« PreviousContinue »
These divine emanations of the soul, in strains of praise and gratitude to heaven, are surely nothing less than the express inspirations of God himself, through the secret agency of his grace, and the power of his works, in the hearts of men, in those first ages of simplicity and love; and, as this was the first origin of Poetry, Music, and Songs of praise before God, it were to be wished, that among all our other improvements, we had not too much improved away this pure primitive intercourse with the Father of Light and Spirits! Yet still, we are to reflect that this is a world of imperfection; and that, as there are advantages, there are also inconveniences, to every stage of its progress, from original simplicity to its last stage of improvement and refinement. But to proceed; some of the most beautiful pieces of divine poesy are left us by the eastern nations, and especially by the Hebrews; in whose compositions of this kind, we are more directly concerned, as they are recorded for us in our Bibles. One of the most exalted of these is the Song of Moses, from which I have taken my text—composed in a transport of joy, admiration and gratitude, when he beheld the Mighty One of Israel, divide the great deep before his people, and lead them through on dry ground; while the waters closed with irresistible fury behind them; and whelmed their proud pursuers in the bottom of the sea!
This was a subject marvellous indeed, and astonishing beyond a parallel! At the blast of the nostrils of the God of heaven, the course of Nature was con
trouled. A mighty ocean divided itself before the WOL. II. U
Lord. The waters left their channel in the heart of the sea. They were gathered up on either side, wave on wave, heap on heap, and stood arrested or congealed in liquid mountains at the nod of the Almighty The children of Israel passed through on dry ground. Immediately the waters closed with irresistible fury; and the hosts of their proud pursuers were covered, overwhelmed, consumed—as a stone that sinks to the bottom. “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day, out of “the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the “Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore— “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel “this Song unto the Lord, saying—I will sing unto “the Lord for he hath triumphed gloriously. The “Lord is my strength and my Song; and he is be“come my salvation. He is my God and I will pre“ pare Him an habitation; my father's God, and I “will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the “ Lord is his name.”% In such strains as these did the raptured leader of Israel, and all his host of followers, celebrate the God of their fathers, on their deliverance from the rage of Pharaoh; leaving an example for all succeeding ages on the like grand occasions. A like sacred example we have in the great festival sacrifice and thanksgiving of David, on receiving back the Ark of God, the great pledge and depo- . sition of the civil and religious privileges of his nation. On that happy occasioni “He and all the
* Exod. ch. xv. + 1 Chron. xv.16, &c.
Elders of the people, and the Levites, and the Captains over thousands, appeared in solemn procession, with instruments of music, psalteries, and harps, and cymbals, and the sound of the cornet and of the trumpet, and the lifting up the voice with joy; and David himself came singing and dancing before them, as a testimony of his true piety and gratitude; though Saul's daughter, beholding out at a window, and not animated with the same godly rapture, despised or laughed at him in her heart as guilty of levity.” But why should I mention more examples: The same Reason that calls us to humble ourselves before God, on the marks of his Displeasure, calls us to rejoice before Him, with Thanksgiving, on the marks of his Favour. For a series of years past we have had many days of weeping and sorrow and fasting; and the hardest heart must bleed to recount the scenes of suffering and anguish and distress which we have beheld. In every city, in every village, nay in every private house and family, long hath the voice of sorrow been heard, for heroes slain in battle; kindred hands imbrued in kindred blood; fathers deprived of sons; sons of fathers; wives of husbands; brothers of brothers; and friends of friends. But we are this day called to express our gratitude to God on events of a more pleasing nature, the Success of the allied armies of these United States, almost in every quarter of our country, by land and by Sea; the blessing the fruits of the earth, and giving us plentiful harvests; and, particularly, the capture of a General” of the first rank, with his whole army, under the direction of our illustrious commander in chief, yielding us the happy prospect of a speedy restoration of our former peace and tranquillity, upon solid and lasting foundations. Although we dare not call this deliverance a miracle in our favour, or in any degree comparable to the miracle for which the song in our text was offered to the God of Israel; yet when we reflect on the gloomy prospect which lay before us a few months ago; when we expected the war at our doors, and all its concomitant ravages and distress; when we beheld our Fields waving with Plenty, and almost despaired of reaping them in Peace, or enjoying their Fruits in Safety; can we forbear praising the Lord of Hosts, the God of our salvation, for the deliverance he hath wrought for us, and the security we enjoy? Can we forbear to adore that Providence, which, by means almost unexpected to us, “on the same day; nay almost at the same hour, brought Fleets from the South, and Armies from the North, for our protection and aid?” Can we cease to admire that magnanimity and steady perseverance, which enabled our allied forces to accomplish this great deliverance; almost without any bloodshed of their Enemies; and to exercise all the Virtues of Moderation and Christian Heroism, even amidst the Triumphs of Victory : This great event hath already been celebrated, in Camps, in Cities, in Towns and Villages, by separate and voluntary marks of joy and gratitude—But we are this day called to join, with one voice, throughout all these United States, as a people connected in one great and common interest to celebrate this goodness
* Lord Cornwallis.
of the Almighty; and the ministers of the altar, by their sacred office, are to stand as the mouth or organ of the people, to offer up and convey their public gratitude to the throne of the Omnipotent!
The joy of this day, therefore, Brethren, must not be that noisy and tumultuous joy, which consists in outward actions; the glare and pomp of victory; the display of the spoils of War and Enemies; Shouts of Triumph; Illuminations; Feastings, and carnal Mirth. It must be a Religious Joy; the Joy of the Heart before the Lord; mixt with a holy and reverential Fear. We.are to rejoice in our prosperity, but yet chiefly as we consider it to be the means of Peace and Safety; and, therefore, while the final issue of things remain undetermined, although we may rejoice, we must rejoice with fear and trembling; lest our future Unworthiness should provoke the Almighty to withhold his promised blessings, and lengthen out the day of our visitation for the further correction of our sins, and the manifestation of his power and goodness.
Thus did Israel rejoice on their great deliverance, referred to in our text.
For, "Israel saw that great work, which the Lord did upon the Egyptians; and the people feared the Lord, and his servant Moses.—Who, said they, is like unto Thee, O Lord, amongst the Gods? who is like unto Thee; glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
In this spirit runs the proclamation for this day's solemnity, which has been recited above.