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Not only is this special privilege a Sign of our Times, but God has evidently a contention with Europe, under its awful neglect of this dispensation of mercy. The Lord is doing his strange work. He hath evidently risen out of his place, as the Prophet expresses it. I cannot adequately speak on this subject: it must overwhelm you. He brings vast armies to nothing! The mighty men do not find their hands! The most unexpected vicissitudes take place—such as we cannot match in history! The valiant expire in the arms of victory!*
Consider more particularly our condition as a nation. How long have we been threatened with an overwhelming invasion! Every preparation has been made, and yet how has it been delayed ! How have the arms of our enemies been chained ! What a train of victories mark the history of the present times! Nor ought it to be forgotten, that God has caused his name to be owned in those victories. What patience and long-suffering has God exercised toward .us, under great provocations ! It seems to have been said concerning us, as it was concerning the fig-tree, Spare it yet a little longer.
Such are the signs of the Times, as they proceed from God.
This Sermon was preached soon after the intelligence arrived of the Victory of Trafalgar, and the death of Lord Nelson.
2. Let us turn to the consideration of these Signs, as they proceed from man.
It will be much too large a field to enter on the atrocious and audacious infidelity of the times to say nothing of the contempt, or at least the neglect, of the dispensation of grace under which we live-to say nothing of the worldly spirit of speculation, and the multiplied efforts after gain-to say nothing of the affectation, the consequence, and the extravagance which pervade all orders; and the impurity and insubordination of spirit, diffused over the world. I pass by these general sins, to mark one; and that one appears to me to be the most awful of all sins“I wean THE MORAL INSENSIBILITY OF THE TIMES !-the Moral Insensibility!—for if, while God is contending with the careless and wicked world, which despises the dispensation of his grace, Christendom still continues overwhelmed in its sins, I cannot understand how the stroke is to cease. Is it not sent to scourge Christendom, till there appears something like 'moral sensibility ?-till the sinner is disposed to cry, I have sinned?-till some shame is felt for our insulting contempt of the Son of God's coming down from heaven to bear our sins in his own body on the tree? I cannot understand how the stroke should cease, till this moral sensibility appears!
One, who has not looked into this matter, might perhaps be ready to say,
- What can
you mean by Insensibility? The greatest sensibility prevails at this very time. Every idea seems to be called home. Every one speaks feelingly of the extraordinary intelligence of the last week. The whole conversation turns on this subject!”
All this is quite natural. Shall a man spend his life in such a cause, and expire under the circumstances of such a victory, without awakening our feelings ? Shall such a check be given to our inveterate enemy, and no sensation of thankfulness arise even in the most insensible? Buthas it never been heard, that one died, not for his friends, but for his enemies? Is there no instance of a glorious victory, accomplished over the world, sin, and hell, by the death of that one who came from heaven, and was equal with the Father, yet came to lay down his life for sinners? That people, who are full of feeling on the present occasion, have perhaps scarcely in their lives ever thought or spoke or would even bear to hear of these things,-is not this Moral Insensibility?
What is said in the eighth chapter of Jeremiah, seems to me exceedingly like the present Signs of the Times:-I hearkened, and heard; but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming ; but my people know not the judgment of the LordGod is not in all their thoughts? : What says our Lord, in the eleventh chapter of St. Luke? The Queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth, to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. I would add, that the seaman, who summoned his sailors to prayer, acknowledged that God's arm was strength, and that victory was his, shall rise up
in judgment with many in this generation!
II. We have marked a few of the prominent Signs of the Times: let us now consider to what DUTIES these views should lead us.
1. They should lead us to RECOLLECTION.
A man must have made but little observation, not to see how much multitudes resemble thoughtless sailors; who, when a wreck is going down, will satisfy themselves with some momentary gratification; and, though eternity is before them, let them but have this, they think nothing of death and the terrors of hell. My Dear Hearers, man's grand concern is with his eternal state. It is not the moment of life--it is not the first
stage of his existence--it is what he is to be for ever it is what God thinks of him, and what he thinks of his God. This is the grand concern: for, till he lives thus by faith, he is a mere child, trifling with the occasions of the day :—What. is the news? What shall amuse his attention? What is the thing that he shall call very important in its place? But if, after all this, while this important concern, or that important concern, is occupying his mind, the man himself totally forgets his condition-forgets his character as a sinner-forgets the provision of grace, and the redemption that is in Christ Jesus-what is this man, but, like one of the poor perishing sailors, amused with a momentary gratification? Little does such a man understand the Signs of the Times. He may be amused with the face of the sky, and may very skilfully investigate appearances there, and furnish himself with matter of conversation,—but he will not know the Signs of the Times.
2. These signs point out to us also the duty of PRAYER. · It is in this way, that we transact with heaven: this is God's appointment: it is our duty; and, therefore, he, who rightly understands the Signs of the Times, will say, as the Prophet saith, “ Oh, that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down! Oh, that thou wouldest set to rights, that which is wrong!