Week 9: Slavery
THE WATCHMAN’S ALARM TO LORD N—H; or, the Britifh Parliamentary Bofton Port-Bill unwraped BEING AN ORATION ON THE MERIDIAN OF LIBERTY
Not to inflame but to cheer the Mind: Or as an APPLE of GOLD in the PICTURES of SILVER for the mourning CAPTIVES in AMERICA.
With [fome] OBSERVATIONS on the LIBERTIES of the AFRICANS.
Men, Brethren, and Fathers, and ye that fear GOD, give audience.
THE peculiar solemnities of this day are more immediately adapted, by the pub|lic consent of the churches, to paint forth the life and MEREDIAN of LIBERTY. The dis|tress you are in, and the danger there is of your losing your rights, call aloud to supplicate the throne of GOD for deliverance; to pray for a re|storation of your just rights, and a final settlement of the sure enjoyment of them.
By liberty, is meant political liberty; and, ac|cording to the true etimology of the word, in 〈◊〉‘s dictionary, it is a power of acting agreable 〈◊〉 the laws which are made and enacted by 〈◊〉 consent of the PEOPLE, and no ways incon|sistent with the natural rights of a single person, or the good of society. This is the liberty which is opposed to slavery.
Liberty of the mind is the free thought that expands, ruminates from sea to sea, and from ri|vers to the end of the earth, and none can con|troul it. The chariot of a thought, of a wish, of a desire, is like the wings of the morning, which flies to the uttemost parts of the earth; and is like the sun which rejoices to run its race; it is like the fountains which rise spontaneously free; it is like the emitting life of the vine to all its bran|ches; like the flowing rivers, the fertile fields in their pleasant growth, or like the gentle zephyrs which diffuses its fragrant life through the globe. This is freedom which is above the controul of man, or beyond the suppression of any parliament or ministerial tyrant. This is that kingdom of liberty which no man can destroy, and therefore not the liberty we are this day to treat of and so|lemnize. That which calls upon every heart and commands every soul, is that of a civil and sa|cred nature, which is so much in danger.
Civil liberty is the people’s inherent right to en|joy; namely, all the privileges of their laws ac|cording to their compact with their King; this right is ever inherent in the people, and cannot be given to kings, nor taken away by any parlia|ment whatsoever; the enjoyment may, but the right cannot; its creation is natural and rises with every generation. This is the power of the peo|ple which binds kings in fetters and nobles in irons.
Sacred liberty is a satisfaction of soul in the choice of worship and adoration of GOD: This is JEHOVAH’s law for the souls of men, and 〈◊〉 but devils and priestly tyrants have ever 〈◊〉 to invade this right.
But as your civil rights are destroyed, your ca|pitol town besieged, your harbor blockaded, your port shut, trade, which is the sinews of life and liberty is stopped by power and force of arms, what have we not to fear respecting our divine liberty? This makes it a night of distress and sorrow, of great darkness and many fears: This makes me mourn for the affliction of Joseph; to mourn with them that mourn, to hang my harp with the rest of the captives and weep; yet not as those who are without hope, for he that hath delivered doth deliver, in whom we trust he will yet deliver.
But this night of sorrow naturally leads me to the words of the Prophet, for the present con|templation;
Watchman what of the night? Watchman what of the night?
What indeed! a very proper, a very important question at this time. The most remarkable transactions of the GOD of heaven for the deli|verance of his people are made manifest as a key to unlock, or as a door to open the divine de|signs by interrogations. Thus when man had sinned and marred the beauty of his creation; when that light, life, love, adoration, and con|templation of his GOD had forsaken his soul, the GOD of heaven said unto him, Adam, Where art thou? Thus when a cloud of sorrows covered the camp of Israel, and GOD seemed to forsake his people, Joshua, whose name denotes the LORD’s salvation, said, If Israel turn their backs upon their enemies, what wilt thou do unto thy great name? Thus Elihu, when he taught Job the cor|ruption of his heart and nature, and how unbe|coming it was in him in calling himself righ|teous, and justifying himself under his affliction before GOD, seeing his heart was corrupt, that it was not his thoughts, words, or actions that could acquit him before GOD, and therefore he says, How shall a man be just with GOD? How indeed! But this question I leave for the Priests to answer, who are very busy about it, but in general know nothing of the matter.
Another solemn question we have, which is, Who shall go to heaven? I hope you would be glad to know this, my hearers; you will find it, Ps. xxix.3. Who shall ascend unto the hill of the LORD? and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hand and a pure heart. Is it him? Then it is plain, my friends, that it is not you nor me, for our hearts are impure. Who can it be? A very proper question. Were they the Prophets and Patriarchs? No! no! for they were like you and me, they had often unclean hands, and always a corrupt heart. Who can it be? That is the point. Are they our Mini|sters, then? O no, my friends, no, no, that is a settled point; certain, both in heaven and in earth, for the scripture says, We have all sinned, and are verily men, subject to like passions, and therefore not pure in heart. Who can they be? I think I will leave it for the Priests to tell you, whom I believe, if Paul was alive, would soon tell them they know but very little of this matter; this I know they will not let me go, because, they say, I have eat with unwashen hands: What then? Have not they or have not I washed them since? Will not that do? If it will I think I have as good a right to go to heaven as they have. May not one crowd in with them? No, no, they will not give you elbow room. Well, they need not be afraid, for I will not go with them, nor trust my soul among them. You may, if you please, brethren, for I have no dominion over your faith, but would fain be a helper of your joy.
Again, when sin and satan, when death and hell had invaded the rights of the whole creation and made it groan; when sinners were to be re|deemed, GOD glorified, salvation finished, righ|teousness revealed, life, liberty, and glory to be made manifest to the sons of men; an inquiry, according to scripture ideas, seems to arise from the sacred throne, Who is this that engageth his heart to approach unto me, saith the LORD? Who, indeed? The answer you have from CHRIST’s own own lips, Isa. lxiii.5. And I looked and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore mine own arm brought salvation.
Once more, when the church saw, prophetically saw, the great work finished, namely, righteous|ness shining like the light of the morning, sal|vation sealed as the finished work of the GOD of heaven, sin suffered for, the law fulfilled, GOD glorified, death, hell, and the grave triumphed over. She says, Who is this? Who is this in|deed that has done all this? Few know among the Priests, and fewer desire to know among the people: But it is I, saith the Redeemer, that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. This shews what divine designs and grand displays of mercy are made manifest by scripture interrogations.
Which leads me to the contemplation words, or first inquiry,
Watchman what of the night? Watchman what of the night?
I will tell you as well as I can, but be patient, for I am not eloquent, and my talent is small, and I am but a poor man and little esteemed in Israel. I have read of a poor wise man who by his wisdom delivered the city, yet no man re|membered the same poor man: But never you mind that, for there is nothing new under the sun.
What of the night? you ask. I will tell you, it is a very good night; I mean for honest men to be out in, the stars are clear, the sky is serene, the wind is calm: It is to be sure a bad night for thieves and robbers, who intend to catch our persons, steal our properties, and rob us of our rights, it is a very bad night for them. The scrip|ture says, If a thief comes, he comes in the night; but he loves a dark night. But be not afraid, for the morning cometh; remember from a night arose all the blessings of creation, the beauties of paradise, and all the happiness of the life that now is, and the hope of that which is to come. As it is written, And darkness covered the face of the deep, and he said let there be light, and there was light; therefore fear not the night, though weeping may endure for a night, yet joy cometh in the morning.
Yet sometimes by night I own we are to un|derstand deep troubles, national distress, and per|sonal sorrows, as was the case of Jacob, of Job, of the prophets, and the nations of Israel and of Judah; and it is worthy our attention for a mo|ment; did I say, nay but for eternity, to ob|serve the ponderous sorrows of CHRIST’s soul, when he poured out his soul to death, when he made his soul an offering for sin, when his soul was troubled, when being in an agony, and his sweat was as the drops of blood, when his soul was sore amazed, when dying the just for the un|just, to bring us nigh unto GOD. All these sor|rows in their ponderous weight and pressing feel|ings are set forth by the figure of a dark night; this, says CHRIST, is your hour and power of dark|ness: And there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. Hence he says, My head is wet with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
Thus it appears that the word night denotes sorrows personally and nationally, and this is your case, as well as that of the united colo|nies, so far as they feel for and sympathize with you.
Not long since your Forefathers, who were the Patriarchs and Apostles of America, though distressed by the savage tribes, yet they enjoy|ed their political charter liberties settled by compact with their king.
Not long since the capital of America, the me|ridian harbor of the continent was open, your castle commanded, your colors flying, your com|merce spreading, your importance growing, your laws ruling, peace and plenty flowing, your war|like spirit shining, your standards renowned: But alass! be astonished, O heavens at this, how has your loyalty almost proved your ruin; see|ing your power, beholding your importance; jealous, jealous of a growing empire, the Bri|tish Ministry take the rein of government, break the compact of their King, assume the right of making your laws, and usurp the authority of taxing your property, tyrannically and oppressive|ly to the whole globe, continue to block up your harbor, cruelly cutting through the silver veins of trade, stained your streets with the bloody dews of death; they have seized your castle, besieged your town with all the majestic horrors of war! But lo! they look to a peaceful, serene people in the light of a few powerless, harmless doves, trembling upon the ground they tread; and only to unnecessary fearful minds terrible as an army with banners; this is their hour and power of darkness, but fear not, the morning cometh.
But Watchman what do you hear of the night?
I will tell you, as I stand continually upon my watch tower in the day time, and sit whole nights in my watchward. I saw a brother watchman coming near my watch-ward, he is an old faith|ful watchman, his name is Micah, to whom I said, having had a familiar acquaintance with him, Watchman what of the night? He did not say, as New-England people generally do, I do not know, Sir, and immediately begin to tell you; but he says, like an honest whig, I will tell you, if your heart be as my heart; you will find it in my journal,Sir, Micah vii.3. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the Prince asketh and the Judge asketh for a reward; and the great Man uttereth his mischievous desire: SO THEY WRAP IT UP. Have they not done wrapping up yet? What will they wrap up next? The seas, the morning light, the sun, these they have wrapped up long ago in England; nay the beasts of the forrest and the fowls of the air, and the felicity of the fields and the blessings of the earth, * the rain from heaven; nay, the earth, air, and sea is wrapped up by them; so that there is nothing, O happy! but heaven left for us to make our escape from them. In short they are like death and the grave, which cries, GIVE, GIVE, but we have nothing to give them. Have they not wrapped up our harbor, our common, our castle, our trade, our wharves, our ships that we cannot launch them? What would they have? Have they not wrapped up a great part of the lands of America, called the King’s lands and tall pines? Have they not wrap|ped up our charter rights, liberties, and consti|tutional privileges? Have they not wrapped se|ven millions annually from America? What more would they have? Brother Watchman I I will tell you: They want to wrap up America into the British kingdom; they want to make three bishopricks in America, a Bishop for Bos|ton, &c. a Bishop for New-York, &c. a Bishop for the Carolinas, &c. all officers and offices to be held in the power of the Crown, and at the dispose of the King, and sixty more lordships by degrees, then peradventure (for they do such things in England) the next will be to wrap up our wives and our daughters. Stop, we will not have them wrapped up by them however; but I believe it is best to unwrap it all and see what is in this political bill of parcels.
Pray brother Watchman can you tell me who sent for this parliamentary bill of parcels? O yes: Mr. T— H—n, Mr. P—n, Mr. O—r, and others, by private and confidential letters. Well then, let them pay the bill and defrey the expences of it; What have we to do with it? It is hard they should send to parliament for a bill of parcels and then charge it upon innocent people, and leave it to children yet unborn to suffer for it. And is it not unjust for those who wrapped this bill to send it to, and charge upon those people who never ordered it? I think it can never stand in equity.
But Watchman, as you are free and open, re|member your commission, Isaiah xxi.6. For thus hath the LORD said unto me, go and set a Watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
I will; what saw you? Being upon my watch tower some time ago, I saw in a grand assembly a large parliamentary bill of parcels put together. Another brother Watchman (his name is Zecha|riah) coming by, I said to him, well brother Watchman, what of the night? What seest thou? And he answered, I see a flying roll, and the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth is ten cu|bits: And he said to me, this is the curse that go|eth forth upon the face of the earth. Upon which another Watchman came up who is used to be among captives, to whom I said, Watchman what have you to say of the night? I will tell you; I looked, said he, and behold a hand was sent unto me, and lo! a roll of a book was therein, and he spread it before me, and in it was written within and without, LAMENTATION, MOURNING, and WOE, with this motto or inscription upon it, And so they wrap it up. Colonel Barre coming in, and looking at it and seeing the inscription, says, So they wrap it up; let us unwrap it and see what they have wrapped up before it goes, and upon unwrapping the first parcel out tumbled the d—l, upon which he says, Why, my Lord, did you wrap the d—l to send him away: Do not you know you cannot do without him? nor the M—y or P—t at present. I suppose he had a hand in the matter, as he came out upon opening the first paper. Indeed Colonel I would have no hand in the matter, I did always despise it; it was brought to me to get signers, but I could not get one of all my peers in the lower regions to consent: For my part I leave other kings to make acts to shake their kingdoms, but I know better than to do it myself, for if I take away the rights of my people, I shall not get a new subject these thousand years; therefore I think you might have let me alone, as I was wrap|ped up in a sleep to go to America, passage free, under a royal commission, to command fleets and troops in America to kill musquetoes, for as to the people they do not deserve it: Take care of him, my Lord, says the Colonel, poor d—l he must not be lost; upon which his Lordship said, Come Tom, come, * and he took him under his cloak, upon which the Colonel missing him, he says, what is become of the poor d—l? To which Mr. P— said, his Lordship has taken him under his cloak, and put him in his closet. I fear, says the Colonel, in his bosom where he used to dwell, or otherwise he never could have framed such an act as this: * To block up Boston harbor, cut off all trade, secure their wharves, appoint such as they please, under what direction they please, the Governor to chuse the Council, the Sheriff to chuse the juries, until the people of Boston shall make such satisfaction, such concessions, and enter into such obligation of better obedience, as the B—sh M—y shall think proper. This will never do; it must be all unwrapped and thrown away for waste paper. Why could not your Lordship have wrapped up the olive-branch and not the un|sheathed sword. Is this the way to gain their treasure, to win their affection, or procure their happiness; such an act supposing the British Par|liament to have a right to make laws for the Americans; such an act as this can never do, because it does at once destroy that near union between America and the Mother Country, alie|nate their affections from their Sovereign, stop the blessings of commerce, and spread death, want and poverty through the British nation, and like|ly will occasion a revolution of the state; besides, the grand question is, who are the rebellious and disobedient? If there are any, it must be the Ame|ricans or the British Parliament. If the British Parliament have a right to tax the Americans, then the Americans are disobedient to their laws. But if they have no right to tax them, (which it is clear they have not, nor do they barely attempt to prove it) then it is plain who are the first ag|gressors, and cause of all the distresses at Home, and confusion in America, for where there is no power or liberty of representation, there are not according to the English laws, any right of taxation.
Some say that the tea was not subject to any taxation, but an impost duty. What is the dif|ference, if it must be paid by an advance price by the people, without their consent to a duty or taxation? They say it was the destruction of pri|vate property. What difference does this make between its being private property or parliamen|tary property? The grand question is, whether any people under heaven have not, by the law of self preservation, a right to destroy any persons power or property who destroy their settled rights as a people? Besides, is it just or usual for one nation to tax the private properties of another nation and province, and oblige them under pe|nalties of death to pay the tax? Is not this a breach upon the law of nations? And do not such law-breakers deserve to be punished by the loss of their property? Can mankind think it strange that the justly angry populace should de|stroy what their Governor would not stoop to save? Let the East-India Company ask par|don of the Public whom they have offended.
Colonel Barre, General Conway, Governor Pownall, Messieurs Burkes, Dowdeswell, and ma|ny, very many more who are the most honora|ble Members of the House of Commons, un|wrapped it much in the same manner, and laid it aside as waste paper. Nay, the Peers of the land, the House of Lords, many of them united therein: Lord Chatham has much contem|ned it; Lord Cambden has boldly declared against it: Likewise the following Peers, in a paper, intitled, the Lord’s Protest, distinguished themselves in the cause of American freedom, namely, Richmond, Portland, Abingdon, King, Essingham, Rockingham, Abergavenny, Lester, Cra|ven, Fitzwilliam, &c. who all unwrapped and disapproved of the bill, the charge, and the demands. [May those illustrious Peers and Com|moners, who have so nobly distinguished them|selves in the cause of America, in opposition to those who were for taxing them, be grate|fully remembered, and handed down to poste|rity. May their names be held in eternal ho|nor, so long as one spark of the noble sensa|tion of gratitude shall remain in the breast of an American!] But his Lordship said,
Upon which taking the op|portunity of a thin house in great haste they in a hurry wrapped it up again, got a royal signet upon it, and sent it all over.
A remark. Now my Lord all is over; all the bill is over, the ships are over, and the army is over, we hope, my Lord, it is all over: For we do not want no more, and your Lordship may take these back as soon as you please, for we have no|thing for them to do. It puts me in mind of a soldier who served in the last war, who being ordered by his General, namely, S—x, to feed his horses with peas, rice, and corn, when the soldiers and many others had not bread to eat; the soldier therefore went to the Surgeon and de|sired him to draw all his teeth; why, said the Sur|geon, do they ake? He said no, but his General had robbed him of his bread, and given it to his horses, and thereby he had nothing for his teeth to do, therefore he would not keep them. Thus it is, my Lord, we have nothing for his Majesty’s ships and armed force to do, unless it be to kill Musketoes, and therefore we do not chuse to keep them.
It puts me in mind of what my brother Watch|man said, (his name is Jeremiah) when I asked him what they did with the roll? And he said, It came to pass when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with a penknife, and burnt it in the fire that was upon the hearth until it all was consumed. And it came to pass; that is enough, it is not needful to know how it came to pass, that the Watchman does not tell us, but if it comes to pass that is all we wish for peace sake.
But to be more close and serious; to hear the widows mourn for fear, labor fail, children cry|ing, trade ceasing, children begging daily bread, the streets unoccupied, the sea uncloathed, the harbors undressed; to hear the noisy cannons roar, to see the blazing spear displayed, the bloody banner spread, and all this by brethren, by our own mother’s sons, by flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone; for what they know not on the other side of the atlantic, nor do we on this con|tinental shore: Something is surmised, we are wickedly represented to his Majesty, and there|fore we must, says his Lordship, risque something, or all is over. What must they set Israel to fight against Judah. There is the same mad mistaken paralleled case at large in Joshua xxii. However my Lord, you have risqued something indeed, namely, the crown and peace of the state; his Majesty’s ships, army, and ammunition, and we judge all is over, they are come safe; we mean to use them well as brethren; and I wish the tea was paid for, if that may answer all the end they came for, and make way for union and peace, which has been whispered.
But it is yet a night season; methinks I hear you say, Watchman what of the night? What shall we do to night? I will tell you; first, praise GOD for the mercies of the day, humbly trust his promise for safety through the night, then do as regular people do, eat your supper, go to bed and sleep quietly until morning, then arise and pay your morning sacrifice of praise to GOD and go to your daily labor, and whatsoever thine hands findeth to do, do it with all thy might. Fear not the night, for the morning cometh, for the LORD our GOD is with us; fear them not, for there be more for us than they that be with them; fear them not.
Secondly, love your King, feelingly, firmly, and affectionately: But remember that allegiance and obedience is only due to a King, as his fi|delity and coronation oath is fulfilled to you; it is the law not the man that ought to rule. The King is by consent of the people made their royal Trustee, or grand Trust for the preservation of their rights; if he fails here he is no longer King according to the laws of England; therefore pray that the Almighty may give him judgment as a royal diadem to his crown, for the peace of Bri|tain and her union happiness with America; ho|nor your Governor with reverence and duty to eve|ry branch of legal authority; be kind to the sol|diery; be genteel to the officers; pray for Lord N. that the GOD of heaven may bless and we hope forgive him, as he did Abitophel, and send him to his own place as he did Judas. I have heard that his Lordship is a man of fine sensation, quick understanding, a great senator, and a faithful ser|vant to the Crown. But how a person can be a man of honor, honesty, fine sensations, a faith|ful senator, who can propose, aim, and proceed to distress thousands of thousands of innocent peo|ple, by destroying their essential liberties and na|tural rights, by the arbitrary arm of iron power, and thereby bid defiance to the law of nature and nations, which binds kings in fetters and nobles in irons. The man who dares this is the greatest tyrant beneath the sun. Was his Lordship a man of fine sensations, of quick understanding, possessed of the feelings of hu|manity for the happiness of mankind, he would surely have felt the piercing pleas, the nervous reasonings, the cutting arguments, not only of Lord Chatham, Lord Cambden, and others, but of those (if I may express it) angelic arguments of Colonel Barre to his Lordship, for the peace of Britain and the happiness of America; but lo! nothing will do but the iron rod, and not the olive-branch, and therefore I think if the Almighty will forgive him, mankind can very well spare him. But if there should a single son of Issachar upon the earth, who is born like a strong ass to couch between two burdens, who can approve of this act, an act that deprives GOD of the grand designs of creation, man of his inhe|rent rights, and the blessings of Providence; an act that takes away his labor, his bread, his all, his estate, his existence; an act that makes the widow mourn, the fatherless to cry for bread; an act that forbids the merchant to trade; his stores to be open, his wharves to be used; an act that sets land and water, winds and waves, blood and banners all in array against a loyal people, to make them love their King, whom they always adored. If there should be such a being upon the earth who can plead for this act, he must be happy; for surely the Almighty has made him without a soul, and consequently he can have no sins to answer for. What shall I say to such a one? He lives indeed, but he must die; Dust thou art, (that is all) and unto dust thou must return. Shall I say in the Prophet’s lan|guage, Hell from beneath moves to meet thee at thy coming. No; heaven forbid! indeed there is no danger, for it is so full already of more sensible beings, that there is no room, in charity we hope for such there. Thus you see that we are more mild and charitable for those Persons who vainly call themselves Friends to Government: They say that we, yea and those honest British Mem|bers of Parliament who plead for the rights of injured America are a set of damned—&c. and ought to be damned. Now we are not for having these friends to government, as they false|ly stile themselves, damned: No; but for their being saved even from the power of damning others. But I would say as Samuel did unto Is|rael; GOD forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray for you, for I bare you record that you have zeal for your King and Country, but not according to the knowledge of the essential and charter rights of the Americans; therefore it it is that such multiply words without knowledge, &c.
Watchman you have told us what of the night: But Watchman what of the morning?
I will tell you; the morning cometh, the morn|ing of hope, the morning of help, the morning of mercies. The morning cometh; that is hap|py, it cometh. How? without the aid of man, of its own accord, by infinite power. Thus our deliverance comes from the GOD of Heaven. Who among you would dare in a dark night to attempt to help omnipotence to spread the wings of the morning? Would not the attempt in thought be blasphemous; wait with patience, the morning cometh freely as the gift of hea|ven, and thus comes your deliverance, not only temporal but spiritual and eternal, as the fruit of omnipotent love and power. Hence CHRIST is said to be as the light of the morning, as the light of the morning without clouds. And this doc|trine is believed by all mankind, but the Priests and the people. The Priest says, GOD will give salvation as the light of the morning; he offers it to you, but you must assist the Almighty, and help him on your part, or you cannot have it, by fulfilling the conditions of the covenant; by coming up to the terms of the gospel, by getting faith, by laying down your arms of hostility, &c. O! if they will but do these good things, in plain English help the Almighty a little, win him over by a few dead promises and prayers, and then he will give them the light of the morning, I mean his favor: Hence it is they tell the dead they must live or they will be damned, that is all; the deaf they must hear or they will perish; the blind they must see or they will be lost. But says the dead in sin, I cannot give myself life, and the deaf, I cannot hear, and the blind I cannot see: But says the Preacher you will be damned if you do not; putting all the first, living, and moving power upon those who have neither life nor power, yet according to them they must be damned be|cause they have it not: And this they call the light of the gospel; poor Ignoramus’s: I do not mean as Gentlemen or as Scholars, but re|specting the gospel of CHRIST, my soul of|ten melts for them with holy compassion, at other times, like Elijah, in order to awaken them, I cannot but mock them with a holy in|dignation, Why halt they between two opinions? I do not mean all; there are some whom I de|light to hear. But O when will the Priest pro|claim, When shall the people know the joyful sound? namely, that salvation from the GOD of Heaven is as free, as unconditionally free and powerful to the souls of men as the light of the morning is unto mankind.
Further, let it be remembered what natura|lists say, that it is darkest just before the morning light; this scripture experience and ten thou|sand delivering mercies have made manifest to the sons of men; then why should we fear; remember what the Prophet says, In the even|ing it shall be light, add as David says, Though weeping may endure for a night, yet joy cometh in the morning. You never knew a night but the morning followed it, nor a dark affliction ei|ther of soul or body, but what a sure mercy followed it, just as the morning followeth the night; as it is written, The evening and the morn|ing were the first day.
As the night is the womb of the morning, so is the night of affliction the womb of ten thou|sand times ten thousand mercies to mankind; by this very idea, the glory of heaven, the joy of saints, and the salvation of sinners is declar|ed. Psalm cx.3. speaking to the MESSIAH, JE|HOVAH says, From the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth.
Moreover by the light of the morning we be|hold the beauties and blessings of the day.— Thus it is by the light of the morning of mer|cies, to speak in scripture language When JEHO|VAH scatters the princes in Salmon, rebukes kings, and binds princes in fetters, and nobles in irons, to make known deliverance to Jacob, and salvation to Israel. This makes the mountains to rejoice, and the trees of the field to clap their hands, and the people to say amen. This is the LORD’s and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Once more: The morning cometh, the light of the morning is sure to scatter the darkness of the night, it is omnipotent, and uncontroulable. Who can stop the expanding wings of the morn|ing? It is a beam of omnipotence; the morn|ing rays are the rays of the Deity. Wait on the LORD then and be of good courage for the morning cometh. Nor is it in the power of kings, princes, potentates, parliaments, or any arbitrary arm to stop these morning mercies; for as the morning surely chases away the darkness of the night, so the LORD JESUS, who is the light of the morning, shall sure|ly chase away every night of sorrow from them that fear him: Unto you that fear my name, says GOD, shall the sun of righteousness arise with healings in his wings.
One more inquiry: Watchman what of the night? Do you think we deserve it? I know we deserve it from GOD, but not from man; and I acknow|ledge that you deserve it from GOD? I am glad you are so humbly sensible: But what if I say you deserve it from GOD, and will tell you for what; it is for your iniquitous and disgraceful practice of keeping African slaves, a custom so evidently contradictory to the laws of GOD, and in direct violation of the charter* of this province, and the natural and unalienable rights of mankind; how|ever any among you, professing christianity, although at the same time are guilty of so glaring a trespass on the laws of society and humanity, may incon|sistently gloss over their detestable usage with the idle pretence of christianizing them, when it is well known more than one half those who are owners of these black people do not care what becomes of the souls of them, if they can reap the profits arising from the labor of their bodies, at least until they arrive at the age of fifty, a period which is far beyond the meridian of man’s natural life. I only judge from their conduct towards these miserable creatures, more especially with regard to their education, and this assertion is notoriously verified in respect of those who hold slaves in the West-Indies, as well as in most parts of America, even where the christian religion is professed, they are not learned to read one word of the holy scrip|ture, or say their catechize: Nay, some venture to say, were they to have learning, and to be in|structed in the principles of religion, they would be of no service to any one: However, admitting their motives of importing these Africans to make christians of them, if they can, to be sincere, is it likely any man will be willing to bind himself for life, in order to obtain your chance salvation, by means of your prayers, feelings, movings of the spirit, &c. which perhaps most of you may ac|count works of righteousness?
This truly benevolent and public-spirited way of freeing black men when they are old, reminds me of a story I heard of one who was held in bon|dage until he was near sixty years of age, when his master very generously offered him his freedom, after telling him he had been a faithful, honest slave, and thanked him for his past good services. But hear the honest reply of the aged, decripid, and untutored African, arrived at such a period of life as to occasion grey hairs, by age and hard labor; I tank you, Maser, I tink you hab all de marrow, hes way you take care de bone.
Blush ye pretended votaries for freedom! ye tri|fling patriots! who are making a vain parade of being the advocates for the liberties of mankind, who are thus making a mockery of your profession, by trampling on the sacred natural rights and pri|vileges of the Africans; for while you are fasting, praying, non-importing, non-exporting, remon|strating, resolving, and pleading for a restoration of your charter rights, you at the same time are con|tinuing this lawless, cruel, inhuman, and abomina|ble practice of enslaving your fellow-creatures, which is so disgraceful to human nature; a practice which must redound to the eternal dishonor of any peo|ple much more to those who wear the christian name, and must surely make the heart of every feel|ing person shudder at the thought of being held in perpetual slavery, but shocking to relate, it is re|alized by millions of unhappy mortals in the world, a greater part of which I am sorry to say are dwel|lers in this American land of freedom!
But if ye fail of abolishing this vile custom of slave-making, either by a law of the province, com|mon law, (which I am told has happily succeed|ed in many instances of late) or by a voluntary re|leasement, the oppressed sons of Africa may very justly retort this stubborn passage of sacred writ up|on you, Isaiah lviii.6. Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, that ye break every yoke: And may truly say with the same Prophet, Isaiah i.13, 19. Bring no more vain oblation: The calling of assemblies I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn-meeting. If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land.
But let me ask you, I mean those who are guilty in this respect, with what face can you look up to the ALMIGHTY, that just and righteous Being, and beg of him his aid and assistance in our po|litical affairs, while we are oppressing our African brethren ten thousand times as much by keeping them in slavery for life? And what is a trifling three penny duty on tea in comparison to the in|estimable blessing of liberty to one captive? But O shocking the very imagination! yet more amaz|ing the reality! to know we have millions among us who are slaves to all generations, at least we de|sign them as such, unless some kind arm should interpose in the behalf of these miserable people to put an end to their bondage. O how it makes me rejoice, yea it makes me leap for joy, when I mention the much honored names of those wor|thy patriots for liberty, those sincere friends to the rights and liberties of mankind, who, emulated with a spirit of liberty, have so nobly let public virtue triumph over sordid self-interest, and have released a number of valuable black servants who were held in bondage. May they and their chil|dren be blessed for this truly god-like act; and may their public-spirited example be followed by many, very many Gentlemen who are owners of slaves. Let it never be told in the streets of Ame|rica, that nursery of freedom, that there is one bond-slave dwells therein.
To conclude this solemn and much discussed subject, however little regard may have been paid to it by those whose interest it may justly be sup|posed to be to slight every thing that shall be advan|ced in favor of the Africans. However the time is coming, I hope, when instead of these sorely distressed and much oppressed Africans retorting passages of scripture on you slave-makers, our Savior’s words may come with full power and have their desired effect, namely, Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them. Though little account may be made of them in the religious as well as political world, they ought to be the eternal rule of righteous|ness to mankind.
Some of you may remember what your late Go|vernor Pownall said to his servant Frank, on his confining a number of birds in a cage: Says his Excellency, Whose birds are those in that cage? Mine, Sir, replied his servant. What did they cost? Two dollars, Sir. Says his Excellency, there are your two dollars for them, let them be free, for I will have no being that GOD has made, in bondage in my house. Soon after the Governor purchased a number of flying-squirrels to send to England, which he confined in a cage: His man Frank seeing them, enquired of his fellow-servants whose squirrels they were? They informed him they belonged to his Excellency; on which Frank immediately let them all free: And on his carrying the tidings to his Excellency, enquired of him, what the squirrels cost? The Governor was a lit|tle angry at first for his freedom in asking what they cost? but on telling him he had set them at liberty, and offering to pay for them, his Excel|lency was much pleased with the familiar, soft ad|monition in favor of liberty.
Sir, One word if you please as Watchman.
Watchman what of the night? I mean of the night of ministerial darkness of the gospel; what of the night, Watchman?
Who is he that makes this inquiry? Thou art sure a sensible soul, for I have not had such an en|quiry ever since I have been upon my watch tower in America.
This enquiry, my hearers, will naturally lead me for a few minutes to speak of religious liberty, and you that do not love religion or sacred liberty may go out, there will no body take any notice of it but GOD, and you know and others will know that you do not mind him much; but I chuse to speak a word in season to the enquirer, because among sensible people it is known that the Stand|ing Ministers, in general, by their arbitrary au|thority in the churches and despotic power by councils have as much destroyed the charter rights of the church of CHRIST, as the British Ministry have the rights of the American subjects.
However I will tell the enquirer it is a dark night indeed, insomuch that the people in a sacred sense seem to me to dwell in the land of darkness and of the shades of death, but it is a very good night for blind folk, for blind Priests and blind people, for the blind lead the blind, the night and the day are both alike to them; they group at noon-day and stum|ble upon the dark mountains; for if the light that is in them be darkness, how great is that darkness; nor will they come to the light lest their ministe|rial deeds should be reproved, and if any dawn of light appears to any, the Priests with the insensi|bly fine thread of prejudice sews their eyes, as man|kind sew up the eyes of flutterers to blind them, that by them they may catch more pigeons, and thereby make them seven fold more the children of condemnation. The Priest goes his old, cold, deathly and pharisaical round (like a horse in a mill) of long prayers, tears, conditions, terms; do your part, lay down your arms, submit and GOD will change his anger, will love you and have mercy upon you. Such pharisaical rubbish we have con|tinually from the pulpit: If you ask bread they give you a stone; if you talk to them in the lan|guage of Canaan, they answer you in the language of Ashdod; this makes it a dark night, a dark night to the church indeed. When do we ever see the ministration of glory made manifest by the Priest, by preaching CHRIST as the light of the morning, or ever proclaim the light of a DIVINE RIGHTE|OUSNESS, of a finished salvation, of pardon alone by CHRIST’s death, atonement by his blood, of vic|tory by his resurrection, of peace only by the be|lief of the finished righteousness and atonement. When do we hear of the power of the HOLY GHOST in regeneration, giving freely like the light of the morning, life, light, peace, joy, and consolation by the ministration of the gospel, and thereby engaging their souls by the bonds of al|mighty grace, to new obedience day by day. Some|times we have a little of these things mentioned, but depend upon it, in general, there is death in the pot, when ever the sons of the Prophet seeth it: They are always setting forth GOD and the crea|ture at a distance from each other, like two angry parties, and then they persuade the creature not to be angry any longer, and then GOD will not be angry with him, so the people the best of them in general so esteemed, they think right to get a robe of self-righteousness, being ignorant of GOD’s righteousness, and then judge all is well with them, and are pleased, like children, with themselves, vainly thinking that GOD is pleased with them, because the Priest tells them so: And so they wrap it up: And if any one attempts to unwrap it and says as CHRIST did, How can ye escape the damna|tion of hell? they are like the scribes and phari|sees, exceeding angry to be sure, and say why he is a troubler in Israel, he is beside himself, he has not the approbation of the Standing Ministry. How|ever I am of Mr. C—s—ll‘s mind who, was desir|ed to procure the approbation of the Standing Mi|nistry, that he might be more extensively useful in the world. He replied, by no means, for he had had their reprobation for twenty years, which he thought far more preferrable.
But though your sorrows may yet continue, your harps hang upon the willows, and things may yet grow darker and darker, and your sor|rows be like the swellings of Jordan, yet fear not, the morning cometh. Though the fig-tree should not blossom, nor there should be no fruit on the vine; the labor of the olive fail, and the field yield no meat, and the flocks be cut from the field, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet wait on the LORD and be of good courage, the morning cometh. Support your congress, maintain your union, strengthen your affection, relieve the poor, persevere in piety, pa|tience, and prudence as a band of brethren united in one COMMON CAUSE, be fearless, be harmless, and may GOD ALMIGHTY bless you.