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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" With private honour, or with public zeal ?
tf Whence, then, at things divine, those darts of scorij ?
" W T hy are the woes, which virtuous men have borne
" For sacred truth, a prey to laughter given ?
" What fiend, what foe of Nature, urged thy arm,
" The Almighty of his sceptre to disarm,
" To push this earth adrift, and leave it loose from Heaven ?

" Ye God-like shades of legislators old,
" Ye who made Rome victorious, Athens wise ;
" Ye first of mortals, with the bless'd enroll'd,
" Say ; did not horror in your bosoms rise,


day, we have seen the iniquities of that
king terribly visited upon his descend-
ants ; and weak and perfidious councils
undermining a throne, which his genius
and valour had reared in vain on the
sandy foundations of impiety.

" Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings,
" be instructed ye judges of the earth.
" Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice
" with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest
" he be angry, and ye perish from the
" way, when his wrath is kindled but a
" little. Blessed are all they who put their
" trust in him !" And let us, too, my bre-
thren, " be wise," to whom these things
are held forth " as ensamples ;" and let

" When thus by impious vanity impell'd,
" A magistrate, a monarch, ye beheld
" Affronting civil order's holiest bands ?
" Those bands which ye so labour'd to improve ?
" Those' hopes and fears of justice from above,
." Which tam'd the savage world to your divine com-
mands ?"


us "be instructed," from every thing which
has passed, and is still passing before our
eyes, that the first duty of nations, as
well as of individuals, is to " serve the
" Lord with fear," and to " put their
" trust in him."

Such, then, is the leading duty to which
our attention is naturally roused in these
dark times, and such, too, let me add, is the
only star of hope which can shoot a steady
ray through the thickening gloom.
When we look a little way into futurity,
there are but two prospects before us. The
one is, that the storm which is now lay-
ing waste the world, will yet reach our-
selves, and that all our wisdom and va-
lour must be exerted to the utmost to
defend that inheritance which our Fa-
thers have left us. Now, I affirm, that
on that day of trial, come when it may,
neither our national intrepidity, nor the
wisdom of our councils, will be a firm


basis of trust, unless we advance to the
struggle with that calm and steady deter-
mination to perform our duty through
every obstacle which the high principle
of Piety alone can inspire. It is, indeed,
in this principle alone, that true Patriot-
ism has its beginning and its end. We
love our country, not from any little feel-
ings of selfish interest, but because it is
the theatre appointed by Providence for
the present range of our moral affections,
and we feel, when it is in danger, that
there is no other resting-place to which
these affections can cling, except the be-
lief of a better country reserved for us in
the Heavens. Thus, the patriotism which
springs from religion, connects in one
view present and future things, contends
for mortal blessings with immortal arms,
and brings into the conflict of Time, all
that ardour and glow of sentiment which


is kindled at the opening blaze of Eter-
nity. I'jiiip f .Mfii fof b/i o

Nor must we here overlook, as entire-
ly obscure and mysterious, the moral ends
for which God governs the world ; and, as
he can thwart the operation of every natu-
ral instrument, let us seriously reflect on
what character of mind alone he will be in-
clined to confer success. Plainly, on the
high spirit of Piety and Virtue, to pro-
mote which over the whole Universe, is,
we are led to believe, the ultimate object
of his plan, and to the want of which
among men, the heavy judgments that
now afflict the nations may, with so much
likelihood, be referred.

The other prospect, my brethren, is
more agreeable. It is pleasing to consi-
der how long this mighty Nation has en-
joyed security and repose at home, while
she has commanded the esteem and ad-
miration of the world. It is pleasing to


think what a lofty name she has hither-
to held, and that, quiet and undisturbed
herself, she is yet felt and known wher-
ever the waves can waft, or the winds
can blow ! It is pleasing to believe, that
this happy security will continue, and
that, after the present storm is past, (for
it may pass,) she will continue to rise
among the nations with undiminished

But, if such should be the bountiful
design of Providence, still it becomes us
to be instructed by the events which are
passing before us, and, reflecting on the
past and the present, to lay a firm foun-
dation for our future hopes. Let us call
to mind on what our high name hitherto
has rested. Greatly, to be sure, on our
national strength and importance ; but
still more on our national character ; on
the conviction, deeply and widely spread,
that we are no vain and frivolous people ;


that we have no mean and despicable
vices ; that we are a wise, a sober, an
upright, and a religious nation. It is upon
this ground of dignity that we stand ; and
whatever may be the issue of the present
troubles, be it our chief care that we
never fall from it. If we should, the spell
which has hitherto guarded us will be
broken ; if we change our character, and
henceforth are known only as a luxurious,
a licentious, and a profligate people, then
it matters not whether the " Philip" of
to-day is " sick or dead." Our own
worthlessness will raise up " another Phi-
" lip" whenever we become " vessels fit-
" ted for destruction."

My brethren, we are assembled before
the God of our Fathers, and are now
about to return to our several duties, in
the departments to which his Providence
has called us. Let us go forth, then, with
a firm impression of that Almighty


power and goodness in which our fathers
" trusted and were holpen." At present,
our duties are those merely of unnoticed
privacy. The time may be at hand when
we shall be called to public and more
arduous toils ; when the men must ad-
vance into the field of battle, and the
women must minister to the wounded
and the dying ! But, whatever may be
our exertions or our trials, let us ever re-
member that the Eye of Omniscience
seeth us, and that, if we act and suffer
well, we shall in no case lose our reward.
And now, may the blessing of God
continue to descend on the hoary head
and the declining years of a holy and vir-
tuous King ; may the mantle of his piety
clothe the loins of his successors ; and
may we, his loyal people, be carried in
safety, in our national ark, through the
wide-spread deluge which has overwhelm-
ed the world, till the dove, the messenger


of peace, return with the olive leaf, which
may bring us assurance that the dry land
has again appeared, and that the danger
is over and past !

: .I

Jj'j'i t '_);
eta -gur.



ACTS, xxii. 28.

captain answered, With
" a great sum obtained I this freedom.
" And Paul said 9 But I was free-born"

ON the return of St Paul to Jerusalem,
after his laborious exertions to spread the
faith of Christ among the Gentile na-
tions, he was violently seized by a party
of the Jews, who, along with the Roman

* Preached on the Fast Day, February 9, 1809.


officer exercising the chief authority in
that city, were proceeding to treat him
with great indignity. Upon this the
Apostle declared himself to be a Roman
citizen. " Then the chief captain," we
are informed, " came and said unto him,
" Tell me, art thou a Roman ? He said,
" yea. And the chief captain answered,
" With a. great sum obtained I this free-
" dom. And Paul said, But I was free-
" born ! Then straightway they departed
" from him which should have examined
" him : and the chief captain also was
" afraid after he knew that he was a
" Roman, and because he had bound

This incident, my brethren, is of no
great moment in itself ; but it is interest-
ing, as it opens to us a striking feature
in the character of St Paul. Although
it was his greatest glory to be accounted
the servant of a crucified Master ; and aU



though, when the interest of that service
required it, he was ready to submit to
any worldly degradation, it is yet pleas-
ing to perceive that his high spirit was
fully alive to all the dignity attached to
the name of a free-born Roman. It is
gratifying, likewise, to observe the effect
produced by this powerful name, on the
miserable beings who persecuted and in-
sulted him, to see them shrink from the
lightning of a free-man's eye ; and
though they were not deterred from lay-
ing their unhallowed hands on the Apostle
of the Christian Faith, yet to behold them
fall back, overawed, from the champion
of Civil Liberty. " And Paul said, But I
" was free-born !"

What is it that constitutes the force
and the charm of this sacred word ? Is
it, that the free enjoy, in highest perfec-
tion, all the blessings of the social union,
qual laws, secure possessions, ac-


tions unrestrained ? These, indeed, are
great advantages ; but they are little
when compared with that moral and in-
tellectual dignity which Freedom inspires,
that range of thought which comprehends
the good of a community, and those large
affections which the common good alone
can fill. Instead of being forced to watch
the caprices of arbitrary sway, the free-
man looks with an erect eye to one law
alone, the law of his moral nature. In-
stead of bending beneath the rod of an
earthly lord, he acknowledges but one
Master, the God who gave him being,
and all the capacities of virtue and hap-
piness. Under these impressions, even
the private affections of his nature as-
sume a loftier form : he loves his chil-
dren, not for themselves only, but like-
wise for his country : the friendships
which he forms are not merely the solace
of his cares, but are likewise his incite-
ments to generous emulation. Even in-


animate nature presents itself to him in
a more glowing aspect : he feels that the
system of social existence in which he
moves, is in unison with the equable
harmony of the Universe ; and wherever
his footsteps turn, even in solitudes and
shades, the sacred form of his Country
rises before him !

So powerful, indeed, are these im-
pressions in bringing forward the human
character with genuine dignity and splen-
dour, that, when we look back upon the
history of the world, we pause upon those
periods alone in which nations of free-
men appear upon the stage : and in their
virtuous struggles, and almost miraculous
achievements, we, indeed, feel the great-
ness of man ; and while our admiration
is roused, and our hearts beat high, we
are conscious of a loftier character of ex-
istence. We turn away from the splen-
did narratives of conquest, which may
dazzle the imagination, but which have


no hold upon the heart, and feel a prouder
triumph even in the death of the Patriot,
than in all the glories of successful ambi-
tion. ,

Yet, if it be only to such scenes of
moral grandeur, in the history of our spe-
cies, that we can return with much feeling
of exultation, alas ! how seldom are they
to be found, in comparison with the debas-
ing pictures of the crimes of tyrants, and
the degradation of slaves ; and how nar-
row the bounds of that liberty, for which
" the whole creation groaneth, and tra-
" vaileth in pain together until now !"
There is no need to go back to ancient
times for any illustration of this melan-
choly truth ! It is enough to look at the
world as it lies before us ; arid God knows,
in the disgusting spectacle which it ex-
hibits, we see enough to convince us how
imperfect the progress has been of this
vital spirit of human society, and gladly


turn again our eyes from so much pol-
lution and degradation.

It is not, however, that over this chaos
of nations the spirit of freedom has never
moved. It has moved, my brethren,
but in its immediate effects it has moved
not as a blessing, but as a curse. It has
lighted upon elements which were not
prepared to receive it, and where it could
not foster the seeds of virtue, it has only
stirred up the slumbering energies of
crime. Not many years have passed
since one adventurous people threw off
at once all the fetters of ancient power,
and came forward with the proud boast
that they alone understood the genuine
principles of liberty. They gave, in-
deed, " a great sum" for " this freedom,"
but they did not " obtain " it ; they ob-
tained only a feverish succession of ex-
travagancies, and crimes, and confusion,
and misrule ; and now they are bending,


in mean submission, at the feet of an
idol which themselves have reared, and
at whose nod they go forth, with malig-
nant activity, to quench every spark of
freedom among men.

From this scene, so hateful and so por-
tentous, how pleasing is it that we
can turn to one spot which Liberty
still deigns to own, and how great must
be our feelings of exultation, when we
call to mind, that this sacred ground is
OURS ! How sublime the thought, that,
while the world around us is groaning
under the heavy yoke of servitude, or is
struggling, in one instance, with brave,
but hitherto, alas ! ineffectual efforts, no
usurping foot has yet dared to tread upon
our soil ; that our eyes are yet unac-
quainted with the countenances of the
tyrant or the slave ; and that, from the
first moment in which they were opened
to the light, they have beheld only the


erect forms of national dignity and of ci*
vil freedom ! " For we were free-born !"
How inspiring the farther reflection, that
to us that degraded world looks as to the
ministers of its salvation ; that from our
land the spirit of regeneration is yet to
arise, and that the practised legions of
tyranny even now shrink dismayed from
the might that : is seated in free-born
arms ! io

To " the signs" of those moral infir-
mities which have everywhere 'spread so
widely around us, and to the nature of those
exertions which are required on our part
to overcome them, your attention has al-
ready been directed in a strain of politi-
cal wisdom, and of exalted patriotism,
which not only you, my brethren, but the
nation, ought .to hear. * Upon these

10 ain/i

* The discourse alluded to in this passage, and others
by the same distinguished Preacher, have since been given
to the public, and its voice has now fully confirmed what


great themes I will not presume to enter,
but will rather request your indulgence
to a few more familiar observations, in
some measure suggested by the subject
K o/Ji 00 obinmT

I had here presumed to say of his 'great endowments.
That voice, too, has been conveyed in a form which must,
of all others, be the most gratifying to his feelings,
not, 'indeed, in the vulgar shape of -honours and pre-
ferments,, . but in that marked and, .increasing expres-
sion, of universal gratitude and admiration, which distinct-
ly places his name at the head of all the preachers- of the
age. . Indeed, there are qualities in his preaching to which
it would be difficult, I believe, to find a parallel, either in
our own, or in any former time. That tone of dove-lite gen-
tleness, that pure/and unclouded wisdom, far more than the
graces of Ijis language,, and the glow of his imagery, are ex-
cellencies which seem to nfe unexampled in the history of
pulpi-it!loquenee;'and; mhis'senionsbn public occasions, his
undeviatipg trust in $}& moral government of the world, and
the calm steadiness of his hopes, even in the worst of times,
haVe" thrown aroufid'him, almost, thefharitle df Prophecy.
Admirable, however, as his discourses must ever be esteem-
ed, there is still something wanting to their effect as they
appear in publication ; for there never was a preacher to
whom are more strictly applicable the w.ords which were
originally spoken of the greatest orator of antiquity, when,
to those who testified the most lively applause on hearing
one of his orations read, it was so finely observed, " What,
" then, would you have sajd, if you had heard Himself?"

ff'l- f . . I,' . : r ,<, {;j f .- Jlf j . , ( l ' '*. ', ' '


of the text, and more within the reach of
my powers.

We are naturally led, then, in one
view of the subject, to reflect with
gratitude on the peculiar advantages
we enjoy, not only as partakers of a free
constitution, but as inheritors of it, by a
settled and unquestioned right of succes-
sion. We are not only free, but, like
the Apostle, we are " free born." We
have attained our liberty, not only
without money and without price, but
we have been trained, from our in-
fancy, in all those generous and libe-
ral maxims which it is its greatest boast
to inspire. They who have purchased
their freedom by their own exertions, ne-
cessarily hold it by a more insecure te-
nure, and are more apt to forfeit or to dis-
grace it by their vices and excesses, than
those whose title has ceased to be disput-
ed, and who have been long familiar with
its principles, and secure of its rewards.


The free-born alone, then, will generally
be found to be secure of their freedom,
or worthy of it ; and, while they move
with calm and conscious dignity through
the high career of their duties, those
who have purchased their freedom may
frequently be seen, as in the passage be-
fore us, instigating the disorders, and
abetting the insults of the multitude.

But let us farther reflect, that, while Free-
dom is thus one of the chief sources, both
of public and private virtue, it yet cannot
continue to exist except through the exer-
cise of virtue, and that, by the invariable
order of Providence, the liberty and the sta-
bility of nations are established on the mo-
ral attributes of the individuals who com-
pose them. The first lessons of public
and private virtue are the same : they
coincide in their elements : they are
both equally founded on the firm prin-
ciples of morality and religion. Wher-


ever these principles are diffused through-
out a nation, and embraced with de-
voted attachment, that nation will be-
come great and free ; wherever they are
lost, or but feebly preserved, the people
who are in such a case are verging to
slavery and degradation. These plain
truths all history confirms ; but if all other
history were lost, that melancholy page
which has been written before us in cha-
racters of blood, would be sufficient to
prove them.

Why did that people, who have in
our day " turned the world upside
" down," fail to obtain that splendid
freedom which their glowing fancy pre-
dicted ; and why, instead of becoming, as
they boasted, the emancipators of that
world, are they now merely extending
those tenfold chains in which their own
degraded necks are bound ? Was it that
they wanted will, or energy, or power ?


Would they not give " a great sum" for
" this freedom ?" Alas ! they gave the
sum of all their moral feeling, and all
their religious faith ; they threw into one
extravagant heap all the pillars on which
human society is reared, and all the orna-
ments by which it is graced : they even
raised their impious hand against the
majesty of Heaven itself, and would have
torn down the eternal throne, and piled
it on the costly ruins which their mad-
ness had accumulated ! " Verily, verily,
" they have had their reward !" And
they now stand forth " an ensample" to
men, that where the national mind is cor-
rupt, there no seeds of freedom will grow \
that, from the polluted hearts of a peo-
ple, the waters of public, as well as of
private bitterness flow ; and that, from this
unseen source, they at length come into
open day, and burst into a deluge red
with human blood, and sweeping before


it all the mounds of the security and hap-
piness of nations.

Let us now contemplate the reverse of
this picture ; we shall find it in the his-
tory of a nobler people- in the history of
those illustrious men who delivered to us
the inheritance of freedom. They, too,
had their seasons of civil and religious
excesses, yet, in the midst of these,
they were never abandoned by principle :
they might err, indeed, for they were men,
but theirs were the errors of high and
pure minds. It was never from throwing
off, but in drawing, perhaps, too tight, the
fetters of religion, that they were some-
times to be blamed : and the God whom
they feared forgave them their excesses,
and blessed their virtuous toils, till at
length they reared on the rock of the Bri-
tish constitution, that church which they
revered, and that liberty which they loved.
They, too, gave " a great sum" for " this



" freedom :" but it was the sum of patient
thought, and of persevering exertion, the
sum of unbending faith, and of uncorrupt-
ed integrity; the sum of a loyalty, which
only hard necessity could shake, and of
obedience to law, which not even the love
of that freedom could overcome ! They
likewise " have had their reward !" They
have left behind them the noblest monu-
ment of legislative wisdom which the
world has yet beheld: they have left
names which will live as long as the me-
mory of virtue remains among men : and
now, from those celestial seats, where they
are crowned with immortal wreaths, they
look down upon their free-born sons, and
tell them, in this hour of peril, that the
inheritance of freedom can only be pre-
served by the same uncorrupted princi-
ples by which it was won.

Go, then, in obedience to this holy
call, my brethren, and say not, that in


your private stations you can be of no
service to your country. Go to your own
hearts, and root out from them every
thing that is base, and degenerate, and
infirm. Look to the ancestors from whom
you are sprung, and walk in the steps of
their faith and their integrity : Go to
the volume of salvation, which they left
in your hands, and draw from its pure
fountains the streams of inspiring hope
and unpolluted righteousness. Do this
for yourselves, and do it for your chil-
dren. When we examine the course of
great men, we forget the simple begin-
nings from which it rose ; Yet it was in
the shades of domestic privacy that our
Abercrombies and our Nelsons first lis-
tened to the call of duty ; and at this
hour, when a venerable mother is weep-
ing over her heroic son,* whose name,
alas ! has too soon been classed with

* Sir John Moore.


theirs, while all the gratitude of his Coun-
try, mingling its tears with hers, will
scarcely avail to calm her sorrows, she
will yet feel one exulting throb when she
remembers that from her lips he first
heard the sacred name of VIRTUE 1

Among the moral qualities, there is
one disposition of mind which the pre-
sent circumstances of our country and of
mankind call upon me particularly to re-
commend to your cultivation : I mean
FORTITUDE, fortitude to act, and forti-
tude to suffer. When we look for-
ward into futurity, no prospect what-
ever appears of any speedy termination
to the miseries of the world : That hope
which we were lately so willing to in-
dulge is now, to say the least, heavily
overcast. The generous sympathy which
led us to support the struggles of a gal-
lant people has only involved ourselves
in deeper calamities : The tide of atro-



cious usurpation has still proceeded in its
infuriate course, and we are unable to fore-
tell at what appointed limit the word of
Omnipotence will say, " Hitherto shalt
" thou go, and no farther, and here
" shall thy proud waves be stayed."
Wherever the prospect of resistance ap-
pears, there, too, doubtless, we shall be
found, abetting the spirit of resistance ;
and there, too, we must expect to hear
the menace of the tyrant repeated, and
" the mothers of England" must again
prepare to mourn.

Yet, my brethren, if the world around
us is destined to submit to that unhappy
man, who has been taken up by the de-

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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 13 of 18)