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The Divine Government over all considered, AND The necessity of Gratitude, for Benefits con­ferred, (by it,) Represented, in two SERMONS, Preach'd June the 7th. 1752. in the Presby­terian CHURCH lately erected in Arch-Street, in the City of PHILADELHIA. ON OCCASION Of the first CELEBRATION of religious WOR­SHIP there.

By GILBERT TENNENT, A. M.

Exodus xx. 24.

In all Places where I record my Name, I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.

Psalm lxxxvii. 2.

The Lord loveth the Gates of Zion, more than all the Dwellings of Jacob.

Psalm cxxxii. 7, 8, 9, 13, 14.

We will go into his Tabernacles, we will worship at his Footstool. Arise O Lord into thy rest, thou and the Ark of thy Strength. Let thy Priests be clothed with Righteousness; and let thy Saints shout for Joy; for the Lord hath chosen Zion: He hath desired it for his Habitation: This is my rest forever: Here will I dwell, for I have desi­red it.

PHILADELPHIA: Printed by WILLIAM BRADFORD in Second Street.

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SERMON I.

1 Chron. 29 chap. from the 10 to 15. Verse

Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the Congregation: And David said, blessed be thou Lord God of Israel our Father for ever and ever: Thine O Lord is the Greatness, and Power, and the Glory, and the Victory, and the Majesty; for all that is in the Heaven and the Earth is thine; thine is the King­dom O Lord, and thou art exalted as Head above all. Both Riches and Honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine Hand is Power and Might, and in thine Hand it is to make great and to give Strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee and praise thy glorious Name: But who am I, and what is my People, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this Sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.

THE Context informs us, that King David excited the Prin­ces and People of Israel, to con­tribute towards the Building and furnishing of the Temple, by a beautiful and moving Address; the principal Arguments of which were drawn [Page 4] from the Greatness of the Work to be done, the Glory of its Object, and his own Affection and Example; the Work is great, saith he, and therefore all should assist in it, and the Palace is not for Man, but for the Lord God, and therefore we should exert our utmost in erecting and adorning it; that hereby we may testify our Affection to his Majesty, and our honourable Sentiments of his Glory; which the Beauty, the Grandeur, and Magnificence of the sacred Structure are best adapted to represent: If it was for Man, a Worm, a Moth, no matter how mean it be; but seeing it is for God, the great and glorious God, it should be state­ly and magnificent: He proceeds to speak of his own Affection and Example, in these Words; I have prepared with all my Might for the House of my God; moreover, because I have sett my Affection to the House of my God, I have of mine own proper good, Gold and Silver, given to the House of my God. This pious Prince lov'd the Habitation of Jehovahs-House, the Place where his Honour dwells, with great Intenseness, as the Re­petition of his Words concerning it, but now mentioned, do plainly import; and he evidenced the Sincerity, and vehemence of his love, by the largeness of his generous and noble Donations!

But to bring the Matter to a Point, the King of Israel, one of the greatest Monarchs of his Time in the World, put on the humble Form of a Petitioner, to [Page 5] his own People, his Inferiors, and Subjects, and accosts them in these affecting Terms; and who then is willing to consecrate his Service this Day to the Lord; as if he had said, I beg not for Man that is a Worm, or the Son of Man that is a Worm, but for God, whose ye are, and to whom ye owe your all; what you give towards the Temple, is consecrated, or religiously dedicated to his Service and Glory: This amiable Conde­scension of the Prince, did more Honour to himself, then to the Cause he serv'd by it: So great and honourable a President, shou'd me thinks either screene from invective, rudeness, and insult, Persons of inferior Figure who make the like commendable attempt for God, or support them under such unmanly and unchristian Treatment!

But to proceed, the King's Petition and Address, was immediately crowned with desired Success; the Chief of the Fathers, the Princes of the Tribes of Israel, the Captains of Hundreds and of Thousands, with others, offered willingly large Donations; which occasioned great and universal Glad­ness, in that vast, grand, and august As­sembly; the People rejoiced, for they offer'd willingly and with a perfect Heart; i. e. freely and sincerely, with a view to the Glory of God; in Testimony hereof, the Prince appeals to the Almighty in this solemn Manner; I know also my God, that thou triest the Heart, and hast Pleasure in Uprightness, as for me saith he, in the Up­rightness [Page 6] of my Heart, I have willingly offer'd these things. —It is a great Comfort to those that honestly seek and serve God, to con­sider, that he perfectly knows the secret Spring, and ultimate Scope of their Actions; and that he is pleased with Uprightness: Consciousness of Integrity is a vast support, under the unkind and ungenerous invectives, of a giddy instable World, that is unhap­pily divided into various Parties, and on that Account byassed by various Prejudices against each other; and truly those who most excel in Sincerity themselves, are least inclined to question and censure the Conduct of their Brethren. David being certain of his own Uprightness, Candour and Charity, which thinks no Evil, inclin'd him to judge favourably of others; The People rejoiced, because with perfect Heart, they of­fer'd willingly to the Lord; and David the King also rejoiced, with great Joy; they were glad of the Opportunity and Pri­vilege of honouring the Lord in this Man­ner with their Substance, and pleased with the Prospect of bringing that important Work to an honourable and comfortable Period, which they had set their Hearts so much upon: They were glad that they had something to give to God, and that they had a Heart to give it freely, with­out grudging, and uprightly without base and by Ends. Matters being bro't to this comfortable crisis, the King on this Oc­casion, solemnly addressed God in the Words [Page 7] of our Text, wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the Congregation of Israel and said, blessed be the Lord God of Israel our Father, for ever and ever; He gave to God the Glory of that Gladness, he felt on this agreeable Occasion; and adored him with Reverence and Affection, by acknowledging his in­finite and transcendant Eminence; thine O Lord is the Greatness and the Power, and the Glory, and the Victory, and the Majesty; they are thine originally, thine essentially, thine independantly, thine invariably, thine eternally: Thou hast them in and of thy self, and art the source and center of them. Gods Greatness is immense and incompre­hensible, his Power absolute and irresistable, to him belong Glory and Victory. Seeing God is the Author of all, it is but reasonable that his Honour and Glory shou'd be the End of all; all things are of him, and thro' him and to him, saith the Apostle, all Victory and Success, in every noble and arduous Enterprize, is owing to the efficacious Influence of that great, powerful and glorious Being, who subdues all Things to himself, and is clothed with Majesty as with a Robe, with Light as with a Garment: With God is ter­rible Majesty, (As Elihu observes.) he is pos­sess'd of such transcendant Perfection, as cannot but strike an awe upon all his at­tendants, and a Terror upon all his adver­saries; so overcoming and refulgent is the Majesty of God, that the Angels vail their Faces with their Wings before it, the [Page 8] Saints in their embody'd State, faint under the glimses of it; at this the Devils tremble, at this the Earths Foundations shake, from this incensed the Heavens flee away! The Psalmist farther aknowledges in the Words of our Text, Gods absolute Right to all Things as Creator, for all that is in the Heaven and in the Earth is thine, every Thing is more Gods, than any Thing is ours. His claim of Right is original, absolute and perpetual, because by his Almightiness he made all Things; but our Right is only se­condary, derived and dependant, because we have borrowed our Beings and all the Benefits we possess from him.

He likewise asserts God's Sovereign Domi­nion over all, as a Ruler and Governor; thine is the Kingdom O Lord, and thou art exalted as Head above all. That right to govern which is founded in absolute Property, is certainly the strongest, most equitable and permanent, and such is God's; and hence we are told even by a Pagan Prince, that his Kingdom is an e­verlasting Kingdom, and that his Dominion is from Generation to Generation.

To these the Psalmist adds an explicit Con­fession of God's universal influence by his Providence, in the Conduct of human Affairs; succeeding Enterprizes, and distributing Do­nations among Men, according to his own So­vereign Pleasure; Both Riches and Honour come of thee, and in thine Hand is Power and Might; thou reignest over all, and in thy Hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.

[Page 9]Under this Consideration, he, in the Name of the whole Assembly, affectionately Thanks God for his Goodness in inclining and enabling them to contribute so chearfully towards the building of the Temple; now therefore our God we Thank thee and Praise thy glorious Name. 'Tis God, my Brethren, that works in us both to will and to do of his own good Pleasure: Without his preventing influence, we are naturally averse to every Thing that is great, good, noble and generous: We are apt to frame all the plausible Pretexts we can to conceal our ill Nature and Avarice; we must therefore ascribe the glory of all the good that is done by ourselves or others to God, avoiding with equal care and caution, the unreasonable and perilous Evils of sacrificing to our own Net, and dependance on our own Righteousness. The whole Assembly signi­fy'd their cordial concurrence with the afore­said solemn Celebration of the divine Praise, by a gesture of Adoration and Reverence, they bowed down their Heads, and worshiped the Lord and the King. ‘The Gesture was alike, but the Intention of the Mind was different’ * ‘They offered a religious Wor­ship to God, and a civil Reverence to the Prince.’

And here it deserves our particular Atten­tention, that while the Psalmist highly honours God on Account of his own and his Peoples Donations, (to his Service) he speaks very [Page 10] humbly both of himself and them; but who am I, and what is my People, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all Things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. King David, and his Princes and People, were certainly the most honour­able Persons in the World at that Time, and yet behold and admire, with what deep and truly amiable abasement he spoke of himself and them, who am I, and what is my People? how mean, how sinful, how frail, how despica­ble? Creatures! who are but of Yesterday, and have no abiding; that the great God should take such kind Cognizance of us, and put such immerited Honour upon us, as to in­cline and enable us, freely to dedicate to his Glory and Service, a little of what he graci­ously gave us, by his all ruling Providence, and which was indeed, and ever remains, his own, originally and absolutely, by the strong­est claims of right.

The Text which I have read and explained, opens too large a field of Matter to be fully discuss'd in the small compass of two Discour­ses, I shall therefore confine my Meditations to these few important Points, which I take to be the Substance and Scope of the whole, viz, the GOVERNMENT of GOD by his Pro­vidence over all; and that GRATITUDE and PRAISE, which is due to him on Account of Mercies communicated by it, particularly of a publick and religious Kind.

Government, my Brethren, in its nature [Page 11] implies, Right, Power, and the Exercise there­of in the disposal of Things.

Rule without Right, is Usurpation; but the Almighty is the fountain and original of all rightful Authority, in the Family, the State, the Church; as it is all derived from him and dependant on him, so it should be all subordinate to him, who is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords: On this Account the Apostle urges Subjection to the higher Powers, because there is no Power but of God, and the Powers that be, are ordained of God. But besides a Right to Rule, which is Pro­perly called Authority, Power or Strength is likewise necessary to manage the Reigns of Government, and keep the rul'd in Subjection; without which Government is but an empty Name; and hence when it is mentioned in Scripture, the Word Power is generally an­nexed to it, as particularly in these Passages, (of the Psalmist and the Apostle John) he ruleth by his Power for ever. The Lord God Omni­potent reigneth. Our Text is likewise very full to this Purpose; nay so necessary is Pow­er to all Government, that it is even called by that Name, to shew that they are inseparable, there is no Power but of God: In a word, all Pretence to Government, without Power, is a meer Farce, which deserves rather to be de­rided than obey'd.

Farther, in Government there is an Exer­cise of Authority and Power in ordering Things so as to make them serve the Gover­nors [Page 12] Design; and hence the Apostle informs us, that God Works all Things after the Council of his own Will; and our Saviour assures us, that his Father worketh hitherto, and that he works.

The blessed God, my Brethren, never acts without Design, and his Designs are ever worthy of himself, and bear the Characters of his Attributes. Whatever Honour might be reflected on the Divine Wisdom and Pow­er by the first Production of Things, it would be soon eclipsed by their consequent irregulari­ties, without the interposure of his Providence.

As it is absurd to suppose, that an infinitely wise Being should make Creatures for no End at all; so it is equally absurd to imagine, that he does not conduct them to the End design'd by his Providence.

Now it is only creating Wisdom that per­fectly understands universal Nature, that per­fectly spys every spring of Motion, and there­fore can correct the Errors of the Universe. 'Tis only an infinite Mind, in concurrence with Almightiness, that can take thorough Cognizance and proper Care of that grand System of Beings, the spacious Theatre of Na­ture contains; that can allot to every Crea­ture its Portion, and adjust the Interests of Kingdoms and States; and forasmuch as no meer Creature possesses these Perfections of infinite Wisdom and Power, the World must needs be governed by him that made it.

And indeed if we consider his Nature and [Page 13] Attributes, we may soon perceive that he is not only qualify'd for, but in some Measure necessitated to, take upon him the Govern­ment of the Universe: For does not the End and Perfection of his Attributes consist in their exercise? Certainly the End of Wisdom is Design, the End of Power is Action, and the End of Goodness doing Good: To say that these Perfections are not exercis'd upon pro­per Objects and Occasions, is to represent them as insignificant. Of what use would the Wisdom of Jehovah be, if he had nothing to design or direct; to what purpose his Almigh­tiness, if all Things were done without him, and of what avail his Goodness, if he ever lest the innocent as a prey to misfortunes; there must therefore be a Providence that governs over all.

The Almighty has implanted in most Crea­tures, a natural Care of their Offspring, and represents it as an Argument of the want of Understanding in the Ostrich, that she leaveth her Eggs in the Earth, forgeteth that the foot may crush them, and is hardened against her young ones as tho' they were not hers. Now can we, without Inconsistency and Blasphemy, impute such a careless Character to God, re­specting the Offspring of his Power, as he condemns in the Ostrich? Can we suppose that when almost every Creature is tender of its Young, every pious Parent solicitous for the Protection and support of his descen­dants, that there should be no Bowels of [Page 14] Compassion in the blessed God, who is love and goodness itself, to incline him to provide for that numerous Family that have their con­tinual dependance on him? No surely! His love infinitely exceeds the Tenderness of the most indulgent Relations: A Woman may forget her sucking Child, but God's People are graven on the Palms of his Hands, ever in View, ever in Memory. Is it natural to a Mother to nourish and embrace her In­fant-Offspring with the fondest Care and ten­derest Caresses; does the Sun rejoice to bless the benighted World with its Light and In­fluence, and does a Fountain murmur till it is delivered of its Streams, which refresh the parched Earth; and is it no delight to the Father of Mercies to diffuse Kindness and Be­nignity to the miserable?

Another Argument of God's providential Government, my Brethren, arises from the Nature of Man▪ considered either in a single, social or religious Character. If we consider Man in a private Capacity, the necessity of a Providence to guide and guard him, is very apparent: The many Dangers and Accidents to which Life is expos'd in all the Stages of it, and especially in its early Infant dawn, render it impracticable, to escape with safety, if a particular Providence, however indiscern­able in its Operations, did not interpose to protect us, and ward off the falling Blow.

Nor is the Argument of a divine Government, less conclusive, when we consider Man in a social [Page 15] Capacity: The Degeneracy of human Nature is great in all, and some in particular, so ar­rogant and overbearing; some so covetous and designing, some so furious and malignant, that all Order and Security would be spedily un­hing'd, the Bands of Society dissolved, and the whole World become a melancholly and terrible Theatre of the most calamitous Evils and destructive Tragidies, were it not for the interposure of a divine Providence, which bounds the arrogance, avarice and cruelty of Mankind, as the threatning Surges of the en­raged Ocean, and protects the Just.

And if Man be considered in a religious Character, the Necessity of a divine Go­vernment is equaly conspicious, most of the Acts of religious Worship respect God not meerly as a universal Cause, but as our particular Protector, and therefore unless we are perswaded that he takes an immediate Care of all his Creatures, and particularly of those who revere and serve him, in the Government of every event, why shou'd we fear his Resentments, or confide in his Pro­misses, why shou'd we implore him for Pro­tection in Dangers, and a supply of our Wants, or praise him for any Benefit we possess, seeing according to the aforesaid Hypothesis, they do not come by his Interposure and Direction! The Roman Orator speaks with great justness of Sentiment, and beauty of Diction upon this Head in the following [Page 16] Manner; ‘If the Gods (saith he) do not extend their Care and Inspection to the Affairs of human Life, what Piety, what Holiness, what Religion will there be in the World; if the Gods cannot or will not concern themselves with our Neces­sities, to aid and Succour us, if they take no Cognizance of our Actions, what Ad­vantage is it, to Honour them, to build Temples and to pray unto them.’ And if we take all Religion out of the World, what will become of unhappy miserable Mankind, nothing will be left but a Scene of Confusion and Calamity of every Kind and Form, all Integrity, all Solace, all Safty, and consequently all Society will be at one dismal Stoke banished from the Earth! Another Evidence of Gods Govern­ment over all, is the Continuance of all Things, in the same comely order in which they were at first created: 'Tis a delight­full Entertainment to the Mind, to take a survey of all the surprizing Wonders in Nature; to observe with what Art and Contrivance particular Creatures are form'd and how the several Parts of the whole are, with the greatest exactness, adapted and proportioned to each other, so as to make one great regular and uniform System; and to preceive how all the various Ranks of Creatures within the Scale of existance, are as it were by the most curious mechanism, [Page 17] fitted to the purpose of their several Na­tures, and have a mutual Dependance and Connection, like the several Wheels of a Clock: How manifold are thy Works O Lord, in Wisdom has thou made them all! Now if the Beauty, Usefullness, and wise Projection of the Works of Nature, plain­ly prove that they were form'd by an in­finitely wise and Almighty Being, then cer­tainly the Continuance and Preservation of them in the same State, the regular Motions of the Heavens, and the uniform Productions of the Earth, equally Evidence their being guided and governed by the same Cause, who, as the Prophet justly observes, is wonderful in Council, and excellent in work­ing.

Tho' the Elements of which the World is composed, have different, yea contrary Qualities, yet this repugnancy is so tempered and restrained, that they do not mutually destroy each other, agreeable to their natu­ral Tendencies, but keep within their pro­per Bounds, and therein serve the good of the whole System.

And as the constant Preservation of the World, so the strange and wonderful Ocurren­cies that sometimes happen in it, are another Argument of a Divine all-governing Pro­vidence. The Nature of Matter and Motion is such, that they cannot serve the designs of their Creator without his Assistance and [Page 18] Influence, which he generally gives accord­ing to a certain Tenor, which he was pleased to prescribe to himself in the Government of the World at the Time of its Production; excepting on some extraordinary and im­portant Occasions, when to render conspicuous his Mercy or Justice, he controuls the fixed Laws of Nature: thus fiery Showers were sent upon the sensual Cities of the Plain, So­dom, Gomorha, Zeboim and Admah; thus all the Hebrew Tribes were fed with Bread im­mediately from Heaven, without their Care or Culture; thus our blessed Lord by a So­vereign Empire over Nature, spake the Dead into Life, the Sick into Health, and the cla­morous Winds and Seas into suddain and ob­sequious Silence! Miracles are God's wonder­ful Works, when he interposes in an extra­ordinary Manner, and alters the common course of Things. Now we must either de­ny all human Testimony, and condemn the Records of every Age, or acknowledge there have been sundry Miracles wrought in the World; and if among all that have been so well attested, there is one true and genuine, that one is a pregnant Evidence of a divine Providence; for it is not conceivable how any natural Cause that has no Will of its own to move and determine it, should either stop its own Motion, or deviate from its stated Course and then return again into its former Place and Order, which is the Case of Miracles, [Page 19] if it were not under the Conduct of some superior Being, that guides and controuls it according to his own sovereign Pleasure: And here I may add, that it is not agreeable to the moral Excellency's of the blessed God, to sup­pose, that he would permit infernal Spirits to usurp the broad Seal of Heaven, and palm an imposture upon knowing, impartial and inquisitive Persons, by wondrous Works, with­out leaving some plain Notices to detect the Fraud.

Nor can we easily account for the discreet Conduct of many Creatures, who are desti­tute of the Direction of Reason, without ac­knowledging a Providence: The Course of their Operations so far transcends their Capa­cities, that there is a necessity of a divine Agency in what they do; particularly the Prudence and Oeconomy of the Ant and Bee, respecting their support, equally deserve our Wonder and Imitation. If every Thing hap­pens by Accident, and there is no divine Go­vernment over the World, why does Consci­ence tremble at the thoughts of Sin, with the fears of a future Judgment? which can be by no Art or Opiate entirely extinguished and effaced! What would these uneasinesses signify, if the Almighty had abandoned the Care of the Universe, and made no Distincti­on between the goodness and badness of Men? If every event be entirely accidental, then how is it that sometimes, even in ordinary [Page 20] Occurrences, the Signatures of a providential Government may be plainly discerned? For whatever savours of deep Council and Design, and is of great consequence to Mankind, and yet is brought about without any human fore­sight or contrivance, not only besides but con­trary to the Intentions of the visible Agents, ought, in Reason and Justice, to be ascrib'd to an invisible Wisdom and Power: When therefore great and wonderful Things are done by an unexpected concourse of many casual and fortuitous Events, when the greatest Po­liticians are outwitted, their Councils con­fus'd, their Measures broken, and their De­signs baffled, without any visible Wisdom or Strength to oppose them; when the Hearts of Princes are turned like the Rivers of Wa­ters, and such a surprizing coincidence of Things and train of Events, serve some im­portant Purposes; when many of contrary Parties and Interests, without consulting one another, without settling their private Preju­dices, unexpectedly conspire in the same Thing, intending to serve their different and contrary Ends by it—In such Instances, the Hand of God is visible; his all governing Providence is apparent and conspicuous to e­very intelligent and attentive observer.

But what is it that Jehovah governs over? Our Text resolves this Question, by declaring that he reigns over all, and that he is exal­ted as Head above all. But more particularly, [Page 21] the glorious GOD governs over all the PARTS of created NATURE, and every BEING they con­tain, together with all ACTIONS and EVENTS.

The Heavens and the Earth are subject to his Rule and Management; the former is his Throne, and the latter his Footstool; the boisterous Deep submits to his Government, he binds it with a Girdle of Sand within its Barrs and Doors; his omnipotent Word pro­claims, hitherto shall thou come, but no farther, and here shall thy proud Waves be stayed. When he speaks, its Surges suddenly subside without murmur or reluctance: He stills, (saith the Psalmist) the Noise of the Seas, the Noise of their Waves, and the Tumult of the People.

The Angels in Heaven, these principalities and Powers, tho' Creatures of the highest Or­der, think it not beneath their Dignity to at­tend his Throne as ministring Spirits, (with winged haste) to execute the Errands of his Providence.

The greatest Monarchs on Earth are obliged to yield to his Regimen. Nebuchadnezer, one of the most grand, potent and insolent of their Order, was forced to acknowlege this eternal Truth, that the most high God rules in the Kingdoms of Men.

Yea the Devils themselves are kept in per­petual Subjection to the divine Government, by being limitted as to the Exercise of their Power and Malice, and by being exposed to [Page 22] Punishment for their Rebellion. The sacred Scriptures assure us, that without leave they could not distress Job in his Person or Estate, nor even so much as take Possession of a Swine, and that they are kept in Chains of Darkness to the Judgment of the great Day.

But not only Creatures of the highest, but of the lowest class, are under the Cognizance and Controul of his Providence; the Lillies and Sparrows are taken Care of, fed and cloth­ed without their Care, by the Father of the Universe; and the very Hairs of our Head numbered. The Notion of the Pagan Sages, that the Gods take Care of great Things, but neglect small * is contrary to the Dictates of Reason, and Doctrines of Christianity; there is not any Thing that God has made, that is beneath his Notice.

But not only all the Parts of the Universe, with the Creatures they contain, are under the divine Government, but every Action likewise, for in him we live and move and have our Being: All the Wheels of Nature are form'd by his Power, and manag'd by his Providence according to his Pleasure; nor do any of them move without at least his Per­mission and Support.

Moreover the divine Government reaches all Events: This is the Reason that sometimes the best concerted Schemes, and most pro­mising Attempts, fail of Success, while the [Page 23] most unlikely are surprizingly crown'd with it: And hence it is truly said, that the Race is not to the Swift, nor the Battel to the Strong, (that is constantly) and this prudent Caution added, let not him that girdeth on his Harness boast as he that putteth it off, because Time and Chance happeneth to all. Almighty God dis­poses of Events as he pleases, and not always according to the appearances and tendencies of Things.

Nor is it unworthy of our Notice, that the Almighty Governs over not only the Substance, but the very Circumstances of E­vents: Thus the Decree of Augustus for tax­ing the World, was proclaim'd when the blessed Virgin was pregnant, and ready to be delivered.

When God intends to favour his People with Plenty, he directs to, and blesses Means for that End. The Prophet Hosea confirms this Truth by these beautiful and memora­ble Lines, and it shall come to pass in that Day, I will hear saith the Lord, I will hear the Heavens, and they shall hear the Earth, and the Earth shall hear the Corn and Wine and Oyl, and they shall hear Jesreel. The Hea­vens had been before as Brass, and the Earth as Iron, but now the former yields its Dews, and the latter its Fruit. There is a Con­nection between second Causes, as between the several Links of a Chain, and all of them have a constant Dependance on, and entire [Page 24] subordination to the first, unless this puts them in Motion, as the main Spring of a Clock the Wheels dependant on it, they are either motionless, or their Motion is ir­regular.

And tho' the State of Things appears sometimes dark and confused, yet does divine Providence preside over them, and by its a­mazing and incomprehensible Agency, extract Light and Order from them; a pregnant In­stance of this we have in the case of Joseph's sufferings by his Brethren, and after Advance­ment to the Dominion of Egypt: Here di­vine Providence molded a dark confus'd Chaos into a beautiful form: Here the orient Colours laid on, derive a lustre from the blackness of the Ground; and a contrast of Characters, and Designs, in the Cases and Agents that com­pose the Piece, the Scene! What they thought for Evil, the Almighty meant for good; he sometimes serves the Purposes of his Providence by the Agency of Creatures, not only besides, but even contrary to their Intention. Senacherib the Asyrian Monarch, was us'd by the Hand of Providence as a rod to correct the People of Israel, and as an In­strument to bring them to Repentance, how­beit he meant not so, neither did his Heart think so: No! Nothing was more remote from his Design, than being of any Service to Israel, he only thought of gratifying his Ambition, his Cruelty and Avarice! The Almighty often [Page 25] makes the sinful Passions and Projects of Men subservient to his great and good De­signs; he extracts Good out of Evil, and turns the shadow of Death into the Morning, so that that out of the Eater-comes forth Meat, and out of the Strong Sweetness. His omnipotent Council so over rules Events, and directs the Chain of them, that that which in its own Nature tends to his dishonour and his Peoples detriment, does nevertheless issue in his Praise and their Benefit. The Crucifixion of Christ pours Light and Evidence on this labouring Point; from this, which considered in itself, the greatest Evil, his Name derives the great­est Glory, and Men the greatest Good!

But to proceed, Things natural, necessary and accidental, are likewise under the divine Government. Almighty God is the Father of the Rain, and begets by his Providence, the gentle Drops of the Dew; he brings the Snow and Hail out of his Treasures, he holds the Winds in his Fists, and makes the Thun­der and Lightning to fullfil his Word: He fixes the Course of Nature, so that it gene­rally acts in a uniform way. The Lumina­ries of Heaven perform their usual Revolu­tions with the greatest steadiness and exact­ness, tho' inanimate and devoid of Council; and the Sea observes its stated Ebbs and Flows; but when the great Lord of all, sig­nifies his Pleasure to the Contrary, the Sun [Page 26] stands still in the midst of Heaven, the Fire forgets to burn, and Jordan is driven back!

Nor are Things to us the most Contingent, excluded the Notice and Rule of his Provi­dence: No! Tho' the Lot be cast into the Lap, yet the disposal of it is of God. In one Word, all the Springs of Nature are in his Hand, and thereby turn'd according to his Purpose and Pleasure.

But how does the Almighty govern all? I Answer, with unerring WISDOM, irresista­ble POWER, unspotted PURITY, and infinite EASE. Wisdom bears the same Relation to the Acts of the Mind, as the Eye to the Motions of the Body. Wisdom and Know­ledge are necessary to choose a valuable End, to direct to proper Means to attain it, and to discover Hindrances that tend to obstruct the attainment of it. Now because the Wisdom and Knowledge of God are infinite, we may certainly conclude, that he ever proposes the best End, and the wisest Means: But being infinite, and we finite, it is no wonder that his Judgments are unsearchable and his Ways past finding out! And especially when the great Sovereign is pleased to cover with Dark­ness his Pavilion, and to hide the Face of his Throne! All Things are ever naked and open to the divine View, whether past, present or to come, his Eye with one glance pervades all Nature, and peirces to the very Center of the Universe: He certainly declares the End [Page 27] from the Beginning, and perfectly descerns every Let that might marr the Prosecution of it; he knows our Thoughts afar off, even before they are form'd; he compasses all our Paths, and therefore detects the most dis­guised Designs; the Darkness hideth not from him, but the Night shineth as the Day. The Psalmist confesses with much Affection, that such Knowledge was too wonderful for him, and so high that he could not attain to it, whither, says he, shall I go from thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy Presence; if I ascend up into Heaven, thou art there; if I make my Bed in Hell, behold thou art there; if I take the Wings of the Morning and dwell in the uttermost Parts of the Sea, even there shall thy Hand lead me, and thy right Hand shall hold me. He justly inferrs God's Om­niscience from his Omnipresence, and cloaths his devout. Thoughts with sublime and no­ble Language, with poetical Fire and Fines! Tho' by reason of our Ignorance we cannot penetrate into some Instances of God's Go­vernment, yet they are all wise and worthy of himself; tho' there is sometimes a Wheel within a Wheel, yet the Spirit of the living Creatures is in them, and they are ever full of Eyes, so that there cannot be any Error or Mistake in the divine Government. * The Expostulation of God himself with Job, re­specting his Ignorance of the Works of Na­ture [Page 28] and Providence, is very striking and abasing! The Sentiments and Language are enriched with inimitable Beauty and Ener­gy, where wast thou when I laid the Foun­dations of the Earth, who hath laid the Mea­sures thereof, or shut up the Sea with Doors; where is the way were Light dwelleth, and as for Darkness, where is the Place thereof? Hast thou entered into the Treasures of the Snow, hath the Rain a Father, or who hath begotten the Drops of the Dew?

Nor is the POWER of God less exerted then his Wisdom, in the Government of the universe; He is wise in Heart and migh­ty in Strength, who has hardned himself a­gainst God and prospered? The Thunder of his Power, who is able to withstand? he does what he pleases in the Armies of Heaven and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, and who can say to God what doest thou? Other Governors are reasonably limited by Laws, but none can give Law to God, he has no other Bounds but his Nature and Will, which give Laws to Heaven and Earth, and all the Creatures they contain; Gods Power is infinite, incomprehensible, Eternal; he spake when Time commenced, and lo the Heavens and Earth existed, it was but a Word and behold a World! This divine Power shakes the Earth out of its Place, and makes its Pillars tremble, this makes the Sun forget to shine, and sealeth up the Stars.

[Page 29]But the unstained Purity of the divine Nature, appears no less conspicious in the Government of the World, then his Wisdom and Power (as Moses observes,) He is a Rock his Ways are perfect, a God of Truth and without iniquity, just and right is He. Tho the Almighty governs rational Creatures in their Actions certainly, yet in perfect con­sistency with human Liberty; on the one Hand a Certainty of Events (some how) in Relation to God, appears to be a sure Consequent of his certain Foreknowledge of all Things, considered in Connection with his Wisdom, Independancy Immutability and Happiness. This Foreknowledge is strongly supported both by Reason and Revelation, not only by just Deductions from the In­finity and Simplicity of the divine Nature and other Attributes; but likewise by possitive scriptural Predictions of future con­tingent Events: But on the other Hand, it is equally certain, that we are not meer Machines, otherwise we wou'd not deserve the Name of Agents; but are only on that Supposition, passive Instruments of a­nothers Action, and consequently neither liable to guilt, when we violate the divine Laws, nor capable of Rewards and Punish­ments; but this cannot be true, for we our selves are conscious of our Freedom of act­ing, and of our Guilt when we transgress the Precepts of God, and therefore it is [Page 30] certain we act freely; but how the afore­said Certainty and this Liberty do consist together, is too great a Depth for a Human Understanding to fathom: This learned Bayle candidly acknowledges in his Character of Jansenius, his memorable Words are these, ‘The whole in fine is reducable to this, did Adam sin freely? if you answer yes, then his Fall it will be replyed, was not foreseen; but if you answer no, then it will be said, he is not guilty. You may write a Hundred Books against either of these consequencies, and at last you must be forced, to own, either that the infallia­ble foreseeing of a contingent Event, is a Mistery which it is impossible to con­ceive, or that the Manner how a Creature who acts without Liberty, and sins never­theless, is quite incomprehensible; I desire no more, for to what Purpose is it to write so many Books, since you must be forced to own at last one of these two in­comprehensible Mysteries!’ *

Great and excellent Mr. How, speaks nobly thus, ‘The Notion of the Goodness and Righteousness of God, methinks shou'd stick so close to our Minds, and create such a Sense in our Souls, as should be infinitely dearer to us then all our [Page 31] Senses and Powers; and that we shou'd chose rather to loose our sight, hearing and motive Power, torn away from us, then suffer our selves to be disputed in­to a Belief, that the holy and good God, shou'd irresistably determine the Wills of Men to, and punish the same thing.’ 6 As to good Actions, the blessed God no doubt graciously inclines the Wills of Men: As to evil, he only supports the Powers of Action he has given to his Creatures, and suffers them to sin, but no way excites to it; for if so, he wou'd be the Author of it; but this is impossible. The blessed Je­hovah is of inviolable Purity, and inflexible Equity, he essentialy hates Sin, and therefore cannot incline Men to it; let no Man there­fore say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with Evil neither tempteth he any Man, but every Man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own Lust and enticed.

Moreover the divine Majesty governs all easily and at once, his Word and Will was enough to make all, and it is enough to Rule all; as a Father of the Church ob­serves, ‘God is not weary with ordering the universe, nor is all the Work of the World too much for him.’ * Men cannot do [Page 32] two Things at once, but the Almighty governs all the Affairs of the World at once, in the same instant, the same Moment he manages Millions of different Matters! neither is the Multiplicity of them any more a Distraction to him, being infinite, then if he had but one thing to mind; nor will there be any End to his Govern­ment: No! it is continual and eternal; if he withheld his Hand one Moment, all the Wheels of Nature wou'd stand still, or fall to Pieces.

But it is objected, if God govern the World, why are not Rewards and Punishments dis­pensed, why are the wicked prosperous and the pious oppressed?

To this we may reply, that there are Examples in every Age of God's rewarding the good, and punishing the bad; but this is not general or universal, because this World is a state of Tryal and not of Re­compense: There will be a future Judgment, when Rewards and Punishments shall be universally and exactly distributed; in order to which the present Life is but a Pro­bation. Now it is unreasonable to expect the Judgment before the Tryal, the Crown before the Combate. ‘Punishments are some­times inflicted to put Men in Remembrance of God's Government, but not always, least a future Judgment should be prevented.’ * [Page 33] in the mean Time the allwise God has in a Measure interwoven Rewards and Punish­ments in the Nature of things; to sin he has anexed Disquiet and Distress and hence the Way of Transgressors is truly said to be hard; and to Virtue and Goodness he has anexed the natural Rewards of Peace and Satifaction; on which Account 'tis justly said, that the little that a righteous Man hath is better then the Riches of the Wicked.

If outward Prosperity be not good for bad Men, then the Force of the Objection vanishes, but the Case is realy thus; Pro­sperity is so far from being good to them, that it is the very reverse, it is like a sick Patients using such strong Dyet as tends to make his disease incurable; Prosperity flatters their Pride, and is fuel to their Luxury; by it they are fattened for the Day of Slaughter; ‘we ought not to Lament, * those who smart when they offend, but those who go on in sin unpunished.’

And on the other Hand seeing good Men are corrupt, Afflictions are necessary for their Cure, as Physick for the Sick, a real Benefit; they are likewise but of short contindance, and they are supported under them by the divine Power, and have them sweetned to them by the divine Love, and will be graciously recompensed for their Patient enduring of them with a distinguish­ed degree of future Blessedness; with which [Page 34] as the Apostle observes they are not worthy to be compared. Whom God Loves he chast­neth. To the same purpose speaks a Pagan Master, in these Words; ‘When you see righteous Men strugle with Adversity, and on the contrary wicked Wretches pass their Days, in Ease and Affluence, call to Mind that we our selves are willing that our Children shou'd be modest and sober, whereas we give Licence to our Slaves; pass then the same Judgment on God: The Regard he has for the righteous Man, suffers him not to live in Pleasure, he brings him to Tryal and inure him to Hardships, and so prepares him for himself!’

From what has been said of God's Go­vernment, we may learn the Unreasonable­ness and Danger of provoking by Sin, the angry Resentments of such an Almigh­ty Being; which are as impossible to be avoided as they are intollerable to be endured: a Being that can in a Moment turn all our Comforts into the most exquisite Mi­series, and make every Creature of the Cre­ation an Executioner of his Vengeance.

And seeing the Almighty governs over all, he should with our Consent govern over us, we shou'd yield a ready Obedience to his Laws, and a chearful Submission to his Providence; considering he has the most equitable Right thereto, as our Creator, [Page 35] Redeemer and Benefactor, and that our eter­nal all depends upon our Compliance.

If we are under Afflictions, we should look on them as coming by the Direction of that God, who is Wisdom and Love it self, who does not afflict us willingly, nor grieve the Children of Men, but corrects in Measure and in Mercy for our Profit, that he may make us partakers of his Holiness: He knows best what is best for us, and will by his Power and Providence, make all Things work together for the Advantage of such as fear and serve him. We shou'd therefore be contented with our Lott, and chearfully commit our all to his Management; humbly confiding in him, who can with the ut­most ease, and strongest Certainty, supply all our Wants, and protect us in the midst of the greatest Dangers. Omnipotence can make our worst Enemies our best Friends, can make our Expences for his Cause and Servants to increase our Estate like the Widow of Serepta's Oyl given to the Pro­phet Elijah. Surely the Munition of Rocks is the Defence of his People, he is their Shield and Buckler, he covers them with his Wings, and under his Feathers they may safely trust.

And especially we should express Gratitude, for all the Benefits we receive by his Pro­vidence; it is for a Lamentation, that many Labour to fill up their Lives by a con­tinued Circle of Pleasures, to the Neglect of God and Religion, they take up the [Page 36] Tymbrel and Harp, and rejoice at the Sound of the Organ, but regard not the Work of the Lord, nor consider the Operation of his Hands. They pore so much on second Causes, as intirely to overlook the First, (the primum Mobile,) and consequently rob God of the Honour, and themselves of the Comfort and Benefit which wou'd naturaly issue from a deliberate Recollection of his Kindnesses by Providence; and sincere GRATITUDE for them; but the Time being elapsed, I must refer the Discussion of this important Point to the Afternoon, and conclude at present, praying that what has been said, may be blessed to the Hearers Benefit, and ascrib­ing all Honour, and Glory, Majesty, and Dominion, to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.

[Page 37]

SERMON II.

1 Chron. 29 chap. from the 10 to 15. Verse

Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the Congregation: And David said, blessed be thou Lord God of Israel our Father for ever and ever: Thine O Lord is the Greatness, and Power, and the Glory, and the Victory, and the Majesty; for all that is in the Heaven and the Earth is thine; thine is the King­dom O Lord, and thou art exalted as Head above all. Both Riches and Honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine Hand is Power and Might, and in thine Hand it is to make great and to give Strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee and praise thy glorious Name: But who am I, and what is my People, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this Sort? For all Things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.

HAving spoken in the preceeding Discourse, of the Government of God by his Providence, I would now proceed to speak upon that THANKSGIVING and PRAISE which is due to him on Account of Mercies communicated by it, (to us) par­ticularly [Page 38] of a publick and religious Nature; preparatory to which let it be observed, that tho' Praise and Thanksgiving considered strict­ly and critically, may be distinguished, yet I apprehend, that in our Text (by the Figure Hendiadis,) they are but two Words designed to signify the same Thing, viz. that Grati­tude in Sentiment, Speech and Behaviour, which we owe to God for all his Mercies towards us. The Psalmist being impressed with a deep Sense of the Divine Goodness, enlarges upon the GRATITUDE due for it, in a variety of Expressions of the same Ten­dency. In this View I shall consider them in the following Discourse, and proceed to observe, that they necessarily suppose a full Perswasion of God's Government over all, and import a carefull Attention to the Blessings we receive by it with our Minds; a just value for them in our Judgments; a sincere Regard to their Author in our Hearts; a faithful Retention of them in our Memories; an open Celebration of them by our Lips, and a grateful Return for them by our Lives.

Without a full and strong Perswasion of God's absolute Empire over all Events, we will not look on the Benefits we receive, as com­ing by his Direction, and consequently de­cline to express the Gratitude which is due for them: It is therefore extremely ne­cessary to endeavour in the Use of all pro­per Means, to get this Sentiment deeply fix'd [Page 39] in our Souls. And having laid this noble Foundation, we should carefully attend with our Minds to the various and important Bles­sings we derive from the divine Government, who is wise and will observe these Things, even they shall understand the loving Kindness of the Lord. The Prophet justly reproved the un­grateful Israelites for this, that they regarded not the Work of the Lord, nor considered the O­peration of his Hands. Without a close At­tention to, and serious Consideration upon the Benefits we receive, our Minds are not like to be fir'd with Gratitude for them.

Nor is it less necessary to value highly in our Judgment, the Mercies we receive, how excellent is thy loving Kindness O God, (saith the Psalmist) how precious are thy Thoughts unto me, O how great is the Sum of them; if I should count them, they are more in Number than the Sand. A chearful acceptance of Benefits, and complacence in them, is the very Form and Spirit of Gratitude, and that which truly noble Benefactors have principally in View; no Sacrifice or Holocaust is so acceptable to the blessed God, as a just value for his Goodness: The Almighty not only loves a chearful giver, but a chearful receiver; he would have us to gust and relish his Benefits.

As a due Attention to the Mercies of God, naturally tends to excite our value for them, so this value as naturally tends to inflame us with a sincere Regard to their Author in our Hearts. The Psalmist assures us, that he [Page 40] loved the Lord because he heard the Voice of his Supplication. Nothing so much endears God to the Soul, as a View and Sense of his immerited Goodness; we love him (saith the Apostle) because he first loved us. The Truth is, we never love him with Freedom, Vehe­mence, and Transport, until we are first fir'd with a Sense of his Love and Goodness, (to us) His love apprehended, like a Magnet attracts the most passionate and grateful Emotions, and vigorous Sallies of our Souls towards him, as the Source of our Benefits, and Center of our Rest.

Farther, a faithful Retention of God's Mer­cies towards us, in our Memories, is necessa­ry to constitute that Gratitude that God re­quires. Seneca justly observes, ‘That he who falsely denies the Reception of a Bene­fit, and he that dissembles it, and he that doth not repay it, is ungrateful; but most ungrateful of all is he that forgets it.’ When Benefits are not remembered, it is a sign they made no suitable Impression on the Mind at first, otherwise some discernable Traces of them would have remained there; and as there was no deep Impression, so pro­bably no Thought of a grateful Return. The Almighty frequently complains of the ingratitude of the People of Israel, in for­getting his Works, and the Wonders that he had shewed them. But the Psalmist, whose vigilant Gratitude it is our Duty and Interest to imitate, determined to remember God's [Page 41] Wonders of old, and meditate on all his Works. It is a lamentable Evidence of the deep De­generacy of human Nature, that our Memo­ries are so tenacious of Injuries, and so for­getful of Benefits. Aristotle being ask'd, what grows the soonest Old? gave this Laconick Answer. Thanks! A severe, but alas, too just a censure upon the generality of Mankind. A censure which every Thing that is great and honourable, should conspire to incite us to guard our Conduct from. A Succession of new Benefits, should not supplant and ef­face the Memory of ancient Mercies, but ra­ther render them more desirable and amiable, like Liquours whose Value is increased by Age. The Memoirs of important Delive­rances, should be inscrib'd on our Minds with indelible Characters, as that of Israel from Amaleck on the Altar, with a JEHOVAH NISI, the Lord is my Banner!

Another ingredient in real Gratitude, is an express open acknowledgement of the Kind­ness of Heaven (towards us) by our Lips, and our great Obligations to God, on Ac­count of them; an explicit Declaration of the Value and Moment of his Benefits, as well as our unworthiness of them, our inability to requite them, and of the Beauty of the divine Attributes opened in their Donation and Conveyance!

When grateful Love inspires the Heart, it cannot but perspire thro' the Lips, and make them move in Praise; as when the [Page 42] main Spring of a Clock is well set, the Wheels naturally move, and the Bell will not forget to proclaim the Numbers. Real Gratitude is of a diffusive, social Genius; it wants others to share its sweets, to witness its tender Sentiments, and to assist its feeble Attempts in celebrating the divine Praise. Gratitude is innocently and nobly fond of Light, of Liberty and Society; the Instrument of which is Speech, which is never so much our Glory as when employed in glorifying our God for his Goodness to­wards us.

But that which crowns the Scene, is a grateful return for Benefits received, by our Lives. Sincere Gratitude earnestly pants after a requital, it wants to testify (some how) its high Esteem and dear Regard to its Be­nefactor, and to do him some Service, yea equal Service if possible to the Benefits re­ceived. Its [...]uine Language is that of the Psalmist, what shall I render to the Lord for all his Benefits towards me? The grateful Person is not only led by a View of the divine Goodness, to mourn heartily over his Sins, as committed against such a gracious Bene­factor, and earnestly to long after the Pro­sperity of his Kingdom, but likewise to la­bour honestly for Holiness in himself and Use­fulness to others, agreeable to his Station and Talents. It is true our great Benefactor is self-sufficient, he neither needs, nor can receive, any Advantage from us, (immedi­ately) [Page 43] In this respect our Goodness does not extend to him, neither is it any Gain to God, that we are righteous; yet in amazing Con­descension to prevent our Ruin and pro­mote our Benefit, he who is all Fullness, will rather himself be seemingly indigent, then permit us to be ungrateful, know­ing that our Performance of the Duty of Generosity is becoming the Dignity of our rational Nature, and conducive to our personal Comfort, and social Happiness; he clothes himself with his Peoples Wants and Miseries to invite our Beneficence, and graciously accepts what is done to them as done to himself; he accounts it a suitable Retaliation of his Kindnesses, yea such a Favour as puts the great, the blessed God in Debt, which he who is Truth itself, promisses to discharge: He that hath Pitty on the Poor lendeth to the Lord, and that, which he hath given, he will pay him again; God is not unrighteous to forget your Work and Labour of Love, which ye have ministered to the Saints, and do minister, for with such Sacrifices, he is well pleased. And when this Beneficence to our indigent Brethren, is designed to assist them in the necessary and noble Attempt of erecting a House, not for Man, but for the Lord God; for his Glory and Worship, and in Subordination thereto, the best Interests of Mankind: This is a Charity of the most sublime and excellent Nature, not only because it is extended [Page 44] to Man for God's Sake but because it is a Kind of Charity even to God himself; being devoted to his immediate Honour and Service, and therefore will not fail of a suitable Retribution! Good Words without Action, where there is Opportunity and Ca­pacity, are like a sounding Brass and tink­ling Symbal, empty Sounds of no Use, but to proclaim our Insincerity, and to insult those we should relive.

But to proceed, the primary and prin­cipal Object of Praise and Gratitude, is the glorious God: Now therefore, our God we thank thee, and praise thy glorious Name. Al­tho' we should express all due Esteem and Honour in regard of our generous Bene­factors, who have been Instruments in the Hand of God, of communicating Benefits to us, and put a just Value upon their brotherly Kindness and Benignity, yet seeing it is God the supream Disposer of all Events, who excites and directs the Compassion and Gene­rosity of his Creatures, who guides their Councils with Light, and Crowns their Essays with Success; without whose Con­currence the best projected Measures, and most vigorous Efforts are rendered inef­fectual; therefore to him we must ascribe the [...]upream Honour of all our Benefits; We should therefore enter into his Gates with Thanksgiving, and into his Courts with Praise, be thankful unto him, and bless his Name; because the Lord is God, his Mercy is Ever­lasting, [Page 45] and his Truth endureth to all Gene­rations.

Now tho it is our Duty to be thank­ful to God for every Benefit we receive, of whatever Kind it be, yet those of a publick and religious Nature, which re­spect the Honour and Worship of the Di­vine Majesty, which affect a Community and its Descendants in their most impor­tant Interests, to late Posterity; demand our peculiar and most affectionate Acknow­ledgments! For as much, as the reasonable Soul excells the Carcass, which it inhabits, in the Dignity of its Nature, and Purity of its Essence, as much as spiritual Ravishments, excel the low Gratifications of Sense, as much as the vast Abyss of Eternity, exceeds the shallow Surface of a contracted Span, so much our Desires after, our Complacence in, and Gratitude for spiritual Benefits in their Na­ture, (or Relation;) should surpass the Affections we exercise towards those, that are meerly temporal and corporal.

As many of us are Members in a larger or stricter Sense of religious Societies, we should be pleased with, and grateful for any favourable aspect of divine Providence upon them, or any one of them, seeing all Societies, who profess Christianity, and retain the Foundation Principles thereof, notwithstand­ing their different Denominations and Di­versity of Sentiments in smaller Things, are in Reality, but One Church of Christ, but [Page 46] several Branches (more or less pure in minuter Points) of one visible Kingdom of the Mesiah; whose Honour and Interest right­ly understood, is one and the same: They should therefore rejoice in the publick Pro­sperity of Zyon, and praise God's glorious Name with Ardor and Emotion, by whose Guidance and Concurrence it is in any De­gree attained.

It is a just and general Maxim, that the more extensive and durable any good is, the more noble it is, and consequently, the more worthy incentive of our Gratitude and Praise. And indeed if we consult History, either Sacred or Prophane, we may easily perceive, that it contains scarce any thing else considerable, but the earnest Endea­vours of good Men to promote the pub­lick Benefit, and their affectionate Grati­tude to God for it. Moses, Nehemiah, Paul, yea and all the goodly Train of Prophets and Apostles are Instances of this memora­ble Verity. But, dear Brethren! besides the Tyes of Social Union, and common Interest; pure disinterested Piety and Hu­manity, should incline us to rejoice with those that rejoice, and consequently to thank God for his Favour towards them: And in­deed were we endowed as we ought with this amiable and divine Quality, we need not envy the Splendor of the greatest Po­tentates, the Sagacity of the wisest States­men, the Bravery of the boldest Heroes, [Page 47] the Learning of the accutest Doctors, the Wealth of the richest Cressus, nay nor the highest Attainments in Goodness or Happi­ness of Men or Angles! for the Comfort and Benefit thereof wou'd be ours: What Comfort or Benefit can any Man have in a happy State but this, to rejoice in it and thank God for it, and if we do so likewise, shall we not partake of their Happiness without lessning it, without wea­ry Labours for it, yea partake of it, whe­ther they will or not? By this Means, a Man becomes the Center of all Felicity, honoured in the Promotion, enriched with the Wealth, and delighted with the Plea­sures of all Mankind; what a Heaven upon Earth, is this Godlike generous Temper of Mind? But what a Hell upon Earth is its contrary viz. ENVY? ENVY a diabolical Evil! the very Picture of God's great Adversary, and his dark abode! this thinks itself eclipsed by anothers just Commendation, grows poor in his Prosperity, pines in his Pleasure, and grows sick on account of his Health! this hateful iniquity! one of the greatest Monsters in Nature! is a just Punishment to itself, in this Life, and shall meet with a dread­ful Recompence in the Life to come! There is no Principle, Sirs, more deeply fixed in human Nature then a grateful Sense of Be­nefits; the very worst of Men, who are not quite dispoiled of all the Remains of Humanity, have some Respect for their [Page 48] Benefactors, this experience teaches, and this our Saviour confirms, by assuring us, that even Sinners and Publicans did so!

Nor is there any Duty more just and equitable then Gratitude for Benefits received, we are indebted for what is freely given us, as well as for what is lent to us; for the Freeness of the Giver in not exacting Security, nor expressing Conditions of Re­turn, instead of deminishing, encreases the Debt: This generosity to us, and Confidence in us, lays us under the noble Obligations of Ingenuity, which whoever violates, coun­teracts his Reason, and betrays his Trust! Gratitude, my Brethren, is the smallest homage we can offer to our glorious Benefactor for all his Goodness, which it is as unjust as unreasonable to neglect!

I may add, that this Duty is also de­lightful. Praise the Lord, saith the Psalmist, for he is good, sing Praises to his Name, for it is pleasant, and Praise is comely: As this Duty proceeds from a chearful Mind, so it tends to preserve and increase it; other Duties have something Labourous and dis­gustful (to Sense) in them. Prayer sets the Scene of our Wants and Sins before us, but Praise only opens the Memory of divine Mercies; this is the Fruit of Love in the Possession of its Object; this is the constant Employment of the Inhabitants of Heaven, and therefore the nearest emblem of it, of [Page 49] any Duty of Religion, and the most delight­ful Entertainment upon the Earth.

This Duty of all enjoined, is the most acceptable to God, and the most profitable to us. Gratitude for past Mercies, opens the Way for future Benefits, by inclining God *to vouchafe them, and preparing us to receive them; and this indeed facilitates the Practice of other Duties, by animating our Forti­tude and encreasing our Love, from which they easily and naturaly flow, thro a Sense of divine Goodness and our Obligations by it.

The Words of Epictotus on this Head de­serve to be mentioned, ‘if we understood our selves, saith he, what other thing should we do, either publickly or privately, then sing Hymns to, and speak well of God; were I indeed a Nightingale, I wou'd do what belongs to a Nightingale, if a Swan what becomes a Swan, but since now I am endowed with Reason, I ought to praise God, this is my Duty and Concernment, and so I do, neither will I desert this Employment while it is in my Power.’

But if the Admonitions, the Precepts and Presidents of Princes, Prophets, and Philo­sopers, shou'd not have due Influence upon you, yet methinks the Example of the in­animate Creation, shou'd not fail to excite [Page 50] you to the Performance of this Duty; The Heavens declare the Glory of God, and the Firmament sheweth his Handwork: Upon which Chrisostom thus glosseth, ‘it were an ugly thing, saith he, that Man endowed with Reason, and the most honourable of all Things visible, shou'd in rendring Thanks and Praise be exceeded by other Creatures; neither is it only base, but absurd, for how can it be otherwise, since other Creatures every Day and Hour send a Doxology to their Lord and Maker!’

And not only the Heavens, my Brethren, but the Earth manifests a kind of Grati­tude, the Rivers with great eagerness, and haste return to the Sea the Waters they borrow from it by indiscernable Conduits; and the Ground by a fruitful encrease re­pays the Culture bestowed upon it; and with Pleasure expresses its Thanks for the Rain and Dews received by it; the little Hills rejoice on every Side, they shout for Joy, they also sing!

Yea divers Beasts shew a sort of Gratitude. The Ox knows its owner, and the Ass its Mas­ters Crib. Not only the Tame and Gentle, but those of the most Savage kind, such as the Lyon, the Tyger, the Bear, as some His­torians inform us, have shewed Kindness to their Benefactors: How monstrous then must ingratitude be?

The Subject I have been discoursing of, viz. the Government of GOD over all by his Pro­vidence, [Page 51] and that Gratitude and Praise which is due to him on Account of Mercies commu­nicated by it, particularly of a publick and religious Nature, easily applies itself to the present Occasion. 'Tis Providence, 'tis the all-governing, all-powerful Providence of the most high God, my Brethren, that has be­gun and conducted this important Enterprize of erecting a CHURCH for his Honour and Service, to this comfortable and creditable Period, which we now behold and justly ad­mire!

Divine Providence prepar'd the Way for it, by a train of surprizing incidents, long before any Thought of such an Event entered into any of our Hearts. The Designs of Heaven are deep and impenetrable, until di­vine Providence, the Executor of them, dis­covers them, and brings them to pass; there are many Devices in Man's Heart, but the Coun­cil of the Lord that shall stand, and he will do all his Pleasure. Every Event with which his Purpose is pregnant, how improbable soe­ver, will be brought to the Birth by Pro­vidence in its appointed Season.

The Truth is, divine Providence has ap­pear'd surprizingly in the Course and Series of this Transaction, in Instances two many now to enumerate; of which give me leave to mention the few following hints: We were brought at first under a sudden, un­expected and urgent necessity of endeavour­ing to get a House for ourselves to worship [Page 52] God in; the issue of which, because of the difficulty of the Enterprize, and the low State of the generality of our Society, ap­peared not only very doubtful and precari­ous, but without Assistance from others, en­tirely impracticable; this of course affected the Minds of some, who were concerned for its Preservation, with fear and solicitude con­cerning the Event; but it has pleased a gra­cious God by his Providence, in a great De­gree to dissipate our Fears, and to turn that which seemed to threaten our total Dissolution, into a probable Mean of establishing the So­ciety for a long while to come!

I must confess, my Brethren, I have ne­ver seen more of the glorious Sovereignty of divine Providence in any Case, than in this: The Almighty in some Instances mercifully disconcerted the Measures we had form'd with a friendly Intention, in order to bring about for us a good we knew not: One Example of this kind, which I think it not impro­per to mention, is the fixing of the Place where the CHURCH now stands; a Situation which in respect of free Air in the Summer, warmth in the Winter, and open prospect, is perhaps not inferior to any in the City; thro' a mistaken view of things, we would have fixed it in a more expensive and less con­venient Place, but divine Providence would not suffer it!

Nor should we pass over in Silence the Kindness of a gracious Providence, in direct­ing [Page 53] and inclining us to begin this impor­tant Work in a proper Season, a suitable Juncture, and in disposing to diligence and firmness in the Prosecution of it, in the midst of many Objections and Discouragements to the Contrary. Had it been deferred a little longer, the Stagnation of Trade, and its Con­sequents which soon ensued, would have ren­dered the Attempt abortive!

The Almighty frequently disappointed us, as to our fond Expectations of the Libera­lity of fome, and graciously raised up others in their Place, of whom we had little or no Thought or Expectation!

A kind Providence has mercifully appear'd in inclining the Hearts of a considerable Num­ber of our own People, to contribute gene­rously (their Circumstances considered) to e­rect a House for God.

And still divine Goodness has been more conspicuous, in inclining many worthy Gen­tlemen of other Societies, more especially in this City, to befriend and assist us with their generous Donations! Gentlemen of large and noble Souls, who are happily freed from the slavish Shakles of sordid Bigottry; whose ge­nuine Charity is not confin'd to the mean Bu­siness of a Party, but like the Sun diffuses its Brightness and Benificence on all around them, who are in necessitous Circumstances! without such, the Comfort of civil Society would quite expire, and every noble and dif­ficult Enterprize, of a religious kind, where [Page 54] Assistance is needed, fail of Success! Blessed be God that there are yet such Men upon the Earth! And that all, under religious pre­texts, are not sour'd into that unmerciful Severity which is directly contrary to the Spirit, the End, the Genius of all that deserves the Name of Religion! Blessed be God that all are not swallowed up by that ignorant, hateful and merciless Monster of Bigotry, to the petty Business of Parties, and their com­paratively little peculiars,* to the overthrow of Humility, which is the Ornament of Humanity, and the Beauty of Goodness; to the overthrow of Charity, which (considered in its full extent) is the End of Perfection, the Sum of the Law, the Scope of the Gos­pel, and the Glory of Christianity!

I may say, with the Psalmist, that I have been sensibly affected with beholding divers of our own People offer willingly their seve­ral important Donations, to the Service of God's Sanctuary! But the Generosity of o­thers, is more surprizing, more affecting, as it was less expected, and is less interested! Certainly, my Brethren, the noble Principle [Page 55] of Ingenuity invites us, to do just Honour to our kind Benefactors, to express our af­fectionate Gratitude to them, and to God for them!

Beneificence unconfin'd to Parties, directed by Reason, and issuing from Love, is a God like Vertue, an Index of a great and noble Soul, an Argument of undisguised Goodness, and necessarily commands Reverence from e­very intelligent, impartial Observer; but from such as feel its benign Influence, un­der the Gloom of Adversity, it as a Magnet attracts the strongest Tendencies, the warm­est Emotions of grateful Love; like the Light of the Eye of Heaven, which tho' it appears amiable to all beholders, yet particu­larly affects those who are under its direct Rays, with its inimitable Beauty and friendly warmth!

I do therefore gladly embrace this publick Opportunity, to Thank in the most respectful Manner, in the Name and Behalf of this So­ciety, His Honour the GOVERNOR, the Honourable the CHIEF JUSTICE, and the Secretary of this Province, and the Worship­ful the Mayor, and Recorder of this City, and all the honoured Gentlemen of the Council, and Assembly, and of every other Station and Character in Life, that have contributed to the Building of this CHURCH, wherein we are now conveened. And I heartily wish and earnestly pray, that the most high God may graciously Reward their kind [Page 56] and generous Benefactions, with every need­ful Blessing in Time and Eternity. Permit me to add, that it gives us great Pleasure, that thro' the gracious interposure of divine Providence, the Projection and Execution of the Model of this Structure, sacred to De­votion, * give general Satisfaction to our kind Benefactors, and likewise to others. Gentlemen, your Pleasure sensibly affects us, and we count ourselves happy in having the Honour of your Approbation!

[Page 57]But God, the glorious God my Brethren, is the principal Object of our Gratitude and Praise; he it is that governs the vast Uni­verse with the wisest Council, and most absolute controul; he it is that turns the Hearts of his Creatures as Streams of Water in the South, so as to answer his own Designs! Let us set up our Ebenezer and say, hitherto has our God helped us: Let us with Sen­timents of the deepest Reverence, and most affectionate Gratitude, adore and magnify the very venerable Name of Jehovah, in the [Page 58] beautiful and pertinent Language, the just and noble Doxology of the Pious Hebrew Prince, and People, upon a parallel Occasion. Wherefore David blessed the Lord, before all the Congregation and said; blessed be thou Lord God of Israel our Father, for ever and ever: Thine O Lord is the Greatness; and the Power, and the Glory, and the Majesty, for all that is in the Heaven and in the Earth is thine; thine is the Kingdom O Lord; and thou art exalted as Head above all; both riches and Honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all, and in thine Hand is Power and Might, and in thine Hand it is to make great and to give Strength unto all; now there­fore our God we thank thee, and praise thy glorious Name; but what is my People, that we should be able to offer thus willingly, af­ter this Sort, for all things are of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. With what pious Passion, does the Man after God's own Heart, celebrate the divine Praise! As appears by his Plenoasms and Ingeminations, his variety of Expressions to the same Pur­pose, and Repetition of the same Words? See the cordial Complacence! Behold the devout Transports of the best of Kings, the Princes and the whole Congregation of Israel, upon this solemn, amiable and august Occasion! And no wonder, for the Palace, the Rich, the Honourable and Magnificent Structure was not for Man, but for the Lord God; and therefore it touch'd to the very [Page 59] Soul all the pious and generous Israelites; fired their warmest Zeal, struck every Spring of Passion, and awoke their most tender Sentiments of Honour, Reverence, and Gra­titude; which Impatient of restraint, ex­pressed with Ardor, Elevation, and Pleasure, the noblest Images, the highest Encomiums, of the divine Attributes, that their enli­vened Minds in their sublimest flights cou'd form!

And shou'd we, my Brethren, shou'd we, be less concerned for the Honour and Worship of the most high God, then the Jewish Church, we that enjoy greater Light and Liberty, we that enjoy a more com­fortable and glorious Dispensation? God for­bid! Surely we are under greater Obli­gations of Gratitude then they, and shall our Returns be less? This wou'd contradict the clearest dictates of Reason, the plainest Maxims of Justice, the noblest Sentiments of Ingenuity, and be a Scandal and Reproach to the Gospel of the dear Redeemer!

That pretence to spirituality and Humi­lity, which is only a covert to Covetous­ness, Indifference or Party-Prejudice, in the Matters of Religion, is a mean and mons­trous Evil, that should be abhorred by all Mankind! Those severe Zealots, who censure all Ornaments in Churches, tho' they do not neglect them in their Dress and private Houses; and condemn the pious Zeal and noble Generosity of their Brethren in that [Page 60] Respect; as Evidences of Pride and Arro­gance shou'd consider, that the Ornaments of Dress and private Houses, are much more apt to excite our Arrogance, because, they are ours, then what respects God, and the publick Good, in which individuals, con­sidered separately, have but a small share; Why do you assume the divine Prerogative, why do you judge and set at nought your Brethren? Surely you herein act a very in­consistent Part, and consequentially, not only condemn the whole Body of the Jewish Church, but even pass Sentence upon God himself, who appointed Ornaments in his House by his Sovereign Authority, and com­plained by his Prophet of those coveteous Misers, who had ceiled, (finely furnished and adorned) Houses of their own, but left his House Desolate, i. e. naked, and bereaved of proper Ornaments: The Ornaments of their private Houses, were curious and costly, not so much for use as Pleasure, as Jerom, Drusius, and Pool observe upon the Passage, of Scripture now mentioned.

If any in their misguided Zeal, and speci­ous but coveteous Humility, will presume to censure God himself, we need not won­der that they condemn us!

Ingenius and pious Mr. Harvey, after viewing a Church in Cornwall, speaks with his usual Eloquence and justness of Sentiment, on that Occasion, in the following memora­ble Words; ‘The whole, says he, magnificent­ly [Page 61] plain, a row of regular Pillars support­ed the Roof, with Simplicity and Dignity!’

O! how amiable is Gratitude, especialy when it has the supream Benefactor for its Object. I have always looked upon Gratitude, as the most exalted Principle, that can actuate the Heart of Man. It has something no­ble, disinterested, and (if I may be allowed the Term) generously devout. Repentance indicates our Nature fallen, and Prayer turns chiefly upon a Regard to one's self. But the Exercise of Gratitude subsist­ed in Paradise, when there was no Fault to deplore; and will be perpetuated in Heaven when GOD shall be All in all.

THE Language of this sweet Temper is I am unspeakably obliged: What re­turn shall I make?—And, sure­ly, it is no improper Expression of an un­feigned Thankfulness, to decorate our Crea­tor's Courts, and beautify, the Place where his Honour dwells. Of old the Ha­bitation of his Feet was glorious: Let it not, now, be sordid or contemptible. It must grieve an ingenuous Mind, and be a Reproach to any People, to have their own Houses wainscoted with Cedar, and painted with Vermillion; while the Temple of the LORD of Hosts is destitute of every decent Ornament.

Such Objectors as I but now mention­ed, wou'd do well, for their own sakes, to enquire, whether their censorious invectives, [Page 62] do not proceed from gross ignorance of the Scriptures, or from low avarice to save their Pence, or from such wild Enthusiasm re­specting Ornaments, as opposes common Sense; or from Jealousy and Envy respecting their Neighbours Comfort, or from want of that Charity, which hopeth all things, which suffereth long and is kind, is not easily provoked, and seeketh not her own things? I forbear to mention the Case of that un­happy Man, who begrudged a small Expence of Ornament upon our Saviours Body, and yet artfully mask'd his Coveteousness, with the pious and plausible pretext of Charity to the Poor; I say I choose to pass by this melancholy Instance, least I should cast too dark a Shade upon the Beauty of this Solemnity!

If it be said, that it is an inconsistent Vanity, that any Part of what is got by begging, for thus Addresses to Mankind in behalf of God and his Worship have been termed by some, probably in disdain and contempt, it may be reply'd, that few or none of those who are so kind and ge­nerous as to contribute any thing con­siderable to religious Purposes, are of the Number of such peevish Objectors: Now when those, who have contributed are ge­nerally pleased with the Application of their Donations, others, who have given nothing (or what is next to nothing) have no shadow of Reason to complain or deride; unless they [Page 63] are determined to expose their Ill-nature, and Glory in their Shame! Such as are most inclined to severe censures on others Conduct, are ever least inclined to Bene­ficence themselves; it wou'd be a Prodigy, to behold a Bigott, an Enthusiast, a needless­ly scrupulous * a sour, a censorious Person Li­beral! especially in promoting the religious Interests of any Society, besides their own; to which they, as unreasonably as cruelly confine even Christianity itself! The severe censures of such, as well as the rude Scoffs of the prophane Herd, while we Essay what is in itself noble and virtuous, instead of sugesting Matter of Reproach and Scandal, do contrary to their Intentions, reflect Honour upon our Characters, and tacitely furnish a valuable Panegyrick! And seeing asking help when it is needed on such Occasions, is the ge­neral Practice; it is an Argument of great Partiality, and meaness of Spirit, to labour to fix an Odium on any one on that ac­count; while others equally Criminal in at­tempts to do publick Service; are passed by [Page 64] in deep Silence, without any Compliment, without any Invective!

Seeing that Men's fancies are as various as their Faces, it is therefore highly impro­bable, if not impossible, from the nature and common course of Things, that where many are concerned, every ones Notion shou'd be gratify'd in every minute Particular in the Model, and Execution of large Structures; and therefore it is the vainest Vanity to ex­pect it, or complain for the want of it.

I confess, my Brethren, it appears to me reasonable in itself, and creditable to Socie­ties, that in Cities where there is a greater Resort of Persons of Honour, Distinction, and polite Taste; the Structures of a religious kind, shoud be adorned with greater Beauty and exactness, then in obscurer Places; and this is what the Prudence of Mankind di­rects them to observe generally in a greater or lesser Degree; and to this their Practice is conformed in Matters of a civil Nature without a Scruple!

'Tis true, if any under great Necessity; shou'd ask Donations for their own absolute Support, and then apply what they obtain this Way, to superfluous Ornaments of Dress, the Objection wou'd conclude; but when Persons ask Donations of others not for themselves, but the Honour and Worship of the most high God, and then apply but a small Part of them to such sober and moderate Ornaments, as are approved of [Page 65] by the Trustees of the Society, for whom the Donations are given, who are by them appointed to regulate the Model of the Structure design'd, the Objection is imperti­nent; pray must the Trustees wait for the Approbation of every Donor, nay of every Spectator, respecting all the Parts and Ap­pendages of the Work? then it wou'd be like weaving Penelopes Web, never finished, for what one woud approve, the other wou'd condemn, and demolish!

Its very true Soundness of Doctrine, Pu­rity of Worship, and the Power and Presence of God are infinitly more necessary and valuable, then external Ornaments, but what then; they are subordinate thereto, and therefore no Hindrance of them; otherwise God himself was mistaken in their Ap­pointment.

Was not one of the richest and grandest Structures of a religious Kind, or of any Kind that ever the Sun saw, built principally by Contributions or Donations, procured as some are pleased to term it sarcastically by Begging; by the Begging of one of the most pious Princes that ever lived, and one of the most Potent then in the World; and was not a good Part of the Donations procured as aforesaid, applyed by the Direction of the wisest of Men, yea by the Direction of the allwise God to Ornaments in that sacred Structure? I wou'd therefore enquire, whether treating this Prince's pious and [Page 66] commendable Essay to promote the Honour of the Divine Majesty, and the publick Good, with contempt, and representing it as Criminal, is any Argument of Candor, or Regard either to Virtue or to Mankind? and whether it is any Evidence of superior Wisdom, examplary modesty or eminent Pie­ty, to expose and burlesque the Sentiments and Practice of the wisest and best of Men, in any Instances wherein they are approved of even by God himself; or to charge Vanity on infinite Wisdom, and unstained Purity? As Moses had a Patern or Model of the Taber­nacle, from the most high God; so had David of the Temple; and it may be here ob­served, that tho' the Tabernacle was, as it were, but an ambulatory Church, of obscurer Figure, erected in, the infancy of Israel, while they were in a low State, encompassed with Dangers and Enemies, before their Entrance into the promissed Canaan; yet it had di­vers rich Ornaments, to which a considera­ble Part of the Contributions of the People, were applyed by God's own Order!

If it be said, that a few of our own Society who have hitherto given little (or nothing) towards this Structure; have not­withstanding grumbled at all, or most of the Ornaments of it; I think it may rea­sonably Silence such, when we truly assert, that their Purses did not procure them; certainly in this Instance, they have acted a very unnatural and indiscreet Part; and [Page 67] shewn as little Judgement of things, as of Gratitude to God and Man! Have they not hereby imitated the Unkindness of the murmuring Israelites to Moses, after all his painful and unwearied labours to promote their Benefit; which so affected that meek Man of God, that he speak unadvisedly with his Lips; and no wonder, for Ingratitude in Return for important Benefits, is one of the most detestable Monsters in Nature, equally abhorent to all the Principles and Maxims of Reason, of Justice, of Ingenuity and Honour! Wou'd it not be better for such to thank Jehovah for his unexpected and immeritted Goodness towards them, then grieve and break the Hearts of their Benefactors, by their un­grateful Reflections and murmurings? But Charity enclines me to hope, that if any among us have unhappily blundered as aforesaid, it is owing to their neglect of suitable Reflection, which when they come to exert, will either yeild them Satisfaction, or at least constrain them to be silent.

For my own Part, I freely and openly declare; that in my Opinion, there is not one Ornament more then is proper in this Structure; the Building is manly and plain, its chief Beauty is the Simplicity of the whole, and the just Proportion of its several Parts, which are enlivned by the exactness of the Workmanship, and a few Ornaments interspersed, which are well devised, well executed, and well placed; without, which [Page 68] so large an Edifice, wou'd appear flat, dead, and disagreeable; being destitute of its proper Decency and Dignity; and I have the Plea­sure to observe that this is the general Opinion of better Judges of Architecture, that have seen it, and are free from the Byass of Prejudice; but:

If any thro' a misguided Zeal, or wrong Taste, are conscientiously fond of Flatness, and meaness, in the Form of religious Houses; I will not contend with them; I am neither enclined to censure the Goodness of their Aim, or Envy the Ease of their Sentiment; I only ask Liberty to think for myself, and act accordingly. *

But the Temple was Typical; well what then? is it therefore unlawful to have a House of Worship under the Gospel, and to worship God in it? If so, then of Consequence, we have done with Religion alltogether. It is true, some Parts of the Temple were Types of Christ, and some Ceremonies therein cele­brated, which of their own accord expired at the Messiahs approach; but did ever the Almighty make any thing in it self Crimi­nal, a Type of Christ? If so then infinite Purity approved Iniquity, which is both ridiculous and blasphemous to imagine! If not, then why shou'd great Zeal be ex­erted against what is in itself inocent and lawful! Is not this a Zeal without Know­ledge; a Zeal disproportioned in Degree to [Page 69] the Weight of Things? And consequently instead of being serviceable, is realy as pre­judicial to the Interests of Religion, as it is dis­honourable to these that are under its unhappy Influence. But are Order and Decency in the House of God typical too, then why are we enjoined to observe them under the Gospel of Christ?

Notwithstanding of any unkind Censures that have been, or may be passed, it may be safely said, that a sincere Regard to the Honour of the divine Majesty, the Credit of our Profession in general, and the best In­terests of this Society in particular, and their Descendants in present and future Times, was the true Spring of the Pains that have been taken in the Prosecution of this neces­sary and noble, but difficult Enterprize!

I earnestly beseech the most high Jehovah, for the Sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the several Branches of the Religion of Nature, and especially the Grand peculiars of revealed, may be faithfully and successfully preached in this Church, * in the present and future [Page 70] Generations; may the Holy Spirit of God descend upon the Administration of his Word and Ordinances in this House; in all the Successions of Time; for the Conviction and Conversion of Sinners, and the Consolation and Edification of Saints; that they may be hereby excited to rejoice in God their Saviour and to speak in the Seraphick strains of the Pious Patriarch, this is no other than the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven: May the Name of this Church, from henceforth be called Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there.

[Page 71]If any one shou'd enquire, what I appre­hend to be the Grand Peculiars of revealed Religion, I answer these following viz. The Doctrine of the Trinity, three Persons con­substantial, co-equal, co-eternal and one God; or in other Words three Persons, the same in Substance, equal in Power and Glory. Origi­nal Sin, both imputed and inherent, or the Guilt of Adams Sin in violating the Cove­nant of Works, as the Representative and Covenant Head of his Posterity, reckoned to them, and in Consequence of this, their being born in a State of Corruption.

The Doctrine of Christs Satisfaction to the Justice of God, for the Sins of Men, by his Sufferings and Obedience. The Doctrine of Justification by the Righteousness of Christ imputed, and received by Faith alone. The Doctrine of Regeneration by the Holy Ghost, Repentance from dead Works, and the Prac­tice of evangelical universal Holiness. If these important Principles are not propogated, little good in my Opinion is to be expected. If the Doctrine of the Trinity be denyed, the Foundation of the Gospel-plan of Salvation, by a Mediators Righteousness seems to be overset; for if there be but one Person how can he be supposed, without absurdity, to satisfy himself? If Christ be not truly and properly God, how can he be worship­ed without Idolatry, or be reasonably sup­posed to make an infinite Satisfaction? And if Men be not acquainted with the Know­ledge [Page 72] of their Decease viz. Sin, original and actual, and the Remedy provided for the Cure of it, viz. Christs Righteousness; and the Method prescribed by the Almighty for the Application of that Remedy, viz. Faith; and the Necessity of building the Super­structure of universal Holiness upon that Foun­dation; I say if these Things be not in­culcated, I cannot but think that vital Re­ligion will languish and expire and a dead Form, if so much, succeed in its Place; the blessed Lord Jesus is the Foundation, the Kernel, the Soul, the Center of Piety, if he is gone nothing remains but a proud, selfish, empty Husk, a carcase without a Soul to ani­mate it. O may the good God of his infinite Mercy preserve the aforesaid Truths in the Churches in general, and in this in particular, to the End of Time!

A humble hope of the Benefits but now implored, has been an affecting Excitement, to persist in the Labours that were neces­sary to carry on this Undertaking, and to endure the many Hardships that were cast in the Way of it; which it wou'd not suit the agreeable Occasion of this Convention to enumerate!

The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Co­rinthian Church, informs and assures them, that in the midst of the Oppositions, Sorrows and Sufferings, they were exposed too, and at some Seasons much pressed with on a re­ligious Account; the Witness of their own [Page 73] Minds, respecting the Integrity of their Con­duct, was a great Support, a great Allay: Our rejoicing is this (saith he) the Testimony of our Conscience, that in Simplicity and godly Sincerity, not with fleshly Wisdom, but by the Grace of God, we have had our Conversation in the World, and more abundantly to you wards. But its Time to hasten to­wards the Conclusion of this Discourse, and therefore I exhort you Dear Brethren! To Thank and Praise the glorious Name of God, in Thought Speech, and Practice, for his ime­rited, unexpected, and important Goodness towards us; in asisting us to carry on his Work thus far, viz. to erect and almost finish a House for his stated Worship and Service. Surely we should speak on this Ac­count in the Churches Language, occasioned by her sudden Deliverance from a Bondage-State: When the Lord turned again the Capti­vity of Zyon, we were like them that dream; then was our Mouth filled with Laughter, and our Tongue with singing, the Lord hath done great Things for us, whereof we are glad; if he had not built the House, the Builders wou'd have laboured in vain!

In particular, Sirs, we should manifest our Gratitude for the divine Goodness, in asisting us to erect a House for God, by a Con­scientious and constant Attendance upon the several Parts of Worship therein celebrated, to which we may be excited by considering, that this is by divine Appointement, the Method of obtaining the Favour of God; for when [Page 74] in the Wisdom of God, the World by Wisdom knew not God; it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those that believe: i. e. by that plain Method of Address, respecting the grand Peculiars of Christianity, which is reckoned by the ignorant and selfconceited to be Foolishness. We are elsewhere informed, that Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and that we cannot hear without a Preacher. The same Apostle like­wise in his Epistle to the Ephesians assures us, that the design of Christs giving publick Of­ficers and consequently publick Ordinances to the Church, is her Edification, Knowledge, Unity, Stability, and Growth in all Good­ness: He gave some Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the Work of the Ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ, till we come all in the Unity of the Faith, and of the Knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect Man, unto the Measure of the Stature of the Fullness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more Children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every Wind of Doctrine, by the Slight of Men, and cunning Craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the Truth in Love, may grow up into him in all Things, which is the Head even Christ, and hence we are enjoined not to neglect the assembling of our selves together, as the Manner of some is. And the enquiring Spouse is directed to feed her Kids besides the Shepherds Tents.

[Page 75]Tho some are pleased to cast an unreasonable and ungrateful Contempt upon publick Wor­ship, by a repeated neglect of the Opportunities of this kind, which a gracious Providence presents, thereby showing, that they Love Darkness rather then Light, because their Deeds are evil: Yet the infinitely wise God puts a high Value upon them, and prefers them to private Worship, tho' necessary in its Place, and enjoyned by his Authority: Je­hovah loves the Gates of Zyon, more than all the dwellings of Jacob; and no wonder, see­ing he is there more glorified by the pub­lick and united Adorations of his People; in his Temple, every one Speaks of his Glory.

And certainly to all such as are truly De­vout and well informed, the Tabernacles of God are amiable, and they love the Place where his Honour dwells: A Day to them in his Courts is better than a Thousand elsewhere; yea they would rather be admitted to the humblest Of­fice in his Sanctuary than dwell in Tents of Wickedness, into which indeed private Houses are turned when the publick Worship of God is willfully neglected by their Owners. The Psal­mist rejoiced when any Opportunity presented of going to the House of God, and in his mournful solitude, envy'd the Happiness of the Swallows that had access there.

Methinks, my Brethren, the gracious Pro­mises which God has made to a due Atten­dance upon publick Worship, should effectu­ally incite our observance of his Precept re­specting [Page 76] it; he that is Truth itself has said, in all Places where I record my Name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. Now wherever the Word is truly preached, Prayers sincerely offered, and the Seals of the Cove­nant administred agreeable to the divine Ap­pointment, there God's Name is Recorded, and there the Almighty will certainly vouch­safe his gracious Presence and Blessing. The Prophet speaking of Gospel Times sayeth, the Lord will create upon mount Zion, and up­on her Assemblies, a Cloud and Smoke by Day, and the shining of a flaming Fire by Night, for upon all the Glory shall be a Defence. Blessed is the Man (saith Solomon) that heareth the Voice of Wisdom, that watcheth at her Gates, and waiteth at the Posts of her Doors. What gracious Encouragement do these sacred Pas­sages afford to publick Worship? But to these, let me add the Promise of our Savi­our, that where two or three are gathered to­gether in his Name, he will be in the midst of them. He assures us in the strongest Terms, of his constant Presence with the Church in Acts of publick Worship in every Age, till Time shall be no more; Do I am with you allways even unto the End of the World; with you to authorize, succeed and bless you: If two of you, says our Lord, shall agree on Earth touching any Thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father which is in Heaven. The dear Redeemer stills walks in the midst of the Golden Candlesticks. As [Page 77] Jehovah formerly dwelt between the Cheru­bims in the Tabernacle and Temple, so does our Lord in the midst of the Churches. As the Sun in the Center, influences all the Planets with Light and Heat, so does the Sun of Righteousness, all the Assemblies of his People, with gracious Communications! How great, dear Sirs, is the stoop of divine Goodness in this, that he who is the high and lofty one, who inhabiteth Eternity, whose Name is Holy; that he to whom all the Inhabitants of the Earth, are but as Grass­hoppers, yea the Earth and Sea themselves, but as a drop of Water in a Bucket, or a little Dust in the Ballance; that he who weighs the Mountains in Scales, should come to such mean, vile and miserable Creatures, as any of the Children of Men are, and bless them! Surely the Almighty does not require any earthly Temple, as tho' he wanted a Place of Rest, for the Heavens are his Throne, and the Earth his Footstool. With this View of the divine Immensity, Solomon being deep­ly affected, speaks in the following excellent Language, but will God in very deed dwell among Men on the Earth? The Heaven of Heavens cannot contain him, how much less this House which I have built!

In the mean Time we should take heed, my Brethren, how we hear; and be doers as well as hearers of the Word, otherwise we shall but deceive ourselves. As sincere Supplication to Almighty God, for his gracious Presence in [Page 78] Houses of publick Worship, together with a devout Attendance upon the Ordinances therein dispensed, followed with a Life of Love and universal Goodness, is the best Expression of our Gratitude for the Kindness of Heaven, in assisting us to erect them, so it is the only proper evangelical Dedication or Separation of them to the divine Service, and the best Expedient to secure to the present and future Generations, the promised Presence and Blessing of God, which infinitely ex­ceeds all other Enjoyments.

A LIFE of HUMILITY and HOLINESS, and increase in that Wisdom which is from a­bove, which is first Pure, then peaceable, gen­tle and easy to be entreated, full of Mercy and good Fruits, without partiality and with­out Hypocrisy, is the most substantial, satis­factory and excellent Evidence, of our grate­ful Sentiments of the divine Goodness. This, this, particularly and eminently reflects Ho­nour, upon the Name, Ways and People of God, and is the most pleasing Sacrifice to him: This best promotes his Kingdom a­mong Men, by exciteing them to glorify our heavenly Father: This introduces such a serenity into our Minds, as much surpasses all the Sweets of Life, and is indeed the best Support under its Frowns: This rati­onally Evidences our Title to future Blessed­ness, to a House not made with Hands eternal in the Heavens, whose builder and maker is God, and to a distinguished Mansion there!

[Page 79]And now give me leave, my dear Friends and Brethren, to conclude this Discourse in the Words of King David in our Context, and of King Solomon at the Dedication of the Temple. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, our Fathers, keep this forever in the Imagination of the Thoughts of the Heart of thy People, and prepare their Hearts unto thee. Now therefore arise O Lord God into thy rest­ing Place, thou and the Ark of thy Strength. Let thy Priests be clothed with Salvation, and let thy Saints rejoice in Goodness: The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our Fa­thers, let him not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our Hearts unto him, to walk in all his Ways, to hear his Commandments and Statutes. Amen and Amen.

Perhaps it may not be disagreeable to observe, that the Psalms sung on the aforesaid Oc­casion, were as follows, viz. In the Fore­noon,

  • Psalm. cxxxii from the 1st to the 10th ver.
  • cxxii. from the 1st to the End.
In the Afternoon.
  • Psalm cxviii. from the 20th ver. to the End.
  • cxxxii. 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15. verses.

CORRIGENDA.

FOR furnishing page 3. line 5. read finishing. for shall p. 21. l. 10. read shalt, for govenrs p. 32. l. 1. read governs, for at p. 57. the last line in the Note read what, for misccel p. 69. in the note read miscel, for pace p. 70. l. 2. in the note read place.

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