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Of the Spiritual Famine.
AMOS VIII. 11.
BEHOLD, THE DAYS COME, SAITH THE LORD GOD, THAT I WILL SEND A FAMINE IN THE LAND, NOT A FAMINE OF BREAD, NOR A THIRST FOR WATER, BUT OF HEARING THE WORDS OF THE LORD.
DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN,
E have for a short time experienced fomewhat of this FAMINE of hearing the words of the Lord in his holy temple and on this our FIRST MEETING together after its removal,-there are many matters peculiarly proper, useful, if not abfolutely neceffary, to be laid before: you in order therefore that we may have time for fuch purposes, you will permit me to wave all critical difquifitions on the TEXT, and to avail myself of the obvious application; namely,
FIRST, the infinite importance of PUBLIC RELIGION, the want of which is here reprefented as a famine.
SECONDLY, the deep obligation we are under to THOSE, by whose special bounty this Spiritual Famine of hearing the words of the Lord has ceased: thofe in particular that have generously bestowed on this community a commodious place to affemble in, for the noble purposes of adoring the infinite goodness and mercy of our heavenly Father-and of rendering him thanks for the great benefits
we have received at his hands.-The conclufion will be obvious and affecting-namely, what returns thefe advantages should naturally excite in a chriftian's breast.
Thefe are topics of that feraphic virtue-GRATITUDE; topics that would animate the most infenfible, and warm the coldest preacher; but with is rather to inform your judgment, than to agitate your paffions. A fimple narrative is now the only object, in which we fhall endeavour to trace our establishment from the firft erection of the CHAPEL to this period in which it is fixed by ACT OF PARLIAMENT to become, after certain contingencies, a PARISH
I am afraid we shall not be able to accomplish our purposes in a very few words; but in order that I may not be too great a trefpaffer on your time and patience, I fhall difmifs the first article with a few general reflections; and for the reft a short commemoration of benefactions and benefactors.-Were I, indeed, to give way to my own particular fenfe of benefits received; when I confider the object, I have but too much reafon to fear the very emotions of gratitude might give offence. To deferve'praife, and yet to decline it, has always been one property of trafcendent merit. But MINISTERS in future ages, as they will always feel, fo will they, fearlefs of illiberal imputations, indulge their hearts, in acknowledging the comfort, which the bounties we are this day to enumerate, have procured for them.-They will proclaim their obligations, and with propriety produce characters, which we are bound only to contemplate with filent veneration. They will not want fuitable helps from able and impartial hiftorians to fecond the feelings of their own hearts; and enable them to draw portraitures where religion, with inward greatness,-unaffected goodness, purity of manners, and every moral grace that can shed honour on human nature fit triumphant. They may enumerate inftances of REGAL condefcenfion to all the various fons and daughters of affliction ;-may
point to where the helplefs and unprotected orphan, rescued, at once, both from the natural and fpiritual famine, rejoices in her innocence, and the whole train of virtues infeparably connected with it. They may open fcenes, that will fend their hearers to their homes, replete with thofe luxurious tears that feeling hearts pour forth over actions that raife man's nature to its deftined height, and prepare it for those habitations, where intemperate envy, impudent ingratitude, unreasonable faction, illiberal and infatuated licentioufnefs have no being :-but all is harmony,-ecftacy and happiness,through boundlefs ages,-and unfathomable eternity.
But to proceed to a few ftrictures on our first article.-As the existence of a God, that great and good being, who created and preferves the world, is the natural and univerfàl belief of all nations and people; fo from that belief arises this fundamental principle of religion: that he is the proper and only object of our adoration.That his public worship is of infinite importance.-That it is no less our truest interest, than our highest duty to affemble ourselves together in his holy temple; and confequently, that no greater miffortune can befal any community than the famine mentioned in our "" -more text," the famine of hearing the words of the Lord;' grievous in its nature and confequences, than even a famine of bread, or a thirft for water:-and though bleffed be God!-there are already in this our land innumerable places fet apart for the glorious purposes of adoring our Creator ;-yet every ferious chriftian will certainly feel, and forely lament the famine of hearing the words of the Lord; fhould fuch places be either at too inconvenient distance, or where he has no legal right to be seated,—no appointed paftor to refolve his doubts,-to comfort him in his ficknefs, or at ftated times to read to him the words of the Lord, and administer to him the bleffed facraments; in a fpiritual fenfe, he would feel the want of a fixed place of worship,-in the fame manner, as a man is apt to feel the want of a comfortable home.—
Would his diftrefs be relieved because he fees others plentifully provided with the accommodations he is continually withing for? -No ;-an occafional refreshment, or even a feaft, where he is but the guest of the day, will only open his eyes more fenfibly to his own deplorable fituation.
Now that we may have a proper relish for the good things with which our gracious Father's table is here most plentifully supplied, -we should provide for ourselves the feftal garment of the Gospel ; that is, we should come to the heavenly banquet with fuitable difpofitions, our minds enraptured with the thought of what we are hereafter to enjoy,-of what every true believer, if he acts confiftently with his belief, is certain he shall enjoy hereafter among the happy spirits of Saints departed,—of bleffed angels,—and of God himself. The firft ftep to be taken to accommodate the appetite of our fouls to the true taste of those spiritual dainties, will be to recollect the continual difgufts, the various difappointments which we experience amidst all the hospitality that the best things of this world are capable of affording us in a mere unregenerated natural state.—This sad leffon of fatiety without fatisfaction, is a kind of bitter to keep in view the allegory of our text, which will certainly prepare our palates for the bread which cometh down from heaven, and for thofe living waters, which will be in him that drinketh. at Chrift's holy fountain,-a well springing up into everlasting life.
Beloved,-feeing the food is defirable to make a man wife,though wormwood to the tafte; let us for a moment contemplate those natural and unavoidable misfortunes to which we are liable in this fluctuating ftate of things,-from the first tender lamentation of our helpless infancy to the laft deep groan of age,-short must have been his time of fojourning here below, or very fuperficial his obfervation who has not yet felt the truth of the preacher's exclamation-vanity of vanities!—all is vanity!-no fublunary object whatsoever
whatsoever is capable of fatisfying the exalted defires of an immortal foul and when to the unfatisfying nature of the good things, we add the long catalogue of the, unavoidable evils of life;-when we reflect how many there are whofe only potion is the bread of tears and plenteoufnefs of tears to drink, we must confefs that what way foever we turn our eyes, humanity is diftreffed. The fad fcene difclofes itself in every point of view, and opens upon us in uncomfortable prospects from every quarter of the globe:—but for ever bleffed be the God of all mercies! in that he hath by his holy scriptures afforded us a fure remedy for every evil that can befal us in our mortal ftate: and in their room hath prefented to our view an object fully adequate to our defires; namely, the fure and certain hope of a future and better world.-Now, would we but let faith have her perfect work, this glorious expectation would fill up this valley of forrows,-make all these crooked paths perfectly plain and easy before us; and in fome measure allay that unextinguishable thirst of happiness indelibly rooted in the human foul.And thus convinced that man doth not live by bread alone,-but that the comfort of our existence muft depend upon that word of revelation which proceedeth out of the mouth of God: fhall wewhen he hath prepared his dinner,—and his oxen and fatlings are killed,- -can we turn our backs on the holy table of religion,-going one to his farm,-and another to his merchandize ?-Shall we continue to rise up early, and fo late take reft, and eat the bread of carefulness all our days, in order to acquire more of this world, than we can either want or enjoy?-Should we not, on the contrary, stand aghast at the deplorable madness and folly of those men whofe eager pursuits after these vain, unfatisfactory and fugatious advantages, have blinded their eyes to the prospect of a blessed eternity ?—Who mistaking their paffage for their port, are heaping up pungent disappointment and disgust to themselves, by ftill doatingly crying to their hearts,-It is good for us to be here!—Yes;-our