|Vol. I, No. 9
Kislev 5604, December 1843
The Immutability and Justice of God.
By the Rev. M. N. Nathan, of Kingston, Jamaica.
Brethren! The 31st verse of the 18th Psalm, furnishes the text for elucidation and reflection on the present occasion. May God be with us in this devotional hour, and incline our hearts to his law and testimony. Amen!
:האל תמים דרכו אמרת ה צרופה מגן הוא לכל החוסים בו
"The way of God is unchangeable, the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who trust in him."
The way of God is unchangeable and perfect, and the word תמים expresses both. Perfection implies impossibility of farther improvement, the highest point of excellence, unattainable by any mortal, incomprehensible to our understanding. The providence of God and his works are eternal, and from the day that He pronounced the latter good, bade the celestial orbs roll on in undeviating regularity, and the earth and sea to bring forth and yield their stores, all which he created and called into existence, has fulfilled and continues to perform its destined purpose. He issued a decree which none should transgress; "To the sea he said, thus far shalt thou come, and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." "He commanded the morning, and caused the dayspring to know his place; He alone knoweth where light dwelleth and where is the place of darkness." And who but He understandeth them now? who can improve what his wisdom has designed? who say, This is not good, that might be better such a thing might be amended? Surely not man, that weak, frail creature, who alone, of, all creation, wanders and strays from the path wherein he is directed to walk. Nought has been altered, and, amidst changes and revolutions innumerable, the sun has not ceased to shine, nor have the moon and stars withheld their light; the spheres have continued to revolve, and the seasons to appear and disappear at their appointed periods, refreshing and variegating the verdant face of earth.
The unalterable, nature of his ways is farther shown by the testimony which Scripture affords, confirming what daily experience offers to our view. Let man be the subject of our observation. God has proclaimed concerning him, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth, subdue it, have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and every creature which moveth upon the earth." Which of these words has remained unaccomplished? or, rather, have they not been and continue to be fulfilled, to their utmost extent, daily ministering to the comforts and supplying the wants of the human race? From the first pair created, and, subsequently, from the single family which was saved from the wreck of a sinful and rebellious world, has the face of the globe been overspread, until the number of souls .cam scarcely be ascertained, save by an uncertain mode of computation. Notwithstanding the crimes and perverseness of mankind, the cruel and exterminating wars of mad ambition, persecution and relentless oppression; notwithstanding the sanguinary and ruthless acts of fanaticism, bigotry, and despotism, and the innumerable hosts who have fallen victims to plague, pestilence, and disease: the population of the habitable world has, in spite of all these drawbacks, progressively and wonderfully increased, save in those countries which, once teeming with inhabitants; were doomed to solitude and desolation, and entailed on themselves the vengeance of the outraged majesty of Heaven. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, of renowned Babylon, of warlike Edom, of Tyre, whose princes were merchants, and of many others, serves as an example and warning to deter later generations from pursuing a like career. The dead stillness of that fearful lake, under whose pitchy waters lie engulfed the myriads that once peopled the four cities which it covers, the sterility which reigns over a tract once beautiful to the eye, well watered by the Jordan, chosen by Lot to pasture his numerous flocks when he parted from his kinsman Abraham, and the proud capitals whose vast extent and magnificence were the theme of every tongue, which have not a vestige left, and where no man abideth, testify that God allows not guilt to pass unpunished;—that because his word is unchangeable, man still fills and replenishes the earth, yet the Deity will by no means suffer him to abuse the power wherewith he is entrusted, to pollute the land, and defile it by his wickedness and impiety. God never will fail to humble the pride of nations and their rulers, who seek to domineer over and subjugate their fellow-creatures; he restrains their lust of conquest, and bridles their desire for universal dominion. Yet while ancient empires have been subverted, the monuments of their former glory, the wrecks of their stupendous edifices, hath He suffered to stand, as evidences of his truth and eternity, and the mutable and transitory nature of man, who is exalted to the pinnacle of prosperity, but overthrown when he presumes to step beyond the boundaries appointed by the Supreme; he may scale the summit of fortune's height with the permission and favour of divine goodness, but falls headlong down the steep the instant these are withdrawn. Again, where barbarism and ignorance once prevailed, there civilisation, refinement, and knowledge have now attained their meridian, because there clarity, kindness, and tolerance dwell; the laws and government are just and merciful, the nations are peaceful and friendly in their intercourse with their fellow-creatures, and therefore are they blessed, their undertakings prosper, and their sway and dominion are enlarged. The population of a country may often be found redundant, owing to legislative defects; but nowhere has the Deity unpeopled a land, in which the principles of benevolence, goodness and religion were upheld.
And where shall the spot be found, which the foot of man has pressed, where he has chosen to abide and settle, wherein he has fixed and established communities to become in time powerful and mighty states, whence the wild animals of the wood, savage beasts of the jungle have not retrograded, flying from the face of him who the Almighty said should bear rule over every living thing that exists, whose fear and dread should tame and subdue the fiercest creature? We shall seek in vain for a proof to demonstrate that the divine assurance has not been literally observed. Even our own limited experience, without reference to past history, furnishes abundant evidence. The vast American continent, where primeval forests are daily disappearing before the enterprise and industry of the hardy pioneer and settler, affords a remarkable instance of the truth of the words of Scripture. But wherever the turpitude of man has rendered him unworthy of Heaven's choicest gifts, and banished him from the place which he desecrated, there desolation prevails, whilst the intractable and fierce tenants of the waste, the lordly lion, the prowling tiger, the venomous serpent, there fix their dwellings, and "doleful creatures howl and cry" in the deserted city, the once fertile plains and valleys, the shady groves, and by the murmuring streams, where formerly "the busy hum of men" resounded, where the cheerful labourer awoke at early dawn, and the toiling mechanic enjoyed the blessings, of a gracious Providence.
If nature, then, continues her course uninterruptedly, if all preserve the same unbroken regularity, if no deviation from those great laws which govern the universe is traceable, if man fails not to reap the fruits of the advantages which the Almighty gave him, and finally if the inspirations of prophecy, the words which the Eternal put in the mouths of his chosen messengers, never failed in predicting circumstantially the fate of the disobedient: can we withhold acknowledging that the ways of God are perfect and unchangeable, that "He is not man who lies, or the son of man who deceives?"
This is universally conceded; for who will deny what the most simple child may discover without the aid of human assistance, when he rises in the morning and beholds the glorious orb of day, when he retires to rest by the light of the silvery moon, when he beholds the incessant routine of the works of the Omnipotent? And while all must admit the unalterable nature, and perfection of the ways of the Deity, no one can remain unconvinced of the truth of the Psalmist's words, "That God is good to all, and that his mercy extendeth over all his works, that the eyes of all look expectantly to Him, that He giveth them their food in its due season, and that his love and compassion are boundless." Shall, then, the justice of the Almighty be arraigned when man is distressed and afflicted? when he feels the chastening hand of his Creator? and because we feel the smart, and are unable to fathom his designs and the depths of his wisdom, murmur when He punishes, or, rather, when He permits the consequences of our wilfulness and wantonness to recoil on ourselves? "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, ands his thoughts than our thoughts." Let man look to himself when judgment overtakes him; search into and examine his actions; when the rains cease to descend in fertilizing showers; when famine stalks through the land,—when the tide of prosperity and success is checked,—when pestilence, which walketh in darkness, assails him, and death snaps asunder the tender ties of love,—anarchy and civil broils keep his mind in anxious fear;—when he rises daily with troubled breast, and lies down at night, not to sleep in conscious security, but to count the hours with gloomy forebodings. Is a land thus afflicted with drought, scarcity and poverty, does disease, tainting the atmosphere with its mephitic breath, infect the healthy current of life, is the beam of the scales of justice kicked rudely by violence, the majesty of the laws contemned, property at the tender mercy of the robber and incendiary, and the peace of society disturbed by the the lawless,—then, while these cannot be mistaken as dire and terrible inflictions, their causes must be sought for among those who experience their effects, and not be attributed to the desire of the beneficent Creator to pain his creatures, whom He would fain crown with all the happiness which He has to provided for those who fear and serve Him in truth and faithfulness.
In bestowing whatever could contribute to the joys, the comforts, and wants of life, the Deity, in his wisdom, while He laid down unerring rules for the government of the universe, thought proper to retain in his own hands, without subjecting them to fixed laws, certain invaluable and precious gifts, whose bestowal should assure us of the goodness and favour of our Maker, as their withdrawal would admonish us that we had erred and incurred his displeasure. The chief of these is, the rain of heaven. There are seasons when its descent may be expected, to water and moisten then parched ground, infuse strength into and quicken the growth of vegetation; but its coming is arbitrary and uncertain, unlike day and night, cold and heat, summer and winter, which were ordained never to cease "while the earth remained." We therefore supplicate and pray, especially for this fertilizing blessing, and entreat that it may be granted, hoping for, but unable unable to reckon upon it indubitably. We know that clouds are formed from watery vapours; but it is no easy matter to account for the long continuance of very opaque clouds without dissolving, or to give a reason why the vapours, when they have once begun to condense, do not continue to do so until they at last fall to the ground in the form of rain. Rain, however, ranked foremost among the number of celestial blessings which were promised to Israel before occupying the chosen land of inheritance. "I will give you the rains in their seasons," and the threat to withhold it in the denunciation "And the heavens above thy head shall be brass, and the earth below thee shall be iron," was foretold as a punishment for transgression. God alone has the keys where it is treasured; at his command alone are the storehouses opened, and their contents diffused over different parts of the earth, either, as is expressed, "for correction or for mercy."—Job 37.13. Wherever the word rain occurs in Scripture, in conjunction with God, it teaches us the undeniable fact that the Lord restraineth its showers, or, benevolently letteth them descend in genial streams.
Is then a country deprived for a period by the Almighty of this refreshing fluid,—are its fields parched,—its soil calcined by glowing beat, or, in the beautiful language of the Bible, its rain powder and dust,—do its cattle perish, is the herbage withered, and does gaunt famine threaten with its horrors;—some aggravating cause must exist to call forth such calamities. "If ye will hearken to my commandments, says the Eternal, I will give you the rain of your land in its due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, thy wine, and thine oil." He whose glory is his goodness, whose ways are unchangeable, whose word is tried, who is a shield to those who trust in him, is not wroth from caprice, or manifests his dread and awful power from insufficient or vindictive motives. "He is long-suffering, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." The cause is on earth, not in heaven, the fault lies with man, not with God. some evil agency must be at work in that particular quarter where the deprivation is felt. "I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest, and I caused it to rain upon one city, and suffered it not to rain upon another city, one piece was rained upon, and the piece, whereupon it rained not, withered, so two or three cities wandered unto one city to drink water, but they were not satisfied, and yet have ye not returned unto me saith the Lord."—Amos 4.7, 8.; Here lies the secret: men wander, following the inclinations of their heart and eyes; they try to weary God as they do each other! Who violates natural duty and moral obligation? who is ungrateful for the favours of his Maker? who prostitutes his heaven-born soul to vice and intemperance? who abuses virtue, whose dictates, if obeyed in a spirit of love and inclination, would ensure him happiness above and below? Who, in the pride of his reason, thinks religion and the precepts it inculcates beneath his notice? Is it not man—ungrateful man? And yet, notwithstanding his backsliding, his iniquities, let him return with grief and sadness, reformed and penitent, acknowledge the justice of the infliction, amend the errors that called it forth, bend the stubborn knee, and soften the flinty heart, and will he not be received? And then if he purge with tears of contrition, remorse and repentance, the "sins red as scarlet," shall they not be washed white as snow by the showers yielded by the beneficence of his Judge, who pardons and forgives?
We need no additional argument to demonstrate the immutability of God's ways, so apparent, as before remarked, to the humblest mind; let us therefore consider the second portion of our text: "The word of the Lord is tried," to show the justice of the Omnipotent. In our outset on the journey of life, what is there to impede our progress if we guide ourselves by the word of the Lord? Has the Almighty thrown any obstruction in our way? has He not rather furnished us with every requisite to accomplish what we desire to undertake? have we not freedom of will to choose the course we mean to adopt, a range of action for which the whole earth affords scope? are we not at liberty to devise and mature plans for our especial benefit, and gifted with energy of purpose, decision of character, and capacity to comprehend the use of all things destined for our service? We look to every division of the world, and see no obstacle to our career; except what our fellow-man presents. We plough the main, traverse distant and unknown lands, penetrate into the bowels of the earth, explore the mine and force it to yield its useful ores and precious metals, trace with ingenious skill the wonderful designs of Providence as exhibited in every production of nature, develop her inexhaustible resources and their utility to man, and behold in the system which God displays to us, nothing but what may teach, improve, and render us happy and contented. With conscience as a monitor to warn us when we make a false step, with religion as a guardian angel to admonish us when we deviate from the right path, we may undauntedly brave and conquer every danger or difficulty which prevents us from attaining the summit and goal of our hopes. Whether riches, honours, fame, or knowledge be the prize we are anxious to obtain, success will. attend our efforts provided we are not unmindful of the Author of our life, the Master of our destinies.
But does the fortunate in general reflect through whom, by whose goodness, he enjoys the reward of his labour? does not an opposite idea rise uppermost in his mind, and, far from imitating the example which the Almighty displays to his creatures, none of whom are too insignificant to merit his attention, is not the being who erroneously supposes himself the architect of his own fortunes, arrogant and haughty to his less prosperous competitors? He thinks himself released from all obligation to a higher Power, fails in obedience to his Father and Sovereign, which as a child and subject he is bound to yield; but enacts from his inferiors in worldly prospects the deference, the homage which his pride and vanity covet. "Unhappy indeed is that land where wealth is the sole passport to respect, the sole object deemed worthy of attainment." There knowledge languishes; there virtue and honour are valueless, if clad in the garb of poverty, whilst vice is not considered loathsome, provided it be arrayed in rich apparel. There people are found, "whose outward circumstances are gigantic, but who are dwarfs in soul." Ah, could we read with the eye of Omniscience the thoughts of such hearts, the misery which there lies hid, there would be nought to envy, but much to pity and compassionate. "The little that a good man hath is better than the substance of such." It is folly to rail against the rich or their possessions, seeing they are the gifts of God, to be specially employed in his service, to be thankfully enjoyed in meekness and humility; but nothing is more contemptible, more despicable in the eyes of God and man, than the conduct of those who boast and are proud of their wealth, or apply it to their own selfish indulgences and propensities. The faults of the charitable and munificent maybe extenuated; but who will plead for him who regardeth not the poor, or who relieveth them from motives of ostentation to gain the applause of the world? "Wealth, without a judicious application, is food without salt." And can we wonder that the tide of prosperity ebbs, and poverty overflows a land, when servility and homage are rendered to idols of gold, and the knee is not bent to God? Is it surprising that the sources of commercial enterprise fail, when every one seeks to draw from them? that its broad channels are obstructed when every one launches his bark on their waters, because he envies the prosperity and covets the luxuries of his neighbour's house? "Wo to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may exalt himself on high, that he may be delivered from the power of misfortune."— (Ezekiel.) If the necessary equilibrium between the spiritual and temporal, between the condition of the rich and poor be not maintained; if every one studies to be rich and no one is content with a middle station: distress must, in the natural course of events, ensue, compel the majority to be less immoderate in their desires, and the few, who make so ill a use of their glittering hoards, to part with their acquisitions which corrupt, but do not benefit society; which excite cupidity and murmuring, but do not call forth emulation, content, and blessing. And who holds the scales in equal poise, who will depress the few and raise the many, who lift the poor from the dust, and the needy from the dunghill, but God? Will his justice not remedy the evils of so unequal a distribution? will He permit the proud to retain that which swells their arrogance and presumption? Thankless heirs shall dissipate it, or the thousand accidents to which worldly wealth is liable shall scatter it among those to whom the Deity shall assign its future possession. When, therefore, the tide of prosperity and success is checked, and ruin threatens, some moral evil will be found of long existence, which, like a cancer, has been spreading in all directions, until its effects are universally felt, and nothing but divine skill can eradicate the corrupting mass.
"The Lord saveth those who are lowly in spirit." He recalled the denunciations uttered by his prophet against the City of Nineveh, when its inhabitants fasted and prayed, and covered themselves with sackcloth as tokens of their contrition. "He lifteth not his hand against the humble, and executeth not judgment against those who repent of their deeds and amend their ways." When, therefore, to blight and a brazen sky, to the gloom in monetary and commercial prospects, pestilence is superadded, and it overtakes at length the devoted land or city, intrudes into the dwellings of the people, and gorges itself with the young, the smiling infant, the blooming child, the graceful youth and modest maiden; when it selects the early buds of promise and hope,—the blossoms of strength and beauty,—what does it indicate? does it not say, as the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God?" What! must there not be wickedness, and sin, and transgression in a place which is no sooner free from one affliction, than another comes in its stead? no sooner are property and substance wasted, than disease, bringing death in its train, enters the abode and carries off the choicest, the loveliest?" "There is no death without sin." Life and death have their due proportions; but when the mortality exceeds the ratio of births; when more go out of the world than come in; when there is scarcely a house "which hath not one dead;" when every eye is suffused with tears, and nearly every family laments the bereavement of some of its members; when the grave, like the horse-leech, cries, "give, give," and petition follows on petition, beseeching the Omnipotent to recall "his destroying angel," to sheathe "his two-edged sword;" when the science of medicine is baffled, and the whole arcana of nature are ransacked for remedies to check the progress of the evil:—will it still be maintained that there is no guilt, no iniquity, no moral delinquency, no spiritual transgression? Are all righteous, all innocent? does no breast harbour evil? does every mind glow with purity, uprightness, and integrity? Is every word holy, every deed just, every thought pious? Does every one love the Lord arid his neighbour? is there no calumny, no deceit, no guile, no ingratitude to God and man? Is there no unmerited hatred, and division of hearts? Does nothing of this exist, and yet the smiter be sent forth to destroy? No, brethren; the love, the mercy, the beneficence and benevolence of our gracious Father are unbounded; He declares, "If thou wilt indeed hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the evil diseases upon thee, which I put upon Egypt, for I, the Lord, am thy healer." His way is immutable, his word is tried, pure as seven times refined silver. If the absence of these sicknesses signifies that man is obedient to the behests of his almighty Sovereign; does not their presence imply that a contrary course has been persevered in and maintained?
"It is better to fall into the hand of the Lord, whose mercies are infinite, than into the power of man," said David, when, in the plenitude of his exaltation, he, the chosen servant of God, fell into sin, and preferred that pestilence should rage, rather than that his people should be punished by famine or the sword of their foes. His subjects had not sinned, they had not incurred the chastening visitations of God. "It is I that have sinned and done evil indeed, but as for these sheep, what have they done?" "Let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me and my father's house, but not on thy people, that they should be plagued,'' exclaimed the humbled monarch. And while the pestilence raged, he and his nobles clothed themselves in sackcloth. He was penitent, and by his deep humiliation, sought to appease the Almighty. The people were guiltless; but their king, who dearly loved them, was punished by witnessing their sufferings. He who had been raised for their salvation, was the cause of the loss of so many lives. May we not argue in the same manner, that children have been snatched away, and fallen victims for the misdeeds and errors of parents, that the heart of the parent leas been struck through their innocent offspring, and that the desolating plague selects the young rather than the old, in order that the latter may return unto the Lord, and worship Him in sincerity, acknowledge the justice of the chastisement, and depart from the graves of their loved ones wiser, better, repenting of the past, and upright in intention for the future?
"It is the hand of God, let him do whatsoever He pleaseth," said the high priest Eli, when a child was the instrument chosen to communicate to him the downfall of his house; let us acknowledge the justice of that Hand whose "palm holdeth measureless space, whose finger guideth unnumbered worlds, and directeth their movements." In sorrow and grief let us implore mercy for us and our little ones, that they may be spared; if our heart has been diverted from the service and worship of our heavenly Father, if it has been the slave of worldliness, and abandoned the ways of salvation: let us not cease until every cause, offensive to the Deity, has been removed, until we have put from the midst of us pride, vanity, folly, irreligion, and assumed instead the garb of humility, earnestness, wisdom, and piety, in private as well as in public, in the domestic circle, as in the house of prayer: Is it not unnatural when a child, whom a mother has brought forth in pain and travail, nursed and tended through all the helplessness of infancy, whom a father's toil and labour have helped to sustain, clothe, and educate, upon whom the tenderness and affection of both are lavished,—is it not unnatural, when such a child throws itself into strangers' arms, forsakes its parents and their caresses? and would it not justly excite the jealousy of such parents?
God is jealous of man's love, claims the affection and duty of his children, (Ezek. 16. 42,) but "if we remember not the days of our youth, and fret Him by our improprieties," "He also will recompense our way upon our head." If reliance be fixed on lands and possessions, God will make them valueless by restraining the rain of heaven; if on gain, he will dry up or divert its channels that no more shall flow; if these fail to teach man his duty, he will send plague and pestilence, wailing and weeping shall be heard in every dwelling; and if man still walk contrary, discord and dissension shall prevail, there shall be perpetual fear, the ties which bind society shall be torn asunder, there shall be no respect paid to station or constituted authority, and civil commotion and its attendant horrors shall affright the peaceful, drive sleep from every eye, and slumber from every eyelid.*
In these sad visitations, who have escaped? in these afflictions, who have not suffered? The good and righteous have had their faith, their trust, their sincerity in divine goodness tried and proved; for God testeth by misfortune and adversity the inclinations of those who fear Him, whether they do it from love or from the hope of reward; whilst the wicked, by reverses and calamity, are taught that God is the Judge, who is not blind to their doings, that He readeth their inmost thoughts, that He will bend their stubbornness and perversity, humble their haughty spirit, make them the instruments of their own punishment, and cause them to drink the dregs of that cup of mixture, which He poureth out over the inhabitants of the earth. Yet will He welcome all, reinstate them in his favour, if they atone for their errors; and every blessing shall descend on those "whose transgression, is forgiven, whose sin is covered, who return unto God and crave his pardon in lowliness and contrition."
"Happy is he who considereth the poor, in the day of trouble, God will deliver him." An onward step in the path of rectitude does he take who relieveth those whom the course of events has reduced to poverty and distress. In the abodes of plenty, sickness, however painful, is alleviated by prompt attention, soothing care and skilful treatment. The parent is nigh to watch, the relation and friend devote themselves to smooth the ruffled pillow, to give the healing draught, to cool the burning brow, to moisten the parched throat; the visitor treads lightly, lest the slumbering patient should be disturbed, and all that care can devise or suggest is practised to restore the sufferer and accelerate his cure. How different is it in the hovel of the indigent! Where shall he procure all these comforts, where shall he seek friends to tend his bedside? They, alas! are poor as himself; they must go forth in the morning and labour for daily bread until evening, when their tired limbs require repose. Who, then, shall help the invalid in his mortal agony? where shall he find the means to aid nature in its struggles with fell disease? He has them not: chill penury, fetid air are in his close and confined cabin; and the unfortunate sufferer expires, never having had a chance of recovery. The laudable and praiseworthy exertions of the faculty are now in full activity; and every minister of religion will follow their example by appealing to the benevolent to aid the indigent, and enable them to obtain those comforts so indispensably necessary in the malady which devastates their homes and destroys their families.
When was an appeal ever made to a Jewish heart on behalf of the poor, and the petitioner denied assistance? When did the cry of the afflicted and destitute come into the ears of the רחמנים בני רחמנים "Merciful children of merciful parents," which met not with ready attention? when did the wail of the orphan; the sob of the widow resound, without being quieted by the active consolation and assistance of the charitable? Of all the afflictions to which our common nature is subject, there are few which lay claim to human sympathy more directly than physical disease. Wealth cannot avert it, poverty aggravates it a thousand fold. Many here have felt its anguish, when money could not purchase mitigation of agony, nor grandeur lull the throbs of the burning brain. Ah, let them consider how their pangs might have been augmented, if destitution of means and appliances had been superadded to physical suffering, and then refrain, if they can, from contributing liberally for the succour of those who are still doomed to endure the torture of disease in the miserable huts of poverty and wretchedness. Am I addressing any whom God in his mercy has hitherto exempted from this pestilence? O let them not exult in their health to the exclusion of pity for the sick, nor forget that the next moment may be to them the harbinger of plague and death. Not to enter the abodes of squalor, to behold the deplorable state of privation, the haggard forms of those who surround us by thousands, but to alleviate the suffering which many will not venture to inspect, do I upon this occasion make this humble but zealous appeal. I do not call upon you to visit the bed of sickness on the dwelling of disaster in person, but virtually; for others will be the almoners and distributors of your bounty and beneficence.
Let me, then, implore you to expand your hearts to the cry of the poor, to open wide all that is generous and humane in your bosoms, to bring down upon yourselves the blessing of him that "is ready to perish," to rejoice piously that you possess the means of doing good to others, and to exult in the privileges which the Almighty has permitted you to enjoy, particularly that whose exercise enjoins universal charity, in that sublime command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;" and rest assured that if to this you add "prayer and repentance," which with "charity avert the evil decree," He whose way is immutable, whose word is tried, will fulfil the ending of our text, by being "a shield to you who trust in Him." And now, brethren, let us rise, and unitedly address God in prayer, confessing our sins, and entreating his forgiveness.
Eternal God, merciful and, gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth, Thou hast given us dominion over the earth, hast crowned us with every blessing, hast given us thy holy law, which hath length of days in its right hand, riches and honour in its left;—Thou hast endowed us with reason and ability to choose between good and evil, that our life might be long on earth, and happiness attend us here and await us hereafter.
How have we requited Thee? We have abused thy benevolence and deserved thy afflictions. What can we say; or how shall we justify ourselves? Thou knowest our iniquities, Thou penetratest our vain thoughts. Our presumption and insincerity are not hidden from thy all-seeing eye; our own acts convict us, and daily is our sin increased, and we harden ourselves therein, unmindful of Thee. O our Shepherd! how have we wandered from Thee, who wouldst lead us into the green pastures of holiness, beside the still waters of piety, and fallen into the pitfalls of error, into the snares and gins of temptation. There is no soundness in our flesh, our bones are filled with pain, and the angel passeth not by our houses, but continueth to destroy. With drought, misfortune, pestilence and anarchy hast Thou justly afflicted us, and our hearts are full of anguish, by reason of the chastening of thy hand. Look down, we beseech Thee, O our Father! pity thy children, exposed as we have been to the punishments wherewith Thou hast visited us, and remove the scourge from us, that plenty may again flow into our granaries, prosperity attend our labours, that health may be in our dwellings, and peace and tranquillity in our city, and throughout the borders of the land.
Father of mercies! who hast declared by the mouth of thy servant David, that Thou wilt deliver him who hath compassion on the poor, endue the hearts of all who are here assembled with commiseration for the sufferings of their afflicted fellow-creatures. Let a double portion of thy pitying spirit rest upon all, and let their sympathy be manifested by the offerings which, with feeling hearts and grateful hands, they shall this day contribute in aid of the sick and afflicted. And do Thou, Parent of mankind, inspire all here assembled with reciprocal charity, that the difference of religious opinion may not deter any from affording that succour which their means enable them to bestow on the wants of the destitute. May all thy servants who stand forth to plead in this holy cause, reap a rich harvest, and do Thou, O God! Render their words persuasive, their arguments convincing, their eloquence irresistible, and their labours triumphant.
For our beloved queen, Victoria, her royal consort, and infant children, for our excellent governor and the authorities of the island and city, for all and every community, whether of our own or other denominations, whether here or throughout the world, we implore and crave thy blessing; and may we and they discern the beauty of thy holiness, the mercies of thy providence, the greatness of thy majesty on earth and in heaven. Amen!