“The Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit.”
“They That Take the Sword Shall Perish by the Sword”
“Soldiers, and countrymen, we have met this evening perhaps for the last time. We have shared the toils of the march, the peril of the fight, and the dismay of the retreat, alike. We have endured the cold and hunger, the contumely of the internal foe, and the scourge of the foreign oppressor. We have sat night after night by the campfire. We have together heard the roll of the reveille which calls to duty, or the beat of the tattoo which gave the signal for the hardy sleep of the soldier, with the earth for his bed and the knapsack for his pillow.
And now, soldiers and brethren, we have met in this peaceful valley, on the eve of battle, in the sunlight that tomorrow morn will glimmer on the scenes of blood. We have met amid the whitening tents of our encampments; in the time of terror and gloom we have gathered together. God grant that it may not be for the last time.
It is a solemn moment! Brethren, does not the solemn voice of nature seem to echo the sympathies of the hour? The flag of our country droops heavily from yonder staff. The breeze has died away along the green plaid of Chadd's Ford. The plain that spreads before us glitters in the sunlight. The heights of Brandywine arise gloomy and grand beyond the eaters of yonder stream. All nature holds a pause of solemn silence on the eve of the uproar and bloody strife tomorrow.
“They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.”
And have they not take the sword?
Let the desolate plain, the blood-sodden valley, the burned farmhouses, blackening in the sun, the sacked village and the ravaged town, answer. Let the withered bones of the butchered farmer, strewed along the fields of his homestead, answer. Let the starving mother, with her babe clinging to the withered breast that can afford no sustenance, let her answer, - with the death-rat-tle mingling with the murmuring tones that marked the last moment of her life. Let the mother and the babe answer.
It was but a day past, and our land slept in the quiet of peace. War was not here. Fraud and woe and want dwelt not among us. From the eternal solitude of the green woods arose the blue smoke of the settler's cabin, and golden fields of corn looked from amid the waste of the wilderness, and the glad music of human voices awoke the silence of the forest.
Now, God of mercy, behold the change. Under the shadow of a pre-text, under the sanctity of the name of God, invoking the Redeemer to their aid, do these foreign hirelings slay our people. They throng our towns, they darken our plains, and now they encompass our posts on the lonely plain of Chadd's Ford.
“They that take the sword shall perish the sword.”
Brethren, think me not unworthy of belief when I tell you the doom of the British is sealed. Think me not vain when I tell you that, beyond the cloud that now enshrouds us, I see gathering thick and fast the darker cloud and thicker storm of Divine retribution.
They may conquer tomorrow. Might and wrong may prevail, and we may be driven from the field, but the hour of God's vengeance will come!
Ay, if in the vast solitudes of eternal space there throbs the being of an awful God, quick to avenge and sure to punish guilt, then the man George Brunswick, called king, will feel in his brain and heart the vengeance of the eternal Jehovah. A blight will light upon his life – a withered and accursed intellect; a blight will be upon his children and on his people. Great God, how dread the punishment! A crowded populace, peopling the dense towns where them men of money thrive, where the laborer starves; went striding among the people in all forms of terror; an ignorant and God-defying priesthood chuckling over the miseries of millions; a proud and merciless nobility adding wrong to wrong, and heaping insult upon robbery and fraud; royalty corrupt to the very heart, and aristocracy rotten to the core; crime and want linked hand in hand, and tempting the men to deeds of woe and death; - these are a part of the doom and retribution that shall come upon the English throne and English people.
Soldiers, I look around upon your familiar faces with strange interest! Tomorrow morning we go forth to the battle – for need I tell you that your unworthy minister will march with you, invoking the blessing of God's aid in the fight? We will march forth to the battle. Need I exhort you to fight the good fight – to fight for your homesteads, for your wives and your children?
My friends, I urge you to fight, by the galling memories of British wrong. Walton, I might tell you of your father, butchered in the silence of the night in the plains of Trenton. I might picture his gray hairs dabbled in blood. I might ring his death-shrieks in your ears. Shaefmyer, I might tell you of a butchered mother and sister outraged, the lonely farmhouse, the night assault, the roof in flames, the shouts of the troops as they dispatched their victims, the cries for mercy, and the pleadings of innocence for pity. I might paint this all again, in the vivid colors of the terrible reality, if I thought courage needed such wild excitement.
But I know you are strong in the might of the Lord. You will march forth to battle tomorrow with light hearts and determined spirits, though the solemn duty - - the duty of avenging the dead – may rest heavy on your souls.
And in the hour of battle, when all around is darkness, lit by the lurid cannon-glare and the piercing musket-flash, when the wounded strow the ground and the dead litter your path, then remember, soldiers, that God is with you. The eternal God fights for you; He rides on the battle-cloud. He sweeps onward with the march of a hurricane charge. God, the awful and infinite, fights for you, and you will triumph.
“They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.”
You have taken the sword, but not in the spirit of wrong or revenge. You have taken the sword for your homes, for your wives and your little ones. You have taken the sword for truth, justice and right, and to you the promise is,be of good cheer, for your foes have taken the sword in defiance of all that men hold dear, in blasphemy of God they shall perish by the sword.
And now, brethren and soldiers, I bid you all farewell. Many of us will fall in battle tomorrow, and in the memory of all will ever rest and linger the quiet sense of this autumnal eve.
Solemn twilight advances over the valley. The woods on the opposite height fling their long shadows over the green of the meadow. Around us are the tents of the Continental host, the suppressed bustle of the camp, the hurried tramp of the soldiers to and fro, and among the tents the stillness and awe that mark the eve of battle.
When we meet again, may the shadows of twilight be flung over the peaceful land. God in heaven grant it! Let us pray.