatural Rebellion.
PSALM CXXII._VERSE 6.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper that love thee.
There is nothing places religion in a more disadvantageous view than the opinion entertained by some, that a concern for the present peace and prosperity of the world is so foreign to all the ends and purposes of true religion, that a good man ought not to suffer his thoughts, much less his passions and affections, to be engaged in so worthless a subject.
The inspired writers have indeed, with repeated instructions, guarded us against the temptations of riches, honors, and pleasures, and prepared us to undergo the calamities and afflictions of life with firmness and constancy of mind. But what then? So does the general exhort his soldiers to bear with patience the fatigues of war, to despise the dangers of it, and in the day of action to press forward, regardless of life itself; yet still victory and triumph, and the sweet enjoyments of peace, are the end of war; and the soldier, though he must not fear to die, yet it is his business to live and conquer. Religion is a spiritual warfare, and the world is the scene of action, in which every good man will be sure to meet with enemies enough; and it is not the end he aims at, but the opposition he meets with in pursuing that end, that makes it necessary for him to be inured to bear the miseries and afflictions of the world. Were the case otherwise, it would be iniquity to pray for temporal peace and prosperity; since we never ought to seek that by prayer to God, which the rules of our religion will not permit us to be concerned for. So that the exhortation in the text, to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem,’ implies that we ought to be concerned for her peace, so concerned as to do whatever is in our power to procure and to preserve it; since prayer to God for his assistance supposes the use of our own endeavors to obtain the blessing we contend for: and that we may not think that the Christian religion has made any alteration in this case, St. Paul has exhorted us to pray, and to give thanks for all men ; especially for kings, and all that are in authority ; for this
reason, . That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.' On this view then a concern for the
peace and prosperity of our country is not only a political but a religious virtue; a care that becomes us, both as we are men and as we are Christians; which stands not on the narrow bottom of self-interest, but rises from a more generous principle, partaking of the love of God, and of our neighbor; since, whilst we seek the public peace, we show our beneficence to one and our obedience to the other.
But there is a farther consideration, which makes the public peace to be the just concern of every good man. The
present state of religion in the world is such, and so connected
every where with the civil rights of mankind, that there is no probable ground to hope that even the religion we profess can be saved out of the ruins of the liberty of our country. If therefore it be a care worthy of a good man to preserve the purity of religion in his own time, or to transmit it safe to posterity; if we may wish, as well as pray, that he may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty;' or that his sons and his daughters may stand up after him before the Lord in the congregation of his saints; if these be lawful desires, and such as we may by our best endeavors labor to obtain, our religion will never permit us to be unconcerned spectators in any cause that affects the prosperity of our country; on which, under God, depends the liberty we enjoy of freely professing the faith once delivered to the saints.
The psalm from which the text is taken turns wholly on these two topics; the temporal prosperity of Jerusalem, considered as the head of the civil government, in the florishing condition of which the happiness of the whole nation was concerned ; and considered as the seat of true religion, the city in which God had chose to dwell, and to place his name there; on whose peace consequently depended the security of the holy religion which was there taught and professed. The first thing that gave vent to the holy Psalmist's joy, was observing the unanimity of the people in their attendance on the service of God in the holy city: ‘I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord : our feet shall stand within thy gates, 0 Jerusalem. From hence he entertains himself with the beautiful prospect of Jerusalem, as it was the centre both of religious and civil government, in which were seated the ark of God and the throne of David : from whence issued the streams of justice and holiness, to refresh and make glad all the cities of Israel. • Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together;' or, as the old translation reads, “ that is at unity in itself: whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. There are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.' The contemplation of this happy state of his country naturally vented itself in the warmth and ardor expressed in the text and following verse : ' Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper
that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.' This affectionate prayer and exhortation was founded in a concern for the temporal happiness of his country and nation; and therefore he adds, For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee;' and in a just regard for the honor of God and his religion, therefore, he closes all with this reflexion : · Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.'
You see the extent of the duty recommended in the text, and the reasons in which it is founded; and since we have so great an authority to justify our care and concern for the public peace and happiness of our country, both in regard to our civil rights, and to the interest of that holy religion which we profess, I beg leave to bring the arguments home to ourselves, and to the occasion of this day, by observing to you,
I. What reason we have on both these accounts to bless God for our deliverance from the late rebellion : and,
II. What obligations we are under from the same motives to use our own best endeavors to make perpetual the blessing of this deliverance.
Some arguments there are which require rather a capacity of feeling than any great acuteness of judgment to apprehend them : such are they which are drawn from the experience of sense, from pleasure or pain, from the conveniences or inconveniences of life; of which no man is a capable judge who wants the sense proper to distinguish between the pleasure and the pain, or the experience of the convenience or inconvenience under debate. One would think that an ordinary imagination would serve to represent the difference of liberty and slavery; of the state in which every man may sit under his own vine, and eat his bread with cheerfulness; and that condition, in which nothing is to be called our own, but the misery of submitting to despotic power : and yet we find that the generality of men are not masters of so much reflexion as is necessary to arrive at this small degree of knowlege in the affairs of the world. It is the observation of Tacitus, the Roman historian, one allowed to be a good judge of mankind, that the people of Rome were prepared for slavery by the long reign of Augustus, which had almost worn out the race of men that had tasted the sweets of liberty and freedom. Ours seems to be the reverse of their case : we have so long enjoyed the protection of our laws, and are got at such a distance from the late times of distress, that we have not memory enough of them left to awaken our care to prevent their return. Our fathers, who lived under the dread of
popery and arbitrary power, are most of them gone off the stage, and have carried away with them the experience which we their sons stand in need of, to make us in earnest to preserve the blessing of liberty and pure religion which they have bequeathed us. O that I had words to represent to the present generation the miseries which their fathers underwent ! that I could describe their fears and anxieties, their restless nights and their uneasy days, when every morning threatened to usher in the last day of England's liberty ! when men stood mute for want of counsel, and every eye was watching with impaVOL. III.
tience for the happy gale that should save the kingdom ; whose fortunes were reduced so low as to depend on the chance of wind and weather.
Had men such a sense of the miseries of the time past, it would teach them what consequences they were to expect from any successful attempt against the present establishment. They would not want to be instructed what a free nation had to fear under the government of one, educated in sight of all the arts of tyranny and oppression; or what usage a protestant church would find under the influence of a prince trained up from his cradle in the superstition and corruption of the church of Rome. Were the influence of religion confined within the narrow compass of every man's own breast, the subject, perhaps, would have but little reason to be inquisitive about the prince's persuasion ; but since it is part of every man's religion to propagate the doctrine he professes ; and since the methods of propagation in the hands of a prince, which are strengthened by the power of the temporal sword, are not likely to be confined to the gentle measures of reason and instruction; the religion of the prince must be considered as a condition requisite to the happiness and prosperity of the people. In our own case this consideration is the more necessary, because it is the avowed principle of the church of Rome, not only to wish for the conversion of those who dissent from her, but to force it by all the terrors of worldly power.
And a nation must want common sense, to put the sword of government into his hands, who they know will be bound in conscience to use it, either to the destruction of their souls or their bodies. There is no one doubts but that there are natural incapacities sufficient to exclude one otherwise intitled to government. An outrageous madman nobody would trust, because nothing is to be expected from him but havoc and destruction. Now if a moral defect will produce the same evil consequences, why should not the moral incapacity be esteemed as strong a bar as the natural! It matters not whether it is conscience or madness which causes the destruction: a nation surely has a right to prevent such a violence, without being troubled to know whether the distemper from which it grows, has its root in the head or in the heart. The Romanists have little reason to complain of this instance of