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Britons, and the descendents of Britons, wheresoever they inhabit, (yet, so far undebased by slavish principles) beat with an unconquerable, insuppressible ardour for Liberty! They acknowlege no absolute uncontroulable Power on Earth; and can form no conjecture whence such power could be derived or pretended. From God, the supreme Source of all Power, surely it could not come, without his granting it to deface His own Image, debase His whole Creation, and dishonour His own Perfections. From man, surely it could not come, without supposing him voluntarily, and in his sober senses, consenting to his own immediate misery and destruction.
In a word, no government can be of divine ori. ginal, but so far as it resembles God's own government; “ round whose eternal Throne, Justice and" Mercy wait; and who cannot be supposed to give his vicegerents on earth an uncontroulable license to oppress and destroy, without making himself a tyrant by Proxy.*
No such power is claimed under a free government; which is, therefore, so far of divine Authority, as the Laws rule; and every thing is instituted, under God, by free and common consent.
Whatsoever War, therefore, is undertaken under such governments, is by an authority fairly derived from the common consent, and exercised for the pub: lic good; else the public can speedily put an end to it; by withholding the necessary supplies.
On whatsoever duty, then, a Soldier is commanded, under such a government, he way and
ought magnanimously, and with a cheerful conscience, to obey; for the Laws are his Call, and Obe. dience his duty. The cause to be decided is not that of an ambitious Tyrant, but that of a Free State.
O that I could possess your hearts with a deep and pervading sense, of the grandeur of this cause! O! that I could place, in a striking light, before you some of the glorious scenes of Military Heroism in
The whole theatre of human transactions never presented a more august sight than a body of such Soldiers, marching forth in the service of their country,—every bosom panting for its good, and glowing with a divine enthusiasm for the justice of their cause; the prayers of a whole nation attending them; conscious that they are led on to chastise the distúrbers of mankind; to defend and to save the purest system of religion, and the best plan of government in the world—carrying this divine conviction into the field of glory with them, and by one day's welltimed heroism, saving their country, their friends, their all-returning triumphant amid the public congratulations, and bidding millions to sit down in quiet-for the haughty Foe is subdued; the Liberty, the Property, the Religion, the Independency of their country are secured, perhaps, for ages to come!
O Soldiers! do you not feel the force of those sentiments! I am fully persuaded your hearts glow with them; and methinks I hear this reply from every one of you—“ When such shall be our call; cursed “ be he amongst us that does the work of the Lord « deceitfully.”
If those be your sentiments, then we have a noble foundation laid; and you will be all attention, while I proceed more particularly to explain your duty under the three heads proposed; first, as servants of your God; secondly, as servants of your king, and thirdly, as fellow subjects, interested alike with others, in the Peace, Order and Prosperity of your Country.
First, then, as servants of your God. On this head I need not insist long, as the general intention of my former discourses to you has been to enforce the great duties you owe to the Almighty Governor of the world, and to give you a just sense of the inestimable benefits purchased for you by the coming of Christ,
A soldier has very particular calls to keep the fear of the Lord constantly before his eyes; to lay hold of the Redeemer's mercies, and to secure a constant interest in his precious scheme of salvation.
It has been said that the army is either the worst, or the best, school in the world. The worst to those who, from the opportunities of the various and mixt company in it, chuse the Profligate, and strengthen themselves, and others by their example, in things hateful to God: But the best school to those who make use of the like opportunities, to associate themselves with virtuous men, and to encourage others in the exercise of every temporal and spiritual duty.
Vice of every sort, as it is destructive to the soul, and will be punished by God, so it particularly exposes the soldier to neglect of duty, enervates his strength, exposes him to punishment and disgrace, renders him dastardly in the day of battle from a consciousness of guilt, and the fear of meeting death unprepared. For if, in the hour of battle, Sin assaults the Soul with all its dreadful internal artillery, while muskets, and other external artillery, play upon the Body; Courage, however much worked up by Habit, will quickly desert you, and leave you a prey to disgrace, and most dispirited, when you should be most animated
But Religion is the soldier's glory and strong hold. With a serene countenance, the good man faces danger; where duty calls, he boldly follows, undaunted at Death, who can have no Terrors, but what are derived from Sin. For such a one knows that Death can only take a Life, which is exposed to daily jeopardy, but, which, certainly he must soon surrender to Nature, and that whether sooner or later is all one, when he is at Peace with the God of all Peace!
His assurance is in the precious promises of the Most High; who has declared* that" his hand will cover the head of the righteous in the day of battle; that he need not be afraid for the arrow that fieth by day, nor for the sickness that destroyeth at noon-day; that a thousand shall fall beside him, and ten thousand at his right hand, but it shall not come nigh him; for he shall give his angels charge over him to keep him in all his ways."
Who would forfeit the consolations arising from such glorious promises, for all the mad amusements of Sin and Folly; which leave a man wretched at the
• Psalm 91, and elsewhere for the comfort of good men.
last, and declare to him that “ evil shall hunt him continually, and that he shall not live out half his days?”
Religion has never been thought disgraceful in a Soldier, among wise and good men; and numerous are the examples to prove, that the most pious men have always shewn themselves to be the greatest heroes. What need I mention the praises given to the pious Centurion in holy scripture*,-“ Whose Prayers, Fasting and Alms-deeds went up to Heaven;" or to the devout Soldier? God gave them the marks of his favour, and sent his angel to direct them to the way of Salvation.
Many and striking have been, and even now are, the examples of devotion, among Britisht officers and soldiers; even in an age, wherein religion has lost much of its influence on the lives of men! Many there are (and would to God there were none otherwise!) who can perfectly reconcile the character of the Gentleman and the man of Bravery, with unfeigned Piety to God, and regular attendance on all the public ordinances of Religion; setting the glori. ous appellation of a Christian above every other character, and not ashamed to be publicly known, as a man of piety and virtue.
I should now proceed, to consider more at large, the Soldier's duty, as the enrolled " servant of his King!" But this opens a large subject of discussion, which must be postponed till our next opportunity of meeting.
Acts, chap. x
+ Col. Gardiner, and others.