NATIONAL FASTING GENERALLY INSI∣DIOUS AND IMPIOUS.
From Fast-Day Sermons, by the Rev. J. Murray, of Newcastle, Author of Sermons to Asses. Printed in the Year 1781.
ISAIAH, 58, 4, 6.
ACCORDING to the stile of Revelation, all un∣just and arbitrary decrees are bands of wicked∣ness, by whatsoever human authority they are imposed, because they are contrary to moral justice, and are oppressive to the people. And though they can never bind the consciences of men, and so have no moral influence, yet they are cords of oppression, that sit hard upon their bodies and their temporal interest. Laws that are unfriendly to the temporal interest, and ge∣neral good of society; laws that are made to exalt a few to power and dignity, by spunging, squeezing, and oppressing all other ranks of people, though con∣trived Page 166trived by angels, and executed by saints, are bands of wickedness, which may cause people to suffer for transgressing, but can never create sin in disobey∣ing.
When the Rulers of a Nation, to gratify their own lusts of pride and ambition, impose heavy and oppres∣sive burdens upon the people by legislative authority, they establish iniquity by a law, which in the strictest sense of the words, is a band of iniquity. The lusts of princes and their servants, often create their own wants, and render them necessitous; they then make use of their power and influence to procure laws to oblige others to supply them, whether they are able or not; and what aggravates the evil, when the sub∣jects know and feel that they are not able to answer the heavy demands of power, they are not allowed to be judges of their own abilities. Those that rule over others ought to be sober and temperate, and make the reasonable finances of state serve them in executing their offices. Unnecessary splendor and expence in government are inconsistent with both rea∣son and religion, which teach us, that it is one of the great ends of laws and government to restrain unruly appetites and passions. It is sinful in princes to coin expensive offices to serve their favourites, and oppress their subjects. Nothing can be more audacious, than for men appointed to be guardians of society, with a design to make individuals easy and happy, to pretend to come before the Lord, in the most solemn manner, to ask his aid and assistance to oppress them. Such is undoubtedly the language of the ensuing Fast, and of the conduct of its authors and devisers.
The poor, in all parts of Britain, are groaning un∣der a heavy load of taxes, devised for new purposes, and imposed by new statutes. But for what reasons? Where is the necessity? What way are they applied? Are they not intended to carry violence and deso∣lation, fire and sword, among a people, whose only fault is, that they are endowed with principles, and a Page 167spirit which Englishmen once gloried in, and which saved this nation from poverty and arbitrary power, and will not part with what God and nature, and the laws have given them, to gratify the lusts of men who have degenerated from the noble generous temper of their ancestors, into Eastern nabobs, and Turkish bashaws. These men have thought sit to contrive war, foreign and domestic, to gratify their depraved passions, and the rich and poor throughout the nation must be oppressed to carry it on; bands of wicked∣ness are twisted one year after another, and the nation groans in chains. All the necessaries of life are in some way or other taxed; our smoke cannot ascend to the sky, nor a ray of light peep in at our windows, without paying an heavy impost. The inside, as well as the outside of our houses, are assessed; and poor people, who cannot, without great difficulty, afford to pay five pounds for a house to lodge in through the year, must now pay five sixpences more. And for what reason? to carry on a war that originated in in∣justice, has been carried on with folly, and attended with disgrace and disappointment.—To shed innocent blood, and carry death and desolation across the At∣lantic to destroy our brethren, to satiate the voracious lusts of a few ambitious men, who would waste the globe, and ruin Heaven itself, provided they had the management thereof. Ah, Britain! will the God of mercy, who delights in forgiving offences, hear your prayers, or regard your fastings, when you are twist∣ing cords of oppression, instead of loosing bands of wickedness. Ah, ye Rulers of the Land, whither are ye hastening? you cannot run long when you are rushing upon the bosses of Jehovah's buckler! When you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness, do you imagine that the God of Mercy will hear your prayers with acceptance, or regard your fasting, any otherwise than setting them down to the sum total of your past iniquities.