« AnteriorContinua »
service, when properly invited thereto by Providence; or less likely to act up to the character of valiant soldiers.-Far from this: -None have so tender a concern for their country; none will be more ready to exert themselves for the public good; none can face dangers with so much fortitude of mind; none can view slaughter and death spread before them, in all its gloomy horrors, with so rational a courage, with such an elevation of soul, as they whose spirits are greatly Christian; and whose hopes of happiness beyond the grave, are rendered strong and bright, by a long and intimate acquaintance with the power of religion. The confidence of such is reason, not madness. They act from principles which cannot be annibilated through the sudden assaults of fear, or base temptations to desertion : such as a regard to the honor of God, the interest of religion, and the preservation of our civil rights. Such are “mighty through God for the pulling down the strong holds of their enemies : they go forth in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, and through him do valiantly." Though they are divested of the restless passions and fury of unsanctified minds, yet none have their spirits more fred with zeal and vigor than they, when the service of God and their country invite them to action.
But then their magnanimity and zeal exert themselves, not to gratify revenge, not to multiply the slain, or to triumph in the miseries of men; but to establish the cause of truth and justice between contending powers. They do not put off humanity in the field; nor borrow the spirit of him, who, “like a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour.” The occasion for war gives them pain; they fight for peace. And it is evident that wars will be less frequent, or cease, in proportion to the prevalence of a spirit of self-government, which is the spirit of the gospel. When every one, from the monarch to the peasant, shall be slow to anger, and rule his spirit, wars shall cease to the ends of the earth : Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." This is evident from the demand of the apostle ;—“Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts, which war in your members ?” But we may not expect the prevalence of this spirit will be so great, as to close the tragical scenes of war, under the present dispensation. Christ “came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” But, “when he shall come a second time, he will remove from them that are bis, every thing that offends," and establish them in uninterrupted peace and happiness for ever.
Furthermore,—They who bring their spirits under the government of reason and religion, gain thereby a greater interest in the love and esteem of men than can be obtained by military power and success, while the spirit remains lawless and ungoverned.
The mighty man, whose mind is cruel and savage, who “continually breathes out threatenings and slaughter,” though he should be successful in war, though he should depopulate cities and countries, and go on from conquering to conquer, is still an object upon which every man of humanity and religion thinks with horror : He is feared by many, loved by none. Not so the man, whose every thought, and every passion, is captivated to the obedience of Christ : a diffusive benevolence to all mankind possesses his heart; and he learns to obey that difficult command of our Saviour, “ Love your enemies.” Such a spirit gives him a place in the warmest affections of all.
Was it not this spirit appearing in our late gracious Sovereign, which gave him so firm a possession of the hearts of all his subjects, while he lived, and which renders his memory so precious to them, since his removal? The nations have risen up with one voice to call him blessed ; and open and solemo respects have been deservedly paid to his memory. Yet upon this returning public occasion, you will allow me to say ;-that among his many royal accomplishments, the humanity and gentleness of spirit which he appeared possessed of, were none of the least; the natural consequence of which was a mild and steady administration. Though he manifested a surprising firmness of mind, in his close attention to, and vigorous support of the present war; and that at a time when his flow of spirits might be supposed greatly abated, by the infirmities of age; yet so susceptible was his heart of the softer passions, that he always preferred peace to war, when it could be obtained upon terms honorable to his crown. A striking proof of this he gave in the overtures of peace which he made to his old perfidious enemies the French; at a time when success attended all his military enterprises; at a time when his enemies were extremely reduced ; and at a time, when an ungenerous monarch would have thought it a fair opportunity to gratify a revengeful temper, by scornfully rejecting the most equitable proposals for an accommodation. The happy effects of this gentle spirit have spread far and wide. They have been sensibly felt, and gratefully acknowledged, by his most dutiful subjects in these American colonies. While we speak of this, to do honor to his memory, we necessarily renew our grief for the very great loss we have sustained by his death.-But perhaps it may be thought unseasonable to indulge to sorrow in any great degree, since through the goodness of God, this loss is so happily repaired, and our joy takes place of our mourning, by the accession of our present gracious sovereign, king George the THIRD, to the British throne; who shares so largely in the excellent spirit of his royal predecessor; and who is formed, we hope, by so great an example, and by the grace of God, to such a temper, as will render him a distinguished blessing to the kingdoms, at the head of which he is placed.
Nor does this mildness of disposition serve only to raise crowned heads high in the esteem of their subjects ; those that act in a lower sphere, enjoy the affections of their fellow-men, in proportion to the degree in which they possess it. Is it not this, in connection with other valuable endowments, that fills our hearts with the warmest sentiments of love to the illustrious Amherst ? He, far removed from the cruelty of the tyrant, feels the influence of humanity and religion on bis mind : bis actions breathe the spirit of the gospel, and he is "mighty to save,” as well as mighty to destroy. His captives, struck with the unexpected clemency and tenderness of their conqueror, forget the sorrows of a captivated state, and feel in their breasts the delightful sensations of love and gratitude to their gentle master. Who does not love, who does not admire, those that manisest such a spirit! “Their names,” like that of their divine Master, "are as ointment poured forth.”—He, who is possessed of such a spirit, will secure more lasting honor, than he, who destitute hereof, can boast great martial exploits. The most that will be said of the one, in a little time, will probably be, that somebody cruelly conquered somebody ; while the actions of the other, will be carefully treasured up in the minds of many, and mentioned to his honor from generation to generation.
Besides, -If we view them when they draw near to the close of this mortal state, and approach the solemn period of death, how different shall we usually find the temper of their minds then! How differently will a review of their respective characters affect them then! Then those tragical scenes, which, for a while, might excite the admiration and applause of half-thinking mortals, will produce no joyful reflections, to soothe the aching hearts of these men of blood. Their minds, if destitute of any other support, besides what arises from a review of their unchristian heroism, must be either strangely stupid, or else filled with the most gloomy images Images of that blackness of darkness to which they are going. But “at even time it shall usually be light” with those that have shone in the other character. Their having the spirit of Christ, is a good evidence that they are his ;his true disciples and followers ; interested in all the promises of his gospel ; entitled to all the important blessings of his purchase. Such will have hope in their death, and immortal light and glory dawning upon them, when they close their eyes upon this world. There is no truer standard by which to judge of actions and characters, than the aspect they have upon the eternal state, and their tendency to make us happy or miserable there. And if we make this a decisive rule in the present case, how much more noble and advantageous, will a victory over our own spirits appear, than any martial achievements, while we are strangers to self-government ! The one, will leave us in the power of our worst enemies; in a state of estrangement from God; without any interest in his favor; and doomed to the strange punishment appointed for the workers of iniquity :-while the other, rescues us from the power of corrupt lusts and affections ; vindicates us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; accomplishes the design of Christ's death upon us ; and prepares us to receive an unfading crown of life. "To him that overcometh,” says our Saviour, “will I give to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne.”
Thus I have endeavored a comparison of the characters in our text, with regard to the influence they have upon our honor, usefulness and comfort here, and our happiness in the future state. The design of this comparative view is not to set them in opposition, or to represent them inconsistent with each other ; but to discover their respective worth. And is not the result of this comparison plainly this, that the former is truly excellent and useful, in itself considered; while the other is so, only when it is found in connection with the former?
Let us all be animated, by what has been offered, to pursue them with a zeal proportionate to their importance. Let us view them in a proper light, and possess our minds with a lively sense of their respective usefulness; and shall we not find, that, while the things which serve to promote the one, ought to be done; those that promote the other, ought not to be left undone ?
I hope none will think I mistake the occasion of our being together at this time ; or bring a discourse rather to discountenance, than encourage, a military spirit ; rather to sink, than raise, the character of a soldier. Sure nothing is more distant from my intention ; nor can I think this has been done, unless it has by attending to the true spirit and meaning of that passage of Scripture, which is the foundation of the present discourse. The reasonable and religious government of our spirits, wbich I have been describing, how much more important an attainment soever it may be, than that with which it has been compared, is yet, far from being contrary to a military spirit ; or from having any tendency to weaken or destroy it: so far, that I believe it will be found the only true basis upon which it can be built ; by which it can be supported; and in connection with which it can be useful and good.
When men become slow to anger, and learn to rule their spirits, they certainly concur with the dictates of reason, and the word of God; and therefore cannot, on that account, be said to oppose a military spirit ; unless reason and revelation tend to do it. That
the former has not such a tendency, I need not spend time to prove; and that the latter has not, is easily collected from many passages of Scripture, not only in the Old Testament, where God styles himself a man of war,” and “the Lord of hosts ;" and where we find, that troops were led out to battle by God's express command ; that he "taught their hands to war, and their fingers to fight," and made them victorious by his mighty arm ; but also in the New Testament, where, of the Prince of peace bimself it is said, that “ in righteousness he doth judge and make war;" and where we find the messenger sent before Christ's face, to prepare his way, implicitly owning the lawfulness of a military life, in the answer which he gave to the soldiers' demand; “ And what shall we do?” He does not tell them to quit their profession as unlawful and scandalous : he does not intimate that there is any thing in their employment inconsistent with the design of Christianity, then about to be introduced : but admonishes them of the importance of ruling their spirits, and keeping them under the restraints of religion. Do violence to no
- as if he had said,— Think not, that because you are armed with the weapons of destruction, you may wantonly violate the laws of humanity, and forcibly take from men their properties, or their lives.'—Be content with your wages- Suppress an avaricious spirit : let not a desire of enriching yourselves, be the main principle from which you act : nor suffer your minds to be discomposed, though you should not succeed in your wishes and expectations of increasing your substance.'
It is a departure from such necessary regulations of temper and conduct, which renders the soldier unchristian and base; when the only military accomplishments he can boast, are a mind fierce and inhuman, that “ fears not God nor regards man,” an « arm of flesh,” and “ feet that are swift to shed blood.”
Such is the present situation of human affairs, that recourse must be had to the art of war. And until men's minds are brought under the gentle sway of reason and religion ; until this is perfectly and universally the case ; so that every one, content with bis own, shall by no unlawful measures endeavor to possess himself of what belongs to another; so that envy and fraud, encroachment, and oppression shall be wholly laid aside and forgotten; forcible methods of defence will be necessary. Every one knows that this is not the present condition of mankind; every one therefore, must be convinced of the usefulness and importance of martial skill and prowess; and accordingly that endeavors for the promotion hereof, are not only lawful, but honorable.
But not to enlarge
I turn myself to you gentlemen of the ARTILLERY, at whose invitation we are now assembled in the house of worship.