FOR the support and comfort of those among the Jews, who might escape the judgments predicted in the preceding chapter, the prophet in this fortels the ap­proach of happier times, and the flourishing state of the true Israel of God, under the influence and protection of an illustrious person here called the Branch of the Lord. After the appearance of this divine Branch, the chil­dren of Zion, cleansed from their pollutions by the spirit of judgment and adorned with vital holiness, shall re­joice in all the blessings of evangelical grace and con­solation. The favourable presence of God with them shall secure to them the continued enjoyment of these blessings. For his presence brings protection and de­fence to all who are thus favoured. So long as he a­bode in the temple at Jerusalem, and his visible glory [Page 4] was beheld in the holy of holies, that city bid defiance to all earthly powers. But, after the voice had been heard "LET US DEPART HENCE," its defence was gone, its enemies prevailed against it, and Zion was plowed as a field.

In allusion to the pillar of cloud and fire, the ancient symbol of God's presence with Israel in the wilderness, it is promised, with reference to the people of the Mes­siah, The Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Sion, and upon her assemblies a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: The mean­ing is, that they shall be as certainly under the divine care and guardianship, as were God's people of old, while favoured with these extraordinary signs of his gracious presence, and shall as fully experience the hap­py effects of his Almighty protection. For upon all the glory shall be a defence: Providence will watch for the safety of the church, and "the gates of hell shall never prevail against it."

The prophecy evidently refers to the state of the christian church under the reign of the Messiah. As a part of this church, we may be allowed, perhaps, to con­sider the words of the text as applicable to ourselves; and be led by them, on the present occasion, into a view of those signal and distinguishing advantages which are the glory of this land; and then, to some remarks on the means of defence as proper and ne­cessary to crown these advantages and complete the glory.

The latter idea is, indeed, the principal and ultimate design of the discourse. This, however, will be aided by considering the worth of those blessings and privi­leges [Page 5] which we have to defend. All these are so many motives to the means of defence. And surely no peo­ple upon earth can have more, or weightier. That their influence may be felt, this Assembly will allow me to set before them some of our natural, civil, and re­ligious advantages.

Had it been left to our own election, on what part of the globe we would have wished to spend the days of our pilgrimage here below, we could not, perhaps, have chosen better for ourselves, than Providence hath chosen for us. "The lines are fallen to us in a pleasant place, and we have a goodly heritage." Falling, as our country does, within the temperate climes, its inhabi­tants are subjected to the extremes of neither heat, nor cold: Both of which are deemed unfriendly to the hu­man frame, prejudicial not only to the body, but to the mind too, as tending to debilitate, or deaden its pow­ers, and limit its exertions. Philosophers tell us, that it is in the temperate climates only, other circumstances being equal, that we are to expect the greatest display of human abilities. Upon this principle, should we not feel grateful to HIM who "separateth the sons of Adam, and divideth to the nations their inheritance," for casting our lot on a portion of the earth the most favourable to our growth and improvement in what­ever dignifies and adorns the character of man?

It is not pretended that the soil which we cultivate, equals, in richness and fertility, that of some other countries. In those regions of the earth which lie more exposed to the sun, there is a greater variety of vege­tation, and a more luxuriant and abundant growth. These advantages, however, are often more than ba­lanced by poisonous productions, noxious animals, and [Page 6] a putrid air, breeding all kinds of disease; and by tem­pests, hurricanes, earthquakes, and such violent com­motions of the elements as are frequently fatal to the wretched inhabitants. Exempt from these fatalities, our own country is rich in whatever contributes to the support and solid enjoyment of life. The earth so far repays the labour of the husbandman, that the horrors of famine, often experienced in other parts of the world, have never been known here.

And it is a signal advantage in our situation, that the cultivators of the soil are also its proprietors. In the old countries the common people are in general tenants, having no other right or interest in the lands which they improve, but leases from great proprietors, upon whom they are so abjectly dependent, that they are often considered and treated as nearly upon a par with the other animals belonging to the soil. How incomparably more eligible is the condition of the com­monalty of this country? In these northern States especially, the lands are divided with a degree of equali­ty, and a happy mediocrity generally prevails. The body of the people is composed of a substantial yeo­manry, who cultivate their own freeholds, and feel no other dependence but upon Providence and their own industry.

It is a fact known and acknowledged, that in no other part of the world, the generality of the people are so independent, or possess so large a share of the con­veniencies of life. The facility with which the means of a comfortable subsistence are obtained, is the main cause of that rapid increase of population which here exceeds any thing, of which any other country can boast. From a few emigrants and scattered planters, [Page 7] in a little more than a century and an half, we are mul­tiplied into millions. And this increase is likely to continue through the course of many future generations, until the immense wilderness on our back shall be turned into a fruitful field.

The progress of cultivation and improvement must be greatly accelerated by the mild, gentle and free go­vernments which are here established. In this respect, these States are "the glory of all lands," and privileged above every other nation. As for liberty, it is a stranger hardly known to the rest of mankind. In two quarters of the globe the sound thereof is not heard, nor its likeness seen. If you range through the great empires of Asia, and among all the millions that people Africa, you will hardly find an individual into whose mind the idea of a rational, civil freedom has ever entered. Eu­rope alone is the enlightened quarter of the world. But even in Europe despotism is almost universal. The governments of France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Mus­covy are in general absolute monarchies. Among these, indeed, a few republicks are interspersed: But the most of these republicks partake of the aristocratick form. Venice the most ancient of them, and once the most res­pectable, is a proper aristocracy, the powers of govern­ment being wholly in the hands of the nobles, inde­pendent of the voice, the election, or the controul of the people. In a limited monarchy Britain boasts of freedom; but, considering how far she has deviated from the principles and spirit of her constitution—the manner in which her House of Commons is elected, and the influence of the Crown in those elections, her freedom seems but little more than a boast—a shadow without the substance. Nor is the government of the United Netherlands thought to be much better, consi­dering [Page 8] the weight of the aristocratick influence and the powers of an hereditary Stadtholder.—In short, Liberty, banished from the other quarters of the globe, has with­drawn to the American shores. In these States she has found an asylum, and seems to be fixing her resi­dence. Her spirit breathes in, and animates the several branches of our political constitutions; and her features are strongly impressed on the respective forms of go­vernment which have been here constructed. The peo­ple themselves are made the guardians of their own rights; and from them all power originates. Rulers exist not but by their suffrages; and the greatest of them are but servants to the publick, and are liable to be dismissed from that service whenever they dis­please their masters. Created by the people, such is their situation, they are made to feel their dependence upon their creators.

We have no accounts of any republicks, whether an­cient or modern, in which such principles of equal li­berty prevail. In this respect our glory outshines that of the whole world besides.

I mean not, however, that our political constitutions are perfect. It would be next to a miracle, if in a strug­gle to avoid impending danger from one extreme, we did not expose ourselves to hazard on the opposite. Defects there certainly are in the modes of government adopted by these States—principally resulting, in the opinion of the wise, from the excess of their popularity.

But do we not hope, ere long, to see these defects happily supplied and remedied by that admirable form of federal government which is now rearing over the whole union? May God Almighty aid the exertions of [Page 9] true patriots in raising the remaining Pillars of this no­ble Structure! And when completed, may his provi­dence so smile upon the institution, as to cause it to an­swer the most sanguine expectations of its illustrious fram­ers! May it prove an effectual shelter from popular heats and commotions on the one part, and from foreign tempests and invasions on the other!

To the latter, indeed, our situation does not immedi­ately expose us. It must be reckoned among the advan­tages of these States, that they lie not in the neigh­bourhood of any formidable power. A thousand leagues of ocean rolling between us and the wrang­ling powers of Europe, lessens the danger of our being involved in their quarrels.

But, as another circumstance reflecting a distinguish­ed glory upon our country, we may consider the means of education which are here enjoyed, and the advan­tages we are under for pushing our improvements in every branch of useful knowledge, and in all those arts which embellish society, and give to man his principal preeminence above the beasts that perish. From the beasts, at his birth, he is no otherwise distinguished but by a capacity for these improvements: Which yet he will not make, unless he be furnished with the means of education. If his hard lot be cast in the regions of darkness, where he has no helps or advantages for culti­vating his reason, and meliorating and governing his passions; if he be nourished in the dens of uncivil­ized men—among savages and barbarians, he proves a barbarian himself, wild and intractable, and but little superiour to the irrational animals.

[Page 10] It is a melancholy reflection, that this charac­ter belongs to so many tribes and nations of the posterity of Adam. Was it owing to his apostacy, that his children who inhabit the regions of Africa, from the tropick of Cancer to the Cape of Good-Hope, who form the clans and hords which range the immense tracts on the north of Europe, and north-west of Asia; and who compose the tribes of Indians that are scattered in America, from the north of Canada to the straits of Magellan?—Was it owing to the fall of our common ancestor, that these his descendants suffer such a de­gradation of their nature, and are sunk in deplorable, brutish ignorance and barbarism?—Whatever may have been the original, meritorious or judicial; yet certainly the immediate cause is their neglect of educa­tion and of all attempts towards mental improvement.

The main difference in the characters of different nations results from the neglect or the improvement of those powers of reason which their Creator has given them. In proportion as any people have cultivated arts and knowledge, they have risen to distinction and eminence. The never fading lustre of the Grecian and Roman name—the figure which they make in the an­nals of mankind—and the unceasing eclat and renown with which they are transmitted from one generation to another—are all ultimately derived from the assidui­ty and success with which they laboured in accumulat­ing intellectual treasures—in improving their own minds—in polishing society—and civilizing the rude and barbarous nations around them. To those learned ancients every succeeding age, and even the present, is indebted for many of the first rudiments of knowledge.

[Page 11] In the convulsions and revolutions which attended the decline and fall of that immense fabrick, the Roman empire; the progress of science, and of the arts of civili­zation was not only at a stand; but many of the im­provements which had been already made, were lost. Nor did they revive again, until towards the close of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century of the Christian era. At this period, many different causes conspired for delivering the understandings of men from the bondage of ignorance—such as the invention of the art of printing—the improvements in navigation—the extension of commerce—the breaking forth of a spirit of industry, enterprise and inquiry; and above all, the reformation from popery which emancipated the hu­man mind from the shackles of superstition, and gave scope to its various abilities.

From that day to this, knowledge has been rapid­ly increasing; new discoveries, new arts and new im­provements have been constantly adding to former ac­quisitions, until the learning of the present age as far exceeds that of the ancients, as their's did that of the rude ages which preceded them.

When our ancestors removed into this new world, they brought the learning of the old along with them; and upon their arrival here, their first care was, to plant it in this new soil. They founded colleges and semi­naries of learning, and formed excellent regulations for the support of publick schools, and a learned, pious clergy in all their different plantations. In consequence of their early care and great exertions for the education of youth and training them up in the various branches of useful knowledge, the growth of the arts and sciences [Page 12] has, from the beginning, kept pace with our other im­provements. Knowledge is generally diffused, and like our property and our government, is shared among the people at large. And though it should not be pretend­ed that in new discoveries, and in the number of rare original geniusses, we have exceeded every other nation; yet, it is a truth which foreigners will not deny, that the body of the common people in New-England, at least, are the most enlightened of any other now upon the globe. In a freedom from many ridiculous preju­dices, whims and customs, the relicks of gothic bar­barity, or of popish superstition, retained and handed down from age to age among the common people of Europe—in a freedom from these, and for a good edu­cation, good sense, and a sound, enlarged understand­ing, the people here are distinguished from, and rise superiour to, any other people of their rank in the known world.

This is especially true with respect to religious knowledge, and the advantages we are under for en­joying the glorious privileges of the gospel. Though it be more than seventeen hundred years since this religion was introduced and published to the world, still the knowledge of it is far from being universal. A large proportion of the human tace are pagans to this day: The Jews persist in adhering to the law of Moses: Many of the eastern nations are the disciples of Mahomet; and a great part of Christendom remains under the delusions of popery. It is in the reformed churches only, that the gospel shines; and in these it too generally shines through the mist of creeds and formularies. In the European reformed churches the rights of conscience are too little regarded: Religious [Page 13] liberty too much restrained. The people are rarely allowed to chuse their own teachers: Their teachers themselves are entangled and perplexed with human articles of faith and forms of subscription: And their modes of worship are frequently encumbered with use­less rites and ceremonies. From all these clogs and embarrassments the churches of New-England are per­haps the freest of any in the world; and in their mode of worship and method of discipline approach the near­est to the simplicity of the gospel and the forms in use with the primitive christians.

We ought never to forget, that for the sake of enjoying these privileges, and transmitting them to their children, our ancestors encountered all the hardships and dangers which attended their emigration into this wilderness. After repeated efforts, they found it im­possible to obtain them in the land of their nativity. More than a century elapsed after the reformation, be­fore protestants could be persuaded to entertain the idea of a religious toleration. The first reformers, though they renounced the Pope, yet retained one of the worst dregs of popery—a spirit of intolerance and persecution towards every one who ventured to dissent from their creeds, or to profess what they deemed heresy. The contending parties whether papists or protestants, and the different sects among each of these, however opposed in other respects, yet, all agreed in this one horrible point, "that it was lawful to extirpate by fire and sword the enemies of the true religion, and such they reciprocally appeared to be in each other's eyes."

To them all, and to the age in general, were appli­cable the words of our Saviour to his disciples, when [Page 14] they would have called for fire from heaven to consume a village of Samaritans: "Ye know not what spirit ye are of: For the son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." The people of these States are happy beyond our forefathers, and beyond all for­mer ages of the church, in having found out the mean­ing of this text. It is a most important and interesting discovery—a discovery of something very essential to the christian temper—a discovery of the gracious de­sign and benevolent spirit of the gospel. This is adopt­ed into all our respective forms of government, which expressly provide for the equal protection of all sects and denominations, while they demean themselves as good and peaceable subjects.

Such, my respected hearers, are the peculiar and distinguishing advantages which constitute the glory of this land. But to crown all these advantages and com­plete our glory, DEFENCE is necessary. The value of every blessing rises in proportion to the degree of security which we have for its continued enjoyment. And however advantageously situated these States may be, to escape foreign invasion; yet, if like the inhabit­ants of Laish, we dwell careless, quiet and secure, unpre­pared for defence; we shall invite an evil of which we might otherwise have been in no danger: And those advantages and privileges which are our boast and our glory, may strongly tempt the ambition of an invader. Nor is it impossible but that the power, to which we were once in subjection, may still wish to recover its lost dominion, and for years yet to come, watch for an opportunity to effect its purpose. Nor are the other na­tions of the world free from avarice and ambition, and those unruly passions and lusts which occasion wars and [Page 15] fightings. And while these lusts remain, the earth will be more or less, filled with violence. Partaking, as we all do, of the same depraved principles, we cannot be secure from intestine commotions, insurrections and usurpations. Among ourselves Catalines have already appeared: Antonies and Caesars may ere long spring up. Either by a foreign, or a home-bred tyrant, our liberties may be wrested from us; if we do not stand prepared to defend them. A people ignorant of the art of war and destitute of the qualifications and virtues which adorn the character of soldiers, must be in con­stant danger of falling under the yoke of bondage.

Nor would our character as christians, were it free from its present defects, and more perfect than we may venture to pretend, prove our security. For though upon all the glory of Christ's church a defence is pro­mised in the text; yet our own exertions are necessary in order to our receiving the fulfilment of the promise. In this sense most of the promises in scripture, whether refering to things temporal or spiritual, are to be un­derstood. To his church of old, the seed of Jacob, God promised the land of Canaan; but, in order to their getting possession, they were obliged to fight many a rough battle, and to encounter the dangers and hard­ships of many successive campaigns. They had also a promise of protection and defence when in possession of this promised land; but were never so senseless, as to expect the benefit of the promise without their own endeavours to defend themselves. Hence, it was their care, in a time of peace, to provide against the breaking out of war. Their most pious as well as patriotick princes were vigilant in keeping their country in a state of defence, in forming magazines of arms, main­taining [Page 16] garrisons and strong holds on their frontiers, and cherishing a military spirit among their subjects—teaching them the use of the bow and the art of war. In the use of these means good men of old relied upon providence for its promised protection.

In the same way christians are to expect the fulfil­ment of those promises of defence which are made to the church under the gospel dispensation. And, in this sense, these promises have been always understood. As the religious character of the best christians has not preserved them from the assaults of enemies, so neither has it been considered by them as inconsistent with the profession of arms: They have not scrupled to grasp the sword in their own defence.

No part of the christian church, since the apostolick age, stood higher, perhaps, in the favour of the Al­mighty, than did the first settlers of this country; nor were more remarkable for relying upon his aid, or more diligent and fervent in seeking it. This, however, did not preserve them from being exposed to danger, nor was it considered by them as precluding the necessity of providing for their own defence. They had their trials, their fears and dangers from surrounding enemies.

Great as were the distresses and horrours of the war in which we, a few years since, were engaged, it may yet be doubted, whether while suffering them, our con­dition in general was so dreadful as was that of our an­cestors in some of their wars with the natives of this land.

Our fathers were few in number, remotely scattered [Page 17] along these shores. The whole country was a thick wilderness, filled with numerous tribes of savages. These were enemies in whom human depravity and wickedness appeared in all their naked deformity, neither disguised nor restrained by the principles of ho­nour and education, or the maxims of civilized society. They were perfidious, inhuman and cruel beyond what we can easily imagine. Indiscriminate destruction was their constant mode of war. They knew no distinction of sex or age. Human misery was their highest sport. On their wretched captives they inflicted every torture which their barbarous invention could contrive Their attack was always a surprise. The dark forests conceal­ed their motions: From the thicket they suddenly dart­ed upon the unapprehensive husbandman at his labour: They butchered or captivated his distracted family, rifled his house, and left it in flames. In the dead of night, or at the dawn of day, the vast silence of the neighbouring wilderness was interrupted; and the war­hoop and savage yell announced to the slumbering un­guarded village a host of these monsters of cruelty. Having accomplished the desolation, they retired with such celerity, that pursuers knew not where to find them, until a repetition of the mischief in some distant settlement gave the information.

In times like these, and while exposed to such dan­gers and fears, among other means of defence, our an­cestors, a century and an half since, honoured with char­tered privileges THE COMPANY OF ARTILLERY, at whose request we are now assembled. Not mere show and parade, but publick utility was the laudable design of this ancient institution. To learn the art of war, to keep alive a martial spirit, and diffuse abroad in [Page 18] the country military knowledge, were the purposes pro­posed by this establishment. The worthy gentlemen now composing it, will still keep them in view; and by their example and influence endeavour, that not only the present, but the rising generation may possess all those military accomplishments requisite to their prov­ing able defenders of their country.

At this juncture, our youth are under special ad­vantages for obtaining these accomplishments, by hav­ing so many among us able to instruct them, who have seen so much actual service—had many years experi­ence in the field—and whose characters are adorned with laurels acquired in the late war. Their know­ledge and experience must greatly facilitate the improvements to be wished in the state of our militia; while their recent example cannot fail to inspire with martial ardour the bosoms of our young men.

Such a country as this, is well suited to produce a con­tinued race of heroes. Our militia are naturally hardy, brave and resolute—not easily appalled at the prospect of difficulties and dangers. And should they be well disci­plined and instructed in the art of war, possessing a dex­terity and exactness in its exercises and manoeuvres;—should they become, in the language of scripture, expert in war—mighty men of valour—fit for the battle; they will undoubtedly prove the best human defence. And if to these accomplishments they add a publick spirit, the love of their country, just ideas of its rights and privileges, a reverential respect for its constitution and laws; and have all these virtues inspired and animated by a true sense of religion; they cannot fail to render us formidable to all who may attempt to molest [Page 19] us. At the same time, the regulations and habits of obedience and subordination essential to a well organized and disciplined militia must, in their natural tendency, secure internal tranquility, and prevent se­ditions and insurrections.

Impressed with the weight of this motive alone, our civil fathers will be ever attentive in rendering our mi­litia laws as perfect as possible. Nor will the endea­vours of our Commander in Chief be wanting in carry­ing these laws into effect, and giving them the fullest energy. Seated in the esteem and affection of this peo­ple, he has every advantage for promoting their welfare: His plans for improvement will be received without jealousy or suspicion, and his orders obeyed without murmuring or reluctance. And that love of his country and zeal for its prosperity, which have assigned him so distinguished a rank among the patriots of the age, will prompt his continued vigilance in providing for the common safety.

It is the interest, and ought to be the endeavour of us all, in our respective places and stations, to encou­rage and promote, in every suitable way, these means of defence. A sense of the good land which heaven hath given us, and of the glorious privileges which are here enjoyed, should quicken our citizens at large, to do all in their power, towards rendering the continued en­joyment of them as secure and permanent as possible. In concurrence with this care, and with whatever else prudence may dictate for our own preservation, we may seek, and hope to obtain, the protection and defence of the Almighty.

[Page 20] I may not put an end to this discourse without ob­serving, that as christians we all sustain the character of soldiers under Christ Jesus the Captain of our salva­tion; and are engaged in a warfare against Sin and Satan, the pollutions that are in the world, and our own lusts. Exposed to the most alarming dangers from these spiritual enemies, we infinitely need the defence of heavenly grace. This is promised in the gospel; but here as well as in what relates to our temporal safety, we are to expect the fulfilment of the promise only in concurrence with our own exertions in striving against sin, and fighting the good fight of faith. We are accordingly directed to put on the whole armour of God, and become expert in the use of our spiritual weapons. And in this way are encouraged to hope for victory and triumph, and to be brought off finally more than conquer­ours through him who hath loved us—and given himself for us—to whom be glory forever.


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