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Numbers xxiii. 10.
Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end
be like his.
In a former discourse I laid before
the different opinions of learned expositors upon both the clauses contained in the text. I detailed fully the reasons which induced me to consider the Israelites in their national capacity as designed by the righteous, and to interpret the wish of Balaam as referring to the recompence of virtue, not in a world to come, but in long life and in exemption froin violent death, as the blessings reserved by the Deity for the obedient Israelites. I adopted the version of our English Bible,“ last end," instead of “posterity," as employed by the Septuagint; and finally I pointed out the useful reflections which every one of the explanations suggested for the guidance of our own conduct, and the promotion of our own present and future happiness. Then I told you, that the topics to which I adverted must have recalled to your minds, as well as my own, a recent event in which we are deeply interested, not only as subjects of the
English laws, but as worshippers of God through the hallowed name of Jesus Christ. I informed you of my
intention to set before you the qualities which distinguished our venerated Monarch. For weighty reasons I reminded
upon troverted questions of politics, to which appointed days of fasting and thanksgiving turned the passions of many hearers and the harangues of many preachers, I reluctantly said any thing, and endeavoured to say the very little with the utmost wariness and moderation. I added, that to speak of the late King was a duty far more agreeable to me than the task I had to perform upon other public occasions--that I should be under the necessity of transgressing very far the limits usually assigned to sermons-and that, remembering not only the importance of the subject itself, but the sanctity of this place, I should
former caution and sincerity lay before you my sentiments upon the various and interesting matters that might present themselves to my mind. I shall now proceed to execute the purpose which I then announced to you.
To delineate the various merits of our late beloved Sovereign, exactly and fully, is the province of future historians, whose materials will be more ample than our own, and whose minds will be more unruffled by those strong emotions of hope, fear, predilection, or dislike, which men of all parties in our situation, and in our own age, must in some degree have experienced. But as entire silence, even upon the public conduct of our Monarch, might imply latent disapprobation, I shall shortly advert to
some particulars which seem not wholly unfit to be mentioned in the house of God.
Though, standing in this sanctuary, I am little accustomed, and less inclined, to strew the flowers of panegyric upon men for their political measures, yet I am borne up by conscious sincerity in selecting some unequivocal and substantial excellencies which adorned the public character of our King. Uniformly did he in the exercise of justice keep in view that clemency which is among the choicest attributes of power. Under his auspices the cause of religious freedom gradually gained strength by the partial relaxation-happy should I have been to say the total repeal-of unwise, unjust, and inhuman restraints against Dissenters, both Catholic and Protestants. For the intellectual, and consequently the moral interests of his subjects, he was a strenuous advocate, and hence it was that he patronized some judicious plans for diffusing the precious advantages of education, even to the humblest classes of the community. Opportunity he had not, and probably he had not inclination, to gain celebrity as a warrior; nor have we the slightest ground for suspicion that he aspired to be a conqueror. Firm, doubtless, he was in endeavouring to retain the empire which had been bequeathed to him by his progenitors, and yet he does not seem to have formed ambitious projects for stretching the limits of it by treacherous negotiation, or unprovoked violence, to the annoyance of neighbouring states : and here surely it may be remarked, that the weakness of a prince in abandoning claims to that which really belonged to himself and his progenitors may be no less detrimental to his people than a restless eagerness to grasp
that which is not his own.
Upon his ascending the throne, he wielded the sceptre over a people free and prosperous. He must have perceived that in the energies of that freedom, and the resources of that prosperity, lay his own strength, and tenacious as he may have been of authority, we ought not therefore to assume that he would systematically have inflicted thraldom and impoverishment upon his brave and loyal subjects. The revolt of distant colonies, whom milder councils might have conciliated, the revolutionary excesses of a neighbouring kingdom, the precipitate and vindictive expedients employed to remedy the disastrous issues of confederacies repeatedly formed and repeatedly dissolved, the unusual and uncouth alliance of chimerical metaphysics with political empiricism, the rapid strides of a sagacious and intrepid conqueror, the sufferings of those whom he had subdued, the alarms of those whom he had spared—these multiplied difficulties, these accumulated dangers must have produced such trials to the forbearance and the foresight of our Sovereign, that no candid man would be disposed to censure him severely for every mistake in his judgment, or every diasppointment in his exertions.
Mistake me not. In the foregoing observations I mean not to justify indiscriminately, much less to panegyrize hypocritically, but to state those extenuations which no honest man will suppress or undervalue, when he is exploring the causes, and meditating upon
the effects of measures which, in common with many enlightened and sincere well-wishers to his country, he may be compelled to disapprove. In the opinions which we form of each other in common life, Christian charity induces us to make large allowances for the prejudices of early education, and why, let me ask, should sovereigns be excused from the benefit of the plea? If it be said, as it justly may,that such prejudices in persons of exalted rank are more extensively injurious to society, be it also remembered, that princes beyond other men are exposed to them, when they are infused into the bosom of young and inexperienced pupils by tutors whose age and whose knowledge they have been encouraged to respect, and when they find an easier admission, because they are addressed to our instinctive love of power, and are accompanied by the recommendation of skilful expedients to preserve that power from rude invasion, and to enlarge it according to favourable opportunities. Beset with the infirmities of human nature, who, my brethren, among ourselves, under such circumstances, would not lend a willing ear? Perhaps to the causes just now mentioned
be ascribed the less pleasing features of a very long reign. The suggestions of an affectionate mother, who, born in a foreign state, was not very likely to approve, or even to understand the principles of our mixed government—the high monarchical principles of the cold, austere, haughty, but not unfaithful nobleman appointed to be his guide—the ambitious views and secret cabals of many discontented partizans, resenting the just resentment of the reigning prince,