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JAMES SABINE 1774-1845


  • MM 1820, Columbian
  • Grand Chaplain 1827-1830


From Proceedings, Page 1873-265:

REV. JAMES SABINE, BOSTON, Episcopal. 1827-1830.

REV. BRO. JAMES SABINE was born in Fareham, Hants, Eng., May 26, 1774. He lost his mother at the early age of five years, and was subsequently in the charge of an aunt, whose severity induced him to leave her while yet a boy, and repair to London, where he found employment in the establishment of a bookbinder. The information which he here obtained came to be of much service to him in after life, when he sought exercise from the duties of study and composition by connecting his numerous pamphlets, gathered during many years, into a series of well-bound volumes, with which his library was stocked. His family are not advised at what period he became pious, as there is no record to show; but as early as his seventeenth year he must have entered the classical and theological schooj of Hoxton, near London, belonging to the dissenters, then under the presidency of Dr. Simpson; for he was in the ministry when he was at the age of twenty-one, i.e., 1795.

After officiating in England in different places, he left his native land with his family in 1816, and became the pastor of the Independent Chapel in St. John's, Newfoundland, until 1818, when, in consequence of the great conflagration that had consumed two-thirds of the city, he sailed with his family for Boston, where he arrived in the summer of that year. After serving as a Congregational clergyman, and being instrumental in building two churches in Boston, he was induced, in 1828, to join the Episcopal Church, and was ordained by Bishop Griswold in 1830. Soon after, he removed to Bethel, in Vermont, and became rector of Christ Church, over which he officiated fifteen years, until his death, which took place at his son-in-law's, Dr. John Smith's, at Randolph, on the second day of October, 1845. Ann Davenport, his wife, died in Bethel, October 2, 1837. Their remains lie in one grave in the churchyard belonging to Christ Church, Bethel, over which their sorrowing and affectionate children have placed a suitable headstone, as a memorial of departed worth.

In Masonry, Bro. Sabine took a deep interest, which in no degree abated during his life. He was initiated in Columbian Lodge, August 3, 1820; was admitted to honorary membership, April 4, 1822; and served as Chaplain in 1825, 1826, 1827, 1828, 1829 and 1830. He was made a member of St. Andrew's R.A. Chapter, March 19, 1823, of which body he was Scribe in 1823 and 1824, and King in 1825. He was a member of the British Charitable Society. In whatever sphere he acted, he was earnest and sincere; and there are many in this community who remember him as a true friend and faithful Christian teacher.
— History of Columbian Lodge, 1856.



SERMON Delivered in Wrentham,
Before St. Alban's Lodge,
On the Dedication of their Hall,
St. John Baptist's Day, A. L. 5821.

I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it and come down to you? - Nehemiah VI:3.

There is something peculiar in the method al­most invariably adopted by the sacred writers in their delineation and display of character. They do not take up their pens to eulogize their heroes; they give sim­ply a history of the facts and circumstances which trans­pire in a man's life, and furnish the materials of his memoir; but leave the reader to the exercise of his own judgment, in conclusions and inferences on the merit, or demerit of the actions, and of the motives which may have inspired them. These remarks are particularly applicable to the four gospels. The writers of these books give a full and distinct view of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, with scarcely note or com­ment: though they record the most astonishing examples of virtue, they lay a restraint upon their own pas­sion, and never suffer their pen to run out in strains of eulogy and panegyric, The circumstances may be ex­pected to be somewhat different when' a man is writing the history of his own times, and of transactions in which he h:is himself had a share. But even here, the sacred writers manage the matter with peculiar humili­ty: for the most part they write in the third person, and so speak of themselves either in blame or in praise, as if speaking of some other man. Nehemiah is rather an exception from this rule; he writes in the first person, and speaks of himself as the principal actor in the scenes he describes: but the narrative is simple, and the language in which it is told is humble and modest. The work allotted to Nehemiah, and the spirit with which he persevered in the performance of it confer the highest praises, and establish his character as an exam­ple of decision and firmness. – This example, brethren, 1 have chosen for our consideration to-day, In turning over the sacred pages, I could not see any other example, all circumstances taken together, so likely to meet the demands of this day's service and ceremony. Nehemiah was a workman of no ordinary standing, a wise master-builder, whose praise is known throughout the whole fraternity.

The more moral improvement intended in this dis­course must be preceded by a glance at Nehemiah's history.

Upon the expiration of seventy years' captivity in Babylon, the Jews had liberty to return to their own land. The proclamation of Cyrus, and the decrees of succeeding princes, gave the House of Israel an oppor­tunity of establishing themselves again in Judea; of re­building their temple and of restoring Jerusalem. Of these edicts many of the captive Jews availed them­selves, gathered all their substance together, and what­ever the decree granted beside, and returned and set­tled again in the land of their fathers. During a captivity of seventy years almost every individual, who was of mature age at the commencement of the captivity, must have died: so that the persons who were called upon to return and replenish the old inheritance of their progenitors were the second and third generation of the original captives. These had never seen the good land; all to them was by tradition, and as seventy years rolled on they sought to make the best of their exilement, and some of them had so far succeeded in the land of the enemy, as to gain wealth, settlement and connexion.– Many of these it was difficult, nay impos­sible to persuade to remove and go again to the land of Israel; they had outlived their patriotism, and had be­come the lovers of a strange land, and, of a strange peo­ple. Some of these families had established themselves in the Babylonian and Persian courts, of such was Ne­hemiah. It seems that there was some intercourse kept up between the Israelites who had returned and those who had remained. Hanani, the brother of Nehemiah, was of the number of them who had sought again to dwell in the holy land: he with "certain men of Ju­dah" came from Jerusalem to the Persian court, and stated to Nehemiah the wretched condition of the Jews and of their city. Upon the return of the Jews after the captivity their first object was to re-edify the temple; to this the chief men, such as Zerubbabel and Zechari­ah and Haggai bent all their force: and after hard la­bour and "' ff!'eat obstructions the sacred house was reared.

But here the work stayed, the city for the most part laid waste, and the whole country was a mere de­solation. This is Hanani's account. "The remnant that are left of the captivity there, in the province, are in great affliction and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and the gates thereof arc burned with fire." This dismal detail awakened the patriotic sympathies of Nehemiah.

Ninety years had now elapsed since the foundation of the temple had been laid, and during that long space little had been done towards re­establishing Israel in his own land. Those great men, who had conducted the return from the captivity, and who had by much exertion reared the temple, were gone to their rest, and no others were raised up to carry on the great design. Nehemiah, hearing of all this, is grieved; "he sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." Nehemiah humbled himself on account of his own sinful neglect, and bewailed the misconduct of others, who with him had sat down in the land of their enemies ; and prayed God to forgive, and to stir up to a laudable zeal for the land of their fathers lying waste.

Nehemiah was an officer in the Persian court, he was cup-bearer to Artaxerxes the king. He accordingly availed himself of all the interest he had with his royal master, and obtained a commission to Jerusalem as go­vernor of the province. Having surveyed, in the most secret manner, the desolations of Zion, he called together the elders of the people, and laid before them his commission and the resolutions he had formed, with the means he possessed of building the walls and the gates of Jerusalem. In these plans and measures the people concurred, and all that were able and willing had every man an appointment of labour on some section of the wall nearest or most convenient to his dwelling.

These arrangements of labour and developements of plan greatly alarmed the enemies of the Jews. Sanbal­lat and his associates took counsel together how they might hinder and defeat the work. At first they ridi­culed Nehemiah and his workmen, but this failing they attempted to surprise the craftsmen by an armed force; this also, through the prudence and skill of Nehemiah, becoming unsuccessful, they proceeded to fraud and stratagem: they pretended great friendship to the god­ly master-builder, and advised him to consider :the probable consequences, and for his credit sake to desist. They sent messengers and letters of parley, but Nehemiah saw through all the plots, and avoided the snare.

They appointed a meeting with him in a village near at hand: they said "Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought (says he) to do me mischief.- And I sent a messenger unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it and come down to you."

The resolution and perseverance of Nehemiah were still to be opposed. Stratagem failing, slander is to be tried next, and then the timid friends of Nehemiah are to be wrought upon and some of the less friendly and the more time-serving are to be hired to tie his hands and to entangle his work, and if possible, by any means, to cause the work to cease: but all in vain. Nehemiah and his fellow-crafts went on building, and the wall was "finished in fifty and two days." Astonishing success in the performance of such a work in so short a time, and under such embarrassment! but Nehemiah was a man of decision and of perseverance. Let us proceed to consider those circumstances under which these traits of character appear. The work to which Nehemiah's attention was directed was great and important. – His commission to the performance of it was explicit and obligatory. – The means with which he was furnished were ample and suited to the enterprise. Let us devote a few moments' attention to each of these articles.

First, Nehemiah's work was great and important. I am doing, said he, a great work, A work may be considered to be great or small, according to . the relation it stands in to other things. And we are rather to judge of the magnitude of a work by this rela­tion, than by the seeming greatness of the thing itself or by the quantity of materials of which it may be composed. A vast mass of means and material may be lavished upon an object not worth attaining, or of such minor importance and of such easy access, as to demand nothing more than a single effort. The greatness, then, of any work is to be reckoned upon its relation and re­sult. The commandment "to restore and to build Jerusa­lem" had, through the degeneracy and inconstancy of the Jews lain neglected for more than half a century. The temple was in great measure provided with courts and sanctuaries and offices, but the city was no asylum for the people; it was "a city without walls and gates," It was assailable at any hour; the wandering plunderers, and even the wild beast of the desert could come in up­on them at any time. Jerusalem was therefore a re­proach and a prey. The enemy of the Jews was not under any fearful apprehensions, while the holy city was without walls and towers, without munitions. It was when the wall began to rise from the "rubbish, and the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth." That is a great work which gives efficiency and completeness to what has been done before, and that gives a centre and a foundation to what may come after. This was Nehemiah's wall.

That work is great that is needed, an<l when clone answers a noble end. He that sits down to teach a peasant or a savage child to read, is doing a great work. He who puts the plough-share and the pruning-hook into the hand of the wandering barbarian, and teaches the use of them, is doing a work, the benefits of which will enrich mankind to the end of time. He who rears a cottage over the heads of a cast-out, houseless family, and gives them the means of supporting themselves, is a benefactor. He who is building a house for God in which souls may be raised to heaven, and made meet for eternal bliss – he is doing a work, the goodness and the greatness of which can only be calculated by the number of everlasting ages. But what is he doing with all his learning, who teaches nobody? He who invents or improves a steam engine to crush a moth? He who builds a house for himself ten times as large as he needs, but builds one for nobody besides?– that rears a tem­ple perhaps only that he himself may be god therein, and be worshipped by sycophant votaries? The em­press of Russia, at great expense and labour, under an inclement sky, hewed out and reared a palace of ice; at great expense too it was furnished, but it could not warm one shivering soul; to sleep beneath its glassy roof was death; a cold collation to a freezing inmate was the warmest welcome it ever gave. The sun look­ed upon this imperial "plaything," (Cowper) and blushed to see the wealth and power of a monarch thus thrown away upon a bauble-a frozen bubble melting at the touch. Simple queen, with all thy vast domains! Give me that woman for the companion of my days, who "Seeketh wool and flax and worketh willingly with her hands. She considereth a field and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. Her children arise up and call her bless­ed, her husband also and he praiseth her." "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing:" but he who wastes his time and his; talents upon things that cannot profit, shall be accounted a madman or a fool.

Secondly. Nehemiah's commission to this great work was explicit and of high obligation. It is not enough that there is work to do, and that a man has au inclination to undertake it: but he must have some warrant, some call and appointment of providence. This should be considered especially by all such as would undertake a public enterprise, some great work, in the discharge of which a man will be accountable to an associate body of men or to a nation. A man may teach an individual or any number of individuals all he knows, if they will commit themselves to his instruction; but the same inclination and means of instruction would not justify that man in taking upon himself pro­fessional duties in a public seminary. I may have the means of raising a mound of defence around the estate of my friend or neighbour, and my benevolent inten­tions and his need of my services may be a sufficient warrant: but I must have more explicit commission if I proceed to execute a plan of defence for a city. Da­vid had it in his heart to build a temple to the Lord, and he had great means too, but for want of authority so to do he declined it. Our Nehemiah was a prudent man in this particular. He was not only satisfied that his motives were good, in wishing to attempt this work, "let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work."

I am the more particular in this article of discourse, because of the importance of the principle I am inculcating. Au­thority and commission must lie at the foundation of all success in any important and widely extended system of enterprise. Napoleon, once the terror of Europe, failed at last in his bold designs for want of a legitimate authority: his overthrow and banishment were not so much the: effect of defeat in battle, as of his hollow titles and spurious claims to government. Thus the go­vernment set up by Cromwell failed, and so it has been with most usurpations. If a man of enterprise be a workman, he will examine before he advances and see from whence a right to act proceeds; this right will be found somewhere; in transactions between men this right is generally at the suffrage of the people: upon this principle went forward the great men who erected the Independence of these United States, and but for this, the assumed independence had become the scorn of nations. Even the great Redeemer of mankind with all his divine personal qualifications, had failed in delivering his people, but for the commission he brought fron heaven. "I do nothing of myself," said Jesus, but as the Father gave me commandment, so I do."

Order, my brethren, in every economy human and. divine; order is every thing: without it there can be neither strength nor beauty. In every building there is order in the design, and order in the execution. In government there must be the order of authority, and the order of obedience. In every great work he who would be an active agent must consider his own qualifications, and the adaptation of his talents to the several parts of it, or the work will be marred in his hands. Nehemiah was aware of all this; he knew the measure of talent he possessed, and he knew as well the importance of an unquestionable authority in the man­agement of the work he would undertake: without this, his resolution had been something besides decision, and his progressive attempts a very different thing from perseverance.

Thirdly, we are to consider the means with which Nehemiah was furnished. We have said that they were ample and suited; and so they were, because they were sufficient to answer the end and adapted to the work. But these means, after all, were not such as would have been crowned with success in the hands of any man, but such as Nehemiah. His prudence and wisdom, his decision and perseverance gave them adaptation and efficiency. Great means in the hands of a small man will do nothing to purpose; while small means in the hands of a great man will accomplish every thing. Had not Washington been a man of prudence, decision and application, though he had been furnished with twice the number of troops and all with double the courage and double the material, he had never raised the American Eagle to the Stars.

What had Nehemiah to encourage him in this enterprise, saving the goodness of his cause - the favour of the God of heaven - and the love he bore the land of his fathers? It is true, he had the king's authority in written letters for what he would do, but this commis­sion his enemies "laughed to scorn," and charged him with usurpation and rebellion. The people were sufficiently numerous, and well enough skilled in mechanic labours to build the wall; but then they were poor, and burdened with debt and bondage, and they had hardly any common bond of union. The rulers were jealous of Nehemiah, and symbolized with the enemy, and ma­ny of them "put not their neck to the work of their Lord." It was difficult to arouse such a mass of stagnant matter to action, and more difficult still to arrange the workmen in due order and appoint them a portion of labour in which each one should feel an interest. To find wages and sustenance for poor labourers and bear­ers of burdens was no easy task. And when this body of craftsmen was so far arranged, and the work was ad­vancing, Nehemiah was compelled to divide his host of labourers into two parts, the one to hold the spear and face the enemy, while the other did the work. Many of the Jews also, instead of putting a hand to the work, went about listening to all manner of foolish stories in circulation concerning Nehemiah and his work: these stories were again circulated upon the wall, with many an exaggeration, to put the people in fear. Sanballat and Tobiah and other subtle enemies plied the godly men with many a wily pen and wily message, begging and intreating him to consider consequences; and wait a little to see how matters would go. Prophets and prophetesses too were hired to predict his downfall and defeat, and to allure him into some shameful retreat for safety.

Now what was to be done amid all these seeming dis­couragements? Why, nothing; had the master of this work been, like many of us, "a silly dove without heart," fluttering to this broken reed and that, and sink­ing in despondency. But Nehemiah had a resource in the grace which his God had given him, He was strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. His duty was to proceed in his work and leave contingent conse­quences to conti11gent remedies. His duty was absolute, and with application and economy his means were sufficient. He had men enough, with perseverance, to build the wall, and enough of courage to defend the workmen. Provision was scarce; but he would forego his own allowance of bread, that there might be the more to feed the labourers. As to the silly stories afloat, he would not hear them. Sanballat's letters and messa­ges he answered by saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot" leave it. His predicted death alarm­ed him not. Pompey when embarking in a storm for Rome, in order to be there on an important occasion, being dissuaded by his friends replied, "It is necessary for for me to go to Rome, it is not necessary for me to live." So Nehemiah with intrepidity worthy a better cause said, "Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in." Some people, no doubt, thought that he was a rash, inconsiderate man; a man that would by his love of novelty and wild enterprise, involve himself and all his associates in a great deal of unnecessary trouble, and sink into contempt and be de­feated at last. "What will the people say? What will they think?" are awful appalling questions to fickle tim­id souls, creatures of the wind tossed to and fro.

But Nehemiah is not this creature; his soul was made of "sterner stuff:" he was desirous of deserving the good opinion of all good men, and then he was indifferent whether he possessed it or not; his duty was the object of his ambition, and upon the fate of this he was resolv­ed to rest all his credit and all his satisfaction. He went on building, and he had the delight to sec the walls of Jerusalem stretch their munitions from tower to tower, and from gate to gate, till the circle of defence had encompassed the holy ground, and secured the family of the Lord from the wrath and scorn of foes.

A man that will undertake nothing till he can see a full adequacy of means, and even an overplus quantity, in case of contingency, will accomplish nothing; he is a creature of mere instinct, as a bird or a beast can prepare her nest or her lair only with the same materials instinctive nature provides. There is nothing left for the invention and the ardour of the mind to accomplish. Every example set for our imitation in the Scripture affords a specimen of mental exercise, of mental resource. Look at Moses. "By faith Moses forsook Egypt, not fearing: the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing who is invisible." Look at John the Baptist, whose nnativity we this day celebrate, and to whose virtues we dedicate our Hall, see him with "raiment of camel's hair, and leather girdle about his loins;" see him, as he looks majesty in the face, and charges it with unlawful deeds. "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. And Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him, and when he heard him he did many things and heard him gladly." Look at St. Paul when dissuaded from his work by tender intreaty of fearful friends. "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusa­lem for the name of the Lord Jesus – None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto my­self, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the graced God. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wea­ry and faint in your minds."

Do any who work not in our temple, or any who only idle therein ask, "What such a discourse as this has to do with the duties of the craft?" I answer, "Much every way."

Brethren; The man whose example we have been considering was a man of no ordinary spirit; his decision and perseverance have few equals, no superiors: he was in every sense of the terms a Free and Accepted Mason. But what was at the foundation of this so fair and so lofty a superstructure? Was it not religion? The fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom? And what was the first living stone laid upon the chief cornerstone, elect and precious? Was it not Brotherly Love? Did not this settle his soul down into a habit of the most devoted exercises for the good of his brethren, and attune his spirit to the high enjoy­ment of doing good? A religious regard to all the mo­ral principles of masonry is necessary to a good mason. A mason, more than any other man, except he be a christian, is bound by solemn sanctions to be a good man: he must, as he has opportunity, do good unto all men, nor does the especiality of his obligation to those who ,u-c of the household of his faith release him from a stronger tie to the whole human race. Masonry as­serts not the peculiar doctrines of the New Testament, nor of the Old, but it takes its moral principles and choicest models from both, It reveres Revelation, and holds the inspired saints in high esteem. It does not, we admit, enter into any of the speculative points of religion, nor does it show favour to any one of the sects, to the discountenance of another; hence it is averse to persecution. A mason persecute!! a mason revile and render uncomfortable a member of his family, or a friend in the circle of his acquaintance, on account of a difference in religion! Yes, such a mason who has forgotten, or never knew, that the untempered mortar of malice and wickedness may do in building a synagogue for satan, but is not the cement of those joints and bands, by which a temple is reared sacred to brotherly love!

Masonry cultivates the virtues of purity and tempe­rance. A lodge is not erected for festivity and conviviality. If you would feed the hungry and clothe the naked, you must be "temperate in all things." Noth­ing, perhaps, has more lowered the public opinion in regard to the fraternity than where a love of wine has been indulged, and excess and gluttony have been succeeded by profaneness, revellings, mischief: from such turn away; such abuses, if they exist, reform. A brother's widow and his orphan children call aloud for "temperance, brotherly kindness, charity." Be sober, therefore, that ye me1y be given to hospitality.

Now, to accomplish these and many other great and noble objects, you must be decided in the principles you aver, "nothing wavering – for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, drivcn with the wind and tossed." You must be diligent too, for activity and perseverance are necessary to recommend your stability. –Your fixedness and stability must not be that of a post, but that of a tree, its roots deep, its branches wide, and its yearly fruit abundant.

And then remember, that that no association of character, of influence, and of obligation, dissolves the individuality of your relation and accountability to God. O seek, every man, the favour of our Heavenly Parent, through the precious death of his Dear Son: and with hands washed in innocency and hearts renewed by the grace of the Spirit, come and work in this temple the works of God.– "Let us hear the con­clusion of the whole matter, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoev­er things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things."

Distinguished Brothers