THE CRISIS: OR, THE UNCERTAIN DOOM OF KINGDOMS AT PARTICULAR TIMES.
Jonah iii. 9. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not!
A State of uncertainty, a suspense between hope and fear about a matter of importance, is a very painful and anxious state. And by how much the more important and interesting the matter, by so
much much the more distressing is the uncertainty. Now what can be more important, what more interesting, than our country! Our country is a word of the highest and most endearing import: it includes our friends and relatives, our liberty, our property, our religion: in short, it includes our earthly all. And. when the fate of our country, and all that it includes, is dreadfully doubtful; when we are tossed and agitated betwixt the alternate waves of hope and fear; when, upon taking a view of the present posture of our affairs, we can only ask with painful solicitude, -what will be the end of these things? and when even the consideration of the divine mercy upon our repentance cannot give us any assurance of deliverance m a political capacity, but only a peradventure, who can tell but God will turn and repent! when this, I fay, is our situation, every mind that has the least thought, must be agitated with many eager, dubious expectations. This is the present situation of our country; and this was the state of that populous and magnisicent city of Nineveh, when the words of my text were sirst spoken.
* Preached at Hanover, in Virginia, 281I1 Oct. 17JS, being the day appointed by the Synod of New-York, to be observed as a general fast, on account of the present war with France.
Nineveh was the metropolis of the Assyrian empire: and how prodigiously populous it was, you may calculate from hence, that it contained more than fix score thousand children, that were so young, that they could not distinguish the right hand from the left: and the number of adults, in proportion to these, must be vast indeed. Its extent was no less than three days journey. Profane authors tel l us, it was forty-seven miles in circumference; and that notwithstanding its vast extent, it was surrounded with lofty walls and towers: the walls two hundred feet high, and so very wide, that three chariots might drive on them a-breast : and the towers two hundred feet in height, and sifteen hundred in number. But what became of this mighty Nineveh at last? Alas I it was turned into an heap of rubbish. Divine patience was at length wearied out j and, though the
vengeance denounced by Jonah was suspended, yet that foretold by Nahum was dreadfully executed.
And what was the cause of this execution, and that denunciation? The cause of both was sin; national, epidemical sin, against an unknown God, the God of Israel; I say, against an unknown God: for Nineveh was an heathen city, not favoured with the. knowledge of the true God by supernatural revelation; much less with the gospel, that most perfect dispensation of divine grace towards the sons of men. The Ninevites could not sin with such horrid aggravations as we; and yet even they could sin to such a degree, as to become utterly intolerable. They sinned against the light of nature, and that sufficed to bring down remediless destruction upon them. This is mentioned as the cause of the divine displeasure, in Jonah's commission. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry again/l it; for their wickedness is come up before trie, Jonah i. 2. their wickedness has reached to heaven; and can no longer be endured. But before the fatal blow fall, let them have one warning more —Oh! how astonishing are the grace and patience of God towards a guilty people! Even when their wickedness has scaled the heavens, and come up before him, he condescends to give them another warning, and suspends the blow for at least forty days longer, to fee if they will at length repent.
Jonah, having tried in vain to disengage himself from the message, is at length constrained to undertake it; and with the solemn and awful gait of a prophet, he walks from street to street, making this alarming proclamation: Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Jonah iii. 4. This was the substance of his sermon: but no doubt he spoke much more than is here recorded. No doubt, he produced his credentials from the God of Israel, and gave them the history of his reluctance to accept the commission; of the storm that pursued him, while attempting to make his escape j of his miraculous preservation in
the the belly of a sish, and his deliverance thence. No doubt, he also let them know what was the cause oF the divine displeasure against them, viz. their national vices and irreligion; and he perhaps intimated, that repentance was the only possible method of escaping the threatened destruction. It is plain, however, they understood him in this fense; for they actually did repent; but whether it was from the light of nature, or from Jonah's preaching, they received this direction, does not appear. *
And now, while the prophet is delivering his message, their consciences tell them how ripe they are for this dreadful doom; and the Spirit of God, no doubt, concurs, and impresses the conviction upon their hearts. Now, methinks, I fee eager, gazing: crowds following the prophet from street to street j paleness is in every countenance, and horror in every heart. Now the man of business remits his eager pursuits; the man of pleasure is struck with a damp in his thoughtless career: pride and grandeur lower their haughty airs; and a general horror spreads from: the cottage to the throne. The people agree upon a public fast: and when the emperor hears of the awful message, he issues forth his royal edict, requiring an uersal abstinence from food, and a deep repentance and reformation. He enjoins all to put on sackcloth, the habit of mourners and penitents in those ages and countries; and, laying aside his royal robes,
* Upon second theughts, it seems to me that God saw it most proper to be upon the reserve in this point; and that he did not reveal to Jonah his gracious design to pardon them upon their repentance; nor Jonah to the Ninevites.—That God did not reveal it to Jonah, seems probable from hence, that he had some expectation the city would be destroyed, though he saw their repentance: and hence he waited for the event, and was greatly chagrined when disappointed. He seemed indeed to have presumed what the event would be, from the known mercy and patience of God (ch, iv. i.) but this implies, that be had no express revelation for it—That Jonah did not reveal this to the Ninevites, appears from my text, where they speak of the event as dreadfully uncertain, even though they ihould repent.
and descending from his throne, he puts on the mortifying dress himself, and lies in the dust. That the humiliation might be the more moving and affecting, he orders, according to the custom of the time upon such solemn occasions, that even the beasts, the flocks and herds, should be restrained from food, and compelled to join, as it were, with more guilty men, in the general humiliation, and in deprecating that vengeance which was about to fall upon man and beast.
We have now a very moving sight before us; a gay, magnisicent city in mourning; thousands mourning in every street: king and subjects, high and low, old and young, all covered in sackcloth, and rolling in ashes. And their repentance does not wholly consist in these ceremonies: the royal proclamation further requires them to cry mightily unto God; and turn every one from his evil way. They are sensible of the propriety and necessity of prayer, earnest prayer to God, and a reformation of life, as well as of afflicting themselves with fasting. The light of nature directed them to this as the only method of deliverance, if deliverance was possible. The case of such a people looks hopeful:—That so many thousands should be brought to repentance by one warning, the sirst and only warning they had ever received from a prophet of the true God; a prophet that was a contemptible stranger from the despised nation of the Jews; this certainly appears promising.
Alas! brethren, our countrymen are not so easily brought to repentance: No, this is not an easy thing among us. Ten thousand warnings, not only from conscience, from divine providence, from this very Jonah, and the other prophets of the Old Testament, but also from the gospel, that clear and perfect revelation; I fay, ten thousand warnings, thus peculiarly enforced, have not so much effect upon our country, this Christian, this Protestant country, as one short warning from the mouth of Jonah had upon a city of heathens and idolaters. Ail along as I have been
considering considering this cafe, I could not cast out of my mind that dreadful declaration of Christ, The men of Nineveh Jhall rife up in judgment with this generation and Jhall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here* Matt. xii. 41. Nineveh never had such loud calls to repentance, and such a rich plenty of all the means of grace, as Virginia. The meanest in the kingdom of heaven, /. e. the meanest Christian under the full revelation of the gospel, is greater in spiritual knowledge, not only than Jonah, but than John the Baptist, the greatest prophet that was ever born of a woman. And therefore, I may accommodate these words to us, Behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Here are clearer discoveries of the will of God, and stronger motives and encouragements to repentance, than ever Jonah could afford the men of Nineveh. But alas! where is our repentance! Where are our humiliation and reformation! Shall the light of nature, and one warning from a prophet, bring heathens to the knee before God; and shall not the gospel, and all its loud calls, have that effect upon a Christian land! Shall Nineveh repent in sackcloth and ashes; and shall Virginia sin on still, impenitent, thoughtless, luxurious and gay! Alas! what will be the end of this?
The case of the Ninevites, who were brought to repentance so readily, and so generally, looks hopeful, and seems to promise them an exemption from the threatened vengeance. And yet, so sensible was the king of Nineveh of their demerit, and the insufficiency of their repentance to make atonement for their sins, that he is doubtful, after all, what would be the consequence. Who can tell, says he; who knoweth, if God will turn and repent, and turn away from the fierceness of his anger, that we perish not! q. d. Let us bumble ourselves ever so low, we are not assured we shall escape: vengeance may, after all, seize us; and we may be made monuments to all the world of the justice of the King of kings, and the dreadful consequences -qucnces of national impiety and vice. His uncertainty in this matter might proceed from the just fense he had of the intolerable height to which the national wickedness had arrived, and of the strictness of the divine justice. He knew that, even in his own government, it would have very bad consequences, if all crimes should be forgiven,or pass unpunished,upon the repentance of the offender: and he forms the fame judgment concerning the divine government. Indeed, it is natural to a penitent, while he has a full view of his sins, in all their aggravations, and of the justice of God, to question whether such sins can be forgiven by so holy a God. He is apt even to fall into an extreme in this respect. It does not now appear so easy a thing to him to obtain a pardon, as it once did, when he had no just views of his guilt.— Now it appears a great thing indeed; so great, that he can hardly think it possible. Or the uncertainty cf the king of Nineveh in this point might proceed from Jonah's being so reserved upon it. He might have had no commission from God to promise them deliverance upon their repentance; but he was to warn them, and then leave them in the hands of a gracious and righteous God, to deal with them according to his pleasure. This tended to make them more sensible that they lay at mercy, and that he might justly do what he pleased with them. The event indeed shewed there was a condition implied in the threatening; and that God did secretly intend to spare them, upon their repentance. But this was wisely concealed, and it was sufficient that the event should make it known. It is certain that national as well as personal repentance, may sometimes come too late; and that sometimes the punishment may fall by way of chastisement, even when the repentance is sincere, and the sin is forgiven, so that it shall not bring on the destruction of the sinner in the eternal world. But we may well suppose, an heathen monarch, who probably had no instruction but from Jonah's short Vol. III. E e e warning, warning, would be much at a loss about these things. From this uncertainty of his about the fate of his empire, we may infer this truth, which I intend to illustrate with regard to ourselves, viz.
That sometimes a nation may be in such a situation, that no man can tell what will be the issue; or whether it mall be delivered from the threatened vengeance, or destroyed.
But though the king of Nineveh was uncertain about this; yet, there was one thing that he was very certain of, viz. That if there was any possibility of escape, it was to be hoped for only in the way of earnest prayer to God, general humiliation and reformation. This is evident from the connection of the context. Let man and bcaji, fays he, be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God, yea, let them turn every one from his evil way :—Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not! i. e. Who can tell but he may turn away from his sierce anger, in case we turn from our evil ways, and humble ourselves before him? If we do not reform, and humble ourselves, the case is dreadfully plain; any one can tell that we cannot escape; there is not so much as a peradventure for it; unavoidable destruction will be our doom, beyond all question. But if we repent, who knows what that may do? Who knows but God may repent, and turn from the fierceness of his wrath! If there be any hope at all, it is in this way. This he learned from the light of nature, if not from Jonah's preaching. And this suggests another seasonable truth, which, if my time will allow, I shall also illustrate, viz.
That when a nation is in such a state, that no man can certainly determine what will be its doom, if there be any possible hope, it is only in the way of general humiliation, earnest prayer and public reformation.
To prevent mistakes, I have one thing more to observe upon the text; and that is, that when God is said to repent, it only signisies, that the vifible conduct
of of divine Providence has some resemblance to the conduct of men, when they repent; and not that he is capable of repentance in a proper fense, or of that changeableness, imperfect knowledge, sorrow and selfaccusation, which repentance among men implies.— When men repent that they have made a thing, they destroy it; and therefore, when God destroyed man by a deluge, he is said to repent that he made him; and when he deposed Saul, it is said, he repented that he had made him king. When men do not execute their threatenings, it is supposed they repent of them; and hence, when God does not inflict the threatened evil, he is said to repent of the evil; i. e. he acts as men do when they repent of their purpose; though when he made the denunciation, he well knew the event, and determined not to execute it, upon the repentance of the offenders. So with regard to Nineveh, there was no proper repentance in God, but an uniform, consistent purpose. He purposed to denounce his vengeance against that city; and he did so: he purposed and foresaw their repentance; and it accordingly came to pass: he purposed to spare them upon their repentance; and he did so. All this is very consistent, and implies no proper repentance in God: for in this fense, God is not a man, that he should repent, Numb, xxiii. 19. but he is of one mind, and who can turn him? and what his foul desireth, even that he doth. Job xxiii. 13.
I now enter upon the illustration of the sirst inference upon the text, viz.
I. That sometimes a nation may be in such a situation,.that no man can tell what will be their doom; whether the threatened vengeance will fall upon them, or whether they shall escape.
This, we have seen, was the situation of Nineveh, though now lying in deep repentance, and not in danger, as far as appears from any visible cause. Thousands were now mourning, praying, and reforming; and we have no account of an enemy preparing to invade them. And if Nineveh, in this situation, which seems so promifing, was, notwithstanding, in such danger that no man could determine what would be their doom, alas! what shall we say of Virginia, and the kingdoms to which we belong, when. they are neither penitent before God, nor safe from the arms of a powerful and victorious enemy? If the repentance of the Ninevites gave them no assurance of escape, but only a peradventure, Who can tell if God will turn front his fierce anger? Certainly our doom must, at best, be equally uncertain, when, instead of repentance, reformation and mighty crying to God, we see the generality impenitent, unreformed and prayerless still? 1 would not damp you with unmanly fears; but I cannot help saying, that our doom is dismally uncertain. I know not what a provoked God intends to do with us and our nation. I have my hopes indeed; but they are balanced, and sometimes overbalanced, with fearful and gloomy apprehensions. But,
1. The issue of the present war will appear dreadfully uncertain, if we consider the present posture of affairs.
We are engaged in war with a powerful, exasperated enemy; and blood is streaming by sea and land. Some decifive blow will probably be struck ere long: but on what party it will fall, and what will be the issue of this struggle and commotion among the nations, is an anxious uncertainty. It seems but too likely, though it strikes me with horror to admit the thought, that a provoked God intends to scourge us with the rod of France, and therefore gives surprifing success to her arms. Who can tell, but the king of France may have the fame commission given him by that God, whom we and our mother-country have so grievously offended, as was given to the Assyrian monarch, in Isaiah's time, when God speaks of him as his rod, to chastise his own people, and as acting by a commission from him, though he neither knew nor
designed it, but only intended to gratify-his own ambition? 0 Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the' ft ass in their hand is mine indignation. I will fend him against an hypocritical nation; 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. Howbeit, he meaneth not so; neither doth his heart think so: but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off nations not a few. Bat at the fame time it is foretold, That when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion, and on ferufalem, I will punijh the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. Isa. x. 5, 6, 7, 12. And if the same commission be given to the king of France, I doubt not but his end will be the fame. When God has sinished his work of correction with this rod, he will break it, or burn it in the sire. The like commission was given to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; and when he, and his son, and his son's son, had served as the executioners of God's wrath upon his people, and the neighbouring nations, they and the Babylonian empire were destroyed together.' Thus faith the Lord of hosts, because ye have not heard my words, behold, I will fend and take all the families of the north, faith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant (my servant, to execute this my work of correction, and of vengeance) and I will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and I will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonijhment, and an hi/sing, and perpetual desolations—But it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished (the space of time allotted for his power, and the correction of God's people) that then will I punistj the king of Babylon, and that nation, faith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. (Jer. xxv. 8-—12 —14.) Thus you fee it is no uncommon thing for God, when transgressions are come to the full, to raise up some power to perform his work of chastisement
ment arid vengeance, and render it victorious and irresistible, till that work is done, and then to crush it in its turn. And whether divine Providence is now about to employ the power of France for this purpose, is a dreadful uncertainty. We hope, indeed, matters will take a more favourable turn ; but the - present posture of affairs, and particularly the rapid conquests of that power, which is now become so formidable even in America, give us reason to fear this may be the event, and that matters are now ripening fast for this terrible result.
I may add, that we have reason to fear from the disposition and conduct of many among ourselves,, some in high places have been suspected of treachery or cowardice, or at least bad conduct. A spirit of security, floth and cowardice, evidently prevails j nothing great is so much as attempted, much less executed. We have also so many black foreigners among ourselves, as may justly alarm our fears. Now if the French should invade our frontiers; if the Indians, that are now neuter, or in the Britim interest, should join with them, and with those tribes that are already so active upon their side; and if their united forces should pour down upon us, and meet with a welcome reception and assistance from so powerful an enemy among ourselves; I fay, should this be the case, I need not tell you what unexampled scenes of blood, cruelty and devastation would open in our country. This may not be the event; and I hope and pray it may not: but it is not so improbable as we could wish; much less is it impossible. Who knows but this may actually be the consequence!
And if the natural allies of France should form a confederacy against our mother-country, and attack her with their united strength, how terrible would the consequences probably be, both to her and to us, especially if the Protestant powers should not vigorously concur with us against them! This event may
not happen; and I hope and pray it may not: but it is not so unlikely as one could wish. But,
2. The event of the present war will appear dismally doubtful, if we consider some Scripture prophecies, particularly in Daniel and the Revelations. I cannot pretend to enter deeply into this subject at present; a subject that has silled so many volumes, and employed the thoughts and pens of so many great men. It will be sufficient to my present purpose to observe,
(1.) That the idolatrous persecuting power of Popery, seated at Rome, is undoubtedly meant by the little horn in Daniel (Dan. vii. 8.) that rose up out of the Roman empire, when it was divided into ten kingdoms by the barbarous nations that broke in upon it: an horn which had a mouth,speaking great things; which made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; an horn which speaks great things against the Most High, and wears out the saints of the Most High; and thinks to change times and laws, i. e. to alter and corrupt the ordinances of God. ver. 24, 25. The same idolatrous, persecuting power is also intended in the Revelations, (Rev. xiii.) by the beast with seven heads and ten horns, that bad a mouth given him, speaking great things, and blasphemies: and he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, &c. and it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations; and all that dwell on the earth sliall worship him, whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of lise. The same indolatrous and persecuting power is intended likewise by the woman (Rev. xvii.)fitting upon a scarlet-coloured . beast, having seven heads, and ten horns; full of names of blasphemy, and drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Protestant commentators generally agree in this application of these prophecies to the Papal power; but I cannot take time to lay before you the full evidence upon which they proceed, However,
I cannot I cannot but just observe, that the angel-interpreter expressly tells St. John, that this woman was that great city which then reigned over the kings of the earth (ver. xviii.) which undoubtedly means the city of Rome, that was then the feat of uersal empire. But,
(-2.) 1 he time of the reign of this idolatrous and persecuting power is determined in prophetic numbers, both in Daniel and the Revelations. In Daniel, it is said, the saints shall be given into the hand of the horns until a time, times, and the dividing of time, Dan. vii. 25. and that he shall scatter the power of the holy people for a time, times, and half a time. Dan. xii. 7. In the Revelations, we are told. that the church of Christ, represented by a woman, shall continue in the wilderness, /'. e. in a state of oppression and persecution, under the Popish power, for a time, times, and half a time, Rev. xii. 14. that the outer court of the temple; and the holy city, another emblem of the true church of Christ, shallbe given to the Gentiles, i. e. subjected to a power no better than heathen, and by them trodden under foot forty-two months; that the church should be fed in the wilderness for twelve hundred and sixty days, Rev. xii. 6. and that the two witnesses, i. e. the small remnant of the faithful who shall retain the purity of the gospel, and witness against the corruptions of the church of Rome, Jha/l prophesy twelve hundred and fixty days in sackcloth. These are but different representations of the fame period: and in order to understand them you are to observe, that, in this calculation, a day signisies a year; and therefore twelve hundred and fixty days are twelve hundred and fixty years. A month consists of thirty such days, /. e. thirty years; for the months among the ancients were invariably made up of but thirty days, as their year consisted only of three hundred and fixty days. Now forty-two months, multiplied by thirty, just make twelve hundred and fixty years. So time signisies one year, times two years, and half
a time, or the dividing of time, half a year: nowone year and two years making three years, and the half year added to them make three years and a half. These three years and a half contain thrice three hundred and fixty years, and the half of three hundred and fixty (viz. one hundred and eighty) which make exactly twelve hundred and fixty years. So that all these calculations amount to the fame thing, viz. twelve hundred and fixty years. This is undoubtedly the duration of the Popish tyranny, and of the oppression of the saints, and the cause of truth. Now if we could sind out when it begun, whether when the Pope usurped and exercised the substance of ecclesiastical authority as uersal bishop, which was in the sifth century; or when he was formerly invested with that authority by the emperor Phocas, A. D. 606; or when he was made a secular prince, and had a civil authority added to his ecclesiastical, by Pipin, king of France, A. D. 756; I fay, if we could sind out when this space of twelve hundred and fixty years began, we could eafily sind out when it will end: and this would help us to determine what will be the event of the present war, whether the oppression of the Protestant cause, or the downfal of the bloody power of Popery, that has undoubtedly held the world in ignorance, idolatry and slavery, for above a thousand years. But after all the searches I can make, I am not able to form a certain determination upon the point; and commentators differ so widely among themselves, that I have received but little light from them. I must therefore leave you in that uncertainty, in which I am myself; and consequently destitute of light from these predictions concerning the event of the present war. But,
(3.) Though this period of twelve hundred and fixty years is to be, all through, a series of tyranny and persecution; and the cause of truth and its advocates are continually under oppression; yet there is a short space in this period, I suppose, from the
Vol. III. F f f calculation calculation in the Revelation, Rev. xi. 9. about three years and a half, in which the cause of truth shall seem entirely suppressed, and its friends utterly extinct; so that there will be no human probability of their revival, any more than of a human body that has lain dead three days and a half. And upon this the Popish powers shall exult and triumph, as if they had obtained an entire and lasting victory. This is probably the time referred to in Daniel (chap. xii. 1.) as a time of trouble, such as never was fince there was anation, even to that time. During the rest of the twelve hundred and fixty days, the witnesses prophefied in sackcloth, in a state of mourning and persecution: but in this period they are killed; and their dead bodies lie, unburied and insulted, in the street of the great city, /'. e. in the Roman territories: and they that dwell upon the earth Jloall rejoice over them, and make merry, and fend gifts one to another. Rev. xi. 7—10. This is a melancholy time indeed for the few servants of Jesus Christ. And who can tell, whether it be past, or whether it be future, and the issue of the present war? I could eafily lay before you the opinions of good and great men on this point; but they are so various, that they could not bring you to any certain conclusion upon it. Some suppose it past j and that it was either a little before the Reformation, when the Albigenses and Waldenses, who had been witnesses for a long time against the corruptions of popery, were, in appearance, utterly extirpated by a series of bloody persecutions, at the Pope's instigation: and if this was the period, then the resurrection of the witnesses, and their being caught up into heaven, must signify the revival of their cause at the Reformation, and the raifing up of Luther, Calvin, and other reformers, in the fame spirit. Or, as others suppose, this melancholy time was about the year 1550, when the persecution raged in England under Queen Mary, and the civil wars in France, Germany, and the Low Countries, on account of religion, seemed
ed to threaten the utter extinction of the Protestant cause. Those that suppose this time is past, have sundry arguments, that are at least plausible, to support their opinion; and if I have any opinion at all, in so doubtful a matter, I incline to this.
There are others, of no small judgment in such matters, that apprehend this melancholy period is yet to come; and they too have their reasons, which I cannot now mention. And if this be the cafe, who can tell but the melancholy time is now at hand, and that the present commotions in Europe are working up to it? This is certain, it will be introduced by war: for we are expressly told, that when the two witnesses have Jinished their testimony; the beast shall make war against them, and so all overcome them and kill them, Rev. xi. 7. and that just before the pouring out of the seventh vial, which shall utterly destroy the popish powers, and introduce the kingdom of Christ, the kings of the earth, by popish instigation, shall gather themselves together to the battle of the great day of God Almighty, in a place called Armageddon (Rev. xvi. 13, 14, 16.) or Megiddo, where good Josiah, the great reformer of the Jewish religion, was flain. I saw the beast, fays St. John, and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that fat on the horse, i. e. against Jesus Christ and his army. Rev. xix. 19. Popery will die hard, and its last struggles be very violent. It will collect all its forces, and make a bold push to recover its lost authority: and this will undoubtedly be attended with much slaughter. But whether it will be victorious in the sirst attack, and at this time slay the witnesses; or whether the Lamb and his army shall immediately prevail, as he certainly will at last ; * this seems uncertain. Now who can tell, but the present war is the commencement of this grand decisive conflict.
* See the final issue of this grand decisive conflict, described in mo:t lively terms, Rev. xix. from ver. n. ad fin.
flict between the Lamb and the beast, i. e. between the protestant and popish powers? The pope sirst received his principality and secular authority from Pipin, one of the kings of France: and there seems to be something congruous in it, that France should also take the lead, and be, as it were, the general of his forces in this last decifive conflict for the support of that authority. This is also remarkable, and almost peculiar to the present war, viz. That protestants and papists are not blended together in it by promiscuous alliances: but France and her allies are all papists; and Britain and her allies are all protestants; and consequently whatever party fall, the religion of that party is like to fall too. If France and her allies should prove victorious, then we may conclude the period for flaying the witnesses is just coming. But if Britain and her allies should be victorious, then we may conclude that time is past, and that the time is just come when it shall be proclaimed, Babylon is fallen f is fallen! but all this is uncertain, at least to me, till the event make it plain; and for that we must wait with anxious suspense.
But here I cannot help mentioning one thing, to mitigate your anxieties; and that is, that however bloody and desolating this last conflict may be, it will bring about the most glorious and happy revolution that ever was in the world. It will quite change the face of things, introduce a new heaven and a new earthy wherein righteousness shall dwell; and it will new-model the kingdoms of the world, and they shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he Jhall reign for ever, Rev. xi. 15. then Satan shall be bound, and Christ shall reign in the hearts of men, a thousand years. How remarkable upon this head are the prophecies of Daniel, above two thousand years ago! I beheld, fays he, and the little horn made war with the faints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of Days came; i. e. came to give dominion, and glory, and a kingdom to the Son of man, Dan. vii. 21, 22.
and then judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom, ver. 13, 14.—They shall be uppermost in their turn, and be sinally triumphant. All the other empires and kingdoms of the world have been subject to revolutions, passed from hand to hand, and at length fallen to pieces; but this, fays Daniel, is a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; a kingdom that shall not be left to other people; but it shall break to ,pieces and consume all the kingdoms that were before it, and it shall stand for ever. Dan. ii. 44.—Hail, happy period! how long wilt thou delay? Lord Jesus, let thy kingdom come! let it come, though to make way for it, many thrones must totter that are now the supporters of Antichrist: let it come, though many kingdoms should be overturned, and many countries stream with blood; though we and millions more should be crushed in the grand revolution. See, brethren, the happy result of all the commotions that are, or have been, on this restless globe: fee to what a glorious end they all tend! And who would not willingly live a while longer in this world of sin and sorrow, and share in calamities of war, and all the plagues reserved for the latter times, if he may but fee this blessed period! But if we should not be so happy as to fee it with mortal eyes, such of us as de in the Lord shall receive the welcome intelligence of it in heaven, and rejoice in it as much as its proper subjects on earth.—You will forgive me, if I have dwelt too long upon this new and curious subject. I shall now proceed with more haste. Therefore,
3. The event of the present war, and the doom of our country and nation, will appear dreadfully uncertain if we consider our national guilt and impenitence.
Let Atheists and Epicureans fay what they please, it is an eternal truth, which all the world will be made to know at last, that Jehovah is the ruler of the uerse; that the fate of kingdoms is in his hands;
that that he is the Sovereign Arbiter of war, and determines victory as he pleases. It is also certain that rewards and punishments are as essential to his government as they are to all other governments. In the world to come he will reward or punish individuals, according to their perfbnal works; and in the present world he will reward or punish nations, according to their national work;—in the present world, I say, because it is only in the present world they subsist in a national capacity, and are capable of national rewards and punishments. Now there is a time, -when the transgressors are come to the full, Dan. viii. 23. when the measure of a people's iniquity is silled up, and they are ripe for vengeance. And then the executioners of divine vengeance, the sword, famine, pestilential diseases, earthquakes, and the like, are turned loose among them, then the dread commission is issued out, Put ye in the fickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, get ye down ; for the press is full; the vats overflow ; for their wickedness is great. Joel iii. 13.. Then all the undertakings of such a people are blasted; and even the worst of the heathen (Ezek. vii. 24.) succeed against them. That nation is thrown off from the hinge on which empire turns, and therefore must fall. The Lord of armies is against them; and by a secret, but irresistible hand, brings on their destruction.
Now whether that fatal period be arrived, with respect to us and our nation, I will not determine; nor indeed am I capable: but I am sure it is not evident that it is not come: I am sure our land is full of sin against the Holy One of Israel. On this subject I have often enlarged; and now, I am afraid, it is a trite disregarded tale. The sins of our land lie heavy upon it: the sins of all ranks and denominations; the sins of past and present generations; sins against the law and against the gospel; sins against mercies and against judgments ; Tins in heart, in language, in practice; sins of all kinds and degrees, and against
all all sorts of obligations: Oh! what a huge heap, what an intolerable burden, do all these sins make! The sins of many millions on both sides the Atlantic! Our body politic is a huge mass of corruption! the whole head is fick; and the whole heart saint: from the sole of the soot unto the head there is no soundness in it, but all full of wounds, and bruises, and putrifying fores. Isa. i. 6. And does not this leave our doom in a dreadful suspense? Who can tell what will be the fate of so guilty a people ? Can we indulge high hopes with such a load os guilt upon us? Sin lies like a dead weight upon our counsels, our designs and expeditions; and crushes all of them. What though our enemies be as wicked as ourselves, with only this exception, that they have not our advantages, and therefore cannot sin with our aggravations? But what if they were in all respects as bad? It has been no unusual thing for God to employ one guilty nation to execute his vengeance upon another; and when that drudgery is done (which, by the by, is more properly devolved upon a hated nation than upon his people; he has more benesicent and agreeable work for them) I fay, when that drudgery is done, he executes the executioner: just as one among a number of criminals may be appointed to execute the rest; and then he is executed himself by some other hand. Thus God employed the Assyrians and Babylonians to punish his people, the Jews; and when they had, though undesignedly, done him that service, he punishes them in a yet severer manner. And thus he threatens the Jews by Ezekiel, that he would bring the worst of the Heathen against them: they were good enough to be executioners. So he employs devils, the worst of beings, to execute his vengeance upon sinners in hell. And so in human governments, the refuse of mankind are appointed hangmen.
But though our land be so full of sin, yet there would be some ground to hope, could we see any appearances of a general repentance and reformation. But, alas! where shall we sind it? I have not been altogether a heedless observer of the esfects of the corrective and vindictive providences of God towards our land, the sword, a threatened famine, and a deadly, raging distemper.* But I have been really shocked to observe the issue. I am afraid, that even the people of God are not so effectually rouzed by these warnings as they should be. One would think they would be all life and vigour at such a time as this: but, alas! I am afraid it is otherwise. I am especially afraid that impenitent sinners, instead of being melted into repentance, are hardening more and more like clay in the sun. Alas! I fee and hear no more of serious concern about eternal things among us, than if we lived in a healthy neighbourhood, and a peaceful, unmolested country. I am afraid the case of some bears a dismal resemblance to that described in Rev. xv. 10, 11. They gnawed their tongues for fain, and blasphemed the God of Heaven, because sf their pains and their fores, and repented not of their deeds; no, they are sullenly obstinate to wickedness still.
Brethren, what are we doing? Are we afleep at such a time as this, when the judgments of Heaven are around us, and the fate of our country is so terribly doubtful? For God's fake, for our soul's fake, for our country's fake, let us rouze ourselves from our security; let us humble ourselves before God, and cry mightily to him; and who can tell but he may turn away from his fierce anger ?—Which leads me to the second inference from my text, viz.
II. That when a nation is in such a doubtful situation that no man can know its doom, if there be any hope, it is only in the way of repentance, reformation, and earnest prayer.
This appears the only way of hope on two accounts.
* At this time a flux raged in the congregation, am) elsewhere, which baffled all the power of medicine, aud swept offsorne whole families almost entirely.
1. National sin has a direct tendency, in its own nature, to weaken and destroy a nation. It is the deadly disease of a body politic which will destroy it, without the hand of an executioner. It spreads corruption, injustice, treachery, discord, confusion, cowardice, through a nation; and it destroys public spirit, the love of our country, unanimity, courage, and all the social and heroic virtues which naturally tend to strengthen, defend and advance a people. Now repentance, reformation and prayer, is the proper cure for this disease; it purges out these internal principles of death, and implants and cherishes the Opposite principles of virtue and life. But this is not all; for,
2. Repentance, reformation and prayer, is the only method to turn away the displeasure of God, and obtain his favour and protection. Sin brings on a people the curse of a provoked God; and under this they fade and wither away, like a blasted flower, or a tree struck by lightning from heaven. But if it be possible to remove it, and obtain the divine favour, it is only by deep humiliation before him, by a thorough reformation from those sins that provoke him, and by earnest cries for mercy. The light of nature taught the men of Nineveh that this was the only way of hope: and revelation assures us of the very fame thing. It is only to the penitent that the promises of deliverance are made; and without repentance, we have no possible claim to them. Deliverances are generally answers to prayer; and therefore without earnest prayer we cannot expect them. National, judgments are inflicted for national sins; and therefore reformation from national sins is the only hopeful way to escape them.
Therefore, my brethren, let us betake ourselves to this only method of hope. Let us deeply humble ourselves before God; let us cry mightily to him—and let us turn every one from our evil ways; and then, who
Vol. III. G g g can
rct« te// but God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we peri/h not?
But in all my exhortations of this kind, I must remember that repentance and reformation is the duty of fallen creatures ; of creatures so depraved and feeble, that they are not able, of themselves, so much as to apply the remedy. If you attempt this work with the pride of imaginary self-sufficiency, you may be sure disappointment will be the consequence. Therefore remember, that it is the holy Spirit of God alone that is the author of a thorough repentance and esfectual reformation. It is he alone that can esfectually convince the world of sin. If he be absent, legislators may make laws against vice, philosophers may reason, ministers may preach, nay, conscience may remonstrate, the divine law may prescribe and threaten, the gospel may invite and allure; but all will be in vain: all will not produce one true penitent. The strongest arguments, the most melting intreaties, the most alarming denunciations, from God and man, enforced by the highest authority, or by the most compassionate tears, all will have no effect; all will not effectually reclaim one sinner, nor gain one sincere proselyte to righteousness: Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, with all their apostolical abilities, can do nothing to the purpose without the holy Spirit. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but God alone can give the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that •watereth; they are both nothing together: but God, who giveth the increase (1 Cor. iii. 7.) is all in all. Till the Spirit be poured forth from on high, fays Isaiah, briars and thorns shall come up upon the land of my people; i. e. Their country shall be laid waste, and be made a mere wilderness of briars and thorns, by the ravages of war: or the people themselves shall be like briars and thorns, fruitless, noxious and troublesome. In this language the prophet Micah describes the fame people: the best of them is as a briar; the most upright is sharper than a thorn-hedge. (Micah vii. 4.) Such
... . shall
(hall they continue, until the holy Spirit be poured forth upon them from on high. But when the happy time comes, then the wilderness shall be a fruitful field; then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness shall remain in the fruitful field. This esfusion of the Spirit shall put an end to the desolation of war, and establish them in the possession of lasting and extensive peace: for, as it is there added, the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the native effect of righteousness (hall be quietness and assurance for ever : and my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet restingplaces. (Isa. xxxii. 13, 18.) You see, my brethren, of how much importance and necessity the Spirit is to produce a reformation, and that blessed peace and security, both personal and national, both within and without, which is the effect of it!
And how are we to expect his sacred influences? Or in what way may we hope to attain them? The answer is, Pray for them: pray frequently, pray fervently, " Lord, thy spirit! O give thy spirit! that is the blessing I want; the blessing which families, and nations, and the whole human race want." Pray in your retirements; pray in your families; pray in societies appointed for that purpose; pray in warm ejaculations, pray without ceasing, for this grand, fundamental blessing. Here what encouragement Christ has given to prayer in this particular: Ask, and it shall be given you ; seck, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.—If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his holy Spirit to them that ask him! Luke xi. 9—13. Endeavour to repent in this humble, self-diffident manner, and you may hope it will at least avail to your eternal salvation; and who knows but it may avail also to turn away the fierce anger of God from your country and nation?