Samuel Spring (1746-1819) graduated from Princeton in 1771. He served as a chaplain during the Revolutionary War (1775-1776) and carried a wounded Aaron Burr from the field during the Battle of Quebec. Spring was the pastor of a congregation in Newburyport, MA (1777-1819). This sermon was preached on the annual fast day of Massachusetts on April 6, 1809.
Fast Day, April 6, 1809.
By Samuel Spring, D. D.
Ezekiel XXVII. 26.
Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters: The east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.
THE Prophet was not the subject of passive obedience and non-resistance. For God gave him his commission in these words; “Now, thou Son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus”; and he faithfully executed it, by openly blaming and condemning her rulers for their wrong and destructive measures. “Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters; the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.”
The sentiments of the text are expressed in language highly metaphorical. The great waters, into which Tyre was carried by her pilots or rowers, were great public difficulties and perplexities, in which she was involved by the folly and baseness of her rulers. The term rowers and the phrase great waters were accommodated to the navigation of early times, when the vessels, which were managed by oars, resembled our shallow craft, and not modern ships of war, which whiten the sea with their canvas and glide over great and deep waters with majesty and safety. As Tyre was an Island, which commanded the most extensive and profitable commerce, she is compared in her sad state with a rich vessel, wrecked by the eastern gales, which in those seas proved the most destructive to navigation.
Having now before us the contents of the Prophet’s message, stripped of metaphorical dress, I shall enquire whether our rulers have not too much resembled the rulers of Tyre. For, though we are not yet destroyed as a nation, it will, we presume, appear upon careful review and enquiry, that we have been brought near the margin of destruction; and notwithstanding any national measures, which have been adopted, yet stand trembling upon it. The event is future and we hope it will not be distressing.
A simple, solemn state of facts, will, we think, best answer the reasonable demand of the occasion before a mixed assembly. For the field has been amply explored, and the curtain of the national cabinet has been partly drawn, and some of the hidden motives of administration developed, and exposed by our able statesmen, who have merited the thanks of the nation. They have on the left hand been hated and bitterly cursed by their political opposers, because they have told the truth, and of course exposed a system of deep intrigue and black deceit.
There are so many wheels within the modern wheel of the nation; so many ultimate and subordinate motives attached to the chief motive of administration, that it is not easy to give a clear, decided view of their system. But it is manifest, that ever since the late President returned from the French court with his head and heart full of the philosophy of “The enlightened nation,” that he has been devoted to France and hostile to England. To account for this, we cannot but remark that he is destitute of martial skill and prowess, that he expected France would soon rule the world, and that it would be more safe and compatible with the feelings of southern men, who must rule with the eastern states, and retain their slaves, and cannot easily endure much religious connection, to take seasonable shelter under the spreading wing of the French Eagle. And to effect all this, France must have money, must rise and extend her influence far and wide; England must fall or bow, and the commerce of the eastern states, and the consequent strength of New-England must be greatly reduced. For so long as Old England and New-England mutually support the interest of religion and commerce, France and her American adherents cannot prevail. There was a time, not far distant, when the duped influence of the eastern states was on the point of going blindly into this awful vortex. Blessed be God, our eyes are partly opened. We begin to see men as trees walking – we must now take care that our vision be not obscured, and that our hands be not palsied, nor our minds discouraged, by the loss of our commerce. For our energy and national influence will go with our morals, commerce and opulence. “Money is a defense;” but “the destruction of the poor is their poverty.”
Leaving the motives of administration to be unfolded by time, we will now notice some of the adverse consequences of their late measures. The reduced state of our flourishing commerce may take the lead of the shrouded procession. For it is a productive cause of much public affliction and adversity. The partial repeal of the oppressive Embargo, in connection with its substitute, is considered by wise men, who ponder the place of their steps, as a mere snare to commerce. For, though that empty chest of the nation may derive some needful supply by the measure, it is to be feared that young adventurous merchants will unhappily lost their property, and the nation be more reduced than ever. If our merchants, by the legal deception, lose more than the public chest gains, they will have reason to complain of being overreached and gulled by administration; and what upright man must not blush in such a case for our Legislators? To plead that merchants need not expose their interest in the waters of Holland and other waters equally dubious and dangerous, will not excuse those who make danger by law; and tempt men by the vain hope of interest to run full sail into it. Till we have ample evidence that our rulers have quitted the servile project of aiding France by oppressing our commerce, we cannot consider any of their measures friendly to it, and consequently entertain more fear than hope relative to the partial repeal of the Embargo. If they have not suppressed commerce to aid France, and if they now desire the prosperity of eastern commerce upon friendly, patriotic principles, they would openly encourage it, and not embarrass it by any legal snare.
Making then no abatement of our calamity by the partial repeal of the Embargo, since we are embarrassed with its substitute, let me say, when we attend to the vast extent of our sea-coast in connection with the depth of the adjacent country, which God manifestly made to employ a commercial, active people; when we also review the dismantled, decaying state of our shipping; the wasting produce of our fertile lands lying in the barns of farmers and stores of merchants, without any prospect of market, we cannot but feel deeply affected with the depressed state of our commerce. For if our rulers had not been wedded to France and hostile to England, without reason, we might have been constantly employed in exporting and importing the riches of the world to great advantage. The original design of the British orders of Council, as well as other public documents sufficiently authorize this position. Our commerce received a mortal wound, because the great Emperor does not wish it to live. He approves the Embargo acts, because he or his handy agent dictated them, and expects national advantage. The present wretched state of New-England’s interest is the very object at which our rulers aimed. They have thus far hit the mark. We were dormant long enough; and suffered them to advance very far in the devious course.
Another, though a mere consequence of the former evil, is national poverty, which begins to stare us in the face, and enter many of our habitations. What, alas! Is the present state of our national Treasure – what are its prospects compared with what they were at the close of the federal administration? We have been told in a flattering specious manner, by a great man, that there was a surplus of money in the treasury, which might be expended in repairing roads and educating youth – not we presume in religion. But the fact is this, that without a dry tax, which the people will not endure, the government cannot long be supported with national dignity. We are still much in debt as a nation, and as things are now managed, must plunge deeper and deeper into debt to discharge debt. Surely our rowers have bought us into deep waters indeed, where we must soon founder without the aid of able pilots. The French Legions have not yet crossed the ocean: though I believe the late President expected to realize their assistance before the expiration of his eight years residence in the capital. We have one of their Generals only with us: but no Prefect, as yet, in official form.
Passing the impoverished state of the nation, what is the condition of thousands of families and millions of individuals, who but lately were in comfortable circumstances! The hand of poverty has, I am informed, struck off one hundred men from this town’s list who were legal voters last year. How afflictive to them and their dear depressed families! This is but the beginning of the new and gloomy series. Many who owe money cannot pay it at any rate: and others are so pressed, that they discharge their debts under every disadvantage to their scanty property. Amid the multitude of creditors but few can get their property and many are obliged to lose it wholly. This however is but a mere specimen of our declining state. The total amount of our loss in incalculable. There is another class of man, who in prosperous times, by their labor, were able to obtain a comfortable support, but are now the real objects of charity. I need not mention the number of this description in our sea-port and other sea-ports in the vicinity, nor the various beneficent measures, truly affecting, which have been devised in different places to repel hunger and afford daily relief and support. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Let their benefactors then continue to reap the superior advantage of their needful and wisely appropriated liberality. For affluence is of no value except in use. The rust of riches will not answer at death and the great day, except as irresistible evidence against unfaithful stewards of God’s property. While God supplies us, let us supply his poor, who have the memorial from his mercy. Added to the public expense, which has been necessary to prevent the pressing distress of thousands and thousands of the reduced inhabitants; who among us can estimate the real loss which we sustain, by the numerous legal meetings and conventions of the people, which have proved absolutely requisite to put a check, at least to the daring strides of administration in coincidence with the dominant views of France? For, though our Federal Representatives on the floor of Congress have done all that men could do by argument and address, we know, that if the people were not active and resolute, with great loss of time and interest, that we should now be awed, broken down and crushed by those troops of administration which were designed to enforce the embargo acts to the extent. It was the seasonable exertion of the people, which presented the raising and organization of those armies, which were intended to still us by the sword and the loss of blood. Blessed be God, we do not see them and were they now organized they could not be quartered in New England. We have no room for their tents. The land will not hold them. I review the debility of administration to execute that enslaving merciless purpose by the dread of arms, with thanks to God for rousing the spirit of the people, by the necessary though expensive measures, which were accepted by the people. If we had slept much longer France and administration would now smile and triumph over us in a haughty style. For we must believe that they intended to take away our strength by depriving us of our interest and depressing our spirits. But they are sadly disappointed for the present; because there is not, in consequence of the spirit of the people, who begin to open their eyes, sufficient national influence to execute those numerous, unfeeling, arbitrary acts. These petty armed vessels must go into the dignified retirement of the dry dock: for they never were calculated for national defense, and we fear were originally designed to embarrass our commerce and compel our submission, among other measures, to the will of France.
Further, the naked defenseless state of the nation is considered by wise men another instance of adversity which calls for lamentation. Those little shallow vessels, though built at great expense, we do not need any more than the distressing embargo; for they cannot even defend our rivers and harbours against a foreign enemy. But we need ships of war, and able, manly frigates. If we do not respect and arm ourselves like a nation of honor, how can we expect to be respected by potent nations? If we strip ourselves of influence, what nation will stop to clothe us? We have a small land army; but under the command of a General that the people will not trust a moment. We have a militia of great strength, but if this President, though I will yet hope better things, embrace the motives of his predecessor in the appointment of officers, the patriotic soldiers of New-England and the other states, will not follow them, and cannot be compelled. They love their wives and children and parents. Public confidence in administration is on the wing; and what can be harmoniously effected without it against our enemies?
We have no naval force which does honor to the nation. Upon the water we are defenseless. But if a small portion of the interest we have lost, by the saving embargo, could be appropriated to the construction of a navy, we should be safe in our own waters, strong at sea, and respected by the nations. But now, for aught any provisions made for us by administration, we must, instead of that dignified retirement so much celebrated and anticipated, be compelled to remain, we cannot tell how long, in a state of national indignity, sheer disgrace and intolerable contempt. Britain pities us, because she is too elevated and condescending to blame us. For she knows while we deprive ourselves of rich commerce, to gratify Napolean, by rejecting her offers, that a few battle ships might easily batter down and demolish our sea-ports and oblige us to fly to the mountains and back woods for safety. But she will not do it: It is not for her interest; nor is it for our interest to provoke her much more, unless it be best to destroy ourselves by becoming tributary to France, like the nations of Europe, who must drag out their days in slavery and sorrow and oppression. How lamentable, how pitiful and disgraceful our national prostration! If the departed spirit of Washington be permitted to visit us, he laments the hard calamity of Federalists, and returns hoping that in the revolving state of sublunary things, we shall see better times. He knew Virginia, and gave us needful counsel, in what manner to escape approaching danger and national ruin. Our adverse condition, in being destitute of naval force, seeing we are designed by providence for z commercial people, is attended with peculiar aggravations. For previously to the embargo – I choose rather to say, previously to the impoverishing effects of the measures of administration, we were able to furnish and man a navy with facility. But public measures in the course of eight years, have deprived us of a vast portion of our interest, probably, if good judges who have impartially attended to the subject, are correct, to the amount of two hundred millions of dollars. 1 We have also lost many able seamen, who to prevent begging and starving, have shipped themselves on board foreign vessels and left the country. This is a heavy loss, whether they were naturalized, or Americans by birth. I am sensible that this instance of our adversity, like all others occasioned by the embargo, affects the hearts of mad Democrats like the adversity of the Spanish patriots. For the embargo was designed to prove a distressing rather than a saving, salutary measure. Those who put it on meant to keep it on, and without pity in their hearts or a tear in their eyes, did all they could to make the yoke more and more heavy and grievous by additional weights, till they were absolutely forced to desist; and even then devised a different mode of operation to effect their original purpose, as we have much reason to fear. For the wisdom of the British Cabinet does not invest every master of a ship. Some commanders are rash men, who will offend. The temptation put in the way of indiscreet captains to kindle the flame of war between us and England, is greater than many people apprehend, if not too subtle to be administered by our administration. To avoid it, I hope our active men will not venture very far in the dark.
Though the national and political evils produced by the late measures of administration are great and oppressive, yet there is another evil more to be dreaded and deprecated than all the rest we have mentioned, or can be mentioned by men whose minds are better informed. It is infinitely more dangerous. I mean that demoralizing, deranging influence, which so much prevails, and like quick poison, pervades and seizes he vitals of the community. We need not be at great pains to support this position. The evidence presses upon us like the light of mid day. We know, that there is no rational motive to sin, and that no reason can be assigned for it in any circumstances whatever; yet one person is capable of leading another into that scene of temptation, which will prove fatal to his morals and his soul. Napolean, no more than Balak in the instance of Israel, was able to subdue America by his first measures, though the promised reward was flattering; yet by a method not very diverse from what was practiced by Balaam, the servile instrument of the king of Moab, the Emperor has been strangely successful. We notice it on this day of humiliation, for a lamentation, that the morals of the people have been corrupted by public measures. The embargo laws have neither met the correct, enlightened dictates of conscience nor the constitution of the land. They interfere and shamefully clash with the general bond of union and with the guaranteed rights of individual states, and been in some sacred instances with common law. To adduce evidence of this, after the able address, remonstrance and memorial of our Legislature, is needless. Lamentable and obvious facts are these, that the termination of commerce with foreign nations, so unjust in its nature, so impolitic and distressing in its effects and operation, considering our circumstances and the embarrassed condition of necessary trade between one state and another, disaffected and enraged the merchants, put a period to industry in our sea-ports, and reduced former labourers to a state of inevitable inactivity. Idleness was the consequence. Vices of various complexions succeeded of course to the great disadvantage of individuals, families and the community. For idleness is the fruitful mother of wicked customs and habits, which are so destructive to the best interest of men. Satan always takes his stand in the midst of the circle of human displeasure and idleness, and manages it to the injury of souls. It is his field of action.
There is another humiliating attitude of much iniquity occasioned by the system under review. We mean that deceit and dishonesty which are induced and indulged under unconstitutional acts and arbitrary laws, relating to toll, customs and revenue. For by the habit of evading arbitrary laws to save excise money, it becomes easy for many persons to qualify their consciences to evade righteous laws, who before such poisonous habits, would have trembled at the thought of defrauding the public chest. Arbitrary, unconstitutional acts we mark with emphasis, because they are direct temptations to iniquity. Men are naturally prone to sin, when there is no direct motive of advantage before them: but when they can blindly believe, as Adam did before he eat the apple, that there is interest to be secured without pains or by the least pains, they will attend. Righteous laws are in danger of being violated by the side of unrighteous ones, which men will disregard. To multiply even just rules beyond necessity is not wise, lest some of them be neglected, and a habit be formed to neglect others. Wise parents and wise rulers are, therefore, careful not to make even too many good rules. Surely, then, it must be unsafe indeed for rulers to multiply unjust laws, lest they induce their subjects to violate laws which ought to be obeyed, in consequence of being in the habit of disregarding those that ought not to be obeyed. It is dangerous even to pass the Rubicon of injustice established by law: for by doing this men learn to pass the Rubicon of justice. The way to ruin is broad and easy and full of the temptations of the moment. We should leave temptation at first sight, before we touch it, and it will never injure us any more than it did Joseph, Daniel and his three brethren at Babylon. In a word, while our rulers evidently mean to deprive Federalists, who are certainly the most valuable members of society, on many accounts, of any leading influence in national government, while they mean to deprive the eastern states of energy by destroying their commerce, without which they cannot subsist, with a common share of comfort; while they make laws which are hostile to the Federal constitution and the constitution of individual states, to gender idleness, dishonesty, slander and falsehood without limits; while they do not expel duelists from the floor of Congress; while they approve horse-racing and other dissipated practices injurious to the cause of religion; and while they pay little or no proper respect to the Sabbath, or the divine inspiration of the scriptures, have we not much reason to make a deep lamentation for the moral state of the land? Alas! Alas! America, what is thy moral state compared with what it was before the revolution? What compared with the religious state introduced and supported by our forefathers? How art thou fallen!
To make subjects moral, honest and upright, rulers must impress their consciences by righteous laws and exemplary conduct. For as is the fountain so will be the streams. As is the tree, so will be the branches and the fruit. In vain do we look for union and harmony, either of a civil or moral nature, while our rulers are fired with ambition and swayed by base partiality. The moral father of his subjects is the ruler approved by God, and admired by all good men. Their love is his authority. Their delight in his excellent qualities is his scepter. They obey because they cannot endure the thought of offending him. “O Telemachus,” said Mentor the sage, who was teaching him to be a good ruler, “Fear God; this fear is the greatest treasure of the human heart; it comes attended by wisdom, justice, peace, joy, unmixed pleasures, real liberty, delightful abundance3 and spotless glory.”
Lord, if national sins and abominations do not exceed the limits of thy gracious determination respecting the United States, let our administration be ever under the guidance of such a spirit. “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God; and he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.” Rulers of this description “are not a terror to good works but to the evil; not a curse but a rich blessing to the people. Their memory will be embalmed by immortality.
THE DIVISION OF SERVICE.
IN the morning discourse, we attended to the gloomy state of our country, both in a political and moral view, produced directly by the partial, incorrect measures of administration. But since our rulers and their political associates are not the only offending members of the community, we must impartially view both Federalists and Democrats, in one collected mass, and ascertain in what attitude we stand as a nation before God the author of our past prosperity and present adversity. “For thus saith the Lord, I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things. Shall a trumpet be blown in the city and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?” The nation is manifestly in circumstances of adversity, and we are sure that the Lord is the author of it because we have sinned against him as a nation. For God is as just in afflicting public bodies as individuals. But he is as merciful as he is just. And “therefore now also saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning, and rend your heart and not your garments, and rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and leave a blessing behind him--? Gather the people, sanctify the congregation—Let the priests the ministers of the Lord, meet between the porch and the altar; and let them say, spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thy heritage to reproach that the heathen should rule over them? Wherefore should they say among the people where is their God? But from this general review of the duties of the day we must attend to several particulars. And
1. Is it not manifest from our present condition as a nation, what we were while under a Federal administration, a most prosperous nation as to our agricultural and commercial interest? We ought not to infer this unless we have evidence to support it. But we ask, when did we as a nation obtain the opulence, the vast share of opulence, which we now possess, and the millions we have lost by our ruling attachment to France and hostility to England? The answer is this, the currents of wealth, which have flowed so plentifully in our favor, begun while the government was administered by Washington and Adams, notwithstanding they labored under many embarrassments to open them and keep them open. For no sooner were we crowned with independence, than the potent, envious nations, knowing our advantages to rise, attempted to take away the luster of our crown and to leave it naked and bare. But by the unremitting exertions of those political Fathers of our Country, while supported by able statesmen, in opposition to a growing faction, the numerous avenues of commerce were kept open and our opulence increased in a surprising manner, till the late administration took the advantage and disposal of it into their own hands. When the late President came into office, the revenue was ample and the avenues opened by his predecessors were calculated to continue and increase it. Washington and Adams were the planters and sowers: but President Jefferson was the reaper. Administration have gathered the rich harvest. And where is it? Millions have gone one way and millions have gone another way and thousands another and hundreds another, if the sum be not too inconsiderable to be distinctly named, till we are like a naked tree stripped of her leaves and fruit by the frost; and are left destitute of national defense and now lie at the mercy of the potent nations. What they will do with us we cannot tell. For while we ought to be rich and powerful on the land and water, we are defenseless. And added to this complicated evil, we are like a contentious house divided against itself, which cannot stand. But why all this national evil? Has the Jeffersonian faction alone done all this? Have France and her American adherents effected this great evil, exclusively of the conduct of the other part of the nation? By no means: For God is just. And though this is not a state of strict and final retribution, yet it is according to the analogy of his dispensations to afflict and punish nations for national sins. The sacred history contains numerous instances of the nature. The Jews, to mention no other nation, who have long smarted for admonition to others, under the divine displeasure, are now in their present dispersion over the face of the earth, God’s living witnesses. Hence
2. We remark that the Americans for years past have manifestly been a nation of sinners with but few exceptions. For if our peerless prosperity had been noticed by national gratitude and humility, instead of having elated us in an extravagant manner, and been prostituted to the destructive purpose of dissipation, we could not in so short a time have been plunged, by a few factious, partial men, into the gulf of danger. Individuals in the midst of a nation, can affect no revolution, unless they avail themselves of the influence of the public by some concurrent means put into their hands. Great national changes cannot be effected without great national influence. And if this nation had not been devoted to riches, and intoxicated with prosperity, if we had not fostered the spirit of shew and parade, the sad monuments of which are now seen all over the country; if we had not been asleep as to the rectitude and abilities of men deputed to act as national legislators; if we had not, both directly and indirectly, concurred as towns and districts with the southern spirit, what could that faction have effected which has taken the lead of the nation? The rowers, who have brought us into these great waters of national adversity, are the very men we as a nation have chosen to be our pilots. It requires no stretch of thought and reflection to see by what means or by what neglect of means we are now in this reduced state as a nation. We have sinned against God by misimproving our invaluable advantages of a civil nature. A great price has been put into our hands, but we have had no heart to improve it. We have lost our advantages by neglect. If we had seasonably taken care of our political ground and sowed it with proper seed, with wheat instead of tares and thistles, we might now be blessed with the prospect of a rich harvest. We are then now called to reflect on our wicked course of conduct as a nation, which has been the productive source of our adversity. For if we had been correct in a civil, political view only, if we had externally used and not abused our precious, inestimable favors, the rectitude of providence must have prevented these evils, which we now bitterly experience. For means and ends are connected. Providence is correct; God is just and righteous. It is the diligent hand that maketh rich, while idleness will originate want and distress. We ourselves have been the effective instruments of our trouble. For who is he that will harm us if we be followers of that which is good? But alas! We have not only been political sinners, without whom the federal government could not be pulled down, but we have been great sinners against God, the author of all our mercies. We have disregarded his precepts, we have violated his laws, we have slighted his Sabbath and ordinances, we have as a nation forsaken God who made us, and lightly esteemed the rock of our salvation. Self-gratification has been the object, and the degradation of the nation. I am no advocate, you know, for the late oppressive and destructive measures of administration; and surely we can none of us advocate the conduct of the nation which has formed and so long supported such an administration. While we impeach those political offenders at the head of the nation, let us not pass silently by the body of the nation, which supports the head, nor pass by any of the members. For in vain do we suppose that the rulers of the people have brought these intolerable evils upon us without the concurring influence of their constituents. And in vain do we try to forget that God, the righteous governor of the universe, is not so ordering things in his providence, that the nation shall drink of the bitter national cup, which she has mingled. We are now reaping the real fruits of our national folly and wickedness. God, who holds the balance of universal rectitude, in his hand, is now looking down upon us with displeasure and giving us in judgment a specimen of his wrath for our national sins. I will not say that some men do not deserve more than others; they undoubtedly do; and they, without seasonable repentance, will have their dreadful portion. But we none of us suffer so much as we deserve: nay, if the individuals, who compose the nation, were now to be treated according to desert, each one of us must be instantly separated from all natural, civil and moral advantages, and plunged into the pit of endless destruction. Our being so ripe for national ruin, as must be confessed according to the stubborn facts of the day, is full evidence that our national abominations have been very great indeed. But a few months since, administration expected, that by this time the people must be in a state of entire submission to their oppressive laws. –And it is wonderful, seeing their measures had been so long dominant and successful, that they have not finally succeeded. How sinful then must have been the people, for God to suffer the nation to stand tottering on the verge of destruction! And how merciful to give us a little respite? How inexpressibly gracious to spare us longer and give us a space for repentance! What would be our condition, were we now at war with Britain and subjected to France! O children and posterity! We cannot but weep when we remember that we had almost left you slaves and ruined you by our sins. Think of it a moment, what would be the state of the church, if the nation were now actually under the direction of that butchering Emperor, who is ready to soak the earth with the blood of half the human race, rather than not subdue and rule the rest. His ambition has no limits under the sun. Men are of no value in his view, while thirsting for empire, but to be ruled by his arm, or to be cut off by millions and millions to give him the palm of universal victory. Do you believe it, my hearers, that our administration have pledged their love, their confidence and exertions to such a bloody monster? Do you believe, whatever be the case now, that the nation was lately on the point of going directly into his hands, whose tender mercies are cruel? Do you also believe that God has been so angry with the nation, that he was about to make that emissary of darkness the dreadful instrument in his hand to punish the rulers and the people for their sins committed against his sacred majesty? You need not disbelieve. An affirmative answer we presume must be correct, however humiliating. Hence
3. Nothing less than our deep humiliation genuine sorrow and repentance of sin, will correspond with the obligation of the day. The spiritual and temporal benefits and mercies, which God has conferred upon us, are innumerable like the sands, and they are great beyond our estimation. They are precious, because nothing less precious than the blood of Jesus which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel, procured them. Considering our national blessings, we especially ought to be that people whose God is the Lord. For no nation under heaven, since the revolution, has been so peculiarly favoured as this nation. But we are guilty, very guilty for the misimprovement of God’s mercies. No one has leave to say, I am not the guilty person. Not one is excepted. The sin of the nation in this connection is not divisible: it cannot be divided. The whole, collective weight of guilt lies, as it were, upon each individual. It is enough to sink us down to the lowest pit. But the mercy of God continues. We have still liberty to make our peace with him.—What shall be done? We must be humble. We must feel our own littleness as creatures; and entertain just, though they will be inadequate, views of God’s greatness and goodness. We must like worms of the earth lie prostrate before him and love to see him upon the throne of universal dominion. For angels and men, heaven and earth, and the whole universe, are safe in his hand. No place better becomes man than the dust. There he may shine and there he does shine, if humble, like a jewel of peculiar brightness. Let me repeat it; there he must lie this day.
We must also mourn our sins, we must feel that sorrow on account of our transgressions, which is answerable to their destructive nature and consequences. But how shall we obtain just views of the malignity of our sins except by seeing the evil state of the nation and the dreadful destruction, which awaits us here and beyond the grave, if God were to punish us as we deserve? The sorrow we ought to feel in the view of the sins we have committed is enough to make hearts of stone melt and bleed. Except the blood of Christ no atonement can remove such deeply dyed guilt. Let us mourn and lament and beg; for this is all we can do. Let us feel as well as see that we deserve the curse which Christ bore on the tree. If Christ died to honor the law we have violated, surely we ought to feel, that it would be right for God to leave us to die for ourselves without the advantage of a substitute. Real, godly sorrow for sin, actually holds communion with a suffering Saviour on the cross. And he, who rejects this, loves Christ only on selfish, mercenary principles to be saved from deserved punishment. But if we love Christ merely to render us happy, what do we more than thousands of other, who have no religion? What do we more than any other sinners, who love those that love them? All sinners desire private happiness and they strive to escape pain. But all godly mourners desire to be delivered from selfish hearts. They are the subjects of self-denial; and without this they are destitute of the spirit of Christ and are none of his. Thousands like Judas have been sorry indeed that their sins have made them painful, and have with violent hands put an end to their lives to get rid of pain, for the moment. But all sorrow of this nature is but the sorrow of the world which worketh death. But godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. Therefore the Apostle says to those whom, by his reproof, he had made truly sorrowful for their sin: “Behold this self same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort; what carefulness it wrought in you, yea what clearing of yourselves, yea what indignation, yea what fear, what vehement desire, yea what zeal, yea what revenge!” The sorrow, which effects such exercises as these, is always attended with true repentance. That is, it produces reformation. It causes the subjects of it to hate sin, to avoid sin, to abhor themselves on account of their sins and to keep at the greatest remove from temptation. This is the nature of real repentance, which is the genuine fruit of godly sorrow. And as there is no true repentance, which does not flow from real, godly sorrow; so there is no godly sorrow, which does not produce this repentance. They are inseparably connected. He, who is really sorry that he has sinned against God, will be careful to sin no more, and will be on his guard against every temptation. He will fly from it.
This we think applies to the object of the day. We have carefully, as our scanty limits would allow, considering the extent of the field, attended to the sins of the nation which have reduced us to the present state of adversity; we have also considered our political, national sins as committed against God. Now, let us remember ht reformation, if we act wisely, will be the result of the whole. Without this, instead of deriving any advantage from the Fast, we shall but add to the weight of our aggravated iniquity and expose ourselves to the increased indignation of God, whose spirit will not long strive with sinners. The word of God to us this day, in our present state, is peculiarly significant and worthy of notice: “At what instant, saith the Lord, I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them.”
This, to-day, is the declaration of God to this people, to this nation. And if I had the voice of God’s messenger, which could be distinctly heard by all the inhabitants of the United States, I would repeat this message: “Thus saith the Lord, Behold as the clay is in the hand of the potter so are ye in my hand, O house of America. Behold I frame evil against you and devise a deice against you; return ye now every one from his evil way and make your ways and your doings good. Return unto me and I will return unto you, saith the Lord. For I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But if ye will not return, I will pluck you up and leave you desolate. And because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O land. Finally,
Your sins and your danger, the mercy of God if you repent, and the vengeance of God if you will not repent, are now before you. Take which you please, God will be glorified. For his justice is as dear to him as his mercy.
1. Those who are alarmed at the sum, are desired to take a candid review of facts, and calculate for their own satisfaction, and excuse us if we have either exceeded or not reached the correct mark of loss without gain. (Return)