RELIGION AND PATRIOTISM THE CONSTITUENTS OF A GOOD SOLDIER**
2 Sam. x. 12. Be os good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: And the Lord do that which seemeth him good.
AN hundred years of peace and liberty in such a world as this, is a very unusual thing; and yet our country has been the happy spot that has been
* Preached to Captain Overtoil's Independent Company of Volunteers, raised ia Hanover County, Virginia, August 17,175 S«
distinguished with such a long series of blessings, with little or no interruption. Our situation in the middle of the British Colonies, and our separation from the French, those eternal enemies of liberty and Britons, on the one side by the vast Atlantic; and on the other by a long ridge of mountains, and a wide extended wilderness, have for many years been a barrier to us; and while other nations have been involved in war, we have not been alarmed with the found of the trumpet, nor seen garments .rolled in blood.
But now the scene is changed: now we begin to experience in our turn the fate of the nations of the earth. Our territories are invaded by the power and persidy of France; our frontiers ravaged by merciless savages, and our fellow-subjects there murdered with all the horrid arts of Indian and Popish torture. Our general, unfortunately brave, is fallen, an army of 1300 choice men routed, our sine train of artillery taken, and all this (oh mortifying thought!) all this by four or sive hundred dastardly, insidious barbarians-!
These calamities have not come upon us without warnings. We were long ago apprized of the ambitious schemes of our enemies, and their motions to carry them into execution: and had we taken timely measures, they might have been crushed before they could have arrived at such a formidable height. But how have we generally behaved in such a critical time? Alas! our country has been funk in a deep sleep: a stupid security has unmanned the inhabitants: they could not realize a danger at the distance of two or three hundred miles: they would not be persuaded that even French Papists could seriously design us an injury: and hence little or nothing has been done for the defence of our country in time, except by the compulsion of authority. And now, when the cloud thickens over our heads, and alarms every thoughtful mind with its near approach,
multitudes, I am afraid, are still dissolved in careless security, or enervated with an effeminate, cowardly spirit. When the melancholy news sirst reached us concerning the fate of our army, then we saw how natural it is for the presumptuous to fall into the opposite extreme of unmanly despondence and consternation; and how little men could do in such a panic for their own defence. We have also suffered our poor fellow-subjects in the frontier counties to fall a helpless prey to blood-thirsty savages, without affording them proper assistance, which as members of the fame body politic they had a right to expect. They might as well have continued in a state of nature as be united in society, if in such an article of extreme danger they are left to shift for themselves. The bloody barbarians have exercised on some of them the most unnatural and leisurely tortures; and others they have butchered in their beds, or in some unguarded hour. Can human nature bear the horror of the sight! See yonder! the hairy scalps clotted with gore! the mangled limbs! Women ripped up! the heart and bowels still palpitating with life, and smoking on the ground! See the savages swilling their blood, and imbibing a more outrageous fury with the inhuman draught! Sure these are not men; they are not beasts of prey; they are something worse; they must be infernal furies in human shape. And have we tamely looked on, and suffered them to exercise these hellish barbarities upon our fellow-men, our fellow-subjects, our brethren! Alas! with what horror must we look upon ourselves, as being little better than accessaries to their blood!
And shall these ravages go on unchecked? Shall Virginia incur the guilt, and the everlasting shame of tamely exchanging her liberty, her religion, and her all, for arbitrary Gallic power, and for Popish slavery, tyranny, and massacre ? Alas! are there none of her children, that enjoyed all the blessings of her peace, that will espouse her cause, and befriend her
now in the time of her danger? Are Britons utterly degenerated by so short a remove from their mothercountry? Is the spirit of patriotism entirely extinguished among us? And must I give thee up for lost,
0 my country! and all that is included in that important word? Must I look upon thee as a conquered, enslaved province of France, and the range of Indian savages? My heart breaks at the thought. And must ye, our unhappy brethren in our frontiers, must ye stand the single barriers of a ravaged country, unassisted, unbefriended, unpitied? Alas! must I draw these sliocking conclusions?
No; I am agreeably checked by the happy, encouraging prospect now before me. Is it a pleasing dream-? Or do I really fee a number of brave men, without the compulsion of authority, without the prospect of gain, voluntarily associated in a company, to march over trackless mountains, the haunts of wild beasts, or siercer savages, into an hideous wilderness, to succour their helpless fellow-subjects, and guard their country? Yes, gentlemen, I fee you here upon this design; and were you all united to my heart by the most endearing ties of nature or friendship, I could not wish to fee you engaged in a nobler cause; and whatever the fondness of passion might carry me to,
1 am sure my judgment would never suffer me to persuade you to desert it. You all generously put your lives in your hands; and sundry of you have nobly disengaged yourselves from the strong and tender ties that twine about the heart of a father, or a husband, to consine you at home in inglorious ease, and sneaking retirement from danger, when your country calls for your assistance. While I have you before me, I have high thoughts of a Virginian; and I entertain the pleasing hope that my country wil l yet emerge out of her distress, and flourish with her usual blessings. I am gratefully sensible of the unmerited honour you have done me, in making choice of me to address you upon so singular and important an oc
.. . casion:
casion: and I am sure I bring with me a heart ardent to serve you and my country, though I am afraid my inability, and the hurry of my preparations, may give you reason to repent your choice. I cannot begin my address to you with more proper words than those of a great general, which Tirave read to you: Be of good courage, and play we ?nenfor your people, and for the cities of your God: and the Lord do what feemeth him good.
My present design is, to illustrate and improve the sundry parts of my text, as they lie in order ; which you will sind rich in sundry important instructions, adapted to this occasion.
The words were spoken just before a very threatening engagement by Joab, who had long served under that pious hero king David, as the general of his forces, and had shewn himself an officer of true courage, conducted with prudence. The Ammonites, a neighbouring nation, had frequent hostilities with the Jews, had ungratefully offered indignities to some of David's courtiers whom he had sent to condole their king upon the death of his father, and congratulate his accession to the crown. Our holy religion teaches us to bear personal injuries without private revenge: but national insults and indignities ought to excite the public resentment. Accordingly, king David, when he heard that the Ammonites, with their allies, were preparing to invade his territories, and carry their injuries still farther, sent Joab his general, with his army, to repel them, and avenge the affronts they had offered his subjects. It seems the army of the enemy were much more numerous than David's: their mercenaries from other nations were no less than 31,000 men; and no doubt the Ammonites themselves were a still greater number. These numerous forces were disposed in the most advantageous manner, and surrounded Joab's men, that they might attack them both in flank and front at once, and cut them all off, leaving no way for them to escape. eape. Prudence is of the utmost importance in the conduct of an army: and Joab, in this critical situation, gives a proof how much he was master of it, and discovers the steady composure of his mind while thus surrounded with danger. He divides his army, and gives one party to his brother Abishai, who commanded next to him, and the other he kept the command of himself, and resolves to attack the Syrian mercenaries, who seemed the most formidable; he gives orders to his brother in the mean time to fall upon the Ammonites; and he animates him with this noble advice: Be of good courage, and let us play. the men for our people and the cities of our God, which are now at stake; And the Lord do what feemeth him
Be of good courage, and let us play the men am* courage is an essential character of a good soldier -;pf* not a savage ferocious violence :—not a fool-hardy insensibility of danger, or headstrong rashness to rush into it:—not the fury of inflamed paflions, broke loose from the government of reason: but calm, deliberate, rational courage; a steady, judicious, thoughtful fortitude: the courage of a man, and not of a tyger: such a temper as Addison ascribes with so much justice to the famous Marlborough and Eugene:
Whose courage dwelt not in a troubled flood
Of mounting spirits and fermenting blood ;—But
Lodg'd in the soul, with virtue over-rul'd,
Inflam'd by reason, and by reason cool'd.
This is true courage, and such as we ought all to cherish in the present dangerous conjuncture. This will render men vigilant and cautious against surprize, prudent and deliberate in concerting their measures, and steady and resolute in executing them. But without this they will fall into unsuspected dangers, which will strike them with wild consternation ; they will meanly shun dangers that are surmountable, or precipitantly rush into those that are causeless, or evidently fatal, and throw away their lives in vain.
There are some men who naturally have this heroic turn of mind. The wife Creator has adapted the natural genius of mankind with a surprising and beautiful variety to the state in which they are placed in this world. To some he has given a turn for intellectual improvement, and the liberal arts and sciences; to others a genius for trade; to others a dexterity in mechanics, and the ruder arts, necessary for the support of human life : the generality of mankind may be capable of tolerable improvements in any of these: But it is only they whom the God of Nature has formed for them, that will shine in them; every man in his own province. And as God well knew what a world of degenerate, ambitious and revengeful creatures this is; as he knew that innocence could not be protected, property and liberty secured, nor the lives of mankind preserved from the lawless hands of ambition, avarice and tyranny, without the use of the sword; as he knew this would be the only method to preserve mankind from universal slavery; he has formed some men for this dreadsul work, and sired them with a martial spirit, and a glorious love of danger. Such a spirit, though most pernicious * when ungoverned by the rules ofjustice and benevolence to mankind, is a public blessing when rightly directed: such a spirit, under God, has often mortisied the insolence of tyrants, checked the encroachments of arbitrary power, and delivered enslaved and ruined nations: it is as necessary in its place for our subsistence in such a world as this, as any of the gentler geniuses among mankind; and it is derived from the fame divine original. He that winged the imagination of an Homer or a Milton; he that gave penetration to the mind of Newton; he that made Tubal-Cain an instructor of artisicers in brass andiron,*
Vol. III. B b b and
* Gen. iv. 22.
and gave skill to Bezaleel and Aholiah in curious works; * nay, he that sent out Paul and his brethren to conquer the nations with the gentler weapons of Plain Truth, miracles, and the love of a crucisied Saviour; he, even that fame gracious power, has formed and raised up an Alexander, a Julius Cæsar, a Williams and a Marlborough, and inspired them with this enterprifing, intrepid spirit; the two sirst to scourge a guilty world, and the two last to save nations on the brink of ruin. There is something glorious and inviting in danger to such noble minds; and their breasts beat with a generous ardour when it appears.
Our continent is like to become the feat of war; and we, for the future (till the sundry European nations that have planted colonies in it, have sixed their boundaries by the sword) have no other way left to defend our rights and privileges. And has God been pleased to diffuse some sparks of this martial sire through our country? I hope he has: and though it has been almost extinguished by so long a peace, and a deluge of luxury and pleasure, now I hope it begins to kindle : and may I not produce you, my brethren, who are engaged in this expedition, as instances of it ? | Well, cherish it as a sacred, heaven-born sire j and let the injuries done to your country administer fuel to it; and kindle it in those breasts where it has been hitherto smothered or inactive.
Though nature be the true origin of military courage, and it can never be kindled to a high degree where there is but a feeble spark of it innate; yet there are sundry things that may improve it even in
minds minds full of natural bravery, and animate those who are naturally of an esfeminate spirit to behave with a tolerable degree of resolution and fortitude in the defence of their country.—I need not tell you that it is of great importance for this end that you should be at peace with God and your own conscience, and prepared for your future state. Guilt is naturally timorous, and often struck into a panic even with imaginary dangers; and an insidel courage, proceeding from a want of thought, or a stupid carelessness about our welfare through an immortal duration beyond the grave, is very unbecoming a man or a christian. The most important periods of our existence, my brethren, lie beyond the grave; and it is a matter of much more concern to us what will be our doom in the world to come than what becomes of us in this. We are obliged to defend our country: and that is a sneaking, sordid soul indeed that can desert it at such a time as this: but this is not all; we are also obliged to take care of an immortal soul; a soul that must exist, and be happy or miserable through all the revolutions of eternal ages. This should be our sirst care; and when this is secured, death in its most shocking forms is but a release from a world of sin and sorrows, and an introduction into everlasting life and glory. But how can this be secured? Not by a course of impenitent sinning; not by a course of stupid carelessness and inaction : but by vigorous and resolute striving"; by serious and affectionate thoughtfulness about our condition, and by a conscientious and earnest attendance upon the means that God has graciously appointed for our recovery. But " we are sinners, heinous sinners against a God of insinite purity and inexorable justice." Yes, we are so ; and does not the posture of penitents then become us I Is not repentance, deep, broken-hearted repentance, a duty suitable to persons of our character? Undoubtedly it is : and therefore, O my countrymen, and particularly you brave men that are the occasion of this meeting,
* Exod. xxxv. 30, 31 &c.
f King William the Third, the deliverer of Britain from Popery and slavery, and the scourge of France and her haughty Grand Monarque.
% As a remarkable instance of this, I may point out to the public that heroic youth Col. Washington, whom I cannot but hope Providence has hitherto preserved in so signal a manner, for some important se/vice to his country.
repent: fall down upon your knees before the provoked Sovereign of heaven and earth, against whom you have rebelled. Dissolve and melt in penitential sorrows at his feet; and he will tell you Arise, be of good cheer; yourfins are forgiven you. "But will repentance make atonementforoursins? Will our tears washaway their guilt ? Will our sorrows merit forgiveness ?" No, my brethren, after you have done all, you are but unprositable servants: after all your sorrows, and prayers, and tears, you deserve to be punished as obnoxious criminals: that would be a sorry government indeed, where repentance, perhaps extorted by the servile fear of punishment, would make atonement for every offence. But / bring you glad tidings of great joy; to you is born a Saviour, a Saviour of no mean character; he is Christ the Lord. And have you never heard that he has made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness; that he suffered, the jus for she unjust; that God is ivell-pleafedfor his righteousness fake, and declares himself willing to be reconciled to all that believe in him, and cheerfully accept him as their Saviour and Lord. Have you never heard these joyful tidings, O guilty, self-condemned sinners? Sure you have. Then away to Jesus, away to Jesus, ye whose consciences are loaded with guilt; ye whose hearts fail within you at the thoughts of death, and the tribunal of divine justice; ye who are destitute of all personal righteousness to procure you pardon, and recommend you to the Divine Favour: fly to Jesus on the wings of faith, all of you, of every age and character; for you all stand in the most absolute need of him; and without him you must perish every soul of you. But alas! we sind ourselves utterly unable to repent and fly to Jesus: our hearts are hard and unbelieving; and if the work depend upon us, it will for ever remain undone. True, my brethren, so the case is; but do ye not know that this guilty earth is under the distillings of divine grace, that Jesus is intrusted with the influences of
the the Spirit, which can work in you both to will and todo; and that he is willing to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him? If you know this, you know where to go for strength; therefore cry mightily to God for it. This I earnestly recommend to all my hearers, and especially to you, gentlemen, and others, that are now about generously to risque your lives for your country. Account this the best preparative to encounter danger and death; the best incentive to true, rational courage. What can do you a lasting injury while you have a reconciled God smiling upon you from on high, a peaceful conscience animating you within, and a happy immortality just before you ! sure you may bid desiance to dangers and death in their most mocking forms. You have answered the end of this life already by preparing for another; and how can you depart off this mortal stage more honourably, than in the cause of liberty, of religion, and your country? But if any of you are perplexed with gloomy fears about this important affair, or conscious you are entirely unprepared for eternity, what must you do? Must you seek to prolong your life, and your time for preparation, by mean or unlawful ways, by a cowardly desertion of the cause of your country, and shifting for your little selves, as though you had no connection with society? Alas ! this would but aggravate your guilt, and render your condition still more perplexed and discouraging. Follow the path of duty wherever it leads you, for it will be always the safest in the issue. Diligently improve the time you have to make your calling and election sure, and you have reason to hope for mercy, and grace to help in such a time of need.—You will forgive me, if I have enlarged upon this point, even to a digression; for I thought it of great consequence to you all. I shall now proceed with more haste.
It is also of great importance to excite and keep up our courage in such an expedition, that we should be fully satissied we engage in a righteous cause—
and and in a cause of great moment; for we cannot prosecute a suspected, or a wicked scheme, which our own minds condemn, but with hesitation, and timorous apprehensions ; and we cannot engage with spirit and resolution in a trifling scheme, from which we can expect no consequences worth our vigorous pursuit. This Joab might have in view in his heroic advice to his brother; Be of good courage, fays he, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God. q. d. We are engaged in a righteous cause; we are not urged on by an unbounded lust of power or riches, to encroach upon the rights and properties of others, and disturb our quiet neighbours: we act entirely upon the defensive, repel unjust violence, and avenge national injuries; we are fighting/w our people, and for the cities of our God. We are also engaged in a cause of the utmost importance. We sight for our people; and what endearments are included in that signisicant word! our liberty, our estates, our lives! our king, our fellow-subjects, our venerable fathers, our tender children, the wives of our bosom, our friends, the sharers of our souls, our posterity to the latest ages! and who would not use his sword with an exerted arm when these lie at stake? But even these are not all: we sight for the cities of our God. God has distinguished us with a religion from heaven; and hitherto we have enjoyed the quiet and unrestrained exercise of it: he has condescended to be a God to our nation, and to honour our cities with his gracious presence, and the institutions of his worship, the means to make us wise, good, and happy: but now these most invaluable blessings lie at stake; these are the prizes for which we contend; and must it not excite all our active powers to the highest pitch of exertion? Shall we tamely submit to idolatry and religious tyranny? No, God forbid: let us play the men, since we take up arms for our people, and the cities of our God.
I need not tell you how applicable this advice, thus paraphrased, is to the design of the present associated company. The equity of our cause is most evident. The Indian savages have certainly no right to murder our fellow-subjects, living quiet and inoffensive in their habitations j nor have the French any power to hound them out upon us, nor to invade the territories belonging to the British crown, and secured to it by the faith of treaties. This is a clear cafe: and it is equally clear, that you are engaged in a cause of the utmost importance. To protect your brethren from the most bloody barbarities—to defend the territories of the best of kings against the oppression and tyranny of arbitrary power—to secure the inestimable blessings of liberty, British liberty, from the chains of French slavery—to preserve your estates, for which you have sweat and toiled, from falling a prey to greedy vultures, Indians, priests, friars, and hungry Gallic staves, or not more devouring flames—to guard your religion, the pure religion of Jesus, streaming uncorrupted from the sacred fountain of the scriptures; the most excellent, rational and divine religion that ever was made known to the sons of men; to guard so dear, so precious a religion (my heart grows warm while I mention it) against ignorance, superstition, idolatry, tyranny over conscience, massacre, sire and sword, and all the mischiefs beyond expression, with which Popery is pregnant—to keep from the cruel hands of Barbarians and Papists your wives, your children, your parents, your friends—to secure the liberties conveyed to you by your brave forefathers, and bought with their blood, that you may transmit them uncurtailed to your posterity— These are the blessings you contend for; all these will be torn from your eager grasp, if this colony should become a province of France. And Virginians ! Britons! Christians ! Protestants! if these names have any import or energy, will you not strike home in such a cause! Yes, this view of the matter must sire you into men; methinks the cowardly foul must tremble, lest the imprecation of the prophet fall upon him, Cursed be the man that keepeth back his sword from blood. To this shocking, but necessary work, the Lord now calls you, and cursed is he that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully; that will not put his hand to it when it is in his power, or that will not perform it with all his might. Jer. xlviii. 10. The people of Meroz lay at home in ease, while their brethren were in the sield, delivering their country from slavery. And what was their doom? 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. Judges v. 23. I count myself happy that I see so many of you generously engaged in such a cause; but when I view it in this light, I cannot but be concerned that there are so few to join you. Are there but sifty or fixty persons in this large and populous county that can be spared from home for a few weeks upon so necessary a design, or that are able to bear the fatigues of it? Where are the friends of human nature, where the lovers of liberty and religion? Now is the time for you to come forth, and shew yourselves. Nay, where is the miser? let him arise and defend his Mammon, or he may soon have reason to cry out with Micah, They have taken away my gods, and what have I more? Where is the tender foul, on whom the passions of a husband, a father, or a son, have a peculiar energy? Arise, and march away; you had better be absent from those you love for a little while, than see them butchered before your eyes, or doomed to eternal poverty and slavery. The association now forming is not yet complete; and if it were, it would be a glorious thing to form another. Therefore, as an advocate for your king, your fellow-subjects, your country, your relatives, your earthly all, I do invite and intreat all of you, who have not some very sufficient reason against it, voluntarily to enlist, and go out with
those brave souls, who have set you so noble an example. It will be more advantageous to you to go but in time, and more honourable to go out as volunteers, than be compelled to it by authority, when perhaps it may be too late.
The consideration of the justice and importance of the cause may also encourage you to hope that the Lord of Hosts will espouse it, and render its guardians successful, and return them in safety to the arms of their longing friends. The event however is in his hands; and it is much better there than if it were in yours. This thought is suggested with beautiful simplicity, in the remaining part of my text, the Lord do that which seemeth him good. This may be looked upon in various views; as,
1. It may be understood as the language of uncertainty and modesty, q. d. Let us do all we can; but after all, the issue is uncertain; we know not, as yet, to what side God will incline the victory. Such language as this, my brethren, becomes us in all our undertakings; it sounds creature-like, and God approves of such self-diffident humility. But to indulge sanguine and consident expectations of victory, to boast when we put on our armour, as though we were putting it off, and to derive our high hopes from our own power and good management, without any regard to the providence of God, this is too lordly and assuming for such feeble mortals; such insolence is generally mortisied; and such a haughty spirit is the forerunner of a fall. Therefore, though I do not apprehend your lives will be in any great danger in your present expedition to range the frontiers, and clear them of the skulking Indians; yet, I would not flatter you, my brethren, with too high hopes either of victory or safety. I cannot but entertain the pleasing prospect of congratulating you, with many of your friends, upon your successful expedition, and safe return: and yet it is very possible our next interview may be in that strange, untried world beyond
Vol. III. C c c the the grave. You are, however, in the hands of God, and he will deal with you as itseemeth him good: and I am persuaded you would not wish it were otherwise; you would not now practically retract the petition you have so often offered up, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
i. This language, the Lord do as seemeth him good, may be looked upon as expressive of a sirm persuasion that the event of war entirely depends upon the providence of God. q. d. Let us do our best; but after all, let us be sensible that the success does not depend on us; that is entirely in the hands of an all-ruling God- That God governs the world, is a fundamental article of natural as well as revealed religion: it is no great exploit of faith to believe this: it is but a small advance beyond atheism and downright insidelity. I know no country upon earth where I should be put to the expence of argument to prove this. The heathens gave striking proofs of their belief of it, by their prayers, their sacrisices, their consulting oracles, before they engaged in war; and by their costly offerings and solemn thanksgivings after victory. And shall such a plain principle as this be disputed in a christian land! No; we all speculatively believe it; but that is not enough; let our spirits be deeply impressed with it, and our lives influenced by it: let us live in the world as in a territory of Jehovah's empire. Carry this impression upon your hearts into the wilderness, whither you are going. Often let such thoughts as these recur to your minds: lam the feeble creature of God; and blessed be his name, I am not cast off his hand as a disregarded orphan to shift for myself. My life is under his care; the success of this expedition is at his disposal. Therefore, O thou all-ruling God, I implore thy protection; I conside in thy care; I cheerfully resign myself, and the event of this undertaking, to thee. Which leads me to observe,
3. That these words, the Lord do whatseemeth him good, may express a humble submission to the disposal cf Providence, let the event turn out as it would, q. d. We have not the disposal of the event, nor do we know what it will be: but Jehovah knows, and that's enough u we are sure he will do what is best, upon the whole; and it becomes us to acquiesce: Thus, my friends, do you resign and submit yourselves to the Ruler of the world in the present enterprize: He will order matters as he pleases j O! let him do so by your cheerful consent. Let success or disappointment, let life or death be the issue, still say, Good is the will' of the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good: or if nature biasses your wishes and desires to the favourable side, as no doubt it will, still keep them within bounds, and restrain them in time, saying, aster the example of Christ, Not my will, but thine be done. You may wish, you may pray, you may strive, you may hope for a happy issue; but you must submit; be still, and know that he is God, and will not be prescribed tOj or suffer a rival in the government of the world he has made. Such a temper will be of unspeakable service to you, and you may hope God will honour it with a remarkable blessing: for submission to his will is the readiest way to theaccomplishmcnt of our own.
4. These words, in their connection, may intimate, that, let the event be what it will, it will afford us satisfaction, to think that we have done the best we could, q. d. We cannot command success; but let us do all in our power to obtain it, and we have reason to hope that in this way we shall not be disappointed: but if it should please God to render all our endeavours vain, still we shall have the generous pleasure to reflect that we have not been accessary to the ruin of our country, but have done all we could for its deliverance. So you, my brethren, have generously engaged in a disinterested scheme for your king and country: God does generally crown such noble undertakings dertakings with success, and you have encouragement to hope for it: but the cause you have espoused is the cause of a sinful, impenitent country; and if God, in righteous displeasure, should on this account blast your attempt, still you will have the pleasure of reflecting upon your generous views and vigorous endeavours, and that you have done your part conscientiously.
Having thus made some cursory remarks upon the sundry parts of the text, I shall now conclude with an address, sirst, to you all in general, and then to you, gentlemen and others, who have been pleased to invite me to this service. I hope you will forgive my prolixity; my heart is full, the text is copious, and the occasion singular and important. I cannot therefore dismiss you with a short, hurrying discourse.
It concerns you all seriously to reflect upon your own sins, and the sins of your land, which have brought all these calamities upon us. If you believe that God governs the world, if you do not abjure him from being the Ruler of your country, you must acknowledge that all the calamities of war, and the threatening appearances of famine, are ordered by his providence; there is no evil in a city or country, but the Lord hath done it. And if you believe that he is a just and righteous Ruler, you must also believe, that he would not thus punish a righteous or a penitent people. We and our countrymen are sinners, aggravated sinners,: God proclaims that we are such by his judgments now upon us, by withering sields and scanty harvests, by the found of the trumpet and the alarm of war. Our consciences must also bear witness to the fame melancholy truth. And if my heart were properly affected, t would concur with these undoubted witnesses; I would cry aloud, and not spare; I would lift up my voice like a trumpet, to shew you your transgressions and your sins. O, my country, is not thy wickedness great, and thine iniquities insinite? Where is there a more sinful spot to
be be found upon our guilty globe? Pass over the land, take a survey of the inhabitants, inspect into their conduct, and what do you see? what do you hear? You see gigantic forms of vice braving the skies, and bidding desiance to heaven and earth, while religion and virtue is obliged to retire, to avoid public contempt and insult: You see herds of drunkards swilling down their cups and drowning all the man within them: You hear the swearer venting his fury against God and man, trifling with that name which prostrate angels adore, and imprecating that damnation, under which the hardiest devil in hell trembles and groans: You fee Avarice hoarding up her useless treasures, dishonest Craft planning her schemes of unlawful gain, and Oppression unmercifully grinding the face of the poor: You fee Prodigality squandering her stores,Luxury spreading her table, and unmanning her guests; Vanity laughing aloud, and dissolving in empty, unthinking mirth, regardless of God and our country,of time and eternity; Sensuality wallowing in brutal pleasures, and aspiring with inverted ambition, to sink as low as her four-footed brethren of the stall: You fee cards more in use than the Bible, the backgammon table more frequented than the table of the Lord, plays and romances more read than the history of the blessed Jesus. You fee trifling and even criminal diversions become a serious business ; the issue of a horserace, or a cock-sight, more anxiously attended to than the fate of our country; or where these grosser forms of vice and vanity do not shock your fenses, even there you often meet with the appearances of more resined impiety, which is equally dangerous: You hear the conversation of reasonable creatures, of candidates for eternity, engrossed by trifles, or vainly wasted on the affairs of time: these are the eternal subjects of conversation, even at the threshold of the house of God, and on the sacred hours devoted to his service: You see swarms of prayerless families all over our land j ignorant, vicious children, unre- - strained strained and untaught by those to whom God and nature hath entrusted their souls: You fee thousands of poor staves in a Christian country, the property of Christian masters, as they will be called, almost as ignorant of Christianity as when they left the wilds of Africa: You fee the best religion in all the world' abused, neglected, disobeyed and dishonoured by its professors; and you hear insidelitjrscatteringher ambiguous hints and suspicions, or openly attacking the Christian cause with pretended argument, with insult and ridicule: You see crowds of professed believers, that are practical atheists; nominal Christians, that are real heathens; many abandoned staves of sin, that yet pretend to be the servants of the holy Jesus: You fee the ordinances of the gospel neglected by some, profaned by others, and attended upon by the generality with a trifling irreverence, and studied unconcernedness. Alas! who would think that . those thoughtless assemblies we often fee in our places of worship, are met for such solemn purposes as to implore the pardon of their sins from an injured God, and to prepare for an awful, all-important eternity! Alas! is that religion, for the propagation of which the Son of God laboured, and bled, and died; for which his apostles and thousands of martyrs have spent their strength and shed their blood,and on which our eternal life depends—is that religion become such a trifle in our days, that men are hardly serious and in earnest when they attend upon its most solemn institutions? What multitudes lie in a dead sleep in sin all around us! You fee them eager in the pursuit of the vanities of time, but stupidly unconcerned about the important realities of the eternal world just before them: few solicitous what shal l become of them when all their connections with earth and stem must be broken, and they must take their flight into strange, unknown regions: few lamenting their sins: few crying for mercy and a new heart: few flying to Jesus, or justly sensible of the importance of
a Mea Mediator in a religion for sinners. You niay indeed fee some degree of civility and benevolence towards men, and more than enough of cringing complaisance of worms to worms, of clay today, of guilt to guilt: but Oh! how little sincere homage, how little affectionate veneration for the great Lord of heaven and earth! You may fee something of duty to parents, of gratitude to benefactors, and obedience to superiors: but if God be a Father, where is his honour? If he be a Master, where is his fear? If he be our benefactor, where is our gratitude to him! You may fee here and there some instances of proud, self-righteous virtue, some appearances of morality: but O! how rare is vital, evangelical religion, and true Christian morality, animated with the love of God, proceeding from a new heart, and a regard to the divine authority, full of Jesus, full of a regard to him as a Mediator, on whose account alone our duties can sind acceptance! O, blessed Redeemer! what little necessity, what little use do the sinners of our country sind for thee in their religion! How many discourses are delivered, how many prayers offered, how many good works are performed, in which there is scarce any thing of Christ! And this defect renders them all but shining sins, glittering crimes. How few pant and languim for thee, blessed Jesus! and can never be contented with their reformation, with their morality, with their good works, till they obtain an interest in thy righteousness, to sanctify all, to render all acceptable !—You may see children sensible of their dependance on their parents for their subsistence; you see multitudes sensible of their dependance on clouds and fun, and earth, for provision for man and beast: but how few sensible of their dependance upon God, as the great Original, the primum mobile of natural causes, and the various wheels of the universe! You see even the dull ox knows his owner, and the stupid ass his master's crib : you fee the workings of gratitude even in your
dog, who welcomes you home with a thousand fondling motions : but how is Jehovah's government and agency practically denied in his own territories! How few receive the blessings of life as from his hand, and make him proper returns of gratitude! You fee a withering, ravaged country around you, languishing under the frowns of an angry God; but how few earnest prayers, how few penitential groans do you hear! Pass over the hind, and bring me intelligence, is not this the general character of our country! I know there are some happy exceptions ; and I hope sundry such might be produced from among you : but is not this the prevailing character of a great majority? Does not one part or other of it belong to the generality? The most generous charity cannot hope the contrary, if under any scriptural or rational limitations. May it not be said of the men of Virginia, as well as those of Sodom, they are wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly? And thus, alas! it has been for a lortg time: our country has sinned on securely for above one hundred and sifty years; and one age has improved upon the vices of another. And can a land always bear up under such a load of accumulated wickedness ? Can God always suffer such a race of sinners to go unpunished from generation to generation? May we not fear that our iniquities are now just full, and. that he is about to thunder out his awful mandate tp the executioners of his vengeance, Put ye in the fickle ; for the harvejt is ripe; come get ye down, for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
And is there no relief for a sinking country? Or is it too late to administer it? Is our wound incurable, that refuseth to be healed? No, blessed be God; if you now turn every one of you from your evil ways, if you mourn over your sins, and turn to the Lord with your whole hearts, then your country will yet recover. God will appear for us, and give a prosperous turn to our affairs; he has assured us of this in his own word, At what instant, fays he, I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck Up, and to pull down, and to dejlroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. jer. xviii. 7, 8. Therefore, my brethren, as we have all rebelled, let us all join in unanimous repentance, and a thorough reformation. Not only your eternal salvation requires it, but also the preservation of your country, that is now bleeding with the wounds you have given it by your sins. The safety of these our friends, who are now engaged in so generous a design, requires it : for an army of saints or of heroes, cannot defend a guilty, impenitent people, ripe for the judgments of God. If you would be everlastingly happy, and escape the vengeance of eternal sire, or (to mention what may perhaps have more weight with some of you) if you would preserve yourselves, your families, your posterity from poverty, from slavery, ignorance, idolatry, torture and death; if you would save yourselves and them from all the infernal horrors of popery, and the savage tyranny of a mongrel race of French and Indian conquerors: in short, if you would avoid all that is terrible, and enjoy every thing that is dear and valuable, repent and turn to the Lord. This is the only cure for our wounded country; and if you refuse to administer it in time, prepare to perish in its ruins. If you go on impenitent in sin, you may expect not only to be damned for ever, but (what is more terrible to some of you) to fall into the most extreme outward distress. You will have reason to fear not only the loss of heaven, which some of you perhaps think little of, but the loss of your estates, that lie so near your hearts. And will you not repent, when you are pressed to it from so many quarters at once?
And now, my brethren, in the last place, I have a few parting words to ofler to you who are more particularly concerned on this occasion; and I am sure
Vol. IU. Ddd I shall I shall address you with as much affectionate benevolence as you could wish.
My sirst and leading advice to you is, Labour to conduct this expedition in a religious manner. Methinks this should not seem strange counsel to creatures entirely dependent upon God, and at his disposal. As you are an independent company of volunteers under officers of your own chusing, you may manage your affairs more according to your own inclinations than if you had enlisted upon the ordinary footing: and I hope you will improve this advantage for the purposes of religion. Let prayer to the God of your life be your daily exercise. When retirement is safe, pour out your hearts to him in secret; and when it is practicable, join in prayer together morning and evening in your camp. How acceptable to H eaven must such an unusual offering be, from that desart wilderness! Maintain a fense of divine Providence upon your hearts, and resign yourselves and all your affairs into the hands of God. You are engaged in a good cause, the cause of your people, and the cities of your God; and therefore you may the more boldly commit it to him, and pray and hope for his blessing. I would fain hope there is no necessity to take precautions against vice among such a select company: but lest there should, I would humbly recommend it to you to make this one of the article of your association, before you set out, That every form of vice shall be severely discountenanced j and if you think proper, expose the offender to some pecuniary or corporal punishment. It would be Clocking indeed, and I cannot bear the thought, that a company formed upon such generous principles, should commit or tolerate open wickedness among them; and I hope this caution is needless to you all, as I am sure it is to sundry of you.
And now, my dear friends, and the friends of your neglected country, In the name cf the Lord lift up your banners; be of good courage, and play the men for the
people people and the cities of your God: and the Lord do what feemeth him good. Should I now give vent to the passions of my heart, and become a speaker for my country, methinks I should even overwhelm you with a torrent of good wishes, and prayers from the hearts of thousands. May the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, go forth along with you! May he teach your hands to war, and gird you with strength to battle! May he bless you with a safe return and long life, or a glorious death in the bed of honour, and a happy immortality! May he guard and support your anxious families and friends at home, and return you victorious to their longing arms! May all the blessings your hearts can wish attend you whereever you go .' These are wishes and prayers of my heart; and thousands concur in them: and we cannot but cheerfully hope they will be granted, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE CRISIS: OR, THE UNCERTAIN DOOM OF KING
Jonah iii. 9. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not!
A State of uncertainty, a suspense between hope and fear about a matter of importance, is a very painful and anxious state. And by how much the more important and interesting the matter, by so
much much the more distressing is the uncertainty. Now what can be more important, what more interesting, than our country! Our country is a word of the highest and most endearing import: it includes our friends and relatives, our liberty, our property, our religion: in short, it includes our earthly all. And. when the fate of our country, and all that it includes, is dreadfully doubtful; when we are tossed and agitated betwixt the alternate waves of hope and fear; when, upon taking a view of the present posture of our affairs, we can only ask with painful solicitude, -what will be the end of these things? and when even the consideration of the divine mercy upon our repentance cannot give us any assurance of deliverance m a political capacity, but only a peradventure, who can tell but God will turn and repent! when this, I fay, is our situation, every mind that has the least thought, must be agitated with many eager, dubious expectations. This is the present situation of our country; and this was the state of that populous and magnisicent city of Nineveh, when the words of my text were sirst spoken.
* Preached at Hanover, in Virginia, 281I1 Oct. 17JS, being the day appointed by the Synod of New-York, to be observed as a general fast, on account of the present war with France.
Nineveh was the metropolis of the Assyrian empire: and how prodigiously populous it was, you may calculate from hence, that it contained more than fix score thousand children, that were so young, that they could not distinguish the right hand from the left: and the number of adults, in proportion to these, must be vast indeed. Its extent was no less than three days journey. Profane authors tel l us, it was forty-seven miles in circumference; and that notwithstanding its vast extent, it was surrounded with lofty walls and towers: the walls two hundred feet high, and so very wide, that three chariots might drive on them a-breast : and the towers two hundred feet in height, and sifteen hundred in number. But what became of this mighty Nineveh at last? Alas I it was turned into an heap of rubbish. Divine patience was at length wearied out j and, though the
vengeance denounced by Jonah was suspended, yet that foretold by Nahum was dreadfully executed.
And what was the cause of this execution, and that denunciation? The cause of both was sin; national, epidemical sin, against an unknown God, the God of Israel; I say, against an unknown God: for Nineveh was an heathen city, not favoured with the. knowledge of the true God by supernatural revelation; much less with the gospel, that most perfect dispensation of divine grace towards the sons of men. The Ninevites could not sin with such horrid aggravations as we; and yet even they could sin to such a degree, as to become utterly intolerable. They sinned against the light of nature, and that sufficed to bring down remediless destruction upon them. This is mentioned as the cause of the divine displeasure, in Jonah's commission. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry again/l it; for their wickedness is come up before trie, Jonah i. 2. their wickedness has reached to heaven; and can no longer be endured. But before the fatal blow fall, let them have one warning more —Oh! how astonishing are the grace and patience of God towards a guilty people! Even when their wickedness has scaled the heavens, and come up before him, he condescends to give them another warning, and suspends the blow for at least forty days longer, to fee if they will at length repent.
Jonah, having tried in vain to disengage himself from the message, is at length constrained to undertake it; and with the solemn and awful gait of a prophet, he walks from street to street, making this alarming proclamation: Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Jonah iii. 4. This was the substance of his sermon: but no doubt he spoke much more than is here recorded. No doubt, he produced his credentials from the God of Israel, and gave them the history of his reluctance to accept the commission; of the storm that pursued him, while attempting to make his escape j of his miraculous preservation in
the the belly of a sish, and his deliverance thence. No doubt, he also let them know what was the cause oF the divine displeasure against them, viz. their national vices and irreligion; and he perhaps intimated, that repentance was the only possible method of escaping the threatened destruction. It is plain, however, they understood him in this fense; for they actually did repent; but whether it was from the light of nature, or from Jonah's preaching, they received this direction, does not appear. *
And now, while the prophet is delivering his message, their consciences tell them how ripe they are for this dreadful doom; and the Spirit of God, no doubt, concurs, and impresses the conviction upon their hearts. Now, methinks, I fee eager, gazing: crowds following the prophet from street to street j paleness is in every countenance, and horror in every heart. Now the man of business remits his eager pursuits; the man of pleasure is struck with a damp in his thoughtless career: pride and grandeur lower their haughty airs; and a general horror spreads from: the cottage to the throne. The people agree upon a public fast: and when the emperor hears of the awful message, he issues forth his royal edict, requiring an universal abstinence from food, and a deep repentance and reformation. He enjoins all to put on sackcloth, the habit of mourners and penitents in those ages and countries; and, laying aside his royal robes,
* Upon second theughts, it seems to me that God saw it most proper to be upon the reserve in this point; and that he did not reveal to Jonah his gracious design to pardon them upon their repentance; nor Jonah to the Ninevites.—That God did not reveal it to Jonah, seems probable from hence, that he had some expectation the city would be destroyed, though he saw their repentance: and hence he waited for the event, and was greatly chagrined when disappointed. He seemed indeed to have presumed what the event would be, from the known mercy and patience of God (ch, iv. i.) but this implies, that be had no express revelation for it—That Jonah did not reveal this to the Ninevites, appears from my text, where they speak of the event as dreadfully uncertain, even though they ihould repent.
and descending from his throne, he puts on the mortifying dress himself, and lies in the dust. That the humiliation might be the more moving and affecting, he orders, according to the custom of the time upon such solemn occasions, that even the beasts, the flocks and herds, should be restrained from food, and compelled to join, as it were, with more guilty men, in the general humiliation, and in deprecating that vengeance which was about to fall upon man and beast.
We have now a very moving sight before us; a gay, magnisicent city in mourning; thousands mourning in every street: king and subjects, high and low, old and young, all covered in sackcloth, and rolling in ashes. And their repentance does not wholly consist in these ceremonies: the royal proclamation further requires them to cry mightily unto God; and turn every one from his evil way. They are sensible of the propriety and necessity of prayer, earnest prayer to God, and a reformation of life, as well as of afflicting themselves with fasting. The light of nature directed them to this as the only method of deliverance, if deliverance was possible. The case of such a people looks hopeful:—That so many thousands should be brought to repentance by one warning, the sirst and only warning they had ever received from a prophet of the true God; a prophet that was a contemptible stranger from the despised nation of the Jews; this certainly appears promising.
Alas! brethren, our countrymen are not so easily brought to repentance: No, this is not an easy thing among us. Ten thousand warnings, not only from conscience, from divine providence, from this very Jonah, and the other prophets of the Old Testament, but also from the gospel, that clear and perfect revelation; I fay, ten thousand warnings, thus peculiarly enforced, have not so much effect upon our country, this Christian, this Protestant country, as one short warning from the mouth of Jonah had upon a city of heathens and idolaters. Ail along as I have been
considering considering this cafe, I could not cast out of my mind that dreadful declaration of Christ, The men of Nineveh Jhall rife up in judgment with this generation and Jhall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here* Matt. xii. 41. Nineveh never had such loud calls to repentance, and such a rich plenty of all the means of grace, as Virginia. The meanest in the kingdom of heaven, /. e. the meanest Christian under the full revelation of the gospel, is greater in spiritual knowledge, not only than Jonah, but than John the Baptist, the greatest prophet that was ever born of a woman. And therefore, I may accommodate these words to us, Behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Here are clearer discoveries of the will of God, and stronger motives and encouragements to repentance, than ever Jonah could afford the men of Nineveh. But alas! where is our repentance! Where are our humiliation and reformation! Shall the light of nature, and one warning from a prophet, bring heathens to the knee before God; and shall not the gospel, and all its loud calls, have that effect upon a Christian land! Shall Nineveh repent in sackcloth and ashes; and shall Virginia sin on still, impenitent, thoughtless, luxurious and gay! Alas! what will be the end of this?
The case of the Ninevites, who were brought to repentance so readily, and so generally, looks hopeful, and seems to promise them an exemption from the threatened vengeance. And yet, so sensible was the king of Nineveh of their demerit, and the insufficiency of their repentance to make atonement for their sins, that he is doubtful, after all, what would be the consequence. Who can tell, says he; who knoweth, if God will turn and repent, and turn away from the fierceness of his anger, that we perish not! q. d. Let us bumble ourselves ever so low, we are not assured we shall escape: vengeance may, after all, seize us; and we may be made monuments to all the world of the justice of the King of kings, and the dreadful consequences -qucnces of national impiety and vice. His uncertainty in this matter might proceed from the just fense he had of the intolerable height to which the national wickedness had arrived, and of the strictness of the divine justice. He knew that, even in his own government, it would have very bad consequences, if all crimes should be forgiven,or pass unpunished,upon the repentance of the offender: and he forms the fame judgment concerning the divine government. Indeed, it is natural to a penitent, while he has a full view of his sins, in all their aggravations, and of the justice of God, to question whether such sins can be forgiven by so holy a God. He is apt even to fall into an extreme in this respect. It does not now appear so easy a thing to him to obtain a pardon, as it once did, when he had no just views of his guilt.— Now it appears a great thing indeed; so great, that he can hardly think it possible. Or the uncertainty cf the king of Nineveh in this point might proceed from Jonah's being so reserved upon it. He might have had no commission from God to promise them deliverance upon their repentance; but he was to warn them, and then leave them in the hands of a gracious and righteous God, to deal with them according to his pleasure. This tended to make them more sensible that they lay at mercy, and that he might justly do what he pleased with them. The event indeed shewed there was a condition implied in the threatening; and that God did secretly intend to spare them, upon their repentance. But this was wisely concealed, and it was sufficient that the event should make it known. It is certain that national as well as personal repentance, may sometimes come too late; and that sometimes the punishment may fall by way of chastisement, even when the repentance is sincere, and the sin is forgiven, so that it shall not bring on the destruction of the sinner in the eternal world. But we may well suppose, an heathen monarch, who probably had no instruction but from Jonah's short Vol. III. E e e warning, warning, would be much at a loss about these things. From this uncertainty of his about the fate of his empire, we may infer this truth, which I intend to illustrate with regard to ourselves, viz.
That sometimes a nation may be in such a situation, that no man can tell what will be the issue; or whether it mall be delivered from the threatened vengeance, or destroyed.
But though the king of Nineveh was uncertain about this; yet, there was one thing that he was very certain of, viz. That if there was any possibility of escape, it was to be hoped for only in the way of earnest prayer to God, general humiliation and reformation. This is evident from the connection of the context. Let man and bcaji, fays he, be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God, yea, let them turn every one from his evil way :—Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not! i. e. Who can tell but he may turn away from his sierce anger, in case we turn from our evil ways, and humble ourselves before him? If we do not reform, and humble ourselves, the case is dreadfully plain; any one can tell that we cannot escape; there is not so much as a peradventure for it; unavoidable destruction will be our doom, beyond all question. But if we repent, who knows what that may do? Who knows but God may repent, and turn from the fierceness of his wrath! If there be any hope at all, it is in this way. This he learned from the light of nature, if not from Jonah's preaching. And this suggests another seasonable truth, which, if my time will allow, I shall also illustrate, viz.
That when a nation is in such a state, that no man can certainly determine what will be its doom, if there be any possible hope, it is only in the way of general humiliation, earnest prayer and public reformation.
To prevent mistakes, I have one thing more to observe upon the text; and that is, that when God is said to repent, it only signisies, that the vifible conduct
of of divine Providence has some resemblance to the conduct of men, when they repent; and not that he is capable of repentance in a proper fense, or of that changeableness, imperfect knowledge, sorrow and selfaccusation, which repentance among men implies.— When men repent that they have made a thing, they destroy it; and therefore, when God destroyed man by a deluge, he is said to repent that he made him; and when he deposed Saul, it is said, he repented that he had made him king. When men do not execute their threatenings, it is supposed they repent of them; and hence, when God does not inflict the threatened evil, he is said to repent of the evil; i. e. he acts as men do when they repent of their purpose; though when he made the denunciation, he well knew the event, and determined not to execute it, upon the repentance of the offenders. So with regard to Nineveh, there was no proper repentance in God, but an uniform, consistent purpose. He purposed to denounce his vengeance against that city; and he did so: he purposed and foresaw their repentance; and it accordingly came to pass: he purposed to spare them upon their repentance; and he did so. All this is very consistent, and implies no proper repentance in God: for in this fense, God is not a man, that he should repent, Numb, xxiii. 19. but he is of one mind, and who can turn him? and what his foul desireth, even that he doth. Job xxiii. 13.
I now enter upon the illustration of the sirst inference upon the text, viz.
I. That sometimes a nation may be in such a situation,.that no man can tell what will be their doom; whether the threatened vengeance will fall upon them, or whether they shall escape.
This, we have seen, was the situation of Nineveh, though now lying in deep repentance, and not in danger, as far as appears from any visible cause. Thousands were now mourning, praying, and reforming; and we have no account of an enemy preparing to invade them. And if Nineveh, in this situation, which seems so promifing, was, notwithstanding, in such danger that no man could determine what would be their doom, alas! what shall we say of Virginia, and the kingdoms to which we belong, when. they are neither penitent before God, nor safe from the arms of a powerful and victorious enemy? If the repentance of the Ninevites gave them no assurance of escape, but only a peradventure, Who can tell if God will turn front his fierce anger? Certainly our doom must, at best, be equally uncertain, when, instead of repentance, reformation and mighty crying to God, we see the generality impenitent, unreformed and prayerless still? 1 would not damp you with unmanly fears; but I cannot help saying, that our doom is dismally uncertain. I know not what a provoked God intends to do with us and our nation. I have my hopes indeed; but they are balanced, and sometimes overbalanced, with fearful and gloomy apprehensions. But,
1. The issue of the present war will appear dreadfully uncertain, if we consider the present posture of affairs.
We are engaged in war with a powerful, exasperated enemy; and blood is streaming by sea and land. Some decifive blow will probably be struck ere long: but on what party it will fall, and what will be the issue of this struggle and commotion among the nations, is an anxious uncertainty. It seems but too likely, though it strikes me with horror to admit the thought, that a provoked God intends to scourge us with the rod of France, and therefore gives surprifing success to her arms. Who can tell, but the king of France may have the fame commission given him by that God, whom we and our mother-country have so grievously offended, as was given to the Assyrian monarch, in Isaiah's time, when God speaks of him as his rod, to chastise his own people, and as acting by a commission from him, though he neither knew nor
designed it, but only intended to gratify-his own ambition? 0 Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the' ft ass in their hand is mine indignation. I will fend him against an hypocritical nation; and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit, he meaneth not so; neither doth his heart think so: but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off nations not a few. Bat at the fame time it is foretold, That when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion, and on ferufalem, I will punijh the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. Isa. x. 5, 6, 7, 12. And if the same commission be given to the king of France, I doubt not but his end will be the fame. When God has sinished his work of correction with this rod, he will break it, or burn it in the sire. The like commission was given to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; and when he, and his son, and his son's son, had served as the executioners of God's wrath upon his people, and the neighbouring nations, they and the Babylonian empire were destroyed together.' Thus faith the Lord of hosts, because ye have not heard my words, behold, I will fend and take all the families of the north, faith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant (my servant, to execute this my work of correction, and of vengeance) and I will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and I will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonijhment, and an hi/sing, and perpetual desolations—But it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished (the space of time allotted for his power, and the correction of God's people) that then will I punistj the king of Babylon, and that nation, faith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. (Jer. xxv. 8-—12 —14.) Thus you fee it is no uncommon thing for God, when transgressions are come to the full, to raise up some power to perform his work of chastisement
ment arid vengeance, and render it victorious and irresistible, till that work is done, and then to crush it in its turn. And whether divine Providence is now about to employ the power of France for this purpose, is a dreadful uncertainty. We hope, indeed, matters will take a more favourable turn ; but the - present posture of affairs, and particularly the rapid conquests of that power, which is now become so formidable even in America, give us reason to fear this may be the event, and that matters are now ripening fast for this terrible result.
I may add, that we have reason to fear from the disposition and conduct of many among ourselves,, some in high places have been suspected of treachery or cowardice, or at least bad conduct. A spirit of security, floth and cowardice, evidently prevails j nothing great is so much as attempted, much less executed. We have also so many black foreigners among ourselves, as may justly alarm our fears. Now if the French should invade our frontiers; if the Indians, that are now neuter, or in the Britim interest, should join with them, and with those tribes that are already so active upon their side; and if their united forces should pour down upon us, and meet with a welcome reception and assistance from so powerful an enemy among ourselves; I fay, should this be the case, I need not tell you what unexampled scenes of blood, cruelty and devastation would open in our country. This may not be the event; and I hope and pray it may not: but it is not so improbable as we could wish; much less is it impossible. Who knows but this may actually be the consequence!
And if the natural allies of France should form a confederacy against our mother-country, and attack her with their united strength, how terrible would the consequences probably be, both to her and to us, especially if the Protestant powers should not vigorously concur with us against them! This event may
not happen; and I hope and pray it may not: but it is not so unlikely as one could wish. But,
2. The event of the present war will appear dismally doubtful, if we consider some Scripture prophecies, particularly in Daniel and the Revelations. I cannot pretend to enter deeply into this subject at present; a subject that has silled so many volumes, and employed the thoughts and pens of so many great men. It will be sufficient to my present purpose to observe,
(1.) That the idolatrous persecuting power of Popery, seated at Rome, is undoubtedly meant by the little horn in Daniel (Dan. vii. 8.) that rose up out of the Roman empire, when it was divided into ten kingdoms by the barbarous nations that broke in upon it: an horn which had a mouth,speaking great things; which made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; an horn which speaks great things against the Most High, and wears out the saints of the Most High; and thinks to change times and laws, i. e. to alter and corrupt the ordinances of God. ver. 24, 25. The same idolatrous, persecuting power is also intended in the Revelations, (Rev. xiii.) by the beast with seven heads and ten horns, that bad a mouth given him, speaking great things, and blasphemies: and he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, &c. and it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations; and all that dwell on the earth sliall worship him, whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of lise. The same indolatrous and persecuting power is intended likewise by the woman (Rev. xvii.)fitting upon a scarlet-coloured . beast, having seven heads, and ten horns; full of names of blasphemy, and drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Protestant commentators generally agree in this application of these prophecies to the Papal power; but I cannot take time to lay before you the full evidence upon which they proceed, However,
I cannot I cannot but just observe, that the angel-interpreter expressly tells St. John, that this woman was that great city which then reigned over the kings of the earth (ver. xviii.) which undoubtedly means the city of Rome, that was then the feat of universal empire. But,
(-2.) 1 he time of the reign of this idolatrous and persecuting power is determined in prophetic numbers, both in Daniel and the Revelations. In Daniel, it is said, the saints shall be given into the hand of the horns until a time, times, and the dividing of time, Dan. vii. 25. and that he shall scatter the power of the holy people for a time, times, and half a time. Dan. xii. 7. In the Revelations, we are told. that the church of Christ, represented by a woman, shall continue in the wilderness, /'. e. in a state of oppression and persecution, under the Popish power, for a time, times, and half a time, Rev. xii. 14. that the outer court of the temple; and the holy city, another emblem of the true church of Christ, shallbe given to the Gentiles, i. e. subjected to a power no better than heathen, and by them trodden under foot forty-two months; that the church should be fed in the wilderness for twelve hundred and sixty days, Rev. xii. 6. and that the two witnesses, i. e. the small remnant of the faithful who shall retain the purity of the gospel, and witness against the corruptions of the church of Rome, Jha/l prophesy twelve hundred and fixty days in sackcloth. These are but different representations of the fame period: and in order to understand them you are to observe, that, in this calculation, a day signisies a year; and therefore twelve hundred and fixty days are twelve hundred and fixty years. A month consists of thirty such days, /. e. thirty years; for the months among the ancients were invariably made up of but thirty days, as their year consisted only of three hundred and fixty days. Now forty-two months, multiplied by thirty, just make twelve hundred and fixty years. So time signisies one year, times two years, and half
a time, or the dividing of time, half a year: nowone year and two years making three years, and the half year added to them make three years and a half. These three years and a half contain thrice three hundred and fixty years, and the half of three hundred and fixty (viz. one hundred and eighty) which make exactly twelve hundred and fixty years. So that all these calculations amount to the fame thing, viz. twelve hundred and fixty years. This is undoubtedly the duration of the Popish tyranny, and of the oppression of the saints, and the cause of truth. Now if we could sind out when it begun, whether when the Pope usurped and exercised the substance of ecclesiastical authority as universal bishop, which was in the sifth century; or when he was formerly invested with that authority by the emperor Phocas, A. D. 606; or when he was made a secular prince, and had a civil authority added to his ecclesiastical, by Pipin, king of France, A. D. 756; I fay, if we could sind out when this space of twelve hundred and fixty years began, we could eafily sind out when it will end: and this would help us to determine what will be the event of the present war, whether the oppression of the Protestant cause, or the downfal of the bloody power of Popery, that has undoubtedly held the world in ignorance, idolatry and slavery, for above a thousand years. But after all the searches I can make, I am not able to form a certain determination upon the point; and commentators differ so widely among themselves, that I have received but little light from them. I must therefore leave you in that uncertainty, in which I am myself; and consequently destitute of light from these predictions concerning the event of the present war. But,
(3.) Though this period of twelve hundred and fixty years is to be, all through, a series of tyranny and persecution; and the cause of truth and its advocates are continually under oppression; yet there is a short space in this period, I suppose, from the
Vol. III. F f f calculation calculation in the Revelation, Rev. xi. 9. about three years and a half, in which the cause of truth shall seem entirely suppressed, and its friends utterly extinct; so that there will be no human probability of their revival, any more than of a human body that has lain dead three days and a half. And upon this the Popish powers shall exult and triumph, as if they had obtained an entire and lasting victory. This is probably the time referred to in Daniel (chap. xii. 1.) as a time of trouble, such as never was fince there was anation, even to that time. During the rest of the twelve hundred and fixty days, the witnesses prophefied in sackcloth, in a state of mourning and persecution: but in this period they are killed; and their dead bodies lie, unburied and insulted, in the street of the great city, /'. e. in the Roman territories: and they that dwell upon the earth Jloall rejoice over them, and make merry, and fend gifts one to another. Rev. xi. 7—10. This is a melancholy time indeed for the few servants of Jesus Christ. And who can tell, whether it be past, or whether it be future, and the issue of the present war? I could eafily lay before you the opinions of good and great men on this point; but they are so various, that they could not bring you to any certain conclusion upon it. Some suppose it past j and that it was either a little before the Reformation, when the Albigenses and Waldenses, who had been witnesses for a long time against the corruptions of popery, were, in appearance, utterly extirpated by a series of bloody persecutions, at the Pope's instigation: and if this was the period, then the resurrection of the witnesses, and their being caught up into heaven, must signify the revival of their cause at the Reformation, and the raifing up of Luther, Calvin, and other reformers, in the fame spirit. Or, as others suppose, this melancholy time was about the year 1550, when the persecution raged in England under Queen Mary, and the civil wars in France, Germany, and the Low Countries, on account of religion, seemed
ed to threaten the utter extinction of the Protestant cause. Those that suppose this time is past, have sundry arguments, that are at least plausible, to support their opinion; and if I have any opinion at all, in so doubtful a matter, I incline to this.
There are others, of no small judgment in such matters, that apprehend this melancholy period is yet to come; and they too have their reasons, which I cannot now mention. And if this be the cafe, who can tell but the melancholy time is now at hand, and that the present commotions in Europe are working up to it? This is certain, it will be introduced by war: for we are expressly told, that when the two witnesses have Jinished their testimony; the beast shall make war against them, and so all overcome them and kill them, Rev. xi. 7. and that just before the pouring out of the seventh vial, which shall utterly destroy the popish powers, and introduce the kingdom of Christ, the kings of the earth, by popish instigation, shall gather themselves together to the battle of the great day of God Almighty, in a place called Armageddon (Rev. xvi. 13, 14, 16.) or Megiddo, where good Josiah, the great reformer of the Jewish religion, was flain. I saw the beast, fays St. John, and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that fat on the horse, i. e. against Jesus Christ and his army. Rev. xix. 19. Popery will die hard, and its last struggles be very violent. It will collect all its forces, and make a bold push to recover its lost authority: and this will undoubtedly be attended with much slaughter. But whether it will be victorious in the sirst attack, and at this time slay the witnesses; or whether the Lamb and his army shall immediately prevail, as he certainly will at last ; * this seems uncertain. Now who can tell, but the present war is the commencement of this grand decisive conflict.
* See the final issue of this grand decisive conflict, described in mo:t lively terms, Rev. xix. from ver. n. ad fin.
flict between the Lamb and the beast, i. e. between the protestant and popish powers? The pope sirst received his principality and secular authority from Pipin, one of the kings of France: and there seems to be something congruous in it, that France should also take the lead, and be, as it were, the general of his forces in this last decifive conflict for the support of that authority. This is also remarkable, and almost peculiar to the present war, viz. That protestants and papists are not blended together in it by promiscuous alliances: but France and her allies are all papists; and Britain and her allies are all protestants; and consequently whatever party fall, the religion of that party is like to fall too. If France and her allies should prove victorious, then we may conclude the period for flaying the witnesses is just coming. But if Britain and her allies should be victorious, then we may conclude that time is past, and that the time is just come when it shall be proclaimed, Babylon is fallen f is fallen! but all this is uncertain, at least to me, till the event make it plain; and for that we must wait with anxious suspense.
But here I cannot help mentioning one thing, to mitigate your anxieties; and that is, that however bloody and desolating this last conflict may be, it will bring about the most glorious and happy revolution that ever was in the world. It will quite change the face of things, introduce a new heaven and a new earthy wherein righteousness shall dwell; and it will new-model the kingdoms of the world, and they shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he Jhall reign for ever, Rev. xi. 15. then Satan shall be bound, and Christ shall reign in the hearts of men, a thousand years. How remarkable upon this head are the prophecies of Daniel, above two thousand years ago! I beheld, fays he, and the little horn made war with the faints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of Days came; i. e. came to give dominion, and glory, and a kingdom to the Son of man, Dan. vii. 21, 22.
and then judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom, ver. 13, 14.—They shall be uppermost in their turn, and be sinally triumphant. All the other empires and kingdoms of the world have been subject to revolutions, passed from hand to hand, and at length fallen to pieces; but this, fays Daniel, is a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; a kingdom that shall not be left to other people; but it shall break to ,pieces and consume all the kingdoms that were before it, and it shall stand for ever. Dan. ii. 44.—Hail, happy period! how long wilt thou delay? Lord Jesus, let thy kingdom come! let it come, though to make way for it, many thrones must totter that are now the supporters of Antichrist: let it come, though many kingdoms should be overturned, and many countries stream with blood; though we and millions more should be crushed in the grand revolution. See, brethren, the happy result of all the commotions that are, or have been, on this restless globe: fee to what a glorious end they all tend! And who would not willingly live a while longer in this world of sin and sorrow, and share in calamities of war, and all the plagues reserved for the latter times, if he may but fee this blessed period! But if we should not be so happy as to fee it with mortal eyes, such of us as de in the Lord shall receive the welcome intelligence of it in heaven, and rejoice in it as much as its proper subjects on earth.—You will forgive me, if I have dwelt too long upon this new and curious subject. I shall now proceed with more haste. Therefore,
3. The event of the present war, and the doom of our country and nation, will appear dreadfully uncertain if we consider our national guilt and impenitence.
Let Atheists and Epicureans fay what they please, it is an eternal truth, which all the world will be made to know at last, that Jehovah is the ruler of the universe; that the fate of kingdoms is in his hands;
that that he is the Sovereign Arbiter of war, and determines victory as he pleases. It is also certain that rewards and punishments are as essential to his government as they are to all other governments. In the world to come he will reward or punish individuals, according to their perfbnal works; and in the present world he will reward or punish nations, according to their national work;—in the present world, I say, because it is only in the present world they subsist in a national capacity, and are capable of national rewards and punishments. Now there is a time, -when the transgressors are come to the full, Dan. viii. 23. when the measure of a people's iniquity is silled up, and they are ripe for vengeance. And then the executioners of divine vengeance, the sword, famine, pestilential diseases, earthquakes, and the like, are turned loose among them, then the dread commission is issued out, Put ye in the fickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, get ye down ; for the press is full; the vats overflow ; for their wickedness is great. Joel iii. 13.. Then all the undertakings of such a people are blasted; and even the worst of the heathen (Ezek. vii. 24.) succeed against them. That nation is thrown off from the hinge on which empire turns, and therefore must fall. The Lord of armies is against them; and by a secret, but irresistible hand, brings on their destruction.
Now whether that fatal period be arrived, with respect to us and our nation, I will not determine; nor indeed am I capable: but I am sure it is not evident that it is not come: I am sure our land is full of sin against the Holy One of Israel. On this subject I have often enlarged; and now, I am afraid, it is a trite disregarded tale. The sins of our land lie heavy upon it: the sins of all ranks and denominations; the sins of past and present generations; sins against the law and against the gospel; sins against mercies and against judgments ; Tins in heart, in language, in practice; sins of all kinds and degrees, and against
all all sorts of obligations: Oh! what a huge heap, what an intolerable burden, do all these sins make! The sins of many millions on both sides the Atlantic! Our body politic is a huge mass of corruption! the whole head is fick; and the whole heart saint: from the sole of the soot unto the head there is no soundness in it, but all full of wounds, and bruises, and putrifying fores. Isa. i. 6. And does not this leave our doom in a dreadful suspense? Who can tell what will be the fate of so guilty a people ? Can we indulge high hopes with such a load os guilt upon us? Sin lies like a dead weight upon our counsels, our designs and expeditions; and crushes all of them. What though our enemies be as wicked as ourselves, with only this exception, that they have not our advantages, and therefore cannot sin with our aggravations? But what if they were in all respects as bad? It has been no unusual thing for God to employ one guilty nation to execute his vengeance upon another; and when that drudgery is done (which, by the by, is more properly devolved upon a hated nation than upon his people; he has more benesicent and agreeable work for them) I fay, when that drudgery is done, he executes the executioner: just as one among a number of criminals may be appointed to execute the rest; and then he is executed himself by some other hand. Thus God employed the Assyrians and Babylonians to punish his people, the Jews; and when they had, though undesignedly, done him that service, he punishes them in a yet severer manner. And thus he threatens the Jews by Ezekiel, that he would bring the worst of the Heathen against them: they were good enough to be executioners. So he employs devils, the worst of beings, to execute his vengeance upon sinners in hell. And so in human governments, the refuse of mankind are appointed hangmen.
But though our land be so full of sin, yet there would be some ground to hope, could we see any appearances of a general repentance and reformation. But, alas! where shall we sind it? I have not been altogether a heedless observer of the esfects of the corrective and vindictive providences of God towards our land, the sword, a threatened famine, and a deadly, raging distemper.* But I have been really shocked to observe the issue. I am afraid, that even the people of God are not so effectually rouzed by these warnings as they should be. One would think they would be all life and vigour at such a time as this: but, alas! I am afraid it is otherwise. I am especially afraid that impenitent sinners, instead of being melted into repentance, are hardening more and more like clay in the sun. Alas! I fee and hear no more of serious concern about eternal things among us, than if we lived in a healthy neighbourhood, and a peaceful, unmolested country. I am afraid the case of some bears a dismal resemblance to that described in Rev. xv. 10, 11. They gnawed their tongues for fain, and blasphemed the God of Heaven, because sf their pains and their fores, and repented not of their deeds; no, they are sullenly obstinate to wickedness still.
Brethren, what are we doing? Are we afleep at such a time as this, when the judgments of Heaven are around us, and the fate of our country is so terribly doubtful? For God's fake, for our soul's fake, for our country's fake, let us rouze ourselves from our security; let us humble ourselves before God, and cry mightily to him; and who can tell but he may turn away from his fierce anger ?—Which leads me to the second inference from my text, viz.
II. That when a nation is in such a doubtful situation that no man can know its doom, if there be any hope, it is only in the way of repentance, reformation, and earnest prayer.
This appears the only way of hope on two accounts.
* At this time a flux raged in the congregation, am) elsewhere, which baffled all the power of medicine, aud swept offsorne whole families almost entirely.
1. National sin has a direct tendency, in its own nature, to weaken and destroy a nation. It is the deadly disease of a body politic which will destroy it, without the hand of an executioner. It spreads corruption, injustice, treachery, discord, confusion, cowardice, through a nation; and it destroys public spirit, the love of our country, unanimity, courage, and all the social and heroic virtues which naturally tend to strengthen, defend and advance a people. Now repentance, reformation and prayer, is the proper cure for this disease; it purges out these internal principles of death, and implants and cherishes the Opposite principles of virtue and life. But this is not all; for,
2. Repentance, reformation and prayer, is the only method to turn away the displeasure of God, and obtain his favour and protection. Sin brings on a people the curse of a provoked God; and under this they fade and wither away, like a blasted flower, or a tree struck by lightning from heaven. But if it be possible to remove it, and obtain the divine favour, it is only by deep humiliation before him, by a thorough reformation from those sins that provoke him, and by earnest cries for mercy. The light of nature taught the men of Nineveh that this was the only way of hope: and revelation assures us of the very fame thing. It is only to the penitent that the promises of deliverance are made; and without repentance, we have no possible claim to them. Deliverances are generally answers to prayer; and therefore without earnest prayer we cannot expect them. National, judgments are inflicted for national sins; and therefore reformation from national sins is the only hopeful way to escape them.
Therefore, my brethren, let us betake ourselves to this only method of hope. Let us deeply humble ourselves before God; let us cry mightily to him—and let us turn every one from our evil ways; and then, who
Vol. III. G g g can
rct« te// but God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we peri/h not?
But in all my exhortations of this kind, I must remember that repentance and reformation is the duty of fallen creatures ; of creatures so depraved and feeble, that they are not able, of themselves, so much as to apply the remedy. If you attempt this work with the pride of imaginary self-sufficiency, you may be sure disappointment will be the consequence. Therefore remember, that it is the holy Spirit of God alone that is the author of a thorough repentance and esfectual reformation. It is he alone that can esfectually convince the world of sin. If he be absent, legislators may make laws against vice, philosophers may reason, ministers may preach, nay, conscience may remonstrate, the divine law may prescribe and threaten, the gospel may invite and allure; but all will be in vain: all will not produce one true penitent. The strongest arguments, the most melting intreaties, the most alarming denunciations, from God and man, enforced by the highest authority, or by the most compassionate tears, all will have no effect; all will not effectually reclaim one sinner, nor gain one sincere proselyte to righteousness: Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, with all their apostolical abilities, can do nothing to the purpose without the holy Spirit. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but God alone can give the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that •watereth; they are both nothing together: but God, who giveth the increase (1 Cor. iii. 7.) is all in all. Till the Spirit be poured forth from on high, fays Isaiah, briars and thorns shall come up upon the land of my people; i. e. Their country shall be laid waste, and be made a mere wilderness of briars and thorns, by the ravages of war: or the people themselves shall be like briars and thorns, fruitless, noxious and troublesome. In this language the prophet Micah describes the fame people: the best of them is as a briar; the most upright is sharper than a thorn-hedge. (Micah vii. 4.) Such
... . shall
(hall they continue, until the holy Spirit be poured forth upon them from on high. But when the happy time comes, then the wilderness shall be a fruitful field; then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness shall remain in the fruitful field. This esfusion of the Spirit shall put an end to the desolation of war, and establish them in the possession of lasting and extensive peace: for, as it is there added, the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the native effect of righteousness (hall be quietness and assurance for ever : and my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet restingplaces. (Isa. xxxii. 13, 18.) You see, my brethren, of how much importance and necessity the Spirit is to produce a reformation, and that blessed peace and security, both personal and national, both within and without, which is the effect of it!
And how are we to expect his sacred influences? Or in what way may we hope to attain them? The answer is, Pray for them: pray frequently, pray fervently, " Lord, thy spirit! O give thy spirit! that is the blessing I want; the blessing which families, and nations, and the whole human race want." Pray in your retirements; pray in your families; pray in societies appointed for that purpose; pray in warm ejaculations, pray without ceasing, for this grand, fundamental blessing. Here what encouragement Christ has given to prayer in this particular: Ask, and it shall be given you ; seck, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.—If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his holy Spirit to them that ask him! Luke xi. 9—13. Endeavour to repent in this humble, self-diffident manner, and you may hope it will at least avail to your eternal salvation; and who knows but it may avail also to turn away the fierce anger of God from your country and nation?