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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lamities, we know no hand but that of
Heaven, which can save the nation from

Such, then, is a very imperfect
sketch of the blessings which every one
must perceive are the natural conse-
quences of an abundant harvest, and of


the evils which it prevents. We are at
present enjoying these blessings ; the
time, however, is not long past since we
foreboded theopposite evils. The present
season of plenty followed, as we know, a
season of more than common apprehen-
sion, and to the calamities of war, and
to the burdens of the people, we feared
that the vengeance of the Almighty was
about to add the miseries of famine ! We
have found, however, that he threatened
merely to recal our wandering attention,
and to teach us, that it is to Him in the
hour of distress, that " all flesh must
" come," and to Him alone in the hour
of joy, that praises and thanksgivings
are due. Grateful for this unspeakable
benefit, which has arisen from the bo-
som of our fears, let us acknowledge
with the Psalmist, that God is the " hear-
" er of prayer ;" and henceforth, let our
" praise wait for him in Sion, and unto


" him" let us " perform the vow" of obe-

It was our hope, my brethren, that on
this day of thanksgiving and gratitude,
we should have assembled in the House
of God with hearts free from every af-
fliction. We hoped that, while we re-
joiced in the prosperity of our country,
we should have had no feelings of sorrow
for Him who is at its head, or, if it was to
be our lot to sympathize with him in his
parental afflictions, we yet trusted that
the service of this day, in which j like
the royal Psalmist, he would enjoy the
feelings dearest to him, as the Father of
his people, would have assuaged his
private griefs ; and when he thought
on the goodness of God, " dropping fat-
" ness on the pastures of the wilderness,*'
and " covering the valleys" of his land
" with corn," we knew that his benevo-
Jence and his piety would have swelled

VOL, II. B b


even his breaking heart with the transport
of patriotic exultation.

It was in such a spirit, that, in the
prospect of that heavy loss which has
since befallen him, he yet recollected
the happiness of his people, and called
them together to express his and their
gratitude for that Divine goodiiess which
has " crowned the year." The day of
this solemn assembling has arrived, and
in every church throughout the land,
the Hymn of Praise is rising to Hea-
ven ! But he, alas ! cannot appear at
the head of his people, nor be gratified
with the sounds of the universal joy.
At no distant period, my brethren, we
may remember, that he called us to join
him in thanksgiving on another occasion,
when, like the King of Israel, looking
back upon the long period of his reign,
he felt his mind impressed with the sense
of that protecting Providence, which.


while surrounding nations- have been
more tumultuous than the stormy seas,
has rendered him for fifty years the guar-
dian of a quiet and loyal people. When
we were then offering our grateful praises
for the blessings of his paternal reign,
we felt our hearts warm with the hope,
that his setting sun would be permitted
to go down in unclouded brightness.

" O thou that hearest prayer," unto
thee we now come, amid the gloom which
has suddenly spread around us. To thee
he ever directed us to apply in the
seasons of sorrow, no less than to ac-
knowledge thy hand in the hour of pro-
sperity. Thou knowest his Piety, and
his care for his people, and if it be thy
good pleasure, thou yet canst remove
the clouds that darken his benevolent
spirit. But if thou hast otherwise de-
termined, let not the memory of his vir-
tues speedily perish ; fix the throne for


all future generations on the same strong
foundations of duty to thee, and of zeal
for the public good ; and when that aw-
ful hour shall at last arrive, when the
voice of flattery and the murmurs of fac-
tion shall equally cease, may the tears
of a grateful people be accompanied
with the firm resolution to preserve in
themselves and their children those prin-
ciples of pious obedience, which they
have so long beheld and venerated in
their Sovereign !

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MATTHEW, vi. 26.

.. y'fibu'id vi.z r hiii>l <i/l^ tn !ioi)ifc<^.

" Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow
u not, neither do they reap, nor gather

io " into barns ; yet your Heavenly Father
"feedeth them. Are ye not much better
" than they i"

1 HERE are various considerations which
frequently tend to produce in our minds
a distrust in the superintending care of
Divine Providence. Sometimes we look
upon ourselves as beings of so little va-


lue, that it is not to be supposed our tri-
vial concerns should be objects of the at-
tention of Heaven ; and while it is suffi-
cient that the great frame of nature
should be upheld by the power of its
Maker, man, it may be thought, is per-
mitted, through the short space of his
existence, to follow his own thoughts
and his own ways, without any eye to
mark, or any hand to guide him. To a
supposition of this kind, my brethren,
the reply of our Saviour, in the text, is
unanswerable^ and it is a very striking
circumstance, that m no department of
nature i* the constant care and vigilance
of Almighty wisdom more conspicuous,
than in those inferior departments of
creation, which we might, at first view,
deem unworthy of its superintendence.
In the habits and the instincts of the
lower dnimafe, in the means by which
tlaey are supported and united together


in society, in the slightest and most tri-
vial circumstances by which their well-
being may be promoted, we perceive
a minuteness of providential design,
which is no less wonderful than it is
benevolent, and which at once removes
the supposition, that there can be any
part of the workmanship of God which
he will be inclined to consider as unde-
serving of his protection.

It is not, however, this humiliating
view of our nature which we are most
prone to indulge. Man very will ingly sup-
poses himself to be a creature of no small
importance among the works of the Divine
wisdom, and he is rather apt to complain
that he is neglected by Providence, than
to look upon himself as unworthy of its
care. He complains, that, on compar-
ing his condition with that of the inferi-
or creation, he is less watchfully and con-
stantly guided; that he must " sow" before



he " reaps ;" that frequently, although he
" sows," he yet does not " reap ;" and that
often all his happiness is destroyed by ac-
cidents the most unlocked for, and which
burst upon him while he is least prepar-
ed to encounter them. Such are the
considerations which sometimes lead us
to apprehend, that no Divine Providence
superintends human affairs, or, at least, to
be as distrustful as if there were none.
But, even although aU these circum-
stances were inexplicable, it would yet
be wise and pious, my brethren, to listen
to the simple reasoning of our Saviour 9
by which he proves, that, if there is a
protecting Providence any where in na-
ture, surely it will not be refused to man j
that although its methods of administra-
tion may be obscure, yet they must exist ;
and that it is an instance of great want
of faith in us to doubt, that the same
goodness which feeds " the fowls of the


u air," and the same wisdom which clothes
" the lilies of the field," are not likewise
watchful for our benefit.
o^The very circumstance by which man
excels all the lower ranks of being, and
in which the bounty of his Creator is
most apparent, is that which will be
found, on examination, to occasion his
greatest misapprehensions respecting the
Divine Government. All other crea-
tures act without design on their part,
and of consequence they are led simply
and directly to execute the designs of God
in their creation^ These are manifestly
designs of the utmost benevolence to-
wards them, and most wisely planned for
attaining the object proposed. They are
simple, too, and immediately compre-
hended. From one generation to another,
the same unvarying instances of minute
contrivance are repeated ; and all the his-
tory of their little employments is so


nicely arranged and adjusted, that it if
impossible not to perceive the superin-
tending hand by which all their move-
ments are guided. But when we look to
the history of human existence^ a very
different scene presents itself. We here
behold a being entering upon action, en-
dowed with much higher capacities. We
see him enabled to form his own plans
of conduct, and to act from the guidance
of his own intelligence. Whatever man
performs, he seems to do from his own
design, or from the direction of his fellow-
creatures, and thus, in the very pre-emi-
nence of his nature above the animal cre-
ation, the seeds are laid of the forgetful-
ness of that Divine bounty, from which
this pre-eminence itself, and the oppor-
tunities of exerting it, are derived.-
When, however, we inquire a little more
closely, we shall find both that there
is a general Providence superintending


the course of human affairs, and that
every individual is likewise regarded in
this great plan of Heaven.


i I. When we examine the history of
any particular man, it may not, perhaps,
be easy to perceive the hand of superi-
or intelligence conducting him. The
principles of his conduct are often so ca-
pricious, that they seem to lead to no ob-
ject, or to be guided by no plan ; or, when
they are steady and determinate, the
wisdom which directs him seems to be
his own. But, when we look to the ge-
neral course of human affairs, we then
perceive clearly the wisdom of Heaven
in their direction. We see certain lead-
ing principles of our nature prevailing
over the wide extent of the world, and
shaping the general outlines of the course
of man. Wherever we throw our eyes,
we see this busy creature " sowing and


" reaping, and gathering into barns. ' ' We
everywhere see the principles of the so-
cial union laying the foundation of the
same, or similar forms of polity; and
amidst all the irregularity of individuals,
the weakness of some, and the ability of
others, we see the great fabric of society
wisely and harmoniously framed. It is
impossible, my brethren, to enter, in this
place, widely into such observations ; but
the general result of all extensive ex-
aminations of human affairs, must be a
perception of the Supreme wisdom, to
which^ their order and arrangement is to
be ascribed ; a wisdom which is much
more admirable in their conduct, than in
.the guidance of the lower animals, in as
much as they are modelled upon a lof-
tier design, and are yet of a nature more
independent and untractable.

? 8-,^'> II, O "WvjliiJ- 97F T/7D1V t-f '.fi-
ll. But it is with man, in his indivi-


dual capacity, that we are chiefly concern-
ed in this argument ; and the leading
difficulty which it presents, is to raise
in the minds of individuals, the belief
that they are the objects of Divine
care, and are provided for in the im-
partial administration of Heaven. With
this view, it is, in the first place, evident,
that the Providence of God cannot be
expected to counteract the nature and the
capacities which he has given us. He
has given to every man, more or less, the
powers of thought and of exertion ; and it
is evidently his intention that these capaci-
ties should be exercised. "It would not,
then, be providential, with respect to
man, to feed him before " he sowed and
" reaped, and gathered into his barn,"
Thought and design are the peculiar dis-
tinctions which elevate him above all
other beings ; and, surely, it would be a
preposterous constitution of nature, which

should endow him with those lofty facul-
ties, and, at the same time, should super-
sede the necessity of his using them.
The Providence of God, to every indivi-
dual of the human race, is shewn in re-
warding the right employment of his pow-
ers, in fixing it as the general rule up-
orf which human life is to be conducted,
that, " in like manner as we sow we shall
** reap," and by affording to every
man some means of occupation suited
to his faculties, which, in the common
course of nature, will bring their re-
ward. It is upon this view, that our
Saviour founds the beautiful instruction
conveyed in the text. He wishes to con-
vince us that there are laws established
in nature, in the confidence of which it
becomes us to act, without any anxiety
respecting the result These laws are
established by wisdom and benevolence,
and all that we have to do is to be dili-


gent in observing and acting upon them,
with a firm dependence on the great Be-
ing by whom they are enacted.

But, in the second place, " they who
" sow do not always reap," and this great
law of God seems to suffer many inter-
ruptions. Yet the Lawgiver himself is
steady and immoveable, and when the
eye of man has once been elevated to
Him, how is it that his faith should for a
moment fail ? It is in this high strain that
our Saviour continues his argument:
" Therefore take no thought, saying,
" what shall we eat ? or what shall we
" drink ? or wherewithal shall we be
* clothed ? (for after all these things do
" the Gentiles seek,) for your heavenly
66 Father knoweth that ye have need of
" all these things." It is thus that he
endeavours to point out to the indivi-
duals of the human race, the highest re-?
lation in which they stand ; to shew


them, that it is not merely the concerns
of a lower world to which their thoughts
should bend, but that they ought to look
up to that Heavenly Father who know-
eth their necessities, and that, when they
have once discovered this lofty relation-
ship, all their anxieties and distrust ought
for ever to be at an end. If the laws of
this lower world are not invariable, if
" the race is not always to the swift, nor
" the battle to the strong, nor bread to
" the wise, nor riches to men of under-
" standing," the design is evidently that
we should raise our contemplation to
higher laws, and endeavour to discover
that part of the administration of God in
which there is " no variableness nor sha-
" dow of turning." " Seek ye first," he
concludes, " the kingdom of God and
" his righteousness, and all these things
" shall be added unto you." To the
man whose thoughts are elevated to this


contemplation, and who believes that
there is a higher kingdom, in which they
who have sown the seeds of virtuous
obedience, will infallibly reap the harvest
of immortality ; all doubts concerning
the watchful Providence of God are for
ever removed ; and, while he is going on
in the animating course of duty, he feels
that the hand of the Almighty is leading
him forward, and that, amidst the con-
flict of mortal disappointments and trials,
the shield of heaven is ever held over
him, to save him from the violence of
their shock.

It is thus that we are farther in-
structed not to regard the most griev-
ous afflictions which can befall us, as
any proofs of the want of providen-
tial care on the part of our heavenly
Father. How often, on the contrary,
does not experience inform us, that to
these we must ascribe our greatest im-

yoL. n. c c


provements in religious hope and vir-
tue, and that, when it arises calm and
collected from the stroke of adverse for-
tune, the soul of man assumes its noblest
character, and attains the firmest belief
of that high destiny which awaits it.
/.jBut.I will not at present enter farther
into these reflections. The result to
which they lead is, in the highest degree,
consoling and animating. They lead us
to feel the utmost security in the course
of virtuous occupation ; they animate all
our labours of duty, by representing them
as performed under the care, and with
the assistance, of heaven ; they give to
the good man constant cheerfulness,
while he knows that, in his progress
through the world, he is ever leaning
upon God; and, at those times when
his soul is afflicted, they yet inspire the
happiest resignation, when he knows that
it is a Father who chastises him. To


such impressions, then, my brethren, let
your minds be ever accustomed; seek
for them in the hour of prayer ; let
your souls be temples in which the pre-
sence of God may dwell ; and throw a-
way all those earthly and careful thoughts
which obscure to your view the bright-
ness of the Deity.

In a few days another duty will sum-
mon us. We are called, amidst the dan-
gers and the distresses of our country, to
advance to the footstool of Omnipotence,
and to implore its protection and its
guidance. To this great service, the
noblest in which a Christian nation can
be employed, let us advance with hearts
duly prepared and enlightened, sensible

of that Almighty arm which alone can

) f f i jt'jii ' .i !f f y vi.'

save, and confident in the wisdom of
that hand which alone can direct us.

,Tu IIO fc'/;9i7 fllDJ&l Ol.'IOt- JJO OJ



)di ini




- "' . id

> . imer MATTHEW, vL 26. ^ j, 1B

" Behold the fowls of the air 9 for they sow

" not 9 neither do they reap, nor yet go-


" ther into barns ; yet your heavenly
" Father feedeth them. Are ye not
" much better than they ?.


WHEN we were last met, my brethren, I
took occasion, from these words, to sub-
mit to you some leading views on the

* Preached on March 21, 1811, the day of a General Fast.


interesting subject of a Divine Provi-
dence. I endeavoured to point out, both
in the general aspect of human affairs,
and in the laws by which the conduct of
individuals is regulated, and on which
their success and happiness depends, the
traces of a superior wisdom and goodness ;
and, as the result of the inquiry, I sug-
gested to you, in the words of our Sa-
viour, those sentiments of trust and con-
fidence in the protection of Heaven,
which ought ever to accompany us in all
our innocent and virtuous efforts, what-
ever clouds of danger or misfortune may
darken our prospect.

It is with such sentiments, I trust, that
we are this day assembled in the house
of our heavenly Father. We are now
met, not as individuals merely, but as
citizens. We are met amidst the per-
plexities of the country which is dear to
us, and have thrown ourselves, with one


accord, before the throne of Omnipotent
wisdom, and have sought its inspiration
to teach us, what are the grounds of con-
fidence upon which we may repose, and
what are the duties which remain for us
to perform. In the midst of our fears
and our sorrows, we have again heard
the simple words of Divine instruction,
and have been desired to look no farther
than to " the fowls of the air," for the
foundation of our assurance, that the in-
terests neither of individuals, nor of na-
tions, will be neglected in the Providence
of Heaven.

When I formerly addressed you, I re-
marked that the hand of God is much
more distinctly traced in the general
course of human affairs, than in the
history of particular men. Men, as
individuals, are very much left to thejr
own direction, and their success in this
life, and their happiness in another, de-


pend principaDy upon their own con-
duct. When we look, however, to na-
tions or communities, it is not difficult to
discern an higher wisdom at work than
that of the human actors. We there
perceive the separate and jarring inte-
rests of individuals combining, without
their intention, to the general good of
the whole ; we see frequently the deep-
est designs of human policy ending in
folly, and in the silent course of events,
improvements produced on the structure
of governments, and on the general as-
pect of nations, which can seldom be ef-
fected by the bold hand of innovation.
In all these, and innumerable other par-
ticulars, we may trace, in the formation
and guidance of nations, a wisdom supe-
rior to that of man, and amidst all their
hazards and perplexities, it becomes
them, therefore, to look up with confi-
dence and serenity to that mighty Power


which watches over them. It is not the
dictate of Superstition, it is the wisdom
of Religion, to believe that their sta-
bility rests upon firmer foundations than
human purposes and designs ; and it is
weakness to lose confidence in the power-
ful arm which upholds them, although
they may be assailed by storms from
without, or may even betray symptoms
of infirmity within.

This is the feeling, my brethren, which
men, in a private station, especially, who
are not themselves employed in the guid-
ance of public affairs, ought to cherish
amidst the dangers of their times. As
members of a community, we approach
nearer in resemblance to the " fowls
" of the air," which owe their support
and protection more to Divine benevo-
lence than to their own exertion, than
when we are regarded as individuals
merely. Our country is the great tree


under whose foliage we were born and
reared, and on whose branches our nests
are hung : we sowed not the seed from
which it sprung, nor poured down the
dews of Heaven which nourish it, and
we ought not to despond although its lofty
top may bend under the tempest, or its de-
caying boughs drop away. Confidence in
the good Providence of God is, then, the
true remedy, during the perils and disas-
ters of our country, against all narrow and
partial grounds of alarm. It will quiet
our apprehensions amidst the menaces
of violence and ambition, under the fail-
ure of particular measures of policy,
under the loss of particular leaders or go-
vernors. I say not that these are mat-
ters of trivial consideration ; I say not
that it is a circumstance of slight mo-
ment for a nation what guides it chooses,
or what measures it adopts ; but I say,
that these are but the means, not the ul-


timate foundations of its safety, and that
while it has no reason to apprehend that
it has been "weighed in the balances, and
" found wanting," it is the weakness of
impiety to surrender itself to despair.

While in this manner a firm belief in
a superintending Providence will, amidst
national dangers, remove from us all
weak and narrow alarms, it is yet of the
utmost importance, that we should form
just views upon this subject, so as to
avoid the opposite errors of presump-
tion and false confidence. Every good
citizen naturally hopes well of his coun-
try, and trusts, that in his day the pe-
riod of its destruction is far distant. Yet,
wherever we cast our eyes over the his-
tory of past times, we find that the great-
est nations have had their hour of ulti-
mate decay, and the most powerful and
"extensive empires have left at last no-
thing behind them but the memory of


their names. Some have fallen before
the impulse of conquest, others have
given way to internal tumult, some
have at last sunk under the weight of
their own corruption, all have perform-
ed their appointed parts, and have then
vanished from the stage of the world.
Alas ! it is not to past history alone that
we need now turn for the exhibition of
those melancholy tragedies. Nations
and empires, which, in our infant days,
seemed firmly rooted like " the fir trees
" and the cedars of Lebanon," have fal-
len everywhere around us, under " the
" axe of the feller," and " the rest of
" the trees of the forest are few, that a
" child may write them!"

We must not, however, imagine, that
in these awful dispensations the ways of

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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 15 of 18)