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MR. BOWERS's DISCOURSE.

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A DISCOURSE, ON OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF General George Washington, DELIVERED IN ST. ANN's CHURCH, PITTSTON, ON SATURDAY, 22d FEBRUARY, 1800.

BY JAMES BOWERS.

Published by request of the WARDENS and VESTRY of the Episcopal Parish in said Town.

HALLOWELL (DISTRICT OF MAINE) PRINTED BY PETER EDES. 1800.

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A DISCOURSE.

IT is an observation of the wisest of men, that "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Tho' every day and every hour comes charged with some impor­tant duty; yet wisdom will discern, in that strik­ing succession of affecting events, with which the life of man is diversified, the special times and sea­sons, for accomplishing the benevolent purposes of GOD, respecting his eternal felicity. Man, both in his individual and social capacity, is the crea­ture of mutation and vicissitude; and his state here below, is ever more or less checkered with pros­perous and adverse occurrences. The seasons of rejoicing, and the seasons of mourning are oft re­turning, with their appropriate lessons of moral instruction. Now he is surrounded with objects, and inspired with sensations, of pleasure and de­light; [Page 6] his horizon is gilded with happifying pros­pects; and he is excited to give scope to the feelings of grateful, innocent, social joy. But there is not less a time to be sad, than a time to rejoice. Anon, the charm is dissolved; the visionary phan­toms of momentary happiness are fled; and the heart is arrested, in the career of pleasure, to at­tend to more interesting scenes. The wandering and thoughtless mind is summoned, by the sober, monitory voice of misfortune, to the more chasten­ed engagements of moral discipline, self-inspection, and religious improvement. To this unexpected fatality of events—this affecting reverse of condi­tion, communities, like individuals, are ever sub­ject. They too, have their times of depression, as well as elevation—their seasons of sadness, as well as rejoicing: and most kindly does the great Gov­ernor contemplate, in their dispensation, some be­nevolent ends of his moral government.

LET us then improve the present occasion, in connection with that distressing event, in which it has taken birth, to the purpose of imbuing our minds with some salutary and useful instruction. It is an occasion singular and novel, in the annals of our country, as it is interesting to the present ge­neration. [Page 7] The death of a man like one of us, has whelmed our country in the gloom of mourning, A man, like Joshua of old, has been raised up, from among his brethren, whose important services, pre­eminent virtues, and high excellence of character, have so endeared him with the hearts of his coun­trymen, that his death has caused every description of persons to unite in testimonials of deepest regret. The enthusiasm of sorrow has, on this occasion, been indulged; and the tears of America have flowed, in copious effusion, over the tomb of her departed WASHINGTON. "From Georgia to Maine, and from the skirts of the ocean to the habitations of the wilderness," the accents of grief have dwelt on every tongue; the gloom of despondency has sat on every brow. Eloquence has lavished all her stores, and put forth all her energies! Districts and corporations have met together, with the badges of mourning and the insignia of wo, to mingle their condolences, to recount his virtues, to com­memorate his achievements and to blazon his fame. But it is now time that the tide of grief— the enthusiasm of sorrow, should have subsided. It is now time that reason and the moral feelings should resume their wonted calm, dispassionate tone. With a desire therefore to meet the inten­tion [Page 8] of our political fathers, in the appointment of this commemoration, let us turn our regards to such obvious and interesting truths, as the occasion is calculated to suggest.

IT suggests, in the first place, the real con­nection of eminent superlative worth, with honor­able fame. Before us, is presented a signal evi­dence, depraved and degenerate as the human kind are, of the power of merit and real goodness, to command esteem, veneration and love. However brilliancy of talents may be envied and maligned; however temporary usefulness, prompted by tem­porary good intention, may be misconstrued or neglected; yet uniform inflexible integrity, inde­fatigable virtue, and persevering disinterested benefi­cence, will meet approbation and be crowned with honor. It is the appropriate privilege of such a character, to rise above envy, malice and faction. On such a character the clashing of cabals will often reflect additional lustre; the anathemas of disappointed partizans will in due time, be changed to congratulatory praises; the labyrinth of error and misrepresentation, as he proceeds in the strait course of benevolent exertion, will gradually un­ravel; and when he finishes his part and makes [Page 9] his exit, envy will die; and the full burst of ap­plause will break forth, to consecrate his memory and perpetuate his fame.

AGAIN we are led, on the present occasion, to analyze the individual attributes of an illustrious character; and to consider, in what its grandeur precisely consists. The virtues, which constitute greatness, conciliate love, and attract veneration, are fidelity and sincerity, modesty and moderation, consistency and regularity, humanity and compas­sion. These virtues informed by wisdom—in­spired by disinterested philanthropy and undissem­bled piety, form the excellence of that character, which Americans will ever delight to extol. Courage and cunning—intrepidity in the field, and penetration in the cabinet, are doubtless qualities, which he eminently possessed. But these features of his character, are only the rude prominences of that fair piece, which, with infinite profit, we may critically survey.

TO question the heroism of him, who led our armies to victory and to glory, no one could pre­tend. To deny the merit of profound sagacity to him, who conducted our political bark, with so [Page 10] much success, thro' so many dangers, would be equally unjust. Yet the humane and benevolent virtues, inspired by the noblest principles, actuated by the purest motives, and exerted with most dis­tinguished fidelity, perseverance and utility, are the traits, which have exalted him far above oth­ers, who may have surpassed him in the trade of slaughter. Introduced upon the public theatre, at an eventful and important crisis; placed in a situ­ation, which offered scope to patriotic and benevo­lent exertion, and possessing an adventrous mind, and a generous disinterested heart, he, in every period and department of his public functions, dis­played the full lustre of those virtues abovemen­tioned. Incorruptible in his principles, indefatiga­ble in his duties, immoveable in his designs, and firm and steady to the trust reposed in him, he evinced and exemplified that constancy of virtue and purity of motive, from which nothing could tempt him to swerve.

WE are not unconscious, that the brightest human characters will ever be shaded with much imperfection. We are conscious moreover, that the fictitious representation of a faultless monster, would be affrontive to reason, and disgusting to an [Page 11] enlightened hearer. But if indiscriminate, undi­minished applause were due to any one man, we would cheerfully bestow it on our departed bene­factor, father and friend. Let me not be accused of casting incense on the altar of an idol if I say, that he stands forth, the highest approximation, which story exhibits, or the annals of our country affords, to that species of character, which philoso­phy loves to portray, and the despots of the world, in vain, would assume. He has not presented an ex­ception to the maxim, that modesty is ever an appen­dage of true greatness. His modest, unassuming dis­position and deportment, strikingly appear, in all his official and popular addresses. The diffidence and self distrust with which he accepted appointments assigned him, could only be equalled by that hum­ble piety and modest affability, with which he re­turned the congratulations of success, in the issue. To himself he arrogates nothing;—to that sove­reign providence, which governs the affairs of the world, he ascribes every auspicious event.

THE benevolence of his heart conspired with the faculties of his mind, to form a character sub­stantially useful, not ostentatiously great. Of his correctness, dispatch and promptitude in business; [Page 12] his uniformity, decorum and consistency in every sphere of life; his moderation in prosperity, and firmness and fortitude under misfortune; his cle­mency to the vanquished, compassion to the miser­able, and humanity towards all men—of these things, the whole series of his public labors are a legible and fair document. The love of his coun­try and the love of mankind, reigned pure in his soul, without any alloy of avarice or ambition. While his mercenary antagonist fattened on the spoils of his country, he made a noble sacrifice of wealth as well as of ease and pleasure, and served his country without any emolument. That disin­terestedness, which forms the discriminating line between a WASHINGTON, and the proud pretend­ers to unmerited fame, will be subject of eulogy so long as merit shall be revered. Posterity, in retrac­ing back the current of events, to the memorable epoch of our national birth, with admiration, will contemplate our political Salvator at the closing pe­riod of his military toils and dangers—crowned with conquest, firm in the affections and confidence of his veteran soldiers—putting off his armor, resign­ing back his power, and retiring to the situation of a private citizen. Nor will posterity be uninfor­med, with what greatness he, at a subsequent pe­riod, [Page 13] repelled the assaults of the demon of ambi­tion. By a powerful tho' corrupt combination, importuned, to place himself at the head of his country, and assume the title and the powers of royalty, he declared his resolution to expatriate himself, rather than do an act, which would de­grade him to a level with a Cromwell or a Cesar— Proofs palpable and convincive of that pure, disin­terested philanthropy, which inspired and actuated all his exertions! To this source, and not to a blind, misguided, local attachment, we are to refer the many sacrifices he made for the good of his country; the various expedients he adopted, to render himself useful; the various forms under which he took occasion to exemplify goodness; that ardent activity which filled his days; and that universality of character under which we recognize him. Hence that consistency, uniformity and cor­rectness throughout; that harmony of principle with practice, of motive with duty, of private with public life, which can never be preserved by the interested, the sordid or the insincere. And shall not that unexampled accumulation of honor and public esteem, thus acquired, form a new bond of attachment with us, to the same principle and the same conduct? Are you charmed with the august [Page 14] and lovely image of so much benevolence, so nobly exerted? If so, then cultivate the same divine spir­it. Does thy bosom bound with honest ardor, to merit the praises which are bestowed on this orna­ment of our country? Then emulate his virtues, and copy his example. Think not, that his merit and this consequent renown, is the exclusive privi­lege even of the best man; for no man is privileg­ed with such a monopoly. The qualities and the virtues, which have consecrated his memory, we have seen, were such as we may possess. Though we cannot all move in his elevated sphere—be first in council and first in the field; yet it may be in the power of every one, to be second to none in fidelity and sincerity, honesty and regularity, modesty and humility, humanity and compassion.

FINALLY, we have presented in view a shining example, of the union of moral goodness with genuine piety; and of that stable basis, which religion affords, of all that is excellent in human conduct. Too often have the pretenders to greatness been ashamed of religion. Religion they have considered as fit only to awe the stupid and the vile. They have regarded it as a yoke, under which the wise, the mighty, and the noble of this [Page 15] world ought not to submit their necks. But the man, to whose greatness we reluctantly acknow­ledge a parallel, was not so far exalted above himself, as to overlook the importance of vital pie­ty. He respected it, as the bond of social order and union, and the grand support of the duties of men and citizens. He cherished it, as the only anchor of safety, amidst the changes and miseries of this uncertain state. And we have just reason to believe that in the last dire exigency of nature, he buoyed up his spirits with its divine consolations. He had not become a proselyte to that miserable philoso­phy, which is blind to the clear evidence of divine revelation: he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. To the wise institutes and sacred rituals of christianity, he paid the most scrupulous attention. He regarded with due deference, the holy sabbath. And he was constant, on that day, in the worship of God, in his church.—But the pleasure, with which I make mention of this last article, is mingled with a sensation of deep regret. Shall I believe myself standing on christian ground, that I should exhibit this humble trait, as appreciating the worth of an illustrious character? When I reflect on the prevailing indifference to every thing sacred, in this corner of our country, can hardly believe myself [Page 16] surrounded, at this moment, with a sufficient num­ber of the friends of Jesus, to shield me from oblo­quy, should I enlarge on this topic. Blush, O my fellow sinner! Will you believe, that you have less reason to bow down before GOD, and to ask his protection, than the greatest and best of men?

IN this sober, monitory season, we are loudly admonished by the impression of the occasion, to look to our moral state; to trace out our defections, lapses and crimes, and form resolutions of instant amendment. While sighing under the pressure of a most distressing public calamity, it becomes us with all humility, to review our moral character and conduct, as a people; diligently to search out the plague of our own heart; and seriously to examine the causes, by which we are incurring the frown of an offended Deity. In this examination, shall we not deplore and lament that speculative and practical infidelity, which too much character­izes the present generation,—that dereliction of sound principle both moral and religious; that contemptuous neglect of the truths and ordinances of our holy religion; that decay of the social and patriotic virtues; that destitution of benevolence; and that virulent, uncandid reciprocation of abuse [Page 17] and calumny, which has taken rise and gained frequency, in our political controversies? And now that we are surveying with consternation, a most melancholy chasm, in our system of national defence; shall we not unitedly resolve to renounce our corrupting and demoralizing habits; and ex­ert our combined endeavors, to check that nation­al degeneracy, which is threatening to destroy us? Convinced of the folly as well as guilt, of vainly relying on the strength of man—convinced of the high importance of rendering propitious the great Governor of the world; and taught in his holy word, and in the uniform experience of all na­tions, that they only are happy, who have the Lord for their GOD; let us resolve, by repentance, to forsake our sins, and to walk in future, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our lives. Reverencing, adoring, and obeying the GOD of our fathers; let us obey from the heart, the gospel of his son Jesus Christ; and religiously observe its divine institutions. Denying ungodli­ness and worldly lusts, let us live soberly, righteously and godly in this world, the fashion of which is passing away. Then shall we be a peculiar people to the Lord our GOD. GOD, even our own GOD, shall then give us his blessing. Our [Page 18] righteousness shall then go before us. Our light and our health shall break forth, as the morning, and the glory of the Lord shall be our rereward.

FINIS:

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