« VorigeDoorgaan »
pend upon; except that, whereof he is an eye evi. dence.
Surely, then, among a society of Soldiers, whose strength consists in their harmony, and whose peculiar character ought thus to be their Veracity and Honour; all Falshood and Dissimulation are, in anemi. nent degree, baneful; and ought to be held as much odious in your own eyes, as they certainly are in the awful sight of the God of truth.
Having thus dispatched in general, what relates to your duty to your King and fellow Soldiers, as well as fellow Subjects; I now proceed to guard you against many private vices; with which if you should be so unhappy as ever to suffer yourselves to be infected, they will ruin your whole usefulness in this world; and alas! in the next, subject you to the tremendous sentence of Unrighteousness, which will be pronounced from the righteous lips of your future Judge. I shall proceed deliberately and fully through the sad catalogue, of vices, which have more or less been the rock on which so many have shipwrecked their character, their estates, and the whole train of noble service, in which they might have shone forth and risen to eminence.
The first I shall mention is that of habitual Swear. ing, and taking the awful name of the great Jehovah in vain; a vice into which many young people, from the prevalence of bad example, and a false notion that it has something manly in it, are thoughtlessly betrayed at first; till it becomes so fixed a habit, that the poor profligate himself, is not always aware when the sad imprecations are uttered by him. Most other crimes may gratify some sense or another; but this has not the least plea of that sort; for alas! would men seriously think, what plea can they offer? or rather is not every plea of this kind, a daring insult to our Omnipotent Maker? To insult the God of Heaven is not manhood. It may be the manhood of the Devils, who live in daring defiance of Heaven, but cannot agree with the character of a man who professes his dependance upon a God over all.
I need not mention, that our Sovereign, in tender. ness to the souls of his subjects, has often by proclamations, endeavoured the cure of this unmanly vice. And to the military in particular, the articles of war have inflicted penalties, which you can be no strangers to-viz. twelve pence forfeit for the first offence, to be deducted from the next pay; and for the second the like forfeit besides lying twelve hours in ironsAnd for that part of the army, who, from a more liberal education, are judged to be more capable of being restrained by shame—a public reprimand is enjoined.
But alas! all these provisions, neither the fear of God, nor reverence to the King, will be effectual, without powerful example, a strict execution of the laws, and a due regard to Honour, running through all ranks and degrees.
For if any vested with superior authority should unguardedly be guilty of this vice, how shall they dare to check it in others ? For it would be very preposterous to hear a man with curses, correct another for curses.
I cannot help quoting the words of an old officer on this subject. I have no particular meaning to apply them to any persons present, among all of whom, as far as I have heard or learned, great decorum is observed in this way; and many worthy examples set—My desire only is to give the words of this worthy officer for confirming you in what I well know you wish to continue forever in your corps.
“ Some think, says he, that orders cannot be enforced in the common plain language. When I was a youth, I was unhappily addicted to this fashionable vice of swearing. By happy reflection I
got the better of it; and I will be bold to affirm that after I got a command, no man ever heard me fail in this way; and yet I am certain no man was ever better obeyed. Youth and Levity may be urged as some excuse, if any excuse were possible, says he; but what can be said for the Grey-headed Sinner; who with one foot in the grave, is incessantly calling on God to shorten those days, which Nature hath already brought almost to a conclusion? Surely when a man is fixed tottering on the brink of the grave, and his very bones shaking and clashing together ; the near prospect of a total dissolution, and of a future Judgment and Retribution, ought to lead him to seek God as a friend, and his only friend, through Jesus Christ."
This evil, which is first begun through the prevalence of bad example, is seldom reformed; but grows up among those who are addicted to it, till at length all reverence to the Creator seems entirely lost among his Creatures, so far as concerns them. Most other crimes and vices, may gratify some carnal sense or another; but this vice of blaspheming the name of the adorable Lord God of Heaven and of earth, and prostituting it on every common occasion, has not the least plea of manhood, or sober reason, or good sense in it. It may indeed be consi. dered by some as Manhood, and a Mancipation from the tyranny of Priest-crieft, and religious Bigots; but it is the Manhood of Devils and reprobate Spirits, who profess to live in defiance of Almighty Power; and surely cannot agree with the character of a Man, who would be affronted not to be called a Christian. Sad Christianity indeed!
To believe, or profess to believe, that we depend on God for all we have, and all we hope to have; and to declare our further belief, that we must come to Him and pray for Salvation in one moment, and the very next moment to call for damnation at his hands; and all this for what? Why, perhaps, to testify the greatest Falsehood, or deny the most notorious Truths. Surely, to do this seriously is hardly possible—to do it wantonly, or in levity, is a very daring impiety; and to do it through ignorance, or the prevalence of bad habits, shews a man sadly careless of what should be his chief concern; namely the securing his interest in God, the Father of Life and Love and Joy; through the atonement of Christ, his only Son.
How shocking, how horrible is it, to hear a poor dependent mortal, who scarcely ever opens his mouth, but in pronouncing imprecations on himself? such as the following—(alas ! that they should be told!)“ Confusion to his Limbs,-Blindness to his Eyes“ Deafness to his Ears—Dumbness to his Tongue!”— And happy were it for him, if this latter Imprecation
were immediately to be heard and granted in Heaven—and that his tongue might be eternally struck dumb, rather than be the daily instrument of bringing perdition on his Soul and Body together. How unspeakably better were it to have no tongue at all, unless it could be bridled and exercised in the divine employment for which a tongue was given to Man, namely—“The speaking of Truth, and tuning itself to Praises and Thanksgivings to the Creator, for all his Goodness to his Creatures, in this world; and preparing itself to bear its part, in those Hallelujahs and Songs of Praise, which every wise and sober man, would wish to be his everlasting Employment, in Concert with Angels and glorified Saints, in the world to come."'*
The last Vice, which I shall need to dwell upon on this occasion, and indeed the most destructive, as leading to the greatest part of the other vices enumerated above, is
The Intemperate Use of Spiritous Liquors; the sottish habit of drawing constantly, from the Cup of Perdition, bewitching draughts, poisonous to Soul and Body.
In a Soldier, this habit is peculiarly destructive to the exercise of that noble train of usefulness and honour, belonging to his profession; that career of glory, which lies before him. It is, as suggested before, an absolute breach of the contract that subsists between him and his country; because it is wasting those Wages in Intemperance, ruinous to
For more on this head, see the first Sermon from this text.