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ON THE GENERAL FAST, OCTOBER 20, 1803.*
ST. LUKE xxi. 19.
"In your patience possess ye your souls."
IT was in these words that our Saviour consoled his disciples, while he predicted to them the final ruin and desolation of Jerusalem. The people of Judea, confident in the letter, while they were ignorant of the spirit of their religion, had long before ceased to listen to his admonitions, and it was only to the chosen few who felt his truth, and who understood his gospel, that he unveiled the mighty scenes which that desolation was to precede. Amid "the wars, and the rumours of
wars," ," that were to follow, he led them to see the "salvation of the world" approach. The destruction of Jerusalem was to be the dissolution of that pale which kept the Gentiles from the knowledge of the true God; and he enjoined them, amid all the dread calamities which were to come, to "pos
* Preached when the expectation of invasion was universal, and when the volunteer corps were every where forming in the national defence.
"sess their souls" in patient expectation of that mighty day, when his name and his religion were to begin their triumphal reign.
Of the many reflections which this subject natu rally excites, there is one only, my brethren, which I shall at present submit to your consideration; it is, the difference between the patience which human wisdom teaches, and that which religion inspires. When the moralist speaks to us of hardship or danger; when he animates us to meet those scenes of calamity which we may be doomed to undergo, he tells us of the dignity of our nature,-the mag. nanimity of self-denial,—and the heroism of patient suffering. He makes the world the spectator of our conduct; and summons us, by every conside. ration of honour or of fame, to act our part like men, and to deserve the sympathy of those who surround us, by the firmness and magnanimity which we display.
The patience which the Gospel inspires is of a different, but of a sublimer kind. It speaks not to us of ourselves, it speaks of that great system to which we belong, and of the ends to which we contribute in that system. It tells us, that every suf fering to which man is born, has its final purpose either in individual or in publick good ;-that to nations, as to individuals, the seasons of adversity are the seasons of their highest virtue ;-that, in every situation, the discharge of the duties which that situation brings are the simple means by which
the mighty designs of nature are to be carried on ;— and that, above all the weakness or suffering of men, there presides one Almighty Mind, in whose extended government "all things are working to"gether for final good," and who can make even "the wrath of men to praise him."
There are no considerations which seem more proper for the solemnity in which we are at present engaged. We are met together, with all the rest of our land, to humble ourselves before the God of nations; to call to mind what are the duties demanded of us, in this hour of general alarm; and to form those resolutions for the coming danger, which become us as citizens, as Christians, and as
It is, my brethren, in no common hour of peril that we are now assembled. A contest more awful than either we or our fathers have seen, is rapidly approaching; and that sun which witnesses our meeting, has never, in his long career, beheld a time so pregnant with hope or despair to our country. It is no common war in which we are engaged, and no common enemy we are to oppose. It is a war, in which are put to the hazard of the sword, every blessing of our faith, every honour of our name, and every glory of our country. It is an enemy we are now summoned to oppose,-whose positions are kingdoms, and whose march is revolution; before whom the sovereigns of Europe have bowed their diminished heads; and who seeks
now, on our northern shores, to extinguish the last spark of order, of freedom, and of justice, among mankind.
There is a folly in exaggerating the dangers to which we are exposed :-there is an equal folly in diminishing or under-rating them. It is the business of wisdom to see them as they are, and to animate our hearts to meet and to encounter them. In the season which seems approaching, there is not one of us that will not be called to the exercise of patience, to the exertion of that principled magnanimity which nature applauds, and which the Gospel enjoins. It is in the solemn and sacred pause of this day, that we ought all to prepare ourselves for the scenes which are to follow; and, ere the eventful conflict begins, to supplicate from Heaven that strength which may enable us to endure it.
I speak not now, indeed, to the young, and to the brave.*-They have taken their lofty resolution; and, in this hour, in the same array in which they are to present themselves to the enemy, are now presenting themselves before their God. At the first tread of danger, they have risen in "legions "of armed men ;" and from every rank of our country, they have started forwards in its defence, with a gallantry which realizes to us the visions of ancient patriotism, and which, I trust will, in the
* The volunteers of the Congregation were now regimented, and on this day attended the National Churches, by order of Government.
end, more than realize to us the visions of ancient valour.
Yet though they, my brethren, are to undertake the hardships and the dangers of war, there are other hardships for which we must prepare ourselves; and there is not a soul to whom I speak, whom the time does not summon to patience and to self-denial. The great and the affluent, they whom ancient possessions have dignified, or personal industry hath enriched, are now called to justify the distinction they have enjoyed ;-to suspend their usual pleasures and their usual pursuits;-to sacrifice to the adversity of their country, the wealth which its prosperity has given them;-and to prepare themselves, in the spirit and in the armour of their ancestors, for the final conflict that is to decide its glory or its fall. The poor are called to submit, with the patience of their faith, to increasing privations; to exert that noblest magnanimity, which can not only act but suffer in the cause of duty; and, if the last struggle should come, to bear in their minds the lofty remembrance of what, in many an age, their fathers have done, and how, in many a field, their fathers have died.
The aged, alas! the fathers and the mothers of our people, are called to severer duties. They are called to surrender their children to their country;-to suspend the workings even of parental nature;-to silence the anxiety which years