Robert Morehead.

A series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) online

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ful ; when Commerce pours in her trea-i



300 ON NATIONAL REFORMATION.

sures, and men may enjoy their riches in
repose, without the apprehension of fo-
reign violence and rapine ; when a na-
tion is in this condition, how often does
it happen, that the internal ties which
unite it are on the point of being dissolv-
ed ; that individuals become occupied
solely with the increase of their selfish
gratifications ; and that the name of their
Country becomes a vain and empty sound !
It is then that Governors too often pur-
aue the dictates of private ambition, with-
out regard to the happiness of the peo*
pie, and that the People are apt to for-
get the principles of their allegiance and
their duty, amid enterprises of licentious-
ness and delusion.

-oNow, in this situation, should cir-
cumstances of imminent peril arise, the
necessity for cordial love and harmony,
throughout the whole political system, will
immediately be apparent. The Gover-



ON NATIONAL REFORMATION. 301

HOTS will feel, that, if they are the
heads, the People are the hands. The
people will become satisfied that coun-
sel- and prudence are necessary for their
direction, and distrusting ignorant and
factious leaders, they will look up with
reverence to the constituted authorities
of the state, and submit with confi-
dence to the wisdom of their regula-
tions. A general spirit of union will be-
gin to prevail, private interests will ap-
pear inconsiderable, and every man will
be animated with the desire of lending
his share of assistance to the public
cause. All will come to perceive what
i& the true nature of human society,
that distinctions must ever subsist, but,
that there is a common good in which
the meanest individual participates, and
which it is of infinitely greater moment fox
him to secure, than to attain the proudest
pre-eminence of rank or fortune. The



302 ON NATIONAL REFORMATION.

civil rights to which he has been born, ~
the sacred charities of Home, the innu-
merable ties and advantages of social
life ; such are the stakes which every
man has in the preservation of his coun-
try, but which few feel as they ought,
till their country is in danger.

And in that sacred hour of peril, feel-
ings, too, which, at other times, might ap-
pear romantic, acquire the steadiness and
consistency of principle and truth, and ani-
mate the hearts of all with the determined
purpose to give up everything that is dear-
est to them as men, for the preservation of
their land and liberties. They then look
with apprehension even on the tombs of
their Fathers ; they fear lest the dust of the
Dead should be disturbed ; and they even
imagine that unconscious Nature itself
demands protection from the spoiler.
What, at other times, might pass for
reason and Philosophy, is, on these occa-



ON NATIONAL REFORMATION. 303

sions, looked upon with disdain, and
every generous breast burns with a zeal
and fervour, which it feels to be virtue,
without inquiring why it is so.

Such, then, is the fire of patriotism,
which circumstances of imminent hazard
kindle in the souls of a people who are
not utterly lost to a sense of duty. I
proceed, secondly, to shew that the Reli-
gion of a nation is greatly promoted and
improved by the same means. Religion,
it is to be feared, is not often hearty and
sincere in individuals ; it still less fre-
quently forms the characteristic of a
nation. The perversions of religion are
indeed common. Some nations are super-
stitious,-^-others fanatical and enthusias-
tic, dividing themselves into sects a-
bout unimportant questions, and carry-
ing all the pitiful rancour of human pas-
sions into the hallowed ground of Divine
truth. But it is not often that we meet



304 ON NATIONAL REFORMATION.

with a sober and manly religion operat-
ing upon national morals, sanctifying all
the virtues with the seal of Divine autho-
rity, bringing the Deity into the common
intercourse of life, and making men sober,
just, and merciful, not only because it is
their interest here, but because it is the
voice of God.<;Rif3

Success and prosperity are fatal corrupt-
ers of national piety. The higher ranks
are then apt to become thoughtless and
dissipated ; and the lower too readily
imitate the bad example. Sensual indul-
gence gradually diffuses itself from the
top to the bottom of the society. This
world, with its circle of gross enjoy-
ments, clouds all their views and pro-
spects, and the pure beams of Heaven
find not their way through the smother-
ing gloom. Different delusions pervade
the different orders of men ; and some-
times one delusion spreads over all.



ON NATIONAL RKFOKMAT1ON. 505

Some sets of men begin to reason and
speculate ; and think themselves very
wise when they have discovered, that na-
ture may exist without an author, that
man is little better than a brute, 1 and
that death is an eternal sleep. Others
grow witty upon such subjects, and laugh
every thing like seriousness and decency
out of countenance. A creed so accept-
able to the passions of men becomes
fashionable, is supported by the great,
the learned, and the fair, the poison
steals from the palace of the nobleman
into the cottage of the peasant, and a
general insensibility to the highest in-
terests of man benumbs the devoted na-
tion.

What now is to be done? Will the
Great Governor of Nations destroy or re-

/

form ? Will he " correct with judgment,**
or " bring to nothing in his anger ?" His
long-suffering and loving-kindness, we
VOL. ii. v



306 ON NATIONAL REFORMATION.

may humbly believe, will first incline
him to the gentler method ; and reducing
the people to some extremity which may
terrify and alarm, he will make them feel
that all the wealth on which they prided
themselves, and which ministered to their
corruption, may speedily vanish into other
hands, that their power is fleeting and
unsubstantial, that their armies and
navies may avail them nothing, and
that their " kingdom may be divided and
" given totheMedesand Persians." Such
an awful crisis will restore men's minds, if
they are not lost to all thought and reflec-
tion : the temples of God will again be fre-
quented, the admonitions from his holy
Word will be listened to with reverence,
the plain unassuming wisdom of Reli-
gion will efface the wandering dreams of
sophists and declaimers, the nation will
be delivered " from the hand of strange
' children, whose mouth speaketh va-



ON NATIONAL REFORMATION. 30?

" nity, and their right hand is a right
' hand of falsehood ;" its " sons will be as
" plants grown up in their youth, and its
" daughters as corner-stones, polished
"after the similitude of a palace."

From these general reflections on the
improvement which a nation may derive
from the correcting hand of God, let us
proceed to apply them to our own
case, to that visitation which we at pre-
sent experience, ancf~consider in what
manner we may profit by ity and what
hopes we can entertain of deliverance.
The situation itself is full of alarm.
After many years of war, in which the
nations of Europe have successively been
baffled and defeated, we are again, after
a short and fallacious peace, opposed to
our proud enemies, headed by their great-
est and most fortunate Commander. Hav-
ing already spread devastation over the
fairest regions of the earth, their hatred



308 ON NATIONAL REFORMATION.

and fury are now concentrated against us :
their numerous armies are drawn up
against our shores ; the instruments of
invasion are prepared ;~-and in their vam
thoughts they have .already divided the
spoil !

Is this situation of peril without de-
sign ? No, my brethren ; it is the cor-
rection of God; from which we may
profit ; from which > I trust, we have pro-
fited. There was need of the correction.
Even in this favoured land, the seat of
rational and manly freedom, there were
many wandering spirits, who, forgetful of
the glory of their ancestors, and the in-
heritance to which they were born, look-
ed with eager and admiring eyes to the
extravagant and delusive schemes of our
neighbours. We had, in many respects,
lost sight of the blessings which Heaven
had poured upon us; and were eager to
snatch, through right and wrong, the vain



ON NATIONAL REFORMATION. 309

toys which glittered in our view. The Tree
of Liberty, like the Tree of Good and Evil,
was placed before us, and we were en-
couraged by the tempter to eat thereof,
and " we should be as gods." We had al-
most forgotten the substantial joys of our
Paradise ; and were, perhaps, on the point
of giving ear to these deceitful words.
The true patriotism of Britain seemed to
be fast yielding to the false patriotism of
revolution and rebellion. Yet, by the
mercy of God, we have been preserved.
That nation in which the fire was kindled,
and from which it has spread over other
nations, has since become a curse to it-
self, and a scourge * to its neighbours.
We have been preserved, and our pre-
sent danger serves only to rekindle the
ancient spirit of our country, which seem-
ed ready to be extinguished ! Surely we
have learned, at last, and feel r in a
manner not to be effaced from our recol-



310 ON NATIONAL REFORMATION.

lection, that our patriotism consists of
loyalty to the King, of reverence for the
Constitution, and of the determined
purpose never to permit an hostile foot to
advance upon British ground ! Thus, my
brethren, let us hope that the Patriotism
of Britons is improved, and that the
correction of the Almighty arm has in-
spired them with that virtue which, un-
der the protection of God, is the only in-
fallible security for a nation.

Have we become equally convinced
that His favour is necessary, and that
there is no safety for a people who live
in the contempt of his government and
laws ? Have we " put away the accursed
" thing from among us?" Are we ashamed
of that gross neglect of his holy ordi-
nances, and the ridicule so often attached
to that Religion which he gave us from
Heaven? Have we learnt to "kiss the Son,
" lest he be angry, and we perish from



ON NATIONAL REFORMATION. 311

" the way, when his wrath is kindled but
" a little ?" Do we bow with reverence to
the mysteries of the Christian faith, and
humble ourselves in the dust, repenting
us of our sins ? Are we thankful to God
that he has not permitted his holy name
to be rooted out from our land ? And are
we determined to guard the sacred ark,
which, notwithstanding all our offences,
he has committed to our trust ? Do we
thank him that pure religion is still pro-
fessed among us, and that, while the
nations of Europe are bewildered in su-
perstition and infidelity, we retain among
us the true Protestant faith unimpaired,
although, alas ! too often disregarded? Do
we sincerely join with the King upon the
throne, and with all the lights and guar-
dians of the realm, in prayers to the Al-
mighty, that he will shield and cover us,
and guide us safely through these perilous
storms ? Do we pray from our hearts that



ON NATIONAL REFORMATION.

he " will correct us with judgment, not
" in his anger, lest he bring us to
" nothing?" hif

. If such are our sentiments and feelings,
then we are secure. A nation burning
with patriotism, and devoted to God, may
bid defiance to the world. We may then
nope, too, that our correction will, in no
long time, be terminated ; and that the
nation at present employed in exe-
cuting the Divine vengeance, will yet
be brought down from her pride. " Ba-
" bylon," says the Prophet, " hath been a
" golden cup in the Lord's hand that
' made all the earth drunken ; the na-
" tions have drunken of her wine, there-
" fore the nations are mad." What fol-
lows? "Babylon is suddenly fallen and
destroyed ! "

Yet> my brethren, we pray not for the
destruction of our enemies, -we pray for
their deliverance. We pray that, they



ON NATIONAL REFORMATION. 313

may be freed from the yoke of foreign
usurpation, and brought again under the
mild dominion of their native kings.
May the throne of their tyrant totter be-
neath him, and all his blood-guiltiness be
requited I Violence and proud oppression
cannot endure for ever ; Eternal Justice
will not sleep ! The time, we trust, will
yet come, when the awful denunciations
of Isaiah will apply to this presumptuous
man : " Thy pomp is brought down to
? the grave, and the noise of thy viols ;
" the worm is spread under thee, and
" the worms cover thee. How art thou
" fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of
" the morning ! How art thou cast down
" to the ground which didst weaken the
" nations ! For thou hast said in thine
" heart, I will ascend into Heaven, I
" will exalt my throne above the stars of
" God, I will ascend above the heights
" of the clouds, I will be like the Most



314 ON NATIONAL REFORMATION*

" High ! Yet thou shalt be brought
" down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
" They that see thee shall narrowly look
" upon thee, and consider thee, saying,
" Is this the man that made the earth to
" tremble ; that did shake kingdoms ;
" that made the world as a wilderness,
" and destroyed the cities thereof; that
" opened not the house of his prisoners ?
" All the kings of the nations, even all of
" them, lie in glory, every one in his own
" house. Thou shalt not be joined with
" them in burial, because thou hast de-
" stroyed thy land, and slain thy people :
" The seed of evil doers shall never be
*' renowned ! "



DISCOURSE XIX,



ON NATIONAL PIETY.



ISAIAH, ii. 22.

" Cease ye from man, whose breath is in hi$

t

" nostrils, for wherein is he to be ac-
" counted of ?"

SUCH is the concluding reflection with
which the Prophet contemplates one of
those scenes of public misery upon which
his thoughts are sometimes forced to
dwell, and which throw an occasional

* Preached on the Fast Day, February 26, 1807.



316



ON NATIONAL PIETY.



cloud over the beautiful anticipations of
Evangelical light and glory, that seem
more congenial to the glowing character
of his soul. " Enter into the rock," says
he, " and hide thee in the dust, for fear
" of the Lord, and for the glory of his
" Majesty. The lofty looks of man shall
" be humbled, and the haughtiness of
" men shall be bowed down, and the
" Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
" For the day of the Lord of Hosts shall
" be upon every one that is proud arid
? lofty, and upon ; every one that is lifted
" up, and he shall be brought low. And
" they shall go into the holes of the rocks,
M and into the caves of the earth, for fear
" of the Lord, and for the glory of his
" Majesty, when he ariseth to shake ter-
'^ribly the earth. Cease ye frpra man,
" whose breath is an his nostrils, for
** wherein is he to be accounted of?"
The occasion- of oux meeting this day,



<W NATIONAL PIETY. 317

my brethren, naturally leads me to apply
to the present aspect df the world these
memorable expressions of Isaiah, with
this remarkable peculiarity, indeed, m the
application, that what he only predictr
ed, we have seen, what he saw, " as
"through a glass darkly^" we have' be-
held " face to face. ' ' Another disastrous
year has passed over our heads, during
which the cloud of war 'has collected a
deeper gloom, and burst with still heavier
fury upon the devoted nations. We have
seen well-appointed armies advancing
with confidence into the field, whence
they "have been chased as the chaff of
" the mountains before the wind, and
w like ' a rolling thing before the whirl-
" wind t" We have beheld M cities made
" an heap, and defenced cities a ruin ; M
kings hurled from their thrones, and
driven into disgraceful ekile ; the licen-
tious sword of conquest sweeping be-



318 ON NATIONAL PIETY.

fore it whatever antiquity had rendered
venerable, or modern genius and prospe^
rity had lifted high ; and from the grave
of Empires we hear the voice which cries
to us, with the Prophet, saying, " Cease
* ye from man !"

One individual alone seems to bid de-
fiance to the common doom ; one dark
minister of vengeance rides securely " in
" the whirlwind, and directs the storm ;"
' one towering genius seems to concen-
trate in himself all the prowess and all
the fortune of his species, and even to
arrogate the possession of endowments
which belong only to superior natures.
Yet, proud spirit ! there is an Eye which
marks " thy goings out and thy comings
66 in ;" there is a Hand which holds'" the
" bridle within thy lips, and can turn thee
" back to the place from whence thou
" earnest." " Thy breath, also, is in thy
"nostrils." Mighty in power to-day; to?



ON NATIONAL PIETY. 319

morrow thou, too, mayest be levelled with
the clods of the valley I

In the midst, my brethren, of these
gathering evils, while the earth is thus
terribly shaken, and men are flying in
despair almost into the holes, and into the
caves of the rocks, and the tide of desola-
tion is every day rolling nearer ourselves-
we have been deeply afflicted with internal
wounds ! " For behold," continues the
Prophet, " the Lord, the Lord of Hosts
" doth take away from Jerusalem, and
" from Judah, the staff and the stay, the
*' mighty man, and the man of war, the
** Judge and the Prophet, and the prudent
?' and the ancient, and the honourable man,
" and the counsellor, and the eloquent
f orator!" Scarce had we dropt the tear
of national gratitude over the great Leader
of our Naval war, when another lofty spirit
departed from us : that " Pillar of State,"
upon whom we had so long securely leant



5:20 JON NATrONAL PIETY.

in the hour of peril : that firm and unbend-
ing soul which was formed to sustain " the
* weight of mightiest monarchies," and
which, while advancing with unabated
vigour to encounter its greatest struggle,
sunk beneath a shattered and exhausted
frame ! We then turned our eyes to a
generous rival, who alone seemed to fill,
in our imaginations, the melancholy
blank, and to his " comprehensive head,"
and " uncorrupted heart," we now en-
trusted our last hope of " all Europe
" saved, yet Britain not betrayed." *
That stay has likewise failed us : and now
our ablest counsellors, and most " elo-
" quent orators," all their animosities at
an end, sleep in kindred graves, insen-
sible to the sound of their country's dan-



* Who would not praise Patritio's high desert,
His hand unstainM, his uncorrupted heart,
His comprehensive head ! AH interests weigh 'd,
AH Europe sav'd, yet Britain not betray 'd !

POPE:



ON NATIONAL PIETY. 321

ger, nor ever again to be roused from
that dread repose, till they are summoned
by " the tongue of Angels" to enter upon
an higher and an eternal career ! Valour,
virtue, wisdom, thank Heaven ! remain ;
" but how are the mighty fallen, and the
" beauty of Israel slain in her high
" places :" and when we contemplate the
unseasonable loss of by far our greatest
men, shall we not again repeat with the
Prophet, " Cease ye from man, whose
" breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is
" he to be accounted of?"

From this black abyss of danger and ca-
lamity, we naturally lift our eyes, my bre-
thren, and inquire what are our Duties,
and what our Hopes. To both inquiries,
the answer of the Prophet is the same,
" Cease ye from man !" And when we
are required to " cease from man," to
whom can we turn but unto God ? It is,
indeed, a blind delusion to suppose, that,
amidst these disorders of nations, no

VOL* II. X



ON NATIONAL PIETY.

siding mind is secretly bringing light
from darkness, that no spirit is moving
over the troubled " face of the waters,"
and harmonizing the chaos of the moral
world. While men are driving their
petty schemes, and ambition is enjoying
its momentary triumph, the great unseen
Ruler of the universe is making the
" wrath of men to praise him," and is
turning all their short-sighted views, and
little policy, to the mighty end of the
good of his creation. Reverence for this
Supreme Power, while it is the only solid
foundation of the goodness of individual
men, is likewise the main-spring of the
dignity and worth of nations ; and; I be-
lieve it may confidently be affirmed, that
there never yet existed a people whom
we can denominate truly great, that were
not actuated in their national spirit by a
deep feeling' of Piety.

Even in ancient times, before the
lights of Revelation arose, we shall find



ett NATIONAL PIETY. 323

the leading powers of the world, and the
conspicuous seasons of their greatness, to
be those in which Religion, influenced by
its holy spirit, the public mind of the na-
tion, in which the bonds of civil life were
sanctified by a feeling of their connec-
tion with higher things, and men were
wise, and just, and temperate, not mere-
ly from a sense of present advantage,
but from a steady sentiment, that such
is the appointment of Heaven. Of that
illustrious people, so long the leading
object of ancient history, and on whose
virtue and dignity the eye of youth-
ful ardour fixes with so keen a feeling
of delight, it was justly affirmed, that
if in many things they were inferior to
others, in piety to the Gods they were
superior to all. Of our own nation, re-
ligion has long been a striking charac-
teristic, and notwithstanding the insidious
attempts which have of late years been



324 ON NATIONAL PIETY.

made to deprive us of that invaluable
principle, we may yet bless God, that we
hold a pre-eminence here, and that we
are at least the most faithful amidst " a
" crooked and perverse generation."
Yet, I fear, our history can tell us of
better and purer times than these, of
greater faith and zeal, and more genuine
Christian virtue ; it can point with tri-
umph to a " noble army of martyrs ;"
and from the tombs of our fathers, there
issues a voice which joins the warning
cry of the Prophet, and of our impend-
ing dangers, and calls upon us to revive
and cherish those decaying sentiments,
for which they contended with their
blood.

Nor must the truth be concealed, that
if there ever were times in which piety
and its concomitant virtues were more
felt among us than now, our excuse is the



ON NATIONAL PIETY. 325

less, inasmuch as there never was a time
in which their necessity was so apparent,
or in which so great an opportunity has
been afforded us of rearing them upon
firm and impregnable foundations. En-
joying a long course of unexampled pro-
sperity, and more conspicuously blest by
Providence than any other people, we
have hitherto, at a distance from the
storm and the conflict, had full leisure to
meditate on the infinite value of those
great master-principles, the failure and
corruption of which, in the world around
us, have " turned it upside down." We
have seen but too clearly the dread ef-
fects of that poison which has been so
widely diffused and deeply imbibed, that
intoxicating draught which has made
the nations mad, which has deranged
every sentiment of worth and dignity
among men, and converted the choicest



326 ON NATIONAL PIETY.

gifts of Heaven to the ruin and degrada-
tion of that nature, which they were de-
signed to honour and to improve.

We have seen, alas ! genius and science
abused and distorted from their true ends ;
and whatever others may pretend, we
cannot profess ignorance of the ends
which alone are genuine and true. We
have seen in other lands Superstition
sap the fabric of society, and afterwards
Atheism level it with the ground ; while
we, enjoying the blessing of a Reformed
Church, know in what manner Philoso-
phy can lend arms to the faith which
she reveres. Religion sits upon our
throne ; we have seen, in foreign realms,
infidelity gain the ear of kings, and then
" betray them with a kiss ! " One royal
apostate (the lesson is awful ! ) joined the
rebellious crew of prostitute sophists, and
stained the glories of a hero and a legis-
lator, by the despicable affectation of wit



ON NATIONAL PIETY. 327

and philosophical fame. A poet of this
country, with all the divine fervour of his
art, called to that impious king, in the
name of the worthies of old, and asked
from what motive of vanity the Father
of his people could be impelled to
" affront the holiest bands of civil or-
" der," or to form the desperate design of
loosening earth from Heaven.* In our

* The allusion here is to an Ode of Akenside, addressed
to the Great Frederick of Prussia, from which I beg leave
to transcribe the two concluding stanzas.

" O evil foresight, and pernicious care!
" Wilt thou, indeed, abide by this appeal ?
" Shall we' the lessons of thy pen compare


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Online LibraryRobert MoreheadA series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 18)