A SERMON, DELIVERED AT THE SOUTH CHURCH IN PORTSMOUTH, ON THE V JANUARY, MDCCC. Occasioned by the sudden and universally lamented DEATH OF George Washington, Commander of the American Armies, and late President of the UNITED STATES.


Published at the desire of a respectable number of the HEARERS, to whom it is affectionately dedicated.



ON THE DEATH OF Washington.


DAN. x. 11.

FROM the respectful mourning vestment, which clothes this sacred desk; from that gloom, which sits on every countenance; from that breathless silence, which pervades this house of prayer; I know, my christian friends, that every fibre vibrates to the truth, that WASHINGTON was greatly and justly beloved.

It devolves upon us, in common with millions in America, and millions beyond the broad Atlantic, to mourn that our beloved WASHINGTON, the friend of MAN, and the favorite of HEAVEN, is now no more! WASHINGTON, the great, the brave, the good, has bid adieu to scenes below! WASHING­TON, who, under Providence, has been the savior [Page 6] of his country, the guardian of her rights, and the avenger of her wrongs, has paid the last debt of na­ture, and is enrolled among the sheeted dead!

Tears have streamed from every eye, at the solemn knell of his departure, and every heart is filled with grief.

Oh that the united virtues, which dignify and adorn the warrior, the patriot, and the christian, could avert the stroke of death! Then WASHING­TON had lived forever; but, Heaven forbid the thought! To live like him, is to vanquish the king of terrors. To die like him, is only to put off these clogs of imperfection, scar beyond the starry orbs into the vast regions of perfect light, and SHINE HIGH IN RANK AMONG THE HEAVENLY HOSTS.

Who can behold such a prodigy of human excel­lence, without an ecstasy of gratitude to Heaven? He seems to have been raised up, by a particular providence, to combine, for the happiness and the glory of our Israel, the characters of Moses and Joshua.

It would be a pleasing task to draw the analogy, which, in many respects, would be striking, between the fortune of antient Israel and that of the Ameri­can people, and also between the character of Moses and that of WASHINGTON. We might show that the latter, in some respects, even exceeded the [Page 7] former, and embraced some distinguished traits in the character of Joshua. *A public performance in course of the last week has superseded the propriety of such an attempt, which was previously intended for the present solemn occasion.

To recount the personal accomplishments and the domestic, martial, and patriotic virtues of WASH­INGTON, would be a delightful, interesting, and use­ful employment; but, they are engraved deep on every grateful American heart. Some living Belknap will transmit them to the eve of time. Thousands of sculptors, engravers, painters, poets, and orators will exhaust their genius to do him justice. It is sufficient, for the humble minister of Jesus, merely to glance at the most prominent features, which have marked the beloved WASHINGTON, as the hero, and the benefactor, of his country. On this occa­sion our narrative will therefore be short.

WASHINGTON was an important instrument, under Heaven, in extricating us from a POWER, which, elated with the triumphant flourish of her flag, in every quarter of the globe, threatened us with the galling chains of despotism. He conduct­ed us through a wilderness of memorable perplexi­ties and distress. He gave us the rich blessings of liberty and independence, in a land flowing with [Page 8] milk and honey. Having secured to his country the unalienable rights of man, and having retired from the din of arms to the rural shades of his be­loved Vernon, he was called, by the united suffrages of his countrymen, to the FIRST OFFICE in the union. The world knows that he might have con­tinued in THAT OFFICE, till the day of his death; but, he gave another convincing testimony of the greatness of his mind, by resigning the reins of gov­ernment and becoming a private citizen. When a cloud, of threatening aspect, began to gather on our political horizon, he again stepped forth like a guar­dian angel. What more need we say of the man, whom all nations are proud to honor? We will not intrude upon the province of the historian; but, justice to the memory of THE BEST AND THE GREATEST MAN UPON EARTH demands of us to say, that, like Daniel, who was distinguished for his WISDOM, at the court of Babylon, even to a proverb; WASHINGTON, FOR HIS WISDOM IN THE CA­BINET AND IN THE FIELD, IS THE DELIGHT AND THE WONDER OF THE WORLD.

IT BECOMES US, MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS, AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, TO MAKE A RELIGIOUS IMPROVEMENT of that sudden, unexpected, and melancholy event, which has bedewed our country with the tears of millions.

A great man is fallen in the American Israel! [Page 9] Our beloved WASHINGTON is no more. If the *gods die, like men, who can hope to live? If the mighty fall, how can the feeble think to stand? If WASHINGTON be fallen, who can expect to evade the shafts of death?

How weak, how foolish, how inconsiderate is man! No age, nor rank in life, is exempt from the ravages of the tyrant of tyrants. The infant, rob­ed in innocence; the youth, glowing with the blush of morn; the man vigorous as the oaks of Bashan; and the head, covered with the lilies of the grave, are equally the prey of death, and the food of worms. The rich and the poor, the tyrant and the slave, the unlettered peasant and the laurelled head, fall with­out distinction among the clods of the valley.

The air we breath, is fraught with death. Every element teems with the arrows of destruction. The food we eat may prove our bane, and every antidote a poison.

At the longest, how short is the life of man! Three-score years and ten, when they have rolled away, appear like a dream; and yet, one half of the human race does not reach one quarter of that contracted span.

In the humbler spheres of life, our fellow creatures are continually dropping into the grave, around us [Page 10] yet, how many regard the solemn admonition, with as much indifference, as they behold the falling leaves of autumn. They forget that the present scene is only an introduction to the great drama of existence. They live, in the world, as if tomorrow should be as this day, and much more abundant. They take no thought for the regions beyond the grave. But, my christian friends, if the frequency of death among our fellow mortals, in the humbler walks of life, can give no alarm, shall not the solemn tidings that our beloved WASHINGTON has joined the assembly of the dead? Shall an event, which pours the tide of grief into every dominion of the globe, soften no heart into a tender concern for things of eternal moment?

If all would, as sincerely prepare for the world to come, as they mourn the departure of our NURSING FATHER, his death, so improved, would be a greater blessing, than all the achievements of his life.

Upon serious reflection, what can we find to court our residence in this vale of tears? "Riches have wings and grandeur is a dream." The highest applause, the trump of fame can sound, like the ephemeris, is but the creature of a day. What can avail the marble column and the sculptured bust? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

The wealth of Croesus, the intellects of Newton, [Page 11] the strength of Samson, the wisdom of Solomon, the exalted virtues, the unrivalled exploits, the im­mortal glory of WASHINGTON are no barrier to the approach of death. However great the celebri­ty, in the world, all must sink into the dark and dreary mansions of the grave. However beloved, or however despised, all must pass that bourne whence no traveller returns. All must moulder and mingle with their kindred dust.

If, with some modern MANIACS, we could per­suade ourselves, that death is an eternal sleep, of all beings, in this lower creation, we should be, by far, the most wretched; but, we know that our Re­deemer liveth. Although in our flesh we shall see corruption; yet, we know that these bodies shall be purified and triumph over the grave. We know that the trump of GOD shall sound; that its rend­ing voice shall pierce the bowels of the earth; that all nature shall receive the alarm; and that the dead shall rise immortal; and be adjudged, according to the deeds done in the body, AT THE HIGH CHAN­CERY OF HEAVEN.

It is the unshaken faith, that our existence will never end, and that happiness will eventually attend on virtuous deeds, which enables us to brave the storms of life, and bid defiance to the sting of death.

[Page 12]Here, my christian friends, is a noble illustration of the happy effects of that holy religion, which we profess. In our beloved WASHINGTON we see the christian faith triumphant.

Let christendom rejoice. The name of WASH­INGTON may now be added to those of Newton, Locke, Bacon, Boyle, Addison, and Hale for another stumbling block to those modern INFIDELS, who boast the omniscience of human reason.

It was the CHRISTIAN FAITH, which supported our beloved WASHINGTON amid scenes of jeopardy unparalleled in the annals of the world. It was this FAITH, which enabled him to meet the hour of death, without a MURMUR OR A GROAN. It was this FAITH, which enabled him, though ready to sink under the most excrutiating pain, to look with TENDERNESS AND LOVE on his weeping friends. It was this FAITH, which enabled him to say, with emphasis, I AM NOT AFRAID TO DIE.

Through the kind indulgence of heaven, we may be crowned with the luxuries of life; we may ad­venture far into the regions of human science; we may shine as the patriot and the sage; we may win a wreath of laurels in the field of Mars; but, it is a PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH AND PIETY ALONE, which can bring us peace at the last. It is this PRINCIPLE, which gave a lustre and a dignity [Page 13] to every excellence, which adorned the immortal WASHINGTON, and gave him a fortitude in death, which would have done honor to a martyr at the stake.

Our beloved WASHINGTON evinced his belief in the christian dispensation by a most devotional and regular attendance on the instituted means of grace. Like Lord Chief Justice Hale, of England, he ob­served the holy Sabbath, with the most solemn rev­erence. He was not ashamed to kneel at the altar and receive the bread of life. Such was his devout attention, in the house of God, and so deep was his sense of divine truths, that, while the word has been dispensed, by the humble servants of the cross, TEARS HAVE OFTEN BEEN SEEN TO ROLL DOWN HIS CHEEKS.

There are many, who put on the appearance of religion for a cloak. They are the vilest hypocrites. Of all characters they are the most detestable. Far from this was the American HERO.

Secret prayer is the most convincing testimony of our sincerity in religion. Our beloved WASH­INGTON daily poured forth the sorrows and the joys of his heart in secret and solemn adoration. Like the beloved Daniel, in whom was the spirit of the living GOD, he daily kneeled down in his chamber and devoutly prayed to his heavenly Father. Ac­cording to credible information, when he was at the [Page 14] head of the American army, he so constantly and conscientiously devoted ONE HOUR, EVERY DAY, to this important duty, that none could interrupt him, but on the penalty of his high resentment.

If such were his piety, like that of Daniel, who can wonder that, like him, he prospered in every under­taking? We are positively assured that it shall be well with them, who fear God.

It is happy for the preacher of religion and mo­rality, when he can adduce the example of those, who have been GREAT, in the estimation of the world. Although we have a greater than WASH­INGTON, for a guide; yet, his example is an impor­tant acquisition to the christian cause. We may say of him, as it has been said of the primitive christians, that he taught most sublimely, for he lived irre­proachably. This is saying as much as we can, with propriety, say of any man upon earth. By it, we do not aim to represent our departed beloved WASH­INGTON, as a perfect man. There is no such thing as perfection in this world of depravity. Our prin­cipal object is to exhibit him as a rare instance of GREATNESS in a religious and moral sense of the word. Such was his undoubted character, and we may venture to predict that HIS EXAMPLE will be urged, with the happiest success, as another PROP to the christian fabric, till the glorious era shall ar­rive, when Jews and Gentiles, universally convinced [Page 15] of the truth of our holy religion, shall break from the yoke of Satan and fly to the standard of the cross.

Let the incense of gratitude rise from every chris­tian heart, that, while we behold, with astonish­ment, the heroic and patriotic virtues of WASH­INGTON, we can exhibit him as an amiable pattern of religion and morality. His character is so im­portant, in this view, that there would be a striking propriety, on this solemn occasion, if time admitted, in improving it by an induction of particulars, to the confusion of every vice and the incitement to a conscientious observance of every moral and relig­ious duty. We can attempt such an improvement only in a partial degree.

It is said of the celebrated Boyle that he never pronounced the name of GOD without a solemn pause. Such was his regard for the Deity, that he seemed to be lost at the name of that glorious Be­ing. Every body was struck with the solemn and devotional manner, in which WASHINGTON pro­nounced that holy name. Here is a lesson for thou­sands in our country.

Profanity is one of the crying evils of the present day. It is a vice without the shadow of temptation, and consequently, without the shadow of an excuse. It is become fashionable, particularly among the ris­ing [Page 16] generation, through the depravity of the heart, and the false supposition that it gives a kind of dig­nity to the man; but, my young friends, let me suggest to you, that it betrays a conscious poverty of character. In common conversation, to add the sanction of an oath, betrays a consciousness that your word is not worth believing. Besides, it is awfully criminal in the sight of Heaven. As a new persua­sive against that impious custom, let me ask, do you ever hear the name of WASHINGTON without being fired into a love of every virtue, which he exhibited, and a detestation of every vice, which he detested? Then let it be added, as a well known fact, that he ever showed the most pointed disdain for every man, whatever his rank might be, who profaned the name of the great Jehovah.*

IT is inexpedient to descend to a more particular enumeration of those christian virtues, which adorn­ed our immortal HERO. It is sufficient to say, that the excellence of religion and morality shone, with uncommon lustre, in the various scenes of his public and private life. Like a good General, he had an [Page 17] exemplary command over himself. He, who con­quers his appetites and passions, is a greater hero, than he, who conquers the world.

That WASHINGTON was no stranger to the ex­cellence of MORALITY and VITAL PIETY, and that he was persuaded of their infinite importance to the social and the individual character, it would hardly be pardonable, on this occasion, not to ad­duce his own language on this interesting subject.

"Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, says this illustrious MAN, RELIGION and MORALITY ARE INDISPENSA­BLE SUPPORTS. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A VOLUME COULD NOT TRACE ALL THEIR CONNECTIONS WITH PUBLIC and PRIVATE FELICITY. Let it be simply asked, where is the security for pro­perty, for reputation, for life, if a sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instru­ments of investigation, in the courts of justice? And, says he, let us with caution indulge the suppo­sition, that MORALITY can be maintained without RELIGION. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education, on minds of peculiar [Page 18] structure; reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclu­sion of RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES." This is the important creed of our beloved WASHINGTON, as recorded in his AFFECTIONATE FAREWELL AD­DRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF THESE AMERICAN STATES. In this masterly ADDRESS is displayed the full dignity of his mind and the unrivalled benevolence of his heart.

The concluding passage from his circular address, at the time of his resignation of the military com­mand, is another transcript of his pious soul.

"I now, says he, make it my earnest prayer that GOD would have you in his holy protection; that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean our­selves with that charity, humility and pacific tem­per of mind, which were the characteristics of the DIVINE AUTHOR OF OUR BLESSED RELIGION, AND, WITHOUT AN HUMBLE IMITATION OF WHOSE EXAMPLE IN THOSE THINGS, WE CAN NEVER HOPE TO BE A HAPPY NATION."

Here is a man, my christian friends, without a rival in the list of fame; and yet, whose character, as a pattern of religion and morality, gives him a more exalted glory.4

[Page 19]While we mourn the loss, which our country and the world sustains, by the death of our distin­guished PATRIOT; have we not reason to exult in the honor, which his character reflects on the chris­tian religion? Must not infidelity receive a deadly blow from the example of THIS GREAT and PIOUS MAN?

How happy is that country, whose princes rule in judgment! What an incomparable blessing, to the American people, must we consider our beloved WASHINGTON! Were Moses and Joshua, unitedly, a greater to the tribes of antient Israel?

The political salvation of our country seems to have depended on the abilities and address of WASHINGTON.

As a warrior, he equalled, in prudence, the Ro­man Fabius, and, in bravery, the great Duke of Marlborough. In peace, he was ambitious of no higher rank, than that of a private citizen, in a free and independent country. The rural shades of his beloved Vernon afforded him that retirement from the noise and bustle of the world, and the happy opportunity for those philosophic amusements, and for that pious meditation, which were congenial to his soul. When we behold him leaving those do­mestic recreations, at his country's call, for the helm of state, it brings to mind the celebrated Cin­cinnatus, [Page 20] who left his plow, when his country was in the most imminent danger, for the dictatorship of Rome. When we behold him, voluntarily resign­ing the reins of government, and once more retiring to spend the remainder of life, in an undisturbed repose, the mind is filled with astonishment! But, what shall we say? a lowering cloud, black with vengeance indescribable, rises in the east, and we a­gain behold him stepping forth, like a GUARDIAN ANGEL, to disarm it of its thunder!

Such was the man, whom AMERICA, and THE WORLD HAVE DELIGHTED TO HONOR. There is no nation, so lost to a sense of human excellence, as not to revere his name. The Algierine will drop a tear to his memory. The tawney tribes, beyond the western mountains, will pierce the heavens, with their cry of grief, and *bow with reverence, to every portrait, which bears the name of WASHINGTON.

Who can behold such a character without an ad­miration, if it may be so expressed, almost to idola­try! So much wisdom, prudence, humility, benevo­lence, and piety, are seldom the portion of one man.

[Page 21]It is a melancholy reflection, that, among those, who are great in the estimation of the world, we do not in general find the most exemplary christians. In WASHINGTON is a noble exception. He not only exhibited the most eminent military and po­litical talents; but, to crown his worth, he was a SINCERE CHRISTIAN. As we have endeavored to maintain and illustrate, so we may with confidence, assert, that he was a pattern of singular piety, and morality, in an age of infidelity and vice.

Here let the hordes of modern infidels, who exalt themselves above all that is called GOD, be­hold a MAN, whose shoes they are not worthy to carry. Here let them behold a man, unrivalled in fame, invariably exhibiting a most profound regard for the great Jehovah, the holy Sabbath, and every christian duty! Can they trample on the laws of GOD, and die in peace? Can the infidel, like WASHINGTON, meet the hour of death without a fear? "Men may live fools, but fools they can­not die." The infidel is, like the coward, bold in council, but, in battle never brave. On the verge of eternity, he surveys his dismal situation, with horror, and with his expiring breath, trembles and believes! Voltaire, one of the greatest champions of infidelity, the world has ever seen, spent his life in the attempt to crush the christian fabric; but, unhappy mortal, his closing scene was a mere hell upon earth.

[Page 22]When we cast our eyes across the wide Atlantic, and behold the RULERS OF A GREAT AND POWERFUL NATION, unitedly, condemning the word of GOD, abolishing every religious institution, and proclaiming to the world, that death is an eternal sleep; who can wonder that they oppress the helpless, wrong the innocent, give unbridled reins to a lawless ambition, and slaughter friends and foes till their country is drenched in the blood of millions!

If we give up our belief in the being and provi­dence of GOD; if we renounce the idea of a fu­ture state and an impartial retribution; we, at once, sap the foundation of society and open wide the flood-gates of anarchy and vice. Our towns be­come a Golgotha, and our villages mere fields of blood.

Society cannot long subsist without religion. Every man is therefore a blessing, or a curse, to society, in proportion, as he promotes, or injures, the cause of religion.

In THIS VIEW, THEREFORE, WASHINGTON SHINES, WITH SPLENDOR, AS A LIGHT OF THE WORLD. While we offer the tribute of gratitude to Heaven for those blessings, which have been poured on our country, through the heroic and pat­riotic services of this great and dignified CHARACT­ER, let us never forget, that he was an EXEMPLA­RY [Page 23] CHRISTIAN. Have we not reason to believe that, like Daniel, he prospered in the important un­dertakings, to which Providence called him, in con­sequence of his piety and prayers? From such data as we have, may we not suppose that, like So­lomon, HE ASKED WISDOM ONLY OF HIS GOD, and so was crowned with blessings, which even Solo­mon might envy?

To weep for a man, so greatly and justly beloved, as WASHINGTON, is godlike; but, gratitude should mingle with our tears, that our country was blessed, for such a length of time, with such a favorite of Heaven. Thanks be to GOD! that, as, when Eli­jah was translated, Elisha caught the parting man­tle; so, when WASHINGTON retired from the chair of state, an ADAMS rose, and lives to fill it.

Although our beloved WASHINGTON scarcely reached the age of David; yet we may say of him that he was full of days, riches, and honor; but he is fallen asleep, and is gathered unto his fathers. The LORD gave and the LORD hath taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD. None of us will ever behold him again, in this vale of tears. We shall celebrate the day, which gave him birth no more; but the hour is coming, when, we shall all behold him before the assembled universe, and hear HIS ELOGY PRONOUNCED BY THE SON OF GOD.



*GEORGE WASHINGTON, was born 11 February, 1732, at the Parish of Washington, in the county of Westmore­land, and state of Virginia. He was appointed Commander in Chief of the American Armies, in 1775. He resigned his Commission, in 17 [...]. He was chosen President of the United States, in 1789. He resigned the Presidency, in 1796. He died at Mount Vernon, between the hours of 10 and 11, Saturday evening, the 14 December, 1799.

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