« AnteriorContinua »
Thus says the inspired penman in our text, verse 4. "Showing to the generation to come, the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and the wonderful works that he hath done." We should not presently forget the merciful appearances of God for us, or ours, it is an argument of ingratitude if we do; neither should we soon let slip the awful tokens of God's displeasure in any instance, by means of which our flesh has been made to tremble; but we should lay up the remarkable occurrences of divine Providence for future improvement; and frequently to renew the idea of them in our minds, cannot but have a tendency to fix them in the thoughts of the imagination of our hearts.
2. To stir up in us a holy fear of God and a dread of his wrath. Among the purposes of Heaven in the discoveries of the divine displeasure, in the executions of vengeance, this is one, "that others may bear and fear," may thereby be admonished and take warning. We ought to fear that holy and dreadful name, the Lord our God. We should have such an awe of the majesty of Heaven, and such a dread of his wrath, as to make us very cautious of doing any thing to provoke him to come forth against us in anger. Now a serious reflection upon what God has done, either in our own day, or in ancienter times, to punish his people for their rebellions against him, may have, and surely it ought to have this influence and effect upon us, through a holy fear of God, to avoid those ways and practices which were so provoking to the God of heaven, that for the honor of his great name, he hath visited his people with sore judgments and calamities. This is particularly intimated to us in our text, verse S," and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God." Further,
3. This may be of use and service to excite our love, and increase our gratitude to the ever-blessed God.
The many kind things that Heaven has done for us and for our fathers, should influence us to love our most gracious and bountiful Benefactor, and should enlarge our hearts in gratitude to him. Every day is a witness for God that he is good, and does good; and calls for our constant and persevering returns of love and gratitude. But there are some remarkable interpositions of favor and goodness which demand our most special and peculiar notice; eminent and signal appearances of divine favor call for more peculiar and enlarged returns: And many such there have been, if we did but duly attend to them, in our own day, and in the days of our fathers, which are very loud calls to us, to love the Lord our preserver and benefactor, and to render to him our grateful acknowledgments, according to the benefits done unto us.
And a due reflection upon these things may have a special tendency to stir us up to our duty herein, and thereby greatly turn to our advantage. Verse 4. "We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord," &c. Again,
4. To encourage us to put our trust in God, and to make him our hope and confidence at all times.
He that has delivered can deliver, and if our ways please him he will yet deliver. He has been, and is, the hope of his Israel, and their Saviour in times of trouble; great and marvellous have been his works of salvation; and the Lord Jehovah is still an inexhaustible fountain of goodness, and in him there is everlasting strength. And this is one end of such a reflection, particularly pointed at in our text, verse 7. "That we might set our hope in God." If we make God's commandments our rule, we may make his covenant our stay, for he is never unmindful thereof.
5. Such a reflection may be of great use and service, to awaken in us a suitable care, to conform our tempers and manners to the holy will and law of God, that we may engage his gracious presence with us, and obtain his blessing upon us.
This has been God's manner, he will be with his people in a way of mercy and blessing, while they adhere to him in a way of duty and obedience. This we are assured of, from the declarations of God's word, and from the history and method of his providential dispensations; thus we read, 2 Chron. xv. 1, 2. "And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin, the Lord is with you while you be with him, and if you seek him, he will be found of you." Wherefore if we regard the favor of Heaven, and in that our own interest, such a serious reflection will have a tendency to engage our regards to the will and law of God, agreeable to which are those passages in our text, verses 5-7. "For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children. That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born: who should arise and declare them to their children. That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God; but keep his commandments."
In a word,
6. A suitable review of the great and good things which the ever-blessed God hath done in our day, and in the days of our fathers, may be of use and benefit to our posterity, that they may be informed of the works of God, and called upon, not to forget the hope of their fathers, nor be unmindful of his law; which for
encouragement duly to observe, he has so signally appeared in ways of mercy; and for the breach of which, he hath come forth in anger, and marched through the midst of his people in indignation.
But this advantage of a due notice of the remarkables of Providence is to be the subject of a distinct head, and therefore may be more particularly considered by and by.
I shall therefore only add here, upon the whole of what has been offered under this note of doctrine, that for such sacred purposes as the instruction and admonition of the present and succeeding generations, in the fear and love of God, and obedience to his law, we have many instances in our Bible, of rehearsing the wonderful works of God, both present and former.
If I should pretend to give you the narratives at large, they would stretch my discourse beyond due bounds: I shall therefore, only direct you to the passages, and desire that you would read and peruse them at your leisure.
To this purpose is Moses' divine song, Exod. xv. when Israel triumphed over their enemies, who were drowned in the Red Sea. And a great part of the book of Deuteronomy is taken up with such accounts, and with solemn calls and exhortations therefrom to obedience, particularly the 3d, 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 29th chapters; and to the same end is the song of Moses in the 32d chapter, which setteth forth God's mercy and vengeance, and concludes with this exhortation, "Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe and do, all the words of this law: For it is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life, and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it." With the same pious design, Joshua, the captain and leader of Israel, exhorted the people of God before his death, and gave them a narrative of God's dealings with them. See Joshua 23d and 24th chapter. This also is the run and this the intention of the testimony of Samuel, the Lord's prophet, against Israel, after they had asked a king. See 1 Sam. 12th chap. And many other instances of the like nature we have in the book of Psalms : Thus the Psalm of which our text is a part, and to which piece of church history it is a solemn preface: And so Psalm cv. in which we are directed to praise God for his special favors to his church, an enumeration of which is therein given; and to the same purpose is Psalm cxxxvi.
In the New Testament also, such useful narratives are not wanting; you remember Stephen the protomartyr's defence, when accused of blasphemy, Acts vii. And the apostle Paul in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews, relates the wonders of faith which the ancient fathers and people of God were instances of,
and as a consequence therefrom, begins his 12th chapter with this exhortation, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Thus I have endeavored doctrinally to show you the profit and advantage of a serious reflection on the great and good things which the glorious God hath done, in the course of his providence, whether formerly or more lately.
And now by way of application,
1. We hence see both the necessity and expediency of a serious reflection and meditation upon God's providential dispensations, whether of later or ancienter date.
If there be so much profit and advantage in it, surely then it is both necessary and expedient. It is necessary, for it is our duty with regard to God, that we may give him the glory that is due to his name. And with regard to ourselves, that we may behave and conduct ourselves in a becoming manner, agreeable to our character as the people of God, who own their dependence upon him and acknowledge his propriety in them, and their obligations to him, who have their hope in him, and their expectations from him. And it is expedient, for the pleasure and the advantage of it renders it highly so. If we consult our own interest, we shall thus regard the works of the Lord and consider the operations of his hands.
2. According to our doctrine, and agreeable to the examples of such a practice, which have been produced; and with a sincere view to the same good purposes, let us look back and consider the works of the Lord, and the wonders which he hath done in our day and in the days of our fathers. But it must be in a few general brief hints, for a large volume would not more than suffice to contain the particulars.
And here allow me,
1. To give you some short account of our foundation, rise and growth, with some remarkables of Providence, worthy to be taken notice of, in such a relation. And then,
2. Briefly to hint what influence these things should have upon us.
In the first place,
1. I am to give you some short account of our foundation, rise and growth, with some remarkables of Providence, worthy to be taken notice of in such a relation.
"From the days of Moses, who wrote the first history of the beginning of the world and of Israel, the wise and pious among men have scarce known a more sacred pleasure, nor found a more profitable entertainment, than in tracing the footsteps, and windings of divine Providence, in the planting of colonies and churches, here and there through the earth.
"Nor let it seem vain in me to say (says the same great man) that in the settlement of the New England churches and provinces, there have been some circumstances so like unto those of Israel of old (after their entrance into Canaan) that I am persuaded no people of God under heaven, can sing of his mercies and judgments, in the inspired phrase, with more direct and pertinent self-application than we can do."*
"It was not long after the beginning of the former century, that a considerable number of the subjects of the crown of England, by the allowance, and under the countenance and protection of the supreme authority, did transplant themselves, families and estates into the remote regions of America."†
Our New England chronology says, "That it was on the 9th of November, in the year 1620, that they made the land, after long beating the sea; and on the 31st of December the same year, they kept their first Sabbath on the main land, at the place now well known by the name of Plymouth; from which time therefore the Rev. Mr. Prince fixes the era of their settlement.
"These first planters were known to be persons, not only of approved piety to God, but of exemplary loyalty to the throne and government they belonged to; and brought these principles of affection and duty to their prince into these his distant dominions; and their care was to transmit the same loyal principles and spirit to their posterity.
"To encourage and strengthen them to submit to the many toils, hazards and vast expense in subduing and planting a wilderness, they were favored with the royal grant of a charter, by which they were vested with several powers, liberties, and privileges, for their good order and government.
"Under the protection of the royal charter in which they entirely confided, for the security of the liberties therein granted, they were animated cheerfully to undergo unknown perils and hardships, which were unavoidable in their first plantations, by which a valuable accession has been made to the British dominions, and the commerce of Great Britain enlarged without any charge to the crown." ‡
In the latter end of the reign of king Charles the second, this charter was vacated by a judgment of the high court of chancery, which judgment was respited, till the reign of king James the second, when this corporation was disfranchised and actually divested of all the powers, liberties and privileges that had been granted to them.
The Rev. Dr. Colman, in his Preface to Mr. Penhallow's History of the Indian War.
The reverend and excellent Mr. Pemberton, in a Brief Account of the State of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, Civil and Ecclesiastical. The Rev. Mr. Prince.