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´╗┐Title: A Letter from the Lord Bishop of London, to the Clergy and People of London and Westminster; On Occasion of the Late Earthquakes
Author: Sherlock, Thomas, 1678-1761
Language: English
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Libraries.)



A
LETTER
FROM THE
LORD BISHOP
OF
_LONDON_,
TO THE
CLERGY and PEOPLE
OF
_London_ and _Westminster_;
On Occasion of the Late
EARTHQUAKES.



_LONDON_:
Printed for JOHN WHISTON in _Fleetstreet_.
MDCCL.

[Price Three-Pence.]



TO THE
CLERGY and Inhabitants
OF THE
Cities of _London_ and _Westminster_.


_My Brethren and Friends_,

The Relation I stand in to you, is a daily Call upon me to consider the
spiritual State of these great Cities; and tho' I doubt not but GOD has
many faithful and chosen Servants among you, yet the general View of
the Wickedness and Corruption that abound, and are spreading far and
wide, gives me, and must give to every serious Christian very painful
Reflexions: It is hardly possible to think of the History of
Providence, recorded in Holy Writ, and the many Examples of Divine
Justice exercised, sometimes in punishing, sometimes in utterly
destroying wicked Nations, or Cities, without being sensibly affected
with Apprehensions for ourselves: But more especially have we Reason to
fear, when we see the _Beginning of Sorrows_, and the Displeasure of
the Almighty manifested in the Calamities we suffer under, and in the
Signs and Tokens given us to expect a far more dreadful Judgment.

It is every Man's Duty, and it is mine to call upon you, to give
Attention to all the Warnings which God in his Mercy affords to a
sinful People: Such Warning we have had, by two great Shocks of an
Earthquake; a Warning, which seems to have been immediately and
especially directed to these great Cities, and the Neighbourhood of
them; where the Violence of the Earthquake was so sensible, tho' in
distant Parts hardly felt, that it will be Blindness wilful and
inexcusable not to apply to ourselves this strong Summons, from God, to
Repentance.

Thoughtless or hardened Sinners may be deaf to these Calls; and Little
Philosophers, who see a little, and but very little into natural
Causes, may think they see enough to account for what happens, without
calling in the Aid and Assistance of a special Providence; not
considering, that God who made all Things, never put any Thing out of
his own Power, but has all Nature under Command to serve his Purposes
in the Government of the World. But be their Imaginations to
themselves, the Subject is too serious for trifling; and calls us off
to other Views.

If we consider the general Government of the World by God, and upon
what Reasons and Motives he acts, when he brings Calamities and Plagues
upon any People: Or if we recollect from History sacred and profane,
what State and Condition with respect to Religion and Morality, the
People were in, who have been Examples of Justice: And then compare our
own Case with the general Reason by which Providence acts, and with the
Circumstances of those by whose Example we ought to take Warning, we
shall soon discover whether there be just Reason for our Apprehensions.
If those who have been destroyed by Fire from Heaven, or swallowed up
by the Earth were _Sinners_, and we are _righteous_, let us fear
nothing, nor be dismayed though the _Foundations_ of the Earth be
removed: But if our Consciences tell us, that we have sinned after
their Example, what Consolation is there to be had against the just
Expectation of suffering after their Example also?

The same Conclusion will arise from a Contemplation of God's general
Providence; which tho' it is not daily exerted in punishing all Men, or
all Vices that deserve it; yet is always armed with Power to stop
outrageous Wickedness; and he has told us in his holy Word, what we may
expect from his Justice, when we are grown hardened and obdurate
against his Mercy.

Upon these Principles let your own Case be examined: But who shall be
your Accuser? Shall I? God forbid, _My Heart's Desire and Prayer to God
for you is, that you may be saved_. Hear me then with Patience, not as
your Accuser, but as your faithful Servant and Monitor in Christ Jesus,
warning you to flee from the Wrath that is to come.

Had this Part of the World had less Knowledge and less Light, they
might have some Excuse, and some Hope that GOD would wink at the Times
of their Ignorance: But they have had the Light, and have loved
Darkness: The Gospel of Christ in which all the Goodness and Mercy of
GOD are display'd through the Redemption purchased by the Blood of
Christ; in which the Aid and Comfort of the Holy Spirit of GOD is
offered to all who diligently seek it; in which the Hopes and Fears of
Eternity are display'd to guard us against the Temptations of Sin; has
been not only rejected, but treated with a malicious Scorn; and all our
Hopes in Christ represented as Delusions and Impositions upon the
Weakness of Men. How has the Press for many Years past swarm'd with
Books, some to dispute, some to ridicule the great Truths of Religion,
both natural and revealed. I shall mention no particular Cases, there
is no need for it; the Thing is notorious. I wish the Guilt in this
Instance was confined to the Authors only, and that no body else was
answerable for it: But the Earnestness with which these Books were
sought after, the Pleasure and Approbation with which they were
received, are too strong Indications of the general Taste to be
dissembled; and the Industry used to disperse these Books at home and
abroad, and especially to our Plantations in _America_; to which great
Numbers, and at a great Expence have been conveyed; are Proofs of such
Malice against the Gospel and the Holy Author of it, as would not be
born even in a _Mahometan_ Country. In this Branch of Trade, this great
City beats all the World; it is become even the Mart for Infidelity.

It required no great Sagacity to foresee what the Consequence would be
of the Pains taken to unsettle all Principles of Religion. Infidelity
and Immorality are too nearly allied, to be long separated; and though
some have pretended to preserve a Sense of Virtue without the Aid of
Religion, yet Experience has shewed that People who have neither Hopes
nor Fears with Respect to _another_ World, will soon abuse _this_ by
indulging the worst of their Passions, and will not regard Man, when
once they have learn'd to disregard GOD.

Whether this be our Case, let every Man judge by what he hears and
sees; by what, indeed, he _must_ hear and see, if he lives amongst us.
Blasphemy and horrid Imprecations domineer in our Streets, and poor
Wretches are every Hour wantonly and wickedly calling for Damnation on
themselves and others, which may be ('tis much to be feared) too near
them already. Add to this the Lewdness and Debauchery that prevail
amongst the lowest People, which keeps them idle, poor, and miserable,
and renders them incapable of getting an honest Livelihood for
themselves and Families; the Number of lewd Houses, which trade in
their Vices, and which must at any rate be paid for making Sin
convenient to them; and it will account for Villainies of another Kind,
which are growing so fast as to be insupportable, and almost incurable:
For, Where is the Wonder that Persons so abandoned should be ready to
commit all Sorts of Outrage and Violence?--A City without Religion can
never be a safe Place to dwell in.

The unnatural Lewdness, of which we have heard so much of late, is
something more than brutish, and can hardly be mentioned without
offending chaste Ears, and yet cannot be passed over entirely in
Silence, because of the particular Mark of Divine Vengeance set upon it
in the Destruction of _Sodom_ by Fire from Heaven. Dreadful Example!

But these Vices are so enormous, that 'tis to be hoped the Generality
of our People are not guilty; I hope in God they are not, I trust they
are not. But how unhappy is it for this Country, that there should be
any Ground even for Suspicion that these Vices are growing to be
common!

But to go one Step further--

When Men, not content with indulging their own brutish Passions, take
Pains to corrupt others, they act with such cool and diabolical Malice,
as outdoes former Examples, and seems to be a Challenge to the Power
and Justice of God--Have not all the Abominations of the publick Stews
been opened to View by lewd Pictures exposed to Sale at Noon-day? Have
not Histories or Romances of the vilest Prostitutes been published,
intended merely to display the most execrable Scenes of Lewdness;
Lewdness represented without Disguise, and nothing omitted that might
inflame the corrupt Passions of the Youth of the Nation! What was the
Encouragement for Men to dare giving such an Affront not only to the
common Sense, but to the common Law of the Country? Was it not the
quick Sale these Pictures and these Books had? And is not this a
deplorable Circumstance, and sad Instance of the corrupt Disposition of
many among us?

Is it to be wondered at, after so much Pains taken to corrupt the
Religion and Morals of the People, that they should be indisposed to
attend to any thing serious, or that they grow sick of Religion, which
has no Comforts for them; that they fly from the Church and crowd to
the Playhouse: That they are tired of themselves, and their own
Thoughts, and want to lose themselves in Company from Morning to Night?
It is this unhappy, unsettled State of Mind that has introduced a Kind
of general Idleness among the People, and given Rise to almost infinite
Places of Diversion in and about this Town; it were well if they were
Places of Diversion only; but they are often Places for carrying on
worse Business, and give Opportunities to the Profligate to seduce the
Innocent, who often meet their Ruin, where they only came for
Pleasure--While I was writing this I cast my Eye upon a News-Paper of
the Day, and counted no less than fifteen Advertisements for _Plays_,
_Operas_, _Musick_, and _Dancing_, for Meetings at _Gardens_, for
_Cock-fighting_, _Prize-fighting_, &c? Should this Paper, (as many of
our News-Papers do) go abroad, what an Idea must it give to all the
Churches abroad, of the Manner in which _Lent_ is kept in this
Protestant Country? What our Saviour said to the _Jews_ upon another
Occasion, _You have turned the House of Prayer into a Den of Thieves_,
may with a little Variation, be applied to Ourselves, We have turned
this Season appointed for serious Reflexions, and Humiliation of Body
and Spirit, into a Time of Mirth and Jollity, of Musick, Dancing, and
riotous Living.

How far this Spirit of Indolence and Idleness has gone, and to what
Excess, may be seen in all Orders among us; friendly Visits for
Conversation are become insipid Things, and are degenerated into
Meetings for Gaming, where People hardly known to each other, are
invited by one Tye only, the Love of Play: Which seems now to be, not
an Amusement or Diversion, but a serious Business of Life, and one
would think a _necessary_ one, by seeing how some Children are trained
up to it.

There is a great and a grievous Evil among us, which naturally springs
from the Disorders beforementioned: I mean the great Increase of Popery
in this Kingdom. When Men have lost all Principles of Religion, and are
lost to all Sense of Morality, they are prepared to receive any
Superstition, whenever the Decay of Health, or the cross Accidents of
Life revive the Fears of Futurity; which may be stifled, but cannot be
extinguished; such Persons not able to digest the wholesome Food of
Repentance, by which their spiritual Condition might be gradually
mended, greedily swallow the high Cordial of Absolution, which like
other Cordials gives some present Ease, but works no Cure. And with
respect to People of a serious and religious Turn of Mind, the manifest
and almost general Contempt, or at least Neglect, of the Duties of
Religion gives a great Advantage to the Emissaries of _Rome_ to impose
on their Weakness, and to persuade them that they can have no Hopes in
the Religion of a Church, where Religion itself is hardly to be found.

Lay these Things together; and what more your own Observation and
Reflexion may furnish, and much more they may furnish; and then ask
your Heart, whether you have not Reason to fear, that God will visit
for these Things. If your Heart misgives you, and forebodes the Time of
taking Vengeance for these Iniquities to be drawing near, consider
further, how graciously you have been dealt with by having had Warning
of your Danger; and remember that the long _Sufferance of God is a Call
to Repentance_.

It is purely for the Sake of this Reflexion, that I now address myself
to you: I have no Pleasure in laying open the Shame of my Country, or
in exposing its Nakedness either to Friends or to Foes; and when I
consider my own Situation, 'tis a Prospect void of all Comfort to me to
see the Condition of the People, over whom I have a Charge; and, God
knows my Heart, these Considerations are a Pain and Grief to my Mind.

But, let us not despair; there is still one Remedy left, and whatever
Reason we have to condemn ourselves, yet of this we may be sure, that
God has not _forgotten to be gracious_. To him then let us turn, with
hearty Repentance for our Sins; and with a Resolution to do, each of us
in his proper Station, what lies in our Power to stem the Torrent of
Iniquity which threatens our Ruin.

As to You my Brethren of the Clergy, who share with me the Care of the
Souls in these populous Cities, let me exhort You, (though I trust you
want not to be exhorted) to awaken the People, to call them from the
Lethargy in which they have too long lived, and make them see their own
Danger. Speak to them, _perswade them as knowing the Terrors of the
Lord_.--Speak to their Hearts and Consciences with such Plainness as
becomes the Ministers of the Gospel; tell them in _Season and out of
Season, that unless they repent, they must perish_. If the Warnings we
have had are a Call on the People to Repentance, remember they are
still stronger Calls on us, to _preach_ Repentance, and to discharge
the Duty we owe to God and his Church, and to the Flock of Christ, over
whom we are placed. May this Work of God prosper in our Hands!

I should be wanting to the Duty I owe to the highest as well as the
lowest, should I omit on this Occasion to remind those who are
entrusted by their Country, with the Government of these populous
Cities, how much the Welfare of the People depends upon the faithful
Execution of the Law. I pretend not to accuse _them particularly_ of
Neglect, a _general Neglect_ of this Kind is one of the worst Symptoms
of the Time; every Man is left to do what is right in his own Eyes, one
would think _there was no King in Israel_. Could the vile abominable
Pictures of Lewdness have been offered to Sale in the most frequented
Parts of the City; could Books for the Instruction of the Unexperienced
in all the Mysteries of Iniquity have been publickly cried in our
Streets; had not the Laws, and the Guardians of the Laws, been
asleep?--But surely it is high Time to awake; and to let People once
more know, (what seems to be almost forgotten) that Laws are made for
the _Punishment of Wickedness and Vice, and for the Maintenance of true
Religion_.

Government is a great Trust, and the Powers of it are not intended
merely to do Honour to those who have them, but must be used for the
Good of the Community. This is a Truth sufficiently known, it has been
founded in the Ears of the Nation, without Ceasing; but the Misfortune
is, that this Doctrine has been applied so constantly to the _Supreme_
Magistrate only, that those who have _subordinate_ Powers derived from
his Authority, forget, or are not accustomed, to make the Application
to themselves. And yet surely, there is not a Constable but has, in
Proportion to the Power the Law gives him, a Trust reposed in him in
Behalf of his King and his Country: Those who are in higher Offices,
have still greater Reason, as more depends upon the due Exercise of
their Authority, to be watchful for the Community. The Good of Society
must be influenced by their Conduct and Example, one Way or other.
Great Officers of Justice cannot be _useless_, without being
_pernicious_.

If a Regard for the Publick is not a Motive strong enough in this Case,
let every Magistrate consider that there is another of infinite
Importance to himself; for if all Power be the _Ordinance_ of God, He
will undoubtedly demand an Account of the Exercise of it: And who is
he, that has so little to answer for on his own Account, as willingly
to subject himself to be answerable for the Sins of others, which
either by his Encouragement, or his Connivence he makes his own? Pardon
the Freedom of this Address; I honour and reverence _your_ Office, and
I hope I give you no Occasion to despise _mine_.

Next to those in publick Offices of Power and Trust, the Happiness of
the Publick depends upon those who have the Government in private
Families. Here it is that the Youth of the Nation must be formed, and
if they are suffered to be corrupted in their Religion or Morals before
they come into the _World_, there is little Hope that the _World_ will
reform them. All wise Men, Legislators, and Princes, have acknowledged,
not only the Use, but the Necessity of an early Education to form the
Mind, whilst tender, to the Principles of Honour and Virtue; and what
is more, the wisest of all, the Writers inspired by the Holy Spirit,
have required it as a Duty from Parents, and as Part of the Obedience
they owe to God: Even our Unbelievers have seen how far Religion
depended on this Care; and under a Pretence of maintaining the Liberty
of the human Mind, and guarding it against early Prejudices, they have
endeavoured to persuade the World, that Children should be taught
nothing of Religion, but be left to form Notions for themselves. They
have had but too great Success, and we begin to see the Fruits of it.
The Children of this Age, grow soon to be Men and Women, and are
admitted to be Partners, and Witnesses to the Follies and Vices of
their Parents. Thus trained and educated, when they come to be Masters
and Mistresses of Families, they answer fully what was to be expected
from them; they are often a Torment to each other, and to themselves,
and have Reason to bemoan themselves for the Indulgence shewn them in
their early Days.

Would you see the Effects of this Education in all Orders among us,
look into the many Publick Assemblies; sometimes you may see Old Age
affecting the Follies of Youth, and counterfeiting the Airs of Gaiety;
sometimes Men lying in wait to seduce Women, and Women to seduce Men;
and even Children seriously employed at the Gaming Table, as if their
Parents were concerned to form them early to the Taste of the Age, and
were afraid that they should not soon enough, of themselves, find the
Way to their Ruin.

Look near Home: See the Temptations of this Sort which surround these
Cities, and are indeed so many Snares to catch your Sons and Daughters
and Apprentices. Can you look on, and be unconcerned? For God's Sake,
and for the Sake of your Children and your Country take the Courage to
act like Parents and Masters of Families: Reformation must begin in
private Families; the Law and the Magistrate can punish your Children
when they become wicked; but it is you, who must make them good, by
proper Instruction and proper Government. If you suffer them to meet
Temptation, where Temptation is sure to meet them, never complain of
him who corrupts your Child, you are the Corrupter yourself; to you he
owes it, that he is undone. And perhaps there is not a more provoking
Circumstance, nor a greater Call for Divine Vengeance on a wicked
Nation, than this; that the Youth are prepared and brought up to
inherit all the Vices of their Fathers, which cuts off all Prospect of
Reformation; and stands as a Bar between us and Mercy.

On you therefore, Fathers and Mothers, your Country, and the Church of
God call for Assistance; your Endeavours may go a great Way towards
saving us, and this wicked Generation may be spared, for the Hope of
seeing the next better.

In a word, let every Man, whatever his Station is, do his Part towards
averting the Judgments of God: Let every Man reform himself, and others
as far as his Influence goes: This is _our_ only proper Remedy; for the
dissolute Wickedness of the Age, is a more dreadful Sign and
Prognostication of Divine Anger, than even the Trembling of the Earth
under us.

To our own Endeavours, let us add continual and fervent Supplications
to the Almighty, that he would _spare us, and not deal with us
according to the Multitude of our Sins_; that he would give us the
Grace of Repentance, and open our Eyes to see, before it is too late,
_the Things which belong to our Salvation_.

May the God of all Mercy hear you, in this Day of your Distress! To his
Protection, and the Grace of our Lord _Jesus_ I earnestly recommend
you. I am,

_Your Affectionate Brother, and
Servant in Christ Jesus_,

THO. LONDON.



_Printed_ for JOHN WHISTON _in_ Fleetstreet.

_The Fifth Edition, on a fine Paper_, Price 5_s._ bound:

I. The Use and Intent of Prophecy, in the several Ages of the World: In
Six Discourses, delivered at the _Temple Church_; To which are added,
Four Dissertations, and an _Appendix_, being a farther Enquiry into the
_Mosaick_ Account of the _Fall_.

_By_ THOMAS SHERLOCK, _D.D._

Master of the _Temple_, now Lord Bishop of _London_.

_N.B._ The _Appendix_ may be had alone to compleat former Editions.
Price 1_s._

II. The Tryal of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of JESUS. The
Twelfth Edition, corrected. Price 1_s._ 6_d._





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