|Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.| -- AMOS iv.12.
This chapter refers to the condition of Israel at the time of this prophecy, and to the expostulation and threatened procedure of God concerning the nation. God's people had revolted from Him; they had sunk into idolatry; they had been often reproved, but had hardened their necks, and therefore the Lord, after recapitulating the calamities which had befallen them, and which all came in the way of fatherly chastisements for their recovery to righteousness, and indicating that his anger was not turned away, says, |and because I will do this unto thee| -- and because having done this repentance does not appear, then prepare to meet me. That is, meet me in battle. If you will not submit, then let the battle be fought; if you will not bow down to these kind modes of discipline -- kindly intentioned, however terrible in execution, then prepare to meet me. This expostulation proceeds upon a very intelligible principle -- a principle, however, which we sometimes sadly forget, and which we are too much in the habit of neglecting -- on the principle that man is an accountable creature; and secondly, that God will call him to account for his conduct.
God has a controversy with man, with us -- a controversy with us because of our sin, our sin being an outrage against the divine love; a controversy with us because He is right and we are wrong; because He designs the welfare of all, and the sin that we love is productive of universal destruction; a controversy with sinners that can only be terminated in one of two ways -- a controversy with every unconverted person here to-day. Do not deceive yourselves: if you are strangers to the life of God, you are in opposition to Him, and with you as sinners there is a controversy only to be terminated -- first, by your submission, your repentance -- and, thank God, He has prepared a perfect and suitable method for our submission, and for our repentance. If He has a controversy with us, He wills it to be terminated in such a mode as shall secure the original purpose of his great love, which our sin has outraged. Christ has appeared in our behalf, and for this purpose has offered a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for our sins. For this purpose the Divine Spirit waits in all our assemblies, and now in this place, that any of you who are now enemies to Him by wicked works, being pricked in your hearts on account of your sins, and groaning under your condemnation, may fly for refuge to the hope set before you in Christ Jesus our Lord. So God would have this controversy terminated. So He invites you in his great mercy to terminate it. And for this purpose we are ministers of reconciliation, and |we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.|
There is but one other way of terminating this controversy, and that is by our destruction. If we will abide in our controversy, if we will wage the battle to the end, this destruction must ensue, here is no method else -- no escape any where between the one extreme and the other; it is submission and life, it is battle and death -- death eternal. O that death eternal! What is it? Not the annihilation of your souls. What is the death of a soul? The loss of the life of God -- the loss of communion with God. The soul is made for such a communion: this is its true life; it has no satisfaction apart from this enjoyment. There cannot be communion without love; that is the soul of communion; and if you renounce the reign of love, and come under the dominion of enmity, you cut yourselves off from the life of God, you die, and must endure the bitter pains of eternal death. I pray God that you may terminate this controversy, and thank God that you may do so, by the submission of your hearts to his merciful provision of salvation, that so you may live in hallowed Christian blessedness here, and inherit perfect fellowship and communion with God hereafter.
We should humble ourselves in the presence of that great calamity which has fallen upon our flocks and upon our herds. I think it is well in times of public calamity that public attention should be called to these things; and our attention has been called thereto -- not, it is true, by the governing authorities of the country. No matter for that. It is right that we should listen to the admonition that we have received in our own denomination, and do all we can rightly to humble ourselves, and above all, earnestly to pray to God that He would take away the evil from us, and that, in taking away the evil, He would render us the less liable to promote the dire necessity of future visitation. Let me then call your attention to some general principles connected with God's dealings with the nations.
There is a national as well as an individual providence. In the ancient government of God over the nations of the earth, in his dealings with his own people and with the heathen peoples about them, his hand was clearly discerned on many occasions, and his arm sometimes made bare. There were the predictions of certain events to come, and there was the recognised accomplishment of those predictions sometime afterwards. Then, again, you find miraculous interpositions of correction, of punishment, or of deliverance. If you turn your attention to the history of God's Church, you find all these things manifest; you find Israel in Egypt; then the command that they should be allowed to pass away from their bondage; you find Egypt resisting the command, and God sent among the people of Egypt signs and wonders, and plagues by the hand of Moses, but they submitted not. He called them to obedience, but they rebelled. By and bye, He slew their firstborn, the chief of all their strength, and then the people came out with silver and with gold. Nations are not simply chastised in this world, they are also punished. Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God at the last great day, and strictly speaking, the punishment of separate individuals will not begin in this life; but nations cannot be judged collectively hereafter; they are dealt with here; and God's dealings with the nations stand out in his palpable acts with these Egyptians. They saw the hand of God for a time, but they fell back into their ancient rebellion and pursued the Israelites to the Red Sea, and God made that sea a way for his ransomed and destroyed the pursuing host. Go through the entire history of God's ancient people. You find the Assyrians round about Jerusalem, you see the angel of God going forth, and that mighty host is destroyed. Go through all the dealings of God with heathen nations, and you find these physical manifestations of God's power. In our day there are no such manifestations as these. In modern times the events of the divine government are not so authoritatively predicted, and the exceedingly foolish attempts of some people to interpret prophecy and to apply it arbitrarily to passing events cannot be too severely condemned. They tend greatly to prejudice the proper interpretation of Scriptural prophecy before the world, and deserve severe reprehension, and should be altogether discountenanced by all men of sound mind. In our day we have not these authoritative predictions of events. But amid all this there is a tendency to ignore the action of God in the government of the world altogether. Instead of recognising his presence or acknowledging his power, the varied events -- political, social, and otherwise -- events like the one to which I have just referred, affecting the nation, are denied their true character; and the view that I have ventured to place before you in many places would be treated with ridicule. Men say, when they look at political events, that they are to be traced to the conclusions of well-directed political economy, or to the failure of the application of sound principles of government. I know very well that if the pestilence comes there are men who trace it to no higher than physical causes. I know very well that if great calamities happen in storm or tempest the physical cause is alone recognised. And with reference to the scourge of our cattle clever men look, as they ought, after the physical causes. They look, as I think they are bound, to the development of the evil influences leading to such a result. But if men now-a-days are Christian enough to recognise God in the parliament of this country there is no great response, unless it be a response of ill-concealed scorn; and even among people who profess more of Christianity there is a danger of leaving the stern, enlightened, and faithful recognition of God which distinguished our fathers, and of looking, in some fancied superiority of our intellect -- which is but a fancy; for there were wise men before us -- for explanation in something, in anything oft-times, rather than the recognition of God's power.
Remember this, however, brethren, that the principles of God's government in our day are the same which have inhered in that government in all ages -- that, however human circumstances may differ, however the nations of this world may alter, however the powers of men may vary time after time, God's government is an immutable thing; it changes not. The perfect idea of a human government is this -- I do not say it is realised -- to have certain fixed principles that are to abide, and then in the application of those principles to find an elasticity which shall meet every conceivable alteration of circumstances about us. That is the idea of a perfect human government; but human governments do not attain to it. The government of God, however, is perfect. The great principle is love -- |God is love;| its great end, the welfare of man; the purpose of that government, the spread of Christianity for the welfare of mankind.
There is no expediency in this government, as men understand it. The governments of this world are too much founded upon expediency -- the government of this country for the last sixty or seventy years lamentably founded upon it. There was a time when there was less of it here, but the disciples of expediency increase, and it is now rather |What is convenient?| than |What is right?| There is an expediency taught in the Bible, but it is nothing more than the best way of doing the right thing. It never truckles. The government of God knows nothing of our human expedients; it knows a great deal of Divine arrangements, and God as truly governs as though in his government of the nations He should work signs and wonders and divers miracles daily.
God has spoken in the history of our own country. Look at some of the startling events of the last two hundred years. You look at the act of our noble, intelligent, never-to-be-sufficiently-admired, firm old English ancestors, in driving James the Second from his throne, and working out the glorious Revolution of 1688. Well, if you look at all this politically, you speak of their wisdom, their fortitude, and their indomitable spirit; you speak too of storm and tempest all working in their favour. Aye, aye, but the hand of God was there, as much in sending away that unworthy King as God's hand was in sending Nebuchadnezzar to feed among the oxen. God's hand may not appear in our modern times as in former days, but faith sees that hand in the common affairs of mankind. But because we do not see the operation, because the operation is not palpable to men's senses, the agency of God is forgotten. Depend upon it, it is a great mistake to imagine that if we could see, now and then, some great miracle wrought, we should get into the habit of recognising the power and wisdom of God. The Israelites were fed in the desert by miracle, and rebelled against God whilst they ate the food miraculously given to them. The wonder -- the perfection of the Divine operation is this, that without disturbing in our little individual history any of the common affairs which arise in every-day life, without working any miracle at all, and whilst to the eyes of men all things continue as they were from the beginning, whilst there is nothing observable in the method, He works all things together for the good of them that love Him, combining opposing forces and blending together the elements of life and of death in one grand atmosphere of benediction for the welfare of the righteous, and all this without disturbing the ordinary course of cause and effect. The power of God impresses itself not merely through the lower links of the chain of providence -- cause and effect, but upon the higher part of that chain which sends down its influence, its intelligence, its all-wise benevolence, to work out the welfare of those that are the objects of his love.
So it is with nations. You will see public events rising up in connection with ordinary causes, but we ought to acknowledge the great First-cause. The principles of divine government which operated in the old time are now as surely in operation as they were then. They are not antiquated: they are not at all supplanted; they operate in the same way, to the same ends; they operate to national and personal benefit, to national and personal reproof, or, in the neglect of such admonition, to national and personal punishment, showing us that God's government is now the government which it was in the ancient days, and that though we see no miracles in our day God is as much in the midst of unthinking multitudes as when men were startled by the visible interposition of his Almighty power.
Let us look, then, at the state of things about us now. Is there not sufficient cause in this land to lead us to humble ourselves, to improve the admonition of our God; that we should prepare to meet Him, in the only way in which we can meet Him to our profit, by our personal submission to a greater extent; and if we love our country, that we should put ourselves into a position to bring the nation out of any state of rebellion against God, to lead it back to a more perfect reconciliation with Him? What evils have we now to deplore? Why, a great number. It is a blessed land after all; and there is more of Christianity found in it than in any other in the world. There is doubtless more of the direct influence of Christianity in our population than you will find elsewhere, and certainly more of the indirect influence upon the constitution of the nation, upon our legislation, upon our national -- aye, and upon our domestic habits. There is a large amount of the indirect influence of Christianity in our midst, for which we have cause to be thankful. But then, on the other hand, how much is there of evil? There is great evil in our midst. There is first, what really our fathers had not so much to do with -- there is the presence and power of a subtle, of a most ably-wrought and powerfully-patronised Popery, about which we have been asleep for too long a time, Popery, which is inimical to the welfare of any nation, and inconsistent with the political happiness, prosperity and security of any people. You have not far to go for the proof of this. You have only to go to the present miserable condition of Ireland to prove it. It is all very well for disclaimers to arise from the men who created the disloyal element of this mischief, but they must esteem the Protestants of this country more credulous than I hope they will prove if they expect them to believe their present protestations. What else have you? You have the presence of this Popery also where Protestantism alone ought to be known. You have it dishonestly intruded into the temples of Christian truth; and you have the pernicious nonsense of miserable and disgraceful antics obtruded into what men call divine worship, utterly beneath the dignity of sensible men. You have another thing. You have infidelity, and in the pulpit too -- the pulpit in high places -- infidelity in its worst form. You have all this, and no power, and very little inclination exists to correct it. You have all this, and multitudes love to have it so. That is one form of evil, leading to many other forms, and causing all thoughtful men to deplore the condition of churches cursed with a schism like this, with a false doctrine and heresy so utterly opposed to the truth and to the salvation of men. Well, then, look, at the profanity of the people around us. Look at the ungodliness of decent people. I am not here to-day to call your attention simply, as people sometimes do, to the lowest classes of society. They are bad enough. They are a festering mass at the foundation of all the greatness of the nation; they are a mass which, if not corrected in their tendencies, may at any time be quickened into an activity that will utterly wreck the entire superstructure of all that as Christians and as Englishmen we hold dear. But higher up, where there is no profaneness or criminality, or gross and disgusting visible intemperance, what other evils are there? There is decency, but there is an absence of the recognition of God. God is not in men's thoughts. And there is a fearful and fatal indifference as to the claims of religion that has come over the nations. Multitudes neglect public worship. I apprehend the least evidence that anybody can give of religious impression, or of recognition of the claims of religion, is that they should attend the public worship of Almighty God. You find, however, hundreds of thousands in this nation who never attend divine service. If our churches and chapels in London were to be attended next Sunday by the usual number of persons, and those besides who ought to attend were disposed to try to gain admission at any one time during the day, we have not half churches and chapels enough to hold them; whilst, as it is, the room provided is not occupied. This indifference is a fearful thing. Paul yearned over his countrymen, but in some respects our countrymen are worse than Paul's. |I could wish,| said that glorious, patriotic man -- that grand old man, that most blessed and chief of all the Apostles, with heaven in his view, his career well-nigh ended, his work done, and Churches rising up around him of which he was the father -- not churches built upon other men's foundations -- |I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.| Yet |I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.| In England, at this day, there are multitudes of whom it may be said, |God is not in all their thoughts.| And the heathenism spread about us is as bad in its developments as in any other part of the world, and more aggravated in its character because of its immediate proximity with the light and truth of our blessed Christianity. There is in this land, too, an absorbing of men in worldliness: this, perhaps, comes nearer to us. In my time I have seen worldliness not only enthralling obviously and professedly worldly men. I have seen worldliness come into the Church -- aye, among Methodists. How many young men have I seen, earnest, zealous, devoted, doing just that work for God which must be done by young men if the population of this land is to be won to Christ -- they enter into business-life, by-and-bye God prospers their industry, and they begin to thrive in the world; and what then? Oh, then this fervour abates -- they get immersed in earthly things. We lose their activities in the Church; the ungodly part of the world lose the influence of a blessed example and of their Christian teaching. They are too busy to attend to the service of God at all on the week days, they say to their ministers: |We will find the money if you will send men to do the work among these poor people.| Find money to do it! So they ought: but do they think they place the Church under obligation by doing that? Not a whit. They ought to be thankful to the Church, and to the God of the Church, that He will have their money, that God permits them gratefully to recognise in this way their stewardship; but I say to every such person, if you think you can purchase exemption from personal devotion to God, and from such devotion as shall lead you to spread the truth by your personal labour, to the utmost extent of your ability, you are greatly mistaken. We can have no such compositions of God's claim; you must not dream of them. There is a feebleness, therefore, of the Church; oft-times arising from this cause, a feebleness we must seek to cure, as it only can be cured, by an increase of our own personal godliness.
But how do we stand just now? God has sometimes admonished this nation for its ungodliness. I do not speak of the nation now as profane or criminal. Take the best view of it. And I remember that a great theologian has said, the true view of man's depravity is not that every man is profane or intemperate or mischievous -- the great proof of the universal depravity of man is found in man's ungodliness -- in his not recognising the claims of God, and not bowing to his love. We have had admonition after admonition, within our own lives, most of us. Not long since God sent a pestilence into our midst -- on two remarkable occasions. Well do I remember the state of the people where I was labouring in one of the large towns of this country, with between three and four hundred deaths, from cholera, occurring every week. The people were alarmed. There was a national day of humiliation and prayer; our places of worship were crowded. The people were alarmed, but they were not permanently impressed. God heard prayer; yes, he delights to hear prayer. God answered it; he delights to answer it. The evil passed away; the concern passed with it; and I shall never forget the contrast between the congregations on the day of humiliation, and when they were summoned to thank God for the removal of the scourge. |Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?|
It is only four years ago that another check came upon the nation -- that one of our great branches of national industry became suddenly paralysed; and what mercy was there in that! There was the good hand of God in the administration of that chastisement, in the conduct of the people under such calamities, and in the absence of mischievous, designing men from among them. I have known the time when that population would have been inflamed by a calamity of far less consequence to acts of the greatest violence. God's hand was there. He chastised the nation; but He guided the chastisement. And now again, another evil has come upon us -- a greater evil, perhaps, than people imagined at first -- this plague among our herds. There will be great loss to individuals, and no doubt there will be great loss to all; for it is impossible for so much wealth or money's worth to be destroyed in any nation without all the people in the nation feeling it more or less. I think it right, therefore, that we have been called to recognise the hand of God therein -- to look through all external causes to his hand. It is a very dangerous thing, a thing I have never done in my life, and never would do, to talk about the providence of God in its punitive power, to talk about retribution in the application of God's providence in individual cases. It is very unwise to do that, and sometimes it may be most uncharitable. It is different, however, in God's dealings with a nation. We are admonished, or punished, by a great national calamity that has stirred all classes of men each in their own way, and has raised all their activities in order to see if evils of this kind may not be checked in their operation. This evil is present with us. And then, as to other evils that may arise. If you look abroad into the world, to the relations of this country to other nations, you have peace just now; but he would be a bold man who should predict the continuation of this peace for any length of time. No, your statesmen cannot keep the peace of nations; and the folly of our boasting about the peace-working power of our commercial relations has already be seen. We cannot give peace to the world. Who can tell how soon the calamity of war may afflict this country? Not I trust on its shores; but what is this land that it has any right to expect a perpetual immunity from the horrors of war in her midst? Do not say these things will pass away. Do not say these things are remote. They may quickly overtake us, and we should be careful that we do not provoke our God to hasten any of his judgments or to aggravate present ones. If you are delivered from calamity -- if this great national calamity, for such it is, has not touched you, or at least not so touched you as to inconvenience you at all, remember to give sympathy to those that are suffering from it; and let thankfulness for your present mercies manifest itself in that godly amendment of life which shall prove your best contribution to the future safety and the prosperity of the nation. If we neglect this we place ourselves in opposition to God's government, and are in danger, by our opposition, of being told to prepare to meet God in conflict. Individual sinners do so who refuse repentance; nations do so that will not submit to God. You that are living without God, pray what prospect have you, what prospect of victory? The potsherd of the earth may strive with the potsherd, but woe to the man that strives with his Maker. The God whom you are called upon to meet is the |God that formeth the mountains, that createth the wind, that declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name.|
Let the ungodliness of this land increase -- and it will increase if we neglect the manifestation of godliness in opposition to it -- and what then? There will be the culmination of national sin, and there will be the enactments of Parliament against the law of God, as on a former memorable occasion in France; let it come to that, and let a crisis arise; and though your statesmen should be the most sagacious, and have all the ability which has ever distinguished the foremost men of the Government of this land; let your Parliament be intelligent and patriotic; let your sons be as brave on flood or field as their fathers; let your commerce be ever so flourishing, your arts ever so perfect, your literature ever so exalted -- none of these things would save the nation -- none of these things would be an effectual shield against calamity; and upon the wreck of this grand old realm -- wrecked by its ungodliness, made rotten at its base by sin -- upon the wreck of this nation which, had it been godly, would have borne the shock of all the earth, and dashed it back like foam -- on the wreck of Britain shall be written, |The nation, the kingdom, that will not serve thee shall perish.| That inscription has been often written upon empires as magnificent, as powerful, and as illustrious as this.
What, then, is our duty? What have we to do with this? We who are gathered together in this chapel may say, can we arrest the course of the nation? Can we turn back the floods of ungodliness? Can we go out and produce an influence that may avert these calamities? I do not say that you alone can do this; but I do say, that you are bound to contribute your utmost to the check of these evils, with as perfect a heart, and with as earnest a purpose, and as free a will, as though your hand could dash back the evil and rescue the nation from its danger.
Our immediate duty is repentance. That is the duty of the nation. But the word nation is a comprehensive one; we lose ourselves in it. We may do as we are in danger of doing with the word Church, lose sight of our own individual responsibility in confused ideas of what the Church collectively is to do. God cannot yield in this conflict; his righteousness forbids this. The nation must yield and become obedient, or the result indicated must follow. If then the nation is to repent, where is that repentance to begin? Why in this place to-day, so far as we are concerned. In whose hearts must this repentance commence? Why in the hearts of every one of you unconverted persons, that are rather contributing to the ungodliness of the country than to the increase of its spiritual power. You may not be drunkards, you may not be profligate; but if you are living without the recognition of God's love and the enjoyment of his favour, you are ungodly; and your first duty is to repent. There is no salvation without this repentance, let some modern preachers say what they will. The Master of all preachers sent the Apostles forth, and they preached everywhere that men should repent. There is a fashionable preaching, I am told, that has no repentance in it. So much the worse for the people that listen to such error. There is no merit in repentance; the only meritorious cause of your salvation is the blood-shedding and the present and perfect atonement of Christ. But |the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.| The old Puritans were right who said, that the soundest conversions were those with which the law had most to do. Mount Sinai exhibited proofs of God's love, and Christ, who died for us on Calvary, is the author and enforcer of the whole law. There must be the bowing down of your souls to the claims of the law, the struggle for amendment, the renunciation of sin, the recognition of your own hopelessness, and the cry, |What must I do to be saved?| |Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?| Then comes Christ, and peace, and joy; a participation in the divine nature; and a power to contribute practically to the repentance of the nation. This is your duty.
You Christian people, too, are called upon to repent. Depend upon it as we go through life an act of repentance, once for all, will not do: we shall need repentance daily. When a man is admitted to the favour of God it is that his mouth should be stopped, it is that he should entertain penitential feeling as long as he lives -- not the penitence of guilt, but the penitence of gratitude. The recollection, I am a sinner, will inspire and maintain such penitence; and a blessed end that man will make, who in the full meaning of the words, pours out the prayer at the last, |God be merciful to me a sinner.| We need repentance -- we all need it. Let us turn our attention to ourselves, and ascertain how much we have contributed to the existing evils of the nation. How much have we contributed to the present state of things which in the judgment of sober Christian concern may be held to have provoked the anger of God? We may have contributed to these evils, and I dare say we have, in two ways: first, by neglect of duty. There are sinners about you, you need not go far to find them -- perhaps there are some ungodly people in your own houses. What have you ever done to make them godly? What effort have you made, what kind of an example have you set them in your words, in your tempers, in your spiritual aspirations? Now tell yourselves honestly. You have been living with them up to this day, living with them during this day. What have you said to them? Do your conduct and your words condemn their sin, and invite them to reconciliation with God? What does conscience say to this? What does the recollection of the past few hours say to this? There are wicked people about you: some of you have leisure; what have you done for your ungodly neighbours? What poor man's house have you visited? What wretched sinner have you talked to? You have passed along the streets, and have seen sin abounding; have you ever tried to check it? Have you ever thought it worth while to follow some half dozen people deeply immersed in sin, and by patient, earnest, godly admonitions, counsels, and entreaties, have you sought the salvation of their souls? Have you done this? |Oh!| you busy men say, |we have not time.| I know better; you must not tell practical men that; they know that all of us waste a great deal more time than we want for such a purpose. It is not a question of time at all, but a question of inclination. Have we done so? Are evils abating by our instrumentality? Do not say, |I could do very little.| Do what you can! |If I could move a multitude I would do it.| No, that will not do. You good women, are you doing all the good you can in your families? Do you mothers give yourselves to the right training of your children? Fathers, are you practically anxious for the spiritual good of your families? Do you help your wives to bring up a godly family, which shall prove a blessing to the nation; and not such an one as Dr. Paley says, as shall turn out wild beasts upon society. You have little ability; well, if you have not ten talents, do not bury the one talent. Paul did one thing, and that was the secret of all his greatness -- he did his duty. Do you do yours? There was a simplicity of purpose about him, an earnestness of endeavour, a thoroughness in the doing of it that made him what he was, the greatest of all apostles and the greatest man that the Christian Church has known. Take that simple rule, you young people; strive to spread the influence of a godly example among all about you: do what you can, in a way consistent with your position in life, and in a way consistent altogether with modesty, humility, and a deep devotion to God, and you will not labour in vain. We are guilty of sins of omission, and we need repentance.
But how have we contributed to the evils of the nation by our activities? Some of you were converted, perhaps, when you had lived to be twenty years of age, some of you thirty or forty, some perhaps were older; what kind of lives had you led before that time? How many of your former companions did you injure by a godless example? perhaps by foolish words, perhaps by ungodly actions. God has rescued you; where are they? What has become of the seed you then planted in their minds? If God drew out the roots of vice by his grace from your hearts, the influence of this evil remains elsewhere. What mischief is often done by men prior to their conversion in their families! When you see there is so much wickedness in the land, then say, |What have I done to increase it?| And I think we shall all find great need to repent; great need to set an example of repentance to all about us.
The first thing, then, is this deep humiliation of heart that shall bring us all to bow before God, and cause us to join in the prayer, |Enter not into judgment with thy servants, O God, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.| But, then, you Christian professors must bestir yourselves. This repentance must not be a passing emotion, not a temporary influence, however powerful; but there must be a correspondent continued effort to promote it amongst your families and neighbours, and to the utmost extent of your power in the world; engaging meanwhile in earnest prayer; and then consecrating yourselves more fully to this work under the influence of two things, a deep sense of personal responsibility and of the constraint of divine love. Submit, then, to this will of God. Know the rod, and Him that hath appointed it. If the multitudes about you do not know it you know it. If God be not recognised, let it be yours to recognise Him amid the surrounding worldliness, and depend upon it your purity of heart shall increase, and you will see God in all things, in all calamities, and in all joys. It is a strange thing that nations and individuals see God more readily in trouble than they do in their joys. Amid the immunities from ill which Christian people often enjoy how little they think of God. Trouble comes, calamity comes, and we owe the quickening of our religious feelings, strangely enough, more to our fears than we to our gratitude. And it will be well if we are so quickened by present calamity.
Thus let us prepare ourselves to promote that condition of feeling in the nation which shall lead us to meet God not in conflict but in the way of his judgments, to bow to his rule, to abate our ungodliness, and to become as a nation wise and understanding.
One remark as to the popular interpretation of the text. You will have to meet God speedily in your death. You should prepare to meet Him, for you cannot resist; you cannot flee from Him. Let us prepare to meet Him by embracing the mercy which He offers, receiving the love which He communicates to us, and devoting the rest of our lives to his service and glory. You are called upon, then, and I think for these reasons properly called upon, to contribute to and to promote the humiliation of the nation. Whatever other people do, humble yourselves before God. And let not the impression be a temporary one, but in the future seek that practical love which constitutes the repentance necessary to the nation, and necessary to you that you may prompt the repentance and reformation of those about you, and which can alone save the land of our fathers from calamity and make her more fully what she ought to be, |a praise in the earth.| Amen!