Memoirs of a Huguenot Family: Translated and Compiled from the Original Autobiography of the Rev. James Fontaine, by Ann Maury, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967. pp 311-324
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INTERESTING FAMILY MEETING FOR RELIGIOUS PURPOSES.
The next interesting item of family history, which we are able to bring to light, is the fact, that, after our ancestors emigrated to Virginia, they were in the habit of meeting annually, to hold a solemn religious thanksgiving, in commemoration of their remarkable preservation, when attacked by French privateers, in the south of Ireland.
The following; sermon was preached on one of these occasion.s, by the Rev. Peter Fontaine. It bears the date upon it, and also a pencil memorandum of the Psalms and Lessons which he had selected as appropriate to the services of the day.
1st June 1723 PROPER PSALMS XVIII., CIII., CXVIII. I. LESSON. Exodus xiv. II. LESSON. Ephesians vi., from v. 14 to the end.
C O L L E C T.
Almighty and most glorious Lord God, who dost render ineffectual the most subtle devices and best concerted measures of wicked and haughty men, and didst as at this time with a high hand and lifted up arm deliver us from our inveterate enemies; and hast sundry times before and since
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exerted thy power in our favor; grant that we may always bear so grateful a sense of these thy mercies in our minds, as may engage us to embrace all opportunities of worshiping; and glorifying and praising thee, with one mind and with one mouth, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us,&c.
S E R M O N .
ROMANS, chap. xv. v.6.
That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
THE Apostle, after having spent the fourteenth chapter in general exhortations and directions to stronger Christians, concerning their behavior towards their weaker brethren, in the use of their Christian liberty about things indifferent, and in advising them neither to be censorious in judging, nor yet to put a stumbling-block in the way one of another, proceeds in the former part of this chapter in the prosecution of the same argument and design, enjoining their forbearance from the example of our Blessed Lord, and concluding his exhortations and instructions with this short prayer to Almighty God, that they may with one heart, and one mind, glorify him; that is, that whatever reason they may have for small differences amongst themselves, they should lay them all aside, but more especially when they are about to give God glory.
I #hall, therefore, upon this occasion, from these words observe to you:
Firstly, The duty here enjoined, that is, to glorify God. Secondly, The manner of performing it, that is; with one mind and one mouth. And,
Thirdly, Put you in mind of your high obligations to comply with this duty, not only because of the signal deliverance which we are met together to celebrate, but by reason of that infinite number which God hath vouchsafed to favor us with at other times, no less worthy our remembrance and thanks.
I begin with the duty here prescribed, and that is, to glorify God, by which we may not understand that we can add any thing to the glory and perfection of the divine nature, for that is not in our power; for God is the same yesterday and to-day, and admits of no new accessions to his glory, by any thing we can say or do. The glorifying of God consists chiefly in these two things in a high and honorable esteem and reverence for him in our hearts, and likewise in all outward expressions of honor, duty, and reverence towards him in our lives. The one is internal honor, whereby we are said to glorify God in our souls and spirits, the other is external, whereby we glorify him by our conversation and behavior.
I say, to glorify God is to have a high and honorable esteem and reverence for him in our hearts; to entertain thoughts worthy of him, and have conceptions imprinted in our minds, suitable to the eminence and perfections of his nature, that is to apprehend him to be really as he is superlatively good, wise, powerful, holy, and just; to take him for our Maker and Preserver, and to own our absolute and entire dependence upon him, and pay him our homage and adoration accordingly. In such internal and devout acts of the mind, does the glorifying of God chiefly and principally consist; 14
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and without these it would be vain for any person to pretend that he doth in any measure comply with the duty in the text, though it doth not rest here, but manifests itself,
Secondly, In external acts and expressions of honor suitable to them. To have such high thoughts of his infinite power and greatness, as to make us dread and stand in awe of him; such apprehensions of his justice as to make us fear offending him ; such an esteem of his wisdom as to cause us to admire him; and such a sense of his goodness, as to put us upon all acts of adoring and worshipping him, and to influence our whole behavior with regard to him and our neighbor. This the Psalmist styles, the giving unto God the honor that is due to his name, and worshipping him with a holy worship. Now, as this duty cannot be any where performed with such advantage as where the faithful are assembled together for that purpose, let us, therefore, with the royal prophet, take all opportunities to give thanks unto God, in the great congregation, and praise him among much people; and not only so, but let us, as we are in duty bound, and by promise engaged, miss no opportunity of assembling ourselves together, upon the days which we have set apart for returning our most hearty and unfeigned thanks for the great deliverances vouchsafed to our family, and glorify, and thank, and praise God with one heart and one mouth.
And this leads unto the second thing I proposed to speak to; to wit the manner of performing this duty implied in these words of the text, where we have the unanimity that is to be observed in our devotions. To excite and encourage us to this, we have many precepts both in the Old and New Testament. Holy David calls upon the the people to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; that is, with a comely order
and harmony which will add a grace to it, and make it look fair and amiable. Elsewhere he wills them to serve and praise the Lord together, which refers in some measure to the unity of place, but more particularly to the unity of mind, that it be done with one heart, and with one consent.
In the New Testament we find our Saviour making our agreement in our petitions necessary to the success of them; saying, If two or more shall agree on earth touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven, for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them; where 'tis the harmony of our prayers, or the offering them up with one accord and one mind, that procures audience and acceptance of them; and therefore the last thing our blessed Lord prayed for in the behalf of his disciples and followers, was for this unity and harmony of mind: " That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me ;" where he begs his Father to work the hearts of his followers to that temper of mind and affection that was between his Father and him, which would be the best argument to convince mankind of the truth of his mission and doctrine; for the world would sooner believe that God had sent him, if his disciples could agree together in what they desire, and in what they profess, rather than if they clash or differ in either, and pray without or against one another ; for which reason St. Paul beseeches the Corinthians by the name of Christ, that there might be no divisions amongst them in those things, but that they may be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. In his Epistle to the Philippians he exhorts them to stand fast in one spirit and in one
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mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel; and further, he beseeches them by all that is dear and sacred, to be like- minded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind, which is what our text here calls us to. And that this is a possible duty we find from many passages both in the Old and New Testament. Jerusalem, which in the Scripture phrase signifies the whole nation of the Jews, is expressly said to be at unity within itself, for thither the tribes went up, even the tribes of the Lord, to testify unto Israel, and to give thanks unto the name of the Lord, which the Psalmist declares as matter of great joy. " I was glad," says he, " when they said unto me, we will go unto the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem."
In the New Testament we read of the primitive Christians that they were all of one heart and of one mind; that they were continually together in the temple blessing and praising God; that they met together, in one place, with one accord, and with one mind; that they continued steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, in breaking bread, and in prayer; all which, and many more testimonies that might be cited, plainly show that blessed harmony and concord that was found among them in matters of religion and the worship of God, and that there was a time when men joined together with one mind to glorify their great Creator. The many precepts to unity show it to be a possible and a practicable duty, and the many sharp rebukes of divisions, and cautions against neglects of this kind, manifest that they are not unavoidable, else the precepts and rebukes would both be to no purpose.
Having now done with the duty here enjoined, as also the manner of performing it there remains that we consider in the third place the particular obligations our family are un
der of complying with it. Let us pass by those we are under to Almighty God for our creation, preservation and redemption, and all the other blessings of this life which are without number, and which we enjoy in common with the rest of mankind, and let us turn our eyes upon that continued chain of miracles which hath been wrought in our favor, and which are sufficient to rouse the most stupid to a sense of the duty enjoined in the text. To date our relation as high as the deliverance of our parents out of the bondage of France, we will find subject matter enough to make us cry out with holy David, " O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men."
Several months was our parent obliged to shift amongst forests and deserts for his safety, because he had preached the word of God to a congregation of innocent and sincere persons, who desired to be instructed in their duty and confirmed in their faith. The woods afforded him a shelter, and the rocks a resting- place; but his enemies gave him no quiet until, of his own accord, he delivered himself up to their custody. They loaded his hands with chains, his feet stuck fast in the mire, a dungeon was his abode, and murderers and thieves his companions, until God, by the means of a pious gentlewoman, whose kindness ought to be remembered by us even to latest posterity, withdrew him from thence, and was the occasion that his confinement was more tolerable.
His charge was preaching in the woods and praying aloud in the prison; by the former they pretended that he perverted the fidelity of the people towards their prince, and by the latter interrupted their devotions at Mass, both which accusations, could they have been fairly made out, would have
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proved matter of death, or at least long imprisonment; but He, who blows upon the schemes of the wicked, and baffles all their designs, had so contrived it that the witnesses should mistake the date of the time that he preached, and the substance of the prayer, insomuch that he was released, to the great satisfaction of his friends.
Alas! his sorrows for this time did not end here, but rather this was the beginning of woe. During his confinement, which had lasted nearly a year, his flock had either been vanquished or scattered, there was scarcely any footsteps of them to be traced.
The persecution grew warmer and sharper, and whosoever would not bow the knee before Baal was cast into prison, where soul and body were kept together merely that they might endure the torment of a thousand deaths. The faggot and sword, the wheel and the galleys, were employed in making converts to that monstrous church.
There, O Rome ! did thy emissaries glut themselves with the spoils of the innocent, and wallowed in the blood of the guiltless; there, if ever, wert thou satiated with cruelty and revenge.
At that time our father, with his beloved and muchlamented consort, our dear mother, was obliged to fee for safety. They left friends and relatives, brothers and sisters, lands and houses, and all they held dear, for the sake of Him who once laid down his life for them. Human nature is incapable of more glorious conduct than theirs, which could have been carried to no higher degree of perfection, unless God had required them to seal their faith with their blood. Such actions are above the conception and envy of the mean part of mankind, and can fire none but the most generous souls. It
is the pious courage and divine resolution of our parents, that we, their descendants, with eagerness should desire to inherit a great measure of, in case God should think fit to lay upon us this heavy task. We may look back and see them, hand in hand, flying from the pestilential breath of the whore of Babylon, making their escape through difficulties and dangers, death pursuing close behind, until at last they were safely landed on the English shore. Thus O Lord, didst thou exert thy mighty arm in behalf of our parents, and withdrew them from the slavery of Egypt. Thou broughtest them through the great and wide ocean, and placedst their feet on dry land in a place of safety.
This is but a short and imperfect sketch of the deliverance which God wrought in behalf of those who were immediately before us. What he did for our fathers in former days is not as yet come to my knowledge, but if I mistake not, some of them were favored with great and mighty deliverances.
As to ourselves, I need make use of no argument to persuade you that we have been the peculiar care of the Almighty, and that he hath delivered us sundry times from dangers and death. These were refreshed to our memories, after a very lively manner, in that good and pious discourse which was delivered to us this morning, and which ought not to fail of having a lasting effect upon our future behavior.
What I would endeavor to impress upon your minds is, that these mercies loudly call for our sincere thanks and humble acknowledgments, and that we must be highly insensible, if we cannot perceive the necessity of it.
Doth God vouchsafe to save and deliver in this miraculous manner, and can we forget? Can we scarcely be prevailed upon to spare two days in one year to meet together, and glo-
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rify him with one heart and with one mouth? When the fire and the sword, death and destruction stared us in the face, we would have been glad to compound for many days of hard and difficult service ; nay, had God desired some great thing of us that we should have remembered these deliverances daily, we should not have thought it hard. But perhaps time, which consumes and devours every thing, hath blotted these mercies out of our minds and memories ; or, our powerful Protector hath shortened his arm on some occasions since, and hath not proved the same God still, to save and deliver. No; surely it can be neither the one nor the other of these, for it is but nineteen years since the first, and fourteen since the last happened; and his wonders have been manifested sundry times since.
This neglect in some measure proceeds from the same infatuation which possessed the Israelites formerly, when God by his prophet Hosea reprimands them for their slothfulness and inconstancy. " O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." God's favors are showered upon us abundantly, I may say, as the dew of the morning but to what purpose, if we are unmindful of them, and suffer the cares of the world to stifle our gratitude ? Can we be so unreasonable as to imagine that he will for ever give, if we continue to forget?
Common blessings, such as he dispenseth to just and unjust, he will not, perhaps, deprive us of. He will not make our inheritance dry, while he watereth that of our neighbor. But are these the only blessings we stand indebted for? Are these such as gave rise to the solemnity of this day in particular? Are we favored with no other distinguishing marks of his kind Providence and goodness? What, then, mean those
wonderful deliverances vouchsafed to our forefathers time out of mind those to our immediate parents and those to ourselves without number ?
Let these reflections, my brethren, be a spur to all noble and generous exercises; and as God hath thought fit to distinguish us by his miraculous care and protection, and hath increased our family considerably, let us distinguish ourselves by our virtue, and our zeal for his service. Let our eyes, instructed to survey higher objects, overlook the dazzling and false grandeur of the world, pierce through the clouds and vapors which intercept, and fix upon the Sun of Righteousness only. Let our hearts admit of no affections or passions to the prejudice of those which are due to our great Deliverer, and let the whole man, body and soul, be dedicated to his service. Let us, as the Apostle in the text enjoins, with one heart and one mind glorify God. Let us, upon no trivial occasion, omit assembling ourselves together, for God, without exception of one more than the other, in the day that our enemies pressed sore upon us, delivered us all; and shall any of us be backward to return him thanks? No,certainly; I hope better things of you, my brethren, and that none of you can be so degenerate as to return his loving-kindness thus with ingratitude.
It is the joy and happiness of angels, and their continual exercise by praise and thanksgiving, to glorify the Lord of the whole universe. Why may not we take the opportunity to imitate them, by joining our hearts and voices to the heavenly chorus ? Our deliverances have been wonderful and miraculous, and why may not our thanks be accompanied with rapture? Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise his holy name. Let the people praise thee, O God; yea, let all the people praise thee. These should be upon all 14*
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occasions our themes, and we should be delighted with these divine hymns. Could we once raise our souls to that pitch of devotion, the world and all its false splendor would pass by us unobserved, and its necessary incumbrances would seem to be only small lets and hindrances to our divine contemplations. Virtue and religion would be our chief study, and we should leave them as an inheritance to our children.
And since the only way to communicate the knowledge of the great deliverance of the Almighty to our families and children hereafter, is, to set apart certain seasons yearly to renew them to our minds and memories; let me beseech you by all that is dear and sacred, not to absent yourselves from these meetings upon any slender excuse, but that you be reader and willing at all times, with one mind and mouth to glorify God. Some may perhaps say, that this duty may be as well performed by each one in his own particular family; but I leave it to your own judgments, whether you think this will redound so much the glory of God and the good of our souls. Nay, let me ask whether you have not been more deeply affected with the importance of this duty at those times when it has been our happiness, with one mind and one heart, to join in glorifying our great Creator? Has not your zeal and devotion been then carried to a greater height than at any other time; and at the conclusion of the day have you not felt more comfort and satisfaction from your performances ? I am apt to think that you have all found an inexpressible difference. There is something in acknowledgment which is burdensome to a grateful soul, and requires to be communicated before it can be easy. It is this which makes the royal Prophet launch out into so great lengths, as to invite the most inanimate things to his assistance, when he is about to give God glory.
He says: Praise ye him sun and moon, and all ye stars of light. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps; fire and hail, &c., &c.
For my part I feel a sensible accession to my joy in the presence of each one of you, and I cannot but think that every single person adds weight before the throne of grace to our reasonable petitions, and altogether harmony and beauty to our praises and thanksgivings, and invites a greater measure of the Holy Spirit. This is the way indeed to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness, and to worship him with a holy worship.
We, whose duty it is to administer unto you in holy things, will not fail laying before you after the best manner we are able, the remarkable deliverances which have been performed in favor of our family, and put you in mind of your high obligations, nay, we will endeavor to go before you in the performance of this duty of thanksgiving by our example and instruction, and would to God that every one of you would strive not only to come after or keep up with us, but rather to excel us in these things.
Would to God that you would make it your business to teach them to your children, that they may be qualified to perpetuate them to infinite generations to come, and thereby engage the protection and draw down the blessings of the Almighty upon them. For God is not like Isaac who had no more than one blessing in store. He bath millions of millions to bestow upon them who love and fear him. He can bless in time of war, he can bless in time of peace, he can bless in time of sickness, he can bless in time of health,* he
* The ancient manuscript broke off here, and the sermon has been finished by a different hand.
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can bless in the days of poverty and in those of prosperity. Let us not faint, my brethren, if our Heavenly Father should see fit to try our faith in the furnace of affliction. We have his assurance that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord. All things ! What can be more comprehensive and encouraging ? Let us then love the Lord and trust in him. " Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." "Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.