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than the true nature of Courage; and there is nothing in which the soldier should more strictly examine himself in, than this essential requisite of his character; lest, when the honour of his sovereign and the service of his country call, he should find himself fatally deficient, and be convinced, when it is too late, that he has woefully mistaken his profession. For better, far better, would be a death with glory, nay any sort of death, than to be found in the hour of peril, a scandal to manhood, and a disgrace to his friends and country; forced to live afterwards, the contempt of all, shunned and hated by the Brave, and perhaps insulted by every Coward, who has not yet been put to the test of bravery, in actual duty.
However, in this examination which every soldier should make of himself beforehand; a proper distinction is to be made between what is real courage, and what wears only the false disguise of it.
True courage does not consist of any thing on the outside of the Man: such as the trappings of dress; the Cockade, the red Coat, or the proud Strut. It does not consist in Oaths or Imprecations; in a bullying disposition, a quarrelsome temper, and loud sounding boasts. And yet some are found in every corps, who would be thought its champions, but are in fact only its bullies; who are sure to set themselves upon every raw recruit, and try to gain a character by some insult on him; when, perhaps, all their superiority consists only in greater weight of fist, or an arm of more brawn, than the man whom they insult. But the souls of such men, alas! in the day of peril, are often found less—yea infinitely less, than that of the meek, peaceable, and sedate man!
The same sort of courage is that which is often exerted in midnight revels, in street quarrels and contentions; where no danger of life or limb is likely to ensue, and the greatest coward, by loud words, perhaps by unresisted blows, may often pass himself for the bravest man.
These things I mention, not as particularly applicable to you, my Brethren, for you have hitherto deserved a character far different. But they are mentioned only by way of caution and advice; as matters that bring shame and reproach on a profession, which I have proved to be truly reputable and honourable in itself.
Your courage, I have not the least doubt, is of that true stamp, which I am now to describe. Far from wishing itself to be judged by unprovoked exertions of it, or vain boastings, which are always of a suspicious nature, the man oftrue courage wishes to be tried by his actions, and not by his own glorying. As still and silent waters are ever the deepest, the bravest man is ever the most quiet, and easy to be entreated. Far from drawing his sword, on every trifling affront of a fellow soldier, or perhaps a rude fellow citizen, he will look with a silent contempt on such behaviour, and ascribe it to want of manners, saying within himself—“Go, thou despicable being! Thy own Meanness be both thy protection and punishment. I keep my sword for nobler objects, and nobler occasions than any thou can’st afford me. My King, my Country and even thine own safety, claim it whole. For them I reserve it, and for them, when called, I trust I shall be enabled to put forth all the Man."
In short, true military courage, consists in fearing nothing in this world, but a shameful action; in being able to go where duty calls, whatever dangers may oppose; in daring to look on wounds, and maims and even death itself with such a steady eye and uniform countenance, as to betray no fear in yourselves, nor to communicate any to those in the ranks around you. And this you shall be certainly enabled to do, by rendering these thoughts familiar to your minds, by attending to the regular and hardy discipline of the army; and by crowning the whole with this important consideration; that Victory, in the cause of your King and Country, which is the cause also of Liberty and purc Religion, will be attended with glory in this world; and that death in the same cause, with a conscience void of offence towards God and your neighbour, will be attended with endless glory in the world to come.
The next head of a Soldier's duty to his King, is obedience to those who are by his royal authority vested with command over him. What soldier, in the presence of his Sovereign, would slight any Or. der that proceeded from his mouth? And yet, it is the same crime to disobey the least Order that is given by any officer who wears his royal commission, or any other authority, though non-commissioned, that is derived under him, and the laws of the land.
Your own articles of war have sufficiently instructed you in this duty, and in the severe punishments due to the breach of it. It remains then only for me to explain the reason of the duty itself, and to enforce the observance of it from the principles of Religion and public Good.
Have you considered the structure of your own Bodies? or attended to what St. Paul asks? “ If the Foot shall say, because I am not the Hand, I am not of the Body; and if the Ear shall say, because I am not the Eye, I am not of the Body-would they therefore, not be of the Body?” Surely unless all the parts of the Body fulfil their office, the Body would be sadly imperfect. “ If the whole Body were an Eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling," walking and the like?
Just so every regiment, or higher command is a Body. In all duty, the superior officer is the eye, others the hands, others the ear, others the feet; and all, in their respective places, are honourable members of the same Body. But should the members murmur, or refuse their several parts of duty, what but confusion and the general destruction of the whole body must ensue?
Should the Feet pretend to see for themselves, when the Eye warned or commanded them to avoid the pit before them, what must follow, but that the whole body would be plunged into the common ruin? The same it is, if the soldier, who is confined to his rank and the intrepid discharge of what is commanded him, should refuse the same, or think that he could understand the whole disposition of the batule, and the management of things as well as the General, or commander in chief, who leads him, and whose situation enables him to cast his view from place to place for the conduct of the whole this also would lead to destruction.
Subordination and obedience are among the most essential and necessary points of discipline in a whole army. By any breach of them, the most powerful armies have become a prey to their weaker enemy.
By the observance of them, each individual performing his particular part, with alacrity, and magnanimity, weak armies have often triumphed over the strongest.
You have heard of the bundle of twigs which the dying father gave his sons to break. While the twigs were tied together, the strength of all the sons could make no impression on them. When disunited, they were easily broken, one by one, with the strength of a single son.
An army under just subordination, and united in cheerful obedience, is this strong undissoluble connected bundle of rods. An army, without subordi. nation, would be a fatal instance of weak unconnected twigs.
The common safety of the whole, then, must ever be a powerful argument of subordination and obedience; and this obedience must not be performed as eye-servants, while in the view of the officers; but with cheerfulness and faithfulness, at all times, as in the sight of God, who is a God of order; who, in His holy scriptures, has given tremendous examples of His punishment of rebellions, mutinies and murmurings, in this world; and threatens more tremendous punishments as reserved for them in the next.