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that “ the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven;" before the second appearance of the Messiah, to judge the earth; all which expressions are well known to be only figurative emblems of the great powers and rulers of the world, whose destruction, it is said, is to precede that great event. As to myself I pretend not to decide on these arduous points; I pretend not either to prophesy or to interpret prophecy: nor shall I take upon myself to pronounce, whether we are now approaching (as some think) to the millennium or to the day of judgment, or to any other great and tremendous and universal change predicted in the sacred writings. But this I am sure of, that the present unexampled state of the christian world is a loud and a powerful call upon all men, but upon us above all men, to take peculiar heed to our ways, and to prepare ourselves, as well as those committed to our care, for every thing that may befal us, be it ever so novel, ever so calamitous. If in the midst of those clouds that gather round us we can sit perfectly tranquil and composed; if we can be altogether un
concerned and indifferent to the indignities offered to our holy religion, and to the effects they may have on the minds of our own peo ple; if in so critical a moment we can desert our proper stations, and plunge into the cares, the business, the pleasures, or the amusements of the world; if we can rest easy and satisfied at a distance from our parishioners, surround, ed as we must see them to be with the most imminent danger to their souls, from which it is our bounden duty to protect them: above all, if instead of edifying and reforming others by the sanctity of our manners, and the pu. rity of our conversation, we lead them by our own example into vice and irreligion, what a load of indignation are we treasuring up for ourselves against that solemn day when we must render an account of the sacred charge committed to us by our Almighty Judge! But cases such as these are, I trust, very rare among us indeed; and I can with difficulty bring myself to believe, that there is a single individual of our order (be his general character what it may) that does not feel the awful pressure of the present hour; that does ņot feel the powerful obligations it imposes on
him to exert his utmost care and diligence in the discharge of all his sacred functions, and in an unremitted attention to all the spiritual wants and necessities of his people. There never was, I will venture to say, in the history of this island a single period in which the personal residence, and personal exertions of the parochial clergy were ever more wanted, or more anxiously looked up to, and expected and demanded, by the general voice of the whole nation, than at this moment; in order to fortify the faith and sanctify the manners of the great mass of the people; and to press upon them repeatedly and forcibly, those divine precepts of Holy Writ, which contain the best rules for every part of their conduct, private, public, political, and religious. It is to these exertions, my brethren, properly directed and prudently conducted, that we must principally owe that order, that quietness, that dutiful subjection to all lawful and constitutional authority which the Scriptures most peremptorily enjoin, and which are indispensably necessary to the security and stability of this and of every other government upon earth.
FULHAM, May 31, 1797. Rev. Brethren, Having, with great concern, observed that various profanations of the Sabbath have of late years been evidently gaining ground among us; so as to threaten a gradual desecration of that holy day, I must very earnestly request you to exert your utmost efforts within the precincts of the parishes that are committed to your care, to counteract, as much as possible, the progress of this alarming evil.
The The profanations which I now allude to, are the travelling of stage-waggons and stagecoaches on the Lord's-day, the printing and dispersing of Sunday newspapers, the exercise of several worldly trades and occupations (among which some public breweries have, I am told, been noticed) and more particularly the practice which has within the last two or three years very much prevailed, of employing various labourers and workmen, such as carpenters, bricklayers, painters, &c. in repairing and erecting houses and other buildings on Sundays, as on the common days of the week.
All these, you must be sensible, are very gross violations of the rest and sanctity of the Sabbath; and I must therefore entreat you to keep a watchful eye on every thing of this nature in your own parish; and, if you see any attempt to introduce such dangerous innovations, you will, I trust, make every opposition to them in your power, and state the indecency and impiety of them, both in your publiç discourses and in private expostulations. I have myself found by experience in more cases than one, that a friendly representation of the extreme impropriety and mischief of such