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A SERMON, PREACHED ON THURSDAY, 22d MARCH, 1832, BEING THE DAY APPOINTED
BY HIS MAJESTY TO BE OBSERVED IN SCOTLAND AS A GENERAL FAST.
By tbe Very Rev. G. H. BAIRD, D. D.
“ When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn
righteousness.”—Isaiah xxvi. 9.
I BEGIN, my friends, with remarking that where the precise object of the divine by the term “ judgments of God," the visitation is unknown, and invisible to us. Scriptures sometimes denote the decisions, In many cases the Lord holdeth back his whether favourable or adverse, wbich God face in his dealings with his creatures, and Ipasses upon the conduct of men. But spreadeth a cloud of darkness over it: more frequently this pbrase is employed men behold the effects only of his interIto denote the effect of such decisions, position without perceiving the particular when they are unfavourable-to denote end for which these visitations were proIthose remarkable punishments by which duced. For instance, in the material
the Almighty chastises the wickedness of world we sometimes witness famine, and Iguilty individuals, and the crimes of guilty the raging tempest consuming all, and nations. In the course of God's provi- blasting the hopes of men,-and so it is dential procedure, we often see bis judg- to this day in our land. At other times ments; we see misfortune and distress we behold a terrible pestilence, thinning, following so closely and visibly the con- by its ravages, the numbers of the people. duct of men, that we can have no doubt And in the establishments of social life, whatever concerning the connection that, too, do we not often see deep distress by his appointment, subsists between brought on the inhabitants of whole king. them. Thus, when poverty, like an armed doms through political revolutions and Iman, rusheth on the prodigal,—when a war? Now, we kpow from the ScripIfailing of eyes, and trembling of joints, tures, and the suggestions of our own land rottenness of bones afflict the sensu. hearts, and these also are the scourges of alist,—when a dissolution of all the moral nations, in the hands of the Almighty. jbonds that uphold government sweeps from We are at the same time but seldom able ja once high place among the nations an to point out the individuals whose sin jungodly, and profigate, and effeminate these judgments were sent more immedipeople, we see in such cases an obvious ately to punish. The individualsufferers, relation between sin and punishment, like the eighteen men upon whom the between the son and the judgment of Tower of Siloam fell, are often pot more
od passed against it. They are con- guilty than other people. Let it not, lected as cause and effect, by the original however, be overlooked, that the promisconstitution which the Almighty has im- cuous calamities which happen to them, posed on man, and on the world in which if they do not come as punishments, come man is placed, and where he acts; and we in Divine Wisdom, as salutary general feel no surprise when we see these accom- warnings, or as improving tests and trials panying one another--the sin and the of their faith, or as exercises of their puvishment.
fortitude and patience. In all such cases, But, my friends, there are many cases it would therefore be rash and unchari
Vol. 1.- 0. I.
table to interpret particalarly, and with series of arrangements, we can see the reference to individuals, the views of watchful providence of God rendering men divine judgment when affecting a multi- in their respective spheres, the instrutude. It is enough for us to know that ments of promoting the destined and these judgments, whatever be their kind, ultimate perfection of our race. wbatever be their nature, or whatever Now, to a man capable of reflecting on their degree, are instruments of God's these marks of Divine government, the government of his moral and rational Almighty surely presents an object most offspring, and that the inhabitants of the worthy of unbounded veneration-a being earth may learn from them lessons of whose mercies in all things are conspicurighteousness. This is the view, you will ous, and who has an ungestionable title remark, in which the text represents the to receive from his rational creatures the judgments of God to our consideration; worship and homage which he requires. and, therefore, in conformity with the But, alas ! my brethern, while things obpious purpose for which we are assembled serve their ordinary course, how seldom this day, I shall endeavour to suggest, do we permit our thoughts to rise from briefly, two of the righteous lessons which them to the power by which they are the judgments of God ought to teach us. conducted ? Alas! alas! the beauty and
In the first place, the judments of God, benignity which our Father in heaven bas whatever their form, and whatever their spread around us in the world, where he degree may be, when they are contem- bas given us our situation, detain our atplated by an enlightened and devout mind, tention on themselves, without suggestare found powerfully to excite within it ing the source from which they flow. sentiments of warm piety and deep devo- Nay, that very order, that very regularity tion toward that God from whom these which is the effect of his present power judgments proceed. My friends, that God and care, lulls our mind asleep, and rencontinues to govern the world which he ders us insensible to the workings of his has made, and that his rational subjects hand. It is, in truth, oply wben the owe to him reverence and obedience, are general order of events seems to be sentruths which scarcely admit of doubt. sibly interrupted-it is only when the God has impressed so visibly on all his elements composing the world and the works the signature of that unceasing frame of divine government seem to jostle, care which he exercises for their preserva- as it were, against each other, it is only tion, that we have only to open our eyes when the pillars that support the society on his works and behold it. When we of men are suddenly shaken or broken look up to the heavens which his fingers down-or when some public or personal have framed, when we see the sun, and misfortune crosses the path of life, that the moon, and the stars observing order the thoughtless multitude-and, alas are and regularity in all their movements, we we not all to be considered too much are at once convinced of the powerful members of the thoughtless multitudesuperintendence and energy of their Cre-arise to reflection, and feel the presence ator ;-and when we turn our view to of their God. this earth, we meet every where indica- My friends, there are various principles tions of a similar kind. It is by the in our constitution, by which the judg. energies of his hand that all the things of ments of Heaven contribute to a salutary this world are maintained, each of them effect upon the minds of a thoughtless in their due season and proportion, and it world. Unexpected revolutions, either in is upon him they depend for the wonder the natural or moral world, naturally ful maintenance of their condition. But arrest our attention. They demonstrate, above all, we can trace the watchful pro- in the most sensible manner, to our con vidence of God in the history of our race, sciences, our own weakness, and the in -we can trace the watchful providence competency of our powers, either to proof God communicating to man, at his first duce or control the changing events formation, the instincts and powers re- around us ; and to every mind that is not quired for the new condition he was to totally enfeebled and darkened, through till, we can trace the watchful provi-corruption, such revolutions suggest with dence of God mingling men in society, irresistible force the notion of a powerful and adjusting their talents to the situation Supreme Ruler, they alarm our fears at his which each of them has been destined to displays, and awaken all those sentiments fill in it, and, through a most complicated |--(this is at least their natural tendency,
or ought to be their constant effect)-1 From these remarks, my friends, it will of humility and penitence, which form the appear that the divine judgments have as beginning of a pious and devout temper. their first and general purpose, whatever And I would especially call your attention their kind and form may be, to rouse the to this view of the case, that we learn attention of sinners to the proofs of divine from Scripture, that this is not only the government, and to recall them, before it be tendency of the divine judgments when too late, from their sleep of inconsideration, rightly improved, but often the very pur- and from the criminal practices of irreligion pose for which they were sent by the and vice. These purposes of the divine providence of God. The early record of judgments which we have affirmed in so Moses proclaims repeatedly, that strange many portions of Scripture, and which so punishments came upon the disobedient. heavily afflict our land, let us carefully And why? That the people may bear, improve. Let us remember, that, amid and feel, and do no more their iniquities. the calamity that is committing its ravages The plagues were sent upon Egypt that among our brethren, all is the doing of the the Egyptians might know that God is Lord; and considering that, let us then, the Lord. When Sennacherib was pur- with habitual and awful reverence, bow suing his severe conquests, and wickedly before him, and in submission to his will. railing against the God of Israel, an angel But, my brethren, the judgment which of the Lord slew in one night an hundred has, by the divine permission, visited our and fourscore and five thousand men ! land, and which bas this day brought us, And why? It was, that all the kingdoms professing humiliation, to the house of of the earth might know that he is the prayer-a judgment as appalling in its Lord God, even he alone! And the effects as it is novel in its circumstancesPsalmist in express terms asserts the gen- not only powerfully impresses the general eral proposition, that God maketh him-lesson of righteousness, which all the diself known by the judgments which he vine judgments are calculated to do, but exécuteth, and snareth the wicked in the with a fatal and a loud voice reminds us, work of his own hands.
in the second place, of this other peculiar If, then, my beloved Christian friends, lesson, the uncertainty of life, and the nethe judgments of God be both fitted and cessity and wisdom therefore of instant designed to awaken us to the ways of his preparation for a Christian death of peace providence, how should we labour to re- and hope. For, my friends, what judgment gard and improve them? Never let it be has ever taught so widely and so alarmforgotten that the prevalence of these ingly the truth, that we know not what a judgments is a means of moral reformation day or a night may bring forth ?- What for which we are accountable. They are judgment has ever so terrified the land chastisements which, after all gentler me- with the similitude of the Psalmist,thods bave failed, our gracious Father," thou turnest man to destruction, and desirous of our reformation and eternal sayest, Return, ye children of med. Thou safety, employs, and employs reluctantly, carriest them away as with a flood: they as the last efforts to recall us to the paths are as a sleep-in the morning they are of obedience. And if we return not-if like grass which groweth upTo the we still harden our hearts more and more, morning it flourisheth and groweth-in what must be the coasequence? You all the evening it is cut down and withereth." know what must be the consequence. Yes, my brethren, how many are the This consequence may follow, and follow dwellings around us, where the inmates, most certainly under the divine govern- healthy and light-hearted when the sun ment it will, that our wickedness must be arose, have, ere the sun descended, given avenged by signal calamity. The denun- the dust to dust, and their spirit to God? ciations made by the mouth of Isaiah must Oh! how alarming to unprepared and comes This “ people turn not to him that sinful men is a fate like this? No time siriteth them, neither do they seek the is there for review-no time for repentLord of hosts. Therefore the Lord will ance-no time for making assurance of cut off from Israel, head and tail, branch peace with God. Who prays not earnestly and rush, in one day; for through the at this moment for himself from a fate like wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land this,—“O God of thy good mercy save and darkened, and the people shall be as the deliver me.” O, my brethren, confine not fuel of the tire: no man shall spare his your feelings to a brief momentary prayer. brother,” (Isaiah ix. 13, 14, 19.)
Let them have a permanent and practical influence on your hearts and lives. The devoutness we lift our hearts to the throne disastrous inroads of the pestilential ma- of the Most High, but we must carefully lady into the bosom of our own city have add to our supplications tbe acceptable hitherto been, through the divine forbear-incense of penitent hearts and holy livesance in mercy, comparatively limited ; for thus only, let us be assured, can our but who will say that our dwellings--who hope be on rational and safe grounds. will say that our persons are for the future What is the language of Britons here this secure ? Signal benevolence has been day? If it has any meaning, it is that you manifested for averting the mischief by believe in the great truth of the constant the opulence among us. No labour of superintendence of God over human af. love has been spared; and as to the pro- fairs;- if it has any meaning, it is that he, fessional members of the healing art, they by the general tenor of his laws, manihave, by their conduct, most richly de- fests favour to the godly; but that he does, served the gratitude of their fellow-citi- and ever will, by the unchanging princizens, and have won for themselves indeli- ples of his government, reward the evil ble reputation. They have won it by the according to his iniquities. If the language fearless exposure of their own persons to of Britons has any meaning, it is that you the perils of infection in the discharge of are conscious of much evil-doing-that their hazardous duty, in their unwearied you deplore it in your own personal case; and watchful toils at the beds of the dis- and that you resolve to cease from doing eased and the dying. Ye opulent-ye it hereafter-that you resolve to be steadprofessional men, to whom I have now fast and immoveable, always abounding in alluded-let not the unfounded and insane the work of the Lord, which steadfastness prejudices, as I must term them, of some and immoveableness, and abounding in the ignorant and misguided individuals, damp work of the Lord, may justify your conyour ardour, or relax your efforts, in your fessions here, and procure your acceptance godlike work of well-doing. All that is in the day of tinal account. enlightened and generous, approve and Now, surely, never was there a louder applaud ; and even the ignorant will even-call on Britons than there is this day, to tually feel shame, as they ought, for their adopt this language in the sanctuary, and ancharitableness and folly, wbile it is yours in all their future conduct. Let all ranks to enjoy, above all the praises of men, the among us, therefore, as the best preparagracious approbation of your consciences, tion for stopping this calamity-as the and your God.
best preparation for that death, which, if But still, again the startling question not this calamity, some other cause will recurs, under all that opulence and me-, speedily bring upon us all let men all dical labour and skill have contributed to repent and reform-let men of every rank ward off the evil from our gates, are our consult this Book of God, wbich explains houses, I ask again, are weourselves for the so clearly, and which alone can explain, future, with entire certainty, secure from with authority, because it bears the the desolating disease, and that frightful stamp of divine religion-let all consult rapidity with which it hurries its victim this Book, and learn w bat the terms are to the grave? Never let it be forgotten on which God is willing to forgive the that opulence and medical skill are but sinner-what the terms are on wbich they secondary means and causes, and that their can receive the assurance in their minds efficiency depends on the influential co- of their being heirs of that salvation which operation and blessing of our heavenly the Redeemer came to accomplish. They Father. Let, then, our devout, sincere, will find, that there is only one way in and ardent aspirations - let the devout, which the sinner can hope for forgiveness. sincere, and ardent aspirations of every It was said to a person of high rank, that inhabitant of our city ascend to him-let there is no royal road to any particular us thrust our tears and supplications be- science. So in the chair of Truth, the fore the footstool of his throne, before the teacher of religion is called on to tell the great Mediator, that he will be pleased people, that there is no privileged road to still to be around us, and deliver us from heaven-that there is no peculiar road by our threatening dangers and troubles. which the high may reach'it to the exclu
But, then, my people, let me impress on sion of the poor-00 peculiar road by every conscience and heart, if we hope for which the poor may reach it to the exclu. success to our supplications, that it is not sion of the high, -- "Strait is the gate, and enough that in a momentary feeling of narrow is the way, which leadeth unto