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What mean you by this service? : A question proposed and discussed in a sermon, preached on the late general fast online

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T^^af mem yotf,^ Bg tpis Sermcef






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PREACHED ON THE LATE

E; N E R A L F ii S ,T*

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^ Printed by Richard Hett;

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T. Cadell, in the Strand; and
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^^ -^M.DCC.LXXXir.

tP**CE SlX-PENCf.) -^



Exodus Xllth. . 26, .i r
' JFhat mean you by this Service ?

IT was t'orefeen', that the children of If-
rael, when called; to the annual folem-
nity of the paflbveF, would afk their im-
mediate parents, what they meant by that
fervice : who were commanded to give
them a plain and prosper anfwer. " Ye
" fhall fay, it is the faprifice of the Lord's
*' paflbver, who paffed over the houfes of
♦* the children of Ifrael in Egypt, when
'* he fmote the Egyptians, and delivered
*• our houfes." , ' ., - . ,

<^- ;

I ACKNOWLEDGE, it would be impro-
per for me, at this time, to treat profef-
fedly of the Jewifh paflbver. But, I hope,
I (hall not incur the charge of being impru-
dent, if I take the, liberty to introduce frpm
thefe words, the following obfervations :

I WOULD firft obferve, that thofe fer^
vices which are of divine appointment, are-
fignificant, and replete with meaning; and,-

A z that



[ 4 ]

that flaey who regard them, fliould enq^i^e^
what was originally intended by fuch fo-
lemn fer vices.

I WOULD further obferve, That when we,
ourfclves, practically regard any inftitution,
which we believe to be Divine, we have
fome end in view; and, that it becomes u^
to confider, whether that which we mean
by our obedience, accords and coincide^
with the meaning of the Moft High.

Enquiries like thefe, claim our atten-
tion in every duty: not lefs under the pre-
fejit difpenfation of the gofpel, than if we
had exifted under the part. — If then, in
every fervice, fuch queftiohs defervc our
notice, ought we not, in fo fingular and
folemn a fervice as this, to afk ourfelves
what we mean, and with what view we
are come together on this occafion ?

Fasting and prayer are of Divine ap-r
pointment. In this light, the firft and
beft of men, in every age, have occafionally
attended to thefe duties. " Sandify a faft,
" call a folemn affembly ; gather the el-
" ders, and all the inhabitants of the land
" into the houfe of the Lord your God,
p " and



[ 5 1

** and cry untp thi^ Lord*;" this Is the
language of th6 OJid-Teftament. ** As
** they minifteredUo iht Lord, and faft-
** ed-j-," is the language of the New.

It is true, that formerly, as well as at
prefent, fafting and prayer have been per-
verted by the leaven of hypocrify. But
does it, therefore, ceafe to be a duty ? We
are convinced it does not, by our Lord's
advice refpedting private fafts, which it
will be our wifdom to regard in every faft
we keep. Thus the counfel of Chrift
iiands on record for our inftrudlion :
<•* Moreover, when ye faft, be not as the
" hypocrite? of a fad countenance : for
" they disfigure their faces, that thay may
'.' appear unto men to faft. Verily, I fay
*f pnto you, they have their' reward. But
♦5 thou, when thou fafteft, anoint thine
" head, and wafli thy face j that thou ap-
" pear not unto men to faft, but unto thy
*f Father which is in fecret; and thy Fa-
" ther, which feeth in fecret, ftiall reward
*' thee openly J."

Among the many, engaged as we are
this day, probably different meanings are

* Joel i. 14. f Ads xiii. 2. t Matt. vi. 16, 17, 18. '

indulged.



[ 6 ]

indulged. But what is that to us ? Why
fhould we perplex ourfelves concerning
others, or indulge uncharitable fufpicions
of any ? The queftion which it becomes us
to afk, and which we fhould endeavour to
anfwer, is this, what do lae mean by th's
fervice ? — This queftion is, I confefs, not
that which is propofed in the text, but it
does hot ftand in oppofition to it ; nor will
this accommodation of the words to our
prefent purpofe, guarded as above, lead
any from the true meaning of that memo-
rable fentence. The fingle queftion then,
now to be difcufled, is, what do we our-
felves mean, by engaging in the extraordi-
nary fervice of this day ?

I. Do we mean to obtain any thing from
the Almighty, from the fuppofed merit
of our waiting on him by fafting an4
prayer?

I HOPE, this is not the meaning of any
perfon prefent. I am fure it is not mine.
Our fervices, the whole of them, are con-
feffedly imperfe£t : for fuch fervices, fliall
we dare to think, that God is our debtor ?
Befides, we are either under a covenant
of grace, or under a covenant of works ;

if



[ 7 ]

if we are under a covenant of grace,' by thit
covenant, the merit of man is annihilated j
if we are under a covenant of' works, re-
member," that this covenant is a broken co-
venant : at firft, it demanded perfed: obe-
dience; afterwards, when fin had entered
into the world, with the original claim,
it required, and ftill requires, fatisfadtjon
for our numerous offences : if fo, .what
place can be found for adtibns like ours to
merit any thing under this broken covenant?
He that cah difcover any merit in them, on
account of which, one judgment -fllduld
be averted, or a title to one bleflirig pro-
cured, will difcover that, which I am by no
means able to difcern. It is true, God is very
gracious at the voice of the cry of his people.
But certainly, grace from God, doqs not
fuppofe merit in us. I have long thought
it fuppofes the reverfe. What that is, which
a difplay of the grace of God to us fup-
pofes, we, my brethren, have repeatedly,
this day confefTed : for we have been un-
animous, and cordial, in the confeffion of
owt Jins. Let us, therefore, rejoice, not
that there is any merit in us to balance our
crimes, but, that there^ is forgivenefs
with God, that he may be feared*. This

* Pf. cxxx. 4.

is



{ 8 ]

is a fa6t; but that we are able to obtain any
tiling from him, as the reward of our me-
rit, this is falfe. — The promifed reward is
not reckoned of debt, but of grace.

2. Do we mean to mock the Almighty
by attending to this fervice ? — God forbid!

It may Teem unkind to afk this qucftion;
feut I beg you will recolleft, that horrid as
the idea Teems, this has been done repeated-
ly. Wbat can we think of the faft appoint-
ed by yezeSely at wbich, and alfo by that
mean, Naboth was flain * ? What can we
think of tbofe fafts concerning which it is
faid, they were for ftrife and debate, and
to fmite witb the firt of wickednefs ")- ? Or
of thofe, that were fo feverely, and ye^
fo juftly cenfured by Jefus Chrift;^ ? — It is
true, accurately fpeaking, " God is not
** Blocked." But we are often faid to dd
what Ive defire and endeavour to efFed:,
and dre treated accordingly j unlefs th6
grace of God interpofes. Now, in adiions
of this nature, what has been done, may
be done again. It is our duty, therefore,
to be cautious. — The befl way to prevent

♦ I Kingsxxi. 9 — 14. f If. Iviii. 4. % Matt.vi. 16.

every



t 9 ]

every infdlt of'this naturcj is to bcjealoUs ol"
bur own hearts; to examine them with care*
land to entreat, that whatever we do not-
obtairij V?e may not be- denied that grace
whereby we inay ferve God with reverence^
and with godly fear.* — My language on this
fubjedti is not the language of cenfurc;
from thatj yoiif own conduct exempts you;
but it is, as I conceive, the language of pru:-
dent affedtion, which j I am perfuaded> you
will not r^jed:.

3. E)o vre mean by this fervlce to offend^
Xivflatief o\\.v fuperiors f

Were this our deflgn* is it poilible to
imagine that fiich an intention could qfeape
the notice of the all-feeing eye, or that fuch
behaviour could be difcefned with approba-
tion ? Shall we give juft eaufe of offence tp
"themj by whom we are protedlfd ? This
would be ungrateful. Shall we ^reat thet^i
with contempt, whom we are commanded to
■obey -f- ? This would be impious. Shall we
provoke and infult them for whom we
are exhorted to make intereeffion J ? This
would expofe us to the charge of hypo-
crify.-^Butj (hall v^e flatter thofe fuperiors

* Heb. xiL a8. f Rom. xiii. i — -j. % i Tiiii. ii. i — 3^.

- . B .vfhooi



[ lo ]

twhom we may not offend ? This would be
to affront the Almighty, and expofe our-
felves to his providential vengeance. Let us
not, I pray you, accept any man's perfon,
neither let us give flattering titles to men -,
in fo doing, our Maker would foon take us
away*. For myfelf, I charitably believe,
and have reafon to conclude,, that our king
neither expedls nor approves of the moft
oblique ftrokes of flattery in the offices of
devotion. If any man does, he deferves to
be difappointed.

4. Do wemean by this fervice to be j^^r-
tizans in popular debates, and to offer the un-
hallowed inbenfe of political paJJio7is to
God, in the form of fervent prayer ?

Hitherto, my brethren, you have been
much better employed. Something more
ferious, more folemn ; fomething far more
confifl:ent, both with your profefllon, and
with the Divine Providence, you have kept
in view in your confeflions and fuppli-
cations -j-. And, I ftiould be very forry, in-

* Job xxxii. 21, 22. t It is ufual with us, and
others, in thefe extraordinary ferviccs, for feveral of the
members of the church to engage in prayer ; after which,
the paftor delivers a fermon, and concludes the public
ftrvice by engaging in prayer himfelf.

^* 5 deed.



[ " ]

deed, if, now the fervic© of the day Is fal-
len into my hands, I fhould either difgrace,
or difturb your devotion. You -have trufted
me with the management of the remaining
part of; this fervice, and I will endeavour to
be faithful to my truft.

It is high time to f eoollefl:, that the ori-
ginal queftion, propofed to be difcufled at
the beginning of this difcourfe, yet remains
unanfwered. I, indeed, can only anfvver
that queftion for myfelf. And this, to fa-
tisfy my own confcience, I have attempted.
But it gives me real pleafure to find, that
what I meant by this fervice, was your
meaning alfo. What I intended by it
was, " ^

I. To juftify God.

II. To fray for thofe blefiings which vi?e
have not, or have not in fuch a mea-

- fure as pious men could wifh^ and,

III. To be thankful, truly thankful, for
thofe bleffings which are yet con-

^'^ • tinned with us.

And this, give hie leave to repeat it,, now

appears to have been our mutual intention. —

B2 Are



[ 12 ]

Ar« we,, however, on this day only, to he
thus employed ? I hope not- I will, then,
endeavoar to recall the ideas I have men-
tioned, and under each attempt to add fomc-
thing, which inay confirm us in our prefent
refolutions.



I. We mean hy this fetvice to
God.



•.Whenever we are chaftened and cor-
refted of, the Lord, this, I think, is our firft,
o'ur capital duty. It is admi-tted by moft,
that we now are, as a nation, under the
chaftening hand qf the Almighty, Believ-
ipg, this, if we do not acknovvledge that our
chaftifements are juft, we cenfvire him
whofe ftripes we feel.— Infidels, I know,
are willing to imagine, that afflidlion
Cometh forth of the duft, and that trouble
ipringeth out of the ground : but rejeding
jfuch impiety, and being delivered from fuch
ignorance; believing both a general and
particular providence, what is our duty ? — ;
To jupfy God.. You grant.it; yet, fon;iemay
be difpofed %q afk. In what manner, and by
what afts, ought we, in the prefent ftate of

things, tojuftify God ? We ought io do,

this, by acknoASrledging his dojoainion Aver



[ 13 1

us, and his indifpi^table right to chaftife us
in fuch a manner as feems good in his fight.
We ought to do it, by eonfefling our tranf-
gnejSions publicly j and ftill more particu-
larly in private i and by declaring, that we
have deferved, not only all we feel and fear,
but that it is owing, entirely owing to the
piercy of the Almighty, that fuch finners
are hot confunied. — Further, we ought to
acknowledge, that our chaftifements, all of
them, accord with juftice, and are blended
with mercy ; nay more, that they are wife
as well as kind: or that ^theyare from the
Lord, the effedis, not of ciiprice or cruelty,
but of wifdom and pompaffion. It is if need
be, that real Chfiftians are in heavinefs
throvigh manifold temptations -j-. And.wc
are alTured, that God.chaftifes fuch for their
profit ^ J therefore, if upon the whole, we
are lofers by afflictive difpenfations, it is
probably owing either to our ignorance, our
infolence, or to our infidelity. *' All thing?
work together for good to therp that love
God, to them who are the called according
to his purpofe§;" and they who juftify.him,
and accept of that perfed: righteoufnefs by
which he juftifieth the ungodly, are, appz-,
fently, of that number.
+ I Peter, i. (>. * Heb, xii. lo. § Rom. viii. 28.



[ 14 ]

If our acknowledgements of the domi-
nion and grace of God be fincere, and if the
confefilons of our own guilt be confiftent,
they will be connefted with repentance, pa-
tience and reformation. We (hall moucn
over our own iniquities, as well as mention
them; and be ready and willing to fay, that
we will bear the indignation of the Lord,
becaufe we have finned againft him *. The
goodnefs of God, which is always confpi-
cuous to the humble, will lead us to repen-
tance; and repentance, if genuine and
evangelical, will produce real reformation^
—Thus ought we ^ojufiify God.

Lbt him who only perceives general
truths, -attempt to juftify his Maker : but
let us, who profefs to be Chriftians, do
this, and every thing elfe, with aa eye to
the mediation of Jefus Chrift,— Confeffion
of fin, without faith in Chrift, will pro-
bably ifTue in prefumption, or in dcfpair.
Repentance and reformation, without faith
in him, will, as probably, 4)e fuel for our
pride. Chrift is the immediate fource and
centre of all that is excellent in the prac-
tice of piety. Of the fituation of fuch
as never heard of his- name, we know enough
to make us thankful for Chriftianityj hut
too little to fit in judgment on their future



C '5 ]
ftate. But where Chrift is preached and
jfejedied, there, I am perfuaded, is cither
opeh profanenefs, or only the appearance of
piety, filppbrted by pharifaical pride.

How reludtant, O how reludtant are men
in common, to jurtify God, in all his ways.!
*' Fools, becaufe of their tranfgreffion, and
becaiife of their iniquities are affli(fted * ."
And, what then ? If only afflicted, their
folly ftill remains-f-. Either they are fullett
and difcontented, or they are fo fuperfti-
tious and haughty, as to imagine, that their
tears and tempers, their prayers and pro-
mifes, their difcipline and devotion, can
avert impending judgments, and make their
peace with God. Is this Chriftianity ?
Were Pagans to a6t in this manner, who
could wonder? Were nve thus to adl, who
might not wonder ? May we, therefore, do
every thing in the name and faith of our Lord
Jefus Chrift 1 Wait on the Lord ; but truft
in him while you wait on him. Juftify
him, and though chaftened, you fhall not
be condemned with the world ;|:. Juftify
him in all your afflictions, and you' fliall
find, that " with the Lord there is mercy,
and with him is plenteous redemption §."

' * Pfal. evil. 17. t Ifaiah xlii. 25. % i Cor. xi. 3!-

§ Pfal. cjycx, 7. .. «
r II.



t i6 3

ll. We mean by this fervice to fray tof
thofe bleffings which we have not, or
which we have not in fueh a meafure as
pious men eould wifh.

He that juftifies God in the midft of his
judgments, with fincerity, has, or foon
will have, that freedom and fervency in ap-
proaching the throne of grace, which, giv-
ing way to a contrary difpofition, it would
be impoffible to obtain. This facft is eftab-
lifhed by a blaze of evidence, in the fad^
but inftruiSive cafe of David. He keeps
filence, but cannot reft. He attempts to
juftify himfelf, but has no quiet. He fpeaks,;
(hear his language) " Againft thee, thee
*• only, have I finned, and done this evil in
** thy fight." — I fay this, " that thou
*• mighteft be juftified, and clear from
*« every cenfure, when thou judgeft*.''
Thus, at length he fpeaks ; and then with
freedom, and with uncommon energy, he
prays to obtain the moft important bleffings.
Let us endeavour to follow his example.
Having acknowledged, as a great prophet
once did -j-, that to us belongeth confufion
of facej to our king, to our princes^and
to our fathers; becaufe we have fmned

* Pfal. li. 4. t t>anleU

againft



t 17 ]

iagalnft the Lord; let us not, I befeech yoU*
forget what that great prophet to feafonably
recolleifted, " that to the Lord our God
*• belong mercies and forgiveneffes, though
*• we have rebelled againft him*." Firm-
ly confiding in this, and other declarations
of the Divine mercy to the guilty, what
Ihould hinder/us from making fupplicatibri
for fuch biemngs as we have not, or have
not in fuch a meafure as pious men could
wilh ?-^=-I fay, as pkus men could wi(h ; for,
men who are ftrangers to piety, and who have
no relifh for its pleafures, will naturally de*
fire what godly men would dread. What
they would fhudder at, would, in too many
inftances, caufe thofe to ftiout for joy.

The deftruition of our national enemieg
is, I fear, the ardent wifli of fome* 1 can-
not, however, indulge a defire like this. I
wifli their converfion, and not their deftrue*
tion. I defire it, both in a civil and in a
moral fcnfe. I ardently vsrifh, that rebellion
both to God and man might ceafe; and,
that envy and ambition, pride and opprefilon,
might at once expire ! Till then, may oui*
enemies, abroad or at home, be unable to






* Dan. ix, 9.

C injare



[ it ]

injure us, and we unwilling to injure them f
Continuing to be what they are, may they
be fubdued, but not deflroyed I,

The three great bleffings which, as a
nation, we feem to want, are Peace, Pu^
rity, and Humility. What ideas I now in-
clude in thefe terms, permit me to men-
tion.

By Peace, I mean a ftate of pacification
with thofe powers with which we are at
war. America, France, Spain, Holland;
theTe, all thefe powers, are in a ftate- of
Koftility with us ; and we, without a fe-
cond, in a flate of hoftility with them.
This is a mournful fubjedl for meditation.
Confidered as a calamity, it is awful. The
Tource of this calamity is awful. Its <ltira-
ration, and the manner in which it has
been augmented and prolonged, makes it
truly alarming, and {hows, that peace,
'national peace, is greatly to be defired.
That bleffing is the gift of God. To pray,
therefore, that war may ceafe to the ends
of the earth, and that we may foon and
fong enjoy, on terms both equitable and
wife, peace with our foreign enemies, and
peace among ourfelves; this, furcly, is one
S great



[ 19 ]

gvest bleffing whicl). we fhoul4 inceffantly
implore.

But he who prays for peace, per-
verfely prays, if, while thus employed, h?
willingly dillurhs the portion of tranquility
that yet remains amongft us, and endear
vours to augment thofe animofities and di7
vifions, which are, already, by far too great.
Why fhould we add hypocrify to a haughty
temper? Yet, if vexatious to the iiate, to
religious focieties, or to thofe with whom
we deal, or with whom we dwell j indulg-
ing fuch a temper, is it not hypocritical to
pray for peace ? If it be by the ufe of means
that we are led to the enjoyment of any
bleffing, thofe means will either be regard-
ed,, or the bleffing connefted with them,
will, comparatively fpeaking, be defpifed.
Every thing is beft fought when it is fougl^t
in its proper order, and in due connection.
Peace of confciencp, is effential to a proper
.improvement of peace in any other view.
I He that does not value peace with God,
will either not have, or not improve, as he
ought, the bleffings of peace and friend-
ship with his fellow-creatures. Pray for
the peace of your country; but endeavour
to dp th^s with peace of confcience, by
C 2 faith



[ " 1

laith in the Mediation of Jefus Chrift.— •
Pray for the peace of your country ; but
at the fame time, if it be poffible, live
peaceably with all men,' — Pray for the peace
of your country j but let the congregation
where you worfhip, have juft occafion to fay^
that you are men of peace, — Pray for the peace
of your country; but let the peace of your
families, or of the families in vvhich you re-
fide, be that which you ftudy to preferve, and
endeavour to proK^Ote. — To feem importu-
nate for peace on this public occafion in
the houfe of God, and to be foiind in our
own houfes vexatious wafps, or malignant
vipers, would be horribly inconfiftent. May
we ever be preferved from the appearar\ce of
fuch incongruity I

By Purify, I mean purity of doftrine,
purity of difpofition, and purity of conver-
fation. Thefe bleffings, or this bleflinoj
thus modified, is much wanted in Great
Britain. — He who has the Bible, has in-
deed, in it, the pureft dodtrines that were
ever delivered to mankind. But it is our
misfortune, it is more, it is our fliame,
that thofe dodtrines are treated as they are
by fome, from whom better things might
h.ave been expefted. By fome, the capita^

^uth.s



[ 21 1 '

truths of revelation are denied j and by
others, they are derided. By feme, they
are ironically diftorted ; by others, they are
either artfully concealed, or partially repre-
fented. By charadlers fuperior to thefe,
they are flatled corredlly indeed, but in a
manner fo cold, fo dry, and fo abftradled,
that confcienee feels not the unanimated
found ; and but few, very few perceive,
under fuch lifelefs declamations, that doc-
trines thus ftated, were ever intended to
produce pradical refolutions. But when
with greater meafures of light and lovej
when, with the energy of the Holy Ghoft,
the gofpel fhall be preached in its primi-
tive fimplicity, then, as formerly, it /hall
be found the power of God to falyation.

While things continue as above de-
fcribed, (which every competent judge
will fay, is no exaggerated defcription),
what wonder ; I fay, what wonder is it,
that there aire fuch vifible defedts in purity
of difpofition and converfation ? Ought
any Rian, who lives in the eighteenth cen-
tury, to be furprifed, that infolence fliould
be connected with infidelity ? Or, that cor-
rupt doflrine fhould produce corrupt con-
yerfation ? Spqnd docjlrine may be per-
verted I



E ?2 ]

verted; but falfe dodlrine, can producf
nothing that will mend the morals of man-,
Jcind.— If fo, let us pray, that with peace,
we may have purity j and, that with de-
liverance from diftrefs, we ma^y obtain fucl^
9. reformation of manners, as refults from ^
renovation of mind. This connexion ap-»
pears important; fof, if the docftrine which
we embrace be corrupt, whether it be po-
litical, or theological, depraved are ouf
difpofitions, and corrupt wil/ be our con-
verfation.-w-Long may they live, whoever
they are, that promulge purity of fenti-.
ment to fociety ! Greatly may they be
^fhamed, be who they may,^who maintain
the innocency of error, or who diflemi-
nate the tares qf unfpund do<^rine among
men 1

By Humility^ I mean that difpofition
which inclifies us to think, and fppak of
ourfelves, with fobriety a;id rnodefty, an4
to treat others with meeknefs and benevo-
lence J and which, whenever we fpeak tp
the Divine Being, or of him, engages us
to do it with delight, and with the deepeft
jeverence. Devoid of this difpofition, we
fnay pofl'efs, indeed, an appearance of holi-
p?fs fufRcient to deceive many ; but ge-
nuine



r 23 1

nulne purity is at no greater diftance from
any perfon than from him who, is habi-
tually haughty : fuch a man, were he to
dwell in the manfions of peace and plenty,
would be both unholy and unhappy. Be
ye therefore, clothed with humility. May
this blefling, fo much wanted amongft us,
be ardently fought, and always eftimated,
according to its real and relative value!
From rtational, as well .as from perfonal
pride, may we be preferved ! God may af^
flidt, but he will never hurt the humble.
Let us " humble ourfelves therefore un-
"' der the mighty hand of God, that he
may exalt us in due time* 1"



*t



Hitherto, we have dwelt on the du-


1

Online LibraryJohn MartinWhat mean you by this service? : A question proposed and discussed in a sermon, preached on the late general fast → online text (page 1 of 2)