Who is there that is not filled with concern, from an ap prehension of the great God as angry? How do our sins now fly in our faces? How conscious are we of guilt? How distrest lest God should be about to ex ecute upon us the fierceness of his wrath? There is scarce a sinner so profligate and abandoned, but fear fulness now takes hold of him; and however thought less he was before of God, he now realises his being and providence, has awakened in him a sense of his obligations to him, and cant help trembling at the thought that he is angry, and may now be about to take vengeance on him.
The rocks have been rent, the hills moved, the mountains overturned, and the earth so opened as to take down her inhabi tants by hundreds and thousands. No less than an hundred thousand souls have been destroyed, in a few moments, by one dreadful earthquake. Wherein could the holy righteous God more awfully make it evident, that he is displeased?
War, famines, pestilences are spoken of in scripture as the great judgments of God; but they are neither of them to be compared with earthquakes. These, of all God's judicial dispensations, are the most terrible; and the surest indication of his righteous anger. But you will ask, it may be, what is the reason of this anger of God?
From whence is it excited? Why is it stirred up? To this I would say, when the prophet Habakkuk saw the tents of Cushan in affliction, and the land of Midian in a state of trembling, he at once concluded, that God was angry; but, at the same time, was far from imagining, that it was at the inanimate earth. Says he, chapter iii. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers?
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Was thine anger against the ri vers? Was thy wrath against the sea? Far be it from the all-wise God to be angry at the rivers, or earth, or sea! He is capable of anger, in the figura tive sense it is applied to him, with man only on this earth, and with nothing in man but sin. Sin is the ground, and the only moral ground, of the anger of God, that anger of his, which causeth the earth to shake and tremble. To this purpose are those words of the pro phet, Isa.
But as the scripture takes notice of some sins in special, which have excited the anger of God, and been the occasion of earthquakes, either in his threat nings, or the execution of them; I shall not think it unseasonable to point them out to you at this time, as particularly worthy of your most serious conside ration. The sins included in the term, uncleanness, have so offended God, as that he has testified his anger a gainst them by an earthquake. I mention these sins first, because they are the sins in special, which occa sioned the first earthquake, we have an account of, in the bible; and a very tremendous one it was.
You all know, what the sins of Sodom and Gomorrha were; and you know also, what sudden and terrible destruc tion was brought on them herefor. The manner in which the scripture describes the de struction of these cities, with their inhabitants, seems to point out an earthquake, as well as an horrible tem pest of fire; for it is said, Gen. And tis certain, that these cities, with the country round about, for many miles in breadth, and more in length, were not only burnt, but also sunk down; and in the place where they stood, there is now a nauseous lake, called the dead, or salt sea: And it remains to this day.
I will not presume to determine, that it was for the sins comprehended in uncleaness, in distinction from others, that God was provoked the last week terribly to shake the earth; but this I will venture to say, that as these sins are shamefully prevalent all over the land, and emphatically in this town, we might do well to esteem ourselves warned of God against uncleanness, in all its various branches, and call'd upon to flee these filthy lusts, lest, after the manner of Sodom, we also should be set forth as an example, for giving our selves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh.
Sabbath-breaking is likewise a sin, God has threat ned to testify against by shaking the earth. The pro phet brings in the people of Israel, expressing them selves in that language, Amos 8. And then follows an awful denunciation from God, v. And tis no wonder he has been so severe in signifying his displeasure at the violation of his Sabbath.
For tis one of the laws he publish'd from Sinai, and with more awful pomp than he ever before, or since, pub lished any of his laws. And tis a law, the due ob servation whereof has a near connection with the reli gious observation of the other divine precepts. And it seldom happens, but men are loose and prophane in other regards, if they are so with respect to the Sabbath. This therefore of remembring the sabbath-day to keep it holy, is a duty of greater importance, than many may be ready to imagine; and the neglecting, or prophaning, the day by idleness, recreation, or unnecessary worldly employ ments, is highly displeasing to God: And we may the rather think so, because he has threatned this sin with so awful a judgment.
And suffer me to remind you here, it was on the evening of the sabbath, about eight and twenty years ago, that we were surprized with the most fearful earthquake that was ever before known in the coun try; it was on a sabbath-day also, and while in the place of worship, that we were again surprized, about ten years since, with a like, tho' more moderate, shak ing of the earth; and the last evening, which we e steem a part of the sabbath, we were yet again alarmed with an agitated earth.
Ought we not to take occa sion from hence to reflect upon our Sabbath-sins as particularly provoking to God? May we not learn the meaning of the threatning in providence by the timeing of it? Are not our tho'ts naturally pointed to the dishonor we have done God, by disregarding that law of his which binds us to sanctify the sabbath? Are not many as free to take their diversions on this day, as on any other?
Not in anger, Mighty God
Do not many neglect the public worship on this day, and take as little care to cultivate religion in their families, or in their own souls? We have cer tainly reason, we especially of this town, to call our selves to account for our breaches of the holy sab bath, to consider of our past omissions of duty, and commissions of sin, and to humble ourselves herefor before God: Nor would this be a misimprove ment of the present dispensation of God. Pride is another sin God has testified his anger a gainst by earthquakes. To this purpose is that of the prophet, Isa.
For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud, and lofty; and upon every one that is lifted up: And he shall be brought low. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of man shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day, — when he shall arise to shake terribly the earth.
And 'tis no more than might be expected, that God should thus signify his displeasure against the sin of pride. For 'tis a sin that God has mentioned by name, and spoken of as an abomination to him. And 'tis the source of most other sins. We might properly take occasion to consider wherein, we may have been chargeable with this vice, in any of its branches, that we may humble our selves there for, repent, and no more, in this way, excite the anger of God.
Unrighteousness is another sin still, which God has threatened with an earthquake; however it be com mitted, whether by downright oppression and violence, or the more secret arts of fraud and knavery. These ways of dishonest dealing are particularly mentioned as the moral ground of God's causing the earth to tremble, by the prophet Amos. He speaks, in the third chapter of his prophesy, ver. In the 6th ver. And now follows the threatning, in the 8th verse, shall not the land tremble for this?
We may possibly think it a matter of no great im portance, whether we are honest, or not.
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We may esteem honesty nothing more than a pagan virtue. But we ought to know, that a real principle of righ teousness is a christian grace, and of absolute and indis pensible necessity. Righteousness, in all its branches towards our neighbour, as well as towards God, is what we must practise; or we shall certainly expose ourselves to that anger of heaven, which may cause the earth to tremble and sink under us. This may be especially worthy of our consideration, in such a day of awful rebuke as this is; and the rather, because it may be feared, whether unrighteousness, open or se cret; in the ways of violence, or under the disguise of art, is not emphatically the sin of New-England in general, and of this Town in particular.
Says the prophet, Isa. Wo unto them that join house to house, and field to field!
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He is speaking of those who do it by unfair means, in the methods of disho nesty. The reason of this Woe follows in the 25th verse, The hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets; that is, by the falling of scattered pieces of the houses upon them. Moreover, Drunkenness is another sin, it might be expected, God would visit with an earthquake. Reel ing too and fro is the characteristic of one that is drunk. And 'tis observable, the prophet, when de scribing an earthquake, speaks of it in much the same language.
The earth is moved ex ceedingly, the earth shall reel to and fro like a Drunk ard, and shall be removed like a cottage. But the man ner of motion in an earthquake, the analogy between this judgment and drunkenness, is not the only reason we have to think, that this is a sin God would testify against. It is mentioned, by name, in scripture, espe cially when committed in company, and with noisie vain merriment, as that which will expose to the woe of an earthquake. And the harp, and the viol; the tabret, and the pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: But they regard not the work of the Lord; neither consider the operation of his hands.
The threatning follows, in the 25th verse, Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and the hills did tremble. An awakening consideration this to the people of New-England! How general is the practice of drinking to excess? What large quantities of spirituous liquors are there consumed in this land, and in this town! Do not many of our people spend too much of their time, and too much of their substance, in taverns!
Are there none of them that walk in rioting and drunkenness, in addition to chambering and wanton ness? This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. You ask me why I love the Lord. Well, friend, just let me say Life was not worth living 'Till the Saviour came my way.
You say I lose so much in life. I lose the sin and sorrow Which was all I ever knew. I lose the days spent seeking joy, The long nights full of tears; I lose the heavy burdens, Which I carried through the years. But friend, I would not have them back For all that you could pay. My life was not worth living 'Till the Saviour came my way. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
John b. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Galatians But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
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Philippians a. When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down; Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small: Love so amazing, so Divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
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