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general welfare,] shall be called the repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of paths to dwell in.”
Great and gracious God! Grant that by thus following the advice of the Prophet to the Jews, for keeping a True Fast, and especially, for “ hallowing the Sabbath Day, not doing our own ways, nor finding our own pleasure, nor speaking our own words, but delighting in Thee, we may receive the promised reward, and be fed with, and preserved in the Heritage of our Fathers;” and to Thy Name, with Thy blessed Son and Holy Spirit, One God, Let the Glory and Praise be ascribed forever and ever! Amen!
PREACHED IN CHESTER CHAPEL,
KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND,
DECEMBER 13, 1781.
BEING A DAY OF GENERAL THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER, RECOMMENDED BY CONGRESS, THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES.
EXODUS, xv. 1.
I will sing unto the Lord; for He hath triumphed glori
ously. AFTER so many days of Fasting and Mourning, a day of Thanksgiving must be welcome to us, as recommended by Congress in their Proclamation, dated October 26 last, enumerating the many instances of the divine Goodness and protection displayed in our favour, during “our important struggle for Liberty, against the long continued efforts of a powerful nation,” and particularly during the present year (1781), “in which there have been so many instances of prowess and success in our armies, particularly in the southern states, where (notwithstanding the difficulties with which they had to struggle) they
• A Sermon from this text was inserted as Discourse V. in the Lon. don Edition of my Discourses on public Occasions, on the success of the Britishi, Prussian and some other armies (allied in the same cause) during the campaign, 1758.
have recovered the whole country, which the enemy had over-run; leaving them only a post or two, on or near the sea:-In which we have been so powerfully and effectually assisted by our allies, while in all the conjunct operations the most perfect harmony has subsisted in the allied army:-In which there has been so plentiful a harvest, and so great abundance of the fruits of the earth of every kind, as not only enables us easily to supply the wants of our army, but give comfort and happiness to the whole people:-And in which, after the success of our allies by sea, a General of the first rank, with his whole army, bas been captured by the allied forces, under the direction of our commander in chief.
“It is, therefore,recommended to the several states to set apart the Thirteenth clay of December next, to be religiously observed as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praise of our gracious bencfactor; to confess our manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please Him to pardon our offences, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give success to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counsellors, judgment and fortitude to all our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosperour illustrious ally, and favour ourunitedexertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honourable and lasting peace; to bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas."
According to the foregoing call of our rulers, we are now assembled, to unite with our fellow citizens, not of one church or denomination, but of all the churches and people of these United States, in Thanksgivings, Prayers and Praises, for His late mercies and deliverances; and truly, if the duties of the day be sincerely and conscientiously discharged, we ought to consider the occasion as awfully interesting and solemn.
“ A great and numerous people, with one consent and under one authority, met to render thanks, and to offer up praises to the Almighty, for signal favours and blessings, is, indeed, a spectacle, on which angels above look down with complacency, and the great God of angels and men will regard with delight!”
Songs, or Hymns of praise and triumph, addressed to the great Creator of Heaven and earth, (or to the Divinities considered by the nations that knew not the true God, as the supreme benefactors of mankind) were among the oldest and most exalted compositions of Poets, and other writers, inspired as well as uninspired.
There is something in Poetry and Music admirably suited to divine and lofty subjects; and it is natural for the soul of man, when struck with any thing surprisingly great, good, or marvellously new, to break forth beyond the common modes of speech, into the most rapturous strains of expression, accompanied with correspondent Attitudes of Body, and Modulations of Voice. Even the untutored savages around us, furnish striking proofs of this!
Hence it arose, that Poetry and Music were ori. ginally appropriated and confined to the worship of the Supreme God, or the divinities of the nations, to whom He was not known; and the best and wisest men of all ages have had recourse to divine Hymns and Spiritual Songs in the effusions of the soul to the almighty Lord of heaven and earth.
Ere yet temples were built, or fixed hours of devotion set apart; when the voice of Conscience could be heard, and the busy scenes of Art had not seduced away the attention of Man from the grand scenes of Nature; the great Progenitors of our Race, and Patriarchs of Mankind, as they tended their flocks onward from pasture to pasture, as they beheld the refreshing Rains descend, and the Sun, in his turn, pour down his refulgent beams, to vivify and fertilize the earth, and to rejoice the heart of man and of every living creature; or when they were struck with any more surprising effect or manifestation of Almighty Power and Goodness, kindling their admiration and gratitude—that auspicious moment they embraced, as the Tongue or Organ of Praise for the whole Animal Creation on earth, and rapt into sacred extasy, poured forth their unpremeditated strains, to that adorable God, the author of all this bounty, who formed the earth, the Sun and Moon which they beheld; that poised the clouds in air, that enriched their bosoms with treasure and bade them drop down in fatness, to rejoice herb, and beast, and man.