Front Page Titles (by Subject) 46: Stephen Peabody, SERMON BEFORE THE GENERAL COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE AT THE ANNUAL ELECTION - Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 2 (1789-1805)
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46: Stephen Peabody, SERMON BEFORE THE GENERAL COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE AT THE ANNUAL 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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SERMON BEFORE THE GENERAL COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE AT THE ANNUAL ELECTION
Stephen Peabody (1741–1819). A native of Andover, Massachusetts, Peabody was a Harvard graduate in the class of 1769. As the oldest member of his class, entering at twenty-two, he was nicknamed Pater Omnium by classmates. Peabody was a ringleader and cut-up in college, and his diary for 1767 is regarded by Clifford K. Shipton as “the most revealing document relating to colonial education which has come down to us” (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17:207n). Peabody’s extensive diaries, his principal writings, provide a detailed portrait of himself as parson and of his times in New England.
Peabody settled in Atkinson, New Hampshire, in 1772 and remained there as pastor for the rest of his life. He was an orthodox Calvinist who measured his orthodoxy by agreement with the Bible at every point, and he avoided any hint of being a member of this or that theological faction. He was especially critical of emotional preachers (meaning Baptists and Methodists) but was himself an emotional preacher “who wept at his own pathos, or in sympathy with his bereaved hearers” (ibid., p. 212). He served as a chaplain during the Revolution with Colonel Poor’s regiment on Winter Hill. Dartmouth College awarded him an honorary A.M. in 1792. Peabody loved to play the fiddle and sing, often serving in the pulpit as a one-man choir, though he was sometimes joined by his household pet, Little Dog. (Little Dog’s death received more attention in his diary than that of any human being.) Peabody’s swift conquest of the heart of his second wife, the widow Elizabeth Smith Shaw, in 1795, became a classic of New England folklore. His stepson, William Smith Shaw, became secretary to President John Adams, and Reverend Peabody and his wife were frequent visitors to the Adams household in Quincy. In addition to preaching and catechizing, Peabody farmed, and he and Elizabeth kept the Atkinson Academy, admitting girls to it after 1794, to the shock of the community.
This election sermon, preached in Concord, New Hampshire, on June 11, 1797, celebrates republican government as the rule of law in the United States and as a unique improvement over monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy as practiced through the ages.
Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
Exodus XVIII. 21.
In the great scale of beings, mankind hold a dignified station. The human mind, capable of improvement, under advantageous cultivation, progresses in knowledge and refinements, honourary in their nature, and ornamental in their consequences. Individuals, with privileges of this kind, shine as lights in the world. Societies, composed of characters improved in science and virtue, have every advantage in their social connection.
By long experience, the jarring passions and interests of men, shew the necessity of government. Various have been the forms, by which mankind have enjoyed distinguished privileges. A particular discussion of all the principles of government, will not be expected upon this occasion, as many of this respectable audience are better acquainted with them, than the speaker. An attempt of this, would be a departure from duty.
That ecclesiastical constitution, exhibited in the sacred scriptures, is the foundation upon which the ministers of religion are placed: It contains those rules and regulations which we are called to vindicate, and by it we are furnished with a code of laws and precepts, admirably suited to governors, and governed—rules designed to promote general happiness here, and to prepare for a far more exalted state in the regions of immortality. These are peculiar excellencies in the oracles of truth.
In the early ages of time, government was confined to private families; but when men multiplied, it was consistent with infinite wisdom to point out methods by which there should be a government upon a more extensive scale. This took place with the people of Israel, while in the land of Egypt. The Egyptians, under a pretence that Israel would increase in numbers and power, treated them in a manner incompatible with humanity. Whereupon the Lord was pleased to provide for them a deliverer—to raise up Moses, remarkably to preserve him in his infancy, to appear unto him in a burning bush, to appoint him a ruler, and to accompany him with such proofs of his divine mission, as were convincing to a mind not clouded with ignorance, or blinded with prejudice.
The good man, with reluctance, modestly accepted the appointment, with Aaron his brother, his assistant in the arduous task. Mutually supporting each other, the Lord was with them. Happy for them, and thrice happy for the people, they were united by the most endearing ties, when placed, the one a political, the other an ecclesiastical leader. Aiming at the same great object, under the particular direction of heaven, they went on, hand in hand, through a series of unexampled trials, conducting and protecting their charge, as faithful shepherds guide their flocks. Connected with an ingrateful people, those worthies met with singular difficulties in their way, were censured when performing the will of God, and exerting every power to advance the best interest of society.
Jethro, the priest of Midian, father-in-law to Moses, anxious for his son’s welfare, and sensible that his task was insupportable, proposed some alterations, that a part of the burden might be removed from him, and placed upon others. These we have in the theme under consideration—the manner of executing their several trusts specified—the extent of their power defined—and, in cases of intricacy, an appeal open to the chief magistrate, their last resort. Here the privileges of the people were in a great measure to be secured by the amiable characters of their rulers, and especially by his who was their supreme judge, and under the immediate influence of the king of kings.
This was the form of government then established: It was a theocracy; and its permanency shews it was suited to the genius of the people in that period of the world, as it continued in the days of Moses, Joshua, and till Samuel’s time, sanctioned with the approbation of heaven. They were governed by wise judges, given them by a God who was their guardian and friend, till his favour was forfeited by a revolt from him, casting off his authority, and determining to have a king of their own, in imitation of the heathen nations. This conduct proceeding from a factious disposition, was displeasing to God: Yet he granted their request, gave them a king—but a king in judgment.
The oracles of truth are not decisive, respecting any particular, permanent form of civil polity. We are left at liberty to adopt rules and laws agreeable to our inclinations. In a state of ignorance and barbarism, a despotic power may be necessary; but where knowledge is diffused, and reason enlightened, the bastile bars are seen—the shackles eluded.
A republican government, as defined by an eminent writer, “in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws,” is doubtless the most unexceptionable. This is the general principle which supports the government of united America, happily removed from that monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, which have injured mankind. This form has the public good for its principal object: It rests primarily in the hands of the people; and when delegated, is exercised a limited period, and returns to its origin. A people with a good constitution, judicious laws, in the hands of an executive authority influenced by the maxims of wisdom and goodness, attentive to their true interest, will acquire strength and stability, as they improve in knowledge and virtue.
The directions given in my text, are adapted to any people, under whatever form of government, when wisdom and probity are their guide. And in this view, we trust they are peculiarly applicable to the people of America, and demand attention in all our elections to fill the offices of state, supreme and subordinate. Though under dissimilar forms, electors may be different, yet the characters of the elected should be the same.
The subject before us exhibits the duty of a people in the choice of their rulers, and delineates the leading traits essential to those in public office.
I shall attempt to make some observations upon the several particulars here specified, to form good rulers—speak of the duties of their station—then draw some inferences—and conclude with addresses suited to the present occasion.
The first particular in the choice of rulers, should be natural abilities. Able men, are such as have been distinguished by the God of nature. As in the ecclesiastical department, a novice is excluded; so in the civil, men of sense and judgment are to be preferred: Men of fortitude, of resolution, who fear not the faces of the unprincipled; but when occasion requires, can oppose them with firmness: Men of clear heads, and determined hearts. But it is not enough that men should have natural endowments; more is necessary: The gifts of nature should be improved by study and close application, and truth investigated in the paths of science. There should be a general knowledge of the principles of natural and political law: And without this, men are exposed; they are easily deceived, and led into errors, disgraceful to themselves, and injurious to their constituents. Designing individuals have every advantage of the illiterate, to influence their conduct to the accomplishment of sinister purposes. A good natural understanding, therefore, and decent and liberal acquirements, are necessary ingredients in the able statesman.
Another qualification in an accomplished ruler here recommended, is the fear of God. This being granted, an atheist can have no part or lot in this matter. A being who is believed not to exist, cannot be feared. But besides these, there are those in an enlightened age of the world, who acknowledge the being of God, and yet are not afraid to offend him by trampling on his authority. Such are poorly qualified for eminent stations in government. An important trait in the character of a good ruler is wanting.
The fear of God is the best guard against temptations to a deviation from the rules of right. By this, human passions are regulated, and men are influenced to “run the ways of God’s commandments, rendering to all their dues—tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.” A consciousness of his omnipresence to whom we are all accountable, fixes a lasting impression upon the heart, fans every spark of moral rectitude, and calls forth patriotic exertions. The belief of an entire dependance on him, is an impenetrable mound against an inundation of immoralities: It is the best constructed fortress against the savage artillery of the prince of darkness. Shielded with a helmet from the God of armies, the intrepid ruler marches at the head of his battalions, with prudence, fortitude, and perseverance, which insure protection, and lead on to victory. Examples of wisdom and virtue, originating from the fear of God, have a commanding influence upon the human mind; and in all our elections, such qualifications should invariably direct our choice.
We pass on to a third particular essential in Jethro’s rulers. They were to be men of truth.
Possessed of a principle opposed to falsehood and deceit, they were to be eminent for their integrity. This was a qualification necessary in the law-givers of Israel. To a man of this description, “his yea, and nay, are Amen.” His tongue is a faithful index of his mind. He strictly observes the words of inspiration, “Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour.” Sensible that he is always in the presence of the God of truth, he never allowedly deviates from its laws. Such a character, the more it is examined, the more illustrious it will appear: It will be “like the path of the just,” pourtrayed by the wise king Solomon, “which as the rising light, shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
One thing more, necessary for accomplished rulers. They should hate covetousness.
However contemptible a covetous disposition may be, in the sight of God and man, we are constrained to acknowledge it is too prevalent to give full liberty for any one class of men to cast a stone at others. Rigid parsimony should not be indulged in a ruler; and it certainly is not in one who fears God, and has a sacred regard to truth. A principle of virtue is discovered, in a generous disregard to personal wealth, when it comes in competition with the interest of the public. When a good ruler is engaged in his office, his duty to the station arrests his first attention; self, has only a secondary place in his mind. When called to act in public, he leaves his private concerns behind him; they drop, till he has faithfully performed his higher engagements. Presuming that the electors in this state for the present year, so far as they have proceeded, have been actuated by the foregoing principles; that they have provided able men, fearers of God, men of truth, haters of covetousness, to compose the present legislative assembly—let us proceed to offer a few thoughts upon the duties annexed to the trust reposed in them.
It was the advice of Jethro to Moses, that the proposed characters should be placed over the people, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. With great propriety this may be applied to the several officers of a republic, in a succession, from the first magistrate. The federal and state governments in America, have furnished us with constitutions and laws, by which the duties peculiar to each office are ascertained. Our laws, however, are not like those of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be altered: The people have always a right to the exercise of their power, as the public interest may require. And may we not affirm, that in theory there is no government so rational as where elections are frequent, the elected under the public eye, and to continue during the people’s pleasure? This is a privilege we enjoy. Our annual elections give us an opportunity to select our best citizens to transact our public and most important business, to enact new laws, and make appointments according to the exigencies of the state.
A general assembly to a republic, in many respects stands in the place of a Moses to Israel; the refulgence of whose virtues should resemble the face of Moses, after he had received the law of the Lord on Mount Sinai. The authority of a state is to provide men duly qualified to act in the necessary departments. The reins of government are to be given into their hands for those purposes. Their trust is important, and when they are under the solemnity of an oath, they are bound by the strongest ties! By them, the duties of every office should be contemplated previous to a choice. And any station had better remain vacant, than be improperly filled. Those passages of inspiration will always remain true, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”
A conscientious regard to the principles of rectitude in general, and a strict adherence to the duties annexed to each office, either in the legislative or executive, whether relative to the civil, military, or ecclesiastical departments, instamp upon it a dignity, by which the vicious are restrained, and the virtuous encouraged. In short, the duties incumbent upon mankind, relative to their God and each other, obligatory upon all, and those peculiarly adapted to the various offices in a well regulated government, will be regarded with undiverted attention by every man deserving public confidence.
Permit me to enumerate some of the objects which naturally present themselves to the mind of the wise guardians of a country. The most perfect body of human laws ever framed, have their defects; and these are made obvious by practice. In their operations, they in all respects do not answer the designs proposed. Wise legislators, upon a discovery of imperfections, by which the citizens are embarrassed or wronged, by which any class of men are injured, will exert themselves for a reformation, and not give over the pursuit till it be accomplished. As they are the guardians of the people, fidelity to their trust demands their attention. Laws should be founded upon the principles of reason and justice—should be few in number, perspicuous, and punctually executed. Those which have been made, and are now in force, ought they not to be made plain and intelligible? Might not perplexities, expences, and great injustice, be prevented, and society highly favoured? Explicit laws, binding mankind to the rules of justice, are an admirable security to all branches of society. Under them, contracts are valid, peaceable members of the community are protected in the enjoyment of their interests, the profligate restrained and punished, and in a sense the “wrath of man is made to praise God.”
A frequent revision of the laws and constitutions of a country, with such alterations as good policy may suggest, promotes that general utility which cements the various parts of society, and forms a complete harmonious whole.
Again—An important object in the minds of good rulers, is, the increase of useful knowledge.
A foundation placed in the minds of youth, is like “good seed sown in good ground,” in its proper season; and gives the fairest prospects of a happy increase to the well being of society. The principles of virtue and knowledge early implanted, naturally take root, and produce a luxuriant harvest. Those who are thus favoured, are “trained up in the way they should go,” the best prompter on life’s devious journey. Hence the propriety of having able instructors, whose morals and language are worthy of imitation: And hence the necessity of giving ample encouragement, in a business so important and laborious. Though honourable donations have been made for the promotion of literature, yet the fostering hand of our civil fathers may be required for bringing to maturity. May it not then be expected, that every aid and encouragement will be given to education? The views of such as are young, are hereby extended; they are raised above the grovelling vulgarisms too common to that age, which will have a happy influence upon society, in preparing the rising generation to fill with honour the most dignified stations, when they may be called to act upon the theatre of life.
Is there not a third and an important object in the mind of rulers, viz. the increase of virtue and religion?
The ideas which have by some been adopted, that the civil authority should never interpose in matters of religion, are erroneous. It is granted by the most learned politicians, that the religious forms which have been established and supported, have had a powerful tendency to promote civility, to restrain vicious men, to protect the innocent, to countenance worthy pursuits, and to discountenance the immoralities which have contaminated mankind! Sentiments of this nature have flowed from knowledge and experience: And if they be well founded, is it not a truth, that establishments of this kind invite the attention of that civil policy which is the support of government? If, therefore, virtue and religion form the principal pillar which upholds the civil fabrick, it is evidently a duty for wise rulers to contribute something for its support. Upon this principle, many professed deists contribute with cheerfulness and liberality to public teachers of morality; they are patrons to the worship of God in gospel order: They have considered it as a measure wisely adapted to uphold government—and in this they deserve an encomium.
Such as fully believe the Christian religion, and receive the scriptures as the word of God, have additional motives for their utmost exertions that sobriety and goodness may be promoted. It is indisputable, that the more a society live in the practice of virtue, the greater prosperity they enjoy: The more they are under the influence of vicious principles, the more unhappiness they will experience. The sacred oracles give us the best directions: In them, no unreasonable restraints are imposed, no rational enjoyments are forbidden: Excess alone is transgression. So far as the scriptures are strictly regarded, so far every member of the community conducts with propriety: The various propensities and passions peculiar to human nature, are directed to right objects: And there, Christ, a most faithful and compassionate legislator, stands, giving law to his subjects. In those records, his character is exhibited, his maxims are registered, his example left for our imitation; and the whole perfectly reconcileable to virtue, religion, and the best policy: Thence may be extracted wisdom and instruction to guide us into the paths of rectitude; to save us from destructive courses of error and delusion: Here is a constitution worthy the particular notice of every man who holds an office in government; that under the influence of its rules, he may be instrumental in diffusing virtuous and benevolent principles: Directed by this, he will give his public testimony in favour of those who are engaged professionally to prepare mankind for blessings in this life, and a glorious future reward.
One farther essential in good rulers, is, that they are themselves exemplary.
There can be no greater burlesque upon the character of rulers, than when, under binding obligations to God, and their constituents, they are making laws which they are the first in violating! But how agreeable are the prospects, when judicious laws are made, are esteemed sacred; and are punctually observed by the enactors! A sanction is hereby placed upon them, which impresses every mind. And societies having their eye upon their rulers, observing their consistency, are led to follow their example, which naturally tends to rectify the vices and to reform the manners of the community. When precept and example are harmonious in rulers, every observer is charmed with the character; when they are at variance, they cannot fail to produce contempt. Of great importance then it must appear, for those who are clothed with authority, to have the qualifications described in my text, to be themselves exemplary, and let their light shine before men, who, aiming at one great object, the best interest of the public, are filled with present animation; and their views, not confined to this life, are extended, and terminate in immortality.
The discourse shall be closed with an improvement—and with addresses suited to the present occasion.
The suggestions which have been given, exhibit the necessity of a government established upon the principles of reason, and guarded by the maxims of justice and virtue. The passions natural to men, indicate that we were formed for society—and they powerfully excite us to enter into social connections. From a state of natural equality, communities are formed. The infirmities of men require protection—their vices, restraints and punishment. A free government, therefore, under which the virtuous are encouraged, and the vicious punished, is the palladium of the rational mind. How important, then, that it should be supported; that every aid should be given to those who are entrusted with authority, so long as they perform their duty. Vigilance respecting rulers, a check to prevent an undue exercise of power, are requisite, to preserve inviolate the liberties and privileges of a people. An unrestrained authority is dangerous; witness Hazael, Haman, and the unfortunate Charles. Extremes are always attended with consequences most unfavourable: Tyranny and anarchy, equally pernicious! An opposition to good government is inexcusable, as it “resists an ordinance of God.” A tame submission to an unjust authority, discovers a pusillanimity derogatory to the human mind. Wherever a just government is wanting, as an “hidden treasure” it should be sought and established: Where it hath been enjoyed, and is become deficient, it should be carefully amended, as was before hinted. Too great efforts cannot be made to uphold and perpetuate a well-founded government—and continued exertions will facilitate its rising in respectability.
From the ideas which have been brought into view, may not the people of America felicitate themselves under our present forms of government, and in the general characters of our rulers, especially those in exalted stations? Though we may not be favoured with supreme magistrates who have an immediate intercourse with heaven, as had Moses the law-giver of Israel; yet we may presume that they have been, and are, favoured with the approving presence of God.
Our constitutions of government, though they may be imperfect, stand high in the estimation of the enlightened and impartial among the nations of the earth: And under them, we have reason to rejoice in a general prosperity. If virtue and attention are not with us dormant, little can be wanting to complete the system.
When we take a retrospect of the scenes through which we have passed, since the commencement of our late contest, our minds upon the recollection are impressed with a trembling, grateful pleasure. In consequence of injuries and insults, with but little more than a sling and stone we encountered the giant, and foiled Britain!
A propitious Providence, like the “pillar of a cloud and of fire to Israel,” led the American armies. And not less apparent hath been the hand of God, in our civil operations. The organization of our governments, hath been attended with salutary effects in the increase of property and respectability. After our thankful acknowledgments to God, the great Superintendent, we should not neglect to express gratitude to a Washington, a Franklin, an Adams, a Jay, and to other heroes who have been instrumental in accomplishing those great purposes, so much for the honour and interest of the American states, and for the happiness of future generations.
Shall we not spend a moment in contrasting our present circumstances in a state of peace, with what we experienced when involved in the horrors of war? in contrasting our situation, with many of the European nations whose garments are now stained with human blood? Let us read the history of the French revolution, and we shall have additional reason to rejoice in God for his favours, and in the language of inspiration must say, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”
Again—from the reflections we have been making, we learn the advantages of a virtuous government. If we look into the sacred history, we find the prosperity of Israel ebbing and flowing with the morality of their sovereigns. When they had good kings, heavy judgments were averted; but when their rulers were vicious, they forsook the Lord, ran into idolatry, exposed themselves, and judgments came upon them like a flood! They became so abandoned, that God said of them by his prophet, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, my heart could not be towards this people; cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.”
And hath it not been generally true, that ignorance, a neglect of God and his worship, idleness, luxury, dissolute manners, and factions, have been certain preludes to the destruction of states and empires? Is not this abundantly proved by the histories of ancient times? Was not this verified in the destruction of Sparta, Athens, Rome? And if we may reason from past events, we may safely presume, that like causes will produce similar effects, however we may be involved in the issue.
Though it pleases God not to reward or punish individuals in this life, according to their merit or demerit, as appears by the histories of the prophets and apostles, by the parable of Dives and Lazarus, by the prosperity of Nero, and the misfortunes of Louis; yet heaven hath balanced national virtue by affluence, and vice by a counterpoise of adversity. Nothing, then, can be a greater stimulus to a virtuous government, to adopt the most energetic measures, that religion and every species of virtue may be encouraged: On the other hand, that vice, with its baneful retinue, and whatever may be derogatory to the citizen, the statesman, or the christian, may be discountenanced, and meet with an exemplary punishment! The officers of government have a price put into their hands, to promote the interest of their brethren, and the common cause of virtue. And when they are repeatedly, by the suffrages of their country, called into office, it is an evidence in their favour, and a public declaration, that their past conduct hath been approved.
Many of our civil fathers, upon the present anniversary, have frequently been selected to act as guardians to the people of this state. Their past fidelity hath been a sufficient recommendation to their present promotion; and we trust, the transactions of the ensuing year will, with resplendency, evidence the wisdom and judgment of the people in their choice.
His excellency the governor, the honourable council, senate and house of representatives, will please to accept my cordial congratulations upon the present joyful occasion. Regularly introduced into your several offices, clothed with authority, we cheerfully anticipate the salutary effects of your deliberations, in the advancement of the general prosperity, the safety and interest of every class of citizens. May wisdom, integrity, and unanimity, attend your councils, and concentre in all your decisions. May that spirit which directed Moses in the government of Israel, preside in all your pursuits; that under your administration, order and regularity may be conspicuous, knowledge and undissembled religion may spread their benign influences, illuminating every part of the system.
The present anniversary, which has collected the guardians of our civil rights from the several parts of the state, has brought together numbers in the ecclesiastical department, who wish to be considered as fellow-helpers in the cause of our country. May I be permitted to address my brethren, upon this auspicious day, and rejoice with them under a government, where harmony pervades the various departments, and so happily unites, in one common centre, the civil and ecclesiastical influence?
My brethren and friends,
Every effort of ours, to promote virtue, and to oppose the prevalence of vice, contributes something to strengthen the hands of our civil rulers: Their exertions for the accomplishment of the same purposes, encourage our hearts. With satisfaction we attend upon our annual convention, to unite our best endeavours that religion may be promoted at the season and place of our public elections: And our pleasure is heightened by that generous friendship which has ever appeared in the guardians of the state, to our order, and by that reciprocity of affection which has glowed in every countenance. Ardently wishing the present harmony may be perpetuated, and to unite our efforts in aiding the civil magistrate, we have great confidence in having that assistance and support from the same government, which may terminate in a general increase of mutual happiness.
Something by way of address to this respectable audience, shall finish the present discourse.
My friends and fellow citizens,
After a series of signal interpositions, the inhabitants of this land are placed upon the shores of freedom, with the olive branch flourishing in their hands. Heroes in the field, wise men at the head of the civil polity, with a prevailing intercourse with heaven, have brought on the present æra. For years past, no nation ever experienced greater prosperity. “The voice of joy and health have been heard in our habitations”; the earth hath teemed with a profusion of rich treasures; “the little hills have rejoiced on every side.”
Arts and sciences have flourished; and a spirit of enterprize, before unknown in the annals of our country, hath been displayed, not in opening deep waters, that travellers may go through dry shod, but in providing safe passages over them; and also to divert the watery element into different channels, to facilitate the labours of men. Perhaps no period was ever so favourable for the general increase of property, as what we are now experiencing.
This life is a changing scene. Prosperity and adversity await mankind, under the superintendency of unerring wisdom. Though we have been a highly privileged people, this may not continue. Prosperity too often produces luxury, which leads to a decay of virtue, to irreligion, and ruin. May heaven divert our feet from paths so dangerous, and lead us on in the way of truth and safety. This is the course to preferments—it is the high way to honour and happiness, and a prologue to immortal joys.
Let us then cultivate virtue in ourselves—carefully avoid shading the light of reason, counteracting remonstrances of conscience, and what is recorded in God’s word. In the steady practice of every duty to God, to society, and ourselves—under the influence of caution, candour, and generosity—we may expect the divine approbation.
When we act as electors, our eyes should ever be upon the “faithful of the land.” We shall, no doubt, have frequent calls for elections to the most important offices. This is verified by late experience—by the retirement of our worthy chief magistrate, at a critical period; and the choice of a successor, whose past eminent services have given him the best title to public confidence. Calls of this nature should be improved to awaken our vigilance, that we may obtain a true knowledge of the most deserving, and of those of a contrary description; that our future proceedings may be consonant to the principles of reason and sound policy.
May the great Superintendent give wisdom to our supreme government at their present session, in transactions of the highest moment to the states of America—that prudence, fortitude, and unanimity, may mark every movement, and instamp a dignity upon our national character. With a rational confidence in that authority, under God, we rest our political safety: We rely upon their wisdom and integrity.
Presuming that we shall not be deceived, we shall ever be ready to support government, to reward all who are faithfully discharging the duties of their stations, from those who are rulers of thousands, to such as are only rulers of tens.
Upon a reflection, that we have all a part to act in the drama of life, our minds cannot but be impressed, that our several stations require various exercises! “That though on earth the powers that be are ordained of God,” and cannot be disregarded but by incurring the divine displeasure; yet we are accountable to higher powers, and ere long must assemble at the bar of the great Judge of the earth!
Keeping that solemn period ever in view, let us perform our parts in life with a cheerful seriousness, as in the presence of an omniscient God. With lives regulated by the maxims of truth, by the illuminations of the divine spirit, let us “run the ways of God’s commandments,” disseminating light and knowledge, till we are prepared to enter into a world of glory, where virtue alone will dignify and exalt every immortal spirit, in the immediate presence of God, of the Redeemer, in the society of angelic hosts and innumerable glorified saints—where one chorus of praise shall commence, progress in ceaseless ages, and subordinate power be absorbed in heaven’s Sovereign.