From Uzal Ogden
New town, Sussex County, New Jersey
16 July 1779
May it please your Excellency;
Although I have not the Honor to be personally acquainted with the Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States, I am no Stranger to the general Fame of his Virtues. This alone emboldens me to take the Liberty of inclosing a Sermon, just published, for the Promotion of practical Religion, at this Period of it’s too unhappy Declension. If amidst the Din of War and Scenes of Business, his Excellency shall find a Leisure Moment to peruse it, and the Perusal afford any Satisfaction, it would give it’s Author a very sensible Pleasure.1
That his Excellency may long wear the Wreath of Laurel, woven by the Hand of America, and, in due Time, be invested with the “Palm of Victory, and Crown of Glory,” which fade not away, is the humble and ardent Prayer of,2 May it please your Excellency, Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble Servant
Uzal Ogden (1744–1822) studied theology in Elizabeth, N.J., and went to England for his ordination as an Episcopal minister in 1773. Returning to America in 1774, Ogden pursued missionary work in northern New Jersey, which included forming the parish of Newtown (now Newton) in Sussex County. Ogden continued as a missionary during the Revolutionary War and also assisted at congregations without permanent ministers. After the war, he served as assistant rector of New York City’s Trinity Church, leaving in 1788 to become rector of Trinity Church in Newark, New Jersey. Controversy surrounded Ogden’s later career, and he eventually joined the Presbyterians. He sent various publications to GW, including his Antidote to Deism. The Deist Unmasked … (Newark, N.J., 1795), a notable refutation of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason (see Ogden to GW, 22 March 1796, DLC:GW, and Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 154–55).
1. Ogden surely sent a copy of A Sermon on Practical Religion. … Number I (Chatham, N.J., n.d.). Ogden inscribed his discourse to “Christians of every denomination” and explained in the initial footnote: “This sermon was delivered in the evening, and spoken ex-tempore. A few weeks after it’s delivery, it was committed to writing, and as nearly verbatim as the author’s memory would serve.” The first two paragraphs of the sermon read: “IN all the compass of language, there is not, perhaps, a word that speaks greater terror, more dread to the impious sons of jolity and mirth, than DEATH.—How doth it damp every evil joy, embitter the impure draught of sensual pleasure, and fill the wicked with dreadful forebodings of what shall be hereafter!
“As disagreeable as the subject of death is to the ungodly, it is the duty of their sincerest, best friends, the faithful ministers of the gospel, frequently to dwell upon it; to remind of it’s certainty;—it’s necessary preparation;—it’s consequences; and to use such arguments as shall have a tendency to cause sinners to escape all the exquisite, the inconceivable pains of death-eternal.”
2. GW replied to Ogden from West Point on 5 Aug.: “I have received, & with pleasure read, the Sermon you were so obliging as to send me. I thank you for this proof of your attention—I thank you also for the favourable sentiments you have been pleased to express of me—But in a more especial mannr I thank you for the good wishes & prayers you offer in my behalf, These have a just claim to the gratitude of Revd Sir Yr Most Obedt & obliged Hble Servt” (ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).