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GUILT AND DANGER OF SUCH A NATION AS THIS:
PREACHED IN THE
PARISH CHURCH OF ST. MARY WOOLNOTH,
ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1781;
THE DAY APPOINTED FOR A GENERAL FAST.
The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophecy.-Amos, iii. 8.
THE GUILT AND DANGER OF SUCH A NATION AS THIS.
JEREMIAH, V. 29.
Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this ?
THREE times the Lord God repeats, by his prophet, this alarming question. Their ingratitude and obstinacy were so notorious, their sins so enormous, and aggravated, the sentence denounced against them, however severe, was so undeniably just, that, partial as they were to themselves, God is pleased to appeal to their own consciences, and to make them judges in their own cause; inviting, or rather challenging them, to offer any plea why his forbearance and patience, which they had so long despised, should be still afforded them.
But the form of the question will not permit us to confine the application to Israel or Judah. The words are not, On this nation particularly, but "On such a nation as this." The Lord, the Governor of the earth, has provided, in the history of one nation, a lesson of instruction and warning to every nation under the sun; and the nearer the state and spirit of any people resemble the state and character of Judah, when Jeremiah prophesied among them, the more reason they have to tremble under the apprehension of the same or similar judgments.
God brought Israel out of Egypt with an outstretched arm, divided the Red Sea before them, led them in the wilderness by a cloud and pillar of fire, fed them with manna, and gave them water from the rock. He planted them in a good land; and, though they often sinned, and were often punished, they were distinguished by many tokens of his presence, and effects of his goodness, above any other nation. In the time of Solomon, they possessed the height of human prosperity; but they soon rebelTed, and involved themselves in increasing troubles. And though the efforts and examples of Hezekiah and Josiah produced a temporary reformation, and procured a temporary respite, they went on, upon the whole, from bad to worse, till the measure of their iniquity being filled up, and the season of God's long-suffering at an end, he directed the march of Nebuchadnezzar against them, who, because he was the appointed instrument of divine vengeance, could not fail of success. The temple and city of Jeru
**Jer, v. 9, ix. 9
salem were burnt, the land desolated, the greater part of the inhabitants destroyed, and the survivors led captives into a far distant land.
We likewise are a highly favoured people, and have long enjoyed privileges which excite the admiration and envy of surrounding nations; and we are a sinful ungrateful people; so that when we compare the blessings and mercies we have received from the Lord, with our conduct towards him, it is to be feared we are no less concerned with the question in my text than Israel was of old. This is the point I propose to illustrate, as suitable to the design for which we are at this time professedly assembled.
Though the occasion will require me to take some notice of our public affairs, I mean not to amuse you with what usually is called a political discourse. The Bible is my system of politics. There I read, that the Lord reigns ;* that he doth what he pleaseth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth ;t that no wisdom, understanding, counsel, or power, can prevail, without his blessing; that as righteousness exalteth a nation, so sin is a reproach, and will even totally be the ruin of any people.§ From these and other maxims of a like report, I am learning to be still, and to know that he is God. My part, as a minister of the Gospel of peace, is not to inflame, but, if possible, to sooth and sweeten the spirits of my hearers; to withdraw their attention from the instrumental and apparent causes of the calamities we feel or fear, and to fix it upon sin, as the original and proper cause of every other evil. As a peaceful and loyal subject, I profess and inculcate obedience to the laws of my country, to which I conceive myself bound by the authority of God's command, and by gratitude for the civil and religious liberty I possess. For the rest, political disquisitions, except immediately connected with Scriptural principles, appear to me improper for a pulpit at all times, and more especially unseasonable and indecent on a day of public humiliation. I hope we are now met, not to accuse others, but to confess our own sins; not to justify ourselves, but to plead for
May it please God, therefore, by the influence of his Holy Spirit, to impress the consciences of all present, and to make us attentive to our own immediate concerns, while I endeavour,
I. Briefly to delineate the state of the nation; or to show you what a nation this is.
II. To consider in what manner the righteous Judge and Gov. ernor of the earth might justly avenge himself of such a nation as this.
III. To inquire, Whether there be any hope that such a nation as this can yet escape the impending ruin with which it is threaten
*Psalm xcvii. 1. + Dan. iv. 35. + Prov. xxi. 50.
Prov. xiv. 54.