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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
In this edition the author has corrected those errors of the press which in the former were very considerable. The Monthly Reviewers have founded a criticism entirely on one of them. The author had remarked, that infidelity was bred in the stagnant marshes of corrupted Christianity. The printer having omitted the word corrupted, the Reviewers remark that they never found in their map of Christianity any stagnant marshes. Having mentioned the Monthly Reviewers, he must be permitted to notice a most singular error into which they have been betrayed; that of supposing the author had confounded Aristotle with Mrs. More. It is well known to every one who has the smallest tincture of learning, that the great critic of antiquity represents the design of tragedy to be that of purifying the heart by pity and terror. It appeared to the author that infidelity, by the crimes and disorders it has produced in society, was not incapable of answering a similar purpose. He accordingly availed himself of the comparison; but it having occurred to him afterward that he had read a similar passage in Mrs. More, he thought it right to notice this circumstance in an advertisement; in which he says he apprehends the allusion to the tragic muse to belong to Mrs. More. It was not the opinion of its being the purpose of tragedy to purify the heart by pity and terror that he ascribed to that celebrated female ; but solely the allusion to that opinion as illustrating the effect of infidelity. It is on this slender foundation, however, that the writer in the Monthly Review, with what design is best known to himself, has thought fit to represent him as ascribing to Mrs. More, as its author, a critical opinion which has been current for more than two thousand years. He is certain his words will not support any such construction, though he will not contend that he has expressed himself with all the clearness that might be wished.
He is sorry to find some passages towards the close of the sermon have given offence to persons whom he highly esteems. It has been objected, that the author has admitted to heaven a crowd of legislators, patriots, and heroes, whose title to that honour, on Christian principles, is very equivocal. In reply to which, he begs it to be remembered that the New Testament teaches, that God is no respecter of persons ; that in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him; that we may be certain there will not be wanting in the innumerable assembly around the throne some of
the highest rank and of the most illustrious talents; and that the writer has qualified the character of those legislators and patriots whom he has represented as being in heaven with the epithet of virtuous; and this, after he had been at some pains to explain what he comprehended in his idea of virtue. He has been censured for attempting to animate the defenders of their country, by holding out the prospect of immortality, should they fall in the contest; and it has been asked why, instead of amusing them with this phantom, not endeavour to convince them of the necessity of religious preparation for death, when he must be aware it is very possible for men to die fighting in defence of their country, and yet fall short of future happiness. The writer is, indeed, fully persuaded, that in the concerns of salvation no reliance ought to be placed on a detached instance of virtuous conduct; that a solid piety is indispensably necessary, and that without holiness no man can see the Lord. But after having employed a great part of the preceding discourse in urging the necessity of repentance, he may surely be allowed for a moment to take it for granted that his admonitions have been attended to; and without treading over the same ground, in an address to men who are supposed to be just entering the field, to advert to topics more immediately connected with military prowess. It was never his intention to place worldly on a level with religious considerations, or to confound the sentiments of honour with the dictates of duty. But as the fear of death and the love of fame are both natural, and both innocent within certain limits, he was not aware there could be any impropriety, when he had already dwelt largely on religious topics, to oppose one natural sentiment to another. He who confines himself to such considerations violates the character of the Christian minister; he who neglects them entirely is wanting to the duties of the present crisis. The writer has only to add on this head, that in the addresses on similar occasions in the Scriptures there is rarely a greater mixture of religious topics, or more reserve in appealing to other motives, than is found here; so that if he has erred, his error is countenanced by the highest, that is, by inspired authority.
Finally: he has been censured for expressing in such strong terms his detestation of the character of Buonaparte. It has been said, that however just his representation may be; it is losing sight of the true design of a national fast, which is to confess and bewail our own sins, instead of inveighing against the sins of others. That this is the true end of a public fast the writer is convinced; on which account he has expressly cautioned his readers against placing reliance on their supposed superiority in yirtue to their enemies. What he has said of the character of Buonaparte is with an entirely different view; it is urged, not as a ground of security, but as a motive to the most vigorous resistance. In this view it is impossible for it to be too deeply impressed. When a people are threatened with invasion, will it be affirmed that the personal character of the invader is of no consequence; and that it is not worth a moment's consideration whether he possess the virtuous moderation of a Washington, or the restless and
insatiable ambition of a Buonaparte? Though hostile invasion is an unspeakable calamity in any situation, and under any circumstances, yet it is capable of as many modifications as the dispositions and designs of the invaders; and if in the present instance the crimes of our enemy supply the most cogent motives to resistance, can it be wrong to turn his vices against himself; and, by imprinting a deep abhorrence of his perfidy and cruelty on the hearts of the people, to put them more thoroughly on their guard against their effects ?
It may be thought a sermon on a fast-day should have comprehended a fuller enumeration of our national sins, and this was the author's design when he first turned his attention to the subject; but he was diverted from it by observing that these themes, from the press at least, seem to make no kind of impression; and that whatever the most skilful preacher can advance is fastidiously repelled as stale and professional declamation. The people in general are settled into an indifference so profound, with respect to all such subjects, that the preacher who arraigns their vices in the most vehement manner has no reason to be afraid of exciting their displeasure; but it is well if, long before he has finished his reproofs, he has not lulled them to sleep. From a due consideration of the temper of the times, he therefore thought it expedient to direct the attention to what appeared to him the chief source of public degeneracy, rather than insist at large on particular vices. He has in this edition, in some places, expanded the illustration where it appeared defective, as well as corrected the gross errors of the press which disfigured the discourse; being desirous, ere it descends to that oblivion which is the natural exit of such publications, of presenting it for once in an amended form, that it may at least be decently interred.
JEREMIAH viii. 6.
I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented
him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.
THOUGH we are well assured the Divine Being is attentive to the conduct of men at all times, yet it is but reasonable to believe he is peculiarly so while they are under his correcting hand. As he does not willingly afflict the children of men, he is wont to do it slowly and at intervals, waiting, if we may so speak, to see whether the preceding chastisement will produce the sentiments which shall appease his anger, or those which shall confirm his resolution to punish. When sincere humiliation and sorrow for past offences take place, his displeasure subsides, he relents, and repents himself of the evil. Thus he speaks by the mouth of Jeremiah : At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it ; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
We are this day assembled at the call of our sovereign, to humble ourselves in the presence of Almighty God, under a sense of our sins, and to implore his interposition, that we may not be delivered into the hands of our enemies, nor fall a prey to the malice of those who hate us. It is surely then of the utmost consequence to see to it, that our humiliation be deep, our repentance sincere, and the dispositions we cherish, as well as the resolutions we form, suitable to the nature of the crisis and the solemnity of the occasion ; such, in a word, as Omniscience will approve.
In the words of the text, the Lord reproaches the people of Israel with not speaking aright, and complains that, while he was waiting to hear the language of penitential sorrow and humiliation, he witnessed nothing but an insensibility to his reproofs, an obstinate perseverance in guilt, with a fatal eagerness to rush to their former courses. He hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented himself of his iniquity, nor said, What have I done ? but every one rushed to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.
As the principles of the divine administration are invariable, and the situation of Great Britain at this moment not altogether unlike that of
Israel at the time this portion of prophecy was penned, perhaps we cannot better improve the present solemnity than by taking occasion, from the words before us, to point out some of those sentiments and views which appear in the present crisis not to be right; and, after exploding these, to endeavour to substitute more correct ones in their stead.
1. They who content themselves with tracing national judgments to their natural causes, without looking higher, entertain a view of the subject very inadequate to the demands of the present season. When you have imputed to the effects of an unparalleled convulsion on the Continent, to the relative situation of foreign powers, to the turbulent passions and insatiable ambition of an individual, the evils which threaten us, what have you done to mitigate those evils ? What alleviation have you afforded to perplexity and distress? They still exist in all their force. Far be it from me to attempt to discourage political inquiry. An inquiry into the sources of great events, an attempt to develop the more hidden causes which influence, under God, the destiny of nations, is an exercise of the mental powers more noble than almost any other, inasmuch as it embraces the widest field, and grasps a chain whose links are the most numerous, complicated, and subtle. The most profound political speculations, however, the most refined theories of government, though they establish the fame of their authors, will be found, perhaps, to have had very little influence on the happiness of nations. As the art of criticism never made an orator or a poet, though it enables us to judge of their merits, so the comprehensive speculation of modern times, which has reviewed and compared the manners and institutions of every age and country, has never formed a wise government or a happy people. It arrives too late for that purpose, since it owes its existence to an extensive survey of mankind, under a vast variety of forms, through all those periods of national improvement and decay in which the happiest efforts of wisdom and policy have been already made. The welfare of a nation depends much less on the refined wisdom of the few than on the manners and character of the many: and as moral and religious principles have the chief influence in forming that character, so an acknowledgment of the hand of God, a deep sense of his dominion, is among the first of those principles. While we attend to the operation of second causes, let us never forget that there is a Being placed above them, who can move and arrange them at pleasure, and in whose hands they never fail to accomplish the purposes of his unerring counsel. The honour of the Supreme Ruler requires that his supremacy should be acknowledged, his agency confessed; nor is there any thing which he more intends by his chastisements than to extort this confession, or any thing he more highly resents than an attempt to exclude him from the concerns of his own world. Wo unto them (saith Isaiah) that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! 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