A Thanksgiving Sermon for the Reduction of Cape Breton, 1745
This Charles Chauncy is the younger (1705-1787); his father of the same name (1592-1672), was president of Harvard, a clergyman also, and onetime medical doctor who had emigrated to America in 1637. Our Charles Chauncy was the great-grandson of the New England patriarch. Charles the younger graduated from the college his great-grandfather lead, and was swiftly ordained thereafter. He opposed the First Great Awakening—as all good curmudgeons should—as well as the ordination of Anglicans in the American colonies, and pastored faithfully for some 60 years until his death. Before he died, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Edinburgh. Typically, he is roped in with Jonathan Mayhew and others as leading the allegedly “liberal” wing of New England congregationalism that presaged Unitarianism and mainline Protestantism. Whatever the case may be, our interest is in his 1745 sermon occasioned by a military victory (i.e., Siege of Louisbourg (1745)), a sure act of Providence. The text subjected to exposition was Psalm 98:1, O sing unto the Lord a new Song, for he hath done marvelous Things: His right Hand and his holy Arm hath gotten him the Victory.
As we are now together in the House of the Lord, to pay him our humble and grateful Acknowledgments for the eminent Success which he has granted the New England Arms against a neighboring powerful Enemy, I could think of no Words more pertinent than those I have read to you to employ your Meditations on so remarkable an Occasion.
Some indeed refer them to the Messiah, and his spiritual Conquests in behalf of a rebel World; but others think they were penned in commemoration of some signal temporal Victory gained by the Troops of Israel, under the Command of David, over their Enemies. In this View of them they are properly applicable to the Design of this Day’s Solemnity; for the Lord hath done marvelous Things for us; His right Hand and holy Arm hath gotten him the Victory: And we are hereupon obliged to sing a new song to the Praise of his great Name.
In speaking to the Words,
I. I shall consider God as getting the Victory by his right Hand and holy Arm.
II. I shall take Notice of the marvelous Things which he sometimes does in getting the Victory.
III. I shall show what Reason a People, for whom God has thus gotten the Victory, have to sing a new Song of Praise to him.
These are the Heads we are naturally led to discourse to from the Text: And we shall endeavor to speak to them in a Manner not unsuitable to the Occasion of the Day, and Circumstances of divine Providence.
I am, in the first Place, to consider God as getting the Victory by his right Hand and holy Arm. The inspired Psalmist ascribes this Glory to him. He does not take it to himself, he does not bestow it on the Troops of Israel; but acknowledges the Efficiency of God, and gives him the Honor due to his Name. His right Hand and holy Arm hath gotten him the Victory. Literally speaking it cannot be said of God, that he has an Hand or Arm; for he is a pure Spirit, without bodily Shape or Parts: But as ’tis by the right Hand and Arm that Men are wont to put forth their Strength, these Parts of the human Body are figuratively applied to God. So he is said in the Text to get him the Victory by his right Hand and Arm. The Language is used by way of Accommodation to our Capacities, and obviously leads us to conceive of Victory as obtained by God, brought about under the Direction and Influence of his powerful and alwise [sic] Providence.
And this is a Truth everywhere acknowledged in the sacred Writings. They speak of the great God as ruling in the Armies of Heaven and Earth; as presiding over the Kingdoms of this lower World, governing all their Affairs, and deciding all their Battles. The Names by which he is commonly known in the Bible are these, the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in Battle; importing, that he directs, presides and over-rules in all Armies, so as to turn the Battle on which Side he pleases. Nor is Victory ever obtained but under the divine Guidance and Blessing. ‘Tis in the Faith of this, that David, the General, as well as King of Israel, so often applies to God to be his Shield and Help, and subdue the People under him. ‘Tis in the Faith of this, that the Israel of God do so often make their religious thankful Acknowledgments to him for giving them the Necks of their Enemies. And ’tis upon this same Account, that we meet with so many sacred Hymns of Praise, in Commemoration of glorious Victory in a Day of Battle.
Not that God, in getting the Victory, immediately exerts his right Hand and holy Arm. He does it ordinarily by the intervention of second Causes, and of such as are naturally fitted, in a humane Way, to accomplish his Purposes: Tho’ this ought not, in the least, to take from him the Glory of his Agency; for the Victory is notwithstanding his. He raises up and qualifies those who are employed in a Day of Battle, he Spirits them to the Service, arms them with Resolution, directs their Conduct, and crowns their Valor with Success. The greatest Generals are absolutely dependent on God. He gives them Presence of mind, or confounds their Thoughts he directs their Counsels, or suffers them to be led aside by a Spirit of Infatuation; he renders their Projections prosperous, or frustrates their best concerted Measures: He gives Courage to their Armies, or strikes them with Surprise: And if he intends to render them victorious, he will order such a concurrence of Circumstances in their Favor, as that they shall have the Advantage of their Enemies, and tread upon their High Places.
And now, if ‘it’s by the right Hand and holy Arm of God; that victory is obtained,
This shews us where our Dependance ought to be for Success against our Enemies. Not on the best Means, or Instruments: Tho’ we ought to make use of these, and may depend on them, provided we don’t place them in the Room of God. For he is principally and ultimately to be confided in. And cursed is the Man, the Nation, the Province, that maketh Flesh their Arm. The Lord Jehovah, and he only, is the Strength of his People; and whatever Trust is placed in Men or Means, it ought always to be in subordination to his all-governing Will and Providence.
And ’tis owing, I would hope, to such a well-placed Trust in God, that we his People in this Land have been favored with such remarkable Success against our Enemies. We were not wanting in the Use of all suitable Means; and yet, I could not but observe a general Disposition in all serious People, both high and low, to own their Dependance on God, without the concurrent Blessing of whose Providence, they had no Hope of Success. It was this that brought us once and again publicly into the House of the Lord, under the Countenance of Authority, to humble ourselves before him, to confess our Sins, and beg that his Presence might be with our Brethren gone against the Enemy. And upon no Occasion do I remember to have seen a Spirit of Prayer more generally prevailing among those who profess a Regard to Religion. Fervent Prayers were continually going up to God, from all Parts of the Country: And may it not be hoped, that God has heard our Prayers of Faith and Trust in his Power and Goodness, and, in Answer to them, crowned our Enterprise against the French Enemy with such signal Glory and Victory?
We are likewise taught from what has been discoursed, that the Glory of Victories gained over Enemies is to be given unto God. To him therefore let us ascribe the Glory of our late Conquest, so nearly connected with the Prosperity of these Colonies. ‘Twas by the right Hand and holy Arm of God that we got this Victory: And to him be the Praise.
Not that we are to be unmindful of those whom God has been pleased to use as Instruments in this great Affair. ‘Tis the Command of God, that we give Honor to whom Honor is due. And shall we not think and speak of those, with all decent Respect, and entertain a graceful Sense of their Service, who have exposed themselves to Hardships, and ventured their Lives in the high Places of the Field, for our Benefit; especially, when they have been honored by God in being made victorious over our Enemies? All Nations have done Honor to their Heroes, both living and after they were dead: And if they have sometimes exceeded herein, giving that Glory to Man which was due to God, this is no Reason why we should not make our grateful Acknowledgments to our Warriors, and in Proportion to the Extent and Value of their Achievements on our Behalf, and the greatness of the Hazards and Difficulties they have gone thro’ for our Sakes; always provided we keep within the Bounds of Religion, and honor not Man in Opposition to God, but in subserviency to him, and ultimately reflecting Glory on him.
It has been remarked, the Song of Deborah, thought it gives the principal Glory of the eminent Victory it celebrates to God, whose is the Glory, and the Power, and the Victory, and the Majesty; yet at the same Time it forgets not to give all just Applause to the Officers and Troops that acquired it under the divine Conduct and Blessing. A good Example this! and we may learn our Duty from it both to God, and those he has employed as Instruments in the glorious Conquest we are this Duty celebrating.
We ought highly to esteem in Love and honor his Excellency, our Commander in Chief, whose Wisdom projected this great and necessary Undertaking; whose Prudence directed to all suitable Measures to conceal it from the Enemy; whose indefatigable Labors, by Night and Day, carried it on with such surprising Dispatch; and, in a Word, whose just Influence at Home, and seasonable Applications there, procured those Ships of War, without which we could not have succeeded in this noble Design.
He has herein approved himself faithful to his Royal Master, and a Father to NEW-ENGLAND. The good Lord have respect to his Servant! And may he long live at the head of this Province, in high Favour with the King, and rejoicing in the Love Reverence and Obeisance of a loyal People!
Great also are our Obligations to our wise and valorous General, who, from a disinterested Love to his Country, laid by his own private Affairs, left his honorable Seat at Court, and, what is more, his beloved Relatives and Friends, under all Advantages to be happy in the enjoyment of them, to go at the head of our Forces into the Enemies Land, and besiege their strongest Fortifications in this part of the World, exposing himself to known Difficulties and Hardships, and hazarding his Life, to make Acquisitions for the public Safety. Blessed be the Lord his Strength, who taught his Hands to War, and his Fingers to fight; who hath been his Fortress and Deliverer; who hath prospered his Counsels and Arms, to the subduing the People under him, and leading him into the strong City, and putting him in Possession of its strong Holds. May the great Jehovah be still his Shield and Defense, and return him in Safety to his own Land, that he may here speak of the mighty Acts of the Lord, and receive the just Applauses of his People!
We should likewise be ungrateful, if we did not take a thankful Notice of our brave Commodore, to whose Prudence, and Vigilance, and active Courage, under God, it was owing, that the Siege was covered. Relief for the Enemy cut off, and a strong Ship of War taken, which might otherwise have obliged our Forces to return with Disappointment and Damage. His readiness, had there been a Necessity for it, to have gone into the Harbor with his Ships, to join the Army in one general dreadful Attack upon the Town, ought always to be remembered to his Honor: Nor will it be denied, that the Terror of so many Ships, under the Command of so brave an Officer, had a powerful Influence in the Surrender of the Place.
Upon these Accounts the Name of Warren will, I trust, be ever treated with Respect in New England.
Neither should we forget to make an honorable Mention of the other Officers, yea, and of the Soldiers, who, in order to reduce the City of Louisburg, endured Hardships, cheerfully went thro’ Fatigues and Hazards, fearing nothing, and doing everything Man could do!
And shall we not love and honor these brave Instruments in the Shame that has been brought upon those who hated us, and the Salvation God has wrought out for this his People? We shall be basely ungraceful, if we withhold from them their just Praise.
But our Acknowledgments must not be confined to Men, nor principally made to them; but to the God of Armies, the God whose right Hand and holy Arm hath gotten us the Victory. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto any Skill, or Valor, or Strength of our Army or Fleet, but to thy Name be the Glory. But I must not anticipate what will more properly come in afterwards. I therefore go on to the next Thing proposed, which was,
To take Notice of the marvelous Things which God sometimes does in getting the Victory for a People. Says David in the Text, Marvelous Things hath he done: His right Hand and holy Arm hath gotten him the Victory. The meaning is, that it was in a marvelous Way, by surprising Events, that God gained this Victory for Israel.
Nor was this the only Instance in this Kind. God often appeared wonderfully for that People, and made bare his holy Arm for the Destruction of those who rose up against them. Sometimes he miraculously exerted his Almighty Power, and did Things not only above, but contrary to the Course of Nature, and all humane Contrivance, to give them the Advantage of their Enemies. Thus, he rebuked the Red-Sea, and it was dried up: He led his Israel thro’ the Depth as thro’ the Wilderness; while the Waters swallowed up the Egyptians. The Walls of Jericho marvelously fell down at the Sound of Rams-Horns; and the Lamps and Pitchers of Gideon’s three hundred Men struck the vast Army of the Midianites with Consternation, so that they madly turned every Man his Sword against his Fellow. The Sun stood still to favor Joshua in the pursuit of his Enemies, while Hail-Stones from Heaven killed more than the Sword of Israel. And an Angel was dispatched from the Armies above to raise the Siege at Jerusalem, by destroying an hundred and eighty five thousand of the Assyrian Army in one Night, which obliged the rest immediately to retire from the Walls of that City.
But, in the ordinary Course of Providence, God sometimes does marvelous Things in favor of a People, and in order to their getting the Victory: Either, by a secret and invisible Influence, disposing and ranging second Causes in such a Manner as to operate beyond all humane Expectation; or by interposing such a Coincidence of Events, as could not have been foreseen, and when brought to pass, draw the Attention of wise Observers, and force from them an Acknowledgment, that God’s Throne is in the Heavens, and his Kingdom ruleth over all.
And of this we have had an illustrious Instance, in the memorable Conquest that has brought us together this Day.
I scarce know of a Conquest, since the Days of Joshua and the Judges, wherein the Finger of God is more visible. There has been such a Train of Providences, such a Concurrence of favorable Circumstances, making Way for it, as are truly wonderful; and, if considered in one collective View, render it proper to take up the Language of the Text, and say, Marvelous Things hath God done for us: His right Hand, and his holy Arm hath gotten us this Victory.
It may seem strange, that such a Country as this, so weak in Strength, so unskilled in the Use of military Weapons, so distressed for want of Money, should make an Attempt upon so strong and fenced a City as Louisburg, at Cape-Breton: Nor should we have entertained the Thought, if it had not been clearly pointed out to us by the Providence of God. It was apparently Providence that gave Rise to this important Design; partly, by permitting the French, last Year, to take Canso, and invade Annapolis, and form a Scheme to invade it again this Year; hereby opening to our View, in the clearest Manner, not only the Justice, but Necessity of reducing this Place, from whence we were exposed to suffer so much, both on our Sea coasts, and Frontier-borders: Partly, by sending a Number of rich East-India Ships into the Harbor of Louisburg, for the supply and manning of which, in their Voyage to France, so many of their Men, and such Quantities of their Stores, were taken off, and so late in the Fall, as to render the Spring the Nick of Time (as we vulgarly speak) the most favorable Opportunity we might ever expect, for an Enterprise of this Nature: Tho’ after all, it would probably have never been undertaken, if the Providence of God, notwithstanding the most prudent Steps, under good Advantages, to gain Intelligence, had not kept us strangely in Ignorance, both as to the vast Strength of the Place, an Number of Inhabitants that might suddenly be called in to its Assistance. Many of our Officers and Soldiers, who now know these Things, have frequently declared, had they known them before, they should never have gone upon this Affair.
And as it was by the Direction of Providence, we were led to form an Enterprise of such vast Moment; to the same Cause must it be ascribed, that so many Things were remarkably ordered all along in favour of it, and so as finally to bring it to an happy Issue.
It was apparently owing to a signal interposition in Providence, that so many Persons, from all Parts of the Land, were spirited to offer themselves willingly for this Service; and that, within two Months from the Resolution of the Government to undertake this Design, the whole military Force was in readiness for Embarkation, and under Sail for the Place they were intended to go against. [Editor’s note: Chauncy goes on for a paragraph here about the mustering and preparations of the provincial force.]
I may, not improperly, remark here to the Honor of this Province, that the Men, so suddenly and strangely got together to go upon this Expedition, were of a different Character from those, who are commonly sent upon such Occasions. They were not the Scum of the Land, idle worthless Creatures, given to Prophaneness [sic], Intemperance, and universally debauched in their Manners. A Number of such there might be: But for the generality, they were Men who had upon their Minds an Awe of God, and feared an Oath; they were Men industrious in their Callings, and well able to provide for themselves and Families; in a Word, they were Men of Life and Spirit, animated with love to their King and Country, and willing to venture their Lives, not so much to serve themselves, as to promote the public Good. ‘Tis a rare Thing for so many Men, of such a Character, to be engaged in a military Enterprise: And I can’t but think, there was a special Hand of Providence in it.
It was owing remarkably to the Government of Providence, that the Weather was so ordered in Favor of this Enterprise. Perhaps, the oldest Man living does not remember so long a Course of moderate fair Weather as we were blessed with, while preparing for the Expedition. There was not the loss of a Day, either by Snow, Rain, or Cold; which is wonderful, in this Climate, at this Time of the Year. Some, who have preserved an Account of the Weather for more than twenty Years back, have been surprised to behold the Difference between the Months of February and March, this Year, and the foregoing ones; This, a continued Course of good Weather; those, as continually intermixed with Storms of Snow, or Rain, or severity of Cold.
And the Weather was as remarkably favorable to our Design at Cape-Breton: For, as some have observed in their Letters, there was scarce ever known, among the French, such a Run of good Weather, as while they were laying Siege to Louisburg: Whereas, the very Afternoon they entered the City, the Rain came on, filled their Trenches with Water, and continued for such a Number of Days, that they must have gone thro’ insufferable Difficulties, and been in danger of raising the Siege. The French themselves took Notice of this Disposition of Providence, and said, it was visible God fought for us.
It was observably owing to Providence, that our Soldiers were preserved from the Small-Pox, as such Numbers of them were in this Town, in order to embark, when that infectious Distemper broke out among us, threatening a universal Spread. And, perhaps, the Time was never known, when so many Persons, in so many different Parts of the Town, were taken ill with this Sickness, and it was notwithstanding stopped in its Progress: Which is the more worthy of special Notice, because, if it had prevailed, it would unavoidably have put an End to the intended Expedition.
It was owing to the wonderful Conduct of a kind Providence, that so considerable a military Force, at such a Season of the Year, should be carried in Safety to the Place they were bound for, without the loss of a Man, or meeting with the least Disaster; and that their Design should be a perfect Secret to the Enemy, till they were surprised with the Sight of our Fleet, going into Chaperonage Bay. It was this that made way for landing our Men and Stores without Annoyance, unless from a small Party of the French, some of whom were taken, some killed, and the rest obliged to flee for their Lives.
It was owing to the extraordinary favor of Providence, that the Enemy, so soon after our landing, forsook their Grand-Battery; allowing us to enter and take Possession of it without the least Opposition. This seems, on the one Hand, to have been a most fatal Mistake to them, which can scarce be accounted for, unless from a Spirit of Infatuation, or a mighty Terror seizing their Hearts: And, on the other, the leading Advantage put into our Hands; as it animated our Men with Life and Vigor, furnished them with the heaviest Cannon made use of in the Siege, and enabled them with greater Speed, and less Danger, to make their Attempt on the Town.
And here was a Series of Things remarkably overruled in Providence.
Not only were our Men disposed and enabled to transport their Cannon (some of which were of large Size and Weight) over Hills, and Rocks, and thro’ Morasses, in which sometimes they sunk with their Carriages so as to be buried in the Mire; but, in sight of the Enemy, and within reach of their Shot, they erected Batteries, mounted Guns, fixed Mortars, and soon got all Things in readiness, both to cannonade and bombard the Town: And all without the Loss of scarce a Man. And though they were nine and forty Days besieging the City, and had their nearest advanced Battery within less than Thirty Rods of its Western Gate, (as the Measure has since been taken) and were playing from it most of the Time, and receiving the Enemies Fire; yet the Men slain were but an handful.
And the like signal Preservation they met with at their Battery by the Light House. This was the greatest Annoyance to the Enemy, and, under God, the greatest Cause of their Surrender. And the whole Time they were erecting it, and getting their heavy Cannon up the high and steep Rocks, to the Amazement of the Enemy, they were continually played upon both by their Cannon and Bombs: And yet, if I remember right, there was no more than one Man slain. The whole Number indeed of Men lost, whether by the Sword, or Sickness, or Disaster, during the Siege, did not amount to more than an hundred and Twenty. This is the Doing of the Lord, and ought to be marvelous in our Eyes. The like has scarce been known in the World.
But besides these Favors of Providence, there was a most seasonable Coincidence of Events, all tending to point our View to God, and to lead us into an apprehension of him as remarkably appearing to grant us Success.
Such was the coming in of a large Supply of those very Provisions which were wanted, just as our Forces were ready to sail, and without which they must have been delayed.
Such was the taking a Number of Store Ships going to the relief of the Enemy, as well as intercepting a Packet from France to the Governor of Cape-Breton, which might have contained Advices of great Importance to the French, and Disservice to us.
And such also was the taking a large Ship of War, with more than five hundred Men, Provisions for eight Months, and about an hundred Barrels of Powder more than her own proper Store. Had the Providence of God permitted her to go in Safely, it might have defeated our Design. Such a Number of Men and such a Quantity of Provision and Ammunition, would have given Heart as well as Strength to the Enemy, and, some think, must have obliged us to raise the Siege. But what a merciful Turn did her Capture give to our Affairs? Not only were the Enemy weakened and dispirited, but a great part of their Strength put into our Hands to be turn’d against them; besides that our Army received a Supply of Powder, which was now so wanted, that our Canno must have been silent without it.
And this Event is the more worthy of Notice, because of the Incidents in Providence remarkably leading to it. A Packet boat from Great Britain arrives to Commodore Warren, in the West-Indies, ordering him to Boston with several Ships of War, to advise with Governor Shirley for the Protection of the Northern Colonies; which is the more observable, as the Commodore, through the Ignorance of his Pilot, had just before lost his own 60 Gun-Ship, by Means whereof he could give our Governor, who had dispatched Letters to him, advising him of the Design against Cape-Breton, no great Encouragement to expect his Help; though being now acquainted with the Resolution of this Government, he was prepared and disposed to hasten away with the greater Speed, upon his Orders from Home. But had he come to Boston, as he intended, agreeable to his Orders, he had probably been too late at Cape-Breton to have met with this Ship of War. A Vessel therefore is accidently cast in his Way at Sea, accidentally to Man, but intentionally by God, giving him certain Information, that the New-England Forces had been some time on their Voyage; upon which, though’ in want of Water and Provisions, he altered his Course, and arrived before the Harbor of Louisburg, time enough to take the Vigilant, a fine new 64 Gun Ship, designedly sent from France for the Protection of the French, and Distress of the English.
But the most astonishing Article in the Conduct of Providence, was its disposing the Enemy, by surrendering their City and Fortresses, to prevent that general Assault, both by Sea and Land, which had been resolved upon, and must have occasioned a most dreadful Effusion of Blood on both Sides: And God only knows, what the Event would have been; as the French were so strongly fortified, and had within their Walls 600 regular Troops, and, at least, 1,400 of the Inhabitants, whom they had called in to their Assistance.
Upon the whole, the Reduction of Louisburg, considering the immense Sums of Money that have been laid out, by the King of France, to render it impregnable; and considering also that it was accomplished by inexperienced undisciplined Troops from New-England, is an Event truly surprising, and will be spoken of as such at home, and handed down as such to the Children yet unborn.
We may say, upon a review of the Providences obviously leading to undertake this Affair, and visibly favoring it when undertaken, and all along remarkably concurring to its being delivered up into our Hands, Marvelous Things hast thou done for us, O Lord; thy right Hand and holy Arm have gotten us this Victory. And to thy Name be the Glory; which leads to the last Thing proposed, viz.
To show what Reason a People, for whom God has thus marvelously gotten the Victory, have to sing unto him a new Song of Praise. David, you see, calls upon the People of Israel to sing unto the Lord a new Song, for the Victory his holy Arm had gotten for them. This gave them new Matter for a new Song, and just Occasion to sing it unto God.
And the same may be said of us the People of God in this Land. He has given us a new and great Occasion to sing Praise to his Name; and we shall be horribly ungrateful, if we neglect to do so. And the Ingratitude will rise in its Baseness, and Malignity, in proportion to the marvelous Things, which the right Hand and holy Arm of God hath done in getting for us such a glorious Conquest; a Conquest, putting us in Possession of what may be called, the Key of North America; and which, if wisely improved, may be of vast Service, not only to this and all the neighboring Governments, but to Great Britain also, by guarding our Navigation, and securing to the English the Cod-Fishery, the value of which will be great, at present, and may, in Time, go beyond Account.
‘Tis observable, it was a common thing for God’s People of old, when succeeded against their Enemies, to celebrate the Praises of that God who appeared for them, and gave them Victory. We have many Songs of Praise upon such Occasions in the sacred Writings. Such was the Song of Moses for the Victory of Israel over the Egyptians, recorded in the 15th Chapter of Exodus. Such was the Song of Deborah and Barak for their entire Conquest of Jabin and Sisera, as we may see in the 5th Chapter of Judges. And such also were several of the Songs of David, for God’s powerfully delivering him out of the Hands of his Enemies, as they are to be met with in the Book of Psalms. All which Instances of religiously acknowledging God, upon Occasion of Victories obtained, were written for our Example, and call upon us, under the present Circumstances of Providence, to enter into God’s Gates with thanksgiving, and into his Courts with praise.
And as this is the Design of this Day’s Solemnity, let us unite in praising the Lord for the avenging of Israel. Let us sing Praises to the Lord God of Israel. Let the inspired Language of Moses, and the whole Body of the Jewish Nation, be ours upon this memorable Occasion, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.—The Lord is my Strength and Song, and he is become my Salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare him a Habitation; my Father’s God, and I will exalt him.—The Lord is a Man of War, the Lord is his Name.—Thy right Hand, O Lord, is become glorious in Power.—Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the Gods? Who is like unto thee, glorious in Holiness, fearful in Praises, doing Wonders? Thou hast stretched out thy right Hand. Thou, in thy Mercy, hast led forth the People which thou hast redeemed;—thou hast guided them in thy Strength.
Let us recount the many Favors of God to our Brethren; the many wonderful Interpositions of Providence, making way for the glorious Conquest they have gained: And let us muse on these Things, till our Hearts are warmed, and our Tongues opened to shew forth the Divine Praises. Let us extol our God and King, and bless his Name forever and over. Let us speak of the glorious Honor of his Majesty, and of his wondrous Works. Let us speak of the might of his terrible Acts, and declare his Greatness. Let us abundantly utter the Memory of his great Goodness, and sing of his Righteousness.
And let not the blessed God have Occasion to say of us, as of his People of old, They sang his Praise, they soon forgot his Works. They forgot God their Savior, which had done great Things in Egypt, wondrous Works in the Land of Ham, and terrible Things by the Red-Sea.
Let us not think it enough, my Brethren, that we have laid aside our worldly Business, for a while, to appear in the Sanctuary of God, that we may speak and sing his Praises. The Lord hath done great things for us. The God of Jeshurun hath rode upon the Heavens in our help, and in his Excellency on the Skie. And this wonderful Appearance of God for us, should excite our Love, warm our Devotion, confirm our Faith, encourage our Hope, and inspire us with the firmest Resolutions of all holy Obedience to the Commandments of God.
Let us not think, that God will be pleased with mere external Offerings of Praise. Nay, he hath shewed thee, O Man, what is good. And what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do Justice, and to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Behold, to obey is better than Sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of Rams. To love the Lord our God with all our Heart, and with all our Understanding, and with all our Soul, and with all our Strength, and to love our Neighbor as ourselves, is more than whole Burnt-offerings and Sacrifices. Let us, together with Offerings of Praise, order our Conversation aright: So shall we glorify God, and he will still shew us his Salvation.
And let me here mind you of one Way wherein ’tis peculiarly fitting you should express your Gratitude on this joyful Occasion; and that is, by shewing Mercy to the Poor. ‘Tis observable, when the Jews prevailed against their Enemies, and solemnized the Feast of Purim in Thanksgiving to God, they gave Gifts to the Poor, as we read, Esther 9.22. And if, when we fast, and humble ourselves before God, ’tis proper to deal our Bread to the hungry, when we see the naked to cover them, and satisfy the afflicted Soul; is it not reasonable also when we are called to serve the Lord with gladness, and to come before his Presence with singing, to be in the exercise of that Charity which shall refresh the Bowels of the poor and needy? Can there be a more fit Occasion than a Day of religious Gladness and Thanksgiving, to open our Hands in liberal Distributions, causing the Widow’s Heart to sing for Joy? Let us in this way, do good, for with such Sacrifices God is well pleased.
But what I would more especially recommend to you is, the exercise of all Christian Compassion towards those of the Enemies whom it has pleased God to put under our Power. Of old it was said, thou shalt love thy Neighbor, and hate thine Enemy; but our Lord Jesus Christ says, love your Enemies. This Christian Law must not indeed construed in prejudice of that Love which we owe to ourselves, our Families and Country, which may make it necessary to take up Arms: But when by this Means our Enemies are fallen into our Hands, we should treat them, not only with Humanity, but Christian Love; being ready to all the Offices of Kindness and Compassion towards them. We should not insult them, we should not upbraid them, we should not treat them with Harshness and Severity; but endeavor to make their captive State as comfortable to them as may consist with the public Good.
Some of you, it may be, have Friends or Relatives among their Enemies. How would you desire they should treat them? Would not you be glad, if they were kind to them? Would you not think hardly of them, if they should shut up their Bowels of Compassion, and behave towards them with Diskindness? Let us treat those who are our Captives in the same humane Christian Way, we should be glad our Friends should be treated, or our selves, were we in our Enemies Power. That is the Prescription of the Bible, Proverbs 25:21. If thine Enemy be hungry, give him Bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him Water to drink. And the Reason follows in the next Verse, For thou shalt heap Coals of Fire upon his Head, and the Lord shall reward thee. But I have no need to use any Arguments upon this Head. I believe there is no Place where Prisoners of War are treated with more Kindness. They have no Reason to complain for want of all reasonable Liberty, or that they are not suitably provided with all Things necessary: Tho’ the Case of some of them may be such as to call for Christian Charity; and in this Case, I would hope, there are none of us but would willingly open our Hands for their Relief; and in so doing we should honor God, and behave like the Disciples of Jesus Christ: Nor should we in any wise lose our Reward; it would be laid up for us in Heaven.
And now as the Conclusion of all, May it please the good and gracious God to over rule this glorious Conquest to an happy Issue, the Good of our Nation and Land. May he give all needed Direction as to resettling the Place. And may all proper Care be taken, that the pure Gospel of Christ be preached in this part of the Dominion of Antichrist. May the Man of Sin, that Son of Perdition, be no longer acknowledged as Christ’s Vicegerent. May all Graven Images be pulled down, all Superstition removed, and the Religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is contained in the Bible, be upheld and practiced there.
And may the happy Period come on, when Nation shall no more life up Sword against Nation, nor the Alarm of War be heard on Earth. This happy Time can’t be expected till the Lord Jesus Christ has taken to himself his great Power and Reign; till he is seated King upon God’s holy Hill of Zion, and has generally subdued the Lusts and Passions of Men: And when this is once the Case, that will be fulfilled which is spoken by the Prophet Isaiah, The Wolf shall dwell with the Lamb, and the Leopard shall lie down with the Kid; and the Calf, and the young Lion, and the Fatling together, and a little Child shall lead them. And the Cow and the Bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy Mountain. The Meaning is, Love and Peace shall reign on Earth among Men. The good Lord hasten this blessed Time, for his Mercies sake in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Image Credit: View of the English landing on the island of Cape Breton to attack the fortress of Louisbourg. 1745, Unknown Author.