God Ruling the Nations for the Most Glorious End

A sermon, in presence of His Excellency, and both houses of Assembly. Hartford, May 13th, 1784


Relatively little is known about Joseph Huntington (1735-1794). Our constant refrain in republishing sermons like Huntington’s is that the obscurity of the author demonstrates the character of the time, of old America. Huntington was a normal pastor if well-regarded and known in his own day. There were hundreds like him.

Huntington was born in 1735 in Windham, Connecticut. He is buried in the Nathan Hale Cemetary in Coventry Lake, Connecticut. He graduated Yale in 1762, took up a pastorate in Coventry, and was married shortly thereafter and had three children. His first wife died when she was only 26. His second wife was 58 when she passed but outlived Joseph by 12 years. He served on the board of Dartmouth College but otherwise dedicated his time to pastoral ministry and writing, never leaving Coventry. Some suspected him of universalist tendencies, and his Calvinism improved : or, the gospel illustrated as a system of real grace, issuing in the salvation of all men (1796), published posthumously, supports those suspicions.

No portrait of him survives, but several of his publications do, one of which is the election day sermon reproduced below. You will notice from its date that it was delivered when the new nation still operated under the Articles of Confederation, a period almost no one knows anything about. Notice also how highly Huntington speaks of the original arrangement. Curious, no doubt, to those of us taught that life under the Articles was an unmitigated disaster. More important to spot is how openly and easily Huntington compares America to old Israel–he provides his reasons. This was common and normal even in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The reasons for the demise of this Biblical-Providential consciousness are not purely theological, to be sure. See also the confidence and optimism in Huntington’s treatment of his nation. Old Testament, normative analogies are rife throughout, providing the basis for and conditions of good governance and a godly people. Surely these two things, the optimism and an outlook saturated by the full counsel of God on these matters are not disconnected. Admittedly, history was simpler before it abruptly ended at the end of the last century.

Huntington’s text is Deuteronomy 32:8: When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, When he separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people According to the number of the children of Israel. Most of his Scripture use in this 10,000-word sermon is not accompanied by citation in the original. It was expected that the audience would know the texts from memory. These have been supplied here. In typical fashion, Huntington addresses all parties present, the chief magistrate, the legislature, the ministers, and the people. Note Huntington’s maintaining of the traditional religious role of the magistrate as a nursing father. This even after the supposed world-shattering break from the colonial period, mind you. Maybe Huntington was being an anachronistic curmudgeon. Or maybe he was saying exactly what everyone else thought. If anyone can find printed objections to his analogies between America and old Israel or his employment of Isaiah 49:23 language, et cetera, do submit them to us. Certainly, a sanction from the governor and assembly must exist, right? Right?


When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

Just thoughts of Deity are sublime and exalted thoughts; such are the sentiments of the great legislator and judge of Israel, in my text, while he has in full view the attributes and character of that being who is over all.

Moses had seen much of the glory of his Maker in Egypt, at the red sea, in the Arabian deserts, especially on Mount Sinai, where his infinite majesty, his awful and endearing glories, beamed forth conspicuous in giving the law. More was then seen of God than ever had been seen before.

This great man having sustained the toils and burdens of an eminent public station forty years; and having conducted the chosen tribes to the borders of the promised land; the divine poem out of which my text is taken, was put into his mouth, and designed for the benefit of the people of God, in every age of the world.

The burden of the song is the infinite rectitude, greatness and glory of God; the exceeding depravity and perverseness of sinful man, the wisdom and blessedness of obedience, and the folly and misery of rebellion against heaven.

In the fourth verse the prophet speaks of the eternal Being in most becoming language. “He is a rock, his work is perfect, all his ways are judgment, a God of truth, without iniquity, just and right is he [Deuteronomy 32:5].”

And in my text three points of doctrine meet our view, and demand our serious attention.

I. All nations of the earth are at the absolute disposal of the Most High, to be divided and separated at his pleasure.

II. His express will that mankind should live on equal terms, as brethren.

III. That all the nations of the earth shall be subservient to his own peculiar nation and kingdom.

These thoughts, with their application, may improve the present hour.

I. All nations of the earth are at the absolute disposal of the Most High.

“When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance [Deuteronomy 32:8].”

Here God appears inhabiting eternity, and having in his own infinite mind a most glorious and perfect plan, relating to all the future inhabitants of the world; the situation, numbers, rise and fall, of the various states and empires that were to overspread the earth.

God determined all these things, in his boundless wisdom and goodness, before he began to operate in his providence; that point in the vast round of eternity cannot be conceived of, when he had not so decreed.

He saw all his works, and all the works and ways of men, the whole business and result of the world, as clearly before he began to create, as he will at the consummation of all things.

What God has determined shall be done, is often in sacred scripture, spoken of in a past tense, as already done; instances in the prophets are many; and the manner of expression is designed to impress our minds with a sense of the divine immutability.—”My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure [Isaiah 46:10].” “He ruleth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the world, and none can stay his hand [Daniel 4:35].”

What is past we all know to be certain, and what God has determined and foreknown is equally certain. So, when future scenes of glory and blessedness to mankind, were opened to saint John, scenes that require many ages for their accomplishment, he that sat on the throne said, “It is done: I am alpha and omega, the beginning and the end [Revelation 21:16].”

If any stumble at this part of the divine character, let them remember God is incomprehensible: if any would thence infer that there is no freedom of will, or moral agency in men; no desert of praise or blame; let them look into their own bosoms, and consult the certain feelings of their own hearts.

The divine decrees and certain foreknowledge, are necessary to the perfection of Deity, and perfectly consistent with the entire freedom and moral agency of intelligent creatures; and if men or angels cannot explain all that is connected with these doctrines, it only verifies that we cannot “by searching find out God, or the Almighty unto perfection.” We know not what it is to be God, to think as God thinks and decree as he decrees.

The divine Being in his wise fixed purpose, “divided to the nations their inheritance, and separated the sons of Adam,” long “before he had formed the earth or the sea or the highest part of the dust of the world [Proverbs 8:26].”

But before the days of Moses he had in part unfolded his infinitely wise and good purposes, in the movements of his Providence. The world was created and the human kind to replenish it: The garden of Eden was given to them as their inheritance in the days of innocence but for rebellion against heaven they were soon turned out of it.

Nothing but sacred history looks back to this early period, there we find mankind multiplied and spread abroad on the earth, in how many tribes or nations we are not informed; but may argue from the long period of time before the flood, about seventeen hundred years: And the longevity of the people, that a great part of the world might be inhabited.

No doubt the numerous children of Adam were before the flood separated in many divisions and dilated far and wide on the face of the earth.

After the deluge we find the small remains of mankind on the mountains of Ararat, which divide the present empire of Persia from Circassian Tartary, on the north: whence they first moved south-east and lived together in one growing family or tribe about an hundred years.—From whence they journeyed westward as far as the river Euphrates; near the place where the garden of Eden was situate, in quest, it is supposed, of the ancient paradise, but found it was wholly demolished by the flood. Yet vainly fond to build something in imitation of it. They had also the same disposition natural to the nations ever since, viz. to hold together as long as possible and extend one general empire: But he who saw fit to separate the sons of Adam, laid the grand foundation of it, in his Providence, at this time.

For while, on the plains of Babel, they were attempting to “build a city and a tower whose top might reach to heaven” the Almighty confounded their language.

The language of paradise, and that spoken by God’s covenant people to this day, was in all probability the Hebrew tongue[1]: But now the Almighty wholly obliterated from the minds and memories of most of them, that ancient language, leaving only one division of the people to retain it, and impressed on the minds of all the other divisions respectively, a different dialect, which each immediately spoke with the same freedom, with which they before spoke their native tongue.

How many different languages were now given we are not told, nor how many distinct nations or tribes were made in consequence; God meant it to “separate the sons of Adam*” and they were scattered abroad on all the face of the earth.

All the languages now in the world were radically contained in the various dialects which God then gave on the plains of Shinar; though with much composition and variation; as no man ever invented a language entirely new, this seems the prerogative of God himself.

And the Most High in rolling on his purposes, has, in every age, made use of this as one great medium, even diversity of language, to make or keep the nations distinct and separate.

But to proceed, infinite Wisdom has many other means, which all co-operate for the same end.

The enormous growth and extent of nations, and empires, has often brought them to division.

So the vast extended empires of Greece and Rome, after covering a great part of the world, broke to pieces under their own weight.

Again God has often made this the event of war foreign or intestine, and many new nations have rose out of blood.

Also, a tyrannical and oppressive spirit in potentates and rulers has often had the same effect. These have made many people so uneasy as to throw off the yoke of subjection, and set up distinct by themselves. Witness Egypt, in ancient days; the cruel tyranny of the Monarch lost him the best part of his subjects, the people of God, the many thousands of Israel. God’s purpose was fulfilled, as in all things; but the tyranny of Pharaoh was the means.

Witness also the despotic language of that unexperienced young Prince in Israel: No sooner had be answered the supplicating tribes “my little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins” than a grand division in the nation took place.

Many examples might be adduced; but we have a recent one almost without a parallel. How well connected and quiet was the great British empire, from the accession of the Prince of Orange, till after the death of George the second? and how did every branch of the empire dread the thought of disunion? But, when a British King became a tyrant, and the Parliament a band of despots, and would be content with nothing less than to bind a great part of the empire in chains of perpetual slavery, yea, in all cases whatsoever; when they caused the sea and the waves along our coast to roar with their hostile thunder, and our defenseless towns to flame to the midst of heaven. When they plunged their daggers in the breasts of an innocent people, and called upon us the savages of the wilderness, with all their infernal massacres, our feelings were greatly changed. We once loved Britain most dearly; but Britain the Tyrant, we could not love; our souls abhorred her measures; when matters were pushed thus far, we desisted from all our humble prayers to deaf ears and unrelenting souls. We rose from the dust where we had been long prostrate—our breasts glowed with noble ardor—we invoked the God of our fathers, and we took the field; and we have found that “there is none like the God of Jeshurun who hath rode on the heavens in our help and in his excellency on the sky [Deuteronomy 32:6].”

And yet further; God has often made the lawless ambition, and proud aspiring spirit of men instrumental of making new kingdoms, or dividing ancient ones. As in the case of Nimrod, a proud and lawless man; a man of blood in contempt of heaven, “a mighty hunter before the Lord†,” he soon began a kingdom distinct for himself.

The proud spirit of Jeroboam contributed to the same end, in conjunction with the rashness of the young king and his raw counsellors.

Moreover, prospects of gain and worldly advantages, have often laid the foundation of future empire. With these views many times a few adventurous people have emigrated from their native land, and when success has crowned their exertions, and they have so increased in numbers and wealth, and become so savored with learning, as to be fit for a distinct empire, the event has seldom long delayed.

And, indeed, there is the same reason, and it is equally the design of divine providence, that when any people become adult—are blessed with numbers, wealth, knowledge, and in all regards equal to the management of national affairs, they should then become distinct and independent, as that the branches of a family should be so, when adult and capable to manage for themselves. Successful emigrations are the seeds of future empire.

Add to all these religious persecution, which God has made instrumental of new states and empires. Those who have true religion, prize it far above all sublunary enjoyments; the rights of conscience they hold as their dearest rights; and when they are persecuted and may not enjoy the worship and ordinances of God, as they judge agreeable to his will, they will combine and defend themselves, if in their power, and have a commonwealth of their own, and rulers of their own spirit and principles. Witness the united Netherlands. What floods of trouble and blood did they wade through, much actuated by a sacred regard to the rights of conscience. The great empire of Spain was divided in consequence, and the United Provinces assumed sovereign power, with the most happy constitution, perhaps, then in the world.

This hateful persecution led the way to all the growing greatness of the United States of America. The sufferings of our progenitors, many and great, for their religion and strict piety, impelled them to forsake their native land, and all the affluence they enjoyed there; they preferred a waste, howling wilderness, with their God, and his ordinances unpolluted, to all the wealth and splendor of their native Albion. The God whom they served forsook them not; he commanded the deep in their favour and guarded them from the power of the numerous heathen then savages: they made him the glory in the midst of them, and he was a wall of fire round about them. “The wilderness and the solitary place was glad for them, and the desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose [Isaiah 35].”

Considered as a people, these were the days of our early youth; and in all the great things God has done for us of late, he has remembered us “the kindness of our youth, and the love of our espousals, when we went after him in the wilderness, in a land not sown [Jeremiah 2].”

By these, and the like means, the Most High has thus far effected his purpose, and thus all the numerous nations of the earth have been formed:—the temper and the exertions of men concerned, have been, in many instances, very wicked; but God is holy and pure; and when we behold Jehovah taking occasion from the wickedness of men, to accomplish his own most glorious purposes, and display his own character, in the most amiable and astonishing view, who shall not adore him!

II. We next take notice of the manifest will of heaven, that mankind should live on equal terms as brethren.

This is fully intimated in two expressions in the text, the first is, “their inheritance.” Here we behold Deity as universal parent giving portions to his children: He is absolute proprietor, has whatever he pleases to give, and imparts to his great family according to his sovereign good will: What he gives to each nation in the course of his providence is equally theirs respectively, and each individual has his property alike confirmed by the father of all.

An empire, or commonwealth newly formed, hath its own inheritance, all its rights and privileges, as firmly established as the most ancient empire in the world. The inheritance of a small nation is as truly theirs as that of a great one.

The power there is in great and war-like nations to plunder and destroy those that are weak and small, gives them no more right so to do, than the wealth of the rich gives them right to oppress and swallow up the poor that are about them.

Potentates who have, in their ambition, pride, and other lusts, robbed many millions of their substance, in former and later ages, and slaughtered millions more, because it was in their power, have been the most atrocious murderers, the most execrable robbers, and the most horrid wretches that ever disgraced human nature.

The other expression in the text which I have alluded to is this, “the sons of Adam,” all near kindred, of one common nature, children of one father. The Apostle seems to comment on this when he says, God “hath made of one blood, all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation†.”

Human nature has one common feeling of pleasure and pain, wants and necessities, sorrows and troubles are common, all have a quick sense of injury and abuse, all rejoice in kindness received.

Tyrants bent on slaughter and the misery of mankind, ought to realize that the multitudes they rob and murder, feel plunder and death just as they themselves would were it their woeful lot to fall into such merciless hands.

“Separated the sons of Adam.” Here the branching out of nations, is represented under the idea of the branching out of families; and as an aged parent who is blessed with a number of families, formed out of his own house, calls them all his children, and looks on the whole only as his own family still, though dispersed in several branches. So, in very deed the whole world is but one complicated family.

No parents are so unnatural as to be willing that one of their household should be tyrant and despot over the whole, to vex, oppress, and slaughter the rest at his pleasure; or that the stronger children should be cruel to the weaker.

Had Adam seen all of this kind that has since fallen out in his family, he would have wept more bitterly than the poet feigns, when he saw the Lazar house, with all its dreadful stores of complicated misery,

Sight so deform what heart of rock could long

Dry-ey’d behold? Adam could not, but wept,

Though not of woman born; compassion quell’d

His best of man, and gave him up to tears.

[Milton, Paradise Lost, 11.1.495.]

As individuals and families are brethren and neighbours to each other, so are societies, towns, states and nations, and should always act the fraternal part, and the neighbour, with that amiable spirit which Jesus describes in his parable of the neighbor [Luke 10].

All are under that divine precept “whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets [Matthew 7:12].”

It is the law of reason, the law of nature, and enforced by the whole of divine revelation.

However, mankind have lost a spirit of love, and whatever hatred they often have to one another; yet they are all very near kindred; and the great parent, who is love “sees and abhors them, because of the provoking of his sons and his daughters.”

There has never been any intermarriage from without the family of Adam, to divide the blood, and make the kindred more distant; the family is now very great, it has many branches, but it is still one, it remains the same; and if we do not feel our connection with all the human kind to be very near, very tender, we are past feeling, and our spirit is opposite to nature, to reason, and to our common father, the fountain of love.

And here again the horrors of wanton, offensive war appear in their proper colour. It is only Cain murdering Abel his brother.

In this men sin more against nature than ever apostate angels did. Well might the poet exclaim,

Oh! Shame to men: devil with devil damn’d

Firm concord hold: men only disagree.

They live in hatred, enmity and strife,

Among themselves, and levy cruel war,

Wasting the earth each other to destroy.

[Milton, Paradise Lost, 2.1.496.]

But God will bring final glory to himself and his church out of all nations. And here we fall in with the third general head proposed, viz.,

III. The divine determination, which shall not be frustrated, to make all nations subservient to God’s own peculiar nation and kingdom.

“He set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the children of Israel [Deuteronomy 32:8-9].”

Whatever more immediate, or special reference this may have to the situation of the seven nations of Canaan, and adjacent kingdoms, yet no doubt the words have that extensive sense I have intimated; the phrases are wholly indefinite, the nations—the people—the sons of Adam—and the whole analogy of scripture warrants the idea.

God, from eternity, in his most glorious plan, his infinitely kind decree; set the bounds of all nations, with a most tender regard to his own covenant people, in every age, wherever they might dwell, or whatever their number might be; and in his almighty Providence carries the whole into effect.

There are many phrases in sacred scripture which denote the covenant people of God, in one age of the world, as well as in another: In these, and in future days as well as in ages past. Zion, Jerusalem, the seed of Abraham, the seed of Jacob, the children of Israel, and the like, are expressions well known of this import. The children of Israel are the church, the people of God in every age.

Were it not for the concerns of religion and immortal happiness, there would be nothing worthy of God, as the author and disposer, in the creation of the world, or in the kingdom of providence. Separate from any connection with eternal glory, all the mighty movements, and all the glory of the kingdoms of this world are but solemn trifles: But in this connection of great importance.

Immortal happiness is for immortal souls, and not creatures but God himself is their portion Among the covenant people of God, the way of happiness is displayed, and God exalted in the glory of his grace,

So we find that king that God has set on his holy hill of Zion reigning for his church, “Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all†.”

In the context we find “the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance [Deuteronomy 32:9].” So God says “I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee [Isaiah 43:3],” and speaking of Zion “all my springs are in thee.”

The affairs of the world, in every empire, every place, will finally result in this, “be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in all the earth.”

Much of the divine conduct in the kingdom of providence is not to be investigated by man: Yet we can easily see enough to illustrate the point now in view; want of time forbids my giving many instances; let a few suffice as a specimen of the whole.

Look back into Egypt in the days of Jacob, and succeeding ages. God had set their bounds not far from Canaan where Jacob dwelt: He had made Egypt in those days superior to any other empire in the world, for power, wealth, arts and sciences. And this with design that they should be an asylum for his covenant people: That there they might be fed in days of famine, and might greatly increase. The great learning of Egypt was for the education of Moses, that he might well sustain the important character afterwards devolved on him. Aaron and other leaders, yea the whole people of God, no doubt, much the better for the many schools and the learning of Egypt, to sustain their respective characters in the great scenes that were before them. Even the gold of the nation was laid on the tabernacle of the Most High. Their great kindness to Israel, for a time, and their hard dealing afterwards, conspired to advance the interest of the people of God. Again,

The nations situate between Egypt and Canaan, in the way that Israel took, had their bounds for the same end. “He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.” When the hosts of Israel came out of Egypt they were not acquainted with war; nor had they instruments of war, sufficient to encounter the mighty nations of Canaan; but by fighting their way through smaller opposition, conquering the Amorites and the people of Bashan with their kings, and breaking through other hostile resistance, they became expert in war, and well equipped with swords and bows, helmets, spears and shields taken from their enemies.

These maneuvers made Joshua a great general, and taught the whole army of Israel all military achievements, and so prepared them to face all the mighty warriors of Canaan in due time, with all the gigantic sons of Anak in their front.

There were many and great miracles we know, in conducting the people of God to the land of promise and their settlement there; but all that might be done for them in the common course of Providence was done in that way: Thus, God has ever dealt and ever will.

We may look next into the land of Canaan, and we shall find the Most High planted and supported seven nations there, to cultivate the land and prepare it for his own people, that they might find it a land flowing with milk and honey, and very commodious for their residence. The pious governor of Judea speaking of this, says, “They took strong cities and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged [sic], vineyards and olive yards, and all fruit-trees in abundance, so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness [Nehemiah 9:25].”

In the days of David, what vast territory round about had the nations cultivated and made fertile, which that great warrior, at the command of God, brought into the possession of Israel?

In the days of Solomon, how did the nations of the east submit and minister to the people of God?

They have also had protection whence it was not expected. “Let mine out-casts dwell with thee, Moab, be thou a covert to them, from the face of the spoil [Isaiah 16:4].”

The vast Persian empire, with Cyrus their renowned prince and general were for the same end. Persia was then mistress of the world, and Cyrus the greatest general in it; all for the people of God, “to say to the prisoners go forth, and to them that sit in darkness shew yourselves.” In this way the church of God was delivered from her Babylonian captivity. And some of his successors did much for their resettlement in the holy land.

The growing greatness of the Grecian empire, in the days of Philip, and more especially in the time of his son Alexander, was ordered in Providence with the same view to favour the cause of religion, and prepare the way for a wide spread of divine knowledge. A great part of the world then received law from the Greeks and also their language; a solemn, elegant and copious tongue, most fit for the promulgation of the New Testament. This language was extensive among the nations when the evangelists and apostles wrote. And had it not been for a dispensation of Providence of this kind, it had been impossible, without mere miracles, that the New Testament should have been, in any measure, so extensively read as it was, at the time of its first promulgation.

The greatness of the Roman empire when the Most High placed Constantine at the head of it, is another proof of his regard to his own people; great, very great, were the privileges they enjoyed in the days of that monarch. Though alas in their abundant favours they soon after waxed wanton and apostatized from the way of holiness.

Passing over many examples, I shall add but one more so conspicuous, indeed, that we must not be inattentive to it. I mean the great monarchy of France, great in wealth, power, numbers, and learning. Great and much honoured in the prince that now sits on the throne: All this indeed to protect the rights of mankind, to patronize liberty, and serve the cause of religion in such a day as this. Not only to divide to us our inheritance and separate us from the rest of the sons of Adam, but to promote the glorious cause of liberty and religion among the nations.

In these instances and many more that I would name, would the time admit, we can clearly see the ways of divine Providence, and investigate the footsteps of the Most High; and we may rest fully assured that all other nations from the beginning to the end of the world shall finally appear to have been subservient to the same glorious purpose. And when they have answered this great end they fall and rise no more; but the kingdom of God stands firm on an everlasting basis. As it is written, “The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation.”


From what has been said we learn our duty and interest as a people. We have lately received our inheritance, as a distinct sovereign empire, from the great disposer of all things, and a better God never gave to the sons of Adam; a land as fertile as the land of Canaan, and of much larger extent. He hath given us the best civil constitution now in the world, the same in the general nature of it, with that he gave to Israel in the days of Moses. And it is remarkable that our number of people is about the same with their’s in the days of Moses—i.e., about three millions. Israel had thirteen free independent states, or tribes, one of them, viz. that of Joseph being subdivided: out of these states their supreme Council or general Congress was chosen, by delegates from each, often called their Sanhedrim. Each state managed its own internal police, each had a General Assembly, composed of their best men, at the free election of the people, often called the elders of the tribe: their government was theocratical; so for substance is our free elective government, according to that old maxim, vox populi vox dei. And they had their executive courts and officers in various stations, for substance answering to ours. No matter for the difference of names, titles and phrases, where the substance of things is the same.

We may well argue from the wisdom and goodness of God, that this general plan of government is the most perfect, and best for men, as God himself devised it and gave it in the greatness of his love, to his own peculiar people. Had any other been better in the nature of things, God would have given them a different one. So, when they rejected it for monarchy, they rejected the wisdom and goodness of God, and were great losers. They had the light of divine revelation; we in a far more glorious manner. Canaan was their inheritance, Columbia is ours; and our southern dominions cover the same climate in which they dwelt.

Now our great duty and interest is to secure and improve our blessed inheritance, and hand it down to posterity. There is but one way to do this, and that is to keep the commandments of our God. This will secure to us every blessing, and make us “high above all nations,”—”great in name, in praise and in honor;” but if we rebel against God we shall be miserable. We must, above all things, attend to true religion, and practice every moral virtue, even that righteousness that exalteth a nation, and fly from every vice and abhor the ways of immorality.

Our danger at this day lies in that shameful irreligious temper that is too obvious in many—a man that contemns true religion is a disgrace to human nature and a great curse to his country. We are endangered by many vices—injustice and extortion, idleness and luxury, prophane swearing, the sure mark of a thoughtless sinner; prophanation of the holy sabbath, intemperance, lasciviousness and wantonness, pride and extravagance, the Lord in his infinite mercy deliver us from all these.

But there is one abominable vice that is so pernicious to us every day, and so immediately threatens us with dissolution and anarchy, that I must bear my testimony more largely against it.

It is that unreasonable, raging spirit of jealousy pointed against all in power, especially against those in the most burdensome and important trusts. Jealousy is the rage and distraction of men, as well in civil as domestic life. We elect all our rulers, and often enough in all reason: we choose such as we esteem men of the greatest wisdom and probity: we have no jealousy of them until we exalt them into office, and burden them with a great weight; then we turn jealous; for no reason but because they are exerting all their wisdom and goodness to pour out blessings upon us, and sacrificing their lives to make us happy. They are as good men after they are in office as before, but we have a very different spirit towards them. Nay, some are not ashamed openly to say, we ought to, we must keep a jealous eye over our rulers in every station in order to secure our privileges; which, by the way, is just as good sense as to say that a woman ought to be very jealous of her husband, that so she may live happily with him, and all domestic concerns may go on in peace.

Our rulers in every station, are open and accountable to their constituents in all they do; and if criminal, are subject to law and punishment, even as any private man, and we may turn them out of office when we please. But still the people will inspect them with a jealous mind, and the certain consequence is, they judge very falsely and abusively of them.

A man under the force of jealousy, never yet judged right in any case, and never can. Jealousy will soon find enough in the most perfect character in the world to make it a very bad one. That old poet who so greatly excelled in his discernment of human nature, has told us the very truth.

Trifles light as air,

Are to the jealous demonstrations strong

As proofs of holy writ.

[Shakespear, Othello, 3.3].

Jealousy makes men uneasy with the best administration, and with the best men at the head of it; uneasy with all their rulers do, and they will stone for a good deed as soon as for a bad one. It makes men rebellious, obstinate and heady, and obstructs a multitude of blessings which good rulers are pouring down on the people they love.

We expend much to maintain authority, as indeed they ought to have an honorable support; and would we only let them do us all the good in their hearts, and in their power under God, they would repay us a thousand fold. But what can the good patriots do? first we must be jealous of them, next we certainly think them wicked, and then we destroy their influence and their good names together. Thus we lose our benefit and our cost of supporting them. We bind them hand and foot, and are like a man who should hire a number of the best workmen at a great expense, to build him an house, and as soon as they began to operate with all their skill and fidelity, should load them with chains,—pay might continue, but the work must miserably proceed.

Let our rulers as well as others, be weighed in an even balance: jealousy makes the balance very uneven: let us judge of those in power as well as of other men, with all that charity which the Apostle describes, and which, without solid reason, “thinketh no evil.”

I am as much engaged for liberty, in the utmost extent of it, as any man on earth; I would have all in power elective by, and accountable to the people; and if in any case criminal, on fair trial, let them not be spared. But this hydra of jealousy and evil surmise, it is not liberty, it is tyranny, it is confusion, it is death. Proud, selfish, wicked men take the advantage of it; they lust for offices, for which they are utterly unfit; but they must first remove those worthy men that hold them: they make or propagate a thousand lies, to stir up the jealousy of the people, enrage the multitude, and clear the seats of honour for themselves. And when such brambles get in power, “a fire soon comes out of the bramble and devours the cedars of Lebanon [Judges 9:15].”

If this vile spirit may have its full growth and universal sway, we shall soon have few men of wisdom and probity, in seats of honour and trust; and the good will adopt the words of the prophet, and lament over our land, saying “A fire is gone out of the rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a scepter to rule: this is a lamentation and shall be for a lamentation [Ezekiel 19:14].” God grant we may be delivered from this iniquity, and all other land defiling crimes, practice every virtue, and serve the God of our fathers with a perfect heart. And shall not all the goodness of God, to our fathers and to us, especially, recent, wonderful favours lead us to repentance, and engage us to universal holiness?

God had determined from eternity to divide us our inheritance, as he hath lately done; his Providence began to operate in the days of our fathers though they had no thought of the result of it.

Thus, all those cruel persecutions that were under the kings of the Stuart family, served, in the Providence of God, to bring into this land people of the best principles and morals; it is especially true of this part of it.

God established a glorious church in a dreary wilderness: and those words in the context are as applicable to them as to Israel of old, “He found him in a desert land, in a waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.”

Our fathers were men of solid wisdom, piety and virtue, and therefore it was their early concern to promote learning, to establish seminaries, which have been wonderfully blessed for that end; to provide for the support of a learned orthodox gospel ministry, to guard the churches: then Moses and Aaron were brethren indeed, and they went hand in hand, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron [Psalm 77:20],” our civil constitution was excellent while inviolate. The people amazingly grew, in numbers, and the Most High was their defense in all their perils: he was then laying the foundation for what we now see; and in all the movements of the great and complicated wheels of Providence, as in the high and dreadful vision of Ezekiel the prophet, “a man, that man who is God, sat above upon them [2 Thessalonians 2:4],” rolling us into future empire.

With the same view, God has raised up so many statesmen, and military commanders, and so many renowned pillars in sacred characters. And as the time of separation drew near, a spirit of learning, liberty, and a martial spirit greatly increased. The all-wise Being knew what instruments would be most proper in every department. For this end our late General was born with all his greatness of soul; called into military service in the days of youth, and trained up with every noble accomplishment. And the hearts of the whole nation wonderfully united in him. Divine Providence ordering all the circumstances of the late war, calls aloud upon us to love and serve the great Ruler of all.

When our tyrannical enemies first attacked us, it was with a force just enough to rouse and invigorate us; but by no means equal to a conquest. Had they fallen upon us, with all their might, unarmed, unprovided as we then were, what would have become of us? They pressed upon us, with increasing force, just fast enough to confirm our union and martial spirit, and prepare us to give them the reception they deserved. “Howbeit they meant not so, neither did their hearts think so,” all this was of God.

The forming of the great council of our nation was indeed wonderful; our association, bill of rights, Articles of Confederation, and alliance, display divine wisdom and goodness; our naval achievements, especially when we were weakest, have shewn that God is mighty.

We have been favoured with such uncommon health through the States in general, for seven or eight years past, that not more of our people have died in proportion to their number, than has been usual in time of peace, notwithstanding the reeking sword, and the horrible prison-ships of our enemies. The more than ordinary fruitfulness of the seasons, has, perhaps, been a counterbalance to our extraordinary consumption, during the war. And surely God has brought great good to us, out of one very great evil, faithless depreciating paper currency, indeed one of the worst things that ever a people are scourged with: yet Providence has so ordered, that it has answered the end of a mighty tax upon us and has made even filthy rags a cord for the necks of our enemies.

The goodness of God is to be noticed in many battles, from the first effusion of blood at Lexington, to the grand decisive scene at Gloucester and Yorktown. Even all the delays and retreatings [sic] of our General, shew us that he was guided from on high; like another Fabius [Maximus], cunctando restituit rem [“by delaying, he restored”]. [Livy].

The kind spirit towards us infused into several princes and nations of Europe, was from on high, and when proud, haughty Britain bows at last, we see God is mightier than Britain.

I only hint at these things as so many motives to induce us to love and serve the God of our fathers▪ He has giv[en] [u]s a glorious and honourable peace, “That being delivered from our enemies, we should serve him without fear, in righteousness and holiness, all the days of our lives.” And may we not reasonably hope God has done all these things to prepare the way for the most glorious effusion of his holy spirit in this western world: and to bow the hearts of millions to himself? That the latter day glory may soon break out here in its meridian luster and diffuse over all the world, soon darting its blessed beams to the farthest borders of the east. Oh, blessed day! “Come Lord Jesus come quickly!”

Nothing now remains but the usual addresses, and the character of our first magistrate, demands our first and most respectful notice.

May it please your Excellency.

We doubt not but thoughts of the greatness and glory of God, and his overruling hand in the kingdom of Providence, like those now offered, but much better suggested in your own mind, have been your support and consolation from the days of youth. More especially when your burdens and cares have been the greatest.

Very few men, since the world was made ever lived so much for the public, as you have done. After a liberal education, in early youth, your Excellency was immediately called into public office, and the burden of complicated public offices has been your lot ever since. And though it has ever been abundantly manifest, that your Excellency never sought promotion, or popular applause; but always made truth and righteousness your guide, as well when you knew it to be unpopular, as at other times: Yet he who gave all your rich endowments (and to his name alone be the praise) knew what to do with you, in his great love to his people.

When our late troubles began, your Excellency’s lot was very singular; when to avoid perpetual slavery, it became necessary to oppose the tyranny of Britain; your brethren in office, the other Governors all forsook you, but you did not forsake your God and the people you loved. Your Excellency stood alone, but you stood firm, “The archers shot at you and you was sorely grieved by the enemies of our peace; but your bow abode in strength, and your hands were made strong by the hand of the mighty God of Jacob [Genesis 49:23].”

It was not for want of the highest opinion of your Excellency’s abilities and integrity, that self-seeking men and enemies to liberty have laboured to make you trouble: But that they knew you stood firm against the measures of all such, and was the chief support of our righteous cause, and the liberties of your country. I presume your Excellency has often thought of those words of the great Roman patriot, Nemo his viginti annis, reipublicae hostis fuerit, qui, non eodem tempore, mihi quoque bellum ind[i]x[e]rit. [“No one in these twenty years has been an enemy to the republic, who at the same time has not declared war on me as well.”] [Cicero, Philippics, 2.1.]

This is more or less the lot of all great and good men, in public character.

In leading us out of a provincial, into an independent state, your Excellency had the path to beat: You walked before us in a rough and rugged way; but God remembered his promise, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as the day is so shall thy strength be.”

When the wrath of a tyrant king roared against you as a lion, and your Excellency, above all, was marked out for a victim, you endured not fearing the wrath of the king, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, so dear to you, than to enjoy any emoluments how great soever they might have been, had you, like many others sought the royal favour. So long as the storms beat, the thunders roared, the lightnings glared around your head; all the while the tempest was so black and dreadful, you set steadfast at helm without a covert. Your Excellency then, desired no man to take that seat of peril: But now you have rode [sic] out the storm and conducted us into the desired haven of peace, your Excellency has requested that you may retire and another take the now more peaceful seat. On this I have no remark to make, it is wholly needless at present: The whole nation will speak; posterity will not be silent.

If we have disobeyed your Excellency this once, and have not released you, we beg your pardon: and earnestly intreat your further blessings, in the character you have so long sustained. If the people have obeyed, and have granted your Excellency retirement, you retire, Sir, with every possible honour: And may the residue of your days be happy, and your immortality glorious!

And when your Excellency shall be taken up from us, to shine as a star of the first magnitude, in the kingdom of your Father, forever and ever, your name shall live, historic pages will shine with your deeds, and generations unborn shall know you well. In Freta dum fluvii current, dum montibus umbrae Lustrabunt convexa, polus dum sidera pascet; Semper honos, nomén{que} tuum, laudés{que} manebunt. [“In Freta while the rivers flow, while shadows traverse the mountains’ curves, while the pole grazes the stars; Always will honor, your name, and praises remain.”] [Virgil, Aeneid, 1.607-610].

The address next turns to his honour the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Assistant Counsellors, and the whole Venerable Assembly of the State.

Venerable Fathers,

I shall meddle with no policy, but what lies with|in my own profession, as a preacher of righteousness: As such, I may stir up your pure minds, to attend most zealously, to the suppression of all vice and im|morality, for this end let us always have, not only the best laws, but the best men to execute them, men of ability, men that pay a sacred regard to religion and virtue, in their own example. Your Honours will continue to be nursing fathers to the church of God, and will promote the interest of that kingdom which shall finally triumph over all.

The interest of learning will engross your great attention and patronage, as it is the strength and glory of a nation—what could we have done in our late contest with Britain, had we been destitute of learned men? We have fought to as good purpose with the pen as with the sword.

I beg leave, earnestly, to recommend the University in this State, to the intimate acquaintance and most cordial friendship and munificence of this Honourable Assembly, it is exceeding happy when a college is embosomed in the bare love and friendship of those that are first in the affairs of state; and when there is any distant reserve between them it is very unhappy, the college surely is a most valuable interest and brilliant ornament to the State. Your Hon|ours see what learned and excellent instructors the college is furnished with; as also the great increase of students: But alas! the edifices and the finances how inadequate? How happy if that seminary might always be embraced and nourished by this Honourable Assembly, as a darling child, by a kind indulgent parent? Whatever can be done to add to the strength and glory of the college, will be well done: And should a liberal stream of bounty flow to it, annually, out of this fountain, we should find our account in the blessing of heaven on the whole State, and on our land. All inferior schools in this State claim your kind notice and favour, your Honours will think upon them for good: But our great and growing university pleads for your special intimacy and liberality, that, as times change, and necessities require, nothing may be wanting to make it most respectable in every view, and most useful to persons of all ranks and professions. This is an happy aera, to do everything noble and important for such a seminary.

Moreover, your Honours know what demands on this state, and on the nation, are justly made, by those who have lent us their livings to support the war, or have served an hard service in it. You know likewise what just obligations we are under to nations beyond the water, who have lent us their aid. Most certainly it is high time that this state, and every state, and all in conjunction, so far as demands are national, make full provision to pay every honest debt, and till this is done public guilt lies upon us. The cries of suffering, individuals from whom we with hold their bread, enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth; and when foreign nations make just demands, we shall find God will vindicate their claim. We are not poor; we are far from a state of bankruptcy; in a large and good land, flowing with rich treasures. Pray point out the best way and oblige us to do what is right to all men.

Those that have lent us their money and are now suffering for want of it, are sons of Adam as well as ourselves, and ought to live on equal terms with us, and not be wronged and oppressed because the public are many, and mighty, and can do as they please.

Those who have fought our battles for us are our own brethren: And even foreign nations to whom we are under just obligations, with the other states, the whole in union, are children of our own parents. To be just, righteous, and faithful is humanity. Righteousness is religion pure and undefiled.

A state or a nation ought ever to be as upright and faithful, in dealing with an individual, or a community, as one neighbour with another: It lies with your Honours to concert effectual measures, that this state, and, as far as to us appertains, the whole nation may be so.

The great fountain of light, grant your Honours all wisdom in this dark and trying day, support you under all your burdens and cares, make your days many, and fill them with growing usefulness, in mercy to his people. And may we at last see you all in exalted seats of glory!

I next turn to my Reverend Fathers and Brethren in sacred character.

Much Honoured and dearly Beloved.

It is our peculiar happiness, that our lives and labours are more immediately employed in that kingdom and interest, which is dearer to God than all things else, and to which all his other works are made subservient.

We have every motive to be faithful, and rejoice with exceeding joy. The kingdom of Jesus on earth is often not in apparent splendor, or in much favour with the world; but all the concerns of it are ever moving forward, with a divine dignity, and rolling on to a most glorious and universal triumph. Our lot in this kingdom is the happiest lot. We are not indeed in the way to attain the wealth and splendor and other dying allurements of this world as we might in other employments: But the very business of our lives is heaven upon earth; it is to converse with Deity, in all his beauty and glory, through Emmanuel, beaming forth in his word and in all his works, and to preach Deity displayed, God manifest in the flesh, to a lost world. As we love true pleasure we shall be great students, and very active for the good of immortal souls; shall preach nothing but sound, practical divinity, unite in gospel charity, cement in love, “for God is love.”

In days like these, we are willing to bear our portion of expense and burden with our brethren; and truly most of us have done that, and many of us much more: But yet we are well provided for, and ever shall be; no part of the world was ever kinder to ministers of the gospel than this has been from the first. Our rulers are benevolent fathers to us; our people loving brethren and dutiful children.

And only to except him that is now speaking, and, perhaps, a very few beside, this land has been blessed with the most learned, orthodox, and pious clergy, from its first settlement to this day, of any part of the world. And we see the fruit of our labour, in resisting the torrent of wickedness, which flows dreadful from the human heart; we see good fruit when we are instrumental to enlighten and regulate our people, and form them for moral and social duties; and in all the strength and support we give to the commonwealth. But above all, when God is pleased, by his holy spirit, to make our labours effectual for the saving good of souls; this no doubt he does in some measure, more or less, with the labours of every true minister of Christ. And oh! how glorious and joyful, when the divine spirit is poured out in copious effusions, “as rivers in the wilderness, and as floods on the dry and thirsty ground [Isaiah 44:3],” and converts to righteousness become as the drops of morning dew! This hath God done in days past, nor has he forsaken us in the present day. We hear glad tidings from several parts, yea, we do in some measure “see the good of his chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of his nation, and glory with his inheritance [Psalm 106:4-5].”

And do you not learn, my Reverend Fathers and Brethren, from all the movements of divine Providence and from the prophetic words, “That the time, the set time to favour Zion is near at hand? [Psalm 102:13]”

Light and true religion have beamed forth from east to west, from the beginning: These goings down of the sun, are the last regions to be thus visited, before the latter-day glory. By the isles and the ships of Tarshish in scripture prophecy, is plainly imported all the western islands, and all communications from the western part of the world: And shall not “the isles soon wait on God and the ships of Tarshish first? [Isaiah 60:9]” “So shall they fear thy name from the west, and thy glory from the rising of the sun [Isaiah 59:19],”—God shall return the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. Shall not Ethiopia soon stretch out her hands to God? Is not the accomplishment of those words now in the pleasing dawn? “Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. From beyond the river of Ethiopia my suppliants, the daughter of my dispersed shall bring mine offering [Zephaniah 3:9].”

Your faith and prayer, oh ye sacred ones, will always concur with the good-will of him that dwelt in the bush: And when Messiah reigns in visible glory over all the earth, how will your souls rejoice.

God has now given us a blessed inheritance, and spoke peace to this nation, in its growing greatness; he has spoke peace to some of the nations of Europe, and can soon speak peace to all the world; “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will towards men [Luke 2:14].”

I would now close with a word to this great and respectable Audience at large.

My Fathers, Brethren, and dear Friends,

It is of the last importance that we bear in mind the design of the Most High in creating all worlds, and disposing of all beings; this world with all the nations that dwell in it. It is that […] reign; immortal souls concur with him, in [Godly] [evidence] and grace, and be happy.

Whatever part we act in this world; whatever we attain on this side the grave; if we have not made religion our great business, Jesus our hope, and God our portion, we shall, in a few days, know we have been but deluded trifles, and sorely regret that ever we saw the light, or had a portion among the living.

A life of religion is the only proper life of rational, immortal man; to know God in his dear son is our best knowledge, and to serve him our best work. Those only who have this temper of mind, and thus live, are the true children of Israel, to whose happiness and glory, as you have heard, all the nations of the earth shall bow, “To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute upon them the judgment written; this honour has all his saints; praise ye the Lord [Psalm 149:7-9].”

We shall all meet no more until the day of the complete triumph of the redeemed of the Lord, “When they shall return and come with songs, to the heavenly Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads, they shall obtain gladness and joy, [and] sorrow, and mourning shall flee away [Isaiah 35:10].” Oh may you, beloved, all be found among them, in that day when princes and potentates, and all the great ones of the earth, shall mingle with common people, yea with slaves and vassals, in one great, and undistinguished throng, unless true religion shall gird them with glory: When all the mighty movements of Providence in this world shall cease; and kingdoms, states, and empires be no more, then shall we all know what is the true wisdom and happiness of immortal man; “Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not [Malachi 3:18].”

The End.

Image Credit: View of South Coventry, Connecticut (1878), Oakley Hoops Bailey.

[1] See Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution (Penguin, 1993), 20-31 (noting this common view regarding primordial, pre-Babel language).

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Joseph Huntington was born in 1735 in Windham, Connecticut, graduated Yale in 1762, and took up a pastorate in Coventry, Connecticut where he remained the rest of his life (d. 1794).

One thought on “God Ruling the Nations for the Most Glorious End

  1. When Huntingdon complained about British tyranny, he might have been surprised, and somewhat rebuked, had he been able to listen to Frederick Douglas when Douglas gave a speech on what July 4th meant to blacks.

    Then again, Huntington seems unable to see the discontinuity between the New Testament Church and Old Testament Israel in their purposes and settings.

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