GOD THE SOVEREIGN OF ALL KINGDOMS.
Dan. Iv. 25. The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.§
THAT this world owes its existence to the creating power of God, and that he established all its laws, and put its every wheel in motion, is a truth so evident, that it has extorted the consent of all mankind. But did he then exhaust his omnipotence? And has he been inactive ever since? Did he cast it off his hand, as
an orphan-world, deprived of his paternal care, and left to shift for itself? No; as we were at first the creatures of his power, we are still the subjects of his government---he still supports and rules the world which he made. In the material world, events are accomplished according to those laws which he first established in nature: but it is his agency that still continues these laws, and carries them into execution. In the rational world, events are frequently brought to pass by the instrumentality of free agents; but still they are under the direction of the uersal cause; and their liberty is not inconsistent with his sovereign dominion, nor does it exempt them from it. Though he makes use of secondary causes, yet he reserves to himself the important character of the Ruler of the uerse, and is the supreme Disposer of all events.
This is a truth of infinite moment, and fundamental to all religion; and unless we are met here to-day with a deep impression of this upon our spirits, we are wholly unfit to make a proper improvement of this solemn occasion. It is pertinently observed in that proclamation, in cheerful obedience to which we are now met, that—" In every undertaking it is expedient and necessary to implore the blessing and protection of Almighty God."
But if Almighty God does not govern the world, and order all the affairs of men according to his pleasure, where is the expediency or necessity of imploring his blessing and protection? A powerful and perfidious enemy is making inroads upon our territories; our religion, our liberty, our property, our lives, and every thing sacred or dear to us, are in danger. We are pre'paring to make a defence; and " our most gracious sovereign has been pleased to send a considerable number of his ships and forces, to oppose the unjustifiable attempts of our enemies."
But unless the success of the expedition depend upon the providence of God, to what end do we humble ourselves before him, and implore his help? The thing itself, upon this supposition, would be an incongruity, an empty compliment, a mockery. If he exerts no agency in such cases, but leaves things entirely to their natural course, then we have nothing to fear from his displeasure on the account of sin; and we htvve nothing to hope from his assistance ; and consequently, it is needless and absurd to humble ourselves for the one, or to be importunate with him for the other. I cannot, therefore, inculcate upon you, at present, a more seasonable truth , than that contained in my text— "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."
Nebuchadnezzar, of whom we read so much in the sacred writings, was the first founder of the rich and powerful Babylonian empire, which was built upon the ruins of that of the Assyrians, the metropolis of which was Nineveh, and sundry other mighty kingdoms. Providence had raised him up to be the scourge of the Jews in particular, the favourite people of God. After his numerous and extensive conquests, while living at ease in grandeur and luxury in his palace, and surveying the glories of Babylon, his magnificent metropolis, his heart was elated— he becomes of gre;it importance in his own sight—he ascribes his successes to himself alone; and arrogates a style that becomes none but the King of heaven: "Is not this great Babylon that /have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty ?"* While he is thus self-deified, he that is higher than the highest, and who pours contempt upon princes, resents his insolence; and will let him know that he is but a man, by degrading him to a level with the beasts; but he is so gracious as to warn him of it in a dream, that he might escape his doom by a timely repentance; and Daniel gives him a solemn advice, "O king, let my counsel 5e acceptable to thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity."t
He continued impenitently proud, and did not regard the counsel; and therefore the threatened judgment was inflicted upon him. His case seems to have been this : after divine patience had tried him for a whole year, while he was venting his arrogance in his palace, he was judicially struck, in an instant, with a melancholy madness; and while he was in a raving fury, his domestics turned him out of his palace. There are instances, now-a-day, of persons imagining themselves to be transformed into other creatures: and Nebuchadnezzar probably fancied himself an ox, and therefore tried to imitate the actions of that animal: he run wild in the fields with beasts; eat grass like them, and laid abroad under the dews of heaven; until at length his Mrs grew like eagles' feathers, and his nails, for want of paring,.
* Dan. iv. 30. t Verse ~7
like birds' claws.* At the time appointed, he recoveredTiis reason; made the most humble acknowledgments of the sovereignty of the divine government, and was reinstated in his kingdom.
The text informs us of the design of Heaven in this judgment upon him, and that it should not be removed until it had answered its end. "This is the decree of the most High—that they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times," that is, seven years shall pass over thee in this condition, "until thou knowest that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." Then, and not till then, he was restored to his reason and his kingdom: but he did not enjoy it long, for after a few days, he was cut off by the stroke of death.
I might very properly take occasion from this text, to prove the uersal agency of Providence in the natural and moral world. But, at present, I must confine myself to the proof and illustration of this important truth—that the Most High is the sole disposer of the fates of kingdoms, and particularly of the events of war.
This is demonstrable from the perfections of God—from the repeated declarations of Scripture—from the common sense of mankind—and from the remarkable coincidence of circumstances in critical times.
First, That the Most High is the sole disposer of the fates of kingdoms, and the events of war, is demonstrable from his perfections.
We may infer from his wisdom, that he formed the world, and particularly man, for some important design, which he determined to accomplish: but could he expect that his design would be accomplished by free agents, left entirely to themselves, without any direction or control from him? Or would it be consistent with wisdom to form creatures incapable of self-government, and fit subjects for him to rule, and yet exercise no government over them, but leave them entirely to themselves? Justice is an awful and amiable attribute. And on whom shall he display it, but on rational creatures, who are capable of moral good and evil? Indeed, the display of justice on particular persons may be de
. * This seems to be implied, Dan. v. 20, 21.—iv. 16. ,
'* ferred, as it generally is, to another state; but on societies, as such, it cannot be displayed but in this life; for it is only in this life that they subsist in that capacity: and therefore guilty nations must feel divine judgments in the present state, which supposes that God disposes of them as he pleases. His goodness, that favourite perfection, is diffusive and unbounded; but how shall this be displayed in this world, unless he holds the reigns of government in his own hands, 'and distributes his blessings to what kingdom or nation he pleases? If he do not manage their concerns, his mercy cannot be shewn in delivering them from calamities ; nor his patien.ee, in bearing with their provocations. His power is infinite, and therefore the -management of all the worlds he has made, is as easy to him as the concerns of one individual. He knows all things, and is every where present; and can he be an unconcerned spectator of the affairs of his own creatures, and see them run on at random, without interposing? We may as well say in our hearts, with the fool, " There is no God,"* as entertain such mean ideas of him, as an idle being, whose happiness consists in inactivity. He will display his perfections in the most god-like manner, and this was his design in the creation of the uerse : and since he cannot do this without exercising a perpetual providence over it, we may be assured he will do "according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth."t Indeed, there is something unnatural in the idea of a creator, who takes no care of his own creatures. Do you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children? Are you shocked at the thought of a parent who takes no care of his own children, but leaves them as soon as born, to shift for themselves? And will not the great Father of Nature, who has implanted these parental passions in your breasts, will not he look after his own offspring, and manage their affairs? Undoubtedly he will.
Secondly, That God is the supreme disposer of the fates of kingdoms, and of the events of war, is demonstrable from the repealed declarations of Scripture; and this alone is sufficient proof to those that believe their divine authority.
This great truth, in one form or other, runs through the whole Bible^ Sometimes the divine government is asserted to be uni
versal, supreme and uncontrollable.* '" Our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he pleaseth. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens ; and his kingdom ruleth ovef ^ all.f He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou ?"\ Now, his uersal government, which is so strongly asserted in these passages, implies his particular government of the affairs of kingdoms and nations; and the Scriptures declare that the care of Providence extends to the most minute and inconsiderable parts of the creation; and therefore much more does it extend to the affairs of men, and the fates of kingdoms. "He giveth the beast his food, and the young ravens that cry :§ Behold, the fowls of the air; they sow not; neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them." Hence Christ draws the inference now in view, "Are not ye much better, or of more importance, than they?" And therefore must not you be more particularly the objects of your Father's care ?" God," says he, "clothes even the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven."|| The value of two sparrows is but one farthing; and yet, says Christ, not one of them can so much as fall to the ground without your Father; that is, without the permission of his providence. Nay, the very hairs of your head, the most trifling things that belong to you, are all numbered— God takes as particular a care of them, as if he kept an account of each of them, and not one of them can be lost without his notice. Here again our blessed Saviour makes the same improvement as before, which is directly to my purpose ; "Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."IF Does divine Providence take notice of ravens and sparrows, and the grass of the field? and will God not concern himself with the kingdoms of the earth? Does he take care even of the hairs of men's heads? And will he not take care of men themselves? Undoubtedly he will. The Scriptures farther expressly assert, that the promotion and degradation of princes, and the prosperity and destruction of kingdoms, are from God. "Promotion," says the Psalmist, " cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south; but God is the judge ; he putteth down
L.pne, and setteth up another."* He changeth the times and sea.
I&pns, says Daniel; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings.f "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will ;\ and sometimes in his wise sovereignty, setteth up over it even the basest of men."§ "When he giveth peace, who can give trouble ?"|| "Is there evil or affliction in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?"l "Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He makclh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth: he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire."** Hence pious warriors have confided for victory in the providence of God, and been sensible that without him, all their military forces were in vain. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God." And observe the difference ; " They are brought down and fallen: but we, who put our trust in the Lord, are risen, and stand upright."tt Again we find many instances in the sacred writings of God's over-ruling the conduct of men, even of the wicked, to accomplish his own great designs, when the persons themselves had nothing in view, but their own interest, or the gratification of their malignant passions; and thus he brings good out of evil.
Who could have had any raised expectations from the sale of Joseph, a poor helpless youth, as a slave into Egypt? His brethren had no other end in it, than to remove out of the way the object of their envy, and their rival in their father's affection. But God had a very important design in it, even the deliverance of the holy family and thousands of others from famishing. And therefore Joseph tells his brethren, " It was not you that sent me hither, but God."i$ The crucifixion of Christ was the most wicked action that ever was committed on this guilty globe; and the Jews freely followed their own malignant passions, and were not prompted to it by any influence from God, who cannot tempt to evil. But I need not tell you that this greatest evil is overruled for the greatest good of mankind. Though I might easily multiply instances, I can take time only to mention one more, exactly pertinent to my purpose; and that is the haughty and
powerful Assyrian monarch.* Having pushed his conquests far and wide among other nations, he resolves to turn his victorioui arms against the Jews. He was an arbitrary prince in his own empire, and apprehended he was subject to no control. His design in this expedition, was not to chastise the Jews for their sins against Heaven, but to enlarge his own territories, to increase his riches, to display his power, and spread the terror of his name. He proudly thought he acted wholly from himself, and disdained the thought of being a mere agent, commissioned by another. But hear in what a style the King of kings speaks of him, and degrades him into a rod, or a mere servant under command. "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger; and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, namely, the Jews ; and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets." Thus, says God, I commission him—these are the orders I give him to perform. "Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither does his heart think so:" he does not so much as know that he has orders from me; much less does he design to obey them, M but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few;" this is all his design. And when this haughty Assyrian arrogates to himself the honour of his successes, and vents himself in the most extravagant rant of self-applause, hear how God pours contempt upon him, and speaks of him in the most diminutive language, as a passive ax in his hand to hew rebellious nations; a saw, a rod, a staff of wood. "Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should threaten and shake itself against them that lift it up; or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood."t What mortifying images are these, to represent a powerful and insolent prince? And how strongly may we infer from hence the supreme and absolute dominion of the King of heaven over the kings and empires of our world, and his directing the fate of war? Surely he has the spirits of men wholly under his command, who can make even their sins subservient to his good purposes, and who can accomplish his wise designs by them, even when they have no such thought, but are entirely ignorant of him. Thus he" appears worthy of that august character, which he assumes to himself in
* Igaiab x. 5—7. \ Isaiah x, 15,
his word more frequently, perhaps, than any other; I mean, "the Lord of hosts," or the Lord of armies. Thus appears the truth of Solomon's observation, "The hearts of kings are in the hands of the Lord; he turneth them whithersoever he pleaseth."*
Thirdly, It is the common sense of all mankind, that the affairs of kingdoms, and parjicularly success in war, depend upon God. Read over the historical parts of the Old Testament, and you will find it the common sense of the Jews, that they should never engage in war, without first consulting God, and imploring his blessing. The instances of this are so many, that it would take up too much time even to mention them. And since christian kingdoms have been formed, we find the same sense prevailing among them, even in the darkest times. Nay, the very heathens were taught this, by their reason, as one of the plainest dictates of the light of nature. They had all of them Gentilitial gods, for the protection of their nation. They had a Mars, and a Minerva, the one the god, and the other the goddess of war. They never engaged in war without anxiously consulting oracles, and offering a profusion of sacrifices and prayers. And after a victory, they were wont to express the grateful sense of their success as from God, by rich offerings, and by consecrating to their deities a part of the spoils they had taken, which they hung up in their temples. Now that which is common to all mankind in all countries, in all ages, and of every religion, seems to be implanted in their nature by its author; and, consequently, must be true. And since all mankind agree to supplicate divine assistance in their expeditions, and to return him thanks for victory: since they agree in this, however different in sentiments and prejudices; it follows that this is the common sense of the world, and a very important truth, that the fate of war depends upon the divine Superintendant. But I cannot enlarge on this head.
Fourthly, The interposition of Providence is frequently visible in the remarkable coincidence of circumstances to accomplish some important end in critical times.
I am not enthusiastic enough to look upon every event as the effect of an immediate Providence, excluding or controlling the agency of natural causes; but when some important design is in agit.ition, for the advantage of one nation and the chastisement of another; and every thing, even the most fickle or reluc
* Prov. xx\. 1.
S lating causes, seem steadily and uniformly to concur to accomplish it—when the winds and seas, the clouds and rain conspire to promote it—when the friends of the scheme, perhaps with hesitation and perplexity, are directed to such measures as the event shews to be the most proper to obtain their end—when they are restrained from pursuing measures for which they were very sanguine, which the event shews would have blasted the whole schemewhen the enemies of the design are restrained from such means as would overthrow it, though they seem easy, and such as their own reason might at first sight direct them to—when they are overruled to act contrary to all the rules of prudence and good policy, on which they act in other cases, and so bring confusion and disappointment upon themselves—when an important life is continued or taken away, in the critical juncture, just as is most conducive to the design; I say, when such things as these happen, must we not own that it is the finger of God? Will we affect the philosopher so much as to dispute it? Can we suppose that mere natural causes, that act without design, or that free agents, who act as they please, and who have different views, different prejudices, and contrary interests and inclinations—can we suppose that all these should conspire to promote one design, unless they were under the overruling influence of divine Providence? Must not such a remarkable, and even preternatural concurrence of various circumstances, convince us of the truth of Solomon's remark, " There are many devices in the heart of man; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand ?"* "He disappointeth the devices of the crafty; so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong."t
Both sacred and profane history may furnish us with many instances of such remarkable interpositions of Providence: but I can, at present, only select a few out of the history of our mother country, in which we are more particularly concerned, and which may therefore excite our gratitude for the divine goodness to our guilty nation, and break our hearts into penitential sorrows for our unsuitable returns. These may also convince us, that though divine Providence did in a more visible and miraculous manner, manage the affairs of kingdoms, in the earlier ages of the world; yet even in our days, when the age of miracles is ceased, God does really exercise, the same government, and dispose the concerns of nations as he pleases.
* Prov. xix. 21. t J°b v- 12> 13.
The first critical time which I would call to your remembrance, is the Spanish invasion in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, 1588. The Spaniards, enriched with the gold of the new world, America, then lately discovered, and their King enraged against England with all the malignity of a papist, and a disappointed expectant of the crown ; fitted out a fleet of such a force as the world had never before seen. They proudly called it the invincible armada,; and indeed, it seemed to deserve the name. "The seas were overspread with their burden, and the ocean groaned with their weight." England then was but weak by sea, and in no condition to make a defence; so that she seemed on the very brink of popery, and slavery, and ruin. But she had little else to do, but to" stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord."* Scarce bad they displayed their sails to the inviting gales, when he who holds the winds in his treasures, let them loose upon the face of the deep. They were scattered—they were dashed in pieces against one another—they foundered in the mighty waters. And of this mighty fleet, there was hardly one left to carry back the dismal news. And was not " this the Lord's doing, and marvellous in our eyes ?"t Did he not make the winds, in their courses, fight for England? In this light it appeared to Queen Elizabeth and her court; and therefore, in commemoration of this remarkable event, medals were struck with this inscription, " Afflavit Deus, Et Dissipahtub. :" he blew with his wind, and they were scattered.
This loss was so great a stroke to Spain, that they have mot been able to repair it to this day, with all the prodigious treasures of South America. Nevertheless, in the year 1596, they made another attempt upon our mother country, with a very formidable navy, though not equal to the former. "But (to borrow the words of Rapin, a foreigner, and therefore disinterested) a violent storm arising in the midst of the voyage, several of the ships were lost, and the rest so dispersed, that the fleet was rendered unserviceable for that year. Thus Elizabeth had the pleasure of hearing that it was disabled from hurting her, before she knew of its sailing/' And was not this another remarkable interposition of Heaven in our favour?
The next crisis I shall take notice of, is the Gunpowder Piot, on the fifth of November, Old Style, 1605. The infernal Power of popery had formed a scheme at one blow to hurry from
* Exod. »v. 13. f P*». cxviii. 23.
the earth our king, and the flower of the nobility and great men of the nation, by a mine of gunpowder under the parliamenthouse. They had cairied on the plot with the utmost secresy, and there was no suspicion until the very day before the diabolical scheme was to be carried into execution. It was discovered by the miscarriage of a suspicious letter to lord Monteagle, whom they were desirous to save from the general ruin.
The interspace between 1685 and 1688 was a dark period. The British throne, the usual seat of law and liberty, was filled with a prince who was a flaming bigot for popery, and of arbitrary principles of government. The standing laws of the kingdom •were Jaid aside, and the capricious pleasure of the prince was the rule of right and wrong. Charters were extorted from boroughs and corporations. The vilest of men were advanced to places of trust, particularly Jeffries, that monster of cruelty and injustice, to the highest seat of justice. Popish bishops were obtruded upon the church of England, and no fewer than seven protestant bishops were imprisoned in the tower, for no other crime than refusing to read a proclamation intended to introduce popery. The protestant dissenters, their ministers especially, were perishing in gaol, or chased like partridges on the mountains; or if any of them were tolerated, it was not in favour to them, but to their worst enemies, the papists.
"These, (says an animated writer*) these were scenes of gloominess and darkness—these were days of horror and despair. How didst thou then, fair liberty, and thou, star-crowned religion, lift thy streaming eyes to heaven! and how didst thou, 0 my country, faint with thy deadly wounds—how didst thou lie, all pale and ghastly, wallowing in thy blood !—Come, glorious deliverer! Come, immortal William! for thee is reserved the honour of saving a miserable nation from temporal and spiritual slavery—Venit, videt, vicet: He came, he saw, he delivered. The inconstant winds seemed proud to serve him, and the swelling floods smoothed their rage to waft him over. They varied and calmed in the minute when he needed them, and his fleet was carried prosperously through the seas, while that of the enemy was shut up in port. The winds breathed a gentle and favourable gale, until his fleet was secured, and then broke in a violent storm upon that which came against him. They were scattered, and forced into ports: their hopes, and the'fearso!
* Britain's Remembrancer. f Psa. xxviii. 5
the protestants were at the same time extinguished;" and King William was peaceably fixed upon the throne, as the guardian of liberty, property, and religion. And can you see nothing of divine Providence in this I Surely, you must ; unless you " regard not the work of the Lord, nor consider the operation of his hands."*
When the throne was once cleared of a popish prince, and a protestant seated on it, it was a matter of the utmost importance to all posterity to keep it so. This King William had much at heart; and he laboured all his life to ^et an act of parliament to exclude all the popish branches of the family, and to settle the succession of the crown in the family of Hanover, the next protestant branch, in case Queen Anne left no heir, as she did not: but he had so many enemies in both houses of parliament, that they disconcerted all his measures ; and he could not carry his point for sundry years. At last, the act passed in both houses; and while the matter was in agitation, he was seized with his last illness; and the last act of his life was giving his assent to that bill, which has been our grand security ever since, against the claims of an abjured pretender.
Thus Providence continued his life till the critical moment; and if he had not lived to establish this law, it is very unlikely it would ever have been established afterwards; and popery and tyranny would have broken in upon us like a torrent. The same Providence that appeared in the preservation of his life, did also appear in cutting off the life of Queen Anne in a most critical time. It is well known that from the year 1710 to IT 14, a number of arbitrary high-flyers, favourites of the Pretender, had wormed themselves into her court, and engrossed the management of affairs ; while the brave Duke of Marlborough, and the best friends of the nation, were disgraced. If the design can be known from the direct tendency of means, and the characters of the agents, it was plain the scheme was to lay aside the act of succession, and restore the Pretender. And the Jacobite party openly declared, that if the queen had lived but six weeks longer, their schemes would have been quite ripe for execution. But at this dangerous crisis, death was sent to cut short the queen's life, which blasted their design, and the crown descended to the house of Hanover, in the person of King George the
* Psalm xxviii. v.
First. By this seasonable death, we, who are protestant dissenters, are delivered from another intolerable imposition. The high-flying party had formed an engine of church-tyranny and persecution against the dissenters; and that was, an act of parliament to tear from them their children, and compel them to be educated in the established church. This act was to take place on the first of August, 1714; but on that very day, the queen died; and the government fell into, and, blessed be God, still continues in the hands of persons more friendly to the liberty of mankind and the sacred rights of conscience; and there may it long continue!
I shall only add, that Providence very remarkably infatuated the rebels in the last rebellion in 1745—turned their counsels into foolishness, and thus delivered the nation. If immediately after the victory they obtained over our forces at Preston-Pans, they had pursued their way to London, they would, very probably, have cut their way to the throne; or, at least, made the nation a scene of blood.' The whole country was struck into a violent panic: our forces were abroad in Flanders; and there was no power to stop the progress of the enemy. But the rebels, instead of pursuing their way to the metropolis, loitered in and about Edinburgh, and wasted their time in a chimerical project ot taking the castle of that city; which both nature and art had rendered impregnable. By this delay, they gave time to the nation to recover from its panic—to the forces to return, and proper preparations to be made to repel them.
And is there nothing of the hand of God in all this? Is it not so evident, as to extort an acknowledgment even from the thoughtless and reluctant? Has not God appeared the guardian of that favourite island, Great Britain?
I may now presume, the great truth I had in view is sufficiently evident; namely, that God is the Supreme Disposer of the affairs of nations and the events of war.
If any of you should ask, " In what manner does he do this? Or how is it possible he should do it, when we see no sensible appearances of his controlling the laws of nature, or restraining the liberty of men? Natural causes produce their proper effects; and men fight against men; and perceive they are free to act or not to act, as they please. Where, then, is there any room for the agency of Providence I" I answer, it is the excellency of the divine government to accomplish its purposes without throwing
the world into disturbance and confusion, by great breaches upon its established laws; it accomplishes them, either by continuing the course of nature, or by altering it in so gentle and easy a manner, that it is hardly, if at all, perceivable. And as to men, God carries them on to effect his designs, without offering the least violence to their free and rational nature; and sways their minds so gently, that while they are performing his orders, they often seem to themselves to act from principles wholly within themselves. He manages all events as really as if he made no use of secondary causes; and yet secondary causes produce their effects, and are, in action, as really as if they were the only agents.* What a surprising, mysterious government; what a perfect administration is this! Yet, I think, we can form some general ideas how the Lord manages the affairs of men, and particularly determines victory in the field of battle as he pleases. The event of war ofteii depends in a great measure upon the winds and waves, clouds and rain. And why may not he, by a secret touch of his hand, order these so as to favour one party, and incommode the other? The fate of war greatly depends on the prudence of counsels, and the courage of the soldiers: and why may we not suppose, that he who formed the souls of men, and knows all their secret springs of action, and how to manage them;—why may we not suppose that he may imperceivably feet the minds of the one party to concert proper measures, and darken and confuse the understandings of the other, to take measures injurious to themselves, and advantageous to the enemy, though they appear right to them, until the event shews them mistaken? He may suggest hints of thoughts, and secretly Was the mind to a certain set of counsels; and yet the influence, though efficacious, may be so gentle, and so consistent with human nature, as hardly to be perceived. Why may he not imperceivably animate the one party with intrepid courage, and damp the other, and strike them with terror? These things and the like may easily b"e done by "the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."t
* " He ceaseless works alone! and yet alone
Seems not to work; with such perfection fram'd
Is this complex, amazing scene of things."
f Isaiah xxviii. 29.
This subject is so rich in important inferences, that I am sorry 1 have not time to mention and enlarge upon them all. I only crave your attention to the following:
First, If God rule in the kingdoms of men, and manage the affairs of the world, then we should live upon earth as in a world governed by divine providence. Though secondary causes may be used to bless or afflict us; yet let us look upon ourselves as in the hands of God, and all the blessings and afflictions of life as coming from him. Is it God that chastises us with sickness and misfortunes? Can we dare then to fly in his face by impatient murmurings and fretful complaints? Rather say, though I might take this HI from my fellow creatures, yet, if it be thy hand, " I am dumb and will not open my mouth, because thou dost it."* Are you prosperous and happy? Then it is God that makes you so, however many secondary causes you may observe contributing to it: and must not your devoutest gratitude ascend to him? When you fret at the dispensations of life, remember you are quarrelling with the divine government. This rebellious temper may shew itself -'bout the smallest things. When ycu find fault with the winds or weather, the heat of summer, or the cold of winter, whom do you find fault with? Is it not with him that is thff disposer of these things? And do you not tremble at such a blasphemous insurrection against him? While a Being of such infinite wisdom, power and goodness, sits at the helm, it becomes us implicitly to approve all his dispensations, and to " be still, arid know that he is God."t
Secondly, If the affairs of nations are at the disposal of the King of heaven, then how dreadful is the case of a guilty, provoking, impenitent nation ! If he be the supreme ruler of the kingdoms of the earth, then it belongs to his character to punish the rebellious disobedience to his authority, the contempt of his laws, the abuse of his mercies, and a sullen incorrigibleness under his chastisements. These crimes must turn his heart from a people, and provoke him to punish them. 'This world, as I oljserved before, is the only place where societies are punished as such; for in the future world they are all dissolved; and every man is dealt with according to his own personal works. And if God be turned against a nation, if he be resolved to punish them, how helpless is their condition I Who can defend them if the ruler of the uerse be their enemy? Now, it is guilt only that can in
'Psalm xxxix. 9. t Psalm xlvi. 10.
cur his displeasure—it is guilt only that can remove a nation from off its only sure basis—the protection of Heaven. Guilt, therefore, is poison in the veins of a body politic, and will cast it into dreadful convulsions, if not remedied in time by a speedy repentance. And, if this be the case, how may we tremble for our country, and fear the divine displeasure! We have enjoyed a long, uninterrupted peace in this land. We have not been alarmed with the sound of the trumpet, nor seen garments rolled in blood. But what a wretched improvement have we made of this, and many other inestimable blessings? What a torrent of yice, irreligion and luxury has broken in, and overwhelmed the land? What ignorance of God and divine things; what carelessness about the concerns of religion and a future state? what a neglect of Christ and his precious gospel, have spread, like a subtle poison, among all ranks and characters? How daring are the immoralities of some, their profane oaths, their drunkenness, uncleanness, and many other monstrous vices under which our land groans? What luxury and extravagance in eating and drinking, and especially in diversions and amusements, (if they deserve so soft a name) may we see among us, especially among persons in high life? How few are the penitent, affectionate, dutiful servants of God among us? How little is the ruler of the uerse regarded by his own creatures in his own world? Creatures supported by his constant bounties, and protected by his guardian care. Alas! my brethren, what shall I say? Most willingly would I draw a veil over the shame of my country; but, alas! it cannot be hid. While such glaring crimes are rampant among us; while such a stupid carelessness about the concerns of eternity prevails among us, it is impossible for the most benevolent charity to avoid the discovery. And may we not fear that the measure of our iniquity is just full? May we not fear that the righteous Judge of the earth will visit us for these things? Under the present happy government we have enjoyed our liberty, our property, and our religion, and every thing dear to us; but we have abused them all. And may we not fear that these blessings shall be exchanged for the tyranny of a French government, and the superstitions and cruelties of the church of Rome? I hope and pray this may not be our doom; but, I think, it is the part of stupid presumption, and not of rational courage, to be quite fearless about it. We are, indeed, so happy as to be closely connected with our mother country, and under its protection. But, alas! vice and luxury have spread like a deadly contagion, there, as well as here: and Great Britain is worthy of di,vine vengeance, as well as we.
Now what shall we do in this case? Shall wc put our trust in our military forces? Alas! what can an arm of flesh do for us, if the Lord of hosts desert us? Though our army was never so powerful, how sad would be our case, had we reason to say, like Saul, "The French are upon us, and God is departed from us I" Who can bear the thought! What then remains, but,
Thirdly, That we should humble ourselves before the King of kings, and take all proper means to gain his protection? If God dispose the victory as he pleases, then it is most fit, and absolutely necessary, that we should seek to secure his friendship. If we have such an almighty Ally, we are safe; and if we have provoked his displeasure, and forfeited his friendship, what can we do, but prostrate ourselves in the deepest repentance and humiliation before him? for that is the only way to regain his favour. This is the great design of a fast; and from what you have heard, you may see it is not a needless ceremony, but a seasonable and important duty. Indeed if he did not concern himself in the affairs of men, we need not concern ourselves with him. But since all our successes depend upon his Providence, how fit is it we should mourn over our provocations, and seek his favour? Let us therefore follow the advice of Joel,* and "turn to the Lord with weeping, with mourning, and with fasting." Let us confess our own sins, and the sins cf our land, which have brought all our evils upon us. Let us be importunate and incessant in prayer, that God would pour out his Spirit and promote a general reformation; that he would direct our rulers to proper measures, inspire our soldiers with courage, and decide the event of battle in our favour- If the doctrine I have proved be true, then there is a congruity, a fitness in these things; yea, an absolute necessity for them.
To excite you, therefore, to these duties, let your hearts be deeply impressed with the truth I have been inculcating, that our success must come from God, and that without him all the means of our defence are in vain.
Consider the many blessings you enjoy under the present government. I think it may be truly said, that the constitution of the British government is the happiest in all the world. It is a
* Chap. ii. 12—18.
proper mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. The people choose their representatives to make laws for them, and the king, as well as the subject, is bound by these laws. No man is disturbed in his liberty, his property, or conscience; nor subjected to the capricious pleasure of the greatest man in the kingdom. I may also safely affirm, that of all the kings in Europe, or perhaps in the world, our gracious Sovereign is the most tender of the liberties of his subjects, and zealous for the constitution of his country. Mercy and clemency are his delight; but his gentle nature is pained, when he is constrained to exercise even the wholesome severities of justice; and never was a king's government more firmly established in the hearts and affections of his subjects. He is not perpetually making exorbitant claims by a pretended prerogative, like many of his predecessors, especially those of the family of Stewart. He does not assume the province of Heaven to prescribe to conscience, but allows every man the free and unmolested exercise of his religion, who lives inoffensive to the government. And through the mercy of God, the principles of liberty are more generally embraced than ever in Great Britain. In short, the inhabitants of that favourite island, and the colonies dependent upon it, are the happiest of mankind as to all the blessings of government. And shall we not be tenacious of these blessings, which are of such great importance to us, and our posterity, and which were purchased at the expense of their blood, by our brave fore-fathers? And now, by way of contrast, let us take a view of the French government, and of our wretched circumstances if we should fall under it. There, every thing is done according to the pleasure of an arbitrary, absolute monarch, who is above law and all control. He may take away the liberty, and even the lives of his subjects, without assigning a reason why. There you must conform to all the superstitions and idolatries of the church of Rome, or lose your" life; or at best, be obliged to flee your country, hungry and famishing, and leave all your estate behind you. Nay, to such a height is persecution carried there now, that they place soldiers to guard the frontiers of the country, and will not allow the protestants the poor favour of going to beg their bread, or begin the world anew, in a strange country. It is but a little while ago, that a minister was apprehended, condemned, and hanged, all in three hours, and for no other crime but preaching a sermon to a number of protestants. And even now, such as can make their escape, are flying over in multitudes to Great Britain—that land of liberty. And can you bear the thought, that you and your children should have such an iron yoke as this riveted about your necks I Would you not rather die in defence of your privileges? I am sore you would, if you had the spirit of men or of christians. Therefore, improve your religion, lest you lose it: make a good use of your liberty, lest you forfeit it; and cry mightily to God for deliverance.
To heighten the terrors of a French government, they have on this continent a numerous body of Indian savages in their interest, whom they will hound out upon us ; and from them we may expect such bloody barbarities as we cannot bear so much as to think of. If these Barbarians should make inroads upon us, as they have begun to do in some of the neighbouring provinces, how miserable are we!
To alarm you the more, reflect upon the growing power of France. She keeps an army of an hundred and forty thousand men on foot, even in time of peace; and is undoubtedly superior to the English by land. She has, also, of late, greatly increased in strength at seat; in which Britain has hitherto maintained the sovereignty. And though in America, the French are but few in comparison of the English, yet they receive very powerful recruits from their mother country.
It is also a most discouraging omen, that though the British colonies are superior in number, yet they are so possessed with a spirit of contention, or so stupidly insensible of danger, that they do not exert themselves with proper vigour for their own defence, or delay it too long to prevent the influence of so active an enemy. If we tamely suffer ourselves to be enslaved, while we are so much superior in power, we well deserve it.
Fourthly, If God govern the world by means of second causes, then it is our duty, according to our characters, to use all proper means to defend our country, and stop the encroachments of our enemies. We have no ground for a lazy confidence in divine Providence; nor should we content ourselves with idle, inactive prayers; but let us rouse ourselves, and be active. Let us cheerfully pay the taxes the government has laid upon us to support this expedition. Let us use our influence to diffuse a military spirit around us. I have no scruple thus openly to declare, that such of you whose circumstances allow of it, may not on!;, lawfully -enlist^ and take up arms, but that your so doing is a christian duty, and acting an honourable part, worthy of a mas, a freeman, a Briton, and a christian.