A SERMON, PREACHED AT Litchfield, in Connecticut, Before a voluntary CONVENTION of the CLERGY of the CHURCH of ENGLAND OF Several Provinces in AMERICA, JUNE 13, 1770.

By [...], a Native of the Province.

Ut novissima conferam primis. CIC.
Me abs te immeritò esse accusatum rescisces. TER.
Athenae sub regibus esse desièrunt. PATERC.
Aut aliquis latet error: equo ne credite, Teucri;
Quicquid id est, timeo Danaos.

Published with NOTES, to gratify the very respectable Assembly before whom it was delivered, and a Copy given, JULY 1770.



St. MATTHEW, Chap. xvi. Ver. 6.

Take heed and beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

THE Religion of Jesus Christ is friendly to civil Go­vernment, advantageous to every age, prohibits nothing but Immorality; it enjoins Obedience to the King as Supreme, and publishes on Earth Peace and Good-Will among Men; while the Leaven of the Pharisee aims to frustrate every office of Love, and disunite the World: for which reason, our High-Priest and common Redeemer warned his disciples to take heed and beware of the doc­trines [Page 4] of those men, which supplanted the Power of God­liness, by crying up with zeal Forms and Trifles to ex­piate Wickedness by Force of Superstition. Christ up­braided those people not barely for their exactness in tything Mint, Annis, and Cummin, but for neglecting the weightier matters of the Law, Justice, Mercy, and Faith; and because they had rendered void the Commandments of God, by their Traditions, in legitimizing Hypocrisy, inward Impurities, feigned Prayers, and Destruction of Widows Houses.

If we survey the Character of the Pharisees and Saddu­cees, we shall find them meeting in the two extremes; one judging itself bound to persecute all who differ in opinion from a supposed standard; the other, as if born in some frigid zone▪ seemed unaffected with the power and charm of Religion, and wholly indifferent about its doctrines, provided they once in seven days wore a Jewish sabbatic devotion.—The radical error of the first class lies in a con­fident presumption of their own infallible judgment; there­fore, zealously blind, they give the dissenters from them liberty to conform or burn. The error of the second class originates from a distrust of the Divinity of Christ; hence they live without Faith, and the former without Charity. —To avoid those two dangerous extremes, which have long divided this world, let us copy the behaviour of Christ towards the various sects among the Jews.

The Essenes were numerous, and held many fantastical opinions, yet we find no reflections made on them; while the Pharisees and Sadducees were severely and justly ex­posed on all occasions.—Behold the reason:

The Essenes, though mistaken in many things, were [Page 5] sincere and harmless, quiet and peaceable, contented and easy to enjoy their own consciences, and to let other men alone: they pretended not to be infallible and tumultuous, sought not after the Dictator's Chair, nor the sole govern­ment of the World: they neither planned nor executed mischief against the constitution; but were humble, modest, and obedient to the laws. This good disposition rendered them capable of being led from their mistaken opinions; while the Pharisees and Sadducees were arrogant and self-sufficient, inslaved captives to their own imagined perfec­tions, too wise to learn, too sanctimonious to receive in­struction; subtle, sly, crafty, insidious projectors; men who would reign and tyrannize, or by their golden cry of Liberty set the world on fire:—therefore, of their Hypocrisy take heed and beware.

In the beginning of the chapter is pointed out the rea­son of this important and necessary caution. Those two sects had hitherto been at enmity one with the other, like their masters Herod and Pilate, yet they became friends in a conspiracy against the "Israelite in whom was no Guile." Having put on a solemn Demureness, (the common livery of Hypocrites,) and pretending themselves strangers to all the miracles wrought by Christ, they addressed him with "Master, we wish to see a sign from thee;" and very likely their petition was delivered with a tone, not to find conviction, but as a varnish to their infidelity, as they asked a sign from heaven which they thought would not be given. Christ, knowing their design, exposed their false pretensions by pronouncing a truth, which for once silenced a gainsaying people, viz. "An adulterous and wicked generation seeketh after a sign from Heaven, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the Pro­phet [Page 6] Jonas:" then, turning to his Disciples, said, "Take heed and beware of the Arts and Hypocrisy of those men." Hence we learn, that Men's Principles guide their Actions; that, if the Tree is good, the Fruit will be also good; and that evil Opinions are productive of evil Practices. As to the Sadducees, they denied the Existence of Angels and Spirits, and taught, that Matter was the only Composition of the Universe; they denied also the Immortality of the Soul, the Resurrection of the Body, and a future Life; they idolized the Letter, and mistook the Spirit, of the Law of Moses: but the Pharisees held Opinions opposite to them, and extolled oral Doctrines equal to the Law and Prophets, whereby their Creed varied every day, and their Devotion was muffled with new Rights and Cere­monies, totally different from their Neighbours. The event was truly melancholy: one Sect had too much Faith, the other had none: one had no Religion, no Cha­rity; the other despised Morality, and depended on Faith. The Leaven or Art of those Men was calculated only for this mortal Life, where Temptation is in all its Pomp; it had no Cure for a Sigh, no Balm for a wounded Heart, except what the Law of Moses, in the Sense of a provincial Code, afforded. This Leaven induced men to comply with such Customs and Sentiments as were most prevalent, in or­der to secure to themselves temporal Interest and Dignity: and by it we find they did succeed; for the High Priest, and all the Council of the Jews, were of the Leaven. Acts v.1.

Those men, by their Conduct, appear to be Descendants of Cain and Nimrod: for the meek Preacher of Righteous­ness styles them a Generation of Vipers; and St. Jude calls them filthy Dreamers, empty Clouds, wandering Stars, raging Waves, foaming out their own Shame, de­spising [Page 7] Dominion in others, and speaking evil of Dignities. A People thus disposed ought not to be trusted, seeing that they contemn the Law of Liberty wherewith Christ has made us free: yet, to the Astonishment of Historians, they have too often secured to themselves the Admiration, if not the Government, of the World, by their insincere and sanctimonious Pretensions; while the peaceful, meek, and truly pious men have been neglected and set at nought.

Having thus far pointed out the Character of the Phari­sees and Sadducees, and the great Propriety of the Caution given in the Text, it appears to be the Duty of the Am­bassadors of Christ, in all Ages and in all Countries, to warn the Multitude against the Leaven of such designing men: for Leaven is no less infectious now than it was two thou­sand years ago; nor is it less baneful in America, than it has been in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Of old it owned no Superior, nor Equal; therefore would not suffer Christ to reign. Those Sects were ever jealous, and fearful lest they should lose their Liberty of governing: they were constant Fautors of Persecution; for, when they perceived the Pre­valence of the Humility, the Kindness, and the peaceable Doctrines of Christ, they artfully alarmed the Multitude with what they themselves had no fear of, viz. "If this Man is let alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans will come in and take away our Place and Na­tion." This patriotic Pretence then succeeded with the Multitude, who soon preferred Barabbas to their Saviour and Defender *. The Leaven, having killed the Lord of Life, soon spread and pervaded all States and Kingdoms, over­threw [Page 8] mighty Kings, and deluged the Earth with human Blood.—As soon as Christianity found its way to these western Climes, the Leaven, infusing the Lust of Dominion and Liberty, appeared also; where, in verity, as in the Eastern World, it has warred against the Doctrines of Christ, and his Law of Liberty, with great Success; and Christianity, after struggling many years, seems to have lost its Reputation, and is giving Way to human Policy, and is likely to be banished from America, now half-ready to act a Part which will disgrace the dead, intail War on ourselves, and Misery on our Children.

Alas, my native Country! thy best Days are expiring —thy glorious Sun of Liberty is setting—thy Virtue is dying!—Yet how can I give thee up? Thou hast been unto me very pleasant; I will therefore seek to do thee good—I will weep Day and Night for the Transgressions of the People, and pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.

I am no Politician, though I have long heard the Cry of Law, Constitution, and Liberty; but if the Liberi mean Liberty to worship God in the Beauty of Holiness, or ac­cording to the Law of Liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, then may Heaven maintain their Cause! But, if they mean by their Cry to hold the King's Protection, without yielding Obedience to his Authority and the British Parliament, I would remind them of the Charters by which we claim a legal Title to our Lands, and the Rights of English Subjects—Gifts and Privileges made to our Fathers, and us their Heirs, on Condition "of Obe­dience to the Laws of England, which now are or here­after shall be made"—(Vide Connecticut Charter, dated 1662) — Words tantamount to the late obnoxious Clause, [Page 9] which asserts the Supremacy of the British Parliament over the Colonies, in all Cases whatever; a Doctrine owned by our Fathers, and by all even in the present Day, except in the instance of Taxation; which Exception seems trifling, after granting that our Lives [not our Money] may be taken away by a British Act of Parliament.—Our Fathers, though led by the great Charm of Liberty, never claimed Inde­pendence on the Crown of England; nor did the Israelites, in the Wilderness, make themselves a Calf, until Moses had delivered them out of Egypt, and left them under the Guidance of Aaron *. It is wonderful that Princes, in these last Ages of the World, have not learned the Science of preventing Evils, from the History of former Times, especially from the Story of the Calf. However, Aaron exculpated himself by telling Moses, "Thou knowest the People, that they are set on Mischief; for they said unto me, Make us Gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the Land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him." Exod. xxxii.

We who are stigmatized with being Sons of Issachar, and Essenes in Perfection, have a plentiful Crop of Misery to gather in, if we credit the Sermons and Declarations of the multiformed Sects of Protestant-protesting Asso­ciators, who have assumed a self-constituted Power of nul­lifying Acts of Parliament and the Statutes of this Colony. How far they have succeeded in the latter Case, we already know; but the former is yet pending on the Concorpora­tion of the Civil Magistrate and the Ecclesiastic Conso­ciations.—However, as Charity hopes all things, and the [Page 10] General Assembly has adjudged as treasonable the revo­lutional Principles of the Wallingsford Associators and the Bill-of-Rights-men, who took the Liberty, by help of their strolling Fancies, to abrogate the County Courts, and to pay their honest Debts, with the Cry of legal Resistance, we may logically conclude they will not legalize Resistance against the Supreme Power of the Nation, after declaring Resistance against colonial Laws illegal and treasonable. But, should Matters turn out contrary to our Prayers and peaceable Endeavours, we must either adopt the Policy prevalent at Benin *, to secure Polish and Venetian Li­berty , with Madagascar Divinity , or fight the good Fight of Faith, and war a good Warfare against spiritual Wickedness in high Places. How soon this may be put to our Choice, must be left to the God of Order. In the mean time, I must hint to you, without a prophetic Spirit, the Part allotted to you and every loyal Subject between the Rivers Delawar and Kennebeck: for the Children of Sar­dis dream not of expiating the Sin of their Souls by the Fruit of their Bodies, knowing that sincere Love to the Lord, and faithful Obedience to the King, is the English­man's Liberty; a Protestant Virtue, the strait Road to true and generous Christianity: they also know Religion to be worthy of a serious Consideration, a perfect Knowledge, an [Page 11] everlasting Devotion; and that men are nearest to their God, when they can best vindicate themselves to themselves.

Were we less friendly to America, or the King's Su­premacy, which is the Bulwark of Protestantism, than our Dissenting Brethren are, we should not have more Reason to complain of Grievances peculiar to the Church of England in America, than they and all other Sects of Christians in the whole World *; or, had we crossed a briny Ocean to import episcopal Tyranny , under a pious Pretence of civilizing and christianizing Dissenters, at the Expence of their Liberty and Property, which they hold more sacred than Loyalty and Ordination , we might have expected the Fate of our Fathers, who expelled the [Page 12] Natives from the fertile Banks of Connecticut into a dreary Wilderness, a forlorn Home, by similar Pretences. Since our Crime consists only in not being Dissenters from the Church of England, and in wishing to have a Bishop re­sident among us on such Terms as cannot be detrimental to the Rights of Anabaptists, Papists, Moravians, and other Dissenters, and which have been candidly laid before the Public *; our Religion has taught us to hope for forgiveness in claiming such Liberties as we have freely given to others.

I must say, that no Reason can be assigned why the People, who claim the greatest Liberties for themselves, should at the same time compass Sea and Land to deprive others of their civil, natural, and religious Liberties :— but so it is;—and if we fear God, and honour the King, we shall patiently submit to this hard Lot of ours, until our Prayers and Tears prevail; for our Religion is not carnal; it affords no Comfort to the wicked, nor Pardon to the rebellious, but on Repentance; and no Repentance but on real Amendment of Life. All who cannot conform to this Rule, must not be of our Communion; yet, with Safety to their worldly Interest, they may join the Leaven which prevails in Rome, the holy City, and claims Do­minion in America, where Christ is King elect without Authority. Since we are required to believe the Mil­lenarians [Page 13] in this howling Wilderness *, we have a Right to expect Doctrines and Practices agreeable to Christ's peaceful Reign; but, as the contrary appears every Day more and more, we have Reason to fear that they are using Liberty for a Cloak of Maliciousness, and not as Subjects to their King elect, whose Laws as little please , as those of George, our rightful King.

Was natural or religious Liberty the Object of the Com­mittees of Inspection, formed from the Missisippi to St. Laurence , we should before this Day have seen the Slave, stolen from his native Country, discharged from his un­pitied Loads and agonizing Groans, to taste the Sweets of Nature's Law; an Indulgence which Humanity and Chris­tianity have given to all, while Defenders of Liberty take the Liberty of denying it to all §. To plead the Con­stitution, and the written Laws of God, in behalf of real [Page 14] Liberty, is all in vain; for their Spirit has overcome the Letter, and taught a Freedom which has neither Bit nor Bridle. Whoever adopts this Freedom as the Law of Li­berty, will crown his King with Thorns, and introduce Anarchy, the Beggar's Rise, but the Rich Man's Fall. To prevent such an unhappy Confusion taking Place in this young and flourishing Country, which but a few years ago was over-run by wild Nations leagued with our Enemies, to ravage and scalp the unhappy Traveller, is the duty, and ought to be the aim, of every Protestant Nation and Minister; and, should our Endeavours, our fervent Love for America, our Gratitude and Loyalty to the House of Hanover, our great Deliverer, prove ineffectual—then let us hang our Harps on the Willows and weep. Should the World arm against us, let us not be dismayed, but persevere in our sacred Vocation, and contend earnestly for the Faith delivered to the Saints: hereby our Light will shine before Men, though we may be spoiled of our Goods, exiled from our native Home, and killed. Should our Faith equal our Profession, we shall not faint in the Day of Trial, because we are Soldiers of the Cross, and have Promises of a better Life.

I have Confidence in you all, that, though some weak Disciples may decline our Communion, and go away, yet you will wisely consider to whom we shall go, seeing that we have for our Guide the Words of eternal Life.

My Reverend Brethren, you cannot be unwilling to part with such Godliness as is worldly Gain, when you consider the Certainty and Solemnity of a Reckoning-Day, when you must give an Account of your Stewardship, either to be blessed with the Smiles of your Judge, or be ruined [Page 15] with his Frowns: therefore, let us grow in Grace, and hold fast the Form of sound Words; let us feed the Lambs, let us feed the Sheep, with the Glories of the everlasting Covenant, and the great Mystery of Redemp­tion; let us dwell on the Excellencies of Immanuel, and on moral Virtue; in a word, let us propagate the Doc­trines of the Cross, and be of good Cheer, seeing that Faith and Perseverance have overcome the World.

Let the Priests of the Lord, let holy and humble Men of Heart, let all the Children of Men, bless the Lord, and mag­nify him for ever; because the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, and shall for ever reign!


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