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his care and fed by his bounty,—must we not be astonished at the repeated instances of their ingratitude and rebellion against their supreme Benefactor, and at the hardness and stubbornness of their hearts in the continual violation of his commands ? Can we, indeed, be surprised that their venerable leader, now about to sink into the grave, should record his abhorrence of such base ingratitude, and warn them of the dreadful consequences that awaited their impenitence ?
But while he thus records the denunciations of the divine anger against them, their venerable leader could not forget the ties which bound him to his ungrateful countrymen. After reciting the various punishments which awaited a continuance of their ingratitude and rebellion, he concludes with this pious and pathetic wish for their repentance and humiliation, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !” As if he had said, O that they were so fully impressed with a grateful sense of the divine blessings they have experienced, and were so alive to the apprehension of incurring the displeasure of the Almighty, and sensible of the consequences of his wrath, as would not only make them solicitous to secure his favour and protection in this world, but would also enable them to look forward to their latter end with peace.
How far this hard-hearted and infatuated people were led to acquire the wisdom and understanding so
earnestly desired by their great lawgiver, the subsequent events of their history, alas ! but too plainly prove. Rebellion and ingratitude for ever marked their character, and nothing but their utter destruction as a nation could at last appease the wrath of God for their continued provocations of the divine displeasure.
But it is not to the conduct of the Israelites alone that the words of the text will apply. The sacred Scriptures were written for universal instruction, that all may “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them." Though, indeed, in their primary use they too clearly bore reference to the Jews ; yet there has always existed ample room for their application in the abuse of the mercies and blessings which the Almighty has shed abroad upon his creatures.
The many instances of Divine favour and protection extended to us throughout the course of our lives, the blessings we enjoy from day to day, the great and glorious privileges which distinguish our lot as Christians, demand on our part an unceasing return of gratitude and obedience. But is this return made by us in such a manner as can entitle us to look forward to a continuance of these inestimable blessings? Is there not too much reason to fear that the pious wish of Moses might with justice be addressed to the majority of professing Christians in the present day? “ O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !”
But it is not my intention to confine the words of the text to ourselves only as individuals ; my object on the present occasion is to give them a more extensive consideration, and to propose them as more peculiarly a subject for national reflection.
If the warnings and exhortations of Scripture were written for universal instruction, then surely the pious wish expressed in the text ought equally to become a subject of reflection to ourselves as a nation, and to every land which has received the records of the Divine will. More particularly, however, are those nations interested in their consideration, to whom the favour and protection of the Almighty have been more abundantly manifested, and by whom may have been experienced more signal instances of his providential interposition.
And what nation is there which has experienced so many instances of the Divine favour and protection? What land so elevated by tokens of providential interposition? What people enjoy such signal and glorious privileges as belong to the inhabitants of this great and favoured land ?
It must be granted if we allow (and can we venture to deny it ?) that the providence of God rules over the affairs of nations—that as a people, we have enjoyed an abundant share of his Almighty favour and protection. Contemplate the amazing resources of this great and mighty empire ! reflect how she has become under Divine Providence the arbitress of nations ; survey the boundless extent of
her dominion and the influence inspired by her arms; consider the privileges which, as inhabitants of this land, we enjoy; the means we possess of extending the blessings of religion and civilization throughout the world, and then say whether we do not seem raised up by the Almighty to become a beacon to the nations, and the instrument for accomplishing the purposes of his will.
If then we must acknowledge that the providence of God is interested in the concerns of nations, and if we cannot but trace the hand of the all-wise Disposer of events in the many signal instances of favour and protection extended to our country, and the blessings and privileges we enjoy-does it not behove us to weigh well the responsibility we incur if we neglect to profit by these manifestations of his providence, and if we fail to employ the advantages we possess in fulfilling the important ends for which they were vouchsafed ?
Does it not concern us to reflect seriously what return, as a nation, we have made for the many inestimable blessings we have received ? Have they led us to testify, on our part, gratitude and obedience to our Divine Benefactor; or may the words of our text be applied to ourselves as a nation, as they were to the Jews, “ O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !”
It requires but little reflection to convince us that we are at all times under a great obligation seriously
to consider the many favours we have experienced at the hand of the Almighty, and to contemplate the danger we incur, should we neglect to profit by their enjoyment, or should they become to us only the means of our forgetting the source whence these blessings are derived.
But if at all times this duty is incumbent on us, much more does it become so at a time like this, when, from the recent calamity inflicted on us, we are roused to the consideration of our future prospects as a nation, and are led to pause on the commencement of a new era of our political existence. Much more so indeed is this a time for such contemplation, when that great and illustrious individual, who has been the instrument in the hands of Providence for exalting our country to its present pitch of greatness, is sunk to rest in the grave, when the sun, whose meridian lustre illumined the world, is set in the darkness of night.
My brethren, we are this day called upon to pay the tribute of our regret to the memory of one of the greatest monarchs that ever sat on England's throne; and how can we better discharge the duty which this melancholy occasion imposes upon us, than by endeavouring to improve the consideration of the mournful event, by drawing from it those reflections both of a spiritual and of a temporal nature, which it so abundantly affords for edification? “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !”