PREACHED AT HARTFORD,
BEFORE THE HONORABLE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
MAY 11, 1815
BY DIODATE BROCKWAY, A. M. ( Yale, 1797 )
PASTOR OF THE CHURCH IN ELLINGTON.
PRINTED BY HUDSON AND GOODWIN.
At a General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, holden at Hartford in said State, on the second Thursday of May, A.D. 1815.
ORDERED, That the Hon. JONATHAN BRACE, and PELEG MARTIN, ESQ. Present the thanks of this ASSEMBLY to the Reverend DIODATE BROCKWAY, for his Sermon preached before this ASSEMBLY on the 11th instant, and request a copy of the same, that it may be printed.
A true copy of record,
Examined by THOMAS DAY, Secretary.
As far as this publisher can determine, Diodate Brockway is listed as a graduate of Yale university, class of 1797 , as his name apprears in the 1850 edition of Yaleís Catalogus Collegii Yalensis. This coincided with the awarding of a Doctorate of Sacred Theology to David Osgood during the same year. No doubt his being on the Yale campus with such luminaries as Dr. Osgood, and others of high standing who lived through the time frame of the Revolutionary period ( and understood in a literal way the protection of Providence as the only way it could have succeeded ) had a deep influence on his ministry to his governing rulers, as this Election Sermon clearly demonstrates.
On a curious note, Rev. Brockwayís sermon here bears a striking resemblance to Ashbel Greenís 1798 political sermon "Obedience to the Laws of God, the Sure and Indispensable Defense of Nations." Dr. Green, among other things served as president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Dr. Greenís ties to Yale are close, as his mother was Elizabeth Pierson, grand daughter of Abraham Pierson, the first President of Yale. At the time of Rev. Brockwayís sermon (1815) we can still see this benevolent influence of the Ivy Leagueís best still being taught to those in high government positions.
For our sakes, politically and spiritually, may we embrace it again.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
These words were spoken to Zerubbabel, with a particular reference to the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem.
The first temple. The most splendid edifice that was ever reared by men, continued in its glory but a few years. It was successively robbed of its treasures by Shishak, Joash, Ahab and others, and at last utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. At the head of a powerful army this wicked monarch overran a large part of Asia, and plundered, as well as conquered, the provinces through which he passed. He did not spare even the temple of the Lord: but after sacrilegiously enriching himself with its costly furniture, he demolished it to its foundation. In about half a century it began to be rebuilt by order of Cyrus, who had previously invaded the Assyrian empire, and succeeded in the reduction of its magnificent capitol. The benevolent Cyrus liberated the enslaved captives of Judah, and ordered them to return to their own country. Over these redeemed captives he appointed Zerubbabel Governor, to whom he delivered the sacred vessels of the temple which Nebchadnezzar had carried to Babylon.
In the rebuilding of the temple, there were difficulties, to human view, insurmountable. The Jews had just returned from a seventy years captivity, and were but poorly furnished with the requisite means, for accomplishing such an undertaking. The opposers of the work, also, were numerous and powerful. Under such discouraging circumstances, how could it proceed? Our text is the answer. Not by might, (or as it is rendered in the margin, by army,) nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. These words clearly express the divine efficiency in the work. They show that no human power was adequate to the successful prosecution of it, encumbered as it was with so many difficulties, and embarrassed with so much opposition.
Though the text primarily referred to the rebuilding of the temple, it admits of a more general and extensive application. It is literally true, when applied to all the labors and enterprizes of men. Considered in this more general, and extensive sense, I derive from it the following sentiment:
The success of all human efforts depends entirely, and exclusively, upon the providential and all-powerful influence of God.
This sentiment necessarily results from the perfection of Godís character; and is exemplified in such of his works as are accomplished by the instrumentality of men.
I. The sentiment derived from the text necessarily results from the perfection of Godís character.
Isaiah, whose conceptions of the Most High were enlarged by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and whose lips were touched with a live coal from the heavenly altar, thus speaks of the glorious supremacy of God: "Who hath measured the waters with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Behold, the nations are as a drop of the bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength."
Infinite power, wisdom, intelligence, goodness and purity, are but different names to express the character of him, who is the source of being, and the fountain of blessedness. In God is concentrated every possible perfection that can ennoble and exalt him. He is, in himself, incomparably great, glorious and incomprehensible: the source and centre of all power and efficiency. By the breath of his Spirit we are quickened into life; by the strength of his power we move and are sustained; and by his unerring wisdom we have our place and sphere of action assigned to us. He has an intuitive knowledge of the conceptions of every mind in the universe, and with a power which nothing can resist, he controls the passions and purposes of the myriads of creatures which he has made. His influential and governing providence is co-extensive with his works; it is concerned in those events which appear to be the most trifling and casual ; in the fall of a sparrow, in the trembling of a leaf, and in the motion of an insect. So entirely dependent are we upon his influence, that ,it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. God is the only independent agent in the universe. He governs with underived, and uncontrolled authority, and he alone has the right and power to do what seemeth him good. It is evident, then, from the character, and from the dominion of the Lord, that the success of human efforts depend upon his aid and blessing. "Behold he taketh away who can hinder him? There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor councel against the Lord."
Under this head of discourse, will be considered the instruments
which God employs in building his spiritual temple, the Church; which he uses in building up and governing states and empires; and also those which he employs to conquer and destroy them.
II A. Let us consider the instruments which God employs in building his spiritual temple, the Church.
The manner in which Christianity was first propagated, and the dispensation of redeeming mercy established, through a crucified Savior, was a practical exposition of these words of the apostle Paul: " But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty: and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." The success which attended the labors of the apostles, the first preachers of the gospel, could not be attributed to human wisdom, learning, nor power. They were in general poor, humble and illiterate men, selected, not from the lists of the wise, mighty and noble, but from the lower walks of life. Such were the first propagators of the gospel, the founders of that kingdom which is established in mercy, truth and justice, and the conquests of which are eventually to extend from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. The work upon which they entered, calculating according to the wisdom of this world, was at once the most difficult, hazardous and hopeless, of any ever undertaken by men. Their preparation for this work, so far as it respected human acquirements or aid, was comparatively nothing. They went forth declaring the testimony of God concerning his Son, not with excellency of speech or wisdom; yet their speech and preaching were in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power.
In laying the foundation of that spiritual temple, of which that of Solomon was a type, the apostles were not only destitute of earthly support and aid; but they had to encounter the powerful opposition of men high in office and authority; in short, they had to encounter all opposition, which wealth, talents, and authority united, could give. In name of their Master, and girded with his strength, they embarked in their holy warfare, successfully using the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With a bold and persevering, but well tempered zeal, a zeal which was not to be terrified by menace, nor discouraged by opposition, they broke through the hatred and unbelief of their own countrymen, the Jews; and the deep rooted and long established prejudices of the gentiles. The doctrines and precepts which the apostles taught, though opposite in their nature and sanctions to the dispositions of unholy minds, yet proved in the hands of the Spirit, quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword. With the seventy disciples, their coadjutors, they went into almost every part of the then known world, gathering and establishing churches. By their preaching an amazing change was effected in the religious state of mankind. Contemplating the success which attended their mission, they might without boasting exclaim in the language of Paul, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
The history of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, shows what can be accomplished with the blessed influence of Godís Spirit. Under the most discouraging circumstances, this work was commenced by a few individuals, and was carried on against the combined opposition of earth and hell. The successes which attended the labors of Luther, Calvin, Zuinglius, Melancthon, Cranmer and their colleagues, in exposing the heresies of Popery, in disseminating the pure doctrines of the gospel, and in reviving its discipline, can only be attributed to nothing less than the special blessing of God on their exertions. In defiance of the decisions of courts and councils, and raised above the fear of inquisitions, banishments and burnings, they faithfully preached the doctrines of the cross: protestant converts were multiplied; and so great and extensive were the blessings connected with the Reformation, of which, under God, they were the authors, that it is justly considered as furnishing a new and important era in the history of the church.
No class of men so eminently need assistance from above, in the discharge of their official duties, as the ministers of Jesus Christ. Their work is great, their responsibility awful, and their strength weakness. They are to guide the blind in paths that they have not known, and like their divine Savior to go about seeking that which was lost. Though they are said to be laborer together with God; yet such is the disproportion between the instruments employed, and the object to be accomplished by their ministry, as makes it demonstrably certain, that neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that gives the increase. The Great Head of the church has ordained, that the kingdom of holiness on the earth, shall be built up, by the instrumentality of men, who have no sufficiency of their own; that it may be acknowledged to the glory of his grace, that the work is accomplished, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts.
II B. The instruments which God employs in building up and governing states and empires, furnish a practical illustration of the sentiment derived from the text.
All ranks of among men, from the highest to the lowest, (though they may not be conscious of any divine influence) have their place and work assigned them, by Him who is wonderful in councel, and excellent in working: whose province it is to make the conduct both of the virtuous and vicious, subserve the designs of his mysterious and perfect government. The holy decrees of the Omnipotent God cannot be frustrated, nor the scheme of his providence broken, by the wicked councels, and feeble efforts of creatures who inhabit his footstool. "There are many devices in a manís heart; neverthless the councel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, controlling the elements, whose will the wind and the waves obey, and by whose decree the destiny of all nations is fixed, has a commanding influence over those who are employed in forming codes of laws, and into whose hands are committed the rights, liberties and lives of his people. Legislators and Statesmen, whether Christian or pagan, derive their wisdom and power from the great Governor and Legislator of the world. His secret, but powerful, agency is concerned in raising them up, moulding their minds, forming their characters, and fitting them for the stations which they occupy. They are Godís ministers, by whom he dispenses civil blessings, or executes national judgements. If they enact righteous laws, pursue an upright policy, and maintain a wise and just administration; it is because the Most High has given them a spirit of wisdom, and love, and of a sound mind: for he hath said, Councel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding. If rulers pursue a destructive policy, by reason which, vice and licentiousness are encouraged and systematized, peace, order and prosperity banished from society, and the choicest blessings of life swept away by their ruthless hands, it is because the Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst of them, and given them up to infatuated councels. He who is infinitely wise and powerful can never want instruments to accomplish his purposes, as all creatures are subject to his dominion, and controlled by his will. If he designs to chastise a people for their wickedness he can give them Legislators, whose laws, like Draco, shall be written in letters of blood. If Athens filled with dissentions is to be quieted, he can raise up and qualify Solon for the work. If the Spartan government, rent by faction, and enervated by luxury, is to undergo a reform; if industry and useful arts are to be encouraged, and peace and order restored to a distracted people, a wise Providence can accomplish all this by the instrumentality of a Lycurgus. The wisdom and power of the Universal Governor, are exercised in fashioning the minds, as well as the bodies of men. With a skillful hand, unnoticed, indeed, by the grossest infidels, and with a touch too delicate for them to perceive, he sets in motion and guides those secret springs of the mind, which produce great characters, and splendid actions.
We have the testimony of God in his word, that his providence is intimately concerned in the elevation of men to seats of magistracy and power. By me, saith Divine Wisdom, "kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth." There is no power, saith the apostle Paul, but of God, the powers that be are ordained of God. The Providence of God is not less concerned in influencing the policy of civil magistrates, than it is in raising them to office, and clothing them with authority and power. "The kingís heart is in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water he turneth it whithersoever he will." By civil rulers, who are the ministers of Godís mercy or wrath, he carries on his designs, and executes his eternal purposes in the kingdoms of men. When he gives them in mercy they bear the names of their subjects in the breastplate of judgement, upon their heart, for a memorial before the Lord continually. When he gives them in anger, he hardens their spirit, and makes their heart obstinate, yea, firm as a stone, and hard as a piece of the nether millstone. It becomes a people then to rejoice when the righteous are in authority, for they are ministers of God for good, and to mourn when the wicked bear rule, for they are the rod and staff of the divine indignation. For this reason, weak, unprincipled and tyrannical rulers are to be viewed with terror. They are awful tokens of godís displeasure, and as really the executioners of his merited vengeance as the pestilence, famine and tempest. Sinful nations are often punished, by having rulers set over them, who, like the princes of Zoan, are fools, or brutish like thew councellors of Pharaoh.
Weak and wicked Magistrates rendered vain and giddy by their elevation, may flatter themselves that they are independent of him who girds them with power. They may say in the blasphemous language of the king of Babylon, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High." He who breaks the sceptre of rulers, and cuts off the spirit of princes, and is terrible to the kings of the earth has them in derision; he lets loose or restrains their rage at his pleasure, making their wrath praise him, and restraining the remainder of wrath. When they have performed the Lordís work, his strange work of judgement, and accomplished the purpose for which they were raised up, they shall eat of the fruit of their own froward way, and be filled with their own mischievous devices. The sovereign disposer of events, can bring good out of their evil designs and wicked policy. He can disappoint their devices, or take them in their own craftiness. To use the language of another, "he can execute his decreed, by a pious Joshua, or an impious Nebuchadnezzar; by a holy David, or a haughty, insolent, blaspheming Sennacherib."
When a people forget that God is their only safe refuge, and the rock of their salvation, and look to their rulers for protection and prosperity, as if they were the only guardians of their lives and fortunes, they are prepared to be covered with shame and confusion, like the people of Israel, when they strengthened themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and trusted in the shadow of Egypt.
Lamentable was the state of Jerusalem, when the Most High, to punish its devoted inhabitants for their insensibility and self-confidence, poured out upon them the spirit of deep sleep, and made the vision of all as the words of a book that is sealed. This awful prediction of the prophet concerning them was then accomplished, "The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." Civil rulers, by a wise and righteous policy, may do much to promote the happiness, and secure the liberties and prosperity of their subjects; but are not to be considered as the independent authors of national happiness, or ruin. To God, and to him exclusively, doth it appertain to speak the word, concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; or to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it. His throne is the seat of power, and his own infinite mind the fountain of all wisdom, councel and understanding. He will be known and acknowledged as the hope, the strength, and the salvation of Israel. Vain then is the confidence of rulers and subjects who place their safety and defence entirely in their own resources, in their fleets and armies, fortifications and arsenals. After all human means of security are used , the protection of the Almighty is the only effectual safe-guard of a nation. "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman watcheth in vain." When we render, therefore, to Caesar the honor which is his due as the minister of the Lord, the glory of all national blessings must be ascribed, not to Caesar, but to Caesarís God.
II C. The sentiment derived from the text, may be exemplified by the achievements of Generals and their armies.
When the Lord mustereth the host of the battle, when he girdeth his armies with strength, and giveth them the weapons of his indignation; they fight but to conquer. Before their enemies, they become as small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones as chaff that passeth away. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. There is no king saved by the multitude of an host; a mighty man is not delivered by much strength." Those military chieftains who, impelled by the lust of ambition, avarice, and dominion, have waded to conquest through rivers of blood, and filled whole kingdoms with desolation and mourning, are to be considered as the sword of divine justice. To men who look only at the instruments, and regard not the operations of the invisible God who employs them, they may appear to go forward in the work of destruction in their own strength: yet their power is derived from above, and when they have accomplished the work for which they were commissioned ; when God has performed by them his work of vengeance as in mount Perazim, as in the valley of Gibeon, he will speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in sore displeasure. (Footnote: Some have thought it an illiberal reflection upon the character of a just and merciful God, to assert that such cruel monsters are commissioned by him, for their bloody and destructive work. Such persons seem to forget that God has a perfect right to use such instruments in accomplishing his designs, as he pleases: and that it is no more unjust, or cruel in him, to make wicked men the instruments of his vengeance in destroying their fellow men, who have filled up the measure of their sins, than it is to accomplish the same work, by a volcano, or an earthquake, by pestilence, or famine. No one thinks of calling God, unjust or cruel, when he depopulates whole cities by the plague, or destroys whole provinces by an earthquake.) By a divine decree their bounds like those of the sea are fixed, over which they cannot pass----"Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."
Sennacherib king of Assyria, with his army of which he boasted, in the pride of military glory, that it was invincible, besieged the fortified cities of Judah, and compelled them to surrender to his arms. The inhabitants of these cities, (as the sacred historian informs us) "were of small power, they were as the grass of the field: and as the green herb, as the grass on the house tops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up." God had given their insolent invader a charge, to take the prey, and to take the spoil, and to lay waste these cities into ruinous heaps. His strength and the weakness of those whom he besieged, cease to be mysterious, when both are viewed, as they ought to be, in their connexion with the decrees of heaven. The extent of his commission, was the extent of his power. Before the walls of Jerusalem he ceases to be formidable and is easily vanquished; for so had the Lord ordained. "He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way he came, by the same he shall return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant Davidís sake." This decree was not accomplished by might , nor by army, nor by human power: the destroying angel commissioned from on high, "went forth and smote in the Assyrian camp, an hundred and four score and five thousand: and when they arose in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh."
The victories obtained by Nebuchadnezzar were foretold in prophecy. Egypt, Phonicia, Canaan, Judea, Persia, Media, and many other nations were subdued and ravaged by his armies. A stranger to disasters and to defeat, meeting with nothing to check his impious career, nor to discourage his exertions, he sweeps away, like an overwhelming deluge, every thing that opposes his progress. Such was the vast extent of his conquests, and the greatness of his tyrannical power, that the prophet Jeremiah styles him, the hammer of the whole earth. The same prophet represents him as flying with eaglesí wings, from victory to victory. But what is this military tyrant before the power of the Highest, when he cometh forth to make inquisition for blood, and to show himself the avenger of crimes? By a memorable act of divine justice, in which the hand of God is distinctly seen, he is driven from his throne, and from the society of men: " To the intent," (saith the prophet) "that the living may now that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men." What then are mighty conquers, that they should glory, as if by the strength of their own arm they had gotten the victory ? They are only the ax and the saw in the hand of God; and shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith ? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shakethit ?
The late triumphant tyrant of France, who watered whole kingdoms with tears and blood, and peopled them with widows and orphans; who filled the world with terror by his military achievements, and increased human misery, it is believed, beyond what was ever before accomplished by any one individual of our race; though he meant not so, neither did his heart think so, was executing upon guilty nations the just and long threatened judgements of God. In tracing the progress of his arms, a progress every where marked with blood and carnage, and rendered awfully solemn by the sound of death groans, we discover the footsteps of a mysterious and righteous Providence. The wars in which he was so successfully engaged, were the Lordís, in which he was pouring out the vials of his wrath upon those nations which had received the mark of the Beast, and shed the blood of the saints and prophets. Notwithstanding the success which long attended the tyrantís arms, he who rides upon the wind, and directs the storm of battle, had fixed the bounds over which he could not pass. Having undertaken with an immense army, and with vast military preparations, to penetrate into the interior of Russia, he confidently expected to overturn its government, and subjugate its inhabitants, in the same manner as he had overturned and subjugated those of other countries.
(Footnote: The following, is said to be a list of the army with which Bonaparte commenced his Russian Campaign.
Gothas and Weimers 2,000
Wurtzburgh and Franconia 5,000
Mecklenburg, Nassau and small Princes 5.000
Italians and Neapolitans 20,000
Spain and Portugal 4,000
Including 60,000 cavalry, besides 40,000 horses for artillery and other military purposes.
Little did he imagine that he should be obliged, like the impious Sennacherib, to return in disgrace to his Capitol, with only a fragment of that mighty army with which he commenced his expedition. The angel of the Lord smote his forces, and they became dead corpses. They were destroyed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcasses became meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth. The face of the spoiler the oppressors consumed out of the land which they had invaded. How applicable are the words, which God addressed to the blasphemous invader of Jerusalem, to the merciless invader of Russia: "Therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way, by which thou camest." He could not stand before the power of Him, who maketh the elements ministers of destruction, who giveth snow like wool; who scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes; and at whose rebuke, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep, and the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle are broken.
What, then, are the armies of confederated nations before the wrath of him, who maketh the pillars of the earth tremble, and removeth it like a cottage? We have seen the tyrant and oppressor of Europe, who overturned the thrones of powerful Princes, and drove nations before him like a flock to the slaughter, cut down to the ground, and cast out like an abominable branch. We have seen his tents in affliction, and the curtains of his land tremble. We have seen his territory invaded, his capitol besieged and taken, by the same armies that fled before him in the heart of their own countries. We have seen him compelled to resign his command in the cabinet and in the field; to abdicate his throne, and to retire into obscurity, from the presence of those who could not forget his intrigues and bloody crimes. In view of such events we are led to exclaim; "Is this the man that did shake kingdoms: that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof ?" Success does not always and necessarily follow the best concerted plans, and cool command of the greatest generals, and the undaunted bravery of the best soldiers. If men go not forth to battle in the strength of the God of armies, their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost; a stripling shall slay their champion; five shall chase an hundred, and an hundred shall put ten thousand to flight.
That the success of human efforts, then, depends entirely and exclusively upon the providential and all powerful influence of God, appears from the instruments which he employs to accomplish his designs in the moral and political world.
From the truths which have been exhibited, we derive the following consequences.
III.A God, alone, is worthy of our supreme confidence.
Our subject places God on the throne, and all created intelligences at
his footstool. It teaches us that men are but instruments in his hands, and that he directs all their purposes and efforts, to the unfolding of his councels, the display of his character, and the accomplishment of his will.
The ministers of the cross, are frail dying men and can accomplish nothing, without the aid of Godís Spirit. In vain do they lift up their voice like a trumpet, to shew the people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins, unless God bless his word and make it fruitful. But they prophesy with success, even to dry bones, when he saith, Come, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live. That they may habitually remember that their sufficiency is of the Lord, the words of our text ought to be indelibly imprinted on their hearts, and on the altars at which they minister.
Legislators and Magistrates, as our subject teaches, have no sufficiency of their own. They may exalt themselves, and be exalted by others, yet shall die like men: for the Holy one standeth in the congregation of the mighty; and judgeth among the gods. Ineffectual would be the labors of the wisest Magistrates, and the restraints of the best laws, if God, by his providence, did not succeed the former, and sanction the latter. It becomes civil rulers, then, humbly to acknowledge their dependency upon the Universal Ruler; and to seek his blessing, without which they bear the sword in vain.
The Disposer of Events, as we have seen, directs the movements of armies, and in awful majesty presides over the field of battle, inthroned on a cloud of fire and smoke, giving victory or defeat as seemeth him good. Who then is worthy of our supreme confidence, and on whom can we safely place it, but Him, whose is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory ? Who else can destroy effectually and forever; and where is any other that can save us in all our cities ? Cease ye, from men, who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before the moth. Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.
III.B. It follows as a consequence from what has been said, that
good men have abundant encouragement to persevere in their exertions, to promote human happiness.
From the immutable purposes and powerful influence of God, means derive all their importance and efficacy. Though it is not by might, nor by power, that the temporal and spiritual interests of men are advanced, and important reformations effected in Church and State; yet the merciful character of God, the testimony of his word, and the history of his providence, furnish indubitable evidence that he will prosper the labors of the Wise and the Good. On these the divine blessing may be importunately sought, and confidently expected. It is impious to imagine that a benevolent God will not as readily lend his influence to succeed the endeavors of his friends, in promoting virtue, order, and happiness, as to uphold and strengthen tyrants and conquerors, while they are filling the earth with crimes, misery, and woe.
In laboring to reform the public sentiment and practice, whether religious, moral, or political, there are motives enough to inspire hope, to invigorate exertion, and to encourage perseverance. In such a work virtuous magistrates and subjects ought to unite their efforts. In the worst of times, and when the prospect of success is the most unflattering, it is highly criminal in them to sit down in despair and give up all for lost. Who has told them that God will not bless their efforts, and say to them as he did to Jacob, I will help thee saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer. When dissolute principles and practices are spreading in the community like an epidemical disease, much might be done to counteract their influence, to stay their progress, and to change the character of society for the better, if all who love God and their country, exercising that confidence in him which he allows, would rid themselves of the disheartening suggestions of sloth and unbelief, and engage as one man in the glorious work of reformation. The time is coming, when all the friends of order and virtue will be thus unitedly engaged; and when, strengthened by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, they will labor with becoming zeal and astonishing success. Then it will be acknowledged from fair experiment, that authority, example, and persevering exertion are as powerful in the cause of virtue, as in the cause of sin. Iniquity will stop her mouth; the drunkard will not be seen reeling through the streets; the sabbath will not be profaned by bringing in sheaves and lading asses, and carrying all manner of burdens to market on that holy day.
Those who are laboring to evangelize the heathen, may derive encouragement from our subject. When we can assure ourselves that our efforts accord with Godís purposes, we may be certain of their success. His decree has said, that the gospel shall be preached to every creature; that all nations, barbarous as well as civilized, shall be converted to the Christian faith; and that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the lord, as the waters cover the sea. The Spirit of the Lord of hosts will accomplish all this by the instrumentality of men. What encouragement, then, have those who are engaged in the Missionary cause to increase their exertions, until the banner of the cross shall wave in every land, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ !
III.C. Finally, as all national blessings depend on the providential and all powerful influence of God, the only sure way to national exaltation and glory, is for rulers and people, by upright conduct, to conciliate his blessing.
It is not to be expected, that God, in his treatment of communities, will now depart from that line of conduct which he has uniformly pursued from the beginning. He prospers or punishes them in this world, according to their national character; for it is only in this world, that they are capable of being rewarded or punished in their public capacity. The history of nations in all ages, has been a practical comment on that sententious saying of Solomon. "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." When rulers pursue an upright policy, and their subjects lead quiet and peaceable lives, God will approve and bless. "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." This will literally the state of all nations in the Millenium, for the earth will then be filled with just rulers and virtuous subjects. Kings shall be thy nursing fathers and their queens thy nursing mothers. I will make thy officers peace, saith the Most High, and thine exactors righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls salvation and thy gates Praise.
The highly privileged State, in which it is our happiness to live, has been blessed with a succession of wise and virtuous rulers, who have acknowledged their dependence upon god, and sought his blessing. That revolutionary storm which has swept away the liberties and happiness of states and nations, has beat in vain against the happy constitution and government of this State. These have remained entire in their principles, and uniform in their operations. Let not this be improved as a subject of unhallowed rejoicing, and of party triumph; but of devout gratitude, and humble thanksgiving. May a merciful God, still vouchsafe his protection and blessing to us, and continue our Judges as at the first, and Councellors as at the beginning.
Meeting our beloved Chief Magistrates and assembled rulers on this joyful Anniversary, we would unite with them, and our fellow citizens at large, in mutual congratulations for the return of peace. Let us not forget to ascribe this blessing to the goodness of Him, who stilleth the noise of the seas, and the tumult of the people, and maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth. It becomes us to rejoice with trembling, and cease not to pray that the Great Disposer of Events, would make our peace as a river, and our righteousness as the waves of the sea. We are not to imagine that all our dangers have vanished, and that the return of peace has left us nothing to fear. Our individual and national sins expose us to the judgements of heaven; and God calls upon us to repent and reform, so that iniquity shall not be our ruin. Our liberties and sovereignty need still to be guarded with a watchful and jealous eye. The preservation of our rights and privileges still requires the attention, and unwearied exertions of the wisest and best men. To you, Respected Magistrates, as the ministers of God, we have committed them for safe keeping. We confide in you because we believe you will take counsel of the Lord, and seek his influence on which depends every thing dear and valuable to us as men, as citizens, and as Christians. Go then to the business for which you have convened, accompanied by our prayers for your personal happiness, and public usefulness. O ! Thou, who givest wisdom unto the wise, give wisdom and knowledge to thy servants, that they may go out and come in before this people, as those that are sent for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
All in this assembly, whether ministers of religion, or ministers of state, all of every rank, office, and condition of life, are taught by our subject, where to look, and on whom to depend, for civil and religious blessings. "Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." The temporal prosperity or ruin of every nation on the face of the earth; yea, more, the temporal and everlasting happiness or ruin of every individual, in every nation, is connected with the favor or frown of God. Who then that loves his country, or values his soul, can neglect to pray for the smiles of Providence on the former, and the blessings of grace on the latter ? From a full conviction that our help must come from God, let us with one heart address to him the prayer of David, "O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again. Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it; heal the breaches thereof, for it shaketh." AMEN.