A SERMON PREACHED AT BRISTOL, The LORD's DAY after a very TERRIBLE EARTHQUAKE, Which was on Tuesday, November 18. 1755. a few Minutes after Four o'Clock in the Morning.

By JOHN BURT, A. M. Pastor of a CHURCH in BRISTOL.

NEWPORT: Printed by J. FRANKLIN, at the Printing-Office under the Town-School-House.


EARTHQUAKES, The Effects of God's Wrath.

PSAL. xviii.7.

Then the Earth shook and trembled; the Foundations also of the Hills moved, and were shaken, because he was wroth.

THE Words now read, naturally lead your Thoughts to the awful Providence of the Week past; when the Earth shook and trembled, and the Foundations also of the Hills moved and were shaken: When, like the trembling Jaylor, every one was awaken'd out of his sleep with the Roar of an Earthquake, and threaten'd with immediate Destruction. They also lead us to the Origin of that awful Event, viz. the Wrath of God. He shook the Earth because he was wroth, and therein express'd his Indignation at Sin, and Resent­ment of the Affronts that were offer'd to his infinite Majesty, by a profane and rebellious World.

Accordingly, in speaking to the Words,

  • I. I shall discourse to you upon Earthquakes.
  • II. Consider the Wrath of God as the Cause of them; and
  • III. Make some Application suitable to the Occasion.

I. I shall discourse to you upon Earthquakes; and shall consider them either as universal or particular.

1. Earthquakes may be universal. That God who at the Beginning [Page 4] made the World, can shake it at his Pleasure; and as his Power is infi­nite and irresistible, he can shake all and every Part, as well as any parti­cular Part of it. Nor is there any Thing in Nature that militates against this Principle. The righteous and wise Maker and Governor of the Universe has planted his Artillery in every Part and Corner of the Earth, to preserve the Homage, and to suppress the Rebellion of his Creatures; and the same natural Causes, by a Commission from God, may as well operate and concur to produce an universal, as a particular Earthquake.

Such an universal Earthquake there seems to have been, both at the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in Matt. 27.50. that when Jesus gave up the Ghost, the Vail of the Temple was rent in twain, from the Top to the Bottom, and the Earth did quake, and the Rocks rent. And Matt. 28.2. That at his Resurrection from the Dead, there was a great Earthquake.

And no wonder that Nature was seiz'd with an universal Convulsion, when the God of Nature was struggling in the Agonies of Death. When his Soul and Body were violently rending from each other, no wonder that the Rocks rent, and that the Earth trembled. And why should not the whole Earth be equally affected, when the Lord of Glory ex­erted a Divine Power, and burst the Doors, and broke the Bars of the Grave asunder, and came forth? Nature ow'd her Lord that Respect, to bear a Sympathy with him, both in the Agonies of his Death, and in the Triumphs of his Resurrection.

And the second Coming of our Lord, will be attended with such an universal Earthquake, at which the most hardy Sinner will be afraid, and trembling will surprize the Hypocrite. Hence that Prediction in Isa. 24.17, 18, 19. Fear, and the Pit, and the Snare are upon thee, O In­habitant of the Earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the Noise of the Fear, shall fall into the Pit; and he that cometh up out of the Midst of the Pit, shall be taken in the Snare; for the Windows from on high are open, and the Foundations of the Earth do shake. The Earth is utterly broken down, the Earth is clean dissolved, the Earth is moved exceedingly. The Earth shall reel to and fro like a Drunkard, and shall be removed like a Cottage, and the Transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it, and it shall fall and not rise again. And of the same awful Period, we read in Rev. 16.15, 18, 19. Behold, I come as a Thief. Blessed is he that watcheth—And there were Voices, and Thunders, and Lightnings; and there was a great [Page 5] Earthquake, such as was not since Men were upon the Earth, so mighty an Earthquake, and so great. And the great City was divided into three Parts, and the Cities of the Nations fell; and great Babylon came into Remembrance before God, to give unto her the Cup of the Wine of the Fierceness of his Wrath. And every Island fled away, and the Mountains were not found.

But (2) Earthquakes may be particular, i. e. in particular Places, at particular Times and Seasons. Before that awful Period, when univer­sal Nature shall struggle in its expiring Agonies, our Saviour tells us, in Matt. 24.7. That there shall be Earthquakes in divers Places.

Now these are various in their Duration, Extent, and Degree. And it is said, ‘Sometimes there are threatning Simptoms, and sometimes they come suddenly, and without any previous Notice. Sometimes in dreadful Tempests, but oftener in the calmest and serenest Seasons. They are sometimes of a narrower, at others of a larger Compass. Sometimes their Shocks are of a shorter, at others, of a longer Dura­tion. Some are of a lesser, others of a greater Violence. Sometimes they quickly cease, and leave the Earth at Rest; at other Times they soon repeat their terrible Efforts, and throw the Earth into new Con­vulsions. Sometimes they make the Earth to jar and vibrate, and sometimes to waver like the Waves of the Sea. In such a Manner was the Place shaken, where the Apostles were assembled, Acts 4.31. And thus the Foundations of the Prison where Paul and Silas lay bound, were shaken by a great and sudden Earthquake.’

And how terrible are the Effects of Earthquakes! Whole Towns and Cities have thereby been destroyed as in a Moment; and the Inhabi­tants have either been buried in the Ruins, or gone down alive into the Pit. Whilst they bless'd themselves in their Security, and were ready to flatter themselves with an uninterrupted Prosperity, their vain Hopes have been dismounted, and they have been overtaken with swift De­struction. The Earth has opened her Mouth, and swallowed them up quick, and they were no sooner surpriz'd with a Sense of their Danger, but they despair'd of Relief.

How sudden and how terrible was the Destruction of Korah, and his Company, by an Earthquake! After Moses had made an End of speak­ing, the Ground clave asunder that was under them, and the Earth opened her Mouth and swallowed them up, and their Houses, and all the Men that appertained unto Korah, and all their Goods. They, and all that appertained [Page 6] to them, went down alive into the Pit, and the Earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the Congregation. And all Israel that were round about them, fled at the Cry of them; for they said, Lest the Earth swallow us up also: Numb. 16.31, and onwards.

O the Distress and Anguish of the guilty Inhabitants! when the Earth opened her Mouth to swallow them up, and Heaven was inexorable to their Cries! When Destruction from the Lord was a Terror to them, and they could see no Refuge from the Storm of vindictive Justice! O the dolorous Shrieks and Outcries of the People, when they saw them­selves going down alive into the Pit, and that there were none that could stay them! No wonder that Israel, when they heard their Cry, were terrify'd and amaz'd, and fled, lest that they also should he overtaken with the Destruction which they saw came upon Korah, and his Com­pany, from their incensed Sovereign. I proceed,

II. To consider the Wrath of God as the Cause of Earthquakes.

An Inquiry into the natural Causes of Earthquakes, would be incon­sistent with my design'd Brevity, and might divert your Thoughts from the great first Cause of All; I shall therefore only mention them as the Works of God, and the Means he uses to accomplish his Pleasure.

Without Regard to second Causes, God the supream Governor of the World, is to be considered as the Author of these great Events; and they are to be esteem'd the Tokens of his just Displeasure: When God shakes the Earth, and causes the Foundations of the World to tremble, it is because that he is wroth.

As Earthquakes are the Works of God, so he can produce them with­out the Help of natural Causes. He who at first commanded the World out of Nothing into Being, by the Lisp of his Pleasure, can dissolve its Frame, and make it a Place of Desolation and Astonishment. Though he ordinarily makes Use of second Causes, yet it is as easy for Omni­potence to work without them, as by their Co-operation and Assistance.

If God who made the World at the beginning, should only suspend that Power by which he upholds and preserves it, it would reel and stagger like a Drunkard, and tumble into Ruin. Without exerting any Power for its Destruction, it would as effectually answer his Design, to withdraw the Power by which he supports it.

The Frown of his Countenance, without the Concurrence of natural Causes, would instantly bury the World in its own Ruins. Hence we read in Joh 9.4, 5. He is wise in Heart, and mighty in Strength—which removeth the Mountains and they know not; which overturneth them in his [Page 7] Anger: Which shaketh the Earth out of her Place, and the Pillars thereof tremble. And in what lofty Expressions does the Psalmist speak of the Majesty and Power of God, Psa. 104.32. He looketh on the Earth, and it trembleth; he toucheth the Hills, and they smoke.

But if we consider Earthquakes as the Product of natural Causes, of contrary and disagreeing Elements in the Bowels of the Earth, that meeting, make a most violent Concussion. I say, if we consider Earth­quakes as the Product of natural Causes, yet we must ultimately resolve them into the powerful Agency of God, the great Governor of the Universe. For, who but he made those Causes which produce such Effects, and sets them a Moving? Who planted that Artillery in the Bowels of the Earth, and discharges it in so terrible a Manner? Who directs its Course, and causes it to shake some Parts of the World, and not others? Who gives it a Commission to destroy some Places, and at the same Time preserves others? Shall we look upon these Things only as the Effects of Nature, or shall we not rather ascribe them to a Divine Almighty Power? To that God who made all Things, and has all Nature under his Command, to serve his Purposes in the Go­vernment of the World.

Now, as Earthquakes are the Works of a divine and almighty Agent, so they are some of the terrible Effects of his Wrath. He shakes the Earth, and causes the Foundations of the Hills to be moved and shaken, when he is wroth, He who made the World at first [...] his Power, and governs it by an indisputable Authority, hath placed his Artillery in the Earth and under the Earth, both to chastise the Insolence of his rebellious Creatures, and by the commanding Awe of his Judgments, to maintain the Homage and Obedience of his People.

As God is invisible, so his Displeasure is known by the Judgments which he executeth in the Earth. There is not any Number of his Armies; and from the Magazine of his Fury, he brings out many Judgments to chastise a sinful People. Fire and Hail, Snow and Vapour, stormy Wind fulfil his Word. Psa. 148.8. He visits with Thunder and Earthquake, and great Noise, with Storm and Tempest, and the Flame of devouring Fire. Isa. 29.6.

Though God is terrible in all the Judgments that he brings upon a sinful People, yet in nothing does he appear so full of Dread and Terror, as when he makes the Earth under us to tremble and quake. The Sword, and Famine, and Pestilence, are very terrible Judgments, that have no Respect to Persons, that devour one as well as another, and mul­tiply [Page 8] the Slain of the Lord. But then these Calamities are gradual in their Progress, and either give us Time to escape them, or to prepare to meet them. But Earthquakes for the most Part come suddenly, without any previous Notice, and surprize Sinners in the midst of their Security and Ease. Whilst they are crying Peace to themselves, sudden De­struction comes upon them, as Travail upon a Woman with Child, and there is no escaping.

To what can we impute such terrible Events, but to incens'd Omni­potence? Judgment is God's strange Work, what he has an Aversion to, and seems to proceed in with the greatest Reluctance. When he is about to bring Ruin upon a sinful People, his Heart is oftentimes turned within him, and his Repentings are kindled together; so that he does not execute the Fierceness of his Anger. The Father of Mercies does not grieve and afflict the Children of Men willingly, but for the Punish­ment of their Sins, to revenge the Affronts that are offered to his infinite Majesty, and he sees that all other Means are ineffectual to reclaim them.

How dreadful then is the Wrath of God! The Wrath of a King is as the Roaring of a Lion, which strikes with Surprize and Amazement; but what is that to the Anger of an incensed Deity? who removeth Mountains, and they know not; which overturneth them in his Anger, and at whose Reproof the very Pillars of Heaven tremble, and are astonished. Hence says the Prophet, Hab. 3.10. The Mountains saw thee and they trembled: Thou didst march through the Land in Indignation.

The Prophet Ezekiel expressly mentions (chap. 38.19, 20.) the Anger of God as the Cause of this particular Judgment. For in my Jealousy, and in the Fire of my Wrath have I spoken: Surely in that Day there shall be a great Skaking in the Land of Israel; so that the Fishes of the Sea, and the Fowls of Heaven, and the Beasts of the Field, and all creeping Things that creep upon the Earth, and all the Men that are upon the Face of the Earth, shall shake at my Presence; and the Mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep Places shall fall, and every Wall shall fall to the Ground. And the Prophet Jeremiah, after such a particular Description of this Judgment, as if he had been an Eye-witness of it, ascribes it to the Anger of an offended Deity. I beheld the Mountains, said he, and lo they trembled, and all the Hills moved lightly. I beheld and lo there was no Man, and all the Birds of Heaven were fled. I beheld, and in the fruitful Place was a Wil­derness, and all the Cities thereof were broken down at the Presence of the Lord, and at his fierce Anger: Chap. 4.24, 25, 26.

Having considered Earthquakes as the dreadful Effects of God's Wrath, I proceed

[Page 9]III. To make some Application of the Subject, suitable to the awful Occasion. And here,

1. In Earthquakes, we have a most lively and affecting Display of the glorious Majesty of the Lord our God.

What more lively Display can there be of the Majesty of God, than to see the inanimate Creation awaken'd out of its slumber at his Pre­sence! To see the Earth tremble, and the Mountains quake at his Re­buke! The Mountains skip like Rams, and the little Hills like Lambs. The Earth trembles at the Presence of the Lord, at the Presence of the God of Israel: Psal. 114.4, 7.

2. We learn the wretched Stupidity of Sinners, who are regardless of God, and the Operations of his Hands. If the Heavens are aston­ished, and the Earth is afraid at the Anger of the Lord, it may well make Sinners tremble, and cause their Hearts to be removed out of their Place. For he that shakes the Earth, can shake them into Hell in a Moment, and torment them in the Fire of his Jealousy forever.

But such is the unaccountable Stupidity and Hardness of Sinners, that oftentimes they will provoke God to his Face: They mock the Thun­der of his Judgments, and despise the glittering Spear of almighty Ven­geance. The Belief of his Justice and Power makes the very Devils to tremble; and yet the Judgments of God are oftentimes ineffectual to reclaim obstinate and incorrigible Sinners, who dare to affront his infinite Majesty, as if they were a Match for Omnipotence, as if they could resist his Fury, or support his heavy Indignation.

3. We learn the dreadful Evil of Sin, and the woful Folly of Sin­ners, which provoke God's Wrath and Indignation.

Sin consider'd in itself, and abstracted from its woful Consequences, is a most tremendous Evil. As it is a Transgression of the Law, it is an Affront to the supream Lawgiver, and obscures the Glory of his At­tributes, which are exercised in the Government of the World. As it strikes at God, and provokes his Jealousy, so it recoils upon the Sinner, and involves him in innumerable Evils. It hath strip'd Man of his ori­ginal Purity, and stain'd him with an universal Pollution. It hath de­graded Man from that Honour and Dignity, in which he was at first created; so that he is become like the Beasts that perish, and exposes him to Death, in all its fearful and amazing Consequences.

The Evil of Sin, shews us the woful Folly of Sinners, who daily pro­voke God's Wrath and Fury. Tho' Sin is such an amazing Evil in it self, and such an Indignity to the blessed God, as to raise his just [Page 10] Resentment, yet Sinners roll it as a sweet Morsel under their Tongues; and, if we may judge by their Conduct, they had rather lose their Souls, than abandon their Lusts. They turn a deaf Ear to all the Warnings of God's Word, and despise the Grace of God, which teaches them to deny all Ungodliness and worldly Lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present World.

O the amazing Folly of Sinners! to indulge their Lusts at the Hazard of their Souls! and to pursue their Sins with such Greediness, which, unless almighty Grace prevents, will end in Shame and everlasting Death.

4. Is the Wrath of God the Cause of the most fearful Judgments, then let us stand in awe, and not sin against him.

The Fear of God. and his Judgments, should create an unalterable Divorce between us and our Sins, and we should have nothing more to do with the accursed Thing which his Soul hates. Because there is Wrath, we should beware of Sin, which an infinitely pure and holy God, cannot behold without the greatest Indignation and Abhorrence.

5. Let us reflect with the highest Gratitude, upon the Mercy of God, which interpos'd for our Preservation and Safety, at the very Instant of our Danger.

What a Consternation and Surprize were we in, when awaken'd out of our Sleep with the Roar of an Earthquake! Every One's Lips seem'd to quiver, and their Knees to smite one against another, when we were apprehensive of instant Destruction, and could see no Refuge in Nature for our Protection.

But in the midst of Judgment, God remember'd Mercy for us, and appear'd as a present Help in the Time of our Trouble and Distress. When the Sorrows of Death compassed us about, and the Pains of Hell threaten'd to take hold upon us; before we had Time to call upon the Name of the Lord, he deliver'd us: He rode upon the Heavens for our Help, and in his Excellency upon the Skies, as our great Preserver. O that Men would praise the Lord for his Goodness, and for his wonderful Works to the Children of Men.

The Goodness of God in our Preservation, appears most amiable and astonishing, when we consider how we have provok'd him by our Sins, and how his Justice would have been glorify'd in our Destruction. If he had sent us quick into the Grave, and into Hell, God and his Throne would have been guiltless and unspotted forever, and we should have been justly and eternally miserable: And his Mercy might have been extended to those who would have receiv'd it with the highest Gratitude, [Page 11] and not abus'd it as we have done. But Mercy interpos'd for us, who were the Objects of avenging Justice, and rejoic'd against Judgment for our Deliverance. It is of the Lord's Mercies that we are not utterly consumed, even because his Compossions towards us have not failed.

And what enhances the Goodness of God, and our Obligations to love and admire it, is the Desolations that Earthquakes have made in other Places, and to think how often God has appear'd for our Land, when in the like Danger. The most rich and flourishing Cities have been depopulated as in a Moment, and buried in their own Ruins. And besides other remarkable Judgments that our Land has been visited with, this is the eleventh or twelfth Earthquake that has been perceiv'd since the Arrival of our Fathers here, and within 120 Years. Many Shocks indeed have been smaller, and less extensive, but this is the fifth that has been very awak'ning, and that has justly fill'd our Land with Terror and Surprize.

And now, after so many Instances of remarkable Danger and Pre­servation, whilst we tremble at his Rebukes; what Obligations are we under to love the Lord, and to admire his Goodness. When his Judg­ments awaken us out of our Security, and destroy our vain Confidence, we should be encouraged by his Goodness, to make him the supream Object of our Hope and Trust, and devote ourselves to his Glory, to serve him in Righteousness and Holiness all the Days of our Lives.

6. When the Earth shakes and trembles, it teaches us the Vanity of the World, and the Uncertainty of all its Enjoyments.

The World is the admir'd Idol that engrosses the Affections of the unthinking Multitude, and engages them in the eager Pursuit of it. This they make the Object of their supream Dependance, their Views and Aims; their Hopes and Desires are confin'd to the Things that are seen, and they vainly imagine that they are sufficient to compleat their Felicity. But sure I am, they are under a most woful Infatuation; they trust to Vanity, and their Hope will end in Shame and Disappointment.

How vain is the World, which how permanent and durable soever, we may imagine it, trembles at the Presence of the Lord, and is unable to support his heavy Indignation! How empty and uncertain are its Enjoyments, that will afford us no Relief in our greatest Extremity▪ The World is fickle and unconstant, the Fashion of it passes away, anon [Page 12] it will vanish in Flame and Smoke; and those that now admire it, will see it no more. The Apostle assures us, That the Heavens and Earth which now are, are kept in Store, reserved unto Fire, against the Day of Judg­ment, and Perdition of ungodly Men: 2 Pet. 3.7.

What an indelible Reproach is it then to the human Nature, that Men who are endow'd with reasonable Souls, should suffer themselves to be deluded and impos'd upon by a World, so false and uncertain, so empty and unsatisfying; that they should embrace it as their supream Good, and lose their Souls for the Sake of gaining the World! If Men would take as much Pains for heavenly, as they do for earthly Treasure, they would have a greater Probability of Success, their Gains would be infinitely preferable, and their Rewards eternally glorious; they would then be rich in Grace, and Heirs of a Kingdom, Heirs of God, and joint Heirs with Jesus Christ, to an Inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and which fadeth not away. But those who devote them­selves to the Service of the World, and are engag'd in the eager Pursuit of it, labour in vain, and spend their Strength for nought, and in vain. For, what Profit will the Gains of this World be to a Soul which is spiritual, and of an immortal Duration, which will survive the Ruins of Nature, and be unspeakably blessed in the Enjoyment of God forever, or eternally miserable, under the Weight of his dreadful Displeasure.

7. How happy are all those who have the everlasting God for their Refuge, and are in a State of Peace and Favour with him.

They are happy in the most perilous Times, the Favour of God is their Protection, and they are safe under the Shadow of the Almighty. They possess their Souls in Peace, when all Nature is in Convulsions; and are fearless and secure amidst ‘the Wars of Elements and Crush of Worlds.’ They may say, as in Psa. 46. beg. God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in Trouble; therefore will we not fear, tho' the Earth be removed, and tho' the Mountains be carried into the midst of the Sea, tho the Waters thereof roar, and be troubled, tho' the Mountains shake with the Swelling thereof. They know that if their earthly Tabernacles be dissolved, they have a Building of God, an House not made with Hands, eternal in the Heavens: Or, that if the Earth should open her Mouth, and swallow them up, it would afford them a quick and easy Passage to a World of immortal Light and Love: Or, should such re­main alive at the Coming of our Lord, when he shall come in the Clouds of Heaven, with Power and great Glory, they will welcome the Day of his Appearance, as the Day of the unspeakable Joy and Gladness of their [Page 13] Hearts. They will not be dismay'd at the Flames of a dissolving World, when the Heavens shall pass away with a great Noise, and the Elements shall melt with fervent Heat, and the Earth also, and the Works that are therein, shall be burnt up.

8. Let us, from what has been said, enquire wherefore it is, that God is angry with us, and endeavour by a speedy Repentance to appease his Wrath, and prevent further Tokens of his Displeasure.

The Judgments of God, with which our Land is visited, are to be esteem'd so many Tokens of his Displeasure: Particularly, that he is calling us to draw the Sword in our own Defence, and to maintain our Rights against the Encroachments of a potent, subtle, and malicious Enemy: That, notwithstanding the Victory and Success that have crown'd some of our Forces, others have been frown'd upon and disap­pointed: That we have been call'd to lament the Fall of the Mighty, and that so much of the Beauty and Glory of our Israel, have been slain in the high Places of the Field: That most of our Attempts have hi­therto prov'd abortive: That the Sword of the Wilderness is unsheath'd against us: That the unhappy People upon our Frontiers, are in Jeo­pardy every Hour, and expos'd to bloody and deceitful Men, whose tender Mercies are cruel; and that we so frequently hear of the Deso­lations that are made among them, of some butcher'd and scalp'd, and of others carried into a doleful Captivity.

And now, as if all these Calamities were insufficient to awaken us out of our Security, and to humble us for our Sins, God has been visiting with Earthquake, and thereby summoned us to dread and reverence. He march'd thro' the Land in Indignation, and his Presence struck us with Terror and Surprize.

It becomes us then to enquire, wherefore it is that God is contending with us, and to be humbled before him for our Sins, the Cause of his righteous Displeasure. Instead of complaining of the Severity of his Judgments, we have Reason to admire at the Patience and Forbearance of the most High towards us; for our Iniquities are increased over our Heads, and our Trespasses are grown up to the very Heavens, and cry for Vengeance against us. Should I attempt to draw up a black Cata­logue of the Crimes that prevail among us, I should scarce know where to begin and when to end; and therefore, instead of enumerating Par­ticulars, I shall only mention two Things, as Aggravations of all our other Abominations, and which threaten to deluge our Land in Misery [Page 14] and Woe, namely, The Means of Grace that we enjoy, and our Impu­dence and Shamelesness in Sin.

The Means of Grace, if they are not effectual to reform a sinful Peo­ple, serve only to enhance their Guilt, and expose them a more fearful Prey to the Judgments of God. The Light of the Gospel renders their Guilt inexcusable, and their Contempt of his Grace, provokes God's dreadful Jealousy. As we are a distinguished People, so, if we think that the Privileges we enjoy, and our Relation to God, as his People, will skreen us from his Wrath, whilst we continue to provoke him by our Sins, we deceive ourselves with a vain Imagination. The People of the Jews gloried in their having the Temple, and Temple-worship among them, as that which they thought would effectually secure the Presence of God with them; but the Prophet tells them, That they deceiv'd themselves, and trusted in lying Words, whilst they cried, The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are we; as if that alone would secure his Favour, and keep off his Judgments from them. If our Fruitfulness is not in Proportion to what God hath done for us, we may expect that he will do by us, as he did by his Vineyard of old; that he will pluck us up, and pull us down; that he will lay us waste and destroy us.

Shamelessness in Sin, is another Thing that has a very threatning As­pect upon a People. Thus we read, Jer. 6.15. Were they ashamed when they had committed Abominations? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, nei­ther could they blush: Therefore they shall fall among them that fall: At the Time that I visit them, they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. That this is very much our Case, is too evident to need any Proof. Vice and Immorality are grown barefac'd and impudent, and so degenerate is the Age in which we live, that he that departeth from Evil, seems to make himself a Prey, by exposing himself to the Scoff and Ridicule of pro­phane and licentious Tongues. Many there are who declare their Sin as Sodom, and hide it not, and even glory in their Shame. Now when Sinners grow shameless and impudent in Sin, it looks as if no Laws were sufficient to curb their Lusts, and restrain their Insolence; and the Cause of Virtue then makes its Appeal to the righteous Judge and Governor of the World, to chastise those Enormities which are too strong for the Laws of Men to correct and restrain.

God seems to have taken us into his own Hands, to chastise us for our Rebellion and Disobedience; and we have Reason to fear that the [Page 15] Earthquake with which he has visited us, will be but the Beginning of our Sorrows, unless we hearken to his Voice, and turn at his Rebuke.

Wherefore, let us all be persuaded to improve that awful Dispensation, as a Motive to Repentance and Reformation. Like Saul in the midst of his Astonishment, when he fell down trembling to the Earth, let us cry out, Lord, what wilt thou have us to do? And like the Jaylor, when he was surpriz'd with an Earthquake, let us make it our great Concern and Enquiry, What we shall do to be saved? Let us all hear the Rod, and him that appointed it: Let us search our Ways, and our Hearts: Let us consider what we have done to provoke the Holy One to Anger against us, and how much we have contributed to the public Flames and Judgments; and let us break off our Sins by Righteousness, and our Iniquities by turning to the Lord. Let us all return unto the Lord as one Man, and then we may depend upon it, that the Lord will have Mercy upon us, and that our God will abundantly pardon us: As he hath torn, be will heal us; as he hath smitten, he will bind us up.

Let us look to God, that he would sanctify this Dispensation to us, and that his Holy Spirit may be poured out upon us, as it was when the Place was shaken, where the primitive Christians were assembled; as we read Acts 4.31. And when they had prayed, the Place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the Word of God with Boldness.

What an happy Effect had the Earthquake in 1727, to awaken the Secure, to reform the Vicious, and to make all solicitous about their spiritual and everlasting Concerns, as the Account is transmitted to us by a Person of Observation and Integrity. Says he, ‘The People are thereby thrown into the utmost Consternation; and so mightily are many awakened, with the Sense of their Danger, and the Divine Dis­pleasure, as has produc'd a wonderful Reformation. Profaneness, Drunkenness, and other Vices are abandoned, the earnest Pursuits of the World discarded, the Places of public Religion throng'd, the Worship of God set up in prayerless Families, and great Numbers continually added to the flourishing Churches.’

‘What a Joy is there, even as the Joy of Harvest, and as Men re­joice when they divide the Spoil! What an happy Effusion of the Holy Spirit! And O! how should this excite us, not only to glorify [Page 16] God for his Goodness among them, but also to desire and pray that the same Grace may likewise be shewed to us, the same Spirit poured out upon us and ours, in the same glorious Measures. And how should their Examples stir us up to a wise and happy Imitation! For the Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom, and a good Un­derstanding have all they that do his Commandments.’ Thus he.

If the late Earthquake has the same Effect upon us and our Land, it will eventually prove an inestimable Blessing, as it will turn away the Anger of the Lord, and prevent further Tokens of his Displeasure.

Let us all then take the Alarm, and next to reforming ourselves, let us exert ourselves in our respective Capacities, for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality, and for the Encouragement of Virtue and Religion.

Thus, let those who are clothed with Authority, be persuaded to use it for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality, and for the Encourage­ment of Virtue and good Order among us. As you are the Ministers of God, so it is for the Good of the People; and what greater Good can you do, than to punish Vice and Immorality, which are a Reproach to a People, and involves them in the forest Calamities.

Says the present Bishop of London, in a Letter about five Years ago upon a like Occasion, ‘I should be wanting in the Duty I owe to the Highest as well as the Lowest, should I omit on this Occasion to re­mind those who are entrusted by their Country with Government, how much the Welfare of the People depends upon the faithful Execution of the Law. I pretend not to accuse them particularly of Neglect, a general Neglect of this Kind, is one of the worst Symptoms of the Times. Surely it is high Time to awake, and to let People once more know, what seems to be almost forgotten, that Laws were made for the Punishment of Wickedness and Vice, and for the Mainte­nance of true Religion.’

‘Government is a great Trust, and the Powers of it are not intended meerly to do Honour to those who have them, but must be used for the Good of the Community—If a Regard for the Public is not a Mo­tive strong enough in this Case, let every Magistrate consider that there is another of infinite Importance to himself; for if all Power be the Ordinance of God, he will undoubtedly demand an Account of the Exercise of it. And who is he that has so little to answer for up­on his own Account, as willingly to subject himself to be answerable for the Sins of others, which either by his Encouragement, or his Connivance, he makes his own.’ Thus he

[Page 17]And not only should Rulers, by a faithful Discharge of the Trusts re­pos'd in them, be a Terror to evil Doers, but by their Examples, they should be a Praise and Encouragement to them that do well. If Rulers are not Examples of Virtue, it can never be expected that they will dis­courage Vice. With what Face can he punish Vice, who is a Man of known Immorality, and of a most infamous and abandoned Character? Rulers are called Gods, and therefore should endeavour to imitate the blessed God in his moral Perfections. An unholy God is a Contradiction in Terms: And how incongruous would it be, to see those who are God's by Vicegerency and Deputation, live like Devils in the Indulgence of their Lusts.

And thus also, let Parents and Heads of Families exert themselves in their proper Places, and endeavour by their Example and Instruction, to recommend Religion and Virtue to those under their Care. Great are the Obligations you are under hereunto, and great are the Expectations of God, and his People from you. If Youth are corrupted in their Religion and Morals, before they come into the World, there is but little Hopes that ever the World will reform them.

‘Reformation must begin in private Families. The Law and the Magistrate can only punish your Children when they become wicked, but it is you that must make them good, by proper Instruction and proper Government.’

The Judgments of God will eventually prove our richest Mercies, if they are the Means of our Reformation and Amendment; for then Glory will dwell in our Land, and God, even our own God, will de­light to bless us.

9. Let what we have heard, lead our Thoughts to that terrible Day of the Lord, which will come as a Thief in the Night, in the which the Hea­vens shall pass away with a great Noise, and the Elements shall melt with fervent Heat, and the World, and all Things in it, shall be burnt up. Our blessed Saviour has given us frequent Warnings of that Day, and tells us, That when we hear of Wars, and Rumours of Wars, and of Earthquakes, that these Things are but the Beginning of Sorrows.

And now, Brethren, seeing that all these Things shall be dissolved, what Manner of Persons ought ye to be in all holy Conversation and Godliness. Looking for and hastening unto the Day of the Coming of God; wherein the Heavens being on Fire shall be dissolved, and the Elements shall melt with fer­vent Heat—Seeing that ye look for such Things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in Peace, without Spot, and blameless, AMEN.

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