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DISCOURSE V.

Preached at the Temple Church, Nov. 20, 1715.

ACTS, CHAP. VII.-VERSE 25.

For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God

by his hand would deliver them; but they understood not.

The text is part of the dying speech of St. Stephen, which he delivered to the high priest and the people, just before he was offered up a glorious sacrifice for the truth of the gospel of Christ. The design of it was to set before the people of Israel the history of their redemption from slavery and idolatry, and to stir them up to attend to the present offers of peace through Christ Jesus, by showing them the fatal mistakes they had often made in despising or abusing former mercies. Moses was their great prophet and their lawgiver; Moses was in the highest veneration among them; for his sake, and to preserve the authority of his laws, they refused to hearken to any other teacher; and therefore rejected the gospel as tending to subvert the constitutions of Moses. Yet how was this man received ? How was this deliverer entertained ? Was he not evil-intreated ? Was he not, before he could work their deliverance, forced to seek his own by a hasty flight from them into the land of Median? When he appeared in the spirit of the Lord, to avenge the wrongs of his people, and smote the Egyptian who oppressed the Israelite, the very next day he was reproached by his brethren for the murder, as they called it: for he had given them a provocation which it seems they could not bear; he had showed himself unto them as they strove, and

would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another ? So far did the private passions and resentments prevail against the considerations of public safety, that delivering them from the Egyptians was no merit, because he endeavored also to deliver them from one another.

To draw parallels between the histories in Scripture, and those of our own times, is so slippery a subject, so liable to be influenced by the passions of the speaker, who can easily overlook the circumstances which suit not with his view, choose out and adorn those which do ; that in such applications of Scripture history there is very great danger of missing the Scripture doctrine, and publishing our own partial sentiments, under the cover of the book of God, which was given to correct and amend them. I shall therefore, without trying to show you how like we are in all respects, or in any, to the people of Israel, or how nearly our enemies resemble the Egyptians, confine myself to such observations, and such applications of them, as naturally arise from the text and our own circumstances.

First then, we may observe from the text that Moses, though raised by God in a wonderful manner to be the deliverer of his people, yet fell under great discouragements from his countrymen for whose sake he was raised up.

The people of Israel, at the time of the birth of Moses, were under so severe a bondage, that there was no human prospect of deliverance : those who were of strength sufficient, were held to such constant and hard labor, that they had neither time nor ability to contrive any thing for themselves. Could it be expected that any genius should arise from among the brick-kilns, to restore the liberty of Israel; or that one employed from his childhood in gathering straw should attempt to set up the promised kingdom ? And that mere strength and number might not prevail, the Egyptians had taken care to destroy the male children of Israel; so that the prospect for the next generation was even worse than what the present had. But the providence of God turned these circumstances to his own wisé ends. Had not the king of Egypt commanded the male children to be destroyed, Moses, it is probable, had been

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bred as he was born a slave, and sent, as soon as he was able, to take his share of the hard labor imposed on his countrymen: but by being exposed for fear of the cruel king's command, he fell into the hands of the princess of Egypt, and had his education even in the court of Pharaoh, and became learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. By this means he was qualified to undertake the great work which God had prepared for him; and Israel, though in the lowest condition, had one to go before them, who had been brought up in the dignity of a prince; and yet though he had lived in the plenty of Egypt, and florished in the court of its great king, he forgot not his distressed countrymen, but he partook in all their miseries with an affection which became him who was one day to be their deliverer. One would think that these circumstances, together with the prophecies relating to their deliverance, should have pointed out the person intended by God to bring about their redemption : Moses himself thought he should at least have been favored by his countrymen in his noble enterprise for their service; “he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them :' but, as it follows in the text, “ they understood not.' This was so discouraging a circumstance, that he seems to have laid aside the thoughts of being able to serve them; he found that to accomplish the deliverance of Israel, he must struggle as well against the Israelite as the Egyptian, and subdue the slaves in order to their redemption, as well as the tyrants who oppressed them. And yet, notwithstanding this blindness of the people, the murderer, as they called him, was ordained by God to be their prince and deliverer; and they were at last happily convinced of their mistake, by receiving at his hand the blessings promised to their forefathers.

From whence we may learn, in the second place, what contidence and trust we ought to put in God for the deliverance of his church and true religion, notwithstanding the hopeless prospects which arise from human affairs.

Had we been to judge by the rules of human wisdom and policy, what hope was there that Moses should be the deliverer of that people, in whom he had so little interest, that he was

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forced to fly from them for his own safety? But the counsels of God are not to be defeated either by the folly or the madness of the people; and his purposes shall stand, be those whom he. intends to punish never so furious or outrageous, or those whom he intends to save never so weak and blind to their own interest. And indeed, were such great events to be guided by human counsels, a nation might be destroyed before they could agree in what method or by what means to be saved ; so variously are men drawn by their passions and their interest, that it is very difficult for them to concur in preserving what all are equally concerned to preserve. In these circumstances, it is very natural for men to dwell on the melancholy prospect, and to forebode that ruin to themselves and their country, which seems to be the just consequence of such distracted counsels : but they ought to reflect that there is one higher than all, who can still the rage of the people, and bring peace and safety out of tumult and disorder, with as much ease as he produced light out of darkness, when he said, “Let there be light, and there was light.' Were it not for the comfort arising from this providential care of God over the world, the best thing a wise man could do for himself would be to get out of it as soon as he could; the only way to secure himself from the miseries and calamities which men by their folly and their wickedness are perpetually drawing down on themselves and others. Nay, could we depend on this care and protection of God no farther than our own merits would justify our expectation, we might have reason still to despond. But as there is another time in which all men shall yield an account of their own doings; and as God has greater views oftentimes in saving and destroying nations, than punishing or rewarding the present inhabitants ; and as mercy and goodness incline him to deal graciously with sinners, in allowing them farther means and opportunities of repentance and amendment, we may reasonably hope from his mercy and goodness to be more favorably dealt with than our consciences, if strictly examined, can give us ground to expect. And if ever these hopes are justifiable, then most certainly they are when the honor of God is immediately concerned in the event; and when the truth of that holy religion which Christ sealed with his own blood is part of the controversy. The people of Israel had as little to boast of on their own behalf as other nations ; but they were chosen by God to bear his name, to be witnesses of his truth in the dark ages of the world, to prepare the way for the coming of our Lord and Master; and though they were often aflicted, yet they were as often restored, till at last they were utterly rejected for denying that great prophet, for whose sake, and for the completion of the prophecies relating to him, they had been so often and so long preserved.

These are the observations I had to make to you from the words of the text. The application of them to ourselves is what I believe every body sees as well as myself. And yet I beg your patience, whilst with all truth and sincerity I discharge my duty and conscience as a minister of this reformed church, now openly attacked by its professed and inveterate enemies. Since the beginning of the Reformation in this kingdom, we never had so good a prospect of a firm establishment of the protestant religion as at this time; and yet I verily think we never had less sense of it; our deliverance is near us, but we understand it not. Whilst we have been striving together about things, however dear to us, yet still of less consequence most certainly than our liberty and religion, we have been in danger of being swallowed up by the common enemy; and the people, never till now insensible of the fears of popery, have stood by unconcerned, seeming, as it were, to invite that slavery and oppression which cost their forefathers so much blood and treasure to get rid of. Could you have thought that this soil, so often watered and enriched by the blood of martyrs shed by the cruel hands of popish tyranny, so often miraculously saved by Providence from Roman slavery and superstition, would ever yield such fruit as this ? that England, famed throughout the world for the bulwark of the protestant religion; hated by her enemies, and envied even by her friends, for the best established church in Christendom, should so far forget herself, and the God who saved her, as to look with any patience on those chains from which she was so lately delivered ? It is still more surprising that this should happen at the very time when Providence seems to bave laid the best foundation for our peace and security, by settling a protestant prince in the throne

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