Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

from the Supreme Being, or from the preacher only, John vii. 17.

The mechanical arts will flourish in a virtuous state, because they, on whom God hath not bestowed geniusequal to the investigation of abstract sciences, whom he hath fitted for less noble stations in society, will fill up those stations with the utmost care, and will be happy in deriving from them such advantages as they produce. Thus a just notion of arts and sciences opens to us a third source of arguments to prove the truth of our text.

4. The doctrine of providence opens a fourth, as others have observed. The conduct of providence in regard to public bodies is very different from that, which prevails in the case of individuals. In regard to the latter, providence is involved in darkness. Many times it seems to condemn virtue and crown injustice, and to leave innocence to groan in silence, and to empower guilt to riot and triumph in public. The wicked rich man fared sumptuously every day, Lazarus desired in vain to be fed with the crumbs that fell from his table, Luke xvi. 19. 21. St. Paul was executed on a scaffold. Nero reigned on Cæsar's throne. And to say all in one word, Jesus Christ was born in a stable, and Herod lived and died in a palace.

But providence is directed in a different method in regard to public bodies. Prosperity in them is the effect of righteousness, public happiness is the reward of public virtue, the wisest nation is usually the most successful, and virtue walks with glory by her side. God sometimes indeed afflicts the most virtuous nations : but he doth so with the design of purifying them, and of opening new occasions to bestow larger benefits on them. He sometimes indeed prospers wicked nations ; but

ز

their prosperity, is an effort of his patience and long suffering, it is to give them time to prevent their destruction; yet, after all, as I said before, prosperity usually follows righteousness in public bodies, public happiness is the reward of public virtue, the wisest nation is the most successful, and glory is generally connected with virtue.

They, to whom we are indebted for this reflection, have grounded it on this reason. A day will come when Lazarus, will be indemnified, and the rich man punished ; St. Paul will be rewarded, and Nero will be confounded ; Jesus Christ will fill a throne, and Herod will be covered with ignominy. Innocence will be avenged, justice satisfied, the majesty of the laws repaired, and the rights of God maintained.

But such retribution is impracticable in regard to public bodies. A nation cannot be punished then as a nation, a province as a province, a kingdom as a kingdom. All different sorts of government will be then abolished. One individual of a people will be put in possession of glory, while another will be covered with shame and confusion of face. It should seem then, that providence owes to its own rectitude those times of vengeance, in which it pours all its wrath on wicked societies, sends them plagues, wars, famines, and other catastrophes, of which history gives us so many memorable examples. To place hopes altogether on worldly policy, to pretend to derive advantages from vice, and so to found the happiness of society on the ruins of religion, and virtue, what is this but to insult providence ? This is to arouse that power against us, which sooner or later overwhelms and confounds vicious societies.

5. If the obscurity of the ways of providence, which usually renders doubtful the reasonings of men on its conduct, weaken the last argument, let us proceed to consider in the next place the declarations of God himself on this article. The whole twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, all the blessings and curses pronounced there fully prove our doctrine.

Read this tender complaint, which God formerly made concerning the irregularities of his people. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end ! How should one chace a thousand, or two put ten thousand to fight? Chap. xxxii, 29, 30. Read the affecting words, which he uttered by the mouth of his prophet, o that. my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. Their time should have endured for ever. I should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat : and with the honey out of the rock should I have satisfied them, Psal. Ixxxi. 13, &c. Read the noble promises made by the ministry of Isaiah, Thus saith the Lord thy Redeemer, the holy One of Israel, I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to prophet, which leadeth thee by the way thou shouldest go. O that thou hadst hearkened to my.commandments ! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea ; thy seed also had been as the sand, and thy name should not have been cut off, nor destroyed from before me, chap. xlviii. 17, &c. Read the terrible threatenings denounced by the prophet Jeremiah, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people ; cast them oủt of my sight, and let them go forth. And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth ? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord, such as

زر

are for death, to death ; and such as are for tho sword, to the sword ; and such as are for the famine, to the famine ; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity. And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the Lord ; the sword to slay, and the dogs lo tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the carth,, to devour and destroy. For who shall have pity on thee, O Jerusalem ? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest? Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee: I am weary of repenting, chap. xv. 1, &c. The language of our text is agreeable to all these passages; it is righteousness, saith the text, it is righteousness that exalteth a nation. Thus God speaks; moreover, thus he acts, as we shall shew you in the next article.

6. The history of all ages affords us another class of arguments in defence of our doctrine, and so proves the truth of it by experience.

Had ever preacher a wider or more fruitful field than this, which opens to our view in this part of our discourse ? Shall we produce you a list of Egyptians, Persians, Assyrians, and Greeks, or Romans who surpassed them all ? Shall we shew you all these nations by turns exalted as they respected righteousness, or abased as they neglected it ?

By what mysterious art did ancient Egypt subsist with so much glory during a period of fifteen or sixteen ages ? By a benevolence. so extensive, that he, who refused to relieve the wretched, when he had it in his power to assist him, was himself punished with death : by a justice so impartial, that their kings obliged the judges to take an oath, that they would never do any thing against their own consciences, though they, the kings themselves, should command' them; by an aversion to bad princes so fixed as to deny them the honors of a funeral : by invariably rendering to merit public praise even beyond the grave; for when an Egyptian died, a session was held for the direct purpose of inquiring how he had spent his life, so that all the respect due to his memory might be paid: by entertaining such just ideas of the vanity of life, as to consider their houses as inns, in which they were to lodge, as it were, only for a night, and their sepulchres as habitations, in which they were to abide many ages, in which, therefore, they united all the solidity and pomp of architecture, witness their famous pyramids : by a life so laborious that even their amusements were adapted to strengthen the body, and improve the mind; by a readiness to discharge their debts so remarkable, that they had a law, which prohibited the borrowing of money except on condition, of pledging the body of a parent for payment, a deposit so venerable; that'a man, who deferred the redemption of it, was looked upon with horror: in one word,' by a wisdom so profound, that Moses himself is renowned in scripture for being learned in it.

By what marvellous method did the Persians obtain such a distinguished place of honor in ancient history? By considering falsehood in the most horrid light, as a vice the meanest and most disgraceful: by a noble generosity, conferring favors on the nations they conquered, and leaving them to enjoy all the ensigns of their former grandeur : by an universal equity, obliging themselves to publish the virtues of their greatest enemies : by observing as an inviolable secret state affairs, so that, to use the language of an ancient author, neither promises nor threatenings could extort it, for the anci

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »