Category Archives: Sermons

Item of the Day: Mr. Bridge’s Election Sermon (May 27, 1789)

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour; His Honor Benjamin Lincoln, Esq. Lieutenant-Governour; The Honourable The Council, Senate and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 27, 1789. Being the Day of General Election. By Josiah Bridge, A.M. Pastor of the Church in East-Sudbury. Boston: Printed by Adams & Nourse, Printers to The Honourable General Court, M,DCC,LXXXIX. [1789]



Election SERMON.


GOD standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty; He judgeth among the GODS.

THIS passage of scripture may well possess the minds of this mumerous and respectable audience, with reverence and a sacred awe, before him, who is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints; and who will be sactified in all them that come nigh to him: It is particularly adapted to arrest the most serious attention of our honoured Rulers; at whose invitation we are assembled in the House of God on this auspicious anniversay, –to supplicate the Divine Presence with them, and his smiles and blessing upon the special business of the day; and their admiration of government the ensuing year; and to enquire of him from his word, agreeable to the laudable practice of our pious Progenitors, from the first settlement of the country, to the present period.

Our text has a primary reference to the Rulers of God’s ancient covenant people. But as this passage of scripture is of no private interpretation, it will as fitly apply to our civil fathers now before God, as the the Jewish Sanhedrim of old.

The words before us, will naturally lead us —“To make some brief and general observations on government.” —The propriety and usefulness of an assembly, for conducting the important affairs of it. —The sublime characters rulers sustain. —The Surpeme Ruler present with them, as an observer, and judge; ready for their assistance and support, when acting up to their character; and carefully noticing whenever they lose sight of the great end of their appointment: And the powerful influence, the consideration of his presence and inspection must have, to engage them in a conscientious discharge of the duties of their exalted stations. May I be indulged your serious and candid attention, while I attempt to dilate a little, upon these several particulars; all obviously contained in, or easily deducible from our text. God standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty: He judgeth among the Gods.

That our text applies to the supreme government of a community, and involves the various departments of it, is readily seen by looking into the Psalm before us; where we find this congregation of the mighty, reproved for the improper use of their power, and a different mode of conduct enjoined upon them. “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and needy: Deliver the poor and needy, rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Civil government is both a dictate of nature, and revelation; and is accordingly indifferently denominated, the ordinance of God, and the ordinance of man. Man was originally formed for society, and furnished with faculties adapted thereto: Faculties for the improvement of which social intercourse is indispensably necessary. Some of the most important duties, and refined delights of human life are of the social kind.

In order to obtain the benefits of society, civil rule is essentially requisite. Those lusts of men, from whence come wars and fightings, are so prevalent in this apostate world, that they are obliged to form compacts and combinations, for mutual assistance and support. And there is perhaps no people no [sic] earth, however uncultivated and barbarous, but who have adopted some kind of civil polity.

The light and law of nature, which uniformly urges to this mode of procedure, may well be accepted, as an expression of the divine will: For God addresses the human mind in divers manners; and he does it by the voice of reason, as well as revelation.

The providence of God is particularly concerned, in elevating man to post of honour and dignity; and giving them a seat among the congregation of the mighty. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and fitteth up another.” “By me (says wisdom, or that glorious Being who is the wisdom of God) by me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” And in the New-Testament, we have the same idea held up, in terms equally express. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power, but of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” Again, “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the King, as supreme, or unto Governours, as unto them that are sent by him for the pinishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God.”

These declarations apply to civil government in general, which is indispensably necessary to social felicity and safety. But they are by no means to be extended to every mode of government that has obtained among mankind: Not certainly to despotic and lawless domination. This is not the ordinance of God. Nor indeed any other government, but such a sprotects the subjects in the peaceable possession of their just rights, properties and priviledges.

. . . Power is an intoxicating quality; and for a single individual to be vested with sovereign rule, is subjecting him to a temptation too strong for human virtue. A desire of pre-eminence is a natural passion, and when properly restrained, may prove highly beneficial to society. But when it has a full free course, and attains the summit of its wish, and feels itself without controul; the  subject of this undue elevation, is apt to be puffed up with pride, to become intolerably supercilious and tyrannical; and to trample upon those rights of the community, and individuals, which it is the prime design of government to protect.

Wherever the will of a despot is the supreme law, the great end of government is usually perverted. This is sufficently attested by facts: And it is no other than what might justly be expected from the nature of man.  . . .


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Filed under 1780's, Early Republic, Elections, Government, Massachusetts, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Sermons

Item of the Day: Gordon’s Thanksgiving Discourse (1775)

Full Title:

Mr. Gordon’s Thanksgiving Discourse.  A Discourse Preached December 15th 1774.  Being the Day Recommended by the Provincial Congress; and Afterwards at the Boston Lecture.  By William Gordon.  Pastor of the Third Church of Roxbury.  Boston:  Printed for, and sold by Thomas Leverett, in Corn-Hill.  1775.

From Lam. III. 22.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his companions fail not.

The pulpit is devoted, in general, to more important purposes, than the fate of kingdoms, or the civil rights of human nature; being intended, to recover men from the slavery of sin and satan–to point out their escape from future misery, through faith in a crucified Jesus–and to assist them in their preparations for eternal blessedness:  But still, there are special times and seasons when it may treat of politics.  And surely, if it is allowable for some who occupy it, by preaching up the doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience, to vilify the principles, and to sap the foundations of that glorious revolution, that exalted the house of Hanover to the British throne; it ought to be no transgression in others, nor be construed into a want of loyalty, to speak consistently with those approved tenets, that have made George the third, the first of European sovereigns, who otherwise, with all his personal virtues, might have lived an obscure Elector. 

Having then, the past morning of this provincial thanksgiving, accommodated the text to the case of individuals, I shall now dedicate it, according to its original intention, to the service of the public, the situation of whose affairs, is, both distressing and alarming.

The capital of the colony is barbarously treated, pretendedly for a crime, but actually, for the noble stand she has made in favor of liberty, against the partisans of slavery.  She has distinguished herself by an animated opposition to arbitrary and unconstitutional proceedings; and therefore has been markt out, by ministerial vengeance, to be made an example of, whereby to terrify other American cities into a tame submission.  She is an example–and, thanks to heaven! an example of patience and fortitude, to the no small mortification of her enemies, whose own base feelings led them to imagine, that she would immediately become an abject supplicant for royal favour, tho’ at the expence of natural and charter’d rights.  May some future historian, the friend of mankind and citizen of the world, have to record in his faithful and ever-living page, that she never truckled, though British sailors and soldiers, contrary to their natural affection for the cause of liberty, were basely employed to intimidate her; but perseveringly held out, through the fiery trial, ’till a revolution of men and measures brought on her deliverance!

But it is not the capital alone that suffers.  The late venal Parliament, in compliance with the directions of administration, have, under the false colour of regulating the government of the colony, mutilated its charter, and conveyed dangerous power to individuals, for the enforcing and maintaining those encroachments, that they have ventured, in defiance of common equity, to make upon the rights of a free people.–And had not the calmness and prudence of others supplied their lack of wisdom, the country might by this time have become an Aceldama.

Upon the principles, which the British legislature have adopted in their late extraordinary proceedings, I see not, how we can be certain of any one privilege–nor what hinders our being really in a state of slavery to an aggregate of masters, whose tyranny may be worse than that of a single despot–nor that a man can with propriety say, his soul’s his own, and not the spring to move his bodily machine, in the performance of whatever drudgery his lords may appoint–nor that the public have a permanent and valuable constitution.  If the British legislature is the constitution, or superior to the constitution, Magna Charta, the bill of rights, and the protestant succession, these boasts of Britons, are the toys to please the vulgar, and not solid securities[…]

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion, Revolution, Sermons, United States

Item of the Day: The Law of Liberty (1775)

Full Title: The Law of Liberty. A Sermon on American Affairs, Preached at the Opening of the Provincial Congress of Georgia. Addressed to the Right Honourable The Earl of Dartmouth. With an Appendix, Giving a Concise Account of the Struggles of Swisserland [sic] to Recover their Liberty. By John J. Zubly. Philadelphia: Printed and Sold by Henry Miller, 1775. . . .

To the Right Honourable



My Lord,

YOUR Lordship’s appointment to be Secretary of State for the American department, by numbers that respected your Lordship’s religious character, was looked upon as a very providential and happy event. Your patronizing of religious undertakings, confirmed the general opinion, and we were happy in the expectations of your Lordship’s conscientious regard to justice and equity, as well as to the civil and religious liberties of this great Continent; we expected the cause of liberty and religion would meet with the strongest support under your administration, and in your Lordship would ever find a cosntant and successful advocate with your royal master.

Unhappily during your administration, measures have been pursued very contrary to American hopes, and we easily conceive your Lordship may think it not less strange that many friends of religion in America should be so uneasy under laws which had your Lordship’s concurrence and approbation.

It is to the Man and to the Christian I wish to be permitted to address myself: Your Lordship ranks among the highest subjects, and has a large share in all public measures, but anxiety for what may distress, and zeal for the welfare of the empire, can be no crime even in the meanest; and when a house is once in flames, every man is inexcusable, or must at least be so in his own breast, that does not contibute whatever he may think in his power to their being extinguished. The effects of the present measures are visible, and it requires no sagacity to foresee what may be the consequence, should they be continued. Your Lordship may do much towards restoring and perpetuating the tranquility of a great empire; persons of my station have nothing to offer but hints and wishes, should these be beneath your notice, or stand in need of forgiveness, my sincere wish to contibute any thing towards a just, happy and perpetual connexion between a parent state and an infant country growing apace to the most astonishing importance, must be my only apology. Pulchrum est bene facere reipublicae, sed & bene dicere non est absurdum.

The question, My Lord, which now agitates Great-Britain and America, and in which your Lordship has taken such an active part, is, whether the Parliament of Great Britain has a right to lay taxes on the Americans, who are not, and cannot, there be represented, and whether the Parliament has a right to bind the Americans in all cases whatsoever? Whatever may be said, or whatever the good people in Great-Britain may believe, this is the whole subject of the dispute. All the severities hitherto exercised upon the Americans professedly have no other view than to enforce such a dependance, and nothing less than a claim destructive of all natural and national liberty, could possibly have united all Ameria in a general opposition, or have aroused them to join all like one man in their common defence. Let a declaratory bill be passed, that any law and usage to the contrary notwithstanding, America is entitled to all the common rights of mankind and all the blessings of the British constitution, that the sword shall never be drawn to abridge, but to confirm, her birthright, and the storm instantly becomes a calm, and every American thinks himself happy to contribute to the necessities, defence and glory of Great-Britain to the utmost of his strength and power.

To bind them in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER, my Lord, the Americans look upon this as the language of despotism in its utmost perfection. What can, say they, an Emperor of Morocco pretend more of his slaves than to bind them in all cases whatsoever. Were it meant to make the Americans hewers of wood and drawers of water, were it meant to oblige them to make bricks without straw, were it meant to deprive them of the enjoyment of their religion, and to establish a hierarchy over them similar to that of the church of Rome in Canada? it would, say they, be no more than a natural consequence of the right of binding them (unseen, unheard, unrepresented) in all cases whatsoever.

My Lord, the Americans are no ideots [sic], and they appear determined not to be slaves. Oppression will make wise men mad, but oppressors in the end frequently find that they were not wise men: there may be resources even in despair sufficient to render any set of men strong enough not to be bound in all cases whatsoever. . . .


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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Great Britain, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons

Item of the Day: Dr. Trumbull’s Discourse on the Death of General Washington (1800)

Full Title: The Majesty and Mortality of created Gods Illustrated and Improved. A Funeral Discourse, Delivered at North-Haven, December 29, 1799. On the Death of George Washington; who died December 14, 1799. By Benjamin Trumbull. New Haven: Printed by Read & Morse, 1800.


The MAJESTY and MORTALITY of created GODS.


THAT portion of Scripture which shall lead our meditations, while we most sensibly participate in the general sorrow of our afflicted country, and pay our mournful tribute of respect to the departed Hero and Father of the American States, is written in the

LXXXII PSALM, 6 AND 7th verses.

I have said, Ye are Gods: and all of you are children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

HOWEVER bright the sun may rise, however useful and cheering he may be in his meridian course, yet, at the appointed hour, he will most certainly set. His cheering light and genial influence will be withdrawn. In like manner men of the greatest eminence, the most distinguished by genius, by mental improvement, by exalted stations and public usefulness, to whatever degree they have illuminated, gladdened and benefited the several ages and nations in which they have flourished, after a short and precarious day, have set in the midnight gloom of death. Their usefulness has soon terminated, and they lie in the dark regions of the dead. Short is the whole term from the morning of life to the sad evening of death. The author of our nature has made our days as an hand breadth and our age as nothing before him. The term of public life and usefulness is still much shorter. How soon is the arm, which, with manly vigor swayed the sceptre, wielded the sword of justice and of war, enervated with years? How soon does the strongest memory fail and the greatest mental powers decline with age? Nay, how often are men of the most distinguished characters arrested by the hand of death, before the approach of old age? In the glory of life, in the midst of usefulness they vanish, like the vapor, and appear no more. They die suddenly, die in every period of life and usefulness, and by all the diseases, casualities and misfortunes by which other men die. They exhibit to thw world the most melancholy and striking evidence, That every man at his best state is altogether vanity.

Of this it is the design of the text to admonish all men, and especially all the great and honorable among them: That notwithstanding the importance and elevation of their character they are mortal. The text indeed concedes, that some men are highly exalted above others. Magistrates are called by the awful name of Gods, and all of them children of the MOST HIGH, on the account of their office; the authority with which they are invested, the work to which they are appointed, and the majesty which GOD hath put upon them. But to check human vanity, make them better men, and more extensively useful, he who maketh them Gods, affirms also, That they shall die like men. His words not only assert their mortality, but imply the great importance and utility of their knowledge of it, and of their frequently and seriously contemplating upon it, and on their responsibility to a tribunal higher than their own. . . .


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Filed under 1800's, Oratory, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons, Washington

Item of the Day: Timothy Dwight’s Discourse on the Character of George Washington (1800)

Full Title: A Discourse Delivered at New-Haven, Feb. 22, 1800; On the Character of George Washington, Esq. at the Request of the Citizens. By Timothy Dwight . . . New-Haven: Printed by Thomas Green and Son, 1800.

. . . GENERAL WASHINGTON  was great, not be means of that brilliancy of mind, often appropriately termed genius, and usually coveted for ourselves, and our children; and almost as usually attended with qualities, which preclude wisdom, and depreciate or forbid worth; but by a constitutional character more happily formed. His mind was indeed inventive, and full of resources; but his energy appears to have been originally directed to that which is practical and useful, and not to that which is shewy and specious. His judgment was clear and intuitive beyond that of most who have lived, and seemed instinctively to discern the proper answer to the celebrated Roman question: Cui bono erit? To this his incessant attention, and unweared observation, which nothing, whether great or minute, escaped, doubtless contributed in a high degree. What he observed he treasured up, and thus added daily to his stock of useful knowledge. Hence, although his early education was in a degree confined, his mind became possessed of extensive, various, and exact information. Perhaps there never was a mind, on which theoretical speculations had less influence, and the decisions of common sense more.

At the same time, no man ever more earnestly or uniformly sought advice, or regarded it, when given, with more critical attention. The opinions of friends and enemies, of those who abetted, and of those who opposed, his own system, he explored and secured alike. His own opinions, also, he submitted to his proper counsellours, and often to others; with a demand, that they should be sifted, and exposed, without any tenderness to them because they were his; insisting, that they should be considered as opinions merely, and, as such, should be subjected to the freest and most severe investigation.

When any measure of importance was to be acted on, he delayed the formation of his judgment until the last moment; that he might secure to himself, alway [sic], the benefit of every hint, opinion, and circumstance, which might contribute either to confirm, or to change, his decision. Hence, probably, it is a great measure arose, that he was so rarely committed; and that his decisions have so rarely produced regret, and have been so clearly justified both by their consequences and the judgment of mankind.

With this preparation, he formed a judgment finally and wholly his own; and although no man was ever more anxious before a measure was adopted, probably no man was ever less anxious afterward. He had done his duty, and left the issue to Providence . . .

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Filed under 1800's, Oratory, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons, Washington

Item of the Day: Josiah Whitney’s Sermon Addressed to a Military Company (1800)

Full Title: A Sermon, Addressed to a Military Company belonging to the 13th Regiment of Infantry in the Army of the United States of America, under the Command of Captain Asa Copeland, at their Rendezvous in Brooklyn, On Lord’s-day, August 25, 1799. By Josiah Whitney, Pastor of the First Church of Brooklyn. Windham: Printed by John Byrne, 1800.

. . . Courage is an essential requisite in the soldier’s character. By all means the soldier should have it. Without it, a person is not worthy of the name of soldier. Should persons have all other martial qualifications, yet want this, they would be unfit for service.

“True valor is distinguishing excellence in a military character, without it, the soldier is one of the worst poltrons, he must unavoidably dishonor the arms he bears, and the profession he assumes. It is true valor we speak of; not a savage ferocity, not a brutal rage, not an insatiable cruelty—But a manly greatness, a sedate firmenss and resolution in the midst of danger, whereby a man is not insensible to danger, yet above the fear of it, not so confounded by the most threatening approach of it, as to lose the possession of himself and the command of his understanding, but is capable of recollection, of judging what becomes a person in his station to do, and has the presence of mind to exert all his abilities in doing whatsoever can justly be expected from him.”

Courage is not equally imparted to all, by the author of our beings. To some he gives a greater share of it, than to others. The natural make of some is bold and daring, they are never more in their element than when passing through great dangers. Such persons are some times raised up, and used as instruments of bringing to pass some great things in the world, which infinite wisdom determines should take place. Others, again, whose natural courage is not so great, may by reason’s aid, surmount unmanly fears, and by being accustomed to dangers, may acquire such measures of fortitude as to act their part well, in hazardous daring enterprizes, and be blessings to their country. The soldier’s calling, for instance, is a hazardous one, and they who enter upon it, are to resolve to venture their lives for the defence and preservation of their country, their friends, their relatives, their liberties, &c. Therefore, they are never to forget this, but stand prepared to obey the call of GOD and their country, whether it be to life or death. “The soldier’s life is unfit for one that dare not die. A coward is one of the most pernicious murderers: he verifies Christ’s saying in another sense—He that saveth his life shall lose it. While men undauntedly stand in their lot, it is usually but few that die, because they quickly daunt the enemy and keep him on the defensive part; but when once they rout and run away, they are slain on heaps and fall like leaves in windy autumn. Every coward who pursueth them, is imboldened by their fear, and dares to run them through or shoot them behind, who durst not so near have looked them in the face, and maketh it his sport to kill a fugitive, or one who layeth down his weapons, who would fly himself from a daring presence. Cowardly fear betrayeth the cause of your country, it betraeth the lives of your fellow-soldiers; the running of a few affrighted dastards, lets in ruin upon all the rest—it casteth away your own lives which you think to save. If you will be soldiers, resolve to conquer or die. It is not so much skill or strength that conquereth, as boldness. It is fear that loseth the day, and fearlessness that winneth it. The army which standeth to it, getteth the victory, who they fight never so weakly, for if you will not run, the enemy will. And if the lives of a few be lost by courage, it usually saveth the lives of many. If the cause be not worth your lives, you should not meddle with it. If it is, you should chuse rather to sacrifice the, than your country.” The man of good courage, is prepared to bear up against all the hardships of the warmest service with an unbroken erect mind, when the casue of GOD and his people, shall press him into their service. The intrepid spirit, rested on the brave Nehmiah, when he exclaimed—Should such a man as I, flee? This spirit, inspired that brave commander, who, when deserted by his army in the heat of battle, cried out to them saying: “Go tell the living, that I die fighting, while I go and tell the dead, that you live flying.” Are the preceeding observations just? We hence learn that courage is necessary in men of military character. No wonder then, that Israel’s brave commander, thus said to his army. “Be of good courage.” And no wonder that he further said, let us play the men. Q.D. Let us do that on this great, trying occasion, which MEN, reasonable creatures ought to do. In these words, there is an implication, that he himself was resolved to do that, which he called them to do—either enter into battle, or so post himself, as to direct and guide them to victory. We have no reason to suspect, but that he would readily have done the former, if the case had required it. Every good general chuses rather to sacrifice his life in battle, than his country and honor. When existing circumstances, call to a most dangerous post, he readily exposes his own person. And so will all other good military characters in places below him, when called to dangerous posts.

In these words, let us play the men, we discern civility and decency. Though the army were under this general’s absolute command, yet he addressed them not as a pack of slaves and poltrons, nor in profane language, as too many have, to the shame of humanity; but as men, his fellow creatures, whom he respected, and who had a right to civil, human treatment. Such treatment conciliates esteem, and leads to obedience from a principle of love, which is a nobler incentive to action, than fear. Playing the men, imports doing bravely and valiantly. The sacred historian, in another place narrating this speech, thus varies the phraseology, let us behave ourselves valiantly. Playing the men, and behaving valiantly, are nearly, or quite synonymous terms. To play the men in battle, none can, unless they behave valiantly. —I proceed, . . .

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Filed under 1790's, American Revolution, History, Military, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons

Item of the Day: Mr. Adams Election Sermon May 29, 1782

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq; Governour; His Honor Thomas Cushing, Esq; Lieutenant-Governor; The Honorable The Council , And The Honorable The Senate, And House Of Representatives Of The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, May 29, 1782. Being the Day of General Election. By Zabdiel Adams, A.M. Pastor of the Church in Lunenburg. Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Printed by T. & J. Fleet and J. Gill, [1782]

 [Excerpted from pp. 17-20]

Republican governments are said not only to be destitute of energy, but to be slow and unperforming. This defect may be removed by allowing such prerogatives to a single person as are necessary to the vigor and dispatch of public measures. However, in large assemblies, where there is a diversity of interests and opinions, matters of importance will never be speedily discussed. This is an inconvenience to which we must submit, and it is the price we pay for our liberties. It ought to be remembred [sic] there is safety, tho’ there is expence in these slow and tedious discussions; and if we allow it a defect, we certainly can find no form of government, but what is chargeable with as great or greater.

In all free states the people have a right, not only to say who shall be their rulers, but also by what tenure they shall hold offices, and the steps by which they shall arrive at them.

In order to avoid the feuds and factions that the election of a chief magistrate would occasion in some large nations, the constitution provides, that certain families should rule by hereditary right. Though this establishment avoids some, it is exposed perhaps to greater inconveniences. By means hereof, they may oftentimes have for their first ruler, tho’ not a compleat ideot [sic], yet perhaps one separated therefrom, only by a thin partition. Further, when children are born heirs apparent to some high and important station in government, their education is commonly such, as to fill them with ideas of superiority, unfriendly to the rights of mankind. To govern well, we ought to be acquainted with human nature in the lowest walks of life.

In elective kingdoms, the election for the most part, is either for life or for a considerable number of years. The better way is to chuse our rulers frequently. The term ought to be known and ascertained; at the expiration of which we may omit them if we please. This is true if they conduct ever so well; and there is great reason for it, if they have been guilty of mal-administration. But tho’ frequent elections may be proper, yet it must be highly imprudent, frequently to change those who are qualified for their trust and disposed to do the duties of it. This observation is true of any officer, but more especially of those who are high in command. There may be reasons for electing the chief magistrate annually; but if a new person is yearly chosen, it will lessent the influence of authority, weaken the sinews of government, crumble the people into parties, and establish habits inconsistent with that spirit of submission which is highly necessary to the good for society. A monopoly of office should never be permitted; a rotation indeed excludes it; and changes at proper intervals, excite people to a laudable application to business and books, that they may become qualified for posts of eminence and distinction. But on the contrary, if the man who holds the first place in the government, knows that he shall enjoy it but a short space, let his deportment be ever so unexceptionable, he will hardly be warm in his office, get but a miserable acquaintance with his duty, acquire no facility in the performance of it, and lose a grand stimulus to excel. Unless therefore we were born governors, legislators, &c. it must be wise in a people to elect their principal officers for a succession of years, provided they answer the end of their elevation. In this way, we shall secure to ourselves more of the beneficial influences of government, than it is possible for us in the contrary practice.

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Filed under 1780's, Elections, Massachusetts, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons

Item of the Day: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Francis Bernard (1766)

Full Title: A Serman Preached Before His Excellency Francis Bernard, Esq; Governor and Commander in Chief, The Honourable His Majesty’s Council, And the Honourable House of Representatives, of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England, May 28th. 1766. Being the Anniversay for the Election of His Majesty’s Council for said Province. By Edward Barnard . . . Boston: Printed by Richard Draper, Printer to the Governor and Council; and by Samuel Draper, at their Printing-Office in Newbury Street, MDCCLXVI.



THINK upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

AN aquaintance with the history of past ages will lead us to observe, that a common method of the exaltation of a people, hath been by a succession of men of eminent ablitites and influence. A great genius appears at their head, and forms a general scheme of institutions and laws. This being adopted, active spirits follow, who carry it into execution, and the community swiftly ascends to the height of prosperity.

EVEN Israel taken under the peculiar tutelage of Jehovah thus arose to a flourishing state. Moses, by divine direction, gave them the rudiments of civil and ecclesiastical polity. Joshua, by the same influence, led them over Jordan, and fixed them in the destin’d inheritance.

IN a way somewhat similar may we well suppose a people emerging from the depths of distress to regain their national character, Patriots, perhaps of different qualities, exert themselves in turn, agreable [sic] to their circumstances, ’till they make a respectable figure as in the former period of their existence.

AN illustration of this we have in the case of Judah restored to Palestine and the rights and privileges of their fathers, after residence in a strange land, and subjection to a foreign yoke, for seventy years.

DURING so long a term, when public offices of religion could not be regularly performed, when they were conversant with the superstitions of Gentilism, and the manners of masters upon whom they were entireley dependant, it is scarce possible but that the knowledge of divine truth must be greatly lost, the ardor of devoiton cool’d with many, their spirits broken, and generous public temper well night extinguished.

LET us view these exiles going to a desolate country, and a capital in ruins, with intention to possess and improve their ancient patrimony, rebuild their city, set up the worship of God upon the Hebrew ritual, and settle the civil administration to advantage; at the same time despis’d and hated by their neighbours, and retarded as much as possible in every salutary projection.

THESE things considered, nothing can be clearer than the vast importance that they should have wise men for pilots to direct them, men of goodness and intrepidity, to animate them to every arduous undertaking.

ACCORDINGLY a gracious God not only favored them with his prophets to instruct and support them, but rulers to lead and protect them, and forward the enterprises to which they were called —first Zerubbabel and Joshua, under whom the temple was built, and altar for daily sacrifice; then Ezra a scribe well instructed to the kingdom of heaven, who restored the scripture to its primitive purity, and dissov’d those interdicted alliances which weakened their attachment to their religion and country.

BUT Jerusalem yet laid defenceless, enormities in part remained.

THE full accomplishment of the merciful intention of heaven toward that afflicted people was reserved for Nehemiah.

THIS man held a lucrative post in a cour the center of the wealth and glory of Asia, and had an intricate access to the mightiest monarch then living. But surrounded with affluence and honor, he mourned for Zion. His countenance betrayed a troubled sould to his master, who understanding the cause, gave him liberty of absence for a term, invested him with a public character in Jedea, and sent mandatory letters to his officers bordering thereupon to assist him.

HIS arrival to Jerusalem was like the light of the mroning which dissipates the incumbent gloom, and invigorates nature. Every heart was revived, every hand employed. Present with them the walls went up and the city filled with inhabitants. By his incessant care and labours grievances were redressed, and all things regulated in such a manner as to render them easy and happy.

THIS is the lover of his nation, whose words I have read. Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

 LANGUAGE this consonant to the principes of reason and revelation. Natural religion dictates tha Tod is good, and a lvoer of righteousness. The sacrifical services of the temple as insituted for particular cases, or pointing to the promised Saviour, while they imply’d guilt, gave assurance that it was consistent with the rectoral holiness of God to have respect to imperfect virtue. Nothing therfore is here expressed but what is agreable to a justness of tho’t, to a due humility of mind. . . .


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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Massachusetts, New England, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Sermons

Item of the Day: Sterne’s Sermons in The Works… (1803)

Full Title:  The Works of Laurence Sterne, Complete in Eight Volumes. Containing I. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. II. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, and Continuation. III. Sermons. IV. Letters. V. The Fragment. VI. The Koran. VII. History of a Good Warm Coat. With A Life of the Author, Written by Himself. Vol. V. Edinburgh: Printed by J. Turnbull, Anchor-Close, for Gray, Maver, & Co. Booksellers, Glasgow, 1803.

Sermon I.  Inquiry After Happiness

Psalm iv. 6.

There be many that say, Who shall show us any good?–Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. 

The great pursuit of man is after happiness:  it is the first and strongest desire of his nature;–in every stage of his life, he searches for it as for hid treasure;–courts it under a thousand different shapes,–and, though perpetually disappointed, still persists–runs after and inquires for it afresh–asks every passenger who comes in his way, Who will show him any good?—who will assist him in the attainment of it, or direct him to the discovery of this great end of all his wishes?

He is told by one to search for it among the more gay and youthful pleasures of life, in scenes of mirth and sprightliness, where happiness ever presides, and is ever to be known by the joy and laughter which he will see at once painted in her looks.

A second, with a graver aspect, points out to the costly dwellings which pride and extravagance have erected–tells the inquirer, that the object he is in search of inhabits there–that happiness lives only in company with the great, in the midst of much pomp and outward state. That he will easily find her out by the coat of many colours she has on, and the great luxury and expense of equipage and furniture with whish she always sits surrounded.

The miser blesses God!–wonders how any one would mislead, and wilfully put him upon so wrong a scent–convinces him that happiness and extravagance never inhabited under the same roof–that if he would not be disappointed in his search, he must look into the plain and thrifty dwelling of the prudent man, who knows and understands the worth of money, and cautiously lays it up against an evil hour: that it is not the prosititution of wealth upon the passions, of the parting with it at all, that constitutes happiness–but that it is the keeping it together, and the HAVING and HOLDING it fast to him and his heirs for ever, which are the chief attributes that form this great idol of human worship, to which so much incense is offered up every day […]

To close all–the philosopher meets him bustling in the full career of this pursuit–stops him–tells him, if he is in search of happiness, he is far gone out of his way.

That this deity has long been banished from noise and tumults, where there was no rest found for her, and was fled into solitude far from all commerce of the world; and, in a word, if he would find her, he must leave this busy and intriguing scene, and go back to that peaceful scene of retirement and books, from which he first set out.

In this circle, too often, does a man run,–tries all experiments,–and generally sits down, wearied and disatisfied with them all at last–in utter despair of ever accomplishing what he wants–nor knowing what to trust to after so many disappointments; or where to lay the fault, whether in the incapacity of his own nature, or the insufficiency of the enjoyments themselves. 

In this uncertain and perplexed state–without knowledge which way to turn or where to betake ourselves for refuge–so often abused and deceived by the many who pretend thus to show us any goog–LORD! says the Psalmist, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us.  Send us some rays of thy grace and heavenly wisdom, in this benighted search after happiness, to direct us safely to it.  O GOD! let us not wander for ever without a guide, in this dark region, in endless pursuit of our mistaken good, but enlighten our eyes that we sleep not in death–open to them the comforts of thy holy word and religion–lift up the light of thy countenance upon us,–and make us know the joy and satisfaction of living in the true faith and fear of Thee, which only can carry us to this haven of rest where we would be–that sure haven, where true joys are to be found, which will at length not only answer all our expectations–but satisfy the most unbounded of our wishes for ever and ever […]

And though in our pilgrimage through this world–some of us may be so fortunate as to meet with some clear fountains by the way, that may cool, for a few moments, the heat of this great thirst of happiness–yet our Saviour, who knew the world, though he enjoyed but little of it, tells us, that whosoever drinketh this water will thirst again:–and we all find by experience it is so, and by reason that it always must be so. 

I conclude with a short observation upon Solomon’s evidence in this case.

Never did the busy brain of a lean and hectic chemist search for the philosopher’s stone with more pains and ardour than this great man did after happiness.–He was one of the wisest inquirers into Nature–had tried all her powers and capacities, and after a thousand vain speculations and vile experiments, he affirmed at length, it lay hid in no one thing he had tried; like the chemists projections, all had ended in smoke, or what was worse, in vanity and vexation of spirit:–the conclusion of the whole matter was this–that he advises every man who would be happy, to fear God and keep his commandments.

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Filed under Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion, Sermons

Item of the Day: Political Advantages of Godliness (1797)

Full Title: The Political Advantages of Godliness. A Sermon, preached before His Excellency the Governor, and the Honorable Legilsature of the State of Connecticut, convened at Hartford on the Anniversary Election, May 11, 1797. By Isaac Lewis. Hartford: Printed by Hudson & Goodwin, 1797.



—GODLINESS is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.


IN all situations and conditions of life, true religion is of the first importance. It is the solace of those, who are placed in the vale of poverty and afflictions; the sweetener of all the unambitious enjoyments, of the middle walks of private life; and the highest ornament to the persons, and characters of the rich, the honorable, and the great. Without it, no man can be either truly, or lastingly happy. Were this divine guest to be banished from the society of men, this world would become but the abode of folly and wretchedness; and man, with all his boasted reason and superiority, inferior, in point of real enjoyment, to the herds who graze the fields.

The sentiments of St. Paul on this subject, are clearly expressed in our text and context. After cautioning Timothy to avoid perplexing himself and others, with the fabulous traditions of the Jews, and their endless genealogies, and exhorting him, like the athleticks in the Grecian games, to exert his uttermost labor and diligence, in pursuing and promoting the doctines and duties of true piety, as an argument to enforce the whole, he introduces the words of our text. Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

These motives to godliness, though first addressed to Tomothy, apply with equal force and propriety to all men, of ever age and condition. The import of the text is briefly this, “Godliness is every way advantageous. Whoever shall experience the power of it, will thence derive a rich harvest of gain. Beside the crown of immortal glory, which it infallibly secures to its possessor, it will produce the highest satisfaction, of which the human mind is capable, in the present state of existence. Its advantages are eminent in all stations, and situations, and in the prosecution of every business, proper to engage the attention of mankind.”

If then godliness have promises of good to be enjoyed in this life, as well as in that which is to come, if it be profitable unto all things, we may doubtless with safety conclude, that effectual aid may be derived from it, in the admiistration of civil goverment; and that, if generally and faithfully practised, it would most essentially contribute toward obtaining for, and securing to a community, all the important ends of this institution.

To illustrate this observation, is the proposed object of the present discourse. Preparatory to which, a concise view of the nature of godliness, and of the ends of civil government will first be taken.

Godliness is a term used in two senses; the one limited, and the other more general. In its limited sense, it includes only the duties of piety toward God. In its general sense, it comprises all the duties prescribed by the chrisitian religion; those which we owe to our fellow-men, and to ourselves, as well as those which we owe to God. The apostle, in our text, uses the term in its most general sense, as appears from the extensive benefits, which, he assures us, will flow from a faithful practice of its various duties. These duties cannot now be minutely detailed. It may however be proper to observe in general, that they may be divided into four classes, the duties we owe to God, to Christ, to our fellow-men, and to ourselves. . . .

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Filed under 1790's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Sermons