The Watchman of the Night

night watchman

In Isaiah 21:11,12 we read:

The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.

I want to share with you an inspiring sermon on this passage from George Duffield. He was a respected preacher in colonial America and ardent supporter of the Revolution. He served at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia where members of the first Continental Congress often attended worship services. He was one of the earliest chaplains with the Congress and the army under Washington in New Jersey.

Duffield gives several reasons why expected a morning in America.

God never has cast off and destroyed a nation so soon, as it would be to deliver America now to ruin. Look at the antediluvian world—the Amorites, and other nations of Canaan—the Jews, etc.

The western world appears to have been retained for that purpose, and designed by an ordinance of heaven as an ASYLUM for LIBERTY, civil and religious. Our forefathers, who first inhabited yonder eastern shores, fled from the iron rod and heavy hand of tyranny. This is was, and no love of earthly gain or prospect of temporal grandeur, that urged them, like Abraham of old, to leave their native soil and tender connections behind, to struggle through winds and waves, and seek a peaceful retreat, in a then howling wilderness, where they might rear the banner of liberty and dwell contented under its propitious shade, esteeming this more than all the treasures of a British Egypt, from whence they were driven forth. Methinks I see them on the inhospitable shore they were hastening to leave, and hear them adopt the sentiment of the Psalmist (4:6,7) to give it in the expressive language of Watts, with as small variation—

‘Oh, were I like a feather’d dove,

And innocence had wings;

I’d fly, and make a far remove,

From persecuting kings.’

Nor was it the fostering care of Britain produced the rapid populating of these colonies, but the tyranny and oppression, both civil and ecclesiastical, of that and other nations, constrained multitudes to resign every other earthly comfort, and leave their country and their friends, to enjoy in peace the fair possession of freedom in this western world. It is this has reared our cities, and turned the wilderness, so far and wide, into a fruitful field. America’s sons, very few excepted, were all refugees—the chosen spirits of various nations, that could not, like Issachar, bow down between the two burdens of the accursed cruelly of tyranny in Church and State. And can it be supposed that the Lord has so far forgot to be gracious, or shut up his tender mercies in his wrath, to favor the arms of oppression and to deliver up this asylum to slavery and bondage? Can it be supposed that the God who made man free, and engraved in indefeasible characters the lover liberty in his mind, should forbid freedom, already exiled from Asia, Africa, and under sentence of banishment from Europe—that he should forbid her to erect her banner here, and constrain her to abandon the earth? As soon shall he reverse creation, and forbid yonder sun to shine! To the Jews he preserved their cities of refuge; and while sun and moon endure, America shall remain a city of refuge for the whole earth, until she herself shall play the tyrant, disgrace her freedom, and provoke her God! When that day shall come, if ever, then, and not till then, shall she also fall, ‘slain with those that go down to the pit.’

After the war Duffield preached a sermon on the day of thanksgiving set aside on occasion of the peace of 1783.

In whatever point of light we view this great event, we are constrained to say, ‘It is the doing of the Lord, and marvelous in our eyes. And to him be rendered thanks and praise. Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy name, O Lord, be the glory. Both success and safety come of thee. And thou reignest over all, and hast wrought all our works, in us and for us. Praise, therefore, thy God, O America; praise the Lord, ye his highly favored United States. Nor let it rest in the fleeting language of the lip, or the formal thanksgiving of a day. But let every heart glow with gratitude, and every life, by a devout regard to his holy law, proclaim his praise. It is this our God requires, as that wherein our personal and national good and the glory of his great name consist, and without which all our professions will be but an empty name. It is that we love the Lord our God, to walk in his ways and keep his commandments, to observe his statutes and judgments—that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Then shall God delight to dwell amongst us, and these United States shall long remain a great, a glorious, and a happy people.


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