Sermon – Solar Eclipse – 1806

Joseph Lathrop (1731-1820)

Lathrop was born in Norwich, Connecticut. After graduating from Yale, he took a teaching position at a grammar school in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he also began studying theology. Two years after leaving Yale, he was ordained as the pastor of the Congregational Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He remained there until his death in 1820, in the 65th year of his ministry. During his career, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from both Yale and Harvard. He was even offered the Professorship of Divinity at Yale, but he declined the offer. Many of his sermons were published in a seven-volume set over the course of twenty-five years.

In this sermon, Rev. Lathrop uses the occasion of a recent solar eclipse to strengthen the Biblical worldview of his parishioners by providing both a scientific explanation and gleaning spiritual truths from the phenomenon. Lathrop’s sermon is a clear example of how early American pastors used the events of their time to impart truth and develop the Christian worldview of their listeners.


A
SERMON
CONTAINING
REFLECTIONS ON THE SOLAR ECLIPSE
WHICH APPEARED ON JUNE 16, 1806
DELIVERED
ON THE LORD’S DAY FOLLOWING.

By Joseph Lathrop, D. D.
Pastor of the first Church in West-Springfield

AMOS 8:9
It shall come to pass in that day; saith the Lord, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.

Amos was bred an husbandman and a shepherd. From his rural employment he was called to the office of a prophet. He says, “I was not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but I was an herdman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. And the Lord took me, as I followed the flock, and said unto me, go, prophesy unto my people Israel.”

Many expressions in his book are taken from observations, which a shepherd would naturally make in attending to the business of his calling. In Judea the shepherds watched their flocks, not by day only, but also by night, to guard them against beasts of prey, in which that country abounded. And, in their attendance on their flocks, they would naturally observe the motions of the planets, and the appearances in the heavens, that they might foresee changes of weather and approaching storms. Hence the prophet, calling on the degenerate tribes of Israel
to renounce their false gods, and to worship the great author and governor of nature, uses a language suggested by his former pastoral occupation. “Seek not Bethel, enter not into Gilgal, nor pass to Beersheba,” the idolatrous places, where the sun and moon, and hosts of heaven were worshipped; “but seek him, who maketh the seven stars and Orion; and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night.”

The stated course of nature, the order of the heavenly bodies, the vicissitude of day and night, and the regular succession of seasons, demonstrate the existence and providence, the wisdom, power and goodness of God. “Day unto day uttereth speech; night unto night sheweth forth knowledge.” “God hath not left himself without witness, in that he giveth rain and fruitful seasons, and filleth our hearts with food and gladness.” But common appearances, as they become more familiar, are less impressive. Unusual phenomena, though no less the effects of natural causes, more powerfully arrest the attention, and more deeply affect the mind. The prophet, therefore, predicting some dire calamities on the house of Israel, alludes to an unusual and solemn appearance in the skies, which probably they had lately seen; a total eclipse of the sun in the midst of a clear day. “Thus saith the Lord, I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.” The phenomenon which we beheld, on Monday last, will naturally lead us to understand the words as poetic descriptions of a solar eclipse.

Archbishop Usher, in his annals of the world, says, that in Amos’s time, there were two remarkable eclipses of the sun, which happened at solemn festivals, and struck the people with great consternation. In ancient times, when astronomy was but imperfectly understood, eclipses were by many considered, as preternatural and portentous. The prophet, therefore, foretelling the judgments coming on the land of Israel, might with great propriety figure to them the changes soon to take place in their political hemisphere, by an allusion to the change, which they had seen, with terror and amazement, in the natural hemisphere. “God would cause their sun to go down at noon, darken the earth in the clear day, turn their feasts into mourning, and their songs into lamentation, and bring up sackcloth on all loins.”

The use, which the prophet makes of a solar eclipse will justify us in some moral and religious reflections on the singular scene, which was exhibited in the past week.

1. We have reason to rejoice in the progress, which has been made in the sciences, and particularly in the noble science of astronomy. By this we are freed from many superstitious terrors, which, in the dark ages of the world, tormented mankind.

Eclipses have been observed from the remotest antiquity; and of these which were most remarkable, accounts have been transmitted to us by some of the earliest historians, who have also related the disastrous events which followed, and which the eclipses were supposed to portend.

The cause of eclipses must have been known long before they could be the subjects of mathematical calculation. It was well understood, many ages ago, that an eclipse of the moon was caused by its passing through the shadow of the earth, when the earth was between that and the sun; and that an eclipse of the sun was caused by the moon’s passing between us and the sun, and intercepting its light. This knowledge, however, was not common to the vulgar; nor did the more learned view these causes as operating by regular and stated laws.

There were predictions of some eclipses, which appeared several centuries before the birth of our Savior. But these predictions were probably, like the present predictions of comets, conjectures grounded on a course of observations, and not the result of exact calculations.

The relations, distances and motions of the heavenly bodies are now so well ascertained, that accurate calculations can be made of all the eclipses, which shall be in ages to come, and of those which have been, since our system was framed. These calculations are of great utility to mankind, in husbandry, navigation, geography, chronology and history. The credit of some ancient histories derives confirmation from this source. The historian relates some great events, which he supposes, were portended by a certain eclipse, which he describes. The astronomer finds, that there was in fact, such an eclipse, at such a time, and hence justly gives more full credit to the historian.

These phenomena have also their moral uses. They enlarge our views of the works of God, and of the grandeur and extent of his creation and providence. They display his wisdom, power and goodness, and his continual agency in the government of the world. They teach us his constant care for the creatures, which he has made, and call us to reverence and adore him, who thus manifests himself to us in the works of his hands.

We see innumerable worlds rolling around us at vast but various distances; with different, but inconceivable rapidity. These all perform their motions with regularity, and observe their times with exactness. They obey their destination, they keep their order, they never interfere. Shall we not fear the power, admire the wisdom, adore the goodness of that being, who made and adjusted, who sustains and directs such a stupendous system, and render it subservient to our happiness? These rational sentiments are pleasant and delightful in themselves; and are far more conducive to piety and virtue, than the terrors of that superstitious ignorance, which views every comet flaming in the sky, every obscuration of the sun at noonday, every failure of the full orbed moon at night, every unusual noise bursting from the clouds, every strange appearance in the heavens and in the earth, as awfully portentous of some dire, but unknown calamity.

Superstitious terrors may operate as a temporary restraint from vice. But when the dreaded calamity is delayed, the restraint ceases, and vice regains its dominion. A rational fear of God, arising from a calm contemplation of his agency and government, displayed in his works, and taught in his word, will have a steady and permanent influence. “Fear ye not me, saith the Lord, will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, who give the former and the latter rain, and reserve to you the appointed weeks of harvest?” The more just are our thoughts of God’s government, and the more rational our reverence of his majesty, the more uniform and cheerful will be our obedience to his will.

2. An eclipse of the sun, though it is not an omen of any particular calamity, yet may properly lead us to contemplate the gloomy changes which await us in this guilty and mortal state.

By a total obscuration of his glorious luminary, at noon, in a clear day, a gloom is suddenly spread over the face of nature. Not only the human mind, but the animal and material creation is deeply affected. Night seems to anticipate the time of its return. The stars hand out their lamps; the dews descend on the earth; the grazing beasts forget their hunger; the fowls hasten to their resting places; the bird of night chants his evening ditty; every thing wears a sober and mournful aspect.

Here is an emblem of declining age and approaching death.

The time is coming – to some of us it is near; when the sun and the light will be darkened; the eyes, which look out at the windows, will be bedimmed, surrounding objects will be hidden, and “we shall go to our long home – to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” “While we have the light, let us walk in the light, lest darkness come upon us. Let us give glory to God, before he cause darkness, and before our feet stumble on the dark mountains; lest, while we look for light, it be turned into the shadow of death.” The eyes of our understanding still remain unextinguished, and the sun of righteousness shines upon us with salvation in his beams. Let us attend to the glorious discoveries which are made to us, and apply ourselves to the momentous work before us. Let us work while it is day. The time is short – night is at hand. What we find to do, let us do it with our might. There is no work in the grave.

Some of you are in youth and in full strength. My friends, your morning sun shines bright and pleasant; you think your day will be long. But, oh! flatter not yourselves. Your sun may go down at noon, and your prospect be darkened in a clear day. Employ these morning hours in the work of your salvation. You know not what a day, or an hour may bring forth.

The darkness of an eclipse the prophet improves, though not as an omen, yet as an emblem of national judgments. He warns his people that a metaphorical and political darkness may overspread their country, in the same surprising manner, as literal darkness in a solar eclipse falls on the unsuspecting earth. “Thus saith the Lord unto me, an end is come upon my people; I will not pass by them any more. Hear this, ye that swallow up the needy, and that say, when will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat? The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, surely I will not forget any of their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? Thus saith the Lord, I will darken the earth in the clear day. I will turn their feasts into mourning, and their songs into lamentation.”

Sudden darkness caused by eclipses, clouds, vapor and storms, is, in the prophetic writings, a common figure for great and unexpected plagues; such as war, discord, pestilence and famine. The prophet Isaiah, describing the calamitous state of the Jews, on the invasion of the Chaldeans, says, “They shall look to the earth, and behold, trouble and darkness, and dimness of anguish; they shall be driven into darkness.” In the same figurative language, Joel describes the devastation and famine caused in the land by clouds of devouring locusts, and by the rage of subsequent fires. “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh and is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and gloominess, of clouds and thick darkness. There shall be wonders in the heavens and in the earth; there shall be pillars of smoke, and the sun shall be turned into darkness.”

When we see the sun darkened in the heavens, and the earth covered with a gloom, we are reminded, how easy it is for Him, who in a moment extinguishes the sun, to cast a cloud over our earthly prospects; to turn our joys into anguish, our confidence into terror, and our songs into lamentation – to subvert our national security, to let loose the infernal spirit of discord, to remove restraint from hostile nations, to send a blast on the labors of our hands, and to spread among us pestilence and death.

On God we are dependent not only for the daily visits of the sun, but also for his friendly beams, when he returns. The moon, which chases away the gloom of night, now and then steps in, and intercepts the light of day. If it should
make a stand in that position, our day would become night, and the warmth of summer would be changed into the frost of winter. But the moon obeys the divine command, moves the cheering beams, which it had, for a few moments withholden.

The creatures, which are our ordinary comforts, may by God’s direction or permission, become the occasions of affliction and anguish. The sun, which enlivens the rational, animal and vegetable world, may dart malignant fires and scatter pestilential
diseases. The rains, which refresh and fructify our fields, may “wash away the things which grow out of the earth, and destroy the hope of man.” The friends in whom we confide may become our tormentors, and “a man’s foes may be those of his own household.” Government, which is our defense against injustice, fraud and violence, falling into the hands of cruel and unprincipled men, may be made an instrument of oppression and misery. “They who lead us may cause us to err, and destroy the way of our paths.”

Where then is our security? It is in the protection of Him, who created and upholds the frame of nature, “who made and guides the seven stars and Orion, turns the shadow of death into the mourning, or makes the day dark with night” – “who calleth to the waters and sends them on the earth, and restrains the floods” within the bounds prescribed – “who rules the raging of the sea, and stills the tumults of the people” – ” who turns the hearts of men, as the rivers of water are turned” – “who causes the wrath of men to praise him, and the remainder of that wrath he restrains.” How shall we enjoy his protection ? He has told us, “If ye will walk in my statutes, keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary, then I will give you rain in due season, your fields shall yield their increase; I will give peace in your land, and ye shall lie down and none shall make you afraid.” – “But if ye will walk contrary unto me, I will walk contrary unto you, and make your plagues wonderful.”

Learned astronomers can calculate with exactness the times when, the places where, and the quantities in which the luminaries of heaven will be eclipsed; but they cannot with the same accuracy predict the judgments of God. Nor do we here need their astronomical skill. There are other signs by which we may discern impending judgments. Our Savior. has taught us a kind of moral astronomy to direct our prescience of such events. The prevalence of infidelity, immorality and vice as surely indicates approaching calamities, as clouds indicate a shower, winds forebode a storm, or the conjunction, or opposition of the sun and moon, in certain places in the heaves, presignify an eclipse. He said to the people, “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straitway, ye say, there cometh a shower; and so it is. When ye perceive the south wind blow, ye say, there will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it, that ye cannot discern this time? Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” The blindness and stupidity of the ancient Jews to the impending judgments of God, the prophet upbraids by referring them to the sagacity and discernment apparent in the fowls of heaven. “The stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed time; the turtle, the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people knoweth not the judgments of God.”

There are now, as there were in former times, many who ask, “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” And the watchman’s answer then, is seasonable now, “If ye will inquire, inquire ye” wisely; “return, come,” return to God by repentance; then come and inquire, and you may hope for a favorable answer.

It is common for people to look forward and inquire, what will be our national state in future years – what will be the result of certain public measures – what shall be done to obtain this favorite object, and avert that threatening evil, and to make future times better than these? But they inquire not wisely concerning this matter. Let them inquire what iniquities abound, and what share their own iniquities have in the common guilt? Let each one repent of his own wickedness, and apply himself to his own duty. Let each one use his best influence to correct the errors, and reform the manners of those with whom he is connected. Then things will go well. “Righteousness will exalt a nation. Sin will be a reproach to any people.”

3. The darkening of the earth in a clear day brings to mind the final judgment. The scripture assures us, that “God has appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, and render to every man according to his works.” It teaches us, that the judgment will come on a guilty world by surprise – that “when men shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh.” The manner of its coming is compared to the catastrophe of Sodom. “As it was in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they fold, they planted, they builded. But the same day, that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone out of heaven, and destroyed them all. Even so shall it be in that day when the son of man is revealed.” To heighten the solemnity of this scene, the sacred writers tell us, “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken – the heaven shall depart as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island shall be removed out of their place.” What effect the expectation of such a day should have, St. Peter instructs us. “Seeing all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the day of the Lord. Let us be diligent, that we may be found of the Lord in peace without spot and blameless.”

You think that great day to be remote. Perhaps it is so. But whether it be near or remote, it will come. And when it shall come, it will be as real and important, as if it were now present. “Count the longsuffering of God’s salvation. He is not willing that you should perish, but that you should come to repentance.”

Were you sure, that within ten or twenty years, the frame of nature, as well as the works of man, would dissolved, the heavens with all their splendors would vanish, and the earth with all her furniture and in habitants would pass away, how vain would all your property, all your designs and labors appear? What folly would be stampt on avarice, ambition, worldly grandeur and ostentation, political intrigues, party contests and animosities? But, my fellow mortals, where is the mighty difference to you and me, whether the world is to be dissolved within twenty years, or whether within that time we are to leave the world forever. The latter will certainly be the case with many of us in a shorter, and with all of us in a little longer time than this. Under an impressive sense of this solemn truth, let us banish all worldly passions, and direct our cares to the grand interests of futurity.

4. Total darkness at noonday reminds us of the solemn scene of the Savior’s crucifixion. The evangelists tell us, that when Jesus hung on the cross, “there was darkness over all the land from the sixth to the ninth hour;” or, according to our calendar, from midday to the third hour; “and the sun was darkened.” The darkness continued for three hours. This, we know, could be no natural eclipse; for, in the eclipse of the week past, which appeared to be central, the total obscuration continued but about four minutes.

The darkness at the crucifixion was very extensive. It was “over all the land.” Yea, it was beyond the land of Judea; or “over all the earth,” as the words are, in one place, rendered. It was observed in countries distant from Judea; and is related by profane historians, as a phenomenon, for which no natural cause could be assigned. In a natural eclipse, the total darkness cannot be of very great extent. I have had correct information, that within the space of less than two hundred miles, from north to south, a segment of the sun appeared during the whole time of the late eclipse.

Nay, farther, at the time of the crucifixion there could be no natural eclipse, for the sun and moon were then in opposition. Christ was crucified at the time of the Passover. The Passover was to begin on the fourteenth day of the month. The Jewish month began at the first appearance of the new moon. On the fourteenth day, the moon, being full, and in opposition to the sun, could not cause an eclipse. The obscuration therefore must have been preternatural and miraculous.

That there really was such an obscuration is indubitable. It is recorded by three of the evangelists, who published their narrative so soon after the crucifixion, that many spectators of the scene, both friends and enemies to Christ, were still living. They would not have asserted such a strange phenomenon, as being universally known, in that and neighboring countries, and as having happened on a certain day, if it had not been a fact; for every man, woman and youth, living at that time, would have been able to contradict it. Had the evangelists been impostors, they would not have published a falsehood of this kind; for nothing could have been more fatal to their cause. There is no room to question the reality of the fact.

This darkness, the earthquake, and the rending of the veil of the temple, which occurred at the same time, had a great effect on the spectators. The commanding officer, who stood by the cross of Jesus, struck with astonishment, said, “Surely this was the son of God.” “And all the people, who came together to that sight, beholding what was done, smote their breasts, and returned.”

These miraculous appearances in the earth and in the heavens, at the time, when Jesus was suffering on the cross, were such divined attestations in his favor, as reason could not resist; and they were also most awful indications of the wrath of God against the horrid and impious work, which the infidel Jews were then transacting.

But were these the only persons against whom the darkness denounced the anger of heaven? No; it equally manifested, and still it manifests the amazing guilt of all unbelievers under the gospel – of all who are enemies to the blessed Jesus – of all who despise and oppose his religion.

Infidelity and impiety involve in them the same guilt now as in former times. The gospel comes to us with equal evidence and authority, as it came to the Jews. They who reject it, crucify afresh its heavenly author, and are bringing on themselves swift destruction – to such is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. As they walk in the darkness of unbelief and wickedness, they will fall into the darkness of misery and despair. “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, he will come in flaming fire, and will take vengeance on them who know not God, and on them who obey not the gospel.”

5. The temporary darkness of an eclipse is followed with cheerful light, which “shines more and more unto the perfect day.” This is a natural emblem of that moral change, in which a soul is brought out of the darkness of sin and guilt into the marvelous light of purity, pardon and peace.

How sad and gloomy is the condition of a guilty mortal, who convinced of his numerous transgressions, feels himself condemned to eternal death. The divine law, which was delivered. From Sinai, in smoke and darkness, in clouds and tempest, thunders terror and destruction in his ears. But how happily is his state reversed, when light, beaming from mount Zion, in the discoveries and promises of the gospel, breaks in on his soul, exhibits to him a dying Savior, a forgiving God, a sanctifying spirit? What joy springs up, when he finds the power of sin subdued – his enmity to God slain – his opposition to the gospel conquered – and every thought captivated to the obedience of Christ? The light is ceding to previous darkness. So the hopes and comforts of religion in the soul are exalted by their contrast to preceding anxieties and fears.

Ye awakened, desponding souls, look up to the sun of righteousness. He shines from heaven with salvation in his beams. However guilty, unworthy and impotent ye feel, there is grace sufficient for you; there is righteousness to justify you, promises to support you, the spirit to help you. Light arises in darkness. Turn your eyes from the cloud, and direct them to the sun. Christ came a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in him should not walk in darkness. Look to him, and be ye saved.

Finally: the obscuration of the sun in the sky bids us contemplate the uninterrupted brightness of the heavenly state. Could we rise above the moon, the sun which is eclipsed to the inhabitants of the earth, would shine to us in all its splendor. When the Christian has the moon under his feet, he will be clothed with the sun, and crowned with stars.

There is no darkness, no night in heaven: all is light; all is glory there.

In heaven there is the light of purity, and love. The pure in heart shall see God; he is light; in him is no darkness. Nothing enters into his presence that defiles.

There is the light of knowledge – glorious discoveries of God – of the Savior – of the works of providence and grace – of the wonders of creation and redemption. Here we see through a glass darkly; there we shall see face to face. Here we know in part, there we shall know as we are known.

The light of heaven is constant; it is never eclipsed nor clouded. The holy city needs not the sun to shine in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and Jesus is the light thereof. The nations of them who are saved shall walk in the light of it, and there shall be no night there.

How different will be the state of good men in heaven from that which they experience on earth? Here they have some light, but it is often interrupted, and always dim. How little do they know of God and his works – how much error is mixed with their faith – how much doubt with their hope – how much fear with their courage; how much carnality with their devotion? In heaven it will be otherwise. Knowledge there will be full without error, certain without perplexity and clear without confusion. Holiness will be perfect without sin, and refined without dross and corruption. And they will serve God continually without reluctance or weariness.

Let us begin the life, and accustom ourselves to the works of heaven, while we dwell on earth, that we may be prepared for admission into heaven, when we depart hence. Here God sheds down some beams of heavenly light to invite our thoughts and affections upward. The light is mingled with shades, and interrupted with clouds, because this is a state of trial, and our faith and patience must be exercised. Here we must walk by faith; we cannot walk by sight. “It is by faith and patience, that we inherit the promises.” “We are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? And if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. And the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us according to the will of God.”

It is but little, that we can at present know of heaven; but “then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” Let our souls follow hard after him; for what is there, which we can desire in comparison with him? “It doth not yet appear what we shall be. But when our Lord shall come, we trust, that we shall be like him and see him as he is. And having this hope, let us purify ourselves as he is pure.”

 

 

Wisconsin 1997

THE STATE of WISCONSIN

OFFICE of the GOVERNOR

A PROCLAMATION

WHEREAS; our state has been richly blessed in natural beauty, reflecting God’s miracle of creation; and

WHEREAS; Christian Heritage is important to our state’s traditions and values; and

WHEREAS; religious holidays, festivals, and celebrations have brought welcome respite from labor, as well as renewed respect and meaning for nature’s seasons of change; and

WHEREAS; the community church serves a vital function in binding folk together and providing crucial education and charitable services; and

WHEREAS; teaching future generations of our state the all important role of Christian heritage is of concern to citizens of all faiths;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, TOMMY G. THOMPSON, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, do hereby proclaim November 23 through November 29, 1997 CHRISTIAN HERITAGE WEEK in the State of Wisconsin, and I commend this observance to all citizens.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin to be affixed.

Done at the Capitol in the City of Madison this thirteenth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred ninety-seven.

TOMMY G. THOMPSON

GOVERNOR

By the Governor:

DOUGLAS LA FOLLETTE

Secretary of State

Tennessee 1994

STATE OF TENNESSEE

PROCLAMATION

BY THE GOVERNOR

WHEREAS, our state has been richly blessed in natural beauty, reflecting God’s miracle of creation; and

WHEREAS, the importance of Christian heritage to the traditions and values of our state is immeasurable; and

WHEREAS, religious holidays, festivals and celebrations have brought welcome respite from weary labor, as well as renewed respect and meaning for nature’s seasons of change; and

WHEREAS, the community church serves a vital function in binding folk together and providing crucial education and charitable services; and

WHEREAS,  teaching future generations of our state the all-important role of Christian heritage is of crucial concern to citizens of all faiths;

NOW, THEREFORE, I Ned McWherter, as Governor of the State of Tennessee, do hereby proclaim November 20-26, 1994, as CHRISTIAN HERITAGE WEEK in Tennessee, and urge all citizens to join me in this worthy observance.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I HAVE HEREUNTO SET MY HAND AND CAUSED THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE TO BE AFFIXED AT NASHVILLE ON THIS 21ST DAY OF NOVEMBER, 1994.

Ned McWherter

GOVERNOR

Riley C. Darnell

SECRETARY OF STATE

West Virginia 2023

Proclamation by Governor Jim Justice

Whereas, the Preamble to the Constitution of West Virginia declares, “Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people o West Virginia reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God”; and

Whereas, the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of West Virginia guarantees religious freedom; and the “Sundays expected” provision of Article 7, Chapter 14 historically recognizes Sunday as a day of rest and worship; and

Whereas, For many West Virginians, public school days began with a daily Pledge of Allegiance, prayer and bible reading; and

Whereas, the state songs, The West Virginia Hills and West Virginia my Home Sweet Home, contain the lyrics, “With their summits bathed in glory, like our Prince Immanuel’s land!” and “there I work, and I play, and I worship Sunday,” ; and

Whereas, the influence of Christianity in West Virginia is evident by her many churches and Christian charities, ministries, missions and schools; cherished Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving holiday seasons; and a willingness of Mountaineers to love thy neighbor as thyself; and

Whereas, Thanksgiving week is an appropriate time to center attention on our thanks to Almighty God for His great and good Providence and for the Christian faith, which is part of West Virginia’s and America’s history.

Now, Therefore, Be it Resolved that I, Jim Justice, Governor of the Great State of West Virginia, do hereby proclaim November 19-25, 2023 as:

Christian Heritage Week

in the Mountain State and invite all citizens to join me in observance.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of West Virginia to be affixed.

Done at the Capitol, City of Charleston, State of West Virginia, this the Twentieth day of June, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand Twenty-Three, and in the One Hundred Sixtieth year of the State.

Jim Justice , Governor
By the Governor:
Mac Warner, Secretary of State

Sermon – Thanksgiving – 1815

John Lathrop (1740-1816) Biography:

John Lathrop, also spelled Lothrop, was born in Norwich, Connecticut. He graduated from Princeton in 1763 and began working as an assistant teacher with the Rev. Dr. Eleazar Wheelock of Lebanon, Connecticut, at Moor’s Indian Charity School. He studied theology under Dr. Wheelock (who later founded Dartmouth College) and became licensed to preach in 1767, ministering among the Indians. In 1768, he became the preacher of the Second Church of Boston, but as Boston was central in the rising tensions and violence with the British leading up to the American War for Independence, he relocated to Providence, Rhode Island. When the Founding Fathers declared independence from Britain in 1776, Lathrop returned to Boston. When Dr. Pemberton of New Brick Church was taken ill, Lathrop was asked to become the assistant to the pastor. When Pemberton passed away a year later, Lathrop became pastor of New Brick Church but also retained the pastorate of Second Church, merging it into New Brick in 1779. Lathrop remained pastor until his death from lung fever in 1816. He had served as President of the Massachusetts Bible Society and the Society of Propagating the Gospel in North America, and he was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Antiquarian Society. Numerous of his sermons were published.


sermon-thanksgiving-1815

A

DISCOURSE,

DELIVERED IN BOSTON, APRIL 13, 1815,

THE DAY OF THANKSGIVING

APPOINTED BY THE

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE

PEACE.

BY JOHN LATHROP, D. D.
PASTOR OF THE SECOND CHURCH IN BOSTON.

SERMON.

1st BOOK OF CHRONICLES, XVI. 8,9.
“Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk you of all his wondrous works.”

NEVER, my friends, did we assemble with more cheerful hearts to offer praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God, than we do on the present occasion. Never have we witnessed joy more universal than the joy expressed by the American people at the return of peace. This event, like the sun breaking from a cloud, hath scattered the darkness which hung over our afflicted country, and given new spirits and new life to many who were “bowed down to the dust,” and “covered with the shadow of death.”

On such an occasion, it is highly proper, that people professing the Christian religion, do assemble in places of worship, and offer praise and thanksgiving to Him who ruleth over the nations, and turneth the hearts of the kings, and of the mighty men of the earth, as the waters are turned.

Not only the people of our country but the greatest part of the Christian world, have been in deep affliction. Modern history presents no period to our recollection, in which the miseries of war have been more generally felt, than during the last few years; and it is with great pleasure that we hear, peace was no sooner restored to the bleeding nations of Europe, than the temples of the Most High were filled with praises and thanksgivings.

As the American people were the last to take the cup of affliction, which the Sovereign of the world hath caused to pass from one nation to another, so are they the last, but we trust, not the least, in sincere and humble gratitude, to the giver of all mercies for granting salvation to many millions of people, by a general peace.

The text points out to us a course of exercises, proper on the present occasion. We are called upon by a sense of gratitude; by a recollection of the benefits which a merciful God hath bestowed upon us, – we are called upon to give thanks, – to worship Him, – to talk of all his wondrous works.

It would be pleasant, and it would be useful, to talk of those wondrous works which proclaim the Eternal Power and Godhead; and which have called forth the reverence and love of the wise and good, in all parts of the world. By the things which our eyes behold, we have convincing evidence, that a Being of infinite perfection, presides over the universe and guides all the movements of it, according to his pleasure. But on the present occasion, we feel disposed to talk more particularly of the loving kindness and of the mercy, which God was pleased to show to the Fathers of our Country; of the protection grated to them and their children, in seasons of weakness and danger, and when they were exposed to the savages of the wilderness, and to other powerful enemies; – of the wars in which our country has been engaged; – of the late war, and of the peace which God hath now given to us. From a review of the wondrous works of mercy and goodness, “which were done in the times of old,” and which have been done in later years, we will endeavour to excite those grateful and pious feelings, which alone can render our public expressions of thanksgiving acceptable to a gracious Benefactor.

When we speak of the Fathers of our Country, we have respect to those Europeans, who early adventured to this quarter of the world, and made settlements in various parts of the extensive region now called The United States of America : but when we speak of the Fathers of New England, we have respect to those protestant Christians, who, having been oppressed and persecuted by a race of despotic sovereigns, and by an intolerant hierarchy, left “the places of their fathers sepulchers,” and made the first permanent settlements, in the region which we inhabit, and which still bears the name of the country from whence they emigrated.

The views of the early adventurers to North America, even from Columbus in 1492, to the time when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, in 1620, where extremely various. The object of some of them was, discovery. — Men best acquainted, in those times with the principles of geography, expected to find a passage to India, by the Western Ocean. Others were excited to the hazardous undertaking, and made voyages to this quarter of the world, with the expectation of wealth: reports were spread abroad, that on the islands and on the continent there was plenty of silver and gold. But it was for the express purpose of securing for themselves and for their children the rights of freemen, and more particularly the rights of conscience, that the Fathers of New England exchanged their dwelling places, in a country abounding with the means of subsistence, for a wilderness, where wants and sufferings were to be expected.

The first Christian pilgrims approached these northern shores at an inclement season of the year. At their landing they found no shelter from the cold and from the tempest. They were in want of those refreshments which would have been peculiarly grateful after the fatigues and dangers of a long voyage. By reason of the privations and the sufferings, which were unavoidable in their miserable habitations, they soon became sickly; and before the opening of the spring, forty-five of the one hundred and one, who landed on the last of the preceding December, were dead.

Although the first Christian pilgrims had been brought to this northern region, contrary to the contract which they had been careful to make before they left their native country, divine providence seems to have prepared a place for them, in which they might plant themselves without any immediate opposition. The Indians, who had before inhabited the ground on which they landed, and the wilderness bordering on them were nearly extinct. The had some time before been beaten in bloody wars with other savage nations; and, to complete their destruction, an awful pestilence had raged among them, sweeping away both the old and the young, until it might be said, “The land was left without inhabitants.” With great propriety we quote and apply a part of the XLIV. Psalm. — “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them : how thou didst afflict the people and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.”

The feeble pilgrims, at the first, had indeed no enemy to oppose them. None of the original lords of the soil came to protest against their landing. The first visit made them by an Indian, was in the month of March. One of the chiefs of a tribe, living a considerable distance, appeared, unexpectedly; and in their own language which he had imperfectly learned from Europeans, who had visited the country, he addressed them saying, “Welcome, Englishmen; Welcome, Englishmen!”1

The fathers of New England were not, however, permitted to continue many years unmolested. The tribes of Indians, who inhabited the vast wilderness, observing the increase of English settlements, and hearing of the arrival of new adventurers, indulged suspicions, that the strangers, who were not only spreading along on the sea shore, but were extending into the country, would, ere long, compel them to relinquish the possessions which their fathers had enjoyed, from time immemorial.

Jealousies and apprehensions, such as we have no mentioned, were greatly strengthened by the intercourse which the natives of the wilderness had afterwards with the French, whose settlements were progressing in Nova Scotia and in Canada. The most dangerous wars in which the fathers of New England were engaged, are traced to the sources which we have now mentioned. Philip, son and successor of Massasciet, the historian observes, “could not bear to see the English of New Plymouth, extending their settlements over the dominions of his ancestors; and although his father had, at one time or another conveyed to them all that they were possessed of, yet he had sense enough, to distinguish a free voluntary covenant, from one he made under a sort of duress; and he could never rest until he brought on the war, which ended in his destruction.” The same historian adds; “The eastern wars have been caused by the attachment of those Indians to the French, who have taken all opportunities of exciting them to hostilities against the English.”2

During the wars with Philip, and with various tribes of Indians, after the death of Philip, assisted by the French from Canada and Nova Scotia, the New England Colonies, more especially Massachusetts and New Hampshire, were exposed to great sufferings. Such was the influence which Phillip had over his own tribe, and over many other tribes of the savages that he was able to send the calamities of war to almost every town in New England. Many innocent people were killed while laboring in their fields; many women and children were killed in their houses; many were taken and carried away into captivity. Between the month of June 1675, when this noted warrior began his work of murder and depredation, and the month of August, 1676, when he fell in battle, many of the towns in this then colony, which are now beautiful and opulent, were visited by the savage invaders, and either in whole, or in part were destroyed. I will mention some of them. — Brookfield was among the first, seven days after was laid in ashes. Springfield, partly destroyed. Groton, wholly destroyed. Lancaster, and Medfield, and Warwick, and Sudbury, and Marlborough, and Chelmsford, and Weymouth, and Bridgewater, and Scituate, and Middleborough, and Plymouth, and several other towns, were attacked, and in most cases some of the inhabitants were killed, and some carried into captivity; and many of the buildings left in flames.

Nor did the work of devastation and murder end with the death of Phillip.3 Expeditions were made from Canada and from Nova Scotia. Saco, and Wells, and York, and Dover, and Berwick, and other places, were invaded by French and Indians from the east. Many people were killed, and many houses were destroyed. Several towns, which were destroyed in the time of Philip’s war were again visited and destroyed by parties of French from Canada, and the Indians who united with them. So late as 1704, Deerfield was again invaded and burnt; many of the people were killed, and their minister, Rev. Mr. Williams was carried into captivity. And four years after, Haverhill was attacked, and in part burnt; Rev. Mr. Rolfe the minister of the town, and thirty or forty of the people were killed.

During the long reign of Lewis XIV king of France, great exertions were made by that monarch to gain an ascendency over the powerful kingdoms of Europe, and, in the end, make all of the nations of the world bow to his authority. He found the English were making settlements on the atlantick coasts, and rapidly extending their borders into a country capable of high cultivation, and promising a lucrative commerce. He, too, had colonies in North America; but he had an impression, that his colonies would be of but little advantage to him, unless he could prevent the growth of the English colonies, but eventually, would have extirpated them. We find a plan for the purpose now mentioned, adopted by the court of France, as early as 1687.4

The French project to obtain, and to hold the dominion of all North America, was simple, while it was deep. It was to secure the great rivers at the north east, and at the south west, viz. the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi, as well as the inland seas, which complete the line of water communication, and which give facility to an immense commerce. They very well knew, that the power, which shall be able to command on those waters, will be able to command and to direct the numerous tribes of savages who inhabit the vast wilderness between the English colonies and the French settlements. To carry this plan in to effect, we find the French exploring the waters of the Mississippi, in the year 1687. Some years after, we hear of them making settlements on the borders of that river. We hear of them erecting forts, at the most commanding places, near the lakes, and other navigable waters at the west; and at the same time, making unreasonable demands of territory at the east.5

Having thus prepared, the French lost no time in attempting to carry their plan into execution. They availed themselves of the jealousies which already existed in the minds of many of the native Indians, that the English would take from them their hunting grounds, and destroy them. In this state of jealousy and irritation, they were excited to deeds of savage cruelty. They not only invaded the frontier settlements, and penetrated the country, laying waste and destroying, as has been already related; but formidable fleets were sent to attack the whole extent of sea coast. In 1697, the historian informs us, “an invasion was every day expected for several weeks together; and news was brought to Boston, that a formidable French fleet had been seen upon the coast.”

The reality of a plan to destroy English colonies, and particularly New England, is stated by Charlevoix, in the account given him, of the above mentioned expedition. A powerful army from Canada, was to meet a fleet from France early in the season at Penobscot; and, “as soon as the junction was made, and the troops embarked, the fleet, without loss of time, was to go to Boston, and that town being taken, it was to range the coast, — destroying settlements as far into the country as they could.”6 — This projected expedition, had it been executed, might have been fatal to our country; but, by reason of contrary winds, the fleet did not arrive in season, and the plan was frustrated.

Another projected invasion is within the recollection of some of us. The elderly people have not yet forgotten their fears and apprehensions, when the strong force under the Duke D’Anville, was expected in this harbour; nor have they lost a remembrance of the joy they felt, when that fleet was scattered and many ships were destroyed by the winds and the waves.

Such of us, as are advanced in life, remember our fears during a course of years, while the French surrounded us, except on the Atlantic; and on that side also, they were threatening to invade us : — when our armies were defeated, which were sent to protect the frontiers; when the young Washington found it necessary to capitulate.7 Washington, who about fourteen months after, by skill and bravery, saved the broken remains of an army, late commanded by General Braddock; and who, by the providence of God, was preserved to be the Saviour of his Country.

But I will weary you no longer with the sad detail of wars, in which the Fathers of New England suffered from the French and the savages of the wilderness. In short, they had but little rest from the time of Philip’s war, until Quebec was taken by the immortal Wolfe, and the whole country was ceded to Great Britain in 1763.

Having talked as long perhaps as may be proper, of the mercy which God was pleased to show to the Fathers of our Country; and of the protection granted to them and to their children in seasons of weakness and danger, and when exposed to the savages of the wilderness, and to other powerful enemies; we are prepared to talk of like protection and favours granted to the American people in later times : — of their dangers and sufferings during a severe conflict for the security of their most important interests; a conflict which terminated in the establishment of a new state of things in this quarter of the world, — a new empire, which, in process of time will probably be equal in extent, in power, and in wealth, to any nation in the world. But should we talk of the revolutionary war, — of the causes which produced it, — of its progress and important events; and of the honourable terms of peace, obtained by the plenipotentiaries of the United States at Paris in 1783, our discourse would not only be unreasonably long, but we should have no time left, to talk of the late war, in which our country has been engaged, — of the peace which is again restored to us; and to indulge in pleasing anticipation, the comforts and blessings which, not only the American people, but, we hope, the world may enjoy, in a state of tranquility.

As the events of that war which procured the independence and the sovereignty of the United States of America are within the recollection of such of you have passed a little over the middle of life; and the history of it is in almost every family, I shall omit any farther conversation with respect to it, and go on to talk of the late war, and of the peace, which we on this day celebrate.

It would certainly be attended with very little pleasure and probably with very little profit now that the war is ended, to talk much about the reason assigned for it when it was proclaimed, or of the important objects which were to be secured by it. We remember the many unpleasant feelings occasioned by the contentions of men of different opinions, concerning the origin, and the manner in which the late war was conducted. We hope such uncomfortable feelings may now wholly subside, and that no restless people among us, may hereafter, by rash speeches, or inflammatory publications, again revive them. Although we have not yet learned that the objects for which the late war was declared, have been obtained or secured, we rejoice that the conflict is at an end. We do sincerely rejoice at the return of peace. We will therefore talk of the wondrous goodness of God, both in conducting the American people through the war, and in giving the rulers of the late contending nations pacifick dispositions.

Should the peace continue, which is now established among the Christian nations of the earth, opportunities will offer for the execution of the most benevolent purposes of the human heart. A state of peace is favourable to the propagation of the gospel, — to the advancement of science and all the useful arts, — to commerce, — to every thing which gives true dignity to man, and tends to qualify him for the rank which he is designed to hold in creation.

Divine Providence seems to have been preparing the way for the spread of truth, and the farther establishment of the kingdom of Christ. That Being who superintends the changes and revolutions which take place among the nations of the world, will always bring good out of apparent evil; and therefore while we mourn over the late sufferings of a great portion of our fellow men on the continent of Europe, we find consolation in the belief, that good will result from those sufferings.

In the dark ages of ignorance and superstition, when the religion of Jesus was awfully corrupted, and civil liberty was poorly understood, combinations were formed by the rulers of the church, and by the princes of this world, to support each other in the most shameful acts of tyranny and oppression. Although much had been done at the time of the reformation, and at succeeding periods, to lessen the power, which kings and priests had usurped over the worldly estates, and over the spiritual concerns of the people, much remained to be done. Bigotry and superstition may still bluster and threaten, but they can no longer hold the minds of a great part of mankind in bondage; they can no longer prevent free inquiry such is the power of truth, that it will prevail. “Many shall run to and fro; and knowledge shall increase.”

At no period since the great opposition to popery by Luther, and the reformers who followed after him, have Christians of all denominations been so well united, as they are at the present time in laudable endeavours to extent the knowledge of salvation. Within a few years, societies have been formed in England and in various parts of Europe, consisting of members of great respectability having for their object “the distribution of the Bible.” Societies for the same purpose have been recently formed in the principal cities and towns in North America. The wonderful union of Christians of all denominations, and of all orders of people, from the highest to the lowest, in this noble work of charity, affords the highest encouragement to the friends of Zion, and is, we trust, a presage of that happy condition of the world, which we are taught to expect, when “All shall know the Lord.”

As the most benevolent purposes of God are brought to pass, by means adapted to the ends which are to be accomplished, wise observers may perceive a fitness in the means, and in working of providence, to accomplish such purposes. If there is to be a time, when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” we shall have reason to think, God is preparing the way for a condition so desirable, when kings and mighty men, — when high and low, — when Christians of every creed, and of every mode of worship, unite their labours and good wishes to extend the only effectual means of religious knowledge to all countries, and to all regions.

There are other circumstances in the present state of the civilized nations of the earth, favourable to the propagation of truth, which have not heretofore existed to the extent in which they now exist. Civil liberty, and the rights of conscience, are better understood, and will no doubt, be more respected, than heretofore. Well informed Christians have more moderation, more candor, more charity for one another, although still differing in opinions, and in modes of worship, than have been exercised at any former period, since the church and the world were united, for the support of each other.

Under circumstances such as we have now mentioned, and on which we might enlarge with great pleasure would the time admit, under such circumstances, aided by peace, and by the intercourse now opened, and more widely opening among the different nations of the world, we indulge a pleasing hope, that the gospel shall be carried to every part of the globe; that the light of the sun; and “people of all kindreds and tongues, and nations, shall walk in the light.”

The peace which we this day celebrate has opened the American ports, not only to the nation with which we have been at war, but to a great part of the nations of the world. The commerce of our country, which had been languishing until there was scarcely an appearance of life, hath sprung up at the voice of peace, and is beginning to assume its wonted cheerful appearance. We again hear the noise of the axe and the hammer. “Zebulon is beginning to rejoice in his going out, and Issachar in his tents.”

Peace is highly favourable to science, to the useful arts, to agriculture, and to all the social connexions of life. In a time of war the mind is disturbed; the thoughts are divided; it is impossible to give that application to study, which is necessary to the acquirement of extensive knowledge.

In a time of war, multitudes are called from their usual occupations, and from domestic enjoyments, exposed to privations, to dangers, and to death. Ware is an evil; a judgment which God inflicts on the sinful nations of the earth. During the late war, our nation has suffered a variety of evils. Many lives have been lost. Vast property has been taken and carried away, or destroyed on the seas : vast sums have been expended, and vast debt hath been contracted. Towns have been invaded, — villages have been burnt, — the capitol has been laid in ashes. We are glad to set down in peace, under circumstances, no doubt, less eligible, than the friends and supporters of the war expected. We have reason to be thankful that our sufferings have not been greater : — that the conflict was no longer continued.

Truly we may say, “If it had not been that the Lord was on our side,” when a powerful enemy invaded our coasts, — “if it had not been that the Lord was on our side,” when men of renown, of uncommon strength and skilled in war, and men accustomed to conquer by sea and by land, — “if it had not been that the Lord was on our side,” when such men with powerful fleets and powerful armies came against us, — “then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us! Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul. Then the proud waters had gone over our soul. Blessed be the Lord who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broke and we are escaped.”

In a review of the wondrous works of God, as they relate to the fathers of our country, and to their children, and their children’s children, to the fifth and the sixth generation, we see many things which call for our gratitude, and many things which call for sober reflection and humiliation. Towards the American people, while they were under the government of Great Britain, and since they have been free and independent states, the dispensations of Providence have been merciful, and they have been afflictive. As the children of Israel were marvelously protected when they went out of the land of Egypt, but were afterwards corrected for their faults, and grievously afflicted; so were our fathers protected; but the first generation had not passed away, before the heathen brake in upon them, and they were afflicted.

The history of our country, is a history of its prosperities, and of its adversities; fo its happiness in times of peace, and of its sufferings in seasons of war.

On this day, we are invited by the supreme Magistrate of the United States, to assemble in our place of worship, and to unite our hearts and our voices, “in a free will offering,” of thanksgiving and praise to our Heavenly Benefactor for his great goodness manifested in restoring to us “the blessings of peace.” “No people,” the president observes in his proclamation, “No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of all events, and of the destiny of nations, than the people of the United States. His kind Providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allowed for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them, under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under his fostering care, their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits, prepared them for a transition, in due time, to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of his benign interposition. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift, we are indebted for all the privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favoured land.”

While making our offering of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, for the peace which he hath been pleased to ordain for us, many circumstances occur to our minds, which render the event which we now celebrate, peculiarly grateful, and which call for the exercise of our best affections.

Had the war continued another season, it would have become more fierce and cruel. A disposition to plunder, and retaliate injuries, on both sides, had been for some time increasing, and we have reason to fear, that a continuance of the war would not only have afforded opportunities, but excitements to still more shocking deeds’ in which, not only men in arms, but un offending citizens in the peaceful walks of life, would have been subjected to inexpressible sufferings.

Had the war continued another season, the forces of the enemy in the Canada’s, on the lakes, and on our sea coasts, would have been greatly increased: much greater exertions therefore would have been required on the part of the United States. What ways and means should have been devised for the support of such armies as must have been called out to defend an extensive sea coast, and an equally extensive frontier, those public men may, perhaps be able to say, who had the management of the finances during the two last seasons.

Had the war continued, multitudes must have been called from the fields of husbandry, from manufacturing establishments, and other useful and necessary employments, and hurried away to exposed parts of the country, to suffer in camps and to die in battle.

Had the war continued, the spring would have opened upon us with gloomy forebodings. In the winter season, the ice and the snow were our best defense. With the returning sun, our fears would have increased our apprehensions. But with the peace, which God in mercy hath granted us, the whole scene of things is changed. We hail each lengthening day with the smile of cheerfulness. We behold the vernal skies, and we receive the vernal showers, with unmingled pleasure. “We will now give thanks unto the Lord; we will call upon his name; we will make known his deeds among the people; we will sing unto him; we will sing psalms unto him; we will talk of all his wondrous works.”

That our offering of thanksgiving and praise, may be acceptable to God, let it be accompanied with kind affection towards all our fellow citizens, and towards the people whom we lately considered as our enemies.

“Whatever differences of opinion may have existed,” with respect to the origin of the late war, or any of the measures in which it hath been conducted, all now rejoice, in that the conflict is at an end. “All good citizens will unite in providing still farther for our external security, as well as internal prosperity and happiness, by fidelity to the union, by reverence for the laws, by discountenancing all local and other prejudices, and by promoting everywhere the concord and brotherly affection becoming members of one great political family.”8

As we are again at peace with the government and people of Great Britain, let us suppress, as much as possible, the feelings of resentment which are apt to rise from a recollection of sufferings and injuries,. The brave are always generous: they are the first to forgive and forget. If we have suffered, our enemy too has suffered. Let the balm of peace now heal every wound. If the scar remain, lest us be careful, lest by fretting, the blood be made again to appear.

As the brave are always generous, the brave will never exult, when a powerful enemy has been beaten. We are to remember, the race is not always swift, nor is the battle always to the strong. While the American arms have, without question, secured immortal fame, it must be confessed that little else has been secured, for the United States, by a vast expense in blood and treasure.9

It is now devoutly to be wished, that all ill will, and all party spirit may be put away. Why should party spirit and party feelings continue, when, it is presumed, there can now be no foreign influence to support a party? Whatever there may have been in times past, at present there can be no particular attachments to foreign nations, to influence American citizens. If any internal contentions be kept alive, they must be such as are found to a certain degree, in all elective governments : a contention for power, for places, — for “the loaves and fishes.” A man surely can have very little modesty, who seeks for honours and preferments which the public is not willing to give him. In an uncorrupted state of society, men will not be seen making interest for places of honour and profit. Men well known to be qualified men of approved integrity and uprightness, will be sought for, and solicited, to accept offices of high responsibility. God grant that we may live to see a return of something like that golden age of purity and simplicity, which our country once enjoyed!

My beloved people, although I have now talked with you a long time, I feel unwilling to close my discourse, without offering my very particular and most affectionate congratulations on the present joyous occasion. On a like occasion I once addressed some of you. The peace of 1783, after a sever contest for independence and sovereignty, was a glorious peace. It is to the highest degree improbable, that I shall again, at any future time, address you on a similar occasion: or on any political subject. Four seasons of distressing warfare are within my recollection. The war of 1745, the war of 1755, the war of 1775, and the late war declared on the part of the United States June 18, 1812. I have seen important changes and revolutions in my own country, and among the nations of the world I have seen one generation pass away, and another generation come forward. I have seen a nation rise up in this quarter of the world, powerful in men and in arms, and taking rank among the other nations of the earth. Such changes I have seen; but my days of vision on earth are drawing to an end. My country, now at peace, I hope will continue in peace long. Very long, after it shall please God to take me to that “better country,” where wars are unknown.

My heart’s desire and prayer has been for the prosperity and peace of our Jerusalem. May those always prosper who seek her peace!

It was for the love which I had for my country; — the country in which I was born —in which my friends live — in which the people live with whom I am connected by ties which have made, and which still make my abode pleasant to me; for the love which I had, and which I still have for this country, I have discoursed to you several times on its rights and its liberties — on its dangers and its sufferings. I have rejoiced with my country when in prosperity; and mourned when in adversity. As the Comforts which we enjoy in the peace and prosperity of our country, are as truly the gifts of God, as the comforts which we hope to enjoy a future life, we should be unjust to ourselves, and ungrateful to our heavenly Benefactor, did we not endeavour to defend and secure them, when men of violence attempt to take them away from us: I therefore thought, and still think, it was my duty to give warning when the important interests of my country appeared to be in danger. When those important interests were actually invaded, I thought, and still think, it was my duty to say and to do what I was able, to support them. In this I thought, and still think, I had great and good examples, in the prophets and apostles. Jesus Christ also, with the perfect feelings of a perfect man, loved his country, and wept over its capital, when he knew its destruction was approaching. In my youth I was taught to regard civil and religious liberty, with a kind of reverential respect. That sort of devotion I strengthened afterwards, by reading and meditation; nor do I perceive that my attachment to those objects of my early affection, has in any measure abated now I am old.

For the full enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, together with the inestimable blessings connected with them, the fathers of New England exchanged the wealth and the accommodations of their native country, for the poverty and the sufferings of a wilderness. I pray God, the offspring of those excellent men, may never suffer their birth-rights to be taken from them.

I rejoice that my country is again at peace with the government and people of Great Britain; a people of high spirits and somewhat vindictive; but a people possessing many strong virtues. A people, who, with all their faults, have done more to encourage useful institution and to send the true knowledge of salvation to the dark parts of the earth than any other nation, and I may say, than all the other nations in the world. It would be unjust, and base, and wicked, to impute to the present inhabitants of Great Britain, the bigotry and the persecuting spirit of their great grandfathers.

I rejoice that the world is again at peace. The temple of Janus is again shut. The earth is at rest. God grant that henceforth the only contest may be, who shall do most to enlighten the ignorant; who shall do most to reform the guilty; and to use the words of the great Washington, the beloved father of our country, with whose words I conclude, — who shall do most “to make our neighbours and fellow men as happy, as their frail conditions and perishing natures will permit them to be.”10

NOTES

Note A. Some persons who heard the discourse expressed their surprise that this Indian warrior should be known by an English name. We have an explanation in Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts. Vol. 1st. p276.After the Indians became acquainted with the Europeans who had settled among them, “they were fond of having names given to them.” In 1662 when Massasoiet’s two sons were at Plymouth the governor gave them their English names.” To Wamsutta the eldest son of Massasoiet, governor Prince gave the English name Alexander: to the second son, whose Indian name was Metacom, the governor gave the English name, Philip.

In Neal’s History of New England, Philip is said to be “grandson of old Massasoiet.” “He was a bold and daring prince, having all the pride, fierceness, and cruelty of a savage.” Neal’s Hist. Vol. II. p. 23. The wonderful destruction of the Indians by wars and sickness, before the arrival of the fathers of New England, is related by Mr. Gookin. See Historical Collections, Vol 1st, p. 148. Morton’s New England’s Memorial. P 37, 38. Prince’s Chronology, p.69.

Note B. The quotation to which this note has relation is made from the president’s excellent Answer to the “Tribute of Respect,” or “Congratulatory Address of the Republican member of both branches of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and other citizens.” Which “was voted to be communicated to the President, on the restoration of peace.” Feb. 23, 1815.

Note C. Hon. William Gaston, member of congress from North Carolina, in his circular letter dated at Washington, March 1, 1815, writes thus : “Some time must yet elapse before we ascertain with certainty the addition the war has made to our publick debt. Claims are even now brought before congress which had their origin in the war of the revolution; and this which has just past, short as was its continuance has given rise to many more than our revolutionary struggle.”
Hon. Cyrus King, member of congress from Massachusetts, in a speech delivered Feb. 27, 1815, states the loss of men, “brave Americans,” 30,000. And the amount of treasures sacrificed, “150,000,000.”

Note D. As the words of Washington are words of wisdom, the reader will be gratified by having a few more from the letter quoted at the end of the discourse.

—“I observe with singular satisfaction, the cases in which your benevolent institution,” (the Massachusetts Humane Society,) “has been instrumental in recalling some of our fellow creatures, as it were, from beyond the gates of eternity, and has given occasion for the hearts of parents and friends to leap for joy. The provisions made for shipwrecked mariners is also highly estimable in the view of every philanthropic mind, and greatly consolatory to that suffering part of the community. These things will draw upon you the blessings of those who were ready to perish. These works of charity and goodwill towards men, reflect, in my estimation, great lustre upon the authors, and presage an era of still farther improvements. How pitiful, in the eye of reason and religion, is that false ambition which desolates the world with fire and sword for the purposes of conquest and fame; when compared to the milder virtues of making our neighbours and our fellow men, as happy, as their frail conditions and perishable natures permit them to be!”

Now the writer of the above almost divine sentences is no more among the living, may we exclaim, “How pitiful in the eye of reason and religion” are the heroes of antiquity, — the Alexanders and the Caesars, the Pompies, the Charleses, the Edwards, the Henries, and all who have “desolated the world with fire and sword for the purposes of conquest and fame, when compared” with Washington, who fought only for the liberties and the safety of his country’ and having accomplished the great objects for which he drew his sword, returned to private life!


Endnotes

1 Holmes’s Annals, I:207.
Samoset, it may be supposed, obtained some knowledge of the English language from Capt. John Smith and others, who visited this country and began a commerce with the Indians in the years 1614 and 1615.
2 Hutchinson’s Hist. I:176 and 283.
3 See Note A.
4 Holmes’s Annals I:472.
5 As far as the river Kennebeck. Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts, II:111.
6 Hutchinson’s Hist. V:ii:102.
7 Holmes’s Annuals, V:ii:199.
8 See Note B.
9 See Note C.
10 A letter, dated at Mount Vernon June 22, 1788. See Note D.

Sermon – House of Representatives – 1854


This sermon was preached by James H. Thornwell in the House of Representatives chamber in 1854.


sermon-house-of-representatives-1854

Judgements, A Call to Repentance
A SERMON

PREACHED BY APPOINTMENT OF THE LEGISLATURE
IN THE
HALL OF HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

BY

JAMES H. THORNWELL, D.D.,
PRESIDENT OF SOUTH CAROLINA COLLEGE

 

SATURDAY, DEC. 9, 1854

COLUMBIA, SC.:
R.W. GIBBES & CO., STATE PRINTERS
1854.

THOUGH a minister of God should, on all occasions, magnify his office, and not be afraid of the faces of men, whether kings, princes, or people, yet, while cherishing the profound conviction that the protection of the Almighty is a defenced city, and an iron pillar and brazen walls against the whole land, I confess that a feeling of deep solicitude oppresses me in undertaking this service to-day. These are no ordinary circumstances under which we are convened—this no ordi­nary congregation which I am called to address. The august image of the Commonwealth rises before me. By her trusted agents and chosen representatives, South Caro­lina, in her organic capacity—as a distinct political com­munity; in the person of our honoured Chief Magistrate, in the two Houses of the Legislature and the venerable Judges of the land—presents herself, in humility and mourning, before the footstool of Him who standeth in the congregation of the mighty and judgeth among the gods. A Sovereign State prostrate before a Sovereign God. This is the spectacle which we behold to-day. And is it strange that 1 should tremble in being called to declare the word of the Lord to such an audience? I do tremble—not for myself; not for my own name, or character, or fame; God forbid that such unworthy considerations should enter here. My only appre­hension is that I may give a wrong touch to the ark of God; that I may fail to speak those words in season, which, taking advantage of the interest naturally awakened by the scene, may contribute to guide the confused emotions, and vague and indefinite impressions it suggests, into the channels of salutary thought. It is a great occasion, and I am deeply sensible that nothing but Divine wisdom can fit me to discharge the duty it imposes. The guidance of that wisdom I humbly and fervently implore; and your prayers, I trust, will be joined with mine, that these rare and imposing solemnities may not pass away like an empty pageant, the mockery of a pompous hypocrisy. It is at all times solemn to appear before God; it is almost awful to do so with pro­testations of extraordinary penitence—professions of extra-ordinary reverence. Above all things, He requireth truth in the inward parts; and if we would not insult him to-day, and forfeit all the blessings which we hope to gain, let us see to it that our hearts are in unison with the language and worship of our lips.

There is a circumstance, trifling in itself—a coincidence perhaps not worthy of notice, which yet may be mentioned, as by that mysterious sympathy on which our emotions so much depend, it has inspired me with something of confi­dence and hope, and thrown an additional interest around the services of the day. When I received the notice of this appointment, and reflected that its fulfillment was to take place upon the anniversary of. the day on which I first be­held the light of the sun, I could not but regard it as an omen of good. It seemed a sign that God had called me to this work. There is certainly no enterprise in which I could embark with a less divided heart, than that of presenting the Commonwealth, which I love next to God himself and His own Divine cause, an offering upon His altar. Every­thing which indicates a growing regard for the kingdom of Jesus Christ on the part of this State I hail with joy, as I am assured that God will never leave nor forsake the people that are steadfast in His covenant; and if there were but one prayer that I were at liberty to offer for the land of my birth, for the home of my children, for the resting-place of my fathers, that prayer would be that her people might be all righteous, fearing the Lord. That would include everything. With God for us, it would matter little who or what was against us. That I may contribute some small degree to this blessed consummation, I have selected for the occa­sion the words contained in the 26th chapter of Isaiah, 9th verse:

“For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”

The judgments to which the prophet refers are those visitations of Providence which are evidently expressive of the Divine displeasure, and because they are universally regarded as the penal inflictions of a Judge or Ruler, they have received the appellation of the text. The conviction is a part of our nature, and no sophistry can eradicate it, that the sufferings to which sentient beings are exposed are either directly or remotely the consequences of sin. It is not so much any abstract views of the Divine benevolence or refined deductions from the phenomena of the case, as the spontaneous suggestion of conscience; the immediate promptings of our sense of good and ill desert, which impel us to recognize, in rude traces, at least, even in the present life, a moral dispensation in which death is the wages of sin. We cannot, without atheism, deny, that, as the connection be­tween the finite and the infinite is that of personal will, all the events which constitute the course of nature or the his­tory of the world are the appointments of God. There are no powers, whether physical or otherwise, but those which~ are ordained of Him. Secondary causes or general laws are only expressions for that uniformity and order which He originally established and constantly maintains. Motion, action, change, are all from Him. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His will. When, therefore, adversity overtakes us, our troubles do not spring from the dust, nor our afflictions from chance. Is there evil in the city, and bath not the Lord done it? God being a person like ourselves, we judge of the purpose or design of Divine dispensa­tions from the obvious tendency. We reason from the analogy of our own natures, and transfer to Him something like the motives which would influence us in visiting those who are subject to our jurisdiction with similar distresses. We tremble at His anger, and dread His justice. Conscience reminds us that we are guilty, and consequently worthy of death; and hence those representations of afflictive providences, which resolve them into God’s displeasure on account of sin, are the very voice of nature. They cannot be set aside without setting aside the belief in Providence, or setting aside design and purpose as characteristic of a personal God. We feel these judgments to be just, and we see that they have a natural tendency to stigmatize transgression and to preserve the innocent, by a salutary fear, in their integrity.

So strong is the impression of the moral connection between suffering guilt, that unreflecting minds are apt to make the degree of suffering the exponent of the measure of guilt. They look upon extraordinary judgments as proofs of extraordinary sins. It was this feeling which our Saviour designed to rebuke when he was told of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices; Think ye, said he, that these were sinners above all the other Galileans? I tell you nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them; think ye that they were sinners above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

The doctrine is this: That sin is the cause of all suffering and pain. None would ever be visited with any species of calamity unless they were guilty. But, as the present state is only moral government begun and not completed, and as other ends among the guilty may be answered by affliction as well as those of punishment, we can never infer the degree of guilt from the degree of suffering though the general fact may be universally concluded. Is a people visited with pesti­lence, famine, or war? We may infer with absolute cer­tainty that there is sin among them. These scourges could, under no circumstances, be inflicted upon the innocent. Not a tear can fall, nor a sigh be heaved where sin has not entered. But we cannot infer that they are more guilty than their neighbors. It may be, on the contrary, that they are less offensive to God, and that these judgments are designed to awaken them to a general sense of sin, and to bring them to repentance. God has purposes of mercy towards them and makes bare His arm that wrath may be subservient to love. All that we can conclude with absolute certainty is the necessity of repentance. Judgments are a call, a loud and solemn call, to the inhabitants of the world to learn righteousness, and are addressed to others as well as the victims themselves. Except ye, the spectators of those woes, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. The great lesson, and it is a lesson to all alike, is that there is sin and that God hates it, but how much sin there is, and how aggravated, it is presumption to conclude.

The Legislature of this State, therefore, has wisely attributed those severe dispensations which have wrapped so many families in mourning, and carried desolation to so many hearths, to the penal visitation of God. Though the product of natural causes and secondary agents, they ultimately proceed from Him, and proceed from Him distinctly as a moral Ruler, a just and righteous Judge. The benevo­lent design may be inferred from the effect already produced. We are beginning, I trust, to learn the righteousness, to practice the repentance which He exacts at our hands.

The first step has been taken—we have heard God’s voice—we have trembled at the rebukes of His providence, and we have publicly confessed that our mourning and woe are the sad desert of our sins. It is a source of heartfelt satisfaction that the State has not been stupid nor insensible— that she has not shut her eyes to the prime cause of these dispensations—that she has seen and kissed the rod in the hands of the Almighty. She has bowed before that sove­reign Ruler whose favor is life, whose frown is death—she has resorted to no carnal expedients, to no mere prudential policy~ as the means of averting future calamities—she has not consulted diviners or physicians—she has gone directly to Him whose prerogative it is to kill and to make alive—she has spread her cause before His throne, and in humility and penitence has implored Him to put up the sword into its scabbard, to let it rest and be still.

The next step is a genuine repentance—a hearty confession and a sincere renunciation of the sins which have pro­voked the displeasure of God. The reason of these calami­ties must be removed—the cause must cease to operate, if we expect the effects to terminate. As the judgments themselves do not specify the sins, and as our Saviour has taught us that it is sin in general, as much as any special sins in particular, that provoke peculiar calamities, the only safe course for us is to go into the depths of our hearts, and bring out and destroy all the forms of iniquity that lurk there. We should spare none. Every man, and, every family, should mourn apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. Repentance must be­gin in every man’s own soul, and the first care which the solemnities of this day imposes upon every one of you, is to see to it, that his own heart is right with God. Nothing will or can be done effectually, unless it is done in the spirit of personal and individual repentance. Your sins may have contributed to provoke these judgments of the Almighty. You are a citizen of the commonwealth—a member of her legislative councils. Are you, or are you not, an enemy to God by wicked works? Have you kissed the Son—have you been redeemed by the blood of the cross? Depend upon it, that the personal character of those who are placed in authority, have much to do, from the very nature of moral government, with the prosperity of the State. The rulers are the representatives of the land, and in God’s word no more tremendous judgment is threatened against any people than the sending among them of ignorant, debauched and wicked counsellors. Manasseh’s sins drenched Jerusalem in blood, and Ahab’s idolatry made the heavens as brass and the earth as iron. No man can say to what extent his own personal transgressions enter as an ingredient into that cup of trembling which God administers to guilty nations. The best servant of the State, is the faithful servant of God; and you would do more to-day, my brethren, for the prosperity and glory of this great Commonwealth which we love, by consecrating each man himself upon the altar of religion, than by all your eloquence, prudence and skill. Verily, there is a God that judgeth in the earth, and He does visit a people for the sins and iniquities of their rulers. Virtue is power, and vice is weakness, and every corrupt Senator, every debauched councellor, every wicked man, is like a. crumbling stone in the foundation of an edifice. They weaken infallibly—they mazy destroy. In your official rela­tion to the State, therefore, it is a matter of the last impor­tance that you should all be friends of God. Imagination can hardly conceive the strength and beauty and glory of that Commonwealth in which the people should all be righteous—in which no rivalry should be found but the rivalry of excellence—no selfishness, ambition or partizan zeal—no dema­gogues nor placemen. Butler’s imagination was even roused to something like fervour and eloquence when he undertook to depict the effects of the universal prevalence of virtue among any people or in any kingdom; and inspiration itself never rises to higher, or breathers in sweeter strains, than when it dwells upon the consequences of the universal diffusion of holiness; and what is especially to be observed, these effects are attributed to the character and influence of the Ruler. It is when righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins, that the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them; and the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the sucking child shall play on the hold of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. There is a natural and necessary tendency in holiness to bring about this delightful state of things—a corresponding tendency in sin to prevent it. Society is the moral union of moral agents, and the strength of their union is the perfection of the moral ties which connect them. All sin is, therefore, essentially weakness and misery—all virtue essentially power and happiness. To make a great people, you must make a pure people, and every man must begin with himself. To the extent of his depravity, he is an element of weakness in the State; and if all were corrupt and reprobate, there would be speedy anarchy and dissolution. Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Bowed as you are before God this day, my brethren, and charged with solemn duties to the Commonwealth, let me beseech you to seek that fitness for your task which can be found only in the favour and friendship of Heaven. See to it that your sins do not interpose a veil between God and the land. You stand in high places; make them as pure and holy as they are high, and you will find that God has never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye my face in vain. Sow to yourselves in righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. His repentings will be kindled together, He will not execute the fierceness of His anger.

But next to this inquiry into our own State, the judgments of God should direct our attention to those forms of iniquity which most extensively prevail in the land. And, although, we cannot say with absolute confidence that these are the specific offences for which the sword has been drawn from the scabbard, it is enough to know that they are sins, and. sins which will inevitably be punished, unless a timely repen­tance intervene. When God’s judgments are abroad in the land, they put us upon general inquiry. They proclaim the fact of sin, and that sin we are to search -out and expel wherever we find it, whether in our own hearts, or in the customs and usages of the people.

We should ask, then, to-day, whether there are any sins that pre-eminently attach to the people of our State; or if not peculiar to us, which have a wide-spread and controlling influence.
That there are any which are peculiar to us, I am not pre­pared to say; but the people of this Confederacy are certainly distinguished, to an extent unknown in other countries, ex­cept, perhaps, Great Britain, by profaneness and intemperance. These deserve to be called national sins. A stranger might infer from the tone of popular conversation; from the ex­clamations of excited individuals; from the clamors of-anger and passion, that we acknowledge the Almighty for no other purpose than that we might have a name to swear by, or a convenient expletive to fill up the chasms of discourse. Pro­faneness, that I may repeat what I have elsewhere said, is a slim, the enormity of which the imagination cannot conceive; because no thought can compass the infinite excellencies of Him, whose prerogative it is to be, who sits upon the circle of the earth, amid the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers, who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. That a punny creature of the dust, born today and gone to-morrow, should have the audacity to pur contempt upon that glorious name which Seraphs adore with rapture, is enough to astonish the heavens and convulse the earth. Yea, still more astonishing is that miracle of patience which endures the monsters, when one word would arm all nature against them; make the ground treacherous beneath them, heaven terrible above them; and hell ready to meet them at their coming. The magnitude of sin cannot be exaggerated. It is enough to make the blood curdle to think of the name of God bandied about as the bauble and plaything of fools, to point a jest, to season obscenity, and to garnish a tale.

This offence cannot go unpunished. If there be a God, He must vindicate His own majesty and glory. There must be a period when all shall tremble before Him, when every knee shall bow and every heart shall do reverence. The sword of justice cannot always be sheathed, nor the arm of vengeance slumber, and who shall say that the pestilence which has been walking amongst us, and slaying its thousands upon the right hand and the left, has not received its commission on account of the abounding profaneness of the land? Who shall deny that the deep has been evoked in storm and deluge to proclaim the name of the Lord as terrible and glorious? In the sight of angels there can be no greater sin than that of profaneness. They know something of what God is. They fear that dreadful name, and their imaginations, lofty and expanded as they are, cannot measure the height and depth of that iniquity which can make light of so tremendous a being. It is the very spirit and core of all evil—the quintessence of ungodliness.

In its influence upon society, hardly less disastrous are the ravages of intemperance; and what makes the case so alarm­ing, the moral sensibilities of the people are hardly alive to the real character of drunkenness as at once a sin and crime. The associations which are thrown around it, and the cir­cumstances under which the thoughtless and unsuspecting are betrayed into it, conceal its real features, and screen it from that moral indignation which, when seen in its true light, every unsophisticated heart must visit upon it. In one aspect, the predominance of the animal over the rational, it is a conspiracy against the law of a refined civilization. This feature of it Aristotle long ago pointed out, and in this aspect, it is confessedly the parent of vulgarity and coarse­ness, and presents the strongest obstacle to the moral eleva­tion of the people which society has to encounter. Refine­ment proceeds upon a principle which drunkenness directly contradicts, and, as it is the end of civilization to develope and carry out this principle, the drunkard stands in the way, a monument of degradation and of barbarism.

In another aspect, it is a crime whose name is legion. It is a sin, as an ancient Bishop has beautifully observed, against the whole man and the whole law, against both tables of the one and both parts of the other~ It prostrates the body, palsies its muscles, and exhausts its energies. It invades the soul, and undertakes to suppress those very principles of reason and conscience on which the dignity and excellence of man depend. It is an effort to extirpate our moral and rational nature, to root out the very elements of responsi­bility, and to make man worse than the tiger or the bear. They were made to obey their impulses; we to follow rea­son and law; and when we have expunged reason and law, we have reversed our natures, and left it a prey to impulses wilder and fiercer than any which rule the beasts that perish. When I look at the subject in this light; when I see that what drunkenness does is really to extinguish for the moment those very properties of our being which link us with the angels and with God, I am utterly astonished at that ob­tuseness of moral sentiment which hesitates to brand it as a crime of the deepest dye. The drunkard is not the object of peculiar sympathy or compassion. He is as truly crimi­nal, though it may be not in the same degree, as the robber or the assassin. And this sin never will be put down until it is placed ~n the footing of other crimes, and visited accor­ding to the demands of justice. These truths may seem harsh, but they challenge scrutiny, and on a. day like this, we should forego all prejudices and customary modes of thought, and endeavor to look upon this crying evil in the light in which God regards it. Let us not extenuate or, excuse. Let us confess our own. sins and the gins of our people, and humbly implore that this prolific fountain of disease, suffering, and death may be closed. Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effemi­nate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. The man who loves an appetite more than the improvement of his spiritual nature, who, for the sake of what is not so excellent as a mess of pottage, will sell the birthright of his moral dignity, does he not deserve to die? Is he not essentially low, and would not the thought be monstrous that such a spirit should be found among the children of light? I speak as unto wise men: judge ye what I say.

The sins which have been mentioned, amid which confess­edly prevail to a melancholy extent through the length and breadth of the land, though they call for humiliation and repentance here, are, perhaps, not so appropriate to this occasion, as those which spring from the tendencies and workings of our forms and principles of government. Bear with me in briefly stating what seems to me to be a species of idolatry which cannot fail to bring down upon us, sooner or later, the righteous judgments of God. I allude to what may be called the deification of the people. They are fre­quently represented as the source of all political power and rights; the very fountain head of sovereignty. It is their will which makes law; it is their will which unmakes it. A supremacy is ascribed to that will which he who reads the Bible and recognizes a God that has dominion over the children of men, must feel to be shocking. They are realIy treated as a species of Deity upon the earth. Now this whole representation is not only. inconsistent with religion, it is equally inconsistent with the philosophy upon which our popular institutions are founded. The government of this country does not proceed upon the maxim that the will of the people is the will of God, and its arrangements have not been made with a reference to the end, that their will may be simply ascertained. This legislature is not a con­gregation of deputies, or ministerial agents, and you have, and know that you have, higher functions to perform than merely to inquire what do the people think. I do not under­rate their opinions; they must always enter as an element in sober and wise deliberation; but what I maintain is, that the true and legitimate end of government is not to accom­plish their will, but to do and enforce what reason, conscience, and truth pronounce to be right. To the eternal law of right reason, which is the law of God, all are equally subject, and forms of government are only devices and expedients to reach the dictates of that law and apply it to the countless exigencies of social and individual life. The State is a Di­vine ordinance, a social institute, founded on the principle of justice, and it has great moral purposes to subserve, in rela­tion to which the constitution of its government may be pronounced good or bad. The will of the people should be done only when the people will what is right, and then pri­marily not because they will it, but because it is right. Great deference should be paid to their opinions, because general consent is a presumption of reason and truth.

The peculiarity of a representative system is that it gov­erns through deliberative assemblies. Their excellence is in the circumstance that they are deliberative, which affords a reasonable security that truth and justice may prevail. So far from bring mere exponents of public sentiment, their highest merit is that they are a check upon popular power— a barrier reared against the tide of passion, to beat back its waves, until reason can be fairly heard. There is no mis­apprehension more dangerous than that which confounds representative government with the essential principle of a pure democracy. It is not a contrivance to adapt the exer­cise of supreme power on the part of the people to extensive territory or abundant population, to meet the physical im­pediments which in large States, must obviously exist to the collection of their citizens in one vast assembly. It is not because the people cannot meet, but because they ought not to meet, that the representative council in modern times is preferred to the ancient convocations in the forum or mar­ket place. It is to be prized, because it affords facilities and removes hinderances in the discovery of truth; but the supreme power is truth, and not man; God, not the creature.

Now whatever representations diminish the authority of the Divine law as the supreme rule, and make the State the creature and organ of popular will, as if an absolute sove­reignty were vested in that, are equally repugnant to reli­gion and the true conception of our government. An abso­lute democracy is the worst of all governments, because it is judicially cursed as treason against God, and is given over to the blindness of impulse and passion. I am afraid that in this matter we have trodden upon the verge of error—we have forgotten that the State is ordained of God, and that our relations to each other are those of mutual consultation and advice, while all are absolutely subject to Him.

In proportion as we lose the true conception of the State, we fall short of realizing in ourselves that perfection of developement and happiness which it was instituted to achieve. Hence, it is not unusual that as extremes meet, those who in theory clothe the people with the prerogatives of God, practically degrade them below the level of intellectual exist­ence. When we cease to regard the State as a great instru­ment of moral education, it is not surprising that the educa­tion itself should be disregarded, and these Gods be left to demonstrate that after all, they are but men.

Let it be once conceded that government is but an organ of the popular will, the business of the statesman is very simple—it is only to find out what the people wish; and as all courts are attractive by the patronage they bestow, we may expect to see a system in operation, whose only tendency is to secure personal popularity. The ambition of Legislators and Senators will be directed to the gaining of popular favour, and whatever arts promise to be most successful, will be held to be legitimate, as they are the customs and usages of the Court, whose seal of approbation is desired. The consequences must be disastrous to all the parties concerned. There will and must be corruption and bribery. There will and must be unbecoming condescensions. The aspirants for distinction, however they may abhor these practices, and reproach themselves in stooping to them, feel compelled to resort to them as the conditions of success, and it will always happen that where the people are deified in theory, they will be degraded and corrupted in practice. Men will be pro­moted, not according to their wisdom and worth; not accord­ing to their ability to answer the ends of time State in elicit­ing the voice of reason and of truth, and securing the reign of universal justice—they will be promoted according to their pliancy in pandering to popular tastes. The demagogue will supplant the statesman—the representative be replaced with a tool.

These untoward tendencies should be checked in their very beginning and the most effectual method of doing so, is that each and every educated man should feel the responsibility upon him of contributing to the moral and intellectual improvement of the masses around him. We are all brethren, and as members of the same commonwealth should aim at the culture of the whole community. No man liveth to himself; no man dieth to himself. Let every one who is blessed with influence, position, and power, use these advantages in bringing all classes to that point of moral elevation in which the ballot box becomes the exponent of worth, and office the badge of merit. What a blessed consummation! We may never see it realized, but we may see it approximated. That approximation must be made by the influence of the rich upon the poor, the intelligent upon the ignorant. Each man may do much, and it would be a glorious result of this day’s services, if each should resolve that what he can do, whether much or little, shall be honestly and faithfully done among his own constituents.

I shall mention but one other instance of sin which, on this day, calls for humiliation and correction. It may be a consequence of those which have just been. insisted on; it is the deplorable extent to which our laws, especially in the punishment of crime, are prevented from being executed. It is a lesson which pervades the Bible, that States and communities may be dealt with as guilty of the crimes which they refuse or neglect to punish. The sixth of the seven precepts of Noah, which enjoins generally government and obedience, insists particularly upon time punishment of malefactors, as an indispensable condition of national prosperity and honour. When that species of transgression, which it is the proper office of the civil arm to rebuke, is permitted to escape with impunity, the land is defiled. The magistrate is not at liberty to bear the sword in vain-he must be a terror to evil doers, as well as a praise to them that do well. It is to be deplored, however, that while the moral sense of the community is properly shocked at the enormous wickedness of condemning the just, and dealing with him according to the deserts of iniquity, there is no such disgust at the equally revolting spectacle of treating the guilty with the impunity which is due only to innocence. A man may vio­late the law by crimes which cry to heaven for vengeance, and after the first ebullition of resentment has subsided, a sickly and mawkish benevolence interposes to arrest the pro­gress of justice; a feeling of pity and of childish tenderness to the person of the criminal prevents any adequate expres­sion, and, in many instances, any expression at all, of indig­nation and horror at the crime. In such cases the commu­nity assumes the guilt. It is regarded by God as endorsing the transgression, and in the righteous retributions of His providence, may, sooner or later, expect to reap the conse­quences in the judgments of His hand. There is no princi­ple which is more plainly stated, more clearly illustrated, more frequently exemplified in the sacred Scriptures, than that the punishment of malefactors is a duty. It is not dis­cretionary; not a thing of expediency or policy; it is a duty. God exacts and demands it, and no State or community can disregard this high and solemn obligation, without taking the place, in the sight of God, of time criminal it protects and favours. If it refuses, for example, to shed the blood of the murderer, the blood of the murdered will be visited upon its head.

There are two ways in which communities are punished for unpunished crimes. The first is by diffusing the contagion of the sin. The restraining influences of Divine grace and of human law are equally withheld, and the crimes which have been permitted to escape with impunity become multi­plied. God permits numbers to fall into them. The moral ties of the social fabric become loosened, and general insecu­rity is the fatal result. Other societies look upon them as wanting in dignity of moral sentiment. They are contemplated abroad in the light of the crimes they permit; they allow abominations among them; and this is regarded, and very justly regarded, as sufficient proof that they feel no strong resentment against them. From the necessary opera­tion of moral causes, the standard of character must become extremely low among any people who have no public and national expressions of displeasure against crime, or who, having them in form, a dead letter upon the statute-book, fail to make them real and effective in practice. It loses its position among surrounding States; forfeits the favour of God; contains time elements of weakness, which are insepar­able from a low standard of morals; the land is defiled, and will soon be prepared to spue out its inhabitants under the curse of God.

There are, besides, specific and positive judgments which the great Disposer of events has in store for the people that despise justice. The pestilence and earthquake, the cater­pillar and palmer worm, the heaven as brass and the earth as iron, war, blood and famine—these are but samples of the scourges which God has employed in former times, which He is employing now, and which He may employ hereafter to teach the nations of the earth; that it is righteousness alone which can exalt them, and that sin is a reproach to any people.

On this day, my brethren, have we not reason to appre­hend that our land mourns on account of unpunished crime? Does not the voice of innocent blood cry to us from the ground? Is not violence increasing in our borders? Is it not a fatal symptom, at once the cause and the effect of evil—a pregnant sign of the increasing insecurity of life, that secret weapons can be carried without branding their posses­sors as sons of Belial? No people has reached the highest stage of refinement until the authority of law and public opinion exactly coincide; and whenever this result is se­cured, private protection becomes unnecessary and gratuitous insult impossible. Let time law have its way; visit blood with blood; seize the murderer at the very horns of the altar, and let him not escape; and that process of deterioration, which begins in unpunished crime, will speedily be checked, and every honest man will be ashamed to be found with an implement of death about his person. It would brand him as a murderer at heart. This shocking practice of carrying concealed weapons ought, in some way, to be rebuked. It is a stain upon us. The first step is certainly to make human life secure, by never suffering it to be taken with impunity. But how bribed and corrupt juries are to be dealt with, except by the gradual progress of truth, civilization and religion, is a problem which I am incompetent to solve. It is something to know and confess the evil, and if we can do no more, we can this day cleanse our own skirts by taking shame and confusion to ourselves on account of the abounding iniquity. The repentance of the rulers may prevail on God to change the hearts of the ruled. Our earnest prayer that we and our land may be delivered from blood-guiltiness, may be heard in a blessing upon the whole Commonwealth.

My brethren, my task is done. I have endeavored to deal faithfully in showing the house of Judah their transgression, and Israel their sin. The consequences of this day will reach forward to eternity. If we have, indeed, humbled ourselves before the Lord, and repented of our own sins and the sins of our people, the same mercy which spared Nineveh and restored Manasseh to his country and his throne, will be full of blessings to us. If we can truly say of the Lord that He is our refuge and our fortress, He will surely deliver us from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence. We shall not he afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. It is he that giveth salvation unto kings—who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword. Now, in the name of this Commonwealth, the common mother of us all, let us offer up our fervent and united supplications, that ours may be that happy people whose God is the Lord. O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for thy name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. Oh, the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldst thou be a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? Why shouldst Thou be as a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? Yet Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name; leave us not.

Sermon – Duty of Americans

Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) graduated from Yale in 1769. He was principal of the New Haven grammar school (1769-1771) and a tutor at Yale (1771-1777). A lack of chaplains during the Revolutionary War led him to become a preacher and he served as a chaplain in a Connecticut brigade. Dwight served as preacher in neighboring churches in Northampton, MA (1778-1782) and in Fairfield, CT (1783). He also served as president of Yale College (1795-1817).


THE DUTY OF AMERICANS, AT THE
PRESENT CRISIS,
ILLUSTRATED IN A DISCOURSE,
PREACHED ON THE FOURTH OF JULY,
1798;
BY THE REVEREND
TIMOTHY DWIGHT, D. D.
PRESIDENT OF YALE-COLLEGE;
AT THE REQUEST
OF THE
Citizens of New-Haven.

NEW-HAVEN; PRINTED BY THOMAS AND SAMUEL GREEN, 1798.

REVELATION XVI.XV.

“Behold I come as a thief: Blessed is he
that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he
walk naked, and they see his shame.”

THIS passage is inserted as a parenthesis in the account of the sixth vial. To feel its whole force it will be necessary to recur to that account, and to examine it with some attention. It is given in these words.

  1. 12. “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the king of the east might be prepared.”
  2. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
  3. “For they are the spirits of devils (Gr. Demons), working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
  4. “Behold I come as a thief: Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”
  5. “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”

TO this account is subjoined that of the seventh vial; at the effusion of which is accomplished a wonderful and most affecting convulsion of this guilty world, and the final ruin of the Antichristian empire. The circumstances of this amazing event are exhibited at large in the remainder of this, and in the three succeeding chapters.

INSTEAD of employing the time, allowed by the present occasion, in stating the several opinions of commentators concerning this remarkable prophecy, opinions which you can examine at your leisure, I shall, as briefly as may be, state to you that, which appears to me to be its true meaning. This is necessary to be done, to prepare you for the use of it, which is now intended to be made.

IN the 12th verse, under a natural allusion to the manner in which the ancient Babylon was destroyed, a description is given us of the measures, used by the Most High to prepare the way for the destruction of the spiritual Babylon. The river Euphrates surrounded the walls, and ran through the middle, of the ancient Babylon, and thus became the means of its wealth, strength and safety. When Cyrus and Cyaxares (The Darius of Daniel), the kings of Persia and Media, or, in the Jewish phraseology, of the east, took this celebrated city, they dried up, or emptied, the waters of the Euphrates, out of its proper channel, by turning them into a lake, or more probably a sunken region of the country, above the city. They then entered by the channel which passed through the city, made themselves masters of it, and overturned the empire. The emptying, or drying up, of the waters of the real Euphrates thus prepared the way of the real kings of the east for the destruction of the city and empire of the real Babylon. The drying up of the waters of the figurative Euphrates in the like manner prepares the way of the figurative kings of the east for the destruction of the city and empire of the figurative Babylon. The terms waters, Euphrates, kings, east, Babylon, are all figurative or symbolical; and are not to be understood as denoting real kings, or a real east, any more than a real Euphrates, or a real Babylon. The whole meaning of the prophet is, I apprehend, that God will, under this vial, so diminish the wealth, strength, and safety, of the spiritual or figurative Babylon, as effectually to prepare the way for its destroyers.

IN the remaining verses an event is predicted, of a totally different kind; which is also to take place in the same period. Three unclean spirits; like frogs, are exhibited as proceeding out of the mouth of the Dragon or Devil, of the Beast or Romish Government, and of the False Prophet, or, as I apprehend, of the regular Clergy of that Hierarchy. These spirits are represented as working miracles, as going forth to the kings, of the whole world, to gather them; and as actually gathering them together to the battle of that great day of God Almighty, described in the remainder of this chapter, and in the three succeeding ones. Of this vast enterprise the miserable end is strongly marked, in the name of the place, into which they are said to be gathered—Armageddon—the mountain of destruction and mourning.

THE writer of this book will himself explain to us what he intended by the word spirits in this passage. In his 1st Epistle, ch. iv. v. 1. he says,

Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, whether they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (See also v. 2, 3, 6.)

  1. E. Believe not every teacher, or doctrine, professing to come from God; but examine all carefully, that ye may know whether they come from God, or not; for many false prophets, or teachers passing themselves upon the Church for teachers of truth, but in reality teachers of false doctrines, are gone out into the world.

IN the same sense, if I am not deceived, is the word used in the passage under consideration. One great characteristic and calamity of this period is, therefore, that unclean teachers, or teachers of unclean doctrines, will spread through the world, to unite mankind against God. They are said to be three; i. e. several; a definite number being used here, as in many other passages of this book, for an indefinite one; to come out of the mouths of the three evil agents abovementioned; i. e. to originate in those countries, where they have principally co-operated against the kingdom of God; to be unclean; to resemble frogs; i. e. to be lothesome, clamorous, impudent, and pertinacious; to be the spirits of demons, i. e. to be impious, malicious, proud, deceitful, and cruel; to work miracles, or wonders; and to gather great multitudes of men to battle, i. e. to embark them in an open, professed enterprise, against God Almighty.

HAVING thus summarily explained my views of this prophecy, I shall now for the purpose of presenting it in a more distinct and comprehensive view draw together the several parts of it in a paraphrase.

IN the sixth great division of the period of providence, denoted by the vials filled with divine judgments and emptied on the world, the wealth, strength and safety of the Antichristian empire will be greatly lessened, and thus effectual preparation will be made for its final overthrow.

IN the meantime several teachers of false and immoral doctrines will arise in those countries, where the Powers of the Antichristian empire have especially distinguished themselves, by corrupting the truth, and persecuting the followers, of Christ; the character of which teachers and their doctrines will be impure, lothesome, impudent, pertinacious, proud, deceitful, impious, malicious, and cruel.

THESE teachers will, by their doctrines and labours, openly, professedly, and in an unusual manner, contend against God, and against his kingdom in this world, and will strive to unite mankind in this opposition.

NOR will they fail of astonishing success; for they will actually unite a large part of the human race, particularly in Christendom, in this impious undertaking.

BUT they will only unite them to their destruction; a destruction most awfully accomplished at the effusion of the seventh vial.

FROM this explanation it is manifest, that the prediction consists of two great and distinct parts; the preparation for the overthrow of the Antichristian empire; and the embarkation of men in a professed and unusual opposition to God, and to his kingdom, accomplished by means of false doctrines, and impious teachers.

BY the ablest Commentators the fifth vial is considered as having been poured out at the time of the Reformation. The first is supposed, and with almost absolute certainty, to have begun to operate not long after the year 800. If we calculate from that period to the year 1517, the year in which the Reformation began in Germany, the four first vials will be found to have occupied about four times 180 years. 180 years may therefore be estimated as the greatest, and 170 years as the least duration of a single vial. From the year 1517 to the year 1798 there are 281 years. If the fifth vial be supposed to have continued 180 years, its termination was in the year 1697; if 170, in 1687. Of course the sixth vial may be viewed as having been in operation more than 100 years.

YOU will now naturally ask, What events in the Providence of God, found in this period, verify the prediction?

TO this question I answer, generally, that the whole complexion of things appears to me to have, in a manner surprisingly exact, corresponded with the prediction. The following particulars will evince with what propriety this answer is returned.

WITHIN this period the Jesuits, who constituted the strongest branch, and the most formidable internal support, of the Romish hierarchy, have been suppressed.

WITHIN this period various other orders of the regular Romish Clergy have in some countries been suppressed, and in others greatly reduced. Their permanent possessions have been confiscated, and their wealth and power greatly lessened.

WITHIN this period the Antichristian secular powers have been in most instances exceedingly weakened. Poland as a body politic is nearly annihilated. Austria has deeply suffered. Venice and the popish part of Switzerland as bodies politic have vanished. The Sardinian monarchy is on the eve of dissolution. Spain, Naples, Tuscany, and Genoa, are sorely wounded; and Portugal totters to its fall. By the treaty, now on the tapis in Germany, the Romish Archbishoprics and Bishoprics, in that empire, are proposed to be secularized, and as distinct governments to be destroyed. As the strength of these powers was the foundation, on which the Hierarchy rested; so their destruction, or diminution, is a final preparation for its ruin.

IN France, Belgium, the Italian, and Cis-rhenane republics, a new form of government has been instituted, the effect of which, whether it shall prove permanent, or not, must be greatly and finally to diminish the strength of the Hierarchy.

IN France, and in Belgium, the whole power and influence of the Clergy of all descriptions have, in a sense, been destroyed; and their immense wealth has been diverted into new channels. In France, also, an open, violent, and inveterate war has been made upon the Hierarchy, and carried on with unexampled bitterness and cruelty. (In the mention of all these evils brought on the Romish Hierarchy, I beg he may be remembered that I am far from justifying the iniquitous conduct of their persecutors. I know not that any person holds it, and all other persecution, more in abhorrence. Neither have I a doubt of the integrity and piety of multitudes of the unhappy sufferers. In my view they claim, and I trust will receive, the commiseration, and, as occasion offers, the kind offices of all men possessed even of common humanity.)

WITHIN this period, also, the revenues of the Pope have been greatly curtailed; the territory of Avignon has been taken out of his hands; and his general weight and authority have exceedingly declined.

WITHIN the present year his person has been seized, his secular government overturned, a republic formed out of his dominions, and an apparent and at least temporary end put to his dominion.

TO all these mighty preparations for the ruin of the Antichristian empire may be added, as of the highest efficacy, that great change of character, of views, feelings, and habits, throughout many Antichristian countries, which assures us completely, that its former strength can never return.

THUS has the first part of this remarkable prophecy been accomplished. Not less remarkable has been the fulfilment of the second.

ABOUT the year 1728, Voltaire, so celebrated for his wit and brilliancy, and not less distinguished for his hatred of christianity and his abandonment of principle, formed a systematical design to destroy christianity, and to introduce in its stead a general diffusion of irreligion and atheism. For this purpose he associated with himself Frederic the II, king of Prussia, and Mess. D’Alembert and Diderot, the principal compilers of the Encyclopedie; all men of talents, atheists, and in the like manner abandoned. The principal parts of this system were, 1st. The compilation of the Encyclopedie (The celebrated French Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, in which articles of Theology were speciously and decently written; but, by references artfully made to other articles, all the truth of the former was entirely and insidiously overthrown to most readers, but the sophistry of the latter.); in which with great art and insidiousness the doctrines of Natural as well as Christian Theology were rendered absurd and ridiculous; and the mind of the reader was insensibly steeled against conviction and duty. 2. The overthrow of the religious orders in Catholic countries; a step essentially necessary to the destruction of the religion professed in those countries. 3. The establishment of a sect of philosophists to serve, it is presumed, as a conclave, a rallying point, for all their followers. 4. The appropriation to themselves, and their disciples, of the places and honours of members of the French Academy, the most respectable literary society in France, and always considered as containing none but men of prime learning and talents. In this way they designed to hold out themselves, and their friends, as the only persons of great literary and intellectual distinction in that country, and to dictate all literary opinions to the nation. (So far was this carried, that a Mr. Beauzet, a layman, but a sincere Christian, who was one of the forty members, once asked D’Alembert how they came to admit him among them? D’Alembert answered, without hesitation, “I am sensible, this must seem astonishing to you; but we wanted a skillful grammarian, and among our party, not one had acquired a reputation in this line. We know that you believe in God, but, being a good sort of man, we cast our eyes upon you, for want of a philosopher to supply your place.” Brit. Crit. Art. Barruel’s Memoirs of the History of Jacobinism. August 1797.) 5. The fabrication of Books of all kinds against christianity, especially such as excite doubt, and generate contempt and derision. Of these they issued, by themselves and their friends, who early became numerous, an immense number; so printed, as to be purchased for little or nothing, and so written, as to catch the feelings, and steal upon the approbation, of every class of men. 6. The formation of a secret Academy, of which Voltaire was the standing president, and in which books were formed, altered, forged, imputed as post-humous to deceased writers of reputation, and sent abroad with the weight of their names. These were printed and circulated, at the lowest price, through all classes of men, in an uninterrupted succession, and through every part of the kingdom.

NOR were the labours of this Academy confined to religion. They attacked also morality and government, unhinged gradually the minds of men, and destroyed their reverence for every thing heretofore esteemed sacred.

IN the mean time, the Masonic Societies, which had been originally instituted for convivial and friendly purposes only, were, especially in France and Germany, made the professed scenes of debate concerning religion, morality, and government, by these philosophists (The words Philosophism and Philosophists may in our opinion, be happily adopted from this work, to designate the doctrines of the Diestical sect; and thus to rescue, the honourable terms of Philosophy and Philosopher from the abuse, into which they have fallen. Philosphism is a love of Sephisms, and thus completely describes the sect of Voltaire: A Philosphists is a lover of Sophists. Brit. Crit. Ibid.) who had in great numbers become Masons. For such debate the legalized existence of Masonry, its profound secresy, its solemn and mystic rites and symbols, its mutual correspondence, and its extension through most civilized countries, furnished the greatest advantages. All here was free, safe, and calculated to encourage the boldest excursions of restless opinion and impatient ardour, and to make and fix the deepest impressions. Here, and in no other place, under such arbitrary governments, could every innovator in these important subjects utter every sentiment, however daring, and attack every doctrine and institution, however guarded by law or sanctity. In the secure and unrestrained debates of the lodge, every novel, licentious, and alarming opinion was resolutely advanced. Minds, already tinged with philosophism, were here speedily blackened with a deep and deadly die; and those, which came fresh and innocent to the scene of contamination, became early and irremediably corrupted. A stubborn incapacity of conviction, and a flinty insensibility to every moral and natural tie, grew of course out of this combination of causes; and men were surely prepared, before themselves were aware, for every plot and perpetration. In these hot beds were sown the seeds of that astonishing Revolution, and all its dreadful appendages, which now spreads dismay and horror throughout half the globe.

WHILE these measures were advancing the great design with a regular and rapid progress, Doctor Adam Weishaupt, professor of the Canon law in the University of Ingolstadt, a city of Bavaria (in Germany) formed, about the year 1777, the order of Illuminati. This order is professedly a higher order of Masons, originated by himself, and grafted on ancient Masonic Institutions. The secresy, solemnity, mysticism, and correspondence of Masonry, were in this new order preserved and enhanced; while the ardour of innovation, the impatience of civil and moral restraints, and the aims against government, morals, and religion, were elevated, expanded, and rendered more systematical, malignant, and daring.

IN the societies of Illuminati doctrines were taught, which strike at the root of all human happiness and virtue; and every such doctrine was either expressly or implicitly involved in their system.

THE being of God was denied and ridiculed.

GOVERNMENT was asserted to be a curse, and authority a mere usurpation.

CIVIL society was declared to be the only apostasy of man.

THE possession of property was pronounced to be robbery.

CHASTITY and natural affection were declared to be nothing more than groundless prejudices.

ADULTERY, assassination, poisoning, and other crimes of the like infernal nature, were taught as lawful, and even as virtuous actions.

TO crown such a system of falshood and horror all means were declared to be lawful, provided the end was good.

IN this last doctrine men are not only loosed from every bond, and from every duty; but from every inducement to perform any thing which is good, and, abstain from any thing which is evil; and are set upon each other, like a company of hellhounds to worry, rend, and destroy. Of the goodness of the end every man is to judge for himself; and most men, and all men who resemble the Illuminati, will pronounce every end to be good, which will gratify their inclinations. The great and good ends proposed by the Illuminati, as the ultimate objects of their union, are the overthrow of religion, government, and human society civil and domestic. These they pronounce to be so good, that murder, butchery, and war, however extended and dreadful, are declared by them to be completely justifiable, if necessary for these great purposes. With such an example in view, it will be in vain to hunt for ends, which can be evil.

CORRESPONDENT with this summary was the whole system. No villainy, no impiety, no cruelty, can be named, which was not vindicated; and no virtue, which was not covered with contempt.

THE means by which this society was enlarged, and its doctrines spread, were of every promising kind. With unremitted ardour and diligence the members insinuated themselves into every place of power and trust, and into every literary, political and friendly society; engrossed as much as possible the education of youth, especially of distinction; became licensers of the press, and directors of every literary journal; waylaid every foolish prince, every unprincipled civil officer, and every abandoned clergyman; entered boldly into the desk, and with unhallowed hands, and satanic lips, polluted the pages of God; inlisted in their service almost all the booksellers, and of course the printers, of Germany; inundated the country with books, replete with infidelity, irreligion, immorality, and obscenity; prohibited the printing, and prevented the sale, of books of the contrary character; decried and ridiculed them when published in spite of their efforts; panegyrized and trumpeted those of themselves and their coadjutors; and in a word made more numerous, more diversified, and more strenuous exertions, than an active imagination would have preconceived.

TO these exertions their success has been proportioned. Multitudes of the Germans, notwithstanding the gravity, steadiness, and sobriety of their national character, have become either partial or entire converts to these wretched doctrines; numerous societies have been established among them; the public faith and morals have been unhinged; and the political and religious affairs of that empire have assumed an aspect, which forebodes its total ruin. In France, also, Illuminatism has been eagerly and extensively adopted; and those men, who have had, successively, the chief direction of the public affairs of that country, have been members of this society. Societies have also been erected in Switzerland and Italy, and have contributed probably to the success of the French, and to the overthrow of religion and government, in those countries. Mentz was delivered up to Custine by the Illuminati; and that General appears to have been guillotined, because he declined to encourage the same treachery with respect to Manheim.

NOR have England and Scotland escaped the contagion. Several societies have been erected in boch of those countries. Nay in the private papers, seized in the custody of the leading members in Germany, several such societies are recorded as having been erected in America, before the year 1786. (See Robinson’s Conspiracy and the Abbe Barruel’s Memoirs of the History of Jacobinism.)

IT is a remarkable fact, that a large proportion of the sentiments, here stated, have been publicly avowed and applauded in the French legislature. The being and providence of God have been repeatedly denied and ridiculed. Christ has been mocked with the grossest insult. Death, by a solemn legislative decree has been declared to be an eternal sleep. Marriage has been degraded to a farce, and the community, by the law of divorce, invited to universal prostitution In the school of public instruction atheism is professedly taught; and at an audience before the legislature, Nov. 30, 1793, the head scholar declared, that he and his schoolfellows detested a God; a declaration received by the members with unbounded applause, and rewarded with the fraternal kiss of the president, and with the honors of the sitting. (See Gifford’s Letter to Erskine.)

I presume I have sufficiently proved the fulfilment of the second part of this remarkable prophesy; and shewn, that doctrines and teachers, answering to the description, have arisen in the very countries specified, and that they are rapidly spreading through the world, to engage mankind in an open and professed war against God. I shall only add, that the titles of these philosophistical books have, in various instances, been too obscene to admit of a translation by a virtuous man, and in a decent state of society. So fully are these teachers entitled to the epithet unclean.

ASSUMING now as just, for the purposes of this discourse, the explanation, which has been given, I shall proceed to consider the import of the Text.

THE Text is an affectionate address of the Redeemer to his children, teaching them that conduct, which he wills them especially to pursue in this alarming season. It is the great practical remark, drawn by infinite Wisdom and Goodness from a most solemn sermon, and cannot fail therefore to merit our highest attention. Had he not, while recounting the extensive and dreadful convulsion, described in the context, made a declaration of this nature, there would have been little room for the exercise of any emotions, beside those of terror and despair. The gloom would have been universal and entire; a blank midnight without a star to cheer the solitary darkness. But here a hope, a promise, is furnished to such as obey the injunction, by which it is followed; a luminary like that, which shone to the wise men of the east, is lighted up to guide our steps to the Author of peace and salvation.

BLESSED, even in this calamitous season, saith the Saviour of men, is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.

SIN is the nakedness and shame of the scriptures, and righteousness the garment which covers it. To watch and keep the garments is, of course, so to observe the heart and the life, so carefully to resist temptation and abstain from sin, and so faithfully to cultivate holiness and perform duty, that the heart and the life shall be adorned with the white robes of evangelical virtue, the unspotted attire of spiritual beauty.

THE cautionary precept given to us by our Lord is, therefore,

THAT WE SHOULD BE EMINENTLY WATCHFUL TO PERFORM OUR DUTY FAITHFULLY, IN THE TRYING PERIOD, IN WHICH OUR LOT IS CAST.

TO those, who obey, a certain blessing is secured by the promise of the Redeemer.

THE great and general object, aimed at by this command, and by every other, is private, personal obedience and reformation of life; personal piety, righteousness, and temperance.

TO every man is by his Creator especially committed the care of himself; of his time, his talents, and his soul. He knows, or may know, better than any other man, his wants, his sins, and his dangers, and of course the means of relief, reformation, and escape. No one, so well as he, can watch the approach of temptation, so feelingly pray for divine assistance, or so profitably resolve on future obedience. In truth no resolutions, no prayers, no watchfulness of others, will profit him at all, unless seconded by his own.

No other person can make any useful impressions on our hearts, or our lives, unless by rousing in us the necessary exertions. All extraneous labours terminate in this single point: it is the end of every doctrine, exhortation, and reproof, of every moral and religious institution.

THE manner, in which such obedience is to be performed, and such reformation accomplished, is described to you weekly in the desk, and daily in the scriptures. A detail of it, therefore, will not be necessary, nor expected, on the present occasion. You already know what is to be done, and the manner in which it is to be done. You need not be told, that you are to use all efforts of your own, and to look humbly and continually to God to render those efforts successful; that you are to resist carefully and faithfully every approaching temptation, and every rising sin; that you are to resolve on newness of life, and to seize every occasion, as it presents itself, to honour God, and to bless your fellow men; that you are strenuously to contend against evil habits, and watchfully to cherish good ones; and that you are constantly to aim at uniformity and eminency in a holy life, and to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”

BUT it may be necessary to remind you, that personal obedience and reformation is the foundation, and the sum, of all national worth and prosperity. If each man conducts himself aright, the community cannot be conducted wrong. If the private life be unblamable, the public state must be commendable and happy.

INDIVIDUALS are often apt to consider their own private conduct as of small importance to the public welfare. This opinion is wholly erroneous and highly mischievous. No man can adopt it, who believes, and remembers, the declarations of God. If “one sinner destroyeth much good,” if “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” if ten righteous persons, found in the polluted cities of the vale of Siddim, would have saved them from destruction, the personal conduct of no individual can be insignificant to the safety and happiness of a nation. On the contrary, the advantages to the public of private virtue, faithful prayer and edifying example, cannot be calculated. No one can conjecture how many will be made better, safer, and happier, by the virtue of one.

WHEREVER wealth, politeness, talents, and office, lend their aid to the inherent efficacy of virtue, its influence is proportionally greater. In this case the example is seen by greater numbers, is regarded with more respectful attention, and felt with greater force. The piety of Hezekiah reformed and saved a nation. Men far inferior in station to kings, and possessed of far humbler means of doing good, may still easily circulate through multitudes both virtue and happiness. The beggar on the dunghill may become a public blessing. Every parent, if a faithful one, is a public blessing of course. How delightful a path of patriotism is this?

IT is also to be remembered, that this is the way, in which the chief good, ever placed in the power of most persons, is to be done. If this opportunity of serving God, and befriending mankind, be lost, no other will by the great body of men ever be found. Few persons can be concerned in settling systems of faith, moulding forms of government, regulating nations, or establishing empires. But almost all can train up a family for God, instil piety, justice, kindness and truth, distribute peace and comfort around a neighbourhood, receive the poor and the outcast into their houses, tend the bed of sickness, pour balm into the wounds of pain, and awaken a smile in the aspect of sorrow. In the secret and lowly vale of life, virtue in its most lovely attire delights to dwell. There God, with peculiar complacency, most frequently finds the inestimable ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; and there the morning and the evening incense ascends with peculiar fragrance to heaven. When angels became the visitors, and the guests, of Abraham, he was a simple husbandman.

BESIDES, this is the great mean of personal safety and happiness. No good man was ever forgotten, or neglected, of God. To him duty is always safety. Around the tabernacle of every one, that feareth God, the angel of protection will encamp, and save him from the impending evil.

  1. AMONG the particular duties required by this precept, and at the present time, none holds a higher place than the observation of the Sabbath.

THE Sabbath and its ordinances have ever been the great means of all moral good to mankind. The faithful observation of the sabbath is, therefore, one of the chief duties and interests of men; but the present time furnishes reasons, peculiar, at least in degree, for exemplary regard to this divine institution. The enemies of God have by private argument, ridicule, and influence, and by public decrees, pointed their especial malignity against the Sabbath; and have expected, and not without reason, that, if they could annihilate it, they should overthrow christianity. From them we cannot but learn its importance. Enemies usually discern, with more sagacity, the most promising point of attack, than those who are to be attacked. In this point are they to be peculiarly opposed. Here, peculiarly, are their designs to be baffled. If they fail here, they will finally fail. Christianity cannot fall, but by the neglect of the Sabbath.

I HAVE been credibly informed, that, some years before the Revolution, an eminent philosopher of this country, now deceased, declared to David Hume, that Christianity would be exterminated from the American colonies within a century from that time. The opinion has doubtless been often declared and extensively imbibed; and has probably furnished our enemies their chief hopes of success. Where religion prevails, their system cannot succeed. Where religion prevails, Illuminatism cannot make disciples, a French directory cannot govern, a nation cannot be made slaves, nor villains, nor atheists, nor beasts. To destroy us, therefore, in this dreadful sense, our enemies must first destroy our Sabbath, and seduce us from the house of God.

RELIGION and Liberty are the two great objects of defensive war. Conjoined, they unite all the feelings, and call forth all the energies, of man. In defense of them, nations contend with the spirit of the Maccabees; “one will chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” The Dutch, in defense of them, few and feeble as they were in their infancy, assumed a gigantic courage, and grew like the fabled sons of Alous to an instantaneous and gigantic strength, broke the arms of the Spanish empire, swept its fleets from the ocean, pulled down its pride, plundered its treasures, captivated its dependencies, and forced its haughty monarch to a peace on their own terms. Religion and liberty are the meat and the drink of the body politic. Withdraw one of them, and it languishes, consumes, and dies. If indifference to either at any time becomes the prevailing character of a people, one half of their motives to vigorous defense is lost, and the hopes of their enemies are proportionally increased. Here, eminently, they are inseparable. Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves; but not the freedom of New-England. If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it; and nothing would be left, which would be worth defending. Our children of course, if not ourselves, would be prepared, as the ox for the slaughter, to become the victims of conquest, tyranny, and atheism.

THE Sabbath, with its ordinances, constitutes the bond of union to christians; the badge by which they know each other; their rallying point; the standard of their host. Beside public worship they have no means of effectual descrimination. To preserve this is to us a prime interest and duty. In no way can we so preserve, or so announce to others, our character as christians; or so effectually prevent our nakedness and shame from being seen by our enemies. Now, more than ever, we are “not to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Now, more than ever, are we to stand forth to the eye of our enemies, and of the world, as open, determined christians; as the followers of Christ; as the friends of God. Every man, therefore, who loves his country, or his religion, ought to feel, that he serves, or injures, both, as he celebrates, or neglects, the Sabbath. By the devout observation of this holy day he will reform himself, increase his piety, heighten his love to his country, and confirm his determination to defend all that merits his regard. He will become a better man, and a better citizen.

THE house of God is also the house of social prayer. Here nations meet with God to ask, and to receive, national blessings. On the Sabbath, and in the sanctuary, the children of the Redeemer will, to the end of the world, assemble for this glorious end. Here he is ever present to give more than they can ask. If we faithfully unite, here, in seeking his protection, “no weapon formed against us will prosper.”

  1. ANOTHER duty, to which we are also eminently called, is an entire separation from our enemies. Among the moral duties of man none hold a higher rank than political ones, and among our own political duties none is more plain, or more absolute, than that which I have now mentioned.

IN the eighteenth chapter of this prophecy, in which the dreadful effects of the seventh vial are particularly described, this duty is expressly enjoined on christians by a voice from Heaven. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Under the evils and dangers of the sixth vial, the command in the Text was given; under those of the seventh, the command which we are now considering. The world is already far advanced in the period of the sixth. In the Text we are informed, that the Redeemer will hasten the progress of his vengeance on the enemies of his church, during the effusion of the two last vials. If, therefore, the judgments of the seventh are not already begun, a fact of which I am doubtful, they certainly cannot be distant. The present time is, of course, the very period for which this command was given.

THE two great reasons for the command are subjoined to it by the Saviour—”that ye be not partakers of her sins; and that ye receive not of her plagues;” and each is a reason of incomprehensible magnitude.

THE sins of these enemies of Christ, and Christians, are of numbers and degrees, which mock account and description. All that the malice and atheism of the Dragon, the cruelty and rapacity of the Beast, and the fraud and deceit of the false Prophet, can generate, or accomplish, swell the list. No personal, or national interest of man has been uninvaded; no impious sentiment, or action, against God has been spared; no malignant hostility against Christ, and his religion, has been unattempted. Justice, truth, kindness, piety, and moral obligation universally, have been, not merely trodden under foot; this might have resulted from vehemence and passion; but ridiculed, spurned, and insulted, as the childish bugbears of driveling idiocy. Chastity and decency have been alike turned out of doors; and shame and pollution called out of their dens to the hall of distinction, and the chair of state. Nor has any art, violence, or means, been unemployed to accomplish these evils.

FOR what end shall we be connected with men, of whom this is the character and conduct? Is it that we may assume the same character, and pursue the same conduct? Is it, that our churches may become temples of reason, our Sabbath a decade, and our psalms of praise Marseillois hymns? Is it, that we may change our holy worship into a dance of Jacobin phrenzy, and that we may behold a strumpet personating a Goddess on the altars of JEHOVAH? Is it that we may see the Bible cast into a bonfire, the vessels of the sacramental supper borne by an ass in public procession, and our children, either wheedled or terrified, uniting in the mob, chanting mockeries against God, and hailing in the sounds of Caira the ruin of their religion, and the loss of their souls? Is it, that we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution; soberly dishonoured; speciously polluted; the outcasts of delicacy and virtue, and the lothing of God and man? Is it, that we may see, in our public papers, a solemn comparison drawn by an American Mother club between the Lord Jesus Christ and a new Marat; and the fiend of malice and fraud exalted above the glorious Redeemer?

SHALL we, my brethren, become partakers of these sins? Shall we introduce them into our government, our schools, our families? Shall our sons become the disciples of Voltaire, and the dragoons of Marat (See a four years Residence in France, lately published by Mr. Cornelius Davis of New York. This is a most valuable and interesting work, and exhibits the French Revolution in a far more perfect light than any book I have seen. It ought to be read by every American.); or our daughters the concubines of the Illuminati?

SOME of my audience may perhaps say, “We do not believe such crimes to have existed.” The people of Jerusalem did not believe, that they were in danger, until the Chaldeans surrounded their walls. The people of Laish were secure, when the children of Dan lay in ambush around their city. There are in every place, and in every age, persons “who are settled upon their lees,” who take pride in disbelief, and “who say in their heart, the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” Some persons disbelieve through ignorance; some choose not to be informed; and some determine not to be convinced. The two last classes cannot be persuaded. The first may, perhaps, be at least alarmed, when they are told, that the evidence of all this, and much more, is complete, that it has been produced to the public, and may with a little pains-taking be known by themselves.

THERE are others, who, admitting the fact, deny the danger. “If others,” say they, “are ever so abandoned, we need not adopt either their principles, or their practices.” Common sense has however declared, two thousand years ago, and God has sanctioned the declaration, that “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Of this truth all human experience is one continued and melancholy proof. I need only add, that these persons are prepared to become the first victims of the corruption by this very selfconfidence and security.

SHOULD we, however, in a forbidden connection with these enemies of God, escape, against all hope, from moral ruin, we shall still receive our share of their plagues. This is the certain dictate of the prophetical injunction; and our own experience, and that of nations more intimately connected with them, has already proved its truth.

LOOK for conviction to Belgium; sunk into the dust of insignificance and meanness, plundered, insulted, forgotten, never to rise more. See Batavia wallowing in the same dust; the butt of fraud, rapacity, and derision, struggling in the last stages of life, and searching anxiously to find a quiet grave. See Venice sold in the shambles, and made the small change of a political bargain. Turn your eyes to Switzerland, and behold its happiness, and its hopes, cut off at a single stroke: happiness, erected with the labour and the wisdom of three centuries; hopes, that not long since hailed the blessings of centuries yet to come. What have they spread, but crimes and miseries; Where have they trodden, but to waste, to pollute, and to destroy?

ALL connection with them has been pestilential. Among ourselves it has generated nothing but infidelity, irreligion, faction, rebellion, the ruin of peace, and the loss of property. In Spain, in the Sardinian monarchy, in Genoa, it has sunk the national character, blasted national independence, rooted out confidence, and forerun destruction.

BUT France itself has been the chief seat of the evils, wrought by these men. The unhappy and ever to be pitied inhabitants of that country, a great part of whom are doubtless of a character similar to that of the peaceable citizens of other countries, and have probably no voluntary concern in accomplishing these evils, have themselves suffered far more from the hands of philosophists, and their followers, than the inhabitants of any other country. General Danican, a French officer, asserts in his memoirs, lately published, that three millions of Frenchmen have perished in the Revolution. Of this amazing destruction the causes by which it was produced, the principles on which it was founded, and the modes in which it was conducted, are an aggravation, that admits no bound. The butchery of the stall, and the slaughter of the stye, are scenes of deeper remorse, and softened with more sensibility. The siege of Lyons, and the judicial massacres at Nantes, stand, since the crucifixion, alone in the volume of human crimes. The misery of man never before reached the extreme of agony, nor the infamy of man its consummation. Collot D. Herbois and his satellites, Carrier and his associates, would claim eminence in a world of fiends, and will be marked with distinction in the future hissings of the universe. No guilt so deeply died in blood, since the phrenzied malice of Calvary, will probably so amaze the assembly of the final day; and Nantes and Lyons may, without a hyperbole, obtain a literal immortality in a remembrance revived beyond the grave.

IN which of these plagues, my brethren, are you willing to share? Which of them will you transmit as a legacy to your children?

WOULD you escape, you must separate yourselves. Would you wholly escape, you must be wholly separated. I do not intend, that you must not buy and sell, or exhibit the common offices of justice and good will; but you are bound by the voice of reason, of duty, of safety, and of God, to shun all such connection with them, as will interweave your sentiments or your friendship, your religion or your policy, with theirs. You cannot otherwise fail of partaking in their guilt, and receiving of their plagues.

4thly. ANOTHER duty, to which we are no less forcibly called, is union among ourselves.

THE same divine Person, who spoke in the Text, hath also said, “A house, a kingdom, divided against itself cannot stand.” A divided family will destroy itself. A divided nation will anticipate ruin, prepared by its enemies. Switzerland, Geneva, Genoa, Venice, the Sardinian territories, Belgium, and Batavia, are melancholy examples of the truth of this declaration of our Saviour; beacons, which warn, with a gloomy and dreadful light, the nations who survive their ruin.

THE great bond of union to every people is its government. This destroyed, or distrusted, there is no center left of intelligence, counsel, or action; no system of purposes, or measures; no point of rallying, or confidence. When a nation is ready to say, “What part have we in David, or what inheritance in the son of Jesse?” it will naturally subjoin, “Every man to his tent, O Israel!”

THE candour and uprightness, with which our own government has acted in the progress of the present controversy, have forced encomiums even from its most bitter opposers, and excited the warmest approbation and applause of all its friends. Few objects could be more important, auspicious, or gratifying to christians, than to see the conduct of their rulers such, as they can, with boldness of access, bring before their God, and fearlessly commend to his favour and protection.

IN men, possessed of similar candour, adherence to our government, in the present crisis, may be regarded as a thing of course. They need not be informed, that the existing rulers must be the directors of our public affairs, and the only directors; that their views and measures will not and cannot always accord with the judgment of individuals, as the opinions of individuals accord no better with each other; that the officers of government are possessed of better information than private persons can be; that, if they had the same information, they would probably coincide with the opinions of their rulers; that confidence must be placed in men, imperfect as they are, in all human affairs, or no important business can be done; and that men of known and tried probity are fully deserving of that confidence.

AT the present time this adherence ought to be unequivocally manifested. In a land of universal suffrage, where every individual is possessed of much personal consequence as in ours, the government ought, especially in great measures, to be as secure, as may be, of the harmonious and cheerful co-operation of the citizens. All success, here, depends on the hearty concurrence of the community; and no occasion ever called for it more.

BUT there are, even in this State, persons, who are opposed to the government. To them I observe, That the government of France has destroyed the independence of every nation, which has confided in it.

THAT every such nation has been ruined by its internal divisions, especially by the separation of the people from their government.

THAT they have attempted to accomplish our ruin by the same means, and will certainly accomplish it, if they can;

THAT the miseries suffered by the subjugated nations have been numberless and extreme, involving the loss of national honour, the immense plunder of public and private property, the conflagration of churches and dwellings, the total ruin of families, the butchery of great multitudes of fathers and sons, and the most deplorable dishonour of wives and daughters;

THAT the same miseries will be repeated here, if in their power.

THAT there is, under God, no mean of escaping this ruin, but union among ourselves, and unshaken adherence to the existing government;

THAT themselves have an infinitely higher interest in preserving the independence of their country, than in any thing, which can exist, should it be conquered;

THAT they must stand, or fall, with their country; since the French, like all other conquerors, though they may for a little time regard them, as aids and friends, with a seeming partiality, will soon lose that partiality in a general contempt and hatred for them, as Americans. That should they, contrary to all experience, escape these evils, their children will suffer them as extensively as those of their neighbours; and

THAT to oppose, or neglect, the defence of their country, is to stab the breast, from which they have drawn their life.

I KNOW not that even these considerations will prevail: if they do not, nothing can be suggested by me, which will have efficacy. I must leave them, therefore, to their consciences, and their God.

IN the mean time, since the great facts, of which this controversy has consisted, have not, during the preceding periods, been thoroughly known, or believed, by all; and since all questions of expediency will be viewed differently by different eyes; I cannot but urge a general spirit of conciliation. To men labouring under mere mistakes, and prejudices void of malignity, hard names are in most cases unhappily applied, and unkindness is unwisely exhibited. Multitudes, heretofore attached to France with great ardour, have, from full conviction of the necessity of changing their sentiments and their conduct, come forth in the most decisive language, and determined conduct, of defenders of their country. More are daily exhibiting the same spirit and measures. Almost all native Americans will, I doubt not, speedily appear in the same ranks; and none should, in my opinion, be discouraged by useless obloquy.

  1. ANOTHER duty, injoined in the text, and highly incumbent on us at this time, is unshaken firmness in our opposition.

A STEADY and invincible firmness is the chief instrument of great atchievements. It is the prime mean of great wealth, learning, wisdom, power and virtue; and without it nothing noble or useful is usually accomplished. Without it our separation from our enemies, and our union among ourselves, will avail to no end. The cause is too complex, the object too important, to be determined by a single effort. It is infinitely too important to be given up, let the consequence be what it may. No evils, which can flow from resistance, can be so great as those, which must flow from submission. Great sacrifices of property, of peace, and of life, we may be called to make, but they will fall short of complete ruin. If they should not, it will be more desirable, beyond computation, to fall in the honourable and faithful defence of our families, our country, and our religion, than to survive, the melancholy, debased, and guilty spectators of the ruin of all. We contend for all that is, or ought to be, dear to man. Our cause is eminently that, in which “he who seeketh to save his life shall lose it, and he who loseth it,” in obedience to the command of his Master, “shall find it” beyond the grave. To our enemies we have done no wrong. Unspotted justice looks down on all our public measures with a smile. We fight for that, for which we can pray. We fight for the lives, the honor, the safety, of our wives and children, for the religion of our fathers, and for the liberty, “with which Christ hath made us free.” “We jeopard our lives,” that our children may inherit these glorious blessings, be rescued from the grinding insolence of foreign despotism, and saved from the corruption and perdition of foreign atheism. I am a father. I feel the usual parental tenderness for my children. I have long soothed the approach of declining years with the fond hope of seeing my sons serving God and their generation around me. But from cool conviction I declare in this solemn place, I would far rather follow them one by one to an untimely grave, than to behold them, however prosperous, the victims of philosophism. What could I then believe, but that they were “nigh unto cursing, and that their end was to be burned.”

FROM two sources only are we in danger of irresolution; Avarice, and a reliance on those fair professions, which our enemies have begun to make, and which they will doubtless continue to make, in degrees, and with insidiousness, still greater.

ON the first of these sources I observe, that, if we grudge a part of our property in the defence of our country, we lose the whole; and not only the whole of our property, but all our comforts, and all our hopes. Every enjoyment of life, every solace of sorrow, will be offered up in one vast hecatomb at the shrine of pride, plunder, impurity, and atheism. Those “who fear not God, regard not man.” All interests, beside their own, are in the view of such men the sport of wantonness, of insolence, and of a heart of millstone. They and their engines will soon tell you, if you do not put it out of their power, as one of the same engines told the miserable inhabitants of Neuwied (in Germany) unhappily placing confidence in their professions.

Hear the story, in the words of Professor Robison, “If ever there was a spot upon earth, where men may be happy in a state of cultivated society, it was the little principality of Neuwied. I saw it in 1770. The town was neat, and the palace handsome and in good state. But the country was beyond conception delightful; not a cottage that was out of repair; not a hedge out of order. It had been the hobby of the Prince (pardon me the word) who made it his daily employment to go through his principality, and assist every housholder, of whatever condition, with his advice and with his purse; and when a freeholder could not of himself put things into a thriving condition, the Prince sent his workmen and did it for him. He endowed schools for the common people and two academies for the gentry and the people of business. He gave little portions to the daughters, and prizes to the well-behaving sons of the labouring people. His own houshold was a pattern of elegance and economy; his sons were sent to Paris, to learn elegance, and to England, to learn science and agriculture. In short the whole was like a romance, and was indeed romantic. I heard it spoken of with a smile at the table of the Bishop of Treves, and was induced to see it the next day as a curiosity. Yet even here the fanaticism of Knigge (one of the founders of the Illuminati) would distribute his poison, and tell the blinded people that they were in a state of sin and misery, that their Prince was a despot, and that they would never be happy ’till he was made to fly, and ’till they were made all equal.”

“THEY got their wish. The swarm of French locusts sat down at Neuwied’s beautiful fields, in 1793, and intrenched themselves; and in three months Prince’s and Farmers’ houses, and cottages, and schools, and academies, all vanished. When they complained of their miseries to the French General, René le Grand, he replied, with a contemptuous and cutting laugh, “All is ours. We have left you your eyes to cry.”

WILL you trust such professions? Have not your enemies made them to every country, which they have subjugated? Have they fulfilled them to one? Will they prove more sincere to you? Have they not deceived you in every expectation hitherto? On what grounds can you rely on them hereafter?

WILL you grudge your property for the defence of itself, of your families, of yourselves. Will you preserve it to pay the price of a Dutch loan? to have it put in requisition by the French Directory? to label it on your doors, that they may, without trouble and without a tax bill, send their soldiers and take it for the use of the Republic? Will you keep it to assist them to pay their fleets and armies for subduing you? and to maintain their forts and garrisons for keeping you in subjection? Shall it become the purchase of a French fete, holden to commemorate the massacres of the 10th of August, the butcheries of the 3d of September, or the murder of Louis the 16th, your former benefactor? Shall it furnish the means for Representatives of the people to roll through your streets on the wheels of splendour, to imprison your sons and fathers; to seize on all the comforts, which you have earned with toil, and laid up with care; and to gather your wives, sisters, and daughters, into their brutal seraglios? Shall it become the price of the guillotine, and pay the expense of cleansing your streets from brooks of human blood?

WILL you rely on men whose principles justify falshood, injustice, and cruelty? Will you trust philosophists? men who set truth at nought, who make justice a butt of mockery, who deny the being and providence of God, and laugh at the interests and sufferings of men? Think not that such men can change. They can scarcely be worse. There is not a hope that they will become better.

BUT perhaps you may be alarmed by the power, and the successes, of your enemies. I am warranted to declare, that the ablest judge of this subject in America has said, that, if we are united, firm, and faithful to ourselves, neither France, nor all Europe, can subdue these States. Against other nations they contended with great and decisive advantages. Those nations were near to them, were divided, feeble, corrupted, seduced by philosophists, slaves of despotism, and separated from their government. None of these characters can be applied to us, unless we voluntarily retain those, which depend on ourselves. Three thousand miles of ocean spread between us and our enemies, to enfeeble and disappoint their efforts. They will not here contend with silken Italians, with divided Swissers, nor with self-surrendered Belgians and Batavians. They will find a hardy race of freemen, uncorrupted by luxury, unbroken by despotism; enlightened to understand their privileges, glowing with independence, and determined to be free, or to die: men who love, and who will defend, their familes, their country, and their religion: men fresh from triumph, and strong in a recent and victorious Revolution.

Doubled, since that Revolution began, in their numbers, and quadrupled in their resources and advantages, at home, in a country formed to disappoint invasion, and to prosper defence, under leaders skilled in all the arts and duties of war, and trained in the path of success, they have, if united, firm, and faithful, every thing to hope, and, beside the common evils of war, nothing to fear.

THINK not that I trust in chariots and in horses. My own reliance is, I hope, I ardently hope yours is, also, on the Lord our God. All these are his most merciful blessings, and, as such, most supporting consolations to us. They are the very means, which he has provided for our safety, and our hope. Stupidity, sloth, and ingratitude, can alone be blind to them as tokens for good. We are not, my brethren, to look for miracles, nor to expect God to accomplish them. We are to trust in him for the blessings of a regular and merciful providence. Such a providence is over us for good. I have recited abundant proofs, and could easily recite many more. All these are means, with which we are to plant, and to water, and in answer to our prayers God will certainly give the increase.

BUT I am peculiarly confident in the promised blessing of the Text. Our contention is a plain duty to God. The same glorious Person, who has commanded it, has promised to crown our obedience with his blessing; and has thus illumined this gloomy prediction, and shed the dawn of hope and comfort over this melancholy period.

TO you the promise is eminently supporting. He has won your faith by the great things he has already done for your fathers, and for you. The same Almighty Hand, which destroyed the fleet of Chebucto by the storm, and whelmed it in the deep; which conducted into the arms of Manly, and of Mugford, those means of war, which for the time saved your country; which raised up your Washington to guide your armies and your councils; which united you with your brethren against every expectation and hope; which disappointed the devices of enemies without, and traitors within; which bade the winds and the waves fight for you at Yorktown; which has, in later periods, repeatedly disclosed the machinations of your enemies, and which has now roused a noble spirit of resistance to intrigue and to terror; will accomplish for you a final deliverance from the hand of those, “who seek your hurt.” He has been your fathers’ God, and he will be yours.

LOOK through the history of your country. You will find scarcely less glorious and wonderful proofs of divine protection and deliverance, uniformly administered through every period of our existence as a people, than shone to the people of Israel in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in Canaan. Can it be believed, can it be, that Christianity has been so planted here, the Church of God so established, so happy a Government constituted, and so desirable a state of Society begun, merely to shew them to the world, and then destroy them? No instance can be found in the providence of God, in which a nation so wonderfully established, and preserved, has been overthrown, until it had progressed farther in corruption. We may be cast down; but experience only will prove to me, that we shall be destroyed.

BUT the consideration, which ought of itself to decide your opinions and your conduct, and which adds immense weight to all the others, is that the alternative, as exhibited in the prediction, and in providence, is beyond measure dreadful, and is at hand. “Behold,” saith the Saviour, “I come as a thief”—suddenly, unexpectedly, alarmingly— as that wasting enemy, the burglar, breaks up the house in the hour of darkness, when all the inhabitants are lost in sleep and security. How strongly do the great events of the present day shew this awful advent of the King of Kings to be at the doors?

TURN your eyes, for a moment, to the face of providence, and mark its new and surprising appearance. The Jews, for the first time since the destruction of Jerusalem by Adrian, have, in these States, been admitted to the rights of citizenship; and have since been admitted to the same rights in Prussia. They have also, as we are informed, appointed a solemn delegation to examine the evidences of Christianity. In the Austrian dominions, it is asserted, they have agreed to observe the Christian Sabbath; and in England, have in considerable numbers embraced the Christian religion. New and unprecedented efforts have been made, and are fast increasing, in England, Scotland, Germany, and the United States, for the conversion of the Heathen. Measures have, in Europe, and in America, been adopted, and are still enlarging, for putting an end to the African slavery, which will within a moderate period bring it to an end. Mohammedism is nearly extinct in Persia, one of the chief supports of that imposture. In Turkey, its other great support, the throne totters to its fall. The great Calamities of the present period have fallen, also, almost exclusively upon the Antichristian empire; and almost every part of that empire has drunk deeply of the cup. France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, the Sardinian monarchy, the Austrian dominions, Venice, Genoa, popish Switzerland, the Ecclesiastical State, popish Germany, Poland, and the French West-Indies, have all been visited with judgments wonderful and terrible; and in exact accordance with prophecy have furthered their own ruin. The Kings, or states, of this empire are now plainly “hating the whore, eating her flesh, and burning her with fire.” Batavia, Protestant Switzerland, some parts of protestant Germany, and Geneva, have most unwisely, not to say wickedly, refused “to come out” and have therefore “partaken of the sins, and received of the plagues,” of their enemies. To the same unhappy cause our own smartings may all be traced; but blessed be God, there is reason to hope, that “we are escaping from the snare of the fowler.”

SO sudden, so unexpected, so alarming a state of things has not existed since the deluge. Every mouth proclaims, every eye looks its astonishment. Wonders daily succeed wonders, and are beginning to be regarded as the standing course of things. As they are of so many kinds, exist in so many places, and respect so many objects; kinds, places and objects, all marked out in prophecy, exhibited as parts of one closely united system, and to be expected at the present time; they shew that this affecting declaration is even now fulfilling in a surprising manner, and that the advent of Christ is at least at our doors. Think how awful this period is. Think what convulsions, what calamities, are portended by that great Voice out of the temple of Heaven from the Throne.—”It is done!” by the voices and thunderings and lightnings, by the unprecedented shaking of the earth, the unexampled plague of hailstones, the fleeing of the islands, the vanishing of the mountains, the rending asunder of the Antichristian empire, the united ascent of all its sins before God, the falling of the cities of the nations, the general embattling of mankind against their Maker, and their final overthrow, in such immense numbers, that “all the fowls shall be filled with their flesh.”

“GOD is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind, and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt; and the earth is burnt at his presence, yea the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?”

IN this amazing conflict, amidst this stupendous and immeasurable ruin, how transporting the thought, that safety and peace may be certainly found. O thou God of our fathers! our own God! and the God of our children! enable us so to watch, and keep our garments, in this solemn day, that our shame appear not, and that both we and our posterity may be entitled to the blessing which thou hast promised. AMEN.

Sermon – Christmas – 1818

Aaron Bancroft (1755-1839) was a minute-man who served during the Revolution, fighting at Lexington and Bunker Hill. He graduated from Harvard in 1778 and was a missionary in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for 3 years. Bancroft served as pastor of the Congregational Church in Worcester, MA (1785-1839). The following Christmas sermon was preached in1818 in Worcester by Rev. Bancroft.


sermon-christmas-1818

The Doctrine of Immortality.

A

Christmas

SERMON

Delivered in

WORCESTER,

1818.

BY AARON BANCROFT, D. D.
PASTOR FO THE SECOND CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.

A Christmas Sermon.

The human mind is prone to pass from one extreme to its opposite. This observation may be illustrated from the history of the Christian community. The Roman Catholic Church carried ceremonial observances in religious worship to extreme abuse. They canonized numerous saints, and appointed so many days to be religiously observed in honor of their memory, as greatly to int4erfere with the important business of society. Like the Pharisees of old, the rulers of this church, in its corrupt age, made religion essentially to consist in the superstitious observance of external forms; and public worship with them degenerated into a splendid but lifeless ceremonial service.

But when the English Church threw off the yoke of Popery, their rulers, in the opinion of many discerning and pious men, retained too many of the forms of the ecclesiastical establishment from which they separated. The ceremonies which they did preserve, were certainly enforced by measures which in their operation infringed the rights of private judgment, and violated the humane spirit of their religion.

Our ancestors, who fled from this imposition on conscience, associated with their disaffection to the dominating temper and the abusive practices of that hierarchy, a dislike to nearly all the circumstances common to its public services. Every instrument of music was excluded from houses of religious worship; and a form of ecclesiastical government and religious service was excluded from houses of religious worship; and a form of ecclesiastical government and religious service was adopted, the best suited, perhaps, to the infant state of the colony, but not fitted for a great and independent nation in the state of improved society.

Christmas was pre-eminently distinguished among the holy days of the Romish and the English church; and the general opposition of our forefathers to their superstitions and abuses was extended to this festival. They through several succeeding generations not only refused to join in the religious offices of the season, but they also scrupulously abstained on this anniversary from those articles of the table, which usually composed a part of a Christmas dinner.

We, their favored descendants, fondly cherish the highest veneration for their memories; we dwell with delight on their live of civil and religious liberty, on their piety and patriotism; our hearts are warmed by grateful recollections as often as we review the invaluable institutions which they have transmitted to us; and at the same time we rejoice that we are liberated from the prejudices which their situation rendered unavoidable Not feeling the pressure of that iron hand which bore heavily on them, we can calmly separate accidental circumstances from essential principles. With higher means of instruction, we can consistently drop the weak and indifferent appendages of their system, while we sacredly adhere to its sound and vital parts.

In respect to ceremonial observances, a more liberal spirit now prevails through our country. In many of our religious societies organs have been in introduced in church music; and in most of them other instruments are now used without giving offence. While, in the progress of society, all other institutions have their appropriate ornaments, many think, that if social worship be left without decoration, it will be destitute of those external attraction, which to a large portion of mankind are beneficial, if not necessary. And they imagine that embellishment may be introduced without corrupting the spirituality, or lessening the moral influence of public worship.

Situated as we are, may we not, without unreasonable bias, determine the degree of estimation in which Christmas services ought to be holden by a Christian community? The New Testament has not appointed anniversary services in commemoration of the birth of our Savior. If we celebrate this event, we should consider it as a privilege with which we are indulged, not as a duty divinely enjoined. This celebration is not by divine authority appointed; it is not by divine authority forbidden. Its expediency should be determined by its probable effects. We publicly commemorate the anniversary of our national independence; we publicly honor the memories of the benefactors of our country. Is it not then proper, that we should celebrate the advent of Emanuel into our world? Is any other event great in comparison with this? Has any other being appeared among men to whom we are under obligations of gratitude, when compared with him?

Should any object to the time of this celebration, on the plea,, that we have not conclusive proof respecting the particular day on which our Savior was born, our answer is, the objection on the point before us has no force. Christ the Savior was born into our world; whether we celebrate his appearance on the precise day of his birth, or on some other, to a religious purpose is a circumstance of no importance. The Christian community in general entertain the same opinion respecting the time; if the event be publicly noticed, it is convenient, and therefore desirable, that there should be uniformity in the day of celebration.

The useful purposes contemplated by the religious observances of the season are these : to direct our serious attention to the great salvation, which Jesus Christ descended from heaven to publish to a sinful world; to excite in us suitable returns of gratitude for the inestimable privileges we possess as his disciples; to animate us to sustain with firmness and consistency the Christian profession; to inspire us with diligence in the cultivation of the Christian graces and virtues; and to insure our perseverance in the path towards Christian perfection.

The passage of Scripture which I have chosen as the theme of our Discourse, will be found in

HOSEA xiii. 14. I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plague. O grave, I will be thy destruction.

THOUGH these sublime declarations be considered as having a primary reference to the nation of Israel, yet, in their general sense, they may without violence be taken as expressive of the great doctrine of immortality, which Jesus Christ came into our world to establish and proclaim. In this doctrine we all have the deepest interest. Admit, that existence of endless duration, and of unchangeable happiness, is attainable by us, and all worldly objects lose their comparative worth. Admit, that the Christian path leads to the realms of glory, honor and immortality, and the motives to Christian piety and virtue are presented to the human mind, which all the temptations to the unlawful pursuits and to the inordinate indulgences of the world cannot weaken. Can we then, my Christian brethren, better improve the season, than in contemplating our title to eternal life by the promise of the Gospel? We then shall be excited to religious gratitude to him, who died that we might live forever; we shall establish ourselves in the resolution strenuously to exert ourselves to acquire the qualifications of the disciple of the Prince of Life; and shall, by the blessing of God, become prepared to passion in the way of salvation with joy and gladness.

From our text, we will,

1. Review in a cursory manner the history of the doctrine of immortality among the nations of the earth before the birth of our Savior.

2. Attend to the information of the Gospel on this important subject.

3. Consider the influence which the instruction and the promises of the Gospel ought to have on our dispositions and conduct.

1. To review the history of the doctrine of immortality among the nations of the earth before the birth of our Savior.

The expectation of a future state of existence has been common to men in every age of the world. Nations the most ignorant and barbarous discover this persuasion. Men, who appear to have bounded their inquiries by the simple wants of animal existence, express their belief of life beyond the grave. Whether these apprehensions naturally result from religious principles, interwoven into the human constitution principles, interwoven into the human constitution and which cause men, without the aid of revelation or philosophy, to rise superior to the threatening appearances of death, and to embrace the hope of immortality; or, whether these are traditionary notions, transmitted from the early age of the world, and which had their origin in divine communication, is not easy to determine. The unquestionable fact is, that men, in situations the most unfavorable for religious inquiries, have entertained the expectation of existence after death. Though they believe the human body to be corruptible; though they are the witnesses of the death of their friends, and see their bodies mingling with the dust; yet they imagine their deceased relations and acquaintances still to exist, and they suppose them existing with the same bodily shape, with the same appetites and passions, which they possessed on earth. Being unacquainted with the higher pleasures of an intellectual and moral nature, the heaven of the ignorant savage consists in the gratification of animal desires; and his expected happiness in a future world is merely the completion of his earthly wishes.

The theological systems of those Heathen nations which had made the greatest attainments in science and literature, were not favorable to the acquisition of religious knowledge, or the cultivation of the moral virtues. These systems contained many principles well calculated to make ignorant men the submissive subjects of civil government, and recommended a round of weak and debasing services, fitted, in the apprehension of a deluded people, to induce the Presiding Divinity propitiously to regard national prosperity and individual safety; but which possessed little to instruct inquiring mind respecting the nature of moral government, or to enlighten the man in rational views of futurity, who was anxiously desirious to look behind the curtain of death. A man might scrupulously fulfil every requisition of the established religion of Greece and Rome, and at the same time cherish the worst propensities of the human heart, and habitually indulge himself in the most impure acts of vice. The doctrines respecting futurity, publicly inculcated, were blended with extravagant fables and superstitious rites, and they did not furnish adequate motives to persuade men to discipline their passions, or soberly to govern their lives.

The reasonings of the Heathen philosophers never gave satisfaction on the subject of immortality. The wisest of them labored for the discovery of proofs to establish this interesting position in theology. Their arguments are plausible, and perhaps lay a foundation for the support of a good moral life, and for hope in death; but the greatest of them express uncertainty on the point, and acknowledge that adequate information can never be obtained, unless it should please God to send a messenger from heaven to publish to the family of man his future intentions respecting them. None of the Heathens sages had any apprehensions of the resurrection of the body; and many of them, in their reasonings on the doctrine of immortality, bewildered themselves with metaphysical distinctions, and darkened the subject by words without knowledge. Perhaps a candid and discerning man would rise from the perusal of all the dissertations composed by the moral philosophers of the old world on the doctrine of immortality, with a mind rather perplexed than enlightened; with his doubts and fears rather multiplied, than his belief and hope established. This appears to have been the state of the case in the Gentile world on the point before us. The natural reason and conscience of men direct their views to a future life, in which they will receive a reward corresponding with their present actions. Every man, learned and ignorant, perceives the influence of these principles. Moral philosophers stretched their powers to lay a stable foundation for the belief of that future existence of which they had a glimpse, and to acquire adequate views of that condition of being to which they aspired; but they did not succeed; they arrived not at a conclusion on which they could rely with certainty or satisfaction. In the vain attempt to define the human soul, and to explain the mode of its future existence, and the manner of its future exercises, they met with insuperable difficulties, and divided into various sects. Some of them, failing in the endeavor to support a favorite hypothesis by solid arguments, renounced their scheme, and with it the doctrine of immortality, and stifled the natural apprehensions of the human mind as erroneous.

The people of Israel possessed better means of instruction on the sublime doctrine of immortality, than had the Pagan nations around them. They were taught the unity, the holiness, and the universal supremacy of God. They had the fullest evidence of the super intendency of God over the affairs of men. Their history furnished them with examples of an immediate intercourse with the spiritual world; and the translation of Enoch and Elijah were fitted to raise their views to a higher state of being. I cannot therefore for a moment doubt, that the individuals among this people, who were distinguished for their piety, supported themselves, under the trials of the present life, by a belief of a future state of retribution, and died in the hope of a blessed immortality. Nor can I suppose, that the nation generally were destitute of the expectation of a future life. But we know that the Sadducees, not a small sect, totally rejected, even in the time of our Savior, the doctrine future existence : they said “that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit.” The Mosaick institution was preparatory to that of the Gospel. In the doctrine of immortality was but imperfectly revealed. Future rewards and punishments composed no part of the sanction of the law of Moses. Indeed, some learned and pious Christians are of the opinion, that was the doctrine is not to be found in this dispensation. We cannot with certainty say, that the devout Jews, who believed in a future state, adopted the opinion merely on the authority of their sacred books.

The result of our review then is this. The doctrine of the immortality of man was not established with moral certainty before the appearance of Jesus Christ in our world.

Let us,

2. Attend to the information of the Gospel on this important subject.

Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light. Jesus, the Prince of Life, has dispersed the clouds which obscured our prospects of a future state. He has solved the doubts on this subject which perplexed the wisest of men. He has broken down the wall of partition between time and eternity, and presented the heavenly world to our view in all its glories. He has established the doctrine of a future retribution on a foundation that cannot be moved, made it an adequate support of a pious and virtuous life, and the sure ground of hope and joy in death. By his own resurrection he has given an earnest of the future resurrection of his disciples. Then the prophetical declaration of our text will be fully accomplished. “I am he,” says our Savior, “that liveth and was dead : and behold I am alive forever more, and have the keys of death.” “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” “The hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth.” “The sea shall give up the dead that are in it; and death and the grave shall deliver up the dead that are in them.” “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Such is the language of the New-Testament on this subject.

Arguments in favor of immortality, drawn from the nature of the human soul, from the attributes of God, from the traces of a moral government visible in the present state and from every view which can be taken of natural religion, all have their place in the defense of Christianity, and help to make it the more credible. But the information of the Gospel on the doctrine of our future existence is most plain and direct. It is adapted to every capacity, and fitted to enlighten every mind. It is information, not given as the result of abstract reasoning and logical deduction, but it is given by the Parent of Life, and the moral Governor of the Universe; and he, in his goodness and mercy, has been pleased to confirm our faith in his divine communication, by raising his Son from the grave, whom he commissioned to publish the glad tidings of salvation to a guilty world. The future existence of men is exemplified to human view in the renewed life of the savior; and our belief of its reality may rest on a fact capable of proof like other facts — a fact made credible to us by the testimony of plain men, who were witnesses of its reality; and whose testimony is fortified by their general character, by the cheerful sacrifice of worldly interest and of life in support of their veracity, and by every circumstance which has attended the establishment and preservation of Christianity.

The enlightened, the confirmed Christian, cannot doubt his own immortality. He can never entertain fears of annihilation, from the mere contemplation of which our minds recoil in horror.

The more forcibly to show the value of the instruction of the Gospel, permit me to place before you in contrast, the views of a Heathen and of a Christian philosopher on our subject. We will select, as an example, the moral sage who was a master of all Grecian and Roman learning, who wrote on the nature of the Presiding Divinity, on moral virtue, and on the immortality of man, and who, in every accomplishment, stood pre-eminent among the great and the wise. Cicero, the ornament and the boast of Rome, observes, that one time a future state seemed to him to be fully proved; that at another, all his arguments appeared to vanish and he was left in doubt. He remarks, that it was in his retired moments, and whilst he devoted himself to deep meditation, that he felt satisfied with the result of his researches, and without reserve admitted the belief of immortality; and that, as soon as he entered society, other feelings arose, and amidst worldly pursuits the expectation of a future life passed from his mind. Writing to a friend, Cicero expresses himself in the following manner: — “I do not see, why I may not venture to declare freely to you what my thoughts are concerning death. Perhaps I may discover, better than others, what it is , because I am now, by reason of my age, not far from it. I believe that the Fathers, those eminent persons and my particular friends, are still alive, and that they live the life which only deserves the name of life. Nor has reason only and disputation brought me to the belief, but the famous judgment and authority of the chief philosophers. O glorious day! when I shall go to the council and assembly of spirits; when I shall go out of this tumult and confusion; when I shall be gathered to all those brave spirits who have left the world; and when I shall meet the greatest and best of men. But if, after all, I am mistaken herein, I am pleased with my error, which I would not willingly part with, while I live; and if, after my death, I shall be deprived of all sense, I have no fear of being imposed upon and laughed at in the other world for this my mistake.”

Here the moral philosopher of Rome mentions a future state of being as a probable truth, and as the object of his hope, but not as a doctrine founded on such clear proof as to fix his unshaken faith. Even this probability draws from him an impassioned eulogy on its felicity. But his doubts damp the ardor of his feelings, and he derives security to his hope from the consideration, that if the present life should close human existence, annihilation will free him from ridicule.

St. Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, was also a believer in the doctrine of man’s immortality. He entertained the hope of being admitted, at death, not only to the spirits of just men made perfect, but also to the assembly of angels, to the company of his Divine Master, and to the presence of God. But his opinion rested not on that slight evidence which, thought sufficient to charm the imagination under the shade of philosophy, or in the silent hour of meditation, yet did not furnish a principle to support the mind under the conflicts of the world. The belief of eternal life was so fully established in his mind, as to become the first object of desire, and the goal to which every exertion was directed. To preach the doctrine of the resurrection and of eternal life, he was ready to sacrifice all worldly enjoyments; and while suffering the heaviest evils incident to the present state of man, he declared, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” Paul also, has left a treatise on death and immortality. In it he expresses neither doubt nor anxiety : he declares the proof of future existence to be complete and satisfactory : so fully was his mind possessed of the expectation of immortal life, that to him it became a present reality : a view of its glories transp0orts his should; and he breaks forth in songs of joy and triumph — “O! death where is thy sting? O! grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We will,

3. Consider the influence which the instruction and the promises of the Gospel ought to have on our dispositions and conduct.

Whether we consider the object of the instruction and promises of the Gospel, or the character of the Being who gave them, we shall perceive the value of our Christian privileges, and feel our obligation to improve them. The object is a blessed immortality; their author Christ, the Son of God to the goodness and mercy of God are we indebted for the scheme of our salvation. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have ever lasting life. But Christ devoted himself, as Mediator, to the execution of the purposes of divine grace and mercy. The angels of heaven were the heralds of the advent of Emanuel; and proclaiming his birth, they gave glory to God on high, and published peace and good will to men. In the high concern of our salvation, Jesus appeared in the nature of man, subjected himself to all the wants of humanity, endured the contradiction of sinners, and yielded himself the victim of the cross. Grateful to God for the gifts of his Son, grateful to Christ for his voluntary mediation, Let us under the influence of our religion, conform ourselves to the divine image, and imitate the example of the Saviour. God in his goodness has given us an assurance of future life : do we with indifference receive the information? In mercy he has by his own Son promised us endless felicity in a future world, on conditions which rove that he consults our present as well as our immortal happiness : can we be unmoved by the gift?

Respecting the influence which religion ought to have on our tempers and practices we may take useful lessons, even from those whose ignorance and superstition we justly compassionate. The infatuated Pagan, in compliance with the requisitions of his system, with alacrity subject himself to the severest bodily tortures, and with apparent delight offers his life in sacrifice to his idol deity. The deluded follower of Mahomet never supposes his religious duty performed, till he has made a painful journey to Mecca, and worshipped at the tomb of his prophet. Shall we Christians, then, we who are instructed in all truth pertaining to eternal life and vindicated into perfect liberty, refuse gratefully to acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master? Shall we neglect to observe those gracious directions which are designed to transform us into a likeness of his perfect character, to make us in disposition the most amiable, in practice the most benevolent and to qualify us for the society of heaven?

May the example of primitive Christians more especially, enliven our diligence in the path of piety and virtue, and fortify our minds with resolution to sustain the conflicts of our probationary course. Animated by the hope of the Gospel, the apostles of our Lord subjected themselves to all terrors of persecution, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. The great body of the first converts to our religion gave full evidence of their faith in the promises of the gospel, and clearly manifested that it had a salutary influence on their tempers and lives. These died in the faith, not having received the promises; but seeing the afar off, were persuaded of their reality, embraced them as the objects of their supreme dependence, and in consequence professed themselves strangers and pilgrims on earth. The motives and assistances, which supported them, are presented to our minds, and our course is free from many of the difficulties and dangers, with which theirs was beset. Let us then, imitate those who, through faith and patience have inherited the promises.

As Christians, we are bound to give a fair exemplification of our religion before the world. As candidates for immortality, it is our first duty and our highest interest to walk worthily of our Christian vocation; for the salvation of our souls is suspended on the improvement of our privileges as the disciples of Jesus Christ. May our religion in its life dwell in our hearts; may it in all its beauty and lustre shine in our lives.

In the consciousness of sincerity and diligence in the high concerns of our probation, let us open our minds to the hope and the joy, to which the Christian character is entitled. Disposed to approach the light of truth, and make it manifest that our deeds are wrought in God, a dependence on the promises of the Gospel being in us the principle of Christian life, let not debasing fear enter into our religious services; but through all worldly vicissitudes, let us rejoice in the Lord, and joy ourselves in the God of our salvation. Not resting satisfied with the things that are seen, but seeking first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, may we with supreme delight consider ourselves as children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, unto an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that will not fade away. — Amen.

*Originally Posted: Dec. 25, 2016

Proclamation – Thanksgiving – 1887, Massachusetts

Oliver Ames (1831-1895) was governor of Massachusetts from 1887-1890. This proclamation was issued on October 26, 1887 for a day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer to be held on November 24, 1887. (See also the Massachusetts 1887 Fasting Proclamation here.)


Commonwealth of Massachusetts
By His Excellency
Oliver Ames, Governor
A Proclamation of Thanksgiving and Praise

In accordance with a good and honored custom established by our fathers, which has added to the happiness of all who have dwelt within our boundaries.

I hereby appoint, with the advice and consent of the Council, Thursday, the twenty-fourth day of November next, to be a day of Public Thanksgiving and Praise to Almighty God for his rich and constant blessings to the people of our beloved Commonwealth.

Let us, on that day, assemble in our places of public worship, and meet our loved ones in the privacy of our homes, not forgetting the unfortunate, the needy, and the sorrowing, but letting our hearts go out to them with the charity of our sympathy and of our abundance.

Let us remember with gratitude that we live under political institutions which guarantee freedom of conscience to all, and which open every avenue of education and virtue to all who desire to walk therein.

Let us humbly acknowledge our dependence upon Him from whom all blessings flow, and heartily thank Him for the prosperity which prevails throughout the Commonwealth.

Given at the Council Chamber, in Boston, this twenty-sixth day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and twelfth.

Oliver Ames,

By His Excellency, the Governor, with the Advice of the Council.
Henry Peirce, Secretary.

God Save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Sermon – Fasting – 1812


Moses Dow (1771-1837) graduated from Dartmouth in 1796. He was pastor of the Second Church in Beverly, MA (1801-1813) and in York, ME (1815-1830). This sermon was preached by Dow on August 20, 1812 on the national fast day, and again on April 8, 1813 on the Massachusetts state fast day.


sermon-fasting-1812-5

A

SERMON,

PREACHED IN BEVERLY,

AUGUST 20, 1812,

THE DAY OF THE

NATIONAL FAST,

ON ACCOUNT OF

WAR WITH GREAT-BRITAIN;

AND AGAIN AT

THE TABERNACLE IN SALEM,

APRIL 8, 1813,

THE DAY OF THE

ANNUAL FAST IN MASSACHUSETTS.

By MOSES DOW, A. M.

A
SERMON.

Luke xix. 41, 42.

AND WHEN HE WAS COME NEAR, HE BEHELD THE CITY, AND WEPT OVER IT, SAYING, IF THOU HADST KNOWN, EVEN THOU, AT LEAST IN THIS THY DAY, THE THINGS WHICH BELONG UNTO THY PEACE! BUT NOW THEY ARE HID FROM THINE EYES.

WHEN our Saviour uttered these pathetic words, he was on his last journey to Jerusalem. There he was going to shed his blood and lay down his life for the redemption and salvation of a lost world. It was not a prospect of his own sufferings which thus affected him. These he had always expected, and was prepared to meet, with heroic and divine fortitude. But a forefight of the miseries coming upon that ungrateful, persecuting city, by the awful justice of God, filled his sympathetic soul with the liveliest impressions of grief. He feared not death; but cheerfully led the way to the place of his execution. From the Mount of Olives he entered the city Jerusalem, riding upon an ass’ colt, amidst the loud acclamations of joy from the whole multitude of his disciples. But when the benevolent Saviour beheld THE DEVOTED CITY, he burst into tears. Pondering upon the Jews’ willful obstinacy—their rejection of all the offers of grace, and the utter ruin which awaited the city, the temple, and its inhabitants, he wept, with the tenderest compassion. And he exclaimed, “as with a wish, or ardent desire,” If thou hadst known, or, Oh that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! The Jews’ day, here intended, was the time in which they had been honoured and favoured with the presence of MESSIAH, their King. This was their day; for Christ and the first preachers of the gospel had spent all their time and labour at Jerusalem. They had been taught repeatedly, by Christ and his apostles, the things which belonged to their peace, prosperity and happiness. But they disregarded their message, would not believe their report, nor follow their instructions. Their hearts were hardened and their minds blinded with a spirit of infatuation. And being left under strong delusions to believe a lie, they preferred falsehood to truth. Thus this once prosperous city was judicially given up of God; her day of gracious privilege was hen expired,—her doom was passed, and every thing conducive to her welfare was, in righteous judgment, “hidden from her eyes.” When Jesus approached this devoted place, a view from the neighbouring hills awakened, in his sympathizing bosom, the liveliest emotions of pity. Though he was about to predict the entire desolation of the city, he did not desire the woeful day:—he did not delight in the destruction even of such wicked people. And therefore he exclaims, in the language of ardent desire, mixed with regret, “Oh, that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.”

The propositions, which we conceive deducible from this passage, are the following:

1. Nations and individuals may neglect the things which belong to their peace, till their case is desperate and past all remedy.

2. A prospect of ruin and misery coming upon the despisers of God’s mercy, will excite the tenderest compassion of all who have the spirit of Christ.

FIRST. Nations and individuals may neglect the things which belong to their peace, till their case is desperate and past all remedy. Short is the period of human life, even though we linger out threescore years and ten. And shorter still may be the day of God’s gracious forbearance, and man’s favourable opportunity to secure the divine favour. For numbers, in every age, “despise the riches of the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God; not knowing that his goodness leads to repentance: but after their hardness and impenitent heart, they treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.” They put far away the evil day, till, by long indulgence, they become feared in conscience, and incurably hardened in sin. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, their hearts are fully set in them to do evil.” God bears with them from time to time. He tries various expedients to turn them from their wicked purposes, to truth and holiness. He visits them with mercies and judgments—with warnings and invitations—with threatenings and promises. But when they have long turned a deaf ear to all his counsels, slighted his proposals, and undervalued his unspeakable blessings;—when they persevere in resisting, quenching and grieving his Holy Spirit, they are ripening fast for remediless destruction. For the Lord has expressly said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” The Spirit of God long strove with men of the old world, by inspiring Enoch, Noah and others to preach and to warn them. He long and patiently bore with them, notwithstanding their rebellions, waiting to be gracious. But, at length, incensed by their obstinate resistance to the warnings of his prophets and the remonstrances of their own consciences, he solemnly resolved to leave them to e hardened in sin, and to ripen for destruction. In like manner the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, by their filthy and abominable wickedness, provoked the Lord, not only to withdraw his restraints, but to make them the monuments of his eternal vengeance. The most astonishing forbearance the Lord manifested also toward the Israelites in the wilderness. Forty years long was he grieved with that generation. At length, grown indignant by their incessant murmurings, ingratitude and rebellion, he sware in his wrath that they should not enter his rest. Their short and limited season of probation was then closed, and their state of eternal retribution commenced.

If we trace the history of the several kingdoms of Judah and Israel, we find them subject to frequent and alternate changes from prosperity to adversity. They were taught, by experience, the truth of that divine aphorism, “WHEN THE RIGHTEOUS ARE IN AUTHORITY, THE PEOPLE REJOICE; BUT WHEN THE WICKED BEARETH RULE, THE PEOPLE MOURN.”

When such men as David and Josiah were their kings, their times were times of reformation, and Providence smiled upon all their concerns. But when such as Ahab, Jeroboam and Manasseh ruled over them, Providence frowned, wickedness increased, and the land mourned. In consequence of the great wickedness of the people, their day of gracious visitation was generally short—their fun of prosperity was soon covered with a dark cloud of adversity.

If we descend to later times, the glory of empires, kingdoms and nations appears still more transitory and fading. On the page of history many of them suddenly arise to view, exhibit a temporary splendor, and then quickly disappear, and are seen no more. By various massacres, famines, pestilence and revolutionary scenes, an immense multitude of governments has arisen, since the dispersion of the Jewish nation. But their prosperity and glory have been like “the morning cloud and the early dew.” Where righteousness has abounded, the nation has been exalted; but when sin has prevailed, it has quickly sunk in reproach and ruin. This has ever been the course of providence toward nations; and such will ever be its course to the end of time. Those, who make his laws their model, and his word their guide, God will bless and prosper; but those, who forsake his ordinances and the light of his word, he will leave to certain destruction—to perish without remedy. Where now are the once flourishing governments of Asia—the birth-place of man, of prophets, apostles, and the Saviour of the world? Alas, they are crumbled to ruins. Once they were the theatres of mighty works—the residence of many holy men, and the scenes of remarkable divine interposition. Jerusalem, that city of solemnities, that cradle of God’s ancient church, where resided the symbols of his presence, is now a heap of ruins. It was often and alternately rebuilt and destroyed by contending parties; but finally, according to the express prediction of our Saviour, it was utterly demolished by Titus. In exact fulfillment of the prophecy, about forty years after it was uttered, the city was razed to the ground; and its inhabitants destroyed. Indeed, so complete was the destruction of this renowned city, that not one stone was left upon another; but turned up by the Roman plough, in quest of plunder. This was in righteous judgment—for their crying sins; BECAUSE THEY WOULD NOT REGARD THE HINGS WHICH BELONGED TO THEIR PEACE.

Greece and Rome, once the seats of arts and sciences, the most powerful empires and mistresses of the world, corrupted, debauched and divided, have long since fallen a prey to savage invaders. A deluge of ignorance, barbarism and superstition has effaced the mountains of former learning and magnificence. Their proud ambition, enormous cruelties and abominable wickedness provoked Heaven to blot them from the list of nations. A new race have sprung up, to inherit their territory, who have formed governments, and had their day of prosperity. Holland, Switzerland, Italy and Germany were once independent, free and prosperous states. But not knowing the time of their visitation—not minding the things which belonged to their peace, they became infatuated, and then fell an easy prey to “the mighty power under whose iron rod all Europe groans” and bleeds at every pore. And they fell, not in the high places of the field—not by force of arms; but by blindly yielding to the insidious arts of their designing conquerors. They had drunken of “the wine of astonishment,” by which they were intoxicated, divided and enfeebled; and “then their ruin because inevitable.”—And can we say that our own nation is in no danger from this intoxicating cup, of losing the things which belong to its peace? Alas, whatever be the cause, our prosperity and glory are, in a measure, gone, our peace is fled, and war, with all its baneful attendants, is now our portion! The cause may be traced to our sins, which testify against us. These have provoked the Lord to anger; and his anger against sin is the sole cause of all misery, personal and relative, individual and national, temporal and eternal. The sins of professing churches have often provoked the anger of Heaven to remove their candlestick out of its place;—nations tremble for the same cause: yea, the whole earth, and creation itself, groan under the load of man’s guilt. The judgments of God are abroad in the earth, because of the wickedness of men. And when we consider the fury and rage, the mutual earnage and destruction of nations, does is not appear that they have been drinking of the intoxicating cup of God’s holy indignation? Else why are they thus maddened in their passions to wreak their vengeance on one another? Why does a nation, upon the slightest pretext, rise up against nation, so that “blood toucheth blood?” And does not the compassionate Saviour now weep over this infatuated land? Does he not say to America, in the language of our test, “Oh, that thou hadst known, even thou, at least, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! Oh, that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” Had we as a nation hearkened to the God of our fathers, and to the maxims of wisdom contained in his word, this had, even now, been our happy case. We should not have been compelled to witness “the confused noise of the warrior, and garments rolled in blood.” Had we, our fathers, our princes and people, all united in maintaining the worship of God, and unfeigned obedience to his laws, our national prosperity would not have been interrupted. The things which belong to our peace would not have been hidden from our eyes. The blessings engaged to Israel, while they adhered to the service of Jehovah, might have been expected in this happy land. “Our sons would have been as plants, grown up in their youth,—our daughters as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace. Our garners would have been full, affording all manner of store;—our sheep would have brought forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets—our oxen would have been strong to labour—there would have been no breaking in nor going out,—no complaining in our streets. Happy is the people that is in such a case; yea, happy is the people, whose God is the Lord.”—Such are the blessings, which, in the ordinary course of providence, are generally conferred on nations, whose rulers and people faithfully follow the maxims of the gospel. And such happiness would have been thine, O America, had this been thy uniform character. But how art thou fallen from thy former greatness! How is thy glory departed! “How is the gold become dim, and the most fine gold changed!” Time was, when we were the envy of the world. The fame of our independence, freedom and prosperity rang, through the channels of COMMERCE, to the remotest nations. The wealth of almost every clime was, through this medium, wafted to our shores. By this our national treasury was replenished—agriculture and manufactures flourished—learning and the arts advanced with rapid pace, and we were swiftly emulating the greatness of the first in rank in the old world. Happy, thrice happy. O Americans, had ye known what happiness was yours—had ye regarded the things which belonged to your peace. But alas, how are they hidden from our eyes! We are now,

2d. To shew that a prospect of ruin and misery coming upon the despisers of God’s mercy will excite the tenderest compassion of all who have the spirit of Christ.

David that eminent type of our Saviour, exhibits, in a lively degree, this sympathetic, Christian affection. “Horror, says he, hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake thy law.” “Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.” “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved, because they kept not thy word.”—Having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, he was grieved to the very heart, to see others blindly rushing to their own ruin. A view of their sinful character and awfully dangerous state filled him with the mingled emotions of grief, indignation and pity. He mourned the wickedness of men and the dishonor of God, more than his own sufferings; and he wept a flood of tears. And no one has a right to pretend to the spirit of Christ, unless the sin and misery of others thus deeply affect him.

To rejoice in another’s calamity is the very temper of hell! To rejoice in the hope and prospect that his calamity will work for his good, is a very different thing. This is consistent with that Christian benevolence, which regards our neighbor as ourselves. If sore afflictions appear necessary to humble and reform a bold transgressor, and seem likely to produce that happy effect, then we ought to acquiesce in the divine method, and pray for its success. But to rejoice purely in another’s distress is inhuman, antichristian and diabolical. The benevolent Saviour and his inspired saints have taught us a better spirit, and set us a better example. They mourned and wept, even for those who thirsted to shed their innocent blood. But though Jesus was a man of sorrows, and often groaned and wept in view of suffering humanity; yet the blind infatuation, pride and obstinacy of sinners distressed far more his sympathetic soul. “He looked on the PHARISEES with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” And when he beheld the infatuated city of Jerusalem, in spite of all his counsels, warnings and entreaties, rushing headlong into ruin, his pitiful soul dissolved into tears. And were the Saviour now visible we should doubtless behold him weeping over the condition and prospect of our own guilty land! Our peace, prosperity and happiness are on the rapid decline, and war, adversity, and a host of evils, assume their place.

Liberty, too, the pride, the darling and boast of Americans, like a hunted, persecuted fugitive, seems on the point of seeking some more hospitable clime. Driven from nation to nation, and from one end of earth to another, like Noah’s dove, she an scarcely find rest for the sole of her foot. For a course of years she has found an asylum, protection and patronage in this western world. But her residence becomes more and more precarious. For already have many begun to treat this celestial visitant with neglect, or cold contempt!

1 [Preferring the unbounded indulgence of licentiousness to the wholesome restraints implied in genuine liberty, INFURIATE MOBS burst the barriers which heaven and earth have raised for the security of life, property and happiness. The deplorable condition of a sister state excites the indignant groans and sympathy of all the humane—of all the followers of the Lamb. That city, which, like Jerusalem, had been highly exalted in privilege, wealth and splendor, is now doomed to be the prey of those, who reverence no laws, respect no character, and whose tender mercies are cruel. Even the distant report of their maddened fury is enough to chill the blood, and freeze the soul with horror! It reminds us of that furious mob, who wreaked their vengeance on Stephen, the first Christian martyr. In his defence before the Jewish council, his pungent discourse cut to the heart his violent persecutors, and they, like ferocious beasts, “gnashed on him with their teeth.”

Being full of the Holy Ghost, he saw in vision a display of heavenly glory. And when he proclaimed aloud, before his exasperated persecutors, the glorious scene presented to his view, “they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.” Then, with brutal ferocity and infernal rage, they “case him out of the city, and stoned him” to death!

A familiar mob persecuted the immaculate Savior of the world. They misinterpreted all his words and actions, multiplied their false accusations against him, and treated him with every personal insult and indignity. Nothing, in short, would satisfy their bloodthirsty fury, till they had inflicted, upon their unoffending victim, the most ignominious and torturing death!

Thus we see that human nature is the same, in all periods, and persecuting mobs were known as early as the apostolic age. From their unbridled ferocity and horrid misrule may Heaven preserve us. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.”]

Had we, as a nation, regarded the things which belong to our peace, scenes of riot, misrule and civil war had never commenced among us. Had we followed the maxims of the gospel, in all our private and public relations and capacities;—had we “studied the things which make for peace, and things whereby one might edify another,” we had still remained a united people, owned and blessed of the Lord. But by our various sins we have made God our enemy; and unless he turn away his anger, and have mercy upon us, we must assuredly perish. We humbly hope and trust that “the things which belong to our peace” are not forever hidden from our eyes. We hope a precious remnant may yet be reserved, for whose sake God will be entreated to spare a guilty land. Were it not for this pious remnant, we had, ere now, been as Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim!

There is no truth in the Bible more plain than this, That it is on account of the righteous God bears with wicked nations. Should these be all removed, the wrath of heaven would soon burst upon their guilty survivors. In proportion as this class are multiplied, promoted, and abound in fruits of righteousness, will be the prosperity of any people. On the contrary, the more wickedness and wicked men are increased and exalted, the more the anger of heaven is enkindled, and ruin hastens apace.

Let our nation turn to the Lord, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.—Let ministers and people unite in following the maxims of the gospel. And then, be assured, the doom of Jerusalem shall not be ours. God will be our shield, and no weapons formed against us, shall eventually prosper.

But should we go on unmindful of the things which belong to our peace—and could we succeed, in conquering the only free nation on earth, except our own;—the nation, who, bad as she is, is doing more than all the world besides in extending the word of life and the blessings of Christianity, to millions ready to perish! 2—Could we succeed in conquering that nation, which now, under Providence, stnds between us and ruin—what should we gain? Alas, nought but poverty, vice and slavery;—nought but a deadly alliance with that infidel, atheistical power, “whose armies shall soon be assembled at Armageddon, and fall in the battle of the great day of God Almighty.”

The greatest of all earthly judgments, with which we could be visited, would be an intimate confederacy with infidel powers. For vice, like the plague, is contagious. As sure as we become partakers of mystical Babylon’s sins, we must receive of her plagues. Our religion, under God, is our defence and our glory. Should his be destroyed, and atheism prevail, then farewell to our peace and happiness forever!

Shall we not all, my friends, imitate the mourning Jesus, and weep over our infatuated country? Our former glory is departed. “Darkness covers the land, and thick darkness the people.” Our joy is turned into mourning, and our abused mercies into desolating judgments. Already, distress wrings many a heart, and horrors of thick darkness brood on many a countenance. The arm of industry is palsied by the sickening aspect of the times, and anxiety is all alive in expectation of scenes more tremendous! Thousands of wives, parents, and other connections, now feel a dreadful solicitude for husbands, children and friends, who are in danger of falling a prey to a provoked enemy. The prospect that numerous widows, orphans and beggars will be multiplied by this desolating judgment, must give pain to every heart, that delights not in war and human misery. Our only consolation and hope, in this distressing season, are in the government and perfections of God. But even this hope and consolation we cannot expect to realize, if our sins continue to testify against us, and we remain impenitent. The rod of divine correction will still be stretched over us, and the besom of destruction will sweep us away, unless we take refuge in the Ark of safety, unless we “break off our sins by righteousness, and our iniquities by turning unto God.” “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Be exhorted, my friends, to secure this refuge, and then you need not be afraid of evil tidings. “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” Do you wish to avoid Jerusalem’s doom, and to shun the plagues of antichristian despoilers? Then beware of the fascinating cup. Beware of “THE WINE OF ASTONISHMENT.” Beware of snares laid privily for your destruction. Sell not your birthright for a mess of pottage. Barter not your religion, your Saviour and your souls, for any paltry gratification, which flattering infidels may offer. But behold the banner of the Prince of peace. Enlist under Christ as your Leader and Commander. Let his word be your sword, faith your shield, and hope your helmet of salvation. This is the contest, to which we are called. This is the warfare, to which the trumpet of the gospel invites you. Join, as volunteers, this standard, and then, whatever be the doom of your country, victory is yours. YOU SHALL COME OFF MORE THAN CONQUERORS, THROUGH CHRIST, WHO HATH LOVED US.

AMEN.


Endnotes

1. The subsequent part of the discourse, enclosed in brackets, was pronounced with the rest on the first delivery, but at the last time was omitted, as less pertinent. A few sentences towards the close have also been added, which the reader will excuse.

2. It is said that the Bible and Missionary societies of Great-Britain are paying, as a free will offering, not less than five hundred thousand dollars, annually, to promote the gospel among the heathen and others destitute of the means of religious instruction. And all this in addition to the millions they expend to support the gospel at home.—See Rev. Mr. Webster’s Thanksgiving Sermon, Nov. 26, 1812.

* Originally Posted: Dec. 26, 2016