Henry A. (Henry Augustus) Boardman.

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THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, THE SURE AND ONLY STAY OF

THE CHRISTIAN PATRIOT IN OUR

NATIONAL TROUBLES.



A SERMON



PREACHED IN THE

TENTH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA, SEPT. 14,

AXD IN THE

WEST SPRUCE STREET CHURCH, SEPTEMBER 2S, 1S62.



HENRY A. BOARDMAX, D. D.



PHILADELPHIA:

WILLIAM S. & ALFRED MARTIEX.
18G2.



wr
.a.

S7X



LIBRARY OF CONGRESS



010 639 568 8



E 458
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.B72
Copy 1



THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, THE SURE AND ONLY STAY OF

THE CHRISTIAN PATRIOT IN OUR

NATIONAL TROUBLES.



A SERMON



PREACHED IN THE

TENTH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA, SEPT. 14,

AND IN THE

WEST SPRUCE STREET CHURCH, SEPTEMBER 28, 1S62.



HENRY A. BOARDMAX, D. D.



PHILADELPHIA:
WILLIAM S. & ALFRED MARTIEX.

18G2.



■Z



^ Philadelphia, September 30, 1862.

^ Rev. Henry A. Boaedman, D. D.

Dear Sir— Yonr Sermon on the Heign nf God, as connected with our present troubles,
deserves a much larger publicity than can result from twice preaching. It ought to be
read and considered, as well by those who love God and their country, as by those who
are too apt to forget him. It would setm to be a vain hope to escape from our entangle-
ments, and to exhibit "the uprising of a great nation," until we sincerely and humbly
adopt the motto, " In God is our trust."
TVe therefore rec^uest that the manuscript may be placed at our disposal for publication.

JAMES POLLOCK,
JOSEPH PATTERSON,
GEORGE II. STUART,
S. A. MERCER,
ARCHIBALD McINTYRE,
ARTHUR G. COFFIN,
SAMUEL ASBURY,
HENRY D. SHERRERD,
JAMES WARRIN,
W. DWIQHT BELL.



Philadelphia, October 2, 1862.
GmtUmen — It would be superfluous to speak to you of the tone of despondency which
has for the last six months pervaded the public mind respecting the war. The sermon
which you desire to publish had its origin in the prevalence of this feeling— then, I may
add, at its height. Our army had just been expelled from Central Virginia; the national
forces in the South-west were resigning their dearly bought conquests; and the Northern
States were threatened with invasion. On every side we encountered inquietude, distrust,
and vague presentiments of fresh calamity. Every one felt the need of some sure resting-
place. I felt it myself; and wrote the sermon for my own relief, and the comfort of my
people. I had no thought of its going further. Your kind note assures me that it has
been helpful to you, and may be to others. I shall rejoice if it prove so. For notwith-
standing the recent victories with which God has been pleased to crown our arms, the
cloud is not lifted from the public mind. The future lowers very darkly upon us; and
there is neither peace nor hope for us except in the reflection, ''TnE Lord reiqneth."
I cheerfully place the manuscript in your hands.

Respectfully and faithfully yours,

HENRY A. BOARDMAN.
To the Hon. James Pollock,

Joseph Patterson, Esq., and others.



SEEM ON.



Psalm xcvii. 1, 2.

THE LORD EEIGXETH: LET THE EARTH REJOICE," LET THE MULTITUDE OF
ISLES BE GLAD THEREOF, CLOUDS AND DARKNESS ARE ROUND ABOUT
him: RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUDGMENT ARE THE HABITATION OF HIS THRONE.

We have here one of the favourite themes of the
sacred writers, the universal dominion of God. It
is a subject they present to us in every form,
whether of simple didactic statement, history, song,
or prophecy. This need not surprise us. A
devout spirit must dwell with habitual and grateful
joy upon the reign of God. It belongs to the
earliest aspirations of the new-born soul on earth ;
and it inspires the loftiest anthems of saints and
angels in glory. If I add, that it is of all others
the subject which must come home to our bosoms
just now, you will every one respond to the senti-
ment. For there is nothing of which we need more
to be reminded in our present circumstances, than
that "THE Lord reigneth;" that even when "clouds



b THE LORD REIGNETH.

and darkness are round about him," and his dispen-
sations are veiled in mystery, "righteousness and
judgment are the habitation of his throne;" and
that his rei^n is, therefore, a just cause of joy to all
the earth.

One of the expressions used by the Psalmist on
this latter point requires a word of explanation; —
"Let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be
clad thereof." The words "isles" and "islands,"
which are of such frequent occurrence in the Old
Testament, do not ordinarily denote a tract of land
surrounded by water. That is sometimes the mean-
ing, but the Hebrews used the term so translated, to
denote sea-coasts in general — any shores washed by
the sea; and so, maritime countries. In several
passages, the special reference is to the coasts bor-
dering on the Mediterranean; while in others, it is
to be taken without this limitation, and as equiva-
lent to " the Gentile nations." Of this we have an
early example in Gen. x. 5 : " By these were the
isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every
one after his tongue, after their families, in their
nations." And in the same way we are to under-
stand the text: "Let the multitude of isles — let the
Gentiles of all lands — be glad thereof; let all kin-
dreds and nations rejoice that the liOrd rcigncth."

"'J'liK Lord reignetii." >Ve luivo tliis truth



THE LORD REIGNETH. /

often repeated. " The Lord is King for ever and
ever." " For the Lord most high is terrible ; he is
a great King over all the earth." " Who is like
unto thee, O Lord, among the gods^ AVho is like
thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing
wonders'?" "Our God is in the heavens: he hath
done whatsoever he hath pleased." "Thine, O
Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory,
and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in
the heaven and in the earth is thine: thine is the
kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted above all."
Testimonies like these — and the Bible is full of
them — can import nothing less than that the Deity
exercises an absolute control over all creatures and
all events. He governs the worlds, material and
immaterial. He governs brutes, and he governs
men. He governs individuals, and he governs
nations. He governs angels, and he governs devils.
His supremacy extends to every mote that floats in
the sunbeam, to every tiny globule that sparkles in
the foam of the sea, to every transient emotion that
flits across the breast of man or angel. Nothing
exists but by his ordination. Nothing happens but
as he bids or permits it to happen. The same hand
which upholds the universe and keeps the stars in
their courses, guides the falling sparrow.

It must be so. An infinite and perfect God must



8 THE LORD REIGNETH.

y exercise an absolute and universal dominion. He
must be present in every part of the universe. He
must know everything that occurs. He must direct
and control all things. Otherwise his own plans
would be liable to interruption, and his happiness
would be marred. That he has a plan, is a neces-
sary sequence from his perfection. His wisdom
will select the means for carrying it into effect ; and
his goodness and righteousness make it certain that
these means, and the plan itself, will be adapted to
promote alike his own glory and the welfare of his
creatures.

His sovereignty, I have said, extends as well to
nations as to individuals. The one includes the
other. If he governs individuals he must govern
nations, and vice versa. What is the Old Testament
history but an illustration of this idea^ Going back
to the flood, the earth is divided among the sons of
Noah. The nations springing from their loins are
assigned each its proper territory. After four cen-
turies, Abraham is called, and then, for two thou-
sand years, a single nation fills tlic field of vision:
all other nations are treated as if of no moment,
except in tli(>ir relations to the chosen people.
Now they are made the tributaries of the Hebrews;
and anon tliey are used to scourge them. To-day
they fight tlicm; to-niorrow they hew tlieir wood



THE LORD REIGNETH. 9

and draw their water. But when their work is
done relatively to the Jew, they disappear from the
scene, and are heard of no more.

Even the great empires of the globe pay the same
homage, involuntary though it be, to the Divine
supremacy. It is a reflection of pregnant import,
that the same irresistible _wilL. which ruled over
Edom and Moab, controlled Babylon, and Media,
and Greece, and Rome. As if to shut the mouths
of those who might be disposed to exclude his pro-
vidence from the wonderful events which marked
the history of the four great monarchies, their
annals are written in advance by the pen of pro-
phecy. God tells the world what he was goinff to
do with these mighty empires; that when the pre-
dictions were fulfilled, they might own his hand
in the consummation, and confess that " the Lord
God omnipotent reignetii."

The argument from this source is irrefragable.
The Book of Daniel, read in connection with authen-
tic uninspired history, supplies a complete moral
demonstration of God's control over nations and of
his agency in all, even their minutest aflairs. For it
must be apparent, that if his prescribed plan had
happened to omit the career of a single individual
belonging, if you will, to the Medo-Persian empire,
or the most trivial measure in its public policy, tliat



^



10 THE LORD REIGNETH.

oversight might have changed the whole current of
its affairs, and so caused the prophecy to miscarry.
When it is considered what the rise, progress, and
overthrow of a nation involves — ^vhat an endless
variety and complexity of interests, plans, and pas-
sions; what diversified pursuits, institutions, and
organizations, social, commercial, literary, political,
and religious; amplified by its relations with other
nations, and, still more, by having each individual of
the millions who compose its successive generations
left to his own free will, — when we take this view
of a nation, we cannot but stand amazed at the
prescience wdiich can forecast its destiny, and the
infinite intelligence and power which can shape its
fortunes precisely to the appointed end. This is what

^ we know the Deity has done in respect to the nations
embraced in the fulfilled propliecics; and we are
equally sure that he docs it in respect to every
nation. The supervision he exercises over its affairs
is not remote and general; but practical and con-
stant. It pervades the entire structure. It touches
its every interest. It guides its every iiu)V(>nu>iit. lie
holds it as in tlie hollow of liis liand; and without
liini it cannot lift a finger; it cannot ev(>n brcnillie.

/ 'J'liis — nothing less tlian this — is meant by the
Scripture doctrine tliat "the I.ord reigneth." And
if tliis Ije its meaning, we are jtrcpared to liear that



THE LORD REIGNETH. 11

"clouds and darkness are round about him;" in other
words, that many of his dispensations are veiled in
mystery. No one who accepts the doctrine with an
intelligent faith, could expect anything else. For
consider,

The infinitude of God. " Canst thou by searching
find out God ?" The loftiest angel could not do this.
The loftiest angel is but a child in knowledge here.
What can we do, then, in comprehending the ways
of the infinite One'?

Consider, again, the extent and grandeur of his
domain. "We are no more to sever our globe from
the rest of the universe, than we are to isolate one
province or nation of the globe from the residue.
His government is one. It comprises the various
kingdoms of the earth, and it comprises, no less, the
remainder of our planetary system, and all the stars
and systems which adorn the skies, and every sphere
that revolves in those distant fields of space which
no telescope has ever brought within the reach of
mortal vision. It is one realm, under " one blessed
and only Potentate." He created it for a common
end. He governs it according to a sinde plan which
comprehends all its mighty interests, and makes its
every grand and every trivial agency subservient to
his ultimate design.

To say this is to affirm that he must at times be



12 THE LORD REIGNETH.

robed "in clonds and darkness." It were arroffating
a divine prerogative to suppose ourselves capable of
grasping all the movements of a government like
this. The event which confounds your wisdom and
tries your faith, has relations you do not understand.
You do not see all its bearings even upon our own
national welfare. How can you trace its effects upon
the other portions of the human family — upon Europe
— upon China — upon Africa'? And if you could
unravel this net-work, what could you know of its
possible results in some of these distant orbs which
pay allegiance to the same august Sovereign, and
constitute a part of the same empire, with ourselves?
This argument is enforced by the reflection, that
the present is confessedly a p-eliminary dispensation.
"Lo, these are imrts of his ways." Everything we
see, is in order to something we do not see. The
present is for the future. Inscrutable providences
arc like Scripture prophecies — their interpretation is
to come. We arc under a Teacher too wise to give
us the problem and the key together. When his
plan is completed, we shall see and confess its won-
drous symmetry and beauty.

/ That wc sliould encounter these mysteries is far-
ther to bo contein[)lale(l as a iwccssan/ part of am'
moral fnii/iiiit/. \\c are sufficiently prone to indulge
pride, and self-will, and impatience, and selfishness.



THE LOED REIGNETH. 13

It would not abate these evil tendencies if every-
thing in God's providence were made plain to us.
We need dark and inexplicable events, to remind us
that we are are in the presence of a Power greater
than ourselves : to mortify our self-consequence : to
foster in our breasts patience and submission: and
to nourish a filial trust in God's wisdom and right-
eousness, even when "his way is in the sea, and his
path in the great waters."

I have treated the text chiefly in its bearing upon
nations; — God's dominion over nations: for it is this
question which most deeply concerns us at this
juncture. It has been shown that his government
extends to nations; and that in his dispensations
towards them we must expect inscrutable providences.
A cursory review of any period of the world's his-
tory would supply illustrations of these topics. He
has not governed the nations as we would have
governed them. There are events in the history
even of the chosen people which amaze us — which
would certainly have amazed us had we been living
when they occurred. Of these none is more remark-
able than the earlt/ disruption of the nation. After
the unexampled care and culture he had bestowed
upon them — the wonders which marked their exodus
from Egypt, their miraculous support in the desert,
their victories over the heathen, and their successM



u



14 THE LORD REIGNETH.

occupation of Canaan; after the temple was built,
and their complex and imposing system of worship
established, and the new epoch in their sublime
career inaugurated by the brilliant reigns of David
and Solomon — the natural presumption must have
been that the nation would at least be preserved in
its integrity for centuries. Instead of this, Solomon
is scarcely laid in his tomb, before a rebellion takes
place in which ten tribes combine to throw off the
theocratic yoke, and thenceforward the kingdom is
divided. Even to this day the breach has never been
healed; and History, vigilant as it is, has failed to
preserve any record of ten-twelfths of the ancient
seed of Abraham. Is it possible to recall this pas-
sage without feeling that " clouds and darkness are
round about him" ?

So, at a later period, with the seventy years cap-
tivity. No one will impugn the righteousness of
this visitation, for tlicir cup of iniquity was full.
Still, when we remember his previous dealings with
them, his promises, and especially the promise of a
Messiah, and the overfloAving wickedness of the
nations at war witli them, it cannot but appear mys-
terious tliat lie sliould suffer their land to be laid
desolate, the temple itself destroyed, and the people
dragged off into a distant and cruel bonda«j:e. Had



THE LOED KEIGNETH. 15

we lived then, our feeling would have been, "Clouds
and darkness are round about him."

AVith this feeling, indeed, we must read no incon-
siderable part of modern as well as ancient histoiy.
The course of events has not been in the line which
our wisdom and our sense of right would have pre-
scribed. God's ways are not as our ways, nor his
thoughts as our thoughts; or. the earth Avould pre-
sent a veiy different spectacle from that whicli
meets our eyes to-day. While we feel thus in
reference to various other countries, our own trou-
bles clothe the sentiment with a peculiar solemnity.
This cruel war confounds us. Its first gun sent a
shudder through the land. We could scarcely trust
our senses that a civil war was upon us. Com-
pelled to admit this, our next thought was that it
must be very short; that with our vast resources we
could bring it to a speedy end. But it lasts far
beyond our calculations. We are bafiled, and often
defeated, by a power every way inferior to us.
Twenty millions of men are held at bay for eighteen
months by six millions. We talk of victories; and
our own capitals tremble at the tramp of invading
armies. Wise men stand amazed at the current of
events. Every one asks of his neighbour, What
does it mean"? Devout Christians are saying, "We
had not thought he would deal thus with us."



16 THE LORD REIGNETH.

It is something to know — it is a great deal to
know — that His hand is in it aU. "The Lord

^REtGNETH." This is really our only sure source of
consolation. We have looked to earth, and it has
failed us. We have turned to our rulers; we have
thought with complacency of our skilful captains, of
our well-appointed armies, and our invincible fleets.
We have felt that with such defences the govern-
ment must be safe, and this rebellion be promptly
suppressed. These confidences have been shattered.
Fearful and anxious, we cast around for some other
and better support. And here we find it: "The

^ Lord reigneth."

"If he does "reign" — reign with that absolute
and ubiquitous supremacy which has been ascribed
to him — then this war has not come without him.
He is in all our triumphs, and not less in all our
reverses. The very causes which have brought us
into our present condition; the alleged official
incompetency and mismanagement, tlie ignorance,
the jealousies, the grievous mistakes, the possible
disloyalty — all are within his domain. His " reign"
comprehends them all; for "none can stay his hand,
or say unto him, What docst thour' Had it
seemed good to him, this unnatural war would have
1j('(mi brought to an ciid within two or three months.
'J'liat it is still i)rolonged, shows that whih^ the



THE LORD REIGNETH. 17

parties to it are aiming at their ends, God has his
purposes to accomplish also. And we may be sure
that until they are accomplished, the work of sor-
row and death will go on.

If there be anything sad in this reflection, there
is more of comfort. It is in fact, as already hinted,
the only real comfort that is left us; the conviction
that we are in his hands, and that he will order all
things as he deems best. There is no agency, great
or small, concerned in this war, which he does not
control. He is in the council-chambers of our
rulers. He is with our hosts in the field. He is
with the armies that are assailing our cherished
Union, and threatening to devastate our towns and
cities. All are in as entire subjection to him, as are
the forces which carry forward the tranquil opera-
tions of the natural world. Except with his consent
or by his permission, no plan can prosper, and no
blow take effect, whether for or against us.

It were, indeed, a mockery of God to expect him
to work a miracle for our help; we can only count
upon his aid when we are doing all we can our-
selves. But the efficiency is his; and the results
are his. He can save by many or by few. Under
his shield three hundred Hebrews shall vanquish
the tens of thousands of Midian. And this feat
may be renewed on other fields; while without his
2



18 THE LORD REIGNETH

favour, a colossal army may flee before an imagi-
nary danger. He who says to the turbulent sea,
" Thus far shalt thou come, and no further," can say
the same to an invading foe; and the submission
shall be as prompt in the one case as in the other.
If I iterate this thought, it is because there is no
truth of so much moment to us at this crisis.

The review we have taken, shows that God is
dealing with us as he has dealt with other nations;
that we ought to expect events which would seem
dark and inexplicable; and that such events bring
their lessons with them — lessons which it cannot be
safe to neglect.

The most serious aspect of these late reverses
is that which links them with God's sovereignty.
Unless we have failed entirely in our exposition of
the text, these trials betoken another controversy to
which we are a party, in comparison with which the
conflict that engrosses us is of secondary importance ;
or rather, which imparts to this conflict all its signi-
ficance. I refer of course to God's controversy with
us. If he were reconciled to us, this war would not
last long. " When a man's ways please tlic Lord,
he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with
him." The sentiment must be as applicable to
nations as to individuals. AVliat could any earthly
power do against a people who had God on their



THE LOKD REIGNETH. 19

side] What did they effect against IsraeU "When
they went from one nation to another, from one
kingdom to another people, he snffered no man to
do tlicm wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their
sakes, saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my
prophets no harm." Psahn cv. 13 — 15. It must be
because there is sin lying at our door; because we
have not humbled ourselves aright under his rebukes;
and we are not brought back in love and loyalty to
Him, that his hand is still stretched out against us.
Absolute as is his supremacy, and inscrutable as he
must be to our reason in many of his dispensations,
it is nevertheless an established principle of his
administration, that he will bless any nation which
faithfully honours him, and return to the nation
which penitently returns to him. "The Lord is
with you while ye are with him ; and if ye seek him,
he will be found of you: but if ye forsake him, he
will forsake you." If pagan Nineveh found this
true, no Christian people need scruple to avail them-
selves of it. The ten tribes would doubtless have
experienced his clemency, had they sought it. But
among all their kings, there was not a single good
one. There was no repentance, and therefore no
restoration.

But some one may ask, Why attribute these
reverses to the Divine displeasure, when they are



20 THE LORD REIGNETH.

clearly traceable to human agency] Wh}' not charge
them to the imbecility, and the ambition, the
personal feuds_ and political intrigues which have
brought them upon ust I answer: 1. It is not the
province of the pulpit to discuss such topics in these
relations. 2. There is no intention to exonerate any
one who may have had a criminal agency in causing
these calamities. Let the tribunals arraign and
punish them, 3. But if you could point out with
unerring certainty all who have been concerned in
precipitating these disastrous events upon the coun-
try, it would no more exclude a Providence than
you can exclude a Providence from the lightning
and the earthquake. God works by agents of all
kinds; as well by men's vices as by their virtues; as
well by their ignorance and their ambition, as by
their patriotism and their science. And we cannot
suppose that he would liave permitted such instru-
ments to produce such effects, unless it were a part
of his plan to use them in reproving the sins of this
nation.

If this be a proper view of the subject, our duty is
plain. AVe nuist '' scdrch and in) our imj/s, laid turn
aga'ui to the Lord.'' The loss of liis favour will
explain everything tliat has happtnunl. And the
grand aim slioiild be to learn liow wo liave lost liis
favour, and by what means we can regain it. This



THE LORD REIGNETH. 21

is too large a theme to be discussed within the com-
pass of a few pages. But there is one feature of our
government too closely connected with this question,


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Online LibraryHenry A. (Henry Augustus) BoardmanThe sovereignty of God, the sure and only stay of the Christian patriot in our national troubles → online text (page 1 of 2)