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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Providence are accidental and capricious.
The great law of human life applies like-
wise to national security. " As men


" sow, they must reap." It seldom hap-
pens that it is external violence alone which
executes the awful mandate of destruc-
tion. The springs of public and private
virtue must be relaxed, before " the walls
" of a nation shall shake at the noise of
" the horsemen, and of the wheels and
" of the chariots, when a conqueror shall
" enter into her gates," before she is
" cast out as profane from the mountain
" of God," and " the anointed cherub,"
that guardeth her, is removed. If, then,
my brethren, amidst external or inci-
dental causes of alarm, the good citizen
will not permit his hopes of security to
be shaken, he will yet tremble if he
discovers around him the traces of cor-
ruption, of selfishness, and of impiety.
If these plague-spots are spreading wide
over the community, if public virtue is
gone, and licentiousness is debasing the
purity of private manners ; if these evils


proceed in their course, then, in the jus-
tice of Heaven, punishment will sooner
or later overtake them : the long-suffer-
ing of God may be slow to avenge, but
the vengeance will at last come, and
the empire which is founded on these
slippery sands, whatever honours it may
have won, or however wide its bulwarks
may extend* when "the rain at last de-
" scends, and the floods come, and the
" winds blow and beat upon it," must
fall, and all its former grandeur will only
add to the vastness of its ruins. * ^ af]

Such seem to be the leading views
which, upon this great subject, ought to
regulate our confidence and our hopes.
We see, in the rise and progress of na-
tions, a provident wisdom, upon which
it becomes us to rely in the hours of their
danger, and not to give way to every in-
cidental alarm. But we see, likewise,
that the great law prescribed to them is the


same with that on which the prosperity of
individuals is founded, that they must
stand upon their exertion and their vir-
tue, and that when they sink into degra-
dation and corruption, their ultimate over-
throw will mark the impartial justice of
the Divine administration.

From these general reflections, I am
led, by the particular occasion which
has assembled us this day, to observe that
there is not, in the whole history of man-
kind, an instance so conspicuous of the
hand of Heaven guiding and protecting
a nation, as that of our own country exhi-
bits. When we compare the slight begin-
nings from which we arose, when we were
a barbarous tribe, scarcely known to ad ven-
turous voyagers, with that national dignity
and dominion which now renders us fear-
ed and honoured, even in the most dis-
tant climes ; when we look back upon
the intermediate period, and trace the



slow but steady and progressive steps by
which our civil and religious institutions
have attained the highest perfection hi-
therto known among men, surely, my
brethren, we cannot but feel the power
and the goodness of Him under the shel-
ter of whose wing we have been fostered ;
and whatever dangers may now assail us,
we shall not, I trust, readily forego our
confidence in him, nor too easily fear
that that arm which has so often saved,
will not continue to cover us with its

Yet, while such are our hopes and our
confidence, let us not forget our duties.
Let us remember that while Heaven pro-
tects and guides them, nations must exert
their own wisdom and their own virtue,
and that the rewards of the brave and of
the good will not be lavished on the
slothful or on the licentious. While the
power of God is manifest in the progress


of our nation, and in the glory which it
has attained, we must not yet forget that
the virtues of our Fathers merited the
blessings which they won. Our civil con-
stitution was the bright reward bestowed
upon their patriotic exertions; nor are we
to think that it will be preserved entire if
their sons should be feeble and degenerate.
The fabric of our church was built by
holy hands; its stones were cemented with
the blood of martyrs ; and we must not
dream that it will continue to shelter us
from the storms of time, and to train us
in the discipline of eternity, unless we,
too, like the Fathers from whom we
sprung, gather around it with pious af-
fection. These are the lofty considera-
tions, my brethren, to which our thoughts
ought, in these hours of trial, to be turn-
ed, the great considerations of public
and private virtue.

It is not that we want courage to de-


fend the blessings which we possess ! It
is not external violence that need appal
us ! No : on this day, at least, it would
be weakness to suppose it : this * day,
which, in its yearly return, brings the
memory of that proud triumph when, on
a distant shore, perhaps at the very hour
in which we are now imploring the aid
of the God of battles, the hardy sons of
our mountains broke the invincible legions
of the foe, and the veteran Hero who led
them on fell amidst the shouts of vic-
tory ! It is not courage that we want.
The same ennobling scenes have since
been repeated upon the decks of our
ships, and in many a foreign field ; and
there is not, perhaps, in the whole his-
tory of our country a period that has been
marked by greater instances of heroic, and

* An allusion to the battle of Alexandria, fought on
2 1st March 1801.

VOL. II. D d


devoted valour. Neither need we appre-
hend the want of counsel in our rulers.
Alas ! if we have causes of alarm, (and,
when we are humbling ourselves beneath
the hand of God, it would be presumptu-
ous to say that there are none,) we must
go deeper to look for them. We must seek
them in that public corruption which pre-
fers selfish interest to the general good.
We must seek them in that licentiousness
of manners which, beginning with the
great, spreads its contagion among the
low. We must seek for them in the ef-
fects of long prosperity, which, notwith-
standing the most impressive warnings,
continues, I fear, to blind us, and tp
hide from our eyes the very hand from
which it flows.

If these are the enemies whom we
have most occasion to dread, then, in
the name of Heaven, let us go to our own
breasts and manfully expel them thence !


And now, committing ourselves and our
country to the care of our heavenly Fa-
ther, in the humble trust that He who
feedeth " the fowls of the air" will not
desert us in our necessities ; let us, with
one accord, pray that wherever over this
land his people have this day been ga-
thered before him, they may so have re-
pented them of their sins, and formed such
firm resolutions of amendment, that they
may not, in the hour of trial, be found
unworthy of his protection.

-iCffTJV xWOf I



*r.o r," .



r r



PSALMS, Ixii. 11.

" God hath spoken once ; twice have I
" heard this, that power belongeth unto

FROM the wise order and arrangement of
the universe, we become acquainted with
the intelligent mind which presides over
it ; and besides the feelings of trust and

* This Sermon (a very hasty and imperfect composi'tipa)
is introduced here chiefly because it happened to be writ-
ten and preached while Bonaparte was at Moscow.


dependence with which we are natu-
rally disposed to regard a Superior Being,
the many intimations of a benevolent
character in nature, lead us to repose
with confidence in the goodness of the
Deity. The attribute ascribed to him in
the text, is of a more awful nature, and
would be apt to inspire sentiments mere-
ly of humiliation or alarm, were it not
for that wisdom and goodness in subser-
vience to which it acts. In that aspect,
the contemplation of the Divine power,
while it is a noble exercise for the mind,
strengthens the trust which we place in
God ; and although it is an alarming
consideration to the wicked, it is full of
consolation to the good.

The power of God is, in the first place,
made evident from the magnificence of
the world around us. If the arrangements
which we observe in nature give us assur-
ance of the Divine intelligence, and the


benevolence of these arrangements makes
us acquainted with his goodness, the very
existence of Creation is a proof of his
power, since nothing but a power, the
extent of which is beyond our conception*
could have given birth to so glorious an or-
der of being. In conformity with our natu-
ral notions of the extent of this power,
Holy Scripture always speaks of it. It
is described in One view,, as instantaneous
in its operations. " God said, Let there
" be light, and there was light !" "By the
" word of the Lord were the heavens made,
" and all the host of them by the breath of
*> his mouth : he spake, and it was done ;
<*j he commanded, and it stood fast." Far-
ther, it is described as extending through-
out all nature. "He hath made the
" earth by his power ; he hath establish-.
" ed the world by his wisdom ; and hath
" stretched out the heavens by his dis-
" cretion. When he uttereth his voice.


* there is a multitude of waters in the
"Heavens, and he causeth the vapours
" to ascend from the ends of the earth :
** he maketh lightnings with rain, and
" bringeth forth the wind out of his trea-

The same power which is thus pour-
tray ed as giving existence to creation, and
a& regulating the operations of nature, is
likewise still more awfully exhibited in
the destruction of the works which it has
formed. " I beheld the earth," says the
Prophet Jeremiah, " and lo ! it was with-
" out form and void ; and the heavens,
" and they had no light. I beheld the
" mountains, and lo ! they trembled j and
" all the hills moved lightly. I beheld,
" and lo ! there was no man, and all the
" birds of the heavens were fled. I be-
" held, and lo ! the fruitful place was a
"wilderness; and all the cities thereof
" were broken down 'at the presence of


" the Lord, and by his fierce anger." In
these, and many other passages of Scrip-
ture, the loftiest views are held out to us
of this uncontrollable power ; and there
are no passages, perhaps, throughout the
Sacred Volume, that are so strikingly su-

The power of God is, however, in the
second place, more afFectingly demon-
strated to us, when it is contrasted with
our own weakness. We know that we
are ourselves destined to live for a few
years only upon this earth. When we ask
for our fathers, and those of the old time
before them, we find that they have de-
parted from this busy scene ; and that all
the activity and energy which they dis-
played in their day, are now buried with
them in the grave. We are, in our turn, car-
rying on the same, or similar occupations.
Every where around us we see the world
iu wide commotion, the bloody trage-


dies of nations played over again before
us, when, let but a few years pass, and
all the actors and spectators of these aw-
ful scenes will alike be mouldering in
the clay. But although man is blotted
out from creation, and they whose ambi-
tion would almost burst the boundaries
of the globe, are at last confined within a
little urn, in this wreck ol human glory,
the silent majesty of nature goes on
without pause or decay ; the sun " will
tt come forth from his chamber, and re-
" joice as a strong man to run a race,"
when the feet of generations yet un-
born are walking over the dust of our
bones ; and the wind will sweep with
equal unconcern over the tombs of con-
querors, and the grassy turf of the poor !
From such reflections we are made to
feel the greatness of that power before
which every thing human vanishes away,
and it is from this contrast that the pro-


phet Isaiah derives his most impressive
pictures of the omnipotence of God :
" Who,*' says he, " hath measured the
" waters in the hollow of his hand, and
" meted out heaven with the span, and
66 comprehended the dust of the earth in
" a measure, and weighed the mountains
" in scales, and the hills in a balance ?
" Who hath directed the spirit of the
" Lord, or being his counsellor, hath
" taught him ? Behold the nations are
" as a drop of a bucket, and are count-
" ed as the small dust of the balance :
" behold he taketh up the isles as: a very
" little thing. All nations before him
" are as nothing, and they are counted
" to him less than nothing and vanity.
" It is he that sitteth upon the circle of
" the earth, and the inhabitants thereof
" are as grasshoppers ; that stretcheth
" out the heavens as a curtain, and spread-
" eth them out as a tent to dwell in : that


" bringeth the princes to nothing : he
" maketh the judges of the earth as vani-
" ty : he shall blow upon them, and they
" shall wither, and the whirlwind shall
" take them away as stubble. To whom,
" then; will ye liken me, or shall I be
" equal, saith the Holy One ? Lift up
" your eyes on high, and behold, who
" hath created these things, that bring-
" eth out their host by number, that
",calleth all by names, by the greatness
" of his might not one faileth."

The first reflection, my brethren, to
which this contemplation leads us, re-
spects the consolation which good men
may derive from it in the worst circum-
stances of external fortune. The benevo-
lence and loving-kindness of the Divine
nature is the tenet which, of all others,
the good are most ready to embrace.
What consolation, therefore, in the far-
ther reflection that the power of God is


equally extensive with his goodness, and
that if, for the moment, he seems to a-
foandon them, it is not that he is unable to
effect their deliverance, but only that he is
desirous to make a trial of their faith. To
this effect the Prophet continues, in th e
words immediately following those which
I have now quoted, and thus deduces from
his description of the Divine power the
most consolatory assurances to the good
and pious mind: " Why sayest thou, O
" Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, my way is
" hid from the Lord, and my judgment
" is passed over from my God ? Hast
" thou not known, hast thou not heard,
" that the everlasting God, the Lord, the
" creator of the ends of the earth, faint-
" eth not, neither is weary ? there is no
" searching of his understanding. He
" giveth power to the faint, and to them
" that have no might he increaseth
" strength. Even the youths shall faint


" and be weary, and the young men shall
" utterly fall : But they that wait upon
" the Lord shall renew their strength :
"they shall mount up with wings as
" eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
" and they shall walk and not faint."

A second reflection from the same lofty
contemplation, proves to us the unstable
condition of those who qppose the laws
of God and of goodness. Their triumph,
however great it may sometimes appa-
rently be, is only for a time ; there is a
power which they must yet encounter, be-
fore which they can never stand; and which
even now, in the midst of their greatest
prosperity, calls to them, in the secret of
their hearts, and says, " thou hast trusted
" in thy wickedness ; thou hast said, none
" seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy know-
" ledge, it hath perverted thee, and thou
" hast said in thine heart, I am, and none
** else besides me : therefore shall evil



" come upon thee, thou shalt not know
" from whence it riseth ; and mischief
" shall fall upon thee, thou shalt not
" be able to put it off; and desolation
" shall come upon thee suddenly !"
These are the prophetic denunciations
which ever hang over the wicked man,
and which, speaking in the voice of con-
science, inflict a sting upon him that
all the smiles of fortune, and all the flat-
teries of the world, would in vain seek
to assuage.

Such, my brethren, seem to be the lead-
ing reflections which we may derive from
this great contemplation, and surely they
are powerful ones to incline us to adopt
that good part which shall not be taken
from us, and to avoid every evil way. In
the Gospel, the final consummation of
the Divine plan is disclosed to us. There
we see the power of God calling the dead
into life, and all the inhabitants of the


tombs rising from their slumbers at his
command, and receiving their ultimate
doom. To that day, so encouraging to
the hopes, and so alarming to the weak-
ness of our nature, that day on which, in-
deed, " God shall speak once, and twice
" shall we hear this, that power belongeth
" unto God ;" let us look forward with
holy resolution, " pressing on to the mark
" of our high calling, and putting our
" trust in one who is mighty to save,"
that when we " awake from the dust of
" the earth," it may not be to " shame
" and everlasting contempt," but that we
" may shine as the brightness of the fir-
" mament, and as the stars, for ever and
" ever."




MARK, xiii. 7.

" And when ye shall hear of wars and ru-
" mours of wars, be ye not troubled-,
"for such things must needs be; but
* the end shall not be yet"

j *f ; ."l^i it*?' \

THESE words, my brethren, form a part
of our Lord's wonderful prediction con-
cerning the fall of Jerusalem, & predic-

* Preached on 1 1th March 1813, the day of a Gene-
ral Fast.


tion fulfilled in so many minute particu-
lars, that we cannot but regard it as a
very striking proof of his Divine autho-
rity. It is in this view, indeed, that it is
now chiefly valuable. Yet our Lord con-
stantly mingles general instruction with
his allusions to the most particular inci-
dents,^and perhaps on this day, when
we are called to contemplate, not the
history of former ages, but the events of
our own times, inferior to none in mag-
nitude and in awful consequences, it may
be wise in us to sit down with Him and
his disciples, on the Mount of sacred Me*
ditation, and, while we gaze with anxi-
ous eyes upon the Temple of our Coun-
try, to listen to his words of admonition,
and to inquire into " the signs of the
" times."

If I am not much mistaken, there id
in the opening of this prophecy a view
of human nature, and of events not inap-

VOL. ii. E e


plicable to what we have seen in our own
day. " As he went out of the temple,
" one of his disciples," we are told,


" saith unto him, Master, see what man-
" ner of stones, and what buildings are
" here ! And Jesus answering, said unto
" him, Seest thou these great buildings?
" There shall not be left one stone upon
" another that shall not be thrown down.
" And, as he sate upon the mount of
" Olives, over against the temple, Peter.
" and James, and John, and Andrew,
" asked him privately, Tell us, when
*' shall these things be ? and what shall
*< be the sign when all these things shall
*' be fulfilled ? And Jesus answering
" them, began to say, Take heed lest any
66 man deceive you, for many shall come
" in my name, saying, I am Christ, and
** shall deceive many. And when ye
/*. shall hear of wars, and rumours of
" wars, be ye not troubled : for sucli


" things must needs be ; but the end
" shall not be yet."

In the first place, my brethren, the
observation of the disciples upon the
strength and magnificence of their tem-
ple, represents that natural confidence
which all men are disposed to place in
the stability of their national institutions.
In the course of ages,- nations forget the
insignificance of their origin* and the
struggles which they have made in their
progress ; when their political system at
home has been fully adjusted, and their
foreign relations have been struck deep,
especially when they have long taken a
lead in the transactions of the world,
they begin to regard themselves as form-
ing a necessary part of the system of the
universe, and seem almost as secure and
independent of change as the sun in the
heavens. This sentiment, as it is natu-
ral, must not be judged of with too great


severity ; yet we may sometimes trace in
it the beginnings of national decline; and
when, in the pride of their hearts, a peo-
ple are saying, " See what manner of
" stones, and what buildings are here 1"
The voice of wisdom may too often find
occasion to reply, " Seest thou these
" great buildings ? There shall not be left
" one stone upon another that shall not
" be thrown down."

There is surely no necessity to go back
far in the history of the world for an il-
lustration of this striking truth. In our
own recollection, the feeling expres-
sed in this passage of Scripture by our
Lord's disciples was prevalent, I sup-
pose, throughout all the nations of Europe.
They all seemed to be firmly established
upon the basis of their ancient institu-
tions ; and where was there a country in
which the citizen would not point with
exultation to the fabric which his fathers


had reared, and say, in the triumphant
language of the disciples, " See what
*' manner of stones, and what buildings
& are here !" Not only in this favoured
land, in which, blessed be God ! the
throne of kings still stands secure in the
Temple of Public Freedom, but, under
every variety of government and law, the
same supposition of stability prevailed,
and although, in " the signs of the times,"
the wise might perhaps read the charac-
ters of impending evil, who would have
dared to predict that complete destruc-
tion which has in so many instances
.occurred ? To foretell what we have
seen, that, in many of those proud build-
ings there would " not be left one stone
*' upon another which should not be
" thrown down ;" or, with the Pro-
phet Isaiah, to paint what our eyes
have beheld, that " the Lord would
" make the earth empty, and turn it up-


" side down, and scatter abroad the in-
" habitants thereof; that it would be, as
" with the people so with the priest ; as
" with the servant so with his master ; as
" with the maid so with her mistress ;"
that " the land should be utterly emptied
" and utterly spoiled, and that the haugh-
" ty people of the earth should languish?"
These things we have in more than one
instance ourselves witnessed, and the ruins
which so widely surround us, may surely
prove to us the faUacy of any presump-
tuous confidence in the stability of na-
tional power.

Indeed, so rapid and appalling have,
been these changes, that a sentiment,
the reverse of confidence, had become,
perhaps, but too prevalent in the public
mind; and it is not surprising that, in
the universal wreck of ancient institu-
tions, men should have begun to give
up all hope of any brighter prospects ;


and that now, instead of being secure
of a continued prosperity, they should
too readily have predicted the immedi-
ate downfall of every thing that was dear
to them. Such, too, we may, in the se-
cond place, remark, is the feeling which
our Lord saw would succeed in the
minds of his disciples, to their former
unreasonable security. He saw that, in
the feebleness of despondency, they
would become the dupes of imposture,
and would construe every " rumour of
^ war," and even the accidental convulsions
of nature themselves, into the signs of
their approaching destruction. It is in this
view that he endeavours to strengthen
their souls against those weakening de-
lusions, by warning them to take heed,
lest any man should deceive them ;
lest they should be seduced by " false
" Christs and false Prophets," or misled by
their signs or wonders ; and he assures them


" that nation should rise against nation,"
and " earthquakes and famines would be
*' in divers places ;" but that these were
only " the beginnings of sorrows, and
" that the end was not yet." There can-
not be a doubt, my brethren, that a great
part of the disasters, which, in our time,
have come upon the world, has arisen
from the indulgence of that feebleness 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 16 of 18)