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ingratitude; it requireth him to say, under a sorrowful sense of having offended a kind and tender God, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me, Psal. li. 5. O Lord, remember not the sins of my youth, Psal. xxv. 7. Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? Wilt thou pursue the dry stubble ? thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth! Job xiii. 25, 26. In like manner the repentance of a nation doth not consist in a bare attention to present disorders, and to the luxury that now cry to the judge of the world for vengeance: but it requireth us to go back to the times of our ancestors, and examine whether we be now enjoying the wages of their unrighteousness, and whether, while we flatter ourselves with the opinion that we have not committed their vices, we be not now relishing productions of them. Without this we shall be responsible for the very vices which they committed, though time hath almost blotted out the remembrance of them; and the justice of God threateneth to involve us in the same punishments: The blood of all the prophets; which was shed from the foundation of the world, shall be required of this generation : from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias ; verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation. Dreadful thought ! my brethren.
A thought that may very justly disturb that shameful security, into which our nation is sunk. I tremble, when I think of some disorders, which my eyes have seen during the course of my ministry among you. I do not mean the sins of individuals, which would fill a long and very mortifying list : I mean public sins, committed in the face of the sun; maximis, received, in a manner, by. church and state, and which loudly cry to heaven for vengeance against
this.republic. In these degenerate times, I have seen immorality and infidelity authorized by a connivance at scandalous books, which are intended to destroy the distinctions of vice and virtue, and to make the difference between just and unjust appear a mere chimera. In these degenerate days, I havé seen the oppressed church cry in vain for succor for her children, while the reformation of the church was sacrificing to the policy of the state. In this degenerate age, I have seen solemn days insolently profaned by those, whom worldly decency alone ought to have engaged to observe them. In these days of depravity, I have seen hatred and discord lodge among us, and labor in the untoward work of reciprocal ruin. In these wretched times, I have seen the spirit of intolerance unchained with all its rage, and the very men, who incessantly exclaim against the persecutions that have affected themselves, turn persecutors of others : so that, at the close of a religious exercise, men, who ought to have remembered what they had heard, and to have applied it to themselves, have been known to exercise their ingenuity in finding heresy in the sermon, in communicating the same wicked industry to their families, and to their children, and, under pretence of religion, in preventing all the good effects that religious discourses might have produced. In this degenerate age
But this shameful list is already too long. Doth this nation repent of its past sins? Doth it lament the crimes of its ancestors ? Alas! far from repenting of our past sins, far from lamenting the crimes of our ancestors, doth not the least attention perceive new and more shocking excesses ?
The wretched age, in which Providence hath placed us, doth it not seem to have taken that for its model, against which God displayed his vengeance, as we
have been describing in this discourse? Were Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim destroyed by fire from heaven for sins unknown to us? And God knows, God only knows, what dreadful discoveries the formidable but pious vigilance of our magistrates may still make. O God, Behold now I have taken upon me to speak unto thee, although I am but dust and ashes. Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked ? Peradventure there be fifty righteous among us? Peradventure forty? Peradventure thirty ? Peradventure twenty? Peradventure ten? Gen. xviii. 25, &c.
My brethren, God yet bears with you, but how long he will bear with you, who can tell ? And do not deceive yourselves, his forbearance must produce, in the end, either your conversion or your destruction. The Lord grant it may produce your conversion, and so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Ezek. xviii. 30. Amen.
The Long-suffering of God with Individuals.
Ecclesiastes viii. 11, 12.
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily,
therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. For the sinner doth evil an hundred times, and God prolongeth his days. *
HE wise man points out, in the words of the
text, one general cause of the impenitence of mankind. The disposition, to which he attributes it, I own, seems shocking and almost incredible ; but if we examine our deceitful and desperately wicked hearts, Jer. xvii. 9. we shall find, that this disposition, which at first sight, seems so shocking, is one of those with which we are too well acquainted. The heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil. Why? Because sentence against an evit work is not erecuted speedily.
This shameful, but too common, inclination, we will endeavor to expose, and to shew you that the long-suffering, which the mercy of God grants to sinners, may be abused either in the disposition of a devil, or in that of a beast, or in that of a philosopher, or in that of a man.
He, who devotes his health, his prosperity, and his youth, to offend God, and, while his punishment is deferred, to invent new ways of blaspheming him; he, who followeth such a shameful course of life, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a devil.
* We have followed the reading of the French Bible in this passage.
He, who enervates and impairs his reason, either by excessive debauchery, or by worldly dissipations, by an effeminate luxury, or by an inactive stupidity, and pays no regard to the great end for which God permits him to live in this world, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a beast.
He, who from the long-suffering of God infers consequences against his providence, and against his hatred of sin, is in the disposition, of which my text speaks, as a philosopher.
He, who concludes because the patience of God hath continued to this day, that it will always continue, and makes such a hope a motive to persist in sin without repentance or remorse, abuseth the patience of God in the disposition of a man. As I shall point out these principles to you, I shall shew you the injustice and extravagance of them.
1. To devote health, prosperity, and youth, to offend God, and to invent new ways of blaspheming him, while the punishment of him who leads such a shameful life is deferred, is to abuse the longsuffering of God like a devil.
The majesty of this place, the holiness of my ministry, and the delicacy of my hearers, forbid precision on this article, for there would be a shocking impropriety in exhibiting a well-drawn portrait of such a man. But if it is criminal to relate such excesses, what must it be to commit them? It is but too certain, however, that nature sometimes produceth such infernal creatures, who, with the bodies of men, have the sentiments of devils. Thanks be to God, the characters which belong to this article, must be taken from other countries, though not from ancient history.
I speak of those abominable men, to whom living and moving would be intolerable, were they to