תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

the sinner may pretend to plead, in alleviation of his crime, that the law appeared to him so strict and rigorous, that he could not bring his mind to consent to its demands.

But what evasion can a man find for contradicting his own prayers ? Or what shall he be able to answer, when God shall say to him, “ Out of thine own mouth do I condemn thee, thou wicked servant?” Every request which we make to God, is not only an explicit declaration that we highly esteem, and ardently desire the bene.' fits we ask, but likewise implies an obligation on our part, to put ourselves in the way of receiving what we ask, and to use all the means in our own power to obtain it. When therefore we do not endeavour to obtain the blessings which we ask, we plaiuly declare that we do not heartily desire them. And by asking what we do not desire to obtain, we make it evident that we are presumptuous dissemblers, who use greater freedom with the all-perfect Being, than we dare to use with any of our fellow mortals, who is possessed of sufficient power to resent such unworthy and abusive treatment.

I have just now read to you a prayer of the royal Psalmist, which none of us, I suppose, will hesitate to adopt. It consists of two distinct petitions; the one respecting the spiritual, the other the temporal prosperity of the people over which the providence of God had placed him. And it will readily occur to you, that both these important interests of the nation to which we be. long, are recommended to our attention in the royal pro. clamation which hath brought us together this day. What I propose in the following discourse is to make a few remarks,

First. On the matter of David's prayer.

Secondly. On the order observed in the petitions contained in it.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Thirdly. On the temper of mind with which this prayer appears to have been accompanied. I will then shew what is incumbent on those who address the same requests to God, in order to prove the uprightness of their hearts, and that they sincerely wish to obtain what they ask.

I begin with the matter of David's prayer: “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem."

The first of these petitions hath an obvious reference to the tribes of Israel, considered in their spiritual state, as a religious community, or the true church of God. To those who are acquainted with the language of Scripture, it will not be needful to prove, that this is the common acceptation of the term Zion, when it is used in distinction from Jerusalem. Zion was the unalterable station of the tabernacle, the city of David, and the em. blem of that spiritual kingdom which David's Son and Lord was to erect in future times. The blessing prayed for by the Psalmist is, that it would please God to do good unto Zion.

This short, but comprehensive request, in the mouth of a British and protestant Christian, includes more particulars than the limits of one discourse will permit me to enumerate. I shall select a few leading petitions, in which all who come under this description will cordially unite; namely, That God, of his infinite mercy, may es. tablish and perpetuate what his own right hand wrought for us in the days of our fathers, at the two illustrious æras of the reformation from popery, and what is justly styled the Glorious Revolution: That the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified in these lands, as long as the sun and moon endure: That the great truths of the gospel of Christ may be faithfully

published, and successfully defended, both against the attacks of open enemies, and the secret artifices of those who lie in wait to deceive: That the ordinances of religion may not only be dispensed in purity, but may be accompanied with power, and rendered effectual for the conviction of sinners, and for building up saints in holi. ness and comfort through faith unto salvation: That the wickedness of the wicked may come to an end, and the just be established: That the spirit of division may cease, and that the whole multitude of believers may be of one heart and one soul, “ following after the things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edi- . fy another.” In fine, that our Zion may be a “quiet habitation, and a tabernacle that shall not be taken down, none of the stakes whereof shall be removed, neither any of the cords broken: that God may appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks to her, and be himself the glory in the midst of her;" “ Clothing her priests with righteonsness, that all her saints may shout aloud for joy." In these, and such particulars, consisteth the good of Zion. “Christ loved his church, and gave bimself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; that it might be holy and without blemish." For this end he lived, and for this end he died, " That he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

The other petition contained in the text, “ build tbou the walls of Jerusalem," hath a reference to the civil state of the Jews as a commonwealth or kingdom, and is a prayer for their national safety and prosperity.

This request, like the former, comprebends a great variety of particulars.

It will be readily admitted, that a form of government, by which the natural rights of men are most effectually secured, and in which the impartial administration of established laws guards the life, the liberty, and the property of the meanest individual, may, without straining the metaphor, be included in the idea of walls and bulwarks, which contribute at once to the defence and ornament of a city. With regard to the walls or bulwarks” of our civil constitution, it gives me pleasure to acknowledge, that they are not only entire, but in several respects more fair and durable than those of any other nation upon earth. In other lands, the walls of government are built on the surrender of some of the most precious rights of human nature : But in this happy country, we have not bought the protection of government at so dear a rate; nor is the hard hand of the oppressor either felt or feared by the meanest member of the community. And must not the heart of that man then be hard and unfeeling, who doth not wish and pray that such an invaluable constitution may be built up and preserved entire to the latest generations ?

But the expression used in the text, calls upon us to look with weeping eyes and sorrowful hearts, upon that awful rent in the British empire, which is the immedi. ate occasion of our meeting together at this time. We have seen a cloud rise out of the west, at first no bigger than a man's hand; but, like that which the Prophet's servant saw, it hath overspread the face of heaven, and carried tempest and desolation in its progress. When I mention this great calamity, I do not mean to fix your attention on it as an object which presents nothing to our view but complicated distress and danger. Much as I disapprove of that levity which “ despiseth the chastening of the Lord,” I am yet no friend to that despondency which would make us “faint when we are rebuked of him.” The same expression in my text, which reminds us of the alarming breach which we deplore, doth at the same time lead us to look beyond and above it, to him who is able to repair it; to that God who hath the hearts of all men in his hands, and turneth them as the rivers of water.” With him it is a small matter, not only to fill up the gap which hath separated Great Britain from her American colonies; but if it seem good in his sight, he can, with infinite ease, make this temporary separation the occasion and the means of establishing a firm and permanent union; an union which neither political artifice, nor selfish ambition, nor the pride of independence, will be able to dissolve. This is the desirable issue to which our wishes may lawfully direct us, when we pray, in the language of the royal Psalmist, 6 Build thou the walls of Jerusalem."

Having made these remarks on the import of David's requests, let us attend, in the

Second place, To the order in which they are placed. He begins with praying for the good of Zion, and then offers his supplication in behalf of Jerusalem. Nor is this an accidental or arbitrary arrangement. The same subordination of temporal to spiritual blessings, is uniformly observed through the whole of the sacred record, both in the promises of God, and in the accepted prayers of his people: and it deserves our notice, that, in this order, we are called upon by his majesty's proclamation to conduct the devotional exercises of this day. For, previous to any particular request respecting the political state of the British empire, we are admonished by our gracious sovereign, “ To bumble ourselves before Almighty God on account of our sins; to implore his pardon, and to send up, in the most derout and solemn

VOL. II.

Z

« הקודםהמשך »