Front Page Titles (by Subject) 38: David Tappan, A SERMON FOR THE DAY OF GENERAL ELECTION - Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 2 (1789-1805)
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38: David Tappan, A SERMON FOR THE DAY OF GENERAL ELECTION - Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 2 (1789-1805) 
Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 vols, Foreword by Ellis Sandoz (2nd ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). Vol. 2.
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A SERMON FOR THE DAY OF GENERAL ELECTION
David Tappan (1752–1803). The son of a Congregational minister, Tappan was born in Manchester, Massachusetts, and was graduated in 1771 from Harvard. In 1774 he was ordained pastor of the church in the third parish of Newbury, where he remained for eighteen years. He then became Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, serving in that post until his death. Theologically, he was a moderate Calvinist; politically, he was an American patriot during the Revolution and a Federalist afterward. “One of the most prolific authors of the eighteenth century” (John F. Berens in American Writers Before 1800, p. 1410), Tappan published numerous sermons. His magnum opus, entitled Lectures on Jewish Antiquities, was published posthumously in 1807.
Noted for a plain preaching style, Tappan at first welcomed the French Revolution as a continuation of the American Revolution, clearing the way for the coming of the millennium through the destruction of popery. But he soon turned against the French revolutionists as diabolical and atheistic and joined with Timothy Dwight in a fierce denunciation of the movement. Tappan steadily taught the vital relationship of virtue and republicanism, a theme well-developed in the election sermon printed here, preached in Newbury before Governor Hancock, Lieutenant Governor Samuel Adams, and the Massachusetts legislature on May 30, 1792.
Thou leddest thy People like a Flock, the Hands of Moses and Aaron.
Psalm 77, verse 20
How various and transcendent are the excellencies of the sacred writings! They combine all the different species of literary composition in their highest perfection, and consecrate them to the moral improvement, the present and future happiness of man. They furnish the best summary precepts, models, and incentives, for producing the good citizen and statesman, for effecting an orderly and prosperous state of things in the civil and temporary combinations of this world: Whilst their primary object is, to prepare men for the far nobler, the everlasting community of the blessed.
These observations are eminently illustrated by that part of the inspired volume, which relates to God’s ancient people. The words just recited, look back to the infancy of that favoured nation. They introduce the God of Israel under the beautiful figure of a shepherd leading his flock; which expresses in a very lively and endearing manner, the singular tenderness and care, with which heaven had conducted that people from the bondage of Egypt, to the promised Canaan. The latter part of the verse, presents the subordinate and united agency of Moses and Aaron, in accomplishing that memorable series of events. These two celebrated characters had been early and closely linked together, by the ties of nature, of religion, and of common sufferings. They were afterwards united by the more awful bond of a divine commission, which constituted them plenipotentiaries from Jehovah, the king of Israel, to the Egyptian court, which employed them as instrumental saviours of their oppressed countrymen, as their guides and protectors through the dangers of the wilderness, and the prime ministers of their civil and ecclesiastical polity. Whilst the one was chief magistrate in the commonwealth, the other was high priest, or first officer in the church. And the institution and combined influence of these two orders in that community, were a most wise and salutary provision both for its public and individual happiness.
The divine appointment, then, and concurrent agency of the civil and ecclesiastical ruler, in leading the ancient people of God, naturally invite our attention to the importance and utility of political and religious guides in a christian state, and to that union of affection and of exertion for the common good, which ought to characterize and cement them. To explain and enforce this union, without confounding the church and the commonwealth, or blending the different provinces of their respective ministers, is a truly delicate task. The speaker hopes, however, that his well-meant endeavours to explore such a field, before an audience so respectable, will not be deemed either vain, or impertinent to the occasion. He flatters himself that the seasonable and momentous complexion of the subject, which cannot fail to strike every intelligent eye, will procure to the discussion and application of it a candid reception.
This joyful anniversary collects our civil and sacred leaders from various parts of the state, to one consecrated spot. It unites them, methinks, into one happy brotherhood. It brings them together to the altar of God, their common founder, master, and judge. It makes them joint partakers in a kind of yearly festival, sacred to liberty and to religion—a festival, which seems to renew and to seal mutual friendship, and their harmonious ardent affection to the general interest. Is it not congenial then with the spirit of the day, as well as decent and useful on other accounts, that these two orders should sometimes be the united object of its public addresses from the word of God; that their reciprocal influence, and their conjunct operation to the common good, should be clearly defined, and forcibly urged?
Under the solemn impression of these ideas, we will endeavour to mark out the two different provinces of Moses and Aaron, or of the ruler and the priest; the beneficent influence of each upon the public welfare; and the several ways, in which they may and ought to befriend and assist each other in leading the people of God.
The discriminating genius of the two departments may be thus defined. The one has for its immediate object, the temporal interest of mankind; the other, their spiritual and everlasting. The one aims to regulate their outward behaviour, so far as to restrain them from injuring one another or the public, and engage their contributions to the common welfare: The other contemplates the due regulation of the heart, as well as the overt-acts which issue from that source. The one enforces its addresses by sanctions merely civil and worldly; the other by motives which chiefly respect the soul and the life to come.
Let us now turn our attention to the important and happy influence of each department upon the public interest.
The importance of such an officer in society as the civil magistrate, is immediately seen and felt by all. It grows out of the present weakness and corruption of mankind. It is suggested by the social feelings belonging to our frame, joined with a sense of mutual dependence and common danger. Accordingly, when such officer possesses the spirit of his station, and with intelligence and fidelity pursues its leading design, the effects on the community will be equally benign and diffusive. A ruler of this character, like the central orb of the planetary world, enlightens and animates, cements and beautifies the whole political system. With a skilful, steady, yet gentle hand, he moulds a confused mass of discordant materials into one regular and harmonious compound, and holds it together with a silken, yet invincible chain. By a strictly righteous, equal, and paternal administration, he spreads the blessings of justice, freedom, tranquillity, public and private prosperity, through all classes of the people. The advantages of such a magistracy transcend description. To use the delicate and splendid figures of inspiration. It resembles “the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; like the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.”
But it is needless to expatiate on this branch of our subject. The beneficent influence of good civil rule stands confessed to the eye of reason. It is inscribed, as with a sun-beam on the face of our happy country. It has been delineated with superiour ability and address, on these anniversary solemnities.
Let us then direct our attention to the other object before us, namely, the importance and benefit to society, of the christian priesthood, or of public religious instructors. To set this point in a just and easy light, let us consider at large, the necessity of religion to the well-being of a community, and then inquire, what are the best means of diffusing and maintaining it.
The necessity of religion to public order and happiness, has been generally acknowledged by discerning minds in all countries and ages, yea, by enlightened infidels and atheists. But a set of philosophers and free-thinkers, who boast of their superiour reason and liberality, have appeared on the stage, in these days of modern refinement, who have employed all the powers of metaphysical sophistry and licentious ridicule to shake the foundations of religion: And some of them have even denied its political importance and utility, and have proposed in its stead a kind of philosophical or civil morality, as fully competent to the purposes of general order and security. A system of ideas, or at least of practical feelings, very similar to this, seems growing into fashion in various parts of the American Union; a system, which considers all religious principles, observances and instructors, as the remains of old monkish ignorance, superstition and bigotry, or the antiquated offspring of worldly policy, begotten in the early and ruder stages of society; but which are wholly unsuitable and useless, if not a heavy tax upon the public, in this more enlightened and mature period of human affairs! But let us meet these refined politicians upon their own ground; and ask them, what they have to substitute in the room of religion, as an adequate prop to their own favourite scheme of morality.
Will they say, that civil laws and institutions, planned with wisdom, and executed with vigour, will completely answer the purpose? But these human provisions can embrace only the visible actions of the subject. They can prevent or punish those offences only, which may be known and legally proved. They consequently, leave out of their jurisdiction all secret crimes; as well as those numberless immoralities, which human laws can never distinctly define, but which operate as the poison both of private and social felicity. Civil regulations proclaim their own incompetency, even in the judicial procedures submitted to their authority: For no general rule can accommodate itself to an infinite diversity of circumstances: And therefore the aid of religious principle seems absolutely necessary to supply the defect. This will teach the legislator to construct, and the judge to interpret and apply the laws, upon so just and liberal a plan, as will present the best advantages in every case, for discovering the truth, and so for protecting the innocent, as well as chastising the wilful offender. This will induce a conscientious, a filial and generous obedience, on the part of the subject, to the reasonable authority of the magistrate and the laws. At the same time it will prevent a cowardly, degrading submission to the claims and measures of imperious despots, or a fawning, idolatrous, prostration at the feet of a dignified fellow-worm. In short, whilst human laws punish criminal actions, it is the glory of religion to prevent them, to tear up the roots from which they grow. Whilst law is deaf and unrelenting to the cries of penitent guilt, religion pardons and comforts the suppliant, returning offender, and hereby encourages and fortifies his purposes and efforts of future obedience. Whilst the one enforces strict justice only, the other inculcates the whole train of gentle and beneficent virtues: It inspires an intercourse of humane, generous kindness, and grateful attachment and fidelity, between the higher and lower classes in society; an intercourse, which like the vital fluid diffuses chearful health through the whole political body. Thus civil institutions and measures, even in their best state, require the succours of religion, to supply their deficiencies, to soften their rigour, to enforce and to sweeten their observance.
“But a sense of honour, the desire of esteem and praise, and fear of their opposites, joined to the efficacy of salutary laws, will certainly form a sufficient security of the general order and welfare.” We answer, the good influence of this principle will not bear a comparison with that of religion. For the praise or censure of the world, exerts its principal force within a very small circle, upon more splendid or public characters; whilst the great majority of the people, concealed under humble roofs, feel little of its efficacy. But religion applies its stimulating or withholding influence to the ignorant, the obscure, and the weak; as well as to the wise, the noble and the mighty. The world does not bestow its palm, till men have almost reached the goal; but religion applauds and cherishes the first virtuous desire, intention, or effort. The world often mistakes in its judgment of characters and actions; but religion places an unerring witness and judge in our very bosoms. In a word, even the esteem of men in the case before us, ultimately derives its force from religion. For if the social or moral virtues of mankind, were once stripped of the lustre, the stability, and the majesty, which religious principles communicate, the respect paid to them, would suffer an immediate shock: The idea of honour and disgrace, connected with their performance or omission, would be greatly enfeebled: And the opinion of the world, left without a steady guide, would grow too fluctuating and capricious, to restrain or to actuate human conduct.
“But the connexion between the interest of the public and of individuals, lays a sufficient bond upon the latter to contribute to the order and welfare of the former.” We reply, this connexion is not always so immediate and striking, as to influence the unthinking, the poor and the wretched, to pay homage to the order and beauty of the social system, whilst there is nothing for them individually, but apparent deformity and misery; whilst those very principles and rules, which secure harmony to the public, wealth, power and magnificence to some of their fortunate neighbours, seem to bind them down to perpetual poverty and toil; and when a violation of these laws promises instant relief or benefit to themselves, and at the same time, perhaps threatens no direct injury to the community at large. There are some cases too, in which the more opulent ranks, or the governing powers of the state, may with reason consider the public interest and their own, as separate objects: And if their minds are not enlightened and regulated by religion, they will often view these two interests as distinct, when they really unite. They will also be supremely inclined to pursue private advantage, at the expence of every rival claim. In such instances, what is there effectually to restrain such elevated characters from sacrificing the public, at the shrine of their adored, though paltry idol? There is nothing which promises a sure and perpetual guard against these evils, but religious principles, the sentiment of a deity, and of a future state of recompence, early planted in the minds, and deeply rooted in the hearts both of the high and the low.
“But some infidel and irreligious characters have conducted well in a social and political view.” We answer, religious ideas early taught and imbibed, will secretly influence the conscience and practice, long after the understanding has begun to question, and even to reject the arguments, on which they are founded. Besides, a habit of order and propriety in conduct, once formed, is not easily subdued by after speculations; especially when an adherence to it is connected with the marks of public esteem and favour, or enforced by the commanding motive of private interest. Not to add, that there are some, who affect a superiority to the common mass of mankind, by talking like infidels, who yet feel themselves constrained to think and act, in many instances, like vulgar believers.
“But if religion be the main prop of social order, why does not the latter always relax and decline with the former?” The answer is, religion still keeps her hold of men, through the medium of natural conscience, of early habit, and some awful controlling impression of a future retribution, even when their hearts do not feel her transforming power, nor their lives display her peculiar and most attractive charms. If then religious principles have such salutary effects on society, even when their influence is feeble, and when they manage the human mind by the inferiour and precarious handle of fear; what would be their fruits, if they reigned in full glory, and commanded the free and steady services of love? If love to God and men, which is the life of religion, pervaded all classes in the community, what a copious and excellent harvest would it quickly produce! This would ensure the universal practice of all those virtues, which nourish and exalt a nation; whilst it directly promoted the interest and comfort of all ages, conditions and stations; it would, as the great law of moral attraction, draw the affections and efforts of all to one common center, the good of the whole. Must not such a spirit and conduct immediately advance the respectability, the vigour, the temporal and spiritual prosperity of a people? Must they not draw down the approving smiles, the guardian care, the rewarding munificence of the Supreme Ruler of nations? On the other side, must not irreligion, and its natural offspring, vice, equally tend, both by a direct and a judicial operation, to disjoint, to enfeeble, to destroy a community? Does not the universal experience of public bodies from the beginning to this day, seal the truth of these observations? Is it not one mighty practical demonstration of the salutary fruit of piety and virtue, or the baneful influence of their opposites, upon the order, the liberty, the general welfare of nations?
The necessity of religion to public happiness being sufficiently proved, an interesting question arises; what are the best means of diffusing and maintaining in a community this precious and fundamental blessing? This inquiry brings up to view the importance of public religious instructors. The political necessity of such an order of men, directly results from that of religion itself, when compared with the ignorance, dulness, and depravity of the human mind, the spiritual and sublime nature of religious truths, the want of leisure as well as ability in the bulk of mankind, for studying and familiarizing them, and the influence of surrounding objects of worldly cares and amusements to intercept their view, to efface or weaken their impression. [“]In this dark and impure region,” how apt are even the most contemplative and virtuous characters to lose sight of moral and spiritual objects, and to get out of the sphere of their attractive and regulating influence! How greatly then do we all need the friendly voice of stated monitors, to recal our forgetful, wandering feet; and to enlighten and warm our hearts afresh with the divine principles and motives of religion! Those in high station need to be frequently reminded, that there is a Being above them, to whom they are accountable, equally with the lowest of the people. Persons of great genius and learning, require to be often admonished that their obligations to serve God and the public, are proportioned to their superiour talents. The worthy and good in society, need a frequent and lively inculcation of those truths, which tend to nourish and fortify their virtues, to enliven and extend their efforts of usefulness. How much more needful, then is public religious instruction to the inferiour members of the community, to the numerous class of laborious poor, to the grossly ignorant, the careless, and the vicious! Without this, how shall they obtain a competent knowledge, or an abiding practical impression of their various relations and duties to God, to man, to civil society?
In this view, the public worship of the Deity, and stated instructions in religion and morality, appear as necessary and beneficial to the state, as they are to the souls of individuals: And the institution of a weekly sabbath, devoted to those purposes, is the offspring of profound and generous policy, if viewed merely in its aspect upon our present social condition. For the decent and united observation of it, by the members of each corporation, is, an eminent mean of promoting useful knowledge, civilization and good neighbourhood; of strengthening the cords both of political and christian union; of bringing seasonable rest and refreshment to the body and mind, after the fatigues of worldly care and toil; and of keeping alive in the minds of all ranks, an awful commanding sense of Deity, of moral and religious obligation: Agreeably, the public benefits of this institution are distinctly visible on the face of those communities, which carefully support and observe it; whilst the contrary features equally distinguish those, which despise or neglect it.
The preacher cannot do full justice to this part of his theme, or to his own profession as a gospel minister, without adding, that the christian religion, properly stated and enforced by its teachers, has a peculiarly favourable influence upon the present social state of mankind: For, it is the volume of revelation only, that fully illustrates and confirms, and with due authority presses, those great religious principles, which we have shown to be the basis of virtue and of order. At the same time it superadds a new scheme of truth, suited to the lapsed state of mankind, which at once encourages, directs, assists and constrains to universal goodness; it presents the Deity, in the full orbed lustre of his perfections; it displays the matchless philanthropy, the generous expiation and intercession of his Son; it offers and conveys the needed succours of his spirit; it ascertains and describes the future joys and sorrows of immortality. Must not these discoveries, suitably realized, powerfully tend to check transgression—to kill the seeds of vice, and to produce, to enoble, and improve every branch of a virtuous character? The moral system too, which christianity builds upon these principles, is an eminent friend to our present felicity. For it inculcates the most extended, the most active, the most self-denying benevolence; it links us to the great brotherhood of man; yea, it unites us to the universe, to eternity, and to God, the head and sum of both. It levels all the haughty feelings of superiour rank or abilities, and places true greatness in humble, condescending, elevated goodness. By this, as well as by constantly pointing us to those two great levellers, death and an endless retribution, it introduces a kind of generous republican equality among the different orders and conditions in society. It equally regards and secures the interest of all the members of the community, by that great rule of equity, “whatever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.” By presenting the same motives and rewards of virtue to the weak and the strong, and by urging both to secret acts of goodness, from a regard to the approving eye, and final recompence of the Supreme Judge; it provides a steady support, a constant opportunity, a universal engagement to the practice of virtue. We may add, it regulates and refines those important social connexions and duties, the conjugal, parental and filial, in a manner highly favourable to the order and happiness of human society. In a word, the spirit of our religion, is uniting and peaceable: It is loyal, patriotick, and free: It is the life and support of good government and of rational liberty. Even the positive, ceremonial rites of christianity, properly administered, are important out-works, which guard the public welfare: For by striking upon the senses and imaginations of men, they bring affecting truths with peculiar force to their hearts, and hereby operate to produce a decent and regular outward deportment.
What an engine of public usefulness, then, does the christian institution put into the hands of its ministers! And how important is it to the common good, that such an order of men should be spread out over the whole community! What unspeakable aid may they afford to, as well as receive from, the civil magistrate! Whilst the people at large reap a plentiful harvest from the united labours of both! Which brings us more distinctly to point out the several ways in which the ruler and priest may and ought to combine their influence, or to assist each other, in leading the people of God.
We mean not to advocate such a union or cooperation of the two orders, as involves a heterogeneous mixture of civil and spiritual objects; as places the magistrate upon Christ’s throne, in the church, and invests the christian minister with the honors and the powers of the state: Such motley alliances are the offspring of political and priestly ambition, aided by equal cunning; are the main pillar both of civil and religious tyranny; and the source of infinite mischiefs to the intellectual and moral character as well as the temporal condition of mankind. They infect the best religion under heaven, its professors and ministers, with the spirit of this world, with a proud, cruel, persecuting and immoral disposition. As a celebrated writer observes, “persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but is always the strongly marked feature of all law, religion, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and religion re-assumes its original benignity. In America a Catholic priest is a good citizen, a good character, and a good neighbour; an Episcopalian minister is of the same description; and this proceeds from there being no law-establishment in America.”
But whilst we execrate such treasonable conspiracies between rulers and priests, against the dearest rights and interests of man, we may consistently recommend to the two orders, a liberal and patriotick combination for the general good. There is indeed, in many respects, a natural alliance between intelligent, virtuous magistrates and ministers, in a free and christian state.
And first, the magistrate may and ought to cooperate with the christian instructor, by throwing the weight of his personal example and private influence into the scale of christian piety and virtue. The efficacy of example, when arrayed in all the splendour of high office, is not to be described. As religion adds grace and dignity to the most exalted station, so she derives a superiour charm and majesty from it.
When the great political characters in a community, give their uniform sanction to religion, by exhibiting her fairest features in their daily deportment; when they openly revere the name, the sabbaths, the temple, and all the sacred institutions of the Most High; when they liberally and zealously contribute to the settlement and support, the reputation and success of a learned and virtuous priesthood, to the extensive propagation of christian knowledge, and to the pious education of the rising age; when they are eminent patterns of virtue themselves, and are careful to cherish and honour it in others; how unspeakably do such examples confirm and extend the credit and influence of religion! What animation and confidence, what superiour respectability and success, do they give to its teachers! What authority and energy must the inward consciousness, and open lustre of such virtue impart to rulers themselves, in their official proceedings; especially those which have for their object, the suppression of wickedness, and the encouragement of the opposite interest! Which leads us to observe, that rulers efficaciously concur with christian ministers, when they carry the spirit of religion into their public conduct: When all their political measures are regulated by the everlasting maxims of natural justice, of christian equity and benevolence: When they accordingly distribute the burdens, apply the resources, fulfil the engagements and discharge the debt of the public, with the scrupulous fairness, the exact economy, the assiduous attention required by those rules, in the similar transactions of private citizens: When they detest and scorn the idea of sanctioning by their public authority, any measure, which they would blush to avow or to practise in their individual capacity: In short, when the whole system of their public conduct appears to be prompted and guided by a supreme regard to the example and laws, the approbation and honour of the infinite Ruler and the good of his moral family: What a glorious attestation is here of the reality, the commanding force of religious obligation! Such a train of political measures is pregnant with various and almost inconceivable good. It inculcates various sentiments upon the public mind, with all the authority and force of the highest, the most conspicuous, and unequivocal example. It also directly and efficiently contributes to the general prosperity: For it proceeds upon principles, which are as essentially necessary and conducive to social union and happiness, as the laws which govern the material world, are to the harmony and welfare of nature.
Further, the magistrate may greatly strengthen the christian teacher, by directing his public attention to the advancement of religion and virtue as an immediate and primary object; by so arranging his measures for the increase of temporal good, as to render them in the best manner subservient to that which is spiritual and eternal; by enacting and executing laws for the prevention or punishment of profaneness and immorality; by promoting virtuous characters to offices of honor and usefulness; by neglecting and dispising the vicious; by lessening and removing the temptation to iniquity; by augmenting and multiplying the encouragements to goodness; by giving birth and efficacy to public and private means of learning, so essential to rational piety; by effectually providing for the support and decent observance of public religious worship and instruction so necessary, as we have seen, to the virtue, the civilization, and happiness, of the community. Such a legal provision for the maintainance of religious institutions, obviously falls within the province of the magistrate, on account of their transcendent importance to civil government and society: Nor does such provision adjusted upon an equal and liberal plan, make the least approach to a political establishment of any particular religious profession, nor consequently involve any invasion of the prerogative of Christ, or the sacred rights of conscience. On the other hand,
Secondly. The christian minister may and ought to strengthen the hands of the civil ruler. If he possesses those qualities of head and heart, which suit his benevolent and comprehensive office, he must have the most tender and ardent feelings for the interest of the state, as well as the church. He must perceive an important connexion between them, as well as the friendly aspect of the christian doctrine upon both. He must consequently feel a double stimulus to a prudent and faithful discharge of his trust. He therefore endeavours, both in his public ministrations, and in his private conversation and example, so to represent and enforce the christian system, as that it may, under the divine blessing, have its full effect upon the character and condition of mankind, in reference to this world and the next. He takes particular care not to make this beneficent and peaceable religion, an engine of civil or spiritual tyranny, confusion, malignant strife, or in any respect, an instrument of increasing, instead of lessening human depravity and wretchedness. He feels himself peculiarly united to the worthy magistrate, by the ties of personal esteem and public affection. He studies that his whole deportment respecting the rulers and the laws, may express and promote a spirit of decent subjection and obedience, and he enforces such submission by all the authority and sanction of religion. His social intercourse with his family and flock, his daily prayers in private and in public, tend to kindle and to nourish the sentiments of loyalty and patriotism. He loves to mention in the ears of the rising race, the names and services of patriot rulers, of eminent public benefactors; and hereby to charm the tender mind to the love of virtue, of country, of mankind, as well as to a due veneration for, and grateful submission to such ministers of divine benevolence. His public discourses too, all tend either directly or remotely, to form his hearers into good citizens and subjects, as well as holy christians. That such a reciprocation of services between the two orders, falls within the line of propriety and important duty, is too obvious to the eye of discernment, to require a formal illustration.
It is with great satisfaction, that we appeal to the historic page of our own country, for a striking comment upon the preceeding discourse. Our fathers were led out of the house of bondage in Britain, into the wilderness of America, and planted here, as in the land of promise, by the same divine Shepherd, who led ancient Israel from deep oppression and misery, to the joys of freedom and plenty. The same good spirit, which inspired Moses and Aaron, to undertake and conduct so arduous an enterprize, evidently guided and animated the leaders in that great attempt, which gave birth to New-England. The same union of friendship, of counsel and exertion in the public cause, which characterized the Hebrew lawgiver and high-priest, distinguished the political and religious fathers of Massachusetts. The rulers of the state, were at the same time members and pillars of the church. The religion which they thus solemnly professed, was the rule of their public and private conduct, and the advancement of its interests, a main object of both. For this purpose, they readily co-operated with the schemes and endeavours of worthy clergymen, and contributed their best efforts for their comfort, reputation and success.
The advice and influence of the priesthood were likewise ever at hand, to aid and succeed the operations of the magistrate, and to promote the civil, as well as religious interests of the people. It is granted, indeed, that our ancestors carried this union of church and state, to an unwarrantable length. But this was not their peculiar fault: It was the complexion of the age. And shall we, their children, who owe so much to their generous services and sufferings, shall we, like undutiful and cursed Ham, take pleasure in exposing their nakedness? No, my fellow-citizens; whilst we spread a veil of filial piety over their imperfections, let [us] with the most grateful emotions, celebrate that united agency of Moses and Aaron, which, under God, laid such early and noble foundations of freedom and order, of science and religion; which in the feeble infancy, and great poverty of the settlement gave birth to a public seminary of learning; a seminary, which from its foundation, to this day, has borne on its front the united inscription of the ruler and the priest, in the names of its founders, and benefactors, of its governors and sons! But passing over the intermediate stages of our history; you will permit me modestly to ask, does not the inscription just mentioned, appear very conspicuous on the face of our late glorious revolution? Did not these two orders remarkably unite their efforts to keep the public mind in a posture of vigilance, of information, of patriotic ardour? In those times which tried men’s souls, did not the public prayers and discourses, the private influence and example of the great body of the clergy, firmly and successfully co-operate with the civil and military measures of the country? Did not the same zealous concurrence of the two departments, procure the adoption of the excellent constitution of Massachusetts, and of the present federal system, which gives union, order, and happiness to America? Did not the same virtuous and unshaken combination eminently mark that perilous and alarming crisis, which a few years since passed over this commonwealth? Do not these striking facts evince, that the spirit of the clerical office at least, in this enlightened and free country, is an important friend to the liberty, government and happiness of society? On the other hand, it becomes us gratefully to acknowledge the support which religion and its ministers have received from the civil government of this state, from the authority and example of some of the first political characters in it; the additional reputation and success which they have instrumentally derived from that source; and the consequent face of superiour union and order, civilization and virtue, which adorns a great part of our community. These advantages would strike us with much greater force, were we allowed to contrast our situation in these respects, with that of some other parts of the Union: But decency forbids the invidious comparison.
When we look over this numerous and respectable assembly, a cloud of witnesses rushes upon our senses and hearts, in support of the ideas now advanced.
Our eye is first caught by the chief magistrate of this commonwealth, who has had a large share in the great political drama, that has been acted on the stage of the new world, and covered it with glory. The presence of his Excellency restrains the lips of delicacy from paying him a formal tribute of praise. But while his distinguished political services are engraven on every American bosom, justice to a different part of his character, constrains us to observe, that he has ever treated religion, its institutions and ministers, with a respect becoming the enlightened, consistent patriot, and ruler, in a christian state. The clergy within his jurisdiction, feel the animating influence of his attention and patronage, and wish him in return, a large experience of the comforts of our divine religion, amidst that trying scene of bodily infirmity, with which he has so long been afflicted. It is also our united prayer to God, that his Excellency may ever form his whole private and public conduct upon the divine model proposed in the life and precepts of the christian lawgiver. That so his personal example and official measures may unite their influence to spread piety and virtue as well as every temporal blessing, through the community. To this, he will feel himself urged by every motive, which can operate upon a heart of sensibility; in particular, by the interesting prospect of death and endless retribution, to which the highest earthly god is equally bound with the lowest of his subjects. May conscious fidelity chear the solemn hour of dissolution, inspire boldness before the decisive tribunal, and be crowned with superiour glory in the kingdom of heaven.
His Honour, the lieutenant-governour, merits our tribute of respect, on account of that distinguished union of political wisdom, patriotic virtue, and christian piety, which has long dignified his character. Notwithstanding the eminence of his reputation among the civilians of the age, he has not been ashamed of the cross of Christ, but has long been inlisted under that despised, but heavenly banner. May he still continue an ornament and pillar, both of the church and commonwealth, till his hoary head shall come down to the grave in peace.
The Honourable council claim our regards, on account of their important share in the executive department, and worthy personal qualities, which pointed them out to the suffrages of their enlightened fellow-citizens. Whilst their elevation to this office reflects on them a ray of glory, it obliges them to a correspondent dignity of sentiment and conduct: It invites them to a noble imitation of the governing wisdom, justice and mercy of him, who is the wonderful Counsellor, the King of righteousness and of peace. It particularly calls them to advise and consent to the appointment of such characters only, to interpret and execute the laws, as are exemplary themselves for the observance of human and divine injunctions, and endowed with talents and dispositions suited to the important trust. In this way they may unspeakably promote the civil and moral interests of all parts of the commonwealth.
The gentlemen who compose the two branches of the Honourable legislature, will permit our congratulations on the fresh mark of esteem and confidence, with which their constituents have honoured them. They will likewise remember that the trust, with which they are charged, is very solemn and momentous; that it is rendered still more awful, by the declarations and oaths, with which they have recently entered on its execution. As we cannot doubt their sincerity in those professions and appeals to heaven, we entertain a chearful hope that all their transactions on this day and through the year, will be regulated by the excellent principles of that religion, and of those civil constitutions which they have publicly taken for their guide. We reasonably expect that all their laws and proceedings will be so many branches growing out of the stock of equal justice and comprehensive benevolence; that they will be strongly marked with the same integrity, virtue and honor, which suit and adorn the rational and christian character in a private capacity. They will ever remember that the same practical principles, must form the basis both of public and individual happiness and glory; and that the policy of those who would rear the fabrick of national prosperity upon a different foundation is equally unphilosophical and iniquitous. As human art, in order to produce certain useful effects must conform to the principles of nature, or the established laws of its great Architect; so the politician must build the order and welfare of society upon those moral principles and connexions, which the same Almighty Ruler, has instituted in the rational system. If he act an opposite part, he virtually, attempts a new creation: Yea, like the man of sin, he exalts himself above all that is called God; for it is the glory of the Deity himself, though he be an absolute Almighty Sovereign, that he cannot govern upon any other plan than that of inviolable truth, justice, and goodness; that he cannot lie to any of his subjects, or trifle with their reasonable petitions, expectations or claims. It will be the glory of our rulers, to copy after this divine original. No idea therefore of omnipotence or uncontrolled sovereignty, will be permitted to infect their deliberations and decisions; but their whole conduct, as it respects particular citizens, the commonwealth in general, and the great American republic, will, we trust, exhibit a fair picture of honest, enlarged and federal policy.
Honored fathers: As you do not remove out of the sphere of religious obligation, by entering the circle of politicks; as you, have all this day professed the christian belief, and many of you are complete visible members of the Redeemer’s family; you will feel under the most sacred ties, to devote the superiour powers and advantages of your present stations, to the christian interest. Whilst therefore you tenderly guard the rights of conscience, and afford equal protection to all peaceable citizens, you will make and enforce every needful provision for the general diffusion of religious and moral sentiments, and for the maintenance and observation of those christian and literary institutions, which are requisite to that end. Among such institutions, the neighbouring university has a distinguished claim to your liberal patronage. It has been one of the grand nurseries of civilization, liberty, good government and religion. Our very existence, as a respectable community, is, under God, greatly derived from that source. Filial gratitude then, as well as every sentiment of public virtue, press our rulers to nurse and cherish this their ancient parent, with a tender and generous care.
In a word, let me respectfully call upon all our civil officers, in every department, to consecrate their authority, influence and example to the greatest good of the community. You, gentlemen, collectively considered, are the moving and regulating principle of the whole political machine. If you jointly and strenuously pursue a virtuous train of conduct, it will operate like a powerful charm upon all parts of the system, and call up a new creation of beauty, virtue and happiness. Let it then be your first ambition and endeavour, to make mankind wiser, better and happier; to raise up the drooping head of virtue; to tread down irreligion and vice; to enlarge the empire of knowledge and righteousness; to augment as much as possible, the sum of created good, and of creating and redeeming glory.
And since the advancement of these great interests lies very much between you and the standing teachers of religion, let gentlemen in these different orders cultivate a friendly and patriotic alliance, by all the methods which prudence and generous virtue suggest.
Ye venerable leaders of our civil and ecclesiastical tribes; how many and how forcible are the ties which bind you together! In this land of political and religious freedom, you both derive your election to office from one source; you are fellow-labourers in one great and benevolent cause; you are important members of one civil body, and by visible profession and sacred obligation, of one christian family; in the due performance of your several offices, you display the same leading excellent talents and virtues, and mutually give and receive the most important support. Certainly then, there can be no strife, no jealous distance between you; for ye are brethren. We congratulate the people of Massachusetts, on the liberal and virtuous union, which at this moment subsists between you, and which is particularly exemplified in those numerous laudable incorporations, which embrace many of your first characters; and which have for their object, the interests of science, of arts, of education, of humanity, of christian knowledge and piety. To perpetuate this union and render it still more operative to the general good, and not the low selfishness or vanity of exalting and strengthening his own profession, considered as a separate interest, has been the preachers governing motive in this discourse; and with a view to the same grand object, he modestly submits to the candour of both departments, a few monitory hints, suggested by the present aspect of society and of religion.
In the first place: Our leading characters in the civil and the literary line, will feel the peculiar importance, at this degenerated period of animating their clerical brethren, in every method dictated by wisdom and virtue; and particular, by encouraging them to calculate their public ministrations upon principles of the most extensive usefulness. They will consider, that many of us are connected with societies, which are chiefly composed of the labouring and more illiterate class; that these peculiarly need the privileges of a weekly sabbath and public religious instruction; and that many of them require very plain, and very pungent applications, in order to enlighten their ignorance, to rouse their stupidity, or to check their vicious career. Our christian patriots, therefore far from despising, will generously aid those teachers, who frequently endeavour, by all the methods of familiar, pathetic, or alarming address, to reach and refine these rougher parts of the community. The enlarged knowledge and experience of our learned civilians will also inspire sentiments of candour towards the priesthood, in regard to that variety of speculation, of gifts, and address, by which it is diversified; they will view this diversity as naturally resulting in great measure from the spirit of free inquiry and improvement, which characterizes the present day. They will consider too, that it furnishes public teachers suited to the various capacities, tastes and prejudices, and all the grades of character and condition, which at this period mark the face of society. They will further consider, that the operation of republican equality and religious freedom, will sometimes introduce a christian instructor not perfectly agreeable to the relish or the speculations of a few superiour members of a corporation, but perhaps very acceptable and beneficial to the general mass of the people. In such cases, does not a regard to social order, to equal rights, to the greatest moral and political good, require a generous and peaceable acquiescence?
On the other hand it becomes the clergy at this day studiously to hold up their office, and the religion which they teach, in the most respectable and pleasing light. A special attention to this object, is rendered important, by the present improved state of society; by the learning and politeness, which adorn many of our religious assemblies; by the rapid progress of loose sentiments and manners, and the consequent disrelish or contempt of christian doctrines, institutions, and teachers. To check these spreading evils it becomes the sacred order to pay great attention both to the private and public duties of their function; it becomes them, in the performance of the latter, to display a force of reasoning, a propriety of thought, of method and expression, a decency of style and address, which may at once bear down the scoffs and the sophistry of libertinism, justly please the taste of literary refinement, and at the same time exhibit the plain, the affectionate, the evangelical preacher. It becomes them both in their ministrations and personal example, to represent the christian institution and ministry, as friendly to human happiness in both worlds; as breathing a social and courteous, a candid and forbearing, a loyal, uniting, and public spirit; a spirit, which whilst it supremely attaches us to the service and rewards of the life to come cherishes a proper sensibility of our rights, duties, and enjoyments as inhabitants of the earth. It becomes them in every consistent method, to support the civil interests of the community, the respectability of its rulers, and the efficacy of its laws. And whilst law speaks to the public ear, in one uniform, inflexible tone, it is ours, my reverend fathers and brethren, to bring home the addresses of religion to the bosoms of individuals; and by a pertinent and forcible application of her peculiar truths and sanctions, to seize their consciences, their imaginations, their hearts; to possess and command their inmost feelings. By this process, under the influence of the all creating spirit; we are first to mould them into good men, and then by an easy transition into good citizens, rulers and subjects. Above all, let us ever keep in our own realizing view, and endeavour to enforce upon our people, the primary, the infinitely weighty object of our religion and ministry, viz. the spiritual, everlasting salvation of immortal beings, and the glory of God and his Son, shining forth in the wondrous contrivance, and accomplishment of it. Whilst our rulers are pushing forward our temporal prosperity and glory, let us labour to establish and to complete that glory, by a corresponding advancement of this most important object. Into this channel let us endeavour to draw all the civil and literary, as well as religious advantages, which come within our reach. Let the united efforts of the clergy and laity, be especially employed in diffusing christian knowledge and virtue, through those vast territories of our country, whose poverty, and remote situation have precluded the stated enjoyment of religious institutions; and in promoting a more general and effectual attention to the private means of education, in various parts of the commonwealth. By such a union of public exertion, our leading characters in church and state, will resemble the two olive-trees, which the Prophet saw in vision, emptying their golden oil into the candlestick of Zion.
Fellow-citizens of this great assembly,
I felicitate you and our common country, on the natural, civil and religious advantages, by which we are so eminently exalted; and especially on the prosperous train of our national affairs, under the auspices of indulgent heaven, and its favourite minister, the President of the United States. When we mention this beloved citizen and benefactor of America, every bosom present, feels the endearing and forcible illustration, which his example gives to the leading sentiment of this discourse. For the charm of his piety, of his public and private virtue, as well as political wisdom, has been a principal cement of our national union, and so a prime source of all its attendant blessings. What then is wanting to complete the glory and happiness of our country? Nothing but the general prevalence of the same excellent spirit; a spirit of sublime virtue, corresponding to the natural grandeur and extent of America, and to its noble constitutions of government and religion. Virtue enlightened and invigorated by political and christian knowledge, is eminently the soul of a republic. It is necessary to direct, to enliven, to guard the election of its rulers, and to secure to them, the generous confidence, submission and co-operation of the people. It is peculiarly requisite in a community like ours, spread out over such an immense continent, divided by so many local governments, prejudices and interests: A people so circumstanced, can never be firmly and durably united, under one free and popular government, without the strong bands of religious and moral principle, of intelligent and enlarged patriotism. Liberty planted in such a soil, will be perpetually tending to unbridled licentiousness, distracting jealousies, and popular confusion. Let us then set up a vigilant guard against these encroaching evils. Let us not imagine that the exercise of civil liberty, consists in ignorant or envious abuse of public characters and measures; nor that religious freedom will justify careless neglect or wanton contempt of the truths, the ordinances, and ministers of that religion, which was sent down from heaven to guide us, to present and future happiness. Though we are not accountable to the civil magistrate for our religious sentiments and worship; yet we certainly are to the Deity; and he has given us no liberty in this enlightened country, either to think with deists and sceptics, or to live like atheists; nor will the prostitution of his Sabbaths, to idleness or amusements in defiance of human and divine laws, pass in his account for a mark of superior politeness or liberality. In opposition to these wicked, but too modish abuses of liberty, let us remember that energetic government, is the guardian of freedom, and that religion, especially the christian, is the pillar of both. Let us then properly respect, support, and concur both with our civil and religious ministers. Let us exercise the most scrupulous care in the election of both, and be rationally satisfied, that their heads and hearts, their principles and morals, comport with the spirit of their several offices. But having chosen them, let us treat their persons and administrations with that confidence and honour, which become a wise and magnanimous people, and which may, by the blessing of God, give the greatest effect to their benevolent labours.
Finally: As the crown of all, let us become pious towards God, humble and obedient believers in his Son, conscientiously submissive to the government and laws of our country, sober, frugal, and diligent in our several employments, just and kind to one another, unitedly and zealously attached to the great interests of America, and of the whole human fraternity. Then we shall hold out an inviting example to all the world, of the propitious operation of a free government; we shall encourage and accelerate the progress of reason, and of liberty, through the globe. Already has the new world diffused the light and warmth of freedom across the Atlantic, into the old; which has given birth to a surprising and glorious revolution. Let us be nobly ambitious, by our future conduct, to feed and extend the generous flame; and thus to realize the wishes and hopes of all benevolent spirits in heaven and earth. Let us especially labour and pray, that these political struggles and changes, may, under the divine agency, introduce new and brighter scenes of christian knowledge and piety, till the whole world shall be covered with divine glory and human bliss. And may we in particular, after having filled our departments in society here, with usefulness and honor, be united to the more glorious community of the righteous; where the official distinctions of Moses and Aaron, are known no more; where all the followers of the Lamb, shall form one royal priesthood, one mighty combination of perfect and happy immortals; and God the original source of being and blessedness, shall be all in all.