Sermon – Fasting – 1832, Massachusetts


Orville Dewey (1794-1882) graduated from Williams in 1814 and pastored various churches from 1823 to 1862. This sermon was given on August 9, 1832.


     SERMON        

On the Moral Uses

Of the Pestilence

Denominated

Asiatic Cholera

Delivered on
Fast-Day August 9, 1832

By Rev. Orville Dewey

Pastor of the First Congregational Church in New-Bedford

published by Request of the Society

New – Bedford

Printed by Benjamin T Congdon

1832

SERMON

Isaiah XXVI

When Thy Judgments Are In The Earth, The Inhabitants of the

World Will Learn Righteousness

   The visitation of a calamity in some respects of an unprecedented character, has awakened the world to an unusual degree of consideration.  It is most desirable that this consideration should be rightly directed; that it should be guarded from all resorts to superstitious reliances and from an absorption in mere world fears; and that it should yield some results adequate to the greatness of the occasion.  If the world after this calamity shall have passed over it, is to be no wiser than it was before, such a failure must, to every sober mind, believing in providence, be a deep cause of regret.  The end is more important than the means.  It more concerns every being to improve God’s discipline, than to escape it.  To fail of that end, to fail of the improvement of the discipline would be a greater calamity than it is to endure the visitation of the pestilence itself.  For surely we are not , as Christians to forget that there are worse evils than the pestilence—worse evils than all outward calamities— evils so much worse , that all outward calamities  are designed to be their antidote and cure.
   

This consideration too, of the moral uses of the prevailing pestilence, would tend more than anything else, to allay the fears it inspires.  To caution the people against being alarmed, to reiterate  and multiply admonitions on this point, to warn the timid and terror-sticken, that this panic is among the surest harbingers of the dreaded disease, to tell them continually that the more alarmed , the more exposed they are, to exhort and urge them, as they value their lives, to be calm,  to recommend to them , in fine, by such constant implication,  to try not to be afraid—this seems to be very ill adapted to answer the purpose.  It is as if we would frighten people out of their fears, or hurry them into moderation and calmness.  Besides, it is not easy, unless we look at the moral aspects of this calamity, to prevent some natural tremors, some agitations, perhaps of unmanly fear.  If the elements are left to work their will upon us, if they are working to no end, but to show their awful and destructive power; if the scourge is borne upon the uncommissioned winds and its pavilion is darkness and its way is mystery and its end is death and there is no object and no explanation and nothing for the mind to deal with, but elements and powers, but inevitable fate and dire necessity.  How can mortal hearts sustain themselves in the dread encounter with agents so blind, inexorable and awful!  But if there is a Power, beneficent as it is mighty, that stays at its pleasure, the pestilence that walketh in darkness and the destruction that lays waste at noon-day; if it suffers the prevalence of disease to answer wise purposes.  If this calamity , however singular it is , nevertheless a part of the universal providence; if it is , like all other means for the reform and improvement of the world , to do more good than evil; then surely may we learn to look upon it with calmness and acquiescence.  Then indeed shall we look seriously upon it and we shall look upon it and we shall look upon it with fear too, but with a fear that is rational  and religious ; with a fear that will turn very much indeed upon the state of our own minds.  We shall think much of ourselves and so much more the less of the outward and physical forms of this evil.  We shall think much of the good it is to do millions of our fellow-men and so much the less of the mere bills of mortality , dreadful as they are.  In fine, we shall have our fears, but they will mingle much of devout and grave consideration with them —a trust and satisfaction in the wisdom of God’s providence; an apprehension lest we and others shall not reap the good designed to be communicated and these moral considerations will assuage and moderate those panic sensations which are now occupied with nothing but danger and rumors of danger.
     

There is another argument for attention and for universal attention.  The visitation of this calamity is a voice to the world.  Other calamities have been partial in their extent.  Other forms of pestilence have been confined to particular countries, or districts of country.  No famine ever devastated a whole continent.  No war ever raged from ocean to ocean.  But to the ravages of this fearful destroyer, neither oceans nor continents have set bounds.  It has compassed the habitable globe.  From the plains of India, from the mountains of central Asia, its march has been steady and irresistible.  It has traversed deserts and seas.  It has broken through all the defenses which the power and vigilance of governments could set up against it; till that which for years has been the rumor of far off evils, is suddenly become terrific reality and the spoiler of two continents knocks at the door of our American homes.

At such a visitation, it is meet that the world should pause.  It is meet that days of fasting and humiliation and prayer should suspend the ordinary pursuits and cares of life and give an opportunity to meditate upon the “ways of God to man”. 

I have thus far urged the propriety and advantage of a sober and attentive consideration of this extraordinary calamity, but is there anything to consider?  Is there any meaning in this visitation which can without presumption, be fixed upon by us, as the subject of attention.

I ask in reply:  Is there not a providence in it?   Permitted, or produced, does it not come within the range of the Almighty power and Agency?  Who will say that it is without the sphere of God’s government?   Who will tell us where those dread regions are, over which God has no control, in which He does not His pleasure?  Has not the whole course of events which take place in the world, a design?  Did they receive their original, do they receive their present impulses from the tendencies of matter, or the ordinations of fate?  But if there are ends to be accomplished by all things, will there not be a relation, an intentional relation between the means and the ends?  Why then —- so far as the agency of any event is specific —-why shall we not say that the object, the design, the meaning, is specific.

And now, let me ask, was there ever a calamity in the world, not miraculous, which apparently possessed such a high and solemn moral significance as this pestilence?  Was any design of earthly events ever more clear, specific or solemn?  We saw an evil, the most insidious and deadly, entering the world by a thousand avenues and gaining a strength, unknown to former ages, by the modern improvements, if improvements we must call them, in the process of distillation.  We saw the produce of ten thousand harvest-fields wrought, from all wholesome uses, into an intoxicating and destroying poison.  We heard the voice of wailing and lamentation and despair, from ten times ten thousand dwellings: and we asked, with many others, what can stay the progress of this horrible evil?  What is to save the world?  What is to leave in the world, any innocent father, mother, sister, friend, not utterly broken-hearted?  And now, at this very crisis, when good men had begun to be alarmed, indeed, but when the good were more alarmed than the bad were reformed—at this very crisis, there appears in the world, a disease  unknown to former times and it appears as the grand antagonist power to the monster, Intemperance.  It strikes as its foremost victims the votaries of strong drink and to them, its blow, though all others, or nearly all, with prudence may escape-–to them its blow is almost inevitable death!

If this be not providence, what is providence?  If this be not a voice from heaven, by what tokens shall we know such a voice?  If all the pains and penalties that follow vice, are held, in all creeds but that of the atheist, to be the remedial and disciplinary process of the Supreme wisdom; if those specific diseases, which set their mark and brand upon particular vices, are justly to be regarded as possessing, in a more striking degree, the same admonitory character, what less shall we think of a visitation like this unprecedented pestilence?  If a new species of brain-fever were to appear in the world and if it made gamesters its principle victims, what more specific and solemn moral would it hold out, than to be found in this plague of the cholera?

It is true, indeed, that the desire, natural to the reflecting mind, of finding reasons for things and of finding reasonableness, intelligence and wisdom, in the whole surrounding scene of life, may have carried us too far.  It is true, too, that this is one of the subjects that comes not within the range of demonstrative, but only of moral evidence. I do not say that I know that this is a special visitation, designed to check a particular vice; and on the other hand, no man can say that he knows it is not. I can only say, that my mind leans to this view of the subject.  I firmly believe that if there had been no intemperance in the world, this pestilence would not have been in the world.  But what do I say?  I had thought that I was arguing and I find that I am stating a simple fact.  Certainly there would have been no such pestilence in the world; there might have been such a disease and it might have prevailed like other diseases—but there would have been no such pestilence in the world, if it had not been for intemperance.  Intemperance is its very haunt, its resort, its prey—that without which it could not live.  Intemperance has occasioned it, created it, called it into being.  Has it not?  What means then, the language of every medical report and opinion on the subject?  What is to be made of the sense and experience of the whole world upon this point?  Why do the intemperate everywhere feel that it is they who are exposed, that it is they who are meant?  And why are so many moderate drinker, as the disease approaches nearer and nearer to them, setting down the untasted cup?  Is it too much to say , that it was designed for the check and destruction of the vice in question?

But it may be said, that the intemperate are not its only victims.  It is true, that they only its chief, its most conspicuous victim; others suffer.  But this only comports with the general order of God’s providence.  The innocent are everywhere suffering with, and for, and through, the guilty.  It may possibly be said, also, that this pestilence does not, after all and will not, altogether reform the world and so will fail of the alleged end and therefore could not have been designed for that end.  The general answer to both these objectives is the same.  God’s providence over the mind, is adapted to the mind; does not compel it or overwhelm it with flagrant and instantaneous results, but appeals to its reason, elicits it powers, respects its freedom, deals with it by influences that are gentle and persuasive and not coercive and irresistible.  Whether the world will be reformed or not—it is warned—and this is the material point for us to establish.  It  is all the less likely to be reformed, till it feels that it is warned.

It is for this reason that I am concerned to urge the doctrine of a providence, in relation to this stupendous and wide-spreading calamity: for indeed the facts without the doctrine, are sufficient for my main purpose.  And so eminently providential does it appear, that it might not be difficult for us to persuade ourselves, that it was designed to teach and explain this great doctrine of a providence, to the generation of the thoughtless, the negligent and skeptical.  Let us then, dwell a moment longer on this point, to illustrate this use, if not design, of the affliction that is sent upon us.

The difficulty sometimes found with the doctrine of a providence is, that it is held to be special, that it recognizes the efficacy of prayer, that it is believed to interpose at the call of human weakness and distress and penitence.  It is the interposition of providence, that is by some doubted.

But let it be supposed that the world were to be reformed from the vice of intemperance and then, the cholera—that peculiar disease which is now prevailing—would cease.  It would cease, because it would no longer find victims.  The very element which supports it, would be taken away.  On what condition then, would it cease?  The answer is, on the very condition of repentance.  It would cease at the voice of humiliation and prayer; at the voice of a sorrowing and reformed people.  Here then, in a general view, is the efficacy of prayer and here is the doctrine of a providence.

And why may we not go farther?  Why may we not go beyond the general view?  Why should it be thought “a thing incredible” with us, that who inflicts the blow, should with an interposing hand, suspend it, when its purpose is answered?  It is here perhaps, that the difficulty about a providence presses hardest.  Are not the operations of nature, it may be said—are not the laws that govern the elements, uniform?  I answer, we do not know that they are.  What saith the visitation of this calamity?  It reminds us how wide a theatre there is for the operations of the overruling hand—how vast a region, before which the vail is lifted up, that none can penetrate.  Where is the origin of this dread pestilence?  Where are its dark magazines, out of which swift destruction comes?  Where is the secret of its presence and the hiding of its power? Wisdom is baffled in the inquiry and experience is but a blind guide.  Whether it is in the heaven or in the earth or in the waters under the earth, it is questioned and it is questioned in vain.  Whether it is in the atmosphere or in the human system—whether it is contagious or infectious or epidemic or local, the understanding of the learned has not found out and the wisdom of the wise has not decided.  It has travelled through the world: the eyes of millions have been eagerly bent upon it; the voices of every language have invoked from it, its dark secret; the seers of every healing art, from the Ganges to the Atlantic shore, have sought for the interpretation of its fearful signs and still it is shrouded in impenetrable mystery.  The object is clear; it is proclaimed as with the voice of a trumpet; all else is darkness and silence.  Where the bolt strikes, we can see; we see who are its foremost victims; but the bosom of the black cloud, as it rolls onward, no eye has penetrated.

Let no man tell me, that in the bosom of that black cloud, there is no might or mystery beyond the reach and measure of His understanding—no space for the secret work of God—for the operations of an inscrutable and interposing providence.  Let no man tell me, that he who rides on the whirlwind and directs the storm, is bound by the chains of any fate or necessity.  He does his pleasure amidst the armies if heaven, amidst the thrones and powers of the firmament and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can say unto Him, what doest thou?  None can know what He does, or may dare to say what He doeth not.  What is interposition or what is not interposition; how far the overuling hand is stretched out or where it is stayed; what chord in the mighty system of things it touches or what hidden spring it unlocks; what it binds that shall not be loosed, or losses that shall not be bound.

But the skeptic will perhaps say, in fine, that man is a creature too insignificant to be the object of such attention and care, as we allege, that the Being who sits enthroned above the heavens and governs millions of world, will not stoop to regard a thing so inconsiderable and indifferent as this dweller in the dust.  But look at this being, when struggling as a victim in the grasp of the fell destroyer.  If it were the lot of man, to drop from the course of life like an animal, a mere inert lump of clay, we might think differently.  But what is the death of a man?  What is it when it comes in the form of this disease, held to be so terrible?  It is not any frightful paroxysm of pain, which makes that hour so awful; it is not the gathering mist that settles upon the closing eye-lids, that makes it so dark; it is not convulsion and grasping for breath and the mortal strife , that gives such intensity to every thought and feeling; but it is parting from the thousand ties that bind the heart to life; it is the solemn vision of eternity opening upon the soul; it is that intense spiritual consciousness that seems to concentrate all that is solemn and sublime in the universe, upon that dread moment; it is an element mightier than any earthly power, that imparts such grandeur to the death-bed scene; it is a portion of the Divinity, that is holding conflict with disease and pain and sorrow and death.  Will not God regard it, in its great and perilous hour?   Can He hold that which was made in His own image, as too mean for His interposition or disposal?  Can we believe that thousands and millions in the world are dying under the stroke of this one peculiar and extraordinary infliction and that there is no providence and no meaning in all this?

II. But if there is a meaning in this, what is it?  If there is a providence, what does it teach?  What do facts teach, let the doctrine be what it may?

The answer to this question has been necessarily implied in the previous discussion; but we should be totally wanting to the occasion that has assembled us together, if we did not give it our direct and separate attention.  I say then, that which providence teaches, that which facts teach the world in this great calamity, is a lesson of temperance.  The calamity itself, as I think, naturally leads us to recognize a providence and a special interposing providence.  But providence, if there be any in this matter, has an end.  That end, if there be an end, must be, I repeat, to teach the world a lesson of temperance.

Will it not teach this?  Will not increased temperance be the effect?  And if it will, why should we not say, that it was intended to be the effect?  But will it not, I repeat?  Suppose the cholera were to remain ten years in this country or in Europe : there is no reason to expect its speedy disappearance—it has already returned to some of the cities in Europe—it has been a long period in Asia: if I say, the cholera were to remain ten years among us; if for that length of time it should hover in the air, ready to stoop with its deadly talons upon any dissolute city or village or individual, can it be doubted that by such an agency, the work of reform would be carried on with a success  and effect, beyond all former example?  Can it be doubted, that ten years, with the sword hanging over every man’s head, would make us comparatively a temperate people?  How many is this single summer’s experience showing that they can live without spirituous drinks and that they are altogether better without them!  “When thy judgments are in the earth,” saith the prophet and surely when such judgments are in the earth, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”

And if they are to learn righteousness, or if this going forth of the pestilence is fitted to teach them, then I am prepared to take another step, and to say, that it is a beneficent visitation.  If you doubt whether your ears hear me rightly, I repeat it, and say it is a beneficent visitation.  I confess that I do not partake of the unmixed and supreme horror, which many feel at this disease.  There is another calamity, another curse, which, as I believe, it is designed to remove, and which impresses me with greater horror.  The Cholera, I am firmly persuaded, will prevent more suffering than it will occasion.  The woes of unrestricted intemperance in this country for ten years, would be far greater than the woes of a ten years’ plague.  I cannot pray, therefore, without the most careful qualification, and the most guarded submission, that this pestilence should depart from our borders.  I dare not say, it is best for us that it should depart.  I dare not absolutely pray for the removal of this disease, any more than for the removal of many diseases.  I see clearly that the world would sink at once into the ruins of sensual indulgence, if no pain or sickness followed excess.  I see that to indulgence, disease, of some kind or other, is the antagonist power.  I now see indulgence of one particular species, rising to a most alarming height; and I see a disease breaking out at the same time to counteract it.  This, to my apprehension, is the method which Providence has adopted for teaching the lesson of temperance.  Say that his pestilence is developed by intemperance itself, or say that its causes, not of any new creation, have always lain hidden in the bosom of the elements; or say that it is the result of general laws; still it is none the less the teaching of Providence.  And I dare not absolutely ask that the teaching should be suspended till the lesson is learnt.  Though the discipline be costly and dear, I dare not ask it.  I know that it is taking from us the lives of some valuable and beloved citizens, but I do not esteem even their lives too precious a sacrifice for the salvation of the land.  I see the innocent, indeed, dying for the guilty; but I see in this, only the usual order of God’s providence; I see, indeed, the order of his grace; I see, as it were, Jesus again in his members, dying for the world.

The horrors of the Cholera, I must be allowed to repeat, are not the greatest horrors that are to be found in the abodes of the civilized world.  The convulsions of this disease are not, in my eyes, so horrible as the paroxysm of drunkenness—the riotings of its merriment, or the writhings of its fury.  The delirium of sickness is not so dreadful as the madness of the inebriate man. The dreaded “collapse” presents not a picture so dreadful as the poor wretch who lies by the wayside; no waiting friends or sympathizing kindred around him; senseless to the passing jest or buffet; no longer a human being, but the ghastly ruins of what was once human.  And a brief sickness and a speedy death carry no such agony to the bosom of a family as ten, or twenty, or thirty years of dissoluteness in it; no, nor as one year’s woe and shame of intemperance, in one of its before cherished and beloved members.  Nor doth the land mourn, nor ever can it mourn for a pestilence, nor is its substance wasted, nor are all its laws and safeguards sapped and undermined, though all the plagues of Egypt fall upon it—no, there is no such peril to any people in all this, as there is in the poisoned fountains of intoxication that are now deluging the world—there is no such sorrow, as the sorrow of millions by their desolate hearths, made desolate by this accursed indulgence; there is no such “cup of trembling” and of “wrath poured out without mixture,” as the horrible cup or excess!

It is impossible not to observe in this connection, that this judgment of Providence on the people at large, is especially a voice of admonition, a call for reform, to cities and populous places.  It has always been found that in proportion as men congregate together, and wealth increases in the hands of some, and poverty presses hard upon others, that the vices shoot up into monstrous and fearful luxuriance.  The most splendid advantages, the brightest gifts of heaven as they seem as least to most men, are here set in glaring and mournful contrast with most awful abuses of them.  It is here too perhaps, that the noblest virtues are developed and formed; but the powers of good in these circumstances have hitherto held but a feeble and doubtful conflict with the powers of evil; they have not, indeed, been put forth; and Christian men and women in our cities, are yet, perhaps, to learn the measure and the methods of their duty. 

It would be dullness, worse than ingratitude, and more inexcusable, not to refer in this view to the noble efforts for teaching the poor and rescuing the vicious, which are now making by a Christian ministry devoted to those objects, in the metropolis of our own State—efforts, which it is hoped will in process of time, present to the world, the model of a Christian City.  This Ministry for the poor in cities, like the Sunday School, and the improved Prison Discipline, and the Bethel Churches, I regard as one of the great moral discoveries of the age.  Physical causes, I trust, are also to lend their aid.  It seems to me, not an extravagant anticipation, that the astonishing improvements about to be introduced in the facilities for carriage and passage,—the rail-roads, I mean—will have the effect to prevent the enormous growth of cities, to send their inhabitants abroad to build beautiful and delightful abodes in the country, and will thus tend to break up those hot beds of vice, those congregated masses of filth and misery which are now found in them.  Meanwhile this pestilence is doing its work—its work of mercy as well as of judgment—its work of physical as well as moral purification.  It would be scarcely too much to say, that the cleansing of our cities and villages, especially if it may be a precedent for future years, will save more lives, than the cholera will destroy. 

Will there not be a moral cleansing, also?  Will not this judgment of the Most High, strike a salutary dread into the scenes of drunkenness, debauchery, and Sabbath-breaking—and of that horrible filthiness which is itself a heinous sin?  Is not that very point—the mass of evil in cities—that  wickedness in high places, to which, of all the earth, the philanthropist and Christian have looked with the greatest despondency,—is it not to have light poured in upon it—the light of inquiry and of hope?  Are not the miseries of those ten thousand thronged abodes, which it makes the heart ache to think of—are they not to be relieved?  Is not that pestilential atmosphere of contagious vice, forever hanging ever the cities and crowded villages of the world, and every year drawing millions from the healthful airs of a simple and rural life, to breathe it and die—is it not, at length, to be purified?  Is not this fearful stroke of the lightning from the heaven, to break the heavy and thick and settled cloud, beneath which such iniquities and abominations have been done for ages?  When, ye children of darkness and vice and vileness!  Will ye hear?  Hath not trembling and death come into your habitations?  Hath not horror taken hold of your hearts?  When, till the judgment-hour break upon you, will ye listen to the voice of God?

I feel, too, that the visitation ought to speak to men in power, to the rulers of the earth, and to those, who, by their influence, reign in society.  Why are those masses of vice, and filth, and famine, and bodily prostration, where the cholera finds its haunt, suffered to exist?  It is, in part, because great men, aye, and good men, have failed to do their duty.—Much of this prostration, physical and moral, is to be referred, ultimately, to political oppression, to arbitrary distinctions in society, to cruel and unjust laws, and to proud self-complacency and selfishness, “passing by, on the other side.”  In Asia, helpless millions have been swept away, the victims of grinding tyranny and of unparalleled social abuses.  Such victims are to be found in Europe, too; nor are they wanting America!  When, let me ask then—ye great ones of the earth, and ye good men!  When will ye hear?  When will the whole power of the world, political and moral, arise to do good, and to heal the wounds of society, and to build up the fallen fortunes of afflicted humanity!

No, I am not indifferent to the fate of the unhappy victims of this visitation, hurried as they are by thousands to an untimely grave, and to a sudden and unlooked-for judgment.  Who, with a Christian’s heart, will not mourn for them, as well as for the evil that they have inflicted upon the world? And yet, what can I say to them, or to the partakers of their guilt—what can I say, more or less than this?  “You have been reasoned with, pleaded with, besought, warned, by every voice of tenderness and by every voice of terror, that God has given to man, or to woman, to utter, and it has been all in vain.  You have resisted the outstretched hands of affection, and the pleading eye, and the breaking heart.  You have trampled upon the dearest interests of society, as if it were without remorse.  You have trampled upon all the admonitions of God’s word and providence, as if it were, without fear.  You have trodden under foot all the agonizing remonstrances of your own heart and consciences, as if they were but fit to pave you way to the resorts and haunts of indulgence.  Would to God, that all this had not been in vain; but it has been in vain.  It has been all in vain!  You would not hear.  You would not relent.  You would not give up the deadly draught that bereaved you of everything to respect, and of everything to love.  The child, the wise, the friend, have asked permission but to respect, but to love you; and you have hardened yourself against appeals, that might have broken—Oh!  They might have broken, a heart of stone.”  What then shall we say?  Must we say and think, that it is hard, very hard, that this additional, this last dread infliction, has come upon the victims of excess,—that this bolt has fallen, as it were, direct from heaven, to dash the guilty cup from their hands?  God Almighty give them grace to be wise in the day of his rebuke!  We dare not prescribe the term of this, to the vicious, tremendous day.  May it be shortened, we are ready to say; yet we dare not ask that it may be shortened, but through the intervention of repentance, at the instance of a humbled and reformed people!

This, my friends, is the only escape, of which we can feel any assurance, or ought to feel any very strong desire.  This pestilence has a moral mission to fulfill; its fulfillment is the only pledge for its termination.  No services, no offerings to God, coming short of this, can promise us any relief.  No wall of prayers is to be built up, to keep out this dreaded disease; no mere solemnities of fasting and humiliation, will disinfect the atmosphere; nothing, within our knowledge, but removing the cause, will remove the curse.       

One word more, and I will relieve you attention from the unusual task, which I have ventured, at this time, to lay upon it. 

What is it, then, I ask, which imparts to the pestilence, whose ravages have been the occasion of setting apart this day of solemn prayer and humiliation,—what imparts to this pestilence, I say, its peculiar horror?  And, I answer, it is the terrible speed with which it does its work.  It is not that its victims, according to present appearances, are likely to be more numerous than sometimes are the victims of a prevailing influenza, of a malignant fever; not more numerous, than are, every year, the victims of consumption.  It is, that the cholera, unlike every other disease that has appeared among us, makes but a step, between us and death.  It is, that death has been brought near to many minds, as it never was before.  The impression has been made upon them, in a character and with an emphasis altogether new, that they might, indeed, die suddenly; that their moral account with this life, might be made up, and settled, and sealed forever, in a few brief hours; that although to-day in the midst of life, to-day walking in the same negligent course as for years before, to-day unprepared to die,—yet that to-morrow’s rising sun might behold them dead, and its parting ray might shine around the grave, that had closed upon them forever. 

It is, my brethren, a most solemn and monitory conviction.  This pestilence has created an era, I believe, in many of our minds, from which a new spiritual life ought to be dated.  We have erred in this matter; we have erred in regard to the strict account, which we have to give, of life.  We have been misled, with the negligent world, into the irrational, the absurd idea, that we may live in sin, and yet die in safety; that we may live without religion, and yet die with it; that we may at last find some gracious dispensation from the law that is to “render to every man according to his living deeds.”  We have vaguely and vainly imagined, with multitudes in the same delusion, that our sickness may, at length, do, what our health will not;  that the last feeble pulses of life, may be strong enough to turn back the mighty current of tastes, and affections, and habits, that for years has been flowing on with accumulated power. 

This is one of the grand ruining delusions of the world.  “It is not this day,” men are perpetually saying, and still with every successive period of life they are saying, forever saying, “it is not this day, it is not this year, on which I can venture the decision of the great question for eternity; by and bye,” is the secret thought of thousands of hearts, “by and bye, amidst the days of sickness and sorrow, or of old age, I will prepare for heaven.”  Let this solemn visitation of God, let this voice of the pestilence, break up forever that tremendous delusion.  It speaks not only to the heinous transgressor, but scarcely less awfully to the careless neglector of his duty.  It is in his heart, a voice of weighty admonition.  What meaneth,—if it means not this—what meaneth that fear, curding the very heart’s blood,—the fear of smiting disease and sudden death?  Yes, its meaning is moral.  It is not a mere dread of pain, or of parting with life.  It is fear, breathed in the deeper recesses of the soul.  It is a voice, that speaks of duties neglected, of sins indulged, of the soul, unprepared for death.  That very fear, that very voice, believe me, shall yet give witness at the bar of judgment: for us, or against us,—to proclaim our fidelity, or our neglect,—to declare that we have listened to the voice of God’s judgments, or have hardened ourselves in the day of his rebuke.  But let me not close with the words of this last dreadful alternative upon my lips.  Let us hope better things, and things, that pertain to salvation.  Let us give all earnestness, to meditation, and watchfulness, and humble prayer, that we may be found faithful to all the teachings of God’s wisdom, and all the tokens of God’s will!   

Sermon – Fasting – 1841, Massachusetts


Bela Bates Edwards (1802-1852) graduated from Amherst in 1824 and was licensed to preach in 1831. He served in the American Education Society, as editor of several publications, Professor of the Hebrew Language and later the chair of Biblical Literature at Andover Theological Seminary. This sermon was preached on May 14, 1841, a fast day mourning the death of President William Henry Harrison.


ADDRESS

DELIVERED ON THE DAY OF THE

NATIONAL FAST, MAY 14, 1841,

AT A UNITED MEETING OF THE

RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES IN ANDOVER.

BY B. B. EDWARDS,

PROF. IN THE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, ANDOVER.

ANDOVER:

PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM PEIRCE.

ALLEN AND MORRILL, PRINTERS.

1841.

 

 

                                                                                                Andover, May 14, 1841.

 

Rev. B. B. Edwards—Dear Sir,

The undersigned, ministers of the several denominations of Christians in this town, having to-day, with their people, listened, with great pleasure, to your eloquent and appropriate Address on the character of General William H. Harrison, our lamented Chief Magistrate, and wishing to have the sentiments expressed in it placed before their fellow-townsmen, and the public generally, do hereby most respectfully request a copy for publication.

LORING.

C. JACKSON.

PAGE.

FULLER, Jr.

L. TAYLOR.

HERVEY.

A. MUDGE.

H. GRISWOLD.

 

 

ADDRESS.

The event which has called us together on this occasion,  is commonly spoken of as unexpected.  That the President of the United States should die, immediately upon his elevation to his high office, appears to have been wholly unanticipated.  Possibly not one in a thousand of those who contributed to his election, ever imagined, that he could claim no exemption from the common lot of man.  It seems to have been taken for granted, that after one had reached the object of his wishes, perhaps the fruit of a long and hard struggle, he should be permitted to enjoy it awhile; that even the inexorable enemy would show some pity.

But is it so?  Does the crown which was yesterday put on, sit more firmly than that which has been worn for half a century?  Is the life, which is vigorous to-day, insured against the accidents of to-morrow?  On the contrary, is there not in the anxiety and heated action which are incident to the pursuit of power, or wealth, or great usefulness, an obvious cause, why the over-tasked frame should suddenly fail?  Besides, no observation is more common, and none is more just, than that adversity is set over against prosperity; and often it is an invisible line which divides them.

We read, last week, in the public papers, of a family that had come into the possession of about all which is commonly regarded as desirable.  A joyous household shared in the nameless delights which wealth honorably acquired, could secure.  But in three or four days, an only son was borne from that household to his burial-place, and the frantic mother, like Rachel, refused to be comforted.

Last November, a youthful preacher,[i] whom some of you knew, was set apart to his work.  Many years he had spent, most industriously, in the fields of human and sacred learning.  Rich in acquisition, graceful in manners, bland in temper, strong in aspiration, he entered upon his labors.  A large, and almost for the first time unanimous, congregation hung upon his lips, as if they uttered the accents of angels.  The educated and the illiterate alike acknowledged his mastery over them.  But he passed away like some dream of the night which is too delicious to be real.  In four short months, he added another impressive commentary upon frail man’s fondest hopes.  He had hardly essayed his polished armor before he must put it off forever.

On the 17th of April last, a morning newspaper in a neighboring city informed us that the proprietor and principal editor would on that afternoon embark for Europe.  He had labored long and almost convulsively in his vocation.  His sleepless vigilance was crowned with success.  Those for whom he battled so unintermittingly came into power, and the worn laborer thought that he might rest from his toil.  “I have dreamed all my life,” he said, “of seeing Europe.  To-day I go:  yes, I am going to Rome.  These eyes will soon gaze on the Eternal City.”  He did embark, but it was upon that great ocean from which no voyager returns.

These, however, it may be said, were individuals in private life.  They did not sit in the seat of presidents or kings.  Surely the men who are high in power, and who are entrenching themselves in the warm affections of millions, will not thus pass away.  Their premature death will not crush in the germ hopes which are so sanguine.  But what is the testimony of the historian?  What are the annals of States and Empires?  Is it not the concurrent voice of history both sacred and profane, that it is the good, the ardently beloved among sovereigns who die first, while those, “whose hearts are dry as summer dust, burn to the socket.”

Across the centre of the Holy Land, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, is a large plain, called the valley of Jezreel, or the plain of Esdraelon, which has been the theatre of many sanguinary battles, from the days of Joshua to those of Bonaparte and Sir Sidney Smith.  Thirty-three hundred years ago, the brook which winds its way through this plain, was called the Kishon of battles.  A few hundred years later, its pure water was reddened with the blood of a Jewish monarch, who there fell mortally wounded.  Never, perhaps, did death come in more affecting circumstances.  Hardly in the page of universal history is there a character more faultless than his.  In his continued life, the very existence of his nation was bound up.  He fell too in the meridian of his days, when he was just ready to enjoy the fruits of the gigantic reformation which he had accomplished.  Well might the tearful Jeremiah lament for Josiah, while all the singing men and singing women spake of him in their lamentations, for the hope of the nation was extinct, and we shut up the remaining history in despair.

Coming down to modern times, we find that the best king that France ever had, Henry the Fourth, the most interesting monarch, it is said, whom history describes, the defender of Protestantism against hosts of enemies, whose only victories, during a large part of his life, were those which he won over the hearts of his subjects by his generosity, magnanimity and patience, fell by the dagger of a Jesuit; he fell too just as he was on the point of commencing a great enterprise for the peace of Europe.  The grief for his death partook of the character of madness.  Tears were the least tokens of sorrow.  Many persons died on learning the catastrophe.

A few years earlier, the English Josiah, the good king Edward, as he was familiarly called, died in the sixteenth year of his age, leaving a nation in tears, the Protestant cause in despair, and the throne to one whose characteristic epithet is, “the bloody.”

On the 2d of May, 1816, an English princess, of the age of twenty-one years, was married.  She was the undisputed heiress to the most enlightened and coveted throne of earth; and to which she would have brought the spirit of an English queen of former days.  She had read much and with discrimination.  There was a mingled dignity and sweetness in her looks.  Warmth and openness of heart marked her conduct through life.  Her cherished place of resort was not the palace, but the cottage of the poor.  She was the favorite of the religious portion of her people, for she was of pious habits, and a strict observer of the Sabbath day.  When she found herself blessed with the husband of her choice, and saw that choice justified by his virtues, she more than once repeated, that she was the happiest woman in the kingdom.

Just eighteen months after her marriage, her bonnet and cloak were on the screen where she placed them, and her watch was suspended upon the wall by her own hands; and there they remained untouched for weeks, for the brokenhearted survivor would not allow them to be removed, and he looked upon them with such fixedness, as if his eyes had been marble.  Never, perhaps, was there an instance in which a whole nation, through all its ranks and degrees, was more deeply moved.  Never had a mourning been so universal; and its universality attested its sincerity,  It was as if the whole people formed but one afflicted family, and every individual had lost a dear sister, an affectionate friend, or a kind benefactress.  To this universal grief, there was but one exception, and that was the most lamentable sight of all, for to the old king, there was neither sun, nor moon, nor kingdom, nor wife, nor children.[ii]

Somewhat similar has been our experience during the last few weeks.  It is not, indeed, over departed youth and beauty, that the country mourns, but it is over withered hopes, blasted expectations, and fallen goodness.  The solemn observance of this day, these tokens of universal grief are not uncalled for.  The sorrow is no less considerate and befitting, than it is extensive and heart-felt.  The United States have experienced a heavy calamity.  Every incident which has come to light respecting the President since his decease, every new development of his character which has been brought to our knowledge, is fitted to awaken a profounder impression of our loss, and to create a more thorough conviction, that but poor justice was done to him while living, even by his more immediate friends.

We are aware, that there may be some, who, now that the first shock occasioned by his death has passed away, do not regard it as a national calamity at all.  He died, they say, at the critical moment for his own fame, before he had plunged into the treacherous sea of politics.  The government will move on as strongly and as prosperously as before.  Only one of the many eminent men in the nation has been removed.  Let us thank God, and take courage.

But we are not among those who can dispose of a great event so summarily. We are not ready to brand this universal sorrow as a hollow show, or an irrational sympathy.  If it is not to be viewed in the light of a national judgment; if in the President’s death there be no cause for mourning, why was he elected to his office.  Why was he borne to it by an overwhelming majority?  Why should we raise one to his high position whose death would be nothing more than an ordinary calamity?  He was not chosen by a mere popular impulse.  Wise and discerning men thought that they saw in his honesty, integrity, and comprehensive views, evidence of his eminent fitness for the station.

If we cannot, indeed, say what would have happened, had he lived.  We do not know but that the country maybe more prosperous under his successor, than if he had completed his term of office.  These things do not now concern us.  They are understood only by God.  They do not, however, diminish in the least the causes for the national sorrow.

His death may be, in various aspects of it, a most calamitous event.  It may be that his personal influence was indispensable in order to carry through some one of those prominent measures, on which, in the opinion of many, the repose of the country depends.  It may appear, without reflection on any other individual, that a President was needed, whose home was neither in the North, nor in the South, but in the controlling West.  It is a possible thing, that some of the great religious interests of the country are destined to suffer several additional years of embarrassment; and that, too, not through any fault of his successor.  It may be found, that as a people we were not worthy of a President who was manifestly a religious man, and who had determined to exert that religious influence, which is so much needed at our capital city, and which is so becoming in the Head of a great Christian people.  It may be, that the fate of the wretched Aborigines was depending on his continued life.  No paragraph in his Inaugural Address was perused with a warmer gush of emotion than that which asserted his determination to protect their rights.  We had hoped, that the time had now come when their captivity would be turned back, when some of the wrongs which we have ruthlessly heaped upon them should be redressed.  Their lot has been a hard one, and the day of their extinction draws near.  General Harrison might not have been able to arrest their descent; but he would have wiped some of the tears from their cheeks.  The good old soldier would have placed himself between them and the remorseless whiskey-dealer of the frontier.  His heart was full of tenderness towards them.  His death they may well mourn with bitterer tears than others shed, for no one who has survived him so well understood their peculiar circumstances; none would have administered so effectually to their relief.  For many years, he stood up their unflinching guardian, when they were infested by hordes of depredators and swindlers.

It is not my intention, on the present occasion, to narrate the incidents of General Harrison’s eventful life.  They are, doubtless, perfectly familiar to all who hear me.

It has seemed to me, that the main features of his character might be legitimately deduced from his Inaugural Address.  With the political views contained in that document, I shall not meddle.  I refer, mainly, to certain moral lineaments which cannot be mistaken.  The address is perfectly characteristic of the mind from which it proceeded.  It bears the indubitable impress of the generous soldier, of the man of integrity, compassion, forbearance, firmness, patriotism, unaffected simplicity.

Exceptions have, indeed, been taken to it in several respects; among others, as a literary performance.  It does not exactly please the refined scholar.  There are too many words in it; and the classical allusions are too frequent.  But General Harrison was not educated as a scholar.  His collegiate course was early interrupted, and never resumed.  The days of his later youth were passed in the unbroken forests and tangled swamps of the North West Territory.  His intellectual discipline was gained in unraveling the plots of the wary trapper, and in reconciling the feuds of the jealous and fault-finding emigrant.  His academic halls were the ancient woods of Vincennes; the lamps by which he read Caesar and Tacitus were the watch-fires of Tippecanoe.  Almost the whole of his adult life, from the time when he received an ensign’s commission from Washington, was spent in the most laborious practical duties, far away from books, and from nearly everything which could nurture a correct literary taste.

We have, however, but little patience with the men who dwell on defects of this nature.  Such defects are not, indeed, to be overlooked in documents which emanate from high places.  But compared with certain other things, they are lighter than the dust of the balance.  What we need in these papers are evidences of candor, benevolence, love of country, firmness, incorruptible integrity.  We want plain, direct, straight-forward writing, such as flows from the heart of an honest man, though the style may not be modeled after Quinctilian, and though the periods are not altogether graceful.

General Harrison had studied Roman History attentively and fondly, and in the Latin originals.  His address throughout betrays this predilection, while certain features of his character are in accordance with the models with which he was familiar.

He possessed the sterling integrity of some of the old Romans.  At certain periods of his life, he had immense pecuniary resources at his command.  But no one has detected, after the sharpest scrutiny, the slightest trace of dishonesty.  General Harrison never prostituted any office to the purpose of personal emolument.  By taking advantage of legal technicalities, he might have become affluent.  In former times, land-titles in the western country were loosely secured.  In one case, it is stated, that an individual recovered $80,000 for property which his ancestors had designed to alienate, but for which they gave no sufficient title.  In circumstances almost precisely similar, General Harrison, in the right of his wife, might he ejected the honest purchaser, and entered upon the possession of property of untold value.  But, said he, “if I have no moral title, I have no legal title.[iii]  No man who has filled an office in our country has enjoyed so many tempting opportunities as General Harrison did, to amass great wealth by deviating from the strict line of integrity, and, at the same time, with less risk of detection.  But he had that nice sense of honor in pecuniary and official engagements, which shrank from the remotest contact with aught corrupt or mean.  With Roman fastidiousness, he disdained all modes of acquiring wealth, which would not bear investigation.  In the Head of government, in these times of peculation and fraud, how inestimable such an example of more than Catonian probity!

All who knew General Harrison, speak of his unaffected simplicity.  He was a frank, large-hearted, affable farmer.  In his dress, equipage, manners, domestic arrangements, in all his intercourse with society, he was a plain man.  Pride of office, superciliousness of aspect, impatience of contradiction, airs of bustling importance, were as alien to him, as if he had had no conception of their existence.  He was not the friend of the people for the sake of winning their applause, or of buying their votes.  Everywhere, and at all times, he showed the same guileless, unassuming deportment, in office and out of office, retiring from public life, and a candidate for its honors.

These qualities were not, however, isolated and disproportionate.  If President Harrison had the unostentatious simplicity of him who was called from the plough to the dictatorship, he had his firmness also.  Without a large measure of it, he could never have fulfilled the numerous and complicated trusts which were committed to him.  The governor of a newly-established, ill-defined territory, filling up with emigrants from every region, who were dissimilar in habits, and often involved in bickering and law-suits, must have been a man of firm nerves.  The superintendent of a score of Indian tribes, that were at enmity with each other, always jealous of the encroaching white settler, and often the dupes of some French renegade, or Canadian sharper, could not have proceeded a single step, if he had not had a will of his own.

To these characteristics of integrity, simplicity, and decision, which might have flourished, and which did flourish on Roman soil, others were associated, which are more peculiarly the growth of a Christian land.  General Harrison was a remarkably kind and compassionate man.  In the document to which we have referred, there is an entire freedom from all acerbity of feeling, from all expressions of bitterness towards the party which had so strenuously sought the election of another individual.  There is not a harsh phrase in it.  This magnanimous forbearance characterized his whole life, military as well as civil.  Many of the anecdotes related of him strikingly illustrate his freedom from censoriousness, his habit of putting a charitable construction upon the conduct of others.  In his protracted, public career, he must have met with many temptations to indulge in exasperated passion and bitter animosity.  Even General Washington, on one or two occasions, could not control his anger.  But among all the military officers with whom General Harrison was associated, he had no enemy.  All unite in testifying to his habitual kindness, and his promptitude, in every emergency, to succor those in distress.  Even the poor comforts which followed him in his wet encampments and forced marches, he was prompt to resign to one who had greater need, let him be friend or foe.  The miserable man who had determined to take his life, he promptly rescued from his deserved punishment; thus exemplifying that forgiving spirit, which he could not have learned from Plutarch or Caesar, but which beams from every page of that volume which it was both his habit and his pleasure to read morning and evening.

In respect to the most interesting of all questions relating to the deceased President—his religious character—his countrymen are not required, nor are they competent, to decide.  This must be left with Him who judges without prejudice or partiality, and before whom the distinctions of earth are of no avail.  Amid the sorrow in which the country is involved, it is affecting to observe the solicitude which is felt on this point, and which is not confined to the religious press, or to professedly religious men.  All other questions are merged in this:  Was General Harrison a true Christian?  Every minute circumstance, every casual incident bearing on this subject, is repeated, as affording the most precious consolation which can be set before an afflicted people.  It shows what are the honest convictions of men.  We are not content with vague generalities.  In the case of one so much beloved, we cannot rest calmly on mere negative evidence.  We search for something more specific; we enter into his secret retirements, and rejoice to find, that, amid the strife of parties, and even the excitements of a triumphal march, he did not neglect his Maker, nor his Bible.

This solicitude indicates, also, that there is a conviction in the public mind of the indispensableness of moral principle in him who administers our government.  We have ceased to be frightened with the miserable bug-bear of “Church and State.”  We do not demand that a president or a judge should be an atheist, lest he should infringe on the rights of conscience.  For several years a reaction has been going forward in the public mind towards the better feelings and practices of our early ancestors.  Every recognition of a superintending Providence, every reverential allusion to the Inspired Word, in the doings or writings of the high officers of State, is welcomed with joy by multitudes in every part of our land, and of all Christian sects.

When it was seen, that General Harrison went beyond this, and avowed his profound reverence for the Christian system, as distinguished from Judaism, or from the religion of nature, multitudes hailed it as a still brighter omen.  And when, further, it was understood, that this was not mere profession, but was the utterance of what the President was, and what he meant to be and to do, how could a Christian people help feel a rushing of heart towards him?  The blessed days of the Winthrops, the Trumbulls, the Belchers, the Boudinots, the Witherspoons, were coming once more.  The highest man in the nation was not ashamed to have it known, that he bowed his knees daily to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that he had determined, whatever others might do to interrupt him, to hallow the Christian Sabbath.

Now when these joyous anticipations were dashed to the ground by his sudden departure, how could a Christian people suppress their tears?  How could they avoid being astonished at the inextricable mystery?  Most appropriately is it regarded as a national judgment.  Pertinently is this day set apart to learn the solemn lessons which it cannot fail to teach.

I. One use of this bereavement, we say in general, is the same, which should be made in every instance of personal or family grief.  In such a case, you are the subjects of a new experience.  The stony soil in your hearts is broken up.  The vain things which cheat men out of the great object of life, you instinctively cast aside.  Death and the eternal state rise up before you as vital realities, which are not to be shuffled away by any of the devices which fools may invent.  So in the bereavement which affects a whole  people.  The national heart is softened.  The general conscience has an unwonted susceptibility.  Practices which are at war with virtue and with God, are felt to be what they are, an impertinence, or an abomination.  When the news of the death of the Princess Charlotte Augusta reached London, the midnight reveler stole silently away from his unfinished banquet.  Not a theatre was opened, and, we presume, not an infidel club was held, that week, throughout Great Britain.  Thus, when the intelligence of the great calamity which has befallen our country first reached us, amusements lost their power to charm; secular business stood still.  Tears came unbidden.  It was felt that God was in his holy Temple, and that the whole land should keep silence before Him.  The public mind was in that mellowed, softened state, which is one of the richest blessings of Heaven; which indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit, affecting millions, as a mighty wind bows down the forest, and which, if cherished, is the sure harbinger of a brighter day.

II. We are taught by this event the importance of cherishing kind feelings towards our rulers, and of forming liberal judgments of their measures.

It would shock us now to hear any harsh epithets applied to General Harrison.  We should turn away in sorrow or in anger from him who had it in his heart to vilify the dead.  We should be ready to eject from civilized society the man who could wantonly traduce the motives of one who is now alike insensible to human praise or blame.

But is it not wrong to lacerate the feelings of the living?  Is it any palliation of our offence, that the object at which we aim our envenomed shafts has nerves which are quick with sensibility?  It is a poor business to make war upon the dead.  But it is a poorer business to injure the feelings and vilify the name of the living.

Yet it has been done to a mournful extent in relation to our civil rulers.  We do not now refer to any particular individual or party.  It is a national sin.  It is the original sin, we had almost said, of every party.  The utmost ingenuity is called into requisition in the invention of abusive epithets, in distorting the plainest facts, in tearing open character, and then pouring into the wounds the venom of asps.  He is apt to be regarded as the ablest editor of a newspaper, who can use the most stinging phrases, who has at his command the largest vocabulary of excoriating epithets.  It is not unfrequently mentioned in praise of some zealous orator hat he flayed alive his poor opponent.  Withering sarcasm has come into the place of calm reasoning; the traducing of motives into that of respectful remonstrance, or of gentlemanly refutation.  One would think that many among us had passed their lives in studying the plays of Aristophanes, or the writings of John Wilkes or William Cobbett.

And the abuse is as indiscriminate, as it is abundant.  Who does not now see that Mr. Madison did not deserve the torrent of obloquy which was heaped upon him in 1812?  Thousands would gladly recall the hard speeches which they then uttered against that illustrious patriot.  So we feel it a duty to say, that many illiberal and unjust accusations were laid against the immediate predecessor of General Harrison; accusations to which General Harrison gave no countenance, and whose circulation conferred no honor upon their authors or abettors.

One would think, that it is the great business of men living under a free government, to show their freedom by maligning their rulers, just as the Athenians showed their democracy by ostracizing every citizen of extraordinary virtue.  But why can we not learn to distinguish between ignorance and bad intention, between limited capacity and malice, between ignorance which is unavoidable and that which is criminal?  Our rulers are not omnipresent.  They must often, and necessarily, decide on imperfect information.  If they waited for exact knowledge in every case, they would commit flagrant wrong, by the delay, in some other quarter.  Many of them have not the keen-sighted sagacity of Sully, nor the comprehensive statesmanship of Burke.  They must sometimes test a measure before they can decide upon its practical utility.  Why should we assign a sinister motive, when an honorable one is much more probable?

An eminent individual is strongly attached to office.  He wishes to have a voice in public affairs up to extreme old age.  We attribute it to his ambition, to his love of office for its own sake; whereas it may result from the perfect consciousness which he has, that the abandonment of an occupation with which he has been fifty years familiar, would be the shipwreck of his understanding.  The same individual does not act in some great emergency as we had anticipated.  He does not remain steadfast in the traces of the party with which he generally votes.  We wonder at his inconsistency.  We are amazed at his wrong-headedness.  Now the day of the revelation of all hidden things may show, that he was not obstinate, but conscientious, that his solemn and well-ascertained convictions of duty would not allow him to vote with his party.  Shall we then visit him with our maledictions?  To his own Master, he standeth or falleth.

Ought we not to practice a little magnanimity?  Ought we not to judge our public men with comprehensive and Christian charity?  It may be the trade of a partisan to show how adroit he can be in the use of opprobrious terms.  Be it ours, so far as we can, to correct this crying national offense, to rise superior to the miserable arts of the demagogue, and to demonstrate in our own case the ennobling influence of our free institutions, whose foundation rests upon a fraternal and affectionate equality.  In no other way, can we obey the authoritative injunctions of the Bible; for how an we offer intercessions for “all in authority,” when in the next breath, we cast out their names as evil, and denounce their knavery or incompetency.

III. Another vice, for which we may be suffering the chastisement of Heaven, is a want of moral integrity, which is the result, in part at least, of an insatiable desire for the acquisition of wealth.  This is one of the most vigorous off-shoots of our national depravity.  And yet, for the most part, it seems to be overlooked and uncondemned. When we speak of the offences for which we are visited in judgment, our minds instantly revert to the violation of the Sabbath, to intemperance, or to the wrongs inflicted by involuntary servitude.  But we are not certain, that either of these is more offensive, or more wide-spread than that controlling love of money which is growing upon the country and menacing alike its purity and its happiness.  Thus it was regarded by the departed President.  In a speech before the Historical Society of Ohio in 1837, he said, “The inordinate desire for the accumulation of riches, which has so rapidly increased in our country, if not arrested, will ere long effect a deplorable change in the character of our countrymen.  This basest of passions could not exhibit itself in a way more destructive to republican principles, than by exerting an influence on the course of education adopted by our youth.”

This impatience of labor, this reluctance to pursue the honorable and toilsome way for the acquisition of wealth, manifests itself in a great variety of forms.  It has occasioned a rush of young men from the country to the large towns and cities, many of whom look with contempt upon what they consider the menial and ill-requited tasks of the husbandman; imagining that, as merchants or importers, they shall rapidly rise to the high places of wealth and consideration.  Hence, in the reverses or stagnation of business, they are thrown out of employment, and are compelled to resort to almost any occupation, provided it is in a city, for their habits and tastes now unfitted to the dull and prosaic vocation of the tiller of the soil.  Hence, also, we may account, in part, for the disgraceful eagerness which thousands manifest to obtain a public office, saying like some of former times, “Thrust me into one of the offices, that I may obtain a morsel of bread;” preferring to live in a sort of precarious vassalage, rather than to go to work, like independent men, and earn, by hard labor, the means of subsistence.

Hence, also, the before unheard-of speculations, the stupendous frauds, forgeries, embezzlement of public funds, ruin of character, which are so common now as to cease to create any surprise.  This vice has infested all classes of society.  It has even crept into the sacred profession, and men have been found who could preach against the love of money on the Sabbath, and during the whole of the following week speculate in western lands.

It is obvious, that something was necessary to stop this insinuating and fatal vice.  It was fast corrupting the vitals of our prosperity, disgracing our character and institutions in the view of the civilized nations of Europe, some of whom are not unwilling now to brand us a community of swindlers and knaves.  If the death of General Harrison, coupled with the fact, that both his example and remonstrances were uniformly and decidedly in opposition to the vice in question, should be the means, in any degree, of turning the minds of men to it, with a view to its utter abandonment, then that death, so much lamented, will not have been in vain.  It may have been one of the principal reasons of the frown of Heaven.  In this matter, we have gone in defiance of the plainest precepts of the Bible.  We have run counter to the laws impressed on our own nature, and to the whole tenor of human experience.

IV. One use of this national bereavement maybe to teach us to estimate more adequately the value of our free institutions.

During the last twelve months, these institutions have passed through pretty severe ordeals.  It has been proved again, that there is in them some fitness to our character and wants, some adaptation to the genius of the people.  It has been too common to represent them as arbitrary and conventional, as something to which the people must inure themselves with long and severe discipline.  They are often likened to a reed shaken by the wind, to a rope of sand, to a sheet of perishing parchment, or to the feeblest and frailest objects in nature.  It seems to be imagined, that the great Author of our freedom is honored when we speak disparagingly, or contemptuously, of our political institutions, as though he could protect us just as well in some other way, by a monarchical establishment, for instance, or a paternal despotism, between which and the feelings of the people, there is no possible correspondence.  It is often said, that our frame of government is no defense against exasperated passion.  It is a mere paper bulwark, which a breath may throw down.  But is it not thus with any of the works of man?  Would not the boasted British constitution be like tow in the fire in some conceivable exigency?  And yet that instrument is fitted to the spirit and genius of the British people.  It has weathered the storms of more than a dozen centuries.  So with our Constitution.  It has had somewhat violent handling for more than fifty years, and yet it is substantially unimpaired.  It may be battered by some daring innovator, but it has a self-recovering energy.  It may be infringed upon by some State or local partisanship, but it is so nicely balanced, so perfectly adjusted, that the attack will call forth a powerful defense from some opposite quarter of the Union; and where one hand of violence is raised for its overthrow, a thousand hands will rally for its rescue.  God is to be honored, we conceive, not by mournful ditties on the worthlessness of these civil privileges, but by praising Him, that they are as good as they are, and that He presided in those illustrious councils which gave birth to them.  His wisdom was most conspicuously manifest.  His spirit of conciliation, and of comprehensive benevolence was breathed into the hearts of the venerable fathers of our republic.  One is struck in reading the journals of their secret deliberations, with their repeatedly-expressed consciousness of the solemnity of their work; that the well-being of a “continent,” to use their favorite term, was suspended on the result of their deliberations.[iv]

It has been confidently predicted, over and over again, by the wise and by the unwise, that our frame of government would not endure this or the other sharp trial.  Men trembled for the ark when General Washington’s steadying hands were withdrawn from it.  The gulf of ruin was yawning before us in the period of the embargo, and of the Berlin and Milan decrees.  Many men gave up all for lost when the war of 1812 burst upon us.  The financial embarrassments, which succeeded, would ruin forever, it was thought, our public credit.  The horrors of civil strife would inevitably follow the discussion of the Missouri question, whichever way it should be decided.  Again, when one of the twenty-six planets showed some tokens of rushing out of its orbit, the whole system, it was supposed, would be thrown into disastrous confusion.  But the sun still shines in the centre, and the goodly company of stars hold on their luminous road.  The elections of the last year were full of inauspicious omens.  The immense meetings of the people would be a fatal precedent.  The voice of reason would be drowned in the uproar of a multitude.  But the constitution and the country came out of the conflict without any serious defacement.  It was certainly a sublime spectacle to see two or three millions of men meet together, with strong political preferences, and elect peaceably, without the loss of a single human life, and without anything which could be termed a riot, a fellow-citizen to preside over them, whom most of them had never seen, and who resided hundreds or thousands of miles from them; and then, in the course of a few days, to behold all parties quietly acquiesce in the will of the majority.  It shows, that, with all our degeneracy, there is some self-control among us, some true love of country.  It demonstrates that our Constitution is not that miserable parchment, which some men would call it.  It proves that our fathers’ God has not wholly deserted the people whom he once blessed with his presence.

To one test, however, our institutions had never been subjected.  There was one fire into which their metal had never been thrown.  No President had ever died in office.  No one, for any reason, had ever vacated his seat.  A provision of the Constitution is now, for the first time, practically applied.  For fifty years the vice-president, as such, as a cipher in our system.  A slumbering article of the immortal instrument awakes into life.  We have a President, not by the choice of even a minority of the people.  He assumes his office, by the immediate dispensation of Almighty God.  There is not, however, the slightest jarring in the system.  When Alexander of Russia died—the only one of the monarchs of Europe who was styled an autocrat—there were serious disturbances.  His legitimate successor soon abdicated his office, and the present emperor succeeded, not without hazard of the most fearful insurrections.  But in our country, which is full of the fiery elements of freedom, there has been a succession to the chief magistracy, without the slightest desire or whisper of those changes, which sometimes perplex hereditary monarchs.  This noiseless and admirable working of our system must, we should suppose, exert some influence in Europe in favor of republican and representative governments.  We are aware, that the people of Europe do not like to take lessons of us.  They are much more apt to chronicle our misdemeanors, than to study patiently our invaluable civil polity.  Still, our country is, in this respect, like a city set on a hill.  The eagerness with which our faults are scanned shows that our example, be it good or bad, is felt among the old despotisms of Europe.  Every great and successful struggle which we pass through is welcomed by all the friends of human improvement from the cliffs of Norway to the rock of Gibraltar.  Several of the Northern and central governments of Europe are gradually extending to their people the benefits of representative forms.  Whether this improvement shall advance any further depends essentially upon us.  Dishonesty, want of integrity, misgovernment here, will certainly put an end to the generous aspirations which are breathed forth there.  We cannot but believe, that the severe tests to which our civil institutions are subjected, from time to time, in the Providence of God, are intended to demonstrate the superiority of our system, for the benefit of other nations.

We are aware, that the common doctrine is, that one form of government is as good as another.  What is best for us could not be administered in Austria.  Some tribes of men are born to be the tools of a despot.  All these fond and ardent expressions about freedom and popular governments are but idle prating.  The Cossacks and the Tartars must be taught, as the men of Succoth were, with the thorns and briers of the wilderness.  But we suppose that the Russian emperor is not always to rule over a nation of rein-deer or of wolves.  A despotic government is as good as any other, provided the people do not know the difference between it and any other.  But the moment you enlighten them, you infuse a doubt into their minds whether an irresponsible monarchy is the best form of human government.  And just according to the degree in which you enlighten them, to that degree you make a popular government indispensable for them.  The reason why Nicholas is an autocrat is, that his subjects are boors.  England and France are becoming more enlightened every year, and they are approximating, indisputably, to the American theory.  Therefore it is, that our example is of immeasurable importance.  Therefore it may be that God afflicts us, that he may benefit our brethren over the waters.

It is, however, objected, that our form of government, by its leveling tendencies, annihilates all that wholesome reverence which every people should manifest towards their rulers.  This feeling sickens and dies except under the sun-light of a monarchy.  We deny the position altogether.  The observance of this day is a refutation of it, borne upwards by voices like the sound of many waters, from the Southern Gulf to the Lake of the Woods.  Yes, the simple observance of this day is a tribute of mingled love and reverence from a people towards a ruler, sublime than was ever chanted in royal cathedral, or listened to in the precincts of courts.  It was not ordered, it was recommended; it is not a hard service; it is a spontaneous outflow.  And it is not a solitary instance.  What sovereign in Europe was ever honored as Washington is now, and as he will be till the republic which he founded shall cease to exist?

V. One lesson, we might say, the great lesson, to be learned from this bereavement is, the necessity of a profounder conviction that God is the Governor of the world.

If there be one truth on the pages of the Bible more luminous than any other it is this, that Jehovah is King of kings.  The Jewish theocracy is sometimes spoken of as if God’s Providence were confined to it, and as if he permitted the contemporary nations to live as they listed.  Nothing, however, is plainer, than that they felt his punishing arm, or heard his cheering voice, according as they sinned or feared before Him; and this too when their conduct had no special reference to his chosen race.  The cry of the oppressed in Nineveh and in Jerusalem alike clothed Him in vengeance.  Repentance was equally opportune with both.  Monuments of his consuming wrath met you in the Holy City and in the fastnesses of Edom.  They jut out from under the second temple, they rise up from the sands of Egypt, and from the banks of the Euphrates.

All history is full of like examples.  Evidences of God’s supremacy, and of his anger with nations, are chronicled on every shore.  The lightning has scorched them into the eternal rocks on every part of the globe.

Fifty years ago, men wondered at the events which were transpiring in the French capital.  There appeared to be no cause adequate to the tragedy.  France was suffering a punishment, not only greater than she could bear, but greater than she deserved.  Demons could hardly merit a heavier infliction.  But men forgot the age of Louis XIV. And the night when the great bell of St. Bartholomew tolled.

So when the storm of war swept over the central and northern kingdoms of the continent, near the beginning of the present century.  Why were the old capitals of Europe sacked?  Why were the hoary thrones of despotism like the chaff before the wind?  Why were the Francises and the Gredericks compelled to flee, like the veriest thieves, under cover of midnight?  Because God was remembering Poland.  When the sun went down upon Austerlitz and Jena, thoughtful men recurred to Warsaw and Kosciusko.  “Righteous are thy judgments,” might have been written on “the ocean of flame” which rose up from the old palace of the czars.  Spain too—she suffers a long time, for it will take a long time to expiate the innocent blood which her viceroys poured out on this continent, for ages, like water.

May we not learn a lesson from the honest page of history?  Can we safely neglect the warning voice?  Has not God a controversy with us?  May not our long-continued commercial embarrassments, which have brought ruin into so many families, and disgrace upon our national character, have a deeper cause than our worldly-wise men are apt to imagine?  May they not be foretokens of more bitter afflictions to come?  Behind this visible scene of things, there is One, “who shutteth up a man and there can be no opening;” “who leadeth away” the most sagacious financiers, the most sharp-sighted statesmen, “spoiled;” “who discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death;” “who enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.”  In the sad event which we this day mourn, is there not some other agency than the course of nature, or the ministry of a disease?

Lay not, therefore, upon thy soul any atheistic unction by practically denying the Providence of God, by referring to accident or to nature what was meant as a pointed admonition.  Beware, that thou do not hide thyself under any indistinct generalities.  If God speaks to the whole people, he speaks to thee.  Interrogate thyself, personally, under this national bereavement.  Break off the sins which make a part of the vast national aggregate.  Beware, lest thou provoke God to withdraw in anger from thy country.  See to it, that the cry of the oppressed does not arm Him in wrath.  Pollute not his holy Sabbath.  Profane no more his awful name, for he is a jealous God.  Take heed, lest thy thoughtless ingratitude, thy abuse of favors and of afflictions alike, prove the ruin of the fairest inheritance which the sun in his circuit beholds; lest the friends of freedom and the rights of conscience in other lands should curse thee as miserably faithless to the most precious hopes ever entrusted to man.

 

END.

 


[i] Rev. William Bradford Homer.

[ii] See the details in the English newspapers, Nov. 1817.

[iii] Se the Sermon of Rev. Thomas Brainerd of Philadelphia.

[iv] See the Journals of Mr. Madison.

Sermon – Fasting – 1810, Massachusetts


The following sermon was preached by John Hubbard Church (1772-1840). It was given on the occasion of the fast day in Massachusetts on April 5, 1810.


sermon-fasting-1810-massachusetts-2


THE FIRST SETTLEMENT OF NEW ENGLAND.

A

S E R M O N,

DELIVERED IN THE SOUTH PARISH

IN ANDOVER,

APRIL 5, 1810;

BEING THE

ANNUAL FAST IN MASSACHUSETTS.

BY JOHN HUBBARD CHURCH, A. M.
PASTOR OF THE CHURCH IN PELHAM, (N. H.)

SUTTON, (MASS.)
PRINTED AND SOLD BY SEWALL GOODRIDGE.
1810.

A

S E R M O N.

PSALM, cv. 44, 45.

And gave them the lands of the heathen;—that they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws.

For the glory of God all things were made; and his glory should be the ultimate object of every intelligent being.  By every expression of his goodness to men, their obligations to glorify his name are increased.

For the glory of his name, God called Abraham from his connexions and native land, and made with him an everlasting covenant, to be a God to him and to his feed in their generations, and to give them the land of Canaan for a possession.  When the Israelites groaned in Egyptian bondage, he led them forth by the right hand of Moses, with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name.  And he afterwards led them into Canaan, and gave them the lands of the heathen; that they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws.

These words may be properly applied to the first settlement of New England.  God gave our fathers possession of this land, that they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws: or, in other words, that they might promote the pure religion of the gospel.  That this was the design of our ancestors in settling in this land, is evident.

In the first place, from the circumstances which induced their removal.
The reformation of the sixteenth century was extended into England, and led the established Church to adopt a purer creed.  The thirty-nine articles of their faith comprise the fundamental doctrines of the gospel.  But still they adhered, in some things, to the ceremonies of the Romish Church.  To these ceremonies many pious persons would not conform; though willing to subscribe to all the articles of the true Christian faith, and to the doctrine of the sacraments.  But King James I. was determined to have one religion in ceremony, as well as in substance.  Those who would not comply with his determination were called Nonconformists.  They were also called Puritans, because as a Writer[i] of the established Church observed, they “would have the Church thoroughly reformed; that is, purged from all those inventions, which have been bought into it, since the age of the Apostles, and reduced entirely to the scripture purity.”

The Puritans, in three counties in the north of England, were formed into two Churches.  The Rev. Richard Clifton, a devout and successful preacher, was pastor of the Church, whose members began the settlement of New England.  The Rev. John Robinson succeeded him. It was the great object of Mr. Robinson and his brethren to separate from the world.  They were opposed to a separation from any of the Churches of Christ; holding communion with the reformed Churches in Scotland, France, and the Netherlands.  They did not debar, from their communion those of the Church of England, who gave evidence of real piety.  It was the corruptions of that Church, which they opposed:  and this opposition excited the bitterest resentment of King James and his Bishops.

Being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Mr. Robinson and his brethren contemplated a removal.  Although it was painful to leave their estates, and bid farewell to their friends and the country which gave them birth, yet they could readily do all this for the quiet enjoyment of their religion.  Accordingly they began, in 1607, to remove to Holland; where religious freedom was universally enjoyed.  From Amsterdam, the first place of their residence, they soon removed to Leyden.  There they lived in great peace and harmony, and were treated with respect.  Their numbers increased, until the communicants awaited them.   They had to endure such labor and hardship to obtain the means of support, that some returned to England.  Many in England were discouraged, by these difficulties, from going to Holland.  The youth were in great danger of being corrupted by the vices and temptations of Leyden.  Some left their parents either for a military or seafaring life.  And such were “the dissipated manners of the Hollanders. Especially, their lax observance of the Lord’s day.”

That our pious fathers could see little or no prospect, in that place, “of perpetuating a Church, which they believed to be constituted after the simple and pure model of the primitive Church  of Christ.”[ii]  At length they turned their thoughts to America.  Here was presented, to their view, an extensive continent, inhabited by millions of their fellow men under the dominion of the prince of darkness.  How important to disseminate the words of eternal life among this wretched people!  It was foreseen that a removal to this country must be attended with heavy trials and imminent dangers.  But their zeal to propagate the gospel, and enjoy its blessings, inspired them with unshaken resolution and fortitude.  So gloomy were their prospects, in a temporal view, that nothing but a regard to the gospel, to its precious truths and institutions could dispose them to attempt a removal to this land.  But with much prayer and pious consultation, they formed the noble design.  This design, they executed; but not without much delay and trouble.  Nearly three years were spent in making arrangements for their intended enterprise.  New difficulties arose.  But they persevered; and in July 1620, the pious adventurers failed from Holland to England.  From thence, August 5, they failed, in two vessels, for the new world.  But they were twice obliged to return into port, by reason of the leakiness of one of the vessels.  This was dismissed as unfit for the service.  In the other vessel they set sail, the third time, September 6.  But when half across the Atlantic, they might have been obliged to return, on account of the injury done to the ship by contrary winds and violent storms, had it not been for a large iron screw, which one of the passengers brought from Holland.  With this they repaired the ship; “and then committing themselves to the divine will,” they proceeded on their voyage, and arrived in Cape Cod harbor, November 10.  At Plymouth, they commenced the settlement of New England.>
Uniformity in the observance of religious ceremonies was still enforced in England; and Archbishop Laud adopted so rigorous measures against the Puritans, that numbers of them crossed the Atlantic, at different times, and began settlements in Salem, Charlestown, Boston, Dorchester and other places, that they might promote the pure religion of the gospel.  That this was the design of our ancestors, is evident.
In the second place, from their doctrinal belief, their piety, and their subsequent measures.

Mr. Robinson was a learned, orthodox, pious divine.  He was a zealous advocate for the doctrines of grace.  He and his brethren believed, “that the inspired Scriptures only contain the true religion;—that every man has a right of judging for himself, of trying doctrines by them and of worshipping according to his apprehension of the meaning of them;—that the doctrinal articles of the Church of England,[iii] as also of the reformed Churches of Scotland, Ireland, France, the Palatinate, Geneva, Switzerland, and the United Provinces, are agreeable to the holy oracles;—that every particular Church of Christ is only to consist of such as appear to believe in and obey him; that such—have a right to embody into a Church for their mutual edification; that this embodying is by some certain contract or covenant:—that being embodied, they have a right of choosing all their officers: that the officers appointed by Christ, for this embodied Church, are in some respects of three sorts, in others but two, viz.  Pastors or teaching elders:–mere ruling elders, who are to help the pastor in overseeing and ruling;–and deacons;–that these officers being chosen and ordained, have no lordly, arbitrary or imposing power, but can only rule and minister with the consent of the brethren; who ought not in contempt to be called the laity, but to be treated as men and brethren in Christ, not as slaves or minors;–that baptism is a seal of the covenant of grace, and should be dispensed only to visible believers, with their unadult children; and this in primitive purity, as in the times of Christ and his Apostles, without the sign of the cross or any other invented ceremony; that the Lord’s Supper should be received as it was t first, even in Christ’s immediate presence, in the table posture.”[iv]  For such principles, “this people suffered in England, fled to Holland, traversed the ocean, and fought a dangerous retreat in these remote and savage deserts of North America; that here they might fully enjoy them, and leave them to their last posterity.”

Their piety was no less conspicuous than the purity of their doctrines.  For their piety, they were respected in Holland.  From the Magistrates they received this honorable testimony:  “These Englishmen have lived among us now these twelve years, yet we never had one suit or action come against them.”  In reference to their intended removal to America, Messrs. Robinson and Brewster declared, in behalf of themselves and their brethren; “We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us; to whom and whose service, we have given ourselves in many trials, and that he will graciously prosper our endeavors, according to the simplicity of our hearts.  We are knit together as a body, in a most strict and sacred bond and covenant of the Lord.”  Their measures were marked with fervent piety. They kept two days of solemn prayer before they left Leyden.  Just as they embarked for England, they commended themselves with most fervent prayer to God.  Their expectation was from him.  Before they left England, Mr. Robinson, in a letter which he wrote them from Holland, urged them “to repentance for all known sins: and generally for all that were unknown, lest God should swallow them up in his judgments; to live in peace with one another, and all men; not to give or take offence; to have a proper regard for the general good; and avoid as a deadly plague, all private respect for themselves.”

Having escaped the dangers of the ocean, and gained the harbor of Cape Cod, they devoutly, on their knees, gave thanks to the Lord for their safe arrival.  Previous to their landing, they entered into solemn contract, as the basis of their government; in which they declared they had undertaken their voyage for the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith.  As soon as they landed they fell on their knees “with hearty praises to God, who had been their assurance, when far off on the sea.”  In this pious and memorable manner, was the settlement of New England commenced.

The piety of these worthy men was severely tried, by cruel persecution in their native land; by excessive labor and hardship in Holland; by a long and tedious voyage across the boisterous ocean: by being driven upon a shore, which was unknown and inhospitable, at the commencement of a dreary winter, when they were worn out with toil and sufferings, having neither convenient shelter, nor means of comfortable support, and being soon visited with distressing sickness, which in a few months swept off nearly half of their number.  By means of such trials, their fervent piety became very manifest.

In the noble enterprise of settling this country, large numbers engaged.  Many ministers, eminent for piety and ministerial qualifications, came into this land, and were founders and pastors of Churches.  Multitudes of pious and peaceable protestants here fought a refuge for their lives and liberties, with freedom for the worship of God.  Our fathers considered this country as an asylum for the puritan religion, and aimed to establish Churches as near the scripture standard as possible.

The grand object, for which our ancestors came into this wilderness, was prosecuted with becoming zeal.  Much was done to preserve the faith of the Churches in its purity.  “In 1637, a Synod met at Cambridge for the suppression of Antinomian and other errors.  Eighty errors were presented, examined and condemned.  Great was the good which they effected.”[v]  In 1648, another Synod, convened at Cambridge, adopted the platform of Church discipline called “The Cambridge Platform:” and in their result, they say, “This Synod, having perused and considered, with much gladness of heart and thankfulness to God, the confession of faith, lately published by the Reverend Assembly of Divines in England, do judge it holy, orthodox, and judicious in all matters of faith and do, therefore, freely and fully consent thereunto for the substance.”  This vote was unanimous.[vi]  This was republished as “their confession of faith, and as containing the doctrines, constantly taught and professed in the New England Churches.”  The same confession of faith was again adopted by the Synod of 1680; and the General Court ordered it to be printed “for the benefit of the Churches, in the present and after times.”  The same doctrines were again publicly declared to be the faith of the Churches, “by a General Convention published, “A seasonable testimony to the glorious doctrines of grace;” from which the Rev. Israel Loring in his Election Sermon, in 1737, gives the following extract:  “That the most high God hath from all eternity, elected certain persons from among the children of men, to be brought unto eternal happiness, in and by Jesus Christ; and this decree was not founded in the foresight of any merit or goodness in the chosen, but in the mere good pleasure of God, who made choice of them: that the elected of God are, in his everlasting covenant of redemption, after a peculiar manner, given unto our Lord Messiah, who therein undertook to be their Head and their Redeemer:  that the redeemed of the Lord shall be, in his time and way, every one of them infallibly made partakers of effectual vocation, and have the benefits, which he hath purchased for them, applied to them: that fallen man, having lost the freedom of his will to spiritual good, he will not believe and repent, and answer the call of the gospel until a supernatural operation of the Spirit of grace upon him, do change his will; which operation is bestowed in a way of mere sovereign grace upon those only hat are ordained unto life:  that upon a sinner’s accepting that favor of God by faith, God imputes to him the righteousness of that active and passive obedience, with which the Lord Jesus Christ, appearing as the Surety of his people, has fully answered the law of God for them; and the sinner is justified before God, in that righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ: that every believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, being by faith united unto him, does henceforth glorify his Lord, in doing the works of evangelical obedience by a strength derived from him; which good works are the fruit and proof, but not the cause of his justification; and finally, that the saints of God shall persevere in their sanctity, and nothing shall make them fall totally and finally from that grace, wherein they stand, and may rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

The Churches of Connecticut were regulated by the Cambridge Platform until 1708: when they unanimously, by their Pastors and Delegates, adopted “The Saybrook Platform,” and a confession of faith, containing for substance the same doctrines, with that of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster.

Our ancestors were thus engaged for the purity of doctrine and discipline in the Churches, in order to maintain the power of godliness.  For, as the Rev. Israel Loring  observed in his Election Sermon, “It was well said by Dr. Owen that “gospel truth is the  only root whereon gospel holiness will grow.  If any worm corrode, or any other corrupt accident befall it, the fruit will quickly fade and decay.  It is impossible to maintain the power of godliness, where the doctrine, from whence it springs, is unknown, corrupted or despised.”  Our fathers acted in conformity to this sentiment.

Their exertions were happily succeeded.  The Spirit was poured out on the people, and the wilderness became a fruitful field.  In twenty-seven years from the first plantation, there were forty-three Churches in joint communion with one another; and in twenty-seven years more, there were upwards of eighty Churches, composed of known, pious, and faithful professors.  The Rev. Thomas Prince says, “There never was, perhaps, before seen such a body of pious people together on the face of the earth.  For those, who came over first, came hither for the sake of religion, and for that pure religion, which was entirely hated by the loose and profane of the world.  Their civil and ecclesiastical leaders were exemplary patterns of piety.  They encouraged only the virtuous to come with and follow them.  They were so strict on the vicious both in the Church and State, that the incorrigible could not endure to live in the country and went back again.  Profane swearers and drunkards were not known in the land.  Concerning that period, it was said by an eminent Minister, Rev. Mr. Firmin, in a discourse before the house of Lords and Commons, and the Assembly of divines at Westminster:  “I have lived in a country seven years, and all that time, I never heard one profane oath; and all that time I never did see a man drunk in that land.”

When symptoms of declension appeared, our fathers were filled with grief and alarm.  Mr. Stoughton, in his Election sermon, in 1868, says, “Alas! How is New England in danger, this day, to be lost even in New England; to be buried in its own ruins?  How sadly may we lament it, that all are not Israel, that are now of Israel?  How is the good grain diminished, and the chaff increased?  The first generation have been ripened, time after time, and the most of them gathered in as shocks of corn in their season; but we, who rise up to tread the footsteps of those that have gone before us, alas!  What are we!—What coolings and abatements are there charged upon us, in the things that are good, and that have been our glory?  We have abated in our esteem of ordinances, in our hungering and thirsting after the rich provisions of the house of God.  We have abated in our love and zeal, in our wise, tender and faithful management of that great duty of mutual watchfulness and reproof.”

Rulers were then so affected with the declining state of religion, that “in 1679, the Massachusetts government called a Synod of all the Churches in that colony to consider and answer these two most important questions:  (1) What are the evils that have provoked the Lord, to bring his judgments on New England?  (2) What is to be done, that so these evils may be reformed?”  “After a day of fasting and prayer,” which was observed by the Churches, “the Synod spent several days in discoursing on the two great  questions.  The result, pointing out the sins of the time, and recommending a reformation, was presented to the General Court; which by an act,—‘commended it unto the serious consideration of all the Churches and people in the jurisdiction.’  ‘Among their answers to the second question, the Synod advised the several Churches to an express and solemn renewal of covenant with God, and one another: with which many complied; and therefore there was a considerable revival among them.”  Dr. Cotton Mather says, “Very remarkable was the blessing of God on the Churches, which did not so sleep, as some others; not only by a great advancement of holiness in the people; but also by a great addition of converts to their holy fellowship.  Many thousand spectators will testify that they never saw the special presence of the Great God our Saviour more notably discovered, than in the solemnity of these opportunities.”[vii]

In those days, the Ministers, in election sermons and other discourses, labored to impress it on the minds of the people, that this ought never to be forgotten, that New England was originally a plantation of religion, not of trade; that pure religion was the cause of God and his people in this country; and that fervent, vital piety was declining even in those Churches which were established on purpose to preserve and promote it.  In 1702, Dr. Increase Mather thus wrote:  “Let the life and power of godliness be revived.  That has been the singular glory of New England.  The generality of the first planters were men eminent for godliness.  We are the posterity of the good old puritan Nonconformists in England, who were a strict and holy people.  Such were our fathers who followed the Lord into this wilderness.  Time was, when these Churches were beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.  What a glorious presence of Christ was there in all his ordinances?  Many were converted, and willingly declared what God had done for their souls; and there were added to the Churches daily such as should be saved.  Look into pulpits; and see if there is such a glory there, as once there was.  New England has had teachers eminent for learning, and no less eminent for holiness and all ministerial accomplishments.  When will Boston see a Cotton and a Norton again?  When will New England see a Hooker, a Shepard, a Mitchel, not to mention others?  No little part of the glory was laid in the dust, when these eminent servants of Christ were laid in their graves.  Look into our civil state: does Christ reign there as once he did?  How many Churches, how many towns are there in New England, that we may sigh over them and say, The glory is gone!”

Thus the settlement of New England was commenced and prosecuted for the advancement of pure religion.  For this grand object, our pious ancestors left their native land, and came into a wilderness, inhabited by savages.  For this, they labored and toiled; for this, they fasted and prayed.

From this view of the first settlement and primitive state of New England, we are led to inquire.
Whether we have not departed from the faith and piety of our ancestors?
Blessed be the Lord, that many are now witnesses for the truth as it is in Jesus; that many Churches now stand “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.”  O that this could be said of all!  But is there not in many of our Churches, a great and lamentable departure from the faith and piety of our ancestors?  Alas!  This must be evident to every impartial observer; and it should be noticed with the deepest humiliation and sorrow of heart.

The faith once delivered to the saints, was exceedingly dear to our ancestors.  It formed, under divine influence, their excellent characters.  Through belief of the truth, they were sanctified, and prepared for the noble and hazardous enterprise of crossing the Atlantic, and establishing churches of Christ in a land of savages.  Had they been Arminians, Arians, or Socinians, their religious characters would have been essentially different.  Had they rejected the capital doctrines of the gospel, would it be too much to say, that their hearts would have been unhumbled, unreconciled to God, and destitute of his love?  But they knew, they felt the power of divine truth.  They received it in love.  They were zealous advocates for the doctrines of grace.  These were distinctly held forth as the faith of all the Churches.  A departure from this faith was feared as a most deadly evil.  It was clearly perceived that, if the doctrines of grace should be exploded, the power of godliness could not be maintained.  Hence they manifested fervent zeal against all manner of heresies; against everything destructive of truth and holiness.  Even as lately as in the days of President Edwards, the spread of Arminian sentiments excited much alarm.  “The friends of vital piety trembled for fear of the issue.”[viii]—But how great is our present departure from the faith of the gospel?  How many openly reject its essential doctrines?  How many Churches make no explicit declaration of their belief of the cardinal truths of revelation?  What opposition is made, even in the heart of New England, against the real and proper divinity of the Savior; his atonement and everlasting righteousness, as the only ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God; the personality and work of the Holy Ghost in the salvation of lost men: and against other connected and equally important doctrines?  Instead of being valiant for the truth, how many are the zealous advocates of error?  Instead of contending earnestly for the faith, they contend for sentiments, which subvert the gospel.  How many boast of their liberality and Catholicism, while vehemently opposed to the capital articles of the true Christian faith?  They can bear with almost anything, except the truth.  Hence the outcry against orthodox confessions of faith—How different is all this from the conduct of our worthy ancestors?

A quotation from one of the brightest ornaments of the New England Churches, Dr. Cotton Mather, may serve to shew our sad apostasy.  In his “directions for a candidate of the ministry,” he says:  “I must advise you, that the doctrines of grace be all of them always with you, as the very salt and soul of your sermons.  Assert always the necessity of turning and living unto God; and yet such an impotency in the wounded and corrupt faculties of man, as renders a supernatural and regenerating work of sovereign grace necessary for it.  Shew people how to plead the sacrifice of our Saviour, that they may be forgiven; and how to lay hold on his righteousness, that they may be accepted with God.  Shew people how to overcome, and mortify, and crucify their evil appetites by repairing to the cross of our Saviour; and how to derive strength from him for the doing and the bearing of all that they are called unto.  Shew the people of God how to take the comfort of their eternal election, and special redemption, and insured perseverance; and, at the same time, retch mighty incentives to holiness from those hopes which will forever cause them that have them to purify themselves.  Gospelize to them all the commandments of the law, and shew them how to obey upon the principles of the gospel: and how the precepts of the gospel are so many promises of it.

With a strong application, study the covenant of grace: and let the spirit of that covenant animate and regulate all your performances, when you bless the Lord in the congregations.  In these truths, there are the articles, which the Church either stands or falls withal.  They will be the life of your ministry; nor can the power of godliness be maintained without them.  The loss of these truths will render a ministry insipid and unfruitful; and procure this complaint about the Shepherds:  The diseased ye have not strengthened, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away.”—Such were the directions once given and observed in New England.  But what essentially different directions are now given?  How many are systematically taught to oppose these all important truths?  How many are told to believe that Christ is the Messiah, while they are kept as ignorant as possible of his true character and of the capital doctrines of his gospel?  The great Apostle to the Gentiles did not teach in this manner.  He determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified; and in execution of his design, he declared all the counsel of God.         

The doctrines of total depravity, regeneration by special grace, election, justification by faith the final perseverance of the saints, and the eternal deity of the Saviour, he plainly and fully taught.  The pious fathers of New England aimed to follow him.  But how many now rise up, and either openly or implicitly stigmatize them as bigots?  Alas?!  How great is our degeneracy!
Our apostasy further appears from the opposition that is made against revivals of religion, which are produced by the special operations of the Holy Ghost.  It is the object of many, at this day, to discredit and reproach such revivals; and to represent the gracious exercises of real converts as the reveries of deluded fanatics or wild enthusiasts.  But in the early days of New England, who ever knew such opposition to the power of godliness?  Then nothing was thought more important or more joyful than for God to pour out his Spirit, and revive his work in the conversion of sinners.  As an example of this, I will recite the words of Mr. Roger Clap, a worthy member of the Church in Dorchester.  “Many joined unto the several Churches where they lived, confessing their faith publicly, and shewing before all the assembly their experiences of the workings of God’s Spirit in their hearts, to bring them to Christ.—O the many tears, that have been shed in Dorchester meting house, at such times both by those that have declared God’s work on their souls, and also by those that heard them!  In those days, God, even our God, did bless New England.”[ix]—About the year 1740, there was a revival of godliness, which excited great joy in the New England Churches.

The Rev. Mr. Foxcroft of Boston wrote thus concerning it:  “Let every new conversion we see or hear of, open a fresh spring of joy in our hearts, and fill our mouths with praise.  As the number of converts in Zion in this remarkable day of divine power and grace, is on the increasing hand, and much people are daily added to the Lord in one place and another, how should all that would approve themselves lovers of Christ and souls, rejoice and give thanks!  Praise ye the Lord:  praise the Lord, O my soul.—O how should we magnify the Lord with thanksgiving, who is so marvelously, at this day, visiting our land, to take out of it a people for his name, and in so extensive a manner reviving his work among us.  May it spread still more, till the whole land, yea, the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.”[x]—In 1743 a Convention of about seventy Ministers[xi] in Boston, declared publicly, to the glory of sovereign grace, their full persuasion that there had been a remarkable and happy revival of religion in many parts of this land, through an uncommon divine influence; and they add, “Thus we have declared our thoughts as to the work of God, so remarkably revived in many parts of this land.  And now we desire to bow the knee in thanksgiving to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that our eyes have seen, and our ears heard such things.”

Such joy and gratitude were then expressed.  But what opposition now appears to the same work of sovereign grace?  How many treat it with open contempt?  How many rejoice to hear the doctrines of grace exploded, and revivals of religion reproached as fanaticism and delusion?  They wish for teachers, who will speak smooth things, and not alarm them by faithfully declaring their total depravity of heart, and their absolute need of special grace.  They wish to live as they lift, and still indulge their fond, through delusive, hopes of future happiness.  As a natural consequence of this opposition to the truth and to the power of godliness, there has been a great and lamentable change in the morals of New England.  Some say that the doctrines of grace tend to licentiousness.  But facts contradict the assertion.  It is not the truth, but heresy, which tends to licentiousness.  The morals of New England have been the purest, when the truth has been most faithfully taught, and most generally received.  In proportion as the true doctrines of the gospel have been opposed, and their opposite errors propagated, have vice and immorality abounded.

That so many Churches have left the gospel foundation, is another proof of our apostasy.  The good old way, which our fathers trod, is forsaken.  Churches were not only formed with the greatest care, but our fathers were also very careful and strict in the admission of members.  No person was admitted to full communion, who did not give hopeful evidence of being a subject of special, renewing grace.  Those who wished for admission, were carefully examined by the minister and some of the brethren.  Much pains were taken “to prevent the polluting of the ordinance, by such as walk scandalously, and to prevent men and women from eating and drinking their own condemnation.”

But how many are now admitted to full communion, without any such examination, and without any evidence that they have been renewed by special grace?  When Churches were careful and strict in admitting members, they maintained gospel discipline.  But how much is discipline now opposed and neglected?  This evinces Churches to be in a state of great declension if not nigh unto ruin.  “When apostasy prevailed in the Asiatic Churches,” says Dr. Increase Mather, “there was the original wound.  They did not brandish the sword of discipline, which is Christ’s own expedient and appointment for the preservation of Churches in purity; yea, this was a fatal neglect, which, by degrees, proved ruinous to those once famous and glorious Churches.  The neglect of discipline—brought in corruption of manners; and corruption of manners was, through the just revenging hand of God, attended with corruption of doctrine; and these together provoked the Lord to lay those Churches most desolate.”  “So it was with the once famous Churches of Bohemia; remissness in their discipline proved their ruin”  How much do we discover of the same apostasy, in many of our Churches?  In how many, is discipline wholly laid aside?  How many members, guilty of heresy or immoral conduct, pass unnoticed and unreproved?  How deplorable is the state of such Churches?

Another thing which manifests our declension is the division among professing Christians.  In the early days of New England, there was a very happy union.  “Then” says the Rev. Mr. Shepard of Charlestown, “might be seen magistrates and ministers together in way of advice:  ministers and ministers cleaving together in way of communion:—Churches and Churches together in way of consultation, by greater and lesser synods; magistrates and ministers and their people together, uniting hands and hearts in the common cause, breathing a public spirit, and conspiring with holy zeal and vigor, to advance the kingdom of Christ.”  Of the same period the Rev. James Fitch, of Norwich, in Connecticut, says, “O the uniting glory then manifest;—grace ruling and ordering both rulers and people under the glorious banners of true gospel holy love.  Then were colonies united and courts united; magistrates united and ministers united; Churches united and plantations united.”  But what a spirit of division now prevails?  And to what is this owing, but to a departure from the truth?  If all who profess religion, received in love the same doctrines, the present division would not exist.  But the fact is, that while some adhere to the essential doctrines of the gospel, others reject them.  They depart from the faith.  Hence divisions arise.  Many attempts are made to sow discord among real brethren; and to prevent their uniting to defend and propagate the truth.  Heresies are industriously circulated.  By means of these they who are approved are made manifest; those who choose darkness rather than light are also made manifest.  Saith the Apostle John, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

The profanation of the Sabbath evinces our apostasy.  This holy day was very sacredly observed by our pious ancestors.  Legislators, and magistrates, and heads of families were zealously engaged to prevent the profanation of the day.  Their authority and example had great and happy influence.  But how much is the Sabbath now profaned?  How many spend it in journeying, in visiting, in parties of pleasure, in mirth, in rioting and wantonness:  no man forbidding them!  How are the youth suffered to walk about, and from house to house, and profane the day by vain, if not corrupting conversation?  What numbers come to untimely deaths, in the midst of their heaven daring profanation of the Sabbath?  How many others, by profaning the day, form habits of wickedness, which bring upon them sure and dreadful destruction?

Another thing which manifests our sad declension is the neglect of family worship, and the religious education of children.  Our fathers adopted this maxim, that “families are the nurseries for the church and commonwealth:  ruin families and you ruin all.”  Their houses were Bethels, in which God was worshipped every morning and evening.  His blessing was humbly fought; and his goodness gratefully acknowledged.  Children were early taught, by example, to fear the Lord, and to seek his grace by prayer.  But now “the great wound and misery of New England is, that families are out of order.”  In how many, is prayer wholly neglected?  Some may attend the worship of God, occasionally, or when they think it would be peculiarly disgraceful to omit it.  How many think it would be a loss of time, to leave their worldly employments, in order to wait on God for his blessing?  What a spirit of impiety is this!  And do not some heads of families attend prayer, while they deny this privilege to their servants and hired laborers?  They treat these as if they had no God to serve, no souls to save!  How must God regard the prayers of those who love the world more than they love him, or the souls of men?—How distressing to hear no prayer in a family!  How inconsistent and impious is the conduct of many, who abound in thanks to their fellow creatures, but give no thanks to their great Creator?  In God they live; and his goodness is the prime source of all their blessings; and yet they practically say, there is no God!

Children are also greatly neglected.  They are not so generally dedicated to God in baptism, as they were in the early days of New England.  The learned and godly men, who composed the first Churches in this land, never considered the baptism of the believer’s children as a human invention; but as a divine institution, and of equal authority and importance with the baptism of the believer.  Upon this principle, the pure and orthodox Churches of New England were first formed.  Pious parents esteemed it a great privilege to dedicate their children to God in baptism.  They did it in faith, and with fervent prayer.  The children, thus dedicated to God, were considered as being in a peculiar relation to the Church, and under its care and watch.  “As for the children of the covenant,” said Dr. Increase Mather, “let discipline be extended towards them according  as they are subjects capable thereof.  Did not our fathers come hither in hope that they should leave their children under the discipline and government of the Lord Jesus in his Church?  Hath not Christ owned the application of solemn, public admonitions, &c. to some of them that have been children of the Church, though not in full communion, so as to convert their souls thereby?”  The Churches were then blessed with times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.  In fulfillment of his promise, he poured his Spirit on their seed; and numbers came forward, and subscribed with their own hands to be the Lord’s.  But, of late years, how lamentable has been the change?  How many who have practiced infant baptism, have not duly attended to its import and design, nor faithfully discharged the duties, which it involves?  Children have been consecrated to God, and then left to their own wayward inclination.  And what have Churches done to prevent or remove this evil?  Have they been duly attentive to their children, or suitably concerned for their salvation?—To say, ‘We are not agreed about this part of our duty,’ is too much evidence of apostasy.  This disagreement may arise from our neglect of duty.  Had our Churches been faithful, our duty might have been plain.  Then their practice, in connexion with the word of God, would have marked out a plain path.  But having so much and so long forsaken the good old way, it is difficult finding it.

Our neglect of the children of the Church has had another very bad effect.  It has excited strong prejudices against infant baptism.  Many have openly denied, and warmly opposed it.  But this is a sad departure from the faith and practice of the pious fathers of New England, as well as of the great body of Christ’s faithful followers ever since his ascension.  Even Churches, that the Lord has peculiarly blessed with his presence and grace, have been reproached and reviled as Churches of anti-Christ; and the children of God’s people have been taught to despise the seal of the covenant.  The consequence has been, that many of our youth are vain, thoughtless and inattentive to religion.  The more infant baptism is denied, and children neglected, the more deplorable their ignorance and stupidity.  This lamentable fact has been witnessed in New England.

Catechetical instruction is greatly neglected.  In former times, the assembly’s catechism was used in all our schools.  Much pains were taken to teach the youth this excellent summary of Christian faith and practice.  The Bible was also universally read in schools.  The effects were very happy.  Children were early acquainted with the scriptures.  A worthy minister has told me that the whole scripture history was familiar to him at the age of seven years.  But from this good old way there are sad departures.  The Bible and catechism are much laid aside, in educating children, both in schools and families.  The effects are very evident and alarming.  Many come forward into active life, ignorant of the first principles of the oracles of God.  Such persons are easily “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

Our conduct, in other respects, testifies that we have departed from the primitive piety of New England.  A pious and learned minister of Roxbury, the Rev. Samuel Danforth, in his election sermon, 1670, says, “In our first and best times the kingdom of heaven broke in upon us with a holy violence, and every man pressed into it.  What mighty efficacy and power had the clear and faithful dispensation of the gospel upon your hearts?—How careful were you, even all sorts, young and old, high and low, to take hold of the opportunities of your spiritual good and edification, ordering your secular affairs so as not to interfere with your general calling?  How diligent and faithful in preparing your hearts for the reception of the word?—How attentive in hearing the everlasting gospel?—How fervent in prayer to God for his blessing on the seed sown?  O what an esteem for Christ’s faithful ambassadors in those days?  How precious were they in your eyes?  Counting yourselves happy in the enjoyment of a pious, learned, and orthodox ministry.  What ardent desires after communion with Christ in his ordinances?  What solicitude to seek the Lord after the right order?—O how your faith grew exceedingly?—O how your love towards each other abounded?”  Thus spake this godly  man.

But what would he now say of New England?  Would he not say that the words of his dear fellow laborer, Dr. Increase Mather, were verified?  “If such places, where the house of God hath been erected, do once degenerate, they are like to become Bethavens, places of greatest vanity and iniquity in the world.—Gilgal was once famous upon religious accounts.—But in after generations, it was a fountain of much wickedness.  All their wickedness was in Gilgal.  The devil seeks to corrupt those places especially, which once were famous for religion.—Wittemburg in Germany was the town, where the reformation in Luther’s time began; and therefore the devil did seek to corrupt that place especially, and caused it to become the seat of grievous heresies.”  How much is this to be seen in our land?  How great and lamentable is the change in many congregations?  What contempt of the gospel and its institutions is manifested?  What heresies are advanced?  What stupidity prevails?  How dissipated and profligate are many?  How many professors of religion may be found, who are nowise distinguished from the world, by their sobriety, or attention to religious duties?  In short, how much do error and impiety abound in places once famous for evangelical truth and holiness.
It was not love of the world, but the love of God, which brought our ancestors to this land.  They fought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  But “the interest of New England is now changed from a religious to a worldly interest; and in this, is our great radical apostasy.”  The great object of pursuit is worldly gain.  Multitudes have adopted it as their maxim, that gain is godliness.  Consequently, fraud, deceit, lying, contention, injustice, extortion, and all kinds of base and iniquitous speculation greatly abound.  Through love of the world, many trample on divine authority, neglect their souls, reject the great salvation, and pursue the downward road to endless perdition.—How many religious professors love the world and the things of the world?  How little of the favor of godliness is perceived in their conduct and conversation?  Alas! They seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.

How much do we fail of treading in the steps of our ancestors?  How different is our character from theirs?  What different objects engage our attention?  Alas!  Alas!  Where is the primitive glory of New England!
How great is our guilt!  This is increased in proportion to the obligations we have violated.  And what people has been more highly favored; what people has been laid under greater obligations to be holy?  “As for special relation to God;” says Mr. Stoughton, “whom hath the Lord more signally exalted than his people in this wilderness?  The name, and interest of God, and covenant relation to him, have been written upon us, in capital letters from the beginning—As for restipulations and engagements back again to God; what solemn public transactions of this kind have there been among us?  Hath not the eye of the Lord beheld us laying covenant engagements upon ourselves?  Hath not his ear heard us solemn avouching him and him alone to be our God and Saviour?—As for our advantages and privileges in a covenant state; if any people in the world have been lifted up to heaven, as to these, we are the people.  Name what you will under this head, and we have had it.

We have had Moses and Aaron to lead us; we have had teachings and instructions;—we have had ordinances and gospel dispensations the choicest of them; we have had peace and plenty; we have had afflictions and chastisements in measure; we have had the hearts, and prayers, and blessing of the Lord’s people everywhere; we have had the eye and hand of God watching and working every way for our good; our adversaries have had their rebukes, we have had our encouragements and a wall of fire round about us.  What more could have been done for us, than has been done?—And then as to New England’s first ways; glorious things might here be spoken unto the praise of free grace, and to justify the Lord’s expectations upon this ground?  Surely God hath spoken concerning his Churches here as in Jeremiah, ii. 2.  I remember the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness.  O what were the open professions of the Lord’s people that first entered this wilderness?  How did our fathers entertain the gospel, with all the pure institutions thereof, and those liberties, which they brought over?  What was their communion and fellowship in the administration of the kingdom of Jesus Christ?  What was the pitch of their brotherly love, of their zeal for God and his ways, and against ways destruction of truth and holiness?  What was their humility, their mortification, their exemplariness?  How much of holiness to the Lord was written upon all their ways and transactions?  God sifted a whole nation, that he might send choice grain over into this wilderness.” 

Such, my brethren, have been our obligations to be a holy people: and our obligations have been continually increasing, by manifestations of divine goodness.  New England has been, in a peculiar sense, the vineyard of the Lord, where he has looked for the fruits of righteousness.  But we have yielded the grapes of Sodom.  We have brought forth iniquity.  To us, the Lord may say, “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity;—children that are corrupters!  They have forsaken the Lord; they have provoked the holy One of Israel unto anger; they are gone away backward.”  “Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.—He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.”

NOW, my Brethren and Friends, what shall be done?  Shall we continue to depart from the faith and piety of our ancestors?  Or shall we make every possible exertion to revive and promote the pure religion of the gospel?
What can be more laudable than to pursue the design of our ancestors?  Or what can be more criminal than, instead of imitating their love and zeal for truth and holiness, to embrace and advocate error and live in impiety?  Did it not add greatly to the guilt of unbelieving Jews, that Abraham was their father?  Were not the Scribes and Pharisees peculiarly criminal in pretending to venerate the ancient prophets, while they rejected and persecuted those who came in the same spirit, and bore witness to the same truths?  And how aggravated must be our condemnation, if we not only refuse to imitate the piety of our ancestors; but also oppose, with more or less vehemence, the cause which they so zealously promoted?

Receive in love, I beseech you, the doctrines of grace, which our ancestors held so dear.  Can you be ashamed of the gospel?  And can you be ashamed of the gospel, or of those doctrines which are its essence and glory, without being ashamed of Christ?  What they would be your doom?  Do you expect to possess the piety of our ancestors, while you reject the essential doctrines of the gospel?  Such an expectation must be vain.  Reject these doctrines, and your character must be directly opposite to heirs.  Reject these doctrines, and how absurd to pretend that you believe the gospel?  What, pretend to believe the gospel.  Receive its doctrines in love, and they will purify the heart and produce the fruits of righteousness.  Let them dwell richly in you, and you will not deserve the name of bigots or fanatics: for you will be able to give a reason of your belief and hope, and to commend yourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Would you be guilty of murder, or theft, or perjury?  And will you profane the Sabbath?  What can be a more open contempt of the authority of God, or of the blessings of his grace?  What can be more provoking to him, or destructive to you?  Can you indulge a hope of salvation, while you profane the precious memorial of the Saviour’s resurrection?

Daily unite, I beseech you in the worship of God.  How can you neglect this duty or despise this privilege?  Do you not need the blessing of God?  Ought you not to acknowledge his goodness?  If you live without prayer, will your families differ from the heathen?  Yes, they will differ by being stained with greater guilt.  What will it avail you to excel the heathen in knowledge, and refinement, while, by restraining prayer before God, you become more deserving of his wrath?

Look on your dear children.  Realize their frailty, and the worth of their souls.  Are not these dying immortals placed peculiarly under your care?  Is not their instruction committed to you?  Does not God command you to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?  And what if they perish through your neglect?  How then could you meet them in the presence of your Judge?

Christian brethren; what exertions are required, at this day, in the cause of truth and holiness?  Behold the prevailing heresies and impiety, and can you be inactive?  How would your pious ancestors feel; how would they conduct?  Would they indulge a slothful habit?  Would they shrink from any labor, or sufferings in defense of the truth?  Imbibe their spirit, and you will contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; and decidedly oppose every sentiment, which exalts sinful man, and degrades the adorable Saviour to a mere creature.

Strive, dear Brethren, to promote the power of godliness.  Be not ashamed to advocate revivals of religion, which are caused by the Spirit of God, in connexion with his word: nor be moved at the conduct of those who call such revivals, fanaticism and delusion, except to be moved with pity and concern for their souls.[xii]  Pray, fervently and constantly, that God would pour out his Spirit, and revive his work, with mighty power.  Be deeply sensible, that, without the special grace of God, our Churches will come to nothing, or worse than nothing; formality and impiety will overspread our congregations, and sinners rush on to destruction.  Can you be unaffected with such scenes?  Can you see vice and impiety abound, and souls perish forever, and yet make no exertions to promote pure religion?

Esteem very highly the institutions of the gospel.  Be deeply grieved at the profanation of the Sabbath; and exert all your influence and authority to prevent it.  Imitate the example of Nehemiah, who boldly said to Sabbath-breakers, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day?  Let your whole conduct testify your reverence for the day.  Let it never be said that Christian professors profane the day by vain and worldly conversation, or any unsuitable conduct.  But call the Sabbath a delight, the Holy of the Lord, Honorable; and honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.

With fervent love and lively joy, commemorate the death of Christ; and highly prize the ordinance of baptism.  Esteem it a precious privilege, to enter into covenant with God in Christ; and then to devote to him your beloved children Dear Brethren, let it no longer be thought, that the consecration of children to God in baptism is a vain thing.  But shew its importance by faithfully discharging your duty to your children.  In this way, convince the opposers of infant baptism of their error.  Have you not, too long and too justly, been charged with neglecting the religious education of your children, after dedicating them to God in baptism?  Shall this charge still lie against you?  O be faithful to your children.  Never forget their consecration to God; but let it quicken you in every parental duty.  Frequently remind them of their baptism and urge it, as a motive, why they should consent to be the Lord’s.  Do with all your might, what you find to do for their salvation.  How solemn is your charge!  How great, your responsibility!

Feel the vast importance of catechising children.  By diligence in this mode of instruction, the Waldenses successfully promoted the knowledge of the Scriptures.  “When certain Jesuits were sent among them, to entice them from the truth to idolatry, they returned amazed, professing that children of seven years old, among the Waldenses, knew more in the Scriptures and of the mysteries of the gospel, than many of their doctors did.”  Exert yourselves, my Brethren, to revive this mode of instruction, both in families and schools.  What better method can be pursued, to make our children acquainted with the scriptures.[xiii]  Be zealous and persevering in this business. Excite and encourage youth and children to attend to the Bible and Catechism.  Shew them the great importance of religious instruction.  Let them see that their parents and instructors are deeply concerned for their welfare.  Let them feel that you desire and fervently pray for the salvation of their souls.

Let this subject deeply engage the attention of Churches.  Has not every Church of Christ important duties to discharge towards their children?  Are Christian brethren, in covenant relation with each other, to express no concern for each other’s children?  Does the promise of God to pour his Spirit on the children of the Church, impose on them no obligation to see whether their children are partakers of this grace?  Can a Church unite in dedicating their children to God in baptism, that they may be his, and yet have nothing more to do for them?  What a prostitution this would be of their baptism?  What a neglect, not to say contempt, of the promise?  And how opposite to all the dictates of that love, which seeketh not her own?  Let the subject, my Brethren, be well considered.  Let the Church and their children come together for prayer and religious conference; let all the members be fervent in love to each other and to the children; exercise a lively faith in the promise; and realize covenant engagements; and would nothing be done for the salvation of the children?  Would no instructions, no exhortations, no admonitions be given them?  It has been practiced in New England, for a Church to set apart days, to beseech the Lord to pour his Spirit on their children.  Ought not the practice to be revived?[xiv]

Let our Churches be strict in the admission of members; and united in reviving gospel discipline.  What can be more conducive to their purity, peace, and prosperity.  Let persons be admitted without a faithful examination, and discipline neglected, and our Churches will be corrupted and ruined.  Be faithful, beloved Brethren, in these two important concerns.  Be faithful to each other, in mutual watchfulness and reproof.  Exhort one another daily, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Let the friends of evangelical truth be more united, and act more in concert.  Let there be more pious, prayerful consultations for the advancement of Christ’s cause.  Beware of the adversary, whose policy it is to excite jealousy and sow discord among brethren.  He dreads their united influence.  Being agreed in the essentials of Christianity, never let a difference of opinion on minor subjects divide you.  Love one another, with a pure heart fervently; and be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.

Vigorously pursue every lawful method to advance the cause of truth.  The glory of God; the honor of the Redeemer; the salvation of immortal souls; and your own highest blessedness, require it.  Let no difficulties, no opposition, no trials move you from the path of duty.  Be steadfast in the faith.  When others forsake the cause they once espoused; or boldly advance and warmly advocate opinions, subversive of the gospel; let your attachment to the truth, be more ardent and vigorous.  Let it prompt you to greater exertions.  Declare the whole counsel of God, as duty shall require.  Never listen to the infidel sentiment, that if a man’s life be regular, it is no matter what he believes.  But remember that men can never be sanctified and saved, except through the truth.  To attempt their conversion, while the doctrines of grace are concealed or denied, is beating the air.  In defense of these doctrines, unite zeal and meekness, resolution and prayer.

Be excited to greater zeal by the laudable exertions of others.  Behold the friends of Jesus uniting in the same grand design.  See what noble efforts are made.  Consider what has been done, within a few years, to advance the cause of truth.  Engage in this cause, with all your hearts; for it will prosper; it will rise triumphant, above all opposition.  It is the cause of Jehovah.  With growing zeal, employ your time, your talents, and all you have, in the work of the Lord.  Animated with the spirit of martyrs, go forward boldly in his service.  Confide in the grace and power of Jehovah—Jesus.  His grace is sufficient for you.  His power will uphold and defend you, till your warfare is accomplished; and then crown you with eternal glory.  Be ye strong, therefore, and let not your hands be weak; for your work shall be rewarded.—Amen.

 


[i] Dr. Fulk, quoted in Prince’s N. E. Chronology, page 5.
[ii] See Prince’s N. E. Chronology and Holmes’ Annals.
[iii] These are the doctrines usually denominated Calvinistic.
[iv] Prince’s N. E. Chronology, page 91-93.
[v] Marse and Parish’s history of New England.
[vi] Marse and Parish’s history of New England.
[vii] Christian History for 1743, page 107; and Holmes’ Annals.
[viii] Narrative of revival of religion at Northampton.
[ix] Cited in the Christian history, page 72.
[x] Christian history, page 135.
[xi] Ten of these belonged to Boston.  Upwards of forty Ministers who were not present, sent forward their written testimonies to the work of God’s grace.  These were published in the Christian history.
[xii] No doubt, there is much fanaticism and delusion at the present day.  For Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, that he may deceive the more successfully.  When God revives his work, Satan attempts to imitate it; as the magicians attempted to imitate the miracles wrought by Moses.  A genuine revival of religion is distinguished from all counterfeits by its conformity to divine truth.  The author is happy to avail himself of the testimony of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, on this subject.  In their narrative of the state of religion, published at their late session, they expressly declare that they “cannot recognize as genuine any work in the hearts of men, bearing the name of religion, but that which is produced by the instrumentality of truth, acknowledges and honors that truth.—In those parts of the Church, without exception, in which vital religion has flourished, in the course of the last year, the fundamental doctrines of the gospel; viz. the total depravity of human nature, the divinity and atonement of Jesus Christ, justification by his imputed righteousness, the sovereignty and freeness of divine grace, and the special influences of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration and sanctification of sinners, have been decidedly received and honored.”—Try men by the doctrines of the gospel, if you would know whether their religious exercises are genuine.
[xiii] For this purpose, I would particularly recommend “The Evangelical Primer; by the Rev. Joseph Emerson of Beverly.”—It is very desirable, that this may be used in every family, and in every school.
[xiv] The General Assembly, in their narrative, referred to in a preceding note, say, “The means, in addition to the preaching of the word, which God has owned and blessed are, catechizing and prayer meetings.  And the Assembly hail it as an auspicious omen, that, upon many of his people and Churches, God has poured out a Spirit of grace and supplication.”

Sermon – Fasting – 1812


The following two discourses were given by Rev. John Giles on the occasion of a national day of fasting. This fast day had been proclaimed by President James Madison. Following these two discourses are “reviews” of them.


sermon-fasting-1812

TWO

DISCOURSES,

DELIVERED

TO THE SECOND PRESBYTERIAN SOCIETY

IN NEWBURYPORT, AUGUST 20, 1812.

THE DAY RECOMMENDED BY

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,

FOR NATIONAL

HUMILIATION AND PRAYER.

BY THE REV. JON GILES.

Newburyport, Aug. 24, 1812.

Rev. and Dear Sir,

WE the subscribers have been requested, by your parishioners and others, who attended on the delivering of your very patriotic and interesting discourses on the late Fast, to solicit a copy of them for the press.

We are, dear sir, with sentiments of very great respect,

Your obedient servants,
JOHN O’BRIEN,
WILLIAM DAVIS,
STEPHEN FROTHINGHAM.
REV. JOHN GILES.

To Capt. John O’Brien, Capt. William Davis, and Mr. Stephen Frothingham.

Gentlemen,

IN compliance with your request, I furnish you with copies of the discourses which were delivered, with the design of attaching my parishioners, still more, if possible, to our invaluable rights and privileges, and to incite in them increasing gratitude to that God who has so eminently distinguished us above every other nation.

I am your servant in the gospel of Christ,
J. GILES.
Newburyport, Aug. 26, 1812.

 

DISCOURSE I.

PSALM evi. 24.
YEA, THEY DESPISED THE PLEASANT LAND.

THIS Psalm is a short and concise history of the multiplied and unprovoked rebellions of the ungrateful Israelites; and the writer of it enumerates their sins and provocations against the goodness and blessings of God unto them. Jehovah had conducted them safely through scenes the most trying, and through dangers the most formidable and imminent, and brought them to the confines of the promised land; but the spies brought an ill report of it, though they owned it was a land which overflowed with milk and honey; but that there were such difficulties to possess it, which they thought insuperable; and hence the people despised it—in as much as when they were bid to go and possess it, they refused; and did not chuse to be at any difficulty in subduing the inhabitants of it, or run any risk or hazard of their lives in taking it, though the Lord had promised to give it them and settle them in it. But they seemed rather inclined to make themselves a captain, and return to Egypt, which was interpreted a despising the pleasant land.—See Numb. Xiv. 1.

This history conveys much instruction to us, and is well adapted to the designs of the day. And, before we proceed in illustrating and improving it; the speaker must premise, that it is not his intention to irritate and inflame the feelings of any, in what he may deliver upon the present occasion. His motives are, the discharge of duty, and publicly to avow his warm, firm, and decided attachment, to the country which has adopted him as its citizen, and to the illustrious character who at present presides over it; and to this duty he is urged by lively gratitude, and the solemn oath which he has taken, of undeviating allegiance to it.

First…Enquire what are those things which are absolutely necessary to constitute a land pleasant. And we observe,

1. That a climate the most salubrious, and a soil the most fertile and luxuriant, which may spontaneously produce, not only all the necessaries, but even the luxuries of life, may be rendered unhappy, and all these sweets blighted, and marred, through the intruding hand of some assuming and unfeeling tyrant. Such has been the state with the fertile lands of Portugal, Spain and Italy; and such is the still existing state of more prolific Turkey. The God of nature has, in those countries, scattered his gifts most profusely; but they are placed beyond the reach of the great mass of the people; a favoured few, engross the sweets to themselves, and like the forbidden fruit of Paradise, no hand dare pluck them without incurring the displeasure of their lords and masters. Thus, the kind bounties of an indulgent providence, are prostituted, and his creatures, who have a natural right to enjoy them, are tantalized with having them in continual view, but never are filled with the sweetness of them. This must turn the most pleasant and fruitful land into a sterile and painful wilderness; a land, which none of us, my hearers, would chuse as his home to dwell in, or as his place of sojourneying.

2. To render a land pleasant, its inhabitants must enjoy equal rights and privileges, otherwise it can be only to a favoured few, while the great majority are rendered objects of misery, through penury and distress; and thus, the comforts and blessings of civilized society, be abused and subverted, and even prostituted to the most ignoble and basest of purposes. We will demonstrate and illustrate this, not only from ancient, but modern governments. And here we observe, that society in every state is a blessing; but government in its best state is but a necessary evil,—in its worst state, an intolerable one. For when we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened, by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.—Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence. The palaces of kings, are built on the ruins of the bowers of Paradise. In ancient Greece, monarchy was the government which they first formed; but this they soon found degenerate into tyranny. Hence the term tyrant, was justly applied to them. And, indeed, the word originally signified no more than king, and was anciently the title of lawful princes. But monarchy gave way to a republican government, which, however, was diversified into almost as many various forms as there were different cities, according to the different genius and peculiar character of each people. But still there was a tincture, or leaven, of the ancient monarchical government, which frequently inflamed the ambition of private citizens, and made them desire to become masters of the country. In almost every state of Greece, some private persons advanced themselves, by cabal, treachery and violence, and exercised a sovereign authority, with a despotic empire; and in order to support their unjust usurpations, in the midst of distrusts and alarms, they thought themselves obliged to prevent imaginary or suppress real conspirators, by the most cruel proscriptions, and to sacrifice to their own security, all those whom rank, merit, wealth, zeal for liberty, or love of their country, rendered obnoxious to a suspicious and unsettled government, and which found itself hated by all, and was sensible it deserved to be so. What we have remarked of Greece, will, with a few shades of difference, apply to ancient Rome.

Let us now take a view of the modern governments of Europe, and examine how far they are calculated to add to the peace, comfort and happiness of mankind; and in the attempt our souls must overflow with gratitude to God, if sensible of the superior blessings and privileges we enjoy in this our favoured land. For,

3. A land to be pleasant, must have governors and magistrates, qualified and suited to the dignity and high stations they fill; nor can they command the respect and affection of those they rule over, unless they are the men of their choice. For the truth of this, I appeal to your judgment. Should we feel happy, were a man to be forced upon us, as governor of this state, or as president of the United States? And, granting the man, even qualified, in every point of view, would not our feelings revolt? But should such an one act the part of a tyrant, by oppressing your persons, taking from you your property, and reducing you and your posterity, from affluence to extreme want and beggary, the case would be still more afflicting. This representation is not ideal; it exists in all the aggravating circumstances here stated, and that in the fast-anchored isle of Great-Britain. The chief magistrate, or what they call king, is hereditary. How degrading this to an enlightened people! It is a system of mental leveling. It indiscriminately admits every species of character to the same authority. Vice and virtue, ignorance and wisdom, in short, every quality, good or bad, is put on the same level. Kings succeed each other, not as rationals; it signifies not what their mental or moral characters are. Such a government appears under all the various characters of childhood, decrepitude, and dotage; a thing at nurse, in leading-strings, or in crutches. It reverses the wholesome order of nature; it occasionally puts children over men, and maniacs to rule the wise. It requires some talents to be a common mechanic; but to be a king requires only the animal figure of a man, a sort of breathing automation. But I must observe, that I am not the personal enemy of kings. No man more heartily wishes, than myself, to see them all in the happy and honorable state of private individuals. But I am the avowed and open enemy of what is called monarchy; and I am such, by principles which nothing can either alter or corrupt—that is, by my attachment to humanity—by the anxiety, which I feel within myself, for the ease and honor of the human race—by the disgust which I experienced, when I observed men, directed by children, and governed by brutes—by the horrors, which all the evils that monarchy has spread over the earth, excite within my breast—and by those sentiments, which make me shudder at the calamities, the exactions, the wars, and the massacres with which monarchy has crushed mankind. Would not you, my hearers, consider such a land, however salubrious the clime, however fertile the soil, however embellished with the progress of the arts and sciences, deprived of its birth-right and groaning under special marks of divine displeasure? Let us rejoice, that we are in the full possession and free exercise of the privilege of selecting from ourselves men to be our rulers; and while we give them a compensation for the services which they render the public, in their several stations, which is but just and reasonable; for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Yet government in America is what it ought to be, a matter of honour and trust, and not made a trade of, as in England, for the purpose of lucre.

4. That which constitutes a land pleasant, is the state of society. To see every member of it in the enjoyment of all the essential necessaries of life; we do not mean, that one and all should possess equal property, for this never was designed by the God of nature; for there will be some who are comparatively poor, for the exercise of the benevolence of the rich. But that none should suffer through want or hunger, all who are in the enjoyment of health, and are industrious, should be able by moderate labour, to procure the comforts of life. We bless God that such a pleasant land is our inheritance. Here is a sufficiency of bread for all. Let the people here be but diligent, and a few years will place them in a state of independence. O how different is this, from what we see on the other side of the Atlantic! Should the enquiry be, what makes the difference, has not providence favored them with a fruitful land? We reply, providence has not been to them sparing in its gifts: but through the cunning craft of men, these gifts are engrossed by a few choice spirits, who riot in luxury, at the expense of the labourer, the mechanic and the husbandman. We will explain our meaning—The chief magistrate of England receives a million sterling every year; the other branches of his family, nearly the same sum, and a long list of placemen and pensioners, swell the burden to an enormous size. And all this is wrung from the hard earnings of the laboring poor. It is this wretched system which causes the land to mourn, which crowds the streets with beggars, and which drives men to the desperate act of invading the property of others; for what will not hunger impel men to! This picture is not overcharged; some present have seen with their eyes, these things, and can bear witness to the facts. But let us turn our view from these sickening scenes, and contemplate our own condition on these happy shores, and we see an extent of territory, twelve times larger than England, and the expense of the several departments of the general representative government not amounting to what is allowed even to the king alone.

5. To render a land pleasant, it is essential that the means of grace should be enjoyed. It is these which add to the glory of any land, and render a people truly great. This it was, which made the Israelites so much greater than other nations. Thus Moses describes them: “What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this Law which I set before you this day?” Without the Gospel, the most enlightened people, are no better than refined savages. The Gospel is a pearl of great price; it is the glory and honour of a church, a people, or a person. This only instructs us in the way of salvation. Trade and commerce, may gain and preserve an estate, bread may support the body, but this only can nourish and prop up the soul. When the Gospel is removed, the light is removed which is able to direct us, the pearl is removed which can only enrich us. In the want of this, is introduced a spiritual darkness, which terminates in an eternal darkness. As the Gospel is compared to Heaven, and so called the kingdom of heaven; and a people in the enjoyment of it are said to be lifted up to heaven; so in the want of it, they are said to be cast down to hell. See Matt. 10, 23. So that what resemblance there is between heaven and the means of grace; that there is between the want of them and hell. Both are a separation from God; so that when the Gospel departs, all other blessings depart with it, and judgments succeed. When the glory of God was gone up from the first cherub to the threshold of the house, see Ezek. 9, 3. The angels are commanded to execute the destructive sentence against the city. Ver. 4, 5. When the word of God is removed, the strength of a nation departs. The ordinances of God are the towers of Sion. The temple was not only a place of worship, but a bulwark too. The ark was often carried by the Israelites into the camp, because there their strength lay. And when David was chased away by his son Absalom, he takes the ark of the tabernacle, as his greatest strength against the defection of his son and subjects. This blessing, my hearers, we enjoy in a peculiar manner. The heavenly manna profusely descends around our tents, and every one may worship God in that form and manner which he thinks accords best with the volume of inspiration.

6. That which renders our land the glory of all lands, is to be free from all religious establishments, the bane of society, and curse of human nature. Let us enlarge a little on this sentiment. All religions are in their nature mild and benign, and united with principles of morality. They could not have made proselites at first, by professing anything which was vicious and persecuting or immoral. How is it then, that they lose their native mildness, and become morose and intolerant? It proceeds from an alliance between church and state. The inquisition in Spain and Portugal, does not proceed from the religion originally professed, but from this mule animal, as one calls it, engendered between church and state. The burnings in Smithfield, proceeded from the same heterogeneous production; and it was the regeneration of this strange animal, afterwards, in the nation now called the bulwark of our religion, which revived rancor and irreligion among the inhabitants there, and which drove the people called dissenters and Quakers to this country. Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly-marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion reassumes its original benignity. Here in America, a catholic priest is a good citizen, a good character, and a good neighbor; the same may be said of ministers of other denominations, and this proceeds, independent of men, from their being no law-establishment in America.

The constitution of the United States hath abolished or renounced toleration, and intoleration also; and hath established universal right of conscience. Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but is the counterfeit of it; both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding the liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it. The one is the pope armed with fire and faggot, and the other is the pope selling or granting indulgences. The former is church and state; the latter is church and traffic. This is the perverted state of things in that kingdom, called the world’s last hope. And though the gospel is there preached, yet it is the misfortune of many who love it, to have a minister imposed upon them, who is an enemy to it; and which minister they must support, with the tenth of their tithes; even though dissenters from the established church; and what adds to the turpitude of all this, no man can hold any place of trust or employ under the government, who is not an Episcopalian, without first receiving the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, on his bended knees, to qualify him for office. Must it not be duplicity, nay, the very essence of hypocrisy, in any man, to call such a kingdom, “the bulwark of our religion.”

Use I. Let us to-day, deplore, and lament over our manifold sins which have tempted God to let loose upon us one of his sore judgments. The sword is drawn, and more than probable, while I am addressing you, it is bathed in the blood of some of our fellow-citizens. It is true that at present, through mercy, it is placed at the distance from us; but some on our frontiers, and on the sea, have already fallen sacrifices, and we know not how soon it may be permitted to approximate our habitations. The fate of war is always precarious and uncertain. Let not him who putteth on his armour, boast like him who putteth it off. Remember it is God alone who giveth us the victory. Let our eyes then be directed to him, and all our expectations from him. This by no means supersedes the necessity of our warmest exertions. No, it is the sword of the Lord and Gideon. Let us then assist the brave, generous defenders of our country, who are vindicating our rights, and redressing our wrongs. Let us, I say, assist them by prayer and fervent cries, for prayer has ever proved a powerful weapon. If it overcomes God, it certainly will overcome men. Thus, while the hand of Moses was upheld by the prayer of Aaron and Hurr, he prevailed in the battle against Amalek. And it is promised, that one such, shall chance a thousand, and two, put ten thousand to flight. Thus Jehoshaphat, after he had proclaimed a fast, when a great multitude came against him, addresses God in prayer: O, our God, wilt thou not judge them, for we neither know we what to do , but our eyes are upon thee. And when they began to sing, and to praise, the Lord routed their enemies, with a great slaughter.

2. Let us encourage ourselves in the Lord, from the nature of the enemy we are now engaged with. In our infancy, we humbled their most celebrated generals; one of which boasted on the floor of Parliament, that with 3000 men, he would march in triumph, from one end of our continent to the other. Part of his assertion seemed to be prophetic, for he passed through a section of our continent, not as a conqueror, but a crest-fallen prisoner. If we achieved such exploits in our infant state, what shall we net, through provident, be able to do now in our manhood? Add to this the multiplied crimes of the government we are opposed to; a government founded and cemented in blood, and its tottering state, still upheld by blood; a government with which, it is evident, the Lord has a controversy. How different the state of this, our happy land. Never had a country so many openings to happiness as this; her setting out into life, like the rising of a fair morning, was unclouded and promising; her cause was good; her principles just and liberal; her conduct regulated by the nicest steps, and every thing about her wore the mark of honour. Here I will give you the language of Mr. Rush, the orator of the day, at the seat of our government, the 4th of July last. When, let us ask with exultation, when have ambassadors from other countries been sent to our shores, to complain of injuries done by the American States? What nation have the American States plundered? What nation have the American States plundered? What nation have the American States outraged? Upon what rights have the American States trampled? In the pride of justice and true honour, we say, none. But we have sent forth from ourselves the messengers of peace and conciliation, again and again, across seas, and to distant countries—To ask, earnestly justice to sue, for a cessation of the injuries done to us. They have gone to protest, under the sensibility of real suffering, against that course which made the persons and the property of our countrymen, the subjects of indiscriminate and rapacious spoliations. These have been the ends they were sent to obtain. Ends too fair for protracted refusal, too intelligible to have been entangled in evasive subtitles, too legitimate to have been neglected hostile silence. When their ministers have been sent to us, what has been the aim of their missions? To urge redress for wrongs done to them, shall we ask again? No, the melancholy reverse. For in too many instances, they have come to excuse, to palliate, or even to endeavour, in some shape, to rivet, those inflicted by their sovereigns upon us.

We, my hearers, have nothing to fear eventually, in our contest with a government so depraved and corrupt, as that of the British. Her fictitious wealth is depreciating; her most wise and virtuous statesmen cannot be prevailed upon to join, and unite in her councils; her prince regent has, by his intemperance and debaucheries, reduced himself to the state of an idiot; and the multitudes of her poor, rendered desperate by hunger, are already threatening to overwhelm it with their vengeance. In short, every sign of the times, indicates her speedy dissolution. Certainly the righteous God will not suffer her wicked and horrid ravages to go unavenged, even here upon earth. Let us wait awhile, and we may live to see the time, wherein it shall not be said by the voice of faith, but by the voice of sense itself, Babylon, the great, is fallen, is fallen!

 

DISCOURSE II.

PSALM 106. 24.
YEA, THEY DESPISED THE PLEASANT LAND.

The speaker, in the forenoon, called your attention, to the distinguishing goodness of God, which has exempted us as a people, from the burdens, oppressions, and calamities, under which the nations of Europe groan, and which wring from the inhabitants, the most piercing cries. Our lines are fallen in pleasant places: yea, we have a goodly heritage: but some among us, like Jeshurun of old, have waxed fat and are kicking against the rock of salvation. This leads us,

Second…To exhibit the characters who despise the pleasant land.

We charge no party, solely, as implicated in this crime; but shall attempt to demonstrate that there are such men among us. And we will, as we proceed in our description, adhere to the criterion laid down by our Saviour—you shall know them by their fruit.

1. Men may be said to despise it, when they make light of their privileges, either in a natural, moral, or political view.

First, in a natural view. The Mercies, which we call natural, are those which are necessary for our nourishment and support; and that we, as a people, abound in these, is evident to all. We live in a land ever-flowing with a rich variety of God’s providential goodness Here is no leanness of teeth; our streets are not crowded with our fellow-creatures, soliciting the aid of our benevolence—nor our ears assailed with the melancholy tales of indigence and distress. The parent, with pallid cheeks, hollow eyes, and trembling limbs, arrest not our steps with importunate cries for relief to their helpless infants, pining in want, and the lamp of life ready to expire, because destitute of means to nourish it. We are placed far from these sickening scenes. But, alas! Do we not make light of these mercies? We enjoy the mercies, and forget the donor. We take what he gives; but pay not the tribute he deserves. The Israelites forgot God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt. We send God’s mercies, where we would have him send our sins, into a land of forgetfulness; and write his benefits, where he himself will write the names of the wicked; in the dust, which every wind effaces. We forget his goodness in the sun, while it warms us—in the showers, while they enrich us—and in the corn, while it nourishes us. It is an injustice to forget the benefits we receive from man, but a crime, of a higher nature, to forget those dispensed to us by the hand of God, who gives us those things which all the world cannot furnish us without him. It is, in God’s judgment, a brutishness beyond that of a stupid ox, or a duller ass. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider. How horrible, that God should lose more by his bounty, than he would by his parsimony. If we had blessings more sparingly, we should remember him more gratefully. If he had sent us a bit of bread in distress, by a miracle, as he did to Elijah, by the ravens, we should retain it in our memories. But the sense of daily favours, soonest wear out of our minds, which are as great miracles, as any in their own nature, and the products of the same power.

Secondly. We despise our moral and spiritual privileges, when we reject the truths of revealed religion. This is one of the crying sins of our land. Errors which were almost obsolete, are reviving, and the professors of those pernicious doctrines, are daily multiplying and increasing, by which the glories of Christ are laid prostrate in the dust; and the object of the Christian’s dearest hope is degraded, and brought down to a level with a creature, so that we had need to tremble at the prospects before us; for these sentiments, like the explosion of a subterraneous fire, may ere long burst forth and spread fain, slaughter, and death, all around, should they become the creed of an established religion. Let no one say, we live in an age too enlightened, for religious persecution to gain head. But stop; let us for a moment examine the force of this reasoning; and one remark shall suffice. Could any of you, venerable patriots, who joyfully took the spoiling of your goods, and waded your way through blood to gain the pinnacle of liberty, could you suppose, at the close of our national struggle, that in the year 1812, your fellow-citizens should become objects of persecution, for an attachment to those very sentiments, for which so many of our fathers bled and died? And who are the characters who foment and the very ringleaders of this intolerant spirit? Are they not those who profess the aforesaid sentiments?

Men despise the pleasant land, who make light of the gospel, and will not attend to the preaching of it; or if they give it a hearing, refuse to comply with its just nd reasonable requisitions. It is not enough, to be within the visible ark; so was a cursed Ham. Let us not receive the grace of God in vain; but adorn the gospel, by a gospel spirit, and a gospel practice, and walk as children of light. Let us not trample it under our feet, but put our souls under the efficacy of it, and get from it the foretastes of a heavenly and everlasting light. Let us not loiter while the sun shines, lest we be benighted, and bewildered, and misled, and finally miscarry.

Those may, with the strictest propriety, be ranked among the despisers, who dragoon religion into their service, and make it the trumpet of sedition and rebellion. The gospel, is the gospel of peace. It was introduced by angels with Glory to God in the highest, and on earth good will to man. Christ, the author of it, is called the Prince of peace; and it inculcates peace on all its followers. How malignant, then, must that soul be, which would convert it into an engine to irritate, goad, and inflame the passions of men, to strife, blood, and slaughter? When the sacred desk, is converted into a vehicle of scandal, and calumny, and charges predicated on misrepresentation and the most glaring falsehood; this is a prostitution, not only of place, but office, and sinking the ministerial character into that of a public informer. It is a melancholy consideration, that such occurrences should have taken place, as to force from the speaker such observations; but when the poison is openly and widely diffused, it is the duty of every good man to administer an antidote, to counteract the effects of it. Such conduct strikes at the root, and is subversive of a free government, and has a tendency to introduce anarchy and confusion. It likewise flies in the face of divine authority, and sub serves the cause of infidelity; for no truth is more explicitly revealed, than due subordination to government. We will quote a few to corroborate our assertion. Exod. 22. 28. Thou shalt not revile the Gods, nor curse the rulers of thy people. And Rom. 13. 1, 2. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. Jude calls these disorganizers, v. 8. Filthy dreamers, who defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Can there be a greater prop to infidelity? Did Thomas Paine, with all his frantic ravings against the Christian religion, give it so fatal a stab as these pretended advocates of it, who, in direct opposition to its express commands, defame and pour a torrent of abuse upon our worthy President; a man who, when first inducted into the presidency, was represented, by these his now defamers, as a converted man, and an experimental Christian. But all these puny attempts to sink, will but elevate him the higher, in the esteem of every genuine American; and with dignified composure, and silent contempt, he hears all these unfounded accusations, as the ebullitions of ignorance or of a maniac; and he who has so long withstood the roaring of lions, has nothing to fear from the braying of an ass.

3. Men despise our political privileges, when they use every stratagem to render our government contemptible, and to alienate the affections of their fellow citizens from it. This is to imitate Satan, who would rather reign in hell, than be subordinate in heaven. Never did human wisdom devise so fair a fabric as our Federal Government. Each state united to the other, like the several members of the human body, co-operating for the good of the whole; so that one cannot say, I have no need of you. All are bound by solemn compact, to adhere to each other; for the good of the whole, is the good of each. How malicious! How cruel! How savage! To attempt to mutilate so fair a fabric, and to loose the bond of union, and destroy a system, which, with its increasing years, hath produced increasing prosperity. We grant that our apparent prosperity, has partially been interrupted; but this arose not from any defect in our government, nor in those at the head of it; but from the existing state of the European world, which for a few years past, has been in an uncommon fermentation. Nor could Solomon, had he presided over us, have guarded us against the collisions of the belligerent powers. French ambition, and British cupidity have committed spoliations on our commerce to a vast amount. But must not every impartial person admit, that, to promote a spirit of discord and disunion among ourselves, is not the way to redress, but the sure method to incite them to greater aggressions. Let us frown, indignant, at every attempt to dissolve our federal constitution, however sacred may be their functions; let us regard them as missionaries of him who is the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning.

When men counteract the means which the wisdom of our Executive devise to assert our rights, redress our wrongs, and maintain our national dignity and honour—or even when they be cold and lukewarm in promoting them, they come within the charge of our text. Such characters may use plausible pleas, to extenuate their conduct—such as the temper of the public mind, the persecutions they shall be exposed to, and the losses they shall sustain; but if these pleas are valid now, they were valid during our revolutionary war; and had the patriots of that day, displayed the same spirit, we should be groaning now in Egyptian bondage. Let such tremble; let them arise from their torpor, lest they subject themselves to the anathema pronounced against some in days of old. See Judges 5. 23. Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord; curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.

When men turn liberty into licentiousness, and take shelter under the lenity of our law, to degrade and abuse the majesty of the law; this has a tendency to destroy the liberty we enjoy, and lay prostrate in ruin, the fair edifice, which has for thirty years withstood all the rude shocks to which it has been exposed; either by exciting our legislators to lay some restrictions on the press, which at the present teems with so many inflamitory, virulent, and infamous publications, or else reducing us to a state of anarchy. Let me, on this occasion, advise you my hearers, to adhere, inflexibly adhere, to the principles of Republicanism. But at the same time, bear and forbear, with the insults which your principles may expose you to. Remember, our constitution is founded on the right of private judgment, and that principles cannot be destroyed by the force of arms. No; let reason and argument be the only weapons which you will use; and if violence be heard in our land, wasting and destruction within our borders, let them not originate from those who call themselves republicans, and friends of our government; but from those who assume to themselves, the exclusive privilege of being the friends of good order.

Use 1. Let us, to-day, lament over the ruin of lapsed nature, and over the jarring discordant, and destructive effects, which sin has introduced in all our national calamities, under all the pressure of the times, and in the midst of personal sufferings. Let us hear the answer of God to all our murmurings: Thy way, and thy doings, have procured these things unto thee: This is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thy heart. Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and by faith in the Redeemer, and genuine repentance, disarm a frowning God of that vengeance which we have demerited at his hands.

2. Let us, like so many Moseses, stand in the gap, and plead with God, that he would spare us, a guilty people, and still indulge us with a continuance of those privileges for which our fathers fought, bled, and died. O, let us not barter them away for present enjoyments, but patiently submit to, and bear a few privations whilst the present contest continues; and though much of our property may be exhausted in the struggle, yet it is better to leave our families the possession of our present privileges, without the possession of a cent, than to leave them millions of dollars, with the entailment of slavery.

3. Let those, who openly express their disaffection to our government, pause, and reflect upon the criminality of their conduct; for God himself bears witness against those sins which disturb society. In these cases, he is pleased to interest himself in a most signal manner, to cool those, who make it their business to overturn the order he hath established for the good of the earth. He doth not so often in this world punish those faults committed immediately against his own honour, as those which put a state into a hurry, and confusion. It is observed, that the most turbulent, seditious persons in a state, come to most violent ends: As Corah, Adonijah, Zimri, Ahitophel draws Absalom’s sword against David and Israel, and the next he twists a halter for himself. Absalom heads a party against his father, and God, by a goodness to Israel, hangs him up, and prevents not its safety, by David’s indulgence, and a future rebellion, had life been spared by the fondness of his father. His providence is more evident in discovering disturbers, and the causes which move them, and in digging the contrivers out of their caverns, and lurking holes. He doth more severely in this world, correct those actions, which unlink the mutual assistance between man and man, and the charitable and kind correspondence he would have kept up.

4. How lost to gratitude, and love of country, must be such of our deluded citizens, who can rejoice in the disasters of those, who are engaged in warfare, against our proud, insulting foe; and are ready to weep at any success which attends our arms. Even the brute beast is attached to the spot which affords it pasture; but they, more brutish, would tear to pieces the foliage of the tree which screens them from the storm, and, unlike the beast, maliciously invite others to join them in blasting our fairest prospects, and laying all in wide ruin and destruction! Is not this too evidently the wish of those among us, who make use of every artifice, and twist and turn all the patriotic measures of our Executive, as being under the control of French influence? Which their own conscience cannot subscribe to, neither do they themselves believe so. But the evil object they have in view, they studiously conceal; and this outcry against French influence, is raised as a mist to blind the eyes of the public, and to sub serve the design of pulling down our present rulers, and to raise themselves on their ruin. Should they succeed in their nefarious plan, what would be the destructive consequence? Why, we soon should see these very same people, who are so clamorous against foreign influence, forming an alliance with Great-Britain, offensive and defensive, which would involve us in the same ruin with herself. Let us, for the truth of this, appeal to stubborn facts. Who is it that justify, and, if they cannot justify, palliate all the insults which we have for ten years past received from that government? If they outrage all laws, moral and divine, by impressing thousands of our gallant seamen; and if, either by bribes, or cruel whippings and floggings, they are forced to enter the service, their advocates extenuate their conduct, by observing, that it is impossible for them to discriminate between our people and their own, as our features and language are so similar. With such reasons and arguments, they justify the cruel wrongs, inflicted on our unhappy countrymen, who are forced to join and assist the common enemy, in their murderous work, and who are perhaps this moment, imbruing their hands in the blood of their nearest friends and dearest relative. These predilections for a government, which is sowing among us the seed of discord, sedition, and treason, and which wishes to tear from us our dearest rights, demonstrates where the bias of their minds tends to. Nor can a word be uttered in their hearing against the British, but what they resent more than they would blasphemy; this speaks volumes, and evidently points to us the object which they have in view. But let them tremble for their conduct. The great mass of our citizens, have too long tasted the sweets of liberty, to exchange it for the gewgaws of monarchy. It is enough for us to will to be free, and maugre all the attempts of anarchists and monarchists, we are free. And let them not suppose, that their misdeeds shall go unpunished. The day of reckoning is fast approaching, when the strong arm of law and justice, will overtake them, and make them sensible that even in a republican government, there is energy enough to crush the guilty.

5. Let not the exertions of the religious inhabitants of England, influence your attachment to the British government, as if the large donations contributed for the support of Missionaries, the distribution of Bibles, and other religious purposes, were the acts of government. These are the generous efforts of its subjects, of individuals, groaning under the pressure of taxes. And how much more would these individuals contribute toward these benevolent purposes, were the demands of government not so numerous! So far is it from true, that the British government is friendly, that it is opposed to the spread of the gospel among the millions in Asia. For, within eight years past, the government of England rejected the application of the Missionary Society to send missionaries to India, to preach the gospel; and which subjected that society to the expense of sending them to New-York, from whence they embarked to the place of their destination. To conclude,

Men brethren, and Fathers,

Let us, today, take a fresh survey of our National, our State, and our personal Blessings, and let us entertain them with a godly jealousy. Let no man under a pretext of liberty, cajole us out of our privileges. With all our calamities, we are comparatively, a happy people. We can boast of what no other people can. The sovereignty is in our own hands. We are not bound, as in France and England, to crouch like beasts of burden to those who goad, and add to the weight of their chains. Our rulers, are our servants, and not our masters. It is by our free suffrages, they have been elevated to their exalted stations; and if they swerve from the principles of liberty, we can destroy their official dignity, and reduce them to the ranks of private citizens, without having recourse to acts of violence. The miseries attending the French revolution, must be yet fresh in your memories; and we hope, and pray, that no aspiring demagogues may be permitted to rise up among us, whereby the proscriptions, assassinations, and murders, of a ferocious Marat, and an ensanguined Robespierre, may pollute and stain our hallowed land of liberty and equality.

And you, my young hearers, read, frequently read, the history of your country. Emulate the deeds of your sires, whose patriotic arms, put to flight the ruffian hordes, which Britain vomited on our shores. O, prove yourselves to be the descendants of those, whose names will shine with luster on the historic page; and should you, like them, be called to avenge your country’s wrongs, prove, that you not only inherit their names, but likewise their courage; that you will not detract from their glory, but maintain with your blood, undiminished, the fair inheritance which they have bequeathed you. And, O, that a double portion of their spirit may rest on you. AMEN, and AMEN.

 

APPENDIX.

To the above discourses we subjorn the following reviews, which have been communicated; in the first of which they are considered merely as literary, and in the second, as political productions:– -to which we add a parallel, exhibiting to the reader not only the pure source from which this reverend gentleman draws the instruction with which he feeds his flock; but the honourable manner in which he does it, by refusing to give the tribute of acknowledgment to whom that tribute is due.

REVIEW I.

THE present is an age of pamphlets. The light which beams from the press, in these days of darkness and blood, seems to overwhelm us with “One tide of glory, one unbounded blaze.” Nor is this light copious only,—it is remarkably intense. The human mind, in the uninterrupted enjoyment of peace, becomes inactive, and fancy ceases to spread her wings, and reposes in torpid slumbers. But, blow the blast of war, and all is life, ardour and strength:—the pen of the erudite is pointed for the combat, and the lips of the eloquent are open to persuade;—genius, by collision with genius, is dazzled with its own scintillations, and reason turns with astonishment from the subject she is pursuing, to admire the profundity of her own researches. The press is the vehicle by which this mental light is communicated from mind to mind; and in the present age, that light appears not only with all the intensity of the solar rays, when condensed by the lens, but with all their variety of colour, when refracted by the prismatic glass, or by the rain drops of the east. Thus we find in the news papers and pamphlets of the present moment, religious light, moral light, political light and various degrees of scientific light.

In a pamphlet now before us, entitled “Two discourses delivered to the Second Presbyterian Society in Newburyport, Aug. 20, 1812, the day recommended by the President of the United States for national humiliation and prayer;—by the Rev. John Giles”—we are pleased to see not only the several kinds of light which we have mentioned, of all which, we presume, there is quantum sufficit, but also a very animating gleam of rhetorical, and a particularly splendid blaze of grammatical light. In the observations we shall make upon these discourses, our object will be principally, to illustrate these unusual traits in productions of this kind, by holding up, to the attention of the reader, passages in which they are more particularly conspicuous,—and that not in the order of their relative merit, but in that of their succession in the book. These beauties meet us on the very threshold:—in the second sentence, the writer, speaking of the Israelites and the Land of promise—says;—“but the spies brought an ill report of it, though they owned it was a land which flowed with milk and honey; but there were such difficulties to possess it which they thought insuperable.”—&c.—

P. 4. “To render a land pleasant its inhabitants must enjoy equal rights and privileges, otherwise it can be pleasant only to a favored few, while the great majority are rendered only objects of misery, through penury and distress; and thus the comforts and blessings of civilized society, he abused, subverted and even prostituted to the most ignoble and basest of purposes.”

Till now we did not know that such and which were correspondent or correlative terms as used in the former of these passages.—And we were at a loss to determine how be abused” was governed either in the infinitive or subjunctive mood, till in the next sentence the clue is given by the luminous proposition that “government in its best state is but a necessary evil.” Here no one can but observe what a flood of light bursts at once upon us.—The reverend republican, since leaving England has contracted such an antipathy to government, of every description, that, not satisfied with emancipating man he generously undertakes to disenthrall even his language from these odious restraints of government.

Again p. 5. “Let us rejoice that we are in the full possession and free exercise of the privilege of selecting from ourselves, men, to be our rulers; and while we give them a compensation for the services which they render the public in their several stations, which is but just and reasonable; for the labourer is worthy of his hire.”

Now some, who do not see things, would suppose there was here a kind of hiatus, as the hearer must be expecting to be told something proper to be done, while, &c. but here the delicate hand of the master is seen, in suffering the imagination of the hearer to have a little play, and fall, by its own efforts, upon the rest of the sentence.

But to proceed: page 10, “The parent, with pallid cheeks, hollow eyes and trembling limbs, arrest not our steps with importunate cries for relief to their helpless infants, &c.—Again “The Israelites forgot God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt..”

In old times, when Addison, Johnson and Blair, were at the grammar school, they contracted a habit of making a verb agree with its nominative case, in a number and person, and of making the relative who refer to persons, which to things: and this habit was so fixed upon them that they carried it with them to the last. Even Pope felt himself constrained, by the same illiberal rule, when addressing the same Infinite Being of whom the sacred politician is here speaking, to say

“Thou Great First Cause, least understood,
Who all my sense” &c.

But in these days, of superior light and liberty, all ideas of concord in a sentence appear as useless and absurd as do those of government. We presume that when this learned gentleman was in England, alias “Babylon,” (vide p. 9,) the Babylonians, being tired of these old fashioned rules, were beginning to get things up in a little better style; and being conversant with the heads of department, or perhaps, more properly with the department of heads, he was the first to receive from authors and orators of the first grade, those emanations of light which he here sheds abroad from himself, as from the radiant point. Not being up to these splendid novelties ourselves, we can but admire in him, the ease with which he declares that “the parent arrest not our “steps” respecting “their helpless infants,” and the dignity with which he invests the Divinity when he makes the Israelites forget God their Saviour which had done great things”—

The specimens heretofore exhibited go, principally, to illustrate the beautiful: but our author occasionally soars to the sublime. The very page from which the two last examples were taken furnishes us with an instance. “But the sense of daily favors, soonest wear out of our minds, which are as great miracles, as any in their own nature, and the products of the same power.”—Here, if our author does not shed his usual light, it is, we presume, not without design. Sublimity is so great an excellence in style, that it is cheaply purchased at the expense of every other. We must not expect, particularly, to have a clear and definite view of the object, nor a full conception of the sentiment that fills our minds with sublime emotions. We must not therefore inquire whether “the sense of daily favors”—the “favours” themselves or “our minds” are the “miracles;”—for the moment we determine, that moment the sublimity vanishes. We could not possibly suppose that sense could be the miracles, because “sense” is singular and “miracles” plural,—were it not that by the magic power of “Liberty and equality” introduced on the last page of the book, our writer has made the singular “sense” equal to the plural “wear” by making them agree as nominative and verb,—of course we do not know how far he may think proper to advance it in dignity: nor do we see any objection, upon principle, to its becoming not only a miracle, but many “miracles.” Between “favours” and “minds,” we think the chance is nearly equal; for as much as is gained by “favours” in relation to the antecedent sentences, so much is gained by “minds,” from its proximity to the relative. This we think is a brilliant instance of the “void obscure”—a bright display of “palpable darkness.”

We pass over the eloquent and gentlemanlike compliments which on pages 11 and 12 he lavishes upon his fellow-labourers in the vineyard of the Lord. But while we admire the generous flow of civility and respect which must be so gratifying to his brethren, the clergy, we must not lose sight of that meek and modest spirit of Christian charity which breathes in every sentence and animates the whole current of his remarks upon them. Our attention however is arrested by the closing sentence of this clerical eulogy, which runs thus—“Let us frown indignant at every attempt to dissolve our federal-constitution, however sacred may be their functions; let us regard them as missionaries of him who is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning.”—Let those who can, pass this sentence without admiration,—as well as the one next following. “When men counteract the means which the wisdom of our Executive devise to assert our rights”—&c.—These two sentences, must, we presume, be politically correct, and theologically orthodox,—for he who is able to predicate “their functions” of “every attempt”—and then convert “every attempt” into “missionaries” and to make “wisdom” harmonize with “devise” must surely be able to make the rough things of divinity smooth, and the crooked things of the policy straight.

Again, p. 14. “Ahitophel draws Absalom’s sword against David and Israel, and the next he twists an halter for himself.”—The next what? Here again he compliments the reader by suffering the deficiency to be supplied ad libitum by his own imagination.

If we may be indulged yet a little longer, we will endeavour to confine our specimens within as narrow limits as we can, in justice to the subject upon which we have entered. We cannot but dwell a moment upon a very chaste and nervous sentence (p. 15,) which flows in manner and form following, to wit,” “These predilections for a government, which is sowing among us the seed of discord, sedition and treason, and which wishes to tear from us our dearest rights, demonstrates where the bias of their minds tends to.” Here again is displayed that republican hatred of government, which seduces from its nominative the allegiance of the verb—If however the eye is weary with too long contemplating these polished samples of grammatical elegance, each of which might be considered as unique, the ear will undoubtedly be ravished with the rhetorical harmony, and the force of numbers with which this sentence closes.

There are many minor beauties to which we cannot descend, without occupying more space than can be devoted to lucubration’s [intensive study] of this nature: the reader cannot but observe them, on even a hasty perusal—they all go, like those who have brought into notice, to shew a genius improved by science, a taste formed upon the most approved models, a style chastened and elevated, and a fancy whose vagaries have been restrained by the cool dictates of reason. Both the religious and political sentiments we intended to pass over, they are above our humble reach, and must be left to those who are better capable of judging of such “high matters.” If the matter however be equal to the manner, too much cannot be said of it.

There are yet three things which we cannot in justice to the reverend gentleman, neglect to notice. These are his consistency, his modesty and the love he displays towards his native country.

First, his consistency: Our readers must undoubtedly recollect that His Excellency Caleb Strong, who has been raised to the dignity of ruling the free, sovereign and independent people of Massachusetts, in his late proclamation for a State Fast, speaks of Great-Britain, among other things, as the bulwark of the religion we profess. Our republican divine, (may we not say our divine republican) on page 7, speaking also of England, closes his notice of that nation, with these words—“Must it not be duplicity, nay, the very essence of hypocrisy, in any man, to call such a kingdom the bulwark of our religion”—and then goes on (page 12,) to prove from scripture that they who “speak evil of dignities, and curse the rulers of the people, stand at least a chance of “receiving to themselves damnation.”

Of his modesty we have room to say but little; nothing, indeed compared with the subject. It shall however be illustrated in a degree, and faintly shadowed forth, by first recalling to the minds of our readers the recollection of the fact, that during our revolutionary struggle, he was a native inhabitant of the country that strove to strangle America in her cradle, and a subject of the “government with which it is evident the Lord has a controversy;”—and then, while this recollection is fresh in the mind, presenting them one passage from page 8.—

“In our infancy we humbled their pride, and chained to the chariot wheels of our triumph, two of their most celebrated generals; one of which (generals which again) “boasted on the floor of Parliament that with 3000 men he would march in triumph from one end of our Continent to the other. Part of this assertion seemed to be prophetic, for he passed through a section of our Continent to the other. Part of this assertion seemed to be prophetic, for he passed through a section of our Continent, not as a conqueror, but as a crest-fallen prisoner. If we achieved such exploits in our infant state, what shall we not, through providence, be able to do in our manhood.”

Reader, dost thou recollect the story of “we apples”? If thou dost, the modesty of this passage, which is but a small portion of what is exhibited in the whole, cannot be illustrated by more appropriate types and figures.

But we cannot take leave of this very accomplished author, without adverting to the deep and feeling sense, he seems to entertain, of the obligations he owes to his native country: that holy devotion to the land that gave him birth, and infused into his mind, by the liberal education it afforded him, those exalted sentiments, those generous recollections which are poured forth through his whole book.—That profound veneration for the religious establishments, that ardent enthusiasm towards the laws, and that respectful and affectionate zeal for the chief magistrate of England, which form the Alpha and Omega of his discourses cannot but convince every reader that he who is thus filial in his attachments to his mother country, must be unshaken in the grand purpose of ennobling and exalting the character of that which has adopted him.

We cannot, perhaps, close this article better than with the following lines from Churchill,—a man who once dressed in the gown and surplice; which however he left off, after disgracing them and the holy profession to which they were dedicated, by the most wanton practices of debauchery and intemperance; but who at times felt and expressed in his writings, sentiments worthy at least of a layman, tho’ they may not be fully equal, in point of patriotism and elegance, to what now flow from those among us who minister in holy things.

“—–Be England what she will,
With all her faults, she is my country still.—
The love we bear our Country is a root
Which never fails to bring forth golden fruit
‘Tis in the mind an everlasting spring
Of glorious actions, which become a king,
Nor less become a subject; ‘tis a debt,
Which bad men tho’ they pay not, can’t forget;
A duty which the good delight to pay,
And every man can practice every day—-
That spring of love which, in the human mind,
Founded on self, flows narrow and confin’d,
Enlarges as it rolls, and comprehends
The social charities of blood and friends,
Till, smaller streams included, not o’er past,
It rises to our country’s love at last,
And he, with lib’ral and enlarged mind,
Who loves his country, cannot hate mankind.—-
Howe’er our pride may tempt us to conceal
Those passions which we cannot chuse but feel,
There’s a strange, something, which without a brain
Fools feel, and which e’en wise men can’t explain,
Planted in man, to bind him to that earth,
In dearest ties, from whence he drew his birth.
If Honor calls, where’er she points the way
The sons of Honour follow and obey;
If need compels, wherever we are sent
‘Tis want of courage not to be contnt;
But if we have the liberty of choice,
And all depends on our own single voice,
To deem of ev’ry country as the same
Is rank rebellion gainst the lawful claim
Of Nature; and such dull indifference
May be philosophy, but can’t be sense.

 

REVIEW II.

“What manner o’ thing is your Crocodile?”

THE press has lately teemed with a brace of Sermons from the pen of the Rev. John Giles. These performances are somewhat curious, but they might go down to oblivion quietly, did we not think them a fair specimen of democratic reasoning and declamation; which is a tissue of contradictions, absurdities, vituperations and nonsense.—In a short review of these productions, the writer will not stop to notice the bad grammar with which this work abounds, nor point out the false logic conspicuous in every page; for whoever views these twin born graces of democracy, will see that the Rev. John Giles is as much unacquainted with Isis and Cam, as he is with the constitution of his native country, and abuses the King’s English as freely as he does the Court of St. James, or the Prince Regent.

The text for these Sermons is a pointed and biting sarcasm on the stiff-necked and rebellious Israelites—“Yea they despised the pleasant land,” —and this, by a side-way allusion is meant for those who are not idolaters to his Dagon of power.—From a perusal of this scanty, and distorted picture of national happiness, we do not hesitate to say, that the writer is infested with the political poison drawn from the sewers of Godwin and Paine. There is a peculiar driveling in the pupils of this School, by which we always know them; for they struggle to gain attention by bold assertions,—course, and vulgar epithets; and by quaintness and eccentricity strive to make popular flimsy reasoning, and false sentiments, which are subversive of all order the government.—“Government like dress, is the badge of lost innocence,” says Parson Giles, (and I believe Parson Paine1 said it before him.) This is dazzling and fine, but it is neither witty nor illustrative.

Let us pursue this thought, for a moment, for whether the preacher begot it or purloined it, is all the same. If “Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence”—the savage, who wears but a rag to cover his nakedness, is nearer primitive purity than President Madison dressed for his levee; and the gentleman himself is more a saint in his every day dress, than when adorned with his flowing canonicals.—The nations of Europe pass in review before the preacher, and all are filled with the abominations of government; and even the shades of departed Greece and Rome are called up, that he might “lay them” with a curse.—But England, poor old England, bears the burden of its blows, here he collects his manly wrath and raves most heroically against Kings and courtly trains. Had the good man been made a Bishop in his native land, never, oh! Never, should we have heard this elegant invective; it would have been lost, we fear in the soft accents of his loyalty to his gracious master.—There are sufferings in all countries, and no doubt many in England, but the difference between this country and that is not so great as he represents it, and if this War continues it will be worse here than in G. Britain.—Is the Gentleman ignorant? This I cannot believe—or did he intend to mislead, when he stated without any explanation, that the King of England receives a million a year for his salary from the people?—Why did he not tell them, that from this sum the whole civil list were paid, and that but a small proportion of it is retained for his own private use? This would have been true, but truth seems not to have been his object.

What Parson Giles has suffered in his native country, that should make him curse his mother so bitterly, is not known with us; but surely he must have suffered some terrible oppression, to justify in any measure, this infuriated resentment.—If common report is not a liar he has, in former times, praised his own country, and spoken with contumely and reproach of the common rabble of these United States, and despised the dear people he now so ardently loves.

When a writer animadverts with manliness, if he is severe, no one has a right to complain; but when malignity calls falsehood and ribaldry to her assistance, we have an unquestionable privilege to despise and condemn.—His attack on the Prince Regent, is mean and false. (“The Prince Regent has by his intemperance and debaucheries, reduced himself to the state of an Idiot.”) That the Regent has been a gay man, is not to be disputed—but, for years past, he has attended the affections of his subjects. Such pitiful slander, such absolute falsehood, such miserable abuse, comes most ungraciously from a preacher of the Gospel of Christ.—All this could be forgiven, but his covert and indirect attack on a man—“in whom there is no guile,” a man whose memory will be fresh, among the virtuous, when the parson, and his sermons are forgotten, cannot and will not be forgiven. It is the attempt, not his success, that we mention, for the Egis of Minerva would sooner have been shattered from the puny strength of an infant arm, than the shaft from the parson’s bow,—however deeply dipped in gall,—have reached one “armed so Strong in honesty.”

The second Sermon commences as follows,,—

“The speaker, in the forenoon, called your attention, to the distinguishing goodness of God, which has exempted us as a people, from the burdens, oppressions, and calamities, under which the nations of Europe groan, and which wring from the inhabitants, the most piercing cries. Our lines are fallen in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly heritage: but some among us, like Jeshurun of old, have waxed fat and are kicking against the rock of salvation. This leads us, “Second…To exhibit the characters who despise the pleasant land.

“We charge no party, solely, as implicated in this crime; but shall attempt to demonstrate that there are such men among us. And we will, as we proceed in our description, adhere to the criterion laid down by our Saviour—you shall know them by their fruit.

“1. Men may be said to despise it, when they make light of their privileges, either in a natural, moral, or political view.”

The preacher is here extremely confused, at which we are not a little surprised, for nothing is more simple and easy than the lines between natural, moral, and political privileges.—Under the division of natural, he has given us moral, religious and political advantages, and drawn a picture of national prosperity,—even such an one, as meager as it is, we wish to Heaven were accurate; but a prevalence of the principles he professes, has shorn our country of her beams and robbed her of her luster,—dimed the sun of our prosperity, evaporated “the showers,” and blasted “the corn.”—His moral head is a mere farrago [jumble] upon religion, and, in the beginning, discovers a want of liberality that ought not to be found in so great a stickler for religious freedom, who execrates so vehemently the hierarchy of England. He more than intimates that persecution is to be feared from the opponents to his politics, if they should be in power—rest easy, Rev. Sir, your opponents, possessed of power, would forget “your venom and your froth.”

It is extremely amusing to observe some of the inconsistencies in this work.—In one page the preacher appears the most strenuous advocate for the divine rights of Kings; for the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, and calls in the aid of Omnipotence to prove his belief; not remembering that in a few pages before he breathed blasphemy on the ruler of his native land.—This is republicanism fresh from the Schools of France.

How bitterly the gentleman denounces his brothers of the cloth, who venture to lisp a word against the immaculate rulers of our land. No, the clergy must not talk politics,—it is infamous,—it is seditious—according to his creed, while he, forsooth, is belching slander and calumny.

Amidst the descriptions of those who despise the pleasant land, the preacher has contrived to introduce the “Worthy President” of the United States by way of contrast.—A Jupiter on Olympus, surrounded by clouds, and darkness, and attacked by evil spirits—yet firm, and godlike he stands as unmoved at “the roaring of lions,” as at “the braying of an ass,” consulting the good of mortals, notwithstanding their rebellion. He is equal to the war waged against him,—“and with dignified composure and silent contempt, he hears all these unfounded accusations as the ebullitions of ignorance or of a maniac.” This epic flight may not go unrewarded—the “worthy President” has offices and honours to bestow, and money to distribute, and how sweet must this fine strain of panegyric [praise] sound in the ears of the President, who has been so long accustomed to solemn but unpleasant truths from New-England Divines.

The sentiments in these Sermons are so nicely involved, and so charmingly jumbled, that one might as well follow the flight of the raven in the mist, and note all his croaking’s, as to follow the parson in his democratic ramblings through Time and Eternity, over Matter and Mind, War & Peace, Democracy and Federalism—but it is clearly understood that this Minister of Peace is a Friend to War, and calls loudly on his followers to maintain it stoutly.

Patriots, ye who were born on the Atlantic shores, who have once buffeted the storm, and braved the tempest of war, how must you blush to be taught your duty by a foreigner, whose love for you, and your country, surpasses everything, but his hatred for your enemies? How kind it is in him to te4ach you your duty! That lovely and sincere Frenchman Genet was once as kind and courtly, but this ungrateful nation have forgotten him and his services. Genet, it is true, had more talents and ability, but he was not more earnestly devoted to your welfare than the parson,—who will toil in his little sphere with the same holy zeal for his great master, but probably with less success.

It is time to be serious—our all is in jeopardy.—We could continue, at any other time, to treat with playful severity this performance laugh at the author’s folly, and pity his weakness. Our homes, our comforts, our privileges, our rights are all at stake. A weak, false-hearted and pusillanimous government have led us into a miserable war.—A war which has swept Commerce from the Ocean, changed honesty to corruption, and industry to pilfering enterprise. The great sources of wealth are stopped;—the little currents of competency are dried, and scantiness has become absolute want. The voice of complaint is every where heard. The sufferings of the people, must, and will produce a spasm in the body politic, serious and awful to the authors of these evils.—At such a time as this, “every offence should bear its comment,” and folly, virulence, and falsehood, which in prosperous days, might pass with only a sneer, should now be noted with indignation; and wherever found, be pointed at with scorn and derision. It is, and long has been the curse of this country, that we have been taught our rudiments of government from imported patriots, and taken the dregs of Europe for our Masters and Teachers. This country should be an asylum for all nations; but no foreigner should ever have a voice in our Councils.—There are many good men who have come from foreign countries to this, but these men are still, and quietly enjoy the protection of our laws, while a thousand vipers swarm around us, and the moment they are revived by the generous warmth of our breast, sting us to the very soul.

We cannot leave this Rev. Gentleman, without expressing our abhorrence of the following sentiment from his Sermons:—

“Let us wait awhile, and we may live to see the time, wherein it shall not be said by the voice of faith, but by the voice of sense itself, Babylon, (England,) the great is fallen, is fallen!”

This is the most diabolical wish that ever rankled in the heart, or was ever breathed from the lips of a human being. But coming from a minister of the Gospel, in a civilized country, in these New-England States; preached in a place hallowed for religious purposes,—it wears the marks of the beast about it.—Surely the spirit of Napoleon is here; no fiend less than he could have inspired such a thought.

We will now take leave of the Rev. John Giles, and assure him that we should not have noticed these illiterate labours, if such works had not been rare, among our Clergy. The thistle, in Paradise,—if such noxious plants ever grew there, was more noticed—(for the purpose of being avoided,)—than any flower of the valley, or cedar of the hills.

This pleasure we have felt, constantly, near our hearts, in the darkest hour of our political despondency, that men of intellectual wealth, of probity, and principle, in our country were found mostly in the ranks of Federalism. The pulpits (with a few wretched exceptions) have been kept from the tainted air of democracy. The preachers of the everlasting Gospel have seldom failed to oppose the torrent of corruption.

If Federalism be extinguished, the Priest will perish at the Altar, and the Altar be razed to the ground; and the sad fate which the enemies of England wish for her, will be realized in the history of our downfall.—Suffer it not, O God! Stretch thy protecting arm to save us.

Mr. Editor,

For the general conviction of the public respecting the literary character of the Rev. John Giles, I send you a few extracts from the writings of the notorious Thomas Paine, with correspondent ones from the Reverend Divine above mentioned which, to say nothing more, have the appearance of being copied verbatim from Mr. Paine, and palmed upon the world as original.

GILES—published in 1812.

And here we observe that society in every state is a blessing; but government in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one. For when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence. The palaces of Kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of Paradise.”
Discourse 1st, p. 4.

PAINE—published in 1776.

“Society in every state is a blessing; but Government even in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one. For when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government like dress is the badge of lost innocence. The palaces of Kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of Paradise.” Common Sense, p. 1.

“It is a system of mental leveling; It indiscriminately admits every species of character to the same authority. Vice and virtue, ignorance and wisdom, in short every quality good or bad is put on the same level. Kings succeed each other not as rationals; it signifies not what their mental or moral characters are. Such a government appears under all the various characters of childhood, decrepitude and dotage; a thing at nurse, in leading strings or in crutches. It reverses the wholesome order of nature, it occasionally puts children over men, and maniacs to rule the wise.—It requires some talents to be a common mechanic, but to be a king requires only the animal figure of a man, a sort of breathing automation.” Discourse 1st, p. 5.

“It is a system of mental leveling; it indiscriminately admits every species of character to the same authority. Vice and virtue, ignorance and wisdom, in short every quality good or bad is put on the same level. Kings succeed each other not as rationals but as animals. It signifies not what their mental or moral characters are.”

Rights of Man, 2d part, p. 14, published 1792.

It appears under all the various characters of childhood, decrepitude, dotage; a thing at nurse, in leading strings or in crutches. It reverses the wholesome order of nature. It occasionally puts children over men and the conceits of nonage over wisdom and experience.” p. 15

“It requires some talents to be a common mechanic, but to be a king requires only the animal figure of a man, sort of breathing automaton.” p. 16.

But I must observe that I am not the personal enemy of kings. No man more heartily wishes than myself to see them all in the happy and honourable state of private individuals. But I am the avowed and open enemy of what is called monarchy, and I am such by principles, which nothing can either alter or corrupt—that is by my attachment to humanity—by the anxiety which I feel within myself for the ease and honour of the human race, by the disgust which I experienced when I observed men directed by children, and governed by brutes—by the horrours, which all the evils that monarchy has spread over the earth excite within my breast—and by those sentiments, which make me shudder at the calamities, the exactions, the wars, and the massacres with which monarchy has crushed mankind.”
p. 5.

“I must also add that that I am not the personal enemy of Kings. Quite the contrary. No man more heartily wishes than myself to see them all in the happy and honorable state of private individuals. But I am the avowed, open and intrepid enemy of what is called monarchy; and I am such, by principles which nothing can either alter or corrupt—by my attachment to humanity—by the anxiety, which I feel within myself, for the dignity and honor of the human race—by the disgust which I experience, when I observed men, directed by children, and governed by brutes—by the horror, which all the evils that monarchy has spread over the earth, excite within my breast—and by those sentiments, which make me shudder at the calamities, the exactions, the wars, and the massacres with which monarchy has crushed mankind.”

Paine’s Letter to Abbe Seyeys, 1791.

“Let us enlarge a little on this sentiment. All religions are in their nature mild and benign, and united with principles of morality. They could not have proselytes at first, by professing any thing which was vicious and persecuting or immoral. How is it then that they lose their native mildness and become morose and intolerant? It proceeds from an alliance between church and state. The inquisition in Spain and Portugal does not proceed from the religion originally professed, but from this mule animal [as one calls it] engendered between church and state. The burnings in Smithfield proceeded from the same heterogenous production; and it was the regeneration of this strange animal afterwards [in the Nation now called the Bulwark of our Religion] which revived rancor and irreligion among the inhabitants there, and which drove the people called dissenters and quakers to this country. Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is the strongly marked picture of all law religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity: Here in America, a catholic priest is a good citizen, a good character, and a good neighbor; the same may be said of ministers of other denominations, and this proceeds, independent of men, from there being no law-establishment in America.”
Discourse 1st, p. 8.

“Let us bestow a few thoughts on this subject. All religions are in their nature mild and benign, and united with principles of morality. They could not have made proselites at first by professing any thing that was vicious and persecuting, or immoral. How then, is it that they lose their native mildness, and become morose and intolerant? It proceeds from the connexion which Mr. Burke recommends. The inquisition in Spain does not proceed from the religion originally professed, but from this mule animal engendered between the church and state. The burnings in Smithfield, proceeded from the same heterogeneous production; and it was the regeneration of this strange animal in England afterwards, that renewed rancor and irreligion among the inhabitants and which drove the people called quakers and dissenters to America. Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly-marked feature of all law religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity. In America, a catholic priest is a good citizen, a good character, and a good neighbor; an Episcopalian is of the same description and this proceeds, independent of men, from there being no law-establishment in America”—Paine’s Rights of Man, 1st part, p. 60.

“Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration but is the counterfeit of it; both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience and the other of granting it. The one is the Pope armed with fire and faggot, and the other is the Pope selling or granting indulgencies. The former is church and state, the latter is church and traffic.” p. 7.

“Never had a country so many openings to happiness as this; her setting out into life, like the rising of a fair morning, was unclouded and promising; her cause was good: her principles just and liberal; her conduct regulated by the nicest steps, and every thing about her wore the mark of honor.” p. 8.

“Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience and the other of granting it. The one is the Pope, armed with fire and faggot, and the other is the Pope, selling or granting indulgencies. The former is church and state, and the latter is church and traffic. 1st part, p. 58.

“Never I say had a country so many openings to happiness as this; her setting out in life, like the rising of a fair morning, was unclouded and promising; her cause was good; her principles just and liberal; her temper serene and firm; her conduct regulated by the nicest steps, and everything about her wore the mark of honor.”
Paine’s Crisis, No. 13, p. 18.

These are some of the sentences, which Mr. Giles has pillaged from the writings of a man, deservedly consigned to infamy, and incorporated with his discourse, without even the form of an acknowledgment. He was probably not insensible to the disgrace of being so richly indebted to a man, whose works, he had termed “frantic ravings against the Christian Religion;” although he atoned for his severity by pronouncing these works innocent, compared with the writings of his Federal brethren in the Gospel.


Endnotes

1 We observed in reading this work that almost every page is disgraced by plagiarisms.—Very copious extracts are made from the books of Tom Paine, without any acknowledgment—probably a slight sense of shame is still left.—The hearers of this minister are highly favored Christians! Who have all the benefit of the Age of Reason, Rights of Man, and other works of this infidel Paine, from the pulpit.

Sermon – Fasting – 1812


Samuel Worcester (1796-1821) graduated from Dartmouth (1795) and studied theology under Rev. Samuel Austin in Massachusetts. He was a teacher at the New Ipswich Academy for a short time and was ordained in 1796. Worcester later taught at Dartmouth (1804) and was secretary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission at its founding in 1810.

The following sermon was preached by Rev. Worcester on the day of national fasting proclaimed by President James Madison in 1812.


sermon-fasting-1812-2

COURAGE AND SUCCESS TO THE GOOD.

A

DISCOURSE,

DELIVERED

AT THE TABERNACLE IN SALEM,

AUG. 20, 1812,

THE DAY OF

NATIONAL HUMILIATION AND PRAYER

ON ACCOUNT OF THE

WAR WITH GREAT-BRITAIN

ALSO,

THE SUBSTANCE OF A DISCOURSE,

DELIVERED

SABBATH DAY, AUGUST 9, 1812.

By SAMUEL WORCESTER, D. D

 

A
Discourse
 

2 Chron. XIX.11.
Deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good.
Jehoshaphat king of Judah was one of the best of princes. “He walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his fathers, and walked in his commandments.” In the third year of his reign, he gave a special order to the princess, priests, and Levites “to teach in the cities of Judah. And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.” This piety was marked with signal tokens of the divine approbation. The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, and established the kingdom in his hand; – “and the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat.” For a succession of years, his kingdom was prosperous and happy, and increased in riches and strength.

In the height of his prosperity, however, Jehoshaphat committed a grievous fault. He formed an alliance with Ahab king of Israel, who had “sold himself to work wickedness in the fight of the Lord.” He visited Ahab at Samaria; and Ahab said to him, “Wilt thou go with me to Ramoth Gilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war. The kings with their forces accordingly went to Ramoth Gilead to fight with the Syrians; and the event of the battle is well known. Agreeably to the prediction of Micaiah the son of Imlah, Ahab was slain, and “all Israel were scattered upon the mountains as sheep that have no shepherd. – Jehoshaphat, however, escaped from the battle and “returned to Jerusalem in peace.” But as he was returning, “Jehu the son of Hanani the seer, went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.”

It was a critical day with that nation. Not only had the king himself sinned; but, in consequence of his criminal alliance with Ahab, the people of Judah were corrupted by their intercourse with the idolatrous people of Ahab’s realm. Idolatry prevailed, and iniquity abounded; God was rising up in displeasure, and his hand was just ready to “take hold of judgment:” a speedy change was necessary to avert the impending storm. Jehoshaphat saw the crisis, and yielded to its impression. Along with the awful rebuke and warning given him from God, there was a kind intimation adapted to inspire hope. “Nevertheless,” said the prophet, “there are good things found in thee.” Animated by this encouragement, and penitent himself, he engaged without delay in vigorous endeavors for a general reformation. Thinking it not enough to direct the princess, priests, and Levites, as in the early part of his reign he had done, to teach in the cities of Judah; the king now went out in person “through the people from Beersheba to mount Ephraim,” from the southern to the northern border of his kingdom, “and brought them back unto the Lord God of their fathers.” To forward and establish the good work, he deemed it necessary to have good men in public office; “and he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities, city by city;” and gave them a charge worthy to be deeply imprinted on the minds of all magistrates and people: “Take heed what ye do; for ye judge not for men, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.” To the judges of the high court at Jerusalem in particular, he added; “Thus shall ye do in the fear of the Lord faithfully, and with a perfect heart.—Deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good.”

Though a reformation was begun, the general corruption was still so prevalent, as to render great courage necessary to the faithful performance of duty: and to inspire the requisite courage, the royal reformer gave assurance of divine aid to such as would be faithful. His admirable words are not of limited application, but afford this general instruction: That they, who in evil times will be courageously good, may rely on the help of God.—This important sentiment may be taken up in two distinct propositions:

I.

To do in evil times that what belongs to good men, requires great courage.

II.

They, who in evil times will do, or attempt, what belongs to good men, may be assured of divine help.

Evil times are times of degeneracy and calamity; times in which the corrupt propensities and passions of men throw off their wanted restraints, disturb social order and tranquility, call for divine judgments, and threaten extensive ruin. In such times, it belongs to good men to oppose themselves to the swelling and menacing tide; and to do all in their power, in their several stations, for truth and right—for religion and virtue—for order, safety, and happiness.—To do this requires great courage: because the opposition to be encountered will be formidable; the objects in view will be of difficult attainment; and the sacrifices to be made, and the hazards to be incurred, will be great.

The opposition to be encountered will be formidable.—Evil time abound with evil men; with men who delight in the times because they are evil. —With times of error and delusion, the erroneous and deluded will be pleased; with times of impiety and profligacy, the impious and profligate will be pleased; with times of contention and turbulence, the contentious and turbulent will be pleased; and with times of calamity and distress—such is human nature—not a few will be pleased! Hatred of the good, envy of the rich and the great—avarice, ambition, malice, and various lusts and passions, will be gratified, when the good are despised—when the rich and the great are reduced—when right and law are trampled underfoot—when “the foundations are removed”—the whole social state is in turmoil—and fraud, rapine, and violence unrestrainedly prevail!

Look, my brethren, at the Jews towards the close of their national history;—look at Rome in her seasons of commotion and misrule;—look at England in the times of her civil wars;—look at France in the days of the late revolution. In all those instances of enormity and calamity, while society was in ruins—while property, character, life had no security—while all that should be held dear on earth was at the mercy of malignant passions—hundreds and thousands could exalt in all the terror, devastation, misery, and blood around them. Melancholy view of human depravity! But if many could be pleased with such times; surely there can be no evil times, with which there will not be many pleased. And of those who are pleased, many will be found in high places; in places of emolument, influence and power. Evil men make evil times, and evil times elevate evil men. “When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth;”—“when the wicked rise, men hide themselves;”—“when the vilest men are exalted, the wicked walk on every side.”

But in whatever station they may be, all who are pleased with the times, because they are evil, will stand in opposition to a change for the better; all who are pleased with evils which prevail—who have passions to be gratified, or purposes to be answered by them—will resist the means and attempts for their remedy. Nor will they fail, by the delusions which they practice and the influence which they exert, to engage many others to act with them. Many, who deplore the prevalent enormities and calamities, by delusive views, by sinister motives of which they are not aware, or by some misguiding influence or other—will be induced to unite with the men who delight in those evils, and to oppose whatever many be attempted to remove or to counteract them.—And uniting with them, they will partake more of less of their spirit.—Men, otherwise good, when they lend themselves to the views of the bad, always receive an assimilating taint; and imbibe a spirit which, acting upon opposite principles in them, and producing a strong effervescence, will shew itself in a most baleful zeal. When conscience, and religion are pressed into a connection with delusion and corruption, the alliance is as direful as it is unnatural: under pretentions the most sacred, its character is madness, and its work is mischief. To this truth the history of the world supplies awful attestations.

Formidable indeed, then, must be the opposition which they, who would do in evil times what belongs to good men, must inevitably encounter. And in view of the opposition, and circumstances connected with it, the ends of virtuous exertion cannot but appear to be of difficult and doubtful attainment.—To dissipate inveterate delusion—to arrest the progress of triumphant vice—to give to truth and right an ascendant influence over strong popular excitements, is an achievement worthy of more than human power. Leviathan is not easily tamed.

If evil men and seducers are many, to withstand their influence must be proportionally difficult; and the success of endeavors to counteract their purposes and practices will appear proportionally doubtful. Men of this character are always active, because they are always powerfully stimulated. Good men, acting from reason and from principle, and having to restrain their passions, and to combat whatever of evil disposition remains in them, are not merely deliberate, but often slow, irresolute and inefficient. Not so the bad. They stop not to take counsel of conscience or of God; instead of restraining their passions and combating their corrupt propensities, they summon both the one and the other to their aid; and therefore they are always alert, always quick, always determined and vigorous.—Nor is this their only advantage over the good.—Conscience and moral principle being excluded from their councils, they have no question as to what is lawful and right; their only question is, what will most effectually answer their purposes. With them “the end sanctifies the means,” and they have no hesitancy in employing means from which good men are absolutely restrained. And they have this further advantage, that their means are such as are adapted to please, and excite all that is corrupt in mankind.—The good, in pursuit of their purposes, must address themselves to the understandings, and the moral feelings of men; the bad address themselves to the passions, and the selfish propensities. The advantage in this case is obvious. The understandings of men are flow, but their passions are quick; their moral feelings are hard to be roused, but their selfish propensities are easily excited.

Such are some of the advantages which bad men have over the good in this depraved world, and especially in evil times; advantages of which they are fully aware, and are sure to avail themselves. Of this the writings of corrupt men of modern times, and the practices of corrupt men of every age, have furnished ample proof.—Hence their dreadful success:—their success in gaining multitudes to their views—in extending their influence, and accomplishing their purposes. By specious pretenses and artful flatteries—by misrepresentations and falsehood—by calumnies against the good—by incentives offered to pride, to ambition, to avarice, to envy—to every evil propensity and passion—they strengthen the confederacy of vice, and fortify themselves in the strong holds of iniquity.

Of all this however, but few will have a clear discernment or a full belief. With all the explicit instructions of scripture on the wickedness of mankind, with all the awful attestations of history to the fame effect, with all the overwhelming facts of our own times, placed fully before them, the great majority will not really and practically believe the truth respecting corrupt men. Even persons, who profess to believe in the total depravity of human nature, will often shew and invincible credulity in this café; and an astonishing confidence in the integrity, the uprightness, the goodness and wisdom of men, who evidently have no fear of God before their eyes, whose lives are impious and profligate, and who are utterly hostile to our holy religion. This strange credulity and incredulity is a circumstance exceedingly discouraging to those who discover and would counteract evil and dangerous designs and practices. Cicero, at Rome, had a distinct view of the designs of Catalina and his associates, and exhibited proof of them to the Senate; yet so slow were the Senate to believe, that the consul did not think it prudent to take the measures, which the public safety seemed urgently to require, until it was next to a miracle that the city was saved from conflagration, its best citizens from massacre, and the republic from ruin. “There are some of this very order, who either do not see the dangers that hang over us, or else dissemble what they see; who by the softness of their votes cherish Catalina’s hopes, and add strength to the conspiracy, by not believing it; and whose authority influences many, not only of the wicked, but of the weak.” A difficulty of this kind will often, if not always be felt.

Owing to this, and to other causes already mentioned, a death-like apathy will be found to prevail in regard to the most threatening enormities and dangers; an apathy which can hardly fail to palsy every attempt to counteract the direful wickedness, and to avert the impending calamity.—Difficult, however, as it is to produce a belief of real enormities, and to awaken a sense of real dangers; it is yet but too easy, by means which bad men will employ, to excite the most injurious suspicions against the best characters, and the most unfounded jealousies against the best designs. In this way the influence of good men is impaired, their hands are weakened, and their endeavors are rendered abortive.

With good men, for various reasons, many selfish men may be induced ostensibly to unite, and generally to act: men who with all their correctness of judgment and their important influence, have yet more regard to their own private objects than to the public good, and, who in various ways, may impede and injure cause which they seem to espouse. Nor are good men themselves free from imperfections, or secure from wrong impressions, or wrong views. Even among themselves, by means of the calumnies and artful practices of the bad, or on account of differences of opinion, regarding the measures proper to be pursued, jealousies and competitions may arise, and distrust and disunion prevail. Particularly in times of violent dissention and strife, when party spirit is high, and the feelings of all are strongly excited, there will be among good men and those who act with them, some whose judgments are swayed by their passions, and who will not be satisfied with counsels and measures conformable to correct principles, and dictated by found wisdom. From these various causes great embarrassments and discouragements will result. The weak may be perverted—the timid may shrink from their posts—the violent may retire in disgust—and even the firmest, the wisest, and the best may occasionally be on the point of giving over all exertion, as utterly unavailing and hopeless.

In such times, those who will do what belongs to good men, must unavoidably make great sacrifices, and incur great hazards. They must sacrifice their love of ease and of retirement, much of the attention otherwise due to their private concerns, and not a little probably of personal interest. And as they will be assailed at every point, and no pains or means will be spared to depress and to ruin them; they must hazard their reputations; their standing and influence in society; and, as the café may be, their fortunes, and their lives. For the cause to which they are devoted, and the cause of truth and right, of religion and virtue, of their country and their God, they must count all things personal to themselves but loss, and be ready for every lawful sacrifice, and every rightful hazard.

In view of all which has now been presented, no one can doubt, that to do in evil times what belongs to good men, requires great courage. It requires a courage inspired by divine principles, animated by divine hopes, and sustained by divine aid. These principles the truly good possess—these hopes they may have—and on this aid they may rely. For, secondly, they, who in evil times will do, or attempt, what belongs to good men, may be assured of the help of God.

God is able to help them.—He has the hearts and interests of all men in his hands; he has the purposes and affairs of all men under his control. He can “disappoint the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.” He can look from the cloud of his glory, and trouble the host of the wicked; can turn them back, and throw them into confusion and dismay; can disconcert their schemes, break their confederacies, scatter their combinations, and carry all their counsels headlong. He can take them in their own craftiness, and turn back their devices upon their own heads;—make the wrath of man to praise him, and restrain the remainder.—He can strengthen the hands of the good, and encourage their hearts. In the greatest straits, if he say to them, go forward, the sea shall open before them, and every difficulty shall disappear. He can impart to them the wisdom which is profitable to direct; can give stability and energy to their purposes; can bring them to unite in one mind and in one judgment; can dispose many to join with them, and to aid their cause; can make “a little one to become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation.” “He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working;” whom he will he sets up, and whom he will he puts down; and “there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against him.”

God is on the side of the good. “He loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.” The cause of truth and of right, of religion and virtue, is his cause: the cause which all his perfections are engaged to support; and for the sake of which he has rebuked kings and nations, overturned states and empires, and shook the foundations of the world. Will he not then assuredly help those, who are engaged for the maintenance and advancement of his cause?

God has pledged his truth for the help of the good. His word to them is, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not afraid for I am your God; I will strengthen you, yea, I will help you, yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.” “Trust in the Lord and do good;–commit your way unto him, and he will bring it to pass.” “He will not help the evil doers”—“their arms shall be broken;”—but “he upholdeth the righteous,” and “is their help and their shield,” and “their strength in the time of trouble.”—Confiding in the truth of God, David, in most evil times, could triumphantly say, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of the people that set themselves against me roundabout.—Salvation belongeth unto the Lord; thy blessing is upon thy people.” The same confidence good men should always hold fast; for on the same help they may always rely.

God has often, in evil times, afforded signal help to the good.—The confidence expressed by Jehoshaphat, in the words of our text, was proved by the event to have been well founded. Though he himself had sinned, and his people had departed from Jehovah—turned to idolatry, and become corrupt—so that there was wrath from the Lord against him and them, and heavy calamities were impending; yet by the blessing of the Lord upon the exertions made by him and by the magistrates in the several cities, a general reformation was effected, and the impending judgments were averted. Afterwards, when the Moabites and Ammonites and others, a great multitude, came against Judah, a fast was proclaimed and kept; a prophet was sent with a most gracious message from God; the hostile confederates turned their swords against one another and were destroyed; Jehoshaphat and his army, without having even occasion to fight, returned with joy and praise to Jerusalem; “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries,” and “the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest round about.” Agreeably to the word of Jehoshaphat, his servants dealt courageously, and the Lord was with the good.

In the evil times of Israel, ensuing upon the male administration of Saul, when the land trembled and was broken, and the people saw hard things and were made to drink of the wine of astonishment; they that feared the Lord rallied under the banner which he gave to them, and dealt courageously: and the Lord was with them, aided their exertions, reestablished the cause of truth and right, and blessed the nation with peace and prosperity. In the several reigns of Asa, Hezekiah and Josiah, the Lord helped the courageously good; and their endeavors were signally prospered.—In the evil times of the Jews, under the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, when the sanctuary was polluted, and the land was filled with abominable wickedness and with variegated misery, Matthias of Modin, and his sons the Maccabees, courageously stood forth for the law of their God, and for the rights of their nation; and wonders on wonders were wrought. The Lord was with them; and one of them would chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. The sanctuary was cleaned; the land was purged from its pollutions; the nation was delivered from oppression; and the name of the Maccabees was emblazoned with glory.—What shall we say of the apostles of Jesus? They were called to act in evil times, and they dealt courageously. In the face of a hostile and enraged world, in defiance of the coalesced powers of earth and hell, they boldly erected the standard of the cross—and God was with them. Thousands, who were charged with the guilt of Messiah’s blood, became his humble disciples; the bigotry of the Jews and the philosophy of the Greeks acknowledged the power of divine truth; the sound went out thro’ all the earth, and the words to the ends of the world; and millions on millions, of different nations, were “turned from their vanities to serve the living God.—The same was the spirit, and similar was the success of the Reformers of the sixteenth century. Few and despised as they were, by their means the thunders of the Vatican were silenced; the power of papal Rome was broken; the human mind was released from its chains; the darkness of ages was dispelled; and the light of a new and glorious era dawned upon the world.

Verily, my brethren, when they have dealt courageously, the Lord has been with the good. And Jehovah is an unchanging God, the same yesterday, today, and forever: his power the same, his truth the same, his cause the same, his readiness to help the courageously good the same.

The first reflection, pressed upon the mind by this subject, is, that the safety and welfare of a nation depend, under God, upon good men.—“The Lord is far from the wicked;” but “he is near to them that fear him.” These are his delight; their prayers he will hear for blessings on themselves and on others; and “to them he gives the banner,” which is the glory of a land. “By the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted; but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” “Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good.” The flagitiously wicked are the disturbers of society—the troublers of a nation—the scourges of mankind. The friends of God and his cause are the only true friends of their country—the only true patriots. In all ages, they have upheld the essential cause of religion and virtue; and by their means all the great changes, auspicious to the best interests of nations and of mankind, have been effected. Had but ten righteous persons been found in Sodom, the cities of the plain would have been saved from destruction.

How important, in the second place, that the offices of trust and power, in a state and nation, be filled with good men!—The ministers of religion are appointed by God for the instruction of the people in regard to their highest and most essential interests; and it is of infinite consequence that they be good men. Rulers also are appointed to be “ministers of God for good.” They are the proper guardians of the safety and welfare of the people. Is it not then important that they too be good men: just men who will hate covetousness and rule in the fear of God; men who will be “a terror not to good works, but to the evil,” and whose influence will be exerted, in conjunction with that of the ministers of religion, to uphold truth and right, the main pillars of social order and happiness?—If the safety and welfare of a nation depend, under God, upon good men, shall they be committed to the keeping of the bad? If God is with the good, but far from the wicked; shall the wicked be made the guardians of all on earth, that is dear to individuals and to society? Will a people remove their interests, as far as they can, from under the blessing and protection of Heaven? If they do this, what can they expect, but the blast of a divine curse!—The maxim is from God, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”—Especially in this perilous age, when infidelity holds a great part of the world under its iron rod, and is exerting all its policy and power to reduce the rest under its control; will a people, calling themselves Christian, and favored with the privileges of the gospel, place in their highest offices men of infidel character, and therefore disposed to aid infidelity in its direful enterprises for universal empire!—What were this, but to despise their own mercies, insult the divine Majesty, and place themselves directly in the way of destruction!

A good man in the highest office, like the sun in the firmament, pours light, and sheds a cheering influence, on all parts of the nation. Under such a ruler, the righteous will flourish, and the land will be filled with life and joy. But a bad man, in the same high place, like a baleful, portentous comet, will fill the nation with perplexity and distress. “A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips;” and “if a ruler hearken to lies all his servants are wicked.” Under such a ruler, “the wicked will walk on every side:” bad men will exalt their heads; and good men will be hunted down.—What an unspeakable blessing to the people of his realm was the piety of Jehoshaphat! It was this which made him sensible of the greatest of the evil of helping the ungodly, and being connected with a power openly hostile to Jehovah; and prompted him to measures which countervailed his error, and averted the impending judgments. Were the rulers of our nation, my brethren, like that pious prince and the judges appointed by him throughout the cities of Judah, how soon would the clouds which hang over us be dispersed, and peace and prosperity return to our land!

Our third reflection regards the union of good men.—Though they may not be in public stations, or in public favor—though they may be under the rod of the wicked and the frowns of power—whatever indeed may be their places or their condition; good men are still, under God, the hope of their country, and should feel the importance of acting courageously. Disunion among them must be one of the greatest evils of evil times. If they, on whom the safety and welfare of the nation depend, are disunited—if they arrange themselves in opposite parties, and contend against each other; the pillars of society must shake, and all its interests be held in jeopardy. Let good men be united, and there is hope in the worst times; for they will act with courage and with energy, and the Lord will be with them. But woe to the nation, I which they are disunited, and continue to be disunited!

We come, my brethren, in the last place, to this important reflection: If good men will courageously do their duty, they may save this country.

Some may not view the country to be in danger. Some may not acknowledge the present to be evil times. No wonder:—for with evil times many will always be pleased. There are people even, “who delight in war!”

But, my brethren, does not iniquity abound in our land? “Are there not with us, even with us, sins against the Lord our God—national sins, which loudly cry to heaven? Does not error—delusion—infatuation—the same, in spirit if not in form, which has prostrated the pillars of social order and happiness, and spread desolation and misery through Europe—extensively prevail? Does not the land tremble with divisions, animosities, and feuds, of the most threatening aspect? Are not the people, in all parts of our country, hardening their hearts, rousing their spirits, bracing their nerves, and sharpening their swords—for what!—O, my God, can any deny that these are evil times!—My brethren, is not the present a day of vengeance and recompense to guilty nations! Has not God risen to shew his wrath, and make his power known? and is not the world shaking, and dissolving under his rebuke? Are not we so connected, or in danger of being so connected, with the great infidel empire, which fills the earth with “her sorceries,” but it destined to “perdition,” as to “partake of her sins, and receive of her plagues!” Is not the terrific cloud, which so long we have viewed with horror at a distance, even now extending itself over our heads, and beginning to discharge itself upon us? And is not our country in danger!—The war with Great-Britain is but one of the evils of the times. An evil certainly it is of most fearful character, and which no enlightened friend of his country and his God can view, in its various aspects, without overwhelming emotions.—But let the war cease today; and we are still in danger of ruin. So long as the causes, which have brought us to the present perilous crisis, continue in operation, our country can never be safe.

But let it be repeated, and with emphasis: If good men will courageously do their duty, they may have the country.—To do their duty unquestionably requires courage; but if they will do it, the Lord will be with them.

The first duty of good men, is to see that they personally stand will with God: to search and try their ways—examining their tempers, their habits, their opinions, their practices, by the divine standard; and, turning with all their hearts from every false way, fervently to apply for the pardon of past offenses, and for grace to preserve and assist them in future, through the merits of the Redeemer.

Next, as good men, they will make it a serious concern, to feel and act rightly, in regard to the sins of the land. They will view the character and conduct of the nation, of rulers and people, not in the delusive lights of the infidel maxims of the age, or of the prejudices of party, but in the sure light of God’s truth and law: and according to this light they will justify, or condemn, “without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” Against the crying iniquities of the land, having confessed and deplored them before God, they will firmly and courageously set their faces:—Against the covetousness, which is idolatry; against the intemperance, so extensively prevalent and ruinous; against the cursing and swearing, for which our land mourns; against the lying and slander, which disgrace the nation, and tend to endless mischief; against the profanation of the Sabbath, that fearfully increasing sin, and particularly the violation of it by the public mail, that iniquity established by law; against the lust of power and place, which bends all principle to its views, and menaces our dearest rights; against the open and practical contempt of the instructions of God, the usage of our venerable forefathers, and the plain dictates of sound wisdom, in regard to the moral and religious characters of men, to be elected to public offices; and against foreign hatreds and partialities, the bane of patriotism, and the curse of the country. Against all these sins, it belongs to good men to oppose themselves, with the most determined courage; to bear their most solemn and decided testimony; and to exert their best advised, their combined, their vigorous and persevering endeavors. If they will do this, God will be with them; and all these iniquities will be checked, and repressed.

If the good men of this country do what belongs to them, they will spare no pains to allay the animosities, and heal the divisions of the nation.—To this sentiment, thus generally expressed, all no doubt will agree. The most violent men will loudly call for union: but they mean, that all should yield to their views, and submit to their terms. This, however, is not to be expected by the one party or the other; and if no other plan of union is to be adopted, the dissentions will continue and increase, until blood decide the contest.—Some other plan must be adopted.

If union be restored, it must be by a coalescence of the parties; and not by the submission of one party to the other.—Is not a coalescence practicable? May it not be effected, without the sacrifice of principle?—Are there not good men on both sides? Men who fear God and love their country; who are more desirous that their country should be saved, than that their party, as a party, should triumph; and who would be willing to make any proper sacrifices, and any exertions in their power, for the public good? Let such men meet on conciliatory ground; and feel that there must be mutually waved—that points, not involving the sacrifice of principle, must be mutually yielded. Let them recur to first principles, and remember that in the several states and in the nation, the government of laws, and not men, is to be acknowledged; that there is no merit in being in opposition to them, any further than those men and measures are on the side of truth and right: but before Him who hath prepared his throne for judgment, an awful responsibility must be incurred, by supporting particular men, and particular measures, in violation of truth and right, and to the hazard of the essential interests of the country. Let them recur to the state and national constitutions; and on them take their stand: and to the principles of the constitutions, and the great design of the federal union, let all considerations, regarding particular men and particular measures, be fairly referred.

Standing upon this ground, and with these views, let them freely and amicably confer together; agree on terms of coalition, and erect the standard of union and peace. Then, sinking all party objects, and forgetting all party distinctions, let them exert all their influence, and employ all proper means, to conciliate others, and to advance their noble designs. Let them silence the cry of treason, and the vociferation of opprobrious names; dissuade from the burnishing of arms for the slaughter of neighbor by neighbor, and brother by brother; and strive to soften inveterate asperities, and to assuage the popular passions. Let them have the courage, the magnanimity, while firm and efficient, to be temperate and conciliatory; and make it to be understood and felt, that to the cause of God and their country, their influence, their fortunes, and their lives are sacredly devoted.

All this, my friends, belongs to good men; and if the good men of this nation will engage in this design, and deal courageously, the Lord will be with them, and their work will prosper. A coalition, a union will be formed, which the violent or the designing can neither break nor withstand; men, in whose hands the public interests will be safe, will be brought into place and power; internal tranquility and order will be established on solid foundations; our rights and liberties will be vindicated and maintained with impartiality, firmness, efficiency, and success; and peace, commerce, and prosperity, will return and bless our land.

This is no romance; it is sober verity. It is truth, warranted by the world of Jehovah. May the Spirit of Jehovah carry it home to the hearts of my countrymen, and produce the great, the firm, the decisive resolve. May he cause it to be proclaimed through the land with irresistible energy, deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good.

 

THE MARTYRDOM OF STEPHEN.

[The Discourse, of which this is the substance, was one of a series, on the principal Facts in the Apostolic History.]

Acts VII. 59,60.
And thus stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen, the first of the first deacons, was eminently distinguished among the servants of Christ. “Full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost—of grace and of power,” he shewed himself a zealous and able advocate for the gospel, and “did great wonders and miracles among the people.”

Of the four hundred and eighty synagogues, said to have been at Jerusalem, many belonged to Jews and proselytes of foreign countries, who had frequent occasion to resort to Jerusalem; many of whom always resided in the city, and most of whom used the Grecian language, and were called Hellenists or Grecians. Attached to their synagogues, there were schools under the care of Rabbi’s, where the sons of foreign Jews and proselytes were educated in the Jewish learning and religion.—Stephen was probably a Hellenist or Grecian Jew; and his zeal for the gospel, it would seem, was chiefly employed among the people of the Hellenistic synagogues, that the attack against him was first made: particularly form that of the Libertines, the descendants of Jews who had been slaves at Rome, and those of the Jews and proselytes of Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia Proper.

The attack, unquestionably, was preconcerted [arranged in advance]. To dispute with him, to convince, to confound, or in some way to silence him, some of the ablest young men of those synagogues, or of the schools attached to them, were probably selected; and among them Saul of Tarsus, who doubtless belonged to the synagogue of the Cilicians, and whose zeal and talents are well known, appears to have been one. How unequal the combat! The flower of five synagogues against one disciple of Jesus! But the disciple of Jesus was armed with truth. This hi assailants felt; “and they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spake.” They were baffled, and put to confusion.—But did they yield to conviction, and ingenuously acknowledge the truth? Not at all.—Their pride was stung; their passions were inflamed: and they only changed their mode of attack. They resorted to the same expedient, which had been used in the case of his divine Master.

Determined to put him out of their way, “they suborned men to say, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council.” By inflammatory calumnies,, they raised a popular tumult, engaged some of the principal men of the city to join in the affray, and made themselves strong for their desperate purpose. The Sanhedrin appears to have been in session at the time, and to that tribunal the innocent disciple was violently dragged.—The suborned witnesses appeared, and gave in their testimony. “This man, said they, ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law. For we have heard him say, that this Jesus the Nazarene shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us.”—We cannot but remark here the striking similarity of the allegations against Stephen, to those which had been preferred against his adored Master. Blasphemy and sedition, indeed, have been the standing charges against the martyrs for the truth, in every age and country.

In the case of Stephen, as in the case of Jesus, there was some truth, no doubt, in the testimony given by the “false witnesses.” Stephen, unquestionably, had warned his adversaries of the danger of persisting in their unbelief, and opposition to the gospel; and to enforce this warning, had affirmed the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, and referred them to the awful destruction, which was soon to come upon their city and nation, for rejecting in Messiah. But to what he had said, the witnesses gave such a turn, or cast, as would best answer their purpose; and their falsehood consisted in misrepresentation and false coloring: a species of falsehood which the enemies of truth have never failed to practice, and which they have always found their most successful weapon.

Amidst his enemies however, and in the presence of those judges who had condemned his Lord, the intrepid martyr, undismayed by the terrors which were thickening around him, preserved the most perfect steadiness and serenity of mind. “And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” His countenance shone with a divine luster, similar to what was seen in the face of Moses, when he came down from the mount of God.—What was the effect? Did it deter his enemies from pursuing their design, left they should be found even to fight against God?—Alas! What can deter men from their object when impelled by the fury of their passions!—In spite of the decisive evidence, that God was with the prisoner, the awful business of his prosecution—his persecution-proceeded.

As president of the court, the high priest called upon Stephen to answer to the charge. But what answer should Stephen make? If he denied the charge, every word would be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses; if he assented to it, in the form in which it was brought, he would subject himself to capital punishment. He was placed in a most trying dilemma; but he answered with admirable wisdom. His speech is worthy the most attentive perusal.

The holy martyr was charged with blasphemy against Moses and against God, with an implication also of sedition. The allegation in support of the charge was, That he had said, that Jesus, whom the rulers had crucified, should destroy Jerusalem and the temple, and change the customs, or abolish the institutions, which Moses had given. The Jews imagined, that the institutions of Moses were never to be abolished or changed, and that the city and temple were too sacred to be destroyed. The institutions were from God, and the city and temple were his special residence; and to predict the abolition of the one or the other was held to be not merely seditious, but also blasphemous. It behooved Stephen to shew that this was not blasphemy. This he would do, if he could make it appear, that the ordinances of Moses were not intended to be perpetual; and that God had never intended to confine his residence to Jerusalem. Especially would he answer his purpose, if he could make it appear that the leading dispensations of God towards their nation had respect to the Messiah to come; that the ritual of Moses, and even the holy city and temple, were typical of his more spiritual kingdom; and that Jesus of Nazareth himself was the Messiah. This was Stephen’s aim, and on this his eye was fixed, as will appear on careful inspection, through his whole plea.

To make out the point in view, however, would be to fix upon the rulers and people the charge of having rejected and slain the Messiah; and this charge the martyr undoubtedly intended to fix. But he knew very well, that they were not in a temper to allow him to do this directly. He, therefore, stated facts and circumstances, which could not be denied; and left it to his judges and auditors to make the application.

Beginning with the vocation of Abraham, he briefly rehearses the history of the patriarchs and of the twelve tribes, until they came to Sinai;—speaks of Moses with a great respect, and recites his memorable prophecy, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of you brethren like unto me; him shall ye hear;”—adverts to the rebellion in the wilderness against Moses and against God, and the judgments consequently threatened;—then passes to the tabernacle, “which was brought in with Joshua into the promised land, and continued until the days of David.” The tabernacle became old, and Solomon built the temple. “But,” says Stephen, “the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as says the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me, faith the Lord; and where is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?”—Thus far the holy martyr advanced:—probably he intended to proceed to mention the destruction of the first temple, the building of the second, and the leading event in the history of Israel, down to his own time. But his hearers, perceiving the bearings of the facts, and the tendency of the whole speech, became, it would seem, tumultuous; and shewed such indications of rage, as convinced him that they would not hear him through, and that whatever he would say more must be in very few words. He, therefore, turns from his course abruptly, and makes a direct and pungent application: a last and most solemn effort, to send the truth home to their consciences. “Ye stiff necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears,” said he, “ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them that shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it!”

“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart;” and in the rage of their malice, they “gnashed on him with their teeth.”—At this critical moment, Stephen, “full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Transported by the vision, and regardless of danger, he boldly says to his adversaries, “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” This was fixing upon them, most decisively, the blood of the Holy and Just One. Enraged beyond control, “they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord;—and,” not waiting for any judicial sentence, “they cast him out of the city, and stoned him.”

“They stoned Stephen, invoking, 1 and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” His prayer was addressed to Jesus, whom he had just before seen standing at the right hand of glory, ready to receive him; and, after the example of his Lord, he breathed out his last breath in prayer for his murders.—“And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Though encompassed with ferocious enemies, and overwhelmed with vollies of stones, yet so calm, so serene was this holy martyr, that he sunk into the arms of death, as into the embraces of sleep, and rested from his conflicts and his labors forever.

His death, however, triumphant and glorious as it was, could not but be deeply felt by the multitude of he brethren; nor did they fail, most tenderly to testify their love and their grief. Antiquity reports that it was by the savior of the sage Gamaliel, that they were enabled to rescue his body. We are assured, however, that “devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation for him.”

Reflections.
1. In the martyrdom of Stephen, we have a striking attestation to the truth of the Gospel.—This affecting event was but a few months after the crucifixion of Jesus. The facts of His life, His death, and His resurrection were the recent; yet in regard to these facts, a band of disputants, selected from five synagogues, were not able to withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which Stephen spake. They could neither effectually controvert the facts; nor refute the conclusions, obviously resulting from them. They had only the alternative, either to yield to argument, or resort to violence; and in doing the latter, they furnished as decisive evidence of the badness of their cause, as they could have furnished in doing the former.—Stephen was a witness for Jesus, and certainly had access to know the truth. But had Jesus been an impostor, and his gospel a cunningly devised fable, would such a man as Stephen, calmly and deliberately have devoted his life to the cause?—Stephen had the honor to be the first in this glorious martyrdom; but other soon followed him; and thousands and millions have since added their blood to his. Their witness is in heaven; their record is on high.

2. Men are not always in a temper to yield to the light of evidence, or to the convictions of truth. The Jewish rulers and people had before them clear and decisive evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, and of the leading facts and truths, insisted on by Stephen. They could neither get rid of the evidence, nor “resist the wisdom and the spirit” with which the truth was urged upon them. Yet they would not yield to the evidence; they would not acknowledge the truth. On the contrary they became more and more virulent and outrageous, as the light became more and more clear and powerful. Something like this may always be expected, when, from any corrupt or sinister cause, men determine not to yield to the truth, and give up their minds to their prejudices and passions. How important then for all, to examine the temper by which they are influenced, the motives by which they are actuated, and the ground on which their opinions and actions are vindicated; “lest haply they be found” to oppose the truth, to violate reason and conscience, and “even to fight against God.”

3. Great and violent opposition to a cause, is no evidence that the cause is not good.—Never did cause sustain greater or more violent opposition, than that of the gospel has sustained. View the conduct of the Jews against Jesus, and afterwards against his followers; view the conduct of men in different ages and countries against the same cause; and learn a lesson of sober wisdom. Never conclude that men are in the right, because their numbers are great, and their language and conduct high. In a world like this, it would not be strange, if the greater number should be on the side of error and wrong; or if their spirits should rise high, and their language and conduct be violent, in proportion as their cause is bad. Turn then from the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, and listen to the still small voice. In all cases, let reason, and conscience, and the word of God be heard.

4. We are led solemnly to reflect on the direful consequences of giving the rein to malignant passions.—The adversaries of Stephen did this. They yielded themselves to the dominion of their passions; and they became outrageous, ferocious, and desperate. Despising all truth and all right, they violated the first principles of religion, morality, and society; trampled upon justice in her very sanctuary; and, in the fury of their madness, imbrued their hands in innocent blood. The people cried for vengeance—the Sanhedrim countenanced the popular frenzy—and the roman governor connived at the horrible proceedings!—It was a mob that procured the condemnation of Jesus to the cross; and it was a mob that stoned Stephen, without waiting for a sentence of condemnation against him!

But, my hearers let it not be imagined that no apology could be framed for their conduct. Could they not say, that Stephen openly condemned a most solemn act of the government—that he charged the rulers, even to their faces, with the most atrocious wickedness—that he persisted in opposing the voice of the people in favor of their rulers—that the freedom of speech, used by him and his brethren, tended to weaken the hands of authority and to stir up sedition—and that after he knew how determined both the rulers and the people were, to stop that freedom, and to put down that opposition, 2 yet he daringly provoked them beyond all endurance. Yes, they could say all this; and they could say further, that the doctrine of the Rabbis allowed the execution of offenders, in flagrant cases, by the judgment of zeal, without the form of law. Saul of Tarsus, indeed, who took a forward part in the bloody outrage, afterwards said, in reference to that and other parts of his conduct, “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”

But were the persecutors of Stephen excusable? Or was their conduct to be palliated? No, my brethren: they were murderers; and all who abetted, or approved, or connived at, or palliated the horrible deed, brought themselves proportionally under the guilt of innocent blood. The café never existed, and the café never can exist, in which a mob might not find some apologies for their outrage. But these apologies are not to be admitted—are not to be tolerated; unless all the principles of social order are to be abandoned, and all that is dear to mankind on this side the grave, is to be resigned to the lawless fury of popular passions. And, my brethren, it infinitely behooves every one of us, most solemnly to purge his conscience before God of the blood which has recently been shed in our land, and of the guilt of every act of popular violence, by whomsoever committed. Let it not be said that the scenes are now closed, and all is quietness and security. The blood still cries to heaven; and God is the avenger! Every plea in justification, even the disposition to extenuate the atrocity, carries in it guilt, which the eye of his holy jealousy will not fail to note. Yes, even the disposition to justify, or extenuate, is embryo murder—embryo treason against society and the majesty of the laws—embryo rebellion against the government and throne of Jehovah. Wherever, and to whatever extent it is cherished, blood-guiltiness stains the foul, and fearful danger lurks in society; and of all who cherish it, certainly of all who express it, I would say at the altar of God, “Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations: O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united.” And I would hope there is not one within the hearing of my voice, who will not join in the solemn deprecation.

How excellent is the true Christian spirit!—View the contrast between Stephen and his enemies. When they attacked him with a design to ruin him, he answered them with firmness of spirit, and the meekness of wisdom. When they violently dragged him before the Sanhedrim, and suborned false witnesses to procure his condemnation; he made his defense with tenderness and respect—with argument as mild as it was forcible. When they gnashed on him with their teeth, like ferocious beasts, he stood collected and composed, and declared to them his view of heaven, and of the glory of Christ. When in the frenzy of their rage, they overwhelmed him with vollies of stones; in the benevolence of his heart, he prayed for them, “Lord lay not this sin to their charge.”—This, my brethren, is the temper of the Christian; the temper which divine grace produces in the hearts of men.—How changed was Saul of Tarsus, when, in answer to the martyr’s dying prayer, he was converted to Christ! What a different world will this be, when the Christian temper shall universally prevail!

My brethren, shall we contemplate the example of the holy martyr, and not be benefitted by it? Shall we not learn from him how to believe, when opposed by the enemies of truth and righteousness? If like him we would “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men,” it behooves us to be able to give a consistent account of our faith, and solidly to defend our principles. Much wisdom indeed will be requisite to meet the various circumstances in which we may be placed. Let us, however, beware of cowardice; and while we behold Stephen’s intrepidity, let us resolve in the strength of divine grace, never to desert the cause of truth—never to betray it—never to disguise our attachment to it, for the sake of avoiding the displeasure, or of conciliating the favor of its opposers. What have we to fear, if we serve the Lord Christ? But with firmness and courage, let it be our care always to unite meekness, forbearance, gentleness, and the spirit of forgiveness: never to render evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing. If thus we be followers of Christ, and of them who by faith and patience inherit the promises, we may assure ourselves of strength and comfort, under the severest trials. Stephen stands a witness to all generations, of the grace and faithfulness of his divine Master, who will never abandon, or deceive his servants. If possessed of the true faith of the gospel, we need not, we ought not to stagger, even at the most formidable appearances of death. In the countenance of the martyr, we see how the Author and Finisher of our faith can illumine the dark valley, and even in that tremendous passage, fill the soul with peace and joy. Let us then persevere in faith and patience; and soon shall the portals of immortal glory be thrown wide open, for our abundant entrance into the joy of our Lord. His word is sure: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

AMEN.
 


Endnotes

1. This is the true rendering: in the original text there is no word for God.

2. Acts IV. 17-20: “Did not we straitly command you, that ye should not teach in this name? and behold ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Ibid, V. 28.

Sermon – Fasting – 1812


This sermon was preached by Henry Colman in Massachusetts on the day of the national fast: August 20, 1812. This national fast day was proclaimed by President James Madison in response to the war with England – the War of 1812. The transcript of the sermon has been updated to reflect modern spelling and grammar.


sermon-fasting-1812-3


A

SERMON.

Preached in Higham and Quincy,

20th, August 1812,

the Day of

THE NATIONAL FAST,

on account of

THE WAR WITH GREAT BRITAIN.

By Henry Colman, Minister of the Third Church in Hingham.

The
DIVINE PROVIDENCE;

ROMANS, viii. 28.
WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD.

I think, my brethren, I may venture to assert that a more interesting passage than the text cannot be found in the whole compass of the Scriptures. The inferences to be made from it are clear, satisfactory, and delightful. It teaches us that every object and event is under the particular providence of God; that whatever happens will be subservient to a wise and benevolent purpose; and that, in every change of circumstance, the good man will be safe and happy.

These truths are highly practical. I doubt not, my brethren, that many of you feel and daily act under their influence. Infinitely happy would it be if this were the case with all of us. These truths are exceedingly useful in seasons of difficulty, distress, and trial. I know now, therefore, how I can better discharge the duty which, on this occasion, devolves upon me than my making them the subject of your reflections. They are indeed among the most familiar truths of religion: and this is one of the distinguishing blessings of revelation, that it has diffused the knowledge of them among every class in society; so that the humble and illiterate Christian knows more of the Divine character and providence, and possesses far higher principles of conduct than the heathen philosopher. But, however familiar they may be by serious and virtuous minds, they will ever be contemplated with fresh interest; and they cannot be too frequently contemplated to yield that peace to our hears which they are capable of affording and that direction to our conduct to which they are entitled by their importance.

I. We infer from the text the universal providence of God. This is one of the plainest truths of natural religion; and it is inscribed in the brightest characters on the page of divine revelation. I will suggest a few of the arguments upon which the belief of this doctrine is grounded, with a view of furnishing topics for your private meditation rather than of entering upon the discussion of so comprehensive a subject.

1. The least reflection must convince us that this earth and the celestial system moved around us, whose appearances and revolutions we have reduced to minute calculation, are not the production of what we call chance or accident; or what the ancients denominated fate. From the nature of matter we know that it could not have produced itself; from many facts and observations we learn that it has not existed forever. It must therefore have had a creator. We have only then, in the next place, to think a moment of the extent and construction of the universe, as far as it appears to our naked observation, much more as viewed with the eye of philosophy, to be satisfied that the Creator is possessed of wisdom and power greater than we can possibly conceive and to us, consequently, in every respect infinite.

From a similar survey of the works of nature we may deduce an inference in favor of the goodness of the Creator. The world in which we live is certainly not the production of a malevolent being; for, as we have seen, the power of the Creator was adequate to any effect; misery, in such case, would have undeniable predominated over the earth. There would have been neither fragrance nor harmony nor beauty in nature. Every sky had been dark; every field had been barren; the ocean had exhibited nothing but the fury and horrors of the storm; the wind had borne nothing but disease and death in its course; every exertion of the intellect had been agony; every sense had but a channel of torture to the mind; above all, the bow of the divine mercy had never been seen in the heavens and religion had never shed its peace and its hope upon the soul.

But the most that has been done, even by those persons who think the worst of the world, is not to prove, hardly to assert, that there is an excess of misery; but only to question whether happiness actually predominate in the earth. With me, however, there is not, with no one, should I think, there could be a question on this subject. When I consider the few instances of sickness, deformity, and misery, which appear in the world compared with those of health, soundness, and enjoyment and the compensation which is provided in many of these cases; when I consider the innumerable sources of felicity with which man is furnished, his sensual, intellectual, moral, and religious capacities; when I consider the myriads, in number and variety of living existences which the people the earth, the air, the sea; which inhabit every particle of our blood, which feast on every leaf, which riot on every breeze; all, as far as we can learn from observation and analogy, possessing the capacity and the means of happiness, full of pleasure as they are full of activity; I cannot for a moment doubt that felicity predominates in nature; and I cannot but acknowledge the unutterable and unbounded goodness of the Deity.

We have then, my brethren, discovered an author of nature who is finitely powerful, wise, and good. We have learnt that this world is the production of his power, wisdom, and benevolence; and consequently, we must believe that His designs in the creation were worthy of His sublime and venerable attributes. Can we then suppose that he has relinquished all concern for the work of His hands? – that He remains an indifferent spectator of its condition and progress? Such inferences would be irrational and impious. We must then conclude that the world ever has been, that it still is, and that it ever will remain, an object of His affectionate care.

2. Another argument for the Providence of God, equally conclusive with that which has been offered, may be drawn from the moral character of the Deity. From the moral powers of man we infer the moral character of the Creator. He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see? 1 The clear and immutable distinction between truth and falsehood, the faculty of conscience, the unalienable and great rewards of virtue and the same, ruin, and the miseries of vice which are almost invariable consequent upon the practice of the one and the other, ever in the present life, are circumstances which, together with many others, show that man is under a moral government; and, taken in connection with the probably presumption of a future state from the light of nature, hardly afford room for doubt that, under this constitution, virtue will terminate in the happiness and vice in the degradation and misery of such as practice it. But every notion of the moral government of God implies His constant superintendence; implies that He is ever present to observe the characters and actions of men; to adjust the circumstances of their condition; to secure to those who perform His will the rewards which, under such a government, were to be expected; and to bring upon the wicked those evils which they have deserved and the infliction of which, the purpose of such a government seems indispensably to demand.

Many other arguments might be adduced but I think that these two, drawn form the nature and moral attributes of the Deity, as they are discoverable by the light of nature, are sufficient to show that the doctrine of a Divine Providence is reasonable and entitled to our belief. “Nothing,” says his biographer, “seemed to Sir Isaac Newton, the prince of philosophers, more unaccountable than to exclude the Deity only out of the universe.” “The philosopher,” says the same writer, “who overlooks the traces of an all-governing Deity in nature, contenting himself with the appearances of the material universe only and the mechanical laws of motion, neglects what is most excellent and prefers what is imperfect to what is supremely perfect, finitude to infinity, what is narrow and weak to what is unlimited and almighty, and what is perishing to what endures forever.” 2

3. But in whatever difficulties or obscurity to the natural philosopher the doctrine of a particular providence may seem involved; to the Christian philosopher there is no deficiency of light and no room for doubt. To him the very fact of a revolution is sufficient proof of it; still more the successive interpositions of Heaven in the concerns of mankind, of which the Scriptures exhibit an affecting account. To his view are unfolded the different steps in a most interesting and intimate intercourse between God and man. To him, God is represented as to over all, in all, and through all things. 3 No part of creation is uninhabited by His presence; no event is concealed form His knowledge; no object is remote from His care. The minute and the vast, the weak and powerful, the peasant and the monarch, the infant and philosopher, the little insect of the day sporting on the summer’s sun beam and the seraph who wings his way through an enteral year in the effulgence of God’s presence, every earthly and every celestial existence are equally the productions of His power and the objects of His constant and paternal care. The thunder is His voice, the winds His chariot, and the terrific lightning but the “shining of his glittering spear.” 4 He is present as much in the fall of a sparrow as in the destruction of an empire, in the rolling of a pebble as in the revolutions of a planet. As in the army of Heaven so He rules among the inhabitants of the earth; 5 as in the natural so in the moral world are His presence and providence felt. Every nation, every family, every individual is the object of his attention. Moral beings must be so in a peculiar sense, for vice is His abhorrence and virtue is His delight. The circumstances then of our situation and the moral influences to which we are exposed, are ever observed by Him; the trials, the changes, the blessings and the calamities which befall us, befall us by His permission and are ever under His direction. Such appear to be the explicit representations of the Scriptures. They are interesting and, like everything which relates to the Deity, they are vast and sublime. I do not cite the numerous passages which express them because I am persuaded they are familiar to your minds. Such then is the great Being under whose government we live; under whose superintendency all things on earth, in Heaven, and throughout the universe, proceed.

II. That we are not able to comprehend the manner in which this providence is exercised, cannot be an objection to the reception of a doctrine so plainly revealed and which, from its very nature, must be infinitely beyond the grasp of the human understanding. Things are great or small by comparison. When we consider the arts, inventions, and acquisitions which are in possession of the human mind, we dwell with fond admiration upon the extent of our powers; but when, on the other hand, we reflect how little we know in comparison of what is to be known, we shall see sufficient reason to be humble and perceive that the wisdom of man is folly in the sight of God. 6 When we attempt to penetrate the secrets of matter, or the complex operations of intellect, we are baffled at every step by the imbecility and deficiency of our powers. It is utterly beyond our capacity to comprehend the manner in which an ear of corn, a blade of grass, or a leaf is produced; in which the growth of any part of our bodies is carried on; to understand the production and arrangement of our thoughts; the mysterious connection of spirit and matter; or that invisible energy by which the motions of the body are excited and controlled at the pleasure of the mind. How much less are we able to comprehend that all-prevailing spirit, which first gave form to matter and intelligence and activity to mind; which established and controls the laws and operations of universal nature. But, in whatever obscurity the manner in which a divine providence is carried on, may be involved, yet the doctrine is sufficiently explained for every practical purpose; – first, to guard us against an abuse to which it is otherwise liable; secondly, to give all that assistance and encouragement to the practice of virtue which it is capable of yielding.

1. The abuse to which this doctrine is liable and that, from which it has actually suffered, is that we should suppose that it deprives us of our moral agency; that, under such a providence we are no longer free, consequently are no longer accountable and therefore, that there is neither vice nor virtue in the world, men become mere machines and morality is not predicable of any of their actions. But we have a sufficient security against so hurtful an inference.

It is not indeed possible for us, with the foreknowledge of God, which His providence implies, to reconcile the freedom of man or the contingency of human actions. This is a problem too difficult for us to solve. The authority of the great Locke should in this case be considered as decisive. “I freely own,” says hi, “the weakness of my understanding; that though it be unquestionable that there is omnipotence and omniscience in God our Maker, and I cannot have a clearer perception of any thing than that I am free; yet I cannot make freedom in man consistent with omnipotence and omniscience in God, though I am as fully persuaded of both as of any truths I most firmly assent to. And therefore I have long since given off the consideration of that question, resolving all into this short conclusion, that if it be possible for God to make a free agent then men is free, though I see not the way of it.” 7 But it is sufficient for us to know that the doctrine of the foreknowledge and providence of God and of freedom in man stand upon the same authority; that they are both explicitly taught and recognized in the Scriptures; are consequently both to be received; and we are no more at liberty to give up the one than the other. It is sufficient for us to be conscious that we are free; to be unable, whatever we think of ourselves, to regard the conduct of others as wholly unsusceptible of praise or blame; that we are not willing, when they have injured us, to take necessity as a satisfactory apology for their behavior: – but, above all, it is sufficient for us to reflect that those dispensations of providence whose history is taught us, are all addressed to us as free beings; and that throughout the Scriptures we are instructed, urged, entreated, and threatened in regard to our duty which would be nothing short of insult and mockery to those who were altogether necessary and involuntary agents. Particular and intimate then as the providence of God over the world may be, it must be perfectly compatible with the moral freedom of man. God is not, therefore, the author sin: men are accountable for every sentiment which they nourish and every action which they perform and shall be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or evil.

2. In the next place, the doctrine of a divine providence, though it be not free form difficulties, is yet sufficiently explained to afford every possible motive and aid to the practice of virtue.

Under such a providence we cannot account for the existence or the permission of moral evil, which scatters desolation and wretchedness among the family of God; but, under such a providence, we cannot doubt of the final security, felicity, and triumphs of virtue. The doctrine of the text is entirely satisfactory on this momentous subject. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” What else does this teach us, but that health and sickness, prosperity and adversity are the beneficent messengers of a gracious parent to his obedient children? What else does it teach us but that even the moral evils of which we complain, the folly, the corruption, and the vices of mankind from which arise so much misery and distress in the earth, will, under the perfect government of the Deity, be rendered subservient to His benevolent purposes; and contribute with events of a different description to the improvement and felicity of His virtuous offspring? Through it be impossible for us to conceive how these effects may be produced yet we know that the wisdom of the Deity is adequate to contrive and His power to apply the mans of their accomplishment. He can bring light out of darkness and good out of evil. Surely the wrath of man shall praise him; 8 and, let it touch the pious heart with ecstasy, all things shall work together for good to them that love God.

Shall we then, my brethren, do evil that good may come? God forbid. Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good principles. 9 We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the just recompense of our conduct, 10 in that solemn hour when the heart and character shall be stripped of every disguise; when no pleas of repentance; not claim shall be allowed to the divine favor but the claim of virtue. The miseries and evils form which the wicked suffer in this life and which, through their neglect, contribute in no respect to their amendment or reformation, will only aggravate their guilt and increase the tribulation, the horror, and the anguish of their future destiny. But it is not so with the righteous for it shall be well with him. 11 Every evil and trial in which he is here involved is but a step in his progress towards Heaven and shall contribute to augment his future felicity. He who has God for his friend must be safe. He who has God for his friend must be happy.

III. Let us be persuaded then, my brethren, by everything that is dear and valuable in our existence, to flee form the wrath which hangs over the vicious and impenitent and seize, with trembling eagerness, the blessed assurance of Divine protection and favor which is held out to the righteous.

Our whole duty is comprehended in two directions; to forsake our sins and to practice virtue. Let us search and try our ways and turn unto the Lord. 12 Let this day which we devote to an awful and interesting service of religion, witness the ardor and sincerity of our repentance. We have come up hither to humble ourselves before God, because of the judgments with which He is pleased to visit us; let us truly repent of those sins which have contributed to bring them upon us. Let us rigidly examine and resolutely renounce the sins of our tempers, our heats, and our conduct. While we stand here praying before God, let us look forward to the hour when we shall stand in the immediate presence of our judge; when every guilty action or sentiment or though which is un-repented of, shall be exhibited to us and to the world in all its deformity and rend with agony the hardest heart. Let this day constitute a new era in our lives; ad ay from which we date the subjugation of our evil passion to the dominion of reason and religion, and the anxious consecration of ourselves to the service of our Maker. Let us, in a word, become good men and good Christians.

In these days of peculiar distress and trial our country and world, liberty, virtue, and religion have most powerful demands on us. Subduing therefore with anxious solicitude those lusts and passions from whence vice and misery spring, and rising superior to all sordid and base sentiments and to all the paltry interests of place or of party, let us consecrate with undeviating firmness and incessant activity, our time and talents to the prosperity and happiness of our country; constantly exerting ourselves to meet the crisis with the magnanimity which it demands; remembering the example and copying the sublime virtues of that galaxy of Christian patriots, whose names shall ever be music to the ear of the philanthropist; who led our country from oppression to independence and glory; who, amidst the tempest and uproar of war, stood unmoved with hearts fixed upon God; and, while darkness covered the political heavens and the thunders were bursting on every side, seized the vivid shafts, aimed at the liberties of their country and conducted them harmless to the ground.

But while we are not unmindful of the claims of our native country, let us not forget that paramount to all others are the claims of God upon our service. Much as we may love the land which gave us birth, yet patriotism is in some degree a selfish passion. Though born for our country, we must not forget that we were born likewise for the world; though designed to be the benefactors of our nation we were designed, likewise in a still higher sense, to be the servants of God. Nor are these interests incompatible with each other. They perfectly coalesce and he who is most devoted to God is the most the most effectual benefactor to mankind. Much then as we may desire the happiness and prosperity of our native land, let this desire and the efforts which spring from it be regulated by reason, justice, and piety.

Whatever accidental distinctions may take place among men, arising from situation, language, habits, or character they are equally our brethren, the children of the same parent, the heirs of the same immortality. Though in case of favor or aid, our efforts must have a definite object and a choice must be made of those to whom our influence may be most effectually extended, yet we cannot be justified for the slightest violation towards any of the great law of Christian equity and love. Let our conduct therefore be always governed by the laws of God. Let us not indeed expel from our hearts the tender and interesting sentiments of natural affection, friendships and patriotism; but let us cherish and increase them and let them animate and invigorate our exertions. At the same time, let them ever be subordinate to the great duty of general benevolence; and let us act with a supreme reference to the advancement of truth, righteousness, and peace, of rational liberty, of sound virtue, and of genuine religion.

Every individual, whatever be his situation in life, has talents which may contribute in some degree to these ends. Let him call them into exercise and let them be discreetly and constantly applied. Let a man first reform and improve himself; let him apply his efforts next to the reformation and virtue of his children, his family, and his neighborhood; let him encourage and strengthen the patriotic, benevolent, and pious efforts of others by every means in his power; and exerting himself thus, in the sphere in which his influence is felt, his labors will not be without success nor without reward.

Individual repentance, reformation, and virtue are thus necessary to constitute national repentance, reformation, and virtue. It is absurd to talk of the latter without the former. Let the former be effected and the latter will follow of course. This, under the blessing of a divine providence, will contribute to deliver us from the calamities and distresses which we suffer and to avert the still greater evils which threaten us. But, if we are not able to accomplish their removal, if we must drain this better cup, yet if we become good men and good Christians, we have nothing to fear; our record is on high and our interests are safe. Virtue will give a new complexion to the dark scenes of human life; it will convert vice and misery into the instruments of improvement and felicity.

The good man while he looks abroad into society, behold wickedness triumphant. He hears the noise of the trumpet and the clangor of arms. He sees angry and guilty nations, rising in their might and rushing into violent and awful collision. He witnesses all the fury and horrors of vice, bursting forth like a torrent, overwhelming the abodes of domestic peace, the monuments of art, the cottage, the palace, and the temple, and burying in undistinguished ruin the supports of human grandeur, glory, and happiness.

For with a frown
Revenge impatient rose:
He threw his blood-stained sword in thunder down
And, with a withering look,
The war-denouncing trumpet took,
And blew a blast so loud and dread,
Were ne’er prophetic sounds so full of woe;
And ever and anon he beat
The doubling drum, with furious heat,
And though sometimes, each dreary pause between,
Dejected pity at his side,
Her soul subduing voice applied,
Yet still he kept his wile unaltered mien,
While such strained ball of sign seem’d bursting from his head. 13 [From a poem titled “The Passions” by William Collins (1721-1759).]

But let no the good man be dismayed He shall stand, like some mighty cliff which lifts its head above the sea; the angry waves may lash its base and tempest roll down its sides, but “an eternal sunshine settles on its head.” 14 He has nothing to fear; he beholds an almighty arm moving and directing the vast and complicated operations of universal nature; and when the final storm rushes on, when the earth shall burst asunder, when in the figurative and prophetic language of the apostle, the Heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements melt with fervent heat, 15 and the world is sinking beneath him, the hand of Providence shall seize him, and convey him to the realms of peace, of light, and of glory.

Let us cling therefore, my brethren, to this transporting doctrine. By lives of virtue and piety, for nothing else can effect it, let us assure ourselves in every condition of the protection and favor of that infinite and adorable Being with whom there is not the shadow of change, 16 at whose disposal are empires and worlds, 17 who inhabits eternity, 18 and who is over all, in all, and through all things, blessed forever. 19

 


Endnotes

1. Ps. xciv. 9.

2. Maclaurin, quoted by Price. Diss. p. 52.

3. Rom. xi. 36. Eph. iv. 6.

4. Habak. iii. 11.

5. Dan. iv. 35.

6. I Cor. iii. 19.

7. Works, fol. vol. iii. p. 509.

8. Ps. lxxvi. 10.

9. I. Cor. xv. 33.

10. 2 Cor. v. 10.

11. Isa. iii. 10.

12. Lam. iii. 40.

13. Collins.

14. At some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, & c. – Goldsmith.

15. 2 Pet. iii. 10.

16. Jas. i. 17.

17. Job xii. 23.

18. Isaiah lvii. 15.

19. Rom. ix. 5.

Sermon – Fasting – 1811, Massachusetts


Elijah Parish (1762-1825) graduated from Dartmouth in 1785. He was the pastor of a church in Byfield, MA (1787-1825). This sermon was preached by Parish on the fast day of April 11, 1811.


sermon-fasting-1811-massachusetts

A SERMON,

PREACHED AT BYFIELD,

ON THE

ANNUAL FAST,

APRIL 11, 1811.

BY ELIJAH PARISH, D. D.

“The voice, which cries through all the Patriot’s veins
“When at his feet his country groans in chains,
“With angel-might, opposed the rage of hell,
“And fought like Michael, till the Dragon fell.”

A SERMON, &c.

REVELATION, CH. XVIII. V. 2.

Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen and is become the habitation of devils and the hold of every soul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

In this and several other passages of scripture, Babylon means the Roman empire or Papal power and influence over the nations. 1 The fall of Babylon, therefore, is not the fall of Rome, or any particular city; but the destruction of that power, which has been so long, and so terribly exercised by the sovereign Pontiffs of Rome, or any particular city; but the destruction of that power, which has been so long, and so terribly exercised by the sovereign Pontiffs of Rome. As when the literal city of Babylon was destroyed, her deserted houses, her falling palaces, became the habitation “of wild beasts of the desert, with the wild beasts of the islands, a dwelling place for dragons;” so mystical Babylon in her fall becomes the habitation of men, possessing similar characters; of men to be compared with “hateful birds, foul beasts, and devils.” Another scripture saith, “They are as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed;” and another scripture referring to the same period, saith, “They are the spirits of devils.”

If spiritual Babylon be not completely “fallen,” or destroyed, yet is her power wonderfully lessened; her hour of entire dissolution makes haste. The Pontiff of Rome, once the terror of Europe, whose frown shook crowns from the heads of kings, and overturned their thrones, is now, if he exist, a mere puppet in the hands of the mighty Napoleon. A chained captive, or a trembling vassal, he goes and comes at his command. Strong reasons, however, are not wanting to prove, that the Papal power “is fallen.” The Emperor has not only arrested the head of that church, but “is constantly issuing laws against her, and banishing her priests.” The college of Cardinals, who alone have the authority of electing a Pope, are now many of them “confined in the different prisons of France; so that probably, in the present state of things, a new election is impracticable.”

But whether Babylon be “fallen” or not, certainly she has become the habitation of devils, of foul spirits, of unclean and hateful birds. This diabolical influence prevails, in a particular manner, through the Papal nations. There Napoleon has raised his standard, there he has blown the blast of victory; there his spies, his agents, his officers, his laws, or his armies, spread devastation, solitude, and woe. The hail of divine judgments has fallen on those countries; yet none of them repent; but madly blaspheme God and his Son.

Our design is to illustrate the propriety and truth of the text, when applied to this ruling influence of Europe.

I. The power, which now rules Papal Europe, which occupies the place and influence of Babylon, may be compared to foul beasts and birds, and devils, on account of its falsehood, fraud, and treachery. The devil is a liar from the beginning. This is one of the prominent features of his character; and this is equally a trait of the reigning power of Europe. The Chieftain of Europe totally disregards all promises, disdains all oaths, and daily violates the most solemn treaties. Though a formal treaty binds him in amity to this country; yet so long has he trampled on all its articles; so long has he plundered our commerce, and insulted our applications for redress; so long has he continued to capture, to sink, or to burn our ships, to chain and imprison our seamen, that most people have forgotten, that he is bound to offices of friendship, that any treaty ever existed between the two countries. Why should they not? Does our government presume to mention it? Do our public officers refer to it? Is it not, like a dead man, forgotten and out of mind?

The monarchs of Spain, though they were his friends, his allies, his humble servants, and obedient vassals, were betrayed in a most perfidious manner. Just before he laid violent hands on Ferdinand, he wrote him an epistle, full of brotherly affection. Among many other kind things, he says, “The caution with which I have proceeded ought to convince you of the support you will find in me, if factions of any description, ever disturb your reign.” In another place he says, “Your royal highness knows all the recesses of my heart.” He concludes his letter of love in the following manner. “Rely upon my wish to reconcile every thing, and to find opportunities to give you proofs of affection and high regard. And so I pray God may keep you, Brother, under his holy and worthy protection.” Proceeding to cajole and flatter him with an Imperial visit; then, changing his tone, he invites, persuades, and forces him to enter the French dominions. 2 There was he instantly seized, as a malefactor, a slave, an outlaw, confined by guards and walls, every step watched by the angel of death. There was he compelled to issue a proclamation, requiring all the inhabitants of Spain, his faithful subjects, to abandon him, to submit to Napoleon, “the Scourge of God.” Army after army is poured into Spain, the fields are laid waste, the churches are robbed, the cities are besieged and destroyed; myriads of the peaceful inhabitants are made prisoners, myriads are slain. The whole country is deluged with blood. Would the annals of hell furnish an instance of viler falsehood, treachery, fraud, and violence?

In Portugal a similar tragedy is acting. There too the government was friendly; there like Spain they contributed their wealth and influence to promote the despotism of the destroying Angel. Now their country is overwhelmed with armies; their daughters, their wives, their mothers, are exposed to the wanton brutality of French soldiers. Blood flows; the royal family have gone into banishment. They prefer reigning in the wilds of South America, to the vicinity of the Tyrant whose atmosphere is pestilence and death.

The pusillanimous monarch of Prussia, on the eve of his destruction, received a letter from the French Emperor, breathing esteem and affection.3 But time would fail me; volumes are necessary to relate half his deeds of falsehood, fraud, and treachery. Is not Babylon the habitation of devils? But I ought not to have forgotten the establishment of numerous Spies in every town, village, and neighborhood. Cruel as death, brother betrays his brother, and fathers their sons. No man dares utter his thoughts with freedom. 4

I ought to mention the march of armies to Egypt and Palestine, their robberies and murders, on the banks of the Nile and Jordan; the misery they caused at Alexandria, Joppa, and Jerusalem. I ought to describe them furious, as hungry tigers in the massacre of their Turkish prisoners; in a moment a thousand captives are shot in cold blood. 5 But the sun would go down ere I had done.

II. The oppression and barbarity of their laws prove that Babylon is inhabited by devils, or governed by one, who may be justly compared to Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.

His laws like those of Draco are written in blood. Any one concerned in British traffic shall be shot. In Hamburg at one time goods to the amount of six millions have been burned. In every part of papal Europe the conflagration spreads. These are not the goods of an enemy; but of his own subjects. Their taxes are cruel and barbarous beyond conception.

The farmer is compelled to pay a tax at every stage of his labor, as he plows, plants, or gathers his fruits. Often his means fail, he is unable to advance the last tribute, and his harvest is consumed in the field. 6 Very thing, almost, which can be named, is subject to heavy taxation, “servants, vehicles, household furniture, dogs, gateways, chimneys, windows, doors.” Even industry itself groans under a heavy impost; all persons exercising any responsible trade, as “butchers and brokers,” are doomed to a heavy tax for the privilege. Some persons pay “the fourth, others a third, and others one half their income in taxes to the government.” But these direct taxes are not the most dreadful part of the story. A certain percentage is levied on all those taxes; sometimes forty per cent. In 1800 it was more.

More barbarous still; no proprietor may cut down timber, or clear his own land under heavy penalties, without applying six months previously, and obtaining the permission of government. This is often refused.

But the conscription, or draughts for the army and navy, are the most terrible of all human regulations. Children are torn from their parents, to be disciplined and trained to butcher mankind. But here I think it my duty to be more particular by liberal quotations from a late writer, who had the best possible means of ascertaining the truth, so lately as 1809. 7 He says, “The narrative I have laid before the public are facts, and I pledge my existence to the truth of what I have stated.” He assures us that, “The dreadful conscriptions pursued with unrelenting severity, have given rise to such a general discontent, that the death of Bonaparte is devoutly wished for; his name is feared and abhorred by every reflecting Frenchman, by all, who are not enjoying pensions or lucrative employments, under his tyrannical power. The severe and arbitrary restrictions laid on the little commerce that remains, the overbearing insolence and extortion of his numerous custom-house officers paralyze all the efforts of trade in the interior of France.

Far greater proportion of France shows a poverty and a negligence in the general cultivation of the lands, that strongly mark the weak state of commerce and the great want of capital.

In villages scarcely a cottage can you enter without beholding the fathers and mothers of families, bewailing the loss of a beloved child, dragged to the armies. Several assured me, they had lost three, four or five sons of the age of seventeen or eighteen; some had at last their only child wrested from them. As for the cultivated fields, there the sturdy youth is not to be seen; but old and infirm men, with old women, scarcely able to support the fatigue of ploughing, tilling and reaping their lands, perform all the labours of agriculture. For hundreds of leagues, that population formerly so remarkable in France has disappeared: in the field scarcely a peasant is seen. The medical men often sell a powder to these brave youths, that produces a temporary blindness, if applied to the eye; and if applied to any open wound, an inflammation and swelling of the limb, that often endangers the life of the wretched lad; but notwithstanding heavy fines and severe imprisonments, in some instances for life, the government cannot stop it. These are facts, many of which came within my own knowledge. When the unfortunate young men are collected together, they are often sent chained by the neck and hands, and driven, like condemned criminals, to the different places of rendezvous.

If any thing further were necessary to prove the wretched situation of the French people, it would be sufficient to allude to what is seen at all her churches, her fairs, her public festivals, and amusements. There you meet with scarcely any thing but old age and infirmity.

Ask the women where the young men are? They one and all answer; “they are gone to be butchered.”

To this the Editors of the Literary Panorama add, “This expression, ‘gone to be butchered,’ more literally true than either the speakers, or Mr. Sturt intends. We have spared our readers the pain of perusing accounts of this nature, that have reached us from the highest authority. We shall only mention two. One of them related to the slaughter of three hundred French conscripts in the bloom of life and manhood, led in pairs to the slaughter-house where cattle were usually slain, and treated in a like manner. The other was of no less than seven hundred French, conducted to a similar death, on a much later occasion. Humanity shudders at these facts, and what says policy to the loss of the rising generation in the mad pursuit of insatiable ambition?

But to return to our author, “This is no secret. This is no untruth. They speak feelingly; for many are parents, sisters, or lovers of these absent youths, dragged to the armies. One of the most formidable engines of tyranny in France is the military police, called the Gens d’armes, a number of soldiers scattered in every little neighborhood, who excite the dread and hatred of the whole nation. Their employment is to search for murderers, thieves, and deserters. They are also employed to execute the dreadful orders of Bonaparte. This increases that fear, hatred, and contempt, so universally felt. Unprincipled in general, of course corrupt and treacherous, they accept your bribe, and then betray you.

In every town, city, village, or commune, throughout the departments, these instruments of tyranny are established, and being in general artful men, and very poor, they exercise a tyranny equal to their ruler. To every coffeehouse and every place of public amusement, they have access under the pretence of preserving peace and order.

They establish idle and worthless people in every public house and hotel as spies, who make their reports often from pique and malice, or to prove their zeal. The same system is established by seducing servants of every family to report what is said at the table, of whatever nature. These reports, true or false, are sent to the minister of police, who without notice and even without enquiry, sends an order to arrest the whole family, often in the dead of night.

If any observations have been made on Bonaparte or his government, or on his favorites, they never see the light again, nor can a friend trace them out.8 Another description of police more terrible even than the gens d’armes is employed by Fouche, minister of police. These men travel through every city, town, and village of a department, and are supplied with money, that they may attend public places, being men better drest, better educated, and often wearing the insignia of the legion d’ honneur, they insinuate themselves into society and freely abuse the government, Bonaparte, and his favorites, in the hopes of entrapping the unwary. Having given his information the miscreant leaves the district for another, and the unfortunate family are seized in the accustomed manner and conveyed to the dungeons of Paris, or to some strong fortress in the departments, and never are heard of any more. Does any reflecting man need to hear another syllable to be convinced of the diabolical influence, which governs Papal Europe, and which, like the deadly winds of the African desert, is blasting all the fair prospects of our country’s glory?

Do not the same causes produce the same effects? Can that power, which has proved fatal to the best interests of man even in France, be friendly and useful in America? Will he, who has changed the laws, the customs, the morals of Europe, confirm our privileges, or secure our felicities? As well may we expect that pestilence and plague, transported to our shores, will become harmless and pleasant; that the angel of death will be a cheerful companion, and the grave a sumptuous habitation. Will not our countrymen be convinced? Or must they like Babylon’s king be driven from men, be hewers of wood, be degraded to brutes, before they can learn the signs of the times, that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and that Napoleon is the angel of his vengeance?

III. The power of France carries discord, slavery, and ruin among the nations; therefore on this account, she may be represented, as having the character of Satan.

The devil sows discord even among brethren. He is a murderer from the beginning. As a roaring lion he walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. He casteth men “into prison.” He is the prince of the power of the air. His emissaries and agents are in every quarter. Where do we not find the agents, the spies, the armies, the laws, the influence, the hired demagogues of France? The foe of humanity, is she not making war on the human race? Her maxim is, “A king of France resigns his scepter, on the day that he lays aside his sword.” 9 Such are the citizens of Babylon, of Papal Europe. Like devils, their element is fire, discord, and destruction. It is their boast, their pride and glory, to swell the tide of human misery.

Switzerland, like us, was happy in her religion, her liberty, her republican virtues. She became divided by French intrigue. A French party, as in our country, raised their voice, and poisoned their councils. Still they could not prevail, till a French army appeared; a dreadful battle was fought; their women raised their swords, and fell covered with blood in their first ranks. The poor farmers were vanquished. The standard of France was unfurled in their towns, and a new constitution from Paris was adopted. The brave Swiss are slaves.

Holland was rich, and free, and happy; but she like Switzerland had her Republicans, who envied their neighbors, and wished to see them reduced to their level. A French army marches, and Holland is ruined. Miserable is the consolation of the good people, that their distracted neighbors, once so partial to their oppressors, are not only as miserable as themselves, but as heartily join in execrating their new Rulers. Their funds are plundered; their hospitals and other humane institutions have lost their support. The sick and poor are dying in their streets. The Hollanders are slaves.

Prussia was a powerful monarchy; but her king listened to the prattle of French amity; he reposed confidence in French promises, till Napoleon came, as a whirlwind of heaven, and overturned his empire. Solitude, desolation, and misery, darken his palaces. Not only his people; but Himself and his nobles are slaves.

Hamburgh, lately one of the most opulent cities on the globe; happy in her little Senate, her numerous humane institutions, and her immense commerce, is brought down to the dust. She has supported French armies, and been plundered and plundered, till a great part of her population has vanished; her misery is extreme. The Hamburghers are slaves.

Sweden is a victim bound and laid on the altar of sacrifice. Nothing but the name and the carcass remain. Her vital life, and vigor, and glory, have fled.

Germany—the Emperor of Germany has resigned his crown and throne, and ceases to be. The different States are divided, crushed, and scattered, like leaves of the forest, before the autumnal blast.

Spain and Portugal are overrun with the armies of France. Their fields are red with blood, their people pale with famine and terror. Italy, Naples, Venice, Milan, Mantua, Modena, Genoa, Tuscany, and other States, are conquered, revolutionized, impoverished, robbed, and ruined. The ancient mistress of the world is incorporated with the terrific empire of the Corsican; she sits solitary like a widow.

If there be one friend to French domination in our country, would not a moment of serious reflection convince him of his error? Where is the Stadtholder of Holland? Driven by French influence an exile to England.

Where is the King of Sweden, and brother in law of the Emperor of Russia? An exile in England. Where is Lucien, brother to Napoleon? Driven by his brother to England, the asylum of the afflicted, the land of mercy, which rises from her surrounding waters, like the mountain of Ararat; to save a sinking world. Where is the King of Naples; where the King and Queen of Etruria; where the monarchs of Spain? Prisoners of Napoleon. Where is the Prince and Royal Family of Portugal? Exiles in South-America. Where is Louis, the late King of Holland? A wanderer in Europe, hurled from his throne, or compelled to resign, by his own brother Napoleon. In the name of goodness, what would convince men of the malignity of French amity, if they are not convinced by these things? Bears and tigers spare their own families. Is not Babylon, or Papal Europe, a habitation of devils?

IV. The impiety and atheism of the dominant power in Europe, are not equaled in that world “where hope never comes.”

But on this subject, my beloved people, I have heretofore been so particular, that I shall not awaken your distress by a review of the dismal prospect. I only remark to you, that the same immorality, the same crimes, irreligion and infidelity still prevail in these ill-fated countries. The Christian Sabbath, the preached gospel, the book of God, every thing most sacred, is treated with daring mockery or impious contempt. A late decree of the government in Paris, among other things, remarks, “That the greater part of the population of Paris has but the Sunday for the enjoyment of theatrical exhibitions.”

This entirely agrees with the account, which one of our most respectable countrymen, 10 lately received from several ministers of religion in France. They informed him that “the seeds of piety had in the course of the revolution been completely extirpated from the breasts of almost every class of the community; and that since the re-establishment of the hierarchy, and the resurrection of the altar, Christianity had regained but a small share of influence over the public mind.”

Moral darkness, iron slumbers, universal death, more than Egyptian horrors, brood over papal Babylon. She is a province, belonging to the kingdom of darkness; she lieth on the confines of the capital; she experiences to the full the impressions of its manners, the terror of its laws, the influence of its officers, the authority of its prince. According to prophecy, there was to be a period in the fall of Babylon, or the papal power, when her superstition should change to infidelity;11 when a further degradation of moral character should take place; when her people should be “brute beasts,” and “devils.” That awful period has arrived. These “spirits of devils,” according to another prophecy respecting them, “have gone 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.” The war has commenced; the war will rage, till the final battle in Armageddon. These spirits go to enlist “the whole world,” in the war; they have reached our credulous shores; they have defiled our soil, polluted our atmosphere, enlisted a great portion of our people, poisoned them with a moral plague.

“Men are scorched with great heat, and blaspheme the name of God.” They sigh under intolerable suffering; but repent not to give glory to God. This period is marked as the uproar of moral chaos and the reign of devils. Babylon is fallen. Her ceremonies have ceased to awe the minds of the people; her terrors cease to appall the heart; her Edens cease to charm the fancy. All is doubt, uncertainty, and atheism. Apostacy unfurls her standard; persecution builds her prisons and kindles her fires; crimes triumph; hell is let loose; devils swarm in Babylon, and rule the empire.

Such is the picture of the dominant power, which governs the world. Say not, that the colors are too coarse. Not the pencil; but the subject is in fault. Were a painter to give you a demon in the enchanting tints of virgin innocence, or to represent a storm of fire, and a nation wrapt in flames, with the lovely colors of the rainbow, you night admire the delicacy of his strokes; but certainly you would not applaud the soundness of his judgment, his fidelity, or his love of truth.

The subject suggests several general
REFLECTIONS.
1. Let us bless God, if he has afforded us light and grace, not to join ourselves to that dreadful influence described in the text.

Has God removed your former prejudices? Once we thought as children; we spake as children. The killing of oxen and the songs of triumph, at the dissolution of government in France, did not awaken our terrors. We did not know that the triumph of hell, and the reign of devils had commenced. Has God increased your information, and opened your eyes, as he did those of the Assyrians, “And they saw and behold they were in the midst of Samaria,” surrounded with their enemies.

Though the fatal influence mentioned in the text is to be more particularly felt in Babylon, or among the papal nations, yet all nations and people are exposed, who do not hold fast the faith of the gospel. Geneva, and a part of Switzerland, and Holland, did not constitute any portion of Babylon, yet they so far had her character, that they have joined this dreadful confederacy against God and his Son. Our country has manifested an awful portion of the same diabolical spirit. The Lord knoweth how to sever the chaff from the wheat. If we, our families, church, and congregation, are delivered from this spirit of Anti-Christ, is it not matter for devout thanksgiving? Is it not a rich consolation to labor in your shops, to turn the furrows of your fields, to bid the wheels roll at your different manufactories, for the support of sound principles? Is it not a high privilege from God, to save your seed and gather your harvests, with a direct design, to resist the hosts of Babylon, to sustain the cause of good government, and true religion? Whatever pleasure a man may take in a course of error, how much soever he may boast, and exult, and triumph; there is, there ever will be, an immense, an essential difference between him, and the man, laboring in the cause of God, of truth, and benevolence. A thousand “ways may seem right to a man, which are the ways of eternal death;” in these ways he may enjoy a proud pleasure; yet there is in the way of true wisdom a pure satisfaction, a moral luxury, which he can never know. There is a peace, a dignified courage, in the way of duty, the way of correct principles, which a deluded mind, however confident and daring, will never experience. Error may be bold; she may be sanguine; she may have raptures of delight; but her joys do not satisfy, they do not enrich the soul; they are hollow, without foundation, like the baseless fabric, reared by a gay vision of the night. Hypocriscy and error have their rash pleasures; but they never have the consolations of sincerity, of rational conviction, and heavenly truth. Bless God, therefore, for directing your steps on the side of his people, his cause and glory. “A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps.”

2. What a miserable interest are those supporting, who favor and abet French influence in any country!

Is one man in the world so deluded, so hardy, so cruel, so abandoned, as to favor such an influence? We should instantly answer, No, had not such men already ruined other countries, were they not actually endangering our own country. A French party has brought destruction upon Holland, Switzerland, Geneva, and other countries. They called themselves republicans, and their country and themselves are crushed. They excused the outrages of Napoleon; they apologized for his atheism; they disbelieved his designs of universal devastation, till they felt his sword in their own vitals.

All ye, who have commiseration for the miseries of others, weep over those, who are left of God to believe such fatal delusions.

3. What must be the character of the French party in any country?

The prophecy says, that “the spirits of devils” from the falling empire of Babylon, should go forth to enlist in support of her cause “the whole world.” Passing events perfectly correspond with the prophecy. The agents of Anti-Christ, the power, which has risen upon the ruins of falling Babylon, are known in every civilized country of “the whole world.” From Petersburgh to Pekin, from Washington to Constantinople, “they are compassing sea and land!” to make proselytes. They have a party in every country. Congenial minds harmonize. As the different streams from the same fountain blend and unite; so do minds of the same character.

But it has been said, that some good men have enlisted in their ranks. For proof we have their own testimony. There was a Noah in the old world, a Lot in Sodom; but he came out and separated from them, and saved himself and part of his family.

Doubtless many, who have given their names and influence to the cause of falling Babylon, did not intend to proceed where their leaders are conducting them.

The “rich intended only to secure some emolument or office; the poor, some of them, were fascinated with the dream of bringing others down to their level. But once launched on the stormy ocean of wild delusion, they wander without a compass; they see no star; they find no shore. They proceed all lengths with their party. Now they would deprive the ministers of religion of various privileges, common to other citizens. They must not write, nor act, nor speak, though it be in their view for the advantage of the human race, as though they had not common discernment, a common interest in saving themselves, their families, their people, and their country. Probably the next step will be to silence and crush this order of men; then to abolish the Sabbath; then to cast their bibles into the fire, kindled by Philosophy; then to scoff at the Saviour, proclaim death an everlasting sleep, and shout, “No God,” “no monarch in heaven, we would preserve our republic on earth.” Such is the general course of French republicanism in all countries.

4. What must be the character of our government?

Does it not harmonize with Babylon? In falling Babylon are their laws oppressive and cruel, are they crushed by their commercial restrictions? Have we not our embargoes, and our non-intercourse laws, precisely, in the same stile? Is there falsehood, and treachery in the government of Babylon? Have we not our false and treacherous proclamations, declaring the decrees of Milan and Berlin to be revoked, when they were not revoked! Do not the two governments harmonize, like the pulse in different limbs of the same body? If there be fever in one the other glows.

Does not our government quaff the cup of humiliation, as though it were the nectar of immortality? Like trembling vassals, they kiss the rod, which lacerates them; their complaints are not those of a magnanimous nation; but the pulling’s of corrected children. They make laws to admit the armed ships of France into our ports, while an English vessel may not ride in our waters. What do I say? While our own vessels dare not enter our ports for fear of confiscation and robbery! It is an awful truth, that our vessels at this moment, a large portion of them, can find no protection in any quarter of the world, but under the guardianship of the British flag. If they go to any nation of Babylon, the pirates of Napoleon arrest them, and they are lost forever. If they fly to our own country; our own country, more unmerciful than Babylon, with all her devils, instantly seizes them, and in addition extorts three times their value.

Does not every good man exclaim, why this gratuitous contribution to accomplish the ruin of our country? We were no part of spiritual Babylon; why should we be volunteers in the work of self destruction? Why should our country, like a comet flying from her orbit to be lost in the sun, rush to certain ruin? Why should our country plunge into the political pandemonium which is opened before us, and make us fellow-citizens with the infernal demons of Babylon? Forbid it heaven, forbid it; Oh my country! The nation is afflicted, the merchants, the farmers, complain; all our calamities rise from the friendship of our government to their haughty Master. Whenever you choose independent Rulers, your commerce will be free, your markets will be full, your country will be prosperous. Just so far as you conform to Babylon, you will suffer; just so far as you are independent, you will be happy. We are entirely the authors of our own embarrassments. If there no hope? Do you not hear a voice from the tomb of Washington, warning you of your danger? Do you not hear God himself, informing you that “Babylon is the habitation of devils, that to be prosperous, you must be separate from her? Why then did our country make a monstrous law to ruin her own citizens? Why did the majority of our Legislators perjure themselves, when they had sworn to support the constitution? Why did they knowingly violate that article, which declares, that no “ex post facto” law shall be made?

What mighty kindness had Napoleon done us; what infinite injury had England inflicted, to produce this outrageous act of gratitude and revenge? I will inform you. France had made such havoc on our commerce, that our treasury was compelled to pay $75,550 merely for the support of our distressed seamen, taken prisoners in that country. What then must have been the loss of ships and merchandize? What think ye was the expense of those taken in England? Not a single cent. 12 To increase the outrage, the law has not been published. Yes, vessels have been seized by an unconstitutional law, never published. Blush, Algiers, blush ye Neroes of the world. Ye are outrivaled in the science of despotism. This is the government prating about impartiality and equal justice to all nations; this is the government, which embargoes the produce of your farms, and the hopes of your families; this is the government, which makes laws to punish honest deeds performed long before the law existed; this is the government, which cuts off all intercourse with the only nation, which protects your property and your lives; this is the government, which harmonizes with – – – – – – -“devils.”

If we come down to the State government, we find the same intolerant, treacherous, and tyrannical temper. I mention only a single instance. Look at the proclamation, which has called us together. Beside many things, which are obliquities from the line of truth, there is an insidious attempt to overawe the consciences of Ministers and people, and to deprive them of the privilege of worshipping God, according to their own belief. In the third section is the following sentence. “Who has blessed us with a wise and upright national government, which amidst numerous embarrassments and difficulties has promoted beyond reasonable expectations, our peace, prosperity, and happiness.” This the Chief Magistrate doubtless expected the clergy would read in a serious manner to their people, as a part of their instruction, without comment or remark. I would as soon have administered poison in your cups. He would be “a lying spirit” in the mouths of Christian ministers. He knew that very few clergymen in the Commonwealth believed a single word of this sentence; yet he treacherously intended they should read it. He doubtless intended to silence murmurs by this sanctimonious declaration, and to gain influence. A more fraudulent sentence never came from a scribe of Babylon. What have the general government done more than could be reasonably expected? From what burden have they relieved you? What branch of commerce have they protected? What husbandman or artisan owes them any thanks? What virtue have they cherished? What comfort have they increased? What religion have they promoted? None, none, none. This very year they refused to incorporate a Baptist Society, as though they were outlaws, and not to be protected by government. Thus we harmonize with spiritual Babylon, not only in her falsehood and fraud, her oppression, and barbarity, and slavery; but in her irreligion and infidelity. The same moral putrefaction covers the land with the damps of death. Oh my God, do we “not partake her sins, must we not drink the cup of her plagues?” Would the people see the prospect before them, their hearts would shake with terror; they would not proceed to challenge omnipotence to execute his threatening’s.

But we must not forget the proclamation. We are called upon “devoutly to perform the sacred duties” of the day “for unparalleled ingratitude to that Being, who has indulged us with wise Legislatures.” Where is a solitary instance of their wisdom?—“with codes of mild and equitable laws.” Are not those of the present administration, quite of another sort?—“who has smiled on our navigation and commerce.” Have not our present Rulers bound them in chains, bid them vanish from the ocean?—“for rendering invincible our beloved country.” Miserable man, why does he adopt this dialect of a demagogue? Why does he not as the tender father of a numerous household of children, tell us our weakness, our danger, our guilt, and lead us devoutly to the temple of humiliation and prayer? Why does he tell us of sins, which we have never committed, of blessings, long, long departed from us? But we turn with disgust from the unpleasant theme. Other parts of the proclamation are equally aberrations from truth and decency.

Such is the spirit of our State and General governments. Do they not exhibit the hypocrisy, the oppression, and cruelty of Babylon? Had they sold themselves to her Prince, had they sworn to destroy their country, would they dare perform more than they have?

5. Has the glory and power of Babylon fallen? Then we see what may be expected in our country, if she imbibes the same spirit, and adopts the same cause.

Resistance is our only security. The only power in Europe, which has uniformly resisted, is the only one, which has not materially suffered. If we make a common cause with “the hateful birds, beasts and devils,” their cup of judgments will be poured out for us. We must endure the same oppression, the same misery, the same ruin. Look again and behold the woes of Europe. Emerging from the ark, and from the top of Ararat, surveying the countries around, how hideous was the prospect to Noah. He looked; no husbandman appeared in the fields, no herds in the pastures, no flocks on the hills. He looked; the courts of justice were swept away; the royal palaces were gone; the holy temples had fallen. Proud cities, their lofty spires, their dazzling splendors, have vanished. Solitude, desolation, and death, brood over the world. More terrible is the state of things in a great part of Europe. Their fields are not drowned; but they are red with the blood of the people; their harvests are perishing where they grew, or torn away by the hand of ruthless violence. Their sons and brothers are not buried in a flood; but they are oppressed, degraded, chained, and dragged to the field of slaughter and death. Their courts are continued, not to repress iniquity; but to terrify, to torture, to imprison, and destroy the enemies of despotism; their temples open not to adore the Prince of Peace; but to echo the blasphemies of atheism.

I say not these things to convince you, for you are convinced. This is one of the richest consolations of my heart, and an abundant reward for my feeble services. But, I say these things to confirm and establish you in the truth. I would have these sentiments riveted in your bosoms. I would have them sink to the bottom of your hearts, and constitute a part of your souls. As to the preacher and the aged, these things will soon cease to be interesting. Our ears will not hear the sighs of the nations; our eyes will not see the cloud of “woes,” which is coming on the world; but to you, who are younger, I say, Hold fast these truths. Remember that your Pastor was never more in earnest, than on this subject. If you should be persecuted; or what is more dangerous, if you should be flattered or rewarded, join not the antichristian party of the land. Go not among them; enter not their city. Babylon is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. “I hear a voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people.”

AMEN and AMEN.

 


Endnotes

1. Faber.

2. Narrative of one who was near his person.

3. See his Manifesto.

4. See Belgian Traveller.

5. Testimony of a French officer.

6. Walsh.

7. Charles Sturt, Esq. late Member of Parliament for Bridport, resident in France, and detained there as a hostage, nearly seven years.

8. Bonaparte has erected 8 bastiles in which he confines those he dares not try.

9. American Review.

10. Mr. Walsh.

11. See Faber.

12. Report of a Committee of the last Congress.

Sermon – Fasting – 1810, Massachusetts


John Sylvester John Gardiner (1765-1830) was born in Wales and educated in England before coming to America. He was rector of Trinity Church in Boston and also served as president of Boston’s Anthology Club.


sermon-fasting-1810-massachusetts


A

SERMON,

PREACHED

AT TRINITY CHURCH, APRIL 6, 1810,

BEING THE

DAY OF PUBLICK FAST.

BY

J.S.J. GARDINER, A. M.
RECTOR,

ISAIAH 1. 7.

YOUR COUNTRY IS DESOLATE, YOUR CITIES ARE BURNT WITH FIRE, YOUR LAND, STRANGERS DEVOUR IT IN YOUR PRESENCE.

If we turn our eyes towards continental Europe, the victim of her own weak counsels, and of the audacious ambition of an insatiable usurper, we must acknowledge, my brethren, that the words of Isaiah are not applicable to the Jews only, but equally descriptive of every nation, subjugated by the arms of revolutionary France.  Though we entertained no apprehensions for our own safety, situated, as we are, three thousand miles from the theatre of war, and separated by the intervening ocean, yet as men we ought to feel for the misfortunes of our species, and as free men lament the successive triumphs of unrelenting despotism.  If we are rightly constituted,  we shall sympathize with the oppressed, and entertain just sentiments of horror and indignation against the oppressor.  We shall weep over the ruins of Saragossa, and regret, while we admire, the unavailing resistance of the gallant Gironna.

But when this tremendous conqueror assails our own country with every species of insult and aggression, when he sequesters our property, burns our ships, and imprisons our fellow-citizens; and when our own rulers, instead of threatening the threatener, and hurling defiance at the insolent tyrant, tremble at his frown, and crouch beneath his menaces, the period may not be far distant, at which the prediction of the prophet may be accomplished on our own shores: ‘Your country is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire, your land, strangers devour it in your presence.’

I am sensible, there are numbers, and among them, doubtless, the philosophers of Virginia, who would smile at these apprehensions, and consider this language as the language of party.  When Mr. Burke’s reflections on the French revolution first appeared, they were considered as a rhapsody, as the ravings of a visionary enthusiast.  But the full accomplishment of his most important predictions has wrought a wonderful change in the publick opinion; and many, who once regarded him as a madman, now venerate his memory as the first of political prophets.  He foretold events more improbable than the conquest of the United States by the arms of France; and those events have actually taken place.  Countries, deemed invincible, have been conquered in a single campaign, overwhelmed by the irresistible superiority of force, raised by the incalculable energies of a revolution; or paralyzed, in their exertions, by the disaffection?  Have we not seen a large portion, if not a majority of the American people, with undeviating perseverance, adhere to France through all her revolutionary vicissitudes, regarding her, as it were, the sheet-anchor of their political hopes?  Did not the same men, who now exult in every success of Napoleon the emperor and king, equally applaud the sanguinary Robespierre, the atheistical Marat, and the whole gang of felons, who, from the beginning of the revolution to the present time, have oppressed France, and desolated Europe?  Whether free or enslaved, republican or despotick, France is still the object of their admiration, the goddess of their idolatry.  And have we nothing to fear from this source?  When the period shall arrive, and it will not be far distant, should we be at war with England, at which we must fight the enemy of liberty on our own territories, what dependence can be placed on these men?  Will they, who have been wrong for such a length of time, suddenly become right?  Will they, who have been the easy dupes of their own demagogues, be able to resist the seductive arts of French intrigue?

Far be it from me to imagine, that any American would willingly unite with a foreign invader to enslave his own country.  But he may be duped, he may be deceived, he may be persuaded, blinded as he is by his present prejudices, to hail the arrival of a French army, as the real friends of his own country, and as a necessary instrument for crushing the dangerous designs of a British faction, or an Essex junto.  When I consider the fate of European republicks, of Holland and of Switzerland, the latter of which was fully as enlightened as ourselves, when I reflect on the manner in which they fell, divided by French intrigue previously to the introduction of the French bayonet, and when I view the footsteps of French influence among ourselves, not only in the people, but in the debates of congress and in the publick conduct of the administration, I cannot but conclude, that the country is in the most imminent danger, and that, could an efficient French force be landed on our shores, the sun of our liberty would set forever.

Whilst we have thus displayed an unaccountable partiality toward a nation, that has treated us with every mark of ignominy and injustice, we have omitted no opportunity of insulting Great-Britain, the only free people in the world except ourselves, and the sole obstacle between France and universal empire.  We have refused every overture, made by her, on the most frivolous pretences, and have dismissed her last embassador in a manner utterly unprecedented in the annals of civilization.  After submitting to every insult from France, forfeiting all pretence to the character of gentlemen, or even of men of common spirit, we think of recovering our reputation by blustering against England; and without army or navy, with an empty treasure, and a defenceless  seacoast, we talk of war with the most formidable naval power that the world ever saw.  We exhibit at once the fury and he impotence of the passions.  We pass laws of embargo and non-intercourse, which have distressed our own citizens, and impoverished the publick exchequer.  We bandy about bills, like shuttlecocks, from senate to house and house to senate, and after displaying the petulant humours of angry children, we shall probably return home and do nothing.

I consider all our political misfortunes and all our political blunders as arising from an unjust antipathy against Great-Britain; I say unjust, because, whatever reasons we may have had formerly to complain of that power, her conduct for some time past has been wonderfully friendly and conciliatory.  Artificial means have been employed to keep up this antipathy; for, were the people left to themselves, and not misled and misinformed for party purposes, they would soon see that this antipathy is both unreasonable and ruinous.  It is unreasonable, because she is sincerely desirous of being at peace with us.  It is ruinous, because it may terminate in war, which of consequence would lead to an alliance with France.

What are our subjects of complaint against Great-Britain?  The affair of the Chesapeake, the orders of council, and the impressments of seamen.  With regard to the first, it will be wise in us to be silent, as we have refused the satisfaction, that was readily tendered.  The man, who will not accept an apology, has no farther claim on the offender.  He shows a spirit of churlishness in refusing, and of injustice, if he afterwards complains.

As to orders of council, they are known to be retaliatory, and were passed in consequence of the French decrees.  Great-Britain waited a whole year after these decrees were passed, before she issued these orders.  She hoped to find some spirit of resistance in the only neutral nation, that still remained independent, a nation that claimed to be the ‘only free and enlightened people in the world.’  But she was disappointed in these hopes, and found that the resistance of the United States extended no farther than to some unavailing remonstrances to the French government.  The orders of council were then issued, but were not to take effect until neutral nations had sufficient time to acquaint themselves with their import.  What right then have we to complain of these orders?  Why should we confine all our resentment to the retaliator, and acquiesce submissively in the injustice and insolence of the original author?  We can find no reason for this conduct in justice, but must look for it in our own passions and partialities; in our strange love of France, who insults, threatens and plunders us, and in our hatred towards England, who has exhausted in vain every art of conciliation to obtain our friendship.

With respect to the impressments of our seamen, I believe, of late years, it has rarely taken place; though it cannot always be avoided, since from similarity of language and manners an American cannot, in every instance, be distinguished from a British mariner.  The frauds, practiced in giving American protections, has also greatly diminished the respect otherwise due to those protections, and thus, for the sake of screening foreigners, we have exposed our own citizens to the inconvenience of impressment.

In order to remedy this evil, our government claimed, that the flag should protect the men, that is, that no man, of whatever nation, should be taken by a British cruiser out of an American ship.  This was granted by Great-Britain, with the exception of the narrow seas, in a treaty, which Mr. Jefferson thought proper to reject, without even submitting it to the inspection of the senate.  That she conceded so much was astonishing, both to her friends and foes, and an infallible proof, that she was ready to make very considerable sacrifices for the sake of being on good terms with this country.  But that she should, in all cases, resign a right, which she had practiced for ages, of searching neutrals for her own men, no one in his senses could believe, and the demand was probably made, because it was certain that it would not be granted.  The navy of Great-Britain is both her sword and shield.  It enables her to assail her enemies abroad, and to protect her subjects at home.  But of what use can be either sword or shield, if there are no hands to wield them?  The superior wages, given by neutrals, would induce British seamen to desert, if the flag of the neutral could protect them; and thus her navy would become useless timber, and she would be left naked to the sword of her enemy.  The relinquishment of such a right would be an act of political suicide, which can never take place, unless she should place fools, or madmen, at the head of her administration.  Englishmen, of all parties, agree in this, and in defense of these maritime rights, on which the greatness and even existence of their country depends, are ready to fight the combined world.  The following lines were written by Thomson eighty years since, and perfectly illustrate the sentiments of the British nation on this subject.

And what, my thoughtless sons, should fire you more Than when your well-earned empire of the deep
The least beginning injury receives?
;What better cause can call your lightning forth?
Your thunder wake?  Your dearest life demand?
What better cause, than  when your country sees
The sly destruction at her vitals aimed?
For oh, it much imports you, ‘tis your all,
To keep your trade entire, entire the force
And honour of your fleets; o’er that to watch
E’en with a hand severe, and jealous eye.
In intercourse be gentle, generous, just,
By wisdom polished, and of manners fair.
But on the sea be terrible, untamed,
Unconquerable, still; let none escape,
Who shall but aim to touch your glory there.1
It seems surprising, that our rulers should be so anxious for the dignity of the commercial flag, when, by their embargoes and non-intercourses, they seem so utterly regardless of the commercial interest.  To perpetuate a misunderstanding with England, they claim what they well know can never be obtained, and which our merchants, who are most interested, are not anxious to obtain.
If, indeed, the period should ever arrive, predicted by a late poet of this town,
When Europe’s glories shall be whelmed in dust,
When our proud fleets the naval wreath shall bear,
And o’er her empires hurl the bolts of war,2
we may then indeed dictate the laws of the ocean, and compel the British lion to cower beneath the American eagle.  But it is not by gun-boats and torpedoes, that we can successfully encounter twelve hundred ships of war, commanded by heroes of experienced skill and unconquerable valour; and the increased revenue of Great-Britain, during the embargo, may reasonably create a doubt of the infallibility of our rulers, and of the wisdom of our legislative restrictions.  We have inflicted deep wounds on our own treasury; whilst we have increased, by the sacrifice of our trade, the wealth and colonial importance of our commercial rival.  Such, it was predicted, would be the direct tendency of our publick measures, and such has been their fatal result.  And can we still place confidence in men, who have thus brought us to the brink of ruin?  Who have disgraced us by their servility to France, and continue to endanger our country by provoking a ruinous contest with Great-Britain?  Who have sanctioned gross misrepresentations for party purposes, and have endeavoured to dupe the nation into the belief of what they knew to be false?  I have seen letters under Mr. Jackson’s own hand, declaring, that he had received from his government the most flattering assurances of their entire approbation of every part of his conduct.  What must we think of an administration, which, for the sake of a paltry and temporary advantage, will thus countenance what they know is untrue?

From what we can gather from the English prints, and from the pacific language of the king’s speech, that nation will not go to war with us.  They seem to say to us, in the language of Mr. Randolph to General Wilkinson:  We cannot descend to your level.  You have submitted to language and insults from France, which degrade you from the rank of gentlemen.  You must wipe off these foul aspersions on your character, before you can be considered on a footing with men of honour.

But, since the infatuation of our rulers, or the will of Napoleon, which seems for some time past to have been the law of the land, may ultimately force us into war with Great-Britain, it may be well to understand the real character of the enemy, which it may be our fate to encounter.  This is not to be learnt from our own newspapers, either federal or democratick; for the former are afraid always to tell the truth, lest they should be reproached as British partisans, whilst the latter have few means of correct information on the subject nor is the real character of the British nation to be ascertained by the reports of every American traveler.  A young man, accustomed here to visit in the first circles, is offended in England, because he cannot be admitted on an equal footing with the nobility.  His self-love is wounded, in observing those who think themselves his superiors.  He is hurt, perhaps, because the king did not call and leave his card, or the queen invite him to a rout.  His father is a justice of the peace or a member of congress, and he cannot conceive, why the first people of one country should not be admitted into the society of the first people of another country.  He returns home soured and disappointed, and draws a portrait of the British nation, in which prejudice and ignorance only can find a likeness.

But all our travelers are not of this description; and there has lately appeared a publication, which reflects credit on the literary character of our country.  It is the production of a young gentleman, whom, as I have been informed on unquestionable authority, President Madison once pronounced one of the first young men of our country, and who formerly, if not a decided democrat, was most certainly strongly prejudiced against the English.

3‘In England,’ says he, ‘the great hereditary and acquired fortunes pervade and replenish the whole capillary system of the state.  By means of a diffusive circulation, they quicken the emulation and reward the labours of every branch of industry.  They are expended in the cultivation of the soil and in the production of the solid materials of national wealth: in the erection and endowment of charitable institutions and publick monuments, which foster the moral qualities and elevate the character.  The spirit of beneficence and of patriotism, which distinguishes the opulent individuals of that country, and of which the same class in France is wholly destitute, returns to the needy the sums which they contribute to the exchequer, and corrects the inequalities of the  divisions of property.

‘The traveler in England has occasion to remark, in all the departments of labour, the beneficial influence of the example of the upper classes, and of hat luxury, which has for its object the productive toil and ingenuity of man.  The quick and equable transmission of wealth in the body politick is compared by a great writer to the motion and agency of the blood, as it enters in the heart, and is thrown out by new pulsations.  The aptitude of this illustration is particularly striking in his own country, where the rapid circulation of wealth, the regular vibration of demand and labour, and the spirit of industry, animate the whole frame of society with an elasticity and vigour, such as belong to the human frame in its highest state of perfection.  A peculiarly masculine character, and the utmost energy of feeling are communicated to all orders of en, by the abundance which prevails so universally, the consciousness of equal rights, the fullness of power and fame to which the nation has attained, and the beauty and robustness of the species under a climate highly favourable to the animal economy.  The dignity of the rich is without insolence, the subordination of the poor without servility.  Their freedom is well guarded both from the dangers of popular licentiousness, and from the encroachments of authority.  Their national pride leads to national sympathy, and is built upon the most legitimate of all foundations, a sense of preeminent merit and a body of illustrious annals.

‘Whatever may be the representations of those, who, with little knowledge of facts, and still less soundness or impartiality of judgment, affect to deplore the condition of England, it is, nevertheless, true, that there does not exist and never has existed elsewhere, so beautiful and perfect a model of publick and private prosperity; so magnificent, and at the same time, so solid a fabric of social happiness and national grandeur.  I pay this just tribute of admiration with the more pleasure, as it is to me in the light of an atonement for the errors and prejudices, under which I labored, on this subject, before I enjoyed the advantage of a personal experience.  A residence of nearly two years in that country, during which period, I visited and studied almost every part of it, with no other view or pursuit than that of obtaining correct information, and I may add, with previous studies well fitted to promote my object, convinced me that I had been egregiously deceived.

‘I saw no instances of individual oppression, and scarcely any individual misery but that which belongs, under any circumstances of our being, to the infirmity of all human institutions.  I witnessed no symptom of declining trade or of general discontent.  On the contrary, I found there every indication of a state engaged in a rapid career of advancement.  I found the art and spirit of commercial industry at their acme; a metropolis opulent and liberal beyond example: a cheerful peasantry, well fed and commodiously lodged, an ardent attachment to the constitution in all classes, and a full reliance on the national resources.  I found the utmost activity in agricultural and manufacturing labours; in the construction of works of embellishment and utility; in enlarging and beautifying the provincial cities.  I heard but few well founded complaints of the amount, and none concerning the collection, of the taxes.  The demands of the state create no impediment to consumption or discouragement to industry.  I could discover no instance in which they have operated to the serious distress or ruin of individuals.

‘The riots at Manchester, which were here invested almost with the horrors of civil war, were scarcely noticed in London, and occasioned, I will venture to assert, not one moment of serious uneasiness either to the government, or to any part of the population of England beyond the immediate theatre of the alarm.  The disturbances at Manchester were quelled without an effusion of blood; and the ringleaders arraigned and punished in the common course of law, without a movement or expression in their favour on the part of the mob.  The whole storm, which was here supposed to threaten the most serious consequences, was almost as harmless in its effects, and left as few traces behind, as the war of the elements raised by the wand of Prospero or the thunder and lightning of Saddlers-Wells.  Not long, both before and after the period of the outrages of which I speak, I surveyed attentively most of the manufacturing establishments and saw every reason to conclude that, collectively taken, they never were in a more flourishing condition, nor their tenants more loyally disposed.

‘The agriculture of England is confessedly superior to that of any other part of the world, and the condition of those who are engaged in the cultivation of the soil, incontestably preferable to that of the same class in any other section of Europe.  An inexhaustible source of admiration and delight is found in the unrivalled beauty, as well as richness and fruitfulness of their husbandry; the effects of which are heightened by the magnificent parks and noble mansions of the opulent proprietors: by picturesque gardens upon the largest scale, and disposed with the most exquisite taste: and by gothick remains no less admirable in their structure than venerable for their antiquity.  The neat cottage, the substantial farmhouse, the splendid villa, are constantly rising to the sight, surrounded by the most choice and poetical attributes of the landscape.  The painter is there but a mere copyist.  A picture of as much neatness, softness, and elegance, is exposed to the eye, as can be given to the imagination, by the finest etching, or the most mellowed drawing.  The vision is not more delightfully recreated by the rural scenery, than the moral sense is gratified, and the understanding elevated by the institutions of this great country.  The first and continued exclamation of an American who contemplates them with an unbiased judgment, is—

Salve Magna Parens, frugum saturnia tellus
Magna virum.
All hail, Saturnian earth, hail, loved of fame,
Land, rich in fruits, and men of mighty name.

It appears something not less than impious to desire the ruin of this people, when you view the height to which they have carried the comforts, the knowledge, and the virtue of our species:  the extent and number of their foundations of charity; their skill in the mechanic arts, by the improvement of which alone, they have conferred inestimable benefits on mankind; the masculine morality, the lofty sense of independence, the sober and rational piety which are found in all classes; their impartial, decorous and able administration of a code of laws, than which none more just and perfect has ever been in operation: their seminaries of education yielding more solid and profitable instruction than any other whatever: their eminence in literature and science, the urbanity and learning of their privileged orders, their deliberative assemblies, illustrated by so many profound statesmen, and brilliant orators.  It is worse than ingratitude in us not to sympathize with them in their present struggle, when we recollect that it is from them we derive the principal merit of our own character, the best of our own institutions, the sources of our highest enjoyments, and the light of freedom itself, which, if they should be destroyed, will not long shed its radiance over this country.’

Such, my brethren, is the nation, with whom many of our citizens wish for a war, from which we could derive no possible advantage, but must incur certain loss and expense.  The most sanguine American will not pretend, that we can face the powerful marine of Great-Britain; of which a trifling squadron would suffice to blockade every important harbor in the United States.  We should then suffer a perpetual embargo, without the satisfaction of having laid it on ourselves; and if we should not experience an occasional bombardment, we should owe more to the magnanimity of the enemy than to our own means of resistance.

But we can take Nova-Scotia and the Canadas.  With a powerful army, we might succeed in an enterprise of this nature.  But an army cannot be supported without money, and Mr. Gallatin tells us that we have none.  Allowing, however, that complete success crowned our efforts, and that the American flag waved triumphant over the continental colonies of Great-Britain; what should we gain by it?  Just as much, as a late great statesman4 observed, as if the people of Roxbury were to march into Boston, and take the almshouse.  The Canadians hate us, as the descendants of Englishmen, with all their vices, and none of their virtues.  They are altogether French in their language, habits and manners.  The conquest of this country, therefore, would only increase that pernicious influence, which Napoleon possesses in every part of the United States, and which, I fear, will ultimately prove more fatal to our body politick and constitution, than the spotted fever has been found to be to many of our fellow-citizens.

Are we to expect assistance from our new acquisition on the Mississippi?  The inhabitants of those territories have already shown symptoms of disaffection, which, even now, it requires a military force to overawe.

Thus, then, shall we be situated, if we are at war with England.  Our southern and northern extremities occupied by a considerable population, strongly disaffected to this country, and devoted to France.  Our own citizens cherishing the same fatal partiality,  and an invincible hatred to the English.  Great-Britain blockading our ports, and  confining us to our own shores.  The people driven to desperation by their sufferings  and privations.  The wealthy trembling for their lives and property, the southern slaves excited to rebellion by foreign emissaries, and, to crown all, a French alliance and the blessings of a conscription.  With these pressures at home and abroad, without and within, can we save our liberties from the grasp of despotism?  Whilst the spirit of our fathers shall continue to animate us, whilst a drop of English blood shall flow in our veins, we will not resign them without a stroke.  But it will be too late.  Like the Spaniards, we shall be treated as rebels, and the words of the text will be then awfully verified…’Your country is desolate; your cities are burnt with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence.’

My brethren, these things may not happen, and God forbid they should.  But they seem to me to be the inevitable results from the infatuation of our publick councils, and from the madness of the people.

‘A union with France,’ says the same excellent writer whom I have before quoted, ‘if not ruinous even in its immediate consequences, would be an indelible stain on our annals.  Our descendants would turn with disgust from the page, which might record so monstrous and unnatural an alliance.  I know not, indeed, how an American will feel one century hence, when, in investigating the history of the late invasion of Spain, he shall inquire, what, on that occasion, was the conduct of his ancestors, the only republican people then on earth, and who claim almost an exclusive privilege to hate and to denounce, every act of ruffian violence, and every form of arbitrary power.  It certainly will not kindle a glow of emulation in his mind, when he shall be told, that of this unparalleled crime, an oblique notice was once taken by our administration: that the people of this country seemed to rejoice at the triumph of the invader, and frowned on the efforts of his victims.’

My brethren, I verily believe, were one to rise from the dead, our fellow-citizens would not be convinced of their danger.  If the fall of continental Europe, the insatiable ambition of the French emperor, the atrocious crimes which he has perpetrated, his rooted aversion to republicks and to the very name of liberty, the insults and injuries he continues to heap on us,—if all these glaring facts make no impression, we must make up our minds to submit with fortitude to that tremendous ruin, which will inevitably overwhelm this land.  What is there in the character of Napoleon, which can justly entitle him either to love or esteem?
Alas, thy dazzled eye
Beholds this man in a false glaring light,
Which conquest and success have thrown upon him.
Didst thou but view him right, thou’dst see him black
With murder, treason, sacrilege, and crimes,
That strike my soul with horror but to name ‘em.

We live, my brethren, in an age of wonders; but, surely, nothing can be more wonderful, than that free men should rejoice in the triumphs of despotism; that they, who resisted their own sovereign, the limited monarch of a free people, merely for encroachments on the British constitution, should now applaud the champion of slavery, and vie with each other in extending their necks to receive the yoke.  A people, that can feel and proclaim such sentiments, are ripe for a master, and they will have one.  An alliance with France would accelerate this event, and the fate of our country may thus be portrayed by some future historian:–The United States lost their liberties by deserting the wise principles of the immortal Washington, and by choosing for their rulers the disciples of the new school in politicks, morals, and religion.  Napoleon did not fail to improve so favourable an opportunity of securing the conquest of the western world.              By the seductive arts of skillful emissaries, and by the bold calumnies of venal presses, the jealousy of the people was excited against the wealth, talents, and virtue of the country.  Those, who had grown hoary in the publick service, and had displayed the most unequivocal proofs of their disinterestedness and patriotism, were stigmatized as the friends of monarchy and the partisans of England.  The grossest falsehoods, respecting that nation, were circulated and believed; an alliance with France was recommended and formed, and a formidable French force was gradually introduced into the country, and garrisoned its most important fortresses.  Thus fell the last of republicks, which had existed less than half a century, the victim of divided councils and popular effervescence; and thus must perish every state, that discards wisdom and talents from its administration, and calls in a more powerful ally to settle its domestick disputes, or to protect it against foreign aggression.
I have no claim to the spirit of prophecy, and this picture may be the mere creature of the imagination.  That it may prove so, may God, of his infinite mercy, grant.

FINIS.


1 Thomson’s Britannia.

2 James Allen.

3 Letter on the Genius and Disposition of the French Government, p. 179.

4 Mr. Ames.

Sermon – Fasting – 1814, Massachusetts


Elijah Parish (1762-1825) graduated from Dartmouth in 1785. He was the pastor of a church in Byfield, MA (1787-1825). This sermon was preached by Parish on the fast day of April 7, 1814.


sermon-fasting-1814-massachusetts

A

DISCOURSE,

DELIVERED

AT BYFIELD,

ON

THE PUBLIC FAST,

APRIL 7, 1814

BY ELIJAH PARISH, D.D.

A DISCOURSE, &c.

EXODUS 5. 17, 18.

BUT HE SAID, YE ARE IDLE YE ARE IDLE; THEREFORE YE SAY, LET US GO AND
DO SACRIFICE TO THE LORD.
GO THEREFORE NOW, AND WORK: FOR THERE SHALL NO STRAW BE GIVEN
YOU, YET SHALL YE DELIVER THE TALE OF BRICKS.

That evil exists in the world, requires no proof. That tyranny and despotism are not among the smallest evils, which afflict the family of man, will be generally allowed; yet from the days of Nimrod to Napoleon, the earth has trembled under the iron foot of her tyrants. Their swords devour more than the pestilence; streams of blood follow their course; the sighs of the nations, and the tears of the world, are extorted chiefly by their oppression. The greater part of the windows, and the orphans, and the poor, and the miserable, and the dying, execrate them as the authors of their woes. Nor is this ferocious despotism peculiar to one form of government; whatever government is worst administered is worst. The Republics of Rome and Venice, and perhaps another, which alone exists, have been as oppressive as the despotism of Turkey, of Persia, or Japan.

Nor is it the least among the proofs of a divine superintendency, that great “good is often educed” from these political evils. Had not the barbarous despotism of Egypt extorted tears of blood and sighs of desperation, from the posterity of Jacob, they might possibly, till this day, have been the slaves of her servile princes, the vassals of her imported Mamelukes, repairing the cities, which their fathers built, plowing the fields, manured with their fathers’ bones. The sons of Israel were passionately attached to their union with this ancient Dominion. They and their fathers had been in the country about two hundred years. 1 They no longer had any predilection for the country of their forefathers nativity; they preferred the turbid Nile, to all the waters of Canaan; the plains of Egypt, to all the hills of Judea. So rooted were their attachments to their present connection, notwithstanding their oppressions, that Moses, who knew them well, so despaired of rousing them to demand their independence, that he said, “They will not hearken to my voice.” So it happened. After he had called on them, to redress their grievances themselves, instead of writing petitions; to act, instead of making melancholy faces; they met him, and said, “Ye have made our name to be abhorred;” “ye have put a sword in their hands to slay us.” You frighten us, and you will ruin us, by your bold preachments. “So they hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage. The political measures, which Moses urged, appeared rash and violent. Moderation was the popular doctrine; it therefore, became necessary that God in His providence should afflict, and distress, and ruin them, by the abominable measures of their government, to render them willing to adopt suitable measures for their own advantage.

To mention some of Israel’s oppressions, noticing any points of resemblance in our own country, which may happen to occur, and suggesting some happy results of those oppressions, is the present design.

I. I am to mention some of Israel’s woes.

1. The exactions and hard services of the government were among the evils endured by Israel. They were compelled to build the cities of Pithom and Raamses, to which it is thought, have succeeded Damietta and Cairo; They were probably compelled to raise the pyramids, those stupendous wonders of the world. These grievous hardships wore out their strength, exhausted their patience, and blasted their hopes. Exod. 5. 11. 13, 14. Their labours were, as various, as they were oppressive. The object of their tyrants was, not merely to enrich or aggrandize themselves; but to discourage and break down the spirits of Israel, to change the state of society, to bend their sturdy minds, to new modes of employment. Therefore, they made them serve in mortar, and brick, and in the field. New manufactures were, probably, established; or old ones extended. In the fields they might dig canals from the river, or carry out manure, while the pyramids demanded the greater part of their time. These, though externally, coated with stone, are partly of brick, just such brick, as the Israelites made, having straw or stubble, incorporated with the clay. Accordingly history informs us, that Sesostris, whom a learned writer 2 supposes to be the Pharaoh of scripture, caused it to be inscribed on all his great works. “No native Egyptian labored on this.” If strangers performed these labours, who so probably as the enslaved Israelites? Taskmasters were set over them; princes of burdens, it may be rendered. The laws were unjust; the manner of executing them was barbarous. Josephus says that his countrymen were forced to dig canals, to raise walls, to build the pyramids, and finally, that they were forced to learn all sorts of mechanic arts. It is therefore, an old scheme of cunning Tyrants, to drive their people from commerce and agriculture, to engage them in manufactures. This enfeebles their powers of body and mind, and makes them fit for slaves, and tools of despots. Therefore, the daring sons of Abram were no longer permitted to sail on the “Great Sea” to “the mart of nations, whose merchants were princes.” They were not allowed to navigate the Red Sea; nor to bring spices and all precious things from the East.

I do not pretend to discover any likeness between the Pharaohs of Egypt, and the Presidents of America. If all intelligent hearers perceive a surprising resemblance, between their laws and measures, I pray you to remember that Pharaoh was raised up to afflict, to punish, and ruin his wicked country; our rulers are chosen, and approved by the people. They are, therefore, pronounced honorable men. Would any people choose Pharaohs to crush and ruin their best hopes?

2. Another grievance of Israel was, their hopes of domestic felicity were blasted; their sons were torn from them. This order of the Egyptian government argues, that they had lost all the sentiments of humanity, that they sported with the rights of their subjects, that they must have been the terror of the people and the scourges of God.

“But why is this introduced? Has anything resembling this taken place in this Christian country, of chosen Rulers? Has any little Moses been heard weeping on the river?”—Ye, who make these enquiries are abundantly able to return the answer. Concerning two unprincipled and profligate laws, judge ye, which is the most infamous and abominable. With the balance of truth and candor in your hands, say then, which is the most horrible law, that which consigns an infant offspring to the tomb; or that which declares an offensive war, against a whole nation, which involves all the people of your own country in the guilt and calamities of war; which drafts your sons by thousands and hundreds of thousands, to march against a friendly province, commanding them to murder and destroy, and probably to be slain or perish themselves? Which law is most terrible, that which puts in jeopardy a part of the infants in one nation; or that, which puts in jeopardy all the people of two nations, which lets loose the sword and conflagration, with their attendant evils, famine, terror and pestilence in two countries?

It is conjectured by the learned 3 that the law of Pharaoh, against the male infants of Israel, did not take place, till after the birth of Aaron, and was repealed soon after the birth of Moses; or else 80 years after, the males could not have amounted to 600,000 able men. It is also the united opinion of Commentators and of the learned in general, that this edict was repealed at the death of the king, who first published it, which they suppose happened 4 years after the birth of Moses, and that it never was executed to any great extent. This is made certain by the scripture history; the agents appointed to execute the law were rebuked for their neglect, and God rewarded them for disobeying the wicked law. The law perhaps was originally restricted to the vicinity of the court; and therefore, only two midwives were sufficient to execute the law. This demonstrates, that the law extended only to a very small district. But our Rulers have given commission, not to two women, two feeble women, but to the whole veteran armies of Britain, with their navy of a thousand ships, to murder, burn and destroy New England. A thousand times as many sons of America have probably fallen victims of this ungodly war, as perished in Israel by the edict of Pharaoh. Still the war is only beginning; if ten thousand have fallen, ten thousand times ten thousand may fall. Say then ye, who are wise; ye, who are considerate, whose calamities have been the most terrible, the sons of Jacob, or the sons of America? Whose Rulers have been most greedy of blood? Which people have had most cause to adopt measures of relief?

3. The petitions of Israel, and their manly remonstrances, were treated with neglect; they produced no effect, but to multiply their vexations and burdens.

“Then the officers of Israel cried to Pharaoh; Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants; ye say to us, make brick; behold thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. (But he said,) ye are idle, ye are idle, Go, therefore now and work; for no straw shall be given you; yet ye shall deliver the tale of brick;” and the officers of Israel did see, that they were in an evil case; after it was said, “ye shall not minish aught from your bricks of your daily tasks.” “They did see that they were in an evil case.” This required no wizard eyes, long before; yet they could reproach Moses, for attempting their emancipation.

Unhappy Israel, had thy father Jacob anticipated such a result; had he forseen these miseries of his posterity, had he seen your ignominious, servile endurance, would he have left his native country? Would he have united his interest with Egypt? Would he not rather have starved in Canaan? The petitions had been respectful and pathetic; yet they provoke increasing vengeance; they pull down increasing calamities. At first they only excluded them from their usual occupations, requiring them to build one or two cities for the NATION, for the public good. Then they made them serve with rigor, in mortar and brick rearing those lofty tombs of their kings, or temples of their gods. Then they sent them into their fields to dig ditches. Then they made war upon their sons; and last of all, deprived them of straw, with-held their means; yet would not lessen the demands of government. Such is the process of despotism; she begins with little; like the grave, she takes all. Was ever a savage yell more terrible, than a tyrant’s voice? “Let the people gather straw where they can find it;” so the people were scattered through the land. Those who had been shepherds, learned to burn brick; the sailors joined the army; the merchants went to build cities; others dug clay. These were the fruits of their petitions. Such is always the fruit of petitions to a mercenary, venal government. They are a society organized for mischief. “To abandon usurped power, to renounce lucrative error, are sacrifices, which the virtue of individuals has on some occasions, offered to truth; but from any society of men no such effect can be expected. The corruptions of a society, recommended by common utility and justified by universal practice, are viewed by its members without shame or horror; and reformation never proceeds from themselves; but is always forced upon them by some foreign hand.” 4 You may as well expect the cataract of Niagara to turn its current to the head of Superior, and rush over the western mountains, as a wicked Congress to make a pause in the work of destroying their country, while the people will furnish the means. Not their petitions; but their march to Canaan, relieved the woes of Israel, and instantly stopped the work on the last pyramid, which has not been finished to this day.

With what puerile simplicity, then is it asked. “Will not the peace in Europe, or the dastardly conduct of our armies, give us peace?” No. Our disasters are a part of the original scheme. It was never intended, nor wished, that the Canadas should be subdued. Look at your officers; look at your soldiers, the clippings and parings, and refuse of humanity. Was it ever expected that these miserable beings would make conquests? Ye would as soon expect an army of caterpillars to mow down your forests. What is the peace of Europe to your Rulers? Should the English now be at liberty to send all her armies, and all her ships to America, and in one day burn every city from Maine to Georgia, your condescending Rulers would play on their harps, while they gazed at the tremendous conflagration. They would make this a new argument to carry on the war with new alacrity.

No peace will ever be made, till the people say, “There shall be no war.” If the rich men continue to furnish money, the miseries of war will continue till the mountains are melted with blood; till every field of America is white with the bones of the people. 5 Equally childish are your hopes from the effect of your petitions. Let the towns and the Counties and the States, continue to petition and petition, till all the paper in the land is consumed, it will not alter one vote in Congress. For years the wagons of government have groaned with your petitions, and remonstrance’s, and supplications. The tables of Congress have shuddered , under the woes of New England. Thousands and thousands, and tens of thousands of the independent merchants, and farmers, and other people, who had never before asked petition of any man, have humbly bowed before the national government, have humbly recounted their miseries, have humbly suggested the easy mode of relief, have anxiously implored relief, with a pathos, which might have moved the cold ear of Death. What has been the effect? Precisely the same, as at the court of Pharaoh. Tyrants are the same on the banks of the Nile and the Potomac, at Memphis and at Washington, in a monarchy and a republic. Petitions are the means, and the hope of children. As well may the solitary pilgrim in the desert of Sahara petition a horde of wild Arabs, not to plunder his bread and his water, as the sons of the pilgrims petition their masters of the South. As well may the shrieking vessel petition the howling winds not to drive her on the rock of the billows; as well may the terrified inhabitants of the Canadas implore the Christian barbarians of the South, not to burn their fair villages, their pleasant homes, and their temples. Happily the day of petitions has passed away.

A principal effect of all your petitions has been to convince you, that your first sufferings were light. They were a serpentine rivulet; they now are a mighty river. If ye were then vexed to madness, what will ye do in these swellings of Jordan? Non-importations, and restrictions have been added to non-importations and restrictions; open war has been added to secret machinations, and ye have approached the highest point in the tremendous climax of human despotism. Without a license, the boat of the fisherman, the more humble canoe of the hermit, may not leave the cavern of his rock, to seek his daily support.

But these restrictions are, or will be repealed.”—Undoubtedly. Who does not know this, as certainly as that your oppressors have cunning and treachery? Were they to persevere, they, and their laws, and restrictions, would be cast to the moles and the bats. They will, therefore, suspend, and they will alter, and they will change the mode of despotism; yet all is despotism still. The very relief shows the barbarism of their system. They now tell the farmer, he may drive his team, and not be assaulted; the fisherman, that he may row his boat, and not be sunk by their artillery; the traveller, that his trunk is now free from search; the bride, that she may convey her choicest furniture to her home, it shall not be broken by the axe of their strolling officers; that all may sleep, and not be alarmed, by the midnight ghosts of administration.” What is this, but saying, “We claim the RIGHT of taking away these comforts; we justify our late barbarous laws, which subjugated you to these vexations. These shall overwhelm you again, like the tide of the ocean, when it shall be our sovereign pleasure.” 6

The government have opened their Pandora’s box, and every plague, which comes forth, is more terrible than his fellow. What may next appear, from their lake of miseries, scares the imagination to conjecture. Will martial law be proclaimed through the land? Will a conscription like that of France take place, as has been threatened? Will gangs of hired assassins, called soldiers, patrol your streets, rouse you from your midnight slumbers, burst open your doors, abuse, and wound, and scourge, and terrify your families? These things have already been done without law.

Deliver us, oh ye Rulers, of a submissive and dispirited people; deliver us from this dreadful uncertainty. Give us a law, though written in blood, though written by the finger of despotism, that we may know when to open our houses to midnight prowlers of the government, when to be silent under the point of their bayonets, when to open our bosoms to the daggers of a ferocious soldiery, that we may hear the cheering voice of tyranny, saying, “Hitherto I will come, and no further.” Though this law should command us to submit to grossest indignities, to fall down before the petty tyrants, who are the golden images of the administration, or to admit them to enter our bed chambers, like the frogs of Egypt, we shall submit; we have submitted. That we can endure despotism with as much meekness and silence, as the slaves of the grand Seignior, has been demonstrated by a long course of experiments. His subjects believe, that insult and death from his hand, is a privilege, is martyrdom. They covet the favor, as a title to immortal felicity. How many of our country now glory in the infamy and misery of aiding the government, in those very measures, which are not only destroying the country, but depriving themselves, and their families of employment, of property, and of bread! Some have thus demolished large estates. Like Sampson they have willfully pulled destruction on their own heads. We have seen an opulent merchant persevere in this mad infatuation, till he has petitioned the town; yes, till he has petitioned the town for the base privilege of a pauper. The base privilege has been granted him. Thus, like the worshippers of Moloch, the supporters of a vile administration, sacrifice their children and families on the altar of democracy. Like the widows of Hindoostan, they consume themselves; like the frantic votaries of Juggernaut, they throw themselves under the car of their political idol; they are crushed by its bloody wheels.

Vexation upon vexation, misery upon misery, infamy upon infamy, have resulted from your petitions to the government. At first they interdicted certain articles of commerce, from certain countries; then they interdicted all foreign commerce. Your petitions were like clouds wafted to Washington by every wind; like clouds they produced nothing, but a more dismal storm, a more frightful prospect. An offensive war was openly declared. Again petitions persecuted the palace; all commerce was interdicted, or every boat, and wagon, and trunk of a solitary traveller, was subjected to search and plunder. This law is now executed by brutal soldiers, sword in hand. Not only your ships, but your boats, your teams, and yourselves, as to any object of traffic, unless you will expose yourselves, to the artillery of government, are chained, as fast as the slaves of Algiers. The full viols of despotism are poured on your heads; and yet you may challenge the plodding Israelite, the stupid African, the feeble Chinese, the drowsy Turk, or the frozen exile of Siberia, to equal you in tame submission to the powers, which be.

Forgive me, forgive me, my friends, though I thus speak, it is not the language of reproach. Your obedience to law is your merit, your glory. Your patience is not the patience of fear; your gentleness is not the torpor of insensibility; your silence is not weakness; it is not cowardice, NO. Your patience is magnanimity; your silence is conscious strength; your obedience is moral habit, is religious principle, supported by religious ordinances. These principles and ordinances, though they are the scorn of your oppressors, have saved their laws from contempt, their officers from deserved violence; their whole system from insult and outrage. They, with their imported Secretaries and patriots, raised an insurrection, rather than pay a tax on their intemperance; the sons of the pilgrims pay a tax for their bread; yes, thousands and thousands yield up their bread, and their common means of support with manly silence; but there is a point; there is an hour, beyond which,——you will not bear——

II. We were to suggest some of the advantages, which resulted to Israel from these immense oppressions of their government.

Their separation from the Ancient Dominion, who had oppressed them, was the great, the grand result of their political miseries. In this event were involved blessings, too great to be described, blessings too numerous to be named. By this, they were freed from their former bondage. They bid farewell to the brick kilns and ditches of Egypt. Their merchants never again raised the walls of her cities, nor grew dizzy on the top of their towering pyramids. But here for once the parallel fails. The people of New England cannot separate themselves from the country of their oppressors. The Atlantic will not open us a passage; no Canaan flows with milk and honey for us. If we leave our fields, and towns, and temples, looking to the west, though no Anakims appear on the mountains, nor are their cities walled up to heave, nor have we heard the fame of their valor; yet do we not behold the sons of violence and rapine? In their neighborly quarrels, are not “their hair and beard clotted stiff with gore,” Do you not hear their dismal howlings for blood, more blood? Will the sons of New-England give up their traffic, and their homes, to dwell with the ferocious hordes of Kentucky and the West. NO. Here we must trample on the mandates of despotism; or here we must remain slaves forever. But, I may specify a few happy effects of Israel’s sufferings. Possibly some future Columbus, on a voyage of political discovery, may devise some means of making our miseries produce permanent blessings. Some political galvanism, yet to be discovered, may heal the infectious pestilence, which is wasting the vitals of the Commonwealth.

1. The oppressions of Israel introduced a better government, better adapted to their character.

They had endured a perpetual conflict with their superiors in power. Their collision of interests had become intolerable to the sons of Jacob. What gave wealth and ease to their oppressors, ruined them. These sections of the community had been like two dark and furious clouds, ascending the hemisphere. In their union, they disgorge their thunders, and shake the world; but Israel was the sufferer, the tributary, a mere attendant, bearing the burdens of the government, while denied the blessings. Her sons no longer sailed on the great sea, nor on the Red Sea; but were deafened by the eternal rattle of her dismal manufactures. These measures of government were as fatal to the prosperity of Israel, as were the ten plagues to Egypt. Israel had submitted to the unlimited control of Pharaoh, a proud infidel, a despiser of religion, a profane scoffer at divine things. He neither knew, nor cared whether there were one God, or twenty Gods; but when Israel separated, Jehovah became their Legislator and King. They had been vexed and scourged by petty tyrants, tools of government; now they were under the pious guidance of Moses and Aaron. “Their nobles were from themselves, and their governors proceeded from the midst of them.” They had been the creatures, and tools, and engines of a government, in confederacy against God and his cause; they now combined all their power and resources to exalt their Savior; They persevered in the great design, till they had passed the wilderness of Arabia; till they had crossed the channel of the Jordan; till they had subdued their enemies; till they had reared the temple on mount Zion; till their millions had covered the hills of Canaan; till their laws, their customs, and their religion, were established from the banks of Euphrates to the river of Egypt. Such were the fruits of their miseries and vexations in Egypt. It was necessary, that they should sigh under the rod of oppression, to wake them from their political lethargy, to dispel their prejudices in favor of the union, under which their fathers had enjoyed repose and prosperity, to provoke them to seek a better government; to inflame them to noble darings, in bursting the bonds of oppression; in dissolving their connection with the merciless slave holders of the country. Well might they sing; “Partial evil is universal good.” But alas, we have no Moses to stretch his rod over the sea.****No Lebanon, nor Carmel, nor Zion, invites us across the deep.***

2. Another immense advantage, to Israel from dissolving their union with Egypt, was an escape from the fatal contagion of infidel examples.

Though the body of the Israelites might have but little connection with the body of the Egyptians, still there must have been a constant intercourse, dangerous to all, and fatal to many. The nature of the case, and subsequent events, in their zeal for Egyptian idolatry, demonstrate all this. Though, not as judges, and legislators, and advocates, many persons must have been at the court of Pharaoh, if it were only to bear the sighs and tears of the people, before the throne of their tyrant. Here they must witness a thousand instances of impiety; they must see the first man in the nation neglect all the forms of religion. They must be tempted with bribes, and a thousand nameless enchantments of an opulent court. Returning home, these men would bring pestilence and death to the tribes of Israel. Some of the most unprincipled and profligate supporters of the administration would be appointed collectors of the revenue. These would poison the country with the spirit and vices of infidelity.—–Many of the laws breathed oppression, and provoked to crimes. By these and other means, wicked examples were greatly multiplied. Roused by the vexations, they endured, their chains fell off, and they escaped this danger of irreligious examples; they separated themselves from this land of mischief and crimes.

Though it is a law of your nature, that the general spirit of the community be transmitted to the distant members; though distinguished individuals, diffuse their spirit, however base, in the community around them, I certainly do not present the fact as matter of information, that a black cloud of infidelity hangs over the south. It cannot be criminal in one to mention what is publicly known to all. If the late President, the sage of Monticello, proud of his infidelity, has employed Printers to publish his contempt for the writings of Moses; if he has pronounced the universal deluge an impossibility; if his successor has given the whole nation every possible reason, except his public avowal, to believe that his deism is, as fixed as the ice of the poles; if his profanations of the Sabbath, if his common, his habitual, his notorious neglect of public worship, are, as complete evidence, as the most candid confessions, that he has no part nor lot in Him, who was crucified on Calvary, and rose from the tomb of Joseph, is it strange, that a swarm of scoffing infidels should darken the country, where these exalted personages reside? The approach of that region to paganism may be inferred from the riot of their Sabbaths, from their falling temples, the small numbers of their churches, and the smaller number of their Pastors. Do you not fear that this virulent impiety will by degrees be extended to all sections of the country, which are under the same government, and swayed by the fatal policy of the same men?

Those, who are in the least acquainted with history, sacred or profane, well know, that the irreligious character of Rulers, like the atmosphere of Java, carries poison and death through the land.

Here again you may envy the privilege of Israel, and mourn that no land of Canaan has been promised to your ancestors. You cannot separate from that mass of corruption, which would poison the atmosphere of Paradise; you must in obstinate despair bow your necks to the yoke, and with your African brethren drag the chains of Virginia despotism, unless you discover some other mode of escape.

3. Israel’s woes in Egypt terminated in giving them the fruit of their own labors. This was a powerful motive for them to dissolve their connection with the Ancient Dominion. Though their fathers had found their union with Egypt pleasant and profitable; though they had been the most opulent section in Egypt; yet since the change of the administration, their schemes had been reversed; their employments changed; their prosperity destroyed; their vexations increased, beyond all sufferance. They were tortured to madness, in seeing the fruit of their labors torn from them, to support a profligate administration. Instead of laying up corn, and silver, and gold, as once they did, they were no longer their own masters. With the money, which they earned, they were not permitted to pay their own debts; but the debts of the ancient dominion. After they had paid the debts of others, they were still in debt themselves. If they paid money, sufficient to build navies, and construct roads, and other great works, these were not for themselves; but for their lordly tyrants, or the money was wasted by bankrupt officers, before it reached the treasury, and often devoted to projects of folly and mischief. If they were compelled to pay taxes, to build forts and support armies, neither the forts, nor the armies were for their defense. They became discouraged; they were perplexed. Moses and others exhorted them not to despair, and assured them that one mode of relief would prove effectual. Timid, trembling, alarmed, they hardly dared to make the experiment. Finally; they dissolved the union; they marched; the Sea opened; Jordan stopped his current; Canaan received their triumphant banners; the trees of the field clapped their hands; the hills broke forth into songs of joy; they feasted on the fruit of their own labors. Such success awaits a resolute and pious people.

Is there any thing? Whereof it may be said “See, this is new? It hath been already of old time. Say then, ye who are best acquainted with the state of the country, is a course of abominable oppression, not unlike that of Egypt, bearing down New-England, and tearing from her mouth the fruits of her own labors? In the Southern States, are costly roads made? Are post offices supported? Are fortifications erected? Are armies paid? Are princely salaries enjoyed? Are palaces reared in royal splendor, from monies, chiefly paid in these commercial States?

Enquire, examine whether of the national expenditure for twenty years, the proportion of Virginia, according to her population and representation in Congress, be not more than thirty one millions, while she actually paid only thirteen millions, exonerating herself at once of eighteen millions. On the other hand, the proportion of this Commonwealth was twenty millions; but such were the taxes on your laborious industry, that instead of 20, you actually paid more than forty millions. 7 Again in the year 1791, the proportion of the public debt, belonging to Virginia was nearly eleven millions. The income of her revenue since that time, so far from paying any part of the principal would have fallen short of discharging the interest, by almost thirteen millions; but by sharing the revenue from your labors and dangers, all this interest has been paid for her, with nearly half her principal, making a profit to her of eighteen millions. Massachusetts has sacrificed these immense portions of her labors, for the privilege of belonging to the UNION; for the privilege of embargoes, and war, and all the privations and miseries, which she has endured. Had Massachusetts only received the fruit of her own toils, her fortifications and other means of defense might have been rendered formidable; and she might have built from twenty to thirty ships of the line. What a glorious union for Virginia! You have saved her from bankruptcy; you have built her fortifications, maintained her armies, paid her expences of government. Have you learned to sympathize with her imported slaves? Your labors go into the same purse; you virtually support the same masters; you generously lend your help to those miserable beings, who blacken their fields; you help them in paying for those luxuries, those costly mansions; those splendid equipages, and those prancing chariots, which you never saw. Is not all this right? You are healthy and vigorous; they are feeble and delicate. You are poor, or in moderate circumstances; they are rich in lands and slaves. You are compelled to labor hard, to submit to frugality, and endure a thousand privations; they move in splendor, and riot in voluptuous pleasures. You toil in a cold, and barren country; they enjoy a delicious climate, and a richer soil. Is it not pleasant to obey such lords, to minister to the pleasures of such a happy race? What a blessing is a Union with such delightful masters! No wonder, if every man in New-England preaches in favor of the Union! Resume your labors then; to pay their expences, hew down your forests; drag your masts from the snowy mountains; launch into the ocean; buffet the storms……………. “Is the preacher distracted? If a spy of government be present, we may all be accused of treason.” If you pass yonder Cape, you may probably never return; the boats of government are more fatal than all the cruisers of the ocean.

The Israelites were compelled not only to labor; but to labor, as their masters commanded, in mortar and manufactures; so must you. Go not then to the water’s edge; go not to the East; go not to the West; go not to the North; this is “towards the enemy.” Hasten, hasten, home; purchase you a wheel, a distaff, and a spindle, and wool, and flax, and spin with thy maidens. If death be more desirable; then follow the banner of the tremendous Dearborn; force your way through the forest to the Canadas; AND THERE DIE, as ten thousands have before thee, to feed the wolves of the north. Whether your vexations, are more or less intolerable, than those of Israel, ye are able to judge.

They became weary of yielding the fruit of their labors to pamper their splendid Tyrants. They left their political woes; they separated. Where is our Moses; Where is the rod of his miracles? Where is Aaron? Alas! No voice from the burning bush has directed them here. Bow then to the publicans of government, and say to the humble African, “Thou art my brother.”

4. The woes of Israel, and her subsequent separation from Egypt, relieved them from being involved in her judgments.

To escape the judgments, which are decidedly coming on a wicked nation is a mighty deliverance. Individuals may escape their demerits; communities cannot; communities do not exist in a future state. Accordingly those communities, which are peculiarly wicked, are punished as such; the members of such a body politic, though relatively innocent, are at least partially involved in their punishment.

Lot suffered the loss of his house, his goods, his cattle, and a part of his family in the fire of Sodom. Noah and his family, merely from living in the same world, with a wicked generation, though not included in the most dreadful part of the sentence, endured undescribable distresses. Giving up his former pursuits, laboriously engaging in the building of the ark, anticipating the destruction of his house, his fields, and the world, what must have been the anguish of his spirit. Collecting his household, at the door of the ark; seeing the dark clouds arise; the hemisphere wrapped in darkness; the lightening blazing; the thunders rolling, how dreadful the scene. As the waters rise, the ark floats along the vale. As the waters rise, his neighbors ascend the higher ground; they hail the lordly ark; they implore relief; they entreat; they beseech the patriarch to receive them on board; they plead and weep; they stretch forth their hands, when their voices are lost in the howlings of the storm. The door is shut, and there is no room. Who can imagine the distress of the Preacher, in his last words to his perishing neighbors. Confined a whole year in the dismal mansion with fowls and beasts, driven at the mercy of the winds, over the towering billows of the world; no friendly port in view, no friendly sail to be spoken, totally uncertain on what mountains top he might strike, on what rock he might dash, must it not require all his faith in God, to calm his own fears, to soothe the terrors of his afflicted family? Such were the evils of being connected with an impious people. Israel had by a series of miracles escaped the judgments of Egypt; but they could not expect miracles always to be performed for their security. They, therefore, separated; they burst their chains, and escaped the judgments, which were filling the land with horror.

What is the moral aspect of our nation? Has not New-England, as much to apprehend, as the sons of Jacob had? But no child has been taken from the river to lead us through the sea: yet are not a million slaves, a million “souls of men” bought and sold in the markets of the south? Are not the tears and miseries of a million souls daily crying to the God of justice to hasten the day of retribution? Will they cry in vain? Are the same people unitedly supporting the Antichristian power of Europe? Are they fighting her battles, and must they receive her plagues? Must not those States, which remain united with them, whatever may be their individual character, share in their punishments? When the day of retribution comes, and come it will, the whole community, however extensive, just bend before its terrors. If God shall send the sword, her crimson terrors will not be arrested on thy borders; but echo from thy hills, and reverberate across thy valleys. Should the angel of pestilence be commissioned, he would not only visit the south, but the North; lover and friend would be put far from thee. Should Famine say, “Here am I; send me;” the pale messenger would blast the fruits of thy grounds, snatch the bread from thy mouth: the morsel from the little hands of thy sons, thy daughters. If judgments are coming on the nation; if the sea does not open thee a path, where, how, in what manner will you seek relief? No Moses—no Canaan—no separation. Finally:

To conclude the subject, we discover the malignant nature of American democracy. Democracy, is the Author of all the Egyptian misery and mischief, endured in the land. Our political sufferings are entirely different from those of other nations. In other quarters of the globe, tyrants entrench themselves, behind the shields of their standing armies. But here the people themselves produce their own calamities, defend their own tyrants. They intrigue, they vote, they petition, for the continuance of their embarrassments, and their poverty, and their distresses. Yes, when their clamors and their votes are not sufficient, and when the sober part of the country send their petitions, and spread their grievances, before the thrones of their Masters, the men of democracy come forward with counter petitions, and beseech, and implore the government not to relieve the sufferings of the country, not to restore the nation to its former affluence and prosperity. They pledge ‘their sacred honor’ and lives to support the most baleful measures. These are the men, who forge the chains for themselves and their country. Were a fair statement of these facts made in a distant country, it would be considered an irony, a satire, a burlesque on humanity. But when a thousand Gazettes, and a million votes have confirmed all this, what must be the astonishment. The relation is believed, merely, because it is impossible to disbelieve. When Israel were sighing under their hard bondage, and Moses and his adherents were constantly making application for relief, what would have been thought, had an unprincipled, savage party been plying Pharaoh with counter petitions, beseeching him not to furnish straw, entreating him not to lessen the tax of brick, and pledging their infamous honors to support his abominable measures? Precisely such is the temper of American “republicans,” so called. A new language must be invented, before we attempt to express the baseness of their conduct, or describe the rottenness of their hearts. Has such a barbarous infatuation ever prevailed before? Divines had described a dreadful depravity among the sons of Adam; but divines had not described, nor conceived such a depravity. Where could they have found facts to support such a theory? Robbers and banditti have not destroyed themselves, to crush their associates; tigers do not mangle their own flesh; nor do fallen spirits with all their malice towards their companions petition for the increase, or continuance of their torments. Where is the man, forging chains for himself and posterity? Him have I offended.

2. God governs the nations for great and good designs. He controlled the affairs of Egypt, the affairs of Israel. Egypt was infatuated by her power and prosperity to crush the Israelites, and to drive them to a separation. The Israelites by those oppressions were roused to independence, and prepared for the highest prosperity: the best country, and the best civil polity in the world. The fame of their wisdom, their skill in the sciences, and their immense traffic, travelled through the world. Awed by the valor of their legions, and the impetuosity of their cavalry, distant tribes sued for peace, and the noise of battle ceased. Their merchants caught the gales of remotest seas, and silver was abundant in Jerusalem, as the stones of the hills. Princes came from the ends of the earth to admire the splendor of the court, and the felicity of the subjects. God continues to raise up other Pharaohs; their hearts are hardened against reason, and persuasion, and sound policy; and though it is not in their heart, neither do they think so; yet we know that the morn of light and glory will burst from this political darkness. Therefore,

3. Let us bear our public calamities with submission to the will of heaven.

God will bring good from every evil. The furnaces of Egypt lighted Israel to the land of Canaan.

Though a terrific cloud hangs over our land; though it may drown your fields in blood; God may be about to accomplish a glorious purpose. The book of providence is a sealed volume; nor may the wisest angel open the mysterious leaves. When the days of Israel were bitterness, and their nights terror, did they believe that those evils would result in their emancipation from an abandoned government? Yet, so it was; and perhaps these were the only means, that could have roused that people, to assume their independence. What dismal reflections must have torn the bosom of Pharaoh, surveying the miseries, which he had occasioned. “I have ruined my kingdom; I have destroyed myself.” What must be the reflections of our exalted President, in the silence of retirement? “While I have made myself great, I have ruined my country. Her morals, her affluence, her cheerfulness, are gone. To feed my friends, I have kindled the fires of war. Burning villages, and dying soldiers, are the monuments of my glory. Ten thousand wretches in the agonies of death have poured their curses on my name. I am steeped in blood. History will hold me up to the execration of the world; not a triumphant murderer, like Pizarro or Attila, but like Pharaoh or Absalom, a mere blunderer in the science of blood. Had I loved my country, as I love my office, I should not have been the scorn of the universe.”

We live, my brethren, in a most eventful period. The whole Christian world are standing with their swords drawn. Our country, hungry for blood, is ambitious of making a figure in this boundless scene of destruction; she is trying, and striving, and panting, to lift a sword; but as the Hebrews, waging an offensive war against the Amalekites, when the Lord was not with them, were vanquished and driven back with shame; so are our armies led into captivity, and vanquished, and driven back.

Should the navies and armies of Britain invade New-England, could the general Government defend you one day? Would not your beautiful towns vanish in a blaze? Could the standing army prevent an invading foe from marching where they please? The armies of government are “as a thread of tow, when it toucheth the fire;” New-England, if invaded, would be compelled to defend herself. Do you not then owe it to yourselves, owe it to your children, and owe it to your God, to make peace for yourselves? Will you rush to the combat, when you dare not ask the blessing of heaven? Will you crimson your fields with the blood of your sons, merely because your Rulers have commenced the contest, merely because they find their advantage in your miseries? Will you perish to please your oppressors? Where then are you ministers of peace? Although the sword of the foe has not drunk the blood of the valiant; nor have the sons of the mighty been led into captivity; although the legions, who move to this iniquitous war, will find no bard to make them renowned in their day, to raise the song of mourning; nor to relate their deeds to other times; although for the perpetual disasters of the camp, “no sighs arise with the beams of the east; no tears descend with the drops of the night;” yet is this war most calamitous. It calls for shame and pious sorrow; it calls for supplication and grief of soul, that Heaven in anger should punish us with such men of blood, to rule the nation. Passing events seem to indicate that God intends to purify the earth, not with a flood of water; but a deluge of blood. Blessed are they, who understand the signs of the times. He that taketh the sword shall perish with the sword. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity. He that killeth with the sword, must be killed by the sword. Those, who engage in a murderous, offensive war, shall have blood to drink, for they are worthy. They have had blood to drink. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, and of the sea, for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath; because he knoweth, that he hath, but a short time.

The Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth. The earth shall no more cover her slain. The stars are falling; the moon is blood; He taketh the sun in his wrath, and hideth him in his clouds. The great day of his wrath is come, and who will be able to stand?

 


Endnotes

1. For an explanation, see the comment in Henry, Scott, or Clark, &c. on Exod. 12, 40.

2. Mr. Whiston.

3. Dr. A. Clark.

4. Dr. Robertson.

5. Probably the country has distinctly pronounced. “Peace shall be made;” i.e. the rich have refused to trust the government. This class of men may have peace when they please. An army cannot breathe a week without their aid.

6. Accordingly Mr. Madison’s paper already boasts of “the rigor” with which the law has been executed, “as an assurance” “of complete effect” should there “be a resuscitation of this system.” Thus our lords talk concerning the resurrection of the goblin, before she is buried or even dead. A more puerile spirit was never manifested than the exultations, because the late afflictive system is suspended. A measure of dire necessity, which tortures every nerve of the rulers. As well might the martyrs of the Inquisition sing hosanna to their tormentors in the moments of respite from the rack or burning stake.

7. See Learned Essays of Calculator in the Columbian Centinel.

Sermon – Fasting – 1815


This sermon was preached by John Latta on the national fast day proclaimed by President James Madison for January 12, 1815.


sermon-fasting-1815

A

SERMON

PREACHED ON THE

TWELFTH OF JANUARY, 1815.

A DAY

RECOMMENDED

BY THE

PRESIDENT

OF THE

UNITED STATES,

TO BE OBSERVED AS A DAY OF

HUMILIATION, FASTING, AND PRAYER.

By the Rev. JOHN E. LATTA, A. M.

A SERMON,
&c.

II CHRON. XXXII. 7, 8.

“BE STRONG and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there is more with us, than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah.”

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had invaded Judea. After he had taken several fortified cities, he threatened also to besiege Jerusalem, the metropolis of the kingdom. “And when Hezekiah saw, that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem,” he made preparations to sustain a siege and to defend the city. “He set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying, in the language of our text: Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him,” &c.

Our design, in this discourse, is to speak—

I. Of the grounds of Hezekiah’s confidence in the divine protection.

II. Of the PROPRIETY of his confidence.

I. We are to speak of the grounds of Hezekiah’s confidence in divine protection:—And we would mention,

1st. That his having greatly reformed the nation, was a proper ground of his confidence.

When Hezekiah ascended the throne of Judah, the nation was grossly devoted to almost every species of idolatry. He therefore immediately made vigorous exertions to abolish all idolatrous rites and institutions, and to restore the worship of the true God. “In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. And he brought in the Priests and the Levites, and said unto them, hear me ye Levites; sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed, and have done that, which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs.” After the house of the Lord, and the Priests and the Levites, agreeably to the directions of Hezekiah, were sanctified, he directed the offering of the different sacrifices, prescribed by the law of Moses: and his direction was obeyed. Next he issued a proclamation, requiring all Israel and Judah, to come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover unto the Lord God of Israel. A great number assembled at Jerusalem, and kept the feast, not only seven days, the time prescribed by Moses; but “the whole assembly took counsel to keep other seven days: and they kept other seven days with gladness. So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel, there was not the like in Jerusalem.”

Next, Hezekiah demolished all the objects of idolatrous worship which were in the land. “All Israel went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the roes, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Menasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all.” He also commanded, that the tithes prescribed by Moses, should be given to the Priests. “Moreover Hezekiah commanded the people, that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the Priests and Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord.” As Hezekiah was convinced, that the wrath of God was upon Judah, because they had forsaken his worship and devoted themselves to idolatry, and wickedness of various kinds, he justly considered their reformation as a proper ground for his confidence, tht the Lord would again bless and protect them.

2dly. Another ground of Hezekiah’s confidence was, that Sennacherib had blasphemed the God of the Jews—had set at defiance his power to save them—and ridiculed their confidence in the divine protection.

“Who was there (saith he) among all the Gods of those nations, that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand? He wrote also letters to rail on the Lord God of Israel and to speak against him saying, as the Gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.” Here Sennacherib not only defies the divine power and blasphemes the Lord God of Israel, the only true God; but sets in competition with him and his power, the idols of the heathen and their power. Hezekiah therefore entertained a confidence, that God would for the sake of his glory, interpose for the deliverance of Judah from their enemies. He confidently expected, that God, by an extraordinary exertion of his power, would shew the Assyrians, that Israel’s God was not like the Gods of Hamath and Arpad, of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivah, which were not able to deliver their worshippers; but that he was omnipotent to deliver all, who put their confidence in him. Thus God would vindicate his character against the reviling’s and blasphemies of Sennacherib, exalt himself above all Gods and display his glory to all nations. That this was one ground of Hezekiah’s confidence is evident from part of his prayer on this occasion. Thus he concludes his prayer; “Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only.”

3dly. Another ground of Hezekiah’s confidence was, that Sennacherib relied entirely upon his own prowess and the greatness of his armies; but he himself placed all his dependence upon God.

“With him (saith Hezekiah) is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.” Sennacherib vaunted much of the power, which he had manifested in the destruction of other nations and cities; and he boasted, that he had the same power to destroy Jerusalem. But God abhorreth the proud and self-confident. He humbleth those that exalt themselves. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. The day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one, that is proud and lofty, and upon every one, that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low. Thus saith the Lord, cursed be the man, that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm. But blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” This naturally introduces to the

II. Head, viz. to illustrate and prove the propriety of Hezekiah’s confidence in the divine protection, and of his animating exhortation to his captains.

From the grounds which we have just stated, Hezekiah was confident, that the Lord would be with him and his people. This being the case, there was the utmost propriety in his confidence of protection. If the omnipotent Jehovah was for him, nothing could be against him. Who an have any strength against Omnipotence. “All nations before God are as nothing, and they are counted to him as les than nothing, and vanity. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” What is man then that he should defy the power of God? How insignificant are whole armies of men, when opposed to the Lord of Hosts, the God of armies? God at first spake them into existence, and whenever he gives the command, they crumble into dust. How absurd was it for Sennacherib, even with the multitude that was with him to presume that he should prevail against the King of Judah and his people, when Hezekiah could confidently say, that “there was more with them than with him.” In this expression Hezekiah doubtless had reference to the myriads of Angels, which God can at any moment send forth, either for the protection of his people, or for the destruction of his enemies. This expression of Hezekiah may be well illustrated by referring to the case of Elisha, recorded in the 6th chap. of the 2d book of Kings. A Syrian host compassed the city, where the prophet was, both with horses and chariots: “and Elisha’s servant said unto him, alas! My master, how shall we do? And he answered, fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed and said, Lord I pray thee open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” The Psalmist says; “The chariots of God are twenty thousand even thousands of Angels.” What earthly potentate then, even with all his armies, can successfully oppose the King of Kings? Who can in a moment marshal an innumerable host of Angels, “that excel in strength.” And who shall not be safe under the banner of the Almighty? With great propriety then did Hezekiah confidently expect protection for himself and his people, when he knew, that “the Lord their God was with them to help them, and to fight their battles.”

Again, the covenant, which God made with the nation of Israel, proves the propriety of Hezekiah’s confident hope of protection. In this covenant the Lord engaged to the children of Israel saying; “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them, ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. And I will establish my covenant with you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” Now God is faithful to his covenant. “He is not man that he should change, or the son of man that he should lye.” Since then Hezekiah had reformed the nation, and caused them to keep the statutes and commandments of the Lord, he with the utmost propriety entertained a confidence, that God would, on his part, fulfill his covenant. He had noticed too, that God had always hitherto been faithful to his promises. Without a single exception whenever the Israelites were observant of the divine ordinances, and institutions, they still triumphed over their enemies. This leads me to observe,

Farther, that the numerous instances of God’s special interference in behalf of his people, when beset by their enemies, evince the propriety of Hezekiah’s confidence in the divine protection. Of the many instances of this description, which are recorded in the scriptures we shall quote only one or two. In the reign of Jehoram, king of Israel, Benhadad the king of Syria, besieged Samaria, the capital city of the ten tribes so long and so closely that the women eat their own infants. But “the Lord made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host; and they said one to another, Lo, the King of Israel hath hired against us the Kings of the Hittites, and the Kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life. And messengers of the King of Israel went after them unto Jordan; and lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste.” In the reign of Ahab, the King of Syria with an immense army besieged Samaria. “And behold, there came a Prophet unto Ahab King of Israel saying; Thus saith the Lord, hast thou seen all this great multitude? Behold I will deliver it into thine hand this day: and thou shalt know that I am the Lord. And Ahab numbered the young men of the princes of the provinces, and they were 232: and after them he numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being 7,000. So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city and the army, which followed them. And they slew every one his man: and the Syrians fled and Israel pursued them; and Benhadad the King of Syria escaped on a horse with the horsemen.” The Syrians having conjectured, that the Gods of Israel were Gods of the hills, and therefore Israel were Gods of the hills, and therefore Israel had defeated them, came up again to fight against them in the plain. “And Benhadad numbered the Syrians and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them; and the children of Israel pitched before them, like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country. And they pitched one over against the other seven days; and so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined and the children of Israel slew of the Syrians 100,000 footmen in one day. But the rest fled to Aphek into the city, and there a wall fell upon 27,000 of the men that were left. And Benhadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber.” Such was the excess of numbers in both these instances in favor of the Syrians, that, agreeably to the promise of God, it might, with respect to the Israelites be literally said that one man chased a thousand.

Lastly, the result in the case before us shewed also the propriety of Hezekiah’s confidence of protection. And this was the happy result: “The Lord sent an Angel, who cut off all the mighty men of valor and the leaders and captains in the camp of the King of Assyria: so he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his God, his own sons slew him there with the sword. Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side. And many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah; so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.” Hence the propriety of Hezekiah’s confident expectations of protection and deliverance appears abundantly evident. Therefore very properly addressed his captains in the animating words of our text; saying, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him; for there be more with us, than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”

Let us now, my hearers, inquire whether we, as a nation, have any just grounds to entertain the same confidence of protection and deliverance, which Hezekiah entertained. Gloomy and discouraging as our situation may appear, we presume we have some grounds for the same confidence. And

1st. The difference between the nature and character of the two governments (I mean our own government and that of our enemies) is one ground for confident hope of protection, and of a termination of the war favorable to our nation. Here I shall consider myself as speaking to those, who believe, that the Gospel, in its purity and with its native influence, shall, at some period, and a period too perhaps not far distant, prevail throughout the world.

The government of our enemies is in structure or theory, as well as practice, antichristian . 1 It opposes many obstacles to the propagation of the Gospel in its purity. It unites the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of the world. It makes the king of the nation the head of the church. 2 It requires, that every civil officer shall, by taking the holy sacrament of the Lord’s supper, declare himself, though an infidel, to be a believer—though evidently, by wicked works a member of Satan’s Kingdom, to be a visible member of the Kingdom of Christ. It constitutes ministers of the Gospel lords temporal, as well as spiritual lords, and endows them, whether worthy or unworthy, with exorbitant revenues. Many who hold this sacred office, having been appointed to it, without even the smallest claim to morality or piety, “lord it over God’s heritage.” The gross and abominable abuses, which have resulted from this system, are well known, to all, who are acquainted with that government. The prince, who is declared to be the head of the church of Christ, which, like its founder, ought to be pure and holy, is often at the head, is often the leader, in every thing, that is unholy, licentious, and profane. Many of the Bishops, who are appointed to serve at the holy altar of the Lord, are infamous for their irreligious principles and dissolute morals. Whilst they too enjoy large revenues, though they live in idleness, the curates, who perform the chief labour of parochial duty, have scarcely the means of subsistence. The test of civil office is frequently an instance of the grossest perjury, and has the greatest tendency to bring reproach upon the Christian religion; nay to exhibit it as a mere name, destitute of any reality, a mere technical form without substance. If then the Gospel is to prevail in its purity, every such government must be totally overturned. The gospel church knows no head but Christ. It, everywhere in the New Testament, is represented, as perfectly distinct from the kingdoms of this world. The gospel contemplates all men as brethren, as born equal. None of its laws or institutions give authority to oppress the diligent; nor to bestow rich livings upon the indolent. Its ordinances, being spiritual, were never intended to be a test for temporal preferment.

Besides, the land of our enemies is stained with the blood of the saints. Not only, whilst it was under Papal jurisdiction, did its rulers immure in prisons, put to the torture and burn at the stake thousands of martyrs, but even, since it became a protestant land, it has been stained with the blood of the persecuted. The blood therefore of all these saints cries to heaven for vengeance; and its cry will be heard. And though under the present administration of that government, there has been no direct religious persecution, political intolerance has raged to a degree without a parallel, and has shed the blood of thousands. I say direct; for the test of civil office is a species of persecution. It is true the people of England have of late done more, and are still doing more for the propagation of the gospel, than any other nation in the world. But we must make a distinction between the acts of individuals, and those of the government. This zeal too originated with the dissenters, and still prevails principally amongst them.

But our government, however it fails in doing any thing positively for the propagation of the gospel, places no impediments in its way. Here are no political nor artificial obstacles to the spread of the gospel, in all its purity and native influence. Our constitution in no instance connects civil and religious matters. It recognizes the concerns of the church, as too pure and spiritual to be connected with the affairs of the state. Here then the gospel “may have free course, may run (untrammeled by political interference) and may be glorified.” Our country too is free from the guilt of the blood of the saints. Our government has in no instance unsheathed the sword of persecution, nor kindled the flames of martyrdom. The awful judgments therefore threatened in the scriptures are not to be executed upon this country. They are in the opinion of commentators denounced only against those countries, which have been subjected to the reign of the beast and have persecuted the saints. Not only has our country been free from the guilt of persecution, but it has been the asylum of the persecuted. As in the days of popish persecution the saints fled to the wilderness of Piedmont, so, in the time of English persecution, they fled to the wilderness of America. Since then in this country there are no political barriers in the way of the spread of the gospel in its purity, and since it is not stained with the guilt of persecution, may we not suppose that, whilst other governments shall be overturned, this shall stand; and that here shall begin the dawn of that millennial day, which is to enlighten the world.

2dly. The warlike character of the government of our enemies, the nature and result of the wars, in which they have for many years been engaged, are reasons for supposing, that they will not long prosper, and consequently furnish grounds for hoping, that we shall be protected, and delivered from their hostile designs against us.

War is interwoven in the present system of political things in England. If war had not been originally congenial to her government, she has been so long engaged in it, that it has become part of the system, and necessary to its existence. It has become as necessary as breathing is to animal life; as robbing is to the system of robbery. As it is with systems of nature, so it is with political systems. That, which at first is not at all necessary, in process of time becomes necessary by use or change of situation. To human life intemperance is so far from being necessary, that it is injurious, yet long indulgence in excess, makes some degree of intemperance necessary, in certain cases, to the continuance of life. To the existence of the limpid stream gently purling along the mountain’s brow, impetuosity and overwhelming depth are not necessary, but they constitute its nature, when it becomes the deep, impetuous river, hastening to the ocean. Our enemies therefore in the present system of their conduct toward other countries, do not even pretend that their claims are founded in justice, or are consistent with the law of nations. Their only plea is that their situation renders such conduct necessary. And when remonstrance is made, they answer by shewing the arm of power. Necessity then of their own creating, and power are their ethics and their political justice. Our enemies therefore are not only devoted to war; but their wars, necessarily and systematically, are unjust and oppressive.

The result of their wars for twenty years, too, has been the supporting and reinstating of the popish antichristian power. Antecedently to the late revolution in France, that kingdom was the strong hold of Popery. All other kingdoms and states, which were then devoted to its interest, had dwindled into comparative insignificance. Did you then see our enemies unfurl their banners and marshal their forces to restore the former state of things in France? It was to restore popery in its strong hold. Did you see them aiding Austria? There also they fought the battles of antichrist. Did they erect their standard too in Italy? There they went to replenish at their fountain, the corrupt streams of popish ignorance, superstition, delusion, abominations and soul-destroying mummeries, to establish the man of sin, the son of perdition on his accursed throne, whence he may again thunder through the earth his anathemas upon princes and upon subjects-immure the saints in prison—cause their blood to flow in streams—fill Christendom with gibbets, racks and crosses—and enkindle again in every land, the infernal flames of martyrdom. When too the corrupt streams appears to be running out in Spain, thither you see the British fly with their wonted zeal to stop the ebbing current. They succeeded. The bloody inquisition, 3 the invention of Satan, the engine of hell is restored. Verily, they are the strong bulwark of that unholy religion: Hence it is evident, not only that the government of England is antichristian, but also that it has done every thing in its power to support him, who is emphatically called Antichrist. That too, which makes such conduct more strange and wicked, is, that the coronation oath requires the king of England to exert his power and influence for the suppression of popery. 4 Shall such a government stand! So assuredly as God has spoken it. Babylon the great, the mystery of iniquity shall fall, and all kingdoms, which have aided and supported her cause. Is the gospel of peace to overspread the earth? Then every warlike kingdom must be overturned. But we have proved, that the government of England has war interwoven in its very nature, therefore it must fall before the gospel of peace. How soon, or what nation shall be the instrument of its destruction, we cannot foresee. Perhaps it may fall in the present contest. Perhaps America may be the instrument. All things are possible with God. When he pleases, a David slays a Goliath. When he pleases, at the sound of horns, walls and towers fall down. “When the Lord their God is with them, he children of Israel, who are like two little flocks of kids, put to flight and totally defeat the Syrians, though they filled the country.” The weaker the instrument, and more improbable the event, the greater glory redounds to God, and the greater is the humiliation of the vanquished. This leads me to observe,

3dly. That the similarity of the character and conduct of Sennacherib, with the disposition and deportment of our enemies, forms another ground of confidence.

They like him, considered themselves invincible. They spoke and acted as if they thought no God was able to deliver out of their hand. Especially they vaunted beyond measure of their maritime force. Having so long devoted their principal attention to this species of armament, having augmented their naval forces beyond those of any other nation, or even of all other nations combined; and having been generally victorious by sea, they conceived themselves as lords uncontrolled of the watery element. Particularly they looked with disdain upon our infant navy. Like Sennacherib, having conquered other nations far superior to us, they as it were, said, what are you, that your God should deliver you out of our hands? In a word, the pride and haughtiness of Britain, have become proverbial, If “Pride then go before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” may we not expect, that she must soon fall?

4thly. The result in the present war, has already shewn, that we have some ground of confidence that the Lord our God is with us, to help us and to fight our battles.

The naval armaments of our enemy, in every instance of equal contest, have been defeated. Their proud flag has been struck and borne off in triumph. Not only have we been victorious, but our victories have been crowned with peculiar glory. In the different sea-engagements, our loss has been comparatively nothing. Our superiority over our enemies in naval contest, has become greater than theirs, over any other nation. Such too has been the celerity of conquest, that our naval heroes may adopt the very expressive language of Caesar, and say, I came, I saw, I conquered. Not only have they been victorious, when they attacked single ships; but also, when they engaged fleets. Every thing considered, the hero of the Nile, will but little exceed in celebrity, our heroes of the Lakes. That too, which adds splendor to their victories, is, that in both they give the glory to God. The hero of Erie, says: It has pleased the Almighty to give us the victory. The hero of Champlain, before the engagement, in imitation of Hezekiah, prayed fervently for divine protection; and after the battle, he pointed to heaven, and said, There is the power that protects man.

By land too, there have been several instances, in which, the Lord our God appeared to be with us, to help us and to fight our battles. In several engagements on the Niagara frontier, though the force of the enemy was nearly double that of our people, we were victorious. How wonderful also the result of the battle at Plattsburgh! Eight thousand regulars, 5 a number of them the invincible of Europe, composed the enemy’s forces. Our force consisted of fifteen hundred regulars (a considerable part of whom were the invalid remains of another army) and of about the same number of untrained militia. Yet, strange to relate! As if their commander in chief had, like the king of Syria, and his host, “heard a noise of chariots and a noise of horses,” the enemy fled in the utmost consternation, and, like the Syrians, in their precipitate flight, they left their implements of war, and an abundance of very valuable stores. On our own Peninsula too the interposition of heaven was equally evident. The enemy, headed by a daring desperado, made a night-attack upon a little band of our people, not more than half their number. Soon did their commander, who was proud and boastful as Sennacherib, fall. And, remarkable providence! Just as the means of their defense failed our men, the enemy precipitately fled. Surely here, with propriety, we may erect our Ebenezer, and say, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” The result of the attack upon Baltimore, too, is not without its evidence of divine interposition, as well for our protection as for the confounding of our proud and boastful enemy. The general, who commanded there, had boastingly set at defiance all our forces. He vauntingly said, he would rather meet fifty thousand, than ten thousand such troops in the field. But even before a general engagement took place, he received his death wound, by the hand of one of those, whom he had so contemptuously despised. Soon was the vaunting tongue silenced in death; and the hero weltered in his own blood, in the very spot, where he confidently expected to be crowned with victory and glory. Does not this case appear somewhat similar to the case, to which our text refers? The Syrians most confidently expected to take Jerusalem; but they returned home with shame. I might mention several other instances of success attending our arms; but time will not permit. I shall only add, that by the blessing of God, our north-western and south-western frontiers have been delivered from the merciless savagism, which pillages and plunders every thing in its way, and murders promiscuously, men, women and children. But methinks, I hear some ask; “what do you say of several defeats, which our armies have experienced, and especially of the capture of Washington?” I answer, that these were necessary to humble our pride, and to convince us of our dependence upon God. The destruction at Washington was peculiarly well calculated to humble our nation. There was the acme, the concentration of the pride and extravagance of the nation. The public buildings there exhibited a pride, which ill become our government, and especially in its infantile years. That disaster too was by providence overruled for our advantage. Rulers and people were asleep. But this awaked us from our lethargy: It roused the nation to see their danger, and to prepare for the defense of their property and their lives.

Lastly, that the ground of our confidence may be complete, let us, like Hezekiah reform the nation.

We, as well as the Jews, have much need of reformation. Though like them we have not erected altars to idols, and worshipped them in high places; yet we have done that which was equally wicked. No nation ever increased as rapidly, as we have done, in wealth and respectability. Equally fast too did we increase in irreligion, pride, luxury and extravagance, and vice of every description. We abandoned the altars of Jehovah, and erected altars to riches, sensuality and vain ambition. In the high places of gaiety and vanity, grandeur and pomp we zealously worshipped the God of this world; instead of righteousness and judgment running down our streets in streams, riot, excess and dissipation, gaming and gambling, injustice, fraud and extortion, slander and calumny, lewdness and debauchery, profane swearing, blasphemy and Sabbath breaking, swept through our country, like torrents. Let us then break off all our sins by repentance. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let us do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” Let us like Hezekiah, be zealous for the worship, service and glory of the Lord. Be exhorted, my dear hearers, to reverence the name and attributes of Jehovah, to keep holy his Sabbaths, to observe his ordinances, to talk in his statutes and to keep his commandments. Let the whole nation, rulers and people, return unto the Lord by repentance and reformation: and then we may entertain the same confidence with Hezekiah, that “the Lord our God will be with us, to help us and to fight for us,” and to deliver us from our enemies.

To conclude, I exhort the defenders of our beloved country, not to be afraid nor dismayed for all the multitude that is against them. Quit yourselves like men. You fight against a proud, oppressive, unjust and antichristian government, a kingdom devoted to destruction. You fight for your independence, for civil and religious liberty, for rights purchased by the blood of your fathers. “You fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses.” You defend the only land, where manly freedom is enjoyed, and where the gospel of peace and salvation, may, unshackled by political interference, “have free course, run and be glorified.” Should such men as you flee! Heaven forbid it. Your beloved country calls. Bravely rally round its standard. Gird on your harness, and put it not off, till you have put to flight your proud enemies—till you have retrieved the honor of your country, re-established your glorious independence, and have obtained an honorable peace. And trusting that our nation, will this day, humble themselves before God, repent of their national and individual sins, and hereafter turn from their evil ways. I would not close this discourse in the animating language of my text. Be strong and courageous, be not dismayed for all the multitude of your enemies, for there be more with us, than with them. With them is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And to him will we ascribe all the glory. Amen.

If it be objected to this discourse, that it has a greater tendency to exalt than to humble the pride of the nation, and is therefore unsuitable to the occasion: The author replies, that if declaring to an individual, that his salvation depends upon God’s “working in him to will and to do,” has a tendency to increase his pride; then teaching a nation that their safety depends upon the help of the Lord, will tend to exalt their pride. To an attentive reader it will plainly appear, that the discourse is calculated to shew the importance of having just grounds for confidence in divine protection and assistance, and that whenever this nation has been successful in the present war, they should give the glory to the Lord of hosts.

 


Endnotes

1. Antichristian means opposed to Christ, or to the propagation of the Christian religion in its simplicity and purity. To constitute a government then antichristian, it is not necessary that it be subject to the Pope, who is emphatically called antichrist. The reformation of England, therefore, from popery, does not free her from the charge of being antichristian. It only frees her from the charge of antichristian papacy. It is doubted however, by some, whether her reformation has been great enough to free her even from this charge. The union of church and state, it is supposed, bears some resemblance to a mark of the beast. When, therefore, the author of this discourse calls the government of England antichristian, he does not mean that it is in no degree reformed from popery, or that its prince, who is the head of the church, is emphatically the antichrist. He is please too, to find, that the Episcopal church in this country, tho’ they trace their origin to the church of England, do not contemplate her as the origin of their church in her established form, as connected with the civil government, and supported by it. The following is an extract from a sermon delivered by Bishop Hobart at the opening of the General Convention, May 18, 1814. “In boasting of our origin from the church of England, the preacher does not contemplate her as enriched with secular wealth, adorned with secular honors, or defended by the secular arm. Of the policy of this union of the civil and ecclesiastical authority, so that the latter in exchange for the wealth and patronage of the former, relinquishes a portion of her legitimate spiritual powers, and is in danger of being viewed as the mere creature of human institution, and of being made the engine of state policy, there have been sound churchmen, even of her own communion, who have entertained serious doubts.
Nor is the church of England contemplated in connection with the character or conduct of the government or nation where she is established, concerning which, wise and good men (and within the knowledge of him, who addresses you,) correct and exemplary churchmen entertain very different opinions; and your preacher would deprecate as unsound in principle and most impolitic in its results, any connection of our church, as a religious communion, with the principles and views of political parties.
Nor does he contemplate the church of England in that particular organization of her government, and those local ecclesiastical appendages, which involve no essential principle of church order. But in boasting our origin from the church of England, he views her merely as a spiritual society, possessing the faith, the order, and the worship, which were the characteristics and the glory of the primitive ages of the church.”
The author of this discourse will not therefore in his strictures on the British government, be considered as even insinuating any reflections against the Episcopal church in this country. His strictures refer only to the establishment. And if the intimation, just quoted, (viz. that the church in consequence of the establishment “relinquishes a portion of her legitimate spiritual power”) be correct, the establishment must be antichristian; for it is certainly contrary to the authority given by Christ to his church. To her and her officers, and to them alone, without any civil connection, “the keys of the kingdom are given.” But Bishop Hobart declares that his church does not trace its origin to the established church of England, or which is the same thing to her “enriched with secular wealth, adorned with secular honors, or defended by the secular arm, or in that particular organization of her government and local ecclesiastical appendages.” Of a church of England without these the author of this discourse has never heard. Divest the church in England of these and it is no longer (appellatively) the church of England. It has lost its primary essential mode. Why is it called the church of England? Certainly not as “merely a spiritual society,” but because it is established by the government of England. Since then the Bishop has chosen for their origin, a church, of which the author of this discourse has never heard, he cannot be considered as reflecting even against the origin of the Episcopal church in this country.

2. See Blackstone, vol. I. page 279.

3. This diabolical tribunal, says a late writer, takes cognizance of heresy, Judaism, Mahometanism, sodomy, and polygamy: and the people stand in so much fear of it, that parents deliver up their children, husbands their wives, and masters their servants to its officers, without daring in the least to murmur. The prisoners are kept for a long time, till they themselves turn their own accusers, and declare the cause of their imprisonment; for they are neither told their crime, nor confronted with witnesses. As soon as they are imprisoned, their friends go into mourning and speak of them as dead, not daring to solicit their pardon, lest they should be brought in as accomplices. When there is no shadow of proof against the pretended criminal, he is discharged after suffering the most cruel tortures, a tedious and dreadful imprisonment and the loss of the greatest part of his property. Those, that are condemned suffer the most excruciating death. They are placed at the top of a post twelve feet high. Their faces are first severely scorched and burned by the application of ignited combustibles. A fire is then kindled under them and they are rather roasted, than burned to death. There cannot be a more lamentable spectacle. The sufferers continually cry out, while they are able; pity for the love of God; pity for the love of God.
Since preaching the sermon the author has ascertained from good authority, that the society of Jesuits is also revived. The plan of this society is as effectual, as any invention of infernal wisdom can be, for the support of popish antichrist, and the destruction of the peace, safety and happiness of all who refuse to do homage to the beast. Every member of it takes a vow of implicit obedience to the Pope. They associate with all ranks, and assume all characters, that they may ascertain the intentions and views of all. They oppose every thing, that favors toleration in religion, and consequently Protestantism; and encourage and support, with the utmost zeal, every thing, that favors ecclesiastical and civil persecution. Of all societies, that ever was formed, this excels in intrigue, multiplicity of schemes, indefatigable zeal and unwearied diligence. In consequence of the baleful effects, which were discovered to result from this order, the different powers in Europe, one after another, expelled its members from their several kingdoms, and at length the Pope himself totally suppressed and abolished it.

4. Or which is the same thing; he swears “that he will to the utmost of his power, maintain the protestant reformed religion established by the law.” See, form of the oath, Blackstone’s Com. Vol. I, page 235. Protestant religion is so called because it protests against popery. The one therefore cannot exist, except to the demolition of the other.

5. Several accounts from Canada state the forces of the enemy to have been fourteen or fifteen thousand.