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And, once more, let us be very careful that we do not abuse our religious liberties by trifling with opportunities for spiritual improvement, either absenting ourselves from them, or attending them in a careless and unprofitable manner. Let us remember, The servant who knows his master's will, and prepares not himself to act according to it, will be beaten with many stripes *. The freest profession of the purest religion on earth will signify nothing, if it be no more than a profession; and all that zeal for liberty which is consistent with being the slave of sin, is only a natural haughtiness of spirit, which will aggravate a man's guilt rather than extenuate it. The Lord grant that none of us may reject the truth, and that none may hold it in uprighteousness : lest the time come, when we wish for that excuse which they will have, who have known the restraints and discouragements of persecutions; and another day reflect with horror, even on those repeated deliverances, for which we are this day returning our public acknowledgments.
* Luke xii. 47.
DELIVERANCE OUT OF THE HANDS OF OUR ENEMIES, Urged as a Motide to Obedience, in the Substance of two Sermons, preached
at Northampton, February 9, 1745-6, on Occasion of the precipitate Flight of the Rebels from Stirling a few Days before.
Luke i. 74, 75.—That he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of
the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
I SHOULD think myself inexcusable, if, after having ad. dressed you with so many admonitions, and so many encouragements, through the whole period of our late public alarms, I should be silent as to the favourable turn, which our affairs seem now to be taking ; and did not lead you to greet these first openings of deliverance which God is giving us, with your earliest hymns of grateful praise. Far be it from any of us to resemble the nine lepers *, who though they had been so loud in their cries for mercy under their affliction as to be heard afar off, yet having received their cure returned not to give glory to God. I am indeed sensible, that our deliverance is not yet complete. Though our enemies are fled with so much precipia tation before our forces, led on by that heroic prince whom providence has raised so gloriously to command them, we are not as yet putting off our harness t. But we have reason to hope, that the end of girding it on is in a great measure answered; and it is certain, that a becoming acknowledgment of these beginnings of mercy, will be the most probable means to secure the full accomplishment of our hopes. I have therefore chosen the words before us, with a particular view to this great and happy event; and it is obvious, that they will naturally lead me into suitable and important reflections upon it.
You will easily recollect, that they are part of that celebrated song, in which Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist,
is obwith a par hopes. probablemente anstre og hope
* Luke xvü. 12-18. VOL. III.
f 1 Kings xx. 11.
uttered his joys and his hopes on the birth of such a son, and in which he employed and consecrated the first accents of his recovered speech. This venerable priest, under the influence of the prophetic Spirit, blesses the God of Israel, who had raised up a horn of salvation, that is who was just raising a powerful Saviour, for them; in the house of his servant David ; whose office and glory it should be, to perform the mercy promised to their fathers, the substance of which he comprehends in the words of my text; and thus to complete what he had so often engaged in effect, though not in express words, that Israel under his auspicious government, being delivered out of the hands of their enemies, and of all them that hated them, should serve him without fear, in a steady course of holiness and righteousness before him.
I will not take upon me to determine the exact idea, which Zacharias himself had to these words; whether he meant to refer to that great salvation from our spiritual enemies, which Christ gives, and to those infuences of his Spirit on the hearts of his people, whereby they are effectually engaged to a persevering course of holiness and righteousness; or whether he might have his eye to some expected conquest over that Gentile power, by which Israel was then held in subjection, and to a temporal kingdom to be established in consequence of it, in which righteousness should reign in a more remarkable manner, than it had ever before done among the children of men. He, like others of the prophets, after having delivered their divine oracles, might have need of Searching what the Spirit of Christ did particularly signify therein *. But it is evident, that whether we take it in the one or the other of these views, it will afford us a just foundation for two remarks, most suitable to our present circumstances : That to be delivered out of the hands of our enemies is a great favour of divine providence ; and that it loudly calls for a course of steady and cheerful obedience to God as our great benefactor.
It will therefore be very agreeable to the general sentiments expressed in these words, that I should, First, Endeavour to make you sensible of the greatness of this
deliverance, which God has now granted us out of the hands
of our enemies. And, Secondly, Represent and enforce that return, which he most
reasonably demands from us, and to which the text may naturally direct our thoughts. .
* 1 Pet. i. 10, 11.