« AnteriorContinuar »
to extend your trade, to accumulate fortunes, to multiply houses and villas, and to join field to field; or have you carried your views still farther, and entertained ideas of a far more noble and exalted nature ? Have you opened a communication, and established a commerce, with those remote regions that lie beyond the grave, and made it your chief business to lay up treasures there, which no accidents can diminish, no prodigal heir can dissipate, or convert into instruments of his own destruction ? Have you in all your vas rious concerns, both at home and abroad, conducted yourselves on the strictest principles of justice and integrity, uprightness and fair dealing; and if God has blessed your honest labours with success, have you paid, with cheerfulness and liberality, that tribute of beneficence which he requires at your hands for the relief and comfort of your necessitous brethren ?
These, my brethren, are all christian duties; they constitute the very life and soul of religion, and if in these you have been materially deficient, you have reason to thank God for exciting you in the manner he has done, to a
juster sense, and a more exact performance of them. And you have the more reason to thank him, because in the “ midst of judgment he has remembered mercy,” because he “ quickly turned his anger away, and would not suffer his whole displeasure to arise *." Had he permitted the shocks you felt to have continued a few minutes longer, you might have been involved in the same destruction which some years ago overwhelmed the unhappy city of Lisbon, and a great part of its inhabitants.—Compare your own deliverance with that dreadful catastrophe, and then forbear if you can, to bless God from the bottom of your souls, for chastising and admonishing you with so gentle a hand ?Z“ As a man chasteneth his son, so has the Lord chastened you (not to consume, but only) to humble and prove you, and to do you good at your latter endt." “ His anger endureth but a moment, and in his favour is lifet.” “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord g.” Let not this
I kindness, kindness, I beseech you, be lost upon you. Your first terrors and apprehensions would gradually die away, and the little temporary reformation which they might possibly pro-, duce at the time, would vanish with them. But if the warmest sentiments of gratitude for your preservation do not remain deeply impressed upon your souls, and produce the most salutary effects on your hearts and lives, you will shew yourselves to be utterly unworthy of the mercies you have received, and can have no reason to expect a repetition of them on any future occasion. If this forbearance of God is despised, and this lenity abused, he may think it necessary to visit you with severer judgments. Take then the best, the only rational method to avert his future displeasure. Recommend yourselves to his favour, not merely by a sudden, transient fit of devotion, the abortive offspring of fear, but by a sincere and fervent, and heart-felt piety; by consecrating the rest of your lives to the service of your Maker ; by offering up yourselves, soul and body, as a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto him ; “ by doing
* Ps. Ixxviii. 38.
| Ps. XXX. 5.
Is. liv. &
justly, loving mercy, and keeping yourselves unspotted from the world *.”
To all this let me entreat you to add moreover, that much-neglected practice of family prayer. It is at all times a duty of high rank and importance ; and in your present circumstances, after the admonitions you have so lately received, you cannot but perceive a peculiar propriety in it. You have seen, you have felt, with a force superior to all reasoning, that you are continually exposed to dangers and accidents which no human prudence can foresee or prevent; and that you stand in daily and hourly need of some superior aid, without which the very ground you stand upon, firm and sure as it seems to be, may sink from under your feet, and overwhelm you and your possessions, the painful fruit of all your care and toil, in one common grave. You cannot then surely think it too much trouble, or too much waste of time, to spend a few minutes every day, not only in private but with your whole house, in endeavouring to secure, by frequent and fervent prayer, the
. constant * Micah vi. 8.-James i. 27.
constant superintendence of a gracious Providence over you. It is greatly to your credit that as your towns have been enlarged' and improved, your churches have also multiplied in the same proportion. In this you have shewn a very proper regard for the honour of God, and the decent celebration of divine worship. Go a little further still in the demonstrations of your piety, and let every one of you make his own house “ a house of prayer*,” a temple fit for the Holy One to inhabit. It will cost you but little to do this. It will require no additional ornament to your dwellings, save those of a devout heart and a virtuous life.“ And who then shall harm you, if you be . thus followers of that which is good+?”. I do not say that no misfortune will then ever befal you. For even the most righteous of men must expect to taste sometimes the bitter cup of affliction. But you will have the very best security against the evils of life, and if they do overtake you, the best support under them that either this world or the next can give. You will be under the immediate inspection and care of that Almighty Being, , * Is. lvi. 7. + 1 Pet. iii. 13.