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Sermon - Artillery Election - 1808
Leonard Woods - 06/06/1808

Leonard Woods (1774-1854) graduated from Harvard in 1796. He was a pastor in Newbury, Massachusetts (1798-1808), and a professor of Christian theology at the Andover theological seminary (1808-1846). Woods was active in establishing the American tract society, the Temperance society, and the board of commissioners of foreign missions. This sermon was preached in Boston on June 6, 1808 by Woods.











Monday, 6th. June, 1808.

AT a meeting of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, Voted unanimously, that Captain Edmund Bowman, Lieutenant Jonathan Loring, and Ensign Whitney, be a committee to wait on Reverend Mr. Woods, to thank him for the eloquent and appropriate discourse this day delivered before the Company, and request a copy for the press.

Attest, T. CLARK, Clerk.

OFFICERS, 1807…1808.

Mr. Edmund Bowman, Captain.
Mr. Jonathan Loring, Lieutenant.
Mr. Jonathan Whitney, Ensign.
General John Winslow, Treasurer.
Captain Thomas Clark, Clerk.

OFFICERS, 1808….1809.

Captain Melzar Holmes, Captain.
Mr. Benjamin Coates, Lieutenant.
Mr. Dexter Dana, Ensign.

Captain Thomas Dean, 1st.
Mr. William Bowman, 2nd.
Mr. David Forsaith, 3d.
Mr. Samuel Waldron, 4th.

General John Winslow, Treasurer.
Captain Thomas Clark, Clerk.


HEB. ii. 10.


To men of every profession the Son of God is a finished pattern of true virtue. Every man, whatever his department in life, who diligently and devoutly imitates his example, will attain the most amiable and useful character; while he, who disregards it, whatever other qualities he may possess, and whatever honors he may receive, falls far short of real excellence.

I know not therefore, how I can render a more acceptable service to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, at whose request I now speak, or more properly express that pious respect, which on this occasion we ought to feel for the author of our holy religion, than to exhibit him, as the great pattern of military virtue. Such a design is evidently authorized by the scriptures. “Behold,” says God by a prophet, “behold, I have given him---a leader and commander to the people;” and the apostle in our text represents him, as the Captain of our salvation.

Let us then devoutly contemplate the Son of God in this character; and may the contemplation inspire that martial virtue, which harmonizes with the benign spirit of the gospel.

The primary and most distinguishing characteristic of Christ, as the Captain of our salvation, is benevolence. The end, he pursues, is the good of intelligent beings. His love is not restricted to family, nation, or world; but is infinitely diffusive, extending to all beings capable of enjoyment, and apportioned to all according to justice and truth. His love is perfectly free from every kind and degree of selfishness. He did nothing to promote his own private honor; he came not to do his own will; he pleased not himself. His heart embraced no interest, but that of the universe.

This divine affection has a direct and commanding influence in every part of his mediatorial work. By love he was prompted to undertake the salvation of sinners. It was love, which induced him, who was rich, to become poor for our sake. In this astonishing act, the endless felicity of those, whom sin had expelled from Paradise, was the object of his benevolent heart.

It is a common expression, that men rise to office. But in becoming the Captain of our salvation the Son of God descended. The Lord of angels became a servant of men. His entering into office was an unparalleled exercise of condescending love. By the same motive was the author of our salvation guided through his whole work on earth. He went about doing good. The deaf blessed with hearing, and the blind with sight, the sick restored to health, and the dead to life, the hungry fed, the ignorant instructed, mourners comforted, the penitent pardoned, and profligates reclaimed, all bear testimony to the benignity of his character, and evince that his name is love.

It is said in scripture, he came to send fire, division, and a sword. For a just comment on these words we must look, not to the pure, peaceful nature of his gospel, but to those fiery passions and hostile exertions of his enemies, which contravene the benevolent and pacific design of his coming. The warfare, which the Captain of our salvation carried on, was wholly in subservience to the cause of love. The sword, which he used, was meekness and truth. The enemies, he opposed, were the enemies of God and man; the enemies of virtue, peace, and happiness. If his enemies prevailed, he well knew the divine government would be prostrated, and no trace of moral beauty or joy remain. The victory, which he sought and obtained, was the victory of wisdom over folly, of benevolence over malice, of truth and order over falsehood and confusion; the victory of righteous government over universal anarchy. In the holy war, which he waged, he showed himself a consummate, a divine commander. He had a perfect discernment of the power, designs, and motions of the enemy; and skill to make his arrangements in such manner, as to ensure success.

In pursuing his great object, the Captain of our salvation displayed the highest degree of courage. Confident of the goodness of his cause, and resolved on victory, he was not to be overborne or dismayed. He was carried on to his object by the force of equal, persevering benevolence. He showed no vehemence, no impetuosity; but calm, deliberate, invariable determination, the sure sign of a great and good mind. Difficulties, however numerous and constant; dangers, however alarming; opposition, however subtle, malignant, and formidable, had no discouraging influence. His sublimely benevolent soul was not subdued even by desertion. When betrayed by one of his followers, forsaken by the rest, and left alone in the hands of false accusers and bloodthirsty, triumphant foes; he was fixed, as the throne of heaven. Clamorous insult, a crown of thorns, cruel mocking and scourging, could not disturb the serenity, nor sink the resolution of his exalted spirit. Upon fortitude, like his, even the pains and infamy of crucifixion produced no effect. Nailed to the accursed tree, enfeebled by bleeding and torture, surrounded and insulted by enemies, deserted by his friends, and forsaken of his God, he was still unsubdued; still displayed the unyielding energy of his love. Yea, he there displayed the glory of his power; there he fought successfully for his people, conquered principalities and powers, and triumphed over them on the cross.

Now in all the sufferings, which the Captain of our salvation endured, he was influenced by the most enlarged benevolence. He voluntarily submitted to torture and death, in order to repair the injury, which human transgression had occasioned; in order to honor and support the divine government, so that we might be made the heirs of eternal life, without encouraging rebellion, or degrading the authority of Jehovah. Immanuel’s love to men was not a partial affection, aiming at their separate interest. It was an extensive, unbounded affection, aiming to promote the happiness of men in consistence with the good of the intelligent universe, and to augment the good of the universe by the happiness of men. To render these two objects compatible with each other, Messiah patiently suffered, and gloriously died.

Our divine Leader, now seated at the right hand of the Father, and honored by the praises of angels, is as much influenced by benevolence, as when he abode on earth. He is highly exalted, and hath received a name, that is above every name, not for personal aggrandizement, but for the good of the world. As the Captain of our salvation, he is entrusted with all power in heaven and earth, for this purpose, that he may give eternal life to his people. For their security he ascended to his celestial throne. For their benefit he wields the scepter of unlimited empire. His honor is the honor of infinite goodness. The glory of his character and the happiness of his kingdom are inseparably and eternally one. What was the joy, which was set before the Saviour, for which he endured the cross, despising the shame? Was it such a joy, as excites the desire, and gratifies the taste of proud, selfish mortals? God forbid! The joy, which he sought, and which was his full reward for the travail of his soul, was the joy of infinite benevolence in beholding the purity and felicity of those, whom he had redeemed by his blood.

This, it is conceived, is a true, though very imperfect description of the Captain of our salvation. To do good upon the most extensive scale is his sole object. He seeks no glory but the glory of doing good. For all his labors, he desires no recompense, but to see and enjoy the perfect holiness and happiness of his kingdom. According to reason and truth, he has a supreme regard to his own honor and blessedness. But his honor and blessedness always stand in connection with the interest of creation. To the cause of general good he is united by indissoluble ties. To that cause his whole being is devoted. For that cause he became incarnate, suffered, died, and now reigns in glory. All he has done in creation, providence, and redemption; all he has done in heaven and on earth, has been a correct expression of pure, perfect, divine benevolence.

To exhibit the Captain of our salvation, as a pattern of true virtue to men in military life, was the design of this discourse. But here it must be remarked, that, in some parts of his character, he is not an object of imitation. What man or angel shall aspire to resemble him, who is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the Almighty? Him, who was in the beginning with God, and who was God? What man or angel shall admit the presumptuous thought of resembling him, by whom, and for whom all things were created, that are in heaven and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, and by whom all things consist? Who among God’s creatures can imitate him, who, by the sacrifice of himself, made atonement for the sins of the world, and is the eternal rock of confidence to the kingdom of the redeemed? Who shall entertain the impious desire of holding, like him, the scepter of the universe; or of receiving, like him, the profound worship of angels and men? In these sublime attributes of his character, the Captain of our salvation is too high for imitation. Compared with him, the most renowned generals, the wisest politicians, and the most powerful kings and emperors are, as nothing and vanity.

If we would exhibit Christ, as the object of imitation, we must exhibit his pure benevolence, his fervent zeal for the cause of virtue, his devotion to the honor of God and the welfare of man. In these respects he is to be considered, as an example to all military men. If they would attain the true excellence of martial character, and deserve the lasting esteem and confidence of mankind, they must be good soldiers of Jesus Christ; they must govern their actions by Christian benevolence and piety.

That wisdom of the world, which is foolishness with God, has often urged, that the obligation of Christian benevolence and piety is not so extensive, as we have represented; that these qualities, though useful and necessary in public worship, in the domestic circle, in the chamber of sickness, and in other retired scenes of human life, have no necessary connection with political or military virtue.

In reply, it might be sufficient to ask;---do men, by being engaged in political or military concerns, cease to be subjects of God’s moral government? Does their obligation to obey the divine commands terminate, when they leave retirement, and enter on public life? Are they not always under equal obligation to observe God’s law? The spirit of Christian benevolence and piety ought then to pervade every portion, and to prompt every action of their lives. The divine law is as much directed to the legislator, the judge, and the military commander, as to the believer at the sacred table, or the preacher proclaiming God’s mercy to sinners.

In this view of the subject, we are constrained to remark, that it is highly important to inculcate the Christian spirit on those, who are in military life; because in that department men are apt to consider themselves, as freed from the obligations of religion, and at liberty to deviate from the rules of Christian duty. In that sphere of action the Christian spirit is peculiarly necessary, as in it men are liable to peculiar temptations. Such are the nature and objet of military life, that those, who are engaged in it, are exposed to angry and violent passions; in consequence of which, is there not manifest danger of their losing every remnant of humanity, and becoming ferocious and cruel? Against this danger there is no effectual safeguard, but that benevolence and piety, which constitute the essence and beauty of religion. Where the Christian spirit predominates, it prevents the growth of the unfriendly passions, and gives a cast of mildness and beneficence even to those, whose profession is war and fighting.

How important to such men does the spirit of religion appear, when we consider, that their character is so generally respected, and their influence so extensive; and that, if actuated by wrong motive, they are likely to increase the corruption of public morals, and to be highly injurious to the best interests of society.

What principle can be safely substituted for Christian goodness? There is no principle, which has obtained so great influence over generals and soldiers, as love of military glory; and it may be added, there is none, which seems so well calculated to take the place and produce the effects of true virtue. But it is easy to see, that ambition, or love of honor and promotion, as a principle of action, is radically defective and corrupt, exceedingly inconstant in its operations, and fatal in its tendency. It is radically defective and corrupt, because it implies an overrating of one’s self, and of the vain applause of mortals, and an impious encroachment on the rights of God. It is exceedingly inconsistent in its operations. Depending on the capricious humors of mankind, and changing its course with them, it is fickle as the wind. Its tendency is fatal. Though in some circumstances it may lead to great and useful achievements; in others, it leads to the basest and most pernicious crimes. But what more is necessary to stigmatize this principle of action, than to say, it lives, and flourishes, and yields its natural and abundant harvest in characters, the most depraved and abandoned, that have disgraced human nature. The greatest scourges, that ever afflicted the world, have been formed and guided by love of military glory. The moment we have evidence, that men are governed by this passion, we may consider them, as prepared for every species of crime. The Caesars and the Alexanders of both ancient and modern times clearly prove, that plunder, carnage, desolation, and tyranny spring, as genuine fruits, from the love of fame. If this principle rule, the power of conscience and every moral principle are prostrated, and the door is opened for the reign of terror and destruction.

Ambition, or love of fame, has been called a splendid and noble vice. But it is neither a virtue, nor a noble vice. There is not on earth a greater moral pestilence. Though its features, at first view, may appear kind and lovely; it is deformity itself, and carries everlasting enmity in its bosom. If it could be successful, and execute all its wishes; there would be no bounds to the mischief and ruin, it would occasion. Scorning reproof and restraint, it would suppress conscience, and nullify God’s holy law. Brooking no rival, and no resistance, and disregarding every idea of justice and right, it would excite each individual to seek superiority over all others, and all others over him. The consequence would be the most violent interference and strife. And he, who in the issue should have no superior on earth, would still be uneasy at the thought of a POWER SUPREME in heaven;---uneasy indeed, if he should view that heavenly POWER, as the unchangeable and almighty enemy of human pride and human glory.

Not so the excellent Gardiner, celebrated by the pious friendship of Doddridge. Not so the man, who was once the hope and confidence, and will ever be the honor, of America. Those heroes fought, not for their own fame, but for their country, and their God. They proved that religion has as much to do in the field of battle, as in the house of prayer. It is religion, that must teach commanders when to engage in the bloody fight, and when to sheath the sword; how to bear defeat, and how to enjoy success; how to treat their bleeding enemies, their captives, and their victors; how to conquer, and how to die. Oh, had all the great generals and rulers of former and latter times possessed the spirit of Washington; nay, rather, the spirit of him, who was Washington’s Pattern and Savior; how different would have been the state of the world! What boundless evils would have been prevented! To the love of military fame and civil power we must ascribe a great part of the dissentions and wars, which have distressed and wasted mankind. This has kept, and still keeps the nations of the earth in a state of discord and misery.

No consideration, perhaps, deserves more particular notice on this occasion, or more directly exposes the love of personal honor, than its influence in originating and perpetuating the practice of single combat. What can be conceived more unreasonable, more vicious, more hurtful, or more detestable, than a principle, which gives rise to such a practice? A principle, which leads men openly to set at nought the righteous law of God, and to violate every social and civil obligation; a principle, which hardens the heart against the earnest cries and melting entreaties of domestic affection and distress, and against the still more solemn warnings, and more melting expostulations of divine mercy? Can it be thought necessary to prove that dueling is totally contrary to Christian virtue? Look at the Captain of our salvation. Was he quick to resent the insults and injuries he received? Did he return evil for evil? Did he aim at the life of others, and expose his own, to revenge every trifling offence? Was not he meek and lowly in heart, compassionate and forgiving? When he was reviled, did he revile again? When he suffered, did he load his enemies with angry threats? Did not he say, love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that despitefully use you? We must either renounce the fashionable maxims of personal honor and revenge, and decidedly discountenance the practice of dueling; or give up all pretensions to the name and privileges of Christians.

Can it be apprehended, that a character, formed and actuated by Christian benevolence, would be less dignified and sublime, than one, formed upon the principle of ambition? What constitutes sublimity of character? Does it arise from the sublimity and excellence of the object pursued? The object of an ambitious hero is, that his splendid victories may be celebrated through the world, and that he may rise in fame and power above all other mortals. The object of the Christian hero is the virtue and happiness of mankind. Which, I ask, is the more sublime and excellent, the high sounding honor of a weak, blind, selfish individuals, or the solid, durable happiness of unnumbered millions? The object of an ambitious commander is so narrow, groveling, and base, as to deserve no notice, but contempt. The object of the Christian commander is so sublime and excellent, as to engage the diligent exertion of angels, and the benevolent attention of God. What excellence and sublimity does such an object impart to his character? A sublimity, which will forever mock the aspiring views of proud ambition.

Will it be said, that love of glory creates the highest activity and energy of character? Is not the love of God and man a more powerful stimulus? Are mankind,---are all so lost to reason and virtue, as to be more strongly excited and more completely governed by the breath of flattery and applause, than by the honor of their Maker, and the welfare of the world? Are there no military, no civil characters, who display as much activity and energy under the uniform and salutary influence of Christian goodness, as others, under the influence of ambition? Through the favor of God, there are some. For the sake of our country and the world, we devoutly wish them multiplied a hundred fold.

The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company will accept our congratulations on the return of this joyful anniversary. Heaven grant, that you may continue to make the most valuable improvements in military science, and be a school of Christian heroes, till wars and rumors of wars shall cease. Wishing, Gentlemen, that you may attain the highest dignity and usefulness of character, we have directed your attention to the great Captain of salvation, and inculcated the importance of imbibing his benevolent spirit. Without this spirit, mankind, pursuing ten thousand separate, clashing interests, will be in a state of perpetual variance and confusion. But this spirit, by uniting mankind in one interest and one cause, will make what can never be made without it, a perfect society.

In training up young men for war, you will consider, Gentlemen, that it is indispensable to impress on their minds Christian truth and piety. If this be neglected, their discerning fellow citizens will look upon them with distrust and alarm. If this be neglected, their influence may be so baleful to society, and their conduct so extensively mischievous, that their death will be hailed, as the relief and joy of their injured country.

How great is the evil of setting up for examples men, whose characters were formed upon the principle of military glory. These, alas, are the men, whom poets and historians have celebrated. These are the men, whose crimes are ingeniously varnished, and whose names are transmitted to posterity, surrounded with the most captivating splendor. Ambitious young minds are imposed upon by the deceitful light, in which they are seen; and attracted, by the false honors which decorate their characters, to a studious imitation of their vices. Turn away with abhorrence from these contagious, destructive characters, which have so long been exhibited, as patterns of virtue; but which, in fact, have no recommendation, except to a proud, inhuman heart. Look unto him, whom the mercy of God has presented, as a perfect example; and lose not this distinguishing advantage of that holy religion, which you now publicly recognize and honor in this house of God. If all, who are invested with military and civil authority, will sacrifice the lust of power and every unhallowed principle, cherish the humble, self denying, and heavenly temper of Jesus, and regulate their measures, and employ their influence according to Christian wisdom and goodness; there is still hope for our country, even in this day of darkness, rebuke, and peril. The King of Zion deserves our entire, unwavering confidence. His throne is our refuge, our strength, and our safety. Without his friendship, fleets and armies are of no use. Let his gospel prevail; by faith, obedience, and prayer let his favor be secured; and America will yet triumph in peace and prosperity. Or, if we be called forth in righteous war, the Captain of our salvation will go with us, as he did with our fathers; will conduct our armies, and crown us with victory. Amen.

The following are the names of the gentlemen who have commanded the Honorable Artillery Company.

1638 Robert Keyne
39 Edward Gibbon
40 Robert Sedgwick
41 Edward Gibbons
42 Israel Stoughton
43 Elisha Cook
44 Thomas Hawkins
45 Maj. Robert Sedgwick
46 Maj. Edward Gibbons
47 Robert Keyne
48 Maj. Robert Sedgwick
49 Maj. Edward Gibbons
50 Humphrey Atherton
51 Thomas Savage
52 John Leverett
53 Thomas Clark
54 Maj. Gen. Ed. Gibbons
55 Francis Norton
56 James Oliver
57 Edward Hutchinson
58 Maj. Humph. Atherton
59 Thomas Savage
60 Maj. Gen. D. Dennison
61 William Hudson

1662 Thomas Lake
63 Major John Leverett
64 William Davis
65 Thomas Clark
66 James Oliver
67 Isaac Johnson
68 Thomas Savage
69 Peter Oliver
70 Maj. Gen. J. Leverett
71 John Hull
72 William Davis
73 Thomas Clark
74 Thomas Lake
75 Thomas Savage
76 Elisha Hutchinson
77 Richard Woodde
78 John Hull
79 John Walley
80 Major Thomas Savage
81 Penn Townsend
82 Theophilus Frary
83 Ephraim Savage
84 Elisha Hutchinson
85 John Phillips

In 1686, Sir Edmund Andross, upon his arrival, turned out all the Magistrates, Judges and Officers of the Militia chosen by the people, and appointed others in their room, and overturned by degrees the whole Constitution, so that this Company did not publicly meet till after his departure for England.

Ap. 1691 Maj. E. Hutchinson
91 Penn Townsend
92 M. Gen. Wait Winthrop
93 John Wing
94 Col. Samuel Shrimpton
95 Col. Nicholas Page
96 Bazoon Allen
97 Lt. Col. E. Hutchinson
98 Major Penn Townsend
99 Major John Walley

1700 Samuel Checkley

1701 Samuel Sewall
2 Major Charles Hobby
3 John Ballentine
4 Thomas Hutchinson
5 Thomas Savage
6 Major Adam Winthrop
7 John Walley
8 Thomas Fitch
9 Col. Penn Townsend
10 Lt. Col. John Ballentine
11 Habijah Savage

1712 Hon. William Taylor
13 Sir Charles Hobby
14 Edward Winslow
15 Edward Martyn
16 Samuel Keeling
17 Edward Hutchinson
18 Thomas Hutchinson
19 Hon. William Dummer
20 Col. Thomas Fitch
21 Major Habijah Savage
22 Thomas Smith
23 Col. Penn Townsend
24 Lt. Col. Ed. Hutchinson
25 Col. Thomas Fitch

1726 John Greenough
27 Major Habijah Savage
28 Col. Samuel Thaxter
29 Major Edward Winslow
30 Col. Ed. Hutchinson
31 Nathaniel Cunningham
32 William Downe
33 Major William Brattle
34 Major Samuel Sewall
35 Lt. Col. Jacob Wendell
36 Col. John Chandler
37 Col. Richard Saltonstall
38 Daniel Henchman
39 Caleb Lyman

The following are the names of the gentlemen who have commanded the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company.

1740 John Wendell
41 Joshua Cheever
42 Hon. Samuel Watts
43 Hon. Joseph Dwight
44 Lt. Col. William Downe
45 Col. Jacob Wendell
46 Maj. Daniel Henchman
47 John Phillips
48 John Carnes
49 Ebenezer Storer
50 Hugh McDaniel
51 Jonathan Williams
52 Joseph Jackson
53 Thomas Edwards
54 Ralph Hart
55 John Symmes
56 John Welsh
57 Thomas Savage

1758 Newman Greenough
59 Col. John Phillips
60 William Taylor
61 Major John Symmes
62 Onesiphorus Tilestone
63 Thomas Marshall
64 Maj. Gen. J. Winslow
65 William Homes
66 Thomas Dawes
67 Lt. Col. Tho. Marshall
68 Maj. Jam. Cunningham
69 Josiah Waters
70 Capt. William Heath
71 Capt. Samuel Barret
72 Capt. Martin Gay
73 Major Thomas Dawes
74 William Bell

The company performed the duty enjoined by their charter on the first Monday in April, 1775, commanded by Capt. Bell.

The revolutionary war commenced April 19, 1775, when the members of the company were dispersed, and did not meet again until July, 1786, when the company recommenced military duty under the command of the surviving officers elected in June, 1774.


1787 Maj. Gen. John Brooks
88 Maj. Gen. Benj. Lincoln
89 Brig. Gen. William Hull
90 Capt. Robert Jenkins
91 Col. Josiah Waters
92 Col. John Winslow
93 Maj. A. Cunningham
94 Maj. Gen. John Brooks
95 Col. Amasa Davis
96 Thomas Clark
97 Samuel Todd

1798 Col. John Winslow
99 Capt. Robert Gardner

1800 Jonas S. Bass
1 Maj. Benjamin Russell
2 James Phillips
3 Capt. Lemuel Gardner
4 Capt. Daniel Messenger
5 Maj. George Blanchard
6 William Alexander
7 Edmund Bowman
8 Capt. Melzar Holmes.

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