Thomas Baldwin (1753-1825), an influential pastor and well-known author, was born and raised in Connecticut until the age of 16 when he moved to New Hampshire, where he later became a member of the State Legislature. As a young man, he was many times called upon to read sermons before his church when the minister was absent. In 1783, he became an ordained evangelist and for 7 years traveled on horseback among the state’s towns, preaching the Gospel until 1790, when he became the pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Boston. In 1803, Baldwin began publication of the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine, later renamed the American Baptist Magazine (the only Baptist publication in America for years), of which he was the only editor until 1817 and the senior editor until his death in 1825. During his lifetime, Baldwin published 34 separate works, including several books and numerous sermons (published at the special request of his hearers). Baldwin died in Maine at the age of 72, having the day before his death preached two sermons in Massachusetts.
S E R M O N,
DELIVERED AT BOSTON,
On TUESDAY, April 2, 1799;
Quarterly Meeting of several Churches
By THOMAS BALDWIN, A. M.
Pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Boston.
S E R M O N.
Isaiah xliii. 12, 13.
---Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was, I am be, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. I will work, and who shall let it?
A firm belief in the existence, perfections, and providence of God, is always to be considered as a first principle in religion. Where this belief is wanting, there is no rational ground to expect either virtue or morality. Every violation of the moral law, every secret or open sin, is a practical denial of the divine authority. And the most prominent features in the character of the bold transgressor, are his disbelief of the omnisciency of God, and of his own future accountability. Concealed from the observation of man, he is ready to ask, “How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High? Can I be amenable at his dread tribunal?”
But however the practice of mankind may argue against their religious principles, (for the mind often assents to what the practice denies) we have been unwilling to believe that there were any, or at most but very few, who were so shockingly impious and absurd, as professedly to deny the being and providence of God. In this country, until very lately, an absolute, professed atheist, was almost as rare, and would perhaps have excited as much astonishment, as the transit of a comet. But infidelity and atheism are now throwing off the mask, and are daring to appear with impious, brazen front, even at noon-day. Many others there are, as we have reason to suppose, who, notwithstanding their professions of friendship, are secretly abetting the same wretched cause. These disguise the malignity of their hearts, under a base insidious smile, and, Judas-like, are endeavouring to betray the dearest interests of religion with a deceitful kiss.
It is truly affecting to a pious mind, to see with what avidity, deistical, and even some atheistical publications, have been received of late among us. Is it not seriously to be feared, that many of our thoughtless, unsuspecting youth, have already caught the impious contagion? A contagion, in my opinion, much more to be dreaded than the most fatal epidemic: for, while the latter destroys the body, and hath no more that it can do, the former dissolves the bonds of social union, corrupts morality, debauches virtue, and ruins the soul forever!
These things may seem to lower with gloomy aspect upon the cause of religion. But amidst this darkness, “light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright.” For “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” “In that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious.” Around this sacred standard, like the ancient Hebrews around the tabernacle in the wilderness, will every true Israelite pitch his tent. Here will they set up their banners in the name of the Lord, and in the strength of the great Jehovah they will put to flight the whole camp of infidelity.
But should dark clouds gather round us; should we see iniquity abounding, and the love of many waxing cold; should Zion’s ways still mourn because so few come to her solemn feasts; should some depart from the Faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; yet let us not think the cause lost. This, perhaps this is the very time for God to work. He has a set time to favour Zion, and the text assures us that he will do it. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.---I will work, and who shall let it?”
In order to strengthen your faith in the certain accomplishment of the declaration in the text, and to encourage one and all to become workers together with God, I propose,
I. To offer a few thoughts upon the character of Him who has said, “I will work, and who shall let it?”
II. Shall attempt to illustrate and distinguish the particular “work” intended in the text.
III. Shall consider the general, but ineffectual, opposition contemplated to this glorious work.
The first part of our subject contains an appeal, to the sentiments and feelings of all the friends of truth---“Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” But what are the facts to which we bear witness? We testify that He is, and that He is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek him. That from everlasting to everlasting he is God. That he is the self-existent, the independent, the immutable Jehovah. That all the divine perfections centre and harmonize in his character. That he upholds and governs all worlds and all beings; and that his tender mercies are over all the works of his hands. That his providential care extends to all, even the meanest of his creatures.
These are facts of which we have the greatest moral certainty. Yet, should some bold skeptic demand proof of his existence, we might perhaps be at a loss how to undertake it; not from the want of evidence, but from its exuberance. Should a man shut his eyes, and deny the existence of light, or demand evidence that the sun shines, how should we proceed in order to convince him? Should we appeal to the senses of all mankind, who are daily blessed with his beams? Should we attempt in detail, all that rich variety of infinitely multiplied favours daily derived from this fountain of created goodness? No; we should cut the work short, and tell him to open his eyes, and he would find an immediate cure for his skepticism. May not the same be said to the atheist? Let him become impartial but a single moment, and he shall find all nature rising in proof of the existence of a God. Can we believe that man to be honestly inquiring after truth, who can find no evidence through the universe of a supreme, intelligent First Cause? We certainly cannot: nor does reason or Christian charity demand it of us.
Men frequently embrace error, in order to get rid of the difficulties they meet with in vindicating the truth. On this ground, many have given up some of the peculiar doctrines of the gospel: OTHERS HAVE REJECTED Christianity altogether; and some there are, who have given up natural as well as revealed religion, and denied the existence of a God upon the same principle. But has atheism no difficulties in it? The material system of the universe must either be considered as eternal, and consequently self-existent, or it must have been created. But is there less difficulty in conceiving of the eternity of matter, than of the existence and eternity of God? Is there no difficulty in accounting for the motion, order, and harmony of the heavenly bodies, without admitting the idea of a Supreme Intelligence? Surely there is; for matter of itself is inert, and incapable of originating the smallest motion. Deny the existence of God, and you behold every where effects without a cause! Order and harmony without design! Of all systems that were ever originated in the wild fancy of man, atheism is the most blasphemous and absurd.
There is evidently a strong bias in mankind to novelty of opinion and sentiment, as well as in other things. Hence many look back upon the pious sentiments and godly zeal of their ancient fires, and view them in the same whimsical light as they do their old-fashioned pictures, and at once congratulate themselves that they live in an age of much greater taste and improvement. But, however modern times may boast of having improved in liberality of sentiment, in science and the fine arts---they certainly have very little to boast of, on account of religion and morality. I am at the same time sensible, that to some, this is looked upon as the golden age so long foretold by Grecian Bards. Those halcyon days which were to bless the world, in their view, are fast approaching! Reason’s millennium has already commenced! They glory to think they have liberated the human mind from the restraints of religion, and from the fears of futurity. But this fatal liberty only permits the mind to fly like an unbalanced system from its centre; to roam, in eternal uncertainty, through the wilderness of depraved reason; to be forever tormented in trying to believe what it is always afraid will finally prove true; to violate the sacred principles of justice, of reason, and religion; to trample the gospel under foot, and blaspheme the name of God; to set at defiance all laws, human and divine; and, in a word, to proclaim open war with both heaven and earth! O Liberty! How is thy sacred name prostituted and profaned!
That there have been, in every age, a few solitary individuals who have denied the existence of God, will be admitted; but tat atheism should be the professed creed of any considerable number of the ruling party of any civilized nation, it is presumed cannot be found in the history of the world, till near the close of the eighteenth century. It is not to be concluded, however, that even in that nation every individual is an atheist, any more than we may conclude every man a Christian who belongs to a Christian country. There may be many there still, who fear God and reverence his Son. Yet the wild project of those made philosophists, to dethrone the Deity and reign themselves, must be looked upon as the most bold and impious attack upon the throne of God, that has ever been made since the days of Nimrod. And even the attempt to build Babel is not, in my opinion, to be considered as an absolute denial of the existence of God; but rather as a distrust of his providential goodness, and an ignorant, slavish fear of his almighty power.
Soon after the confusion of tongues, we find idolatry introduced, or revived in the world: for some are of opinion that it existed before the floor; others suppose that it was first introduced by the Phenicians, and from them communicated to the Egyptians and the other neighbouring nations. But in that degenerated state of the world, notwithstanding the heathens worshipped a multiplicity of inferior deities, yet in general they acknowledged a supreme God, in distinction from them. This is evident from profane history, 1 as well as from those instances mentioned in the sacred scriptures. It is clear that Laban the Syrian acknowledged another God, beside those whom he charged Jacob with having stolen. “The God of your father,” said he, “appeared to me yesternight.” The same is true concerning the calves set up at Bethel and Dan by Jeroboam. The people, indeed, paid their immediate devotions to these images, much in the same manner as the Papists do to the crucifix; but still they acknowledged a supreme God, in distinction from them. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, does not charge them with atheism, but with idolatry. “Because,” saith he, “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, but became vain in their imaginations, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” That is, as I conceive, they worshipped their images and subordinate deities more than the supreme God, who is over all, blessed for evermore. The altar which St. Paul found at Athens, inscribed to the unknown God, although they had lost the knowledge of his true character.
Will you indulge me, my brethren to relate the reflections of one of the rude inhabitants of the North, a wild Greenlander? “It is true, (said he to a missionary) we were ignorant heathens, and knew nothing of God, or a Saviour; and indeed who should tell us of him until you come. But thou must not imagine that no Greenlander thinks about these things. I myself have often thought that a kajak, (a boat) with all its tackle and implements does not grow into existence of itself; but must be made by the ingenuity of man. Now the meanest bird has far more skill displayed in its structure than the best kajak, and no man can make a bird. But there is still far greater art shewn in the formation of man, than of any other creature. Who was it that made him? I bethought me he proceeded from his parents, and they from their parents: but some must have been the first parents---Whence did they come? Common report informs me, they grew out of the earth; but if so, why does it not still happen that men grow out of the earth? And from whence did this same earth itself, the sea, the sun, the moon, and stars, arise into existence? Certainly there must be some Being who made all these things---a Being that always was, and can never cease to be. He must be inexpressibly more mighty, knowing, and wise, than the wisest man. He must be very good, too; because that every thing which he has made is good, useful, and necessary for us. Ah! Did I but know him? None of us poor men. Yet there may be men, too, that know something of him. O that I speak with such!---Therefore,” said he, “as soon as I heard you speak of this great Being, I believed it directly with all my heart, because I had so long desired to hear it.” 2
The savages of America, who roam in our western forests, in general acknowledge the existence of the Great Spirit; although they are said to worship the devil, to keep him from hurting them. Hence it appears, that in every country, in every age and nation, a Supreme Being has generally been acknowledged. This has justly been considered as the great principle of national confidence. And indeed, what confidence can be put in engagements, oaths, and treaties, where the existence of God and future accountability are not acknowledged, is, at best, quite problematical.
But in addition to what has already been mentioned, the people of God in every age have been living witnesses for him. They have testified of his power and goodness, of his truth and faithfulness, to the children of men. Those who have borne witness to the Divine Character, are not a few. We are compassed about on every side with a cloud of witnesses. They rise to our view numerous as the multitude which John saw in heaven, that no man could number. I have only time to select a few.
What a noble testimony did Enoch bear to the character of God, by his living obedience to the precepts of truth; by his holy life in walking with God; by his foretelling the coming of the Lord; by the witness which he obtained that he pleased God; and by his being translated to glory without seeing death!
How convincing the testimony of Noah, the father of the new world. He witnessed to the holiness, the justice, and the faithfulness of God, in preaching the necessity of righteousness to that ungodly generation, and in persevering in building the ark an hundred and twenty years before the flood. By that awful catastrophe, God set a seal to his testimony. The windows of heaven were at length opened, and the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The astonished world now saw, that what Noah had told them about his God was true. The warnings which they had treated as idle tales, now began to assume a more serious aspect. All appeared reality. The flood was rising on every side. “In vain did man think of flying for safety to the lofty mountains. Thousands of torrents rushed down their sides, and mingled the confused noise of their waters with the howling of the winds and the roaring of the thunder. Black tempests gathered round their summits, and diffused a night of horror in the very midst of day. In vain does he turn an eager eye towards heaven; he perceives nothing in the whole circuit of the horizon, but piles of dark clouds heaped upon each other; a pale glare here and there furrows their gloomy and endless battalions; and the orb of day, veiled by their lurid coruscations [flash of light], emits scarcely light sufficient to afford a glimpse in the firmament of his blood disk wading through new constellations.” 3 The waters increase on every side. The flood swells, and bears down every thing before it. “Cities, palaces, majestic pyramids, triumphal arches,” all the labour of ages, and all the monuments of art, are buried in undistinguished ruin. But when the proud waves lift themselves up, Noah’s God sits in awful majesty upon the circle of the universe, directing the wild uproar of the mad elements. He again gathers the waters in the hollow of his hand, and pours them into the bosom of the ocean. He commands, and the stormy winds forget their fury, and cease to howl. All again is quiet. The sun once more sheds his cheering rays upon the drowned earth; the resplendent bow appears in the heavens, as a peaceful sign to sinful man, that the waters should no more go over the earth; but a still more interesting sign to the believer, that “God will no more be wroth with him, nor rebuke him.”
What an illustrious testimony did Abraham bear to the true character of God, in every country where he sojourned! The fear of the Lord fell upon the people, and the surrounding neighbourhood was often blessed for his sake. The affecting scene upon Mount Moriah, abundantly manifested the truth and faithfulness of God, and Abraham’s unshaken confidence in the divine faithfulness. Nor did his heroic conduct on the plains of Sodom give a less convincing evidence of his trust in the great Jehovah. Here we behold him with a little band, composed of only three hundred and eighteen of his household servants, and three volunteers, pursuing, and entirely defeating the combined army of four victorious kings, and rescuing five more, together with his nephew Lot. With what true greatness of soul does he appear, when refusing to accept the spoil which was generously offered to him---testifying to his astonished neighbours, that he had a portion in God far superior to all the treasures of this world! Give me the persons, said the king of Sodom, and take the goods to thyself. “No,” said Abraham, “I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread to a shoe-latchet.” But he did not go unrewarded; for “after these things, the word of the Lord came to him in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, for I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.”
But whom do we see yonder, appearing in such princely style, polished after the similitude of a palace? It is Moses!---Behold him despising the splendours of a royal court, and “refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season.” “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” After forty years’ exile in Midian, we behold him returning with the rod of God in his hand, asserting his commission from the great I AM, to deliver Israel, before the atheistical tyrant of Egypt; and, by conviction addressed to his senses, obliging him at last to acknowledge that God, whose character he had held in the utmost contempt.
With what awful solemnity do we hear Moses appealing to the invisible God, to decide a dangerous controversy between him, and Korah and his coadjutors! “To-morrow,” said Moses, “God shall decide the matter.” The day arrives; the tribes assemble at the door of the tabernacle; the glory of the Lord appears; terror and anxiety sit silent on every countenance;---at length God speaks!---Moses and Aaron fall prostrate to the earth, and supplicate. “Go,” said God to Moses, “command the congregation to separate themselves from these bold transgressors”---(awful emblem of the last day!) “Hereby,” said Moses, “shall ye know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works. If these men die he common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then the Lord hath not spoken by me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit, then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” The alarmed congregation had no sooner retired, than the earth give way under the tents of these wicked men, “and they went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them!” How glorious does the God of Israel appear, in punishing as well as pardoning!
Was it possible to exhibit more clear and convincing proof of the presence and power of an invisible God, than what Elijah gave to the idolatrous Hebrews? With what dignity do we behold him at Mount Carmel, surrounded by a host of false prophets, who were patronized by royal favour; and there proposing to put the matter upon an issue, which involved, not only his own personal reputation and safety, but, what was infinitely dearer to him, the cause of God and truth. “Choose you one bullock,” said he, “and I will choose another, and we will dress them and lay them upon wood, but put no fire under; and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.” The proposal was accepted; and Baal’s prophets, that they might, if possible, succeed, took the day before them, and called upon their sleeping, senseless god, from morning until evening, but there was no answer. At the time of the offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah “took twelve stones, and built an altar in the name of the Lord.” He prepared his bullock, and laid it in order upon the wood; and after having the altar thrice drenched in water, so as to prevent the possibility of fraud, we behold the adoring Tishbite drawing near to his God! Let us mark the manner of his address.---“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt-sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.”
I will add only one instance more.
What conviction was offered to an impious monarch, by the three captives in Babylon, who testified that the God in whom they trusted was able to deliver them out of his hands! They nobly dared to despise the wrath of a king, and were unappalled by his raging furnace. Believing in God, they “quenched the violence of fire;” and triumphing over their blind persecutors, left a decided testimony for God.
But I should much sooner fatigue your patience than exhaust the subject; therefore can only say, that all the friends of truth and righteousness, in every age, have borne witness for God, both by their lives and by their deaths, that he is a God of covenant love and faithfulness. The word that has gone out of his mouth shall not return void. And do we hear him saying, “I will work?” It is settled in heaven---it shall be accomplished. I proceed,
II. To illustrate and distinguish the particular work intended in the text.
I conceive, by the expression in the text, we are to understand either the work of providence or grace. In both of these the hand of God is manifest; and the former is generally, if not always, carried on with reference to the latter. All the great events which are taking place at the present day, however dark and distressing, we have reason to believe, will be finally overruled for the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom. The wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will wisely restrain.
From the whole context it appears evident, that the work of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of the children of men, is specially intended in the text. This is with great propriety called God’s work. It is he that begins it and carries it on; so that in its rise and progress, it is entirely dependent on the influences of his Holy Spirit.
Some are of opinion, however, that this work is a mere mechanical operation, produced by the address of the preacher, either by his boisterous airs, or by his canting tone of voice. That such an address may asset the passions will be granted; but the work we are speaking of, is quite a distinct thing from a mere operation upon the passions. The latter may take place without any connection with religion; but the former implants a principle of divine love in the soul. The passions may be greatly moved by the representation of a tragedy; but these impressions are only transient; they are excited by the circumstances of the moment, and as soon subside. We are willing to acknowledge, that if this “counsel or work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, it cannot be overthrown.”
That there is a natural disinclination in mankind to the doctrines of the cross, is too evident to be denied. This appears in their putting off the concerns of their souls, like Felix, for a more convenient season. The most persuasive arguments made use of by the ministers of Christ will prove ineffectual, unless accompanied by a divine influence. It remains still true, that Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but if there be any increase, it is God who gives it. It is one part of the office work of the Holy Spirit, to convince men of sin. And wherever we find a deep and affecting sense, wrought in the heart, of the infinite evil of sin, as committed against a God of spotless purity and rectitude, we may say to such, as the apostle did to the Philippians, We are “confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The believer is directed to “work out his own salvation with fear and trembling;” but not in his own strength; for it is added, “It is God who worketh in you, both to will and do of his good pleasure.” I conceive that those who apply this passage to sinners, whose hearts are at enmity with God, and exhort them to work out their own salvation, and especially without telling them that it is God who must work in them, both to will and to do---entirely mistake the meaning of the apostle. The words were at first addressed to obedient believers at Philippi, importing, that all the good that was found in them, either in willing or doing, was of God, who wrought it in them.
This work of which we have been speaking, is not a mere change of opinion and sentiment, but of temper and disposition. It gives a new direction to all the desires of the heart. It detaches the soul from its love of sinful objects, and kindles in it the most ardent desire after the knowledge of spiritual and divine things. It places morality upon a sure foundation. It inspires the soul with proper sentiments of devotion towards God. It gives energy to all the benevolent propensities of the heart. In fine, it has a commanding influence upon the heart and life, and by its sanctifying operations upon the mind, prepares it for the everlasting enjoyment of God in heaven. We come,
III. To consider the opposition, implied in the text, to this work—“Who shall let it?” By this expression I think it evidently implied, that there would be opposition.
But who are so base as to oppose so good a work? I answer, 1st. He who first opposed the happiness of man in the garden of Eden. We must either deny the existence of this malicious spirit, or acknowledge with the apostle, that he “now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Christ compared the human heart to a fortress, and Satan to a strong man armed, who keeps it as his palace, until a stronger than he dispossesses him.
2d. The lusts and corruptions of our own wicked hearts stand in direct opposition to this work of grace. It is the grand design of this work, to overcome and destroy them: But they never expire without a struggle. The law in the members will war against the law of the mind. If there were no opposition in our hearts, we should resign to the first call of the gospel. It would be only necessary to set the truth before us, and we should with the utmost readiness embrace it. But melancholy experience demonstrates, that we are “slow of heart to believe.” Christ comes to his own, and his own receive him not. But,
3d. There is opposition from without as well as within. Infidels, and all the open enemies of religion will oppose this work. They attack the Christian system in different directions, and with different weapons. Sometimes they bring forward what they call arguments, and attempt either to disprove the existence or necessity of this work. But their most common and most successful weapon is ridicule. They have found by experience, that it is much easier to laugh at our sentiments, than to confute them---to deny a proposition, than to disprove it.
Some who may be reckoned in this class, have gone still further. They not only deny the Christian revelation, but the most important sentiments of natural religion. “To them, a Supreme Being is a chimera; immortality is unconscious sleep; and future responsibility the frightful offspring of superstition.” 4 These are exulting in what they madly call the reign of Reason! But, instead of presenting that fair goddess, extending her mild sway over the savage passions of man, we behold “the hydra of despotism riding in her iron car,” her wheels rolling in blood, spreading desolation and death through the world! But the consideration that “God reigns, and that he will work,” still every fear, and calms the mind. But,
4th. This work will be opposed by some of the professed friends of Christ, who yet, in reality, are secret enemies. These disguise the hypocrisy of their hearts under a fair profession. St. Paul long since complained of false brethren, who came in privily to spy out their liberty, in order to bring them into bondage. And among the perils to which he had been exposed, he mentions, as none of the least, false brethren. These may show much zeal in contending for the form of godliness, and perhaps as much in opposing the power. A false-hearted, pretended friend, is capable of doing much greater injury to the interests of religion, than an open enemy. The deepest wounds which Christ feels in his cause, are often given in the house of his professed friends.
But should all the secret and open enemies of Christ, like the briers and thorns, set themselves in battle against God, he would go through them, he would burn them up together. It removes every mountain, and dissipates every cloud, only to hear him say, “I will work.”
Two or three reflections shall close the subject.
1st. Are not all who regard the character and cause of God, the salvation of their own souls, and the happiness of the rising generation, called upon, in this day of prevailing infidelity, to become living, active witnesses for God?
And can you, my brethren, remain indifferent and unconcerned, while the enemies of religion are making every exertion to disseminate their demoralizing sentiments, and insultingly saying, Where is your God? Can you sleep on and take your rest, while the cause of the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of his enemies? Surely you cannot. Considerations of infinite moment call upon you to take a decided part, and fling your whole weight into the scale of truth. But you will not mistake me. I am not calling upon you to engage in a crusade to the Holy Land, nor endeavouring to stimulate you to propagate the gospel by fire and sword, as it was carried among the northern nations of Europe in the eleventh century; but would fain persuade you to manifest a zeal worthy of the cause you profess to own. You will give the best evidence of your religion to those around you, when you exemplify its doctrines in your lives. “If you love me,” said the blessed Jesus to his disciples, “keep my commandments.” Let your zeal for God be always according to knowledge, tempered with humility; and let justice and benevolence adorn your characters. Witness your love to your heavenly Father, by a sacred regard to the Lord’s-day, and the public institutions of religion. Add to a good profession, the influence of a good example; and above all things, have servant charity among yourselves, even that charity which is the bond of perfectness.
2dly. What great encouragement there is for the people of God to be instant in prayer, that he would “revive his work” among us! He knows, indeed, our every want; yet he will be fought unto by his people, to do those things for them which they stand in need of. We have not only reason to believe that God will yet work, but to rejoice that he has already begun it. From the best observation which I have been able to make, it appears that there have been more revivals of religion in these northern States, within a few months past, than for several years before. I have information, which I believe may be relied upon, from about thirty towns in this and the adjoining States, where God has been of late, or is now, pouring out of his blessed Spirit. In some towns the work has been nearly general. Persons of almost all ages and descriptions have been the subjects of it; nor has it been confined to any one denomination of Christians. 5 The majority, however, in most places where these showers of heavenly influence have fallen, has been composed of youth and children! Yet many there are in advanced life, who have been called at the eleventh hour, who can give a very clear and rational account of what Nicodemus, though a master in Israel, could form no idea of, i.e. “how a man, when he is old, can be born again.”
I have lately received a very interesting account from a place at the Westward, of a most rapid and astonishing work. No less than a hundred and fifty have been added to one church within a few months past; seventy to another, and a considerable number to another, in a small town 6 of only six miles square. This is the Lord’s doing, and marvelous in the eyes of all who beheld it. Here God has literally ordained praise out of the mouth of babes! A number of children, from nine to fifteen years of age, have been brought to shout their young hosannas to the great Redeemer! And a number of bold infidels have bowed the knee to King Jesus, and owned him Lord, to the glory of the Father!
Have we not reason to believe, that a prayer-hearing God has granted these wonderful displays of his grace, in answer to the humble, united cries of his people, who on this day are offering up their servant supplications, with one accord, for the interests of religion? In several places, the reformation has been evidently traced, in its beginning, to these seasons of special prayer. And, my brethren, shall we not take courage, and pray without ceasing? For Zion’s sake, hold not your peace. Let us not be weary in well doing; for we shall reap in due season, if we faint not. Though we sow in tears, we may reap in joy. God will hear his own children, who cry day and night to him; yea, in some instances, “before they call he will answer, and while they are yet speaking he will hear.” 7 And is it not the ardent desire of our souls, that we may see such a glorious work among us---that the Lord would pour his “Spirit upon our seed, and his blessing upon our offspring?” Could we possible have greater joy than to see our dear children walking in the truth? O that we may soon have occasion to say, “Lo! This is our God; we have waited for him, and he will come and save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad, and rejoice in his salvation.”
3dly. Let me caution all who hear me this day, not to oppose this work, lest they be found fighting against God. Are there any here present, who are under the power and dominion of sin? Permit me to tell you, that you must either bow to the mild sceptre of mercy, or to the iron rod of justice. Remember, that if you oppose this work, it is Omnipotence you have to contend with! “Have you an arm like God, or can you thunder with a voice like him?” It is the voice of God which saith, “I will work, and who shall let it?” “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also, that you receive not the grace of God in vain.” “Be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong.” “Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you, spoken of in the prophets: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days; a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”
To conclude. May the Lord, of his infinite mercy, subdue the unbelief and opposition of all our hearts, and work in us, both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure, a work of faith with almighty power. Then, indeed, will Christ be precious to us. His very name will be like ointment poured forth. We shall rejoice in the enlargement of the empire of grace; and shall join the pleasing exclamation of the psalmist, with whose words I close. “His name shall endure forever---and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wonderous things. And blessed be his glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen, and Amen.”
1. Vide Banier’s Mythology of the Ancients. (Return)
2. Crantz’s History of Greenland, in Gill. (Return)
3. Studies of Nature. (Return)
4. President Maxcy’s Address, &c. (Return)
5. In Connecticut, this work has been principally among Congregationalists, (or Presbyterians, as they are there called). In this State, perhaps nearly divided between Congregationalists and Baptists. In New-Hampshire, much the same. In Vermont, principally among the Baptists: yet, both in Vermont, and in Connecticut, there are some of other denominations. This statement may not be very correct. (Return)
6. Shaftsbury, in Vermont. (Return)
7. Isaiah lxv. 24. (Return)