Front Page Titles (by Subject) : Abraham Williams 1727-1784: An Election Sermon - American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
: Abraham Williams 1727-1784: An Election Sermon - Charles S. Hyneman, American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1 
American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, ed. Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983). 2 vols. Volume 1.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Abraham Williams 1727-1784
An Election Sermon
Independent and audacious enough while a student at Harvard to be known in some ministerial groups as “the Grand Heretick Williams,” Abraham chose to pursue a course of caution and reasonableness after his selection for a Congregationalist pulpit in Sandwich, near Boston. “Doctrines and opinions that have been long and generally received,” he proclaimed, “have at least such a presumption in their favor as to demand a fair and impartial examination.” Examine them he did, but the limited amount we know about him affords no reason to suppose that his determination to be fair and impartial ever enticed the Reverend Williams to testify to something he did not believe or to find much to praise in the teachings of John Calvin. The sermon delivered before the Governor and General Court of Massachusetts at the age of thirty-five appears to mark his closest approach to an intrusion into political affairs. In this sermon he rather efficiently lays out almost all the basic assumptions underlying American political thinking on the eve of the Stamp Act—principles that would inform theoretical discourse during the Revolution until challenged by Federalist theory in the 1780s.
I Cor. XII. 25.
That there should be no Schism in the Body, but that the Members should have the same Care one for another.
The natural Body consists of various Members, connected and subservient one to the other, each serving some valuable purpose and the most perfect and happy State of the Body results from all the Members regularly performing their natural Offices; so collective Bodies, or Societies, are composed of various Individuals connected together, related and subservient to each other. Every Person has his proper Sphere, and is of Importance to the whole; and the public Peace and Welfare is best secured and promoted, by every Member attending to the proper Business of his particular Station. This Resemblance between the natural Body and Societies, being so obvious, affords a striking Argument from Analogy from one to the other, and was improved, with good Effect, by the ancient Sages, to appease Commotions, perswade to Contentment, and a faithful Discharge of all relative Duties.
The Apostle Paul has applied this Argument to Christian Societies, and from hence strongly inforced Unity, Peace and Harmony, Justice and Truth, Fidelity and Kindness. By a beautiful Allusion to the natural Body, he reproves the improper Behaviour of the Corinthians, in their Use of the spiritual Gifts, bestowed for the Edification of the Church, as well as their own Benefit; and directs them to such an Improvement, as would render them all harmonious, and highly advantageous to themselves, to the Church, and to the World.
As the natural Body is one,—though it have many Members, yet they are all so adjusted and fitted one to the other, as never to interfere,—none is superfluous,—each contributes it’s Part to the Perfection and Happiness of the Body:—So the Body of Christ is one,—all it’s Members are related to one another—tho’ their Gifts and Stations are different, yet they are all consistent, and ought to be so used, as to promote the Peace and Edification of the Church; that there be no Schism, Discord or Division in the Body; but that all the Members consider their mutual Relations and Dependencies, and duly perform the Duties of their respective Stations, and thus express their Care one for another.—The Christian Church would be happy, if a due Regard was paid to the Apostle’s Argument.
The same Reasoning is evidently applicable to civil Societies; and were their Members of all Ranks influenced thereby, it would greatly promote their Peace and Happiness.
In this View, I shall take the Liberty to improve my Text as an Introduction to some Observations, concerning the—Origin—Nature—and End of civil Societies and Government;—the various Orders and Ranks necessary to answer the Purposes of Society;—and the Obligations the different Orders are under faithfully to discharge the Duties of their Stations, to answer the general Ends of Government, that the Members have the same Care one for another, and there be no Schism in the Body.
As to the origin of civil Societies or Governments; the Author of our Being, has given Man a Nature fitted for, and disposed to Society. It was not good for Man at first to be alone; his Nature is social, having various Affections, Propensities and Passions, which respect Society, and cannot be indulged without a social Intercourse: The natural Principles of Benevolence, Compassion, Justice, and indeed most of our natural Affections, powerfully incite to, and plainly indicate, that Man was formed for Society. To a Man detached from all Society, many essential Parts of his Frame are useless—are troublesome: He is unable to supply himself with many Materials of Happiness, which require the Assistance and Concurrence of others: Most of the Conveniencies of Life require the Concurrence of several. If we suppose a Man without exterior Assistance, able to procure what is barely necessary to his Being,—at best it would be with Difficulty,—but in Sickness and the Decline of Life, would be impossible: yet allowing it possible, all the Elegancies and Comforts, of Life would be wanting. If we examine the Materials of our temporal Happiness, we shall find they chiefly result from Society: from hence proceed the Pleasures,—of books,—Conversation,—Friends,—Relations, and all the social and relative Virtues. So that the social Nature of Man, and his natural Desire of Happiness, strongly urge him to Society as eligible;—to which, if we add, the natural Principle of Self-Preservation, the Dangers Mens Lives and Properties are exposed to, when considered as unconnected with others, Society will appear necessary.
All Men being naturally equal, as descended from a common Parent, enbued with like Faculties and Propensities, having originally equal Rights and Properties, the Earth being given to the Children of Men in general, without any difference, distinction, natural Preheminence, or Dominion of one over another, yet Men not being equally industrious and frugal, their Properties and Enjoyments would be unequal. This would tempt the idle and imprudent to seize what they had not laboured for; which must put the industrious and honest upon Methods of Self-defence, and dispose them to unite in Societies for mutual Security, against the Assaults of rapacious Men, as well as voracious Animals. The social Affections of human Nature, and the Desire of the many Conveniencies, not to be obtained or enjoyed, without the concurrence of others, probably, first induced Men to associate together: the Envy, Ambition, Covetousness, and Sensuality, so much prevailing in the Depraved Nature of Man, since the Apostacy, obliged them to enter into closer Connections, Combinations and Compacts, for mutual Protection and Assistance. Thus civil Societies and Governments would be formed which in this View appear to be natural. Some Societies being formed, interfering Interests, and Men’s unruly Lusts, would cause Wars.—The same Principle of Self-Preservation, upon which they at first associated would induce several of these small Societies to unite and form greater Bodies; from which Coalition, with the natural Increase of Mankind, all Civil Societies and governments, probably arose. In this Way; Government comes from God, and is his Ordinance. The Kingdom is the Lords, and he is Governor among the Nations; (Psal. 22.28.) By him Kings reign, and Princes decree Justice, even all the Judges of the Earth, (Prov. 8, 15, 16) He has made the Earth, and given it to whom it seemeth meet to him; (Dan. 2. 20.) He changes Times and Seasons, and ruleth in the Kingdoms of Men, (Dan. 4. 17.) There is no Power but of God—The Powers that be, are ordained by God etc. (Rom. 13. ch.) The Meaning is, That God is the Supreme Governor and Disposer of all Things.—His alwise Providence super-intends all Events, particularly those relating to Mankind: And Government is a divine Constitution, founded in the Nature and Relations of Things,—agreeable to the Will of God,—what the Circumstances of his Creatures require:—And when Men enter into civil Societies, and agree upon rational Forms of Government, they act right, conformable to the Will of God, by the Concurrence of whose Providence, Rulers are appointed. Thus the origin of Government if from God, tho’ it be an human Ordinance or Creature, (1 Pet. 2, 13) and immediately proceeds from Men; as all other Blessings and Things advantageous to Mankind, proceed from him, tho’ visibly effected by second Causes.
The End and Design of civil Society and Government, from this View of it’s Origin, must be to secure the Rights and Properties of it’s Members, and promote their Welfare; or in the Apostle’s words, that Men may lead quiet and peaceable Lives in Godliness and Honesty, (I Tim. 2.1.) i.e. that they may be secure in the Enjoyment of all their Rights and Properties righteously acquired, and their honest Industry quietly proffess it’s proper Rewards, and they enjoy all the Conveniencies of a social Life, to which Uprightness entitles them; and that Men may peaceably practice Godliness,—may worship & serve the Supreme Being, in the Way they believe most acceptable to him, provided they behave peaceably, and transgress not the Rules of Righteousness in their Behaviour towards others.
In all Governments, Magistrates are God’s Ministers, designed for Good to the People. The End of their Institution, is to be Instruments of Divine Providence, to secure and promote the Happiness of Society; to be Terrors to the doers of Evil,—to prevent and punish Unrighteousness, and remedy the Evils occasioned thereby; and to be a Praise, a Security and Reward to them that do well, (Rom. 13. ch.) The End and Design of Government, is to secure Men from all Injustice, Violence and Rapine, that they may enjoy their Rights and Properties; all the Advantages of Society, and peaceably practice Godliness:—that the Unjust and Rapacious may be restrained, the ill Effects of their Wickedness be prevented, the secular Welfare of all be secured and promoted.
The Nature of civil Society or Governments is a temporal worldly Constitution, formed upon worldly Motives, to answer valuable worldly Purposes. The Constitution, Laws and Sanctions of civil Society respect this World, and are therefore essentially distinct and different from the Kingdom of Christ, which is not of this World. (Joh. 18.36.) The Notion of a civil Society, includes a Number of Persons combined together for civil Purposes.
As in a State of Nature prior to Govenment, every Man has a Right to the Fruits of his own Labour, to defend it from others, to recover it when unjustly taken away, or an Equivalent, and to a Recompence for the Damage and Trouble caused by this unrighteous Seizure; and to take reasonable Precautions for Security against future Rapine; So when civil Societies are formed, the Community is naturally possessed of all the civil Rights of its Members. Men reasonably surrender to the Society the Right they before had of judging in their own Case, and of executing those righteous Judgments: It is therefore the Right, and is the Business of the Society, to defend it’s Members, to secure their Properties from foreign Invasions, and to preserve Order and Peace, and execute Justice between it’s own Members. The Law of Nature (or, those Rules of Behaviour, which the Nature God has given Men, the Relations they bear to one another, and the Circumstances they are placed in, render fit and necessary to the Welfare of Mankind) is the Law and Will of the God of Nature, which all Men are obliged to obey. Almighty God, as Head of the System, and Supreme Governor of the Universe, will suitably animadvert upon every Violation. And every Man, prior to Government, is authorized by the universal King, so far as his Happiness is interrupted, his Property disturbed or injured, by any Violation of these immutable Laws of Equity, to vindicate his own Right, and inflict adequate Punishment on the Invader; not from a Spirit of Revenge,—or to cause Misery for it’s own Sake;—but to inflict such Penalties, as will probably prevent future Injuries, and render Mens Right and Properties, as secure as they were before this dangerous Example of Injustice. In civil Society this Right is in general, transfer’d to the Body, or Government, who have a Right, and it is their Duty, to punish those Violations of the Laws of Nature, whereby the People’s Properties are injured. Every Society has a Right to publish, and execute equitable Laws and Rules, for the civil Order, Peace and Welfare of the People;—for ascertaining and securing their Rights and Properties, with suitable Penalties to the Transgressors: Which Laws are, or ever ought to be, only the Laws of Nature explained and applied, both Laws and Sanctions being founded in Reason and Equity. Things unreasonable, or absolutely indifferent (if such there be) ought not to be imposed by Law. A Law without a Penalty is of no Force; and to subject a Man to suffer, for doing or forbearing what in the Nature of things is indifferent, is wrong and unreasonable. Men’s outward Behaviour only affects, or may injure the Properties and Enjoyments of others; this therefore is all the Society ought, ’tis indeed all it can command. Human Laws can’t controul the Mind.—The Rights of Conscience, are unalienable; inseparable from our Nature;—they ought not—they cannot possibly be given up to Society. Therefore Religion, as it consists in right Sentiments, Affections, and Behaviour towards God,—as it is chiefly internal and private, can be regulated only by God himself:—Yet civil Societies have a Right, it is their Duty, to encourage and maintain social public Worship of the Deity, and Instructions in Righteousness; for without social Vertues, Societies can’t subsist; and these Vertues can’t be expected, or depended on, without a belief in, and regard to, the Supreme Being, and a future World: Consequently, a religious Fear and Regard to God, ought to be encouraged in every Society, and with this View, publick social Worship and Instructions in social Virtues, maintained. This is consistent with an entire Liberty of Conscience as to Forms and additional Principles, and Duties, which however important with Respect to another World; it is possible Men may think and act differently about, and yet practice that Piety and Virtue, which the Nature and Ends of civil Society require.
Upon the whole, the general Idea of a civil Society or Government, is a Number of Persons united by Agreement, for mutual Defence and Convenience in this World, with a Power of Making and executing Laws, or of publishing those Laws of Nature, which respect Mens civil Rights and Properties, and inflicting reasonable Punishment upon Transgressors.
As to the various Orders and Ranks necessary to answer the Purposes of civil Society,—A Society without different Orders and Offices, like a Body without Eyes, Hands and other Members, would be uncapable of acting, either to secure its internal Order and Well-being, or defend itself from external Injuries. Whatever Power is in the Society, unless it be united, under one Direction, will be useless, or hurt instead of serving the Community. The natural Laws of Reason and Equity, Carelessness may over-look, or Prejudice and Vice misunderstand or pervert. In many Cases more Attention and Care is required to discover them than most will allow: And the general Security and Happiness of Mankind depending on the Knowledge and Observation of these Rules of Equity,—Persons of Penetration, Attention and Uprightness, ought to be employed for this Purpose; and when thus discovered, the Reasonableness and Obligation of them, may immediately appear to Persons that of themselves would never have investigated them. The Transgression of these natural Laws of Equity must be punished, to compensate the Injured, and prevent future Offences: Unless proper Persons are appointed for this Purpose in Societies, it will probably be omitted, or unduly multiplied, and Schism and Confusion be in the Body. Therefore as a Society has a Right to defend it self, and regulate its own Members; to secure their Rights and Properties from the Violence of one another, as well as from foreign Enemies,—it is expedient, and even necessary, to have established Forms of civil Government;—Some to guide and direct their publick Affairs, and secure their Rights with Relation to other Societies, some to search into and publish the natural Laws of Equity, with proper Sanctions, which relate to Society in general, and to that Society in particular under it’s peculiar Circumstances;—And some to execute these Laws, punish Evil-doers, adjust Differences, and determine Men’s Rights and Properties according to them. These Considerations show the Necessity of different Orders, with various Subordinations, to answer the Ends of Society.—The Forms of Government are various, every Society having a Right to chuse that which appears best, and if upon Trial it prove inconvenient, to alter it for a better. Persons that manage the Affairs of Government, may be considered as distinct from the Governed, but in Reality, they are closely united in one Body,—have a common Interest—and are appointed for their Benefit.—All these Orders and Ranks, in the Body Politic, however distinct one from the other, having different Provinces and Duties, designed for different Purposes, and immediately answering different Ends, are in themselves Harmonious, and when properly conducted, coincide and center in one grand End,—the Security and Happiness of the whole, and of every Member.
This leads me to consider,
The Obligations of the different Orders and Ranks in civil Society, to attend to their respective Duties, that they may answer the important Ends of Society;—that the Members have the Care one for another, and there be no Schism in the Body.
As in the natural Body, the several Members have their distinct Offices, for which they are adapted, and when in their proper Order, they perform their natural Functions, the Body is in it’s most perfect State; so in the politic Body, when it’s several Orders attend to their respective Duties, proper to their Rank; the Welfare of the whole Community, and of every Individual, is secured and promoted. In the natural Body, if the Eye would do the Office of the Ear, or the Ear of of the Eye; Discord and Confusion would ensue, and the usurped Office not be performed: the same holds proportionably in the civil Body. ’Tis the Concern of every Person, in every Station, to attend to his proper Duty, and mind his own Business, if he would be a good Member of Society and promote the public Weal. Schisms will rend the Body, if the Members forsake their proper Sphere, and act out of Character.
The great Ends of Society,—the secure Enjoyment of our Rights and Properties, can’t ordinarily be obtained, unless the various Ranks and Offices, carefully perform their respective Duties—Whatever Precedency, some may claim above others, and whatever Subordinations in Rank, there may be, yet the Dignity and Authority, of each,—of all, is derived from the whole Society, for whose Good they are ordained by Him, from whom originally all Power proceeds. As in a natural, so in the civil Body, all the Parts are harmonious; there is no superfluous Order, none whose real Interest is detached from, or inconsistent with the public Good. The Peace and Prosperity of the Community depends upon the regular Discharge of the relative Duties incumbent on the various Members: To a faithful and honest Performance of which Duties, the Nature and Relations of Things indispensably oblige them.
If we consider some of the principal Orders in civil Society, it will be very evident that the public Security and Happiness greatly depends on their Fidelity to their Trusts, which proves their Obligation.
The Business of Legislation is very important, and the Capacity, Fidelity, and public Spirit, of those concerned in it, are closely connected with the public Welfare. They are to investigate and publish the Rules of Equity, as the Circumstances of Things require, and to annex such Sanctions as Reason directs, to secure the Rights and Properties of the Society, and of every Individual: The due Performance whereof requires a penetrating and calm Mind, and upright and benevolent Heart: Whereas Carelessness, selfish Passions, and private Interest, acting in this Sphere, will produce the greatest Disorders and Injuries.—Rules by which the Lives and Properties of Men are to be determined, ought to be demonstrably good and righteous.
As it is of the greatest Importance to Society, therefore those to whom this great Trust is committed, of making Laws, are from the Ends of Society, and the Nature of the Office, under the strongest Obligations, rationally and faithfully to discharge the Duties of their exalted Station. A Fault here will produce the greatest Schism, and may ruin the Body; but Wisdom and Uprightness will most effectually secure and promote the public Good, the Order, Harmony, Peace and Prosperity of the whole, and engage the Members to a due Care of one for another.
The Application and Execution of Laws made for the public Good, is another great Trust in civil Society. The Peace and Welfare of the Community, the Security and Enjoyment of every Individual, much depend upon the Skill and Uprightness of those to whom it is committed. The End of their Institution, is to be a Terror to evil Doers, and a Praise to those that do well. Laws are published to be observed: The Fitness of them is the Reason and Ground of their Obligation;—The Security and Happiness of Society depend upon their Observation. As it is fit that Persons be appointed to execute these Laws, the Society must greatly suffer, and the Ends of it be frustrated, if they neglect their Business:—Communities may be ruined, if they pervert those Laws, design’d for general Security, to the Prejudice of it’s Members—But a faithful Execution of these Rules of Equity, and a due Punishment of Transgressors, will secure the innocent and honest; and answer the great Purposes of civil Society. They that execute equitable Laws, establish Peace and Righteousness, make others, and are themselves good Members of the Body, and express a proper Care for the other Members.
The Persons whose Business it is to secure the Society against foreign Enemies, are obliged to exert themselves with Courage, Prudence and Fidelity, to defend the Public, because the Security and Continuance of civil Societies, under God, greatly depends on their Wisdom, Virtue and Fortitude.
The public Good is promoted, and therefore the People in general who constitute the Body, are obliged in their private Stations and Occupations, to mind their own Business, with Industry, Frugality and Uprightness,—treating others, as they would reasonably desire to be treated by them—observing the equitable Laws of the Community, rendering Obedience, Honour and Tribute to those that are employed in the important Affairs of the Public, and are God’s Ministers to them for Good.
I might proceed to other Orders of the Common-Wealth, and shew their Obligation to a proper Discharge of their relative Duties, from the Nature and Ends of civil Society, as well as from the plain Precepts of our holy Religion; but the Point seems to require no further Illustration. I shall therefore endeavour to offer some pertinent Reflections.
1. Let us gratefully acknowledge the Goodness of divine Providence, in favouring us with so wise and good a civil Government: A Constitution the best proportioned and adapted to answer the Ends of civil Society, to secure the Enjoyment of our private Properties, and every Satisfaction and Advantage of social Life. By a happy Mixture and Union of the several Forms of Government; most of the Inconveniencies of each are avoided, and the peculiar Advantages of each secured.—A Government, so prudently and righteously administered, that most of our Laws are just and reasonable; and in general, equitably executed. If we take a Survey of other Nations—their Forms of Government—the Menaces of their Rulers—the Poverty and Slavery of the common People,—we shall find abundant Reason for Gratitude to God, who maketh us to differ: He hath not dealt so with other Nations—Praise ye the Lord. The great Governor of the World, imperceptibly, yet effectually influences the Minds of Men, in Ways adapted to their rational Nature, to execute his own divine Schemes, with Relation to this World and the next, to our temporal and everlasting Interest. His wise and good Providence is to be acknowledged in all Revolutions of Government; and we ought sincerely to praise him, for placing us under a Government, so wise and good in its Constitution and Administration.
2. Let us humbly adore and praise the Supreme Lord of the Universe, that he has so remarkably interposed, for the Preservation of our civil Constitution, and that he gives us so reasonably Hopes of it’s Continuance to the latest Generations. We still enjoy our Liberties and Properties, and the same free and good Government, notwithstanding the Attempts of domestic Traitors, arbitrary bigotted Tyrants, and foreign unrighteous Enemies, in former and later Times; He that sitteth on High, to whom Victory belongs, has confounded the Devices of the Crafty and scattered those that delight in, and prompted by the Lusts of Ambition and Covetousness, injuriously began War. Whatever new Enemies join the unrighteous Cause, yet from the Justice of our Cause, the Deliverances and Successes already afforded us by the Lord of Host, the almightly Judge, that will do Right, we have Reason to hope and trust, he will still favour us, and bring to nought the Combinations of unreasonable Men, and that the Cause of Truth and Right shall finally prevail.
3. Let all concerned in the Administration of Government, be excited to Unanimity and Fidelity in their respective Trusts; to prevent as much as possible any Schism in the Body. And by expressing their Care for the Members, promote public Harmony and Prosperity. However different their Ranks, Offices and Duties, they are all connected, and tend when properly conducted, to one End. There is no Discord or interfering in the Constitution; and if there be among those that administer public Affairs, it indicates a Defect in Capacity or Integrity—it arises from unruly Lusts or turbulent Passions, and not from the Nature of their Offices. As in the Body, every Member ought to perform it’s proper Office, and not that of others; so in Government, since there must be various Orders and Subordinations, every Person’s Concern is to act his own Part well, not envying or usurping what belongs to others. As the natural Body is more frequently destroyed by internal Disorders, than external Violence; so Factions, Divisions, and Parties in the State, (fomented by those whose Business it is to preserve Order and Peace,) are more dangerous, and have more frequently proved fatal than foreign Enemies. It is a great,—a scandalous Immorality,—a crying Sin against God,—an insufferable Injury to Men—to accept a Trust—an important Trust,—and even to neglect it,—much more to abuse it,—to improve it to different Purposes from what was intended, to Purposes inconsistent with, or subversive of the good Ends proposed by their Employers:—This is an Iniquity deserving the Indignation of Mankind, and may expect the Wrath and Curse of God in this and the future World.
In a wise civil Constitution, all the Orders and Offices, tend by different Ways to the same Point, the public Good; the Way to this, in general, is plain and easy, to those that will attend, and are disposed to walk in it. Private Views, selfish Lusts, and haughty Passions, lead another Way; and when these are cloaked over with specious Pretences to public Good, we may naturally expect, Tergiversations, Intrigues, and all the artful Labyrinths of Machiavellian Politicks.
The Nature and End of Government is not so mysterious, but a Person of common Sense, with tolerable Application, may attain a competent Knowledge thereof, and with an upright Heart, Honourably perform any Part Providence may assign him. Therefore, since the Happiness of Society, so much depends upon the faithful Discharge of the Duties of the various Offices, and all who are well disposed, can so easily perform them; this shows the Obligation, and should be a powerful Motive to Fidelity, as they well answer it at the Tribunal of the great Judge, when he calls them to account for their Talents
4. This Subject may suggest suitable Reflections, to those at the Head of our political Body, by reminding them, of what I ought to suppose they already know,—the Nature and Importance of their Trust, and the Obligations they are under to Uprightness, Fidelity and Unanimity.
We may esteem it a Happiness, that the Gentleman, who fills the most exalted Station in our Government, whose Consent is necessary to our Laws, is so well acquainted with the Laws of our Nation (in general so agreeable to the Law of Nature)—born and educated in the Land of Liberty, under the best civil Government;—whose Interest it is—to whom it must be natural to defend and secure the Rights and Liberties of British Subjects:—who is particularly acquainted with the Importance of Understanding and Knowledge, Uprightness and Fidelity, in the executive Part of Government—Under whose Administration, therefore we may reasonably expect, no arbitrary, illegal Measures, no unreasonable, trifling, or unrighteous Laws—that all Officers of his Nomination and Appointment, will be Persons of known Capacity and Integrity, and in all Respects the fittest for their respective Posts;—that so far as his Influence extends, Piety and Virtue, Peace and Union, Order and Fidelity in every Trust, will generally prevail among all Ranks:—that his Administration, will be wise and equitable, and happy to himself and to us;—that when all secular Honours shall cease, He may receive a Crown of Glory, that fadeth not away.
In the political Body, by the Voice of the People, which in this Case is the Voice of God, the honourable his Majesty’s Council, and House of Representatives, are raised to the most important Trust,—They are as Eyes to the Body, to direct the Way: If the Eye be single, be sincere, the Body is full of Light, will be properly directed, but if the Eye be depraved, the Body is exposed to numberless Inconveniences and Disasters. Tis their Business to discover and publish the Rules of Equity, and inforce them with proper Sactions. The Law of Nature, which is the Constitution of the God of Nature, is universally obliging,—it varies not with Men’s Humours or Interest, but is immutable as the Relations of Things: Human Laws bind the Conscience only by their Conformity hereto.—Laws ought to be plain and intelligible, consistent with themselves,—with Reason—with Religion.—Government ought to be supported by it’s Members, in exact Proportion to the Benefits they enjoy, and the Protection they receive from it. Those therefore who conduct these Affairs, we have Reason to expect will pay a due Regard to them.—As a public Spirit, a rational Desire and Endeavour to promote the publick Welfare, ought to animate all the Members of the Community; so it should be more conspicuously the Character of those intrusted with public Affairs. ‘Tis their proper Business, to which they should continually attend, to preserve the public from Damage,—to promote social Virtue, Peace and Happiness: To this End they ought to encourage social Worship,—Instructions in Righteousness,—well regulated Schools and Means of Education.—The civil and religious Liberties of the Community ought to be held inviolable, by all the Members, especially by those at the Head of Government.
As the Community has originally the Right to chuse it’s Magistrates, so it seems prudent to retain so much of this Right, as is consistent with Order and Peace; which may require other Methods for continuing some Officers than was expedient, or practicable for their first Appointment.—There appears a peculiar Propriety in, many Advantages result from, a considerable Part of the Legislature being frequently chosen, from all Parts of the Society: Hereby it’s true State is better known; and those arbitrary Principles and Practices too apt to prevail where Power is hereditary or long continued, are check’d, and their fatal Influence prevented.—As the apparent Danger of natural Death often restrains many Extravagances, and causes Men to practice many Duties, which are not regarded when this Danger is removed; so probably there may be something analogous to this in elective Offices. Therefore the annual Choice of two Branches of our Legislature, is generally tho’t a valuable Priviledge, that properly improved greatly conduces to the publick Safety and Welfare.—By Virtue of this Privilege one Branch of the Legislature is this Day to be chosen, for the ensuing Year.—The honourable Gentlemen, intrusted with this important Affair, as the public Good was the End, they ought, and professed to have in View, in seeking and accepting this Trust; with Reason we expect,—and have good Right to expect, that in the Choice of Councellors, the public Welfare will be their sole Aim:—that sinister Views will not be allowed in the least Degree to biass their Minds;—that partial Affections, natural Relations, private Piques, and Passions, will not be permitted in any Measure to influence their Choice.—The supreme Legislator of Mankind, has graciously condescended to describe the Character suited to this Trust—(Exod. 18. 21.) Provide out of all the people, able men. Persons of Wisdom and Capacity to discern between Good and Evil; that fear God, have a Sense of his Perfections, that reverance his Authority, fear his Displeasure, believe themselves accountable to him, and pay a due Regard to his Approbation: Men of Truth, Sincerity, Uprightness and Faithfulness in every Trust; hating Covetousness, not govern’d by private Interests, but truly regarding the public Good.—The Ruler in Israel, was obliged to write a Copy of the Law, and read therein all the Days of his Life, (Deut. 17. 18.). Proportionably, in other Governments, the Care of the Public should be committed only to such Persons as pay a suitable Regard to the Laws established by the great Governor of the World.—Societies of Christians act an imprudent Part, to trust their public Affairs to those who pay no Regard to their holy Religion,—who disbelieve it,—whose Tempers and Lives are manifestly inconsistent with it. Christianity fairly proposed, has sufficient Evidence, to engage the assent of upright, impartial Minds; and there is reason to distrust the Capacity or Integrity of the Person that rejects it:—While he behaves well, and lives honestly, he ought peaceably to enjoy the Protection of Government; yet it is a Reflection upon Christians, if they are obliged to chuse Persons of this Character into places of great Trust. Once more, Rulers should be Men known among their Tribes, (Deut. 1. 13.) Persons whose good Characters are known and established, who will probably behave well in whatever Station they are placed. These Qualifications must be regarded by the Electors, as they will answer it to God, to the Community, or to their own Consciences.
Those who are called Gods,—who by divine Providence, are raised to important Stations; particularly, who conduct the weighty Affairs of this Day; ought to remember, that there is One higher than They;—who judgeth among the Gods; (and tho’ they may not in legal Form be accountable to their Constituents, yet) to Him they are accountable for all their Talents. He Fitteth upon the Circle of the Earth, and views all the Children of Men; and with Him is no respect of Persons: He has said, that the Gods, those raised to the highest Authority over their Fellows, shall die like other Men; and after Death, is the Judgment; when they that have been faithful in little, and rightly improved their temporal Trust, shall be crowned with everlasting Honours; but the unfaithful, however great and dignified —shall in vain try to hide themselves in Caves of the Earth from the Face of him that sitteth on the Throne, and from the Wrath of the Lamb.—He that is wise will consider these Things.
Finally, let us all of every Rank and Order, consider our selves as Members of the civil Body, who have our proper Sphere of Action; and whatever Part Providence has assign’d us, let us perform it well. It is not our Concern, who fills this or that Station provided the Duties of it are faithfully performed, and there be no Schism in the Body. If the public Good be promoted, we ought to be content, tho’ we may imagine our selves, or some of our Friends, better qualified for some Posts, than the present Possessors. Our proper Concern is to be faithful to our own Trusts, not making a Schism in the Body, but expressing a real Care and good Will for the other Members: Thus we shall preserve Harmony, and promote general Happiness.
Government is a natural and a divine Ordinance, and when tolerably answering the good Ends of it, ought quietly to be submitted to, for Conscience sake. Did we more cultivate Love to God, and to Mankind, this mutual Care for one another, would more prevail, and fewer Schisms be in the Body: Public Vertue would diffuse public Peace, Tranquility and Happiness. Did we consider and improve the Text in the view the Apostle used it as a Motive and Reason for Peace and Faithfulness as Members of the Body of Christ, it would render us good Members of civil Society. Let this then be our Endeavour, to be true and living Members of Christ’s Body; in the Ways of his Appointment, let us seek an Union to and Interest in him, and pray that his Spirit, as a vital Principle may animate us, that we may be sincerely pious toward God, universally righteous toward Men, strictly sober with Regard to ourselves; then we shall be at Peace with God, and with one another. We shall be true Members of his Church here, peaceable and useful Members of the Body politic; and when all civil Societies shall be disbanded,—all secular Honours laid in the Dust,—and civil Distinctions be no more,—we shall be Members of the General Assembly and Church of the First-born in Heaven, where universal Love, Order and Virtue, shall reign with uninterrupted and everlasting Peace, Harmony and Felicity. Amen.