[Excerpts from "Divine Judgments Upon Tyrants," a sermon
delivered by Jacob Cushing at Lexington on April 20, 1778,
commemorating the Battle of Lexington. This sermon is
described as follows: "In commemoration of the MURDEROUS WAR
and RAPINE, inhumanly perpetrated, by two brigades of British
troops, in that town and neighborhood, on the NINETEENTH OF
APRIL, 1775." The sermon in its entirety is found in
"Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805,
Volume I, edited by Ellis Sandoz, Second Edition, and can be
purchased for approximately $36 at the Liberty Fund website at
That there is a God, "is the prime foundation of all
religion." We should therefore employ our utmost diligence to
establish our minds in the stedfast belief of it. For when
once we have firmly settled in our minds the belief of God’s
being, it will mightily influence all our powers of action; it
will invite our hope, alarm our fear, and address to every
passion within us, that is capable of persuasion, and be in us
a never-failing source of devotion and religion.
A God without a providence, is a solitary kind of being,
and affords but gloomy apprehensions. For ‘tis by his
providence that all intercourse between GOD and his rational
creatures is maintained, therein he exercises and displays his
perfections, therein his power executes the contrivances of
his wisdom, and his wisdom plans the methods of his goodness
and grace, which open to the view and admiration of the wise
and good, through successive ages and generations.
But that branch of providence, which, in a peculiar manner,
demands our attention on this occasion, and should excite our
gratitude is GOD’s uninterrupted government of the rational
part of his creation, mankind in particular. For as all
government, so the divine, supposes laws, and laws suppose
rewards and punishments, of which intelligences only are
Since, therefore, GOD interests himself in the affairs of
mankind, and the universal administration of his providence
extends to all his works, a large field opens for the
employment of our contemplative minds. And we are naturally
led to consider this divine government, as respecting
communities; the affairs whereof are important, and upon which
the order and felicity of the world greatly depend.
God is the sovereign of the world, and disposes all things
in the best manner. All blessings and calamities, of a public
nature, and the revolutions of kingdoms and states, are to be
viewed as under the special direction of heaven. Hence the
scripture saith, that GOD "increaseth the nations, and
destroyeth them, he enlargeth the nations, and stratneth them
blesseth them, so that they are multiplied greatly; again,
they are minished, and brought low through oppression,
affliction and sorrow."
These truths being necessarily interwoven with religion,
and extensively useful under the varying scenes of life, and
misteries in providence—the
main design of the present discourse, is to awaken our
attention to the passages of divine providence—and
lead us to a religious improvement of GOD’s hand, in the
tragical events that took place on the nineteenth of April,
1775. I mean the murderous war, rapine and devastation of
that day, which we are now met to commemorate.
Under this visitation, or the greatest trials imaginable,
we have abundant consolation, that GOD rules in the armies of
heaven, and among the inhabitants of this earth.
The words but now read, may be, perhaps, not unfitly
applied to us, for comfort and encouragement under GOD’s
chastisements, and his usual conduct towards the enemies of
his church and people: "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his
people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will
render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto
his land, and to his people." These are the concluding words
of Moses his song, which setteth forth GOD’s works of mercy
and judgment towards the children of Israel, his covenant
people. And though, in their primary meaning, they respect
that nation only, yet they may be accommodated and fairly
applied to GOD’s faithful and obedient people, at all times,
and in all ages; inasmuch as the latter part of the prophecy
reaches unto the latter days, and is not yet wholly fulfilled.
Some interpret the former part of the verse thus, "Rejoice
ye nations, who are his people," supposing it to be a prophecy
of the gentiles becoming one body with the people of Israel;
because Moses had supposed in this song, great enmity between
them, and that sometimes they had sorely plagued Israel; as at
others, GOD rendered to them according to what they had done
unto his people: but now breaks out in a rapture of joy, to
think that they should one day be reconciled, and made one
people of GOD.
The prophecy then before us, is not limited to the
Israelites; but may be understood as extending to all GOD’s
chosen, though oppressed and injured people, in all
generations, that he will recompense their wrongs—plead
their cause—and do
justice upon their enemies. And taking it in this latitude, we
may collect several things from it, as worthy of our notice,
and pertinent to this occasion. Accordingly I observe,
First, that GOD, in the righteous administrations of his
providence, permits the sons of violence to oppress his saints
and people; and, in their malice and rage, to attempt their
ruin, by waging war with them.
God is a being of infinite power and inflexible justice, as
well as consummate wisdom; and doth according to his sovereign
pleasure, in the natural and moral world. He over-rules all
things for his own glory, and in subordination to that, has a
particular regard to the happiness of his covenant people: His
church and chosen are not without mistakes and errors, in this
they are prone to degenerate and transgress—to
be too regardless of GOD, and deficient in their obedience—nay,
to be guilty of great wickedness. And it becomes necessary, to
punish such revolters from the ways of GOD, and purity of
manners. Hence, when the all-wise GOD designs the chastisement
and reformation of his backsliding people, he "visits their
transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes,"
and uses those methods, that shall best promote his moral
government; inflicting this or that judgment, as pleases him.
The divine providence then is to be devoutly acknowledged in
all events, in all public evils and calamities.
Sometimes there are visible marks of GOD’s anger and
displeasure against his people. Their counsels are divided,
and their strength impaired—their
enemies are permitted to distress and injure them—or
they have been harassed by the will and conduct of ambitious,
designing men, who have contributed to the ruin of their
country, even at the same time they pretend a mighty zeal for
its interest: Or they are scourged by haughty tyrants and
cruel oppressors: Yet the hand of GOD, and his over-ruling
providence is to be acknoweldged in these things, as much as
when a people suffer by famine, pestilence, earthquakes,
storms and tempests, &c. which are commonly regarded as the
more immediate tokens of GOD’s anger, and works of his
Secondly, to observe, the dispensation of heaven towards
oppressors and tyrants, the enemies of GOD’s people. "For he
will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render
vengeance to his adversaries," none shall hinder his
proceedings, to be fully avenged of them.
He is supreme Lord, governor and judge of the world,
therefore will he chastise offenders; to him belongeth
vengeance, therefore the wicked shall not go unpunished.
The enemies of GOD’s church and people, are GOD’s
"The Lord’s portion is his people, he keeps them as the
apple of his eye" verses 9,10, of the context. Whoever grieves
or afflicts them, provokes GOD, for they are "his peculiar
treasure." And having a singular concern for them, he will be
their shield and their defence, however they may be persecuted
by their enemies. "For the Lord shall judge his people"; ver
36. i.e. plead their cause, and deliver them from the
oppression of their enemies; as this phrase is frequently used
in the book of Psalms. He will have mercy upon his servants
and turn his hand, which punishes them, upon their
Likewise the christian church, though the world ever was an
enemy to it, has been firmly established: It has been
maintained against cruel persecution, and the greatest
violence. And though continually burning, it has not been
consumed, though tossed with tempests, and worried by its
oppressors and adversaries, frequently passing through the
furnace of affliction; yet it retains a form more bright and
beautiful, as of the spouse of Christ, and the joyful mother
of children which no man can number.
Indeed churches are not perfect or compleat; they are apt
to decline and transgress; nothing therefore can be more equal
and fit, than that GOD should, in his holy providence,
manifest his righteous displeasure against backsliding
churches that have fallen from the power and purity of
religion, into a state of corruption.
Should it happen that, in times of persecution, bloodshed
and war, the church may be reduced in its members, still the
remnant may become more refined, holy and heavenly. The faith
and patience of the saints be more exercised, their zeal and
piety more eminent, and practical godliness more gloriously
appear. And then, in due season, GOD raiseth his church and
people from their afflicted and oppressed state, and rendereth
vengeance to their adversaries and persecutors. Thus Babylon
of old was punished for her cruelty and oppression of the
Jewish church. And thus shall it likewise be in the case of
mystical Babylon; which, after having been long suffered to
prevail, and to "make war with the saints of the most High,"
shall have a mighty downfall, wherein the vengeance and
justice of almighty GOD, shall be illustriously displayed; of
which we have a striking description in XVIII. Chap. Of the
And that we may be established in the faith of the prophecy
before us, that GOD "will avenge the blood of his servants,"
and execute "vengeance upon their adversaries," we may advert
to the animating promise of our blessed Saviour, in the
parable of the unjust judge, who, neither fearing GOD nor
regarding man, was nevertheless prevailed on by the continual
cries of the widow, to do her justice against her adversary;
our Lord adds, And shall not GOD avenge his own elect?
"Will he not much more be moved to vindicate his chosen and
dearly beloved people, that cry to him day and night, under
the cruel oppression of their insulting enemies, even though
he may seem to bear long with them, to give them space
for repentance? I tell you, he will certainly vindicate them,
and when once he undertakes it, he will do it speedily too."
Herein, "our condescending Lord only intended to intimate,
that if the repeated, importunate cries of the afflicted, may
at length prevail even upon an inhuman heart, they will be
much more regarded by a righteous and merciful GOD, who is
always ready to bestow his favours, when he sees we are
prepared to receive them. We may rely upon it, that God will
vindicate his saints. Let this encourage them, though the rod
of the wicked may for a while rest on them—and
let it intimate the proud oppressors of the earth, who, in the
midst of all their pomp and power, are so wretched, as to have
the prayers of GOD’s people against them."
We have encouragement then, to hope in GOD; that he will
build up Zion—that he
will appear still for us, under all our distresses and
oppression—that he will
avenge the innocent blood of our brethren, inhumanely
shed in the beginning of the present unjust war—that
he will render vengeance to his and our adversaries—and
one day restore tranquility to our country—that
he will make our land "a quiet habitation," when we may view
it in perfect peace, and free from all fears of hostile
invasions. For, to use the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The
Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our
King, he will save us." Hence we are naturally led, in the
last place, to observe from the concluding words of my text.
Thirdly, the kindness and compassion of GOD, to his
penitent, praying and obedient people: "And will be merciful
unto his land, and to his people."
Though GOD chastise his people with the rod of his hand, or
permit enemies to oppose and oppress them, yet he will
remember his holy covenant, and shew compassion to them, to
their humiliation and repentance...
The intention of GOD’s severe dispensations being not the
destruction of his people, but their amendment, it becomes
them to acknowledge his hand, confess and forsake their sins,
and importunately seek to him for needed salvation. Hence, we
are frequently exhorted in scripture to repentance, as the
surest way to obtain mercy from GOD; Job v. 17. "Behold, happy
is the man whom GOD correcteth; therefore despise not thou the
chastening of the Almighty—for
he maketh sore and bindeth up, he woundeth, and his hands make
whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles, yea, in seven,
there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall redeem thee
from death, and in war from the power of the sword."
The corrections of his hand are the scourges of a faithful
GOD, who retaineth not his anger forever, because he
delighteth in mercy...
And the church of Christ, notwithstanding all oppression
and persecution, shall one day break forth as the morning,
clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and triumph over all its
potent, cruel adversaries; even when the glorious things
spoken of her, in the latter days, shall be accomplished,
corresponding to the prophecy of Isaiah, chap. lx...
From the preceeding discourse, in connexion with our
context, arise the following truths, for instruction and
improvement of the dispensations of heaven; and therefore
proper for our meditation, on the present occasion. As,
That we should extol the Lord of heaven and earth, who is
possessed of glorious perfections, which render him the only
fit object of our religious worship.
That we should acknowledge the infinite power of our GOD,
and his sovereign dominion over all; and give honour and
service to none other.
That his works of providence, no less than of creation, are
most perfect; since he doth nothing without the greatest
reason, and according to the rules of exact justice.
That we are ignorant of the methods and reasons of GOD’s
judgments, that take place in the world.
That all evil, and all the good, that befalls any man, or
the whole church, proceeds from the just and equal
administrations of divine providence.
That in God we may find a sure refuge, at all times, for he
is in one mind, and changeth not.
That he will render vengeance to his adversaries,
and do justice to the enemies of his church.
That he will be merciful to his people, his humble,
penitent, praying people, and will, in his own way and time,
avenge the blood of his servants.
That therefore we have abundant cause to rejoice with
his people; and to yield chearful and constant obedience
Nothing new therefore, can be suggested by me on this
occasion. I have only to stir up your pure minds, by way of
remembrance, of the transactions of that awful day; to excite
your devotion, and to recommend a religious improvement of
GOD’s righteous dispensations then, and through three
revolving years now compleated.
In pursuance of their oppressive measures (if not
intentionally to begin the barbarous and bloody scene) the
enemy came upon us like a flood stealing a march from Boston,
through by-ways, under the darkness and silence of the night;
and, like cowards and robbers, attacked us altogether
defenceless; and cruelly murdered the innocent, the aged and
helpless. Accordingly they are described by the prophet, as
persons whose hands are defiled with blood; adding,
"their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is
in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to
shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity,
wasting and destruction are in their paths."
With astonishment and gratitude we recollect the kindness
of our almighty Preserver, that no more were slain by the hand
of violence; and that the people willingly offered themselves
to the help of the Lord against the mighty, who manfully
opposed the efforts of British pride, power and barbarity. The
hand of GOD was visible in these things, and the power and
goodness of GOD manifested in our deliverance, from the
enraged, disappointed enemy, is to be devoutly retained in
memory, and thankfully acknowledged. When we consider, how
weak and unprepared we were at that time, for such a sudden
assault (though the behaviour of the British troops might have
led us to expect hostile measures would ensue), we may, not
unfitly, adopt the words of the psalmist, concerning the
church of old; in Ps. 124, wherein she blesseth GOD for a
miraculous deliverance from a formidable enemy; I say, we may
apply the words in the beginning of the psalm, to ourselves
and circumstances, with a little variation; "If it had not
been the Lord, who was on our side, now may New-England say:
If it had not been the Lord, who was on our side, when men
rose up against us; then they had swallowed us up quick, when
their wrath was kindled against us," and began to break out in
fierceness: In their furious rage they would have suddenly
devoured us, and laid waste the country.
But blessed be GOD, to whose infinite mercy we ascribe our
deliverance, who was then a present help. These barbarous
savage enemies were put into fear; they were made to flee
before us, and hastily to retreat (as wild beasts to their
dens) before a few scattered, undisciplined freemen. Not to
our courage or conduct, but to GOD’s name be all the praise
A close attention to the occurrences in this unnatural war,
from its rise to the present time, affords us great occasion
to sing of GOD’s mercy, and to rejoice with his people; and
likewise to fear and tremble before the Lord, that his anger
is not yet turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
If this war be just and necessary on our part, as past all
doubt it is, then we are engaged in the work of the Lord,
which obliges us (under GOD mighty in battle) to use our
"swords as instruments of righteousness, and calls us to the
shocking, but necessary, important duty of shedding human
blood"; not only in defence of our property, life and
religion, but in obedience to him who hath said, "Cursed be he
that keepeth back his sword from blood."
Here I shall take occasion, to address the companies of
militia in this town; our brethren, now under arms. My
friends, having early distinguished yourselves in a readiness
to promote the common good, and safety of your country; by
opposing, with others, its invaders, and the murderers of your
brethren in this town and neighborhood, on that day we are now
commemorating: You escaped the arrows of death, when perhaps
equally exposed, as those that were cut off by the hand of
violence: To the GOD of your life, and who was then, in a
peculiar sense, your preserver, defence and shield, you owe
everlasting love and obedience.
You were spared, it may be, further to signalize
yourselves, and to do yet greater service for GOD and your
bleeding country, which calls aloud to you, and all its hearty
friends, to rouse and exert themselves, for the destruction of
the common enemy and oppressor; and to wipe away the blood
wherewith this land has been stained. To arms! To action, and
the battle of the warrior! Is the language of divine
providence; and you have every motive imaginable to awaken,
and excite you to be up and doing the work of the Lord
faithfully. The honor and glory of GOD, and the salvation of
your country under GOD, call aloud upon all. Duty, interest,
liberty, religion and life, every thing worth enjoyment,
demand speedy and the utmost exertions.
Calculate, my friends, a martial spirit, strive to excel in
the art of war, that you may be qualified to act the part of
soldiers well; and, under providence, be helpful in
vanquishing and subduing the enemies of GOD and this people;
and be numbered among those who shall be worthy to wear the
laurels of victory and triumph.
Above all, let me recommend and urge it upon you, to strive
for a more honorable and shining character; I mean, that of
true christians, good soldiers of JESUS CHRIST; and to fight
manfully under his banner, as the high priest of your
profession, and great captain of your salvation. Then whatever
service he shall call you to, or sufferings allot you;
wherever he shall lead, you will chearfully follow, be ready
to face the enemy and every danger, and meet death with
calmness and intrepidity, whenever arrested, and be conquerors
We wish you, and all our friends and brethren, called to
bear arms, and jeopard their lives in defence of their
country, and support of the common rights of mankind, the
presence of GOD, and a blessing this day, from the house of
the Lord, all grace and good in time, and glory everlasting.
Finally, let us all devoutly worship and honor, fear and
serve the Lord of hosts, and GOD of armies; hearken to his
word, and seriously attend to every providence. Let us
continue our fervent cries to GOD, and offer up importunate,
unceasing supplications to the most High, to "avenge the blood
of his saints," and be "merciful to" this "his land, and to
his people." We are encouraged to this from the providence and
promises of a powerful and faithful GOD. The repeated
successes during this calamitous war, from its beginning to
the present day, have been great and wonderful; and give us
confidence in GOD, and hope of a happy conclusion, if we amend
our ways and doings...
These assurances of our covenant-GOD and Father, may well
animate our spirits, invigorate our faith, confirm our hope,
and establish our confidence in him, under the severest trials
and miseries that befall us, in this day of calamity and war.
Whether the prophecy and promise in our text, shall be
accomplished, while we of the present generation, are upon the
stage of action; is known only to him, who is the Lord of life
and death. However, we may piously and chearfully leave the
event to GOD, whose righteousness remaineth, and his
faithfulness to all generations.
I cannot conclude, without just hinting, that though we
must necessarily concern ourselves, in some degree, with the
things of the present evil world, so long as GOD shall
protract our lives; yet our highest interest lies in another
region, far beyond this state of noise and war, danger and
misery. And whoever faithfully serves GOD and their generation
here, in a wise improvement of their talents, shall in the
end, receive a crown of life, unfading and eternal.
Here is nothing, my hearers, nothing worthy your highest
affection and unceasing pursuit. "All that cometh is vanity."
All things are liable to change, and in perpetual uncertainty.
Every thing tends to dissolution, and GOD alone is invariable.
We are all children of mortality—and
must die out of this world. Blessed be GOD, honor and
immortality beyond the grave is ascertained by divine
revelation. Being called to glory by virtue, let us diligently
and conscientiously perform all the duties of our holy
religion; labor to secure our peace with GOD, through Jesus
Christ our only Savior—that
we may be perfect and compleat in him, as our head.
That so, when contending powers and jarring nations on
earth shall be removed—all
kingdoms and states dissolved—and
all empire and dominion blotted out, excepting his, who is the
first cause, and last end of all things: We may have a place
in the highest heavens; be admitted to dwell in GOD’s
join the heavenly host in the warmest ascriptions of blessing,
and honor, and praise and glory to GOD and the lamb, for ever