TO the Inhabitants of the Second Parish in Cam­bridge, who requested a Copy of the following Discourse for the Press:


Prompted solely by the conviction, that a laudable desire to retain, in your families, some small token of respect, commemorative of our late beloved WASHING­TON, has induced you to solicit the publication of the following performanceI am therefore constrained to comply with your request.

Your friend, THE AUTHOR.

A SERMON, ON THE DEATH OF General George Washington.


TO bestow a respectful tribute on departed worth, and to cherish the precious memory of our greatest human benefactor, is the urgent duty, which our grateful and afflicted hearts now dictate and impel us to perform. The melancholy tidings of the death of Washington, which were announced to us, the last week, call us to take a part in the af­fliction so universally felt and deplored.

WHILE we, with these emblems of mourning,* pay a respectful tribute to his memory, and em­balm him in our hearts, it becometh us suitably to notice and improve this dispensation of Divine Pro­vidence [Page 6] so afflictive, and so fruitful of instruction to us all. To evince the sorrow we feel, in this distressing event, and our readiness to contribute what is in our power, in honoring the memory and perpetuating the example of this most estimable and amiable man, we shall improve and apply the words before us.

IN all ages of the world, monuments of grati­tude and same have been raised, and funeral ho­nors paid, to the memory of great and good men. But no one, I presume, can be found in the records of profane history, who has been more truly great and good, and more deserving such honorable tri­bute, than our late much loved WASHINGTON.

ALL, who have had ears to hear, eyes to see, understandings to comprehend, or honesty to con­fess, must acknowledge and admire the extraordi­nary talents, the great achievements, the brilliant virtues and the benevolent services, of the deliverer and guide of this American Nation. And if the children of Isreal had occasion to deplore the loss of Moses, well may America weep for the death of her WASHINGTON.

THE text intimates the duty of paying a just tribute to character: of suitably mourning, the loss of the wise and good. The words express the weeping and mourning, which the children of Is­rael manifested for the loss of their illustrious lea­der. The life of Moses was continued useful and important to them even to its last hour; when he died his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

[Page 7] HE was raised up, to be the instrument of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and the ap­pointed medium of their blessings, as the favorite people of God, and of their preservation as a na­tion. And as a General, Politician and Lawgiver, the world had never beheld his equal. With the enemies, they were called to encounter; in their unparalleled journey through the dreary desert; and in the administration of their laws and govern­ment, we see Moses at their head. However vari­ous their success, he was a sharer with them. He partook in their misfortunes as well as in their victories; in their distresses, as well as in their joy­ous intervals; in their alternate periods of depres­sion and elevation; and was with them through the whole series of adverse and prosperous events, that successively awaited them, from Egypt to Jordan, and on him devolved the responsibility of a most sacred and important trust. And when he had faithfully and successfully discharged his duty, and as an instrument in the hands of Jehovah, had dispensed incalculable good to his countrymen, he was taken from them, at a moment, they were to enjoy the promised and procured inheritance.—And well might they weep for him. The remem­brance of his eminent services, and the considera­tion of the privileges and blessings he had been in­strumental in procuring for them, uniting there­with, the thought of the loss of their guide, must have greatly increased the affliction of a separation. He had become endeared to them, by every tie of obligation and gratitude, and their attachment to him was interwoven with the first affections of their [Page 8] hearts. Though his departure by death was an e­vent, they had been taught to expect; yet when they were called to realize the separation, they were greatly afflicted, they wept.

MOSES had been forewarned of his approaching end; though he had lived to see his people enter­ing on the enjoyment of their inheritance; yet it was the decree of God, that he should not live to enjoy the inheritance with them. The period of his dissolution now drawing nigh, and desirous of taking his leave of them, in a manner correspond­ing with a life that had been devoted to their wel­fare, he assembled them in the plains of Moab, and there enumerated the many signal interpositions of Providence in their behalf. He also reminded them of their laws and peculiar duties, and encouraged them to perseverance and fidelity, with the assur­ance, "that if they kept God's commandments, blessings would be showered down upon them, but if they neglected them, calamities would befall them." Having thus performed the various offices of his great trust, and having prepared for his na­tion, some important counsels and instructions for their future conduct, as the best legacy he could leave, he then took a solemn and affecting farewell of them. He then retired to the Mount, from whence he could view the promised land and the countries round about. Uniting with his delight­ful view, the consideration of having conducted his countrymen to the enjoyment of their inheritance, he must have enjoyed a noble, a rich reward for all his cares and labour. "He then resigned his soul [Page 9] into the hands of angels, waiting to convey it to the heavenly Canaan."

And the Children of Israel wept for Moses, in the Plains of Moab. Such were the peculiar and affecting circumstances, which occasioned these words; words, which the sacred historian has re­corded as commemorative of the affectionate tri­bute of a grateful people, and the funeral honors paid by them, to the memory of their guide and benefactor.

IN this transient view of the character in which Moses was appointed to act and conduct as the de­liverer and leader of his nation, we see a striking resemblance to the part, which Washington has per­formed, in behalf of this American Israel. In hav­ing such a man as our deliverer, our guide and our head, is an exclusive privilege, which we can glory in, as the Children of Israel did, "above all the other nations of the earth." As the deliverer and political saviour of our nation, he has been the same to us, as Moses was to the Children of Israel. He was early raised up, by Divine Providence, to espouse the cause of freedom, to infuse into our breasts the invincible love of our country—to unite us in its defence, and to become the great instru­ment of delivering us from oppression and bondage, and of giving us liberty and independence. And will it be too much for me to say, that the Ameri­can nation, with their Washington, emancipated and made free and happy by him, shall be handed down to distant posterity, and perpetuated with as much fame and glory, in the annals of profane history, as [Page 10] the Children of Israel, with their Moses, are cele­brated in the sacred writings.

VAIN and fruitless would be the attempt to exhi­bit a just delineation of Washington's character. In drawing it off, much of the original would be lost.

SUCH an assemblage of talents and virtues, such a coincidence of circumstances and events so wisely managed, such peculiar opportunities so usefully improved, accompanied with such invariable inte­grity, uprightness and purity of conduct, all issuing in such happy success and unclouded glory—but rarely fall to the lot of man, and seldom found united in the human character.

WHETHER we view him in the field, as the man of war, in the cabinet, as the counsellor, in the presi­dential chair as our head, or in the private walks of life, as a citizen, our admiration is equally ex­cited.

To determine true worth of character, however, we endeavour to ascertain principles and motives, as well as to notice great actions, and beneficial services. In this point of view, the character of Washington will bear the closest examination. Re­ligious principle, guiding disinterested benevolence and true patriotism, constitutes an important, and may I not say, the leading trait, in his character. As the joint influence of these, is the foundation of every thing great and good in man; so it is the ba­sis on which the dignified and illustrious character [Page 11] of Washington was raised. It rendered the com­manding and influential exercise of his wonderful talents, still more commanding and influential. Without religious principle, great abilities and pe­culiar opportunities are always liable to be pervert­ed to purposes of mischief; nor is there any safety in committing power and trust to their management. But where religious principle is established and in operation, there we may confidently look for the most useful improvement of every talent, and the strictest fidelity in the discharge of every duty. The commanding and directing energy of this prin­ciple, holds a distinguished place in the splendid character of Washington, and may be compared to that of the Sun in the centre of the system, whose essential and constant emanations impart a benign influence, resplendent lustre and glory to the whole. In him, we behold the rare union and display of unexampled calmness and magnanimity; of deep penetration and sound judgment; of undaunted intrepidity and exemplary prudence; of invincible perseverance and watchful circumspection, in the execution of measures the wisest and best, controul­ed and guided by a prevailing principle of piety and disinterested benevolence. We behold him, making subservient to his noble designs, the com­plete government of all his passions, and every re­source within the compass of his comprehensive, dispassionate and discerning mind; and devoting himself to his God, to the welfare of his country, and to the good of mankind. Some have perform­ed important public services, done great exploits, and made themselves celebrated, from motives of [Page 12] interest, pride and ambition. Honour, power, and extension of dominion, were their governing objects. But characters formed from such views, are seldom maintained or supported long; the disclosure of their ignoble and interested designs, sooner or later, becomes a great drawback on their real worth and fame, and tarnishes all their glory.

EXTRAORDINARY talents, profound penetration, distinguished improvements, wealth, honour, power, or the glory of conquest, do not of themselves de­cide the true characters of men, nor render them the benefactors of mankind. The end, to which such peculiar advantages and opportunities are ap­plied, must be taken into consideration. Their true estimate is formed, from the principles and motives which actuate and govern them; from the objects they have in view; and from the good they actually intend, and are instrumental in dispensing to man­kind, by their talents, opportunities and conduct.

SOME, by seizing a fortunate coincidence of events, and the opportunities of the moment, have put themselves at the head of revolutions, from selfish and personal views, to elevate themselves to conspicuous stations, and not from any regard to the cause they espouse, nor to the good of mankind. Such popular leaders, void of religion, true patriot­ism or humanity, have spread devastation and car­nage far and wide, waded through seas of blood, to the eminence they sought, and have made, not merely those they subdued, but even those they led, the enslaved tributaries to their sensuality and pow­er. Others also there have been, who performed [Page 13] extraordinary services for their fellow men, and then have exacted extraordinary compensation, either by actaual demands, or by making use of their power for the sordid purposes of their own aggrandize­ment.

WHAT an interesting contrast to the characters of such pretended patriots, is that of Washington! How insignificant do they become, by the enviable comparison! He transcends them, as the reality does the name, or the substance the shadow.

IN this point of view, how vastly does he surpass even an Alexander and a Pompey, whose names are so celebrated in the annals of history. He re­sisted the strongest temptations and allurements, that power and elevated station could possibly offer. An opportunity occurred, at the close of the revolu­tionary war, which put his integrity and patriotism to the greatest test. It evinced, beyond suspicion, the purity of his principles and motives. The im­poverished state of the country, occasioned by the contest, rendered it impracticable to make that im­mediate compensation, which the services of the brave officers and soldiers deserved; dissatisfaction consequently arose, and a proposition was made, not to disband till their demands were satisfactorily requited.* Enjoying the unbounded confidence of the people, whom he had delivered, and having, at pleasure, the entire controul and direction of the views of the revolutionary army, Washington was [Page 14] presented with the opportunity, accompanied by every allurement, to make himself Sovereign of Empire, without even the appearance of usurpation. The disposal of his country was then completely in his power. Others, whose military career had not been so glorious, and whose temptations were not so fascinating, have, at such a moment, usurped the reins of government, assumed the right of requital and established their own power and authority.

BUT power, in the hands of Washington, was safe He could employ it for no other purpose, but to defend the rights and liberties he had vindicated; he could devote it only to the welfare of his coun­try.

How nobly great does he appear, in rising supe­rior to such temptations! Displaying such an ex­ample of piety, self-government, integrity, patriot­ism and benevolence, his character stands unrivalled. After he had conquered his enemy, he could gain a still greater victory, by conquering himself, and not permitting those passions of human nature, which so commonly stain the characters of con­querors and heroes, to have the least influence over him. He thereby acquired additional glory to his character, in having exemplified the truth, that He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and be that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.

WITH a dignity and nobleness of mind, better conceived than described, he returned the power and commission, with which he had been intrusted; declining compensation for any part of his services, [Page 15] he retired, "refulgent in glory," to the private walks of life, a citizen with other citizens; and converting his military implements to the uses of husbandry, he cherished the hope that he should have no occasion to learn war any more.

WHILE, my brethren, we are thus viewing the principles and motives, which so evidently govern­ed our beloved Washington, and which greatly en­hance the worth of his illustrious character; do not those peculiar sensations return, which were excited in many of your breasts towards him, from the be­ginning to the close of the war? To whom, but to him, were your expectations directed, in the doubt­ful events of the year 1775?* Amidst the various success that attended the whole contest, through the course of seven years, was not the preservation of the invaluable life of your Leader, the object of your unremitting solicitude and your most earnest prayer? That he jeoparded his life in the fields of battle, for the salvation of his country; that he performed many warlike achievements; that he de­feated all the designs of a formidable foe: and com­pletely rescued and established your rights, are circumstances known and familiar to you.

AND verily he was raised up, by the providence of God, to be our deliverer and leader: and in calling to mind the many important events, that have taken place, for twenty-five years past, events [Page 16] that have contributed to lay the foundation and finish the superstructure of the American Republic, Washington is the first and principal personage that meets our view, and claims our gratitude. "Our guide in war, our head in peace."

AND what▪ my brethren, but a true and ardent love of country induced him to be among the first, in the vindication of our liberties, and the foremost to meet a powerful enemy, with unequal, and then unorganized troops, amidst countless discourage­ments, difficulties and dangers; and to forego thereby, the ease and enjoyment, which opulence and the tranquil abode of private life, were calcu­lated to bestow?—But especially having accom­plished our independence and peace, covered with glory and grey in service, what, but the welfare of his country, and that love for it, which still glowed in his breast, could have recalled him, once and again,* from his peaceful retreat, to accept the Presidency of our confederate Republic, and to sus­tain the weight and unusual cares of government, in a most critical and difficult juncture of affairs. And when, by his wisdom, prudence and example, he had aided the establishment and guided the ope­ration of our National Government, he once more retired to the shades of Mount Vernon, and there held himself in readiness, at his country's call, to [Page 17] assist in times of difficulty and threatened danger.* In his farewell address to his countrymen, he seem­ed impressed with the idea, that his death must take place before many years—that "he must shortly be consigned to the mansions of rest"—and he ex­pressed a wish to close his life in that retirement, which had always been the favorite spot of his resi­dence. His farewell was accompanied, like that of Moses to the Children of Israel, with the best legacy that "the father of his country could leave." It contains such counsel and advice, as cannot be read too often, nor treasured up and practised with too much care. "They are the advice and disin­terested warnings of a parting friend, who could have no personal motives to bias his counsel." In that valuable instruction and advice, Washington though dead yet speaketh. Yes—though dead, he liveth in his fame, in his example, in his virtues, and in the grateful remembrance of his country.

WASHINGTON, as in his life, so in the hour of his death, somewhat resembled the celebrated leader of Israel. Like Moses, his eye was not dim, nor his na­tural force abated. His body and mind were unim­paired by service or by age; his life was important and useful to its last hour; and the Mount to which [Page 18] he had retired, became the place of his death and burial.*

IT becometh us, my hearers, to cherish his pre­cious memory with gratitude and affection, and to conduct ourselves in a manner, that would comport with his wishes, was his life spared and continued to us. Could we—But alas! Washington is dead! What unusual sadness has it already spread through every heart! What gloom, over every countenance! What mourning, throughout our land! My father! The chariot of Is­rael, and the horsemen thereof!

ILLUSTRIOUS shade! If the country, thou hast saved, has still any share in thy regard, or in any way can yet receive thy care or influence, let all her councils, measures and conduct be such as thy wisdom would dictate, and thy prudence guide. She now offers thee, the last tribute of honour and gratitude, for thy long incessant toil, care and labor. Though we can no more repair to thee, for guid­ance in the hour of danger, nor thou—come to our relief, "to snatch us from impending fate," to save our land from servitude, to lead our armies to vic­tory, and by thy skilful hand to conduct our nation in the ascending grades of prosperity and glory; yet the sons of America will never cease to revere thy memory, to preserve the grateful recollection of thy [Page 19] benevolent and heroic deeds, to imitate thy virtues and to perpetuate thy character and achievements from generation to generation!

THE past subject, in connection with this melan­choly event, teaches us that the death of great and good men is an occasion of deep mourning and la­mentation to mankind, but especially to the people, to whom such characters were more immediately useful and important.

THE Children of Israel mourned for their guide, they wept for Moses in the plains of Moab. And great was the loss which they deplored. Scarcely less sorrowful is the occasion, or less afflictive the death now felt and deplored by this American Israel. The Children of Columbia now weep for Washing­ton in the plains of America. Nor is it a loss to America only, but to the world: his name is gone forth into all the civilized nations of the earth. Such instances of pre-eminent virtue and patriot­ism, but rarely bless the world. What an inesti­mable treasure, to a nation, are such talents—such experience—such a heart—as Washington's! What a resource—what a safeguard—in all seasons of na­tional perplexity and danger! The privation of such a character, is a loss incalculable!

WHILE we deplore his death, let us be thankful that he has been continued so long to us, and that so many blessings have been dispensed to us through his instrumentality. And as we have heretofore regarded the continuance of his life, as a token of divine favor towards us; so we are now reminded, [Page 20] that his removal from us is an evidence of divine displeasure. The removal of so good, so great and so important a character is a frown of Heaven, on the nation, an awful reproof for its ingratitude and wickedness. Depriving a people of their guides, is withdrawing the instruments of their protection and prosperity, and consequently preparing them for the divine judgments which are about to be execut­ed upon them. Such was God's procedure with his ancient people, when they rebelled against him, as we are assured by the words of the prophet. Be­hold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts doth take away from Judah and Jerusalem, the stay and the staff, the mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, the prudent, the ancient, the honorable man and the counsellor.

WHEN the stations and places of such characters are made destitute, where shall we find others to fill them. There are no more Washington's in America—no—nor on the earth. He that wounds alone can heal, he that has made the breach alone can repair.

2d. WE are also taught, my brethren, that there is no defence or security against the great and uni­versal destroyer, death. Amidst the vigorous ex­ercise and extensive usefulness of the greatest talents of the greatest men, and in the splendor of their glory, death approaches, spreads its awful ravages, and closes the scene.

How many wise and good, have been swept away with the preceeding generations! Many within our [Page 21] own recollection, whose departure from the world was an irreparable loss! Communities have been deprived of their civil and moral guides; and na­tions, of their wise men and rulers. The shields of the earth, and the benefactors of mankind, must did, like other men—there is no dischargeVerily man at his best estate is altogether vanity.

SOON, my hearers, we shall all be transmitted to the world of spirits. We must stand in our lot, not only in this world, but also in the world to come. Let it then be our great concern, in our several sta­tions and character in life, to act our part well on the theatre of the world, that; at last, we may be approved of God, and found of our Judge in peace. And when the great drama of life shall close, may we unite with the spirits of the just made perfect, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joys upon our heads.


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