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IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM, LET MY RIGHT HAND
FORGET HER CUNNING.
IF I DO NOT REMEMBER
THEE, LET MY TONGUE CLEAVE
TO THE ROOF OF
MY MOUTH; YEA, IF I PREFER NOT JERUSALEM IN
The unshaken fidelity and constant affection, which the Israelites in their captivity retained for Jerusalem, exhibits a rare instance of virtuous principle. This principle is that of genuine patriotism, and is described in the psalm from which I have selected my text, in language the most pathetic and impressive. The children of Israel are pourtrayed not in the festive celebrations of the temple, but as captives and wanderers in a foreign land. They are seated by the waters of Babylon, and their tears, both of regret
and penitence, add, as it were, to the passing tide, when Sion, arrayed in her former splendour, occurs to their mind. As for their harps, they suspended them upon the willows. The strings were mute; the hand of devotion was feeble, and the mind was spiritless. Little inclination would they have found to sing, even if they had languished in silent contempt; but their haughty conquerors add insult to their calamities, and demand from them an exertion of their skill“Sing us one of the songs of Sion.” The answer is obvious—“How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land ?” The image of Sion is deeply engraven on their hearts, and the storm of persecution makes them cling the more closely to the rock of their salvation. Exiles, and mourners, they are not apostates. Sustained by this spirit of allegiance to their God, they can courageously exclaim, in the presence of their enemies, “ If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning: if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth ; yea, if I prefer not Jerusalem in my mirth!”
This attachment to the service of God is the more immediate lesson of instruction which I purpose to draw from the conduct and language of the captive Israelites. If we were permitted to form a conjecture from passing events, the day may not be far distant when attachment to our
Church will be put to the severest test, and our Protestant principles tried in the furnace of probation. Looking through a prospective, the mental eye may discover future results of ecclesiastical polity, and see, at the end of a period not very remote, conscientious Protestants, exiles and wanderers for the faith of their fathers, or taunted by Romanists with sarcastic raillery, “Sing us one of the songs of your Zion.” If, in the righteous judgments of God, a destiny so bitter be in reserve for rising generations who with honest pertinacity cling to the principles of the Reformation, well may they sit down and weep, when they remember that Church, which has been to them and to their country the source of blessings innumerable and inestimable!
Ere I proceed, it becomes me, Reverend Brethren, to crave your candour and indulgence, if, in adducing a variety of motives for a firm adherence to a Church that alone deserves the name of apostolic, I should somewhat trespass upon your time and patience. These motives divide themselves into several branches. The rise and progress of our Church under its reformed statethe insidious machinations of its enemies the bounden duty of its ministers under existing circumstances—the antiquity of its origin—the purity of its creed and ritual—and the consequent safety of salvation in its communion, compared
with that of the church of Rome. These are the several topics, intermixed with historical events, illustrative of the subject, which, with all deference, I offer to your serious consideration.
The Church of England, reformed from Popish errors, and restored to the purity of primitive Christianity, is one part and parcel of the Catholic Church of Christ. In the advance to her present state, she has experienced various vicissitudes of fortune, and suffered much opposition, calumny, and wrong. Like
Like a vessel tossed on the mighty waters, she has, at different periods of her voyage, been apparently overwhelmed in the raging billows; but, to use a nautical phrase, through the unerring guidance of her helmsman, the pilot of the Galilean lake, she has repeatedly weathered the storm, righted again, and still sails before the wind. The
pen of history records the sufferings and magnanimity of her sons, under various forms of trial, in exile, poverty, and death. In the days of her youth, when she first separated herself, as a chaste daughter from an unchaste mother, the persecuting hand of violence drove many of her children to seek their safety in a foreign land. Thither the crooked serpent followed, commenced his work of intrigue, and, sowing the seeds of discord amongst them, caused that dissent and schism which, in succeeding ages, ripening into