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Thanksgiving Sermon

November 24, 1813 — Unknown church, President James Madison’s National Fast Day, probably Boston MA


Respected Friends,

It has long been an established custom to celebrate an anniversary thanksgiving even from the first settlement of our country. Our pious and venerable ancestors, deeply impressed with a sense of the divine goodness for preserving mercy and protecting them, even in an howling wilderness,² they then with fervent gratitude of soul gave thanks to almighty God. When their repast was no more than a simple mess of Clams, they even then appointed a day for thanksgiving prayer and praise in firm expectation of further help. They sought refuge in the Lord Jehovah by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. From that time to the present day, there has been a day of anniversary thanksgiving kept by out government. Our respected governor, with the council, has now called on us as a people by proclamation to celebrate the goodness of the Lord, as specified in that he has been doing us good, and giving us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and art filling our hearts with good and gladness. Therefore tis our duty to praise the Lord with supplication and prayer. Having meditated on several passages of sacred scripture, I remained undetermined what would be most suitable for the present day till I was providential directed to these words:

Philippians, 4 chap[ter], 6 verse.
Be careful for nothing but in every thing by prayer
and supplication with thanksgiving let your request
be made known unto God.

I shall first consider it the duty of every Christian to be careful for nothing with an anxious solicitude, as it was distrusting the goodness of God. Secondly, I shall consider it the duty of Christians in every age to make known their wants to their heavenly parent by prayer and supplication; and thirdly, I shall shew, we should make our request known with thanksgiving and gratitude of heart for ever favour and blessing we enjoy. The text we have read is in the general exhortation of Paul to the Philippians. Paul was a man of a very strong mind and the only scholar among the first called apostles, and he was very energetick in eery undertaking. When he persecuted the Christians before his conversion, he pursued them with great rigour. After he became a convert to the Christian system, he was more zealous to have others partake of the like joy in believing that he had experienced in himself. He writes to the Philippians with energy and affection. He had resided with them some time and found them willing to embrace his doctrine. And he with his fellow laborer Timotheus was filled with gratitude for the kindness and attention they had received from the Philippians.

Paul writes to them, and with Timotheus prays for them with the warmth and affection of a Christian parent. With what energy and feeling he writes to them: I thank my God upon every remembrance of you; always in every prayer of mine, for you all, making request with joy after praying. And commending them to the keeping of God, he goes on to exhort them to rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. As in the text, becareful for nothing, that is, be not too anxious respecting the things of this world, but be faithful in doing your duty and leave the event to providence. A man of Paul’s energy and industry could not mean they should be inattentive to their particular calling. No. Neither did he mean they should neglect any of the moral virtues for he is careful to remind them thus: Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely or [of] good report, fi there be any praise, think on these things. He says again, those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me do; and the God of peace shall be with you. Now, my hearers, if in the very heat of the Christian persecution, the apostle Paul could exhort his friends and followers to be careful for nothing with doubtful anxiety, we, my Christian friends in this present day, must not despond nor hang down our heads like a bulrush. Tho’ ’a very heavy hangs over our country, we must not give way to anxious care.

Secondly, I shall consider it our duty to draw near to God at all times, more especially in a time of war and adversity, for surely the peace of God passeth all understanding. We, my friends, have seen [a] very great display of the divine favour. Form the first settlement of this country to the present day, we have had reason to sing of the mercy and lovingkindness of the Lord Jehovah, for he scattered the heathen to make room for our pious predecessors. Has he not appeared for and upheld us from one Generation to another, and shall not one Generation praise him and tell of his great goodness and mercy to the rising Generation, and Children’s Children shall tell their Children of his wonderful works that he has done for our Fathers of old times? Many now on the stage of action at this very day can recollect with gratitude the memorable era of the Revolutionary War when but children in arms and knew not the sound of war. Did not heaven then appear on our behalf and raise up for us a Washington and other brave spirits to defend the cause of liberty and justice, and under Washington’s wise and prudent administration this country enjoyed every blessing and comfort heaven could bestow on a favoured people? No Nation ever enjoyed so wise an administration since the reign of Solomon, and his administration was attended by the wisdom of God for he sought direction from Jehovah himself. And the consequence was he negotiated peace with all nations as the first prelude to the happiness of his subjects, well knowing war a bane to all morality, virtue, and religion.

Then surely it must be a duty incumbent on every sincere Christian and true friend of his country to make known his request to God by prayer and supplication, that peace may be restored to our now suffering country and that the very God of peace may bless us with his presence and be with us as he was with our fathers. Let us then by prayer and supplication make known our request unto God, that he would open the eyes of our infatuated rulers of this nation, for the leaders of the people have caused them to err in declaring a cruel, and imprudent, unjust war against the innocent inhabitants of Canada, and that only under this false colour of protecting the seamen’s right. Let us then unite in praying: Oh that they were wise, and would understand their duty, and turn their attention to protecting the lives, liberty, and right of the Citizens at home. We have great reason to pray, supplicate, and deplore the present state of the country. I shall further consider, that it is the duty of every Christian, not only by prayer and supplication, but with thanksgiving to bless and praise God that the government of this state has not been accessory in promoting this unhappy war. But as the innocent must suffer with the guilty, we feel the sad effect, in some degree. Yet what reason have we for thankfulness that while our friends on the frontiers are now suffering all the hardship and fatigue of war, we in this part of the land can sit quietly under our own vine and have none to make us afraid? We have reason to be thankful for a wise and prudent administration in our own state.

We have reason to be thankful for the union and faithfulness of our Clergy that they cry aloud and spare not, that they pray unitedly for the peace and prosperity of our American Israel. When we take a retrospect of the convulsive state of the powers in Europe and consider, I may say, the millions that are sacrificed to swell the proud triumphs of our lawless Tyrant, it almost makes the Blood chill in our veins and we shrink with horror from the gloomy scene. But I will not harrow up your feelings on this anniversary day of thanksgiving. I wish only to remind you to be careful for nothing with anxiety of mind or distrusting the care of a gracious providence, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving at all times make your request known unto God and commit the cause of your country and yourselves to his care and keeping. For he governs among the nations and can turn the hearts of men as the waters are are turned, and in his own time will bring about that happy period foretold of by the prophet Micah, fourth chap[ter], 3 verse; he shall judge among many nations afar off, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Then will commence that happy period called the millennium; from this convulsive state of the world in general, there is great reason to expect one universal peace will take place before long. Let us be encouraged, my American friends, and hope the Lord will visit us soon with her mercy and in some particular manner, as we have reason to be thankful that we are the only nation under whose government his own peculiar people, the Jews, have never been persecuted. — 

Let us bless the Lord Jehovah that in the midst of the judgments that are abroad in the earth that he is still visiting us in mercy, and has preserved us from intestine broils and animosities. And tho we feel the evil of war in restricting our commerce and trade, yet bless the Lord oh our Souls, for he has indeed been dong us good and giving us rain from heaven, and blessed our agriculture and the labor of the husbandman, and has crowned the year with multiplied mercy and goodness. We have been an highly favoured people from our first settlement to the present day. This Western part of the world in all probability will be the last rising empire and the knowledge of the gospel will spread even to the going down of the setting sun. Our pious ancestors began the good work, by early establishing churches, schools, and seminaries of learning; and I think it as happy presage of future prosperity that so many institutions for benevolent purposes are now established among us. They all have a happy tendency in making man mild and sociable to man. All the societies for promoting Christian knowledge and learning must have a good effect in promoting the cause of God, and his people. The historical and antiquarian researches must have a good effect in bringing to light many hidden treasures that without the aid of the antiquarian must have been lost in oblivion.

And by bringing out of the hidden treasury, all things in time shall become new And the fruit of industry and labor shall be rewarded with the fruit of peace, and happiness and songs of praise shall be sung by all those who live and pray for the peace of our Zion. As in the 26 chap[ter] of Isaiah, I verse: In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: we have a strong city. Salvation will God appoint for Walls and Bulwarks of our religion. Again at the 4 verse: Trust ye in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. He is the rock of ages, and the only sure foundation, even Jesus Christ himself the chief cornerstone. There is not one of the prophets speaks so fully of the coming of our Saviour as Isaiah, and he describes more beautifully the blessings of peace under the Christian dispensation at the 12 verse of the same chap[ter]. He saith, Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us, for thou has wrought all our work in us; thou has magnified thy work in us in preserving us in a most wonderful manner in safety thro’ all the clear and bloody wars in which the Jewish Nation was continually involved. He then goes on to describe the blessings of the Gospel in chap[ter] 27 verse 6: He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root. Israel shall blossom and bud and full the face of the earth with fruit. Let us, my Christian friends, rejoice with thanksgiving and praise that we live under that blessed dispensation and enjoy, free from all persecution, the benefit and happiness the Jewish nation was so infatuated as to reject, altho’ it has pleased God to permit as a scourge for our faults the rage of evil men to involve us in a cruel war.

Oh sacred and blessed shades of our pious ancestors, [as?] your Spirits hover over this your beloved country, look with pity on your degenerate children and gently cast Elijah’s mantle on every Elisha of these New England states. Let me entreat you all to return unto the good old way. Let us all on this day of Jubilee rejoice in the Lord, not in word only but in deed; and in truth and sincerity, let us shew our gratitude to our heavenly parent by benevolence and charity to our fellow creatures. If heaven has blessed us largely with his bounty, let us impart freely to those who many stand in need; remember the Widow and Fatherless, and do good unto all, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Wherefore comfort ye one another, teach the word of truth to them that err. Commit all your affairs and the cause of your country to him that ruleth among the nations and he shall reprove kings for your sakes, that is, if you will e humble and reform and become his willing and obedient people. We must determine to do justly and love and shew mercy, and the God of peace and righteousness will bless and keep us in and for the sake of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Finally, my Brethren, let me exhort you with the exhortation of our revered Apostle Paul. I will close with the words of the text: Be careful for nothing, but by prayers and supplications with thanksgiving make known your request unto God. And he will in his own time send a most gracious answer of peace to all your supplications. And the praise and glory shall be given to him who is the same yesterday, to day, and forever.


*Mather presented this sermon under the name “Increase Mather.”



Source: Manuscript, Mather Family Papers, American Antiquarian Society (Worcester MA), Box 12, Folder 8.


Also: Observations on the Real Rights of Women and Other Writings, by Hannah Mather Crocker, ed. Constance J. Post (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011) pp. 11-18.