Fast Day Sermon 1813
September 9, 1813 — Sermon, President James Madison’s Fast Day, probably Boston MA
Your attention is requested to these words which was a direction from Jehovah himself to the prophet Isaiah the passage is found.
in the 58 chap[ter], verse first
of Isaiah prophecy
Cry aloud spare not lift up your voice like a trumpet.
Shew my people their transgression and the house of Jacob their Sins.
We may see plainly by this text, it was the design of Jehovah, that his will should be made known to his people Jacob, by the mouth of his prophet Isaiah.
in compliance with the wish of the head government of this nation. We have now assembled to seek favour in the sign of the Lord. in the first place I shall consider it the duty of every preacher of the Christian religion, of what ever denomination, to cry aloud, and spare not to lift up his voice like a trumpet, not as with such noise and little sense: but with energy and firmness. Secondly Shall consider what they are directed to cry aloud for. and that [illegible word] to shew the people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their Sins. thirdly I shall consider what the duty of the people was after the preacher has with faithfulness performed his . . .
And shall make some observations on the necessity of sincerity to humble ourselves for our sins and transgressions. First then it was [the duty of the] prophet Isaiah to cry aloud and spare not. for he was called by Jehovah [illegible words] and sent to his ancient people Israel. and indeed there is some good reason to think our Indians are descended from one of the tribes of the Jewish nation. they evidently have many of their customs and manners among them and have many traditions as derived from their Fathers and are certainly distinguished by tribes now in the passage of our text, tis plain that the prophet Isaiah was sent by the God of Jacob to that particular tribe. as they had at that period discovered great sin and hypocrisy, in [illegible word] callings days, for fasting and prayer. and many other days of solemn [mourning] and we read at the second verse yet they seek [the daily] and delight to know my ways [illegible words] that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God. [illegible words] the ordinances of Justice, they take delight in preaching to God [illegible words] . . .
by the outward form of devotion, and pretence of godliness, but he who tries the heart of the Children of Men. knew their insincerity and sent the prophet to reprove them for their hypocrisy. and it is now the duty of every Christian preacher. tho’ not inspired with the gift of prophecy. it is a duty encumbent [sic] on him when he sees his people going astray, as a good shepard [sic] to cry aloud and spare not to shew them their transgressions and point out the way by which they may obtain the divine favour. My hearers if we are not of the particular tribe of Jacob, we are of a very godly seed. And many of us have reason to bless God that we have descended from pious and holy ancestors. and it is the duty of the preacher to remind their people from whence they are fallen, and entreat of them to look, to the rock from whence they were hewn. and in a humble sense of their sins. to seek of him in the midst of his Judgments to remember mercy. it is also a duty of those that are strong. to comfort and support the weak and feeble minded; and the preacher of the Word of God ought to be firm trusting in the Lord at all times. I have thus for confided it as the duty, of the Christian preacher to cry aloud and spare not. from the time Jehovah himself appointed Moses , and Aaron, through all the Jewish dispensation to the time of the prophet Isaiah. they were set on the watch tower. of the house of Israel that is they were placed as a watch and guard over the conduct of the whole Jewish nation both in their political as well as their religious Character. from the first Settlement of this country to the present day this people have had great confidence in the Clergy and have had good reason to from their constant good deportment. . .
and from the testimony of one of our first Characters among us. Whom I heard assert tho’ they for the most part differed from him in his political sentiments he had ever found them the most honest enlightened and faithful class of men in the New England States. then colonies and well informed literary, good men. Therefore knowing more than the common class of citizens, they ought to cry aloud and spare not. To shew the people their transgressions hath in religion and politicks tis plain from every part of Sacred Writ what they were first appointed by Jehovah himself and ordained to cry aloud and spare not to shew the people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their Sin. they were placed as a life guard, the people’s safety, and to teach and even lead them in some cases, and shew them their transgressions
when their other rulers caused them to err. I shall now consider it the duty encumbent on the people to harken to their teachers and consider wherein they have transgression and what particular Sin has beset them. and been the procuring cause of our present affliction. first the sin of omission we all have a share in. and we all have sinned and neglected our relative, and personal duties for we have by our careless manner of living been inattentive to the things that belong to our peace and happiness and the vanities riches and follies of the world has blinded the eyes of the people at large. and before they had time to open them their leaders were laying a train for the commission of incalculable evils. and finally the making of the war: and that is the greatest of evils. When it is unrighteous, unnecessary, cruel, and oppressive. tho’ it has pleased the god of peace and righteousness to permit it for our for our transgressions. and it is the duty encumbent on this whole Nation to unite in mourning for the Sins and follies that have been the procuring cause of our many sufferings. What can be a greater folly than for a government to make war: upon their own fellow citizens in the interior of their own country. and carry disolation [sic] into a part of the land where every one was setting quietly under his own vine and fig tree, and enjoying the fruit of his labor and industry. and had none to make them afraid, had they: it would have been the duty of the government to protect them: but oh, tell it not in Canada. that it must be published in the streets of this part of America and it must be heard by members and shall ring in their ears. that unless ye reform your land shall be laid desolate and without an inhabitant. and for what — the protection of seamens rights. What absurdity not to prepare wooden walls instead of expending millions to sacrifice, our citizens our brave seamen with wooden walls would protect themselves, our country and the trade and commerce of it. that we see plainly by the gallant feats of our brave little Navy; now this is the actual transgression of our Nation that they continue a war. for our own destruction. Therefore return oh my people and say peace peace to him that is a far off tho’ we know the wicked are like the troubled Sea. And there is no peace Saith my god to the wicked. it becoming then as a nation to turn unto the Lord Jehovah and humble ourselves under his correcting hand. do we this day keep such a fast as shall be acceptable in his sight, who is the next high god it cannot be pleasing in his sight, that we hang down our heads like a bulrush or spread sack cloth and ashes under our feet. but he expressly saith, this is the fast that you have chosen. to loose the bands of wickedness to undo every heavy burden and let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke cloth the naked, feed the hungry, if you will do these things, and the love of God be in you and abound by every good work then you may call on the Lord Jehovah. and he will say, here am I. let us my friends examine ourselves and see if there is any sincerity, in our assembling together this day he who searches the heart of the Children of Men knows the motive of our rulers for recommending the observance of this day as a day, for fasting and prayer. He knows the hypocrite in heart, for he tries the reins of the Children of Men. And altho’ they appoint Solemn day, and draw near me with their lips yet their heart is far from me, and this was the sin of Jacob and the whole house of Israel for by their whole conduct, their hearts, are far from me. return then oh Israel, return then oh americans. return unto the path of your ansestors [sic]. Seek the things that belong to your peace before they are hidden from your eyes. Oh cease contention. put away all strife from among you. Cease to do evil . learn to do well. break off profane cursing and swearing. revive family worship and government. pay more respect to moral virtue [illegible words] the day is not far distant when there shall be one universal peace on earth and good will to men. happy period for many years, and is the Millennium. Wherein the world shall enjoy great peace and harmony. and we now see mankind disposed to form benevolent, and Charitable institutions which I think is a happy presage our heavenly parent has not given us use but is only chastising us to bring us to our senses America is the last [rising] empire and as knowledge is extending from east to west it tis probable the knowledge of the only living and true god will prevail. More rapidly in this remote part of the globe than in any other for two reasons first that the wise men came from the east. in search of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the wisest men have purified the western course ever since. the second reason is that our country was settled on a different plan from any other. for our wise and venerable ansestors left the east, and came into this Western region when it was but a howling wilderness. directed by one general wish to spread the gospel in its purity , and simplicity free from all Idolatry and they had a view of laying a firm foundation for the free enjoyment of civil and religious priviledges. and another particular circumstance we may take notice of, is this, we are the only nation under whose government gods own particular people the Jews, have not been persecuted. We may then have great reason to hope he will yet appear on our behalf. and save his American Israel. When he sees us humbled on account of our many Sins and transgressions he will arise on our behalf and [illegible words] the counsels and devices of wicked and unreasonable men. and prepare the way for peace and harmony how long the present war may last we know not. but this we do know. that it is the duty of us all to be wise, and secure our peace with god and trust in him at all times, for under the shadow of his wing shall we find safety: let us therefore trust in him and resolve to walk in his path that we will restore the waste places that we will lay the foundation of peace, for many generations, and resolve we will have a name among the nations as the restorer of peace and repairer of breaches and the restorer of equitable paths to dwell in. then Saith the Lord will I cause them to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed the[m] with the [heritage] of Jacob, thy Father, therefore hear now my people harken to the voice of instruction.
Seek peace, and be at peace, with all men. that good may come unto you. Your transgression and Sins have now been set before you. Life, and death, are in your path. The path to life and happiness is virtue purity and and true godly lives and conversations. for without holiness no man can see the Lord the way that leads to death and misery is sin folly intemperance unchastity profaneness anarchy and War: then death—let me beseech of you my friends if you love your own souls to prepare the path that leads to peace and happiness and that will prepare the way for suffering in the Millennium which will be many years of peace and harmony, and happiness May the Lord god of our Fathers arise for his American Israel and turn the machinations of our enemies to naught. When he sees us humble and repentant in sincerity and truth . . .
oh inspire thy people with an ardent desire for peace on honorable terms let not trifels [sic] separate Bretheren any longer but resolve for to demand of our rulers to restore that peace to us; of which they alone have deprived us and determine to a man we will return our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks, that every one may sit under his own vine and have none to make him afraid from one end of this vast continent to the other, peace be within your Walls, and prosperity in all your dwellings, for my Bretheren and companions same I will now cry; the peace of God be with you now and ever more.
An Hymn on the occation [sic] Hark from the tombs.
Hark from despair poor Jacobins
Your Cries attack our ears.
We stand confest [sic] in all our Sins
This day has raised our fears
[illegible word], this day we so much dread
In spite, of all our care
We cannot raise our drooping head
For we can’t join in prayer
Our day of grace, I fear is gone
Our Sins have been so great.
Whole days of fasting can’t attone
or alter our sad fate
Great God is this our certain doom.
and Shall we never rise
Must we be buried in the tomb
All hopes of mercy flies.
For Federalist for peace will pray
With undivided Zeal
They all unite this sacred day
Our anarchy to heal
Oh grant us your forgiving grace
Before we quite expire,
This land of peace, we do so disgrace
We fear Your Sacred ire.
Source: Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Am 889. 203. Catalogued under “Increase Mather, Junior.” (Hannah Mather Crocker’s pen name)