A CHRISTIAN CONCERN IN NATIONAL SIN
From a Church Meeting Address
By Dr. Owen, 1675
ALL SINS may be reduced to two main headings: Irreligion and Immorality.
1. IRRELIGION – This again may be reduced to two headings: atheism and false worship – to which you may add – the contempt of worship.
As to atheism, it may be no age can parallel that wherein we live, considering all the ways whereby the atheism of man’s heart may discover itself. For, take it absolutely, and in the seat of it, it is found in the heart of man. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The heart is the seat of atheism. But let us consider the ways whereby this atheism may and doth manifest itself. ……
(i) By horrid, cursed, blasphemous swearing; which is a contempt of the Name of God. And when did it ever more abound in this nation?
(ii) By reproaching of the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is the peculiar sin of the nation at this day; and that the like hath not been heard of in any nation under the sun.
(iii) By scoffing at all holy things; – at the Scriptures and at everything that carries a reverence and fear of God; so that a man who dares to profess a fear of God in what he does, makes himself a scorn.
(iv) Contempt of all God’s providential warnings is another proof of atheism. Never had a nation more warnings from God’s providence, nor ever were they more despised. These things, brethren, are not done in a corner; they are perpetrated in the face of the sun. The effect of them darkens the whole heaven and they abound more and more every day.
2. IMMORALITY – It would be an endless thing to go over the sins that reign among us: oppression, murder, uncleaness, sensuality, drunkenness, – all are at a height, raging and reigning in the nation. I mention these things as a matter to be bewailed before the Lord by us; we ought to be affected by the consideration of them.
Unto this great prevalency and predominancy of sin in the whole nation, there is added a strange and unspeakable security. The truth is, men were a little awakened at one time in the nation. When the judgments of God – the pestilence, the fire, the sword, and, the year after, another warning from heaven – came upon us, then there was a little awakening, like a man out of a dead sleep, that lifts up his head and rubs his eyes for a time. But I can say this, that it is now forty years since God enabled me to observe something in the world; and, to my knowledge, I never observed this nation in that state of security wherein it is at this day. In former times, there were warnings continually that God had a controversy with the nation, and those who had any fear of God spake one to another about it; and we saw and found their warnings were not in vain. But there is now general security. Men complain of straits, want, poverty, and the like; but as to any thing wherein God hath to do with the world, either my observation does greatly deceive me, or I never saw, so general a security as at this day in this nation. And this security hath reached us all, – even the churches of God themselves….
These things are matter of fact. The whole question is, Whether we are greatly to be concerned about these things or not? “They are the sins of wicked men, and they are the sins of the persecutors of the people of God, and the like; and what have we to do with them?”
The Psalmist of old said: Rivers of waters ran down his eyes because wicked men did not keep the law of God. God does set a special mark upon those, not that are free from the abominations of the age, but upon those that mourn for the abominations that are in the midst. It will not be enough for us that we are free from those abominations, unless we are found to mourn for them. Brethren, our own hearts know we are guilty in this matter, and that we have need to seek the face of God to give us a deeper sense of these things than we have obtained. The Name of God is blasphemed, the Spirit of God is reproached, a flood of iniquity spreads itself over the nation, the land of our nativity, over the inheritance of Christ, over a nation professing the reformed religion; – all things go backward, everything declines. Indeed, brethren, if you will not, I do acknowledge in this matter, that I have not been sensible of the abominations of the nation, so as to mourn for them and be humbled for them, as I ought to have been. And you will do well to search your own hearts and consider how it is with you; – whether you have been affected with these things; or whether you have not thought all is well, while it has been well with yourselves and your families, and, it may be, with the church, that may have no trouble on that account.
….. That which is worst of all, there seems to me, to be a very great decay in all churches of Christ in the nation. That which we call zeal for God is almost quite lost among us. Some of us have almost forgotten whether there be such a thing as the cause and interest of Christ in the world. We who have cried and prayed about it, and had it upon our hearts, have sat down in our narrow compass and almost forgot that there is such a thing as the interest of Christ in the world, so as to have an active zeal for the ordinances of Christ, and the society of His people for edification, – how cold have we grown in these things! How little is the church society upon our hearts, which some of us remember when it was the very joy of our souls! Truly we have reason to lift up our cry to God, that He would return and visit the churches, and pour out a new reviving spirit upon them, that we fall not under the power of these decays till we come to total formality, and God withdraws Himself from us, and leaves us; which He seems at the very point of doing.
Then, brethren, let us remember our own Church; that God would in an especial manner revive the spirit of life, power and holiness among us; that He would be pleased to help us to discharge our duties, and not suffer them to fall under any decay of grace or gifts, thereby unfitting us to discharge our office to the edification of the church. May He also give us to beware of and preserve us from formality; and that He would take care of us, since we are apt to fall under these things. Let us pray that we may be acted upon by the Spirit of God and enlivened by the grace of God.
Have any of us any particular occasions in reference to temptations, trials and troubles upon our hearts that we may bear to the Lord? May the Lord make us to know the plague of our own hearts, and enable us to plead with Him for grace and His help in every time of need!