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The same sort of courage is that which is often exerted in midnight revels, in street quarrels and contentions; where no danger of life or limb is likely to ensue, and the greatest coward, by loud words, perhaps by unresisted blows, may often pass himself for the bravest man.
These things I mention, not as particularly applicable to you, my Brethren, for you have hitherto deserved a character far different. But they are mentioned only by way of caution and advice; as matters that bring shame and reproach on a profession, which I have proved to be truly reputable and honourable in itself.
Your courage, I have not the least doubt, is of that true stamp, which I am now to describe. Far from wishing itself to be judged by unprovoked exertions of it, or vain boastings, which are always of a suspicious nature, the man of true courage wishes to be tried by his actions, and not by his own glorying. As still and silent waters are ever the deepest, the bravest man is ever the most quiet, and easy to be entreated. Far from drawing his sword, on every trifling affront of a fellow soldier, or perhaps a rude fellow citizen, he will look with a silent contempt on such behaviour, and ascribe it to want of manners, saying within himself—“Go, thou despicable being! Thy own Meanness be both thy protection and punishment. I keep my sword for nobler objects, and nobler occasions than any thou can’st afford me. My King, my Country and even thine own safety, claim it whole. For them I reserve it, and for them, when called, I trust I shall be enabled to put forth all the Man.”.
In short, true military courage, consists in fearing nothing in this world, but a shameful action; in being able to go where duty calls, whatever dangers may oppose; in daring to look on wounds, and maims and even death itself with such a steady eye and uni. form countenance, as to betray no fear in yourselves, nor to communicate any to those in the ranks around you. And this you shall be certainly enabled to do, by rendering these thoughts familiar to your minds, by attending to the regular and hardy discipline of the army; and by crowning the whole with this important consideration; that Victory, in the cause of your King and Country, which is the cause also of Liberty and pure Religion, will be attended with glory in this world; and that death in the same cause, with a conscience void of offence towards God and your neighbour, will be attended with endless glory in the world to come.
The next head of a Soldier's duty to his King, is obedience to those who are by his royal authority vested with command over him. What soldier, in the presence of his Sovereign, would slight any Order that proceeded from his mouth? And yet, it is the same crime to disobey the least Order that is given by any officer who wears his royal commission, or any other authority, though non-commissioned, that is derived under him, and the laws of the land.
Your own articles of war have sufficiently instructed you in this duty, and in the severe punishments due to the breach of it. It remains then only for me to explain the reason of the duty itself, and to enforce the observance of it from the principles of Religion and public Good.
Have you considered the structure of your own Bodies? or attended to what St. Paul asks?" If the Foot shall say, because I am not the Hand, I am not of the Body; and if the Ear shall say, because I am not the Eye, I am not of the Body-would they therefore, not be of the Body?” Surely unless all the parts of the Body fulfil their office, the Body would be sadly imperfect. “ If the whole Body were an Eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling,” walking and the like?
Just so every regiment, or higher command is a Body. In all duty, the superior officer is the eye, others the hands, others the ear, others the feet; and all, in their respective places, are honourable members of the same Body. But should the members murmur, or refuse their several parts of duty, what but confusion and the general destruction of the whole body must ensue?
Should the Feet pretend to see for themselves, when the Eye warned or commanded them to avoid the pit before them, what must follow, but that the whole body would be plunged into the common ruin? The same it is, if the soldier, who is confined to his rank and the intrepid discharge of what is commanded him, should refuse the same, or think that he could understand the whole disposition of the battle, and the management of things as well as the General, or commander in chief, who leads him, and whose situation enables him to cast his view from place to place for the conduct of the whole—this also would lead to destruction.
Subordination and obedience are among the most essential and necessary points of discipline in a whole army. By any breach of them, the most powerful armies have become a prey to their weaker enemy.
By the observance of them, each individual performing his particular part, with alacrity, and magnanimity, weak armies have often triumphed over the strongest.
You have heard of the bundle of twigs which the dying father gave his sons to break. While the twigs were tied together, the strength of all the sons could make no impression on them. When disunited, they were easily broken, one by one, with the strength of a single son.
An army under just subordination, and united in cheerful obedience, is this strong undissoluble connected bundle of rods. An army, without subordination, would be a fatal instance of weak unconnected twigs.
The common safety of the whole, then, must ever be a powerful argument of subordination and obedience; and this obedience must not be performed as eye-servants, while in the view of the officers; but with cheerfulness and faithfulness, at all times, as in the sight of God, who is a God of order; who, in His holy scriptures, has given tremendous examples of His punishment of rebellions, mutinies and murmurings, in this world; and threatens more tremendous punishments as reserved for them in the next.
Discontents, Murmurs, Mutinies, and Rebellions, were the first crimes, that brought a blot and disgrace on this fair Creation. The angels, that kept not their first estate, withdrew their obedience from the Lord of Heaven, and were plunged into deepest perdition.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram, for setting themselves up against Moses and Aaron, whom the Lord had appointed over them, were swallowed up alive for the punishment of their offence, together with all their mutinous followers.
Legal and just authority is derived from God, and approved by Him, for the well-being of his creatures; and if ever there was reason to believe this in any government on earth, it is in our own government; where every thing valuable to us, as Men and Christians, is secured by wise Laws, and gracious and merciful Rulers; where all the Servants of the public are rewarded for their labours, and where the most faithful discharge of duty is an indispensible obligation on all.
O learn to venerate this happy constitution, and never think that you can do enough for it, in return for the liberal provision you enjoy under it; and the happiness which you may partake from the privileges it gives you—Privileges far superior to what can be boasted of by any other nation or people upon
earth. I have many more things to lay before you in the course of these Sermons, but the time warns me to conclude for the present-praying God to enable you to think on what has been said, &c.