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1. It is incumbent on each of us, to examine every part of our conduct, in order to personal humiliation, repentance, and amendment. In this review, we should particularly reflect upon the whole of our past lives, and all our conduct towards God and our neighbours, according to the various relations that we have sustained, and the transactions in which we have been engaged. All our thoughts, words, and actions, as far as we can recollect them; all our negligences and omissions of duty; our not improving our time and talents; the bad effects of our example and converse; and our most secrét sins (as well as the more open and gross,) should be adverted to; and especially we ought to look carefully into every part of our behaviour, and the state of our souls, at the present time. Such a thorough scrutiny, attended by earnest prayer to the heart-searching God, to shew us what our chaTacter is in his sight; and conducted according to the perfeet rule of his holy word, will convince us that no small share of the national guilt hath been contracted by us; that the whole charge of infidelity, irreligion, and iniquity, does not belong to others only, but in a measure to us also; that we have helped to ripen the nation for divine judgments; and that we have more cause than the beloved prophet had, to confess our own sins, as well as the sins of our people. *
This examination, and these discoveries, should be connected with deep self-abasement in the sight of God; ingenuous confession of all our sins, and the ma
* Dan. ix. 20.
nifold aggravations of them; and acknowledgments that “we are unworthy of the least of his mercies,” and deserving of his indignation: we should solemnly renew our acceptance of his salvation, and surrender of ourselves to his service, (if we have previously been acquainted with that important transaction, between a believing penitent and his merciful God and Sa. viour:) we should earnestly seek to him for grace, to enable us to amend our lives, and to attend to every part of our duty: and we should deprecate his wrath, and beseech him that our native land may not be exposed to his judgments, through our transgressions.
Such seasons of deep humiliation, personal or publick, have, in every age of the church, been accompanied with fasting; an abstinence from animal indul. gence, or even from all food, when that will consist with health, and the performance of other duties: and our Lord hath given directions about fasting, as occasionally incumbent on his disciples. We thus emphatically confess, that we have forfeited all right to the gifts of Providence; whilst “we chasten ourselves “ with fasting,” we express our humble submission to the justice of God, in our condemnation, and our cheerful acceptance of his correction; we mortify our animal nature, and teach our appetites to brook denial even in things lawful, whenever inexpedient; and this favours abstraction from worldly concerns, and marks the season to be appropriated to such superior engagements, that attention to animal recreation should be suspended as much as possible. The acceptance which nations, cities, and individuals, have ever met with, in
thus turning to the LORD with weeping, fasting, and prayer, is a sufficient reason that we should seek him in the same way; and a confutation of those who would represent fasting to be a pharisaical and needless 'observance.
2. We are called upon to improve our talents, and use our influence, in stemming the torrent of infideli. ty, impiety, and vice; and suppressing if possible, those enormities, which are the scandal of our nation and holy religion, and in promoting the cause of truth and righteousness.
The ministers of Christ, as watchmen and stewards of the mysteries of God, have their peculiar line of service: and woe be to them, if they preach not the gospel, instantly and faithfully, not pleasing men, and not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God. The legislator and magistrate may bear their testimony, and exert their diligence in another way, and in different places. They who are entrusted with superior abilities and learning, should not " bury their talent “ in the earth,” but occupy with it, as those who expect the coming of their Judge. The affluent may use their estates, and the influence derived from them, to good purpose; if they consistently endeavour, by every means, to discountenance vice and irreligion, and to recommend piety and righteousness to all around them. The merchant may render commerce subservient to the noble design of propagating christianity, and disseminating the word of God in distant regions; thus counteracting the effects of the crimes perpetrat
ed by nominal Christians, among Pagans and Mahometans. They who have families, should, by their example, converse, and instructions, labour to imbue their minds with good principles, and to lead them to holy practice. Every man has his circle, in which he possesses some influence, which may either be abused to bad, or improved to good purpose. Few industrious persons are so poor but they may spare a trifle from needless expence, to promote the gospel, the dispersion of pious books, and such other designs, as counteract the endeavours of those who disseminate error and vice among mankind: nor will the poor widow's two mites be overlooked, when consecrated to such services.
Thus every man, in his proper place and duty, (like officers and soldiers, constituting a well disci. plined army,) may contribute to promote that reformation of manners and prevalence of religion, which alone can ensure the continuance of our national prosperity: and, though the attempts of each person, separately considered, may appear trivial, yet the united efforts of a large multitude, engaged in the same cause, as with one heart and soul, may, by the blessing of God, produce extensive and durable effects.-But,
3. They who can do little else, may be helpful by their prayers, for “the effectual fervent prayer of a
righteous man availeth much." All true believers are righteous before God; none of us think more humbly of ourselves, than they did who prevailed so wonderfully in former ages, and omnipotence can effect
its purposes by second causes, as well as by miracles: if then we pray according to the precepts, doctrines, promises, and examples of Scripture, with a view to the glory of God, in dependence on his power, truth, and mercy, with submission to his Providence, and love to our fellow creatures, and with earnest importunity and perseverance, we may be confident that “by " the Spirit” we offer that "effectual, fervent prayer, " which availeth much."
“Let me alone,” (said the LORD to Moses, when he pleaded with him in behalf of rebellious Israel,) " that I may destroy them in a moment:” he could not, so to speak, proceed to take vengeance, unless his servant would cease to plead for them. Abraham desisted from asking, before the Lord delayed to grant his supplications for guilty Sodom. Sennacherib's numerous host was too feeble to withstand the united prayers of Hezekiah and Isaiah: nor could Herod's prison and guards detain or destroy Peter; when time was given to the church to pour out their prayers for him. Do we then hear of good designs which seem likely to be frustrated, through the artifices of the enemy, and their interference with men's secular interests? Let us remember that our prayers are appointed and effectual means of removing these impediments: and perhaps the LORD delays the success of such designs, till he be importuned by the whole multitude of his people; that as he alone can send prosperity, or give the blessing, so the whole glory may thus be given to him, whatever instruments he may honour by employing in such beneficial servi