A sermon: preached February 28, 1794, being the day appointed for a general fast. By J. Brand, ...
THERE are two prophecies of our Saviour, relating to the final fall of Jeruſalem, recorded by St. Luke; and the words of the text are the introduction to the firſt of them: and it was at the awful moment, when going up to preſent himſelf a living ſacrifice for the ſins of mankind, he came in ſight of the walls of that city, that he pronounced it. And ſince its terrible accompliſhment, no period has called the attention of mankind ſo directly and ſolemnly as the preſent, to the conſideration of that calamity, and of the fatal cauſes which led to it.
The people of the various kingdoms of the world, who own obedience to the law of Chriſt, have, for many ages, been free from the ſcourge of ſuch utter deſtruction; its mild influence, though it has not broken the ſword of battle, has blunted its edge; and if hoſtile anger has not been diſarmed by it, it has made hoſtile revenge drop the point of his ſpear: thus the ſtate of mankind, ſheltered from the former ſeverity of the ſtorms which laid it waſte, has in theſe countries been improved; and thoſe who had accurately marked the progreſs of this amelioration, flattered themſelves with a proſpect of the ſtability of what was gained to the general happineſs, and of great further acquiſitions.
The melancholy experience of a brief, very brief period, has ſhewn us, on what a quickſand this ſplendid edifice of human expectation may be ſounded: that the acquiſitions of ages improving upon ages may, perhaps, be ſuddenly cruſhed by one blow of the iron mace of deſolation; wielded by a more ferocious arm than that of ancient barbariſm, and loſt in utter extinction. In a kingdom which has acknowledged the faith of the croſs of Chriſt, the tyranny of impiety has ſhut his worſhippers out of the temples dedicated to his holy name: violence has trampled upon every human inſtitution, hitherto reverenced as auguſt: the lawgiver whom they have ſet up over themſelves, has been compelled by the [Page 2] meaneſt of the people, and by threats of death, to publiſh their will as his law. Terror and the ſword have expelled knowledge, rank, and probity, from the ſeat of judgement; and their place has been defiled by thoſe who ought to have been the victims of her keeneſt indignation: poſſeſſions, derived from a long illuſtrious line of anceſtry, or the reward of worthy ſervices to the ſtate, or acquired by the induſtry which at the ſame time has fed it; whatever a genuine, or a miſtaken piety, whoſe errors virtue does not look upon without affection, had conſecrated to the maintenance of the altars and miniſters of our Saviour and our God, and the charitable relief of the poor of the land, to whom there the law gives no ſupport; all theſe rapine has ſeized upon as her own. The multitude, made blindly furious, are now deſtroying with their own hands the means of their future ſubſiſtence; the part of the wealth of the trafficker, the merchant, and the landholder, which ſets to work the induſtry of the needy; from whence alone the hire of the labourer and artificer can be paid; which cannot be a little diminiſhed, without extreme diſtreſs to all thoſe to whom it yielded the bread of life, and taking it abſolutely away from many: even this ſtorehouſe and treaſury of the poor has been broken open, and plundered of much of what it contained. The cries of violence and murder are in the whole land; their choice buildings, and their cities, they have laid waſte with fire, and their names are ſpoken of no more: their towns are polluted with blood, and the inhabitants are waſted in the midſt thereof; and death walks at large in their ſtreets and highways—Their two ſovereigns have periſhed by murder, tricked out by the cruel inſolence of mockery in the robes of juſtice: their king, bleſſed in that mild quality of nature, that affection to his people, which loyalty and humanity muſt love; who, if he had poſſeſſed that auſterity of firmneſs, whoſe awful terrors have been known to wither the arm of guilt raiſed to ſtrike, would poſſibly have repelled the moſt torturing arrow which can pierce the ſoul, and deſpair, from his own innocent boſom. Their princes have been driven into indigence and exile; their nobles, and their honourable and wiſe men, are either wandering in ſtrange lands, condemned to drain to the very dregs the bitterneſs of miſery, which is mingled in their cup to drink; or eat the ſcanty bread of poverty, ſteeped in the tears of anguiſh that knows no hope; or faſt bound in miſery and iron, buried in dungeons, viſited of no day ſprung from on high, never to breathe this purer air, or ſee the light of the ſun again, until the voice of the murderer ſhall be heard, calling each of them forth to take his ſad turn in death. Others hunted for ſlaughter in the city, hunted for ſlaughter in the field; friend dreading in his friend a betrayer, and a murderer in him whom he knoweth not. The dying blood of many hath ſtained their own walls, now become the property of the robber, and calleth for vengeance in vain. Some have periſhed in the midſt of thoſe whom their bounty had ſuſtained with food and raiment, and by their execrable hands. And many rendered furious to diſtraction by the terror that purſued them by day, and the fear of the arrow that flicth in darkneſs, have eſcaped from evils, almoſt too overwhelming for man to bear, by the ſword of ſelf-deſtruction. In the courts of the Lord's houſe, the miniſters of his law have been ſlain heaps upon heaps; and the altars of the God of all mercies have been defiled with their blood. In the language of the ſcriptures, their prieſts are cut off by the ſword, and there are no widows to make lamentation.
[Page 3] If it be aſked, what has diſnatured man into ſuch ſavageneſs? it may be anſwered, that one leading cauſe is, the prevalence of the laſt wickedneſs of ſelf-deluſion—that furious delirium of the impiety of minds to all good works and thoughts reprobate—Atheiſm; her numerous profeſſors, to free untutored guilt from every reſtraint, to pluck conſcience, the vicegerent of the Divinity in our boſoms, from her throne, have compelled the voice of the law to proclaim to the unknowing multitude, that the ſufferings of the ſublimeſt virtue and piety will meet no retribution after this life; the darkeſt crimes which can outrage human nature, no puniſhment; that death is an eternal and undiſturbed ſleep alike to both; and that heaven and hell are viſionary fables. ‘They have ſaid aloud, there is no God: they have done abominable works; and eat up the people as they eat bread:’ a Deſtruction and unhappineſs are in their ways.
The extremes of virtue and of vice have this in common; that their votaries labour, with unremitting aſſiduity, to make all men like themſelves. Chriſtianity had her apoſtles and teachers, who diſperſed themſelves into every country, to inſtruct mankind in the goſpel of peace, as the means of univerſal happineſs— ſalvation: the miſſionaries of this myſtery of iniquity have penetrated into every kingdom of the Chriſtian world, to make converts to a ſyſtem pregnant with univerſal miſery; nor have they laboured here abſolutely without ſucceſs, though with much leſs than in their folly they had flattered themſelves to obtain. Our national name has not eſcaped being diſgraced, by their finding ſome open and avowed patrons, others more ſubtle and indirect, and therefore more dangerous abettors of their atrocious deluſions. We are met here to ſupplicate the throne of grace, to prevent the ſpreading of this poiſon among us; and preſerve us from its dreadful conſequences: and to intreat him who ſitteth thereon for ever, that he would bleſs our exertions in this new and more than ordinary ſtate of peril; and be himſelf the ſafe-guard and defence of his ſervants: who have been compelled, by the ſtern neceſſity of ſelf-preſervation, to fight the battles of religion, juſtice, and human kind: not viſiting us according to our iniquities, and the abuſe of his mercies toward us, which in the ſolemn devotions of this day we have confeſſed unto him; but that he will grant us the aſſiſtance of his Holy Spirit, that we may by the ſincerity of our repentance, and by actual amendment of life, render ourſelves worthy of the continuance and increaſe of the benefits he has vouchſafed unto us.
The occaſion of the national act of humiliation of this day, differs from all thoſe which have preceded it in our former wars, chiefly on the firſt of theſe accounts, the danger of ſpreading a ſyſtem of crimes, and a ſyſtem of criminal ſophiſtry among us, and that under the fallacious name of new diſcoveries in political morality. It was againſt the ſame fanatical perverſion of the principles of freedom, leading the way to the ſame atrocities, that the words of our Saviour in the text were directed; and though they did not ſerve as a caution to the men of that generation, they ought to be received as ſuch by all nations, and in all ages, that hold the truth in Chriſt.
[Page 4] Our Saviour, when he wept over the future calamities of Jeruſalem, begins with lamenting, that the things which belonged to her peace were hidden from her eyes; that is, that the Jews were ignorant of the cauſe of thoſe terrible calamities which were coming upon them; and therefore were not able, by guarding againſt them, or removing them in time, to prevent their natural effect: the things which belonged to their peace were hidden from them.
The prophecy itſelf met with ſo remarkable a completion, that it has been conſtantly and invincibly applied, as one of the leading proofs of the truth of our Lord's miſſion: and in the train of this demonſtration, every article of it has been critically and accurately compared with the hiſtory of the deſtruction of the city, and the final diſperſion of the Jewiſh people. This account was written by Joſephus, who at the beginning of the calamitous war he deſcribes, had taken arms on the popular ſide, and was their ableſt leader.
As it has been the buſineſs of the defenders of Chriſtianity above mentioned, to parallel the events recorded by him with the prophecy; ſo the preſent ſubject leads me to ſelect, out of the ſame hiſtory, thoſe cauſes which, co-operating with the providence of God, produced the cataſtrophe he relates, and which drew tears from the Redeemer of mankind, when he ſaw that they were ſo hidden from the eyes of the Jewiſh nation, that they would not remove them in their day, and when their exiſtence as a people continued. This I ſhall do in a ſeries of extracts from the hiſtory, and as frequently in the words of Joſephus, as the nature and limits of a ſermon will admit; giving to theſe detached paſſages, the arrangement neceſſary to their forming a connected repreſentation, intermixing them with ſome explanatory obſervations, together with ſuch of the hiſtorical facts, as may ſhew the force of theſe cauſes in operation, as well as their tendency.
A new ſet of principles, embraced by a great part of the nation, was the leading and proximate cauſe of theſe ſignal calamities of the Jews, a ſect had recently ariſen in Galilee, of which one of the name of Judas was the founder; their tenets were diſtinguiſhed by that fanaticiſm of liberty, which always ultimately proves its deſtruction, where it breaks out; they held that as ſervants of God, they ſhould not acknowledge any mortal man, as prince or lord over them;b eſteeming it a degeneracy in every one, who had arms to defend his freedom, to ſubmit even to the mild exerciſe of ſovereign power.c It was in the name of liberty that we have taken up arms, exclaimed that ardent partiſan of a republic, the high prieſt Ananus, after Jeruſalem was filled with anarchy and murder.d
[Page 5] Eloquence and philoſophy, which have been frequently perverted to introduce confuſion into ſociety, had been thus abuſed in Judea. Matthias and Judas, two public teachers of the greateſt celebrity, ſupported extravagant and fanatic interpretations of the ancient laws, to raiſe actual commotion and inſurrection; they were attended by ſuch numbers of the youth of the higher rank, that Joſephus calls the multitude of their followers an army; to incite their enthuſiaſm to the higheſt pitch, they ſeem to have aſſumed the character of inſpired teachers, as well as political orators, promiſing to thoſe who died for their exaggerated tenets, to which they gave the ſeducing name of the laws of their forefathers, the immediate attainment of immortality of happineſs; and denouncing ſomething like an anathema againſt thoſe who were lukewarm.e When fanaticiſm came afterwards to pollute the ſpirit of liberty, the doctrine of theſe ſophiſts coaleſced with it, and gave it malignity and extenſion.f
This ſpirit of deluſion was ſpread, with great diligence, among the populace of Judea; and every pretext was ſeized with avidity, for theatrical declamations, loaded with the moſt exaggerated encomiums of liberty.g
Nor does any aſſiduity ſeem to have been wanted to inculcate the ſame popular errors, in the countries which bordered upon Judea. The Jewiſh religion had extended itſelf much in the neighbouring imperial provinces, particularly Syria: and this unhappy political enthuſiaſm appears to have ſtruck a deep root in the minds of the proſelytes. A ſanguinary incurſion of the Jews into that province was repulſed; but the ſtrength of the Syrians of their party, in every city, was ſuch, that after their retreat, the natives were divided into two hoſtile armies; and the ſafety of one party was ſuppoſed to conſiſt in anticipating the plots of the other by their deſtruction: their days were ſpent in mutual ſlaughter, and uncertainty and terror made their nights more inſupportable.h
This deluding and unhappy faſcination of the minds of the people had its effects increaſed by other cauſes: the manners and morals of the great majority of the Jewiſh nation were extremely corrupted; this was clearly ſhewn, by the prevalence of the crime of robbery among the lower claſs; an infallible criterion of ſuch corruption. In ſeveral parts of the country, large gangs of robbers roamed up and down, and committed their depredations in open day; and many joined the political party for innovation, ſtimulated by the deſire of increaſing their poſſeſſions, and plundering the weak in public commotions.i
Sedition had been infuſed into and corrupted the ſoldiery; for the flagitious Eleazar, general of the Temple-guard, and who at the beginning appears to have commanded the army, was able to ſecure that important fortreſs for the inſurgents.k Manahem, celebrated for his ardent and nervous eloquence, and ambitious perhaps of becoming in effect a ſovereign, having gathered a party together, ſurpriſed the ſtrong fortreſs of Maſſada, in the caſtle of which was contained the arſenal of King Herod, took out the arms, and diſtributed them to ſhe robbers and low people: the inſurgents of the capital put him at their head.l I may add here, that he fell the firſt victim of the jealouſy of their other leaders.m
[Page 6] At the beginning of theſe commotions, many of the nobles and great men countenanced them, who had either imbibed the new principles, or who were influenced by fear, or factious ambition; or who acted with the inſurgents, in hopes by their perſonal authority to impreſs a direction on their movements leſs fatal to their country than they would otherwiſe take; but they ſoon found the nominal powers committed to them, without effect to reſtrain the madneſs of the people: and it was not by military obedience alone (which was in a manner annihilated) that their leaders of the firſt rank and ability were able to reſtrain their mutinous ſoldiers from the pillage and deſtruction of great cities.n Thoſe who guided the meaſures of the nobles, were juſtly jealous of the deſigns of Eleazar, whom I have before mentioned; and had taken care, after the calamitous retreat of Ceſtius, to have him excluded from the greater offices. With the ſpoils he had then gained, and part of the public treaſure, which he converted to his own purpoſes, he bribed the populace, and got all the effective power into his own hand; and this without the ſhadow of any regular appointment.o
Thus undermined, the ſhort-lived empty ſemblance of authority, with which the nobles and great men of the land had the appearance of being inveſted, ſoon entirely vaniſhed: the melancholy remainder of their fate will be preſently related. The events of popular commotions moſtly depend upon agents of a different rank; and while the former retain the appearance of guiding them, the reality is ſoon transferred to the latter. Thus at an early period of the war, we find that among thoſe who at firſt ſhared the ſuperiority wreſted from them were Jeſus, the ſon of Sophias, the chief of the faction of common ſailors and beggars, who plundered and ſet fire to the palace at Tiberias;p and Joſeph, the natural ſon of a woman who ſold medicines, at the head of a reſolute party, took up arms at Gamala againſt King Agrippa, and declared for liberty; compelling ſome by force to join his party, and murdering others whom he could not overawe.q
Joſephus, who at firſt had a great command among the revolters, thus deſcribes theſe miſerable and atrocious fanatics: they had before been the ſcorn and off-ſcouring of the whole country; many of them perſons who had diſſolutely waſted their former fortunes: theſe, having firſt practiſed their depredations and violence in villages and provincial cities, marched in troops to the metropolis;r there, the leaders of the inſurrection indulged their crimes with full licenſe; their luſt for rapine was inſatiable; the houſes of the rich were not only entered, ſearched, and plundered,s but their owners were beaten with rods.t The murder of men, and the violation of women, they eſteemed as ſport;u glutted with ſpoil and blood, they conſumed in the temple what they had acquired by murder, in drunkenneſs and gluttony,w or oſtentatiouſly glittering in the coſtly ſpoils of their miſerable victims, they wallowed in public, in the turpitude of the vileſt impurities.x
[Page 7] A very great part of theſe inſurgents were diſtinguiſhed by the name of Sicarians; this is derived from the latin word Sica, a dagger: they went privately armed with a curved dagger under their robes, with which they perpetrated innumerable murders, frequently aggravated with the moſt inhuman ſpecies of treachery.y
Many of their rulers and great men, who had concurred in the inſurrection at firſt, alarmed by theſe enormities, joined with the majority of the inhabitants of the city to ſuppreſs them; they were animated to this attempt chiefly by the ſpirit of Ananus the high prieſt; ſome appearance of ſucceſs againſt this bloody anarchy attended them at the beginning: but the fanatics and Sicarians, ſeeing the end of their tyranny, and the puniſhment of their crimes to be approaching, called the Idumeans into the city to their aſſiſtance; a ferocious race of men, whom the hiſtorian paints as prone to commotion, ruſhing to war as to a banquet,z and by nature moſt ſavage in murder;a thus ſtrengthened they obtained a victory, in which Ananus, ſaid to have been above meaſure attached to liberty, and an idolater of democracy, was ſlain by them.b After which Jeſus, the ſecond man in that party, with twelve thouſand of their nobles, were cut off in one maſſacre; and every man who lamented the loſs of a friend, was doomed to periſh by the ſame death.c The pretence of this horrible carnage was, that the unhappy victims had conſpired to deliver up their country to the Roman emperor.d
Theſe were not the tranſitory effects of popular fury burſting forth in a ſudden tempeſt, and then ſubſiding again as ſoon as its dreadful purpoſe was accompliſhed. The whole frame of civil ſociety was ſhattered to pieces; violence annihilated the power both of making and adminiſtering laws; in the place of public debate, the members of the aſſembly were ſeized unaccuſed, loaded with ſetters, and immediately delivered to death;e when the innocence of the priſoner, prevailing over the rage and clamours and menaces of the ſurrounding multitude, had extorted an acquittal from the magiſtrate, he was dragged away to ſlaughter, and in the temple! and the judges driven by the ſword from their ſeats, their lives being ſpared to be the meſſengers to the citizens, that their ſlavery was complete.f
Not content with the ruin of individuals, theſe criminals added ſacrilege to robbery; they plundered the treaſury of the temple, and ſeized the holy veſſels dedicated to the daily miniſtration of the altar; not even the owers which the great Auguſtus and his Empreſs had preſented to the holy edifice eſcaped, although a homage to their religion, which, by exalting its honour among all nations, muſt have rendered them more ſacred in the eyes of a people who would compaſs ſea and land to make one proſelyte.g The cedars of Mount Libanus of ſingular beauty, the coſtly and pious offering of King Agrippa, of which there was a great quantity prepared for the repairing and adorning of the temple, they converted into the military machines uſed in that age, and to other purpoſes of war.h
[Page 8] They took the appointments to the higher orders of the prieſthood into their own hands, and neglecting the former qualifications for that office; they conferred it upon unknown men of low family, who, through conſciouſneſs of the defects of their titles, and fear of being deprived of their new appointments, might be compelled to ſuffer or to ſecond their rapacity and fury.i Thus they trampled upon the dignity of the high prieſthood, by compelling one Plannias to accept of it; a man of that groſſneſs of ruſtic ignorance, that he did not know what the office was; him they dreſſed in pontifical robes, like an actor upon a ſtage, prompting him, from time to time, in what he was to perform, with the wantonneſs of laughter, contempt, and profanation.k
To finiſh this branch of the melancholy hiſtory of their iniquities—in a land of rapine and ferocity, not even the labour neceſſary to the ſupport of the lives of inhabitants can be preſerved: famine raged in the city; and theſe ſanguinary robbers augmented the terror of that dreadful viſitation, by inflicting new miſeries upon its victims, although their crimes had ſo well provided for them, that no neceſſity urged them on to more;l they broke into the houſes of the famiſhed citizens in ſearch of proviſions; where they found any, the owner was beaten with rods, as having attempted to conceal them; where none, he was tortured, as having affected a concealment.m
In the beginning of theſe calamities, the friends of their country and of public order had a proſpect open upon them of their ſpeedy termination. An army of the Roman emperor made its way very near to the city, but it was compelled to flee with loſs and diſgrace; and this hope of ſafety, which had been looked up to with ſuch trembling anxiouſneſs of expectation, being loſt, many of the Jewiſh nobility, who had hitherto remained in the city, fled into the territories of the empire,n and many ſold their poſſeſſions to flee;o to obſtruct their eſcape, all the paſſages leading out of the country were cloſely guarded, and whoever was taken at theſe poſts was executed as a fugitive.p Numbers of rich men were ſlain, under the pretence that they intended to abandon their country;q and all who were ſuſpected of it, or of being ſecretly inclined to the Romans, ſhared the ſame fate, while univerſal terror repreſſed all lamentation.r
The ſituation of the greater body of the people was, beyond meaſure, deplorable; they wiſhed for the ſucceſs of the Roman emperor and the kings united with him, to free them from the tyranny of theſe execrable aſſaſſins,s who, though inferior in number, having arms in their hands, were irreſiſtible, and compelled thoſe who abhorred them to be the companions or the victims of their crimes;t while death was the puniſhment they held out to all who propoſed treaty or ſurrender.u And Titus, whoſe unwilling arms theſe enormities dragged forward to deſtroy them with their city, is cited by Joſephus, as declaring, that the great body of the people were thus, by force, impriſoned for inevitable deſtruction.w
[Page 9] Nor were theſe conſpirators againſt the firſt laws of humanity and nature, without feeling from their own crimes, calamities and terrors ſimilar to thoſe they had brought upon their countrymen. The preſſure of the Roman arms being withdrawn awhile by the defeat of Ceſtius, and the renewal of the war poſtponed by other circumſtances, they broke into two hoſtile factions, and in the boſom of one of theſe was formed a third, between whom and their former aſſociates a war took place. A ſedition within a ſedition—and this vile party became, as Joſephus ſtyles it, a mad beaſt tearing out its own entrails.x The ſacrilegious perfidy of a plotted maſſacre, at a ſolemn feſtival in the temple, reduced the number of the parties again to two;y theſe maintained an inveterate war againſt each other, intermitted only when they were obliged to ſuſtain the attacks of the Romans, or when the luſt of rapine and blood armed them againſt their fellow citizens; on theſe occaſions they were united. Whatever diviſions or ſub-diviſions they were formed into, the leader of each, deſirous to graſp all power into his own hand, was perpetually attempting the lives of thoſe of the others. Thus Eleazar cauſed Menahem to be ſlain, who, for a ſhort period, ſeemed to have every thing under his direction, the inſurgents having conferred the command of the metropolis upon him.z But I ſhall not accumulate inſtances of execrable men, murdered by thoſe of equal or greater criminality, from the time in which the city was firſt made a ſcene of carnage, and the temple a perpetual ſlaughter-houſe, to that when both were buried in their own ruins.
My object has been to ſhow, that fatal perverſion of principle, that turpitude of manners, that licentiouſneſs and depravity of the multitude, and that ſeries of crimes which brought this deſtruction upon Jeruſalem, and againſt which our Saviour, in this celebrated prophecy, ſo pathetically warns that city. I ſhall now briefly run over the moſt remarkable events which took place in this war, as well thoſe which retarding the cataſtrophe, made it more fatal, as thoſe which directly co operated with the cauſes above ſtated.
In the beginning of the war, the Roman Emperor ſent his general Ceſtius with a mighty army to attack the city, which ſheltered theſe parricides of their country; his progreſs was, upon the whole, ſuch that, at firſt, he ſeemed upon the very point of finiſhing the war, when he was driven back with great ſlaughter of his horſemen and footmen, the loſs of his treaſure, and of his engines of war, his whole army having narrowly eſcaped deſtruction. This opened the rich imperial province of Syria to the invaſion of the Jews, incenſed by a great ſlaughter of their countrymen at Caeſarea, in which they deſtroyed many towns and cities, and carried death and devaſtation every where; they likewiſe extended their incurſions into the territories of Tyre; ſmall in extent, but celebrated in ſacred and profane hiſtory, as the moſt commercial ſtate in the ancient world; ſome of the cities thereof they took and plundered. The torrent of this invaſion was put a ſtop to, and they met a ſevere chaſtiſement for the ravages they had committed; but quiet did not return to theſe afflicted provinces by the repulſe of the Jews: ſhe diſſenſions between their partiſans in thoſe countries, and the other inhabitants, yet continued to make them a ſcene of inteſtine violence and [Page 10] bloodſhed. At length the armies of the empire under Veſpaſian returned towards Judea to put an end to this bloody anarchy: the kings of the ſurrounding countries joined their armies to his: theſe were Agrippa, king of Chalcis; Sohemus, king of Emeſſa; Antiochus, king of Commagene; and Malchus, of Arabia. By the concluſion of the third year of the war, all the cities and ſtrongholds of the Jews, which hindered the beſieging of Jeruſalem, were taken; and in the following, that city, waſted by the moſt deſtructive famine upon record, attacked by a powerful enemy without, thoſe within ſlaughtering each other with more than hoſtile malignity, was laid totally deſolate, according to the prophecy of our Saviour:—the dreadful puniſhment of perverted principles of liberty inflamed into licentiouſneſs, licentiouſneſs into anarchy, and a ſucceſſion of crimes to which they opened the way, and which, in atrocity, had never then been equalled.
I am not ſpeaking againſt a ſober and regulated ſpirit of freedom: that man is equally the enemy to ſociety, who would wither it into nerveleſs frigidity, or inflame it into the fury of fanaticiſm; the latter and the former are alike fatal to its exiſtence; and its ſober defenders muſt, at every period, be moſt vigilant to guard it on that ſide on which the attack is made. With reſpect to human life, an emaciated decline is not a ſurer forerunner of its extinction, than the bloated corpulence of the dropſy: whatever exceeds the limits of its natural ſtandard in its growth, has its exiſtence ſoon terminated; and when the energy of this principle has paſſed over the bounds of good order, its force has been ſpent upon itſelf and to its own deſtruction.
But I ſhall not enter much upon this ſubject in the abſtract; ſomething I ſhall, however, ſay on the effects of a popular enthuſiaſm of the principles of liberty; ſomething of a new crime of duplicity, a new profligate ſpecies of ſophiſtry, which is currently uſed to rouſe the paſſions of the populace to that delirium.
When the multitude has recently ſeized the actual exerciſe of dominion, they will be jealous of the abuſe of power wherever lodged, and eſpecially where it has been formerly lodged; and this jealouſy will not confine itſelf to the perſons of their former governors, but will extend to the whole claſs of men from which they were ordinarily taken; they will ſuppoſe in them a kind of joint intereſt with the former, and that the expectations they had been brought up in, will attach them, not only to the plenitude, but alſo to the old abuſes of the old power, which they had always looked forward to as what might one day become their own; and this ſuſpicion will perſuade them ultimately, that authority depoſited in the hands of individuals of either of theſe two ſets of men, is the firſt ſtep back to the ſuppoſed oppreſſive domination they have newly caſt off.
They will, therefore, go conſiderably lower to place their confidence; it will be given to perſons of a very different deſcription; and their confidence is power and office. But though a new ſet of men may obtain the names of offices, their former ſtate of depreſſion, contraſted with their preſent elevation; their want of perſonal weight, compared with the dignity of their predeceſſors; their recent equality with thoſe whom they are now to reſtrain and govern, will greatly diminiſh their effective power, even in the ordinary courſe of affairs; [Page 11] and they muſt become totally inefficient at ſuch a criſis, when licentiouſneſs trampling upon order, has but juſt caſt off the reſtraints of a more vigorous, awful, and eſtabliſhed authority.
The actual power of government in the hands of ſuch rulers, and their power of perſuading the multitude, or that part of the multitude which controuls the reſt, and has given them their ſhadow of eminence, are the ſame thing; it is by perſuaſion, by influence, or by force only, that mankind can be governed. Now the multitude, under ſuch rulers, is to be ſwayed by its paſſions alone, for when they have enjoyed the guidance of things for a ſhort time, they will not at once lay it down, and inſtantly be re-converted into an inert maſs; and going on, therefore, to act, and in ſituations ſo new to them, if they be ever ſo well diſpoſed, they muſt, of neceſſity, act before their underſtandings can be informed, and paſſions or maxims analogous to their dictates will be the only motives which can work upon them; nor will they ſuffer themſelves to be led aſide from, or otherwiſe fruſtrated of, the ends thus taken up by them; hence, likewiſe, power will be conferred on thoſe only whom they think moſt likely to uſe it for the ſame ends; that is, on thoſe who enter into the ſame paſſions and views with the ſame fervor, or thoſe more dangerous and atrocious agents who copy out or ſurpaſs their appearance and effects in cold blood. Such will be the character of their new rulers; and the only uſe they can derive from their powers, while they hold them, will be to give to the movements of the multitude, varied inceſſantly and rapidly in every direction which the chance, or the folly, or the paſſion of the hour can impreſs upon them, ſomething like a unity of impulſe. Now, the paſſions of the multitude, which ſuch commotions call into exerciſe with terrible and reſiſtleſs effect, are envy, depredation, and revenge; and the oſtenſible ruler muſt go ſomething further with them than being blind to theſe enormities; he muſt be ſubſervient to them;— fatal are the ends he is raiſed to a mock elevation to promote; relentleſs and atrocious the paſſions he muſt poſſeſs or ſimulate to rule.
If ſuch a people ſhould endeavour to put a ſtop even to the greater part of that progreſſion of evils to which the tumultuous diſſolution of an eſtabliſhed government leads, or pauſe immediately after its firſt ferment, that is, when its jealouſy, extended to the perſons of all their former governors, and the whole claſs of men who had ordinarily riſen to that eminence, has excluded them from offices, it will have already loſt the poſſibility of ſafety, without a quick retreat; for thus, not only the ability of all thoſe whom practical experience had formed to the difficult art of governing mankind, muſt be flung away, but alſo that order of men whom the united diſcipline of frequent reflections upon it, of the frequent converſation of men practiſed in it, and an unremitted ſuperviſion of their meaſures, had raiſed to the next degree of aptitude for this great truſt, will be paſſed by, to introduce a ſet of new men, totally uninformed in, and, by conſequence, totally unequal to the taſk; for the uninformed natural faculties, the moſt adapted to any object, require much diſcipline and previous exerciſe, before they can be brought into actual uſe with full advantage: and the cunning of the workman availeth him alone in the art he has been trained to by daily uſe. He that heweth down the thick cedar tree, ſhall not faſhion it with the chiſſel to make a carved image thereof, and bring it to an excellent [Page 12] work; nor he that ſmiteth the iron on the anvil, be numbered with thoſe that handle the pen of the ready writer; nor he whoſe work is in the loom, or whoſe talk is of bullocks, his voice ſhall not be heard in the gate among the honourable of the people, nor ſhall his ſeat be in the aſſembly of the wiſe men. A ſtate in which all men, who had a chance of having acquired the practical elements of civil government, ſhould, at a dangerous criſis, be excluded from office, reſembles a ſhip entangled on a dangerous and rocky coaſt of ſome deſert country, when night is cloſing around, and ſtruggling to get off againſt the blaſt of a mighty and ſtrong wind beating full upon it, in which the paſſengers, more numerous than the mariners, but totally unſkilled in their art, ſhould, by force, wreſt all the direction out of their hands and take it to themſelves, and their eyes ſhall be opened, and they ſhall diſcern their folly too late, when the ſcattered bands of thoſe who have hardly eſcaped with their lives, ſhall return from viewing the deſolate waſte on every ſide around them, and ſhall ſit down together in bitterneſs of ſoul to weep on the barren ſhore, that their eyes ſhall never behold again the cheerful throng of the highway, or the ſun ariſing on the towers and pinnacles of their abiding city, or hear the voice of the reaper rejoicing in his harveſt, or the ſong of him that treadeth the wine-preſs.
How great, how numerous, are the loſſes of ſociety in ſuch a commotion! not only that generation paſſeth away, without the chance of happineſs; the miſrule and calamity with which it is overwhelmed, becomes perpetuated upon their poſterity. Under ſuch groſs and unknowing rulers, all that refines and adorns human ſociety periſhes; all cultivated manners degenerate; the collected wiſdom of ages, the labours of the philoſopher, whoſe ſagacious dexterity has laid open the ſecrets of nature, and enriched life with a larger uſe of her abundant ſtores; of the moraliſt, who has made the nobler treaſures of wiſdom and virtue our own; of the legiſlators, whoſe inſtitutes have bleſſed the ſeveral fraternities into which the world is divided: theſe are levelled in one ruin, and ſwept out of the land with the beſom of deſtruction; and in exchange thereof, a ſupercilious and ferocious barbariſm ſhall afflict the ſons of her people with an iron rod, and the confuſion and tempeſtuous flux and reflux of extravagance and outrage; until the cloſing darkneſs ſhall thicken around, and deſolation ſhall call unto ſolitude her firſt-born, and they ſhall wave their enſigns over the land as a token.
After this conſideration of the conſequences of the fanaticiſm of liberty, I ſhall employ a little time, to conſider a new mean which has been employed to excite it, which, in proportion to its ſucceſs, muſt make its devaſtations ſurpaſs in magnitude and terror, whatever the tragical page of hiſtory has ever aſcribed to them; I mean the doctrine of the equality of the rights of man. The phraſe, 'Equality of Rights,' has two ſenſes; each of which I ſhall lay down. Our rights are of three kinds: thoſe of perſonal ſecurity, of liberty, and of property, It is the laſt claſs which is to be conſidered; rights of property may be ſaid to be equal in two ſenſes; in degree or in extent; theſe rights may differ in degree, as that of the abſolute proprietor of a thing, and the uſufructuary; and without doubt, the right of all the individuals in ſociety, in what they hold under one and the ſame title or intereſt, is equal in degree; and in this country, the freehold [Page 13] of the poor man in his little cottage, is in law, and in actual enjoyment, as ſecure as that of his rich neighbour in his extenſive and magnificent demeſne: and the greateſt peer in the land muſt perform ſuit and ſervice in the courts of the laborious yeoman; whoſe induſtry has purchaſed, or whoſe anceſtors have bequeathed him a little manor: and in this ſenſe of the term Equality every man is equal in his rights, and in the actual enjoyment of them: but the more ordinary way of conſidering rights is in their extent, or the number and value of the ſubjects to which the rights of the individual extend; and in this acceptation, if two men be equal in rights, the value of their property will be equal; and to make all men equal in rights, the maſs of general property muſt be equaliſed; and this is the only ſenſe, in which the right of things are ever conceived to differ, or to be equal, by the generality of the lower claſs of mankind: it ſeldom being of uſe to them to compare rights in other points of view; very few of them have extended their thoughts to this compariſon: with the multitude, the equality of the right of property, and a right to equality of property, are abſolutely convertible terms.
Many have aſſiduouſly preached up this equality, knowing that what they taught, was received in the latter ſenſe by the common people; and intending it ſo to be: and when they are preſſed with the conſequences of a doctrine, which gives licenſe to general devaſtation; and, by ultimately arming every man againſt his neighbour, not only diſſolves ſociety into a number of diſconnected individuals, but eſtabliſhes a ſtate of war, of all againſt all; they defend themſelves by proving the propoſition in the former ſenſe, that every right is equal, conſidered as to its degree: now as the criminality or innocence of every principle is to be judged, not from the narroweſt limits of the ſenſe of its terms, but from the meaning in which it is known it will be received by the hearer, which is to be taken as that intended to be conveyed, or its cogniſable ſenſe, no deluſion has been more criminal, than the terrible fallacy, intentionally conveyed in the ambiguous maxim of theſe ſophiſts; to all of them indeed this duplicity is not to be imputed; ſome have covered this doctrine with a ſlight veil only, made as tranſparent as their utmoſt dexterity could weave it; and have not heſitated even to draw that aſide to cenſure the caution of thoſe who held the ſame opinion, for ſome ſuſpicion they have expreſſed, that it may be dangerous to reveal it although true.
The reaſon which, at this juncture, may have induced ſome men, not of deſperate fortunes, to connive at, or ſecretly favour the currency of this principle, to excite the minds of the common people againſt government, may very probably have been, their falling in with the ſentiments of a writer, who certainly had his ſhare in the origin, and in a great part of the progreſs of the fermentation now ſubſiſting, that the nation having been frequently duped by profeſſions of patriotiſm, dictated by ſelf-intereſt, and terminating in impoſture, has been led into a conviction, that all are alike falſe; and the zeal they were once capable of exciting, has ſunk into inactivity and deſpondence. Thus convinced that the ancient topics, by which the paſſions of the populace had been ſo often rouſed, had loſt almoſt all their effects, by the frequency of their repetition; they have judged it abſolutely neceſſary, to permit ſomething of favour and ſpirit to be given to their vapidneſs, by adding the ſtimulus of this new doctrine to them; and [Page 14] re-kindling the dying languor of public principle, in the populace, by the invigorating proſpect of general plunder.
It is not to be underſtood, that thoſe who thus in ſecret are not adverſe to theſe notions obtaining ſome extenſion, who countenance the men who propagate them, ſo far as to act with them for certain purpoſes; and endeavour to draw a veil over their progreſs and practices; are capable of taking an active part in diffuſing ſuch principles of atrocity; or of wiſhing their ultimate eſtabliſhment. What they expect from their firſt effects, they look forward to with pleaſure; thinking to convert them to their own ends; and the ſecond, and all that are to follow, they confide they ſhall be able, with the greateſt facility, to reſtrain; it is not neceſſary to employ any arguments to ſhew the guilt of ſuch experiments upon the well-being of ſociety; and even upon its being as ſuch. It is to their prudence only an addreſs is to be made: and their claim to this quality, eſtimated from their preſent conduct, ſeems much to reſemble that of the inhabitants of ſome valley, lying between two ranges of hills, which ſuffers temporarily from drought; but would become highly productive, if a ſtream could be led through it to water it; and to effect this, a great lake, which is conſtantly eating away its banks, being ſituated on the very verge of the heights which almoſt overhang them, they are determined to cut a ſufficient opening through the ſlight impediment to the ſupply of their wants; or perſuaded to let it be done for them: but, blind leaders of the blind! ye ſhall too late lament, that the cataract from on high cannot be turned aſide; and when the floods of the mighty waters are let looſe, ye ſhall not call to them with the voice of your power, and ſay, hitherto ſhall ye come and no further.
Theſe arguments I have ventured to bring from the code of political morality; I know our preachers have for a long time, either totally abſtained from the uſe of ſuch topics; or when the ſubject has forced them forward, they have been faintly introduced, and illuſtrated with that heſitating reluctance, which is always manifeſt in a diſcourſe, the matter of which powerfully draws one way, while conſiderations which are foreign to it, induce the preacher to deflect it from its natural and beſt direction; to give force and even place to arguments of this kind, in ſermons, has been almoſt univerſally reprobated. And this act of proſcription, has been ſupported by many ſtrong inſtances of their abuſe.
Yet this is to be taken as the evidence of one ſide only; and is of the nature, of what the advocate for one party in a cauſe, is held to produce; but he who would decide the point as a legitimate judge, and is deſirous to impreſs us with a conviction of the validity of his ſentence, would be obliged to weigh the uſes, which have been derived from the ſober application of ſuch principles, in the addreſſes of the clergy to the people, againſt the abuſes, which may be ſo proved: and he would find that the tenor of our own hiſtory, at leaſt, depoſes againſt this prohibition. Beſide, in its preſent ſtate, the argument on which it is founded, is one of thoſe forms, which are illegitimate, and therefore it is not concluſive.
But as many authorities may be alledged, making againſt what I have ſaid, I ſhall therefore ſhew this error abſolutely, that is, from the nature of moral principles; and that of the duty of a miniſter of the Goſpel: and in order to this, [Page 15] firſt, let the nature of that love which connects every man to his kind, be conſidered.
Tracing this affection from that center where it commences, to the extreme circuit to which it dilates itſelf, to embrace all human kind, we ſhall find it, as it expands, under different modifications, aſſuming the form of the fineſt and nobleſt affections which dignify our nature. Let us begin with the narrow circle of domeſtic life; there we owe to it much of the tendereſt charities of human nature; thoſe of father, brother, huſband: its next operations are more widely diffuſed; and it here becomes that generous and diſintereſted friendſhip, which binds kindred minds and kindred virtues together; and further dilated, it unites theſe inſulated groups in the uſeful and agreeable amity of neighbourhood and in the exchange of thoſe ſmaller mutual good offices and attentions, on which ſo many of the enjoyments of life depend: expanding in a yet wider circle over to the whole political community in which we live; it becomes the parent of more auguſt virtues, and wears the ſacred and reverend name of patriotiſm: and ſtill continuing its progreſs, until it dilates itſelf over all the tribes of mankind, it terminates only in univerſal benevolence.
Now it is the duty of the preacher to excite his congregation to the virtuous charities of affinity, of friendſhip, of neighbourhood; to enter fully upon every topic to enforce them; to point out the means to obtain their beſt effects; to examine with accuracy into the whole nature of thoſe falſe judgements and vices, which obſtruct the good ends they tend to procure: employing every aid he can derive, from the treaſures of wiſdom which time has conſigned to him in truſt for the benefit of mankind, joined to the beſt exertions of his own reaſon, to refute the one and to chaſtiſe and reſtrain the other. And does not the law of continuance indicate our duty to be the ſame, with reſpect to the ſame affection in its two further modifications; the love of the political ſociety to which we belong, and of human kind in general? this muſt be granted to be true of the latter; with what ſhadow of pretention then can it be denied of the former?
Beſide the rules of human conduct laid down in the divine law, and the duties on which its miniſters are to inſtruct the people, are co-extenſive: nor do we find in that law, a diſpenſation from inculcating any one, or doing it with heſitation and incompletely; now every duty has a ſet of principles on which it depends, a mode in which it is beſt illuſtrated; and if we do not urge theſe principles with our utmoſt force, and in that mode, we deſert our own. Now the divine law inſtructs us in every duty, both by poſitive precepts, and by the examples of actions recorded in it with approbation or cenſure: and from theſe two ſources conjointly, we may deduce from the holy Scriptures, the greater outlines of every branch of political morality; that is, of our duty to thoſe rulers God has ſet over us; and to the ſociety in which we live, conſidered as a nation.
I will therefore here point out the confirmation of what is above laid down, againſt that criminal perverſion of the ſpirit of liberty, which unbraces and disjoints effective government, receives from the written word of God.
But this I muſt preface with the following obſervation; that no man who admits the Scripture as God's law, can doubt of his abſolute obligation to [Page 16] every thing contained therein. He who is a Chriſtian, muſt ſo far equally believe that his ſalvation depends upon his obedience to the whole of what is written in the law of Chriſt; that he cannot be ſaved thereby, if he ſelect ſuch parts as he chuſes to obey, and rejects ſuch others as he does not. The ſyſtem of the laws given us by Jeſus Chriſt, follow the nature of all others in this reſpect: he who is ſubject to them, cannot at his choice obey ſome and diſobey others; for ſuch ability includes the power of diſpenſing with or repealing them; which power muſt be as great as that which enacted them.
But I hope that we have not ſo learned Chriſt, that we have only to have his commandments recited to us, to believe them to be our duty; and that we have the honeſty of nature, when we know our duty to endeavour to the utmoſt to fulfil it; and not ſuffer the depravity of our wills to preſs ſelf-deluſion with its entanglements and ſubtilties into their ſervice, ſo to hoodwink our ſubmiſſive reaſon, that "ſeeing we ſee not, and hearing we do not underſtand."
Some of the commands of the divine law, on the duty of a peaceable obedience to legal government, I ſhall now lay down. The nature of our oath of allegiance, and the obligation it draws after it, is declared in the following terms: ‘Keep the king's commandments, and that in regard to the oath of God.’ a Our Saviour has commanded us to contribute of our ſubſtance to the ſupport of our ſovereigns, in the exerciſe of their dignified offices, in the following words: ‘Render unto Caeſar, the things which are Caeſar's; and unto God, the things which are God's.’ b In his life he was to give an example of all the duties he taught; and poſſibly, having in view the reluctance with which ſelf-intereſt always acquits itſelf of this duty; to render that example more declaratory of its obligation more conſpicuous, and thereby a ſtronger counterbalance to this ſtrong propenſity of evading it, he wrought a miracle to fulfil it. In regard to the reverence in which a ſovereign is to be had, we are commanded to fear the Lord and the king:c and again, to fear God and honour the king.d Theſe commandments conjoining piety to God, and duty to our prince, clearly ſet that duty next in rank and conſequence to that of our Creator, however great the interval; that is, it conſtitutes the firſt of duties to our fellow creatures.e Thoſe who commence a reſiſtance to power, legally exerciſed, muſt have it in contemplation either to be puniſhed with great ſeverity, or finally to overthrow it; for its conſequences ſeldom can be expected to ſtop ſhort of one of theſe two extremes. Where the firſt of theſe is foreſeen to be probable, no one dares to attempt ſuch a reſiſtance; it is the [Page 17] ſecond caſe only we have to conſider; ſuch attempts have ſeldom taken place without involving a nation in the greateſt of evils, a civil war: to determine upon ſuch reſiſtance is to will all its conſequences, foreſeen as neceſſary or highly probable; and every death occaſioned by ſuch a war is a murder in the original promoters of it. Such reſiſtance is therefore a crime, the fatal conſequences of which are equalled by no other; and againſt it the Almighty God himſelf has iſſued this command, and annexed this penalty to the breach of it; "reſiſt not the power, for he that reſiſteth ſhall receive to himſelf damnation."f [Page 18] And againſt the "preſumptuous ſelf-willed ſpirit" of innovation, gratified only during the turbulent and dangerous inſtants of the tranſitions of ſociety from one ſtate to another, in that covenant which requires us to maintain peace on earth, as we would draw down a bleſſing on ourſelves from heaven; we have this command, ‘My ſon, fear thou the Lord and the king, and meddle not with them that are given unto change; for their calamity ſhall riſe ſuddenly, and who knoweth the ruin of them.’ g
Among the Jews, at the criſis of which I have given you an account, the effects of the perverted and fanatical doctrines of liberty were increaſed by a degeneracy of manners and of morals, and, indeed, in the midſt of a degenerating community, theſe principles, the germ of which is always latent in many ſanguine and irregular diſpoſitions and underſtandings, in every nation and age, are frequently found to ſpring up with pernicious luxuriance; and are zealouſly foſtered by thoſe who hope to ſhelter their crimes, or repair their extravagance under their protection and outrage. And although this nation be not diſhonourably diſtinguiſhed among the nations of the earth, in morality or manners, yet wealth and proſperity have not failed to produce their uſual effects among us, in a degree too extenſive; thoſe of the higher rank in ſociety often think it a privilege peculiarly attached to them, to ſet no bounds to their gratifications; and to leave the vices and follies of their inferiors behind them, at a diſtance at leaſt proportional to that of their ſtation; and as the ſpace between them and ruin is a little greater, they increaſe their endeavours in the requiſite degree, to enable them to finiſh their courſe in the ſame time.
What numbers do we ſee, in the middle and aſcending claſſes of ſociety, who, having their appetites whetted by the invidious view of the enjoyments of thoſe above them, dare to imitate them, and preſs forward with emulation to be undone? purchaſing thus a ſhort period, alternately chequered with unenjoyed feveriſh riot, and thoſe intervals when bitterneſs of anxiety for the future ſhall corrode as poiſon in the boſom, and the gird of ſecret ſhame ſhall be as when one cutteth a nerve, at the ſad price of penury and diſtreſs, and the conflict of inflamed appetite with utter privation and contempt.
And among men of lower ſituation, this folly or this guilt has involved multitudes, with their families, in the want of neceſſaries, and rendered them incapable of ſubſiſting without depredations and crimes. This diffuſed and miſerable depravity has ſtrength enough to lead men to the perpetration of ſuch actions for their relief, which no illuſion of their own underſtandings can palliate, no guilty ſophiſt will fabricate an apology for; no formed party will defend in concert; execrated and proſcribed by the whole body of ſociety, and purſued and avenged by its united force. How muſt it therefore open the unexerciſed, half pre-diſpoſed mind to the reception of falſified and perverted principles, with a broad glare of deluſion flung round them, and corrupted to deſtroy the exiſtence of regular government, to which they are already almoſt [Page 19] enemies, becauſe it is an enemy to them? when acting upon ſuch principles, there is a ſuperior probability of attaining the ſame end in the higheſt degree; and eſcaping the whole payment of the terrible price for it. It is hardly in any mind, that the error it wiſhes to be true, is not an overmatch for that truth which calls for great ſacrifices, except in that of the man of virtue: but theſe men are loſt to virtue, and many of them to the laſt faint deſire of recovering it.
Hence there is a ſet of men, in every rank, ſomewhat proportioned to its numbers, who are relatively or abſolutely needy, goaded on by want on one ſide, and by paſſions irritated by vicious habits on the other. And it is thus, that this nation nouriſhes in itſelf an army hoſtile to its own peace and ſecurity, ready in the lawleſs outrage of a day to repair the prodigality and waſte, and force an indemnity for the crimes of years.
It is to be lamented that theſe diſpoſitions, and the guilt which leads the way to them, are ſo frequent among us; that like the crowning city of old, whoſe merchants were as princes, and her traffickers were the honourable of the earth, by the multitude of her merchandiſe violence hath filled the midſt of the land, and we have ſinned;h that the diſſonance and clamour of riot and intemperance are heard in our walls; that impurity ſpreads its ſeductions in the face of day, and in the evening is the thief. Inteſtine diſcord and public miſery are the natural conſequences of the prevalence of theſe principles and vices: and we generally find, that when they obtain in a nation, all external circumſtances either have, or ſoon acquire, that arrangement which gives them full effect.
To this catalogue of evils prevailing among us, another is to be added, to which much of the extent and prevalence of the reſt may be traced up: whatever may be the diſtinguiſhed good qualities of the preſent age, and it certainly does not want ſome, an attention to and a zeal in matters of religion is not among the number. This complaint, although it be as much diſregarded, as if the truth of it were of little conſequence, or its falſity evident, admits of a proof. In general converſation, at any period, we are ſure to hear frequent mention made of thoſe principles which are then in general prevalence and eſteem; but at this day, in reckoning up the good qualities of thoſe who are mentioned with eſteem, their piety is ſeldom enumerated; a proof both that it is of little eſtimation with the generality of ſpeakers, and of their opinion that they expect that it will make but a ſmall favourable impreſſion on the hearers. Now piety is the principle of life to moral virtue; it is where there is a ſincere and zealous attachment to the truths of religion, and an awful and deep ſenſe of its ſanctions are ingrafted upon the mind, that the fruit of good works is to be expected. How ſhould an attachment to virtue be wrought as deeply into the heart of man, as it might be, unleſs he expects with reverential and confirmed belief, that the happineſs of eternity ſhall be its reward? the neceſſity of this does not appear to be attended to as it ought, for Chriſtianity teaches us that this life is a ſtate of moral education and trial; it would therefore be contrary to the latter end of our being placed here, if Providence [Page 20] had fenced human virtue round with any ſuperfluous ſtrength of defence. It is of the eſſence of ſuch a ſtate, that it ſhould ſtand in need of the aid of every principle favourable to it, to be barely ſufficiently ſecured, and that in the utmoſt degree of vigour an aſſiduous cultivation can bring it to. It follows, that he who believes in Chriſtianity muſt admit the neceſſity of impreſſing profoundly on his mind a ſenſe, that the happineſs of eternity ſhall be the reward of virtue; eternal puniſhment the retribution of all ungodlineſs and unrighteouſneſs of man, in order to eſtabliſh a ſufficient attachment to the former: for if any man believe, both that human virtue could be ſufficiently ſecure in this ſtate of probation and education, which is the great end of our being placed here, without that frequent meditation on future rewards and puniſhments, which ſhall ſo imprint them in the inmoſt receſſes of his mind, that they become habitually preſent to it as the conſtant motive to good actions; and likewiſe in the truth and reality of ſanctions of religion, he muſt, at the ſame time, believe them ſomething more than neceſſary to ſuch a ſtate of probation; that is, that they are ſuperfluous to the great plan of Providence which reſpects mankind.
It is from an attentive meditation on the ſanctions of the divine law alone, that we can acquire the genuine and a ſincere ſpirit of piety; thoſe virtues which it generates or foſters modify human actions in every thing, and thus it greatly tends to form the character of man as a citizen; and the ſpirit of nations, through the medium of the private characters it forms: and although I may have already exceeded the limits cuſtom ſeems to have preſcribed to the extent of our inſtructions to our congregations, I ſhall not leave this important truth in ſuch general terms, but enter ſomewhat into the particular illuſtration to it. How far religion teaches us to obey our ſovereign and the magiſtrate has been before ſtated, and I mean not to reſume it; but, as far as I can, to weed out of the mind any lurking jealouſy againſt an unreſerved obedience to its dictates, by ſhowing how, at the ſame time, it tends to preſerve the noble and ingenuous ſpirit of liberty, in that temperate and healthy ſtate, which make it the bleſſing we admire.
I firſt conſider the conſequence of the firſt of its principles, the evangelical ſpirit of charity; with our equals this virtue draws cloſer every bond of connection, and multiplies their number; her condeſcenſion makes her extend her arms to raiſe her inferior nearer to her: the attraction of the candid deference of her manners makes her ſuperiors wiſh to diminiſh the diſtance of their ſtation. All are drawn nearer to all, and ſociety is held more cloſely together, and that by mutual love, not danger, it forms a reticulated maſs extending every way, in which the cords are multiplied, ſtrengthened, braced, above, around, beneath; and every rude ſhock of external violence is more inſtantaneouſly and acutely felt through the whole. It thus acquires its beſt compactneſs and union; it keeps danger of every ſhape more at a diſtance; it gains an increaſed reſpect from its governors, whom confidence in itſelf, joined with the ſpirit on which its increaſed union is founded, will teach it to repay, with that nobler ſubjection dignifying the giver and receiver, which ſprings from love.
[Page 21] The love of our country is derived from the love of our countrymen; it is the pleaſure of that ſenſation which imagination attaches to thoſe objects of inanimate nature they call theirs; makes the mild azure of our ſkies more lovely to us; adds a new elegance of tint to the ſprightly and tender verdure of the ſummer; gives new beauty to the undulated variety of hill and valley; ſtrengthening every conſtituent motive to that faſcinated attachment to our native ſoil, which wins its way unto the ingenuous boſom, and interweaves itſelf ſo with every earthly affection, that they can only have one common period; that charity which knits us into cloſer bonds of affection to each other, individually, muſt increaſe the force of that ſentiment which binds us to the whole, collectively, or the love of our country as a country; it not only augments this patriotic paſſion, it purifies its ends, directs its exertions, and elevates it to the whole nobility of its nature.
On the other hand it is to be obſerved, that uncharitable and diſcordant habits of mind repel man from man; it is by external compreſſion, not mutual attraction, that the individuals of ſuch a ſociety can be forced into a tranſitory and hollow ſemblance of union; and even then, the effect of this vice diminiſhes and tends to deſtroy the effect of ſuch external preſſure by the whole of its own ſtrength.
The duty of temperance deſerves likewiſe to be conſidered in this point of view, both in conjunction with ſome others and ſimply. Now temperance is the health of the ſoul in as eminent a degree as of her mechanic inſtrument the body. Reſtraint from acts of ſenſuality preſerves the intellectual faculties of reaſon and imagination in their firmeſt tone of vigour; it prevents alſo many preſent ſufferings, and anxiety for the future, and ſelf-reproach, the heavy clogs of its operations; purifying, not enervating our deſires, it lightens the mind, and rendering it free for action, increaſes that appetite for it which Providence has planted in our nature; it alſo precludes moſt of the miſapplications of it, and thereby confines it very ſtongly into a tract ſuitable to the dignity of a moral agent: and here piety again interferes, and among other duties points out a new ſet of objects, in which ſome of the fineſt energies of the intellectual faculties will be gratified by being exerciſed in their moſt favourite occupations; whatſoever things are of good report, religion will point out to them as a proper ſcope of their purſuit; if there be any praiſe, we ſhall meditate on theſe things, that we may in all things adorn the goſpel of Chriſt. But the good report and praiſe of ſociety is generally very wiſely beſtowed; whatever tends to ameliorate its condition, receives the largeſt and moſt ſplendid ſhare of it: and if they be thus governed by that Wiſdom that is from above, every art and every ſcience that does honour to a people, and renders it powerful and happy, would proceed in a much more rapid march toward farther perfection; our vallies and hills would ſtand ſo thick with corn, that they would laugh and ſing; the feet of our cattle would be beſide all waters; the bricks would fall down, and our houſes be built of hewn ſtone; and inſtead of the ſycamore, the beams thereof ſhould be of the goodly cedar tree: that guiding Spirit that teacheth us to add to our faith knowledge, will lead on the human mind to the undiſcovered tracts of nature, multiplying the provinces of ſcience, and augmenting the utility of its dominion over thoſe already [Page 22] acquired; and whatever adds beauty to uſe, poliſhed decorum to ſociety, and grace to virtue, would become day by day more and more their own. Theſe things adorn a ſtate and increaſe the attachment of its members to it, by rendering them happier in it. Theſe are the honours of the nations of the earth, and every man will feel his ſhare of the public honour to be his own; hence the love of the land in which we firſt drew the breath of life receives a new acceſſion of ſtrength from them.
Let us take a view of the reverſe of this: diſtreſs and depravity are two followers which generally dog intemperance and ſenſuality cloſe at the heels; and when the bait is the relief of their neceſſities, and freſh materials for the indulgence of their criminal luſts, to be obtained in the hour of rapine and atrocity; when ſociety undergoes a violent change, they prepare the minds of men to the reception of any perverted principle; and the turpitude of that hypocriſy which pretends to deluſion without being deluded, and to that frontleſs profligacy that dares the day, and ſcorns the ſlighteſt veil of pretence for evil;— ſuch men every bad cauſe attracts equally, and finds among them a band of ruffians ready to be enrolled in its ſervice, whether it be that of tyranny trampling down the fences of juſtice and every ſalutary reſtraint upon power, or of thoſe not leſs iniquitous men, who, in the language of St. Peter, "deſpiſe government;" "and while they promiſe others liberty, are themſelvesi the ſervants of corruption," drawing the ſword againſt equitable dominion, and ſovereigns whom the laws of God and man command them to honour.
The day which ſubjects us to the vile captivities of ſin and appetite, almoſt annihilates the nobler principle which conſtitutes us men: the temperate poſſeſs their minds undebilitated, with no ſtrong attraction to bow them down to earth they walk erectly; and among ſuch muſt be found, at leaſt, the greater number of thoſe who, juſt and tenacious of juſt purpoſes, cannot be biaſſed or forced from the fair and ſtraight line of public duty, by the frown and uplifted arm of oppreſſive power, or ſwept along in the torrent and rage of the multitude, precipitating themſelves and every thing elſe into deſtruction.
Beſides this reſtraint in the gratifications of ſenſe, there are other propenſities which religion puts under the ſame limitations; it requires us to be temperate in the purſuits of ſelf-intereſt, of honour, in the exerciſe of juſt indignation, and in the whole detail of regulations laid upon us, forms a complete ſyſtem of ſelf-government; the nobleſt power man can exerciſe, to which it is one deſign of the goſpel of Chriſt to raiſe all his true diſciples, as nearly as the imperfect condition of humanity admits. And I ſhall conclude this diſcourſe with conſidering the conſequences to a nation, the individuals of which had acquired this great moral quality in no inferior degree.
The manners of ſuch people will render them capable of being governed by a milder and more liberal ſyſtem of laws; for the more ſtrongly a man's inward principles reſtrain him from deviating from his duty, the leſs external coercion will he require to be made to continue in it; and the ſame principle may be extended to political ſocieties: they are to be kept in the bounds of ſocial duty [Page 23] by the united reſtraints of ſelf-government and national law;k increaſe the power of the firſt, and the rigour of the ſecond may be abated by the ſame quantity, and an adequate effect be produced by their joint operations; decreaſe it, and the weight of its ſupplement, or the coercion of law, muſt be increaſed in the ſame manner: this applies, indeed, only to general perſonal freedom; yet it has been the intereſt of ſovereigns to foſter this ſpecies of freedom, becauſe they have found an immediate acceſſion to their own authority; and for that purpoſe, it is a courſe which has been ſyſtematically purſued by many, even if we ſhould not admit ſomething like action and re-action between the exerciſe of ſovereign power and the manners of a people, each conſiderably modifying the other.
The tranſition from perſonal to civil freedom ſeems almoſt neceſſary: the wiſe and the good will look forward to it as a ſecond great end; every mind is drawn toward it by their authority, and by the analogy, or rather identity of the principles of each ſyſtem; and the general opinion thus formed, and thus conducted, will lead ſuch a nation on by ſober ſteps, and ſuccceding each other at due intervals, to the attainment of a conſtitution where the ſeeming diſcordant elements of effective authority and public freedom ſhall be ſo blended and harmoniſed together, that the reſult ſhall be the happineſs of the ſovereign and the people; a termination of the natural progreſs of ſuch a ſociety, which nothing ſeems capable of preventing, but the buſy raſhneſs which ſhall attempt to hurry it on prematurely.
This concluſion is fortified likewiſe by that well-eſtabliſhed truth, that the conſtitution of nature, as far as it reſpects moral agents, is moral, and on the ſide of virtue; and this is true as well of nations as of individuals. Now natural religion teaches us, that this conſtitution is eſtabliſhed by the decree of God, as the ordinary ſyſtem of his adminiſtration. Permanent national happineſs is the natural reward of permanent national virtue; and without a well-conſtituted government, ſuch happineſs cannot take place.
Theſe are the tendencies of ſelf-government to improve our civil ſtate; and where it takes place, it will lead a ſociety forward without precipitancy or convulſion, to every improvement which, in its exiſting circumſtances, it is mature to receive; and wherever a virtuous, deliberate wiſdom, following that light, which, aſcending, ſhineth more and more unto the perfect day, may progreſſively call it, "for where the ſpirit of the Lord is," there is dutiful obedience to thoſe whom he hath ſet over us; and "there is liberty:"l for our Saviour himſelf hath promiſed us, that thoſe who are "his diſciples, indeed, ſhall know the truth, and the truth ſhall make them free."
I ſhall dwell but little on the converſe of this repreſentation. To illuſtrate the connection of ſelf-government and national liberty with more ſimplicity, it had been facitly admitted, that the rigour of laws muſt increaſe with no greater celerity than the power of ſelf-government decreaſes; which ſuppoſes, [Page 24] that the ſtrength and ſtimulation of the paſſions are in both caſes the ſame; or that they gain no additional force from the habit of unreſtrained indulgence. But it is evident, that as the power of ſelf-reſtraint diminiſhes, the paſſions grow up into a vitiated magnitude, and acquire a ſeveriſh and diſtemperate force; and to obtain a proper counterbalance for them, in this declining ſtate of manners, the rigour of laws muſt be augmented more than the habit of ſelf-government is decreaſed; and the neceſſary order of ſociety will exact a ſyſtem of laws ſo jealouſly rigid, and a ſpirit of adminiſtration ſo adapted to them, reſtrictions muſt be multiplied to guard ſo many points, which, in a wholeſome ſtate of public morals might be left open, that perſonal liberty, if not annihilated, will be greatly circumſcribed; and when men have loſt ſo eſtimable an end, for which the great machine of a free conſtitution is formed, they will grow indifferent about the balance and functions of its ſeparate parts, and, indeed, about its exiſtence. In vain may the ſkilful artiſt have raiſed a temple, which freedom might chuſe to place her name therein, and deck the porches thereof and the courts of the inſide of her houſe with perfect beauty, in the ſpirit of wiſdom and underſtanding; in vain ſhall it boaſt itſelf, and ſay, my builders have perfected my beauty. Although the nations ſhall admire the excellency of thy ſplendor, and the ends of the whole earth ſhall long to tread the pavements of thy courts; if, as the generations paſs away, thy beams become rottenneſs, and the worm preyeth upon them, the cement of thy walls become as untempered mortar, and thy marble as unbaked brick, thou ſhalt fall without a blaſt to ſhake thee, and thy ruin no man ſhall raiſe.
Thus I have conſidered the nature of that danger which calls for our preſent vigilance, and many of the evils which this day call for our repentance; and they are ſo widely extended, that they may be called national: the calamities they bring upon a nation I have ſhown hiſtorically, from a ſeries of events ſo far connected with our religion, as to be a continuation of the ſcripture hiſtory of the people of God; and to exhibit a completion of a great prophecy of our Saviour, theſe calamities have been afterwards proved, upon general principles, to be the natural effects of thoſe perverted maxims and manners of the Jews in that age, which are ſimilar to thoſe which have been of late ſpreading in this country, and not circumſtances of that nation, which have a bare accidental connection by happening at the ſame period.
The concluſion to be drawn from the whole, is, that if with them, we follow where the ſame ſpirit of fanatical deluſion would lead us, if we tread in the footſteps of their iniquities, the natural conſequence of it muſt come upon us, ſufferings ſimilar to their puniſhment.
Let us, therefore, beſeech Almighty God to work into our hearts that penitence for our paſt errors and iniquities, which may find acceptance with him; and that he will grant us the ſuccour of his holy ſpirit to lead us, in this our day, in the way of thoſe things which make for our peace; and that he will remove the miſt from their eyes who cannot diſcern them.
We are alſo commanded to pray for thoſe who deſpitefully uſe us and perſecute us: let us, therefore, offer up our petitions to God in behalf of that deceived and guilty nation, whoſe crimes and calamities ſtrike us with aſtonniſhment.— O, thou who filleſt the heaven above and the earth beneath, and [Page 25] all the worlds that thou haſt created, with thy goodneſs; who, in the deeps of that eternal darkneſs which was before they began, commandedſt the light to be, and it was; who called on thy ſun to come from his glorious chamber of the eaſt, and he came forth; let the diviner beams of thy heavenly truth, to which this lower light is as darkneſs, pierce through that thick cloud with which a lying ſpirit has blinded their eyes, in cloſing them round with the night of the ſhadow of death; viſit their ſouls again with thy day-ſpring from on high. Lord of all power and might, whoſe voice is heard by the whirlwind that ſhaketh the wilderneſs of Cades, and the branch thereof moveth no more; who ruleth the ſtorm, and the raging of the ſea, and the waves thereof are laid aſleep upon its glaſſy untroubled boſom; who ſayeſt unto the angel who rideth in the red and fervid cloud of thy wrath, and ſcatters peſtilence on the inhabitants of the earth, return thine arrows into the quiver, and he who had ſickened unto death, drinks again in his ſtrength of the freſhneſs of the morning, breathed from the hills of Sharon; let thy mercy and thy power compoſe this tempeſt of the rage, the crimes, and the madneſs of the people into peace; ſtrike their hearts, O Lord, with deteſtation for their paſt iniquities! remove from them all hardneſs of heart and deſpair of mercy, that they plunge no further in blood; and teach them, by ſuch repentance and amendment that ſhall be leaſt unequal to the atrocity of their guilt, to flee from the wrath to come. Grant this, O Lord, to the merits and mediation of Jeſus Chriſt our Saviour, who came into this world to eſtabliſh peace and good-will among mankind, and ſuffered the death of the croſs to redeem us from all our tranſgreſſions. Amen!FINIS.
In the peruſal of ſuch parts of the hiſtory as I examined for this purpoſe, I was impreſſed, not only with the ſimilitude of the cauſes which produced the calamities of the French and Jewiſh nations, but alſo with a double paralleliſm between the crimes of both, and the events which followed them, as far as the conſequences of the commotions in France have yet proceeded. Accounts of this kind ought to be drawn up ſo, as to leave the ſame impreſſion on the minds of the hearers, which the ſpeaker has received: in what follows, this is attended to; though I have not thought proper to point out any particular inſtances of theſe ſingular paralleliſms.
In the Scripture the relation God ſtands in to us is very frequently illuſtrated by metaphors taken from thoſe of paternity and ſovereignty; he is called our Father and our King. One obſervation is to be made upon the ſecond of theſe metaphors; if the monarchical form of government be in its nature bad, or, which is the ſame thing, if the happineſs of mankind be leſs, and their unhappineſs greater under it, than under ſome other poſſible form or forms, it muſt be in conſequence of its nature, that is, from a divine conſtitution; from which the nature of every thing, or combination of things, is equally derived; therefore thoſe who admit the Scripture to be the word of God, and hold this opinion of monarchy, make the Divine Being very frequently illuſtrate the nature of his own dominion, (abſit verbo blaſphemia) by repreſenting it as analogous to a human form of government, which is by his own conſtitution leſs perfect than ſome others, and productive of unneceſſary evils.
With ſome it will give weight to theſe moral maxims, inculcating obedience to princes, to find their duties to their ſubjects laid down with at leaſt equal force and frequency in Scripture. There are few of the crimes and weakneſſes of ſovereigns, which are not cenſured in the following extracts of Scripture:
Jealouſy of eminent ſubjects, and confidence in unworthy favourites—‘There is an evil that I have ſeen, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is ſet in great dignity, and the rich ſet in low places. I have ſeen ſervants on horſes, and princes walking as ſervants. Eccleſ. x. 5, &c. ’‘It is not ſeemly, that a ſervant ſhould have rule over princes. Prov. xix. 10. ’
I am not prepared to give to this matter the conſideration it deſerves; I ſhall only add here to what is ſaid above, the following particulars, as they are brought together by the prophet Ezekiel: A ſovereign ſhall grant an eſtate of inheritance, of his own lands, to his own ſons only; grants of land to his miniſters and favourites ſhall be for a term not to exceed ſeven years, at the end of which they ſhall revert to the prince; thus his dignity was provided for, and the charges on the people for its ſupport, and that of his family, if not prevented, would increaſe with much leſs rapidity; while a dangerous accumulation of property in the crown would be probably hindered; a proviſion which ſeems to have been wanted in the inſtitutions of the nations who ſettled in Europe, on the different portions of the ruins of the Roman empire. A prince likewiſe was not to be made heir to one of his ſubjects, it may be ſeen in the Roman hiſtory, how a contrary cuſtom permitted by law was perverted to the groſſeſt tyranny. Ezek. xlvi. 16, 17, 18. and Tacitus de Vit. Agr. & alibi. Such are the prohibitions we find. The following are commands or maxims of juſtice, piety, or policy, for princes. ‘The God of Iſrael ſaid, he that ruleth over men muſt be juſt, ruling in the fear of God. 2 Chron. xxiii. 3. ’
And we ſhould enter very far into practical details, if we were to accumulate all the texts to be found of this kind, and to take the principles of many meaſures greatly praiſed in the Scripture, and arrange them as ſcriptural maxims of policy.