Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

space? Rather; pass over these into eternity. And what fruit of it shall we find, there? Let the apostle speak : Brethren, if one of you err from the truth, and one convert kım (not to this or that opinion, but to God!) let him know, that he who converleth a sinner from the error of bis, way, shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins, Jam, v. 19, 20.

4. Nor is it to individuals only, whether those who betray others 'into sin, or those that are liable to be betrayed and destroyed by them, that the benefit of this design redounds, but to the whole community whereof we are members. For is it not a sure observation, righteousness exalteth a nation ? And is it not as sure on the other hand, that sin is a reproach to any people ! Yea, and bringeth down the curse of God upon them. So far therefore as righteousness in any branch is promoted, so far is the national interest ad.vanced. So far as sin, especially open sin, is restrained, the curse and reproach are removed from us. Whoever, therefore, they are that labour therein, they are general benefactors. They are "the truest friends of their king and country. And in the same proportion aš their design takes place, there can be no doubt, but God will give national prosperity, in the accomplishment of his faithful word, Them that honour me, I will honour.

5. But it is "objected,' " However excellent a design this is, it does not concern you. For are there not persons, to whom the repressing these offences and punishing the offenders properly belong? Are there not constables and other parish officers, who are bound by oath to this very thing ??53. There are constables and church-wardens in particular, who are engaged by solemn oaths to give due information against profáners of the Lord's day, and all other scandalous sinners. But if they leave it undone, if notwithstanding their onths, they trouble not themselves about the matter, it concerns all that fear God, that love mankind, and that wish well to their king and country, to pursue twis désign with the very same vigour, as if there were no officers existing. It being just the same thing, if they are of no use, as if they had no being.

same

6." But this is only a pretence: their real design, is to get money by giving informations.” So it has 'trequently and roundly been affirmed ; but withiut the least shadow of truth. The contrary may be proved by a thousand instances : no member of the society, takes any part of the money which is by the law al. lotted to the informer. They never did from the beginning: nor does any of them ever receive any thing, to suppress or withdraw their information. This is another mistake, if not wilful slander, for which there is not the least foundation. 7.

" But the design is impracticable. Vice is risen to such an head, that it is impossible to suppress it? especially by such means. For what can an handful of poor people, do in opposition to all the world ?" With men this is impossible, but not with God. And they trust not in themselves, but him. Be then the patrons of vice ever so strong, to him they are no more than grasshoppers. And all means are alike to him. It is the same thing with God to deliver liy many or by few. The small number therefore of those who are on the Lord's side is nothing, neither the great number of those that are against him. Still he doth whatever pleaseth him. And there is no counsel or strength against the Lord.

8. “ But if the end you aim at, be really to reform sinners, you chuse the wrong means. It is the word of God must effect this, and not human laws. And it is the work of ministers, not of magistrates. Therefore the applying to these, can only produce an outward. reformation. It makes no change in the heart.”

It is true the word of God is the chiet, ordinary means, whereby he changes both the hearts and lives of sinners : and he does this chiefly by the ministers of the gospel. But it is likewise true, that the magistrate is the minister of God: and that he is designed of God to be a terror to evil doers, by executing human laws upon them. If this does not change the heart; yet to prevent outward sin, is one valuable point gained. There 4 U 2

is

[ocr errors]

is so much the less dishonour done to God, less scan. dal brought on our holy religion, less curse and reproach upon our nation, less tempration laid in the way of others. Yea, and less-, wraih heaped up by the sinners themselves against the day of wrath.

9: “ Nay, rather more: for it makes many of them hyprocrites, pretending to be what they are not. Others, by exposing them to shame, and putting them to expence, are made impudent and desperate in wickedness : so that in reality none of them are any better, if they are not worse than they were before."

This is a mistake all over. For 1. Where are these hypocrites? We know none who have pretended to be what they were not. 2. The exposing obstinate offenders to shame, and putting them to expence, does not make them desperate in offending, but afraid to offend. 3. Some of them, far from being worse, are substantially better, the whole tenor of their lives being changed. Yea, 4. Some are in wardly changed, even from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.

10. " But many are not convinced, that buying or selling on the Lord's day is a sin.”

If they are not convinced, they ought to be : it is high time they should. The case is as plain as plain can be. For if an open, wilfu? breach both of the law of God and the law of the land, is not sin, pray what is? And if such a breach both oi divine and human laws is not to be punished, because a man is not convinced it is a sin, there is an end of all execution of justice, and all men may live as they list.

“But mild methods ought to be tried first." They ought. And so they are. A mild admonition is given to every «ffender, before the law is put in execution against him: nor is any man prosecuted, till he has express notice, that this will be the case, unless he will prevent that prosecution, by removing the cause of it. in every case the mildest method is used, which ile nature of the case. will bear: nor are severer means ever applied, but when they are absolutely necessary to the end.

12. “ Well, but after all this stir about reformation, what real good has been done?" Unspeakable goud;

and

11.

and abundantly more, than any one could have expected, in so short a time, considering the small number of the instruments, and the difficulties they had to encounter. Much evil has been already prevented, and much has been removed. Many sinners have been outwardly reformed; some have been inwardly changed. The honour of him whose name we bear, so openly affronted, has been openly defended. And it is not easy to determine, how many and how great blessings, even this little stand, made for God and his cause, against his daring enemies, inay already have derived upon our whole nation. On the whole then, after all the objections that can be made, reasonable men may still conclude, a more excellent design could scarce enter into the heart of man.

III. 1. But what manner of men ought they to be, who engage in such a design? Some may imagine, any that are willing to assist therein, ought readily to be admitted ; and that the greater the number of members, the greater will be their influence. But this is by no means true ; matter of fact undeniably proves the contrary. While the former society for reformation of manners, consisted of chosen members only, tho'neither many, rich, nor powerful, they broke thro' all opposition, and were eminently successful in every branch of their undertaking. But when a number of men, less carefully chosen, were received into that society, they grew less and less useful, till by insensible degrees, they dwindled into nothing.

2. The number therefore of the members is no more to be attended to, than the riches or eminence. This is a work of God. It is undertaken in the name of God, and for his sake. It follows, that men who neither love nor fear God, have no part or lot in this matter. Why takest thou my covenant in thy mouth, may God say to any of these, whereas thou thyself hatest to be reformed, and hast cast my words behind thee? Whoever therefore lives in any known sin, is not fit to engage in reforming sinners. More especially if he is guilty in any instance, or in the least degree, of profaning the name of God,

of

of buying, selling or doing any unnecessary work on the Lord's day, or offending in any other of those instańces, which this society is peculiarly designed to reform., No: let none who stands himself in need of this reformation, presume to meddle with such an undertaking. First, let him pull the beam out of his own eye. Let him be himself unblamable in all things.

B. Not that this will suffice. Every one engaging herein, should be more than a harmless 'man. He should be a man of failh: having at least such a degree of that evidence of things not seen, as to aim not at the things that are seen, which are temporal, but at those that are not seen, which are eternal : such a faith, as produces a steady fear of God, with a lasting resolution, by his grace to abstain from all that he has forbidden, and to do all that he has commanded. He will more especially need, that particular branch of faith, confidence in God. It is this faith' which removes mountains, which quenches the violence of fire, which breaks thro'all opposition, and enables one to stand against and chase a thousand, knowing in whom his strength lies, and even when he has the sentence of death in himself, trusting in him who raiseth the dead. * 4

He that has faith and confidence in God, will of consequence be a man of courage., And such it is highly needful every man should be, who engages in this undertaking. For many things will occur in the prosecution thereof, which are terrible to nature: indeed sa terrible, that all who confer with flesh and blood will be afraid to incounter them. Here therefore true courage has its proper place, and is necessary in the highest degree. : And this, faith only cản sapply. A believer can say, 123

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

5. To courage, patience is nearly alied: the one regarding future, the other present-evitouAnd whoever

« AnteriorContinuar »