The AMERICAN STATES acting over the Part of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, and thereby impeding their Entrance into Canaan's Rest: OR, The human Heart discovering itself un­der trials. A SERMON, Preached at East-Haven, April, 1777. And occasionally at Branford.

By the Rev. NICHOLAS STREET, A. M. Pastor of the Church of CHRIST in East-Haven.

And now made public at the Request of the Hearers.



And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy GOD led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his command­ments or no.

THE history of the children of Israel in Egypt, their sufferings and oppression under the ty­rant Pharaoh, their remarkable deliverance by the hand of Moses out of that state of bondage and op­pression, and their trials and murmurings in the wilderness, is well known by those who have been conversant with their bibles, and have attended to those important lessons contained in the five books of Moses. But why God thus dealt with that people, perhaps has not been duly attended to by those that have made conscience of reading the sacred story. But the text tells us, that it was to humble them, and to prove them, that they might know what was in their hearts, and whether they would keep his com­mandments, or no. All the events which befel them in the way; the miraculous protections, deliverances, provisions and instructions which God gave them, and withal, the frequent and severe punishments which were inflicted for their disobedience, was to discover to themselves and others, all that infidelity, incon­stancy, hypocrisy, apostacy, rebellion and perverse­ness which lay hid in their hearts; the discovery of [Page 4] which was of singular use both to them, and to the church of God in all succeeding ages. For as Watts has it,

There, as in a glass our hearts may see,
How fickle and how false they be.

God, by them, designed to let after generations know what was in their hearts; but it is not gene­rally known and believed till it comes to the trial; and then it is found that we are prone to act over the same stupid vile part that the children of Israel did in the wilderness, under the most instructive and speaking providences that ever obtained in the world,—So that the notes from the words may be these following, namely,

I. That the hearts of the children of men are na­turally the same from one generation to another.

II. That God frequently brings his own people into a state of peculiar trials to discover to them and others what there is in their hearts.

III. That people when they are proved and tried, generally shew what they are.

IV. The discovering to a people their errors and wickedness, is designed to humble and reform them.

And then conclude with some improvement.

I. I am to shew that the hearts of the children of men are naturally the same from generation to ge­neration.—This is so plain a point that I need not stand long for the proof of it, tho' it may be profita­ble to illustrate it by some examples; for of one blood God made all nations of men that dwell up­on the face of the earth, Acts 17, [...] And this blood is under one common [...] by guilt; for by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, says the apostle, Rom. 5, 19. [...] apostle speak­ing [Page 5] of the natural state of the heart says, that it is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be, Rom. 8.7. And our Saviour testifieth, That out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, laciviousness, an evil eye, blas­phemy, pride, foolishness, all these things come from within and defile the man. Mark 7 21, 22, 23. And we find this radical evil of the heart early breaking forth and exemplifying itself in the lives of all the generations of men that have been upon the earth, from Adam our primogenitor to the present race of men that inhabit the earth. Adam was ready to excuse his sin by laying it upon Eve, and Eve upon the serpent. Gen. 3.12. And we find sin so deep­ly rooted in the nature of man by the apostacy, that those horrid sins of envy and murder early broke out in the family of Adam; for Cain perceiving that God had not respect to his offering as he had to his brother Abel's, was wroth, and his countenance fell, and so rose up against his brother and slew him. Gen. 4.5. And we don't read far before we find this sad account, that all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth, and that the earth was filled with violence. Gen. 6.11. And we find the most sordid lusts and wickedness breaking forth in the people of Sodom. Gen. 19. And the sins of bribery and oppression early taking place between Jacob and Esau, the latter being induced by the former to sell his birth-right for a mess of pottage. Gen. 25.32. And the sins of envy and hatred prevailing in the hearts of the bre­thren of Joseph, so that they could not speak peace­ably to him, but conspired against him to slay him. Gen. 27.24. And we find the sins of pride, tyranny [Page 6] and oppression, together with the spirit of self-suffi­ciency and contempt of God and his authority in the haughty tyrant Pharaoh. Exod. 5.2. Who is the Lord, says he, that I should obey his voice to let Is­rael go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. And after all the wonders Moses wrought, and the judgments against Egypt, his heart was still hardened against God and would not yield. Exod. 7.8. Shewing that hardness of heart was an early sin; and that people would persist in sin under sore corrections and the evident rebukes of Heaven; this was exemplified not only in Pharaoh, but in king Ahaz, who in the time of his distress did trespass yet more and more against the Lord. This is that king Ahaz who is so noted for his wickedness. 2 Chron. 28.19. And we find this temper not only in wick­ed kings, but in the people of Israel under sore chas­tisements. Jer. 5.3. Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction; they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return. And Jer. 8.6. No man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course as the horse rusheth into the battle. They were so greedily set upon their iniquities, that the prophet compares them to a war horse that with unbridled force rusheth into the bat­tle. Thus greedily did this people rush into the ways of sin. And lest we should conceive this to be the peculiar wickedness of this particular people, he adds in Jer. 17.9. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and who can know it? Tho' we have all the wickedness of the world to teach us what there is in our hearts, and our daily experience [Page 7] to instruct us, yet we do not learn the depths of wickedness that lodge in that cavern, till a suitable temptation draws it forth into exercise. The chil­dren of Israel were not aware ('tis like) of the hun­dredth part of the wickedness that lay lurking in their hearts, while they were in Egypt in that cruel state of bondage to Pharaoh. They were doubtless ready then to think, that if they could once get free from that state of vassalage, that they would serve the Lord with chearfulness, and that none of his com­mandments should be grievous. But when they came to the trial, they found unbelief, distrust of God and of his tender care of them, springing up in the midst of the most extraordinary manifestations of God's power and goodness on their behalf, that ever were made to a people. And tho' they had been lately delivered from the severest bondage and oppression, yet they were as impatient under trials, and as ready to murmur at any difficulties in their way, as tho' they had newly come out of the most prosperous state. Now if any one had told them while in their cruel state of bondage, that such were their hearts, they would not have believed them, 'tis like: Therefore God led them those forty years in the wilderness to humble and prove them, that they might know what was in their hearts, as 'tis said in the text. And tho' when we read their history, we are ready to be moved with indignation towards them; yet we are acting over at this day the same stupid part with them in the wilderness. We in this land are, as it were, led out of Egypt by the hand of Moses; and now we are in the wilderness, i. e. in a state of trouble and difficulty; Egyptians pursuing us, to overtake us and reduce us; there is the Red Sea before us, I speak metapho­rically, [Page 8] a sea of blood in your prospect before you, perhaps; and when you apprehend this in your ima­ginations, are you not ready to murmur against Moses and Aaron that led you out of Egypt, and to say with the people of Israel, It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. Exod. 14.12. And tho' God has been pleased to work marvellously for us at times as he did for them; yet if any new difficulty arises, and if things don't go on so prosperously as at other times, how soon does our faith fail us, and we begin to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and wish ourselves back again in Egypt, where we had some comforts of life, which we are now deprived of? not considering that we chose our leaders, and that in obtaining any deli­verance there are great troubles and difficulties gene­rally attending it; neither considering that our ill suc­cesses are owing to the sins of the people, as was the case of the people of Israel in the wilderness: We find them ten times as ready to find fault with their leaders, and to ascribe their misfortunes to them, as to recoil in upon themselves, and to say, What have we done? Tho' it was owing entirely to them that they were not delivered. And thus we in this land are murmuring and complaining of our difficulties and ill successes at times, thinking our leaders to blame, and the like, not considering at the same time that we are practising those vices that have a natural tendency to destroy us, besides the just judgments of Heaven which they tend to draw down upon us as a people: See Isa. 30.12, 13, which I think assigns the moral cause of our disasterous events. And when we are favoured with a little success, we are apt to be elated in our minds like the children of Israel after the over­throw [Page 9] of the Egyptians in the red sea, and then with them to rejoice, and to encourage ourselves in the cause in which we are engaged; then we can trust, as we imagine, in God, and hope for his salvation and deliverance: But let the scale turn a little against us, our confidence begins to fail, and we grow distrustful of God and his providence, and begin to murmur and repine.

Thus the faithless Jews forgot
The dreadful wonders God had wrought,
Then they provoke him to his face,
Nor fear his power, nor trust his grace.

Thus we are acting over the like sins with the chil­dren of Israel in the wilderness, under the conduct of Moses and Aaron, who was leading them out of a state of bondage into a land of liberty and plenty in Canaan. Again, we are ready to marvel at the un­reasonable vileness and cruelty of the British tyrant and his ministry, in endeavouring to oppress, enslave and destroy these American States, who have been some of his most peaceable and profitable subjects; and yet we find the same wicked temper and disposi­tion operating in Pharaoh king of Egypt above 3000 years ago. See Exod. 1.7 to 17 verse. When Is­rael began to increase in Egypt, the king said, Come on, let us deal wisely with them lest they multiply; and it come to pass when there falleth out any war, they join unto our enemies and fight against us, and so get them out of the land; therefore they did set over them task-masters to afflict them with their bur­dens; they made them to serve with rigour, and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, &c. And afterwards they laid the burthen heavier, allowing [Page 10] them no straw, and yet requiring the full tale of brick. Exod. 5.6—11. And when they endeavoured to make their escape from this cruel and oppressive ty­rant, Pharaoh pursued after Israel with a great army unto the Red Sea. Exod. 14.7—10. So that the British tyrant is only acting over the same wicked and cruel part, that Pharaoh king of Egypt acted towards the children of Israel above 3000 years ago. But some may be ready to wonder, that since we are gone off from Great-Britain, and have declared our­selves independent States, and insist upon standing by ourselves, that they don't let us alone, especially as they have pretended that we are but of little consequence to Great-Britain. But we find the same disposition in the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, who troubled them in building, and hired counsellors a­gainst them to frustrate their purposes. Afterwards Rehum the chancellor wrote to the king, The Jews are building the rebellious and bad city; if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, say they, then they will not pay toll, tribute, &c. and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings: Now because we have maintenance from the king's palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonour, &c. this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful to kings; and that they have moved sedition within the same of old: if this city be built, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river, and so they hasted to Jerusalem to stay the work by force. Ezr. 4, from the beginning to the 24th verse. Now this was a right Tory letter and conduct; and Sanballat's be­haviour towards those that encouraged the work of building the city, was just like that of the tories to­wards those that would build up these American [Page 11] States. See Nehem. 2.19. But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the king? Thus there were some men then as well as in these days, that seemed to look upon it as a greater crime to oppose the king in his most arbitrary measures, than to violate the law of the realm and of their God. And when Sanballat and others heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, they were very wroth, and conspired all of them together to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Neh. 4.7, 8. And Great-Britain is now acting over just the same part towards us in these A­merican States; endeavouring to prevent our build­ing ourselves up into Free, Independent States; so that the temper and disposition of the world has been much the same throughout all generations.— Great men are generally proud, ambitious and aspir­ing, disdainful of inferiors, and apt to resent the least indignities: We see this in Haman, an aspiring cour­tier, who when he saw that Mordecai bowed not nor did him reverence, was full of wrath; wherefore Ha­man sought to destroy all the Jews that were thro'out the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus; and Haman said unto the king, There is a certain people scattered a­broad, and dispersed among the people in all the pro­vinces of thy kingdom, and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king's laws; therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them; let it please the king that it may be written that they may be destroyed; and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries; [Page 12] and the king grants his desire. Esth. 3.5 —11. And the British ministry have been acting over the same wicked, mischievous plot against the American States, as Haman did against the Jews, and we have reason to hope that they will meet with the like fate. But what I mention these instances for, is to let you see that the wickedness of man has been much the same throughout all ages: We see this in David's com­plaints. Psal. 10.8. The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor, &c. And Plas. 35.20, 25. They devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land, &c. And Psal. 94.3, 4, 5. How long shall the wicked triumph? Shall they utter and speak hard things: They break in pieces thy people, Oh Lord, and afflict thine heritage, which frame mischief by a law, &c. From all which passages we see that our complaints and trials at this day are nothing new: People have been oppressed under the colour of law, as we are by the British ministry; and have been most cruelly oppressed and insulted by those that have been in power; and have been derided and laughed at by their enemies in their most afflicted state.

I proceed to shew,

II. That God frequently brings his own people into a state of peculiar trials, to discover to them and others what there is in their hearts. Thus God tempted Abraham, when he put him upon offering up his son Isaac, Gen. 22.2, 3. (i. e.) tried him with that peculiar trial, that he might discover to himself and others, what there was in his heart; whether he would keep God's commandments or no, however try­ing or self-denying they might be: and the issue dis­covered to himself and to others the firmness and fix­edness of his principles to the glory of God and his [Page 13] own comfort and satisfaction; for the trial proved his sincerity in the cause of God, and that he would keep his commandments under the most trying circum­stances of obedience, that nothing should deter him from the service of his God, tho' his best beloved son, as a sacrifice, should be the test of his obedience. Thus nobly did the faith and obedience of this Father of the faithful display itself under the exercise of pe­culiar trials. And as Abraham, so Job, was brought into a state of very peculiar trials as a test of his vir­tuous disposition. God challenges satan, the grand tempter, as to the integrity of this man. See Job 2.3. And the Lord said unto satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? &c. still he holdeth fast his integri­ty, altho' thou movedst me against him without a cause. And tho' satan was not willing to give up the point, but was permitted to prosecute him to the extremity with all his hellish trials, yet Job resolved not to let his integrity go as long as he lived; and thereby dis­covered to the honour of God, and to satan's confusi­on, the excellency of that principle of which he was possessed: and as God is thus pleased to bring his own people into a state of peculiar trials for the disco­very of their virtues, so likewise for the discovery of their vices, that they and others may see what corruption there still remains in their hearts unmortified and un­subdued: Thus good Hezekiah was tried with a pros­perous scene to discover what was in his heart; God gave him a remarkable victory over the Assyrians and granted him miraculous restoration from a dangerous sickness, and not only so, but God gave him peculiar honour by an embassy from the great and potent king of Babylon; all which probably raised in him too high an opinion of himself, as if these things were [Page 14] done, if not by his power, yet at least for his piety and virtues; so that instead of walking humbly with God, and giving the glory of all intirely to him, he took the honour to himself, and vain gloriously shew­ed his riches and precious treasures to the Babylonish ambassadors. 2 Kings 20.12. To this purpose it is said, 2 Chron. 32.31. Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, God left him to try him that he might know all that was in his heart; (i.e.) God withdrew from him those supplies and assistances of his spirit, which would have effectu­ally kept him from that sin, and suffered satan to tempt him, and him to fall into that sin of pride and often­tation, that Hezekiah might know his own impotency and corruption, his infirmities as well as his virtues, that he might know that the great mercies which he had received, were not the effects of his own merits, as he might be prone to imagine, but of God's free grace. 'Tis likely this king Hezekiah, when he first came to the throne, and was so zealous for destroying all the idolatry of the land, and setting up the pure worship of God in his kingdom, was not then aware that there was such wickedness in his heart, as after­wards he found when he came to be tried with a pros­perous scene; but when the warm sunshire of prospe­rity came over him, the putrid matter that lay in his heart, began to operate and stench forth: And so a suitable temptation will frequently draw forth such corruptions into exercise, as persons before were not aware of being in their hearts. This we see in a striking light in Hazael, whom the prophet informed how wicked and cruel he would be when he came to be king, viz. that he would burn their strong holds, and stay their young men with the sword, dash their [Page 15] children, and rip up their women with child, &c. Ha­zael when he came to hear the discription, was shock­ed at it, and resented the thought, as you see from his reply. 2 Kings 8.13. And Hazael said, But what is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And yet we find, as a worthy author observes upon this passage, that the dog did it. He could not con­ceive that there was such cruelty and barbarity in his heart as to practise such inhumanity as the prophet pointed out: But when he came to the trial, and was made king, and felt the pleasing power of having the world under him, as it were, then pride, insolence, and a tyrannical disposition sprung up in his heart, like noxious and baleful weeds in an overfattened soil, to the destruction of the design of regal dignity, whereby he became a curse and destroyer of his people, rather than a minister of God for good unto them. But he was not aware, it seems, when the prophet told him that he should be king of Syria, that he should ever be left to practise such inhumanity and barbarity as afterwards he was guilty of: Neither is it probable that George the third, when he first came to the throne of Great-Britain, and swore to govern according to the good and wholesome laws of the realm, and issued that serious proclamation for the suppression of im­moralities, would in a few years by a royal edict, butcher a great number of his best subjects for not submitting to his arbitrary mandates. Doubtless when he first came to the throne, if it had been sug­gested to him, that he would have practised all that tyranny, cruelty, and oppression which he has not long since gone into, with regard to the American States, he would have been ready to have replied in indignation with Hazael, Is thy servant a dog that he [Page 16] should do this great thing? But we find he has done it to our grievous wounding, and to his dishonour and bloody guilt! He that should have been our fa­ther and protector, has become the bloody murderer of thousands of his best subjects! And tho' this seems harsh to assert with regard to one whom we have heretofore addressed with the kind and honorary epi­thet of a gracious sovereign, yet I now boldly assert him to be a cruel tyrant, who seeks to govern us with­out law, without reason, or the sacred dictates of reve­lation; impiously declaring that he has a right to give us laws binding in all cases whatsoever. If such a prince is not a tyrant, I know not who deserves the name! But he is only with that dog Hazael, acting out the cruelty of his heart and that of his bloody court. The seven abominations that have lain hid there, have now come forth like the locusts from the bottomless pit upon this land to distress and annoy it; burning and laying waste populous towns that were erected without any of his expence or patronage; car­rying fire and sword among those who have been his most peaceable and faithful subjects; ravishing the women where the armies have marched; exercising the greatest inhumanity and barbarity towards their prisoners; freezing and starving them to death, &c. and all this done by British troops, who used to be famed for their humanity and generosity to prisoners! Who would have thought that such savage cruelty had been in their hearts? But the [...] has brought it out to the disgrace of the British tyrant and his bloody troops. Some are disposed, 'tis true, to talk much of the mercy and mildness of British government, to encourage people to submit to their lawless claims; but I am never disposed to look to that power for [Page 17] mercy, that is devoid of justice, but forever reject the cruel wretch, who for the sake of a lawless domination, would sacrifice almost one quarter of the globe to his resentment. I think the trial has discovered what is in the heart of British administration, and I never de­sire to be again connected with that government, which instead of speaking peace to us, and to our seed, threatens death and destruction to us and our posteri­ty, &c. But as the trial has discovered what is in the heart of British administration, so likewise the peculiar situation that the American States have been in, have tried what is in our hearts; as the American Crisis observes, These are times that try men's souls; and many things are discovered in the trial, which other­wise might have lain concealed in the heart; tho' as our Saviour observes, Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; yet some will conceal what is within, till a proper temptation draw it forth. The contest has been, whether we should submit to the ar­bitrary, oppressive claims of British administration, or maintain our own rights, and repel force by force: vastly the greatest majority has been for the latter; and the general will is always said to be of the nature of a law; a small part of the States have opposed the general will, and have openly taken part with British administration: others have been more reserved, and have waited to see which is the safest side, in order to determine their conduct. These are men of no prin­ciple, only to save themselves, which is the most sor­did of all; for they will be on this side or the other, just as the scale is like to turn, for or against the coun­try. Now these are trying times to sift men out, that they and others may know what is in their hearts; whether they will sell their country and their God for [Page 18] a little worldly pelf; or whether they will make a noble sacrifice of all their worldly goods, and even bleed and die for their dear country, and dear bought privileges: many have done it already, and many more seem ready to do it, whose names ought to be honoured and held dear in the annals of the American States, so long as there are any to remember their deeds. But this will not be the fame of all that had their birth and education in this noble land! No, it will be said to the eternal disgrace of some, that in­stead of standing for the precious land of their nativi­ty and its dear bought privileges, that they vilely betrayed it; and with Esau they sold their birth-right for a mess of pottage; that they turned their sword, which should have been drawn in the defence of their country, against the father that begat them, and a­gainst the tender bowels of the mother that bare them, and the loving brothers and sisters that solaced them, and all the dear friends and neighbours that used to aid and assist them! Oh, this is an image too horrid and shocking to look to! I turn from it as a picture too monstrous to behold! and turn to one of a more diminutive size, tho' not much less despicable than the former; and that is such as aim not to use the sword upon either side, but aim to take a part upon that side that will best secure their darling interest; their souls are so immersed in silver and gold, that they would fall into that scale which would weigh down with the most penny weight! These are they that make gold their hope, and the fine gold their confidence, and deny the God that is above, as Job elegantly expresses it; Job 31.24. (i. e.) His provi­dence, that can easily disappoint them in their hope and confidence: Such persons trust that their money [Page 19] and interest will secure them from distresses and trou­bles, and therefore greedily procure it, and then are ready to join with that party which they think are like to conquer; not considering that the events of war are altogether uncertain, and that that side which ap­pears the most promising at present, may be in a few days the most gloomy and threatening —'tis not worth while under the most promising prospects, to say with David, My mountain stands so strong that I shall not be moved; for God may hide his face as he did from him, and then with him we shall soon be troubled▪ But then we should always act upon principle, and be uniform in our conduct, committing our cause to God, who sits in the throne judging righteously, and can save and deliver with few or with many. But some people have no notion about trusting in God; they rise and fall just like a ship at anchor with the ebbing and flowing tide. And these trying times are design­ed to shew us what is in our hearts; whether we will trust in him at all times, and adhere to the cause which we profess to believe to be right in dark and gloomy days, as well as in those that are more fair and pros­perous. It is no great matter for men to trust in God, when every thing looks fair and prosperous; they then deceive themselves, thinking they trust in God, whereas they trust in the fair prospect that is be­fore them. But this is the trial of our sincerity, when every thing looks dark and gloomy, according to hu­man prospects, then to commit our cause to God, and trust in him for a favourable issue: This is truly trust­ing in God. And these shifting scenes of adverse and prosperous appearances, are designed to humble us and prove us, that we may know what is in our hearts. There is a variety of temptations arising from our [Page 20] particular state and circumstances, to draw out what there is in our hearts: There are many things to try us, whether we are of a public spirit; whether we regard our country, our liberties and privileges more than our own private pelf; and some we shall find shrinking back from the public cause, avoiding all occasions in which the public calls for assistance, while others less able must bear the weight of the public weal or let it sink. Others are tried as to their huma­nity and benevolence, whether they will assist others with the necessary supports of life, when they can do it, at a reasonable lay: And here, alas! we find the trial betraying what is in the hearts of many, even a wicked, oppressive disposition, refusing to part with their provision at that high price allowed and stated by the legislature of the state; waiting, it seems, to take the advantage of people's necessities, to get a more exorbitant price. This is a wickedness prevail­ing in the country which we should not have imagined to have been in their hearts, had not the trial brought it forth. And God is trying us and proving us by all the variety of his dispensations, that we may know what is in our hearts, and whether we will keep his commandments or no; whether the sabbath-profaner will become a sabbath sanctifier; whether the pro­fane swearer will bridle his tongue, and leave off his profaneness; whether the wanton and intemperate will become chaste and sober; and whether people will reform their ways, mortify their corruptions, and become new creatures. The land have sadly corrupt­ed their way; religion has been losing ground for many years; and all manner of vice and profane­ness has become rampant in the land; and God is visiting us for these things with general judgments; [Page 21] and 'tis likely God will keep us in this wilderness of trouble to humble us and prove us, that we may see our errors, and know that God has a righteous contro­versy with us at this day. We are apt to think that our cause is so righteous with regard to Great-Britain, that I fear we are ready to forget our unrighteousness towards God; and while we are endeavouring to get rid of the unreasonable commands of an earthly so­vereign, I fear we forget to obey the most reasonable commands of the rightful Sovereign of the Universe. Let us look upon the ground on which we stand; consider our guilt and danger, and be humble for our sins, and under all the tokens of God's displeasure a­gainst us on the account of our sins, repent and re­form whatsoever is amiss in the midst of us, that we may be prepared for a deliverance out of our troubles; that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we may serve God without fear in righteousness and true holiness all the days of our lives.

I proceed to shew,

III. That people when they are proved and tried, generally shew what they are: A suitable trial gene­rally shews what people are, whether virtuous or vici­ous; if they are of a virtuous disposition, a suitable trial will generally bring out their virtues to public view; and if vicious, their vices. We have been ready to look upon ourselves as a virtuous people in this land, to be sure in comparison with Great-Britain, and so to encourage ourselves that we should not be vanquished on account of our virtues: But the trial discovers that there is not so much virtue in the land as we were ready to imagine; there is a vast deal of wickedness brought out to public view in this day of trial; many we find will betray their dear bought [Page 22] country for a little worldly pelf, preferring their pre­sent interest, ease and advantage, to all the liberties and privileges of their future posterity: And many who aim not to betray their country, are so mercenary that they would imbark on that side that they think would best save their interest, without any regard to the righteousness of the cause. And others who pro­fess to be zealous in the cause of their country, are so fond of making a fortune, as we say, or of advancing their interest, that they become blind to the bleeding wounds of their country, and deaf to the cries of the poor and needy, and will not reach forth the helping hand to their distresses, unless with the iron hand of oppression to extort an exorbitant sum for their relief: Indeed the trial shews that there is but little of a public spirit prevailing amongst people in general at this day; the bigger part seem exceedingly selfish, striving for the highest price for every article that they have to part with; and if they think there is a prospect of its arriving to a more extravagant price thro' the exigen­cies of the country, they will withhold it from the needy, tho' the stone should cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber should answer it. Hab. 2.11. So that the sin of oppression seems to be as ram­pant in the land as it was in Jerusalem, which was stiled wholly oppression. I am sorry to have occasi­on to observe, that our trials have brought forth this wickedness to open view in the midst of us, especially as this is the crime that we are complaining of and struggling against in British administration▪ but doubtless this is to humble us and prove us, that we may know what there is in our hearts. If this dispo­sition had not appeared upon the trial, we should have been self-righteous and trusted in ourselves; and [Page 23] have been ready to have thought if we had any suc­cesses, this was owing to our being more righteous than Great-Britain, and so arrogated the glory to our­selves. But God has been pleased to bring the people of this land into this trying situation, wherein they could take the advantage of getting an extravagant price for the necessaries of life; and upon trial they found it in their hearts to take the advantage and to oppress; so that if we have any mercy shewn us, we may know that it is not for our sakes: Agreeable to that, Ezek. 36.32. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you; be ashamed and con­founded for your own ways, Oh house of Israel! But then oppression is not the only sin that our trials have brought forth to view, but the sins of treachery, fals­hood and deceit have crept out in one place and ano­ther thro' the land, in divers persons who would betray its sacred cause into the hands of tyranny and oppression: And others under the notion of being high sons of liberty, will act without law and above law, and so encourage and promote universal tyranny under the notion of a plenitude of liberty; for to govern without law is tyranny: for law is the guar­dian of liberty; securing a people in their rights and liberties; and whosoever endeavours to set law aside or to supersede it, so far endeavours to destroy the li­berties of his country, and so far to promote a tyranni­cal government. And yet the trying situation of the country has discovered some to be of this complexi­on; and however high they may think themselves for liberty, they are throwing down the very bulwark that secures it. But the trial discovers another sort of peo­ple, who tho' they are not for going against law, yet they are not for putting the laws in execution, which [Page 24] enervates government, and renders the law of no force; and such, however well meaning they may have been, have inadvertently fallen into an opinion that has proved very hurtful to the country; for the relaxati­on of the laws has encouraged some to act out them­selves to the disadvantage of the country; the civil sword has not been a terror to evil doers as heretofore, and a praise and protection to such as do well; and the debtor has shewn the dishonesty of his heart in re­fusing to pay his honest dues, because courts of judi­cature have not been kept up in times back, to oblige him to do this justice; and men have hereby been defrauded of their honest dues. And this is not the greatest evil; for this has laid the foundation for the most of that oppression that there is in the midst of us; for the country finding themselves not obliged to part with their monies, feel not the necessity of parting with their provision, and so withhold it from the consumer till an extortionate price draws it out of their hands. This is a disposition which we should not have thought to have been so prevalent in the land, if the unhappy trial had not brought it forth: but we see and feel it to our distress and confusion; so that it appears that we have much less public virtue in the country than we were aware of; many being disposed to take the advantage of the distresses of their country, not caring who sinks if they can but swim; some selling their country under the notion of advancing their in­terest, and others oppressing their country in order to make an estate; and this disease has took place not only among the trading part, but has seized as vio­lently upon the farmer and the tradesman as upon the former, and threatens the death and ruin of the coun­try, more than all the formidable force of Great-Bri­tain, [Page 25] and the whole tory faction in the land: and yet these would be thought to be friends to their country and conscientious people. Thus the god of this world blinds the eyes of men; if they were not deluded by the devil and the deceitfulness of their own wicked hearts, they could no more think themselves conscien­tious and friends to their country, than the thief and the high-way man; for oppression is as much spoken against in scripture, as the forementioned vices, and has as direct a tendency to ruin the country; for these things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience. And when there is the oppression of the poor, and the sighing of the needy in the midst of us, we can't expect any other, but God will arise to judgment, and make his plagues dreadful upon this land. We have been ready to wonder that British troops should be so oppressive and cruel to our peo­ple; but it has been observed by some worthy di­vines, that God is wont to punish people frequently with such a kind of punishment as bespeaks the nature of their crimes: And our Saviour tells us, that such measure as you mete, shall be measured to you again. Mat. 7.2. And we have reason to believe that God thus permits us to be oppressed by the British troops, as a righteous correction for the oppressive disposition that prevails in this land. We were not aware that there was such a disposition prevailing till the trial brought it out. Trade used to regulate itself; and in our peaceable state, when courts of judicature were kept up, and the laws of the State put into execution, things went on regularly, one thing answered another, and there was a considerable equality in our dealings one with another; so that the poor were not oppress­ed, and the consumer in general, could purchase the [Page 26] necessaries and even the superfluities of life at a reason­able lay: But trade stopping, it naturally made the superfluities and some of the necessaries of life scarce and dear; and the war naturally made the circulating medium plenty, so that we might have grappled with the dearness of those articles, they being few, and many of them non-necessaries, if it had not fell upon the necessaries of life. It is true the farmer and trades­man resented the high price upon those foreign im­ports, and called it oppression, and were for making an insurrection, to seize their stores at what they called a reasonable price; and doubtless there was oppressi­on in the trading part of the country with regard to their foreign imports; but no ways equal to what there is now among the farmers and tradesmen: It is like the farmer and tradesmen then were not aware that they had the same oppressive temper and dispositi­on with the merchant; but the trial has brought it out to our humiliation and wounding; Providence has put them under such circumstances that they can take the advantage of the times, and they find an heart to improve it to as much rapacity and oppression, as ever the merchant improved it: refusing to part with their grain at almost any price, tho' Heaven has been so bountiful in granting them so plentiful a harvest: they have the cries of the poor and needy against them, and they have reason to fear the curse that is denounc­ed against him that withholdeth corn from the people. Prov. 11.26. And in discourse with them upon the affair, they will say, Oh, I should be willing to con­form to the ancient price if I could have salt, or some particular articles that have got very high, at the an­cient price; making the extravagant article the rule for the common productions of the land; and so they [Page 27] oppress an hundred because they are oppressed in some one particular article; But they will reply and say, Paper money is not so good as it used to be: But I query why? If you have owed one hundred pound to a man, will not an hundred pound in paper currency pay it, as well as ten years ago? Yes, you will say, perhaps, but I can't buy so much with it, as I could some years back, especially of some articles, and there­fore it is not so good. To which I reply, according to this, money will always sink, when some particular article gets to be higher than usual; according to this, silver and gold may sink as well as our paper currency. You can't buy so much provision and fo­rage in the city of New-York now, by one third, with silver and gold, as you could a year or two back, ac­cording to the best accounts; yet we don't say that silver and gold is sunk because of that; but that pro­vision is scarce there and of more estimation there in comparison with silver and gold, than usual: But that is no reason why every mechanic there should rise up­on the price of his labour. Sometimes one thing is scarce and sometimes another, so that we should mu­tually bear these inconveniences; But because one thing is dear, to make every thing so, is the way to kill and oppress the poor, and the many that have to buy every thing: So that the way that the country has precipitately run into, is not only vastly impolitic, but very wicked and oppressive, and forebodes darker things to this land than any thing besides, according to my apprehension: And this avaricious and op­pressive humour breaks out in so many ways and in­stances, that it is enough to confound and astonish any considerate person that attends to it, and makes him fear the worst. But besides, the trial has brought out many other vices, which we should have hoped [Page 28] were not so predominant in the land, if the trial had not discovered them. To instance in a few; the little regard that is shewn to the sabbath by the soldiery and others, who look upon themselves a little at liberty from the restraints of human laws; and that profane­ness that there is in our armies, raised from the midst of us for the defence of our dear land, as well as a­gainst people at home, at a time in which the land is involved in the greatest distresses that ever it knew; and when there has been the most express prohibitions against profane swearing, issued from the highest au­thority in America. This profaneness, I say, is very surprizing under these extraordinary circumstances, and which we should not have thought to have been in our hearts if the trial had not brought it forth. We used to think strange of British troops, that they would be so profane in times of imminent danger; but we have reason now to turn the astonishment upon our­selves, and to be sensible that we have hearts as bad as they, and without the restraints of divine grace we shall act as stupid and vile a part as the vilest of them: And not only this wickedness has discovered itself up­on trial, but a strange spirit of falshood has gone forth into the land, so that it is very difficult to ascertain facts of the most interesting nature as to our military operations; bespeaking the want of a spirit of in­tegrity and uprightness in the land; all which forebode ill concerning us as a people; for if public virtue fails, and people grow vicious and profane, selfish and oppressive under the sorest judgments and calamities, we have reason to fear the worst; that God will mul­tiply our distresses and increase his judgments, till we are brought to a repentance and reformation. We see that God kept the children of Israel in the wilderness for many years after he had delivered them from the [Page 29] hand of Pharaoh, on the account of their wickedness; and he led them so long in the wilderness to humble and prove them that they might know what there was in their hearts; and one trial after another brought it out. And so our trials in this wilderness state are bring­ing out our corruptions one after another, that we and others may know what there is in our hearts; what pride, what selfishness, what covetousness, what ingra­titude, rebellion, impatience and distrust of God and his providence, all these come flowing forth from the midst of us under our trials, in as conspicuous a manner as they did from the children of Israel in the wilderness; which if it had not been for our trials, that have dis­covered them, we should not have imagined to have been in such a privileged, gospelized land as this.

Which brings me to show,

IV. That the discovering to a people their errors and wickedness is designed to humble and reform them. This is spoken of as being the express end and design of bringing the children of Israel into the wilderness, and leading them there forty years, it was to humble them and prove them, that they might know what there was in their hearts, and whether they would keep his commandments or no. God did it not merely to bring out such a deformed character to view, as they exhibit under their trials; but that being brought forth, they might see their own wickedness and defor­mity, and be humbled and repent of this their great wickedness and reform their lives, by keeping his commandments for the future. And this is the end and design of God in bringing us into this wilderness of trouble and confusion, that we may know what there is in our hearts, that being brought out to pub­lic view, we and others may see what a wicked people we are, and that we may be deeply humbled and a­based [Page 30] before God on the same account, repent and reform. 'Tis not because God delights in bringing such a deformed character to view; no, for it is more odious and irksome to him, for he hateth all the work­ers of iniquity, and he is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity. Hab. 1.13. A vicious character is like a noisom stench in his nostrils; and therefore when God brings such a character into view, it is that we may see the deformity and vileness of it, and that we may be humbled under it, repent and reform. Therefore let us be sollicitous to get a clear view of our manifold guilt, and to be deeply humbled on the account of our own sins, and the ma­nifold high handed abominations that are daily com­mitted in this distinguished land of light and liberty: That there is so much of a disposition in the midst of us to oppress one another, while the land is wading in blood to oppose and resist this wickedness in British administration. Oh, let us see the deformity of this vice thro' the bloody spectacles of those parliamentary acts, that declare that they have a right to tax the American States, and to give laws to us in all cases whatsoever; and in consequence of such a claim have sent their bloody troops to butcher us, till we are re­duced to such a cruel yoke of tyranny and oppression: Methinks this shocking scene of oppression is enough to give you to see the deformity of this vice, and to make you flee from it as a monster that devours with­out pity! And if you do not see it in this horrid pic­ture, look into hell—and there see Dives roaring in the fire of hell for a drop of water to cool his torment­ed tongue, for denying the crumbs that he had to spare from his own table, to a poor, perishing Laza­rus! Methinks if people would look a little upon this oppressive wretch in hell, weltering and gasping for a [Page 31] drop of water, who the other day, could swim in wine and all the delicacies of life, and was for pulling down his barns and building greater to stow his grain in: I say, if they would look a little at him, methinks it would cure them of their oppressive disposition, and open their stores and their hearts to the poor and needy, lest as they have refused to shew mercy, so mercy should be denied to them another day. In short, any vice viewed in its deformity and destructive nature and tendency, is enough to shock the hardiest wretch on earth, and make him fly from it with as great precipitancy as Amnon's brethren did from the feast of wine, when they saw their brother slain there. 2 Sam. 13.29. Every sin is of a destructive, deadly nature; and if sin was thus seen and viewed, it would not be so difficult to dissuade people from it; but they view it thro' the devil's spectacles, which makes it to ap­pear more delighting and contenting than ever it is found to be; and he blinds their minds as to the de­formity and destructive nature of it, so that he may lead them blindfold down to eternal perdition: There­fore we had need take much pains to bring sinners to a just view of their sins; for till then they will not be humbled for them, nor repent and reform. And hence it is that God brings people into some trying situation to bring their wickedness out to view, that they may know what there is in their hearts and be humbled for it; and the trials that we have been under in this land, have brought out a vast deal of wicked­ness which we should not have been aware of, if the trial had not betrayed it. And what is the end of this discovery? Why to humble us, and to bring us to re­pentance and a general reformation. Let us then be sensible of the ends of Divine Providence in permitting such wickedness to break out in the midst of us; it [Page 32] is to humble us and to give us to see that we have no cause to trust in ourselves,—in our own righteousness, which we are very prone to, that disclaiming all con­fidence in ourselves, we may trust in him who raiseth the dead,—and who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

Several useful inferences might be made from this subject, but I shall confine myself to one, with which I shall conclude the discourse.

Seeing it is as we have heard, that the wickedness of man has been much the same thro' all generations, hence we may infer, that every generation may rati­onally expect the like punishments and calamities that have been inflicted upon generations back. The his­tory of the world is nothing scarcely but a history of the wickedness and miseries of it. Take the sacred history from the fall of man till Christ's appearance on earth, till his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to glory, and even from the mission of the Holy Ghost, till the completion of the sacred canon, and what do we find but the wickedness of man acted forth in a variety of shapes, together with the just judgments of God pursuing it with a variety of calamities thro' life, till death swallows them up in one undistinguish­ed ruin! This is the general, melancholy account of the human race as fallen! Then have we reason to look upon it as strange that we see and feel the like distresses and calamities with the world that has gone before us? Surely no. When we read in sacred or profane history of the unnatural wars that have arisen among those of the same nation, people and language, we are ready to be shock'd at the horrid scene, and to marvel at the outrage, cruelty and devastation that they will make of one another in such a contest! But if God did not restrain the wrath and wickedness of [Page 33] mankind, they would always be acting over the horrid scene, biting and devouring one another! And the wickedness of the British nation, I mean of the go­verning part of them, has arrived to that pitch, that they are disposed to act over all that wickedness, cru­elty and oppression that Pharaoh and the other cruel tyrants of the earth have been disposed to practise to­wards those in their power: Witness the cruel and unnatural war that they have levied against us; burn­ing and laying waste many noble towns with a savage barbarity and wantonness of rage; abusing the pri­soners that have fallen into their hands, with worse than savage barbarity! freezing and starving them to death with a relentless cruelty! so that the cries of those poor oppressed prisoners have entered I trust, into the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth, and that he has arisen to avenge their blood upon those inhumane butchers, who have come above 3000 miles to destroy their neighbours that are more righteous than they! This is the nation that heretofore has been famed for their humanity and generosity to their enemies, especially when prisoners, that have now sunk into such a degree of cruelty and barbarism, that they can abuse them after they have surrendered, cane them, strip them of their clothing, and then drive them like a flock of sheep into prison, and there freeze and starve them to death! Oh how is the nation fallen and debased by the most sordid wickedness and inhumanity! and from once being famed for christianity, their conduct would disgrace the most barbarous nation on earth! Thus the wickedness of the human heart, without the restraints of divine grace will act out a part not much inferior in vileness to that of infernals! But then tho' I thus inveigh against the cruelty and wickedness of British administration and their sordid troops; yet I would by no means inti­mate [Page 34] that we are innocent, and free from wickedness; no, God has a righteous controversy with us in this land; and our iniquities have arrived to that aggrava­ted height, that they have called for these sore calamities that we feel! and the British nation are the rod of God's anger to scourge and chastise us for our sins, as the As­syrian monarch was to God's people of old. See Isa. 10.5, 6, 7. Oh Assyrian the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation! I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey and to tread them down as the mire of the streets; howbeit, he meaneth not so, nei­ther doth his heart think so, but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few, &c. Tho' this haughty tyrant had no design of executing God's will and the glory of his justice in punishing an hypocriti­cal people, but only to enlarge his own empire and satisfy his own lusts, by sacrificing multitudes of people to his own ambition and covetousness; yet God meant to use him as a rod, and the instrument of his anger to chastise and correct his sinful, degenerate, backsliding people; and we have reason to think, (let the designs of the British tyrant be what they will) that God de­signs him as the rod of his anger to correct us for the foul sins and abominations of this highly privileged land! Therefore let us be humble, kiss the rod and accept the punishment of our sins,—repent and turn to God by an universal reformation,—that God may be intreated for the land, spare his heritage, and not give it up to a reproach,—but restore to us our liber­ties as at the first, and our privileges as at the begin­ning. AMEN.

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