This sermon was preached by Charles Turner on a day of Fasting and Prayer in Massachusetts on May 15, 1783.
MAY 15, 1783.
BEING A DAY APPOINTED BY GOVERNMENT
FOR PUBLICK FASTING AND PRAYER.
BY CHARLES TURNER
A Discourse, & c.
I Chronicles xvi.29.
Give unto the Lord the Glory due unto His Name.
These words are a portion of a Psalm, composed by a King of Israel, to be sung, on occasion of bringing up the Ark of God, from the house of Obed-edom, into the place prepared for it, in the city of David. It may not be amiss to read them, with some connected sentences, and subjoin a few hints to discover the sense.
Give unto the Lord, says the devotional Prince, from an heart replete with the noblest sentiments of piety; give unto the Lord, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength; give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; bring an offering and come before him; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: Let not the praises of Him, who governs the whole world, be confined to the people of Israel. Let all the kindred nations, on the face of the whole earth, join to celebrate the unrivalled glories of his perfections, and his almighty, most gracious, and unexceptionably moral government. Let them assay, in the solemnities of public worship, as well as in other ways, to pay unto him, adoring, grateful and reverential respects, proportional to his merits; in connection with the cultivation of that universal holiness, which appears with such an incomparable beauty and luster, when viewed as most highly agreeable to the divine moral nature and pleasure, most highly becoming the house and worshippers of the Holy One of Israel, and essentially important to our enjoying true and rational happiness, and the continuance of those favors for which we praise our divine benefactor.
We find a vein of expression similar to this, several times adopted, in the devotional sublime compositions of the old testament; nor can I suppose it possible, that the bringing it, once more, into public view, contemplation and use, should be disagreeable to any persons, who are possessed of the true sentiments and feeling of religion and patriotism; in connection with the set of ideas, concerning the uncommon measures of Heaven, towards our Country which must be supposed to crowd in upon their minds, on this occasion.
By glorifying God, or giving glory to His name, we do not, or at least ought not to expect, that we shall be able to make an addition, to the dignity, and honorableness of the Divine Nature, works of creation, and administrations of government; farther than, by endeavoring to render his moral creatures more honorable, in promoting religion and virtue among them. Our part is, to glorify God, by improving the means of grace, maintaining a prayerful regard to the assistances of the Holy Spirit, and using sincere endeavors and exertments, so as to cherish, in our own hearts, honorable and respectful thoughts of that Great Being; and by endeavoring to promote a respectfulness, for the Divine Majesty, in the minds of others—speaking to his honor, in our conversation—joining in the public praises and acknowledgements of Zion, as well as, in more private social worship; and making it manifest, by our whole deportment, in the world, that we esteem the perceptive authority of our heavenly Father, to be worthy of the highest regards, and judge his favor to be better than life; instead of bringing the authority and friendship of God into contempt, in the eyes of our fellow creatures, by our impious and vicious lives and conversations. In the sense I have mentioned it is, that we are, with one mind, and with one mouth to glorify God, even the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the same sense, the fruits of righteousness are, by Jesus Christ, unto the praise and glory of God.
A sincere, and conscientious conformity, to the whole system of Christian duty, is the general method, for glorifying God; but attention to the language of our text, leads us to be a little more particular, and enquire, what may be especially incumbent on us, as we are required to give unto the Lord, the glory which is due to his name. He is above the possibility of becoming indebted to us, according to the rules of commutative justice; but glory is due from us to him, in the strictest sense: and if we render glory to him, in any measure proportionate to our obligations, the revenue will not be small.
Our duty is, to pay to the Lord, the highest honors we are capable of, in the use of the powers and advantages, he has been pleased to favor us with; honors, as highly raised, as possible, above those degrees of respect, which it is decent for us to show, to the greatest and most deserving of men, or other beings, in the world he has created; to worship and praise the Lord, with suitable frequency, and with the highest practicable ardors, of well instructed and regulated zeal; and, in the discharge of duty, in our several departments and relations in life, and in all manner of conversation, to exert ourselves for attaining, through grace, to the highest pitch of godliness and virtue, and bringing forth much fruit, whereby our heavenly Father shall be glorified.
To come up to the spirit of our text, uncommon judicial dealings must be acknowledged, and uncommon favors celebrated, with those peculiar exercises of piety, which are suitable to the particular nature, importance and demands of such divine dispensations: and, if we receive blessings and privileges from Heaven, of singular richness and estimation, to use the best diligence for their preservation, and to improve them, in the most virtuous, advantageous and faithful manner, is due grateful respect, to the great and generous Donor of all good; is suitable to that, which is justly expected of them, to whom much is committed; and belongs to a proper conformity, to the demand of the text before us.
In fine, if we would be found, in the happy society of those, who give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name, we must come, through assistance divine, to love the Lord our God, with all our hearts, and with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. If we come up to this standard, sincerely; and act, as uniformly, as the imperfections of this state will admit, and in the whole of life, under the well-directed influence, of these grandest of all principles, we shall be accepted, through the blood of the covenant, though we fall short of glorifying him, with that strict and high moral perfection, which man might have attained to, in a state of innocency; and, though we fall unspeakably short of glorifying him, adequately to his real and plenary dignity; for that is beyond the sphere, not only of imperfect men on earth, but also of the Angels in Heaven. Said the Lord’s ministers to the congregation, Nehem. 9, 5, Stand up, and bless the Lord your God forever and ever; and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above blessing and above praise.
The reasonableness of paying superlative honors to him is obvious, from the consideration of the transcendent dignity of His nature and operations, who hath set his glory above the heavens. Whatever perfections are most honorable, are possessed by him infinitely; or, however, in the highest degree and manner, in which it is possible for them to be possessed, by any being. It is glorious, to be the author of great and numerous works, evidencing the highest wisdom, the best design, and most amiable goodness? His works are great and manifold, in wisdom bath he made them all—In a wise regard to creature happiness, in connection with the manifestation of his own glory. He is most honorable as Governor of the world. Is there glory in a Throne? He is seated upon one, which is high and lifted up. Is there glory in an honorable court and retinue? He is attended by ten thousand times ten thousand, who excel in strength, nor less in wisdom, and the most honorable accomplishments, of a moral nature. If there be glory in extent of dominion; His kingdom ruleth over all. Is it glorious to reign with unlimited power? He doth according to his will, in the Armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him what doest thou? Is it glorious, for an absolute monarch (for such the Great God is, and ought to be) to rule in the most undeviating manner, according to all the highest moral perfections? Numerous periods of inspiration, furnish the most ample attestation, to the excellency of the whole divine government, and administrations, in this regard. Does it belong to an honorable parental ruler, to discover an indignation against immorality, as tending to the misery of his realms; to use suitable chastisements, in terrorem [Latin “in fear”], and with a view to reformation and happiness—chastisements, regulated by perfect justice, and under the most merciful restraints and limitations? The Lord is glorious in holiness; just and true, and kind, in his judicial dispensations: and as he does not afflict, nor grieve, willingly, He has no disposition to exceed the measure, which may be necessary, for answering the great and salutary purpose. Is it honorable to be generous to the ill-deserving; and especially, to confer eminent favors on those, who are meritorious of high displeasure? His tender mercies are over all his works. He does good to the evil and unthankful. He gave his Son, for the redemption of a lapsed world; and, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And if we properly consider the favors, God has, of late years, conferred on the people of the United States of America, in connection with our real character, as to religion and morality. I misjudge, if the generosity and grace, of the Governor of the world, will not appear, with a distinguished luster.
Both the call of civil Authority, and the dispensations of Divine Providence admonish, and invite us, at this time, to blend the exercise of Fasting and Thanksgiving together; and the comprehensive text, and subject chosen, are not unfavorable to such a purpose.
That we should earnestly endeavor, and supplicate the grace of God, that we may be thereby enabled, so to acknowledge, and resent his mercies and his judgments, as to put in practice, all the exercises of unfeigned repentance, is suitable to the season, and incumbent on us, as we desire to give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.
Says the good old Israelitish General, upon a certain affecting occasion, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him.
The holy God, has been visiting this People, in his permissive providence, with a distressing scene, of oppression and war; a war, which has been attended, with unusual difficulties and embarrassments; with considerable expense of interest and lives; and which, soberly speaking, has been prosecuted, by our enemies, with circumstances, of uncommon rage, barbarity and cruelty. These calamities, we did not deserve, from our fellow-creatures; but our sins have been such as to merit them all, at the hand of God: and it is our duty, to glorify his name, by ascribing righteousness to him, notwithstanding all that has come upon us.
Before the commencement of the war (if not since) we imbibed the false maxims, and the vices, of that which we fondly called the Parent State, with a thirst and avidity, which were truly amazing. There appears a judicial pertinency, in permitting our punishment to arrive, from the same quarter; and I have sometimes mistrusted, that the sufferings referred to, were especially intended as a chastisement for our folly, in thus greedily adopting the sins, of an old, corrupted and depraved Country. However, certain it is, that the most of our maritime Towns, which, in consequence of their situation and mercantile connections, had the chief, and most immediate share, in the inglorious importation, of European error, wickedness and folly, have suffered, in a manner, in some degree distinguishing. And certain it is, that, the degree of our guilt, from what quarter so ever it arose, must have been great in the sight of God; otherwise, that infinitely merciful Being, would not have brought, such a discipline upon us. The kind intention of Heaven was, our reformation, in order to our happiness; but how have our manners comported, with the urgent, monitory language of the divine rod?
A more than common, prevailing spirit of self-correction, and an extraordinary exercise of virtues and graces, were justly to be expected of us, upon the alarming occasion. Would it not therefore be a shocking consideration, if, on candid enquiry, it should appear, that people, of the several ranks and ages, are, on the whole, as sinful, or more sinful, than they were, when the war commenced? Some, we trust, have been instructed in the fear of the Lord; but is there more true religion and virtue in the land now, than there was eight years ago? We fear there is less. If we do not judge incorrectly, pride, and avarice, with all the vices which come under the denomination of luxury, disregard to the Lord’s-Days, and Christian institutions, profaneness and deism, have been making advancements, with no moderate strides, even when we have been in the furnace of afflictive discipline; while a general decay and languor of vital piety, has been, by some, and I fear too justly, complained of. It is further remarkable, that the sins specified, in which, we are supposed to have increased, when suffering such heavy judgments, are sins of no inferior magnitude; as, I am persuaded, calm attention to the language of scripture, in relation to them, would convince you.
Disrespect to the Lord’s Sabbaths and ordinances is aggravated, in proportion to the importance of a serious observation of them, in order to preserve, and promote the excellent religion of Jesus Christ, for God’s glory and human happiness.
Pride is said to be the first, if not the greatest of sins. It is one of the most fruitful sources of oppression; it is peculiarly dishonest and hateful to God, as well as odious to men. No wonder then, it should be singled out, as it seems to be, in Divine Providence, for a sin, to be remarkably branded, on many occasions, by judgments in this world; that pride should go before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Nor is it surprising to find the Prophet saying, that the Lord purposed to stain the pride of all glory. Those instances of most consummate arrogancy, which, in late times, we have seen succeeded, by the fall of those, who were so elated, into some of the most humiliating of all circumstances, afford a striking comment, on those emphatical passages of Scripture, which have a reference to this kind of immorality.
As for avarice, with luxurious sensuality and effeminacy, they are particularly grieving to the holy spirit; no true love to God, or to our Country, can subsist in the heart that is captivated with them; and I may add, no substantial peace and happiness; while they are fruitful in every device, to invade the rights of others, for the accumulation of wealth, or the support of extravagance, and a licentious career.
And what shall we say, concerning the guilt of our numerous profane swearers; in the sea-faring employment, in the army, in seaport towns, and in other parts of the land; whose practice has such a direct tendency, to bring the name of God into contempt, and weaken men’s veneration for a solemn oath, that great and useful band of society. They have made proficiency in this horrible wickedness, even in the heat and rage of those military engagements, which are attended with such imminent danger of dying in an instant, and being suddenly transferred to His tribunal, who has said that, by our words we shall be condemned. To the admonition of the ancient Prophet, to glorify the Lord in the fires, even the name of the Lord God of Israel, in the isles of the sea, they have not attended.
Or what shall be said, concerning our modern gentlemen, who, like the Pharisees of old, are disposed to suggest, that Jesus Christ was an impostor, if not an instrument of the devil, employed to impose a false religion on mankind, for the answering of worldly and base purposes? They would cashier a religion, the most honorary to God, and the best calculated to promote liberty and happiness in society, and the present and future felicity of individuals, of anything that ever made its appearance, upon the stage of this world; and they ought, in my opinion, to be considered and treated as enemies to human kind. How do they dishonor the Son! And by so doing, dishonor the Father also. I do believe, with all my heart, and with all my soul, that deism, in its nature, guilt, malignity and dangerous tendency, comes the nearest to the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, never to be forgiven, in this world, nor in the world to come, of any sin which is, or indeed can be committed, in these later ages of the world, by the sons of men.
While I consider our progress, in infidelity and profaneness, with other vices, when under such an heat of divine wrath, I cannot forbear thinking of those words, in the Book of God, And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun, and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire, and men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues, and they repented not to give him glory.
It may be further observed, without impertinency, that while, during the war, there has been a general decay of piety and virtue, and an increase of several species of heinous sinfulness, amidst the most distressing and awakening dispensations, there has been also a series of great and marvelous interpositions, in our favor. The goodness of God is adapted and designed to lead us to love and gratitude, and in the result to repentance; and the more signal tokens of it appear, in a more forcible and striking manner, to demand our penitential return to the love and service of God. How amazingly have we resisted the design and tendency of the most wonderful dispensations of divine love and commiseration! Nor may we forget, that, in the meantime, we have been blessed with the free enjoyment of those Christian privileges, which gave us advantages for high attainments, in those graces and virtues, which are for the honor of God, and the public utility.
My drift is to convince, that the sin of this People, and especially of the more degenerate parts of the Community, is greatly aggravated in the sight of God. I am not sensible that I have been intemperately high in my colorings; if I have not, the mind must be extremely callous, that does not admit the designed conviction.
It appears to me, that the devil has, in late times, come down to America, in great wrath, and equal cunning; I trust it was because he knew, or at least entertained a well-grounded suspicion, that he was likely to have but a short time. If, while this people, by the singular favor and aid of Heaven, were contending, with so much honor and success, for independency and republican constitutions, it was the plan of the arch-adversary, to tempt them into a scene of wickedness, so aggravated, so dishonorable and provoking to an holy God; and a scene of vice, which is so agreeable to the spirit and purposes of monarchy and tyranny, and so utterly abhorrent to the genius, and to the just expectation of preserving the constitution and blessings of a free republic; that, in this way, he might bring us to put on the inconsistent ridiculous figure of a man, who is industrious, as soon and as fast as possible, to destroy with one hand, that which he is most earnestly contending to build up with the other, I should view it, as one of the most notable devices, that ever was invented in the cabinet of the infernal regions. But if, calling in by prayer, the almighty Arm, to our assistance, we resist the devil, he will fly from us.
On the whole, if it is a sober, truth, that our sin has been so great and aggravated, while we have been contending for freedom, what are the reflections which are suitable on this occasion! Ought we not to be most deeply humbled, in the sight of God, confessing our merit of utter destruction? Ought we not to realize, with trembling, our dependence on infinite grace and mercy, for the prevention of our suffering those calamities of sickness, of drought and scarcity, of discord, and other distressing judgments, which we so highly deserve, and which we are by no means free from danger of? For God may intend to vary the method of his treatment of us, as a judicious and kind parent, when his children appear to be hardened, under one mode of discipline, may be disposed to alter his measures, and adopt some other. And there may be particular danger, that God will bring some terrible mortality to those, whose sins, in the late times, have been as crimson; while he preserves our national privileges, for the sake of the rising, and future generations. Remember the case of those, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness; Those murmurers, who despised the promised land, and desired to return to Egypt; whose children were to enjoy the land flowing with milk and honey, while the rich privilege was denied to the sinful parents. Ought we not to renounce every sin, with the most penitential sorrow, remorse and abhorrence; and devote ourselves to serve the Lord, according to the directions of the Gospel, through the spirit, with the whole heart, our best powers, and noblest exertions? Ought we not to put up most fervent cries for pardon, through the blood of Jesus Christ; for the aversion of deserved judgments, the continuance of enjoyed, and the concernment of needed blessings? And, ought we not to adore the grace of God, in granting us so honorable, and advantageous a peace, as we have now a prospect of; after we have so dishonored and offended him, in the course of the war, as being grace, so divinely generous, as to exceed all astonishment? Highest praise and love, gratitude and devotion must be rendered, if we would give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; and, if the tear of unfeigned repentance, is not, by such treatment, drawn forth, the heart must be made of steel and adamant.
I know not how, fully to account for God’s disclosing to us the brightness of his face, in such a manner, as he does at present, while we are involved, with so little remorse, in such a scene of impiety and vice as hath been described, without introducing the supposition of his strong inclination, to give before the world, a striking attestation, to the justice of our cause; to manifest the affection and esteem, he entertains for liberty, and his holy aversion to oppressive devices and measures; to discover the distinguishing regard and tenderness, for those greater degree of religion, which, after all our degeneracy, may possibly remain among us, than are to be found, in the land of our oppressors; to pave the way, for the happiness of our infant offspring, and unborn posterity; to make preparation, possibly, for accomplishing in future time, some high designs of his grace and providence, concerning America, and the rest of mankind; and, in the meantime, to try us, in the most extraordinary manner, by mercy, as well as by judgment, with a desire to bring us to repentance, that we may be, a people prepared for the Lord. God grant, that all our hearts, may be properly coincident, with all his high and holy purposes, so far as they may be discovered by us! One of his great and good designs appears, with a sufficient degree of perspicuity; I mean his purpose, by his merciful and judicial dispensations, to teach us the evil and danger of sin; to convince us of the necessity, of forsaking all our immoralities; and the dutifulness of devoting ourselves to serve him, with the most impartial reformation, and grateful affection, in the kingdom of his dear Son.
Although God, for wise reasons, may sometimes see fit, to defer the infliction of those public calamities on a people, which their sins deserve; and to be patient, towards a particular offender; yet does it highly concern each individual sinner, to consider his constant exposedness to death; and that, if he dies without repentance, from that point of time, his judgment will not linger, nor his damnation slumber: Except the addition, which may be made to his infernal woe, at the resurrection and final judgment; and the increase of misery, which may take place, on occasion of his increasing wickedness.
The confusions of the late war, it must be confessed, have not been very favorable to the purposes of sedate consideration; while, at the same time, they have furnished scenes of extraordinary temptation. And these things may possibly be thought to plead some little degree of apology, for our delinquency in time past; but now, God is indulging to us, an opportunity for calm reflection. Behold the goodness and severity of God! If we do not now view them both, in a contemplative manner, and are not, of course, brought to the exercise of a godly reforming sorrow for our sins, we shall be found utterly inexcusable, and have reason to be apprehensive of the most melancholy consequences.
But, according to present appearances, a most glorious, an almighty, most wise and gracious God, has blasted all the proud and invidious, the assuming and avaricious purposes of the sons of thralldom to enslave America; and all the blessings of liberty are ours, unless we choose, through immorality, and supine carelessness, to lose the advantage of those great things, which have been wrought for us, and, through the grace and help of the Most High, have been wrought by us. He is restoring to us the blessings of peace, after an arduous conflict; ascertaining to us an absolute Independency; doing us an illustrious honor, in the sight of the nations; and confirming to us those privileges, which were so highly esteemed by our Ancestry; and for which they suffered so freely, so patiently, and so much!
Scarcely can we enjoy our happiness, in the absence of those Worthies. Their company, at such a Time, the compassion, in a reflection on sufferings, and the mutual gratulations, at the friendly sympathizing interview, would sublimate rejoicing into ecstasy! But we must be content, at present, without their society; and we trust they are blessed, with much higher felicity, than can possibly be enjoyed, by the inhabitants of this world, even in our circumstances.
It might be thought by some (whether justly or not) to savor of malevolence, and therefore to be exceptionable, should we, at this time, adopt the language of the Apostle John, and say, Rejoice over her thou Heaven, and ye holy Apostles and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her; but to engage our hearts, in praising and blessing, and giving thanks to our Fathers God and ours, with elevated strains of sincerest, and most joyful devotion, must by no means be omitted, if we desire to conform to our duty, in giving to the Lord the glory due unto his name. He has been pleased to glorify his power and wisdom, grace and mercy on our behalf, in a very wonderful manner; and our part is, imploring his grace for our assistance, to exert our best abilities, for making his praise glorious.
I believe, and all the people in general, of these United States believe, and, I hope in God, they will forever judge, that such liberty, as that, which is now opening to our view and enjoyment, involves in it, or furnishes advantages for obtaining all that is great and good, and richest, and best, conducing to the happiness of society on earth, to the internal true peace, and self-possession of individuals, and their everlasting life and glory. If, therefore, our estimation be just, and the ardor of our devotion ought to bear a proportion to the value of a blessing received, it is our duty to command our souls, to bless the Lord, by the noblest exertions of the best powers, which heaven has endowed them with.
Other considerations may be brought into view, whereby it will appear, that exalted strains of praise, thanksgiving and blessing, are proper sacrifices, at this day.
If a sense of obligation is justly heightened, as indeed it is, on the receipt of a savior, especially one of great importance, from a benefactor whom we have highly offended and injured; and our sin against the divine majesty has been such, as hath been represented, in a former stage of this discourse, what feelings of grateful resentment ought to possess our hearts, at this time, towards the father of mercies and God of all grace!
Nor may we, with any degree of innocency, forget the favorable appearances of Heaven, of an extraordinary complexion, during our contest, which have led on to the glorious issue, in which we are now called to rejoice.
And what a field here opens! It is the business of a folio, rather than of a sermon; of a year, or an age, rather that of a few days, to exhibit such a representation of these things, as the subject truly merits. Blushing, therefore, with a consciousness of my own deficiency, I must beg you to be contended with a few hints only.
Some of our towns and cities have been, in a greater of less degree, brought to desolation; many of our friends and fellow countrymen have lost their lives in the high places of the field, as well as on the sea; and Lord! How many have perished, by shocking abuse, in a state of imprisonment! The idea is too painful to be dwelt on. Various have been the distressing scenes, which God has called us to pass through; but with what mercies, reliefs and assistances, well-judged, kind and seasonable, have our calamities been interspersed!
Let us consider the American Characters, which God has been pleased to form, to raise up, inspirit, support and succeed, for our relief and assistance, in our distresses—The spirit of liberty, Protestantism and union, which has been diffused through this land, among people of clashing civil interests, and various religious complexions; which thing, we seriously judge, has been wrought by the finger of God. Consider, the patience in pressing trials, and the worthy fortitude and spirit of perseverance, wherewith God has been pleased to endow this people. Consider, in what a manner we have succeeded, and the lives of our people have been precious in the sight of the Lord, even to astonishment, in many, if not most of the encounters, which we have had with the enemy. Consider, how strangely we have prospected by sea, and have been enriched with captures from our oppressors, as the Israelites of old, by the borrowed wealth of Egypt. Consider, the abilities, the navy, and the intimidating reputation of those, with whom we have been called to contend; the endless arts they have made use of , to deceive, to affrighten and discourage, to disunite, to weaken and ruin us; together with the exposedness of our long sea coast, and many maritime towns; and our imbecility, want of resources, and scantiness of preparations, in the early stages of the war especially: and yet, that the enemy have scarcely gained any advantages over us, except such as must naturally and almost necessarily be expected by us, unless we could have flattered ourselves, that God would conduct the war, in our favor, in a manner, not only wonderful but perfectly miraculous. Meditate the powerful alliances obtained, notwithstanding the contempt, with which we had, by many, been generally treated before-time; and the growing interest, which it has pleased God to favor us with, in the respect, esteem and friendship, of almost all Europe: Consider how the supercilious expectations, and anticipated triumphs of our enemies have been blasted, by the illustrious reduction of Two whole British Armies. In fine, let us consider all things as conspiring, in the most wonderful, wise, powerful and kind providence of God, to effectuate such an event, as now captivates our attention. And having our sense of obligation to the Governor of the world highly improved, let us with one heart, and with one voice exclaim, bless the Lord, O our souls, and all that is within us bless his holy name; bless the Lord O our souls, and forget not his wonderful benefits!
The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are, or at least ought to be glad. By what instrumentality our success has been effected, is, in many respects, sufficiently obvious; and if we were favored with the presence of a Prophet among us, he might possibly be able to give us some further light, and inform use, in how many instances, the Angel of the Lord has been sent for our help and deliverance. We desire, however, to pay no such respects to the means and instruments, which God has employed for our relief and assistance, as would be derogatory from the glory due to Him. While we are sincerely willing to pay, every suitable mark of honor and esteem, to our great and humane benefactors on earth, we reserve and appropriate our religious praises and adorations, to the great Sovereign of the world, to whom alone they are due; in the use of such language at that in 1 Chron. 29: 11-13, Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth, is thine, thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all, and in thine hand is power and might, and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.
Let us realize our immense obligations to the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good, and every perfect gift. And by the most vigilant, and circumspectful attention to every suitable measure, and precaution, for preserving and perpetuating our dear liberties, civil and sacred; by improving them with diligence, good judgment and sobriety; and therefore so, that they may afford us the greatest, the most, and the best happiness, which this world and state are capable of furnishing; by all good conversation in Christ; and by attainments in the divine life, in some good measure correspondent to the degree, in which he has honored Himself and us, by the signal favors and advantages, which he has been pleased to confer upon us, let us endeavor to give unto his Great Name its due glory. If we will take every the best, and most justifiable method, to make our rich privileges contribute in the best manner, to our essential interest and happiness, the God who is Love, will deign to be pleased, and think Himself honored.
Some persons are disposed to hint, that republican freedom is not a thing to be chosen; because mankind are so immoral, fickle and indiscreet, that they are in the utmost danger of using such liberty, to their own ruin. This a mode of argumentation, genuinely papistical; and if a reasoner of this stamp, is supposed to have in contemplation, his own worldly wealth, power and aggrandizement, I am suspicious, he will lose sight of the public freedom, and view earthly grandeur, as a most important boon, highly worth the grasping after, notwithstanding any supposed danger of his improving it, to his own detriment: Whereas, it appears, to the eye of judicious, benevolent, candid and impartial consideration that the People, are, at least, as likely to make an advantageous improvement of republican liberty, as the great men of the earth are, to make a laudable, and profitable use of their grandeur, wealth and power. The language of the protestant and patriotic friend to liberty and the human race, is this, deny not to the people the immense blessing of freedom, through real, much less pretended fears of their destroying themselves by it; but endeavor to raise the people to wisdom and virtue, that so they may improve their freedom, to the greatest and most happifying purposes.
The security and preservation of our privileges, as well as the due improvement of them, calls for our best attention.
The domineering, and abusive principles of depraved nature, on which the systems of spiritual, and civil tyranny have been erected (notwithstanding that the excellent advantages, of a most moral, benevolent and heavenly religion, has been granted to many) have hitherto generally prevailed, to the suppression, and oftentimes to the speedy interment, of those beams of a spirit of freedom, and those systems of liberty, which have, at one time and another, made their appearance upon the face of the earth; and the history of this world, as to the main strokes of it, appears to be chiefly, a story of injurious, oppressive crimes, and the sins, miseries and calamities, which they have occasioned and inferred; if we trace it, from the days of the mighty Hunter, down to the present period. But, O Lord, how long! Is this stygian current, which has, in so deplorable a manner engulfed the happiness of mankind, never to be stopped? With God, all things are possible. To his almighty grace, we make our humble appeal; but not without a consciousness, that we cannot give to the Lord, his due praise and glory, unless we join our best endeavors, for bringing about so important, and desirable an event. A seasonable enquiry is, What can be devised, in addition to the means, which have been already used, at least in this country, for the preservation of freedom, when once asserted and vindicated?
On a long course of observation and reflection, I have come to the following conclusion, that the habits formed in youth, are amazingly strong, inveterate, and inflexible, and do generally and in the main, go with the man, through the various stages of life, and, through the dark valley of the shadow of death, into the eternal state; and that, the character of the world, as to religion and virtue, liberty and happiness, always has, and probably always will depend, in a very great measure, if not almost entirely, upon education. Solemn thoughts, if they are just, for those who are blooming in life, as well as for those, to whom God has committed the charge of them! If our sentiments are correct, there is perhaps no one subject, which can more pertinently claim the attention of the people of these United States, at this time particularly, than that of education; and especially, the improvement of youth, in that Christian practical godliness, public spirit and virtue, which would exclude the vile oppressing passions from their hearts; and form them, to that true spirit of liberty, which is nothing more nor less than a spirit of true Christianity, considered as extending itself into, and operating in reference to matters of civil and ecclesiastical government and immunity.
If I am not prejudiced in favor of my Country, America is blessed with a genius, which deserves the epithet of singular; and if so, it would be rendering due glory, to the Author of all gifts, and not a little honorable to us, if this genius should be exerted for the investigation of some methods, for the right education of all the children of the people, superior than any, which have hitherto been adopted. If this is not the case, it is my opinion, that this is not likely to be, for a long time, a free country. But, if all the youth were educated, in the manner we recommend, The Kingdom of God would appear to have come, in a more signal manner, than ever it has yet done, at least for numerous ages; the perpetuated enjoyment of that freedom, for which we have suffered, would, under the favor of Heaven, be ensured to us; and we might be induced to think of that Millennial state, the approach whereof, does perhaps at this time appear, by several prognostic symptoms, to be in some degree probable.
I do not wish to prescribe, in a manner, that might have the appearance of assumption; but one proposal I will adventure to risk; and that is, that all in high life, and affluent circumstances, form a Combination, to abate, as to every luxurious superfluity, according to the genius of the heavenly, spiritual, moderate, self-denying religion of Jesus Christ; and devote the monies thus redeemed (which would amount to no small sum) to the promotion of such a Christian, and republican education in the land, as hath been recommended; so much excepted, as it might be necessary to distribute among those, who are in circumstances particularly unhappy, in consequence of the calamities of the late war. This is a measure, not unsuitable to be contemplated, on a day of Fasting, or Thanksgiving. And should the people, of the description I have mentioned, incline to come into it, what a glorious instance of conduct would it be! In every light, how patriotic! This would be, in style and taste, high, to some purpose. How would it gladden, and bless the heart of every sincere, and considerate friend to religion, liberty, and his country! What a figure would the combination make, in the page of history, to the latest ages! And what a due tribute of glory would they bring, to the great God, the bountiful Author of all their riches, and means of enjoyment!
Extremely happy should I be, to be furnished with satisfactory evidence, that the young Gentlemen of the University were captivated with that spirit, which I have endeavored, my present discourse should breathe. We do not censure their inclination to excel, in various arts and sciences, which are embellishing, and in a more moderate degree, useful to society; but our grand wish is, to see their ambition chiefly engaged about those things, which are the most worthy, important and glorious; to see them emulous for excelling, in divine science; in love to God and their Country; in truly Christian, and republican sobriety and economy; in the art of being truly happy, in this world and forever; and in the noble principles, and temper of liberty, which may render them blessings to the Commonwealth, by disposing them to use their best endeavors, for cultivating, and perpetuating its freedom and felicity, in connection with pure and undefiled religion. This would be, to their pious parents, and to all the well-principled people among us, especially at this time, when there is such a decay of that virtue, which is so essential to freedom, like rain upon the mown grass. Let not the apprehension of singularity be terrifying to them. In times of general depravity, singularity is the path of virtue, happiness and glory. They have now an opportunity of distinguishing themselves, on a momentous occasion; Heaven grant, that they may not fail of reaping the honor of it! That they should go forth into the world, fraught with those noble principles and passions, which we are intent upon recommending, is the rather desired, because we trust they will ere long fill those important public stations, which will render their instructions and examples, of great and extensive influence. May they consider, how much the glory of God, and the public good are interested, in the improvement they shall make of their talents and advantages; and herewithall bear in mind, that divine declaration, Him that honoreth me, I will honor; but he that despiseth me, shall be lightly esteemed.
Ministers of the Gospel, in some past years, being impressed with a sense of the inestimable value of freedom, and apprehensive of the slavery, wherewith our land was threatened, exerted themselves to enlighten the people concerning their danger, and prompt them to unite in measures for self-defense. And, if they have not, in the days of depreciating currency, been properly rewarded, by their fellowmen, in respect to temporal things, for their courageous exertions, and labors of love, we believe, nevertheless, that they have the satisfaction of a good conscience, and hope, that governed and animated by superior motives, they will always appear as faithful advocates, for the preservation of those rights and privileges, which are so happily vindicated and established.
It has been said, indeed, by moderns, as well as by them of old time, That ministers have no right to interpose, in reference to matters of a political nature. Ministers, however, have a right, at least to preach the Gospel; and, if they might be the means of its being universally propagated, and practically regarded; to the suppression of the exorbitant pride, ambition, covetousness, lust of dominion, and other vile affections, which now reign among men, all the curious, exalted, wicked and formidable machinery of papal, and anti-republican despotism, would instantly be precipitated headlong to the ground, and dashed to pieces; and, if mistrial endeavors might be blessed, for the continuance of such universal, pure Christianity, the Hydra-monsters of civil, and ecclesiastical tyranny, would no more erect their horrendous terrific heads, to the abuse, and destruction of the human race, and to the dishonor of God, and usurpation of his sacred throne, but would be forever banished from this world.
If we intend our Country shall continue free, there must be a constant attention and concern, for the preservation of its freedom, among persons of every order, and of every age. It is as necessary, that the people should keep up a perpetual watch and guard, from age to age, to prevent the rise of those Tumors in the Body-politic, which would be detrimental, and ruinous to its health and happiness, as it is, that a Christian should maintain a vigilant, unintermiting and persevering struggle, to prevent the usurpation, and predominancy of the principles of corrupt nature, in his own heart.
After all, I seem to hear some person say, the republican politician may theorize, and the puritan preach; but the current, nevertheless, will continue its baneful, sweeping and destructive course. Foreign monarchical principles, luxurious excesses, and superfluities will be catched at, with an accelerating pleasure and appetite; The insinuating intrigues, and devices of foreign courts will prevail, to the dissemination of the principles of party spirit, discord and corruption, in the land; extensive commerce, and accumulated opulence, will support the high scenes of ever increasing sensuality, worldly-mindedness and extravagancy; luxury will be fertile, in the generation of every arrogant, over-bearing, injurious and oppressive passion; they, who, on the basis of vile affections, have ripened an arbitrary system of thought, in their minds, will become more confirmed therein; and others, on the same principles, will contract a despotic, and depraved bias of mind; some will be grasping, aspiring, machinating and intriguing; some will be venal; others will be timid; many will be careless; and all in general corrupt: Hence, the vitals of our free constitutions will be gradually, and imperceptibly eaten out, if they are not destroyed by sudden violence; the famed American structure will fall to decay, and go the way of all the earth!
May God forbid it! May the Great Friend to the rights and happiness of mankind forbid it! Who sent his Son into this world to bleed for us, that we might be free indeed. May the dignity and consistency, wherewith He shall be pleased to invest the United States of North America, forbid it! Forbid it thou Holy Spirit! Whose province it is to promote every temperate, every humble, every holy and heavenly, every just, every kind and social disposition in the hearts of men.
But if such an event should take place, after all the great and wonderful things, which God has done for us, and by our instrumentality; and after all that we have undergone, in the grandest of causes; and I might be supposed to remain in this world, to be a spectator of such an unblessed catastrophe—Farewell, to all future enjoyment in life! Sorrow be thou my companion! Grief and wo my constant attendants, till, according to the destination of an Holy God, I return to the dust, from whence I was taken! Nor am I able easily to realize, if, in the infinite grace and mercy of God, I should arrive to the heavenly world, how I could adequately enjoy the Place, as long as the Idea of such an event, should be retained—Whither has the gale of affection driven me!—tis time to give myself a check—if my vehemence I have been guilty of weakness and eccentricity, I beg you will do me the friendship to remember the pathos wherewith the welfare of our dear country is desired, and forget the rest.
Apprehensions of danger we have; but must, nevertheless, encourage ourselves to hope better things concerning America, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Reflecting on all that is past, and anticipating the still greater things, which we humbly trust, the Great God, in his grace and providence, will do, in time to come, for us and ours, you will, without an invitation, join with me, in repeating the following animated Doxologies, which we find recorded, in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Blessing, and honor, and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever, Amen. Blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever,