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Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 1 (1730-1788) [1991]

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Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 vols, Foreword by Ellis Sandoz (2nd ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). Vol. 1.

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About this Title:

Volume I of a large two volume collection of sermons written between 1730-1805 by people such as Jonathan Mayhew, John Wesley, Moses Mather, John Witherspoon, Richard Price, Jonathan Edwards, and Noah Webster.

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The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
Edition: current; Page: [ii] Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Political Sermons of the American Founding Era,
volume 1
Edited by Ellis Sandoz
second edition
Liberty Fund
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a foundation established to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

The cuneiform inscription that serves as our logo as the design motif for our endpapers is the earliest-known written appearance of the word “freedom” (amagi), or “liberty.” It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 b.c. in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.

© 1998 by Liberty Fund, Inc.

Foreword © 1991 by Ellis Sandoz.

All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Political sermons of the American founding era, 1730–1805 / edited by

 Ellis Sandoz.—2nd ed.

   p. cm.

  Includes bibliographical references.

  ISBN 0-86597-181-1. (set : pbk.).—ISBN 0-86597-176-5 (vol. 1 : hardcover).—ISBN 0-86597-179-X (vol. 1 : pbk.).—ISBN 0-86597-177-3 (vol. 2 : hardcover).—ISBN 0-86597-180-3 (vol. 2 : pbk.).—ISBN 0-86597-178-1 (set : hardcover)

 1. Christianity and politics—United States—Sermons. 2. United States—Politics and government—Sermons. 3. Sermons—American.

3.  United States—History—Colonial period, ca. 1600–1775—Sources.

4.  United States—History—Revolution, 1775–1783—Sources.

I.  Sandoz, Ellis, 1931–

br115.P7P53  1998

261.7’0973’09033—dc21      97-40986

Liberty Fund, Inc.

8335 Allison Pointe Trail, Suite 300

Indianapolis, Indiana 46250–1684

99 00 01 02 03 c 6 5 4 3 2

98 99 00 01 02 p 5 4 3 2 1

Edition: current; Page: [v]

To the Pulpit, the Puritan Pulpit, we owe the moral force which won our independence.

John Wingate Thornton

This principle, that a whole nation has a right to do whatever it pleases, cannot in any sense whatever be admitted as true. The eternal and immutable laws of justice and morality are paramount to all human legislation. The violations of those laws is certainly within the power of a nation, but it is not among the rights of nations.

John Quincy Adams
Edition: current; Page: [vi] Edition: current; Page: [vii]


Volume 1
  • Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgments xxiii
  • Editor’s Note to the 1998 Editionxxv
  • Editor’s Note xxvii
  • Bibliographic Note xxxiii
    • Chronology 1688–1773 3
    • 1


      Benjamin Colman 7

    • 2


      Joseph Sewall 25

    • 3


      Elisha Williams 51

    • 4


      George Whitefield 119

    • 5


      Charles Chauncy 137

    • 6


      Samuel Davies 179

    • 7


      Samuel Dunbar 207

    • 8

      THE SNARE BROKEN [1766]

      Jonathan Mayhew 231

    • 9

      AN HUMBLE ENQUIRY [1769]

      John Joachim Zubly 265

    • 10


      John Allen 301

    • 11


      Isaac Backus 327

    Edition: current; Page: [viii]
    • Chronology 1774–1781 369
    • 12


      Samuel Sherwood 373

    • 13


      John Wesley 409

    • 14


      Anonymous 421

    • 15


      Moses Mather 439

    • 16


      Samuel Sherwood 493

    • 17


      John Witherspoon 529

    • 18


      John Fletcher 559

    • 19


      Abraham Keteltas 579

    • 20


      Jacob Cushing 607

    • 21


      Samuel Cooper 627

    • 22


      Henry Cumings 657

    • Chronology 1782–1788 683
    • 23


      Anonymous 687

    • 24


      A Moderate Whig [Stephen Case?] 711

    • 25


      George Duffield 771

      Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • 26


      Samuel McClintock 789

    • 27


      William Smith 815

    • 28


      Samuel Wales 835

    • 29


      Joseph Lathrop 865

    • 30

      THE DIGNITY OF MAN [1787]

      Nathanael Emmons 883

    • 31


      Elizur Goodrich 909

    • 32


      Samuel Langdon 941

    • 33


      Elhanan Winchester 969

Edition: current; Page: [x] Edition: current; Page: [xi]
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Inspiration for this collection of sermons came over a number of years as I did research on the American founders’ political philosophy. I discovered that the “pulpit of the American Revolution”—to borrow the title of John Wingate Thornton’s 1860 collection—was the source of exciting and uncommonly important material. What had passed for pamphlets in my reading of excerpted eighteenth-century American material often turned out to be published sermons. I began to realize that this material, showing the perspective of biblical faith concerning fundamental questions of human existence during our nation’s formative period, was extraordinarily abundant and extraordinarily little known.

The rule of this collection has been to reprint unannotated editions of complete sermons that would permit their authors to speak fully for themselves. The genre is the political sermon, broadly construed so as to include a few pieces never preached that are sermonic in sense and tone—that is, hortatory and relating politics to convictions about eternal verities. The chief criterion for selection of the various pieces was their intellectual interest. I was looking especially for political theory in American sermons preached and then published from the onset of the Great Awakening to the beginning of the Second Awakening and Thomas Jefferson’s second administration. An effort was made to diversify viewpoints denominationally, theologically, politically, geographically, and even nationally. Since only previously published materials have been selected—that is, nothing from manuscript sources has been included1 a limitation resided in the fact that the publication of sermons in America in the eighteenth century was a specialty, if not a monopoly, of New Englanders.

To permit the religious perspective concerning the rise of American nationhood to have representative expression is important because a steady attention to the pulpit from 1730 to 1805 unveils a distinctive Edition: current; Page: [xii] rhetoric of political discourse: Preachers interpreted pragmatic events in terms of a political theology imbued with philosophical and revelatory learning. Their sermons also demonstrate the existence and effectiveness of a popular political culture that constantly assimilated the currently urgent political and constitutional issues to the profound insights of the Western spiritual and philosophical traditions. That culture’s political theorizing within the compass of ultimate historical and metaphysical concerns gave clear contours to secular events in the minds of Americans of this vital era.

Religion gave birth to America, Tocqueville observed long ago.2 On the eve of revolution, in his last-ditch attempt to stave off impending catastrophe, Edmund Burke reminded the House of Commons of the inseparable alliance between liberty and religion among Englishmen in America3 Mercy Otis Warren noted in her 1805 history of the American Revolution: “It must be acknowledged, that the religious and moral character of Americans yet stands on a higher grade of excellence and purity, than that of most other nations.”4 Of the Americans on the eve of the Revolution Carl Bridenbaugh has exclaimed, “who can deny that for them the very core of existence was their relation to God?”5

Although they present a range of viewpoints on many different problems over a period of seventy-five years, all our writers agree that political liberty and religious truth are vitally intertwined. And while the role of the clergy as the philosophers of the American founding has not received great attention from students of political theory, it was abundantly clear to contemporaries. Perhaps the best insight into the role of the ministry was expressed by a participant, Edition: current; Page: [xiii] Reverend William Gordon of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who wrote the celebrated History of the American Revolution. “The ministers of New England being mostly congregationalists,” Gordon wrote,

are from that circumstance, in a professional way more attached and habituated to the principles of liberty than if they had spiritual superiors to lord it over them, and were in hopes of possessing in their turn, through the gift of government, the seat of power. They oppose arbitrary rule in civil concerns from the love of freedom, as well as from a desire of guarding against its introduction into religious matters. . . . The clergy of this colony are as virtuous, sensible and learned a set of men, as will probably be found in any part of the globe of equal size and equally populous. . . . [I]t is certainly a duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times; to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and to recommend such virtues as are most wanted. . . . You have frequently remarked that though the partizans of arbitrary power will freely censure that preacher, who speaks boldly for the liberties of the people, they will admire as an excellent divine, the parson whose discourse is wholly in the opposite, and teaches, that magistrates have a divine right for doing wrong, and are to be implicitly obeyed; men professing Christianity, as if the religion of the blessed Jesus bound them tamely to part with their natural and social rights, and slavishly to bow their neck to any tyrant. . . 6.

Whatever the differences among them, all the sermon authors take as their reality the still familiar biblical image of Creator and creation, of fallen and sinful men, striving in a mysteriously ordered existence toward a personal salvation and an eschatological fulfillment. They knew that these goals are themselves paradoxically attainable only through the divine grace of election, a condition experienced as the unmerited gift of God, discernible (if at all) in a person’s faith in Christ, which yields assurance of Beatitude. The relationships are variously symbolized by personal and corporate reciprocal covenants ordering individual lives, church communities, and all of society in Edition: current; Page: [xiv] multiple layers productive of good works, inculcating divine truth and attentiveness to providential direction according to the “law of liberty” of the sovereign God revealed in the lowly Nazarene.7 The picture that thus emerges is not merely parochially Puritan or Calvinistic but Augustinian and biblical.

The varieties of spiritual belief fundamental to the writers represented herein cannot be explored here, but some background can be indicated. For though our concern is with political sermons—and thus exceptional expressions of the faith of a people who looked to the eternal beyond for the perfect fulfillment of their pilgrimage through time in partnership with God—the spiritual root of that collaborative enterprise directed by Providence requires a word or two of clarification. Of course, the political background is the direct movement of disparate British colonial societies toward independent nationhood, federally organized under a Constitution that preserves the essentials of English liberty under law. It was a passage of history that involved the concerted effort of military force evinced in the Revolution and the articulation of the principles of free government; these principles inspired creation of a national community and became the grounds of a political orthodoxy called republican and constitutional government. Momentous developments crescendoed with British adoption of the Stamp Act of 1765, leading in little more than a decade to the decision for independence in 1776, which demanded eight years of fighting and formally ended with the signing of the peace treaty in Paris in 1783. The Federal Convention in 1787 provided a barely accepted Constitution, one immediately embellished by a Bill of Rights, that became the supreme law of the land in 1791. By the beginning of Jefferson’s second term, the institutional arrangements had been tested and operations refined, the first party system had emerged, and the country had doubled in size thanks to the Louisiana Purchase. But another strand of history accompanies, interacts with, and gives roots to this familiar progress, one that is less known and lacks the direct line of development just rehearsed.

Edition: current; Page: [xv]

The revolution in the spiritual life of America began within a decade of the preaching of the first sermon reprinted here, that of the celebrated Benjamin Colman in Boston in 1730. It is called the Great Awakening. There is reason to suppose that the two lines of development are intimately, even decisively, connected. Narrowly construed as occurring in the years 1739 to 1742, the Great Awakening designates the outburst of religious revival that swept the colonies in those years.8 It reached from Georgia to New England and affected every stratum of society. Since the earthquake of 1727 that Benjamin Colman alludes to in his sermon, however, there had been a quickening of religious impulses. The Awakening was a spiritual earthquake, one that, as Alan Heimert and Perry Miller write, “clearly began a new era, not merely of American Protestantism, but in the evolution of the American mind.”9 A turning point and crisis in American society, it rumbled and echoed through the next decades.

American events could be seen as part of the general rise of religious sentiment traceable in Europe between 1730 and 1760, particularly in England, where the catalysts were the itinerant Anglican priests John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism, and their compatriot George Whitefield. These men played a large part in rescuing England from the social debauchery and political corruption associated with the Gin Age, aspects of the period portrayed in Hogarth’s prints and Fielding’s novels.10 Near the end of this volume’s time period the so-called Second Awakening began, starting in 1800–1801 with revival camp meetings on the frontier and in the backcountry. The great political events of the American founding, thus, have a backdrop of resurgent religion whose calls for repentance and faith plainly complement the calls to resist tyranny and constitutional corruption Edition: current; Page: [xvi] so as to live virtuously as God-fearing Christians, and, eventually, as responsible republican citizens.11

The preeminent awakener in America throughout much of this whole period was the English evangelist George Whitefield (see no. 4, herein), who first visited the colonies in 1738 and made six more preaching tours of the country, and who died in 1770 one September morning just before he was to preach in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Regarded as not only the most controversial preacher of his time but as “perhaps the greatest extemporaneous orator in the history of the English church,” it is Whitefield’s view of the human plight and its remedy that will best show the thrust of the Awakening as formative of the American mind. James Downey has written:

The theme of his preaching is that of evangelicals in every age: in his natural state man is estranged from God; Jesus Christ, by his death and Atonement, has paid the price of that estrangement and made reconciliation with God possible; to achieve salvation man, with the guidance and the grace of the Holy Ghost, must repudiate sin and openly identify himself with Christ. To Whitefield religion, when properly understood, meant “a thorough, real, inward change of nature, wrought in us by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, conveyed to and nourished in our hearts, by a constant use of all the means of grace, evidenced by a good life, and bringing forth the fruits of the spirit.” There was, of course, nothing new in this belief. Its special appeal for eighteenth-century audiences lay partly in the fact that it answered an emotional need the established Church had for too long tried to ignore, and partly in the charismatic personality of the man who revived it.12

It is perhaps worth stressing in a secularized age that the mystic’s ascent and the evangelist’s call, although conducted in different forums, have much in common. For each seeks to find the responsive Edition: current; Page: [xvii] place in a person’s consciousness where a vivid communion with God occurs, with the consequence that this concourse becomes the transformative core for that person, who therewith sees himself as a “new man”: initially in the conversion experience (represented as a spiritual rebirth) and subsequently in the continuing meditative nurture of the soul, pursued by every means but chiefly, in American Protestantism, through prayer, sermons, and scriptural meditation. The great cry of the awakeners was for a converted ministry, one able to revive religious communities lacking vitality and zeal, so as to make the presence of God with his people a palpable reality. Such hortatory preaching and intent were the hallmarks of the so-called New Light, or New Side, clergy, as contrasted with their opposites (Old Light, Old Side ministers), who eschewed emotion and experimental religion. Many of the former, like Whitefield himself, had no church of their own but traveled the country preaching in homes and pastures or wherever they could four and five times in a day that often began before dawn. They were not always treated as welcome visitors by the established clergy, with whom serious conflict sometimes arose.

It is against the experiential background of such preaching that the political teaching of the ministers of the eighteenth century is to be seen as it was powerfully displayed in crisis and revolution. From their biblical perspective, it can be said that man is a moral agent living freely in a reality that is good, coming from the hand of God: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”13 With the responsibility to live well, in accordance with God’s commandments and through exercise of his mind and free will, man longs for knowledge of God’s word and truth and seeks God’s help to keep an open heart so as to receive them. Among the chief hindrances to this life of true liberty is the oppression of men, who in service to evil deceive with untruth and impose falsehood in its place, proclaiming it to be true. Man, blessed with liberty, reason, and a Edition: current; Page: [xviii] moral sense, created in the image of God, a little lower than the angels, and given dominion over the earth (Psalm 8; Hebrews 2:6–12), is the chief and most perfect of God’s works.

Liberty is, thus, an essential principle of man’s constitution, a natural trait which yet reflects the supernatural Creator. Liberty is God-given. The growth of virtue and perfection of being depends upon free choice, in response to divine invitation and help, in a cooperative relationship. The correlate of responsibility, liberty is most truly exercised by living in accordance with truth. Man’s dominion over the earth and the other creatures, his mastery of nature through reason, is subject to no restraint but the law of his nature, which is perfect liberty; the obligation to obey the laws of the Creator only checks his licentiousness and abuse.

Our preachers, however, understood that this gift of freedom to do right and live truly carries another possibility, rebellion and rejection, as well. This, in turn, leads to the necessity of government to coerce a degree of right living and justice from a mankind fallen from the high road of willing obedience to the loving Father. Unfortunately, coercive law can be inflicted in ways that are not merely just and conducive to truth, righteousness, and union with God, but not infrequently to their very opposites. This biblical understanding of the human condition is reflected in the most famous passage of The Federalist (no. 51), which turns on the sentiments that if men were angels there would be no need for government, for what is government but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? It remains true, James Madison continued, that “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be pursued, until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”

A few words may now be said about the sermon as a rhetorical and symbolic form, particularly the political sermon. It was the axiom of one of the leading figures of the New Light movement and the educator of preachers, Nathanael Emmons, “Have something to say; say it.” The suggestion of terseness is misleading, however, since eighteenth-century preachers had a great deal to say. The Sunday service might typically open with a prayer that lasted an hour as measured by a glass on the pulpit; it would then be turned twice during the course of the sermon. A short break for lunch would be taken, and then the preaching would continue in the afternoon. The form of Puritan Edition: current; Page: [xix] sermons followed a model taught by William Perkins’s Arte of Prophysying (1592, translated in 1607). The principle basic to his approach was, following Augustine and Calvin, that the Bible is reflexive in the sense of providing its own explanation of its meaning in a consistent whole. This literal meaning is to be found through use of the three methods of circumstance, collation, and application. Thus, it is the task of the preacher as interpreter to place any scriptural text into its circumstances and context, collating that text with similar texts elsewhere in the scriptures, to find consistent meaning, and then to finish by conforming his preaching to the “analogie of faith.” This means that any statement made had to be in harmony with or contained in the Apostles’ Creed.14

The key to finding the unity of the Bible, according to William Perkins, was to begin by first mastering Paul’s Letter to the Romans; then, and only then, ought the student move to the remainder of the New Testament and subsequently to the Old Testament. The result of this, because of the emphases in Romans, will be a stress on justification, sanctification, and true faith.

The steps in writing and delivering the sermon begin with the reading of the divine text, considered as the holy Word of God and superior to or outside of the remainder of the presentation. The text is to be read aloud to the congregation by way of “opening” the Word, for (in the Calvinist conception, at least) it is the Word and the Word alone that is the proper province of preaching. The duty of the preacher, then, is merely to “open” the one clear and natural sense of scripture, so that the Holy Spirit can move through the preacher’s words into the hearers’ souls to effect spiritual transformation. Thus, in Perkins’s formal outline, the preacher ought:

  • 1. To read the Text distinctly out of the canonicall Scripture.
  • 2. To give the sense and understanding of it being read by the Scripture itself.
  • 3. To collect a few and profitable points of doctrine out of the naturall sense.
  • 4. To applie (if he have the gift) the doctrines rightly collected to the manners of men in a simple and plain speech.
Edition: current; Page: [xx]

This form is understood to embody the circumstances, collations, and analogies of faith previously mentioned.15 The format of Text, Doctrine, and Application remained typical of sermons, especially on such formal occasions as the political sermons reproduced here, and in the hands of the most accomplished preachers (such as Jonathan Edwards the Elder) the old form could be effective for “sustaining rigorous analysis and dramatizing the essential relationships among the Word, human intelligence, and conduct.”16 It is no surprise that a mastery of classical rhetoric is displayed in the sermons of the eighteenth century, since this was the “golden age of the classics” in America.17

Of the several vehicles for expounding political theology available to American ministers, the most venerable were the election sermons preached for 256 years in Massachusetts and 156 years in Connecticut. The practice began in Vermont in 1778 and in New Hampshire in 1784 in the sermon by Samuel McClintock (no. 26, herein). These were sermons preached annually to the governor and legislature after the election of officers. To be chosen for the task was an honor, and the sermons were published and distributed to each official with an extra copy or two for the ministers of the official’s home district. It is at least arguable that a published sermon is a mark of its excellence to begin with, whatever the occasion of its utterance. (In the screening of several thousand items, the intention has been that only leading clergymen putting their best foot forward on important political matters are here represented.) One index of quality is suggested by the fact that very few of the sermons preached ever were published; thus Samuel Dunbar, an Old Light minister from Stoughton, Massachusetts, Edition: current; Page: [xxi] wrote out some eight thousand sermons during his long career but published only nine of them (see no. 7).

Besides the election sermon, the artillery sermon was also an annual affair in Massachusetts and dealt with civic and military matters. The Thursday or Fifth-day Lecture was begun by the Reverend John Cotton in Boston in 1633 and was practiced for 200 years; it was a popular event and was combined with Market Day for gathering and discussing matters of social and political interest. Election sermons were sometimes then repeated for a different audience. The Lecture was no Boston or Congregationalist monopoly, as can be seen from Abraham Keteltas’s sermon preached during the evening Lecture in the First Presbyterian Church at Newburyport in 1777 (no. 19, herein). Convention sermons also were political in nature and grew out of election-day ceremonies.

There were many other opportunities for political discourse, such as the annual observation of January 30 as the execution day of the king-turned-tyrant, Charles I. Century sermons were preached to mark the Glorious Revolution’s centenary, on November 5, 1788, the anniversary of William III’s landing in England to secure it from popery and tyranny and to preserve traditional British liberties. The century sermon of Elhanan Winchester is included here (no. 33). Days of prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving were proclaimed for particular occasions throughout the eighteenth century and even earlier. Such times were nationally proclaimed (“recommended”) at least sixteen times by the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War; and the entire American community repaired to their various churches on such days of fasting, prayer, and humiliation to repent of sins, seek forgiveness, and implore God to lift the affliction of their suffering from them—the jeremiad form so central to American consciousness.18 Days of thanksgiving were likewise proclaimed when divine favor was experienced. The end of the war brought a great outpouring of praise and gratitude, and four sermons, nos. 24 through 27, reflect these sentiments. Such proclamations became rarer under the Constitution but did not disappear during Washington’s or Adams’s administrations, and their suspension during Jefferson’s Edition: current; Page: [xxii] administration was followed by a reinstatement under James Madison. The Fourth of July regularly occasioned political sermons as well as orations. The death of Washington evoked a universal grief and countless sermons extolling the character of the American Joseph; an example is that of Henry Holcombe, a Baptist, who preached in Savannah, Georgia (no. 49). The Boston Massacre sermons and orations commemorated the events of March 5, 1770, and the “Patriots’ Day” observances, as they are now called, marked the battles of Lexington and Concord in New England each year on April 19. Not only was such preaching widely attended, repeated, and published as tracts, but it was often reprinted in the newspapers as well.

This rhetorical form expressed the philosophical mean that free government is based on liberty, and liberty is founded in truth and justice as framed by eternal laws. Republicanism and virtue were far from split apart by James Madison and his colleagues at the Federal Convention, as the clergy understood our constitutional system. For these preachers and their flocks, the two remained essentially bound together. The political culture of this country was not only all the things it is most frequently said to be (I think of Bernard Bailyn’s five items), but was deeply rooted in the core religious consciousness articulated above all by the preachers; theirs were the pulpits of a new nation with a privileged, providential role in world history. What America’s religious consciousness consisted of in the tumultuous and triumphant years of founding is what this book will disclose.

Ellis Sandoz

Ellis Sandoz is a Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Eric Voegelin Institute for American Renaissance Studies, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

Edition: current; Page: [xxiii]
acknowledgments fpage="xxv" lpage="xxvi"


Thanks are due, for permission to reprint materials in their collections, to the Doheny Library of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, for one item (no. 17); to the Massachusetts Historical Society of Boston for one item (no. 19); to the American Antiquarian Society of Worcester, Massachusetts, for five items (nos. 3, 11, 12, 49, and 55); and to the Henry E. Huntington Library of San Marino, California, for the remaining forty-eight items in the book. Personal thanks go to Marcus A. McCorison, director, to John Hench, and to Keith Arbour at the American Antiquarian Society for their generous assistance. Because of two extended stays and a number of shorter visits at the Huntington Library, I owe many more debts of gratitude than I can repay here. But special thanks go to Robert Middlekauff (then director) and his wife Beverly for good counsel, assistance, and warm hospitality; also my gratitude is extended to Martin Ridge, who is director of research, and to Mary Wright, who supervises the Rare Book Reading Room. Among all the other helpful members of the Huntington staff, I especially thank Alan Jutzi, curator of rare books, and Tom Langen, who saw to the copying of over 4,000 pages of material from the rare book collection and who prepared the title-page photographs reproduced herein, except for those to nos. 3 and 11, which Marcus McCorison at the American Antiquarian Society provided. There can hardly be finer places to work than the Huntington Library and the American Antiquarian Society. Dean Charles R. Ritcheson, director of the Doheny Library, and his staff were helpful on more than one occasion with my work on this book. So also were the staffs of the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, the Centenary College Library of Shreveport, Louisiana, and the Middleton Library and the Hill Memorial Library of Louisiana State University—and I am grateful.

I wish also to thank several institutions for financial support of my work on this book: Louisiana State University by a sabbatical leave; the Huntington Library by a Visiting Fellow’s appointment; and, by Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] research grants, the Earhart Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Armstrong Foundation, and the Wilbur Foundation.

Liberty Fund is thanked for having the courage to undertake this large publication project and to see it through to completion. Individuals too numerous to be named here deserve thanks for rendering help great and small, but I must mention Dr. Gregory T. Russell, my graduate assistant during much of the preparation period for the work and later my colleague, who was of great assistance with the details. A similar word of thanks also is due my current graduate assistant, Manuel Brieske. Not least of all I hail all the librarians, those unsung heroes of a book such as this one, and most especially the cataloguers and bibliographers, for their wonderful, anonymous labors: without them we researchers would be lost.

Lastly, my family is again thanked for continuing to tolerate my strange habits and for helping me look up this or that and to read proof as time allowed and as I could catch them: Jonathan, Erica, Lisa, and Ellis III. My wife Alverne showed hitherto unsuspected skill as bibliographer and chief assistant in organizing a mass of material. My appreciation of them rises far above mere gratitude.

I hope all these benefactors and collaborators, having helped me with this project, will cherish the book and find their expectations for it at least partly fulfilled.

E. S.
Edition: current; Page: [xxv]

Editor’s Note to the 1998 Edition

Reissue of Political Sermons of the American Founding Era in a two-volume edition allows inclusion of a comprehensive index to the work, one ably prepared by Linda Webster. The only other substantive addition to the original is a note identifying the seventeenth-century provenance of Item 24, entitled Defensive Arms Vindicated (at pages 712–713, herein).

Demand for the book has been steady over the years since first publication in 1991. This is gratifying to the editor, and doubtlessly reflects the importance of the subject matter and intrinsic interest of the material itself. More than this, however, the demand suggests that readers thirst for learning about the relatively unknown eighteenth-century religious and philosophical underpinnings of our American public order, at the time of the founding, and as it continues into the present. It may be that these documents intimate a kind of secret history, one yet to be fully written.

Ellis Sandoz
Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] Edition: current; Page: [xxvii]
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Editor’s Note

The fundamental aim of this collection has been to print original, editorially unannotated editions of previously published, complete sermons that permit the authors to speak fully for themselves. The genre is the political sermon, but broadly construed so as to embrace certain essays and orations, pieces that are sermonic in sense and tone—that is, hortatory and relating politics to convictions about eternal verities. A second aim has been not to duplicate anything printed in John Wingate Thornton’s fine old collection, The Pulpit of the American Revolution (Boston, 1860), since that volume is available in a reprint edition. With one exception, John Leland’s Rights of Conscience Inalienable (no. 37), we also have avoided anything printed in Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz, eds., American Political Writing during the Founding Era, 1760–1805 (Indianapolis, 1983), still available from Liberty Fund. Of other comparable collections known to us, that of Frank Moore, ed., The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution, published by subscription in 1860, overlaps this collection with two items, nos. 8 and 25, but the Moore book is rare and has not been reprinted. We also avoided publishing anything contained in the first volume of Bernard Bailyn’s Pamphlets of the American Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1965); we have included several pieces (nos. 8, 9, 10, 15, and 17) announced for later volumes, but the series has been suspended for over twenty-five years and appears to be defunct.

A third aim has been to provide readable and accessible texts for these sermons—accurate modern versions that scrupulously honor the integrity of the originals. Modernization has never been done for its own sake or permitted to alter meaning, and much has been done to maintain even the look of the originals. To effect our purpose, modernization rules, or guidelines, were developed over the course of several months in which the sermons were editorially analyzed—and with the assistance of the book’s designer, as well. It became clear that some across-the-board standardization was needed to get the job done, but that inconsistencies between sermons were unavoidable and that homogenizing the texts was unthinkable. Applying our modernizing Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] rules in an absolutely rigid manner, then, was impossible if we were to remain sensitive to the originals. Exceptions to the rules were made where the individual text passages cried out for them. The sermons herein remain trustworthy replicas of some unique and (at times) originally quirky texts from America’s founding era.


The original printings of the sermons, especially the earliest ones, presented us with some difficult decisions concerning the use of italics and, similarly, small capitals. To begin with, italics were used in certain texts for each proper name and for other words besides, but to say that they were used much of the time for emphasis would be incorrect. Rather, they seem to have been used for anything that might be construed as a key word as well as for emphasis, with the result that a large number of words appeared in italics. That this italicization could be related to oral delivery was not translatable into an editorial guideline. It was decided, then, that we would serve the reader best by not duplicating what strikes the modern eye as chaotic typography. Nevertheless, preserving the appearance of eighteenth-century typesetting also seemed desirable.

Much of the original typography was sacrificed to modern tastes, therefore, with some important exceptions. Phrases of three or four and more words in italics were kept that way, while single words and nearly all two- and three-word phrases in italic were set in roman type. With the understanding that some measure of the author’s emphasis could be thus lost, we made exceptions to the rule on a case-by-case basis. It proved surprising, though, how infrequently italics had to be retained as exceptions. The rhetorical training of all the sermon authors led them to syntactical constructions that made their points of emphasis emerge (commonly by a use of parallelism) unmistakably and gracefully. Of course, they were organizing their points for the ear as much as for the eye, so their repetitions, enumerations, and references to a controlling scriptural thought, as well as other structural devices, all served to make the typographic augmentation of meaning that had once been favored much less necessary than might now be supposed.

Occasionally an italicized phrase would have in it a word or two in Edition: current; Page: [xxix] roman. We elected to simplify this state of affairs and italicized these words. Otherwise, no italics were introduced into the texts for any reason.

Words and phrases that were printed in small and/or large capital letters were viewed as italicized and then treated accordingly, except in the case of God, Jesus, and Christ. Here it was decided that the flavor of the early printings could be preserved. These words, where they had been entirely in capitals in the original, were uniformly presented in the large-capital/small-capital style shown here. Nowhere did we introduce this style, however, where the words had not been entirely in capitals in the original. Thus we give “GOD” as “God”; but we reproduce “God” without change, and so on.


Just as italicization can seem to have been too popular with early writers and printers, capitalization appears in many of the sermons to have followed only individual writers’ standards. In all the texts, we have modernized capitalization as follows: If a capitalized word would be lower-cased in modern usage, we lower-cased it, but we did not capitalize any word that appeared lower-cased in the original. Thus, the reader will notice an abundant number of instances where frequently capitalized words appear lower-cased (contrary to modern usage) later on—christian, king George, parliament, for example—because in the later instances they had not been originally capitalized. We did retain the capitalizations of coinages for the Deity—”Great Benefactor,” “Supreme Ruler,” even “Divine Word,” etc.—including the adjective if it had been originally capitalized.


For some sermons, errata were printed, and we made the corrections so noted without a signal to the reader. Spelling was not modernized for this edition, and spelling errors were not always corrected. The reappearance of a word in a text cued us to correct some typographical errors silently, but the hunting down of such reappearances was not engaged in. The reader will therefore detect spellings that could be construed as distorted by the original typesetter but that were not tampered with by us. Some corrections, we felt, required us to place Edition: current; Page: [xxx] a word or letters in brackets to signal the reader, but even these might have been silently fixed by different editors. For the most part the original spellings are preserved unless the meaning was imperiled. In no. 3, we changed least to lest because the sense dictated it. In no. 15, precicious was corrected to precious, for the error could interrupt communication. But in the same sermon, tremenduous was allowed to stand; in no. 17, terrestial; in no. 27, impulsies; and so forth. Who is to say that these words were not pronounced from the pulpit as they were spelled by their authors or, at least, were published? Of interest to some readers will be the spelling errors in no. 44, by the estimable Noah Webster.

As this edition makes obvious, we did modernize the long esses of eighteenth-century typography. We retained ampersands (&) and refrained from inserting missing apostrophes.


The originals presented some interesting puzzles of punctuation. Because of the flaws in early type components and the bleed-through of inks on certain printing papers, spots and blobs occurred with frequency to seemingly alter punctuation marks, changing commas to semicolons and periods to commas, or adding commas and hyphens, and so on, wherever well-placed blobs might appear. Broken type could change a comma to a period or cause a hyphen to disappear. Many times, sentence construction pointed to the solution; other times, eighteenth-century punctuation habits made, let us say, a comma likely where an existing mark was illegible. Except in the case of some totally unintelligible words, our most difficult “calls” involved colons that looked like semicolons, for the colon then seemed to serve any number of purposes not clearly distinguishable from the semicolon’s. We simply made the best determination we could from a close examination of the printed symbol when we were in doubt.

Eighteenth-century writings tend to be rife with commas, by today’s standards; even so, some commas were certainly misplaced to begin with and were silently removed. In a very few instances, commas interfered with the sense and were deleted. Dashes were often used in combination with other marks,—commas, semicolons, even Edition: current; Page: [xxxi]periods (as this sentence demonstrates). We deleted whichever mark that sense and/or syntax showed to be the extraneous one, by today’s standards.

In most of the sermons an old convention of punctuation was followed that placed a punctuation mark before a parenthesis, (as this sentence demonstrates;) we modernized the punctuation in these cases. The British custom of placing a period or comma after a closing quotation mark was similarly Americanized; it now precedes the closing quotation mark.

A number of longer quotations were printed as indented extract, where originally they had been “run in” as text and set off with quotation marks. As modern convention dictates, we deleted the quotation marks from these extracted passages. There was no attempt made to standardize the uses of quotation marks in the sermons. Each author had his own approach to this and other matters of style, and many inconsistencies will be evident to the reader from sermon to sermon and within individual sermons. Sometimes quotation marks set off hypothetical responses to the author’s main argument, for example, but frequently propositions of that type are merely signified by an initial capital letter in mid-sentence. These devices have not been tampered with, for in their own way they signal the reader clearly enough as to the author’s meaning and intent.

The reader may also note that some authors interpolate their own words into quotations without closing and reopening quotation marks. Since it was obvious enough that this was the case, we refrained from adding the marks. Wherever quotation marks or other punctuation marks did need insertion by us, we bracketed them.

biblical quotes and citations

Naturally, the sermons are replete with references to scripture. On occasion, editorial considerations led us to check on the wording of a quotation (and some few mistakes thereby detected were silently corrected, particularly in citations of chapter or verse numbers). However, no systematic checking of biblical material was done, and for all practical purposes the quotations and citations can be considered to be reproduced as they originally appeared, correct or incorrect.

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other matters

All footnotes are the work of the sermon authors and have been edited along the same guidelines as for the sermon proper. Footnote symbols were changed as necessary to key the notes to the sermon as the material received a new paging arrangement in this edition.

Many other elements in the originals, ornamental, typographic, or idiosyncratic, have been dispensed with. Most often this involved modernizing odd arrangements of text and/or blank space.

The original pamphlets in which the sermons appeared also included announcements, legislative resolutions concerning publication, dedications, prefaces, opening prayers, and appendices that have been deleted from this volume, except where they could not be considered extraneous to the sermon’s message and significance.

Not all the sermons were assigned titles by their authors, as a look at the title-page facsimiles included with each sermon will reveal. In such cases, we extracted from the pamphlet copy what we deemed appropriate as a stand-in title.

The facsimiles, while they add a visual element to this collection, also serve as testaments to the erudition and civility of the age that produced these works. They shed light on the sermons in the information and in the epigraphs they provide, the latter being an embellishing convention from the days of the Renaissance.

The facsimiles often provide two dates: the date of the sermon’s delivery and that of its publication, and in many cases, these dates are not far apart. But some of the items, as previously stated, were never orally delivered though they are sermonic in tradition. The publication date was the most consistent key to the placement of the works in a time frame, therefore. We opted, then, to order the sermons according to the date of their dissemination in print. The reader may note that this results in our placing no. 20 at 1778, though apparently it was preached in 1775; moreover, no. 43 was preached in 1789, but we reprint the second edition from 1794, in which the author, David Osgood, updated his text, and which prompted a number of responses then and in 1795. Finally, no. 37 is placed with a conjectural publication date at 1791, when it was preached. Yet it may not have appeared in print until eleven years later, as indicated on the facsimile page included with it.

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Bibliographic Note

No systematic bibliographic essay can be undertaken here, but some brief comments on the sources may be helpful to the reader.

A bibliography of generally relevant writings is included in Ellis Sandoz, A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion and the American Founding (Baton Rouge, La., 1990), a study that is in many respects a companion to the present volume. Extensive bibliographic information on the religious writings of the period and on pertinent secondary works can be gleaned from the notes to Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (New York, 1986); and to Donald Weber, Rhetoric and History in Revolutionary New England (New York, 1988), a work attentive to the politics–religion issues.

The Great Awakening in America, its significance and aftermath, is best presented by Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind from the Great Awakening to the Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1966); and by Heimert and Perry Miller, eds., The Great Awakening: Documents Illustrating the Crisis and Its Consequences (Indianapolis, 1967); valuable also is William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition (Boston, 1967) and the same author’s “The Great Awakening as the Key to the Revolution,” in Jack P. Greene and William G. McLoughlin, Preachers & Politicians: Two Essays on the Origins of the American Revolution (Worcester, Mass., 1977). Important also is Weber, Rhetoric and History, Chap. 1 and passim. Still fundamental is Herbert Osgood, The American Colonies in the Eighteenth Century, 4 vols. (New York, 1924) (see the third volume, especially at pp. 407–90); and Carl Bridenbaugh, Mitre and Sceptre: Transatlantic Faiths, Ideas, Personalities, and Politics, 1689–1775 (New York, 1962); and the same author’s The Spirit of ’76 (New York, 1976). Also, from the abundant literature on Jonathan Edwards, Sr., who was pivotal in the Awakening, may be mentioned Alan Heimert’s book cited above, and Norman Fiering, Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context (Chapel Hill, N. C., 1981); also Nathan O. Hatch and Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] Harry S. Stout, eds., Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience (New York, 1988).

The key bibliographic works for early American history utilized in making this collection include the following standard works: Joseph Sabin, Wilberforce Eames, and R.W.G. Vail, Bibliotheca Americana. A Dictionary of Books relating to America from its Discovery to the Present Time, 29 vols. (New York, 1868–1936); Charles Evans and Clifford K. Shipton, American Bibliography. A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from the Genesis of Printing in 1639 down to and including the year 1820. With bibliographical and biographical notes, 14 vols. (Chicago, New York, and Worcester, Mass., 1903–1959); Richard P. Bristol, Supplement to Charles Evans’ American Bibliography, 2 vols. (Charlottesville, Va., 1970). The some 50,000 items listed in the Evans and Shipton and Bristol works are revised and corrected in Clifford K. Shipton and James E. Mooney, National Index of American Imprints through 1800; the Short-title Evans, 2 vols. (Worcester, Mass., 1969). In turn, this work serves as the index for the vast Readex microprint edition: Clifford K. Shipton, ed., Early American Imprints, 1639–1800 (Worcester, Mass. and New York, 1955–1983), which provides copies of all extant American publications (except newspapers and broadsides) of between 1639 and 1800.

The principal sources for the biographical notes preceding each sermon are reference books which are not cited unless directly quoted. Since most of the authors included in the volume were clergymen of New England or the Middle Atlantic region and—with the notable exception of many Awakening evangelists such as the Baptists Isaac Backus and John Leland—graduates of one of the early colleges, the following reference works were relied upon especially: Frederick Lewis Weis, New England Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England (Lancaster, Mass., 1936); the same author’s Colonial Churches and the Colonial Clergy of the Middle and Southern Colonies, 1607–1776 (Lancaster, Mass., 1938); John L. Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17 vols. (Boston, 1873–1975); Franklin B. Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, 6 vols. (New York, 1885–1912); William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 9 vols. (New York, 1857–1869); James McLachlan and Richard A. Harrison, Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 3 vols. to date (Princeton, N.J., 1976–1981).

Of considerable help also were James A. Levernier and Douglas R. Wilmes, eds., American Writers Before 1800, 3 vols. (Westport, Ct., 1983); A.W. Plumstead, ed., The Wall and the Garden: Selected Massachusetts Election Sermons, 1670–1775 (Minneapolis, 1968); Thomas R. Adams, American Independence: The Growth of an Idea, 2d ed. (Austin and New Haven, 1980); the same author’s The American Controversy, 2 vols. (Providence and New York, 1980); Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 vols. (Chicago, 1969); Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, et al., eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 22 vols. (New York, 1928–1958); Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 22 vols. (Oxford, 1917–1950); and Frederick Barton, ed., Pulpit Power and Eloquence: Or, 100 Best Sermons of the Nineteenth Century, 3 vols. (Cleveland, 1901).

Of value for understanding the New England election sermons is the introductory and other editorial material in Thornton, The Pulpit of the American Revolution; also, editorial material in Plumstead, The Wall and the Garden. In Chapter 2 of Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province (1953; rpr. Boston, 1961), and throughout, the election sermons as jeremiads are the focus of the study. Miller is critiqued and his argument much expanded in Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison, Wis., 1978). These sermons, and their evolution over time as a distinctive rhetorical form, are analyzed in Teresa Toulouse, The Art of Prophesying: New England Sermons and the Shaping of Belief (Athens, Ga., 1987). The anthology of telling extracts from the election sermons previously published by Liberty Fund is indicative of this mass of material: Franklin P. Cole, ed., They Preached Liberty (Indianapolis, 1976). For specific identifications see R.W.G. Vail, “A Check List of New England Election Sermons,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (Oct. 1935; rpr. Worcester, Mass, 1936), 3–36; Lindsay Swift, “The Massachusetts Election Sermons,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. 1: Transactions, 1892–1894, 388–451; Harry H. Edes, “Appendix: List of Preachers of Election Sermons,” in Charles E. Grinnell, Fanaticism: A Sermon Delivered Before the Executive and Legislative Departments of the Government of Massachusetts at the Annual Election, Wednesday, January 4, 1871 (Boston, 1871), 33–61.

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In the following, keyed by number to various sermons, are sources that are supplemental to the information given in the biographical notes:

No. 1. Benjamin Colman is the subject of analysis in Toulouse, The Art of Prophesying, Chap. 2.

No. 3. Besides Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants, only two published sermons by Elisha Williams have survived: Death the Advantage of the Godly and Divine Grace Illustrious, both dated 1728.

No. 4. The writings of George Whitefield were gathered in an incomplete edition by John Gillies in The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, 6 vols. (London, 1770–72).

No. 8. Jonathan Mayhew’s famous early sermon, Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers (1750) is reprinted with a valuable introduction and notes in Bailyn, ed., Pamphlets of the American Revolution and in Thornton, ed., Pulpit of the American Revolution; seven sermons by Mayhew are available in a reprinted collection, Mayhew, Sermons (New York, 1969).

No. 9. A number of John Zubly’s writings are reprinted in Randall Miller, ed., “A Warm and Zealous Spirit . . .” (Macon, Ga., 1982); see also the valuable biography by M. Jimmie Killingworth in American Writers Before 1800, 1666–69.

No. 10. A facsimile reprint of John Allen’s An Oration Upon the Beauties of Liberty, along with an introduction by Reta A. Gilbert, can be found in G.J. Gravlee and J.E. Irvine, eds., Pamphlets and the American Revolution: Rhetoric, Politics, Literature, and the Popular Press; Commemorative Edition, 1776–1976 (Delmar, N.Y., 1976). For the sermon’s publication history, see Thomas R. Adams, American Independence: The Growth of an Idea (New Haven, Ct., 1980), 68–70.

No. 11. Isaac Backus’s An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty is hailed as the most important of his thirty-seven published tracts and as “central to the whole movement for separation of Church and State in America” by William G. McLoughlin in Isaac Backus, 123; it is reprinted with valuable editorial matter in the same author’s Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism: Pamphlets, 1754–1789 (Cambridge, Mass., 1968).

No. 13. John Wesley’s A Calm Address, its impact and the surrounding controversy, are analyzed in two articles by Frank Baker Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] and by Donald H. Kirkham in Methodist History, 14 (Oct. 1975), 3–23.

No. 16. On Samuel Sherwood’s The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness, the reader is referred to Melvin B. Endy, Jr., “Just War, Holy War, and Millennialism in Revolutionary America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 42 (Jan. 1985), 3–25 at 16; a thorough analysis of the sermon is given in Stephen J. Stein, “An Apocalyptic Rationale for the American Revolution,” Early American Literature, 9 (1975), 211–25. Regarding the Appendix to this sermon, see Evans, American Bibliography, No. 13614.

No. 17. John Witherspoon’s The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men is reprinted from the third volume of The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon, 2d ed., 4 vols. (Philadelphia, 1802). See also the annotated edition of Witherspoon’s important Lectures on Moral Philosophy, ed. Jack Scott (Newark, N. J., 1982); also Garry Wills, Explaining America (New York, 1981); B. J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York, 1848); and David C. Whitney and David S. Lovejoy, Founders of Freedom in America (Chicago, 1964).

No. 18. John Fletcher’s A Vindication of the Rev. Mr. Wesley’s “Calm Address” . . . (1776) may be found in Works, 7 vols. (London, 1774–87), reprinted in a London edition in 1815 and a New York edition in 1849.

No. 21. A chapter is devoted to Samuel Cooper in Weber, Rhetoric and History, 113–32; and there is a biography: Charles W. Akers, The Divine Politician: Samuel Cooper and the American Revolution in Boston (Boston, 1982). Some 146 sermons by Cooper are extant, the bulk of them in the Cooper Papers at the Huntington Library.

No. 30. A great many of Nathanael Emmons’s sermons were collected with his theological writings and published in Jacob Ide, ed., Works of Nathanael Emmons, D.D., 6 vols. (n.p., 1842–50; 2d ed., 1861–63). Ide was Emmons’s son-in-law and both editions include memoirs by him and E. A. Park.

No. 32. Samuel Langdon’s election sermon of 1775, entitled Government Corrupted by Vice, and Recovered by Righteousness, is reprinted with an introduction and editorial annotation in Plumstead, ed., The Wall and the Garden, 347–73.

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No. 34. On the American pamphlets of Richard Price, see the annotated volume by Bernard Peach, ed., Richard Price and the Ethical Foundations of the American Revolution (Durham, N.C., 1979). On the debate with Edmund Burke triggered by the sermon here reprinted, see Robert B. Dishman, ed., Burke and Paine on Revolution and the Rights of Man (New York, 1971).

No. 36. On Israel Evans, see John Calvin Thorne, A Monograph on the Reverend Israel Evans (1902; rpr. New York, 1907).

No. 37. John Leland was the supposed author of The Yankee Spy (1794), which is reprinted in Hyneman and Lutz, eds., American Political Writing, II: 971–89. A collection of his works, including the present piece, is L.F. Greene, ed., Writings of Elder John Leland (1845; rpr. New York, 1969). Important correspondence passed between the Baptist leader and James Madison, bearing on the genesis of both the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and the First Amendment liberties in the Bill of Rights; see William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison, 17 vols. to date (Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962– ), VIII: 295–96; X: 516, 540–42; XI: 185, 304, 386, 408, 414, 415, 424, 442–43.

No. 42. Jonathan Edwards, Jr., is the subject of a chapter in Weber, Rhetoric and History.

No. 44. An excellent bibliography for Noah Webster is provided at the end of the article on him by William Vartorella in American Writers Before 1800. The Webster Bible is available in a recent reprint of the New Haven, 1833 edition (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1987).

No. 47. John Thayer’s autobiographical An Account of the Conversion of the Reverend John Thayer, lately a Protestant minister, who embraced the Roman Catholic Religion at Rome, on the 25th of May, 1783 (6th ed.: Wilmington, N.C., 1789) is of considerable interest and aroused widespread comment.

No. 52. Tunis Wortman’s publications also include An Oration on the Influence of Social Institutions Upon Human Morals and Happiness, Delivered Before the Tammany Society (1796) and An Address to the Republican Citizens of New York on the Inauguration of Thomas Jefferson (1801). A good sketch of his life is given by Nelson S. Dearmont in American Writers Before 1800.

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Chronology: 1688–1773

*Sermons are listed by year of publication and precede the events in the given year, except as noted.
1688 In the Glorious Revolution, James II (House of Stuart) abdicates the throne under great pressure because of his policies and Roman Catholic faith.
1689 The Declaration of Rights (Feb. 13), Toleration Act (May 24), and English Bill of Rights (Dec. 16) are adopted.
1690 John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is published, as well as his Two Treatises of Government.
1692 In the period of the Salem witch trials, 20 people (14 women) are executed.
1693 The College of William and Mary is started in Williamsburg, Virginia, by the Anglicans; the second oldest institution of higher education in America, it is one of nine religion-based colonial colleges.
1697 Official repentance following the Salem witch trials; an offer of compensatory indemnities to aggrieved families for unjust punishment is made by the Massachusetts General Court.
1698 Algernon Sidney’s Discourses Concerning Government, which derives Locke’s position from the Bible and religious premises, is published in London and widely read in America.
1699 John Locke’s three essays on religious toleration, published separately at various times during the 1690s, are published together.
1701 Yale College is founded by conservative Congregationalists.
1702 Cotton Mather publishes the most famous of his some 400 works, Magnalia Christi Americana; or, The Ecclesiastical History of New England.
1706 Francis Makemie, the father of Presbyterianism in America, organizes his first American presbytery.
1707 The first session of the Baptist Association, meeting in Philadelphia, involves five churches.
1708 Members of various Calvinist sects from the German Rhineland begin to arrive in large numbers in Pennsylvania.
1709 Publication of Bishop Benjamin Hoadley’s The Origin and Institute of Civil Government helps popularize John Locke’s thinking and helps make ministers in America a major conduit for Locke’s ideas.
1728 Jewish colonists erect the first American synagogue in New York.
1729 Benjamin Franklin purchases The Pennsylvania Gazette, the most popular newspaper of the colonial era.
1731 Benjamin Franklin forms the Library Company in Philadelphia, the first circulating library in America—later to be used by members of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention.
1733 Georgia (Savannah) is founded by General Oglethorpe. Georgia is the last of the 13 original American colonies to be settled.
1736 John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism, return from Georgia.
1738 George Whitefield, the great revivalist, makes his first trip to America.
1741 The purifying Calvinism of Jonathan Edwards, Sr., vies with a more common religious liberalism exemplified by his contemporary Benjamin Franklin. Edwards this year delivers his famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, which is widely reprinted.
1742 Whitefield makes his second trip to America. (He will return five more times to evangelize: 1744–48, 1751–52, 1754–55, 1763–65, and 1769–70.) The Great Awakening, or revival, is led by Whitefield, Gilbert and William Tennent, Joseph Bellamy, Jonathan Edwards, Sr., Jonathan Dickinson, James Davenport, and others. The Great Awakening “clearly began a new era, not merely of American Protestantism but in the evolution of the American mind” (Alan Heimert & Perry Miller).
Benjamin Franklin is prominent in the formation of the American Philosophical Society, the first learned society in America.
The College of New Jersey is founded by New Side Presbyterians in response to the Great Awakening (it is renamed Princeton in 1896).
1750 Almost a third of the people of Philadelphia, the largest city in America and the second largest in the British Empire, now owe their living to a craft of some kind.
Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws is published in English.
1751 The Academy and College of Philadelphia, later to become the University of Pennsylvania, is founded by Benjamin Franklin and other laymen to be a secular institution that specializes in the teaching of utilitarian subjects.
Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals is published.
1752 Benjamin Franklin gains worldwide fame with his kite experiment.
1754 Col. George Washington, age 22, and a force of Virginians surrender to the French at Fort Necessity (July 3).
King’s College (renamed Columbia in 1784) opens in New York. It is interdenominational and has no theological faculty.
On June 19, the Albany Convention meets as the first concerted effort to unite the colonies. The Albany “Plan of Union” is approved on July 10, written by Benjamin Franklin. It is rejected by the colonies and by England.
Jonathan Edwards, Sr., publishes his treatise On the Freedom of the Will, considered by many to be the most brilliant American theological study of the century.
1755 Francis Hutcheson’s A System of Moral Philosophy is published in London.
The French and Indian War is the American part of the Seven Year’s War (1755–63). The battles for Niagara, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point in 1759 see major contributions made by the colonists. Montreal and Quebec fall to the British. The British gain control of Detroit. During the war the American economy reaches a point of development to be internally self-sustaining.
George III, who will reign until 1820, takes the throne determined to “act like a king.”
1762 Benjamin Franklin publishes his Advice to a Young Tradesman, David Hume publishes the final volume of his widely read History of England in London, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes A Treatise on the Social Contract in Amsterdam.
1763 By the Treaty of Paris, Britain gains all of Canada and Louisiana east of the Mississippi River (Feb. 10).
Patrick Henry argues the “Parson’s Cause” in Virginia after the British disallow a Virginia statute (Dec.).
1764 The College of Rhode Island is founded by the Baptists (it is renamed Brown University in 1804).
1765 The Stamp Act (Mar. 22) and Quartering Act (Mar. 24) are imposed. Nine of the colonies send delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York (Oct. 7–25).
Patrick Henry’s fiery “treason” speech in the Virginia House of Burgesses is published as the influential Virginia Resolves (May 29).
1766 THE SNARE BROKEN, Jonathan Mayhew
Queens College is established by the Dutch Reformed Church (it is renamed Rutgers in 1825).
1767 The Townshend Acts (June 29) impose duties on glass, lead, paint, paper, tea, etc.
Adam Ferguson’s Essay on the History of Civil Society is published in Edinburgh.
1768 John Dickinson of Pennsylvania arouses public opinion with his “Letters from a Farmer.”
Beginning in March, merchants in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston debate and adopt nonimportation agreements.
1769 AN HUMBLE INQUIRY, John Joachim Zubly
Daniel Boone leads settlers over the mountains to Kentucky.
Blackstone publishes the last volume of his four-volume work, Commentaries on the Laws of England.
Dartmouth College is founded by Reverend Eleazar Wheelock.
1770 Several Americans are killed in the Boston Massacre (Mar. 5). Samuel Adams publishes a description of the event in “Innocent Blood Crying to God from the Streets of Boston.” The British commander’s defense attorneys John Adams and Josiah Quincy win his acquittal.
1772 The Committee of Correspondence is organized when Samuel Adams calls a Boston town meeting; other towns form similar committees (Nov. 2–Jan. 1773).
The Boston Tea Party: 342 casks of tea are dumped into Boston Harbor from the British ship Dartmouth, by men disguised as Mohawk Indians, after a meeting of 8,000 Bostonians at Old South Church, conducted by Samuel Adams (Dec. 16).
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Benjamin Colman
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Benjamin Colman (1673–1747). One of the prominent clergymen of his day, Colman became in 1699 the first pastor of Boston’s Brattle Street Church, where he found himself at odds with Increase and Cotton Mather because of certain of his views that deviated from strict Congregationalism. His B.A. and A.M. degrees were from Harvard, and he was awarded an S.T.D. by the University of Glasgow. In 1724 he declined the presidency of Harvard, but he served as one of its trustees (1717–28) and remained an overseer, in addition to his ministry at Brattle Street Church, until his death. A prolific author with more than ninety published titles to his credit, he was a supporter of the evangelical movement stirred by the Great Awakening and was a commissioner of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and for Parts Adjacent. Thrice married, Colman was survived by his third wife, Mary Frost.

The sermon reprinted here was preached at the Thursday Lecture in Boston on August 13, 1730.

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For the Pillars of the Earth are the Lord’s, and He hath set the World upon them.

1 Sam. ii. 8.

The words are part of a raptrous and heavenly song, utter’d by a devout, inspir’d and transported mother in Israel, upon a great and joyful occasion. If the Divine Eternal Spirit please to inspire and speak by a gracious woman, it is the same thing to us, and requires our reverend attention as much, as if he raise up a Moses or an Elias, or make his revelations by a Paul or John.

Samuel, the rare and wonderful son of inspir’d Hannah, never outspake his lovely mother in any of his prayers or acts of praise. Eli would have sat at her feet, and laid himself in the dust, at the hearing of this flowing torrent of fervent devotion from her beauteous lips; and saints thro’ all ages hang on the heavenly music of her tongue.

Great things are here said of God, and of his government, in the families and kingdoms of men; and such wise and just observations are made, as are worthy of deep contemplation by the greatest and best of men. Had she like Deborah been the princess of the tribes of Israel, she could not have spoken with more loftiness and majesty, with more authority and command; nor better have address’d the nobles and rulers, the captains and the mighty men; to humble and lay ’em low before God.

“She celebrates the Lord God of Israel,* his unspotted purity, his almighty power, his unsearchable wisdom, and his unerring justice”:

In the praises of these she joys and triumphs, her heart was exalted and her mouth enlarged.

“She adores the divine sovereignty in its disposals of the affairs of the children of men; in the strange and sudden turns given to them; in the rise & fall of persons, families & countries. “She observes how the strong are soon weakned, and the weak are soon strengthned, when God pleases: How the rich are soon impoverish’d, and the poor inriched on a sudden: How empty families are replenish’d, and numerous families diminished[”]: All this is of the Lord;

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He maketh poor and maketh rich, He bringeth low and lifteth up: He raiseth up the poor out of Dust, and lifteth up the Beggar from the Dunghill; to set them among Princes, and make them inherit the Throne of Glory; For the Pillars of the Earth are the Lord’s, and He hath set the World upon them.

Thus my text is introduced as a reason for those dispensations of God towards a person, a family, or a people, which at any time are to us most surprising and admirable.

1. The things spoken of are great and mighty; the Pillars of the Earth. The earth is a vast fabrick, and in proportion to its mighty bulk must its pillars be.

The metaphor is plainly taken from architecture; as in stately, spacious and magnificent structures we often see rows of pillars, to sustain the roof and lofty towers. But whether we apply this manner of expression to the natural or moral earth, it is figurative and not literal.

The natural earth has no pillar. The will and word of God is its only basis. It seems to us who dwell on it fix’d and immoveable in the air. It keeps it’s place and line there, as if it were set on some lasting solid pillars, and never mov’d at all.

We darkly philosophise upon the point, and talk of the poles of heaven; which are more unintelligible to a common audience than the pillars of it. We speak obscurely of the earth’s being fixed on it’s own center. And we discourse more intelligibly of the secret power of magnetism which is in matter; whereby bodies mutually attract or gravitate toward each other; by which the mighty globes of the universe preserve their distance, motion and order.

This seems to be the only natural pillar of the earth: The amazing work and power of God. And the planets which roll in the same circle with us, have all of ’em the same pillars. That is to say, all bodies thro’ the whole solar system attract or gravitate toward each other, with forces according to their quantities of matter.

But after all this fine doctrine in our new philosophy, concerning the centripetal forces of the sun and planets; a plain Christian is much more edified by the simple and vulgar account which the sacred pages give us of this mysterious thing:* “He stretcheth out the North over the empty space, and hangeth the Earth upon nothing! He hath founded it upon Edition: current; Page: [13] the Seas, and established it upon the Floods.” Which is to say, No man knows how or where, this vast material frame finds it’s basis and station.

Let us hear God again on the point, and say no more upon it;

Job xxxviii. Who is this that darkneth Counsel by Words without Knowledge? Gird up now thy Loins like a Man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me. Where wast thou when I laid the Foundations of the Earth? Declare if thou hast Understanding. Who hath laid the Measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the Line upon it? Whereupon are the Foundations thereof fastned? or who laid the Corner-stone thereof?

We see then that the natural earth has no pillars, in any proper sense; Neither has the moral earth, (i.e. the inhabitants of it) any, but in a metaphorical sense: And so the princes and rulers of it are called it’s pillars; because the affairs of the world ly upon their shoulders, and turn upon their conduct and management, in a very great degree.

And thus the text explains it self, and is to be interpreted from the scope of our context; which speaks of the Bows of the mighty Men, and of the Thrones of Princes, and then adds—the Pillars of the Earth. So that by pillars we are to understand governours and rulers among men; but not the persons that bear rule, so much as the order it self, government and magistracy. For the persons may be weak and slender reeds, little able of themselves to bear up any thing; and here and there they may fall; but the order stands and doth indeed uphold the world.

2. The things said of these pillars of the earth are also very great: “They are the Lord’s, and He has set the World upon them.[”] That is to say, The order and happiness of this lower world, the peace and weal of it, depend on the civil government which God has ordained in it. All this is very elegant and rhetorical, a high and noble strain of speech, upon the highest subject that belongs to this our earth.


The Great God has made the governments and rulers of the earth it’s pillars, and has set the world upon them.

1. The governments and rulers of the earth are it’s pillars.

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2. These pillars of the earth are the Lord’s.

3. He has set the world upon them.

I. The governments and rulers of the earth are it’s pillars.

The pillar is a part of great use and honour in the building: So is magistracy in the world. One style in scripture for it is, foundations and corner-stones. Where we read of the Chief* of the People, in the Hebrew it is the corners. We read also of the Foundations of the Earth being out of Course. The meaning is, the government of it was so. Kings bear up and support the inferior pillars of government, and a righteous administration restores a dissolving state: Psal. lxxv. 3. The Earth and all the Inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the Pillars of it.

In like manner, wise and faithful ministers are pillars in the Church: Which is built on the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief Corner-stone, Eph. ii. 20. The prophet Jeremiah was made by God an iron pillar: And of Peter, James and John we read, that they seemed to be Pillars: Gal. ii. 9. They were deservedly so reputed, and truly so in the Church of Christ. Famous are the Lord’s words to Peter, Matth. xvi. 18. Thou art Peter, and on this Rock will I build my Church. And when John had the vision of the New-Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, it is said that the Wall of the City had twelve Foundations, and in them the Names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

Now the design and use of pillars in a building is one of these two, or both together: 1. For strength to uphold it, or 2. For beauty to adorn it.

1. The governments and rulers of the earth are its pillars in respect of strength to uphold and support the virtue, order and peace of it. Pillars should be made strong, and commonly are so; of stone and marble, iron and brass. And it had need be a strong Rod to be a Sceptre to Rule, Ezek. xix. 14. Magistrates need be strong, for government is a great weight; and it is laid upon their shoulders. Moses felt the weight and said, I am not able to bear this People alone

2. The governments and rulers of the earth are it’s pillars for ornament, to adorn it. Pillars in a fine building are made as beautiful as may be; they are plan’d and polish’d, wrought and carv’d with much art and cost, painted and gilded, for sight as well as use. As the legs Edition: current; Page: [15] are to a body, comely in it’s goings: Such are pillars in a stately structure for beauty to the eye. It is the allusion of the spouse, recounting the beauties of her beloved, Cant. v. 15. His Legs are as Pillars of Marble, set upon Sockets of fine Gold. A bold and elegant comparison, becoming the pen of Solomon, who had built the temple of God with all it’s pillars. They represented the strength of Christ and his stability, to bear the weight of the government laid upon him; and also the magnificence of the Goings of God our King in the Sanctuary: Likewise the steadiness of the divine administration. So those in power and magistracy are to be supposed, men adorn’d with superior gifts, powers and beauties of mind: Men that adorn the world wherein they live, and the offices which they sustain. And then their office adorns them also, and sets them in conspicuous places, where what is great and good in them is seen of all. To be sure, government and magistracy adorn the world as well as preserve it.

1. Magistrates uphold and adorn the world, as pillars do a fabrick, by employing their superior wisdom and knowledge, skill and prudence, discretion and judgment for the publick good. These accomplishments are to be supposed in the civil order, and they render ’em the pillars of the earth.

Wisdom is both strength and beauty, a defence and ornament. So Solomon shines among kings, for the Wisdom of God was in Him. God gave him Wisdom and Knowledge exceeding much, and Largeness of Heart even as the Sand upon the Sea-shore. Angels excel in strength, and rulers should be wise as the angels of God. The government is laid on Christ because in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the wisdom of God and the power of God. As God at first founded the earth by his wisdom, and by his understanding established the heavens; so by the communication of wisdom and understanding to some, he preserves the order and happiness of others on it. What is said of a house is true of a state,

Thro’ Wisdom it is builded, and by Understanding it is established, and by Knowledge shall the Chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant Riches: A wise Man is strong, yea a Man of Knowledge increaseth Strength.*

But then, Is the pillar for ornament? What is more beautiful than knowledge and wisdom? What more adorns a man, a place, a country? Edition: current; Page: [16] The queen of Sheba came far to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and Huram was as much struck as she was: 2 Chron. ii. 12. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath given to David the King a wise Son, endued with Prudence and Understanding, who may build a House for the Lord, and an House for the Kingdom.

2. Integrity, uprightness, faithfulness added to knowledge and wisdom, makes men strong and beautiful pillars, whether in church or state. Every man is ready to pretend to a competency of wisdom, and as ready to proclaim his own Goodness; but a faithful Man who can find? Prov. xx. 6. He is a rare and beauteous spectacle, as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Jehojada, Hezekiah and Nehemiah, in their times, and to the end of time. All that rule over men should be like to these, just men ruling in the fear of the Lord, and then they are to the world as the light and rain, without which the earth must perish. As darkness vanishes before the light, so a King that sitteth upon the Throne of Judgment scattereth away all Evil with his Eyes. David, that pillar of Israel, came into the government with that noble purpose and resolution, Psal. lxxv. 3. When I shall receive the Congregation, I will judge uprightly. So he fed them in the integrity of his heart, and led them by the skilfulness of his hands. God’s righteousness and faithfulness, justice and judgment, are the foundation of his everlasting government, the habitation of his throne. See the pillars of the divine government; Psal. xxxvi. 5, 6. Thy Faithfulness reacheth to the Clouds, thy Righteousness is as the great Mountains. Nor can the kingdoms and provinces on the earth stand, but on the like basis of a just and righteous humane government. Psal. lxxii. 3. The Mountains shall bring Peace to the People, and the little Hills by Righteousness. “Both the superior and inferior magistrates shall minister abundantly to the stability and tranquility of the state.[”]

3. A publick and enlarged spirit for the common weal and a single regard thereunto, without suffering our selves to be misled by private and selfish views. This renders men pillars to the world, in the places wherein Providence sets ’em. And so,

4. A spirit of peace and love, meekness and humility, candour and gentleness; whereby persons are ready to unite their counsels, and act in concert with one another; paying a just deference one to another and preferring one another in honour; glad to receive light from any one, and well pleased to reflect it from them; all pursuing one end, as the many pillars in a great house stand quietly near to one another, Edition: current; Page: [17] and all help to bear it up: This spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, render men strong and beautiful pillars of the earth. But if the peace of God rule not in mens hearts; if their passions shake ’em and they clash with one another; the house totters, the high arches above cleave asunder, and the roof falls in; as when Sampson bow’d the pillars of Dagons house, and buried the lewd assembly in one vast ruine.

5. A pillar implies fortitude and patience; resolution, firmness and strength of mind, under weight and burden: Not to be soon shaken in mind, nor moved away from what is right and just; but giving our reason in the meekness of wisdom, and hearing the reasons of others in the same spirit of meekness, to form an impartial judgment, and abide by it; But yet with submission to the publick judgment and determination. The unstable are as water, and more fitly likened to the waves of the sea, than to a pillar on shore. And the irresolute, discouraged and sinking mind is at best but a pillar built upon the sand; which falls when the wind blows and the storm beats upon it, because of its weak foundation.

There is a passive courage, ever necessary in an accomplish’d ruler, as much it may be as an active. The pillar stands regardless thro’ the weather beat on it, or tho’ dirt be cast on it. True it will wear under the injuries of time, but it looks still great, and stands while it wears away. The wise, the meek & strong Moses stood as many shocks, as ever man did from an impatient, murmuring, ungrateful people.

But this for the first head; the governments and rulers of the earth are its pillars.

II. These pillars of the earth are the Lord’s.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. All are God’s rightful propriety & dominion. The shields of the earth belong to him. These are the same with the pillars of it.

1. The Lord makes these pillars, forms fashions ’em, polishes and adorns ’em. He gifts, qualifies and furnishes all whom he calls out to public service. He makes the more plain and rough, and he orders the carved work and gilding in his house. He, the Father of Light & Glory, gives men their natural powers and excellencies; and all their acquired gifts are from him.

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He looketh upon all the Inhabitants of the Earth, He fashioneth their Hearts alike, He considereth all their Works. In the Hearts of all that are wise-hearted He putteth Wisdom. Both Wisdom and Might are His: Counsel is His and sound Wisdom; He is Understanding, He is Strength; by Him Kings rule and Princes decree Judgment.*

He gave to David integrity, and to Solomon wisdom; and both were pillars of his framing.

2. Both the order & the persons are of the Lord’s ordering, constituting and appointing. Civil government is of divine institution, and God commissions and entrusts with the administration whom he pleases. The great King of the World has order’d a government in it, and he raises up governours, supream and subordinate. There is no Power but of God; the Powers that be are ordained of Him. He puts the scepter into the hand, and the spirit of government into the heart.

3. The pillars are the Lord’s, for he disposes of them as he pleases; places and fixes them where he will; rears ’em when he sees fit; and when he will removes, or takes ’em down: Or if he has no pleasure in them, breaks ’em to pieces and throws ’em away.

He removeth Kings, and setteth up Kings: For Promotion cometh neither from the East, nor from the West, nor from the South: But GOD is the Judge; He putteth down one and setteth up another: He leadeth Counsellors away spoiled & maketh the Judges fools: He looseth the Bond of Kings, and girdeth their Loins with a Girdle: He leadeth Princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the Mighty.

Thus the sovereign GOD forms the pillars of the earth, prepares ’em, sets ’em up, ordains the places and times of their standing; takes ’em down and puts others in their room. He calls, and uses whom he will, inclines and spirits how he will, and improves to what degree he will. They are his therefore, and his is the greatness and the glory and the majesty! And to him it must be ascribed both by the persons endowed and raised by him, and by others interested in them: 1 Chron. xxix. 12, 13. Both Riches and Honour come of Thee, and in thy Hand is Power and Might, and in thy Hand it is to make Great, and to give Strength unto all: Now therefore, our GOD, we praise Thee, and bless thy Name for ever and ever.

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But to do the utmost honour to the civil order among men, and to give yet greater glory to GOD, let us come to the third and last part of our text.

III. GOD hath set the world upon the governments and rulers, whom he has made the pillars of it.

The natural world is in the hand of GOD, and is upheld in it’s being and order by his power. The moral world is most upon his heart, and govern’d in a way and manner suted to the nature and present state of man. And as he governs the spirits of men when he pleases by immediate impressions on them; so as more proper to the present order and happiness of mankind, he has appointed the government of men to be by men. So the peace, tranquility and flourishing of places are made to depend on the wisdom and fidelity of their rulers, in the good administration of the government. While the utmost misery and confusion befals those places where the government is ill administred. The reason is given in the text, GOD has set the World on this foot; it can’t stand on any other bottom. The virtue and religion of a people, their riches and trade, their power, honour and reputation; and the favour of GOD toward them, with his blessing on them; do greatly depend on the pious, righteous and faithful government which they are under.

GOD hath set: As well in the nature of things, as in his word. Government is not a creature of man’s lust and will, but of divine constitution, and from a necessity in the nature of things. The very being and weal of society depends thereon.

Government was not in the original of it assumed or usurped by any one man. For instance, not by Lamech before the Flood, nor by Nimrod after it. Indeed the spirit of tyranny, and the lust of dominion, seem to have began in them; but order & rule was before them. Mankind naturally went into that, and these were the men who made the first breaches on it; the one being of the race of Cain, the other of Ham; who have had some of their likeness in every place, and thro’ all generations; that would turn the world upside down and overthrow the foundations which GOD has laid.

In a word, magistracy, like the other ordinances of heaven, stands by the power and blessing of GOD; who effectually owns it and works by it, establishes the earth and it abideth. He has graven it deep in the hearts of men, even as the desire of happiness and self-preservation. Edition: current; Page: [20] He has as much ordained, that while the earth remaineth civil order and government shall not cease; as he has sworn that seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not. Both the one and the other equally continue to the world’s end, absolutely necessary to the life, comfort and welfare of mankind.


I shall now make a few reflections, by way of practical inference and improvement.

1. See the divine wisdom and goodness in ordaining and establishing a magistracy and government in the world. It is one of the many great instances, wherein the Supream Governour of the world has taken care for the universal and perpetual weal of it. And they that would be lawless and ungoverned, despising dominion and speaking evil of dignity, distinction, authority and rule among men, act as madly and mischievously as one would do, that should go into a house and sap the foundation of it, till it fall upon him and crush him to death.

It is one evident mark of the Romish imposture, and of the spirit of Antichrist, that it has invaded, usurp’d upon and subverted the authority of kings and princes, governments and states, over their subjects. The popes claim of supremacy transfers the allegiance of subjects to a foreign power, and absolves ’em from their oaths. This alone is a sufficient mark of the Beast and of the man of sin. What confusion and vexation has the world suffered from this insolent & monstrous doctrine! And how strange is it that so many kingdoms and nations of Europe should so long wander after it, to their infinite misrule & distraction! But the word & dreadful judgment of GOD must be fulfilled on a wicked world.

The Reformed churches took early care to protest against this doctrine of devils. They declared for a “conscientious subjection and obedience to the laws and magistrates under which they liv’d, and by whom they were protected & defended in their just rights and liberties.[”] “Every kind of magistracy (say the Helvetian churches) is instituted by GOD, for the peace and happiness of man, and all subjects should own the goodness of GOD in the institution of a magistrate, by honouring him as the minister of GOD.[”]

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These are some of the just and true principles of the Protestant religion, according to the oracles of GOD in this matter:

Rom. xiii. 1–5. Let every Soul be subject unto the higher Powers: For there is no Power but of GOD; the Powers that be are ordained of GOD: Whosoever therefore resisteth the Power, resisteth the Ordinance of GOD. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for Wrath (or fear of punishment) but also for Conscience sake. Render therefore unto all their Dues, Tribute to whom Tribute is due, Custom to whom Custom, Fear to whom Fear, and Honour to whom Honour. Tit. iii. 1. Put them in mind to be subject to Principalities and Powers, to obey Magistrates. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. Submit your selves to every Ordinance of Man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the King as supream, or unto Governours as unto them that are sent by Him: For so is the Will of GOD.

Let us very gratefully observe these precepts, for they are very graciously given us for the good of the world.

2. Are magistrates the pillars of the earth? Are they the Lord’s? and has he set the world upon them? Let us then devoutly observe the governing Providence of GOD in disposing of persons and offices, both with respect unto our selves and others.

As to our selves, let GOD lead, and Providence open our way, and let us follow humbly & obediently. Let us think soberly of our selves, and not vainly pine after honour and power, or wickedly push for it like Absalom. But neither need we hide our selves like Saul, when the divine call is plain, nor insist on excuses like the meek and accomplished Moses. Or if again Providence lays us by, why should we not retire with Samuel’s humility and greatness of soul.

And then as to others, Let us not think our selves neglected or overlook’d, be envious and discontent, if GOD prefer them. Suffer the Most High to rule in the kingdoms of men, and to give the provinces that belong to ‘em to whomsoever he will. Let us know and keep our own place, and do our duty to those whom GOD sets over us.

Let people reverence & honour their worthy rulers, and let the highest among men be very humble before GOD. They are pillars, but of the earth. The earth and its pillars are dissolving together. Government abides, in a succession of men, while the earth endures, but the persons, however good & great, must die like other men. We must not look too much at the loftiness of any, nor lean too much on any earthly pillar: Put not your Trust in Princes, nor in the Son of Man in Edition: current; Page: [22] whom there is no Help: His Breath goeth forth, he returneth to his Dust. Nor may the highest among mortals behold themselves with elation & security, as the vain king of Babylon once; but let them fear and tremble before the God of heaven, who inherits all nations, and stands in the congregation of the mighty, and judgeth among the gods.

3. Are rulers the pillars of the earth; are they the Lord’s? and has he set the world upon ’em? Let all that are in public offices consider their obligations to be pillars, in the places wherein Providence hath set ’em.

Let rulers consider what they owe to GOD, who has rear’d and set ’em up; and to the publick which GOD has set upon them. Let ’em seek wisdom & strength, grace and conduct from GOD, that they may answer the title given ’em in my text. Let ’em stand, and bear, and act for GOD; whose they are, and who has set ’em where they are. Let the publick good be their just care; that it may be seen that GOD has set the world in their heart, as well as laid it on their shoulders. Let ’em act uprightly, that they may stand secure and strong. Let ’em fear GOD, and rule by his word, that they may be approved by GOD, and accepted always by men with all thankfulness.

As government is the pillar of the earth, so religion is the pillar of government. Take away the fear of GOD’s government & judgment, and humane rule utterly falls, or corrupts into tyranny. But if religion rule in the hearts and lives of rulers, GOD will have glory, and the people be made happy.

Fathers of our country, let me freely say to you, that the devotion and virtue of our humble, but illustrious ancestors (the first planters of New-England), laid the foundation of our greatness among the provinces: And it is this that must continue and establish it under the divine favour & blessing. Emulate their piety and godliness, and generous regards to the publick, and be acknowledged the pillars, the strength and ornament of your country!

But let me move you by a greater argument, even a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which the Holy Ghost has set before you in a most illustrious promise;

Rev. iii. 12. Him that overcometh will I make a Pillar in the Temple of my GOD, and he shall go no more out: And I will write upon Him the Name of my GOD, and the Name of the City of my GOD, which is New-Jerusalem; Edition: current; Page: [23] which cometh down out of Heaven from my GOD: And I will write upon Him my New-Name.

Christ will erect a monumental pillar, that shall stand for ever, in honour of all them who in their station here, be they high or low, faithfully endeavour to uphold his church and kingdom.

It is a triumphant promise taken from the Roman manner of pillars rear’d to the memory of illustrious persons and patriots, on which were inscrib’d their names and worthy deeds; together with that of the empire, city or province, which they were so happy as to serve and help to save.

Infinitely more glory and honour shall be done to him who serves the Lord CHRIST, his kingdom, people and interest, in his life here on earth: When he comes into his temple above he shall have a pillar of celestial glory rear’d to eternize his name; and on it shall be written (O divine honour!) “This was a faithful Servant of his GOD, and Saviour, and of the Church on Earth.[”]

There let him stand for ever, “A monument of free grace, never to be defaced or removed.” While the names of famous emperors, kings and generals, graven in brass or cut in marble, on stately pillars and triumphant arches, shall moulder into dust.

So the pillars in Solomon’s porch were broken down, and carried away by the Chaldeans: But he that is made a pillar in the celestial temple shall go no more out. Yea the pillars of the literal earth and heavens will shortly tremble, and be shaken out of their place; but he that believes in Christ, and has his glorious name written on him, shall remain unshaken and immoveable; and remain, like his living saviour, stedfast for ever.

This infinite and eternal glory we wish to all in this worshipping assembly, the greater and the less, high and low, rich and poor together: As in the act of worship, we are all on a level before the throne of GOD. And the lowest in outward condition may be the highest in grace, and in the honours that come from above.

But in a more especial manner we wish this mercy and blessing of our GOD and king, out of his house to your Excellency our governour: Whose return to your country, and your advancement to the government of it, we cannot but congratulate in the most publick manner, with hearts full of joy, and sincere thankfulness to GOD.

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The Lord GOD of our fathers, who hath spread our heavens, and laid the foundations of our earth, make you a pillar to us both in the state & church.

As it hath pleased him to chuse, adorn & set you up; so may he please to fix & establish you, and long continue you a father, and illustrious blessing to your people.

And may the name of Christ, and of these churches of our Lord Jesus, be graven deep upon your heart: And your faithful services to them be an everlasting name to you, which shall not be cut off.

So, not only erect your self a pillar in every pious and grateful heart, that loves our civil and religious liberties; and let their prayers and blessings come upon you; but also lay a good foundation against the world to come, for everlasting fame and renown, and to be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

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Joseph Sewall
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Joseph Sewall (1688–1769). A Harvard graduate of 1707, Sewall spent a long and generally serene ministry at Old South Church in Boston, where he preached beyond his eightieth year. He was a strong Calvinist, yet he became a friend of George Whitefield, who preached in Sewall’s pulpit during several visits to Boston. He was offered the presidency of Harvard in 1724, but he declined it after a peevish attack by Cotton Mather. He preached the artillery sermon in 1714 and the election sermon in 1724, and he was awarded a D.D. by the University of Glasgow in 1731. With his classmate Reverend Thomas Prince, he edited The Compleat Body of Divinity from collected papers of Samuel Willard (1726). His own papers were not collected, but Sibley’s Harvard Graduates (vol. 5), lists twenty-nine writings by him.

Reprinted here is a fast-day sermon preached before the Massachusetts governor, the council, and the house of representatives on December 3, 1740. Always ready to look for underlying causes and strongly attached to his province, Sewall readily supported the patriot cause and permitted his meeting house to become a shrine of the American cause. In Charles Chauncy’s words, Sewall “was a strenuous asserter of our civil and ecclesiastical charter-rights and priviledges. . . . He knew they were the purchase of our forefathers at the expence of much labor, blood, and treasire [sic]. He could not bear the thought of their being wrested out of our hands. He esteemed it our duty, in all wise, reasonable, and legal ways, to endeavour the preservation of them. . .” (Chauncy, Discourse Occasioned by the Death of . . . Joseph Sewall [Boston, 1769], p. 26).

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And God saw their Works, that they turned from their evil Way, and God repented of the Evil that he had said that he would do unto them, and he did it not.

Jonah III. 10.

In this book we have a very memorable and instructive history. The prophet Jonah, whose name the book bears, was call’d of God to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian monarchy, and cry against it: He criminally attempted to fly from the presence of the Lord, by going to Joppa, and from thence to Tarshish; but that God whom the winds and sea obey, raised such a storm as made the heathen mariners conclude there was something very extraordinary, and accordingly they propose to cast lots, that they might know for whose cause this evil was upon them. Jonah is taken, and cast into the sea; upon which it ceased from raging: And thus, by the wonderful Providence of God, he became a type of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who having appeased the wrath of God by his obedience unto death, lay buried in the earth three days, Matth. 12. 40. For as Jonas was three Days and three Nights in the Whale’s Belly: So shall the Son of Man be three Days and three Nights in the Heart of the Earth. Jonah having cried to God, as out of the Belly of Hell, was delivered from his dreadful confinement. Chap. 2. v. 10. The Lord spake unto the Fish, and it vomited Jonah upon the dry Land. Thus the brute creation, even the mighty whales, obey the word of God’s power, while men transgress his law. Jonah, being thus delivered from the depth of distress, obeys the second call of God to him, Ch. 3. v. 1. Happy is that rebuke, how sharp soever, which is sanctified to make us return to God and our duty. And here it is observ’d, in the third verse, that Nineveh was an exceeding great city, great to or of God,* “Things great and eminent have the name of God put upon them in scripture[,]” of three days journey. It is computed to have been sixty miles in compass, which may well be reckon’d three days journey for a footman, twenty miles a day, says Mr. Henry; or as the same author observeth, walking slowly and gravely, as Jonah must, when he went Edition: current; Page: [30] about preaching, it would take him up at least three days to go thro’ all the principal streets and lanes of the city, to proclaim his message, that all might have notice of it.” However, no greatness or wordly glory will be any security against God’s destroying judgments, if such places go on obstinately in their sins. O let not London! let not Boston, presume to deal unjustly in the Land of Uprightness, lest the holy God say of them as of his ancient people, You have I known of all the Families of the Earth: Therefore I will punish you for all your Iniquities, Amos 3. 2. But to return, Jonah, in obedience to the divine command, cries against this great city, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown, v. 4. In the five following verses, we have the faith and repentance of the Ninevites described, which our Lord takes particular notice of, Matth. 12. 41. The Men of Nineveh shall rise in Judgment with this Generation, and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Let us then attend to these words with reverence and godly fear, lest they also rise up in judgment against us in the terrible day of the Lord. And here I would more particularly observe, 1. The People of Nineveh believed God, v. 5. Jonah, we may suppose, declared to them the true and living God, who made heaven and earth, and publish’d his message in his name; and God wrought such a faith in them as excited a fear of his judgments, and made them deeply concern’d to put away their provoking sins, that they might escape the threatned destruction. And this impression of fear and concern was general; for we find, 2dly, That they proclaim’d a Fast, and put on Sackcloth from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Yea, there was a royal proclamation for this by the Decree of the King and his Nobles, v. 7. And this great monarch humbled himself before the Most High, who cuts off the spirit of princes, and is terrible to the kings of the earth. The king of Nineveh arose from his throne, and laid his robe from him, and cover’d him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes, v. 6. Thus did he practically confess, that he had behav’d unworthy his royal dignity, and deserv’d to have it taken from him. And the proclamation requir’d the strictest abstinence, Let neither Man nor Beast taste any Thing. Not as if the beasts were capable of moral good or evil; but as these had been abus’d by them, they would have their moans and cries under the want of food, further to excite penitential sorrow in themselves. And all are commanded to cry mightily to God, v. 8. Yea, all are exhorted to turn every one from his evil Edition: current; Page: [31] Way, and from the violence that is in their hands. The Ninevites were sensible, that to outward signs and means of humiliation, they must add repentance and reformation. 3. We have their Encouragement to attend this Duty, in a time of impending judgment, v. 9. Who can tell if God will turn and repent. We may suppose that Jonah declar’d to them the grace and mercy of the God of Israel, and shew’d them the way of salvation thro’ the then promised Messiah; that tho’ their bodies should be destroy’d, their souls might be sav’d in the day of the Lord. And they might well infer some ground of hope as to their temporal deliverance from this, that the judgment was not presently executed; but the space of forty days was given them for repentance. However, as it doth not appear they had any particular promise respecting this matter, so their faith and hope are here express’d as attended with doubt and fear. Who can tell? A like expression we have, even respecting God’s covenant people, Who knows if he will return and repent? Joel 2. 14. 4. We have an account of Nineveh’s repentance, and God’s gracious deliverance, v. 10. God saw their Works, i.e. with approbation and gracious acceptance. Their works “whereby they testified the sincerity of their faith and repentance.”* Our Saviour says, they repented at the preaching of Jonas. Luke 11. 32. We may conclude therefore that his preaching was accompanied with the powerful influences of the spirit of God convincing them of their many hainous transgressions, awakening them with fears of God’s judgments, and prevailing upon them to turn from their sins to the Lord. Had it not been for this wonderful work of grace upon them, they had been like to the sinners of the old world, who went on securely, tho’ Noah was a Preacher of Righteousness to them, ’till the Flood came, and took them all away. Here were some, I hope, and that not a few, who had saving repentance given them; and others were so terrified and awakened, that they engaged at least in an outward and publick reformation. And may we not suppose that in this wonderful work, God gave his ancient people a specimen and earnest of the call of the gentiles? Now, upon this their repentance it is said, God repented of the Evil, and he did it not. Which words must be understood in such a sense as is consistent with the divine perfections. It is not spoken of God, as if he could in a proper sense be griev’d for what he had done in threatning Edition: current; Page: [32] the Ninevites; no, this was right, and he had a gracious design in it: Nor, as if he had alter’d his counsels concerning them. He is of one mind, and who can turn him? Nor, as if he acted contrary to truth and faithfulness; no, the threatning was conditional. And accordingly when they repented God turned from his fierce anger, and gave them deliverance; which is agreable to that rule of his government which we have declar’d. Jer. 18. 7. 8. At what Instant I shall speak concerning a Nation, and concerning a Kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it: If that Nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their Evil, I will repent of the Evil that I thought to do unto them.

From the words thus explained to you, I would observe the following doctrines,

(1.) If we would seek the Lord in a right manner, we must believe him; the threatnings and promises of his word. (2.) It is the duty of a people to cry to God in prayer with fasting, when he threatens to bring destroying judgments upon them; and their rulers should be ready to lead in the right discharge of this duty. (3.) Our seeking to God by prayer with fasting must be attended with true repentance, and sincere endeavours after reformation. (4.) When a people do thus attend their duty, God will repent of the evil, and not bring destruction upon them.

I. If we would seek the Lord in a right manner under his threatned judgments, we must believe him; the threatnings and promises of his word.

The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast. We are not told what particular credentials Jonah produc’d to prove that he was a true prophet sent from God. His preaching might be more full and particular than is here recorded; and God set it home, so that they were made sensible they had to do with the true and faithful one, whose name is Jehovah; and accordingly they set themselves to entreat his favour with great seriousness. And thus we must believe, that the Lord is that powerful, holy, faithful, and merciful God, which he declareth himself to be in his word. We must realise it, that his word is sure and most worthy of credit, whether he threatens evil to the impenitent, or promiseth mercy to such as confess and forsake their sins; or we shall never be concerned to seek his Edition: current; Page: [33] face in a right manner. Without faith it is impossible to please God, in our approaches to him: For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Heb. 11. 6. Agreably, in a time of danger, that pious king Jehoshaphet, said to God’s ancient people, Hear me, O Judah, and ye the Inhabitants of Jerusalem, Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. 2 Chron. 20. 20. Certainly then, we who are born under the clear light of the gospel dispensation, must believe the Lord our God speaking to us in his word, if we would attend the duties of this day, so as to obtain mercy for ourselves, and this distressed people. We must believe that if we go on obstinately in our sins, and despite the warnings God has given us in his word and by his providences, we shall after our hardness and impenitent heart treasure up unto our selves wrath against the day of wrath; But if we forsake the way of sin, and return unto the Lord, he will have mercy and abundantly pardon. We must believe our Lord Jesus when he says to us, Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. And we must also receive it as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and will cast out none that come to him in the exercise of faith and repentance. O that there was such a faith in us! Then we should fly to God’s name, as to our strong tower this day, and find him our defence and refuge in the day of trouble. By Faith Noah being warnned of God of Things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an Ark to the saving of his House; by the which he condemned the World, and became Heir of the Righteousness which is by Faith, Heb. 11. 7.

II. It is the duty of a people to cry to God in prayer with fasting, when he threatens to bring destroying judgments upon them; and their rulers should be ready to lead in the right discharge of this duty.

Thus did the men of Nineveh, nor did their king refuse to humble himself and lie in the dust before that Almighty God, who threatned to destroy them. The order given was, “Let Man and Beast be covered with Sackcloth, and cry mightily to God.” This then is a moral duty incumbent on all as God shall call. God’s ancient people practised it. Thus when the children of Moab and Ammon came against Jehoshaphet to battel, he feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and Edition: current; Page: [34] proclaimed a Fast, 2 Chron. 20. 1–3. And we have an account in scripture of more private fasting, Mark 2. 18, 20. Where we are informed that the disciples of John, and of the pharisees used to fast. And our Lord declares that after his departure, His Disciples should also Fast. And we have particular direction about religious fasting, 1. Cor. 7. 5. Here then, I would be a little more particular in describing the duty of fasting and prayer, in which we are this day engaged.

1. In religious fasting we must chasten our bodies, by abstaining from meat and drink, and other pleasures which gratify the outward man.

Thus must we acknowledge that we have abused God’s good creatures, and are unworthy of the least drop and crumb even of the blessings of his common Providence. And in this way we ought to afflict and keep under our bodies, that our animal appetites may be bro’t into subjection, and that our souls may be the more deeply humbled before God. Indeed the necessity of persons, respecting the weakness of some constitutions, is here to be regarded. However, when persons wantonly indulge their appetites, and find their own pleasures when God calls to weeping and mourning, is sinful and shameful. And God declares in his word, that this is a provoking evil, Isai. 22. 12–14. In that Day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to girding with sackcloth: And behold Joy and Gladness, slaying Oxen, and killing Sheep, eating Flesh, and drinking Wine; let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine Ears by the Lord of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts. And surely the men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment against such, and condemn them; for we find they were very strict in attending these outward signs and means of humiliation. But then, it must be granted that this bodily abstinence will profit little, unless our hearts are broken for sin, and broken off from the pleasures of it.

2. In religious fasting we must afflict our souls; have the heart inwardly pierced, and the spirits broken upon the account of our sins.

That God who is a spirit, and forms the spirit of man within him, looks on the heart, and requireth us to worship him in spirit and truth. The Sacrifices of God are a broken Spirit: a broken and contrite Heart, O God thou wilt not despise, Psal. 51. 17. The call of God to his people on a day of solemn fasting, was that, rent your heart, Joel 2. 13. There must then be a deep and thorow conviction of sin, and contrition Edition: current; Page: [35] upon the account of it. We must look to Jesus whom our sins have pierced, and mourn as one mourneth for his only Son, and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his First-born, Zech. 12. 10. There must be hatred of sin, and indignation at it as the accursed thing which stirs up God’s holy displeasure against us. There must be inward grief because God has been dishonour’d and his law broken by our sins: That godly Sorrow which worketh Repentance, 2 Cor. 7. 10. There must be holy fear of God’s judgments. We must take shame and blame to our selves, and make that confession, Dan. 9. 8. O Lord to us belongeth confusion of Face, to our Kings, to our Princes, and to our Fathers, because we have sinned against thee. We must abhor our selves, lie down before God in deep abasement, and humble ourselves under his mighty hand: Thus must we go to God self-condemned, and willing to be reconcil’d to him upon his own terms; looking to Jesus as our advocate with the Father, and depending on him as the propitiation for our sins.

3. We must cry mightily to God in prayer. Earnest prayer, in this and other places of scripture, is express’d by crying to the Lord, Psal. 130. 1. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee O Lord. Prayer is a great part of the duty of the day; and we must take care, that it be that effectual fervent Prayer that availeth much, Jam. 5. 16.[,] in-wrought prayer, that prayer which is wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost. For this end, we must ask the spirit of grace and supplication to help our infirmities, and stir up the gift of God in us. Thus must we pour out our hearts before God, and say, in most humble importunity as Jacob, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. For God said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain, Isa. 45. 15. And therefore, if we approve our selves the genuine sons of that patriarch, we shall also have power with God, and prevail thro’ the merits and intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ: we shall either obtain the blessing for God’s people, as Elias did, tho’ a man subject to like passions; or at least shall deliver our own souls. I might further set before you the prophet Daniel, who has given rulers a bright example of a publick spirit, greatly concern’d for the peace of Jerusalem. How earnest was he when he set his face to seek the Lord by prayer with fasting! Hear his repeated cries, Ch. 9. 19. O Lord hear, O Lord forgive, O Lord, hearken and do, defer not, for thine own sake, O my God. And when God call’d his people to sanctify a fast, the divine command is, Joel 2. 17. Edition: current; Page: [36] Let the Priests, the Ministers of the Lord, weep between the Porch and the Altar, and let them say, Spare thy People, O Lord, and give not thy Heritage to Reproach; that the Heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the People, Where is their God? May Moses and Aaron, lift up their hands with their hearts to God in prayer this day, and receive the blessing from the Lord.

4. We must turn, each one from his evil way. Thus when the exhortation given was to cry mightily to God, it follows; Yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the Violence that is in their Hands. And indeed, unless this be our care, our sins will cry louder than our prayers, and provoke God to cover himself as with a cloud, Isa. 59. 1, 2. Behold, the Lord’s Hand is not shortned that it cannot save: neither his ear heavy that he cannot hear. But your Iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your Sins have hid his Face from you, that he will not hear. And when God had declared to his people that he rejected their assemblies and solemn meetings, he gives them that exhortation. Wash ye, make ye clean, put away the evil of your Doings from before mine Eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek Judgment, relieve the Oppressed, judge the Fatherless, plead for the Widow, Isa. 1. 16, 17.

But this brings me to the 3d general head,

III. Our seeking to God by prayer with fasting, must be attended with true repentance, and sincere endeavours after reformation.

God saw their works, that they turned from the evil way. Here we may consider,

1. What is implied in this work of repentance and reformation.

2. Why we should thus engage in the work of repentance and reformation.

First, What is implied in this work of repentance and reformation?

A. 1. It implieth, An holy and prevailing resolution to turn from those sins which we confess on the day of fasting. When we appear before God to confess our sins and ask pardon for them; if we attend this duty in sincerity, we are convinc’d that it is an evil and bitter thing that we have forsaken God by transgressing his law; and we shall accordingly resolve to put away this accursed thing which separates between God and us, and engage to return to God and our duty. Thus did God’s people on a solemn fast. They entred into an oath to walk in God’s law, Edition: current; Page: [37] and solemnly promis’d, that they would reform the evils which had crept in among them; in taking strange wives, in profaning the Sabbath, in their cruel exacting upon their poor brethren, &c. Neh. 9. 38. 10. 29–31. And it is certainly seasonable and necessary for persons on such a day to resolve, relying on God for grace, to put away such and such sins as have more easily beset them, to take more care to keep themselves from their own iniquity, and to reform whatever hath been contrary to God’s law.

Which leads me to say,

2. It intends, That this resolution be put in practice in sincere endeavours to put away those sins and reform those evils, which have been confess’d and bewail’d before God. This God requires of us. Thus saith the Lord God, Repent and turn your selves from all your Idols, and turn away your Faces from all your Abominations, Ezek. 14. 6. And after this manner did the children of Israel testify their repentance, when they cried to the Lord under the oppression of their enemies. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel. Judg. 10. 16. Agreeably, when we have fasted and prayed, we must bring forth fruits meet for repentance, by engaging in a thorow reformation of all sins of omission or commission. If we have omitted religious duties, secret or family prayer, self-examination, the ordinances of God’s house; we must now conscienciously attend upon them. If we have neglected the duties of those relations which we sustain towards men, in publick or private life; we must now with care and diligence discharge them. If we have committed sins contrary to the laws of sobriety, righteousness and godliness; we must labour by the spirit to mortify them. In a word, we should cleanse our selves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. And in order to these things, we ought earnestly seek to God to put his laws into our minds, and write them in our hearts; for it is he alone that can work in us to will and to do, in beginning and carrying on this necessary work of reformation.

3. That we return to God by Jesus Christ; to believe in, love and obey him. The prophet Hosea complains, They return, but not to the most High, 7. 16. Whereas, when a reformation is sincere and general, we shall have a regard to the Lord our God in it, as to our chief good and highest end. We shall not be principally concern’d to serve a turn, and escape this or the other threatned judgment. As they, When he Edition: current; Page: [38] slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. And they remembred that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer. Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their Mouth, and they lied unto him with their Tongues, Psal. 7. 8. 34–36. But shall make it our great business to obtain peace with God thro’ Jesus Christ the only Mediator, who has made peace thro’ the blood of his cross. And then shall we endeavour to be stedfast in his covenant. The language of our hearts must be as Hos. 6. 1. Come and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. 14. 3. Asshur shall not save us, we will not ride upon Horses, neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the Fatherless findeth mercy. We must return to God as to our Lord and lawgiver, to obey and serve him; as to the object of our desire and choice, to take our full contentment in him: Thus it is said of Gods people All Judah rejoiced at the Oath: for they had sworn with all their Heart, and sought him with their whole desire, and he was found of them, 2 Chr. 15. 15. As to particular persons, it is necessary that they thus give up themselves to the Lord, and then keep the covenant of their God. And as to a people, considering them collectively, this must be their prevailing desire and practice: If they are generally false & hypocritical, they will give God reason to complain of them, as of his ancient people, O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee: O Judah, what shall I do unto thee: for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. Hos. 6. 4.

Secondly, Why should our days of fasting be thus attended with sincere endeavours after reformation?

A. 1. God demands this of us. When that inquiry was made, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow my self before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oyl? The answer is, He hath shewed thee, O Man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6. 8. And therefore, when God’s people fasted in a formal customary manner, without engaging in the necessary work of reformation, God said to them, Did ye at all Fast unto me, even to me? And then it follows, Execute true Judgment, and shew Mercy and Compassions every Man to his Brother. And oppress not the Widow, Edition: current; Page: [39] nor the Fatherless, the Stranger, nor the Poor, and let none of you imagine Evil against his Brother in your Heart, Zech. 7. 8, 10.

2. God makes precious promises to encourage and excite us to this duty. Thus when God had exhorted his people to put away the evil of their doings; he adds for their encouragement, Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your Sins be as Scarlet, they shall be white as Snow; though they be red like Crimson, they shall be as Wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the Land. And in the 55th Chapter we have that exhortation enforc’d with a promise of full and free pardon, v. 6, 7. Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the Wicked forsake his Way, and the unrighteous Man his Thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. ver. 6, 7. Surely then, we must be basely ungrateful, if we are not drawn with these cords of a man, and bands of love. While we refuse to attend this great duty, we practically despise the riches of Gods goodness whereby he leads sinners to repentance. And this is another reason why we should engage in the work of repentance and reformation.

3. If we refuse to repent and reform, we shall be condemned out of our own mouths, and fall under the threatned judgments of God. One considerable part of the duty of a day of religious fasting is to make an humble and penitent confession of our sins whereby we have provoked a holy God to come out in judgment against us, and to cry to him for grace that we may turn from them. Thus ’tis said of Gods people on the day of solemn fasting recorded Neh. 9. The Seed of Israel stood and confessed their Sins, and the Iniquities of their Fathers: 2d v. But if there be no care to put away the sins which we have confess’d, we shall give our Lord and judge reason to say to us as to the wicked servant, Out of thine own Mouth will I judge thee. Now this will be dreadful indeed, and must aggravate our condemnation, to be thus self-condemned; and so to fall under the righteous judgment of God. We have the proof of this written for our warning in the doleful account which the Scripture gives of the sin and punishment of Gods ancient convenant people. Tho’ they had their days of fasting, particularly on the seventh month, when the high priest was to make an atonement for himself and the people, and enter into the holy place within the vail, Lev. 16. Notwithstanding this, God said to his people, If ye will not Edition: current; Page: [40] be reformed, but will walk contrary to me, then will I also walk contrary to you, and will punish you seven times for your sins. And God fulfilled his word. They mocked the Messengers of God, and despised his Words, and misused his Prophets, until the Wrath of the Lord arose against his People, till there was no Remedy, 2 Chron. 36. 16. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by fire, and Gods people led into captivity to Babylon. And after their merciful restoration, when they had filled up the measure of their sins by disobeying and crucifying the Lord of Glory, and then by rejecting the offers of the gospel made to them by his apostles; the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost by the Romans, and they are made an execration and a curse unto this day.

IV. When a people do thus turn from their evil way to the Lord, he will repent of the evil, and not bring destruction upon them.

God saw their works—and God repented of the Evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not. Judgment is Gods strange work; but he delighteth in mercy. And when God threatens, it is with a reserve of grace and favour to the penitent. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen & repent, and do the first Works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy Candlestick out of his Place, except thou repent. Rev. 2. 5. Thus God said to the prophet Jeremiah,

Take thee a Roll of a Book, and write therein all the Words that I have spoken unto Thee against Israel, and against all the Nations, from the Day I spake unto thee, from the Days of Josiah, even unto this Day. It may be the House of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every Man from his evil Way, that I may forgive their Iniquity and their Sin, Jer. 36. 2, 3.

God knew perfectly well what they would do; but then he here lets his people know how ready he was to forgive the penitent and receive them into favour: It’s true, such as repent may be afflicted in this life; but then it is with the tender compassion of a father, not with the deadly wound of an enemy. The first and purest times of Christianity were times of persecution; however, while the holy martyrs overcame by the blood of the Lamb, not loving their lives unto the death; the church was preserv’d, yea increased and multiplied. And as to a people, considering them collectively, I suppose no one instance can be Edition: current; Page: [41] produc’d in which God pour’d out his fury to destroy them, while a spirit of repentance and reformation prevail’d. And even in times of abounding iniquity, when the glory of God was departing from his people, and destroying judgments breaking in like a flood; God was pleased to make a remarkable distinction between the penitent, and such as were hardned in sin.

And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the City, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a Mark upon the Foreheads of the Men that sigh and that cry for all the Abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others be said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the City and smite: let not your Eye spare, neither have ye Pity, Ezek. 9. 4, 5.

But the time would fail me, should I attempt to speak particularly to this head; and I have in part prevented my self by what has been already said. I shall therefore only give a few hints further to confirm & illustrate the truth before us. The faithful and true God declareth this in his word.

When I say unto the Wicked, Thou shalt surely die: If he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the Wicked restore the Pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the Statutes of Life, without committing Iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die, Ezek. 33. 14, 15.

When Ephraim bemoan’d himself and repented, God manifested his fatherly compassions to him.

I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a Bullock unaccustomed to the Yoke: Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my Youth. Is Ephraim my dear Son? Is he a pleasant Child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: Therefore my Bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. Jer. 31. 18–20.

Again, When a people do thus turn from their evil way to the Lord, They are prepar’d to receive and improve God’s merciful Deliverance after a suitable manner. While a degenerate people are impenitent they will be ready to despise the riches of Gods goodness and forbearance, and to wax wanton under sparing mercy. Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then Edition: current; Page: [42] he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his Salvation, Deut. 32. 15. But when sin is embitter’d by the godly sorrow which worketh repentance we shall observe that caution after God has spoken peace, Psal. 84. 8. Let them not turn again to Folly. Such a people will be jealous over themselves and for the Lord of hosts, and be concern’d to improve all his gracious appearances for them to the honour of his great name. Accordingly, God says of his people, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land? And then returns this answer, Thou shalt call me, My Father, and shalt not turn away from me, Jer. 3. 19. Again, this truth is evident from the happy experience of the penitent. We have a remarkable instance before us. Now, did God spare repenting Nineveh, and will he not spare his repenting covenant-people? Yes surely,

If their uncircumcised Hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their Iniquity: Then will I remember my Covenant with Jacob, and also my Covenant with Isaac, and also my Covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the Land.

And God was pleas’d to fulfill his promise to his people, 1 Sam. 7. and in other instances upon record in scripture. In a word, the Lord Jesus our great high priest, has offered a sacrifice of infinite value to make atonement for the congregation of his people, whether Jews or gentiles; and he lives in heaven to interceed for them: And therefore, when God’s people look to him and mourn and turn to the Lord, he will turn from his fierce anger, and command salvation.


USE 1. Learn that true religion lays the surest foundation of a people’s prosperity. Righteousness exalteth a Nation, Prov. 14. 34. When we turn to God by Jesus Christ, and do works meet for repentance; we take the best way to obtain salvation from the help of his countenance, who is the Father of Lights, from whom cometh down every good & every perfect gift. It’s sin that separateth between God and his people: When this accursed thing is therefore put away from among them, that God to whom belong the issues from death, will draw nigh to them with his saving health, and appear for their deliverance.

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And if God be for us, who can be against us? There is no Wisdom nor Understanding, nor Counsel against the Lord. The Horse is prepared against the Day of Battle: But Safety is of the Lord. Prov 21. 30, 31. Certainly then, the one thing needful is to secure the presence and favour of God; and this we do when we return to him in hearty repentance, and then walk before him in new obedience. Blessed is that people whose God is the Lord: No weapon form’d against them shall prosper, and that good word shall be fulfilled unto them, God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in Trouble, Psal. 46. 1. and v. 5. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early, O that God would impress on our minds the firm belief of these things! O that he would affect our hearts suitably with them! That we might strive together in our prayers this day, crying to God with the prophet, O Lord, revive thy Work in the midst of the Years, in the midst of the Years make known; in Wrath remember Mercy. Hab. 3. 2.

USE 2. Abounding iniquity will be the destruction of a people, except they repent. If they persist and go on in the ways of sin, refusing to return to God, iniquity will be their ruin. Sin is the Reproach of any People, Prov. 14. 34. It hath both a natural and moral tendency to lay them low, and expose them to shame. Sin in the body politick, is like some foul and deadly disease in the natural body which turns the beauty of it into corruption, and weakens all it’s powers. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole Head is sick, and the whole Heart is faint. From the Sole of the Foot, even unto the Crown of the Head, there is no Soundness in it; but Wounds and Bruises, and putrifying Sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither molified with Ointment, Isa. 1. 5, 6. And then, this deadly evil provokes the holy God to pour contempt upon a people, and lay their honour in the dust. Thus God threatned his people, Thou shalt become an Astonishment, a Proverb, and a By-word, among all Nations whither the Lord shall lead thee. Deut. 28. 37. And in the 44th and 45th [verse:] He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him; he shall be the Head, and thou shalt be the Tail. Moreover all these Curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee till thou be destroyed: Because thou hearknedst not unto the Voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his Commandments and his Statutes which he commanded thee. And the threatning was fulfilled upon them. God said to his people, O Israel, Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. And the weeping prophet Edition: current; Page: [44] laments their sins and ruin, Jerusalem hath grievously sinned: all that honoured her, despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. Her filthiness is in her skirts, she remembreth not her last end, therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no Comforter. Yea, after this remarkable deliverance granted to Nineveh, it’s suppos’d about ninety years, when they returned to their former sins, the prophet Nahum foretells their ruin, Chap. 1.

USE 3. Let us then be sensible of the destroying evil of sin, and the necessity of true repentance.

God speaks to us this day as to his people of old, Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy Backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts, Jer. 2. 19. And as 44. 4. O do not this abominable thing that I hate. Most certainly they are guilty of great folly, who make a mock at sin. This is to cast fire-brands, arrows and death; and say, Am I not sport? The wise man observes, that One Sinner destroyeth much Good, Eccl. 9. 18. Thus Achan took of the accursed Thing; and the Anger of the Lord was kindled against the Children of Israel, Josh. 7. 1. Let us then fly from sin as the most pernicious evil, and see the necessity of our turning to the Lord by sincere repentance. O let that word of the Lord sink deep into our hearts this day! Turn ye, turn ye, Why will ye die, O House of Israel? Ezek. 33. 11.

Which leads me to the last use;

4. Let us all be exhorted to turn, every one from his evil way; and to engage heartily in the necessary work of reformation.

This, this is our great duty and interest this day, as we would hope to be made instruments in God’s hand of saving our selves and this people. Let us then seriously consider that we have to do with that God who is able to save and to destroy. And settle that word in our hearts as a certain truth, When he giveth Quietness, who then can make Trouble? and when he hideth his Face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a Nation, or against a Man only. Job 34. 29. And accordingly, let us turn from all sin to the Lord, and in this way hope and wait for his salvation. O let us take heed, lest there be in any of us an evil Heart of Unbelief in departing from the living God. To day, let us hear his voice, and not harden our hearts. May each one of us say Edition: current; Page: [45] with Job, Now mine Eye seeth thee: Wherefore I abhor my self, and repent in Dust and Ashes. And as it has pleased the Father to commit all judgment to the Son; let us look to him, and encourage our selves in him whom God hath exalted to be a prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. May our ascended Jesus, who has receiv’d of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, pour out this great blessing upon the whole land, and fulfill that word,

Then will I sprinkle clean Water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your Idols will I cleanse you. A new Heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony Heart out of your Flesh, and I will give you an Heart of Flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my Statutes, and ye shall keep my Judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your Fathers, and ye shall be my People, and I will be your God. Ezek. 35. 25–28.

Blessed be the Lord, his spirit has been, we hope, moving on the hearts of many to convince and awaken them. O let us not resist and quench the spirit! lest the threatning denounc’d against the sinners of the old world, should be fulfill’d on us, My Spirit shall not always strive with Man, for that he also is Flesh. Gen. 6. 3. Let us cherish his motions, and pray the more earnestly that he may be given in an extensive manner as a spirit of saving conversion and thorow reformation. And surely, If we duely consider the state of this sinful, distressed people, we shall be constrain’d to say with the prophet It is Time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain Righteousness upon you. Hos. 10. 12. And then with our fervent prayers, let us unite our best endeavours with regard to our selves, our families, and this people; that all iniquity may be put far from us, and that we may become zealous of good works. In this way we might hope God would say of us as of the remnant of Judah; Then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Or as Isa. 65. 8. Destroy it not, for a Blessing is in it.

But the time requireth me to draw to a close. I would therefore proceed with due respect to make a particular application of what hath been said, unto our honoured rulers, who have call’d us to sanctify a fast with them; and have set apart this day to humble themselves under the sense of sin, and the tokens of the divine displeasure upon this province.

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My fathers! Suffer the word of exhortation: Let God see your works; that you turn from every evil way; that God may also repent of the evil, and not bring it upon us. For how dreadful must it be if the example of the nobles and men of Nineveh should rise up in judgment against any of you: They repented at the preaching “of one Prophet sent to them by God, you have Moses and the Prophets”; Yea in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son that prince of the prophets, who is God manifest in the flesh. You have the sacred writings of the New-Testament, in which God reveals his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; and also his grace and mercy to the penitent by a redeemer. And as the judge of all the earth hath advanced you to rule over his people; so he declareth to you in his word, That they who rule over Men must be just, ruling in the Fear of God; and requireth you to lead in the work of reformation by your example, and by the right use of that power with which he hath betrusted you.

This people have observ’d many days of fasting and prayer, and yet there’s sorrowful occasion to make that complaint; For all this his Anger is not turned away, but his Hand is stretched out still. You have also in this more private way sought the Lord some years past,* confessing your sins, and the sins of this people before him; notwithstanding which, the holy and faithful God goeth on walking contrary to us, and threatens to punish us seven times more for our sins. What means this heat of his anger? Why do we still complain, Judgment is far from us, neither doth Justice overtake us: we wait for Light, but behold Obscurity; for Brightness, but we walk in Darkness. We grope for the Wall like the Blind, and we grope as if we had no Eyes. Isa. 59. 9, 10. Alas! We must take up the lamentation which follows, v. 12–14.

Our Transgressions are multiplied before Thee, and our Sins testify against us: for our Transgressions are with us, and as for our Iniquities, we know them: In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking Oppression and Revolt, conceiving and uttering from the Heart, Words of Falsehood. And Judgment is turned away backward, and Justice standeth afar off: for Truth is fallen in the Street, and Equity cannot enter.

O it is time then, high time, heartily to engage in keeping the fast Edition: current; Page: [47] which God has chosen, and we have describ’d for our instruction and reproof, Isa. 58. 6, 8.

Is not this the Fast that I have chosen? to loose the Bands of Wickedness, to undo the heavy Burdens, and to let the Oppressed go free, and that ye break every Yoke? Is it not to deal thy Bread to the Hungry, and that thou bring the Poor that are cast out to thy House? when thou seest the Naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thy self from thine own Flesh?

Upon this God promiseth,

Then shall thy Light break forth as the Morning, and thine Health shall spring forth speedily: and thy Righteousness shall go before thee; the Glory of the Lord shall be thy Reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. 8, 9. v.

And 12 v[:] They that shall be of thee, shall build the old waste Places: thou shalt raise up the Foundation of many Generations; and thou shalt be called, The Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Paths to dwell in. Be intreated therefore to cry to God for grace that you may cleanse your hearts and hands from all sin, and so turn to the Lord; and then, let it be your constant care and diligent endeavour to do works meet for repentance. As God has exalted you above your brethren, let your light shine before them, that others seeing your good works may glorify your heavenly Father, and be excited to follow you. Let all that behold you, see your pious regards to God’s worship and ordinances, his day and house. Do your utmost that the worship of God may be maintain’d in the power and purity of it, among this people. Let all due care be taken that men may fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord our God, and not presume to take it in vain; for because of swearing the land mourns. Let the Lord’s-day be strictly observ’d; for God hath set the Sabbath as a sign between him and his people, that he is the Lord who sanctifieth them. Let the most effectual means also be used that the great abuse of taverns may be reformed; that these be not converted into tipling and gaming houses for town- dwellers, to the dishonour of God and hurt of the common-wealth. Let the fountains of justice be kept open and pure, that judgment may run down as waters; and that such as thirst after righteousness may come freely, and be refreshed. And whereas the present difficulties which embarrass our affairs, do very much arise from the want of a suitable medium Edition: current; Page: [48] of trade, and different apprehensions in the legislature about supplying the treasury, whereby the publick debts are, in part at least, left unpaid, and the country naked and defenceless, in this day of calamity and war: I can’t but humbly apprehend, that this awful frown of Providence calls aloud to you further to consider, whether there has not been great injustice and oppression with relation to the bills of publick credit which have pass’d among us, from their sinking and uncertain value; and to use your best endeavours that whatever bills shall pass for time to come in lieu of money, may be a just medium of exchange; for a false Ballance is abomination to the Lord; but a just Weight is his Delight, Prov. 11. 1. Whatever methods may be propos’d to extricate us out of our present distress, justice and equity must be laid in the foundation; or we may expect that the Lord who loves righteousness and hates wickedness, will confound our devices, and bring them to nought. But then, I presume not in the least measure to determine whether this or that way is right. May that God before whom all things are open and naked, direct Your Excellency and the whole court, into such paths of righteousness as shall lead to our deliverance and safety; that we may neither oppress one another, nor become a prey to an insulting enemy! May you be filled with the most tender and fatherly compassion for your people under the present distress and danger, and do all you can to relieve them! And if there should be a difference in your opinion about the way, may you be enabled to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, that the God of peace may be with you, who has promis’d to guide the meek in judgment!

But in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: Truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel!

O God! We know not what to do; but our eyes are unto thee. We wait upon thee O Lord, who hidest thy self from the house of Israel; confessing that we thy servants, and thy people have sinn’d. Thy ways are equal, our ways have been very unequal. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God also belongeth mercies and forgivenesses, tho’ we have rebell’d against him. O Lord, hear, O Lord forgive, O Lord, hearken and do, defer not, for thine own sake, O God! for thy city, and thy people are called by thy name. Look to the face of thine Anointed, Edition: current; Page: [49] O merciful Father! Behold thy Son in our nature, who on earth offer’d a sacrifice of infinite merit to atone for the sins of thy people; and now appears in heaven, as a Lamb that had been slain, interceeding for us. We are unworthy; but the name in which we now ask thy divine help, is most worthy. O hear us, for thy Son’s sake, and speak peace to thy people. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock, thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up thy strength, and come and save us. Turn us again O God; and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us; for we are bro’t very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; and deliver us, and purge away our sins for thy name’s sake: So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture, will give thee thanks for ever; we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.

And would you, our honoured rulers, to whom I again address my self, have the all-wise God present to shew you what his people ought to do in this very critical conjuncture, and to make you the joyful instruments of our deliverance; then abide with God by taking his word for your rule, by making his glory your highest end, and by seeking the public-weal in all things. Ask of God a public spirit, and by all means labour to subdue a vicious self-love remembring the warning given us, 2 Tim. 3. 1, 2. In the last Days perilous Times shall come. For Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous. May you have the love of God and his people shed abroad in your hearts by his spirit; and be ready to sacrifice private views and personal interests to the publick good! Shake your hands from bribes of every kind, and when call’d to give your vote, consider seriously what is right in the sight of God, with whom is no respect of persons, or taking of gifts; and act accordingly. And if at any time you should be tempted to this great evil, as the best of men may; set that word of God in opposition to the temptation.

He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly, he that despiseth the Gain of Oppression, that shaketh his Hands from holding of Bribes, that stoppeth his Ears from hearing of Blood, and shutteth his Eyes from seeing Evil: He shall dwell on high, his Place of Defence shall be the Munition of Rocks; Bread shall be given him, his Waters shall be sure. Isa. 33. 15, 16.

In this way you shall obtain the gracious presence of God with you. The Lord is with you, while ye be with him, 2 Chron. 15. 2. And if God Edition: current; Page: [50] be with you and for you, who can be against you? What can harm you? What can be too hard for you, if the Almighty is pleas’d to own you as his servants, and command deliverance for his people by you? Surely the mountains shall become a plain, crooked things straight, and the night shine as the day. Let me say to you therefore as 2 Chron. 15. 7. Be ye strong, and let not your Hands be weak: for your Work shall be rewarded. God will be your shield, and exceeding great reward. You shall see the good of God’s chosen, rejoice with the gladness of his nation, and glory with his inheritance. And when the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto these my Brethren, ye have done it unto me: Come ye Blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom.

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elisha williams the essential rights and liberties of protestants fpage="51" lpage="118"


Elisha Williams
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Elisha Williams (1694–1755). As the son of Reverend William Williams (1665–1741), a great-grandson of John Cotton and of Governor Simon Bradstreet, and the younger brother of William Williams, Jr., Elisha Williams was a member of an outstanding and devout New England family. Born in Hatfield, Massachusetts, he was graduated from Harvard in 1711, studied theology with his father, read law, preached to seamen in Nova Scotia, tutored Yale students at his home for several years (including Jonathan Edwards the elder), and, in 1722, settled as pastor of a Congregational church in Wethersfield, Connecticut. There Williams remained only four years before becoming Yale University rector, a position he held until 1739. Ezra Stiles, a future Yale president who was graduated there during Williams’s tenure, called him “a good classical scholar, well versed in logic, metaphysics, and ethics, and in rhetoric and oratory [who] delivered orations gracefully and with animated dignity” (John H. Harkey, American Writers Before 1800).

His departure from Yale was attributed to poor health, but Williams, who had also been in the Connecticut General Assembly, served there again from 1740 to 1749. Politically ambitious, he was thought to be interested in becoming governor of Connecticut. He also served as a judge on the Connecticut Supreme Court, was a chaplain during the 1745 expedition that captured Louisbourg, was appointed colonel and commander-in-chief of forces organized to invade Canada (a plan that was abandoned), and was a delegate to the Albany Congress in 1754, which devised the first American plan of union under Benjamin Franklin’s leadership.

Signed “Philalethes,” The Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants (1744) is Williams’s most famous work. It was occasioned by a 1742 Connecticut statute prompted by Standing Order clergymen’s resentment of Great Awakening revivalists. It prohibited ministers from preaching outside their own parishes, unless expressly invited to do so by resident ministers. Punishment for violating this law was deprivation of support and authorization to preach, a prohibition and punishment that Williams argued violated scripture, natural rights, the social contract, and the Toleration Act of 1688. These views had so antagonized people as to prevent his reelection to the Supreme Court in the previous year, and he was abused by both Old Lights and New Lights. But the pamphlet is a triumph of political theology and Edition: current; Page: [53] Edition: current; Page: [54] theory. In “Williams’s dazzling assault,” John Dunn has written, “Locke’s notions of toleration were fused with a brilliant presentation of his theory of government, and a doctrine of startling originality appeared. . . . When the cool epistemological individualism of the scholar’s closet was fused with the insistent Puritan demand for emotional autonomy, the two became transmuted into a doctrine which in the radicalism of its immediate and self-conscious social vision could not have been conceived anywhere else in the eighteenth-century world” (Political Obligation in Its Historical Context [Cambridge, 1980]).

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I now give you my thoughts on the questions you lately sent me. As you set me the task, you must take the performance as it is without any apology for its defects. I have wrote with the usual freedom of a friend, aiming at nothing but truth, and to express my self so as to be understood. In order to answer your main enquiry concerning the extent of the civil magistrate’s power respecting religion; I suppose it needful to look back to the end, and therefore to the original of it: By which means I suppose a just notion may be formed of what is properly their business or the object of their power; and so without any insuperable difficulty we may thence learn what is out of that compass.

That the sacred scriptures are the alone rule of faith and practice to a Christian, all Protestants are agreed in; and must therefore inviolably maintain, that every Christian has a right of judging for himself what he is to believe and practice in religion according to that rule: Which I think on a full examination you will find perfectly inconsistent with any power in the civil magistrate to make any penal laws in matters of religion. Tho’ Protestants are agreed in the profession of that principle, yet too many in practice have departed from it. The evils that have been introduced thereby into the Christian church are more than can be reckoned up. Because of the great importance of it to the Christian and to his standing fast in that liberty wherewith Christ has made him free, you will not fault me if I am the longer upon it. The more firmly this is established in our minds; the more firm shall we be against all attempts upon our Christian liberty, and better practice that Christian charity towards such as are of different sentiments from us in religion that is so much recommended and inculcated in those sacred oracles, and which a just understanding of our Christian rights has a natural tendency to influence us to. And tho’ your sentiments about some of those points you demand my thoughts upon may have been different from mine; yet I perswade my self, you will not think mine to be far from the truth when you shall have throughly weighed what follows. But if I am mistaken in Edition: current; Page: [56] the grounds I proceed upon or in any conclusion drawn from true premises, I shall be thankful to have the same pointed out: Truth being what I seek, to which all must bow first or last.

To proceed then as I have just hinted, I shall first, briefly consider the Origin and End of Civil Government.

First, as to the origin—–Reason teaches us that all men are naturally equal in respect of jurisdiction or dominion one over another. Altho’ true it is that children are not born in this full state of equality, yet they are born to it. Their parents have a sort of rule & jurisdiction over them when they come into the world, and for some time after: But it is but a temporary one; which arises from that duty incumbent on them to take care of their offspring during the imperfect state of childhood, to preserve, nourish and educate them (as the workmanship of their own almighty Maker, to whom they are to be accountable for them), and govern the actions of their yet ignorant nonage, ‘till reason shall take its place and ease them of that trouble. For God having given man an understanding to direct his actions, has given him therewith a freedom of will and liberty of acting, as properly belonging thereto, within the bounds of that law he is under: And whilst he is in a state wherein he has no understanding of his own to direct his will, he is not to have any will of his own to follow: He that understands for him must will for him too. But when he comes to such a state of reason as made the father free, the same must make the son free too: For the freedom of man and liberty of acting according to his own will (without being subject to the will of another) is grounded on his having reason, which is able to instruct him in that law he is to govern himself by, and make him know how far he is left to the freedom of his own will. So that we are born free as we are born rational. Not that we have actually the exercise of either as soon as born; age that brings one, brings the other too. This natural freedom is not a liberty for every one to do what he pleases without any regard to any law; for a rational creature cannot but be made under a law from its Maker: But it consists in a freedom from any superiour power on earth, and not being under the will or legislative authority of man, and having only the law of nature (or in other words, of its Maker) for his rule.

And as reason tells us, all are born thus naturally equal, i.e. with an equal right to their persons; so also with an equal right to their Edition: current; Page: [57] preservation; and therefore to such things as nature affords for their subsistence. For which purpose God was pleased to make a grant of the earth in common to the children of men, first to Adam and afterwards to Noah and his sons: as the Psalmist says, Psal. 115. 16. And altho’ no one has originally a private dominion exclusive of the rest of mankind in the earth or its products, as they are consider’d in this their natural state; yet since God has given these things for the use of men and given them reason also to make use thereof to the best advantage of life; there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use to any particular person. And every man having a property in his own person, the labour of his body and the work of his hands are properly his own, to which no one has right but himself; it will therefore follow that when he removes any thing out of the state that nature has provided and left it in, he has mixed his labour with it and joined something to it that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. He having removed it out of the common state nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it that excludes the common right of others; because this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough and as good left in common for others. Thus every man having a natural right to (or being the proprietor of) his own person and his own actions and labour and to what he can honestly acquire by his labour, which we call property; it certainly follows, that no man can have a right to the person or property of another: And if every man has a right to his person and property; he has also a right to defend them, and a right to all the necessary means of defence, and so has a right of punishing all insults upon his person and property.

But because in such a state of nature, every man must be judge of the breach of the law of nature and executioner too (even in his own case) and the greater part being no strict observers of equity and justice; the enjoyment of property in this state is not very safe. Three things are wanting in this state (as the celebrated Lock observes) to render them safe; viz. an established known law received and allowed by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, the common measure to decide all controversies between them: For tho’ the law of nature be intelligible to all rational creatures; yet men being biassed Edition: current; Page: [58] by their interest as well as ignorant for want of the study of it, are not apt to allow of it as a law binding to them in the application of it to their particular cases. There wants also a known and indifferent judge with authority to determine all differences according to the established law: for men are too apt to be partial to themselves, and too much wanting in a just concern for the interest of others. There often wants also in a state of nature, a power to back and support the sentence when right, and give it due execution. Now to remedy these inconveniencies, reason teaches men to join in society, to unite together into a commonwealth under some form or other, to make a body of laws agreable to the law of nature, and institute one common power to see them observed. It is they who thus unite together, viz. the people, who make and alone have right to make the laws that are to take place among them; or which comes to the same thing, appoint those who shall make them, and who shall see them executed. For every man has an equal right to the preservation of his person and property; and so an equal right to establish a law, or to nominate the makers and executors of the laws which are the guardians both of person and property.

Hence then the fountain and original of all civil power is from the people, and is certainly instituted for their sakes; or in other words, which was the second thing proposed, The great end of civil government, is the preservation of their persons, their liberties and estates, or their property. Most certain it is, that it must be for their own sakes, the rendering their condition better than it was in what is called a state of nature (a state without such establish’d laws as before mentioned, or without any common power) that men would willingly put themselves out of that state. It is nothing but their own good can be any rational inducement to it: and to suppose they either should or would do it on any other, is to suppose rational creatures ought to change their state with a design to make it worse. And that good which in such a state they find a need of, is no other than a greater security of enjoyment of what belonged to them. That and that only can then be the true reason of their uniting together in some form or other they judge best for the obtaining that greater security. That greater security therefore of life, liberty, money, lands, houses, family, and the like, which may be all comprehended under that of person and property, is the sole end of all civil government. I mean not that all civil governments Edition: current; Page: [59] (as so called) are thus constituted: (tho’ the British and some few other nations are through a merciful Providence so happy as to have such). There are too too many arbitrary governments in the world, where the people don’t make their own laws. These are not properly speaking governments but tyrannies; and are absolutely against the law of God and nature. But I am considering things as they be in their own nature, what reason teaches concerning them: and herein have given a short sketch of what the celebrated Mr. Lock in his Treatise of Government has largely demonstrated; and in which it is justly to be presumed all are agreed who understand the natural rights of mankind.

Thus having seen what the end of civil government is; I suppose we see a fair foundation laid for the determination of the next thing I proposed to consider: Which is, What liberty or power belonging to man as he is a reasonable creature does every man give up to the civil government whereof he is a member. Some part of their natural liberty they do certainly give up to the government, for the benefit of society and mutual defence (for in a political society every one even an infant has the whole force of the community to protect him), and something therefore is certainly given up to the whole for this purpose. Now the way to know what branches of natural liberty are given up, and what remain to us after our admission into civil society, is to consider the ends for which men enter into a state of government. For so much liberty and no more is departed from, as is necessary to secure those ends; the rest is certainly our own still. And here I suppose with the before-mentioned noble assertor of the liberties of humane nature; all that is given up may be reduced to two heads.

1st. The power that every one has in a state of nature to do whatever he judgeth fit, for the preservation of his person and property and that of others also, within the permission of the law of nature, he gives up to be regulated by laws made by the society, so far forth as the preservation of himself (his person and property) and the rest of that society shall require.

And, 2. The power of punishing he wholly gives up, and engages his natural force (which he might before employ in the execution of the law of nature by his own single authority as he thought fit) to assist the executive power of the society as the law thereof shall require. For (he adds) being now in a new state wherein he is to enjoy Edition: current; Page: [60] many conveniencies, from the labour assistance and society of others in the same community, as well as protection from its whole strength; he is to part also with as much of his natural liberty and providing for himself, as the good and safety of the society shall require; which is not only necessary but just, since the other members of the society do the like. Now if the giving up these powers be sufficient to answer those ends for which men enter into a state of government, viz. the better security of their persons and properties; then no more is parted with; and therefore all the rest is ours still. This I rest on as certain, that no more natural liberty or power is given up than is necessary for the preservation of person and property.

I design not to mention many particulars which according to this rule I suppose are not parted with by entering into a state of government: what is reducible to one or two general heads is sufficient to our present purpose. Tho’ as I pass I cannot forbear taking notice of one point of liberty which all members of a free state and particularly Englishmen think belonging to them, and are fond of; and that is the right that every one has to speak his sentiments openly concerning such matters as affect the good of the whole. Every member of a community ought to be concerned for the whole, as well as for his particular part: His life and all, as to this world is as it were embarked in the same bottom, and is perpetually interested in the good or ill success thereof: Whenever therefore he sees a rock on which there is a probability the vessel may split, or if he sees a sand that may swallow it up, or if he foresees a storm that is like to arise; his own interest is too deeply concerned not to give notice of the danger: And the right he has to his own life and property gives him a right to speak his sentiments. If the pilot or captain don’t think fit to take any notice of it, yet it seems to be certain they have no right to stop the mouth of him who thinks he espys danger to the whole ships crew, or to punish the well-meaning informer. A man would scarce deserve the character of a good member of society who should receive to be silent on all occasions, and never mind, speak or guard against the follies or ignorance of mistakes of those at the helm. And government rather incourages than takes away a liberty, the use of which is so needful and often very beneficial to the whole, as experience has abundantly shown.

But not to detain you here,

I. The members of a civil state or society do retain their natural Edition: current; Page: [61] liberty in all such cases as have no relation to the ends of such a society. In a state of nature men had a right to read Milton or Lock for their instruction or amusement: and why they do not retain this liberty under a government that is instituted for the preservation of their persons and properties, is inconceivable. From whence can such a society derive any right to hinder them from doing that which does not affect the ends of that society? Should a government therefore restrain the free use of the scriptures, prohibit men the reading of them, and make it penal to examine and search them; it would be a manifest usurpation upon the common rights of mankind, as much a violation of natural liberty as the attack of a highwayman upon the road can be upon our civil rights. And indeed with respect to the sacred writings, men might not only read them if the government did prohibit the same, but they would be bound by a higher authority to read them, notwithstanding any humane prohibition. The pretence of any authority to restrain men from reading the same, is wicked as well as vain. But whether in some cases that have no relation to the ends of government and wherein therefore men retain their natural liberty; if the civil authority should attempt by a law to restrain men, people might not be oblig’d to submit therein, is not here at all the question: tho’ I suppose that in such case wherein they ought to submit, the obligation thereto would arise from some other consideration, and not from the supposed law; there being no binding force in a law where a rightful authority to make the same is wanting.

II. The members of a civil state do retain their natural liberty or right of judging for themselves in matters of religion. Every man has an equal right to follow the dictates of his own conscience in the affairs of religion. Every one is under an indispensable obligation to search the scripture for himself (which contains the whole of it) and to make the best use of it he can for his own information in the will of God, the nature and duties of Christianity. And as every Christian is so bound; so he has an unalienable right to judge of the sense and meaning of it, and to follow his judgment wherever it leads him; even an equal right with any rulers be they civil or ecclesiastical. This I say, I take to be an original right of the humane nature, and so far from being given up by the individuals of a community that it cannot be given up by them if they should be so weak as to offer it. Man by his constitution as he is a reasonable being capable of the knowledge of his Maker; is a Edition: current; Page: [62] moral & accountable being: and therefore as every one is accountable for himself, he must reason, judge and determine for himself. That faith and practice which depends on the judgment and choice of any other person, and not on the person’s own understanding judgment and choice, may pass for religion in the synagogue of Satan, whose tenet is that ignorance is the mother of devotion; but with no understanding Protestant will it pass for any religion at all. No action is a religious action without understanding and choice in the agent. Whence it follows, the rights of conscience are sacred and equal in all, and strictly speaking unalienable. This right of judging every one for himself in matters of religion results from the nature of man, and is so inseperably connected therewith, that a man can no more part with it than he can with his power of thinking: and it is equally reasonable for him to attempt to strip himself of the power of reasoning, as to attempt the vesting of another with this right. And whoever invades this right of another, be he pope or Cæsar, may with equal reason assume the other’s power of thinking, and so level him with the brutal creation. A man may alienate some branches of his property and give up his right in them to others; but he cannot transfer the rights of conscience, unless he could destroy his rational and moral powers, or substitute some other to be judged for him at the tribunal of God.

But what may further clear this point and at the same time shew the extent of this right of private judgment in matters of religion, is this truth, That the sacred scriptures are the alone rule of faith and practice to every individual Christian. Were it needful I might easily show, the sacred scriptures have all the characters necessary to constitute a just and proper rule of faith and practice, and that they alone have them. It is sufficient for all such as acknowledge the divine authority of the scriptures, briefly to observe, that God the author has therein declared he has given and designed them to be our only rule of faith and practice. Thus says the apostle Paul, 2 Tim. 3. 15, 16; That they are given by Inspiration from God, and are profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Correction, for Instruction in Righteousness; that the Man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good Work. So the apostle John in his gospel, Chap. 20. ver. 31. says; These Things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have Life through his Name. And in his first epistle, Chap. 5. ver. 13. These Things have I written, that ye may know Edition: current; Page: [63] that ye have eternal Life, and that ye may believe on the Name of the Son of God. These passages show that what was written was to be the standing rule of faith and practice, compleat and most sufficient for such an end, designed by infinite wisdom in the giving them, containing every thing needful to be known and done by Christians, or such as believe on the name of the Son of God. Now inasmuch as the scriptures are the only rule of faith and practice to a Christian; hence every one has an unalienable right to read, enquire into, and impartially judge of the sense and meaning of it for himself. For if he is to be governed and determined therein by the opinions and determinations of any others, the scriptures cease to be a rule to him, and those opinions or determinations of others are substituted in the room thereof. But you will say, The Priest’s Lips should keep Knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his Mouth, Mal. 2. 7. Yes; that is, it is their duty to explain the scriptures, and the people’s duty at the same time to search the scriptures to see whether those things they say are so. Acts 17. 11. The officers Christ has commissioned in his church, as pastors or bishops, are to teach his laws, to explain as they are able the mind & will of Christ laid down in the scriptures; but they have no warrant to make any laws for them, nor are their sentiments the rule to any Christian, who are all commanded to prove all Things, to try the Spirits whether they be of God. 1 Thes. 5. 21. 1 Joh. 4. 1. I speak as to wise Men, says Paul, judge ye what I say, 1 Cor. 10. 15. These and many other texts I might have alledg’d, entirely answer the objection, and establish the point before us.

The evidence of the point before us arises out of the nature of a rule of faith and practice. For a rule of faith and practice is certainly that from which we must take and rectify all our conceptions, and by which we ought to regulate all our actions, concerning all those matters to which this rule relates. As it is the rule of our faith, we must receive no doctrines but what that contains: otherwise our faith is not directed by that rule; but other things in that case are taken up and believed for truths which that rule takes no notice of; and therefore it is done on some other authority, which in reality therefore becomes our rule, instead of that which of right ought to be so. A rule, considered as such, is a measure or director with which a thing is to be compared and made to agree: And therefore a rule of faith and practice is that which being applied to our minds directs and regulates Edition: current; Page: [64] them, by informing the understanding and guiding the will, and so influencing all our actions. That which is the rule of our faith must point out to us and teach us the several doctrines and inform us of the several facts which we are to believe: And if we have entertained any wrong notions or erroneous opinions, they are to be corrected and regulated, by being compared and made to agree with this rule. So also the rule of our practice is that from which we are to learn the several duties we are to perform, and how all our actions are to be regulated. ’Tis the nature of a rule of faith and practice to include all this. That whereby men examine into the truth of any thing, is to them the rule of truth; that from whence they learn what they ought to believe, is to them the rule of faith; and that to which they conform their actions, is their rule of practice. If men receive the doctrines prescribed to them by the pope, by a council, by a convocation or a parliament, from the writings of fathers, or any doctors of learning and reputation, and conform their actions to the dictates and commands of any of these or such like authorities; the authority to which they give this honour, is undoubtedly the rule of their faith and practice. And so if we submit our selves truly and impartially to the authority of Christ, and search for the truths we are to believe, and the duties we are to perform in his written word; then only do we make him our director and guide, and the scriptures the rule of our faith and practice. And it is the sacred scriptures alone which have this right to our intire submission, as now described: and no other authority which has yet been or ever shall be set up, has any manner of right at all to govern and direct our consciences in religious matters.

This is a truth of too great importance for a Christian ever in any measure to give up; and is so clear and obvious a truth, as may well pass for a self-evident maxim, That a Christian is to receive his Christianity from Christ alone. For what is it which is necessarily implied and supposed in the very notion of a Christian but this, that he is a follower and disciple of Christ, one who receives and professes to believe his doctrines as true, and submits to his commands? And so far only as any does this, is he a Christian: and so far therefore as he receives or admits any other doctrines or laws, is he to be denominated from that person or sect, from whose authority or instruction he receives them.

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Every society ought to be subject only to its own proper legislature. The truth of this is evident at the first view; and civil societies readily adhere to this as an inviolable principle. And this holds equally true with respect to religious or civil societies; and therefore as in the church of Christ no other power or authority may be admitted but that of Christ alone; so no laws may be made for, or any doctrines be taught and enjoined upon the church of Christ besides those he has made and taught and enjoined. The laws of England are what the legislature of England has passed into laws; not what any other power or authority institute or teach under that name. And what these are, cannot be known from any other but the law makers, by the publications they have made and authorized. The doctrines of the church of Rome (if that by a figure may be called so) are such as that church and its legislature assert and own. So the doctrines or religion of Christ, is only that which he has appointed and taught, and all that is contained in scripture: every thing else is of men only, and no part of the Christian religion. What is taught by any established church, and not contained in scripture, is indeed the doctrine of that church, but not of Christ: For none can make laws to oblige the church of Christ but Christ himself. The church of Christ as such, must receive its laws from Christ only; i.e., from the scriptures: for they are to be found no where else. The Christian religion is that which Christ has taught; and therefore what he has not taught, but some other person, is not the Christian religion. So also the church of Christ is that which is founded according to the directions and model by him laid down. That therefore which is not so founded, but upon principles and regulations laid down by men, is so far not a church of Christ, but of men: And in all these things the scriptures only can be our rule. For we cannot know what Christ teaches and commands, from what he does not say, and what is said only by some other person, but it must be from what he does teach and command; and all that is contained in his word.

Again, if Christ be the Lord of the conscience, the sole King in his own kingdom; then it will follow, that all such as in any manner or degree assume the power of directing and governing the consciences of men, are justly chargeable with invading his rightful dominion; He alone having the right they claim. Should the king of France take it into his head to prescribe laws to the subjects of the Edition: current; Page: [66] king of Great Britain; who would not say, it was an invasion of and insult offer’d to the British legislature.

I might also add, that for any to assume the power of directing the consciences of men, not leaving them to the scriptures alone, is evidently a declaring them to be defective and insufficient to that purpose; and therefore that our Lord who has left us the scriptures for that purpose, did not know what was necessary and sufficient for us, and has given us a law, the defects of which were to be supplied by the wisdom of some of his own wiser disciples. How high an impeachment this is of his infinite wisdom, such would do well to consider, who impose their own doctrines, interpretations or decisions upon any men by punishments, legal incapacities, or any other methods besides those used and directed to in the sacred scriptures.

And as all imposers on men’s consciences are guilty of rebellion against God and Christ, of manifest disobedience to and contempt of their authority and commands; so all they who submit their consciences to any such unjust usurp’d authority, besides the share which such persons necessarily have in the guilt of the usurpers, as countenancing and giving in to their illegal claim and supporting their wicked pretensions, they do likewise renounce subjection to the authority and laws of Christ. To submit our consciences to the guidance of any man or order of men, is not to reason and act according to our own understanding; but to take every thing for true, that our spiritual guide affirms to be so, and that meerly upon his authority, without examining into, or seeing the truth and reasonableness of it: And in every instance wherein we thus submit our selves to the direction of any humane authority, so far we set aside and renounce all other authority, our own light and reason, and even the word of God and Christ: And the authority of the guide we subject our selves unto is substituted in the stead of all these. If we must be directed and governed by any humane power, it concerns us not what any other may teach and command; this the being subject to a power necessarily supposes and includes. An Englishman is subject to the crown and laws of England, and has nothing to do with the laws and courts of judicature in France or Spain, or any other state, but disowns and renounces all obedience thereto. This is a universal rule: And therefore if our consciences are under the direction of any humane authority as to religious matters; they cease to be under the Edition: current; Page: [67] direction of Christ. What Christ himself has told us is infallibly true, that no Man can serve two Masters, but he must unavoidably prefer the one and neglect the other: And consequently whoever looks upon himself to be under the direction and government of any humane power in matters of religion, does thereby renounce the authority of Christ, and withdraw obedience from him.

From these principles, we have here laid down, which can’t but be held as indubitably true by every consistent Protestant, these corollaries may be deduced.

I. That the civil authority hath no power to make or ordain articles of faith, creeds, forms of worship or church government. This I think evidently follows from what has been said, that they can have no power to decree any articles of faith. For these are already established by Christ himself; and for mortals to pretend any right of determination what others shall believe, is really to usurp that authority which belongs to Christ the supream king and head of his church; who only hath and can have a right to prescribe to the consciences of men, as is evident from the last foregoing head. So it also follows, that they have no power to decree rites and ceremonies in religion, or forms of divine worship: And this not only because these things have no relation to the ends of civil society; it no ways concerns the common-wealth or any member of it, whether men pray kneeling or standing, whether the sign of the cross be used or omitted in baptism, that this or the other ceremony be made use of in the church; but also because this is already sufficiently done by Christ in the sacred scriptures. These contain every thing needful to be known or done by Christians. It is Christ’s sole prerogative to institute the whole and every part of religious worship. Who can tell what homage will be pleasing to God but he himself? Or in what way the creature shall attend upon him for the obtainment of any spiritual blessing but he himself? Can a creature connect a divine blessing with any of its own invented methods of worship? Or oblige him to be pleased or displeased in any other way, or upon any other terms, but those himself has made and proposed, and which are all manifestly contained in the scriptures?

Objection, if it should be here objected, “That although Christ has instituted every part of religious worship; yet the particular mode or manner wherein some of those acts are to be attended he has not Edition: current; Page: [68] specially pointed out, which therefore must be determined in order to perform the instituted act of worship: And why therefore may not the civil Authority determine such modes of worship as well as ecclesiastical rulers?”

I know very well, some are fond of that notion, that the church (by which they mean the church officers or ecclesiastical rulers in some form or other consider’d and acting) has power to decree rites and ceremonies in religion: and I am as willing for the present to allow the civil authority has as much power to do it, as those ecclesiastical rulers; because for any thing I can tell at present, my neck might be as easy under the usurpation of a civil ruler, as an ecclesiastical one: But neither of ’em have any power of determining in the case supposed.

As to ecclesiastical rulers, Christ has precisely bounded their authority. They are to do what he has bid them, they are to open and explain their Lord’s will to others, or in a word to teach men Christ’s laws. For this I appeal to their commission, Math. 28. 20. And as this bounds their authority on the one side, so it draws the line or bound of submission on the other. When they teach us the mind and will of Christ our common lord and master; we are to hearken with deference to them: but if they get out of that line, and teach (or decree, I care not what you call it) some thing that is not his will, something to be necessary for me to do in religion which Christ has not made so; no regard is due to them therein. And I suppose I may venture to say, no one ceremony in religion or modality of any act of instituted worship, that has been devised and decreed by any since the apostles days as necessary, exclusive of any other, either was or is really necessary for a Christian to do in attending these acts of religion or parts of instituted worship: At least I know of no one: to be sure such as have been the subjects of debate between the Church of England on the one side and the dissenters from that establishment on the other; are unnecessary. The decreeing such unnecessary modalities of religion therefore is without any warrant from Christ: They teach therein what he has not commanded them, and no Christian is bound to regard them therein.

But that the objection may have a full and clear answer, I offer a few words farther. The objection supposes, that the mode of performing some acts of instituted worship is not determined by Edition: current; Page: [69] Christ, which must therefore be determined by man in order to perform such acts of worship.

To which I say,

1. If there be several modes wherein such act or acts of instituted worship may be performed, man may not determine the one exclusive of the other; and if there be but one mode wherein it can be attended, there is indeed no occasion for a determination upon it, all must of necessity agree in such a mode of performing it. But in the former case, no determination may be made that it shall be performed only after such a particular mode, when it may be performed after another manner as well. As for instance, public prayer may be performed either standing or kneeling: it being supposed that Christ has not determined the one mode or the other; in such case man may not determine that it shall be performed only standing, or only kneeling; the worshippers must be left to their liberty as Christ has left it: For it being the only reason why man may determine any thing relating to an act of religion or divine worship, viz. the necessity of such a determination in order to the obeying a law of Christ; then it is certain, where that necessity is not found (as in the present case) there no such exclusive determination may be made. In these matters of divine worship, Christ’s officers have nothing to do but to teach Christ’s laws; and Christians nothing else but to obey Christ’s laws. It is therefore certain, that if all Christ’s laws relating thereto may be observed, without the determination of this or the other ceremony or mode of attending them; then the determination of this or the other ceremony as a rule of action for Christians, falls not within the compass of the power of man or any order of men. And I think the keeping to this rule alone, that man’s power in these matters extends no farther than to a determination of those things necessary to be determined in order to the performing of Christ’s commands, is the only way to preserve Christ’s worship in its purity. Certain it is, that the going beyond it has sadly polluted it, and occasioned divisions and abundance of sinful strife.

2. In such cases where any thing is necessary to be determined in order to any worshipping assembly’s obeying Christ’s laws, the power of such determination lies with such worshipping assembly. It is a law of Christ, that he be worshipped in publick assembly on the first day of the week; which can’t be done unless some place & hour Edition: current; Page: [70] of the day be fixed upon for that purpose. If Christ had determined where and when the worshipping assembly should meet, man could not determine any thing in the matter: But since Christ has not; time & place must be determined by man; else Christ’s law in that case could not be obeyed. And because that law must be obeyed, and can’t be obeyed without such a determination of time & place; therefore it is, that man may determine them, and is warranted to do it. And every worshipping assembly best knowing their own particular circumstances, and being best able to judge what may be convenient or inconvenient in the case, are won’t to fix time and place for the purpose: And who has right to intermeddle in the matter without their desire or consent, I can’t imagine. This is a right our worshipping assemblies claim, and I know not that any call it in question. Now altho’ in this instance, wherein something falls necessarily under the determination of man in order to Christians obeying a law of Christ, no ceremony or mode of worship is concerned; yet as I apprehend there is greater reason why every worshipping assembly should be left free in an uninterrupted enjoyment of this right to determine the mode of any act of worship (undetermined by Christ) where there is a necessity of such a determination in order to obey his laws: and that because conscience is immediately concerned therein. As I have said before, I know not of such a case. Yet if Christians do apprehend there is any necessity, every worshipping assembly must in that case determine for themselves. They may be under a great mistake in determining that to be necessary which may not be so: but herein I think no others have a power to determine for them. Not the civil authority: for the reason before given, viz. That the ceremony or particular mode of performing an act of divine worship, has no relation to the ends of a civil society: The preservation of person or property, no ways requires the giving up this liberty into the hand of the civil magistrate. This therefore must remain in the individuals. The civil interest of a state is no more affected, by kneeling or standing in prayer, than by praying with the eyes shut or open; or by making the figure of a triangle or a cross upon a person in baptism, than by making no figure at all. They have indeed none of them any relation to the ends of a civil institution. The civil authority therefore have no business with it. Nor have the ecclesiastical officers authority to determine in these cases for particular Christians; because Edition: current; Page: [71] it is not within their commission. We have seen before how their authority is limited, and what is the bound of submission from particular Christians. As they are Christ’s officers, they have authority to teach men his mind in things pertaining to his kingdom. So they have no authority to teach men any thing but the mind and will of Christ. It is a truth that shines with a meridian brightness, that whatever is not contained in a commission is out of it and excluded by it; and the teaching his laws only being contained in the commission, what is not his law is out of it and by that commission they are excluded from teaching it, or forbid by it. The power then of determining in these cases before us, must lie with every distinct worshipping assembly; I don’t mean exclusive of their pastor but with him. And this I think is evident from the right of private judgment that every Christian has in matters of religion. We have seen evidently that the sacred scriptures are the rule of faith and practice to every Christian; from thence each one is bound to learn what that worship is which Christ requires from him, and in what manner he is to perform it: And therein is every one to be perswaded in his own mind. In all the worship he pays to God he is bound to act understandingly; which he can’t be said to do if he does not understand for himself, and perform it in such a manner as he judges most agreeable to the mind of Christ, and so most acceptable to him. If another person sees for him, it will be but a blind service that he will yield. Every one must give account of himself to God, to whom alone as his only master he is to stand or fall: And it will be but a poor account the papist will have to give of all his ceremonious worship, that the pope or priest directed him so. How much farther will it go in that day to say, the king, or parliament, or convocation directed me to pay such or such a kind of worship.

But the last thing included in this corollary is, that civil rulers have no authority to determine for Christians the form of church government: and that for the reasons before given, viz. Because this would be going beside the end of civil government, and because this is already done by Christ. If his Word be a compleat rule of faith and practice to the Christian; it surely contains sufficient instruction in the nature of a church; what kinds of officers Christ has instituted, what their work and business is; what the rights and priviledges of the church are, and on what terms to be enjoyed; what the discipline thereof is, Edition: current; Page: [72] and how it is to be administred. For that which is the rule of faith and practice to a Christian (as he is a subject of Christ) must certainly be the measure of his faith and practice: For that certainly cannot be the measure of his faith and practice which contains any thing more or less than he ought to believe and practice. Christ is the head of his church, a king in his own kingdom; a part of whose royalty it is to give laws to his subjects; these are contained in the sacred scriptures, which are open to all for the learning and understanding of them. And so far are men from having any power of instituting or forming a church for Christ, that it is their greatest honour to be servants in the house of God. Heb. 3. 5. This being truth, that Christ has shown us what his will is touching the ordering of his house in the sacred scriptures; it then follows, that none either pope or Cæsar, can have any authority to prescribe to Christians how it shall be order’d, to form the model or any part of it.

II. The next corollary I shall deduce from the principles before laid down, is, That the civil authority have no power to establish any religion (i.e. any professions of faith, modes of worship, or church government) of a human form and composition, as a rule binding to Christians; much less may they do this on any penalties whatsoever. Religion must remain on that foot where Christ has placed it. He has fully declared his mind as to what Christians are to believe and do in all religious matters: And that right of private judgment belonging to every Christian evidenced in the preceeding pages, necessarily supposes it is every one’s duty, priviledge and right to search the sacred writings as Christ has bid him, and know and judge for himself what the mind and will of his only Lord and master is in these matters. It does, I think, from hence follow, that no order of men have any right to establish any mode of worship, &c. as a rule binding to particular Christians. For if they may, then Christians are abridg’d or rather striped of their right, which is to involve our selves in a contradiction. For if A has a right to judge for himself what his master’s will is, then B can have no right to impose his own sentiments concerning that master’s will as a rule for A. For to suppose A has a right, which B has a right to take from him, is to suppose A has no right at all; which is a direct inconsistency. And to suppose B in such case has a right to punish A for not receiving his establishment, is but to increase the absurdity.

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But here you will say, “Tho’ they have no authority to establish a religion of their own devising, yet have they not authority to establish a pure religion drawn out of the sacred scriptures, either by themselves or some synodical assemblies, and oblige their subjects upon (at least) negative penalties to receive the same[?]” This I shall endeavour fairly to consider when I have observed, that if by the word establish be meant only an approbation of certain articles of faith and modes of worship, of government, or recommendation of them to their subjects; I am not arguing against it. But to carry the notion of a religious establishment so far as to make it a rule binding to the subjects, or on any penalties whatsoever, seems to me to be oppressive of Christianity, to break in upon the sacred rights of conscience, and the common rights and priviledges of all good subjects. For let it be supposed as now pleaded, that the clergy or a synodical assembly draw up the articles and form of religion, agreeable in their judgment to the sacred scriptures, and the reception of the same be made binding by the civil authority on their subjects; It will then follow, That all such establishments are certainly right and agreeable to the sacred scriptures. For it is impossible to be true that any can have right or authority to oblige Christians to believe or practice any thing in religion not true or not agreeable to the word of God: Because that would destroy the sacred scriptures from being the only rule of faith and practice in religion to a Christian. If the sacred scriptures are his rule of faith and practice, he is oblig’d and that by God himself, to believe and practice accordingly. No man therefore, or order of men can have any right or power to oblige the Christian to believe or do any thing in religion contrary to, or different from, what God has obliged him: The position of the one is the removal of the other. This then is certain, that if this proposition be true, that a humane religious establishment is a rule binding to Christians, or that the civil authority have power to oblige their subjects to receive them; then they are always right and agreeable to God’s word; but the latter is not true; therefore the proposition is false. Humane establishments in matters of religion, carry in them no force or evidence of truth. They who make them are no ways exempt from humane frailties and imperfections: They are as liable to error and mistake, to prejudice and passion, as any others. And that they have erred in their determinations, and decreed and established light to be darkness, & darkness to be light, Edition: current; Page: [74] that they have perplexed the consciences of men, and corrupted the simplicity of the faith in Christ, many councils and synods and assemblies of state are a notorious proof. King Henry the 8th’s Parliament and convocation, who established the famous six bloody Articles of Religion in the year 1540, had as much right or power to make a religious establishment binding to the subjects, as any king and parliament since. If therefore the civil authority has a power to make a religious establishment binding to the subjects; those six articles were true, tho’ they contained abominable absurdities, and amazing falshoods; and the people were obliged to believe them, and those who suffered for disbelieving them suffered justly.

Perhaps you will here say; “Altho’ they have no authority to make an establishment contrary to scripture; yet why may they not have authority to make an establishment agreable to the scriptures, that shall be a binding rule to Christians, without the supposition of that proposition’s being liable to such an inference from it (which I have made) viz. That then their establishments are certainly right and agreeable to scripture, or in other words that they who make them must be supposed to be vested with infallibility[?]” I will give then a reason, if what already said does not satisfy. Let us then have but a clear and determinate idea of the subject we are speaking of; and I think you will find the conclusion certain. This religious establishment that has this binding force in it, is either in the very words of the scriptures themselves; or in propositions formed by this body of men we are speaking of, which in their judgment contain the true sense and meaning of the scripture. There can be no other sense put upon it. The former of these can’t be meant; for that is the scripture it self which I am pleading is the alone rule in the case before us: Besides ’tis a vanity to talk of mortals making the constitutions of God Almighty to become a binding rule to Christians. So that the point before us comes to this proposition, viz. That the civil authority have power to make such a religious establishment which they think is agreeable to scripture, a binding rule to Christians. Then it follows, that what they Edition: current; Page: [75] think to be the sense of the scriptures, is the rule for the Christian: for that what they so lay down for the sense of the scriptures should be a rule binding to Christians, and that yet what they think is the sense and meaning of the scripture, is not the rule for a Christian, is a contradiction. It follows also, that what they think to be the true sense of scripture, is certainly the true sense of it: For to suppose, that what they lay down for the sense and meaning of the sacred scriptures, is a binding rule to Christians, and that yet the same is not the true sense of scripture, is a contradiction; unless that proposition be false, that the sacred scriptures are the alone rule of faith and practice to a Christian, which is a sacred maxim with every true Protestant. So that if a religious establishment which they think to be agreeable to scripture is a binding rule to a Christian; it is the true sense of scripture, and the supposal that they are vested with authority to make their religious establishments a binding rule to a Christian, does necessarily infer their being invested with infallibility too. Again—to suppose any thing not agreeable to the sacred scriptures can be a binding rule in matters of religion to a Christian is what no Christian will assert; because it destroys the Christian’s only rule in matters of religion. The sacred scriptures alone (or what is agreeable thereto) are a rule in matters of religion to a Christian: A religious establishment (say you) made by the civil authority which they think to be agreeable to the scriptures, is a rule binding to a Christian: Therefore (say I) such a religious establishment made by the civil authority which they think to be agreable to the scriptures, is certainly agreable to them. Until these contradictions can be reconciled—viz. That which is not agreable to the sacred scriptures cannot be a rule binding to a Christian in matters of religion—and this, That which is not agreable to the scriptures is (or may be) a rule binding to a Christian in matters of religion; or the scriptures are the alone rule of faith and practice to a Christian, and this—That something which the pope or Cæsar thinks to be agreable to the scripture, is a rule of the Christian’s faith and practice; or the scriptures are the alone rule, and not the alone rule of faith and practice to a Christian; or that which is a binding rule to a Christian in these matters, is not a binding rule to him: Until these contradictions can be reconciled, it will stand for a truth, that if the civil authority have power to make a religious establishment which they think agreable to the scriptures, a rule binding to Christians; then such their establishments are certainly agreable to the scriptures, and so they invested with infallibility. So that instead of finding one infallible man upon earth (at Rome) we may find a body of them in every civil state at least throughout Christendom, and why not throughout the earth: For the civil authority, Edition: current; Page: [76] considered as such, must have equal right and power of determining in these matters in every state.

But you will say; “the question is concerning an establishment that is agreable to scripture and therefore whether such an one is not a rule binding to the subjects.” I answer—It is no rule at all; and so has no binding force in it, as it is an human establishment: it’s binding force is derived from another quarter. The only reason why it is a rule binding to a Christian is, because it is the scripture, or the will of God contained in the scripture. What binds the Christian in religion are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness. This true Christians receive out of a regard to a much higher authority than belongs to any set of mortals.

If it be still demanded; “But have not these synods who draw up these establishments out of the scriptures, or the civil authority with them, a right to judge of the sense and meaning of the scripture in those matters, and so determine what shall or shall not pass for true, and be received by the members of the community[?]” I know some plead for such a power: And I think if a human religious establishment can be a binding rule to Christians; they must, either a synod, or civil authority, or both together, have power to determine the sense of scripture as now pleaded for: and if they have no such power, it is most evident their establishments can be no binding rule to Christians. But this is certain, they have no such power: The pretence to it is a spice of that Antichristianism that ought to be banished out of the world. For that this very supposition removes the sacred scriptures from being a rule of faith and practice to private Christians, and sets up humane determinations instead of them; inasmuch as that from which the Christian receives his information what he is to believe & do, is evidently the rule of faith & practice in those particular cases at least; and in the present supposed case, he is to receive his information from a human determination. The scriptures therefore are struck out from being a rule of faith and practice to private Christians; and human determinations substituted in their room. However the scriptures may be supposed or pretended to be the rule to those bodies of men who make those determinations; yet it is evident in this case, the scriptures are so entirely reduced into the power of man, that in truth these bodies of men, or their determinations are render’d the only and compleat rule to others. A tenet that Edition: current; Page: [77] suits very well at Rome. But to show the absurdity and wickedness of this principle, that synods or the civil authority may determine the sense of scripture for private Christians as above supposed; let me add, That all, whether popes, councils, synods or civil states, that have made their religious establishments, have always pretended they took the sacred scriptures for their rule in making them, and that they are agreable to the scripture. Upon this principle, all these must be received in their turns, and in the several civil states where they are made. For those synods (or in a word) the civil authority in those several ages, or states, have had all equal claim to this right of determining the sense of scripture, and so of making these religious establishments. How very different and contrary these have been, one to another; who, at all acquainted with history does not know? That is falsehood in England, which is truth at Rome and France. And that was truth in England yesterday, which is false there to day. And so a man (I don’t say a Christian; for as that means a disciple of Christ, and it can’t consistently mean any thing else, it is by this principle banished out of the world both name and thing) might yesterday walk to heaven in a path, which if walked in this day wou’d lead him down to hell. Alas what is the Christian bid to search the scriptures for, to repair to the law and testimony, as being the only light to direct us in these religious and important concerns; if it comes to this at last, that he must receive his information and direction herein, from some poor fallible creatures. This principle, that a humane religious establishment is a rule binding to Christians, does eternally militate with those plain commands of the supream Lawgiver; is big with the absurdities I have just hinted at, and numberless more; has proved the grand engine of oppressing truth, Christianity, and murdering the best men the world has had in it; promoting and securing heresy, superstition and idolatry; and ought to be abhorred by all Christians.

But if you demand again; “Is it not evident God has vested them with such a power, since he has bid us, obey them that have the Rule over us, Heb. 13. 17. and that we be subject to the higher Powers; for that the Powers that be, are of God, Rom. 13. 1. Will it not follow, that if God requires our subjection to them, they must needs be vested with such authority as is now pleaded for.” It has been already shewn that a supposal that they are vested with such authority, necessarily supposes they are vested with infallibility too; otherwise the Christian Edition: current; Page: [78] lies exposed to have a rule of practice in religion different from the word of God; which no Christian may admit of. If the sacred scriptures are the standing invariable rule in these matters to every Christian (which is an incontestible truth), then he can’t possibly lie exposed to have any thing else made a binding rule to him in matters of religion; God has not subjected him in this case to any other: and he may properly be said to rebel against God, when he puts himself in subjection to any other; And the thing now pleaded for, that an order of men are vested with authority from God to make any religious establishment which they think agreable to the scriptures, a rule binding to Christians, does necessarily suppose one of these two things; that a Christian may have something different from the sacred scriptures for his rule (i.e. that it is God’s will he shall be in a state liable to be bound by a rule different from his word) which is impossible; or else, that these men vested with this authority, are also vested with infallibility. Now since it is most evident, they are not vested with this infallibility, it is equally evident they are not vested with this authority now pleaded for: and therefore no such thing is implied in those texts now adduced for the proof thereof. A great dust I know has been raised by the sophistical reasonings of some men from these texts, who would erect a spiritual tyranny over the consciences of men. I will therefore distinctly consider them, and show that they no ways suppose such an authority (as now pleaded for) is vested in any order of men.

The text in Heb. 13. 17. evidently relates to church-officers; because they are said to watch for their souls, which is not the business of civil rulers: and their being called in the text, rulers, will no ways infer they have this legislative authority over a church or particular Christians; any more than Jairus being called a ruler of a synagogue, will infer he had a legislative authority over that synagogue: Or that any subordinate judges who are strictly tied to the laws in their administration, being called rulers, must needs also infer a power of legislation. Nor can it be infer’d from our being commanded to obey them; any more than our obedience to judges in their just application of the laws to particular cases, infers a power of legislation also in those judges. In a word, these officers in the text have so much authority, and no more than what Christ has given them. They have no more authority in their commission, than what is to be found in Edition: current; Page: [79] Math. 28. 19, 20. where they are expressly enjoined to teach people to observe Christ’s laws; which necessarily excludes them from a power of making laws of their own for Christ’s subjects. And the reason given for our obedience in the text, does also suppose it; viz. for they watch for your souls. By their adhering strictly to the will of Christ in their teaching Christians, do they truly watch for the salvation of their souls; and therein are they to be attended to as the faithful ministers of ambassadors of Christ, in hearing of whom (when they do so) we hear him that sends, as he elsewhere tells us. But if they go out of this line in teaching Christians, they then don’t watch for their souls, but for themselves: and therein therefore no obedience is due to them, even according to this very text, which determines the measure of our regard to them, by their watching or not watching for the salvation of our souls.

The other text Rom. 13. 1. no doubt relates to civil powers: A text often wrecked and tortured by such wits as were disposed to serve the designs of arbitrary power, of erecting a civil tyranny over a free people, and as often wrested out of their hands by the force of truth. Tho’ my business does not lie with civil tyranny now, yet the observation I shall make upon the text will show that neither civil, nor spiritual tyranny is at all favoured by it. Here then let me distinguish between two things, which as they are really different, must be kept so in our minds, if we would understand the Apostle; viz. between the powers which are, and the powers which are not. This is a plain and undeniable distinction; since it is well known there may be a pretended power where there is really none. Now the higher powers in the text are the powers which are. Since then it is express and certain, that the powers that be, are the powers in the text, the powers which be of God, the ordinance of God; it is only of such powers he speaks of subjection to. On the other hand— the powers that are not, are not the powers that be; and so not the powers in the text, not the powers that are of God, not his ordinance, and so no subjection to them required in this text. For instance: The powers that be in Great Britain are the government therein according to its own constitution: If then the higher powers for the administration rule not according to that constitution, or if any king thereof shall rule so, as to change the government from legal to arbitrary; the power from God fails them, it is then a power not in this text, and so no subjection due Edition: current; Page: [80] to it by the text. To apply this then to the present case; we have seen before that civil authority relates to the civil interests of a people (their persons and properties), and is bounded by the same; that they can have no power to make any religious establishment of their own devising, a rule binding to Christians: When therefore they attempt to do so, they get out of their line, with respect to which they are not the powers that be, in this text. A power that is no better than a pretended one, can’t challenge any obedience by virtue of this text. As this text does not shew they have such a power, the pretence of obedience being due to them by this text, if they should be so vain as to fancy they have it, is a meer vanity. The truth of the case is plainly this; that this text shews obedience is due to civil rulers in those cases wherein they have power to command, and does not call for it any farther: And when rightly understood affords not a shadow of an argument, of obedience being due to them when they claim a power in matters of religion which does not belong to them. It appears indeed plainly (tho’ I need not spend time upon it, in order to show no argument can be drawn from this text in favour of what it is now brought for, unless it be first proved from some other text or topick, that the civil magistrate’s power does extend to the making any religious or ecclesiastical establishment a rule binding to a Christian, which never can be done, the contrary thereof being already demonstrated), I say it appears from what the Apostle says in the 3d and 4th verses, that their power is a limited one: and therefore the obedience due is a limited obedience. Salus populi est lex suprema, is the Apostle’s maxim; for he is express that the end of all humane authority is the good of the publick. That therefore sets the bounds to civil authority, as such, on the one side, and fixes the bounds of obedience on the other. The ground of obedience cannot be extended beyond the ground of that authority to which obedience is required.

Besides, no obedience is here required to be given but to such power as is from God: Until therefore it be shown that the civil magistrate has power from God to make any such religious establishment (of which we are speaking) a rule binding to Christians; this text is in vain pressed into the service of such as plead for any obedience due to such an establishment. It must lie on them who plead this obedience is due from Christians, to prove that God has vested them with this power. To pretend this text for it, is begging the question, a Edition: current; Page: [81] taking the point for granted which must be first proved; which I scruple not to say will never be done ’till we have a new Bible. For by this which Christ has given us, he allows us not to be reduced under any yoke of bondage, or to become the servants of men, not only allows but requires us to stand fast in our Christian liberty, which subjects us in our faith and practice to Christ alone; and by that very thing exempts us from every other yoke, and from all other laws not given us by Christ. 1 Cor. 7. 23. Gal. 5. 1. Christ perfectly knew the weakness of humane nature, and how apt men are to assume power over one another, even in matters of a religious nature, and how unfit they are to have any dominion therein: He therefore charges and warns all his disciples and followers against this great and dangerous vice, which he knew would be very destructive to that religion which he taught in Mat. 23. 8, 9, 10. Be not ye called Rabbi; For one is your Master even Christ, and all ye are Brethren: And call no Man your Father upon Earth; for one is your Father which is in Heaven: Neither be ye called Masters; for one is your Master even Christ. Here all Christians are charg’d upon the duty and obedience they owe to Christ, that they should none of them set themselves up for authoritative masters, judges, or directors of men in religious matters (as the Pharisees did); and likewise that they should not submit to any who should set themselves up as such. Christ’s prohibition here is so strong, of this dangerous practice of setting up or admitting of any other rule or judge in religious matters besides the scripture, and of all attempts to strip Christians of the most valuable of all rights, even the right of judging for themselves in matters of religion (directly inconsistent with which, is the authority you have been now pleading for in the civil powers in the case we have been considering), that Christians here (I think) may safely take up their rest, and be resolved to give place by subjection, no, not for an hour to any humane authority on earth in any matters of religion, lest they cast dishonour on Christ their only lawgiver.

By what has been said you may see the falshood of another supposition or argument you bring to support the civil magistrate’s authority in the case before us, viz. That every law not contrary to a superior law, is to be obeyed; which you seem to take for an allowed maxim, and so think you may fairly conclude, that any legal injunctions of the civil magistrate in matters of religion which are not contrary to some Edition: current; Page: [82] express law of God; are to be obeyed. If that proposition be limited to those things which are the objects of the civil magistrate’s power, viz. the civil interests of the people; if it stands for a maxim it affects not the case before us at all. But if it be extended to things out or beyond the line of their power, as matters of religion are; it is then a falshood. In the latter extensive sense it seems you take it for a truth, or you would not argue from it as you do. The rule (then say you) to know whether a particular law is to be obeyed or not is to consider that law in relation to a superior law; and if it prohibits nothing which a superior law requires, or enjoins nothing which a superior law prohibits the doing of, then it is to be obeyed. This (I take it) is a principle invented for the support of tyranny, and industriously defended for the support of tyranny of the worst kind, i. e. spiritual: And if such as are so mean as to flatter civil rulers with notions of exorbitant power, and they only felt the effects thereof in fetters of slavery, the Christian church, and the world too, had been happier than now it is. Rulers have their infirmities as well as their subjects, and are too often carried away by the stream of temptation to play the tyrant: And still as heretofore, the world affords many in it that love to have it so, and too many assistants in forging the hateful chains of slavery and rivetting them on too if possible unseen, whilst they are industriously scattering false notions of power and obedience, such stupifying potions as this (you have now thrown in my way) that they may effectually lock up the senses of those whom they would enslave. But to return whence I have digressed. This pretended rule, as it holds not at all in matters of religion; so it does not hold true in all other cases, even in those that have no relation to the end of civil society, agreable to what has been already observed, page [61]. If civil rulers should take it into their heads to make a law, that no man shall have Luther’s Table-Talk in his house, that every man shall turn round upon his right heel at twelve of the clock every day (Sundays excepted), or any such like wise laws (thousands of which might be invented by a wise tyrant); By this rule these laws are to be strictly obeyed, a higher law to the contrary not being found. And yet I think it may be presumed, a free-born people can never become so servile as to regard them, while they have eyes to see that such rulers have gone out of the line of their power. There is no reason they should be fools because their rulers are so. Whenever the power that Edition: current; Page: [83] is put in any hands for the government of any people is applied to any other end than the preservation of their persons and properties, the securing and promoting their civil interests (the end for which power was put into their hands), I say when it is applied to any other end, then (according to the great Mr. Lock) it becomes tyranny. And since their power would be as truly applied to another end, in making such laws as I have above hinted at, as in making those that are notoriously unjust and oppressive (tho’ the latter is worse); then it as truly becomes tyranny. How long people are to bear with such tyranny, or what they may do to free themselves from it (I should refer you to that author in his Treatise of Government), were it at all needful to come into consideration in the present case, as it is not; since the only thing I had here to do, was to show obedience was not due to such laws, as I think I have done by shewing they had no rightful authority to make them.

Let me add a word farther for your serious consideration; do you think that when the edict went forth in Germany for the burning of all the above mention’d books of Martin Luther (when eighty thousand volumes of them were destroyed) did that good man, who hid one of them under the foundation of his house whereby it was perserved, sin in not delivering up the book? Or when the proclamation went forth in England in King Henry the Eight’s time, that Wickliff’s, Tindall’s, and many other books, should on certain penalties be deliver’d up to be burned; did those good people sin, who refus’d to deliver them up? By the rule you are pleading for, I see not but that you must charge sin upon them for not obeying; when yet I believe you cannot but in conscience acquit them; and if you do, it must then be upon the principles I have laid down.

But I will no longer dwell here, it being somewhat foreign to the point in hand. I proceed to consider this rule as it respects religious matters; to which it is so confidently applied by the lovers of spiritual tyranny. And here, if this be the rule, that we ought to obey human laws in religious matters in every instance where we can’t find a divine law enjoining what they forbid, or forbidding what they enjoin; then it is evident, religion is in danger of being made a very burdensome thing. To baptism you may add the sign of the cross, the salt, and cream, and spitting in the mouth, with a hundred other things, that a fruitful imagination could furnish out. The popish wardrobe Edition: current; Page: [84] will yield some furniture to dress up religion with. But the inventions of men may still go beyond. And if they do but take care not to enjoin any action or modality in religion not prohibited by some command in the Bible; by this rule Christians are bound to obey. It is a necessary consequence of this principle, that Christians are subjected to a heavier yoke than the Jews were under the Mosaick Dispensation. If you say, “not; because if the civil rulers should proceed so far (for I know not what else you can devise to say), it would be contrary to a general law we have from Christ; Gal. 5. 1. Be not intangled again with the Yoke of Bondage; which not only shows Christians are not subjected to that particular yoke, but also that their yoke is not to be so heavy as that was; so that if they should increase their injunctions to make religion now so burdensome, as the Jewish was, it would be contrary to this superior law.” Be it so, but then remember this is true upon their principles, that if they stop but one hair short, they will tell you, their injunctions are not contrary to this general law. If the burden they lay upon you be at all less, by your principle you confess yourself under the obligation of obedience; and how miserable Christians would be if human lawgivers might go near such a length, I need not spend any time to show, it is so very obvious. But farther, suppose civil rulers should go still beyond; who are the judges whether they go contrary to this law or not? Are the rulers the judges, or have private Christians a right of judgment in this case? If the rulers only are to judge, we may be sure thay will judge in favour of their own laws: if they exceed this bound you suppose set to them by this general law; they will never judge that law of Christ to be contrary to their laws: and if so, more miserable yet is the Christian’s condition. But if you say, private Christians have a right of judgment for themselves in this case; I then ask, if they judge the rulers in their injunctions exceed the bounds allowed by this law of Christ, whether they are to be tollerated by the rulers in their not conforming to those injuctions they judge contrary to this law? They have gone as far (it is to be supposed) in conforming, as their consciences will suffer them: Are they then to be indulged to stop there according to their own judgments, or must they still conform farther, or else be subjected to a penalty for not going farther? If they must be subjected to penalties for not conforming in this case; how deplorable is the condition of Christians? Obey the inventions of men Edition: current; Page: [85] or dye! You will doubtless answer; they must be tollerated, since it is supposed they have a right of judging for themselves, when a human injunction in religion is contrary to a divine law. This is undoubtedly true: for to suppose they have a right of judgment for themselves, is to suppose they have a right to act according to their judgment: and therefore none (not the civil magistrate) can have any right to hinder them. A right that in this case is dependent on the will of another, is no right at all. Suppose then, private Christians should judge that it is contrary to the will of Christ express’d in that text, Gal. 5. 1. that the civil magistrate should make any legal injunction at all in religion (which is the truth of the case); I then ask, whether these who so judge are not to be allowed to act according to their judgment, as well as the former? This surely can’t be denied them; since the right of private judgment belongs to the latter as well as the former. If then Christians have a right to adhere strictly to the will of Christ delivered in the sacred scriptures in every thing relating to their faith and practice in religion, exclusive of all human legal injunctions; then no power on earth can have any right to make a law to restrain them therefrom, or to add the least thing thereto. For to have a right to adhere to the sacred scriptures alone as a rule in this case, and not to have such a right is a contradiction: and to suppose the civil magistrate has a right to restrain them, or to add any one law to Christ’s in this case, is to suppose Christians have not a right to adhere to the sacred scriptures as their alone rule. The supposition therefore of any rightful power in the civil ruler to make any one law in matters of religion, involves in it as plain a contradiction to truth, as a right to a thing and no right to it does. The rule therefore which you would set up, by which to try what humane laws in matters of religion are to be obeyed, is justly to be rejected; not only because it subjects Christians to an intollerable yoke (if admitted), but because it can in no instance be admitted, but at the expence of a Christian’s natural and unalienable right of private judgment in matters of religion. It may do well enough to amuse men with a pretence they have found out a rule how far Christians ought to obey the laws of civil rulers in matters of religion, and where they may safely stop; where they can find persons so weak as to think that civil rulers have some power to make laws in these matters: But if that be the truth that they have no power at all to make any law in these cases, then the setting up such a Edition: current; Page: [86] rule is a grand absurdity. Now I have shown evidently before, that the civil magistrate can have no such power, that his power relates to the civil interests of a people, and is bounded thereby—that the sacred scriptures are the alone rule of faith and practice in religion to a Christian; that the right of private judgment, what the Christian is to believe and do in religion according to that rule, is his natural and unalienable right; so that he neither really may nor can give up his soul, his conscience in these matters to the controul of human laws. And the truth is, the civil magistrate is so far from having a rightful power in these cases, to make laws for Christ’s subjects; that in doing so, he violates the fundamental priviledge of the gospel, the birthright of believers, Christian liberty. 2 Cor. 3. 17. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty. Gal. 4. 31. We are not Children of the Bondwoman, but of the Free. It is impossible to suppose that God by his special grace in the gospel should free us from the bondage of ceremonies, his own commandments, in these things, and subject us to a more grievous yoke, the commandments of men. Nor has he given us his gift only as a special priviledge and excellence of the free gospel above the servile law; but has strictly commanded us to keep and enjoy it. You are called to Liberty, Gal. 5. 13. 1 Cor. 7. 23. Be not ye the Servants of Men. Gal. 5. 1. Stand fast in the Liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. A command accompany’d with the weightiest reasons. Rom. 14. 9, 10. For to this End Christ both died and rose and revived; that he might be Lord, both of the Dead and Living: But why dost thou judge thy Brother, &c. How presumest thou to be his Lord? To be whose only Lord, at least in these things, Christ both died and rose and lived again—We shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Why pretend you then to be a Lord, a Judge, in these things, for which we are to be accountable to the tribunal of Christ only, our Lord and lawgiver? Who in so many express words, has told us we shall have himself only our Master in religion, Math. 23. 8, 9, 10. One is your Master, even Christ. By all which I think it is evident; that for men to exercise such a power in religious matters as you have been pleading for, is not only a violation of the rights of Christians, whose souls in matters of religion are subject to none but Christ and his laws; but an invasion of the royal power of Christ, who is the sole legislator in his own kingdom.

To illustrate and clear this point, let me bring it down to a plain Edition: current; Page: [87] and familiar instance. Let it be supposed a humane law is made, that the sign of a cross shall be made upon a person’s forehead, after the use of water &c. in baptism, so that none shall be admitted to baptism but who submit to this manner of administration of it: or a law requiring all who attend the ordinance of the Lord’s supper to do it in a kneeling posture: and let it be supposed, that there is no particular law to the contrary in the gospel forbidding those actions. Now according to the rule you plead for (on the supposition now made), Christians are bound to obey these laws. But the contrary is evident. For it has been already demonstrated, that every Christian has a right to adhere to the sacred scriptures as the only rule of his faith and practice in religion; and that the right of private judgment, what he is to believe and do in religion according to that rule, is really unalienable: he can’t therefore be bound to yield any obedience to such laws of man, unless he be obliged to yield up an unalienable right, which is a contradiction. Besides—if the making such laws are an invasion of Christ’s authority; how is it possible the proposition should be true, that a Christian is obliged to obey them, unless the Christian has two masters in religion, contrary to Mat. 23. 8, 9, 10. Where there is no authority to command in matters of religion, there a Christian is under no obligation from such laws to obey: But in the case before us, such laws are not only enjoined without authority, but they interfere with Christ’s authority: So that a Christian is indeed very far from being bound to obey them.

Unto what has been already said that will shew this, I shall add but a few words. Christ has in the gospel charter made a grant of certain privileges to those who would be, and do approve themselves his subjects. To them he has granted the privilege of attending on him in the ordinances he has instituted, for the conveying the sanctifying graces of his spirit to their souls, to prepare them for the inheritance he has purchased and secured by promise to such as believe in and obey him. As this is clear and certain in the nature of the thing itself, that the grantor of a privilege has the sole right of fixing the condition on which the privilege shall be enjoyed by the grantee; so it is equally certain, that if any other attempts in the least measure to alter the condition on which such privilege is to be enjoyed by the grant, he does therein invade the indisputable right of the grantor. Now in the case before us there can’t be a clearer truth, than that this Edition: current; Page: [88] is Christ’s sole prerogative to make the grant and fix the conditions on which the privileges are to be enjoyed, and that this is done in the gospel charter. The privileges are granted on the conditions that are written in the charter. The privileges are not granted on certain conditions to be invented by men after the making of the charter: For that would suppose that infinite wisdom has granted certain privileges to Christians on such conditions as humane weakness establishes; and that Christ strips himself of his royalty to cloath a mere creature with it, and makes the creature the director of his bequests: To suppose which of Christ is to dishonour him with a witness. It is indeed the greatest absurdity imaginable, to suppose this matter could be settled by any other than Christ himself, who makes the grant: And the conditions lie as plainly in the grant as the privileges conveyed by it; That he who believes and obeys the gospel, has the right to the enjoyment of the privileges belonging to a subject of Christ. This then being certain, that Christ has fixed the conditions of Christians enjoying the privileges, the ordinances of the gospel; it is equally certain, that man and every order of men are excluded by Christ himself from any authority in this matter: So that if any man or order of men make any alteration in those conditions, or make any new ones; they do it not only without authority, but against it, and therein controul Christ’s authority. To apply this then to the case before us: Since the making the above-mentioned figure on the person to be baptized, or such a particular bodily posture at the reception of the Lord’s supper, are not fixed by Christ as the conditions of Christians enjoying these ordinances, or by any law of Christ made necessary in order to the observance of these institutions of his; for man to make them conditions, without a compliance with which Christians may not have the enjoyment of those ordinances, is not only to act without authority, but is assuming an authority which only belongs to Christ: it being a practical declaration that Christ’s subjects shall not enjoy the privileges of the gospel upon the conditions fixed in Christ’s grant: Which is therefore evidently an invasion of Christ’s kingly office, and an evident violation of the rights of Christians. So that it is certain, Christians are not only, not bound to submit to such human laws, but do truly profess their adherence to Christ’s authority, when they refuse to do so.

But if you say here; “altho’ the rule you have been pleading for Edition: current; Page: [89] will not hold; yet if every thing relating to decency and order in divine worship be not particularly determined by Christ, why may not what is referrible thereto fall under the determination of the laws of the civil authority, and be warranted by that apostolical precept, 1 Cor. 14. 40. Let all Things be done decently and in Order; and so those particular instances I have mentioned be justly warranted by that precept? If some body must determine in such cases, why may not the civil rulers do it?” I answer

1. If Christians keep from indecency and disorder in their worship, they come up to the rule given by the Apostle in the now mentioned text; and this they may certainly do without the civil magistrate’s determining any thing about it. Christians observed this apostolick precept as well before there was any such thing as a Christian magistrate to be found, as they have done since: And may do it as well to the second coming of Christ, without the civil magistrate’s intermeddling in this matter (not to say with more honour to Christ and greater peace in the church, if he forbears his injunctions). So that it is impossible to get an inference from this text in favour of the civil authority’s determining any thing by their laws in these cases.

2. If by what you would call decency or order in worship be meant, either any act or mode of worship, or any ceremony that has any religion at all placed in it; then I say, no man or order of men has the least authority to invent or injoin any such thing: This would fall under our Saviour’s condemnation in Mark 7. 7.

3. Any such modes or circumstances of divine worship which are supposed in this objection left undetermined by Christ, may not be determined by any legal injunctions of the civil authority. And that—

(1.) Because so to do, would be going out of their line; these things don’t lie within the compass of the end of their institution: The civil interests of the people being no ways concerned therein, as has been shewn in the preceeding pages.

(2.) The supposition that such modes or circumstances of divine worship may be determined by human laws, does also suppose that the civil authority may fix terms of communion for Christians: What is thus supposed enacted by a legislature, is made a rule of action to the subject by the very supposition of its being made a law; so that in this case the subject is to attend divine worship, but according to a human law; and is therefore excluded from the benefit of divine worship Edition: current; Page: [90] and ordinances, in case of a non-compliance with that human injunction. This is the true state of the matter with respect to those instances I have just mentioned: And any the like modes of worship enjoined on Christians by the laws of men, they are made the terms of communion to Christians, the conditions of their enjoying the external privileges of Christians: And for men to fix any terms of communion for Christians in this manner, to make that necessary to their enjoyment of the privileges Christ has purchased for them which he has not made necessary, has been already demonstrated an invasion of Christ’s kingly authority.

(3.) The civil authority may not determine such modes and circumstances of worship by legal injunctions; because this would interfere with the right of private judgment that belongs to Christians. The sacred scriptures are sufficient to furnish the Christian unto every good work; they hold forth sufficient light about the modes and circumstances of divine worship, which in this objection are supposed to be left undetermined by Christ. And it is the duty and right of Christians to learn from thence, and judge concerning their duty in these as well as more important matters of religion; and such determinations of them are lawful and warrantable as are according to the general rules of scripture given to direct us herein. And therefore there may be various modes of performing the same religious duties that are each allowable and lawful: tho’ some particular circumstances may make one more expedient to some persons than the other, and these also may be varied by the providence of God. It is the right therefore of Christians, of every worshipping assembly, to determine for themselves these modes and circumstances of worship, as I have before observed. And for the civil authority here to step in and determine by a law, what modes or circumstances of worship shall be observed; for instance, what posture we shall use in prayer, when there are several equally expressive of our religious reverence; interferes with the Christian’s unalienable right of private judgment. And when I say, every worshipping assembly has this right of determining or agreeing for themselves about the modes or circumstances of worship; it no way supposes they have a right to (or do by such agreements) exclude from their communion any of their Christian brethren who may prefer the use of a different allowable mode of worship. Whom Edition: current; Page: [91] Christ receives they are also to receive. Christ has fixed the terms of Christian communion, and none may alter them.

But say you once more; “That the civil authority must have power to make such religious establishment which I have been impleading, in order to have unity of faith and uniformity of practice in religion. These you suppose necessary to peace and good order in the state; and that this unity &c. is effected by such a religious establishment, of which we are speaking; and consequently we must suppose them vested with power to make such a one.” Much weight I know has been laid upon this argument by the lovers of spiritual tyranny, and many ignorant unthinking people have been amused and deceived by it: But if we will look closely into it, it will appear lighter than vanity. For

1. Unity of faith and uniformity of practice in religion, never was nor can be effected in a Christian state by any such legal establishment of religion pleaded for in the above-mentioned argument. By a Christian state, I mean at least such a one, where the sacred scriptures lie open to the people: and therefore I don’t intend, to consider this proposition relative to a popish state, where people’s eyes being put out, they are more easily induced to follow their leaders; tho’ it be also true that this unity of faith is not found among them that are bound in the strongest chains of human establishments. This has been tried in Protestant states, to make all think and practice alike in religion by legal establishments and annexed penalties: but it never produced this effect. It were easy if needful to multiply instances: but it is sufficient to our purpose to instance in our own nation; where this method has been tried ever since the reformation, and as constantly found ineffectual for the accomplishing this uniformity, for the sake of which these legal establishments have been pretended to be made. So far is this method from bringing about an unity of faith, that this is not found even with them that submit to a legal establishment. It is notoriously known, that the clergy of the Church of England are bound to subscribe to the thirty nine articles, i.e. to the truth of Calvinistick principles: But has this subscription answer’d its end? Is it not known, that they subscribe those articles in as widely distant and contradictory senses as were ever put on the most dubious passage in the Bible. And the truth is, if we consider the almost Edition: current; Page: [92] infinite variety with respect to the understandings, tempers and advantages of men for improvement in knowledge; it must be evident, that this uniformity of opinion and practice in religion (as it has not), so it never can be produced by the art and policy of man. A scheme for an artificial conformity in aspect, shape and stature of body, is not a whit more ridiculous, than an attempt to depress and contract the understandings of some, to stretch the capacities of others, to distort and torture all, ’till they are brought to one size, and one way of thinking and practice. So that if this unity of faith and uniformity of practice in religion is necessary to the peace of the state; then it follows, that the civil authority have a rightful power to put to death or banish all that cannot in conscience conform to their religious establishment. It will be to no purpose for the avoiding this consequence, to say; “the civil magistrate may not rise so high, or may affix some lower penalties for non-compliance with his establishment”: For if this conformity to his establishment be necessary to the peace of the state, then the civil magistrate has a right to prevent a non-compliance with such establishment; and if lesser penalties will not do it (as experience has perpetually shown they will not), then they must rise so high as death, or banishment: For a right to prevent such non-compliance, that does not amount to a right to prevent it effectually, is no right to prevent it at all. So that on this hypothesis, all non-conformists to the religious establishment of any state, are to be rooted out by death, or banishment as fast as they appear: Which both experience and the nature of things evidence will be continual; the cutting off all that appear to day will no ways hinder others from appearing so to-morrow. Whence it is but a genuine consequence, that civil government is one of the greatest plagues that can be sent upon the world; since it must, in order to keep peace in it, be perpetually destroying men for no other crime but judging for themselves and acting according to their consciences in matters of religion (and so perhaps very often the best men in the state); and all this in vain too, as to the proposed end, viz. uniformity of practice in religion, that being for ever out of their reach.

2. Such unity, or uniformity in religion is not necessary to the peace of a civil state. Since God has formed the understandings of men so different, with respect to clearness, strength, and compass, and placed them in such very different circumstances; a difference of Edition: current; Page: [93] sentiments in some things in religion, seems natural and unavoidable: and to suppose this does in its own nature tend to the public mischief of the state, seems little less than arraigning infinite wisdom. From thence will arise greater reason and scope for mutual forbearance and Christian charity. But it will certainly be found on reflection, that it has no ill aspect on the civil state. Have we not known persons of different sentiments and practices in religious matters, as Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Church-Men (as commonly called) Baptists and Quakers, all living in the same community in quiet and peace with one another? I mention not papists; because tho’ the principles of a consistent Protestant, naturally tend to make him a good subject in any civil state, even in a popish one, and therefore ought to be allowed in every state; yet that is not the case with the papist: for by his very principles he is an enemy or traytor to a Protestant state: and strictly speaking popery is so far from deserving the name of religion, that it is rather a conspiracy against it, against the reason, liberties, and peace of mankind; the visible head thereof the pope being in truth the vice-gerent of the Devil, Rev. 13. 2. To pretend that such as own the sacred scriptures to be the alone rule of faith and practice in religion, can’t live in peace and love as good neighbours and good subjects, tho’ their opinions and practices in religious matters be different, is both false in fact, and a vile reproach cast upon the gospel, which breaths nothing but benevolence and love among men: and while it plainly teaches the right of private judgment in every one, it most forcibly enjoins the duties of mutual forbearance and charity. That golden precept of our blessed Lord; Whatsoever ye would that Men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, Math. 7. 12, well taught and enforced by the teachers of the gospel, would (if I may use the word) infinitely more tend to make Christians of the several denominations in the state, good neighbours and good subjects, than this whimsical notion of uniformity. Which if it had always had its due force on the minds of men, we should never have heard of the necessity of uniformity in religion to the peace of the state, nor any such legal establishment of religion I have been impleading. That precept being a sacred guard to the unalienable rights of conscience, which are always invaded by such establishments.

But if you say, “that different sects in religion aiming at superiority, and endeavouring to suppress each other, form contrary factions Edition: current; Page: [94] in the state; which tends to distress and thwart the civil administration.” I answer; The civil authority’s protecting all in their just rights, and particularly this inestimable and unalienable one, the right of private judgment in matters of religion, is the best guard against the evil supposed in the objection. Besides, this is no more a natural consequence of men’s thinking differently in religion, than of different judgments about wit, or poetry, trade, or husbandry.

Or if you farther suppose, “that religion is a matter of much greater importance than these things, and demands therefore a more warm and active zeal.” Be it so; nothing farther follows from thence, than that we should endeavour to support its honour in a way suited to its excellency; to instruct one another in its grand principles and duties, and recommend it by calm and strong perswasion. It is by truth Christ’s kingdom is set up, as he himself has taught us, Luke 18. 37. And it is a most unnatural excess of zeal, for the pretended defence of religion, to renounce humanity, and that equitable regard and kind affection, which are unalterably due from one man to another.

If it be again said, “that tho’ these above-mentioned evils are directly contrary to the true genius and spirit of the Christian religion; yet they are the actual consequence of a variety of sects, exceeding fond of their particular schemes.” I answer; they are only accidental abuses to which the best things are liable: The same argument may be urged against reason, and every branch of natural and civil liberty. It is equally conclusive as the papists have used it against the laity’s having the Bible; viz. the consequence of people’s having the Bible in their hands to read, has been the rising up of a variety of sects in the Christian world, and therefore they ought not to be permitted the use of it. As no such conclusion can be drawn against every body’s having the Bible from such premises; so in the case before us, no conclusion against the right of private judgment for our selves in matters of religion, can be drawn from these inconveniencies; which do not spring directly from it, but arise entirely from different causes; from pride, or foolish bigotry, that either does not understand, or pays no regard to the unalienable rights of conscience.

3. Such legal establishments have a direct contrary tendency to the peace of a Christian state. As the exercise of private reason, and free enquiry in a strict and constant adherence to the sacred scriptures as Edition: current; Page: [95] the only rule of faith and practice, is the most likely means to produce uniformity in the essential principles of Christianity as well as practice; so this is certainly the most sure method of procuring peace in the state. No man having any reason to repine at his neighbour’s enjoyment of that right, which he is not willing to be without himself; and on the same grounds he challenges it for himself, he must be forced to own, that it is as reasonable his neighbour should enjoy it. But then on the other hand, every claim of power inconsistent with this right (as the making such a human establishment of religion of which we are speaking), is an encroachment on the Christian’s liberty; and so far therefore he is in a state of slavery: And so far as a man feels himself in a state of slavery, so far he feels himself unhappy, and has reason to complain of that administration which puts the chain upon him. So that if slavery be for the peace of the civil state; then such establishments as we are speaking of, tend to promote the peace of the state: i.e. what makes the subjects miserable, really makes them happy. And as it necessarily tends to the misery of some, so it also promotes bigotry, pride, and ambition in such as are fond of such establishments: which have from time to time broken out in extravagancies and severities (upon good subjects) in men of authority and influence, and into rage and fury, hatred and obloquy, and such like wickednesses, in the impotent and commoner sort. This has been the case in all places, more or less, as well as in our own nation. Thus when K. Henry threw off the popish tyranny, he would not destroy and put an end to the exercise of that unjust power, but only transferred it to himself, and exercised it with great severity. The same unjust dominion over the consciences of men was again exercised in the reign of Elizabeth; who (tho’ otherwise a wise princess) yet being of an high and arbitrary temper, pressed uniformity with violence; and found bishops enough, Parker, Aylmer, Whitgift and others, to cherish that temper, and promote such measures. Silencings, deprivations, imprisonments, fines &c. upon the account of religion, were some of the powerful reasonings of those times. The cries of innocent prisoners, widowed wives, and starving children, made no impression on their hearts: piety and learning with them were void of merit: Refusal of subscriptions, and Non-conformity, were crimes never to be forgiven. At the instigation of that persecuting prelate Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, the High Commission Court was established; Edition: current; Page: [96] which had a near resemblance to the Court of Inquisition (a fine invention to promote uniformity): Which by the cruelties practiced in it in the two following reigns, was render’d the abhorrence of the nation; so that it was dissolved by parliament, with a clause, that no such court should be erected for the future. A creature framed to promote the wretched designs of such persecutors, was her weak successor James the First, who gave the Puritans to understand that if they did not conform, he would either hurry them out of the kingdom, or else do worse. The bishops supported by such an inspired king, according to Whitgift’s impious and sordid flattery, pursued the maxim to accomplish uniformity by persecution. The grievous severities and numerous violences exercised on Non-conformists in that and the next reign, under that tyrannical prelate Laud (said in parliament by Sir Harbottle Grimstone, to be the great and common enemy of all goodness and good men), are well known by all truly acquainted with the history of those times: As well as the cruel injustice exercised after the Restoration on great numbers of as good subjects as any in the nation; meerly because they could not come up to this uniformity pleaded for, and enquired according to their measure of knowledge after the truth, and desired to worship God according to their consciences: until the late great deliverer (William the IIId. of happy memory) of the British nation from popery and slavery, freed those miserable sufferers (noble confessors for the truth) from a yoke of bondage laid upon them, and gave them a law for the security of their Christian liberty; this right of private judgment I have been pleading for. And that this has promoted peace in the state, experience since has proved; as well as former experience made it most evident, that the incroachments upon this right of private judgment, by such legal establishments, have been exceeding prejudicial to the peace of the state: It being impossible but that such methods should cause and perpetuate schisms and divisions of the church, and disturb and disquiet the state; since the wrath of man cannot work the righteousness of God; and since civil punishments have no tendency to convince the conscience, but only to inflame the passions against the advisers and inflicters of them. And as history gives us so dreadful an account of the melancholy and tragical effects of this practice, one would think, that no people who have any regard for the peace of the flock of Christ, who know the worth of liberty, would be fond of such legal Edition: current; Page: [97] establishments, or any such methods as encroach upon Christian liberty, the most valuable of all our rights.

Thus I think I have fully answered all your objections against my second corollary. I therefore proceed to a third.

III. That the civil authority ought to protect all their subjects in the enjoyment of this right of private judgment in matters of religion, and the liberty of worshipping God according to their consciences. That being the end of civil government (as we have seen) viz. the greater security of enjoyment of what belongs to every one, and this right of private judgment, and worshipping God according to their consciences, being the natural and unalienable right of every man, what men by entering into civil society neither did, nor could give up into the hands of the community; it is but a just consequence, that they are to be protected in the enjoyment of this right as well as any other. A worshipping assembly of Christians have surely as much right to be protected from molestation in their worship, as the inhabitants of a town assembled to consult their civil interests from disturbance &c. This right I am speaking of, is the most valuable right, of which every one ought to be most tender, of universal and equal concernment to all; and security and protection in the enjoyment of it the just expectation of every individual. And the civil magistrate in endeavouring and doing this, most truly comes up to the character of a nursing father to the church of Christ. If this had been protected as it ought to have been, what infinite mischief to the Christian church had been prevented? From the want of a due care of this, the clergy through pride and ambition assumed the power of prescribing to, imposing on and domineering over the consciences of men; civil rulers for their own private ends helping it forward; which went on ’till it produced the most detestable monster the earth ever had upon it, the pope, who has deluged the earth with the blood of Christians. This being the true spirit of popery, to impose their determinations on all within their power by any methods which may appear most effectual: and those civil magistrates that suffered and helped that beast to invade this right, did therein commit fornication with her, and give her their strength and power; and so instead of proving fathers to their people, proved the cursed butchers of them. It has been by asserting and using this right, that any of the nations who have been drunk with the Wine of her Fornication, have come out from her Abominations: and would Edition: current; Page: [98] the civil magistrates of those nations, who at this day worship the beast, but protect their subjects in this natural right of every one’s judging for himself in matters of religion, according to that alone rule the Bible; that settled darkness of ignorance, error & idolatry, which now involves them, would vanish as the darkness of the night does by the rising of the sun. How unspeakable would the advantages be, arising from the protection of this right, did they reach no further than to the estates, bodies, and lives of men?

All reformations are built on this single principle I have been pleading for, from which we should never depart: yet it must be owned and deserves to be lamented, that the reformed have too much departed from this principle upon which they at first set up; whence it has come to pass that reformations in one place and another have not been more perfect. For the Prince of Darkness has always found means this way to make a stand against the most vigorous efforts; and if any advantages have been gained in any point, to secure a safe retreat, by infatuating men with that strange sort of pride, whereby they assume to themselves only, but allow to none else, a power of domineering over the consciences of others. Religion will certainly lie under oppression if this unjust authority be transferred, to decrees of councils, convocations, injunctions of civil magistrates, or from one man or any order of men to another; as it is if we have any other rule of faith and practice in religion, besides the Bible. It were easy to enlarge on the vast advantages and happiness of admitting no other rule or guide but the sacred scriptures only: thence would flow the greatest blessings to mankind, peace and happiness to the world: so that if there be any rights and liberties of men that challenge protection and security therein from the civil magistrate, it is this natural right of private judgment in matters of religion, that the sacred scriptures only may become the rule to all men in all religious matters, as they ought to be. In a word, this is the surest way for the ease and quiet of rulers, as well as peace of the state, the surest way to engage the love and obedience of all the subjects. And if there be divers religious sects in the state, and the one attempts to offend the other, and the magistrate interposes only to keep the peace; it is but a natural consequence to suppose that in such case they all finding themselves equally safe, and protected in their rights by the civil power, they will all be equally obedient. It is the power given to one, to oppress the other, that has occasioned all Edition: current; Page: [99] the disturbances about religion. And should the clergy closely adhere to these principles, instead of their being reproached for pride and ambition, as the sowers of strife and contention and disturbance of the peace of the church of God; they would be honoured for their work’s sake, esteemed for their character, loved as blessings to the world, heard with pleasure, and become successful in their endeavours to recommend the knowledge and practice of Christianity.

IV. It also follows from the preceeding principles, that every Christian has right to determine for himself what church to join himself to; and every church has right to judge in what manner God is to be worshipped by them, and what form of discipline ought to be observed by them, and the right also of electing their own officers. (For brevity sake I put them all together.) From this right of private judgment in matters of religion, sufficiently demonstrated in the foregoing pages, it follows, that no Christian is obliged to join himself to this or the other church, because any man or order of men command him to do so, or because they tell him the worship and discipline thereof is most consonant to the sacred scriptures; For no man has right to judge for him, whether the worship and discipline of this or the other church be most agreeable to the sacred scriptures; and therefore no other can have right to determine for him to which he ought to join himself: This right therefore must lie with every Christian. As this is the right of each individual; so also of a number of them agreeing in their sentiments in these things, to agree to observe the ordinances of Christ together, for their mutual edification according to the rules of the gospel, which makes a particular Christian church. And having voluntarily agreed together for such an end, no man or order of men has any authority to prescribe to them, the manner of their worshipping God, or enjoin any form of church discipline upon them. So a number of such churches (who are all endowed with equality of power) have right to judge for themselves, whether it be most agreeable to the mind of Christ, to consociate together in any particular form; as for instance, of presbyteries, or synods, or the like. And if they should do so, such agreements of their’s cannot be made a binding rule to them, by any law of man; as has been demonstrated in the preceeding pages. These churches are all of them as free to think and judge for themselves, as they were before such agreement; their right of private judgment not being given up, but Edition: current; Page: [100] reserved entire for themselves, when they entered into any such supposed agreement. And if on experience of such a method of regimen as they have agreed to, and farther light, they judge any of them, there is good reason for them to forbear practicing farther in that form; they are not held to continue therein, but have right to act according to their present light; they having no other rule but the sacred scripture, they have always a right to act their judgment according to that rule. So also if a greater or lesser number of Christians in any particular church, shall judge another way of worship, or method of discipline, more agreeable to the mind of Christ, than what is practised in that church; they have right to withdraw, and to be embodied by themselves. As they ought to signify this desire to their brethren, so they ought to consent; for they can have no right to hold them to themselves: and this without any breach of charity on either side; or of after communion, so long as they hold to Christ the head, and are agreed in the great essentials of Christianity. So also from the same premisses it follows, that every church or worshipping assembly has the right of choosing its own officers: Tho’ it may ordinarily be a point of prudence for a church destitute of a pastor, to consult pastors of other churches where they may be supplied with a person suitable for that office; yet that no way supposes, the full power of election does not lie with the church. It is for the better improving their power of election, that such a method is ever to be taken, and not because they have not the power of election in themselves. Nor can they be bound to this, if they see good reason to act otherwise (as the case has sometimes happened and often may). Nor can they be at all bound to elect the person recommended: They are to prove him themselves, and be fully satisfied in his ministerial gifts and qualifications, and may herein be controuled by no power whatever. It is their own good, their everlasting interest that is concerned, and if they judge his doctrine not agreeable to the sacred scriptures, that he is not qualified as he ought to be for a gospel minister they have right to reject him. As they have a right of judging the doctrines taught them, by the sacred scriptures, and of rejecting the same if not agreeable thereto, so it necessarily follows they have equal right to refuse such a one for their teacher, who does not teach according to the scriptures.

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But if it be demanded how this power can be exercised, must every individual be agreed in the person, or no election made?

I answer,

1. Such a universal agreement is not necessary, the election may be made by a majority. Experience has shewn where the candidate has had the gospel qualifications for the office, the concurrence in the choice has been universal, at least so general as to bring no difficulty in the exercise of this right. So when there has been any considerable number who judged they had any weighty reason against the election made by a majority, experience has also shewn the majority’s denying themselves of that choice, and trying farther, has issued happily for the whole. In such cases, ’tis certain, wisdom is profitable to direct. And that rule of our Saviour’s, Math. 7. 12. will go a great way in keeping churches in the peaceable exercise of this right.

2. Where a minor part cannot in judgment acquiesce in the choice made by the major part of the worshipping assembly, they have a right to withdraw and choose a minister for themselves, or if not able to support one may attend divine worship in a neighbouring church, where they find they may do it to greater edification. They are all equally vested in the same right, and hold it independent one of another, and each one independent of the whole, or of all the rest. So that the greater number can have no right to impose a minister on the lesser. It is not here as in civil societies where the right of each individual is subjected to the body, or so transferred to the society, as that the act of the majority is legally to be considered as the act of the whole, and binding to each individual. As to what concerns men’s civil interests, there is nothing in the nature of things to hinder or prevent its being lawful or best, so to transfer their power to the community. But it is not so in religious matters, where conscience and men’s eternal interests are concerned. If the power of acting be transferred in this case, as in that of civil societies (now mentioned)[,] thus, if for instance, the majority should elect an Arminian teacher, the minor part must be so concluded by that choice, as to submit to such a one as their teacher, when at the same time it may be directly against their consciences to receive such doctrines or such a teacher. But since the rights of conscience may not be touched, the right of electing a teacher is not transfer’d to the body by the individuals, as Edition: current; Page: [102] civil rights may be in civil societies. That principle or supposition, which any ways infers an infringement upon the rights of conscience, cannot be true; as that does, which supposes a majority may impose a minister on a lesser part.

If to avoid what I have asserted, that in such case a minor part may withdraw and choose a minister for themselves, it be here said that they may remove their habitations—

I answer, Since this right of electing a teacher for themselves does truly remain with them, after the choice made by the majority, that right may be exercised by them, and why not in one part of the civil state as well as another? They are guilty of no crime for which they should be banished by the state, nor of any thing whereby they have forfeited a right of possessing their present freeholds: their right to their freeholds remains, and consequently their right to exercise their Christian rights where they be, and have a right to remain. It is to no purpose here to say, perhaps the legislature has fixed the bounds of the parish. For the legislature can make civil societies, and may fix the bounds of towns and parishes for civil purposes; yet they can’t make churches, nor may they make any laws that interfere with the rights of Christians. Nor is it to any purpose to say, This would open a door to a great multiplication of churches: For how many populous places, as well as Boston have tried it, and found religion and peace best promoted on these principles; nor is there a probability that churches will by this means be increased beyond their ability to support their ministers.

By what I have said you will find some other of your queries answer’d, without my making particular application, and therefore I leave that for you to do at your own leisure: And should here finish my letter, but that you insist on my giving you my sentiments on a law made in your colony May 1742, intitled An Act for regulating Abuses, and correcting Disorders in Ecclesiastical Affairs: Which it seems, thro’ the fond opinion some persons among you had of it, was thrust into one of our publick news papers, soon after it was passed; under which every wise by-stander, that was a hearty friend to your civil and religious interests, was ready to write, Tell it not in Gath &c.

I shall not descend into every particular that might be offered upon it—some few remarks may suffice.

I. The law is founded on this false principle, viz. that the civil Edition: current; Page: [103] authority hath power to establish a form of church-government by penal laws. The act relates wholly to matters of an ecclesiastical nature: and as it supposes, the civil magistrate has authority by penal laws to regulate ecclesiastical matters, so consequently to establish an ecclesiastical constitution by penal laws. It appears from the preamble to the act, that the declared design of it is to keep persons from deviating from the ecclesiastical discipline established by law, in the year 1708 and that under the penalties by this law enacted. But that they have no such authority, has been fully demonstrated in the foregoing pages, which I need not repeat. Whence it must follow, that the act is fundamentally wrong, being made without any authority. Be pleas’d to reflect one minute on this power challenged by this law, to correct, and that by penal laws, such disorders as are purely of an ecclesiastical nature, and see the consequence of it. One disorder to be corrected is, a minister’s preaching out of his own parish undesired by the minister and major part of the church where he shall so preach. If the civil magistrate has this power the act supposes, if he judges it to be a disorder for the minister to preach in his own parish on a week day, he may then restrain him: or if he thinks it a disorder that there should be any public prayers but by a set printed form, he may then restrain all to such a form. It is plain, if the civil magistrate has authority to correct ecclesiastical disorders, he has a right to judge what is a disorder in the church, and restrain the same. If he may execute this in one instance, he may in another: and every thing is on this principle liable to be disallowed in the worship of God, which does not suit with the civil magistrate’s opinion. Whatever he judges to be a disorder, is so by this principle, and may be restrained accordingly. And so farewell all Christian liberty. It signifies nothing to say, your civil magistrates are so sound in the faith, there’s no danger they will go so far. I hope so indeed with you; tho’ you can’t tell what those or others in succeeding times may do. It is no new thing for civil authority to make dreadful havock of the liberties and religion of Christians; but the argument, you see, proceeds upon the nature of things. The principle, that law stands upon, you may plainly see, is directly inconsistent in its own nature, with the unalienable rights of Christians. What sad effects have been felt in our own nation, in some former reigns, from this very principle’s being put in practice; who at all acquainted with history can be ignorant? While they were executing Edition: current; Page: [104] what they were pleased to call wholsome severities on dissenters, they were only in their judgment correcting disorders in ecclesiastical affairs. If this power belongs to the civil authority, as such, it must belong to those in one state as well as another; and is as justly challenged by the civil authority in France, as in New-England. Let it be but once supposed the civil magistrate has this authority, where can you stop? what is there in religion not subjected to his judgment? All must be disorder in religion, which he is pleased to call so; you can have no more of the external part of religion than he is pleased to leave you, and may have so much of superstition as he is pleased to enjoin under the head of order. So that this law stands on no better a foundation, than what infers the destruction of Christian liberty.

Having made this general observation, I go on, to consider the first paragraph, which runs thus—

That if any ordained minister or other person licensed as aforesaid to preach, shall enter into any parish not immediately under his charge, and shall there preach or exhort the people, he shall be denied and secluded the benefit of any law of this colony made for the support and encouragement of the gospel ministry; except such ordained minister or licensed person shall be expresly invited and desired so to enter into such other parish, and there to preach and exhort the people, either by the settled minister, and the major part of the church of said parish; or in case there be no settled minister, then by the church or society in said parish.

The minister’s heretofore supposed right to have assistance and help from his brethren in the ministry by preaching, is hereby cut off. None may preach unless the major part of the church desire it; tho’ the minister and one half of the church and all the rest of the congregation, which make up much the greater part of the number, who have right to hear the word preached, are ever so desirous of hearing the word from another, and apprehensive (as the case may be) of the great necessity of it. Before this law was passed, I should have presumed, there was not one minister on the continent, but what thought he had good right to invite any orthodox minister to preach in his pulpit: not only ministers, but churches in every part of the world, have so supposed and practised. But it seems by this law this supposition is a mistake, and the practice a disorder in the church. Yet if the minister has no such right, how comes it to pass, Edition: current; Page: [105] that the greater part of his hearers are cut off from any right to hear such as may be ever so well qualified to instruct. The non-communicants, which perhaps make three quarters of the parish, are in one part of this paragraph consider’d as a cypher, and in another part as having full right to hear whom they desire, viz. in a parish where they have no settled minister. In such case, it is supposed by this law, they have right to hear any minister they desire tho’ not one church-member join with them in the desire; for they may make up a majority of the society without one communicant with them. Yet the day before, while the minister of such a parish was living, it seems, if the same persons had been desirous of hearing the same man, they are by this law cut off the privilege; if the minister’s desire too had been joined with them, it would have helped nothing: or rather (in short) as this law stands, this very circumstance of their having a minister extinguishes their right of hearing such preachers as they desire. Such now being the plain sense of this paragraph; I say then,

II. That it is apparently inconsistent with itself, deprives ministers and particular Christians of their rights and liberties, and invests a lordly power in a small part of a parish-society, viz. a major part or one half of a church, over a worshipping assembly, since they never had nor can have any rightful power to hinder other Christians in the parish from hearing such ministers as they judge may promote their spiritual good, as by this law they are enabled to do.

III. It invests an exorbitant power in ministers over a church and congregation. This may look very strange, especially when you reflect, that by the preamble to this law the ministers are represented as having departed from the established ecclesiastical discipline, and been guilty of disorderly and irregular practices; and therefore are such persons as are not fit to be left to conduct themselves, in their ministerial office, nor to be governed by their own ecclesiastical constitution, but must of necessity be laid under some extraordinary legal restraints. I say, they are thus plainly represented (whether truly, or not, is not the question) by the preamble; yet, nothwithstanding all this, they are by this law vested with an exorbitant power over the churches. Christians, it seems, must be strip’d of an invaluable branch of liberty Christ has vested them with, & the same must be lodged in that order of men, who are represented as unfaithful in the execution of their trust. For by this law every minister has not only Edition: current; Page: [106] power given him, to prevent any other minister’s preaching in his parish, not only if a small number desire it, but if the whole worshipping assembly desire it; not only in the pulpit, but in any private house, which is directly inconsistent with the rights of Christians: but also in case a parish be under a necessity of settling another minister thro’ the incumbent’s disability to discharge his pastoral office, it is put into his power to negative any choice they shall make of a minister, and so churches are really stript of their right of electing their own ministers. It is plain by the words of the law, none can preach in the parish without the settled minister’s consent: & if one preaches to day by his leave, and the whole worshipping assembly desire his continued preaching, he has it in his power by this law to prevent his preaching to-morrow. And therefore if a church can call and settle none (in such a case) but whom their present pastor pleases (as is certainly the case by this law), the right of electing their minister is taken from them. A supposed right in A, dependent on the will of B, is no right at all. And this, as I have heard, is the case of one church on Connecticut River, now groaning under this oppression: which may also prove the case of any, or of all other churches in that colony, if they remain under the misery of such a law.

IV. The persons supposed to be criminal by this law, are subjected to an unreasonable punishment, and this too without any trial in the law, in any form whatever. The supposed crime is a minister or licensed candidate’s preaching in a parish where the incumbent and major part of the church have not invited: i.e. If the incumbent has invited with one half of the church and three quarters of the whole parish, or if the whole church and parish invite, and not the incumbent, or if there is not more than half of the church, or more than half of the society, where there is no incumbent; each of these is such a crime for which the punishment is, the denial and seclusion from the benefit of any law of the colony made for the support and encouragement of the gospel ministry. Now I find by looking into your colony law-book, the laws made for the aforesaid purpose may be sum’d up in these few words, viz.

That all agreements made by the inhabitants of a society or the major part of them assembled in a society-meeting, respecting the settlement and maintenance of the minister they have chosen, shall be binding to all the inhabitants of such society, and to their successors; which sums or payments Edition: current; Page: [107] so agreed to shall be levied and assessed on the several inhabitants in such society, according to their respective estates from time to time, as they shall be set in the general list; which sums or payments shall be gathered by such person said society shall appoint to be the collector of them, who is to repair to an assistant or justice of the peace for a warrant to enable him to collect the rate.

Now then, as by the preceeding laws, such agreements are made binding to the inhabitants of a society and their successors &c. hence to be denied and secluded the benefit of any law made for the support and encouragement of the gospel ministry, includes in it the being denied and secluded the benefit of holding the society to such agreements; and so this law plainly intends, by prohibiting any assistant or justice of the peace, to sign any warrant for collecting a rate where a minister has been certified against, as having acted contrary to this law. So that, in short, the punishment is the deprivation of his livelihood; and thence forward he may beg his bread. This appears unreasonable, to inflict so heavy a punishment for preaching in such cases as abovementioned, when (as it may happen) it might be evidently duty so to do. But let the preaching be at the desire of more or fewer, still it is no immorality: it is but an ecclesiastical disorder, even in the account of this law, which surely can’t deserve so severe a penalty. Many gross immoralities have a much less punishment assigned for them, than this heretofore supposed innocent action of preaching the gospel. If the civil peace was broken by it, I can’t see how so severe a punishment for it can be justified. But it is evident, the civil peace is not broken by this supposed crime, which is nothing but preaching the gospel; which is so far from breaking the peace, or tending thereto, that it intirely tends to make men better, and so better subjects. The preaching out of his own parish does not alter the nature of the action, nor is the natural tendency of the word changed thereby; no man’s civil property or interest is at all invaded by it; and how such an action can be punished at all, appears mysterious to me! It is not for preaching sedition or treason, but even the gospel of peace, that Christ’s ministers are render’d liable to be deprived of their daily bread.

If it should be here said, That these laws made for the support of the gospel ministry, are to be looked upon as acts of favour, relative to such as comply with the ecclesiastical constitution of the government; Edition: current; Page: [108] and so if any ministers will not keep within the bounds of that constitution, they justly forfeit such favour; and so the punishment here is to be understood, a declaration that their right to such favour now ceases. I answer,

1. That action, which by this law is made thus criminal, is not contrary to, but well consistent with the ecclesiastical constitution, under which these ministers are supposed to settle. It is not inconsistent with that ecclesiastical constitution, for any minister to preach in any other parish than his own to any number of Christians on their desire at any of their private religious exercises. But I will only instance in one particular made thus criminal by this act, which is warranted by that ecclesiastical constitution, and the constant practice of the churches. The right hand of fellowship is given at every ordination, in which the ministers and churches concerned, do solemnly promise to esteem and treat the person ordained as a duly authorized minister of Christ, and to be ready on all occasions to own him as such, and to assist him in his work: In consequence of these solemn promises, ministers & churches have looked upon themselves under such obligations to each other, that if one of these ministers’ judges he has real need of assistance in preaching, from another (where these mutual obligations take place) he has right to ask it, tho’ the church does not join with him in it, and the church’s so hearing him preach they have always judged (and therein they have judged truly) is acting but agreable to those previous obligations they have laid themselves under to him, to treat him as an authorized minister of Christ, and to hold communion with him as such; one way of doing which, is certainly hearing the word from him. So that it is plain, one minister’s preaching for another upon his desire, tho’ the church joins not in it, is at least well consistent with the ecclesiastical constitution (and I need say no more of it in this argument) under which these ministers are supposed to settle, according to the objection: and therefore no forfeiture is made, by such an action, of the benefit of the laws made in favour of the ecclesiastical constitution. They have right to this benefit so long (at least) as they act consistently with that ecclesiastical constitution under which they settled. The act, disallow’d by this law, and for which they are deprived of this benefit, is consistent with that constitution. In this manner therefore to deprive them of it, is to take it away while their right to it in equity remains Edition: current; Page: [109] good. This, you see, I have said on the supposition, those laws are to be considered only as acts of grace, as laid in the objection. But then I say in the next place—

2. The laws here referred to, made for the support of the gospel ministry, are not acts of grace; they are no other than what the legislature tho’t themselves obliged to make. If the civil authority of a state are obliged to take care for the support of religion, or in other words, of schools and the gospel ministry, in order to their approving themselves nursing fathers (as, I suppose, every body will own, and therefore I shall not spend any time in proving it), then the law especially referred to is not an act of grace. It was what the legislature judged most just, easy, and equal for the people, safe and easy for the minister, who is to give himself wholly to his work; or in a word, best for the people and the minister, that contracts should be so made, so binding and so performed; for both people and minister are concerned in the act. I don’t say, the legislature could not have provided as well in some other way: this is no ways necessary to be supposed in the case. But as they were obliged to make some good provision in the case, both with respect to the people who are to pay, and the minister who is to receive, so in their wisdom they fixed on that method, as what was good for the whole. ’Tis therefore no more an act of grace, than any act of the legislature respecting any civil interests or contracts of the subject. What the public good calls for therein, they are obliged to do: And the acts they make in pursuance thereof are no acts of grace, but (strictly speaking) of debt to the people. And as the act, referred to, is not an act of grace, so this law brings a punishment, not only on the minister, as before observed, but on the people too, by letting them loose from their agreement with their minister, the now supposed offender. For the minister remaining with the people, they have a new contract to make, and must take some other method for performing it, than what the law in the former case had provided: And from the known straithanded disposition in too many towards the support of the gospel, it must needs follow, that the burden of the support of it must lie much more unequally upon the people, and perhaps on but a very few. As this is the certain consequence, so is it a certainty, that an innocent people are punished, with their minister, by this law. Besides, how the letting a people loose from their solemn agreements with their minister, Edition: current; Page: [110] for an action never supposed criminal before this law was made, and is certainly no violation of the contract he made with them, can consist with justice and equity, is beyond the ken of ordinary understandings: which I might have argued from as a distinct head; but it is sufficient to observe it as I pass, it lying now in my way. To return, As the punishment is extraordinary, so is the manner of inflicting it extraordinary too, viz. the minister of the parish where he shall so offend, or the civil authority or any two of the committee of such parish, sending an information thereof in writing under their hands to the clerk of the parish where such offending minister does belong, this does the business at once, as appears by the third paragraph in the act. So that meerly from the information of one person (as it may be) of a different persuasion in religion, and inclined from a party-spirit to oppress, or one that has a personal prejudice against a minister, given to the clerk of a parish (whether true or false) the minister is deprived of his livelihood. Thus the business is effected without any formality of a legal trial, or the shadow of it. This, as I take it, is directly contrary to the priviledges of an Englishman contained in Magna Charta, which has cost our predecessors rivers of blood to defend, and transmit down as sacred to their descendants. If such a law as condemns a man without hearing him, deserves to be expunged the records of a free people (I might say, any; such a law being a scandal to human nature) I leave you to say, what fate such a law as this before us deserves.

V. I observe, by the second paragraph of this law, any association of ministers are subjected to the before-mentioned penalty,

That shall undertake to examine or license any candidate for the ministry, or assume to themselves the decision of any controversy, or to counsel and advise in any affair that by the Say-Brook Platform is within the province and jurisdiction of any other association: Then and in such case every member that shall be present in such association so licensing, deciding or counselling, shall be each and every of them denied and secluded the benefit of any law of this colony made for the support and encouragement of the gospel-ministry.

Now this is subjecting men to a heavy punishment, for no crime against the civil state, nay for deeds in themselves good, and such as may be very serviceable to the interests of religion, as well as what may happen to be otherwise; for so the acts of any association sometimes may be, that are allowed of by this law.

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As they who drew up the platform, tho’t it would be best for the candidates of the ministry to be examined, so they no doubt tho’t every association had men of learning and fidelity to do it: and if it were done by any of them, the great end proposed in such examination would be answered. And suppose the association of New-London county should examine and license a candidate, that belonged to the New-Haven association, may it not be supposed it would be as well done, and as well answer the end, as if done in New-Haven. Or if a parish within the district of New-Haven association, destitute of a minister, should after they had tried one candidate and another, which they had been advised to by the association, and not suited by any of them, ask advice of New-London association, and they advise them to one within their limits, who they judge well qualified for the ministry, whom upon trial they judge so too, and so are well suited in a minister, what harm comes of this? or what iniquity was there in the act of New-London association advising in that case? How often have churches found it needful to do so, and religion been served by it? How often have they gone out of the colony for such advice, and the ministers of the Massachusetts advised churches in Connecticut in such a case, on their application for it; and so on the contrary, ministers in Connecticut, advised churches in the Massachusetts? Where lies the difference! or was this always criminal in its own nature! or if not, why should a whole association of ministers, for doing what I have above instanced in, be stripped of their livings, as it seems by this law they must! And what is more extraordinary still, a minister’s meerly being present when it is done, renders him liable to this punishment, whether he has any hand in it or no; nay, for ought appears, if he should protest against it, yet he escapes no part of the penalty. The crime, it seems, is of such a nature, that if a man be in the same room, tho’ he protests against the action, he is still equally faulty with the actors: for since he is equally punished, he must be supposed equally faulty. I don’t imagine, you will envy any set of men the glory of such a rare invention. But to finish on this head; nothing is more evident, than that such an examination or advice, now instanced in, does not touch the civil peace; and certainly therefore, the civil authority go out of their line to make this penal law. And how near this comes to turning judgment into wormwood, may deserve the serious consideration of some.

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VI. The fourth paragraph respects a licensed candidate’s or any layman’s publickly preaching and exhorting in any parish, not desired in such manner as expressed in the first paragraph. On which I shall but briefly observe, that the words expressive of the offence, are of so loose or general signification, as that a person merely for religious discourse, or the most savoury advice, seasonably and prudently given at any private religious meeting of Christians, is liable to be treated as an offender; and if I have not been misinformed, there have been instances of this: However that be, there is danger of it. Or if a man going into any publick house, should hear a company talking profanely and wickedly, and thereupon seriously lay open their sin, and gravely advise them thereupon, he would be liable to be treated as an offender; and as the hands may be, into which he might happen to fall, he would not escape it. But further, if it be supposed such preaching and exhorting there referred to, be a disorder sometimes, yet it is not always so: but whenever it is so (unless you suppose it done to the interruption of some lawful assembly) it is no breach of the peace, and comes not under civil cognizance. Such disorderly persons ought to be proceeded against in an ecclesiastical manner, agreable to the laws of Christ.

VII. I come now to the last paragraph, which runs thus:

That if any foreigner or stranger that is not an inhabitant within this colony, including as well such persons, that have no ecclesiastical character, or license to preach, as such as have received ordination or license to preach by any association or presbytery, shall presume to preach, teach or publickly to exhort in any town or society within this colony, without the desire and license of the settled minister and the major part of the church of such town or society; or at the call and desire of the church and inhabitants of such town or society, provided that it so happen that there is no settled minister there; that every such teacher or exhorter shall be sent (as a vagrant person) by warrant from any one assistant or justice of the peace from constable to constable, out of the bounds of this colony.

Since which, you tell me, there has been last October an addition made, viz.

That whoso thus offends shall pay the costs of his transportation; and if he returns again and offends in such sort, it is made the duty of any assistant or justice of the peace that shall be informed thereof, to cause such person to be apprehended and brought before him, and if found guilty, to Edition: current; Page: [113] give judgment that such person shall become bound in the penal sum of an hundred pounds lawful money, to his peaceable and good behaviour until the next county court, in the county where the offence shall be committed, and that such person will not offend again in like manner; and the county court may (if they see cause) further bind &c. during their pleasure.

Occasioned, as I am informed, by that good gentleman Mr. Finl[e]y’s coming at the direction of a presbytery in the New-Jersey government, who had been applied to for a minister, and preaching to a Presbyterian church at Milford, who had join’d themselves to that presbytery and put themselves under their care; for which being transported out of the government, he returned and preached to a congregational church at New-Haven, who had been allowed, as well as the former at Milford, to be a society for the worshipping of God, by the county court at New-Haven, by virtue of a law formerly made for the ease of such as soberly dissent from the way of worship and ministry established by the laws of Connecticut; and for this he was adjudged by the civil authority to be transported again, which was but in part effected thro’ the negligence of some officer; and, I’m told, he returned and preached again. This his preaching and exhorting, it seems, greatly disquieted and disturbed the people; as the preamble to this act expresses it. Is it not strange, the preaching of that peaceable and humble Christian (as you confess his behaviour bespoke him to be while in the colony) unto a number of people, who had right to hear the gospel preached from him, should greatly disquiet and disturb such as had their choice in hearing others! Or could it disquiet and disturb any minds except such as can’t bear their Christian neighbours should enjoy their unalienable rights! But to return to the before mentioned last paragraph, I observe, that any stranger, not an inhabitant in the colony, who has received ordination or license to preach from any association or presbytery, that shall presume to preach undesired, as expressed in the paragraph, is liable to be treated as a vagrant, unworthy to tread on that spot of earth: But if he should happen to be licensed by the patriarch of Greece, a super-intendant of Denmark, or any bishop, he may escape the lash of this law. If the coming in of a stranger and preaching in such a manner be such a breach of the peace, as is punishable by the state, why should there be such partiality? Why should Dr. Watt’s preaching in such manner in Connecticut be a greater crime, because ordained by a presbytery, than any Edition: current; Page: [114] other stranger’s doing so that was licensed by a patriarch or bishop, &c. However, that is much less to be wondered at, than such treatment as this law subjects orthodox ministers to, even the best ministers of Christ upon earth, for a mere non-conformity to a certain point of order, that never took place (I suppose) in any church upon earth.

But to be as brief as may be in the consideration of this paragraph; let the question be, if you please, exactly according to the words, viz. Whether a civil state has rightful authority to banish or thrust out a confessedly orthodox minister of Jesus Christ, tho’ a foreigner or stranger, for only preaching the gospel to a number, without the desire of the incumbent, and major part of the church in the parish wherein he shall so preach; the said minister being supposed to have a right to protection, and a right to remain in that state, until he does something to forfeit it? I have truly stated it, because I have mentioned the very supposed crime for which such foreigners or strangers are to be thrust out of the government; and I must necessarily suppose them true or orthodox ministers of Christ, because this law supposes them so, since it speaks of such as are ordained or licensed by any association or presbytery not within that government; which includes all such as are on this continent, as well as Great-Britain (at least) all of which are esteemed orthodox. I put in the last words, because they really relate to the subjects of the king of Great Britain, from whom the government holds it charter, and so to any persons in the plantations, as well as on the isle of Great Britain, who have a right therefore to be treated as Englishmen, or fellow-subjects under King George, and so may be truly said to have a right to remain in the colony, in such a sense as you will not allow to any belonging to another kingdom. I don’t mention this because I would go into the consideration of what particular powers may be in your charter, different from others; tho’ I confess, I can’t find any words in your charter, that express or imply a power to do any thing that is pretended to be done by this law, to establish or regulate by law any matters of an ecclesiastical nature, to impose any civil pains or penalties in matters of conscience, relating to the worship of God. But neither your colony, nor any other in the king’s dominions, have any rightful authority to do as is here supposed, according to the question, as I have truly stated it. Let me here take a plain case to illustrate the point. Edition: current; Page: [115] Wickliff arose a light in England, while popery prevailed: be it supposed, he instructed a few in the truth, but neither bishop nor incumbent of the parish would give leave for his preaching. However, he goes on preaching the gospel, and the people will hear him. In this case, the king and parliament had no rightful authority to banish Wickliff, or turn him out from the island, for his so preaching. For, as has been already shewn in the preceeding pages, the end of civil government being the preservation of person and property, it would be a plain departing from the end of civil government, to inflict any punishment on Wickliff for his so preaching. What the civil authority is obliged to defend and secure, is not hurt at all by the supposed action of Wickliff; and it is really acting against the design of the civil magistrate’s trust, to hurt an innocent subject. Besides, the right of private judgment in matters of religion being unalienable, and what the civil magistrate is rather oblig’d to protect his subjects equally in, both Wickliff, and they who desired to hear him, had a just right to remain where they were, in the enjoyment of that right, free from all molestation from any persons whatsoever; agreeable to what has been sufficiently evidenced in the foregoing pages. On the other hand, see the absurdity of supposing that the civil magistrate had rightful authority to have sent away Wickliff. If the magistrate had right to send him away because the standing clergy were unwilling he should preach (that being one of the cases supposed in this law) then the civil authority must have had equal right to send any other such person away, as fast as they appeared; and consequently they must be supposed to have had rightful authority to hold their subjects in the worst slavery, i.e. to keep them from the exercise of their private judgment in matters of religion; a power to do which never was nor could be vested in the civil magistrate, by the people, by any original compact, which is truly supposed the foundation of all civil government. It alters not the nature of civil government, whether the magistrate be Protestant or papist, Christian or pagan. What of right appertains to the civil magistrate by virtue of his office, must also necessarily belong to him, tho’ popish, or heathen. The supposal therefore that the civil magistrate in England at that day had rightful authority to have sent away Wickliff, for preaching the gospel without leave of the clergy, is big with too great an absurdity, for a consistent Protestant to swallow. Suppose then these colonies to have existed at that time, or Great Edition: current; Page: [116] Britain and these colonies popish now, as Great-Britain was then, and Wickliff to come into any of them and preach in some parish without the consent of the incumbent, at the desire of a number of people, it is certain, in this case none of these colonies could have any rightful authority to thrust him out of their borders, or do any thing like it. The same reasons must conclude against these colonies authority to transport him, for coming and preaching now without an incumbent’s leave at the desire of a number, as in the former case; the same principles and reasoning will hold equally true, applied to any such instance as now before us, any time since the reformation from popery. The civil peace is no ways broken by this action of preaching, of which we are speaking: But indeed if any should take occasion from it, to contend and quarrel with their neighbours, as papists and heathens have sometimes done, the Apostle (James 4. 1.) has shown us the true spring thereof, the lusts in men’s hearts the outbreakings of which in injuries to their neighbours, fall under the civil magistrate’s cognizance. And the rights of conscience and private judgment in matters of religion are unalterably the same: And ’tis a scandal to Christians, to contend and quarrel with their neighbours for enjoying them, and inexcusable in a Protestant state to make any infringement upon them. And it was on these very principles, which here advance (and by which this law must fall) that our first reformers acted, and on which all reformations must be built. And tho’ our nation in times past under the influence of a bigotted clergy, and arbitrary weak or popish princes, have made laws founded on principle contrary to these I have been pleading for; yet they seem in great measure rooted out of the nation: and these principle[s] of truth have taken root, and been growing ever since the happy Revolution, and Act of Toleration; and ’tis to be hoped will prevail & spread more and more, until all spiritual tyranny and lording it over the consciences of men, be banished out of the world.

But I shall finish with observing, That by virtue of the Act of Toleration, all his majesty’s subjects are so freed from the force of all coercive laws in matters of religion, relating to worship and discipline, that they act their own private judgment, without restraint: That any number of Christians greater or less, hear any Protestant minister they desire, without controul from the will of others, or authority of the civil state: Since this is the case, and withal as plain as Edition: current; Page: [117] the sun in the meridian, that where such a law as this I have been considering, takes place, there people are abridged of that Christian liberty, which the same persons would enjoy under the present constitution, if they were in England. And how far therefore it falls short of denying and secluding them from the benefit of the Act of Toleration, I leave you to say, who well know, that it is expressly provided by the terms of your charter, that the laws to be made in virtue of it, shall not be contrary to the Laws of England. This right of private judgment and liberty now mentioned, is confessed and secured to you by that law which was the glory of the reign of William and Mary; but by your law now before me, it is denied to you. How you will clear it from a contrariety to the former, I know not. Nor is this about a trivial matter, or what is dependent upon the will of your legislature. The rights of Magna Charta depend not on the will of the prince, or the will of the legislature; but they are the inherent natural rights of Englishmen: secured and confirmed they may be by the legislature, but not derived from nor dependent on their will. And if there be any rights, any priviledges, that we may call natural and unalienable, this is one, viz. the right of private judgment, and liberty of worshipping God according to our consciences, without controul from human laws. A priviledge more valuable than the civil rights of Magna Charta. This we hold, not from man, but from God: which therefore no man can touch and be innocent. And all the invaders of it will certainly find, when they shall stand at his bar, from whom we hold this, that Christ will be king in his own kingdom. In the mean time, it stands Christians in hand to hold fast this priviledge, and to be on their guard against all attempts made upon it. And I doubt not, those ministers who were apprehensive of this, and freely addressed the legislative body of Connecticut (as I hear was done October 1742) for a repeal of this law, did therein what was pleasing to their great Lord & Master which is in heaven. They acted becoming such as durst not themselves, and were willing to do what lay in their power that others might not, lord it over God’s heritage. Not that I would insinuate, that there were no others like-minded with them—but that therein they set an excellent example for others to copy after, and what was proper to awaken the attention of Christians. It has commonly been the case, that Christian liberty, as well as civil, has been lost by little and little; and experience has taught, that it is not easy to recover Edition: current; Page: [118] it, when once lost. So precious a jewel is always to be watched with a careful eye: for no people are likely to enjoy liberty long, that are not zealous to preserve it. As a real friend to it, I have given you my thoughts with freedom and plainness, as you desired. If they prove satisfying to you, and you judge that they may be any ways serviceable to the cause of truth and Christian liberty, you may use them for that purpose as you shall think best.

I am &c.
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george whitefield britain’s mercies, and britain’s duties fpage="119" lpage="136"


George Whitefield
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George Whitefield (1714–1770). Although the Great Awakening was already in progress when Whitefield made his first journey to America in 1738, it owed more to him than to any other individual. He was truly the Great Awakener. Whitefield was born in Gloucester, England, and grew up in poverty. Two years after graduation from Oxford in 1736, he was ordained an Anglican priest. He made seven trips to America and preached in virtually every important town on the Atlantic seaboard during 1738, 1739–41, 1744–48, 1751–52, 1754–55, 1763–65, and 1769–70. He had begun his work with Charles and John Wesley in the Holy Club at Oxford, where Charles was a tutor at Christ Church, and he participated in their mission in Georgia, which remained his base over the decades. He shared the Wesleys’ conviction that a “new birth” and a converted ministry were needed, but by 1740 he had become more strictly Calvinist, while John Wesley had turned to Arminianism.

Undoubtedly, Whitefield was the greatest evangelist of the century, preaching an average of forty hours each week, four times in a day that began at four in the morning and ended punctually at ten in the evening. It is estimated that he preached about 18,000 sermons in his lifetime. His histrionic gifts were the envy of David Garrick. Doubters, like Benjamin Franklin, who joined an audience of perhaps 30,000 Philadelphians in 1740, emptied their pockets, mesmerized, for Whitefield’s Savannah orphanage, Bethesda.

After the Seven Years’ (French and Indian) War ended in 1763, Whitefield arrived in America for his sixth tour. On April 2, 1764, he held a private conversation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with Samuel Langdon and other established ministers that alarmed Americans already worried about their liberty. Whitefield was quoted as saying: “I can’t in conscience leave the town without acquainting you with a secret. My heart bleeds for America. O poor New England! There is a deep laid plot against your civil and religious liberties, and they will be lost. Your golden days are at an end. You have nothing but trouble before you. . . . Your liberties will be lost.” Whitefield outlined the secret plans (as he said) of the British Ministry to end colonial self-government and to establish the Anglican Church (William Gordon, The History of the Rise, Progress and Establishment of the United States . . . [2d ed., 3 vols. New York: Samuel Campbell, 1794], Edition: current; Page: [121] Edition: current; Page: [122] 1:102). This episode galvanized the clergy in their opposition to British policy, especially when the intelligence proved true and the 1765 Stamp Act was adopted.

Whitefield made one more trip to America, arriving in the fall of 1769. On September 30, 1770, the evangelist suddenly died of an apparent asthma attack in Newburyport, Massachusetts, at the home of the Reverend Jonathan Parsons, in whose church, the First (South) Presbyterian Church, he was scheduled to preach that morning.

The sermon reprinted here communicates little of the power of the spoken words of the great evangelist, a notorious characteristic of Whitefield’s published works. Still, it gives the flavor of his political theology. The events he refers to are those of the War of the Austrian Succession (called King George’s War in North America), in which the French forces’ stronghold at Louisbourg had been captured by a ragtag collection of New England frontiersmen and militia under the command of William Pepperel in June 1745. While this victory is celebrated as pivotal, the specific reason for the day of thanksgiving being observed by Whitefield and his auditors was the recent destruction by a storm at sea of a French fleet sent to recapture Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, an event in which the hand of Providence could be seen. The vigorous Indian warfare along the Pennsylvania and New York frontier also influences the discourse.

The sermon was preached at the New Building in Philadelphia on Sunday, August 24, 1746. Whitefield, writes Michael A. Lofaro, “is central to the understanding of eighteenth century America. . . . The success of his itinerant ministry in the colonies indirectly hastened the break with England by increasing the number of dissenters and, by forming them into loosely affiliated, intercolonial, interdenominational ‘congregations,’ perceptibly encouraged American independence” (American Writers Before 1800, p. 1581).

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That they might observe His Statutes, and keep his Laws.

Psalm CV. 45.

Men, brethren and fathers, and all ye to whom I am about to preach the kingdom of God, I suppose you need not be informed, that being indispensably obliged to be absent on your late thanksgiving-day, I could not shew my obedience to the Governor’s proclamation, as my own inclination led me, or as might justly be expected from, and demanded of me. But as the occasion of that day’s thanksgiving is yet, and I trust ever will be, fresh in our memory, I cannot think that a discourse on the subject can even now be altogether unseasonable. I take it for granted further, that you need not be informed, that among the various motives which are generally urged to enforce obedience to the divine commands, that of love is the most powerful and cogent. The terrors of the law may afright and awe, but love dissolves and melts the heart. The love of Christ, says the great Apostle of the gentiles, constraineth us. Nay, love is so absolutely necessary for those that name the name of Christ, that without it, their obedience cannot truly be stiled evangelical, or be acceptable in the sight of God. Although, says the same Apostle, I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and though I give my Body to be burnt, and have not Charity (i.e. unless unfeigned love to God, and to mankind for his great name’s sake, be the principle of such actions), howsoever it may benefit others, it profiteth me nothing. This is the constant language of the lively oracles of God. And, from them it is equally plain, that nothing has a greater tendency to beget and excite such an obediential love in us than a serious and frequent consideration of the manifold mercies we receive time after time from the hands of our heavenly Father. The royal Psalmist, who had the honour of being stiled the man after God’s own heart, had an abundant experience of this. Hence it is, that whilst he is musing on the divine goodness, the fire of divine love kindles in his soul; and, out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaketh such grateful and extatic language as this—“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His Mercies? Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and all that is within me bless his holy Name.” And why? “Who forgiveth all thine Iniquities, who healeth all thy Diseases, who Edition: current; Page: [124] redeemeth thy Life from Destruction, who crowneth thee with loving Kindness and tender Mercies.” And when the same holy man of God had a mind to stir up the people of the Jews to set about a national reformation, as the most weighty and prevailing argument he could make use of for that purpose, he lays before them, as it were, in a draught, many national mercies, and distinguishing deliverances, which had been conferred upon, and wrought out for them, by the most high God. The psalm to which the words of our text belong, is a pregnant proof of this; it being a kind of epitome or compendium of the whole Jewish history: At least it contains an enumeration of many signal and extraordinary blessings the Israelites had received from God, and also the improvement they were in duty bound to make of them, viz. to observe his statutes and keep his laws.

To run through all the particulars of the psalm, or draw a parallel (which might with great ease and justice be done) between God’s dealings with us and the Israelites of old—to enumerate all the national mercies bestow’d upon, and remarkable deliverances wrought out for the kingdom of Great Britain, from the infant state of William the Conqueror, to her present manhood, and more than Augustan maturity, under the auspicious reign of our dread and rightful sovereign King George the Second; howsoever pleasing and profitable it might be at any other time, would, at this juncture, prove, if not an irksome, yet an unseasonable undertaking.

The occasion of the late solemnity, I mean the suppression of a most horrid and unnatural rebellion will afford more than sufficient matter for a discourse of this nature, and furnish us with abundant motives to love and obey that glorious Jehovah, who giveth Salvation unto Kings, and delivers His People from the hurtful Sword.

Need I make an apology before this auditory, if, in order to see the greatness of our late deliverance, I should remind you of the many unspeakable blessings which we have for a course of years enjoy’d, during the reign of his present majesty, and the gentle mild administration under which we live? Without justly incurring the censure of giving flattering titles, I believe all who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, and are but a little acquainted with our publick affairs, must acknowledge, that we have one of the best of kings. It is now above nineteen years since he began to reign over us. And yet, was he to be seated on a royal throne, and were all his subjects placed before him; Edition: current; Page: [125] was he to address them as Samuel once addressed the Israelites, “Behold here I am, Old and Greyheaded, witness against me before the Lord, whose Ox have I taken? Or whose Ass have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? They must, if they would do him justice, make the same answer as was given to Samuel, “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us.” What Tertullus, by way of flattery, said to Felix, may with the strictest justice be applied to our sovereign, “By thee we enjoy great quietness, and very worthy deeds have been done unto our nation by thy providence.” He has been indeed pater patriæ, a father to our country, and, tho’ old and greyheaded, has jeoparded his precious life for us in the high places of the field. Nor has he less deserved that great and glorious title which the Lord promises kings should sustain in the latter days, I mean, a nursing Father of the Church. For not only the Church of England, as by law established, but Christians of every denomination whatsoever have enjoyed their religious, as well as civil liberties. As there has been no authorized oppression in the state, so there has been no publickly allowed persecution in the church. We breathe indeed in a free air; as free (if not freer) both as to temporals and spirituals, as any nation under heaven. Nor is the prospect likely to terminate in his majesty’s death, which I pray God long to defer. Our princesses are disposed of to Protestant powers. And we have great reason to be assured that the present heir apparent, and his consort, are like minded with their royal father. And I cannot help thinking, that it is a peculiar blessing vouchsafed us by the King of Kings, that his present majesty has been continued so long among us. For now his immediate successor (though his present situation obliges him, as it were, to lie dormant) has great and glorious opportunities, which we have reason to think he daily improves, of observing and weighing the national affairs, considering the various steps and turns of government, and consequently of laying in a large fund of experience to make him a wise and great prince, if ever God should call him to sway the British sceptre. Happy art thou, O England! Happy art thou, O America, who on every side are thus highly favoured!

But, alas! How soon would this happy scene have shifted, and a melancholy gloomy prospect have succeeded in its room, had the rebels gained their point, and a popish abjured pretender been forced upon the British throne! For, supposing his birth not to be spurious Edition: current; Page: [126] (as we have great reason to think it really was), what could we expect from one, descended from a father, who, when duke of York, put all Scotland into confusion, and afterwards, when crowned king of England, for his arbitrary and tyrannical government both in church and state, was justly obliged to abdicate the throne, by the assertors of British liberty? Or, supposing the horrid plot, first hatched in hell, and afterwards nursed at Rome, had taken place; supposing, I say, the old pretender should have exchanged his cardinal’s cap for a triple crown, and have transferred his pretended title (as it is reported he has done) to his eldest son, what was all this for, but that, by being advanced to the popedom, he might rule both son and subjects with less controul, and, by their united interest, keep the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, in greater vassalage to the see of Rome? Ever since this unnatural rebellion broke out, I have looked upon the young pretender as the Phaeton of the present age. He is ambitiously and presumptuously aiming to seat himself in the throne of our rightful sovereign King George, which he is no more capable of maintaining than Phaeton was to guide the chariot of the sun; and had he succeeded in his attempt, like him, would only have set the world on fire. It is true, to do him justice, he has deserved well of the church of Rome, and, in all probability, will hereafter be canonized amongst the noble order of their fictitious saints. But, with what an iron rod we might expect to have been bruized, had his troops been victorious, may easily be imagin’d from those cruel orders, found in the pockets of some of his officers, “Give no quarter to the elector’s troops.” Add to this, that there was great reason to suspect, that, upon the first news of the success of the rebels, a general massacre was intended. So that if the Lord had not been on our side, Great Britain, not to say America, would, in a few weeks, or months, have been an Aceldama, a field of blood. Besides, was a popish pretender to rule over us, instead of being represented by a free parliament, and governed by laws made by their consent, as we now are, we should shortly have had only the shadow of one, and, it may be, no parliament at all. This is the native product of a popish government, and what the unhappy family, from which this young adventurer pretends to be descended, has always aimed at. Arbitrary principles he has sucked in with his mother’s milk; and if he had been so honest, instead of that immature motto upon his standard, Tandem triumphans, Edition: current; Page: [127] only to have put, Stet pro ratione voluntas, he had given us a short, but true, portraiture of the nature of his intended, but, blessed be God, now defeated reign. And, why should I mention, that the loss of the national debt, and the dissolution of the present happy union between the two kingdoms, would have been the immediate consequences of his success, as he himself declares in his second manifesto, dated from Holyrood House? These are evils, and great ones too; but then they are only evils of a temporary nature. They chiefly concern the body, and must necessarily terminate in the grave. But, alas! what an inundation of spiritual mischiefs would soon have overflowed the church, and what unspeakable danger should we and our posterity have been reduced to in respect to our better parts, our precious and immortal souls? How soon would whole swarms of monks, Dominicans and friars, like so many locusts, have overspread and plagued the nation? With what winged speed would foreign titular bishops have posted over in order to take possession of their respective sees? How quickly would our universities have been filled with youths who have been sent abroad by their popish parents, in order to drink in all the superstitions of the church of Rome? What a speedy period would have been put to societies of all kinds, for promoting Christian knowledge, and propagating the gospel in foreign parts? How soon would our pulpits have every where been filled with those old antichristian doctrines, freewill, meriting by works, transubstantiation, purgatory, works of supererogation, passive obedience, non-resistance, and all the other abominations of the Whore of Babylon? How soon would our Protestant charity schools in England, Scotland and Ireland, have been pulled down, our Bibles forcibly taken from us, and ignorance every where set up as the mother of devotion? How soon should we have been depriv’d of that invaluable blessing, liberty of conscience, and been obliged to commence (what they falsely call) Catholicks, or submit to all the tortures which a bigotted zeal, guided by the most cruel principles, could possibly invent? How soon would that mother of harlots have made herself once more drunk with the blood of the saints, and the whole tribe even of free-thinkers themselves, been brought to this dilemma, either to die martyrs for (tho’ I never yet heard of one that did so), or, contrary to all their most avow’d principles, renounce their great Diana, unassisted, unenlightned reason? But I must have done, lest while I am speaking Edition: current; Page: [128] against Antichrist, I should unawares fall myself, and lead my hearers into an antichristian spirit. True and undefiled religion will regulate our zeal, and teach us to treat even the man of sin, with no harsher language than that which the angel gave his grand employer Satan, The Lord rebuke thee.

Glory be to his great name, the Lord has rebuked him, and that too at a time when we had little reason to expect such a blessing at God’s hands. My dear hearers, neither the present frame of my heart, nor the occasion of your late solemn meeting, lead me to give you a detail of our publick vices tho’ alas! they are so many, so notorious, and withal of such a crimson-dye, that a gospel minister would not be altogether inexcusable, was he, even on such a joyful occasion, to lift up his voice like a trumpet, to shew the British nation their transgression, and the people of America their sin. However, tho’ I would not cast a dismal shade upon the pleasing picture the cause of our late rejoicings set before us; yet thus much may, and ought to be said, viz. that, as God has not dealt so bountifully with any people as with us, so no nation under heaven have dealt more ungratefully with him. We have been, like Capernaum, lifted up to heaven in priviledges, and, for the abuse of them, like her, have deserved to be thrust down into hell. How well soever it may be with us, in respect to our civil and ecclesiastic constitution, yet in regard to our morals, Isaiah’s description of the Jewish polity is too too applicable, The whole Head is sick, the whole Heart is faint, from the Crown of the Head to the Sole of our Feet, we are full of Wounds and Bruises, and putrifying Sores. We have, Jeshurun-like, waxed fat and kicked. We have played the harlot against God, both in regard to principles and practice. Our Gold is become dim, and our fine Gold changed. We have crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Nay, Christ has been wounded in the house of his friends. And every thing long ago seemed to threaten an immediate storm. But, Oh the long-suffering and goodness of God to-us-ward! When all things seemed ripe for destruction, and matters were come to such a crisis, that God’s praying people began to think, that tho’ Noah, Daniel and Job were living, they would only deliver their own souls; yet then, in the midst of judgment, the most High remembred mercy, and when a popish enemy was breaking in upon us like a flood, the Lord himself graciously lifted up a standard.

This to me does not seem to be one of the most unfavourable Edition: current; Page: [129] circumstances, which have attended this mighty deliverance; nor do I think you will look upon it as altogether unworthy your observation. Had this cockatrice indeed been crushed in the egg, and the young pretender driven back upon his first arrival, it would undoubtedly have been a great blessing. But not so great as that for which you lately assembled to give God thanks. For then his majesty would not have had so good an opportunity of knowing his enemies, or trying his friends. The British subjects would, in a manner, have lost the fairest occasion that ever offered to express their loyalty and gratitude to their rightful sovereign. France would not have been so greatly humbled; nor such an effectual stop have been put, as we trust there now is, to any such further popish plot, to rob us of all that is near and dear to us. Out of the Eater therefore hath come forth Meat, and out of the Strong hath come forth Sweetness. The pretender’s eldest son is suffered not only to land in the north-west highlands in Scotland, but in a little while to become a great band. This for a time is not believed, but treated as a thing altogether incredible. The friends of the government in those parts, not for want of loyalty, but of sufficient authority to take up arms, could not resist him. He is permitted to pass on with his terrible banditti, and, like the comet that was lately seen (a presage it may be of this very thing) spreads his baleful influences all around him. He is likewise permitted to gain a short liv’d triumph by a victory over a body of our troops at Preston Pans, and to take a temporary possession of the metropolis of Scotland. Of this he makes his boast, and informs the publick (they are his own words) that “Providence had hitherto favoured him with wonderful success, led him in the way to victory, and to the capital of the ancient kingdom, tho’ he came without foreign aid.” Nay he is further permitted to press into the very heart of England. But now the Almighty interposes, Hitherto he was to go, and no further. Here were his malicious designs to be staid. His troops of a sudden are driven back. Away they post to the Highlands, and there they are suffered not only to increase, but also to collect themselves into a large body, that having, as it were, what Caligula once wish’d Rome had, but one neck, they might be cut off with one blow.

The time, nature, and instrument of this victory deserve our notice. It was on a general fast-day, when the clergy and good people of Scotland were lamenting the disloyalty of their perfidious countrymen, Edition: current; Page: [130] and like Moses lifting up their hands, that Amalek might not prevail. The victory was total and decisive. Little blood was spilt on the side of the royalists. And to crown all, Duke William, his majesty’s youngest son, has the honour of first driving back, and then defeating the rebel army—a prince, who in his infancy and nonage, gave early proofs of an uncommon bravery, and nobleness of mind—a prince, whose courage has increased with his years; who returned wounded from the battle of Dettingen, behav’d with surprizing bravery at Fontenoy, and now, by a conduct and magnanimity becoming the high office he sustains, like his glorious predecessor the prince of Orange, has once more delivered three kingdoms from the dread of popish cruelty and arbitrary power. What renders it still more remarkable is this—the day on which his highness gained this victory was the day after his birth-day, when he was entring on the twenty sixth year of his age; and when Sullivan, one of the pretender’s privy council, like another Ahitophel, advised the rebels to give our soldiers battle, presuming they were surfeited and overcharged with their yesterday’s rejoicings, and consequently unfit to make any great stand against them. But glory be to God, who catches the wise in their own craftiness! His counsel, like Ahitophel’s, proves abortive. Both general and soldiers were prepared to meet them. God taught their hands to war, and their fingers to fight, and brought the duke, after a bloody and deserved slaughter of some thousands of the rebels, with most of his brave soldiers, victorious from the field.

Were we to take a distinct view of this notable transaction, and trace it in all the particular circumstances that have attended it, I believe we must with one heart and voice confess, that if it be a mercy for a state to be delivered from a worse than a Catiline’s conspiracy; or a church to be rescued from a hotter than a Dioclesian persecution—if it be a mercy to be delivered from a religion that turns plow-shares into swords, and pruning-hooks into spears, and makes it meritorious to shed Protestant blood—if it be a mercy to have all our present invaluable priviledges, both in church and state, secured to us more than ever—if it be a mercy to have these great things done for us at a season when, for our crying sins both church and state justly deserved to be overturned—and if it be a mercy to have all this brought about for us, under God, by one of the blood royal, a prince acting with an experience far above his years—if any or all of these Edition: current; Page: [131] are mercies, then have you lately commemorated one of the greatest mercies that ever the glorious God vouchsafed the British nation.

And shall we not rejoice and give thanks? Should we refuse, would not the stones cry out against us? Rejoice then we may and ought: But, Oh! let our rejoicing be in the Lord, and run in a religious channel. This we find has been the practice of God’s people in all ages. When he was pleased, with a mighty hand and outstretched arm to lead the Israelites through the Red Sea as on dry ground, “Then sang Moses and the Children of Israel; and Miriam the Prophetess, the Sister of Aaron, took a Timbrel in her Hand, and all the Women went out after her. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord; for he hath triumphed gloriously.” When God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel, “Then sang Deborah and Barak on that Day, saying, Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel.” When the ark was brought back out of the hands of the Philistines, David, tho’ a king, danced before it. And, to mention but one instance more, which may serve as a general directory to us on this and such like occasions; When the great head of the church had rescued his people from the general massacre intended to be executed upon them by a cruel and ambitious Haman,

Mordecai sent Letters unto all the Jews that were in all the Provinces of the King Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to establish among them that they should keep the Fourteenth Day of the Month Adar, and the Fifteenth Day of the same yearly, as the Days wherein the Jews rested from their Enemies, and the Month which was turned unto them from Sorrow unto Joy, and from Mourning into a good Day: That they should make them Days of Feasting and Joy, and of sending Portions one to another, and Gifts to the Poor.

And why should not we go and do likewise?

And shall we forget, on such an occasion, to express our gratitude to, and make honourable mention of those worthies, who have signalized themselves, and been ready to sacrifice both lives and fortunes at this critical juncture? This would be to act the part of those ungrateful Israelites, who are branded in the book of God, for not shewing kindness “to the House of Jerubbaal, namely Gideon, according to all the Goodness which he shewed unto Israel.” Even a Pharoah could prefer a deserving Joseph, Ahasuerus a Mordecai, and Nebuchadnezar a Daniel, when made instruments of signal service to themselves and Edition: current; Page: [132] people. “My Heart, says Deborah, is towards (i.e. I have a particular veneration and regard for) the Governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly. And blessed, adds she, above Women shall Jael the Wife of Heber the Kenite be: For she put her Hand to the Nail, and her right Hand to the Workman’s Hammer, and with the Hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his Head, when she had pierced and stricken through his Temples.” And shall not we say, “Blessed above men, let his royal highness the duke of Cumberland be: For, thro’ his instrumentality, the great and glorious Jehovah hath brought mighty things to pass?” Should not our hearts be towards the worthy archbishop of York, the royal hunters, and those other English heroes, who offered themselves so willingly? Let the names of Blakeney, Bland and Rea, and all those who waxed valiant in fight, on this important occasion, live for ever in the British annals. Let that worthy clergyman who endured five hundred lashes from the cruel enemy (every one of which the generous duke said, he felt himself) be never forgotten by the ministers of Christ in particular. And let the name of that great that incomparably brave soldier of the king, and good soldier of Jesus Christ, Colonel Gardiner (excuse me if I here vent a sigh—he was my intimate friend), let his name, I say, be had in everlasting remembrance. His majesty has led us an example of gratitude. Acting like himself, upon the first news of this brave man’s death, he sent immediate orders that his family should be taken care of. The noble duke gave a commission immediately to his eldest son. And the sympathizing prince of Hesse paid a visit of condolance to his sorrowful elect and worthy lady. The British parliament have made a publick acknowledgment of the obligation the nation lies under to his royal highness. And surely the least we can do, is to make a publick and grateful mention of their names, to whom under God, we owe so much gratitude and thanks.

But, after all, is there not an infinitely greater debt of gratitude and praise due from us, on this occasion, to him that is higher than the highest, even the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the blessed and only Potentate? Is it not his arm, his strong & mighty arm (what instruments soever may have been made use of) that hath brought us this salvation? And may I not therefore address you in the exulting language of the beginning of this psalm from which we have taken our text,

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O give Thanks unto the Lord; call upon his Name, make known his Deeds among the People. Sing unto him, sing Psalms unto him: Talk ye of all his wondrous Works. Glory ye in his holy Name. Remember this marvellous Work which he hath done.

But shall we put off our good and gracious benefactor with a mere lip service? God forbid. Your worthy governour has honoured God in his late excellent proclamation, and God will honour him. But shall our thanks terminate with the day? No, in no wise. Our text reminds us of a more noble sacrifice, and points out to us the great end the almighty Jehovah proposes in bestowing such signal favours upon a people, viz. That they should observe his Statutes, and keep his Laws.

This is the return we are all taught to pray that we may make to the most high God, the father of mercies, in the daily office of our church, viz.

That our Hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we may shew forth his Praise, not only with our Lips, but in our Lives, by giving up our selves to his Service, and by walking before him in Holiness and Righteousness all our Days.

Oh that these words were the real language of all that use them! Oh that there was in us such a mind! How soon would our enemies then flee before us, and God, even our own God, yet give us more abundant blessings!

And, why should we not observe God’s Statutes and keep his Laws? Dare any say that any of his commands are grievous? Is not Christ’s yoke, to a renewed soul, as far as renewed, easy; and his burden comparatively light? May I not appeal to the most refined reasoner, whether the religion of Jesus Christ be not a social religion? Whether the moral law, as explained by the Lord Jesus in the gospel, has not a natural tendency to promote the present good and happiness of a whole commonwealth, supposing they were obedient to it, as well as the happiness of every individual? From whence come wars and fightings amongst us? From what fountain do all those evils which the present and past ages have groaned under, flow, but from a neglect of the laws and statutes of our great and all-wise lawgiver Jesus of Nazareth? Tell me, ye men of letters, whether Lycurgus or Edition: current; Page: [134] Solon, Pythagoras or Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, or all the ancient lawgivers and heathen moralists, put them all together, ever published a system of ethicks, any way worthy to be compared with the glorious system laid down in that much despised book (to use Sir Richard Steele’s expression), emphatically called the scriptures? Is not the divine image and superscription written upon every precept of the gospel? Do they not shine with a native intrinsick lustre? And, tho’ many things in them are above, yet, is there any thing contrary to the strictest laws of right reason? Is not Jesus Christ, in scripture, stiled the Word, the Λóγος the Reason? And is not his service justly stiled Λογιχ´η Λατρεία a reasonable service? What if there be mysteries in his religion? Are they not without all controversy great and glorious? Are they not mysteries of godliness, and worthy that God who reveals them? Nay, is it not the greatest mystery that men who pretend to reason, and call themselves philosophers, who search into the arcana naturæ, and consequently find a mystery in every blade of grass, should yet be so irrational as to decry all mysteries in religion? Where is the scribe? Where is the wise? Where is the disputer against the Christian revelation? Does not every thing without and within us conspire to prove its divine original? And would not self-interest, if there was no other motive, excite us to observe God’s Statutes, and keep his Laws?

Besides, considered as a Protestant people, do we not lie under the greatest obligations of any nation under heaven, to pay a chearful, unanimous, universal, persevering obedience to the divine commands?

The wonderful and surprizing manner of God’s bringing about a reformation in the reign of King Henry the Eighth—his carrying it on in the blessed reign of King Edward the Sixth—his delivering us out of the bloody hands of Queen Mary, and destroying the Spanish invincible Armada, under her immediate Protestant successor Queen Elizabeth—his discovery of the popish plot under King James—the glorious revolution by King William—and, to come nearer to our own times, his driving away four thousand five hundred Spaniards, from a weak (tho’ important) frontier colony, when they had, in a manner, actually taken possession of it—his giving us Louisbourg, one of the strongest fortresses of our enemies, contrary to all human probability, but the other day, into our hands (which may encourage our hopes of Edition: current; Page: [135] success, supposing it carried on in a like spirit, in our intended Canada expedition)—These, I say, with the victory which you have lately been commemorating, are such national mercies, not to mention any more, as will render us utterly inexcusable, if they do not produce a national reformation, and incite us all, with one heart, to observe God’s Statutes, and keep his Laws.

Need I remind you further, in order to excite in you a greater diligence to comply with the intent of the text, that tho’ the storm, in a great measure is abated by his royal highness’s late success, yet we dare not say, it is altogether blown over?

The clouds may again return after the rain; and the few surviving rebels (which I pray God avert) may yet be suffered to make head against us. We are still engaged in a bloody, and in all probability, a tedious war, with two of the most inveterate enemies to the interests of Great Britain. And, tho’ I cannot help thinking, that their present intentions are so iniquitous, their conduct so perfidious, and their schemes so directly derogatory to the honour of the most high God, that he will certainly humble them in the end; yet, as all things, in this life, happen alike to all, they may for a time be dreadful instruments of scourging us. If not, God has other arrows in his quiver to smite us with, besides the French king, his Catholick majesty, or an abjured pretender. Not only the sword, but plague, pestilence and famine are under the divine command. Who knows but he may say to them all, Pass through these lands? A fatal murrain has lately swept away abundance of cattle at home and abroad. A like epidemical disease may have a commission to seize our persons as well as our beasts. Thus God dealt with the Egyptians. Who dare say, He will not deal in the same manner with us? Has he not already given some symptoms of it? What great numbers upon the Continent have been lately taken off by the bloody-flux, small-pox, and yellow-fever? Who can tell what further judgments are yet in store? However, this is certain, the rod is yet hanging over us; and, I believe it will be granted, on all sides, that if such various dispensations of mercy and judgment, do not teach the inhabitants of any land to learn righteousness, they will only ripen them for a greater ruin. Give me leave therefore, to dismiss you at this time with that solemn awful warning and exhortation with which the prophet Samuel, on a publick occasion, took leave of the people of Israel, “Only fear the Lord and serve Him, in Edition: current; Page: [136] Truth, with all your Heart: For consider, how great Things He hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly (I will not say as he did, you shall be consumed; but), ye know not but you may provoke Him to consume both you and your King.” Which God of his infinite mercy prevent, for the sake of Jesus Christ: To whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, three Persons but one God, be all Honour and Glory, now and for evermore. Amen, Amen.

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charles chauncy civil magistrates must be just, ruling in the fear of god fpage="137" lpage="178"


Charles Chauncy
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Charles Chauncy (1705–1787). The most influential clergyman in the Boston of his time and—apart from Jonathan Edwards the elder—in all New England, Chauncy was graduated from Harvard and served as pastor of the First Church in Boston for sixty years. A thoroughly prosaic character who opposed enthusiasm and the revivalism espoused by Whitefield and Edwards, he prayed he would never become an orator; those who knew him well concluded that this was one prayer that undoubtedly had been answered. He was nonetheless a vigorous controversialist and prolific pamphleteer, devoting the decade of 1762 to 1771 to combating the British threat to send an Anglican bishop to America. It was an issue that rallied Congregationalists across New England in the period leading up to the Revolution.

The election sermon reprinted here was preached to Governor William Shirley, the council, and the house of representatives of Massachusetts on May 27, 1747. The bracketed passages in the printed text of this sermon were omitted during the oral delivery.

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The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me; he that ruleth over Men must be just, ruling in the Fear of God.

II Sam. xxiii. 3.

If we may judge by the manner in which these words are introduced, there are none in all the bible, applicable to civil rulers, in their publick capacity, of more solemn importance.

The last words of good men are commonly tho’t worthy of particular notice; especially, if they are great as well as good, of an elevated station as well as character in life. This is a consideration that adds weight to my text. For it is enrolled among the last words of one of the best and greatest men that ever lived. Such was David, “the man after God’s own heart,” who was raised up from low life to the regal dignity, and stiled, on that account, “the anointed of the God of Jacob.”

And was my text nothing more than his own private sentiments, formed with due care, upon long observation and experience, it might well deserve the particular attention of all in civil power; especially, as he was a man of extraordinary knowledge, penetration and wisdom, as well as piety; and, at the same time, singularly qualified to make a judgment in an affair of this nature, as he was called into publick service from a youth, and had for many years reigned king in Israel.

But it is not only David that here speaks. The words are rather God’s than his. For they are thus prefaced, The God of Israel said, the rock of Israel spake to me. “That God who had selected the Jews to be his people, and was their God so as he was not the God of other nations; the rock on whom their political state was built, and on whom it depended for support and protection”: This God spake unto David, either by Samuel, or Nathan, or some other inspired prophet, or himself immediately from heaven, saying, as in the words I have read to you, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. It is certainly some momentous truth, highly worthy of the most serious consideration of civil rulers, that is here delivered, or it would not have been ushered in with so much solemnity.

Some read the words, (agreable eno’ to the original, as criticks observe) Edition: current; Page: [142] there shall be a ruler over men that shall be just, ruling in the fear of God; and refer them to Christ, as agreeing with other prophecies, which describe him as a “king that shall reign in righteousness,” and be of “quick understanding in the fear of the Lord”: But if they be allowed to look forward to him that has since “come forth out of Zion,” they were also designed for the instruction and benefit of Solomon, David’s son and appointed successor to the throne of Israel. And by analogy they are applicable to civil rulers, in their various stations, in all ages of the world.

In this view I shall now consider them, under the two following heads obviously contained in them.

I. There is a certain order among mankind, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others.

II. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

The whole will then be applied to the occasions of the day.

I. I am to say, in the first place, there is a certain order among men, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others. This is evidently supposed in the text; and ’tis supposed, not as a bare fact, but a fact that has taken place conformably to the will of God, and the reason of things.

This, to be sure, is the truth of the case, in it self considered. Order and rule in society, or, what means the same thing, civil government, is not a contrivance of arbitrary and tyrannical men, but a regular state of things, naturally resulting from the make of man, and his circumstances in the world. Had man abode in innocency, his nature as a sociable creature, and his condition as a dependent one, would probably have led to some sort of civil superiority: As, among the inhabitants of the upper world, there seems to be a difference of order, as well as species; which the scripture intimates, by speaking of them in the various stile of thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, archangels and angels. But however it would have been, had man continued in obedience to his maker, government is rendered a matter of necessity by the introduction of sin into the world. Was there no civil rule among men, but every one might do that which was right in his own eyes, without restraint from humane laws, there would not be Edition: current; Page: [143] safety any where on the earth. No man would be secure in the enjoyment, either of his liberty, or property, or life: But every man’s hand would be against his fellow; and mankind must live in perpetual danger, from that oppression, rapine and violence, which would make this world rather a hell, than a fit place to dwell happily in.

The present circumstances of the human race are therefore such, by means of sin, that ’tis necessary they should, for their mutual defence and safety, combine together in distinct societies, lodging as much power in the hands of a few, as may be sufficient to restrain the irregularities of the rest, and keep them within the bounds of a just decorum. Such a superiority in some, and inferiority in others, is perfectly adjusted to the present state of mankind. Their circumstances require it. They could not live, either comfortably or safely without it.

And from hence, strictly and properly speaking, does that civil order there is among men take rise. Nor will it from hence follow, that government is a mere humane constitution. For as it originates in the reason of things, ’tis, at the same time, essentially founded on the will of God. For the voice of reason is the voice of God: And he as truly speaks to men by the reason of things, their mutual relations to and dependencies on each other, as if he uttered his voice from the excellent glory. And in this way, primarily, he declares his will respecting a civil subordination among men. The sutableness of order and superiority, both to the nature of man, and his circumstances in the world, together with its necessary connection, in the nature of things, with his safety and happiness, is such an indication of the divine pleasure, that there should be government, as cannot be gainsay’d nor resisted.

Only it must be remembred here, a distinction ought always to be made between government in its general notion, and particular form and manner of administration. As to the latter, it cannot be affirmed, that this or that particular form of government is made necessary by the will of God and reason of things. The mode of civil rule may in consistency with the public good, admit of variety: And it has, in fact, been various in different nations: Nor has it always continued the same, in the same nation. And one model of government may be best for this community, and another for that; nay, that model which may be best for the same community at one time, may not be so at Edition: current; Page: [144] another. So that it seems left to the wisdom of particular communities to determine what form of government shall take place among them; and, so long as the general ends of society are provided for and secured, the determination may be various, according to the various circumstances, policies, tempers and interests of different communities.

And the same may be said of the manner of vesting particular persons with civil power, whether supreme or subordinate. This is not so fix’d by the divine will, as that all nations are obliged to one and the same way of devolving the administration of rule. The supreme authority in Israel, ’tis true, from which, of course, all subordinate power in that state was derived, was settled by God himself on David, and entail’d on his family to descend in a lineal succession. But it does not appear, that this was ever intended to be a rule obligatory on all nations of the earth: Nor have they kept to it; but have varied in their manner of designing persons for, and introducing them into, the several places of civil trust. And this seems to be a matter alterable in its nature, and proper to be variously determined according to the different circumstances of particular nations.

But ’tis quite otherwise in respect of government itself, in its general notion. This is not a matter of meer humane prudence, but of moral necessity. It does not lie with men to determine at pleasure, whether it shall or shall not take place; but, considering their present weak, exposed and dependent condition, ’tis unalterably right and just there should be rule and superiority in some, and subjection and inferiority in others: And this therefore is invariably the will of God; his will manifested by the moral fitness and reason of things.

And the will of God, as discovered in the revelations of scripture, touching government among men, perfectly coincides with his will primarily made known, upon the same head, by the constitution of things: Or rather, ’tis more clearly and fully opened. For kings, and princes, and nobles, and all the judges of the earth, are here represented* as reigning and ruling by God: Yea, they are stiled, the ministers of God; and the powers that be are declared to be ordained of God: And, upon this consideration, subjection to them is demanded, for conscience Edition: current; Page: [145] sake* and whosoever resisteth, is looked upon as resisting the ordinance of God. From all which it is apparent, there is no more room to dispute the divinity of civil rule upon the foot of revelation, than of reason.

And thus we have seen, not only that some among men have rule over others, but that it is reasonable in itself, and agreable to the will of God, it should be so.

And ’tis easy to collect from the whole, the true design of that power some are entrusted with over others. It is not merely that they might be distinguished from, and set above vulgar people; much less that they might live in greater pomp, and be revered as gods on earth; much less still that they might be in circumstances to oppress their fellow-creatures, and trample them under their feet: But it is for the general good of mankind; to keep confusion and disorder out of the world; to guard men’s lives; to secure their rights; to defend their properties and liberties; to make their way to justice easy, and yet effectual, for their protection when innocent, and their relief when injuriously treated; and, in a word, to maintain peace and good order, and, in general, to promote the public welfare, in all instances, so far as they are able. But this leads me to the next head of discourse, which is what I have principally in view; viz.

II. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God. Here I shall distinctly say,

i. They must be just. They ought to be so in their private capacity; maintaining a care to exhibit in their conduct towards all they are concerned with, a fair transcript of that fundamental law of the religion of Jesus, as well as eternal rule of natural justice, “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” But private justice, tho’ necessary in all, yet is not the virtue here especially intended. The injunction respects those who rule over men; and ’tis as magistrates, not private members of society, that they are required to be just.

And this duty includes in it more than a negation of unrighteousness. ’Tis not enough that rulers are not unjust; that they don’t betray the trusts reposed in them; that they don’t defraud the public; Edition: current; Page: [146] that they don’t oppress the subject, whether in a barefac’d manner, or in a more covert way; by downright violence, or under the cloak of law: ’Tis not enough, I say, that rulers don’t, in these and such like ways, pervert judgment and justice; but, besides all this, they must be positively righteous. Being possess’d of an inward, steady, uniform principle of justice, setting them, in a good measure, above the influence of private interest, or party views, they must do that which is equal and right, in their various stations, from the king in supreme, to the lowest in authority under him.

It would carry me too far beyond the hour assigned me, should I make a distribution of rulers into their several ranks, and mention the more special acts of justice respectively required of them. I shall therefore content my self with speaking of them chiefly in the collective sense; pointing out, under a few general heads, some of the more important articles wherein they should approve themselves just. And they are such as these.

1. They must be just in the use of their power; confining it within the limits prescribed in the constitution they are under. Whatever power any are vested with, ’tis delegated to them according to some civil constitution. And this, so long as it remains the constitution, they are bound in justice to conform themselves to: To be sure, they ought not to act in violation of any of its main and essential rights. Especially, is this an important point of justice, where the constitution is branched into several parts, and the power originally lodged in it, is divided, in certain measures, to each part, in order to preserve a ballance in the whole. Rulers, in this case, in either branch of the government, are bounded by the constitution, and obliged to keep within the proper limits assigned them; never clashing in the exercise of their power, never encroaching upon the rights of each other, in any shape, or under any pretence whatever. They have severally and equally a right to that power which is granted to them in the constitution, and to wrest it out of each other’s hands, or to obstruct one another in the regular legal exercise of it, is evidently unjust. As in the British constitution, which devolves the power of the state, in certain proportions, on King, Lords and Commons, they have neither of them a right to invade the province of the other, but are required, by the rule of righteousness, to keep severally within their own boundaries, acting in union among themselves, and consistency with the constitution. Edition: current; Page: [147] If the prerogatives of the King are sacred, so also are the rights of Lords and Commons: And if it would be unjust in Lords or Commons, to touch, in any instance, the prerogative of the crown; so would it be in the crown, to invade the rights, which are legally settled in Lords and Commons: In either of these cases, the law of righteousness is violated: Nor does the manner in which it is done make any essential difference; for, if one part of the government is really kept from exerting it self, according to the true meaning of the constitution, whether it be done openly, or by secret craft; by compulsion or corruption, the designed ballance is no longer preserved; and which way soever the scale turns, whether on the side of sovereignty, or popularity, ’tis forced down by a false weight, which, by degrees, will overturn the government, at least, according to this particular model.

And the case is just the same in all dependent governments, as in those whose power originates in themselves: Especially, where the derived constitution, like that of Great-Britain, is divided into several ruling parts, and distributes the granted powers and priviledges severally among these ruling parts, to each their limited portion. The constitution is here evidently the grand rule to all cloathed with power, or claiming priviledge, in either branch of the government. And ’tis indeed a fundamental point of justice, that they keep respectively within the bounds marked out to them in the constitution. Rulers in one branch of the state should not assume the power delegated to those in another: Nay, so far should they be from this, that they should not, in any degree, lessen their just weight in the government; much less may they contrive, by an undue application to their hopes or fears, or by working on their ambition, or covetousness, or any other corrupt principle; much less, I say, may they contrive to influence them to give up their power, or, what is as bad, to use it unfaithfully, beside the intention for which it was committed to them. These are certainly methods of injustice; and, if put in practice, will, by a natural causality, weaken, and, by degrees, destroy those checks which rulers are mutually designed to have one upon another; the effect whereof must be tyranny, or anarchy, either of which will be of fatal consequence.

2. Another general instance wherein rulers should be just, relates to the laws by which they govern. [They have an undoubted right to Edition: current; Page: [148] make and execute laws, for the publick good. This is essentially included in the very idea of government: Insomuch, that government, without a right to enact and enforce proper laws, is nothing more than an empty name.

And this right, in whomsoever it is vested, must be exercised under the direction of justice. For as there cannot be government without a right of legislation, so neither can there be this right but in conjunction with righteousness. ’Tis the just exercise of power that distinguishes right from might; authority that is to be revered and obeyed, from violence and tyranny, which are to be dreaded and deprecated.

Those therefore to whom it belongs to make, or execute the laws of a government ought, in these exercises of their power, to square their conduct by that strict justice, which will be to them a sure rule of right action.]

To be sure, if they would be just, they must make no laws but what bear this character. They should not, when upon the business of framing and passing acts, suffer themselves to be swayed by any wrong biass, either from self-will, or self-interest; the smiles or frowns of men greater than themselves; or the humour of the populace: But should bring the proposed laws to a fair and impartial examination, not only in their reference to the temper, genius and circumstances of the community, but to that justice also which is founded in the nature of things, and the will of the supreme legislator: And if they should appear to be inconsistent with this eternal rule of equity, they ought not to countenance them, but should do what they can to prevent their establishment. And the rather, because should they enact that into a statute, which is unrighteous; especially, if it be plainly and grosly so, they would be chargeable with “framing mischief by a law”: The guilt whereof would be the more aggravated, as power, in this case, would be on the side of oppression; and, what is as bad, as unrighteousness, by this means, would take a dreadful spread thro’ the community. For as the laws are the rule for the executive powers in the government, if these are unjust, all that is done consequent upon a regard to them, must be unjust too. That would be the state of things which Solomon describes, when he says, “I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there:” Edition: current; Page: [149] Than which, there cannot be given a more terrible representation of the unhappy effect of a disregard to justice in the making of laws.

But rulers, in order to their answering the character of just, must not satisfy themselves with making none but righteous laws; but must provide also, so far as may be, a sufficiency of such to restrain the sons of wickedness, men of avaricious minds, and no consciences, from that rapine and violence, those frauds and oppressions, in their various kinds and degrees, which their lusts would prompt them to perpetrate, to the damage of society, and in violation of all that is right and just.

Besides which, they should be particular in their care to guard the important and extensive article of commerce; calculating laws so as that they may have a tendency to oblige every member of the community, to use the methods of fairness and honesty in their dealings with one another: In order whereto, one of the main things necessary is, to fix the precise weight and measure, according to which these and those commodities shall be bought and sold; hereby rendring the practice of honesty easy and familiar, while, at the same time, it is made a matter of difficulty, as well as hazard, for this member of the community to defraud that, by palming on him a less quantity than he bargain’d, for, and expected to receive.

[A noble example of this expedient to promote justice, the scripture presents us with, in the history it gives of the laws by which the Jews of old were governed. It was not thought sufficient to prohibit their “doing unrighteousness in mete-yard, or weight, or measure;” and to command their having “just ballances and just weights, a just ephah and a just hin:” But the standard was fixt by law, according to which all weights and measures must be regulated; and it was kept in the sanctuary of God. And so exact was the government in its care to prevent all fraud, that it allowed no “weights, ballances or measures to be made of any metal, as of iron, lead, tin, (which were obnoxious to rust, or might be bent or easily impaired) but of marble, stone or glass, which were less liable to be abused.”* And officers also “were appointed in every city to go about into shops, and see that the ballances and measures were just, and determine the stated measure of Edition: current; Page: [150] them: And with whomsoever they found any weight or measure too light or short, or ballance that went awry, they were to be punished by the judges.”*.

This pattern of justice has been copied after by all governments acquainted with it; and the more particular their laws have been for the regulation of weights and measures, the better calculated have they been to promote honesty in private dealing.]

And if justice in rulers should shew itself by reducing the things that are bought and sold to weight and measure, much more ought it to be seen in ascertaining the medium of trade, as nearly as may be, to some determinate value. For this, whether it be money, or something substituted to pass in lieu of it, is that for which all things are exchanged in commerce. And if this, which is of such universal use in the affair of traffick, be a thing variable and uncertain, of one value this week, and another the next, ’tis difficult to conceive, how justice should take place between man and man, in their dealings with one another. If the measure we call a foot might gradually, in the space of a few months or years, lengthen into a yard, or shorten into an inch; every one sees, it would, if used as a measure in trade, tend to spread unrighteousness in a community, rather than justice. So, if the weight we call a pound might gradually, in the like space, increase or diminish one half; ’tis past dispute, it would be an occasion of general iniquity, rather than a means to promote honesty. And the case is really the same (however insensible we may be of it) with respect to the passing medium in a government. If what we call a shilling, may, in a gradual way, in the course of a few months or years, rise in value so as to be equal to two or three, or sink in proportion; ’tis impossible, in the nature of things, but a wide door should be opened for oppression and injustice. An upright man, in this case, would find it extreamly difficult to do himself justice, or others he might be concerned with in business. And for those of dishonest minds, and no principles of honour or religion, if men of craft and foresight, they would have it very much in their power to enrich themselves by being unjust to their neighbour.

I am sensible, the case may be so circumstanced in a government, especially if it be a dependent one, as that it may be extreamly difficult, if not impossible, while they have no money, to keep that which Edition: current; Page: [151] passes, in the room of it, from varying in it’s real worth. But it is not very difficult; to be sure, it is not impossible, to pitch upon some certain standard, to which the current medium may be so related, as that it’s true value, at different times, may be nearly ascertained: And if this was established as the rule in all public payments, as well as private contracts and bargains, it would be no other than what is right. It would certainly tend, not only to do every one justice, but to put it very much out of the power of men of no probity “to go beyond and defraud their brother:” Whereas, while the medium is connected with no established certain standard, but continually varies in it’s real worth, it must be, in the natural course of things, an occasion of great injustice. [Some, on the one hand, under the fair pretence of a reasonable care to secure themselves, will injure those who lie at their mercy, by extorting from them more that is meet. And others, on the other hand, will take the advantage, to pay a just debt with one half the true value it was originally contracted for: Nor will the practice of unrighteousness be confined to these and such like instances, but unavoidably mingle itself with men’s transactions in the whole business of trade, so as to put them upon making a prey of one another; as is too much the case among ourselves at this day.]

There is yet another thing, belonging to this head, wherein rulers should approve themselves just; and that is, the execution of the laws. [The power of executing as well as making laws (as has been hinted) is inseparable from government. And the demands of justice are to be comply’d with, in the one as well as the other. If ’tis just that rulers should make righteous laws, ’tis equally so, when they are made, that they should take effectual care to enforce a proper regard to them. Of what service would laws be, though ever so wisely calculated to promote the public good, if offenders against them should be connived at, or suffered, by one means or another, to go unpunished? And what might reasonably be expected in consequence of such a breach of trust, but that the best laws, together with the authority that enacted them, should be held in contempt? There is no such thing as supporting the honour of government, or securing the good ends proposed by the laws it establishes, but by unsheathing the sword, in a faithful and impartial execution of justice.

But here, that we may speak clearly, it may be proper to distinguish between those rulers to whom it belongs to appoint and authorise Edition: current; Page: [152] persons to execute the laws, and those who are vested with authority for this purpose. For the duty which justice requires is different, according to the nature of that power, wherewith these different rulers are betrusted.

It is certainly a point of justice, in those whose business it is to empower others to execute the laws, to select out of the community such as are well qualified for so important a trust. Every man is not fit to have the sword of justice put into his hands. And the main thing to be lookt at, in the choice of persons for this service, is their suitableness to it. Meerly their being men of birth and fortune, is not a sufficient recommendation: Nor, if they are eagerly forward in seeking for a post of honour or profit, is it a certain indication, that they are fit to be put into it: Neither, if they should offer money to purchase it, ought they, on this account, to be preferred to men of greater merit: Much less ought it to be looked upon as a turning argument in their favour, that they are fit instruments to serve the secret designs of those in superior station. These are considerations beside the true merit of the case: And those only ought to bear sway, which enter into the real characters of men, determining their qualifications for the trust that is to be reposed in them.

The advice which Jethro gave Moses is here proper, “Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.”* These are the men, men of understanding, courage and resolution; men of integrity, fidelity and honesty; men of piety and substantial religion; men of a noble generosity, setting them above the temptations, which those of narrow minds and selfish views, are easily drawn away by and enticed: These, I say, are the proper men to fill the various posts in the state. And it would be injustice to the public, for the persons concerned in the disposal of them, to neglect these, and bestow them on those of a contrary character. Men of low natural capacities, and small acquired accomplishments, are unmeet to be exalted to places of important trust. And should this be done, it would be acting over the evil, which Solomon complained of in his day, Folly is set in great dignity. And those are as unfit to be constituted guardians of the laws, who are indolent, inactive and irresolute; much more, if, together herewith, they are known Edition: current; Page: [153] to be of a vicious turn of mind. It can’t be supposed, men of this character should be faithful in the execution of justice; and to devolve this care on them, would be to wrong the community, and expose authority.

Not that those, with whom it lies to appoint officers, are always to blame, when unqualified persons are put into places of trust; for they are liable, after all prudent caution, to be mistaken in their own judgment, and to be imposed on by misinformation from others. But then, they should take due care, when such persons are found, upon trial, to be unequal to the trust committed to them, to remedy the inconvenience: Nor otherwise will they continue innocent, however faultless they might be at first. ’Tis evidently the demand of justice, that such unmeet persons should be displaced, and others better qualified put in their room.

And ’tis equally just, that those who are capable of behaving well, but behave ill in their respective stations, should be testified against. And should they be so unadvised, as grosly to abuse their power; applying it to the purposes of tyranny and oppression, rather than to serve the good ends of government, it ought to be taken out of their hands, that they might no longer be under advantages to injure their brethren of the same community.

These are the demands of justice from those, who are to put others into the executive trust.

And justice is likewise required of this sort of rulers, according to the respective trust that is committed to them.

If ’tis their business to sit in the place of judgment, they must judge uprightly in all cases, whether civil or criminal, and not under a wrong influence from favour to the rich, or pity to the poor, or fear of the great, or affection or disaffection to any man’s person whatsoever; having that precept in the divine law ever in their eye, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: But in righteousness shalt thou judge thy brother.”* And that also, “Thou shalt not wrest judgment, thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.”

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If ’tis their business to enquire who have been offenders against the laws, and to exhibit complaints against them as such; they must be couragious and impartial, complying with their duty equally in respect of all, be their character what it will.

If ’tis their business to act as executioners of justice, they must faithfully inflict the adjudged sentence: In doing of which, tho’ there may be room for the exercise of compassion, especially in the case of some sort of debtors; yet the righteousness of the law may not be eluded by needless, much less fraudulent delays, to the injury of the creditor.

In fine, whatever their trust is, whether of less or greater importance, they must exercise it with care, fidelity, resolution, steadiness, diligence, and an entire freedom from a corrupt respect to men’s persons, as those who are concerned for the honour of government, and that it’s laws may take effect for the general good of the community.]

To go on,

3. Another instance wherein rulers should be just, respects the debts that may be due from the public. A government may be in debt, as well as private men. Their circumstances may be such, as to render it adviseable for them to borrow money, either of other governments, or within themselves: Or, they may have occasion to make purchases, or to enter into contracts, upon special emergencies, which may bring them in debt. In which cases, the rule of justice is the same to magistrates, as to men in a private life. They must pay that which they owe, according to the true meaning of their engagements, without fraud or delay.

[They may also be in debt for services done by labourers, in this and the other secular employment. And here the rule of justice is that, “withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give, when thou hast it by thee.”* Or if the labourers are such as have nothing beforehand, but their day-labour is what they depend on for the support of themselves and families, the rule is yet more particular, “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy; at his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart on it: Lest he cry against thee unto the Edition: current; Page: [155] Lord, and it be sin unto thee.”* And again, “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, nor rob him: The wages of him that is hired, shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.”]

In fine, they may be in debt to their own officers, whether in higher or lower station, the proper business of whose office calls off their attention from other affairs. And as their time, and care, and tho’t, are employed in the service of the public, a public maintenance is their just due. “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charge? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or, who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also?” For it is written, “For this cause pay you tribute; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.§ Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s.”

Nor is it sufficient that they be supported according to the condition of men in low life. This may be tho’t enough, if not too much, by those who imagine, that the more strait-handed they are upon the head of allowances, the more serviceable they shall be to the public. But there is such a thing in the state, as a “withholding more than is meet.” And it really tends to the damage of a government. Too scant an allowance may unhappily prove a temptation to officers, to be hard upon those dependent on them; and what they may injuriously squeeze out of them, by one artful contrivance or another, may turn out more to the hurt of the community, than if twice that sum had been paid out of the public treasury, and this evil, by means hereof, had been prevented. Besides, ’tis no ways fitting, that men cloathed with honour and power should be brought down to a level with vulgar people, in the support that is granted them. Their outward circumstances should be elevated in proportion to their civil character, that they may be better able to support the visible dignity of their station, and command that respect which is due to men of their figure. He that is governour should eat the bread of a governour; and subordinate officers should be maintained, according to the rank they bear in the state: Nor ought their honourable maintenance to be tho’t Edition: current; Page: [156] a matter of meer bounty; ’tis rather a debt, which can’t be withheld without injustice.

[To be sure, where their stipends have been established, or, at least, they have had reasonable encouragement to expect such a certain acknowledgment for their service, righteousness requires that it be paid them: Nor may it be tho’t that the same nominal sum, falling vastly below the real worth of the debt, will be sufficient to discharge it. It certainly is not sufficient, in the eye of justice, either natural or revealed; which respects no man’s person, but will do that which is right to the lowest, as well as to the highest officer in the state.

And the case, in point of equity, is really the same, where a government has come into no special agreement; but the ascertaining the quantum proper for the support of it’s officers, is left to it’s own wisdom and probity. For an allowance is due to them by the law of righteousness: And it ought to be granted, both in proper season, and full proportion, that there may be no reason for complaint, either of penurious or unjust dealing.

I may add here, the distribution of rewards, in case of extraordinary service done for a government, falls properly under this head of justice. For tho’ there may be bounty in it, there is also a mixture of righteousness. But however this be, it has been the practice of all nations to shew singular marks of respect to those who have distinguished themselves by their eminent labours for the public. And it is to be hoped, this government will never be backward, according to their ability, suitably to reward those who have signalized themselves, in doing service for their king and country.]

4. Another general instance wherein rulers should be just, concerns the liberties and priviledges of the subject. In all governments there is a reserve of certain rights in favour of the people: In some, they are few in kind, and small in degree: In others, they are both great and numerous; rendring the people signally happy whose lot it is to be favoured with the undisturbed enjoyment of them. And it would be no wonder, if they should keep a jealous eye over them, and think no cost too much to be expended, for the defence and security of them: Especially, if they were the purchase of wise and pious ancestors, who submitted to difficulties, endured hardships, spent their estates, and ventured their lives, that they might transmit them as an inheritance to their posterity.

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And shall such valuable, dear-bought rights be neglected, or invaded by the rulers of a people? ’Tis a principal part of that justice which is eternally expected of them, as they would not grosly pervert one of the main ends of their office, to preserve and perpetuate to every member of the community, so far as may be, the full enjoyment of their liberties and priviledges, whether of a civil or religious nature.

Here I may say distinctly,

As rulers would be just, they must take all proper care to preserve entire the civil rights of a people. And the ways in which they should express this care are such as these.

They should do it by appearing in defence of their liberties, if called in question, and making use of all wise and sutable methods to prevent the loss of them: Nor can they be too active, diligent or laborious in their endeavours upon this head: Provided always, the priviledges in danger are worth contending for, and such as the people have a just right and legal claim to. Otherwise, there may be hazard of losing real liberties, in the strife for those that are imaginary; or valuable ones, for such as are of trifling consideration.

They should also express this care, by seasonably and faithfully placing a proper guard against the designs of those, who would rule in a dispotic manner, to the subversion of the rights naturally or legally vested in the people. And here ’tis a great mistake to suppose, there can be danger only from those in the highest station. There may, ’tis true, be danger from this quarter: And it has sometimes proved so in fact: An unhappy instance whereof was seen in the arbitrary reign of King James the second, in person at home, and by his representative here; as a check to which, those entrusted with the guardianship of the nation’s rights were spirited to take such measures, as issued in that revolution, and establishment of the succession, on which his present majesty’s claim to the British throne is dependent. May the succession be continued in his royal house forever! And may the same spirit, which settled it there, prevail in the rulers of the English nation, so long as the sun and moon shall endure!

But, as I said, a people’s liberties may be in danger from others, besides those in the highest rank of government. The men who strike in with the popular cry of liberty and priviledge, working themselves, by an artful application to the fears and jealousies of the people, Edition: current; Page: [158] into their good opinion of them as lovers of their country, if not the only stanch friends to it’s interests, may, all the while, be only aiming at power to carry every thing according to their own sovereign pleasure: And they are, in this case, most dangerous enemies to the community; and may, by degrees, if not narrowly watched, arrive to such an height, as to be able to serve their own ends, by touching even the people in their most valuable rights. And these commonly are the men, thro’ whose influence, either as primary managers, or tools to others, they suffer most in their real liberties.

In fine, they should express this care in a constant readiness to bear due testimony against even the smaller encroachments upon the liberty of the subject, whether by private men’s invading one another’s rights, or by the tyranny of inferiour officers, who may treat those under their power, as tho’ they had no natural rights, not to say a just claim to the invaluable priviledges of Englishmen.

The ancient Romans have set an illustrious example in this kind. Such was the provision they made to secure the people’s priviledges, that it was dangerous for any man, tho’ in office, to act towards the meanest freeman of Rome in violation of the meanest of them. Hence the magistrates who ordered Paul and Silas to be beaten uncondemned, feared when they heard they were Romans. And Lysias, the chief captain, was filled with the like fear for commanding, that Paul should be examined with scourging; when he understood, that he was born a freeman of Rome. And it would have a good tendency to secure to the people the enjoyment of their liberties, if these smaller instances of illegal power were carefully and severely chastised.

But justice in rulers should be seen likewise in their care of the religious rights and liberties of a people. Not that they are to exert their authority in settling articles of faith, or imposing modes of worship, so as that all must frame their belief, and order their practice, according to their decisions, or lie exposed to penalties of one kind or another. This would be to put men under restraint, as to the exercise of their religious rights: Nor are penal laws at all adjusted in their nature, to enlighten men’s minds, or convince their judgment. This can be done only by good reason: And this therefore is the only proper way of applying to reasonable creatures.

Justice in rulers should therefore put them upon leaving every member of the community, without respect of persons, freely to Edition: current; Page: [159] choose his own religion, and profess and practice it according to that external form, which he apprehends will be most acceptable to his maker: Provided, his religion is such as may consist with the public safety: Otherwise, it would be neither wisdom nor justice in the government to tolerate it.

Nor is this all; but they should guard every man from all insult and abuse on account of his religious sentiments, and from all molestation and disturbance, while he endeavours the propagation of them, so far as he keeps within the bounds of decency, and approves himself a peaceable member of society.

Besides which, it would be no more than reasonable, if, as christian magistrates, they distinguished those in their regards, who professed the religion of Jesus, and in that way, which, to them, was most agreable to scripture rule. They should be guardians to such christian societies, by defending their constitution; by countenancing their manner of worship; by maintaining the liberties granted to them in the gospel-charter, in all their regular exercises, whether in church assemblies for the performance of the services of piety, or the choice of officers, or the administration of discipline; or in councils, greater or less, for the help and preservation of each other: And, in fine, by owning those who minister to them in sacred things, and providing for their support, according to that rule in scripture, as well as common equity, “They that preach the gospel should live of the gospel”: Or if they are generally and wrongfully kept out of a great part of that support, which has been engaged, and is justly due to them, by taking their case into consideration, and doing what may be effectual for their relief.

This last instance of the care of rulers, I the rather mention, because it falls in so exactly with the circumstances of the pastors of the churches in this province. There is not, I believe, an order of men, in the land, more universally, or to a greater degree, injured and oppressed in regard of their just dues. While others have it, in some measure, in their power to right themselves, by rising in their demands, in proportion to the sinking of the current medium, they are confined to a nominal quantum, which every day varies in its real worth, and has been gradually doing so, ’till it is come to that pass, that many of them don’t receive more than one half, or two thirds of the original value they contracted for. And to this it is owing, that Edition: current; Page: [160] they are diverted from their studies, discouraged in their work, and too frequently treated with contempt. And what is an aggravation of their difficulty, their only desiring that justice may be done them, often makes an uneasiness among their people: And if they urge it; to be sure, if they demand it, ’tis great odds but there ensues thereupon contention and strife, and, at last, such a general alienation of affection, as puts an entire end to their usefulness.

Suffer me, my fathers in the government, as I have this opportunity of speaking in your presence, to beseech the exercise of your authority, on the behalf, (may I not say) of so valuable and useful a part of the community: And the rather, because some special provision for their relief seems to be a matter of justice, and not meer favour; as it is by means of the public bills, tho’ contrary to the design of the government, that they are injured. And might not this be made, without any great expence either of time or pains, and so as to be effectual too, to put it out of the power of people to turn off their ministers with any thing short of the true value of what they agreed with them for, when they settled among them? This is all they desire: And as it is nothing more than common equity, would it not be hard, if they should be still left to groan under their oppressions, and to have no helper?

The great and general court, it must be acknowledged, more than twenty years since, “upon serious consideration of the great distresses, that many of the ministers within this province laboured under, with respect to their support, resolved, that it was the indispensible duty of the several towns and parishes, to make additions to the maintenance of their respective ministers; and therein to have regard to the growing difference in the value of the bills of credit, from what they had sometimes been.” And thereupon “earnestly recommended the speedy and chearful practice of this duty to the several congregations within this province.” And that the recommendation might be universally known and comply’d with, “Ordered, that their resolve should be publickly read on the next Lord’s day after the receipt thereof, and at the anniversary meeting of the several towns in the month of March next” following.*

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And it is with thankfulness that we take notice of this instance of the care of our civil fathers; tho’ we are sorry, we must, at the same time, say, it was generally treated with neglect by our congregations, as being void of power.

It will not be pretended, but that the distresses of the ministers, and from the same cause too, the sinking of the medium, are vastly greater now, than they were twenty years ago: And if it was then reasonable, in the great and general court, to recommend it to the several congregations, throughout the province, as their indispensable duty, to make additions to the maintenance of their ministers, and therein to have regard to the lower value of the bills of credit, from what they formerly were; it is certainly now high time to oblige them to this: Especially, as the grievances of the ministers have often, since that day, upon these occasions, been opened to their civil fathers, whose interposition has been humbly and earnestly intreated. But I would not be too pressing: Neither have I said thus much on my own account, who am not, thro’ the goodness of God, in suffering circumstances myself, but in very pity to many of my poor brethren who are; because there may be danger lest guilt should lie on the government, if they take no notice of the sighing of so considerable a body of men; and because, I verily believe, the offerings of the Lord are Edition: current; Page: [162] too often despised, by reason of that poverty those are unrighteously reduced to, by whom they are presented.

But to return,

5. Another instance of justice in rulers relates to the defence of the state, and it’s preservation in peace and safety. [The happiness of a people lies very much in their living peaceably among themselves, and at quiet with their neighbours. For which reason, rulers are bound in justice to use all prudent endeavours, that they may “sit every man under his own vine, and under his fig-tree, and have none to make them afraid.” In order whereunto,

They should take care to prevent intestine jarrs and commotions in the government, by giving no occasion for murmurings and complaints; or if any should unhappily arise, by speedily removing the causes of them: By testifying a just displeasure against the fomentors of animosities, fewds and factions: By watching the motions of uneasy, turbulent and mobbish spirits, and checking the first out-breakings of them; or if, thro’ the lusts of men, insurrection or rebellion should happen, by seasonably putting a stop thereto, lest afterwards the whole force of the government should be scarce sufficient for this purpose.

It may be, the late unnatural rebellion, which began in Scotland, was too much despised at first. It would not otherwise, ’tis probable, have risen to such a formidable height: Tho’ the alwise holy God, by permitting this, and then remarkably succeeding the king’s arms, under the command of his royal highness the duke of Cumberland, to put an end to this traiterous attempt against the throne of Great-Britain, took occasion, not only to lay the nation and it’s dependencies, under more sensible bonds to give glory to him, in language like that of the 18th Psalm, “Great deliverance hath he given to his king, and shewed mercy to his anointed: Therefore will we give thanks unto thee, O Lord, and sing praises to thy name”: But to do that also, which was proper to engage their more fervent prayers of faith, that he would go on to clothe the king’s enemies with shame, and cause the crown to flourish on his head, and the head of his posterity forever.

Rulers also should endeavour to keep the state from being embroiled in foreign war, by contriving, in all prudent ways, to engage and continue the friendship of neighbouring nations; by bearing with lesser injuries from them, and not hastily resenting greater ones, so Edition: current; Page: [163] far as may be consistent with the public safety; by sacredly adhering to the treaties and contracts, they may have entred into with them; by expressing a due caution not to invade their rights or properties, or in any instance whatever to give them just cause of provocation: Or if this shou’d at any time happen, by appearing ready to make them all reasonable satisfaction.

Or if, after all, war should arise, by means of the pride, or avarice, or self-will and tyranny of unreasonable men, their concern should now be to look to the preservation of the state at home, by providing a sufficiency of warlike stores, in their various kinds; by guarding the exposed frontiers and coasts; and, in a word, by putting and keeping things in such a posture of defence, that neither their people, nor their interests, may easily fall a prey in their enemy’s hands.

Besides which, it would be both wisdom and justice to carry the war into their enemies territories; doing every thing in their power to humble their pride, curb their malice, and weaken their strength; especially, where there may be most danger of being annoyed by them.]

6thly, and finally, rulers should be just to promote the general welfare and prosperity of a people, by discouraging, on the one hand, idleness, prodigality, prophaneness, uncleanness, drunkenness, and the like immoralities, which tend, in the natural course of things, to their impoverishment and ruin: And by encouraging, on the other hand, industry, frugality, temperance, chastity, and the like moral virtues, the general practice whereof are naturally connected with the flourishing of a people in every thing that tends to make them great and happy. As also, by rendring the support of government as easy as is consistent with it’s honour and safety; by calculating laws to set forward those manufactures which may be of public benefit; by freeing trade, as much as possible, from all unnecessary burdens; and, above all, by a wise and sutable provision for the instruction of children and youth: In order whereunto effectual care should be taken for the encouragement and support, not only of private schools, but of the public means of education. Colleges ought to be the special care of the government, as it is from hence, principally, that it has it’s dependence for initiating the youth in those arts and sciences, which may furnish them, as they grow up in the world, to be blessings both in church and state. It would certainly be unrighteous, not to protect Edition: current; Page: [164] these societies in the full and quiet enjoyment of such rights as have been freely and generously granted to them: And if they should not have within themselves a sufficiency for the support of their officers, it would be a wrong to the community, not to do what was further wanting towards their comfortable and honourable support.

And having thus, in a general and imperfect manner, gone over the more important instances, wherein rulers should be just, it might now be proper to enlarge on the obligations they are under to be so: But the time will allow me only to suggest as follows.

[They are obliged to be thus just, from the fitness and reasonableness of the thing in itself considered. ’Tis a duty that naturally and necessarily results from the relation they stand in to society, and the power they are vested with, in all righteous ways, to promote it’s welfare. And it would, in the nature of things, be incongruous and absurd for men so scituated and betrusted, and for such good ends, to injure those over whom they are exalted, by abusing their power to the purposes of tyranny and oppression. Such a conduct would evidently and grosly break in upon that propriety and fitness of action, which is immutably and eternally required, in such a constitution of things, as rulers and ruled, and the relative obligations respectively arising therefrom.

They are also obliged to be thus just, in virtue of the will of the supreme legislator, made known in the revelations of scripture; which enjoins such precepts as those, “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee;—and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment;—that which is altogether just shalt thou follow.”* And again, “Thus saith the Lord, Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: And do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow”:: To which laws of the great king of the world they owe an indisputed obedience, as they are, in common with the rest of mankind, the subjects of his government: Nor can they be freed from the charge of reflecting contempt on the divine majesty, and that sovereign authority by which he governs his creatures, if, in their administrations, they should express a disregard to them.

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They are likewise obliged to be just, out of regard to the community, to which they are related; whose welfare is so dependent hereon, that if they act, in their respective stations, not from a principle of justice, but under the influence of worldly views and selfish designs, it may reasonably be expected, that “judgment should be turned away backward, and justice stand afar off”; that “truth should fall in the street, and equity not be able to enter”: The natural effect whereof must be the ruin of a people. Whereas, if they “put on righteousness, and it clothes them; and their judgment is as a robe and a diadem: If they deliver the poor that cry, and the fatherless, and him that hath none to help him; and break to pieces the wicked, and pluck the spoil of his teeth”; they will approve themselves those “righteous ones in authority, who cause the people to rejoice”: And the righteousness wherewith they rule them will be their exaltation.

In fine, it should be a constraining argument with rulers to be just, that they are accountable to that Jesus, whom God hath ordained to be the judge of the world, for the use of that power he has put into their hands. And if, by their unjust behaviour in their places, they have not only injured the people, but unhappily led them, by their example, into practices that are fraudulent and dishonest; I say, if they have thus misused their power, sad will be their account another day; such as must expose them to the resentments of their judge, which they will not be able to escape. It will not be any security then, that they were once ranked among the great men of the earth. This may now be a protection to them, and it often indeed screens them from that human vengeance, which overtakes those of less influence, tho’ guilty of less crimes: But the “kings of the earth, and the great men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men,” will in the day of the appearing of the son of God, be upon a level with the meanest of mankind, and as ready, if conscious to themselves that they have been unjust in their stations, to “say to the mountains and rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?” A most affecting consideration, and should powerfully excite those who rule over others, to a righteous exercise of their power; especially, as they will by this means, if in other respects also they have behaved well, obtain the approbation of their judge; who will, as they have been Edition: current; Page: [166] “faithful over a few things, make them ruler over many”; placing them at his own right hand, in his kingdom.

II. I now proceed to say, in the second place, Those who rule over men, must rule in the fear of God.

The fear of God, being not only in itself a considerable part of religion, but also a grace that has a special influence on all the other parts of it, is commonly, and not unfitly, used in scripture to signify the whole of it. This seems to be the meaning of the phrase here: And the thing intended is, not only that rulers should be endowed with an inward principle of religion, but that they should exercise their authority, in their whole administration, under the influence of so good and powerful a disposition.

He that ruleth over men, must rule in the fear of God. As if the royal prophet had said, “It is necessary, civil rulers should have upon their minds a becoming sense of God and religion: And it should govern their public conduct. Whatever they do, in their several stations, should be done under the guidance of an habitual awe of God, a serious regard to his governing will, and their accountableness to him. This is the principle that should have a predominating sway in all exertments of themselves in their public capacity.” This I take to be the true sense of the words.

To be sure, ’tis the truth of the thing. Civil rulers ought to be possessed of a principle of religion, and to act under the direction of it in their respective stations. This is a matter of necessity. I don’t mean that it is necessary in order to their having a right to rule over men. Dominion is not founded in grace: Nor is every pious good man fit to be entrusted with civil power. ’Tis easy to distinguish between government in it’s abstracted notion, and the faithful advantageous administration of it. And religion in rulers is necessary to the latter, tho’ not to the former.

Not but that they may be considerably useful in their places, if the religious fear of God does not reign in their hearts. From a natural benevolence of temper, accompanied with an active honest turn of mind, they may be instrumental in doing good service to the public: Nay, they may be prompted, even from a view to themselves, their own honour and interest, to behave well in the posts they sustain, at least, in many instances. But if destitute of religion, they are possessed of no principle that will stimulate a care in them to act up to Edition: current; Page: [167] their character steadily and universally, and so as fully to answer the ends of their institution.

’Tis a principle of religion, and this only, that can set them free from the unhappy influence of those passions and lusts, which they are subject to, in common with other men, and by means whereof they may be betrayed into that tyranny and oppression, that violence and injustice, which will destroy the peace and good order of society. These, ’tis true, may be under some tolerable check from other principles, at least, for a while, and in respect of those actings that are plainly enormous. But no restraints are like those, which the true fear of God lays upon men’s lusts. This habitually prevailing in the hearts of rulers, will happily prevent the out-breaking of their pride, and envy, and avarice, and self-love, and other lusts, to the damage of society; and not only so, but it will weaken, and gradually destroy, the very inward propensities themselves to the various acts of vice. It naturally, and powerfully, tends to this: And this is the effect it will produce, in a less or greater degree, according to the strength of the religious principle, in those who are the subjects of it.

And a principle of religion also, and this only, will be effectual to excite rulers to a uniform, constant and universal regard to truth and justice, in their public conduct. Inferiour principles may influence them in particular cases, and at certain seasons: But the fear of God only will prompt them to every instance of right action, and at all times. This will possess them of such sentiments, give such a direction to their views, and fix such a happy biass on their minds, as that their chief concern and care will be, to behave in their offices so as to answer the good ends for which they were put into them. In one word, they will now be the subjects of that divine and universal principle of good conduct, which may, under God, be depended on, to carry them thro’ the whole of their duty, upon all occasions, under all difficulties, and in opposition to all temptations, to the rendring the people, over whom they bear rule, as happy as ’tis in their power to make them.

To be sure, without a principle of religion, none of their services for the public will meet with the divine approbation. ’Tis therefore, in respect of themselves, a matter of absolute necessity that they be possess’d of the true fear of God. It won’t suffice, should they behave well in their places, if they have no higher view herein than their Edition: current; Page: [168] own private interest; if they are influenced, not from a due regard to God, his honour and authority, but from love to themselves. This will spoil their best services, in point of the divine acceptance: Whereas, if they act from a principle of religion, what they do in a way of serving their generation will be kindly taken at the hands of a merciful God, and he will, thro’ Jesus Christ, amply reward them for it, in the great day of retribution.]


It now remains to apply what has been said to rulers and people.

And ’tis fit I should first turn the discourse into an address to your Excellency, as it has pleased God and the king to advance you to the first seat of government, among those who bear rule in this province.

The administration, sir, is devolved on you in the darkest day, it may be, New-England ever saw; when there was never more occasion for distinguishing talents in a governour, to direct the public counsels, and minister to the relief and comfort of a poor people, groaning under the calamities of war and debt, and, what is worse than both, an unhappy medium, that fills the land with oppression and distress. We would hope, it was because the Lord loved this people, that he has set you over us; and that he intends to honour you as the instrument in delivering us from the perplexing difficulties wherewith our affairs are embarrass’d.

We have had experience of your Excellency’s superiour wisdom, knowledge, steadiness, resolution, and unwearied application in serving the province: And would herefrom encourage our selves to depend on you for every thing, that may reasonably be expected of a chief ruler, furnished with capacities fitted to promote the public happiness.

We rejoice to see so many posts in the government, at the disposal of your Excellency, either alone, or in conjunction with your council, filled with men of capacity, justice and religion: And as the public good is so much dependent on the nomination and appointment of well qualified persons to sustain the various offices in the province, we promise our selves your eye will be upon the faithful of the land, and that, while you contemn every vile person, you will honour them that fear the Lord. And should any attempt by indirect means to Edition: current; Page: [169] obtain places of trust which others better deserve, we assure ourselves your Excellency will resent such an affront, and testify a just displeasure against the persons who shall dare to offer it.

The opinion we have of your Excellency’s integrity and justice, forbids the least suspicion of a design in you to invade the civil charter-rights of this people. And tho’ you differ in your sentiments from us, as to the model of our church-state, and the external manner of our worship; yet we can securely rely on the generosity of your principles to protect us in the full enjoyment of those ecclesiastical rights we have been so long in possession of: And the rather, because your Excellency knows, that our progenitors enterprized the settlement of this country principally on a religious account; leaving their native land, and transporting themselves and their families, at a vast expence, and at the peril of their lives, into this distant, and then desolate wilderness, that they might themselves freely enjoy, and transmit to us their posterity, that manner of worship and discipline, which we look upon, as they did, most agreable to the purity of God’s word.

Your Excellency knows too well the worth of learning, and the advantage of a liberal education, not to be strongly dispos’d to cherish the college, which has, from the days of our fathers, been so much the glory of New-England: And we doubt not, you will be always tender of its rights, and exert your self, as there may be occasion, for its defence and welfare.

And as your Excellency is our common father, we repair to you as the friend and patron of all that is dear and valuable to us; depending that you will employ your time, your thought, your authority, your influence and best endeavours, to ease our burdens, to lead us out of the labyrinths we have run into, and to make us a happy and prosperous people.

We can wish nothing better for your Excellency than the divine presence enabling you to act, in your whole administration, under the influence of a steady principle of justice, and an habitual awe and reverence of that God, for whom ultimately you derived your authority, and to whom you are accountable for the use of it. This will recommend you to the love, and entitle you to the praise of an obliged happy people; this will yield you undisturbed ease of mind under the cares and burdens of government; this will brighten to you the shades of death, embalm your memory after you are dead, and, Edition: current; Page: [170] what is infinitely more desireable, give you boldness when great and small shall stand before the Son of man, and procure for you that blessed euge, from the mouth of your divine Saviour and Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant: Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Permit me, in the next place, with a becoming respect, to apply myself to the honourable his majesty’s council, and the honourable house of representatives; whose desire has ordered me into this desk.

Through the goodness of God, we see the return of this anniversary for the exercise of one of those charter-rights, granted to our fathers, and continued to us, on the wise and faithful management whereof, the public happiness is very much dependent.

His majesty’s council, this afternoon to be elected, is an happy medium between the king and the people, and wisely designed to preserve a due ballance between the prerogatives of the one, and the privileges of the other. And as they constitute one branch of the legislature, they have a share in framing and passing all acts and orders. To them it appertains to assist the chief ruler with their advice upon all emergent occasions, especially in the court’s recess. And without their consent, none of the civil posts in the government can be filled; in consequence whereof, no judges can be appointed, no courts erected, no causes tried, no sentences executed, but by persons who have had their approbation: All which, by shewing the weight of this order of men in the state, bespeaks the importance of this day’s business, and, at the same time, demands a proportionable care and faithfulness in the discharge of it.

It is not, gentlemen, a trifling concern you have before you; an affair wherein you may act with carelessness or inattention; with a party or partial spirit; out of affection to friends, or complaisance to superiors; much less upon the corrupt design of making instruments to be imployed and managed to serve your own private schemes. It is not for yourselves only that you are empowered and called to vote in the elections of this day, but for your God, your king and your country: And you will be unjust to them all, if you give your voice as moved by any considerations, but those which are taken from the real characters of men, qualifying them to sit at the council-board.

You all know, from the oracles of God, how men must be furnished, in order to their being fit to be chosen into places of such Edition: current; Page: [171] important trust; that they must be wise and understanding, and known to be so among their tribes; that they must be able men, and men of truth, men that fear God, and hate covetousness. And ’tis to be hoped, we have a sufficiency of such, in the land, to constitute his majesty’s council. It would be lamentable indeed, if we had not. ’Tis your business, gentlemen, to seek them out. And with you will the fault principally lie, if we have not the best men in the country for councillors; men of capacity and knowledge, who are well acquainted with the nature of government in general, and the constitution, laws, priviledges and interests of this people in particular: Men of known piety towards God, and fidelity to their king and country: Men of a generous spirit, who are above acting under the influence of narrow and selfish principles: Men of unquestionable integrity, inflexible justice, and undaunted resolution, who will dare not to give their consent to unrighteous acts, or mistaken nominations; who will disdain, on the one hand, meanly to withdraw, when speaking their minds with freedom and openness may expose them to those who set them up, and may have it in their power to pull them down, or, on the other, to accommodate their conduct, in a servile manner, to their sentiments and designs; in fine, who will steadily act up to their character, support the honour of their station, and approve themselves invariably faithful in their endeavours to advance the public weal.

These are the men, ’tis in your power, my honourable fathers, to choose into the council; and these are the men for whom, in the name of God, and this whole people, I would earnestly beg every vote this day: And suffer me to say, these are the men you will all send in your votes for, if you are yourselves men of integrity and justice, and exercise your elective-power, not as having concerted the matter beforehand, in some party-juncto, but under the influence of a becoming awe of that omnipresent righteous God, whose eye will be upon you, to observe how you vote, and for whom you vote, and to whom you must finally render an account, before the general assembly of angels and men, for this day’s transaction.

We bow our knees to the alwise sovereign Being, who presides over the affairs of the children of men, in humble and fervent supplications, that he would govern your views, direct your tho’ts, and lead you into a choice that he shall own and succeed, to promote the best interests of this people.

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And when the elections of this day are over, and the several branches of the legislature shall proceed upon the affairs of the public, we promise ourselves you will act as those, who have upon their minds a just sense of the vast importance of the trust that is reposed in you.

To you is committed the defence of the province, the guardianship of it’s liberties and priviledges, the protection of it’s trade, and the care of it’s most valuable interests: And never was there a time, wherein it’s circumstances more urgently called upon you to exert yourselves, in seeking it’s welfare.

Religion is not in such a flourishing state, at this day, but that it needs the countenance of your example, and the interposition of your authority, to keep it from insult and contempt. We thankfully acknowledge the pious care, the legislature has lately taken to restrain the horrid practice of cursing and swearing, which so generally prevailed, especially in this, and our other sea-port towns, to the dishonour of God, and our reproach as wearing the name of christians. And if laws still more severe are necessary, to guard the day and worship of God from prophanation, we can leave it with your wisdom to enact such, as may tend to serve so good a design. And tho’ we would be far from desiring, that our rulers should espouse a party in religion; yet we cannot but hope, they will never do any thing to encourage those, who may have arrived at such an height in spiritual pride, as to say, in their practice, to their brethren as good as themselves, “stand by thy self, come not near me; for I am holier than thou”: Concerning whom the blessed God declares, “These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.” And as for those, be their character, persuasion, or party, what it will, who, under the notion of appearing zealous for God, his truths or ways, shall insult their betters, vilify their neighbours, and spirit people to strife and faction, we earnestly wish the civil arm may be stretched forth to chastise them: And if they suffer, ’twill be for disturbing the peace of society; the evil whereof is rather aggravated than lessened, by pretences to advance the glory of God and the interest of religion.

We are thankful for the good and wholesome laws which have been made, from time to time, for the suppression of vice, in it’s various kinds; and, in particular, for the restraint that has been laid upon those, who may be inclined to excessive drinking. Alas! that such multitudes, Edition: current; Page: [173] notwithstanding, are overtaken with this fault. Hard drinking is indeed become common all over the land. And ’tis astonishing to think what quantities of strong drink are consumed among us! Unless some, well capable of forming a judgment, are very much mistaken, more a great deal is needlessly and viciously consumed than would suffice to answer the whole charge, both of church and state. A reproach this, to any people! And if something further is not done by the government, to prevent the use that is made of strong drink, it will, in a little time, prove the destruction of the country, in the natural course of things; if God should not positively testify his displeasure against such horrid intemperance. It may deserve your consideration, my fathers, whether one occasion of this scandalous consumption of strong drink, has not been the needless multiplication of taverns, as well as more private licensed houses, that are too commonly used for tipling, and serve to little purpose, but to tempt people, in low life sinfully to waste their time, and spend their substance.

[It would also redound much to the advantage of the province, if our civil fathers could contrive, some way or other that might be effectual, to prevent people’s laying out so much of the fruit of their labour, in that which is needless and extravagant. It will not be denied, by any capable of making observation, that the excesses, all ranks of persons have unhappily run into, need correction. ’Tis owing, in a great measure, to our pride, discovering it self in the extravagance of our garb, as well as manner of living, that we are brought low. And, if some restraint is not laid upon this vicious disposition, so generally prevalent in the land, we may complain of our difficulties, but ’tis not likely, without a miracle, they should be redressed.]

But there is nothing more needs your awaken’d attention, my honoured fathers in the government, than the unhappy state of this people by means of the current medium. Whatever wise and good ends might be proposed at first, and from time to time, in the emission of bills of credit, they have proved, in the event, a cruel engine of oppression. It may be, there was scarce ever a province under more melancholly circumstances, by reason of injustice, which is become almost unavoidable. Sad is the case of your men of nominal salaries: And much to be pitied also are those widows and orphans, who depend on the loan of their money for a subsistance: While yet, these last, of all persons in the community, should be most carefully Edition: current; Page: [174] guarded against every thing that looks like oppression. This sin, when widows and fatherless children are the persons wronged by it, is heinously aggravated in the sight of a righteous God; as may easily be collected from that emphatical prohibition, so often repeated in all parts of the bible, “Thou shalt not oppress the widow, nor the fatherless.” But the oppression reigning in the land, is not confined to this order or that condition of persons, but touches all without exception. None escape its pernicious influence, neither high nor low, rich nor poor. Like an over-bearing flood, it makes its way thro’ the province; and all are sufferers by it, in a less or greater degree, and feel and own themselves to be so.

And will you, our honoured rulers, by any positive acts, or faulty neglects, suffer your selves to be instrumental in the continuance of such a state of things? God forbid! We don’t think you would designedly do any thing to countenance oppression, or neglect any thing that might have a tendency to remove it out of the land.

Neither can we think, that any former assemblies have knowingly acted, in the emission of public bills, upon dishonest principles: Tho’ it may be feared, whether the righteous God, in holy displeasure at the sins both of rulers and people, may not have witheld counsel from our wise men, and scattered darkness in their paths: And if, in consequence hereof, there has been disunion in the sentiments of our civil fathers, concerning the public medium, and unsteadiness in their conduct, ’tis no matter of wonder: Nor, upon this supposition, is it hard to be accounted for, that injustice, by means of the paper currency, should have taken such a general and dreadful spread, thro’ the land.

But, by what means soever we became involved in these perplexities, ’tis certainly high time to make a pause, and consider what may be done that will be effectual towards the recovering and maintaining justice and honesty, that we may be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.

It would be culpable vanity in me, to attempt to prescribe to our honourable legislature; yet may I, without going beyond my line, after the example of the great apostle of the gentiles, reason with you of public righteousness, and its connection with a judgment to come.

You are, my fathers, accountable to that God whose throne is in the heavens, in common with other men. And his eyes behold your conduct in your public capacity, and he sees and observes it, not Edition: current; Page: [175] merely as a spectator, but an almighty righteous judge, one who enters all upon record in order to a reckoning another day. And a day is coming, it lingers not, when you shall all stand upon a level, with the meanest subjects, before the tremendous bar of the righteous judge of all the earth, and be called upon to render an account, not only of your private life, but of your whole management as entrusted with the concerns of this people.

Under the realising apprehension of this, suffer me, in the name of God, (tho’ the most unworthy of his servants) to advise you to review the public conduct, respecting the passing bills, and to do whatever may lay in your power to prevent their being the occasion of that injustice, which, if continued much longer, will destroy the small remains of common honesty that are still left in the land, and make us an abhorrence to the people that delight in righteousness.

Let me beseech you, sirs, for the sake of this poor people, and for the sake of your own souls, when you shall stand before the dreadful bar of the eternal judgment, to lay aside all party designs and private considerations, and to deliberate upon this great affair, with a single view to the public good, and under the uniform influence of a steady principle of righteousness; for, as the wise man observes, “transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness,” while “the righteousness of the upright shall deliver them, and their integrity shall guide them”; and again, “as for the upright, the Lord directeth their way.”

If there needs any excuse for my wonted plainness of speech, I can only say; my conscience beareth me witness, that what I have said has proceeded, not from want of a decent respect for those who are my civil fathers, but from faithfulness to God, whose I am, and whom I desire to serve, as well as from an ardent love to my dear country, which I am grieved to behold in tears, by reason of “the oppressions that are done under the sun.”

Custom might now demand an address to my fathers and brethren in the ministry; but as a sermon will be preached to the clergy to-morrow, by one who is every way my superior, and from whom I expect myself to receive instruction, I shall no otherwise apply to them than as they may be concerned in the exhortation to the people, which, agreably to the preceeding discourse, speaketh in the words of the inspired Solomon, “Fear God, and honour the king.”

Be, first of all, concerned to become truly religious; men of piety Edition: current; Page: [176] towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and the subjects of that regenerating change, which shall renew your whole inner man, and form you to a resemblance of the blessed Jesus, in the moral temper of his mind.

And let your religion now discover itself in all proper ways; particularly, in doing your duty to those, whom it hath pleased God to entrust with power to rule over you.

Be exhorted to “make supplications, prayers and intercessions, with giving of thanks, for the king in supreme, and for all in authority” under him, that by means of their wise, and gentle, and just administrations in government, we may “lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.”

And as subjection to civil rulers is so peremptorily demanded of you, by the laws of our holy religion, that you can’t be good christians without it, let me caution you, on the one hand, not to “despise dominion,” nor “speak evil of dignities”: And, on the other, let me “put you in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, and to obey magistrates; submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: Whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governours, as unto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well: For so is the will of God.”

And as rulers are the ministers of God, his authoris’d deputies, for the people’s good, and continually, so far as they answer the ends of their institution, attend on this very thing: “For this cause pay you tribute also”: And do it, not grudgingly, but with a chearful mind, in obedience to that glorious sovereign Being, who has said, “render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s.”

In fine, let me call upon you to “render unto all their dues.” Abhor the little arts of fraud and deceit that are become so common, in this day of growing dishonesty. Make use of conscience in your dealings with your neighbour; and be fair and equitable, wherein you may have to do with him in a way of commerce. In conformity to the righteous God, love righteousness, and discover that you do so, by constantly living in the practice of it: Always bearing it in mind, that he, “whose eyes behold, and whose eyelids try the children of men,” will hereafter descend from heaven, “to give to every man according as his work shall be.” Behold! He cometh with clouds, and we shall, every one of us, see him. We are hastening to another world; and it Edition: current; Page: [177] will not be long, before we shall all be together again, in a much more numerous assembly, and upon a far greater occasion, even that of being tried for our future existence, at the dreadful tribunal of the impartial judge of the quick and dead. The good Lord so impress the thought upon the hearts of us all, whether rulers, or ministers, or people, as that it may have an abiding influence on us, engaging us to be faithful and just in our respective places: And now may we hope, of the mercy of God, thro’ the merits of our saviour Jesus Christ, to be acquitted at the bar of judgment, pronounced blessed, and bid to inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.

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Samuel Davies
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Samuel Davies (1724–1761). Fourth president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), Delaware-born Samuel Davies was a Presbyterian and great pulpit orator whose published sermons remained popular for half a century after his death. Never physically robust, he nonetheless worked prodigiously in the Virginia back-country as a circuit-riding parson, regularly preaching in seven churches scattered over five counties. He settled in Hanover County, where dissenters were frowned upon, and soon became the leader in the campaign for civil and religious liberties in Virginia and North Carolina.

He accompanied the Great Awakening preacher Gilbert Tennent (1703–1764) to Great Britain in 1753, under commission of the Synod of New York, to raise funds for the College of New Jersey. He succeeded handsomely in this enterprise and also achieved fame in preaching some sixty sermons in England and Scotland, many of which were published and widely read. After Davies returned to America, the Presbytery of Hanover, the first in Virginia, was established largely by his efforts late in 1755. Jonathan Edwards the elder and Aaron Burr, Sr., sponsored Davies in all his endeavors, and upon the death of Burr, Davies was offered the college presidency in Princeton as his successor. He eventually accepted the offer in 1759, but died of pneumonia less than two years later. He still managed to achieve important reforms at the college by raising the standards for admission and graduation and by planning a new library.

This sermon was preached in Hanover County, Virginia, on May 9, 1756, at the beginning of the French and Indian War; it was published posthumously in London.

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Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a King then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.

John xviii. 37.

Kings and kingdoms are the most majestic sounds in the language of mortals, and have filled the world with noise, confusions, and blood, since mankind first left the state of nature, and formed themselves into societies. The disputes of kingdoms for superiority have set the world in arms from age to age, and destroyed or enslaved a considerable part of the human race; and the contest is not yet decided. Our country has been a region of peace and tranquillity for a long time, but it has not been because the lust of power and riches is extinct in the world, but because we had no near neighbours, whose interest might clash with ours, or who were able to disturb us. The absence of an enemy was our sole defence. But now, when the colonies of the sundry European nations on this continent begin to enlarge, and approach towards each other, the scene is changed: now encroachments, depredations, barbarities, and all the terrors of war begin to surround and alarm us. Now our country is invaded and ravaged, and bleeds in a thousand veins. We have already,* so early in the year, received alarm upon alarm: and we may expect the alarms to grow louder and louder as the season advances.

These commotions and perturbations have had one good effect upon me, and that is, they have carried away my thoughts of late into a serene and peaceful region, a region beyond the reach of confusion and violence; I mean the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. And thither, my brethren, I would also transport your minds this day, as the best refuge from this boisterous world, and the most agreeable mansion for the lovers of peace and tranquillity. I find it advantageous both to you and myself, to entertain you with those subjects that have made the deepest impression upon my own mind: and this is the reason why I choose the present subject. In my text you hear one entering a claim to a kingdom, whom you would conclude, if you Edition: current; Page: [184] regarded only his outward appearance, to be the meanest and vilest of mankind. To hear a powerful prince, at the head of a victorious army, attended with all the royalties of his character, to hear such an one claim the kingdom he had acquired by force of arms, would not be strange. But here the despised Nazarene, rejected by his nation, forsaken by his followers, accused as the worst of criminals, standing defenceless at Pilate’s bar, just about to be condemned and hung on a cross, like a malefactor and a slave, here he speaks in a royal stile, even to his judge, I am a King: for this purpose was I born; and for this cause came I into the world. Strange language indeed to proceed from his lips in these circumstances! But the truth is, a great, a divine personage is concealed under this disguise; and his kingdom is of such a nature, that his abasement and crucifixion were so far from being a hindrance to it, that they were the only way to acquire it. These sufferings were meritorious; and by these he purchased his subjects, and a right to rule them.

The occasion of these words was this: the unbelieving Jews were determined to put Jesus to death as an imposter. The true reason of their opposition to him was, that he had severely exposed their hypocrisy, claimed the character of the Messiah, without answering their expectations as a temporal prince and a mighty conqueror; and introduced a new religion, which superseded the law of Moses, in which they had been educated. But this reason they knew would have but little weight with Pilate the Roman governor, who was an heathen, and had no regard to their religion. They therefore bring a charge of another kind, which they knew would touch the governor very sensibly, and that was, that Christ had set himself up as the King of the Jews; which was treason against Cæsar the Roman emperor, under whose yoke they then were. This was all pretence and artifice. They would now seem to be very loyal to the emperor, and unable to bear with any claims inconsistent with his authority; whereas, in truth, they were impatient of a foreign government, and were watching for any opportunity to shake it off. And had Christ been really guilty of the charge they alledged against him, he would have been the more acceptable to them. Had he set himself up as King of the Jews, in opposition to Cæsar, and employed his miraculous powers to make good his claim, the whole nation would have welcomed him as their deliverer, and flocked round his standard. But Edition: current; Page: [185] Jesus came not to work a deliverance of this kind, nor to erect such a kingdom as they desired, and therefore they rejected him as an impostor. This charge, however, they bring against him, in order to carry their point with the heathen governor. They knew he was zealous for the honour and interest of Cæsar his master; and Tiberius, the then Roman emperor, was so jealous a prince, and kept so many spies over his governors in all the provinces, that they were obliged to be very circumspect, and shew the strictest regard for his rights, in order to escape degradation, or a severer punishment. It was this that determined Pilate, in the struggle with his conscience, to condemn the innocent Jesus. He was afraid the Jews would inform against him, as dismissing one that set up as the rival of Cæsar; and the consequence of this he well knew. The Jews were sensible of this, and therefore they insist upon this charge, and at length plainly tell him, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar’s friend. Pilate therefore, who cared but little what innovations Christ should introduce into the Jewish religion, thought proper to inquire into this matter, and asks him, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” dost thou indeed claim such a character, which may interfere with Cæsar’s government? Jesus replies, My kingdom is not of this world; as much as to say, “I do not deny that I claim a kingdom, but it is of such a nature, that it need give no alarm to the kings of the earth. Their kingdoms are of this world, but mine is spiritual and divine,* and therefore cannot interfere with theirs. If my kingdom were of this world, like theirs, I would take the same methods with them to obtain and secure it; my servants would fight for me, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now, you see, I use no such means for my defence, or to raise me to my kingdom: and therefore you may be assured, my kingdom is not from hence, and can give the Roman emperor no umbrage for suspicion or uneasiness.” Pilate answers to this purpose: Thou dost, however, speak of a kingdom; and art thou a king then? dost thou in any sense claim that character? The poor prisoner boldly replies, Thou Edition: current; Page: [186] sayest that I am a king; that is, “Thou hast struck upon the truth: I am indeed a king in a certain sense, and nothing shall constrain me to renounce the title.” To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth; “particularly to this truth, which now looks so unlikely, namely, that I am really a king. I was born to a kingdom and a crown, and came into the world to take possession of my right.” This is that great confession which St. Paul tells us, 2 Tim. vi. 13. our Lord witnessed before Pontius Pilate. Neither the hopes of deliverance, nor the terrors of death, could cause him to retract it, or renounce his claim.

In prosecuting this subject I intend only to inquire into the nature and properties of the kingdom of Christ. And in order to render my discourse the more familiar, and to adapt it to the present state of our country, I shall consider this kingdom in contrast with the kingdoms of the earth, with which we are better acquainted.

The scriptures represent the Lord Jesus under a great variety of characters, which, though insufficient fully to represent him, yet in conjunction assist us to form such exalted ideas of this great personage, as mortals can reach. He is a surety, that undertook and paid the dreadful debt of obedience and suffering, which sinners owed to the divine justice and law: He is a priest, a great high priest, that once offered himself as a sacrifice for sin; and now dwells in his native heaven, at his Father’s right hand, as the advocate and intercessor of his people: He is a prophet, who teaches his church in all ages by his word and spirit: He is the supreme and universal Judge, to whom men and angels are accountable; and his name is Jesus, a saviour, because he saves his people from their sins. Under these august and endearing characters he is often represented. But there is one character under which he is uniformly represented, both in the Old and New Testament, and that is, that of a king, a great king, invested with universal authority. And upon his appearance in the flesh, all nature, and especially the gospel-church, is represented as placed under him, as his kingdom. Under this idea the Jews were taught by their prophets to look for him; and it was their understanding these predictions of some illustrious king that should rise from the house of David, in a literal and carnal sense, that occasioned their unhappy prejudices concerning the Messiah as a secular prince and conqueror. Under this idea the Lord Jesus represented himself while upon earth, Edition: current; Page: [187] and under this idea he was published to the world by his apostles. The greatest kings of the Jewish nation, particularly David and Solomon, were types of him; and many things are primarily applied to them, which have their complete and final accomplishment in him alone. It is to him ultimately we are to apply the second psalm: I have set my king, says Jehovah, upon my holy hill of Zion. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession. Psalm ii. 6, 8. If we read the seventy-second psalm we shall easily perceive that one greater than Solomon is there. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him. His name shall continue for ever; his name shall endure as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him; and all nations shall call him blessed. Psalm lxxii. 7, 11, 17. The hundred and tenth psalm is throughout a celebration of the kingly and priestly office of Christ united. The Lord, says David, said unto my Lord, unto that divine person who is my Lord, and will also be my Son, sit thou at my right hand, in the highest honour and authority, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, and submit to thee in crowds as numerous as the drops of morning dew. Psalm cx. 1–3. The evangelical prophet Isaiah is often transported with the foresight of this illustrious king, and the glorious kingdom of his grace: Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and he shall be called—the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. Isa. ix. 6, 7. This is he who is described as another David in Ezekiel’s prophecy, Thus saith the Lord, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen. And I will make them one nation—and one king shall be king to them all—even David my servant shall be king over them. Ezek. xxxvii. 21, 22, 24. This is the kingdom represented to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, as a stone cut out without hands, which became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. And Daniel, in expounding the dream, having described the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and Roman empires, subjoins, In the days of these kings, that is, of the Roman emperors, shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not, like the former, be left to other people; but it shall break Edition: current; Page: [188] in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Dan. ii. 34, 35, 44. There is no character which our Lord so often assumed in the days of his flesh as that of the Son of Man; and he no doubt alludes to a majestic vision in Daniel, the only place where this character is given him in the Old Testament: I saw in the night visions, says Daniel, and behold, one like the Son of Man came to the Ancient of Days, and there was given to him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, Dan. vii. 13, 14. like the tottering kingdoms of the earth, which are perpetually rising and falling. This is the king that Zechariah refers to when, in prospect of his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, he calls the inhabitants to give a proper reception to so great a prince. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King coming unto thee, &c. Zech. ix. 9. Thus the prophets conspire to ascribe royal titles and a glorious kingdom to the Messiah. And these early and plain notices of him raised a general expectation of him under this royal character. It was from these prophecies concerning him as a king, that the Jews took occasion, as I observed, to look for the Messiah as a temporal prince; and it was a long time before the apostles themselves were delivered from these carnal prejudices. They were solicitous about posts of honour in that temporal kingdom which they expected he would set up: and even after his resurrection they cannot forbear asking him, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Acts i. 6. that is, “Wilt thou now restore the Jews to their former liberty and independency, and deliver them from their present subjection to the Romans?” It was under this view that Herod was alarmed at his birth, and shed the blood of so many innocents, that he might not escape. He was afraid of him as the heir of David’s family and crown, who might dispossess him of the government; nay, he was expected by other nations under the character of a mighty king; and they no doubt learned this notion of him from the Jewish prophecies, as well as their conversation with that people. Hence the Magi, or eastern wisemen, when they came to pay homage to him upon his birth, inquired after him in this language, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” Matt. ii. 2. And what is still more remarkable, we are told by two heathen historians, that about the time of his appearance a Edition: current; Page: [189] general expectation of him under this character prevailed through the world. “Many,” says Tacitus, “had a persuasion that it was contained in the ancient writings of the priests, that at that very time the east should prevail, and that some descendant from Judah should obtain the universal government.”* Suetonius speaks to the same purpose: “An old and constant opinion,” says he, “commonly prevailed through all the east, that it was in the fates, that some should rise out of Judea who should obtain the government of the world.” This royal character Christ himself assumed, even when he conversed among mortals in the humble form of a servant. The Father, says he, has given me power over all flesh. John xvii.2. Yea, all power in heaven and earth is given to me. Matt. xxviii. 16. The gospel-church which he erected is most commonly called the kingdom of heaven or of God, in the evangelists: and when he was about to introduce it, this was the proclamation: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Under this character also his servants and disciples celebrated and preached him. Gabriel led the song in foretelling his birth to his mother. He shall be great, and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Luke i. 32, 33. St. Peter boldly tells the murderers of Christ, God hath made that same Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ, Acts ii. 36. and exalted him, with his own right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour. Acts v. 31. And St. Paul repeatedly represents him as advanced far above principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and that God hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be head over all things to his church. Eph. i. 21, 22. Phil. ii. 9–11. Yea, to him all the hosts of heaven, and even the whole creation in concert, ascribe power and strength, and honour and glory. Rev. v. 12. Pilate the heathen was over-ruled to give a kind of accidental testimony to this truth, and to publish it to different nations, by the inscription upon the cross in the three languages then most in use, the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew: This Edition: current; Page: [190] is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews; and all the remonstrances of the Jews could not prevail upon him to alter it. Finally, it is he that wears upon his vesture, and upon his thigh, this name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords, Rev. xix. 16. and as his name is, so is he.

Thus you see, my brethren, by these instances, selected out of many, that the kingly character and dominion of our Lord Jesus runs through the whole Bible. That of a king is his favourite character in which he glories, and which is the most expressive of his office. And this consideration alone may convince you that this character is of the greatest importance, and worthy of your most attentive regard.

It is the mediatorial kingdom of Christ that is here intended, not that which as God he exercises over all the works of his hands: it is that kingdom which is an empire of grace, an administration of mercy over our guilty world. It is the dispensation intended for the salvation of fallen sinners of our race by the gospel; and on this account the gospel is often called the kingdom of heaven; because its happy consequences are not confined to this earth, but appear in heaven in the highest perfection, and last through all eternity. Hence, not only the church of Christ on earth, and the dispensation of the gospel, but all the saints in heaven, and that more finished œconomy under which they are placed, are all included in the kingdom of Christ. Here his kingdom is in its infancy, but in heaven is arrived to perfection; but it is substantially the same. Though the immediate design of this kingdom is the salvation of believers of the guilty race of man, and such are its subjects in a peculiar sense; yet it extends to all worlds, to heaven, and earth, and hell. The whole universe is put under a mediatorial head; but then, as the apostle observes, he is made head over all things to his church, Eph. i. 22. that is, for the benefit and salvation of his church. As Mediator he is carrying on a glorious scheme for the recovery of man, and all parts of the universe are interested or concern themselves in this grand event; and therefore they are all subjected to him, that he may so manage them as to promote this end, and baffle and overwhelm all opposition. The elect angels rejoice in so benevolent a design for peopling their mansions, left vacant by the fall of so many of their fellow-angels, with colonies transplanted from our world, from a race of creatures that they had given up for lost. And therefore Christ, as a Mediator, is made the head of all the heavenly armies, and he employs them as his ministering spirits, to minister Edition: current; Page: [191] to them that are heirs of salvation. Heb. i. 14. These glorious creatures are always on the wing ready to discharge his orders in any part of his vast empire, and delight to be employed in the services of his mediatorial kingdom. This is also an event in which the fallen angels deeply interest themselves; they have united all their force and art for near six thousand years to disturb and subvert his kingdom, and blast the designs of redeeming love; they therefore are all subjected to the controul of Christ, and he shortens and lengthens their chains as he pleases, and they cannot go an hair’s breadth beyond his permission. The scriptures represent our world in its state of guilt and misery as the kingdom of Satan; sinners, while slaves to sin, are his subjects; and every act of disobedience against God is an act of homage to this infernal prince. Hence Satan is called the God of this world, 2 Cor. iv. 4. the prince of this world, John xii. 31. the power of darkness, Luke xxii. 53. the prince of the power of the air, the Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Eph. ii. 3. And sinners are said to be taken captive by him at his will. 2 Tim. ii. 26. Hence also the ministers of Christ, who are employed to recover sinners to a state of holiness and happiness, are represented as soldiers armed for war; not indeed with carnal weapons, but with those which are spiritual, plain truth arguments, and miracles; and these are made mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor. x. 3, 4, 5. And christians in general are represented as wrestling, not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickednesses in high places. Eph. vi. 12. Hence also in particular it is that the death of Christ is represented not as a defeat, but as an illustrious conquest gained over the powers of hell; because, by this means a way was opened for the deliverance of sinners from under their power, and restoring them into liberty and the favour of God. By that strange contemptible weapon, the cross, and by the glorious resurrection of Jesus, he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them. Col. ii. 15. Through death, says the apostle, he destroyed him that had the power of death; that is, the devil. Heb. ii. 14. Had not Christ by his death offered a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men, they would have continued for ever under the tyranny of Satan; but he has purchased liberty, life, Edition: current; Page: [192] and salvation for them; and thus he hath destroyed the kingdom of darkness, and translated multitudes from it into his own gracious and glorious kingdom.

Hence, upon the right of redemption, his mediatorial authority extends to the infernal regions, and he controuls and restrains those malignant, mighty, and turbulent potentates, according to his pleasure. Farther, the inanimate world is connected with our Lord’s design to save sinners, and therefore is subjected to him as Mediator. He causes the sun to rise, the rain to fall, and the earth to yield her increase, to furnish provision for the subjects of his grace, and to raise, support and accommodate heirs for his heavenly kingdom. As for the sons of men, who are more immediately concerned in this kingdom, and for whose sake it was erected, they are all its subjects; but then they are of different sorts, according to their characters. Multitudes are rebels against his government; that is, they do not voluntarily submit to his authority, nor chuse they to do his service: they will not obey his laws. But they are his subjects notwithstanding; that is, he rules and manages them as he pleases, whether they will or not. This power is necessary to carry on successfully his gracious design towards his people; for unless he had the management of his enemies, they might baffle his undertaking, and successfully counteract the purposes of his love. The kings of the earth, as well as vulgar rebels of a private character, have often set themselves against his kingdom, and sometimes they have flattered themselves they had entirely demolished it.* But Jesus reigns absolute and supreme over the kings of the earth, and over-rules and controuls them as he thinks proper; and he disposes all the revolutions, the rises and falls of kingdoms and empires, so as to be subservient to the great designs of his mediation; and their united policies and powers cannot frustrate the work which he has undertaken. But besides these rebellious involuntary subjects, he has (blessed be his name!) gained the consent of thousands, and they have become his willing subjects by their own choice. They regard his authority, they love his government, they make it their study to please him, and to do his will. Over these he exercises a government of special grace here, and he will make them Edition: current; Page: [193] the happy subjects of the kingdom of his glory hereafter. And it is his government over these that I intend more particularly to consider. Once more, the kingdom of Jesus is not confined to this world, but all the millions of mankind in the invisible world are under his dominion, and will continue so to everlasting ages. He is the Lord of the dead and the living, Rom. xiv. 9. and has the keys of Hades, the vast invisible world (including heaven as well as hell) and of death. Rev. i. 18. It is he that turns the key, and opens the door of death for mortals to pass from world to world: it is he that opens the gates of heaven, and welcomes and admits the nations that keep the commandments of God: and it is he that opens the prison of hell, and locks it fast upon the prisoners of divine justice. He will for ever exercise authority over the vast regions of the unseen world, and the unnumbered multitudes of spirits with which they are peopled. You hence see, my brethren, the universal extent of the Redeemer’s kingdom; and in this respect how much does it differ from all the kingdoms of the earth? The kingdoms of Great-Britain, France, China, Persia, are but little spots of the globe. Our world has indeed been oppressed in former times with what mortals call universal monarchies; such were the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and especially the Roman. But in truth, these were so far from being strictly universal, that a considerable part of the habitable earth was not so much as known to them. But this is an empire strictly universal. It extends over land and sea; it reaches beyond the planetary worlds, and all the luminaries of heaven; nay, beyond the throne of the most exalted archangels, and downward to the lowest abyss in hell. An universal empire in the hands of a mortal is an huge, unwieldy thing; an heap of confusion; a burthen to mankind; and it has always rushed headlong from its glory, and fallen to pieces by its own weight. But Jesus is equal to the immense province of an empire strictly universal: his hand is able to hold the reins; and it is the blessing of our world to be under his administration. He will turn what appears to us scenes of confusion into perfect order, and convince all worlds that he has not taken one wrong step in the whole plan of his infinite government.

The kingdoms of the world have their laws and ordinances, and so has the kingdom of Christ. Look into your Bibles, and there you will find the laws of this kingdom, from its first foundation immediately Edition: current; Page: [194] upon the fall of man. The laws of human governments are often defective or unrighteous; but these are perfect, holy, just, and good. Human laws are enforced with sanctions; but the rewards and punishments can only affect our mortal bodies, and cannot reach beyond the present life: but the sanctions of these divine laws are eternal, and there never shall be an end to their execution. Everlasting happiness and everlasting misery, of the most exquisite kind and the highest degree, are the rewards and punishments which the immortal King distributes among his immortal subjects; and they become his character, and are adapted to their nature.

Human laws extend only to outward actions, but these laws reach the heart, and the principle of action within. Not a secret thought, not a motion of the soul, is exempted from them. If the subjects of earthly kings observe a decorum in their outward conduct, and give no visible evidence of disloyalty, they are treated as good subjects, though they should be enemies in their hearts. “But Jesus is the Lord of souls”; he makes his subjects bow their hearts as well as the knee to him. He sweetly commands their thoughts and affections as well as their external practice, and makes himself inwardly beloved as well as outwardly obeyed. His subjects are such on whom he may depend: they are all ready to lay down their lives for him. Love, cordial, unfeigned, ardent love, is the principle of all their obedience; and hence it is that his commandments are not grievous, but delightful to them.

Other kings have their ministers and officers of state. In like manner Jesus employs the armies of heaven as ministering spirits in his mediatorial kingdom: besides these he has ministers, of an humbler form, who negociate more immediately in his name with mankind. These are intrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, to beseech men, in his stead, to be reconciled to God. These are appointed to preach his word, to administer his ordinances, and to manage the affairs of his kingdom. This view gives a peculiar dignity and importance to this office. These should be adorned, not like the ministers of earthly courts, with the trappings of gold and silver, but with the beauties of holiness, the ornament of a meek and quiet, zealous and faithful spirit, and a life becoming the gospel of Christ.

Other kings have their soldiers; so all the legions of the elect angels, the armies of heaven, are the soldiers of Jesus Christ, and under Edition: current; Page: [195] his command. This he asserted when he was in such defenceless circumstances, that he seemed to be abandoned by heaven and earth. “I could pray to my Father, says he, and he would send me more than twelve legions of angels.[”] Matt. xxvi. 53. I cannot forbear reading to you one of the most majestic descriptions of this all-conquering hero and his army, which the language of mortality is capable of. Rev. xix. 11, 16. I saw heaven open, says St. John, and behold a white horse, an emblem of victory and triumph, and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True. How different a character from that of mortal conquerors! “And in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” War is generally a scene of injustice and lawless violence; and those plagues of mankind we call heroes and warriors, use their arms to gratify their own avarice or ambition, and make encroachments upon others. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, makes war too, but it is in righteousness; it is in the cause of righteousness he takes up arms. The divine description proceeds: His eyes were as a flame of fire; and on his head were many crowns, emblems of his manifold authority over the various kingdoms of the world, and the various regions of the universe. And he was clothed with a vesture dipt in blood, in the blood of his enemies; and his name was called, The Word of God: and the armies which were in heaven, followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean: the whitest innocence and purity, and the beauties of holiness are, as it were, the uniform, the regimentals of these celestial armies. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God; and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. In what manner the war is carried on between the armies of heaven and the powers of hell, we know not; but that there is really something of this kind, we may infer from Rev. xii. 7, 9. There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was there place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpant called the Devil and Satan.

Thus you see all the host of heaven are volunteers under the Captain of our salvation. Nay, he marshals the stars, and calls them by their names. The stars in their courses, says the sublime Deborah, fought against Sisera, the enemy of God’s people. Judges v. 20. Every part of the creation serves under him, and he can commission a gnat, or a Edition: current; Page: [196] fly, or the meanest insect, to be the executioner of his enemies. Fire and water, hurricanes and earthquakes; earthquakes which have so lately shattered so great a part of our globe, now tottering with age, and ready to fall to pieces, and bury the guilty inhabitants in its ruins, all these fight under him, and conspire to avenge his quarrel with the guilty sons of men. The subjects of his grace in particular are all so many soldiers; their life is a constant warfare; and they are incessantly engaged in hard conflict with temptations from without, and the insurrections of sin from within. Sometimes, alas! they fall; but their General lifts them up again, and inspires them with strength to renew the fight. They fight most successfully upon their knees. This is the most advantageous posture for the soldiers of Jesus Christ; for prayer brings down recruits from heaven in the hour of difficulty. They are indeed but poor weaklings and invalids; and yet they overcome, through the blood of the Lamb; and he makes them conquerors, yea more than conquerors. It is the military character of christians that gives the apostle occasion to address them in the military stile, like a general at the head of his army. Eph. vi. 10–18. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication. The ministers of the gospel in particular, and especially the apostles, are soldiers, or officers, in the spiritual army. Hence St. Paul speaks of his office, in the military stile; I have, says he, fought the good fight. 2 Tim. iv. 7. We war, says he, though it be not after the flesh. The humble doctrines of the cross are our weapons, and these are mighty through God, to demolish the strong holds of the prince of darkness, and to bring every thought into a joyful captivity to the obedience of faith. 2 Cor. x. 3–5. Fight the good fight, says he to Timothy. 1 Tim. vi. 12. And again, thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Tim. ii. 3. The great design of the gospel-ministry is to rescue enslaved souls from the tyranny of sin and Satan, and to recover them into a state of liberty and loyalty to Jesus Christ; or, in the words of the apostle, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the Edition: current; Page: [197] power of Satan unto God. Acts xxvi. 18. Mortals indeed are very unequal for the conflict; but their success more conspicuously shews that the excellency of the power is of God: and many have they subdued, through his strength, to the obedience of faith, and made the willing captives of the cross of our divine Immanuel. Other kingdoms are often founded in blood, and many lives are lost on both sides in acquiring them. The kingdom of Christ, too, was founded in blood; but it was the blood of his own heart: life was lost in the conflict; but it was his own; his own life lost, to purchase life for his people. Others have waded to empire through the blood of mankind, and even of their own subjects, but Christ shed only his own blood to spare that of his soldiers. The general devotes his life as a sacrifice to save his army. The Fabii and Decii of Rome, who devoted themselves for their country, were but faint shadows of this divine bravery. O! the generous patriotism, the ardent love of the Captain of our salvation! How amiable does his character appear, in contrast with that of the kings of the earth! They often sacrifice the lives of their subjects, while they keep themselves out of danger, or perhaps are rioting at ease in the pleasures and luxuries of a court; but Jesus engaged in the conflict with death and hell alone. He stood a single champion in a field of blood. He conquered for his people by falling himself: he subdued his and their enemies by resigning himself to their power. Worthy is such a general to be commander in chief of the hosts of God, and to lead the armies of heaven and earth! Indeed much blood has been shed in carrying on this kingdom. The earth has been soaked with the blood of the saints; and millions have resisted even unto blood, striving against sin, and nobly laid down their lives for the sake of Christ and a good conscience. Rome has been remarkably the seat of persecution; both formerly under the heathen emperors, and in latter times, under a succession of popes, still more bloody and tyrannical. There were no less than ten general persecutions under the heathen emperors, through the vast Roman empire, in a little more than two hundred years, which followed one another in a close succession; in which innumerable multitudes of christians lost their lives by an endless variety of tortures. And since the church of Rome has usurped her authority, the blood of the saints has hardly ever ceased running in some country or other; though, blessed be God, many kingdoms shook off the yoke at the ever-memorable period of Edition: current; Page: [198] the Reformation, above two hundred years ago; which has greatly weakened that persecuting power. This is that mystical Babylon which was represented to St. John as drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Rev. xvii. 6. In her was found the blood of the prophets, and of the saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. ch. xviii. 24. And these scenes of blood are still perpetrated in France, that plague of Europe, that has of late stretched her murderous arm across the wide ocean to disturb us in these regions of peace. There the Protestants are still plundered, chained to the gallies, broken alive upon the torturing wheel, denied the poor favour of abandoning their country and their all, and flying naked to beg their bread in other nations. Thus the harmless subjects of the Prince of Peace have ever been slaughtered from age to age, and yet they are represented as triumphant conquerors. Hear a poor persecuted Paul on this head: In tribulation, in distress, in persecution, in nakedness, in peril and sword, we are conquerors, we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. Rom. viii. 36, 37. Thanks be to God who always causeth us to triumph in Christ. 2 Cor. ii. 14. Whatsoever is born of God, says the Evangelist, overcometh the world. 1 John v. 4. Whence came that glorious army which we so often see in the Revelation? We are told, they came out of great tribulation. ch. vii. 14. And they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. ch. xii. 11. They that suffered tortures and death under the beast, are said to have gotten the victory over him. ch. xv. 2. Victory and triumph sound strange when thus ascribed; but the gospel helps us to understand this mystery. By these sufferings they obtained the illustrious crown of martyrdom, and peculiar degrees of glory and happiness through an endless duration. Their death was but a short transition from the lowest and more remote regions of their Redeemer’s kingdom into his immediate presence and glorious court in heaven. A temporal death is rewarded with an immortal life; and their light afflictions, which were but for a moment, wrought out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 2 Cor. iv. 17. Even in the agonies of torture their souls were often filled with such delightful sensations of the love of God, as swallowed up the sensations of bodily pain; and a bed of flames was sweeter to them than a bed of roses. Their souls were beyond the reach of all the instruments of torment; and as to their bodies they shall yet have Edition: current; Page: [199] a glorious resurrection to a blessed immortality. And now I leave you to judge, whether they or their enemies got the victory in this conflict; and which had most cause to triumph. Like their Master, they rose by falling; they triumphed over their enemies by submitting, like lambs, to their power. If the soldiers of other generals die in the field, it is not in the power of their commanders to reward them. But the soldiers of Jesus Christ, by dying, are, as it were, carried in triumph from the field of blood into the presence of their Master, to receive his approbation, and a glorious crown. Death puts them into a capacity of receiving and enjoying greater rewards than they are capable of in the present state. And thus it appears, that his soldiers always win the day; or, as the apostle expresses it, he causes them always to triumph; and not one of them has ever been or ever shall be defeated, however weak and helpless in himself, and however terrible the power of his enemies. And O! when all these warriors meet at length from every corner of the earth, and, as it were, pass in review before their General in the fields of heaven, with their robes washed in his blood, with palms of victory in their hands, and crowns of glory on their heads, all dressed in uniform with garments of salvation, what a glorious army will they make! and how will they cause heaven to ring with shouts of joy and triumph!

The founders of earthly kingdoms are famous for their heroic actions. They have braved the dangers of sea and land, routed powerful armies, and subjected nations to their will. They have shed rivers of blood, laid cities in ruins, and countries in desolation. These are the exploits which have rendered the Alexanders, the Cæsars, and other conquerors of this world, famous through all nations and ages. Jesus had his exploits too; but they were all of the gracious and beneficent kind. His conquests were so many deliverances, and his victories salvations. He subdued, in order to set free; and made captives to deliver them from slavery. He conquered the legions of hell, that seemed let loose at that time, that he might have opportunity of displaying his power over them, and that mankind might be sensible how much they needed a deliverer from their tyranny. He triumphed over the temptations of Satan in the wilderness, by a quotation from his own word. He rescued wretched creatures from his power by an almighty command. He conquered the most inveterate and stubborn diseases, and restored health and vigour with a word of his mouth. He vanquished Edition: current; Page: [200] stubborn souls with the power of his love, and made them his willing people. He triumphed over death, the king of terrors, and delivered Lazarus from the prison of the grave, as an earnest and first-fruits of a general resurrection. Nay, by his own inherent powers he broke the bonds of death, and forced his way to his native heaven. He destroyed him that had the power of death, i.e., the devil, by his own death, and laid the foundation in his own blood for destroying his usurped kingdom, and forming a glorious kingdom of willing subjects redeemed from his tyranny.

The death of some great conquerors, particularly of Julius Cæsar, is said to be prognosticated or attended with prodigies: but none equal to those which solemnized the death of Jesus. The earth trembled, the rocks were burst to pieces, the vail of the temple was rent, the heavens were clothed in mourning, and the dead started into life. And no wonder, when the Lord of nature was expiring upon a cross. He subdued and calmed the stormy wind, and the boisterous waves of the sea. In short, he shewed an absolute sovereignty over universal nature, and managed the most unruly elements with a single word. Other conquerors have gone from country to country, carrying desolation along with them; Jesus went about doing good. His miraculous powers were but powers of miraculous mercy and beneficence. He could easily have advanced himself to a temporal kingdom, and routed all the forces of the earth, but he had no ambition of this kind. He that raised Lazarus from the grave could easily restore his soldiers to vigour and life, after they had been wounded or killed. He that fed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, could have supported his army with plenty of provision in the greatest scarcity. He that walked upon the boisterous ocean, and enabled Peter to do the same, could easily have transported his forces from country to country, without the conveyance of ships. Nay, he was capable by his own single power to have gained universal conquest. What could all the armies of the earth have done against him, who struck an armed company down to the earth with only a word of his mouth? But these were not the victories he affected: Victories of grace, deliverances for the oppressed, salvation for the lost; these were his heroic actions. He glories in his being mighty to save. Isaiah lxiii. 1. When his warm disciples made a motion that he should employ his miraculous powers to punish the Samaritans who ungratefully refused him entertainment, Edition: current; Page: [201] he rebuked them, and answered like the Prince of Peace, The Son of man is not come to destroy mens lives, but to save. Luke ix. 56. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke xix. 10. O how amiable a character this! How much more lovely the Saviour of sinners, the Deliverer of souls, than the enslavers and destroyers of mankind; which is the general character of the renowned heroes of our world? Who has ever performed such truly heroic and brave actions as this almighty conqueror? He has pardoned the most aggravated crimes, in a consistency with the honours of the divine government: he has delivered an innumerable multitude of immortal souls from the tyranny of sin and powers of hell, set the prisoners free, and brought them into the liberty of the Son of God; he has peopled heaven with redeemed slaves, and advanced them to royal dignity. All his subjects are kings. Rev. i. 6. To him that overcometh, says he, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father in his throne. Rev. iii. 21. They shall all be adorned with royal robes and crowns of unfading glory. They are advanced to empire over their lusts and passions, and all their enemies. Who ever gave such encouragement to his soldiers as this, If we suffer with him, we know we shall also reign with him? 2 Tim. ii. 12. What mortal general could bestow immortality and perfect happiness upon his favourites? But these boundless blessings Jesus has to bestow. In human governments merit is often neglected, and those who serve their country best are often rewarded with degradation. But none have ever served the King of kings in vain. The least good action, even the giving a cup of water to one of his necessitous saints, shall not pass unrewarded in his government.

Other kings have their arms, their swords, their cannon, and other instruments of destruction; and with these they acquire and defend their dominions. Jesus, our king, has his arms too, but O! of how different a kind! The force of evidence and conviction in his doctrine, attested with miracles, the energy of his dying love, the gentle, and yet efficacious influence of his holy spirit; these are the weapons with which he conquered the world. His gospel is the great magazine from whence his apostles, the first founders of his kingdom, drew their arms; and with these they subdued the nations to the obedience of faith. The gospel, says St. Paul, is the power of God unto salvation. Rom. i. 16. The humble doctrines of the cross became almighty, and bore Edition: current; Page: [202] down all before them, and after a time subdued the vast Roman empire which had subdued the world. The holy spirit gave edge and force to these weapons; and, blessed be God, though they are quite impotent without his assistance, yet when he concurs they are still successful. Many stubborn sinners have been unable to resist the preaching of Christ crucified: they have found him indeed the power of God. And is it not astonishing that any one should be able to stand it out against his dying love, and continue the enemy of his cross? I, says he, if I be lifted up from the earth, i.e., if I be suspended on the cross, will draw all men unto me. John xii. 32. You see he expected his cross would be an irresistible weapon. And O! blessed Jesus, who can see thee expiring there in agonies of torture and love; who can see thy blood gushing in streams from every vein, who can hear thee there, and not melt into submission at thy feet! Is there one heart in this assembly proof against the energy of this bleeding, agonizing, dying love? Methinks such a sight must kindle a correspondent affection in your hearts towards him; and it is an exploit of wickedness, it is the last desperate effort of an impenetrable heart, to be able to resist.

Other conquerors march at the head of their troops, with all the ensigns of power and grandeur, and their forces numerous, inured to war, and well armed: and from such appearances and preparations who is there but what expects victory? But see the despised Nazarene, without riches, without arms, without forces, conflicting with the united powers of earth and hell; or see a company of poor fishermen and a tent-maker, with no other powers but those of doing good, with no other arms but those of reason, and the strange unpopular doctrines of a crucified Christ! see the professed followers of a master that was hung like a malefactor and a slave, see these men marching out to encounter the powers of darkness, the whole strength of the Roman empire, the lusts, prejudices, and interests of all nations, and travelling from country to country, without guards, without friends, exposed to insult and contempt, to the rage of persecution, to all manner of tormented deaths which earth or hell could invent: see this little army marching into the wide world, in these circumstances, and can you expect they will have any success? Does this appear a promising expedition? No; human reason would forebode they will soon be cut in pieces, and the christian cause buried with them. But these Edition: current; Page: [203] unpromising champions, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, conquered the world, and spread the religion of the crucified Jesus among all nations. It is true they lost their lives in the cause, like brave soldiers; but the cause did not die with them. Their blood proved the seed of the church. Their cause is immortal and invincible. Let devils in hell, let heathens, Jews, and Mahometans, let atheists, free-thinkers, papists, and persecutors of every character, do their worst; still this cause will live in spite of them. All the enemies of Christ will be obliged to confess at last, with Julian the apostate Roman emperor, who exerted all his art to abolish christianity; but, when mortally wounded in battle, outrageously sprinkled his blood towards heaven, and cried out, Vicisti, O Galilæe! “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!” Yes, my brethren, Jesus, the Prophet of Galilee, will push his conquests from country to country, until all nations submit to him. And, blessed be his name, his victorious arm has reached to us in these ends of the earth: here he has subdued some obstinate rebels, and made their reluctant souls willingly bow in affectionate homage to him. And may I not produce some of you as the trophies of his victory? Has he not rooted out the enmity of your carnal minds, and sweetly constrained you to the most affectionate obedience? Thus, blessed Jesus! thus go on conquering, and to conquer. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty! and in thy glory and majesty ride prosperously through our land, and make this country a dutiful province of the dominion of thy grace. My brethren, should we all become his willing subjects, he would no longer suffer the perfidious slaves of France, and their savage allies, to chastise and punish us for our rebellion against him; but peace should again run down like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

The kingdoms of the world have their rise, their progress, perfection, declension, and ruin. And in these things, the kingdom of Christ bears some resemblance to them, excepting that it shall never have an end.

Its rise was small at first, and it has passed through many revolutions in various ages. It was first founded in the family of Adam, but in about 1600 years, the space between the creation and the flood, it was almost demolished by the wickedness of the world; and at length confined to the little family of Noah. After the flood, the world soon fell into idolatry, but, that this kingdom of Christ might not be destroyed Edition: current; Page: [204] quite, it was erected in the family of Abraham; and among the Jews it continued until the coming of Christ in the flesh. This was indeed but the infancy of his kingdom, and indeed is seldom called by that name. It is the gospel constitution that is represented as the kingdom of Christ, in a special sense. This was but very small and unpromising at first. When its founder was dying upon Calvary, and all his followers had forsaken him and fled, who would have thought it would ever have come to any thing, ever have recovered? But it revived with him; and, when he furnished his apostles with gifts and graces for their mission, and sent them forth to increase his kingdom, it made its progress through the world with amazing rapidity, notwithstanding it met with very early and powerful opposition. The Jews set themselves against it, and raised persecutions against its ministers, wherever they went. And presently the tyrant Nero employed all the power of the Roman empire to crush them. Peter, Paul, and thousands of the christians fell a prey to his rage, like sheep for the slaughter. This persecution was continued under his successors, with but little interruption, for about two hundred years.

But, under all these pressures, the church bore up her head; yea, the more she was trodden, the more she spread and flourished; and at length she was delivered from oppression by Constantine the Great, about the year 320. But now she had a more dangerous enemy to encounter, I mean prosperity: and this did her much more injury than all the persecutions of her enemies. Now the kingdom of Christ began to be corrupted with heresies: the ministry of the gospel, formerly the most dangerous posts in the world, now became a place of honour and profit, and men began to thrust themselves into it from principles of avarice and ambition; superstition and corruption of morals increased; and at length the bishop of Rome set up for universal head of the church in the year 606, and gradually the whole monstrous system of popery was formed and established, and continued in force for near a thousand years. The kingdom of Christ was now at a low ebb; and tyranny and superstition reigned under that name over the greatest part of the christian world. Nevertheless our Lord still had his witnesses. The Waldenses and Albigenses, John Hus, and Jerome of Prague, and Wickliffe in England, opposed the torrent of corruption; until at length, Luther, Calvin, Zuinglius, and several others, were made the honoured instruments of introducing the Reformation Edition: current; Page: [205] from popery; when sundry whole kingdoms, which had given their power to the beast, and particularly our mother-country, shook off the papal authority, and admitted the pure light of the gospel. Since that time the kingdom of Christ has struggled hard, and it has lost ground in several countries; particularly in France, Poland, Bohemia, &c. where there once were many Protestant churches; but they are now in ruins. And, alas! those countries that still retain the reformed religion, have too generally reduced it into a mere formality; and it has but little influence upon the hearts and lives even of its professors. Thus we find the case remarkably among us. This gracious kingdom makes but little way in Virginia. The calamities of war and famine cannot, alas! draw subjects to it; but we seem generally determined to perish in our rebellion rather than submit. Thus it has been in this country from its first settlement; and how long it will continue in this situation is unknown to mortals: however, this we may know, it will not be so always. We have the strongest assurances that Jesus will yet take to him his great power, and reign in a more extensive and illustrious manner than he has ever yet done; and that the kingdoms of the earth shall yet become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. There are various parts of the heathen world where the gospel has never yet been; and the Jews have never yet been converted as a nation; but both the calling of the Jews and the fulness of the gentiles, you will find plainly foretold in the 11th chapter to the Romans; and it is, no doubt, to render the accomplishment of this event the more conspicuous, that the Jews, who are dispersed all over the world, have, by a strange, unprecedented, and singular providence, been kept a distinct people to this day, for 1700 years; though all other nations have been so mixt and blended together, who were not half so much dispersed into different countries, that their distinct original cannot be traced. Posterity shall see this glorious event in some happy future period. How far it is from us, I will not determine: though, upon some grounds, I apprehend it is not very remote. I shall live and die in the unshaken belief that our guilty world shall yet see glorious days. Yes, my brethren, this despised gospel, that has so little effect in our age and country, shall yet shine like lightning, or like the sun, through all the dark regions of the earth. It shall triumph over heathenism, Mahometism, Judaism, popery, and all those dangerous errors that have infected the christian church. This Edition: current; Page: [206] gospel, poor negroes, shall yet reach your countrymen, whom you left behind you in Africa, in darkness and the shadow of death, and bless your eyes with the light of salvation: and the Indian savages, that are now ravaging our country, shall yet be transformed into lambs and doves by the gospel of peace. The scheme of Providence is not yet completed, and much remains to be accomplished of what God has spoken by his prophets, to ripen the world for the universal judgment; but when all these things are finished, then proclamation shall be made through all nature, “That Time shall be no more”: then the Supreme Judge, the same Jesus that ascended the cross, will ascend the throne, and review the affairs of time: then will he put an end to the present course of nature, and the present form of administration. Then shall heaven and hell be filled with their respective inhabitants: then will time close, and eternity run on in one uniform tenor, without end. But the kingdom of Christ, though altered in its situation and form of government, will not then come to a conclusion. His kingdom is strictly the kingdom of heaven; and at the end of this world, his subjects will only be removed from these lower regions into a more glorious country, where they and their King shall live together for ever in the most endearing intimacy; where the noise and commotions of this restless world, the revolutions and perturbations of kingdoms, the terrors of war and persecution, shall no more reach them, but all will be perfect peace, love, and happiness, through immeasurable duration. This is the last and most illustrious state of the kingdom of Christ, now so small and weak in appearance: this is the final grand result of his administration; and it will appear to admiring worlds wisely planned, gloriously executed, and perfectly finished.

What conqueror ever erected such a kingdom! What subjects so completely, so lastingly happy, as those of the blessed Jesus!

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Samuel Dunbar
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Samuel Dunbar (1704–1783). After obtaining two degrees from Harvard College, in 1727 Dunbar settled, and was to remain, at the First Church in Stoughton, Massachusetts. An animated and forceful preacher, Dunbar was at odds with the revivalism of the Great Awakening and maintained the Calvinist orthodoxy of his mentor, Cotton Mather. “Inasmuch as he believed there was one, and only one, redeeming way to worship God, he preached outspokenly against Jewish dogma, Catholic grace, Antinomian morality, Arminian ecumenical salvation, and Deistic rationalism. In general, he preached against any organization that upheld free will and ignored or downplayed the concepts of original sin and the doctrine of the elect” (Bryan R. Brown in American Writers Before 1800, p. 491). He wrote over 8,000 sermons in his long career but published only nine of them, including an artillery sermon in 1748, the election sermon of 1760 reprinted here, and the convention sermon of 1769.

In 1755 Dunbar served as chaplain with the troops at Crown Point in the British victory over the French at Lake George. He was called the Son of Thunder by his funeral eulogist, the Reverend Jason Haven, because he had powerfully supported the patriot cause in the Revolution.

This election sermon was preached before Governor Thomas Pownall, the lieutenant governor, the council, and the house of representatives of Massachusetts on May 28, 1760. The brackets in this sermon indicate text that was omitted in delivery.

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And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah, the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin, The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.

2 Chron. XV. 1, 2.

The occasion of this divine message to King Asa, and his army, was the compleat victory, which, thro’ help of God, and in answer to humble, believing prayer, they had very lately obtained over the huge and formidable army of Aethiopians, who had invaded their territories. Asa, as a wise and martial prince, led forth his army to put a stop to their progress, and set the battle in array: and, as a godly and religious prince, sought to God for help and success. He led them into the field of battle to fight; before the battle, he led them to the throne of grace to pray, to obtain mercy, and find grace to help them, in this time of need and danger. He lift up a cry to God, e’re he gave the shout for the battle: That battle, that work is begun well, and like to succeed well, which is prefaced with holy, humble prayer. Asa cried unto the Lord his God: It was a cry of faith, rather than of fear. His prayer was short, but fervent; a prayer of faith, effectual and prevalent: it entred into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, found a gracious acceptance, and obtained divine help. God fought for them; and by them; gave their enemies a total overthrow. Thro’ faith and prayer, out of weakness, they were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and put to flight this vast army of aliens.

Something similar have been the exercise, the practice, and the experience of the people of God in these British American provinces and colonies. Envious and ambitious enemies made encroachments upon our king’s territories, and erected several strong forts in them, to enable them to keep what they had got, and to win more. To oppose their further progress, and to drive them off from their unjust possessions, we mustered, and sent forth our forces; and our gracious sovereign, pitying us, sent brave troops to assist us; but we, not trusting to an arm of flesh, not to our numbers nor strength, not to our sword nor bow, like godly Asa, cried to the Lord our God; we fasted and wept, and made supplication to him; and, blessed be God, he turned Edition: current; Page: [212] not away our prayer nor his mercy from us; but has maintained our right, and given us a series of signal successes.

King Asa, and his victorious army were now returning in triumph, from the field of battle, to Jerusalem, laden and enrich’d with the spoils of their enemies: doubtless greatly affected with the goodness of God, for the victory they had won: their tho’ts might be much employed as to the advantages, they should make of it, to the kingdom. Perhaps they might also be too much disposed to applaud themselves and one another, for their skill, and bravery, and success, and so take to themselves that glory, which was due to God: however these things were, God sent a prophet to meet them, and to deliver them a message from him.

The manner of the prophet’s address was plain, and earnest, and authoritative: he used no pompous titles of honour, no fulsome compliments, no ceremonious congratulations, nor flattering applauses. He came upon a more important errand, and with a holy zeal and vehemency delivered it: nor did he in a mean servile manner, beg leave to speak, or savour to be heard: but, coming in the name of God, and with a message from him, he demanded their reverent attention: Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. When God speaks by the mouth of a prophet, it becomes the greatest men, the highest in dignity and power, to attend with the deepest humility and reverence, to hear what God the Lord has to say unto them: considering that, how high soever they are above other men, they are infinitely more beneath the most high God: nor should they take it in disdain, if God’s prophet, at such a time, give them not those honorary titles, which other men do.

The message was partly monitory to them of their duty and interest: The Lord is with you, while ye are with him, and if ye seek him, he will be found of you: and partly minatory; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you: and partly memorative, to call afresh to their minds, that, before the battle, they were with God, in humble fervent prayer, and in the battle God was with them by his providence and power: before the battle they sought God, in the battle God was a present help: they prayed, God heard; they believed, and were established, were prospered: the victory they had gained, was owing more to God’s presence and blessing, than to their prowess and swords. From the experience they had had of God’s being with them, in the way of Edition: current; Page: [213] mercy and help, while they were with him, in the way of duty and trust, he shewed them what their duty and interest still were, even still to be with God, and he will still be with them. Their enemies were worsted, either fled or destroyed: there was no more war in the land: yet still they needed the divine presence and blessing, to direct their national affairs, and to prosper their public concerns: he let them know, that the continuance of God’s gracious presence with them, depended upon their dutiful presence with him: and assured them from God, that so long as they should be with God, God would be with them; but withal assured them, that if they forsook God, God would in like manner, forsake them. As they behaved towards God, in respect of duty and obedience, God would deal with them, in respect of the ways of providence.

This divine message, I humbly conceive, is seasonable, and instructive to us, in our circumstances, as it was to them, in their’s.

The experience, which we, the Lord’s people, in this land, have had, of the happiness of engaging and enjoying the presence of God with our armies, should make us careful not to forfeit it by any sinful departure from God; and conscientious in our abiding with God, that he may still abide with us. Still we have need of the divine presence and help: we have not yet put off the harness, nor has our land rest from war. Again our troops are gone forth, and we may expect to hear of garments roll’d in blood. The presence of God is as necessary for the success of our arms this year, as it was the last: and if God go forth with our armies, they will be prospered.

As to the expert, the indefatigable, the magnanimous general, who led on his valiant army to battle last year; and that under the greatest disadvantages, and with the utmost difficulty and hazzard, but with an invincible resolution and courage, and a superior conduct, against the vastly greater number of his enemies; and who quickly scattered destruction among them, put them to the rout, and chased them before him: this super-eminent general, the glorious Wolfe, can be with us no more; he greatly fell in the last and conquering battle, and died in the bed of honour, fighting like an hero, in the service of his king, and in the defence of his subjects. But tho’ Wolfe, the dear, the brave, the bold, leader of his troops, can no more stand in the front of the battle, nor give his orders, nor by his words and example, fire their spirits, and make them undaunted, amidst the terrors and tumults Edition: current; Page: [214] of the fight; yet God lives, and still we may have his favourable presence; this is infinitely more, infinitely better: this made our slain general, such an every way accomplished one: this can raise up, and give us other generals, of equal skill and conduct, of equal zeal and fidelity, of equal fortitude and success. And if God be with our troops, we may hope he will: yea, blessed be God, he has: tho’ one is taken, another is left: a general who enjoyed the presence of God with him, in the reduction of Louisbourg, the pride and trust of our enemies, a general, whose very name struck such terror into them, the last year, that they quickly abandoned their strong forts, at his approach, and betook themselves to inglorious flight—Amherst, the wary, the valiant, the victorious, is still left unto us.

The presence of God is equally necessary and beneficial, for the governour, as the general; for the court, as the camp; for the field of husbandry, as the field of battle; in peace, as in war; and for the wise and successful management of affairs at home, as abroad: and our enjoyment of it turns upon our being with God.

There are two heads of discourse before me; viz. 1. That the presence of God with his people, is their only safety and happiness. 2. That their enjoying the presence of God with them, depends upon their being with God.

I. The presence of God with his People, is their only safety and happiness.

The presence of God may be considered, as his natural and essential presence: this is general and universal, absolutely necessary for upholding in being, all creatures, in all worlds. In respect of this, God is the God of all the earth, and has the absolute ordering and disposing of all things, in the kingdoms of men, according to his own will, with sovereign dominion, and irresistible power. Or, as his glorious, and majestick presence, which is peculiar to the heavenly world: there God dwells in the habitation of his holiness, and sits upon the throne of his glory: angels standing in his presence, & doing homage: or, as his judicial, vindictive presence, by which the damned in hell are punished with everlasting destruction, from the glory of his power—or, as his spiritual, gracious presence: which is peculiar to his church and saints in this world: this accomplishes for them, the everlasting purposes of his grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, and blesses them with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly things in him—or, as his special providential presence, which also is peculiar to his Edition: current; Page: [215] professing people: in respect of this, he is with them, sometimes in judicial dispensations, correcting them for, and recovering them from their degeneracies from him, and the ways of holiness: and sometimes in merciful dispensations, prospering them in their public concerns, and giving them all outward blessings richly to enjoy: health in their habitations, plenty in their substance, peace in their borders; and in case of war, success to their arms.

This favourable providential presence of God with his people, considered as a people, is that presence of God, which the text more especially, if not only, relates to. This God vouchsafes to them, for the sake of Christ, the great mediator, thro’ whom he comes nigh to them, and they are made nigh to him.

The safety and peace, the prosperity and happiness of God’s people, depends wholly upon this presence of God with them. This performs many great and distinguishing acts of kindness and mercy for them: for where God is thus with his people, he is for them, espouses their cause, consults their welfare, and promotes their happiness. His right hand, and his arm, and the light of his countenance, do great things for them, because he has a favour to them.

This presence of God with his people preserves them in their greatest sufferings & dangers: when like a bush on fire, flames threaten them with immediate destruction, they are not consumed: but according to the greatness of God’s power and pity, he preserves them, when to themselves they seem appointed to perish. By this, the three Jewish worthies were preserved, in the midst of the burning fiery furnace; and Daniel in the lions den; in the mount the Lord is seen.

This delivers them, in their lowest and most desperate circumstances. When they are surrounded with difficulties and dangers, and reduced to the greatest streights: when they have neither wisdom to contrive, nor power to effect, any way of escape, but, as to any visible means, all hope of being saved is gone; now is God’s times to work: Now will I arise, saith the Lord, and set them in safety. Providence wonderfully steps in, and opens a door of hope and help to them. So it did for Israel in delivering them from Egyptian bondage: then God went forth for the salvation of his people: yea, he rode upon his horses and chariots of salvation, made speed to help and save them. Miraculous appearances and operations of providence, for Edition: current; Page: [216] the deliverance of God’s oppressed, endangered people, may not now be expected; yet God has very strange and unthought of ways, to accomplish deliverance for them: as we see, in the deliverance of God’s people, from their Babylonish captivity, and also in the days of Esther.

This lays restraint upon their envious and malicious enemies: sometimes upon their spirits; tho’ they envy them their enjoyments, and would fain deprive them of them, they cannot find an heart to do it. Thus tho’ the enemies of Israel coveted the good land, God had given them, yet when all the males went up to the feast of the Lord, to Jerusalem, and left their borders exposed to their incursions and depredations, God put such a restraint upon their spirits, that no man then desired their land. When a man’s, when a people’s, ways please the Lord, he maketh even their enemies to be at peace with them. Sometimes upon their tongues; that not so much as a dog shall move his tongue against them: as Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, tho’ hired with great rewards, could not curse Israel—and sometimes upon their hands; tho’ they seemingly have them in their power, and are provoked enough to destroy them, and have resolved to do it, yet their hands are, as it were, bound; they cannot execute their bloody purposes. So, when the sons of Jacob, treacherously and cruelly murdered the Shechemites, the terror of God was upon the cities round about, that they should not pursue after them, nor avenge themselves upon them.

This defeats the mischievous plots and devices of their enemies against them. When their enemies conspire their ruin, and dig deep to hide their counsels; and when they imagine, they have brought their matters to bear, and are confident of their success, providence lays rubs in their way, and frustrates their machinations: their deep-lay’d plots, and long laboured schemes prove abortive: and God’s people escape, as a bird out of the snare of the fowler. Thus Haman’s plot for the destruction of God’s people, ended in disappointment: and so did the horrible, the hellish powder-plot in the English nation, intended to blow up at once, and in a moment, the king and Parliament: when it was ripened, and just upon the point of execution, it was strangely discovered, and timously prevented. Yea, Providence often brings that mischief, upon the enemies of God’s people, which they devised and intended against them: they are snared in the work Edition: current; Page: [217] of their own hands, and their designed mischief returns upon their own heads. So Haman handfell’d the gallows, he had prepared for Mordecai.

This supplies them, with the comforts of life, so that they want no good thing. This gives them rain in due season and measure: makes their fields, such as the Lord has blessed, to yield their fruits in plenty; so that their barns are filled with substance, their presses burst out with new wine, and their garners are full, affording all manner of store; they have plenty, variety, dainties. If at any time they seem to be cut short, and fear want of bread, and cleanness of teeth, the good providence of God finds out ways for their supply, and prevents them with the blessings of goodness. It was a wonderful work of God, for Israel in the wilderness, a land not sown, that for forty years together, they had supplies brought them, from day to day.

This directs them in all their darkness, and points out to them, the path of duty, the way of safety. When in some critical conjunctures, they are wholly at a loss, and, like Jehoshaphat, know not what to do; when they are perplexed in their minds, and hem’d in on every side with difficulties and perils, and can see no way to surmount, or escape them, providence, by some unexpected turns, opens a new scene, and shews them plainly the way, wherein they should go. God often gives his people direction, as to their present duty and safety, by an uncommon coincidence of things in providence; so that whoso is wise, and observes them, may understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. So God guided his people in the wilderness, and led them in a right way, in all their removes.

This protects them, from all enemies and dangers, and is as a wall of fire, round about them, to keep them from harm. When their enemies confederate against them, unite their counsels to deceive them, and their forces to destroy them, and thunder out their boasts and threats to terrify them; and when they themselves are sensible of their own inability to withstand, or defeat them, and, according to human view, must fall sacrifices to their rage and cruelty; then God repents him for his servants when he sees they have no power: then providence undertakes for them, interposes, and powerfully protects them: their enemies are scattered in the imagination of their hearts, and their hands are not able to execute their purposes and threats: So God defended Jerusalem from the numerous army, and proud threatnings Edition: current; Page: [218] of the Assyrian monarch. So God saved England in former days from the formidable Armada of the Spaniards, and the last year from the threatned, and perhaps really intended, invasion of the French: and but a few years ago, he saved New-England from the powerful armament of their French enemies, who came into these American seas. The ancient famous cloud, the symbol of God’s presence, served to Israel, for protection, as well as direction. God’s presence is to his people, a sun and a shield; a shield to defend them, as well as a sun to comfort and direct them.

This gives them success, in all their affairs. Success doth not constantly follow the probability of second causes. The Race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Oft-times the best human counsels are turned into foolishness, the wisest measures are disconcerted, the greatest preparations brought to nothing, and the cunningest politicians befooled; while on the other hand, weak and contemptible means are prospered, and the most improbable, meet with the greatest success. This is entirely owing to the divine governing providence. But when God is present with his people, he orders all things well for them, and prospers all their lawful undertakings. The smiles of God upon them, make every thing flourishing—God’s presence makes their land healthful, their fields fruitful, their merchandize gainful, and their armies successful: as in this last instance, we see by the great victory Asa obtained over his enemies—and may see in the repeated victories of our English fleets and armies, over our French enemies—and in the admirable success of our arms, in this quarter of the world, by the reduction of so many of the strong and important fortresses of our enemies, and even of their capital city.

This repairs the ruins, brought upon them, by the judgments of providence. When God’s professing people forsake him, apostatize from his worship, and live in a presumptuous disobedience to his laws, it is necessary, for the vindication of the righteousness and holiness and honour of the divine government, that God testify his displeasure against them, and punish them, with judicial dispensations. And when he doth this, he often breaks them with breach upon breach, till he brings them very low. But he means not to make a full end of them, but to renew them to repentance, and to recover them from their declensions. When therefore they repent, and turn to him that smites them, he becomes to them a repairer of the breaches, and Edition: current; Page: [219] a restorer of paths to dwell in: and builds them up, as he had pluckt them down. Thus did he to his ancient people: he raised up the tabernacle of David, that was fallen, and closed up the breaches thereof, and raised up the ruins thereof, and built them as in the days of old. So did he by the great city, London, when, an hundred years ago, great part of it was laid in rubbish by devouring flames—so did he by this great town, Boston, when, near forty nine years since, this part of it, and the meeting-house, which stood in this place, and the town-house, and many other buildings along this street, on both sides of it, were laid in ashes. God being graciously present with his people, the ruins in a few years were repaired, and that with great advantage and splendor—and so will he again the dreadful desolations, made in it by the late fire, if he be graciously present with them.

This turns all the evils they meet with into real kindnesses to them. Providence has a vast reach, and by seemingly contrary methods, promotes the good of God’s people: and when they are ready to say, all these things are against us, they are meant for good, tend to it, and terminate in it. So the Lord being with Joseph, all the hard things he met with, were the direct way to his future preferment and greatness. So God sent some of his people into captivity, in the land of the Chaldeans, for their good. So the repeated disasters we met with, in the beginning of this war, have been over-ruled for our advantage. God brings his people low, in order to exalt them the higher.

Finally, This favourable providential presence of God with his people, builds his house, and appoints the ordinances of his worship, among them. Where God is with his people, and walks among them, he sets his tabernacle among them, as he did among his people Israel. He institutes symbols of his gracious spiritual presence with them, to be means of keeping up a spiritual communion with him, and of conveying spiritual blessings to them; that so the common blessings of providence may be sanctified to them, by the special blessings of grace.

These are some of the special providential favours, which God bestows upon his people, according to their varied circumstances, when he is graciously present with them. Upon a review of them, who will not say with the renowned Jewish lawgiver, What nation is there so great, who has God so nigh unto them in all things that we call upon him for? Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and the sword of thine excellency? And with the Edition: current; Page: [220] devout king of Israel, Happy is that people, that is in such a case; yea happy is that people, whose God is the Lord. What wise people would not desire to be, and to continue, such a happy people? to know the means, and use them, to be such?

This brings me to the second head of discourse, viz.

[II.] That God’s people’s enjoyment of this favourable providential presence of God with them, depends upon their being with God.

The text assures us, that this is the only way to this felicity: The Lord is with you, while ye are with him, and no longer; for if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. Their obediential presence with God is the only condition, the only qualification of God’s gracious providential presence with them.

All men, even they, who know not God, and are without God in the world, are yet with God, i.e. in his presence, under his inspection, and the government of his providence. They are encompassed with the divine immensity, and in God they live, and move, and have their being. But as God’s presence with his people signifies something more, than his essential presence, and universal providence, even his voluntary, chosen, and gracious presence, so their presence with God, signifies something else, and something more, than this natural and necessary presence with him, even their voluntary, chosen, and dutiful presence. Their presence with God must correspond to his presence with them, be as a kind of counterpart to it; and answer to it, as the wax to the seal.

As God’s being with his people is his being for them, taking care of them, and dispensing favours to them; so their being with God, is their being for God, owning his cause, pursuing his interest, doing his will, and advancing his glory. God’s gracious providential presence with them performs great acts of favour for them, and their obediential presence with God, lies in performing religious duties to him. It implies in it, their keeping covenant with God. Their covenant relation to God constitutes them his peculiar people: and brings them into a state of nearness to him; for they, that are strangers from the covenant, are afar off from God: and their keeping covenant with God, being stedfast in it, abstaining from all sins forbidden, and doing all required duties, believing all revealed truths, and walking in all the commandments & ordinances of the Lord; and in all designing Edition: current; Page: [221] his glory, is their being with God. So also is their eying God in all providential dispensations. When they look thro’ second causes, and above visible instruments, and see the sovereign providence of God in all events, and adore the divine wisdom & goodness, power and righteousness, truth and faithfulness, in them, and compose themselves to a behaviour, comporting with them, they are with God. When they express a dutiful submission to, and a fiducial dependance upon God in all their wants, and fears, & dangers: when they maintain a prayerful frame of spirit, seeking of God the supply of their wants, direction in their streights, deliverance from their dangers, protection from their enemies, and other judgments, success in their enterprizes, and a blessing upon their labours: when they excite themselves to a thankful praising God for all his benefits: when they endeavour a wise and good improvement of all God’s dealings towards them: and when they conscienciously walk in obedience to his commands: then may they be said to be with God, and not to forsake him.

God’s people being thus with him, God will be with them. Not as if their being with God merited his being with them. By no means: for after all, they are unprofitable servants: and there are so many sinful imperfections attending them, in their abiding with God, such as, distrust and impatience, carnal confidence and undue dependance upon themselves or others, or means, neglect of humble believing prayer, or of holy thankful praises, that God might justly withdraw from them, and deny them his gracious presence. But, these infirmities notwithstanding, his people may humbly hope for his presence & blessing; for God is not strict to mark iniquity, where he sees sincerity.

This hope they may build upon the gracious promise of God: the text carries the emphasis of a promise in it: and God expresly promised his people, that if they would walk in his statutes, and keep his commandments, and do them, i.e. if they would be with him, he would walk among them, and be their God: i.e. would be graciously with them. This promise God has ever made good to his people: they ever found that, when they were with God in the way of duty, God was with them in the way of providential mercy: and God will not now suffer his faithfulness to fail.

Besides, the great concernment of God’s glory secures his favourable presence Edition: current; Page: [222] with them, while they are with him. Should God forsake his people, while they keep near to him; should he deny them the blessings, and load them with the judgments, of providence, while they are faithful in his covenant, and stedfast, and unmoveable, and always abounding in works of obedience to him; the wicked world would take occasion to blaspheme his name, as well as insult his people. They would say, Where is now your God? and upbraid them with his want of love to them, or care of them, or power to help them. Therefore, for the glory of his great name, he will not forsake them, while they abide with him. God’s glory is his supreme end; and the advancement of this is the great design, he is carrying on in the world.

What remains is an application; which I shall attempt, by way of address to several orders of men amongst us. My incapacity for, as well as my unacquaintedness with, polite, courtly address, and its unsuitableness to my function, and the sacred desk, will, I trust, obtain an easy pardon, for my plainness of speech; and the example of our prophet, I conceive, will justify me in it.

As your Excellency is, as yet, in the first and chief seat of government over us, justice and decency require me, in the first place, to direct an address to you: an address of a minister of Jesus Christ, reminding of duty, and exciting to it.


It was the providence of God, which advanced you to the exalted station, you are now in. God is the judge; he putteth down one, and setteth up another; he removes one, and replaces another. You are indeed greatly indebted to the king, for his royal favour and commission, but more to God, for the king’s heart was in the hand of the Lord. God, by his special providence, was with you in your exaltation: and from the addresses of both houses of the last assembly, and from the addresses of the freeholders and merchants of this metropolis, in which they bear public, and most honourable, testimonies to your Excellency’s administration, in respect of the wisdom and integrity, the clemency and tenderness of it, and of your constant views to the public good, and the spirited and successful measures you have taken to promote it; and of your tender care of our trade; we gather, that God has been with you in your administration, as he was with young King Solomon, to give you a wise and understanding heart, to rule and Edition: current; Page: [223] judge his people: and from the favour you have found in the sight of the king, in your preferment to a more advantageous command, we see, that God is still with you. Oh, doth not this favourable providential presence of God, which you have so evidently enjoyed, lay you under the strongest obligations to be, and to abide with God, in all the duties of religion, and in all the important affairs of your government?

Duty and gratitude to the king’s majesty, for his repeated royal favours to you, worldly policy, and self-interest, oblige you to be often with him, by your letters, to his great ministers, to know his royal pleasure, to receive his instructions and orders, and to acquaint him with the state and affairs of his subjects. Do not duty and gratitude to the most high God, for providential favours to you; and do not spiritual wisdom, & your best interest, equally, at least, oblige you to be with him, for the continuance, and increase of political and divine wisdom, for the right management in your high office, & great trust, and for procuring his blessing to your self, and your administration? Sir, you are equally God’s minister, as the king’s governour.

Our gracious sovereign, like godly King Asa, is with God, as we gather from his royal pious proclamations: with God, in humble supplications, to implore his blessing & help: with God, in thankful praises, to give him the glory of his favours: and we see that God is with him, as he was with Asa, in the remarkable success, he hath given to his fleets and armies, and the great victories, which by them he has obtained over his proud enemies, in one part of the world and another. This pious example of the king, is worthy the closest imitation of his representative.

Your relation to us, as our governour, will soon cease: but you will need the divine presence, for a worthy and successful conduct, in the government you are appointed to; especially as it is embarrass’d with peculiar difficulties and dangers from perfidious and bloody Indians. Would you have the gracious presence of God go along with you, and abide with you; you must then be with God.

If you are with God, acknowledge your dependence upon him, put your trust in him, supplicate his direction and blessing, and design his glory: God will be with you, to support you under the public burdens, to guide you by his counsel, to make you faithful in your trust, to defend you from enemies, if any you have, to prosper your Edition: current; Page: [224] administration, to make you acceptable to the king, and to your people; to think upon you for good, and to reward you for your faithful services to his people. God’s presence with you will add lustre to your dignity; this will command reverence to your person, and obedience to your government. And what is infinitely more and better, than even this gracious providential presence of God with you, if by faith and prayer, and a holy life, you are with God, God will vouchsafe to you, his gracious spiritual presence, and bless you with spiritual blessings: and when you die out of this world (for tho’ you are an earthly God, you must die like a man), he will, thro’ the merits of Christ, receive you into his immediate glorious presence in heaven, and bestow inconceivably higher honours on you there, than ever he did in this world: he will set you upon a more glorious throne, & crown you with a richer crown, than even your royal master himself is now possessed of.

[But it is fit, and safe to be told the worst, as well as best: therefore permit me, sir, in patience, and without offence, to add, what our prophet said to a great king, his own king, and a godly king; if you forsake God, which God forbid, he will forsake you: if you neglect and reject him, he will do so by you; and make as light account of you, as you can of him. Yea, and as was threatned to a great prince, tho’ you were the signet upon his right hand, he would pluck you thence, and cast you off for ever; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it, and spake it to the chief ruler of his people; Them that honour me, I will honour: and they, that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed. Wherefore, let king David’s advice, or rather charge, to his royal son and successor, be acceptable to you, and his arguments, have their due weight: And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and a willing mind; if thou seek him, he will be found of thee, but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.]

Your removal, excellent sir, from this seat of government, will be in a short time: The ancient form of blessing was, The Lord be with thee. A greater blessing we cannot wish you, than that God’s presence may go with you, when he carries you hence. This blessing we wish you, this day, out of the house of the Lord.

In the next place, I shall offer an address, to the honourable, his majesty’s council, and the House of Representatives; and that with a like plainness of speech.

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God, in his providence, has devolved upon you a great share, as of the honours, so of the cares and burdens of the government: you are as the eyes and hands of this people, to see and to act for them. You are entrusted with our most valuable priviledges, civil and religious: and, according to your management of them, we are like to be a happy or miserable people. Very important therefore, is your trust and your work; and requires superior intellectual and moral endowments for the faithful discharge and performance of the same. Will you not then be with God, who saith, counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: with God, who giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding. It was the wisdom, honour and safety of Judah, that Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints. It will be no less your’s, to be and to do so to.

You are piously beginning the great affairs of the year with God, in the religious exercises of his house, into which you have called us. Your care must be to be with God in the court-house too; or your being with him here will be but base hypocritical flattery, and an affront to that God, who will not be mocked.

Would you be with God in the elections of the present day, you must, according to your best judgment, choose such as God will approve. As to us your subjects, you are at liberty to choose into the king’s council whom you please: not so as to God. He has given you the character of those, that shall rule his people, and a charge to make choice of such: you are therefore bound in conscience to God, as well as honour to the king, and fidelity to this people, to do your best to elect such; and to provide out of all the people, able men, men of sense and substance; such as fear God; men of virtue and piety; men of truth, hating coveteousness; men of fidelity, generosity, and a public spirit: for the God of Israel has said, and the rock of Israel spake; he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

If, in the elections of this day, you have no regard to the intellectual powers, moral characters and qualifications of men: if from fear or favour, from party spirit or any sinister views, you knowingly make choice of those who want them; you will forsake God, and act without, or rather against, him; and give him just occasion to complain of you, as of his people of old; they have set up kings, but not by me, not by my direction and order, nor according to my will: they have made Edition: current; Page: [226] princes, and I knew it not: I approved it not. In this case, can you expect God’s gracious presence with you? and if you forsake God the first day, and in the chief business of the day; and which has such an interesting influence upon all the succeeding businesses of the year, will it not bode ill to you, and to your people? But we hope better things; and that, as you are, now, and here, beginning with God, you will abide with him thro’ the important elections of the day; and also thro’ all the future sessions of the year; and that in the great & weighty affairs, that come before you, you will seek to God for that knowledge, that will make you understanding in the times, and enable you to know the true interests of your people, and the best methods to promote them; and for that fidelity and resolution, that will embolden you to pursue them, and for the divine blessing to prosper them.

Should you, from a vain conceit of your own wisdom and sufficiency, forsake God, and ask neither his counsel nor blessing; or do it only in a formal, customary, complimental manner; you may justly fear, that God will forsake you, turn you over into the hands of your own counsels, leave you to the darkness & lusts of your own minds, mingle a perverse spirit in the midst of you, suffer parties to be formed, dissentions to prevail, and passion, self-interest, and a party spirit, rather than reason, justice, and a public spirit, to influence and govern you. In this case, your counsels will be carried headlong; and, in all probability, be extreamly prejudicial, if not fatal, to the common-wealth.


God will be with you, in your assemblies, whether you be with him or no: judicially, if not graciously. He will be an inspecter, an observer, a judge. However unaccountable you may be to your people, you must give account to him. Bear it in mind then, and act under the solemn realizing thought of it, that God standeth in the congregation of the mighty: He judgeth among the Gods.

Would it not be tho’t, without the limits of my present call, I would, in a few words, address the honourable the judges in our courts of judicature, and the honoured the justices in our towns and counties.


The names, the estates, the liberties, and even the lives of the subjects, Edition: current; Page: [227] are deeply interested in your judgments: high is your office, awful is your work: and in some cases, attended with peculiar difficulties, perhaps temptations. You need not only the laws of the land for your directory, but wisdom, fidelity and courage, to make a right and just application of them. You are to hear the cause of your brethren, and to judge righteously, between every man and his brother; not to respect persons in judgment, but to hear the small as well as the great; and not be afraid of the faces of men; for the judgment is the Lord’s. You must take heed, therefore, what you do; for you judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore be you with God, and let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Put on righteousness, and let it cloath you, and your judgment will be as a robe, and a diadem: your greatest comfort, your brightest ornament. God will own and honour you; men will fear and reverence you. But if you forsake God in the judgment, and judge after the sight of your eyes, respect persons and not causes, receive bribes, use partiality, justify the wicked, and condemn the righteous, you will be an abomination to the Lord, and the abhorrence of his people.

Remember, sirs, that tho’ now you sit upon the bench, you must one day stand at the bar. If you have been with God in the judgment, and studied to do justice, to discountenance vice, and to encourage vertue, you will be acquitted in the great audit day; and Christ, the judge, will confer inexpressible honour upon you; will take you to be assessors with him, and you shall judge the world, yea angels. But, if you have forsaken God, and been unjust judges, wo unto you, a more severe & tremendous sentence will be past upon you, than you ever past upon the most flagitious criminal. Now therefore, be instructed, ye judges of the earth, and serve the Lord with fear.

The text leads me particularly to address the gentlemen of the military order and life: but, as they have willingly, and generously offered themselves, to the service, and defence of their country, and are gone to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord, against the mighty, and to jeopard their lives in the high places of the field, I forbear—only let our hearts be towards them, our good wishes follow them, and our fervent prayers be to God for them.

My reverend fathers and brethren, will not, I trust, take it amiss, if, upon this occasion, one of the least, and most unworthy, of their order, presumes, by a word of address, to stir up their pure minds by Edition: current; Page: [228] way of remembrance; notwithstanding we expect a sermon to morrow: for even we have need of line upon line.

My fathers and brethren,

God, in his providence, has seperated us, from the congregation of his people, to come near to him, to stand before him, and to minister in the holy things of his house. To us are committed the oracles of God, the ministry of the word, the administration of the sacraments, and the charge of precious souls: And who is sufficient for these things? Of all men in the world, we have need to be with God, and to give our selves to prayer, imploring his spirit, to give us a spiritual understanding in the mysteries of the gospel, & to lead us into all truth: his presence, to animate us in our holy work, and to carry us above all the discouragements we meet with, from the carnality and unbelief of our own hearts, from the temptations of satan, from the little visible success of our labours, from the unkindness of our people, and from the oppositions of an ungodly world: his help, to support us under our burdens, and to strengthen us to make full proof of our ministry: and his blessing upon our labours, that we may preach so, as to save our selves, and them that hear us. We had need be with God in our preaching, that we deliver to our people none other things than what we have received from the Lord, and plainly taught in his word; that we keep back nothing that is profitable, nor shun to declare the whole counsel of God: and that we do not offer to the Lord that which cost us nothing, nor utter rashly before him, the sudden, undigested conceptions of our minds. We should be with God in our lives, and like Noah that antediluvian preacher of righteousness, walk with God, and be exemplary in faith and purity, and all the vertues of a holy life; that all may take knowledge of us, that we have been, and are with God. If we are thus with God, we may hope, he will be graciously present with us, to assist, instruct, encourage, and succeed us, in our ministerial work. We have that gracious promise of our divine Master to rely upon, and plead, Lo, I am with you always: and when we have served our generation, according to his will, and are not suffered to continue by reason of death, he will take us into his immediate presence in glory; for he has said, Where I am, there also shall my servant be: and having, thro’ grace, been instrumental of turning many to righteousness, we shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever.

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But, if we forsake God, become strangers to prayer, and ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and the religion of the Bible: if we trust to the strength of our own reason, and the imaginary greatness of our learning; and preach for doctrines, the unscriptural conceits of our own brains, or the erroneous notions of others; if we corrupt the word of God, and preach another gospel; if we neglect or mislead the souls committed to our charge; and, by the badness of our lives, contradict and frustrate the end of our ministry, we have reason to fear, that God will forsake us utterly; and abandon us to the giddiness and wildness of our own fancies, to the blindness and pride of our own natural reason, to a reprobate mind, and to the delusions of satan: and that, having been wandring stars, the blackness of darkness for ever will be reserved for us; and that, in that outer darkness, we shall have our miserable portion, but just punishment, and be the subjects of a greater damnation.

Finally, I would address a word to this whole people: Hear ye me, all Judah and Benjamin: hear this all ye people, and give ear all ye inhabitants of the land: and, if I might do it without presumption and offence, I would use the pathetic words of Moses; and set your hearts to all the words, which, from God’s word, I testify among you this day; for it is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life. Your peace & safety, your prosperity and happiness, your life, your all turns upon it: The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; if ye seek him, he will be found of you, but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.

If ye be with God, become a praying and religious people, acting up to your covenant relation and engagements to him, walking in all holy obedience to his laws, and attendance upon his worship and ordinances; God will be with you, and give you the tokens of his gracious presence, in providential mercies. The name of your land will be Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there. God’s presence with you, will be your surest defence, your highest glory, your truest felicity. This will derive a blessing upon all your labours, husbandry, merchandize, fishery, & whatever you set your hands unto—and upon all your enjoyments. This will make your governour a Nehemiah, seeking your prosperity; this will give you wise & faithful rulers, skilful and upright judges, zealous and godly magistrates; and will make your officers peace, and your exactors righteousness: this will give you holy & orthodox ministers, pure and peaceable churches, learned & flourishing academies; and, in time of war, valiant soldiers and victorious Edition: current; Page: [230] armies. Yea, if you are indeed religiously with God, he will afford his gracious spiritual presence with his word and ordinances; this will make you a holy, as his providential presence will make you, a happy people. Then your righteousness will go forth as brightness, and your salvation, as a lamp that burneth: they’ll be conspicuous and comfortable.

But if you forsake God, cast off your dependance upon him, and refuse subjection to him: if you apostatize from his truths and ways and worship; if you disregard his interest & glory, God will forsake you; you will become the people of his wrath, and may fear, he will write Lo-ammi upon you, disown you, reject you, break down the hedge he has set about you; and open a gap for ruinous judgments to rush in upon you; that as he has loaded you with benefits, he will heap mischiefs upon you. Wo unto you, if God depart from you; with him goes all good. Sinning Judah and Benjamin at length found it so; and so may you too.

To prevent then the misery of a departed God, and to enjoy the blessedness of a graciously present God, Oh be ye with God! And, because this people have backslidden from God, with a grievous backsliding, are become loose in their principles, and vicious in their lives; a people laden with iniquity; Oh return to God, by a hearty repentance, and thorow reformation, and abide with him, in the ways of obedience, that God may abide with you, in the ways of mercy. Then his salvation will be nigh unto you, and glory will dwell in your land.

To conclude. Let us all, let persons of every order and condition, realize it, that the gracious presence of God with us, is the one thing needful, the all-comprehending blessing: and, by a conscientious walking with God, let us engage it with us. The presence of God makes heaven itself such a holy and blessed place: the more of God’s presence we have with us, the more like heaven will it make our land, in point of true holiness and true happiness—let us then, with Israel, deprecate, God forbid, we should forsake the Lord: and with them deliberately resolve, Nay, but we will serve the Lord; and with Solomon, earnestly pray, The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers; let him not leave us, nor forsake us. Amen: And let all the people say, Amen.

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jonathan mayhew the snare broken fpage="231" lpage="264"


Jonathan Mayhew
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Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1766). One of the celebrated names associated with early American opposition to British tyranny, Mayhew graduated from Harvard College in 1744 and received an S.T.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1749. He was pastor of Boston’s West Church from 1747, a position he retained for the remainder of his short life. According to Frederick L. Weis, Mayhew was regarded by some as the best preacher in the New England of his day (The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England [1936]).

A Unitarian, Mayhew rejected Trinitarian views as early as 1755 and based his beliefs on his own reading of the Bible, not on Calvin’s. He combatted Anglican evangelism in America through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and the looming installation of an Anglican bishop in America, which early on epitomized the tyranny threatened by London and Canterbury. His political views were imbued with the thoughts of Milton, Locke, and Sidney. He preached against “popish idolatry” in his Dudleian lecture at Harvard in 1765.

The Snare Broken, a “thanksgiving discourse,” was preached by Mayhew in his own pulpit on May 23, 1766, less than two months before he died at the age of forty-six. Occasioned by Parliament’s repeal of the Stamp Act, the sermon conveys a warning to William Pitt and other English readers that taking self-government into private hands in some circumstances must surely proceed from “self-preservation, being a great and primary law of nature.”

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the dedication

To the Right Honorable William Pitt, Esq. One of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council, and an Illustrious Patron of America

Did not a wide ocean intervene, the author of the ensuing discourse would not presume to prefix so great a name to a little performance of his, without first humbly requesting the indulgence, and obtaining it. Nor would he trust to the sufficiency of that apology for taking this liberty, did not some persons perswade him to hope, it will be kindly and condescendingly taken as a testimony of that sincere gratitude and high veneration, which not only he but his country has for one, who hath twice at least been a principal instrument in the hand of God, of saving Great Britain and her colonies from impending ruin: Once, by magnanimously conducting a just and glorious war against foreign nations; and once, by preserving peace in his own; by exerting himself to prevent a fatal rupture between Britain and her colonies, and to re-establish such an harmony as essentially concerns the welfare of both.

At the late most important crisis, you, sir, whom no rewards could ever tempt, no frowns of the great ever dismay, no dangers disconcert; and to whom, so good and great in yourself, no titles, however high, could possibly add any new dignity or lustre; you, great sir, was not “ashamed of our chain,” or reluctant at standing forth to plead the cause of poor America; and to stem the mighty torrent that was against her, which threatened to end in a deluge of blood! When it was accounted criminal by many, even to lisp but a broken word or two in her favor, you, sir, was not ashamed or afraid to pour forth all your unrivall’d eloquence in a strenuous vindication of her infringed rights. And, indeed, her cause being supposed good, the more friendless she was, the more she needed, and in some sort deserved, so powerful a patronage. For, surely, great talents were given for great occasions; to be employed in defence of the innocent and feeble. God Edition: current; Page: [236] made some men strong, on purpose to “bear the infirmities of the weak”; that they might be able to assist and support them in their dangers and extremities; as you, sir, have ever done, since you adorned the British senate; and particularly in a late ever-memorable instance.

To you, great sir, under God and the king, grateful America chiefly attributes it, that she is now happily re-instated in the enjoyment of her former liberties and privileges; tho’ she has, at the same time, a very deep sense of her obligations to other great and illustrious personages.

If, sir, you could, at this distance, have an adequate conception of the universal joy of America, preceeded by the most alarming apprehensions for her liberties: If you could be fully sensible how much we ascribe it to you, that they are not lost; how, next to the king, we bless you as our common father, and send up ardent vows to heaven for you; this would, it must give you a sublime, and truly godlike pleasure. It might even suspend, for a while, the severest pangs of that excruciating disorder, which has so often detain’d you from the British senate, to the great detriment of the public; particularly when the late dreadful Stamp-Act was passed. Nay, it might, perhaps, without any other miracle, give you such spirits and vigor, as to “take up your bed and walk,” like those sick and lame persons instantly cured by the word of him, who came from heaven to make us “free indeed.”

So universal, so great is our joy; and so much, sir, are we indebted for it to your good offices! But, alas! what can poor America do in return? Nothing but acknowledge the obligation with as much sincerity as a grateful country ever acknowledged one: Nothing but call you, over and over again, her father, her father; and endeavour to make good your generous engagements for her prudent, dutiful behaviour towards her mother-country: Nothing but erect a few marble, brass or copper statues in honor to you (for America has but little silver or gold); statues that will be of no service to you, since they will go to decay long before your name and memory will need any such poor helps to preserve them.

Alas! America can do no more! Yes, sir, there is one thing more: She will pray that you may long live in health, happiness and honor, that if there should be any occasion hereafter, as in time past, you Edition: current; Page: [237] may step in and prevent her’s and Britain’s ruin, when no other man could; and that, when you must, according to the common lot of men, however great and good (O may it be late!) cease to plead the cause of liberty on earth, you may in heaven, as your reward, enjoy “the glorious liberty of the sons of God”!

I am, with the warmest gratitude, and highest veneration, right honorable and most worthy
your most obedient,
most dutiful
and most humble servant,
Jonathan Mayhew
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Our soul is escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are escaped.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm CXXIV. 7, 8.

The late gracious appearance of divine providence for us, in the day of our trouble, seemed so seasonable, so signal, so important; in a word, so interesting to the present and future generations, that we of this society thought it expedient to agree among ourselves upon a day, in order to take a particular, religious notice of it; and to praise the name of the Lord, in whom is our help. If there had been any probability of our being called together for this end by proclamation, as upon some less memorable occasions, we should not have been desirous to anticipate the day; which might have had the appearance of ostentation. But of that, so far as I have heard, there was very little, if any, prospect. By this perfectly voluntary, and free-will offering, I hope we shall render to God, in some poor measure, the glory due to his name; and that he will graciously accept it, thro’ our Lord Jesus Christ the righteous, our mediator and advocate with the Father. At the same time it is supposed that, in proceeding thus, we give no just ground of offence to Jew or gentile, or to the church of God; which we would by no means do. We only exercise that liberty, wherewith Christ hath made us free, being desirous that all other persons and churches should do the same; and not chusing that either they or we should be “entangled with any yoke of bondage.”

Having rendered our devout thanks to God, whose kingdom ruleth over all, and sung his high praises; permit me now, my friends and brethren, with unfeigned love to my country, to congratulate you on that interesting event, which is the special occasion of this solemnity: An event, as I humbly conceive, of the utmost importance to the whole British empire, whose peace and prosperity we ought ardently to desire; and one, very peculiarly affecting the welfare of these colonies. Believe me, I lately took no inconsiderable part with you in your grief, and gloomy apprehensions, on account of a certain parliamentary act, which you supposed ruinous in its tendency to the Edition: current; Page: [239] American plantations, and, eventually, to Great-Britain. I now partake no less in your common joy, on account of the repeal of that act; whereby these colonies are emancipated from a slavish, inglorious bondage; are re-instated in the enjoyment of their ancient rights and privileges, and a foundation is laid for lasting harmony between Great-Britain and them, to their mutual advantage.

But when you requested me to preach a sermon on this joyful occasion, I conclude it was neither your expectation nor desire, that I should enter very particularly into a political consideration of the affair. Had I conceived this to have been your intention, I must, tho’ with reluctance, have given you a refusal; partly from a conviction of the impropriety of minutely discussing points of this nature in the pulpit, and partly from a sense of my own inability to do it as it ought to be done. I suppose I shall best answer your expectation, as well as most gratify my own inclination, by waving political controversy, and giving you such counsels and exhortations respecting your duty to God and man, as are agreeable to the sacred oracles, to the dictates of sober reason, and adapted to the occasion. This is, therefore, what I chiefly propose to do in the ensuing discourse, as God shall enable me: And may the Father of lights teach me to speak, and you to hear in such a manner, that our assembling together at this time, out of the ordinary course, may be to his honor, and to christian edification.

However, if my discourse is to be particularly adapted to this great occasion, instead of being so general, as to be almost as suitable to any other, you are sensible it is necessary that the occasion itself should be kept in view. I shall therefore briefly premise a few things relative thereto, by way of introduction to the main design; such things, I mean, as shall now be taken for granted. In mentioning which, my aim will be to express, in brief, what I take to be the general sense of these colonies, rather than to explain my own. For it is on such commonly-received opinions, that my exhortations and cautions will be grounded; leaving the particular discussion of them to others, who are better qualified for it, and to whom it more properly belongs. And if I should be mistaken in any of these particulars, it is hoped candor will excuse it; seeing these are matters out of the way of my profession.

In pursuance of this plan, it shall now be taken for granted, that as Edition: current; Page: [240] we were free-born, never made slaves by the right of conquest in war, if there be indeed any such right, nor sold as slaves in any open lawful market, for money, so we have a natural right to our own, till we have freely consented to part with it, either in person, or by those whom we have appointed to represent, and to act for us.

It shall be taken for granted, that this natural right is declared, affirmed and secured to us, as we are British subjects, by Magna Charta; all acts contrary to which, are said to be ipso facto null and void: And, that this natural, constitutional right has been further confirmed to most of the plantations by particular subsequent royal charters, taken in their obvious sense; the legality and authority of which charters was never once denied by either house of Parliament; but implicitly at least acknowledged, ever since they were respectively granted, till very lately.

It is taken for granted also, that the right of trial by juries, is a constitutional one with respect to all British subjects in general, particularly to the colonists; and that the plantations in which civil government has been established, have all along, till of late, been in the uninterrupted enjoyment of both the rights aforesaid, which are of the utmost importance, being essential to liberty.

It shall, therefore, be taken for granted, that the colonies had great reason to petition and remonstrate against a late act of Parliament, as being an infraction of these rights, and tending directly to reduce us to a state of slavery.

It is, moreover, taken for granted, whatever becomes of this question about rights, that an act of that sort was very hard, and justly grievous, not to say oppressive; as the colonies are poor, as most of them were originally settled at the sole and great expence of the adventurers; the expence of their money, their toil, their blood; as they have expended a great deal from time to time in their wars with their French and savage neighbours, and in the support of his majesty’s government here; as they have, moreover, been ever ready to grant such aids of men and money to the crown, for the common cause, as they were able to give; by which means a great load of debt still lies on several of them; and as Great Britain has drawn vast emolument from them in the way of commerce, over and above all that she has ever expended for them, either in peace or war: So that she is, beyond all comparison, richer, more powerful and respectable now, Edition: current; Page: [241] than she would have been, if our fathers had never emigrated: And both they and their posterity have, in effect, been labouring, from first to last, for the aggrandizement of the mother-country. In this light, that share of common sense, which the colonists have, be it more or less, leads them to consider things.

It is taken for granted, that as the surprising, unexampled growth of these colonies, to the extension of his majesty’s dominion, and prodigious advantage of Britain in many respects, has been chiefly owing, under God, to the liberty enjoyed here; so the infraction thereof in two such capital points as those before referred to, would undoubtedly discourage the trade, industry and population of the colonies, by rendering property insecure and precarious; would soon drain them of all their little circulating money; would put it absolutely out of their power to purchase British commodities, force them into manufactures of their own, and terminate, if not in the ruin, yet in the very essential detriment of the mother-country.

It shall, therefore, also be taken for granted, that altho’ the colonies could not justly claim an exclusive right of taxing themselves, and the right of being tried by juries; yet they had great reason to remonstrate against the act aforesaid on the footing of inexpedience, the great hardship, and destructive tendency of it; as a measure big with mischief to Britain, as well as to themselves; and promoted at first, perhaps, only by persons who were real friends to neither.

But as to any methods of opposition to that measure, on the part of the colonies, besides those of humble petitioning, and other strictly legal ones, it will not, I conclude, be supposed, that I appear in this place as an advocate for them, whatever the general sense of the colonists may be concerning this point. And I take for granted, that we are all perfectly agreed in condemning the riotous and fellonious proceedings of certain men of Belial,* as they have been justly called, who had the effrontery to cloke their rapacious violences with the pretext of zeal for liberty; which is so far from being a new thing under the sun, that even Great Britain can furnish us with many, and much more flagrant examples of it.

But, my brethren, however unconstitutional, oppressive, grievous or ruinous the aforesaid act was in its nature, and fatal in its tendency, Edition: current; Page: [242] his majesty and the Parliament have been pleased to hearken to the just complaints of the colonies, seconded and enforced by the prudent, spirited conduct of our merchants; by certain noble and ever-honored patriots in Great Britain, espousing our cause with all the force of reason and eloquence, and by the general voice of the nation: So that a total repeal of that dreadful act is now obtained. His majesty and the Parliament were far too wise, just and good to persist in a measure, after they were convinced it was wrong; or to consider it as any point of honor, to enforce an act so grievous to three million good subjects, so contrary to the interest of the British merchants and manufacturers, and to the general sense of the nation. They have been pleased, in the act of repeal itself, greatly to their honor, implicitly to acknowledge their fallibility and erroneous judgment in the other act, by saying, that “the continuance of the said act would be attended with many inconveniences, and might be productive of consequences greatly detrimental to the commercial interests of those kingdoms.” These being the reasons assigned for the repeal, we may justly conclude, that if those many inconveniences and detrimental consequences could have been foreseen, the act complained of would never have been passed. And as the same reasons will doubtless operate at least as strongly, probably much more strongly hereafter, in proportion to the growth of the colonies, than they do at present, we may naturally conclude also, that an act of the like nature will never again be heard of.

Thus “our soul is escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are escaped”; tho’ not without much struggling in the snare, before it gave way, and set us at liberty again. But when I speak of that pernicious act as a snare, and those who prepared it for us as fowlers, greedy of their prey, let it be particularly observed, that I intend not the least reflexion on our gracious sovereign or the Parliament; who must not be supposed to have any evil designs against the colonies, which are so necessary to Great Britain, and by which so many thousands of her manufacturers are supported, who, but for them, must actually starve, emigrate, or do what I chuse to forbear mentioning. No! I apply this, as I conclude you will, only to some evil-minded individuals in Britain, who are true friends neither to her nor us; and who accordingly spared no wicked arts, no deceitful, no dishonorable, no dishonest means, to Edition: current; Page: [243] push on and obtain, as it were by surprise, an act so prejudicial to both; and, in some sort, to the ensnaring of his majesty and the Parliament, as well as the good people of America: Being, not improbably, in the interests of the houses of Bourbon and the pretender, whose cause they meant to serve, by bringing about an open rupture between Great Britain and her colonies! These, these men, my brethren, are the cunning fowlers, these the ensnarers, from whose teeth “our soul is escaped as a bird”: And such traitors will, doubtless, e’er long be caught in another snare, suitable for them, to the satisfaction of the king’s good subjects on both sides the Atlantic, if his majesty and the Parliament should judge it necessary for the vindication of their own honor, or for the public good, to bring them to condign punishment.

Let me just add here, that according to our latest and best advices, the king, his truly patriotic ministry and the Parliament have the interest, particularly the commercial interest of the colonies much at heart; being now disposed even to enlarge, instead of curtailing their privileges, and to grant us every indulgence, consistent with the common good of the British empire: More than which we cannot reasonably, and, I am persuaded, do not desire.

These things being premised, let me now proceed to those reflections, exhortations and cautions relative to them, which were the chief design of this discourse. And the present occasion being a very peculiar one, such as never before occurred in America, and, I hope in God, never will again; I shall crave your indulgence if I am considerably longer than is customary on other occasions, which are less out of the ordinary course.

In the first place then, it is evident from the preceding view of things, that we have the greatest cause for thankfulness to Almighty God, who doeth his will among the inhabitants of the earth, as well as in the armies of heaven. He, in whose hands are the hearts of all men, not excepting those of kings, so that he turneth them whithersoever he will, as the rivers of water, hath inspired the people of America with a noble spirit of liberty, and remarkably united them in standing up for that invaluable blessing. He hath raised us up friends of the greatest eminence in Britain, in our perilous circumstances. He hath united the hearts of almost all wise and good men there, to plead our cause and their own successfully. He hath blessed the king with Edition: current; Page: [244] an upright ministry, zealous for the public good, and knowing wherein it consists. He hath given the king wisdom to discern, and integrity to pursue, the interests of his people, at the late alarming crisis, when so much depended on the measures that were then speedily to be taken! He hath changed his royal purpose, and that of his Parliament, in a matter which nearly and essentially concerned, at least our temporal happiness; disposing them to take off from our necks that grievous and heavy burden, which, to be sure, was not put upon us but with reluctance, and thro’ the dishonest artifices of certain wicked men who, perhaps, intended, if possible, entirely to alienate the affections of the colonists from their common father the king, and from their mother-country. O execrable design! to the accomplishment of which, the pernicious measure aforesaid apparently tended. But blessed be he, who governeth among the nations, that he hath confounded the devices of such treacherous men. To allude to the psalm, a part of which I mentioned as my text; “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us,” and if they could have had their wicked will, “then they had swallowed us up quick”; “then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; then the proud waters had gone over our soul. Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth”; the ravening teeth of those cunning fowlers, from whose treacherous snare we have just escaped; “our help being in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” To him, therefore, we justly owe the undissembled gratitude of our hearts, as well as the joyful praises of our lips: For I take it for granted, that you all firmly believe, that he who made the world, exercises a providential government over it; so that the very hairs of our head “are all numbered by,” and that “a sparrow doth not fall to the ground without” him. How much more then, is his providence to be acknowledged in the rise, in the preservation, in the great events, the revolutions, or the fall of mighty states and kingdoms?

To excite our gratitude to God the more effectually, let us consider the greatness of our late danger and of our deliverance: Let us take a brief retrospective view of the perplexed, wretched state, in which these colonies were, a few months ago, compared with the joyful and happy condition, in which they are at present, by the removal of their chief grievances.

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We have never known so quick and general a transition from the depth of sorrow to the height of joy, as on this occasion; nor, indeed, so great and universal a flow of either, on any other occasion whatever. It is very true, we have heretofore seen times of great adversity. We have known seasons of drought, dearth, and spreading mortal diseases; the pestilence walking in darkness, and the destruction wasting at noon day. We have seen wide devastations, made by fire; and amazing tempests, the heavens on flame, the winds and the waves roaring. We have known repeated earthquakes, threatning us with speedy destruction. We have been under great apprehensions by reason of formidable fleets of an enemy on our coasts, menacing fire and sword to all our maritime towns. We have known times when the French and savage armies made terrible havock on our frontiers, carrying all before them for a while; when we were not without fear, that some capital towns in the colonies would fall into their merciless hands. Such times as these we have known; at some of which almost every “face gathered paleness,” and the knees of all but the good and brave, waxed feeble. But never have we known a season of such universal consternation and anxiety among people of all ranks and ages, in these colonies, as was occasioned by that parliamentary procedure, which threatned us and our posterity with perpetual bondage and slavery. For they, as we generally suppose, are really slaves to all intents and purposes, who are obliged to labor and toil only for the benefit of others; or, which comes to the same thing, the fruit of whose labour and industry may be lawfully taken from them without their consent, and they justly punished if they refuse to surrender it on demand, or apply it to other purposes than those, which their masters, of their mere grace and pleasure, see fit to allow. Nor are there many American understandings accute enough to distinguish any material difference between this being done by a single person, under the title of an absolute monarch, and done by a far-distant legislature consisting of many persons, in which they are not represented; and the members whereof, instead of feeling, and sharing equally with them in the burden thus imposed, are eased of their own in proportion to the greatness and weight of it. It may be questioned, whether the ancient Greeks or Romans, or any other nation in which slavery was allowed, carried their idea of it much further than this. So that our late apprehensions, and universal consternation, on account Edition: current; Page: [246] of ourselves and posterity, were far, very far indeed, from being groundless. For what is there in this world more wretched, than for those who were born free, and have a right to continue so, to be made slaves themselves, and to think of leaving a race of slaves behind them; even though it be to masters, confessedly the most humane and generous in the world? Or what wonder is it, if after groaning with a low voice for a while, to no purpose, we at length groaned so loudly, as to be heard more than three thousand miles; and to be pitied throughout Europe, wherever it is not hazardous to mention even the name of liberty, unless it be to reproach it, as only another name for sedition, faction or rebellion.

On the other hand, never did the tide of joy swell so high, or roll so rapidly thro’ the bosoms and veins of the people in general, on any public occasion, as on the news of the repeal. “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing,” when the Lord turned our captivity; this was received as an emancipation indeed from unmerited slavery. Nor were there ever before so great external demonstrations of joy among the people of America; not even when all Canada was reduced, or when it was secured to the crown of England by treaty, and our apprehensions of coming under the yoke of France were vanished away. And some there are, who suppose, that France would not have hesitated at allowing such a number of flourishing colonies the exclusive right of taxing themselves, for the sake of a free trade with them, could they have been prevailed on, by violating their allegiance, to put themselves under her protection; as I am fully persuaded these colonies would not do, for all that France has to give. In my poor opinion, we never had so much real occasion for joy, on any temporal account, as when we were thus emancipated, and our soul escaped as a bird from the dreadful snare. And I am perswaded it would rejoice the generous and royal heart of his majesty, if he knew that by a single turn of the scepter, when he assented to the repeal, he had given more pleasure to three million good subjects, than ever he and his royal grandfather gave them by all the triumphs of their arms, from Lake Superior eastward to the Isles of Manilla; tho’ so numerous, so great, so illustrious; and though we partook so largely in the national joy on those occasions. A pepper-corn* a year added to his majesty’s exchequer, would not surely—! But I forbear.

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If you please, we will now descend to some farther particulars, relative to our late unhappy and present joyful circumstances, in order to excite our thankfulness to God, for so memorable a deliverance.

This continent, from Canada to Florida, and the West-India Islands, most of them at least, have exhibited a dismal mixed scene of murmuring, despondence, tumult and outrage; courts of justice shut up, with custom-houses and ports; private jealousies and animosities, evil furnishings, whisperings and back-bitings, mutual reproaches, open railing, and many other evils, since the time in which the grievous act aforesaid was to have taken place. Almost every British American, as was before observed, considered it as an infraction of their rights, or their dearly purchased privileges, call them which you will; and the sad earnest of such a galling yoke to be laid on our necks, already somewhat sore by preceding grievances, as neither we nor our fathers were able to bear; or rather, as being itself such a yoke, and likely to grow heavier by length of time, without any increase, either of ability or patience to endure it. The uneasiness was, therefore, justly great and universal, except, perhaps, among a few individuals, who either did not attend to consequences, or who expected to find their private account in the public calamity, by exercising the gainful, tho’ invidious, and not very reputable office of task-masters over their groaning countrymen and brethren. Even our bought Negro slaves apparently shared in the common distress: For which one cannot easily account, except by supposing that even some of them saw, that if the act took place, their masters might soon be too poor to provide them suitable food and raiment; and thought it would be more ignominious and wretched to be the servants of servants, than of free-men.

But to return. The general discontent operated very differently upon the minds of different people, according to the diversity of their natural tempers and constitutions, their education, religious principles, or the prudential maxims which they had espoused. Some at once grew melancholy, sitting down in a kind of lethargic, dull desparation of relief, by any means whatever. Others were thrown into a sort of consternation, not unlike to a phrenzy occasioned by a raging fever; being ready to do any thing or every thing, to obtain relief; but yet, unhappily, not knowing what, when, where, how; nor having any two rational and consistent ideas about the matter; scarce more than a person in a delirium has of the nature of, or proper Edition: current; Page: [248] method of curing the fever, which is the cause of his madness. Some few were, I believe, upon the principles of Sibthorp, Manwaring, Filmer, and that goodly tribe, determined to go no farther in order to obtain redress, than in the way of petition and remonstrance; and this, even tho’ they had been sure of success in some hardy enterprize. Others, who had no religious scruples of this kind, yet thought it extremely imprudent and hazardous to oppose a superior power in such a manner as might, perhaps, draw the whole weight of its resentment on the colonies, to their destruction. But the greater part, as I conceive, tho’ I may be mistaken in this, were firmly united in a consistent, however imprudent or desperate a plan, to run all risques, to tempt all hazards, to go all lengths, if things were driven to extremity, rather than to submit; preferring death itself to what they esteemed so wretched and inglorious a servitude. And even “of devout women not a few” were, I imagine, so far metamorphosed into men on this sad occasion, that they would have declined hardly any kind of manly exertions, rather than live to propagate a race of slaves, or to be so themselves. In short, such was the danger, and in their opinion, so great and glorious the cause, that the spirit of the Roman matrons in the time of the commonwealth, seemed to be now equalled by the fairer daughters of America. The uneasiness of some persons was much encreased by an imagination, that the money to be raised by the duty on stamps, would partly be applied to pay certain civil officers salaries; whereby they would become more entirely and absolutely dependent on the crown, less on the people, and consequently, as was supposed, more arbitrary and insolent. Others were anxious, because they imagined, with how much, or how little reason you will best judge, that the money was to be chiefly applied towards maintaining a standing army in America; not so much to defend and secure the colonies from enemies, of whom they had none, except the aforesaid fowlers, as to awe the colonies themselves into an implicit obedience to ministerial measures, however unjust or execrable in their nature. There is no end, you know, to peoples fears and jealousies, when once they are thoroughly alarmed. And so some suspected that this money was partly intended to maintain a standing army of bishops, and other ecclesiastics, to propagate the importance of certain rites and ceremonies, to which they had an aversion; the divine right of diocesan episcopacy and tythes, with many et cætara’s of the Edition: current; Page: [249] like sacred and interesting importance. These strange notions and fears prevailed very much among certain odd people, who liked their old religion, and were not able to see the reasonableness of their paying for the support of any other. I am not accountable for other people’s whimsical apprehensions: I am here only representing the perplexity, into which peoples minds were thrown by the novel taxation, according to their different views of it; a taxation, which was probably never thought of till a few years ago, when it was proposed to a great and good secretary of state, who was far too friendly to the colonies, as well as too wise, to burn his fingers with an American Stamp-Act.

This diversity of humours, sentiments and opinions among the colonists, of which I have been speaking, naturally occasioned great animosities, mutual censures and reproaches: Insomuch that it was hardly safe for any man to speak his thoughts on the times, unless he could patiently bear to lie under the imputation of being a coward, an incendiary, rebel, or enemy to his country; or to have some other odium cast upon him. In the mean time most of the courts were shut up, and almost all business brought to a stand; and, in some colonies, wide breaches were made between their several governors and houses of assembly; those governors thinking it their duty to push the execution of the stamp-act; and some of them trying to prevent the assemblies petitioning, in the joint manner proposed. In this state of general disorder, approaching so near to anarchy, some profligate people, in different parts of the continent, took an opportunity to gratify their private resentments, and to get money in an easier and more expeditious way than that of labor; committing abominable excesses and outrages on the persons or property of others.

What a dreadful scene was this! Who can take a cursory review of it even now, without horror, unless he is lost to all sense of religion, virtue and good order? These were some of the bitter, and in a good measure, the natural fruits of that unhappy measure which preceeded them. Nor were we wholly unapprehensive of something still worse; of having a more dreadful scene, even a scene of blood and slaughter opened! I will not be particular here; but ask you what you think of British subjects making war upon British subjects on this continent! What might this have terminated in? Perhaps in nothing less than the ruin of the colonies and the downfall of a certain great kingdom, Edition: current; Page: [250] which has long been the support of other states, the terror of her enemies, and the envy and glory of Europe! If I had myself, once, some apprehensions of this kind, as I confess I had, I was very far from being singular therein. One of the best judges of such matters, that any nation or age ever afforded, as well as one of the best men, and most accomplished orators, speaking on this point in a certain august assembly, is reported to have expressed himself thus.

On a good, on a sound bottom, the force of this country can crush America to atoms. I know the valor of your troops; I know the skill of your officers. But on this ground, on the Stamp-Act, when so many here will think it a crying injustice, I am one that will lift up my hand against it. In such a cause your success may be hazardous. America, if she fell, would fall like a strong man, would embrace the pillars of state, and pull down the constitution along with her.

Thus the great patron of America.* Even the remotest apprehensions of this kind, must give a very sensible pain to any American, who at once sincerely loves his own country, and wishes that the happy civil constitution, the strength and glory of Great Britain may be as lasting as the world, and still increasing; as God is my witness, I both wish and pray. If Britain, which has long been the principal support of liberty in Europe, and is, at least was, the chief bulwark against that most execrable of all tyrannies, popery, should in destroying her colonies destroy herself (Heaven forbid it!); what would become of those few states which are now free? what, of the protestant religion? The former might, not improbably, fall before the grand monarch on this side the Alps; the latter before the successor of the apostle Judas, and grand vicar of Satan, beyond them; and so, at length, one universal despotism swallow up all! Some of us had, lately, painful apprehensions of this kind, when there was talk of a great military force coming to stamp America into a particular kind of subjection, to which most people here have an invincible aversion.

It would, doubtless, have been a noble effort of genius and humanity Edition: current; Page: [251] in the—what shall I call them? fowlers or financiers?—to extort a little money from the poor colonies by force of arms, at the risque of so much mischief to America, to Britain, to Europe, to the world. And the golden temptation, it is said, took with too many, for while. A Pandora’s box, or Trojan horse, indeed!

  • —O miseri, quæ tanta insania, cives!
  • Creditis avectos hostes? aut ulla putatis
  • Dona carere dolis Danaûm? sic notus—?*

But not to digress. I have now briefly reminded you of our late sad, perplexed, alarming circumstances; not for the sake of reproaching those who brought us into them, but to excite your gratitude to God, for our deliverance out of them, and for our present happy condition.

The repeal, the repeal has at once, in a good measure, restored things to order, and composed our minds, by removing the chief ground of our fears. The course of justice between man and man is no longer obstructed; commerce lifts up her head, adorned with golden tresses, pearls and precious stones. All things that went on right before, are returning gradually to their former course; those that did not, we have reason to hope, will go on better now; almost every person you meet, wears the smiles of contentment and joy; and even our slaves rejoice, as tho’ they had received their manumission. Indeed, all the lovers of liberty in Europe, in the world, have reason to rejoice; the cause is in some measure common to them and us. Blessed revolution! glorious change! How great are our obligations for it to the supreme Governor of the world! He hath given us beauty for ashes, and the oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness: He hath turned our groans into songs, our mourning into dancing: He hath put off our sackcloth, and girded us with gladness, to the end that our tongues, our glory may sing praises to him. Let us all then rejoice in the Lord, and give honor to him; not forgetting to add the obedience of our lives, as the best sacrifice that we can offer to heaven; and which, if neglected, will prove all our other sacrifices have been but ostentation and hypocrisy, which are an abomination to the Lord.

The apostle Peter makes a natural transition from fearing God to Edition: current; Page: [252] honoring the king. Let me, accordingly, in the next place, exhort you, my friends and brethren, to a respectful, loyal and dutiful manner of speech and conduct, respecting his majesty and his government; thereby making a suitable return to him for the redress of our late grievances. I am, indeed, well apprised of the firm attachment of these colonies in general, and of our own province in particular, to the king’s person, and to the protestant succession in his illustrious house; for the preservation of which, there is hardly a native of New-England, who would not, upon constitutional principles, which are those of liberty, chearfully hazard his life; or even more lives than one, if he had them to lay down in so good a cause. I have not the least suspicion of any disaffection in you to his majesty: But yet the duty of subjects to kings, and to all that are in authority, is frequently to be inculcated by the ministers of the gospel, if they will follow the example of the apostles in this respect. And the present occasion seems particularly proper to remind you of that important duty; since we have now before us a recent and memorable proof of his majesty’s moderation, his attention to the welfare of his people, and readiness, so far as in him lies according to the constitution, to redress their grievances, on reasonable and humble complaint. If any persons among us have taken it unkindly, that his majesty should have given his royal assent to an act, which they think was an infraction of those liberties and privileges, to which they were justly intitled; and if the usual tide and fervor of their loyal affection is in any degree abated on that account; yet, surely, the readiness which his majesty has shewn to hear and redress his people’s wrongs, ought to give a new spring, an additional vigor to their loyalty and obedience. Natural parents, thro’ human frailty, and mistakes about facts and circumstances, sometimes provoke their children to wrath, tho’ they tenderly love them, and sincerely desire their good. But what affectionate and dutiful child ever harboured resentment on any such account, if the grievance was removed, on a dutiful representation of it? Hardly any thing operates so strongly on ingenuous minds, tho’ perhaps of quick resentment, as the mild condescension of a superior to the force of reason and right on the part of the inferior. I shall make no application of this, any farther than to remind you, that British kings are the political fathers of their people, and the people their children; the Edition: current; Page: [253] former are not tyrants, or even masters; the latter are not slaves, or even servants.

Let me farther exhort you to pay due respect in all things to the British Parliament; the Lords and Commons being two branches of the supreme legislative over all his majesty’s dominions. The right of parliament to superintend the general affairs of the colonies, to direct, check or controul them, seems to be supposed in their charters; all which, I think, while they grant the power of legislation, limit the exercise of it to the enacting such laws as are not contrary to the laws of England, or Great-Britain; so that our several legislatures are subordinate to that of the mother-country, which extends to and over all the king’s dominions: At least, so far as to prevent any parts of them from doing what would be either destructive to each other, or manifestly to the ruin of Britain. It might be of the most dangerous consequence to the mother-country, to relinquish this supposed authority or right, which, certainly, has all along been recognized by the colonies; or to leave them dependent on the crown only, since, probably, within a century, the subjects in them will be more than thrice as numerous as those of Great-Britain and Ireland. And, indeed, if the colonies are properly parts of the British empire, as it is both their interest and honor to be, it seems absurd to deny, that they are subject to the highest authority therein, or not bound to yield obedience to it. I hope there are very few people, if any, in the colonies, who have the least inclination to renounce the general jurisdiction of Parliament over them, whatever we may think of the particular right of taxation. If, in any particular cases, we should think our selves hardly treated, laid under needless and unreasonable restrictions, or curtailed of any liberties or privileges, which other our fellow subjects in common enjoy; we have an undoubted right to complain, and, by humble and respectful, tho’ not abject and servile petitions, to seek the redress of such supposed grievances. The colonists are men, and need not be afraid to assert the natural rights of men; they are British subjects, and may justly claim the common rights, and all the privileges of such, with plainness and freedom. And from what has lately occurred, there is reason to hope, that the Parliament will ever hereafter be willing to hear and grant our just requests; especially if any grievances should take place, so great, so Edition: current; Page: [254] general and alarming, as to unite all the colonies in petitioning for redress, as with one voice. The humble united prayers of three or four million loyal subjects, so connected with Great Britain, will not be thought unworthy of a serious attention; especially when seconded by such spirited resolutions and conduct of the American merchants, as they have lately given an example of. Humble petitions, so enforced, always carry great weight with them; and, if just and reasonable, will doubtless meet with a suitable return, as in the late instance; since Great Britain can scarce subsist without the trade of her colonies, which will be still increasing. And an equitable, kind treatment of them, on her part, will firmly bind them to her by the threefold cord of duty, interest and filial affection; such an one as the wise man says, is not easily broken: This would do more, far more to retain the colonies in due subjection, than all the fleets or troops she would think proper to send for that purpose.

But to return; we ought, in honor to ourselves, as well as duty to the king and parliament, to frustrate the malicious prophecies, if not the hopes of some persons in Britain, who have predicted the most ungrateful and indecent returns from us to our mother-country, for deliverance from the late grievances. It has been foretold that, in consequence thereof, the colonies would grow insolent and assuming; that they would affect a kind of triumph over the authority of parliament; that they would little or nothing regard it hereafter, in other cases; that they would give some broad intimations of their opinion, that it was not for want of inclination, but of power, that the late grievous act was not enforced; that they would treat their brethren in Britain in an unworthy, disrespectful manner; and the like. Such things as these have been predicted, and, probably, by those very fowlers who contrived the snare, from which, to their great mortification, our soul is now escaped as a bird. Let us, my brethren (for it is in our power, and it is our duty), make such men false prophets, by a contrary behaviour; “prophets of the deceit of their own hearts.” This might, probably, vex them sorely; since it is likely, their chief aim is, to bring about a fixed, confirmed disaffection on our part, and a severe resentment on the other, while the jealous enemies of the growing power of Britain, wagg their ever-plotting and enterprising heads, saying, “Aha! so we would have it.” Let us highly reverence the supreme authority of the British empire, which to us is the highest, Edition: current; Page: [255] under that of heaven. Let us, as much as in us lies, cultivate harmony and brotherly love between our fellow subjects in Britain and ourselves. We shall doubtless find our account in this at last, much more than in a contrary way of proceeding. There are no other people on earth, that so “naturally care for us.” We are connected with them by the strongest ties; in some measure by blood; for look but a century or two back, and you will find their ancestors and ours, in a great measure the same persons, tho’ their posterity is now so divided. We are strongly connected with them by a great commercial intercourse, by our common language, by our common religion as protestants, and by being subjects of the same king, whom God long preserve and prosper, while his enemies are cloathed with shame.

If we consider things properly, it is indeed our great felicity, our best security, and highest glory in this world, to stand in such a relation as we do, to so powerful an empire; one which rules the ocean, and wherein the principles of liberty are in general predominant. It would be our misery, if not our ruin, to be cast off by Great-Britain, as unworthy her farther regards. What then would it be, in any supposeable way, to draw upon ourselves the whole weight of her just resentment! What are we in the hands of that nation, which so lately triumphed over the united powers of France and Spain? Though it must, indeed, be acknowledged, that she did this, in a great measure, by means of her commercial intercourse with, and aids from the colonies: Without which she must probably have made a more inglorious figure at the end, than she did at the beginning of the last war; even tho’ Mr. Pitt himself had had the sole direction of it under his majesty. Consider how many millions of people there are in other countries, groaning in vain under the iron sceptre of merciless despotism, who, if they were but imperfectly apprised of the happiness we enjoy, would most ardently desire to be in our situation, and to stand in the like relation to Great Britain. Let us not be insensible of our own felicity in this respect; let us not entertain a thought of novelties or innovations, or be “given to change.” Let us not indulge to any groundless jealousies of ill intentions towards us in our mother-country, whatever there may be in some designing individuals, who do the devil’s work, by sowing discord. It is for the interest of Britain, as she well knows, to retain the affection of these growing colonies, and to treat them kindly to that end: And this bond of interest on her part, Edition: current; Page: [256] is the strongest security to us, which we can have in any political relation whatever. We are bound, in honor to the king and Parliament, to suppose, that it was not for want of ability to enforce a late act, and to crush us, that it was repealed; but from a conviction of the inexpediency, the dangerous consequences, and many inconveniencies of continuing it. And the like reasons will probably operate forever against any act of the same nature, and grow stronger and stronger.

It can answer no valuable end, for us to harbour grudges or secret resentment on account of redressed and past grievances; no good end wantonly and grossly to insult, and thereby to incense any particular powerful persons on the other side of the water, as the supposed enemies of the colonies. To me this seems impolitic at least; as it may perhaps make such persons our enemies, if they were not so before; or, if they were, fix their enmity; and make them more industrious than ever in seeking opportunities to do us mischief. Much less can it answer any good end, to affect to triumph over the power of Parliament: This would, in short, appear equally insolent, disloyal and ridiculous, in the eyes of all sober, unprejudiced men. May God give us the wisdom to behave ourselves with humility and moderation, on the happy success of our late remonstrances and struggles! We are bound in honor so to behave, not only that we may frustrate the malignant predictions before referred to, but that we may answer the just expectation of our friends in Britain, who so nobly espoused our cause, and, as it were, pawned their own honor (how great and sacred a pledge!), for our good conduct, if our grievances were removed. By such an engagement they did us honor, as it manifested their candid and kind sentiments concerning us. This lays us under an additional obligation, in point of gratitude, to that good behaviour, which would have been our duty without it. I cannot but here remind you particularly of the words of that immortal patriot in Parliament, who has now a second time, been the principal means of saving Britain and her colonies from impending ruin.* “Say,” said he,

the Americans have not in all things acted with prudence and temper: They have been wrong’d; they have been driven to madness by injustice. Edition: current; Page: [257] Will you now punish them for the madness you have occasioned? Rather let prudence and temper come first from this side; I will undertake for America that she will follow the example.

What son, either of America or of liberty is there, that has the least spark of ingenuity, who can help being touched and penetrated to the inmost recesses of the heart, by such magnanimous and generous expressions in behalf of the colonies? Who is there, that would not almost as willingly die, as that that illustrious patron of America should ever have occasion to be ashamed of espousing its cause, and making himself answerable for us? We had other advocates of distinguished eminence and worth, who generously came under similar engagements for us. God forbid, my brethren, that any one of them should ever have the least reason to blush for his ill placed confidence in us; as all of them will, if we shew any unworthy behaviour towards the king, the Parliament or our mother-country, after this proof of their moderation, and regard for us. And if they, our friends, should have cause to blush for us in this respect, what must we do for ourselves! Where shall we find caverns far enough removed from the light of day, in which to hide our heads! Or what reason shall we have to expect friends, advocates and sponsors again, how much soever we may need them, if we have no more regard for the honor of those who appeared for us at the late alarming crisis; when it was accounted almost criminal to say any thing in our behalf?

Let me subjoin, that as the good people of this province had the honor to lead in a spirited, tho’ decent and respectful application for the redress of our late grievances; methinks they should now be ambitious to have the honor of leading in a prudent, temperate, wise behaviour, in consequence of the success; and, if need be, as I hope there is not, ambitious of setting an example of moderation and discretion to other colonies. This honor would be equal to the first mentioned; and would probably recommend us greatly to those, whom it will always be our interest and duty to please; so long, at least, as we can do it without renouncing our birth-right. It will contribute to remove any impressions that may have been made of late, to our disadvantage. It will at once gratify our best friends, and falsify the slanders of our enemies, who delight in representing us as a seditious, factious and turbulent sort of people, who cannot endure the wholesome and Edition: current; Page: [258] necessary restraints of government. May God rebuke them for, and forgive them this wrong!

Let none suspect that, because I thus urge the duty of cultivating a close harmony with our mother-country, and a dutiful submission to the king and Parliament, our chief grievances being redressed, I mean to disswade people from having a just concern for their own rights, or legal, constitutional privileges. History, one may presume to say, affords no example of any nation, country or people long free, who did not take some care of themselves; and endeavour to guard and secure their own liberties. Power is of a grasping, encroaching nature, in all beings, except in him, to whom it emphatically “belongeth”; and who is the only King that, in a religious or moral sense, “can do no wrong.” Power aims at extending itself, and operating according to mere will, where-ever it meets with no ballance, check, controul or opposition of any kind. For which reason it will always be necessary, as was said before, for those who would preserve and perpetuate their liberties, to guard them with a wakeful attention; and in all righteous, just and prudent ways, to oppose the first encroachments on them. “Obsta principiis.” After a while it will be too late. For in the states and kingdoms of this world, it happens as it does in the field or church, according to the well-known parable, to this purpose; That while men sleep, then the enemy cometh and soweth tares, which cannot be rooted out again till the end of the world, without rooting out the wheat with them.

If I may be indulged here in saying a few words more, respecting my notions of liberty in general, such as they are, it shall be as follows.

Having been initiated, in youth, in the doctrines of civil liberty, as they were taught by such men as Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero and other renowned persons among the ancients; and such as Sidney and Milton, Locke and Hoadley, among the moderns; I liked them; they seemed rational. Having, earlier still learnt from the holy scriptures, that wise, brave and vertuous men were always friends to liberty; that God gave the Israelites a king [or absolute monarch] in his anger, because they had not sense and virtue enough to like a free common-wealth, and to have himself for their king; that the Son of God came down from heaven, to make us “free indeed”; and that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”; this made me conclude, that Edition: current; Page: [259] freedom was a great blessing. Having, also, from my childhood up, by the kind providence of my God, and the tender care of a good parent now at rest with him, been educated to the love of liberty, tho’ not of licentiousness; which chaste and virtuous passion was still increased in me, as I advanced towards, and into, manhood; I would not, I cannot now, tho’ past middle age, relinquish the fair object of my youthful affections, liberty; whose charms, instead of decaying with time in my eyes, have daily captivated me more and more. I was, accordingly, penetrated with the most sensible grief, when, about the first of November last, the day of darkness, a day hardly to be numbered with the other days of the year, she seemed about to take her final departure from America, and to leave that ugly hag slavery, the deformed child of Satan, in her room. I am now filled with a proportionable degree of joy in God, on occasion of her speedy return, with new smiles on her face, with augmented beauty and splendor. Once more then, Hail! celestial maid, the daughter of God, and, excepting his Son, the first-born of heaven! Welcome to these shores again; welcome to every expanding heart! Long mayest thou reside among us, the delight of the wise, good and brave; the protectress of innocence from wrongs and oppression, the patroness of learning, arts, eloquence, virtue, rational loyalty, religion! And if any miserable people on the continent or isles of Europe, after being weakened by luxury, debauchery, venality, intestine quarrels, or other vices, should, in the rude collisions, or now-uncertain revolutions of kingdoms, be driven, in their extremity, to seek a safe retreat from slavery in some far-distant climate; let them find, O let them find one in America under thy brooding, sacred wings; where our oppressed fathers once found it, and we now enjoy it, by the favor of him, whose service is the most glorious freedom! Never, O never may he permit thee to forsake us, for our unworthiness to enjoy thy enlivening presence! By his high permission, attend us thro’ life and death to the regions of the blessed, thy original abode, there to enjoy forever the “glorious liberty of the sons of God!” But I forget myself; whither have I been hurried by this enthusiasm, or whatever else you will please to call it? I hope your candor will forgive this odd excursion, for which I hardly know how to account myself. There were two or three things more which I intended to say relative to this joyful occasion.

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To go on then, these colonies are better than ever apprised of their own weight and consequence, when united in a legal opposition to any unconstitutional, hard and grievous treatment; which may be an advantage to them. God often bringeth good out of evil; or what is intended for evil by men, is by him meant for good. So it was particularly in the memorable case of Joseph, whom his hard-hearted, envious brethren sold as a slave into Egypt. There he became great, and his father and brethren were at length obliged to have recourse to him, to keep them and their’s from perishing. And thus, not improbably, may good come out of our late troubles, as well as out of those oppressions, which occasioned the flight of our forefathers into the desarts of America. The great shock which was lately given to our liberties, may end in the confirmation and enlargement of them: As it is said, the stately oaks of the forest take the deeper root, extend their arms the farther, and exalt their venerable heads the higher for being agitated by storms and tempests, provided they are not actually torn up, rent in pieces, or quite blasted by the lightning of heaven. And who knows, our liberties being thus established, but that on some future occasion, when the kingdoms of the earth are moved, and roughly dashed one against another, by him that “taketh up the isles as a very little thing,” we, or our posterity may even have the great felicity and honor to “save much people alive,” and keep Britain herself from ruin. I hope she will never put it out of our power, by destroying us; or out of the inclination of any, by attempting it.

It is to be hoped, the colonies will never abuse or misapply any influence which they may have, when united as aforesaid; or discover a spirit of murmuring, discontent or impatience under the government of Great Britain, so long as they are justly and kindly treated. On the other hand, it is to be hoped, they will never lose a just sense of liberty, or what they may reasonably expect from the mother-country. These things they will keep in mind, if they are wise; and cultivate a firm friendship and union with each other upon equal terms, as far as distance and other circumstances will allow. And if ever there should be occasion, as I sincerely hope and pray there may not, their late experience and success will teach them how to act, in order to obtain the redress of grievances; I mean, by joint, manly and spirited, but yet respectful and loyal petitioning. Setting aside some excesses and outrages which all sober men join in condemning, I believe Edition: current; Page: [261] history affords few examples of a more general, generous and just sense of liberty in any country, than has appeared in America within the year past: In which time the mercantile part in particular have done themselves much honor, and had a great share in preserving the liberties of the plantations, when in the most imminent danger: Tho’ this is not said with the least thought of reflecting on any other body or order of men, as wanting in their endeavours to the same noble end. Had we patiently received the yoke, no one can tell when, or whether ever it would have been taken off. And if there be some animals, adapted by nature to bear heavy burdens submissively, one of which, however, is said, on a certain occasion, to have had the gift of speech, and expostulated with his master for unjustly smiting him; I hope the Americans will never be reckoned as belonging to that spiritless, slavish kind, tho’ their “powers of speech” should not, in the opinion of some nameless, heroic pamphleteer-scoffers in Britain, exceed those of the other. However defective they may be in point of “eloqence,”* I thank God they can at least feel, and complain so as to be tolerably understood.

If your patience will hold out, I will add a few words further, by way of advice, and so conclude. While we endeavour to cultivate harmony and union with our mother-country and our sister-colonies, in all generous and manly ways, we should not, surely, neglect to cultivate the same among ourselves.

There have, I am sorry to say it, but really there have lately been many unwarrantable jealousies, and bitter mutual reproaches among the people of this town and province, occasioned by that unhappy measure, which has been so often referred to. Even wise and good men, tho’ all equally against that measure, could not, however, agree what was to be done, upon the maxims of prudence, tho’ alike concerned for the public welfare. Accordingly some were blamed as too warm and sanguine, others as too phlegmatic and indifferent, in the common and noble cause of liberty. Many were censured, and some, I am well assured, very unjustly, as being friends to, and encouragers of, the fatal measure aforesaid. But how far these accusations were just or unjust, on either side, I will not take upon me particularly to determine. Be that as it may, is it not best, my brethren, to let these Edition: current; Page: [262] contentions subside, now the end is obtained, and we have so fair a prospect before us? Are there any valuable ends to be answered by perpetuating these disputes? I cannot readily conceive any: Perhaps it is, because I have less penetration than most others. Be it as it will, I know one, and one whom we all profess to reverence, who hath said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” And, “Let us study the things that make for peace,” said he that was not behind the chief of the apostles, “and the things wherewith one may edify another.” These sayings may apologize for me, if I am wrong in “preaching peace” at this time. And if none will be offended with me for speaking plainly as to this matter, To me it really seems most prudent, most christian, to bury in oblivion what is past; to begin our civil, political life anew as it were, from this joyful and glorious æra of restored and confirmed liberty; to be at union among ourselves; to abstain from all party names and national reflections, respecting any of our fellow subjects; and to exert ourselves, in our several stations, to promote the common good, “by love serving one another.” Let us make allowances mutually for human frailty, for our different views and conceptions of things, which may be in a great measure unavoidable; for difference of natural constitution, an unequal flow of animal spirits, or strength of nerves: Let no one censure another more hardly, if at all, than the necessity of the case plainly requires. I hope these counsels of peace will not be disrelished by any “son of peace,” or any wise and good man, that does me the honor to be my auditor on this occasion; for I mean not to give offence, but only to do good. Such counsels as they are, I humbly commend them to the God of love and peace, to whose holy will I believe them agreeable, for his blessing; that they may have their just influence on all that hear them. And you will not forget, that we must all one day give an account to him; so that it nearly concerns us to have our ways, motives, and all our doings approved by him. In fine,

Let us all apply ourselves with diligence, and in the fear of God, to the duties of our respective stations. There has been a general dissipation among us for a long time; a great neglect and stagnation of business. Even the poor, and labouring part of the community, whom I am very far from despising, have had so much to say about government and politics, in the late times of danger, tumult and confusion, that many of them seemed to forget, they had any thing to do. Methinks, Edition: current; Page: [263] it would now be expedient for them, and perhaps for most of us, to do something more, and talk something less; every one “studying to be quiet, and to do his own business”; letting things return peaceably into their old channels, and natural courses, after so long an interruption. My immediate aim in what I now say, being only to recommend industry, good order and harmony, I will not meddle with the thorny question, whether, or how far, it may be justifiable for private men, at certain extraordinary conjunctures, to take the administration of government in some respects into their own hands. Self-preservation being a great and primary law of nature, and to be considered as antecedent to all civil laws and institutions, which are subordinate and subservient to the other; the right of so doing, in some circumstances, cannot well be denied. But certainly, there is no plausible pretence for such a conduct among us now. That which may be excuseable, and perhaps laudable, on some very singular emergencies, would at other times be pragmatical, seditious, and high-handed presumption. Let all therefore now join with heart and hand in supporting the lawful, constitutional government over us in its just dignity and vigor; in supporting his majesty’s representative, the civil magistrates, and all persons in authority, in the lawful exercise of their several offices. No true friend of liberty can reasonably object against this; and if any persons should, it would shew that, while they speak great swelling words of vanity, making liberty the pretext, they themselves are the servants of corruption, the ignoble slaves of sin. Without this due regard to government and laws, we shall still be miserable, my friends, notwithstanding all that God and the king have done to make us happy. If one had wings like a dove, it were better to fly far away, and remain alone in the wilderness, where he might be at rest, than to live in a society where there is no order, no subordination; but anarchy and confusion reign. Of these we have surely had enough already; tho’ at the same time I bless God, that there has not been much more, considering the great danger in which we have been, with the general alarm and consternation, by reason of that which is said to make “even a wise man mad,” and much more the rash and indiscrete, of whom there is a great proportion in all communities; considering also the absolute necessity there was, or at least seemed to be, of some very uncommon struggles and exertions, in order to break the snare, and the natural impetuosity of Edition: current; Page: [264] many people’s tempers. So important a change in the situation of public affairs, so great a deliverance, has, perhaps, seldom been brought about in any country, with so little criminal excess, unless it were done by God alone, without the instrumentality or agency of men, by nature liable to so many errors and infirmities. But whatever there has been of this kind, ought to be, and I hope is, lamented by all good men. May that God, in whom our help has been, continue to protect us, our rights and privileges! May he direct our paths thro’ this uncertain life, and all the changes of it; and, of his infinite mercy in Jesus Christ, finally bring us all to those peaceful and glorious regions, where no evil spirits, no wicked fowlers will come; where no snares will be spread for us; no proud waters to go over our soul! And if we hope for admission into those eternal mansions of joy, let every one of us, as the apostle Peter exhorts, “honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

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john joachim zubly an humble enquiry fpage="265" lpage="300"


John Joachim Zubly
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John Joachim Zubly (1724–1781). Born and educated in St. Gall, Switzerland, Zubly was ordained at the German Church in London in 1744 and went to South Carolina the same year to join his father. After preaching in various churches in South Carolina and Georgia, he became pastor in 1760 of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah. Fluent in six languages, Zubly was widely read; John Adams called him a “learned man.” The College of New Jersey gave him an honorary A.M. in 1770 and a D.D. four years later. He took an early lead in representing the dissenting denominations against the threat of Anglican tyranny. During the Stamp Act crisis he was a powerful voice for American rights. A delegate to the Georgia Provincial Congress in 1775, he was soon thereafter elected one of the colony’s five representatives to the Continental Congress, where he took a prominent role. Although, by fall of that year, it had become clear that independence was in the air, Zubly did not favor that course. After being denounced by Samuel Chase (perhaps for asserting in Congress that republics are “little better than government of devils”), Zubly abruptly departed Philadelphia on November 10, 1775. In 1777 he was banished from Georgia as a Tory, and half his property was confiscated. He found shelter for a time with friends in South Carolina. When royal government was reestablished in Georgia, he was able to return and partially resume his pastoral duties in Savannah.

The leading spokesman for Georgia in the dispute with Great Britain, Zubly is regarded as an impressive literary figure of the time. His An Humble Enquiry, published pseudonymously (1769), presents a powerful constitutional argument against the 1766 Declaratory Act in response to Parliament’s Townshend Acts.

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Though few or none claim infallibility in express terms, yet it is very difficult ever to persuade some men they are mistaken. We generally have so good an opinion of our own understanding, that insensibly we take it for granted those that do not think as we do must needs be in the wrong. When disputes are once heightened by personal prejudice, or the bitterness of party, it becomes so much the more difficult to the disputants themselves to see their mistakes, and even to bystanders the truth appears wrapped up in a cloud, and through the fog and dust of argument becomes almost imperceptible.

These remarks I believe will particularly hold good in the subject now in agitation between Great-Britain and her colonies, a subject however of too serious a nature to be given up to prejudice, or to be decided by the rage of party. Every argument pro or con deserves to be most carefully weighed, and he that sets the whole in the clearest light does the publick no inconsiderable service, and that whether it be by pointing out the justice of the American claims to Great-Britain, or setting such constitutional arguments before the Americans as must either leave obstinacy inexcusable, or will dispose loyal and reasonable men to a chearful acquiescence.

The argument on which the Americans seem to lay the greatest stress is, they say that it is a principle of the British constitution, that no Englishman ought to be taxed but by his own consent, given either by himself or his representative. I find it admitted by such as disapprove the American claims, that no man is bound by any law to which he hath not given his consent either in person or by a representative. Perhaps these two propositions are not perfectly equivalent; however it seems clear, that he that holds that no man is bound by any law to which he has not personally or by a representative consented, must also admit, that no man is bound by any law that lays a tax on him without his consent given by himself or representative. What is true of all laws in general must also hold true of every law in particular. If no law can operate upon any man that hath not in the above manner given his assent to it, certainly no such law can be binding upon whole communities, or any considerable part of the Edition: current; Page: [270] whole nation. In the spirit of the above principle, it seems essential to law, that it be assented to by such on whom it is afterwards to operate. To suppose, therefore, that a law is binding upon such as have not given their assent, is to suppose (I argue upon that principle) a law may be valid and binding at the same time it is confessedly destitute of the very essential point to make it so; and if the assent of those that are to be governed by the law is not necessary or essential to the making of it, then representation is a mere superfluous thing, no better than an excrescence in the legislative power, which therefore at any convenient time may be lopped off at pleasure, and without the least danger to the constitution; the governed then have no part in the legislation at all, the will of those in power, whoever they be, is the supreme and sole law, and what hath been above asserted to be a constitutional principle seems to me to fall to the ground without remedy to all intents and purposes.

Supposing, on the other hand, that principle, as is asserted to be constitutional, then to me, as is further asserted, it seems to be of the very nature of it, that it be general and hold in all cases. This it does not only clearly imply, but also fully and strongly express; but yet if so, it would also seem that no man, or no people, in no case, or by no power whatever, can be bound to pay a tax to which they have not consented either personally or by their representatives. Every constitutional principle must be general and hold in all cases, and I may add in all places too, for it is usually said that the liberties of an Englishman follow him to the end of the world, much more then must they follow him over all the British dominions; this is so true, that by an express law, the children of British parents, though born in a foreign dominion, are just as much entitled to all British liberties as those who have been born within the realm.

An inference may possibly hence be drawn, that if so, the British colonies are subject to none of the acts of the British Parliament (scil. because they never assented to them neither in person nor by representative), and therefore must be considered as independent of the legal or parliamentary power of Great-Britain. I confess I should be sorry to see America independent of Great-Britain, and if any of the arguments the Americans make use of imply an independency on the mother state, I should shrewdly suspect there must be some fallacy couched under an otherwise specious appearance. The sum and Edition: current; Page: [271] strength of this inference I conceive lies thus: The British legislature must be the supreme power in all the British dominions, and if so, all the British dominions ought to pay obedience in all cases to all the laws in which they are mentioned that may be enacted by the British Parliament, and to refuse obedience in any such case is to declare themselves an independent people.

I freely own I have not heard any thing stronger said in favour of taxation by the British Parliament, and I think this argument is highly deserving the most serious consideration. Every good man would wish to hear the voice of dispassionate reason before he forms his judgment in any debate. Vulgar prejudices may sway vulgar minds, but a wise man is neither carried away by the torrent of power, nor the blast of popularity. I would endeavour therefore to consider this argument with all the candour and impartiality I am capable of; I would do it with a mind open to conviction, and with steadiness sufficient to follow truth wherever she may lead me.

To have a clear view how far this argument may affect the present question between Great-Britain and her colonies, it will be necessary carefully to state the relation which they bear to one another; without this we shall never have a precise and determinate idea of the matter. The argument I think is made up of two propositions, viz.

  • The Parliament of Great-Britain is the supreme legislature in all the British empire.
  • All the British dominions therefore ought to pay obedience thereto in all cases and to all the laws in which they are mentioned, and to refuse obedience to any such is to declare themselves an independent people.

Before I proceed to take a distinct view of each of these propositions, I repeat, that they are said to be built upon a constitutional principle, and that this principle must be general and hold in all cases; this must undoubtedly be admitted, for what enters into the very essence of the constitution must doubtless operate as far as the constitution itself. Let us now proceed to consider every part of these two propositions distinctly, and this must infallibly lead us to form a sound judgment of the whole.

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The kingdom of Great-Britain consists of two parts, north and south, or England and Scotland, united since 1707 into one kingdom, under the name of Great-Britain. This union hath not been so full and absolute, as to put both kingdoms in all respects upon a perfect equality; but tho’ the legislature is the same, yet the laws and the administration of justice are not the same in every instance. The same legislature making laws that affect only the one or the other of these kingdoms, and even laws made to be binding upon both, do not affect both alike, of which the difference in raising the supplies by land tax is a very full and striking proof, this could not be the case if the union between the two kingdoms was so entire and absolute, as for instance between England and the principality of Wales.

The British Empire is a more extensive word, and should not be confounded with the kingdom of Great-Britain; it consists of England, Scotland, Ireland, the Islands of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, and Minorca, &c. in the Mediterranean; Senegal, &c. in Africa; Bombay, &c. in the East-Indies; and the Islands and Colonies in North-America, &c. As England, strictly so called, is at the head of this great body, it is called the mother country; all the settled inhabitants of this vast empire are called Englishmen, but individuals, from the place of their nativity or residence, are called English, Scotch, Irish, Welch, Americans, &c.

Scotland and Ireland were originally distinct kingdoms and nations, but the colonies in America, being settled upon lands discovered by the English, under charters from the crown of England, were always considered as a part of the English nation, and of the British empire, and looked upon as dependent upon England; I mean, that before the union of the two kingdoms (and very few colonies have been settled since), they depended on England only, and even now I suppose are rather considered as a dependance upon England than of the two kingdoms united under the name of Great-Britain. Were it not for the union, which incorporates the two kingdoms, the colonies never would have depended on that part of Britain called Scotland, and by the terms of the union I apprehend England has not given up or brought her colonies under the dominion of Scotland, but tho’ dependent on Great-Britain, they still remain what they always were, English colonies.

All the inhabitants of the British empire together form the British Edition: current; Page: [273] nation, and that the British Parliament is the supreme power and legislature in the British nation I never heard doubted.

By the English constitution, which is that which prevails over the whole empire, all Englishmen, or all that make up the British empire, are entitled to certain privileges indefeasible, unalienable, and of which they can never be deprived, but by the taking away of that constitution which gives them these privileges. I have observed that the British empire is made up of different kingdoms and nations, but it is not the original constitution of Scotland or Ireland, but of England, which extends and communicates its privileges to the whole empire. This is an undeniable principle, and ought never to be lost out of sight, if we would form a sound judgment on the question now to be considered.

From the consideration above admitted, that the British Parliament is the supreme legislative power in the whole British empire, the following conclusion has been drawn; the colonies (and the same I suppose is meant of all the British empire, of which the colonies are a part) are bound by and subject to all the laws of the British Parliament in which they are mentioned, or are subject to none of any kind whatsoever.

Before this can be properly discussed, it must be observed, that Great-Britain has not only a Parliament, which is the supreme legislature, but also a constitution, and that the now Parliament derives its authority and power from the constitution, and not the constitution from the Parliament. It may also be very fairly inferred hence, that the liberties of Englishmen arise from and depend on the English constitution, which is permanent and ever the same, whereas the individuals which compose the Parliament are changed at least once every seven years, and always at the demise of a king.

The Parliament of Great-Britain is the supreme legislature in the British empire. It must be so either absolutely or agreeable to the constitution; if absolutely, it can alter the constitution whenever it sees fit; if absolutely, it is not bound by the constitution, nor any thing else; if agreeable to the constitution, then it can no more make laws, which are against the constitution, or the unalterable privileges of British subjects, than it can alter the constitution itself. Supposing a Parliament, under some of the arbitrary reigns of the last century, should have made a law, that for the future the king’s warrant should Edition: current; Page: [274] be sufficient to lay a tax on the subject, or to oblige him to pay ship money, it would have been an act of the supreme legislature, but it may safely be doubted, whether the nation would have thought it constitutional. I conclude therefore, that the power of Parliament, and of every branch of it, has its bounds assigned by the constitution.

If the power of the Parliament is limited by the constitution, it may not be improper next to enquire, whether the power of the British Parliament affects all the subjects of the British empire in the same manner.

If the power of the British Parliament affects all the subjects of the British empire in the same manner, it follows, that all the laws made by the British Parliament are binding alike upon all those over whom this power extends, or in other words, that all the subjects of the British empire are bound not only by those laws in which they are expressly mentioned, but every law by the Parliament made, for what need is there to mention every individual of those for whom the law is made in general, every subject therefore of the British empire, upon this supposition, must be bound by every law of the British Parliament, unless expressly excepted.

Those that hold the subjects of Great-Britain, living without England or Scotland, are bound by every law in which they are mentioned, seem also clearly to hold, that the same persons are not bound by such laws in which they are not mentioned. Thus the alternative, that the subjects of the British empire must be subject to all or none of the laws of the British Parliament, is limited even by those who plead for an universal submission. He that is only bound to obey some laws, cannot be said to be bound by all laws, as, on the contrary, he that is bound to obey all laws, is excused in none.

I suppose, before the union with Scotland, none would have scrupled to call the English Parliament the supreme legislature of all the British empire, though Scotland was still an independent kingdom, and by the union Scotland and its Parliament was not swallowed up and absorbed by England and its Parliament, but united with the kingdom, and the Parliaments also of the two kingdoms united in one general legislature. The ecclesiastical laws and constitution also of each kingdom remains as it was before, i.e. entirely different from each other.

Perhaps it may not be amiss to conceive, that the authority of the Edition: current; Page: [275] British Parliament extends over the whole British nation, though the different respective subjects are not altogether alike affected by its laws: That, with regard to national trade, the power of making it most beneficial to the head and every branch of the empire is vested in the British Parliament, as the supreme power in the nation, and that all the British subjects every where have a right to be ruled by the known principles of their common constitution.

Next, it may be proper to take a nearer view how far, and in what manner, the acts of Parliament operate upon the different subjects of the British empire.

England doubtless is the first and primary object of the British Parliament, and therefore all laws immediately affect every resident in England; and of the king himself it has been said, Rex Angliæ in regno suo non habet superiorem nisi Deum & legem. Proceedings at law I take to be the same in England and England’s dependencies.

Scotland is united with England, and therefore there is a different operation of the laws that subsisted before and those that have been made since the union, and even these do not affect Scotland as of themselves; but in consequence of and in the terms of the union between the two nations, the union makes no alteration in proceedings at law, nor does it take away any private property.

Ireland is a distinct kingdom, and hath been conquered from the native Irish two or three times by the English; it hath nevertheless a Parliament of its own, and is a part of the British empire. It will best appear how far the British Parliament think Ireland dependent upon Great-Britain, by inserting, A Bill for the better securing of the Dependency of Ireland. The act was as follows:

Whereas attempts have lately been made to shake off the subjection of Ireland unto, and dependence upon the imperial crown of this realm, which will be of dangerous consequence to Great-Britain and Ireland. And whereas the House of Lords in Ireland, in order thereto, have, of late, against law, assumed to themselves a power and jurisdiction to examine, correct and amend, the judgment and decrees of the courts of justice in the kingdom of Ireland; therefore, for the better securing of the dependency of Ireland upon the crown of Great-Britain, may it please your Majesty, that it may be enacted, and it is hereby declared and enacted, by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, Edition: current; Page: [276] and by the authority of the same, That the said kingdom of Ireland hath been, is, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto, and dependent upon the imperial crown of Great-Britain, as being inseparably united and annexed thereunto, and that the King’s Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons of Great-Britain, in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the people and kingdom of Ireland.

And be it farther enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That the House of Lords of Ireland have not, nor of right ought to have, any jurisdiction to judge of, affirm, or reverse any judgment, sentence, or decree, given or made in any court within the said kingdom, and that all proceedings before the House of Lords upon any such judgment, sentence, or decree, are, and are hereby declared to be utterly null and void to all intents and purposes whatsoever.

The occasion of this bill was an appeal brought 1719 from the House of Peers in Ireland to the House of Peers in England. A Pitt was the first that spoke against it in the House of Commons, because, as he said, in his opinion it seemed calculated for no other purpose than to encrease the power of the British House of Peers, which in his opinion was already but too great. The duke of Leeds protested against it in the House of Lords, and gave fifteen reasons to support the claim of the House of Peers in Ireland. The bill however passed, though Mr. Hungerford, Lord Molesworth, Lord Tyrconel, and other members, endeavoured to shew, that Ireland was ever independent with respect to courts of judicature. Some proposals have several years ago been made to incorporate Ireland with Great-Britain, but without any effect.

The Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, though in ecclesiastical matters considered as a part of Hampshire, are under the direction of an assembly called the Convention of the States of Jersey, &c. The Isle of Man hath lately been annexed to the crown, but their own Manks laws still obtain in the island.

The British colonies and islands in America are not the least important part of the British empire; that these owe a constitutional dependence to the British Parliament I never heard they denied; though of late they have frequently been charged with it, these charges have not been grounded upon any declaration of theirs of the kind, their Edition: current; Page: [277] very petitioning, petitions and resolutions, manifestly speaking the very reverse; but their aversion to certain new duties, laid upon them for the sole purpose of raising a revenue, have been made a handle of against them, and they have as good as been charged, that they declare themselves an independent people. These insinuations the Americans are apt to look upon as being neither very fair nor very friendly; however at present I would only consider what kind of dependence is expected from the American colonies. An act of Parliament has fixed that of Ireland; a later act of the same power hath also fixed that of America, though, as will appear from the comparison, not altogether on the same footing. The act is entitled, An Act for the better securing the Dependency of his Majesty’s Dominions in America upon the Crown and Parliament of Great-Britain, and runs thus:

Whereas several of the Houses of Representatives in his Majesty’s colonies and plantations in America have of late, against law, claimed to themselves, or to the General Assemblies of the same, the sole and exclusive right of imposing duties and taxes upon his Majesty’s subjects in the said colonies and plantations, and, in pursuance of such claim, passed certain votes, resolutions and orders, derogatory to the legislative authority of Parliament, and inconsistent with the dependency of the said colonies and plantations upon the crown of Great-Britain, may it therefore please your most excellent Majesty, that it may be declared, and be it declared, by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in the present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That the said colonies and plantations in America have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto and dependent upon the imperial crown and Parliament of Great-Britain, and that the King’s Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, of Great-Britain, in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great-Britain, in all cases whatsoever.

And be it further declared and enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That all resolutions, votes, orders and proceedings, in any of the said colonies or plantations, whereby the power and authority of the Parliament of Great-Britain to make laws and statutes as aforesaid is denied, or drawn into question, are, and are hereby declared to be utterly null and void to all intents and purposes whatsoever.

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This is the standard of dependence which the Parliament of Great-Britain hath fixed for the British colonies on the 18th of March, 1766. The Stamp Act was repealed the same day, and the opinion of several noblemen who protested against that repeal was,

that this declaratory bill cannot possibly obviate the growing mischiefs in America, where it may seem calculated only to deceive the people of Great-Britain, by holding forth a delusive and nugatory affirmance of the legislative right of Great-Britain, whilst the enacting part of it does no more than abrogate the resolutions of the House of Representatives in the North-American colonies, which have not in themselves the least colour of authority, and declares that which is apparently and certainly criminal only null and void.

I presume I may venture to affirm, that in and by this act, the Parliament did not mean to set aside the constitution, infringe the liberties of British subjects, or to vindicate unto themselves an authority which it had not before, was known to have, and would always have had, though this act had never been made. I also find, that, in order to overset any act, law, resolution, or proceeding, of the colony assemblies, nothing seems necessary, but that the Parliament should declare it null and void to all intents and purposes whatsoever. And it seems pretty clear, that the same power that can disannul any act by a simple declaration, with one single stroke more, can also annihilate the body that made it.

The remark already made, that though all the different parts of the British empire are in a state of dependence upon the Parliament of Great-Britain, yet that the nature and degree of dependence is not exactly alike in the respective different parts of the same, will receive new strength and light, if we compare the act for better securing the dependency of Ireland with that for better securing the dependency of the colonies. Both acts, though at different times, have been made by the same authority, and for a similar purpose, and none can better tell us what kind and degree of dependency the Parliament expects and requires of its dependents than the Parliament itself.

The Irish is entitled in very general words, for the better securing the dependency of Ireland.

The title of the American law is more explicit; Ireland’s dependency is mentioned, but the dependency of the Americans is more clearly Edition: current; Page: [279] expressed, and said to be upon the crown and Parliament of Great-Britain. America seems to owe two dependencies, one to the crown, and one to the Parliament.

The preamble of the Irish bill brings no less a charge than an attempt to shake off subjection unto and dependence upon the imperial crown of Great-Britain.

The preamble of the American bill brings no such accusation, but only, that the Americans have claimed an exclusive right to lay on taxes on his majesty’s subjects within the colonies, and passed votes and resolutions derogatory to the legislative power of Parliament, and inconsistent with the dependency of the said colonies and plantations upon the crown (the word and Parliament is not made use of in this place) of Great-Britain. The principal differences between these bills seems to me to lie in this, that Ireland is said to be subject to and dependent only on the crown of Great-Britain, whereas America throughout is declared subject, at least dependent and subordinate, not only to the crown, but also to the Parliament of Great-Britain, and then Ireland is only declared dependent upon, and subordinate to, in very gentle terms, whereas the right of making laws to bind the Americans is expressed in these very strong, most extensive terms, in all cases whatsoever.

Time was when the dependency of the colonies upon England was spoke of exactly in the terms made use of for Ireland; the charter of this province saith, “our pleasure is, that the tenants and inhabitants of the said province be subject immediately to the crown of England, as depending thereof forever”; but by the late law all America is said to be dependent on crown and Parliament. This alteration seems to me by no means immaterial, but to imply a change both in the subjection expected from the colony and in the authority to which the colony owes dependency and subordination. In Parliament, king, lords, and commons, constitute the supreme power; but as each of these has its own distinct unalienable right, and incommunicable prerogatives, rights, or privileges, so I cannot but conceive dependency upon the crown and dependency upon crown and Parliament are things not exactly alike. If (as asserted in the charter) the colonies at some time or other were only dependent on the crown, and now are subordinate unto and dependent upon crown and Parliament, it should seem both the authority on which they depend, and the nature Edition: current; Page: [280] of their dependency, hath undergone some alteration; neither doth this appear to me a trifling alteration, and it seems to me at least if so it must needs make some alteration in the system of government and obedience.

Hitherto all appeals from the colonies, after passing thro’ chancery in America, have been made to the king in council; this I conceive must have been in consequence of the dependency of the colonies immediately upon the crown; but perhaps for the future appeals will not be carried to the king in council, but to the king and Parliament.

The crown has hitherto had a right of a negative upon all American laws, and they were obliged to be passed in America with a saving clause; but if, as is asserted in the declaratory bill, the king has a right and power to make laws to bind the Americans, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons of Great-Britain, assembled in Parliament, then probably the same authority must also concur to repeal the laws made in America, whereas the crown hitherto repealed any law made in America without asking or waiting for the consent of Lords and Commons.

It appears also, by a late act suspending the assembly of New-York, that the parliamentary authority also extends to suspend, which is but another word for proroguing or dissolving (or annihilating) assemblies; all which has hitherto been done by the crown without the interfering of Parliament: But that the crown hath a right of proroguing or dissolving the Parliament itself by its own authority I suppose will not be denied. I cannot dismiss this subject without observing, that even the declaratory bill speaks of the assemblies in America as Houses of Representatives. If it is allowed that they are represented in America, unless they are represented doubly, they cannot be represented any where else; this strikes at the root of virtual representation, and if representation is the basis of taxation, they cannot be taxed but where they are represented, unless they are doubly taxed, as well as doubly represented.

It is evident upon the whole, that a much greater degree of dependency and subordination is expected of America than of Ireland, though, by the way, Ireland, in the preamble of their bill, is charged with much greater guilt than America; nay, the words in all cases whatsoever are so exceeding extensive, that, in process of time, even Edition: current; Page: [281] hewing of wood, and drawing of water, might be argued to be included in them.

It was necessary to state the authority claimed by Parliament over America as clear and full as possible; with regard to the Americans it must be owned, when they profess to owe dependency and subordination to the British Parliament, they do not mean so extensive and absolute a dependency as here seems to be claimed, but that they think themselves in a constitutional manner dependent upon and in subordination to the crown and Parliament of Great-Britain, even those votes, resolutions, and proceedings, which are disannulled by the House of Commons and the declaratory bill, most fully and chearfully declare.

It has indeed been said, that unless they are subject to all the British acts in which they are mentioned, they are subject to none of any kind whatsoever, and consequently to be considered as independent of the legal and parliamentary power of Great-Britain; but I should think it might be as fairly and safely concluded, that while the Americans declare themselves subject to any one law of the British legislature, it cannot be said they declare themselves independent, or not subject to any law whatever.

In so delicate and important a matter, may I be permitted to observe, that the measure of power and of obedience in every country must be determined by the standard of its constitution. The dispute seems to lie between the Parliament and colonies; the Parliament will certainly be the sitting judges; I will not take upon me to say that the Americans may not look upon Parliament as judge and party; however, it is very possible for a judge to give a most righteous sentence, even where he himself is deeply interested, but they that are sufferers by the sentence will ever be apt to wish that he had not been party as well as judge.

From what hath been said hitherto, the due and constitutional authority of the British Parliament appears clear, and it does not less so I hope, that the subordination to and dependency on the British Parliament is not exactly the same in all the respective parts of that extensive empire; perhaps this will appear with still greater evidence by taking a particular view of the subject of taxation.

Any unlimited power and authority may lay on the subjects any Edition: current; Page: [282] tax it pleaseth; the subjects in that case themselves are mere property, and doubtless their substance and labour must be at their disposal who have the disposal of their persons. This is the case in arbitrary governments; but the British empire is an empire of freemen, no power is absolute but that of the laws, and, as hath been asserted, of such laws to which they that are bound by them have themselves consented.

Did the power and authority of the British Parliament in point of taxation extend in the same manner over all its dependencies, e.g. the same over Scotland as over England, over Ireland in the same manner as over Scotland, over Guernsey and Jersey as over Ireland, &c. then the very same act which lays a general tax would lay it also at the same time upon all over whom that authority extends. The laws of every legislature are supposed to extend to and be made over all within their jurisdiction, unless they are expressly excepted. Thus an excise law extends to all the British kingdom, because it is a publick law, but acts have frequently been made to lay on a penny Scots on beer, which, being for a local purpose, cannot operate on the whole kingdom. The same I believe may be said with regard to the method of recovering small debts; it seems absurd to say, that any supreme legislature makes an unlimited law which at the same time is designed not to be binding upon the greatest part of the subjects within that empire. Was it ever known that the land tax being laid on the whole united kingdom, the bishoprick of Durham, and the manor of East-Greenwich, were not also supposed to be included? and if any part within the immediate jurisdiction, and equally dependent on the same legislature, should be designed to be excused from, or not liable to pay a general tax, would it not be absolutely necessary that such a place should be expressly excepted? If, because America is a part of the British empire, it is as much so, or in the same manner is a part of it, as is the bishoprick of Durham, or the manor of East-Greenwich, nothing can be plainer than that it must be affected by every tax that is laid just in the same manner and proportion as is the bishoprick of Durham, or manor of East-Greenwich. This hath not been the case, nor thought to be the case hitherto. Ireland and America have not been called upon to pay the British land tax, malt tax, nor indeed any tax in which they have not been expressly mentioned; the reason of which I presume must be, either that the British Edition: current; Page: [283] Parliament did not look upon them as any part of the kingdom of Great-Britain, or else did not think them liable to any tax in which they were not expressly mentioned. If any subjects of the British empire are not liable to any or every tax laid on by the British Parliament, it must be either because they are not liable by the constitution (as not being represented), or because they are excused by the favour of Parliament; if they are not liable by the privileges of the constitution, their not being compelled to pay is no favour, the contrary would be oppression and an anticonstitutional act; if they have been hitherto excused by the lenity of the British Parliament, it must be owned the Parliament bore harder on those who were made to pay those taxes than on those who by their lenity only were excused.

The noble lords who protested against the repeal of the Stamp Act observe,

it appears to us, that a most essential part of that authority (sc. the whole legislative authority of Great-Britain, without any distinction or reserve whatsoever), the power of legislation, cannot be properly, equitably, or impartially exercised, if it does not extend itself to all the members of the state in proportion to their respective abilities, but suffers a part to be exempt from a due share of those burdens which the publick exigencies require to be imposed upon the whole: A partiality which is directly and manifestly repugnant to the trust reposed by the people in every legislature, and destructive of that confidence on which all government is founded.

If in the opinion of these noblemen, therefore, it is partiality to suffer any part of the state to be exempt from a due share of those burdens which the publick exigencies require should be imposed upon the whole, it would also seem to be a species of partiality, to lay a burden on any part of the state which the other parts of the same state are not equally bound to bear. Partial burdens, or partial exemptions, would doubtless affect those that are burdened or exempted in a very different manner; but if not extending alike to the whole, must still be looked upon as partial. And if this partiality is inconsistent with the trust reposed by the people in every legislature, it would also seem that the legislature could not lay any burdens but as entrusted by the people who chose them to be their representatives and a part of the legislature. We may hence also learn what is to be expected, if every other part of the British empire, England and Scotland only Edition: current; Page: [284] excepted, have hitherto been exempted from the taxes paid in England, which it must be owned are very heavy, by mere favour; or, as some seem to express it, “flagrant partiality and injustice”; their being indulged time immemorial will not be deemed a sufficient plea to excuse them always, but with an impartial hand the very same taxes that now obtain in Great-Britain will be laid upon Ireland, America, Jersey, Guernsey, the Mediterranean, African and East-India settlements, and, in short, on every individual part of the British empire. Whether a design to do this be not ripening apace I will not take upon me to say, but whenever it does, it must make some alteration in the policy of the mother and infant state, nay in the system of the whole British empire.

There are several parts of the British empire that pay no tax at all; this I take to be the case of Gibraltar, Minorca, Newfoundland, East-Florida, and all the African and East-India settlements, &c. The reason is, that all these places have no legislature of their own, and consequently none to give or dispose of their property; had these places been taxed by Parliament, there might however this reason been given, that having no representatives within themselves, and having never contributed any thing to the publick burdens, though they all receive protection, perhaps greater than the American colonies, the Parliament supplied that defect; but this cannot be urged against the colonies, who both have legislatures, and also contributed to the publick burdens, and that so liberally, that even the crown and Parliament thought they had exerted themselves beyond their abilities, and for several years gave them some compensation. I may mention those parts of the British empire as striking instances, that where there is no representation, taxation hath not been thought of, and yet Newfoundland, which is not taxed at all, is certainly as much represented in Parliament as all the colonies, which are designed to be doubly taxed.

By the constitution taxes are in the nature of a free gift of the subjects to the crown; regulations of trade are measures to secure and improve the trade of the whole nation. There is no doubt but regulations may be made to ruin as well as to improve trade; yet without regulations trade cannot subsist, but must suffer and sink; and it seems no where more proper to lodge the power of making these regulations than in the highest court of the empire; yet a man may trade Edition: current; Page: [285] or not, he may buy or let it alone; if merchandizes are rated so high that they will not suit him to purchase, though it may be an inconvenience, yet there is no law to compel him to buy; to rate the necessaries of life, without which a man cannot well do, beyond their real value, and hinder him at the same time from purchasing them reasonably of others, is scarce consistent with freedom; but when duties are laid on merchandizes not to regulate trade, but for the express and sole purpose of raising a revenue, they are to all intents and purposes equal to any tax, but they can by no means be called the free gift of those who never helped to make the law, but, as far as in them lay, ever looked upon it as an unconstitutional grievance.

If taxes are a free gift of the people to the crown, then the crown hath no right to them but what is derived from the givers. It may be absolutely necessary that the subject should give, but still he that is to give must be supposed the judge both of that necessity, and how much he may be able and ought to give upon every necessary occasion. No man can give what is not his own, and therefore the constitution hath placed this right to judge of the necessity, and of what is to be given, in the Commons as the representatives of all those who are to give, in vesting a right in them to give publick supplies to the crown; it did not, could not mean to invest them with any power to give what neither belongs to them, nor those whom they represent; and therefore, as no man constitutionally “owes obedience to any law to which he has not assented either in person or by his representative”; much less doth the constitution oblige any man to part with his property, but freely and by his own consent; what those who are representatives are not willing to give, no power in Great-Britain hath any right violently to take, and for a man to have his property took from him under pretence of a law that is not constitutional, would not be much better than to have it took from him against the express consent of those whom he constitutionally made his representatives.

It is held a maxim, that in government a proportion ought to be observed between the share in the legislature and the burden to be borne. The Americans pretend to no share in the legislature of Great-Britain at all, but they hope they have never forfeited their share in the constitution.

Every government supposes rule and protection from the governors, support and obedience from those that are governed; from these Edition: current; Page: [286] duly tempered arises the prerogative of the crown and the liberty of the subject; but he that has not a right to his own hath no property, and he that must part with his property by laws against his consent, or the consent of the majority of the people, has no liberty. The British constitution is made to secure liberty and property; whatever takes away these takes away the constitution itself, and cannot be constitutional.

To form a clear judgment on the power of taxation, it must be enquired on what right that power is grounded. It is a fundamental maxim of English law, that there is a contract between the crown and subjects; if so, the crown cannot lay on any tax, or any other burden, on the subject, but agreeable to the original contract by authority of Parliament; neither can the Lords properly concur, or the Commons frame a tax bill for any other purpose but the support of the crown and government, consistent with the original contract between that and the people.

All subjects are dependent on and subordinate to the government under which they live. An Englishman in France must observe the laws of France; but it cannot be said that the dependency and subordination in England is the same as dependency and subordination in France. In governments where the will of the sovereign is the supreme law, the subjects have nothing to give, their all is in the disposal of the government; there subjects pay, but having nothing of their own cannot give; but in England the Commons give and grant. This implies both a free and voluntary act, and that they give nothing but their own property.

Though every part of the British empire is bound to support and promote the advantage of the whole, it is by no means necessary that this should be done by a tax indiscriminately laid on the whole; it seems sufficient that every part should contribute to the support of the whole as it may be best able, and as may best suit with the common constitution.

I have before observed the different degree of dependency on the mother state; I shall now review the same again, with a particular regard to imposing or paying taxes, and if a material difference hath always obtained in this respect, it will confirm my assertion, that every branch of the British empire is not affected by the tax laws of Great-Britain in the self same manner.

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The Parliament has a right to tax, but this right is not inherent to the members of it as men; I mean, the members of Parliament are not (like the Senate of Venice) so many rulers who have each of them a native and inherent right to be the rulers of the people of England, or even their representatives; they do not meet together as a court of proprietors to consider their common interest, and agree with one another what tax they will lay on those over whom they bear rule, or whom they represent, but they only exercise that right which nature hath placed in the people in general, and which, as it cannot conveniently be exercised by the whole people, these have lodged in some of their body chosen from among themselves, and they themselves, for that purpose, and empowered for a time only to transact the affairs of the whole, and to agree in their behalf on such supplies as it may be necessary to furnish unto the crown for the support of its dignity, and the necessities and protection of the people.

It would be absurd to say, that the crown hath a right to lay on a tax, for as taxes are granted to the crown, so in this case the crown should make a grant to itself, and hence the bill of rights expressly asserts, that the levying of money for or to the use of the crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for a longer time or in any other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal; hence also there is a material difference between money bills and all other laws. The king and lords cannot make any amendment in money bills, as the House of Lords frequently doth in all others, but must accept or refuse them such as they are offered by the Commons, the constitutional reason of which is very obvious, it is the people only that give, and therefore giving must be the sole act of those by whom the givers are represented. The crown cannot take till it is given, and they that give cannot give but on their own behalf, and of those whom they represent; nay even then they cannot give but in a constitutional manner; they cannot give the property of those they represent without giving their own also exactly in the same proportion; every bill must be equally binding upon all whom they represent, and upon every one that is a representative.

Every representative in Parliament is not a representative for the whole nation, but only for the particular place for which he hath been chosen. If any are chosen for a plurality of places, they can make their election only for one of them. The electors of Middlesex Edition: current; Page: [288] cannot chuse a representative but for Middlesex, and as the right of sitting depends entirely upon the election, it seems clear to demonstration, that no member can represent any but those by whom he hath been elected; if not elected he cannot represent them, and of course not consent to any thing in their behalf. While Great-Britain’s representatives do not sit assembled in Parliament, no tax whatever can be laid by any power on Great-Britain’s inhabitants; it is plain therefore, that without representation there can be no taxation. If representation arises entirely from the free election of the people, it is plain that the elected are not representatives in their own right, but by virtue of their election; and it is not less so, that the electors cannot confer any right on those whom they elect but what is inherent in themselves; the electors of London cannot confer or give any right to their members to lay a tax on Westminster, but the election made of them doubtless empowers them to agree to or differ from any measures they think agreeable or disagreeable to their constituents, or the kingdom in general. If the representatives have no right but what they derive from their electors and election, and if the electors have no right to elect any representatives but for themselves, and if the right of sitting in the House of Commons arises only from the election of those designed to be representatives, it is undeniable, that the power of taxation in the House of Commons cannot extend any further than to those who have delegated them for that purpose; and if none of the electors in England could give a power to those whom they elected to represent or tax any other part of his majesty’s dominions except themselves, it must follow, that when the Commons are met, they represent no other place or part of his majesty’s dominions, and cannot give away the property but of those who have given them a power so to do by choosing them their representatives.

The Parliament hath the sole right to lay on taxes, and, as hath been observed in Parliament, ’tis not the king and lords that give and grant, but this is the sole act of the Commons. The Commons have the right to do so either from the crown or people, or it is a right inherent in themselves. It cannot be inherent in themselves, for they are not born representatives, but are so by election, and that not for life, but only for a certain time; neither can they derive it from the crown, else the liberty and property of the subject must be entirely in the disposal and possession of the crown; but if they hold it entirely Edition: current; Page: [289] from the people, they cannot hold it from any other people but those who have chosen them to be their representatives, and it should seem they cannot extend their power of taxing beyond the limits of time and place, nor indeed for any other purpose but that for which they have been chosen. As the Commons in Parliament cannot lay any tax but what they must pay themselves, and falls equally on the whole kingdom of England, so, by a fundamental law, they cannot lay out such a part of the general tax on some part of the united kingdom. The principality of Wales was never taxed by Parliament till it was incorporated and represented, and, poor as it is, it pays now considerably larger than Scotland, which is as big again. When England is taxed two millions in the land tax, no more is paid in Scotland than 48,000l. and yet to lay a higher land tax on North-Britain the British Parliament cannot, it cannot without breaking the union, that is, a fundamental law of the kingdom. All the right it hath to tax Scotland arises from and must be executed in the terms of the union.*

The Islands of Guernsey, &c. are not taxed by the British Parliament at all, they still have their own States, and I never heard that the British Parliament ever offered to hinder them to lay on their own taxes, or to lay on additional ones, where they are not represented.

Ireland is a conquered kingdom, the greater part of its inhabitants Papists, who in England pay double tax. The Romans always made a difference between their colonies and their conquests, and as reasonable, allowed greater and indeed all common liberties to the former. Ireland hath been conquered twice again upon the natives since its first conquest, nevertheless it hitherto had its own legislature; if the Parliament of Great-Britain claims a right to tax them, they never yet Edition: current; Page: [290] have made use of that right, and seeing for ages past they enjoyed the privilege of having their own property disposed of by representatives in a Parliament of their own, it is very natural to suppose, that they think themselves entitled to these things, and the more so, because, in the very bill that determines their dependency, they are not said to be dependent on the British Parliament, nor yet on crown and Parliament, but only on the crown of Great-Britain.

I would now proceed to take a distinct view of the point in debate between Great-Britain and her colonies.

It seems to be a prevailing opinion in Great-Britain, that the Parliament hath a right to tax the Americans, and that, unless they have so, America would be independent of Great-Britain.

And it seems to be a prevailing opinion in America, that to be taxed without their consent, and where they are not and cannot be represented, would deprive them of the rights of Englishmen, nay, in time, with the loss of the constitution, would deprive them of liberty and property altogether.

It is easily seen, that this is a very interesting subject, the consequences in each case very important, though in neither so alarming and dangerous to Britain as to America. With regard to Great-Britain, if it should not prove so as is claimed, the consequence can only be this, that then no tax can be laid, or revenue be raised, on the Americans, but where they are represented, and in a manner which they think consistent with their natural rights as men, and with their civil and constitutional liberties as Britons. The dependency of America upon Great-Britain will be as full and firm as ever, and they will chearfully comply with the requisitions of the crown in a constitutional manner. The question is not, whether the Americans will withdraw their subordination, or refuse their assistance, but, whether they themselves shall give their own property, where they are legally represented, or, whether the Parliament of Great-Britain, which does not represent them, shall take their property, and dispose of it in the same manner as they do theirs whom in Parliament they actually represent. The Americans do not plead for a right to withhold, but freely and chearfully to give. If 100,000l. are to be raised, the question is not, shall they be raised or no? but shall the Parliament levy so much upon the Americans, and order them to pay it, as a gift and grant of the Commons of Great-Britain to the king? or, shall the Americans Edition: current; Page: [291] also have an opportunity to shew their loyalty and readiness to serve the king by freely granting it to the king themselves? It is not to be denied the Americans apprehend, that if any power, no matter what the name, where they are not represented, hath a right to lay a tax on them at pleasure, all their liberty and property is at an end, and they are upon a level with the meanest slaves.

England will not lose a shilling in point of property; the rights and privileges of the good people of Britain will not be in the least affected, supposing the claim of the Americans just and to take place; whereas every thing dreadful appears in view to the Americans if it should turn out otherwise. The crown cannot lose; the Americans are as willing to comply with every constitutional requisition as the British Parliament itself can possibly be. The Parliament cannot lose, it will still have all the power and authority it hitherto had, and ought to have had, and when every branch of the legislature, and every member of the British empire, has a true regard to reciprocal duty, prerogative and privilege, the happiness of the whole is best likely to be secured and promoted.

The Americans most solemnly disclaim every thought, and the very idea of independency; they are sometimes afraid they are charged with a desire of it, not because this appears to be the real cause, but to set their arguments in an invidious light, and to make them appear odious in the sight of their mother country. This is not a dispute about a punctilio, the difference in the consequence is amazingly great; supposing America is not taxed where not represented, and supposing things are left upon the same footing in which with manifest advantage to Britain and America they have been ever since Britain had colonies, neither the trade nor authority of Britain suffers the least diminution, but the mischief to the colonies is beyond all expression, if the contrary should take place. If they are not to raise their own taxes, all their assemblies become useless in a moment, all their respective legislatures are annihilated at a stroke; an act passed by persons, most of whom probably never saw, nor cared much for America, may destroy all the acts they ever passed, may lay every burden upon them under which they are not expected immediately to sink, and all their civil and religious liberties, for which their forefathers went into this wilderness, and, under the smiles of heaven, turned it into a garden, and of immense consequence to the mother Edition: current; Page: [292] country, will, or may be at an end at once. Probably the present Parliament or generation would never carry matters to this length, but who knows what might be done in the next? The first settlers of the American wilds never expected that would come to pass what we have seen already. It seems as if some evil genius had prevailed of late; had these new duties been laid on payable in England, at least the expence of a board of commissioners, and of the swarms of new officers, might have been prevented; but it looks as though some men wished that America might not only be borne hard upon, but also be made to know and feel that their liberty and property lay at the mercy of others, and that they must not flatter themselves to enjoy them any longer than the good pleasure of some who would willingly take away what they never did give. I have endeavoured candidly to state the question, let us now endeavour to view the claim made on each side as calmly and impartially as possible.

’Tis said the British Parliament hath a right to tax the Americans. If this proposition is incontrovertible, it must certainly be built on such a basis and such clear principles as will be sufficient to dispose loyal and reasonable men chearfully to acquiesce in it. There are some points in government which perhaps are best never touched upon, but when any question once becomes the subject of publick debate, strength of reason is the sole authority that with men of reason can determine the matter.

If the Parliament of Great-Britain have a right to tax the Americans, it must either be the same right in virtue of which they have a right to tax Great-Britain, and be vested in them by the same power, or it must be a distinct right either inherent in themselves, or vested in them by some other power.

The right of the Commons of Great-Britain to lay on taxes arises, as I conceive, from their having been chosen by the people who are to pay these taxes to act in their behalf and as their representatives. There may be other qualifications necessary, that a man be a Briton born, subject of the king, possessed of a certain estate, &c. but none is so absolutely necessary as election. He that hath been a representative had a right to refuse or concur in any tax bill whilst a member, but if he is not chosen again in a following Parliament, he hath no right whatever to meddle in the matter; this proves that the power is originally in the people, and the legislative capacity of the whole Edition: current; Page: [293] house, and of every member, depends upon their free election, and is of force no longer than for the time for which they have been elected; this being elapsed, the trust reposed in them entirely ceases, it absolutely returns to the body of the people; in that interval during which the people are unrepresented, any power their representatives might have is entirely and solely in the people themselves, no tax can be laid on, nor any law to bind the people be formed, for this plain reason, because there are no persons qualified for that purpose. The people have not representatives assigned, but chuse them, and being so chosen, the rights of the people reside now in them, and they may, but not before, act in their behalf. Now, when the crown issues writs of election, it is not to empower the electors to chuse representatives for America, nor yet for all Great-Britain, but only for some certain place specified in the writ; and when the electors of Great-Britain chuse representatives, their meaning also is not to chuse representatives for their fellow subjects in America, or any where else, but for themselves. In Great-Britain English electors cannot elect in behalf of Scotland, and Scotch electors cannot in behalf of England; and for the same reason neither Scotch nor English can elect any for America. These electors do not represent the Americans, nor are they their proxies to vote in members in their behalf; neither can British electors give any instructions to British representatives, or invest them with any power to dispose of the rights and property of any of their fellow subjects without the kingdom of Great-Britain. It seems not unreasonable then to conclude, that the right which the elected acquire by their election to pass tax laws binding upon their electors does not at the same time give them a right to represent and lay on taxes on those who never invested them with any such power, and by whom they neither were nor could be elected. If the Americans themselves are not received as voters in the bishoprick of Durham, manor of East-Greenwich, or any place mentioned in their charters, and the same liberty and privileges with those places therein secured unto them, if they are not allowed to chuse any representatives for themselves in the House of Commons, it seems natural, that what they have no right to do themselves, none can have a right to do for them, and so no body can chuse or send a representative for them to any place where they are not allowed to sit or be represented. If so, the electors of Great-Britain never in fact elected representatives for Edition: current; Page: [294] America, nor could these electors possibly convey any power to give away property where they have no property themselves. The electors do not represent America, neither their representatives by them elected; the electors cannot dispose of the property of America, therefore they cannot give a power so to do unto others. In England there can be no taxation without representation, and no representation without election; but it is undeniable that the representatives of Great-Britain are not elected by nor for the Americans, and therefore cannot represent them; and so, if the Parliament of Great-Britain has a right to tax America, that right cannot possibly be grounded on the consideration that the people of Great-Britain have chosen them their representatives, without which choice they would be no Parliament at all.

If the Parliament of Great-Britain has a right to tax the Americans distinct from the right which they derive from their electors, and which they exercise as the representatives of the people of Great-Britain, then this right they must hold either from the crown, or from the Americans, or else it must be a native inherent right in themselves, at least a consequence of their being representatives of the people of Great-Britain.

It is plain that the colonies have been settled by authority and under the sanction of the crown, but as the crown did not reserve unto itself a right to rule over them without their own assemblies, but on the contrary established legislatures among them, as it did not reserve a right to lay taxes on them in a manner which, were the experiment made in England, might be thought unconstitutional, so neither do I find that a reserve of that kind was made by the crown in favour of the Parliament, on the contrary, by the charters all the inhabitants were promised the enjoyment of the same and all privileges of his majesty’s liege subjects in England, of which doubtless not to be taxed where they are not represented is one of the principal. As to any right that might accrue to Parliament from any act or surrender of the Americans, I believe it hath never been thought of; they have a profound veneration for the British Parliament, they look upon it as the great palladium of the British liberties, but still they are not there represented, they have had their own legislatures and representatives for ages past, and as a body cannot be more than in one place at once, they think they cannot be legally represented in more than one legislative body, but also think, that by the laws of England Protestants Edition: current; Page: [295] ought not to be doubly taxed, or, what they think worse, taxed in two places.

If therefore this right of taxing the Americans resides in the Commons of Great-Britain at all, it must be an inherent right in themselves, or at least in consequence of their being representatives of the people of Great-Britain. The act for better securing the dependency of the colonies, which I have inserted at large, evidently seems to tend this way. That the colonies were thought at the disposal of Parliament one might be led to think, because by that act, from the simple authority of the crown, which they were till then subject to by their charters, they were now declared to be subordinate to and dependent (on the joint authority) of crown and Parliament. Yet, concerning this act, I would only observe, that however it may determine the case from that day, it cannot be the ground on which the subordination of the colonies originally was or now can be built; for it declares not only, that the colonies are and ought to be, but also that they always have been, subject to crown and Parliament. A law binds after it is made, it cannot bind before it exists, and so surely it cannot be said, that the colonies have always been bound by a law which is above a hundred years posterior to them in point of existence. It is also a little difficult to reconcile this law with prior charters; our Carolina charter makes our province subject immediately to the crown, and near a hundred years after a law is made to declare, that this was not and must not be the case, but that the Americans always were and ought to be subject to crown and Parliament. Perhaps this hath not been so seriously considered as it may hereafter, but neither this nor any law can be supposed to be binding ex post facto, or contrary to our fundamental constitution. Montesquieu observes, that the British constitution (which God preserves) will be lost, whenever the legislative power shall be more corrupted than the executive part of the legislature.

And after all, in this very law, the Americans are allowed to be represented in their own assemblies, and to lay on duties and taxes, though not exclusively; but whether America, or any part of the British empire, should be liable to have taxes imposed on them by different legislatures, and whether these would not frequently clash with one another to the detriment of crown and subjects, I leave others duly to consider.

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It is said, if America cannot be taxed by the British Parliament, then it would be independent of Great-Britain. This is now a very popular cry, and it is well if many join in it only because they know no better. This is not, will not, cannot be the case. America confessedly hath not been thus taxed since it was settled; but no body in Britain or America ever dreamed that America was independent. In England the people cannot be taxed when the Parliament does not sit, or when it is dissolved; are they then therefore independent[?] Scotland cannot be taxed in the same degree as England; is it therefore independent? Ireland and Jersey have their own legislatures, and so tax themselves; will you call them independent? All those parts of the British empire that have no assemblies pay no taxes at all, neither among themselves, nor to Great-Britain; but it will not therefore be said, that they are independent. The Parliament itself claims a right to refuse supplies till their grievances are heard and redressed, this is looked upon as a constitutional remedy against any encroachments by the crown, and hath very often been made use of in for her reigns, and yet the Parliament neither claimed nor were charged with a desire of independency. Those who so freely charge with a desire of independency, and even treason and rebellion, would do well to consider, that this charge, heinous as it is, reflects greater disgrace on those who unjustly make it, than on those on whom it is unjustly made. A man of honour would not easily forgive himself whenever he should discover that he made so rash a charge against two millions of people, as innocent, loyal, and well affected to their King and country, as any of his fellow subjects or himself possibly can be. There never was an American Jacobite, the very air of America is death to such monsters, never any grew there, and if any are transported, or import themselves, loss of speech always attends them. The loyalty of the Americans to their king hath not only been ever untainted, it hath never been as much as suspected. There is a difference between independency and uneasiness. In the late reign, the people in England were uneasy at the Jew bill, and it was rapidly repealed; in the present, the Cyder Act was an odious measure, and immediately altered, and that without any disgrace or diminution of parliamentary authority. If there hath been any appearance of riot in America, perhaps it may hereafter appear at whose instigation, the Edition: current; Page: [297] law was ever open, and even overbearing odious custom-house officers might have been redressed, if they had thought fit to apply for a legal rather than a military remedy. In England it is possible majesty itself hath met with indignities which have not been shewn in America even to those men to whom the nation in general is indebted for the present uneasiness, and it is not improbable, that, after all that hath been said and done, the Americans will be found an exception to the general rule, that oppression makes even a wise man mad: An ancient rule, the truth of which hath been experienced in England oftener than in America. The opinion of the Americans is, that to be taxed where they are not represented would deprive them of the rights of Englishmen, nay, in time, with the loss of the constitution, might and must deprive them of liberty and property altogether. These it must be owned are gloomy apprehensions; two millions of people are so thoroughly prepossessed with them, that even their children unborn may feel the parents impressions; should there be any real ground for them, the Americans can hardly be blamed; they sit uneasy under them; they can no more help their uneasiness, than deny the blood which flows in their veins, or be angry with the milk that was their first nourishment. This is not a dark abstruse point, but seems plain and essential to the very being of liberty. The sole question is, Is it, or is it not, the right of an Englishman not to be taxed where he is not represented? Can you be tired of being represented, O Britons! Is it consistent with the constitution you so justly boast of to be thus taxed? Then representation is not essential to your constitution, and sooner or later you will either give it up or be deprived of it. A borough that does not exist shall send two representatives, a single county, neither the largest nor richest, shall send forty-four members, and two millions of souls, and an extent of land of eighteen hundred miles in length, shall have taxes laid on them by such as never were nearer to them than one thousand leagues, and whose interest it may be to lay heavy burdens on them in order to lighten their own. And are these, who are thus taxed, unrepresented, unheard and unknown, Englishmen, and taxed by Englishmen? Do these enjoy what the charters most solemnly ensure them, the same and all the privileges of the subjects born and resident within the realm? I must doubt it.

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Let those who make light of American grievances give a plain answer to this plain question, Are the colonies to be taxed by Parliament represented in Parliament? if they are, by whom, or since when? if not, once more, Is it, or is it not, the right of Britons not to be taxed where not represented? Here the whole matter hinges, and surely the question is not so impertinent but a civil answer might be given before a mother sends fire and sword into her own bowels. When constitutional liberty is once lost, the transit is very short to the loss of property; the same power that may deprive of the one may also deprive of the other, and with equal justice; those that have not liberty enough to keep their property in reality have no property to keep. Some that look no further build right upon power, and insist the Parliament can do so. If power is all that is meant very like it may, so it may alter the constitution. If a stately tree should take umbrage at some diminutive shrubs, it can fall upon and crush them, but it cannot fall upon them without tearing up its own roots; it can crush those within reach, but its own branches will take off the weight of the impression, permit the shrubs to send forth new shoots, while there is no great probability that the envious oak will return to its former stand and vigour. C’est une chose a bien considerer (this ought to be well considered first), said Moliere’s Malade imaginaire, when his quack proposed to him to have one of his arms cut off, because it took some of the nourishment which in that case would center in the other, and make it so much the stronger. If every assembly in America is suspended, the consequence must be, that the people are without their usual legislature, and in that case nothing short of a miracle seems capable to prevent an anarchy and general confusion. No power can alter the nature of things, that which is wrong cannot be right, and oppression will never be productive of the love and smiles of those that feel it.

The Parliament can crush the Americans, but it can also, and with infinitely greater certainty and ease, conciliate their affections, have the ultimate gain of all their labours, and by only continuing them the privileges of Britons, that is, by only doing as they would be done by, diffuse the blessings of love and concord throughout the whole empire, and to the latest posterity; and which of these two is the most eligible, is it now for you, O Britons! to consider, and in Edition: current; Page: [299] considering it, majores vestros cogitate & posteres, think on your ancestors and your posterity.

Those whom God hath joined together (Great-Britain and America, Liberty and Loyalty), let no man put asunder: And may peace and prosperity ever attend this happy union.
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John Allen
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John Allen (fl. 1764–1774). For a time attributed to Isaac Skillman, but later identified by scholars as the work of Allen, An Oration went through seven printings and five editions within two years and became very popular in the four cities where it was reprinted. Its fiery author, called “that strange itinerant Baptist” by Bernard Bailyn and “New England’s Tom Paine” by scholars John M. Bumsted and Charles E. Clark (William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 21) is little known.

He first appears in 1764 as pastor of the Particular Baptist Church in Petticoat Lane, near Spitalfields, London. He lost this post around 1767 and was tried for and acquitted of forgery in 1769 (events that followed him to America). He then published The Spirit of Liberty (1770), pleading the case of John Wilkes, urging that he be restored to his seat in Parliament or that the unconstitutional house be dissolved for abridging English liberties. This work, published in England under the pseudonym Junius, Junior, had as its chief purpose to expound “upon the rights of the people, and more particularly upon the perfect law of liberty of those ancient people called Christians,” most especially of Baptists, to Allen the source of true religion’s historical tradition.

Allen next appears in America, where he delivers this thanksgiving sermon on December 3, 1772, in the pulpit of the Second Baptist Church in Boston. The Gaspee affair (a schooner burned in June 1772) was the political occasion. A strong admixture of political theory and theology had by then become customary for Boston congregations, but it was less usual in Baptist churches; by any standard Allen was radical for the time. An Oration—published along with another pamphlet by Allen (The American Alarm) that was also aimed at arbitrary power—urged readers to “Engrave the motto!—May it be thus: Liberty, Life, or Death!” Allen’s final appearance before lapsing back into obscurity came in 1774 with publication of The Watchman’s Alarm in Salem. He may have died in 1789.

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To the Right-Honourable
the Earl of Dartmouth
My Lord,

When I view the original right, power and charter, confirm’d, sealed, and ratified to the province, or inhabitants of Rhode-Island, and its standing in full force, and unrepealed for more than an hundred years, which is as follows: “Be it enacted, that no freeman, shall be taken, or imprisoned, or deprived of his freehold, or liberty, or free custom, or be out-law’d, or exil’d, or otherwise destroy’d, nor shall be oppressed, judged or condemned, but by the law of this colony. And that no man of what state or condition soever, shall be put out of his lands or tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor banished (observe this my Lord), nor any ways destroy’d, or molested, without being, for it, brought to answer, by a due course of law of this colony”: Methinks, that even your Lordship, will not blame them if they stand fast in the liberty wherein they were made free.

As a fly, or a worm, by the law of nature has as great a right to liberty, and freedom (according to their little sphere in life), as the most potent monarch upon the earth: And as there can be no other difference between your Lordship, and myself, but what is political, I therefore without any further apology, take leave to ask your Lordship, whether any one that fears God, loves his neighbour as himself (which is the true scripture-mark of a christian), will oppress his fellow-creatures? If they will, where are the beauties of Christianity? Not to be seen in this life, however they may be seen in the next.

I have seen what is said to be an authenticated copy of your Lordship’s letter to the governor of Rhode-Island, in which there are such dictations, directions, and possitive commands, to oppress, with tyranny, a free people, which is inconsistent with a good man, or a Christian to have any concern or agency therein. The law of God directs us to do unto others, as we would they should do unto us. And knowing that your Lordship is well acquainted with the divine oracles, having had the honour to dine at your Lordship’s seat, in Staffordshire, and was, when in England, personally acquainted with Edition: current; Page: [306] Mr. Wright, your Lordship’s steward, and with the good and pious character your Lordship bears, I therefore take this leave (as a fellow-christian, as one that loves, as the highest happiness of his existence, the beauties, spirit, and life of Christianity), to ask your Lordship, how your Lordship would like to have his birth-right, liberty and freedom, as an Englishman, taken away by his king, or by the ministry, or both? Would not your Lordship immediately say, it was tyranny, oppression and distruction, by a dispotic power? Would not your Lordship be ready to alarm the nation, and point out the state upon the brink of distruction?

My Lord,

Are not the liberties of the Americans as dear to them as those of Britons? Suppose your Lordship had broke the laws of his king, and country; would not your Lordship be willing to be try’d by a jury of your peers, according to the laws of the land? How would your Lordship like to be fetter’d with irons, and drag’d three thousand miles, in a hell upon earth? No! but in a hell upon water,* to take your trial? is not this contrary to the spirit of the law, and the rights of an Englishman? Yet thus you have given direction, as the king’s agent or the agent of the ministry to destroy the rights and laws of the Americans. How your Lordship can answer for this agency of injustice before God, and man, will be very difficult: However, if great men, and good men, and Christians can dare to do such things as these (when in power), heaven grant that I may have an acquaintance with them in this world; or if they have any power in heaven, not in the world to come; for I think, my Lord, that such men, who will take away the rights of any people, are neither fit for heaven; nor earth, neither fit for the land or the dunghil.

Your Lordship lets us know that the case of burning the Gaspee schooner has been laid before the law servants of the crown, and that they make the crime of a deeper die than piracy, namely, an act of high treason, and levying a war against the king.

Well my Lord, and supposing this to be the case, are not the Rhode-Islanders subjects to the king of Great-Britain? Has not the king his attorney, his courts of judicatory to decide matters between Edition: current; Page: [307] the king and the subjects? Why then must there be new courts of admiralty erected to appoint and order the inhabitants to be confin’d, and drag’d away three thousand miles, from their families, laws, rights and liberties, to be tried by their enemies? Do you think my Lord, this is right in the sight of God and man? I think if the Rhode-Islanders suffer this infringement of their liberties, granted them by their charter, from the king of England, any place out of hell is good enough for them, for was there ever such cruelty, injustice and barbarity ever united against free people before, and my Lord Dartmouth to have an hand in it, from whom we might rather have expected mildness, mercy, and the rights of the people supported.

Your Lordship’s letter frequently reminds us that this destructive authority (to destroy the lives and liberties of the people), is his majesty’s will and pleasure. How far his majesty may be influenc’d and dictated by his ministry I will not take upon me to say, but that it is his majesty’s will and pleasure of his own mind and consent, I will not believe a word of it, for his majesty is a person of more tenderness and understanding, than to attempt such tyranny, besides, his attempt to destroy the rights of the people—destroys his right as king to reign over them, for according to his coronation oath, he has no longer a right to the British crown or throne, than he maintains inviolable firm the laws and rights of the people. For violating the people’s rights, Charles Stewart, king of England, lost his head, and if another king, who is more solemnly bound than ever Charles Stewart, was, should tread in the same steps, what can he expect? I reverence and love my king, but I revere the rights of an Englishman before the authority of any king upon the earth. I distinguish greatly between a king and a tyrant, a king is the guardian and trustee of the rights and laws of the people, but a tyrant destroys them.

Besides my Lord, the inhabitants of America know as well

as the people of England, that the people are the right and foundation of power and authority, the original seat of majesty—the author of laws, and the creators of officers to execute them. And if at any time they shall find the power they have conferred abused by their trustees, their majesty violated by tyranny, or by usurpation, their authority prostituted to support violence, or skreen corruption, the laws grown pernicious through accidents unforeseen, or rendered ineffectual through the infidelity of the executors of them. Then it is their right, and what is their right is undoubtedly Edition: current; Page: [308] their priviledge and duty (as their essential power and majesty), to resume that delegated power and authority they intrusted them with, and call their trustees to an account; to resist the usurpation, and extirpate the tyranny; to restore their sullied majesty and their prostituted authority; to suspend, alter or abrogate those laws, and punish the unfaithful and corrupt officers. Nor is it the duty only of the united body, but every member of it ought, according to his respective rank, power and weight in the community, to concur in advancing those glorious designs . . . This is, my Lord, the happy constitution of England; the power, right and majesty of the people which has been frequently recognized and established. By which majesty, right and power, kings are made, and unmade by the choice of the people; and laws enacted, and annulled only by their own consent, in which none can be deprived of their property, abridged of their freedom, or forfeit their lives without an appeal to the laws, and the verdict of their peers or equals.

My Lord, as this is according to the laws of England, the liberty, priviledge and power of his majesty’s subjects in Great-Britain, why not then the priviledge of his majesty’s subjects in America? has his majesty (as it all seems to be laid upon him) two kind of laws, one for England and the other for America? a power to reign as king and guardian of his people’s rights at home, and a power to destroy the rights of the colonies abroad? I really don’t understand it my Lord, if he has no right to do it, why do you say he does? This is using his majesty cruel. However somebody does it, your Lordship says it is his majesty with his privy counsel, the latter I rather think. However, be it who it will, whether the king, ministry, or Parliament, they have no more right to do it, than they have to cut your Lordship’s throat. Has not your Lordship a right to oppose any power that may assault your Lordship’s person, right or priviledge, without its being deemed rebellion against the king and state? Yes, sure you have! Then surely my Lord an American has the same right to oppose every usurping power (let it be from whom it will), that assaults his person, or deprives him of his own law or liberty as an American. Has he offended? yes! Is he willing to be tried by his own laws? yes! Then, that man, that king, that minister of state, be who he will, is worse than a Nero tyrant that shall assume to drag him three thousand miles to be tried by his enemies.

Besides my Lord, what is rebellion? if I understand it right, they are persons rising up with an assumed authority and power to act, Edition: current; Page: [309] dictate and rule in direct violation to the laws of the land—I believe my Lord, I am right here, for this reason, your G-ne-al F——c, and your G———r T——n, when in North-Carolina, thought so, and like cruel blood-thirsty savages, murdered mankind for thinking that they had a right to oppose any power that attempted to destroy their liberties. This was my Lord a cruel barbarous slaughter of mankind. However, if it was deemed rebellion in them, and they were treated as rebels, because they (as the ministry said) broke the laws of the government of the province; then surely it follows, that the k—g’s m——y, and P—t, must be rebels, to God, and mankind, in attempting to overthrow (by guns, by swords, and by the power of war), the laws, and government of Rhode-Island. Have not the Rhode-Islanders as much right to the privileges of their own laws, as the king of England has to his crown? sure they have! Then surely, that man must be a tyrant in his soul, that shall deem it rebellion in the Rhode-Islanders, supposing they should kill every man, that shall attempt to destroy their laws, rights and liberties.

It is true my Lord, the Gaspee schooner is destroyed, and thereby the laws of England are violated (as you apprehend), by Indians out of the woods, or by Rhode-Islanders, I cannot say who; but it is a query with me my Lord, whether there is any law broke in burning the Gaspee schooner; if it was done by the Indians (which is the current report) then there is no law broke; for the scripture says, “where there is no Law, there is no transgression.” And it is well known, that the Indians were never under any law to the English; did I say, they were never under any law to the English, heaven forgive me! I mean my Lord no other law than the sword and bayonet; the same law that some would fain bring the Americans under now. But suppose my Lord, that this deed was done by the Rhode-Islanders, the query is still with me—whether there is any transgression committed? the scripture says, where there is no Law, there is no transgression: Now, the question is, Do the Rhode-Islanders receive their laws from England? If so, there is a transgression committed against those laws, but if not, there is no transgression, says St. James. For my part, I cannot see how any man in America, can properly break the laws of England. The whole lies here, the laws of America only are broke, let the offender then be tried by the law he has broke, What can justice, I had almost said tyranny desire more: However my Lord, there is no other Edition: current; Page: [310] idea arises in my mind (and it is no wonder, for the Bostonians are very notional), which is, if there is any law broke, it is the king and the ministry who have broke it; for I would be glad to know my Lord, what right the king and ministry has to send an armed schooner to Rhode-Island, to take away the property of the people, any more than they have to send an armed schooner into Brest, and demand the property of France? Know this, that the king of England has no more right, according to the laws of God and nature, to claim the lands of America, than he has the lands of France—America, my Lord, in the native rights of the Americans, it is the blood-bought treasure of their forefathers; and they have the same essential right to their native laws, as they have to the air they breathe in, or to the light of the morning, when the sun rises; and therefore they who oppress the Americans must be as great enemies to the rights of the laws of nature, as they who would (if it were in their power) vail the light of the sun from the universe. Remember my Lord, the Americans have a priviledge to boast of above all the world. They never were in bondage to any man, and therefore it is more for them to give up their rights into the hands of the Turks; consider what English tyranny their forefathers fled from, what seas of distress they met with, what savages they fought with, what blood-bought treasures, as the dear inheritance of their lives, they have left to their children, and without any aid from the king of England; and yet after this, these free-born people must be counted rebels, if they will not loose every right of liberty, which their forefathers bought, with their blood, and submit again to English ministerial tyranny—O America! O America!

My Lord, I hope I need not remind your Lordship of the enquiry that the divine Messiah made to Peter, when they required a tax, or tribute, from him. Of whom, says Christ, to Peter, do they gather tax, or tribute, of the children, or of strangers? And Peter said of strangers. Then, says Christ, the children are free. Now, the Gaspee schooner, my Lord, was a stranger; and they should, if it was in their commission, have gathered tax from strangers: But instead of which, they would have gathered it from the children. They forgot that the children were free: Therefore, my Lord, must it certainly be, that the Gaspee schooner has committed the transgression, & broke the laws, of the freedom of this country. No doubt, my Lord, but Edition: current; Page: [311] they have a right to tax the strangers, that come to dwell in their country; but to tax the children, which are free in their own native country, this will not do! Nature forbids it; the law of God condemns it. And no law, but that of tyranny, can desire it.

And therefore it was, my Lord, that the children (who are by the law of God, and the law of nature free), looked upon the Gaspee-schooner as a stranger, as such they treated her; but when the stranger attempted to gather tax of the children who are free then they looked upon her, as a pirate, who took away their property without their consent, by violence, by arms, by guns, by oaths and damnations: This they thought looked so like piracy, that the children did not like it; and they thought their behavior as strangers, was very unpolite, that they could not so much as pass by these strangers, but the children must bow to them, and come to them; this, the children being free, did not like, and they thought it was best for the children, and the strangers, all to be free: And therefore, one night, my Lord, they went and set the strangers (who, by the way, were all prisoners), free—free upon the face of the whole earth; and then to preserve them free, they burnt their prison. Now, my Lord, would it not be hard to hang these poor men for it? However,

If there is any law broke, it is this, that the Gaspee schooner, by the power of the English ministry and admiralty, have broke the laws, and taken away the rights of the Americans. And yet the Americans must be punish’d for it, contrary to their own laws. O! Amazing! I would be glad to know my Lord, what right the king of England has to America? it cannot be an hereditary right, that lies in Hanover, it cannot be a parliamentary right that lies in Britain, not a victorious right, for the king of England never conquered America. Then he can have no more right to America, than what the people have, by compact, invested him with, which is only a power to protect them, and defend their rights civil and religious; and to sign, seal, and confirm, as their steward, such laws as the people of America shall consent to. If this be the case, my Lord, then judge whether the king of England and the ministry are not the trangressors in this affair, in sending armed schooners to America, to steal by power and sword the people’s property. And if any are to be try’d for law-breakers, it surely ought, in justice, to be them. But the people Edition: current; Page: [312] of America act my Lord very honest in the affair, they are willing to give and take, to give the English offenders the liberty to be try’d by their own laws, and to take the same liberty wherein they have offended to be tried by their own laws, as the king of England has to his crown, or that the natives of Britain has to the rights of an Englishman—consider then, my Lord, how cruel, how unjust, how unanswerable before God and man it must be, by any violence and power to destroy the rights of the Americans.

My Lord, the close of your Lordship’s letter, is such that it is enough to make the blood of every vein stand stagnated as a testimony against ministerial bloody power. It not only gives a right to every American to be angry, but to be incensed against your lordship, wherein you tell the governor of Rhode-Island, that it is his majesty’s pleasure, that General Gage, hold the troops in readiness to assist this assumed court of admiralty, to destroy the rights of the people. What my Lord, is bloody Bonner’s days so near America! O America! O America! What, the blood-power of the sword and death to aid civil magistrates to destroy the people’s rights? Stop a little my Lord, give a little breathing time—for it is a solemn thing to die. I wonder your Lordship’s knees did not smite together, when as the king’s, or ministerial agent, you wrote this authority, how a good man, a christian, and one that fears God, can be an agent not only to destroy the rights of a people, but to oppress them; with the military power of blood and death, is enough to make the earth to reel, and all heaven to stand aghast! Be astonish’d O ye heavens at this! I hope, my Lord, you do not intend to renew that bloody, barbarous assassination in America which I saw the Scotch barbarian troops thro’ the orders of Lord B——n and Lord W———h spread in St. George’s fields, remember the blood of young Allen cries to heaven for vengeance in their face, and a louder voice than Abel’s blood, which cry’d to heaven for vengeance, is still heard in Boston streets, against a bloody military power, and tho’ the murderers escaped by a scene well known to some, but too dark to explain—yet the God of truth and justice stands at the door. Supposing my Lord, that the Rhode-Islanders, for the sake of blood bought liberties of their forefathers, for the sake of the birthrights of their children, should shew a spirit of resentment against a tyrannical arbitrary power that attempts to destroy their Edition: current; Page: [313] lives, liberties and property, would it not be unsufferable, cruel, for this (which the law of nature and nations teaches them to do) to be butchered, assassinated and slaughtered in their own streets by their king? Consider, my Lord, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and that it would be a cold cordial for your Lordship, at the bar of God, to have thousands of Americans rise up in judgment against you. Yet I would rather this was the case, tho’ I suffer’d death with them, than they should lose their essential rights as Americans.

But it may be meet to let your Lordship know, that if the Americans unite (as there seems a good prospect of it) to stand as a band of brethren for their liberties, they have a right, by the law of God, of nature, and of nations, to reluct at, and even to resist any military and marine force, surely they must be intended in readiness for the French, and not for Americans, for can it ever enter into the heart of a mother to murder her children? of a king to kill his subjects? of an agent to destroy the rights of the colonies he represents? But suppose my Lord, that this should be the bloody intent of the ministry, to make the Americans subject to their slavery, then let blood for blood, life for life, and death for death decide the contention. This bloody scene can never be executed but at the expence of the destruction of England, and you will find, my Lord, that the Americans will not submit to be slaves, they know the use of the gun, and the military art, as well as any of his majesty’s troops at St. James’s, and where his majesty has one soldier, who art in general the refuse of the earth, America can produce fifty, free men, and all volunteers, and raise a more potent army of men in three weeks, than England can in three years. But God forbid that I should be thought to aim at rouzing the Americans to arms, without their rights, liberties and oppression call for it. For they are unwilling to beat to arms, they are loyal subjects; they love their king; they love their mother-country; they call it their home; and with nothing more than the prosperity of Britain, and the glory of their king: But they will not give up their rights; they will not be slaves to any power upon earth. Therefore, my Lord, as a peace-maker; as their agent; as their friend; lay their grievances before their king. Let the Americans enjoy their birthright blessings, and Britain her prosperity, let there be a mutual union between the mother Edition: current; Page: [314] and her children, in all the blessings of life, trade and happiness; then, my Lord, both Britons, and Americans, will call you blessed.

Wishing, from my heart, the inviolable preservation of the rights and liberties of the Americans, and the growing happiness of England:

I am, my Lord
his Majesty’s loyal subject,
and your Lordship’s
dutiful servant,
A British Bostonian
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That they may do evil with both hands, earnestly, the Prince asketh, and the Judge asketh for a Reward; and the great Man he uttereth his mischievous desire: So they wrap it up.

Micah VII 3.

The faithfulness of the prophet Micah; the fidelity of his heart, and the zeal of his soul for the liberties of the people, was remarkable. His faithfulness when tyranny reigned by authority; when the laws, rights and liberties of the people were at the dispose of the arbitrary power of the wicked king Ahaz, as it is written 2 Chron. 28. 1.

And Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, but he did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord; like David his father, Ver. 19. For the Lord brought Judah low, because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the Lord, ver. 22 And in the time of this distress did he trespass yet more and more against the Lord—this is that king Ahaz.

And therefore this faithful prophet lays the matter to heart, as one that rever’d the liberties and happiness of the people above the authority of the king, and the power of his senates. And therefore says, in the verse preceeding the text, “The good man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men; they all lie in wait for blood, they hunt every man his brother with a net.” And is not this the case at this day? for what is the ministry hunting after now? is not every one hunting for their brother, with the net of admiralty-courts and tyranny? if they can but once get their American brethren in this net, they may kick and flirt as long as they will, they’ll never get out any more. It is indeed said, “In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird” and that “he has made us wiser than the fowls of the air,” but wherein will the Americans appear to be wiser than the fowls of the air, if they suffer themselves to be taken in this ministerial net?

Observe, that it was a dark time with the nation, a dark time with the church of the living God, and a very distressing time respecting the people, when Micah appeared cotemporary with Isaiah, as a Edition: current; Page: [316] prophet of the Lord, and a son of liberty, therefore he tells the oppressors of the people, “The best of them is a brier, and the most upright of them sharper than a thorn hedge—the day of the watchmen, and thy visitation cometh, now shall be their perplexity.” And is not this the case? Is not the day of the watchmen of America come, who watch for the rights of the people, as the centinels of the land, to defend them from every invasion of power and destruction? Now their visitation in Providence is come—try the watchmen whether they will stand for God, and the people, or not. Now shall be their perplexity of the ministry, who lie in wait for blood and hunt every man his brother with a net, who utter their mischievous desire, and so they wrap it up. For this faithfulness, in King Ahaz, and Hezekiah’s days, the prophet Micah’s name has a singular honor in the annals of heaven above the rest of the prophets in Israel—Jer. 17, 18, 19. because he said—“hear this I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment and pervert all equity.”

Therefore, these sayings of that pious prelate of the church of England, bishop Burnet, in his history of his own time, are noble, valuable and great; especially where he says, “there is not any thing more certain than this: That kings are made for the people, and not the people for them.” Was not David made a king for the people? Was not Saul? Was not Solomon? Then let not kings think too highly of themselves; for the God of heaven never intended they should be any more than the servants of the people; therefore the bishop adds, “that, perhaps, there is no nation under heaven more sensible of this than the English nation; so that, if the prince does not govern, by this maxim, the people will soon grow very unkind to him.” If this be the case, the king of England may immediately see the reason of all his people’s hard speeches, and unkindness to him: It is because he has departed, either by inclination, or persuasion, from this royal standard. Therefore he adds, “the interest, and essential rule for a king is to study the interest of the nation; to be ever in it; to be always pursuing it:” This will lay such a degree of confidence in him, that he will ever be safe in the people, while they feel they are safe in him; and not a moment longer. So that if the king of England is not happy let him thank himself for it: It is not his people’s fault—it is his own. For that king is not worthy to reign, that does not make the rights of his people the rule of his actions: Knowing this, that he receives all Edition: current; Page: [317] his power, and majesty, from them; and how can he think that he has any right to rule over them, unless he rules in their hearts by inviolable maintaining their rights? For as the ministers of the gospel (when in their proper place) are no otherwise than the people’s servants; so the king is no more than the servant of the people: And when at any time, he is unfaithful, as the people’s servant, they have a right to say to him, “give an account of thy stewardship, that thou mayest be no longer steward.” For what can he judge, when a free and affectionate people, lay their grievances, with tears, at his feet, praying, for years past, for redress? and yet he will not hear them!!! Or if he does, he answers them like Rehoboam—roughly: What can he expect, but Rehoboam’s revolution? “What part have we in David? Or what portion have we in the son of Jesse? Every man to thy tent, O Israel.” And there, the pious bishop further observes, “that a prince that would command the affections, and praise of the nation, should not study to stretch his prerogative”; here I think the pious bishop missed it, for it is not his prerogative but the people’s; and this is what makes it so unsufferable, and unbearable, that the king should make use of their power and prerogative, to destroy their rights: This Charles Stewart did, and he fell into the hands of wicked men, and they cut off his head for it.

But to proceed to the words of the text. “That they may do evil with both hands earnestly; the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward, and the great man he uttereth his mischievous desire: So they wrap it up.”

Observation the first.

It is then plain that a craving, absolute prince, is a great distress to a people.

The prince asketh! What does he ask for? Why the tall pine trees, for masts for his great ships; well, let him have them, not as his right, no, but as your gift to him. Well, but the prince asketh? Well, what does he ask now? Why, that the British streets may be paved with American gold; well do not make a word about that? let him have it, but let it be in the fair way of trade, and commerce, not by taxation, and oppression. The essence of money, lies, in what money buys. This England can furnish you with.

But the prince asketh? Well what is it? will he never have done asking? What does he ask now? Have patience, and you shall hear, Edition: current; Page: [318] well what is it? Why it is the favour of the government of Rhode Island, to hold a court of admiralty to authorize them to confine suspected persons (guilty or not guilty), and drag them away three thousand miles, to take their trial by a jury of strangers, if not enemies. But the granting of this, in some measure, depends upon the consent of the governor. But all governors (who are worthy the name) are such as the scripture describes Judges 5. 9. “My heart, says one, nay every American will say the same, is towards the governours who offer themselves willingly among the people,” to rule by their laws, to defend the rights of the people, to protect their persons, to secure their liberties. And this is (we hear) the happiness, power and bulwark of Rhode Island government. For its safety lies in this, that the governor of the province, and the judges of the superior court, the representatives of the people, and general assembly, are solemnly bound by oath, to rule, govern and decide, and determine only by their own laws; if so, they have a right to tell the prince, that though he asketh yet he will ask in vain.

Once more,

But the prince asketh, what now does he ask? Will he never have done asking? Well, but what does he ask? Why he asketh, the women, the wives upon the government of Rhode Island, to spare their husbands from their beds, from their bosoms, from their arms, and from their children; to be confin’d in the horrid kingdom of a man of war’s crew; to be transported back again to tyranny their forfathers fled from, to a land of snares, and the shadow of death. This may be thought to be harsh language, and by the ministry, a hard saying who can bear it? But it is not a hair’s breadth more in meaning, than the intended power and tyranny of this new court of admiralty. And will you not submit to it? No! that is right; I am glad of it, but perhaps, it may be thought rather hard, when a prince asketh, not to grant so small a favour.

But the text likewise says—The Judge asketh for a reward. The judges have the key of the laws, the hearts of the lawyers, and the power of juries, too much in their own hands. The lives of the people, the rights of the subject, and the disposal of their property, was originally intended to be determined by juries only. But as the judges have assumed by custom, a power of dictating to lawyers even at the bar, and a direction to the jury; it highly becomes them more than ever, Edition: current; Page: [319] to be men fearing God and hating covetousness. Therefore it is an ill sound to hear that the judge asketh for a reward, what can it be for? sure it cannot be for freeing the King street murderers, or pleading that it was only manslaughter; if he k—w that it was wilful murder. No doubt but this act of kindness will be rewarded, if not at the judgment seat of Christ, which some despise; yet at the bar of God, when, he shall say, arise ye dead and come to judgment: Then there will be no setting aside a witness in Mr. P——ms case, nor no other.

Again the text saith,

The Judge asketh for a reward! Well, what reward is it, a reward from the crown of Britain? if so, not to let him have it, by no means: For if once the judges of the courts of judicatory of this province become dependent for their support, or salaries, upon the favour of the crown, or ministry at home, you become a nation of slaves to ministerial power; for thereby you submit the key of all your essential rights as Americans, to be in the hands of your enemies: For if you suffer the judges to become dependent for their pay upon the ministry of England, what are they but the ministry’s servants. If so, you may naturally suppose, they must do as the ministry directs them; if not, they will be unfaithful servants; and if faithful to the ministry, where then are your rights? Where is the security of your lives, or your property. For a more bolder, daring innovation upon your right of power, decision and determination by your own laws, respecting your right and property between man and man, between the crown of England, and the rights of America, cannot possibly be made, or attempted to be made, than to make your judges dependent upon the British ministry; it is in effect, giving up your right to all you have, to all that you, or your children can ever possess. As the possession of a person’s right, whether hereditary, or by purchase, depends much upon the determination of the judges. And if the judges are wholly to be dependent upon the crown of England, for nomination and support, then you may easily judge whose servants and slaves you are to be. For it is well known that the judges, or general courts, or some body, has for these hundred years, and more, distressed their brethren in their estates, and in their consciences, by imposing payment for ministers, and for a worship of God contrary to the people’s consciences; and if they have done these things in the green tree, what may you not expect in the dry.

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But as the text says, The Judge asketh for a reward. If it be for his fidelity in his high office, for his honourable support, according to the dignity of his character, you are bound in duty, in affection, and in obedience to let him have it. Shew your affection, readiness and gratitude, to reward your judges, as the guardians of your rights; as those who from their hearts, should protect and hand forth the liberties of their brethren to them. This is the way to become a band of brethren from the governor, to the meanest subject. Perhaps, the whole of your complaint in this respect, is owing for want of your taking an earlier opportunity, to settle such salaries, as their merit, labour and expence deserves.

Yet let not this lead us from the observation, which was, that, an asking, craving, absolute prince, is a great distress to a people. Was not this the case of the people in King Ahaz, and in King Ahab’s day, when he crav’d Naboth’s vineyard? Likewise in Jeroboam’s days, who deprived the people of their religious liberties, in worshipping the God of Israel, in his temple at Jerusalem? who set up his golden calves at Dan and Bethel, of whom it is said, this is Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who taught Israel to sin. Was not this the case in Zedekiah’s days, though he was warned by the word of the Lord, and by the prophet of the God of Israel? Yet he was, notwithstanding, absolute and craving, though he was told, it would end in the destruction of himself, and his people. Was not this the case of almost all the distress, deaths, and bloodshed, that have ever happened in England since the conquest of Julius Cæsar? their king’s ruling and reigning, by a dispotic power, which they assumed, contrary to the laws and rights of the people. Were not the Britons obliged by the love of liberty, to obtain their royal Magna Charta, sword in hand, from King John? Was not this the case in the reign of Charles the first, when the people and parliament took up arms, to maintain the rights and laws of the people; and when it required either the head of the king, or the loss of their liberties? they soon decided the matter; they soon let the king know that they rever’d their rights and liberties, above his life, power, and prerogative. In Charles the second’s reign, there was much the same absolute power over the rights of the people, both civil and religious: But he had a peculiar politeness of temper in pleasing even his very enemies. In James the second’s reign, dispotic power was too evident, and distressing for the people to bear; therefore Edition: current; Page: [321] a revolution, both of king, and state, by the spirit, power, and arms, of the people, was soon accomplished.

The second observation is,

That when the king, judges, and senates, unite to destroy the rights of the people by a dispotic power, or as the text expresses it, that they may do evil with both hands, then the prosperity of the nation totters; the crown shakes; and the destruction of the people’s rights is near at hand. For the rights of the people, which is the supreme glory of the crown and kingdom of Britain, is the Magna Charta of the king as well as of the people; it is as much his previledge, as it is his glory, to maintain their rights; and he is as much under a law (I mean the law of the rights of the people), as the people are under the oath of allegiance to him. And therefore whatever power destroys their rights, destroys at the same time, his right to reign, or any right to his kingdom, crown, or glory; nay, his right to the name of a king among the people. Was not this the case in Rehoboam’s days, when the people were distressed with large and heavy taxations, and oppressions? they petitioned the king to relieve them from such oppressions, but would he hearken to them, according to the advice of his father’s counsellors? No! but according to the advice of his young counsel, he answered them like an arbitrary prince, in the speech of his dispotic ministry, roughly, My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions: But, would the people bear this oppression? No! What part, said they, have we in David? Or what portion in the son of Jesse? To thy tents, Oh Israel. Was not this the case in Zedekiah’s reign? And was not this lately the case in Sweeden, when the king with a few of his senates, and ministry, about him, destroyed the rights of the people, by the power of the sword, and established his despotic will as the law of the land, by the tyranny of death?

Observation the third,

This shews, that an arbitrary dispotic power in a prince, is the ruin of a nation, of the king, of the crown, and of the subjects; therefore it is to be feared, abhorred, detested and destroyed, because the happiness of the king, and the prosperity of the people are hereby, not only in danger, but upon the brink of destruction. Every age and every history furnishes us with proofs, as clear as the light of the morning, of the truth of this.

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But it is the singular happiness of the Americans, according to their own laws, not to be in bondage to any power upon the earth. The king of England, has no power to enact, or put in force any law that may oppress them, his very attempting to do it, at once destroys his right to reign over them. For the brightest gem which the king of England wears, in the british crown, is that majesty, trust, and confidence, which the Americans invest him with as the king and guardian of their rights, and liberties.

The Parliament of England cannot justly make any laws to oppress, or defend the Americans, for they are not the representatives of America, and therefore they have no legislative power either for them or against them.

The house of Lords cannot do it, for they are peers of England, not of America; and, if neither king, lords, nor commons, have any right to oppress, or destroy, the liberties of the Americans, why is it then, that the Americans, do not stand upon their own strength, and shew their power, and importance, when the life of life, and every liberty that is dear to them and their children is in danger?

Therefore, let me address you with all the power of affection, with all the pathos of soul, as one who esteems the full possession of the rights of the Americans, as the highest blessing of this life—to stand alarm’d! See your danger, death is near, destruction is at the door—need I speak? Are not your harbours blockaded from you? Your castle secured by captives—your lives destroyed—revenues imposed upon you—taxation laid—military power oppressing—your charter violated—your g——r’s heart not right—your constitution is declining—your liberties departing, and not content with this, they now attack the life, the soul, and capitol of all your liberties—to chuse your judges, and make them independent upon you for office or support, and erect new courts of admiralty to take away by violence, the husband from his family, his wife, his home, his friends, and his all, through a scene, less joyful than Pluto’s horrid kingdom. To be confin’d, and tried for his life by the accusation of a negro.

Has not the voice of your father’s blood cry’d yet loud enough in your ears, in your hearts “ye sons of America scorn to be slaves”? Have you not heard the voice of blood in your own streets, louder than that which reached to heaven, that cry’d for vengeance, that was, saith the Lord to Cain, the voice of thy brother’s blood, of only Edition: current; Page: [323] one, but this of many brethren. Therefore, if there be any vein, any nerve, any soul, any life or spirit of liberty in the sons of America, show your love for it; guard your freedom, prevent your chains; stand up as one man for your liberty; for none but those, who set a just value upon this blessing, are worthy the enjoyment of it.

Which leads me to the fifth [sic] observation, which is,

That it is not rebellion, I declare it before God, the congregation, and all the world, and I would be glad if it reached the ears of every Briton, and every American; That it is no rebellion to oppose any king, ministry, or governor, that destroys by any violence or authority whatever, the rights of the people. Shall a man be deem’d a rebel that supports his own rights? it is the first law of nature, and he must be a rebel to God, to the laws of nature, and his own conscience, who will not do it. A right to the blessing of freedom we do not receive from kings, but from heaven, as the breath of life, and essence of our existence; and shall we not preserve it, as the beauty of our being? Do not the birds of the air expand their wings? the fish of the sea their fins? and the worm of the earth turn again when it is trod upon? And shall it be deem’d rebellion? Heaven forbid it! Shall Naboth’s disputing with King Ahab, respecting his vineyard, be deemed rebellion? Or the people sending home their governor in irons some years ago, be deemed rebellion? It is no more rebellion, than it is to breathe.

Sixthly, to observe,

That when the rights and liberties of the people are destroyed, it is commonly by the mischievous design of some great man. The text says, the great man uttereth his mischievous desire: But who this great man is, we do not certainly know, but may shrewdly guess; but whether Lord Bute, duke of Grafton; or Lord Hillsborough, is not material, but the mischievous design, is what we fear, is what we feel, if they instill in the king’s mind a divine right of authority to command his subjects, this is mischievous. King Charles found it so, Rehoboam found it so, and so will our present king, if he hearkens to such advice.

If they make the name of the king sacred, I hope they mean a political sacredness: If so, he is no more sacred than the people have made him, by investing him with the sacred trust of their rights. If any great man, or the whole ministry makes use of the king’s name, or his Edition: current; Page: [324] authority, to enforce their arbitrary will, as a law to the subjects, that the subjects must obey, and passively submit, because, say they, it is his majesty’s will and pleasure: This is a mischievous design—mischievous to the dignity of the crown—to his majesty’s person—to his security—to his family—and their safety. It is likewise mischievous to his majesty’s subjects, as it spreads discord, disunion and disaffection to the king, to his authority, and power, which is a mournful consideration, and is the bane of all our national distress. The people in England, and the people in America, would fain love their king, and obey him with reverence, and affection, and make him the most happy prince upon the earth, if he would but prevent this mischievous design of the ruin of their essential rights and liberties.

But the text says, “The great man uttereth his mischievous desire”—and indeed we believe he does, in the closet, in the cabinet, and in the ears of the king. Oh! it is a mischievous design, too deep for us to fathom, or come to the bottom of, it carries in it the plain aspect of distress to the king, and distruction to the people. Oh! kind heaven, prevent what king and people have too much cause to fear; however, at best, it is a mischievous design to alienate (by any direction, or dictation) the affections of his majesty’s good subjects; as it destroys the bonds, and ties, of national blessings; their rights, their liberties; their lives; their properties: And if this is not a mischievous design there can scarce be one found out of the deeps of the dark mansions.

But to return to you, my dear Americans, you think hard to pay duties for teas, imports, clearances, entries, &c. &c. But what will you farmers and landholders think, of paying a fixed tax for every acre of land you enjoy? for every apple tree you rear? for every barrel of cyder you make, for every pound of candles you burn? for every pound of soap you use, for every pair of shoes you wear, for the light of the morning, and the sun, that a kind heaven gives you; what do you think of paying a continual tax for all these? this is contain’d in the mischievous design. Stand alarm’d, O ye Americans. But I close with the last remark from the text. So they wrap it up. It will do, it will do say they. The king, say they, has a right to appoint judges, courts of admiralty, impose revenues, lay taxes, send military forces, block up their harbours, command them—compel them by arms—pay their judges—get the key of their laws, rights and liberties into our hands, this will do! and so they wrap it up, as fine and smooth as can Edition: current; Page: [325] be: But I think it is better to unwrap it again. What do you think, my dear Americans? But I add no more—but advise you, as it is a day of public thanksgiving, to bless God for the liberties and mercies we do enjoy; not for those you are deprived of. My second advice is, love your king, pray for him, pray for your governor, pray for your judges, that all their reign may be easy to themselves, and happy for the people.

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Isaac Backus
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Isaac Backus (1724–1806). Born in the village of Yantic in Norwich township, Connecticut, Backus converted to Christianity in 1741 as a result of the Great Awakening preaching of the theologian Eleazar Wheelock. For the decade prior to 1756, when he settled in Middleborough, Massachusetts, Backus was a separatist Congregationalist. From 1756, he was pastor of the Middleborough First Baptist Church until his death. He is ranked with Roger Williams, John Leland, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison as a preeminent figure in the establishing of freedom of conscience in America. In William G. McLoughlin’s words, Backus “was the most forceful and effective writer America produced on behalf of the pietistic or evangelical theory of separation of church and state” (Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism: Pamphlets, 1754–1789 [Cambridge, Mass., 1968], p. 1). Intellectually, the chief attainment of Backus was his idea that “religion is ever a matter between God and individuals” (as he stated in 1783). Institutionally, his major accomplishment was the cultivation of the role of the Baptist church, and the religious sphere generally, as outside the jurisdiction of civil magistracy. As an evangelist–statesman, Backus preached the gospel far and wide; he calculated that during the period 1748 to 1802 he had made 918 trips longer than ten miles each and traveled a total of 68,600 miles, mostly on horseback.

Backus was a trustee of Brown University from 1765 to 1799. He served as an “agent” for the Warren Association from 1771 onward, looking after all Baptist interests, somewhat like a modern lobbyist. In that capacity, he conferred with the delegates to the First Continental Congress in 1774 in Philadelphia, upholding religious liberty, for Baptists in his day had suffered imprisonment for their views and practices. A supporter of the Revolution, he afterwards continued his battle for liberty of conscience in the states of the new Union. He served as a delegate from Middleborough to the Massachusetts convention that ratified the federal Constitution in 1788. He rejoiced in the coming of the Second Awakening to the Kentucky and Tennessee frontier in the early 1800s, having participated personally in camp meetings a decade earlier in North Carolina and Virginia. He renewed his efforts in the last years of his life to stir the embers of religious revival in New England.

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An Appeal to the Public (1773) is prefaced with an essay on political theory that shows charter rights and divine or supernatural rights to be fundamental to Backus’s argument at this stage of his thinking. Natural rights of a Lockean kind he had not yet reconciled with his view of human depravity derived from John Calvin. The body of the piece explores in some detail the problems of church–state relations that so vitally interested Backus and the Baptists. Backus’s most famous work is his “Baptist History,” or A History of New-England with Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Known as Baptists (3 vols.: Boston, 1777–96; 2-vol. rev. ed.: David Weston, 1871).

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Inasmuch as there appears to us a real need of such an appeal, we would previously offer a few thoughts concerning the general nature of liberty and government, and then shew wherein it appears to us, that our religious rights are encroached upon in this land.

It is supposed by multitudes, that in submitting to government we give up some part of our liberty, because they imagine that there is something in their nature incompatible with each other. But the word of truth plainly shews, that man first lost his freedom by breaking over the rules of government; and that those who now speak great swelling words about liberty, while they despise government, are themselves servants of corruption. What a dangerous error, yea, what a root of all evil then must it be, for men to imagine that there is any thing in the nature of true government that interferes with true and full liberty! A grand cause of this evil is, ignorance of what we are, and where we are; for did we view things in their true light, it would appear to be as absurd and dangerous, for us to aspire after any thing beyond our capacity, or out of the rule of our duty, as it would for the frog to swell till he bursts himself in trying to get as big as the ox, or for a beast or fowl to dive into the fishes element till they drown themselves. Godliness with contentment is great gain: But they that will take a contrary course fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 1 Tim. 6. 6, 9.

The true liberty of man is, to know, obey and enjoy his Creator, and to do all the good unto, and enjoy all the happiness with and in his fellow-creatures that he is capable of; in order to which the law of love was written in his heart, which carries in it’s nature union and benevolence to being in general, and to each being in particular, according to it’s nature and excellency, and to it’s relation and connexion to and with the supreme Being, and ourselves. Each rational soul, as he is a part of the whole system of rational beings, so it was and is, both his duty and his liberty to regard the good of the whole in all Edition: current; Page: [332] his actions. To love ourselves, and truly to seek our own welfare, is both our liberty and our indispensible duty; but the conceit that man could advance either his honor or happiness, by disobedience instead of obedience, was first injected by the father of lies, and all such conceits ever since are as false as he is.

Before man imagined that submission to government, and acting strictly by rule was confinement, and that breaking over those bounds would enlarge his knowledge and happiness, how clear were his ideas! (even so as to give proper names to every creature) and how great was his honor and pleasure! But no sooner did he transgress, than instead of enjoying the boldness of innocency, and the liberties of paradise, he sneaks away to hide himself; and instead of clear and just ideas, he adopted that master of all absurdities (which his children follow to this day) of thinking to hide from omniciency, and of trying to deceive him who knows every thing! Instead of good and happiness, he felt evil, guilt and misery; and in the room of concord was wrangling, both against his Creator and his fellow-creature, even so that she who was before loved as his own flesh, he now accuses to the great Judge. By which it appears, that the notion of man’s gaining any dignity or liberty by refusing an intire submission to government, was so delusive, that instead of it’s advancing him to be as gods, it sunk him down into a way of acting like the beasts and like the devil! the beasts are actuated by their senses and inclinations, and the devil pursues his designs by deceit and violence. With malicious reflections upon God, and flattering pretences to man, he drew him down to gratify his eyes and his taste with forbidden fruit: and he had no sooner revolted from the authority of heaven, than the beauty and order of his family was broken; he turns accuser against the wife of his bosom, his first son murders the next, and then lies to his Maker to conceal it; and that lying murderer’s posterity were the first who broke over the order of marriage which God had instituted; and things proceeded from bad to worse, till all flesh had corrupted his way, and the earth was filled with violence, so that they could no longer be borne with, but by a just vengeance were all swept away, only one family.

Yet all this did not remove the dreadful distemper from man’s nature, for the great Ruler of the universe directly after the flood, gave this as one reason why he would not bring such another while the Edition: current; Page: [333] earth remains, namely, For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth*, so that if he was to drown them as often as they deserved it, one deluge must follow another continually. Observe well where the distemper lies; evil imaginations have usurped the place of reason and a well informed judgment, and hold them in such bondage, that instead of being governed by those noble faculties, they are put to the horrid drugery of seeking out inventions, for the gratification of fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; and to guard against having these worst of all enemies detected and subdued; enemies which are so far from being God’s creatures, that strictly speaking, they have no being at all in themselves, only are the privation of his creatures well-being; therefore sin, with it’s offspring death, will, as to those who are saved, be swallowed up in victory. Sin is an enemy both to God and man, which was begotten by satan, and was conceived and brought forth by man; for lust when it is conceived bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.

Now how often have we been told, that he is not a freeman but a slave, whose person and goods are not at his own but anothers disposal? And to have foreigners come and riot at our expence and in the fruit of our labours, has often been represented to be worse than death. And should the higher powers appear to deal with temporal oppressors according to their deserts, it would seem strange indeed, if those who have suffered intolerably by them, should employ all their art and power to conceal them, and so to prevent their being brought to justice! But how is our world filled with such madness concerning spiritual tyrants! How far have pride and infidelity, covetousness and luxury, yea deceit and cruelty, those foreigners which came from hell, carried their influence, and spread their baneful mischiefs in our world! Yet who is willing to own that he has been deceived and enslaved by them? Who is willing honestly to bring them forth to justice! All acknowledge that these enemies are among us, and many complain aloud of the mischiefs that they do; yet even those who lift their heads so high as to laugh at the atonement of Jesus, and the powerful influences of the Spirit, and slight public & private devotion, are at the same time very unwilling to own that they harbour pride, infidelity, or any other of those dreadful tyrants. And nothing Edition: current; Page: [334] but the divine law refered to above, brought home with convincing light and power, can make them truly sensible of the soul-slavery that they are in: and ’tis only the power of the gospel that can set them free from sin, so as to become the servants of righteousness: can deliver them from these enemies, so as to serve God in holiness all their days. And those who do not thus know the truth, and have not been made free thereby,* yet have never been able in any country to subsist long without some sort of government; neither could any of them ever make out to establish any proper government without calling in the help of the Deity. However absurd their notions have been, yet they have found human sight and power to be so short and weak, and able to do so little toward watching over the conduct, and guarding the rights of individuals, that they have been forced to appeal to heaven by oaths, and to invoke assistance from thence to avenge the cause of the injured upon the guilty. Hence it is so far from being necessary for any man to give up any part of his real liberty in order to submit to government, that all nations have found it necessary to submit to some government in order to enjoy any liberty and security at all.

We are not insensible that the general notion of liberty, is for each one to act or conduct as he pleases; but that government obliges us to act toward others by law and rule, which in the imagination of many, interferes with such liberty; though when we come to the light of truth, what can possibly prevent it’s being the highest pleasure, for every rational person, to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself, but corruption and delusion? which, as was before noted, are foreigners and not originally belonging to man. Therefore the divine argument to prove, that those who promise liberty while they despise government are servants of corruption is this; For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 2 Pet. 2. 18, 19. He is so far from being free to act the man, that he is a bond slave to the worst of tyrants. And not a little of this tyranny is carried on by such an abuse of language, as to call it liberty, for men to yield themselves up, to be so foolish, disobedient and deceived, as to serve divers lusts and pleasures. Tit. 3. 3.

Having offered these few thoughts upon the general nature of government and liberty, it is needful to observe, that God has appointed Edition: current; Page: [335] two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government. And tho’ we shall not attempt a full explanation of them, yet some essential points of difference between them are necessary to be mentioned, in order truly to open our grievances.

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Some essential points of difference between civil and ecclesiastical government.

1. The forming of the constitution, and appointment of the particular orders and offices of civil government is left to human discretion, and our submission thereto is required under the name of their being, the ordinances of men for the Lord’s sake. 1 Pet. 2. 13, 14. Whereas in ecclesiastical affairs we are most solemnly warned not to be subject to ordinances, after the doctrines and commandments of men. Col. 2. 20, 22. And it is evident that he who is the only worthy object of worship, has always claimed it as his sole prerogative, to determine by express laws, what his worship shall be, who shall minister in it, and how they shall be supported. How express were his appointments concerning these things by Moses? And so wise and good a ruler as Solomon, was not intrusted with any legislative power upon either of these articles, but had the exact dimensions of the temple, the pattern and weight of every vessel, with the treasuries of the dedicate things, and the courses of the priests and Levites, all given to him in writing by the Spirit, through the hand of his father David. 1 Chron. 28. 11–19. And so strict were God’s faithful servants about these matters, that Daniel who in a high office in the Persian court, behaved so well that his most envious and crafty foes, could find no occasion against him, nor fault in him concerning the kingdom, till they fell upon the device of moving the king to make a decree about worship, that should interfere with Daniel’s obedience to his God; yet when that was done, he would not pay so much regard to it as to shut his windows. Dan. 6. 4–11. And when the Son of God, who is the great Law-giver and King of his church, came and blotted out the hand-writing of the typical ordinances, and established a better covenant, or constitution of his church, upon better promises, we are assured Edition: current; Page: [336] that he was faithful in all his house, and counted worthy of more glory than Moses. What vacancy has he then left for faliable men to supply, by making new laws to regulate and support his worship? especially if we consider,

2. That as the putting any men into civil office is of men, of the people of the world; so officers have truly no more authority than the people give them: And how came the people of the world by any ecclesiastical power? They arm the magistrate with the sword, that he may be a minister of God to them for good, and might execute wrath upon evil doers; and for this cause they pay them tribute: upon which the apostle proceeds to name those divine commandments which are comprehended in love to our neighbour, and which work no ill to him. Surely the inspired writer had not forgotten the first and great command of love to God; but as this chapter treats the most fully of the nature and end of civil government of any one in the new-testament, does it not clearly shew that the crimes which fall within the magistrates jurisdiction to punish, are only such as work ill to our neighbour? Rom. 13. 1–10. While church government respects our behaviour toward God as well as man.

3. All acts of executive power in the civil state, are to be performed in the name of the king or state they belong to; while all our religious acts are to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus; and so are to be performed heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men. And it is but lip service, and vain worship, if our fear toward him is taught by the precepts of men. Col. 3. 17, 23. Isa. 29. 13. Mat. 15. 9. It is often pleaded, that magistrates ought to do their duty in religious as well as civil affairs. That is readily granted; but what is their duty therein? Surely it is to bow to the name of Jesus, and to serve him with holy reverence; and if they do the contrary they may expect to perish from the way. Phil. 2. 10. Psa. 2. 10–12. But where is the officer that will dare to come in the name of the Lord to demand, and forcibly to take, a tax which was imposed by the civil state! And can any man in the light of truth, maintain his character as a minister of Christ, if he is not contented with all that Christ’s name and influence will procure for him, but will have recourse to the kings of the earth, to force money from the people to support him under the name of an embassador of the God of heaven! Does not such conduct look more like the way of Edition: current; Page: [337] those who made merchandize of slaves and souls of men, than it does like the servants who were content to be as their master, who said, He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me? Rev. 18. 9, 13. Luke 10. 3–16.

4. In all civil governments some are appointed to judge for others, and have power to compel others to submit to their judgment: but our Lord has most plainly forbidden us, either to assume or submit to any such thing in religion. Mat. 23. 1–9. Luke 22. 25–27. He declares, that the cause of his coming into the world, was to bear witness unto the truth; and says he, Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. This is the nature of his kingdom, which he says, is not of this world: and gives that as the reason why his servants should not fight, or defend him with the sword. John. 18. 36, 37. And it appears to us that the true difference and exact limits between ecclesiastical and civil government is this, That the church is armed with light and truth, to pull down the strong holds of iniquity, and to gain souls to Christ, and into his church, to be governed by his rules therein; and again to exclude such from their communion, who will not be so governed; while the state is armed with the sword to guard the peace, and the civil rights of all persons and societies, and to punish those who violate the same. And where these two kinds of government, and the weapons which belong to them, are well distinguished, and improved according to the true nature and end of their institution, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued; of which the Holy Ghost gave early and plain warnings. He gave notice to the church, that the main of those antichristian confusions and abominations, would be drawn by philosophy and deceit, from the hand-writing of ordinances that Christ has blotted out. And to avoid the same, directs the saints to walk in Christ Jesus as they received him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith as they have been taught; viewing that they are complete in him, which is the head over all principality and power. Therefore he charges them not to be beguiled into a voluntary humility, by such fleshly minds as do not hold this head, but would subject them to ordinances after the doctrines and commandments of men. Col. 2.

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Now ’tis well known that this glorious head made no use of secular force in the first sitting up of the gospel church, when it might seem to be pecularly needful if ever; and it is also very evident, that ever since men came into the way of using force in such affairs, their main arguments to support it have been drawn from the old Jewish constitution and ordinances. And what work has it made about the head as well as members of the church?

First they moved Constantine, a secular prince, to draw his sword against heretics; but as all earthly states are changeable, the same sword that Constantine drew against heretics, Julian turned against the orthodox. However, as the high priest’s sentence in the Jewish state, decided matters both for prince and people, the same deceitful pilosophy that had gone so far, never left plotting till they had set up an ecclesiastical head over kingdoms as well as churches, who with Peter’s keys was to open and shut, bind and loose, both in spiritual and temporal affairs. But after many generations had groaned under this hellish tyranny, a time came when England renounced that head, and set up the king as their head in ecclesiastical as well as civil concernments; and though the free use of the scriptures which was then introduced, by a divine blessing, produced a great reformation, yet still the high places were not taken away, & the lord bishops made such work in them, as drove our fathers from thence into America. The first colony that came to this part of it carried the reformation so far, as not to make use of the civil force to save the people to support religious ministers (for which they have had many a lash from the tongues & pens of those who were fond of that way) but the second colony, who had not taken up the cross so as to separate from the national church before they came away, now determined to pick out all that they thought was of universal and moral equity in Moses’s laws, and so to frame a christian common-wealth here.* And as the Jews were ordered not to set up any rulers over them who were not their brethren; so this colony resolved to have no rulers nor voters for rulers, but brethren in their churches. And as the Jews were required to inflict corporal punishments, even unto death, upon non-conformers to their worship, this common-wealth did the like to such as refused to conform to their way; and they strove very hard to have the Edition: current; Page: [339] church govern the world, till they lost their charter; since which, they have yielded to have the world govern the church, as we shall proceed to shew.

section ii

A brief view of how civil and ecclesiastical affairs are blended together among us, to the depriving of many of God’s people of that liberty of conscience which he has given them.

We are not insensible than an open-appearance against any part of the conduct of men in power, is commonly attended with difficulty and danger; and could we have found any way wherein with clearness we could have avoided the present attempt, we would gladly have taken it. But our blessed Lord & only Redeemer, has commanded us, to stand fast in the liberty wherewith he has made us free; and things appear so to us at present that we cannot see how we can fully obey this command, without refusing any active compliance with some laws about religious affairs that are laid upon us. And as those who are interested against us, often accuse us of complaining unreasonably, we are brought under a necessity of laying open particular facts which otherwise we would gladly have concealed: and all must be sensible that there is a vast difference between exposing the faults, either of individuals or communities, when the cause of truth and equity would suffer without it, and the doing of it without any such occasion. We view it to be our incumbent duty, to render unto Caesar the things that are his, but that it is of as much importance not to render unto him any thing that belongs only to God, who is to be obeyed rather than man. And as it is evident to us, that God always claimed it as his sole prerogative to determine by his own laws, what his worship shall be, who shall minister in it, and how they shall be supported; so it is evident that this prerogative has been, and still is, encroached upon in our land. For,

1. Our legislature claim a power to compel every town and parish within their jurisdiction, to set up and maintain a pedobaptist worship among them; although it is well known, that infant baptism is never express’d in the Bible, only is upheld by men’s reasonings, that Edition: current; Page: [340] are chiefly drawn from Abraham’s covenant which the Holy Ghost calls, the covenant of circumcision, Acts 7. 8. And as circumcision was one of the hand-writing of ordinances which Christ has blotted out, where did any state ever get any right to compel their subjects to set up a worship upon that covenant?

2. Our ascended Lord gives gifts unto men in a sovereign way as seems good unto him, and he requires every man, as he has received the gift, even so to minister the same; and he reproved his apostles when they forbid one who was improving his gift, because he followed not them. 1 Pet. 4. 10, 11. Luk. 9. 49. But the Massachusetts legislature, while they claim a power to compel each parish to settle a minister, have also determined that he must be one, who has either an accademical degree, or a testimonial in his favour from a majority of the ministers in the county where the parish lies. So that let Christ give a man ever so great gifts, yet hereby these ministers derive a noble power from the state, to forbid the improvement of the same, if he follows not their schemes.* And if the apostles assumed too much in this respect to themselves, even when their Lord was with them, can it be any breach of charity to conclude that ministers are not out of danger of doing the like now? especially if we consider how interest operates in the affair. For,

3. Though the Lord hath ordained that they which preach the gospel shall live of the gospel; or by the free communications to them, which his gospel will produce. 1 Cor 9. 13, 14. Gal. 6. 6, 7. Yet the ministers of our land have chosen to live by the law; and as a reason therefor, one of their most noted writers, instead of producing any truth of God, recites the tradition of a man, who said, “Ministers of the gospel would have a poor time of it, if they must rely on a free contribution of the people for their maintenance.” And he says, “The laws of the province having had the royal approbation to ratify them, they are the king’s laws. By these laws it is enacted, that there shall be a Edition: current; Page: [341] public worship of God in every plantation; that the person elected by the majority of the inhabitants to be so, shall be looked upon as the minister of the place; that the salary for him, which they shall agree upon, shall be levied by a rate upon all the inhabitants. In consequence of this, the minister thus chosen by the people, is (not only Christ’s, but also) in reality, the king’s minister; and the salary raised for him, is raised in the king’s name, and is the king’s allowance unto him.”*

Now who can hear Christ declare, that his kingdom is, not of this world, and yet believe that this blending of church and state together can be pleasing to him? For though their laws call them “orthodox ministers,” yet the grand test of their orthodoxy, is the major vote of the people, be they saints or sinners, believers or unbelievers. This appears plain in the foregoing quotation; and another of their learned writers lately says, “It is the congregation in it’s parocal congregational capacity that the law considers; and this as such does not enough partake of an ecclesiastical nature to be subject to ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Hence their ministers and churches must become subject to the court, and to the majority of the parish in order to have their salary raised in the king’s name: But how are either of them in the mean time subject to the authority of Christ in his church? How can any man reconcile such proceedings to the following commands of our Master which is in heaven? Mat. 23. 9, 10. What matter of grief and lamentation is it that men otherwise so knowing and justly esteemed, should by the traditions of men be carried into such a crooked way as this is! for, though there is a shew of equity in allowing every society to choose it’s own minister; yet let them be ever so unanimous for one who is of a different mode from the court, their choice is not allowed. Indeed as to doctrine ministers who preach differently, yea directly contrary to each other, about Christ and his salvation, yet are supported by these laws which at the same time limit the people to one circumstantial mode.

It is true the learned author just now quoted says, “If the most of Edition: current; Page: [342] the inhabitants in a plantation are episcopalians, they will have a minister of their own persuasion; and the dissenters, in the place, if there be any, must pay their proportion of the tax for the support of this legal minister.”* But then his next words shew that they did not intend ever to have such a case here; for he says,

In a few of the towns, a few of the people, in hope of being released from the tax for the legal minister, sometimes profess themselves episcopalians. But when they plead this for their exemption, their neighbours tell them, They know in their conscience they do not as they would be done unto. And if a governor go by his arbitrary power, to supersede the execution of the law, and require the justices and constables to leave the episcopalians out of the tax, they wonder he is not aware, that he is all this while, forbidding that the king should have his dues paid unto him; and forbidding the king’s ministers to receive what the king has given him.

How essentially and how greatly does this constitution differ from the institutions established in God’s word, both in their nature and effects?

1. In their nature. Here you find that every religious minister in that constitution, is called the king’s minister, because he is settled by direction of the king’s laws, and the tax for such a minister’s support is raised in the king’s name, and is called the king’s dues: whereas no man in the Jewish church might approach to minister at the holy altar, but such as were called of God, as was Aaron: and the means of their support, were such things as God required his people to offer and consecrate to Him; and when they withheld the same, he says, ye Edition: current; Page: [343] have robbed me, even this whole nation; and it is represented as his peculiar work to reward obedience, and to punish disobedience in such affairs.* It is evident from sacred record that good men in every station, used their influence by word and example to stir up their fellow servants to do their duty toward God in these respects; and good rulers, in conjunction with church officers, took care to have what was offered to him secured and distributed according to God’s commandments. But what is there in all this that can give the least countenance to the late method, of mens making laws to determine who shall be Christ’s ministers, and to raise money for them in their own name! Christ said to the Jews, I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only? John 5. 43, 44.

Even a heathen monarch, when he was moved to make a decree in favour of God’s minister’s and worship at Jerusalem, it was to restrain their enemies from injuring or interrupting of them, and to order that a portion of the king’s goods should be given unto the elders of the Jews for the building of the house of God, and for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven. Ezra 6. 6–9. Nothing appears of his levying any new tax for worship, only that he gave the articles there specified out of his own goods; yet some professed christians have imposed new taxes upon people on purpose to compel them to support their way of worship, and have blended in with other rates, and then called it all a civil tax. But as the act itself is deceitful so ’tis likely that the worship supported by such means is hypocrisy. For,

2. The effects of the constitution of our country are such, that as it makes the majority of the people the test of orthodoxy, so it emboldens them to usurp God’s judgment seat, and (according to Dr. Mather’s own account, which we have often seen verified) they daringly give out their sentence, that for a few to profess a persuasion different from the majority, it must be from bad motives; and that, they know in their conscience that they do not act by the universal law of equity, if they plead to be exempted from paying the money which the majority demand of them! And though in our charter the king grants to all Edition: current; Page: [344] protestants equal liberty of conscience: yet for above thirty years after it was received, the congregationalists made no laws to favour the consciences of any men, in this affair of taxes, but their own sect; and it is here called arbitrary power, and even a forbidding that the king should have his dues, if a governor shewed so much regard to the charter, as to oppose their extorting money from people of the king’s denomination, for their congregational ministers. And perhaps the learned author now referred to, never delivered a plainer truth, than when he said, “The reforming churches flying from Rome, carried some of them more, some of them less, all of them something of Rome with them, especially in that spirit of imposition and persecution which too much cleaved to them.”

These evils cleaved so close to the first fathers of the Massachusetts, as to move them to imprison, whip and banish men, only for denying infant baptism, and refusing to join in worship that was supported by violent methods: yet they were so much blinded as to declare, That there was this vast difference between these proceedings and the coercive measures which were taken against themselves in England, viz. We compel men to “God’s institutions”; they in England compelled to “mens inventions.” And they asserted that the baptists were guilty of “manifest contestations against the order and government of our churches, established (we know) by God’s law.”* Though they professed at the same time that,

It is not lawful to censure any, no not for error in fundemental points of doctrine or worship, till the conscience of the offender, be first convinced (out of the word of God) of the dangerous error of his way, and then if he still persist, it is not out of conscience, but against his conscience (as the apostle saith, Tit. 3. 11.) and so he is not persecuted for cause of conscience, but punished for sinning against his conscience.

In reply to which Mr. Williams says,

The truth is, the carnal sword is commonly the judge of the conviction or obstinacy of all supposed hereticks. Hence the faithful witnesses of Edition: current; Page: [345] Christ, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, had not a word to say in the disputations at Oxford: Hence the non-conformists were cried out as obstinate men, abundantly convinced by the writings of Whitgift and others; and so in the conference before king James at Hampton court, &c.*

But says he,

Every lawful magistrate, whether succeeding or elected, is not only the minister of God, but the minister or servant of the people also (what people or nation soever they be all the world over) and that minister or magistrate goes beyond his commission, who intermeddles with that which cannot be given him in commission from the people. If the civil magistrate must keep the church pure, then all the people of the cities, nations and kingdoms of the world must do the same much more, for primarily and fundementally they are the civil magistrate. Now the world saith John lieth in wickedness, and consequently according to it’s disposition endures not the light of Christ, nor his golden candlestick the true church, nor easily chooseth a true christian to be her officer or magistrate. The practising civil force upon the consciences of men, is so far from preserving religion pure, it is a mighty bulwark or barricado, to keep out all true religion, yea and all godly magistrates for ever coming into the world.”

How weighty are these arguments against confounding church and state together? yet this author’s appearing against such confusion, was the chief cause for which he was banished out of the Massachusetts colony. And though few if any will now venture openly to justify those proceedings, and many will exclaim against them at a high rate; yet a fair examination may plainly shew, that those fathers had more appearance of a warrant for doing as they did, than their children now have, for the actings which we complain of. For those fathers were persuaded, that the judicial laws of Moses which required Israel to punish blasphemers, and apostates to idolatry with death, were of moral force, and binding upon all princes and states;§ especially on such as these plantations were. And how much more countenance did this give for the use of force to make men conform to what they believed to be the right way, than men can now have for compelling Edition: current; Page: [346] any to support a way which at the same time they are allowed to dissent from? For the Jews also were required to pull down houses, and to have persons away out of their camps or cities, if the priests pronounced them unclean; and they were not permitted to set up any king over them who was not a brother in their church. Did not these things afford arguments much more plausible, for their attempt to compel the world to submit to the church, than any can have for the modern way, of trying to subject the church in her religious affairs to rulers, and the major vote of inhabitants, a great part of whom are not brethren in any church at all! Though the state of Israel was obliged thus to inflict death or banishment upon non-conformers to their worship, yet we have not been able to find, that they were ever allowed to use any force to collect the priests or prophets maintenance. So far from it, that those who made any such attempts were sons of Beliel, and persons that abhorred judgment, and perverted all equity. 1 Sam. 2. 12–16. Mic. 3. 5, 9.

Many try to vindicate their way by that promise, that kings shall become nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers to God’s people. But as the character carries in it’s very nature, an impartial care and tenderness for all their children; we appeal to every conscience, whether it does not condemn the way of setting up one party to the injury of another. Our Lord tells us plainly, that few find the narrow way, while many go in the broad way; yet the scheme we complain of, has given the many such power over the few, that if the few are fully convinced that the teacher set up by the many, is one that causeth people to err, and is so far from bringing the pure gospel doctrine, that they should break the divine command, and become partakers of his evil deeds; if they did not cease to hear him, or to receive him into their houses as a gospel minister;* yet only for refusing to put into such a minister’s mouth, the many are prepared with such instruments of war against them, as to seize their goods, or cast their bodies into prison, where they may starve and die, for all what that constitution has provided for them. In cases of common debts the law has provided several ways of relief, as it has not in the case before us; for here the assessors plead, that they are obliged to tax all according to law, and the collector has the same plea for gathering of it, and the minister says, I agreed with the society for such a sum, and it is not Edition: current; Page: [347] my business to release any. So that we have had instances of serious christians, who must have died in prison for ministers rates, if christianity and humanity had not moved people to provide them that relief, which neither those ministers nor the law that upholds them have done.

Another argument which these ministers often mention, is the apostolic direction to us, to pray for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. But do they pray and act according to that direction? One while they cry up the great advantages of having religion established by law; and some have caused near as loud a clamour about it as the craftsmen did at Ephesus; but when it comes to be calmly represented, that, religion is a voluntary obedience unto God, which therefore force cannot promote; how soon do they shift the scene, and tell us, that religious liberty is fully allowed to us, only the state have in their wisdom thought fit to tax all the inhabitants, to support an order of men for the good of civil society. A little while ago it was for religion, and many have declared, that without it we should soon have no religion left among us: but now tis to maintain civility. Though by the way it is well known, that no men in the land, have done more to promote uncivil treatment of dissenters from themselves, than some of these pretended ministers of civility have done. In 1644 the court at Boston passed an act to punish men with banishment, if they opposed infant baptism; or departed from any of their congregations when it was going to be administered.* And after they had acted upon this law, one of their chief magistrates observed, that such methods tended to make hypocrites. To which a noted minister replied, that if it did so, yet such were better than profane persons, because said he, “Hypocrites give God part of his due, the outward man, but the profane person giveth God neither outward nor inward man.” By which it seems that in that day, they were zealous to have the outward man if no more given to God; but now that conduct is condemned as persecution, by their children, who profess to allow us full liberty of conscience, because they do not hinder our giving our inward man to God, only claim a power to seize our outward man to get money for themselves. And though many of us have expended ten or twenty Edition: current; Page: [348] times as much, in setting up and supporting that worship which we believe to be right, as it would have cost us to have continued in the fashionable way, yet we are often accused of being coveteous, for dissenting from that way, and refusing to pay more money out of our little incomes, to uphold men from whom we receive no benefit, but rather abuse. How far is this from leading a peaceable life, either of godliness or honesty!

section iii

A brief account of what the baptists have suffered under this constitution, and of their reasons for refusing any active compliance with it.

Many are ready to say, the baptists are exempted from ministerial taxes, therefore why do they complain? Answer, We would be far from forgetting or undervaluing of our privileges: but are willing thankfully to acknowledge, that our honored rulers do protect our societies, so as not to allow them to be interrupted in their worship; and as the taking cognizance of marriage belongs to them, we take it as a favour that they grant our ministers power to administer it, so that we may have marriage solemnized among ourselves. Many other liberties we also enjoy under the government that is set over us, for which we desire to be thankful, both to the author, and to the instruments of them. Yet if our opponents could once put themselves into our place, we doubt not but they would think it was high time, to seek for more full liberty than we have hitherto enjoyed, a short view of but a little part of what we have met with, may be sufficient to evince this.

Our charter, as before observed, gives us equal religious liberty with other christians: yet the pedobaptists being the greatest party, they soon made a perpetual law to support their own way, but did nothing of that nature to exempt our denomination from it, for 36 years; and since that time, what they have done in that respect has only been by temporary acts, which have been so often changed, that many times their own officers have hardly known what the law was, that was in force; and as an exact conformity to the letter of their laws is much insisted upon in their executive courts, while those acts Edition: current; Page: [349] have never been enforced with penalties upon their own people, they have often broken them, and we have had but little chance to get them punished for so doing. For in all their acts till the last, they have imposed a name upon us, that signifies re-baptizers; which we cannot understandingly own. In many acts the words “belonging thereto” were inserted so ambiguously, as to leave it disputable, whether a being church members or only a belonging to the congregation or worshipping assembly were intended; and in the case of Haverhill, where their certificate was otherways compleat, and the case had been determined in the baptists favor, in that which both parties had agreed should be the final trial, yet another hearing was obtained in which the want of them ambiguous words in the certificate, was made, the main plea by which an action was turned against us, of near three hundred dollars. All their latter acts have required a list or lists of our societies, to be given in annually, by a certain day, signed by three principal members, and the minister if there be any; and because one of our churches of above 50 members (and which is now a church in good credit) happened one year to have such a difficulty with their minister, as prevented the giving in of said list, they were taxed to pedobaptist ministers; and tho’ some of the society were advised to apply to their county court for relief, yet instead of obtaining any, the court took away 20 dollars more from them. Another church gave in their list by the direction of a noted lawyer, yet they were all taxed to the pedobaptist worship, and one of the principal members of the baptist church, which the law directed to sign the list, was strained upon; and both the inferior and superior court turned the case against him, because he was a party concerned.

Here note, the inhabitants of our mother-country are not more of a party concerned, in imposing taxes upon us without our consent, than they have been in this land who have made and executed laws, to tax us to uphold their worship. This party influence has appeared in a much larger number of instances than we are willing to trouble the public with at this time but one instance more will set our case in such a striking light, that we must ask for a very serious attention to it; we mean that of Ashfield, formerly called Hunts-town in the county of Hampshire. One of the conditions on which that plantation was granted by our legislature, was their settling a learned orthodox minister, and building a meeting-house. Now in the year 1761, full Edition: current; Page: [350] two thirds of the inhabitants called and settled a minister, who they believed was taught of God and truly orthodox. But not being of the same mode with the court (for they were baptists) other people were prompted on, before this society could get up a meeting-house, to settle another minister, and to tax the first minister with all his people to support their way. This burden the baptists bore for a number of years, till in 1768, they presented a petition to our general court for relief; who ordered that they should serve the town and proprietors of Ashfield with a copy of the petition, that they might shew cause, if any they had, at the next session of the court why it should not be granted, and that a further collection of taxes from the petitioners should be suspended in the mean time. Yet in the same session of the court, a law was made which cut the baptists in that place, off from any exemption from ministerial taxes at all. In consequence of which several hundred acres of their lands were sold at public auction, for but a small part of their real value; of which ten acres belonged to the baptist minister. And after five or six journies of above an hundred miles to seek relief, and long waiting without success, their messenger was at last plainly told, by a number of our representatives, “That they had a right to make that law, and to keep the baptists under it as long as they saw fit.” Hereupon notice was given in some Boston papers, of a design among our churches of joining to seek redress from another quarter.

Accordingly at an association or general meeting of our churches at Bellingham, in September, 1770, these things were considered, and it was unanimously agreed upon to apply to his majesty for help, if it could not speedily be obtained here; and a committee and agents were chosen for that purpose. When news hereof was spread, our committee were urged by leading men both in church and state, to apply again to our general court; which therefore they did in October following. In the mean time a piece dated from Cambridge, where the court was then sitting, was published in all the Boston news-papers, wherein it was represented that, “All possible care had been taken to prevent our suffering the least disadvantage from our religious sentiments”; and we were challenged to shew the contrary if we could.

Upon this the pious and learned Mr. John Davis, who from Pennsylvania had not long before been ordained pastor of the second baptist Edition: current; Page: [351] church in Boston, and who was clerk of our committee, called them together to consider of this matter. And though they were far from desiring to enter into a news-paper controversy, yet they advised him to make some reply to that challenge: He did so; and on Dec. 27, published a brief and plain view of the case of Ashfield: but instead of any fair and manly treatment upon it, he in the Evening-Post of Jan. 7, 1771, was not only insulted with the names of, “A little upstart gentleman; enthusiastical biggot; and, this stripling high-fliar”; but had it also insinuated that he was employed “by the enemies of America to defame and blacken the colonies, and this town in particular.” And they had the impudence to pretend to the world, that all this was wrote by a catholic baptist. And they inflamed the populace so against Mr. Davis, that his most judicious friends were afraid of his being mobbed. But can it be in the power of others to blacken any people so much, as by this treatment of a worthy stranger (now at rest) they have blackened themselves! Instead of honestly coming to the light (which our Lord gives as the criterion to know him that doth truth, John 3. 21.) how do they hover in the works of darkness.

The first article in our committee’s petition to the legislature, being for Ashfield, they were ordered to notify the proprietors thereof: They did so; and in the spring session of the assembly, they came with a long address against us, in which they begin, with saying more generally of the baptists in that part of the province,

The proprietors conceive it to be a duty they owe to God and their country, not to be dispensed with, to lay open the characters, and real springs of action of some of these people.

Then they go on to say,

The rule the petitioners have set up, and on which alone they seem to ground their claim of exemption, is falsly applied, and therefore all arguments bottomed on it must be inconclusive. Natural rights,* as the respondents Edition: current; Page: [352] humbly conceive, are in this province wholly superceded in this case by civil obligation, and in matters of taxation individuals cannot with the least propriety plead them.

Having thus denied us any claim from natural rights, they resume what they call an indispensible duty, viz. an attempt to lay before our honored legislature the baptists’ character, and the springs of their actions; and after a number of mean reflections without any proof at all, they sum up the springs of the actions of most of them to be “Pride, vanity, prejudice, impurity and uncharitableness.” Very dreadful indeed if it could be proved! but that is referred to a hereafter, and they say, “At present we shall content ourselves with assuring your excellency and honors, that the foregoing account is not exaggerated.”

From this they proceed to observe, that as it belongs to rulers to “protect and support all regular religious societies of protestants,” so they say, “Whenever any religion or profession wears an ill aspect to the state, it is become a proper object of attention to the legislature. And this is the religion of the people whom we have been describing.” How much does this resemble the language of him who said, It is not for the king’s profit to suffer them!* or theirs who cried, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar’s friend!

After thus representing that the religion of the baptists that way, wears an ill aspect to the state, they go on to speak of the conditions upon which Ashfield was granted; and then try to prove that Mr. Ebenezer Smith, pastor of the baptist church there, “is not a minister in law,” because he has neither an accademical degree, nor a testimonial in his favor from the majority of the ministers of that county. And to give an idea of the smallness of his ability for teaching, they say,

Taking occasion in one of his discourses upon that passage of scripture, in which mention is made of the thick bosses of God’s buckler; instead of buckler, he gave his hearers the word butler. Being interrogated by one occasionally present as to his meaning, he explained himself so as clearly shewed, he meant to connect the other part of the sentence with the word butler, in the commonly received sense of the word.

The clearest light we have gained in the matter is this. After Mr. Edition: current; Page: [353] Smith had been preaching in a neighbouring town some years ago, a minister who was present asked him what a butler was? he readily replied, Pharoah’s cup-bearer. After a little more talk, said minister* asserted, that Mr. Smith used the word butler instead of buckler in his sermon. He did not remember that he had; but if he did so, how injurious is the above representation? is it not the evil which we read of in Isa. 29. 20, 21? Having made this reflection upon Mr. Smith, they say, “He has none of the qualifications of a minister according to the laws of Christ, or of this province, unless those of simplicity and orthodoxy.” We wish his accusers were so well qualified. 2 Cor. 1. 12. and 4. 2.

In April, 1771, the address we have made a few remarks upon was referred to a committee of both houses of our general court, who reported that, “Your committee find, that in the sale of those lands there was no unfairness, but every thing was quite fair, quite neighbourly, and quite legal.” And as to our plea for exemption from ministerial taxes they say, “There is an essential difference between persons being taxed where they are not represented, therefore against their wills, and being taxed when represented.” So they advised the court to dismiss our petition as unreasonable; and though the honorable house of representatives did not accept that advice, but voted to repeal the Ashfield law; yet the council refused to concur with them therein; so that if his gracious majesty in council had not disannuled said law for us, our brethren of Ashfield must, for ought that appeared to the contrary, have been entirely stripped of the inheritances, which they had purchased, and subdued at the peril of their lives, because of the sword of the wilderness.

It may be remembered that the pedobaptist proprietors of Ashfield, Edition: current; Page: [354] represented that the baptists there were not worthy of the protection of our legislature. The following narrative may help to explain what they meant by it. The news of what our king had done for them, arrived and was published in Boston the latter end of October, 1771, at which their oppressors discovered great uneasiness; and on the 8th of November came two officers with numerous attendants, to the house of Mr. Smith, father of the baptist minister in Ashfield (and very much of a father to that society), with a warrant from the chief judge of that county, to seize his person, and to search his house and shop for bad money: and it was said they had a like warrant for the minister, but he happened to be then absent on a journey. His father was made a prisoner before he was out of his bed in the morning, and though he promised the use of his keys, and desired that no lock might be broken, yet while he was at prayer with his family, for which he obtained leave of one officer, the other broke open his shop, and did considerable damage there; and after searching both that and his house as much as they pleased, they carried him before the aforesaid judge and others; where it plainly appeared that the complaint was entered against Mr. Smith from a report, that he had put off a counterfeit dollar; which report was then proved to be a false one. Yet the old gentleman was not released, but was kept a prisoner through a cold night, in circumstances that greatly injured his health, and next day was bro’t on further examination, when even his frequent retirement for secret devotion, which he had practised for above forty years; was catched hold of to raise a suspicion of his being guilty: and he was bound over with two sureties to the next superior court in that county. Hereupon the following men who had been called as witnesses against him, gave him their testimony in writing, declaring that they were ready to make oath to it, in the following terms, viz.

Ebenezer Sprague
Sprague, Ebenezer
Nathaniel Harvey
Harvey, Nathaniel
Jonathan Sprague
Sprague, Jonathan
Nathan Chapin
Chapin, Nathan
Moses Smith, 2d.
Smith, Moses, 2d.
Chileab Smith, jun.
Smith, Chileab, jun.
Nehemiah Sprague
Sprague, Nehemiah
Nov. 11, 1771

We the subscribers, who have been summoned to prove an indictment against Chileab Smith, of his coining and putting off bad money, do testify and say, that we did not, nor cannot understandingly attest to one tittle of the indictment, nor of any circumstance tending to prove the same. And we never saw nor heard any thing in him that gave the least ground to mistrust, that he kept a shop of secrecy, or did any thing there that he was afraid should be known; and do believe the reports to the contrary are Edition: current; Page: [355] entirely false. As neither did we in our judgments hear any of the said indictment in any measure proved by any of the rest of the evidences; as witness our hands,

Ebenezer Sprague,
Nathaniel Harvey,
Jonathan Sprague,
Nathan Chapin,
Moses Smith, 2d.
Chileab Smith, jun.
Nehemiah Sprague.

Also Leonard Pike, to whom the report was that Mr. Smith had put off a bad dollar, gave from under his hand that said report had no truth in it. These are eight of the ten witnesses that were summoned against Mr. Smith; & tho’ much pains was taken to procure evidence against him at the superior court, yet he was entirely acquitted; and the law was open for him to come back for damages, for a malicious prosecution; but they had contrived to have the complaint against him entered by a bankrupt, so that no recompence might be obtained by him. Are these the goodly fruits of having a particular mode of worship established by law, and their ministers supported by force!

Though we are often accused of complaining without reason, yet no longer ago than the 26th of last January, three men of good credit, belonging to a numerous and regular baptist society in Chelmsford, were seized for ministerial rates (notwithstanding they had given in a list according to law) and though one of them was above four score years old, another very infirm in body, while the third had no man at home, able to take care of the out-door affairs of his numerous family, yet they, in that cold season, were all carried prisoners to Concord gaol.

These accounts we have received from good authority, and have taken great pains to have them stated as exactly and truly as possible; and if any can point out the least mistake in what has been now related, we shall be glad to correct it. At the same time we are far from charging all the evils we complain of, upon the whole congregational denomination without distinction; for we believe there are many among them in various stations, who are sorely grieved at these oppressions. We are willing also to make all the allowance that is reasonable, for the influence of old customs, education and other Edition: current; Page: [356] prejudices, in those who have injured their neighbours in these affairs; but is it not high time now to awake, and seek for a more thorough reformation! We agree with the committee of our honored legislature in saying, there is an essential difference between persons being taxed where they are represented, and being taxed where they are not so; therefore the whole matter very much turns upon this point, viz. Whether our civil legislature are in truth our representatives in religious affairs, or not? As God has always claimed it as his prerogative, to appoint who shall be his ministers, and how they shall be supported, so under the gospel, the peoples communications to Christ’s ministers and members, are called sacrifices with which God is well-pleased. Phil. 4. 18. Heb. 13, 16–18. And what government on earth ever had, or ever can have any power to make or execute any laws to appoint and enforce sacrifices to God!

In civil states the power of the whole collective body is vested in a few hands, that they may with better advantage defend themselves against injuries from abroad, and correct abuses at home, for which end a few have a right to judge for the whole society; but in religion each one has an equal right to judge for himself; for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done (not what any earthly representative hath done for him) 2 Cor. 5. 10. And we freely confess that we can find no more warrant from divine truth, for any people on earth to constitute any men their representatives, to make laws to impose religious taxes, than they have to appoint Peter or the Virgin Mary to represent them before the throne above. We are therefore brought to a stop about paying so much regard to such laws, as to give in annual certificates to the other denomination, as we have formerly done.

1. Because the very nature of such a practice implies an acknowledgment, that the civil power has a right to set one religious sect up above another, else why need we give certificates to them any more than they to us? It is a tacit allowance that they have a right to make laws about such things, which we believe in our consciences they have not. For,

2. By the foregoing address to our legislature, and their committees report thereon, it is evident, that they claim a right to tax us from civil obligation, as being the representatives of the people. But how Edition: current; Page: [357] came a civil community by any ecclesiastical power? how came the kingdoms of this world to have a right to govern in Christ’s kingdom which is not of this world!

3. That constitution not only emboldens people to judge the liberty of other mens consciences, and has carried them so far as to tell our general assembly, that they conceived it to be a duty they owed to God and their country, not to be dispensed with, to lay before them the springs of their neighbours actions;* but it also requires something of the same nature from us. Their laws require us annually to certify to them, what our belief is concerning the conscience of every person that assembles with us, as the condition of their being exempted from taxes to other’s worship. And only because our brethren in Bellingham, left that clause about the conscience out of their certificates last year, a number of their society who live at Mendon were taxed, and lately suffered the spoiling of their goods to uphold pedobaptist worship.

4. The scheme we oppose evidently tends to destroy the purity and life of religion; for the inspired apostle assures us, that the church is espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ, and is obliged to be subject to him in every thing, as a true wife is to her husband. Now the most chaste domestic obedience, does not at all interfere with any lawful subjection to civil authority; but for a woman to admit the highest ruler in a nation into her husband’s place, would be adultery or whoredom; and how often are mens inventions about worship so called in the sacred oracles? And does it not greatly concern us all, earnestly to search out and put away such evils, as we would desire to escape the awful judgments that such wickedness has brought on other nations! Especially Edition: current; Page: [358] if we consider that not only the purity, but also the very life and being of religion among us is concerned therein; for ’tis evident that Christ has given as plain laws to determine what the duty of people is to his ministers, as he has the duty of ministers to his people; and most certainly he is as able to enforce the one as the other. The common plea of our opponents is, that people will not do their duty if rulers do not enforce it; but does not the whole book of God clearly shew, that ministers as often fail of doing their duty as the people do? And where is the care of rulers to punish ministers for their unfaithfulness? They often talk about equality in these affairs, but where does it appear! As Christ is the head of all principality and power; so the not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministred, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God, but bringing in an earthly power between Christ and his people, has been the grand source of anti-christian abominations, and of settling men down in a form of godliness, while they deny the power thereof. Has not this earthly scheme prevailed so far in our land, as to cause many ministers, instead of taking heed to the ministry received from the Lord; and instead of watching for souls as those who must give an account,* rather to act as if they were not accountable to any higher power, than that of the men who support them? and on the other hand, how do many people behave as if they were more afraid of the collector’s warrant, and of an earthly prison, than of Him who sends his ministers to preach his gospel, and says, He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; but declares, That it shall be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom, than for those who receive them not? Yea, as if they were more afraid of an earthly power than of our great King and Judge, who can this night require the soul of him that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God; and will sentence all either to heaven or hell, according as they have treated Him well or ill, in his ministers and members.

5. The custom which they want us to countenance, is very hurtful to civil society: for by the law of Christ every man, is not only allowed, but also required, to judge for himself, concerning the circumstantials Edition: current; Page: [359] as well as the essentials, of religion, and to act according to the full persuasion of his own mind; and he contracts guilt to his soul if he does the contrary. Rom. 14. 5, 23. What a temptation then does it lay for men to contract such guilt, when temporal advantages are annexed to one persuasion, and disadvantages laid upon another? i.e. in plain terms, how does it tend to hypocrisy and lying? than which, what can be worse to human society! Not only so, but coercive measures about religion also tend to provoke to emulation, wrath and contention, and who can describe all the mischiefs of this nature, that such measures have produced in our land! But where each person, and each society, are equally protected from being injured by others, all enjoying equal liberty, to attend and support the worship which they believe is right, having no more striving for mastery or superiority than little children (which we must all come to, or not enter into the kingdom of heaven) how happy are it’s effects in civil society? In the town of Boston they enjoy something of these blessings, and why may not the country have the same liberty? The ministers who have had the chief hand in stirring up rulers to treat us as they have done, yet have sometimes been forced to commend the liberty we plead for. When they wanted to get footing in the town of Providence, they wrote to governor Jencks and other rulers there, in the following words, viz.

Honorable gentlemen,

How pleasing to almighty God and our glorious Redeemer, and how conducible to the public tranquility and safety, an hearty union and good affection of all pious protestants whatsoever particular denomination of account of some differences in opinion would be, by the divine blessing, yourselves as well as we, are not insensible: and with what peace and love societies of different modes of worship have generally entertained one another in your government, we cannot think of it without admiration: and we suppose under God, ’tis owing to the choice liberty granted to protestants of all perswasions in the royal charter graciously given you; and to the wise and prudent conduct of gentlemen that have been improved as governors & justices in your colony.

And after more of this nature, they close with saying,

We hope and pray, that ancient matters (that had acrimony unhappily in them) may be buried in oblivion; and that grace and peace and holiness Edition: current; Page: [360] and glory may dwell in every part of New-England; and that the several provinces and colonies in it, may love one another with a pure heart fervently. We take leave to subscribe ourselves, your friends and servants,

Peter Thatcher,
John Danforth,
Joseph Belcher,
Committee of the Association.

The town of Providence wrote them an answer the next February, in which they say,

We take notice how you praise the love and peace that dissenters of all ranks entertain one another with in this government. We answer, this happiness principally consists in their not allowing societies any superiority one over another; but each society support their own ministry of their own free will, and not by constraint or force upon any man’s person or estate. But the contrary that takes any man’s estate by force to maintain their own or any other ministry, it serves for nothing but to provoke to wrath, envy and strife, and this wisdom cometh not from above, but is earthly, sensual and devilish. And since you wrote this letter, the constable of Attleborough has been taking away the estates of our dear friends, and pious dissenters to maintain their minister; the like hath been done in the town of Mendon. Is this the way of peace? Is this the fruit of your love? Why do you hug the iniquity of Eli’s sons, and walk in the steps of the false prophets, to bite with the teeth, and cry peace; but no longer than men put into your mouths than you prepare war against them. Since you admire our love and peace, we pray you to use the same methods, and write after our copy and for the future never let us hear of your pillaging conscientious dissenters to maintain your ministers. You desire that all former injury done by you to us may be buried in oblivion. We say, far be it from us to revenge ourselves; or to deal to you as you have dealt to us, but rather say, Father forgive them, they know not what they do. But if you mean that we should not speak of former actions, done hurtfully to any man’s person, we say, God never called for that, nor suffered it to be hid, as witness Cain, Joab and Judas, are kept on record to deter other men from doing the like.

Here the public may take notice, how desirous pedobaptists ministers are to have odious things on their side buried out of sight, but Edition: current; Page: [361] how contrary has their practice ever been toward us? Even to this day they can hardly preach a sermon, or write a pamphlet for infant-baptism, without having something to say about the mad men of Munster, who they tell us rebelled against their civil rulers: Whereas in truth we never had the least concern with them, any more than our opponents have with the pope or Turk. Indeed they often assert, that those mad men were the first that ever renounced infant-baptism; but there is proof enough from their own historians, that this story which they have so often told from their pulpits, is as absolute a falshood as ever was uttered by man. And though one learned and pious president of Cambridge college, was brought to embrace our sentiments, and to bear his testimony in the pulpit there, “against the administration of baptism to any infant whatsoever”; for which he suffered considerable abuse with much of a christian temper:* While his successor, another “very learned and godly man” (who therefore must have been well acquainted with the original), held that “baptism ought only to be by dipping or plunging the whole body under water[”]: yet these and other honorable examples in our favor have been passed over, and every scandalous thing that could be pick’d up, has been spread, to prejudice people’s minds against our profession in general. And let it be remembred, that when pedobaptist ministers wanted to be favored in Providence, they declared, that they could not think of the peace and love which societies of different modes of worship have generally entertained one another with in that government without admiration; and they experienced so much of this from the baptists in Providence, that when some others made a difficulty about admitting Mr. Josiah Cotton (the first minister of the pedobaptists there) as an inhabitant in the town, Col. Nicholas Powers (a leading member of the baptist church) became his bondsman to the town: therefore we hope that our honorable rulers and others, will be cautious about giving credit to stories of a contrary nature, when they are told to procure or to justify the use of force in supporting ministers; especially since ministers refuse to share in the reproach of such proceedings. For a minister who has exerted himself very much of Edition: current; Page: [362] late, to support the cause of those called standing churches, yet says,

It is wholly out of rule, and quite injurious, to charge the churches or their ministers with sending men to gaol for rates, for these proceedings are evidently the acts of the civil state, done for it’s own utility. The doings of the civil authority, and of that alone.*

Where are the rulers that will stand alone in that practice, without either ministers or truth to support them!


And now our dear countrymen, we beseech you seriously to consider of these things. The great importance of a general union through this country, in order to the preservation of our liberties, has often been pleaded for with propriety; but how can such a union be expected so long as that dearest of all rights, equal liberty of conscience is not allowed? Yea, how can any reasonably expect that he who has the hearts of kings in his hand, will turn the heart of our earthly sovereign to hear the pleas for liberty, of those who will not hear the cries of their fellow-subjects, under their oppressions? Has it not been plainly proved, that so far as any man gratifies his own inclinations, without regard to the universal law of equity, so far he is in bondage? so that it is impossible for any one to tyranize over others, without thereby becoming a miserable slave himself: a slave to raging lusts, and a slave to guilty fears of what will be the consequence. We are told that the father of Cyrus, tho’ a heathen,

Had often taught him to consider, that the prudence of men is very short, and their views very limited; that they cannot penetrate into futurity; and that many times what they think must needs turn to their advantage proves their ruin; whereas the gods being eternal, know all things, future as well as past, and inspire those that love them to undertake what is most expedient for them; which is a favor and protection they owe to no man, and grant only to those that invoke and consult them.

Edition: current; Page: [363]

And we are told by the same author,* of another wise heathen, who said, “ ’Tis observable, that those that fear the Deity most, are least afraid of man.” And shall not christians awake to a most hearty reverence of him who has said (and will ever make good his word), With what measure ye meet, it shall be measured to you again.

Suffer us a little to expostulate with our fathers and brethren, who inhabit the land to which our ancestors fled for religious liberty. You have lately been accused with being disorderly and rebellious, by men in power, who profess a great regard for order and the public good; and why don’t you believe them, and rest easy under their administrations? You tell us you cannot, because you are taxed where you are not represented; and is it not really so with us? You do not deny the right of the British parliament to impose taxes within her own realm; only complain that she extends her taxing power beyond her proper limits; and have we not as good right to say you do the same thing? and so that wherein you judge others you condemn your selves? Can three thousand miles possibly fix such limits to taxing power, as the difference between civil and sacred matters has already done? One is only a distance of space, the other is so great a difference in the nature of things, as there is between sacrifices to God, and the ordinances of men. This we trust has been fully proved.

If we ask why have you not been easy and thankful since the parliament has taken off so many of the taxes that they had laid upon us? you answer that they still claim a power to tax us, when, and as much as they please; and is not that the very difficulty before us? In the year 1747, our legislature passed an act to free the baptists in general from ministerial taxes for ten years: yet because they increased considerably, when that time was about half expired, they broke in upon the liberty they had granted, and made a new act, wherein no baptist church nor minister was allowed to have any such exemption, till they had first obtained certificates from three other churches. By which the late Mr. John Procter observed (in a remonstrance that he drew, and which was presented to our court) that they had as far as in them lay,

disfranchised, unchurched and usurped an illegal power over all the religious Edition: current; Page: [364] societies of the people in said act called anabaptists throughout this province:—For where is it possible for the poor anabaptists to find the first three authenticated ministers and churches to authenticate the first three!

So we have now related a case, in which a number of our brethren were put to new cost for copies to notify others, with hope of relief to themselves, and yet in the same session of court, they had a worse burden laid upon them than before; and their repeated cries, and then the petition of our united churches, were all rejected.

A very great grievance which our country has justly complained of is, that by some late proceedings a man’s house or locks cannot secure either his person or his property, from oppressive officers. Pray then consider what our brethren have suffered at Ashfield.

Many think it hard to be frowned upon only for pleading for their rights, and laying open particular acts of encroachment thereon; but what frowns have we met with for no other crime? and as the present contest between Great-Britain and America, is not so much about the greatness of the taxes already laid, as about a submission to their taxing power; so (though what we have already suffered is far from being a trifle, yet) our greatest difficulty at present concerns the submitting to a taxing power in ecclesiastical affairs. It is supposed by many that we are exempted from such taxes, but they are greatly mistaken, for all know that paper is a money article; and writing upon it is labour, and this tax we must pay every year, as a token of submission to their power, or else they will lay a heavier tax upon us. And we have one difficulty in submitting to this power, which our countrymen have not in the other case: that is, our case affects the conscience, as their’s does not: and equal liberty of conscience is one essential article in our charter, which constitutes this government, and describes the extent of our rulers authority, and what are the rights and liberties of the people. And in the confession of faith which our rulers and their ministers have published to the world, they say,

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing contrary to his word; or not contained in it; so that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; Edition: current; Page: [365] and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also.

And a most famous historian of their’s, after mentioning some former violations of that liberty, says,

The great noise that hath been made in the world about the persecution made in New-England, I will now stop with only transcribing the words uttered in the sermon to the first great and general assembly of the Massachusetts-Bay, after the two colonies of Massachusetts and Plymouth were by royal charter united. (from 2 Chron. 12. 12.)

Things will go well, when magistrates are great promoters of the thing that good is, and what the Lord requireth of them. I do not mean that it would be well for the civil magistrate, with civil penalty to compel men to this or that way of worship, which they are conscientiously indisposed unto. He is most properly the officer of human society, and a christian by non- conformity to this or that imposed way of worship, does not break the terms on which he is to enjoy the benefits of human society. A man has a right unto his life, his estate, his liberty, and his family, although he should not come up unto these and those blessed institutions of our Lord. Violences may bring the erroneous to be hypocrites, but they will never bring them to be believers; no, they naturally prejudice men’s minds against the cause, which is therein pretended for, as being a weak, a wrong, an evil cause.*

These things were then delivered and were received with the thanks of the house of representatives, and ten years after were spread by the historian thro’ the nation, with the express design of stoping any further complaints about New-England’s persecutions. But if the constitution of this government, gives the magistrate no other authority than what belongs to civil society, we desire to know how he ever came to impose any particular way of worship, upon any town or precinct whatsoever? And if a man has a right to his estate, his liberty and his family, notwithstanding his non-conformity to the magistrates way of worship, by what authority has any man had his goods spoiled, his land sold, or his person imprisoned, and thereby deprived of the enjoyment both of his liberty and his family, for no crime at all against the peace or welfare of the state, but only because Edition: current; Page: [366] he refused to conform to, or to support an imposed way of worship, or an imposed minister.*

In a celebrated oration for liberty, published last spring in Boston, a maxim was recited which carries it’s own evidence with it, which is this, no man can give that which is another’s. Yet have not our legislature from time to time, made acts to empower the major part of the inhabitants in towns and precincts, to give away their neighbours estates to what ministers they please! And can we submit to such doctrines and commandments of men, and not betray true liberty of conscience! Every person is or ought to be, benefited by civil government, and therefore they owe rulers honor and a tribute on that account; but the like cannot be truly said of an imposed minister; for as the gospel ministry is an ordinance of God and not of man, so the obligation that any person or people are under to obey and support any man as a minister of Christ, arises from the consideration of his appearing to them to resemble his Master in doctrine and conversation, and from the benefit which people receive under their ministrations. From whence the law of equity makes the free communications of our carnal things to Christ’s ministers, to be a matter that as really concerns the exercise of a good conscience toward God, as prayer and praise do; for they are both called sacrifices to him in the same chapter. Heb. 13. 15, 16.

Thus we have laid before the public a brief view of our sentiments concerning liberty of conscience, and a little sketch of our sufferings on that account. If any can show us that we have made any mistakes, either about principles or facts, we would lie open to conviction: But we hope none will violate the forecited article of faith so much, as to require us to yield a blind obedience to them, or to expect that spoiling of goods or imprisonment can move us to betray the cause of true liberty.

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A late writer in the Boston papers, has taken much pains to prove, that some other colonies have imposed upon people in such affairs worse than New-England has; and to prove it he informs us, that an act for ministers maintenance, was passed in New-York near eighty years ago, which succeeding rulers have turned to support a denomination that had very few representatives in court when the act was made, while the denomination who made it, have been denied any benefit from it. If so, how loud is the call to every man that is a friend to liberty, and who regards the good of posterity, to rise and exert all his influence, to demolish the engine which has done so much mischief in all ages! We are far from trying to represent the fathers of New-England as the worst of the colonists; We believe the contrary. But our veneration for their memory, is so far from reconciling us to, that it fills us with greater detestation of, that mystery of iniquity, which carried them into such acts or imposition and persecution as have left a great blemish upon their character. And since these are tedious things to dwell upon, we shall close with this remark.

The Massachusetts ministers, in their letter to governor Jencks and other baptists in Providence, said, We hope and pray that ancient matters that had acrimony unhappily in them may be buried in oblivion. Now we are told that acrimony signifies that quality in one body whereby it corrodes, eats up or destroys another. This eating destroying quality is truly unhappy: but how can it be buried before it is dead? The worst of criminals are to be executed before they are buried. Therefore let this cruel man-eater be fairly executed, and we are ready to join heart and hand to bury him, and not to have a bone of him left for contention in all the land. If it be so hard to our opponents to hear of these matters, what has it been to those who have felt their eating and destroying influence for these hundred and forty years? And how can any person lift up his head before God or man, and say he hopes to have these things buried, if he at the same time holds fast, and tries hard to keep alive the procuring cause of them!

The foregoing appeal, having been examined and approved by many of his brethren, is presented to the public, by their humble servant,

Isaac Backus
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Since the above was written, I have received direct accounts, that at Montague (whose case is mentioned p. [349].) they continue from time to time, to make distress upon the principal members of the baptist church there, whom the law directs to sign their certificates, while they let the rest of the society alone. Also that William White a regular member of the baptist church in Ashfield, who lives in Chesterfield, and has had his standing in said church certified according to law; yet had a cow taken from him on August 25, 1773, and sold the 30th, for the pedobaptist ministers rate; and that in both of these places, the civil charges of the town, and the ministers salary are all blended in one tax (contrary as I am informed to the law of our province) so that our brethren who would readily pay their civil tax, yet cannot do it, without paying the ministers also! Now the grand pretence that is made for the use of the secular arm to support ministers is, that thereby equality is established among the people; but what religion, equality or equity can there be in the above proceedings!

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Chronology: 1774–1781

Coercive Acts are passed by Parliament, which, among other things, closes Boston Harbor (Mar. 25). The colonists term these the “Intolerable Acts.” The First Continental Congress adopts a “Statement of Rights and Grievances” (Oct. 14), which strongly foreshadows the Declaration of Independence (Oct. 14).
Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America is published in Williamsburg.
Other influential pamphlets appear, including James Wilson’s Considerations on the Nature & Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament and John Adams’s (as Novanglus) New England Letters. In November, Thomas Paine emigrates and settles in Philadelphia.
In London, Edmund Burke makes a last-ditch appeal to the House of Commons to avert revolution in his Speech on . . . Conciliation with the Colonies (Mar. 22).
Patrick Henry delivers a speech in Richmond, concluding with “give me liberty, or give me death” (Mar. 23).
The ride of Paul Revere and the battles of Lexington and Concord (Apr. 18–19) begin the Revolutionary War. Ministers, in sermons and reprinted sermons, are in the vanguard to justify independence, defend liberty as a fundamental good, and encourage their congregations to sacrifice. Over 80 percent of the politically relevant pamphlets published during the 1770s and 1780s are either reprinted sermons or essays written by ministers.
Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point are captured by the Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen and Seth Warner (May 10).
The Second Continental Congress assembles at Philadelphia (May 10). Congress appoints George Washington commander-in-chief.
The first pitched battle of the Revolution (June 15) is fought at Bunker’s Hill, near Boston (June 15).
The first anti-slavery society in America is formed in Philadelphia.
Massachusetts adopts its 1692 Charter as a functioning state constitution.
The Declaration of Independence is passed (July 4), but New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey have, at the suggestion of the Continental Congress, already written constitutions as independent states.
The city of New York is occupied by the British (Sept. 15).
The presidio of San Francisco is founded by colonists from Mexico under Captain Juan Bautista de Anza and Alfréz José Moraga (Sept. 17); Franciscan friars, led by Father Francisco Palóu, established a mission one month later.
Washington retreats to Harlem Heights with an army of mostly ill-trained militia. In the Battle of Trenton (Dec. 26), Washington crosses the Delaware River and captures 1,000 Hessians.
Adam Smith publishes Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in London, Thomas Paine publishes “Common Sense,” and John Adams publishes “Thoughts on Government.”
The era of state constitution-making in America begins: Eight states write new constitutions, and three adopt revised charters as constitutions. Three more states will write constitutions in 1777, followed by one in 1778, 1780, 1784, and 1786. Each state ratifies freedom of conscience, which includes religious belief, even though several states still have established churches. Prohibitions on Catholics holding office, common everywhere in 1775, now disappear.
The British are defeated at the Battle of Princeton (Jan. 3). Gen. Howe defeats Washington at Brandywine and then occupies Philadelphia (Sept. 11). Gen. Burgoyne is defeated at Saratoga and surrenders his entire army of 6,000 (Oct. 17).
Congress agrees to the Articles of Confederation and sends the document to the states for approval (Nov. 15). After a long approval process, the Articles take effect in 1781.
Washington winters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, amidst great suffering.
The French become more active in supporting America against the British.
The British invade the South and capture Savannah (Dec. 29).
Massachusetts rejects a proposed state constitution, in part because it has no bill of rights.
1779 Spain enters the war against Britain (June).
Capt. John Paul Jones, in the Bonhomme Richard, defeats the British at sea (Sept. 23).
The Universalist Church is founded, a Congregationalist offshoot that rejects the doctrine of predestination.
Charleston surrenders to the British (May 12), who also overrun South Carolina (July).
Rochambeau lands in Newport, Rhode Island, with 6,000 French troops (July).
Benedict Arnold’s plan to surrender West Point to the British is uncovered (Sept.).
Pennsylvania passes a law that begins the gradual freeing of slaves in the state.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is formed in Boston.
Massachusetts writes a new state constitution.
In the Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina, the British cavalry under Col.