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SERMON IV.

ON THE GENERAL FAST, 1801.*

PROVERBS xix. 21.

** There are many devices in man's heart; nevertheless the counsel

of the Lord, that shall stand.”

THE calamities of the social world have assenbled us in the House of God, to humble ourselves before his eternal throne; to call our past ways to remembrance; and to implore his protection in the year that is to come, upon our councils and our arms. Since the people of this country last mot upon a similar occasion, the hopes of patriotism, and the wishes of humanity, have alike been vain. The giant power which has arisen in the midst of the civilized world to mock the calculations of human wisdom, has, within that short period, matured its strength, and expanded its dominion. Wherever his arms have turned, empires have shrunk before them; and many thousands of

* Preached after the peace of Luneville had terminated the war on the Continent, and when the French armies were assembling professedly for the invasion of England.

the human race, who, in the year that is past, met this day in youth and joy, have since poured their blood to cement the fabrick of his despotick throne.

In the opening of a new season, when all the calamities of war are to be renewed, when the avenging angel pauses only for a time, that he may collect new force, and renovated vigour,—and when the hearts of men wait in a dead calm “ for those things that are coming upon the earth," there is an instinct, superiour to wisdom, which leads us to follow the multitude into the House of God, and to seek that support from the Hand of Heaven, which we have so long failed to find from that of man.

It is in general a very narrow and a very selfish view of the Divine government of the world which we take, when we consider it only as the inhabitants of any particular country. In such an aspect, we almost involuntarily consider it as relating only to ourselves. The rest of mankind, with all their rights and all their interests, are thrown into shade; and we consider our own nation, and our own interests, as the sole centre from which all our duties and all our wishes are to arise. We consider, still more, perhaps, the existence of our country as limited by our own; and, forgetting the age and stability of nations, we exult in momentary victory, or tremble at momentary defeat, with the same feeble levity with which we usually re. gard the transient scenes of private life.

It is to correct this fatal weakness, and to create a firmer and a more elevated tone of mind, that days like these are wisely appointed. When, upon occasions like the present, we enter this house, it is supposed that we leave the world behind us ; that we raise ourselves from common to reli. gious contemplation ;--that, from the darkness around us, we come to consult the oracles of God; --and that we prepare our minds to obey the will of Him who is the beginning of existence and the end, and who alone, in the universe of nature,

was, and is, and is to come.”

If such, my brethren, be the high sentiment with which you meet this day, I know not that, in the whole compass of human life, there is a day of greater sublimity or elevation. While the world is resounding with the noise of war and of sorrow, it is inexpressibly affecting to be privileged to enter into the sanctuary of God ;-to feel that, amid all this disorder, there is yet a “counsel which 6 shall stand," and that, from the guilt of man, there is an appeal which the human heart is authorized to make to the justice of God. In such meditations, we are raised from the confusions of Earth, to the order of Heaven ;-weflose the remembrance of our own days and our own prejudices ;-we turn our eyes back to the ages that are past, and the times that have been long before us ;-and, while we seat ourselves, in imagination, among the ruins of former nations, and indulge a melan

choly pleasure in contemplating their history and their decay, we see the finger of religion pointing to the solemn inscription which is written on all their tombs : “ There are many devices in man's 66 heart; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall « stand." It is to this elevated point of observation that I would wish, in the present hour, to raise your meditations ;-to lead you back to the tragick history of the human race ;-to observe thence, what is the difference between the “de. 6 vices of man," and the counsels of God;" and thus to awaken some of the sentiments which become the citizens of this country, in the situation of danger in which it now stands.

1. I am to entreat you then, in the first place, to observe, that however deeply the annals of every preceding age of the world have been marked with violence, and stained with blood, there has yet ever been some unknown limit which the Almighty hath imposed to the “rage of war, and to the madness of the people.” Had human wisdom alone governed the world,—had no greater system been established for the progress of mankind than what human foresight could impose ;-had no unseen hand controlled the violence of national passions, or directed them to ends which they did not foresee, the race of man must long ago have been extirpated from the earth, and the animosities of barbarous nations closed only in mutual destruction. In the midst, however, of this dark retro

arms.

spect, while we see the stream of war and of conflict descending to us from the beginning of history, we see at the same time, (as if by some enchantment,) the race of man silently growing in number, and increasing in power, and spreading itself over all the surface of the habitable earth. Nations sink into oblivion, or are overwhelmed by mightier

The seats of empires are changed, and the traveller scarcely finds the place where their pow. er and their magnificence were known. But Man, in the meanwhile, survives the desolation ;-his generations multiply over that surface which is yet wet with the blood of his forefathers; an unseen Providence watches over the infancy of his social being ;--and the same Almighty Power, which restrains the tide of the ocean, hath also in every age said to the tide of war, " Hitherto shalt thou

go, and no farther; and here shall thy proud « waves be staid.”

2. The second observation which is fitted to impress us upon the review of the history of the world, is, that whatever may have been the revo. lutions of nations, they have uniformly tended to the progress and improvement of the human race.

It is not thus, indeed, in general, that we either judge or are taught to judge of them. We read the history of particular nations; but we seldom extend our conceptions to the nobler history of MAN.--We read with rapture the history of those mighty empires, which, in their hour, have sub

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