Matthew 11:28

Henry Purcell
Episcopal Charleston, South Carolina 1784-04-02
Mss. Boxes S, Sermons Collection, 1640-1875, American Antiquarian Society

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Rev. Henry Purcell

Rector St. Michaels Church

Apl. 2 1784

d. March 24, 1892

Preached in Charleston South Carolina before the Grand Lodge on the festival of St. John 1788

By Rev. Henry Purcell

Charleston, South Carolina

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Come unto me, all ye that labor, & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest— (Matthew 11:28)

It has been observed from our Lord’s usual method of addressing himself to mankind whenever he saw an opportunity—& of conversing such salutary doctrines as the variety of circumstances might suggest to him) that the gracious invitation of my Text was directed to a large number or society of people, who were traveling from Jerusalem to celebrate one of their anniversary festivals—

Satisfied with the length of their journey, & the weight of their burdens, they might be supposed to receive the kind offer of rest & refreshment with exquisite joy & pleasure

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and be ready to express every return of gratitude—

Knowing too that this religion, & the festivals it enjoined, were encumbered with numerous burdensome ceremonies;—an exact conformity to, & observance of which might weigh down the mind, and tire the attention.— he takes occasion from thence, to recommend his own spiritual Religion— devoid of those austere & irksome injunctions, as a religion of Rest & Ease to the soul—

But may we not with more propriety, & in the true spirit of Christianity, fancy it an offer or invitation to the whole world—Jew & Gentile, who labored under their heavy yoke of sin & the heavier burden of uncertainty with

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respect to Futurity? that they would embrace a pure & more rational system of Religion, which should ensure Rest to their souls—contain grounds for their faith—a safe anchor to their hopes & an entire satisfaction of all their doubts—

A Religion so full of perpetual blessings & comfort to mankind, either under the uneasy load of Judaism or the wandering speculations of Heathenism,—or the still heavier burden of ignorance & superstition, must effect the heart in proportion as it relieved the mind—influence the conduct, while it improved the understanding—& inspire with gratitude while it refreshed the soul—

How Here then is a Religion

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confined to no sect—to no peculiar People, but directed to, & embracing the whole race of mankind like its Author, the God of Truth & mercy;— who showers his blessings on the evil & the good—& as the father of all, opens his arms of forgiveness to all;—& breaking down the partition wall betwixt Jew & Gentile, wishes and invites all to be saved—

Thus opens the gracious scheme after recommending the virtues of faith & repentance as preparatory qualifications.— with Love & dutiful reverence to God, who created, redeemed & sanctified us—descending gradually by the scale of Affection & Benevolence to the love of man;—& recommending in the strongest & most emphatical expressions Com-

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passion, humanity, charity to all our fellow creatures who are passing the waves of this troublesome world, where so much charity is wanted, to a land of everlasting love & Rest

Then when all earthly ties shall be dissolved,—all temporary connections cease, this amiable Gospel Virtue, true Charity, will plead our cause at the throne of God & cover the multitude of sins done in the body;—& at last diffuse itself into a universal system of Concord & Love

Let us then pursue the theme of mutual Benevolence—let us seek the joyful rest of Christianity by the path of Charity;—& above all learn it from the lips of its gracious Author, who is himself all Cha-

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rity, all Harmony, Humility & Modesty & we shall find the truest rest and refreshment to our souls—

But here—let us not mistake our Religion;—its comforts & Rest are not offered to indulge inattention, laziness, or inactivity—It recommends virtue. All virtue implies action, as St. Peter urges Use all diligence to add to your faith virtue (2 Peter 1:5) . It affords the best means of becoming eminently good & irreproachable in the sight of God & Man;—but then it lays the strongest obligation on its professors to endeavor to distinguish themselves in the knowledge & practice it enjoins of the duties it enjoins.—Its authority is from God—its truth attested by the wonders of his power & Goodness,

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& its instructions conveyed by his inspiration—Is it not then a general duty to open our ears to the Heavenly Lesson?—Should it not find an easy & freer admission to the heart, that every Christian grace & virtue may take deep root there & grow up to maturity & perfection?

It was the particular design of Christ in all his commands, admonitions & persuasions, to form the moral conduct of man to goodness, that his benevolence in this world may secure to him in the next, life everlasting.—There are many & very plain intimations of what he ought to believe;—but infinitely & more positive commands & express commands for what he ought to do. The

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command most expressly given to man just after his creation was Be fruitful & multiply (Genesis 1:28) :—& the command just before his redemption was Love one another (John 13:34) . If we fix our attention jointly or separately on the Divine dictate, we are necessarily led to view man as intended for society— intended to seek after & enjoy an intercourse with his fellow beings;—& in order to promote his own happiness to impart his good offices, to increase that of his fellow citizens, by cultivating every means of establishing mutual felicity.— The very wants & infirmities of human nature, plainly suggest to us that ‘tis not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18) .—& common prudence will dictate to us, that great care & circum-

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spection is to be used in the choice of associates.—We have every possible reason to conclude, that our fore-fathers observed great caution in this respect, from the advantages their posterity have derived in consequence of it—

Could we but seriously consider what has been done for us, we must readily infer the necessity of doing good to one another. Our very formation— how generously & bountifully appointed we were brought into this world & how wonderfully supplied with every means of answering the Creator's intentions, & our happiness discovers the immensity of God’s goodness to man, & ought to be a never failing lesson of Generosity and

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Benevolence one to another. And yet in the very infancy of society we are startled to find a breach, which carried with it an additional aggravation—the unnatural disunion of two brothers (Genesis 4:1-8) . But this will be less a matter of surprise when we view the opposite dispositions & [inclinations] of the two;— The one paying the earliest & the most grateful tribute to his heavenly benefactor—the other totally indifferent & regardless of any duty, but that least deserving his attention.—Care & Solicitude for his own welfare

To support the image of God & ourselves in others is a species of selfishness;—‘tis but a gratification of our own wishes — a strong

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inclination of perpetuating our being & living always in their persons during the helpless age of infancy, when we are incapable of being directed by the glimmering light of reason, we seem to be actuated by this secret prevailing passion power:— Our minds, tho unripe for instruction & unable to receive the rudiments of their duty, are notwithstanding commonly touched with a sense of misery & express a concern for an object in distress. And when we once change this scene of life & advance to some degrees of knowledge & discretion —when we are enabled to bear the more weighty maxims of reason & religion, then nothing affords a more pleasing entertainment to us, than the reflection of having acted agreeable to

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the pure inclinations, implanted in our nature—of having employed the Talent committed to our trust answerable to the design of him who gave it—

To feed to hungry, & clothe the naked (Matthew 25:34-40) , are what raise us above the common level of mankind.—‘Tis redeeming them from the miseries they derive from original corruption—freeing them from their wants, infirmities & diseases — & rescuing them for a season from death in this world & giving them a greater opportunity of preparing for the next. And that this might not be neglected by men of succeeding generations, our blessed Lord thought fit to record it as a positive precept in his Gospel. We

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must certainly think ourselves then immovably fixed in the favor of the Almighty, when we can buoy up ourselves with the vain hopes of reigning with him in Glory, without performing the means required at our hands: — We must fancy him a God of such unbounded mercy, as will not admit soon to punish vice itself, or else we must entertain so great an opinion of the merits of a dying lord, as to think a bare reliance on him a sufficient claim to eternal salvation:— but our best endeavors are declared in this point so necessary, that no compassion can possibly be expressed expected, even from a God of infinite Love, if we work not together with that grace he is pleased to give us.—

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Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all they heart & with all thy soul (Deuteronomy 6:5) was the leading precept of the first table of the law.—& thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:39) .—with regard to its excellency, was so like unto it, that the observance of the one exclusive of the other, will be an insufficient plea in the court of Heaven All our doings without charity are nothing worth (1 Corinthians 13:3) — our best & most generous actions will be like the spider's web in substance. We may offer the fattest of our flock in sacrifice & surrender up our bodies to the flames, without this virtue & be only as sounding brass or tinkling cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1) — Nay, so pleasing & delightful is it to God, that he sometimes

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vouchsafes to dispense with duties relating to himself, that we may have the greater power to discharge those respecting our fellow-creatures—declaring it to be far more acceptable in him to show mercy to those in need, than to load his altars with costly victims:—I will have mercy, says God, & not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) . So great a stress He lays on this duty, that ‘tis made the very criterion of our love to himself — And the beloved apostle & evangelist, whose protracted life was wholly devoted to the endearing schemes of sympathy & beneficence, & in grateful commemoration of whom we are here this day assembled hath thus, in imitation of his blessed Master, declared, If any man says,

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he loveth God & at the same time refuses to minister to the crying wants of a distressed brother, the generous spirit of religion is not in him (1 John 4:20) . For how can he be supposed to entertain the harsh regard for his master, who is neither the object of his senses or the subject of his pity. When he disregards the miseries of those with whom he familiarly converses & of whose distress he is an eye-witness! He therefore who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20) It is a duty enjoined not by any dubious expressions, or unnatural comments—its importunities are frequent — its precepts absolute & plain its entreaties serious. — Other graces

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will vanish away & be no more; faith must end in vision, & hope in enjoyment: but charity will live forever.— It is connected with our happiness & must last as long;— necessary to our salvation, not only as a condition, but a qualification; — so that eternal happiness cannot be conceived without it, nor separated from it, either in idea or existence, but must last to the utmost extent of our being — It began before the world was was the moving cause of God’s communicating a share of his own inconceivable happiness to his creations, & must last when time shall be no more—

On this account it is that the Apostle of the Gentiles speaks of it with such rapture of hal holy en-

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thusiasm, & such noble strains of eloquence,— giving it the preference of all other virtues both in dignity & duration. Whenever then the profession of religion is attended with difference of judgement, it shows the true spirit of the Gospel to unite in affection, tho we disagree in opinion; —& to be candid to every error that does not lead to vice & immorality— let no difference dissolve the ties of humanity;—but while we manifest a religious zeal in our Charity, we are never to lose sight of Charity in our zeal for religion:—for of all heresies uncharitableness is the greatest, & of all religious errors inhumanity the worst—

Such notions of Religion are

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truly catholic,—and as far as human nature will allow, inclines us to live in unity, & be at peace among ourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:13) .—kindly affectioned to one another (Romans 12:10) ;—& in the Apostle’s phrase, bear each others burdens & so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2)

The moral arguments to charity & brotherly love which the present institution so strongly enforces are numerous & weighty — but it is no less effectually recommended for having Christian motives for its observance And it is to the honor of this society & to the religion we profess, that it seconds & enlarges so valuable, so excellent, so ornamental a virtue which merits every support & encouragement that God and man can give it—

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The compass of a single discourse will not allow me to enlarge on a virtue which is as extensive as the world;—which in a short but elegant & comprehensive description, is said to “Grasp the whole worlds of Reason Life & sense.” “In one close system of benevolence.” 1 —Nor need I say much before you, my Brethreners, the badge of whose profession proclaim Love & universal Charity. A Love noway confined or restrained—that is then most pleased, where it has the most frequent & noble opportunities of extending itself: —a Love that has Christ for the object of its imitation.—that knows no distinction of nation or Country—that interferes with no private opinions, but wishes all to entertain salutary ones:—

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knows no party disputes—harbors & encourages no animosities—is free to all & will do good to all;—& like the Dove from the ark of Noah, no sooner find its liberty & power of action, but disdains the narrow confines of a wooden mansion— (Genesis 8:8-12)

Suffer me then in conclusion of so divine a subject & before I address you my brothers in my official capacity to speak a word of exhortation to that part of our audience which are not of the fraternity, by mentioning one branch of that universal principle (of which we have been discoursing) which produces the fairest blossoms & bears the finest fruit; — and this is almsgiving, or benevolence to the poor, to the distressed & unhappy of every denomination;—in

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full persuasion & belief that it is the will of Heaven, however declared, that we communicate of the blessings we enjoy, & with thankful hearts & liberal hands relieve every distress in our power—

I mean not to solicit your benevolence for the support of this society, which occasions the present solemnity: — they are watchful over the State & relieve the necessaries of their own members, in a perpetual circulation of mercy & good works. But I wish to entreat your Charity by the mercies of Heaven, for the unrelieved poor of this City—for those whose industry & labor keep them above mere appendance & are no tax on your property — that you may not celebrate this solemnity & season of festivity & gladness or quit the house of God, without

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without a resolution to do good to communicate (Hebrews 13:16) to those who are in necessity and want—

Curiosity no doubt may bring some hither, but I hope religion more. The one will certainly make known their motives by their good deeds, & the other think themselves happy in turning an accident unto a duty, & be pleased with the opportunity of following a good example in the discharge of it— We pride ourselves in the name of Christians, — be it our greatest glory, as it will be our happiness to act as Christians—

Let imagination paint to you, the miseries of affliction, of calamity, sickness, & helpless age, aggravated by the presence of extreme

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poverty. Consider too the labor & toil the scanty meals & often the numerous family of the industrious poor, returning to their daily drudgery, with the cravings of nature hardly refreshed. —The world affords real objects enough to awaken every one's pity, among those who in the language of Job, are ready to perish (Job 29:13) , & those who have no helper (Job 30:13) . These knock hard at the door of compassion, overwhelmed with poverty, sorrow & [desolation]—Form to yourselves the distresses of the weeping widowed mother, struggling hard under the pressures of adversity, & at last borne down by the weight of unavoidable misfortune, when her only comforter & supporter, the friend of her bosom is no more—herself unable to die &

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ashamed to beg—her children crying for bread, & no man breaketh unto them (Lamentations 4:4) .—How pleasing must be the labor of Love, compassion & charity! To give reasonable relief to such crying necessity, & make the heart glad of the aged, the widow, the orphan, sing for joy— (Job 29:13)

Go to Nature for instruction— She has given you bowels of compassion.—Go to the word of God, & every page will teach, exhort, command you to give Alms of such things as you have (Luke 11:41) . —to distribute to a brother's necessities; never to hide thy face nor thy heart from distress; but every one to relieve as you are able.—I need not lay before you the heavy punishments, denounced in Scripture against the un-

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charitable, the covetous & hard-hearted,—they feel enough Love & will feel too much hereafter.

But the rewards attending the good & beneficent are present in the pleasing satisfaction of doing their duty with cheerfulness—& contain in future from the promises of God, — who assures us, that whatever we do in the promotion of Charity he looks upon as done unto himself:—inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40) ;—then adds for our encouragement—these shall go into life eve everlasting (Matthew 25:46)

And now my brethren & fellow-laborers, to close my part of this day solemnity, which I could not

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decline without a breach of duty. I shall subjoin a few words of advice, & then commend you unto God, & the word of his grace, which is able to build you up & to give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified (Acts 20:32) .

I beseech you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye all speak the same thing, & that there be no divisions among you;— but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, & in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10) . For if one saith I am of Paul, & another I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal & walk as men (1 Corinthians 3:3-4) ? But be ye followers of God as dear children & walk in Love (Ephesians 5:1) ;—for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of the Light (Ephesians 5:8) & let your moderation be

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be known unto all Men (Philippians 4:5) . Without unity in affection, unity in Government cannot long subsist:—for whatever may be the motives, of drawing men into society, ‘tis love only that can conduct & keep them together. May you then assemble yourselves to provoke one another to love & to good works (Hebrews 10:24) : May religious prudence be your guide & director—the compass whereby you steer your course, & may you constantly beseech the divine Architect of heaven & earth to support you by his strength & grace, that you may visit his holy temple, & worship him in the beauty of holiness (Psalms 96:9) .

Avoid all levity of conversation — be sober & temperate; — abstaining from every excess that would ener-

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vate the body — debase the understanding —cherish strife & dishonor your calling. Study to be quick & to do your own business, with your own hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11) ;—as knowing that a wise brother’s delight is in the work of his Ar craft

You have the unspeakable satisfaction & happiness to be under the influence of a constitution, which unites you one to another, & that with the highest pleasure, whenever you are connected in promoting acts of benevolence & charity: —& however some Interests may seem at certain times to divide you, yet if you are duly influenced by the rules of your order, you will be so framed together as an holy temple in the Lord, that the eye cannot say un- to the hand I have no need of you, nor the

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hand to the foot I have no need of you (1 Corinthians 12:21) : —but you will be all cemented agreeable to the Royal Psalmist’s description Behold! how good & joyful a thing it is to dwell together in unity (Psalms 133:1) ; which he most beautifully compares to the precious ointment which ran down from the beard, even from Aaron's beard, & went down to the skirts of his clothing, & like the dew of Hermon which fell on the hill of Zion (Psalms 133:2) .—

Go on, worthy Sirs! to act on the fundamental principles of your order — proceed in your labor of love & so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) with a suitable piety & zeal & abound more & more (1 Thessalonians 4:1) And as the sun rules the day, & sheds its enlivening rays over the whole earth face of the whole earth & nothing is

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hid from the heat thereof (Psalms 19:6) , so may you warm & cherish the hearts of those around you by your beneficence & liberality. As the moon & the stars govern the night, may you endeavor to bring those who are involved in darkness & error into the true light which may cause them to shine more & more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18)

May each of you who are more immediately engaged in this work of the Lord, & who bear any relation to it, diligently attend to his proper part. Let those whose situations & leisure will allow them to spare to it some portion of their time & endeavors, cheerfully undertake the different offices of the Society, & execute them with vigilance & instancy. And may God open the hearts strengthen the hands of all of you, ac-

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cording to your several abilities, to assist in doing good & communicating unto the household of faith (Galatians 6:10) , by your knowledge; your counsel, your liberality your example—

To our newly made brethren I recommend steady application.—I would wish them to labor earnestly to lay a good foundation in each degree (1 Timothy 6:19) , before they petition to advance. Too many by being over-hasty & zealous of arising at the zenith of the Craft, without examining it maturely, & becoming well grounded in the first principles, frequently bring a stigma on the institution—are far from doing themselves the justice they ought, & at last the matter is brought to this issue, that

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they themselves suspect the integrity of their more intelligent brethren—

Those who have honored the Craft for a series of years I humbly— I humble crave their serious attention to the small tribute, which a well meaning, tho perhaps ill qualified Brother presumes to offer to them—.

I would recommend to you, that you attend your respective lodges with due punctuality;—that you enforce & encourage in them every branch of literature: —that by your advice and good example, you promote application, harmony & Good fellowship:— that for the honor of this ancient & royal craft, each of you be careful whom [&] what manner of persons, of what character & abilities you admit among you.

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Consider, it is the true intent of this Society, to admit every good man that offers, & he is no better than a parricide that recommends any other — When admitted, it is the duty of each, to rebuke, to exhort with all long suffering we & gentleness (2 Timothy 4:2) .—Cut off all occasion from those who desire occasion to speak against you & let your conversation & practice be such that they seeing your good works (Matthew 5:16) , may be induced to speak well of you, & to glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12) .

Now to God the father who is the builder & maker of us all (Hebrews 11:10) — to god the son, who is our chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20) , & to God the holy Ghost, thro whom we are builded together (Ephesians 2:22) , be ascribed

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as is most due all power & glory & now & forever more.—


St Michael’s Charleston, on the Festival of St. John the Evangelist, before the Grand Lodge— The Right Worshipful William Drayton Esquire Grand Master


Reverend Henry Purcell

Rector of Said Parish

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My ends in obtaining the within Copy were to furnish you with a specimen of the most eminent Divine’s works in this part of the Country. I obtained it under strong injunctions from Mr. P. that a copy should not on any occasions be furnished for—the press—it is no breech of trust to throw it into your hand but some cautions will be pointed out by your prudence in lending it — I have minutely attended to & transcribed all his particular marks & pronounce it an exact Copy—

December 3l, 1788—


1. [Author's Marginal Note] Pope's essay on Man